Cobalt Strike is an important tool in the cybersecurity arena. It’s an intensive commercial penetration testing toolkit used for different levels of intrusion.
Cobalt Strike gives your pen-testers access to a wide range of attack capabilities and can be used to test your entire network for spear-phishing and other unauthorized access attempts.
The toolkit emulates different types of malware and advanced threat tactics to test the integrity of your cybersecurity measures.
Key Features of Cobalt Strike
Here are some of the key features and functions of this threat emulation program:
- Reconnaissance by discovering which software your target uses including version information to determine potential vulnerabilities.
- Identification and launch of attack packages such as social engineering attack engine and Trojans disguised as innocent or harmless files such as Microsoft Office documents, Java applets, and Windows programs.
- Collaboration through the Cobalt Team Server that allows team members to share data and control compromised systems in real time.
- Cobalt Strike Beacon that can deploy PowerShell scripts, download files, take screenshots, log keystrokes, and execute payloads.
- Covert communication through which attackers can modify network indicators instantly. Clandestine communication allows ethical hackers to load C2 profiles just like any other authorized user and access the network using HTTP, DNS, HTTPS, or SMB protocol.
- Cobalt Strike can also be used to circumvent 2-factor authentication through browser pivoting.
The most important thing that your IT provider should be aware of is that attackers are known to crack the trial version of Cobalt Strike or use the commercial copy of the software to launch an attack against your organization.
Attackers normally use Cobalt Strike Beacon as a delivery mechanism.
Cobalt Strike relies on Beacon to gain access to the target network before downloading and executing malicious payloads. The malware is usually transmitted through DNS, Windows SMB protocol, HTTP, or HTTPS.
How to Detect Cobalt Strike
It’s not very easy to detect Cobalt Strike servers. Fortunately, most of the older unpatched versions of Cobalt Strike can easily be identified.
There are several techniques that you can use to detect a Cobalt Strike deployment including the following:
- A good sign of a Cobalt Strike deployment is the default TLS certificate provided by the official developer. If the certificate wasn’t changed by the admin then treat this as a red flag.
- If the Cobalt Strike DNS server provides a suspicious IP address such as 0.0.0.0 when reacting to requests, consider that a sign of intrusion.
- Check if there’s an open port on 50050/TCP.
- Conduct an HTTP request and see if you get a 404 Not Found error.
- Contact a professional penetration testing expert to run vulnerability tests on your network and then patch the potential weaknesses.
Cobalt Strike is a penetration test tool used in conducting simulated attacks on your network to identify and fix potential vulnerabilities.
However, it’s important for your IT provider to understand how hackers can also use the tool to deploy malware into your system.