Category Archives: Original

Are you embarrassed by your Web Application Security game? Here’s how to start rockin’!

The goal of this post is to provide an overview of an awesome OWASP project which is designed to find vulnerabilities in web applications called: Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP). I have known about ZAP for a while but just thought I do a quick write up.

ZAP was selected as the second top security tool of 2014 by ToolsWatch.org. The project is extremely well documented with a user guide, FAQs, tutorials, etc., all conveniently located on its wiki. Also, since there is already so much professional documentation available for this project, this post will not pay too much attention to its features and functionality, but rather on my experience with the tool and how I got it up and running.

ZAP can run on Windows, Linux and OS/X, and it can be downloaded from here. I downloaded ZAP on my Ubuntu 13 Desktop instance. Note that Java version 7 is required for both Windows and Linux. Also, ZAP comes included in several security distributions — a list can be found here.

After you have extracted the ZAP_2.3.1_Linux.tar.gz, you just need to run the zap.sh:

zap_sh_run

Soon after that, the application will auto-start. You may be prompted to generate an SSL certificate — which you will need in order to test secure applications — however, I skipped that initially since you can always come back to it.

The last step in the installation process is similar to BURP and that is to configure your browser to use ZAP as a proxy. The ZAP team has a nice guide here on how to do this for most common browsers. I set Firefox with ZAP proxy:

firefox_proxy

After completing the step above, you are done with the installation process and are ready to kick off a scan. Here is how the home page should look like.

Home_Page

The first thing I would like to call your attention to before setting up a scan is to please make sure you have explicit permission before you scan any site. It is best to deploy a dummy web application on your local machine and use that to scan and learn.

If you have questions about where to start in ZAP, the perfect place to start would be the awesome user guide that comes with the installation. It can be accessed from Help > OWASP ZAP User Guide:

User Guide

I believe everything that is found on ZAP’s online wiki can be located in this user guide, if not more. I think that is great because as you look through the home page and menu options, it can be a bit overwhelming. But you can find answers to what all of the buttons do from the user guide as well as from here and here.

Going back to the homepage, you will see the following option:

Quick Scan

This is probably the best place to start off with your first scan. Alternatively, you could visit your demo site using the browser on which you configured ZAP proxy, and as you navigate through the site, ZAP will begin to populate the structure on the left home-page panel:

SitesAfter you have the site structure similar to the above, you can take your test in several different directions — most of which can be viewed by simply right-clicking on any of the site’s pages:

Right Click Options

If you are fairly new to web application security (like I am) chances are that whichever direction you choose to take, you will have questions. Fortunately, there are YouTube videos that you can refer to here. One video in particular that you should check out is this as it can come in handy when you want ZAP to auto-authenticate to your site’s login fields.

This concludes the introduction of a feature-packed tool from a long list of tools that I plan to explore. This already looks to be the best of the bunch. Even if you just heard of web application security, and you are looking to try one, this is a must-have for you; and its free! I am really glad that I got the chance to play with this tool and now it is part of my toolkit.  I recommend that you check it out to begin rockin’ on your Web Application Security game!

Follow me on Twitter: @azeemnow 

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Have Anti-Virus Software But Still Feel Vulnerable? Read How A Simple Web Filtering Software Can Help

“We may think one layer of security will protect us – for example, antivirus. Unfortunately for that approach, history has proven that, although single-focus solutions are useful in stopping specific attacks, the capabilities of advanced malware are so broad that such protections inevitably fail.” – Jerry Shenk, Layered Security: Why It Works.

Making use of layered security for personal use is of the utmost importance as I have covered a couple of times in the past: here, here, and here. Just as I have done in the past, I will use this post to share another tool that you can explore to support your personal layered security strategy.

My never-ending curiosity to explore and test new technologies can sometimes lead me to stumble upon genuinely impressive solutions. Fortunately for you, I believe this tool falls into that category.

K9 Web Protection is the software that I have been testing for some months now, and I must say, I’ve been truly pleased with its results. The software falls under the Web Filter category, which places a restriction on websites that you can visit. Web Filtering is used in two major cases. The first is to permit parents to control the sort of content accessible to their children, offering their kids a safe environment to learn and explore online. The second is for businesses who wish to prevent their employees from accessing websites that do not pertain to their jobs.

However, in addition to the above-mentioned, from my experience using this software on a daily basis, I have come across other benefits:

  • Real-time malware protection“helps identify and block illegal or undesirable content in real time, including malware-infected sites. You also benefit from the WebPulse cloud service, a growing community of more than 62 million users who provide more than six billion real-time Web content ratings per day.”
    • You can learn more about web filtering and intelligence here.
  • Automatic content ratings“New websites and web pages are created every minute, and no one person can possibly rate or categorize all of them. To ensure protection against new or previously unrated websites, Blue Coat’s patent-pending Dynamic Real-Time Rating™ (DRTR) technology automatically determines the category of an unrated web page, and allows or blocks it according to your specifications.”

Another advantage of the K9 Web Protection is that it is backed by Blue Coat (acquired by Symantec in 2016),  the leader in Web Security “with an impressive portfolio of integrated technologies serving as a trusted platform to deliver Cloud Generation Security to more than 15,000 customers worldwide.”

This solution is truly an “enterprise-class security software designed for home computers.” Also, did I mention that it’s free! “As part of the Blue Coat Community Outreach Program, K9 Web Protection is free for home use. You can also purchase a license to use K9 Web Protection for business, government, non-profit, or other use.”

I will do a quick overview of the installation and usage of the software, but you can find a well-documented quick start guide and user manual here:

Installation and Usage Overview:

installk9

  • The installation process should take a couple of minutes to complete as it is self-explanatory.
  • Upon completion, the application’s interface will open in your browser:

K9_Browser_admin_page

  • To view or modify any of the configurations, you will be prompted to enter the password you created during installation.
  • Here are some of the options and details you can access from the Setup page:

k9_block_categories.PNG

  • Web Categories to Block: choosing one of the available levels allows you to block selected categories of websites.
  • Time Restrictions: 3 options are available to block web access depending on the time of day. Unrestricted places no restrictions on web access. NightGuard blocks all web access during contiguous blocks of time every day. Custom enables you to choose days of the week and time periods to block all web access.
  • Web Site Exceptions: Allows you to create lists of websites to “always block” or “always allow.” Blocking Effects: “Bark When Blocked” plays a barking sound when a web page is blocked. Make sure the sound is enabled and not muted. Show Admin Options displays options on blocked web pages which enable administrators to view the blocked web page. Enable Time Out allows you to block all web access if too many web pages are blocked in a given period of time
  • URL Keywords: Allows you to enter keywords which, if found in a URL, cause a “block page” to display. Safe Search: “Redirect to K9 Safe Search” will redirect searches to various search engines through K9’s Safe Search. This provides a safer search experience than other search engines provide. Force Safe Search will prevent users from disabling Safe Search functionality provided by various websites.
  • Other Settings: “Update to Beta” enables you to get advance copies of new K9 Web Protection software undergoing development. Blue Coat distributes Beta versions so that K9 gets used in “real world” environments before being released as a final version. Please note that Beta versions might be incomplete and less stable than final versions. “Filter Secure Traffic” enables K9 to block secure websites (i.e. sites that use the HTTPS protocol).
  • Password/Email: Allows you to change your K9 administrator password or e-mail address.
  • K9 Update: Installs software updates if available.
  • View Activity Summary: This tab shows a summary of all “Web Activity” on your computer: To view more details, click the “Category” or “Requests” links. On these pages, you have the option of grouping the data by month or by day. To view Administrative Events details, click the “View All” link. (Some of these activities are as a result of automatic browser and toolbar updates, for example, and might display URL formats with which you are not familiar.) By selecting “Clear Logs”, all your activity data will be cleared; however, three days’ worth of administrative events will be retained.k9_activity_summary

As you can see from the above, the information provided here is extremely granular and it allows you to not only get an easy view of your browsing behavior but also the behaviors of the various system and application components. I have been using this solution in conjunction with other traditional protective mechanisms, such as anti-virus, and the benefits have been massive.

For instance, sometimes, while surfing the internet, I would see a certain URL get blocked or a visit history to a certain category in a website without a recollection of visiting that website. However, after investigations, I found that some components of a software installed on my computer or an extension in my browser is the reason behind that activity.

“The malware ecosystem has changed drastically in the past 10 years, to the point that the old precautions are just no longer enough” – Malwarebytes LABS. I have been using K9 Web Protection on many of my personal computers because I have been impressed with it, so I thought to share it here. I believe it provides that extra layer of protection that we can all appreciate in a world where cyber threats are on the rise. In addition, I believe this solution is a wonderful option for those that are less familiar with common cyber threat vectors (i.e. parents) and can easily fall for phishing emails or click on an adware as they browse the internet.

As we have known for some time, “there is no single solution for the information security problems we face today. A combination of many different kinds of security tools is required to protect you from modern threats…” and I believe K9 Web Protection is among the best tools we have today, so you should definitely equip yourself with it if you are going to create a safe web environment for yourself, your kids, your employees, and everyone around you!

 

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Burp and Samurai-Web Testing Framework

The other day I came across a social media post that was about utilizing Burp Suite to identify vulnerabilities in web applications. I had heard of Burp before but never really had the chance to play around with it – until now.

Just like a lot of other security tools, Burp has a community version along with its commercial product. I decided to download the free edition from here in my home lab.  The installation process is straightforward and in no time you have Burp up and running. Here is how the initial interface looks like:

Burp

Right when I finished my installation of  Burp, I realized that I did not have a web application running in my lab that I could use to test Burp against. Bummer! Now I had to decide between setting up a web server myself or finding a commercial distribution that came pre-built with one. This was a no-brainer – and within minutes I found a few distributions that were designed for testing and learning web application security; such as SamuraiWTF, WebGoat and Kali Web Application Metapackages. I decided to go with SamuraiWTF.

SamuraiWTF gives you the option to run from a live disk or install it in a VM. I decided to install the VM. Here is a good guide to the installation process. I give my VM instance 4GB RAM and 3 cores; more than enough horsepower.

This distribution comes pre-installed with Mutillidae, which is a “free, open source, deliberately vulnerable web-application providing a target for web-security enthusiasts”. This was perfect for what I was looking for. Setting up the Mutillidae in pretty simple – all I had to do was change my network configurations to NAT and that was it. However, if you need more information on configuration here are some great video guides on Mutillidae; in fact, I used some of these myself while configuring Burp to work with Mutilliade.

After finishing all of the above prep work, I was ready to run Burp!

For those who are not familiar with Burp, it’s an interception proxy which sits between your browser and the web server and by doing so it is able to intercept requests/responses and provides you the ability to manipulate the content. To do so you have to configure Burp as your proxy. On your VM, this would be your localhost (Proxy Tab > Options):

Proxy

Likewise, you would have to configure your browser to that same proxy. Here is my proxy configuration on Firefox:

Firefox Proxy Configuration

Now as you navigate through your Mutilliadae webpage, all your requests should go through Burp. One thing you have to do is turn on the Intercept option in Burp. It’s under Proxy > Intercept.

What this allows you to do is see the request as its made but gives you the control to either forward it to the web server or simply drop the request (like a typical MiTM). For example, on the login page of Mutilliade i used admin name and admin123 password. And as soon as I hit “Login” I saw the request being made from my browser to the web server in Burp:

Burp Intercept

In the screenshot above, you can see the two options: Forward and Drop. If you hit forward, the web server will receive this request from your browser and will respond as it would normally. In this case, the account I used to log in did not exist:

Web Server Respose

Burp has the capability to also capture the responses. It is an option that you can turn on by going to Proxy > Options and towards the middle of the page you will see “Intercept Server Responses”. By turning this on you will be able to see and control both sides of the requests:

Request and Response

If you look at Target > Site Map; on the left pane you will see a list of all the sites that you have visited with the Burp proxy on:

History Map

One advantage of the above feature is that it allows you to go back and revisit requests and responses. The sites that are in grey color are those that are available on the target web page but you have not visited them.

Another neat feature is that if you do not want to visit each page individually you can run the “Spider” feature which will map the whole target page for you.

Spider

If you go under Spider > Control you are able to see the status of the Spider as it runs:

Spider Status

When you intercept request or response, you have the ability to send that to other features of Burp. You are able to view these additional options by right-clicking on the intercept:

Intercept Additional Options

Towards the bottom of the official Burp Suite guide page here you can see a brief description of most of the options shown in the screenshot above. The one I found really neat is the “Repeater” option which allows you to modify and re-transmit requests repeatedly without having the need to perform new intercepts each time.

This concludes my brief journey of getting started with Burp using SamuraiWTF. There is a whole lot more than I had the chance to explore but here is a great reference for advanced topics.

Below  is a quick blurb on some of Burps features:

Spider: crawls the target and saves the numerous web pages that are on the target.

Intruder: automated attack feature which tries to automagically determine which parameters can be targeted i.e. fuzzing.

Fuzzing options: Sniper (fuzz each position one-by-one), Battering Ram (all positions on the target receive one payload), Pitchfork (each target position is fuzzed in parallel) Cluster Bomb (repeats through payloads for multiple positions at once).

Proxy: used to capture requests & responses to either just monitor or manipulate and replay.

Scope: controls what (pages, sites) is in/out of the test “scope”.

Repeater: manually resubmit requests/responses; allows modification.

Sequencer: used to detect predictability of session tokens using various built-in tests i.e. FIPS 140-2.

Decoder: allows encoding/decoding of the target data i.e. BASE64, Hex, Gzip, ASCII, etc.

Comparer: allows side-by-side analysis between two requests/responses.

Cheers!

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Protected: End of the year – best time for reflection and planning

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