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Metasploit Gets New Vulnerabilty Scanning Features

Rapid7 takes first step in integrating penetration testing tool with its NeXpose vulnerability scanner, rolls out new free version of NeXpose

A new version Metasploit released today includes integrated vulnerability scanning for the popular open source penetration testing tool.

Rapid7, which recently purchased Metasploit, today announced both the new version of Metasploit, 3.3.1, as well as a new free version of Rapid7's NeXpose vulnerability scanner. The NeXpose Community Edition is basically a slimmed-down version of the company's enterprise-class scanner that's limited in the number of IP's it can scan.

The free NeXpose version is integrated with Metasploit 3.3.1 with a plug-in to the Metasploit console. "This integration is the first to actually run the [vulnerability] scan and do the import of the data for you," says HD Moore, chief security officer for Rapid7 and creator of Metasploit. It lets the penetration tester run the scan, import the data, and automatically run exploits against the vulnerabilities, he says.

"This is the first step in the integration" of Metasploit and the NeXpose vulnerability scanning platform, Moore says. The tools work together from the Metasploit console with a command-line plug-in: the penetration tester loads Metasploit, connects to NeXpose, and runs the scan from there. The scan data is then brought in to Metasploit and cross-referenced with Metasploit's modules, which then are automatically launched to test out the vulnerabilities, he says. "The whole process is from the Metasploit console," he says.

It's the first serious integration of vulnerability scanning into the penetration testing tool. "We already had support [for] importing scan results from older versions of Nessus," Moore says. "We would be happy to support for other vendors if they or one of their users submitted a patch."

Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning have gradually been heading toward tighter integration and interoperability as enterprises increasingly need a way to prioritize and weigh actual risks of a vulnerabilty being exploited, rather than trying to pick and choose from the often overwhelming list of bugs found in a vulnerability scan. "One one hand, these [technologies] should be fully interoperable if not integrated. That's where the market is heading," says Nick Selby, managing director for Trident Risk Management. "What we need and are going toward is risk-based vulnerability analysis. What you need to know is not whether there's vulnerability, but whether the vulnerability is likely to disrupt your business and cost you money."

Selby says Rapid7's first stab at blending of Metasploit and NeXpose more of an experts-only version. "This is step one of a multi-step process," Selby says. "This function exists with Immunity and Core already."

Rapid7's Moore says today's announcement indeed is only the first step. "A much better way of integrating them is to find this vulnerability, and tell me what exploit to run against it," he says.

And the tradeoff with the current release is that doesn't vet the impact of an exploit. "It doesn't take into account the reliability or potential impact of each exploit, so it's possible to run an exploit that is less reliable before one that is very reliable and crash the target in the process," Moore says. "You can, however, control it manually."

Rapid7 is in the process of implementing a way to automatically do this, however, and the feature could become available in about two weeks, Moore says. "You want to be able classify each exploit and risk" so that you don't crash anything, he says.

Metasploit's commercial rival Core Security says its integration with vulnerability scanning is well established, and a healthy separation between pen testing and vulnerabilty scanning should be maintained. "You still need the separate data," says Fred Pinkett, vice president of product management for Core Security. "A pen-testing tool only covers a certain number of remotely exploitable things, so you need that vulnerability scanning data you still need to do those scans and understand what that data is telling you" about what's exploitable, he says.

Pinkett says Core could expand eventually directly launch the vulnerability scan rather than pick up the scan data like it does today, as well as more integration in the graphical user interface. "I could see steps like that where we're even more automated than we are now. Or we could see integration with other types of scanners, for the Web and database," for example, he says.

Meanwhile, Rapid7 says it's serious about preserving Metasploit as an open tool. "Metasploit will remain open and we'll keep adding to it," says Corey Thomas, vice president of products and operations at Rapid7. The company is still looking at how to commercialize Metasploit as well, he says.

"We view these as two separate products, with two separate audiences," he says.

And in the works for Metasploit is moving beyond traditional exploits and vulnerabilities: "We are leveraging the configuration scanning and deep assessment capabilities of NeXpose to exploit vulnerabilities that are caused by human error and design flaws -- and not just missing patches," Rapid7's Moore says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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