In computer security, arbitrary code execution (ACE) is an attacker’s ability to execute arbitrary commands or code on a target machine or in a target process.

So recently, I have been working with Fini on his Anticheat. By “I have been working with”, I mean that he has done most of the work, and I solved this small little step here. In order for his Anticheat to function effectively, we need to do our best to “hide” code from clients. It wouldn’t be a great Anticheat, or easy to update, if everyone had the Anticheat source code on their PCs. We need to find a way to implement his Anticheat in a way that allows us to run arbitrary code during gameplay, so the server can tell the client “This is the Anticheat, run it”.

The king of arbitrary execution is being able to load new script modules into DayZ during runtime. But first, what is a script module? Most of you will be familiar with DayZ’s new concept of “Modules”. Everything in the game is included in one of 5 modules: 1_Core, 2_Gamelib, 3_Game, 4_World, and 5_Mission. These modules are compiled at startup and have access to lower modules, where 5_Mission can interact with types defined in 3_Game, but not so in reverse. A script module wraps up classes, and other data structures, into a sort of ring. The higher up we go (think 5_Mission), the more “Helper” code we have to make cool things and interact with the game.

Thankfully, the developers of DayZ have left us a definition for these “Modules” in Enforce. Here is the definition found in 1_core/proto/enscript.c. Let’s go through each entry in this object.

First, we can see the deconstructor. This is marked as private. In terms of enforce, this means we cannot delete Script Modules. It also means we can’t store them with the ref keyword. Next, we have the Call method. This allows us to call a function on a new thread. Now comes CallFunction and CallFunctionParams. These two methods allow us to call a function and retrieve its return value, and because of this, they run on the same thread. Then there is this Release method, which I assume is used to unload modules at shutdown. Finally we get to LoadScript which is a static function.

Looking over this, I am really interested in the LoadScript function. If we take the description of this function at face value, we should be able to use this to load our own script modules. Of course, it’s possible this is only functional at startup, or that this isn’t actually a stable function. We will ignore the possible issues and just give it a shot!

The first parameter we need is a “parent” script module. Luckily, defined in the game are two such objects! There exists a pointer to the 3_Game script module and the 5_Mission script module. Thinking back on how modules work, we want to have the highest possible script module in order to interact with everything in-game. So for this parameter, we’ll want to use the 5_Mission module.
The second parameter is a “path to script”. For this, I’ll assume we need to point to a script.c file on disk.
For the final parameter, no description is given, and the parameter name is not really useful. So we’ll ignore this and default it to false

So now we have an idea on how to use the ScriptModule.LoadScript method. Let’s design an interface around this.

Read through the Compile method on line 31. This is the meat of our code. First, we extract our 5_Mission script module. Second, we write our code to disk. Third, we compile this code on top of the parent module. Lastly, we clean our code off the disk. Given our code is valid, and has no errors, this should create a new module in DayZ.

Line 84 is the start of our Run method. This is going to use the ScriptModule.Call method to spin up a new thread at the desired entry point. Unlike the description, this call method actually returns 0 on success.

To make use of our executor, we need to understand *how* the ScriptModule.Call method works when NULL is provided in the first argument. This should call a “global” function. From my experience, this should mean we call a classless “static” function.

Here is the code I want to execute: Note the “Entry” method is a static void without a class. This should be what we want.

Here is how that can be executed using the ArbitraryExecuter class from the previous page:

Tested, and it works! So this is how to execute arbitrary payloads in DayZ. This is a really powerful tool, and can be great if a server needs to run code that changes, or that clients shouldn’t easily know. On the same hand, while this is powerful for good, it can also be used for not-so-good deeds. I’ll be releasing a post later this year that describes one such example of a naughty usage of arbitrary execution.

Do I think this should be changed? No. This functionality will become crucial for more complex servers. I expect this will become more common as larger and larger dev teams start building on DayZ.