Welcome to Gray Area: Hackers Notes

Below is a place where I will keep some notes related to hacking, any courses I take, and any research that I do. I’ll try to be good about keeping this updated, but if it ever gets out of date, please open an issue and virtually punch me.

Simple AF network fuzzing with decept and mutiny

Network fuzzing is easy af. I had put off learning how to do it well, I knew the basics and had used BooFuzz and Peach before, and I was honestly just dreading creating a grammar for each one. For thoroughness I should probably do this using Boo - especially for stuff like HTTP RFC-2616 we should be able to build a list of all special HTTP headers that may have some special processing functions within an executable that could use some fuzzing. But damn, that would take like… over an hour so f*ck that. Also according to fuzzguru Richard, and of course this is true but I never thought about it much, mutational fuzzing is often far more effective than generational fuzzing.

We’re on an exercise break now where we’re finding a known bug in vshttpd. I don’t like finding known things in known places so I’m going ahead and installing a variety of web servers, throwing some packets their way, and fuzzing them using Decept Proxy and the associated mutiny fuzzer to just get things up and running first. I can fine tune shit later (another recommendation from Richard). Here’s how to use decept:

python decept.py --fuzzer apache2.fuzzer 9999 80

All I’m saying there is listen on port 9999 on and send to port 80 on, my NAT IP address then save the packet information to apache2.fuzzer, a file with a special grammar similar to one seen in BooFuzz and such that tells it where to fuzz. Decept is nice, it has no dependencies and is super easy to use. Since Decept and Mutiny are meant to be used together we get the .fuzzer file to pass in to Mutiny. This is also a simple bash one-liner

python mutiny.py -i apache2.fuzzer

Note that the fuzzfile for now, because it is simply using decept proxy is actually going to fuzz the CONNECT verb here, for better coverage, we should probably generate more traffic, but I leave that as an exercise to the reader (read: go f*** yourself).

Once stuff is up and running you should see:

**********\The Mutiny Fuzzing Framework**********
jaspadar@cisco.com && liwyatt@cisco.com <(^_^)>| Monitor locking execution till condition met
[*] Target detected, fuzzing.
Message 0, seed: 3380, old len: 197, new len 230
Message 0, seed: 3381, old len: 197, new len 328
Message 0, seed: 3382, old len: 197, new len 216
Message 0, seed: 3383, old len: 197, new len 230
Message 0, seed: 3385, old len: 197, new len 195
Message 0, seed: 3386, old len: 197, new len 203

Mutiny will start Mutiny-ing. Boom, we’ve network fuzzed. Note that mutiny/decept support a pretty decent set of options, you can MITM TLS and SSH traffic, create .fuzzer files from pcaps, and override a bunch of stuff. This is just the basics, but really you can extend the above concept quite a bit to fuzz a bunch of stuff quite quickly. I started fuzzing 3 web servers in about 5-10 minutes (and then wrote this up in another 5). That’s pretty damn good.

Sweet sweet sysinternals

So I’m going to go through every sysinternals tool that I deemed “interesting” for 0-day hunting in this post. But don’t take my word for it (right Levar Burton!?), look at sysinternals tools for yourself and go through them. I’ll be going through them one by one here, but nothing is better than hands on experience using them for 0-day hunting.

I’ll start off with some notes here that I’m making about memory changes in the various Windows versions via sysinternal’s vmmap. For those of you that don’t know I have a project called scylla.sh at https://scylla.sh where I work with very very large (sometimes TB large) file sizes. I primarily use Linux, but it isn’t odd that I find a site where I need to use Windows to get it to actually work (the places I go to hunt for free DBs are… interesting). Anyway, point is, sometimes I’m writing python scripts on Windows and when you’re talking trillions of lines and terabytes of data things get slooooow. One way to speed things up is by loading as much as I can to memory before performing operations against files. Anyway, you may have your own needs, so you might find the below specifics of Windows memory useful. Most of this information is form https://dzone.com/articles/windows-process-memory-usage-demystified and validated with Windows Internals Part I 7th edition. I’ll summarize some of the more “interesting” (I have an odd definition of that) stuff I see below and not just write the exact same thing as that article I linked to.

One thing I learned that I frankly just did not know is that 32-bit virtual memory is limited to 2 GB whereas 64-bit memory is limited to 128TB of memory. That’s a pretty huge difference and something to keep in mind when coding on large files.

Comitted vs. reserved memory is an important concept. Reserved mem is not guaranteed to be backed by physical memory (aka shit might not work yo), whereas reserved memory is backed by physical memory (shit will work yo). Committed memory can be shared by multiple processes. There exists a counter in the OS that counts the ammount of committed memory to ensure that processes don’t end up using stuff that can’t be backed physically. It’s very reasonable to have reserved memory be way way higher than the actual physical memory to back it up- if a lot of processes are using a ton of memory then some shit needs to change on your OS (lookin’ at you firefox - plug for what I still insist is a 0-day https://mega.nz/file/BmJFiCSa#Ga3wkyLkBE-LZdsgh-1gRCHwFoL9f3LsjUrkOnP9Kow that leads to simple as f*** ASLR bypass and pretty much getting around any memory protection you’d like on any flavor of Linux. According to firefox this was “not a vulnerability” and “detaching a debugger to a process doesn’t constitute a vulnerability”. Except, well, other processes don’t allow it in Linux due to Ptrace protections, firefox does. This is a fun theme in 0-days I see all the time where something is “too simple” to be a 0-day. Hey you’re just replacing a dll right? You’re just able to arbitrarily read a procs memory right? you’re just able to bypass ASLR, get stack canaries, determine readable/writable addresses, get password manager passwords, get system passwords (if run as root) right? Oh wait…

But I digress. I’m talking about windows here so let’s get back to sweet sweet memory and more of those sysinternals tools. Let’s talk some more about memory, because it’s important. Wtf is this? Unusable!? Is Windows really telling me that this memory is allocated to the process but isn’t usable? wtf? why? Well, Windows memory management for large pages are 64kb aligned (more on pages later) so any memory allocated to a process that doesn’t align with the 64kb boundary is lost forever :(. RIP in peace.

So some of you might be asking, why does all of this happen? Who’s in charge here? Well, it’s the massive ntoskrnl.exe file, the main kernel executable. It’s in charge of providing a core set of System services many of which are exposed via the win32 API or kernel devices (aka drivers). I guess it’s time to talk a little more about memory pages. In Windows there’s really two sizes of pages, from now on I’m only gonna talk about 64-bit Windows because that’s the way the world is moving and Windows 10 doesn’t come in 32-bit flavor anymore. So fuck it. Read some old books if you want to know more about x86 systems. Sorry I didn’t mean to be rude, I’m just kind of tired, but really want to talk more about memory. This is sad. I know this.

Anyway, my sad life aside, 64bit processors support small and large pages of sizes 4kb and 2MB respectively. Of course a natural question is when is each one used? Larger pages save a lot of processor time because when seeking an address there’s a thing called the translation look-aside buffer (TLB) that holds the addresses of various pages and their mapped hardware memory location and therefore a lot of memory addies. When doing something that requires a lot of memory it’s much more efficient to have less entries in the TLB, thus yeah, 2 MB at a time instead of 4KB. Of course allocating that memory takes more, uh, memory, so that’s why small pages exist, for memory-inexpensive operations. Remember we’re in computer-math-land (base 2) so a kb (defined as 2^10 bytes) is 1024 bytes in base 2. As a side note, I still haven’t gotten over the metric prefix kilo being used since the dawn of computers to mean 1024 instead of 1000, but whatever. Anyway, large pages are prone to failure because they have to be aligned on a large-page boundary - this can be thought of as, shit has to happen in 512 small page (4kb * 512 = 2MB) chunks yo so a large allocation can happen from pages 0 (yep we’re in computer-land so we start at 0) to 511, or 512-1,023, but not at 550-1,073 for example. This means that it has to find continuous physical memory for it to allocate each page (note this does not mean each page has to be continuous with a previous page, just that memory used in a page must be continuous). This causes what we call fragmentation - remember defragmenting shit all the time back in the day? Yeah, that was just because of this inefficiency. Because memory limits are getting serious now with 128 TB able to be used, Windows 10 has the sense of Huge Pages, which are 1GB or 1024MB, they work very similar to how large pages vs small pages work, just with a bigger number. So to sum all of this confusing shit up, let’s say I allocate a buffer char *buf[1050000] the OS plays a little game of “how do I get to 1 million 50 thousand bytes using my allowed chunk (page) sizes” and would allocate one large page, 2MB = 1024 kb = 1,048,576 bytes and then one small page = 4kb = 4096 bytes giving us a grand total of 1,052,672 bytes. Still with me? That means 1,050,000 - 1,048,576 = 1424 bytes. So another small page gets allocated, giving us a grand total of 1 large page, 2 small pages, and 2672 bytes left over that are now labeled as “unusable” if you’re using vmmap to look at stuff.

So this has a fun side effect for us 0-day hunters. Say we’re using ROP to exploit something (if you need a ROP primer check this out: https://blog.hyperiongray.com/pwning-dnsmasq-with-rop/, we need the gadgets in that code to be executable. But aren’t the people that create programs and drivers and shit smart enough to make things read-only? After all that’s the whole point of DEP right? Well, for efficiency, DEP protects pages of memory, meaning that if there’s some code that needs to execute 4097 bytes worth of instructions and then have some data that is meant to be read-only, one of two things will happen: Windows is going to allocate 2 small pages and make both of those pages executable (DEP dead - we can use what is meant to be read-only data in our ROP chain) OR the program is going to crash. Which one is better? I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

If you’re still reading this, congrats, you’re a nerd. So let’s talk about paged vs non-paged pool memory in Windows 10. non-paged pool memory is used by stuff that always definitely totally and absolutely has a physical memory backing, in other words it’s always in memory if your OS is running. This is usually used in things like kernel-mode drivers, IRPs to drivers, ISRs, DPCs, and DIRQLs. Did I just start speaking in tongues? Ancient Aramaic!?!? No, those are real things in Windows. IRPs are something request packets, basically double-words (4 bytes) that are used to ask device drivers politely from userland to do something. ISRs are Interrupt Service Requests. This is for stuff that does low-level I/O operations, meaning either the kernel or kernel drivers. These requests follow a typical process that’s something like this conversation with the OS:

  • Yo, I wanna like, stop you from doing I/O stuff for a sec bby, u down?
  • If the OS is DTF things continue, otherwise this returns ASAP
  • If the OS has Tinder swiped right, an ISR collects any information it needs to do it’s thing and passes it to a Deferred Procedure Call
  • A DPC has a DIRQL (essentially just a priority level) associated with it, stuff with higher DIRQLs are done first, this is added to the queue of DPCs
  • An ISR returns as fast as possible

So in a way you can think of it as the OS procrastinating and saying “eh I’ll do that later, I got this other thing to do first”. There’s some missed details in there to which I’ll just point to MSDN for (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/drivers/kernel/writing-an-isr) but that’s a sort of rough outline.

So anyway, this low-levely stuff is the kind of stuff non-pooled memory has. This, along with a bunch of other reasons, is why kernel exploits often look a bit different than user-mode exploits and we should know what we’re looking at. If you’ve ever thrown an exe into a disassembler you’ll see in drivers that there’s a bunch of Mutexes, IRPs, ISRs, DPCs, and a bunch of stuff like that being called. This is happening from non-pooled memory whereas when you’re reversing a PE file you won’t see any of that stuff or at least rarely see these things. This is because executables are working from pooled (I like to just call it “normal” memory) virtual memory and has no access to low level structures - it can only ask the kernel to do these things through IRPs. Just to drive these points home, let’s take a look at this in a debugger, open up WinDBG (aside: it’s come to my attention that most OGs call this Windbag, but I sorta like Win Debug better). Attach locally to your kernel and let’s take a look at this:

lkd> !vm
Page File: \??\C:\pagefile.sys
  Current:   3014656 Kb  Free Space:   3014648 Kb
  Minimum:   3014656 Kb  Maximum:     50331648 Kb
Page File: \??\C:\swapfile.sys
  Current:     16384 Kb  Free Space:     16376 Kb
  Minimum:     16384 Kb  Maximum:     25164264 Kb
No Name for Paging File
  Current:  67107824 Kb  Free Space:  67107132 Kb
  Minimum:  67107824 Kb  Maximum:     67107824 Kb

Physical Memory:          4194044 (   16776176 Kb)
Available Pages:          3332119 (   13328476 Kb)
ResAvail Pages:           3959228 (   15836912 Kb)
Locked IO Pages:                0 (          0 Kb)
Free System PTEs:      4294985064 (17179940256 Kb)

******* 464832 kernel stack PTE allocations have failed ******

******* 459598336 kernel stack growth attempts have failed ******

Modified Pages:             26112 (     104448 Kb)
Modified PF Pages:          25658 (     102632 Kb)
Modified No Write Pages:       38 (        152 Kb)
NonPagedPool    0:            231 (        924 Kb)
NonPagedPoolNx  0:          17887 (      71548 Kb)
NonPagedPool    1:              8 (         32 Kb)
NonPagedPoolNx  1:          12233 (      48932 Kb)
NonPagedPool Usage:           239 (        956 Kb)
NonPagedPoolNx Usage:       30120 (     120480 Kb)
NonPagedPool Max:      4294967296 (17179869184 Kb)
PagedPool  0:               21987 (      87948 Kb)
PagedPool  1:               15796 (      63184 Kb)
PagedPool Usage:            37783 (     151132 Kb)
PagedPool Maximum:     4294967296 (17179869184 Kb)
Processor Commit:            2494 (       9976 Kb)
Session Commit:              2920 (      11680 Kb)
Shared Commit:              73067 (     292268 Kb)
Special Pool:                   0 (          0 Kb)
Kernel Stacks:              13104 (      52416 Kb)
Pages For MDLs:              2652 (      10608 Kb)
Pages For AWE:                  0 (          0 Kb)
NonPagedPool Commit:        63749 (     254996 Kb)
PagedPool Commit:           37783 (     151132 Kb)
Driver Commit:              11926 (      47704 Kb)
Boot Commit:                 4664 (      18656 Kb)
PFN Array Commit:           49697 (     198788 Kb)
System PageTables:            773 (       3092 Kb)
ProcessLockedFilePages:        10 (         40 Kb)
Pagefile Hash Pages:            0 (          0 Kb)
Sum System Commit:         262839 (    1051356 Kb)
Total Private:             541657 (    2166628 Kb)
Misc/Transient Commit:        683 (       2732 Kb)
Committed pages:           805179 (    3220716 Kb)
Commit limit:             4947708 (   19790832 Kb)

We can see a lot of what I talked about above. Let’s take a look at the Page File: \??\C:\swapfile.sys line. You might be thinking “but Alex, you’re talking about RAM, why tf is this talking about a FILE”. Well, when your OS is running out of memory it starts to use disk space as RAM, this is hugely inefficient as, well, it’s not loaded to memory but instead has to do stuff with file operations. This is really slow, so if you’ve ever had your OS slow to a crawl and it takes 10 minutes to click the x in firefox, you’re likely page swapping (Linux does this as well btw).

Well this simple little post has turned into a whole thing. I’ll continue down this rabbit hole tomorrow/whenever I have time! OK picking this back up!

An interesting tidbit I’m learning more about is shareable memory, I noticed it in VMMAP:

Types of memory

and it seemed like an interesting attack surface. Shared memory means that two processes will use the same memory page, this is useful to save the very important limited physical memory (think about it - you have 128TB of addressable space per process and a solid modern laptop has something like 8-32GB of physical memory). But could this open up an attack vector where a not-important low privileged user has a process that has mapped a page to the same physical memory as a high privileged user with an important process with lots of cached goodies? Yep! And of course I’m not the first person to think of this (https://www.google.com/search?channel=tus2&client=firefox-b-1-d&q=shared+memory+attacks). Neat. So what are those other types of memory? Just for completion let’s go through vmmap’s categories. I don’t like them, as they are different “layers” of categories, you’ll see what I mean:

  • Free - this is uhh, memory that is free and can be allocated.
  • Heap - uh, memory used by heaps.
  • Managed Heap - This is memory that’s used by stuff where you don’t have to explicitly define your heap usage (e.g. .NET in Windows manages its own memory unlike say, C++ or C)
  • Mapped File - This is mostly memory used by processes, it is a type of shareable memory (interesting?)
  • Stack - Memory used by stacks (more on stacks later)
  • Shareable - This is memory that is allowed to be shared with different processes.
  • Page Table - This is private (unshareable) kernel physical memory that holds page table mappings
  • Private Data - Private memory, not shareable between processes
  • Unusable - we talked about this, due to memory management occuring in discrete chunks, some memory is wasted

And that’s that. OK enough of VMMap, let’s talk a little about it’s physical brother RAMMap:

RAMMap RAMMap2-Electric-Boogaloo

There’s some overlap with VMMap but RAMMap talks mostly about physical memory. I’ve taken screenies of what I think are the most interesting tabs. Basically, they show a bunch of stuff about physical memory that are self explanatory. I’ve never used it in writing any exploits to be honest, it’s still a little bit of black magic when people attack physical memory (like Rowhammer and such). These might come in useful, and I leave it as an exercise to the reader to check this tool out. That’s college professor speak for “go fuck yourself, I ain’t explaining shit” so sorry about that.

OK, let’s talk a bit about memory protections, CPU, and then let’s relate all of this back to 0-day hunting and memory attacks (we’ll be looking at a write-what-where). How is memory protected, there’s a short but pretty powerful list of how memory is protected in Win10:

  • What happens in kernel-mode stays in kernel-mode. Only kernel-mode instructions can access kernel pages. User processes can’t.
  • Remember we talked about virtual addressing? Think of it as NAT for memory - physical memory is never directly referenced, each process gets its own virtual address space. Processes can’t touch other process’ virtual addy space, so even if we have shared physical memory between two processes, there’s no context with which to know this for each process. In theory.
  • The windows API allows you to control page access type (read, write, execute). There’s a bunch of low-level options to functions like VirtualProtect et al that allow you to control this. For example you can mark a page as read only, read-write only, execute only, etc.
  • Remember all that talk about attacking shared memory? They thought of that. Shared mem section objects have ACLs to make sure that only the processes that created that shared memory can access that shared memory. That makes it so that you can’t have another process with a more global context attempt to inform each process of shared memory. Each process is blind to the fact that the memory is shared, it’s abstracted away for a reason.

Simple huh? But it works. All of this talk about memory would be incomplete without talking a little about Data Execution Prevention (DEP) or NX on Linux (No Execute). The reason its called Data Execution Prevention is simple: each process is made up of two things, instructions that are meant to be executed and data that is usually operated on or read in some useful way by a process. Low-level snippets of assembly code are made up of what we call opcodes, two classic examples are 0xcc and 0x90, these are an interrupt and a nop (pronounced no-op, i.e. do nothing). Now let’s look at some data: 0x41, 0x42. These are A and B in ascii encoding. What do you notice about the two? They’re all just bytes! So how the fuck does a program know the difference? Standards! The PE (portable executable) format splits these things up into the data segment (holds data, like A and B) and the code segment that has the instructions that the CPU is going to run. Other than that - nothing differentiates them. We haven’t talked about CPUs yet, but RIP is a CPU register (a little place where you can store a few bytes, in 64-bit land, 8 bytes aka 64 bits gasp) that points to (theoretically) somewhere in the code segment and executes instructions. But instructions are just series of bytes right (we call them opcodes)? And well, data is just a series of bytes too, so what if we were able to control where RIP is pointing to and put it somewhere in the data segment that we control (like an open file mapped to memory)? Alright, now we’re talking exploit dev and 0-day hunting. As it turns out this is the premise of arbitrary code execution and the famous paper Smashing the Stack for Fun and Profit by Aleph1 and ruining everyone’s con talk names by making them all fucking end in “For Fun and Profit” or some annoying jokey play on that. Alright so back to DEP, what this does is it marks the pages with data in them as non-executable, meaning if we point somewhere in the middle of the data, it’s not just going to start thinking those are instructions and running them - it’s going to throw a page fault and stop execution, log it, and generally ruin your day (and exploit). DEP is on by default in Win10.

Signing off here 12/7/2020 at 1:30 AMish.