Everything seems to be moving into the cloud, so why not move your red team infrastructure there too. Well… lots of people have already been doing that (see here), but what about using hosted services from a cloud provider to hide your activities within the safety of the provider’s trusted domains? That’s something that we haven’t seen as much of, so we decided to start investigating cloud services that would allow us to make use of subdomains from trusted domains.
There are multiple options for cloud providers, so for starters we will be just looking at Microsoft’s Azure services. Each cloud provider offers similar services, so you may be able to apply these techniques to other providers.
Domain Reputation Overview
Given that Domain Fronting is kind of on its way out, we wanted to find alternative ways to use trusted domains to bypass filters. One of the benefits of using Azure cloud services for red team engagements is the inherent domain reputation that comes with the domains that are hosting your data (Phishing sites, Payloads, etc.).
To be specific here, these are services hosted by Microsoft that are typically hosted under a Microsoft sub-domain (windows.net, etc.). By making use of a domain that’s already listed as “Good”, we can hopefully bypass any web proxy filters as we work through an engagement.
This is not a comprehensive list of the Azure services and corresponding domains, but we looked at the Talos reputation scores for some of the primary services. These scores can give us an idea of whether or not a web proxy filter would consider our destination domain as trusted. Each Azure domain that we tested came in as Neutral or Good, so that works in our favor.
Base Web Reputation
Base Weighted Reputation
Subdomain Web Reputation
Subdomain Weighted Reputation
Note: We also looked at the specific subdomains that were attached to these Azure domains and included their reputations in the last two columns. All subdomains were created fresh and did not get seasoned prior to reputation checking. If you’re looking for ways to get your domain trusted by web proxies, take a look at Ryan Gandrud’s post – Adding Web Content Filter Exceptions for Phishing Success.
For the purposes of this blog, we’re just going to focus on the App Services, Blob Storage, and AzureSQL services, but there’s plenty of opportunities in the other services for additional research.
Hosting Your Phishing Site
The Azure App Services domains scored Neutral or No Score on the reputation scores, but there’s one great benefit from hosting your phishing site with Azure App Services – the SSL certificate. When you use the default options for spinning up an App Services “Web App”, you will be issued an SSL certificate for the site that is verified by Microsoft.
Now I would never encourage someone to pretend to be Microsoft, but I hear that it works pretty well for phishing exercises. One downside here is that the TLD (azurewebsites.net) isn’t the most known domain on the internet and it might raise some flags from people looking at the URL.
*This is also probably against the Azure terms and conditions, so insert your standard disclaimer here.
**Update: After posting this blog, my test site changed the ownership information on the SSL certificate (after ~5 days of uptime), so your mileage may vary.
As a security professional, I would probably take issue with that domain, but with a Microsoft verified certificate, I might have less apprehension. When the service was introduced, ZDNet actually called it “phishing-friendly”, but as far as we could find, it hasn’t really been adopted for red team operations.
The setup of an Azure App Services “Web App” is really straightforward and takes about 10 minutes total (assuming your phishing page code is all ready to go).
Setting up your payload delivery is also easy within Azure. Similar to the AWS S3 service, Microsoft has their own public HTTP file storage solution called Blob Storage. Blobs can be set up under a “Storage Account” using a unique name. The unique naming is due to the fact that each Blob is created as a subdomain of the “blob.core.windows.net” domain.
For example, any payloads stored in the “notpayloads” blob would be available at https://notpayloads.blob.core.windows.net/. We also found that these domains already had a “Good” reputation, so it makes them a great option for delivering payloads. If you can grab a quality Blob name (updates, photos, etc.), this will also help with the legitimacy of your payload URL.
I haven’t done extensive testing on long term storage of payloads in blobs, but a 2014 version of Mimikatz was not flagged by anything on upload, so I don’t think that should be an issue.
Setting up Blob storage is also really simple. Just make sure that you set your Blob container “Access policy” to “Blob” or “Container” to allow public access to your payloads.
There are several potential options for hosting your C2 infrastructure in Azure, but as a companion to this blog, Scott Sutherland has written up a method for using AzureSQL as a C2 option. He will be publishing that information on the NetSPI blog later this week.
Conclusions / Credits
You may not want to move the entirety of your red team operations to the Azure cloud, but it may be worth using some of the Azure services, considering the benefits that you get from Microsoft’s trusted domains. For the defenders that are reading, you may want to keep a closer eye on the traffic that’s going through the domains that we listed above. Security awareness training may also be useful in helping prevent your users from trusting an Azure phishing site.
PTaaS is NetSPI’s delivery model for penetration testing. It enables customers to simplify the scoping of new engagements, view their testing results in real time, orchestrate faster remediation, perform always-on continuous testing, and more - all through the Resolve™ vulnerability management and orchestration platform.
We help organizations defend against adversaries by being the best at simulating real-world, sophisticated adversaries with the products, services, and training we provide. We know how attackers think and operate, allowing us to help our customers better defend against the threats they face daily.
At NetSPI, we believe that there is simply no replacement for human-led manual deep dive testing. Our Resolve platform delivers automation to ensure our people spend time looking for the critical vulnerabilities that tools miss. We provide automated and manual testing of all aspects of an organization’s entire attack surface, including external and internal network, application, cloud, and physical security.
Our proven methodology ensures that the client experience and our findings aren’t only as good as the latest tester assigned to your project. That consistency gives our customers assurance that if vulnerabilities exist, we will find them.
Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.
YouTube session cookie.
Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.
Analytics cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.
Preference cookies enable a website to remember information that changes the way the website behaves or looks, like your preferred language or the region that you are in.
Unclassified cookies are cookies that we are in the process of classifying, together with the providers of individual cookies.
Cookies are small text files that can be used by websites to make a user's experience more efficient. The law states that we can store cookies on your device if they are strictly necessary for the operation of this site. For all other types of cookies we need your permission. This site uses different types of cookies. Some cookies are placed by third party services that appear on our pages.
NetSPI acquires nVisium, bringing top penetration testing talent together.