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Cortana: real-time collaborative hacking… with bots

August 3, 2012

At BSides Las Vegas, I talked about Force Multipliers for Red Team Operations. In this talk, I shared several stories about how my evil bots stole passwords, instantly installed back doors, and generally wreaked havoc on college students defending (sometimes) unpatched systems. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the technology behind this havoc: Cortana.

You may know Armitage: a red team collaboration tool built on the Metasploit Framework. Cobalt Strike is Armitage’s commercial big brother. Both packages include a team server. Through this team server, multiple hackers may control compromised hosts and launch attacks through one instance of the Metasploit Framework.

Inspired by my days on IRC in the 1990s, I wondered what would happen if I added bots to this collaborative hacking setup. This wondering (and a DARPA contract) led to Cortana, a scripting language for Armitage and Cobalt Strike.

Cortana Architecture

What can I do?

Using Cortana, you may develop stand-alone bots that join your red team. Cortana bots scan hosts, launch exploits, and work on compromised hosts without stepping on each other or getting in the way of their human teammates. Think of this system as Google Wave Apache Wave for hacking.

Cortana scripts may also extend the Armitage and Cobalt Strike clients with new features. Cortana scripts can expose hidden Metasploit features, integrate third-party tools and agents, or control other Cortana bots.

Start Here…

If you’ve ever written scripts for an IRC client such as mIRC, irssi, BitchX, or even jIRCii–you’ll find yourself right at home with Cortana. The best place to start is the Cortana Tutorial. This document is a 55-page tutorial, reference, and collection of examples.

If you’d like to get involved writing Cortana scripts, head over to the Cortana Scripts Github repository. Fork the repository and start hacking away. Several example scripts are available, right now, for your copying and pasting pleasure.

Developer Support

If you have questions, join the Cortana Hackers Mailing list. Send a blank message to cortana@librelist.com and you will be subscribed. You may send a message to cortana-unsubscribe@librelist.com to unsubscribe from the list.

If you’d like to connect on IRC with other Cortana hackers, join #armitage on irc.freenode.net.

Get It

Cortana is now available in Armitage 08.02.12 shipped in the Metasploit Framework. Type msfupdate and you have it. I hope I didn’t freak anyone out with my mega-large pull request.

The latest trial of Cobalt Strike has it too.

Cortana is BSD-licensed and is co-developed with Armitage. This work was made possible by a DARPA Cyber Fast Track contract.

I first announced Cortana at DEFCON 20. The slides from this presentation are available as well.

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