Reverse Engineering von Software – Basics and applications

In our last article we showed the importance of software maintenance and reengineering. Today we are talking about reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering of software is an important part of software development and IT security. It refers to the process of analyzing machine code or executables to obtain information about the functionality, structure, and security of software.

In this article we will explain the basics of reverse engineering and show some application areas.

What is reverse engineering of software?

Reverse engineering of software is the process by which developers or security experts analyze the code of an application or system to obtain information about how it works and how it was created.

It can help in the development of new software by providing insight into how other similar programs work, enabling the development of comparable or better products. It can also be used to increase the security of software by discovering and fixing vulnerabilities and security holes.

Reverse engineering can be performed at various levels, from the analysis of assembly code to the decompilation of executable files.

Areas of application

Reverse engineering is applied in various fields, such as:

  1. Software development: developers can use reverse engineering to understand how other applications and systems work in order to use or improve them in their own projects.
  2. Security analysis: reverse engineering can also be used to discover vulnerabilities and security holes in software. Security researchers can use reverse engineering to analyze malware code and identify security vulnerabilities in applications.
  3. Ligitation: Reverse engineering can be used in legal disputes to understand the workings of software that is being challenged in a patent or copyright dispute.


There are several methods that can be used when performing reverse engineering. The best known are:

  1. Disassembly: this method is used to generate assembly code that represents machine code. Disassemblers are used to translate executables into their original assembly code. This allows developers to analyze and understand the code.
  2. Decompilation: decompilers are used to translate executables into a higher level programming language such as C++ or Java. This makes it easier for developers to understand and analyze the code.
  3. Debugging: Debugging is a process where developers can run the code in real time and monitor the program flow. This allows them to detect and fix errors in the code.

Our experience with reverse engineering

We had already shown how important regular software maintenance is.

In the past, we repeatedly had to deal with the fact that problems arose for customers when software was not maintained and kept up to date.

In the case of a large German energy company, this led to the fact that a business-critical software for two departments, whose development had not been documented, no longer functioned. The development environment was outdated (out of support) and it was no longer possible to make any adjustments to the system.

Fortunately, VIALUTIONS specialists were able to understand the entire system through reverse engineering and rebuild it using modern technologies.


Reverse engineering is an important part of software development and IT security. It provides insight into how applications and systems work and can help uncover vulnerabilities and security holes. By using methods such as disassembly, decompilation and debugging, developers and security researchers can analyze and understand code.

However, it is important to emphasize that reverse engineering can also have legal and ethical implications. Analyzing someone else’s code without the owner’s consent can have legal consequences and violate ethics guidelines. It is therefore important that reverse engineering is only done appropriately and with the owner’s consent.