We exploit Pulse Secure Connect SSL VPN

We exploit Pulse Secure Connect SSL VPN

There has recently been a number of security vulnerabilities in the Pulse Secure Connect SSL-VPN appliance published.


There has recently been a number of security vulnerabilities in the Pulse Secure Connect SSL-VPN appliance published. The vulnerability was initial disclosed by Orange Tsai and Meg Chang. A bit shout out to the pair is well deserved, they spent a lot of time researching this vulnerability.

Recently we were asked to look at how viable the attack is for one of our clients. So, we did.

According to the vulnerability disclosures, the HTML5 module on the appliance has a path traversal vulnerability which will allow us to arbitrarily access all files on the appliance. However, there are no published tools to perform this attack in any way. We changed this my creating a Metasploit Framework module that would perform the initial stages of the attack.

We started by creating a standalone exploit in python and then developed this over the weekend prior to the attack into a Metasploit Framework module for ease. The module would download the following files from any Pulse Secure Connect server:


We would then extract from the data.mdb file any clear text passwords along with the usernames. We would also look through the system file and extract any password hashes for usernames that we did not find a clear text password for.

   =[ metasploit v5.0.38-dev      ] + -- --=[ 1912 exploits - 1073 auxiliary - 329 post   ] + -- --=[ 545 payloads - 45 encoders - 10 nops    ] + -- --=[ 3 evasion           ]
msf5 > use exploit/http/pulse-secure
msf5 exploit(exploit/http/pulse-secure) > set RHOSTS test.hedgehogsecurity.gi
msf5 exploit(exploit/http/pulse-secure) > set RPORT 443
msf5 exploit(exploit/http/pulse-secure) > exploit
[*] Extracting files from test.hedgehogsecurity.gi
[+] mtmp/system – Success
[+] mtmp/lmdb/dataa/data.mdb – Success
[+] mtmp/lmdb/dataa/lock.mdb – Success
[+] mtmp/lmdb/randomVal/data.mdb – Success
[+] mtmp/lmdb/randomVal/lock.mdb – Success [*] Extracting cleartext passwords
[!] FAIL! – No cleartext passwords found [*] Extracting password hashes
[*] Using regex (\$1\$danastre\$)(.).*([a-zA-Z]+\\[a-z]+) [+] 62 hashes extracted – passing to hashcat server
[+] passwords cracked, check loot. [*] Exploit completed.

Checking the loot file, we find a number of MD5 password hashes along with the usernames and the clear text passwords:


These are exactly the passwords we used for the test users and logging into the VPN was then very simple.


Affected Demographic

This issue will affect all users  any users on the any of the SSL-VPN solution.


Apply the patches released for the platform.

  • Recent Articles
Author Details
Founder & CEO at Hedgehog Security

Peter has been in the Information Security world since 1999 and in IT in general since 1996. His work history contains a unique blended balance between the development of exceptional technical capabilities and business knowledge. Peter is a proud father of twins and enjoys GT endurance racing on the weekends.

We would like to keep you informed about our services. Please tick the options below to receive occasional updates via

  • penetration testing steps
    Peter talks to FindMyUkCasino
  • Malware
    SB Tech Breach

    Last week saw SB Tech Breached by the hacking group Maze. It seems that every week the group are announcing more victims.  GameOn asked our CEO Peter Bassill, to give us some insight into the attack. The GameOn article is here.

  • Privacy
    Howto VPn

    In our “How to securely” series we asked our followers what tools they would like a simple guide on to help them stay secure online. There seemed to be a lot of confusion as to what a VPN is and why you should or should not use one. So we asked Peter to help.

  • WhatsApp
    How To Whatsapp Safely

    WhatsApp is among the fastest-growing instant messengers out there, and almost a social network in its own way. But if you are using it, there are some steps you should take to protect your security and privacy.

  • Morrisons Breach Update

    The UK’s highest court ruled that Morrisons can not be liable for a criminal act of a person seeking to harm their business. On April 1st, 2020, a panel of five justices unanimously ruled that Morrisons was not “vicariously liable”.

  • Remote Working Considerations

    With the current pandemic situation, we all need to be taking remote working considerations. While adjusting the work paradym, it is vital to keep a mind’s eye on the security and safety of the businesses information assets

  • Securing Zoom
    How To: Securing Zoom

    In this guide we are looking at how to go about securing zoom. Since the onset of the global pandemic, we have seen surge in “zoom bombing”. This is where people with malicious intent look for in-progress zoom meetings to join and cause trouble.

  • Software Security
    Dell EMC iDRAC memory corruption Vulnerability

    A critical vulnerabiltiy has been identified in Dell EMC iDRAC7, iDRAC8 and iDRAC9. Some unknown processing is affected by this issue. Manipulation with an unknown input can lead to stack based memory corruption.

  • Hiscox Sues for Failing to Disclose Data Breach

    On March 27th, Hiscox Insurance Company Inc. filed a complaint against law firm Warden Grier for concealing a data breach that occurred back in 2016.

  • Software Security
    Privilege escalation on Nginx Controller up to 3.1.x Controller API

    A critical vulnerability has been identified in Nginx Controller up to 3.1.x (web server,) affecting an unknown code block of the component Controller API.

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Scroll to Top