Archive for the ‘Vulnerabilities’ Category

SHODAN API in R (With Examples)

Folks may debate the merits of the SHODAN tool, but in my opinion it’s a valuable resource, especially if used for “good”. What is SHODAN? I think ThreatPost summed it up nicely:

“Shodan is a Web based search engine that discovers Internet facing computers, including desktops, servers and routers. The engine, created by programmer John Matherly, allows users to filter searches for systems running a specific type of application (say, Apache Web servers or FTP) and filter results by geographic region. The search engine indexes host ’banners,’ which include meta-data sent between a server and client and includes information such as the type of software run, what services are available and so on.”

I’m in R quite a bit these days and thought it would be useful to have access to the SHODAN API in R. I have a very rudimentary version of the API (search only) up on github which can be integrated into your R environment thus:

help(shodan) # you don't really need to do this cmd

It’ll eventually be in CRAN, but I have some cleanup work to do before the maintainers will accept the submission. If you are new to R, there are a slew of dependencies you’ll need to add to the base R installation. Here’s a good description of how to do that on pretty much every platform.

After I tweeted the above reference, @shawnmer asked the following:

That is not an unreasonable request, especially if one is new to R (or SHODAN). I had been working on this post and a more extended example and finally able to get enough code done to warrant publishing it. You can do far more in R than these simple charts & graphs. Imagine taking data from multiple searches–either across time or across ports–and doing a statistical comparison. Or, use some the image processing & recognition libraries within R as well as a package such as RCurl to fetch images from open webcams and attempt to identify people or objects. The following should be enough for most folks to get started.

You can cut/paste the source code here or download the whole source file.

The fundamental shortcut this library provides over just trying to code it yourself is taking the JSON response from SHODAN and turning it into an R data frame. That is not as overtly trivial as you might think and you may want to look at the source code for the library to see where I grabbed some of that code from. I’m also not 100% convinced it’s going to work under all circumstances (hence part of the 0.1 status).

# if you're behind a proxy, setting this will help
# but it's strongly suggested/encouraged that you stick the values in a file and 
# read them in vs paste them in a script
# options(RCurlOptions = list(proxy="proxyhost", proxyuserpwd="user:pass"))
# query example taken from Michael “theprez98” Schearer's DEFCON 18 presentation
# find all Cisco IOS devies that may have an unauthenticated admin login
# setting trace to be TRUE to see the progress of the query
result = SHODANQuery(query="cisco last-modified www-authenticate",trace=TRUE)
#find the first 100 found memcached instances
#result = SHODANQuery(query='port:11211',limit=100,trace=TRUE)
df = result$matches
# aggregate result by operating system
# you can use this one if you want to filter out NA's completely = ddply(df, .(os), summarise, N=sum(as.numeric(factor(os))))
#this one provides count of NA's (i.e. unidentified systems) = ddply(df, .(os), summarise, N=length(os))
# sort & see the results in a text table = transform(, os = reorder(os, -N))

That will yield:

FALSE                 os   N
FALSE 1      Linux 2.4.x  60
FALSE 2      Linux 2.6.x   6
FALSE 3 Linux recent 2.4   2
FALSE 4     Windows 2000   2
FALSE 5   Windows 7 or 8  10
FALSE 6       Windows XP   8
FALSE 7             <NA> 112

You can plot it with:

# plot a bar chart of them
(ggplot(,aes(x=os,y=N,fill=os)) + 
   geom_bar(stat="identity") + 
   theme_few() +
   labs(y="Count",title="SHODAN Search Results by OS"))

to yield:



world = map_data("world")
(ggplot() +
   geom_polygon(data=world, aes(x=long, y=lat, group=group)) +
   geom_point(data=df, aes(x=longitude, y=latitude), colour="#EE760033",size=1.75) +
   labs(x="",y="") +


You can easily do the same by country:

# sort & view the results by country
# see above if you don't want to filter out NA's = ddply(df, .(country_code, country_name), summarise, N=sum(! = transform(, country_code = reorder(country_code, -N))
##    country_code              country_name  N
## 1            AR                 Argentina  2
## 2            AT                   Austria  2
## 3            AU                 Australia  2
## 4            BE                   Belgium  2
## 5            BN         Brunei Darussalam  2
## 6            BR                    Brazil 14
## 7            CA                    Canada 16
## 8            CN                     China  6
## 9            CO                  Colombia  4
## 10           CZ            Czech Republic  2
## 11           DE                   Germany 12
## 12           EE                   Estonia  4
## 13           ES                     Spain  4
## 14           FR                    France 10
## 15           HK                 Hong Kong  2
## 16           HU                   Hungary  2
## 17           IN                     India 10
## 18           IR Iran, Islamic Republic of  4
## 19           IT                     Italy  4
## 20           LV                    Latvia  4
## 21           MX                    Mexico  2
## 22           PK                  Pakistan  4
## 23           PL                    Poland 16
## 24           RU        Russian Federation 14
## 25           SG                 Singapore  2
## 26           SK                  Slovakia  2
## 27           TW                    Taiwan  6
## 28           UA                   Ukraine  2
## 29           US             United States 28
## 30           VE                 Venezuela  2
## 31         <NA>                      <NA>  0

(ggplot(,aes(x=country_code,y=N)) + 
  geom_bar(stat="identity") +
  theme_few() +
  labs(y="Count",x="Country",title="SHODAN Search Results by Country"))


And, easily generate the must-have choropleth:

# except make a choropleth
# using the very simple rworldmap process
shodanChoropleth = joinCountryData2Map(, joinCode = "ISO2", nameJoinColumn = "country_code")
mapCountryData(shodanChoropleth, nameColumnToPlot="N",colourPalette="terrain",catMethod="fixedWidth")


Again, producing pretty pictures is all well-and-good, but it’s best to start with some good questions you need answering to make any visualization worthwhile. In the coming weeks, I’ll do some posts that show what types of questions you may want to ask/answer with R & SHODAN.

I encourage folks that have issues, concerns or requests to use github vs post in the comments, but I’ll try to respond to either as quickly as possible.

CVE Queries Right From Your Browser’s Address Bar

I’m not sure why I never did this earlier, but a post on LifeHacker gave me an idea to add location bar quick search of CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures), no doubt due to their example on searching LifeHacker for “security”.

My two favorite sites for searching CVE specifics are, at present, Risk IO’s and CVE Details.

I’m fairly certain anyone in security reading this can figure out the rest, but as I’m ever a slave to minutiae, here are the two shortcuts I’ve setup in Chrome:

Title: CVE Details
Search URL:
Shortcut: cved
Title: Risk I/O Vulnerability Search
Search URL:
Shortcut: cvedb

Here’s what the location bar changes to when I use cvedb to search for 2012‑4774


In reality, this is only saving a scroll and a click since entering CVE‑2012‑4774 into an unoptimized location bar would have just searched Google and given me most of the usual suspects in the first few links. Still, it saves some time and immediately gets me the vulnerability data from the sites I prefer.

I may start poking to see what other security-related searches I can setup in the location bar.

Three Resolutions For Web Developers

I’m on a “three things” motif for 2012, as it’s really difficult for most folks to focus on more than three core elements well. This is especially true for web developers as they have so much to contend with on a daily basis, whether it be new features, bug reports, user help requests or just ensuring proper caffeine levels are maintained.

In 2011, web sites took more hits then they ever have and—sadly—most attacks could have been prevented. I fear that the pastings will continue in 2012, but there are some steps you can take to help make your site less of a target.

Bookmark & Use OWASP’s Web Site Regularly

I’d feel a little sorry for hacked web sites if it weren’t for resources like OWASP, tools like IronBee and principles like Rugged being in abundance, with many smart folks associated with them being more than willing to offer counsel and advice.

If you run a web site or develop web applications and have not inhaled all the information OWASP has to provide, then you are engaging in the Internet equivalent of driving a Ford Pinto (the exploding kind) without seat belts, airbags, doors and a working dashboard console. There is so much good information and advice out there with solid examples that prove some truly effective security measures can really be implemented in a single line of code.

Make it a point to read, re-read and keep-up-to-date on new articles and resources that OWASP provides. I know you also need to beat the competition to new features and crank out “x” lines of code per day, but you also need to do what it takes to avoid joining the ranks of those in DataLossDB.

Patch & Properly Configure Your Bootstrap Components

Your web app uses frameworks, runs in some type of web container and sits on top of an operating system. Unfortunately, vulnerabilities pop up in each of those components from time to time and you need to keep on top of those and determine which ones you will patch and when. Sites like Secunia and US-CERT aggregate patch information pretty well for operating systems and popular server software components, but it’s best to also subscribe to release and security mailing lists for your frameworks and other bootstrap components.

Configuring your bootstrap environment securely is also important and you can use handy guides over at the Center for Internet Security and the National Vulnerability Database (which is also good for vulnerability reports). The good news is that you probably only need to double-check this a couple times a year and can also integreate secure configuration baselines into tools like Chef & Puppet.

Secure Data Appropriately

I won’t belabor this point (especially if you promise to read the OWASP guidance on this thoroughly) but you need to look at the data being stored and how it is accessed and determine the most appropriate way to secure it. Don’t store more than you absolutely need to. Encrypt password fields (and other sensitive data) with more than a plain MD5 hash. Don’t store any credit card numbers (really, just don’t) or tokenize them if you do (but you really don’t). Keep data off the front-end environment and watch the database and application logs with a service like Loggly (to see if there’s anything fishy going on).

I’m going to cheat and close with a fourth resolution for you: Create (and test) a data breach response plan. If any security professional is being honest, it’s virtually impossible to prevent a breach if a hacker is determined enough and the best thing you can do for your user base is to respond well when it happens. The only way to do that is have a plan and to test it (so you know what you are doing when the breach occurs). And, you should run your communications plan by other folks to make sure it’s adequate (ping @securitytwits for suggestions for good resources).

You want to be able to walk away from a breach with your reputation as intact as possible (so you’ll have to keep the other three resolutions anyway) with your users feeling fully informed and assured that you did everything you could to prevent it.

What other security-related resolutions are you making this year as a web developer or web site owner and what other tools/services are you using to secure your sites?

Micropwns :: Risk Microprobabilities for Infosec?

NOTE: This is a re-post from a topic I started on the SecurityMetrics & SIRA mailing lists. Wanted to broaden the discussion to anyone not on those (and, why aren’t you on them?)

I had not heard the term micromort prior to listening to David Spiegelhalter’s Do Lecture and the concept of it really stuck in my (albeit thick) head all week.

I didn’t grab the paper yet, but the abstract for “Microrisks for Medical Decision Analysis” seems to be able to extrapolate directly to the risks we face in infosec:

“Many would agree on the need to inform patients about the risks of medical conditions or treatments and to consider those risks in making medical decisions. The question is how to describe the risks and how to balance them with other factors in arriving at a decision. In this article, we present the thesis that part of the answer lies in defining an appropriate scale for risks that are often quite small. We propose that a convenient unit in which to measure most medical risks is the microprobability, a probability of 1 in 1 million. When the risk consequence is death, we can define a micromort as one microprobability of death. Medical risks can be placed in perspective by noting that we live in a society where people face about 270 micromorts per year from interactions with motor vehicles. Continuing risks or hazards, such as are posed by following unhealthful practices or by the side-effects of drugs, can be described in the same micromort framework. If the consequence is not death, but some other serious consequence like blindness or amputation, the microrisk structure can be used to characterize the probability of disability. Once the risks are described in the microrisk form, they can be evaluated in terms of the patient’s willingness-to-pay to avoid them. The suggested procedure is illustrated in the case of a woman facing a cranial arteriogram of a suspected arterio-venous malformation. Generic curves allow such analyses to be performed approximately in terms of the patient’s sex, age, and economic situation. More detailed analyses can be performed if desired. Microrisk analysis is based on the proposition that precision in language permits the soundness of thought that produces clarity of action and peace of mind.”

When my CC is handy and I feel like giving up some privacy I’ll grab the whole paper, but the correlations seem pretty clear from just that bit.

I must have missed Schneier’s blog post about it earlier this month where he links to which links to (apologies for the link leapfrogging, but it provides background context that I did not have prior).

At a risk to my credibility, I’ll add another link to a Wikipedia article that lists some actual micromorts and include a small sample here:

Risks that increase the annual death risk by one micromort, and their associated cause of death:
  • smoking 1.4 cigarettes (cancer, heart disease)
  • drinking 0.5 liter of wine (cirrhosis of the liver)
  • spending 1 hour in a coal mine (black lung disease)
  • spending 3 hours in a coal mine (accident)
  • living 2 days in New York or Boston (air pollution)

I asked on Twitter if anyone thought we had an equivalent – a “micropwn“, say – for our discipline. Do we have enough high level data to produce a generic micropwn for something like:

  • 1 micropwn for every 3 consecutive days of missed DAT updates
  • 1 micropwn for every 10 Windows desktops with users with local Administrator privileges
  • 1 micropwn for every 5 consecutive days of missed IDS/IDP signature updates

Just like with the medical side of things, the micropwn calculation can be increased depending on the level of detail. For example (these are all made up for medicine):

  • 1 micromort for smoking 0.5 cigarettes if you are an overweight man in his 50’s
  • 1 micromort for smoking 0.25 cigarettes if you are an overwight man in his 50’s with a family genetic history of lung cancer

(again, I don’t have the paper, but the abstract seems to suggest this is how medical micromorts work)

Similarly, the micropwn calculation could get more granular by factoring in type of industry, geographic locations, breach histiory, etc.

Also, a micropwn (just like micromort) doesn’t necessarily mean “catastrophic” breach (I dislike that word as I think of it as a broad term when most folks associate it directly with sensitive record loss). Could mean successful malware infection in my view.

So, to further refine the question I originally posed on Twitter: Do we have enough broad data to provide input for micropwn calculations and can we define a starter-list of micropwns that would prove valuable in helping articulate risk within and outside our discipline?

Metricon: Software Security’s Futures Plural

UPDATE – 2011-02-26: Alphonso has posted his slides and BeeWise is open!

Speaker: Alfonso De Gregorio

How do we build a future in software security?


/me: the slides that will be posted have a ton of detail that Alfonso sped through. you’ll get a very good feel from them


Metrics are the servants of risk management and RM is about making decisions

we have incomplete information about # & severity of vulns

software products are highly defective and have no accountability


Bugs & Carrots

discussion around what software vendors are incented to do/why

features > security

bug fix > vuln fix

time to market > test/verify



(Markets & Metrics)

we need to put a cost on the software flaws with laws/regs & change in liability models

create feedback mechanisms (/me: open group work on security architecture?)


investment metrics to-date have challenges, especially in severity and probability of events

market-based metrics would provide a different context (e.g. stock market pricing)

create an infosec security market?

  • bug challenges
  • auctions
  • vuln brokers
  • infosec insurance
  • exploit derivatives


info function / incentive function / risk balancing function efficiency – all factors in creating a vulnerability market

/me: make a table with bullets above as rows and factors list as columns to do a comparison

suggests an Exploit Derivatives market (future’s contracts for vulns)

[side-talk: discussion about derviatives vs future and how the profit incentives may be conflicting]

[side-talk: why will make software companies pay attention to what seems to be a market that only makes speculators rich?]

[side-talk: is this legal? can we get this baked into contracts?]

[side-talk: degraded convo down to responsibility of software companies]

[side-talk: interesting analogy to the airline industry needing to be in the oil futures market to software companies needing to be in this potential vuln/exploit market]

another example is weather derivatives


cites two examples of how prediction markets can incent change

cites  and a FIFA predction market


“Web Development Is Dangerous”

Those were the words that greeted me within five minutes of checking out the Flask microframework for Python web applications. I feel compelled to inline those four, short paragraphs:

I’m not joking. Well, maybe a little. If you write a web application, you are probably allowing users to register and leave their data on your server. The users are entrusting you with data. And even if you are the only user that might leave data in your application, you still want that data to be stored securely. Unfortunately, there are many ways the security of a web application can be compromised. Flask protects you against one of the most common security problems of modern web applications: cross-site scripting (XSS). Unless you deliberately mark insecure HTML as secure, Flask and the underlying Jinja2 template engine have you covered. But there are many more ways to cause security problems. The documentation will warn you about aspects of web development that require attention to security. Some of these security concerns are far more complex than one might think, and we all sometimes underestimate the likelihood that a vulnerability will be exploited, until a clever attacker figures out a way to exploit our applications. And don’t think that your application is not important enough to attract an attacker. Depending on the kind of attack, chances are that automated bots are probing for ways to fill your database with spam, links to malicious software, and the like. So always keep security in mind when doing web development.

Let’s look at the key take-away messages…

Data Should Be Stored Securely

Interestingly enough, this is not the default mindset of one of the more popular modern database technologies [mongoDB] (and it has plenty of company [memcached], too).

Even if your app starts out without any real sensitive data, odds are you will be storing credentials, e-mail addresses, social network handles and other bits of information that you should feel some fundamental responsibility to treat with care. There are somemcached manymysql resourcesoracle tocouchdb helpsqlite that you really have no excuse.

And, it will save you time later on when you realize you actually need to have a secure storage foundation.

Watch The Input To Your Apps

Flask protects you against one of the most common security problems of modern web applications: cross-site scripting (XSS). There are many others. If you are a programmer and have never even heard of OWASP, then you need to put down your PS3/Xbox controller and do a quick read on at least their take on the top ten web app security risks (btw: there are way more than ten, but you need to start somewhere).

The thing is, unless the halls of higher education have crumbled completely since I was in school, I distinctly remember having the concept of input validation, bounds checking, etc. being rammed into my thick skull in almost every programming class (and this was way before web apps were even contemplated). You may think you’re innovating by posting a link to your functioning rapid prototype on Hacker News, but what you’re really doing is being sloppy, lazy and irresponsible. Period.

And, while it’s fine to seek out frameworks like Flask and rely on some of their inherent protections, it does not absolve you from your responsibility to deliberately & consciously build rugged software (which doesn’t just mean “secure”).

“Don’t think that your application is not important enough to attract an attacker”

I’m not sure if any amount of verbiage will convince someone of this fact if they are determined not to believe/accept it. It’s a much larger discussion (and this is already a long post). If you are inclined to have a slightly open mind, I encourage you to read So You Think Your Website Won’t Get Hacked by Joseph Schembr. It’s really slanted towards “script-kiddies,” but should pique your interest enough to keep exploring why your hacked-up personal URL shortener might be a target.


It’s impressive that the Flask authors cover security in some way, shape or form on 21 pages in the documentation [PDF]. If you’re building or contributing to other frameworks, projects or engines (hint, hint, Node.JS devs!) I would strongly encourage you to take as much time and consideration as the Flask team did to ensure you are making it as easy as possible for your users to deploy applications as securely as possible by default.

AwesomeChartJS Meets Microsoft Security Bulletins

I wanted to play with the AwesomeChartJS library and figured an interesting way to do that was to use it to track Microsoft Security Bulletins this year. While I was drawn in by just how simple it is to craft basic charts, that simplicity really only makes it useful for simple data sets. So, while I’ve produced three diferent views of Microsoft Security Bulletins for 2011 (to-date, and in advance of February’s Patch Tuesday), it would not be a good choice to do a running comparison between past years and 20111 (per-month).  The authors self-admit that there are [deliberate] limitations and point folks to the most excellent flot library for more sophisticated analytics (which I may feature in March).

The library itself only works within an HTML5 environment (one of the reasons I chose it) and uses a separate <canvas> element to house each chart. After loading up the library iself in a script tag:

<script src="/b/js/AwesomeChartJS/awesomechart.js" type="application/javascript">

(which is ~32K un-minified) you then declare a canvas element:

<canvas id="canvas1" width="400" height="300"></canvas>

and use some pretty straighforward javascript (no dependency on jQuery or other large frameworks) to do the drawing:
var mychart = new AwesomeChart('canvas1');
mychart.title = "Microsoft Security Bulletins Raw Count By Month - 2011"; = [2, 12];
mychart.colors = ["#0000FF","#0000FF"];
mychart.labels = ["January", "February"];

It’s definitely worth a look if you have simple charting needs.

Regrettably, it looks like February is going to be a busy month for Windows administrators.

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