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Thug – A Client Honeypot

Updated: May 23, 2020

Introduction to Thug & Client Honeypot

Client honeypots are amazing tools for security practitioners who wish to perform a quick analysis of Websites, communication channels, etc.

I was previously fascinated by Capture-HPC – a high-interaction client honeypot – developed by Christian Seifert & Ramon Steenson from The Honeynet Project, New Zealand Chapter. The project was later adopted and extended by The HoneySpider Network (HSN) – the HSN Capture-HPC NG. However, a high-interaction client honeypot may be a little much if I just want to perform a simple/light-weight analysis.

Thug is a Python low-interaction client honeypot publicly released in March 2012 by Angelo Dell’Aera at the Honeynet Project Security Workshop, held at Facebook Inc., Menlo Park.

Thug mimics the behaviour of Web browsers in order to detect and emulate malicious contents. It makes use of Google V8 JavaScript Engine wrapped through PyV8 in order to analyse malicious JavaScript code, and LibEmu library wrapped through PyLibEmu in order to detect and emulate shellcodes.

This write-up demonstrates how to you can get Thug running on your (Linux) machine, and how it can be used to perform analysis on sites of your interest.

Getting Started with Thug

I setup Thug on my Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS machine.

Python 2.7 is required to run Thug properly

apt-get install python2.7 python2.7-dev 
Get Thug
apt-get install git  cd /opt/  git clone git://

Install Google V8 & PyV8

sudo apt-get install subversion  
cd /opt/  
svn checkout v8
svn checkout pyv8
cp thug/patches/PyV8-patch* .  
patch –p0 < PyV8-patch1.diff

sudo apt-get install build-essential libboost-python-dev  
export V8_HOME=/opt/v8  
cd /opt/pyv8  
python build  
sudo python install

If you faced problem with LibBoost, checkout StackOverFlow Question #7160608.

Install Beautiful Soup 4
apt-get install python-setuptools  easy_install beautifulsoup4 
Install HTML5Lib
easy_install html5lib

Install JSBeautifier

easy_install jsbeautifie
Install LibEmu
sudo apt-get install autoconf libtool  
cd /tmp/  
git clone git://  
cd libemu  
autoreconf –v –i  
./configure --prefix=/opt/libemu  
sudo make install

Install PyLibEmu

cd /opt/  
git clone git://  
cd pylibemu  
python build  
sudo python install

Install PEFile

easy_install pefile

Install CharDet

easy_install chardet

Install HTTPLib2

easy_install httplib2

Install CSSUtils

easy_install cssutils
Install Zope Interface
easy_install zope.interface
Install PyParsing
easy_install pyparsing

Install PyDot

easy_install pydot

Install Python-Magic

apt-get install python-pip  
pip install python-magic

Install Yara & Yara-Python

apt-get install libpcre3 libpcre3-dev  
cd /opt/  
git clone git://  
cd yara  
sudo make install
cd yara-python  
python build  
sudo python install
echo “/usr/local/lib” >> /etc/  

Install MongoDB

apt-get install mongodb

Install PyMongo

easy_install pymongo
Test if Thug works
python /opt/thug/src/ –h

If you get “ImportError: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory” error:

touch /etc/  
echo “/opt/libemu/lib/” > /etc/  

Here are some flags that you should be familiar with:

  • -u flag – using different browser personalities / user-agents plus supported schemes

  • -r flag – specifying a referrer

  • -l flag – analysing a local HTML file

  • -o flag – logging to a specified file

  • -v flag – enabling verbose mode

Analysing Something Simple

The European Union Agency for Network & Information Security (ENISA) has a series of Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Exercise & Training Material – containing Handbook, Toolset and Virtual Image – to support hands-on training sessions essential for success in the CERT community and in the field of information security.

Amongst all, ENISA has an exercise specifically on honeypots; with the objective to familiarise users with server- and client-honeypots: Honeypots CERT Exercise Handbook / Toolset / Virtual Image

In this and the next section, I will be referencing to the CERT Exercise Handbook and utilising the Virtual Image supplied by ENISA for my demo.

Network Setup

Since I already have Thug installed on my Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS machine, I will only be using the Virtual Image as a Web Server to serve me a suspicious Website.

1st, fire up the Apache service. The username and password of the Virtual Machine is “student”, and “honeypot” respectively.

Next, configure the /etc/ hosts file of your Thug machine such that you can access the Website via a suspicious URL

Analysing Suspicious Webpage (ex1.html) Using Thug

With the network all set, let the analysis begin!

Here we see 3 interesting activities:

  • An [iFrame Redirection] on ex1.html to ex2.html;

  • Another [iFrame Redirection] to ex3.html; and

  • An [Window] alert text with “you are using Internet Explorer not 7”

Thug also captured the HTML source code of the 3 Webpages (ex1.html, ex2.html & ex3.html) it visited during the analysis; located at /opt/thug/logs, each Webpage is named after its MD5 hash value.


The iFrame on ex1.html is generated by an obfuscated JavaScript (you can deobfuscate it using an external tool or service).


Here you see another JavaScript that displays different iFrame depending on the Web browser you are using. It directs you to malicious.html if you are using Internet Explorer 7, ex3.html if you are using Internet Explorer but not version 7, and ex4.html if you are using any other type of browser.

Since Thug emulates the personality of Internet Explorer 6.1 on Windows XP by default, an iFrame redirection to ex3.html was displayed during the analysis.


ex3.html is just an obfuscated JavaScript that displays a Windows alert displaying “you are using Internet Explorer not 7.”

Is ex1.html Malicious?

According to the analysis, ex1.html is not malicious. But what if you are using Internet Explorer 7 to access ex2.html, and the JavaScript fetches the content from malicious.html via the iFrame? We’ll look into that in the next section.

Analysing Something Malicious

Continuing from where we left off, we know that there are two other outcomes (i.e. malicious.html & ex4.html) depending on the user agent used to access ex2.html.

We know that we’ll be served with malicious.html via the iFrame if we are using an Internet Explorer 7 personality, and ex4.html for any other non-IE personality.

So let’s begin with the former!

Redirection to malicious.html

Using Thug, repeat the analysis process using an Internet Explorer 7 personality.

Here we see a much more interesting events going on:

  • An [iFrame Redirection] on ex1.html to ex2.html;

  • Another [iFrame Redirection] to malicious.html;

  • At malicious.html, an ActiveX object is created, and it uses some functions to fetch a file – malware.exe – and writes it to visitors’ C drive as sysqvda.exe.

The JavaScript on malicious.html uses an ActiveX exploit on a vulnerability found in Internet Explorer Browser (CVE-2006-0003) to fetch malware.exe, save it in the victim’s local disk drive and execute it.

In addition to the 3 Webpages (ex1.html, ex2.html & malicious.html) Thug has analysed, it saved a copy of sysqvda.exe (i.e. malware.exe) in the analysis log directory – /opt/thug/logs. Such files can be analysed using external tools or services (e.g. VirusTotal, Anubis, Cuckoo, etc.).

Upon analysing the captured suspicious binary, you will find that it’s just an EICAR test file.

Is ex1.html Malicious?

It is considered as malicious when you are browsing it with an Internet Explorer 7 Web browser. Although it’s just an EICAR test file, it’s considered as a “malware”.

What about ex4.html?

We’ve analysed ex3.html & malicious.html. What about ex4.html which ex2.html’s iFrame which may have redirected us to?

Now perform an analysis using any other user agent other than that of an Internet Explorer. I used Firefox 12 on a Windows XP machine.

Now it’s your turn to perform your own analysis.

Practice Makes Perfect!

You should be familiar with Thug. The Virtual Image provided by ENISA offers another suspicious Website you can practice your analysis skills on.

Using the same network setup:

This case is no longer contained within a single URL; therefore, you will have to update your /etc/ hosts file on your analysis machine (my Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS machine) to the following:

Now begin your analysis of http://www.coruscant.emp/main.html!

Ask yourself the following questions (Source: ENISA’s Honeypots CERT Exercise Handbook):

  1. Is the web site malicious or not?

  2. How was the attack carried out? Describe step by step (could be presented as a flow diagram).

  3. What domain names and IP addresses are involved in the attack?

  4. Which browsers are targeted?

  5. Which vulnerabilities are exploited and how?

  6. How could we mitigate the attack?





Emil Tan, Chapter Lead, The Honeynet Project, Singapore Chapter

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