Archive for penetration testing

Backpeddled But Still Very Wrong

Posted in security with tags , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by hellnbak

I guess all of the attention that the mindless blog post by eEye created has caused them to backpeddle quite a bit.  Sadly Morey is still way off the mark and if anything just made it more clear that he is attempting to use this as a reason you should buy their product and not use the free and better tools out there.  I did a quick check of Google Cache and was not able to find the original post but here is the text of the post from yesterday;

Penetration Tools Can Be Weapons in the Wrong Hands
Author: Morey Haber Date: May 3rd, 2010 Categories: Network Security,
Vulnerability Management

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.

We enjoy freedom of speech, even if it breaks the law or license
agreements. Websites cover techniques for jailbreaking iPhones even though
it clearly violates the EULA for Apples devices. 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.

Making these tools readily available is like encouraging people to play
with fireworks. Too bold of a statement? I think not. Fireworks can make a
spectacular show, but they can also be abused and cause serious damage. In
most states, only people licensed and trained are permitted to set off
fireworks.

Now consider a pen test tool. In its open form, on the Internet, everyone
and anyone can use it to test their systems, but in the wrong hands, for
free, it can be used to break into systems and cause disruption, steal
information, or cause even more permanent types of harm.

How many people remember the 80’s TV show Max Headroom? Next to murder, the
most severe crime was if users illegally used information technology systems
to steal information or make money. There was tons of security around these
systems and even possession of tools to penetrate a system was a crime too.
So what’s the difference?

Yes, it is just a TV show but in reality today we are in effect putting
weapons in people’s hands, not tracking them, and allowing them to use them
near anonymously to perform crimes or learn how to perform more
sophisticated attacks. It all comes back to the first amendment and Freedom
of Speech. I can write a blog of this nature, state my opinion about how I
feel about free penetration testing tools, and assure everyone that they
need defenses to protect their systems, since free weapons are available
that can break into your systems – easily.

And now today, it has been replaced with (http://blog.eeye.com/vulnerability-management/penetration-tools-can-be-weapons-in-the-wrong-hands);

The post I had here earlier was worded in a way that was misleading, and I want to rewrite it now so that I’m perfectly clear.

Thousands of legitimate individuals and businesses (including eEye) perform penetration testing, which is useful, required by regulatory compliance, and a very important tool in the security industry. Referring to it as anything besides a tool is a poor choice of language, and I want to correct it. My main issue is with running penetration testing tools against assets that the user either does not own or is not responsible for. And, the easy availability of such tools, often free of charge, opens the door for this potential abuse. On the contrary, it also makes it easier for businesses to test themselves whether a vulnerability can be exploited. This is a difficult balance.

With many years in this business, I’m well acquainted with what can go wrong, and what I hoped to convey was the importance of well-managed testing under the watch of a user who knows what they’re doing. When these tools aren’t used as they are intended to be, with care and professionalism, damage can be done. Having them free, and readily available for everyone increases the risk of the wrong person, using the right tools, in the wrong way.

So now all Morey was trying to say is that running a free tool against an asset you do not own or have permission to “attack” is a bad thing.  He stops short in saying how we proposes we solve this problem but I am sure that is on purpose in order to prevent falling down the rabbit-hole of this discussion and yet again making completely stupid and undefendable statements.  Besides, isn’t this just like saying that doing is bad?

However, once again, Morey completely missed the point.  Taking a tool and charging money for it will not deter an attacker.  Attackers, the real ones not the kiddies that get caught, already have their own toolsets and shared knowledge base.  If they absolutely require a commercial tool to do their job, which is a laughable scenario, there are enough places to get them for free.  I mean one can simply download a free trial of Retina, eEye’s vulnerability assessment tool, and then easily crack it.  A quick search of popular torrent and other warez resources easily proves that all the commercial tools are just as easily available as the “free” ones.

But a real attacker, the ones companies like eEye cannot protect you from, will not use or need these tools regardless of their cost.  Once again, Morey makes former eEye Researchers sad by demonstrating his complete understanding of the very basic concepts of the Information Security and demonstrating just how far eEye has fallen.

Time to go pour a 40 out for our fallen homies….

UPDATE:  With Blackhat coming up and in good fun and as a joke (please read that 10 times as I still have a ton of respect for a lot of my former co-workers at eEye) I had to do this;

Remember this from I think 2005?

This year it should be this T-Shirt:

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How The Mighty Have Fallen

Posted in security with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by hellnbak

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?

“We enjoy freedom of speech, even if it breaks the law or license agreements. Websites cover techniques for jailbreaking iPhones even though it clearly violates the EULA for Apples devices”

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?