Starting in Exploit Development – Day 03


Today I’ve followed part 3 of the FuzzySecurity tutorial, which went pretty smoothly now that all the VMs and software have been setup and fixed. In the end, I was successful in binding a shell to a port. Yet, I had the feeling that I often have when learning by tutorial: it works now, but would I actually be able to replicate this while exploiting another application? And what really happened? I mean I have loaded my shell code, but yet, I don’t have a clear understanding of what SEH really is. So after completing the tutorial, I actually took time to try to figure out what exactly happened.

The Structure Exception Handler (SEH)

The SEH is a Windows native mechanism to handle both hardware and software exceptions in Windows at both kernel and user spaces. So when the normal flow of an application is interrupted, the SEH comes in to handle the management of the interruption. Basically, this is the native component of Windows which triggers the try…catch… statement you use in your programs. So how does SEH works?

SEH3 Stack Layout
The overall layout of the SEH in the stack (by Igor Skochinsky – 2006)

As depicted above, the SEH is a linked list in memory, in which each nodes contains 2 pointers; one pointer to the next node in the list and one pointer to the function who handles this specific exception. There is a node for each exception handled by the current function. These nodes are basically all your “catch (FileNotFoundException)…catch(NullPointerException)” etc…. Each node of the linked list stores the pointer to the Structure Exception Handler and a pointer to the next Structure Exception Handle. The root node, the default exception handler is actually stored in the stack. So in this tutorial, when we smash the stack, we gain control of those 2 pointers, which we will use to jump to our shell code.

So in this case, what is happening is that we smash the stack with “A”s, overwriting EIP with an invalid pointer (0x41414141). Since this is not a valid value, an “Illegal Instruction”/”Access Violation” exception is thrown and thus triggers the SEH handler code. This means the code pointed by the “SEH Handler” [SEH] part of the stack will be called, which is actually a call to the next node in the SEH linked list.

By writing an address pointing to “POP POP RET” instructions at [SEH] and having it executed them, we will load the stack address of [nSEH] into EIP and as such, execute the op code at [nSEH]. So if we insert a short JMP to the address of our shell code (0xEB06 [shellcode]) at the address pointed by [nSEH], we’re done.

This technique won’t work with SafeSEH and SEHOP.

Moving on with Exploiting DVDX Player

You should have no issue generating the Playlist file to overflow the EIP register and trigger a exception.

Crashing EIP of DVDX Player
Crashing DVDX Player by overflowing EIP with a specially crafted playlist

Then by replacing the long string of “A” by a Metasploit pattern and !mona findmsp, we can find the offsets, as in past tutorials;

Offsets calculated by Mona when exploiting DVDX Player
Mona located the Metasploit pattern overwritting the SEH record at 608 bytes and 1384 bytes for our payload

Since we’re interested in exploiting SEH in this tutorial, we’re interested at which offset  the SEH is being overwritten by the Metasploit pattern. In this case, it’s overwritten at 608 bytes and we have 1384 bytes of buffer for our shell code. That means that the nSEH is at 608 bytes and SEH at 612: “A”*608 + [nSEH] + [SEH] + [Shellcode].

To link with what we’ve read in the first section, here is what happens: Our string of 608 “A” will crash the EIP and cause an exception, jumping directly to the contents of [SEH]. [SEH] must contain an address. [SEH] is located at [ESP]+8 at execution. Remember that the ESP is an indirect pointer to the top of the stack, and the stack grows downwards. By POPping two times and returning, we will load the stack address of [nSEH] into the EIP and execute whatever instruction at this address. To be perfectly honest, I’ll need to further understand this part….

Accordingly, we will look in memory for a “POP POP RET” combination using “!mona seh“. Mona will return quite a few results. We will prefer results located in DLLs owned by DVDX Player, since they are OS-independent.

Using Mona to locate POP-POP-RET to defeat SEH
Mona returns multiple POP-POP-RET combination to defeat SEH.

We’ve picked up 0x640345e7 (“\xe7\x45\x03\x64”) since it’s located within DVDX Player and contains no invalid bytes. We now got the [SEH] part of our payload:

Now for [nSEH], we’ll need to put a “jmp [offset]” instruction in it.  Our shell code begins right after the [SEH] (4 bytes) and our jmp instruction is 2 bytes. The short jump op code is 0xEB, followed by the number of bytes to jump from EIP, i.e. 6 bytes. So the instruction to insert at [nSEH] is “\xeb6\x90\x90”:

All that is left is the shellcode, which is a quick NOP slide and a shell bind. Done! Excited, I plug the payload into DVDX Player and fail miserably to have have the shell code executed. I used the same shell code as the previous tutorial in an attempt to minimize the number of things that can go wrong. By doing so, everything went wrong. Well not exactly everything, but the previous shell code had byte “0x1A” in it, which created additional READ exception in the code once the shell code loaded. So I regenerated the code without bytes 0x00, 0x0A, 0x0D and 0x1A and everything went perfect. Or almost. When running the shell code, Windows asked me to unblock port 4444 to listen to inbound connection. I guess using a reverse shell or a “download and execute” is quieter…

Windows Asking to Unblock DVDX Player
Using a shell_bind_tcp payload will result in Windows asking you to unblock the application you are exploiting.

I wonder if anything I wrote made any sense since I’ve been so focus into this exploit today. The ascii diagram from FuzzySecurity summarize the principle well enough:

Summary of the SEH Exploitation Technique
Summary of the SEH Exploitation Technique from FuzzySecurity (c) b33f
Well enough for today, my frontal lobe is overheating. More tomorrow…

[1] “Structured Exception Handling.” Windows Dev Center. (accessed March 15, 2014).

[2] Skochinsky, Igor. “Reversing Microsoft Visual C++ Part I: Exception Handling.” OpenRCE. (accessed March 15, 2014).

[3] Mariani, Brian. “Structured Exception Handler Exploitation.” Exploit-db. (accessed March 15, 2014).

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