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This is the second of two blogs that discuss the implementation of
the Windows console architecture from years past, with a primary focus
on the current implementation present on modern versions of Windows.
Read our first blog, “Monitoring
Windows Console Activity Part 1
,” for more.

Capturing the Data

Before we examine how to capture console data, an understanding of
how this differs from capturing process arguments may be useful. After
all, can’t we just examine the Process Environment Block (PEB) for
each process and gather the command line arguments? This would show us
the command arguments that an attacker used when executing tasks on a
compromised machine. However, if an attacker is using any command line
tools that are interactive at runtime, this data structure can’t show
us what commands the attacker issued to the tool.

For example, Figure 1 shows the command line used to execute an
instance of the popular credential dumping tool, mimikatz. An
attacker could use any of the several features of this tool, including
credential stealing or hash dumping. Additionally, knowing what user
accounts the attacker compromised is difficult because we can’t see
the output of mimikatz at the time it was executed. Later we will look
at the value of gathering this data from the console and how this
level of context is useful.

Figure 1: Process explorer showing the
command line used to execute an instance of mimikatz

Now that we understand how all this works, how can we intercept the
data? Doing so on Windows 7 and earlier seems pretty difficult. It
seems possible (albeit a little impractical) that we could capture the
data by synchronizing with the ConsoleEvent object we mentioned
earlier, and then read data out of the section object containing the
data. Another way could be sending the necessary ALPC messages to
access the command data, and in fact there is an exported API in
kernel32.dll that does exactly that. GetConsoleCommandHistory will
retrieve commands from the current console session. The downside here
is that you have to be executing in the context of a client process to
use this API. This would require process injection or some other
illicit means. Neither of these methods are particularly elegant.

The console driver used in Windows 8 and later simplifies this quite
a bit. Because the driver exposes a device object, we should be able
to attach and filter on it. But then what? We need to understand how
the feature is implemented in more detail and how the data is formatted.

Looking at the driver entry point, we see some pretty standard
driver initialization. What is interesting, however, is the
initialization of the Fast I/O Device Control dispatch function. This
function will be called by the kernel before the standard IRP-based
IRP_MJ_DEVICE_CONTROL dispatch function. The fast version can then
choose to mark the operation as complete, or pass it back and have an
IRP generated. Figure 2 shows the interesting entry points for ConDrv.

Figure 2: Entry points for the Windows
Console Driver (ConDrv)

Some quick poking around in the user code reveals that just about
all data we are interested in is transferred by NtDeviceIoControlFile
to ConDrv. Data is also transferred to the ConDrv device handles using
NtReadFile and NtWriteFile, however, these same data buffers are also
sent using NtDeviceIoControlFile when Conhost is sending or requesting
new data.  Therefore, filtering on the FastIoDeviceControl routine
should give up the I/O data we are looking for (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Function prototype for the FastIoDeviceControl
dispatch function

Analysis of this function reveals a switch statement for handling
passed in IOCTL codes containing the bulk of the functionality exposed
to user mode. Figure 4 shows the code that handles the IOCTL codes
related to reading and writing data to the console.

Figure 4: IOCTL handler code in ConDrv

There are quite a few IOCTL codes supported by ConDrv, but for now
we only care about a subset of them, which are listed in Table 1.




Complete pending I/O


Data is available to be read from client (e.g.
conhost.exe <- cmd.exe)


Data is available to be written to client
(e.g. conhost.exe -> cmd.exe)


Launch a new conhost.exe process

Table 1: Interesting IOCTL handlers supported by ConDrv

The two IOCTL codes responsible for reading and writing data between
clients and servers are most interesting (0x50000F and 0x500013).
Setting a breakpoint on condrv!CdpFastIoDeviceControl and entering
some text into a command prompt causes the debugger to break in the
process context of conhost.exe.

Examining the function arguments using the prototype in Figure 3
shows the input buffer, size, and IOCTL code that Conhost supplied
when sending the command string to cmd.exe. These arguments are
highlighted in yellow, blue, and green respectively and shown in
Figure 5. Note: The input buffer is a user mode address mapped into Conhost.

Figure 5: IOCTL Examining the function
parameters for condrv!CdpFastIoDeviceControl

Dereferencing the input buffer shows an opaque data structure.
Analyzing more of the ConDrv code that processes the input buffer
helps understand the format the data is in. This structure’s format is
shown in Figure 6. Note: this is an undocumented structure (from what
I can tell) and its fields are based on analysis of the ConDrv code.

Figure 6: Message buffer structure
inferred from condrv.sys on a Windows 10 system

Each I/O message contains a buffer and buffer size of the command
data. On output, this same structure is used to deliver the results of
the executed command. Figure 7 shows the capture of a console command
in Windbg by applying this structure definition to the data. Here we
see a simple directory listing command being entered into a command
prompt. These same steps can be used to capture the command output as well.

Figure 7: Displaying command data in Windbg

Now that we understand the format of the I/O data and how it is
transferred, we can write a proof of concept filter driver to capture
it and send it back to user mode for processing. Since we get this
data inline, it should be possible to reconstruct all console sessions
on the machine. We will attach to DeviceConDrv and copy the data
from the input buffers on every Conhost process on the system. We will
then use a Python script to retrieve the captured I/O data that is
sent to it from the kernel driver.

First let’s see if we can fully capture the data of a user executing
an interactive Python session. Figure 8 shows a user’s Python session.
The command window on the bottom is a normal user session executing
Python code. The window above shows the data that is captured from the
ConDrv filter driver. The flow (input vs. output) is identified using
the IOCTL codes shown in Table 1. This gives precise context on the
commands since the data is sent to the driver inline.

Figure 8: Capturing a Python console
session; user session shown below, captured data from condrv.sys
shown above.

In the beginning of this post, we mentioned mimikatz and how reading
its process arguments doesn’t provide the commands if the attacker
interacts with the console directly. Figure 1 demonstrates how all
that is revealed by the PEB command line arguments is the path of the
mimikatz process. Figure 9 demonstrates the captured console I/O from
this same mimikatz session. Now we can identify that an attacker was
able to acquire NT LAN Manager (NTLM) hashes from the system. We can
even tell exactly when they were stolen and what accounts were
compromised. Having a timeline of activity like this is crucial during
the incident response process, and acquiring this data through other
means (such as process memory dumps) lacks valuable context.

Figure 9: Capturing a mimikatz console
session; attacker session shown below, captured data from condrv.sys
shown above.


Putting this all together, we can now intercept, modify, or outright
deny all console input and output on a Windows 8 and later system.
This can be used to capture not only I/O from system utilities, but
from any program that uses a console. This can range from interactive
interpreters such as Python, Ruby, and Perl to security tools such as
mimikatz and Metasploit. As attackers continue to act more brazenly on
the systems they compromise, being able to identify this activity
remains crucial. 

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