"Improving the scalability and effectiveness of concolic execution "

Emilio COPPA -
Digital Security

Date: -
Location: Eurecom

Abstract: Symbolic execution is a software testing technique for automatically exploring the paths of a program. Its dynamic twist is called concolic execution, which concretely runs the program while performing the analysis. This approach provides several practical benefits, including the possibility of analyzing even large and complex applications, possibly exploiting their concrete state when the symbolic analysis struggles to model specific components in their code. However, concolic execution still comes with a large analysis overhead. In this talk, we discuss some novel ideas recently proposed for improving the scalability and effectiveness of modern concolic executors. From one side, we tackle the problem of efficiently building symbolic expressions during an execution, exploiting a hybrid instrumentation approach. On the other side, we present an approximate SMT solver that can help reduce the query-solving time using techniques borrowed from the fuzzing domain. Finally, we discuss some open problems in the context of hybrid fuzzing that may benefit from novel ideas and practical improvements. Short bio: Emilio Coppa (https://ecoppa.github.io/) is an assistant professor (RTD-A) in the Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering at Sapienza University of Rome. He obtained a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the same university in 2015 with a thesis focused on the use of dynamic analyses for studying complex systems, ranging from single machines to big data systems. During his Postdoc, he started to use software testing techniques, such as symbolic execution and software fuzzing, in the context of cybersecurity to find vulnerabilities in real-world programs or perform reverse engineering of malware. He was the national organizer for the first three editions of the CyberChallenge.IT initiative, a national program for attracting young talents into cybersecurity, which is now a well-established event involving thousands of students and hundreds of universities and IT companies. He has authored papers and articles in several well-renowned venues, such as ESORICS, ASIACCS, DSN, ISSTA, ICSE, ASE, TOCS, TSE, PLDI, CGO, EUROSEC, and others.