Hackerman's Hacking Tutorials

The knowledge of anything, since all things have causes, is not acquired or complete unless it is known by its causes. - Avicenna

Aug 25, 2018 - 7 minute read - Comments - Reverse Engineering DVTA Writeup

DVTA - Part 5 - Client-side Storage and DLL Hijacking

Thick clients store ample information on the device. In this part, we are going to investigate DVTA to see what, how, and where it stores data. We are also going to do some basic DLL hijacking. Our tools are procmon, PowerSploit, and dnSpy.

Previous parts are at:

Grabbing Database Credentials via Static Analysis

In Part 4 we discovered the MSSQL credentials through dynamic analysis with dnSpy. The credentials are admin:p@ssw0rd. This time we are going to see where they are stored and how.

Open up dnSpy and load the application. Search for the RegisterUser method (if the search is not successful manually drag and drop DBAccess.dll). Right-click on the RegisterUser method and select Analyze. Note we are not in the main application anymore but inside DBAccess.dll. Under Used By we can see btnReg_Click.

Tracing RegisterUser Tracing RegisterUser

Inside btnReg_Click the connection is being created:

Inside btnReg_Click Inside btnReg_Click

Double-clicking on openConnection takes us to the method that establishes the connection.

openConnection method openConnection method

The application is reading some information from ConfigurationManager.AppSettings. This information comes from the AppSettings tag in the configuration file. If the application is named myFancyApp.exe then the configuration file is usually named myFancyApp.exe.config.

I have written about configuration files before in context of proxying. More background material here:

Open the configuration file dvta-master\DVTA\DVTA\bin\Release\DVTA.exe.config and look inside. It's an XML file with an appSettings section:

    <add key="DBSERVER" value="\SQLEXPRESS" />
    <add key="DBNAME" value="DVTA" />
    <add key="DBUSERNAME" value="sa" />
    <add key="DBPASSWORD" value="CTsvjZ0jQghXYWbSRcPxpQ==" />
    <add key="AESKEY" value="J8gLXc454o5tW2HEF7HahcXPufj9v8k8" />
    <add key="IV" value="fq20T0gMnXa6g0l4" />
    <add key="ClientSettingsProvider.ServiceUri" value="" />

As you can guess, DBPASSWORD is base64 encoded and encrypted. We can decrypt it with this program on Go playground: https://play.golang.org/p/7Vjw2Asr4Lo.

package main

import (

func main() {
	dbPassword, err := base64.StdEncoding.DecodeString("CTsvjZ0jQghXYWbSRcPxpQ==")
	if err != nil {
	aesKey := []byte("J8gLXc454o5tW2HEF7HahcXPufj9v8k8")
	iv := []byte("fq20T0gMnXa6g0l4")

	cb, err := aes.NewCipher(aesKey)
	if err != nil {
	mode := cipher.NewCBCDecrypter(cb, iv)
	dec := make([]byte, len(dbPassword))
	mode.CryptBlocks(dec, dbPassword)
	fmt.Printf("% x\n", dec)
	fmt.Printf("%s", dec)

Result is (note the PKCS#7 padding):

70 40 73 73 77 30 72 64 08 08 08 08 08 08 08 08

If we did not know the algorithm, we had to investigate in dnSpy. Click on decryptPassword:

public string decryptPassword()
    string s = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["DBPASSWORD"].ToString();
    string key = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["AESKEY"].ToString();
    string IV = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["IV"].ToString();
    byte[] encryptedBytes = Convert.FromBase64String(s);
    AesCryptoServiceProvider aes = new AesCryptoServiceProvider();
    aes.BlockSize = 128;
    aes.KeySize = 256;
    aes.Key = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(key);
    aes.IV = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(IV);
    aes.Padding = PaddingMode.PKCS7;
    aes.Mode = CipherMode.CBC;
    byte[] decryptedbytes = aes.CreateDecryptor(aes.Key, aes.IV).TransformFinalBlock(encryptedBytes, 0, encryptedBytes.Length);
    this.decryptedDBPassword = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(decryptedbytes);
    return this.decryptedDBPassword;

Which is similar to what we did. Note it's also printed to console.

Local File Access

What else is there? Applications usually store information in local files and the registry. We can use procmon to view their filesystem activity. Start procmon and then the application. In procmon, only keep the Process Name is dvta.exe filter and remove our previous ones. Then use the menu buttons to only Show File System Activity. It's beside the Network Activity button that we used before.

Enabling Network Activity Enabling Network Activity

procmon displays files accessed by the application:

Reading the config file Reading the config file

To reduce clutter, you can add filters and exclude paths.

Play with the application and sign-in with a few different users, Unfortunately it seems like the application does not store any information in local files. However, do not close procmon because we are going to do some DLL hijacking.

DLL Hijacking

There are a lot of articles that explain it much better than me so I am going to do a short description and then link to resources. DLL hijacking happens when the application is looking for a DLL not via an absolute path. This means Windows will search for the DLL is specific paths starting with the root directory of the application. If it's not found in one, it will move on to the other. If attackers have write access to one of those paths (that is higher on the search hierarchy than where the actual DLL is), they can put a malicious DLL there and effectively take control of the application.

Some links from Microsoft:

You can find so many more with a search.

Step 1: Identifying DLLs

First, we need to figure out which DLLs are vulnerable to hijacking. I am going to show two ways.


To discover DLL hijacking entry points, we can use procmon. Add these filters:

  • Process Name contains DVTA
  • Result is NAME NOT FOUND
  • (optional) Path ends with dll
Procmon filters for DLL hijacking Procmon filters for DLL hijacking

A lot of results pop up:


The application is looking for these DLLs in the current directory (or other paths) and cannot find them. This means, Windows will search for these DLLs on the machine according to the search order.

Find-ProcessDLLHijack from PowerSploit

PowerSploit also has utilities for identifying (and performing) DLL hijacking.

To install PowerSploit:

  1. Clone the repository (or download it as a zip file) at https://github.com/PowerShellMafia/PowerSploit.
  2. Copy the directory to C:\Users\IEUser\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Modules where IEUser is the current user.
  3. Open a PowerShell prompt as admin.
  4. Run Set-ExecutionPolicy bypass. This will disable all the warnings. You are running in a VM right?
  5. Open a new PowerShell prompt and run Import-Module PowerSploit.
  6. ???
  7. Profit.

Run the application and execute the following PowerShell command (we have auto-complete):

  • Find-ProcessDLLHijack DVTA-v3 | Format-List

I have patched the utility three times, so my executable is named DVTA-v3. Replace it with your process name.

Hijackable DLLs according to PowerSploit Hijackable DLLs according to PowerSploit

Step 2: Checking Write Permissions

Without write access to somewhere high enough in the search path to replace the DLL, we cannot do anything. In our sample setup, this is not a problem because we most likely have admin on the machine. In the real world, be sure to check ACLs for write access.

There are also other paths, Find-PathDLLHijack can identify them.

Paths with Write Access Paths with Write Access

Step 3: Deploying the Malicious DLL

Now we need to write it to the path identified in the previous section with Write-HijackDll. I chose VERSION.dll.

We can deploy with PowerSploit using Write-HijackDll. It creates a bat file, runs the command in it and deletes itself. We can specify the bat file path with -BatPath and the command with -Command:

  • Write-HijackDll -BatPath b.bat -Command "copy NUL testfile.txt"
Deploying the DLL with Wire-HijackDll Deploying the DLL with Wire-HijackDll

We run the application and nothing happens. Why? Let's investigate with procmon.

Disable the NAME NOT FOUND filter and add a new filter Path contains version.dll.

Path contains version.dll filter Path contains version.dll filter

Which shows us that version.dll was found in System32. Our malicious DLL was not high enough on the DLL search order hierarchy.

version.dll found in System32 version.dll found in System32

We need to deploy the DLL to the application directory. I also learned another lesson, either store the bat file in the same directory as the DLL or provide the full path when running Write-HijackDll. This time I also changed the payload to pop calc.exe.

Running Write-HijackDll again Running Write-HijackDll again

And run the application again.

Calc executed Calc executed

Registry Hives

Registry hives are also popular places for storing information. Procmon allows us to monitor registry activity too. Run procmon and keep the Process Name contains dvta filter. Disable all other filters from before. Enable registry activity with the Show Registry Activity button. It is to the left of the file activity one.

Show registry activity button Show registry activity button

Run the application and see the registry keys that are accessed.

Registry activity in procmon Registry activity in procmon

But this is too much, we only want to see what registry keys are created or modified. Add a new filter Operation is RegSetValue (you can also add RegCreateKey). Login to the application and see the important events roll in.

Registry keys modified by the app Registry keys modified by the app

The application writes password and other information to the registry at HKCU\dvta. These keys are also not erased when the user exits.

DVTA registry keys DVTA registry keys


That was it for part five. We learned how to look at client-side storage, trace registry activity, and did a bit of DLL hijacking. At this point I think I am done with this app. I might have missed some parts.

I hope this helped. Thanks for reading this and if you have any questions/feedback, you know where to find me.