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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

5/14/2013
11:21 AM
Vincent Liu
Vincent Liu
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Know Your Pen Tester: The Novice

Beware of the tool-obsessed pen-tester

Part one in a series

Penetration testers put their pants on just like the rest of us, one leg at a time. Except once their pants are on, they break into computers. Not all pen testers, however, are created equal.

Whether you're hiring someone for your security team or you're engaging a consulting firm to conduct a third-party assessment, it's valuable to know how to gauge your pen tester's level of expertise. Don't get charged top dollar for second- or third-rate talent. When choosing any other professional, like a doctor or lawyer, you care more about the expertise and experience of the person doing the work than how many golf tournaments his company sponsors. You also probably don't want the lawyers with the most billboards (or any billboards for that matter). This is why pen tester selection is critical.

Novice Penetration Testers
Most pen testers -- roughly four out of every five -- fall into the novice category. A novice pen tester could be an entry-level security professional just learning the ropes or a more experienced person who simply lacks the skill or motivation to press beyond the simplest types of testing. In any case, novice pen testers tend to exhibit a handful of defining traits: tool-centric testing approach, an overreliance on checklists, and failure to perform proper manual testing.

Failure Of The Tool Jockey
Nobody wants to hire a pen tester who does little more than run a tool and rewrite a canned report. Yet a great deal of the "pen testing" that is sold to unknowing customers amounts to just that and little more. Novice, or proficient, penetration testers often use tools as an end instead of a means to an end. When a scan is done, so is the test.

These testers will often miss more sophisticated or complex vulnerabilities. This is because they don't yet know how to recognize them, they aren't aware that certain vulnerabilities even exist, or they don't know how to properly validate what they do find due to lack of experience or expertise. In addition to being able to use tools, a pen tester must also be able to interpret the tool results correctly.

Another indicator of skill level is how well a person can explain what he does find: the root cause of the vulnerability, the validation process, and the remediation recommendation. A novice can usually provide a canned response, but if you ask him to describe the issue in light of your specific situation or in a nonstandard circumstance, he will often struggle to provide a coherent response.

The greatest danger of the novice's tool-centric approach is the fact that his (and thus your) results will be skewed in light of the tool's own limitations. Many novice penetration testers fall into this trap where they depend entirely on the automated tool to provide them with a list of vulnerabilities.

If you're interviewing someone for a pen testing role on your team, a dead giveaway that they're a novice is if he mentions that he "really likes [insert name of tool]" or that he would "really like to learn how to use [insert name of tool]." That's like interviewing a carpenter to work on your construction team and hearing him say that he really likes hammers or that he wants to learn how to use a measuring tape.

More advanced pen testers know that tools are tools, and just a means to an end. Novices usually give themselves away by showing an undue reverence for tools. Vincent Liu (CISSP) is a Partner at Bishop Fox, a cyber security consulting firm providing services to the Fortune 500, global financial institutions, and high-tech startups. In this role, he oversees firm management, client matters, and strategy consulting. Vincent is a ... View Full Bio

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
yankwizera
50%
50%
yankwizera,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2013 | 5:26:46 PM
re: Know Your Pen Tester: The Novice
Insightful even for aspiring Pentesters!! Thank you
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5615
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in [Calendar01] free edition ver1.0.0 and [Calendar02] free edition ver1.0.0 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-5616
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
[Calendar01], [Calendar02], [PKOBO-News01], [PKOBO-vote01], [Telop01], [Gallery01], [CalendarForm01], and [Link01] [Calendar01] free edition ver1.0.0, [Calendar02] free edition ver1.0.0, [PKOBO-News01] free edition ver1.0.3 and earlier, [PKOBO-vote01] free edition ver1.0.1 and earlier, [Telop01] fre...
CVE-2020-5617
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
Privilege escalation vulnerability in SKYSEA Client View Ver.12.200.12n to 15.210.05f allows an attacker to obtain unauthorized privileges and modify/obtain sensitive information or perform unintended operations via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-11583
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
A GET-based XSS reflected vulnerability in Plesk Obsidian 18.0.17 allows remote unauthenticated users to inject arbitrary JavaScript, HTML, or CSS via a GET parameter.
CVE-2020-11584
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
A GET-based XSS reflected vulnerability in Plesk Onyx 17.8.11 allows remote unauthenticated users to inject arbitrary JavaScript, HTML, or CSS via a GET parameter.