Postmortem Program Analysis with Hardware-Enhanced Post-Crash Artifacts


Jun Xu, The Pennsylvania State University; Dongliang Mu, Nanjing University; Xinyu Xing, Peng Liu, and Ping Chen, The Pennsylvania State University; Bing Mao, Nanjing University


While a core dump carries a large amount of information, it barely serves as informative debugging aids in locating software faults because it carries information that indicates only a partial chronology of how program reached a crash site. Recently, this situation has been significantly improved. With the emergence of hardware-assisted processor tracing, software developers and security analysts can trace program execution and integrate them into a core dump. In comparison with an ordinary core dump, the new post-crash artifact provides software developers and security analysts with more clues as to a program crash. To use it for failure diagnosis, however, it still requires strenuous manual efforts.

In this work, we propose POMP, an automated tool to facilitate the analysis of post-crash artifacts. More specifically, POMP introduces a new reverse execution mechanism to construct the data flow that a program followed prior to its crash. By using the data flow, POMP then performs backward taint analysis and highlights those program statements that actually contribute to the crash.

To demonstrate its effectiveness in pinpointing program statements truly pertaining to a program crash, we have implemented POMP for Linux system on x86-32 platform, and tested it against various program crashes resulting from 31 distinct real-world security vulnerabilities. We show that, POMP can accurately and efficiently pinpoint program statements that truly pertain to the crashes, making failure diagnosis significantly convenient.

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@inproceedings {203880,
author = {Jun Xu and Dongliang Mu and Xinyu Xing and Peng Liu and Ping Chen and Bing Mao},
title = {Postmortem Program Analysis with Hardware-Enhanced Post-Crash Artifacts},
booktitle = {26th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 17)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-40-9},
address = {Vancouver, BC},
pages = {17-32},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},