ABC interviewed me about being on the good guys team

Bryant Maddrik at ABC6 interviewed me and Todd Whittaker at Franklin about the plight of the good guys in the information security wars. Here's the link to the post:

We met at the Idea Foundry, where I am a member, and it went well, I thought.  The Smart Columbus kickoff was happening in the main room though, and they had a live band! Can't hear it at all in the recording though.

Love you hear your thoughts about who is winning the battles.

The fork debacle

Monday this week, I was at lunch with the family and Adam (my son) kept bumping Gabrielle (my wife) with his elbow while cutting up his breakfast burrito.

"You are on the left corner of the table! Why are you manspreading to the right?"

"I'm cutting!"

"With your right hand?"

"... yeaaaaahhhh?"

Then she looked at me.  I also, as a left hander, fork with my left and cut with my right. Apparently after 25 years together we never noticed that we did this differently.  Gabrielle, as a righ hander, uses the OLD european style of using the knife in the right hand then moving the fork to the right hand to eat.  She's a switcher.

So I did what I do, and asked Twitter.

It's only 24 hours later currently, and I have 70ish replies - more than enough to do some analysis, so here goes.

Not a surprise, 80% of left handers do not switch.  some folks cut left and some cut right, but most of us do not change hands while eating.  You know what they say, left handers are in their right minds.

What WAS a surprise is that 70% of RIGHT handed respondents also do not switch. This is survey bias of my followers though. My community is, well, made up of geeks.  Fully half of the folks that replied admitted that they taught themselves to not switch because it is more efficient. The other half - still bias.  They are European. Which leads to a whole new question. Why?

As it turns out, there have been a few articles written about this. Originally, in Europe, switching was cool, and then it wasn't.  But like with measuring, Americans didn't get the memo. I understand that. It used to be hip to put to spaces after a period. Things change.

What I don't understand is why, my results notwithstanding, it appears that left handed people keep their fork in one hand by default, and right handed people switch by default (at least in the U.S.) If you have any feedback on that, I'd appreciate insight in the comments.


The Pen Tester's Framework: Skipfish

Skipfich is another web mapping vulnerability scanner, along the lines of my preferred Nikto.  Skipfish brings three specific things to the table: performance with very large sites, super easy use, and a super well designed set of rules for edge case vulnerabilities.  Huh, I am kinda convincing myself - I should be using this more.

Written in C by Michal Zalewski, Niels Heinen, and Sebastian Roschke, Skilpfish is one of the best architected tools I have seen. There re some weird things: there is a database of tests, except this one which is in the source:

 struct lfi_test lfi_tests[] = {
    "file:///etc/hosts", 0
   }, "", "File /etc/hosts was disclosed." },

    "file:///etc/passwd", 0
   }, "root:x:0:0:root", "File /etc/passwd was disclosed."},

    "file:///boot.ini", 0
   }, "[boot loader]", "File boot.ini was disclosed."},

Like Nikto, though, mot of the tests are in an editable database so you can customize things and keep the tests up to date. It is highly configurable, too, without busting up the rulesets.  For instance, in the config you have control over the wordlists.

## Dictionary management

# The read-only wordlist that is used for bruteforcing
wordlist = dictionaries/medium.wl

# The read-write wordlist and where learned keywords will be written
# for future scans.
#rw-wordlist = my-wordlist.wl

# Disable extension fuzzing
no-extension-brute = false

# Disable keyword learning
no-keyword-learning = false

Anyway, running skipfish is (as they wanted) stupid easy.

skipfish -o ~/sempfnet -S medium.wl

Then you get one of the best dashboards in all of open source software, in my opinion.  Seriously, if you need to look good, AND get good results, skipfish if your tool.

What's more, skipfish puts together a nice report, and I'm a big fan. I don't give clients these reports, though, I had write reports, but if you are doing quick tests this might be good enough!  Just double check for false positives.

All in all, a solid tool and a competitor to Nikto. Good addition to the PTF.

The Pen Tester's Framework: crackmapexec

As I mentioned in my intro post, I have started with the vulnerability-analysis modules and just went in alphabetical order.  

So we start with crackmapexec

Crackmapexec is a recon tool for when you are on a Windows network. It is called the swiss army knives of pentesting tools, and I agree. As the file says, there are a selection of core functions that can be called using arguments, but you can read a man page, right?

  • Credential Gathering
  • Mapping
  • Enumeration
  • Spidering
  • Command Execution
  • Shellcode injection
  • File System Interaction
So this is just a scanning tool. I am going to run it on my POINT network, and not just because the FALE VPN is down. AGAIN. (Dammit, Matt, you had. ONE. JOB.)  How much damage can it cause, right?

Oh, awesome. I ran it and nothing happened.

It turns out that the alias that PTF puts in for crackmapexec doesn't work. I am not sure why. I consistently get a 'too few arguments' error when I tried to use it.  Instead, I needed to run /pentest/vulnerability-analysis/cracmapexec/ directly (as su) to make it work.

So once I got that far, everything seemed smooth. The basic commands work well and scanned my network for shares here at POINT.

sudo python -t 10 --shares

Interestingly, it had some problems with my NAS

[+] is running  (name:BAGOFHOLDING) (domain:BAGOFHOLDING)
[-] SMB SessionError: STATUS_USER_SESSION_DELETED(The remote user session has been deleted.)

If I got dig into the underlying Impacket, which drives crashmapexec, I find that there probably is an SMB issue:

    def smb2Close(self, connId, smbServer, recvPacket):
        connData = smbServer.getConnectionData(connId)
        # We're closing the connection trying to flush the client's
        # cache.
        if connData['MS15011']['StopConnection'] is True:
            return [smb2.SMB2Error()], None, STATUS_USER_SESSION_DELETED
        return self.origsmb2Close(connId, smbServer, recvPacket)

Fascinating stuff, but did it get the shares? No, I apparently need to give it credentials. That's interesting.  There aren't very many things that you can do without creds as it turns out, so you at least need to know one user's login.  That's kinda a bummer, but I guess it depends on what you are looking for. As it is, I would file this under post-exploitation, rather than vulnerability-analysis, since it is for use after you are already in the network.  Maybe that's just me.

And it really is just for Windows PCs.  It saw my three Windows 10 workstations, a client's Windows 7 box, and strangely my NAS, which is a Synology DS412+. I'm sure the SMB shares are what kicked it off, and the non-windows underlying environment is what caused the user session failure.  Interestingly, crackmapexec didn't see my Windows 10 Rasberry Pi 2, or the Windows Phones that were on my network. Wonder why.

So, in the final analysis, crackmapexec looks like a really slick tool, almost could be a management tool for Windows environments given the ability to run a command on a number of machines. If the underlying code were a little more modular then some really great stuff could be done with it at the scripting level.  And it turned me on to Impacket, with which I was not familiar.

The Pen Tester's Framework: ftpmap

It's true, FTP isn't something that you think of first when conducting an assessment We look at web servers. FTP is something that people used in the 90s, right? 

Well, no. As it turns out a lot of organizations use FTP to move files from app to app, from partner to partner, from location to location. Legacy apps exist, and they are a large percentage of the vulnerable applications out there. FTP is a reality that everyone checking security needs to consider.

ftpmap "scans remote FTP servers to identify what software and what versions they are running" according to the man file.  It's certainly something that should be in your 'hey lets look at this server' test group.  So let's give it a try.

Interestingly, it wasn't installed! The configuration file was there, but there is no ftpmap directory in the vulnerability-analysis directory for the compiled code. So, well, I'll jsut do it manually!

sudo git clone
cd ftpmap
sudo ./configure
sudo make
sudo make install

Waaaiiit a minute. Error city. This shouldn't be happening! Guess that's why the PTF didn't put it on my system - something weird is missing:

CDPATH="${ZSH_VERSION+.}:" && cd . && /bin/bash /pentest/vulnerability-analysis/ftpmap/missing aclocal-1.15 
/pentest/vulnerability-analysis/ftpmap/missing: line 81: aclocal-1.15: command not found
WARNING: 'aclocal-1.15' is missing on your system.
         You should only need it if you modified 'acinclude.m4' or
         '' or m4 files included by ''.
         The 'aclocal' program is part of the GNU Automake package:
         It also requires GNU Autoconf, GNU m4 and Perl in order to run:
make: *** [aclocal.m4] Error 127

Well, crap. A quick run of apt-get shows that I have the latest version of automake, so there must be something subtle wrong. Aah well, I don't see THAT many FTP sites out there ...

Wikistrat predictions for 2016

Some of you know that I am the curator of the Information Security desk at Wikistrat, a virtual strategy consulting company. We have fun over there, and a recent project was collating some predictions for 2016.

It's a little buzzword-rich, as these things are wont to be, but there is some cool stuff in there if you are into geopolitical stuff. I also submitted my take on the direction of cybercrime and malware, with an assist from Brent Huston.

Take a read, and let me know what you think.

The Pen Tester's Framework: dotdotpwn

There are a few vulnerabilities that are so complex that it is best to use a special tool to test for them. SQL Injection is a great example, and sqlmap is the tool. Another of these examples is directory  traversal - flaws in server setup or application configuration that allow a user to access files and directories that are stored outside the web root folder. For that dotdorpwn is the tool.  Referred in the OWASP Testing Guide and Kali Linux, as well as the Pent Tester's Framework, dotdotpwn is the tool of choice for directory traversal.

Dotdotpwn is designed to test for paths to interesting files outside of the web root using an intelligent fuzzing of servers like http, ftp, or stdout, as well as software on top of those protocols, like blogs, ERP, CMS, and others  It uses a comprehensive ruleset and a fairly comprehensive machine learning system combines with a database of existing known flaws in this software to find files that could be accessible outside of the usual use of an application.

Oh, and it is written in Perl by the way.

Using dotdotpwn is super easy.  Just need to give it a URL and a protocol and it goes to town. It is a database centered script, testing paths that are known to be a problem.  When I sent it at it didn't find much (but I'm hosted on Azure so that's not a huge surprise).

sempf@sempf-Aspire-S7-391:/pentest/vulnerability-analysis/dotdotpwn$ perl -m http -h
#                                                                               #
#  CubilFelino                                                       Chatsubo   #
#  Security Research Lab              and            [(in)Security Dark] Labs   #
#                      #
#                                                                               #
#                               pr0udly present:                                #
#                                                                               #
#  ________            __  ________            __  __________                   #
#  \______ \    ____ _/  |_\______ \    ____ _/  |_\______   \__  _  __ ____    #
#   |    |  \  /  _ \\   __\|    |  \  /  _ \\   __\|     ___/\ \/ \/ //    \   #
#   |    `   \(  <_> )|  |  |    `   \(  <_> )|  |  |    |     \     /|   |  \  #
#  /_______  / \____/ |__| /_______  / \____/ |__|  |____|      \/\_/ |___|  /  #
#          \/                      \/                                      \/   #
#                               - DotDotPwn v3.0 -                              #
#                         The Directory Traversal Fuzzer                        #
#                                       #
#                                              #
#                                                                               #
#                               by chr1x & nitr0us                              #

[+] Report name: Reports/sempf.net_11-04-2015_22-36.txt

[========== TARGET INFORMATION ==========]
[+] Hostname:
[+] Protocol: http
[+] Port: 80

[=========== TRAVERSAL ENGINE ===========]
[+] Creating Traversal patterns (mix of dots and slashes)
[+] Multiplying 6 times the traversal patterns (-d switch)
[+] Creating the Special Traversal patterns
[+] Translating (back)slashes in the filenames
[+] Adapting the filenames according to the OS type detected (generic)
[+] Including Special sufixes
[+] Traversal Engine DONE ! - Total traversal tests created: 21144

[=========== TESTING RESULTS ============]
[+] Ready to launch 3.33 traversals per second
[+] Press Enter to start the testing (You can stop it pressing Ctrl + C)

[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:
[*] HTTP Status: 403 | Testing Path:

there you have it - it will just test path after path.  That's what pentesting tools do well: patience. This toll will simply poke through everything on every platform to get a path to a file that isn't protected.  There are a lot of options for altering how the scan works, but I am not going to copy them all here.  Check out the examples here:

Path traversal is a very common vulnerability and should be checked on every application.  dotdotpwn is constantly updated, and does the job well. All in all, this is a good match.

The Pen Tester's Framework: nikto

I have a confession: nikto is one of my favorite tools. It is a web server scanner that checks for near 7000 known vulnerabilities in software, and also for CGI applications with known vulnerabilities. Even if the developer of the application I am testing has no idea that the software in question is on the server the attacker can use the vulnerability to get a certain level of access on the server, and use that to get into the application.

What we are talking about is things like checking for known default credentials, looking for unprotected CGI files, fishing for hidden content, deep header enumeration, and even pushing for exceptional error messages. It's a neat package, and it is customizable as a new level - the underlying tests are all stored in a database. No code changes are needed to add new checks.

One thing you should know though is this: the version in the PTF is not the newest. nikto is constantly updated, and you should update the PTF file if it hasn't been recently.  After that, you should run sudo nikto -update to get the latest versions of the attacks in the database. 

And as it turns out, Nikto is stupid easy to use. If you have a new host or a new server, you can do a quick check with 

nikto -host -output domain.txt

That will find a load of stuff on anything other than Azure or EC2. Seriously, if you have an application that someone decided to 'put on that server over there' then you should run this check. Just takes a second.  Well, OK, a few minutes. Still.

Some of the important parameters that I have used in the past to solve particular problems include:
  • -ssl or -nossl is essential if the site doesn't support HTTPS or only supports HTTPS. This will cut 30 minutes from your scan time.
  • -id is super important if you have an authenticated site. Username:password is the parameter.
  • -no404 is so important if a misconfigured server returns 200 to everything.
  • -evasion will push past an intrusion detection system. If you are getting a ton of timeouts, try this. Parametes include:
    • 1     Random URI encoding (non-UTF8)
    • 2     Directory self-reference (/./)
    • 3     Premature URL ending
    • 4    Prepend long random string
    • 5     Fake parameter
    • 6     TAB as request spacer
    • 7     Change the case of the URL
    • 8     Use Windows directory separator (\)
    • A     Use a carriage return (0x0d) as a request spacer
    • B     Use binary value 0x0b as a request spacer
  • -nocache turns off the response cache. Oh goodness this is major sometimes.
Understand what you are testing, Watching responses form something like nikto and then tweaking the options until you get it working is key to a good scan.  

The Pen Tester's Framework

I've spend much of the last several years doing application vulnerability analysis. It's a lot like pentesting, except instead of finding one path through an environment to take something of value, we find anything in an application that could be used to create that path. It's pretty cool.

Anyway, people that do vulnerability assessment use a lot of tools that help us find known vulnerabilities.  There are many problems that are well understood - both known flaws in existing software, and patterns that cause problems in new software.  These tools take the drudgery out of testing for all these known flaws, so we can spend our time looking for things that can't be scripted out easily, like business logic flaws.

There are a lot of tools out there, and many of them are crap.  TrustedSec, Dave Kennedy's security consultency, has compiled a cool installer that collects the best of the best tools, all of their prerequisites, and those weird mappings that we all need to make our lives easy. It's called the Pen Tester's Framework.

For the next several weeks, I am going to walk through most of the tools in the Pen Tester's Framework and give a developer's view into them. I'll break into lab machines, review code, look at usability, and generally make a mess of things. I hope you'll join me.

My environment will consist of my Acer Aspire S7 with Ubuntu 15 as the test machine, and mostly the OWASP BWA as the target.  I'll also probably be scanning the FALE lab occasionally, and probably my own dev lab as well; I'll describe those as I use them.  

To install the Pen Tester's Framework, you need to get it from Github.  For the simplest solution in Linux, just install git (sudo apt-get install git) and then clone the repository with:

git clone

In Windows, try the download link in Github. The URL you want to start with is

Once you have gotten the files in place you just need to execute the installer in Linux.  That just means:

sudo ./ptf
use modules/install_update_all

That will put everything in /pentest. One thing I have to recommend is using this command often.  These tools are updated constantly, and you should respect that.  I ran into all kinds of problems with updates while writing the series.  The tools need their updates!

The PTF is divided into several sections, and I am going to start with ... guess it ... vulnerability analysis! Pretty awesome, eh? I thought so.  Some of these tools I know, and some are totally new. Looking forward to getting started.

Developers: Care and Feeding

I just finished giving my new talk on the care and feeding of your developers in a security culture at DerbyCon, and I wanted to lay out some of the thoughts I presented in written words as well.

There is a solvable set of problems that are causing the divide between infosec and development.  Almost all of it revolves around risk-averse infosec practitioners and risk-accepting developers seeing the same issue from different sides.  For instance, infosec may see a feature like framability as a risk (due to UI Redress) where developers see it is a nice thing to offer users. Even when a security flaw is found, differences abound. Infosec view and reports the flaw as a vulnerability, wheras to developers it is just a defect.  Severity is an issue; infosec inflates the severity of questionable vulnerabilities for legal or headline-grabbing reasons but developers just don't see the urgency.  This language shift is exaserbated by the divergent personality types in infosec and development.

That's not all though.  infosec fails to understand the basics of how a developer lives their life. The Software Development Lifecycle, or SDLC, be it a more traditional document-style or a newer agile-style process, rules the developer's day to day existence. Introduction of non-customer impacting bugs just doesn't have a slot in the process.  Also, information security needs to understand their products' underlying platform, along with it's strengths and weaknesses.

So now that we have a grip on the problem, what do we do? 

First, we automate. Some things in development just need to be autiomated.  Testing, deployment, and confirmation, for instance, are three areas where good, well vetted automation will make it a whole lot easier to focus on the real hard things. Give dev and QA the tools to automate their jobs, and teach them to use them.  When it comes time for application vulnerability analysis, put your static code analysis in the QA build, and let it focus on what it does best; same with the dynamic code analysis.  Don't make someone have to push a button, just automate it.

But some things a human does well. You can't have a report run from an automated scanner and then jsut thriw it over the wall to the devs.  Find the vulnerabilities that matter, focus on those, speak about them in terms of defects, and add them to bug tracking. 

There are other things that humans do too, like pentesting and code review. This is the human side of static and dynamic analysis. It must be understood that a grasp on the platform you are testing, and the business case in question, makes all of the difference.  If you take a report, especially from someone outside of the company with an imperfect understanding of your environment, the report will be of no use to the developers at all.

A third thing that humans do well is apply foresight.  Use of tools like the OWASP Proactive Controls or Application Security Verification Standard will make the transition into a security culture so much easier because the developer can see a path to more secure software.  They look ahead - way better for a dev than looking behind.

So what should you do today? Well, remember that devs like spicy food and expensive beer. Get your dev staff together over a few beers and don't just train - teach! A pattern that has worked well for me is to start with a 'test yourself' approach, then talk about secure coding, and then tie it down with security principles.  Or start with the principles.  Or start with the coding - just make sure to hit for the cycle. There are very few appsec specialists out there, so it behooves us all to make a few. Giving the developer the tools, and then teaching them how to use them, is more likely to make you an appsec person than just about anything.

We're in this fight together, folks, take it or leave it.  The end goal is to make usable AND secure software, in a reasonable amount of time and under a reasonable budget.  All of us do different things well, so if we agree to sit around the table and communicate, we can all get the job done.  Remember that security isn't developer's first concern and shouldn't be.  Give them the tools, teach them how to use them, and provide reasonable, valuable analysis of the apps, and you'll see things get better soon.

Bill Sempf

Husband. Father. Pentester. Secure software composer. Brewer. Lockpicker. Ninja. Insurrectionist. Lumberjack. All words that have been used to describe me recently. I help people write more secure software.


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