Metasploit Hacking Tool Now Open for Licensing

New Metasploit 3.2 adds new features including DNS, WiFi hacking

The wildly popular Metasploit hacking tool for the first time is now officially open source, open-license technology that can be incorporated into commercial tools.

The free research and penetration testing tool historically has had restricted, non-commercial licensing so that it could only be used by researchers or in-house penetration testers -- not repackaged, redistributed, or sold. But in the new version 3.2 -- due later this month in its final version -- Metasploit project lead HD Moore and his team have transformed Metasploit into an official open source project, complete with a BSD 3-Clause license arrangement that allows others to sell, rename, or “fork” the code in another direction.

"Changing the license to be as open as possible -- BSD 3-clause is nearly public domain -- would not only be fair to the new developers, but allow us to expand beyond the original goal as an exploit platform and become the basis for wide variety of new projects," says Moore. "It's entirely likely that we will see new projects targeted at individual sectors and applications, which we hope will filter some improvements back to the core project. By opening the license to the entire Metasploit codebase, we have let the proverbial cats out of the bag -- it's now just a matter of counting kittens."

Rich Mogull, founder of Securosis, says this will provide more options in the penetration testing market. “Choice increases, and potentially the pace of development. But it also means people need to be careful... The Metasploit team has done a heck of a good job on quality, which isn't guaranteed as people take it in new directions,” Mogull says. “Also, we'll likely see commercial products that are just wrappers of a system that already has a good UI [user interface]. Some will advance the product, but many won't. Me, I'll stick with whatever HD is running for now, but we might see some interesting offshoots over time.”

Commercial penetration testing vendor Core Security Technologies may eventually incorporate Metasploit technology into its products, says Fred Pinkett, vice president of product management for Core. “Interestingly, we had always talked to HD [Moore] about interactions and connections between the technologies... where there were modules they don’t have, or considerations of how we might integrate with Metasploit in an open way,” Pinkett says. “Our commitment to our customers is commercial-grade exploits.”

Metasploit 3.2, which will be available in two weeks, adds 300 new exploits and has a simplified module structure so exploits are easier to load. Among the new features are DNS Spoofing, based on a tool built by Moore in the wake of Dan Kaminsky’s DNS flaw discovery; JavaScript obfuscation; JavaScript detection of the browser, operating system, and service packs; Browser Autopwn, for firing off browser exploits; man-in-the middle attacks; reflective DLL injection; full IPv6 support; and Karmetasploit, a rogue wireless access point for hacking WiFi in cafes, airplanes, and hotels.

An early version of Metasploit 3.2 is available here.

The original versions of Metasploit -- 1.0 and 2.X -- were initially available under GPL and Perl Artistic License to help ensure that they were interoperable with other security tools. But Moore and his co-developers found that some people were abusing that arrangement commercially, so they shifted gears to a more restrictive licensing arrangement with 3.0.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Jackson Higgins, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Editor-in-Chief 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 Magazine, Virginia Business magazine, and other major media properties. Jackson Higgins was recently selected as one of the Top 10 Cybersecurity Journalists in the US, and named as one of Folio's 2019 Top Women in Media. She began her career as a sports writer in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and earned her BA at William & Mary. Follow her on Twitter @kjhiggins.

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