EvilCoder: Automated Bug Insertion

Jannik Pewny, Thorsten Holz

Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Los Angeles, California, USA, December 2016


The art of finding software vulnerabilities has been covered extensively in the literature and there is a huge body of work on this topic. In contrast, the intentional insertion of exploitable, security-critical bugs has received little (public) attention yet. Wanting more bugs seems to be counterproductive at first sight, but the comprehensive evaluation of bug-finding techniques suffers from a lack of ground truth and the scarcity of bugs.

In this paper, we propose EvilCoder, a system to automatically find potentially vulnerable source code locations and modify the source code to be actually vulnerable. More specifically, we leverage automated program analysis techniques to find sensitive sinks which match typical bug patterns (e.g., a sensitive API function with a preceding sanity check), and try to find data-flow connections to user-controlled sources. We then transform the source code such that exploitation becomes possible, for example by removing or modifying input sanitization or other types of security checks. Our tool is designed to randomly pick vulnerable locations and possible modifications, such that it can generate numerous different vulnerabilities on the same software corpus. We evaluated our tool on several open-source projects such as for example libpng and vsftpd, where we found between 22 and 158 unique connected source-sink pairs per project. This translates to hundreds of potentially vulnerable data-flow paths and hundreds of bugs we can insert. We hope to support future bug-finding techniques by supplying freshly generated, bug-ridden test corpora so that such techniques can (finally) be evaluated and compared in a comprehensive and statistically meaningful way.