Sunday, August 9, 2009

Testing CPU Emulators

A CPU emulator is a software that simulates a hardware CPU. Emulators are widely used by computer scientists for various kind of activities (e.g., debugging, profiling, and malware analysis). Although no theoretical limitation prevents to develop an emulator that faithfully emulates a physical CPU, writing a fully featured emulator is a very challenging and error-prone task. Modern CISC architectures have a very rich instruction set, some instructions lack proper specifications, and others may have undefined effects in corner-cases. This paper presents a testing methodology specific for CPU emulators, based on fuzzing. The emulator is "stressed" with specially crafted test-cases, to verify whether the CPU is properly emulated or not. Improper behaviours of the emulator are detected by running the same test-case concurrently on the emulated and on the physical CPUs and by comparing the state of the two after the execution. Differences in the final state testify defects in the code of the emulator. We implemented this methodology in a prototype (codenamed EmuFuzzer), analysed four state-of-the-art IA-32 emulators (QEMU, Valgrind, Pin and BOCHS), and found several defects in each of them, some of which can prevent the proper execution of programs.

Download Testing CPU Emulators

1 comment:

Ian Preston said...

Is EmuFuzzer available anywhere? Either in binary or source?