Fuzzing for Security

Yesterday, I attended an internal workshop about ethical hacking. Hacking skills like fuzzing can be used to quantitatively assess and measure security threats in software.  Fuzzing is a software testing technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks by injecting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the system in an attempt to make it crash. If the program contains a vulnerability that can leads to an exception, crash or server error (in the case of web apps), it can be determined that a vulnerability has been discovered.

A fuzzer is a program that generates and injects random (and in general faulty) input to an application. Its main purpose is to make things easier and automated.

There are typically two methods for producing fuzz data that is sent to a target, Generation or Mutation. Generational fuzzers are capable of building the data being sent based on a data model provided by the fuzzer creator. Sometimes this is simple and dumb as sending random bytes, swapping bytes or much smarter by knowing good values and combining them in interesting ways.

Mutation on the other hand starts out with a known good “template” which is then modified. However, nothing that is not present in the “template” or “seed” will be produced.

Generally fuzzers are good at finding buffer overflow, DoS, SQL Injection, Format String bugs etc. They do a poor job at finding vulnerabilites related to information disclosure, encryption flaws and any other vulnerability that does not cause the program to crash.  Fuzzing is simple and offers a high benefit-to-cost ratio but does not replace other proven testing techniques.

What is your computer doing over the week-end ?