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Work in this area dates back to the 90s and can generally be broken up into two disassemblying techniques1:

  1. Linear Sweep2: starts disassembling from the first byte in the program and linearly continues
  2. Recursive Traversal3: disassembles by following control flow as it is discovered

Linear sweep is considered to be more prone to errors in programs that embed data in the middle of their code[1]. Additionally, all disassembling techniques confront the main problem of Instruction boundary identification (IBI)4, which dictates when an instruction starts and ends.

Previous Works

Relevant work for decompilation focused on improving both the accuracy and scalability of disassembling programs26. Some of these works have improved these methods for work on deobfuscated binaries3 as well as benign ones. Recent work in the area has focused on reassemblable disassembly45. This area is promising for decompilation as it makes re-compilable decompilation more achievable 5.

There has also been work to measure the accuracy of these disassembling frameworks by comparing their results to that of an instrumented compiler78.

  1. Kruegel, Christopher, et al. "Static disassembly of obfuscated binaries." USENIX security Symposium. Vol. 13. 2004. 

  2. Free Software Foundation. GNU Binary Utilities, Mar 2002.

  3. C. Cifuentes and K. Gough. Decompilation of Binary Programs. Software Practice & Experience, 25(7):811-829, July 1995. 

  4. Flores-Montoya, Antonio, and Eric Schulte. "Datalog disassembly." 29th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 20). 2020. 

  5. Ruoyu Wang, Yan Shoshitaishvili, Antonio Bianchi, Aravind Machiry, John Grosen, Paul Grosen, Christopher Kruegel, and Giovanni Vigna. Ramblr: Making reassembly great again. In NDSS, 2017 

  6. Andriesse, Dennis, et al. "An {In-Depth} Analysis of Disassembly on {Full-Scale} x86/x64 Binaries." 25th USENIX security symposium (USENIX security 16). 2016. 

  7. Pang, Chengbin, et al. "Ground truth for binary disassembly is not easy." 31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22). 2022. 

  8. Pang, Chengbin, et al. "Sok: All you ever wanted to know about x86/x64 binary disassembly but were afraid to ask." 2021 IEEE symposium on security and privacy (SP). IEEE, 2021.