I have encountered a Malicious Shell-Code & i have ported the shellcode into a compatible C Code which can run the shellcode, i compiled it using gcc -fno-stack-protector -z execstack shellcode.c -o code which gives output ELF file code, i am planning to analyze the File by using gdb ./code command to see the functions & to research the Shell-Code.

Now my question is does an Untrusted ELF file running in gdb can cause File execution outside gdb ? Because if the shell-code is rm -rf / --no-preserve-root that it is a security Implication or a Shell-code which uses Remote connection is also a Threat, so does command gdb ./code runs the code completely or just simply port the code to gdb, because after that i can use Breakpoints before shell code execution to analyze.

Any answer would be appreciated.

1 Answer 1


It certainly does. gdb will not isolate the process at all and will merely give you some control over it to understand what it does.

To do that kind of analysis, you should resort to a fully isolated system such as a VM with no network access.

Break points will be respected, but you should always account for human errors which can have drastic consequences. Should you be good enough to safely debug an unknown obfuscated program, you wouldn't need to run it as you would simply read the code to know what it does, which would be risk free.

  • Considering a case here, i ported a ELF File to gdb by gdb ./code . Assuming this file contains Harmful shell-code, Now. I set breakpoint exactly above where Shell-Code starts executing, Now if that ShellCode is using XOR obfuscation than it might be decoding it too. So i need to have set Another Breakpoint before it gives me Plain-Text output of what it does (For example using execv("/bin/ksh", 0, 0) )to spawn a new shell. Now The question stands is before i continue after setting breaks, does the code run or remain static at the first instance gdb ./code ? Jun 9, 2016 at 9:06
  • I updated my answer to reply to your question on breakpoints. Jun 9, 2016 at 9:16
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    That's actually exactly my point. You should not rely on your expertise to do something unsafe. Set up a safe environment to run your tests! Jun 9, 2016 at 10:33
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    A VM is not an isolated system. Using one will significantly reduce, but not eliminate entirely, the risk. If you want to eliminate your risk then you should use a system that you will afterwards either discard, or use only for purposes with no security requirements. A raspberry pi is a good candidate because of the low cost. Jun 9, 2016 at 12:08
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    Exactly @JonBentley, i have been using Raspberry Pi for a time and it may work as a good candidate, Haven't yet testing Malwares on that but i will look forward. Some Codes are Anti-VM too, they won't even execute the main part even if Inetsim is on, so it's varied scopes which can be performed ! Jun 9, 2016 at 12:53

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