Have you ever wanted a simple, easy and stealth bypass for multiple classes of security products? pstf^2 (pronounced pstf-square) is an implementation of an HTTP server capable of passive browser fingerprinting – and it might just be the thing you are looking for. When attackers try to deliver a payload over the internet they need to overcome multiple tools capable of scanning incoming links. Email filters, scanning engines and even submission to sandbox over URL – all can be bypassed once pstf2 detects them in a passive fashion. Once detected, the tool allows to differentiate between security services and potential victims and deliver either a malicious or benign response.
This tool was released during BlackHat EU 2020: https://www.blackhat.com/eu-20/arsenal/schedule/#pstf2-link-scanners-evasion-made-easy-21763
Details about the research are available in this blog post: https://blogs.akamai.com/sitr/2020/12/evading-link-scanning-security-services-with-passive-fingerprinting.html
How it Works?
The real question is – how link scanners work? Inspecting a malicious link is an action involving web client sending an HTTP GET request. Each vendor uses a different in-house implementation – most trying to mimic a real user interaction to some extent. pstf^2 is a simple python-based HTTP servers which applies well-known bot detection tactics to determine whether an incoming request is from an automated security tool. The server’s operator can customize responses, e.g. – if a scanner is detected redirect to Google otherwise send malicious content.
Below are the main tactics implemented as part of pstf^2:
Obsolete User Agents
Security tools try to hide as legitimate clients, impersonating real browsers, nevertheless – usually this is not the case. It is common to see tools which are not maintained properly using fake user-agent headers for browser versions which are a decade old. pstf^2 allows you to set a minimal threshold for what you consider as a real non-obsolete version.
General HTTP Anomalies
There are many types of odd implementations the tool is capable of detecting. A couple of examples which were presented in the BlackHat talk were:
- Leaving a
via:header which disclosed the nature of the virtual host used for sandboxing.
referer:header which suggested that the link was reached from Google, e.g.
referer: google.com/search?q=specific.site.com. in the scenarios we tested it made no sense since this product scans emails and when someone clicks an email (not from a web interface) this header is absent.
Link, Network and Transportation Layer
Multiple TCP parameters can imply either a specific OS version or a specific flavour. Some clients spoof the user-agent header but are running on top of an OS different than the one they declare.
Clients hosted on specific cloud providers networks have MTU different than the standard value of 1500 bytes.
In some cases the request is sent from an ASN associated explicitly with a specific security vendor. In others the request’s origin is a cloud hosting provider, while not incriminating a specific vendor it is unlikely to be a typical user.
DNS PTR Records
In rare cases the client’s IP address has a PTR record, associating it with URL related to a security vendor.
Setting up pstf^2
Assuming you have Docker already installed, it is as simple as that:
In case you wish to avoid Docker, follow these steps.
Satisfy Python Requirements
pip install requirements.txt
This will install any external Python modules required.
Before deploying pstf^2, download and install p0f. It is currently available at:
Now, properly configure lib/servers/server_config.yml to point at the correct path, i.e.:
# change your username at the very least, remember to change in both paths
Also verify that
iface is the same interface running your Python HTTP server. In the above example it is the loopback interface.
Once requirements are satisfied, run:
You may use any of the following flags:
All are used for adjusting parameters related to p0f: the binary itself, the fingerprinting file and the interface we use which defaults to
You should see output similar to the following:
2020-04-15 17:37:06,896 - pstf2_logger - INFO - Starting p0f...
2020-04-15 17:37:06,896 - pstf2_logger - INFO - Running command:
/Users/gbitensk/work/web_fp/p0f-3.09b/p0f -i lo0 -s /tmp/p0f_socket -f /Users/gbitensk/work/web_fp/p0f-3.09b/p0f.fp
2020-04-15 17:37:06,898 - pstf2_logger - INFO - p0f started!
2020-04-15 17:37:06,898 - pstf2_logger - INFO - Starting HTTP server...
2020-04-15 17:37:06,898 - pstf2_logger - INFO - HTTP server started!
2020-04-15 17:37:06,899 - pstf2_logger - INFO - If you wish to terminate the server press CTRL+C
Terminate the server by pressing Ctrl+C, it will kill both the HTTP and p0f instances. You should see something similar too:
2020-04-15 17:37:48,263 - pstf2_logger - INFO - HTTP server stopped!
2020-04-15 17:37:48,263 - pstf2_logger - INFO - Killing p0f...
2020-04-15 17:37:48,263 - pstf2_logger - INFO - p0f killed!
2020-04-15 17:37:48,263 - pstf2_logger - INFO - exiting...
Note that setting a DNS record pointing a URL to point at your server is beyond the scope of pstf^2 and at your own responsibility.
pstf^2 has default payloads which are defined within
server_config.yml and can be customized with ease.
There are two modes, switched by altering the
rickroll_mode variable for either
NO. If it is enabled the security tool will be redirected to a YouTube page with the famous Rickrolling movie, otherwise it will serve a string defined in the same YAML file.
By default – “malicious” response was set to the EICAR standard testing string.
Why is pstf^2 Public?
I opted for publicly releasing this tool as an open source project since:
- Malicious links are being used by bad guys on daily basis, in large scale.
- Security tools are not good enough, some of the methods illustrated by pstf^2 are abused in-the-wild.
As part of the tool’s construction it was tested against 15 different products, all failed. While I did responsibly disclose details about the attack we still have a long way to go and my expectations is that by making the tool public we will raise the awareness to those tactics which are already being abused by “bad guys”.
@Den1al for providing advice when building this tool specifically, and writing Python properly in general as well as assisting in creating it as a Docker image.