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Taintgrind: a Valgrind taint analysis tool

2020-06-25 Support for Valgrind 3.16.1, x86_linux, amd64_linux, arm_linux

2019-04-25 Support for Valgrind 3.15.0, x86_linux, amd64_linux, arm_linux v3.15.0

2018-10-17 Support for Valgrind 3.14.0, x86_linux, amd64_linux, arm_linux v3.14.0

2017-08-10 Support for Valgrind 3.13.0, x86_linux and amd64_linux

2015-10-06 Support for Valgrind 3.11.0, x86_linux and amd64_linux

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

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

Installation (using Docker)

Make sure you have Docker installed. Then do:

~$ git clone
~$ cd taintgrind 
~/taintgrind$ docker build -t taintgrind .

After the container is built, you can run taintgrind by doing

~/taintgrind$ sudo docker run -it --rm -v $(pwd):/pwd taintgrind <ARGUMENTS>
~/taintgrind$ sudo docker run -it --rm -v $(pwd):/pwd taintgrind tests/sign32

Installation (from source)

  1. Install Dependencies (Ubuntu)

     ~$ apt install -y git wget gcc build-essential automake python
  2. Download Valgrind

     ~$ tar jxvf valgrind-X.X.X.tar.bz2
     ~$ cd valgrind-X.X.X
  3. Git clone taintgrind

     ~/valgrind-X.X.X$ git clone
     ~/valgrind-X.X.X$ cd taintgrind 
  4. Run (to build valgrind, taintgrind and Capstone)

The script does the following:

	# Patch valgrind-3.13
	patch -d ../ -p0 < d3basics.patch
	# Build valgrind
	cd ../ && \
	    ./ && \
	    ./configure --prefix=`pwd`/build && \
	    make && \
	    make install
	# build capstone
	cd taintgrind && \
	    wget -O capstone.tar.gz && \
	    tar xf capstone.tar.gz && \
	    sh `pwd`/../build && \
	    cd capstone-3.0.4 && \
	# build taintgrind
	cd ../ && \
	    ../ && \
	    ./configure --prefix=`pwd`/../build && \
	    make && \
	    make install && \
	    make check

A simple example

A simple example is tests/sign32.c

1  #include "taintgrind.h"
2  int get_sign(int x) {
3      if (x == 0) return 0;
4      if (x < 0)  return -1;
5      return 1;
6  }
7  int main(int argc, char **argv)
8  {
9      int a = 1000;
10     // Defines int a as tainted
11     TNT_TAINT(&a, sizeof(a));
12     int s = get_sign(a);
13     return s;
14 }

The TNT_TAINT client request (defined in taintgrind.h) taints a. See Client Requests for more information on the client requests available.

Compile with

../taintgrind$ make check

Run with

../taintgrind$ ../build/bin/valgrind --tool=taintgrind tests/sign32

or simply

../taintgrind$ ../build/bin/taintgrind tests/sign32

Example output

The output of taintgrind is of the form

Address/Location | Assembly instruction | Instruction type | Runtime value(s) | Information flow

The first instruction indicates an integer is loaded from a into temporary variable t22_6518. Its run-time value is 0x3e8 or 1,000 (hightlighted in red). With debugging information, taintgrind can list the source location, e.g. sign32.c:12 (highlighted in magenta), and the variable name (a). Only one run-time/taint value per instruction is shown. That variable is usually the one being assigned. In the case of an if-goto, it is the conditional variable; in the case of an indirect jump, it is the jump target; for loads and stores, it is the data. The assembly instructions, e.g. jne 0x1088f0, are highlighted in green. The other instructions are intermediate VEX instructions, which have been either omitted or simplified. As expected, the conditions (instructions 0x1088E7 and 0x1088F4, are both false, and are thus 0.

See Detecting a classic buffer overflow

Graph Visualisation

Create a Graphviz dot file with e.g.

$ taintgrind tests/sign32 2>&1 | python >

Visualise the graph with

$ sudo apt install graphviz
$ dot -Tpng -o sign32.png

Or, for larger graphs

$ dot -Tsvg -o sign32.svg

Example taint graph

Tainting file input

~/valgrind-X.X.X/taintgrind$ ../build/bin/taintgrind --help
user options for Taintgrind:
    --file-filter=<full_path>   full path of file to taint [""]
    --taint-start=[0,800000]    starting file byte to taint (in hex) [0]
    --taint-len=[0,800000]      number of file bytes to taint from taint-start (in hex)[800000]
    --taint-stdin= no|yes       taint stdin [no]
    --taint-network= no|yes     taint network data [no]
    --taint-all= no|yes         taint all files, stdin, network. warning: slow! [no]
    --tainted-ins-only= no|yes  print tainted instructions only [yes]
    --critical-ins-only= no|yes print critical instructions only [no]
    --compact= no|yes           print the logs in compact form (less difficult to read, faster to process by scripts) [no]\n"
    --smt2= no|yes              output SMT-LIBv2 format [no]\n"
    --head= no|yes              limited taint propagation [no]\n"

If the file-filter field is '*', it is equivalent to --taint-all=yes. Tainted instructions are really instructions where one or more of its input/output variables are tainted. 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 --tainted-ins-only and --critical-ins-only 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.

To taint all contents of a file, run:

$ taintgrind --file-filter=/path/to/test.txt gzip -c path/to/test.txt

To limit taint to certain bytes, run:

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

For generating SMT Libv2, see Generating SMT Libv2 output

For limiting taint propagation, see Limiting taint propagation

Reverse taint analysis

Reverse taint analysis tracks data from sink to the source. After a crash, use rtaint on the Taintgrind log file to track data back to the input file.


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. For more information, see Control-flow and Pointer tainting.

Taintgrind has been used in SOAAP and Secretgrind.


Taintgrind is licensed under GNU GPLv2.


Many of the improvements wouldn't be possible without help, feedback, bug reports, or patches from:

Khilan Gudka
Laurent Simon
Giuseppe Di Guglielmo
Marc Heuse
Marek Zmysłowski
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