Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy new year!
From 29 October to 14 November 2021, the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT) ran The InfoSecurity Challenge (TISC), an individual competition consisting of 10 levels that tested participants’ cybersecurity and programming skills. I took away important lessons for both CTFs and day-to-day red teaming that I hope others will find useful as well. What distinguished TISC from typical CTFs was its dual emphasis on hacking AND programming - rather than exploiting a single vulnerability, I often needed to automate exploits thousands of times. You’ll see what I mean soon.
By searching for DBF-related vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s desktop database engines, I took one step towards the deep end of the fuzzing pool. I could no longer rely on source code review and dumb fuzzing; this time, I applied black-box coverage-based fuzzing with a dash of reverse engineering. My colleague Hui Yi has written several fantastic articles on fuzzing with WinAFL and DynamoRIO; I hope this article provides a practical application of those techniques to real vulnerabilities.
This two-part series will share how I got started in vulnerability research by discovering and exploiting code execution zero-days in office applications used by hundreds of millions of people. I will outline my approach to getting started in vulnerability research including dumb fuzzing, coverage-guided fuzzing, reverse engineering, and source code review. I will also discuss some management aspects of vulnerability research such as CVE assignment and responsible disclosure.
Most research into the malicious applications of AI tends to focus on human factors (scamming, phishing, disinformation). There has been some discussion of AI-powered malware but this remains very much in the proof-of-concept stage. This is partly a function of the kinds of models available to researchers - generative models lend themselves easily to synthetic media, while language models are easily applied to phishing and fake news. But where do we go from these low-hanging fruits?