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.


03:13 PM
Connect Directly

'BlindElephant' To ID Outdated Or Unknown Web Apps, Plug-Ins

New freebie tool fingerprints out-of-date apps

A researcher at Black Hat USA this month will demonstrate and release an open-source tool he created for remotely "fingerprinting" which Web apps and plug-ins are running on a server before the bad guys can find and exploit weaknesses in them.

Click here for more of Dark Reading's Black Hat articles.
The so-called "BlindElephant" tool roots out which versions of Web applications and plug-ins are running on a particular website. Patrick Thomas, a vulnerability researcher with Qualys, says the tool is for helping security pros and systems administrators identify everything that's running on their servers, including any Web applications users may have downloaded. "It doesn't check for vulnerabilities or if they're vulnerable to a particular exploit, but rather what version [of apps] are running on their site," he says. "Some user may have said, 'Hey, I can set up WordPress,'" for example, he says.

Thomas and a team at Qualys are also currently conducting an experiment across the Internet with the tool to determine which third-party Web apps -- blogging platforms, content management, or database administration tools, for instance -- are sitting on various websites and posing security risks with outdated or vulnerable versions. He won't reveal any preliminary data, but Thomas says his presentation at Black Hat will feature some surprises about which apps are doing poorly when it comes to version control across the Web. "We'll also do some live demos where we shame some people in the audience who think they are running [secure and up-to-date]" sites, he says.

The BlindElephant tool was named after an ancient Indian fable where several blind men each touch an elephant in order to figure out what it is. One man touches the side of the elephant and declares it's a wall, another its tusk, concluding that it's a spear, etc. "All of them only have one small piece of the picture and are making inferences about it," Thomas says.

Thomas came up with the tool as a way for admins to get a holistic view of their Web apps and discover any apps they didn't know were running, possibly exposing their organizations to security weaknesses, he says. The underlying open-source technology can also be integrated into other tools, such as vulnerability scanners and Web application firewalls (WAFs), he says.

Fingerprinting isn't a new concept. There are existing operating system and Web server fingerprinting methods and tools, he says, but BlindElephant is all about the applications. "There are a couple of other [application fingerprinting] tools that do similar [things] as this tool, but this one is more ... accurate and mature."

BlindElephant is a Python-based tool, and it conducts static-file fingerprinting. "Rather than interact with the Web apps and get active content pages, it's looking at static JavaScript files, icons, etc. ... static content," Thomas says.

It can identify Joomla or WordPress and show if a site is running an outdated or unpatched version of the app, for example. It's basically just a "fire and forget" process: "You point it at a URL and say, 'Tell me if this is a Web app and, if so, what version, what plug-ins it's running," and then it returns that information, Thomas says.

Qualys' Thomas says the goal of the tool is provide "situational awareness," rather than specific vulnerabilities in an application.

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
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
When It Comes To Security Tools, More Isn't More
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  1/11/2021
US Capitol Attack a Wake-up Call for the Integration of Physical & IT Security
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  1/11/2021
IoT Vendor Ubiquiti Suffers Data Breach
Dark Reading Staff 1/11/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-17
An issue was discovered in Quali CloudShell 9.3. An XSS vulnerability in the login page allows an attacker to craft a URL, with a constructor.constructor substring in the username field, that executes a payload when the user visits the /Account/Login page.
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-17
Netsia SEBA+ through 0.16.1 build 70-e669dcd7 allows remote attackers to discover session cookies via a direct /session/list/allActiveSession request. For example, the attacker can discover the admin's cookie if the admin account happens to be logged in when the allActiveSession request occurs, and ...
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
An issue was discovered in Malwarebytes before 4.0 on macOS. A malicious application was able to perform a privileged action within the Malwarebytes launch daemon. The privileged service improperly validated XPC connections by relying on the PID instead of the audit token. An attacker can construct ...
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
Docker Desktop Community before on macOS mishandles certificate checking, leading to local privilege escalation.
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
OneDev is an all-in-one devops platform. In OneDev before version 4.0.3, there is a critical vulnerability which can lead to pre-auth remote code execution. AttachmentUploadServlet deserializes untrusted data from the `Attachment-Support` header. This Servlet does not enforce any authentication or a...