3-Day Training | 23-25 Aug

Software Deobfuscation Techniques [HITB2021SIN]

  • Tim Blazytko Binary Security Researcher,
    Co-Founder of emproof GmbH
Duration 3 days
Seats Available -1
Difficulty advanced


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DATE: 23-25 August 2021

TIME: 09:00 to 17:00 SGT/GMT+8

Date Day Time Duration
23 August Monday 0900-17:00 SGT/GMT+8 8 Hours
24 August Tuesday 0900-17:00 SGT/GMT+8 8 Hours
25 August Wednesday 0900-17:00 SGT/GMT+8 8 Hours
(Course timing not suitable? Let us know!)


Code obfuscation has become a vital tool to protect, for example, intellectual property against competitors. In general, it attempts to impede program understanding by making the to-be-protected program more complex. As a consequence, a human analyst who still aims to reason about the obfuscated code has to overcome this barrier by transforming it into a representation that is easier to understand.


In this training, we get to know state-of-the-art code obfuscation techniques and have a look at how these complicate reverse engineering. Afterwards, we gradually become familiar with different deobfuscation techniques and use them to break obfuscation schemes in hands-on sessions. Thereby, participants will deepen their knowledge of program analysis and learn when and how (not) to use different techniques.

First, we have a look at important code obfuscation techniques and discuss how to attack them. Afterwards, we analyze a virtual machine-based (VM-based) obfuscation scheme, learn VM hardening techniques and see how to deal with them.

In the second part, we cover SMT-based program analysis. In detail, students learn how to solve program analysis problems with SMT solvers, how to prove characteristics of code, how to deobfuscate mixed Boolean-Arithmetic and how to break weak cryptography.

Before we use symbolic execution to automate large parts of code deobfuscation, we first introduce intermediate languages and compiler optimizations to simplify industrial-grade obfuscation schemes. Following, we use symbolic execution to automate SMT-based program analysis and break opaque predicates.

The last part covers program synthesis, an approach that learns the code’s semantics based on its input-output behavior. We explore how to collect input-output pairs; then, we use program synthesis to deobfuscate mixed Boolean-Arithmetic and learn the semantics of VM instruction handlers.


Why should you take this course?

This class is intended for students who have basic experience in reverse engineering and have to deal with obfuscated code. Furthermore, the course is also interesting for experienced reverse engineers who aim to deepen their understanding in program analysis techniques and code (de)obfuscation.

Key Learning Objectives

  • Get to know the state-of-the-art of code obfuscation and deobfuscation techniques
  • Learn compiler optimizations, SMT-based program analysis, symbolic execution and program synthesis
  • Apply all techniques to break obfuscation schemes in various hands-on sessions

What Students Say About This Training

From Tim’s past HITB training

  • Trainer’s Overall Score: 96%
  • Trainees’ Overall Feedback:

Would you recommend this class, or attend other classes by this trainer?

“Yes, I would definitely recommend this class to any reverse engineers wanting to advance their skills, and I would attend other classes by this trainer.”

“Absolutely recommend this class. It has met and exceed all my expectations!”

What part of this course did you find most useful and interesting?

“The latter part, dealing with the automation of analysis, [where we were] applying the theory of techniques covered earlier on”

“It is very difficult to fault any component of this course, its appears as a very mature and well refined project. Tim is clearly very passionate on the subjects and that is portrayed through the material and delivery.”


Prerequisite Knowledge

  • Basic reverse engineering skills
  • Familiarity with x86 assembly and Python

Hardware / Software Requirements

Students should bring a notebook with 2 GB RAM (minimum) and up to 15 GB disk space. Furthermore, they should install a disassembler of their choice (e.g., IDA or Ghidra) as well as virtualization software such as Virtual Box or VMware. Students will be provided with a Linux VM containing all necessary tools and setups.


Expand All

Introduction to Code (De)obfuscation

– motivation
– application scenarios
– program analysis techniques

Code Obfuscation Techniques

– opaque predicates
– control-flow flattening
– mixed Boolean-Arithmetic
– virtual machines
– virtual machine hardening

Code Deobfuscation Techniques

– compiler optimizations
– reconstructing control flow
– SMT-based program analysis
– taint analysis
– symbolic execution
– program synthesis

Compiler Optimizations

– dead code elimination
– constant propagation/folding
– static single assignment (SSA)
– optimizing obfuscated code

SMT-based Program Analysis

– SAT and SMT solvers
– encoding programs analysis problems for SMT solvers
– proving semantic equivalence
– proving properties of a piece of code
– solving complex program constraints
– deobfuscating mixed Boolean-Arithmetic
– breaking weak cryptography

Symbolic Execution

– intermediate languages for reverse engineering
– symbolic and semantic simplification of obfuscated code
– automation in reverse engineering
– deobfuscating VM-based obfuscation schemes
– interaction with SMT solvers
– breaking opaque predicates

Program Synthesis

– concept of program synthesis
– learning code semantics based on its input/output behavior
– obtaining input/output pairs from code
– deobfuscating mixed Boolean-Arithmetic
– learning semantics of VM instruction handlers

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