Inceptor - Template-Driven AV/EDR Evasion Framework

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  • Modern Penetration testing and Red Teaming often requires to bypass common AV/EDR appliances in order to execute code
    on a target. With time, defenses are becoming more complex and inherently more difficult to bypass consistently.
    Inceptor is a tool which can help to automate great part of this process, hopefully requiring no further effort.
    Inceptor is a template-based PE packer for Windows, designed to help penetration testers and red teamers to bypass
    common AV and EDR solutions. Inceptor has been designed with a focus on usability, and to allow extensive user
    To have a good overview of what it was implemented and why, it might be useful to tak a look to the following resources:

    • The path to code execution in the era of EDR, Next-Gen AVs, and AMSI
    • Inceptor - Bypass AV-EDR solutions combining well known techniques
      Shellcode Transformation/Loading
      Inceptor is able to convert existing EXE/DLL into shellcode using various open-source converters:
    • Donut: Donut is "The Converter". This tool is more like a piece of art by TheWover,
      and can be used to transform Native binaries, DLL, and .Net binaries into position independent code shellcode.
    • sRDI: By Monoxgas, this tool can convert existing naticcve DLL into PIC, which can then be injected as regular shellcode.
    • Pe2Sh: By Hasherazade, this tool can convert an existing native
      EXE into PIC shellcode, which can also be run as a normal EXE.
      LI Encoders vs LD Encoders
      Inceptor can encode, compress, or encrypt shellcode using different means. While developing the tool, I started differentiating
      between what I call loader-independent (LI) encoding, and loader-dependent (LD) encoding.
      Loader-independent encoding is a type of encoding not managed by the template chosen by the user (loader). This usually
      means that the decoding stub is not part of the template, but embedded in the shellcode itself.
      Inceptor offers this kind of feature using the open-source tool sgn, which is used to
      make the payload polymorphic and undetectable using common signature detection.
      Even strong at it is, Shikata-Ga-Nai is not really suitable for certain templates. For this reason,
      Inceptor also implements Loader-dependent encoders, which are designed to let the loader taking care of
      the decoding. As such, LD encoders install the decoding stub directly in the template.
      This kind of encoders, as implemented within Inceptor, are also "Chainable", meaning they can be chained together to
      encode a payload.
      While using a chain of encoders can sometimes improve the obfuscation of a given payload,
      this technique can also expose multiple decoding routines, which can help Defenders to design
      signatures against them. For this reason, Inceptor offers multiple ways to obfuscate the final
      artifacts, hardening the RE process.
      At the time of writing, the public version of Inceptor has been provided with the following encoders/compressors/encryptors:
    • Native
    • Xor
    • Nop (Insertion)
    • .NET
    • Hex
    • Base64
    • Xor
    • Nop (Insertion)
    • AES
    • Zlib
    • RLE
    • PowerShell
    • Hex
    • Base64
    • Xor
    • Nop (Insertion)
    • AES
      Inceptor can validate an encoding chain both statically and dynamically, statically checking the decoders'
      input/output types, and also dynamically verifying the implementation with an independent implementation.
      At any time, a user can easily validate a chain using the utility.
      AV Evasion Mechanisms
      Inceptor also natively implements AV Evasion mechanisms, and as such, it offers the possibility to include AV evasion
      features to the payload in the form of "modules" (plugins).
      The plugins which can be embedded are:
    • AMSI bypass
    • WLDP bypass
    • ETW bypass
    • Sandbox (Behavioural) Deception
      EDR Evasion Mechanisms
      Inceptor also implements EDR Evasion mechanisms, such as full unhooking, direct syscall invocation and manual DLL mapping.
      Direct Syscalls are implemented in C# using the outstanding "DInvoke" project,
      again by TheWover.
      In C/C++, Syscalls are implemented using SysWhispers and SysWhispers2 projects, by Jackson_T. In addition,
      Inceptor has built-in support for x86 Syscalls as well.
      As the AV bypass features, these features can be enabled as modules, with the only difference that they require
      operating on a template which supports them. The techniques implemented so far are:
    • Full Unhooking
    • Manual DLL Mapping
    • Direct Syscalls
      Inceptor supports payload obfuscation by using external utils, such as ConfuserEx
      and Chameleon, and provides support for C/C++ obfuscation using LLVM-Obfuscator, which
      is an IR-based obfuscator using the LLVM compilation platform.
    • PowerShell
    • C#
    • C/C++
      Code Signing
      Another feature of Inceptor is that it can code sign the resulting binary/dll by using the tool CarbonCopy
      Usually, files signed with code signing certificates are less strictly analysed. Many anti-malware products
      don't validate/verify these certificates.
      The full workflow can be summarized in the following high-level, and simplified scheme:

      Inceptor has been designed to work on Windows. The utility can locate the required Microsoft binaries
      and update the configuration accordingly. It might be required to install Microsoft Build Tools, the Windows SDK,
      and Visual Studio, will guide the user on how to install the required dependencies.
    git clone --recursive  
    cd inceptor  
    virtualenv venv  
    pip install -r requirements.txt  
    cd inceptor  

    Useful Notes
    Default Loaders
    The current version of Inceptor locates a specific template using a simple naming convention (don't change template names),
    and the set of arguments given by the user. Among the arguments, there is also the loader (-t). If not specified, the loader
    will be picked-up as a function of the file to pack, following this simple schema:

    $ python -hh  
    [*] Default Loaders  
    Input File Extension SpecialCondition   Guessed Filetype Default Loader  Default Template  
    0                     .raw              NaN          Shellcode  Simple Loader           Classic  
    1                     .exe             .NET  Dotnet Executable          Donut           Classic  
    2                     .exe              NaN  Native Executable   Pe2Shellcode           PE Load  
    3                     .dll              NaN     Native Library           sRDI           Classic  

    Template name convention
    It's very important to understand also the template name convention, to avoid misinterpreting an artifact behaviour.

    • Classic: a classic template usually means it uses the VirtualAlloc/VirtualAllocEx and CreateThread/CreateRemoteThread
      API to allocate and execute arbitrary code
    • Dinvoke: if a template contains only dinvoke (e.g classic-dinvoke.cs), it means it uses dynamic function resolution
      feature of dinvoke
    • dinvoke-subtechnique: a template containing dinvoke followed by another keyword is using a particular feature of
      dinvoke, like manual_mapping, overload_mapping, or syscalls
    • Syscalls: as the name suggest, this template is using syscalls
    • PE Load: this template tries to map a full PE into memory, without transforming it
    • Assembly Load: this template tries to execute a .NET assembly using reflection
    $ usage: [-h] [-hh] [-Z] {native,dotnet,powershell} ...  
    inceptor: A Windows-based PE Packing framework designed to help   
    Red Team Operators to bypass common AV and EDR solutions  
    positional arguments:  
    native              Native Binaries Generator  
    dotnet              .NET Binaries Generator  
    powershell          PowerShell Wrapper Scripts Generator  
    optional arguments:  
    -h, --help            show this help message and exit  
    -hh                   Show functional table  
    -Z, --check           Check file against ThreatCheck  

    Next Developments

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