Real Return Address Example

This challenge requires you to enter a carefully crafted input file to the following program. The data should overwrite the return address with a binary value that will direct the program to execute the exploit() function.

/* The goal of this example is to provide the correct input so the

program will overflow the stack and execute the function exploit. */

#include <stdio.h>


FILE *inFile; // input data file

int i;


/* This is the function that generates the stack overflow */

void doit() {

char str[4]; // short input buffer


i = 0;

while (!feof(inFile)) {

str[i] = getc(inFile); // read from input file until EOF





/* The goal of the exploit is to execute this function. */

void exploit() {

printf("\nExploit successful!\n\n");



/* Start of the program */

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {


inFile = fopen(argv[1],"rb"); /* open data file */



printf("Normal end of the program\n");

return 0;


The source code for this program can be downloaded .

Download the program and compile it with your favorite C compiler. The program reads input from a file whose name is given as the first command line value. Try running the program with a very short (4 characters or less) input file. Use a debugger to look at the data on the program stack. Once you understand the format of the data and return address on the stack, create an input file that will overflow the str variable and change the return address in the doit function. You may wish to use a hex editor that will allow you to create a small file with specific binary values.


         If you are using Microsoft compilers, you may need to disable its defenses to make this assignment easier.

         Intel CPUs are small endian machines. A four byte address is stored in reverse order with the least significant byte first at the lowest address.

         The ESP register, the extended stack pointer, contains the address of the current top of stack. You can use this information in a debugger to find the location of variables on the stack.

         The stack on an Intel processor grows from high addresses to low addresses. When a value is pushed on the stack, it will be at a lower address than previous values on the stack.

         You may want to enter characters that have a useful binary ASCII code value.