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Fri, 13 Jun 2014

Using Maltego to explore threat & vulnerability data

This blog post is about the process we went through trying to better interpret the masses of scan results that automated vulnerability scanners and centralised logging systems produce. A good example of the value in getting actionable items out of this data is the recent Target compromise. Their scanning solutions detected the threat that lead to their compromise, but no humans intervened. It's suspected that too many security alerts were being generated on a regular basis to act upon.


The goal of our experiment was to steer away from the usual data interrogation questions of "What are the top N vulnerabilities my scanner has flagged with a high threat?" towards questions like "For how many of my vulnerabilities do public exploits exist?". Near the end of this exercise we stumbled across this BSides talk "Stop Fixing All The Things". Theses researchers took a similar view-point: "As security practitioners, we care about which vulnerabilities matter". Their blog post and video are definitely worth having a look at.


At SensePost we have a Managed Vulnerability Scanning service (MVS). It incorporates numerous scanning agents (e.g. Nessus, Nmap, Netsparker and a few others), and exposes an API to interact with the results. This was our starting point to explore threat related data. We could then couple this data with remote data sources (e.g. CVE data, exploit-db.com data).


We chose to use Maltego to explore the data as it's an incredibly powerful data exploration and visualisation tool, and writing transforms is straight forward. If you'd like to know more about Maltego here are some useful references:


What we ended up building were:

  • Transforms to explore our MVS data

  • A CVE / exploit-db.com API engine

  • Transforms to correlate between scanner data and the created APIs

  • Maltego Machines to combine our transforms


So far our API is able to query a database populated from CVE XML files and data from www.exploit-db.com (they were kind enough to give us access to their CVE inclusive data set). It's a standalone Python program that pulls down the XML files, populates a local database, and then exposes a REST API. We're working on incorporating other sources - threat feeds, other logging/scanning systems. Let us know if you have any ideas. Here's the API in action:


Parsing CVE XML data and exposing REST API
Parsing CVE XML data and exposing REST API


Querying a CVE. We see 4 public exploits are available.
Querying a CVE. We see 4 public exploits are available.


It's also worth noting that for the demonstrations that follow we've obscured our clients' names by applying a salted 'human readable hash' to their names. A side effect is that you'll notice some rather humorous entries in the images and videos that follow.


Jumping into the interesting results, these are some of the tasks that we can perform:


  • Show me all hosts that have a critical vulnerability within the last 30 days

  • Show me vulnerable hosts for which public exploit code exists

  • Show me all hosts for which a vulnerability exists that has the word 'jmx-console' in the description

  • Show me all hosts on in my DMZ that have port 443 open

  • Given a discovered vulnerability on a host, show me all other hosts with the same vulnerability

  • Show me a single diagram depicting every MVS client, weighted by the threat of all scans within the last week

  • Show me a single diagram depicting every MVS client, weighted by the availability of public exploit code

  • Given a CPE, show me all hosts that match it


Clicking the links in the above scenarios will display a screenshot of a solution. Additionally, two video demonstrations with dialog are below.


Retrieving all recent vulnerabilities for a client 'Bravo Tango', and checking one of them to see if there's public exploit code available.
Retrieving all recent vulnerabilities for a client 'Bravo Tango', and checking one of them to see if there's public exploit code available.


Exploring which clients/hosts have which ports open
Exploring which clients/hosts have which ports open


In summary, building 'clever tools' that allow you to combine human insight can be powerful. An experiences analyst with the ability to ask the right questions, and building tools that allows answers to be easily extracted, yields actionable tasks in less time. We're going to start using this approach internally to find new ways to explore the vulnerability data sets of our scanning clients and see how it goes.


In the future, we're working on incorporating other data sources (e.g. LogRhythm, Skybox). We're also upgrading our MVS API - you'll notice a lot of the Maltego queries are cumbersome and slow due to its current linear exploration approach.


The source code for the API, the somewhat PoC Maltego transforms, and the MVS (BroadView) API can be downloaded from our GitHub page, and the MVS API from here. You'll need a paid subscription to incorporate the exploit-db.com data, but it's an initiative definitely worth supporting with a very fair pricing model. They do put significant effort in correlating CVEs. See this page for more information.


Do get in touch with us (or comment below) if you'd like to know more about the technical details, chat about the API (or expand on it), if this is a solution you'd like to deploy, or if you'd just like to say "Hi".

Fri, 22 Nov 2013

Mobile Hacking on the West Coast

December sees SensePost presenting Hacking by Numbers: Mobile at BlackHat West Coast Trainings. This course was first presented at BlackHat Vegas 2013 and 44Con 2013, growing in popularity and content with each iteration. For more information continue reading below or visit https://blackhat.com/wc-13/training/Hacking-by-Numbers-Mobile.html.


The mobile environment has seen immense growth and has subsequently seen organisations racing to be the first to market with the next best app. The rapid increase in mobile popularity and the speed at which developers are forced to produce new applications has resulted in an ecosystem full of security vulnerabilities. As more organisations are moving from web applications to mobile applications, penetration testers are required to adapt their testing methodology to keep pace with the changing platforms. Mobile applications developers have been lulled into a false sense of security due to the belief that "the platform will take care of the security". The Hacking by Numbers: Mobile course aims to help both penetration testers and mobile applications developers to find and understand common security vulnerabilities on a wide range of mobile platforms. The course teaches a mobile application security testing methodology that can easily be applied to mobile applications on Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Mobile.


Rather than focus on a specific mobile platform or a set of testing tools, the Hacking by Numbers Mobile course covers the following:


  • Android, iOS, RIM and Windows 8 Platform security

  • Communication protocols

  • Programming languages for mobile development

  • Building your own mobile penetration testing lab

  • Mobile application analysis

  • Static Analysis

  • Authentication and authorization

  • Data validation

  • Session management

  • Transport layer security and information disclosure


The structure of the course makes it ideal for testers and developers new to the mobile application security space, starting with the basic concepts of mobile security testing all the way through to decompilation, analysis and modification of mobile applications. As with all Hacking by Numbers courses, the mobile edition focuses on hands-on experience, with numerous lab exercises designed to provide students with practical experience to match the theory.Previous iterations of the course has seen real world applications being downloaded from the app store and common security vulnerabilities being identified.


Lab exercises include:


  • Finding and retrieving sensitive files.

  • Interception and Analysis of network traffic.

  • Runtime analysis of Application memory state.

  • Decompilation and static analysis of applications.

  • Runtime modification of application functions.
    And many more...


Training will be held from 11-12 December and more information can be found at https://blackhat.com/wc-13/training/Hacking-by-Numbers-Mobile.html.


Looking forward to seeing you all in Seattle!

Hacking by Numbers - The mobile edition

West Coast in the house, well actually more like an African visiting Seattle for Blackhat's West Coast Trainings.


We've had a great year delivering the latest course in our amazing Hacking by Numbers training series: Mobile. What's cool about this course, is like the others, we teach a hacking methodology rather than punting a tool or a magic, do it all solutions.


Mobile was created to match the continuous growth in mobile phone usage, with a specific focus on showing you how you would go about testing the mobile platforms and installed applications, to ensure they have been developed in a secure manner. HBN Mobile provides a complete and practical window into the methods used when attacking mobile platforms and presents you with a methodology that can be applied across platforms. This course is structured to cater to penetration testers who are new to the mobile area and who need to understand how to analyze and audit applications on various mobile platforms using a variety of tools.


Some of the material covered in the course includes:


  • Android, iOS, RIM and Windows 8 Platform security

  • Communication protocols

  • Programming languages for mobile development

  • Building your own mobile penetration testing lab

  • Mobile application analysis

  • Static Analysis

  • Authentication and authorization

  • Data validation

  • Session management

  • Transport layer security and information disclosure


The methodology presented is structured to allow testing to be performed on different mobile platforms and is demonstrated using both the Android and iOS platforms. Like all the HBN courses, the mobile edition focuses heavily on demonstration and hands-on practicals.



Blackhat Las Vegas 2013 saw the introduction HBN Mobile with two training sessions being presented. The course was well attended and consisted of students with varying degrees of mobile experience, however, the vast majority were new to Mobile application security and HBN Mobile provided the ideal launch pad for them. The great thing about the HBN series is that it accommodates people from all technical and security backgrounds. This held true with the Mobile edition, where we had reverse engineers, penetration testers, development managers, aerospace engineers and developers just to name a few. The feedback from the course was extremely positive and has been fed back into the course and used to improve it even further. Then we had the chance to give it to students over at 44Con in London and this again gave us a chance to take your feedback and make the course even better.


What's slightly different about this course is that you get to find flaws in common mobile applications available both in the Google Play and Apple App store. In addition, we have devices for you to use, so not everything is done in an emulator. As a result, students on the last course found common security vulnerabilities in numerous well known and popular applications.


On the 11th December in Seattle, I'll be delivering Hacking by Numbers: Mobile edition at Blackhat and I cannot wait to get on that plane. If you want to learn more about how to tear apart mobile apps, this is definitely for you. The regular price goes up on the 5th of December, so take advantage of this now and book your place.



Look forward to seeing you there.

Fri, 1 Nov 2013

A new owner for a new chapter

We're pleased to announce our acquisition today by SecureData Europe.


SecureData (www.secdata.com) is a complete independent security services provider based in the UK and was also previously part of the SecureData Holdings group before being acquired by management in November 2012. The strategic acquisition complements SecureData's vision for enabling an end-to-end, proactive approach to security for global customers by assessing risk, detecting threats in real-time, protecting valuable assets and responding to security issues when they occur.


This deal signals the culmination of a long period of negotiation between SecureData Holdings, SecureData Europe and SensePost management and represents a cordial and amicable arrangement that is considered to be to the benefit of all three businesses. As the management of SensePost we are fully committed to this change, which we believe is in the best interests of SensePost, our staff and our customers. We believe this move will herald for us a new era of growth and development that will see us better equipped and prepared to meet the requirements of the market and fulfil our mission of providing insight, information and systems that enable our customers to make informed decisions about information security.


We look forward to a to an exciting period of innovation, growth and development that we believe this transaction will ultimately enable!

Fri, 6 Sep 2013

Offence oriented defence

We recently gave a talk at the ITWeb Security Summit entitled "Offense Oriented Defence". The talk was targeted at defenders and auditors, rather then hackers (the con is oriented that way), although it's odd that I feel the need to apologise for that ;)


The talks primary point, was that by understanding how attackers attack, more innovative defences can be imagined. The corollary was that common defences, in the form of "best practise" introduce commonality that is more easily exploited, or at least degrade over time as attackers adapt. Finally, many of these "security basics" are honestly hard, and we can't place the reliance on them we'd hoped. But our approach doesn't seem to want to acknowledge the problem, and much like an AA meeting, it's time we recognise the problem.


If you had to look at the average security strategy or budget items, you often end up with a list containing a couple of these:


  • Compliance/GRC - building policies, auditing against them, responding to audits

  • Risk Management - enumerating and ranking all the info sec risks, prioritising them, and justifying spend to mitigate

  • Best Practises - strengthening passwords, pushing patches, configuration management, etc.

  • Technology - cue buzzwords - UTM, WAF, DLP, DAM, SIEM, IPS, AV

  • Staff - everyone needed to get the above stuff done: compliance specialists, risk specialist, security managers, device ops managers


But, the truth is many of these items don't actually block attacks, or the few that do, don't really counter the common bypassed used to side-step them. For example:


  • It's really hard to link risk-based priorities to meaningful technical priorities.

  • Compliance drives a "teach the test" approach with little incentive to create contradictory measurements.

  • Then how can we have a bunch of things called "best practise" when we can't honestly say we know how to defend. Even then, some BPs are practically impossible to achieve in anything but a point in time. And the main point of this talk; common practises have common bypasses.


The current place we seem to be in is akin to having everyone build a wall. Attackers get to evaluate the wall, figure out how to get over it, and add to their capability (i.e. get a longer rope). But once they have a longer rope, they can use it over and over again, and against more than one wall. So attackers, who are quite good at sharing, get to keep building their tool chain, while all defenders can do it to keep building a higher wall, and maintaining the increasingly untenable structure. By understanding how attackers attack, we can break out of this and try more innovative approaches.


The talk is illustrated with four broad examples: Passwords, Patches, Anti-Virus and DMZs. For each, the belief around specific configurations is discussed, and how those don't stand up to how attackers actually attack. For example, the way AV's believed to work doesn't seem to correspond with how easy they are to bypass, or the common configuration of standard password controls such as lockout, don't seem to take into account horizontal brute-force attacks.


The point I want to make here is somewhat subtle; if you walk away thinking I've described new attacks, then you've missed it, if you think I'm recommending "the basics" then you've missed it. Truthfully, maybe it's just that I didn't make it very well ... decide for yourself, here are the slides: