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Decompiling in .NET for dummies ๐Ÿค“

dotnetsafer profile image Dotnetsafer ใƒป8 min read

Hello to all developers ๐Ÿ‘‹, I am Juan and I am part of the dotnetsafer team.

We do this article for a very simple reason, in our offices (a co-working space) there are quite a few companies that develop in .NET, and one day at lunch I commented what we were doing and they did not understand anything, it turns out that they had no idea what decompilation is, they did not know that with a simple tool you could see, copy or modify its development, not in all cases you should be concerned, but for some of them the core of the business is the development itself and obviously it did not do much grace.

I have to say that this happens in all compiled languages, but I will focus on .NET which is what we master.

In this article I am going to show basic notions about de-compilation and reverse engineering, if you are interested in something more complex, do not hesitate to ask us!

Disclaimer This article is for educational and training orientation, we are not responsible for the misuse of the techniques and explanations mentioned in this article and / or the use of the tools mentioned / provided, also we do not assume responsibility for the actions carried out with the information of the same. Please use this information for ethical purposes.

Note: To carry out the practical parts we use DnSpy, but we provide you with the same tool from https://decompiler.dotnetsafer.com so that you can carry out the tutorial from your browser without having to download anything โ™ฅ. (Simply to decompile drag the applications to the left part shown on the screen, the code will be displayed on the right part).

What is de-compilation

De-compilation is the reverse of compilation (I'm going to patent this great explanation).

That is, the COMPILATION is basically:

  1. You write code
  2. You push the magic compile button and it becomes an executable/file/.exe/dll... (Well, it should ... surely you forgot a semicolon or something like that ๐Ÿ˜ช) you will also have 103 warnings โš , but if you don't open your eyes, you don't see them ๐Ÿคญ.

The process will be something like this:

compiling and application

Well, de-compilation is the opposite, you have an executable file, .dll, .exe..., and with a tool (decompiler) you get the original source code.

decompilation

And is it simple ๐Ÿ™„?
I'd say it's easier than compiling, but let's see how it's done.

Decompiling a .NET / .NET Core application

Let's decompile a simple application:

decompiling .net app

For this example we will use DnSpy. There are several tools and each one is good for something in particular, but DnSpy is one of the best for decompiling and debugging .NET applications.

When we compile our .NET Core application, we will obtain the compiled files, in the case of .NET Core the ".exe" file will be the executable, but it will be in charge of executing the ".dll" that contains the code of our application.

Ok, let's proceed to decompile the .dll file:

decompiling net core

To do this, all we have to do is drag it to DnSpy:

dnspy .net core

Once loaded, the original source code will be shown and we can work on it, we can analyze it, modify it, debug it, etc.

Viewing the source code

Once our application is decompiled, we can navigate through the source code as if it were our own project:

source code .net

Debug the app

This will be useful to understand how it works or to obtain some values in memory.

For example, let's put a breakpoint before doing a subtraction:

dnspy breakpoint

and then we will run the application:

dnspy debug net core

Here is a simple example:

dnspy debug

This is a function that can be very useful at times, but it can also be dangerous โšก.

Modify the code

We can modify and re-compile the application without any problem:

craking .net core app

We can also do it using IL code, but if we do not know it it will be much more complex.

We change that simple text:

changing cil body .net core

and we compile again:

compiling .net core

Now to save our modified application, we will give:

saving module dnspy

We will select the name of the file, its path and we will mark the following options:

metadata dnspy

and we will have our modified application:

modified net core app

Ok, these are simple and unimportant examples, I leave to your imagination ๐Ÿ’ญ everything that could be done with these simple tools.

Now we are going to see other types of applications, because compilation in .NET is the same, it does not matter if you use c#, vb, ASP, Xamarin, Blazor, everything works in the same way, let's see then with a Blazor application.

Decompiling a web application with Blazor

Now we have created a sample web application with Blazor, this is the application code in visual studio:

blazor net core app

Basically it is an application that shows the weather and we have added Dotnetsafer in the middle so that we can see it later in the decompiled application, here is the web application:

blazor webapp

Ok, let's get the code again.

First we will use our browser (it does not matter which one), since when loading the .NET libraries to display the application, it makes a call to obtain them.

We must enter inspection mode Ctrl + Shift + C and go to section Network, later reload the page with Ctrl + F5.

Here will be the file that contains the code of our web application:

.net blazor file

You can also obtain all the dependencies or own .net files that are used by the application

Well, we download it and open it again with DnSpy:

decompiling blazor with DnSpy

Once we have the decompiled file we can do everything that I mentioned in the previous point.

Decompiling a mobile app with Xamarin

We raised the level of difficulty a little ๐Ÿงจ, but the operation is still the same.

We have created a simple application for mobile devices with Xamarin, the compiled application will have the extension .APK

The first thing we will do is unzip the APK, there are tools for this, but it is not necessary, for something so simple we can use winrar, (yes, the program that never expires ๐Ÿ†“):

decompiling apk

and we will copy all the files in a folder:

decompiling xamarin apk

Inside the folder Assemblies all .NET files will be found:

.net xamarin files

Here comes the interesting thing, these files have lz4 compression, which will give us an error if we try to decompile it with DnSpy:

dnspy error decompiling xamarin files

For this I bring a simple solution, a small Python script that will help us decompress all the .NET .dll files.

Yes, this sounds very complex, and it seems that you must be an expert:

hacking .net

But it really is something very simple that we will do in less than a minute.

Decompress Xamarin .NET Libraries

If you don't have Python on your machine, install it previously.

Once we have Python (I run it from the VSCode terminal) we proceed:

Install lz4:

https://dev-to-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/i/ua8pyhcf6ard0h1dx2pl.png

python -m pip install lz4 or simply pip install lz4

Use of the decompression script

import lz4.block
import sys
import struct
import os

def print_usage_and_exit():
    sys.exit("usage: py .\\decompressor.py target_path")

cwd = os.path.abspath(os.getcwd())

def decompress(filePath):
    input_filepath = filePath
    output_path = os.path.join("extracted", "");

    if(not os.path.exists(output_path)):
        os.mkdir(output_path)

    output_filepath = os.path.join(output_path, os.path.basename(filePath))
    header_expected_magic = b'XALZ'

    with open(input_filepath, "rb") as xalz_file:
        data = xalz_file.read()

        if data[:4] != header_expected_magic:
            sys.exit("The input file does not contain the expected magic bytes, aborting ...")

        header_index = data[4:8]
        header_uncompressed_length = struct.unpack('<I', data[8:12])[0]
        payload = data[12:]

        print("header index: %s" % header_index)
        print("compressed payload size: %s bytes" % len(payload))
        print("uncompressed length according to header: %s bytes" % header_uncompressed_length)

        decompressed = lz4.block.decompress(payload, uncompressed_size=header_uncompressed_length)

        with open(output_filepath, "wb") as output_file:
            output_file.write(decompressed)
            output_file.close()
        print("result written to file")

if __name__ == "__main__":
    n = 0
    for file in os.listdir(cwd):
        try:
            if(file.endswith(".dll")):
                decompress(file)
                n += 1;
        except:
            print("failed to decompress " + os.path.basename(file))

    print("\\nDecompressed ", n, " assemblies!")

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The author of this script is Christian Reitter, X41 D-Sec GmbH, thank you for your article at X41 D-Sec GmbH, we have modified it to unzip all the files in the directory.

We will copy the code into a file called decompress.py and we will save it in the same path as our .dll files.

Decompress the files we need:

decompress .net xamarin files

We will do it with py .\decompressor.py .\, we'll let it decompress all the .dll files in the directory.

In this case I am only interested in the two files corresponding to my application.

What has not been so difficult?

hacking xamarin

Now we have the files ready to open with DnSpy:

decompiling xamarin files with dnspy

Now again we can do everything I mentioned earlier, the procedure is always the same, only the way in which the files are compiled varies.

This applies to all applications under .NET, such as games developed in Unity with C #, virtual reality applications and augmented reality.

Did you like this article?

It has been very simple but I consider it fine for a basic level and learn a little about these topics ๐Ÿ˜Š.

If you have found it interesting, do not hesitate to support it, and tell us below ๐Ÿ‘‡ if you want to know something else, like let's talk about cracking, injection and other aspects.

We could do some interesting practices or whatever you want to see around here.

Thank you for reading the article โค and remember that in dotnetsafer we will be uploading articles about security in relation to .NET ๐Ÿ›ก.

You have the web version of Dnspy at https://decompiler.dotnetsafer.com so that you can comfortably do all the tests in this article without having to download any program.

Thank you for your attention, we hope you have learned a lot!

goodbye

Discussion (3)

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yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

10 years ago I was using Red Gate .NET Reflector for code review. We ask the vendor to submit both source code and compiled binary, but I find it faster to decompile the DLL than to open the solution in Visual Studio.

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dotnetsafer profile image
Dotnetsafer Author

Yes, decompiling can sometimes be more efficient especially when it comes to finding and solving errors at runtime, you can remotely debug on different machines.

We know .NET reactor but if you still have the need, we recommend dnSpy, it has much more complex functions.

We also offer security against these tools because they are generally not used in an ethical way and can cause losses in the company.

Even if you are interested in .NET security in general, we recommend you follow us to be aware of the products that we are going to publish during this year ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Thank you very much for your input !

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ericserafim profile image
Eric Serafim

Thanks for sharing!!