Didier Stevens

Monday 4 April 2022

.ISO Files With Office Maldocs & Protected View in Office 2019 and 2021

Filed under: maldoc,Malware,Uncategorized — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

We have seen ISO files being used to deliver malicious documents via email. There are different variants of this attack.

One of the reasons to do this, is to evade “mark-of-web propagation”.

When a file (attached to an email, or downloaded from the Internet) is saved to disk on a Windows system, Microsoft applications will mark this file as coming from the Internet. This is done with a ZoneIdentifier Alternate Data Stream (like a “mark-of-web”).

When a Microsoft Office application, like Word, opens a document with a ZoneIdentifier ADS, the document is opened in Protected View (e.g., sandboxed).

But when an Office document is stored inside an ISO file, and that ISO has a ZoneIdentifier ADS, then Word will not open the document in Protected View. That is something I observed 5 years ago.

But this has changed recently. When exactly, I don’t know (update: August 2021).

But when I open an Office document stored inside an ISO file marked with a ZoneIdentifier ADS, Office 2021 will open the document in protected view:

With an unpatched version of Office 2019, that I installed a year ago, that same file is not opened in Protected View:

After updating Office:

Word’s behavior has changed:

The file is now opened in Protected View.

If you want to test this yourself, you can use my ZoneIdentifier tool to easily settings a “mark-of-web” without having to download your test file from the Internet:

Or you can just add the ZoneIdentifier ADS with notepad.

I did the same test with Office 2016, I updated an old version and: the document is not opened in Protected View.

I don’t know exactly when Microsoft Office 2019 was updated so that it would open documents in Protected View when they are inside an ISO file marked as originating from the Internet. But if you do know, please post a comment.

Update: this change happened in August 2021. See comments below. Thanks Philippe.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

VBA: __SRP_ Streams

Filed under: Forensics,maldoc — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

Office documents with a VBA project that contains streams whose name starts with __SRP_, have had their VBA macros executed at least once.

As Dr. Bontchev describes in the documentation for his pcodedmp tool:

When the p-code has been executed at least once, a further tokenized form of it is stored elsewhere in the document (in streams, the names of which begin with __SRP_, followed by a number).

Thus in my maldoc trainings, I always explain that the presence of __SRP_ streams is an indication that the VBA code has been executed prior to the saving of the document, and vice-versa, that the absence means that the code was not executed (prior to saving).

I recently discovered that these __SRP_ streams are also created when the VBA project is compiled (without running the macros), by selecting menu option “Debug / Compile Project” in the VBA IDE.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Video: Maldoc Analysis With CyberChef

Filed under: maldoc,Malware,video — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

In this video, I show how to analyze a .doc malicious document using CyberChef only. This is possible, because the payload is a very long string that can be extracted without having to parse the structure of the .doc file with a tool like oledump.py.

I pasted the recipe on pastebin here.

Sunday 15 November 2020

oledump Indicators

Filed under: maldoc,My Software — Didier Stevens @ 13:51

Each stream and storage can have an indicator in oledump.py‘s output:

You’ll probably know M and m: they are indicators that appear often.

Here is an overview of all possible indicators:

  • M: Macro (attributes and code)
  • m: macro (attributes without code)
  • E: Error (code that throws an error when decompressed)
  • !: Unusual macro (code without attributes)
  • O: object (embedded file)
  • .: storage
  • R: root entry


Monday 20 July 2020

Cracking VBA Project Passwords

Filed under: Encryption,maldoc — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

VBA projects can be protected with a password. The password is not used to encrypt the content of the VBA project, it is just used as protection by the VBA IDE: when the password is set, you will be prompted for the password.

Tools like oledump.py are not hindered by a VBA password, they can extract VBA code without problem, as it is not encrypted.

The VBA password is stored as the DPB value of the PROJECT stream:

You can remove password protection by replacing the values of ID, CMG, DPB and GC with the values of an unprotected VBA Project.

Thus a VBA password is no hindrance for staticanalysis.

However, we might still want to recover the password, just for the fun of it. How do we proceed?

The password itself is not stored inside the PROJECT stream. In stead, a hash is stored: the SHA1 hash of the password (MBCS representation) + 4 byte salt.

Then, this hash is encrypted (data encryption as described in MS-OVBA and the hexadecimal representation of this encrypted hash is the value of DPB.

This data encryption is done according to an algorithm that does not use a secret key. I wrote an oledump.py plugin (plugin_vbaproject.py) to decrypt the hash and display it in a format suitable for John the Ripper and Hashcat:

The SHA1 of a password + salt is a dynamic format in John the Ripper: dynamic_24.

For Hashcat, it is mode 110 and you also need to use option –hex-salt.

Remark that the password passed as argument to the SHA1 function is represented in Multi Byte Character Set format. This means that ASCII characters are represented as bytes, but that non-ASCII characters might be represented with more than one byte, depending on the VBA project’s code page.


Tuesday 7 July 2020

Tampering With Digitally Signed VBA Projects

Filed under: maldoc — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

As I explained in blog post VBA Purging, VBA code contained in Module Streams is made up of compiled code (PerformanceCache) and source code (CompressedSourceCode).

If you alter the compiled code (PerformanceCache) properly and leave the source code (CompressedSourceCode) of a signed VBA project untouched, you can change the behavior of a signed document without invalidating the signature. That’s because the code signing algorithm for VBA projects does not take the PerformanceCache into account.

Details in my NVISO blog post: Tampering with Digitally Signed VBA Projects


Monday 22 June 2020

VBA Purging

Filed under: maldoc — Didier Stevens @ 0:00

VBA code contained in Module Streams is made up of compiled code (PerformanceCache) and source code (CompressedSourceCode).

VBA stomping consist in altering or suppressing CompressedSourceCode and leaving the PerformanceCache unchanged:

As you can imagine, it must also be possible to change the PerformanceCache and leaving CompressedSourceCode unchanged:

Suppressing the PerformanceCache is a technique that I call VBA Purging:

More details can be found in a blog post I wrote here.

Friday 22 May 2020

Update: oledump.py Version 0.0.50

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

This new version brings updates to plugin plugin_biff.py.

This plugin can now produce a CSV list of cell values and formulas (option -c) or a JSON file of values and formulas (option -j).

Cell references are in RC format (row-column), but can also be produced in letters-numbers format (LN, option -r LN).

CSV or JSON output can be piped into my ad-hoc decoding programs.

oledump_V0_0_50.zip (https)
MD5: 30EB6A0E0924E72350B268ADDE4E4EC7
SHA256: 870167AE5576B169EB52572788D04F1FFCEC5C8AFDEBCC59FE3B8B01CBDE6CD9

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Analyzing Malformed ZIP Files

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

With version 0.0.16 (we are now at version 0.0.18), I updated my zipdump.py tool to handle (deliberately) malformed ZIP files. My zipdump tool uses Python’s ZIP module to analyze ZIP files.

Now, zipdump has a an option (-f) to scan arbitrary binary files for ZIP records.

I will show here how this feature can be used, by analyzing a sample Xavier Mertens wrote a diary entry about. This sample is a Word document with macros, an OOXML (Office Open XML format) file (.docm). It is malformed, because 1) there’s an extra byte at the beginning and 2) there’s a byte missing at the end.

When you use my zipdump tool to look at the file, you get an error:

Using option -f l (list), we can find all PKZIP records inside arbitrary, binary files:

When using option -f with value l, a listing will be created of all PKZIP records found in the file, plus extra data. Some of these entries in this report will have an index, that can be used to select the entry.

In this example, 2 entries can be selected:

p: extra bytes at the beginning of the file (prefix)

1: an end-of-central-directory record (PK0506 end)

Using option -f p, we can select the prefix (extra data at the beginning of the file) for further analysis:

And from this hex/ascii dump, we learn that there is one extra byte at the beginning of the ZIP file, and that it is a newline characters (0x0A).

Using option -f 1, we can select the EOCD record to analyze the ZIP file:

As this generates an error, we need to take a closer look at the EOCD record by adding option -i (info):

With this info, we understand that the missing byte makes that the comment length field is one byte short, and this causes the error seen in previous image.

ZIP files can contain comments (for the ZIP container, and also for individual files): these are stored at the end of the PKZIP records, preceded by a 2-byte long, little-endian integer. This integer is the length of the comment. If there is no comment, this integer is zero (0x00).

Hence, the byte we are missing here is a NULL (0x00) byte. We can append a NULL byte to the sample, and then we should be able to analyze the ZIP file. In stead of modifying the sample, I use my tool cut-bytes.py to add a single NULL byte to the file (suffix option: -s #h#00) and then pipe this into zipdump:

File 5 (vbaProject.bin) contains the VBA macros, and can be piped into oledump.py:

I also created a video:

zipdump_v0_0_18.zip (https)
MD5: 34DC469E8CD4E5D3E9520517DEFED888
SHA256: 270B26217755D7ECBCB6D642FBB349856FAA1AE668DB37D8D106B37D062FADBB

Wednesday 11 March 2020

CLSIDs in OLE Files

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

Directory entries in “OLE” files (Compound File Binary Format) have a GUID field. Like this “Root Entry” inside a binary Word document file (Doc1.doc):

The GUID value found in this directory entry is: 00020906-0000-0000-C000-000000000046 (the endianness of GUIDs is mixed-endian: it’s a mix of little-endian and big-endian).

This GUID is a COM class id (CLSID) for Word.

You can display the CLSID with oledump.py using option -E to display extra information. Use parameter %CLSID% to display the CLSID, like this:

No class IDs were displayed in this output, and that’s because all the CLSID fields in the directory entries of these streams are zero (16 0x00 bytes). Most of the time, streams in Office documents have no CLSID. You’re more likely to find CLSIDs inside the directory entries of storages. To include storages in oledump’s output, use option –storages like this:

Starting with version 0.0.46, oledump.py will also display the Root Entry. And as can be seen in the above output, the Root Entry of this .doc file has a CLSID.

Philippe Lagadec, the developer of olefile and oletools, maintains a list of CLSIDs relevant to Office documents.

When oletools is installed, oledump.py looks up CLSIDs in this list when you use parameter %CLSIDDESC% (CLSID description). Here is the same command as before, but with parameter %CLSIDDESC%:

This result shows that 00020906-0000-0000-C000-000000000046 is COM Object “Microsoft Word 97-2003 Document (Word.Document.8)”.


Class IDs can also be found inside some streams, and that’s why I developed a new oledump.py plugin: plugin_clsid.py.

This plugin searches for CLSIDs (defined in oletools) inside streams. Like in this malicious document:

With the class IDs found in this stream, one can quickly conclude that this must be an exploit for the URL moniker.

And here is the Root Entry CLSID for this document:



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