A Monstrous Confluence
You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you,
For learning me your language!
– Caliban (The Tempest, I.ii.363-365)
The announcement of the Heartbleed vulnerability revealed a flaw in OpenSSL that could be exploited by a simple mechanism against a large population of targets to extract random memory from the victim. At worst, that pilfered memory would contain sensitive information like HTTP requests (with cookies, credentials, etc.) or even parts of the server’s private key. Or malicious servers could extract similarly sensitive data from vulnerable clients.
In the spirit of Caliban, Shakespeare’s freckled whelp, I combined a desire to learn about Heartbleed’s underpinnings with my ongoing experimentation with the new language features of C++11. The result is a demo tool named Hemorrhage.
Hemorrhage shows two different approaches to sending modified TLS heartbeats. One relies on the Boost.ASIO library to set up a TCP connection, then handles the SSL/TLS layer manually. The other uses a more complete adoption of Boost.ASIO and its asynchronous capabilities. It was this async aspect where C++11 really shone. Lambdas made setting up callbacks a pleasure — especially in terms of readability compared to prior techniques that required binds and placeholders.
Readable code is hackable (in the creation sense) code. Being able to declare variables with
auto made code easier to read, especially when dealing with iterators. Although hemorrhage only takes minimal advantage of the
move operator and
unique_ptr, they are currently my favorite aspects following lambdas and
Hemorrhage itself is simple. Check out the README.md for more details about compiling it. (As long as you have Boost and OpenSSL it should be easy on Unix-based systems.)
The core of the tool is taking the
tls1_heartbeat() function from OpenSSL’s
ssl/t1_lib.c file and changing the payload length — essentially a one-line modification. Yet another approach might be to use the original
tls1_heartbeat() function and modify the heartbeat data directly by manipulating the
s3->wrec data via the
In any case, the tool’s purpose was to “learn by implementing something” as opposed to crafting more insidious exploits against Heartbleed. That’s why I didn’t bother with more handshake protocols or STARTTLS. It did give me a better understanding of OpenSSL’s internals. But still, I’ll add my voice to the chorus bemoaning its readability.