No Linux, No Problem: Fast and Correct Windows Binary Fuzzing via Target-embedded Snapshotting


Leo Stone and Rishi Ranjan, Virginia Tech; Stefan Nagy, University of Utah; Matthew Hicks, Virginia Tech


Abstract—Coverage-guided fuzzing remains today's most successful approach for exposing software security vulnerabilities. Speed is paramount in fuzzing, as maintaining a high test case throughput enables more expeditious exploration of programs—leading to faster vulnerability discovery. High-performance fuzzers exploit the Linux kernel's customizability to implement process snapshotting: fuzzing-oriented execution primitives that dramatically increase fuzzing throughput. Unfortunately, such speeds remain elusive on Windows. The closed-source nature of its kernel prevents current kernel-based snapshotting techniques from being ported—severely limiting fuzzing's effectiveness on Windows programs. Thus, accelerating vetting of the Windows software ecosystem demands a fast, correct, and kernel-agnostic fuzzing execution mechanism.

We propose making state snapshotting an application-level concern as opposed to a kernel-level concern via target-embedded snapshotting. Target-embedded-snapshotting com- bines binary- and library-level hooking to allow applications to snapshot themselves—while leaving both their source code and the Windows kernel untouched. Our evaluation on 10 realworld Windows binaries shows that target-embedded snapshotting overcomes the speed, correctness, and compatibility challenges of previous Windows fuzzing execution mechanisms (i.e., process creation, forkserver-based cloning, and persistent mode). The result is 7–182x increased performance.

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@inproceedings {291076,
author = {Leo Stone and Rishi Ranjan and Stefan Nagy and Matthew Hicks},
title = {No Linux, No Problem: Fast and Correct Windows Binary Fuzzing via Target-embedded Snapshotting},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {4913--4929},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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