Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Blockchain Exploitation Labs - Part 3 Exploiting Integer Overflows and Underflows

In part 1 and 2 we covered re-entrancy and authorization attack scenarios within the Ethereum smart contract environment. In this blog we will cover integer attacks against blockchain decentralized applications (DAPs) coded in Solidity.

Integer Attack Explanation:

An integer overflow and underflow happens when a check on a value is used with an unsigned integer, which either adds or subtracts beyond the limits the variable can hold. If you remember back to your computer science class each variable type can hold up to a certain value length. You will also remember some variable types only hold positive numbers while others hold positive and negative numbers.

If you go outside of the constraints of the number type you are using it may handle things in different ways such as an error condition or perhaps cutting the number off at the maximum or minimum value.

In the Solidity language for Ethereum when we reach values past what our variable can hold it in turn wraps back around to a number it understands. So for example if we have a variable that can only hold a 2 digit number when we hit 99 and go past it, we will end up with 00. Inversely if we had 00 and we subtracted 1 we would end up with 99.

Normally in your math class the following would be true:

99 + 1 = 100
00 - 1 = -1

In solidity with unsigned numbers the following is true:

99 + 1 = 00
00 - 1 = 99

So the issue lies with the assumption that a number will fail or provide a correct value in mathematical calculations when indeed it does not. So comparing a variable with a require statement is not sufficiently accurate after performing a mathematical operation that does not check for safe values.

That comparison may very well be comparing the output of an over/under flowed value and be completely meaningless. The Require statement may return true, but not based on the actual intended mathematical value. This in turn will lead to an action performed which is beneficial to the attacker for example checking a low value required for a funds validation but then receiving a very high value sent to the attacker after the initial check. Lets go through a few examples.

Simple Example:

Lets say we have the following Require check as an example:
require(balance - withdraw_amount > 0) ;

Now the above statement seems reasonable, if the users balance minus the withdrawal amount is less than 0 then obviously they don’t have the money for this transaction correct?

This transaction should fail and produce an error because not enough funds are held within the account for the transaction. But what if we have 5 dollars and we withdraw 6 dollars using the scenario above where we can hold 2 digits with an unsigned integer?

Let's do some math.
5 - 6 = 99

Last I checked 99 is greater than 0 which poses an interesting problem. Our check says we are good to go, but our account balance isn't large enough to cover the transaction. The check will pass because the underflow creates the wrong value which is greater than 0 and more funds then the user has will be transferred out of the account.

Because the following math returns true:
 require(99 > 0) 

Withdraw Function Vulnerable to an UnderFlow:

The below example snippet of code illustrates a withdraw function with an underflow vulnerability:

function withdraw(uint _amount){

    require(balances[msg.sender] - _amount > 0);
    balances[msg.sender] -= _amount;


In this example the require line checks that the balance is greater then 0 after subtracting the _amount but if the _amount is greater than the balance it will underflow to a value above 0 even though it should fail with a negative number as its true value.

require(balances[msg.sender] - _amount > 0);

It will then send the value of the _amount variable to the recipient without any further checks:


Followed by possibly increasing the value of the senders account with an underflow condition even though it should have been reduced:

balances[msg.sender] -= _amount;

Depending how the Require check and transfer functions are coded the attacker may not lose any funds at all but be able to transfer out large sums of money to other accounts under his control simply by underflowing the require statements which checks the account balance before transferring funds each time.

Transfer Function Vulnerable to a Batch Overflow:

Overflow conditions often happen in situations where you are sending a batched amount of values to recipients. If you are doing an airdrop and have 200 users who are each receiving a large sum of tokens but you check the total sum of all users tokens against the total funds it may trigger an overflow. The logic would compare a smaller value to the total tokens and think you have enough to cover the transaction for example if your integer can only hold 5 digits in length or 00,000 what would happen in the below scenario?

You have 10,000 tokens in your account
You are sending 200 users 499 tokens each
Your total sent is 200*499 or 99,800

The above scenario would fail as it should since we have 10,000 tokens and want to send a total of 99,800. But what if we send 500 tokens each? Lets do some more math and see how that changes the outcome.

You have 10,000 tokens in your account
You are sending 200 users 500 tokens each
Your total sent is 200*500 or 100,000
New total is actually 0

This new scenario produces a total that is actually 0 even though each users amount is 500 tokens which may cause issues if a require statement is not handled with safe functions which stop an overflow of a require statement.

Lets take our new numbers and plug them into the below code and see what happens:

1. uint total = _users.length * _tokens;
2. require(balances[msg.sender] >= total);
3. balances[msg.sender] = balances[msg.sender] -total;

4. for(uint i=0; i < users.length; i++){ 

5.       balances[_users[i]] = balances[_users[i]] + _value;

Same statements substituting the variables for our scenarios values:

1. uint total = _200 * 500;
2. require(10,000 >= 0);
3. balances[msg.sender] = 10,000 - 0;

4. for(uint i=0; i < 500; i++){ 

5.      balances[_recievers[i]] = balances[_recievers[i]] + 500;

Batch Overflow Code Explanation:

1: The total variable is 100,000 which becomes 0 due to the 5 digit limit overflow when a 6th digit is hit at 99,999 + 1 = 0. So total now becomes 0.

2: This line checks if the users balance is high enough to cover the total value to be sent which in this case is 0 so 10,000 is more then enough to cover a 0 total and this check passes due to the overflow.

3: This line deducts the total from the senders balance which does nothing since the total of 10,000 - 0 is 10,000.  The sender has lost no funds.

4-5: This loop iterates over the 200 users who each get 500 tokens and updates the balances of each user individually using the real value of 500 as this does not trigger an overflow condition. Thus sending out 100,000 tokens without reducing the senders balance or triggering an error due to lack of funds. Essentially creating tokens out of thin air.

In this scenario the user retained all of their tokens but was able to distribute 100k tokens across 200 users regardless if they had the proper funds to do so.

Lab Follow Along Time:

We went through what might have been an overwhelming amount of concepts in this chapter regarding over/underflow scenarios now lets do an example lab in the video below to illustrate this point and get a little hands on experience reviewing, writing and exploiting smart contracts. Also note in the blockchain youtube playlist we cover the same concepts from above if you need to hear them rather then read them.

For this lab we will use the Remix browser environment with the current solidity version as of this writing 0.5.12. You can easily adjust the compiler version on Remix to this version as versions update and change frequently.

Below is a video going through coding your own vulnerable smart contract, the video following that goes through exploiting the code you create and the videos prior to that cover the concepts we covered above:

Download Video Lab Example Code:

Download Sample Code:

//Underflow Example Code: 
//Can you bypass the restriction? 
 pragma solidity ^0.5.12;

contract Underflow{
     mapping (address =>uint) balances;

     function contribute() public payable{
          balances[msg.sender] = msg.value;  

     function getBalance() view public returns (uint){
          return balances[msg.sender];     

     function transfer(address _reciever, uint _value) public payable{
         require(balances[msg.sender] - _value >= 5);
         balances[msg.sender] = balances[msg.sender] - _value;  

         balances[_reciever] = balances[_reciever] + _value;

This next video walks through exploiting the code above, preferably hand coded by you into the remix environment. As the best way to learn is to code it yourself and understand each piece:



We covered a lot of information at this point and the video series playlist associated with this blog series has additional information and walk throughs. Also other videos as always will be added to this playlist including fixing integer overflows in the code and attacking an actual live Decentralized Blockchain Application. So check out those videos as they are dropped and the current ones, sit back and watch and re-enforce the concepts you learned in this blog and in the previous lab. This is an example from a full set of labs as part of a more comprehensive exploitation course we have been working on.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Blockchain Exploitation Labs - Part 2 Hacking Blockchain Authorization

Bypassing Blockchain Authorization via Unsecured Functions

Note: Since the first part of this series I have also uploaded some further videos on remediation of reentrancy and dealing with compiler versions when working with this hacking blockchain series.  Head to the console cowboys YouTube account to check those out.  Haha as mentioned before I always forget to post blogs when I get excited making videos and just move on to my next project… So make sure to subscribe to the YouTube if you are waiting for any continuation of a video series.. It may show up there way before here. 

Note 2:  You WILL run into issues when dealing with Ethereum hacking, and you will have to google them as versions and functionality changes often... Be cognizant of versions used hopefully you will not run into to many hard to fix issues. 

In the second part of this lab series we are going to take a look at privacy issues on the blockchain which can result in a vulnerably a traditional system may  not face. Since typically blockchain projects are open source and also sometimes viewable within blockchain explorers but traditional application business logic is not usually available to us. With traditional applications we might not find these issues due to lack of knowledge of internal functionality or inability to read private values on a remote server side script.  After we review some issues we are going to exploit an authorization issues by writing web3.js code to directly bypass vertical authorization restrictions.

Blockchain projects are usually open source projects which allow you to browse their code and see what's going on under the hood.  This is fantastic for a lot of reasons but a developer can run into trouble with this if bad business logic decisions are deployed to the immutable blockchain.  In the first part of this series I mentioned that all uploaded code on the blockchain is immutable. Meaning that if you find a vulnerability it cannot be patched. So let's think about things that can go wrong..

A few things that can go wrong:
  • Randomization functions that use values we can predict if we know the algorithm
  • Hard-coded values such as passwords and private variables you can't change.
  • Publicly called functions which offer hidden functionality
  • Race conditions based on how requirements are calculated

Since this will be rather technical, require some setup and a lot of moving parts we will follow this blog via the video series below posting videos for relevant sections with a brief description of each.  I posted these a little bit ago but have not gotten a chance to post the blog associated with it.  Also note this series is turning into a full lab based blockchain exploitation course so keep a lookout for that.

In this first video you will see how data about your project is readily available on the blockchain in multiple formats for example:
  • ABI data that allows you to interact with methods.
  • Actual application code.
  • Byte code and assembly code.
  • Contract addresses and other data.

 Lab Video Part 1: Blockchain OSINT: 

Once you have the data you need to interact with a contract on the blockchain via some OSINT how do you actually interface with it? That’s the question we are going to answer in this second video. We will take the ABI contract array and use it to interact with methods on the blockchain via Web3.js and then show how this correlates to its usage in an HTML file

Lab Video Part 2: Connecting to a Smart Contract: 

Time to Exploit an Application:

Exploit lab time, I created an vulnerable application you can use to follow along in the next video. Lab files can be downloaded from the same location as the last blog located below. Grab the AuthorizationLab.zip file:

Lab file downloads:

Ok so you can see what's running on the blockchain, you can connect to it, now what?   Now we need to find a vulnerability and show how to exploit it. Since we are talking about privacy in this blog and using it to bypass issues. Lets take a look at a simple authorization bypass we can exploit by viewing an authorization coding error and taking advantage of it to bypass restrictions set in the Smart Contract.  You will also learn how to setup a local blockchain for testing purposes and you can download a hackable application to follow along with the exercises in the video..

Lab Video Part 3:  Finding and hacking a Smart Contract Authorization Issue: 


In this part of the series you learned a lot, you learned how to transfer your OSINT skills to the blockchain. Leverage the information found to connect to that Smart Contract. You also learned how to interact with methods and search for issues that you can exploit. Finally you used your browsers developer console as a means to attack the blockchain application for privilege escalation.

Hacking All the Cars - Part 2

Connecting Hardware to Your Real Car: 

 I realized the other day I posted Part 2 of this series to my youtube awhile ago but not blogger so this one will be quick and mostly via video walkthrough. I often post random followup videos which may never arrive on this blog. So if you’re waiting on something specific I mentioned or the next part to a series its always a good idea to subscribe to the YouTube. This is almost always true if there is video associated with the post.  

In the last blog we went over using virtual CAN devices to interact with a virtual car simulators of a CAN network This was awesome because it allowed us to learn how to interact with he underlying CAN network without fear of hacking around on an expensive automobile. But now it’s time to put on your big boy pants and create a real CAN interface with hardware and plug your hardware device into your ODB2 port. 

The video I created below will show you where to plug your device in, how to configure it and how to take the information you learned while hacking around on the virtual car from part1 and apply it directly to a real car.   

Video Walk Through Using Hardware on a Real Car

As a reference here are the two device options I used in the video and the needed cable: 

Hardware Used: 

Get OBD2 Cable:

Get CANtact:


Creating Network Interfaces: 

As a reference here are the commands from the video for creating a CAN network interface: 

USB2Can Setup: 
The following command will bring up your can interface and you should see the device light color change: 
sudo ip link set can0 up type can bitrate 125000

Contact Setup: 
Set your jumpers on 3,5 and 7 as seen in the picture in the video
Sudo slcand -o -s6 /dev/ttyACM can0 <— whatever device you see in your DMESG output
Ifconfig can0 up


That should get you started connecting to physical cars and hacking around. I was also doing a bit of python coding over these interfaces to perform actions and sniff traffic. I might post that if anyone is interested. Mostly I have been hacking around on blockchain stuff and creating full course content recently so keep a look out for that in the future.