Introduction to Process of Reverse Engineering
The process of recovering design, specifications of requirement and product functions from code analysis is called software reverse engineering. A database of the program is built, and the information is generated from it. The aim of reverse engineering is to improve the understandability of the system by helping the maintenance work and to generate the necessary legacy system documents. Legal advice must be taken before reverse engineering a product for its design or development. Also, if the information we are seeking is already in the public domain like Linux kernel etc., doing reverse engineering becomes unnecessary. The goals of reverse engineering are:
- Complexity Co-Operation.
- Recovering the Lost Information.
- Determining the Side Effects.
- Higher Abstraction Synthesis.
- Providing the Facility for Reuse.
Why Do We Use Reverse Engineering?
The process through which the design of the product is extracted, and the same design is used to reproduce the new product is called reverse engineering. Reverse engineering can extract the design of the product from scratch or design of the components of the product are extracted. Reverse engineering can be applied to computer technology, products that are manufactured, biological products, chemical products, etc. and many more products to determine the design of the product, understand how the components are coupled to form the products and working of the product. With enough time and resources, anything can be reverse-engineered. There are countless reasons for reverse engineering like it is employed when the manufacturer forgets how the product was created in the first place. It can also be used to reproduce the product at a cheaper rate than the original.
Reverse Engineering is Done Mainly for the Following Reasons:
- Interoperation of the System Requires Developing Interfaces: This is used if there is no documentation available or if there are legacy systems involved.
- Corporate or Military Spying: Reverse engineering can be used to copy the product’s design of the competitors and try to understand how to develop the market for that product.
- Documentation of the Product Improvements: If the documents provided for the products are not up to the standards, then reverse-engineering the product can be used to update the product’s documents to higher standards.
- Obsolescence Factoring Out: The lifespan of many components of products is short. Reverse engineering can be used to construct the components of the products with the materials currently available if the component of the product is not available for purchase. If there is no maintenance or support of a product from the original manufacturer, then also reverse engineering is required.
- Modernization of the Software Products: If there is a specific challenge that cannot be solved by the business, then reverse engineering can be used to understand the legacy system and solve the problem at hand. Migrating the legacy systems to new platforms can be done with the help of reverse engineering.
- Adaptions of Security: The copyrights can be managed and removed to benefit piracy with the help of reverse engineering. If the operation of the product is clearly understood, then reverse engineering can be used to implement strict protocols.
- Fixing the Flaws in the Product: Reverse engineering the products those which are not supported by the original manufacturers can help fix the problems that are existing in the product.
- Making Copies of the Original Product: This process of making copies of the original product, also called cloning can be done using reverse engineering.
- Reverse Engineering Serves as an Educational Tool: Successful and unsuccessful designs can be understood using reverse engineering and the knowledge acquired through such understanding can be built upon in the future.
- Reduction of Cost: By understanding the structure and components of the product using reverse engineering, cheaper products can be used as a replacement for the original expensive components in the product.
- Waste Products Can Be Reverse-Engineered and Redesigned: Products that are considered useless can be reverse-engineered and can be put into use by restructuring them again.
- The intelligence of the Competitor: Reverse engineering can be used in order to understand what the competitors are doing rather than what they are stating they are doing.
Multiple Process of Reverse Engineering
Reverse engineering can be done through multiple processes. The steps followed to reverse engineer a software product is different from the steps followed to reverse engineer a pharmaceutical product. But the goal of both the processes is the same, that is to find out the process from which the finished product is made and understand what is required to make the finished product.
The steps involved in software reverse engineering can be described using the below diagram:
- Information Collection: All related information about the software like source design documents etc. is collected in this step.
- Information Examination: In order to get familiarity with the system, the information collected in the first step are studied.
- Extraction of the Structure: This step focuses on identifying the structure of the program which takes the form of a structure chart and in this chart every node consists of some routine.
- Functionality Recording: Structured language like decision table etc. are used to process the details of every module of the structure, charts in this step.
- Data Flow Recording: The information extracted in the third step and fourth step are used to derive the data flow diagrams to show the flow of data through the processes.
- Control Flow Recording: Recording of the control structure of the software at a high level is done.
- Extracted Design Review: The extracted design document is reviewed multiple times to make sure it is consistent and correct. The design document also makes sure that the program is represented by the design.
- Documenting the Work: The documentation which includes SRS documents, design documents, history documents, overview documents, etc. are documented for future use.
There are many potential applications of reverse engineering and it is a useful design and development technique. Reverse engineering can be done through multiple processes. But the goal of all the processes is the same, that is to find out the process from which the finished product is made and understand what is required to make the finished product.
This is a guide to the Process of Reverse Engineering. Here we discuss the basic concept and why do we use reverse engineering with the reason and multiple processes for better understanding. You can also go through our other related articles to learn more –