MIT's new bug finder uncovers flaws in Web apps in 64 seconds

It found 23 new vulnerabilities in 50 popular Web applications written with Ruby on Rails

MIT's new debugging system found 23 previously undiagnosed security flaws. Credit: MIT News

MIT's new debugging system found 23 previously undiagnosed security flaws. Credit: MIT News

Finding bugs in Web applications is an ongoing challenge, but a new tool from MIT exploits some of the idiosyncrasies in the Ruby on Rails programming framework to quickly uncover new ones.

In tests on 50 popular Web applications written using Ruby on Rails, the system found 23 previously undiagnosed security flaws, and it took no more than 64 seconds to analyze any given program.

Ruby on Rails is distinguished from other frameworks because it defines even its most basic operations in libraries. MIT's researchers took advantage of that fact by rewriting those libraries so that the operations defined in them describe their own behavior in a logical language.

That turns the Rails interpreter, which converts high-level Rails programs into machine-readable code, into a static-analysis tool that describes how data flows through the program. The result is that running a Rails program through the interpreter produces a formal, line-by-line description of how the program handles data.

Dubbed Space, the new debugger focuses on a program’s data-access procedures using a simple logical model that describes what operations a user can perform on what data and under what circumstances. From the descriptions generated by the hacked libraries, Space can automatically determine whether the program adheres to those models; if it doesn’t, there’s likely to be a security flaw.

The researchers will present their results next month at the International Conference on Software Engineering.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?