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Home » Hacking News » CORE 2003-0306: RealPlayer heap corruption

CORE 2003-0306: RealPlayer heap corruption

by Nikola Strahija on March 28th, 2003 A vulnerability has been found in the PNG decompression functionality of RealPlayer, which, if exploited, can allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code and obtain remote command shell.

Core Security Technologies Advisory

RealPlayer PNG deflate heap corruption vulnerability

Date Published: 2003-03-28

Last Update: 2003-03-27

Advisory ID: CORE-2003-0306

Bugtraq ID: 7177

CVE Name: CAN-2003-0141

CERT: VU#705761

Title: RealPlayer PNG deflate heap corruption vulnerability.

Class: Boundary Error Condition

Remotely Exploitable: Yes

Locally Exploitable: Yes

Advisory URL:

Vendors contacted:
- RealNetworks
. Core Notification: 2003-03-07
. Notification aknowledged by RealNetworks: 2003-03-11
. Fix provided by RealNetworks and tested by Core: 2003-03-13
. Release schedule of updatesestablished: 2003-03-19
. Updates for Consumer Products released: 2003-03-27


*Vulnerability Description:*

RealPlayer is a popular program provided by RealNetworks, Inc. It is
used to play live video and audio over the net. This programs is able
to play a great set of media file formats, between them is the PNG
graphic file format. A vulnerability has been found in the way that
RealPlayer decompress those files.

If exploited, this vulnerability allows an attacker to execute
arbitrary code and obtain a remote command shell with those privileges
of the user running RealPlayer.

*Vulnerable Packages:*

. RealOne Player v2 (Win32) [versions: 6.0.11.x,
where x = .818, .830, .841, .853]
. RealOne Player v1 (Win32) [version:]
. RealOne Player for OS X [version:,]
. RealPlayer 8/RealPlayer Plus 8 (Win32 & Mac OS 9)
[version: (Win32 & Mac OS 9)]
. RealOne Enterprise Desktop (Win32) [version:]

*Solution/Vendor Information/Workaround:*

RealNetworks provides security updates which fix this vulnerability
in the following page:


This vulnerability was found by Juliano Rizzo, Agustin Azubel Friedman,
Bruno Acselrad and Carlos Sarraute from Core Security Technologies
during Bugweek 2003 (March 3-7, 2003).
Previous problems were found by Drew Copley of eEye Digital Security.

We would like to thank Jeff Ayars and Haydon Boone from RealNetworks
for quickly addressing our report and coordinating the generation
and public release of patches and information regarding this vulnerability.

*Technical Description - Exploit/Concept Code:*

PNG files are compressed using the deflate algorithm. This algorithm
is described in the RFC 1951 "DEFLATE Compressed Data Format
Specification" (see [1]). The compression is performed by searching
for repetitions of the same data block. When a repetition is found a
pair of length/offset codes are inserted in the ouput string instead
of the data block. These codes indicate the distance (in bytes) of the
beginning of the repeated block respect to the current position, and
its length (in bytes).
The algorithm can work in two modes, with fixed or dynamic Huffman
trees. When fixed trees are used a fixed alphabet of 288 symbols is
used to represent literals and length codes. The RFC 1951 states:

"...Literal/length values 286-287 will never actually occur in the
compressed data, but participate in the code construction..."

The problem we found in vulnerable implementations of the algorithm is
that when one of those two codes 286-287 is found in the compressed data,
a length of 2^32 bytes is assumed.

A loop starts copying from the offset specified after the length code
in the compressed bit stream. 2^32 bytes is larger than the size of
the buffer and also beyond the program address space and larger than the
available memory, so the loop finally raises an exception when
it reaches the end of the commited program memory. It allows an
attacker to fill the program memory after the buffer with a given
pattern. After the exception is raised a free or malloc function can
be abused to use the values in the corrupted heap memory to write any
32bit value to any address in memory. In particular we can overwrite any
function pointer (for example the unhandled exception filter) and
control the program execution flow, allowing us to execute arbitrary code
and obtain (for example) a remote command shell or a Core Impact agent
with those privileges of the user running RealPlayer.

This bug has been successfully exploited in RealOne Player 2.0 and
a Core Impact's module has been made.



*About Core Security Technologies*

Core Security Technologies develops strategic security solutions for
Fortune 1000 corporations, government agencies and military
organizations. The company offers information security software and
services designed to assess risk and protect and manage information
Headquartered in Boston, MA, Core Security Technologies can be reached
at 617-399-6980 or on the Web at

To learn more about CORE IMPACT, the first comprehensive penetration
testing framework, visit:


The contents of this advisory are copyright (c) 2003 CORE Security
Technologies and may be distributed freely provided that no fee is
charged for this distribution and proper credit is given.

$Id: RealOne-advisory.txt,v 1.7 2003/03/27 22:14:21 carlos Exp $

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