Virtual Event: Modern Approaches in Human-Centric Decompilation

All dates for this event occur in the past.

Modern Approaches in Human-Centric Decompilation

Ph.D. Student Zion Leonahenahe Basque of Arizona State University will explore the past, present, and future of decompilation techniques.

Friday, March 3, 3-4 p.m.


Abstract: From IoT devices to apps on your phone, compiled programs, known as binaries, play a significant role in our most beloved technology. Though fast and portable, these binaries are arduous to understand without their accompanying source code. Unfortunately, most distributors of binaries don't give you the source for various reasons. Since these binaries are hard to analyze, they often go unverified by third parties and are blindly trusted to be secure. In the case of Malware, this can have devastating effects on the security of users. 

Decompilation, a sub-field of binary analysis, aims to recover the source code of these binaries from their machine code. In doing so, manual and automated analyses (inherited from source code techniques) are improved. Though decompilation has existed since the early 90s, it still has many flaws and room for growth. Modern approaches such as Control flow structuring, type and symbol recovery, and CFG recovery have attempted to address many of them. 

In this talk, we'll explore the past, present, and future of decompilation techniques:
1.  We'll start with an overview of decompilation and the major pillars by which it functions.
2.  We'll overview the technical differences in state-of-the-art decompilers and their origins in academia. We will dive deep into control flow structuring to compare modern works.
3.  We'll explore recent developments and future work that aims to make decompilation easier to understand for humans.

At the end of this talk, we'll show off an open-source decompiler, angr, that adapts previous techniques and makes it easier to develop new ones.

Bio: Zion Leonahenahe Basque is a second-year Ph.D. student at Arizona State University studying Computer Science, focusing on Systems Security. His research interests include decompilation, program analysis, and reverse engineering. He hacks online by the handle of mahaloz and is proudly Native Hawaiian. 

He is also the co-captain of the CTF team Shellphish. During his time in CTF, he has competed at multiple finals worldwide, found 0-days in various embedded devices, and developed open-source binary analysis tooling used by the CTF community. As a cross between engineering and research, he works on the binary analysis platform angr to develop its decompiler.