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 🙁

An OSCP Review – The OSCP Epic Part 3

I just purchased my third month, and I have mixed feelings about doing so.  I have spent almost 6 weeks (minus 2 out of the 8 for selling my house and moving), averaging almost 20 hours per week.  At this point i have 25 machines fully rooted/system’d, including the ‘gimme’ msf box.  My goal was 24 before taking the exam, but that goal has changed as i discovered my personal weak areas.  That being privilege escalation and modification of binary exploits.

I can say with certainty that web based application hacking experience has carried me far, and fast.  I dropped MANY machines by utilizing web based attack vectors, but have been informed that most machines have multiple avenues of compromise.

Currently, I have all but one network unlocked (dev…wtf?!).  This is a major bone of contention for me.  I have access to the machine that touches the dev network, but haven’t gotten priv esc to unlock the network key.  Why is that frustrating?  because i have shell, and can…well in the real world I WOULD be able to….access the dev subnet.  But because i haven’t unlocked the subnet, i can’t reset machines, and am having port scans come up dead.

So the try harder adage applies right?  Well, yes, but i have uncovered no less than half a dozen machines that unlock the IT network, and only one that unlocked the admin network, and one that will likely unlock dev.  I find this to be disproportionate, and ridiculous, especially when i find a fucking IT subnet key, on an admin network machine (you have to unlock IT before admin).

So i’m a bit frustrated, and a bit disillusioned.  Having done Red Team exercises and pen testing (professionally) for a few years now, i find some of the lab to be realistic, and other parts nothing more than game play.  There is literally a box where it’s nothing more than a CTF style challenge.  No spoilers, but that one aggrevated me on a whole new level, and not because I couldn’t pop it, but because it had no real value other than playing a ‘game’.  It’s not realistic in the slightest.

This leaves me with another month to do the following:

  • Pop a few more boxes (ideally the dev net…sight)
  • Practice priv esc until i gain a little more comfort
  • Practice exploit modification (essential for the exam)
  • Write my lab report
  • Prep my test report

That’s a tall order for one month, but i’m tired of the ‘game’ aspect of the lab, and really fatigued.  I need to rest, and want the exam done with.  So i will be scheduling it for a few weeks after this month is over.  So I should be taking it sometime before christmas.  I can’t wait….lol

An OSCP Review – The OSCP Epic Part 1

After several years of yammering on about how I’m dying to take the course (read “blast the labs”), I have finally take the plunge and put my money where my mouth is.  I recently landed a few bounties that left me with some capital to spend, and since I’m in between contracts.  Fuck it.  Let’s do it.  So today I signed up.  I’m currently waiting on an email to get started and find my heart pounding with anticipation.

I have known a handful of OSCP holders, and they assure me I should do really well.  Further, I’ve read MANY reviews about the course/labs/exam, and have a strategy in place to expedite the process.

  • Step 1) Course materials.  I will bang through the course materials as quickly as possible.  Although the syllabus looks to be almost all review, there are exercises involved that help with extra points come exam time.  Seeing as I want to pass no matter what, I’m going for every point I can get my hands on.
  • Step 2) Lab time.  I am literally salivating here.  I can’t wait.  My goal is over half the machines in a month (including pivots).  To accomplish this I have devised a strategy to hit the ground running (and in the background as I smash through step 1).  I’m hoping this lands me a couple low hanging fruit and gives me a toe hold into the external network.  Then, loot and pillage.  Loot and pillage.  Loot and pillage.  Rinse repeat.  I’m going to document (make my report) as I go, to further speed up the process of the final report come exam day.
  • Step 3)  The exam.  I’m going to buy a single month, and tack on a second month if need be.  It’s only a $50 dollar savings if i buy the second month up front, but a $200 dollar savings if i don’t, and don’t need it.  I will be compiling my scripts, exploits, and preparing my report before hand, in hopes that it buys me some extra time.

Some anticipated hurdles and obstacles will likely get in the way.  I have a possible job offer, and starting a new day job could cause me to lose momentum.  Hence the possible second month.  Also, I sold my house and will be moving in a month’s time.  If i can time things well, i will be able to pack and move, and utilize the process as a mental break from the lab, before i review and hit the exam.  But that may not go according to plan, and the second month may be needed.

So there you have it. Time to smash it.  I welcome any words of encouragement, but NO SPOILERS.  I want this, but on my own blood, sweat and tears.  Questions/comments also warmly welcomed!

EDIT: And of course, there was an unforeseen problem.  No one had mentioned to me (or i selectively forgot) that there is a waiting period for the course to begin.  So here I feel all teased up and ready to go, but nope, get ready for the ache to set in, i have to wait until the 29th of this month to get started.  FML.  Two weeks before I can begin?  That’s a gripe right there 🙁