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Translingual Obfuscation

Teddy Rogers

About This File

Program obfuscation is an important software protection technique that prevents attackers from revealing the programming logic and design of the software. We introduce translingual obfuscation, a new software obfuscation scheme which makes programs obscure by “misusing” the unique features of certain programming languages. Translingual obfuscation translates part of a program from its original language to another language which has a different programming paradigm and execution model, thus increasing program complexity and impeding reverse engineering. In this paper, we investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of translingual obfuscation with Prolog, a logic programming language. We implement translingual obfuscation in a tool called BABEL, which can selectively translate C functions into Prolog predicates. By leveraging two important features of the Prolog language, i.e., unification and backtracking, BABEL obfuscates both the data layout and control flow of C programs, making them much more difficult to reverse engineer. Our experiments show that BABEL provides effective and stealthy software obfuscation, while the cost is only modest compared to one of the most popular commercial obfuscators on the market. With BABEL, we verified the feasibility of translingual obfuscation, which we consider to be a promising new direction for software obfuscation.

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