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IDA, hotpatched functions and signatures that don’t work…

April 7, 2017 in IDA/Hex-Rays, Malware Analysis, Reversing

In my recent post, I described issues related to signatures of functions prefixed with 0xCC (int 3).

It turns out that there is one more issue that causes sigs to fail, including both the built-in ones and also these I build myself. I was recently seeing more and more files where sigs failed and eventually decided to investigate the reason.

The problem is caused by the hotpatch prefix for the functions. For 32-bit it is the instruction mov edi,edi (8B FF). If your signatures were built from standard libraries that were compiled with a hotpatch prefix, the sigs will include the prefix as well.

What happens now when you see a piece of software that is using the very same version of the static library, but that uses the functions without the hotpatch? You end up with signature mismatch, and functions will not be recognized!

Let’s look at the example:

1E 2DB8 003E :0000 ?_Inside@?$basic_string@_WU?$char_traits@_W@std@@V?$allocator@_W@2@@std@@QAE_NPB_W@Z

This is a pattern generated from the libcpmt.lib included in SDK 10.0.

Now, consider the code that looks like this:

                push    ebp
                mov     ebp, esp
                cmp     DWORD PTR [ebp+8], 0
                jz      short loc_10001297
                mov     edx, [ecx+14h]
                cmp     edx, 8
                jb      short loc_10001276
                mov     eax, [ecx]
                jmp     short loc_10001278
                mov     eax, ecx
                cmp     [ebp+8], eax
                jb      short loc_10001297
                cmp     edx, 8
                jb      short loc_10001286
                mov     eax, [ecx]
                jmp     short loc_10001288
                mov     eax, ecx
                mov     ecx, [ecx+10h]
                lea     eax, [eax+ecx*2]
                cmp     eax, [ebp+8]
                jbe     short loc_10001297
                mov     al, 1
                jmp     short loc_10001299
                xor     al, al
                pop     ebp
                retn    4

                mov     edi,edi
                push    ebp
                mov     ebp, esp
                cmp     DWORD PTR [ebp+8], 0
                jz      short loc_2_10001297
                mov     edx, [ecx+14h]
                cmp     edx, 8
                jb      short loc_2_10001276
                mov     eax, [ecx]
                jmp     short loc_2_10001278
                mov     eax, ecx
                cmp     [ebp+8], eax
                jb      short loc_2_10001297
                cmp     edx, 8
                jb      short loc_2_10001286
                mov     eax, [ecx]
                jmp     short loc_2_10001288
                mov     eax, ecx
                mov     ecx, [ecx+10h]
                lea     eax, [eax+ecx*2]
                cmp     eax, [ebp+8]
                jbe     short loc_2_10001297
                mov     al, 1
                jmp     short loc_2_10001299
                xor     al, al
                pop     ebp
                retn    4

  call fun1
  call fun2
  invoke ExitProcess,0

If you now apply the signature built using the pattern above, you will get the following result:

The function with the hotpatch prefix (fun2) is recognized, and the one without (fun1) – is not!

After discovering this bit I contacted the Hexrays guys and they fixed it with a simple, yet clever patch (Thx Igor&Ramiro). I can’t talk about the details, but I hope this will find its way into the new release of IDA.

IDA, function alignment and signatures that don’t work…

December 27, 2016 in IDA/Hex-Rays, Malware Analysis, Reversing

More and more malware is compiled with the more recent Visual Studio versions and often as 64-bit portable executables. It’s a commonly known fact that the official flirt signatures may not be yet available for some of these libraries. To address this, I often compile my own sigs based on available SDK and VS libraries. I have done it a few times before and since I recently came across a standard function that my libs didn’t recognize I decided to build yet another sig file.

A standard, routine task.

I quickly identified the version of VC the portable executable was built with, got the appropriate libcmt.lib, built the .pat file, confirmed the signature is present and matches ‘my’ unrecognized function, and compiled the final .sig file.

To my surprise, the sigs didn’t work and despite my efforts I couldn’t make them work. I eventually asked Hex-Rays for support and in the end they provided a detailed explanation as they identified the root cause of the issue: the alignment bytes (Thanks to Ilfak for help).

To explain what it is, you have to look at the following example of the memset function:

The code is an excerpt from a memset .obj file inside the libcmt.lib.

You can immediately notice that there is a sequence of bytes prefixed with CC (int 3) at the top of the file.

When you create a .pat signature file for it it will look like this:

DA B01D 00FA :0010 memset :003E@ mset10 :004E@ mset20 :0060@ mset30
:006C@ mset40 :0071@ mset50 :007B@ mset60 :0087@ mset70 :0090@

mset80 :00C0@ mset90

As you can see the signature includes the alignment bytes (these few CCs at the front of the sig).

If you now create a .sig file from such a .pat file you will get a signature file that will not work for many static occurrences of memset. If you run IDA with the -z4 option you may get messages stating that the function was skipped (‘skip func’).

The reason for this behavior is that the alignment is present not only in the .obj files, but also inside the portable executable files.

As such, you may come across a code sequence like this (inside a sample):

The actual memset function is prefixed with an alignment added by a compiler (but different than the one inside the .obj file), and this particular alignment sequence was already recognized by IDA – it has been properly named and wrapped up. However, this wrapped-up alignment overlaps with the full code of the actual function (remember from the .pat file that it has to be prefixed with that CC sequence representing the alignment inside the .obj file!). So, as a result of this overlap, the flirt signature will fail to recognize the memset function.

Let’s look at the binary one more time:

This is how memset is ‘remembered’ by the .sig/.pat files (from the .obj file):

And this is how it is present inside the sample – the highlighted part is the actual alignment that IDA already recognized and wrapped up for this particular sample:

– that wrapped-up alignment basically ‘stole’ a few bytes that would normally be part of the ‘remembered’ alignment of the memset function recognizable by the .sig.

There are two solutions at least:

  • create signatures w/o alignment bytes (need a fix to the IDA pcf.exe tool)
  • undefine the alignments done by IDA

The first one may be addressed in the future versions of IDA. The second option is actually very easy – if you come across a similar situation consider running the below script first. It’s a quick & ugly hack that removes the alignments that IDA adds automatically. Once these are removed, the sigs should work (unless the issue is completely different, of course).

import idaapi
import idautils

for s in Segments():
    segname = str(idc.SegName(s)).rstrip('\x00')
    print "Segment %s" % segname
    i = idc.SegStart(s)

    while i<idc.SegEnd(s):
       b = Byte (i)
       if b==0xCC:
          a = GetDisasm(i)
          if a.startswith('align'):
             print "%08lX: %s, %x" % (i, a,b)
print "Done"