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SoK: Prudent Evaluation Practices for Fuzzing

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Fuzzing has proven to be a highly effective approach to uncover software bugs over the past decade. After AFL popularized the groundbreaking concept of lightweight coverage feedback, the field of fuzzing has seen a vast amount of scientific work proposing new techniques, improving methodological aspects of existing strategies, or porting existing methods to new domains. All such work must demonstrate its merit by showing its applicability to a problem, measuring its performance, and often showing its superiority over existing works in a thorough, empirical evaluation. Yet, fuzzing is highly sensitive to its target, environment, and circumstances, e.g., randomness in the testing process. After all, relying on randomness is one of the core principles of fuzzing, governing many aspects of a fuzzer's behavior. Combined with the often highly difficult to control environment, the reproducibility of experiments is a crucial concern and requires a prudent evaluation setup. To address these threats to validity, several works, most notably Evaluating Fuzz Testing by Klees et al., have outlined how a carefully designed evaluation setup should be implemented, but it remains unknown to what extent their recommendations have been adopted in practice. In this work, we systematically analyze the evaluation of 150 fuzzing papers published at the top venues between 2018 and 2023. We study how existing guidelines are implemented and observe potential shortcomings and pitfalls. We find a surprising disregard of the existing guidelines regarding statistical tests and systematic errors in fuzzing evaluations. For example, when investigating reported bugs, we find that the search for vulnerabilities in real-world software leads to authors requesting and receiving CVEs of questionable quality. Extending our literature analysis to the practical domain, we attempt to reproduce claims of eight fuzzing papers. These case studies allow us to assess the practical reproducibility of fuzzing research and identify archetypal pitfalls in the evaluation design. Unfortunately, our reproduced results reveal several deficiencies in the studied papers, and we are unable to fully support and reproduce the respective claims. To help the field of fuzzing move toward a scientifically reproducible evaluation strategy, we propose updated guidelines for conducting a fuzzing evaluation that future work should follow.


Primary Research Area

  • Threat Detection and Defenses

Name of Conference

IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops (SPW)


@conference{Schloegel:Bars:Schiller:Bernhard:Scharnowski:Crump:Ale Ebrahim:Bissantz:Muench:Holz:2024, title = "SoK: Prudent Evaluation Practices for Fuzzing", author = "Schloegel, Moritz" AND "Bars, Nils" AND "Schiller, Nico" AND "Bernhard, Lukas" AND "Scharnowski, Tobias" AND "Crump, Addison" AND "Ale Ebrahim, Arash" AND "Bissantz, Nicolai" AND "Muench, Marius" AND "Holz, Thorsten", year = 2024, month = 5 }

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