.oO Phrack 49 Oo. Volume Seven, Issue Forty-Nine File 14 of 16 BugTraq, r00t, and Underground.Org bring you XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Smashing The Stack For Fun And Profit XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX by Aleph One aleph1_at_underground.org `smash the stack` [C programming] n. On many C implementations it is possible to corrupt the execution stack by writing past the end of an array declared auto in a routine. Code that does this is said to smash the stack, and can cause return from the routine to jump to a random address. This can produce some of the most insidious data-dependent bugs known to mankind. Variants include trash the stack, scribble the stack, mangle the stack; the term mung the stack is not used, as this is never done intentionally. See spam; see also alias bug, fandango on core, memory leak, precedence lossage, overrun screw. Introduction ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Over the last few months there has been a large increase of buffer overflow vulnerabilities being both discovered and exploited. Examples of these are syslog, splitvt, sendmail 8.7.5, Linux/FreeBSD mount, Xt library, at, etc. This paper attempts to explain what buffer overflows are, and how their exploits work. Basic knowledge of assembly is required. An understanding of virtual memory concepts, and experience with gdb are very helpful but not necessary. We also assume we are working with an Intel x86 CPU, and that the operating system is Linux. Some basic definitions before we begin: A buffer is simply a contiguous block of computer memory that holds multiple instances of the same data type. C programmers normally associate with the word buffer arrays. Most commonly, character arrays. Arrays, like all variables in C, can be declared either static or dynamic. Static variables are allocated at load time on the data segment. Dynamic variables are allocated at run time on the stack. To overflow is to flow, or fill over the top, brims, or bounds. We will concern ourselves only with the overflow of dynamic buffers, otherwise
known as stack-based buffer overflows. Process Memory Organization ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ To understand what stack buffers are we must first understand how a process is organized in memory. Processes are divided into three regions: Text, Data, and Stack. We will concentrate on the stack region, but first a small overview of the other regions is in order. The text region is fixed by the program and includes code (instructions) and read-only data. This region corresponds to the text section of the executable file. This region is normally marked read-only and any attempt to write to it will result in a segmentation violation. The data region contains initialized and uninitialized data. Static variables are stored in this region. The data region corresponds to the data-bss sections of the executable file. Its size can be changed with the brk(2) system call. If the expansion of the bss data or the user stack exhausts available memory, the process is blocked and is rescheduled to run again with a larger memory space. New memory is added between the data and stack segments. /------------------\ lower | | memory | Text | addresses | | |------------------| | (Initialized) | | Data | | (Uninitialized) | |------------------| | | | Stack | higher | | memory \------------------/ addresses Fig. 1 Process Memory Regions What Is A Stack? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A stack is an abstract data type frequently used in computer science. A stack of objects has the property that the last object placed on the stack will be the first object removed. This property is commonly referred to as last in, first out queue, or a LIFO. Several operations are defined on stacks. Two of the most important are
PUSH and POP. PUSH adds an element at the top of the stack. POP, in contrast, reduces the stack size by one by removing the last element at the top of the stack. Why Do We Use A Stack? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Modern computers are designed with the need of high-level languages in mind. The most important technique for structuring programs introduced by high-level languages is the procedure or function. From one point of view, a procedure call alters the flow of control just as a jump does, but unlike a jump, when finished performing its task, a function returns control to the statement or instruction following the call. This high-level abstraction is implemented with the help of the stack. The stack is also used to dynamically allocate the local variables used in functions, to pass parameters to the functions, and to return values from the function. The Stack Region ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A stack is a contiguous block of memory containing data. A register called the stack pointer (SP) points to the top of the stack. The bottom of the stack is at a fixed address. Its size is dynamically adjusted by the kernel at run time. The CPU implements instructions to PUSH onto and POP off of the stack. The stack consists of logical stack frames that are pushed when calling a function and popped when returning. A stack frame contains the parameters to a function, its local variables, and the data necessary to recover the previous stack frame, including the value of the instruction pointer at the time of the function call. Depending on the implementation the stack will either grow down (towards lower memory addresses), or up. In our examples we'll use a stack that grows down. This is the way the stack grows on many computers including the Intel, Motorola, SPARC and MIPS processors. The stack pointer (SP) is also implementation dependent. It may point to the last address on the stack, or to the next free available address after the stack. For our discussion we'll assume it points to the last address on the stack. In addition to the stack pointer, which points to the top of the stack (lowest numerical address), it is often convenient to have a frame pointer (FP) which points to a fixed location within a frame. Some texts also refer to it as a local base pointer (LB). In principle, local variables could be referenced by giving their offsets from SP. However, as words are pushed onto the stack and popped from the stack, these offsets change. Although in some cases the compiler can keep track of the number of words on the stack and
thus correct the offsets, in some cases it cannot, and in all cases considerable administration is required. Futhermore, on some machines, such as Intel-based processors, accessing a variable at a known distance from SP requires multiple instructions. Consequently, many compilers use a second register, FP, for referencing both local variables and parameters because their distances from FP do not change with PUSHes and POPs. On Intel CPUs, BP (EBP) is used for this purpose. On the Motorola CPUs, any address register except A7 (the stack pointer) will do. Because the way our stack grows, actual parameters have positive offsets and local variables have negative offsets from FP. The first thing a procedure must do when called is save the previous FP (so it can be restored at procedure exit). Then it copies SP into FP to create the new FP, and advances SP to reserve space for the local variables. This code is called the procedure prolog. Upon procedure exit, the stack must be cleaned up again, something called the procedure epilog. The Intel ENTER and LEAVE instructions and the Motorola LINK and UNLINK instructions, have been provided to do most of the procedure prolog and epilog work efficiently. Let us see what the stack looks like in a simple example: example1.c: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ void function(int a, int b, int c) { char buffer1[5]; char buffer2[10]; } void main() { function(1,2,3); } ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ To understand what the program does to call function() we compile it with gcc using the -S switch to generate assembly code output: $ gcc -S -o example1.s example1.c By looking at the assembly language output we see that the call to function() is translated to: pushl $3 pushl $2 pushl $1 call function This pushes the 3 arguments to function backwards into the stack, and
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