Simple unpacking using IDA (Python)

Unpacking binaries is a common thing in malware analysis and binaries in CTFs. I used to put a breakpoint just before the unpacked was called, dumped the memory and analyzed it, but this comes with a lot of disadvantages (I still do it though.). In this post, I’ll show how I unpack binaries using IDA with its script engine in Python.

Quick look on the binary

The context of the binary is a simple challenge where the user enters an input and the binary validates it. I made a simple custom packer that xors a blob of data and jump into it right after.

Loop of unpacking

What happens here is in (1) i is put in eax register (and its value is 0), then the packed code is put in rdx register (2). The binary xors, one byte at a time, the blob in code with 0x0B (3). This is repeated until i is equal or below 0x96. At (4), the unpacked code is moved in rdx, and the code is finally called at (5).

The C code will look like:

int i;
for (i = 0; i <= 0x96; i++) {
	code[i] ^= 0x0b;
(*(void(*)()) code)();

What the code blob looks like:

Code blob

And IDA wrongly disassembled some code. We can undefine what was disassembled by pressing u.

One could put a breakpoint just before call rdx, dump the memory and analyze it, but we are here to unpack it using IDA.

IDA Python

IDA supports scripting using Python and IDC. This can be done via File -> Script Command or SHIFT + F2. Running the following script will do our unpacking:

import idaapi
import idautils

ea_code = 0
for ea, name in idautils.Names(): # Go through all global variables
	if name == 'code': # If the name is 'code', the blob we want to unpack
		ea_code = ea

for i in range(0x97):
	b = idaapi.get_byte(ea_code + i) # Get the byte at the offset
	b ^= 0x0b
	idaapi.patch_byte(ea_code + i, b) # Patch the byte with the xored one

Looking at our code blob, we can confirm they have been patched.

Patched code

Creating the function

Now that we unpacked the code, we can tell IDA to disasemble it. This can be done via Edit -> Code or by pressing c.

Diassembly of patched code

Having this in a function where we can analyze it with the Graph View would help. Pressing p will create a function. Finally, pressing the space bar and we get this:

Created function graph


IPyIDA is a pluging giving us an IPython console, which is way more conveniant than the script command window. I highly recommand to check it out: