A common tool used by security professionals for reverse engineering binaries found in the wild is the decompiler. A decompiler attempts to reverse compilation, transforming a binary to a higher-level language such as C. High-level languages ease reasoning about programs by providing useful abstractions such as loops, typed variables, and comments, but these abstractions are lost during compilation. Decompilers are able to deterministically reconstruct structural properties of code, but comments, variable names, and custom variable types are technically impossible to recover. In this paper we present DIRTY (DecompIled variable ReTYper), a novel technique for improving the quality of decompiler output that automatically generates meaningful variable names and types. DIRTY is built on a Transformer based neural network model and is trained on code automatically scraped from repositories on GitHub. DIRTY uses this model to postprocesses decompiled files, recommending variable types and names given their context. Empirical evaluation on a novel dataset of C code mined from GitHub shows that DIRTY outperforms prior work approaches by a sizable margin, recovering the original names written by developers 66.4% of the time and the original types 75.8% of the time.
DIRECT : A Transformer-based Model for Decompiled Identifier Renaming
Decompiling binary executables to high-level code is an important step in reverse engineering scenarios, such as malware analysis and legacy code maintenance. However, the generated high-level code is difficult to understand since the original variable names are lost. In this paper, we leverage transformer models to reconstruct the original variable names from decompiled code. Inherent differences between code and natural language present certain challenges in applying conventional transformer-based architectures to variable name recovery. We propose DIRECT, a novel transformer-based architecture customized specifically for the task at hand. We evaluate our model on a dataset of decompiled functions and find that DIRECT outperforms the previous state-of-the-art model by up to 20%. We also present ablation studies evaluating the impact of each of our modifications. We make the source code of DIRECT available to encourage reproducible research.
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- 1st Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Programming (NLP4Prog)
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 48 to 57
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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