Lee Kirkpatrick

ManageEngine Desktop Central RCE

Blog Post created by Lee Kirkpatrick Employee on Mar 6, 2020

A zero-day RCE (Remote Code Execution) exploit against ManageEngine Desktop Central was recently released by ϻг_ϻε (@steventseeley). The description of how this works in full and the code can be found on his website, https://srcincite.io/advisories/src-2020-0011/. We thought we would have a quick run of this through the lab to see what indicators it leaves behind.


The Attack

Here we simply run the script and pass two parameters, the target, and the command - which in this case is using cmd.exe to execute whoami and output the result to a file named si.txt:


We can then access the output via a browser and see that the command was executed as SYSTEM:


Here we execute ipconfig:


And grab the output:


The Detection in NetWitness Packets

The script sends a HTTP POST to the ManageEngine server as seen below. It targets the MDMLogUploaderServlet over its default port of 8383 to upload a file with controlled content for the deserialization vulnerability to work, in this instance the file is named logger.zip. The command to be executed can also be seen in the body of the POST:

The traffic by default for this exploit is over HTTPS, so you would need SSL interception to see what is shown here.


This is followed by a GET request to the file that was uploaded via the POST for the deserialization to take place, which is what executes the command passed in the first place:


This activity could be detected by using the following logic in an application rule:

(service = 80) && (action = 'post') && (filename = 'mdmloguploader') && (query begins 'udid=') || (service = 80) && (action = 'get') && (directory = '/cewolf/')


The Detection Using NetWitness Endpoint

To detect this RCE in NetWitness Endpoint, we have to look for Java doing something it normally shouldn't, as this is what ManageEngine uses. It is not uncommon for Java to execute cmd, so the analyst has to look into the commands to understand if it is normal behaviour or not - from the below we can see java.exe spawning cmd.exe and running reconaissance type commands, such as whoami and ipconfig - this should stand out as odd:


The following application rule logic could be used to pick up on this activity. Here we are looking for Java being the source of execution as well as looking for the string "tomcat" to narrow it down to Apache Tomcat web servers that work as the backend for the ManageEngine application, the final part is identifying fileless scripts being executed by it:

(filename.src ='java.exe') && (param.src contains'tomcat') && (filename.dst begins '[fileless','cmd.exe')

Other java based web servers will likely show a similar pattern of behavior when being exploited.




As an analyst it is important to stay up to date with the latest security news to understand if you organisation could potentially be at risk of compromise. Remote execution vulnerabilities such as the one outlined here can be an easy gateway into your network, and any devices reachable from the internet should be monitored for anomalous behaviour such as this. Applications should always be kept up to date and patches applied where available ASAP to avoid becoming a potential victim.