Posts Tagged ‘volatility’

Lately I’ve had to deal with setups which had transparent full disk encryption and were pretty hardened. If you are wondering what ‘transparent full disk encryption’  means, that’s how I call solutions that encrypt your hard disk, but don’t require any interaction from the user to boot into the operating system. They usually accomplish this because they:

  • use secure boot and a TPM with key sealing (good)
  • they use proprietary software-only obfuscation to hide the key (bad)
  • use an external hardware device to store the keys without secure boot or key sealing (bad)

Most of the time the goal is to break out of a preconfigured application and the usual tricks like these ones, don’t really work:

However getting access to safe mode / start up repair does partially work for some of these setups:

Partially, because most of the options were not present and those that were present only gave me a cmd.exe which was disabled with a local group policy. An interesting approach the defence side took was replacing explorer.exe with an executable which did nothing. Even if you managed to break out of their application you still had nothing, no desktop, no menu, no buttons etc. For a few setups where the ‘startup-repair’ options seemed to work the encryption drivers did not load, resulting in an environment with no access to the target disk. In case you were wondering about network attacks, those were a no go as well, since the firewalls were strictly configured for ingress and egress traffic, based on ip/port/application and yes the connection themselves used TLS with client certificates and not vulnerable to man in the middle attacks.

Usually when I encounter these environment it still is possible to perform a variety of Direct Memory Access (DMA) attacks using tools like inception or pcileech. In these cases however this was physically not possible, either because there were no DMA ports available or just because I didn’t have the correct hardware with me to perform the attacks.

A common issues with all those setups however was the fact that the disk encryption software did not seal the encryption keys to a hardware security device like a TPM. This enables an attacker to create an image from the hard disk and boot this image on another computer. If the attacker also got a hold of the enclosure (USB key, smart card, obfuscated algorithm, unencrypted partition) holding the encryption keys it becomes possible to boot the disk image and fully control the victim disk in an untrusted environment.

In this blog article we are going to have a look at some of the things that you can do when you can boot a disk image of an otherwise unpenetrable environment. Please keep in mind that in part we are reinventing the wheel for two reasons:

  • Learning the nitty gritty details
  • Having a portable and understandable solution

There are solutions available that probably would enable you to achieve the same result, but for my personal taste I prefer to have something much more lightweight that can be easily ported between QEMU versions. Additionally you could also achieve the same result with the quick & dirty approach of booting the image in VMWare, pausing the machine, editing the memory file, resuming the machine. However I prefer QEMU since it allows full control over the entire process, due to the build in GDB server as well as customising the inner workings by editing/adding code and recompiling it. The following existing projects already wrap QEMU with cool and handy features if you want to use these type of setups to analyse malware or other applications:

Enough introduction of what we are going to do, let’s dive in and start elevating our shells to SYSTEM ;)
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Implementing functionality that is already available in an available tool is something that has always taught me a lot, thus I keep on doing it when I encounter something I want to fully understand. In this case it concerns the ‘hiberfil.sys’ file on Windows. As usual I first stumbled upon the issue and started writing scripts to later find out someone had written a nice article about it, which you can read here (1). For the sake of completeness I’m going to repeat some of the information in that article and hopefully expand upon it, I mean it’d be nice if I could use this entry as a reference page in the future for when I stumble again upon hibernation files. Our goal for today is going to be to answer the following question:

What’s a hiberfil.sys file, does it have slack space and if so how do we find and analyze it?

To answer that question will hopefully be answered in the following paragraphs; we are going to look at the hibernation process, hibernation file, it’s file format structure, how to interpret it and finally analyze the found slack space. As usual you can skip the post and go directly to the code.

Hibernation process

When you put your computer to ‘sleep’ there are actually several ways in which it can be performed by the operating  system one of those being the hibernation one. The hibernation process puts the contents of your memory into the hiberfil.sys file so that the state of all your running applications is preserved. By default when you enable hibernation the hiberfil.sys is created and filled with zeros. To enable hibernation you can run the following command in an elevated command shell:

powercfg.exe -H on

If you want to also control the size you can do:

powercfg.exe -H -Size 100

An interesting fact to note is that Windows 7 sets the size of the hibernation file size to 75% of your memory size by default. According to Microsoft documentation (2) this means that hibernation process could fail if it’s not able to compress the memory contents to fit in the hibernation file. This of course is useful information since it indicates that the contest of the hibernation file is compressed which usually will make basic analysis like ‘strings’ pretty useless.

if you use strings always go for ‘strings -a <inputfile>’ read this post if you are wondering why.

The hibernation file usually resides in the root directory of the system drive, but it’s not fixed. If an administrators wants to change the location he can do so by editing the following registry key as explained by this (3) msdn article:

Key Name: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\
Value Name: PagingFiles
Type: REG_MULT_SZ
Data: C:\pagefile.sys 150 500
In the Data field, change the path and file name of the pagefile, along with the minimum and maximum file size values (in megabytes).

So if you are performing an incident response or forensic investigation make sure you check this registry key before you draw any conclusion if the hiberfil.sys file is absent from it’s default location. Same goes for creating memory images using hibernation, make sure you get the 100% and write it to a location which doesn’t destroy evidence or where the evidence has already been collected.

Where does the slack space come from you might ask? That’s an interesting question since you would assume that each time the computer goes into hibernation mode it would create a new hiberfil.sys file, but it doesn’t. Instead it will overwrite the current file with the contents it wants to save. This is what causes slack space, since if the new data is smaller in size than the already available files the data at the end of the file will still be available even if it’s not referenced by the new headers written to the file.

From a forensic standpoint that’s pretty interesting since the unreferenced but available data might contain important information to help the investigation along. If you are working with tools that automatically import / parse or analyse the hiberfil.sys file you should check / ask / test how they handle slack space. In a best case scenario they will inform you about the slack space and try to recover the information, in a less ideal scenario they will inform you that there is slack space but it’s not able to handle the data and in the worst case scenario it will just silently ignore that data and tell you the hibernation file has been processed successfully.

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