I'm learning about buffer overflows and have this vulnerable code which I'm trying to start a shell from:

#include <string.h>

void myfunction(char *arg);

int main(int argc, char **argv)
     return 0;

void myfunction(char *arg)
    char stuff[8];
    strcpy(stuff, arg);

I used gdb to see the assembly code and I got the following info:

(gdb) disassemble main
Dump of assembler code for function main:
   0x08048434 <+0>:   push   %ebp
   0x08048435 <+1>:   mov    %esp,%ebp
   0x08048437 <+3>:   and    $0xfffffff0,%esp
   0x0804843a <+6>:   sub    $0x10,%esp
   0x0804843d <+9>:   mov    0xc(%ebp),%eax
   0x08048440 <+12>:  add    $0x4,%eax
   0x08048443 <+15>:  mov    (%eax),%eax
   0x08048445 <+17>:  mov    %eax,(%esp)
   0x08048448 <+20>:  call   0x8048454 <myfunction>
   0x0804844d <+25>:  mov    $0x0,%eax
   0x08048452 <+30>:  leave
   0x08048453 <+31>:  ret
End of assembler dump.

I'm unsure where to go from here. Any advice and walkthroughs would be very helpful.


1 Answer 1


First you need to know how program memory is organized. There are three areas:

  • Code section (you dumped this section)
  • Data section
  • Stack (the most interesting)

When main function calls myfunction, it pushes onto the stack in sequence return address into main and main's frame pointer. Then the space of 8 bytes size, needed for char array, is allocated on the stack.

When you copy more data into array than it's size, you first override main's frame pointer (4 bytes on 32-bit x86 architecture) and then you override return address (also 4 bytes). The fun part is overriding return address in such way that the return address will point to the beginning of the char array while filling this array with shell code. As the result, program executes array filled with your instructions.

The catch is that today's compilers adapt stack overflow protections by default. For learning purposed you can use simple tcc compiler instead of gcc. The former one doesn't protect against these kinds of overflows.

Finally, as a reference I recommend Open Security Training classes which can be found here: http://opensecuritytraining.info/Training.html. There's one called "Introduction to Software Exploits (Exploits 1)".

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