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Windows Event Logs & Finding Evil

mini-module tag Mini-Module

This module covers the exploration of Windows Event Logs and their significance in uncovering suspicious activities. Throughout the course, we delve into the anatomy of Windows Event Logs and highlight the logs that hold the most valuable information for investigations. The module also focuses on utilizing Sysmon and Event Logs for detecting and analyzing malicious behavior. Additionally, we delve into Event Tracing for Windows (ETW), explaining its architecture and components, and provide ETW-based detection examples. To streamline the analysis process, we introduce the powerful Get-WinEvent cmdlet.

4.44

Created by waldoirc

Medium Defensive

Summary

This module focuses on exploring Windows Event Logs and their role in identifying suspicious activities.

  • We dive into the intricacies of Windows Event Logs, examining their anatomy and highlighting the most valuable logs for investigation purposes.
  • We provide practical insights on how to effectively investigate these logs to uncover potential security breaches. One key aspect we cover is the utilization of Sysmon and Event Logs to detect and analyze malicious activities.
  • We guide you through the process of installing or updating Sysmon and present real-world examples of detection, including identifying DLL hijacking, unmanaged PowerShell/C-Sharp injection, and credential dumping.
  • We also delve into Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) and its architecture, explaining its components and showcasing how to interact with it.
  • We introduce useful ETW providers and offer ETW-based detection examples like identifying unusual parent-child relationships and malicious .NET assembly loading.
  • Furthermore, we introduce the powerful Get-WinEvent cmdlet for streamlined analysis of Windows Event Logs. We demonstrate various examples of retrieving events from specific logs and provide techniques for efficient event filtering.

CREST CPSA/CRT-related Sections:

  • Analyzing Evil With Sysmon & Event Logs
  • Tapping Into ETW

This module is broken into sections with accompanying hands-on exercises to practice the techniques we cover. The module ends with a practical hands-on skills assessment to gauge your understanding of the various topic areas.

As you work through the module, you will see detection examples for the topics introduced. It is worth reproducing as many of these examples as possible to reinforce further the concepts presented in each section. You can do this in the target host provided in the interactive sections or your virtual machine.

You can start and stop the module anytime and pick up where you left off. There is no time limit or "grading," but you must complete all of the exercises and the skills assessment to receive the maximum number of cubes and have this module marked as complete in any paths you have chosen.

The module is classified as "medium" and assumes basic knowledge of how Windows operate and common attack principles.

A firm grasp of the following modules can be considered prerequisites for successful completion of this module:

  • Penetration Testing Process
  • Incident Handling Process

Windows Event Logs

Windows Event Logging Basics

Windows Event Logs are an intrinsic part of the Windows Operating System, storing logs from different components of the system including the system itself, applications running on it, ETW providers, services, and others.

Windows event logging offers comprehensive logging capabilities for application errors, security events, and diagnostic information. As cybersecurity professionals, we leverage these logs extensively for analysis and intrusion detection.

The logs are categorized into different event logs, such as "Application", "System", "Security", and others, to organize events based on their source or purpose.

Event logs can be accessed using the Event Viewer application or programmatically using APIs such as the Windows Event Log API.

Accessing the Windows Event Viewer as an administrative user allows us to explore the various logs available.

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The default Windows event logs consist of Application, Security, Setup, System, and Forwarded Events. While the first four logs cover application errors, security events, system setup activities, and general system information, the "Forwarded Events" section is unique, showcasing event log data forwarded from other machines. This central logging feature proves valuable for system administrators who desire a consolidated view. In our current analysis, we focus on event logs from a single machine.

It should be noted, that the Windows Event Viewer has the ability to open and display previously saved .evtx files, which can be then found in the "Saved Logs" section.

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The Anatomy of an Event Log

When examining Application logs, we encounter two distinct levels of events: information and error.

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Information events provide general usage details about the application, such as its start or stop events. Conversely, error events highlight specific errors and often offer detailed insights into the encountered issues.

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Each entry in the Windows Event Log is an "Event" and contains the following primary components:

  1. Log Name: The name of the event log (e.g., Application, System, Security, etc.).
  2. Source: The software that logged the event.
  3. Event ID: A unique identifier for the event.
  4. Task Category: This often contains a value or name that can help us understand the purpose or use of the event.
  5. Level: The severity of the event (Information, Warning, Error, Critical, and Verbose).
  6. Keywords: Keywords are flags that allow us to categorize events in ways beyond the other classification options. These are generally broad categories, such as "Audit Success" or "Audit Failure" in the Security log.
  7. User: The user account that was logged on when the event occurred.
  8. OpCode: This field can identify the specific operation that the event reports.
  9. Logged: The date and time when the event was logged.
  10. Computer: The name of the computer where the event occurred.
  11. XML Data: All the above information is also included in an XML format along with additional event data.

The Keywords field is particularly useful when filtering event logs for specific types of events. It can significantly enhance the precision of search queries by allowing us to specify events of interest, thus making log management more efficient and effective.

Taking a closer look at the event log above, we observe several crucial elements. The Event ID in the top left corner serves as a unique identifier, which can be further researched on Microsoft's website to gather additional information. The "SideBySide" label next to the event ID represents the event source. Below, we find the general error description, often containing rich details. By clicking on the details, we can further analyze the event's impact using XML or a well-formatted view.

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Additionally, we can extract supplementary information from the event log, such as the process ID where the error occurred, enabling more precise analysis.

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Switching our focus to security logs, let's consider event ID 4624, a commonly occurring event (detailed at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security/threat-protection/auditing/event-4624).

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According to Microsoft's documentation, this event signifies the creation of a logon session on the destination machine, originating from the accessed computer where the session was established. Within this log, we find crucial details, including the "Logon ID", which allows us to correlate this logon with other events sharing the same "Logon ID". Another important detail is the "Logon Type", indicating the type of logon. In this case, it specifies a Service logon type, suggesting that "SYSTEM" initiated a new service. However, further investigation is required to determine the specific service involved, utilizing correlation techniques with additional data like the "Logon ID".


Leveraging Custom XML Queries

To streamline our analysis, we can create custom XML queries to identify related events using the "Logon ID" as a starting point. By navigating to "Filter Current Log" -> "XML" -> "Edit Query Manually," we gain access to a custom XML query language that enables more granular log searches.

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In the example query, we focus on events containing the "SubjectLogonId" field with a value of "0x3E7". The selection of this value stems from the need to correlate events associated with a specific "Logon ID" and understand the relevant details within those events.

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It is worth noting that if assistance is required in crafting the query, automatic filters can be enabled, allowing exploration of their impact on the XML representation. For further guidance, Microsoft offers informative articles on advanced XML filtering in the Windows Event Viewer.

By constructing such queries, we can narrow down our focus to the account responsible for initiating the service and eliminate unnecessary details. This approach helps unveil a clearer picture of recent logon activities associated with the specified Logon ID. However, even with this refinement, the amount of data remains significant.

Delving into the log details progressively reveals a narrative. For instance, the analysis begins with Event ID 4907, which signifies an audit policy change.

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Within the event description, we find valuable insights, such as "This event generates when the SACL of an object (for example, a registry key or file) was changed."

In case unfamiliar with SACL, referring to the provided link (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/win32/secauthz/access-control-lists) sheds light on access control lists (ACLs). The "S" in SACL denotes a system access control list, which enables administrators to log access attempts to secure objects. Each Access Control Entry (ACE) within a SACL specifies the types of access attempts by a designated trustee that trigger record generation in the security event log. ACEs in a SACL can generate audit records upon failed, successful, or both types of access attempts. For more information about SACLs, see Audit Generation and SACL Access Right."

Based on this information, it becomes apparent that the permissions of a file were altered to modify the logging or auditing of access attempts. Further exploration of the event details reveals additional intriguing aspects.

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For example, the process responsible for the change is identified as "SetupHost.exe", indicating a potential setup process (although it's worth noting that malware can sometimes masquerade under legitimate names). The object name impacted appears to be the "bootmanager", and we can examine the new and old security descriptors ("NewSd" and "OldSd") to identify the changes. Understanding the meaning of each field in the security descriptor can be accomplished through references such as the article ACE Strings and Understanding SDDL Syntax.

From the observed events, we can infer that a setup process occurred, involving the creation of a new file and the initial configuration of security permissions for auditing purposes. Subsequently, we encounter the logon event, followed by a "special logon" event.

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Analyzing the special logon event, we gain insights into token permissions granted to the user upon a successful logon.

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A comprehensive list of privileges can be found in the documentation on privilege constants. For instance, the "SeDebugPrivilege" privilege indicates that the user possesses the ability to tamper with memory that does not belong to them.


Useful Windows Event Logs

Find below an indicative (non-exhaustive) list of useful Windows event logs.

  1. Windows System Logs

    • Event ID 1074 (System Shutdown/Restart): This event log indicates when and why the system was shut down or restarted. By monitoring these events, you can determine if there are unexpected shutdowns or restarts, potentially revealing malicious activity such as malware infection or unauthorized user access.
    • Event ID 6005 (The Event log service was started): This event log marks the time when the Event Log Service was started. This is an important record, as it can signify a system boot-up, providing a starting point for investigating system performance or potential security incidents around that period. It can also be used to detect unauthorized system reboots.
    • Event ID 6006 (The Event log service was stopped): This event log signifies the moment when the Event Log Service was stopped. It is typically seen when the system is shutting down. Abnormal or unexpected occurrences of this event could point to intentional service disruption for covering illicit activities.
    • Event ID 6013 (Windows uptime): This event occurs once a day and shows the uptime of the system in seconds. A shorter than expected uptime could mean the system has been rebooted, which could signify a potential intrusion or unauthorized activities on the system.
    • Event ID 7040 (Service status change): This event indicates a change in service startup type, which could be from manual to automatic or vice versa. If a crucial service's startup type is changed, it could be a sign of system tampering.
  2. Windows Security Logs

    • Event ID 1102 (The audit log was cleared): Clearing the audit log is often a sign of an attempt to remove evidence of an intrusion or malicious activity.
    • Event ID 1116 (Antivirus malware detection): This event is particularly important because it logs when Defender detects a malware. A surge in these events could indicate a targeted attack or widespread malware infection.
    • Event ID 1118 (Antivirus remediation activity has started): This event signifies that Defender has begun the process of removing or quarantining detected malware. It's important to monitor these events to ensure that remediation activities are successful.
    • Event ID 1119 (Antivirus remediation activity has succeeded): This event signifies that the remediation process for detected malware has been successful. Regular monitoring of these events will help ensure that identified threats are effectively neutralized.
    • Event ID 1120 (Antivirus remediation activity has failed): This event is the counterpart to 1119 and indicates that the remediation process has failed. These events should be closely monitored and addressed immediately to ensure threats are effectively neutralized.
    • Event ID 4624 (Successful Logon): This event records successful logon events. This information is vital for establishing normal user behavior. Abnormal behavior, such as logon attempts at odd hours or from different locations, could signify a potential security threat.
    • Event ID 4625 (Failed Logon): This event logs failed logon attempts. Multiple failed logon attempts could signify a brute-force attack in progress.
    • Event ID 4648 (A logon was attempted using explicit credentials): This event is triggered when a user logs on with explicit credentials to run a program. Anomalies in these logon events could indicate lateral movement within a network, which is a common technique used by attackers.
    • Event ID 4656 (A handle to an object was requested): This event is triggered when a handle to an object (like a file, registry key, or process) is requested. This can be a useful event for detecting attempts to access sensitive resources.
    • Event ID 4672 (Special Privileges Assigned to a New Logon): This event is logged whenever an account logs on with super user privileges. Tracking these events helps to ensure that super user privileges are not being abused or used maliciously.
    • Event ID 4698 (A scheduled task was created): This event is triggered when a scheduled task is created. Monitoring this event can help you detect persistence mechanisms, as attackers often use scheduled tasks to maintain access and run malicious code.
    • Event ID 4700 & Event ID 4701 (A scheduled task was enabled/disabled): This records the enabling or disabling of a scheduled task. Scheduled tasks are often manipulated by attackers for persistence or to run malicious code, thus these logs can provide valuable insight into suspicious activities.
    • Event ID 4702 (A scheduled task was updated): Similar to 4698, this event is triggered when a scheduled task is updated. Monitoring these updates can help detect changes that may signify malicious intent.
    • Event ID 4719 (System audit policy was changed): This event records changes to the audit policy on a computer. It could be a sign that someone is trying to cover their tracks by turning off auditing or changing what events get audited.
    • Event ID 4738 (A user account was changed): This event records any changes made to user accounts, including changes to privileges, group memberships, and account settings. Unexpected account changes can be a sign of account takeover or insider threats.
    • Event ID 4771 (Kerberos pre-authentication failed): This event is similar to 4625 (failed logon) but specifically for Kerberos authentication. An unusual amount of these logs could indicate an attacker attempting to brute force your Kerberos service.
    • Event ID 4776 (The domain controller attempted to validate the credentials for an account): This event helps track both successful and failed attempts at credential validation by the domain controller. Multiple failures could suggest a brute-force attack.
    • Event ID 5001 (Antivirus real-time protection configuration has changed): This event indicates that the real-time protection settings of Defender have been modified. Unauthorized changes could indicate an attempt to disable or undermine the functionality of Defender.
    • Event ID 5140 (A network share object was accessed): This event is logged whenever a network share is accessed. This can be critical in identifying unauthorized access to network shares.
    • Event ID 5142 (A network share object was added): This event signifies the creation of a new network share. Unauthorized network shares could be used to exfiltrate data or spread malware across a network.
    • Event ID 5145 (A network share object was checked to see whether client can be granted desired access): This event indicates that someone attempted to access a network share. Frequent checks of this sort might indicate a user or a malware trying to map out the network shares for future exploits.
    • Event ID 5157 (The Windows Filtering Platform has blocked a connection): This is logged when the Windows Filtering Platform blocks a connection attempt. This can be helpful for identifying malicious traffic on your network.
    • Event ID 7045 (A service was installed in the system): A sudden appearance of unknown services might suggest malware installation, as many types of malware install themselves as services.

Remember, one of the key aspects of threat detection is having a good understanding of what is "normal" in our environment. Anomalies that might indicate a threat in one environment could be normal behavior in another. It's crucial to tune our monitoring and alerting systems to our environment to minimize false positives and make real threats easier to spot. In addition, it's essential to have a centralized log management solution in place that can collect, parse, and alert on these events in real-time. Regularly monitoring and reviewing these logs can help in early detection and mitigation of threats. Lastly, we need to make sure to correlate these logs with other system and security logs to get a more holistic view of the security events in our environment.


Practical Exercises

Navigate to the bottom of this section and click on Click here to spawn the target system!

Now, RDP to [Target IP] using the provided credentials, open Windows Event Viewer, and answer the questions below.

[!bash!]$ xfreerdp /u:Administrator /p:'HTB_@cad3my_lab_W1n10_r00t!@0' /v:[Target IP] /dynamic-resolution

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Relevant Paths

This module progresses you towards the following Paths

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Path Sections 16 Sections
Reward: +10
Active Directory (AD) is present in the majority of corporate environments. Due to its many features and complexity, it presents a vast attack surface. To be successful as penetration testers and information security professionals, we must have a firm understanding of Active Directory fundamentals, AD structures, functionality, common AD flaws, misconfigurations, and defensive measures.
Medium
Path Sections 18 Sections
Reward: +20
Once a foothold is gained during an assessment, it may be in scope to move laterally and vertically within a target network. Using one compromised machine to access another is called pivoting and allows us to access networks and resources that are not directly accessible to us through the compromised host. Port forwarding accepts the traffic on a given IP address and port and redirects it to a different IP address and port combination. Tunneling is a technique that allows us to encapsulate traffic within another protocol so that it looks like a benign traffic stream.
Medium
Path Sections 9 Sections
Reward: +200
This module covers AD enumeration focusing on the PowerView and SharpView tools. We will cover various techniques for enumerating key AD objects that will inform our attacks in later modules.
Medium
Path Sections 36 Sections
Reward: +20
Active Directory (AD) is the leading enterprise domain management suite, providing identity and access management, centralized domain administration, authentication, and much more. Due to the many features and complexity of AD, it presents a large attack surface that is difficult to secure properly. To be successful as infosec professionals, we must understand AD architectures and how to secure our enterprise environments. As Penetration testers, having a firm grasp of what tools, techniques, and procedures are available to us for enumerating and attacking AD environments and commonly seen AD misconfigurations is a must.
Easy
Path Sections 28 Sections
Reward: +20
Privilege escalation is a crucial phase during any security assessment. During this phase, we attempt to gain access to additional users, hosts, and resources to move closer to the assessment's overall goal. There are many ways to escalate privileges. This module aims to cover the most common methods emphasizing real-world misconfigurations and flaws that we may encounter in a client environment. The techniques covered in this module are not an exhaustive list of all possibilities and aim to avoid extreme "edge-case" tactics that may be seen in a Capture the Flag (CTF) exercise.
Medium
Path Sections 33 Sections
Reward: +20
After gaining a foothold, elevating our privileges will provide more options for persistence and may reveal information stored locally that can further our access in the environment. Enumeration is the key to privilege escalation. When you gain initial shell access to the host, it is important to gain situational awareness and uncover details relating to the OS version, patch level, any installed software, our current privileges, group memberships, and more. Windows presents an enormous attack surface and, being that most companies run Windows hosts in some way, we will more often than not find ourselves gaining access to Windows machines during our assessments. This covers common methods while emphasizing real-world misconfigurations and flaws that we may encounter during an assessment. There are many additional "edge-case" possibilities not covered in this module. We will cover both modern and legacy Windows Server and Desktop versions that may be present in a client environment.
Hard
Path Sections 23 Sections
Reward: +100
Kerberos is an authentication protocol that allows users to authenticate and access services on a potentially insecure network. Due to its prevalence throughout an Active Directory environment, it presents us with a significant attack surface when assessing internal networks. This module will explain how Kerberos works thoroughly and examines several scenarios to practice the most common attacks against it from multiple perspectives.
Hard
Path Sections 10 Sections
Reward: +100
The NTLM authentication protocol is commonly used within Windows-based networks to facilitate authentication between clients and servers. However, NTLM's inherent weaknesses make it susceptible to Adversary-in-the-Middle attacks, providing a significant attack vector. This module focuses on the various NTLM relay attacks that attackers use to compromise Active Directory networks.
DACL Attacks I
mini module tag Mini-Module
Hard
Path Sections 7 Sections
Reward: +100
Discretionary Access Control Lists (DACLs), found within security descriptors, are a fundamental component of the security model of Windows and Active Directory, defining and enforcing access to the various system resources. This mini-module will cover enumerating and attacking common DACL misconfigurations, allowing us to escalate our privileges horizontally and vertically and move laterally across an Active Directory network.
Medium
Path Sections 13 Sections
Reward: +10
Buffer overflows are common vulnerabilities in software applications that can be exploited to achieve remote code execution (RCE) or perform a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack. These vulnerabilities are caused by insecure coding, resulting in an attacker being able to overrun a program's buffer and overwrite adjacent memory locations, changing the program's execution path and resulting in unintended actions.
Medium
Path Sections 11 Sections
Reward: +10
This module is your first step into Windows Binary Exploitation, and it will teach you how to exploit local and remote buffer overflow vulnerabilities on Windows machines.
Easy
Path Sections 15 Sections
Reward: +20
Web application penetration testing frameworks are an essential part of any web penetration test. This module will teach you two of the best frameworks: Burp Suite and OWASP ZAP.
Easy
Path Sections 13 Sections
Reward: +10
This module covers the fundamental enumeration skills of web fuzzing and directory brute forcing using the Ffuf tool. The techniques learned in this module will help us in locating hidden pages, directories, and parameters when targeting web applications.
Easy
Path Sections 11 Sections
Reward: +20
Learn how to brute force logins for various types of services and create custom wordlists based on your target.
Medium
Path Sections 15 Sections
Reward: +100
This module covers details on Transport Layer Security (TLS) and how it helps to make HTTP secure with the widely used HTTPS. That includes how TLS works, how TLS sessions are established, common TLS misconfigurations, as well as famous attacks on TLS. We will discuss how to identify, exploit, and prevent TLS attacks.
Easy
Path Sections 10 Sections
Reward: +20
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities are among the most common web application vulnerabilities. An XSS vulnerability may allow an attacker to execute arbitrary JavaScript code within the target's browser and result in complete web application compromise if chained together with other vulnerabilities. This module will teach you how to identify XSS vulnerabilities and exploit them.
Medium
Path Sections 14 Sections
Reward: +20
Maintaining and keeping track of a user's session is an integral part of web applications. It is an area that requires extensive testing to ensure it is set up robustly and securely. This module covers the most common attacks and vulnerabilities that can affect web application sessions, such as Session Hijacking, Session Fixation, Cross-Site Request Forgery, Cross-Site Scripting, and Open Redirects.
Medium
Path Sections 17 Sections
Reward: +10
Databases are an important part of web application infrastructure and SQL (Structured Query Language) to store, retrieve, and manipulate information stored in them. SQL injection is a code injection technique used to take advantage of coding vulnerabilities and inject SQL queries via an application to bypass authentication, retrieve data from the back-end database, or achieve code execution on the underlying server.
Easy
Path Sections 11 Sections
Reward: +20
The SQLMap Essentials module will teach you the basics of using SQLMap to discover various types of SQL Injection vulnerabilities, all the way to the advanced enumeration of databases to retrieve all data of interest.
Medium
Path Sections 11 Sections
Reward: +10
File Inclusion is a common web application vulnerability, which can be easily overlooked as part of a web application's functionality.
Medium
Path Sections 11 Sections
Reward: +20
Arbitrary file uploads are among the most critical web vulnerabilities. These flaws enable attackers to upload malicious files, execute arbitrary commands on the back-end server, and even take control over the entire server and all web applications hosted on it and potentially gain access to sensitive data or cause a service disruption.
Medium
Path Sections 12 Sections
Reward: +20
Command injection vulnerabilities can be leveraged to compromise a hosting server and its entire network. This module will teach you how to identify and exploit command injection vulnerabilities and how to use various filter bypassing techniques to avoid security mitigations.
Medium
Path Sections 14 Sections
Reward: +20 NEW
Authentication is probably the most straightforward and prevalent measure used to secure access to resources, and it's the first line of defense against unauthorized access. Broken authentication is listed as #7 on the 2021 OWASP Top 10 Web Application Security Risks, falling under the broader category of Identification and Authentication failures. A vulnerability or misconfiguration at the authentication stage can impact an application's overall security.
Medium
Path Sections 18 Sections
Reward: +20
This module covers three common web vulnerabilities, HTTP Verb Tampering, IDOR, and XXE, each of which can have a significant impact on a company's systems. We will cover how to identify, exploit, and prevent each of them through various methods.
Medium
Path Sections 33 Sections
Reward: +20
Penetration Testers can come across various applications, such as Content Management Systems, custom web applications, internal portals used by developers and sysadmins, and more. It's common to find the same applications across many different environments. While an application may not be vulnerable in one environment, it may be misconfigured or unpatched in the next. It is important as an assessor to have a firm grasp of enumerating and attacking the common applications discussed in this module. This knowledge will help when encountering other types of applications during assessments.
Medium
Path Sections 13 Sections
Reward: +20
Web services and APIs are frequently exposed to provide certain functionalities in a programmatic way between heterogeneous devices and software components. Both web services and APIs can assist in integrating different applications or facilitate separation within a given application. This module covers how to identify the functionality a web service or API offers and exploit any security-related inefficiencies.
Hard
Path Sections 16 Sections
Reward: +100
In this module, we cover blind SQL injection attacks and MSSQL-specific attacks.
Hard
Path Sections 12 Sections
Reward: +100
This module covers advanced SQL injection techniques with a focus on white-box testing, Java/Spring and PostgreSQL.
Hard
Path Sections 21 Sections
Reward: +100
This 'secure coding' module teaches how to identify logic bugs through code review and analysis, and covers three types of logic bugs caused by user input manipulation.
Easy
Path Sections 16 Sections
Reward: +20
WordPress is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) that can be used for multiple purposes.
Easy
Path Sections 8 Sections
Reward: +20
Proper documentation is paramount during any engagement. The end goal of a technical assessment is the report deliverable which will often be presented to a broad audience within the target organization. We must take detailed notes and be very organized in our documentation, which will help us in the event of an incident during the assessment. This will also help ensure that our reports contain enough detail to illustrate the impact of our findings properly.