Sunday, March 15, 2015

JS Obfuscation (Part 2) - Countermeasures

Despite how cryptic JS obfuscation may sound, deobfuscating JS is only slightly more difficult than the obfuscating part.

  • Decompaction
  • Since this is exactly the job of a beautifier, any popular JS beautifier can get a whitespace-trimmed, cryptic JS one-liner back in good shape in a split second. Online Javascript Beautifier is my favourite, as it can process entire webpages (HTML+CSS+JS) as well, and even supports some JS deobfuscation features.

  • Packer
  • Ironically enough, packer itself has a deobfuscation feature. Although it's disabled by default, you can easily enable it by stripping the disabled attribute off the lower textarea control, using the Inspect Element feature available on web browsers. After this hack, you can paste the packed code into the lower textarea and use the Decode button to get it de-obfuscated.

  • Token replacement
  • I haven't yet come across a straightforward way to defend this trick, although there's most probably an extremely simple way. Yet, the JS consoles of most web browsers can help you what each set of tokens would concatenate into. All I can say is that it's just dead painful to copy and paste each set of tokens to see what they mean, so some regex and text manipulation magic may often come in handy.

  • Experience: It's the Key!
  • As with anything else, when it comes to deciphering a JS puzzle, what matters most is prior experience and, more importantly, attention to the tiniest levels of detail. Taking a 'snapshot' of the current JS context of the browser (window) can sometimes come in handy. The following script can do the trick, when run in the browser console:

    var keys = Object.keys(window);
    var backup = {}
    for(i in keys) {
    	var key = keys[i];
    	backup[key] = window[key];

    If you want to compare this snapshot with a later state of the context, the following script will help:

    var keys = Object.keys(window);
    for(i in keys) {
    	var key = keys[i];
    	if(backup[key] != window[key])
    		console.log(key + ': ' + backup[key] + ' -> ' + window[key]);

    Examining HTTP requests sent out by the web page can also provide hints regarding what might be going on inside the page, behind the curtain of obfuscation. Most modern browsers provide a network request tab in their developer consoles, while there are popular analyzer plug-ins like FireBug as well.

  • Circumvention
  • Although JS is nearly taken for granted in modern web apps, some old (or more "compatible") pages still contain <noscript> tags to tackle non-JS environments. No matter how complicated the corresponding JS may look, the <noscript> tag always has to use plain old HTML (and CSS) to accomplish the same goal. An excellent example is the CAPTCHA component used on many pages; the cryptic JS fragment used to dynamically load and validate the CAPTCHA is often accompanied by a plain <noscript> tag that simply contains the URL of a CAPTCHA image (usually in an <img> tag) and a form that simply POSTs the user input to the solution URL.

  • Situation-specific Strategies (ඌරගෙ මාලු උෟරගෙ ඇඟේ තියල කැපීම)
  • Once I came across a page (on a popular PTC site) that had gone to such lengths as to dynamically generate a JS fragment by concatenating an array of numbers (ASCII codes), which then sends another HTTP request for a different obfuscated script file, and evaluates the resulting content to obtain the actual JS source, which then gets evaluated yet again to bring about the desired functionality. I simply copied the initial script and ran it 'as-is', removing only the outermost (last) eval(), to obtain the final JS source that first appeared to be impossible to intercept. :) Sometimes, all that is required to defeat JS obfuscation is a little bit of strategy.

    Please note that some keywords used in this article may not correspond to their actual technical meanings, as most of the scenarios are my personal experiences and not validated against standard 'hacking' literature.

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