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How to Identify Attack Surface that Must be Addressed

Some time in January 2022, I promised to Lari to write up some thoughts on attack surface management. I thought I’d perhaps have material for a single blog post. Now two posts later, we will still have to dig into some of the most difficult problems in the process. If you haven’t read my earlier posts, the first covered asset discovery and the second focused on exposure assessment. Should you have adopted an attack surface identification process such as the one I have outlined in my previous posts, by this point you will have a lot of data. In a larger assignment, I usually end up using a couple of online services, half a dozen open source tools, and numerous ad-hoc scripts. The result is a hot mess of JSON files, tool-specific text files, files with HTTP headers, and HTML content. Some integrated scanning frameworks or third-party services might make things easier for you.

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WordPress Version? Make Sure You're Running the Latest Supported

It all started with Miles Davis in 2004, when WordPress 1.0 was released that is. Since then, the popular open source content management system’s releases have been named after a prominent Jazz musician. Researching this topic from a security perspective makes it quite clear why Jazz musicians are apt denominators for releases, since securing WordPress and keeping it secure over time must indeed feel like a jamming session at your local Jazz club. What does this mean in practice? Quoting WordPress Codex: The only current officially supported version is WordPress 6.0.2. Previous major releases before this may or may not get security updates as serious exploits are discovered. Which means that if you’re a WordPress admin, you should bookmark the WordPress Codex supported versions page to check which actual release contains the latest and greatest fixes. This is important, as from the project’s standpoint only the latest named release and its subsequent minor releases are guaranteed to get the appropriate security fixes.

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Software Dependency Failures: jQuery, a Canary in the Coal Mine

Keeping dependencies up-to-date is challenging for any software development project and even more so from a systems administration point of view. Too often you see packaged web projects, which have been put together and then forgotten. They contain dependencies to third party libraries, which never get updated even if the application itself is maintained – at least to some extent. In my daily work I research the impact of vulnerabilities on the scale of the Internet. Most of the time, vulnerabilities in protocols, services and platforms keep me and other security professionals busy, whereas the upper layers and especially the web layer is often something of an afterthought. To find out whether there is a pink elephant in the room, I wanted to analyze a web application library which is ubiquitous and has had issues with vulnerabilities which are more or less persistent – which lead me to jQuery. My hypothesis was that software dependencies cause hidden vulnerabilities in applications considered secure, even if they are otherwise developed or maintained as they should.

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