String decryption with Carbon

Developing Carbon, I haven’t had the time to play much with it myself. 🙂 One of the most essential features in a disassembler is the capability to let the users write scripts and modify the disassembly itself. Carbon has a rich SDK and this is a little tutorial to introduce a bit how it works.

Before trying out any of the scripts in this tutorial, make sure to update to the newest 3.0.2 version, as we just fixed a few bugs related to the Carbon Python SDK.

So let’s start!

I wrote a small program with some encrypted strings.


unsigned char s1[13] = { 0x84, 0xA9, 0xA0, 0xA0, 0xA3, 0xE0, 0xEC, 0xBB, 0xA3, 0xBE, 0xA0, 0xA8, 0xED };
unsigned char s2[17] = { 0x98, 0xA4, 0xA5, 0xBF, 0xEC, 0xA5, 0xBF, 0xEC, 0x9F, 0x9C, 0x8D, 0x9E, 0x98, 0x8D, 0xED, 0xED, 0xED };
unsigned char s3[11] = { 0x82, 0xA3, 0xE0, 0xEC, 0xBE, 0xA9, 0xAD, 0xA0, 0xA0, 0xB5, 0xE2 };

char *decrypt(unsigned char *s, size_t n)
	for (size_t i = 0; i < n; i++)
		s[i] ^= 0xCC;
	return (char *) s;

#define DS(s) decrypt(s, sizeof (s))

int main()
	return 0;

The decryption function is super-simple, but that's not important for our purposes.

I disassembled the debug version of the program, because I didn't want release optimizations like the decrypt function getting inlined. Not that it matters much, but in a real-world scenario a longer decryption function wouldn't get inlined.

By going to the decrypt function, we end up to a jmp which points to the actual function code.

.text:0x0041114A decrypt                 proc start
.text:0x0041114A                                     ; CODE XREF: 0x00411465
.text:0x0041114A                                     ; CODE XREF: 0x00411487
.text:0x0041114A                                     ; CODE XREF: 0x004114A9
.text:0x0041114A   E9 71 02 00 00        jmp    sub_4113C0

At this point, the SDK offers us many possible approaches to find all occurrences of encrypted strings. We could, for instance, enumerate all disassembled instructions. But that's not very fast. A better approach is to get all xrefs to the decrypt function and then proceed from there.

First we get the current view.

v = proContext().getCurrentView()
ca = v.getCarbon()
db = ca.getDB()

Then we get all xrefs to the decrypt function.

xrefs = db.getXRefs(0x0041114A, True)

We enumerate all xrefs and we extract address and length of each string.

it = xrefs.iterator()
    while it.hasNext():
        xref =
        # retrieve address and length of the string
        buf = - 6, 6)
        slen = buf[0]
        saddr = struct.unpack_from("

We decrypt the string.

s =, slen) 
s = bytes([c ^ 0xCC for c in s]).decode("utf-8")

At this point we can add a comment to each push of the string address with the decrypted string.

comment = caComment()
comment.address = xref.origin - 5
comment.text = s

As final touch, we tell the view to update, in order to show us the changes we made to the underlying database.


Here's the complete script which we can execute via Ctrl+Alt+R (we have to make sure that we are executing the script while the focus is on the disassembly view, otherwise it won't work).

from Pro.UI import proContext
from Pro.Carbon import caComment
import struct

def decrypt_strings():
    v = proContext().getCurrentView()
    ca = v.getCarbon()
    db = ca.getDB()
    # get all xrefs to the decryption function
    xrefs = db.getXRefs(0x0041114A, True)
    it = xrefs.iterator()
    while it.hasNext():
        xref =
        # retrieve address and length of the string
        buf = - 6, 6)
        slen = buf[0]
        saddr = struct.unpack_from("

It will result in the decrypted strings shown as comments.

This could be the end of the tutorial. However, in the upcoming 3.1 version I just added the capability to overwrite bytes in the disassembly. This feature is both available from the context menu (Edit bytes) under the shortcut "E" or from the SDK via the Carbon write method.

What it does is to patch bytes in the database only: the original file won't be touched!

So let's modify the last part of the script above:

        # decrypt string
        s =, slen) 
        s = bytes([c ^ 0xCC for c in s])
        # overwrite in disasm
        ca.write(saddr, s)

Please notice that I removed the ".decode("utf-8")" part of the script, as now I'm passing a bytes object to the write method.

This is the result.

.text:0x0041145E   push   0xD
.text:0x00411460   push   0x418000                        ; "Hello, world!"
.text:0x00411465   call   decrypt
.text:0x0041146A   add    esp, 8
.text:0x0041146D   mov    esi, esp
.text:0x0041146F   push   eax
.text:0x00411470   call   dword ptr [0x419114] -> MSVCR120D.puts
.text:0x00411476   add    esp, 4
.text:0x00411479   cmp    esi, esp
.text:0x0041147B   call   sub_411136
.text:0x00411480   push   0x11
.text:0x00411482   push   0x418010                        ; "This is SPARTA!!!"
.text:0x00411487   call   decrypt
.text:0x0041148C   add    esp, 8
.text:0x0041148F   mov    esi, esp
.text:0x00411491   push   eax
.text:0x00411492   call   dword ptr [0x419114] -> MSVCR120D.puts
.text:0x00411498   add    esp, 4
.text:0x0041149B   cmp    esi, esp
.text:0x0041149D   call   sub_411136
.text:0x004114A2   push   0xB
.text:0x004114A4   push   0x418024                        ; "No, really."
.text:0x004114A9   call   decrypt
.text:0x004114AE   add    esp, 8
.text:0x004114B1   mov    esi, esp
.text:0x004114B3   push   eax
.text:0x004114B4   call   dword ptr [0x419114] -> MSVCR120D.puts

I didn't add any comment: the strings are now detected automatically by the disassembler and shown as comments.

Perhaps for this particular task it's better to use the first approach, instead of changing bytes in the database, but the capability to overwrite bytes becomes important when dealing with self-modifying code or other tasks.

I hope you enjoyed this first tutorial. 🙂

Happy hacking!

Custom filters: Lua and misc/basic

Last year filters have been introduced and among them them the very useful ‘misc/basic‘. The upcoming 0.9.5 version of the Profiler improves this filter introducing the condition parameter.

For instance, let’s take the following filter:

Conditional misc/basic

It xors every byte if different than 0xFF and 0. The ‘misc/basic‘ filter can be used to express even more complex operations such as:

Advanced misc/basic

In this case the the filter xors every third dword with 0xAABBCCDD, following the pattern ‘xor skip skip’, in little endian mode and only if the value is different than 0 and 0xAABBCCDD. While lots of operations can be expressed with this filter, there are limits.

This is why Lua filters have been introduced. Right now there are two such filters available: ‘lua/custom‘ and ‘lua/loop‘. Let’s start with the second one which is just a shortcut.


if e ~= 0 and e ~= 0xFF then e = bit.bxor(e, 0xFF) end

This script does the exact same thing as the first example of the ‘misc/basic‘ filter: it xors every byte if different than 0xFF and 0. In this specific case there’s no reason to use a Lua filter. In fact, Lua filters are considerably slower than native filters. Thus, they should be used only when the operation is too complex to be expressed with any of the default filters.

While ‘lua/loop‘ is inteded for simple loop operations, ‘lua/custom‘, as the name suggests, can be used to implement a custom filter logic. Here’s an example, which again does the same thing as the previous example:

function run(filter)
    local c = filter:container()
    local size = c:size()
    local offset = 0
    local bsize = 16384
    while size ~= 0 do
        if bsize > size then bsize = size end
        local block = c:read(offset, bsize)
        local boffs = 0
        while boffs < bsize do
            local e = block:readU8(boffs)
            if e ~= 0 and e ~= 0xFF then e = bit.bxor(e, 0xFF) end
            block:writeU8(boffs, e)
            boffs = boffs + 1
        c:write(offset, block)
        offset = offset + bsize
        size = size - bsize
    return Base.FilterErr_None

The security of these scripting filters is very high. They run in a special sandboxed environment, have access only to a minimum set of secure functions, are limited in memory consumption (2 MBs by default, but it can be configured from the settings) and can be interrupted at any time by the user.

If you still don't wish to allow script filters, they can be disabled from the settings.

Lua filters settings

The Lua VM is almost vanilla, the only difference is that it allows for 64-bit numbers. As you can observe from the examples, the Lua library for bitwise operations has been renamed from 'bit32' to 'bit'.

We'll see some practical usage samples in the near future. Stay tuned!

PDF AES256 (Revision 6)

The upcoming version 0.7.9 of the Profiler features support for the still to be publicly released PDF symmetric encryption revision 6. While the PDF specifications are not yet freely available, Adobe has already started supporting the new standard.

This is part of our effort of keeping the product up-to-date with the latest standards.