Activity wrap-up including AFL, CRASS and Burp

Here’s a little overview of my last few months:


Rating conference submissions

Hi everyone

This blog post is about something I had in mind for quiet a while and is a topic from the “meta” corner. I think this topic will become more important with new forms of conference submission ratings such as Open CFPs. This blog post is about IT security conferences, but might apply to other conferences too.

A few years ago I was asked (and many others too) to review talk submissions for a (the biggest?) IT security conference in Europe, the CCC congress. As a reviewer you are able to access the material the speakers submitted in written form including links and papers. Usually you are only part of one reviewer team, which will only rate a certain track. You rate submissions between 1 and 5 stars (half stars allowed) and you write a review comment reasoning your decision. Rating a talk without reasoning in the review comment is possible, but in my opinion plain rude. I did review a couple of talks in the last few years but I wasn’t always comfortable with the way I did it. This blog post is approaching that by reflecting how I could do reviews differently. I hope this helps others to do the same.

Should I really care that much about my “criteria” and if I’m “doing it right”? That’s one of the first questions I asked myself. Maybe the whole point is that I throw in my opinion? I see two main aspects here: Someone of the conference organisation team chose me to review submissions, so it’s probably desired that I throw in my own opinion. On the other hand it’s important to questions one’s own methods. I decided it’s worth taking some time to think about how I review talks. I encourage you to think about the questions in this blog post and reflect your ratings, but you probably will and should disagree with some of my opinions.

The goal of reviewing submissions is choosing high quality talks for the conference. But should the talks be high quality to me or rather something I guess is an average conference participant? That’s probably hard to answer, but I usually try to adopt to the conference participants and especially to the conference purpose. But what’s quality? I thought about some criteria that might make up “quality” regarding the content of a talk:

  • What does the talk contribute to the overall IT security field? I know this is a very broad question. But maybe you should write in your review if you don’t see what the talk will contribute.
  • Novelty/creativity of research area/topic. For example the novelty of the target. I think this criterion is overrated, a talk shouldn’t be rated high just because it is about car hacking or hacking an IoT barbie. However, this criterion can contribute to an interesting talk.
  • Novelty/creativity of used techniques/developed tools/analysis approach. For me this is way more important than a fancy research topic. I guess the first talk about DOM based XSS was pretty cool, but if you start to explain that to people nowadays, not so much. In the past I ran into questions like “Is threat visualization a helpful feature or just a fancy gimmick?”. These questions aren’t always easy to answer.
  • Novelty/creativity of talk in general. I’ve heard a lot of malware talks, but I was often bored about “new” obfuscation techniques that malware writers invented. Although I couldn’t really say that it wasn’t new, it just didn’t feel new at all. But then maybe I’m just not a malware analyst.
  • The people’s/conference’s/personal relation to the topic and relevance. If the conference is about hardware hacking, an SQL injection talk is maybe not the thing people are after. But if they talk about a new CPU security feature of an exotic CPU architecture it might not be of relevance for everyone. However, due to my personal preferences I might still give a high rating.
  • Focus. I think you can often spot bad talks that use a lot of buzz words and do not talk about anything specific, but about IT security in general. These talks are often combined with humor. Nearly everybody can tell a funny security story or two, but is it really relevant?
  • Completeness. Is the research finished and covers all topics you would expect? Is the speaker biased and therefore not mentioning certain topics?
  • Ability to understand the talk. If it’s only understandable for the 0.2% of people who did manual chip decaping themselves, this might be just too hardcore. Again it depends on the conference’s focus. Maybe it’s important that there are at least some of these talks, so people don’t forget what the security community is working on.
  • Learning/knowledge/stimulation. Can I/people learn from the talk? Is the talk stimulating and people want to work on the topic after hearing all the details?
  • Everyday usefulness. Can people apply it right away at home? I guess it is important that there are some of these talks, but it’s not too important.
  • Is the information well written? Adds to the overall impression.
  • Was the research presented before at other conferences? I think you should mention in the comments if you’ve heard a talk before.
  • Personal overall feeling in three categories (and the amount of talks I rate that way): Accept (20%), undecided (60%) and reject (20%).
  • Would I go to the talk?

But then there is as well a more human component in this entire conference talk thing:

  • Speaker’s presence. There are a lot of people that talk a lot, are nice to listen to and afterwards I do think the talk was good. But sometimes it still feels like they didn’t say anything I didn’t know before. A good example is a Ted talk about nothing. Maybe I was blinded by the speaker being able to make me feel good, because I had that “oh, i thought that before!” moment. Keynotes often make me feel this way. I think that’s fine for keynotes.
  • Humor. I never rate a talk better because it is funny and I think it shouldn’t be part of the submission text (but maybe of the presentation). I think humor is very often making a good talk brilliant, because hard topics are easier to digest this way. It allows to repeat an important information while the repetition doesn’t seem boring. I think fun talks can be very entertaining, doing a hacker jeopardy is hilarious when everybody knows what’s coming. Humor can never replace good content.
  • Entertainment. Exactly like humor, the dose is important. I think it shouldn’t be part of the submission text.
  • Do I rate talks of people I personally know/dislike/admire? Do I rate talks better, because the speaker is well-known? Because I heard good things about his talks? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but I write about it in the review comment. Being honest is the key.
  • Equality, gender neutrality, quotas. I try to treat everyone the same.
  • What are red flag criteria? For me the most important red flag criteria is talking about research results, but not releasing the developed tool open source. If the speaker is not Aleph One, a talk should never have a title with “for fun and profit”. For me it is important to spot pure marketing stunts: It’s not only about corporations trying to do this, it is as well about open source tool maintainers who simply love their project and want to promote it. What’s the reason this topic should get a time slot?
  • When do I intervene with the conference board? For example if a research is obviously fake or plagiarism or in the wrong track.
  • Which talks should I rate? I start rating submissions for topics I’m very familiar with, starting with those I did research myself. If I have time I try to rate all talks I was asked to rate. I try to be honest in the comments and write if I’m not too familiar with the topic but I’m rating anyway.
  • Did I understand the submission’s topic? Maybe read it again? Maybe I shouldn’t rate it if I didn’t get it?

It’s a complicated topic. If you would like to do some further reading, I couldn’t find very much. If you know something or have a different opinion, leave it in the comments. Here are a couple of links:


What I’ve been up to: a lot

Hi there

Yes, I know, you didn’t hear from me for quiet a while (apart from the usual Twitter noise). But I wasn’t lazy! Actually I feel like I need to get rid of a lot of information. Here’s what I was up to in the last few months:

  • Released the code review audit script scanner (crass) on github, which is basically a very much improved version of what I’ve talked about in one of my blog posts about a grep script. It is still heavy on the Android side, but supports a lot more now. Additionally it has some helpful other scripts as well.
  • For historical reasons I released some code about the unicode buffer overflow feature on github, which I also wrote two blog posts about in the past. By now the entire code is part of (which you should actually use). It’s on github if someone wants to refactor and understand my code (more comments, standalone version, etc.).
  • I released some very simple SSL MITM proxy in a couple of lines of bash script on github. To be honest, I was surprised myself that it really worked so nicely. It probably doesn’t work in all cases. I’m actually planning to write something on all the options pentesters have for SSL MITM-Proxies. There is also a Reddit discussion going on about it and I should definitely check those comments.
  • I was teaching some very basic beginner classes in Python (and learned a lot while doing it). Some of my students are going to use IBM websphere and its wsadminlib, so I had a look at that code and it honestly shocked me a little. My code is sometimes messy too, but for an official script that’s just wow. As I’m not very familiar with IBM websphere apart from post exploitation, I don’t think I’m the right guy to fix the code (I don’t even have access to an IBM websphere server). So I tried to be helpful on github. Meh.
  • I’ve analyzed how Android can be exploited on the UI level to break its sandbox, gave a talk about it at an event in Zurich (“Android apps in sheep’s clothing”). I developed an overlay proof of concept exploit (which is on github). When I emailed back and forth with the Android security team about it they had lame excuses like “we check apps that are put on Google Play”. That’s why I put malware on the Google Play Store and of course they didn’t detect it. But Google doesn’t seem to care, it’s still on there. We publicly wrote about it in April 2015, that’s 6 months at the moment. Nearly no downloads so far, but you get the point, right? Regarding if the overlay issue is considered a bug, Android only acknowledged that “apps shouldn’t be able to detect which other app is in the foreground”. So when I sent them a link to a stackoverflow posting showing them that they failed at that in Android 5.0 they opened Android bug ANDROID-20034603. It ended up in the (finally!) newly introduced security bulletins (August 2015), referenced as “CVE-2015-3833: Mitigation bypass of restrictions on getRecentTasks()”. I didn’t get credited because I wasn’t the author of the stackoverflow posting. Whatever.
  • I’ve released and updated my AFL crash analyzer scripts (Python) and other AFL scripts (mostly bash) on github.
  • I have to be a bit more realistic about the heap buffer overflow exploits I said I was “writing”, I’m currently more failing at being able to exploit them (which is very good, I learn a lot at the moment). It seems I found crashes (with AFL) that are pretty hard to exploit. I’m currently looking at something that needs to be exploited through a free call (I guess). Anyway, not a problem, I’ll just dig deeper. I just have to make sure that I further do crash analysis rather than setting up new fuzzers all the time… so much fun!
  • We went full disclosure on Good Technology, we released a XSS from 2013 that enabled you to wipe all mobile devices of your company as a regular user (just an example). Additionally, I found a new issue, an exported Android intent (aka insecure IPC mechanism) that can be exploited under certain conditions.


Python difflib SequenceMatcher quick_ratio performance contribution

Hi everyone

Once in a while I’m trying to contribute something non-security related to an Open Source project. At the moment I’m teaching Python courses and found some of my old scripts that are pretty useful. I’m trying to contribute a performance optimized difflib.SequenceMatcher.quick_ratio to CPython. It’s not decided yet if it’s going to be in the stdlib or just a Python code recipe (maybe referenced in the docs). My implementation isn’t perfect yet, as soon as there is a decision I would further work on it. If you code in Python and you have used difflib.SequenceMatcher.quick_ratio, I’d be happy if you join the discussion on the Python-Ideas mailing list or on the Python issue tracker. We need some more opinions at the moment.


Introduction to American Fuzzy Lop (AFL) Powerpoint

On Monday I gave a presentation at Silicon Valley Fuzzers about howto use the AFL fuzzer (with very little preparation time) because coincidentally I was just around the corner (and they really wanted a speaker on the topic). Nothing new in there, just a short howto use AFL I hacked up, you can find it here.

PS: I know you all love Powerpoint

Edit: Due to popular demand, the presentation in PDF version. Note that you will miss the animated gif logo of AFL and the other animated gif. Next time, consider using online converter services if you don’t like the Powerpoint file format.

About the CVEs in libtiff 4.0.3

There has been a lot of afl fuzzing going on, a lot of image libraries were targeted, I also fuzzed some libraries, for example libtiff. I sent around 10 to 20 crash files for the different tools to the maintainer that seemed to be kind of unique crash cases, although I didn’t analyze a lot of the crashes in-depth. Others found similar issues and CVEs like CVE-2014-8129, CVE-2014-8128, CVE-2014-8127 and CVE-2014-9330 were assigned, additionally I got CVE-2015-8870.

Here’s the example that I analyzed a little bit more closely (and that got the identifier CVE-2015-8870) in libtiff version 4.0.3 (until this month the last stable). It’s one of the errors in the bmp2tiff command line tool. Here’s what happens when you run it with one of my crash files (bmp2tiff crash-file.bmp outfile.tiff).

First, width and length variables are read from the bmp file header. Then the needed memory for the uncompressed image is calculated and allocated (line 595 in bmp2tiff.c):

uncompr_size = width * length;
uncomprbuf = (unsigned char *)_TIFFmalloc(uncompr_size);

However, there is no check for an integer overflow. So in my example afl made a file that results in the following values (gdb output):

(gdb) p width
$70 = 65536
(gdb) p length
$71 = 65544
(gdb) p uncompr_size
$72 = 524288

Where 524289 is (65536 * 65544) % MAX_INT. However, later on the width and length is used to calculate offsets on the uncomprbuf buffer, which results in pointers that are far off (heap buffer overflow).

Although I didn’t check the entire code, I think this is not easily exploitable, as it can only be used to read (more or less) arbitrary memory regions and write them to the output file. While this might be interesting in scenarios where you look for memory leaks, I doubt that it’s useful in any realistic attack scenario. Drop me a comment if I’m wrong. So the fix was to check if an integer overflow occurs on line 595 in bmp2tiff.c, which is done in the new version according to the maintainer.

Take a second and think about how many projects are probably using libtiff.

Looking into another crash file with an arbitrary WRITE and turning it into a fully weaponized exploit is still on my TODO list… we’ll see.


New year – Vallader app, fuzzing and advisories

Happy new year everybody,

As some of you know I’m learning a new language (Vallader Romansh) and because that language is only spoken by a few ten thousand people there is no dictionary Android app. So hey, here is a version I coded in half a day on github and on Google Play. I never took the time to improve it, so I thought I simply release it today (which took me another half a day). The app isn’t very stable, not well tested, but I guess better some app than no app at all. Send me pull requests 😉

Moreover, I’ve been fuzzing quiet a lot in the last few months and the results are crazy, thanks to AFL. I’m writing heap buffer overflow exploits and I hope I’ll write some more posts about it soon.

If you haven’t seen it, we’ve been releasing a few advisories in 2014.

Additionally, I just changed some settings on this page. You won’t be bothered with third party JavaScript includes on this domain anymore.

Metasploit tincd module officially released

It took a while to do PoC changes, port from python to ruby, port from ruby to a metasploit module, change the used library in ruby, divide into two files (a tincd protocol library and an exploit module), write ROP chains for x86 and ARM architecture, support various operating systems and make all the necessary changes to make ruby people happy. But it was really a good experience.

I’m happy to announce that my tincd buffer overflow module I wrote a while ago is now officially part of Metasploit.

Android app configuration manipulation

So you got an Android application and you would like to temper with its configuration files? Nothing easier than that as long as you have a rooted Android phone, a sqlite editor and a text editor.

I only wanted to temper with the databases of the app. I used this script ( to get the databases:

APP_UID=`adb shell dumpsys package $APP|grep userId=|cut -d " " -f 5|cut -d "=" -f 2`
#after first run, maybe hardcode, so you can also push files when Android is still starting up and before the app started:
echo "[+] Removing local folder"
rm -r ./$APP-databases
echo "[+] The applications UID and GID is:"
echo $APP_UID
echo "[+] Copying database to tmp dir"
adb shell "su -c cp -r /data/data/$APP/databases $TMP/$APP-databases"
echo "[+] chmoding tmp dir to 777"
adb shell "su -c chmod -R 777 $TMP/$APP-databases"
echo "[+] Pulling database"
adb pull $TMP/$APP-databases $APP-databases
echo "[+] Removing database in tmp"
adb shell "su -c rm -r $TMP/$APP-databases"

You might need to change the cut commands, as they might not work in every case. Then, to upload the databases back to the phone, use this script (

APP_UID=`adb shell dumpsys package $APP|grep userId=|cut -d " " -f 5|cut -d "=" -f 2`
#after first run, maybe hardcode, so you can also push files when Android is still starting up and before the app started:
echo "[+] The applications UID and GID is:"
echo $APP_UID
echo "[+] Pushing to tmp dir"
adb push $APP-databases $TMP/$APP-databases
echo "[+] Copying from tmp to app dir"
adb shell "su -c cp -pr $TMP/$APP-databases/* /data/data/$APP/databases/"
#cp -p  doesn't seem to preserver mode, but sets it to 666
echo "[+] chmoding app dir"
#attention: 777, easy way out, but databases might have different flags...
adb shell "su -c chmod -R 777 /data/data/$APP/databases"
adb shell "su -c chmod 771 /data/data/$APP/databases"
echo "[+] removing tmp database"
adb shell "su -c rm -r $TMP/$APP-databases"
#cp -p doesn't seem to preserve owner, but sets it to shell
echo "[+] chowning app dir"
adb shell "su -c chown $APP_UID.$APP_UID /data/data/$APP/databases"
adb shell "su -c chown $APP_UID.$APP_UID /data/data/$APP/databases/*"

If you want to get the entire configuration of the app, you can use this script (

APP_UID=`adb shell dumpsys package $APP|grep userId=|cut -d " " -f 5|cut -d "=" -f 2`
#after first run, maybe hardcode, so you can also push files when Android is still starting up and before the app started:
echo "[+] Removing local folder"
rm -r ./$APP
echo "[+] The applications UID and GID is:"
echo $APP_UID
echo "[+] Copying app dir to tmp dir"
adb shell "su -c cp -r /data/data/$APP $TMP/$APP"
echo "[+] chmoding tmp dir to 777"
adb shell "su -c chmod -R 777 $TMP/$APP"
echo "[+] Pulling app dir from tmp"
adb pull $TMP/$APP $APP
echo "[+] Removing app dir in tmp"
adb shell "su -c rm -r $TMP/$APP"

As I didn’t need to push the entire app configuration, I didn’t write a script. That could get messy with the permissions and I didn’t want to do a chmod 777. But of course you can do that if you like.

These simple scripts got me some really nice results during pentests. Activate apps that I only had in the free version. Reset the app’s PIN lock count. Disable ads showing in the application.

Shellshock fix – bash compiling for OSX

By now probably all of you heard of the shellshock vulnerability. Just as a small heads-up, I wasn’t able to compile the bash version 4.3 on Mac OSX as the last few patches simply don’t work for me. But here’s how you can compile, test and install version 4.2 on your OSX:

#adopted from an original post (that was deleted) from

#No better results with gnu-patch from mac ports -> /opt/local/bin/gpatch



#patches starting from 029 don't work for me in version 4.3

echo "* Downloading bash source code"
wget --quiet$VERSION_TO_COMPILE.tar.gz
tar xzf bash-$VERSION_TO_COMPILE.tar.gz 

echo "* Downloading and applying all patches"
for i in $(seq -f "%03g" 1 $VERSION_NUMBER_OF_PATCHES); do
   echo "Downloading and applying patch number $i for bash-$VERSION_TO_COMPILE"
   wget --quiet$VERSION_TO_COMPILE-patches/bash$VERSION_TO_COMPILE_NO_DOT-$i
   #sleep 0.5

echo "* configuring and building bash binary"
sleep 1

echo "* writing bash test script"
#The following script will only work when your cwd has the bash binary,
#so you can execute ./bash
#mostly taken from
cat << EOF > /tmp/
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' ./bash -c "echo no worries so far"
    echo "* If the following lines print the actual date rather than the string 'date' you are vulnerable:"
    env X='() { ()=>\' ./bash -c "echo date"; cat echo;
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    env X=' () { }; echo vulnerable' ./bash -c 'echo no worries so far'
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    ./bash -c 'true <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF <<EOF' || echo "vulnerable CVE-2014-7186 , redir_stack"
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    (for x in {1..200} ; do echo "for x$x in ; do :"; done; for x in {1..200} ; do echo done ; done) | ./bash || echo "vulnerable CVE-2014-7187 , word_lineno"
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    shellshocker='() { echo vulnerable; }' ./bash -c shellshocker
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    ./bash -c "f() { x() { _;}; x() { _;} <<a; }" 2>/dev/null || echo vulnerable
    #more tests, probably often testing the same as above, but better safe than sorry
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    env X='() { _; } >_[$($())] { echo vulnerable; }' ./bash -c : 
    echo "* If the following lines contain the word 'vulnerable' your bash is not fixed:"
    foo='() { echo vulnerable; }' ./bash -c foo

echo ""
echo "* Starting a new bash process to check for vulnerabilities"
echo ""
sleep 1
./bash /tmp/

echo ""
echo "* If the compiled bash binary is not vulnerable, you want to install that binary in your system:"
echo "cd bash-$VERSION_TO_COMPILE"
echo "sudo make install"
echo "sudo mv /bin/bash /bin/old_vulnerable_bash && sudo ln /usr/local/bin/bash /bin/bash"