Archive for May, 2021

Who is Probing the Internet for Research Purposes?, (Sat, May 8th)

Shodan[1] is one of the most familiar site for research on what is on the internet. In Oct 2020 I did a diary on Censys [2][3], another site collecting similar information like Shodan. The next two sites are regularly scanning the internet for data which isn’t shared with the security community at large.

Net Systems Research [4] probe the internet for research, but none of the data is accesible or published on the site. This is part of the message About Us: “Net Systems Research was founded in 2015 by a group of security data researchers who wanted to utilize a global view of the internet to study these difficult and emerging internet security challenges and understand the resulting implications.”

Security IPIP [5] has no information beside a banner: “Our company engaged in the researching and data collecting of IP location, internet infrastructure and network security, we need to detect the internet (Ping/ Traceoute Mainly); For network security research, we need to obtain the IP location Banner and fingerprint information, we detecting the common port openly or not by ZMap, and collecting opened Banner data by our own code. Any questions please do not hesitate to contact with us: [email protected]

Over the past 3 years, my honeypot has logged information at various point in times from these 4 different research organizations. Here are some typical logs and their top 10 IPs. Shodan uses IP range to run its scans but unlike other scanners, it doesn’t include a banner in the captured logs.

Activity first noticed 4 June 2018. This is a sample log:

20210507-171447: data
GET / HTTP/1.1
Accept-Encoding: identity
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/41.0.2228.0 Safari/537.36

Activity first noticed 19 Aug 2020. This is a sample log:

20210506-011443: data
GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: 70.55.XX.XXX:8080
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; CensysInspect/1.1; +
Accept: */*
Accept-Encoding: gzip

Activity first noticed 15 Feb 2019. This is a sample log:

20210506-013155: data
GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: 70.55.XX.XXX:8443
User-Agent: NetSystemsResearch studies the availability of various services across the internet. Our website is

Activity first noticed 14 Oct 2018 data. This is a sample log:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: 70.55.XX.XXX:81
User-Agent: HTTP Banner Detection (
Connection: close

Since the data is already out there, why not use Shodan or Censys to explore what services a home router is sharing to the internet. Here is an example of list of services recorded and audited by Shodan which also includes SSL certificate information, banner version, etc.



Guy Bruneau IPSS Inc.
My Handler Page
Twitter: GuyBruneau
gbruneau at isc dot sans dot edu

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Exposed Azure Storage Containers, (Fri, May 7th)

A couple months ago, we already covered the topic of exposed Azure Blob Storage in two separate ISC diaries, “Exposed Blob Storage in Azure” and “Preventing Exposed Blob Storage in Azure“. The information therein is still relevant and valid, so if you are using Azure Storage, and haven’t read these two diaries yet, please do.

There is no doubt that having an Azure Storage Container that is shared publicly at level “Container” is usually a bad idea, because everyone who knows the Container name can then trivially enumerate the contents, by simply tucking a /?comp=list&restype=container onto the URL.

But the container names themselves cannot be enumerated quite as easily, so some users of Azure Storage seem to feel safe-ish behind this layer of obscurity. But recently, we noticed a significant uptick in attempts to blindly enumerate existing storage containers. You can think of it as a dictionary attack of sorts, because the log files show the bad guys sequentially probing
etc, you get the drift.

The question is, how does this work? How do the attackers even distinguish between a Container that doesn’t exist at all, and one that does exist, but has access restrictions set to “Blob”?  Well, here is how:

See it? “Blob not found” versus “Resource not found”. This tells us that the container “/files/” exists, whereas “/othercontainer/” doesn’t.  We could call this an example of CWE-209 aka “Error Message Containing Sensitive Information”.  It is similar to a lesson learned two decades ago when error messages were distinguishing between “login incorrect” and “password incorrect” and indirectly facilitated brute-force breakin attempts by allowing an attacker to more readily identify valid accounts.

As a “countermeasure”, you can

  1. Stop any public access by making your Storage Account “private”. This should be the default, and is the only safe option. Refer to the two mentioned earlier diaries on how to do so, and how to implement prevention that works. If a Storage Account is set to “Private”, the response will always be “Resource Not Found”, irrespective of whether the attempt hits an existing container name or not.
  2. If you “have” to keep something shared at Blob level, maybe consider increasing the obscurity and smoke screen. Don’t call your container “backup” or “data” or the like, call it “akreiqfasvkkakdff” or some such. While this doesn’t really secure your data and only kicks the can down the obscurity road, it still makes it less likely that a brute force enumeration attempt will quickly find your container.
  3. Keep your eye on the new Azure Security Center alert titled “PREVIEW – Anonymous scan of public storage containers” (Azure Alerts Reference) that politely warns you whenever someone tries to enumerate containers in your storage account.

Here’s an example of how this new “PREVIEW” alert looks like. Note the terms that were included in this particular enumeration attempt. If your Container shared at level “Blob” happens to be called one of these names, assume that it already has been “found”.




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Alternative Ways To Perform Basic Tasks, (Thu, May 6th)

I like to spot techniques used by malware developers to perform basic tasks. We know the lolbins[1] that are pre-installed tools used to perform malicious activities. Many lolbins are used, for example, to download some content from the Internet. Some tools are so powerful that they can also be used to perform unexpected tasks. I found an interesting blog article[2] describing how to use curl to copy files!

C:UsersREM> curl file://c:testtest.txt -o newfile.txt

Do you want another example? Some tools can be diverted from their regular use like ping.exe:

C:UsersREMDesktop>ping -n 5

This command will send five Echo-Request ICMP packets at an interval of one second so it will complete after approximately five seconds. Using ping.exe is not very discreet because a new process will be launched and can be spotted by a tool like Sysmon. Do you know a lot of non-tech people that use ping on their corporate computer? 

But ping.exe can be very useful for malware to detect if the computer can resolve hostnames and has Internet connectivity. Instead of using the ping command, you can use Powershell to achieve this:

Yesterday, I found a malicious PowerShell script that uses another technique that I never saw before. This time, the technique is based on a WMI query!

Conclusion: Keep in mind that attackers can use multiple techniques to perform simple tasks and defeat your detection rules and/or controls.

If you already met other techniques, please share!


Xavier Mertens (@xme)
Senior ISC Handler – Freelance Cyber Security Consultant

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May 2021 Forensic Contest, (Wed, May 5th)


Today’s diary is a forensic contest for May 2021 based on a packet capture (pcap) with Windows-based infection traffic.  Like last month, this month’s prize is a Raspberry Pi.  Rules for the contest follow:

  • Only one submission per person.
  • The first person to submit the correct answers will win the Raspberry Pi.
  • Submissions will be made using the form on our contact page at:
  • Use May 2021 Forensic Contest for the Subject: line.
  • Provide the following information:
    • IP address of the infected Windows computer.
    • Host name of the infected Windows computer.
    • User account name on the infected Windows computer.
    • Date and time the infection activity began in UTC (the GMT or Zulu timezone).
    • The family of malware involved.

Material for our May 2021 forensic contest is located at this Github repository.  The repository contains a zip archive with a pcap of network traffic from the infected Windows host.  I always recommend people review pcaps of malware in a non-Windows environment, if possible.

The source of this infection was a malicious email.  Fortunately, an email provider’s spam filters usually catch the vast majority of malware before it hits someone’s inbox.  Unfortunately, due to the vast amount of spam, some malicious emails make it through to their intended victims.

Shown above:  A visual representation of email spam filtering on a daily basis.


Analysis of the infection traffic requires Wireshark or some other pcap analysis tool.  Wireshark is my tool of choice to review pcaps of infection traffic.  However, default settings for Wireshark are not optimized for web-based malware traffic.  That’s why I encourage people to customize Wireshark after installing it.  To help, I’ve written a series of tutorials.  The ones most helpful for this quiz are:

I always recommend participants review these pcaps in a non-Windows environment like BSD, Linux, or macOS.  Why?  Because this pcap contains traffic with Windows-based malware.  If you’re using a Windows host to review such pcaps, your antivirus (or Windows Defender) may delete or alter the pcap.  Worst case?  If you extract malware from a pcap and accidentally run it, you might infect your Windows computer.

Active Directory (AD) Environment

The infected Windows host is part of an AD environment, so the pcap contains information about the Windows user account. The user account is formatted as firstname.lastname.  The AD environment characteristics are:

  • LAN segment range: ( through
  • Domain:
  • Domain Controller: – NutmegCrazy-DC
  • LAN segment gateway:
  • LAN segment broadcast address:

Final Words

Again, the zip archive with a pcap of the infection traffic is available in this Github repository.  The winner of today’s contest and analysis of the infection traffic will be posted in an upcoming ISC diary two weeks from today on Wednesday May 19th.

Brad Duncan
brad [at]

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Quick and dirty Python: masscan, (Tue, May 4th)

Those who know me are aware that I am a recovering shell programmer.  I have 35+ years of various shell scripts involving complicated code pipelines with grep, cut, sort, uniq, awk, input files, output files, redirects, pipes etc…cobbled together to get jobs done. None of it is elegant and little of it could be called pretty. The last couple of years I have been trying to ramp up on Python and am increasingly finding that these complicated shell code scripts can be elegantly implemented in Python. The resulting code is way easier to read and way more supportable.

A simple example of this is the various scripts I have around as simple port scanners used to scan large swaths of IP address ranges for vulnerabilities. Since nmap is too slow for large numbers of IPs, my tool of choice for initial scanning of swaths of IPs and ports is the very speedy masscan.  masscan will find the open ports and then typically I will write the results to a file, manipulate the masscan output file to create an input file that nmap will read and then launch nmap to do the detailed scanning on the smaller set of IPs sending that output to even more files which then need to be manipulated and analyzed to extract the information I need.

Just recently I discovered there is a Python module for both masscan and nmap.   So far I have only spent time on the masscan module.  

Suppose you needed a script which will find all the web servers (port 80, 443)  in an address range.  It took me about 5 minutes to code up

import sys,getopt,argparse
import masscan
import pprint

def main():
   # read in the IP parameter
   parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
   parser.add_argument('IP', help="IP address or range")

   #scan address(es) using Masscan
      mas = masscan.PortScanner()
      mas.scan(ip, ports='80,443')
      print("Error:", sys.exc_info()[0])

   # output result

if __name__ == "__main__":

The script takes IP address(es) as an input and then scans those IPs using masscan to check if port 80 or 443 are open.

Running the script results in:

# ./,
[2021-05-04 20:05:28,652] [DEBUG] [ 10 line] Scan parameters: "masscan -oX -, -p 80,443"
{'masscan': {'command_line': 'masscan -oX -, -p 80,443',
             'scanstats': {'downhosts': '0',
                           'elapsed': '12',
                           'timestr': '2021-05-04 20:05:41',
                           'totalhosts': '4',
                           'uphosts': '4'}},
 'scan': {'': {'tcp': {80: {'endtime': '1620158730',
                                       'reason': 'syn-ack',
                                       'reason_ttl': '53',
                                       'services': [],
                                       'state': 'open'},
                                  443: {'endtime': '1620158730',
                                        'reason': 'syn-ack',
                                        'reason_ttl': '53',
                                        'services': [],
                                        'state': 'open'}}},
          '': {'tcp': {80: {'endtime': '1620158730',
                                       'reason': 'syn-ack',
                                       'reason_ttl': '61',
                                       'services': [],
                                       'state': 'open'},
                                  443: {'endtime': '1620158730',
                                        'reason': 'syn-ack',
                                        'reason_ttl': '61',
                                        'services': [],
                                        'state': 'open'}}}}}

The result is a Python dictionary that can be easily be parsed and fed into python-nmap (an exercise for another day).


Caveat1: Never scan an IP range you don’t have permission to scan.  While port scanning is not illegal in most jurisdictions it is questionable ethically to scan things you don’t own or have permission to scan.

Caveat2: I am not a professional Python programmer.  My scripting gets the job done that I need it to do.  I know there are many smart people out there who can write way better code than I can. 

— Rick Wanner MSISE – rwanner at isc dot sans dot edu – Twitter:namedeplume (Protected)

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Important Apple Updates, (Tue, May 4th)

On Monday May 3rd, Apple released important updates to macOS Big Sur, iOS and iPadOS, and watchOS to resolve an issue in WebKit which when “Processing maliciously crafted web content may lead to arbitrary code execution.”  Apple has indicated that this issue is being actively exploited. 

Details at

The recommendation is to update as soon as reasonable.

— Rick Wanner MSISE – rwanner at isc dot sans dot edu – Twitter:namedeplume (Protected)

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