Pentesting Electron Applications

I recently came across my first Electron application as a target. As is the case I try and take notes as I go and here they are so that I am ready for the next time.

When you are targeting an “app” (various thick client or mobile application targets) I always want to:

  • Decompile it if possible – to enable source code review
  • Modify and recompile if possible – to enable me to add additional debugging to code or circumvent any client side controls.
  • Configure middling of communication channels – to enable testing of the server side API.

That is the general process for this kind of task and the blog post covers how to do all of these for Electron applications.

Extracting .asar Files on Windows

When going to the application’s folder I found that it had a “resources” directory containing a couple of “.asar” files. A quick google uncovered that this is a tar like archive format as per the link below:

This is similar to APKs in the Android app testing realm. To get serious we need to extract these to have a proper look.

First get NodeJs:

After installing this open a new command prompt and type “npm” to check that you have the Node Package Manager working right.

Then install “asar”

npm install --engine-strict asar

As a new user of npm I want to just marvel at the pretty colours for a second:

Oh NPM, you are gorgeous

Also an inbuilt check for vulnerabilities? NPM you are crushing it.. Just crushing it. So how come so many apps have outdated dependencies?

Turns out the above command – while gorgeous – did not stick the “asar” command into the windows path as intended. To do that I subsequently ran this command:

npm install -g asar

Then it was found the command in the path:

Oh asar, I found you, I never knew I needed you 10 minutes ago

I was unclear as to the operation of asar. Specifically, would this extract into the folder in a messy way? In the doubt I created a new folder “app” and copied my target “app.asar” file into that before extracting it:

mkdir app
copy app.asar app
asar e app.asar . 
del app.asar 

Note: that del is important because it stops you packing a massive file back into your modified version later.

I was glad I did copy the target into a folder because extraction did this:

Files Extracted to the Current Directory

Had I done the extraction a directory higher then the target application folder would have been messy.

With access to the source you can go looking for vulnerabilities in the code. I cannot really cover that for you since it will depend on your target.

Modifying the app

If you are half way serious about finding vulnerabilities you will need to modify that source and incorporate your changes when running the target. You need to modify the code and then re-pack the “app.asar” file back.

The best place to start is where the code begins its execution. That is in the “main.js” file within the “createWindow” function as shown:

Showing the createWindow function

I modified this to add a new debugging line as shown:

Added console.log debugging line

The point of this was to tell me that my modified version was running instead of the original. I started a command prompt in the “resources” folder and then executed these commands:

move app.asar app-original.asar
asar pack app app.asar

Note: that move command was about ensuring I have the original “app.asar” on tap if I needed to revert back to it. The pack command would otherwise overwrite the original file.

It turns out that “console.log” writes to stdout which means you can see the output if you run the target application from the command prompt. I prefer to create a .bat file for so that I can view stdout, and stderr easily in a temporary cmd window.

The contents of my bat file were:


The first line ran the target exe, and the second ensured that the cmd window would stay open in the event of the target being closed or crashing (until a key is pressed). I saved this in the folder with “target.exe” and called it “run.bat”. Instead of clicking on the exe I just double clicked on run.bat and got access to all of the debugging output.

Much success the first line of output when I load the application was now:

[*] Injecting in here

You can now see if there are any client side controls you can disable.

Allow Burp Suite to proxy the application

You will want to be able to see the HTTP/HTTPS requests issued by your target application. To do that you need to add an electron command line argument. If we look again at the “createWindow” function you can see two examples already:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-9.png
createWindow function showing commandLine.appendSwitch

At line number 58 I added this switch which configured localhost port 8080 as the HTTP and HTTPS proxy:'proxy-server', '');

Again I had to pack the app folder into app.asar as shown in the previous section.

Electron loads chromium and therefore you will need to install burp’s CA certificate as per this URL:

Once you have done that you should see all the juicy HTTP/HTTPS traffic going into burp.

Congratulations you can now go after the server side requests.

I have covered extracting the Electron application to let you see the code, how to modify the code, and how to middle the traffic. That is more than enough to get going with.

Happy hunting

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