Right now I'm looking at an office document (most likely rtf based on it exploiting equation editor) that opens just fine when you double click it, but on further examination in a hex editor and in entropy analysis (7.9) is technically encrypted, even without requiring a password to open. It seems as thought the workbook is protected, and I'm not sure how to access the cleartext version of the document on disk.

I need to know which vulnerability the document targets to determine coverage, but I don't know how to remove it.

How do I remove the "protection" from the workbook so I can save it without knowing the password? Trying password crackers "works" (I can still open the file and view it) but it seems to corrupt the file such that I can't save it as cleartext to examine it's internals.

I should mention that this is an .xlsx file.

Additional details based on conversation in meta:

Technical details:

  • The file format is MS Compound (0xd0cf11e0 magic)
  • The file pops it's exploit without enabling macros even though it has the standard social engineering image telling you to do so.

Things I've tried:

  • Olevba: no macros
  • The rest of oletools: either return nothing or return the same thing as using 7zip
  • office2john.py -> johntheripper: password is not in the dictonary and 2.5 hours on 8 cores does nothing.
  • I remember running the script on this site: http://www.excelsupersite.com/how-to-unprotect-an-excel-spreadsheet-if-you-have-lost-your-password/ and it not working, but trying again it prevents me from opening the dev console and I don't remember what I did to make it work the first time.
  • I know I did something else, but I can't find the source for it again, and looking for the anchor phrase in the hex turns up nothing, so I must have done something else to the file last time that I can't remember doing. For the sake of being thorough, lets assume I didn't try anything with editing the hex of files or running the VBA script since I can't remember how I got it to work the first time.

My thoughts / needs for the file:

  • The file can be opened without the password, and the exploit works and beacons without the password being manually input, so the file obviously gets decrypted based on the key being either in the file itself or office knowing a key to decrypt, otherwise you wouldn't be able to load the file without knowing the "secret". Even olevba can get into the file so I know there are shortcuts that don't involve knowing the original password
  • I don't need to know the original password used by the actor, I don't even need a working office document when I'm done, I just want to dump the decrypted internals so I can run yara against them to determine whether we're patched against the vulnerability.

This is what shows up when I open the file with 7zip 7zip internals


Also, I feel stupid for not having done this before, but the file is in VT so I can actually share it here: https://www.virustotal.com/gui/file/18022f77bea3783582df27ebf9b6d1eb8067e245d114498f3ba6b27a0044e45d/details

I know that VT lists the exploit directly in the header, but I need to know how to do this myself in case the next one isn't in the public domain and I can't submit it to VT (if the file is targeted then I can't share/post it on public platforms for opsec reasons).

  • Open it with 7zip and remove the word/settings.xml file.
    – Nomad
    Jan 24, 2020 at 13:49
  • The internals aren't the same as an ordinary workbook: I have [6]DataSpaces, EncryptedPackage, and EncryptionInfo at the top level of the zip file. DataSpaces doesn't have anything of note in it either. I probably should have mentioned this is an xlsx file.
    – solumnant
    Jan 24, 2020 at 13:56
  • 1
    Despite the context and your intent, you basically want to know how to unprotect an Excel spreadsheet without knowing the password. There are lots of approaches to this, depending on the version of Excel used. As we are not a "hacking" website, this is off-topic here.
    – schroeder
    Jan 25, 2020 at 11:03
  • 1
    I believe this question was wrongfully closed: I do understand the concepts involved in zip files, office documents, exploits, and security coverage, and I have identified a specific problem I'm facing. I need to identify which vulnerability is being exploited to determine whether we have coverage for that particular exploit: we don't have good coverage for files whose internals are encrypted. I have succeeded in removing the protection from the workbook using common methods, but they don't allow me to save the file to examine the internals to identify the vulnerability.
    – solumnant
    Jan 27, 2020 at 17:32


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