Hot Norse Potato | TechSNAP 252

Hot Norse Potato | TechSNAP 252

A new openSSL exploit, cyber security firm Norse implodes & the Windows Hot Potato flaw that’s been around for over a decade.

Plus great questions, our answers, a rockin round up & much, much more!

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— Show Notes: —

OpenSSL Exploit

  • Official Advisory
  • The OpenSSL team announced versions 1.0.2f and 1.0.1r to fix a number of vulnerabilities
  • The first issue, DH small subgroups (CVE-2016-0701), is classified as “High Severity”
  • “Historically OpenSSL usually only ever generated DH parameters based on “safe” primes. More recently (in version 1.0.2) support was provided for generating X9.42 style parameter files such as those required for RFC 5114 support. The primes used in such files may not be “safe”. Where an application is using DH configured with parameters based on primes that are not “safe” then an attacker could use this fact to find a peer’s private DH exponent.”
  • “OpenSSL provides the option SSL_OP_SINGLE_DH_USE for ephemeral DH (DHE) in TLS. It is not on by default. If the option is not set then the server reuses the same private DH exponent for the life of the server process and would be vulnerable to this attack. It is believed that many popular applications do set this option and would therefore not be at risk.”
  • “OpenSSL 1.0.1 is not affected by this CVE because it does not support X9.42 based parameters”
  • Another issue, SSLv2 doesn’t block disabled ciphers (CVE-2015-3197), is classified as “Low Severity”
  • “A malicious client can negotiate SSLv2 ciphers that have been disabled on the server and complete SSLv2 handshakes even if all SSLv2 ciphers have been disabled, provided that the SSLv2 protocol was not also disabled via SSL_OP_NO_SSLv2”
  • So if your server disabled all of the SSLv2 ciphers, but didn’t disable the SSLv2 protocol itself, SSLv2 could still be used. This is likely higher severity than it seems, since it could be used in a downgrade attack
  • A third issue was an update on DHE man-in-the-middle protection (Logjam)
  • “OpenSSL added Logjam mitigation for TLS clients by rejecting handshakes with DH parameters shorter than 768 bits in releases 1.0.2b and 1.0.1n. This limit has been increased to 1024 bits in this release, to offer stronger cryptographic assurance for all TLS connections using ephemeral Diffie-Hellman key exchange.”
  • “As per the previous announcements support for OpenSSL version 1.0.1 will cease on 31st December 2016. No security updates for that version will be provided after that date. Users of 1.0.1 are advised to upgrade. Support for versions 0.9.8 and 1.0.0 ended on 31st December 2015. Those versions are no longer receiving security updates.”

Krebs: Norse Corp. Implodes

  • Norse Corp is a security startup that has made a lot of headlines, many surrounding its graphical “Attack Map” of the Internet
  • Last month, Norse unexpectedly laid off more than 30% of its workforce
  • Now, Norse’s CEO, Sam Glines, has been asked to step down by the board of directors
  • “sources say the company’s investors have told employees that they can show up for work on Monday but that there is no guarantee they will get paid if they do.”
  • “Glines agreed earlier this month to an interview with KrebsOnSecurity but later canceled that engagement without explanation.”
  • “Two sources at Norse said the company’s assets will be merged with networking firm SolarFlare, which has some of the same investors and investment capital as Norse. Neither Norse nor SolarFlare would comment for this story.
  • “Update, Feb. 1, 12:34 p.m. ET: SolarFlare CEO Russell Stern just pinged me to say that “there has been no transaction between Norse and SolarFlare.””
  • “A careful review of previous ventures launched by the company’s founders reveals a pattern of failed businesses, reverse mergers, shell companies and product promises that missed the mark by miles”
  • “In the tech-heavy, geek-speak world of cybersecurity, infographics and other eye candy are king because they promise to make complicated and boring subjects accessible and sexy. And Norse’s much-vaunted interactive attack map is indeed some serious eye candy: It purports to track the source and destination of countless Internet attacks in near real-time, and shows what appear to be multicolored fireballs continuously arcing across the globe.”
  • “Several departing and senior Norse employees said the company’s attack data was certainly voluminous enough to build a business upon — if not especially sophisticated or uncommon. But most of those interviewed said Norse’s top leadership didn’t appear to be interested in or capable of building a strong product behind the data. More worryingly, those same people said there are serious questions about the validity of the data that informs the company’s core product.”
  • “Norse Corp. and its fundamental technology arose from the ashes of several companies that appear to have been launched and then acquired by shell companies owned by Norse’s top executives — principally the company’s founder and chief technology officer Tommy Stiansen. Stiansen”
  • “This acquisition process, known as a “reverse merger” or “reverse takeover,” involves the acquisition of a public company by a private company so that the private company can bypass the lengthy and complex process of going public. Reverse mergers are completely legal, but they can be abused to hide the investors in a company and to conceal certain liabilities of the acquired company, such as pending lawsuits or debt. In 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a bulletin cautioning investors about plunking down investments in reverse mergers, warning that they may be prone to fraud and other abuses.”
  • The founders of Norse Corp. got their start in 1998 with a company called (pronounced “psycho”). According to a press release issued at the time, “ was a New Mexico based firm established to develop a network of cyber companies.” “This site is a lighthearted destination that will be like the ‘People Magazine’ of the Internet”
  • “In 2003, acquired Orion Security Services, a company founded by Stiansen, Norse’s current CTO and founder and the one Norse executive who is actually from Norway. Orion was billed as a firm that provides secure computer network management solutions, as well as video surveillance systems via satellite communications.”
  • “Despite claims that was poised to “rocket into the deepest riches of cyberspace,” it somehow fell short of that destination and ended up selling cigarettes online instead. Perhaps inevitably, the company soon found itself the target of a lawsuit by several states led by the Washington state attorney general that accused the company of selling tobacco products to minors, failing to report cigarette sales and taxes, and for falsely advertising cigarettes as tax-free.”
  • “In 2005, changed its name to Nexicon, but only after acquiring by stock swap another creation by Stiansen — Pluto Communications — a company formed in 2002 and whose stated mission was to provide “operational billing solutions for telecom networks.” Again, Urrea would issue a press release charting a course for the company that would have almost no bearing on what it actually ended up doing.”
  • “In June 2008, Sam Glines — who would one day become CEO of Norse Corp. — joined Nexicon and was later promoted to chief operating officer. By that time, Nexicon had morphed itself into an online copyright cop, marketing a technology they claimed could help detect and stop illegal file-sharing. The company’s “GetAmnesty” technology sent users a pop-up notice explaining that it was expensive to sue the user and even more expensive for the user to get sued. Recipients of these notices were advised to just click the button displayed and pay for the song and all would be forgiven.”
  • “In November 2008, Nexicon was acquired by Priviam, another shell company operated by Stiansen and Nexicon’s principals. Nexicon went on to sign and several entertainment studios as customers. But soon enough, reports began rolling in of rampant false-positives — Internet users receiving threatening legal notices from Nexicon that they were illegally sharing files when they actually weren’t. Nexicon/Priviam’s business began drying up, and it’s stock price plummeted.”
  • “In September 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked the company’s ability to trade its penny stock (then NXCO on the pink sheets), noting that the company had failed to file any periodic reports with the SEC since its inception. In June 2012, the SEC also revoked Priviam’s ability to trade its stock, citing the same compliance failings that led to the de-listing of Nexicon.”
  • “By the time the SEC revoked Nexicon’s trading ability, the company’s founders were already working to reinvent themselves yet again. In August 2011, they raised $50,000 in seed money from Capital Innovators to jump-start Norse Corp. A year later, Norse received $3.5 million in debt refinancing, and in December 2013 got its first big infusion of cash — $10 million from Oak Investment Partners. In September 2015, KPMG invested $11.4 million in the company.”
  • “Several former employees say Stiansen’s penchant for creating shell corporations served him well in building out Norse’s global sensor network. Some of the sensors are in countries where U.S. assets are heavily monitored, such as China. Those same insiders said Norse’s network of shell corporations also helped the company gain visibility into attack traffic in countries where it is forbidden for U.S. firms to do business, such as Iran and Syria.”
  • By 2014, former employees say Norse’s systems were collecting a whopping 140 terabytes of Internet attack and traffic data per day.”
  • Norse’s senior data scientist says she “wasn’t actually given access to all that data until the fall of 2015 — seven months after being hired as Norse’s chief data scientist — and that when she got the chance to dig into it, she was disappointed: The information appeared to be little more than what one might glean from a Web server log — albeit millions of them around the world.”
  • “The data isn’t great, and it’s pretty much the same thing as if you looked at Web server logs that had automated crawlers and scanning tools hitting it constantly. But if you know how to look at it and bring in a bunch of third-party data and tools, the data is not without its merits, if not just based on the sheer size of it.”
  • “Landesman and other current and former Norse employees said very few people at the company were permitted to see how Norse collected its sensor data, and that Norse founder Stiansen jealously guarded access to the back-end systems that gathered the information.”
  • This seems to be to cover up the fact that there was no “secret sauce”, it was all smoke and mirrors
  • “With this latest round of layoffs, if Tommy got hit by a bus tomorrow I don’t think there would be a single person in the company left who understands how the whole thing works,” said one former employee at Norse who spoke on condition of anonymity.
  • “Stuart McClure, president and founder of the cybersecurity firm Cylance, said he found out just how reluctant Stiansen could be to share Norse data when he visited Stiansen and the company’s offices in Northern California in late 2014. McClure said he went there to discuss collaborating with Norse on two upcoming reports: One examining Iran’s cyber warfare capabilities, and another about exactly who was responsible for the massive Nov. 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.”
  • “The FBI had already attributed the attack to North Korean hackers. But McClure was intrigued after Stiansen confidentially shared that Norse had reached a vastly different conclusion than the FBI: Norse had data suggesting the attack on Sony was the work of disgruntled former employees.”
  • “McClure said he recalls listening to Stiansen ramble on for hours about Norse’s suspicions and simultaneously dodging direct questions about how it had reached the conclusion that the Sony attack was an inside job.”
  • “I just kept going back to them and said, ‘Tommy, show me the data.’ We wanted to work with them, but when they couldn’t or wouldn’t produce any data or facts to substantiate their work, we couldn’t proceed.”
  • “Conversely, Norse’s take on Iran’s cyber prowess (PDF) was trounced by critics as a deeply biased, headline-grabbing report. It came near the height of international negotiations over lifting nuclear sanctions against Iran, and Norse had teamed up with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has traditionally taken a hard line against threats or potential threats to the United States.”
  • “In its report, Norse said it saw a half-million attacks on industrial control systems by Iran in the previous 24 months — a 115 percent increase in attacks. But in a scathing analysis of Norse’s findings, critical infrastructure security expert Robert M. Lee said Norse’s claim of industrial control systems being attacked and implying it was definitively the Iranian government was disingenuous at best. Lee said he obtained an advanced copy of an earlier version of the report that was shared with unclassified government and private industry channels, and that the data in the report simply did not support its conclusions.”
  • “KrebsOnSecurity interviewed almost a dozen current and former employees at Norse, as well as several outside investors who said they considered buying the firm. None but Landesman would speak on the record. Most said Norse’s data — the core of its offering — was solid, if prematurely marketed as a way to help banks and others detect and deflect cyber attacks.”
  • The problem seems to be that the top executives of the company we more interested in getting investments based on the “Attack Map” and their marketing, than actually building the product
  • “I think they just went to market with this a couple of years too soon,” said one former Norse employee who left on his own a few months prior to the January 2016 layoffs, in part because of concerns about the validity of the data that the company was using to justify some of its public threat reports. “It wasn’t all there, and I worried that they were finding what they wanted to find in the data. If you think about the network they built, that’s a lot of power.”
  • After being fired, some former employees started doing some deeper digging
  • “I realized that, oh crap, I think this is a scam,” Landesman said. “They’re trying to draw this out and tap into whatever the buzzwords du jour there are, and have a product that’s going to meet that and suck in new investors.”
  • “These shell companies formed by [the company’s founders] bilked investors,” Landesman said. “Had anyone gone and investigated any of these partnerships they were espousing as being the next big thing, they would have realized this was all smoke and mirrors.”

Windows Privilege Escalation — Hot Potato

  • Hot Potato (aka: Potato) takes advantage of known issues in Windows to gain local privilege escalation in default configurations, namely NTLM relay (specifically HTTP->SMB relay) and NBNS spoofing.
  • If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because a similar technique was disclosed by the guys at Google Project Zero – . In fact, some of our code was shamelessly borrowed from their PoC and expanded upon.
  • Using this technique, they can elevate their privilege on a Windows workstation from the lowest levels to “NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM” – the highest level of privilege available on a Windows machine.
  • This is important because many organizations unfortunately rely on Windows account privileges to protect their corporate network.
  • This is perfect for the island hopping technique we frequently talk about on TechSNAP.
  • The techniques that this exploit uses to gain privilege escalation aren’t new, but the way they are combined is. Microsoft is aware of all of these issues and has been for some time (circa 2000). These are unfortunately hard to fix without breaking backward compatibility and have been leveraged by attackers for over 15 years.
  • The exploit consists of 3 main parts, all of which are somewhat configurable through command-line switches.

  • Part One: Local NBNS Spoofer

  • If we can know ahead of time which hostname a target machine (in this case our target is will be sending an NBNS query for, we can craft a fake response and flood the target host with NBNS responses very quickly (since it is a UDP protocol).

  • One complication is that a 2-byte field in the NBNS packet, the TXID, must match in the request and response, and we are unable to see the request. We can overcome this by flooding quickly and iterating over all 65536 possible values.
  • What if the network we are targeting has a DNS record for the host we want to spoof?
  • We can use a technique called UDP port exhaustion to force ALL DNS lookups on the system to fail. All we do is bind to EVERY single UDP port. This causes DNS to fail because there will be no available UDP source port for the request. When DNS fails, NBNS will be the fallback.

  • Part Two: Fake WPAD Proxy Server

  • In Windows, Internet Explorer by default will automatically try to detect network proxy setting configuration.

  • This also surprisingly applies to some Windows services such as Windows Update, but exactly how and under what conditions seems to be version dependent.
  • With the ability to spoof NBNS responses, we can target our NBNS spoofer at We flood the target machine (our own machine) with NBNS response packets for the host “WPAD”, or “WPAD.DOMAIN.TLD”, and we say that the WPAD host has IP address
  • At the same time, we run an HTTP server locally on, configured with a response at the URL IE will be checking.
  • This will cause all HTTP traffic on the target to be redirected through our server running on

Part Three: HTTP -> SMB NTLM Relay

  • NTLM relay is a well known, but often misunderstood attack against Windows NTLM authentication. The NTLM protocol is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. If an attacker can trick a user into trying to authenticate using NTLM to his machine, he can relay that authentication attempt to another machine!
  • Microsoft patched this by disallowing same-protocol NTLM authentication using a challenge that is already in flight. What this means is that SMB->SMB NTLM relay from one host back to itself will no longer work. However cross-protocol attacks such as HTTP->SMB will still work with no issue!
  • With all HTTP traffic now presumably flowing through an HTTP server that we control, we can do things like redirect them somewhere that will request NTLM authentication.
  • In the Potato exploit, all HTTP requests are redirected with a 302 redirect to “http://localhost/GETHASHESxxxxx”, where xxxxx is some unique identifier. Requests to “http://localhost/GETHASHESxxxxx” respond with a 401 request for NTLM authentication.
  • Any NTLM credentials are then relayed to the local SMB listener to create a new system service that runs a user-defined command.
  • When the HTTP request in question originates from a high privilege account, for example, when it is a request from the Windows Update service, this command will run with “NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM” privilege!

  • Windows 7 can be fairly reliably exploited through the Windows Defender update mechanism.

  • Wince Windows Server doesn’t come with Defender, we need an alternate method. Instead we’ll simply check for Windows updates.
  • In the newest versions of Windows, it appears that Windows Update may no longer respect the proxy settings set in “Internet Options”, or check for WPAD. Instead proxy settings for Windows Update are controlled using “netsh winhttp proxy…”
  • Instead for these versions, we rely on a newer feature of Windows, the “automatic updater of untrusted certificates”
  • It’s unclear whether this attack would work when SMB signing is enabled. The exploit as released currently does not, but this may just be due to lack of SMB signing support in the CIFS library they’re using.


Round Up:

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