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Advanced Shellcoding Techniques

Satisfactory Essays
Introduction

This paper assumes a working knowledge of basic shellcoding techniques, and x86 assembly, I will not rehash these in this paper. I hope to teach you some of the lesser known shellcoding techniques that I have picked up, which will allow you to write smaller and better shellcodes. I do not claim to have invented any of these techniques, except for the one that uses the div instruction.

The multiplicity of mul

This technique was originally developed by Sorbo of darkircop.net. The mul instruction may, on the surface, seem mundane, and it's purpose obvious. However, when faced with the difficult challenge of shrinking your shellcode, it proves to be quite useful. First some background information on the mul instruction itself.

mul performs an unsigned multiply of two integers. It takes only one operand, the other is implicitly specified by the %eax register. So, a common mul instruction might look something like this:

movl $0x0a,%eax

mul $0x0a

This would multiply the value stored in %eax by the operand of mul, which in this case would be 10*10. The result is then implicitly stored in EDX:EAX. The result is stored over a span of two registers because it has the potential to be considerably larger than the previous value, possibly exceeding the capacity of a single register(this is also how floating points are stored in some cases, as an interesting sidenote).

So, now comes the ever-important question. How can we use these attributes to our advantage when writing shellcode? Well, let's think for a second, the instruction takes only one operand, therefore, since it is a very common instruction, it will generate only two bytes in our final shellcode. It multiplies whatever is passed to it by the value stored in %eax, and stores the value in both %edx and %eax, completely overwriting the contents of both registers, regardless of whether it is necessary to do so, in order to store the result of the multiplication. Let's put on our mathematician hats for a second, and consider this, what is the only possible result of a multiplication by 0? The answer, as you may have guessed, is 0. I think it's about time for some example code, so here it is:

xorl %ecx,%ecx

mul %ecx

What is this shellcode doing? Well, it 0's out the %ecx register using the xor instruction, so we now know that %ecx is 0.
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