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Vulnerabilities / Threats

11/11/2009
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Researcher Takes Step Toward Integrating Penetration Test Tools

Will release free tools Thursday at OWASP conference

A researcher is working on a solution for penetration testers that's a first step toward ultimately integrating and correlating data among different types of penetration-testing products.

Josh Abraham, a.k.a. "Jabra," will release some proof-of-concept tools tomorrow at the OWASP AppSec Conference in Washington, D.C., that let pen testers integrate data they gather in their white-hat hacking projects.

"This is a step in the right direction. We haven't even had the ability to extract that information [previously]," says Abraham, who is a security consultant for Rapid7 and conducts penetration tests for clients. "Penetration testers have had the access to this information, but it's been done manually."

The problem, Abraham says, is that pen testers using multiple pen-testing tools have to manually examine and correlate their findings, a laborious and error-prone process. "I run into this all the time," he says. "A lot of different types of tools run on different systems and usually aren't integrated...We're providing a way for the penetration tester to extract information from a lot of different tools to leverage when performing a pen test."

This would let the pen tester focus on aspects of the process that can't be automated, such as analyzing whether certain data on a Website is sensitive, or other tasks that require human intervention.

Abraham will demonstrate and release XML modules he developed for five different pen-testing tools: Nikto, Ssslcan, Burpsuite, Fierce, and Dirbuster. He built XML libraries for each that let pen testers extract information from those tools and build a correlation engine to help them compile and analyze the data. "It requires them to take these libraries and tools and build their correlation system," Abraham says.

"I'll show how to extract the information and how easy it is," he says. He also plans to release Fierce 2.0 beta, a revamped version of the tool.

But these tools are only a piece of the puzzle. They don't provide reporting or correlation, he says. "Correlation is the most difficult component. How you represent data from multiple tools and make connections between them?" he says. "And how do you rate, rank, and correlate that piece of information? I haven't thought out how to solve that yet."

Fred Pinkett, vice president of product management for Core Security, says the idea of integration among pen-testing tools is something Core supports, but the devil's in the details, he says. "I would agree that one of the problems in the pen-testing space is the large mix of commercial tools and open-source tools with their own information and formats. The typical pen tester has to go out and combine [them himself]," Pinkett says.

"There's no direct way to [integrate] between us and Metasploit," for example, he says, beyond reports and Core's database.

Abraham wants to rally pen-testing product vendors and open-source developers to use XML and to open their APIs so their tools can be integrated with other tools. "As a community, we can do a lot better," he says. "Pen testers need to encourage people to leverage tools that do things really well. If you depend on one specific [pen-test] tool for a long time, you need to question that tool...and understand what it's doing, and what to improve if necessary."

The development of a correlation engine model would either fall on the open-source community or on the pen-testing vendors, he says.

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

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