Tiny mach-0 are fun

I suppose I’m just not good with this kind of things, e.g. maintaining a blog.

Anyways, this post is about something easy and fun. I was asked about a tiny hello-world mach-o and since it was actually at least a year from last time I’ve been playing with a mach-o file it felt like a very good excuse for playing with them once again.

First thing I did was to go over to www.osxbook.com. I was pretty sure Amit Singh would have wrote a tiny mach-o already, and that was the case.

Downloaded tiny.asm and started from this phrase “There are plenty of zeros lurking in there.”.

  1. LC_SEGMENT segnames must be padded to 16 bytes, we can actually use that space for storing few opcodes (there must be at least a null termination after segname)
  2. we can use registers from LC_UNIXTHREAD for storing initial values we might need in order to avoid using bigger opcodes

That’s all, and it gives us a 180 bytes valid/working hello-world mach-o, which is, pretty small.
I think it’s still possible to have even a smaller one, but it would probably be >=10.8 only.

You can grab sources here.

Or have a quick look here.
[cc lang=”asm”]
; yasm -f bin rev_mach-o.asm
; it’s tiny.asm from http://osxbook.com/blog/2009/03/15/crafting-a-tiny-mach-o-executable/
; with very few modifications in order to have both a valid and working hello-world mach-o
; http://twitter.com/__rev

org 0x1000

db 0xce, 0xfa, 0xed, 0xfe ; magic
dd 7 ; cputype (CPU_TYPE_X86)
dd 3 ; cpusubtype (CPU_SUBTYPE_I386_ALL)
dd 2 ; filetype (MH_EXECUTE)
dd 2 ; ncmds
dd _ep2 – _text ; cmdsize
dd 0 ; flags
dd 1 ; cmd (LC_SEGMENT)
dd 56 ; cmdsize | sizeof(segment_command) makes it valid
db “T” ; segname
db 0 ; segname padding
; SYS_write
push msg_size ; this is part of segname padding
push msg
push ecx
push ebx
int 0x80

; – SYS_exit
push ebx
jmp _ep2

dd 0x1000 ; vmaddr
dd 0x1000 ; vmsize
dd 0 ; fileoff
dd filesize ; filesize
dd 7 ; maxprot
dd 5 ; initprot
dd 0 ; nsects
dd 0 ; flags

dd 5 ; cmd (LC_UNIXTHREAD)
dd 80 ; cmdsize
dd 1 ; flavor (i386_THREAD_STATE)
dd 16 ; count (i386_THREAD_STATE_COUNT)
dd 4, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 ; state
dd 0, 0, _ep, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 ; state
mov eax, ecx
int 0x80

filesize equ $ – $$

msg db ‘Hello world’, 0ah
msg_size equ $ – msg


  • Amit Singh for his tiny.asm
  • Orlando for suggesting me that “__TEXT” segname is not really needed/enforced


On MacOS 10.7 dyld randomization

First article for the blog, let’s talk about something I had in mind for a while.
There has been a lot of talk about the introduced full ASLR on MacOS X Lion, so as soon as I had my hands on the OS I wanted to check which were the changes introduced.

Let’s start from the very beginning, Mach-O. In order to understand what are the differences introduced in Lion, we need to first give a look at a Mach-O built on two different OSes, we will take as a reference Snow Leopard. Let’s build this simple code for test:

[cc lang=”c”]
int main()
while (1) {}
return 0;

If we compile that code on Lion, no specific option passed to gcc, we will notice a difference from the very same code compiled on Snow Leopard. The difference is the presence of the flag MH_PIE (Position Independent):
Continue reading

Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog! I decided it was time to give real life to this website since I never really cared too much 🙂 But hey, things change!

I will make this the first place where I’ll post all the stuff I usually do – software engineering, reverse engineering, OS internals and everything else worth publishing here.

I think that’s all for now 🙂