These study notes are provided for students of CompTIA Pentest+ exam. If you notice any problems with the notes, please let me know via email (joseph@ripplesoftware.ca).   General Pentesting Engagement Scoping Information Gathering Vulnerability Scanning Exploitation Process Pentest Tools Exploit Specifics Post Exploit Communication Processes

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From the defender’s perspective ransomware is the biggest threat in the modern cybersecurity landscape. From a criminal perspective it’s a highly lucrative form of cybercrime, and perpetrators face only negligible chances of being prosecuted with less than 20 arrests reported in 2020 [1]. The highest amount of ransom ever paid by a single company for a single incident is $40 million US dollars [2][3], however, the cost of a ransomware attack is not limited to ransom payments. Companies can incur millions more in remediation costs, service downtime, legal settlements, higher insurance premiums, and potentially suffer long-term deleterious effects to their brand reputation [4]. One report estimates that 74% of ransomware payments go to Russian backed groups; more than $400 million USD in 2021 [5]. Another report from blockchain research group Chainalysis suggests that nearly $700 million USD in ransomware ransom was paid in 2020 [6] [7]. Not all ransomware strains…

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The OpenSSF project is a new program sponsored by Google and other prominent tech corporations that aims to addresses  the challenge of identifying malicious packages in popular open source repositories. In just one month of analysis, the project identified more than 200 malicious packages uploaded to PyPI and npm.

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In an MSNBC interview posted to YouTube on February 24th, 2022, approximately 24 hours after the initial invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, Leon Panetta former US Secratary of Defence and former head of the CIA was asked whether now is a good time for the US to use offensive cyber-war against Russia.  Rather that address the question directly, Panetta addressed the greater context of the invasion for Ukrainian national security.  The question is worth addressing though. So, is now a good time for counter forces to launch a cyber offensive? Is now the time for offensive cyber-attack? It Depends. That is the short and true answer. Here comes the why. Probably the most effective use of cyber weapons in warfare is when they are purposed for for gathering information, aka spying. The most advanced forms of cyber weapons (known as advanced persistent threats or APT for short) are…

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We Have All Heard This Story Before It’s no doubt that ransomware is is the biggest threat in the modern cybersecurity landscape. The highest amount of ransom ever paid by a single company for a single incident is $40 million US dollars. Companies can incur millions more in remediation costs, service downtime, legal settlements, higher insurance premiums, and potentially suffer long-term deleterious effects to their brand reputation. Blockchain research group Chainalysis suggests that nearly $700 million USD in ransomware ransom was paid in 2020. Defenders have all been hearing this story for years, and know how to secure against ransomware right? The most common initial access vector is phishing so staff training sessions educating our staff on how to spot a deceptive url is required to keep the bad guys out. Installing endpoint security products and keeping them updated, and of course keep bulletproof backups right? Well, yes and no….

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What Is “Fake Ransomware”? The term “fake ransomware” might conjure up some feelings of relief. After all, if the ransomware is fake, then it must not have encrypted files, right? However, the term has been used to refer to a few different variants of a true ransomware attack. Firstly, it has been used to describe ransomware that does not encrypt files, but instead attempts to trick the victim into thinking their files are encrypted while demanding a payment to recover them. Secondly, the term has also been used to refer to ransomware that does in fact encrypt your files, but does not offer a decryption key if ransom is paid. This is much more nefarious and destructive than the first type; a real sucker punch. And most recently, the term has been used to refer to a case where ransomware was deployed by a company against itself to cover up…

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In part 1 of PHP Malware series, we learned what a web-shell is and learned some basic ways that an attacker can build web-shell in PHP. In part two we took a look at how web-shells can be hidden using base 64 encoding and AES encryption techniques. In part three we’re gonna look at other crafty ways that an attacker could obfuscate PHP web shell or other malware such as a stealer which would exfiltrate sensitive data as it’s processed by a website. Cyber criminals want to avoid malware being found, and when it is found, they want it to be difficult for a researcher to discover what the malware is doing. An an attack technique is novel, attackers don’t want defensive security researchers to be able to use the technique information to build defensive strategy or make the information public. In order to demonstrate the skill’s of reverse engineering…

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PHP Malware – Hiding A Payload

In part 1 of this series on PHP malware, we learned what a web shell is and looked at some basic examples. Basic web-shells are not too difficult to find since there are only so many commands that can be used to execute a string as a shell command. However, most attackers would not include a basic web shell such as the ones discussed in the first video. They know it would be much too easy to find and dwell time would be short. Instead the attacker will encode or encrypt the malware so it is more difficult to find.  Also, there is an important difference between encrypting and encoding. Before we look at some more advanced ways to hide malware, let’s understand the difference between these two terms. What is Encoding? Encoding refers to the process of converting data from one form to another. Encoding does not normally imply…

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Let’s talk about a critical intersection in the world of security; the combination of physical security and brand reputation. On January 9th 2022, a woman was killed while pumping gas when a 65 year old man backed up his SUV into the gas pump. The pump exploded into flames. The woman who was standing beside it was burned to death. This is a horrific and tragic situation that should never have happened. The gas station should have installed bollards to protect the physical pumps from being hit by a car. There should be a federal law that all gas pumps are required to have bollards protecting them. However, there is no such law and so instead, when loss of life happens from such a preventable incident we are left to ask whether the franchise owner is partially responsible.  Many will rightfully criticize the owner and the brand for allowing such…

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In this this series of articles and videos, I will explore some PHP malware code that has been publicly published. All the samples discussed are derived from a GitHub repository maintained by marcocesarato. The advice from Ripple Software Consulting is to always maintain solid web-server security through hardened configuration and monitoring, and vulnerability scanning both internal and external surfaces with a tool such as CISOfy’s Lynis or Greenbone’s GVM. For an example of solid LAMP stack server security you can visit the RSRC’s VPS Deploy WordPress GitHub repository which is a tool for automatically deploying a WordPress website on a hardened Linux VPS Server. If you don’t want to secure your own WordPress installation, you can hire a trained security consultant such as Ripple Software, or you can use another 3rd party managed hosting provider. PHP is a scripting language which means its source code is usually in human readable…

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In October 2021, while writing an article about EDR/XDR solutions,  I read an article from The Journal of CyberSecurity and Privacy entitled:  “An Empirical Assessment of Endpoint Detection and Response Systems against Advanced Persistent Threats Attack Vectors”.  I think now is a good time to revisit that research paper. The study tested state of the art EPP and EDR platforms against simulated APT attacks.  They key contribution of this paper is that it reveals what type of TTPs are still able to circumvent top of the line EDR solutions.  The products tested in the study are a who’s who of leading endpoint security vendors? Seeing a blog post from Recorded Future discussing the same paper  reminded me about it, and wanted to contribute my take on it. The full FINAL paper is available and the published version is available by searching Google for the article title “An Empirical Assessment of…

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