Dynamic analysis based on the full-system emulator QEMU is widely used for
various purposes. However, it is challenging to run firmware images of embedded
devices in QEMU, especially the process to boot the Linux kernel (we call this
process rehosting the Linux kernel.) That’s because embedded devices usually
use different system-on-chips (SoCs) from multiple vendors and only a limited
number of SoCs are currently supported in QEMU.

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In this work, we propose a technique called peripheral transplantation. The
main idea is to transplant the device drivers of designated peripherals into
the Linux kernel. By doing so, it can replace the peripherals in the kernel
that are currently unsupported in QEMU with supported ones, thus making the
Linux kernel rehostable. After that, various applications can be built upon.

We implemented this technique inside a prototype system called ECMO and
applied it to 815 firmware images, which consist of 20 kernel versions, 37
device models, and 24 vendors. The result shows that ECMO can successfully
transplant peripherals for all the 815 Linux kernels. Among them,710 kernels
can be successfully rehosted, i.e., launching a user-space shell (87.1% success
rate). The failed cases are mainly because the root file system format (ramfs)
is not supported by the kernel. We further build three applications, i.e.,
kernel crash analysis, rootkit forensic analysis, and kernel fuzzing, based on
the rehosted kernels to demonstrate the usage scenarios of ECMO

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