Saturday, December 1, 2012

Some Thoughts on HackEire @ Realex

So HackEire @ Realex went very well thankfully on Thursday last (28/11/12) and I think we saw people actually learn and improve their security skills through the 4 hours of the CTF. There was a huge range in the skill-sets but from the feedback that I've received, everyone enjoyed themselves and they all feel like they learned, which is simply awesome.

I completely realise that the CTF is far from perfect, so any feedback on areas that should be improved, please let me know. As with all CTFs, the infrastructure did require a reboot to restore sanity to the machines at two points, which is really the challenge of running everything as VMs in the one physical box, under a finite amount of memory and CPU. However, I always feel that this is a great thing because the reboot typically only takes 5 minutes and it forces the attendees to actually talk to each other and communicate as opposed to ploughing straight in :)

The challenge had four elements that involved

  • passwords
  • known old vulnerabilities on that machine in the corner that couldn't be patched
  • two web applications with a load of various vulnerabilities, some hard and some easy
where a range of skills were required
  • network scanning
  • tcp understanding
  • http and application knowledge
  • database awareness
  • the ability to "google" the odd time for those things you've forgotten
  • some lateral thinking
  • common sense and the ability to step back and reason with oneself :)

Thanks to Marc Wickenden (of 7 Elements) for completing the tweaks that I made to his superb BSides web application challenge and being awesome; Securityninja for being so innovative and backing the CTF idea; and a huge thanks Realex Payments for supporting our original idea and putting on an excellent show as the host (great facilities, so welcoming, delicious food and a constant supply of refreshments). Some more pictures from the event can be found here. In my experience, it is truly rare that a company will support such an event on-premise, however, I believe that's another reason why Realex Payments are ahead of the game!!!

If you feel like you'd like to run a mini version of HackEire in your company to help educate your team and/or give back to the community, just like Realex have, let me know (mark [AT] kybeire [DOT] com).


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HackEire @ Realex

So as per this blog post  from @securityninja, a miniature version of HackEire will be running tomorrow (Thursday, November 29th) at the Realex Payments offices, in Dublin City Centre.

This event is probably the culmination of the waffle myself and Dave did in this blog post last year, i.e. we've decided to put into action what we were "mouthing" about. The game is smaller than what has previously run at IrissCon and the intention is to bring "security" into the developer world, a world that I have realised I now operate in as part of life with MongoDB.

Regarding keeping score, on this occasion, we decided that there was no point and it would act as a distraction but maybe on future occasions we'll put something up.

So if you're coming tomorrow, I'm looking forward to meeting you and remember, the goal here is to have fun and learn!! There's no need to worry about breaking stuff (I'll probably beat you to it) and please, don't be afraid about not knowing how to "break into" a XP SP2, everyone has to start somewhere.



Thursday, July 12, 2012


For quite some time, I've been wondering what to do with the various challenges from the last few years of HackEire. I've released quite a few of them through Dropbox links to folks on Twitter or but that was a little ad-hoc and I'd no central repository. Working for 10gen has encouraged forced me to learn about git and I actually like it (a little bit) :)

As a result, I've decided that GitHub is the best place for it so I'm starting to upload what I have from the various contests. Unfortunately, the 2009 stuff is essentially gone, whilst I've misplaced some of the 2010 challenges :( Additionally, it's not possible to upload the web application, infrastructure or o/s challenges for a few reasons -
  • legal
  • licensing
  • the VMs are huge 
Anyway, check it out here and enjoy :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Packet Analysis 2011 Challenges

The pcaps from HackEire 2011 have been posted here along with the questions, if you want to have some fun with them.



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

HackEire 2012 - On or Off?

Quite a few people have recently been asking me about HackEire 2012 so just to clarify that I will not be running HackEire this year. It's a long story but to summarise, I just don't have the time to run such an event again and with each passing year, it got harder and there was less help forthcoming unfortunately.

I'd like to thank Singe for all his help over the three years and Brian Honan (Head of Iriss-Cert) for his support for allowing me to run an event where people come and hack boxes. Last year was the toughest yet and most complex infrastructure, probably too complex, but thanks to Damian, we were able to have a live scoreboard with some vulnerabilities and to Bob and David, we had some simply awesome reverse-engineering challenges.

I'd also like to thank everyone who has attended the event over the past three years, thank you because it'd obviously wouldn't have gone ahead if no-one turned up!!!

The good news is that Iriss-Cert team will be holding the IrissCon conference again this year and they intend on having a new ethical hacking contest, however, I am not sure as to what form this will take. If you have further questions, please email

I still have some challenges from HackEire 2011 to release so I will do that over the coming months, once I get some proper free time (sorry for the delay).

Hopefully, at some point in the near future, time permitting, HackEire will make a return in some format......

Monday, January 16, 2012

Campus Con 2012

I meant to do this sooner but I kept forgetting. Anyway, Campus Con 2012 is on in Waterford, Ireland, this coming weekend.

The list of talks can be viewed here and it looks like the WIT hacker folk have also organised a CTF, which looks like a good bit of fun.

The conference is being held here on WIT Sports Campus (the page linked includes directions).

It's great to see another #infosec conference in Ireland and I'd like to wish the organisers all the best and fair play to them for setting it up. Hopefully next year, I'll make it down.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HackEire 2011 - Ramblings - Part 2

At HackEire 2011, as I've previously mentioned,  I was pretty ambitious with the network design. This had some interesting consequences, mostly good but yes, the odd one did cause a performance issue on the day :)

Anyway, one of the things that worked quite well was the NSM (Network Security Monitor) that I implemented. So for me, to put it simply, NSM is essentially something that makes an IDS useful as it gives the analyst a better view into their network as it provides the tools for the analyst to analyse their network traffic in an improved fashion so he/she may understand it better and so do a better job easier!!! This is what I wanted to do, understand the goings-on in the HackEire network better.

I won't talk about why this is as you're probably better following @taosecurity for a much better explanation of why a NSM rocks (or follow @dougburks, i.e. Mr SecurityOnion, for that matter).

As the Google Code Page for Security Onion says -

Security Onion is a Linux distro for IDS (Intrusion Detection) and NSM (Network Security Monitoring). It's based on Xubuntu 10.04 and contains Snort, Suricata, Sguil, Squert, argus, Xplico, tcpreplay, scapy, hping, and many other security tools.

So as you can seem deciding where to start with Security Onion is a difficult place as there's so much useful and cool stuff within it and it's definitely easier to configure than many commercial solutions :) Ever try figuring out how to install Sguil or Barnyard by yourself? So how did I configure Security Onion at HackEire? Well, consider this to be the only network diagram that you'll ever see of HackEire -

To configure this set-up, I manually edited the /etc/network/interfaces file and played with the brctl utilities until I had the set-up as I wanted. I didn't use Network Manager at all but maybe I should have for simplicity, ah well :)


There's really no point in me talking about this much when Doug's already discussed it so well here on the PaulDotCom website.

The recommended installation steps are here.

All I will add is that it's really simple :)

In this blog, I refer to the command-line but it's really easy to do configure a lot of things through the desktop interface as this screenshot shows that everything is there -

Sguil & Squert

Sguil and Squert are two things that truly turn Security Onion from an IDS into a NSM and with these you can really make sense of what's going on in your network. Unfortunately, I've lost the screenshots from the day :( so here's some vanilla-type stuff -

Sguil has its own GUI that enables the analyst to interpret the alerts, view the session data or the raw packets themselves. I've generated the alerts below by accessing httpo:// with 'curl' -

OVERALL (including the raw packet data in the bottom righ-hand corner)


Squert is a web-based tool, launched through the browser (Firefox by default on Security Onion) that is used to query and view event data stored in a Sguil database.

Sguil and Squert both put a context on the data that the analyst is viewing.


So one of the cool things that Security Onion comes with is 'httpry', a packet sniffer that shows http traffic. As all of the HackEire competitors were browsing through the IDS device when attacking the Bhratach network, all their http traffic was being logged (unbeknownst to them :) ).

Below is a snippet of the 'ps' output showing httpry configuration residing in /etc/nsm/ids-br0/http_agent.conf with the exclude file in the same directory and the logs in /nsm/sensor_data_ids-br0/httpry/$date.log.

sguil     1436  0.0  0.2   6500  4392 ?        S    16:58   0:00 httpry -f timestamp,source-ip,source-port,dest-ip,dest-port,method,host,request-uri,referer,user-agent -i br0 -o /nsm/sensor_data/ids-br0/httpry/2011-12-22.log -u sguil
root      1459  0.0  0.1   5512  2224 ?        S    16:58   0:00 tclsh /usr/local/bin/httpry_agent.tcl -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/httpry_agent.conf -e /etc/nsm/ids-br0/httpry_agent.exclude -f /nsm/sensor_data/ids-br0/httpry/2011-12-22.log

This is the standard configuration for Security Onion -

  • Log files from the Sensor under /nsm/sensor_data/NAME-OF-SENSOR
  • Configuration in /etc/nsm/NAME-OF-SENSOR

where NAME-OF-SENSOR is 'ids-interface' where interface is the monitored interface so in my case you'll see ids-br0, where br0 was the bridged interface combining eth0 and eth1.

There was almost a GB of data on the day so it's quite hard to analyse (with the limited time that I have), however, here's a few things that we saw -

There were two log files on the day due to a forced restart of the VM.
Using some shell fu, we see that there's 405434 lines/entries in httpry.log and of that total, 118314 contain dirbuster -

$ wc -l httpry.log && perl -ne 'if (m/dirbuster/i) {print $_}' httpry.log | wc -l
  405434 httpry.log
So roughly 29% of the http traffic through the IDS device was using DirBuster to attack a web-server that was very well locked down. This web-server actually had no none web vulnerabilities, hosted all of the forensic/packet/general challenges and was best attacked through pivoting off another box.
Sample log -  
2011-11-23 14:16:34     59318  80      HEAD  /       -       DirBuster-0.12 (

$ awk '{print $3 "\t" $5}' dirbuster.log | uniq
So of the 36 people there on the day, 2 felt the need to bombard the network with DirBuster :)

As I mentioned on the day of the HackEire event, the second log file contained multiple attempts to penetrate one of the honeypots on the Bhratach network :) Like I said, there will be 'red herrings' on the day, it's your responsibility to read the questions and correctly fingerprint the services and servers.

Snort Log Files

As we were using Snort as the IDS on Security Onion (you can also use Suricata, which also looks very cool but I haven't played with it yet), we logically had Snort log files, located under


Running 'ps auwx' shows that we've the Snort agent running with its configuration in /etc/nsm/NAME-OF-SENSOR/snort_agent.conf

root      1287  0.0  0.1   5536  2164 ?        S    16:58   0:00 tclsh /usr/local/bin/snort_agent.tcl -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/snort_agent.conf

Security Onion uses Barnyard (an output spool reader for Snort that decouples the output process from Snort so Snort can perform better and not worry about logging to a database) for Snort logging (/etc/nsm/$interface/snort.conf is set-up by default to log in unified binary mode) -

root      1349  0.0  0.0   8028   896 ?        S    16:58   0:03 barnyard2 -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/barnyard2.conf -d /nsm/sensor_data/ids-br0 -f snort.unified2 -w /etc/nsm/ids-br0/barnyard2.waldo -U

and Sguil logging its information to

/nsm/sensor_data/$interface/dailylogs/$date as expected -

sguil     1387  0.0  0.2   6204  4344 ?        S    16:58   0:01 daemonlogger -u sguil -g sguil -i br0 -l /nsm/sensor_data/ids-br0/dailylogs/2011-12-22 -n snort.log -s 134217728

These log files are stored in Snort's binary format and to run them is as simple as - 

  • snort -r snort.log.1322068350

which produces something like - 


11/23-17:12:30.904710 ->
TCP TTL:63 TOS:0x0 ID:48174 IpLen:20 DgmLen:266 DF
***AP*** Seq: 0x247B1B15  Ack: 0x3A3B75A2  Win: 0xFFFF  TcpLen: 20

11/23-17:12:30.904838 ->
TCP TTL:63 TOS:0x0 ID:9461 IpLen:20 DgmLen:455 DF
***AP*** Seq: 0xF6BD0441  Ack: 0xD626FD50  Win: 0x3908  TcpLen: 20

Basic Packet Statistics

I'd promised @dougburks some statistics on the day, hence one of the reasons why I was looking at the afore-mentioned snort log files because within the file they give some nice breakdown on protocols and packets - 

Run time for packet processing was 20.870504 seconds
Snort processed 592198 packets.
Snort ran for 0 days 0 hours 0 minutes 20 seconds
   Pkts/sec:        29609
Packet I/O Totals:
   Received:       592198
   Analyzed:       592198 (100.000%)
    Dropped:            0 (  0.000%)
   Filtered:            0 (  0.000%)
Outstanding:            0 (  0.000%)
   Injected:            0
Breakdown by protocol (includes rebuilt packets):
        Eth:       592198 (100.000%)
       VLAN:            0 (  0.000%)
        IP4:       589797 ( 99.595%)
       Frag:            0 (  0.000%)
       ICMP:        21830 (  3.686%)
        UDP:        13452 (  2.272%)
        TCP:       554515 ( 93.637%)
        IP6:           22 (  0.004%)
    IP6 Ext:           22 (  0.004%)
   IP6 Opts:            0 (  0.000%)
      Frag6:            0 (  0.000%)
      ICMP6:            0 (  0.000%)
       UDP6:           22 (  0.004%)
       TCP6:            0 (  0.000%)
      Total:       592198

which I'm not going to expand on in this blog post (due to lack of time).

These snippets are pretty useful as they give a good protocol breakdown on your traffic profile.


We were running IPTraf

which reported a maximum of roughly 5000 kbits/sec and 2500 packets/sec (obviously not in the screenshot above :) ), which admittedly isn't huge but Security Onion easily handled the load.

  • CPU - didn't exceed 20%. We did reconfigure the VM to use two vCPUs but it didn't make any difference as  we expected memory was our issue but as explained below, we could do little about it other than reboot!!
  • Memory - we were using up to 800MB and we'd only assigned 1GB to the VM. As we were using Xen Server 5.6 (for stability reasons), we were unable to dynamically assign more memory (we'll upgrade for next year to 2GB and XS6).
  • Both 'top' and 'Cacti' reported large run queues (9-10) at regular intervals with 'tclsh' taking up a good chunk of memory -

Below are processes called by 'tclsh'. I am unsure as to which one was taking up most memory, however, I suspect the 'sguild' process simply because it's logically the most intensive. I didn't have time to troubleshoot on the day so didn't catch it unfortunately.

root      1099  1.7 57.6 2186564 1186708 ?     S    16:57   6:28 tclsh /usr/local/bin/sguild -c /etc/nsm/securityonion/sguild.conf -a /etc/nsm/securityonion/autocat.conf -g /etc/nsm/securityonion/sguild.queries -A /etc/nsm/securityonion/sguild.access -C /etc/nsm/securityonion/certs 
root      1228  0.0  0.1   5664  2716 ?        S    16:57   0:00 tclsh /usr/local/bin/pcap_agent.tcl -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/pcap_agent.conf 
root      1253  0.0  0.1   6180  3304 ?        S    16:57   0:01 tclsh /usr/local/bin/sancp_agent.tcl -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/sancp_agent.conf 
root      1287  0.0  0.1   5536  2164 ?        S    16:58   0:00 tclsh /usr/local/bin/snort_agent.tcl -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/snort_agent.conf 
root      1459  0.0  0.1   5512  2224 ?        S    16:58   0:00 tclsh /usr/local/bin/httpry_agent.tcl -c /etc/nsm/ids-br0/httpry_agent.conf -e /etc/nsm/ids-br0/httpry_agent.exclude -f /nsm/sensor_data/ids-br0/httpry/2011-12-22.log 
root      1567  0.0  0.2  12628  6084 ?        S    16:58   0:00 tclsh /etc/nsm/ossec/ossec_agent.tcl -o -f /var/ossec/logs/alerts/alerts.log -i -p 5 -c /etc/nsm/ossec/ossec_agent.conf

Modifying Rules

So there are two rules files - 
  • downloaded-rules
  • local-rules
These files reside in /etc/nsm/NAME-OF-SENSOR.

It's very easy to modify the local-rules, e.g. here's two that I used to monitor GUI access to devices that had GUI access open -


more local-rules.txt
alert tcp any any -> $GUI_NET 80 (msg:"Alert HTTP Access to Router & LBGUIs";sid:1000005; rev:1;)
alert tcp any any -> $GUI_NET 443 (msg:"Alert HTTPS Access to Router & LB GUIs";sid:1000006; rev:1;)

I had defined the $GUI_NET variable previously in my Snort configuration for 'ids-br0'.

I also played a little with Pulledpork, which will download and modify the rules. The files are located in /etc/pulledpork and are updated daily at 07:01 with manual updates by running /usr/local/bin/ It is very simple :)