Modern magicians

Recently, I have been asked to write a non-tech article about pentesting and vulnerability research. As it might be interesting to some readers, I decided to share a few fragments here.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"
Arthur C. Clarke

Since my early days with computers, I have always cited this Clarke's Law to people astonished by technology artifacts. These days, I am still using the same quote while explaining my job as a pentester to non-technical persons. Beyond the shadow of doubt, security testing is far away from magic being a complex technology-based process. It requires a proper mix of scientific know-how, creativity and expertise on cutting-edge technologies. Staying on top of the latest in vulnerabilities and computer attacks requires continual study, in-depth research, as well as continual discussions and feedback with fellow security professionals.

"0days are a device to prove that a client is unready to handle the unknown"
Pete Herzog

Understanding incoming threats or even discovering new vulnerabilities gives a crucial advantage over potential aggressors. It allows system owners to protect their installations in spite of the public spread of critical flaws. In the long term, it also provides important insights which are useful to design more secure technologies for the future. As 0days are a product of an intensive research work, vulnerability research activities are essential for pentesting.

"I’ve always said that hacking is not about skill set. It is mostly about dedication, patience and a lot of motivation"

Hacking is about skills, dedication, patience, passion and creativity. Properly mixing these elements makes possible to experiment with computers (and not only!). During a pentest, trying to understand how systems work and using them in an unconventional way is the key to circumvent protections and exploit vulnerabilities. After all, security testing is just about mastering technology and doing magic tricks.