Chapter 18. Source Code Auditing: Finding Vulnerabilities in C-Based Languages

Auditing software with the source code is often the most effective way to discover new vulnerabilities. A large amount of widely deployed software is open source, and some commercial vendors have shared their operating system source code with the public. With some experience, it is possible to detect obvious flaws quickly and more subtle flaws with time. Although binary analysis is always a possibility, the availability of source code makes auditing much easier. This chapter covers auditing source code written in C-based languages for both simple and subtle vulnerabilities, and mainly focuses on detecting memory-corruption vulnerabilities.

Many people audit source code, and each has his or her own reasons for doing so. Some audit code as part of their jobs or as a hobby, whereas others simply want an idea of the security of the applications they run on their systems. There are undoubtedly people out there who audit source code to find ways to break into systems. Whatever the reason for auditing, source code review is arguably the best way to discover vulnerabilities in applications. If the source code is available, use it.

The argument about whether it's more difficult to find bugs or to exploit them has been thrown around a fair bit, and cases can be made for either side. Some vulnerabilities are extremely obvious to anyone reading the source but turn out to be nearly unexploitable in any practical situation. ...

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