Software hardening techniques added to s/w assurance toolset

April 26, 2016 // By Graham Prophet
GrammaTech (Ithaca, New York) is developing technologies for advanced software hardening; most devices on the market today, the company notes, were not designed to support the high levels of connectivity, access, and remote operations of today’s IoT systems. GrammaTech’s software-hardening tools and techniques complement the company’s static analysis products and services.

Today’s connected economy depends on interconnected, always-on cyber-physical devices to power cities, homes, and transportation, systems that can be targets of malicious cyber attacks, creating an ever-increasing set of failures and breaches in the field. With the intention of helping develop highly resilient software and minimize risks of security breaches and other failures, GrammaTech’s software hardening research spans both static and dynamic techniques.


Static techniques encompass Binary Analysis, Transformation, and Rewriting.

Static hardening allows development and operations teams to analyze, patch, and deploy binary executables, removing potentially hazardous vulnerabilities. To augment applications with extra safeguards, development teams can transform their binaries prior to deployment with techniques such as:

Confinement, which allows an application to detect an attack, confine the malicious activity, and continue to operate safely.

Diversification, a technique of altering code and memory layout to prevent potential exploits, building resiliency and allowing systems to operate longer and run more safely and reliably.


Dynamic techniques use Run-Time Monitoring.

With the increasing need for heightened security, Run-time Application Self-Protection (RASP) techniques are starting to be deployed within IT and mobile applications. Unfortunately, these first-generation technologies are incompatible with embedded and machine-to-machine (M2M) software due to the incurred performance overhead. Working with research sponsors and commercial pilot customers, including efforts for DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge, GrammaTech is advancing these technologies for embedded use. GrammaTech’s run-time monitors provide devices with basic forms of self-awareness, allowing systems to detect deviations from expected behaviours and respond to attacks by raising alerts, initiating recovery processes, or shutting down altogether to protect critical data.


GrammaTech’s software hardening technologies can, the company asserts, support existing solutions that help commercial customers achieve successful levels of reliability, safety, and security. These new software hardening technologies will allow teams to fix identified vulnerabilities, while adding security safeguards for the ‘unknowns’ their devices will encounter once deployed, significantly advancing their software’s resiliency.


GrammaTech’s research projects to