20,000 leagues under the sand, part 1

Greetings, malware junkies!

Welcome to the first part in my mini epic documenting my journey of discovery into the world of sandboxing. If you come here expecting groundbreaking advances in the field, you may be disappointed. If however you want to see some of the ideas a newbie had so that you don’t have to think of them yourself, you might be in the right place. Also maybe seeing the dumb mistakes I made so you can avoid ’emĀ 😊

This series is not intended to be a technical instruction manual on sandbox creation. What I intend to do is introduce and discuss the core problems and issues and outline potential approaches for solving them. Along the way I will give specific examples with some detail from the solutions I created for my own sandbox.

A long time ago in a SOC far, far away…

I started my project a little over a year ago, having spent at least that long watching someone else do this roll-your-own sandbox thing with no small amount of awe. Although I was fair with python and could bumble my way around Linux, Snort rules, pcaps and the like, the idea of reproducing this kind of feat even on the most modest scale seemed like a pipe dream. I saw malware go in, and not just pcaps and Snort alerts come out, but a wealth of host activity like file creation, shell commands, remote threads… you name it, it was there. I had the barest scraps of understanding about the Windows API and far less than that about how one might go about tracking something using it.

Without having had this project to look up to, I might have set my sights a little lower, but I was hooked and I wanted to do All Of The Things. I had a laundry list of features in mind based on the aforementioned project and other sandboxes I was beginning to learn about, including but not limited to:

  • Host activity logging
  • Full network capture
  • NIDS alerting
  • AV detection
  • Cross referencing samples on lots of IOCs
  • Screen capture
  • User behaviour simulation
  • Countering sandbox evasion

You might be forgiven for thinking I was a little mad with ambition. No, you’d definitely be forgiven, I was bananas.

However, around Christmas 2016, the biggest obstacle suddenly got a lot smaller when I realised that I already knew of a tool that could do most of the things that my lack of C/C++/WinAPI coding knowledge was preventing, a tool that was continually praised by a twitter account I follow whom I’m sure you have never heard of – Sysmon. I was (perhaps a little optimistically) certain that I could find ways to get my code working for all of the other components I wanted, so when that realisation hit I immediately started coding. If I had known how much of my time it would eat, I might have had second thoughts…

Anyway, from this moment my pet project was born. It’s clunky, ugly, and unreliable, but I’ve learned a lot! Folks, may I presentĀ The Antfarm.

In my next post I will talk about my starting place for this somewhat chaotic adventure: how one can detect and log actions and events on a host that may be malicious.

part 2 – Host activity monitoring

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