The analysis of binary file security using a hierarchical quality model

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


Software security is commanding significant attention from practitioners. In many organizations, security assessment has been integrated into the software development lifecycle, which allows for continuous monitoring of software weaknesses and vulnerabilities throughout the development process. One often overlooked aspect of the software development lifecycle is the end of the lifecycle. Prior to delivering software to customers, many vendors digitally sign and compile source code into a binary. In binary form, analysis may be done to reveal security flaws that were not present in the original code or that were injected at some point between the code being written and the code being compiled. Our research goal is to improve our ability to assess the security quality of a binary from different stakeholders' perspectives. While many analysis tools exist that identify security flaws, there is little work done to enable the use of multiple tools, which is necessary to identify different types of security flaws. To accomplish our goal, we approach the problem from the perspective of quality modeling. We have designed and developed a software quality model for assessing security quality in binaries (PIQUE-Bin) and operationalized the model by using PIQUE, the Platform for Investigative software Quality Understanding and Evaluation. The design of our model is based on the Microsoft STRIDE model and the software development view of the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE). The model produces a relative and subjective security score for a binary file. An informal literature review reveals a lack of model-based security metrics targeting binary files, which helped motivate this research. To enhance the validity of this work, a sensitivity analysis assessment based on a benchmark repository of 700 binary files was performed. Model output is validated by measuring tool output sensitivity and calibrated against the presence of injected vulnerabilities. We find that our model is able to measure the security quality of binaries relative to the benchmark repository.




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