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S3 Lab - Software & Systems Security Laboratory

RevARM: A Platform-Agnostic ARM Binary Rewriter for Security Applications

Taegyu Kim, Chung Hwan Kim, Hongjun Choi, Yonghwi Kwon, Brendan Saltaformaggio, Xiangyu Zhang, and Dongyan Xu

Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2017.

Security, Cyber-Physical Systems, Binary Analysis & Instrumentation


ARM is the leading processor architecture in the emerging mobile and embedded market. Unfortunately, there has been a myriad of security issues on both mobile and embedded systems. While many countermeasures of such security issues have been proposed in recent years, a majority of applications still cannot be patched or protected due to run-time and space overhead constraints and the unavailability of source code. More importantly, the rapidly evolving mobile and embedded market makes any platform-specific solution ineffective. In this paper, we propose RevARM, a binary rewriting technique capable of instrumenting ARM-based binaries without limitation on the target platform. Unlike many previous binary instrumentation tools that are designed to instrument binaries based on x86, RevARM must resolve a number of new, ARM-specific binary rewriting challenges. Moreover, RevARM is able to handle stripped binaries, requires no symbolic/semantic information, and supports Mach-O binaries, overcoming the limitations of existing approaches. Finally, we demonstrate the capabilities of RevARM in solving real-world security challenges. Our evaluation results across a variety of platforms, including popular mobile and embedded systems, show that RevARM is highly effective in instrumenting ARM binaries with an average of 3.2% run-time and 1.3% space overhead.