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Category: General

Family Fall

There are four seasons but three of them have better PR agents. Winter has snow and Christmas, spring has blooms and flowers, and summer has the weather. Autumn isn’t as well loved as the others, which is a shame considering it’s October. What are we supposed to do – chill for the next couple of months?

Of course we shouldn’t because that would be boring, not to mention pointless. As it happens, fall time isn’t as vanilla as it seems. In fact, it’s a perfect time to be with family and bond.

With that in mind, these are family fall tips you should try this autumn.

Lock Up The Motorcycle

Summer is an amazing time to break out the chopper and go on long rides. There is nothing like a breeze ruffling through the hair and you explore what Mother Nature has to offer. The thing is riding a hog in the hot, dry conditions is much easier than doing it in the wet. Plus, there is the wind to factor in. An accident claim is only around the corner when you don’t take precautions. Remember that you can’t enjoy family time this fall if you’re using crutches, which is why you should swap the bike for a car.

Gear Up For Halloween

As it stands, the scariest holiday of the year is only 21 days away. Wow, time flies when you’re having fun. Halloween is an incredible day because it’s fun for everyone. Parents and “old” people alike can dress up and let out their inner child just like the kids and teenagers. Granted, you might embarrass your children but they have a mask so no one will know it’s them anyway! Make a month of it by decorating the house, visiting a pumpkin farm and creating the ultimate outfit. As always, the most creative costumes win the best prizes.

Channel Your Inner Briton

We’re only separated by an ocean yet our customs couldn’t be different. Every 5th of November, the Brits build ‘bonfires’ and set off fireworks to remember Guy Fawkes. He was the guy behind the gunpowder plot by the way. Okay, it might be their tradition and it has nothing to do with the US, but who wants to turn down s’mores? Plus, the Thanksgiving is just around the corner so you can always top-up on your nationalism if you feel like a bit of a culture vulture. By the way, be sure to cook a turkey and eat as a family on the fourth Thursday of November.

Watch TV

There’s no better way to bond than to sit in front of the box and watch TV. During the summer, this is tricky because all of the best shows go on a summer hiatus. Well, they’re back now it’s October, and they’re back with a bang. So, call the kids down from their rooms and tell them the fall television season is here. Then, throw the popcorn in the microwave and sit back and relax.

Doesn’t that sound like an unbelievable way to spend the next few months?

The Unofficial OSCP FAQ

It has been close to a year since I took the Penetration Testing with Kali (PWK) course and subsequently obtained the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification. Since then, I have been hanging out in a lot of Slack, Discord, and MatterMost chat rooms for security professionals and enthusiasts (not to mention various subreddits). When discussing the topic of obtaining the OSCP certfication, I have noticed *a lot* of prospective PWK/OSCP students asking the same questions, over and over.

The OffSec website itself covers some of the answers to some of these questions, but whether its because people don’t read it, or that it wasn’t made very clear, these questions keep coming back. Here, I will attempt to answer them as best I can.

Disclaimer: I am not an OffSec employee, nor do I make the claim that anything that follows is OffSec’s official opinion about the matter. These are my opinions; use them at your own risk.

  1. Do I have enough experience to attempt this?
  2. How much lab time should I buy?
  3. Can I use tool X on the exam?
  4. What note keeping app should I use?
  5. How do I format my reports?
  6. Is the HackTheBox.eu lab similar to the OSCP/PWK lab?
  7. Are VulnHub VM’s similar to the OSCP/PWK lab?
  8. What other resources can I use to help me prepare for the PWK course?

According to the official OffSec FAQ you do need some foundational skills before you attempt this course. You should certainly know your way around the Linux command line before diving in, and having a little bash or python scripting under your belt is recommended. That said, it’s more important that you can read code and understand what it is doing than being able to sit down and write something from scratch.

I see many people asking about work experience, which isn’t really covered by OffSec. For example, people wondering if 3 years of networking and/or 1 year being a SOC analyst is “enough.” These questions are impossible to quantify and just as impossible to answer. What you should focus on is your skills as they relate to what is needed for the course.

To do that, head over to the PWK Syllabus page and go through each section. Take notes about things that you are not sure about, or know that you lack skills and expertise in.

Once you have a list made, start your research and find ways to learn about what you need to get up to speed on. For example, when I was preparing for PWK, I knew very little about buffer overflows. I spent a while watching various YouTube videos, reading up on the methods by which you can use a buffer overflow exploit, and taking notes for future reference. Once I started the course, I was able to dive into the exercises and understand what was going on, at least a little bit beyond the very basics, which helped me save time.

In the same boat? Check out this excellent blog post about buffer overflows for something similar to what you will see in the PWK course. Also, while I haven’t tried it yet, I hear that this is a good buffer overflow challenge you can practice on.

Buy the 90 day course in order to get the most out of the experience and not feel crunched for time — especially if you work full time and/or have a family.

With 90 days, you can complete the exercises in the PWK courseware first, and still have plenty of time left for compromising lab machines.

I see this question a lot, perhaps more than any other. People want to know if it is safe to use a specific tool on the exam, such as Sn1per. The official exam guide from OffSec enumerates the types of tools that are restricted on the exam. It is pretty clear that you cannot use commercial tools or automated exploit tools. Keep this statement in mind when wondering if you can use a certain tool:

The primary objective of the OSCP exam is to evaluate your skills in identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities, not in automating the process.

If a tools helps you enumerate a system (nmap, nikto, dirbuster, e.g.), then it is OK to use.

If a tool automates the attacking and exploiting (sqlmap, Sn1per, *autopwn tools), then stay away from it.

Don’t forget the restrictions on Metasploit, too.

From what I have heard, even though OffSec states that they will not discuss anything about it further, people have successfully messaged the admins to ask about a certain tool and gotten replies. Try that if you are still unsure.

I wrote a lot about this already, so be sure to check out that write-up. In short, these are the main takeaways:

  • Do not use KeepNote (which is actually recommended in the PWK course), because it is no longer updated or maintained. People have lost their work because it has crashed on them.
  • CherryTree is an excellent replacement for KeepNote and is easily installed on the OffSec PWK Kali VM (it is bundled by default on the latest/greatest version of Kali).
  • OneNote covers all the bases you might need, is available via the web on your Kali box, and has clients for Mac and Windows.
  • Other options boil down to personal choice: Evernote, markdown, etc.

Check out the example reports that OffSec provides. From those, you can document your PWK exercises, your 10 lab machines (both of which contribute towards the 5 bonus points on the exam), and your exam notes.

I do not recommend skipping the exercise and 10 lab machine documentation, thus forfeiting your 5 extra exam points. I am a living example of someone who would not have passed the exam had I not provided that documentation. Yes, it is time consuming, but it prepares you for the exam documentation and helps you solidify what you have learned in the course.

There are definitely some worthy machine on Hack The Box (HTB) that can help you prepare for OSCP. The enumeration skills alone will help you work on the OSCP labs as you develop a methodology.

There are definitely some more “puzzle-ish” machines in HTB, similar to what you might find in a Capture The Flag event, but there are also plenty of OSCP-like boxes to be found. It is a good way to practice and prepare.

See the above answer about Hack The Box, as much of it applies to the VulnHub machines too. I used VulnHub to help me pre-study for OSCP, and it was a big help. The famous post by Abatchy about OSCP-like VulnHub VM’s is a great resource. My favorites were:

  • All the Kioptrix machines
  • SickOS
  • FrisitLeaks
  • Stapler

There are a lot of resources that can help you pre-study before you dive into the course. I will post some here.

Books

Online Guides

Social Media Mayhem

I no longer do Facebook. In light of recent Facebook events (#facebookgate) related to data harvesting and various inaction in being complicit with election manipulation, I have deleted my account enirely.

I you want to keep up with me, and I hope you do, you can follow me here on my website or via Twitter at @willc.

Some day, some other social media platform may creep up into being something worthwhile (remember Ello?), but until then, this will have to do.

Regards,
Your pal,

Will

Property Swooping: Beating The Professionals At Their Own Game

The two most favorable reasons why getting into the property buying and selling market are that virtually anyone can do it, and due to the nature of the business profits are almost always high. Don’t be fooled however as it’s much more complex than it first might sound. The main complications are the paperwork and legal frameworks which have to be adhered to and fully understood to operate in the market properly. Apart from this, it’s your personal talent that will end up pushing across the finishing line of success. It’s not so much personality, but an understanding of what is necessary to the consumer. Such things as location, style of home, type of buyer, price, materials and quality of purchase are the main factors when it comes to luring in potential prospects. Professional property market companies treat buying and selling as their bread and butter. The one thing they usually have over an independent is the legal bodies required to close out a deal. However, they also need to work with strict tolerances and narrow walls of what is permissible under company culture. This little chink in the armor gives you a chance to slide in and beat them at their own game.

The first point of entering

It goes without saying, but you should have worked out by now, you need to make sure you have a budget and a large lump sum of money stowed away, ready to be used. One of the first points of entry for many prospective buyers who want to enter the property market is the auction scene. Homes that cannot be sold for whatever reason are put up to auction to those who see something in the property that others don’t. It’s a bit of a free for all, and you need to make quick decisions regarding how much you’re willing to fork over.

Be mindful to study the inventory beforehand as all those attending the auction get a program featuring the finer details of each property. There are mixed auctions as well as specific group auctions. The mixed will sell all kinds of properties such as abandoned buildings, apartments, residential homes, larger homes such as manors and mansions and quite possibly even commercial offices. The main use of these auctions is to buy cheap and renovate properties to be then flipped, i.e. sold at a much higher price than you bought for.

Framing Home Apartment Renovation Demolition

Becoming a flipper

In recent years the flipping trend has taken off like a rocket ship. Buying rundown properties that have either been abandoned or simply damaged to a state that leaves the owner unable to sell the property, makes for a brilliant investment. Simply, renovating older properties to harbor new styles of interior design, decor and modern technology allows them to come back from the brink of demolition. However, you must be wary that many properties that are withering away need logistical overhauls. The wiring of the homes needs to be repaired and or updated. Central heating systems often need professional assistance to be brought back to life after having been cleared of gunk. Many real estate agents are hip to the trend and like to buy up properties and do them up by hiring other professional restoration companies.

You can do this yourself. Buying new wallpaper, regrouting walls with worn out tiles, fitting new flooring and installing new fittings such as washing machines, makes a desolate property able to be functioning livable space. Most of your budget will go on renovating as it’s quite common for teething problems to arise during the renovation process. This is where your budgeting skills come into play. The key is not to overspend and if you’re going to make sure you do so in a smart manner. The end goal is to make a decent profit, and this can be nullified if you go over your expenditure boundary.

Swooping in to the sub-sale

On sale properties that are targeted toward specialist buyers reap a large profit almost every time. The sub-sale market has unique contracts that need to be studied carefully as your obligations as the intermediate seller carry a lot of responsibility. The basic premise is, buying a property from a seller, to then immediately sell off to another buyer. It’s a case by case basis but the two types of contracts will either require you to inform the seller upfront that you will be selling the property on to another buyer, or not be required to inform them at all.

Becoming the intermediate seller is easier than you think as explained here, www.propertyguru.com.my/resources/buy-property-guide/the-complete-guide-to-purchasing-a-property-in-the-subsale-market. What you need to put at the top of your things to do list when taking on such a deal is the financing. You must have one-fifth of the asking price ready and waiting as this can activate the necessary legal framework for the process to be validated. Your success depends on catering for the secondary buyer’s needs. The location, safety, workplace proximity, accessibility, size, local facilities, and the age all matter a great deal.

So who would want to be the secondary buyer and why don’t they just simply overstep you, cancel out the middleman and just buy the property from the initial seller in the first place? Well as mentioned, these are specialist buyers. You may be selling to a company that deals with high-roller clients such as celebrities. They may not have the resources to go out searching for their client’s specific tastes, so they use independent property buyers for their sub-sale needs. Other types of secondary buyers may be companies that specialize in property development and wish to increase their portfolios. Again, they may not have the time and manpower to hunt for various properties but can rely on intermediate sellers who come to them with a potential prospect property.

Buying land at new sites

Government award contracts to home construction companies to make sure their state department pledges and policies are adhered to. As the population grows and the income bracket of many young professionals looking to start a family also increases, so will the demand for new homes. If you can keep an eye on what sites are soon to be developed on or moreover are being surveyed as potential land that may be suitable for mass production of homes, you could be the early bird that gets the worm. Buying land that meets this criteria could prove incredibly lucrative. Real estate companies will pay a hefty price to get the rights to land that will be built on so you’ll have some competition when you’re out searching. This is one way to beat the professionals at their own game by staying one step ahead. Indeed it is a bit of a gamble, but with enough sound research, you can abate any doubts about where the next new-home sites will be.

If you’re unsure about yourself and have doubts about your capabilities in the industry, you can always start off small by going to auctions of smaller, less expensive properties. Starting your journey as a property expert can also be done by the act of flipping older and worn down properties, by renovating them with a bang for buck restoration. The sub-sale market is a bit more complex as extra provisions will be made to the contractual agreements regarding obligations and securities. On the other hand, it’s a specialist buyers market, so the chances of making a handsome profit are high. On the face of it, buying up empty flat land doesn’t look like much. Yet with the right kind of information and time taken to do the proper research, empty land needed for homes become substantial in value with many interested buyers all vying for your business.

The Ethics Of Food

When you sit down to your evening meal, it’s unlikely that you take a moment to think about where the food has come from. We have all become accustomed to having what we need, when we need it, from gluten-free options to low-carb keto-friendly recipes. We can eat strawberries in January and exotic fruit from the other side of the world, such are the delights of the modern diet options.

While you should always enjoy your food, it is worth spending a moment thinking about the ethics behind how we eat. There tends to be a price — sometimes financial, sometimes environmental — for everything that hits our plate. Sometimes, that price can be extortionately high, and one you might not be willing to pay if you know the extent of it.

Below are three examples of the ethical questions surrounding modern food, and how you can make small changes to address some of the issues raised.

#1 – Fair Trade Food

For third-world countries, globalization has meant that there are more work opportunities than there might otherwise have been. However, it’s wrong to assume that the citizens of these countries are in work that pays well and supports their living. Sadly, multinational corporations have a terrible history of exploiting their third-world workers in an attempt to boost their profit margins.

The Fair Trade movement is an effort to combat this issue. Farmers who work within Fair Trade practices are paid a fair wage, one that is enough for them to live a decent life on. If you’re curious to see how this works, you can find out more about the Fair Trade movement at fairtradecertified.org.

One note: Fair Trade food is a little more expensive than non-Fair Trade items, but the difference is relatively small– and can make a huge difference to the lives of farmers around the world.

#2 – Overfishing

Overfishing is becoming a huge problem throughout the world. Fish are being caught at such a rate that the declining populations don’t have the chance to reproduce and replace.

Companies who produce fresh and tinned fish are well aware of this issue. That’s why some companies have banded together to try and increase sustainability in their offerings. If you’re curious about these programs, then visit globalsalmoninitiative.org for more information on one of the leaders in this area, and see the difference these initiatives can make.

You could then put that knowledge into practice, and ensure that you’re always

#3 – Food Miles

Being able to eat any food you want at any point in the year is wonderful, but there’s a serious downside when it comes to the carbon footprint of that food.

Out-of-season and exotic fruit has to travel a huge distance to reach our stores, as it can’t be farmed naturally in the US. All of that travel is catastrophic for the environment, which is then made worse by the sheer volume of food waste the world creates.

It’s far better for the environment if you stick to locally-grown produce. Yes, you will be restricted to fruit and vegetables that are in season, but it can be fun to branch out and see the meals you can create with only local goods.

As it turns out, the food that goes onto your plate and the process is went through to get there is more complex than you might have originally thought. With a few small changes, you can be sure that you’re eating as ethically and sustainably as possible.

OSCP and PWK Tips, Resources & Tools

Here are some resources and tools I found useful while taking (and passing!) the Pentesting with Kali (PWK) course in preparation for the Offensive Security Certified Professional exam. It has been about two weeks since I passed, and I am still reveling in the satisfaction that has come with it, as it was ultimately a year-long effort to prepare for and take the course in order to pass the exam.

Many people post the usual resources that you can find on various blogs related to the course (g0tmi1k, highoncoffee, pentestmonkey, etc), and those are absolutely useful, but what I have assembled here are less common, and are hopefully useful for those of you about to embark on, or already in, the OSCP journey. They were useful for me.

Enjoy!

How to Pass the OSCP

https://gist.github.com/unfo/5ddc85671dcf39f877aaf5dce105fac3

My favorite part is this, right at the beginning:

1. Recon
2. Find vuln
3. Exploit
4. Document it

However, I would add a step so that it looks more like this:

1. Recon
2. Find vulnerability
3. Exploit
4. Privilege Escalation
5. Document it

Most of the machines in the PWK labs require that additional step. You seldom run across a VM where you run an exploit and get root right away, with no intermediary privilege escalation step needed. In fact, it is an entirely unique skill that you need to develop, practice, and practice again. What’s more, you have to learn “privesc” for both Linux/Unix and Windows machines — two entirely different methodologies.

Path to OSCP

https://localhost.exposed/path-to-oscp/
An interesting ‘trials and tribulations’ story of one man’s path to accomplishing his goal: the OSCP certification. Contains both video logs and various notes and snippets that may be helpful to you.

One Two Punch

https://github.com/superkojiman/onetwopunch
I didn’t discover this script until I had already rooted about 15 of the machines in the PWK labs, but I wish I had learned of it sooner. It runs a unicornscan (UDP) to find open ports, then passes them to nmap for service detection. It also looks at all 65,535 ports, so you don’t miss anything. Set this up as one of the first things you do when you start working on a new machine (it takes a while to run), then come back to check the results after you’ve done some manual exploration.

Reconnoitre

https://github.com/codingo/Reconnoitre
“A reconnaissance tool made for the OSCP labs to automate information gathering and service enumeration whilst creating a directory structure to store results, findings and exploits used for each host, recommended commands to execute and directory structures for storing loot and flags.”

This tool ended up being a workhorse, both in the labs and in the exam. Being able to check quick nmap results while more in-depth scans were still going was invaluable for getting things rolling along.

General Tips from Techexams

http://www.techexams.net/forums/security-certifications/116262-oscp-starting-13-12-2015-a-6.html#post1028560
This post has a lot of good tips for the OSCP exam. I can’t stress enough the need to be prepared for the exam, having all the things you need at your fingertips so that you don’t have to go digging through notes of files when you are tight on time or limited on brain power because you’ve been working on this for 18 straight hours.

Test Taking Strategy
http://www.hackingtutorials.org/hacking-courses/offensive-security-certified-professional-oscp/

  • The most useful parts of that site for me were:
    Finish your lab report for 5 extra points and optionally the course exercises for an additional 5 points. You might need them to reach the 70 points.
  • You need to write a penetration test report after the exam. Make sure you know how to write it so you know what information to collect during the exam. The lab report is a great practice for this, use it to learn how to document properly.

There were so many people in the NetSec Focus OSCP Slack channel that skipped the exercises, skipped the videos, and skipped documenting the requisite 10 VMs to get the bonus points for the exam. I saw more than a few of them fail the exam as a result. I would likely have failed the exam had I not completed the exercise and 10 lab machine documentation. All I will say is this:

Do not skip the exercise or lab documentation. These are free points. The way the exam scores total up, you may well need these points to pass!

Timing of the Exam

Also from this page, I chose to follow this exact strategy for timing, and it really worked for me. The important thing to consider is being able to have two fresh starts.

“The second attempt I’ve started the exam at 3 PM and planned to work till 3 AM and then sleep till early morning. This way I had 2 ‘fresh’ starts for the exam to utilize more productive hours.”

I ended up sleeping from 2am to 5am, at which point I set an alarm and a full pot of coffee to carry me through until the exam was over. I also had the support of my amazing wife, who kept me fed and hydrated the whole time.

The Offsec PWK Kali VM

Use the provided Kali VM, do not use the latest/greatest Kali version. Offset provides you with a VM that has been customized to contain everything you need to complete the course and the exam. There is no need to update it. There is no need to run the latest version of Kali. In fact, they customize it in certain ways to make sure you don’t run into problems, so don’t try to use something different. I witnessed multiple people having problems with this in the NetSec Focus OSCP Slack channel, and I wisely used the Offset Kali VM the whole course to avoid issues.

The NetSec Focus Slack Channel

I have mentioned it a few times, but this Slack channel was invaluable during my OSCP journey.  It allowed me to ask questions, bounce ideas off others, and chat with folks who were currently in the course or had already passed it. If you are in the OSCP course and you join the group, ask a moderator to add you to that private OSCP channel once you join. Keep in mind that they do not allow spoilers, or even questions about specific lab machines.  This resource is a great asset for those taking the PWK/OSCP course, and I made some good friends from being there and suffering through it all.

Lastly, I have to say it:

Try harder!