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Kieran Jacobsen is the Head of Information Technology at Readify, a Microsoft MVP and regular speaker at conferences throughout Australia.

DNS Squatting with Azure App Services


  • SaifAllah benMassaoud from Vulnerability Lab discovered that resnet.microsoft.com was resolving to resnetportal-prod.azurewebsites.net, however there was no Azure App Service at this address.
  • Anyone could have established an App Service with this DNS name, and thus squat on a microsoft.com subdomain.
  • This vulnerability has the potential to affect any organisation that is using App Services (or similar PaaS services) and custom domain names where they do not have appropriate controls in place.

Like many involved in the InfoSec industry, I monitor a bunch of vulnerability disclosure feeds. They can be a valuable source of knowledge: new techniques, new bugs, new breaches or just interesting tools and technology.

Several days ago, a post titled: Microsoft Resnet - DNS Configuration Web Vulnerability grabbed my interest. It has an innocuous title, and I hadn’t recalled anyone else talking about a Microsoft DNS Vulnerability. The post wasn't that long, the description and the proof-of-concept are only a few paragraphs in length; however what I did discover was an interesting vulnerability, one that, I feel, is going to become more and more prevalent with the use of Platform As A Service (PaaS) technologies like Azure App Services.

Simply put, in this situation, someone had created a CNAME entry within Microsoft’s DNS to point resnet.microsoft.com to resnetportal-prod.azurewebsites.net, unfortunately, resnetportal-prod.azurewebsites.net didn’t exist. This doesn’t sound that bad? Right?


For those who are not familiar with the azurewebsites.net domain, this is the domain used by Azure App Services to host services. When you create an App Service, you specify a name, like myawesomewebapp.azurewebsites.net, you can then deploy your application to that App Service. You can pick whatever you want as the applications name, as long as no one else has taken it before you.

You can optionally specify a custom domain name for your App Service, like myawesomewebapp.com, and use a CNAME entry to map your custom domain to your azurewebsites.net domain (you can now also use an A record).

You should now be able to see the problem; resnetportal-prod.azurewebsites.net didn’t exist yet the name resnet.microsoft.com was pointed to this App service. What does exist is a great squatting/hijacking opportunity. Anyone could have signed up for an Azure Subscription, created an App Service with the name resnetportal-prod.azurewebsites.net and then hijacked resnet.microsoft.com. Vulnerability Lab maanged to discover a pretty significant issue.

What could one do with a subdomain of microsoft.com? Phishing, credential theft, and ransomware comes to mind pretty quickly. I am sure an APT crew would love to have a domain or subdomain like this. There are probably only a few domain names in the world where the average user and even the average system administrator are extremely trusting, and microsoft.com would have to be one.

It isn't just the big organisations like Microsoft at risk. Any company that makes use of PaaS services like Azure App Services and CNAME entries could potentially become the next victim. Attackers might use your domain name to attack others or perhaps create more effective attacks against your own users.

Let’s consider our friends Contoso Limited; they deployed an application for their users to contosoapp.azurewebsites.net, they also established a custom domain name, home.contoso.com. The app was used for some time, and eventually they decide to decommission it. A developer, maybe a sysadmin deletes the Azure App Service, but in their haste, they forget about the DNS entries. More time goes by, and now Bob from an APT group finds the entry for home.contoso.com pointing to contosoapp.azurewebsites.net, he then goes and sets up his own App Service and hijacks home.contoso.com.

Bob the sends out this email to some Contoso email addresses:

Subject: New Employee Experience
From: Contoso Marketing
    Hi Team,

    We have launched a new employee portal, it is great and has a bunch of awesome features. The site can be found at http://home.contoso.com. 


    The Contoso Marketing Team

Bob doesn’t even need to hide the links in the email, he doesn’t need any of the usual masking techniques, he can simply display the company’s domain name. If the email structure, text and links are well crafted, how would Fred from Accounting determine if this was a legitimate email?

When a user navigates to the page, perhaps it prompts for credentials, maybe it tries to run a browser exploit? I have no doubt that a campaign against an organisation like this would be extremely successful.

Now the details of how SaifAllah benMassaoud from Vulnerability Lab initially discovered the misconfiguration are not described in the release. I am going to guess that he probably used an automated DNS enumeration tool like DNSRecon and DNSNinja. These make the discovery of DNS records easy, and it would be easy to automate additional checks based upon their results to find vulnerable configurations.

In terms of defending against these issues, there are two methods, both of which need to be implemented by organisations:

  1. Appropriate change control processes: If an App Service or similar PaaS solution is being decommissioned, processes should be in place to ensure that any associated DNS records are removed;
  2. Monitor your DNS zones for configuration issues: Have automated scripts that check and send alerts if configuration issues are found.

If you haven’t looked at a DNS management tool like DNSControl, do so now! DNSControl was originally developed by Stack Overflow, and you don’t need to have hundreds of domain names and records to gain value from a tool that allows you to manage DNS as code.

DNSControl uses a Domain Specific Language for defining domains and their records, independently of your provider. You can use macros and variables to simplify your configuration. My favorite features is the ability to configure multiple DNS providers, this is great for migrations and for fault tolerance. The CloudFlare provider still allows for control over their proxy as well, ensuring that all of our configuration remains in source control.

Defending against this vulnerability is fairly simple, practice good change control processes and monitor your DNS zones. DNS enumeration tools like DNSRecon and DNSNinja can also assist in determining your organisations risk, whilst DNS as code tools like DNSControl will give us better control over our DNS change processes.

Kieran Jacobsen

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