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eEye Digital Security Papers

CHAM (Common Hacking Attack Methods) and its use in Retina the Network Security Scanner.
by Marc Maiffret

 

eEye Digital Security incorporates its proprietary CHAM technology in most of its products. In this paper we focus on the use of CHAM in Retina, the Network Scanner. For many clients, CHAM provides a level of value added unmatched by any security product in the market.

 

Normal Scanner Function
Retina audits your network for known vulnerabilities and provides the fixes through Auto Fix-It and appropriate links to vendors and security sites. The vulnerabilities Retina audits are continuously updated and Retina users update their vulnerability database through the Update functionality in Retina.

These vulnerabilities typically relate to various operating systems and widely distributed software. They are discovered by security software R&D houses such as eEye Digital Security, and thousands of black and white hat hackers around the world.

 

Problem Definition
Are you using custom developed software on your network, like most large companies? Are you using an old version of a commercial software product? Are you using specialized software products? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then your network may still be at high risk from external attack even if you use a traditional scanner.

These custom and uncommon software products have typically not gone through the scrutiny of thousands of hackers probing and testing them like most operating systems and common software products. Vulnerabilities associated with them have not been discovered, posted and updated on the Retina database (nor competitor scanners of course). These custom and uncommon software products may be a door wide open to a hacker who finds them.

 

CHAM Thinks Like A Hacker
When you turn on the CHAM functionality, Retina takes on two functions. First, it performs a normal scan identifying known vulnerabilities as it normally does. Second, it becomes your own personal 100% confidential internal hacker-consultant.

Retina learns as much information as possible about your network from the scan and then uses that information to discover unknown vulnerabilities in your network. This is the artificial intelligence piece of the software. Based on the gathered information, Retina CHAM then performs various hacking attacks on several protocols that you may pre-select in the Policies menu (FTP, POP3, SMTP, HTTP). The attacks include overflows, format string attacks, path attacks, munged byte attacks, among others. This is how a hacker would likely attack your network!

 

CHAM Vulnerability Procedure
If CHAM finds a vulnerability:

  • Retina will display in the Audits window in what service it found a vulnerability.
  • Retina will also inform you of what attack CHAM performed to find the vulnerability.
  • Retina will provide you with contact information with which to send a screen shot of the Audit window to eEye.
  • eEye then will typically contact the software vendor in which the vulnerability was found and alert them to the vulnerability. eEye may also suggest the fix.
  • Once we have a reply from a vendor we will forward the information to the person or organization that reported the vulnerability.

Note: eEye reserves the right on how to respond to CHAM vulnerability reports. If you custom build a piece of software that generates tons of CHAM vulnerabilities, we (eEye) may just send you an email advising to hire new software engineers!

 

When Should You Use CHAM
You should use CHAM for those servers and machines that require a very high level of security and scrutiny. By using CHAM you have essentially hired a high-end penetration-testing expert who is probing your specific network for vulnerabilities. The only way to discover unknown vulnerabilities in your system is to simulate intelligent hacker attacks. CHAM does that and this has the potential of CHAM succeeding in these attacks and bringing down your machine.

CHAM provides a level of network security expertise that you do not find in most companies. It is a valuable tool that allows you to dramatically improve the security level of mission-critical network servers and workstations. We certainly use it all the time on applications eEye Digital Security develop!

 

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