we spent time reversing how the Netgear R6200’s HTTP daemon parses a
firmware header before writing the firmware image to flash. The goal was
to work out how the 58-byte firmware header is constructed and how to
generate a new one that can replace the header in a stock firmware. In
the end we identified the purpose of all but 4 bytes. The regenerated
header plus the original TRX firmware image allowed the HTTP daemon,
running in emulation, to reach the stage where it would start writing
data to the
/dev/mtd1 flash partition. Considering this a win, we’ll
now circle back to analyzing
In this and the next part, we’ll compare the way
upnpd parses and
validates the firmware header to that of
httpd. Having developed a
baseline understanding of how the header is parsed by
upnpd is much easier.
Updated Exploit Code
As in previous installments, the exploit code has been updated. Since
we’re switching back to
upnpd in order to analyze how it validates
the firmware, the repository contains separate modules for that. Look
build_janky_fw.py. You can find the
updated code and README in the
part_8 directory. Now is a good time to
do a pull or to clone the repository from:
More Firmware Parsing, Pretty Much Like Before
As we discovered in part
firmware larger than 4MB will crash
upnpd due to an undersized memory
allocation. Obviously we won’t be able to strap a header to the front of
a stock TRX image like we did with
httpd; it’s way too big. Shrinking
the firmware will be a challenge for later. If it turns out that we
can’t even get so far as writing the firmware to flash memory without
crashing, it won’t matter that you were able to shrink and re-pack the
firmware. Instead, just dd out a little less than 4MB of random data
/dev/random and prepend a header to it. If you can get
write that image to flash, you win this stage and may advance to the
Once we get past the undersized
malloc() at 0x00423C24 in
sa_parseRcvCmd(), the firmware is successfully base64 decoded out of
the SOAP request. Then, at 0x00423C98, a function named
sa_CheckBoardID() is called.
This function should be familiar. It’s nearly identical to the
abCheckBoardID() function I described in part
identical, in fact, that the buffer overflow via
memcpy() I described
previously is in this function as well.
Even the Buffer Overflow is the Same
To recap, the
memcpy() is bounded only by the size value from the
header. Since we control that value, we get precise control over how
many bytes are copied into the destination buffer.
I didn’t go into detail about the buffer overflow before, because I
wanted to wait until I could discuss it in the context of
the HTTP server, this isn’t an interesting vulnerability. In that case,
it is a post-authentication vulnerability. You would need to bypass
authentication or trick a user into uploading your malicious firmware.
If you’ve accomplished either of those, there are much more useful
things you can be doing with your time than exploiting buffer
In the case of
upnpd, this same vulnerability doesn’t require
authentication, making it much more interesting. Here’s what’s neat
- No authentication required.
- The payload is base64 encoded and decoded for free, so there are no bad bytes to avoid related to the transport protocol.
- The buffer overflow is via
memcpy()rather than a string handling function. There are no bad bytes to avoid related to string handling.
- The buffer being overflowed is on the stack, making it easy to overwrite the function’s return address.
This is a straightforward buffer overflow. If you’re new to stack based buffer overflows, or just new to exploiting memory corruption vulnerabilities on MIPS, this is an easy one to practice with, especially if you have the debugging environment I described here set up.
However, as I said in the first part of this series, one of my self-imposed goals was to avoid exploiting bugs along the way. We’re trying to flash a firmware without crashing, and any bugs along the way are obstacles to overcome.
Working through this function reveals the same header fields that we
discovered in its
httpd counterpart: The magic number, the size and
checksum of the header, and the board ID string. These fields are found
at the same header offsets as before.
Mystery Header Gets a Name
There is one new piece of information, however.
At 0x00423088 there is an error message that we didn’t see in
“Not Ambit image … reject!!!”. This is the first indication of any
sort of name for this file format. This explains why you may have
noticed references to “ambit” or “ambit header” in previous code
fragments I’ve posted.
In the next part, we get close to writing the firmware image to flash memory. We’ll have to do some binary patching to work around the fact that QEMU doesn’t actually have flash memory.