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A taint-tracking plugin for the Valgrind memory checking tool
C M4 Makefile
Latest commit d4f8333 Mar 31, 2016 @wmkhoo bugfix: ti[next] -> _ti(next)
The taint bit is encoded in the MSB of the temp index, thus ti[next] gives a large negative value, while _ti(next) masks the right bits to give the correct temp index.
Thanks to Laurent Simon ( for notifying me of the bug and providing a patch.

Taintgrind: a Valgrind taint analysis tool

2015-10-6 Support for Valgrind 3.11.0, x86_linux and amd64_linux

2015-10-6 Highly experimental feature: SMT-libv2 output via --smt2=yes

2014-09-25 Support for client requests

2014-09-15 Support for Valgrind 3.10.0, x86_linux and amd64_linux

2013-12-20 Experimental support for 32-bit ARM, tested on Android 4.4 emulator with API 19

2013-11-18 Currently supporting: Valgrind 3.9.0, x86_linux and amd64_linux


  1. Download Valgrind and build

    [me@machine ~/] tar jxvf valgrind-X.X.X.tar.bz2
    [me@machine ~/] cd valgrind-X.X.X
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X] ./
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X] ./configure --prefix=`pwd`/inst
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X] make && make install
  2. Git clone and build taintgrind

    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X] git clone
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X] cd taintgrind 
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X/taintgrind] ../
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X/taintgrind] ./configure --prefix=`pwd`/../inst
    [me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X/taintgrind] make && make install


[me@machine ~/valgrind-X.X.X] ./inst/bin/valgrind --tool=taintgrind --help
user options for Taintgrind:
    --file-filter=<full_path>   full path of file to taint [""]

If this field is '*', it is equivalent to --taint-all=yes

    --taint-start=[0,800000]    starting byte to taint (in hex) [0]
    --taint-len=[0,800000]      number of bytes to taint from taint-start (in hex)[800000]
    --taint-all= no|yes         taint all bytes of all files read. warning: slow! [no]
    --tainted-ins-only= no|yes  print tainted instructions only [yes]

Tainted instructions are really instructions where one or more of its input/output variables are tainted.

    --critical-ins-only= no|yes print critical instructions only [no]

At the moment, critical instructions include loads, stores, conditional jumps and indirect jumps/calls. If --critical-ins-only is turned on, all other instructions are not printed. The last two options control the output of taintgrind. If both of these options are 'no', then taintgrind prints every instruction executed. Run without any parameters, taintgrind will not taint anything and the program output should be printed.

Sample output

Run Taintgrind with e.g.

> valgrind --tool=taintgrind --file-filter=/path/to/test.txt --taint-start=0 --taint-len=1 gzip path/to/test.txt

The output of taintgrind is a list of Valgrind IR (VEX) statements of the form

Address/Location | VEX-IRStmt | Runtime value(s) | Taint value(s) | Information flow
0x8049A1B: lm_init (deflate.c:345) | t24_1 = LOAD I8 0x8097ae0 | 0x61 | 0xff | t24_1 <- window

The first instruction indicates a byte (type I8, or int8_t) is loaded from address 0x8097ae0 into temporary variable t24_1. Its run-time value is 0x61, and its taint value is 0xff, which means all 8 bits are tainted. The information flow indicates that taint is flowing from 0x8097ae0 (or window symbol) to t24_1. An instruction with no tainted variables will not have information flow. With debugging information, taintgrind can list the source location (lm_init at deflate.c:345) and the variable name (window).

0x8049A1B: lm_init (deflate.c:345) | t23_1 = 8Sto16 t24_1 | 0x61 | 0xff | t23_1 <- t24_1

Only one run-time/taint value per instruction is shown. That variable is usually the one being assigned, e.g. t23_1 in this case. In the case of an if-goto, it is the conditional variable; in the case of an indirect jump, it is the jump target. Loads and stores have two possible useful run-time values: the address and the data being loaded/stored. We have simply chosen to print the data. Details of VEX operators and IRStmts can be found in VEX/pub/libvex_ir.h .


Taintgrind is based on Valgrind's MemCheck and Flayer.

Taintgrind borrows the bit-precise shadow memory from MemCheck and only propagates explicit data flow. This means that Taintgrind will not propagate taint in control structures such as if-else, for-loops and while-loops. Taintgrind will also not propagate taint in dereferenced tainted pointers.

Client requests

Taintgrind may be further controlled via client requests:

On a 32-bit OS,

TNT_MAKE_MEM_TAINTED_NAMED ( UInt *buffer, Size_t len, const HChar *name )
TNT_MAKE_MEM_UNTAINTED ( UInt *buffer, Size_t len )

For example,

> cat -n sign32.c
1  #include "taintgrind.h"

The header file taintgrind.h includes all available client requests.

2  int get_sign(int x) {
3      if (x == 0) return 0;
4      if (x < 0)  return -1;
5      return 1;
6  }

Let us assume get_sign is our function of interest.

7  int main(int argc, char **argv)
8  {
9      // Turns on printing

The request TNT_START_PRINT() turns on printing and turns off the variables --tainted-ins-only and --critical-ins-only.

11     int a = 1000;
12     // Defines int a as tainted
13     TNT_MAKE_MEM_TAINTED_NAMED(&a,4,"myint");

The request TNT_MAKE_MEM_TAINTED allows any buffer to be tainted, not just through file I/O or system calls.

14     int s = get_sign(a);
15     // Turns off printing
16     TNT_STOP_PRINT();

TNT_STOP_PRINT() stops further output.

17     return s;
18 }

Compile with

> gcc -Ivalgrind-x.x.x/taintgrind/ -Ivalgrind-x.xx.x/include/ -g sign32.c -o sign32

Run with

[valgrind-x.xx.x] ./inst/bin/valgrind --tool=taintgrind ~/sign32

Should give the first instruction

0x8048507: main (sign32.c:10) | t12_9863 = r28_1696 I32 | 0xbeede088 | 0x0 |

And the last instruction

0x804858B: main (sign32.c:16) | r16_8213 = 0x0 | 0x0 | 0x0 |

The first tainted instruction should be

0x804855A: main (sign32.c:14) | t19_9142 = LOAD I32 t17_9300 | 0x3e8 | 0xffffffff | t19_9142 <- a_1

The 2 tainted if-gotos should come up as

0x80484A4: get_sign (sign32.c:3) | IF t28_3680 GOTO 0x80484a6 | 0x0 | 0x1 | t28_3680
0x80484B1: get_sign (sign32.c:4) | IF t6_14297 GOTO 0x80484b3 | 0x0 | 0x1 | t6_14297

As expected, the conditions are both false, and are thus 0. Finally the return value of get_sign should be

0x80484BA: get_sign (sign32.c:5) | r8_13565 = 0x1 | 0x1 | 0x0 | 

SMT-Libv2 output

Taintgrind can be made to generate SMT-Libv2 formulae to solve for alternative input values whenever tainted conditional branches and load/store addresses are encountered via the --smt2=yes option.

Using the sign32.c example, run with

    [valgrind-x.xx.x] ./inst/bin/valgrind --tool=taintgrind --smt2=yes ~/sign32

Save to sign32.smt2 with

    [valgrind-x.xx.x] ./inst/bin/valgrind --tool=taintgrind --smt2=yes ~/sign32 2>&1 >/dev/null | grep -v "==" | tee sign32.smt2

Use z3 ( to solve for alternative input values with

> z3 sign32.smt2 | grep -A 1 myint

Which should give

  (define-fun myint0 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint1 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint3 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint2 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint1 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint0 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint3 () (_ BitVec 8)
  (define-fun myint2 () (_ BitVec 8)

The two alternative values for myint are 0x00000000 and 0x80000000 (or -2147483648 as a signed 32-bit int). If TNT_MAKE_MEM_TAINTED() was used, the default prefix is 'byte'.


Taintgrind is licensed under GNU GPLv2.

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