Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Know Your Enemies and Know Yourself


Sun Tzu's The Art of War (孙子兵法) says "If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be put at risk even in a hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself." (知彼知己,百战不殆;不知彼而知己,一胜一负;不知彼,不知己,每战必殆。) [source : Wikipedia]

Sun Tzu's The Art of War also says "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near." (兵者,诡道也。故能而示之不能,用而示之不用,近而示之远,远而示之近。) [source : Wikipedia]


Most internet attack activities based on recon on the target. Recon can be conducted by active and passive methods. Active recon will cause a lot of noise to the target as it will collect information from the target directly while passive recon does not.

Once attackers gathered valuable information about the target, such as running services and versions on the target. They will launch exploits when there are vulnerable services running on the target. Once success, the target will be compromised and under the control of the attackers.

On the other hand, if there is no running vulnerable services on the target, attackers may launch social engineering attacks against the target, such as phishing mails, phishing sites, phishing phone calls, phishing downloads and etc. Social engineering may lead to compromise of the target as a result.

The captioned mention attacks can be based on randomly selected target or targeted victim. Furthermore, some attacks are directly by botnets which randomly selecting the targets and aimed to the vulnerable running services. Botnet attacks also have active recon stage as mentioned before.

Possible Defense

Besides some of social engineering attacks, we all know that all almost all attacks are following by recon. If attackers cannot get any valuable information from us, we can delay or even prevent the attack.

We all know that nmap can obtain information of the running services on the opening ports. If we can block nmap scanning from the beginning, attackers are required to guess which ports are opened and which services and versions are running on that ports. They cannot go further when they have no valuable information about us. If so, we can delay or even prevent the attacks. However, social engineering attacks may be launched soon by the attackers.

Commercial Solution

Some anti-virus for Windows system and some Unified Threats Management System (UTM) as well as some Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) can block port scanning. However, some of them failed to detect and block the nmap scan when it is scanning with special command flags. Meanwhile, anti-virus software and UTM as well as IPS may require to subscribe the signatures annually. In addition, commercial UTM and IPS are very expensive. It may cost a lot when long run.

Open Source Solution

Suricata and Snort are very famous Intrusion Detection and Prevention engines (IDPS). They are running based on blacklisting. Those blacklists are rules to alert or block the traffic when the traffic meets the criteria. There are open rules and paid rules available in the market. Some IDPS engines users can write their own rules to meet their requirements. However, some of the rules are written wrongly that causing false positive alert or even cannot detect the activities.

Not everyone is IDPS expert. Setting up a working Suricata or Snort appliance is painful. Users are required to troubleshoot all the problems that they are encountered. Sometimes are hardware limitations. Sometimes are false positive alerts/drops. Sometimes are IDPS engines limitations.

Plug, Play and Forget!

Almond Croissants is an open source IDPS based on Suricata engine. It is released under GPLv3 by Samiux since 2012. It is well tested on Windows, macOS, Linux, Apple iOS and Android. Engine and rules are updated automatically when they are available. Users are not required to be very familiar with IDPS. It not only can detect and block nmap scanning without pain but also have many outstanding features that most IDPS omitted. It is tasty and really "Plug, Play and Forget!"

That's all! See you.