Sometimes we have our app or software developed but not its project folder. As a result, we cannot modify, redevelop the software again or add more features to it. This results in wasting our time writing the code from scratch. In this situation, it is necessary to know its language as well.
This way, we can recreate the same or a better version of the same application or software. Users who are into decompilation and reverse engineering also need to know the language behind the software in executable (.exe) form. Knowing this also reveals the pros and cons of a programming language.
How To Identify The Language of an EXE File?
If you are using Dependency Walker to identify the language of a .exe file, you should look in the extra section in the executable. You will deduce the original language when no explicit tag remains. You will also be able to find out the compiler by recognizing the ABI that has produced the assembler.
The EXE’s signature determines the language of an EXE file. It is because each compiler, EXE modifier, or packer has a unique signature associated with the exe file it has created. Different free tools are used to determine an executable file’s signatures to find its original language.
Dependency Walker is a freeware developed by Microsoft. This software can help you find the language of an EXE file and provide you with a list of the imported and exported functions in a portable EXE file. It also shows you a recursive tree representing the dependencies of the EXE file.
The problem arises when an app or software is written in more than one language and then compiled or converted into the binary language or EXE file. As a result, the process of decompilation and reverse engineering becomes a bit difficult but not impossible if you are familiar with the syntax of languages.
For example, the C language performs “fopen” and “fread” input/output operations on a file. Hence, these keywords help you identify the languages that are not common among them. So, to identify a language an EXE file was written in, you need to know all possible languages’ keywords and built-in functions.
If you have already spent a lot of time trying to identify the language, you need to rest first. Then try using other tools such as PEiD, Detect It Easy, Exeinfo PE, Language 200, etc. It is because each device has its features. For example, PEiD can give you info about the compiler and runtime.
- By Bytecode
If the language of your EXE file is Java, then you can identify it by its bytecode. It is because when you compile an app or software written in Java, it will create its bytecode. Bytecode is an intermediary language that is neither high nor low-level and has a .class extension.
- By 0xCAFEBABE
You can also identify that the language of an EXE file is Java by its magic number 0xCAFEBABE. In contrast to the .class extension, it is at the beginning of the bytecode file. Heuristics can help you find the language faster, such as figuring out the calling conventions, epilogues, prologues, etc. Suppose a string appears to be a byte length (8 bits) in the beginning. Then the language is Pascal because other languages terminate their strings using 0x0. An idiom recognizer or a disassembler can help you identify the source compiler. And by knowing the compiler, you can quickly know the language of an EXE file.
- Use for Apps
Knowing the language of an EXE file is very important as this is the only way to reverse engineering an app or software. In this way, you can not only redevelop the same software but also add new features to it by removing the flaws of the older one. Most users do this for the analysis of malicious code in the apps.
What is an Executable File?
An executable (EXE file) is a digital file stored on a computer. These files are developed in a specific language and have an extension of .exe in the end. EXE file is in a low-level language such as machine language. A computer can run these files directly without converting or compiling them.
These files consist of an encoded sequence of program instructions written by a programmer in a specific language using a particular IDE (Integrated Development Environment). The advantage of EXE files is that you do not need other programs to run them on a PC or laptop but only by double-clicking on their icons.
The executable files’ extensions are EXE, OSX, COM, CMD, BAT, IPA, INF, RUN, WSH, and PIF. Most of the EXE files are not safe; hence they cause a security threat. Technical users can reverse engineer an EXE file even by using a decompiler. If not protected, then these files can reveal business secrets.
As a result, the competitors can develop the same app or software, removing the flaws in the main software. It can lead the sale or download of specific software to decrease as the better version is available in the market. Computer science students can use EXE files for educational purposes.
When an app or software is developed, it is usually in a high-level language such as C#, C++, Python, Java, etc. No computer can understand the code or programming instructions in a high-level language. That is why an EXE file is created so the Windows operating system can execute it.
Malware Concerns with Executable File
It is possible that an EXE file can contain some sort of malware. Malware is nothing but harmful software that either damages a PC or laptop or gives unauthorized access to some unknown person your computer system. Cybercriminals disguise malware as an EXE file, and you lose your precious data.
That is why we recommend you never download and install an EXE file that an unknown company develops while the file is not verified. It is because either they will have an eye on your activities on your computer, including the passwords you type, or they will blackmail you and ask you for money.
Windows is one of the best operating systems that ask their user when they execute an EXE file. Whether they want to proceed with executing it or cancel its execution. Also, it will not let you download the malicious EXE file in the first place. Secondly, it will warn you and try to stop you from running it.
You should always scan an EXE file before running it, even if it says “Trusted File.” Your antivirus or antimalware will detect the malicious executable file and may even delete it with or without your permission. Your operating system (OS) also has the authority to block malware or virus-containing files.
Detect and Identify an EXE, DLL Compiler, or Packer
Here, we will use well-known and free software to find out the signatures of an EXE file. This tool is called Exeinfo PE, but you can also use PEiD. First, download the tool or software that will reveal the signatures of your EXE file. Try downloading it from its original website for security purposes.
When downloading the software, you need to use a tool to extract it as it should be in a ZIP file. You can use Winrar for this, as it is free to download and install. After this, extract the Exeinfo PE and start it after opening its folder. A small window will pop up that will have multiple textboxes and buttons.
You can either drag and drop a file on it or open a file by clicking the folder icon and navigating to the file manually. You can also speed up the navigation by copying the path to the EXE file you want to see the signatures of to find out the language it was developed in. On this, it will show you the details of the EXE file.
These details include entry point, first bytes, overlay, subsystem, linker info, EO section, etc. Clicking the PE button will give you more information on the EXE file you want to reverse engineer or analyze. Not only this, but it will also reveal the date of creation and the digital certificate of that EXE file.
Additionally, it will show the compiler name, packer name, and much more information about that EXE file. This tool is only available for Windows OS users, and those who possess a Mac OS, Linux OS, or any other must use a different tool.
So, this is everything about EXE files. We hope that you have now understood what kind of file an EXE file is and what it does in a computer system.
EXE files are the most critical files for the Windows operating system and its users. Every application you use on your computer runs with the help of .exe files. An EXE file may contain malicious software or malware which can cause severe damage to your computer or even steal your private and confidential information. Therefore, you should always be careful while downloading and running an executable file.
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