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How do you know if you've had a good pentest?

Posted on 2020-09-28 by Matt Strahan in Industry


There’s a fundamental issue with penetration testing that people don’t really talk about very much. It’s not a fun issue to talk about, because it leads to what effectively becomes corruption in the industry, which then leads to the vulnerabilities that are missed being used to cause huge damage to businesses, everyday people, and society.

The issue is simple: there’s no good way to tell whether the penetration test you have had done has found all the vulnerabilities.

This is the first of a three part blog post where I’ll be describing why it’s just so damn hard to validate penetration testing results. In the next post I’ll talk about side channels and ways to at least ensure you’re not getting ripped off, but also how an evil firm might present a good face. Finally in the third post I’ll be talking about three pie-in-the-sky crazy ideas for reforming the industry.

Before I go on I should make it clear that I am in no way saying penetration testing is bad. I do think that there are penetration testers and penetration testing firms that are bad, but a good penetration test is crucial for finding those security vulnerabilities you’re concerned about and keeping you safe.

As long as it’s a good penetration test.

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Building vulnerability disclosure terms

Posted on 2020-09-21 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


We have now released new vulnerability disclosure terms for Volkis. You can look at them here. They were based off the excellent disclose.io templates pushed by Bugcrowd among others. I’d like to take a bit of time to talk about why vulnerability disclosure terms are important and why each and every company, no matter how large or small, should have them.

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Board Mounting Devices for Fun & Hacker Feels

Posted on 2020-08-25 by Alexei Doudkine in Tools of the trade


Disclaimer: There is nothing about security in this post. Just a bit of fun!

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself in a rare position of having nothing to do. Sick of staring at a screen the entire week, I decided to do a small hardware project. I wanted to take all my networking gear that was in the TV unit, and mount it on a board.

Follow this DIY guide if you also want to look like a l33t h4xx0r by mounting your networking kit on a wall or a board. I did this for my networking gear I use at home, but it’ll work for anything and is a great way to keep your lab relatively tidy.

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Security design flaw in Storage by Zapier

Posted on 2020-08-05 by Alexei Doudkine in Vulnerability Disclosure


Recently, we discovered a design flaw in how Storage by Zapier was verifying authentication. This flaw could allow attackers to compromise other users’ data stored within Storage by Zapier if the victim mistakenly chose a weak key or a key that was already in use.

This vulnerability was disclosed to Zapier and has since been partially remediated. Zapier’s solution is assessed at the end of this article.

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How could Twitter have stopped the attack? (Part 2)

Posted on 2020-07-22 by Matt Strahan in Business Security , Social Engineering


Last week Twitter had a successful social engineering attack that pushed through a Bitcoin scam. The scam netted about $120k for the scammers, but for Twitter it caused huge damage to their brand with the news of this attack going around the world.

Although we don’t have any hidden information about the Twitter hack that’s not already public, I thought it would be fun to look at the kinds of security controls that would help stop this kind of attack.

Yesterday we looked at all the multi-X controls. Today we’ll be looking at other strategies that can help mitigate the compromise.

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How could Twitter have stopped the attack? (Part 1)

Posted on 2020-07-21 by Matt Strahan in Business Security , Social Engineering


Last week Twitter had a successful social engineering attack that pushed through a Bitcoin scam. The scam netted about $120k for the scammers, but for Twitter it caused huge damage to their brand with the news of this attack going around the world.

Even with the greatest of anti-phishing and anti-malware security stack, social engineering attacks are extremely difficult to stop. In our social engineering exercises we may call a 5% response rate to a social engineering attack a good result, but for many organisations just having one response is a catastrophic scenario.

Many guides when they talk about social engineering talk about user training and “users being the weakest link”. While security awareness is important, the social engineers are smart. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. Why are we blaming users when they’re being put in an impossible situation?

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What do you learn from your security reviews?

Posted on 2020-07-16 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


The results of the security review come in and they’re…let’s just say “less than ideal”. Vulnerabilities that could be used to break in, steal data, and potentially get the organisation in the news. Better fix those right away!

So we assign the tasks in our ITSM system and get to work. We patch what needs patching, reconfigure what needs reconfiguring, disable what shouldn’t be there and then pat our back and call it a day. We’re now secure…right?

This is what a lot of organisations do, but you’ve only got half the story. Those vulnerabilities didn’t come from nowhere, they were the symptom of an underlying problem and if you don’t fix the problem then the same thing will happen over and over again.

In a previous blog post I spoke about the “5 whys” and pinning down root causes that pop up as vulnerabilities. One of those root causes that is bound to prop up again and again is training.

Developers are often not trained in secure coding. Administrators are often not trained in secure administration. And yet the security vulnerabilities that could be placed in the environment from those teams could cause huge consequences to the organisation.

What can you do with a penetration test to help training?

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We just need to test this one project…but will I be secure?

Posted on 2020-06-25 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


What is in scope for a penetration test will be tested and what isn’t in scope for a penetration test won’t be tested. Simple enough, right? The problem comes when the hackers don’t follow the same scope that the penetration testers follow.

The choices that are usually made when scoping a penetration test are often made around simple practicalities and the various requirements that pop up for the organisation. Security considerations are important, but can be a secondary factor to it all.

For smaller organisations it’s not uncommon to have a full annual test with the entire internal and external environment in scope. After all, it’s easier to do it in one lot and just get it over with.

For larger organisations a full annual test would be too much since there are too many moving parts. It’s more common to have the scope restricted to a single project, maybe the new web application, new SOE, or the new network environment.

For this project by project testing the idea is that you can potentially get comprehensive coverage over the entire environment by testing each project in isolation. Hopefully a group of secure systems ends up being a secure environment. In the end, though, hackers will end up not targeting the systems directly, but they’ll start manipulating how they integrate and interact together.

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Zoom’s lesson on responding to security issues

Posted on 2020-06-09 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


When investigating software to use, I’ll inevitably have a look at their security record. What vulnerabilities have they had? Should I be worried?

Sometimes you see something really really dumb. Like an SQL injection in 2020. Or backdoor credentials… Wait I mean an “undocumented user account“.

Sometimes the security record makes news, like for Zoom at the moment. They’re suddenly one of the biggest pieces of software on the internet, and that means they’re being picked apart. There’s worries about privacy issues and their end-to-end encryption. Zoom has become a household name, and more than a few people have said to me “aren’t you worried about their security issues?”

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Third party systems in your pentest

Posted on 2020-05-21 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


What is in scope for a penetration test will be tested and what isn’t in scope for a penetration test won’t be tested. Simple enough, right? The problem comes when the hackers don’t follow the same scope that the penetration testers follow.

The choices that are usually made when scoping a penetration test are often made around simple practicalities and the various requirements that pop up for the organisation. Security considerations are important, but can be a secondary factor to it all.

Continue reading