Saturday, September 24, 2016

Offensive Security - Advanced Web Attacks and Exploitation (AWAE) review

I had the opportunity to attend OffSec's AWAE training this year at BlackHat. The challenge started with the registration, with monitoring past years events, I knew, that if I don't sign up in the first 24 hours, I need to wait one more year. I went for my employer approval way ahead of the registration opening, and luckily I had it a few days before. As soon as I got the BH newsletter about registration opened, I throw away everything and went to the computer to sign up. 21% of the course was already full!!! Luckily I could secure my place, and after that I read that this year the course filled up in 8!! hours. If you want to sign up, you have to be fast.

What background you need?

I'm still a guy working in incident response, so I don't do too much web application testing (I do exactly 0), all of my background knowledge comes from OSCP and OSCE. If you took those courses, you will be absolutely fine. What I missed is my lack of JavaScript coding experience. I can read JS, but can't write, which made things a bit harder, but it was still manageable. My advise is to learn some JS before this course.

The course:

There is one review of this course on OffSec's website, with the name "Story telling with muts", but that link is no longer valid. The title however is 100% right. There are 10+ case studies in this course to walk you through interesting techniques, chain of exploits, etc... and muts has a story to each of them, which makes the course really interesting, you not only get some in-depth knowledge, but also a couple of cool tales :)

I can't really split up the course into particular days, like I did with AWE, it's about the same level of difficulty through the entire 4 days. It does increase a bit, but overall it doesn't have big spikes. Compared to AWE this course is lighter and not in a negative sense. The fact that you don't need to build ROP chains manually, debug kernel, and hunt for bits in memory makes it much more brain friendly, and you don't fall apart after day 2 like at AWE :) You will learn / see plenty of examples of real hacker mindset, out-of-the-box thinking. You will see vectors, that maybe before you didn't even think before (e.g.: XSS via SNMP), some really cool exploit chains, where the exploits by themselv are not serious, but when applied together they give you remote code execution. Again, I think this course's main strength is not the techniques you learn or the bunch of 0-days you get (yes, you leave the course with a handful of them), but the mindset you get, you will look on webapps differently after this course. The course is 100% hands-on, they build upon the basics, and there is some theory covered on the fly, but it's fully practical, which you can't say to any other course generally. Typical OffSec course, and you will have plenty of chance to practice, practice and practice. You will be much more comfortable with testing web apps after this 4 days.

The bonus I got out of this training is that before it I hated playing with webapps, it simply didn't look interesting. This course changed my view and feelings, testing webapps can be really cool. :)

Mati (@muts) and Steven Seeley (@steventseeley) were the instructors, probably the best two people you can get for this kind of course.

The exam:

Well... it's not yet available.

Some closing thoughts:

I started my InfoSec journey back in 2012, and I quickly became aware of the Offensive Security trainings and exams, and after reading plenty of reviews, articles, I knew that time, that I want to be an OSCP and potentially go on with OSCE and the others. That time all of this looked nearly impossible to achieve, and were far far away in the big unknown, they were like a dream. I freaked out even from the OSCP reviews, not to talk about the rest. I started with OSWP in 2012, and then every year I managed to do one more, slowly progressing towards the end; 2013 - OSCP, 2014 - OSCE, 2015 - OSEE. I did other courses during the years, but definitely these were the most rewarding ones, especially that this was my big dream when I started. Even without OSWE at the moment, I'm very happy, and it feels really good, when you work hard (and in these cases really-really hard) towards some big goal, and you finally achieve it. This is not the end of the journey, but definitely a major milestone in my life.

Finally I want to say thank you:
1. To my family, who always supported me, and accepted the fact that I have less time for them when preparing for these courses / exams.
2. To Offensive Security for creating the trainings.
3. To my employer for paying the courses.