At the RSA security conference today, the National Security Agency, released Ghidra, a free software reverse engineering tool that the agency had been using internally for well over a decade.
The tool is ideal for software engineers, but will be especially useful for malware analysts first and foremost.
The NSA’s general plan was to release Ghidra so security researchers can get used to working with it before applying for positions at the NSA or other government intelligence agencies with which the NSA has previously shared Ghidra in private.
Ghidra is currently available for download only through its official website, but the NSA also plans to release its source code under an open source license on GitHub in the coming future.
News that the NSA was going to release Ghidra first broke at the start of the year, and the tool has been on everybody’s mind for the past two months.
The reason is that Ghidra is a free alternative to IDA Pro, a similar reverse engineering tool that’s only available under a very expensive commercial license, priced in the range of thousands of US dollars per year.
Being offered for free, most experts expect Ghidra to snap up a big portion of the reverse engineering tools market share within weeks, especially since early user reviews are almost all entirely positive.
As for its technical features, Ghidra is coded in Java, has a graphical user interface (GUI), and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
According to Rob Joyce, Senior Advisor at the National Security Agency and the NSA official who announced the tool’s release today at the RSA conference, Ghidra can analyze binaries written for a wide variety of architectures, and can be easily extended with more, if ever needed.
Installing Ghidra is as simple as unpacking a ZIP archive. The only requirement is a version of the Java Development Kit 11 or later that’s needed to run the app’s GUI. More on the tool’s installation routine from the tool’s official docs:
Ghidra does not use a traditional installer program. Instead, the Ghidra distribution file is simply extracted in-place on the filesystem. This approach has advantages and disadvantages. On the up side, administrative privilege is not required to install Ghidra for personal use. Also, because installing Ghidra does not update any OS configurations such as the registry on Windows, removing Ghidra is as simple as deleting the Ghidra installation directory.
Besides an installation guide, Ghidra’s docs also come with classes and exercises for beginners, intermediates, and advanced levels that will help users get used to the tool’s GUI, which is very different from any similar tools.
You’re a IDA Pro power user? No problem, there’s a guide for that too.
Need a keyboard shortcut cheatsheet? No problem, there’s one hosted online, here.
Don’t like the bright GUI? No problem, there’s a dark mode included in Ghidra’s settings section.
At the time of this article –an hour after the tool’s release– the reaction from the infosec (information security) community has been almost entirely positive, with glowing reviews from some of the biggest names in the cyber-security industry.
Ghidra may not be the IDA Pro killer most experts expected, since IDA Pro still offers a debugger component not present in Ghidra, but things are looking up.
Because Ghidra’s code will be open-sourced, this also means it will be open to community contributions, and many expect it to receive a debugger in the coming future and allow malware analysts to jump ship and stop paying a fortune for IDA licenses.
And the infosec community has already started contributing back to Ghidra, even if the tool’s source code hasn’t been published on GitHub just yet.
Just minutes after the tool’s release, Matthew Hickey, co-founder and director of UK-based cyber-security firm Hacker House, reported the first security issue in the NSA’s tool, which apprently runs a server component that listens to commands it receives from the internet. Fixing it should be a one-line change, though, according to Hickey.
“By open-sourcing GHIDRA, the NSA will benefit from a diverse user base whose feedback will make the tool even more effective,” Patrick Miller, security researcher at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services told ZDNet via email.
“For underprivileged cyber teams grappling with a lack of personnel or resources, the free tool is a game changer to easing the barrier of entry into the cyber workforce and raising the proficiency of these teams. As a user of this tool for years, I cannot wait to see how it improves in the hands of my peers,” Miller said.
ZDNet readers looking for additional information on the tool, please refer to its official website, GitHub repo, or the included documentation.
The news of the NSA open-sourcing one of its internal tools should not be a surprise anymore. The NSA has open-sourced all sorts of tools over the past few years, with the most successful of them being Apache NiFi, a project for automating large data transfers between web apps, and which has become a favorite on the cloud computing scene.
In total, the NSA has open-sourced 32 projects as part of its Technology Transfer Program (TTP) so far and has most recently even opened an official GitHub account.
Below is a video of security researcher Marcus “MalwareTech” Hutchins taking a first look at Ghidra and its features. Also, within an hour of it’s release, Ghidra has already been made available as a package for Arch Linux, an operating system preferred by most white, gray, and black-hat hackers.
Related cyber-security coverage:
Work from Home Security
Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.
Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.
This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.
- Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
- Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
- Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
- Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management
Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.
A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.
Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.
How to Read this Report
This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.
GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.
Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.
Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure
Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:
- Ease of deployment
- Outstanding ROI
- Overall TCO improvement
Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.
Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:
- Improving overall performance for backups
- Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
- Replacing components difficult to manage and support
In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.
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