Fun with Assembly 6: More buffer overflows to change return values

Posted by Hywel Carver on August 5, 2015

This is the sixth in a series. You might want to read the previous post before reading this.

This post is based on the Cusco level on Like last time, we’re trying to find an input to open a lock without knowing the correct password, using knowledge of assembly language.

First glance

You should know the drill by now. Let’s look at the login function.

4500:  3150 f0ff      add   #0xfff0, sp
4504:  3f40 7c44      mov   #0x447c "Enter the password to continue.", r15
4508:  b012 a645      call  #0x45a6 <puts>
450c:  3f40 9c44      mov   #0x449c "Remember: passwords are between 8 and 16 characters.", r15
4510:  b012 a645      call  #0x45a6 <puts>

Adding 0xfff0 to the stack pointer decreases it by 16. That means adding 16 bytes to the stack for use by the current frame. Then the code writes out some text.

4514:  3e40 3000      mov   #0x30, r14
4518:  0f41           mov   sp, r15
451a:  b012 9645      call  #0x4596 <getsn>

This should look familiar too - familiar code with a familiar bug. The code gets input by calling getsn, storing the result at the address of the stack pointer, and allowing up to 0x30 = 48 characters. Which is 32 more bytes than was just added to the stack frame to allow for it.

We’ve already seen in a previous episode that the first two bytes (on a 16-bit CPU) beyond the current stack frame are where the return address is stored. When ret is called from a stack frame, it will be those two bytes that the CPU returns to.

And it’s those two bytes that will be the first we overwrite with a password beyond 16 characters. What address would we like the function to return to? Well, unlock_door at 0x 4446 sounds like a good candidate. We have to change the order of the bytes because addresses are stored in a little-endian way. So we just need an input with 0x4644 in the 17th and 18th bytes. I used 0x0102030405060708090a0b0c0d0e0f104644.


Lots of this was similar to code we’ve seen before. Buffer overflows from an input that wasn’t correctly sanitised, and overwriting return values. Next time: the myth of security through obscurity.

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