SecurityRAT is a OWASP open-source project (github), the RAT stands for requirements automation tool. Currently the version 1 (1.7.8 as of the time of writing) is the productive version, but a version 2 is in the making with new architecture. SecurityRAT is based on JHipster Java rapid application development framework. Version 1 is a classic application, version 2 will be JHipster micro-service based.

SecurityRAT is used to create a set of security requirements for a supporting asset, the main part of a security concept. In the end it is nothing more than a replacement for MS Excel a way to get a filtered list of requirements with status and details provided by the development team on the implementation of the requirement in the asset. That status and the details are the important part, because having a list of requirements if fine but without knowing, whether they have been implemented or not and how, they don’t help a lot. Spending time on the details is important, they should contain additional information on the implementation, such as a link to the Jira or TFS issue, a link to a wiki page with implementation details or prove of implementation.

The cool thing is that one can define its own fields and values as long as it fits into the general idea of SecurityRAT. The central concept is a list of requirement skeletons classified by categories and tags that have columns and belong to a project type. The requirements in the database are skeletons or templates, from which instance of requirements for a given supporting assets will be created at run time. Those requirement instances are never actually stored in the database but exist only in memory on the client (browser) side. As soon as one has understood this, it’s a done deal in understanding how the tool works. You pour a pre-classified list of requirement templates into a database and instantiate them for a supporting asset at runtime with the additional benefit of filtering the list down to the relevant ones using category questions, filtering and tag selection at runtime.

We use SecurityRAT as an expert tool. This means, that not all developers work with the tool all day but only selected security lead experts, do. SecurityRAT spits out a Excel document with the requirement instances together with the up-to-date status and comment (optional columns). This is what other people work with. You put the Excel into the wiki for documentation or generate sub-tasks in Jira etc. SecurityRAT can also directly create stories and sync them bi-directionally, which would be really cool. Unfortunately this doesn’t work at my place, don’t ask why, it’s a sad big enterprise problem.

But working with Excel, or better CSV files, has some advantages, too. You can convert it to markup or generate task language in Jira from it easily with a little script. I use Groovy for it, but that’s a matter of personal taste.

SecurityRAT comes out of the box with a SQL dump for the OWASP ASVS (Application Security Verification Standard) requirements catalog. We have in the mean time at work also version 4.1 and many other catalogs that we pour into SecurityRAT instances. Version 1 somehow requires one RAT instance per catalog, although you can of course put multiple catalogs that have the same structure into one big instance, e.g. CIS Benchmarks. That ends up in a big list of instances for e.g.

  • IEC 62443
  • DIN SPEC 27072
  • Corporate security requirement lists
  • CIS Benchmarks (you need to be member to get the XLS files)
  • Own catalogs e.g. for RabbitMQ

Apart from really filling in security requirements, SecurityRAT can be mis-used very well for other tasks. Things I use it for are among others:

  • Vulnerability assessment according to the OWASP Testing Guide (OTG). Excellent, you set the status to passed/failed and fill in the findings and get a nice Excel
  • Security maturity assessment according e.g. BSIMM or OWASP SAMM, answer the questions pre-filtered by level that should be achieved and get a nice Excel
  • Threat modelling using STRIDE – that stretches a bit the idea but works, when you have a list of threat skeletons instead of requirements.

Using SecurityRAT for status tracking with the OTG or ASVS are a good example where it makes sense to fill multiple, testing or requirement guides, into one instance, e.g. web services, mobile and IoT. The make a category or project types for these (one support asset can be either a web service or a mobile app or a IoT device). This way the user selects the type of asset in the initial “question” aka collection instance list implicitly.

In the end you could do a lot of this with Excel but you have IMHO the following advantages by SecurityRAT:

  • It’s not a document that rots somewhere on a share but a server with a nice web-based interface
  • The definable collection categories allow you to pre-filter the requirements at the beginning using customizable questions. Yes you could filter in Excel but you don’t have this very usable two-step process that helps in reality. Using Tags you can also filter when the requirements list has been generated, as well.
  • You can save the working results in a YAML file, load that again and continue, e.g. by adding also custom requirements. So only one place.

Being a server and database solution, filling an instance with data could either be done by UI, but you will quickly skip this idea for larger catalogs, even when the batch operations are really handy. Just use (again Groovy or other) scripts to convert a CSV source into SQL statements or directly insert it into the DB, which is then a bit more work. Unfortunately the entities in the SecurityRAT do not have surrogate keys so your script needs to manage the uniqueness of the database IDs by itself, which is sometimes, well a mess.

The down-side of the tool is a bit the missing calculation and missing colors for status fields that you have in a spreadsheet. E.g. for risk assessments it would be cool to calculate a risk factor from likelihood and impact automatically. But that is not possible.

BTW, SecurityRAT runs with docker out of the box, using MySQL or for license sake MariaDB is no problem. Problems will manifest themselves with endlessly long Spring Java exceptions, that will require a bit of digging into. We run everything in docker-compose, backup with mysqldump using docker exec and a nice landing page for the different instances.

Overall SecurityRAT, thumbs up!

Modsecurity Handbook

Modsecurity (from SpiderLabs) is probably the best known open-source web application firewall (WAF) originally (and still is) a module from the Apache web server. But in the mean time it is also available as module for Nginx (nginx-modsecurity) and IIS and other integrations. I came into contact with modsecurity in the context with Nginx.

The second important project in conjunction with modsecurity is the OWASP core rule set (CRS) a set of modsecurity rules for a WAF. You meet these two in many unexpected places, e.g. the Azure application gateway is based on Nginx with the CRS. Or the Kubernetes ingress controller is an Nginx with CRS and modsecurity WAF module included.

This is why I recently bought the book “Modsecurity Handbook” from Feisty Duck and the authors Christian Felini and Ivan Ristić (see https://www.feistyduck.com/books/modsecurity-handbook/).

This is really “THE” book on modsecurity from its authors, the bible to to say and goes into the depth of writing rules youself. It is not an explanation of the CRS, for this there no books, you have to read the rules in the github repository. This book does prepare you to do this, something that look daunting at first when you ever looked at the CRS ruleset without preparation.

That is probably one of the most important learnings one gets from the book, because I don’t know yet, whether I will write my own modsecurity rulesets myself. Although the second interesting insight were the use cases that you could cover with a WAF. The book has a long chapter on this topic and delves into detailed implementation ideas on use cases such as

  • IP address tracking and blacklisting
  • Session tracking, blocking, forced renegotiation and restricting session lifetime as well as detecting session hijacking (a well-known attack technique)
  • Brute force attack detection
  • Denial of service (DoS) detection
  • Periodic security testing and alerting
  • User tracking
  • Whitelisting of application operations
  • File inspection
  • Dynamic patching of application vulnerabilities or for exploits

The idea that nginx logs are an important source for security and audit logs for a SIEM is certainly not surprising. But being able to actively detect during runtime certain vulnerabilities and constantly reporting them as security alert is interesting. Think about missing security headers or wrongly configured content security policies (CSP) in HTTP. Instead of detecting it during vulnerability assessments or penetration tests, such inspection can happen during operations and thus provide a 100% coverage of all operations.

Also having a tool to quickly mitigate a vulnerability before the development team can come up with a fix and new release for a backend sounds interesting. You can even inject content into a response, e.g. Javascript. I just have some doubts about the complexity to introduce new rules and such mitigations quickly in environments where modsecurity and CRS are realistically found these days, such as Kubernetes ingress or WAF. An Azure application gateway for example does not expose the full functionality of modsecurity directly but hides most juwels under some own configuration portal.

At the end the book contains an extensive reference part with explanation of all the directives, variables, operators and actions of the modsecurity rule language. This way the book serves well when you need to actually develop rules in practice beyond what the Internet provides as reference resources.

Creating your own rulesets has its quite hard complexities in my opinion, but it is a tool in your defensive toolset. At least using the CRS with a WAF out-of-the box with just slight tuning, such as disabling rules that produce false positive or unneeded rulesets should be possible. That is anyhow the only thing that environments such as Azure application gateway allow you to do. Going beyond that needs a good reason. The disadvantage is really that such configuration is decoupled from the protected service or application and if we can fix a vulnerability there quickly it certainly is the preferable option before we turn to using custom modsecurity rules. In times of continuous deployment that should be fast enough to avoid dynamic patching. For old applications where there is no team anymore maintaining security or that has half-year release cycles this is still a valid option in the security control portfolio.

I’m curious if I will finally use it one time or not.

Yours, Peter