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Lab #0: Introduction to GDB

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ECE455
Lab #0: Introduction to GDB

Name: ___________________________________________
This is an introduction to the GNU debugger “GDB” (see the GNU project’s site)
$ gdb –help
This is the GNU debugger. Usage:
gdb[options] [executable-file [core-file or process-id]]
gdb[options] –args executable-file [inferior-arguments …]
Overview
Goals
• Become familiar with GDB
• Gain practical experience with analyzing code

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ECE455
Lab #0: Introduction to GDB

Name: ___________________________________________
This is an introduction to the GNU debugger “GDB” (see the GNU project’s site)
$ gdb –help
This is the GNU debugger. Usage:
gdb[options] [executable-file [core-file or process-id]]
gdb[options] –args executable-file [inferior-arguments …]
Overview
Goals
• Become familiar with GDB
• Gain practical experience with analyzing code
Grading & Submission
• This lab is not graded!
Lab Infrastructure
For your convenience we have configured a few VMs in the ee.cooper.edu subdomain. You may log into
these with your ee username and password.
Hostname IP
cybersec0 199.98.27.226
cybersec1 199.98.27.150
cybersec2 199.98.27.151
cybersec3 199.98.27.153
cybersec4 199.98.27.154
Introduction
This lab will give you a practical example of how to use GDB. This program was designed as a C debugger
and has since extended support to C++ and many other modern languages. The debugger has many useful
features that we will use to analyze C programs: view variables and registers, pausing execution, stepping
through execution.
This is the example program we will use to learn about GDB:
#include <stdio.h>
// Example program to analyze with GDB
// Reads input and parses it as in integer
int read_int(void) {
char buf[128];
int i;
gets(buf);
i = atoi(buf);
return i;
}
int main(int ac, char **av) {
int x = read_int();
printf(“x=%d\n”, x);
}
Let’s start by compiling the program. We’re adding a few flags here to make the x86 code easier to
understand and adding debugging symbols.
[email protected]:~/lab0$ gcc read_data.c -o read_data -m32 -static -g -Wno-deprecated-declarations
-fno-stack-protector
read_data.c: In function ‘read_int’:
read_data.c:9:5: warning: implicit declaration of function ‘gets’; did you mean ‘fgets’? [-
Wimplicit-function-declaration]
gets(buf);
^~~~
fgets
read_data.c:10:9: warning: implicit declaration of function ‘atoi’ [-Wimplicit-functiondeclaration]
i = atoi(buf);
^~~~
/tmp/ccyG4vR8.o: In function `read_int’:
/afs/ee.cooper.edu/user/g/gitzel/lab0/read_data.c:9: warning: the `gets’ function is dangerous and
should not be used.
Ok so we already get a few warnings, one of which is pointing out that “gets” is dangerous! Although it does
not explain why…
Let’s try and run the program to see what happens:
[email protected]:~/lab0$ ./read_data
123
x=123
Seems normal enough. What about large input?
[email protected]:~/lab0$ ./read_data
12312345182345012834650193134613461346113461
x=2147483647
Surprising, but it makes sense since int32 can only store up to 231 – 1.
What about non-numerical input?
[email protected]:~/lab0$ ./read_data
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
x=0
Ok, fair enough, it rejects our A’s.
What if we paste in lots and lots of bytes?
[email protected]:~/lab0$ ./read_data
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Segmentation fault (core dumped)
Now we a get a crash. Looks like an illegal memory access occurred (segmentation fault).
Using the Debugger
Now that we’ve played around with the program, let’s attach the debugger to see what we can understand
about how it operates.
[email protected]:~/lab0$ gdb ./read_data
GNU gdb (Ubuntu 8.1-0ubuntu3.2) 8.1.0.20180409-git
Copyright (C) 2018 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law. Type “show copying”
and “show warranty” for details.
This GDB was configured as “x86_64-linux-gnu”.
Type “show configuration” for configuration details.
For bug reporting instructions, please see:
<http://www.gnu.org/software/gdb/bugs/>.
Find the GDB manual and other documentation resources online at:
<http://www.gnu.org/software/gdb/documentation/>.
For help, type “help”.
Type “apropos word” to search for commands related to “word”…
Reading symbols from ./read_data…done.
(gdb) help <——- This is the gdb console. “help” will show you some common commands
List of classes of commands:
aliases — Aliases of other commands
breakpoints — Making program stop at certain points
data — Examining data
files — Specifying and examining files
internals — Maintenance commands
obscure — Obscure features
running — Running the program
stack — Examining the stack
status — Status inquiries
support — Support facilities
tracepoints — Tracing of program execution without stopping the program
user-defined — User-defined commands
Type “help” followed by a class name for a list of commands in that class.
Type “help all” for the list of all commands.
Type “help” followed by command name for full documentation.
Type “apropos word” to search for commands related to “word”.
Command name abbreviations are allowed if unambiguous. <——- this means “b” and “r” are valid
commands
Let’s set a breakpoint and pause execution inside the “read_int” function.
(gdb) b read_int
Breakpoint 1 at 0x80488ba: file read_data.c, line 9.
And then run the program:
(gdb) r
Starting program: /afs/ee.cooper.edu/user/g/gitzel/lab0/read_data
Breakpoint 1, read_int () at read_data.c:9
9 gets(buf);
So we can see exactly where the program has stopped. But let’s take a closer look. If we want to understand
the memory of the program, we’ll have to look at the registers.
(gdb) info reg
eax 0x80da8c0 135112896
ecx 0xffffdb30 -9424
edx 0xffffdb84 -9340
ebx 0x80d9000 135106560
esp 0xffffda60 0xffffda60 <——— Stack pointer “SP” register
ebp 0xffffdaf8 0xffffdaf8
esi 0x80d9000 135106560
edi 0x80481a8 134513064
eip 0x80488ba 0x80488ba <read_int+21>
eflags 0x216 [ PF AF IF ]
cs 0x23 35
ss 0x2b 43
ds 0x2b 43
es 0x2b 43
fs 0x0 0
gs 0x63 99
History Lesson (x86 Architecture)
Recall from Computer Architecture, that x86 has multiple different types of registers. The earliest Intel 8086
chips used 16-bit registers with four general-purpose ones: AX, BX, CX, DX. Each of these was split into two
bytes (the low byte “L” and the high byte “H”). So for example, register AX can be accessed in two pieces:
AH and AL each is one byte (or 8 bits).
Two registers are special:
• SP (the stack pointer) points to the “top” of the stack
• BP (the base pointer) often points to a special place in the stack: right above the local variables
◦ This is often used as a “frame pointer”, since stack frames may not all be the same size, popping
a frame might not be as simple as decrementing SP by a fixed value
There are four address registers: SI, DI, BX, and BP (already mentioned) and a FLAGS register for things like
the carry flag or zero flag (remember your DLD!).
We compiled with “-m32” so this is a 32-bit program. That is why we see the 32-bit registers in the GDB
output. Now, 32-bit registers are prefixed with “E” for “extended” since they are twice as big as 16-bit
registers. Just like AX had AL (for the lower byte), in 32-bit mode AX corresponds to the lowest two bytes of
EAX. The “extension” is considered to be the upper two bytes (aka most-significant 16 bits). This is the same
for other registers: SP is the lower half of ESP, etc.
64-bit registers are prefixed with “R”. For example, recompiling for x86-64 will result in a different set
registers being displayed:
(gdb) info reg
rax 0x401bd8 4201432
rbx 0x400470 4195440
rcx 0x43f460 4453472
rdx 0x7fffffffe708 140737488348936
rsi 0x7fffffffe6f8 140737488348920
rdi 0x1 1
rbp 0x7fffffffe5a0 0x7fffffffe5a0
rsp 0x7fffffffe510 0x7fffffffe510
Disassembling Code
So what’s actually going on in x86 land? To understand how the processor is executing our C code we can
disassemble the code pointed to by the Instruction Pointer register (EIP).
(gdb) disass $eip
Dump of assembler code for function read_int:
0x080488a5 <+0>: push %ebp <—- These instructions are saving the previous base
pointer EBP ans setting EBP to point to that save. This is called the “assembly function prologue”
0x080488a6 <+1>: mov %esp,%ebp
0x080488a8 <+3>: push %ebx
0x080488a9 <+4>: sub $0x94,%esp <—- So here we see a number subtracted from the
SP. The program is making space for the local variables.
0x080488af <+10>: call 0x8048780 <__x86.get_pc_thunk.bx>
0x080488b4 <+15>: add $0x9074c,%ebx
=> 0x080488ba <+21>: sub $0xc,%esp <—- Execution is paused at this instruction
0x080488bd <+24>: lea -0x8c(%ebp),%eax
0x080488c3 <+30>: push %eax
0x080488c4 <+31>: call 0x8050740 <gets>
0x080488c9 <+36>: add $0x10,%esp
0x080488cc <+39>: sub $0xc,%esp
0x080488cf <+42>: lea -0x8c(%ebp),%eax
0x080488d5 <+48>: push %eax
0x080488d6 <+49>: call 0x804e2e0 <atoi>
0x080488db <+54>: add $0x10,%esp
0x080488de <+57>: mov %eax,-0xc(%ebp)
0x080488e1 <+60>: mov -0xc(%ebp),%eax
0x080488e4 <+63>: mov -0x4(%ebp),%ebx
0x080488e7 <+66>: leave
0x080488e8 <+67>: ret
End of assembler dump.
Let’s try and reverse-engineer locations of the variables on the stack.
(gdb) print &buf[0]
$1 = 0xffffda6c “ga\t”, <incomplete sequence \360>
(gdb) print &i
$2 = (int *) 0xffffdaec
We’ll draw a stack diagram to get our bearings in the stack. We’ve got three addresses ESP, &buf[0], and &i.
High Addresses Value Notes
???? ???? Return Address to main()
Other Stuff
ffff daec i
ffff da6c buf[127]

buf[0]
Note 0xEC – 0x6C is exactly 128 bytes
ffff da60 ESP
Low Addresses
Let try and find the return address to the main function. By x86 calling convention, we know that the EBP
pointer points to the Saved EBP point which is right before (below) the return address. If we examine the
contents of that register we see:
(gdb) x $ebp
0xffffdaf8: 0xffffdb18
And adding the 4 byte offset (remember 32-bit integer memory addresses):
(gdb) x $ebp + 4
0xffffdafc: 0x0804890b
So now we found the return address! Let’s fill in our stack diagram:
High Addresses Value Notes
ffff dafc 0x0804890b Return Address to main()
ffff daf8 Saved BP Saved BP
Other Stuff
ffff daec i
ffff da6c buf[127]

buf[0]
Note 0xEC – 0x6C is exactly 128 bytes
ffff da60 ESP
Low Addresses
But what is actually living at that address? We can use GDB to disassemble that address:
(gdb) disassemble 0x0804890b
Dump of assembler code for function main:
0x080488e9 <+0>: lea 0x4(%esp),%ecx
0x080488ed <+4>: and $0xfffffff0,%esp
0x080488f0 <+7>: pushl -0x4(%ecx)
0x080488f3 <+10>: push %ebp
0x080488f4 <+11>: mov %esp,%ebp
0x080488f6 <+13>: push %ebx
0x080488f7 <+14>: push %ecx
0x080488f8 <+15>: sub $0x10,%esp
0x080488fb <+18>: call 0x8048780 <__x86.get_pc_thunk.bx>
0x08048900 <+23>: add $0x90700,%ebx
0x08048906 <+29>: call 0x80488a5 <read_int>
0x0804890b <+34>: mov %eax,-0xc(%ebp) <—- Look at that! It’s the instruction right
after the call to read_int. So this is where we will continue execution in main.
0x0804890e <+37>: sub $0x8,%esp
0x08048911 <+40>: pushl -0xc(%ebp)
0x08048914 <+43>: lea -0x2d038(%ebx),%eax
0x0804891a <+49>: push %eax
0x0804891b <+50>: call 0x804ff10 <printf>
0x08048920 <+55>: add $0x10,%esp
0x08048923 <+58>: mov $0x0,%eax
0x08048928 <+63>: lea -0x8(%ebp),%esp
0x0804892b <+66>: pop %ecx
0x0804892c <+67>: pop %ebx
0x0804892d <+68>: pop %ebp
0x0804892e <+69>: lea -0x4(%ecx),%esp
0x08048931 <+72>: ret
End of assembler dump.
So now we have a good idea of where we are and where execution will go. Let’s get back to our “read_int”
function and execute the next instruction:
(gdb) next
<—- GDB is waiting for us to input data. Let’s try that nonsense “AAAAA…AAA” string
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
<Enter>
Let’s see what happens next:
10 i = atoi(buf);
We see the call to atoi and everything seems OK, for now. So what will happen next? Think about it for a bit
then read on to see if your intuition is right.
Our stack now looks something like this. This is a problem!
High Addresses Value Notes
ffff dafc AAAAAAAA Return Address to main()
ffff daf8 AAAAAAAA Saved BP
AAAAAAAA Other Stuff
ffff daec AAAAAAAA i
ffff da6c AAAAAAAA

buf
AAAAAAAA
ffff da60 ESP
Low Addresses
We can confirm this by printing out the buffer variable:
(gdb) print &buf
$3 = (char (*)[128]) 0xffffda6c
(gdb) print &buf[0]
$4 = 0xffffda6c ‘A’ <repeats 180 times>
And we have 180 bytes of “A” which has definitely overrun the 128-byte buffer string. Not great…
Let’s take a look at the EBP pointer again:
(gdb) x $ebp
0xffffdaf8: 0x41414141
Uh oh, looks like it got overwritten with 0x41! A quick look at an ASCII chart tells us that 0-x41 is “A”. So
we’ve managed to overwrite the saved base pointer. What about the return address?
(gdb) x $ebp+4
0xffffdafc: 0x41414141
It’s toast. We’ve overwritten the return address as well. So if we continue to execute the program with
“next” we will crash when trying to jump to that address.
(gdb) next
11 return i;
(gdb) next
12 }
Before we jump, let’s take a look at the buffer one last time.
(gdb) print &buf[0]
$1 = 0xffffda6c ‘A’ <repeats 128 times>
So what happened here? All of the sudden the string is 128 bytes… Well, remember that “atoi” actually
handles non-integer input by return zero. So we now have null-terminated that string (inadvertently) by
writing zero above “buf” on the stack.
High Addresses Value Notes
ffff dafc AAAAAAAA Return Address to main()
ffff daf8 AAAAAAAA Saved BP
AAAAAAAA Other Stuff
ffff daec 0 i
ffff da6c AAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAA
buf
ffff da60 ESP
Low Addresses
And now if we execute another instruction we will jump to the 0x4141414 address.
(gdb) nexti
0x41414141 in ?? ()
(gdb) info reg
eax 0x0 0
ecx 0xa 10
edx 0x0 0
ebx 0x41414141 1094795585
esp 0xffffdb00 0xffffdb00
ebp 0x41414141 0x41414141
esi 0x80d9000 135106560
edi 0x80481a8 134513064
eip 0x41414141 0x41414141 <—- We’ve jumped to that 0x4141414 address
eflags 0x286 [ PF SF IF ]
cs 0x23 35
ss 0x2b 43
ds 0x2b 43
es 0x2b 43
fs 0x0 0
gs 0x63 99
(gdb) nexti
Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault. <—- We get a Segmentation Fault when
we try to execute code outside of the page table for this process (memory protection)
0x41414141 in ?? ()
Fun with Addresses
So now that we can overwrite the different memory locations we can jump around in memory to different
locations of our choosing. For a simple example, we can manually change the return address to jump to
“printf” in the program.
(gdb) disass main
Dump of assembler code for function main:
0x080488e9 <+0>: lea 0x4(%esp),%ecx
0x080488ed <+4>: and $0xfffffff0,%esp
0x080488f0 <+7>: pushl -0x4(%ecx)
0x080488f3 <+10>: push %ebp
0x080488f4 <+11>: mov %esp,%ebp
0x080488f6 <+13>: push %ebx
0x080488f7 <+14>: push %ecx
0x080488f8 <+15>: sub $0x10,%esp
0x080488fb <+18>: call 0x8048780 <__x86.get_pc_thunk.bx>
0x08048900 <+23>: add $0x90700,%ebx
0x08048906 <+29>: call 0x80488a5 <read_int>
0x0804890b <+34>: m ov %eax,-0xc(%ebp)
0x0804890e <+37>: sub $0x8,%esp
0x08048911 <+40>: pushl -0xc(%ebp)
0x08048914 <+43>: lea -0x2d038(%ebx),%eax <—- Let’s jump here right before printf
0x0804891a <+49>: push %eax
0x0804891b <+50>: call 0x804ff10 <printf>
0x08048920 <+55>: add $0x10,%esp
0x08048923 <+58>: mov $0x0,%eax
0x08048928 <+63>: lea -0x8(%ebp),%esp
0x0804892b <+66>: pop %ecx
0x0804892c <+67>: pop %ebx
0x0804892d <+68>: pop %ebp
0x0804892e <+69>: lea -0x4(%ecx),%esp
0x08048931 <+72>: ret
Let’s manually set ESP and execute a different instruction:
(gdb) set {int}$esp=0x08048914
(gdb) c
Continuing.
x=1
Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault. <—- And we still crash?
So why did this happen? Think about it for a bit then read on to see if your intuition is right.
printf has to “ret” (return) at some point as well. But we didn’t setup that return address. If we look at the
registers when we’re in printf:
(gdb) info reg
eax 0x413e7109 1094611209
ecx 0xa 10
edx 0x0 0
ebx 0x41414141 1094795585
esp 0xffffdaf8 0xffffdaf8
ebp 0x41414141 0x41414141
(gdb) x $ebp+4
0x41414145: Cannot access memory at address 0x41414145
Our EBP+4 address is out of bounds and will cause a Segmentation Fault.
References
• Official GDB user manual from the GNU Project
• Internals guide to technical details of GDB
• Other documents on GDB resources site

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