Book Review: Metasploit Penetration Testing Cookbook

At the very beginning of getting into pentesting most users come across Metasploit as an embedded tool in Back Track.  And many times our first experience is this… cd /opt/framework3/msf/ ….  Scratching our heads wondering what’s next.  Well after some Google searches we come up with the answer “ah, yes! I must enter msfconsole or was it ./msfconsole” and this most glorious low-tech ascii picture comes up, sometime a cow, sometimes the word Metasploit, but it’s splendor lays in that blinking cursor preceded by ” msf >” it’s laying there waiting, wanting for a command to do it’s master’s bidding.  Then reality hits you over the head like Hacksaw Jim Duggan with a 2×4 – I don’t know what to do!  This is where Metasploit Penetration Testing Cookbook by Abhinav Singh comes in handy.

The book does a really good job of providing a beginning foundation with escalating use of difficulty.  It was not overly difficult to follow along but I think it’s strong point will be in providing reference for different areas in the use of Metasploit.

I really think the book was a stand out in a few areas:

– The quick walk through of what could go wrong during setup and how to potentially fix the issue.  The screen shots served as a good reference point of what to expect in that regard.  From memory I cannot recall very many technical security books that addressed what could go wrong and the fix(es).

– The use of SSH to help save on memory resources.  I think many like to use the Linux UI to get to the Metasploit framework and this is a great alternative to reach Metasploit and really exercise ones command line skillz. (yes, I actually used “z” instead of “s”… Gotta keep street cred Yo!)

– The inclusion of multiple OS’s for targeting against.  This was great run through as most will only have Windows XP SP2 and a Linux flavor listed.  This actually brought the exercises to feel more real.  Unfortunately though, it didn’t go into more depth on the OS exploitation and felt limited.

– The inclusion of Armitage was a nice surprise, but far to little in comparison to the rest of the Metasploit chapters.  The introduction to fast and easy hacking was far to little.

– The introduction to the Social Engineering Toolkit (SET) was nice as well.  Again in my opinion, it could’ve used a little more exposure along with Armitage.

– The “How it works…” sections were nice as well.  I know some just want to get it working but there are those of us who want to go deeper into the rabbit hole to understand how and why it works, but alas it seems like there can never be enough information.

Even though the book didn’t go as in-depth, the reality is you can’t otherwise we’d all be toting 10 lbs. book that could go on for days and days.  But I do think that a few of the subjects like Armitage and SET could’ve been expanded upon a little more as they’re are becoming more and more important tools in the security professionals toolkit for finding vulnerabilities and exploiting them.  Overall, there are quite a few good book on this subject out there and this is one that should be included on your reference shelf.

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BOOK REVIEW: Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments: The Ultimate Security Guide by Lee Allen

Alright, alright already… Another Pen Testing book… Many, if not all of us have purchased or downloaded purchased *cough, cough* copies of Pen Testing books in its many forms and have gone through them only to find it was fairly similar to the last one purchased.  Does it lay out the phases of a pen test? Check. Does it mention the scanners we all know and love?  Check.  Does it mention and give examples of using Metasploit?  Check.  Well, for all the experienced testers out there and for us noobs alike there is a new Sheriff-in-Town and he, or she, is looking really promising!  The book is called Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments: The Ultimate Security Guide by Lee Allen.

I know you’re probably thinking, “what another book on pen testing?, whatever…”, but I think that this one picks up where the others have left off or left out.  I’m not going to go chapter by chapter but highlight areas that I think are great to read and with methods to use.  So away we go!

It’s quite refreshing that it is assumed the reader is somewhat technical and doesn’t need to be fully hand held through the lab setup process so not a lot is wasted on setting up your VMs or debating what flavor is the best.  It can also be said that the information is also great for getting the noob up and running.  The one part that I really appreciated reading was on setting up BackTrack and the snippets of commands used to get it up and running, installed, and updated (for all us noobs it shortens the amount of time spent in the forums, but doesn’t alleviate the need to “TRY HARDER!!”).

This book is also great in introducing tools that I hadn’t had much exposure to and the thought of using Magic Tree as a means to help create your report is great!  I know that we’ve all muddled through results trying to ensure that our text files are somewhat organized.  Having Magic Tree help to collect your information and then format into a report is invaluable.  I also like that Dradis is introduced as a means to gather all of you information into one place that can be shared.  This would be very helpful when working on a team test.

One thing that I’ve enjoyed through the book is the use of the Metasploit framework and the Social Engineering  (SET) Toolkit.  I know that Metasploit has been covered in-depth within other books but I think it’s the presentation of use and updating that makes it really refreshing!  I also really like that a small part of SET is discussed and walked through.  Those two tools have become di rigueur in the pen tester’s bag of tricks!  Even though it’s not deep it gives enough for the reader to get started down the path.

One chapter that I haven’t really seen anywhere else is on Post Exploitation.  To read about and try some of the methods in the chapter has been fun.  More so it has the old brain-housing group really thinking about how to positively perform post exploitation that gives the customer or client a solid feel for what can be had in their environment.

Something else that I’ve really enjoyed seeing is that there are progressively harder challenges through the use of Kioptrix.  The reader has the chance to start at level one and move up to more advanced techniques, which the user can use to practice against.  Reminds me a lot of Web Goat and hacking challenges from Astalavista in that you have progressively harder challenges to get through.

There are so many good qualities to this book that I’ve enjoyed that I would recommend this to my friends and colleagues, even if it were only for a reference.  The pacing of the read and the examples were good enough to keep me from saying “WTF how did he set that up?” and actually kept me engaged in the content.  If you’re in the market for a good book that is not only a great primer on the subject but also an excellent reference, this is one I would recommend considering.

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