IE 5 Allows Arbitrary Code to Execute
Reported December 6, 1999 by Jeremy Kothe
Internet Explorer 5.0
(5.00.2314.1003IC and 5.00.2614.3500) However, other versions may be affected
"By providing an oversize (360 byte) URL using the
vnd.ms.radio protocol, a malicious web site or e-mailer (or...) can cause arbitrary code
to be executed on a client machine.
The file with the overrun is MSDXM.OCX - (807,184 bytes.) It came to me with IE 5.xxx, and
is identical on every installation I"ve seen so far
Both NT and Windows 9x are vulnerable. Also, I did find one W98 machine which was immune -
I didn"t have time to figure why..."
The following is the binary for a URL or link which
overflows the stack and displays a simple MessageBox, then loops endlessly (ExitProcess
I"ve used addresses from MSDXM.OCX, which is where the overrun is. If you banged your head
against richedxx.dll (solar d. spyrit,...), then
you"ll appreciate this file. It"s mapped at 0x1d300000 and is 800k. With all chars except
0, 9, 0a, 0c, 20, 22, 23, 25, 2e, 2f, 5c
allowed in the buffer.
Off Text Binary (where non-text)
010 kwashere9991.... C0890783
020 ..PWWP....0...00 EF0C, FF151416, 1DEBFE
130 0000000000.00000 1D
140 00.000.000.000.0 1D, 1D, 1D, 1D
150 000.o6.0000000.0 1A6F361D, 1D
160 000000.0 1D
Straight after the "vnd.ms.radio:\\", there is data, then code. I put them there
because there"s over 0x100 bytes of space here, and edi
points to offset 1bh at the point of no return. If you need more space (writing a word
processor?), IE allows somewhere between 2-4k in
addition to what I"ve used. (which would be large enough for a modest "worm".)
The address at offset 154h overwrites the return address with a pointer to a "call
edi"... which calls the code...
All the other "1D""s are to provide readable pointers to avoid exceptions while
waiting for the end of the call. (They"re actually
How did it happen?
I coded the exploit without paying much attention to what the source was saying, then at
the end decided I"d go and find out how a
relatively new piece of software like this could allow a dreary old unchecked stack
The original exception was reported within msvcrt.dll"s mcsstr function. The stack had
been overwritten, but the arguments and return address for mcsstr (and no further) were
written over the top. This meant the overrun must have ocurred in the calling function.
(Besides, I trust Microsoft to know their crt by now.)
The return address is in MSDXM.OCX at 0x1d365585. Looking back upwards from the call to
mcsstr, the previous call is to _mbsnbcat
(strncat). Should be safe enough. Above that is _mbsrchr (strrchr). That"s begnign also.
Next comes the (I suppose) inevitable - an inline
strcpy into a 0x100 byte buffer situated on the stack 0x40 bytes into the local frame.
Examining further reveals that the author is assuming that the final portion of the url
(after the last forward or back-slash) is less than 256 chars.
Basically, it boils down to:
char acBuffer\[ 256 \];
strcpy( acBuffer, pszInput )
1. Static buffers kill.
2. Functions which fill buffers without size constraints are evil.
3. If you don"t know how big it is, find out before you copy it.
4. None of these conclusions are new.
In short, sized strings: 12329852, null-terminated strings: 0.
The root of the problem is this: The API"s of nearly all OSes require terminated strings.
The programmer is therefore required to use them,
and because the provided functions for converting are so messy, and the support functions
for sized strings so (comparitively) convoluted that using sized strings internally while
converting them for the API is not practical. Programming for Windows in particular gets
messy, because you must use ANSI-style strings to maintain 9x compatibility, and convert
to sized to use COM/OLE.
If you EVER see a classic-style overrun in, say, a Delphi app, you know it was related
(however distantly) to an API call. Other than that, there is no reason to use anything
but "string"s, and therefore no maximum string lengths - Unless you count 4gb as
The C-Standards people need to do something. This is an almost uniquely C-based problem.
Deprecate null-terminated strings and/or any function which fills one without a maximum.
Make sized strings a compiler-supplied service with syntax as simple as vb or delphi, with
typecasting support for converting for API"s. Relying on classes and macros is very noble,
but produces unavoidable syntactical subtleties
which detract from the simplicity of the concept of string-manipulation. This leaves most
programmers resorting to the (still too-messy) concept of using BSS or stack buffers.
Why should any programmer have to think about people feeding programs into their
Strings should be as easy to use as integers.
Arrays of characters can then revert to being...just that, and can be strictly
bounds-checked...and the script kiddies will have to learn
cryptography... and might get jobs.
Microsoft is aware of this issue,
however no official comments have come forth to date.
Discovered by Jeremy Kothe