Posts tagged #Ghidra

Ghidra Plugin Development for Vulnerability Research - Part-1

Overview

On March 5th at the RSA security conference, the National Security Agency (NSA) released a reverse engineering tool called Ghidra. Similar to IDA Pro, Ghidra is a disassembler and decompiler with many powerful features (e.g., plugin support, graph views, cross references, syntax highlighting, etc.). Although Ghidra's plugin capabilities are powerful, there is little information published on its full capabilities.  This blog post series will focus on Ghidra’s plugin development and how it can be used to help identify software vulnerabilities.

In our previous post, we leveraged IDA Pro’s plugin functionality to identify sinks (potentially vulnerable functions or programming syntax).  We then improved upon this technique in our follow up blog post to identify inline strcpy calls and identified a buffer overflow in Microsoft Office. In this post, we will use similar techniques with Ghidra’s plugin feature to identify sinks in CoreFTPServer v1.2 build 505.

Ghidra Plugin Fundamentals

Before we begin, we recommend going through the example Ghidra plugin scripts and the front page of the API documentation to understand the basics of writing a plugin. (Help -> Ghidra API Help)

When a Ghidra plugin script runs, the current state of the program will be handled by the following five objects:

  • currentProgram: the active program

  • currentAddress: the address of the current cursor location in the tool

  • currentLocation: the program location of the current cursor location in the tool, or null if no program location exists

  • currentSelection: the current selection in the tool, or null if no selection exists

  • currentHighlight: the current highlight in the tool, or null if no highlight exists

It is important to note that Ghidra is written in Java, and its plugins can be written in Java or Jython. For the purposes of this post, we will be writing a plugin in Jython. There are three ways to use Ghidra’s Jython API:

  • Using Python IDE (similar to IDA Python console):

  • Loading a script from the script manager:

  • Headless - Using Ghidra without a GUI:

ghidra_output4.png

With an understanding of Ghidra plugin basics, we can now dive deeper into the source code by utilizing the script manager (Right Click on the script -> Edit with Basic Editor)

The example plugin scripts are located under /path_to_ghidra/Ghidra/Features/Python/ghidra_scripts. (In the script manager, these are located under Examples/Python/):

ghidra_output6.png


Ghidra Plugin Sink Detection

In order to detect sinks, we first have to create a list of sinks that can be utilized by our plugin. For the purpose of this post, we will target the sinks that are known to produce buffer overflow vulnerabilities. These sinks can be found in various write-ups, books, and publications.

Our plugin will first identify all function calls in a program and check against our list of sinks to filter out the targets. For each sink, we will identify all of their parent functions and called addresses. By the end of this process, we will have a plugin that can map the calling functions to sinks, and therefore identify sinks that could result in a buffer overflow.

Locating Function Calls

There are various methods to determine whether a program contains sinks. We will be focusing on the below methods, and will discuss each in detail in the following sections:

  1. Linear Search - Iterate over the text section (executable section) of the binary and check the instruction operand against our predefined list of sinks.

  2. Cross References (Xrefs) - Utilize Ghidra’s built in identification of cross references and query the cross references to sinks.

Linear Search

The first method of locating all function calls in a program is to do a sequential search. While this method may not be the ideal search technique, it is a great way of demonstrating some of the features in Ghidra’s API.

Using the below code, we can print out all instructions in our program:

listing = currentProgram.getListing() #get a Listing interface
ins_list = listing.getInstructions(1) #get an Instruction iterator
while ins_list.hasNext():             #go through each instruction and print it out to the console
    ins = ins_list.next()
    print (ins)

Running the above script on CoreFTPServer gives us the following output:

ghidra_output7.png

We can see that all of the x86 instructions in the program were printed out to the console.


Next, we filter for sinks that are utilized in the program. It is important to check for duplicates as there could be multiple references to the identified sinks.

Building upon the previous code, we now have the following:

sinks = [ 
         "strcpy",
         "memcpy",
         "gets",
         "memmove",
         "scanf",
         "lstrcpy",
         "strcpyW",
         #...
         ]
duplicate = []
listing = currentProgram.getListing() 
ins_list = listing.getInstructions(1) 
while ins_list.hasNext():           
    ins = ins_list.next()    
    ops = ins.getOpObjects(0)    
    try:        
        target_addr = ops[0]  
        sink_func = listing.getFunctionAt(target_addr) 
        sink_func_name = sink_func.getName()         
        if sink_func_name in sinks and sink_func_name not in  duplicate:
            duplicate.append(sink_func_name) 
            print (sink_func_name,target_addr) 
    except:
        pass    


Now that we have identified a list of sinks in our target binary, we have to locate where these functions are getting called. Since we are iterating through the executable section of the binary and checking every operand against the list of sinks, all we have to do is add a filter for the call instruction.

Adding this check to the previous code gives us the following:

sinks = [					
	"strcpy",
	"memcpy",
	"gets",
	"memmove",
	"scanf",
	"strcpyA", 
	"strcpyW", 
	"wcscpy", 
	"_tcscpy", 
	"_mbscpy", 
	"StrCpy", 
	"StrCpyA",
        "lstrcpyA",
        "lstrcpy", 
        #...
	]

duplicate = []
listing = currentProgram.getListing()
ins_list = listing.getInstructions(1)

#iterate through each instruction
while ins_list.hasNext():
    ins = ins_list.next()
    ops = ins.getOpObjects(0)
    mnemonic = ins.getMnemonicString()

    #check to see if the instruction is a call instruction
    if mnemonic == "CALL":
        try:
            target_addr = ops[0]
            sink_func = listing.getFunctionAt(target_addr)
            sink_func_name = sink_func.getName()
            #check to see if function being called is in the sinks list
            if sink_func_name in sinks and sink_func_name not in duplicate:
                duplicate.append(sink_func_name)
                print (sink_func_name,target_addr)
        except:
	        pass

Running the above script against CoreFTPServer v1.2 build 505 shows the results for all detected sinks:

ghidra_output8.png

Unfortunately, the above code does not detect any sinks in the CoreFTPServer binary. However, we know that this particular version of CoreFTPServer is vulnerable to a buffer overflow and contains the lstrcpyA sink. So, why did our plugin fail to detect any sinks?

After researching this question, we discovered that in order to identify the functions that are calling out to an external DLL, we need to use the function manager that specifically handles the external functions.

To do this, we modified our code so that every time we see a call instruction we go through all external functions in our program and check them against the list of sinks. Then, if they are found in the list, we verify whether that the operand matches the address of the sink.

The following is the modified section of the script:

sinks = [					
	"strcpy",
	"memcpy",
	"gets",
	"memmove",
	"scanf",
	"strcpyA", 
	"strcpyW", 
	"wcscpy", 
	"_tcscpy", 
	"_mbscpy", 
	"StrCpy", 
	"StrCpyA",
        "lstrcpyA",
        "lstrcpy", 
        #...
	]

program_sinks = {}
listing = currentProgram.getListing()
ins_list = listing.getInstructions(1)
ext_fm = fm.getExternalFunctions()

#iterate through each of the external functions to build a dictionary
#of external functions and their addresses
while ext_fm.hasNext():
    ext_func = ext_fm.next()
    target_func = ext_func.getName()
   
    #if the function is a sink then add it's address to a dictionary
    if target_func in sinks: 
        loc = ext_func.getExternalLocation()
        sink_addr = loc.getAddress()
        sink_func_name = loc.getLabel()
        program_sinks[sink_addr] = sink_func_name

#iterate through each instruction 
while ins_list.hasNext():
    ins = ins_list.next()
    ops = ins.getOpObjects(0)
    mnemonic = ins.getMnemonicString()

    #check to see if the instruction is a call instruction
    if mnemonic == "CALL":
        try:
            #get address of operand
            target_addr = ops[0]   
            #check to see if address exists in generated sink dictionary
            if program.sinks.get(target_addr):
                print (program_sinks[target_addr], target_addr,ins.getAddress()) 
        except:
            pass

Running the modified script against our program shows that we identified multiple sinks that could result in a buffer overflow.

ghidra_output9.png


Xrefs

The second and more efficient approach is to identify cross references to each sink and check which cross references are calling the sinks in our list. Because this approach does not search through the entire text section, it is more efficient.

Using the below code, we can identify cross references to each sink:


sinks = [					
	"strcpy",
	"memcpy",
	"gets",
	"memmove",
	"scanf",
	"strcpyA", 
	"strcpyW", 
	"wcscpy", 
	"_tcscpy", 
	"_mbscpy", 
	"StrCpy", 
	"StrCpyA",
        "lstrcpyA",
        "lstrcpy", 
        #...
	]

duplicate = []
func = getFirstFunction()

while func is not None:
    func_name = func.getName()
    
    #check if function name is in sinks list
    if func_name in sinks and func_name not in duplicate:
        duplicate.append(func_name)
        entry_point = func.getEntryPoint()
        references = getReferencesTo(entry_point)
	#print cross-references    
        print(references)
    #set the function to the next function
    func = getFunctionAfter(func)

Now that we have identified the cross references, we can get an instruction for each reference and add a filter for the call instruction. A final modification is added to include the use of the external function manager:

sinks = [					
	"strcpy",
	"memcpy",
	"gets",
	"memmove",
	"scanf",
	"strcpyA", 
	"strcpyW", 
	"wcscpy", 
	"_tcscpy", 
	"_mbscpy", 
	"StrCpy", 
	"StrCpyA",
        "lstrcpyA",
        "lstrcpy", 
        #...
	]

duplicate = []
fm = currentProgram.getFunctionManager()
ext_fm = fm.getExternalFunctions()

#iterate through each external function
while ext_fm.hasNext():
    ext_func = ext_fm.next()
    target_func = ext_func.getName()
    
    #check if the function is in our sinks list 
    if target_func in sinks and target_func not in duplicate:
        duplicate.append(target_func)
        loc = ext_func.getExternalLocation()
        sink_func_addr = loc.getAddress()    
        
        if sink_func_addr is None:
            sink_func_addr = ext_func.getEntryPoint()

        if sink_func_addr is not None:
            references = getReferencesTo(sink_func_addr)

            #iterate through all cross references to potential sink
            for ref in references:
                call_addr = ref.getFromAddress()
                ins = listing.getInstructionAt(call_addr)
                mnemonic = ins.getMnemonicString()

                #print the sink and address of the sink if 
                #the instruction is a call instruction
                if mnemonic == “CALL”:
                    print (target_func,sink_func_addr,call_addr)

Running the modified script against CoreFTPServer gives us a list of sinks that could result in a buffer overflow:

ghidra_output9.png



Mapping Calling Functions to Sinks

So far, our Ghidra plugin can identify sinks. With this information, we can take it a step further by mapping the calling functions to the sinks. This allows security researchers to visualize the relationship between the sink and its incoming data. For the purpose of this post, we will use graphviz module to draw a graph.

Putting it all together gives us the following code:

from ghidra.program.model.address import Address
from ghidra.program.model.listing.CodeUnit import *
from ghidra.program.model.listing.Listing import *

import sys
import os

#get ghidra root directory
ghidra_default_dir = os.getcwd()

#get ghidra jython directory
jython_dir = os.path.join(ghidra_default_dir, "Ghidra", "Features", "Python", "lib", "Lib", "site-packages")

#insert jython directory into system path 
sys.path.insert(0,jython_dir)

from beautifultable import BeautifulTable
from graphviz import Digraph


sinks = [
    "strcpy",
    "memcpy",
    "gets",
    "memmove",
    "scanf",
    "strcpyA", 
    "strcpyW", 
    "wcscpy", 
    "_tcscpy", 
    "_mbscpy", 
    "StrCpy", 
    "StrCpyA", 
    "StrCpyW", 
    "lstrcpy", 
    "lstrcpyA", 
    "lstrcpyW", 
    #...
]

sink_dic = {}
duplicate = []
listing = currentProgram.getListing()
ins_list = listing.getInstructions(1)

#iterate over each instruction
while ins_list.hasNext():
    ins = ins_list.next()
    mnemonic = ins.getMnemonicString()
    ops = ins.getOpObjects(0)
    if mnemonic == "CALL":	
        try:
            target_addr = ops[0]
            func_name = None 
            
            if isinstance(target_addr,Address):
                code_unit = listing.getCodeUnitAt(target_addr)
                if code_unit is not None:
                    ref = code_unit.getExternalReference(0)	
                    if ref is not None:
                        func_name = ref.getLabel()
                    else:
                        func = listing.getFunctionAt(target_addr)
                        func_name = func.getName()

            #check if function name is in our sinks list
            if func_name in sinks and func_name not in duplicate:
                duplicate.append(func_name)
                references = getReferencesTo(target_addr)
                for ref in references:
                    call_addr = ref.getFromAddress()
                    sink_addr = ops[0]
                    parent_func_name = getFunctionBefore(call_addr).getName()

                    #check sink dictionary for parent function name
                    if sink_dic.get(parent_func_name):
                        if sink_dic[parent_func_name].get(func_name):
                            if call_addr not in sink_dic[parent_func_name][func_name]['call_address']:
                                sink_dic[parent_func_name][func_name]['call_address'].append(call_addr)
                            else:
                                sink_dic[parent_func_name] = {func_name:{"address":sink_addr,"call_address":[call_addr]}}
                    else:	
                        sink_dic[parent_func_name] = {func_name:{"address":sink_addr,"call_address":[call_addr]}}				
        except:
            pass

#instantiate graphiz
graph = Digraph("ReferenceTree")
graph.graph_attr['rankdir'] = 'LR'
duplicate = 0

#Add sinks and parent functions to a graph	
for parent_func_name,sink_func_list in sink_dic.items():
    #parent functions will be blue
    graph.node(parent_func_name,parent_func_name, style="filled",color="blue",fontcolor="white")
    for sink_name,sink_list in sink_func_list.items():
        #sinks will be colored red
        graph.node(sink_name,sink_name,style="filled", color="red",fontcolor="white")
        for call_addr in sink_list['call_address']:
	    if duplicate != call_addr:					
                graph.edge(parent_func_name,sink_name, label=call_addr.toString())
                duplicate = call_addr	

ghidra_default_path = os.getcwd()
graph_output_file = os.path.join(ghidra_default_path, "sink_and_caller.gv")

#create the graph and view it using graphiz
graph.render(graph_output_file,view=True)

Running the script against our program shows the following graph:

ghidra_output10.png

We can see the calling functions are highlighted in blue and the sink is highlighted in red. The addresses of the calling functions are displayed on the line pointing to the sink.

After conducting some manual analysis we were able to verify that several of the sinks identified by our Ghidra plugin produced a buffer overflow. The following screenshot of WinDBG shows that EIP is overwritten by 0x42424242 as a result of an lstrcpyA function call.  

ghidra_output15.png

Additional Features

Although visualizing the result in a graph format is helpful for vulnerability analysis, it would also be useful if the user could choose different output formats.

The Ghidra API provides several methods for interacting with a user and several ways of outputting data. We can leverage the Ghidra API to allow a user to choose an output format (e.g. text, JSON, graph) and display the result in the chosen format. The example below shows the dropdown menu with three different display formats. The full script is available at our github:

ghidra_output11.png

Limitations

There are multiple known issues with Ghidra, and one of the biggest issues for writing an analysis plugin like ours is that the Ghidra API does not always return the correct address of an identified standard function.

Unlike IDA Pro, which has a database of function signatures (FLIRT signatures) from multiple libraries that can be used to detect the standard function calls, Ghidra only comes with a few export files (similar to signature files) for DLLs.  Occasionally, the standard library detection will fail.

ghidra_output12.png

By comparing IDA Pro and Ghidra’s disassembly output of CoreFTPServer, we can see that IDA Pro’s analysis successfully identified and mapped the function lstrcpyA using a FLIRT signature, whereas Ghidra shows a call to the memory address of the function lstrcpyA.

Although the public release of Ghidra has limitations, we expect to see improvements that will enhance the standard library analysis and aid in automated vulnerability research.

Conclusion

Ghidra is a powerful reverse engineering tool that can be leveraged to identify potential vulnerabilities. Using Ghidra’s API, we were able to develop a plugin that identifies sinks and their parent functions and display the results in various formats. In our next blog post, we will conduct additional automated analysis using Ghidra and enhance the plugins vulnerability detection capabilities.