[TUHS] [tuhs] fuzz testing of Unix-family utilities

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Fri Apr 9 07:11:15 AEST 2021

Bart is part of the Clem Cole, Mike Carey, and Dave somebody cabal
and was my OS prof at Wisconsin.  Great guy.  Ran the undergrad
hackers lab.

If you need his attention and can't get it, rattle my cage or 
Clem's cage, we'll get him.

On Thu, Apr 08, 2021 at 02:59:27PM -0600, Nelson H. F. Beebe wrote:
> I first encountered the fuzz-testing work of Barton Miller (Computer
> Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin in Madison) and his
> students and colleagues in their original paper on the subject
> 	An empirical study of the reliability of UNIX utilities
> 	Comm. ACM 33(12) 32--44 (December 1990)
> 	https://doi.org/10.1145/96267.96279
> which was followed by
> 	Fuzz Revisited: A Re-examination of the Reliability of UNIX Utilities and Services	
> 	University of Wisconsin CS TR 1264 (18 February 1995)
> 	ftp://ftp.cs.wisc.edu/pub/techreports/1995/TR1268.pdf
> and
> 	An Empirical Study of the Robustness of MacOS Applications Using Random Testing
> 	ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review 41(1) 78--86 (January 2007)
> 	https://doi.org/10.1145/1228291.1228308
> I have used their techniques and tools many times in testing my own,
> and other, software.
> By chance, I found today in Web searches on another subject that
> Milller's group has a new paper in press in the journal IEEE
> Transactions on Software Engineering:
> 	The Relevance of Classic Fuzz Testing: Have We Solved This One?
> 	https://doi.org/10.1109/TSE.2020.3047766
> 	https://arxiv.org/abs/2008.06537
> 	https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9309406
> I track that journal at 
> 	http://www.math.utah.edu/pub/tex/bib/ieeetranssoftwengYYYY.{bib,html}
> [YYYY = 1970 to 2020, by decade], but the new paper has not yet been
> assigned a journal issue, so I had not seen it before today.
> The Miller group work over 33 years has examined the reliability of
> common Unix tools in the face of unexpected input, and in the original
> work that began in 1988, they were able to demonstrate a significant
> failure rate in common, and widely used, Unix-family utilities.
> Despite wide publicity of their first paper, things have not got much
> better, even from reprogramming software tools in `safe' languages,
> such as Rust.
> In each paper, they analyze the reasons for the exposed bugs, and
> sadly, much the same reasons still exist in their latest study, and in
> several cases, have been introduced into code since their first work.
> The latest paper also contains mention of Plan 9, which moved
> bug-prone input line editing into the window system, and of bugs in
> pdftex (they say latex, but I suspect they mean pdflatex, not latex
> itself: pdflatex is a macro-package enhanced layer over the pdftex
> engine, which is a modified TeX engine).  The latter are significant
> to me and my friends and colleagues in the TeX community, and for the
> TeX Live 2021 production team
> 	http://www.math.utah.edu/pub/texlive-utah/
> especially because this year, Don Knuth revisited TeX and Metafont,
> produced new bug-fixed versions of both, plus updated anniversary
> editions of his five-volume Computers & Typesetting book series.  His
> recent work is described in a new paper announced this morning:
> 	The \TeX{} tuneup of 2021
> 	TUGboat 42(1) ??--?? February 2021
> 	https://tug.org/TUGboat/tb42-1/tb130knuth-tuneup21.pdf
> Perhaps one or more list members might enjoy the exercise of applying
> the Barton-group fuzz tests (all of which are available from a Web
> site
> 	ftp://ftp.cs.wisc.edu/paradyn/fuzz/fuzz-2020/
> as discussed in their paper) to 1970s and 1980s vintage Unix systems
> that they run on software-simulated CPUs (or rarely, on real vintage
> hardware).
> The Unix tools of those decades were generally much smaller (in lines
> of code), and most were written by the expert Unix pioneers at Bell
> Labs.  It would of interest to compare the tool failure rates in
> vintage Unix with tool versions offered by commercial distributions,
> the GNU Project, and the FreeBSD community, all of which are treated
> in the 2021 paper.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> - Nelson H. F. Beebe                    Tel: +1 801 581 5254                  -
> - University of Utah                    FAX: +1 801 581 4148                  -
> - Department of Mathematics, 110 LCB    Internet e-mail: beebe at math.utah.edu  -
> - 155 S 1400 E RM 233                       beebe at acm.org  beebe at computer.org -
> - Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0090, USA    URL: http://www.math.utah.edu/~beebe/ -
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Larry McVoy            	     lm at mcvoy.com             http://www.mcvoy.com/lm 

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