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Detecting PoshC2 – Indicators of Compromise

As a counterpart to the release of PoshC2 version 6.0 we are providing a list of some of its Indicators of Compromise (IoCs), particularly as used out-of-the-box, as well as some other effective methods for detecting it in your environment.

We also introduce the new PoshC2 Detections GitHub repository at https://github.com/nettitude/PoshC2_IOCs that will be continually updated as development continues, in order to assist blue teams with detecting PoshC2, particularly when used by less sophisticated attackers that do not alter or configure it to change the default IoCs. We encourage the community to contribute to and help update and improve this repository.

It is worth noting that PoshC2 is open source, so while these are IoCs for PoshC2 if used it its default state, ultimately it can be altered either through configuration or by changing the source code itself. The default configuration is subject to change, however where possible the location of that value is pointed out to the reader in order to allow these values to be monitored and updated, in addition to providing the GitHub repository.

Communications

One way to detect PoshC2 is to focus on the communications. Compromised hosts have to communicate with the C2 server somehow in order to pick up tasks and return task output. This is unavoidable and PoshC2 can currently only do this through the use of HTTP(S) requests.

That isn’t to say this this makes it easy to detect; a huge amount of HTTP traffic is present in most environments and the flexibility of the protocol allows for traffic to be hidden and routed through legitimate websites using techniques such as Domain Fronting and reverse proxies.

An example of HTTP comms when domain fronting.

An example of HTTP comms when domain fronting.

Something very helpful for catching C2 communications is SSL Inspection. By being able to inspect SSL traffic leaving the perimeter, the contents of that traffic can be checked and statistics acquired for detecting C2 communications. Without this, network defenders are largely blind, particularly against domain fronted communications which travel via legitimate third-party websites.

If SSL Inspection is implemented then the HTTP traffic can be viewed, and while PoshC2 encrypts the contents of the HTTP bodies, the HTTP URLs and headers can still be viewed.

URLs

PoshC2 has two different ways of generating URLs to use for communications. Operators can either use a static list of URLs or provide a wordlist from which random URLs will be generated, and these files are stored at resources/urls.txt and resources/wordlist.txt respectively, with the static URL list being the default option. These URLs are then loaded into the database when the project is first created, and a random URL is chosen by each implant each time it beacons. The default URL list is below:

While these URLs were originally copied from legitimate requests, if you see several of them being repeated to a site, particularly if they do not seem relevant to that site and if the response does not make sense, then it could be PoshC2 beacon traffic.

HTTP Responses

PoshC2 also has static HTML responses that it responds with. The default is six HTTP 200 responses and one 404 response. These are stored in files at resources/responses/ and also loaded into the database when the server is first created. The server responds with a random 200 response to POST requests that do not error or require a specific response, and with the single 404 response to all unexpected URLs or when the C2 server errors. Other responses return context relevant data, such as tasks, implant code and so on.

This static HTML file then at resources/responses/404_response.html is an IoC and if returned from a webserver that you are investigating is suggestive of PoshC2. Similarly, the 200_response* files in the same directory are IoCs if returned by POST requests.

Note however, that it is recommended that operators change these files before creating a PoshC2 project, as is the use of a C2 proxy, so as with the other indicators the absence of this particular response is not unexpected for a PoshC2 installation.

SSL Certificate

PoshC2 by default creates a self-signed certificate for its HTTP server, the values for which are stored in poshc2/server/Config.py file. These values are not in the ‘normal’ configuration file config.yml and are less documented and are therefore harder to change.

An experienced operator will not expose their C2 server to the internet, but will instead use a proxy server with a valid certificate and filter firewall traffic to the C2 server that is not from that proxy, however if these steps are not taken and a certificate with the below values is presented then it is another strong indicator that PoshC2 is in use, likely by less sophisticated adversaries.

The issuer data can be viewed using Chrome and the default values suggest this is a PoshC2 server.

The issuer data can be viewed using Chrome and the default values suggest this is a PoshC2 server.

JA3 Signatures

Another method for signaturing C2 traffic without SSL Inspection is to fingerprint the Client Hello packet that initialises the TCP connection. The specific bytes that make up the packet are dependent upon the type of connection being formed and the underlying packages and methods used to do so.

As these packets are sent before encryption has been established they are cleartext and can be intercepted and read. It turns out that the packet contents are quite unique and can be fingerprinted. Salesforce have an excellent blog post on JA3 fingerprinting, but essentially the details are extracted from the packets that make up this TCP handshake and hashed to create a quick and easy signature, that can be used to identify not only that PoshC2 is in use, but also the specific implant type.

The current Windows 10 PoshC2 signatures are below:

PowerShell: c12f54a3f91dc7bafd92cb59fe009a35

Sharp: fc54e0d16d9764783542f0146a98b300

JA3 fingerprinting has been incorporated into security products such as Splunk and Darktrace to provide quick and easy identification of C2 traffic, and can be utilised with these fingerprints. These fingerprints are available and will be maintained in the PoshC2 Detections GitHub repository.

Telemetry

Another mechanism for detecting C2 traffic, with or without SSL Inspection, is through the use of telemetry.

PoshC2’s default values for beacon time and jitter in the config.yml file are 5 seconds and a 20% jitter, as can be seen below, which is both a fast beacon rate and a small jitter, making it relatively easy to detect using this method.

With these values the implants are going to beacon every 4-6 seconds by default, with an average of 5 seconds.

After capturing some traffic, filtering by the C2 server host and only checking TLS Client Hello packets, we can see that the TLS connection is created roughly every five seconds, confirming what we expect.

We can see the difference between each session initialisation is between 4 and 6 seconds.

We can see the difference between each session initialisation is between 4 and 6 seconds.

By exploring this small sample of data, we can determine that the average time between the requests is 5.05 seconds, with a standard deviation of 0.81 or 16%, close to the 5 second beacon with the 20% jitter we expect from PoshC2’s defaults.

Security products that can provide telemetry data, e.g. Splunk can be used to detect C2 traffic in this way by checking for repetitive beacons at a relatively fixed frequency, whether it’s at the above defaults for PoshC2 or at any frequency, given that it is configurable.

PowerShell Implant

PoshC2 has three implant types; PowerShell, C#, and Python, with the latter being a lightweight implant type mostly intended for compromising *nix hosts.

The PowerShell Implant runs by loading System.Management.Automation.dll, the engine behind PowerShell.exe, into the desired process and executing PowerShell commands directly using this DLL.

The PowerShell implant supports full PowerShell execution from any process (here netsh.exe) by loading System.Management.Automation.dll.

The PowerShell implant supports full PowerShell execution from any process (here netsh.exe) by loading System.Management.Automation.dll.

While this does not utilise PowerShell.exe, bypassing many restrictions and controls, it is still subject to PowerShell specific constraints such as Constrained Language mode and ScriptBlock logging. The latter, in particular, can be used to detect PoshC2 and any other malicious PowerShell commands, whether via PowerShell.exe or otherwise.

Note, however, that ScriptBlock logging was only enabled in PowerShell v5.0 and above, so if PowerShell v2.0 is available on the target then a downgrade attack can be performed and PowerShell 2.0 used, bypassing Constrained Language mode, ScriptBlock logging, AMSI and other controls added in v5.0.

PS Logging

Enabling ScriptBlock logging and Transcript Logging for PowerShell allows logging of processes running PowerShell commands.

There are multiple IoCs here, not least that the Host Application is not PowerShell.exe, as should be expected, but instead netsh.exe.

PowerShell transcripts provide valuable information. Alerting on Host Applications that are not PowerShell.exe is a good way to find PowerShell implants from any C2 framework.

PowerShell transcripts provide valuable information. Alerting on Host Applications that are not PowerShell.exe is a good way to find PowerShell implants from any C2 framework.

Similarly in the Event Viewer for ScriptBlock logging:

PowerShell ScriptBlock logging can reveal a wealth of information, here including the beacon URLs for PoshC2 and again netsh.exe as a host process.

PowerShell ScriptBlock logging can reveal a wealth of information, here including the beacon URLs for PoshC2 and again netsh.exe as a host process.

This also includes the ‘command line’ of the ScriptBlock being executed, which includes the beacon URLs from which a random element is being chosen, therefore listing all the C2 URLs that are in use by this implant.

Aside from the wealth of information ScriptBlock logging provides for any threat hunter, an event command line specific to PoshC2 that can be used to identify the PowerShell implant is below:

The $ServerClean variable is specific to PoshC2 and a clear IoC.

The $ServerClean variable is specific to PoshC2 and a clear IoC.

CommandLine= $ServerClean = Get-Random $ServerURLS

This ScriptBlock is part of the beaconing process and will be repeated frequently in the Event Viewer making it easy to identify.

System.Management.Automation.dll

As mentioned earlier, the PowerShell implant does not function by invoking PowerShell.exe, but instead by loading System.Management.Automation.dll into the implant process.

This means that this is an IoC, and if we find a process that should not have this DLL loaded, particularly if it is an unmanaged code binary (so not .NET) then it is highly likely that this is a process that has been injected into by a PowerShell implant, PoshC2 or otherwise.

System.Management.Automation.dll, the engine behind PowerShell, is a .NET library.

System.Management.Automation.dll, the engine behind PowerShell, is a .NET library.

netsh.exe is a C++ binary and should not be loading .NET libraries.

netsh.exe is a C++ binary and should not be loading .NET libraries.

We can see this DLL loaded into an implant process using Process Hacker:

System.Management.Automation.dll loaded into netsh.exe.

System.Management.Automation.dll loaded into netsh.exe.

Similarly we can view the .NET Assemblies in the process:

We can view the .NET Assemblies in the netsh.exe process and see PowerShell is loaded.

We can view the .NET Assemblies in the netsh.exe process and see PowerShell is loaded.

This tab shouldn’t even be present for a genuine netsh.exe process as it is unmanaged code!

The module is not loaded in a genuine netsh process and the .NET tabs are not available.

The module is not loaded in a genuine netsh process and the .NET tabs are not available.

An operator can be smarter about their migration by injecting into .NET processes, however it is still unlikely that a legitimate process (that isn’t PowerShell.exe) would load System.Management.Automation.dll, so this is a great IoC to look out for in your environment.

This can be implemented at scale by searching for loaded modules in an EDR product, for example in CarbonBlack with a query of:

modload:System.Management.Automation* AND -process_name:powershell.exe AND process_name:powershell_ise.exe

This searches for process with System.Management.Automation.dll or System.Management.Automation.ni.dll (the Native Image version) loaded into a process when that process is not PowerShell.exe or PowerShell_ISE.exe. Other legitimate exclusions may need to be added for your particular environment.

Here we can see various processes that have loaded System.Management.Automation.dll into memory that are likely implants.

Here we can see various processes that have loaded System.Management.Automation.dll into memory that are likely implants.

C# Implant

The C# or Sharp implant is PoshC2’s ‘next gen’ implant, written (unsurprisingly) in C#. The key difference from a detection perspective is that this implant does not require loading System.Management.Automation.dll in order to function. Most of the functionality of the C# implant is custom-written and while it can load System.Management.Automation.dll in order to execute PowerShell, this is an operator decision and is by no means necessary.

A similar process to the above can be applied, but is a little harder to implement. .NET processes load the mscoree.dll library which is the core library behind the .NET CLR (Command Language Runtime), so again any unmanaged code processes that are loading this library could have been migrated into. The issue here is finding these processes, as it’s not as simple as searching for just ‘module loaded and process name is not powershell.exe’.

A blacklist can be created of common target processes that are unmanaged, always available and should not be loading the .NET runtime, and these can be monitored, as well as noting this during manual triage.

Implant loads mscoree.dll if it is not already present in the process – another IoC if the process is supposed to be unmanaged.

A C# implant loads mscoree.dll if it is not already present in the process – another IoC if the process is supposed to be unmanaged.

Note that the PowerShell implant will also load this library as it is also a .NET process, however the presence of System.Management.Automation.dll marks it as an implant that can run PowerShell.

The C# implant has the ability to load compiled binaries into memory over C2 and run them, which is extremely powerful. There are indicators of this however, as a new virtual runspace is created for each module and their namespace is listed in the AppDomain to which they are loaded.

Viewing the .NET Assemblies in Process Explorer or Process Hacker for example then reveals what modules have been run.

In the C# implant loaded modules have their namespace visible in the AppDomain, making it clear what has been loaded into the implant.

In the C# implant loaded modules have their namespace visible in the AppDomain, making it clear what has been loaded into the implant.

Above we can see the Core and dropper_cs modules that make up the core functionality of the C# implant, as well as some native modules from Microsoft that are required to run. These modules will always be present in the PoshC2 C# implant and are a clear IoC. We also see Seatbelt and SharpUp, two common C# offensive modules from SpectreOps, and we can surmise that they have been on the target.

In General

Migration

We have used netsh.exe as the example implant process in this post and that is for a good reason. The default migration process for PoshC2 in the C# and PowerShell implants is C:\Windows\System32\netsh.exe, so when the migrate or inject-shellcode commands are used and a specific process ID or name is not set, then a new netsh.exe process is spawned and migrated into.

This itself is a common IoC for PoshC2, as netsh.exe is not typically frequently run in environments, and certainly not on most end user’s hosts. Therefore, if there is a sudden uptick in the number of these processes being run in the environment or if several are running on a host then it could be worth investigating.

Persistence

PoshC2 has three quick persistence commands available to the PowerShell implant. Each of these installs a PowerShell.exe one liner payload to the registry in the key at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\themes with a name Wallpaper777, Wallpaper555 or Wallpaper666, depending on the command being run.

This payload is then triggered by either:

  • A registry key at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\run with the name IEUpdate
  • A Scheduled Task, also with the name IEUpdate
  • A shortcut file placed at %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\IEUpdate.lnk

All of these can be alerted upon and used to determine that the adversary using PoshC2, in addition to alerting on the invocation of PowerShell.exe with encoded parameters, and so on.

Binary payloads

Some of the more common payloads that are dropped on targets are the PoshC2 executables and DLLs that can be run using rundll32.exe.

For the DLLs, there are different versions for PowerShell and Sharp implants across versions 2 and 4 of PowerShell and x86 and x64 bit architectures, however all the DLLs have a single entry-point common to all: VoidFunc.

All the DLL payloads have the same single entry point of VoidFunc.

All the DLL payloads have the same single entry point of VoidFunc.

This entry-point is hard-coded in PoshC2 and cannot be changed without hacking the compiled binary itself.

For the common executable and DLL payloads we’ve also added Yara rules for detecting them. These are based on signaturable parts of the binaries that will not change across different installs of PoshC2, for example with different comms options. These are also available in the new PoshC2 Detections GitHub repository.

In Summary

We’ve looked at a few different detections for catching PoshC2 when used out-of-the-box. Using these in your environment will help protect against the less sophisticated users of PoshC2 in addition to further understanding how the tool works.

Any new detections or amendments can be added to the https://github.com/nettitude/PoshC2_IOCs repository and we encourage the community to add their own detections or rules and configurations for other security tools to help build a centralised data store for everyone.

Introducing PoshC2 v6.0

We are pleased to release the latest version of PoshC2 – v6.0. Version 6.0 includes a number of significant and exciting features, in addition to the usual plethora of bug fixes and small improvements. In this blog post, we take a look at some of the more significant changes and feature rich enhancements to make it easier for operators.

Download PoshC2 v6.0

You can download PoshC2 v6.0 from GitHub:

github GitHub: https://github.com/nettitude/PoshC2

Postgres Support

Reporting and auditing actions is an essential part of any C2 framework. As operators, we need to reliably determine all actions that have performed, in case there’s an incident as well as for accurate reporting. PoshC2 normally uses SQLite databases in the project directory to store its data, but we found that for large projects or a very high number of implants the performance of this database can become an issue and start to slow down.

For this reason, we’ve added support for Postgres databases, allowing teams to point their PoshC2 install at a Postgres instance and have the project data stored in a performant database on a separate server, if desired.

Using Postgres in PoshC2 is easy, simply change the DatabaseType value in the config.yml from SQLite to Postgres, and set the PostgresConnectionString as follows. The only other thing to note is you must create the database manually before adding the connection string.

That’s all there is to it!

Daisy Chaining

Daisy chaining implants has been an incredible feature of PoshC2 for some time now. The ability to have one implant beacon to another existing implant allows operators to compromise environments that can’t reach the Internet, by having communications route through an active implant that can. These implants can be daisy-chained to an arbitrary length which is extremely useful and powerful, but sometimes setting up daisy-chaining felt a little arcane, and if you didn’t make the right sacrifice to the right deity at the right time it may not work and troubleshooting the issue was not the easiest.

To help with this, we’ve added a wizard. Simply run startdaisy from the implant you want to use as the daisy server and it will guide the operator through the different options and situations before starting the daisy server on the current implant, and generate new daisy payloads that can be used to connect to this instance.

Once the daisy implant has been obtained, the operator can simply run startdaisy on that implant if they want to go deeper, or just use the implant as they would normally if one layer pivoting is all that’s required.

It should be noted that binding to a non-localhost IP address requires elevation, but daisy-chaining can still be used on the localhost without elevation. This is useful for elevation of privilege attacks, for example, creating implants as other users that cannot or should not have traffic leaving the environment, such as SYSTEM implants.

Dynamic Code Execution

Most red teams need the ability to quickly adapt to situations, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities or tackle difficult problems innovatively and creatively.

To help with this, we’ve added a quick and easy way of being able to write and run code down on a C# implant. PoshC2’s ‘Dynamic Code’ feature creates a DynamicCode.cs file in the project payloads directory. This file can then be edited at will in your editor of choice and run in the implant instantly.

Once done, saving it and running dynamic-code from a C# implant will compile this code and execute it in memory, on the target, on the fly.

This should enable teams to prototype and run their own code snippets or C# scripts quickly, allowing them to improvise, adapt and overcome obstacles they encounter.

AMSI Bypass

We’ve also updated the AMSI bypass for C# implant as well as help obfuscate the initial PowerShell cradle, which may help when fighting off Windows Defender. There were recently a few good blog articles from the security community that have helped us with this, as follows:

@_RastaMouse also has a GitHub repository that has the AMSI ScanBufferBypass that is leveraged in the C# implant shellcode, which evades the System.Reflection.Assembly.Load methods. Hopefully this means you can have more success on engagements rather than fighting with Windows Defender in order to help improve your client’s security posture.

Sharp PowerShell

Another significant change is the addition of PowerShell execution in the C# implant.

By using the sharpps command, operators can execute PowerShell in memory on the target from a C# implant, effectively adding the full power of PowerShell and the PowerShell implant to the C# implant. Similarly, modules can be loaded using the pslo (PowerShell loadmodule) command.

#OpSec Warning: Note that while PowerShell.exe is never touched or used, this will load the System.Management.Automation.dll into memory for the implant process when a sharpps or pslo command is first run.

SharpSploit integration

SharpSploit is a fantastic resource and has been included with PoshC2’s modules for some time now, but usage had been quite manual through the run-dll command.

We have started to integrate SharpSploit into PoshC2 more in order to leverage this tool more easily, starting with its Mimikatz commands:

We will continue to expand in this area over the next few months, so watch this space.

Indicators of Compromise

A key consideration when using a C2 framework is the Indicators of Compromise (IoCs) it has, and how well known they are.

Many of PoshC2’s IoCs are well fingerprinted, but can be altered in the config.yml file, such as the UserAgent string, default migration process, server header and more.

Previously, the HTTP responses that were returned by the server were simple inline pages in the configuration file, making it difficult to alter these to reflect real HTML pages. These have now been pulled out into standalone files in resources/responses folder so they can be easily edited.

A file is randomly selected and used as a response for HTML requests.

Searching history

PoshC2 already allows interactive command searching similar to bash using the Ctrl-R key combination, but a much requested feature was the ability to search through the command history in a similar way to the searchhelp command, which returns a list based off a regex search.

A searchhistory command has now been added which does exactly this, allowing operators to find all relevant commands, helpful both on engagements and when reporting, or even updating your notes with the cool commands you used during a live engagement.

C# Portscanner

Rob Maslen’s (@rbmaslen) PortScanner module has been added to PoshC2 and integrated into the C# implant so we can now fully utilize this in engagements where the PowerShell implant may get detected.

This fast and effective port scanner is loaded and run in memory by the C# implant and can be executed as shown below. It will also show closed ports for when you may need to tunnel through the network using already pre-approved ports on the firewall.

fpc script improvements

The fpc (Find PoshC2 Command) script is installed by PoshC2 to help with reporting and logging. When run from the command line, it allows users to search the PoshC2 database for commands or command output containing certain keywords. Rich Hicks (@Console) has significantly enhanced this script by improving its output to include the user and timestamp that run the particular command, in addition to adding a new filter for the taskId.

This script has also been updated to add support for Postgres.

RedELK Support

Working with @OutflankNL we’ve helped add support for PoshC2 to their awesome RedELK tool. This Red Team SIEM provides phenomenal oversight and insight into the actions being performed both by the Red Team and by the Blue Team when investigating an incident caused by that C2 instance, alerting the Red Team that they have been compromised. For more information, see the RedELK page here: https://github.com/outflanknl/RedELK.

Download PoshC2 v6.0

You can download PoshC2 v6.0 from GitHub:

github GitHub: https://github.com/nettitude/PoshC2

Roadmap

We still have a lot of planned improvements for PoshC2. Some of the prioritised changes are below:

  • Refresh the documentation.
  • Continue improving the ease of configuration for PoshC2’s IoCs (Indicators of Compromise), such as the HTTP responses and URLs used.
  • Provide the community with increased detections for PoshC2’s default IoCs, such as behavioural IoCs, yara rules and so on.
  • Continue refactoring PoshC2 for ease of development and testing.
  • Link pre-compiled third-party modules to their respective repositories for credit, updating, investigation etc.
  • Move to ISO standard date formats (yyyy-MM-dd).
  • Add an (optional) embedded RedELK Red Team SIEM to PoshC2’s C2 server.
  • Update Nettitude’s Red Team Training Course to cover in detail advanced usage of PoshC2 and knowledge of its IoCs, including altering core behavioural and static IoCs.
  • Add a python3 dropper.

Other Updates

A large number of other updates and fixes have been added in this version, some of which are briefly summarised below. For updates and tips check out @nettitude_labs, @benpturner and @m0rv4i on Twitter.

  • Updated SharpHound to the latest version 3.0.4
  • Kali Linux is the supported Operating System of choice now, with the Dockerfile building from the base Kali rolling image.
  • Clockwork SMS support has been retired and Pushover support enhanced, with the ability to set the API keys from the Implant Handler.
  • The Implant Handler display has been altered slightly, with labels on the right and displayed in blue.
  • Modules are now no longer loaded from the modules directory if a full path is specified to the loadmodule command.
  • The C# dropper now explicitly states the format it expects numbers, such as jitter, to avoid formatting issues when implants are running in other locales.
  • Beacon times will only be updated in the UI and server side when a beacon successfully accepts the beacon update task.
  • Implants will now retry up to five times to POST task data back if the request fails.
  • Kevin-Robertson’s Powermad module added (Thanks to Roxana Kovaci (@rkovaci)).
  • Install Script now checks it is running as root and exits if now with a user friendly message (Thanks to @jaredstroud).
  • Add m0rv4i’s SharpCookieMonster module.
  • Added updated PowerUpSQL from @NetSPI and new SweetPotato.exe module from @CCob
  • Added a sharp command safety check in the PS implant to catch commands that are likely for the C# implant and prompt for confirmation.
  • Update Rubeus module (Thanks to Tom MacDonald (@BaffledJimmy))
  • Updated the SharpHound3 help for increased operational security and stealth (Thanks to Ross Bingham (@PwnDexter))
  • Added ability to auto-hide implants that have not beaconed in for over 30 beacons with the –a option to the implant handler.
  • Added a static warning to the top of the ImplantHandler in red when the Kill date is less than 7 days away (thanks to @Felix).
  • Fixed: Encryption of special characters in commands could silently fail, particularly critical when entering a password with a special character in it.
  • Fixed: Generated HTML reports being truncated
  • Fixed: Various Upload and Download-file issues. (Thanks to @clhefton and @chppppp)
  • Fixed: Missing mono assemblies for installing on Ubuntu
  • Fixed: startanotherimplant-keepfile command not working in Python implant
  • Fixed: SharpSocks support via Domain Fronted URLs.
  • Fixed: Mimikatz credential parsing for creds command.
  • Fixed: Python2 dropper didn’t work in Python versions before 2.7.0 (Thanks to @RustyBower).
  • Fixed: PowerShell implants install-servicelevel-persistence (Thanks to @developerbart)
  • Fixed: Typo in backup folder name when starting PoshC2 with a different configuration (Thanks to @er28-0652).
  • Fixed: Many, many issues with the PoshC2.psm1 PowerShell module for PoshC2 on Windows via Docker (Thanks to @justin-p).
  • Fixed: Various SharpSocks issues (Thanks to Roxana Kovaci (@rkovaci)).
  • Fixed: Kill date format handling inconsistent across locales (Thanks to @KidneyThief).
  • Fixed: Python dropper.sh now explicitly uses python2 (Thanks to @clhefton).

Operational Security with PoshC2 Framework

This post describes a new capability that has been deployed within PoshC2, which is designed to assist with revealing a wider set of target environment variables at the dropper stage, as part of operational security controls.

Imagine the following scenario.  You’ve deployed IP address white-listing on a proxy in order to limit implant installation to a specific environment.  A connection arrives back from a host that’s not associated with your target environment, so the connection is dropped and PoshC2 never sees the incoming connection attempt.  By adding some additional logging on the proxy, and utilising the new CookieDecrypter.py script, you can now reveal specific environment variables about where the dropper was executed.  This information allows for better decision making on what to do next in this scenario.  It yields greater situational awareness.

The background

When carrying out red team testing, a number of safety checks are required to:

  1. Environmentally key the implant to the target environment variables.
  2. Make sure only those targeted assets are compromised.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss these safety measures in depth.  Rather, it is to instead focus on the problem wherein a target environment has been IP white-listed on the attacking infrastructure, but a connection has come back from an IP address not already on that approved list of target environments.  Large organisations do not always readily or thoroughly understand their full external IP address range, or do not force tunnelling of all traffic across a VPN.  It is therefore not uncommon to receive legitimate connect backs from non-whitelisted sources.

As a simulated attacker, you now have a decision to make; you have sent very unique malicious links to a target employee and those have been verified as followed, and certain local checks have been satisfied, but the connection is coming from an IP address that’s not on your white-list. The dropper must have been executed and has consequently called back to your attacking infrastructure to download the core implant from the PoshC2 server.  Now what?

Further detail

PoshC2’s implant is a staged implant and utilises a dropper to satisfy certain criteria before calling back to the C2 server to pick up a core implant. The dropper uses a unique encryption key specific to the PoshC2 instance, but not unique to each dropper. Each dropper shares the same encryption key; it is only when the core implant is sent down that each implant is uniquely keyed for all further communication.

Generally, the following infrastructure is set up to support a PoshC2 instance. This includes a number of redirectors or Internet Proxies that forward C2 communications back to the PoshC2 instance, limiting exposure of the C2 servers and allowing a flexible approach to building many redirectors to combat take-downs or blocked URL’s.

The redirectors can be made up of any infrastructure or technology, whether it be cloud based redirectors such as CloudFront, or applications running on a host such as Socat, python or Apache, to name a few.

Apache is a preference for its rewrite rules, which can be used to make smart decisions on traffic traversing the proxy. White-listing the X-forwarded-for address is one common method and can be written into rewrite rules using a RewriteMap, as follows.

Something you might not know

The configuration of the dropper has now been modified to retry multiple times after a timeout, if the connection returns a HTTP 404 response. This provides extra time to make a decision on whether to add the IP address to the white-list, without losing the implant. If the IP address is then added to the white-list, then when the dropper connects back, it will be allowed to traverse to the PoshC2 server instance and download the core implant.

Extra help

The CookieDecrypter.py script was created to assist in decision making by providing more information. The connection from the dropper includes a cookie value that details useful environment variables such as those detailed below, however it is encrypted with the key created on initialisation of the PoshC2 instance.

  • Domain
  • User Account
  • Hostname
  • Implant Architecture
  • Process ID
  • URL

Capturing the cookie

By default the cookie value will not be stored anywhere on the proxy server. As previously mentioned, Apache is powerful and includes a number of options to assist, one of which is ModSecurity.

Installing ModSecurity:

apt install libapache2-modsecurity

Enabling the configuration to capture cookies for requests that are returned a HTTP 404 response:

Now if a dropper connects and gets a 404 response, the following log entry will be created in “/var /log/apache2/sec.log”:

The script

The script CookieDecrypter.py has been created to ingest the log file and parse the ‘SessionID’ from the log file, then connect to the PoshC2 database to retrieve the encryption keys and use the encryption functions to reverse the cookie value. It has to be executed on the PoshC2 server.

python CookieDecrypter.py log.txt

Conclusion

With increased visibility comes better decision making.  Knowledge of the workstations domain and the user generally provides most, if not all, of the information you need to assess whether an asset is in scope.  We have multiple layers of protection in our approach to risk management to ensure that we stay on the right side of the rules of engagement, and this is just one of them.  We recommend that you develop your own set of risk management procedures too.