An interesting tool: BRW(32-bit reverse engineering)

by Fravia+, MSRE
(May 1997) Re-edited december 2000

Courtesy of fravia's, December 2000
I have re-published this old essay of mine since it is linked from my introduction to Mammon_'s very interesting [Customizing Netscape's buttons and menus], which is in turn linked by the more recent [Some "improving" thoughts on Opera version 5] contributions... besides it can be still useful nowadays.
But re-reading it I was rather disappointed by myself. Mann-o-mann, you get the creeps if you think that everything you put on the web will survive centuries: re-reading the snotty tone I used three years ago I felt quite ashamed (therefore I have re-edited this doc :-)...
(you know, what really disturbs me, is that I fear I'll probably say the same in a couple of years about my current writings... bear with me, gentle reader :-)

What's all about
In this short essay I will show you how quickly you can individuate (and eventually reverse) a protection scheme, or any other feature of a Windows 32 bit program using BRW, Borland Resource Workshop, a mighty tool.

The target: [ultraedit], 574641 bytes: Ultraedit version 3.10, by Ian Mead: BEST texteditor for windoze, higly recommended, incredibly powerful, this is an old, yet powerful enough version: 13/02/96

As "target" I have chosen for this essay a relatively "old" version of Ultraedit32, By Ian Mead: Version 3.10a, from 1996. Should be easy to find through the archies. Ultraedit is a very good Text editor, which has also hex mode editing, unix text mode conversion and other useful utilities. I'm not pirating anything at all of course: it would be extremely easy (and banal) to find NEWER registered versions of Ultraedit on the web for anyone that wants to steal software, besides I prefer other, much older and (therefore?) more powerful, programs for editing files, like psedit.
If you know how to search, I may add, you don't need to "crack" anything at all: when you need something, you simply and quickly fetch the last version of it from the web ("ftpmailed"...why download when you can ftpmail?). It never tooks longer than 5-10 minutes to find and have ftpmailed whatever program or game or image you may need on this web of ours.

You may reverse the eventual protection, of course, and yet you'll most probably use the program for a number of days inferior to the "allowed" time (because usually this timespan is more than enough to arrive to the date of release of the next version :-)

The protection scheme
This program has an annoying "delayed" nagscreen at the beginning, a registration option of the usual name-code comparison algorithm and a "Cinderella" type of protection, set at 45 days.

How we could have reversed it
Obviously we could have easily and quickly eliminated the nagscreen using +ORC's dead listing technique:

:004010E4 833D0CE0450000 cmp dword ptr [0045E00C], 0 ;check if flagged
:004010EB 7466           je 00401153		     ;0=not registered
:004010ED 6A09           push 9 ;This copy of UltraEdit-32 is licensed to
:00401153 6A08           push 8 ;This is an unregistered copy of UltraEdit
And we would also have quickly found the Cinderella protection as well, using the same method:
:00401E60 83F82D          cmp eax, 2D        ;0x2D = 45 :-)
:00401E63 7EA5            jle 00401E0A	     ;not yet 45, continue
:00401E65 E8E4F5FFFF      call 0040144E      ;check if registered
:00401E6A 833D0CE0450000  cmp dword ptr [0045E00C], 0 ;check if flagged
:00401E71 757F            jne 00401EF2	     ;it's a registered user!
:00401E73 6830200000      push 00002030	     ;it's a luser, therefore
:00401E78 682CE14600      push 0046E12C      ;45 Days... expired
BTW, I checked the more recent 4.3 version of Ultraedit: the protection scheme is the same crap (lazy programmers):
cmp 47500C,0 ;holy flag
jne 004023E3 ;nagscreen
cmp eax, 2D  ;0x2D = 45 :-)
The aim of this script
But the aim of this essay is not to reverse such a banale protection, but to teach you how to use ANOTHER powerful reverse engineering tool, very useful for windows programs disassembly: the "magical" BORLAND RESOURCE WORKSHOP.

I believe that a short digression about this tool is very well worth it: The Whitewater Resource Toolkit, that came with Borland C++ 4, was a phantastic tool for windows (16 bit) 3.1 disassembling already, as all real reversers know. Alas, the development died! In 1994 appeared the last known version of it, ported to 32 bit and in the mean time called "Borland Resources Workshop" (Version 4,5 for Borland C++ 4,5, the one you should fetch).

It's a sad world
Unfortunately this tool was TOO powerful and too good, so they of course simply killed it. Whitewater was on this purpose, bought by Symantec (Peter Norton) and the product was no more commercialized. Version 4,5 (GET IT!) is the last one I could find on the net, probably Borland had, in 1994, still some rights on its code and was able to publish it, alas for the last time.

It's a weird world, isn't it? Awful stupid and useless programs are updated every two months and this real (and very powerful) Juwel has been purposedly killed!
That does not wonder me: as we very well know, they do not wont people to UNDERSTAND how a program works, they want only stupid morons that use their (bugged and poor) applications without questioning, understanding or ameliorating them.

Power at your fingers
Ok, fetch, it's a zipped 2,5 megabytes file, if you did not buy it (like I did short after this essay: it appeared with THE COMPLETE Borland C++ 4,5, on the CD-ROM of PCPlus n.38, a UK Computer magazine, August 1997 edition) and now anyway it's vastly available on the web.
This are BRW commands:
**	New Project: Ultraedit exe
**	Dialog 110: (you see it's 110, because it APPEARS in the right 
                     window when you click 110, but)
And this is the immediate answer from my beloved BRW:
110 DIALOG 100, 70, 210, 163
FONT 8, "MS Sans Serif"
 CONTROL "This is an unregistered copy of UltraEdit-32.  
 Use of this program should be on a temporary basis (45 Days max) 
 for evaluation purposes only.  If this program is to be used for purposes 
 other than evaluation please register this program.", -1, "STATIC", 
 sSS_LEFT | WS_CHILD | WS_VISIBLE | WS_GROUP, 34, 18, 151, 55
 CONTROL "Details for registration can be found in the READ.ME file 
 and in the 'About' dialog box on the help menu.", 128, 
 "STATIC", SS_LEFT | WS_CHILD | WS_VISIBLE | WS_GROUP, 35, 76, 151, 35
 CONTROL 2, -1, "STATIC", SS_ICON | WS_CHILD | WS_VISIBLE, 5, 12, 18, 20
 CONTROL "You have", -1, "STATIC", SS_LEFT | WS_CHILD | 
 WS_VISIBLE | WS_GROUP, 36, 115, 40, 12
 WS_VISIBLE | WS_DISABLED | WS_BORDER, 78, 114, 18, 12
 CONTROL "days left for evaluation.", -1, "STATIC", SS_LEFT | 
 WS_VISIBLE | WS_GROUP, 103, 115, 89, 12
 CONTROL "Enter Authorization code", 1, "BUTTON", BS_DEFPUSHBUTTON | 
 WS_VISIBLE | WS_TABSTOP, 49, 137, 113, 14
You wont believe it
Well what do you think you can do now? You found the nagscreen, so what? You will not believe it: It's so easy that its scares me: just choose BRW option "DELETE" (YES!) and simply DELETE dialog 110... BRW recompiles the target on the fly and opla! There is no nagscreen there any more! The target runs without annoying us!

Unbelivable? Try it... See? Now you begin to understand why BRW development has been deemed "not allowed" :-)

More options
You can apply of course the same trick to EVERY PROGRAM of this planet. As a matter of fact BRW is great fun for modifying all your software as you fancy, allowing you quite a palette of options, from puerile to serious reverse engineering of applications you do not happen to have the source code of... (BRW-recompiling is easy if you do not add functionalities and code and just hold to the same length of bytes... if you add code and patch yor targets you should use BRW AND a good recompiler at the same time).

I leave to the brain and the mood of the reader to imagine what a good combination between dead listing, eventual Winicing and BRWing windows 32 applications can offer us :-):
and many many other related goodies.
And since this awful stupid Windows95/97/NT Os will -illogically but unfortunately- spread and spread more and more, all future programs are -at least for a pretty long time being- at your feet as well as at mine, my dear fellow reversers :-)

Work well,

Post scriptum:
I have been criticized ... a reader telling me that in fact there are new versions of BRW...

"Resource Workshop wasn't killed as you state. Borland still offers it, but it has stopped being a stand alone product from them. Instead it is included in Borland c++... Your conclusions are false"

And yet the best (stripped) version of it I could find or gather until now, even writing to Borland, is still version 4,5.
If anyone has any newer version, please notify... but check first that it really is a "development" of BRW, not just another copy of what we already know. (The reader I spoke of above apologized... afterwards)

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(c) 2000: [fravia+], all rights reserved