Sys: A Static/Symbolic Tool for Finding Good Bugs in Good (Browser) Code


Fraser Brown, Stanford University; Deian Stefan, UC San Diego; Dawson Engler, Stanford University


We describe and evaluate an extensible bug-finding tool, Sys, designed to automatically find security bugs in huge codebases, even when easy-to-find bugs have been already picked clean by years of aggressive automatic checking. Sys uses a two-step approach to find such tricky errors. First, it breaks down large—tens of millions of lines—systems into small pieces using user-extensible static checkers to quickly find and mark potential errorsites. Second, it uses user-extensible symbolic execution to deeply examine these potential errorsites for actual bugs. Both the checkers and the system itself are small (6KLOC total). Sys is flexible, because users must be able to exploit domain- or system-specific knowledge in order to detect errors and suppress false positives in real codebases. Sys finds many security bugs (51 bugs, 43 confirmed) in well-checked code—the Chrome and Firefox web browsers—and code that some symbolic tools struggle with—the FreeBSD operating system. Sys’s most interesting results include: an exploitable, cash bountied CVE in Chrome that was fixed in seven hours (and whose patch was backported in two days); a trio of bountied bugs with a CVE in Firefox; and a bountied bug in Chrome’s audio support.

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@inproceedings {255324,
author = {Fraser Brown and Deian Stefan and Dawson Engler},
title = {Sys: A Static/Symbolic Tool for Finding Good Bugs in Good (Browser) Code},
booktitle = {29th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 20)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-17-5},
pages = {199--216},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = aug,

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