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BackTrack is one forward-thinking penetration testing tool

In this expert commentary, security expert Scott Sidel discusses the mechanics behind BackTrack 2.0, an extensive collaboration of security and forensics tools designed to assist security professionals.

As security professionals, we strive to be proactive, while also having a good "plan B" at the ready. While we...

must accept that there will inevitably be times when we have to pick up the pieces after an exploit, a solid toolkit called BackTrack is designed to help ferret out the insecurities before the malicious hackers do.

As a re-entrant to the hacking field, BackTrack 2.0 has been revived with many new tricks. Based on a live Linux distribution requiring no installation, BackTrack performs the role of a digital multifunctional tool that can help pick locks and bug rooms -- so to speak -- while cloaking one's presence. BackTrack 2.0 contains more than 250 modules covering everything from information gathering and network mapping through vulnerability identification, to penetration testing and privilege escalation. BackTrack also has radio network analysis capabilities (for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), VoIP and telephony analysis tools and even tools for reverse engineering. Backtrack is more than just a collection of automated hacking tools -- it's more like a ninja-on-a-CD, since all the tools are grouped by function and brought together under a single menu.

This is not the first time an all-in-one toolset has been released, but this is certainly one of the most complete offerings, as its integration with Linux-based 802.x Wi-Fi wrappers makes it fairly straightforward to perform wireless sniffing and packet injection. Another feature is BackTrack's integration with the Metasploit framework. Metasploit is designed to automate payloads to provide shell access or privilege escalation, both locally and remotely.

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While it might seem that BackTrack is meant for bad-attitude black hats, the new version of BackTrack is specifically aligned with the white hat hacker methodologies used by the Information Systems Security Assessment Framework (ISSAF) and the Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM). These organizations publish tomes used by many in the industry to provide enterprise-level formal security assessment and testing methodologies.

In the wrong hands, BackTrack can be a scary tool on your network, as it can be run from a CD, hard drive or even a USB thumb drive, and soon it will be available as a VMware virtual image as well. Fortunately, most tools are only as harmful as the people using them.

About the author:
Scott Sidel is an ISSO with Lockheed Martin.

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This was last published in April 2007

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