Passwords – Good Practise

Recently I have started to use a new password manager and got asked why I did not just use the same password across all of my accounts online. And this lead to me thinking that people as a rule don’t know effective and secure practice to follow when using online accounts and passwords.

Firstly you should always use a different password for each of your online accounts, this could be having one password with many variations such as different letters or symbols within it. This is necessary these days as it only takes one of the platforms you use to get hacked and you could potentially lose access to all of your accounts.

So Here Are Some Good Password Practice

Password Practise
The steps above are a fairly comprehensive guide to develop a highly secure password, by memorizing a sentence you have written, the arduous task of having to remember your new or complex password is reduces. you can also incorporate information about the account you are logging into meaning each accounts password will be a lot easier to remember.

TrueKey is a password manager utility from Intel, and not only does it store information for online accounts you can also put in information like your social security number. This turns out to be very useful when paired with the mobile app. TrueKey also offers a feature that will generate a password for each account, and then log you straight in from the application. Meaning once you have secured all of your accounts you will only ever need 1 password to gain access to them.

This final method is a touch old school I know. But in my opinion nothing can beat a trusty notebook (Granted I am probably one of a few that still like handwritten notes.) But the beauty of using a notebook is that you never have to worry about getting hacked and they can be carried on you at all times. Ok, so this option might not be the best if you tend to lose things but other than that its a sure fire way to manage multiple account details offline.

And hopefully if you follow some of the steps listed above you should be able to maximize your online security. As it is commonly known that the weakest point in most security systems is the human element. And that is because a lot of people have poor security knowledge or training. And this can be down to a number of thing such as age or use case.

But again hopefully this helps and you can share it with your friends and colleague to again increase everyone online safety.

What is Kali Linux?

In one of my recent post I explained and easy and safe way to set up your own Digital Forensics Lab and I mentioned a Linux based operating system by the name of Kali Linux. But what is it? and why would you use it in your virtual hacking lab?

Kali Linux is a Debian based operating system that uses the Gnome desktop environment, but unlike Ubuntu and Gnome Kali is packed full of usefully tools and applications for cyber security and digital forensics. Meaning that it is pretty much a one stop shop for just about any tools you could need, this makes things very convenient as you do not have to search around and download multiple applications they are already there in one place. It makes use of the Gnome menu system and groups all of the tools into named folders with the type of tool it is. This again means there is no hunting around when you have installed all of your tools.

There are a number off different use cases for a package such as Kali and the could be from a general curiosity to using it in industry as a professional. I personally use it along side my degree as is part of my course. But with it being free you can start using it when ever you want and with the many tutorial online it is really simple to get started and learn how to use it.

Because it uses the Gnome desktop it feels nice to use just like Ubuntu or Gnome, and it doesn’t feel like a tool your using. Granted a lot of people would be very unfamiliar with either of these Linux system but after a little bit it feels natural or like using any other graphical operating system. It also means that you could use it as a daily operating system if you were that way inclined. And don’t worry about requiring the latest computer hardware to run it because due to it being Linux based it doesn’t require all to much. Granted for certain task an application a little extra power wouldn’t go amiss but if you where to run it on 1 or 2 cores with 1 or 2 GB or ram it wouldn’t feel sluggish. And better yet you can run it live from a USB stick so you don’t even have to install it to benefit from it tools and features.

I tend to run it through a virtual machine, this is due to the safe lab that I mentioned before, and again it runs just like any other system within a VM. One benefit of doing this is that you can play around with the hardware the VM will supply it with. So if you have the hardware to spare you can build a beefy Kali System.

Tools Included in Kali

  • AirCrack
    • AirCrack is a WEP and WPA (Router Password) cracking tool, meaning that if you where preforming a penetration test on a company you may be able to gain access to there network through the WiFi.
  • Burp Suite
    • This package allows you to test the security of web applications, it does this by canning the application the searches for possible vulnerability. This is a very helpful tool for developers who wish to make there product as secrecy as possible.
  • Hydra
    • Hydra is a brute force password cracking application that on the surface looks limited and outdated. But in reality is a powerful tool allowing you to attack one or many users with either a single password or from a list of passwords.
  • John the Ripper
    • John the Ripper is another password cracking application that is command line based, although you can use a graphical version in the form of Jonny the ripper. It has been know for its speed at being able to crack passwords.
  • Maltego
    • This is one that you are very unlikely to have used or heard of and it is Maltego, this application is an effective relationship tracker that can work on social media platforms, Computer networks and websites. Once it scans the target location it produces a map using graphics making it clear and easy to understand.
  • Megasploit Framework
    • This is another application that works well for developers or system admin, Megasplot Framework runs simulated attacks on your network trying to find vulnerabilities. This allows you to patch or alter the vulnerability and make your system as secure as possible. And because it is all simulated there is no negative effects on the network its self.
  • Nmap
    • Is another command line application that has a graphical front end application as well this time its in the form of Zenamp. The purpose of this tool is to preform network discover scan and also security auditing.
  • Zed Attack Proxy
    • The Zed Atatck Proxy or ZAP is another penetration testing tool targeting web applications, It supports the Open Web Application Security Project or OWASP and is pack to the brim with functionality and features.
  • Sqlmap
    • Sqlmap is again a penetration testing tool but this time it is targeting SQL databases and looks for weakness in SQL injection, In some cases SQL injection can compromise an entire database. This could potentially leave the target in a whole heap of trouble.
  • Wireshark
    • Wireshark is a network protocol analyser, it boast some features such as being able to scan hundreds of protocols and preform offline analysis.

Other Similar Operating Systems

All of the above are aimed to provide a similar services to Kali Linux, and although I have limited hands on experience with each of them. I do know from others that they are good at what they do and that they should be considered as an alternative to Kali. Some of them are more tailored towards anonymity online while other are again forensics packages.





What is WannaCry

Recently you might have read that a computer virus by the name of WannaCry has been extorting money from people and organizations all over the world. But what is WannaCry and should you be worried?

WannaCry  (or WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, Wanna Decryptor) is a computer worm that has been effecting Windows computers over the past week. It is rumored to have been enabled and aided by some of the recent Vault 7 vulnerabilitys including EternalBlue that the NSA (National Security Agency) had been collecting and storing over the past few years. This has lead to one of the most widespread and effective ransomware’s that has been seen to date. Not just targeting your average user but also going after large corporations and organization such as the NHS (National Health Services)

The WannaCry GUI that users have been met with

But what does it all mean, this ransomware could have sat dormant for month (It very likely has) just trying to spread the infection to as many vulnerable machines as possible. Until it is then activated by either the creator or by s spesific time and date. Once the infection is triggered the malicious package then encrypts the users PC and demands the user to pay the “Ransom” in this case the amount was $300 or £231.59. This is a rather large amount of money and on the scale of the attack would have made it a very profitable venture if all of the effected users pay the money to gain access back to there device.

In the case of WannaCry effecting the NHS it could have potentially cost human lives as well, because it was effecting hospitals and GP surgery’s. Without having access to the patient information the medical practitioner might have been unable to proceed with a user treatment or potential be unable to access the patients personal information.  But WannaCry made a few fatal error is the design and execution of the virus. Firstly the ransom payment was required in bitcoins (Bit coins are a digital currency with no central regulation making it hard to track) but because there what only 4 addresses to pay the bit coins too and because they where hard-coded into application it means that the possibility of tracking them is a whole lot easier. And then there is the built in “Kill Switch” that was again hard coded into the application. This meant that to deactivate the ransomware, a website address needed reached. Meaning that researchers were able to find the target URL and register it meaning they then had the ability to deactivate the program.

For such an effective and wide spread virus it looks as if corners where cut, for example if the URL that was required for the “Kill Switch” had been coded to be random it would have made the pressure of finding the target URL much greater as there would not have been a clear target. And the next blunder was in the form of having only used 4 Bitcoin payment addresses, because of this it will make the authority’s job of tracking the Bitcoins slightly easier as they will just have to monitor bitcoins public transaction ledger know as the blockchain. It has also been found by Cisco researchers that the “Check payment” button did not actually do anything other than display one of 4 possible out come, meaning that the decryption of the devices was most likely done manually. But there is also speculation that the creator may just have send out a random handful of decryption keys to make it appear as if the payment has gained the user access to there machine again. If that is the cases then this virus should not really be called ransomware at all, as there is a strong possibility that even after the ransom has been paid the user will not just be given access back to their files, making this more Theftware.


But there has been further speculation from other security researches that this attack might have been made to look as if it was ransomware. This could mean that the creators had alternate motives. This could have been for a number of things, but when you consider the sort of things that where effected and completely parallelized (Hospital equipment, Trains and ATM’s) could it be possible that the ransomware side of this attack was merely a cover up? And when you consider that researchers at Kaspersky Lab have been finding evidence linking WannaCry to North Korea. This was in the form of similar code that had been used in a previous attack this year. A number of other big names in cyber security have also backed up these claims as they too have noticed drastic similarity within the code that has been used in both attacks. And when you look at the raising tensions between the USA and North Korea and acknowledge the fact that “cyber space” is the new battle field this could have just been a test run for bigger things to come, but of course this is all merely speculation.

But what do you do if your computer if effected by Ransomware and are there any procotions that you can take to make it less damaging.

Precautions to take

  • Always keep regular backups of any documentation and files that you need or do not wish to lose. You could back them up to an external devices such as a USB stick or an external HDD. The other option would be to back up your files and documents to one of the many cloud services such as GoogleDrive or Microsoft’s OneDrive.


  • Make sure you download and install regular updates on your operating system, this should hopeful help to prevent the vulnerability being present on your computer.


  • If you machine does get infected by ransomware the first thing you should do is disconnect your devices from the internet, this could possibility prevent the virus from encrypting all of your data.





Paid vs Free: Anti-Virus Software

Recently I have encountered a few viruses on my PC in the form of constant pop ups to malicious websites every time I try to access any web page. This lead to to me running a number of deep Scans using my Paid and trusted Bitdefender. And I thought after ruining a couple of scans everything would be grand. But as it turns out the scans found no issues with my PC.

But it was apparent there was an infection, and with the recent WannaCry attack being so prominent I felt further action had to be taken to avoid any more issues causing further harm to my Computer and potentially my personal file. So the next step was to turn Bitdefender on to Paranoia mode, this essentially locks down your PC requesting permission before websites and application can connect to the web. But again the pop ups to malicious websites continued. This was rather annoying as in my opinion Bitdefender was on of the better paid Anti-Virus software on the market with a nice UI (User Interface). But it just was not finding these malicious files causing trouble on my computer.

Bitdefender UI

So after a while I decided it would be a good idea to have a second set of eyes look over it so to speak and that’s when I decide to download Malwarebytes because I had used it in the past, in its free and portable form. The download is simple and it installed right along side Bitdefender, so I decided to do my first scan, and it turned out there were a whole lot of potentially unwanted files that Bitdefender had seemingly ignored.

Now if Bitdefender was only a free package I could have understood somewhat that it was not finding everything but after 3 full system scans (bearing in mind i have about 6TB for it to scan so it took a while) But considering this application cost per year I was bitterly disappointed. And for Bitdefender to scan my system in about 5 minuets and to find a number of unwanted applications and file it was a bit of a blow to moral.

But I was genuinely impress with Malwarebytes, not only is the free application very effective and quick. But it also removed or placed into quarantine the files that where reeking havoc on my PC. It has also  lead me to think about dropping Bitdefender as my Anti-Virus software of choices and pay for the premium Malwarebytes.malwarebytes

One thing that might deter you from taking Malwarebytes as your go to Anti-Virus however could be the cost, for 1 machine for a year it will set you back about £29.99 and for a second machine the cost is £44.99. For me this is a large sum of money when it will only cover 1 machine for £29.99.

In comparison Bitdefender is only £34.99 for 5 machines for a year, it also throws in some other features that I found to be quite a nice little addition. Such as the devices tracking ability, this is accessed by a very sleek and well built web application letting you log in and not only track all of your devices but also add new devices or remove them from the account. It also offers features such as file shredding meaning that once a file is “Shredded” there should be next to no trace of it left on your machine, Bitdefender will also allow you to encrypt parts of your hard drive to securely and easily store files. And the built in password manager is just a bit of a bonus as well.

So all in all I was genuinely impress with how effectively and smoothly Malwarebytes was able to remove the harmful files that Bitdefender was missing. But will I be moving from Bitdefender? There is a strong possibility but money is one of the things keeping me drawn to it, as I currently have my Bitdefender deployed over 3 different devices, this would mean spending £74.98 to protect all of my devices and that not a little bit of money to just throw around. If anything I will get Malwarebytes for my main machine and have it run along side Bitdefender to try and maximize the protection my system has.