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TryHackMe Cyber Kill Chain

Originally published November 18, 2022 on Medium

Author Dan Rearden


The Cyber Kill Chain framework is designed for identification and prevention of the network intrusions. You will learn what the adversaries need to do in order to achieve their goals.

Task 1 Introduction


The term kill chain is a military concept related to the structure of an attack. It consists of target identification, decision and order to attack the target, and finally the target destruction.

Thanks to Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company, that established the Cyber Kill Chain® framework for the cybersecurity industry in 2011 based on the military concept. The framework defines the steps used by adversaries or malicious actors in cyberspace. To succeed, an adversary needs to go through all phases of the Kill Chain. We will go through the attack phases and help you better understand adversaries and their techniques used in the attack to defend yourself.

So, why is it important to understand how Cyber Kill Chain works?

The Cyber Kill Chain will help you understand and protect against ransomware attacks, security breaches as well as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). You can use the Cyber Kill Chain to assess your network and system security by identifying missing security controls and closing certain security gaps based on your company’s infrastructure.

By understanding the Kill Chain as a SOC Analyst, Security Researcher, Threat Hunter, or Incident Responder, you will be able to recognize the intrusion attempts and understand the intruder’s goals and objectives.

We will be exploring the following attack phases in this room:

  • Reconnaissance

  • Weaponization

  • Delivery

  • Exploitation

  • Installation

  • Command & Control

  • Actions on Objectives

Learning Objectives: In this room, you will learn about each phase of the Cyber Kill Chain Framework, the advantages and disadvantages of the traditional Cyber Kill Chain.

Outcome: As a result, you will be ready to recognize different phases or stages of the attack carried out by an adversary and be able to break the “kill chain.”

Task 2 Reconnaissance

To learn what reconnaissance is from the attacker’s perspective, first, let’s define the term reconnaissance.


Reconnaissance is discovering and collecting information on the system and the victim. The reconnaissance phase is the planning phase for the adversaries.


OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) also falls under reconnaissance. OSINT is the first step an attacker needs to complete to carry out the further phases of an attack. The attacker needs to study the victim by collecting every available piece of information on the company and its employees, such as the company’s size, email addresses, phone numbers from publicly available resources to determine the best target for the attack.


You can also find out more about OSINT from this Varonis article, “What is OSINT?”

Let’s look at it from the attacker’s perspective, who initially doesn’t know what company he wants to attack.


Here is the scenario: A malicious attacker who names himself “Megatron” decides to conduct a very sophisticated attack that he has been planning out for years; he has been studying and researching different tools and techniques that could help him get to the last phase of the Cyber Kill Chain. But first, he needs to start from the Reconnaissance phase.

In order to operate in this phase, the attacker would need to conduct OSINT. Let’s have a look at Email harvesting.


Email harvesting is the process of obtaining email addresses from public, paid, or free services. An attacker can use email-address harvesting for a phishing attack (a type of social-engineering attack used to steal sensitive data, including login credentials and credit card numbers). The attacker will have a big arsenal of tools available for reconnaissance purposes. Here are some of them:

  • theHarvester — other than gathering emails, this tool is also capable of gathering names, subdomains, IPs, and URLs using multiple public data sources

  • Hunter.io — this is an email hunting tool that will let you obtain contact information associated with the domain

  • OSINT Framework — OSINT Framework provides the collection of OSINT tools based on various categories

An attacker would also use social media websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to collect information on a specific victim he would want to attack or the company. The information found on social media can be beneficial for an attacker to conduct a phishing attack.

Answer the questions below


What is the name of the Intel Gathering Tool that is a web-based interface to the common tools and resources for open-source intelligence?


Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.


Looking at the question, it is looking for a web-based interface for OSINT. This should narrow it down, we have three choices to choose from and one is the obvious one they are asking for. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

What is the definition for the email gathering process during the stage of reconnaissance?

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

The answer can be found in the section when you are putting yourself in the attacker’s shoes. After the scenario you should find the answer. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

You have finished up this task, you can now move onto Task 3 Weaponization & Task 4 Delivery.


Task 3 Weaponization


After a successful reconnaissance stage, “Megatron” would work on crafting a “weapon of destruction”. He would prefer not to interact with the victim directly and, instead, he will create a “weaponizer” that, according to Lockheed Martin, combines malware and exploit into a deliverable payload. Most attackers usually use automated tools to generate the malware or refer to the DarkWeb to purchase the malware. More sophisticated actors or nation-sponsored APT (Advanced Persistent Threat Groups) would write their custom malware to make the malware sample unique and evade detection on the target.

Let’s first define some terminology before we analyze the Weaponization phase.


Malware is a program or software that is designed to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to a computer.


An exploit is a program or a code that takes advantage of the vulnerability or flaw in the application or system.


A payload is a malicious code that the attacker runs on the system.

Continuing with our adversary, “Megatron” chooses…


“Megatron” chooses to buy an already written payload from someone else in the DarkWeb, so that he can spend more time on the other phases.

In the Weaponization phase, the attacker would:

  • Create an infected Microsoft Office document containing a malicious macro or VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) scripts. If you want to learn about macro and VBA, please refer to the article “Intro to Macros and VBA For Script Kiddies” by TrustedSec.

  • An attacker can create a malicious payload or a very sophisticated worm, implant it on the USB drives, and then distribute them in public. An example of the virus.

  • An attacker would choose Command and Control (C2) techniques for executing the commands on the victim’s machine or deliver more payloads. You can read more about the C2 techniques on MITRE ATT&CK.

  • An attacker would select a backdoor implant (the way to access the computer system, which includes bypassing the security mechanisms).

Answer the questions below


This term is referred to as a group of commands that perform a specific task. You can think of them as subroutines or functions that contain the code that most users use to automate routine tasks. But malicious actors tend to use them for malicious purposes and include them in Microsoft Office documents. Can you provide the term for it?


Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.


The answer can be found in the; In the Weaponization phase, the attacker would: section. The first bullet point describes what this question is asking for. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

Task 4 Delivery

The Delivery phase is when “Megatron” decides to choose the method for transmitting the payload or the malware. He has plenty of options to choose from:

  • Phishing email: after conducting the reconnaissance and determining the targets for the attack, the malicious actor would craft a malicious email that would target either a specific person (spearphishing attack) or multiple people in the company. The email would contain a payload or malware. For example, “Megatron” would learn that Nancy from the Sales department at company A would constantly like the posts on LinkedIn from Scott, a Service Delivery Manager at company B. He would give it a second guess that they both communicate with each other over work emails. “Megatron” would craft an email using Scott’s First Name and Last Name, making the domain look similar to the company Scott is working at. An attacker would then send a fake “Invoice” email to Nancy, which contains the payload.

  • Distributing infected USB drives in public places like coffee shops, parking lots, or on the street. An attacker might decide to conduct a sophisticated USB Drop Attack by printing the company’s logo on the USB drives and mailing them to the company while pretending to be a customer sending the USB devices as a gift. You can read about one of these similar attacks at CSO Online “Cybercriminal group mails malicious USB dongles to targeted companies.”

  • Watering hole attack. A watering hole attack is a targeted attack designed to aim at a specific group of people by compromising the website they are usually visiting and then redirecting them to the malicious website of an attacker’s choice. The attacker would look for a known vulnerability for the website and try to exploit it. The attacker would encourage the victims to visit the website by sending “harmless” emails pointing out the malicious URL to make the attack work more efficiently. After visiting the website, the victim would unintentionally download malware or a malicious application to their computer. This type of attack is called a drive-by download. An example can be a malicious pop-up asking to download a fake Browser extension.

Answer the questions below

What is the name of the attack when it is performed against a specific group of people, and the attacker seeks to infect the website that the mentioned group of people is constantly visiting.

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

This answer can be found at the third bullet point, once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

Task 5 Exploitation

To gain access to the system, an attacker needs to exploit the vulnerability. In this phase, “Megatron” got a little bit creative — he created two phishing emails, one that contains a phishing link to a fake Office 365 login page and another one containing a macro attachment that would execute ransomware when the victim opens it. “Megatron” successfully delivered his exploits and got two victims to click on the malicious link and open the malicious file.

After gaining access to the system, the malicious actor could exploit software, system, or server-based vulnerabilities to escalate the privileges or move laterally through the network. According to CrowdStrike, lateral movement refers to the techniques that a malicious actor uses after gaining initial access to the victim’s machine to move deeper into a network to obtain sensitive data.

If you want to learn more about server-based or web-based vulnerabilities, please refer to the TryHackMe room OWASP Top 10.

The attacker might also apply a “Zero-day Exploit” in this stage. According to FireEye, “the zero-day exploit or a zero-day vulnerability is an unknown exploit in the wild that exposes a vulnerability in software or hardware and can create complicated problems well before anyone realizes something is wrong. A zero-day exploit leaves NO opportunity for detection at the beginning.”

These are examples of how an attacker carries out exploitation:

  • The victim triggers the exploit by opening the email attachment or clicking on a malicious link.

  • Using a zero-day exploit.

  • Exploit software, hardware, or even human vulnerabilities.

  • An attacker triggers the exploit for server-based vulnerabilities.

Answer the questions below

Can you provide the name for a cyberattack targeting a software vulnerability that is unknown to the antivirus or software vendors?

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

The last paragraph of the section has the answer located in it. The name also means the amount of days the vendors has to prepare for it. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

Task 6 Installation



As you have learned from the Weaponization phase, the backdoor lets an attacker bypass security measures and hide the access. A backdoor is also known as an access point. Once the attacker gets access to the system, he would want to access the system if he loses the connection to it or if he got detected and got the initial access removed, or if the system is later patched. He will no longer have access to it. That is when the attacker needs to install a persistent backdoor. A persistent backdoor will let the attacker access the system he compromised in the past. You can check out the Persistence Room on TryHackMe to learn how an attacker can achieve persistence.

The persistence can be achieved through:

  • Installing a web shell on the webserver. A web shell is a malicious script written in web development programming languages such as ASP, PHP, or JSP used by an attacker to maintain access to the compromised system. Because of the web shell simplicity and file formatting (.php, .asp, .aspx, .jsp, etc.) can be difficult to detect and might be classified as benign. You may check out this great article released by Microsoft on various web shell attacks.

  • Installing a backdoor on the victim’s machine. For example, the attacker can use Meterpreter to install a backdoor on the victim’s machine. Meterpreter is a Metasploit Framework payload that gives an interactive shell from which an attacker can interact with the victim’s machine remotely and execute the malicious code.

  • Creating or modifying Windows services. This technique is known as T1543.003 on MITRE ATT&CK (MITRE ATT&CK® is a knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world scenarios). An attacker can create or modify the Windows services to execute the malicious scripts or payloads regularly as a part of the persistence. An attacker can use the tools like sc.exe (sc.exe lets you Create, Start, Stop, Query, or Delete any Windows Service) and Reg to modify service configurations. The attacker can also masquerade the malicious payload by using a service name that is known to be related to the Operating System or legitimate software.

  • Adding the entry to the “run keys” for the malicious payload in the Registry or the Startup Folder. By doing that, the payload will execute each time the user logs in on the computer. According to MITRE ATT&CK, there is a startup folder location for individual user accounts and a system-wide startup folder that will be checked no matter what user account logs in.

You can read more about the Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder persistence on one of the MITRE ATT&CK techniques.

In this phase, the attacker can also use the Timestomping technique to avoid detection by the forensic investigator and also to make the malware appear as a part of a legitimate program. The Timestomping technique lets an attacker modify the file’s timestamps, including the modify, access, create and change times.

Answer the questions below

Can you provide the technique used to modify file time attributes to hide new or changes to existing files?

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

The final section is where you can find this answer. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

Can you name the malicious script planted by an attacker on the webserver to maintain access to the compromised system and enables the webserver to be accessed remotely?

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

The answer can be found in the first bullet point. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.



Task 7 Command & Control


After getting persistence and executing the malware on the victim’s machine, “Megatron” opens up the C2 (Command and Control) channel through the malware to remotely control and manipulate the victim. This term is also known as C&C or C2 Beaconing as a type of malicious communication between a C&C server and malware on the infected host. The infected host will consistently communicate with the C2 server; that is also where the beaconing term came from.

The compromised endpoint would communicate with an external server set up by an attacker to establish a command & control channel. After establishing the connection, the attacker has full control of the victim’s machine. Until recently, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was the traditional C2 channel used by attackers. This is no longer the case, as modern security solutions can easily detect malicious IRC traffic.

The most common C2 channels used by adversaries nowadays:

  • The protocols HTTP on port 80 and HTTPS on port 443 — this type of beaconing blends the malicious traffic with the legitimate traffic and can help the attacker evade firewalls.

  • DNS (Domain Name Server). The infected machine makes constant DNS requests to the DNS server that belongs to an attacker, this type of C2 communication is also known as DNS Tunneling.

Important to note that an adversary or another compromised host can be the owner of the C2 infrastructure.

Answer the questions below

What is the C2 communication where the victim makes regular DNS requests to a DNS server and domain which belong to an attacker.

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

This answer can be found under the two examples of the most common C2 channels used by adversaries. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.


Task 8 Actions on Objectives (Exfiltration)


After going through six phases of the attack, “Megatron” can finally achieve his goals, which means taking action on the original objectives. With hands-on keyboard access, the attacker can achieve the following:

  • Collect the credentials from users.

  • Perform privilege escalation (gaining elevated access like domain administrator access from a workstation by exploiting the misconfiguration).

  • Internal reconnaissance (for example, an attacker gets to interact with internal software to find its vulnerabilities).

  • Lateral movement through the company’s environment.

  • Collect and exfiltrate sensitive data.

  • Deleting the backups and shadow copies. Shadow Copy is a Microsoft technology that can create backup copies, snapshots of computer files, or volumes.

  • Overwrite or corrupt data.

Answer the questions below

Can you provide a technology included in Microsoft Windows that can create backup copies or snapshots of files or volumes on the computer, even when they are in use?

Since the answers can be found above, I won’t be posting it. You can follow along to learn and discover where they are located.

The answer can be found in the second to last bullet point. Once you find it, highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

Task 9 Practice Analysis


We really hope you enjoyed this room. In order to strengthen your knowledge, let’s do a practice analysis.

Here is the real-world scenario for you to tackle:

The infamous Target cyber-attack, which led to one of the largest data breaches in history took place on November 27, 2013.

On December 19th, 2013, Target released a statement confirming the breach, stating that approximately 40 million credit and debit card accounts were impacted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013. Target had to pay the fine of $18.5 million under the terms of the multistate settlement agreement. This is considered to be the largest data-breach settlement in history.

How did the data breach happen? Deploy the static site attached to this task and apply your skills to build the Cyber Kill Chain of this scenario. Here are some tips to help you complete the practical:

1. Add each item on the list in the correct Kill Chain entry-form on the Static Site Lab:

  • exploit public-facing application

  • data from local system

  • powershell

  • dynamic linker hijacking

  • spearphishing attachment

  • fallback channels

2. Use the ‘Check answers’ button to verify whether the answers are correct (where wrong answers will be underlined in red).

Answer the questions below

What is the flag after you complete the static site?

To start off you need to click the green button labeled View Site.

After clicking it the screen will split and on the right side will be cyber kill chain. Next to each link is a line to fill in the blanks.

You will fill in the blanks with this list given to you by TryHackMe, that was related to the Target hack of 2013.

Weaponization


Let us start at the top of the kill chain and work our way down. The first link we have a line to fill in is Weaponization. So the attacker needs to create a malware, here is a definition taken from the weaponization task.

With that I think that only one of these can answers that fits is powershell.


The next link down is Delivery, so how was the malware delivered to the victim’s PC? Looking back at the Delivery task, it describes phishing emails as a form of delivery.

Knowing this, the answer to the Delivery link that fits best is spearphishing attack.

Exploitation

The next link down is the Exploitation link, this link is where the attacker will exploit the malware used, or a vulnerability in the system. Here is from the exploitation task explaining one way a victim’s PC could be exploited.

Between the exploitation task and the list only one really stands out because it has the word exploit in the name, exploit public-facing application. There for this best fits the answer for this link.

Installation

The next link of the kill chain is Installation, on this link the attacker will install backdoors to bypass security. This is also called gaining persistence, it is explained in the Installation task.


Command & Control

The next link down is the Command and Control link, this kill chain link refers to being used to connect the attacker to the victim’s PC.

With two answers left one of them seems to be the better answer for this kill chain link, that is fallback channels.

Exfiltration

The last link in the cyber kill chain is Exfiltration, basically what is the attacker taking from the victim’s PC. Looking at the exfiltration task shows some of the data that can be taken or corrupted.

With only one answer left, it perfectly fits this final piece of the cyber kill chain. Data from local system.

Now that all the answers are typed into the blanks click the green Check answers button at the bottom of the cyber kill chain.


The answer will pop-up in a new window in the middle of the cyber kill chain practical side. Highlight & copy (ctrl +c ) or type the answer into the TryHackMe answer field, then click submit.

Task 10 Conclusion

Cyber Kill Chain can be a great tool to improve network defense. Is it perfect and can it be the only tool to rely on? No.

The traditional Cyber Kill Chain or Lockheed Martin Cyber Kill Chain was last modified in 2011, which, if you remember, is the date of its establishment. The absence of updates and modifications creates security gaps.

The traditional Cyber Kill Chain was designed to secure the network perimeter and protect against malware threats. But the cybersecurity threats have developed drastically nowadays, and adversaries are combining multiple TTP (tactics, techniques, and procedures) to achieve their goal. Adversaries are capable of defeating threat intelligence by modifying the file hashes and IP addresses. Security solutions companies are developing technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and different algorithms to detect even slight and suspicious changes. Since the main focus of the framework is on malware delivery and network security, the traditional Cyber Kill Chain will not be able to identify Insider Threats. According to CISA,


“The Insider Threat is the potential for an insider to use their authorized access or understanding of an organization to harm that organization.”

We recommend not only relying on the traditional Cyber Kill Chain model but also referring to MITRE ATT&CK as well as Unified Kill Chain to apply a more comprehensive approach to your defense methodologies.

🎉🎉 Congratulations, you have completed the Cyber Kill Chain Room! 🎉🎉

About the Author: Hello, Everybody, I am Dan Rearden aka. HaircutFish, I am a looking to be a future SOC analyst. I use my passion for cybersecurity to learn as much as possible, so that I may pass on the knowledge to others that want to learn as well. I got into this field back in 2020, after I injured my knee, and after multiple surgeries that ultimately lead to a knee replacement. During the time I had off between surgeries, I started learning about IT through Udemy courses and books. The deeper I got into IT, I started to learn about cybersecurity and found a renewed passion!! At first, I wanted to be a Pentester because they make it look cool on TV, but the more I learned about Pentesting, the more I didn’t think I was able to do it. That’s when I learned about cyber defense or Blue team, and bam, I found my niche. So I’ve put my focus and study toward these efforts. These write-ups I product from TryHackMe are used to help those out that need a nudge, or want to dip a toe in to find out if they would like blue teaming. If you want to follow my write-ups I post them to my socials which can be found my LinkTree. Thank you, and be awesome!

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1 Comment


Jacky April
Jacky April
Oct 29, 2023

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