GrammaTech Investigates Defenses Against Reverse Engineering

2/2/2004 - GrammaTech, Inc. announced that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) research contract by the Air Force and the Office Of The Secretary Of Defense (OSD).

Existing software systems face the threat of reverse engineering. Given enough time and resources, a determined hacker can recover the design of a software program by examining its binary. The consequences of this can be dramatic: the hacker may gain unauthorized access to sensitive computer systems, allowing him to wreak untold havoc. At worst, this may allow him to compromise national security, or to perpetrate a terrorist attack. A more common result is for the hacker to "crack" software protection, thereby enabling illegal and widespread dissemination of the intellectual property rights found in, or protected by, the hacked software.

Under an AFRL/OSD SBIR grant, GrammaTech is investigating tools and techniques for reverse engineering, as well as innovative defenses that prevent reverse engineering. To accomplish this work, GrammaTech is drawing on its expertise in static analysis, expertise in dynamic analysis, and experience building code understanding tools for C/C++ and x86 binaries. The commercial potential for strong software protection is significant. Software companies lose billions of dollars to software piracy. Furthermore, techniques and tools that offer protection against reverse engineering would be invaluable for increasing the security of software systems. Thus, there are both DoD and commercial applications.

GrammaTech was founded in 1988 to design, develop, and market language-based productivity tools for software engineers. The company has an active research agenda sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The company has conducted previous research on dependence graphs, formal methods, and language-based programming, and has successfully transitioned its research into commercial software tools. GrammaTech currently markets CodeSurfer, a software-understanding tool, Ada-ASSURED, a language-sensitive editor, Ada-Utilities, a language-sensitive toolset for project-wide quality and standards auditing, and the Synthesizer Generator, a tool for developing language-sensitive program-development environments. These products are available directly from GrammaTech. Additional information is available on the Internet at

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