Course detail

Binary Code Analysis

FIT-IANAcad. year: 2020/2021

This course deepens the knowledge and skill obtained in the course of Machine level programming (ISU) and in the course of Operating systems (IOS) with the main goal of allowing the students to understand the image of a crashed system (the so-called crash dump). Knowledge of programming on the level of assembler and application binary interfaces (ABI) is applied on a real Unix operating system. Within the course, various binary files used in the system are discussed, including their structure and their disassembled contents. The course involves a detailed study of compiler output from the point of view of linkage and run of system code as well as a discussion of differences and relations among various processor architectures, compilers, and application binary interfaces. Next, the course presents selected concepts typical for kernel-level programming whose deep knowledge is necessary for analysing the functionality of an operating system kernel. These concepts include, among others, details of interrupt processing, task queues, process/thread synchronisation and memory management inside the kernel, i.e., the so-called SLAB allocator. Knowledge obtained in this way is used as a basis for presenting possibilities of monitoring the behaviour of an operating system on the binary level during its run as well as analysis of images of system memory after a system crash (crash dump analysis). In both cases, usage of tools shipped within common Unix distributions is accented.

Learning outcomes of the course unit

Practical experience with analysing the image of system memory after a system crash (crash dump analysis). Knowledge of the structure of binary files used in Unix systems (ELF). Understanding differences and relations between processors architectures, compilers, and ABI standards. Students who successfully pass the course will further be able to monitor the run of an operating system on a binary level during its runtime too.
Improved knowledge in the areas of operating systems, machine languages, and debugging and analysis.

Prerequisites

Proficiency in C language, x86 assembly code, understanding of operating system principles, practical experience with Unix systems.

Co-requisites

Not applicable.

Recommended optional programme components

Not applicable.

Recommended or required reading

Intel Corporation: Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer Manuals, 2015.
Matz, M., Hubicka, J., Mitchell, M.: System V Application Binary Interface, AMD64 Architecture Processor Supplement, 2013.
Ljubuncic, I.: Linux Kernel Crash Book, 2011.
Ljubuncic, I.: Linux Kernel Crash Book, 2011.
Drake, C., Brown, K.: Panic! UNIX System Crash Dump Analysis, Prentice Hall, 1995.
Drake, C., Brown, K.: Panic! UNIX System Crash Dump Analysis, Prentice Hall, 1995.
Hofmann, F.: The Solaris Operating System on x86 Platforms, Crashdump Analysis, Operating System Internals, 2005.
Hofmann, F.: The Solaris Operating System on x86 Platforms, Crashdump Analysis, Operating System Internals, 2005.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Not applicable.

Assesment methods and criteria linked to learning outcomes

Projects will be evaluated based on technical reports with a detailed description of the root cause. The reports must be submitted by their deadlines, late submissions will be evaluated by 0 points.
Exam prerequisites:
To successfully pass the course, a student needs to get at least 50 points in total out of which at least 24 points must be obtained from the projects and at least 16 points from the final test.

Language of instruction

Czech, English

Work placements

Not applicable.

Aims

The goal is to acquaint students with the operation of modern Unix operating systems on a level close to the binary code and with available tools for observing the behaviour of such systems, including, in particular, their post-mortem analysis.

Specification of controlled education, way of implementation and compensation for absences

The obtained knowledge of students is examined through three projects (3x 20 points) and through a final written test (40 points).

Classification of course in study plans

  • Programme BIT Bachelor's, 2. year of study, summer semester, 4 credits, elective

  • Programme IT-BC-3 Bachelor's

    branch BIT , 2. year of study, summer semester, 4 credits, elective

Type of course unit

 

Lecture

14 hours, optionally

Teacher / Lecturer

Syllabus

  1. Introduction. Code compilation and linking. Understanding the ELF file format.
  2. Dynamic linking and running code. Dynamic relocations and interpreter. PIC, ASLR, PIE, linker script. DWARF debug symbols.
  3. Computer architectures in general, registers, stack operations. Memory segmentation, paging.
  4. The x86 and x86_64 architectures. System V ABI. Compiler and stack optimizations. The ARM architecture.
  5. Live kernel tracing: strace, ltrace, SystemTap, ftrace, perf.
  6. BPF (Berkeley Packet Filter), eBPF and its usage in kernel tracing. BCC, bpftrace.

Exercise in computer lab

12 hours, compulsory

Teacher / Lecturer

Syllabus

  1. Decomposition of an ELF binary file, decoding its sections, and code disassembling.
  2. Program execution tracing using strace, ltrace, gdb.
  3. Using the crash(1) tool on Linux.
  4. Crash dump analysis of a Linux system.
  5. System tracing using SystemTap and ftrace.
  6. Tracing and analysis of system deadlocks.

Project

13 hours, compulsory

Teacher / Lecturer

Syllabus

  1. ELF file analysis.
  2. Analysis of a crash dump.
  3. Monitoring of a running system using SystemTap.