Using Nessus for software patch management

Today’s blog is about using Nessus for software patch management.

While Nessus is a popular tool for network security scanning, it also has some less obvious uses too, such as patch management, or more specifically, reporting.

Through allowing Nessus access to a device via an authorised system account, it can audit the package inventory on the device.

As Nessus supports many different operating systems and distributions, it becomes possible to manage your patch reporting for all of your device types (such as AIX, Solaris, Linux, Windows, Cisco IOS, MacOS X) from a single point of reference.

As all package vulnerabilities known to Nessus are scored like any other vulnerability, it is possible to categorise and qualify the patches in which you choose to apply.

This enables the patching policy to be driven by qualified security needs, and not “just because the vendor recommends it”.

Nessus can also plug-in to tools such as WSUS and Red Hat Satellite, however I am yet to explore what functionality it brings (i guess it will audit only against authorised patches or something…).

So by creating a ‘nessus’ account on the host (non-root/non-Administrator of course) in order to list the package inventory

Creating a ‘nessus’ account on the WSUS or Red Hat Satellite server

Configure a scan policy with local authentication and configure WSUS/Satellite with the required credentials

Select only local scan checks, exclude operating systems and scan type which do not apply to software package releases

Configuring a policy can be time consuming – don’t worry about de-selecting *ALL* of them – just get most of them – it’s only to speed up the scan anyway as those which don’t apply shouldn’t return a hit, so refine it over many iterations by removing more unwanted checks on second and third pass and so on.

Save the scan

Schedule a scan using that policy you just saved against your targets

…and viola! once the scan is complete – you have a single cross-platform patch report for all of your machines!

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Search Engines and Privacy

Have you ever wondered how search engines actually make their money from advertising?

Have you ever had privacy concerns over the search terms you use?

Have you ever been freaked out by how well targeted modern advertising is?

If you can say yes to any of these – then read on! Otherwise, still read on for an eye-opener.

Search engines only exist because there is a financial model behind them which is there, naturally, to generate profits. So, how do search engines make their profit? Search engines primarily make their money from advertising (as their search and associated services are free to end-users) and they achieve this by three primary techniques:-

  1. Provide space for adverts on the site and rent them out.
  2. Extend scope of adverts through syndication schemes, embedded content and ‘like’ buttons.
  3. Sell your data (search terms and the IP addresses that they come from along with browser unique IDs held in cookies etc) to 3rd parties.

Through the many different tracking technologies available- it is easy to identify and build a profile of an Internet user. This data is collected in the form of search engine logs (on their servers) which can then be analysed either in real-time or at a later date, This statistical analysis provides deep insight into what other products and services might be of interest to you in order to elicit targeted marketing, however there can be a far more sinister use for this data too.

This data can be used to profile a person in order to find out things such as:-

  • Your name and any aliases (such as ‘internet’ names and previous names)
  • Birthday
  • Location
  • Address
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Email Addresses
  • Your interests
  • Tastes in music, clothes, and also food and drink
  • Your faith and beliefs
  • Your friends and associations
  • Your spending habits
  • Where you like to go
  • Times when you are not at home
  • Your car make, model, and registration
  • Where you work and what you do for a living
  • Your thoughts and feelings
  • Pictures of you in places and with people

All of these are used for profiling you in order to place you within a demographic classification which can then be identified and targeted for a number of uses including advertising.

How are these stats collected? The user normally wilfully gives them without a second thought. Sources such as your favourite search engine, along with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other social media, which is then tied together into continuous sessions using tracking cookies.

Many social media tools like facial recognition on Facebook enable people to be accurately associated with others, another social engineering danger, which usually starts with “do you know ‘so-and-so’?”

Many web pages register your presence with syndication partners merely by viewing the page, for example, Google and Facebook get informed of your visit every time you visit a page with some of their ‘like’ buttons (but not all), so in many cases – even if you don’t click it, you may get tracked. Same for YouTube videos on sites other than YouTube itself – YouTube (and thus Google) will know you’ve visited even if you don’t watch any movies because it will have linked back to YouTube in order to provide the ‘player’ for that shared content. In another example, Amazon’s affiliate advertising syndication could be used to track users across pages which show Amazon affiliate adverts.

An interesting concept on social tracking is that if you use your friend’s wireless with your own equipment then there will be a chance to trace your tracking session transferring to a source of other known tracking sessions, thus it is able to also track your physical movements and correlate you to others through simultaneously sharing the same IP. Your iPhone or Android will go with you everywhere, and wherever there is wireless configured (with the correct password), it will use it and tell on you. Being fair on the matter, the telephone companies can do this far easier through 3G phone networks but being in the same proximity does not always positively prove a relationship – unlike sharing an IP.

It is also possible for ISPs to proxy your web traffic for the purpose of caching content in order to deliver a faster network – this can also be used as a source of data.

Many people simply ‘like’ products, creating for themselves an association with which allows others to gauge your persona because when you ‘like’ a product on Facebook, it tells all of your friends (or at least ‘friends’ on Facebook). This could then be used in social engineering attacks against you. Google track you simply for viewing a page with a Google+ button on it.

Google is so elusive – you need their “opt-out” plugin to avoid them – which as discussed before comes with an auto-update program which still ‘phones-home’.

So, by using social, open-source, and purchased data from many different sources such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google, Bing! Etc it is easily possible to build an accurate profile of a person, their relationships, and their surfing habits which will reveal insight into that person in order to target them for one purpose or another. This indeed is what the advertisers are after hence this is the reason why this data has value.

While this data has value, this data is also private data about individuals, and it is about your data too, which while a few traces will reveal little about you, long term traces can reveal lots more than you realise. How often do you clear your cookie cache? And do you have ‘Do Not Trace’ set on your web browser?

A recent row has broken out between online advertisers and Microsoft, who have taken the bold step to enable ‘Do Not Trace’ on their latest web browsers, which if you’re not aware is the default action of actively blocking tracking cookies. The advertisers are up in arms – and this tells you a lot about the value of the data.

To protect yourself from this form of personal data leakage, you should choose your web browser and search engines wisely. I am currently using SRW Iron for a web browser because it has all the power and prowess of Google Chrome with all of the Google-phone-home stuff taken out and a few safety features made default, and I use duckduckgo.com for a search engine because it supports encrypted connections through https, it does not record your IP in its logs, and they discard your results after 2 days. Duckduckgo.com also has a search portal within Tor and are strong advocates of internet privacy.

See duckduckgo’s privacy statement here:-

https://www.duckduckgo.com/privacy.html

Another search engine worth considering is ixquick, who’s privacy policy can be seen here:-

https://ixquick.com/eng/privacy-policy.html

For comparison, here’s Google’s privacy statement:-

https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/policies/privacy/

Wow!, need I say more?

It is worth noting that all searches done using standard http can be recorded ‘on-the-wire’ by anyone who is monitoring the traffic. This includes all searches, returned content, and modifications to those searches, often, character-by-character where auto-fill offers search suggestions. For this reason, it is always worth using a search engine which can support https as this will stop a degree (but not all) snooping on the wire.

Another point worth noting is that you often lose protection the second you leave the https encrypted search engine page because you then give away the site which the search engine led you too. In the cases of many search engines, they too track this information, adding to their knowledge base of not only what you searched, but which links you clicked on. Once you click your intended site, you leave the protection of the encrypted search thus revealing your next site, so therefore using an encrypted search does not protect you beyond the initial search you undertake.

So, now knowing the extend of browser tracking, I encourage you to consider this when surfing the Internet, and take measures to protect your privacy.

Recent 0day IE vulnerability causes Microsoft to recommend EMET

A recent 0day on IE caused Microsoft to recommend a lesser-known but long-standing Microsoft tool called the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, which recently hit v3.0 and along with it official support from Microsoft for use in a production environment.

This is a monumental security milestone for Microsoft as it provides a fix to the reason why certain classes of malicious code can take place thus fixing the flaw which lets it happen rather than catching the attack in hand.

There is a profile included in EMET which you can import and this contains most of the popular applications, and if you review those apps there are certain mitigations turned off on certain apps hence showing evidence of some testing (which you shouldn’t then need to do yourself).

What EMET provides is a strong mitigation for a whole class of vulnerabilities of which target popular software such as web browsers, browser plugins, Adobe Acrobat, Shockwave Flash, and any other application exposed to data from untrusted sources like the internet. The EMET method of mitigation is so successful it is better than antivirus for blocking these types of attacks as it provides protection from future unknown threats of this kind and it never needs ‘updating’ with virus signatures.

I have successfully been running EMET for 5 or so months now in the dangerous ‘opt-out’ for everything configuration without issue. The only mitigation i had issue with was aslr for media players or realtime apps.

While some programs are genuinely badly designed and won’t work with many types of mitigations, the few which actually get killed really need to be questioned – do you want to run code which is so bad it triggers? What i find quite surprising is how many times EMET may close a plugin while i’m browsing!

This toolkit is a must for everyone with a Windows machine, simple. Download EMET now from Microsoft, located here:-

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2458544