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7/25/2007
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Hacking Without Exploits

Researcher HD Moore to show at Black Hat and Defcon ways to hack a fully patched system

Renowned researcher HD Moore next week at Black Hat USA and Defcon will demonstrate powerful hacking techniques that neither exploit unpatched vulnerabilities nor zero-day bugs.

Moore says automated penetration testing tools alone can't find all vulnerabilities -- it takes a combination of in-the-trenches hands-on hacking and tools, he says. "People should use their brains to hack things, not just some program," Moore says. "Too many penetration testers rely on automated exploit tools to do their jobs for them." (See HD Moore Unplugged and Now Playing: Metasploit 3.0.)

When penetration testers focus only on exploits and security bugs, they typically miss more basic holes in their infrastructure, says Moore, who created the popular Metasploit hacking/penetration testing tool. "Pen-tests should always be targeted attacks against specific services, applications, and people. A quick scan followed by an exploit tool should not be considered a pen-test."

Moore, who is also director of security research at BreakingPoint Systems, and researcher Valsmith, co-founder of offensive-computing.net and also a Metasploit developer, will show in their "Tactical Exploitation" sessions in Las Vegas some tactical methods of attack that don't use your typical exploit code. They'll also release new modules for Metasploit as well as some other tools that help make this type of hacking easier.

"It's about breaking in without exploiting standard vulnerabilities," Moore says. "For example, abusing trust relationships, profiling a service to determine when an action is performed, and then attacking a weakness in the protocol."

In one demonstration, the researchers will conduct a series of attacks -- without going after a specific vulnerability -- that combine host-name injection, HTTP redirection, malicious proxy services, and manipulated authentication, among other things. The demo will use new Metasploit modules that will be released as well.

Some of the other demos are still being finalized, but Moore says they'll also show how to use an open Network File System (NFS) share to hijack an entire network -- by stealing Kerberos tickets and using SSH relays.

Penetration testing tools miss these types of weaknesses, such as configuration errors, client-side vulnerabilities, and weak business process implementations, for instance, Moore says. You can't just scan for these problems because they are more a function of the organization and its users, he says.

And hands-on hacking methods can compromise even a fully patched infrastructure, so just because your pen-test shows all updated patches doesn't mean all is secure. "Security professionals who focus on exploits and vulnerabilities often miss even more basic holes in their infrastructure," he says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Black Hat Inc.
  • BreakingPoint Systems 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

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