Don’t become a Target

All of the recent news about Target, Neiman Marcus, and other businesses being hacked might be a surprise to many but it’s no surprise to us. Truth is that practice of security has devolved into a political image focused designed satisfy technically inept regulatory requirements that do little or nothing to protect critical business assets. What’s worse is that many security companies are capitalizing on this devolution rather than providing effective solutions in the spirit of good security. This is especially true with regards to the penetration testing industry.

We all know that money is the lifeblood of business and that a failure to meet regulatory requirements threatens that lifeblood. After all, when a business is not in compliance it runs the risk of being fined or not being allowed to operate. In addition the imaginary expenses associated with true security are often perceived as a financial burden (another lifeblood threat). This is usually because the RoI of good security is only apparent when a would-be compromise is prevented. Too many business managers are of the opinion that “it won’t happen to us” until they become a target and it does. These combined ignorant views degrade the overall importance of real security and make the satisfaction of regulatory requirements the top priority. This is unfortunate given that compliance often has little to do with actual security.

Most regulatory requirements are so poorly defined they can be satisfied with the most basic solution. For example PCI-DSS requires merchants to undergo regular penetration tests and yet it completely fails to define the minimum level of threat (almost synonymous with quality) that those tests should be delivered at. This lack of clear definition gives business owners the ability to satisfy […]

How much should you spend on penetration testing services?

The most common question asked is “how much will it cost for you to deliver a penetration test to us?”. Rather than responding to those questions each time with the same exact answer, we thought it might be best to write a detailed yet simple blog entry on the subject. We suspect that you’ll have no trouble understanding the pricing methods described herein because they’re common sense. The price for a genuine penetration test is based on the amount of human work required to successfully deliver the test.

The amount of human work depends on the complexity of the infrastructure to be tested.  The infrastructure’s complexity depends on the configuration of each individual network connected device. A network connected device is anything including but not limited to servers, switches, firewalls, telephones, etc. Each unique network connected device provides different services that serve different purposes.  Because each service is different each service requires different amounts of time to test correctly. It is for this exact reason that a genuine penetration test cannot be priced based on the number of IP addresses or number of devices.  It does not make sense to charge $X per IP address when each IP address requires a different amount of work to test properly. Instead, the only correct way to price a genuine penetration test is to assess the time requirements and from there derive workload.

At Netragard the workload for an engagement is based on science and not an arbitrary price per IP. Our pricing is based on something that we call Time Per Parameter (TPP).  The TPP is the amount of time that a Netragard researcher will spend testing each parameter. A parameter is either a service being provided by a […]

Whistleblower Series – The real problem with China isn’t China, its you.

Terms like China, APT and Zero-Day are synonymous with Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD).  The trouble is that, in our opinion anyway, these terms and respective news articles detract from the actual problem.  For example, in 2011 only 0.12% of compromises were attributed to zero-day exploitation and 99.88% were attributed to known vulnerabilities.  Yet, despite this fact the media continued to write about the zero-day threat as if it was a matter of urgency.  What they really should have been writing about is that the majority of people aren’t protecting their networks properly.  After all, if 99.88% of all compromises were the result of the exploitation of known vulnerabilities then someone must not have been doing their job. Moreover, if people are unable to protect their networks from the known threat then how are they ever going to defend against the unknown?

All of the recent press about China and their Advanced Persistent Threat is the same, it detracts from the real problem.  More clearly, the problem isn’t China, Anonymous, LulzSec, or any other FUD ridden buzzword.  The problem is that networks are not being maintained properly from a security perspective and so threats are aligning with risks to successfully affect penetration.  A large part of the reason why these networks are such soft targets is because  their maintainers are sold a false sense of security from both the services and technology perspective.

In this article we’ll show you how easy it was for us to hack into a sensitive government network that was guarded by industry technologies and testing best practices.  Our techniques deliberately mimicked those used by China.  You’ll notice that the  techniques aren’t particularly advanced (despite the fact that the press calls them Advanced) and in fact are based […]

How to find a genuine Penetration Testing firm

There’s been a theme of dishonesty and thievery in the Penetration Testing industry for as long as we can remember.  Much in the same way that merchants sold “snake-oil” as a cure-all for what ails you, Penetration Testing vendors sell one type of service and brand it as another thus providing little more than a false sense of security.  They do this by exploiting their customers lack of expertise about penetration testing and make off like bandits.  We’re going to change the game; we’re going to tell you the truth.

Last week we had a new financial services customer approach us.  They’d already received three proposals from three other well-known and trusted Penetration Testing vendors. When we began to scope their engagement we quickly realized that the IP addresses that they’d been providing were wrong.  Instead of belonging to them they belonged an e-commerce business that sold beer-making products!  How did we catch this when the other vendors didn’t?  Simple, we actually take the time to scope our engagements carefully because we deliver genuine Penetration Testing services.

Most other penetration testing vendors do what is called count based pricing which we think should be a major red-flag to anyone.  Count based pricing simply says that you will pay X dollars per IP address for Y IP addresses. If you tell most vendors that you have 10 IP addresses they’ll come back and quote you at around $5,000.00 for a Penetration Test ($500.00 per IP). That type of pricing is not only arbitrary but is fraught with serious problems. Moreover, it’s a solid indicator that services are going to be very poor quality.
Scenario 1: The Overcharge (Too much for too little)
If you have 10 IP addresses but none […]

83% of businesses have no established security plan (but they’ve got Kool-Aid)

I (Adriel) read an article published by Charles Cooper of c|net regarding small businesses and their apparent near total lack of awareness with regards to security.  The article claims that 77% of small- and medium-sized businesses think that they are secure yet 83% of those businesses have no established security plan.  These numbers were based on a survey of 1,015 small- and medium-sized businesses that was carried out by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec.

These numbers don’t surprise me at all and, in fact, I think that this false sense of security is an epidemic across businesses of all sizes, not just small-to-medium.  The question that people haven’t asked is why does this false sense of security exist in such a profound way? Are people really ok with feeling safe when they are in fact vulnerable?  Perhaps they are being lied to and are drinking the Kool-Aid…

What I mean is this.  How many software vendors market their products as secure only to have someone identify all sorts of critical vulnerabilities in it later?  Have you ever heard a software vendor suggest that their software might not be highly secure?  Not only is the suggestion that all software is secure an absurd one, but it is a blatant lie.  A more truthful statement is that all software is vulnerable unless it is mathematically demonstrated to be flawless (which by the way is a near impossibility).

Very few software vendors hire third-party  vulnerability discovery and exploitation experts to perform genuine reviews of their products. This is why I always recommend using a third-party service (like us) to vet the software from a security perspective before making a purchase decision.  If the software vendor wants to be privy to the results then they should pay for the engagement because in the end it will improve […]