Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Zero-contact recon: a game to hone target research skills

A few weeks ago I was researching an entity and wanted to be completely hands-off with my recon methods and see what I could still obtain. The answer was: a lot. A heck of a lot, some of it incredibly valuable from an attacker’s perspective. I had also had in the back of my mind an intent to come up with some interesting workshops that my good friends in the Bournemouth Uni Computing and Security Society could have fun with. From these seeds, an idea was born: challenge people to find as much as possible using these methods, awarding points based on a finding’s value from the perspective of an attacker. Although it’s still very much a work in progress, I thought it might be worth sketching out my idea for people to try it, and get feedback.

This is something I hope can be of use to many people – the relevance to the pentesting community is pretty clear, but I also want to encourage my homies on the blue team to try this. If you use these techniques against your own organisation it has the potential to be of massive benefit.


Select a target entity with an internet presence. The game’s organisers should research this entity themselves first, both to get an idea of the potential answers that competitors might give and assist scoring, and possibly to produce a map of known systems so that the no-contact rule can be enforced.

Set up an environment suitable for monitoring the competitors’ traffic and enforcing the rule. This might consist of an access point with some firewall logging to identify anyone connecting to the target’s systems directly, but organisers can choose any other method they deem suitable. If you trust participants to respect the rules enough, you could just decide not to do this part. It’s probably a good idea to at least have a quiet place with decent internet where you won’t be disturbed for the duration, and enough space for all the people taking part.

I would suggest that all participants should have a Shodan account. For students, good news – free! (at least in the US and UK, I don’t know about other locations)

Other tools that competitors should probably brush up on are whois, dig, and of course google your favourite search engine.


Competitors have a fixed time period to discover and record information relevant to an attacker who might wish to break in to the target’s network. Points will be scored for each piece of information based on how useful it is to this task. The time period can be decided by the organisers, but I think between one and two hours is a sensible period. The highest score achieved in the time period wins.

At the end of the period, competitors must provide a list of all their discoveries. The list must include a description of how each was found or a link to the source, sufficient for the judges to validate the finding’s accuracy. If there is insufficient information to verifiy a discovery, it shall receive no points.

No active connection to the target’s networks is permitted; this includes the use of VPNs and open proxies. Making active connections will be penalised, either by a points deduction or disqualification, at the judges’ discretion.


Domains other than the target’s primary domain1pt each
* if domain can be confirmed as internal AD domain3pts each
Subsidiaries (wholly or majority owned)1pt each
Joint ventures2pts each
Public FQDNs/hostnames1pt each
Internet exposed services
* per unique protocol presented externally1pt each
* per unique server software identified1pt each
* per framework or application running on server (e.g. presence of struts, coldfusion, weblogic, wordpress)3pts each
* each version with known vulnerability
* RCE10pts each
* other vulns3pts each
ASNs1pt each
Format of employees’ emails3pts
Internal hostname convention5pts
Internal hostnames2pts each
Internal username convention5 pts
Internal usernames2pts each
Configuration fails (e.g. exposed RDP/SMB/SQL/Elastic/AWS bucket)5pts each
Individual confidential documents on internet3pts each
Large archive or collection of confidential documents on internet8pts each
Vendor/product name of internal products relevant to security/intrusion (e.g. AV/proxy/reverse proxy/IDS/WAF in use)4pts each

Any items discovered that apply to a subsidiary or joint venture are valid and to be included in the score.

A little help?

I’m intending to playtest this as soon as possible, but I would absolutely love to get feedback, regardless of whether I’ve already tested it. Please comment or tweet at me (@http_error_418) with suggestions for how to improve it, more items that can be scored, criticism of points balance… anything!

BSides Workshop “My log obeys commands – Parse!”

Better late than never, as they say. Last week I went to BSides London, which was pretty awesome. In between hanging out with all sorts of awesome people and downing mojitos, I had the opportunity to present a workshop. It seemed to go pretty well – though I have definitely learned enough to improve it for next time.

The short version is that it was an introduction to the basic principles and techniques of log parsing, for people at the level of a junior SOC analyst. Minimal regex knowledge required.

Although I don’t have a recording of the workshop, I’m putting the slides up here in case they’re of use to anyone. Enjoy! If you have any questions, please tweet @http_error_418 😊

My log obeys commands ā€“ Parse!