Archive for Misceallaneous

Changed-Rooted Jail Hackery Part 2

It’s been a while, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was vaporware! 😉 As promised in Part 1, the system call tool that mimicks GNU fileutils commands is in the code listing below. Support for any additional commands is welcome; if anybody adds more feel free to e-mail your source code. Extension should be fairly straightforward given then “if(){}else if{}else{}” template. Just simply add another else-if code block with appropriate command line argument parsing. It’s too bad you can’t really do closures in C, but a likely approach to increasing this tool’s modularity is the use of function pointers. Of course new commands don’t have to be from GNU fileutils–mixing and matching Linux system calls in C has limitless possibilities.

Speaking of GNU, I stumbled across an extremely useful GNU project called parallel. Essentially, it’s a multi-threaded version of xargs(1p). I’ve been including it in a lot of bash scripts I’ve written recently. It doesn’t seem to be part of the default install for any operating system distributions, yet; maybe when it evolves into something even more awesome it’ll become mainstream. 🙂 Suprisingly, I was even able to compile it on SUA/Interix without any problems. The only complaint I have about it is the Perl source language (not that I have anything against Perl). I simply feel that the parallelization processes could be that much faster if written in C. Maybe I’ll perlcc(1) it or something. Okay, then–without any further adieu, here’s the code for syscaller:

 * syscaller v0.8a - breaking out of chroot jails "ex nihilo"
 * by Derek Callaway <>
 * Executes system calls instead of relying on programs from the
 * GNU/Linux binutils package. Can be useful for breaking out of
 * a chroot() jail.
 * compile: gcc -O2 -o syscaller -c syscaller.c -Wall -ansi -pedantic
 * copy: cat syscaller | ssh -l user@host.dom 'cat>syscaller'
 * If the cat binary isn't present in the jail, you'll have to be more
 * creative and use a shell builtin like echo (i.e. not the echo binary,
 * but bash's internal implementation of it.)
 * Without any locally accessible file download programs such as:
 * scp, tftp, netcat, sftp, wget, curl, rz/sz, kermit, lynx, etc.
 * You'll have to create the binary on the target system manually.
 * i.e. by echo'ing hexadecimal bytecode. This is left as an exercise
 * to the reader.

 * to the reader.


#define _GNU_SOURCE 1
#define _USE_MISC 1


int syscall(int number, ...);

/* This is for chdir() */
#define SHELL_PATHNAME "/bin/sh"

static void usage(char **argv)
  printf("usage: %s syscall arg1 [arg2 [...]]\n", *argv);
  printf("help:  %s help\n", *argv);

static void help(char **argv)
  puts("syscaller v0.8a");
  puts("chmod mode pathname");
  puts("chdir pathname");
  puts("chown user group pathname");
  puts("mkdir pathname mode");
  puts("rmdir pathname");
  puts("touch pathname mode");

  puts("Note: modes are in octal format (symbolic modes are unsupported)");
  puts("Note: some commands mask octal mode bits with the current umask value");
  puts("Note: creat is an alias for touch");
  puts("ls -a / (via brace/pathname expansion): echo /{.*,*}");


int main(int argc, char *argv[])
  register char *p = 0;
  signed auto int r = 1;

  if(argc < 2)

  /* I prefer to avoid strcasecmp() since it's not really standard C. */
  for(p = argv[1];*p;++p)
    *p = tolower(*p);

    if(!strcmp(argv[1], "chmod") && argc >= 4)
      /* decimal to octal integer conversion */
      const mode_t m = strtol(argv[2], NULL, 8);

      r = syscall(SYS_chmod, argv[3], m);

#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "syscall(%d, %s, %d) => %d\n", SYS_chmod, argv[3], m, r);
    else if((!strcmp(argv[1], "chdir") || !strcmp(argv[1], "cd")) && argc >= 3)
      static char *const av[] = {SHELL_PATHNAME, NULL};
      auto signed int r2 = 0;

      r = syscall(SYS_chdir, argv[2]);

#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "syscall(%d, %s) => %d\n", SYS_chdir, argv[2], r);

      /* This is required because the new current working directory isn't
       * bound to the original login shell. */
      printf("[%s] exec'ing new shell in directory: %s\n", *argv, argv[2]);
      r2 = system(av[0]);
      printf("[%s] leaving shell in child process\n", *argv);

      if(r2 < 0)
        r = r2;
    else if(!strcmp(argv[1], "chown") && argc >= 5)
      struct passwd *u = NULL;
      struct group *g = NULL;

      if(!(u = getpwnam(argv[2])))

#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "getpwnam(%s) => %s:%s:%d:%d:%s:%s:%s\n", argv[2], u->pw_name, u->pw_passwd, u->pw_uid, u->pw_gid, u->pw_gecos, u->pw_dir, u->pw_shell);

      if(!(g = getgrnam(argv[3])))


#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "getgrnam(%s) => %s:%s:%s:%s:", argv[3], g->gr_nam, g->gr_passwd, g->gr_gid);

  if((p = g->gr_mem))
      fputs(p, stderr);


        fputc(',', stderr);

        r = syscall(SYS_chown, argv[4], u->pw_uid, g->gr_gid);

#ifdef DEBUG

  fprintf(stderr, "syscall(%d, %d, %d, %s) => %d\n", SYS_chown, u->pw-uid, g->gr_gid, argv[4], r);
    else if((!strcmp(argv[1], "creat") || !strcmp(argv[1], "touch")) && argc >= 4 )
      const mode_t m = strtol(argv[3], NULL, 8);

      r = syscall(SYS_creat, argv[2], m);

#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "syscall(%d, %S, %d) => %d\n", SYS_creat, argv[2], m, r);
    else if(!strcmp(argv[1], "mkdir") && argc >= 4)
      const mode_t m = strtol(argv[3], NULL, 8);

      r = syscall(SYS_mkdir, argv[2], m);

#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "syscall(%d, %S, %d) => %d\n", SYS_mkdir, argv[2], m, r);
    else if(!strcmp(argv[1], "rmdir") && argc >= 3)
      r = syscall(SYS_rmdir, argv[2]);

#ifdef DEBUG
  fprintf(stderr, "syscall(%d, %S) => %d\n", SYS_rmdir, argv[2], r);
    else if(!strcmp(argv[1], "help"))

  } while(1);



Please note that some of the lines of code in this article are truncated due to how WordPress’s CSS renders the font text. Although, you’ll still receive every statement in its entirety when you copy it to your clipboard. The next specimen is similar to the netstat emulating shell script from Part 1. It loops through the procfs PID number directories and parses their contents to make it look like you’re running the actual /bin/ps, even though you’re inside a misconfigured root directory that doesn’t have that binary. It also has some useful aliases and a simple version of uptime(1).   

# ps.bash by Derek Callaway
# Sun Sep  5 15:37:05 EDT 2010 DC/SO

alias uname='cat /proc/version' hostname='cat /proc/sys/kernel/hostname'
alias domainname='cat /proc/sys/kernel/domainname' vim='vi'

function uptime() {
  declare loadavg=$(cat /proc/loadavg | cut -d' ' -f1-3)
  let uptime=$(($(awk 'BEGIN {FS="."} {print $1}' /proc/uptime) / 60 / 60 / 24 ))
  echo "up $uptime day(s), load average: $loadavg"

function ps() {
    local file base pid state ppid uid
    echo 'S USER     UID   PID  PPID CMD'
    for file in /proc/[0-9]*/status
        do base=${file%/status} pid=${base#/proc/}
        { read _ st _; read _ ppid; read _ _ _ _ uid; } < <(egrep '^(State|PPid|Uid):' "$file")
        IFS=':' read user _ < <(getent passwd $uid) || user=$uid
        printf "%1s %-6s %5d %5d %5d %s\n" $st $user $uid $pid $ppid "$(tr \ \ <"$base/cmdline")"


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The “X” Files


It’s been a little while since we last posted so I wanted to get a blog out there so everybody knows we’re still alive! We just finalized the XML schema for our soon to be released BlockWatch product so with all the XML tags, elements, attributes, and such running through my head I figured I’d blog about XML security. I’m sure the majority of penetration testers out there routinely test for the traditional web application vulnerabilities when looking at Web Services. The same old authentication/authorizations weaknesses, faulty encoding/reencoding/redecoding, session management issues, et al. are still all there and it’s not uncommon for a SOAP Web Service to hand off an attack string to some middleware app that forwards it on deep into the internal network for handling by the revered legacy mainframe. Some organizations process so much XML over HTTP that they place XML accelerator devices on their network perimeter. I have a feeling that this trend will increase the amount of private IP web servers that feel the effects of HTTP Request Smuggling.

Additionally, XML parsers that fetch external document references (e.g. remote URI’s embedded in tag attributes) open themselves up to client-side offensives from evil web servers. Crafted file attachments can come in the form of a SOAP DIME element or the traditional multipart HTTP POST file upload. With those things in consideration, Phillippe Lagadec’s ExeFilter talk from CanSecWest 2008 made some pretty good points on why verifying filename extensions and file header contents or magic numbers isn’t always good enough.

The new manifestations of these old problems should be cause for concern but I personally find the newer XML-specific bugs the most exciting. For example: XPath injection, infinitely nesting tags to cause resource exhaustion via a recursive-descent parser, XXE (XML eXternal Entity) attacks, etc.

A single file format for everything is supposed to make things more simple but the lion’s share of real-world implementations over-complicate the fleeting markup language tags to the point where they become a breeding ground for old school exploits and new attack techniques alike–we’re all familiar with the cliche regarding failure of a “system of systems” with too many moving parts. I’ll touch on some more advanced XML attacks later in the post, but first let’s take a step back and remember XML when it still had a fresh beginning.

Towards the end of the twentieth century, when I first started taking notice of all the hype surrounding XML (the eXtensible Markup Language) I held a fairly skeptic attitude towards it as I tend to do with many fledgling technologies/standards. Perhaps I’ve been over-analytical in that respect but look how long it’s taken IPv6 to amass even a minuscule amount of usage! Albeit, a formal data representation grammar certainly was needed in that “dot-bomb” era, a time when mash-up web applications were near impossible to maintain since consistently pattern matching off-site content demanded continuous tweaking of regular expressions, parsers, etc. The so-called browser war of Netscape Navigator vs. Internet Explorer couldn’t have helped things either. If that was a war, then we must be on the brink of browser Armagaeddon now that there’s Chromium, FireFox3, IE8 RTM, Safari4 Beta, Opera, Konqueror, Amaya, w3m, lynx, etc. The good news? We now have Safari for Win32. The bad news? Microsoft no longer supports IE for MacOS..bummer.

I think it’s fairly rational to forecast continued adoption of XML Encryption and WS-* standards for SOAP Web Services that handle business-to-business and other communications protocol vectors. If you’re bored of the same old Tomcat/Xerces, WebLogic/SAX, etc. deployments then prepare for applications written in newer API’s to arrive soon; namely Microsoft WCF and Oslo, the Windows Communication Foundation API and a modeling platform with design tools (respectively.) From the surface of .NET promotional hype it appears as if WCF and Oslo will be synthesized into a suitereminiscent of BizTalk Server’s visual process modeling approach. WCF has commissioned many Web Services standards including WS-Security but of course not all major software vendors are participating in the all of the standards. The crew in Redmond have committed to REST in WCF and it wouldn’t surprise me to see innovative XML communications techniques arising from the combination of Silverlight 3 and .NET RIA Services; for those of you who still don’t know, RIA is an acronym for Rich Internet Applications! Microsoft is leveraging the interoperability of this extensible markup language for the long-proprietary document formats of their Office product suite as part of their Open Specification Promise. Even the Microsoft Interactive Canvas, essentially a table that provides I/O through touch uses a form of XML (XAML) for markup.

Blogosphereans, Security Twits, and other Netizens alike seem to take this Really Simple Syndication thing for granted. Over the past several years or so there’s been a trend of malicious payloads piggybacking on banner ads. Since RSS and Atom are capable of syndicating images as well, I’d like to see a case study detailing the impact of a shellcode-toting image referenced from within an XML-based syndication format. Obvious client-side effects that occur when the end user’s browser renders the image are to be expected (gdiplus.dll, anyone?) What else could be done? Web 2.0 search engines with blog and image search features often pre-process those images into a thumbnail as a part of the indexing process. A little recon might discover the use of libMagick by one and libgd by another. Targeting one specific spiderbot over another could be done by testing the netmask of the source IP address making the TCP connection to the web server or probably even as simple as inspecting the User Agent field in the HTTP request header. Crafting a payload that functions both before and after image resizing or other additional processing (ex. EXIF meta-data removal) would be quite an admirable feat. Notwithstanding, I was quite surprised how much Referer traffic our blog got from after Shane included a picture of the great Charlie Brown in his “Good Grief!” post…but I digress.

Several years ago when I was still living in New York, I became fascinated with the subtle intricacies of XML-DSig while studying some WS-Security literature. XML Signature Validation in particular had attracted my attention in earnest. In addition to the characteristics of traditional digital signatures, XML Signatures exhibit additional idiosyncrasies that require a bit of pragmatism in order to be implemented properly and therefore also to be verified properly as well (ex. by a network security analyst.) This is mainly because of the Transform and Reference elements nested within the Signature elements–References and Transforms govern the data to be provided as input to the DigestMethod which produces the cryptic DigestValue string. A Reference element contains a URI attribute which represents the location of the data to be signed. Depending on the type of Transform element, data first dereferenced from the Reference URI is then transformed (i.e. via an XPath query) prior to signature calculation. That’s essentially how it works. Something that may seem awkward is that the XML being signed can remain exactly the same while the digital signature (e.g. the DigestValue element value) has changed. I’ve decided to leave some strange conditions that often come about as an exercise for the reader:

What happens to an XML Digital Signature if … ?

  • No resource exists at the location referenced by the Reference element’s URI attribute value.
  • A circular reference is formed because a URI attribute value points to another Reference element whose URI attribute value is identical to the first.
  • The URI identifies the Signature element itself.
  • A resource exists at the URI, but it’s empty.
  • The Reference element has a URI attribute value which is an empty string, <Reference URI=””>

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The Monster Mash


The buzz word “mashup” refers to the tying together of information and functionality from multiple third-party sources. Mashup projects are sure to become a monster of a security problem because of their very nature. This is what John Sluiter of Capgemini predicted at the RSA Europe conference last week during his “Trust in Mashups, the Complex Key” session. This is the abstract:

“Mashups represent a different business model for on-line business and require a specific approach to trust. This session sets out why Mashups are different,  describes how trust should be incorporated into the Mashup-based service using Jericho Forum models and presents three first steps for incorporating trust appropriately into new Mashup services.”

Jericho Forum is the international IT security association that published the COA (Collaboration Oriented Architectures) framework. COA advocates the deperimiterisation approach to security and stresses the importance of protecting data instead of relying on firewalls.

So what happens when data from various third-party sources traverses inharmonious networks, applications, and privilege levels? Inevitably, misidentifications occur; erroneous and/or malicious bytes pass through the perimeters. Sensitive data might be accessed by an unprivileged user or attack strings could be received. A good example of such a vulnerability was in the Microsoft Windows Vista Sidebar; a malicious HTML tag gets rendered by the RSS gadget and since it’s in the local zone, arbitrary JavaScript is executed with full privileges (MS07-048.)

New generations of automated tools will need to be created in order to test applications developed using the mashup approach. Vulnerability scanners like nessus, nikto, and WebInspect are best used to discover known weaknesses in input validation and faulty configurations. What they’re not very good at is pointing out errors in custom business logic and more sophisticated attack vectors; that’s where the value of hiring a consultant to perform manual testing comes in.

Whether it’s intentional or not, how can insecure data be prevented from getting sent to or received from a third-party source? A whitelist can be applied to data that is on its way in or out—this helps, but it can be difficult when there are multiple systems and data encodings involved. There is also the problem of determining the presence of sensitive information.

Detecting transmissions of insecure data can be accomplished with binary analyzers. However, static analyzers are at a big disadvantage because they lack execution context. Dynamic analysis is capable of providing more information for tainting data that comes from third-party sources. They are more adept at recognizing unexpected executions paths that tainted data may take after being received from the network or shared code.

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Good grief!

Charlie Brown Good GriefHaving just caught up on some of the conference “Source Boston”, I can’t help but call out some of the musings of Andrew Jaquith. Something of a more technical abstract can be read at the code project’s article by Jeffrey Walton (pay special attention to Robin Hood and Friar Tuck). If anybody doubt’s the current trend of sophistication in malware, I’m sure it is somebody who is currently penetrated. I’ve had the opportunity to devote specific analysis on occasion over the years to MAL code and its impact on the enterprise. I know FOR SURE the level of sophistication is on the rise. One thing I had to deal with recently, the extent of capability afforded by most desktop OS’s being so advanced, the majority of functionality desired by MAL code is pre-deployed. Unfortunately paving the way for configuration viruses and their ability to remain undetected in that all they are is an elaborate set of configuration settings. You can imagine, a configuration virus has the entire ability of your OS at its disposal, any VPN/IPSEC, self-(UN) healing, remote administration, etc… The issue is then, how do you determine if that configuration is of MAL intent, it’s surely there for a reason and valid in many deployments. The harm is only when connected to a larger entity/botnet that harm begins to affect a host. Some random points to add hard learned through experience;

  • Use a native execution environment
    • VMWare, prevents the load or typical operation of many MAL code variants
      • I guess VM vendors have a big win here for a while, until the majority of targets are VM hosts.
  • Have an easily duplicated disk strategy
    • MAC systems are great for forensics, target disk mode and ubiquitous fire-wire allows for live memory dumps and ease of off-line disk analysis (without a drive carrier).
    • I’m planning a hash-tree based system to provision arbitrarily sized block checksums of clean/good files, useful of diff’ing out the noise for arbitrary medium (memory, disk, flash).
  • Install a Chinese translator locally
    • As you browse Chinese hack sites, (I think all Russian site’s are so quiet these days due to the fact that they are financially driven, while Chinese are currently motivated by nationalistic motivators), you need to translate locally. Using a .com translation service is detected and false content is rendered, translate locally to avoid that problem.
      • Also, keep notes on lingo.. there are no translation-hack dictionaries yet. (I guess code pigeon is referring to a homing pigeon, naturally horse/wood code is a Trojan).

Unfortunately part of the attacker advantage is the relatively un-coordinated fashion defenders operate, not being able to trust or vet your allies to compare notes can be a real pain. One interesting aspect of a MAL system recently analyzed was the fact that that it had no persistent signature. It’s net force mobility so complete, that the totality of its functionality could shift boot-to-boot, so long as it compromised a boot-up driver it would rise again. The exalted C. Brown put it best, “Good grief!”

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Reducing the Cost of Software Regression

H.G. Wells Time MachineA widely held notion among computer scientists is that 80% of a programmer’s time is occupied maintaining code while the other 20% is spent actually writing the software. This inefficient allocation of effort was the subject of a master’s thesis at the Lund Institute of Technology called “Formalizing Use Cases with Message Sequence Charts.” According to a 2002 NIST study entitled “The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Infrastructure for Software Testing“, the annual cost of testing and fixing buggy software in the U.S. is estimated to be between $22.2 and $59.5 billion. What are the root causes of this costly inefficiency?

Unfortunately, corporate culture is naturally a contributing factor for this problem. Companies that produce commercial software are in business to make a profit first and foremost. Release schedules are expedited so the program can be released to market quickly and copies are sold sooner rather than later–making code work as expected for baseline use cases takes priority over regression testing. Any aspect of the software development process that does not appear to be fully in-line with company interests is considered a waste. Usually, far too much emphasis is put on project progress. The overall progress is only perceived progress because unforeseen problems will inevitably pop-up later on. In the long run, bugs end up costing much more to fix down the road and the entire business apparatus pays the cost of maintenance. Some secondary losses are customer support costs, internal communications and a negative impact on the company’s public image all of which can be preempted by proper preliminary work.

Since there’s so much emphasis on speedy release code writing starts as soon as possible, often with disregard to planning ahead beforehand and ensuring quality afterwards. Furthermore, programmers tend to implement items that they are most familiar with first because it seems like the easy way to do things. In most cases, the most difficult parts of a task are best handled first, not last. Handling the difficult items first allows more time and attention to the important stuff; it also allows the developer to recognize how the simpler pieces will fit into the grand scheme of things.

Planning ahead is an essential during the inception phase of a software project. Appropriately analyzing the problem and carefully designing the solutions will minimize the accumulation of technical hardships in the future. In fact, by taking advantage of the popular Unified Process for software development and diagramming specifications in UML the need for writing code almost disappears. UML CASE tools such as IBM’s Rational Rose will translate UML diagrams into program source code (typically an object-oriented language such as C++ or Java.) Of course creating detailed requirements and specifications is still extremely helpful even if UML is not practical for the task at hand. Writing code early on gives the illusion that progress is being made but in reality it is a recipe for disaster. No code should be written until all implementation issues have been resolved.

Threat modeling and secure design principles need to be key focal points during the initial phases of a software project. After the code has been written security issues will also comprise a large chunk of ongoing maintenance work. When software developers handle security fixes they have to stop what they’re doing, modify or maybe even rewrite the offending code, test the new code, report their progress, etc. Since developers are rarely security specialists, they tend to write fixes in such a way that the security hole is not closed completely. As a result, the vulnerability persists and leads to more code rewriting. This cycle of stopping, rewriting, and continuing severely detracts from productivity in programming. The majority of a developer’s time should be spent doing what they do best–adding new features to software.

Removing developers from the patch creation process significantly increases their utilization. Dedicated security experts are most fit to create patches and conduct regression testing. A dynamic program analysis tool accelerates the regression testing process. Building security in by default from the ground-up will minimize software bugs along with subsequent patching and testing. In conclusion, proper planning, resource allocation, and testing procedures can greatly reduce the costs associated with software regression.

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Hello, World!

Welcome to Security Objectives’ new web log site at WordPress! Here you will find regularly updated musings related to System of Systems Engineering (SoSE), computer programming, software assurance and testing, digital security, philosophy, systems theory, reverse engineering, and discrete mathematics among other technical topics. News and press releases concerning Security Objectives’ itself is of course also fair game. Be sure to check back often for a healthy dose of fascinating technical research.

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