Category Archives: coding, webdev

Advanced Web Attacks and Exploits -AWAE – Exam Review

> AWAE Course Overview

For people unfamiliar with this course and exam, here is a link to the Offensive security website. I’ve also written about it before, so you can check my post history. Basically the course is a giant pdf and a bunch of videos that go over web application attacks. You then get access to a lab consisting of 13 machines that are running a wide variety of vulnerable web-apps. In regards to languages/DBs/tech, this course covers VSCode, Visual Studio, JDGui, Javascript, PHP, Node, Python, Java, C#, mysql, and postgres – so it’s pretty thorough.

The exam is a 48 hour long exam where they give you access to two machines running vulnerable web-apps. You have to bypass auth on them to get administrator access and then escalate your attack to full-blown remote code execution. You’ll get two debugging machines that are running the same apps as the exam machines. You get full access to the app source code – this is a white-box course after all. You have to review the code base, and then use these debugging machines to develop ‘one-shot’ exploit script that bypasses auth and trigger RCE. I used python, as do most people, I think.

Oh yeah, and they watch you on camera the whole time.

After the exam time is up, assuming you have enough points to pass, you have another 24 hours to write an exam report documenting what you found and how you exploited it.

> How did it go?

First things first: I had to take this one twice. My power went out twice, briefly, and my father had to go to the hospital (he’s fine) during my first attempt. Even though he lives hours away, and there wasn’t much I could do, I was a little distracted. And it wasn’t like I was in front of the computer for the full 48 hours. I took a break about every 1.5 hours or so and slept 5-6 hours both nights.

Nevertheless, I still managed RCE on one of the boxes, and if I had another hour or so, I would have had an auth bypass on the second box – which would likely have let me pass. I look back and I just kind of laugh at how I failed it. I missed something simple that would have given me enough points to pass. I even knew what I needed – I just overlooked it.

I actually noticed the vulns on both boxes within an hour of looking at them. I then went down some rabbit holes for a bit and got sidetracked – especially on the box that I considered the harder one.

The second time around I crushed the exam in about 8 hours – RCE on both boxes. I had my report turned in at the 20 hour mark or so – and I was lollygagging.

If you don’t know me, my background is this: I’m not a professional developer. I don’t work in IT. I have never worked in IT. I just like computers. If I can pass this exam, so can you.

> Advice and Review

My advice for people that are preparing to take this exam is to just take their time and read the code. You need to know how to get the VSCode debugging going. It is a lifesaver. It is probably hard to pass if you don’t get it working. If you follow the code flow in a debugger, things should pop out at you. With that said, they do throw in a couple curve balls, which I bet throws some people for a loop. Now these curve balls aren’t hard to hit, per se, but someone that hasn’t been in the infosec/CTF/bug bounty world may miss these things.

Another question that I’ve been asked is, “Do you need an OSCP to do this couse?” I’ve changed my mind on this several times, and while I think an OSCP will give you a leg up, you don’t really need to have one – especially if you’re already involved the hacking/bug bounty/CTF world. If you’re coming at it straight from being a developer, it may not hurt to expose yourself to this stuff beforehand.

All in all, I’d say the exam was fair and maybe a little on the easy side. I say that as someone that failed it once, too, haha. But not only that, the exam is also a lot of fun. I love the Offensive Security exams. Some people will probably hate me for saying that, but they are a lot of fun.

OSCP Exam Review

offsec
watch out for that mysterious hacker standing in the doorway!

I took the OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional) some time ago, but recently enough. If you’re reading this, you probably know of the exam, but for those that don’t, here is a short explanation.

Basically, it’s a cybersecurity exam where you’re given access to a computer network containing five machines (computers). In the first 24 hours of the exam, your goal is to break into (or root, as we say) as many of these machines as possible. The second 24 hours is reserved for writing a report detailing the results of your penetration test. It’s supposed to mimic, in some fashion, a “real life” penetration test.

The test has a reputation of being really hard. It’s commonplace for people to not sleep much in the 48 hours they’re allotted to hack and write. And, after all, it isn’t an exam where you can just read a book, or memorize multiple choice questions – you actually have to know how to hack. Offensive Security, the company that runs the program, actually watches you the whole time via webcam.

With that said, I feel that the difficulty of the exam is overstated. That isn’t because I’m some sort of IT professional that has been doing this for 10 years professionally. I don’t work in IT, software engineering, or anything even tangentially related to computers. Nor do I have a degree in IT or Computer Science. I think people have issues with the exam for one main reason.

I think many people come into it it way unprepared. And this may seem obvious, since if they were prepared, they would have passed, but please stick with me. They signed up for the OSCP, rooted a dozen boxes in the lab that you’re given access to, did a bit of the exercises in the manual, and called it a day, thinking they knew what they were doing because they’ve been working in IT for a decade. Well, let me tell you, they can always throw some software or web app at you that you’ve never even seen before, which is what happens to me weekly on HTB. However, the methods of attack will all be the same. In fact, I’d say the exam boxes were EASIER than easy boxes on HTB – especially the newer easy boxes.

In my opinion, you need root >90% of the lab machines, and then be active on HTB for a few months to be fully prepared for this exam. You need to make box enumeration and privilege escalation second nature. You need to have notes, too. They can be very helpful. You need to be able to rip out a custom buffer overflow exploit in python in less than an hour. You need to LEARN HOW TO GOOGLE. If you do this you’ll be golden.

I went in expecting Cyber World War 3, and was laughing and confused after about 5 hours when I had enough points to pass.

And then, once you pass, you can start in on something harder – the Advanced Web Attacks and Exploitation course to get the Offensive Security Web Expert certification also created by Offensive Security. That one is a 48 hours online exam followed by 24 hours to write a report, and supposedly much harder.

Good luck!