Add a Binary Payload to your Shell Scripts

Generally when we think of shell scripts we think of editable text, but it's possible to add binary data to your shell script as well. In this case we're going to talk about adding a binary payload to the end of your shell script.

Adding a binary payload to a shell script could, for instance, be used to create a single file shell script that installs your entire software package which could be composed of hundreds of files. You merely append the tar or gzip file of your package as a binary payload to the script file, when the script runs it extracts the payload and does its task with the extracted files.

For this example I assume the appended file is a tar.gz file. The payload is appended to the end of an installation script preceded by a marker line (PAYLOAD:). The appended data is either uuencoded or just binary data. The script that follows takes a single argument which should be the tar.gz to append to the installation script. The installation script template install.sh.in is copied to install.sh with the payload appended. This script is named addpayload.sh follows:

#!/bin/bash

# Check for payload format option (default is uuencode).
uuencode=1
if [[ "$1" == '--binary' ]]; then
	binary=1
	uuencode=0
	shift
fi
if [[ "$1" == '--uuencode' ]]; then
	binary=0
	uuencode=1
	shift
fi

if [[ ! "$1" ]]; then
	echo "Usage: $0 [--binary | --uuencode] PAYLOAD_FILE"
	exit 1
fi


if [[ $binary -ne 0 ]]; then
	# Append binary data.
	sed \
		-e 's/uuencode=./uuencode=0/' \
		-e 's/binary=./binary=1/' \
			 install.sh.in >install.sh
	echo "PAYLOAD:" >> install.sh

	cat $1 >>install.sh
fi
if [[ $uuencode -ne 0 ]]; then
	# Append uuencoded data.
	sed \
		-e 's/uuencode=./uuencode=1/' \
		-e 's/binary=./binary=0/' \
			 install.sh.in >install.sh
	echo "PAYLOAD:" >> install.sh

	cat $1 | uuencode - >>install.sh
fi

In addition to appending the payload it also modifies the installer script to tell it whether the payload is binary or uuencoded.

The template script install.sh.in is out installation script which at this point just untars the payload and nothing else. Actually, it doesn't even untar the payload it just tests it with tar's -t option:

#!/bin/bash

uuencode=1
binary=0

function untar_payload()
{
	match=$(grep --text --line-number '^PAYLOAD:$' $0 | cut -d ':' -f 1)
	payload_start=$((match + 1))
	if [[ $binary -ne 0 ]]; then
		tail -n +$payload_start $0 | tar -tzvf -
	fi
	if [[ $uuencode -ne 0 ]]; then
		tail -n +$payload_start $0 | uudecode | tar -tzvf -
	fi
}

read -p "Install files? " ans
if [[ "${ans:0:1}"  ||  "${ans:0:1}" ]]; then
	untar_payload
	# Do remainder of install steps.
fi

exit 0

In the function untar_payload the script uses grep to search throught itself ($0) for the marker and then it extracts the line number from the grep output and adds one to it. This line number is then passed to tail preceded by a plus sign which causes tail to output everything starting at that line number. The data is then fed directly into tar for extraction if the payload is binary. If it's uuencoded then it's first fed into uudecode before being fed into tar.

To create our installer let's use a simple payload file that contains three files name a, b, and c. We'll add the payload as an uuencoded block:

$ sh addpayload.sh --uuencode abc.tar.gz
$ cat install.sh
#!/bin/bash

... # Installer script lines (see above)
read -p "Install files? " ans
... # More installer script lines (see above)
exit 0

PAYLOAD:
begin 644 -
M'XL(`))%G$D``^W12PJ$0`Q%T2REEI!HK%J/BM`]Z(F?_?O#J8+0&=TS"8'`
M"[Q6_D\WV7V?5AH]=COWBYB9%_4J:Q$UK6J7I`&_R3+-[9B2_+YS_[F]&\8I
JXJ%874#&J_X;^H_0!V2\ZC_3/P```````````````/!D!0OB?_,`*```
`
end

At the end of the file you see the PAYLOAD: marker and the uuencoded block. If we now run the script we get:

$ sh install.sh
Install files? y
-rw-r--r-- mitch/users       0 2009-02-18 11:29 a
-rw-r--r-- mitch/users       0 2009-02-18 11:29 b
-rw-r--r-- mitch/users       0 2009-02-18 11:29 c

I won't show you the --binary usage but it produces the same result, albeit with a slightly smaller foot print since the payload does not have to be uuencoded.

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