Category Archives: Security

Posts related to security

Decrypting TFS secret variables

Each build and release definition in TFS has a set of custom variables assigned to it. Those variables are later used as parameters to PowerShell/batch scripts, configuration file transformations, or other tasks being part of the build/release pipeline. Accessing them from a task resembles accessing process environment variables. Because of TFS detailed logging, it is quite common that values saved in variables end up in the build log in a plain text form. That is one of the reasons why Microsoft implemented secret variables.

The screenshot below presents a TFS build configuration panel, with a sample secret variable amiprotected set (notice the highlighted padlock icon on the right side of the text box):


Once the secret variable is saved, it is no longer possible to read its value from the web panel (when you click on the padlock, the text box will be cleared).

And this is how the output log looks like if we pass the secret variable to a PowerShell script and print it:


Let’s now have a look where and how the secret variables are stored.

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How to securely sign .NET assemblies

TestLib, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=769a8f10a7f072b4

If the above line means anything to you, you are probably a .NET developer. You also probably know that the hex string at the end represents a public key token, which is a sign that the assembly has a strong name signature. But do you know how this token is calculated? Or do you know the structure of the strong name signature? In this post, I will go into details how strong naming works and what are its shortcomings. We will also have a look at certificate-based signatures and, in the end, we will examine the assembly verification process.

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Decrypting ASP.NET 4.5

The title mentions ASP.NET 4.5.x, but the encryption algorithm is exactly the same in ASP.NET 4.6.x. It won’t work however in earlier versions of ASP.NET.

Some time ago I published a post entitled “Decrypting ASP.NET identity cookies”. In that post we wrote a Python script to decrypt ASP.NET Identity cookies. You could have also learnt how the derived keys, used to encrypt those cookies, are calculated. If you are interested in details, please have a look at that article. But to summarize, the following steps are performed by ASP.NET:

  1. Extract the encryption and the validation key from the web.config file
  2. Calculate the derived keys using the SP800-108 specification, with the context and the label taken from an adequate Purpose class instance
  3. Validate and decrypt the cipher

The above procedure applies not only to the cookies decryption, but also to many other cryptographic operations, such as ViewState encryption, Forms Authentication, Anti-Forgery tokens creation etc. However, there is still a missing gap in the presented flow. What if the encryption and the validation keys are not explicitly set in the web.config file? Today, we will answer this question.

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Incorrect password in Remote Desktop Connections Manager (with some DPAPI insights)

Few weeks ago my Remote Desktop Connections Manager started to report an access denied while trying to connect to some servers on my list, prompting me for a password. I was pretty sure the password stored in the RDCMan profile was correct, but didn’t really have time to investigate it further. Until today 🙂

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TLS 1.2, AES-GCM and .NET network trace

The next exercise on our path to better understand TLS will be a decryption of a network trace collected from a .NET console application. In the last post we examined a simple TLS 1.0 session. Today I would like to focus on the latest version (1.2) of the TLS protocol. The changes introduced by this version (defined in RFC 5246) included: support for authenticated encryption, PRF simplification and removal of all hard-coded security primitives.

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Manually decrypting an HTTPS request

Recently I have spent some time on learning the internals of HTTPS. I wanted to know what makes it secure and how the communication actually looks like. Today I would like to show you the steps required to decrypt a sample HTTPS request. Imagine you got a .pcap file recorded by one of your company clients who complains that your application returned 500 HTTP status code with a strange error message. The client forgot to copy the error message but luckily had a Wireshark instance running in the background (I know it’s highly hypothetical, but just close your eyes to that :)) and he/she sent you the collected traces. Let’s then assume that your server has a certificate with a public RSA key and you are in possession of its private key. Finally the client was using a slightly outdated browser which supports TLS 1.0 (though I will inform you what would have been different if it had been TLS 1.2) and does not use ephemeral keys. My main point in writing this post is to present you the steps of the TLS communication. This post is not a guidance on how to create a secure TLS configuration, but a walk-through on how this protocol works and I will purposely use less secure ciphers to make things easier to explain.

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Decrypting ASP.NET Identity cookies

I decided recently I need to learn Python. It’s a great scripting language, often used in forensics, diagnostics and debugging tools. There is even a plugin for windbg that allows you to script this debugger in Python language, but it’s a subject for another post. Moving back to learning Python – as an exercise I wrote a simple tool to decrypt ASP.NET Identity cookies and ASP.NET Anti-Forgery tokens. You may find it useful in situations when you need to diagnose why one of your users can’t sign in into your applications or is not authorize to access one of its parts. It does not perform validation but only decrypts the content using 256-bit AES (let me know in comments if you need some other decryption algorithm to be implemented). Adding validation logic shouldn’t be a big deal and the nist library (which I used for cryptographic operations) provides all the necessary functions.

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