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 […]

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 […]

Selling zero-day’s doesn’t increase your risk, here’s why.

The zero-day exploit market is secretive. People as a whole tend to fear what they don’t understand and substitute fact with speculation.  While very few facts about the zero-day exploit market are publicly available, there are many facts about zero-days that are available.  When those facts are studied it becomes clear that the legitimate zero-day exploit market presents an immeasurably small risk (if any), especially when viewed in contrast with known risks.

Many news outlets, technical reporters, freedom of information supporters, and even security experts have used the zero-day exploit market to generate Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD).  While the concept of a zero-day exploit seems ominous reality is actually far less menacing.  People should be significantly more worried about vulnerabilities that exist in public domain than those that are zero-day.  The misrepresentations about the zero-day market create a dangerous distraction from the very real issues at hand.

One of the most common misrepresentations is that the zero-day exploit market plays a major role in the creation of malware and malware’s ability to spread.  Not only is this categorically untrue but the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv11) provides clear statistics that show that malware almost never uses zero-day exploits.  According to SIRv11, less than 6% of malware infections are actually attributed to the exploitation of general vulnerabilities.  Of those successful infections nearly all target known and not zero-day vulnerabilities.

Malware targets and exploits gullibility far more frequently than technical vulnerabilities.  The “ILOVEYOU” worm is a prime example.  The worm would email its self to a victim with a subject of “I LOVE YOU” and an attachment titled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs”. The attachment was actually a copy of the worm.  When a person attempted to read the attachment they would inadvertently […]

Netragard on Exploit Brokering

Historically ethical researchers would provide their findings free of charge to software vendors for little more than a mention.  In some cases vendors would react and threaten legal action citing violations of poorly written copyright laws that include but are not limited to the DMCA.  To put this into perspective, this is akin to threatening legal action against a driver for pointing out that the breaks on a school bus are about to fail.

This unfriendliness (among various other things) caused some researchers to withdraw from the practice of full disclosure. Why risk doing a vendor the favor of free work when the vendor might try to sue you?

Organizations like CERT help to reduce or eliminate the risk to security researchers who wish to disclose vulnerabilities.  These organizations work as mediators between the researchers and the vendors to ensure safety for both parties.  Other organizations like iDefense and ZDI also work as middlemen but unlike CERT earn a profit from the vulnerabilities that they purchase. While they may pay a security researcher an average of $500-$5000 per vulnerability, they charge their customers significantly more for their early warning services.  Its also unclear (to us anyway) how quickly they notify vendors of the vulnerabilities that they buy.

The next level of exploit buyers are the brokers.  Exploit brokers may cater to one or more of three markets that include National, International, or Black.  While Netragard’s program only sells to National buyers, companies like VUPEN sell internationally.  Also unlike VUPEN, Netragard will sell exploits to software vendors willing to engage in an exclusive sale.   Netragard’s Exploit Acquisition Program was created to provide ethical researchers with the ability to receive fair pay for their hard work; it was not […]

Hacking the Sonexis ConferenceManager

Netragard’s Penetration Testing services use a research based methodology called Real Time Dynamic Testing™. Research based methodologies are different in that they focus on identifying both new and known vulnerabilities whereas standard methodologies usually, if not always identify known vulnerabilities. Sometimes when performing research based penetration testing we identify issues that not only affect our customer but also have the potential to impact anyone using a particular technology. Such was the case with the Sonexis ConfrenceManager.

The last time we came across a Sonexis ConferenceManager we found a never before discovered Blind SQL Injection vulnerability.  This time we found a much more serious (also never before discovered) authorization vulnerability. We felt that this discovery deserved a blog entry to help make people aware of the issue as quickly as possible.

What really surprised about this vulnerability was its simplicity and the fact that nobody (not even us) had found it before.  Discovery and exploitation required no wizardry or special talent. We simply had to browse to the affected area of the application and we were given keys to the kingdom (literally). What was even more scary is that this vulnerability could lead to a mass compromise if automated with a specialized Google search (but we won’t give more detail on that here, yet).

So lets dig in…

All versions of the Sonexis ConferenceManager fail to check and see if users attempting to access  the “/admin/backup/settings.asp”, “/admin/backup/download.asp ” or the “/admin/backup/upload.asp ” pages are authorized. Because of this, anyone can browse to one of those pages without first authenticating.  When they do, they’ll have full administrative privileges over the respective Sonexis ConferenceManager pages.  A screen shot of the “settings.asp” age is provided below.

The first thing that we noticed when we accessed the page was that the fields were […]

Netragard’s Badge of Honor (Thank you McAfee)

Here at Netragard We Protect You From People Like Us™ and we mean it.  We don’t just run automated scans, massage the output, and draft you a report that makes you feel good.  That’s what many companies do.  Instead, we “hack” you with a methodology that is driven by hands on research, designed to create realistic and elevated levels of threat.  Don’t take our word for it though; McAfee has helped us prove it to the world.

Through their Threat Intelligence service, McAfee Labs listed Netragard as a “High Risk” due to the level of threat that we produced during a recent engagement.  Specifically, we were using a beta variant of our custom Meterbreter malware (not to be confused with Metasploit’s Meterpreter) during an Advanced Penetration Testing engagement.  The beta malware was identified and submitted to McAfee via our customers Incident Response process.  The result was that McAfee listed Netragard as a “High Risk”, which caught our attention (and our customers attention) pretty quickly.

McAfee was absolutely right; we are “High Risk”, or more appropriately, “High Threat”, which in our opinion is critically important when delivering quality Penetration Testing services.  After all, the purpose of a Penetration Test (with regards to I.T security) is to identify the presence of points where a real threat can make its way into or through your IT Infrastructure.  Testing at less than realistic levels of threat is akin to testing a bulletproof vest with a squirt gun.

Netragard uses a methodology that’s been dubbed Real Time Dynamic Testing™ (“RTDT”).  Real Time Dynamic Testing™ is a research driven methodology specifically designed to test the Physical, Electronic (networked and standalone) and Social attack surfaces at a level of threat that is slightly greater […]

Netragard’s Hacker Interface Device (HID).

We (Netragard) recently completed an engagement for a client with a rather restricted scope. The scope included a single IP address bound to a firewall that offered no services what so ever. It also excluded the use of social attack vectors based on social networks, telephone, or email and disallowed any physical access to the campus and surrounding areas. With all of these limitations in place, we were tasked with penetrating into the network from the perspective of a remote threat, and succeeded.

The first method of attack that people might think of when faced with a challenge like this is the use of the traditional autorun malware on a USB stick. Just mail a bunch of sticks to different people within the target company and wait for someone to plug it in; when they do its game over, they’re infected. That trick worked great back in the day but not so much any more. The first issue is that most people are well aware of the USB stick threat due to the many published articles about the subject. The second is that more and more companies are pushing out group policies that disable the autorun feature in Windows systems. Those two things don’t eliminate the USB stick threat, but they certainly have a significant impact on its level of success and we wanted something more reliable.

Enter PRION, the evil HID.


A prion is an infectious agent composed of a protein in a misfolded form. In our case the prion isn’t composed of proteins but instead is composed of electronics which include a teensy microcontroller, a micro USB hub (small one from RadioShack), a mini USB cable (we […]

Quality Penetration Testing by Netragard

The purpose of Penetration Testing is to identify the presence of points where an external entity can make its way into or through a protected entity. Penetration Testing is not unique to IT security and is used across a wide variety of different industries.  For example, Penetration Tests are used to assess the effectiveness of body armor.  This is done by exposing the armor to different munitions that represent the real threat. If a projectile penetrates the armor then the armor is revised and improved upon until it can endure the threat.

Network Penetration Testing is a class of Penetration Testing that applies to Information Technology. The purpose of Network Penetration Testing is to identify the presence of points where a threat (defined by the hacker) can align with existing risks to achieve penetration. The accurate identification of these points allows for remediation.

Successful penetration by a malicious hacker can result in the compromise of data with respect to Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (“CIA”).  In order to ensure that a Network Penetration Test provides an accurate measure of risk (risk = probability x impact) the test must be delivered at a threat level that is slightly elevated from that which is likely to be faced in the real world. Testing at a lower than realistic threat level would be akin to testing a bulletproof vest with a squirt gun.

Threat levels can be adjusted by adding or removing attack classes. These attack classes are organized under three top-level categories, which are Network Attacks, Social Attacks, and Physical Attacks.  Each of the top-level categories can operate in a standalone configuration or can be used to augment the other.  For example, Network Penetration Testing with Social Engineering creates a […]

Netragard: Connect to chaos

The Chevy Volt will be the first car of its type: not because it is a hybrid electric/petrol vehicle, but because GM plans to give each one the company sells its own IP address. The Volt will have no less than 100 microcontrollers running its systems from some 10 million lines of code. This makes some hackers very excited and Adriel Desautels, president of security analysis firm Netragard, very worried.  Before now, you needed physical access to reprogram the software inside a car: an ‘air gap’ protected vehicles from remote tampering. The Volt will have no such physical defence. Without some kind of electronic protection, Desautels sees cars such as the Volt and its likely competitors becoming ‘hugely vulnerable 5000lb pieces of metal’.

Desautels adds: “We are taking systems that were not meant to be exposed to the threats that my team produces and plug it into the internet. Some 14 year old kid will be able to attack your car while you’re driving.

The full article can be found here.

Netragard’s thoughts on Pentesting IPv6 vs IPv4

We’ve heard a bit of “noise” about how IPv6 may impact network penetration testing and how networks may or may not be more secure because of IPv6.  Lets be clear, anyone telling you that IPv6 makes penetration testing harder doesn’t understand the first thing about real penetration testing.

Whats the point of IPv6?

IPv6 was designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (“IETF”) to address the issue of IPv4 address space exhaustion.  IPv6 uses a 128-bit address space while IPv4 is only 32 bits.  This means that there are 2128 possible addresses with IPv6, which is far more than the 232 addresses available with IPv4.  This means that there are going to be many more potential targets for a penetration tester to focus on when IPv6 becomes the norm.

What about increased security with IPv6?

The IPv6 specification mandates support for the Internet Protocol Security (“IPSec”) protocol suite, which is designed to secure IP communications by authenticating and encrypting each IP Packet. IPSec operates at the Internet Layer of the Internet Protocol suite and so differs from other security systems like the Secure Socket Layer, which operates at the application layer. This is the only significant security enhancement that IPv6 brings to the table and even this has little to no impact on penetration testing.

What some penetration testers are saying about IPv6.

Some penetration testers argue that IPv6 will make the job of a penetration testing more difficult because of the massive increase in potential targets. They claim that the massive increase in potential targets will make the process of discovering live targets impossibly time consuming. They argue that scanning each port/host in an entire IPv6 range could take as long as 13,800,523,054,961,500,000 years.  But why the […]

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