Do Hackers Look Before They Leap? By Sean Michael Kerner http://www.internetnews.com/security/article.php/3570001
Port scanning, the act of sweeping computer ports to discover which port is open, has long been assumed to be a principal first step of any hacker. But that may not necessarily be the case, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Maryland (UM). In UM's test environment, port scans preceded attacks in only 5 percent of cases. The report also found that more than half of all attacks are not actually predicated by any type of scan. "Hackers don't necessarily look before they leap," the study concludes. "I was surprised that the percentage was that low," Michel Cukier, a UM assistant professor and one of the report's authors, said. Cukier noted that the results may have been influenced by some the decisions made in UM's testbed. "It would be interesting to repeat the experiment on other locations with other choices," Cukier told internetnews.com. Though port scanning was not a predictor for attacks, vulnerability scans do in fact lead to attacks in a significant percentage of cases. The UM report defines vulnerability scanning as a scan "used to fingerprint the presence or absence of an exploitable vulnerability." On their own, 21 percent of vulnerability scans led to an attack. When combined with ports scans (that is a port and vulnerability scan), vulnerability scans led to an attack in 71 percent of cases. The UM research team used the formerly open source Nessus vulnerability scanner as their network vulnerability scanner. They also concluded that there is a need for a host vulnerability scanner. Cukier and his team have created an open source project called Ferret to address that need. "It focuses on Windows vulnerabilities. It is an open source tool," Cukier said. "Our goal is to build a community similar to the Nessus one but for Windows vulnerabilities." You are a subscribed member of the infowarrior list. Visit www.infowarrior.org for list information or to unsubscribe. This message may be redistributed freely in its entirety. Any and all copyrights appearing in list messages are maintained by their respective owners.