January 29 – February 3 , 2012, Dagstuhl Seminar 12051

Analysis of Executables: Benefits and Challenges


Andy M. King (University of Kent, GB)
Alan Mycroft (University of Cambridge, GB)
Thomas W. Reps (University of Wisconsin – Madison, US)
Axel Simon (TU München, DE)


Andrea Flexeder (TWT GmbH – München, DE)

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Dagstuhl Report, Volume 2, Issue 1 Dagstuhl Report
List of Participants
Dagstuhl's Impact: Documents available


The analysis of executables is concerned with extracting information from a binary program typically, though not exclusively, with program analysis techniques based on abstract interpretation. This topic has risen to prominence due to the need to audit code, developed by third parties for which the source is unavailable. Moreover, compilers are themselves a source of bugs, hence the need to scrutinise and systematically examine executables.

Seminar topics

The theme of the analysis of executables is an umbrella term adopted for this seminar, covers, among other things, the following topics:

  • specifying the semantics of native instructions, intermediate languages and the synthesis of transfer functions from blocks of instructions;
  • abstract domains for binary analysis and how to combine them; type synthesis;
  • control-flow graph (CFG) reconstruction, which is a prerequisite for many program analysis, and CFG matching, which is useful for detecting piracy;
  • self-modifying code, characterising its semantics and detecting malware.

In all, 42 researchers, both senior and more junior, from 10 countries attended the meeting. This high number shows the strong interest in this emerging field. The feedback from the participants was also very positive.

Thus, one of the tangible outcomes is that the community set out to create a common piece of infrastructure. Beyond this, it was agreed that another seminar about the analysis of executables in two years time would be most welcome. We discussed what topics this new seminar should focus on and we distilled that malware, obfuscation, interpreters and self-modifying code should be major topics, as these constitute challenges that the community needs to address.

Dagstuhl Seminar Series


  • Semantics / Formal Methods
  • Verification /logic
  • Programming Languages / Compiler
  • Optimization / Scheduling


  • Executable analysis
  • Reverse engineering
  • Malware detection
  • Control ow reconstruction


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