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 dont 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.
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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