November 13, 2007

Reverse Engineering Buddy

Filed under: adminstration,linux,usability — jonEbird @ 10:34 pm

An Idea for a helpful Admin Tool

What if you got a page and/or ticket for an obscure server’s particular service? The unique problem is that your environment is huge, you’re still relatively new to the company, co-workers are not there to help you and you have never heard of this server. When logging in, you’re hoping that the person has a nice RC script under /etc/init.d/, that you can find the app via a “lsof -i:<port>”, find the application’s home and locate some log files. But what if the application install was not that nice and did not conform to the norms that you are used to?

To either a small or very large degree, you will be reverse engineering this application. If you’re really unlucky, the application who supports it also has no idea about it nor knows anything about Unix-like machines. So, what if there was an application which is polling upon logging into the server, told you, “In case you are looking for the application binX, which typically listens on port XX, it was most likely started last time by issuing the script /path/to/funky/path/”. I’m guessing it would freak you out and immediately flood your emotions with confusion, gratitude and curiosity.

So, would such an application be difficult to write?

  • Poll any events for read/write/access under key dirs, such as /etc/init.d/, /etc/*conf ? (use the inotify syscall introduced in Linux kernel 2.6.16)
  • Track users logging into the system (could correlate later)
  • Watch for any new ports being listened on, then record the binary name.
  • Reverse engineer this application to automatically collect interesting data on it.
  • Intelligently parse an strace (note to self, checkout:
  • Utilize systemtap for Linux and DTrace for Solaris. pseudo code { observe new socket being opened, so show me the last 10 files opened and executed. correlate application with startup script }

Now, if your data was collected in a easily usable format, you can collect similar data from other machines and start to make broader correlations.

The whole process is really about automating the process of reverse engineering an application. I do that alot. I believe others would like an application which aided or performed the entire reverse engineering for them.

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