Obfuscated Code

In software development, obfuscation is the deliberate act of creating obfuscated code, i.e. source or machine code that is difficult for humans to understand. Like obfuscation in natural language, it may use needlessly roundabout expressions to compose statements. Programmers may deliberately obfuscate code to conceal its purpose (security through obscurity) or its logic or implicit values embedded in it, primarily, in order to prevent tampering, deter reverse engineering, or even as a puzzle or recreational challenge for someone reading the source code. This can be done manually, or using an automated tool which is the way it is done industrially.

Overview

The architecture and characteristics of some languages may make them easier to obfuscate than others.[1][2]C,[3]C++,[4][5] and the Perl programming language[6] are some examples of languages easy to obfuscate.

Recreational obfuscation

Writing and reading obfuscated source code can be a brain teaser for programmers. A number of programming contests reward the most creatively obfuscated code: the International Obfuscated C Code Contest, Obfuscated Perl Contest, and International Obfuscated Ruby Code Contest.

Types of obfuscations include simple keyword substitution, use or non-use of whitespace to create artistic effects, and self-generating or heavily compressed programs.

Short obfuscated Perl programs may be used in signatures of Perl programmers. These are JAPHs ("Just another Perl hacker").[7]

Examples

This is a winning entry from the International Obfuscated C Code Contest written by Ian Phillipps in 1988[8] and subsequently reverse engineered by Thomas Ball.[9]

/*
  LEAST LIKELY TO COMPILE SUCCESSFULLY:
  Ian Phillipps, Cambridge Consultants Ltd., Cambridge, England
*/

#include <stdio.h>
main(t,_,a)
char
*
a;
{
	return!

0<t?
t<3?

main(-79,-13,a+
main(-87,1-_,
main(-86, 0, a+1 )

+a)):

1,
t<_?
main(t+1, _, a )
:3,

main ( -94, -27+t, a )
&&t == 2 ?_
<13 ?

main ( 2, _+1, "%s %d %d\n" )

:9:16:
t<0?
t<-72?
main( _, t,
"@n'+,#'/*{}w+/w#cdnr/+,{}r/*de}+,/*{*+,/w{%+,/w#q#n+,/#{l,+,/n{n+,/+#n+,/#;\
#q#n+,/+k#;*+,/'r :'d*'3,}{w+K w'K:'+}e#';dq#'l q#'+d'K#!/+k#;\
q#'r}eKK#}w'r}eKK{nl]'/#;#q#n'){)#}w'){){nl]'/+#n';d}rw' i;# ){nl]!/n{n#'; \
r{#w'r nc{nl]'/#{l,+'K {rw' iK{;[{nl]'/w#q#\
\
n'wk nw' iwk{KK{nl]!/w{%'l##w#' i; :{nl]'/*{q#'ld;r'}{nlwb!/*de}'c ;;\
{nl'-{}rw]'/+,}##'*}#nc,',#nw]'/+kd'+e}+;\
#'rdq#w! nr'/ ') }+}{rl#'{n' ')# }'+}##(!!/")
:
t<-50?
_==*a ?
putchar(31[a]):

main(-65,_,a+1)
:
main((*a == '/') + t, _, a + 1 ) 
:

0<t?

main ( 2, 2 , "%s")
:*a=='/'||

main(0,

main(-61,*a, "!ek;dc i@bK'(q)-[w]*%n+r3#l,{}:\nuwloca-O;m .vpbks,fxntdCeghiry")

,a+1);}

It is a C program that when compiled and run will generate the 12 verses of The 12 Days of Christmas. It contains all the strings required for the poem in an encoded form within the code.

A non-winning entry from the same year, this next example illustrates creative use of whitespace; it generates mazes of arbitrary length:[10]

char*M,A,Z,E=40,J[40],T[40];main(C){for(*J=A=scanf(M="%d",&C);
--            E;             J[              E]             =T
[E   ]=  E)   printf("._");  for(;(A-=Z=!Z)  ||  (printf("\n|"
)    ,   A    =              39              ,C             --
)    ;   Z    ||    printf   (M   ))M[Z]=Z[A-(E   =A[J-Z])&&!C
&    A   ==             T[                                  A]
|6<<27<rand||!C&!Z?J[T[E]=T[A]]=E,J[T[A]=A-Z]=A,"_.":" |"];}

Modern[vague] C compilers don't allow constant strings to be overwritten, which can be avoided by changing "*M" to "M[3]" and omitting "M=".[]

The following example by Óscar Toledo Gutiérrez, Best of Show entry in the 19th IOCCC, implements an 8080 emulator complete with terminal and disk controller, capable of booting CP/M-80 and running CP/M applications:[11]

#include <stdio.h>
           #define n(o,p,e)=y=(z=a(e)%16 p x%16 p o,a(e)p x p o),h(
                                #define s 6[o]
             #define p z=l[d(9)]|l[d(9)+1]<<8,1<(9[o]+=2)||++8[o]
                                #define Q a(7)
           #define w 254>(9[o]-=2)||--8[o],l[d(9)]=z,l[1+d(9)]=z>>8
                               #define O )):((
                  #define b (y&1?~s:s)>>"\6\0\2\7"[y/2]&1?0:(
                               #define S )?(z-=
                    #define a(f)*((7&f)-6?&o[f&7]:&l[d(5)])
                               #define C S 5 S 3
                       #define D(E)x/8!=16+E&198+E*8!=x?
                             #define B(C)fclose((C))
                       #define q (c+=2,0[c-2]|1[c-2]<<8)
                          #define m x=64&x?*c++:a(x),
                         #define A(F)=fopen((F),"rb+")
                    unsigned char o[10],l[78114],*c=l,*k=l
                          #define d(e)o[e]+256*o[e-1]
#define h(l)s=l>>8&1|128&y|!(y&255)*64|16&z|2,y^=y>>4,y^=y<<2,y^=~y>>1,s|=y&4
+64506; e,V,v,u,x,y,z,Z; main(r,U)char**U;{

     { { { } } }       { { { } } }       { { { } } }       { { { } } }
    { { {   } } }     { { {   } } }     { { {   } } }     { { {   } } }
   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }
   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }
   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }
    { { {   } } }    { { {     } } }    { { {   } } }    { { {     } } }
      { { ; } }      { { {     } } }      { { ; } }      { { {     } } }
    { { {   } } }    { { {     } } }    { { {   } } }    { { {     } } }
   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }
   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }
   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }   { { {     } } }
    { { {   } } }     { { {   } } }     { { {   } } }     { { {   } } }
     { { { } } }       { { { } } }       { { { } } }       { { { } } }

                                   for(v A((u A((e A((r-2?0:(V A(1[U])),"C")
),system("stty raw -echo min 0"),fread(l,78114,1,e),B(e),"B")),"A")); 118-(x
=*c++); (y=x/8%8,z=(x&199)-4 S 1 S 1 S 186 S 2 S 2 S 3 S 0,r=(y>5)*2+y,z=(x&
207)-1 S 2 S 6 S 2 S 182 S 4)?D(0)D(1)D(2)D(3)D(4)D(5)D(6)D(7)(z=x-2 C C C C
C C C C+129 S 6 S 4 S 6 S 8 S 8 S 6 S 2 S 2 S 12)?x/64-1?((0 O a(y)=a(x) O 9
[o]=a(5),8[o]=a(4) O 237==*c++?((int (*))(2-*c++?fwrite:fread))(l+*k+1[k]*
256,128,1,(fseek(y=5[k]-1?u:v,((3[k]|4[k]<<8)<<7|2[k])<<7,Q=0),y)):0 O y=a(5
),z=a(4),a(5)=a(3),a(4)=a(2),a(3)=y,a(2)=z O c=l+d(5) O y=l[x=d(9)],z=l[++x]
,x[l]=a(4),l[--x]=a(5),a(5)=y,a(4)=z O 2-*c?Z||read(0,&Z,1),1&*c++?Q=Z,Z=0:(
Q=!!Z):(c++,Q=r=V?fgetc(V):-1,s=s&~1|r<0) O++c,write(1,&7[o],1) O z=c+2-l,w,
c=l+q O p,c=l+z O c=l+q O s^=1 O Q=q[l] O s|=1 O q[l]=Q O Q=~Q O a(5)=l[x=q]
,a(4)=l[++x] O s|=s&16|9<Q%16?Q+=6,16:0,z=s|=1&s|Q>159?Q+=96,1:0,y=Q,h(s<<8)
O l[x=q]=a(5),l[++x]=a(4) O x=Q%2,Q=Q/2+s%2*128,s=s&~1|x O Q=l[d(3)]O x=Q  /
128,Q=Q*2+s%2,s=s&~1|x O l[d(3)]=Q O s=s&~1|1&Q,Q=Q/2|Q<<7 O Q=l[d(1)]O s=~1
&s|Q>>7,Q=Q*2|Q>>7 O l[d(1)]=Q O m y n(0,-,7)y) O m z=0,y=Q|=x,h(y) O m z=0,
y=Q^=x,h(y) O m z=Q*2|2*x,y=Q&=x,h(y) O m Q n(s%2,-,7)y) O m Q n(0,-,7)y)  O
m Q n(s%2,+,7)y) O m Q n(0,+,7)y) O z=r-8?d(r+1):s|Q<<8,w O p,r-8?o[r+1]=z,r
[o]=z>>8:(s=~40&z|2,Q=z>>8) O r[o]--||--o[r-1]O a(5)=z=a(5)+r[o],a(4)=z=a(4)
+o[r-1]+z/256,s=~1&s|z>>8 O ++o[r+1]||r[o]++O o[r+1]=*c++,r[o]=*c++O z=c-l,w
,c=y*8+l O x=q,b z=c-l,w,c=l+x) O x=q,b c=l+x) O b p,c=l+z) O a(y)=*c++O r=y
,x=0,a(r)n(1,-,y)s<<8) O r=y,x=0,a(r)n(1,+,y)s<<8))));
system("stty cooked echo"); B((B((V?B(V):0,u)),v)); }

An example of a JAPH:

@P=split//,".URRUU\c8R";@d=split//,"\nrekcah xinU / lreP rehtona tsuJ";sub p{
@p{"r$p","u$p"}=(P,P);pipe"r$p","u$p";++$p;($q*=2)+=$f=!fork;map{$P=$P[$f^ord
($p{$_})&6];$p{$_}=/ ^$P/ix?$P:close$_}keys%p}p;p;p;p;p;map{$p{$_}=~/^[P.]/&&
close$_}%p;wait until$?;map{/^r/&&<$_>}%p;$_=$d[$q];sleep rand(2)if/\S/;print

This slowly displays the text "Just another Perl / Unix hacker", multiple characters at a time, with delays. An explanation can be found here.[12]

Some Python examples can be found in the official Python programming FAQ.

Advantages of obfuscation

There are several advantages of automated code obfuscation that have made it popular and widely useful across many platforms. On some platforms (such as Java.,[13] Android,[14] and .NET) a free tool called decompiler can easily reverse-engineer source code from an executable or library. A main advantage of automated code obfuscation is that it helps protect the trade secrets (intellectual property) contained within software by making reverse-engineering a program difficult and economically unfeasible. Other advantages might include helping to protect licensing mechanisms and unauthorized access, and shrinking the size of the executable. Note that not always one can have tamper resistant hardware to conceal secrets in code and secret data, hence one will employ obfuscation to make reversing the code and finding the secret hard. In these scenarios the end user gets a version of the software, and this same user is the adversary. The attack was therefore called `MATE: Man-at-the-End' attack, based on the traditional cryptographic attack known as MITM: Man-in-the-middle attack.

Disadvantages of obfuscation

While obfuscation can make reading, writing and reverse-engineering a program difficult and time-consuming, it will not necessarily make it impossible.[15] Some anti-virus software, such as AVG, will also alert their users when they land on a site with code that is manually obfuscated, as one of the purposes of obfuscation can be to hide malicious code. However, some developers may employ code obfuscation for the purpose of reducing file size or increasing security. The average user may not expect their antivirus software to provide alerts about an otherwise harmless piece of code, especially from trusted corporations, so such a feature may actually serve as a deterrent.

Obfuscating software

A variety of tools exist to perform or assist with code obfuscation. These include experimental research tools created by academics, hobbyist tools, commercial products written by professionals, and open-source software. There also exist deobfuscation tools that attempt to perform the reverse transformation.

Although the majority of commercial obfuscation solutions work by transforming either program source code,[16][17] or platform-independent bytecode as used by Java[18] and .NET,[19] there are also some that work directly on compiled binaries.

Obfuscation and copyleft licenses

There has been debate on whether it is illegal to skirt copyleft software licenses by releasing source code in obfuscated form, such as in cases in which the author is less willing to make the source code available. The issue is addressed in the GNU General Public License by defining source code as the "preferred" version of the source code be made available.[20] The GNU website states "Obfuscated 'source code' is not real source code and does not count as source code." [21]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Binstock, Andrew (2003-03-06). "Obfuscation: Cloaking your Code from Prying Eyes". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved . 
  2. ^ Atwood, Jeff (2005-05-15). "Jeff Atwood, May 15, 2005". Codinghorror.com. Retrieved . 
  3. ^ "Obfuscation". Kenter.demon.nl. Retrieved . 
  4. ^ "C++ Tutorials - Obfuscated Code - A Simple Introduction". DreamInCode.net. Retrieved . 
  5. ^ "C Tutorials - Obfuscated Code in C". Sites.google.com. 2011-07-07. Retrieved . 
  6. ^ As of 2013-11-25 18:22 GMT. "Pe(a)rls in line noise". Perlmonks.org. Retrieved . 
  7. ^ "JAPH - Just Another Perl Hacker". pm.org. Perl Mongers. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013. Retrieved 2015. 
  8. ^ "International Obfuscated C Code Winners 1988 - Least likely to compile successfully". Ioccc.org. Retrieved . 
  9. ^ ""Reverse Engineering the Twelve Days of Christmas" by Thomas Ball". Research.microsoft.com. Retrieved . 
  10. ^ Don Libes, Obfuscated C and Other Mysteries, John Wiley & Sons, 1993, pp 425. ISBN 0-471-57805-3
  11. ^ Óscar Toledo Gutiérrez: Intel 8080 emulator. 19th IOCCC. Best of Show.
  12. ^ "Obfuscated Perl Program". Perl.plover.com. Retrieved . 
  13. ^ ""Decompiling Java" by Godfrey Nolan". Apress;. 
  14. ^ ""Decompiling Android" by Godfrey Nolan". Apress;. 
  15. ^ ""Can We Obfuscate Programs?" by Boaz Barak". Math.ias.edu. Retrieved . 
  16. ^ "Open Directory - Computers: Programming: Languages: JavaScript: Tools: Obfuscators". Dmoz.org. 2013-08-03. Retrieved . 
  17. ^ "Open Directory - Computers: Programming: Languages: PHP: Development Tools: Obfuscation and Encryption". Dmoz.org. 2013-09-19. Retrieved . 
  18. ^ "Open Directory - Computers: Programming: Languages: Java: Development Tools: Obfuscators". Dmoz.org. 2013-04-09. Retrieved . 
  19. ^ "Open Directory - Computers: Programming: Component Frameworks: .NET: Tools: Obfuscators". Dmoz.org. 2007-01-02. Retrieved . 
  20. ^ "Reasoning behind the "preferred form of the work for making modifications to it" language in the GPL". Lwn.net. Retrieved . 
  21. ^ "What is free software?". gnu.net. Retrieved . 

References

External links


  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.


Obfuscated_code
 
Connect with defaultLogic
What We've Done
Led Digital Marketing Efforts of Top 500 e-Retailers.
Worked with Top Brands at Leading Agencies.
Successfully Managed Over $50 million in Digital Ad Spend.
Developed Strategies and Processes that Enabled Brands to Grow During an Economic Downturn.
Taught Advanced Internet Marketing Strategies at the graduate level.


Manage research, learning and skills at defaultLogic. Create an account using LinkedIn or facebook to manage and organize your IT knowledge. defaultLogic works like a shopping cart for information -- helping you to save, discuss and share.


  Contact Us