The effect of all these command line arguments is to bloat both the stack (which grows down) and the heap (which grows up) until they crash into each other. In response to this collision, the next heap allocations actually go above the stack, in the small space between the upper address of the stack and the kernel space at 0xc0000000. We use just enough command line arguments so that we hit this collision, and allocate heap space above the stack, but do not quite run out of virtual address space -- this would halt our exploit!
The main point of going to all this effort is to steer industry narrative away from quibbling about whether a given bug might be exploitable or not. In this specific instance, we took a very subtle memory corruption with poor levels of attacker control over the overflow, poor levels of attacker control over the heap state, poor levels of attacker control over important heap content and poor levels of attacker control over program flow.
Yet still we were able to produce a decently reliable exploit! And there’s a long history of this over the evolution of exploitation: proclamations of non-exploitability that end up being neither advisable nor correct. Furthermore, arguments over exploitability burn time and energy that could be better spent protecting users by getting on with shipping fixes.
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