NETRESEC Network Security Blog - Tag : Passive DNS

Twenty-three SUNBURST Targets Identified

Remember when Igor Kuznetsov and Costin Raiu announced that two of the victims in FireEye's SUNBURST IOC list were ***net.***.com and central.***.gov on Kaspersky's Securelist blog in December? Reuters later reported that these victims were Cox Communications and Pima County.

We can now reveal that the internal AD domain of all SUNBURST deployments in FireEye's IOC list can be extracted from publicly available DNS logs published by twitter user VriesHd, a.k.a. "Kira 2.0", with help of our SunburstDomainDecoder tool. The data published by VriesHd is the most complete SUNBURST DNS collection we've seen, with over 35.000 subdomains! Here is FireEye's IOC table completed with our findings:

Leaked AD Domain Sunburst C2 FQDN Stage 2 CNAME Timestamp (UTC) freescanonline[.]com 2020-06-13 09:00 deftsecurity[.]com 2020-06-11 22:30 thedoccloud[.]com 2020-06-13 08:30 freescanonline[.]com 2020-06-20 02:30 thedoccloud[.]com 2020-07-22 17:00 thedoccloud[.]com 2020-07-23 18:30

Victims Targeted with SUNBURST Stage 2 Backdoor

It was not just the victims listed in FireEye's IOC that were specifically targeted by the SUNBURST operators. As explained in our Finding Targeted SUNBURST Victims with pDNS blog post, the "STAGE2" flag in SUNBURST's DNS beacons can be used to reveal additional organizations that were singled out as interesting targets by the threat actors.

We'd like to stress that the majority of all companies and organizations that have installed a backdoored SolarWinds Orion update were never targeted by the threat actors. This means the these SUNBURST backdoors never made it past what we call "Stage 1 operation", where the backdoor encodes the internal AD domain name and installed security products into DNS requests. SUNBURST backdoors in Stage 1 operation cannot accept any commands from the C2 server without first progressing into Stage 2 operation. We estimate that about 99.5% of the installed SUNBURST backdoors never progressed into Stage 2 operation.

Here is the full list of internal AD domain names from the SUNBURST deployments in VriesHd's DNS data that actually did enter Stage 2 operation according to our analysis: 23 SUNBURST Targets Identified

Our SUNBURST STAGE2 Victim Table has now been updated with additional details about the STAGE2 signaling from these SUNBURST implants, including timestamps, subdomains and GUID values.

Initial Microsoft Targeting FAIL

The last two entries in the AD domain list above are interesting, since they both hint that the targeted entity might be Microsoft.

The data that gets exfiltrated in DNS beacons during SUNBURST's initial stage is the internal domain the SolarWinds Orion PC is connected to and a list of installed security products on that PC. These domain names, security products and possibly also the victims' public IP addresses, was the data available to the attackers when they decided which ones they wanted to proceed to Stage 2 with and thereby activate the HTTPS backdoor built into SUNBURST.

The threat actors were probably surprised when they realized that "WincoreWindows.local" was in fact a company in West Virginia that manufactures high quality windows and doors.

Wincore Windows and Doors

The threat actors later found another backdoored SolarWinds Orion machine connected to a domain called "wctc.msft", which also sounds like it could be Microsoft. Below is a table outlining relevant events for these two SUNBURST deployments that can be extracted from VriesHd's SB2 spreadsheet with SunburstDomainDecoder.

Target ID Beaconed Data Date
A887B592B7E5B550 AD domain part 1: "WincoreW"
A887B592B7E5B550 AD domain part 2: "indows.local"
A887B592B7E5B550 AV Products: [none] 2020-05-22
🤔 Threat actor decision: Target victim A887B592B7E5B550
A887B592B7E5B550 STAGE2 request for new C2 server in CNAME 2020-05-26
🤔 Threat actor decision: These aren't the droids we're looking for
59956D687A42F160 AD domain: "wctc.msft"
59956D687A42F160 AV Products: [none] 2020-06-20
59956D687A42F160 Ping 2020-06-21
59956D687A42F160 Ping 2020-06-22
🤔 Threat actor decision: Target victim 59956D687A42F160
59956D687A42F160 STAGE2 request for new C2 server in CNAME 2020-06-23

Microsoft have been public about being hit by SUNBURST (or "Solorigate" as they call it), so we can assume that the threat actors eventually located a backdoored SolarWinds Orion installation in their networks.

Victim Notification

We spent the previous week reaching out to targeted companies and organizations, either directly or through CERT organizations. From what we understand many of these organizations were already aware that they had been targeted victims of SUNBURST, even though they might not have gone public about the breach.

The Ethical Dilemma

We have no intentions to shame the organizations that have installed a backdoored SolarWinds Orion update, regardless if they were targeted by the threat actor or not. In fact, the supply chain security problem is an extremely difficult one to tackle, even for companies and organizations with very high security standards. This could have happened to anyone!

However, since multiple passive DNS logs and SUNBURST victim lists have been circulating through publicly available channels for over a month, we felt that it was now acceptable to publicly write about the analysis we've been doing based on all this data. We'd also like to thank everyone who has helped collect and share passive DNS data, including John Bambenek, Joe Słowik, Rohit Bansal, Dancho Danchev , Paul Vixie and VriesHd. This open data has been crucial in order to develop and verify our SunburstDomainDecoder tool, which has been leveraged by numerous incident response teams to perform forensic analysis of DNS traffic from their SolarWinds Orion deployments.

More Credits

We'd like to thank CERT-SE and all other computer emergency response organizations that have helped us with the task of notifying organizations that were identified as targeted. We would also like to applaud companies and organizations like FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Fidelis Cybersecurity, Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Federal Courts for being transparent and publicly announcing that the SUNBURST backdoor had been used in an attempt to compromise their networks.

Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Monday, 25 January 2021 08:25:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #SUNBURST #FireEye #Solorigate #Microsoft #SolarWinds #FireEye #CNAME #STAGE2 #DNS #Passive DNS #pDNS #Microsoft

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CapLoader 1.3 Released

CapLoader Logo

A new version of our heavy-duty PCAP parser tool CapLoader is now available. There are many new features and improvements in this release, such as the ability to filter flows with BPF, domain name extraction via passive DNS parser and matching of domain names against a local white list.

Filtering with BPF

The main focus in the work behind CapLoader 1.3 has been to fully support the Rinse-Repeat Intrusion Detection methodology. We've done this by improving the filtering capabilities in CapLoader. For starters, we've added an input filter, which can be used to specify IP addresses, IP networks, protocols or port numbers to be parsed or ignored. The input filter uses the Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF) syntax, and is designed to run really fast. So if you wanna analyze only HTTP traffic you can simply write “port 80” as your input filter to have CapLoader only parse and display flows going to or from port 80. We have also added a display filter, which unlike Wireshark also uses BPF. Thus, once a set of flows is loaded one can easily apply different display filters, like “host” or “net”, to apply different views on the parsed data.

CapLoader BPF Input Filter and Display Filter
Image: CapLoader with input filter "port 80 or port 443" and display filter "not net".

The main differences between the input filter and display filter are:

  • Input filter is much faster than the display filter, so if you know beforehand what ports, protocols or IP addresses you are interested in then make sure to apply them as an input filter. You will notice a delay when applying a display filter to a view of 10.000 flows or more.
  • In order to apply a new input filter CapLoader has to reload all the opened PCAP files (which is done by pressing F5). Modifying display filters, on the other hand, only requires you to press Enter or hit the “Apply” button.
  • Previously applied display filters are accessible in a drop-down menu in the GUI, but no history is kept of previous input filters.

NetFlow + DNS == true

The “Flows” view in CapLoader gives a great overview of all TCP, UDP and SCTP flows in the loaded PCAP files. However, it is usually not obvious to an analyst what every IP address is used for. We have therefore added a DNS parser to CapLoader, so that all DNS packets can be parsed in order to map IP addresses to domain names. The extracted domain names are displayed for each flow, which is very useful when performing Rinse-Repeat analysis in order to quickly remove “known good servers” from the analysis.

Leveraging the Alexa top 1M list

As we've show in in our previous blog post “DNS whitelisting in NetworkMiner”, using a list of popular domain names as a whitelist can be an effective method for finding malware. We often use this approach in order to quickly remove lots of known good servers when doing Rinse-Repeat analysis in large datasets.

Therefore, just as we did for NetworkMiner 1.5, CapLoader now includes Alexa's list of the 1 million most popular domain names on the Internet. All domain names, parsed from DNS traffic, are checked against the Alexa list. Domains listed in the whitelist are shown in CapLoader's “Server_Alexa_Domian” column. This makes it very easy to sort on this column in order to remove (hide) all flows going to “normal” servers on the Internet. After removing all those flows, what you're left with is pretty much just:

  • Local traffic (not sent over the Internet)
  • Outgoing traffic to either new or obscure domains

Manually going through the remaining flows can be very rewarding, as it can reveal C2 traffic from malware that has not yet been detected by traditional security products like anti-virus or IDS.

Flows in CapLoader with DNS parsing and Alexa lookup
Image: CapLoader with malicious flow to 1.web-counter[.]info (Miuref/Boaxxe Trojan) singled out due to missing Alexa match.

Many new features in CapLoader 1.3

The new features highlighted above are far from the only additions made to CapLoader 1.3. Here is a more complete list of improvements in this release:

  • Support for “Select Flows in PCAP” to extract and select 5-tuples from a PCAP-file. This can be a Snort PCAP with packets that have triggered IDS signatures. This way you can easily extract the whole TCP or UDP flow for each signature match, instead of just trying to make sense of one single packet per alert.
  • Improved packet carver functionality to better carve IP, TCP and UPD packets from any file. This includes memory dumps as well as proprietary and obscure packet capture formats.
  • Support for SCTP flows.
  • DNS parser.
  • Alexa top 1M matching.
  • Input filter and display filter with BPF syntax.
  • Flow Producer-Consumer-Ratio PCR.
  • Flow Transcript can be opened simply by double-clicking a flow.
  • Find form updated with option to hide non-matching flows instead of just selecting the flows that matched the keyword search criteria.
  • New flow transcript encoding with IP TTL, TCP flags and sequence numbers to support analysis of Man-on-the-Side attacks.
  • Faster loading of previously opened files, MD5 hashes don't need to be recalculated.
  • A selected set of flows in the GUI can be inverted simply by right-clicking the flow list and selecting “Invert Selection” or by hitting Ctrl+I.

Downloading CapLoader 1.3

All these new features, except for the Alexa lookup of domain names, are available in our free trial version of CapLoader. So to try out these new features in CapLoader, simply grab a trial download here: (no registration needed)

All paying customers with an older version of CapLoader can grab a free update for version 1.3 at our customer portal.

Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Monday, 28 September 2015 07:30:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #CapLoader #BPF #Berkeley Packet Filter #Rinse-Repeat #DNS #Alexa #PCAP #Passive DNS #NetFlow #Malware #C2

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Recommended Books

» The Practice of Network Security Monitoring, Richard Bejtlich (2013)

» Applied Network Security Monitoring, Chris Sanders and Jason Smith (2013)

» Network Forensics, Sherri Davidoff and Jonathan Ham (2012)

» The Tao of Network Security Monitoring, Richard Bejtlich (2004)

» Practical Packet Analysis, Chris Sanders (2017)

» Windows Forensic Analysis, Harlan Carvey (2009)

» TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1, Kevin Fall and Richard Stevens (2011)

» Industrial Network Security, Eric D. Knapp and Joel Langill (2014)