Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: Decompiling .net and code obfuscation

  1. #1
    Ninja Code Monkey
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Washington State

    Decompiling .net and code obfuscation

    [glowpurple]Decompiling .net and code obfuscation[/glowpurple]

    The following is a short tutorial on the decompilation of .net code and the
    use of code obfuscation. The examples are done with C# but could be done
    with other .net languages.

    Why would anyone want to decompile code? By decompiling your code I can
    find out your secrets. How your software is built, what algorithms you use,
    what the application itself is doing at any one time. I can then go on to
    make modified software to distribute on p2p systems to attack other people
    or steal information. I can use it in an effort to gain unauthorized
    privileges or abilities on your servers. I can use it to bypass or remove
    your software licensing system and gain free use of your software forever.
    Finally, I can take your handy dandy patented algorithm and sell it to your
    competition....corporate espionage anyone?

    1> Decompilation

    Decompilation is a type of reverse engineering using software tools to
    retrieve a source code representation of a program or assembly from the
    compiled binary, bytecode or IL.

    The interesting thing about .net however, is since the majority of the code
    is compiled to IL and since it is all built to be interoperable with
    whatever .net enabled language you want to use, you can decompile it to
    whichever .net enabled language you are most comfortable with. This means you
    can take an assembly you created with C# and decompile it to or if you're more comfortable with either of those languages.

    This makes the reverse engineering process that much easier for the

    2> Decompilation example

    Now to get your hands dirty. To do the following examples you will need
    .net development tools and an IL decompiler. Here are some free tools to
    get you through the examples:

    Optional - SharpDevelop IDE (an opensource C# IDE) -

    Required - .net SDK -

    Required - IL Decompiler - Ankarino/Exemplar is used in this example, there
    is an assortment of options that are available via google however. -

    Now once you have your tools installed and are at least minimally familiar
    with them we can get to work.

    A) Create your example program.

    Fire up your handy dandy IDE or text editor and create a new file named
    Example.cs (we're working with C# here). Enter the code below into the file
    and save it.

    using System;

    namespace Example
    /// <summary>
    /// Summary description for Class1.
    /// </summary>

    class Example
    private String strSecret = "My Licensing sucks.";

    private string SecretText
    get { return strSecret;}

    /// <summary>
    /// The main entry point for the application.
    /// </summary>
    static void Main(string[] args)
    // TODO: Add code to start application here

    Example thisExample = new Example();

    private void licenseMe()

    public void displayGreeting()
    Console.Out.WriteLine("We love to reverse engineer



    B) Compile your example program.

    You will need to use whatever process that is required by your IDE. If you
    are using the .net sdk it is a simple matter of:
    csc example.cs

    If you are having problems compiling I would recommend checking you have
    entered and saved the code properly, that the sdk is installed properly, and
    that you are working from the correct directory.

    C) Test your code

    Just for the fun of it run your code once. Open up a console window,
    navigate to the appropriate directory (wherever you compiled your software
    to) and run the app. You should see:

    My Licensing sucks.
    We love to reverse engineer code.

    Yay us.

    D) Decompiling the code

    Now, if you have your handy dandy decompiler installed you can decompile
    your example program.
    Open up a console window and enter the following line, making the proper
    modifications for your system and configuration:

    c:\decompiler\Exemplar.exe "c:\Example\Example.exe" >


    reversedexample.txt will contain code very similar to:

    namespace Example {
    class Example {
    private string32strSecret59
    private string SecretText { get;

    } [STAThread] private static void Main(string[]

    args) { Example local0; local0 = new

    Example(); local0.licenseMe();

    local0.displayGreeting(); } private void

    licenseMe() { Console.Out.WriteLine(this.SecretText);

    } public void displayGreeting() {

    Console.Out.WriteLine("We love to reverse engineer code."); }

    public Example() : base() { this.strSecret = "My

    Licensing sucks."; } }

    While that is not the exact code you entered, it's very obvious that there
    is enough information there to figure out what you are doing and that the
    strings used in the program are easy to access.

    Another fun way to poke around in files is to use 'strings'. What is
    strings you ask (unless you are an experienced linux nerd...)? Strings is a
    program generally found on linux systems that will parse through a file
    looking for...well...strings. That lovely text you displayed in your
    program above will be displayed to the user, any encryption keys you thought
    you were hiding in the compiled code will be displayed too. Sometimes you
    can find other information that may be used for nefarious purposes such as
    developer or other employee names, account names, machine names, passwords,
    , ip addresses, etc.

    But what if you don't want to run a linux box for this? Simple, you pick up
    cygwin. Install the cygwin tools on your winders box, add it's bin
    directory to the path environment variable and have strings
    anytime you want to use it in your reverse engineering or software hacking

    4> Code obfuscation

    Code obfuscation is a process used to increase the difficulty of reverse
    engineering the software by using software tools to make changes to the code
    /bytecode. Generally there are three levels [1] of code obfuscation:

    1) Renaming methods and fields - The simplest obfuscators rename the

    non-public (if you change the public ones you destroy the interfaces for
    your software) methods and fields defined by your code to values that appear
    very similar or like garbage data. One example is long strings that differ
    by only a single character, another is to use non-printing characters
    accepted by the .net runtime but that won't be used correctly by most text

    2) Adding control flow obfuscation - With control flow obfuscation, the

    obfuscator tool creates complex sequences of method calls that don't do
    anything. This can confuse decompilers and makes the end result code a
    nightmare to read. Combined with field/method renaming it can be fairly

    3) Encrypting literal strings - With this, literal strings in your program
    are encrypted. This can make secrets harder to find and can slow down the
    reverse engineering process by making the low hanging fruit/clues disappear.

    If I can't just run strings/grep against the binary or IL to find your
    licensing or crypto related functions directly, it raises the bar a little

    5> Obfuscation Example
    For this example you will need to pick up the community edition of .fuscator
    and install it.

    A) If you have not done the examples from above please do them.

    B) Once dotfuscator is installed open it up. The community edition will
    only allow you to do level one obfuscation, method and field renaming. If
    you upgrade to pro you get the other bells and whistles. We'll stick to
    community for now.

    c) Create a new dotfuscator project.

    D) Click the 'Trigger' tab, then browse to and select the example.exe
    application you created earlier.

    E) Click the 'Build' tab and enter a destination directory (make sure it is
    different from the directory that the example.exe application currently
    resides in).

    F) Click the build button under the destination directory field. This will
    make dotfuscator read in the IL from your original application, obfuscate
    it, and write it to your new directory.

    G) Decompile the new example and review the code

    c:\decompiler\Exemplar.exe "c:\Example\obfuscated\Example.exe" >


    The code may look something like this snippet -

    class a {
    private string32a59
    private string b() { string local0; local0 =

    this.a; return local0; } [STAThread] private static void

    Main(string[] args) { a local0; local0 = new a();

    local0.a(); local0.c(); } private void a() {

    Console.Out.WriteLine(this.b()); } public void c() {

    Console.Out.WriteLine("We love to reverse engineer code."); }

    public a() { this.a = "My Licensing sucks."; this = new

    object(); }}
    public class DotfuscatorAttribute {
    private string32a59
    public string

    As you can see, some simple renaming has been done to private variables and
    methods to make the reverse engineer's job a little more difficult. What is
    class a? You'll have to do some exploration to find out now...

    This level of obfuscation will only slow the reverse engineer down a little
    bit. The following two levels of obfuscation raise the bar but still won't
    keep the determined our resourceful attacker out.

    Even then, it is an arms race between the obfuscating camp and the
    decompiling camp. As each new obfuscation method or tool comes out, a new
    decompiling tool will come out to counter whatever advances were made.

    [1]: Programming .net Security - Adam Freeman, Allen Jones: 2.6 Decompiling
    "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." - Erasmus
    "There is no programming language, no matter how structured, that will prevent programmers from writing bad programs." - L. Flon
    "Mischief my ass, you are an unethical moron." - chsh
    Blog of X

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Interesting tutorial!

    With regards to the strings program, theres plenty of windows ports so theres no need to arse about with cygwin. If you grab the bloodshed c++ IDE (based on GCC) you'll find strings and the other bin utils in the directory c:\dev-c++\bin\

    I use it all the time, you'll find the following -


    Certainly helps when you see something cool done with linux tools and want to play on windows....


  3. #3
    I tought this forum was more serious. Anyways, it was a good tutorial, because you wrote it.
    But I still tought people here were more serious and play with bigger stuff.
    The access to the computer or
    anything else that shows us how the
    world works must be total and

  4. #4
    Ninja Code Monkey
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Washington State
    Some here are more serious and 'play with bigger stuff'. However, what use is there in going on to the bigger stuff before people have the foundation required to understand the materials?

    More will probably come down the line where we can get more in depth.
    "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." - Erasmus
    "There is no programming language, no matter how structured, that will prevent programmers from writing bad programs." - L. Flon
    "Mischief my ass, you are an unethical moron." - chsh
    Blog of X

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts