WM3B3-24 Low Level Tools and Techniques for Cyber Security
Modern programming approaches typically abstract the things the developer needs to create away from the instructions that will execute on the machine. These high levels of abstraction use code generation programs such as compilers and assemblers to take the human author's input, and produce code that will execute as output. The modern programmer rarely needs to consider the underlying architecture of the machine that will execute the code.
There are situations where, rather than creating an executable from source, you need to go in the opposite direction; you need to infer what the source code might look like by analysing the executable. Maybe you have some potential malware; maybe you have an executable for which you no longer have the source. Either way, you want to know what the program will do, were it to run on your system.
In order to reverse back from the executable to the original, you need to understand the typical idioms that an operating system, architecture and code generation programs will adopt to convert high level constructs into low level executables.
If the executable is malware, then it is likely the authors will have strewn this road you wish to reverse with obfuscating hazards. Under these circumstances you need to understand the typical idioms of obfuscation.
The module aims to explore the essential low-level techniques and analysis concepts relevant to identifying malicious code and the vulnerabilities that reside in the binaries.
This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.
The content of this module will be taught from a cyber security perspective.
- executable code from a variety of perspectives
- assembly language programming
- machine-level instruction set and organisation
- code generation
- reverse engineering techniques
- common tools for reverse engineering
- anti-debugging mechanisms
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Identify common idioms and patterns used during code transformation and explain the origin and organisation of arbitrary code and/or data fragments within an executable program.
- 2 - Apply tools and techniques as appropriate to infer the executable's overall high-level function, potentially obfuscated, potentially malicious code.
- 3. To perform malicious code analysis, vulnerability identification and evaluation independently from the findings generated by automated analysis tools.
Indicative reading list
Aho, A. V., Lam, Monica S., Sethi, R. and Ullman, Jeffrey D., “Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools”, 2 Ed, Pearson (2013)
Sikorski, Michael and Honig, Andrew “Practical Malware Analysis”, No Starch Press (2012)
Szor, Peter, “The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense”, Addison-Wesley (2005)
View reading list on Talis Aspire
Subject specific skills
1 - Identify common idioms and patterns used during code transformation and so explain the origin and organisation of arbitrary code and / or data fragments within an executable program.
2 - Apply tools and techniques as appropriate to infer the overall high level function of executable, potentially obfuscated, potentially malicious code.
Critical thinking, problem solving
|Supervised practical classes||18 sessions of 3 hours (22%)|
|Private study||91 hours (38%)|
|Assessment||95 hours (40%)|
Private study description
One third of independent study time will not directly contribute to assessment
Two thirds of independent study time will contribute to assessment
Lecture time falls within workshop time
No further costs have been identified for this module.
You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.
Assessment group A2
|Interim threat research and analysis presentation||30%||30 hours|
Students will be divided into groups and work on preliminary threat research and analysis of a given scenario. A summary of the investigation and the results are expected to be submitted in a presentation.
group assignment hence not eligible for self-certification
|Develop detailed reverse engineering, vulnerability research and development report for a given scenario||70%||65 hours|
Students are expected to produce an individual report with detailed reverse engineering, vulnerability analysis and evaluation outcome for a given scenario.
Feedback on assessment
Verbal feedback during tutorial sessions
Summative feedback on assignments
This module is Core for:
UWMA-H651 Undergraduate Cyber Security
- Year 3 of H651 Cyber Security
- Year 3 of H651 Cyber Security