An OSCP Review – The OSCP Epic Part 4 – Grand Finale

As of March 12th 2016 I am OSCP certified.  Writing that first sentence was VERY bitter sweet.  I stopped doing the lab after the 4th month.  In all i was putting in roughly 25 hours a week into the lab.  The last two week stint I purchased was a huge boon and pushed well in to the 30+ machines owned category.

You would think that prepared me for the exam.  But it didn’t, and it won’t prepare you either.  It took me more than one attempt to pass.  And the experience I had taking the exam was frustrating, aggravating, and disgusting.  I realize how negative that sounds, and it’s intentional.

Take the hardest machines in the lab, with all their bullshit CTF style games, and give yourself 24 hours to crack them.  Let me revisit that first part.  The exam machines are CTF style.  This means no real world, realistic flaws.  No.  You are given machines that are deliberately configured such that you have to solve puzzles.

The vulnerabilities WILL BE MODIFIED.  If you see a local file inclusion, expect to have to use it indirectly, or to find a ‘clue file’.  Then use that second part to find a third part.  And the third to find a fourth and maybe, just maybe gain shell access, only to solve a WHOLE NEW SET OF PUZZLES to escalate.

And this is why passing the exam is bitter.  Yes I’m one of the few who now holds the piece of paper.  But what does it mean?  The lab helped get my hands dirty and practice with some real flaws and research.  But was vastly unrealistic.  The exam, was despicable and bizarrely inaccurate for a real world demonstration of skill.

I’ve been doing pen testing and red teaming daily, for 5 years now.  And the exam and lab DO NOT PREPARE YOU FOR THE REAL WORLD.  Let me repeat, THEY DO NOT PREPARE YOU.  Am I saying the real world is crazy hard?  Fuck no!!!!  Popping a targeted user base with phishing, moving laterally until you can get domain admin credentials, shadow copy, etc…..FAR EASIER.

Using known vulnerabilities in a real exercise….you don’t have to find clue files, decipher cryptic files to find hidden directories, etc.  My experience with real engagements is far more closely related to a con game than anything, combined with technical knowledge.

How would/could you test that?  No idea.  But I can tell you one thing, the OSCP will not show you what to expect when you are confronted with a real organization.  Not every box is readily exploitable.  Often you have to rely on skills and tricks that are outside the realm of exploits.  Read: conning users into giving you the credentials you want (drive by downloads, social engineering, pop ups, etc).

I’m going to end my rant and summarize.  Yes i’m now certified.  I can’t say i would ever endorse this cert for real world training.  It will get you jobs that pay a lot of money, but you will have to learn real TTPs crazy fast or lose that very same high paying job for not knowing what to do, when, or how.

It is my solid opinion that the OSCP will set you up for failure in the real world.  If you know little to nothing about pen testing, then the course will help facilitate your education.  But not by teaching you, by giving you a sandbox where you effectively TEACH YOURSELF.

I feel like a i just got the CISSP part 2 🙁