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10/19/2010
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Metasploit: One Year After The Rapid7 Acquisition

Pen testers weigh in on whether the deal was a success or a sellout

When Rapid7 bought the Metasploit Project exactly one year ago this week, there were rumblings of concern that the open-source penetration testing tool would lose its identity and go all commercial. Metasploit indeed has gone commercial -- there are new commercial versions of the tool available now from Rapid7 in addition to the open-source framework -- but most penetration testers say the tool has maintained its open-source roots and is evolving much more rapidly with the added development resources.

Rapid7 rocked the penetration testing marketplace with its announcement it had purchased the Metasploit Project and hired its creator, HD Moore, as chief security officer of the company. Moore and Rapid7 executives were adamant about avoiding a failed open source-commercial marriage such as that of the Nessus scanning tool, which went from an open-source to a proprietary, closed-source license under Tenable Network Security. Their goal was to instead both improve and preserve the open-source framework, while making a commercial version of Metasploit as well.

Rapid7 marked the one-year anniversary of the union this week with the availability of Metasploit Pro, an enterprise version of the popular hacking tool that allows unrestricted, remote access to networks and comes with features such as collaboration, custom Web application testing, antivirus evasion, and social engineering.

Meanwhile, there have been 1 million downloads and updates to the open-source Metasploit Framework since Rapid7 took it in-house, and release cycles have gone from nine to 12 months to once a week now with the additional resources for the project, according to Rapid7's Moore. There are 120,000 active members of the Metasploit community, and 164 new exploits have been added to the Metasploit Framework since the acquisition. "The biggest difference now is that it's more than a one-person project," Moore says. "The project has more flexibility now" and includes quality assessment, he says. "It has commercial quality surrounding it."

Moore says the biggest challenge with the Rapid7-Metasploit union is responding to feedback and patch submissions quickly enough. Keeping the community developers in the loop and in lockstep with the internal development work is also a challenge.

"Many of the outside developers have pet projects, but these can fall by the wayside if the supporting code is churning faster than they can keep up," he says. "Prior to Rapid7, we received contributions for almost all levels of the framework, from the modules, which are mostly stand-alone, to the core libraries, payloads, and user interfaces. After the acquisition and due to the pace of development happening on the back end, most of the new contributions focus on the areas that require less work to keep up with the API, namely the modules and plug-ins. We are still seeing more contributions than ever before on the modules side, but most of the core development work now happens in our team."

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive 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 ... View Full Bio

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