Internal Information Disclosure using Hidden NTLM Authentication

Mar 9 · 5 min read
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During an offensive security engagement it may not be a major vulnerability that leads to your end-goal, but a combination of lower severity findings compounded to make a larger impact. This post discusses information disclosure through NTLM authentication, which is one of those smaller vulnerabilities that can lead to greater attacks under the right circumstances. Additionally, we will demonstrate methods for invoking an NTLM challenge response, even when no login page is present, to coerce this information.


NTLM is a challenge/response authentication protocol utilized by Windows systems in which the user’s actual password is never sent over the wire. Instead, the requesting client receives a challenge response from the server and must perform a calculation that proves their identity. I am far over simplifying this process, but the diagram below is a good example of how this authentication scheme works in a Windows AD environment.

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Now, how does this help in getting sensitive internal information? Once a target is identified as using NTLM authentication, we can initiate a connection and send anonymous (null) credentials, or the magic string “TlRMTVNTUAABAAAAB4IIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA=”, that will prompt the server to respond with an NTLM Type 2 challenge response. This response message can be decoded to reveal information about the server, such as: NetBIOS, DNS, and OS build version information:

Target_Name: DEMO 
NetBIOS_Domain_Name: DEMO
NetBIOS_Computer_Name: SRV01
DNS_Domain_Name: demo.local
DNS_Computer_Name: srv01.demo.local
DNS_Tree_Name: demo.local
Product_Version: 6.3.9600


During a penetration test this can be used to identify internal naming conventions, determine end-of-life operating systems, and discover internal DNS names. To describe one potential use-case for this data, the domain suffix, found in the decoded response, is often required for password spraying attacks against Outlook web applications. Targeting OWA is a common technique used by hackers to identify valid domain credentials, and made possible through this exposure.

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Although not the most prestigious vulnerability, if found against a bug bounty target, you may be able to leverage this internal disclosure for a few quick points:

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Typically, when visiting a website or directory requiring privileged access, the server will initiate a login prompt. This allows the client to send blank username and password values to check for NTLM authentication and receive the encoded response. However, if the target server is configured to allow windowsAuthentication, it may be possible to invoke this response without a login prompt. This can be done by adding “Authorization: NTLM TlRMTVNTUAABAAAAB4IIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA=” to the request headers.

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Once an NTLM challenge is returned in the “WWW-Authenticate” value of the response headers, it can be decoded to capture internal information. I personally use Burp’s NTLM Challenge Decoder, but multiple other scripts have been written that can perform these actions.

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Bonus Round

Few may know the trick of adding the “Authorization” header to prompt a response from the server, but I recently discovered NTLM in other protocols that can be exploited using a similar approach. Through Telnet we can interact with other services, outside of the browser, to force an NTLM challenge response and decode this value to attain the same information.


root@kali: telnet 587 
220 SMTP Server Banner


root@kali: telnet 143 
* OK The Microsoft Exchange IMAP4 service is ready.

& more…

If you’ve spent any time around Windows you may have guessed this was possible, as NTLM authentication can be found in any number of places. Protocols such as: HTTP, SMTP, IMAP, POP3, RDP, MS-SQL, NNTP, TELNET, and more may also be susceptible to this type of disclosure. While exploiting this in other protocols requires more than just a Telnet session, we can easily automate the search using NMAP’s NSE scripts:

root@kali: nmap -sS -v --script=*-ntlm-info --script-timeout=60s 

This command will run NMAP against the target and execute the scripts listed below, given the proper ports are identified. By default, “http-ntlm-info.nse” will attempt an authentication request by adding the “Authorization” header against the server’s root page. This can be modified by adding “ — script-args http-ntlm-info.root=/EWS” to the command line arguments and adjusting the page value as needed.

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I have used some of these techniques during penetration tests to capture sensitive information, which ultimately led to greater attacks down the road. So next time your stuck on an engagement, or bug hunt, test out these methods for a quick win!

References and Additional Resources:

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