Reverse XOR'ing WebSphere Passwords

Some of the lessons I’ve learned from the Matasano Crypto Challenge has already had unexpected practical application for a common issue I encounter at work. Sometimes, people forget things, don’t document things especially in dev environments (hopefully not so much in production), one of those things is passwords, passwords for database accounts, or for an account that has some authorization the application needs. If a dev forgets a password or can’t find where it was documented, it’s many times better to just recover the password, rather then reset the password, especially if the account is used by the application in local dev environments, etc.

There are also sites that will reverse it for you, but why use a website when you can use a jython/python script. You can also use the method from within wsadmin to accomplish the same task as well. The one thing I haven’t found is a Python script example on how to do this, so I decided to write my own simple script module that can decode (or encode) a password that can execute in jython (wsadmin) or plain Python.

WebSphere stores most of the account information used by applications to connect to resources as authentication aliases. The authentication aliases are stored by WebSphere in the security.xml file for the cell in a network deployment setup, of which the password is stored as an xor string.


:::xor Example

Now, xor’ing passwords is not a very strong hash method for securing a password, as we’ll soon explore, wspecially when xor’ing against a single character, which is what WebSphere does. This exacerbates the need for good file system security on your websphere installation so that not just anyone can view your security.xml file. I could have tried xor’ing against various single characters to crack it in seconds, but there are already multiple other articles and posts out there on how to reverse xor the WebSphere, checking a couple of results from Google you learn passwords are xor’ed against the underscore ‘_’ character.

First, the password hash is base64 encoded, so you have to decode it using the binascii module (base64 library wasn’t supported in wsadmin). Well, first is actually removing the {xor} prefix, but that’s a minor detail.

 xor_str = "{xor}Lz4sLCgwLTs="
 xor_str = xor_str.replace('{xor}', '')
 value1 = binascii.a2b_base64(xor_str)

Then you create another string of underscores that is the same length as the string resulting from the base64 decode.

 value2 = '_' * len(value1)

Now you have two strings of equal length, one being underscores, now you just xorsum the two strings. The easiest way I’ve found is to just do it character by character rather then whole strings at a time.

 password = ''
 for a, b in zip(value1, value2):
     password = ''.join([password, chr(ord(a) ^ ord(b))])

Now your password variable will contain the decoded password. Very simple.

If you need something like this or want to see how I pull it all together, I’ve got the full code anyone can use/implement, also with the encode functions in a Github repo.

See also