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RE: All of the things you need to learn to be a pen-tester (Re: Pen t est basic needs)
From: "AEHeald" <arianheald () bellsouth net>
Date: Thu, 4 Aug 2005 21:30:51 -0400

Hash: SHA1


Daniel's paean to "pure" pentesting (for lack of any other name) gave
me a great deal of thought.  I'm solidly in the "white-hat script
kiddie" working my way into basic attack skills.  I've been an
engineer for 12 years and in infosec for the last five.

What I have noted the most is the absolute lack of consistent
training for this artform known as penetration testing.  In fact, I'm
not sure it _can_ be taught.  It requires an insatiable curiosity and
loads of patience, followed by some healthy adolescent glee.  If
that's what can be defined as a "spark," I'm in for the long haul.  I
love this stuff. 

I'm fundamentally self-taught, doing work for an office where no one
else knows how to do pentesting, other than filling out an audit
checklist **shudder.**   My successes are solitary, and while
consistent, I know I am plucking the low hanging fruit.  Someone has
to do it, and it's good training for me as I go.

If every engagement means that I learn something, I am content.  I am
not in the rarified top ten by any means, but I don't know anyone who
is!  I, too, would like to work with someone who knows their stuff,
but the people I meet know as much as me, rarely more.

It's why I'm on this list.  So bear with us lowly white hat
scripters, we're at least on the learning curve.



Arian Eigen Heald, M.Div., MSIA, CNE, MCP, CISA, CISSP

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...."

- -----Original Message-----
From: Daniel Miessler [mailto:daniel () dmiessler com] 
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 12:37 AM
To: Hagen, Eric
Cc: Stephane Auger; Security Professional; pen-test () securityfocus com
Subject: Re: All of the things you need to learn to be a pen-tester
(Re: Pen t est basic needs)

On Jul 15, 2005, at 5:08 PM, Hagen, Eric wrote:

Learn the difference between a cracker, hacker and a
script-kiddie.   FYI, good pen-testers are BY DEFINITION, good  
hackers.  Bad
pen-testers are almost always uhhh  "white hat script-kiddies".

Dude, this is perhaps the best description of pentesting skillsets  
that I've ever seen. I am quite unhappy with where I personally fall 
on that scale, but I'm working to improve my position. :) Well said, 
man...well said.

but being a good pen-tester is basically akin to being a good

Exactly, and I'd add to this that true cracking starts only when  
you've run every packaged tool and found NO MAJOR OPENINGS. If you  
can get in after finding out that there aren't any massive  
vulnerabilities, *then* you can call yourself a pentester. Until then
you're mostly just running tools and pressing buttons.

I've cracked a decent number of networks in my time as a professional
and I always get praise for it. Although I may have done something  
pretty cool stuff to get control of a network (in the few cases where
there was at least *some* challenge), the openings I had were always 
too large to earn myself any self-respect. It's not cracking if your 
first foothold was a vulnerability that lets you use an attack  
already in Metasploit. That's just too easy, and if it's easy -- it's
not true cracking.

The absolute worst, though, is being called a hacker. It's  
despicable. I feel like screaming, "You shouldn't even be allowed to 
use that word, let alone give the title to someone else." The  
Princess Bride always comes to mind:

Presenter: "This is Daniel, he's a hacker."
Me: "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

So yeah, the differences are very important, as is knowing where you 
truly stand. The vast majority of "pentesters" are just security  
professionals running security tools; there's no creativity, no  
innovation, no spark. Most are actually just kiddies, the next lot  
falls above kiddies and below true crackers, then there's the real  
elites -- those with 1) the cracker mentality, and 2) the cracker  
skillsets. I'm in the upper part of level two I'd say, constantly  
heading toward where I need to be. :)

It's interesting that you, Eric, don't call yourself a pentester  
either. I do becasue it's my job, but I can't help but feel like the 
eternal student with no rights to call myself anything. I use this  
feeling to continue growing.

Being a good cracker is about patience, knowledge, intuition,
knowledge, experience,
knowledge and most importantly, all of the above.

Amen, brother.

FYI, FOUR semesters of Graduate Level network infrastructure,
network design
and "information warfare" classes didn't come close to covering all
  of this

Yes. This is what I'm talking about. It's like the most qualified  
people have the lowest opinions of their skills. In short, we know  
best how little we really do know.

And I'm no pen-tester.  I wouldn't even put my foot down to claim
that I
could be.  I have 4 years experience in network design, down to  
writing bare
C on raw Ethernet frames and up to designing a WAN topography and I
feel comfortable selling myself as a "pen-tester".  In my opinion,
the pen-tester has to be close to the elite of the crackers or
their   test does

Completely agreed. There's only one problem with your definition --  
it only leaves a few hundred people worldwide. I'd submit that you  
*can* have people below this uber-elite level offer something  
tangible to clients. If you can perform a "pentest" for a client and 
uncover deficiencies in their security which they then go on to fix, 
you've performed a service that's worth paying for. Would it be  
better if it were done by one of the true elites? Sure -- but that's 
not to say that the former isn't valuable to some degree.

The problem is there are very few who are even capable of doing  
*that* among those that call themselves pentesters. As discussed,  
most people with the title are simply running tools. They're the CORE
IMPACT class. Point and click, point and click.

If all you do is run some tools and see that the tools can't do any
you're a script-kiddie, not a pen-tester.


I occasionally refer to myself as a "security professional" but
even that
sometimes feels like a stretch.

Seriously...me too. I feel like being a student of the discipline and
a "professional" are almost mutually exclusive, and I'm *definitely* 
the former. The thing you have to consider, though, is how you  
compare to the other "professionals". :) Think of the benefit to the 
client moreso than your own personal ranking.  If I went by my own  
personal standards, I wouldn't be in the field at all. I'd be huddled
up over my personal computer lab "getting ready" for the next 15

I would love to be an assistant with
someone far more experienced than myself.  I love learning.  :-)

Same here, and thanks for the most excellent post.


- -- 
Daniel R. Miessler
M: daniel () dmiessler com
W: http://dmiessler.com
G: 0x316BC712

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