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  June 13, 2007 - Timing

by Dominique Brezinski

It is that time again: Black Hat in the hot LV summer. It always comes sooner than I expect. We have been working like mad to get the schedule together, which is basically done. One of the underlying themes this year is timing. I don't pick these things; it is really a reflection of the direction of research in our community. Another theme is nuance.

"My prediction is that we are going to see a lot of things fall over based on timing attacks."

Timing attacks are not new. They have been part of the cryptanalyst's side-channel tool set for some time. In the last few years something caused researchers to start applying it beyond cryptographic operations. Maybe it was Boneh's remote timing attack against OpenSSL in 2003. I don't know. Whatever the reason, a number of researchers have started delivering results using timing as an attack vector. My prediction is that we are going to see a lot of things fall over based on timing attacks.

The research community's understanding of program control flow and its data dependencies is ever increasing. We are at a point where any user-supplied data in the address space should be suspect, because researchers are finding very subtle ways to direct program flow to user-supplied data. In many cases the vulnerabilities are based on unforeseen synchronicity and what were once minor programming mistakes.

A few of the presentations in the Zero Day Attack track highlight the themes of timing and nuance: "Understanding the Heap by Breaking It" by Justin Ferguson, "Timing Attacks for Recovering Private Entries From Database Engines" by Ariel Waissbein and Damian Saura and "Dangling Pointer" by Jonathan Afek. Also, Haroon Meer and Marco Slaviero will be presenting the aptly named "It's All About The Timing." I am excited to see what these guys pull out of the hat.

  It's All About The Timing...

by Haroon Meer & Marco Slaviero

During the last year we managed to find multiple cases where bastardized timing attacks managed to save our hides. This in turn led to us weaponising a few tools which (along with a new propensity for timing everything) helped us spot even more fun to be had timing things. The talk will cover these attacks and the tools, but will go further, exploring some of the attack possibilities open when we start to look at vectors other than just making small strings bigger. In a world where vendors are (finally) realizing the necessity of fuzzing their code before releasing it the next round of the game will be won by the people watching for subtler attacks, taking us back to the 80's with timing attacks, race conditions and plain old logical flaws separating the men from the boys. The more things change, the more they stay the same

  Timing Attacks for Recovering Private Entries From Database Engines

by Ariel Waissbein & Damian Saura

Last year we were startled at finding that certain content management systems list the subscribers of their forums in a two column table, where one represents user login and the other column represent their passwords. The surprising fact was that, although passwords where printed as 6 asterisks, the CMS had a cool feature that allowed you to order the column alphabetically according to user name or password. This translates in a divide–and–conquer attack that allows you to recover the password for any user.

This lead us to think that database engines might also be indexing tables by each of their columns, and while the cool feature of printing out this reindexed lists to attacker are not typically available, they were not necessary if we could build a timing attack to provide this data. Developing this exploit was not that easy. That is what made the experience so interesting.

  Dangling Pointer

by Jonathan Afek

Just another day at the office started with scanning a web site with a vulnerability scanner. The scan resulted in an unexpected crash in a Microsoft IIS server.

This discovery was really exciting—a crash might mean a new IIS vulnerability. Deeper research concluded that we were facing a “dangling pointer bug” and that it could be remotely exploitable for arbitrary code execution.

After a while, an already published advisory of this bug was found on the net. It said that this was a DoS vulnerability and that it couldn’t be exploited for remote code execution. We thought differently.

I started researching, looking for good exploit implementation and information resources about dangling pointers. I felt that such a resource was missing and that there seemed to be a big misconception regarding the importance and impact of dangling pointer bugs.

In this presentation, I will discuss dangling pointer bugs. How they are created, their implications and how they can be exploited for remote arbitrary code execution. I will also discuss recent defense mechanisms meant to block classical vulnerabilities exploits and their slim relevancy to Dangling Pointer bugs.

I will dive into specific implementation details of C++ compilers and windows heap structure and present it all on top of the IIS vulnerability example. I will also explain why this bug is commonly misunderstood and will try to answer questions that are currently unanswered, as there is no informative reading material currently or easily available.

I will conclude with a warning— don’t leave this bug dangling as it is just as dangerous as Buffer Overflows.

  Understanding the Heap by Breaking It

by Justin Ferguson

Traditional exploitation techniques of overwriting heap metadata has been discussed ad-nauseum, however due to this common perspective the flexibility in abuse of the heap is commonly overlooked. This presentation examines a flaw that was found in several popular open-source applications as a method for exploring heap structure exploitation and hopefully providing a gateway to understanding the true beauty of data structure exploitation.

This focuses on the dynamic memory management implementation provided by the GNU C library, particularly ptmalloc2 and presents methods for evading certain sanity checks in the library along with previously unpublished methods for obtaining control.


I am so relieved. It has finally happened: the forensic field is transitioning from techniques that satisfy the needs of law enforcement to techniques that satisfy the needs of everyone else. We are now seeing a focus on post-intrusion incident response versus seizure and disk analysis. The two areas are very different, and post-intrusion incident response actually has many more difficult technical problems by a large margin... read more

VoIP Security

In 2000 a co-worker brought an early Cisco VoIP phone into my office. He was tasked with doing a security review prior to a potential deployment in the company. His summation after five minutes with the docs, “It uses bootp and tftp to retrieve its operating image and unencrypted UDP to carry the audio stream.” We immediately thought of our CEO and CFO’s calls being recorded by anybody with access to the network infrastructure and ubiquitous bugging by patching the operating image. No way were we going to deploy the horrid little things.... read more

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