A Reverse Engineering Reading List

One of my hobbies is taking apart binaries and figuring out how they work. It is really satisfying to take a program and break it apart, before reassembling the pieces in a way that you understand. There are so many resources for picking up this stuff that it seemed like a crime to not collect it in one place.

Warming Up

If you’re just getting into reverse engineering, there are a number of concepts you’ll need to get your head around. If you’ve been writing software for a while then chances are that you’ll have a working knowledge of how disassemblers and debuggers operate, but it’s worth a refresher.

gdb is the main debugger worth knowing these days. I use lldb for work, but it never really made its way into my side projects. Brian Hall wrote a nice gdb intro which is enough to get started.

The subject of disassemblers is a little more complicated. IDA Pro is the big one, both in terms of features and price, but a number of smaller disassemblers have sprouted up around it. Hopper for Mac is a good one, and a personal favorite is radare2. Pick one that sounds good and master it.

The last thing to mention is assembly. Without that, you’ll have no hope of deciphering the output of a disassembler. Programming From The Ground Up is a great way to pick up x86 assembly; once you’ve got that sorted it’s not too tricky to learn the other popular flavors as necessary.

A worthy mention for this section is the Reverse Engineering site on Stack Exchange – there are answers to all sorts of interesting questions over there.


There’s an enormous number of ways to practice reverse engineering in a safe (and legal) manner. Here are the websites which I regularly toy with:

  • Exploit Exercises has a bunch of VMs which you can run in something like VirtualBox to get a feel for reverse engineering. Nebula is a good one for finding your feet in Linux, whereas Protostar is the place to go for lower-level memory exploitation.
  • crackmes.de is a user driven database of exploitable binaries. Note that, like anything on the Internet, these could be horribly virus-ridden so it’s on you to vet them. (Reading the comments is probably fine.)
  • Smash The Stack is the premier wargaming site out there. The IO game is a great place to start.


My all-time favorite low-level security book is Hacking: The Art of Exploitation. I’ve spent many hours poring over this book; it’s been worth every minute. There is a great chapter on writing shellcode, and the section on ARP spoofing is particularly fun.

Another No Starch book is Practical Malware Analysis. I’ve just started on this but so far, so good. Malware analysis is a natural progression point for reverse engineering so keep this book in mind.

Finally, for the Windows crowd, Practical Reverse Engineering is the book to get. There are some wonderful sections on the Windows kernel in there (which I really need to read again one day soon).


Open Security Training recorded some of their security courses and put them up on YouTube for free. I’m still working my way through these – they’re really good so far. The Intro x86 course is a good starting point.

DEFCON and Black Hat are more general security conferences, but there is plenty there to check out. Dive into the DEFCON media server and have fun!