The easiest way to protect against tools like Metasploit is to make sure that there are no exploitable services running. Of course, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Services are constantly being explored and new exploits are often found. If you’re lucky, the vendor will release a patch. If you’re even luckier, the patch won’t break anything essential.
However, odds are that you’re not that lucky.
Some systems stop being updated after a period of time (Windows NT and 2000) and some cannot be updated without causing a problem for a linked system (manufacturing systems are often prevented from being updated). It’s also quite likely that a so-called “zero day” exploit will be used against you. Zero day exploits are ones that are used the day that they are announced. Of course, they tend to be announced after the exploit had been found and used… so the “zero” could well be a “negative thirty” (or 60 or 120).
So, if you can’t make sure that your running services aren’t inherently exploitable, you’re pretty much left to two choices. You can either turn the services off (a service that isn’t running can’t be exploited) or you can try to wrap the service in a system that makes it less exploitable.
I recommend that you do both. If you don’t need a service, disable it. If you do need it, consider wrapping technologies like AppArmor, Suhosin, OSSEC, Core Force and Mod Security or using a more generic proxy solution.
Though there is a saying in the Security profession, it’s not about the tools some tools are pretty cool. In general business, common tools are things like Microsoft Word and Excel (or their open source equivalents in OpenOffice). On the defense side, we use antimalware suites like Sophos. Generally speaking, attack tools aren’t as polished and are very narrowly focused. However, that’s starting to change.
To attack tool I want to discuss today is Metasploit. This tool has one primary purpose — to break through your defenses. It’s built using a framework methodology. You can think of it as having “plugins” like Firefox. In Firefox, plugins can extend the functionality of the browser by Blocking Ads or Blocking Scripts. In Metasploit, the plugins are a bit more dangerous and add functionality like exploiting a service and escalating users.
Basically, the tool works as follows:
1. Pick your target
2. Break in
That’s pretty much it. If there is a flaw in the system, an attacker can probably get in. And since this tool is so easy to use, an attacker doesn’t have to be particularly skilled to take over a system. They just point, click, and get your data.