PDiff: Semantic-based Patch Presence Testing for Downstream Kernels

Zheyue Jiang, Yuan Zhang, Jun Xu, Qi Wen, Zhenghe Wang, Xiaohan Zhang, Xinyu Xing, Min Yang, Zhemin Yang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

25 Scopus citations


Open-source kernels have been adopted by massive downstream vendors on billions of devices. However, these vendors often omit or delay the adoption of patches released in the mainstream version. Even worse, many vendors are not publicizing the patching progress or even disclosing misleading information. However, patching status is critical for groups (e.g., governments and enterprise users) that are keen to security threats. Such a practice motivates the need for reliable patch presence testing for downstream kernels. Currently, the best means of patch presence testing is to examine the existence of a patch in the target kernel by using the code signature match. However, such an approach cannot address the key challenges in practice. Specifically, downstream vendors widely customize the mainstream code and use non-standard building configurations, which often change the code around the patching sites such that the code signatures are ineffective. In this work, we propose PDiff, a system to perform highly reliable patch presence testing with downstream kernel images. Technically speaking, PDiff generates summaries carrying the semantics related to a target patch. Based on the semantic summaries, PDiff compares the target kernel with its mainstream version before and after the adoption of the patch, preferring the closer reference version to determine the patching status. Unlike previous research on patch presence testing, our approach examines similarity based on the semantics of patches and therefore, provides high tolerance to code-level variations. Our test with 398 kernel images corresponding to 51 patches shows that PDiff can achieve high accuracy with an extremely low rate of false negatives and zero false positives. This significantly outperforms the state-of-the-art tool. More importantly, PDiff demonstrates consistently high effectiveness when code customization and non-standard building configurations occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCCS 2020 - Proceedings of the 2020 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781450370899
StatePublished - Oct 30 2020
Event27th ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2020 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Nov 9 2020Nov 13 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
ISSN (Print)1543-7221


Conference27th ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


Dive into the research topics of 'PDiff: Semantic-based Patch Presence Testing for Downstream Kernels'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this