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Software That Fixes Itself

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers led by professor Martin Rinard have developed ClearView, software capable of finding and fixing certain types of software bugs within a few minutes. Rinard, who presented the software at ACM's recent Symposium on Operating System Principles, says the goal is to create an "immortal, invulnerable program."

ClearView can operate without assistance from humans and without access to a program's underlying source code. By observing a program's normal behavior and creating a set of rules, ClearView can detect certain errors, including those caused by malicious programs. ClearView detects any anomalies that violate the rules and provides several potential patches that would force the software to follow the rules. The patches are applied directly to the binary level, bypassing the source code. ClearView analyzes the possible solutions to decide which ones are the most likely to work and installs the top candidates and tests their effectiveness. If additional rules are violated or the patch crashes the system, ClearView rejects those solutions and finds another.

The researchers say the system is particularly effective on a group of machines running the same software. They tested ClearView by installing it on a group of computers running Firefox and using an independent team to attack the Web browser using 10 different approaches. ClearView successfully blocked all of the attacks by detecting the anomalies and terminating the application before the attack could take effect.

From Technology Review
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