If you or your child loves to dissect or take apart the components of a machine with a view to understanding how the equipment works, you may be engaging in reverse engineering.
Also known as back engineering, reverse engineering is the process of carefully dissecting the removable parts of a machine or system to study its functions in relation to the overall operation of the machine – with a view to recreating the parts or machine in whole.
There are cars, equipment, watches, and electronic machines that are no longer available in the market because the companies that made them are no longer in business.
Some machines produced 25 or more years ago are no longer available – but given that their components are original and very durable – you can dissect the machine to study the components and then recreate them exactly through reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering works by a general process that involves information extraction, modeling, and review. Deconstructing the components of a machine to learn how everything works together is information extraction. Creating an abstract model or replacement for the targeted component is known as modeling. And testing the functional validity of the recreated piece is called review.
Best Books on Reverse Engineering: Our Top Recommendations
There are books on reverse engineering to help you along the way, and below are our best picks on the subject.
1. Reverse Engineering: Mechanisms, Structures, Systems & Materials
Available in hardcover and Kindle editions, Reverse Engineering: Mechanisms, Structures, Systems & Materials equips IT analysts and security experts with the legitimate tools to learn, design, and execute reverse engineering tasks for improved technological advancement.
This book teaches the fundamentals of dissecting equipment, determining the purpose and functions of machines, identifying materials used in manufacturing components, and evaluating how to recreate components of interest.
If you happen to acquire this book, some of the things you will learn in it include techniques for taking machines apart, failure analysis and forensic engineering, the Antikythera mechanism, identifying materials of construction, determining manufacture or construction methods, construction of Khufu’s pyramid, backtracking on substances and project materials, analyzing damaged or obselete components for recreation, and understanding the law and ethics of reverse engineering.
Author(s): Robert W. Messler
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Current Edition: Kindle, 1st Edition (November, 2013)
2. Practical Reverse Engineering: x86, x64, ARM, Windows Kernel, Reversing Tools, and Obfuscation
If you are a computer or IT professional interested in obstructing hacking threats, then you might want to learn reverse engineering. This textbook is specific to computer hardware and software – so you can study how reverse engineering works with a view to stopping computer hacking. It teaches you how criminal hackers work, and then using their strategies backward to thwart their threats.
As a computer security analyst, security engineer, system programmer, and professional involved in IT, this book will equip you to stop hackers in their tracks. According to the authors, this is the first book on practical reverse engineering to cover the basics and complexities of x86, x64, and ARM in a single academic resource.
Users will master Windows kernel-mode code rootkits and drivers, methods for protecting virtual machines, and obfuscating information technology for security purposes.
Author(s): Bruce Dang; Alexandre Gazet; Elias Bachaalany; and Sebastien Josse
Current Edition: Paperback, 1st Edition (February, 2014)
3. Reversing: Secrets of Reverse Engineering
The author of Reversing: Secrets of Reverse Engineering revealed that this is the “first popular book to show how software reverse engineering can help defend against security threats, speed up development, and unlock the secrets of competitive products.” This textbook introduces users to the fundamentals of computer components, operating systems, and then assembly language before progressing to security via reverse engineering.
Divided into two sections, the first part of this textbook teaches the security aspects of reverse engineering; and the second part delves into practical IT engineering. But beyond this, the book covers how to dissect third-party software library to enhance its applicability and how to reverse engineer competitors’ software with a view to building something better. If you want to master hacking and use it for security good, then this is the best book for you on reverse engineering.
Author(s): Eldad Eilam
Current Edition: Paperback, 1st Edition (April, 2005)
4. Mastering Reverse Engineering: Re-engineer Your Ethical Hacking Skills
Available in paperback and Kindle editions, this is the reverse engineering textbook for you if you want to master ethical hacking with a focus on IT security. This practical resource enables you to “implement reverse engineering techniques to analyze software, exploit software targets, and defend against security threats like malware and viruses.” You get to master software weaknesses and defenses without necessarily accessing its source code or design documents.
With many interesting topics on the subject, this book equips you to identify, exploit, and thwart cyber threats using the latest security techniques. It also enables you to implement advanced debugging and patching strategies using IDA Pro, x86dbg, and Radare2 among other tools. It also introduces you to encryption and compression, accessing various files with hidden codes, and obfuscating codes with the latest tricks in the business.
Author(s): Reginald Wong
Publisher: Packt Publishing
Current Edition: Paperback (October, 2018)
5. Reverse Engineering: Technology of Reinvention
Suppose you are interested in re-inventing existing products or component and improving the competitiveness of commercial products in the market. In that case, you must acquire this book, Reverse Engineering: Technology of Reinvention.
This academic resource equips users with the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to reverse the manufacturing process of any software, machine, or equipment with a view to reinventing them for better purposes.
Apart from introducing readers to the essential principles and advanced methodologies of reverse engineering, this textbook also equips users to determine if a recreated component will meet the design functionality of an original component. Users get to learn component production as well as the practices, specifications, and regulations of reverse engineering using the latest technologies in the world.
Some of the chapters in the book focus on part evaluation, materials identification, geometric measurement, data analysis, manufacturing process verification, system compatibility, and intelligent property protection among others. Some parts of the book clarify features of commercial products that are not optimized to serve the best needs or that are previously unknown by users. These and many other skills will you obtain from this comprehensive material.
Author(s): Wego Wang
Publisher: CRC Press
Current Edition: Kindle, 1st Edition (September, 2010)
There are other reverse engineering books in the market, but they do not match the depth and coverage of the ones reviewed in this guide.
The textbooks highlighted in this guide are relevant to IT specialists and security analysts from automotive, aerospace, marine, business, and other backgrounds. It is recommended for personnel carrying out forensic analyses, academic research, accident investigation, and legal functions among others.
Many of the resources are written by university professors, emeritus professors, technical directors in manufacturing organizations, and invention experts who are diverse in materials processing, joining, design, manufacturing, and engineering education among others.
It is recommended that you acquire these books in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions to meet your academic and professional objectives – and luckily, almost all the books are in their most revised and updated editions.