Monthly Archives: October 2015

Course Review: SANS FOR578 Cyber Threat Intelligence


Image retrieved from

Last week I had the opportunity to attend SANS DFIR Prague where I completed the SANS FOR578 course “Cyber Threat Intelligence” (CTI) with Robert M. Lee.  Robert is one of the co-authors of the course and is brilliant instructor that really knows his stuff.  Everything stands or falls with the quality of the instructor and I believe Robert did give us (students) a great learning experience with great interactions and discussions. Among other things Robert is the CEO of the security company Dragos Security and has worked in the US Air Force which allows him to talk genuinely about the “intelligence” topic.

Overall this was a five day course that immerses the student into the new and emerging field of CTI. During the five days we lived, ate and breathed being a CTI analyst. Being a CTI professional is not an easy task and it’s not in five days that you can expect to become one.  However, in my opinion, if someone has the desire, as well as the ability, this course can give you the means. I’m sure this course gave me important skills and competencies about this new, emerging field. One key take away from the training is that it gives you the foundations to create a threat Intel capability into your organization and enables security personnel to develop more proactive and mature response practices against threats and move defenses higher up the kill chain.

The first day is a comprehensive introduction to the new Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) domain, with a wide range of topics and terminology being covered. What is threat intelligence? Why should organizations adopt it? What is the value? What is the difference between a consumer and a producer of CTI? What are the different types of CTI?  In addition, background on the intelligence doctrine and its life cycle is also discussed. The afternoon was spent on the different frameworks and models that you can use to create consistent and repeatable CTI outputs. The Kill Chain, Diamond Model, Courses of Action Matrix and the Detection Maturity Model were the ones most covered.

Day two was all about enforcing the models presented in day one with special focus on the Kill Chain model. Lots of exercises supported by a network intrusion scenario where we (students) needed to perform different tasks to put in practice the theory from day one. The way the intrusion attributes, properties and artifacts are mapped to the Kill Chain, Diamond Model and Courses of Action were really useful. Because the frameworks discussed are complementary they can be combined in order to produce multi-dimensional analysis of the intrusion. I think this multi-dimensional approach to intrusions gives great insight about the adversary. Although a time consuming exercise it was great to get a feeling about what a CTI analyst might do in a organization with high security risk that need to have mature and dedicated teams to perform this type of work.

By leveraging the intelligence gained overtime during the analysis of multiple intrusions we start to get an understanding about commonalities and overlapping indicators. Mapping these commonalities and indicators to the intrusion kill chain and diamond model results in a structural way to analyze multiple intrusions. By repeating this process we could characterize intruders activity by determine the tactics, techniques and procedures on how the attackers operate i.e., perform a campaign analysis. This was day three. A meticulous work that is built over time and needs great amount of support from your organization but after execution it will produce great insight about the adversary. In terms of tools, the exercises relied heavily on Excel and the fantastic and open source Maltego.

Day four was focused on the different collection, sharing and ingestion methods of threat intelligence. The primary method of collection discussed was trough threat feeds.  Other collection methods such as OSINT and threat Intel produced inside the organization or received trough circles of trust were also discussed. For sharing, a key take away is that partners with strong non disclosure agreements are very efficient. Still, in the sharing realm delivering context is crucial in order to make it actionable. Furthermore, we discussed the roles of the different ISAC and other organizations.  Regarding the ingestion, the material has very good coverage on the different standards and protocols that have been developed in recent years to collect share and consume technical information in an automated way. The focus was on STIX, TAXII. We also reviewed other methods and standards such as OpenIOC and Yara rules.  In regards to the tools and exercises we had the chance to play with Recorded Future and Threat Connect and and develop OpenIOC and Yara rules. SANS posture overtime has been always vendor neutral but I must say the Recorded Future demo for OSINT is well worth and the tool is really amazing!

The material on day five is more abstract. Special focus on how people – analysts – make conclusions. For example we discussed the difference between observations and interpretations and how to construct assessments. Great amount of material about cognitive biases and how it might influences the work performed by an analyst. During this day we were also exposed to the analysis of competing hypotheses (ACH) methodology by former CIA analyst Richards J Heuer, Jr. The exercises were really interesting because we had to evaluate hypotheses against the evidences we found during the intrusion analysis of the different scenarios.  By the end of the day we immersed into the topic of attribution and discussion about nation state capabilities and the different cases that have been known in the industry.

Of course apart of the training, was great to attend the DFIR Summit, absorb information, play DIFR NetWars and more important meet new people, share experiences and see good old friends!

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Malicious Office Document delivering Dyre

Phishing campaigns that distribute commodity malware are common and ongoing problem for end users and corporations. In this article would like give you an illustration about one email that was part of a phishing campaign that distributes a very successful banking trojan malware known as Dyre or Dyreza. This trojan is quite sophisticated. Among other things is capable of stealing all kinds of credentials from the victim’s computer. It can also redirect victim’s traffic to sites controlled by the threat actors using man-in-the-browser functionality. This allows interception and manipulation of traffic that is supposed to be delivered to legitimate sites. Dyre has remote access functionality that allows the threat actor to connect to websites trough the victim computer.

The distribution methods observed is the past are mainly done using phishing emails that include a malicious Microsoft Office document attached. It normally includes a Microsoft Word or Excel document with macros. The image below illustrates one of these samples where the sender falsely mimics a legitimate business transaction. This well-crafted email attempts to lure the recipient into opening the malicious attachment.


Noteworthy is that the threat actors behind the malware distribution operations go to great lengths ensuring the files are not detected as malicious  by the different security mechanism such as Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus and Sandboxes.  Is quite normal when  submitting this malicious Office documents to Virus Total to have less than 10% detection rate and being rated benign by Sandboxes.In this example as seen in the picture below, the user when opening the email attachment is presented with the information that the document is encrypted with RSA algorithm and the user needs to enable macros in order to see its content.


The document is of course not encrypted and this is a social engineering technique to trick the users to run the malicious macro. Allowing macros to run causes the malware to be extracted and executed in the victim system.

So what makes this document different than the others recently seen? The difference is in the weaponization mechanism that was used. Traditionally, these malicious Office documents have encoded and obfuscated macros. These macros when executed will connect to a site and download the malicious executable. However, in this case the document contains an obfuscated macro but the executable is embedded within the document.  This reduces the steps needed for infection and might increase the infection rate.

What tools and techniques one could use to unravel what is inside the document?

For malicious document analysis, REMnux and the cheat sheet created by Lenny Zeltser are a fantastic companion. On REMnux v6 one of the new tools pre-installed is the python-oletools toolkit. This toolkit was created by Philippe Lagadec based on the work created by John William Davison on officeparser. The tool among other things can parse and extract VBA Macros from Microsoft Office documents. It supports a variety of Microsoft Office documents and it can be very handy for this type of malicious documents. We start with the usage of to view the document metadata. In this case we could see codepage 1252 which might indicate where the document was fabricated. Then we run which gives us a very good overview about the capabilities inside the document. In this case we could observe that the document contain VBA macros and OLE embeded objects. These indicators definitely need a deeper look.


We start by looking at the VBA macro. The following picture illustrates the output given by after analyzing the malicious Office document. It shows the actual macro and one could see that is obfuscated. In addition the tool gives its interpretation of the different functions used in the macro. Many of the functions used are considered suspicious.



Based on this information we can see that the document contains a obfuscated VBA macro that presumably creates RTF files (300.rtf and 301.rtf) and extracts an executable called n1.exe.

To further dig into these artifacts we will use another great tool. Oledump created by Didier Stevens. This tool allows you to analyze OLE files. As stated in the manual page: “Many file formats are in fact OLE files, like Microsoft Office files, MSI files. Even the new Microsoft Office Open XML format uses OLE files for VBA macros”. Another powerful tool created by Didier that even supports decoders and plugins such as Yara rules. One of the Yara rules is based on the work made on OfficeMalscanner  by Frank Boldewin that can find shelcode, PE-files and other embedded streams inside Office documents.

To verify our suspicious we use with a yara rule that detects the presence of PE files inside documents. The output confirms that an executable was found inside the document.


We can now extract the executable. The stream that triggered the Yara rule is the stream 11. Once again using we can extract the binary and redirected to a file for further analysis.


With the executable extracted we can now start  using static and dynamic analysis techniques to determine the malware capabilities and extract IOCs that can be used to across our logs and network to find infected systems. This will be left for another blog post.

E-mail continues to be the weapon of choice for mass delivering malware. The tools and techniques used by attackers  continue to evolve and bypass all the security controls in place. From a defense perspective, the US-CERT put together excellent tips for detecting and preventing this type of malware and to avoid scams and phishing attempts applicable to home users and corporations.


MD5 of the files used in this exercise:
Evil.doc  : dd3cd493aa68f55d1df442873ad2b2e8
Evil.bin : 27079661fb498dcf18194f45a4171492

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