Reversing Secrets of Reverse Engineering

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It is amazing, and rather disconcerting, to realize how much software we run without knowing for sure what it does. We buy software off the shelf in shrinkwrapped packages. We run setup utilities that install numerous files, change system settings, delete or disable older versions and superceded utilities, and modify critical registry files.

Every time we access a Web site, we may invoke or interact with dozens of programs and code segments that are necessary to give us the intended look, feel, and behavior. We purchase CDs with hundreds of games and utilities or download them as shareware. We exchange useful programs with colleagues and friends when we have tried only a fraction of each program’s features.

Then, we download updates and install patches, trusting that the vendors are sure that the changes are correct and complete. We blindly hope that the latest change to each program keeps it compatible with all of the rest of the programs on our system. We rely on much software that we do not understand and do not know very well at all.