SI485H: Stack Based Binary Exploits (SP17)

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Standard Development Environment

16.04 Xubuntu 32-bit running on VirtualBox

We will be using 32-bit, 16.04 Ubuntu for all assignments in this class unless otherwise noted. The particular ubuntu flavor doesn't matter, but I would choose Xubuntu, where the X stands for XFCE windowing environment. The XFCE windowing environment is much lighter weight (requiring less disc space and processing power) and thus is a good choice for virtualization.

We will also use VirtualBox for our virtualization tool. You may use vmware if you so desire, but all instructions will be provided in VirtualBox. The reason for this is that VirtualBox is completely free, and, frankly, I prefer it.

The submission environment will also meet the specifications described here. I strongly recommend that you perform all work locally on your virtualbox image, and then finally, complete your work on the submission environment since it will be shared across all users.


  1. Download and install VirtualBox
  2. Download the ubuntu 32-bit, 16.04 ISO. To help with speed, I have a mirrored the image for faster downloads.
  3. Open and start VitualBox


  4. Click the New button at the top to create a new VirtualMachine image
  5. Name your virtual machine Xubuntu-32, the type is linux, and the version is Ubuntu 32-bit. The memory size of 512 MB is sufficient, buut you may increase this if you like to 1 or 2 GB. Do create the virtual hard drive now. Click Create.


  6. When creating the disk, use the default settings of VDI (or VMDK if you want to transfer to VMware in the future) and 8 GB will be plenty of space.
  7. Once created, go ahead and start the vm which will not boot because you haven't installed the operating system yet. To do so click on the cd logo at the bottom of the screen, and then select "Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file …" Point the browser window at your Xubuntu iso.



  8. Reboot the VM and now the Xubuntu installer will load. Do the default install configuration.
  9. For your username use your usna m* username (!!! Important !!!)
  10. For your password DO NOT USE your USNA network password (!!! Important !!!)
  11. Once installation complete, boot your VM and log in. There is still some in environment setup to go.


Install Guest Editions

Vbox virtual machine run happiest when they have additional software to make they run faster, the so called guest additions. To install the guest additions, you must load the Guest Edition DVD into the virtual machines DVD drive.

  1. Go to the menu for the virtual machine, select Device->Insert Guest Addition CD Image. The CDROM icon should apear on the desktop if succesful.
  2. Open a terminal by clicking on the "mouse" in the upper left corner, then type terminal and open the terminal


  3. In the terminal, cd into the media cd rom directory, and execute the commands

    $ cd /media/m179999/VBOXADDITIONS_4.3.30_101610/
    $ sudo ./
  1. Reboot the virtual machine

Installing Libraries and Tools

  1. Open a terminal and execute the following commands to get your apt setup right and up to date. Say yes when prompted

    # sudo apt-get update
    # sudo apt-get upgrade
  2. Install the following libraries and tools

    $ sudo apt-get install gcc gdb manpages emacs24 git openssh-server hexedit nasm ltrace strace
  1. You can search for other libraries using apt-cache if you want but this is what you need for right now

    $ apt-cache search some-library-to-install

Setting up GDB

We would like gdb to use Intel style syntax by default. To do this, edit your .gdbinit file in your home directory (use vim or whatever if you want)

$ emacs ~/.gdbinit

and add the line

set disassembly-flavor intel

Additionally, I like the following shortcut ds for looking at disabled code regions, and you can add that alias like so, again in the .gdbinit file

alias ds=disassemble

Turning off ASLR

For many of the assignments, we will not use Address Space Layer Randomization (ASLR). This can be disable using in the kernel by setting the value /proc/sys

echo 0 | sudo tee /proc/sys/kernel/randomize_va_space

Editing Default Options to gcc

We will be turning off some stack based protections in gcc, the gnu c compiler, and the easiest way to ensure that they are turned off is to add an alias for gcc. To have the alias by default create a file called .bashaliases in your home directory

$ emacs ~/.bash_aliases

And add the following line:

alias gcc="gcc -fno-stack-protector -z execstack"

Close and reopen the terminal.