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Developing a TCP Network Proxy – Pwn Adventure 3

Developing a TCP Network Proxy – Pwn Adventure 3

When I first started with Pwn Adventure 3
I thought I would have to implement a network proxy and reverse engineer the protocol much
earlier. I didn’t think that debugging the non-stripped binary would be this powerful.
But we are slowly heading to the more complex challenges and I wanted to do a network proxy
eventually. So now is the time. According to wikipedia, in computer networks,
a proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking
resources from other servers. So we want to sit between the client and server
to inspect the traffic and maybe even manipulate it. Like a MITM attack basically. So from
our very early wireshark investigation we know the game communicates over TCP, and is
contacting a master server on port 3333 and then a game server on some port between 3000
and 3005. If you don’t know how TCP works, I recommend you to watch my TCP introduction
video from a long time ago which should make a lot of stuff clear.
We also know, that we can control where the game tries to connect to by manipulating the
IP of the servers in the /etc/hosts file. So let’s start by pointing the client to
a different IP, our Proxy server and for me that is my MacBook. I wanna develop the proxy
server on my day-to-day machine as that’s most comfortable to me. So when we now try
to login in the game, the client would try to connect to the master server, which is
now pointing to my MacBook. But of course there is no server listening on port 3333
on my laptop yet, so that will fail. But what is our high level plan? To create
a TCP proxy we want to essentially open a port on our machine so the game client can
connect to us, but then we also want to connect to the real server and forward any packets.
But forwarding might be a misleading term here, because we are not really forwarding
the packets, we are actually opening a socket to listen here, and fully receive the data.
So now we just have the content of the TCP packet in our hand. And then have another
socket open with the real server, where we then take the data and send it out. So we
fully unwrap the packet, look at the content, and repackage it again for the real server.
And of course we also want to handle answers from the server, which we unwrap, look at
the content, and then repackage it by sending it over the socket to the game client.
And we basically have to do this twice, for the master server and game server as these
are two separate connections. Okay, high level plan done.
Next, let’s plan our program that does that. I’m not a networking expert so my engineering
solution is probably not the best way to do it, but as long as it somewhat works, it’s
an ok prototype and proof of concept, to see if what we want to do is even working.
So essentially we want to open a listening socket for the game client to connect to,
as well as establishing a connection to the real server. Thes are two different connections
that could receive date at any time, so these components would have to be placed into their
own thread. I call one the Game2Proxy thread, and the
other one Proxy2Server thread. And then we also want to connect them somehow, because
when the game wants to send something to the server, it arrives in the Game2Proxy thread,
which then has to send it out to the server socket that is used in the proxy2server thread.
So we have to exchange references to each other’s socket as well.
And that’s basically it, in each of the function that receive the data we can then
program anything we want to do with it, before forwarding it to the other socket.
But because we have to deal with not only one server, but we have a master server, as
well as up to 5 game servers, we could bundle the creation of the two components into another
general Proxy thread, so we can easily create multiple instances of that.
Cool, so we have a little bit more detailed technical plan. So now we can go another layer
deeper and start looking at the actual implementation. Because I’m most comfortable with python
I decide to write my proxy in python. And so we can use the threading module to create
Thread classes for our general Proxy as well as the Game2Proxy and Proxy2Server thread.
And we can use just low level sockets to implement the network communication. Let’s start with the Proxy2Server. That
is supposed to be the thread that handles the connection to the real game server. So
we start by creating a class Game2Proxy which inherits from Thread. This allows us to define
a run() method that will run in the thread. So in here we would create a while true loop
that handles the data and network connection. But before we continue in here, we should
setup the server connection first which I do in the __init__ method. This is the constructor.
Because we overwrite it, we have to make sure to still call the original init function.
And then we can create a new socket, which is just a basic socket example taken from
the python docs and connect it to the host and port passed into the constructor. So later
we will give it the real server IP and port here. We keep a reference to this server connection
in the object variable or attribute server. And then in the run method, which will keep
looping forever in a thread, we will attempt to receive up to 4k of data from the real
server. Which means if we get some data back, we want to forward it to the game client.
So we don’t have a game client connection yet, but if we have one we can then call sendall
to forward this data. So will later be set to the socket that is the connection
to the game client. But that socket is created by the Game2Proxy thread.
So let’s create that thread class next. Class Game2Proxy and also base class Thread.
In that init function things are a bit different. We also get a host and port, but this is where
we want to listen. This is the proxy part where the game tries to connect to. So the
socket we create we will then bind to the host and port given by the parameters.
This again is just a basic python socket server example taken from the official docs.
And then we call accept(), which will wait for a client to connect.
Once a client connects, we get the socket to communicate with that client and we assign
it to Then in the thread run method we loop forever and see if we have data from
the game client. If we did receive something, we would try to forward this data to the server
socket. That’s the socket created by the other class.
So now we have to hook them up both. We have to create both threads and give each of them
a reference to the other’s socket. For that I created a third more general class
called Proxy. Which is also just a general thread setup
but then in the run method we create the Game2Proxy thread object which will wait for a client
to connect to the port specified and if we get a connection the the Proxy2Server will
establish a forwarding connection to the server. Now both threads created their respetive socket
and now we jsut have to exchange them. So the one that talks to the game client has
the socket to forward data to the real server, and that the server has a socket to the client,
to forward back answers. That was just the setup of the threads, and
then we actually start them. This will kick start executing their run methods. Now, the only thing that is missing is to
create that Proxy thread. Or actually multiple proxy threads.
Let’s start with the masterserver, which will listen on all interfaces on port 3333
and forward them to the real server IP. This is where my real server is located. And then
we start that thread. And then we launch multiple Proxies for all
possible game servers that the client might want to connect to. So 5 additional proxies
for port 3000 to 3005. And this should already work!
Let’s add a small debug output into the threads and see if we can see the traffic.
To identify the where data was coming from I include the port as well as an arrow to
indicate the direction. So one is stuff the client sends and the other is what the server
answers. Then let’s start it.
This looks good, all of our proxy servers are waiting for a client to connect.
And when we now login to the game, we can see that data with the master server is exchanged.
Keep in mind that I cut the output after 100 bytes, so the actual data might be longer
and it’s hex encoded because it’s binary data.
And when we now join the game, we can see a lot of messages on port 3002. So that’s
the game server. If we pause it for a second we can see that the client sent a lot of similar
stuff, and the server responded with I guess empty data. Just 0000, two zero bytes. Probably
indicating “yep I’m still here, but I don’t have anything new for you”. The whole engineering challenge we have here
is not to build the most performant and resource saving proxy to handle thousands of conenctions
or whatever, our goal is to build something that allows us to explore, analyse and play
with the network connection. And to do that I add two more things.
Btw if you want to exit the proxy, you will have to kill the process. But we will take
care of that now. After the creation of the threads I add a
simple while true loop that constantly waits for input from us, and then takes that as
a command. So if we find a “quit” command, then we just tear down the whole thing with
exit. And here we can expand the commands later,
for example if we want to inject our own packets. We could easily do that here.
The other thing I want to do is the parsing and analysis of the data that is exchanged.
And that is supposed to be an explorative playful part. So it would suck if we always
have to kill the proxy, restart it, log back into the game and check something, just to
do it all over again. So I decided to place the parsing into a second file. Here we simply
define a “parse” function. This fuction will take the data, as well as the port of
the connection so we can identify if it’s game server or mater server data, as well
as a n origin parameter to indicate if this is data originating from the client or from
the server. So we can import that parser module now and
in the loop where we handle the data we receive we call the parse function with the corresponding
parameters. So this is data coming from the server, and this is data coming from the client.
Though to get a really interactive playful experience we have to reload the module. Because
otherwise the function is loaded once when it’s imported and then when we make changes
it does nothing. So when we reload here the module we always have our latest changes.
Because our changes could be terrible, we have to wrap that in a try and except block,
to catch any exceptions caused by this. Let’s try it. Going in game and we see all
the messages. So this is the message that is coming from our parse function here.
And let’s see if we can modify it and see the changes. How about we only want to see
data for the game server, and only data sent from the client to the server. So we check
if this is a message from a server, and then return.
Now we only see client messages. Amazing, right? So we can start playing here
and interpreting and parsing this data and we don’t have to restart the game or proxy.
And when we made a dumb error, we see the exceptions here and can quickly fix it.
Before I send you off, let’s just show you really quick what we can do with that now.
So for example we see here a message that never changes sent from the client to the
server. But if we move ingame, we walk around a bit, we can see a change.
But not everything changes. Only in this area. If we stand still and jump up, then besides
the other new packet we see, only this value here changes. Sooo… do you have a guess
what this data might show us?

57 comments on “Developing a TCP Network Proxy – Pwn Adventure 3

  1. First of all why did you need a 3rd thread? Why make the Proxy class a thread? Why not just make it a wrapper class? And why did you not break out from the loop in the run method in the Proxy class. Doesnt that mean that the Proxy class will just keep making connections? Since its run method never exits?

  2. can u mention any good resources for learning disassembly using gdb ?
    I hav started my information security career and wanna study malware analysis .So it starts with reverse engineering.

  3. Could you make a video about the Google CTF 2018? I'm most interested in Crypto but any Challenge Reviews will do. (I had a very hard time with this CTF and didn't do very well)

  4. Can you make a video or series on cracking ransomware, specifically, GandCrab V3? It would be very appreciated and helpful and even fun for you!

  5. really awesome video !
    but idk if it also work with sockets but when i'm using multiples threads in my python scripts, i set the daemon variable to True, then when I <Ctrl-c> my program to stop it, it will also stop all the threads :

    t = threading.Thread(…)
    t.daemon = True

    so then you don't have to kill the process 😉

  6. Can someone help me? I'm trying to get this to work on windows, but I don't have a domain as origin just a IP address and I can't seem to route the IP to my proxy is there an easy way to do that?

  7. What is the game addresses an IP directly and doesn't use a hostname? Then you can't use the hosts file. Any other way?

  8. I'm trying to make a proxy server but with an online server. But I can't find a fff way to redirect outgoing traffic to localhost! Hosts don't help.

  9. A really nice video! But, I have one question. The part where you made the proxy you used setsockopt. I never used this and also I don't know what the sol socket is. If you could explain this I would be really happy. (Or if someone else explains it)

  10. You should really learn Clojure, you would not have those language problems and you could deal only with business problems.

  11. I've written a shitload of python over the last couple of years, but I haven't seen anything as cool as the `reload` function in months. Mind blown.

  12. How did you create your animated diagrams? I'm using Impress with SVG animation export now but would be keen to hear about nicer methods.

  13. Watched video, got and idea on how to improve this script… and then found a bug in our production code while testing my idea. That is a like

  14. You changed my perspective about programming and networking and made it so much fun .. Great work .. Keep it up ..

  15. TCP socket is not packet-based, but stream. Assuming that each read operation will always hit the internal protocol packet boundaries will sometimes fail. IP stacks in all end-points can in there buffering split and join up data as they see fit

  16. Fascinating to see how you approach these problems. I want to write a proxy for a database in nodejs. This has given me a good overview.

  17. It's 2018, and people still use python 2.6…. SMH… I just hope they really discontinue it pretty soon, which it's already about to happen yay! xD – Apart from that, been loving the series so far!

  18. I've been watching all of these today, and HOLY moly this is fun and exciting! You take all the in-the-weeds stuff and call it out for being frustrating and tough, which is really validating. A lot of these tests just take confidence and willingness to potentially waste time – or as I feel after watching this, learn stuff but make less progress than I hoped.

    Thank you, big thank you :))))))))))) I love it

  19. Cheeses. I just finished watching this after the previous 8 in a row, and I have to tell you… I am starting to feel like someone watching a baseball game, and it's the fourth inning and people are starting to notice that the pitcher only thrown strikes and not a single player from the opposing team has gotten on base the whole game.

  20. I worked along with this and made a script a lot like this(Python3), this works for A LOT of games. Thank you sir i can't thank you enough!

  21. @LiveOverflow What if the hosts file does not redirect the traffic to localhost? for example will not redirect the traffic destined for to localhos

  22. In this video you can develop a proxy as the game server is accessed via DNS name (game.pwn3): what you can do if the game server is accessed using IP addresses?

  23. This helped me fix an issue where I was doing instead of Thread.start() thanks for fixing a totally unrelated issue.

  24. Hey, great stuff. Quick question: what would you do if you couldn't use hosts file? How can you translate destination IP address so it could go to your proxy (on Windows)?

  25. this is so useful. i do have a problem, i'm getting an error because the port that the game client sends requests from is already in use. the "socket.SOL_SOCKET, socket.SO_REUSEADDR, 1" option did nothing unfortunately. how can i get over this?

  26. wait , i don't understand , proxy might be impossbiel with the ash code that the server had??

    so why u can use those datas?

  27. one thing I don't understand is, why do you have both the g2p and p2s inside the run method inside a while loop? why do we need the while loop?

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