Monday, December 7, 2009

Analyzing Malicious Documents Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet outlines tips and tools for reverse-engineering malicious documents, such as Microsoft Office (DOC, XLS, PPT) and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files.

General Approach

  1. Locate potentially malicious embedded code, such as shellcode, VBA macros, or JavaScript.
  2. Extract suspicious code segments from the file.
  3. If relevant, disassemble and/or debug shellcode.
  4. If relevant, deobfuscate and examine JavaScript, ActionScript, or VB macro code.
  5. Understand next steps in the infection chain.

Microsoft Office Binary File Format Notes

Structured Storage (OLE SS) defines a file system inside the binary Microsoft Office file.

Data can be “storage” (folder) and “steam” (file).

Excel stores data inside the “workbook” stream.

PowerPoint stores data inside the “PowerPoint Document” stream.

Word stores data inside various streams.

Tools for Analyzing Microsoft Office Files

OfficeMalScanner locates shellcode and VBA macros from MS Office (DOC, XLS, and PPT) files.

DisView disassembles bytes at a given offset of an MS Office file. (Part of OfficeMalScanner)

MalHost-Setup extracts shellcode from a given offset in an MS Office file and embeds it an EXE file for further analysis. (Part of OfficeMalScanner)

Offvis shows raw contents and structure of an MS Office file, and identifies some common exploits.

BIFF-Workbench shows raw contents and structure of an XLS file and supports editing and searching.

Office Binary Translator converts DOC, PPT, and XLS files into Open XML files (includes BiffView tool).

OfficeCat scans MS Office files for embedded exploits that target several known vulnerabilities.

Useful MS Office Analysis Commands

OfficeMalScanner file.doc scan brute Locate shellcode, OLE data, PE files in file.doc
OfficeMalScanner file.doc info Locate VB macro code in file.doc (no XML files)
OfficeMalScanner file.docx inflate Decompress file.docx to locate VB code (XML files)
DisView file.doc 0x4500 Disassemble shellcode at 0x4500 in file.doc
MalHost-Setup file.doc out.exe 0x4500 Extract shellcode from file.doc’s offset 0x4500 and create it as out.exe

Adobe PDF File Format Notes

A PDF File is comprised of header, objects, cross-reference table (to locate objects), and trailer.

“/OpenAction” and “/AA” (Additional Action) specifies the script or action to run automatically.

“/Names”, “/AcroForm”, “/Action” can also specify and launch scripts or actions.

“/JavaScript” specifies JavaScript to run.

“/GoTo*” changes the view to a specified destination within the PDF or in another PDF file.

“/Launch” launches a program or opens a document.

“/URI” accesses a resource by its URL.

“/SubmitForm” and “/GoToR” can send data to URL.

“/RichMedia” can be used to embed Flash in PDF.

“/ObjStm” can hide objects inside an Object Stream.

Be mindful of obfuscation with hex codes, such as “/JavaScript” vs. “/J#61vaScript”. (See examples)

Tools for Analyzing Adobe PDF Files

PDF StructAzer displays and modifies the structure and raw contents of the PDF file. (See user manual)

PDFiD identifies PDFs that contain strings associated with scripts and actions. (Part of Python PDF Tools)

PDF-parser identifies key elements of the PDF file without rendering it (Part of Python PDF Tools)

Origami is a Ruby framework for parsing, analyzing, modifying, and creating PDF files.

Sumatra PDF and MuPDF are lightweight and free viewers that may be used in place of Adobe Acrobat.

Pdftk tweaks PDFs and uncompresses page streams.

Malzilla can extract and decompress zlib streams from PDFs, and can help deobfuscate JavaScript.

Jsunpack-n can extract and decode JavaScript from pcap network captures, and can decode PDF files.

CWSandbox and Wepawet can automatically analyze some aspects of malicious PDF files.

Useful PDF Analysis Commands file.pdf Locate script and action-related strings in file.pdf file.pdf Show file.pdf’s structure to identify suspect elements
pdfscan.rb file.pdf Examine and display file.pdf’s structure (Usage)
pdftk file.pdf output out.pdf uncompress Uncompress page streams in file.pdf and save the result in out.pdf

Additional Malicious File Analysis Tools

McAfee FileInsight integrates a hex editor, calculator, disassembler, decoders, scripting support, etc.

ExeFilter can filter scripts from Office and PDF files.

VirusTotal can scan files with multiple anti-virus tools to identify some malicious documents.


Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) Reference

Physical and Logical Structure of PDF Files

Methods for Understanding and Analyzing Targeted Attacks with Office Documents (video)

Analyzing MSOffice Malware with OfficeMalScanner (follow-up presentation)

PDF Security Analysis and Malware Threats

Malicious Origami in PDF (follow-up presentation)

Reverse-Engineering Malware cheat sheet


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Special thanks for contributions and feedback to Pedro Bueno, Frank Boldewin, and Didier Stevens. If you have suggestions for improving this cheat sheet, please let me know.

This cheat sheet is distributed according to the Creative Commons v3 "Attribution" License. File version 1.5.

Take a look at my other security cheat sheets.

About the Author: Lenny Zeltser leads the security consulting practice at Savvis. His team provides security assessments, design, and operational assistance for business-critical IT infrastructure. Lenny also teaches malware analysis at SANS Institute, explores security topics at conferences and in articles, and volunteers as an incident handler at the Internet Storm Center.

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