on pen testing and fireworks

eEye posted a blog entry recently that attempted to compare providing free tools for pen testing to encouraging someone to use fireworks. This post from eEye is actually part of a growing pattern of ‘pen test/full disclosure == criminal’ BS being tossed around by various companies (notably, each of which perform vulnerability assessments themselves), but I don’t have time to fully address my thoughts on that at the moment (hint: there’s another post coming later on this topic).

Specifically, eEye’s post makes the following statements:

Penetration tools clearly allow the breaking and entering of systems to prove that vulnerabilities are real, but clearly could be used maliciously to break the law.

Making these tools readily available is like encouraging people to play with fireworks. Too bold of a statement? I think not. Fireworks can make a spectacular show, but they can also be abused and cause serious damage. In most states, only people licensed and trained are permitted to set off fireworks.

This analogy is flawed for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the statement that most states disallow fireworks to people other than licensed pyrotechnicians is untrue.

I made a comment to their site about this, but as it has not been approved yet, I’m posting my comment here as well.

Here’s my two bits:

Since you relate the use of free pen test tools to fireworks as an argument, it should probably be pointed out that the majority of states in the US permit consumer fireworks, and only a very few disallow them. See: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/012.html

Perhaps the free pen test tools are “consumer grade” vs. the commercially licensed products that, to follow your analogy, should apparently only be used by licensed professionals (though frankly, I know folks in #metasploit that I trust with these tools more than many CISSPs that I know…)

Either way, I’m glad these tools are available, and free, and I am as grateful that I can use them as I am for the fond memories I have of lighting off fireworks with my family as a child. There’s something about being out in the field and participating that makes the moment much more enjoyable than simply watching someone else do it for you.

eEye has since replaced the entirety of the original post with one that essentially states “ummm… we meant that using free pen testing tools without permission is bad”. *sigh*.