Writeup for CVE-2018-5146 or How to kill a (Fire)fox – en

1. Debug Environment

  • OS
    • Windows 10
  • Firefox_Setup_59.0.exe
    • SHA1: 294460F0287BCF5601193DCA0A90DB8FE740487C
  • Xul.dll
    • SHA1: E93D1E5AF21EB90DC8804F0503483F39D5B184A9

2. Patch Infomation

The issue in Mozilla’s Bugzilla is Bug 1446062.
The vulnerability used in pwn2own 2018 is assigned with CVE-2018-5146.
From the Mozilla security advisory, we can see this vulnerability came from libvorbis – a third-party media library. In next section, I will introduce some base information of this library.

3. Ogg and Vorbis

3.1. Ogg

Ogg is a free, open container format maintained by the Xiph.Org Foundation.
One “Ogg file” consist of some “Ogg Page” and one “Ogg Page” contains one Ogg Header and one Segment Table.
The structure of Ogg Page can be illustrate as follow picture.

Pic.1 Ogg Page Structure

3.2. Vorbis

Vorbis is a free and open-source software project headed by the Xiph.Org Foundation.
In a Ogg file, data relative to Vorbis will be encapsulated into Segment Table inside of Ogg Page.
One MIT document show the process of encapsulation.

3.2.1. Vorbis Header

In Vorbis, there are three kinds of Vorbis Header. For one Vorbis bitstream, all three kinds of Vorbis header shound been set. And those Header are:

  • Vorbis Identification Header
    Basically define Ogg bitstream is in Vorbis format. And it contains some information such as Vorbis version, basic audio information relative to this bitstream, include number of channel, bitrate.
  • Vorbis Comment Header
    Basically contains some user define comment, such as Vendor infomation。
  • Vorbis Setup Header
    Basically contains information use to setup codec, such as complete VQ and Huffman codebooks used in decode.
3.2.2. Vorbis Identification Header

Vorbis Identification Header structure can be illustrated as follow:

Pic.2 Vorbis Identification Header Structure

3.2.3. Vorbis Setup Header

Vorbis Setup Heade Structure is more complicate than other headers, it contain some substructure, such as codebooks.
After “vorbis” there was the number of CodeBooks, and following with CodeBook Objcet corresponding to the number. And next was TimeBackends, FloorBackends, ResiduesBackends, MapBackends, Modes.
Vorbis Setup Header Structure can be roughly illustrated as follow:

Pic.3 Vorbis Setup Header Structure Vorbis CodeBook

As in Vorbis spec, a CodeBook structure can be represent as follow:

byte 0: [ 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 ] (0x42)
byte 1: [ 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 ] (0x43)
byte 2: [ 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 ] (0x56)
byte 3: [ X X X X X X X X ] byte 4: [ X X X X X X X X ] [codebook_dimensions] (16 bit unsigned)
byte 5: [ X X X X X X X X ] byte 6: [ X X X X X X X X ] byte 7: [ X X X X X X X X ] [codebook_entries] (24 bit unsigned)
byte 8: [ X ] [ordered] (1 bit)
byte 8: [ X 1 ] [sparse] flag (1 bit)

After the header, there was a length_table array which length equal to codebook_entries. Element of this array can be 5 bit or 6 bit long, base on the flag.
Following as VQ-relative structure:

[codebook_lookup_type] 4 bits
[codebook_minimum_value] 32 bits
[codebook_delta_value] 32 bits
[codebook_value_bits] 4 bits and plus one
[codebook_sequence_p] 1 bits

Finally was a VQ-table array with length equal to codebook_dimensions * codebook_entrue,element length Corresponding to codebood_value_bits.
Codebook_minimum_value and codebook_delta_value will be represent in float type, but for support different platform, Vorbis spec define a internal represent format of “float”, then using system math function to bake it into system float type. In Windows, it will be turn into double first than float.
All of above build a CodeBook structure. Vorbis Time

In nowadays Vorbis spec, this data structure is nothing but a placeholder, all of it data should be zero. Vorbis Floor

In recent Vorbis spec, there were two different FloorBackend structure, but it will do nothing relative to vulnerability. So we just skip this data structure. Vorbis Residue

In recent Vorbis spec, there were three kinds of ResidueBackend, different structure will call different decode function in decode process. It’s structure can be presented as follow:

[residue_begin] 24 bits
[residue_end] 24 bits
[residue_partition_size] 24 bits and plus one
[residue_classifications] = 6 bits and plus one
[residue_classbook] 8 bits

The residue_classbook define which CodeBook will be used when decode this ResidueBackend.
MapBackend and Mode dose not have influence to exploit so we skip them too.

4. Patch analysis

4.1. Patched Function

From blog of ZDI, we can see vulnerability inside following function:

/* decode vector / dim granularity gaurding is done in the upper layer */
long vorbis_book_decodev_add(codebook *book, float *a, oggpack_buffer *b, int n)
if (book->used_entries > 0)
int i, j, entry;
float *t;

if (book->dim > 8)
for (i = 0; i < n;) {
entry = decode_packed_entry_number(book, b);
if (entry == -1) return (-1);
t = book->valuelist + entry * book->dim;
for (j = 0; j < book->dim;)
a[i++] += t[j++];
// blablabla
return (0);

Inside first if branch, there was a nested loop. Inside loop use a variable “book->dim” without check to stop loop, but it also change a variable “i” come from outer loop. So if ”book->dim > n”, “a[i++] += t[j++]” will lead to a out-of-bound-write security issue.

In this function, “a” was one of the arguments, and t was calculate from “book->valuelist”.

4.2. Buffer – a

After read some source , I found “a” was initialization in below code:

    /* alloc pcm passback storage */

The “vb->pcm[i]” will be pass into vulnerable function as “a”, and it’s memory chunk was alloc by _vorbis_block_alloc with size equal to vb->pcmend*sizeof(*vb->pcm[i]).
And vb->pcmend come from ci->blocksizes[vb->W], ci->blocksizes was defined in Vorbis Identification Header.
So we can control the size of memory chunk alloc for “a”.
Digging deep into _vorbis_block_alloc, we can found this call chain _vorbis_block_alloc -> _ogg_malloc -> CountingMalloc::Malloc -> arena_t::Malloc, so the memory chunk of “a” was lie on mozJemalloc heap.

4.3. Buffer – t

After read some source code , I found book->valuelist get its value from here:


And the logic of _book_unquantize can be show as follow:

float *_book_unquantize(const static_codebook *b, int n, int *sparsemap)
long j, k, count = 0;
if (b->maptype == 1 || b->maptype == 2)
int quantvals;
float mindel = _float32_unpack(b->q_min);
float delta = _float32_unpack(b->q_delta);
float *r = _ogg_calloc(n * b->dim, sizeof(*r));

switch (b->maptype)
case 1:


// do some math work

case 2:

float val=b->quantlist[j*b->dim+k];

// do some math work


return (r);
return (NULL);

So book->valuelist was the data decode from corresponding CodeBook’s VQ data.
It was lie on mozJemalloc heap too.

4.4. Cola Time

So now we can see, when the vulnerability was triggered:

  • a
    • lie on mozJemalloc heap;
    • size controllable.
  • t
    • lie on mozJemalloc heap too;
    • content controllable.
  • book->dim
    • content controllable.

Combine all thing above, we can do a write operation in mozJemalloc heap with a controllable offset and content.
But what about size controllable? Can this work for our exploit? Let’s see how mozJemalloc work.

5. mozJemalloc

mozJemalloc is a heap manager Mozilla develop base on Jemalloc.
Following was some global variables can show you some information about mozJemalloc.

  • gArenas
    • mDefaultArena
    • mArenas
    • mPrivateArenas
  • gChunkBySize
  • gChunkByAddress
  • gChunkRTress

In mozJemalloc, memory will be divide into Chunks, and those chunk will be attach to different Arena. Arena will manage chunk. User alloc memory chunk must be inside one of the chunks. In mozJemalloc, we call user alloc memory chunk as region.
And Chunk will be divide into run with different size.Each run will bookkeeping region status inside it through a bitmap structure.

5.1. Arena

In mozJemalloc, each Arena will be assigned with a id. When allocator need to alloc a memory chunk, it can use id to get corresponding Arena.
There was a structure call mBin inside Arena. It was a array, each element of it wat a arena_bin_t object, and this object manage all same size memory chunk in this Arena. Memory chunk size from 0x10 to 0x800 will be managed by mBin.
Run used by mBin can not be guarantee to be contiguous, so mBin using a red-black-tree to manage Run.

5.2. Run

The first one region inside a Run will be use to save Run manage information, and rest of the region can be use when alloc. All region in same Run have same size.
When alloc region from a Run, it will return first No-in-use region close to Run header.

5.3. Arena Partition

This now code branch in mozilla-central, all JavaScript memory alloc or free will pass moz_arena_ prefix function. And this function will only use Arena which id was 1.
In mozJemalloc, Arena can be a PrivateArena or not a PrivateArena. Arena with id 1 will be a PrivateArena. So it means that ogg buffer will not be in the same Arena with JavaScript Object.
In this situation, we can say that JavaScript Arena was isolated with other Arenas.
But in vulnerable Windows Firefox 59.0 does not have a PrivateArena, so that we can using JavaScript Object to perform a Heap feng shui to run a exploit.
First I was debug in a Linux opt+debug build Firefox, as Arena partition, it was hard to found a way to write a exploit, so far I can only get a info leak situation in Linux.

6. Exploit

In the section, I will show how to build a exploit base on this vulnerability.

6.1. Build Ogg file

First of all, we need to build a ogg file which can trigger this vulnerability, some of PoC ogg file data as follow:

Pic.4 PoC Ogg file partial data
We can see codebook->dim equal to 0x48。

6.2. Heap Spary

First we alloc a lot JavaScript avrray, it will exhaust all useable memory region in mBin, and therefore mozJemalloc have to map new memory and divide it into Run for mBin.
Then we interleaved free those array, therefore there will be many hole inside mBin, but as we can never know the original layout of mBin, and there can be other object or thread using mBin when we free array, the hole may not be interleaved.
If the hole is not interleaved, our ogg buffer may be malloc in a contiguous hole, in this situation, we can not control too much off data.
So to avoid above situation, after interleaved free, we should do some compensate to mBin so that we can malloc ogg buffer in a hole before a array.

6.3. Modify Array Length

After Heap Spary,we can use _ogg_malloc to malloc region in mozJemalloc heap.
So we can force a memory layout as follow:

|———————contiguous memory —————————|
[ hole ][ Array ][ ogg_malloc_buffer ][ Array ][ hole ]

And we trigger a out-of-bound write operation, we can modify one of the array’s length. So that we have a array object in mozJemalloc which can read out-of-bound.
Then we alloc many ArrayBuffer Object in mozJemalloc. Memory layout turn into following situation:

|——————————-contiguous memory —————————|
[ Array_length_modified ][ something ] … [ something ][ ArrayBuffer_contents ]

In this situation, we can use Array_length_modified to read/write ArrayBuffer_contents.
Finally memory will like this:

|——————————-contiguous memory —————————|
[ Array_length_modified ][ something ] … [ something ][ ArrayBuffer_contents_modified ]

6.4. Cola time again

Now we control those object and we can do:

  • Array_length_modified
    • Out-of-bound write
    • Out-of-bound read
  • ArrayBuffer_contents_modified
    • In-bound write
    • In-bound read

If we try to leak memory data from Array_length_modified, due to SpiderMonkey use tagged value, we will read “NaN” from memory.
But if we use Array_length_modified to write something in ArrayBuffer_contents_modified, and read it from ArrayBuffer_contents_modified. We can leak pointer of Javascript Object from memory.

6.5. Fake JSObject

We can fake a JSObject on memory by leak some pointer and write it into JavasScript Object. And we can write to a address through this Fake Object. (turn off baselineJIT will help you to see what is going on and following contents will base on baselineJIT disable)

Pic.5 Fake JavaScript Object

If we alloc two arraybuffer with same size, they will in contiguous memory inside JS::Nursery heap. Memory layout will be like follow

|———————contiguous memory —————————|
[ ArrayBuffer_1 ] [ ArrayBuffer_2 ]

And we can change first arraybuffer’s metadata to make SpiderMonkey think it cover second arraybuffer by use fake object trick.

|———————contiguous memory —————————|
[ ArrayBuffer_1 ] [ ArrayBuffer_2 ]

We can read/write to arbitrarily memory now.
After this, all you need was a ROP chain to get Firefox to your shellcode.

6.6. Pop Calc?

Finally we achieve our shellcode, process context as follow:

Pic.6 achieve shellcode
Corresponding memory chunk information as follow:

Pic.7 memory address information

But Firefox release have enable Sandbox as default, so if you try to pop calc through CreateProcess, Sandbox will block it.

7. Relative code and works

  1. Firefox Source Code
  2. OR’LYEH? The Shadow over Firefox by argp
  3. Exploiting the jemalloc Memory Allocator: Owning Firefox’s Heap by argp,haku



Bypassing Android Anti-Emulation


This is the first of a series of posts where we will focus in solving Android Reversing challenges. The challenge is focused on a binary protection called «anti-emulation», (you can find more info in the OWASP Top Ten 2014/2016 article:). In the upcoming entries we will talk about other protections like root checker, certificate pinning, anti-tampering, obfuscation techniques, along with ways to protect our app from differents tools (Xposed tool, Frida, etc).

The download link for the apk is and the sha1 signature is:
a2d88143cc3de73387931f84439a4c5e4fdfe123 ReverzeMe1.apk

Before the analysis of the challenge itself I will introduce the concept of «Anti-Emulation» on Android. A good reference for this topic is the Mobile Security Testing Guide by OWASP. They show some examples about these techniques, and different ways to analyze them. There is also an API called SafetyNet, which is an Android API that creates a profile of the device using software and hardware information which is useful for checking different Android protections.

If we see inside the Emulator Detection Examples section, an application has several ways to detect the emulation process.

For example, by checking differents methods like «Build»«TelephonyManager»,«android.os.SystemProperties»«ro.product.device»«ro.kernel.qemu», etc. Depending on the response it can infer if it is running on a physical device in an Android Emulator. To check if the app has this implementation in place, we can try to obtain its code. This can be done through differents techniques and we can use some tools such as apktooljadx or cfr, etc.

We will see how we can make use of some of those tools to obtain a really good approximation of the application code. For example, using apktool we can decode resources to nearly original form. We can even rebuild them after making some modifications. With “jadx» or «cfr» (boths java decompilers) we can analyze the «java code» obtained after the decompilation process. This practice, allows us to look at the code in more natural way, since the output from the java decompilers are «.java» files whereas the output from apktool are «.smali» code files.

I will not get into Java decompilers in this post, because it is a out of the scope. will simply use them to analyze the code for the application in the challenge. Then, we will modify the application from the .smali code. We will show how to use apktool to obtain a good an approximation of the code, to be able to modify it as we need to and then re-build it.
With this in mind, we will take a look at which is the process to create an APK file, since it will be useful to start trying to solve the challenge.

The process of creating an APK file:

  1. First, the developer creates its application in .java to then be compiled into into .class files.
  2. Once these .class files are created, they are converted into .dex (Dalvik EXecutables) files. These files contain byte code for the Dalvik Virtual Machine (DVM) which is a non-standar JVM that runs on Android devices.
  3. The DVM runs the DEX files while ART runs OAT (ELF) files.
  4. Some other XML files are converted to a binary format optimized for space.
  5. The last step is the APK creation from the .dex files, binary XML files and other resources needed to run the application and are packaged into an Android Package file (.apk).
  6. After the APK file is signed by the developer (we’ll come back to this in the «Manual patching with apktool» section), the APK is ready to be installed.
  7. If we want to look at the APK file, we can check its content by unpacking it, for example: $unzip -e example.apk -d example_folder

In short, the APK file is just a signed zip file that we can unzip them using the unzip command:

$unzip ReverseMe1.apk -d reverseme_unzipped

If we take a look at the manifest, we notice that the resources are encoded, we can use apktool to decode them later.$more AndroidManifest.xml

Anti-Emulation Checks:

As we mentioned earlier, there are several checks that an application can perform in order to detect whether we are running it on an emulated environment or an actual device. Usually malware APKs have these kind of protections to avoid any analisis. Some common validations are listed here (anti-emulation process), along with some examples.

Below are some code examples of different validations that I have encountered on applications while writing this post:

Some validation methods are even called “isEmulator()”“carrierNameFromTelephonyManager()”, or my personal favorite so far, “smellsLikeAnEmulator()”. All of them look for the same, or similar validations. They test with “equals”, “contains”, “startsWith” or “endsWith” against some hardcoded strings that can be interpreted as being set by an emulator. But they all look pretty much the same.

I asked myself why this happened? I google it and I had the answer, of course, the first result was a stackoverflow response.

I started looking into some others apps, and I found some many more quite similar implementations:

The difference with the previous set of validation methods is that, while the first set validates through “string comparisons”, the second one does by looking at the “Android system properties” to try to detect emulated environments.

Then, by simply analyzing the implementation methods, we can identify two main approaches to implement an anti-emulation protection. We can use this link.

Strings comparisons:

Let’s take look at the “isEmulator()” example and their validations:

I wrote this reference table:

We can check them in a easy way using the following command in our computers with adb:

╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.build.fingerprint generic/vbox86p/vbox86p:5.1/LMY47D/genymotion08250738:userdebug/test-keys

Basically we can use $adb shell getprop < key > to check the differents values.

Android System Properties validations:

Now that we know how to check for validation through strings, we can do the same with the Android System Properties validations.

Android has a set of properties about the device that can be read using the getprop command line utility, like we saw recently. Those System Properties are stored in a key value pair format in the property files (default.prop, local.prop, etc). And we’ll read those to check the Anti-Emulation process.

If we want to understand more about the property files, using “adb shell cat default.prop” we can check the property output:

$adb shell cat default.prop


But if we returned to the previous image:

They are checking ro.hardwarero.kernel.qemuro.serialnoro.product.namero.product.modelro.hardware, etc. We can check this output too using:

╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.product.name
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.product.device
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.product.model
Custom Phone - 5.1.0 - API 22 - 768x1280
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.kernel.qemu
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.hardware
╰─$ adb shell getprop qemu.hw.mainkeys
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.bootloader
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.bootmode
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.secure
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.build.fingerprint
╰─$ adb shell getprop ro.build.version.sdk

And again if the value of ro.secure is 1, the app is running on a emulator. The same with ro.kernel.qemu and the others.

Now is easy to understand which part of the code we need to modify to bypass the emulation process. We need to check all the implementations inside the code to bypass the application.

Challenge resolution:

Jadx challenge interpretation:

If we install the application inside the emulator and run it, we will see something similar to the screenshot below.. If we write some alphanumeric input a warning stating «This Devices is not supported» will appear. Since we don’t know why this happened, we can use jadx to obtain the .java code and use it as a starting point to determine the reason.

Of course, we can also use apktool or unzip the APK file to know more about the application, and maybe obtain some other kind of information. In this approach, we will focus on the .java code and try to understand the application workflow.

To decompile the APK, using jadx is enough for this challenge, although there are lots of Java decompilers out there that we could also use.

$jadx ReverzeMe1.apk

We can see some errors and warnings in the images above, but for the purpose of this post they’re not important. Once the decompilation process has finished, the tool should have created a folder with all the decompiled files, which look like this:

If we look for the text with the warning we saw earlier, we’ll find a «toast», which is a view containing a quick little message for the user. The toast class helps you create and manage them. We can also note that the message is shown depending on the value returned by «ChallengeJNI.this.checkIfDeviceIsEmulator().booleanValue()».

What do you think about this line?? :).

Let’s take a look at the implementation of the «checkIfDeviceIsEmulator()» function:

Basically what it is doing is checking some strings against a set of predefined strings, like we saw in the “Anti-Emulation Checks” before. Now we will try to bypass them.


Apktool challenge interpretation:

Like we already saw, we need to modify the checkIfDeviceIsEmulator() function in order to bypass the application’s validation, so now we are going to use apktool to do that.

Apktool patching and reversing engineering:

After we have installed apktool, we can check the options tool. For now we will focus on the decode (‘d’) and build (‘b’) options. Apktool needs an input .apk, which in this case is the one from the challenge we are trying to solve.


To decode the application execute the following command:

$apktool d ReverseMe1.apk -output reverseme_apktool
$ls -la
$cd reverseme_apktool
$ls -la 

We can see the internal structure of the decoded APK, the AndroidManifest.xml file and the differents folders like the smali code. Is important to remember the normal APK structure.

  • smali — disassembled java code
  • res — resources, strings
  • assets — files bundled inside the APK
  • lib — native libraries (*.so files)
  • AndroidManifest.xml — decoded version
  • original and apktool.yml — used by apktool

After decoding the app, we can see the AndroidManifest.xml.

If we look inside the Smali folder we can see all the smali files

$more ChallengeJNI\$1.smali$more ChallengeJNI.smali

As we can see, working with smali code is harder than with java, so we will move to java decompilers to analyze and interpreter the application code. And after that, we will modify the application to obtain the bypass’ smali code and re build the application. To do that we will make use of some dalvik opcodes.

Understanding dalvik opcodes:

This link is really useful, I used it to create a table showing some of the most interesting examples from the “dalvik opcodes” used by the application.

Something that we will see very often in the code is a line like this:

“.method private checkIfDeviceIsEmulator ()Ljava/lang/Boolean;”

It’s important to understand the meaning of this, so let’s break it down:

  1. “.method private” -> is the type of method.
  2. checkIfDeviceIsEmulator -> the method name.
  3. ()Ljava/lang/Boolean; -> the type of the return value, prefixed with L, dots “.” replaced with slashes “/” and suffixed with semicolon ;