• stripped binaries don’t point to main
  • binja can find it anyway
  • the dynamic linker runs before any of your program code
  • trying break _start in gdb will probably hit the linker’s instead

I was working on TokyoWesterns 2018 load and this came up (stackoverflow). Sebastian and I both tried identifying main this way and scratched our heads at why this approach wasn’t working, so I’m taking a second stab at it now. Note that the binary is both 64b and dynamically linked.

I don’t actually know what strip() does so let’s man strip:

   GNU strip discards all symbols from object files objfile.  The list of
   object files may include archives.  At least one object file must be

OK, so it removes the symbol that tells us main is main.

So, I can’t b main in gdb.

(gdb doesn’t have command separation but you can add it though it won’t work for this case because the b * 0 thing is a hack and it throws a python exception)

I can b * 0 ; r ; print $rip to get the address of _start, but that’s not want I want.

_start calls __libc_start_main(), which has the following prototype:

int __libc_start_main(int (*main) (int, char**, char**), 
                      int argc, 
                      char *__unbounded *__unbounded ubp_av, 
                      void (*init) (void), 
                      void (*fini) (void), 
                      void (*rtld_fini) (void), 
                      void (*__unbounded stack_end));

So we can look at the args of __libc_start_main to get the address of main.

I need to:

  • break on the entrypoint
  • find __libc_start_main call
  • set breakpoint on: last addr saved on stack before __libc_start_main call
  • continue (until breakpoint for main is hit)

Which is

b * 0
b * $rip
d 1

Except, there’s a bunch of dlopen stuff that I don’t expect, since it doesn’t come up in Binja. objdump -d’s output matches up with Binja, so there’s something up here involving dynamic loading.

Why doesn’t code just start executing at the beginning of .text? It’s clearly the entry point of the binary. I’m guessing the linker must be doing some shenanigans.

I notice that rip points to 0x7ffff7dd7c30, where static disassembly points to 0x400720 as the address of _start. I can still x/16i 0x400720 and see what binja/objdump call _start/the start of .text, but we’re clearly not there.

Stepped through dl_main forever, kinda fruitlessly. ldd load gives

	linux-vdso.so.1 =>  (0x00007ffe1a792000)
	libc.so.6 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6 (0x00007fa016032000)
	/lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00007fa0163fc000)

We can look at the disassembly objdump -d /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 | less and it’s long.

Breaking on _start takes me to the first instruction of the dynamic loader, which is weird to me. I would’ve expected the first instruction of .text section. But my guess is that the dynamic loader is what’s called first, and it loads everything else. That or gdb just uses it b/c the binary is stripped. So, the solution is to pull out the entry point manually and then break on that.

And with that, we can see that rdi contains 0x400816, which is main. (had a brief moment of confusion where I didn’t realize that I was x64 and x64 is register-based arguments). So, that confusion is likely what got us during the CTF as well.

Binja does _start identification automatically anyway, which is nice.