Microsoft Open Source Application Inspector

Microsoft Application Inspector
Microsoft Application Inspector

Microsoft Application Inspector – To analyse the security of open source code.

It helps developers that identify security risks and other unusual characteristics of code to aid in determining what the software is or what it does by conducting an inspecting scan.

A source code analyzer that helps you understand what a program does by identifying interesting features and characteristics using static analysis and a customizable JSON based rules engine.

Application Inspector is different from traditional static analysis tools in that it doesn’t attempt to identify “good” or “bad” patterns, it will simply report what it finds against a set of over 500 rule patterns for feature detection including features that impact security such as the use of cryptography and more.

It includes a filterable confidence indicator to help minimize false positives matches as well as customizable default rules and conditional match logic.


Microsoft Application Inspector cuts down on the time needed to determine what a component could do by quickly identifying well-known features in the code which can inform you for choosing the best component to meet your needs with a smaller footprint of unknowns which is very important. It enables you to avoid inclusion of features you don’t want for the problem, system or context your app will run in.

Basically, Microsoft created Application Inspector to help us identify risky third party software components based on their specific features, but the tool is helpful in many non-security contexts as well. For instance, it can also help identify feature deltas or changes between versions which can be critical for detecting injection of backdoors.

Example Features Detection

Control Flow

  • Dynamic Code Execution
  • Process Management


  • Encryption
  • Hashing
  • Secrets
  • Randomization

OS Operations

  • File System
  • Environment Variables
  • Network Operations
  • User Accounts
  • Windows Registry


  • Secrets / Access Keys
  • Sensitive Personal Data
  • SQL / ORM

Data Handling

  • Object Serialization (XML/JSON)
  • Flash, PDF, Silverlight
  • Audio/Video Media Use or Parsing
  • Bluetooth, Cellular, RPC


  • Development
  • Testing
  • Dependencies

Service Providers

  • Cloud Services (Data Storage, Applications, Social Media)

To see a complete set of unique ‘tags’ supported for feature identification, use the ‘exporttags’ command or simply review the default ruleset under the /rules/default folder.

Typical users

  • DevOps Engineers – View source code characteristics at a feature level to determine if a component contains only what is expected. Use to compare and find alternates to identify sudden and unexpected feature changes of significance.
  • IT Security Auditors – Evaluate risk presented when third-party software is included in solution source.

Using Application Inspector

To use Application Inspector, download the relevant binary (either platform-specific or the multi-platform .NET Core release). If you use the .NET Core version, you will need to have .NET Core 3.0 or later installed.

Tags represent features using a systematic heirarchal nomenclature e.g. Cryptography.Protocol.TLS.

Application Inspector is a command-line tool. Run it from a command line in Windows, Linux, or MacOS.


> dotnet AppInspector.dll or on *Windows* simply AppInspector.exe <command> <options>

Microsoft Application Inspector 1.0.17
ApplicationInspector 1.0.17

(c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

No verb selected.

analyze - Inspect source directory/file/compressed file (.tgz|zip) against defined characteristics
tagdiff - Compares unique tag values between two source paths
tagtest - Test presence of smaller set or custom tags in source (compare or verify modes)
exporttags - Export default unique rule tags to view what features may be detected
verifyrules - Verify rules syntax is valid
help - Display more information on a specific command
version - Display version information



Command Help

Usage: dotnet AppInspector.dll [arguments] [options]

dotnet AppInspector.dll -description of available commands
dotnet AppInspectorldll <command> -options description for a given command


Analyze Command

Usage: dotnet AppInspector.dll analyze [arguments] [options]

-s, –source-path Required. Path to source code to inspect (required)
-o, –output-file-path Path to output file
-f, –output-file-format (Default: html) Output format [html|json|text] -e, –text-format (Default: Tag:%T,Rule:%N,Ruleid:%R,Confidence:%X,File:%F,Sourcetype:%t,Line:%L,Sample:%m)
-r, –custom-rules-path Custom rules path
-t, –tag-output-only (Default: false) Output only contains identified tags
-i, –ignore-default-rules (Default: false) Ignore default rules bundled with application
-d, –allow-dup-tags (Default: false) Output only contains non-unique tag matches
-c, –confidence-filters (Default: high,medium) Output only if matches rule pattern confidence [<value>,] [high|medium|low] -k, –include-sample-paths (Default: false) Include source files with (sample,example,test,.vs,.git) in pathname in analysis
-x, –console-verbosity (Default: medium) Console verbosity [high|medium|low|none] -l, –log-file-path Log file path
-v, –log-file-level (Default: Error) Log file level [Debug|Info|Warn|Error|Fatal|Off]

Scan a project directory, with output sent to “output.html” (default behavior includes launching default browser to this file)
dotnet AppInspector.dll analyze -s /home/user/myproject

Add custom rules (can be specified multiple times)
dotnet AppInspector.dll analyze -s /home/user/myproject -r /my/rules/directory -r /my/other/rules

Write to JSON format
dotnet AppInspector.dll analyze -s /home/user/myproject -f json

Tagdiff Command

Use to analyze and report on differences in tags (features) between two project or project versions e.g. v1, v2 to see what changed

Usage: dotnet AppInspector.dll tagdiff [arguments] [options]


–src1 Required. Source 1 to compare (required)
–src2 Required. Source 2 to compare (required
-t, –test-type (Default: equality) Type of test to run [equality|inequality] -r, –custom-rules-path Custom rules path
-i, –ignore-default-rules (Default: false) Ignore default rules bundled with application
-o, –output-file-path Path to output file
-x, –console-verbosity Console verbosity [high|medium|low
-l, –log-file-path Log file path
-v, –log-file-level Log file level [error|trace|debug|info]

Simplist way to see the delta in tag features between two projects
dotnet AppInspector.dll tagdiff /home/user/project1 /home/user/project2

Basic use
dotnet AppInspector.dll tagdiff /home/user/project1 /home/user/project2 -t equality

Basic use
dotnet AppInspector.dll tagdiff /home/user/project1 /home/user/project2 -t inequality

TagTest Command

Used to verify (pass/fail) that a specified set of rule tags is present or not present in a project e.g. user only wants to know true/false if crytography is present as expected or if personal data is not present as expected and get a simple yes/no result rather than a full analyis report.

Note: The user is expected to use the custom-rules-path option rather than the default ruleset because it is unlikely that any source package would contain all of the default rules. Instead, create a custom path and rule set as needed or specify a path using the custom-rules-path to point only to the rule(s) needed from the default set.
Otherwise, testing for all default rules present in source will likely yield a false or fail result in most cases.

Usage: dotnet AppInspector.dll tagtest [arguments] [options


  • -s, –source-path Required. Source to test (required)
  • -t, –test-type (Default: rulespresent) Test to perform [rulespresent|rulesnotpresent]
  • -r, –custom-rules-path Custom rules path
  • -i, –ignore-default-rules (Default: true) Ignore default rules bundled with application
  • -o, –output-file-path Path to output file
  • -x, –console-verbosity Console verbosity [high|medium|low
  • -l, –log-file-path Log file path
  • -v, –log-file-level Log file level

Simplest use to see if a set of rules are all present in a project

dotnet AppInspector.dll tagtest /home/user/project1 -r /home/user/myrules.json

Basic use

dotnet AppInspector.dll tagtest /home/user/project1 -r /home/user/myrules.json -t rulespresent

Basic use

dotnet AppInspector.dll tagtest /home/user/project1 -r /home/user/myrules.json -t rulesnotpresent

ExportTags Command

Simple export of the ruleset schema for tags representing what features are supported for detection

Usage: dotnet AppInspector.dll exporttags [arguments] [options]

-r, –custom-rules-path Custom rules path
-i, –ignore-default-rules (Default: false) Ignore default rules bundled with application
-o, –output-file-path Path to output file
-x, –console-verbosity Console verbosity [high|medium|low

Export default rule tags to console

dotnet AppInspector.dll exporttags

Using output file

dotnet AppInspector.dll exporttags -o /home/user/myproject/exportags.txt

With custom rules and output file

dotnet AppInspector.dll exporttags -r /home/user/myproject/customrules -o /hom/user/myproject/exportags.txt

Verify Command

Verification that ruleset is compatible and error free for import and analysis

Usage: dotnet AppInspector.dll verifyrules [arguments]


  • -r, –custom-rules-path Custom rules path
  • -i, –ignore-default-rules (Default: false) Ignore default rules bundled with application
  • -o, –output-file-path Path to output file
  • -x, –console-verbosity Console verbosity [high|medium|low

Simplist case to verify default rules

dotnet AppInspector.dll verifyrules

Using custom rules only

dotnet AppInspector.dll verifyrules -r /home/user/myproject/customrules -i

Build Instructions

Building from source requires .NET Core 3.0. Standard dotnet build commands can be run from the root source folder.

Framework Dependent

  • dotnet build -c Release

Platform Targeted Portable

  • dotnet publish -c Release -r win-x86
  • dotnet publish -c Release -r linux-x64
  • dotnet publish -c Release -r osx-x64

How to Run Application Inspector

The application is a client .NET Core based tool so it will run on Windows, Linux or macOS and does not require elevated privileges and there is no local database or network communications or telemetry. To run it , simply use the standard dotnet command line to invoke i.e. dotnet ApplicationInspector.dll if you are on a Linux or macOS system or if you are on Windows AppInspector.exe.

The basic steps for using Application Inspector are:

  1. Download a component in compressed or uncompressed formats
  2. Run Application Inspector pointing it at the component source code, specifying the command, report format and other options.

Download Microsoft Application Inspector

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