Where's Crypto?: Automated Identification and Classification of Proprietary Cryptographic Primitives in Binary Code


Carlo Meijer, Radboud University; Veelasha Moonsamy, Ruhr University Bochum; Jos Wetzels, Midnight Blue Labs


The continuing use of proprietary cryptography in embedded systems across many industry verticals, from physical access control systems and telecommunications to machine-to-machine authentication, presents a significant obstacle to black-box security-evaluation efforts. In-depth security analysis requires locating and classifying the algorithm in often very large binary images, thus rendering manual inspection, even when aided by heuristics, time consuming.

In this paper, we present a novel approach to automate the identification and classification of (proprietary) cryptographic primitives within binary code. Our approach is based on Data Flow Graph (DFG) isomorphism, previously proposed by Lestringant et al. Unfortunately, their DFG isomorphism approach is limited to known primitives only, and relies on heuristics for selecting code fragments for analysis. By combining the said approach with symbolic execution, we overcome all their limitations, and are able to extend the analysis into the domain of unknown, proprietary cryptographic primitives. To demonstrate that our proposal is practical, we develop various signatures, each targeted at a distinct class of cryptographic primitives, and present experimental evaluations for each of them on a set of binaries, both publicly available (and thus providing reproducible results), and proprietary ones. Lastly, we provide a free and open-source implementation of our approach, called Where's Crypto?, in the form of a plug-in for the popular IDA disassembler.

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@inproceedings {272206,
author = {Carlo Meijer and Veelasha Moonsamy and Jos Wetzels},
title = {Where{\textquoteright}s Crypto?: Automated Identification and Classification of Proprietary Cryptographic Primitives in Binary Code},
booktitle = {30th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 21)},
year = {2021},
isbn = {978-1-939133-24-3},
pages = {555--572},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity21/presentation/meijer},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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