Skip to content
Switch branches/tags

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time


Distributed fuzzing using AFL.



AFL is a "fuzzer". You give it a target program, and it runs that target program zillions of times, trying to find input that causes it to crash.

It uses instrumentation of the target program's code to try to manipulate its input so that it explores as much of the target program as possible.


A roving cluster runs multiple copies of AFL on multiple machines, all fuzzing the same target. Roving's key contribution is to allow these machines to share and benefit from each other's work. If machine A finds an "interesting" test case that causes a new function to get invoked, machines B, C and D can all use this discovery to explore the rest of the program more efficiently.

Cluster structure

A roving cluster consists of 1 server and N clients. Each client runs M copies of AFL (using AFL's existing parallelism settings), and uses the server to share their work with their peers. Each fuzzer on the client periodically (by default, every 5 mins) uploads to the server their current AFL state, including their queue. The server saves these states in memory.

Fuzzers take advantage of the work of their peers by downloading from the server the state of all clients in the cluster. They replace their current queue with the combined queues of all clients, and then continue fuzzing as before. This allows all clients to benefit from the new, interesting testcases that any individual client discovers.

This approach relies on the non-determinism of AFL. If every client deterministically ran the same test cases when given the same queue, we would simply be repeating the same work N times across N different clients. In reality, clients take the same queue and run in wildly different directions with it. This means that we cover more of the search space, faster.

That said, there is no formal partitioning of work, and there will be some amount of duplication of work between clients. We do not currently have any estimates of how much work is duplicated, but it is safe to say that running 10 roving clients will not get you 10x the edge-discovery rate of 1 client. Roving uses the same principle as AFL's own single-machine parallelism, so we still have good reason to believe that it is effective.



For now roving uses [Bazel][] for its build. You'll need to download it in order to build roving.

Roving Server

  • Export AFL with the path to afl, or make sure afl-fuzz is on PATH
  • In the workdir, create a target binary [optional]
  • In the workdir, make a directory called input and populate it with a corpus
  • Run bazel build //cmd/srv
  • Run bazel-bin/cmd/srv/darwin_amd64_stripped/srv

Once up, it will create a directory called output that mirrors the structure of the output directory created by AFL. It will aggregate crashes, hangs, and the queue.

There is also a basic (but improving!) admin page at SERVER_URL:SERVER_PORT/admin.

Roving Clients

Clients should require almost no configuration.

  • Run bazel build //cmd/client
  • Run bazel-bin/cmd/client/darwin_amd64_stripped/client -- -server-hostport XYZ:123 -parallelism X

Clients will accumulate crashes and hangs in their working dir. They will sync them to the server.

Advanced usage

Run the compiled binaries with the -help flag or see the files in the cmd/ folder for advanced options.



The test suite is not particularly extensive, but you can run it using:


Design principles

Roving clients should be very dumb

Roving clients should be very dumb and have very little configuration. This is so that clients can easily be brought up, pointed at any roving server of any type, and quickly start working.

If a roving server requires clients to be configured in a particular way (perhaps the server wants them to sync their work with it more frequently than normal), this should be passed as configuration to the server, which should then send it to the client when it starts up and joins the cluster.

Fuzzer-agnosticism is good but currently not essential

We would like roving to be fuzzer-agnostic in the future. It should be possible to power your fuzzing using afl, libfuzzer, hongfuzz, or any other reasonable fuzzer.

All of these fuzzers work in somewhat different ways and have somewhat different structures and opinions. We are comfortable loosely coupling ourselves to afl for now - for example, we assume that fuzzer input and output is structured in the way that afl expects. However, we would like multi-fuzzer support to be an achievable goal in the future, and would like to avoid making decisions that would make this unreasonably difficult.

Running the examples

The example code bash scripts live in the examples/ directory.


  • examples/c-server to build the target and run the example server serving the C example target on the default port 1414
  • examples/generic-client to run the example client

Your client should find a crash within 30 seconds.


  • Install afl-ruby
  • examples/ruby-server to run the example server serving the Ruby example target on the default port 1414
  • examples/generic-client to run the example client

Your client should again find a crash within 30 seconds.

Why Roving?

I asked some of my coworkers what they'd name a distributed fuzzy thing.

Evidently roving is extremely fuzzy, and winds up everywhere when you're working with it. Plus the testcases go roving and it's all very poetic.


  • Stripe has substantially contributed to Roving, by directly supporting its development in paid time, as well as contributing that development back to the open source project.
  • Rob Heaton spent huge amounts of time adding features, finding bugs, and documenting the project.


No description, website, or topics provided.




No releases published


No packages published