Category: information security

What security researchers do need to know about laws?

Disclaimer: First I am not a lawyer, this post is not about legal advices. Please contact a lawyer for a legal advice. This post is just about what I learned through different sources over time. Let’s start.

One of the most important law for security researcher is the computer fraud and abuse act (cfaa). This act was written in 1984. At that time the main idea of the act was “you are not supposed to gain access government computers”. There were a few additions happened over the time to the act and made the act confusing and pretty much useless. There are problems with this law. I discussed them below:

  • 18 usc 1030 a 2c:without authorization or in excess of authorization—> Here we DO NOT know what without authorization mean…
  • 18 usc 1030 a 4:knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period;->Here we DO NOT know what without authorization mean…
  • 18 usc 1030 a 5:(A) knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer (B) intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, recklessly causes damage; or(C) intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage and loss.  –>Here we DO NOT know what without authorization mean…

There could be criminal charges or civil penalties. However the victim has to have at least 5k of financial loss for court to process the claims.


  • What is illegal is unclear.
  • Selective enforcement: Law enforcement can interpret the law the way they want since it is so open for interpretation.
  • The penalties are harsh.

Interesting Cases:

  • US v. Nosal (Bonus: watch the trial here)

  • US v. Drew
  • EF Cultural v. Explorica
  • US v. Auernheimer





Effective Security Project Management

After running several projects I observe very interesting things about the management of the security projects.

Stakeholders usually have very limited focus. For example if there is a project about network security, they don’t think how to implement some part of the projects into  say an application security project.

Moreover stakeholders usually have lack of long term thinking. You should never spend all of your money to achieve a single thing unless it is so critical. In other words you have to be very effective, efficient and smart. If you are doing a project to reduce abuse in your internal computing resources, don’t try to save the day. Try to save the weeks, months, and years. This is not hard to do.

When you design your project, assume that you are playing with lego. With lego you can build home, and you can break down the home and build a car with the same lego pieces. Your projects should be the same. Moreovoer there will be some “plugins”. This means if you want to achieve X, dont just build X. Do this

Build A, B and C and make them to work together to get X as a result of those three plugins.


Moreover the functionality of A, B and C shouldn’t so similar to each other. Make them somewhat diverse by thinking your only condition is that the total    result should be X.

Then next time when you are working for a different project, say project Y, think about using at least one plugin you have here i.e.


This makes you use your resources in a smart way and you have a long term thinking.

Always think smart since this will make your projects better and powerful…


SQLite Database Browser

There is no doubt that the most popular post I have written so far is How FF store your passwords? Is it secure?  I believe the reason is there was not enough documentation 3 years ago about Firefox’s security mechanisms. At that time I couldn’t find something simple that can read/edit sqlite databases. Now I am going to write about SQLite Database browser; a freeware, public domain, open source visual tool used to create, design and edit database files compatible with SQLite.

You can go here and download it. After you download it, go to your firefox profile directory. How can you find it? Just open a new page and type about:support You will see the path of the directory next to the Profile Folder.

There are very good information stored in the profile folder such as bookmarks, passwords, search engine data etc…

You can now open SQLite Database Browser and click the directory icon in upper left and browse the file you want to open in the profile directory. Now you can have some fun with the ff databases and get more information about how ff store information.

How To Protect Yourself From Frauds

Cyber world is a dangerous place. Governments, and private industries become more and more aware of this danger in every single day. What about the citizen Joe and citizen Anna? Are they aware of the cyber threats? Do they know  how cyber threats can take all of their hard earned money they put into banking accounts? Or somebody  who is thousands of miles away from them can impersonate them and make their friends to send money to that person? There are great variety of frauds in cyber world. Most of them are around for more than ten years. Most of them use similar techniques with old traditional fraudsters use in the physical world.

There are number of sites that has very good information about prevention of frauds. One of them is this site. Just watch the videos on the site and you will get idea of how those frauds can waste people time and make their life miserable. Just watch the video below. We will cover frauds in detail later.


There Is No Such Things As Security

Well, time to be honest with ourselves dear security community. Even if we have firewalls, IDSs, IPSs, antiviruses, SIEMs etc our systems are not secure and will not be secure since there is no such thing as security.

I know some of you are now became angry and thinking cross arguments but seriously think about it. Your work place for example. You have all kinds of good stuff to protect it, motion detectors, glass-break detectors, wired windows, doors etc… But what if a crime organization just break one of the door with a truck at night and now they are inside, can you still think you are secure? There is a level of insecurity. You can decrease that with what you have however when you think about your system you need to think they are insecure for some level.

One of the thing I recently (!) realized is there is balance in the life and most of the time we forget about it. Yes, nothing is secure about this doesn’t mean we need to freak out. This is what risk management for.

If you have two systems and one doesn’t have sensitive data and you have other systems that have data such that if you lose them you will go out of business then take care of the second systems. Don’t get so obsess about the first team so that you forget the important one. You need to protect what you need. I know it sounds sad that you will not pay enough attention for the first system for some cases, but that’s ok.

Security is very hot subject and lots of individuals are coming this area. Most of them are bright, smart people. They want to do their best but we need to give them right expectations of security. We need to secure every single asset as much as we can, as harder as we can. However we should classify those assets and focus on the more important ones. We also should not forget that there is no such things as security…


PCI Vulnerability Scans – Part II: PCI and Wireless

In my  previous PCI blog post we discussed risk level of vulnerabilities for PCI. In this blog post I will go over wireless requirements and how to detect rogue APs.

11.1 Test for the presence of wireless access points and detect unauthorized wireless access points on a quarterly basis.
Note: Methods that may be used in the process include but are not limited to wireless network scans, physical/logical inspections of system components and infrastructure, network access control (NAC), or wireless IDS/IPS. Whichever methods are used, they must be sufficient to detect and identify any unauthorized devices.

11.1.a Verify that the entity has a documented process to detect and identify wireless access points on a quarterly basis.

11.1.b Verify that the methodology is adequate to detect and identify any unauthorized wireless access points, including at least the following:

_ WLAN cards inserted into system components

_ Portable wireless devices connected to system components

(e.g., by USB, etc.)

_ Wireless devices attached to a network port or network device

11.1.c Verify that the documented process to identify unauthorized wireless access points is performed at least quarterly for all system components and facilities.

11.1.d If automated monitoring is utilized (e.g., wireless IDS/IPS, NAC), verify the configuration will generate alerts to personnel.

11.1.e Verify the organizationʼs incident response plan (Requirement 12.9) includes a response in the event unauthorized wireless devices are detected.

PCI wants you to detect rogue access points. However there is a flaw here. PCI doesn’t require you to monitor your network for rogue access points. It just want you detect them quarterly…

Well, what if attacker deploy an AP after you run your quarterly scan? You will be vulnerable lots of networking attack for a 3 more months and you will think you’re secure since you have PCI certification… This is another example of why you should not think you are secure just because you have a certification…

Anyway, let’s return our subject. So we need to determine rogue AP quarterly. Himm. Let’s see. We can do this by scanning all wireless APs and comparing the BSSIDs (mac address) of the APs that have same SSID with our APs. If we see any AP that has our SSID but not in our asset, that AP is a rogue AP.

A. Windows

Go to Start, type powershell, on the blue screen of power shell run these two following commands:

Netsh wlan show networks mode=bssid -> To get all BSSIDs

Netsh wlan show networks mode=ssid-> To get all SSIDs


KisMAC is a free, open source wireless stumbling and security tool for Mac OS

You can download it at

After you run the KisMAC, click Start Scan in the bottom right corner.

C. Linux

Kismet is an 802.11 wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion detection system. Kismet will work with any wireless card which supports raw monitoring

mode, and can sniff 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and 802.11n traffic (devices and drivers permitting).

Linux users can download Kismet at

Note: Please read the full manual, but for the quick starters, here is the bare minimal instruction to operate Kismet:

• Download Kismet from

• Run “./configure”. Pay attention to the output! If Kismet cannot find all the  headers and libraries it needs, major functionality may be missing. Most notably, compiling Kismet yourself will require the development packages and headers, usually called foo-dev or foo-devel.

• Make sure that all the functionality you need was enabled properly in configure. Almost all users will need pcap and libnl support for proper operation.

• Compile Kismet with “make”.

• Install Kismet with either “make install” or “make suidinstall”.

Note: you must read the “suid” installation and security” section of the Readme or your system may be insecure.

• If you have installed Kismet as suid-root, add your user to the “kismet” group

• Run “kismet”. If you did not install Kismet with suid-root support, you need to start it as root in nearly all situations. This is not recommended as it is

less secure than privsep mode, where packet processing is segregated  from admin rights.

• When prompted to start the Kismet server, choose “Yes”.

• When prompted to add a capture interface, add your wireless interface. In nearly all cases, Kismet will autodetect the device type and supported

channels. If it does not, you will have to manually define the capture type   (as explained later in this README).

• Logs will be stored in the directory created when you started using Kismet, unless it changed via the “logprefix” config file or “–log-prefix” startup option.

• READ THE REST OF THIS README. Kismet has a lot of features and a lot of configuration options. To get the most out of it, you must read all of

the documentation.


With these tools you can get all SSIDs and BSSIDs on your area (It is good idea to capture packets in different areas of your buildings so that you have better chance to detect any existed rogue APs.


Update: I have received couple of e-mail about PCI scope on wireless. Here is what PCI says about it:

If wireless technology is used to store, process, or transmit cardholder data (for example, point-of-sale transactions, “line-busting”), or if a wireless
local area network (WLAN) is connected to, or part of, the cardholder data environment (for example, not clearly separated by a firewall), the PCI
DSS requirements and testing procedures for wireless environments apply and must be performed (for example, Requirements 1.2.3, 2.1.1, and
4.1.1). Before wireless technology is implemented, an entity should carefully evaluate the need for the technology against the risk. Consider
deploying wireless technology only for non-sensitive data transmission.”

I believe it is pretty straight forward.  If there is no separation of wired/wireless networks with a firewall on your cardholder data environment you cannot think wireless network is out of your scope…

Reset Your Windows Password

We have lots of password to remember : workstation, servers, banks, forums, mails etc… This makes forgetting passwords easier. Today I would like to mention how to remove reset admin password on windows.

I am going to use chntpw. chntpw is a Linux utility to (re)set the password of any user that has a valid (local) account on your WinNT or Win2000 system, by modifying the crypted password in the registry’s SAM file. You do not need to know the old password to set a new one. It works offline (i.e., you have to shutdown your computer and boot off a linux floppy disk).

1. Insert Backtrack’s DVD on your windows computer and boot from CD (usually you can hit f2, f12 in order to see boot order, then you can force computer to boot from CD/DVD).

2. Mount your windows partition:

2.1. Run fdisk -l to determine where is your windows partition.
My windows partition is /dev/sda1

2.2 Create empty folder to mount windows partition.
mkdir /mnt/windows

2.3mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/windows

3. Go into chntpw directory
cd /pentest/passwords/chntpw

4. Run chntpw against your SAM

./chntpw -i /mnt/windows//WINDOWS/system32/config/SAM
5. Type the username you want to reset password, enter, then press 1, enter.

6. After made the changes,  you need to exit from the main chntpw menu and press “Y” to write the changes or “N”to ignore the changes.


Detecting Rogue Virtual Machines On A Network


Today our topic is detecting rogue virtual machines. Rogue virtual machines can pose huge threat to your organization. Even with your managed machines, you might have unauthorized virtual machines. There are some ways to keep the number of rogue vm’s very low on your network such as using software policy, restricting admin accounts for those only need them etc..

What if your employees install virtual machines without your knowledge. How can you detect those virtual machines?

Detecting “evil” at rest

If you can identify all virtual machines that sits on your network, then you can compare them with the authorized virtual machines. In this way you can find rogue virtual machines.

There are two ways you can identify virtual machines. One way is checking MAC address, other is checking running process.

First way: Checking MAC address of remote system

MAC addresses are unique to each device. If you can get a mac address of a device then you can tell what company is made the device. Since virtual machines uses their virtual network adapter to connect a network and this virtual adapters are unique to each company, we can determine if mac address belong to a virtual machine company.

So how can we get mac addresses of other computers on a network?

The answer is easy. We can ping each devices on the network and then check our arp tables.

OR we can use nmap.

nmap -sP
Starting Nmap 5.35DC1 ( ) at 2011-03-17 22:35 EDT
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.018s latency).
MAC Address: 00:24:A1:17:44:CD (Motorola CHS)
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.000094s latency).
MAC Address: 00:26:BB:07:17:DD (Apple)
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.014s latency).
MAC Address: 00:1B:77:CD:FF:CD (Intel Corporate)
Nmap scan report for
Host is up.
Nmap done: 256 IP addresses (4 hosts up) scanned in 5.53 seconds

As you see nmap has predefined mac database so it can convert mac addresses to manufacturer’s name.

Second way: Checking Process Names

You can get mac address of the computers that sits on the same vlan/lan with you so first option is only good for you have only one lan. Moreover some virtual adapters can be on NAT mode so you cannot see their MAC address.  (On NAT mode they use same mac address with the physical machine.)

Each virtual machine software will have running processes. For example VM Fusion has vmware-vmx as running process on OSX. So you can login each machine to see if there is a running process related with a virtual machine software.

Nessus has a plugin for checking vm ware machines  by using this technique( , you can write your own plugin to find other virtual instances.

The disadvantage of this method is you need to have admin credentials.


We can find rogue virtual machines on network by comparing all virtual machines with authorized virtual machines. We can identify all vms by using mac addresses or running processes. With the first method we can only identify virtual instances on the same LAN. With the second method we need to have admin credentials for the boxes we scan.

Update: Please check here for more info




CEH Module 5: Scanning (NMAP)

Today I would like to write about CEH module 5, that is Scanning. The last module was covered on this blog was Footprinting can be found here If you want to see all the modules written about CEH, you can click “Certified Ethical Hacker” section at the right side bar.

Even tough I will talk about some general scanning techniques, my focus will be on practical knowledge of nmap that is heavily is tested on your CEH exam. I will not go deep on the nmap, you can do lots of cool stuff with it, but my focus will be its general usage for the ceh exam.


Nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner originally written by Gordon Lyon used to discover hosts and services on a computer network, thus creating a “map” of the network. To accomplish its goal, Nmap sends specially crafted packets to the target host and then analyzes the responses.

You need to know some basic options, scan types, IP addresses’ and ports’ formats in nmap.


-sT: connect scan -sX:XMAS scan
-sS: syn scan (half open) -sP: ping scan
-sF: fyn scan -sU:UDP scan
-sO: raw scan -O: OS detection

3 way hand shake will be performed on the connect scan, that is why this option is slow and will have lots of footprints on the target system.
Syn scan will only send SYN packets to targets. If the port is open then we will receive SYN+ACK other wise we will receive RST that indicates the port is closed…
Ping scan: This also known as ping sweep. Basically nmap will be pinging all the given machines and determine live hosts.
UDP scan: In case you want to see UDP ports, you need to run a UDP scan.

IP addresses




nmap -sS -p1-65535
nmap -sT -O -p23