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Cybersecurity Tips: Vulnerability Scanners Essentialsby@shad0wpuppet
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Cybersecurity Tips: Vulnerability Scanners Essentials

by Konstantin SakhchinskiyJanuary 27th, 2024
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Vulnerability scanners like OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, Nessus, Sn1per, Metasploit, and SQLMap are crucial for identifying and addressing security risks in software. They empower both cybersecurity experts and non-specialist teams to proactively improve defenses against cybersecurity threats. By mastering these tools, organizations and individuals can strengthen their cybersecurity posture, even in the absence of dedicated security personnel.
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Many people underestimate the important role of QA in ensuring the cybersecurity and data privacy of applications and user information. While QA is often associated with functionality and usability testing, its impact extends far beyond ensuring that applications work as intended. Protecting sensitive information and avoiding cybersecurity breaches is vital. QA plays a big role in this effort by identifying bugs and vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches or unauthorized access to applications.


This article is about Security Vulnerability Scanners, which are targeted at QA professionals or anyone who is unfamiliar with vulnerability scanners and cybersecurity threats but wants to protect their apps and users. In this comprehensive overview, I briefly consider the functionalities, capabilities, and practical applications of some vulnerability scanners that I’ve tried and am familiar with: OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, Nessus, Sn1per, Metasploit, and SQLMap.

Using the tools mentioned below, I was able to uncover numerous vulnerabilities, with some posing critical risks to both users and businesses.

OWASP ZAP

OWASP ZAP is an open-source web application security scanner. Offering lots of features, ZAP facilitates automated scanning, manual exploration, and comprehensive vulnerability detection. Its user-friendly interface makes it accessible to both seasoned security professionals and newcomers.

Consider a scenario where an organization aims to assess the security posture of its web application. Utilizing OWASP ZAP, devs, and QAs can conduct active scans, analyze HTTP traffic, and identify vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, XSS, and insecure direct object references (IDOR). By leveraging its robust reporting capabilities, you can gain actionable insights to remediate identified issues promptly.


Examples:

ZAP identifies SQL Injection vulnerabilities through malicious payloads in HTTP requests. For instance:

GET /products?id=1' UNION SELECT user, password FROM users --

Another common vulnerability ZAP detects is XSS through malicious JS payloads such as:

<script>alert('XSS Vulnerability Detected')</script>

Burp Suite

Burp Suite is a famous name in the cybersecurity domain and is a leading web vulnerability scanner and penetration testing toolkit. While the community edition offers fundamental functionalities, the professional version unlocks advanced features such as scanning automation, session handling, and extensibility through plugins (you can register and get a pro version trial).

Assume a scenario where you seek to uncover security loopholes within an e-commerce platform. By employing Burp Suite's active scanning capabilities, the tester can meticulously scrutinize the application's attack surface, identify vulnerabilities, and validate their severity through targeted exploitation. The suite's interception proxy empowers testers to intercept and manipulate requests, facilitating in-depth analysis and exploitation of identified vulnerabilities.


Examples:

Burp identifies SSRF vulnerabilities through crafted requests targeting internal services:

GET http://vulnerable-website.com/endpoint?url=http://internal-service.com/confidential_data

Burp can detect Directory Traversal vulnerabilities through payloads aiming to access restricted files:

GET /uploads/../../../../etc/passwd HTTP/1.1
Host: vulnerable-website.com

Burp excels at identifying SQL injection vulnerabilities, one of the most prevalent security threats. Here's an example of a payload targeting a vulnerable parameter:

POST /search HTTP/1.1
Host: vulnerable-website.com
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded

searchTerm=' OR 1=1 --

IT would flag these vulnerabilities, enabling testers to exploit them and demonstrate their impact.

Burp can also detect CSRF vulnerabilities. For instance, it might identify a web application lacking proper CSRF tokens, allowing attackers to execute unauthorized actions on behalf of authenticated users.

Nessus

Nessus is a complex vulnerability assessment solution that caters to the needs of both individuals and enterprises with its Home and Professional editions. Leveraging a vast repository of vulnerability checks, Nessus conducts thorough assessments across networks, systems, and applications, providing actionable insights on security defense mechanisms.


Utilizing Nessus Home Edition allows users to perform regular vulnerability scans on connected devices such as routers, IoT devices, and PCs. By identifying vulnerabilities such as outdated software versions, weak passwords, and misconfigured settings, users can proactively mitigate risks and safeguard their digital assets from potential exploitation.


Examples:

Nessus excels at detecting outdated software versions, a common vector for exploitation. For instance, it might identify a system running an old version of Apache vulnerable to known exploits. It can detect weak passwords. By analyzing password policies and authentication mechanisms, Nessus identifies passwords susceptible to brute-force attacks or dictionary-based attacks.

Nessus identifies Missing Security Patches in software through version checks:

OpenSSH < 7.2p2

Another common vulnerability Nessus detects is Weak SSL/TLS Configurations through cipher suite analysis:

SSL Medium Strength Cipher Suites Supported

Sn1per

Sn1per is a powerful reconnaissance and vulnerability scanning tool suitable for the needs of penetration testers and red teamers seeking to conduct thorough assessments of target environments. It may seem a bit complicated for beginners, but still easy to use. Its comprehensive feature set encompasses automated scanning, port scanning, and OSINT gathering capabilities.


By deploying Sn1per, you can perform reconnaissance to gather information about target assets, identify exposed services, and conduct vulnerability scans to pinpoint exploitable weaknesses. With actionable intelligence, testers can devise targeted attack vectors to bypass defenses and achieve their objectives.


Examples:

Sn1per detects Open Ports through comprehensive port scanning:

sniper -t vulnerable-website.com

Sn1per can also identify Weak Credentials through brute-force attacks or password-spraying techniques.

Metasploit

Metasploit is a versatile framework for penetration testing and exploit development that empowers its users with a vast arsenal of exploits, payloads, and post-exploitation modules. Its modular architecture and extensibility make it a go-to choice for ethical hackers and security researchers worldwide.


Consider a scenario where you aim to assess the resilience of a corporate network against advanced threats. By leveraging Metasploit's exploit modules and payload generators, the tester can simulate real-world attack scenarios, exploit identified vulnerabilities, and demonstrate the potential impact of successful intrusions. Additionally, Metasploit's post-exploitation modules enable analysts to maintain access, escalate privileges, and pivot within compromised networks to uncover additional vulnerabilities.


Examples:

Metasploit leverages Shellshock vulnerabilities for remote code execution:

use exploit/multi/http/apache_mod_cgi_bash_env_exec

Metasploit can also exploit Vulnerable Services like FTP, SSH, or SMB:

use exploit/windows/smb/ms17_010_eternalblue

Metasploit leverages exploit modules like MS08-067 to target and compromise vulnerable systems, demonstrating the potential impact of exploitation.

use exploit/windows/smb/ms08_067_netapi
set RHOSTS target-ip
exploit

Metasploit can also be used to exploit vulnerable web applications. For instance, it might employ an exploit module targeting a known vulnerability in a CMS to gain unauthorized access.

SQLMap

SQLMap is a potent open-source tool for automated SQL injection and database exploitation that caters to the needs of security professionals and developers grappling with SQL injection vulnerabilities. Its intuitive command-line interface and extensive feature set make it a formidable asset in the fight against SQL injection attacks.


Suppose a web application developer seeks to check their application against SQL injection vulnerabilities. By leveraging SQLMap, devs or QAs can conduct thorough assessments to identify vulnerable entry points, inject malicious payloads, and validate the effectiveness of implemented defenses such as parameterized queries and input validation. Devs can find potential SQL injections and protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.


Examples:

It automates SQL injection testing, identifying databases, and extracting sensitive information from vulnerable web applications:

sqlmap -u "http://vulnerable-website.com/search?id=1" --dbs

SQLMap can perform Time-Based Blind SQL Injection attacks:

sqlmap -u "http://vulnerable-website.com/search?id=1" --level=5 --time-sec=5

Personally, while performing a test task for an information security engineer position, I managed to copy the entire DB using SQL injection in cookies with this tool.


Understanding and utilizing vulnerability scanners are critical for protecting data and apps, particularly in environments lacking dedicated cybersecurity expertise. These tools empower not only security professionals but also QA and dev teams to proactively identify, assess, and mitigate security risks. Especially in settings where cybersecurity experts may be overwhelmed with tasks, vulnerability scanners offer accessible and user-friendly solutions. By mastering tools such as OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, Nessus, Sn1per, Metasploit, and SQLMap, teams can improve their cybersecurity defenses and deal with cybersecurity threats with confidence and efficacy.


If you want to learn more about basic vulnerabilities

read another one of my articles.

A crucial reminder:

Always conduct penetration testing with explicit permission and within a controlled environment. This ethical approach ensures that security assessments align with responsible testing protocols, preventing inadvertent compromises to systems and upholding the integrity of both the testing process and overarching cybersecurity strategy.