Hackers - Vulnerability Disclosures

Protect Yourself – Chronicle’s 4-Part Video Series

This first clip focuses on confidence tricks (Social Engineering) which is something that we also do when we deliver Realistic Threat Penetration Tests to our customers. Our objective when using social engineering isn’t to con our customers out of money but instead to trick them into doing things that enable us access to their corporate network. This can include stealing passwords, deploying malware, or simply convincing someone to grant us access.

This second clip focuses on COVID-19 and the new Work from Home requirement. Our CEO (Adriel Desautels) was interviewed for this segment and asked what it was that we saw on the front lines in terms of bad actors taking advantage of this crisis. During this clip Adriel drops a hit about a new blog entry where talk about having used the pandemic and the PPE shortages to compromise a healthcare customer via a virtual meeting. We also discuss again how security software does not provide the level of protection that it promises.

This clip talks about robocalls and how people are often taken advantage of by these calls. There’s a great app that you can install on your iPhone called RoboKiller. RoboKiller answers robocalls for you and engages the caller in a fake conversation which consumes their time and resources. We suggest that people use an app like RoboKiller or, if they are using an iPhone, to block calls from unknown numbers.

This last segment contains a question and answer section where everyday people pose questions to various security experts including our CEO.

Retro: FACEBOOK – Anti-Social Networking (2008).

This is a retro post about a penetration test that we delivered to a client back in 2008.  During the test we leveraged personal data found on Facebook to construct and execute a surgical attack against an energy company (critical infrastructure).  The attack was a big success and enabled our team to take full control of the client’s network, domain and their critical systems.

Given the recent press about Facebook and its respective privacy issues we thought it would be good to also shed light on the risks that its users create for the companies and/or agencies that they work for.  It is important to stress that the problem isn’t Facebook but instead is the way that people use and trust the platform.  People have what could be described as an unreasonable expectation of privacy when it relates to social media and that expectation directly increases risk.  We hope that this article will help to raise awareness about the very real business risks surrounding this issue.

Full Writeup (Text extract from PDF): June 2008
FACEBOOK Anti-Social Networking:
“It is good to strike the serpent’s head with your enemy’s hand.”


The Facebook Coworker search tool can be abused by skilled attackers in sophisticated attempts to compromise personal information and authentication credentials from your company employees. Josh Valentine and Kevin Finisterre of Penetration Testing Company Netragard, Inc. also known as Peter Hunter and Chris Duncan, were tasked with conducting a penetration test against a large utility company. Having exhausted most conventional exploitation methods they decided to take a non conventional approach to cracking the companies networks. In this case they decided that perhaps a targeted attack against the companies Facebook population would be the most fruitful investment of time. Since Facebook usage requires that you actually sign up Josh and Kevin had to research believable back grounds for their alter ego’s Peter and Chris. The target company had a fairly  large presence in the US with four offices located in various places. Due to the size of the company it was easy to cherry pick bits and pieces of information from the hundreds of available profiles. Because many profiles can be browsed without any prior approval gathering some basic information was easy. Armed with new identities based on the details and demographics of the companies Facebook population it was time to make some new friends. After searching through the entries in the Coworker search tool they began selectively attempting to befriend people. In some cases the attempts were completely random and in others they tried to look for ‘friendly’ people. The logic was that once Peter and Chris had a few friends on their lists they could just send out a few mass requests for more new friends. With at least four or five friends under their belt the chances of having overlapping friends would increase.

“by the way… thanks for the hookup on the job. I really appreciate it man.”

Appearing as if they were ‘friends of friends’ made convincing people to accept the requests much easier. Facebook behavior such as the ‘Discover People You May Know’ sidebar also added benefit of making people think they knew Peter and Chris. Blending in with legit accounts meant that the two fake accounts needed to seem like real people as much as possible. Josh and Kevin first came up with basic identities that were just enough to get a few friends. Now If they wanted to continue snaring new friends and not raise any suspicions with existing friends they would need to be fairly active with the accounts.Things needed to get elaborate at this point so Josh and Kevin combed the internet looking for random images as inspiration for character background. Having previously decided on their desired image and demographic they decided to settle on a set of pictures to represent themselves with. They came up with a few photos from the surrounding area and even made up a fake sister for Chris. All of this obviously helped solidify the fact that they were real people in the eyes of any prospective friends. Eventually enough people had accepted the requests that Facebook began suggesting Chris and Peter as friends to many of the other employees of the target company.
Batch requests are the way to go Cherry picking individual friends was obviously the way to get a good profile started but Josh and Kevin were really after as many of the employees as possible so a more bulk approach was needed. After they were comfortable that their profiles looked real enough the mass targeting of company employees began. Simply searching the company Facebook network yielded 492 possible employee profiles. After a few people became their friends the internal company structure became more familiar. This allowed the pair to make more educated queries for company employees. Due to the specific nature of the company industry it was easy to search for specific job titles. Anyone could make a query in a particular city and search for a specific job title like “Landman” or “Geologist” and have a reasonable level of accuracy when targeting employees.
At the time the Chris Duncan account was closed there were literally 208 confirmed company employees as friends. Out of the total number of accounts that were collected only 2 or 3 were non employees or former employees. The company culture allowed for a swift embracing of the two fictitious individuals. They just seemed to fit in. Given enough time it is reasonable to expect that many more accounts would have been collected at the same level of accuracy.
Facebook put some measures in place to stop people from harvesting information. The first 50 or so friend requests that were sent Facebook required a response to a captcha program. Eventually Facebook was complacent with the fact that the team was not a pair of bots and allowed requests to occur in an unfettered manner. The team did run into what appeared to be a per hour as well as a per day limit to the number of requests that could be sent. There was a sweet spot and the team was able to maintain a nice flow of requests.

“Hi Chris, are you collecting REDACTED People? :)”

The diverse geography of the company and the embracing of internet technologies made the ruse seem comfortable. In many cases employees approached the team suspecting suspicious behavior but they were quickly appeased with a few kind words and emoticons. The hometown appeal of the duo’s profiles seemed to help people drop their guard and usual inhibitions. With access to the personal details of several company employees at their fingertips it was now time to sit back and reap the benefits. Once the pair had a significant employee base intra company relationships were outlined, common company culture was revealed. As an example several employees noted and pointed out to Chris and Peter that they could not find either individual in the “REDACTED employee directory”. Small tidbits of information like this helped Kevin and Josh carefully craft other information that was later fed to the people they were interacting with. With a constant flow of batch requests going there was a consistent and equally constant flow of new friends to case for information.
Over a seven day period of data collection there were as few as 8 newly accepted friends or as many as 63.
Days with more than 20 or so requests were not at all unusual for us.
Even after our testing was concluded the profiles continued to get new friend requests from REDACTED.

May 26 – 11
May 25 – 9
May 25 – 8
May 23 – 15
May 22 – 26
May 21 – 63
May 20 – 40

Every bit of information gleaned was considered when choosing the ultimate attack strategy. The general reactions from people also helped the team gauge what sort of approach to take when crafting the technique for the coup de grâce. Josh and Kevin had to go with something that was both believable and lethal at the same time. Having cased several individuals and machines on the company network it was time to actually attack those lucky new friends.

“ALL WARFARE IS BASED ON DECEPTION Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away…”

Having spent several days prior examining all possible means of conventional exploitation Kevin and Josh were ready to move on and actually begin taking advantage of all the things they had learned about the energy companies network.

“Forage on the enemy, use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength”

During their initial probes into the company networks the Duo came across a poorly configured server that provided a web based interface to one of the companies services. Having reverse engineered the operations of the server and subsequently compromising the back-end database that made the page run they were able to manipulate the content of the website in a manner that allowed for theft of company credentials in the near future. During information gathering it was common for employees to imply that they had access to some sort of company portal by which they could obtain information and perhaps access to various parts of the company.

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”

The final stages of the penetration testing happened to fall on a holiday weekend. The entire staff was given the Friday before the holiday off as well as the following Monday. Lucky for the team this provided an ideal window of opportunity during which the help desk would be left undermanned. A well orchestrated attack that appeared to be from the help-desk would be difficult to ward off and realistically unstoppable if delivered during this timeframe.

“In all fighting the direct method may be used for joining battles, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory”

Several hundred phishing emails were sent out to the unsuspecting Facebook friends, the mailer was perfectly modeled from an internal company site. The mailer implied that the users password may have been compromised and that they should attempt to login and verify their settings. In addition to the mailer the status of the two Profiles were changed to include an enticing link to the phishing site. Initially 12 employees were fooled by the phishing mailer. Due to a SNAFU at the AntiSPAM company Postini another 50 some odd employees were compromised. The engineer at Postini felt that the mailer looked important and decided to remove the messages from the blocked queue. Access to the various passwords allowed for a full compromise of the client’s infrastructure including the mainframe, various financial applications, in house databases and critical control systems.
Clever timing and a crafty phishing email were just as effective if not more effective than the initial hacking methods that were applied. Social engineering threats are real,educate your users and help make them aware of efforts to harvest your company info. Ensure that a company policy is established to help curb an employee usage of Social Networking sites. Management staff should also consider searching popular sites for employees that are too frivolously giving out information about themselves and the company they work for. Be vigilant don’t be another phishing statistic.

Hackers - Vulnerability Disclosures

The 3 ways we owned you in 2012

Here are the top 3 risks that we leveraged to penetrate into our customers’ networks in 2012. Each of these has been used to affect an irrecoverable infrastructure compromise during multiple engagements across a range of different customers. We flag a compromise “irrecoverable” when we’ve successfully taken administrative control over 60% or more of the network-connected assets. You’ll notice that these risks are more human-oriented than they are technology-oriented, thus demonstrating that your people are your greatest risk. While we certainly do focus on technological risks, they don’t fall into the top three categories.
The general methodology that we follow to achieve an irrecoverable infrastructure compromise is depicted below at a high-level.

  1. Gain entry via a single point (one of the 3 referenced below)
  2. Install custom backdoor (RADON our safe, undetectable, home-grown pseudo-malware)
  3. Identify and penetrate the domain controller (surprisingly easy in most cases)
  4. Extract and crack the passwords (we have pretty rainbows and access to this GPU cracker)
  5. Propagate the attack to the rest of the network (Distributed Metastasis)


Social Engineering

Social Engineering is the art of manipulating people into divulging information or performing actions usually for the purpose of gaining access to a computer system or network connected resource. It is similar to fraud, but the attacker very rarely comes face-to-face with his or her victims. Today, Social Engineering is used to help facilitate the delivery of technological attacks like the planting of malware, spy devices, etc.
During an engagement in 2012, Netragard used Social Engineering to execute an irrecoverable infrastructure compromise against one of its healthcare customers. This was done through a job opportunity that was posted on our customers website. Specifically, our customer was looking to hire a Web Application Developer that understood how to design secure applications. We built an irresistible resume and established fake references, which quickly landed us an on-site interview. When we arrived, we were picked up by our contact and taken to his office. While sitting there, we asked him for a glass of water and he promptly left us alone in his office for roughly 2 minutes. During that time, we used a USB device to infect his desktop computer with RADON (our pseudo-malware). When he returned we thanked him for the water and continued on with the interview. In the end, we were offered the job but turned it down (imagine if we accepted it).
If you aren’t subjecting your staff to real social engineering then you aren’t receiving a realistic penetration test. While the example above represents an elevated threat, we test at a variety of different threat levels. The key is to keep it realistic.


The word malware is derived from “Malicious Software.”  Any software that was written for the purpose of being malicious is by definition malware. This includes but is not limited to trojans, worms, and viruses.  Today malware is evolving and is becoming harder and harder to detect. Most people are under the pretense that their antivirus software will protect them from malware when in reality their antivirus software is borderline useless. Antivirus software can only detect malware if it knows what to look for. This means that new, never before seen variants of malware are undetectable so long as they don’t behave in any known way that would trigger false positives but never the less result in detection. What’s more interesting is that we found that antivirus software can’t even detect known malware if the known malware has been packed.
We used RADON, our home-brew “safe” malware, in nearly every engagement in 2012. RADON is designed to enable us to infect customer systems in a safe and controllable manner. Safe means that every strand is built with an expiration date that, when reached, results in RADON performing an automatic and clean self-removal. Safe also means that we have the ability to tell RADON to deinstall at any point during the engagement should any customer make the request. RADON is 100% undetectable and will completely evade all antivirus software, intrusion prevention / detection systems, etc. Why did we build RADON? We built it because we need to have the same capabilities as the bad-guys, if not then our testing wouldn’t be realistic.
One last thing that you should know about malware is that it doesn’t usually exploit technological vulnerabilities to infect systems. Instead, it exploits human gullibility and we all know that humans are far more easy to exploit than technology! The “ILOVEYOU” worm is a prime example. The worm would email itself to a victim with a subject of “I LOVE YOU” and an attachment titled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs,” which was actually a copy of the worm. When a person attempted to read the attachment, they would inadvertently run the copy and infect their own computer. Once infected, the worm would begin the process again and email copies of itself to the first 50 email addresses in the victim’s address book. This technique of exploiting gullibility was so successful that in the first 10 days, more than 50 million infections were reported. Had people spent more time educating each other about the risks of socially augmented technical attacks then the impact may have been significantly reduced.

Configuration Vulnerabilities

Configuration Vulnerabilities most commonly seem to be created when third parties deploy software on customer networks.  They often fail to remove setup files, default accounts, default credentials, etc.  As a result, hackers scan the internet for common configuration vulnerabilities and often use those to penetrate into affected systems.  Sometimes configuration vulnerabilities aren’t particularly useful other than being destructive.
For example, our team was recently performing an Advanced External Penetration Test for a small bank on the southern part of the east coast. This bank had an online banking web application that was deployed by a vendor. The portal worked fine, but the vendors consultant didn’t clean up the setup files after configuration. During our engagement, we performed directory enumeration against the poorly configured target using wfuzz (standard practice during any penetration testing engagement). Our enumerator identified a directory called “AppSetup” and when it requested the page from that directory we received a message that read “Database Initialized Successfully.” Yes, that’s right, simply visiting the page wiped out one of the bank’s customer databases. What’s more scary is that this was done from the internet, didn’t require any authentication, and was unavoidable for anyone that would have simply accessed that specific URL.
Another common Configuration Vulnerability exists within networks of all sizes and has everything to do with Active Directory and the account lockout after login failure setting. When delivering a Penetration Test to two separate customers in 2012 we inadvertently created a company-wide denial of service. In both cases, the reason for the outage was because the customer had bad configurations established in Active Directory. Specifically, their lockout after 3 login failures was set to 24 hours. During both engagements, we were authorized to perform password guessing attacks against all external points of authentication. During both engagements, we managed to lock out nearly every user account for a 24-hour period. One of the customers (a large bank) couldn’t remember their master domain admin password and so their outage was extended to nearly 24 hours. In this particular case, setting a lockout to 24 hours creates a critical availability impacting vulnerability. We really don’t see any point in setting your lockout to anything greater than 5 minutes (if you want to know why feel free to leave a comment).
In closing, configuration vulnerabilities are the product of unsafe configurations. What is unfortunate is that these vulnerabilities are almost always identified through triggering, which results in an outage or damage of some sort. It’s important to remember that its not our fault that your systems might not configured properly.



We Are Politically Incorrect

Back in February of 2009 we released an article called FaceBook from the hackers perspective. As far as we know, we were the first to publish a detailed article about using Social Networking Websites to deliver surgical Social Engineering attacks. Since that time, we noticed a significant increase in marketing hype around Social Engineering from various other security companies. The problem is that they’re not telling you the whole truth.

The whole truth is that Social Engineering is a necessary but potentially dangerous service. Social Engineering at its roots is the act of exploiting the human vulnerability and as such is an offensive and politically incorrect service. If a customer’s business has any pre-existing social or political issues then Social Engineering can be like putting a match to a powder keg. In some cases the damages can be serious and can result in legal action between employee and employer, or visa versa.

It’s for this reason that businesses need to make sure that their environments are conducive to receiving social attacks, and that they are prepared to deal with the emotional consequences that might follow. If employees are trained properly and if security policies are enforced that cover the social vector, then things “should” be ok. If those policies don’t exist and if there’s any internal turmoil, high-risk employees, or potentially delicate political situations, then Social Engineering is probably not such a great idea as it will likely identify and exploit one of those pre-existing issues.

For example, we recently delivered services to a customer that had pre-existing issues but assumed that their environment was safe for testing with Social Engineering. In this particular case the customer had an employee that we’ll call Jane Doe who was running her own business on the side. Jane Doe was advertising her real employers name on her business website making it appear as if there was a relationship between her employer and her business. She was also advertising her business address as her employers address on her FaceBook fan page. From our perspective, Jane Doe was a perfect Social Engineering target.

With this social risk identified, we decided that we’d impersonate Jane Doe and hijack the existing relationships that she had with our customer (her employer). We accomplished this with a specially crafted phishing attack.

The first step in the phish was to collect content for the phishing email. In this case Jane Doe posted images to her FaceBook fan page that included a photo of herself and a copy of her businesses logo. We used those images to create an email that looked like it originated from Jane Doe’s email address at our customers network and was offering the recipient discounted pricing. (Her FaceBook privacy settings were set to allow everybody.)

Once we had the content for the phishing email set up we used an IDN homograph attack to register a new domain that appeared to be identical to our customers domain. For example, if our customer was SNOsoft and their real domain was snosoft.com, the fake domain looked just like “snosoft.com”.

We embedded a link into the phishing email using the fake domain to give it a legitimate look and feel. The link was advertised as the place to click to get information about specially discounted offerings that were specific to our customer’s employees. Of course, the link really pointed to our web server where we were hosting a browser based exploit.

Then we collected email addresses using an enumerator and loaded those into a distribution list. We sent a test email to ourselves first to make sure that everything would render ok. Once our testing was complete, we clicked send and the phish was on its way. Within 15 minutes of delivering the attack our customer called us and requested that all testing be stopped. But by that time, 38 people had already clicked on our embedded URL, and more clicks were on their way.

As it turns out, our customer wasn’t prepared to receive Social Engineering tests despite the fact that they requested them. At first they accused us of being unprofessional because we used Jane Doe’s picture in the phishing email, which was apparently embarrassing to Jane Doe. Then they accused us of being politically incorrect for the same reason.

So we asked our customer, “Do you think that a black-hat would refrain from doing this because it’s politically incorrect?” Then we said, “Imagine if a black-hat launched this attack, and received 38 clicks (and counting).” (Each click representing a potential compromise).

While we can’t go into much more detail for reasons of confidentiality, the phishing attack uncovered other more serious internal and political issues. Because of those issues, we had to discontinue testing and move to report delivery. There was no fault or error on our part as everything was requested and authorized by the customer, but this was certainly a case of the match and the powder keg.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the customer did benefit significantly from the services. Specifically, the customer became aware of some very serious social risks that would have
been extremely damaging had they been identified and exploited by black-hat hackers. Even if it was a painfu
l process for the customer, we’re happy that we were able to deliver the services as we did because they enabled our customer to reduce their overall risk and exposure profile.

The moral of the story is that businesses should take care and caution when requesting Social Engineering services. They should be prepared for uncomfortable situations and discoveries, and if possible they should train and prepare their employees in advance. In the end it boils down to one of two things. Is it more important for a company to understand their risks or is it more important to avoid embarrassing or offending an employee.

Hosted Solutions A Hackers Haven

Human beings are lazy by nature.If there is a choice to be made between a complicated technology solution and an easy technology solution, then nine times out of ten people will choose the easy solution.The problem is that the easy solutions are often riddled with hidden risks and those risks can end up costing the consumer more money in damages then what might be saved by using the easy solution.

The advantages of using a managed hosting provider to host your email, website, telephone systems, etc, are clear.When you outsource critical infrastructure components you save money.The savings are quickly realized because you no longer need to spend money running a full scale IT operation.In many cases, you don’t even need to worry about purchasing hardware, software, or even hiring IT staff to support the infrastructure.

What isn’t clear to most people is the serious risk that outsourcing can introduce to their business.In nearly all cases a business will have a radically lower risk and exposure profile if they keep everything in-house.This is true because of the substantial attack surface that hosting providers have when compared to in-house IT environments.

For example, a web-hosting provider might host 1,000 websites across 50 physical servers.If one of those websites contains a single vulnerability and that vulnerability is exploited by a hacker then the hacker will likely take control of the entire server.At that point the hacker will have successfully compromised and taken control of all 50 websites with a single attack.

In non-hosted environments there might be only one Internet facing website as opposed to the 1000 that exist in a hosted environment.As such the attack surface for this example would be 1000 times greater in a hosted environment than it is in a non-hosted environment.In a hosted environment the risks that other customers introduce to the infrastructure also become your risk.In a non-hosted environment you are only impacted by your own risks.

To make matters worse, many people assume that such a risk isn’t significant because they do not use their hosted systems for any critical transactions.They fail to consider the fact that the hacker can modify the contents of the compromised system.These modifications can involve redirecting online banking portal links, credit card form posting links, or even to spread infectious malware.While this is true for any compromised system, the chances of suffering a compromise in a hosted environment are much greater than in a non-hosted environment.

Osint Open Source Intelligence

Social Engineering — Its Nothing New

With all the recent hype about Social Engineering we figured that we’d chime in and tell people what’s really going on. The fact is that Social Engineering is nothing more than a Confidence Trick being carried out by a Con Artist. The only difference between the term Social Engineering and Confidence Trick is that Social Engineering is predominately used with relation to technology.

So what is it really? Social Engineering is the act of exploiting a person’s natural tendency to trust another person or entity. Because the vulnerability exists within people, there is no truly effective method for remediation. That is not to say that you cannot protect your sensitive data, but it is to say that you cannot always prevent your people or even yourself from being successfully conned.

The core ingredients required to perform a successful confidence trick are no different today then they were before the advent of the Internet. The con artist must have the victim’s trust, and then trick the victim into performing an action or divulging information. The Internet certainly didn’t create the risk but it does make it easier for the threat to align with the risk.

Before the advent of the Internet the con artist (threat) needed to contact the victim (risk) via telephone, in person, via snail mail, etc.Once contact was made a good story needed to be put into place and the victim’s trust needed to be earned.That process could take months or even years and even then success isn’t guaranteed.

The advent of the Internet provided the threat with many more avenues’ through which it could successfully align with the risk. Specifically, the Internet enables the threat to align with hundreds or even thousands of risks simultaneously. That sort of shotgun approach couldn’t be done before and significantly increases an attackers chances of success.One of the most elementary examples of this shotgun approach is the email based phishing attack.

The email based phishing attack doesn’t earn the trust of its victims; it steals trust from existing relationships. Those relationships might exist between the victim and their bank, family member, co-worker, employer, etc. In all instances the email based phishing attack hinges on the attacker’s ability to send emails that look like they are coming from a trusted source (exploitation of trust). From a technical perspective, email spoofing and phishing is trivial (click here for a more sophisticated attack example).

The reason why it is possible for an attacker to steal trust from a victim instead of earning that trust is because “face to face” trust isn’t portable to the Internet. For example, most people trust their spouse. Many people talk to their spouse on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Skype, etc. while at work. How do they know that they are really chatting with their spouse and not a hacker?

So how do you protect against the social risks and prevent the threat from successfully aligning with those risks? The truth is that you can’t. Con artists have been conning people since the dawn of man. The better question what are you doing to protect your data from the hacker that does penetrate into your IT Infrastructure?

Facebook from the hackers perspective.

For the past few years we’ve (Netragard) been using internet based Social Networking tools to hack into our customer’s IT Infrastructures. This method of attack has been used by hackers since the conception of Social Networking Websites, but only recently has it caught the attention of the media. As a result of this new exposure we’ve decided to give people a rare glimpse into Facebook from a hackers perspective. Credit for designing this specific attack methodology goes to Kevin Finisterre and Josh Valentine both core members of our team.
Lets start off by talking about the internet and identity. The internet is a shapeless world where identities are not only dynamic but can’t ever be verified with certainty. As a result, its easily possible to be one person one moment, then another person the next moment. This is particularly true when using internet based social networking sites like Facebook (and the rest).


Image provided by Michael Painter

Humans have a natural tendency to trust each other. If one human being can provide another human with “something sufficient” then trust is earned. That “something sufficient” can be a face to face meeting but it doesn’t always need to be. Roughly 90% of the people that we’ve targeted and successfully exploited during our social attacks trusted us because they thought we worked for the same company as them.
The setup…
Facebook allows its users to search for other users by keyword. Many facebook users include their place of employment in their profile. Some companies even have facebook groups that only employees or contractors are allowed to become members of. So step one is to perform reconnaissance against those facebook using employees. This can be done with facebook, or with reconnaissance tools like Maltego and pipl.com.
Reconnaissance is the military term for the collection of intelligence about an enemy prior to attacking the enemy. With regards to hacking, reconnaissance can be performed against social targets (facebook, myspace, etc) and technology targets (servers, firewalls, routers, etc). Because our preferred method of attacking employees through facebook is via phishing we normally perform reconnaissance against both vectors.
When setting up for the ideal attack two things are nice to have but only one is required. The first is the discovery of some sort of Cross-site Scripting vulnerability (or something else useful) in our customers website (or one of their servers). The vulnerability is the component that is not required, but is a nice to have (we can set up our own fake server if we need to). The second component is the required component, and that is the discovery of facebook profiles for employees that work for our customer (other social networking sites work just as well).
In one of our recent engagements we performed detailed social and technical reconnaissance. The social reconnaissance enabled us to identify 1402 employees 906 of which used facebook. We didn’t read all 906 profiles but we did read around 200 which gave us sufficient information to create a fake employee profile. The technical reconnaissance identified various vulnerabilities one of which was the Cross-site Scripting vulnerability that we usually hope to find. In this case the vulnerability existed in our customer’s corporate website.
Cross-site scripting (“XSS”) is a kind of computer security vulnerability that is most frequently discovered in websites that do not have sufficient input validation or data validation capabilities. XSS vulnerabilities allow an attacker to inject code into a website that is viewed by other users. This injection can be done sever side by saving the injected code on the server (in a forum, blog, etc) or it can be done client side by injecting the code into a specially crafted URL that can be delivered to a victim.
During our recent engagement we used a client side attack as opposed to a server side attack . We chose the client side attack because it enabled us to select only the users that we are interested in attacking. Server side attacks are not as surgical and usually affect any user who views the compromised server page.
The payload that we created was designed to render a legitimate looking https secured web page that appeared to be a component of our customer’s web site. When a victim clicks on the specially crafted link the payload is executed and the fake web page is rendered. In this case our fake web page was an alert that warned users that their accounts may have been compromised and that they should verify their credentials by entering them into the form provided. When the users credentials are entered the form submitted them to https://netragard.com and were extracted by an automated tool that we created.
After the payload was created and tested we started the process of building an easy to trust facebook profile. Because most of the targeted employees were male between the ages of 20 and 40 we decided that it would be best to become a very attractive 28 year old female. We found a fitting photograph by searching google images and used that photograph for our fake Facebook profile. We also populated the profile with information about our experiences at work by using combined stories that we collected from real employee facebook profiles.
Upon completion we joined our customer’s facebook group. Joining wasn’t an issue and our request was approved in a matter of hours. Within twenty minutes of being accepted as group members, legitimate customer employees began requesting our friendship. In addition to inbound requests we made hundreds of outbound requests. Our friends list grew very quickly and included managers, executives, secretaries, interns, and even contractors.
After having collected a few hundred friends, we began chatting. Our conversations were based on work related issues that we were able to collect from legitimate employee profiles. After a period of three days of conversing and sharing links, we posted our specially crafted link to our facebook profile. The title of the link was “Omigawd have you seen this I think we got hacked!” Sure enough, people started clicking on the link and verifying their credentials.
Ironically, the first set of credentials that we got belonged to the person that hired us in the first place. We used those credentials to access the web-vpn which in turn gave us access to the network. As it turns out those credentials also allowed us to access the majority of systems on the network including the Active Directory server, the mainframe, pump control systems, the checkpoint firewall console, etc. It was game over, the Facebook hack worked yet again.
During testing we did evaluate the customer’s entire infrastructure, but the results of the evaluation have been left out of this post for clarity. We also provided our customer with a solution that was unique to them to counter the Social Network threat. They’ve since implemented the solution and have reported on 4 other social penetration attempts since early 2008. The threat that Social Networks bring to the table affects every business and the described method of attack has an extraordinarily high success rate.