lkubuntu

A listing of random software, tips, tweaks, hacks, and tutorials I made for Ubuntu

Injecting code into running process with linux-inject

I was about to title this “Injecting code, for fun and profit”, until I realized that this may give a different sense than I originally intended… :P

I won’t cover the reasons behind doing such, because I’m pretty sure that if you landed on this article, you would already have a pretty good sense of why you want to do this …. for fun, profit, or both ;)

Anyway, after trying various programs and reading on how to do it manually (not easy!), I came across linux-inject, a program that injects a .so into a running application, similar to how LD_PRELOAD works, except that it can be done while a program is running… and it also doesn’t actually replace any functions either (but see the P.S. at the bottom of this post for a way to do that). In other words, maybe ignore the LD_PRELOAD simile :P

The documentation of it (and a few other programs I tried) was pretty lacking though. And for good reason, the developers probably expect that most users who would be using these kinds of programs wouldn’t be newbies in this field, and would know exactly what to do. Sadly, however, I am not part of this target audience :P It took me a rather long time to figure out what to do, so in hopes that it may help someone else, I’m writing this post! :D

Let’s start by quickly cloning and building it:

git clone https://github.com/gaffe23/linux-inject.git
cd linux-inject
make

Once that’s done, let’s try the sample example bundled in with the program. Open another terminal (so that you have two free ones), cd to the directory you cloned linux-inject to (e.g. cd ~/workspace/linux-inject), and run ./sample-target.

Back in the first terminal, run sudo ./inject -n sample-target sample-library.so

What this does is that it injects the library sample-library.so to a process by the -name of sample-target. If instead, you want to choose your victim target by their PID, simply use the -p option instead of -n.

But … this might or might not work. Since Linux 3.4, there’s a security module named Yama that can disable ptrace-based code injections (or code injections period, I doubt there is any other way). To allow this to work, you’ll have to run either one of these commands (I prefer the second, for security reasons):

echo 0 | sudo tee /proc/sys/kernel/yama/ptrace_scope # Allows any process to inject code into any other process started by the same user. Root can access all processes
echo 2 | sudo tee /proc/sys/kernel/yama/ptrace_scope # Only allows root to inject code

Try it again, and you will hopefully see “I just got loaded” in-between the “sleeping…” messages.

Before I get to the part about writing your own code to inject, I have to warn you: Some applications (such as VLC) will segfault if you inject code into them (via linux-inject, I don’t know about other programs, this is the first injection program that I managed to get working, period :P). Make sure that you are okay with the possibility of the program crashing when you inject the code.

With that (possibly ominous) warning out of the way, let’s get to writing some code!

#include <stdio.h>

__attribute__((constructor))
void hello() {
    puts("Hello world!");
}

If you know C, most of this should be pretty easy to understand. The part that confused me was __attribute__((constructor)). All this does is that it says to run this function as soon as the library is loaded. In other words, this is the function that will be run when the code is injected. As you may imagine, the name of the function (in this case, hello) can be whatever you wish.

Compiling is pretty straightforward, nothing out of the ordinary required:

gcc -shared -fPIC -o libhello.so hello.c

Assuming that sample-target is running, let’s try it!

sudo ./inject -n sample-target libhello.so

Amongst the wall of “sleeping…”, you should see “Hello world!” pop up!

There’s a problem with this though: the code interrupts the program flow. If you try looping puts("Hello world!");, it will continually print “Hello world!” (as expected), but the main program will not resume until the injected library has finished running. In other words, you will not see “sleeping…” pop up.

The answer is to run it in a separate thread! So if you change the code to this …

#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <pthread.h>

void* thread(void* a) {
    while (1) {
        puts("Hello world!");
        usleep(1000000);
    }
    return NULL;
}

__attribute__((constructor))
void hello() {
    pthread_t t;
    pthread_create(&t, NULL, thread, NULL);
}

… it should work, right? Not if you inject it to sample-target. sample-target is not linked to libpthread, and therefore, any function that uses pthread functions will simply not work. Of course, if you link it to libpthread (by adding -lpthread to the linking arguments), it will work fine.

However, let’s keep it as-is, and instead, use a function that linux-inject depends on: __libc_dlopen_mode(). Why not dlopen()? dlopen() requires the program to be linked to libdl, while __libc_dlopen_mode() is included in the standard C library! (glibc’s version of it, anyways)

Here’s the code:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <pthread.h>
#include <dlfcn.h>

/* Forward declare these functions */
void* __libc_dlopen_mode(const char*, int);
void* __libc_dlsym(void*, const char*);
int   __libc_dlclose(void*);

void* thread(void* a) {
    while (1) {
        puts("Hello world!");
        usleep(1000000);
    }
}

__attribute__((constructor))
void hello() {
    /* Note libpthread.so.0. For some reason,
       using the symbolic link (libpthread.so) will not work */
    void* pthread_lib = __libc_dlopen_mode("libpthread.so.0", RTLD_LAZY);
    int(*pthread_lib_create)(void*,void*,void*(*)(void*),void*);
    pthread_t t;

    *(void**)(&pthread_lib_create) = __libc_dlsym(pthread_lib, "pthread_create");
    pthread_lib_create(&t, NULL, thread, NULL);

    __libc_dlclose(pthread_lib);
}

If you haven’t used the dl* functions before, this code probably looks absolutely crazy. I would try to explain it, but the man pages are quite readable, and do a way better job of explaining than I could ever hope to try.

And on that note, you should (hopefully) be well off to injecting your own code into other processes!

If anything doesn’t make sense, or you need help, or just even to give a thank you (they are really appreciated!!), feel more than free to leave a comment or send me an email! :D And if you enjoy using linux-inject, make sure to thank the author of it as well!!

P.S. What if you want to change a function inside the host process? This tutorial was getting a little long, so instead, I’ll leave you with this: http://www.ars-informatica.com/Root/Code/2010_04_18/LinuxPTrace.aspx and specifically http://www.ars-informatica.com/Root/Code/2010_04_18/Examples/linkerex.c . I’ll try to make a tutorial on this later if someone wants :)

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5 responses to “Injecting code into running process with linux-inject

  1. Pingback: 2 – Injecting code into running process with linux-inject

  2. illuz February 2, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Excellent article, as someone who has years of experience in hooking and running injections in WinPE applications, it’s good to see an article for Linux which can put me in the path of tampering on this system too. Thanks.

    • Anonymous Meerkat February 2, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      You’re welcome!! I’m really honoured that someone with experience in this would actually read this article and find it useful haha, I’m still a complete newbie in this field :P I’m really glad I was able to help!!

  3. ZThomas March 10, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Great article, thanks for the tutorial. You mention that some programs will segfault when code is injected into them. Do you have any insight as to what causes this segfault and/or how to avoid it?

    • Anonymous Meerkat March 10, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Sadly, I don’t, I wish I knew! Apparently it has to do with the size of the program? You might want to contact the developer of it and ask him, maybe he knows :)

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