»On Monday, I presented Flayer: Exposing Application Internals at the First USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT'07). Flayer is a tool that I wrote for use in my everyday work. It allows me to trace input through an application extracting the locations where that data traverses conditional branches (ifs) and where it is used in system calls. (It traces this data with bit-precision.) Armed with the locations where the data is used, Flayer can force the tainted code path to behave differently by changing the outcome of conditional jumps and stepping over function calls. I use this functionality to bypass banner checks, version checks, magic checks, etc in applications when I need to test them. Once the outer layer of an application has been removed (flayed), I use classic fuzz testing techniques against the exposed code without needing full protocol awareness or other large initial investments other testing approaches have.

To speed testing up, I wrote a helper program, named MKF, that uses ptrace to perform the same check-bypassing modifications on binaries at runtime without relying on Flayer (which has all the overhead of Valgrind/MemCheck). This gives me the best of both worlds: high speed fuzzing with the targeting of Flayer.

In addition to testing, I find that tracing input and modifying execution behavior on-the-fly is excellent for learning about an application quickly. This approach allows me to determine attack surfaces based on what functions are traversed without digging around the code for a while first. In a similar vein, I've also used Flayer to compare code paths that are followed in patched versus unpatched applications with the included interactive shell, flayersh.

Of course, the best part is that I was able to release Flayer publicly. This makes it available to everyone to try out and change. I hope that this turns out to be as useful for other people as has been for me.

That aside, the workshop itself was well-sized at around thirty people with several interesting talks. In particular, I enjoyed Robert Watson's "Exploiting Concurrency Vulnerabilities in System Call Wrappers". While time-of-check-time-of-use problems with system call wrappers have been discussed before, it was great to see some code for exploiting these problems across operating systems.

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