Hiring guide for IDA script Engineers

IDA script Developer Hiring Guide

IDA, an acronym for Interactive Disassembler, is a highly sophisticated, multiprocessor programming suite that is primarily used for dissecting binary programs. Initially launched in 1990 by the data rescue firm Hex-Rays SA based in Belgium, IDA has evolved into an indispensable tool within the cybersecurity industry due to its robust capabilities and dynamic features. The IDA script offers a targeted and results-driven approach towards reverse engineering. It empowers programmers with the ability to disassemble machine-language code back into assembly language; thus enabling them to understand how any particular software operates at its most rudimentary level. This unique capability makes it instrumental in identifying potential vulnerabilities or malicious elements within a program. With its multi-processor support encompassing over 50 processor modules from ARM architecture through x86_64 instruction sets, IDA provides unparalleled flexibility and adaptability across diverse computing environments. The advanced analysis capabilities of this software are complemented by interactive interfaces that facilitate user-friendly operations even when dealing with complex binary codes. Emphasizing practical benefits and outcomes of using this toolset includes facilitating reverse engineering tasks such as malware analysis or vulnerability assessment; thereby enhancing overall system security posture. Its wide array of features like graph visualization allows developers to map out control flow diagrams for better understanding program execution paths while debugging options enable real-time observation of code behavior during runtime. Moreover, it possesses scripting abilities through IDC (Interactive Disassembler Control) language - proprietary C-like language developed specifically for use with IDA - which aids automation of certain tasks leading to increased efficiency during large scale projects or repetitive operations. In conclusion, the IDA script stands as one among few high-performance tools capable delivering comprehensive insights into inner workings any given binary program making it invaluable asset within realm cybersecurity research development endeavors.

Ask the right questions secure the right IDA script talent among an increasingly shrinking pool of talent.

First 20 minutes

General IDA script app knowledge and experience

The first 20 minutes of the interview should seek to understand the candidate's general background in IDA script application development, including their experience with various programming languages, databases, and their approach to designing scalable and maintainable systems.

What is your experience with IDA scripting?
I have several years of experience in IDA scripting, having used it extensively in my previous roles for reverse engineering and malware analysis. I have developed numerous scripts to automate various tasks and improve efficiency.
How would you debug an IDA script?
I would use the built-in debugger in IDA Pro, set breakpoints, and step through the code to identify the issue. Additionally, I would use print statements to track the flow of the script and the values of variables.
What are the key features of IDA Pro that you find most useful?
The most useful features of IDA Pro for me are its powerful disassembler and debugger, its ability to analyze binary code, and its extensive scripting capabilities which allow for automation of tasks.
Describe the difference between IDA Python and IDC.
IDA Python is a plugin for IDA Pro that allows you to write scripts in Python, while IDC is IDA Pro's built-in scripting language. IDA Python provides more functionality and flexibility than IDC, as it can leverage Python's extensive libraries.
How would you use IDA scripting to automate a repetitive task?
I would first identify the steps involved in the task, then write a script in either IDC or Python that performs these steps. The script would be tested and debugged to ensure it works correctly, and then it could be run whenever the task needs to be performed.
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What you’re looking for early on

Does the candidate have a deep understanding of IDA script development?
Is the candidate familiar with Python or other relevant programming languages?
Has the candidate demonstrated good problem-solving skills?
Are the candidate's communication skills up to the mark?

Next 20 minutes

Specific IDA script development questions

The next 20 minutes of the interview should focus on the candidate's expertise with specific backend frameworks, their understanding of RESTful APIs, and their experience in handling data storage and retrieval efficiently.

What are some challenges you have faced while using IDA scripting and how did you overcome them?
One challenge I faced was dealing with obfuscated code. I overcame this by using IDA's advanced analysis features to deobfuscate the code, and then wrote scripts to automate this process for similar cases in the future.
Describe the difference between static and dynamic analysis in IDA Pro.
Static analysis involves examining the code without executing it, while dynamic analysis involves running the code and observing its behavior. IDA Pro supports both types of analysis, with static analysis being its primary strength.
How would you use IDA scripting to analyze a piece of malware?
I would use IDA scripting to disassemble the malware, analyze its code, identify its functionality, and understand its behavior. This could involve writing scripts to automate the analysis process, especially if dealing with a large amount of code or multiple malware samples.
What are some best practices for writing IDA scripts?
Some best practices include keeping scripts simple and modular, using clear and descriptive variable names, commenting the code to explain what it does, and testing and debugging the scripts thoroughly to ensure they work correctly.
Describe the difference between IDA's graph mode and text mode.
Graph mode presents the disassembled code in a graphical, flowchart-like format, which can make it easier to understand the control flow of the program. Text mode presents the code in a traditional, linear format. Both modes have their uses depending on the situation.
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The ideal back-end app developer

What you’re looking to see on the IDA script engineer at this point.

At this point, a skilled IDA script engineer should demonstrate strong problem-solving abilities, proficiency in IDA script programming language, and knowledge of software development methodologies. Red flags include lack of hands-on experience, inability to articulate complex concepts, or unfamiliarity with standard coding practices.

Digging deeper

Code questions

These will help you see the candidate's real-world development capabilities with IDA script.

What does this simple IDA Python script do?
from idaapi import *
def main():
    ea = BeginEA()
    print GetFunctionName(ea)
This script prints the name of the function that the IDA cursor is currently positioned in.
What will be the output of this IDA Python script?
from idautils import *
def main():
    for seg_ea in Segments():
        for head in Heads(seg_ea, SegEnd(seg_ea)):
            print hex(head)
This script will print the hexadecimal addresses of all the heads in all the segments of the binary being analyzed.
What does this IDA Python script do?
from idautils import *
def main():
    for seg_ea in Segments():
        for function_ea in Functions(seg_ea, SegEnd(seg_ea)):
            f = get_func(function_ea)
            if f is None: continue
            print 'Function %s at 0x%x' % (GetFunctionName(f.startEA), f.startEA)
This script prints the names and start addresses of all the functions in all the segments of the binary being analyzed.
What does this IDA Python script do?
from idaapi import *
from idc import *
import threading
class myThread (threading.Thread):
    def run(self):
        print GetCurrentThreadId()
thread1 = myThread()
This script creates a new thread and prints the ID of the current thread when the new thread is started.

Wrap-up questions

Final candidate for IDA script Developer role questions

The final few questions should evaluate the candidate's teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, assess their knowledge of microservices architecture, serverless computing, and how they handle IDA script application deployments. Inquire about their experience in handling system failures and their approach to debugging and troubleshooting.

How would you use IDA scripting to reverse engineer a piece of software?
I would use IDA scripting to disassemble the software, analyze its code, identify its functionality, and understand how it works. This could involve writing scripts to automate the analysis process, especially if dealing with a large amount of code.
What are some advanced features of IDA Pro that you have used?
Some advanced features I have used include its multi-processor disassembler, its graph mode for visualizing control flow, its advanced analysis features for dealing with obfuscated code, and its extensive scripting capabilities.
Describe the difference between IDA's local and remote debugging.
Local debugging involves running and debugging a program on the same machine where IDA Pro is running, while remote debugging involves running the program on a different machine. Remote debugging can be useful for analyzing malware or other potentially harmful software in a safe environment.

IDA script application related

Product Perfect's IDA script development capabilities

Beyond hiring for your IDA script engineering team, you may be in the market for additional help. Product Perfect provides seasoned expertise in IDA script projects, and can engage in multiple capacities.