Tamper-Resistant Software System Based on a Finite State Machine

Akito MONDEN  Antoine MONSIFROT  Clark THOMBORSON  

Publication
IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Fundamentals of Electronics, Communications and Computer Sciences   Vol.E88-A   No.1   pp.112-122
Publication Date: 2005/01/01
Online ISSN: 
Print ISSN: 0916-8508
Type of Manuscript: Special Section PAPER (Special Section on Cryptography and Information Security)
Category: Tamper-Resistance
Keyword: 
software security,  software protection,  obfuscation,  encryption,  

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Summary: 
Many computer systems are designed to make it easy for end-users to install and update software. An undesirable side effect, from the perspective of many software producers, is that hostile end-users may analyze or tamper with the software being installed or updated. This paper proposes a way to avoid the side effect without affecting the ease of installation and updating. We construct a computer system M with the following properties: 1) the end-user may install a program P in any conveniently accessible area of M; 2) the program P contains encoded instructions whose semantics are obscure and difficult to understand; and 3) an internal interpreter W, embedded in a non-accessible area of M, interprets the obfuscated instructions without revealing their semantics. Our W is a finite state machine (FSM) which gives context-dependent semantics and operand syntax to the encoded instructions in P; thus, attempts to statically analyze the relation between instructions and their semantics will not succeed. We present a systematic method for constructing a P whose instruction stream is always interpreted correctly regardless of its input, even though changes in input will (in general) affect the execution sequence of instructions in P. Our framework is easily applied to conventional computer systems by adding a FSM unit to a virtual machine or a reconfigurable processor.