How The Mighty Have Fallen
Full Disclosure: I am a former eEye employee and managed their now pretty much dead Research Department. Something of which, after reading this post, I can honestly say I am embarrassed to admit. This is a classic case of the insane taking over the asylum.
This morning a friend of mine pointed out this blog post –> http://blog.eeye.com/vulnerability-management/penetration-tools-can-be-weapons-in-the-wrong-hands
I actually had to double-check that this was a legitimate BLOG from eEye and sadly it appears that this is in fact a real post from someone who has been at eEye for a very long time or as we used to put it — “during the glory days”. I am almost at a loss as to where to start ripping on this shortsighted and outright stupid post.
I guess the best place to start is with their BLOG title; “Security Focus – Insights from the Frontlines”. One would expect that a company with the knowledge and background of eEye Digital Security would know that the “Security Focus” name has been in use by a company now owned by Symantec for a very long time. Did all original thought leave that company during the mass exit of their research team?
OK, I agree making fun of their lack of originality of a BLOG title is probably being a little over critical so lets look at the content of the post itself. Right from sentence one eEye comes off as being completely clueless;
“After a lifetime in the vulnerability assessment field, I’ve come to look at penetration testing almost as a kind of crime, or at least a misdemeanor.”
A crime? Not this argument again. Was Morey asleep for the 80s and early 90s? Penetration Testing by definition is not a crime. In fact, it is something that is done with permission (usually written permission) of the targets in question. Perhaps what Morey is attempting to say is that “cracking” (for lack of a better word) or (sorry have to use it) hacking without permission is a crime. Penetration Testing is not. Did eEye consider this a crime when they sold Retina? What about when they released detailed advisories that assisted in the creation of exploit code? Why didn’t Morey, who was around for these things, not share his objection to this apparent crime?
Apparently Morey is not a lawyer. Actually neither am I but most of us have the common sense to know that freedom of speech does not take precedence over a license agreement or EULA. Freedom of speech is a great right we all enjoy but it does not protect any of us when we choose to violate other laws or agreements. Hearing eEye rally in support of a EULA is amusing to me especially for those that remember the IDA Pro incident (google it).
“Penetration tools clearly allow the breaking and entering of systems to prove that vulnerabilities are real, but clearly could be used maliciously to break the law.”
Point being? Is this really his argument? I thought the mass damaging of brain cells via alcohol abuse left eEye a few years ago. Apparently not. I could use a rolled up newspaper to break the law. For example, I could take this paper, roll it up and beat some sense into the author of this post — which would be some form of assault. Does that mean we should all rally against newspapers because clearly in the wrong hands they can be used for evil? Of course not!
“Making these tools readily available is like encouraging people to play with fireworks.”
It is the playing of these so-called “fireworks” that has improved the state of security today. Without it, we would still be stuck in the 80s and guys like Morey would be selling used cars and not security software. I won’t bother continually quoting and ripping apart each clueless sentence that came out of Morey’s keyboard. But he does go on to be a little more obvious in his intentions by saying that it is the FREE tools that are the problem. I guess now that Code Red, Nimda, and Slammer are a thing of the past eEye needs a new way to sell their product.
This is the equivalent of blaming a firearm manufacturer for murder. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people and sometimes do so with a gun. Licensing and tracking those who have Penetration Testing tools will not improve or change anything. Do you think someone who willingly breaks the laws will care one bit about legitimately licensing a tool? Do you think that everyone who commits a computer crime uses a free tool like Metasploit? Obviously not.
If I was an eEye customer, and thank god I am not, I would be very concerned that someone who holds the title of “Director, Product Management” clearly has no clue about the security industry, what a real penetration test is, and what the value of tools like Metasploit offer. It would be interesting to know how many modules in Metasploit were written as a direct result of information released by eEye Research. I bet its more than one or two. Perhaps eEye should be concentrating on improving their own products so they can actually compete with the free alternatives vs demonstrating a complete lack of coherent thought on their blog.
Would that make Morey not only clueless but also a complete hypocrite?