I frequently thank vendors and developers for releasing cool, free, useful software to the masses. We computer security types need as much help as we can get.
Sysinternals is always at the top of my thank you list. Mark Russinovich and his partner, Bryce Cogswall, have been making cool utilities (such as Autoruns and Filemon) to help us for years. No single person knows everything about Windows, but Mark probably knows more than anybody.
It then comes as no great surprise that Microsoft bought Sysinternals a few weeks ago. Mark is a Microsoft employee now. It's kind of ironic, considering that Microsoft helped get him fired more than a decade ago for releasing intellectual product secrets to the public. Mark helped write a magazine article detailing the few small points that separated NT 4.0 Workstation from NT 4.0 Server, and Microsoft struck back -- or so the rumor goes. Ten years later and Microsoft pays him large sums of money for his company and expertise. How sweet is that revenge?
I, for one, am glad that Microsoft got another great mind. When it comes to securing the world’s most popular desktop OS, the more great minds working at Microsoft, the better. The past few months of patches have been as brutal as ever -- the number of patches, the patch bugs, and increasing number of zero-day exploits being released just after Patch Tuesday.
Unfortunately, there is a very real fear that Mark will never again release a cool utility. Mark is getting paid to think at Microsoft, and I’m not sure if thinking includes coding. Let’s hope that either way, Mark’s new position leads to better products and utilities and fewer patches.
Foundstone is another company I’ve given kudos to before. I must disclose that I do work for Foundstone, but I was a fan of their free utilities for many years before I went to work for them. I especially enjoy reading newsgroup postings with people saying they love Foundstone’s free utilities.
Many of Foundstone's tools became instant computer security classics, such as Superscan (an excellent port scanner), Fport (a port enumerator), stress testing tools, and all sorts of malware scanners. These are programs and tools that Foundstone’s own expert consultants and penetration testers use during security audits: When Foundstone has a security need that begs automation, one of its many excellent programmers codes a quick program. I’m still surprised by how many of our internal tools end up being given away on the Web.
But it is the last round of tools that have really caught my eye. If you haven’t taken a look at Foundstone’s free security tools in a few months, you really owe yourself another visit. Here’s a summary of my favorites: