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HistoryFeb 04, 2022 - 11:30 a.m.

Elfloader - An Architecture-Agnostic ELF File Flattener For Shellcode


elfloader is a super simple loader for ELF files that generates a flat in-memory representation of the ELF.

Pair this with Rust and now you can write your shellcode in a proper, safe, high-level language. Any target that LLVM can target can be used, including custom target specifications for really exotic platforms and ABIs. Enjoy using things like u64s on 32-bit systems, bounds checked arrays, drop handling of allocations, etc :)

It simply concatenates all LOAD sections together, using zero-padding if there are gaps, into one big flat file.

This file includes zero-initialization of .bss sections, and thus can be used directly as a shellcode payload.

If you don’t want to waste time with fail-open linker scripts, this is probably a great way to go.

This doesn’t handle any relocations, it’s on you to make sure the original ELF is based at the address you want it to be at.


To use this tool, simply:

Usage: elfloader [--binary] [--base=<addr>] <input ELF> <output>  
    --binary      - Don't output a FELF, output the raw loaded image with no  
    --base=<addr> - Force the output to start at `<addr>`, zero padding from  
                    the base to the start of the first LOAD segment if needed.  
                    `<addr>` is default hex, can be overrided with `0d`, `0b`,  
                    `0x`, or `0o` prefixes.  
                    Warning: This does not _relocate_ to base, it simply starts  
                    the output at `<addr>` (adding zero bytes such that the  
                    output image can be loaded at `<addr>` instead of the  
                    original ELF base)  
    <input ELF>   - Path to input ELF  
    <output>      - Path to output file  

To install this tool run:

cargo install --path .

Now you can use elfloader from anywhere in your shell!


This project was developed live here:



There’s an example in example_small_program, simply run make or nmake and this should generate an example.bin which is 8 bytes.

pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_small_program $ make  
cargo build --release  
    Finished release [optimized] target(s) in 0.03s  
elfloader --binary target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_small_program example.bin  
pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_small_program $ ls -l ./example.bin   
-rw-r--r-- 1 pleb pleb 8 Nov  8 12:27 ./example.bin  
pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_small_program $ objdump -d target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_small_program  
target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_small_program:     file format elf64-littleaarch64  
Disassembly of section .text:  
00000000133700b0 &lt;_start&gt;:  
    133700b0:   8b000020        add     x0, x1, x0  
    133700b4:   d65f03c0        ret  

Now you can write your shellcode in Rust, and you don’t have to worry about whether you emit .data, .rodata, .bss, etc. This will handle it all for you!

There’s also an example with .bss and .rodata

pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_program_with_data $ make  
cargo build --release  
    Finished release [optimized] target(s) in 0.04s  
elfloader --binary target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_program_with_data example.bin  
pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_program_with_data $ ls -l ./example.bin  
-rw-r--r-- 1 pleb pleb 29 Nov  8 12:39 ./example.bin  
pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_program_with_data $ objdump -d target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_program_with_data  
target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_program_with_data:     file format elf64-littleaarch64  
Disassembly of section .text:  
0000000013370124 &lt;_start&gt;:  
    13370124:   90000000        adrp    x0, 13370000 &lt;_start-0x124&gt;  
    13370128:   90000008        adrp    x8, 13370000 &lt;_start-0x124&gt;  
    1337012c:   52800029        mov     w9, #0x1                        // #1  
    13370130:   91048000        add     x0,    x0, #0x120  
    13370134:   3904f109        strb    w9, [x8, #316]  
    13370138:   d65f03c0        ret  
pleb@gamey ~/elfloader/example_program_with_data $ readelf -l target/aarch64-unknown-none/release/example_program_with_data  
Elf file type is EXEC (Executable file)  
Entry point 0x13370124  
There are 4 program headers, starting at offset 64  
Program Headers:  
  Type           Offset             VirtAddr           PhysAddr  
                 FileSiz            MemSiz              Flags  Align  
  LOAD           0x0000000000000120 0x0000000013370120 0x0000000013370120  
                 0x0000000000000004 0x0000000000000004  R      0x1  
  LOAD           0x0000000000000124 0x0000000013370124 0x0000000013370124  
                 0x0000000000000018 0x0000000000000018  R E    0x4  
  LOAD           0x000000000000013c 0x000000001337013c 0x000000001337013c  
                 0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000001  RW     0x4  
  GNU_STAC   K      0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000000  
                 0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000000  RW     0x0  
 Section to Segment mapping:  
  Segment Sections...  
   00     .rodata   
   01     .text   
   02     .bss   


This tool doesn’t care about anything except for LOAD sections. It determines the endianness (little vs big) and bitness (32 vs 64) from the ELF header, and from there it creates a flat image based on program header virtual addresses (where it’s loaded), file size (number of initialized bytes) and mem size (size of actual memory region). The bytes are initialized from the file based on the offset and file size, and this is then extended with zeros until mem size (or truncated if mem size is smaller than file size).

These LOAD sections are then concatenated together with zero-byte padding for gaps.

This is designed to be incredibly simple, and agnostic to the ELF input. It could be an executable, object file, shared object, core dump, etc, doesn’t really care. It’ll simply give you the flat representation of the memory, nothing more.

This allows you to turn any ELF into shellcode, or a simpler file format that is easier to load in hard-to-reach areas, like embedded devices. Personally, I developed this for my MIPS NT 4.0 loader which allows me to run Rust code.

FELF0001 format

This tool by default generates a FELF file format. This is a Falk ELF. This is a simple file format:

FELF0001 - Magic header  
entry    - 64-bit little endian integer of the entry point address  
base     - 64-bit little endian integer of the base address to load the image  
&lt;image&gt;  - Rest of the file is the raw image, to be loaded at `base` and jumped  
           into at `entry`  

Download Elfloader