Taking Good Notes

UPDATE: Cherry Tree has been replaced in my workflow with Joplin. I like it more, and may do a write up on that soon.

While performing a penetration test, it’s easy to get tunnel vision trying to get a shell and leave yourself high and dry when it comes to completing your report at the end. It is important to keep detailed notes on what actions you take, when you take them, from what system you are taking them from and what system you are taking them against.

There are a couple things you can do to help make this process easier for you. First, you want to find a note keeping tool that works for you. I’ve heard some people talk about a tool called XMind which seems really useful for organizing a large engagement. Jason Haddix talks about it and briefly showed it during his BugCrowd video Bug Bounty Hunters Methodology v3 and I really wanted to try it out. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to get it working due to versioning issues with Java and the fact that Oracle is the worst humanity has to offer.

Personally, I am currently using Cherry Tree. This is similar to Microsoft’s OneNote if you are familiar with that tool. You can create a notebook for the engagement, the add pages to store scan data, discovered vulnerabilities, successful exploits, recovered credentials and anything else that fits your organizational method. You can also embed screenshots, which leads me to my second tip.

Screenshot everything you do. A picture is worth a thousand words, and can save you a nightmare of a headache trying to remember exactly what you did in order to provide steps for the client to reproduce the results. A single screenshot can often capture everything from the command issued to the results that prove the vulnerability.

A very helpful tip that I received, and pass on to anyone who will listen, is to modify your .bashrc file to display the current date and time at your terminal prompt. This, in conjunction with your constant screenshot, provides an accurate self-documenting timeline of events for your report.

Screenshots can also provide a record of what you did that didn’t work, which can help the client be more receptive to your feedback. After all, who doesn’t appreciate kudos on what they are doing well in the midst of negative feedback?

If you are working from a Window’s host, Greenshot is a great screenshot tool that allows you to easily blur sensitive data, highlight important data, and apply borders and color formatting to lend to a good looking, easy to read report. Unfortunately it does not have a Linux version, but a good stand in to provide much of this same functionality is Flameshot. I’ve installed Flameshot on my Linux host, and modified the keyboard shortcut so I can simply hit print screen and it will execute /usr/bin/flameshot gui to allow me to select the area of the screen I want to capture and perform some editing.

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