Didier Stevens

Friday 11 June 2021

New Tool: ssdeep.py

Filed under: My Software — Didier Stevens @ 10:35

ssdeep.py is a Python tool to calculate ssdeep hashes using the ppdeep Python module.

As I needed a Python implementation of an ssdeep tool, I decided to document the creation of such a tool with a video. I use my Python templates to quickly create this tool.

ssdeep_V0_0_1.zip (https)
MD5: 32FD610D858E91BC009845E105ED87C3
SHA256: 02EA18EF0139B54D8A06AA0D3E7E2B0E2934E3675C453759E3DA3CC4F936F0A2

Update: Python Templates Version 0.0.5

Filed under: My Software,Update — Didier Stevens @ 10:14

Here is an update to my Python templates.

I use these templates as a starting point for new tools or for quick development of ad-hoc tools.

I also recorded a video showing how to use my template to create your own tool: ssdeep Python Example Based On My Templates.

python-templates_V0_0_5.zip (https)
MD5: 137878F4D7F799436F76C0119E6BB621
SHA256: 5A68B115B5616BC35CFB4DDEA64C029BF10DDCD6BFF5E4B9D3D4DBBC0FBD6651

Monday 7 June 2021

How-to: Make Your Own Cert With OpenSSL on Windows (Reloaded)

Filed under: Encryption — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

As several things have changed since I published “Howto: Make Your Own Cert With OpenSSL on Windows” 5 years ago, I’m publishing an updated how-to.

This time, I’m using the OpenSSL Windows binaries provided by the Curl developers:

I’m using OpenSSL version 1.1.1i. I chose the 32-bit version, so that you can still follow along in case you have to do this on a 32-bit computer.

This OpenSSL version from the Curl developers is packaged inside a ZIP file: it requires no installation with administrative rights. Just unzip the downloaded file.

Then open a command-line (I’m using cmd.exe) and go to the unzipped folder:

I issue the command “openssl version”, to check that I can run OpenSSL.

Now you are ready to follow along.

And just like in my previous how-to(s), I’m creating 2 certificates (not just one self-signed certificate): one root certificate and one subordinate certificate.

First we generate a 4096-bit long RSA key for our root CA and store it in file ca.key:

openssl genrsa -out ca.key 4096

This generates a private key that is not password protected. It is stored inside file ca.key as printable text (PEM format):

If you want to password-protect this private key, add command option -aes256 to encrypt the private key with AES using a key derived from a password you will be prompted for.

Next, we create our self-signed root CA certificate ca.crt; you’ll need to provide an identity for your root CA:

openssl req -new -x509 -days 1826 -key ca.key -out ca.crt -config openssl.cnf

The -x509 command option is used for a self-signed certificate. 1826 days gives us a cert valid for 5 years.

On Windows, you can double-click the root certificate we just created (ca.crt), and inspect it:

Next step: create our subordinate CA that will be used for the actual signing. First, generate the key:

openssl genrsa -out ia.key 4096

Then, request a certificate for this subordinate CA:

openssl req -new -key ia.key -out ia.csr -config openssl.cnf

Make sure that the Common Name you enter here is different from the Common Name you entered previously for the root CA. If they are the same, you will get an error later on when creating the pkcs12 file.

Next step: process the request for the subordinate CA certificate and get it signed by the root CA.

Here the command requires an extra option, that I did not use in previous how-tos. We need a small text file (altname.cnf), with the following content:


I use the same value as I used for the Common Name (CN): http://www.didierstevens.com.

This subjectAltName is necessary, since Google Chrome version 58 and later no longer use the CN when there is no subjectAltName.

After creating this altname.cnf file, we can issue this command to create the subordinate CA signed by the root CA:

openssl x509 -req -days 730 -in ia.csr -CA ca.crt -CAkey ca.key -set_serial 01 -out ia.crt -extfile altname.cnf

The certificate (ia.crt) will be valid for 2 years (730 days) and I decided to choose my own serial number 01 for this cert (-set_serial 01). For the root CA, I let OpenSSL generate a random serial number.

You can also inspect this certificate (ia.crt) with Windows:

That’s all there is to it! Of course, there are many options I didn’t use. Consult the OpenSSL documentation for more info. For example, I didn’t restrict my subordinate CA key usage to digital signatures. It can be used for anything, even making another subordinate CA. When you buy a code signing certificate, the CA company will limit its use to code signing. And I did not use passwords to protect my keys. In a production environment, you want to protect your keys with passwords.

To use this subordinate CA key for Authenticode signatures with Microsoft’s signtool, you’ll have to package the keys and certs in a PKCS12 file:

openssl pkcs12 -export -out ia.p12 -inkey ia.key -in ia.crt -chain -CAfile ca.crt

Then it can be used to sign a Windows PE file:

signtool sign /f ia.p12 /fd sha256 /td sha256 /tr http://timestamp.globalsign.com/?signature=sha2 Dialog42.exe

Some Observations

Configuration file

Some OpenSSL commands (like the req command we used) require the openssl.cnf configuration file. That is why on Windows, we use command option: -config openssl.cnf

If we do not use this command option on Windows, we get an error:

Can't open C:/Windows/System32/OpenSSL/ssl/openssl.cnf for reading, No such file or directory
22256:error:02001003:system library:fopen:No such process::0:fopen('C:/Windows/System32/OpenSSL/ssl/openssl.cnf','r')
22256:error:2006D080:BIO routines:BIO_new_file:no such file::0:

Even if we run openssl.exe in the same folder as openssl.cnf.

Another option is to set environment variable OPENSSL_CONF to point to the configuration file:

set OPENSSL_CONF= c:\Demo\openssl-1.1.1i_2-win32-mingw\openssl.cnf

Then we can issue commands without referencing the openssl.cnf explicitly:

Command option subj

When we use command req like we did, we are prompted for extra information. This extra information can be passed via the command line too, with command option -subj:

openssl req -new -x509 -days 1826 -key ca.key -out ca.crt -subj “/C=BE/ST=/L=Brussels/O=Didier Stevens/OU=/CN=didierstevens.com/emailAddress=ca@didierstevens.com” -config openssl.cnf

Do not use interactive mode

Interactive mode in OpenSSL, is when you launch opensll.exe, and then issue commands at the OpenSSL prompt, like this:

The error message:

problem creating object tsa_policy1=
25156:error:08064066:object identifier routines:OBJ_create:oid exists::0:
error in req

is a known issue with OpenSSL.

Interactive mode doesn’t “clean up” correctly between commands: it is best not to use interactive mode.

Certificates with a validity period longer than one year

I know that Chrome is no longer accepting certificates with a validity period longer than one year, so I expected my 2-year certificate to be rejected by Chrome (using Chrome 87 on Windows). It was not.

It turns out that this requirement does not apply to certificates like the one I created:

Beginning with Chrome 85, TLS server certificates issued on or after 2020-09-01 00:00:00 UTC will be required to have a validity period of 398 days or less. This will only apply to TLS server certificates from CAs that are trusted in a default installation of Google Chrome, commonly known as “publicly trusted CAs”, and will not apply to locally-operated CAs that have been manually configured.

X.509 Version 1 and Version 3

In my previous blog posts on OpenSSL, the created root certificates (ca.crt) are X.509 Version 3 certificates, and the created subordinate certificates (ia.crt) are X.509 Version 1 certificates. That’s because I did not use any version 3 extensions for the subordinate certificates, and thus OpenSSL creates version 1 certificates.

This changes with the use of the Subject Alternative Name (SAN) extension (subjectAltName) in this how-to. subjectAltName is a version 3 extension, and thus the subordinate certificate (ia.crt) created in this how-to is a version 3 X.509 certificate. In this how-to, I had only one Common Name and therefore I used just one SAN: DNS:www.didierstevens.com.

It is possible to use several SANs, and not only DNS, but also IP for example:


There are also version 3 extensions that dictate what a certificate can be used for. When these extensions are not present, a certificate can be used for everything.

If you want to limit the use of a certificate to web servers, you can use the following values:

basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = nonRepudiation, digitalSignature, keyEncipherment

This one can not be used for code signing:

SignTool Error: No certificates were found that met all the given criteria.

And you can use the following values to limit the use of a certificate to code signing:

basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = digitalSignature

Caveat: I just did some basic tests with these extensions. For example, the cert restricted to code signing can be used by signtool, and Chrome will refuse it when I use it with my simple web server. I didn’t do exhaustive testing to see if code signing is the only thing this cert can be used for.

I did compare it with a commercial code signing certificate I acquired years ago, and there was a difference for the keyUsage: it was marked as critical.

basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = critical,digitalSignature

Installing the root certificate

When you use the subordinate certificate, you will see that it is still rejected by web browsers, and that the Authenticode signature is not valid.

That is because the subordinate’s root certificate is not trusted. If you install it as a trusted root certification authority, the subordinate certificate will be trusted.


You can use the same commands on a Linux machine where the OpenSSL package is installed.

Don’t use command option -config though: openssl will find its config file.

And I got an issue with the command option -subj and “empty strings”:

problems making Certificate Request
140254820331968:error:0D07A098:asn1 encoding routines:ASN1_mbstring_ncopy:string too short:../crypto/asn1/a_mbstr.c:100:minsize=1

I had to remove ST= and OU=.

Friday 4 June 2021

Overview of Content Published in May

Filed under: Announcement — Didier Stevens @ 0:00
Here is an overview of content I published in May: Blog posts: YouTube videos: Videoblog posts: SANS ISC Diary entries:

Sunday 30 May 2021

New Tool: cs-dns-stager.py

Filed under: My Software — Didier Stevens @ 17:59

cs-dns-stager.py is a quick & dirty tool I wrote to retrieve a Cobalt Strike DNS beacon from its server, if you only have the IP address of said server.

If you want to know more about Cobalt Strike and DNS, watch this video I recorded:

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Update: base64dump.py Version 0.0.14

Filed under: My Software,Update — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

This new version of base64dump.py supports a new encoding: NETBIOS Name encoding.

NETBIOS Name encoding is very similar to hexadecimal encoding: in stead of hexadecimal digits 0-9 and a-f, letters A-P are used.

I encountered this in DNS TXT records of a Cobalt Strike DNS stager. More on that later.

base64dump_V0_0_14.zip (https)
MD5: 35BF4900BED40E828887C7601F9C8751
SHA256: 2F58F630D9B12D2B70CECF35728096A247890808E44DAB9C94400A073D5E29BF

Sunday 23 May 2021

Update: re-search.py Version 0.0.17

Filed under: My Software,Update — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

This new version of re-search.py adds gzip support and filtering of private IPv4 addresses:

re-search_V0_0_17.zip (https)
MD5: 8945F435BDA03D73EF7A2BA1AA64A65E
SHA256: 0D74709B9F26FC7F6EEADAEE1BAA3AF7AADAA618F88B1C267BA5A063C8E3D997

Saturday 22 May 2021

Update: 1768.py Version 0.0.6

Filed under: My Software,Update — Didier Stevens @ 15:06

This new version of 1768.py, my tool to analyze Cobalt Stike beacons, has fixes, support for more encodings, and an option to output the config in JSON format.

1768_v0_0_6.zip (https)
SHA256: 3EC0BB7B41CC5C0E1534F09BAE67D62B220F8D83A7F02EC0F856F8741F86EB31

Sunday 2 May 2021

Overview of Content Published in April

Filed under: Announcement — Didier Stevens @ 19:16

Here is an overview of content I published in April:

Blog posts:

YouTube videos:

Videoblog posts:

SANS ISC Diary entries:

Monday 26 April 2021

Quickpost: Decrypting Cobalt Strike Traffic

Filed under: Encryption,Malware,My Software,Quickpost — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

I have been looking at several samples of Cobalt Strike beacons used in malware attacks. Although work is still ongoing, I already want to share my findings.

Cobalt Strike beacons communicating over HTTP encrypt their data with AES (unless a trial version is used). I found code to decrypt/encrypt such data in the PyBeacon and Geacon Github repositories.

This code works if you know the AES key: which is not a problem in the use cases of the code above, as it is developed to simulate a beacon. Beacons generate their own AES key, and thus these beacon simulations also generate their own AES key.

But what if you’re analyzing real beacons used in malware attacks? How do you obtain the AES key?

I found a way to extract the keys (AES and HMAC) from process memory of a running beacon.

I use the following procdump command to prepare process memory dumps:

procdump -mp -w -s 1 -n 5 malware.exe

Then I start the beacon malware.exe in a malware analysis virtual machine while capturing traffic with Wireshark.

My new tool cs-extract-key.py looks in the dumped process memory for the unencrypted (RSA encryption) metadata that a beacon sends to the C2. This metadata contains the AES en HMAC keys.


This method does not always work: the metadata is overwritten after some time, so the process dump needs to be taken quickly after the beacon is started. And there are also cases were this metadata can not be found (I suspect this is version bound).

For those cases, my tool has another way of obtaining the keys. I extract the encrypted data of the first post of the beacon to the C2 (this is called a callback in the PyBeacon code):

And then I provide this to my tool, together with the process dump. My tool will then proceed with a dictionary attack: extract all possible AES and HMAC keys from the process dump, and try do authenticate and decrypt the callback. If this works, the keys have been found:

And once I have obtained the keys, I can pass them to my traffic decoding program that I have updated to include decryption (and that I have renamed to cs-parse-http-traffic.py):

Quickpost info

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