VulCNN: An Image-inspired Scalable Vulnerability Detection System


Since deep learning (DL) can automatically learn features from source code, it has been widely used to detect source code vulnerability. To achieve scalable vulnerability scanning, some prior studies intent to process the source code directly by treating them as text.To achieve accurate vulnerability detection, other approaches consider distilling the program semantics into graph representations and use them to detect vulnerability. In practice, text-based techniques are scalable but not accurate due to the lack of program semantics. Graph-based methods are accurate but not scalable since graph analysis is typically time-consuming.

In this paper, we aim to achieve both scalability and accuracy on scanning large-scale source code vulnerabilities. Inspired by existing DL-based image classification which has the ability to analyze millions of images accurately, we prefer to use these techniques to accomplish our purpose. Specifically, we propose a novel idea that can efficiently convert the source code of a function into an image while preserving the program details. We implement VulCNN and evaluate it on a dataset of 13,687 vulnerable functions and 26,970 non-vulnerable functions. Experimental results report that VulCNN performs better than eight state-of-the-art vulnerability detectors (i.e., Checkmarx, FlawFinder, RATS, TokenCNN, VulDeePecker, SySeVR, VulDeeLocator, and Devign). As for scalability, VulCNN is about four times faster than VulDeePecker and SySeVR, about 15 times faster than VulDeeLocator, and about six times faster than Devign. Furthermore, we conduct a case study on more than 25 million lines of code and the result indicates that VulCNN has the ability to detect large-scale vulnerability. Through the scanning reports, we finally discover 73 vulnerabilities that are not reported in NVD.

In the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering.