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  #1 (permalink)  
Old March 7th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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Default What langauge was this app written in?

Hi, I am examining a package (for work) and am trying to work out what language it was written in. Its install directory contains .dll, .xml, .exe files and an access database, I thought it was .net but when I tried to decompile it I got an error message saying that the CLI header was missing... so no to .net then?! So what language would it be?

If you have to examine a file, how would you work out what language it was originally written in?

Many thanks, Ron
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Old March 7th, 2007, 12:29 PM
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Why do you need this information?

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Old March 7th, 2007, 02:37 PM
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Hi,

Thanks for you concern. I just graduated from doing a security and forensic course. As part of my studies I came across decompilers and only now do I have time enough to look into their potential. I was just wondering if someone was doing this type of investigation how they would go about it. How secure is software from this type of attack. How would I know if I didn't try it, I promise, nothing malicious, only if you know, can you guard against it.

Many thanks, Ron

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Old March 7th, 2007, 02:49 PM
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I should probably point out that doing this, on most applications, is illegal as the license agreement will almost certianly have a clause about Reverse Engineering or Decompiling.

Also, to thrawt would be Decompilations, alot of companys will employ obfuscation to their code at compile time which means that if you manage to get the code back into source format, obfuscation makes the code completely unreadable. Some decompiler claim to circumvent obfuscation, whether that holds true of not I do not know.

Also, the type of files that the program installs is not a very good indication as to what language it is wrote in as I can generate a DLL or EXE file from VB6 just as easily as i could do the same in C#.

Nothing is unbreakable however, so yes, it is possible to decompile anything, you just need the appropriate tools to do so.


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Old March 7th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Ok, let me ask this question, .xml files are a common component used in which type of project .net, VC++, VB...?

All I have seen so far is a load of op code, which doesn't mean very much to me... ah well, it was interesting for a minute :)

Many thanks, Ron

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Old March 7th, 2007, 03:15 PM
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The overly sarcastic answer to that question is, of course, is a Web Application ;]

But seriously, alot of applications are starting to go to XML based config files rather then creating entries into the Windows registery, furthermore, reading an XML file is a simple filesystem function which all languages support. (.NET i can speak for as that is what I program in, i am not sure if C++, for example, contains methods and properties to navigate an XML DOM to grab specific nodes)

What you may want to try is using a Dis-assembler as opposed to a decompiler. A disassembler will show you the properties and methods (along with signatures) but will not show you the source code that is used within those methods and such. (ILDASM in .NET for example) This may give you a clue as to what langauge a particualr dll was compiled in.

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^^Modified text taken from gbianchi profile^^
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Old March 7th, 2007, 03:24 PM
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Thanks for answering my questions. I'll have a look, just actually reading a couple of articles about reverse engineering windows, looks like I will be purchasing a few books :)

Many thanks, Ron

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Old March 7th, 2007, 03:32 PM
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No problem.

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^^Modified text taken from gbianchi profile^^
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Old March 7th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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I would say that the app is "pre-.NET" - since the dll tells you that the CLI header is missing. .NET dlls and exes will have this header. I won't go into the details here, but this is what managed code is all about.

I would guess that the project you are looking at was written in Vb6, C++, or any number of other languages that can be compiled to an ActiveX dll, but most likely either VB6 since it has been a highly popular language for developing apps with an Access db, or C++ which is the second most popular language for this stuff. However, it is possible that your dlls could be "old-fashioned" library function dlls that were (and still are) typically written in C or C++. Another semi-popular language would be Delphi.

Have fun trying to reverse engineer a compiled ActiveX dll or exe. Except for highly valuable proprietary algorithms or forumulas there is little value to most organizations to "decompile" code. Think about it - You want to spend countless hours reconstructing code that was probably poorly written in the first place? There is very little benefit for this. And I am very serious about this: It seems a lot of people see great value in being able to de-compile code, but I have worked on countless projects where I had full access to the code, and I wouldn't have paid anything for it!



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Old March 7th, 2007, 04:16 PM
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Thanks Woody, I will re-iterate, I am just interested to know 'what' information would be available after a program had been decompiled. Its funny, but looking at the .mxl files gives up more information about how the app works than than can be gained from the output of the various decompilers that I tried, unless of course you are a opp code god - I am a mere mortal :) I am curious to know if the database password is plainly visible somewhere but I think mainly I am done looking at this app. Anyway, I like writing my own code, a) sense of satisfaction when it works b) I know exactly what is going on! I to have been in on projects where I have received the code, no comments, no design plans, no developer left from the original team (for various reasons), and a week to 'finish' the project... but sometimes the puzzle is part of the fun... later Ron

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