CCDC and CTFs – Addressing the Criticisms

As you may know, I’ve been involved with red teaming all levels of the CCDC, but I’ve also taken part in a number of CTF competitions. CCDC is one of a number of defense competitions growing in popularity, including the high-school level Cyber Patriot and military academy CDX. These stand in contrast to the longer-running Capture-The-Flag competitions commonly found at hacker conferences and elsewhere, which tend to focus on finding exploits for pieces of software. Defensive exercises have come under harsh criticism in the past few years, so are they really doing any good?

One of the most outspoken critics of CCDC has been Chris Eagle. He compares his significant experiences in the Defcon CTF, which his team has won twice, and defensive competitions, primarily with CDX….

Chris Eagle (surprisingly honestly) said “I have pigeonholed myself into the binary software analysis arena.” He continued to explain how NPS has developed many tools that make them really good at the Defcon CTF but aren’t applicable to the real world, since they’re tailored to alert on Defcon flags and those specific types of binaries, and would be unlikely to alert on real attacks. As he said, “It’s really kinda focused on the game” and “We’ve gamed the game a lot” since “We’d seen the same kind of game three times.”

We have also seen a number of students at CCDC develop their own scripts and tools to use at CCDC. The difference I see is that so far, all the custom tools I have seen students employ could be used on real networks as well to harden systems or detect & disable real malware. This is another indication that CCDC, as opposed the Defcon CTF finals, is not teaching students how to “game the game” it’s teaching them how to defend a real network.

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March – Pass the Hash Awareness Month

March is Pass-the-Hash Awareness Month! It’s not as simple as you might think, but to break it down, I did a guest post on the passing-the-hash blog: http://passing-the-hash.blogspot.com/2014/03/guest-post-lets-talk-about-pass-hash-by.html

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Installing Linux on a Live Windows System

As you may know, I run the Red Team for the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) in the southwest region. One of the more interesting things I put together for the regional competitions this year was a way to install Linux remotely over a command-line interface (such as meterpreter). I actually originally wrote it for […]

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A Comparison of HTTPS Reforms

An old adage in cryptology is that encrypting data is always easy, but key distribution is always hard. Just a few days ago, Google reported that yet another wrongfully-issued certificate had been found for Google’s domains. As a result of many incidents and problems with CA-issued certificates, many different proposals have been made to improve the system. Google’s Certificate Transparency page compares some of the proposals; but it did not include my favorite idea, I thought it did not do justice to some of the other competing proposals, and it glossed over some of CT’s big issues. I evaluated all the proposals according to these criteria and put together the below spreadsheet to compare their strengths and weaknesses.

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Adding Easy SSL Client Authentication To Any Webapp

Let’s face it, if you are using passwords on your web site or application, you are part of the problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re using bcrypt or scrypt, or all the salt in the world, you’re still perpetuating these 11 password problems and pains. But client certificate authentication and even issuance is actually easy with modern browsers. Want to see how easy it can be? Check out the example below.

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Catching dropped executable files without a sandbox

One common technique used by a lot of exploits, malware, and obfuscated software is to dynamically generate or download an executable or DLL file, run it or load it, then delete it. I frequently catch even legitimate software doing this, but I am always curious as to what executable code the authors are trying to hide. Saving those automatically generated files is a core feature of any decent sandbox out there, but in many cases, you see this activity on a production system and don’t know where the file is coming from. Especially if it only happens infrequently, it often doesn’t make sense to try to put the whole system in a sandbox. So instead, I just use a simple trick with NTFS file permissions.

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The Infosec Revival – DerbyCon 2013

DerbyCon this year was awesome as usual. I presented “The Infosec Revival: Why owning a typical network is so easy, and how to build a secure one.” The video is here on Youtube: Or you can check out the slides here: The RDP video is here: And the VM isolation video is here: I should […]

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Remote Desktop and Die – How to RDP Faster Without Getting Robbed

Unless you have not patched your domain controller in the past five years, chances are, if an intruder gets domain admin or enterprise admin level access, they probably did it through credential theft. One of the biggest recurring themes of countless intrusion and pentest reports is that to accomplish lateral movement and privilege escalation to […]

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Secure random password generation

Ideally you never use a password, but sometimes, you have to anyway. One very common scenario is in signing up for a web application. Such passwords can be stored on the server, hashed with a fast algorithm such as MD5, and over which you have no control. You do not want your password to be […]

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Ambush Standalone

Ambush was designed in a server-client architecture to make it easy to deploy to lots of systems, but sometimes you just want to get it running on a single system, without the hassle of requiring a custom server setup or signature creation.

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