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Exploits are Everywhere

I recently went through and completed, what I consider to be the hardest and most informative technical course and examination out there, the GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester known as GPXN. What I learned was that there is a lot of opportunity for the bad guys to get control.

As a White hat hacker, I am asked to engage in a variety of activities, most of which are network related. For some of the hackers out there, your goal is to utilize a wide variety of tools to identify weaknesses in the defenses and/or the applications that are running and to overcome the controls in place to protect the data.

To some of the security researchers out there, Exploit writing is the next logical step to transition. As an attacker, if you are fixated on a target and you have exhausted all of your tools and tricks, you are left with little else but to find some type of vulnerability and write an exploit for it. As we purchase and add more and more items to our digital world, the odds are stacked in favour of the bad guy.

Many people have surmised that we are finding so many bugs now because programmers are making so many mistakes but I disagree. I feel that we are finding so many bugs because there ARE so many bugs. Some of us just got better at finding them.

Lets take the recent SSL vulnerability that was exposed for many of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices ( https://www.wired.com/2016/10/akamai-finds-longtime-security-flaw-2-million-devices/). Akamai researchers would have you believe that this is somehow a recent find but there are references to the dangers of ssh port forwarding over a decade ago ( http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=602977 ).

Earlier in 2016 we have reports that Gnu Lib C share library has a critical vulnerability ( https://security.googleblog.com/2016/02/cve-2015-7547-glibc-getaddrinfo-stack.html). Admittedly this is very hard to exploit but as more and more people learn how to looks for these types of bugs, we are going to find out about them.

My recently certification has taught me that bugs are everywhere, in the mobile devices we carry, in our cars, in our thermostats. We just have to get better at looking for them.

A word to wise, learn about all the electronics you own, keep them up to date if they are recent purchases and be prepared to give them up if they are not. As a pentester, I  am looking for older vulnerable devices that are connected to your Wi-Fi or cabled networks at home or in the office as a bulkhead to allow me to get a foothold. There has never been a better time to discard those older routers and VoIP phones.


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  1. Razvan Costin Ionescu
    October 17, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Hi Jeff,
    Congrats for passing the GXPN! I have a short question for you: how much different / difficult were the exam questions than the practice ones?
    Thank you in advance!
    Best regards,

    • October 19, 2016 at 5:48 am

      Hi Razvan, thanks for your comments. I would assert that the questions do have some similarities, I remember one specifically that I was sure I had on one of the practice exams I wrote before the exam. I would suggest that you study hard and do all of the exercises several times to be sure you understand them. I don’t remember those being the same.

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