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Posted 19 Sep 2016
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C# Prevent Decompilation by Decrypting Source at Runtime

, 22 Sep 2016
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C# Prevent decompilation by decrypting source at runtime

Hello world!

Today, we continue the “Trolling the Decompiler” series (first part here: Prevent Reflector from Decompiling) but now with a more serious approach - this one should work on any decompiler.

The point is: it is rather difficult to make .NET programs run with a key or license; since these can be reverted back to their source code, anyone can alter it or just learn to create fake keys that will be seen as valid.

Decompiling a simple CrackMe to reveal the password

Possible Solution

One way to make an application a little bit more difficult to crack would be to deliver it as a program that decrypts instructions, compiles and runs them only when needed. This way, if someone finds out where the source code is stored, it will still be encrypted and without a key (or license) it is unusable.

We’re kinda writing polymorphic stuff here - AVs won’t be happy; actually…only 2/57 don’t like it, we’re good.

1. Making the Compiler

We’re not really going to reinvent the wheel here - .NET seems to allow us to use the original compiler to produce an Assembly. Just as always, we start with a CodeDomProvider, add a bunch of settings using CompilerParameters and a few source codes.

CodeDomProvider provider = CodeDomProvider.CreateProvider("CSharp");

CompilerParameters parameters = new CompilerParameters();

parameters.GenerateExecutable = true;
parameters.GenerateInMemory = true; // it's still going to generate a file somewhere in AppData (temp)
parameters.TreatWarningsAsErrors = false;
            
// I need these references because the program that I will 'secure'
// is that Form from the photo above that requires a password
parameters.ReferencedAssemblies.Add("System.Windows.Forms.dll");
parameters.ReferencedAssemblies.Add("System.dll");
parameters.ReferencedAssemblies.Add("System.Drawing.dll");

// getContents() is a method that extracts & decrypts the source codes 
// of the 'secured' application and returns everything as an array of Strings
// in order to be compiled

CompilerResults result = provider.CompileAssemblyFromSource(parameters, getContents());

If you look around, there’s also an article that provides a little bit more detail about how to compile code at runtime using CSharpCodeProvider and ICodeCompiler which are now considered obsolete, but the code is similar.

2. Running the Compiled Assembly

What we’re interested in is result.CompiledAssembly - in order to run it, we have to create an instance of the method that serves as entrypoint and then invoking it.

Short note: If the assembly that you’re trying to run belongs to a Console Application and this program has the same project type, you might need to call FreeConsole() and then AllocConsole(). Without recreating the Console, there seems to be no output from the compiled assembly.

This is how we can run the compiled code:

Assembly assembly = result.CompiledAssembly;

//taking the entrypoint
MethodInfo methodInfo = assembly.EntryPoint;

// creating an instance
object entryPointInstance = assembly.CreateInstance(methodInfo.Name);

// then invoking it with no arguments (hence the 'null')
methodInfo.Invoke(entryPointInstance, null);

3. Encrypting & Attaching Source Code

This is one of the tough parts - we take the source codes of the files that we want to secure and encrypt them (I use AES with Rijndael’s algorithm), then attach the results at the end of the executable that we’ve been working on at the previous steps.

Here, the content of the executable and each source code are separated by a sequence of 3 FS (File Separator Character). It’s not the clean way to handle this… don’t use it in serious projects; but for this tutorial, it should be fine.

FS = 28(dec) = 1C(hex);

The method that I use looks like this:

static void appendContents(String fileName)
{
    // fileName contains the name of the decrypter 
    FileStream fstream = new FileStream(fileName, FileMode.Append);
    
    // attaching the first 3 FS chars
    fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
    fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
    fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);

    // grabbing any .cs file (anything that needs to be encrypted and attached)
    string[] sourceFiles = Directory.GetFiles(Path.GetDirectoryName
    (Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().Location), "*.cs", SearchOption.AllDirectories);

    // taking each source file
    for (int i = 0; i < sourceFiles.Length; i++)
    {
        byte[] buffer = File.ReadAllBytes(sourceFiles[i]);
                

        // removing UTF8's byte order mark, if needed
        if (buffer.Length > 2 && buffer[0] == 0xEF && buffer[1] == 0xBB && buffer[2] == 0XBF)
        {
            // skipping the first 3 bytes
            byte[] newBuffer = new byte[buffer.Length - 3];
            Array.Copy(buffer, 3, newBuffer, 0, buffer.Length - 3);

            // encrypting with a test key
            newBuffer = EncryptMessage(newBuffer, "abcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcd");

            // writing...
            fstream.Write(newBuffer, 0, newBuffer.Length);
        }
        else
        {
            // same thing as above, but for texts without BOM
            buffer = EncryptMessage(buffer, "abcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcd");
            fstream.Write(buffer, 0, buffer.Length);
        }

        // more separators!
        fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
        fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
        fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
    }
}

I’ll not add EncryptMessage()’s code here since it’s not related to the actual subject - you can find it below, in the complete source code.

4. Extracting & Decrypting Source Code

Procedure that runs before the whole compile & run thingy - we look for any sequence of 3 FS characters, skip the executable’s content, take the encrypted source code and run it through the decryption method - the result is pure C# code that will be given to the compiler.

Remember to replace the "abcdabcdabc..." decryption key with what the user inputs in order to use the program (like a license) - line 31.

static String[] getContents()
{
    // reads all the bytes found in the running executable's file
    byte[] bytes = File.ReadAllBytes(Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().Location);

    int i = 0;
            
    List<String> sourceFiles = new List<String>();

    // skipping the original executable's data
    for (i = 0; i < bytes.Length - 2; i++)
    {
        // if there are 3 FS characters in a row
        // then there's a source file
        if (bytes[i] == bytes[i + 1] && bytes[i + 1] == bytes[i + 2] && bytes[i + 2] == 28)
        {
            i += 3;
            break;
        }
    }

    // here I should keep one sourcefile at a time
    List<Byte> sourceFileBuffer = new List<Byte>(4000);

    for (; i < bytes.Length - 2; i++)
    {
        // checking if I reached the end of a sourcefile
        if (bytes[i] == bytes[i + 1] && bytes[i + 1] == bytes[i + 2] && bytes[i + 2] == 28)
        {
            // TO DO: decrypt with the key given by the user of the program
            sourceFiles.Add(Encoding.Default.GetString(DecryptMessage
            (sourceFileBuffer.ToArray(), "abcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcd")));
            sourceFileBuffer.Clear();
            i += 2;
        }
        else
            sourceFileBuffer.Add(bytes[i]);
    }

    // returning the array of source codes
    return sourceFiles.ToArray();
}

Final Notes & Complete Source Code

Below, you’ll find the source code I ended up with while writing this article. It’s more like a fast way to explain an idea - it needs some “patching”.

In order to actually use it, you should split this into 2 programs - one for encrypting and attaching and the other to do the decryption, compilation & execution. You send only the latter one to the user - so he won’t get the encryption key - this or switch to an asymmetric algorithm. Also don’t forget to remove the hardcoded decryption key and ask the user for his own.

using System;
using System.CodeDom.Compiler;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.IO;
using System.Reflection;
using System.Security.Cryptography;
using System.Text;

namespace ConsoleApplication1
{
    class Program
    {
        const int CHAR_FS = 28;

        public static byte[] EncryptMessage(byte[] text, string key)
        {
            RijndaelManaged aes = new RijndaelManaged();
            aes.KeySize = 256;
            aes.BlockSize = 256;
            aes.Padding = PaddingMode.Zeros;
            aes.Mode = CipherMode.CBC;

            aes.Key = Encoding.Default.GetBytes(key);
            aes.GenerateIV();

            string IV = Encoding.Default.GetString(aes.IV);

            ICryptoTransform AESEncrypt = aes.CreateEncryptor(aes.Key, aes.IV);
            byte[] buffer = text;

            return Encoding.Default.GetBytes(Encoding.Default.GetString
            (AESEncrypt.TransformFinalBlock(buffer, 0, buffer.Length)) + IV);
        }

        public static byte[] DecryptMessage(byte[] text, string key)
        {
            RijndaelManaged aes = new RijndaelManaged();
            aes.KeySize = 256;
            aes.BlockSize = 256;
            aes.Padding = PaddingMode.Zeros;
            aes.Mode = CipherMode.CBC;

            aes.Key = Encoding.Default.GetBytes(key);

            byte[] IV = new byte[32];
            Array.Copy(text, text.Length - 32, IV, 0, 32);

            byte[] text2 = new byte[text.Length - 32];
            Array.Copy(text, text2, text2.Length);

            aes.IV = IV;

            ICryptoTransform AESDecrypt = aes.CreateDecryptor(aes.Key, aes.IV);

            return AESDecrypt.TransformFinalBlock(text2, 0, text2.Length);
        }

        static void appendContents(String fileName)
        {
            FileStream fstream = new FileStream(fileName, FileMode.Append);
            fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
            fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
            fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);


            string[] sourceFiles = Directory.GetFiles(Path.GetDirectoryName
            (Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().Location), "*.cs", SearchOption.AllDirectories);


            for (int i = 0; i < sourceFiles.Length; i++)
            {
                byte[] buffer = File.ReadAllBytes(sourceFiles[i]);
                

                // removing UTF8's byte order mark...
                if (buffer.Length > 2 && buffer[0] == 0xEF && buffer[1] == 0xBB && buffer[2] == 0XBF)
                {
                    byte[] newBuffer = new byte[buffer.Length - 3];
                    Array.Copy(buffer, 3, newBuffer, 0, buffer.Length - 3);

                    newBuffer = EncryptMessage(newBuffer, "abcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcd");

                    fstream.Write(newBuffer, 0, newBuffer.Length);
                }
                else
                {
                    buffer = EncryptMessage(buffer, "abcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcd");

                    fstream.Write(buffer, 0, buffer.Length);
                }

                fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
                fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
                fstream.WriteByte(CHAR_FS);
            }
        }
        static String[] getContents()
        {
            byte[] bytes = File.ReadAllBytes(Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().Location);

            int i = 0;
            
            List<String> sourceFiles = new List<String>();

            for (i = 0; i < bytes.Length - 2; i++)
            {
                if (bytes[i] == bytes[i + 1] && bytes[i + 1] == bytes[i + 2] && bytes[i + 2] == 28)
                {
                    i += 3;
                    break;
                }
            }

            List<Byte> sourceFileBuffer = new List<Byte>(4000);

            for (; i < bytes.Length - 2; i++)
            {
                if (bytes[i] == bytes[i + 1] && bytes[i + 1] == bytes[i + 2] && bytes[i + 2] == 28)
                {
                    sourceFiles.Add(Encoding.Default.GetString
                    (DecryptMessage(sourceFileBuffer.ToArray(), "abcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcdabcd")));
                    sourceFileBuffer.Clear();
                    i += 2;
                }
                else
                    sourceFileBuffer.Add(bytes[i]);
            }
            return sourceFiles.ToArray();
        }

        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            CodeDomProvider provider = CodeDomProvider.CreateProvider("CSharp");

            CompilerParameters parameters = new CompilerParameters();

            parameters.GenerateExecutable = true;
            parameters.GenerateInMemory = true;
            parameters.TreatWarningsAsErrors = false;
            

            parameters.ReferencedAssemblies.Add("System.Windows.Forms.dll");
            parameters.ReferencedAssemblies.Add("System.dll");
            parameters.ReferencedAssemblies.Add("System.Drawing.dll");

            if (args.Length > 0)
            {
                appendContents(args[0]);
                return;
            }

            // source-files
            CompilerResults result = provider.CompileAssemblyFromSource(parameters, getContents());


            if (result.Errors.Count > 0)
            {
                foreach (CompilerError er in result.Errors)
                    Console.WriteLine(er.ToString());

                Console.ReadLine();
                return;
            }

            Assembly assembly = result.CompiledAssembly;
            MethodInfo methodInfo = assembly.EntryPoint;

            object entryPointInstance = assembly.CreateInstance(methodInfo.Name);
            methodInfo.Invoke(entryPointInstance, null);
        }
    }
}

Proof of concept

I made a short youtube video where I run this - look it up in the original article.

 

 

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Apex95
Student
Romania Romania
Student @ ACS (UPB), developer wannabe, mad C# fan and webmaster of coding.vision

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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionAchilles Heel Pin
Andre_Prellwitz26-Sep-16 9:01
memberAndre_Prellwitz26-Sep-16 9:01 
Suggestionthe is a better way Pin
sx200823-Sep-16 15:11
membersx200823-Sep-16 15:11 
QuestionWorth a try Pin
AnotherKen22-Sep-16 19:10
professionalAnotherKen22-Sep-16 19:10 
QuestionLooks like snake oil Pin
Rolf Borchmann22-Sep-16 8:18
memberRolf Borchmann22-Sep-16 8:18 
AnswerRe: Looks like snake oil Pin
Apex9522-Sep-16 12:49
memberApex9522-Sep-16 12:49 
GeneralRe: Looks like snake oil Pin
Rolf Borchmann23-Sep-16 11:27
memberRolf Borchmann23-Sep-16 11:27 
GeneralRe: Looks like snake oil Pin
Yves Goergen28-Sep-16 21:17
memberYves Goergen28-Sep-16 21:17 
QuestionLooks good Pin
Robin21-Sep-16 16:17
memberRobin21-Sep-16 16:17 
AnswerRe: Looks good Pin
Apex9522-Sep-16 0:24
memberApex9522-Sep-16 0:24 
SuggestionPlease review your formatting Pin
Tomas Takac19-Sep-16 21:28
memberTomas Takac19-Sep-16 21:28 
GeneralRe: Please review your formatting Pin
Apex9519-Sep-16 22:46
memberApex9519-Sep-16 22:46 
GeneralRe: Please review your formatting Pin
Tomas Takac20-Sep-16 1:44
memberTomas Takac20-Sep-16 1:44 

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