Jay Bosamiya Software Security Researcher

Types of "Basic" Heap Exploits

Influenced by this amazing live stream by Gynvael Coldwind, where he is experimenting on the heap

Amongst the various kinds of heap exploitation techniques, there are 3 that are considered extremely basic, and provide the fundamentals to understand more complicated heap exploits.


Let us say we have a bunch of pointers to a place in heap, and it is freed without making sure that all of those pointers are updated. This would leave a few dangling pointers into free'd space. This is exploitable by usually making another allocation of different type into the same region, such that you control different areas, and then you can abuse this to gain (possibly) arbitrary code execution.


Free up a memory region, and the free it again. If you can do this, you can take control by controlling the internal structures used by malloc. This can get complicated, compared to use-after-free, so preferably use that one if possible.

Classic buffer overflow on the heap (heap-overflow):

If you can write beyond the allocated memory, then you can start to write into the malloc's internal structures of the next malloc'd block, and by controlling what internal values get overwritten, you can usually gain a read-what-where primitive, that can usually be abused to gain higher levels of access (usually arbitrary code execution, via the GOT PLT, or __fini_array__ or similar).