Analysis and detection of security vulnerabilities in contemporary software

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Pieczul, Olgierd
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University College Cork
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Contemporary application systems are implemented using an assortment of high-level programming languages, software frameworks, and third party components. While this may help to lower development time and cost, the result is a complex system of interoperating parts whose behavior is difficult to fully and properly comprehend. This difficulty of comprehension often manifests itself in the form of program coding errors that are not directly related to security requirements but can have an impact on the security of the system. The thesis of this dissertation is that many security vulnerabilities in contemporary software may be attributed to unintended behavior due to unexpected execution paths resulting from the accidental misuse of the software components. Unlike many typical programmer errors such as missed boundary checks or user input validation, these software bugs are not easy to detect and avoid. While typical secure coding best practices, such as code reviews, dynamic and static analysis, offer little protection against such vulnerabilities, we argue that runtime verification of software execution against a specified expected behavior can help to identify unexpected behavior in the software. The dissertation explores how building software systems using components may lead to the emergence of unexpected software behavior that results in security vulnerabilities. The thesis is supported by a study of the evolution of a popular software product over a period of twelve years. While anomaly detection techniques could be applied to verify software verification at runtime, there are several practical challenges in using them in large-scale contemporary software. A model of expected application execution paths and a methodology that can be used to build it during the software development cycle is proposed. The dissertation explores its effectiveness in detecting exploits on vulnerabilities enabled by software errors in a popular, enterprise software product.
Anomaly detection , Security vulnerabilities , Runtime verification , Software security
Pieczul, P. 2017. Analysis and detection of security vulnerabilities in contemporary software. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.