Value-Based Program Characterization and Its Application to Software Plagiarism Detection

Yoon-Chan Jhi, Xinran Wang, Xiaoqi Jia, Sencun Zhu, Peng Liu, and Dinghao Wu
Pennsylvania State University, USA; Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

Identifying similar or identical code fragments becomes much more challenging in code theft cases where plagiarizers can use various automated code transformation techniques to hide stolen code from being detected. Previous works in this field are largely limited in that (1) most of them cannot handle advanced obfuscation techniques; (2) the methods based on source code analysis are less practical since the source code of suspicious programs is typically not available until strong evidences are collected; and (3) those depending on the features of specific operating systems or programming languages have limited applicability. Based on an observation that some critical runtime values are hard to be replaced or eliminated by semanticspreserving transformation techniques, we introduce a novel approach to dynamic characterization of executable programs. Leveraging such invariant values, our technique is resilient to various control and data obfuscation techniques. We show how the values can be extracted and refined to expose the critical values and how we can apply this runtime property to help solve problems in software plagiarism detection. We have implemented a prototype with a dynamic taint analyzer atop a generic processor emulator. Our experimental results show that the value-based method successfully discriminates 34 plagiarisms obfuscated by SandMark, plagiarisms heavily obfuscated by KlassMaster, programs obfuscated by Thicket, and executables obfuscated by Loco/Diablo.