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GrammaTech: SW-Hardening Techniques

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Published by by Beate Lorenzoni

GrammaTech extends its software assurance solutions

GrammaTech extends its software hardening techniques

GrammaTech, a leading provider of software assurance, hardening, and cyber-security solutions, today announced the development of technologies for advanced software hardening. Most devices on the market today 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, helping teams develop highly resilient software and minimize risks of security breaches and other failures.  

Today’s connected economy depends on interconnected, always-on cyber-physical devices to power cities, homes, and transportation. Unfortunately, these systems are common targets of malicious cyberattacks, creating an ever-increasing set of failures and breaches in the field. To solve this global issue, GrammaTech’s software hardening research is advancing the state of the art in technology for protecting embedded device software:

Static Techniques: 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 reliable  

Dynamic Techniques: 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 behaviors and respond to attacks by raising alerts, initiating recovery processes, or shutting down altogether to protect critical data.  

GrammaTech’s software hardening technologies will support existing solutions that help commercial customers achieve successful levels of reliability, safety, and security. GrammaTech’s mission is to create new products that can easily be used by embedded engineering teams worldwide. 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.

Today’s computing ecosystems are under constant threat, and system attacks are an unfortunate fact of life,” said Dr. David Melski, VP of Research at GrammaTech. “Rigorous analysis and hardening techniques can make the difference between surviving or succumbing to an attack. Software hardening is increasingly important for safe and secure operation.

GrammaTech’s research projects to advance technologies in the area of software hardening are ongoing.  Current relevant work includes GrammaTech’s role as a performer on DARPA’s program on Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems (BRASS), which aims to develop technology to automatically adapt software to retain functionality in the face of an evolving environment.


About GrammaTech, Inc.

About GrammaTech, Inc.

GrammaTech tools are used by software developers worldwide, spanning a myriad of industries including avionics, automotive, government, medical, and other applications where reliability, safety, and security are paramount. Born from research carried out at Cornell University, GrammaTech continues to advance the science of software assurance, software hardening, and autonomic computing, providing techniques and technology for software teams to produce safer and more resilient software. More information about GrammaTech can be found at http://www.grammatech.com.

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