Monthly Archives: December 2016

Using CVE data, with CVE-Offline

Tl; dr version – I made a thing that makes the bulk of CVE vulnerability details easy to grep for use when reporting. Get it here: I update it once a month from the NIST database.

Anyone sticking around to read the rest gets a process for checking for known weaknesses in a service. Rationales for why, as well as a bit about how to use CVE-Offline.

Rationale and Process for vulnerability identification

When writing penetration test reports you will need to interact with many online resources to do that well. The simplest thing that you should do is include a summary of any known weaknesses within an installed version of software.

The biggest database of shared vulnerability knowledge is the CVE database. An overview of that is available at the URL below:

Almost every vulnerability in common services will result in a vendor patch AND an entry with a unique CVE identifier. When you are targeting a customer you need to compile a list of known flaws. This is so you can advise them of the exact technical risk posed by using version X of Apache on the day the test was conducted (as an example, not to pick on Apache).

To do this, you can follow the process outlined below:

  1. Identify a service version – “nmap -sV -p <portnumber> <ip>” will to this in most cases.
  2. Look for known vulnerabilities in version – If you are using Nessus, or an alternative vulnerability scanner, they do a pretty decent job of maintaining their database of CVE issues. “IF $version == x.x.x THEN vulnerable to x,y,z” is the logic they use.
    1. If the service is unknown to your vulnerability scanner you will have to find your own list of CVEs if possible. Look up the vendor and product on
    2. They have an export facility of sorts so you can use the output for your product to achieve what CVE-Offline does when you have an Internet connection.
    3. Alternatively, you are going to have to find the release notes, bug tracker, or change log for your target service. They usually track security defects using CVE references. This is not universal though.
  3. Format your list for your report – now that you have a list you are going to want to present them to your customer.
    1. If your list of vulnerabilities is around 20 you can probably show a summary of each issue to the customer.
    2. If the list is ENORMOUS, then are you adding much value in creating 20 pages in your report? Probably not.
    3. In both scenarios you can present the most significant risks with fuller write ups. Go out looking for exploit code to help quantify the exploitability of the service, and present a statistical summary.
    4. For example, “The service had 200 known weaknesses within the CVE database. Of those X were in the high risk range, Y were in the the medium risk range, and Z were in the low risk range. The consultant would advise special attention is paid to CVE-….-…. and CVE-….-…. which allow remote code execution, and denial of service respectively.”

Following that process should get what you want in your reports.

A word on false positives

The above process is pretty simple. There is one massive caveat that you will need to be aware of. That process is, more often than not, based on the service banner returned by your target.

If the OS uses “backporting” to supply security updates, or the admin has mucked about, then the banner number will not necessarily reflect the target’s exploitability. In this case we can get into “false positives”. A quick Google gives us the following definition:


Definition of a false positive – Circa Christmas 2016

If the target is reporting a service banner which is inaccurate when clashed against the vendor’s official release history. Then your results will be inaccurate and you have a false positive.

If we are testing in a black-box scenario we have no access to the underlying operating system by default and cannot fully confirm the banner status in many cases.

What to do? Ensure that your report includes phrases like these:

  1. Vulnerability based on service banner only.
  2. Potential false positive result.
  3. Impact and risk based on assumption that banner was accurate as this is the worst case scenario.

The first line of your recommendations section should definitely be “Conduct an investigation to ensure that the service is vulnerable”. Be sure that you convey these sentiments on all phone calls with your customer and they should learn to trust the other results more as they do not have them!

With that caveat dealt with by the language in your report you can be sure to prevent awkward phone calls when customers call up going “we looked into it, and it was NOT vulnerable.”

Experience tells me that even if you include these caveats you have to justify yourself sometimes. Be aware of it coming by preparing some polite reasons to give.

Using CVE-Offline

It is pretty simple to obtain CVE-Offline. Just clone the git down:

git clone

You can then use your platforms “grep” of choice to find a CVE in the “cve-summary.csv” file. For example, lets look for “CVE-2016-0142” do the following:

grep "CVE-2016-0142" cve-summary.csv
CVE-2016-0142,9.3,"Video Control in Microsoft Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, and Windows 10 Gold, 1511, and 1607 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted web page, aka ""Microsoft Video Control Remote Code Execution Vulnerability."""

This has given you a comma separated line of output that you can now work with. The format of this line is:


You can pipe that bad boy into a .csv file, open it in excel and make pretty tables that you can paste into your report. You are welcome.

Updating CVE-Offline

I update the repository once a month from the nist export feeds. You can get the raw data from here if you want:

Otherwise you basically need to use git to update once a month. Enter your local “cve-offline” directory and do this:

git pull

Personally I have often forgotten how the heck to update a repository I use. So there you are, it is written down!

Simple HTTP/HTTPS Servers

A penetration tester often needs to share files with machines that they are enumerating. If you have managed to obtain a web shell, or a reverse shell, your next step is to do a little dance to praise the shell gods. After that you want to sit back down and check for information to enable further attacks.

At this point you will need to answer the question; “how am I going to get tools onto a server which can do some heavy lifting?”

What tools would you want to upload to a Linux server? Well things that are good at checking for privilege escalations of-course! Like the ones discussed at the Link below:

Overtime you will be able to add to your tool kits and make your own. Try to bundle things up so that you can get your regular tools up to the target ASAP.

Now that you know what you want to upload, lets go about making sure you CAN upload them.

Simple HTTP Server

For most situations using a simple python HTTP service will achieve this. For example, using the following is first step:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer <port> # Syntax
python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8080   # Example

This will start an HTTP server capable of sharing files via HTTP Get on TCP port 8080. This will share the full contents of your present working directory. Before you run this make sure you only have files you do not care about sharing publicly in that folder.

I usually create a folder in /tmp/ for an engagement since this will not persist for very long.

The following screenshot shows how that looks when it is running:


Starting my Server

You can browse to http://localhost:8080/ and you will start to see log entries being spat out to the terminal such as the 200 “ok” and 404 “not found” codes.

On your victim’s machine you simply use “wget” to download from your simple HTTP server and then you have what you need to get going.

For most use cases this is all you will need.

Simple HTTPS Server

What if your target has some sort of traffic inspection and only allows out HTTPS communications? Or what if you just want a *little* bit of privacy while you download your tools to your victim? You need a simple HTTPS server.

Install twisted using python’s pip package manager:

pip install twisted

In the directory you want to start your HTTPS listener in you will need to generate some certificates to use. The following shows the openssl command used to do that:

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout key.pem -out cert.pem -days 365

Note; that twisted will look for “key.pem” and “cert.pem” by default so those are the names to use for this for ease.

This will ask you to create a password which you may need later on. I suggest you use the one for your online banking, and for safe keeping you should write that on a postit note and leave it out for me.

Start a web service using SSL on a specific port:

twistd web --https=<port> --path=<path> # Syntax
twistd web --https=8443 --path=. # Example

If you want to never generate your “*.pem” files ever again you can store them in a directory of your choosing and then specify the paths manually as shown below:

twistd web --https=8443 --path=. -c /path/to/cert.pem -k /path/to/key.pem

For bonus points modify your shell’s profile to create an alias to the command with these pem files so that all you have to do is provide a port, and a path! That sounds convenient doesn’t it?

If you use bash then here is how to do it on kali by editing your “~/.bash_profile”. Add this line:

alias twistd-https="twistd web -c /path/to/cert.pem -k /path/to/key.pem"

Then source your profile again to make it apply now:

source ~/.bash_profile

This will automatically apply next time you login so you won’t have to source that ever again.

You can now start a listener using HTTPS for any port of your choice sharing whatever path you want using this command:

twistd-https --https=8443 --path=.

Or to show how it will look in your terminal here you go:


It asks for a password. Remember. Your banking password, postit note, somewhere near the window. Or your HTTPS listener won’t start right.

Hope that helps.

Working with nmap-summariser & nmap-grepper

We all love nmap right? Once you get through that learning spike at the start that is. Once you are happily battering out “-sS -sV -A -Pn ..” you feel like you have made it as a hacker.  Not quite there yet? Practice kiddo.

A tool for nearly every challenge.

Finder of ports. Enumerator of versions. Confirmer of many vulnerabilities. Friend. Ally. For some of the hackers afraid of human contact I might even guess at… “lover”? But that is idle speculation.

The tl; dr version of this blog post is simply that there is a github repository here:

Clone it and play with the python scripts if that is what you want to do. Thanks for coming!

Some of you are reading on? Ok then. I will mention both of the scripts and why they exist.

Create Some Nmap Results

Before proceeding I need to have some results to play with. Lets port scan because they are the heroes we need and can take it.

Here is the command that was run:

nmap -sS -sV -Pn -oA -v
Nmap scan report for (
Host is up (0.0080s latency).
Other addresses for (not scanned): 2a00:1450:4009:805::2004
rDNS record for
Not shown: 998 filtered ports
80/tcp open http
443/tcp open ssl/https
2 services unrecognized despite returning data.

I beg the courts indulgence to explain the flags:

  1. -sS – A TCP SYN Scan. A privileged command so you need to have root privileges.
  2. -sV – Conduct a version scan. When nmap knows your service the “service” and “version” and”extra” parts of the output and XML files are populated with juicy details.
  3. -oA – Output to all three common nmap formats.
    1. “.nmap” – as shown in the above example.
    2. “.xml” – an XML file that nmap-summariser and nmap-grepper use.
    3. “.gnmap” – greppable nmap format. Comma separated variables.
  4. -v – Be a little verbose. Just a little.

The core bit here is that you must export the XML file format to use the tools I am talking about later. The optional part is using “-sV” to get more information to play with.


I made this to meet a need I had when writing a report. You pass it an nmap “.xml” file and it will spit out the data. Primarily I published this code so that someone had a simple baseline Python script that they could manipulate the output of easily to match whatever they needed. Funnily enough, nmap-grepper exists because it turned out I needed it!

This is not really meant to be used by people, but it had the hooks in the right places of the XML file so you could simply alter what you printed out to match your needs.

How does it work? Hackers are often curious so lets peek under the hood:


The for loop to look at

This is the key part of the script. The code above line 48 gets a reference to the XML file as an object and allows us to pick out specific XML nodes to get data from. To understand the for loop we need to know a little bit about the XML file format.

Here is a high level view of the XML structure:

 <scaninfo> Information related to how the scan was configured </scaninfo>
 <host> all data about host A </host>
 <host> all data about host B </host>
 <host> all data about host C </host>
 <runstats> Information about how long it took to run etc. </runstats>

The key part to note is that there is one or more “<host>” tags. Each IP address in your scan will be represented by a “<host>” tag. I have showed three to get the point across. Of-course our XML file from scanning will have only one “<host>” tag.

Lets look at that for loop again. As I think of myself as a nice guy here it is below:


Hey, it is that for loop again!

You can probably tell that this for loop is now essentially going through every “<host>” tag. Lines 49 and 50 are then getting access to a child node and then an attribute of that child node respectively. This is shown below:


Marrying the XML to the Python Code

I haven’t made my script amazingly robust. You might find errors at line 49 if it somehow does not have an entry at position [0]. It may also behave unexpectedly on an IPv6 network at line 50. Who knows?

For more information there is no substitute for opening your “” file in a text editor, and viewing the script to see which tags/attributes it picks out:

For bonus points. Modify your script to display output in this format:


You will need to find a target, and re-run nmap with “-O” to force an operating system guess.

You will have to heavily modify the output lines to achieve this, and my script doesn’t even vaguely touch the OS tags so you have to find them in the XML. Happy hunting!


I went onsite and had a need to grep ports very quickly since there was a lot of data to sift through. So I modified “” and ended up with “”:

Why does this exist when nmap outputs a “.gnmap” which is greppable?  Well, because that isn’t very greppable! Is the answer. The “.gnmap” format uses one line per host which can include any number of services. It gets very messy to work with very quickly.

So what does “” do ? It simply flips it so you get a port/service view instead of a host view. Like this:


Output of

With one host that only has two services we do not have much to work with here. Imagine this blown up to an internal network which has thousands of internal services. You can use “grep” and “cut” very quickly to interact with this file format. Want to find all “http”services ?


Using grep to list only http services

A simple grep will give you all services that operate on plain-text HTTP.

Want to just store the IP addresses that have “http” ? Go for a cut mate, like this:


Using cut to display only the IP

There you go you can now  slice and dice an nmap scan to focus on particular services quickly. May no FTP service permit anonymous logins without you knowing about it.

When tackling a massive network I try to take a service approach first because a few common flaws will “get you in” most times. If that isn’t working flipping your attention to individual hosts that have some interesting services you can enumerate will often yield results.

If you want another coding challenge here then why not make “” spit out this format instead:


That means more opportunities for greppability. Find me all things running Microsoft Server 2008? Show me any host with “dev” or “test” in the hostname? These are things you will be able to answer if you do.

Note: you can achieve the same effect with metasploit if you have enabled the Postgres database. Your reading for that is 100% this URL:

I don’t claim nmapgrepper is better. It is just sometimes fun to roll your own to know more.

Hope that helps