Interfacing directly with the kernel


A syscall is a system call, and is how the program enters the kernel in order to carry out specific tasks such as creating processes, I/O and any others they would require kernel-level access.

Browsing the list of syscalls, you may notice that certain syscalls are similar to libc functions such as open(), fork() or read(); this is because these functions are simply wrappers around the syscalls, making it much easier for the programmer.

Triggering Syscalls

On Linux, a syscall is triggered by the int80 instruction. Once it's called, the kernel checks the value stored in RAX - this is the syscall number, which defines what syscall gets run. As per the table, the other parameters can be stored in RDI, RSI, RDX, etc and every parameter has a different meaning for the different syscalls.


A notable syscall is the execve syscall, which executes the program passed to it in RDI. RSI and RDX hold arvp and envp respectively.

This means, if there is no system() function, we can use execve to call /bin/sh instead - all we have to do is pass in a pointer to /bin/sh to RDI, and populate RSI and RDX with 0 (this is because both argv and envp need to be NULL to pop a shell).

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