Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

9/25/2008
09:28 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Tiger Team Member Attacks Developers, Not Apps

Expert shows how he can get into a Web app without touching the application itself

Chris Nickerson can gain access to a Web application without ever touching it -- with just the right amount of reconnaissance, the so-called Tiger Team hacker can infiltrate the development team and compromise their machines.

“I can get into the application from the back side while on the outside, without touching” the app, says Nickerson, who gave attendees of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) USA conference in New York today a taste of what he considers the big-picture cyber threats to organizations, targeted attacks for money or corporate espionage. “Closing all the holes in a Web application doesn’t make you secure,” he says.

Most Web application security testing is focused on searching for vulnerabilities, he says, but that’s not as comprehensive as his brand of tiger team, or red team, testing that assesses physical and electronic security as well as social engineering weaknesses. “Red teaming provides comprehensive testing."

Nickerson, who along with colleagues Ryan Jones and Luke McOmie starred in the reality TV show Tiger Team that aired briefly on CourtTV, says the red team testing approach is more realistic for assessing the risks to an organization.

“Instead of spending time going through the application first, I figure out who the developers are," he says. “If they have Twitter accounts, MySpace pages, personal email accounts, and phone numbers... I start profiling them. I can guarantee I will find code faster than those who are directly touching the code” looking for vulnerabilities. (See Pen Testing Goes Reality TV and The Perfect Jewelry Heist .)

Online developer forums are one of the first places to look, he says, because developers often post snippets of their code to get help from other developers.

“Going out to forums... you start to see the different flaws in the apps they’re trying to fix,” says Nickerson, who is CEO of Lares Consulting, which performs penetration testing, social engineering, red team, and other risk assessments for organizations. “And you can start manipulating the developer” online by posing as a helpful developer, but instead giving them fixes that give you inside access to their machine. “I’ll embed exploits into PDFs, etc.,” he says.

Attackers who really want to make money or gather information for industrial espionage aren’t likely to spend hours trying to find holes in a Web application, Nickerson observes. “They take the path of least resistance... They’re not going to spend 100 hours on an application when they can walk into the [victim’s] facility in two minutes and use their technologies... or flat-out steal them."

You can find details about a member of a development team by pulling the metadata off a PDF file he posts on line, for instance. Or you can assess the physical makeup of the organization with Google Maps: “Are you on top of a hill? I can look at Google Maps and see that you have nine doors, and I can get into two of them,” he says. “We are testing all of these kinds of real-world vulnerabilities.”

After profiling the developers, a full-scope penetration test can be conducted, including client-side attacks and hijacking browsers. “If you can’t get in when testing the app, you can go on-site” and perform a social engineering caper -- use a USB U3 key to siphon user credentials, plant a sniffer on-site, or use other handy hacking tools.

The bottom line is gauging whether your organization has a culture of security or not, he says. “Even if you closed all the holes in your software, you did nothing for the security of your company” if someone can still walk through the door and gain access to your valuable data or assets, he says.

One of Nickerson’s clients, which he describes as a “well-known luxury brand,” learned that its main rival had assembled a team dedicated to finding out what his client has in the works. “They were all hackers... [Our client was] getting so concerned because they had found they were beating their ‘front door’ every day,” he says.

So Lares's client tried out a tiger-team honeypot method -- they posted phony documents and PDF files with a fake username wrapped inside the metadata. “Then they started seeing log-ins coming from that that [phony user] account,” Nickerson 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 the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19589
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
The Lever PDF Embedder plugin 4.4 for WordPress does not block the distribution of polyglot PDF documents that are valid JAR archives.
CVE-2019-19597
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
D-Link DAP-1860 devices before v1.04b03 Beta allow arbitrary remote code execution as root without authentication via shell metacharacters within an HNAP_AUTH HTTP header.
CVE-2019-19598
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
D-Link DAP-1860 devices before v1.04b03 Beta allow access to administrator functions without authentication via the HNAP_AUTH header timestamp value. In HTTP requests, part of the HNAP_AUTH header is the timestamp used to determine the time when the user sent the request. If this value is equal to t...
CVE-2019-19596
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
GitBook through 2.6.9 allows XSS via a local .md file.
CVE-2019-19590
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
In radare2 through 4.0, there is an integer overflow for the variable new_token_size in the function r_asm_massemble at libr/asm/asm.c. This integer overflow will result in a Use-After-Free for the buffer tokens, which can be filled with arbitrary malicious data after the free. This allows remote at...