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Rapid7 Launches Project Sonar to Crowdsource Security Research

Vulnerability management software company Rapid7 has launched an ambitious community project to scan the public Internet, organize the results and share the data with the IT security industry.

The brainchild of HD Moore, chief research officer at Rapid7 and founder of the Metasploit project, the overall goal of Project Sonar is to crowdsource the discovery and reporting of security vulnerabilities of affected software and hardware vendors.

"If we try to parse the data sets ourselves, even with a team of 30 people, it would take multiple years just to figure out the vulnerabilities in the data set. It's ridiculous, really," Moore said in an interview with SecurityWeek.

"The more time i spend on these scan projects, the more I realize how big the job is. The majority of the work isn't just figuring out the vulnerabilities themselves, but you have to identify all the the affected vendors, identify the firmware versions, coordinate the disclosure process. It's a ton of backend work," he explained.

Now Moore and Rapid7 are turning to the security community for help parsing the data, finding and classifying the underlying vulnerabilities, and reporting the issues to affected vendors.

To start, Rapid7 has released about 3 terabytes of raw data generated from scans across public Internet-facing systems. The data sets relate to IPv4 TCP banners & UDP probe replies, IPv4 Reverse DNS PTR records and IPv4 SSL Certificates.

Moore's team also listed a set of tools used to generate the data sets. They include ZMap, an Internet-scale scanner developed at he University of Michigan; UDPBlast, a stand-alone UDP scanning utility; and MASSCAN, an Errata Security tool that claims to scan the entire IPv4 internet in three seconds.

"We really need the involvement of the community to understand the scanning tools and go through the existing data to reduce the time to get these [vulnerabilities] reported and fixed," Moore explained.

He said security researchers can also find "interesting" vulnerabilities that can be sold to vulnerability brokers like HP's Zero Day Initiative. "The great thing about this is that you can find vulnerabilities, report them via the brokers [and] get paid for them," Moore said, arguing that the IT security ecosystem benefits because these vulnerabilities will get reported to the affected vendors for fixes.

"If you're interested in helping research, I encourage the community to grab the tools, take a look at the docs and data we've released, look at protocols, submit data and share what you find with the rest of the world," Moore added.

On the IT side of the house, Moore said Project Sonar can be really useful to improve internal or external penetration testing projects.

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Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. Ryan is a veteran cybersecurity strategist who has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and Kaspersky GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's past career as a security journalist included bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.