Custom Signature to detect a PDF file

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Custom Signature to detect a PDF file

L5 Sessionator



As with all custom signatures on this forum, this signature is being provided by the author as a result of enthusiasm for the product and to share ideas with the Palo Alto Networks security community.




It is:


- Not recommended for deployment in a production network of any kind without internal testing.

- Not a solution to any vulnerability.

- Not an official supported Palo Alto Networks signature


 This write up is to help the Palo Alto Networks community with detecting a specific PDF file.


 The sample signature was created on PAN OS Version 8.1.x :


 SHA256: cbdf842fba661b85090e7e31fe9ed6b069a01fd82d5bd563a462185b53ab38e3


Go to custom signatures under objects, select custom vulnerability signature. Click add

Fill out the appropriate field under the configuration tab




Open the Signature Tab


Select add at the bottom left



Since we only have one condition it doesn’t matter if we choose the ‘and’/’or’ condition




To determine a unique string the *NIX utility xxd was used in this case, however any hex editor will work for this purpose.  The string was then converted to hex and used in a pattern match to detect the file. In this case the author of the file put what we believe to be their name in the file and that was used as a unique identifier.


 5220 3120 2038 2030 5d52 432f 6e6f 6574


Once this custom signature is applied and a web browser is used to attempt to download the file the firewall will either block or alert on detection depending on the action you set.


**Warning** any custom signature should be fully tested to see if it works correctly, and for false positives.


L0 Member

dpharis,  on another post it was stated that Palo Alto does not do signatures for specific hashes since the same malware can/will use different hashes.  My question is if my org decides to do custom sigs for specific hashes, will it eventually hamper/degrade FW's performance say, after a couple thousand signatures?




Hello Bart, 


Your research is correct. We do not create signatures for specific hash values because it is both inefficient, and easily bypassed with a minimal change to the original file.


The performance impact is difficult to determine in a hypothetical situation due to the limitless environmental variables. The short answer though is yes, there will be an impact to utilizing large numbers of custom signatures. If you intend to block a large number of files using customer signatures, instead of using hashes, we suggest you identify a unique character string in the file and utilize if after thorough testing, as this improves your changes of catching multiple variants of the same malware.

Copy that.  Appreciate your quick reply!

L0 Member
  1. Open the Signature Tab.
  2. Select add at the bottom left.
  3. Since we only have one condition it doesn't matter if we choose the 'and'/'or' condition.
  4. To determine a unique string the *NIX utility xxd was used in this case, however any hex editor will work for this purpose.
  • 4 replies
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