Rapid7, which purchased the Metasploit attack framework last year, has agreed to sponsor the open source w3af web assessment and exploit project. This is fantastic news for web application development teams, since it shows the open source (and hence more affordable) tools they can use to improve the security of their applications are maturing.
Websites like sectools.org maintain lists of various security tools and point to numerous open source web application fuzzing and testing tools, including BurpSuite, Nikto, WebScarab, Whisker and Wikto. Although each of the open source tools I use have various strengths, w3af is IMHO the first reasonable challenger to commercial web application testing tools like IBM’s AppScan.
Can we please get rid of bad input validation errors now??
For a commercial IT security professional that wants to help an internal web application development team improve the security of their applications, tools like IBM’s AppScan and Acunetix WVS can save valuable time by generating reports that include not only the vulnerable URI but also include vulnerability background information (CVSS, OWASP, WASC), the specific HTTP request/response strings and suggested code fixes. This is particularly valuable to a security architect or operations role that is pressed for time (an army of one anyone?).
The w3af support from Rapid7 will enable this excellent tool to mature more quickly and improves the capability for any web development team, regardless of funding, to improve their security. Can we please get rid of bad input validation errors now?? My recent thesis illustrated the downright depressing numbers of SQL injection flaws that continue to exist. With tools like w3af, there is no excuse left for web developers to press applications into production with these injection flaws that are trivial to avoid. At the very least a survey of the NIST National Vulnerability Database does show the number of SQL injection flaws starting to drop. Unfortunately they still substantially outnumber traditional memory corruption flaws such as buffer overflows.
As you can see, the story up to 2008 was pretty grim for web applications – SQL injection flaws increased by over 1,500% in the same time buffer overflow errors increased by just over 500%.
Although it looks like there has been a reversal of the shocking explosion of SQL injection flaws, the sheer volume of these web application flaws is astonishing .. especially since injection flaws have been around for about 10 years. Not exactly a problem that has recently snuck up on us.
Web developers that still turn out applications that contain SQL or command injection errors and most cross site request forgery errors are simply guilty of gross negligence.
Despite the web development industry knowing these errors exist and good developers designing and coding to avoid these issues, there is still a need to build sufficient forensics around externally facing (publicly accessible) applications to enable reconstruction of attacks. In my next post, I outline a summary of my thesis “Effective SQL injection attack reconstruction using network recording”.