Category Archives: Social Networks

Hacking: The Next Generation

Photo: OReilly

Photo: O'Reilly

My first book Hacking: The Next Generation is now available in electronic format. The physical version should be available on Amazon and in book stores in the next few days.

I want to thank Mike Loukides of O’Reilly, and my co-authors Billy Rios and Nitesh Dhanjani. A special thanks to Nitesh for providing me this opportunity.

Here is a description and the layout of the book. If you read the book please send me a shout-out on Twitter and let me know what you think, I would love to hear feedback.


With the advent of rich Internet applications, the explosion of social media, and the increased use of powerful cloud computing infrastructures, a new generation of attackers has added cunning new techniques to its arsenal. For anyone involved in defending an application or a network of systems, Hacking: The Next Generation is one of the few books to identify a variety of emerging attack vectors.

You’ll not only find valuable information on new hacks that attempt to exploit technical flaws, you’ll also learn how attackers take advantage of individuals via social networking sites, and abuse vulnerabilities in wireless technologies and cloud infrastructures. Written by seasoned Internet security professionals, this book helps you understand the motives and psychology of hackers behind these attacks, enabling you to better prepare and defend against them.

  • Learn how “inside out” techniques can poke holes into protected networks
  • Understand the new wave of “blended threats” that take advantage of multiple application vulnerabilities to steal corporate data
  • Recognize weaknesses in today’s powerful cloud infrastructures and how they can be exploited
  • Prevent attacks against the mobile workforce and their devices containing valuable data
  • Be aware of attacks via social networking sites to obtain confidential information from executives and their assistants
  • Get case studies that show how several layers of vulnerabilities can be used to compromise multinational corporations.

Chapter 1 – Intelligence Gathering: Peering Through the Windows to Your Organization

To successfully execute an attack against any given organization, the attacker must first perform reconnaissance to gather as much intelligence about the organization as possible. In this chapter, we look at traditional attack methods as well as how the new generation of attackers is able to leverage new technologies for information gathering.

Chapter 2 – Inside-Out Attacks: The Attacker Is the Insider

Not only does the popular perimeter-based approach to security provide little risk reduction today, but it is in fact contributing to an increased attack surface that criminals are using to launch potentially devastating attacks. The impact of the attacks illustrated in this chapter can be extremely devastating to businesses that approach security with a perimeter mindset where the insiders are generally trusted with information that is confidential and critical to the organization.

Chapter 3 – The Way It Works: There Is No Patch

The protocols that support network communication, which are relied upon for the Internet to work, were not specifically designed with security in mind. In this chapter, we study why these protocols are weak and how attackers have and will continue to exploit them.

Chapter 4 – Blended Threats: When Applications Exploit Each Other

The amount of software installed on a modern computer system is staggering. With so many different software packages on a single machine, the complexity of managing the interactions between these software packages becomes increasingly complex. Complexity is the friend of the next-generation hacker. This chapter exposes the techniques used to pit software against software. We present the various blended threats and blended attacks so that you can gain some insight as to how these attacks are executed and the thought process behind blended exploitation.

Chapter 5 – Cloud Insecurity: Sharing the Cloud with Your Enemy

Cloud computing is seen as the next generation of computing. The benefits, cost savings, and business justifications for moving to a cloud-based environment are compelling. This chapter illustrates how next-generation hackers are positioning themselves to take advantage of and abuse cloud platforms, and includes tangible examples of vulnerabilities we have discovered in today’s popular cloud platforms.

Chapter 6 – Abusing Mobile Devices: Targeting Your Mobile Workforce

Today’s workforce is a mobile army, traveling to the customer and making business happen. The explosion of laptops, wireless networks, and powerful cell phones, coupled with the need to “get things done,” creates a perfect storm for the next-generation attacker. This chapter walks through some scenarios showing how the mobile workforce can be a prime target of attacks.

Chapter 7 – Infiltrating the Phishing Underground: Learning from Online Criminals?

Phishers are a unique bunch. They are a nuisance to businesses and legal authorities and can cause a significant amount of damage to a person’s financial reputation. In this chapter, we infiltrate and uncover this ecosystem so that we can shed some light on and advance our quest toward understanding this popular subset of the new generation of criminals.

Chapter 8 – Influencing Your Victims: Do What We Tell You, Please

The new generation of attackers doesn’t want to target only networks, operating systems, and applications. These attackers also want to target the people who have access to the data they want to get a hold of. It is sometimes easier for an attacker to get what she wants by influencing and manipulating a human being than it is to invest a lot of time finding and exploiting a technical vulnerability. In this chapter, we look at the crafty techniques attackers employ to discover information about people to influence them.

Chapter 9 – Hacking Executives: Can Your CEO Spot a Targeted Attack?

When attackers begin to focus their attacks on specific corporate individuals, executives often become the prime target. These are the “C Team” members of the company—for instance, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and chief operating officers. Not only are these executives in higher income brackets than other potential targets, but also the value of the information on their laptops can rival the value of information in the corporation’s databases. This chapter walks through scenarios an attacker may use to target executives of large corporations.

Chapter 10 – Case Studies: Different Perspectives

This chapter presents two scenarios on how a determined hacker can cross-pollinate vulnerabilities from different processes, systems, and applications to compromise businesses and steal confidential data.


Graph Theory: Analyzing Social Networks

Photo: escapedtowisconsin

Photo: escapedtowisconsin

Social networking applications are among the most popular websites that are used on the Internet. and are both in the top 20 most visited pages on the Internet. According to Alexa, 17% of global Internet users visit on a daily basis.
Facebook Alexa Stats
How can attackers use the abundant amounts of information that is available on these websites to aid in their attacks?

One method is by analyzing a victims social network using network analysis.

Network analysis is a way to infer information from the social connections that someone makes. An attacker could use a social applications data set to:

By assigning people and organizations to nodes and linking nodes based on relationships, attackers can begin to infer information from these social graphs.

Who is the Most Influential?
It is beneficial for an attacker to know who is the most influential person in their victim’s social network. Constructing a malicious instant message or email that requires user intervention (think Reflective Cross-Site Scripting) will have a higher success rate, if it is sent from the victim’s most influential friend.

In order to analyze the victim’s social network from an influential perspective, the attacker begins by constructing a graph with the victim in the center and each of the victim’s friends as node off of the victim.

In this example, Sam is the attacker’s target. Sam has five friends, Alice, Bart, Charlie, Dave, and Ed. This would create a star graph that would look like this.

The next step is for the attacker to analyze the connections between Sam’s friends. The attacker identifies that Alice communicates with Bart on a regular basis, so a link is made between Alice and Bart.

It is also easier for the attacker to understand who is the most influential by assigning a value to each vertex. Alice and Bart’s vertex would change from 0 to 1, since they know one of Sam’s friends. In this example, we have made the vertex larger and assigned it a number. Once the social network is analyzed the attacker will have a graph similar to this.

Since Ed knows 3 of Sam’s friends, it can be inferred that Ed is the most influential in Sam’s network. If an attacker wanted to send a malicious instant message or email to Sam, the attacker would have the highest rate of success if the malicious message was from Ed.

This is a simple example. In reality, social networks are vastly more complicated. However, with the use of certain API’s an attacker could use network analysis to his benefit.

Information Gathering: A Way to Identify Who Uses Social Sites

Photo: Pro-Zak

Information gathering on targets is key for attackers. They need to understand their targets to construct more successful attacks.

Recently, I came across I was blown away with the amount of information this site reveals.

The site promotes itself as a way to “check to see if your desired username or vanity url is still available at dozens of popular Social Networking and Social Bookmarking websites.”

From an attackers standpoint, lets say I want to identify all of the resources that Jeremiah Grossman, the CTO of WhiteHat Security uses. I simply type in his blogspot id, “jeremiahgrossman” and I identify that in addition to blogspot he also posts to delicious and youtube. This is great!

For an attacker, this resource provides a way to identify additional paths of research.