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In one context, our code is actually quite malicious.
When supplied in exactly the right place, as part of a long string passed to an unchecked buffer on the stack, it can be interpreted as machine instructions that cause a Windows message box to appear within the affected application (see Figure 1.1). However, similar sized snippets of machine code can do some very malicious things, including formatting the disk drive or bootstrapping additional functionality.
THE SOFTWARE VULNERABILITY GUIDE LIMITED WARRANTY AND DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY THE CD-ROM THAT ACCOMPANIES THE BOOK MAY BE USED ON A SINGLE PC ONLY. Richard Ford of Florida Tech helped review the earliest drafts of our ideas.
THE LICENSE DOES NOT PERMIT THE USE ON A NETWORK (OF ANY KIND). Mike Andrews of Foundstone and Florence Mottay of Security Innovation have provided invaluable insight and advice throughout the project.
Despite the onslaught of In This Chapter Security as a Call to Action for Developers Why We Wrote This Book and Why You Should Read It How This Book Is Structured Who We Are References 4 The Software Vulnerability Guide new products and marketing literature from network security vendors, though, security is not a problem that can be solved completely with better firewalls and antivirus software.
SECURITY AS A CALL TO ACTION FOR DEVELOPERS The key issue is that data used to exploit these flaws is usually completely indistin- guishable from legitimate application data when viewed at the network level and out of context.
We would like to express our thanks to the editors and staff at Charles River Media, espe- cially Jim Walsh for his patience during the long process of turning this book from an idea into reality.
If the applications themselves cannot determine correct from incorrect input in some cases, how can an outside appliance?
A Call to Action 5 ANATOMY OF A SHELLCODE Our code from the first example is really a tiny program, sometimes called a shellcode, within the security community.
Shellcode is malicious code that is intended to execute inside an exploited application.
FIGURE 1.1 A Windows message box created with our shell code.
Without specific knowledge of the buffer overflow vulnerability and in-depth knowledge of the state of the application reading this data, a firewall has no hope of protecting the vulnerable system.
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This particular block of code (see Table 1.1 for an interpretation of the block) launches a Windows message box, In the strictest sense, this is not “shellcode” because it doesn’t launch a shell.