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A Survey of Source Code Representations for Machine Learning-Based Cybersecurity Tasks

Beatrice Casey, Joanna C. S. Santos, George Perry. 2024

survey cybersecurity vulnerability

Machine learning techniques for cybersecurity-related software engineering tasks are becoming increasingly popular. The representation of source code is a key portion of the technique that can impact the way the model is able to learn the features of the source code. With an increasing number of these techniques being developed, it is valuable to see the current state of the field to better understand what exists and what’s not there yet. This paper presents a study of these existing ML-based approaches and demonstrates what type of representations were used for different cybersecurity tasks and programming languages. Additionally, we study what types of models are used with different representations. We have found that graph-based representations are the most popular category of representation, and Tokenizers and Abstract Syntax Trees (ASTs) are the two most popular representations overall. We also found that the most popular cybersecurity task is vulnerability detection, and the language that is covered by the most techniques is C. Finally, we found that sequence-based models are the most popular category of models, and Support Vector Machines (SVMs) are the most popular model overall.

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