Uninformed: Informative Information for the Uninformed

Vol 9» 2008.Jan

Context-keyed Payload Encoding
A common goal of payload encoders is to evade a third-party detection mechanism which is actively observing attack traffic somewhere along the route from an attacker to their target, filtering on commonly used payload instructions. The use of a payload encoder may be easily detected and blocked as well as opening up the opportunity for the payload to be decoded for further analysis. Even so-called keyed encoders utilize easily observable, recoverable, or guessable key values in their encoding algorithm, thus making decoding on-the-fly trivial once the encoding algorithm is identified. It is feasible that an active observer may make use of the inherent functionality of the decoder stub to decode the payload of a suspected exploit in order to inspect the contents of that payload and make a control decision about the network traffic. This paper presents a new method of keying an encoder which is based entirely on contextual information that is predictable or known about the target by the attacker and constructible or recoverable by the decoder stub when executed at the target. An active observer of the attack traffic however should be unable to decode the payload due to lack of the contextual keying information.
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