Vulnerability Development Master Course: Windows Edition

Throughout 2013 we have given training courses on a variety of advanced subjects which have consistently been filled with students from around the globe. The classes have been hosted both publicly at security events, our headquarters in Texas, and privately at military and government institutions. As the year draws to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on the content we’ve taught and how we can raise the bar even higher in 2014. To that end, we’re excited to announce that we have combined material from our Breaking Binary Applications, Bughunting and Analysis 101, Dynamic Reverse Engineering, and Browser Exploitation classes into a single week-long master course that we will deliver publicly at 3 locations in 2014.

The new course, titled the Vulnerability Development Master Class, will be taught by the entire Exodus team over the course of 5 consecutive days.

Dates & Locations

The dates and locations are as follows (venue information will be distributed to registered attendees):

  • March 24th-28th: Boston, MA, USA
  • July 7th-11th: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • September 15th-19th: San Francisco, CA, USA

If we receive sufficient interest in hosting additional events the above list may expand. Reach out to us via or on twitter via @ExodusIntel for any inquiries.


We have compiled a summary of prerequisites, the abstract, dates and locations into a single PDF for reference: Exodus Intelligence Vulnerability Development Master Class


This 5 day course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive and progressive approach to understanding advanced vulnerability and exploitation topics on the Windows platform. Attendees will be immersed in hands-on exercises that impart valuable skills including static and dynamic reverse engineering, zero-day vulnerability discovery, binary instrumentation, and advanced exploitation of widely deployed server and client-side applications.

Taught by the entire Exodus Intelligence team, this course provides students with direct access to our renowned professionals in a setting conducive to individual interactions.


  • Reverse Engineering
    • Static Reverse Engineering
      • Code Representation and Graph Theory
      • Recognizing Non-Determinism
      • Recognizing Data Structures
      • Symbol Mining
      • Harvesting Useful Code
      • C++ Type Recovery
      • Scripting Disassemblers
    • Dynamic Reverse Engineering & Automation
      • Non-Intrusive Target Monitoring
      • Recovering Type Information
      • Code Flow Analysis
      • Symbol Recovery
      • Instrumentation with PIN
      • Isolating Interesting Code & Data
  • Debugging
    • Core Windows Userspace Concepts
      • Memory Management
      • Process Lineage
      • Integrity Levels
      • Windows Services
      • Inter-Process Communication
      • Local Inter-Process Communication
      • Remote Process Communication
      • The Windows Linker & Loader
      • Exception Handling
    • Core Debugger Concepts
      • Attaching (Intrusive vs Non-Intrusive)
      • Breakpoints
      • Global Flags
      • Image File Execution Options
      • Scripting with PyKD
      • Annoyances & Solutions
  • Vulnerabilities Overview & Recognition
    • Recognizing Vulnerability Patterns
    • Automated Discovery
    • Memory Corruption
      • Type Confusion
      • Improper Allocations
      • Arithmetic Issues
      • Format Strings
      • Use-After-Free
      • Buffer Overflows
    • Design Flaws
  • Vulnerability Discovery
    • Manual Auditing Processes
    • Dumb Fuzzing
    • “Intelligent” Fuzzing
    • Ambulance Chasing
    • Binary Diffing
    • Client-Side Discovery Techniques
    • Server-Side Discovery Techniques
  • Exploitation
    • Memory Manipulation & Scope
    • Windows Mitigations & Bypasses
    • Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)
      • Bypassing EMET
    • Achieving Reliability
    • Post Exploitation
      • Sandboxes
      • Process Continuation

Pricing and Registration

The cost for the 5-day course is $6500 USD per student. You may e-mail to register and we will supply a purchase order.

We have also made available this template request form for individuals to help justify attendance to management.

Introducing LiveFire

Exodus Intelligence is excited to announce a new service offering developed via a partnership with Syndis, an Icelandic information security think-tank based in Reykjavik.

Here at Exodus, we focus exclusively on developing sophisticated zero-day exploits that mimic the characteristics of real-world advanced attackers. By partnering with Syndis, we are able to put these tools in the hands of their seasoned team of security professionals, thereby allowing our joint customers to experience what it would be like to be targeted by a well-equipped adversary. Departing from the check-box security mentality and entering engagements as if they were actual attacks conducted by operators with sophisticated zero-day vulnerabilities results in metrics that enable our clients to empirically analyze and improve their defensive methodologies.

A LiveFire exercise is unlike any other service offering on the market; we’ve studied high-profile breaches and analyzed the tactics of today’s most capable adversaries to ensure that the experience we deliver is on-par, and even above, what a high-value target must be prepared to withstand.


LiveFire: This is not a drill.



You can read the full press release here (PDF).

Reversing the Interview Process

As you may know, we recently brought Rolf Rolles on board the team here at Exodus. We all met at our Austin office and Rolf spent a week working alongside us. Our interview process doesn’t consist of contrived questions intended to observe the interviewee’s capacity for mental acrobatics. Traditionally, when we bring someone in for consideration we are already familiar with their past work and skillset. What we are more interested in is evaluating their capacity to work as part of our team. So, Rolf spent his time auditing code and writing some instrumentation tools for some of the problems we were facing at the time. It went very well, and we’re thrilled that he decided to join us.

One night during that week we were chatting with Rolf about random programming problems and he recalled the story of a past interview whereby he was asked to implement a strlen() function in C that, when compiled, would not contain any conditional branches. He didn’t pose the problem as a challenge but Brandon, Zef, and I all found it intriguing and took a shot at solving it. Leave it to Rolf Rolles to reverse the interview process itself…

Spoiler alert: what follows are our independently created solutions.

Brandon’s Solution:

#include <stdio.h>
#define f(b) ((-b)>>31)&1
typedef unsigned int (*funcptr)(unsigned int x);
funcptr functable[2];
unsigned char *p;
unsigned int done(unsigned int x)
    return x;
unsigned int counter(unsigned int x)
int  main(int argc, char *argv[])
    unsigned int len;
    p = (unsigned char *)argv[argc-1];
    functable[0] = (funcptr)&done;
    functable[1] = counter;
    len = functable[f(*p)](0);
    printf("len is %u\n", len);
    return 0;

Zef’s Solution:

* strlen without conditional branch
* compiles with -Wall -ansi

#include <stdio.h>

int _gtfo(char *s);
int _str_len(char *s);
int (*f[])(char *s) = {_gtfo, _str_len};

int _gtfo(char *s)
    return -1; /* set to '0' to include trailing null */

int _str_len(char *s){
    char c = *s;
    return f[((c & 0x01))|
    ((c & 0x02) >> 1)|
    ((c & 0x04) >> 2)|
    ((c & 0x08) >> 3)|
    ((c & 0x10) >> 4)|
    ((c & 0x20) >> 5)|
    ((c & 0x40) >> 6)|
    ((c & 0x80) >> 7)](++s) +1 ;


int main(int argc, char *argv[])
    if(argc > 1 ) printf("strlen(\"%s\") = %d\n", argv[1], _str_len(argv[1]));
    return 0;

Zef’s description:

“So, my immediate thought was to use function pointers to ‘conditionally’ execute code without a conditional branch. There are two possible states for each member of a string when performing a ‘strlen’-type operation. ‘Terminator’ and ‘Not Terminator’. In this case the ‘Terminator’ for a C-string is ‘NULL’ (0×00). This of course is the only value with 0 bits set; by masking each bit in the 8 bit value and shifting to the lsb then combining the values with a ‘|’ operation, a binary state is created allowing for the indepedent execution of the two defined states ‘Terminator’ and ‘Not Terminator’”.

Aaron’s Solution:

As I admittedly suck at C, I approached the problem in straight assembly (I know, that’s cheating. And yes, this could be achieved with a rep scasb, but that’s just too easy). However, I was able to solve the problem in 27 bytes:

[BITS 32]

section .text

global _start

    pop eax
    pop eax
    xor eax, eax
    xor ebx, ebx
    pop esi

    mov al, [esi]
    add al, 0xFF
    inc al
    lea ecx, [0x8048097+eax*4]
    jmp ecx
inc ebx
inc esi
jmp _continue
int 0x80

The three pops that occur within _start are to get access to argv[1] (the string to be measured, provided on the command line). The last pop esi puts a pointer to the string into the esi register.

The mov al, [esi] grabs a single byte off the string. Then, the add al, 0xFF is used to determine whether the byte is NULL or not. If the value is non-NULL, the add to the 8-bit register al will set the Carry flag. If it is NULL, it will not set the CF.

The next instruction is actually considered undocumented (even objdump shows the mnemonic as ‘bad’). What the salc instruction does is sets the al register to 0xFF if the Carry flag is set, otherwise it sets it to 0×00. This is the method I used to implement a binary state to determine if the character is NULL or not.

The inc al instruction then increments al, which was either 0xFF or 0×00. After the inc it will either be 0×00 or 0×01.

The lea ecx, [0x8048097+eax*4] instruction loads into ecx either the address 0×8048097 or 0x804809b. These addresses are significant and can be observed by objdump’ing the assembled binary:

$ objdump -d strlen_no_conditionals -M intel

strlen_no_conditionals: file format elf32-i386

Disassembly of section .text:

08048080 :
 8048080:       58                      pop    eax
 8048081:       58                      pop    eax
 8048082:       31 c0                   xor    eax,eax
 8048084:       31 db                   xor    ebx,ebx
 8048086:       5e                      pop    esi

08048087 :
 8048087:       8a 06                   mov    al,BYTE PTR [esi]
 8048089:       04 ff                   add    al,0xff
 804808b:       d6                      (bad)
 804808c:       fe c0                   inc    al
 804808e:       8d 0c 85 97 80 04 08    lea    ecx,[eax*4+0x8048097]
 8048095:       ff e1                   jmp    ecx
 8048097:       43                      inc    ebx
 8048098:       46                      inc    esi
 8048099:       eb ec                   jmp    8048087 
 804809b:       cd 80                   int    0x80

So, if the character is not NULL, the code will jmp ecx to 0×8048097 which increments the string length counter (ebx) and increments the string pointer (esi) and then branches unconditionally to _continue.

If the value was NULL, the jmp ecx will land directly at the int 0×80. As the size of the inc ebx and inc esi and jmp _continue is exactly 4 bytes, the lea instruction very conveniently can load either the address of the inc ebx or directly at the int 0×80, thus removing the need for any NOP-like instructions.

The last convenient optimization to note is that the int 0×80 will execute the syscall specified by the eax register. Well, because the result of the add/salc/inc condition will set eax to 1 only when a NULL is found, the int 0×80 will execute syscall #1 which on Linux is exit(). Additionally, the exit code is specified by the ebx register. That is why I used the ebx register as my counter to hold the string length. So, upon execution of the interrupt, the exit code will contain the length of the string as can be observed by running the assembled binary and inspecting the return value:

$ nasm strlen_no_conditionals.asm -f elf -o a.o
$ ld -o strlen_no_conditionals a.o
$ ./strlen_no_conditionals "ExodusIntel" ; echo $?
$ ./strlen_no_conditionals "should return 16" ; echo $?

Rolf’s Solution:

“Basically, the fundamental problem to overcome with this challenge is to ‘make a decision’ — that is to say, decide when to terminate the iteration upon reaching a NULL character — without using an explicit jcc-style conditional branch. A few minutes’ reflection upon this problem yields that we could use recursion into a function pointer table with 256 entries, where 255 of the entries increased some counter variable, and the entry at 0 terminates the procedure and returns the counter. In doing so, we have replaced all conditional jumps with one indexed, switch jump. Some further reflection provides the reduction of the table size from 256 entries down to two.”

typedef int (*ctr)(char *);
int func(char *);
int func_x(char *c) { return 1+func(c); }
int func_0(char *c) { return 0; }
ctr table[2] = { &func_0, &func_x };
int func(char *c) { return table[!!*c](c+1); }

If you’ve come up with an interesting approach, we’d love to see it. Feel free to leave a comment or some such.

Aaron Portnoy