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what's a good, simple intro to the basics of this kind of cracking for someone who is an experienced programmer, knows some C, etc, but has little system level or assembly experience?

I would really suggest purchasing a good book about it. From my point of view, I would go for "Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2nd Edition" from Jon Erickson which goes in depth about how to crack programs using gdb and other tools. It's really a wonderful book if you want to learn more about the world of cracking in general, and it doesn't require much prior security experience.

Quick link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hacking-The-Art-Exploitation-Edition/d...

I've done some of this book. It's good, but you're better off knowing the basics before trying to really learn from it I think. I only knew a little C when I started, so I only got about 4 or 5 chapters after much googling before I drowned.

Learn some ASM and get familiar with gdb before attempting

It's definetely out there if you have only done a little C. It doesn't require any previous security knowledge though as I stated. But like you realized, it does require you to know your way around low-level programming.


The lena151 tutorials are especially good:


The bomb lab discussed elsewhere in this comment thread.

crackmes.de and exploit exercises VMs

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