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BinCAT Tutorial

This tutorial gradually demonstrates BinCAT features, by analyzing a provided keygen-me-style program, which takes a few arguments as command-line parameters, then generates a hash depending on these parameters, and compares it to an expected license value.

This program expects a few arguments:

$ ./get_key_x86
Usage: ./get_key company department name licence

It returns an error message if an incorrect license key is entered:

$ ./get_key_x86 company department name wrong_serial
Invalid serial wrong_serial

The program indicates if the correct license key is entered:

$ ./get_key_x86 company department name 025E60CB08F00A1A23F236CC78FC819CE6590DD7
Thank you for registering !

get_key data flow


  1. BinCAT has to be installed first (see README)
  2. Download one of the executables from this repository.

This tutorial relates to the get_key_x86 binary, targeting the x86 CPU architecture. Binaries and configuration files are also provided for the following architectures:

1. Run an analysis and observe results

  1. Load the BinCAT plugin by using the Ctrl + Shift + b shortcut
  2. Open the get_key_x86 executable in IDA
  3. From the IDA View-A view, go to address 0x93B using the g shortcut
  4. Focus the BinCAT Configuration pane
  5. Ensure that the Start Address is set to 0x93B, at the bottom of the panel
  6. Ensure that the Current config dropdown is set to (new)
  7. Check the Save configuration to IDB option
  8. Click the Edit... button
  9. Paste the following lines at the end of the [state] section, overwriting the existing stack initialization (mem[0xb8000000*8192]...). This defines a value for argc, creates 5 pointers to strings, initializes 5 null-terminated strings, and also initializes a stack to TOP (unknown value)
mem[0xb8000000*4099] = |00|?0xFF
mem[0xb8001004] = 5
mem[0xb8001008] = 0x200000

mem[0x200000] = 0x300100
mem[0x200004] = 0x300140
mem[0x200008] = 0x300180
mem[0x20000C] = 0x3001C0
mem[0x200010] = 0x300200

mem[0x300100] = |6c6f6c3300|
mem[0x300140] = |636f6d70616e7900|
mem[0x300180] = |64657000|
mem[0x3001C0] = |6c6f6c3100|
mem[0x300200] = |6c6f6c2100|
  1. Click Save to close the configuration edit dialogue
  2. Click Save to save the configuration to the IDB
  3. Enter a name under which this configuration should be saved
  4. Click Start
  5. Notice that after a few seconds, the analysis has finished running, and the background for some of the instructions in the IDA View-A view has become gray
  6. Go to address 0x807 using the g shortcut. This instruction is located directly before a call to _sprintf(buffer, "Company = %s\n");.
  7. Switch to the BinCAT registers view. Observe the value of the esp register in the BinCAT Registers view (it should be 0xB8000D50).
  8. Open the BinCAT Memory view, scroll to the 0xB8000D50 address, to observe the contents of the buffer pointer (char *) where sprintf results will be output (the value should be 0xB8000DEC)
  9. Advance to the next instruction at address 0x80C, and observe the value of the buffer that has been formatted by sprintf at address 0xB8000DEC
  10. Hover your mouse over addresses 0xB8000D50, 0xB8000D54, 0xB8000D58 in the stack, and observe the inferred types for the call to sprintf
  11. Go to address 0xA93, which contains a call to a location that is stored on the stack. Notice that IDA cannot resolve the destination address. In the BinCAT Registers view, use the Next node(s): drop down menu to jump to the destination

2. Use taint override

This tutorial shows how to taint a register, and observe taint propagation.

  1. Go back to address 0x93B
  2. From the BinCAT Memory view, section global, override the taint of every byte at addresses 0x300140-0x300147 which contains the null-terminated company string (see section Override taint or values of the manual), and set it to !|FF| (this fully taints the byte, without changing its value). Re-run the analysis.
  3. Advance to the next instruction at address 0x93F, and observe that this memory range is indeed tainted: both the ASCII and hexadecimal representations of this string are displayed as green text
  4. In the IDA View-A view, notice that some instructions are displayed against a non-gray background (green, blue, ...), since they manipulate tainted data
  5. Go to address 0x9E6 (push eax). Observe that eax is partially tainted
  6. Advance to the next instruction at address 0x9E7. Notice that eax has been pushed to the stack, where its taint and value have been copied

3. Observe inputs handling

  1. Use the tainting feature to show that the result of the CRC computation on the department argument does not influence the computed license key