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Book Review: The IDA Pro Book

Posted by Eloi Sanfèlix

[DISCLAIMER: Este post va en inglés puesto que el libro también es en inglés... y a quien le interese lo entenderá]

At the beginning of last month I ordered a copy of The IDA Pro book from Chris Eagle at Amazon. Since reversing has been one of my pending subjects for a while now, and after seeing it recommended by Ilfak's himself, I decided to buy the book. I've just finished my first reading of the whole book, and before going into applying the acquired knowledge I've thought it may be useful to share my opinion with you.

The book is divided into 5 different parts. Part I, Introduction to IDA, covers the very basis about disassembling, reversing and reversing tools, and IDA Pro.

Part II, Basic IDA usage, introduces the reader into the IDA world in chapters 4 to 10. After introducing the user interface and the different IDA displays, Chir Eagle goes into disassembly navigation and manipulation, data types, cross-references and graphing, and finally the different IDA flavours apart from the normal Win32 GUI version (console mode for Windows,Linux,OS X). Chapter 8 about datatypes and data structures also provides a nice covering of C++ reversing, showing how to locate vtables and explaining inheritance relationships among others.

Part III, Advanced IDA usage, extends the IDA knowledge provided in the previous part by discussing its configuration files, library recognition methods, how to extend IDA's knowledge about library functions and, although it is not its main purpose, what can IDA do for us if we want to patch a binary.

Part IV of the book discusses the available options to extend IDA's functionality: IDC scripts, the IDA SDK, plug-in development and processor and loader modules. To be honest, I skipped a big chunk of this part because I believe it is not worth now. I'll just come back to these chapters once I start disassembling things and needing to tailor IDA's functionality to my needs.

Part V discusses how to deal with real-world problems. It starts with a chapter about the different assembly code produced by different compilers for the same source code, and then goes into a very interesting description about obfuscated code analysis (from the static analysis perspective mainly). Next, Eagle gives some hints on how to use IDA for finding vulnerabilities and provides a list of several useful real-world IDA plugins.

Last part of the book, Part VI, discusses the IDA debugger and its integration with the disassembler. This part starts with an introduction chapter, continues with a discussion on its integration with the disassembler and ends with a chapter about remote debugging with IDA.

As you have seen, this book provides a thorough coverage of IDA's capabilities, and gives real world examples. The examples, together with the IDC and plug-in code, make it a very interesting reading for those willing to learn about reversing and about the most popular disassembler these days.

If you'd like to learn how to use IDA efficiently, how to tailor it to your needs and automate your static analysis tasks, this is your book. Definitely, it is worth the money if you want to get into IDA and have a good reference book.