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Re: [Xen-devel] [PATCH 14/14] fuzz/x86_emulate: Add an option to limit the number of instructions executed

On Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 05:43:43PM +0100, George Dunlap wrote:
> AFL considers a testcase to be a useful addition not only if there are
> tuples exercised by that testcase which were not exercised otherwise,
> but also if the *number* of times an individual tuple is exercised
> changes significantly; in particular, if the number of the highes bit
> changes (i.e., if it is run 1, 2-3, 4-7, 8-15, &c).
> Unfortunately, one simple way to increase these stats it to execute
> the same (or similar) instructions multiple times.  Such long
> testcases take exponentially longer to fuzz: the fuzzer spends more
> time flipping bits looking for meaningful changes, and each execution
> takes longer because it is doing more things.  So long paths which add
> nothing to the actual code coverage but effectively "distract" the
> fuzzer, making it less effective.
> Experiments have shown that not allowing infinite number of
> instruction retries for the old (non-compact) format does indeed speed
> up and increase code coverage.  However, it has also shown that on the
> new, more compact format, having no instruction limit causes the highest
> throughput in code coverage.
> So leave the option in, but have it default to 0 (no limit).

How does limiting the number of loops help afl produce better input?
Wouldn't afl still try to flip bits beyond the limit (say, the >=n+1
instructions when the limit is n)? I assume it will give up at some
point, but when?

I guess my point is having a limit but doesn't tell afl about it seems
a bit sub-optimal to me. I'm not quite sure if I understand correctly
how afl works though.

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