Monday, June 18, 2018

Testing Tour Stop #13: Pair Penetration Testing with Peter

Today I stopped by Peter Kofler again on my testing tour, picking up our penetration testing endeavors from our first pairing session. We agreed to stay with Dan Billing’s Ticket Magpie as our target system. Last time we left with multiple options how to continue: use tools for automation, or try another attack like cross-site scripting, or explore the source code for vulnerabilities. Peter had come across sqlmap, an "automatic SQL injection and database takeover tool". It looked promising so we decided to give it a try and focused our pairing session on it.

We started out by getting sqlmap to work, installing the required Python version and cloning the GitHub repository. This went nice and easy, without any issues.

Next step was getting to know the tool and figuring out the many options it provides. We already learned last time that the shop's login form was vulnerable to SQL injection, so we used this as our target. From this starting point, we learned step by step what we needed to provide and what not, what single parameters do, how to see what the tool is exactly trying out.

It started out easy - and then it stopped being easy. The nice learning curve we had in the beginning started to flatten out. Whatever we tried, the tool always told us that the login form does not seem to be prone to SQL injection. But why? As humans we could see that our target provided us the information needed to identify existing user accounts. Somehow the tool did not recognize this. Or rather: we did not find out what the tool was missing to be able to recognize it.

In the end, we closed our session with the given result and mixed feelings. We were annoyed we couldn't finish successfully, it was a real pity. We still enjoyed our session, however, and learned a bunch again. It looked easy in the beginning, but then we stumbled and left the session with lots of question marks, already thinking about how to continue. The route of going deeper and investigating more might lead us to the solution, or not any further at all. We won't know before we try it.

What went really smooth was our collaboration. We used the Pomodoros technique this time, breaking down our 90 minutes session into short intervals of 25 minutes, skipping the breaks. This way we had several checkpoints to decide how to proceed, making sure we always stayed aligned. Also, we instantly applied our own pairing style we defined in our last session. I shared my screen, mostly we worked together on it, sometimes we separated our focus to research simultaneously. We used our own shared Google document from the beginning this time to take notes we both could see.

Compared to our first session, I felt that collaboration went easier as we already had worked together, got to know each other a bit and had those basic working agreements to build on. Although this second session was not as successful as the first, we both shared the opinion that pairing itself is invaluable to generate ideas what the problem could be and what to try next to solve it. Pairing challenges our own understanding, creating a shared one. Pairing is the learning time we don't want to miss.

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