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Thursday, August 11 • 9:00am - 9:30am
Automatically Detecting Error Handling Bugs Using Error Specifications

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Incorrect error handling in security-sensitive code often leads to severe security vulnerabilities. Implementing correct error handling is repetitive and tedious especially in languages like C that do not support any exception handling primitives. This makes it very easy for the developers to unwittingly introduce error handling bugs. Moreover, error handling bugs are hard to detect and locate using existing bug-finding techniques because many of these bugs do not display any obviously erroneous behaviors (e.g., crash and assertion failure) but cause subtle inaccuracies.

In this paper, we design, implement, and evaluate EPEX, a tool that uses error specifications to identify and symbolically explore different error paths and reports bugs when any errors are handled incorrectly along these paths. The key insights behind our approach are: (i) real-world programs often handle errors only in a limited number of ways and (ii) most functions have simple and consistent error specifications. This allows us to create a simple oracle that can detect a large class of error handling bugs across a wide range of programs. We evaluated EPEX on 867,000 lines of C Code from four different open-source SSL/TLS libraries (OpenSSL, GnuTLS, mbedTLS, and wolfSSL) and 5 different applications that use SSL/TLS API (Apache httpd, cURL, Wget, LYNX, and Mutt). EPEx discovered 102 new error handling bugs across these programs—at least 53 of which lead to security flaws that break the security guarantees of SSL/TLS. EPEX has a low false positive rate (28 out of 130 reported bugs) as well as a low false negative rate (20 out of 960 reported correct error handling cases).

Thursday August 11, 2016 9:00am - 9:30am PDT
Zilker Ballroom 2

Attendees (3)