Is this integer overflow exploitable and if the answer is yes, how can i exploit it?

char buffer[20];
int len = atoi(argv[1]);
if(len < 20)

If I set len to -1 the application crashes, because the number of bytes to copy is too long and there is a segfault. But is there a way or method to exploit the vulnerability?

  • @paj28 len is not argc though, it's argv[1].
    – billc.cn
    Aug 17 '16 at 14:24
  • If argv[1] is INT_MAX+1 then (len < 20) will return true, then memcpy will cause a buffer overrun - the 3rd parameter to memcpy is size_t, which is an unsigned int. As for "how to exploit" - that's too broad for here. Read some exploit basics and ask specific questions if you need.
    – paj28
    Aug 17 '16 at 14:51


You don't need to use -1, any value larger than 20 will allow you to overflow the buffer.

It will depend on the next instructions and the mitigations set by the compiler, but from this point on you can probably overwrite the return address and execute a shell code provided as the second parameter.

  • sorry, i forgot to add a check in the code which check if the len is smaller than 20
    – user126623
    Jul 17 '16 at 21:50

It's dangerous.

Is it exploitable? Possibly. You've already told us that you can cause a crash, so you may be able to DoS a system by crashing it... depending upon where argv1 comes from. If it's a hard coded value, or if it's generated by a calling app and can only ever be between 0 and 20, then it may not be exploitable in the system. It would still be a bad coding pattern, since a small change could make it exploitable. Or if it's never executed code, or if it's code that is only executed by the you and nobody else ever executes it, firewall rules preventing values below 0or above 20, etc, then it wouldn't be exploitable.

Is it executable? Maybe. We don't have enough information to determine either way. We don't know if the compiler inserts stack canaries. We don't know if there's other code that controls argv1 and forces it to be a safe value.

Try using !exploitable if you're running on windows if you want a hint (I don't remember the tools for other OSes).

  • yes, i can control all arguments and it is a default simple c program. In linux.
    – user126623
    Jul 17 '16 at 22:15
  • 1
    It sounds like you are running this program in your own user space. That will only ever allow you to attack yourself. You need it to run in some other user's space for there to be anyone else to attack.
    – atk
    Jul 17 '16 at 22:16

Noone seems to think about the possibility that argv [1] is not a number. If you just enter "this" as first argument atoi returns 0, and you can also overflow the buffer because 0 < 20. atoi is not a good choice in many aspects. It is better to use strtol which allows you to detect input mistakes.

  • 0 < 20 but copying 0 chars does not overflow buffer. Only copying more than 20 is an overflow (and possibly an exploit, depending on details of the data and compiled code). Aug 17 '16 at 22:33
  • correct, I missed that len is used in memcpy
    – kaidentity
    Aug 18 '16 at 12:24

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