In simple terms, obfuscation means making things difficult for others to understand. The code of programming is often obfuscated to protect trade secrets or intellectual property and it prevents an attacker from reverse engineering and it can be a proprietary software program. Encrypting all or some of the program code is an obfuscation method. A few other approaches would be replacing class or variable names with unused code in an application script. There is a tool that is referred to as the obfuscator, that is going to automatically convert the source code into a program that would be working in the same manner. Though it may turn out to be a difficult one to figure out and understand.
The sad part is that the malicious code writers would also be using these methods for preventing attack mechanisms to be detected by antimalware codes. An example that comes to the fore is the solar wind attacks using obfuscation to evade the defences. The use of DE obfuscation techniques may go on to reverse engineer the process. What it does is that it goes on to narrow the source code along with program synthesis. Both of the terms out to be viable code obfuscation methods. This makes it reverse engineer the process which does make things difficult.
The working of obfuscation
Obfuscation in the domain of computers does rely on the use of complex roundabout codes or redundant logic to make the code really difficult to understand. The objective is to distract the reader with the complicated syntax of what they are trying to read that makes it really difficult for them to figure out the true value of the message
With computer code, the reader can be a computer device, a person or another program which relies on digital signatures to interpret code. It is going to automatically reverse engineer source code, which makes the program difficult to decompile as well. Code obfuscation is not about altering the original content of the code. But the focus is on using the delivery method along with the presentation of the code a tinge confusing. It is not going to follow the manner by which the program works or be the end output. Using the human eye, the obfuscated version is impossible to follow.
The techniques of obfuscation
The method of obfuscation uses several modules. To develop a layered effect multiple layers are used. The programs are written in software languages that may be compiled such as Java or C++ which would be easier to obfuscate. The reason being they are going to develop intermediate-level instructions that would be easy to read. It also points to the fact that C++ would be difficult to obfuscate as it compiles machine code, which does make it difficult for people to work around. A few of the common obfuscation methods goes on to include the following
- Renaming- the obfuscator will alter the names and methods of the variables. Coming to the new names can be invisible or printable.
- Packaging- this may go on to compress the entire program which makes the code unreadable.
- Control flow- the decompiled code replicates a form of spaghetti logic. This is unstructured and hard to code where the line of thought is expected to be obscured. The results that emerge from this code are not clear and it is hard to replicate what the code is trying to look at.
- Unused removal code- metadata or unused code is expected to provide the reader information about the code, like an annotation on a word document which helps the reader to read and then debug it later. Removing them is bound to provide the reader with information about the program and the code.
- Anti-debugging- hackers and legitimate software engineers use the debug codes to examine things line by line. By using these tools software engineers can detect any problems with the code at any point in time. An IT company can use an anti-debug tool to identify when the hacker is running a program to launch an attack.
- Anti-tampered- these tools are going to detect the codes that are tampered with and if you feel that it has been modified it is expected to stop the program.
- Sting encryption- the method relies on the use of encryption to hide the stings in an executable and resorts to the values that are only needed to be running the program. This would make it difficult to launch into a program with related strings.
The methods of obfuscation
There are a series of benefits related to obfuscation
- Secrecy- Obfuscation is known to hide the reliable information available in the code. This could turn out to be an advantage for organizations that is looking to protect themselves from any attacks or competitors. The bad players are known to focus on the secrecy of obfuscation to hide the malicious code
- Efficiency- some of the obfuscation methods like unused code removal, do have an impact where it shrinks the program as it would make it less resource intensive to run it.
- Security- Obfuscation is an in-built security method and it may be referred to as an application in protection. Rather than relying on an external security method, it is going to work with what is being protected. This is ideally suited for running applications that is operational in an unsecured environment and it does not contain any form of sensitive information.
To conclude it is vital to figure out how successful the method of obfuscation can turn out. There are a few guidelines that do give an idea about the same. Differentiation is the key as it gives an idea on how the transformed code differs from one method to another method. There are a few ways to judge the same like the number of predicates that the new code is bound to contain. On the other hand a cost-effective obfuscation method may turn out to be useful if you compare it with one that is expensive.