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Sat, 1 Jun 2013

Honey, I’m home!! - Hacking Z-Wave & other Black Hat news

You've probably never thought of this, but the home automation market in the US was worth approximately $3.2 billion in 2010 and is expected to exceed $5.5 billion in 2016.

Under the hood, the Zigbee and Z-wave wireless communication protocols are the most common used RF technology in home automation systems. Zigbee is based on an open specification (IEEE 802.15.4) and has been the subject of several academic and practical security researches. Z-wave is a proprietary wireless protocol that works in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical radio band (ISM). It transmits on the 868.42 MHz (Europe) and 908.42MHz (United States) frequencies designed for low-bandwidth data communications in embedded devices such as security sensors, alarms and home automation control panels.

Unlike Zigbee, almost no public security research has been done on the Z-Wave protocol except once during a DefCon 2011 talk when the presenter pointed to the possibility of capturing the AES key exchange ... until now. Our Black Hat USA 2013 talk explores the question of Z-Wave protocol security and show how the Z-Wave protocol can be subjected to attacks.

The talk is being presented by Behrang Fouladi a Principal Security Researcher at SensePost, with some help on the hardware side from our friend Sahand Ghanoun. Behrang is one of our most senior and most respected analysts. He loves poetry, movies with Owen Wilson, snowboarding and long walks on the beach. Wait - no - that's me. Behrang's the guy who lives in London and has a Masters from Royal Holloway. He's also the guy who figured how to clone the SecureID software token.

Amazingly, this is the 11th time we've presented at Black Hat Las Vegas. We try and keep track of our talks and papers at conferences on our research services site, but for your reading convenience, here's a summary of our Black Hat talks over the last decade:

2002: Setiri : Advances in trojan technology (Roelof Temmingh)

Setiri was the first publicized trojan to implement the concept of using a web browser to communicate with its controller and caused a stir when we presented it in 2002. We were also very pleased when it got referenced by in a 2004 book by Ed Skoudis.

2003: Putting the tea back into cyber terrorism (Charl van der Walt, Roelof Temmingh and Haroon Meer)

A paper about targeted, effective, automated attacks that could be used in countrywide cyber terrorism. A worm that targets internal networks was also discussed as an example of such an attack. In some ways, the thinking in this talk eventually lead to the creation of Maltego.

2004: When the tables turn (Charl van der Walt, Roelof Temmingh and Haroon Meer)

This paper presented some of the earliest ideas on offensive strike-back as a network defence methodology, which later found their way into Neil Wyler's 2005 book "Aggressive Network Self-Defence".

2005: Assessment automation (Roelof Temmingh)

Our thinking around pentest automation, and in particular footprinting and link analyses was further expanded upon. Here we also released the first version of our automated footprinting tool - "Bidiblah".

2006: A tail of two proxies (Roelof Temmingh and Haroon Meer)

In this talk we literally did introduce two proxy tools. The first was "Suru', our HTTP MITM proxy and a then-contender to the @stake Web Proxy. Although Suru has long since been bypassed by excellent tools like "Burp Proxy" it introduced a number of exciting new concepts, including trivial fuzzing, token correlation and background directory brute-forcing. Further improvements included timing analysis and indexable directory checks. These were not available in other commercial proxies at the time, hence our need to write our own.

Another pioneering MITM proxy - WebScarab from OWASP - also shifted thinking at the time. It was originally written by Rogan Dawes, our very own pentest team leader.

The second proxy we introduced operated at the TCP layer, leveraging off the very excellent Scappy packet manipulation program. We never took that any further, however.

2007: It's all about timing (Haroon Meer and Marco Slaviero)

This was one of my favourite SensePost talks. It kicked off a series of research projects concentrating on timing-based inference attacks against all kinds of technologies and introduced a weaponized timing-based data exfiltration attack in the form of our Squeeza SQL Injection exploitation tool (you probably have to be South African to get the joke). This was also the first talk in which we Invented Our Own Acronym.

2008: Pushing a camel through the eye of a needle (Haroon Meer, Marco Slaviero & Glenn Wilkinson)

In this talk we expanded on our ideas of using timing as a vector for data extraction in so-called 'hostile' environments. We also introduced our 'reDuh' TCP-over-HTTP tunnelling tool. reDuh is a tool that can be used to create a TCP circuit through validly formed HTTP requests. Essentially this means that if we can upload a JSP/PHP/ASP page onto a compromised server, we can connect to hosts behind that server trivially. We also demonstrated how reDuh could be implemented under OLE right inside a compromised SQL 2005 server, even without 'sa' privileges.

2009: Clobbering the cloud (Haroon Meer, Marco Slaviero and Nicholas Arvanitis)

Yup, we did cloud before cloud was cool. This was a presentation about security in the cloud. Cloud security issues such as privacy, monoculture and vendor lock-in are discussed. The cloud offerings from Amazon, Salesforce and Apple as well as their security were examined. We got an email from Steve "Woz" Wozniak, we quoted Dan Geer and we had a photo of Dino Daizovi. We built an HTTP brute-forcer on and (best of all) we hacked Apple using an iPhone.

2010: Cache on delivery (Marco Slaviero)

This was a presentation about mining information from memcached. We introduced go-derper.rb, a tool we developed for hacking memcached servers and gave a few examples, including a sexy hack of It seemed like people weren't getting our point at first, but later the penny dropped and we've to-date had almost 50,000 hits on the presentation on Slideshare.

2011: Sour pickles (Marco Slaviero)

Python's Pickle module provides a known capability for running arbitrary Python functions and, by extension, permitting remote code execution; however there is no public Pickle exploitation guide and published exploits are simple examples only. In this paper we described the Pickle environment, outline hurdles facing a shellcoder and provide guidelines for writing Pickle shellcode. A brief survey of public Python code was undertaken to establish the prevalence of the vulnerability, and a shellcode generator and Pickle mangler were written. Output from the paper included helpful guidelines and templates for shellcode writing, tools for Pickle hacking and a shellcode library.We also wrote a very fancy paper about it all...

We never presented at Black Hat USA in 2012, although we did do some very cool work in that year.

For this year's show we'll back on the podium with Behrang's talk, as well an entire suite of excellent training courses. To meet the likes of Behrang and the rest of our team please consider one of our courses. We need all the support we can get and we're pretty convinced you won't be disappointed.

See you in Vegas!

Thu, 23 May 2013

Stay low, move fast, shoot first, die last, one shot, one kill, no luck, pure skill ...

We're excited to be presenting our Hacking By Numbers Combat course again at Black Hat USA this year. SensePost's resident German haxor dude Georg-Christian Pranschke will be presenting this year's course. Combat fits in right at the top of our course offerings. No messing about, this really is the course where your sole aim is to pwn as much of the infrastructure and applications as possible. It is for the security professional looking to hone their skill-set, or to think like those in Unit 61398. There are a few assumptions though:

  • you have an excellent grounding in terms of infrastructure - and application assessments

  • you aren't scared of tackling systems that aren't easily owned using Metasploit

  • gaining root is an almost OCD-like obsession

  • there are no basic introductions into linux, shells, pivoting etc.

As we've always said, it is quite literally an all-hack, no-talk course. We are not going to dictate what tools or technologies get used by students. We don't care if you use ruby or perl or python to break something (we do, actually - we don't like ruby), just as long as it gets broken. The Combat course itself is a series of between 12 and 15 (depending on time) capture the flag type exercises presented over a period of two days. The exercises include infrastructure, reverse engineering and crypto.

These targets come from real life assessments we've faced at SensePost, it's about as real as you can get without having to do the report at the end of it. How it works is that candidates are presented with a specific goal. If the presenter is feeling generous at the time, they may even get a description of the technology. After that, they'll have time to solve the puzzle. Afterwards, there will be a discussion about the failings, takeaways and alternate approaches adopted by the class. The latter is normally fascinating as (as anybody in the industry knows), there are virtually a limitless number of different ways to solve specific problems. This means that even the instructor gets to learn a couple of new tricks (we also have prizes for those who teach them enough new tricks).

In 2012, Combat underwent a massive rework and we presented a virtually new course which went down excellently. We're aiming to do the same this year, and to make it the best Combat course ever. So if you're interested in spending two days' worth of intense thinking solving some fairly unique puzzles and shelling boxen, join us for HBN Combat at BlackHat USA.

Mon, 22 Apr 2013

Google Docs XSS - no bounty today

A few days ago, during one of those nights with the baby crying at 2:00 am and the only thing you can do is to read emails, I realised that Gmail shows the content of compressed files when reading them in Google Docs. As often is the case at SensePost, the "think evil (tm)" came to me and I started to ponder the possibilities of injecting HTML inside the file listing. The idea is actually rather simple. Looking at the file format of a .zip file we see the following:

Every file in the compressed file must have two entries; ZipFileRecord and ZipDirEntry. Both of these entries contain the filename, but only the first one contains the length of filename (it must match the actual length). Our first test case is obvious; if we could modify this name once the file was compressed, would Google sanitise it? Thankfully, the answer is, yes! (go Google!)

As you can see, Google shows the file name inside the compressed file but the tag is displayed with HTML entities. If we then try to see the contents of the file, Google responds by telling us it's not possible to read the content of the file (it's empty) and shows you the file "without formatting" after a few seconds:

Finally, the filename is shown but not sanitised:

Why this is possible?

Remember that the zip format has the name of the compressed files twice. Google uses the first one (ZipFileRecord) for displaying the file names, but in the vulnerable page it uses the second one (ZipDirEntry).

Possible attack vectors

Going back to the 'thinking evil (tm)' mindset, it is now possible to leave a "comprehensive" name in the first entry and inject the malicious payload in the second one. When I first discovered the possibility of doing this, I contacted Google, however, the XSS is in the domain, which Google's security team described as a "sandbox" domain (i.e. we aren't injecting into the DOM of and therefore not worthy of a bounty. Which I accept, if I had to prove usefulness this could be used as part of a simple social engineering attack, for example:

Leading the victim to my phishing site:

Which then proceeds to steals their Google session, or allows the attacker to use BeEF:

Granted, there are simpler ways of achieving the same result. I just wanted to demonstrate how you can use file meta-information for such an attack.

Mon, 4 Mar 2013

Vulnerability Management Analyst Position

Have a keen interest on scanning over 12000 IP's a week for vulnerabilities? Excited about the thought of assessing over 100 web applications for common vulnerabilities? If so, an exciting, as well as demanding, position has become available within the Managed Vulnerability Scanning (MVS) team at SensePost.

Job Title: Vulnerability Management Analyst

Salary Range: Industry standard, commensurate with experience

Location: Johannesburg/Pretoria, South Africa

We are looking for a talented person to join our MVS team to help manage the technology that makes up our Broadview suite and, more importantly, finding vulnerabilities, interpreting the results and manually verifying them. We are after talented people with a broad skill set to join our growing team of consultants. Our BroadView suite of products consists of our extensive vulnerability scanning engine, which looks at both the network-layer and the application layer, as well as our extensive DNS footprinting technologies.

The role of the Vulnerability Management Analyst will possess the following skills:

  • Be able to multitask and meet client deadlines. We want a person that thinks 'I can do that!'

  • Possess excellent written and oral communication skills. Being able to understand a vulnerability and explain it to business leaders is a must.

  • A working knowledge of enterprise vulnerability management products and remedial work flow

  • A broad knowledge of most common enterprise technologies and operating systems

  • A passion for security and technology

Some additional conditions:

  • A post graduate degree or infosec certification would be beneficial, however, showing us you have the passion and skills also helps

  • This job requires some after-hours and weekend commitments (we try to keep this to a minimum)

  • Bonus points for knowledge of sed, awk and python, ok even ruby.

  • PCI-QSA is desired but not required

Impress us with your skills by sending an email to and lets take it from there.

SensePost is an equal opportunity partner.

Sat, 2 Mar 2013

IT Network Packet Wrangler

As we grow and operate on a number of continents, so does our dependence on a rock-solid IT infrastructure. We are expanding our repertoire to include a greater collection of Linux/Open Source/Windows and OS X products. With this, we are on the look-out for a rock star to wrangle control of our internal networks, external cloud infrastructure and help us us utilise technology in a way to make us even better.

Job Title: IT Network Packet Wrangling Penguin Master

Salary Range: Industry standard, commensurate with experience

Location: Johannesburg/Pretoria, South Africa

Real Responsibilities:

  • Managing a growing internal network, both in ZA and UK and increased cloud-based infrastructure

  • Championing the adoption of new technologies, ways of working and being incredibly excited about security. Yes, we like that type of person who scoffs at the idea of using a plain-text protocol

As a system / network administrator your daily duties and responsibilities will include:

  • Providing day-to-day Desktop, Server and Network administration, including helping plakkers (the name we give to all who work at SensePost) with their devices

  • Be capable of using a variety of operating systems

  • Ensuring our disaster recovery plan is working as it should

  • Being the go to person to all those who require assistance with their IT

  • Maintaining and administer the telecommunications system

  • Administering the network to ensure that the systems in place run effectively and securely (we are, after all, a security company!)

  • A real passion for finding technology led solutions to problems.

  • Be excited about Unix firewalls, Cisco routers, wrangling network packets, VPN tunnelling and Wi-Fi

  • Able to hold a conversation and smile when mentioning SMTP/HTTP/IMAP/Python

Not essential, but bonus points for:

  • Actually getting a linux laptop to use an overhead projector, without resorting to swear words in Spanish and Afrikaans

  • Administering a Windows server without complaining, at all, not once, in fact, you actually kinda enjoy it.

  • Being really passionate about security and showing it doesn't have to get in the way of working productively.

If the above has got you thinking 'weird, it's like they are talking to me bru!' then we want to hear from you. Send us a carrier pigeon message or send us a mail