NETRESEC Network Security Blog - Tag : Protocol Identification

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CapLoader 1.9.4 Released

CapLoader 1.9.4

A new version of our advanced PCAP filtering tool CapLoader was released today. The new CapLoader 1.9.4 release includes features like JA3 hash extraction from TLS traffic and a fantastic thing called Select Similar Flows, which is a unique feature that you will only find in CapLoader! We have also included a VXLAN parser, so that flows tunneled inside of overlay networks can be presented directly in the CapLoader GUI.

Select Similar Flows or Services

If you right-click a flow or service in CapLoader you’ll now be presented with an option to “select similar flows” (or services). This feature causes CapLoader to read through the loaded PCAP files again in order to find other flows that are similar to the one that was right-clicked. CapLoader doesn’t care about IP addresses or port numbers when assessing this similarity. Instead it looks at behavioral patterns in the traffic itself, such as packet sizes and byte patterns. In practice, this feature will select flows that are communicating using the same protocol as the one you clicked, regardless of which port it runs on. CapLoader already comes with an advanced feature for doing port-independent protocol identification, which currently detects over 170 protocols. But the “select similar” feature can even be used to find odd or proprietary protocols that aren’t in CapLoaders protocol database.

There is also a feature called “select VERY similar flows” which, instead of searching for flows with the same protocol, looks for flows with the same implementation or dialect of that particular protocol. This feature can be used to single out the network traffic of a particular software or tool from a haystack of network traffic from multiple applications, which all run the same application layer protocol. Another use case is to find additional malicious C2 sessions that run on top of a standard protocol like HTTP, TLS or DNS – provided that you’ve located at least one such malicious flow or service.

JA3 and JA3S Hashes for TLS Flows

We added JA3 extraction to NetworkMiner back in 2019, with the release of NetworkMiner 2.5. It’s now time to bring this useful little TLS fingerprinting feature into CapLoader as well. As of version 1.9.4 CapLoader attempts to extract JA3 and JA3S hashes from all TCP flows. The JA3 and JA3S hashes are presented in the Flows and Services tabs as separate columns. This allows users to filter flows based on a JA3 hash directly in CapLoader instead of having to export a filtered PCAP to an external tool to calculate JA3 hashes.

CapLoader with Column Critera filter for JA3 hash

Image: Column criteria filter “JA3 = a72f351cf3c3cd1edb345f7dc071d813” on PCAP from CERT-SE’s 2021 CTF.

Extraction of Flows Inside of VXLAN Tunnels

VXLAN is a network virtualization technology that can be used to create overlay networks, where Ethernet frames are encapsulated inside of UDP packets (see RFC 7348). The UDP port used for VXLAN is 4789 or 8472. We added support for VXLAN to NetworkMiner in 2017, but CapLoader has until now only presented the VXLAN tunnels in the GUI when VXLAN traffic is loaded. We’re happy to announce that CapLoader now extracts flows for the VXLAN tunnels and the traffic inside of those tunnels.

ICMP flow extracted from VXLAN tunnel

Image: ICMP flow extracted from VXLAN tunnel. PCAP file is Virtual_Extensible_LAN-VXLAN.pcap from Xena Networks

Additional GUI Improvements

We’ve also made several minor improvements to CapLoader’s user interface, such as a “Save Visible Flows” option on the File menu, which can be used to save the filtered traffic in the current view to a PCAP file. Another nice addition is the “Copy from Selected Rows” menu option, which can be used to copy text from a particular column.

CapLoader’s OSINT lookup context menus have also been updated to include some very useful services like Feodo Tracker, Hatching Triage and IPVoid.

Free Trial versus Full Version

Many of the new additions to CapLoader are only available in the full version, but the VXLAN extraction and some of the GUI additions are also available in the free trial version of CapLoader. No registration is required to download the trial — just download, extract and run for 30 days. If you like it, then please consider purchasing the full version!

Updating to the Latest Release

Users who have already purchased a license for CapLoader can download a free update to version 1.9.4 from our customer portal.

Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Thursday, 16 June 2022 11:44:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #CapLoader#JA3#JA3S#Protocol Identification#Protocol Detection#PCAP#TLS#VXLAN

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Detecting Cobalt Strike and Hancitor traffic in PCAP

This video shows how Cobalt Strike and Hancitor C2 traffic can be detected using CapLoader.

I bet you’re going:

😱 OMG he’s analyzing Windows malware on a Windows PC!!!

Relax, I know what I’m doing. I have also taken the precaution of analyzing the PCAP file in a Windows Sandbox, which just takes a couple of seconds to deploy and run.

The capture file I’m looking at is called “2021-05-13-Hancitor-traffic-with-Ficker-Stealer-and-Cobalt-Strike.pcap” and can be downloaded from here:

CapLoader’s Services tab shows us that the connections to TCP 80 and 443 on are very periodic, with a detected period of exactly 1 minute. CapLoader successfully identifies the protocols for these two services as Cobalt Strike over HTTP and Cobalt Strike over SSL, respectively. The third service in this list is also very periodic, that’s the Hancitor trojan beaconing to its C2 server every two minutes.

Services tab in CapLoader

CapLoader uses machine learning to identify the application layer protocol based on the behavior of the traffic, not the port number. This means that there can be false positives, i.e. the protocol classification that CapLoader gives a flow or service might be wrong. It is more common, however, for CapLoader to yield false negatives, which means that it can't identify the protocol. The detection of Cobalt Strike inside of HTTP and SSL traffic was recently introduced in the latest 1.9 release of CapLoader. I expected this feature to detect Cobalt Strike traffic in HTTP, but I was delighted to see that CapLoader often detects even TLS encrypted Cobalt Strike beaconing with really good precision!

As shown in the video, the Cobalt Strike beacon config can easily be extracted from the network traffic using NetworkMiner and Didier Stevens’ 1768 K python script.

The output from Didier’s tool looks something like this:

0x0001 payload type 0 windows-beacon_http-reverse_http
0x0002 port 80
0x0003 sleeptime 60000
0x0004 maxgetsize 1048576
0x0005 jitter 0
0x0007 publickey 30819f30[...]
0x0008 server,get-uri ',/ca'

As you can see, it uses HTTP for transport with a “sleeptime” of 1 minute (60000 ms) and 0% jitter. This means that a new connection will be made to the Cobalt Strike C2 server every minute. The fact that there was no jitter is what gives this service such a high value in CapLoader’s “Periodicity” column.

Network Forensics Training

Are you interested in learning more about how to analyze network traffic from Cobalt Strike and other backdoors, malware and hacker tools? Then take a look at the live online network forensics classes I will be teaching in September and October!

Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Monday, 31 May 2021 08:30:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #Netresec#Cobalt Strike#CobaltStrike#periodicity#Protocol Sandbox#PCAP#NSM#video#videotutorial

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Port Independent Protocol Detection

Protocol Alphabet Soup by ThousandEyes

Our heavy-duty PCAP analyzer CapLoader comes with a feature called ”Port Independent Protocol Identification”, a.k.a. PIPI (see Richard Bejtlich's PIPI blog post from 2006). Academic research in the Traffic Measurement field often use the term ”Traffic Classification”, which is similar but not the same thing. Traffic Classification normally group network traffic in broad classes, such as Email, Web, Chat or VoIP. CapLoader, on the other hand, identifies the actual application layer protocol used in each flow. So instead of classifying a flow as ”VoIP” CapLoader will tell you if the flow carries SIP, Skype, RTP or MGCP traffic. This approach is also known as “Dynamic Protocol Detection”.

Being able to identify application layer protocols without relying on the TCP or UDP port number is crucial when analyzing malicious traffic, such as malware Command-and-Control (C2) communication, covert backdoors and rouge servers, since such communication often use services on non-standard ports. Some common examples are:

  • Many botnet C2 protocols communicate over port TCP 443, but using a proprietary protocol rather than HTTP over SSL.
  • Backdoors on hacked computers and network devices typically wither run a standard service like SSH on a port other than 22 in order to hide.
  • More advanced backdoors use port knocking to run a proprietary C2 protocol on a standard port (SYNful knock runs on TCP 80).

This means that by analyzing network traffic for port-protocol anomalies, like an outgoing TCP connection to TCP 443 that isn't SSL, you can effectively detect intrusions without having IDS signatures for all C2 protocols. This analysis technique is often used when performing Rinse-Repeat Intrusion Detection, which is a blacklist-free approach for identifying intrusions and other form of malicious network traffic. With CapLoader one can simply apply a BPF filter like “port 443” and scroll through the displayed flows to make sure they are all say “SSL” in the Protocol column.

CapLoader detects non-SSL traffic to Image: Miuref/Boaxxe Trojan C2 traffic to "1.web-counter[.]info" on TCP 443 doesn't use SSL (or HTTPS)

Statistical Analysis

CapLoader relies on statistical analysis of each TCP, UDP and SCTP session's behavior in order to compare it to previously computed statistical models for known protocols. These statistical models are generated using a multitude of metrics, such as inter-packet delays, packet sizes and payload data. The port number is, on the other hand, a parameter that is intentionally not used by CapLoader to determine the application layer protocol.

The PIPI/Dynamic Protocol Detection feature in CapLoader has been designed to detect even encrypted and obfuscated binary protocols, such as Tor and Encrypted BitTorrent (MSE). These protocols are designed in order to deceive protocol detection mechanisms, and traditional signature based protocol detection algorithms can't reliably detect them. The statistical approach employed by CapLoader can, on the other hand, actually detect even these highly obfuscated protocols. It is, however, important to note that being a statistical method it will never be 100% accurate. Analysts should therefore not take for granted that a flow is using the protocol stated by CapLoader. There are some situations when it is very difficult to accurately classify an encrypted protocol, such as when the first part of a TCP session is missing in the analyzed data. This can occur when there is an ongoing session that was established before the packet capture was started.

Identified Protocols

The following protocols are currently available for detection in CapLoader's protocol database:

AOL Instant Messenger
BitTorrent Encrypted - MSE
DropBox LSP
eDonkey Obfuscated
Gh0st RAT
Groove LAN DPP
MikroTik NDP
Modbus TCP
MSN Messenger
NetBIOS Datagram Service
NetBIOS Name Service
NetBIOS Session Service
Poison Ivy RAT
Reverse Shell
SopCast P2P
Spotify P2P
Spotify Server
TeamViewer UDP
XMPP Jabber
Zeus TCP
Zeus UDP

The list of implemented protocols is constantly being increased with new protocols.

PIPI in NetworkMiner

NetworkMiner Logo

NetworkMiner Professional, which is the commercial version of NetworkMiner, also comes with an implementation of our protocol detection mechanism. Even though NetworkMiner Professional doesn't detect as many protocols as CapLoader, the PIPI feature built into NetworkMiner Pro still helps a lot when analyzing HTTP traffic on ports other that 80 or 8080 as well as in order to reassemble files downloaded from FTP or TFTP servers running on non-standard ports.


Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 09:05:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #Protocol Identification#CapLoader#VoIP#SIP#RTP#TOR#SSL#PIPI#PCAP#NetworkMiner

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