Dangerous hacks come in small packages.
Or they will, perhaps, when an app called Anti, or Android Network Toolkit, hits the Android market next week. The program, which Israeli security firm Zimperium revealed at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas Friday and plans to make available to Android users in coming days, is designed for penetration testing–in theory, searching out and demonstrating vulnerabilities in computer systems so that they can be patched. Anti aims to bring all the hacking tools available to penetration testers on PCs to smartphones, with an automated interface intended to make sniffing local networks and owning remote servers as simple as pushing a few buttons.
“We wanted to create a penetration testing tool for the masses, says Itzhak “Zuk” Avraham, founder of Tel-Aviv-based Zimperium. “It’s about being able to do what advanced hackers do with a really good implementation. In your pocket.”
Anti, a free app with a $10 corporate upgrade, will offer a wi-fi-scanning tool for finding open networks and showing all potential target devices on those networks, as well as traceroute software that can reveal the IP addresses of faraway servers. When a target is identified, the app offers up a simple menu with commands like “Man-In-The-Middle” to eavesdrop on local devices, or even “Attack”; The app is designed to run exploits collected in platforms like Metasploit or ExploitDB, using vulnerabilities in out-of-date software to compromise targets.
For now, the demonstration app Avraham showed me was equipped with only a few exploits: One aimed at a bug in Windows–the same flaw exploited by the Conficker worm in 2009–another targeting default SSH passwords in jailbroken iPhones, and a third exploiting a vulnerable, older version of Android. Zimperium has also built a Windows trojan that allows Anti to perform automated commands on hijacked machines like taking a screenshot, ejecting a CD, or opening the calculator, a common penetration-testing demonstration.
Even in its current form, the app raises the possibility of dangerous, stealthy attacks. A hacker could, for instance, walk into a coffee shop or a corporate office with his phone and start sussing out machines for data theft or malware infection. But Avraham says Zimperium will ask users in its terms of service to limit their hacking to “white hat” penetration testing.
“Hacking is not for the chosen few,” reads one description in the app’s documentation, formatted in Star Wars-style scrolling text. “Anti is your perfect mobile companion, doing it all for you. Please remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Use it wisely.”
Penetration testers who saw the app at Defcon were impressed. “It’s just sick,” says Don Bailey, a researcher with security firm iSec Partners. “The way it populates the screen with vulnerable targets…it’s really elegant.”
Another professional penetration tester for a defense contractor firm who asked that his name not be used called the app a “quick and dirty Swiss army knife for mobile pen testing.” “It’s so polished it’s almost like playing a video game,” he says, comparing it to penetration testing suites that cost thousands of dollars.
With its sheer simplicity, Anti’s impact could be comparable to that of Firesheep, a proof-of-concept tool released in October of last year that allowed anyone to easily snoop on devices on unsecured wi-fi networks that connected to unencrypted web pages. That tool was downloaded more than 1.7 million times, and no doubt used in some instances to spy on web users unawares. But it also helped inspire both Twitter and Facebook to encrypt traffic to their site and prevent such eavesdropping.
“People might use it in dangerous ways,” Avraham says with a shrug. “I really hope not. But I know this might be the risk to help people increase their security, and that’s our goal.”