Conficker (and friends) v.s. Quality Penetration Testing

Conficker (and friends) v.s. Quality Penetration Testing

Its funny to me that people haven’t commented on the fact that the ability of a worm to spread is proof positive of just how insecure today’s networks are. (Yet, even with this lack of security others are talking about this kick-ass idea of “Cloud Computing”). The fact is that if people managed their networks properly (which includes testing properly with quality security service providers) that worms would not be able to spread, or at least not so quickly and on such a wide scale.

As an example, we recently performed a penetration test for one of our customers. The time between project kickoff and successful penetration was less than 15 minutes. That is to say that we were able to hack into our customers network within 15 minutes of starting the project. The way we did it was to create a .pdf based invoice and send it to the customer from a trusted source. This particular invoice wasn’t really an invoice of course, it was a pdf document designed to exploit a vulnerability in their adobe acrobat reader. In this case, when our victim opened the pdf document their computer established a reverse http connection back to us. We then tunneled back in over that connection and had access to our customer’s network. If we were malicious it would have been game over.

So what does this have to do with worms? If you think about it a worm uses the same methodology for penetrating into networks as hackers do. Just like hackers, worms will penetrate your network by embedding themselves in files (like our PDF example above), or by exploiting vulnerabilities in computers systems, or maybe via social engineering. Either way, the technique is the same, and as such the defense should be the same. Why isn’t it?

Most people _try_ to protect their networks with anti-virus scanners and other technology. They implement these scanners on their desktops, servers, gateway’s etc. They also use Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems, firewalls and other similar solutions in an attempt to prevent infection or penetration. They never stop to question the security of the technology that they install. In 2006 Symantec’s own Antivirus technology was vulnerable to attack. Back then it was possible to send someone a specially crafted email to penetrate into their computer. The fact is that technology is, and will always be fallible unless it is proved to be secure with mathematics.

I’m not saying that technology is useless because it isn’t. I am saying that technology should be augmented with frequent security testing. Those tests should be delivered by a quality security provider capable of creating a threat that is at least as intense as what customers will face in the real world. Once testing is done at that “real” level the resulting deliverable will enable people to build good defenses that are based on solid recommendations.

Continuing with the pdf customer… One of the recommendations that we made to our customer was that they install a proxy to control outbound http and https traffic. We also recommended that they drop all outbound traffic that is not necessary for day-to-day business operations. We made that recommendation because of how easily we penetrated their network with PDF and the reverse http connection.

The customer implemented our recommendations and when we retested their network were unable to get anything to call home. As a result of our work worms like Conficker can not function properly on our customer’s network because they can not call home. Instead, if they do get in they sit on the network isolated and useless until they are eliminated by the anti-virus technology.

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Karen Huggins

Chief Financial, HR and Admin Officer
Karen joined the Netragard team in 2017 and oversees Netragard’s financial, human resources as well as administration functions. She also provides project management support to the operations and overall strategy of Netragard.
Prior to joining Netragard, she worked at RBC Investor Services Bank in Luxembourg in the role of Financial Advisor to the Global CIO of Investor Services, as well as several years managing the Financial Risk team to develop and implement new processes in line with regulatory requirements around their supplier services/cost and to minimize the residual risk to the organization.
With over 20 years of experience in finance with global organizations, she brings new perspective that will help the organization become more efficient as a team. She received her Bachelor of Finance from The Florida State University in the US and her Master of Business Administration at ESSEC Business School in Paris, France.

Philippe Caturegli

Chief Hacking Officer
Philippe has over 20 years of experience in information security. Prior to joining Netragard, Philippe was a Senior Manager within the Information & Technology Risk practice at Deloitte Luxembourg where he led a team in charge of Security & Privacy engagements.

Philippe has over 10 years of experience in the banking and financial sector that includes security assessment of large and complex infrastructures and penetration testing of data & voice networks, operating systems, middleware and web applications in Europe, US and Middle East.

Previously, Philippe held roles within the information system security department of a global pharmaceutical company in London. While working with a heterogeneous network of over 100,000 users across the world and strict regulatory requirements, Philippe gained hands-on experience with various security technologies (VPN, Network and Application Firewalls, IDS, IPS, Host Intrusion Prevention, etc.)

Philippe actively participates in the Information Security community. He has discovered and published several security vulnerabilities in leading products such as Cisco, Symantec and Hewlett-Packard.

He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), PCI Qualified Security Assessors (PCI-QSA), OSSTMM Professional Security Analyst (OPSA), OSSTMM Professional Security Tester (OPST), Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)and Associate Member of the Business Continuity Institute (AMBCI).

Adriel Desautels

Chief Technology Officer
Adriel T. Desautels, has over 20 years of professional experience in information security. In 1998, Adriel founded Secure Network Operations, Inc. which was home to the SNOsoft Research Team. SNOsoft gained worldwide recognition for its vulnerability research work which played a pivotal role in helping to establish today’s best practices for responsible disclosure. While running SNOsoft, Adriel created the zeroday Exploit Acquisition Program (“EAP”), which was transferred to, and continued to operate under Netragard.
In 2006, Adriel founded Netragard on the premise of delivering high-quality Realistic Threat Penetration Testing services, known today as Red Teaming. Adriel continues to act as a primary architect behind Netragard’s services, created and manages Netragard’s 0-day Exploit Acquisition Program and continues to be an advocate for ethical 0-day research, use and sales.
Adriel is frequently interviewed as a subject matter expert by media outlets that include, Forbes, The Economist, Bloomberg, Ars Technica, Gizmodo, and The Register. Adriel is often an invited keynote or panelist at events such as Blackhat USA, InfoSec World, VICELAND Cyberwar, BSides, and NAW Billion Dollar CIO Roundtable.