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RE: What is being a pen tester really like? (fwd)
From: "Porter, Thomas (Tom)" <tporter () avaya com>
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2006 22:45:51 -0400

I have always liked these two quotes regarding pen-testers
qualifications, and their analytical challenge.

Pentesters...
"Desirable characteristics for the penetration testing team include
experience, people knowledgeable of the target system, creative folks
with bizarre ideas on associations of software modules, software
development methods and tools, operating systems' control structure,
resource allocation, input/output, human interfaces, and memory
management. Successful testers are individuals who are detail oriented,
careful thinkers, and persistent."

Handbook for the Computer Security Certification of Trusted Systems
Naval Research Laboratory --- NRL Technical Memorandum 5540:082A



And this for the process:  "Not everything that can be counted counts
and not everything that counts can be counted." 
A. Einstein

My best $.02

Thomas Porter, PHD/AVAYA

-----Original Message-----
From: Erin Carroll [mailto:amoeba () amoebazone com] 
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 3:42 PM
To: pen-test () securityfocus com
Subject: RE: What is being a pen tester really like? (fwd)



I don't think the post was a troll at all. People like myself who have
been in 
the industry a long time have noticed that the sophistication of tools 
available today has reached a point where lack of technical knowledge
isn't the 
unscalable handicap it once was to be a pen-tester. (Notice I didn't say

anything about the *quality* of said pen-tester)

Until relatively recently, in order to be successful as a pen-tester you
had to 
have some kickass technical abilities. There was no Metasploit or Core
Impact, 
there was no WebInspect or Appscan or Nessus... hell, with few
exceptions not 
so long ago (1996-ish?) you had to roll your own tools for just about
anything. 
Nowadays, you could get by as a pen-tester with something like Core
Impact, 
Metasploit, or Canvas and a host supporting FOSS tools. Would I
recommend it? 
No way. Such activity would only get the low-hanngig fruit and miss
other huge 
vulnerabilities. If it wasn't in an exploit package for their tool, it
would be 
missed. Do I think that a tool monkey could get by as a pen-tester?
Yeah, 
probably. I've seen it happen. Do I consider them "pen-testers"? Barely.
I 
don't think they're *good* (or even moderately competent) pen-testers.

But as you said, if they penetrate...

However, I think the real point behind what was said is that pen-testing
has 
become commoditized to an extent where communications ability is just as

important as the technical skill. In some cases, communication skills
can make 
up for a lack in the geek department.

YMMV,
--
Erin Carroll
Moderator - SecurityFocus pen-test list
"Any significantly advanced incompetence
   is indistinguishable from malice"



On Tue, 1 Aug 2006, Arian J. Evans wrote:

Was this post a successful troll, or is the level of
technical competence in the pen-testing space so
commoditized that "nor does it require deep technical
skill" == 2006 pen testing?

Wow.

I struggle regularly to explain the difference between
a "vulnerability assessment" and a pen test, due to the
fact that too many folks pimp pen test offerings that
are just automated VA with a personal touch, like Paul
described. That, however, is the problem, not the answer.

It is not pen-testing if there is no penetration.

</charlatan>

Forgive me, mom, for that sentence,

-ae

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Melson [mailto:pmelson () gmail com]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2006 2:28 PM
To: rahul.joshi2 () googlemail com
Cc: pen-test () securityfocus com
Subject: RE: What is being a pen tester really like?

-----Original Message-----
Subject: What is being a pen tester really like?

rahul.joshi2 () googlemail com wrote:

I am currently a Java developer but I'm seriously thinking
of changing
paths to
a career in security and pen testing.

What I would like to know is what is being a pen tester really like?

Despite what you may have heard, being a successful
pen-tester (meaning, you
get hired and make a living at it) is not very hard, nor does
it require a
lot of very deep technical skill.  What it really requires is
good verbal
and written communication skills, the ability to work well
with clients, and
the ability to explain security (even inaccurately) in terms
of business
value.  Do those things, and you can be successful.

The dirty truth about pen testers is that most of them have a
handful of
tools and scripts (like Nessus and Retina) and run them with the same
configs against every customer and have the same canned
recommendations
based on the results that their tools spit out.  Hell, most
vuln scanners
spit out their own remediation recommendations for the pen
tester to simply
hand over to their customers.  Additionally, for a pen test
to have the
appearance of being successful, it only needs to find some of the
vulnerabilities present on a network or in an application.
Unlike being a
network engineer or an sysadmin where your work has to stand
up to the 24/7
scrutiny of a live environment, being a pen tester means only
needing to be
right more often than you're wrong.

Not to take away from the skills or experience of any
individual pen testers
out there.  There are some Mario Andretti's out there driving
school busses,
if I may.


PaulM



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