Sunday, May 3, 2009

Chained Exploits: Advanced Hacking Attacks from Start to Finish Book Review

Witty (Hopefully) Amazon Title: Nothing New to People in the Security Community

Chained Exploits: Advanced Hacking Attacks from Start to Finish

by Andrew Whitaker, Keatron Evans, Jack B. Voth

3 stars

From the Description:

"Nowadays, it’s rare for malicious hackers to rely on just one exploit or tool; instead, they use “chained” exploits that integrate multiple forms of attack to achieve their goals. Chained exploits are far more complex and far more difficult to defend. Few security or hacking books cover them well and most don’t cover them at all. Now there’s a book that brings together start-to-finish information about today’s most widespread chained exploits–both how to perform them and how to prevent them.


Chained Exploits demonstrates this advanced hacking attack technique through detailed examples that reflect real-world attack strategies, use today’s most common attack tools, and focus on actual high-value targets, including credit card and healthcare data. Relentlessly thorough and realistic, this book covers the full spectrum of attack avenues, from wireless networks to physical access and social engineering."


It took me awhile to decide on a star rating for this book. It had lots of very good pro's and to me several significant cons. So the pro's: I couldn't think of another book that approaches the problem from the "chained exploit" perspective meaning one exploit doesn't give you the keys to the kingdom or your final end state. Now, for the last 10 years we've had the Hacking Exposed Methodology which essentially tells us "how to chain exploits together" but doesn't actually walk you through the process during a chapter of a book or share the process in the "story" format that Chained Exploits does. The Hacker's Challenge series of books is similar but the Chained Exploits book gives you a bit more technical detail (code snippits, metasploit output, etc) than the Hacker's Challenge books. The countermeasures in Chained Exploits are also valuable and usable which is refreshing because they usually seem like an afterthought and less of a major piece of other books.


OK so the cons:

So the "chained exploit" approach is valuable from a teaching point of view but anybody that pentests for a living has been doing this for awhile now, its just part of "the process." Its certainly not new to the security community but maybe new to print. You could also argue that chaining reconnaissance with the sending of our phishing email really isn't "chaining" anything, again its our process of attack or methodology. Our attacker phoenix, for being such an evil black hat, makes some gross errors that go unmentioned in the book. One of the biggest errors was testing code on his home system that actually sends traffic to the later victim. A halfway decent admin with some Law Enforcement help will trace that activity right back to the source...his apartment. That leads me into my final con about the book. The book, while technically correct and well written, was not overly technical or employing many new techniques. I felt like most of the attacks mentioned in the book were pretty old and had been discussed in a lot of other places. I would have liked to have seen much more technical attacks carried out. There was no mention of semi-advanced techniques like IDS evasion, AV evasion and detection, or stealthiness. We don't live in a day and age anymore where i can push netcat to most Windows systems and not expect AV to catch it or IDS to signal on the traffic. The authors were certainly capable of more advanced technical content but did not deliver.

Detailed info here: http://www.informit.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=032149881X

1 comment:

Thomas Nicholson said...

I feel the same way about the book. It read like a story added to examples from Hacking Exposed. Although not a security professional, I would consider this book for an intro class to security assessments. The concepts were clear and easy to follow. I would like to have seen some examples using some more recent types of attacks, but overall I think the book was fair.