Posted on March 31, 2013 10:35 am

Ask Slashdot: Do-It-Yourself Security Auditing Tools?

from the like-soapy-water-for-your-inner-tube dept.

I’m a ‘prosumer’ website builder, have a few sites that are mainly hobbies, but I would like to know that they’re at least fairly robust. I’m thinking of the equivalent of a ‘dental clinic’ — where someone interested in the white hat security field might be willing to take on an audit for the experience and to build a resume. Or, tools such as websites that let you put in a password and see how long it takes to crack it. Or sites where you can put in a URL and it gets poked and prodded by a number of different cracker tools and a ‘score’ is given. Ideally with suggestions on how to improve. Does anything like that exist? I’m not talking FBI/CIA level security, but just common-sense basics. I’ve tried to use techniques that improve security, but I don’t know how well they work. And I’ve realized that in the ever growing, fast changing field of computers I’m not going to ever get the knowledge I need to do this myself. I know there are software suites that allow you to sniff and test things on your own, but I’m afraid it’s overwhelmingly foreign to me and I just feel like I can’t reliably do this myself. Any ideas?


My suggestions are Backtrack Linux & a copy of The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick.

Backtrack has some great security auditing tools, however you will still need to understand exploits to test for them. The Art of Deception gives real world examples of social engineering & suggestions on how to plug those gaping holes called humans.

Mainly in efficiency – it runs in Ring 0/RPL 0/PnP Kernelmode (on Windows), as merely a filter for the IP stack (no overheads of more driver layers OR browser level slower less efficient addons):

21++ ADVANTAGES OF CUSTOM HOSTS FILES (how/what/when/where/why):

Over AdBlock & DNS Servers ALONE 4 Security, Speed, Reliability, & Anonymity (to an extent vs. DNSBL’s + DNS request logs).

1.) HOSTS files are useable for all these purposes because they are present on all Operating Systems that have a BSD based IP stack (even ANDROID) and do adblocking for ANY webbrowser, email program, etc. (any webbound program). A truly “multi-platform” UNIVERSAL solution for added speed, security, reliability, & even anonymity to an extent (vs. DNS request logs + DNSBL’s you feel are unjust hosts get you past/around).

2.) Adblock blocks ads? Well, not anymore & certainly not as well by default, apparently, lol – see below:

Adblock Plus To Offer ‘Acceptable Ads’ Option [] )

AND, in only browsers & their subprogram families (ala email like Thunderbird for FireFox/Mozilla products (use same gecko & xulrunner engines)), but not all, or, all independent email clients, like Outlook, Outlook Express, OR Window “LIVE” mail (for example(s)) – there’s many more like EUDORA & others I’ve used over time that AdBlock just DOES NOT COVER… period.

Disclaimer: Opera now also has an AdBlock addon (now that Opera has addons above widgets), but I am not certain the same people make it as they do for FF or Chrome etc..

3.) Adblock doesn’t protect email programs external to FF (non-mozilla/gecko engine based) family based wares, So AdBlock doesn’t protect email programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows “LIVE” mail & others like them (EUDORA etc./et al), Hosts files do. THIS IS GOOD VS. SPAM MAIL or MAILS THAT BEAR MALICIOUS SCRIPT, or, THAT POINT TO MALICIOUS SCRIPT VIA URLS etc.

4.) Adblock won’t get you to your favorite sites if a DNS server goes down or is DNS-poisoned, hosts will (this leads to points 5-7 next below).

5.) Adblock doesn’t allow you to hardcode in your favorite websites into it so you don’t make DNS server calls and so you can avoid tracking by DNS request logs, OR make you reach them faster since you resolve host-domain names LOCALLY w/ hosts out of cached memory, hosts do ALL of those things (DNS servers are also being abused by the Chinese lately and by the Kaminsky flaw -> [] for years now). Hosts protect against those problems via hardcodes of your fav sites (you should verify against the TLD that does nothing but cache IPAddress-to-domainname/hostname resolutions ( via NSLOOKUP, PINGS (ping -a in Windows), &/or WHOIS though, regularly, so you have the correct IP & it’s current)).

* NOW – Some folks MAY think that putting an IP address alone into your browser’s address bar will be enough, so why bother with HOSTS, right? WRONG – Putting IP address in your browser won’t always work IS WHY. Some IP adresses host several domains & need the site name to give you the right page you’re after is why. So for some sites only the HOSTS file option will work!

6.) Hosts files don’t eat up CPU cycles (or ELECTRICITY) like AdBlock does while it parses a webpages’ content, nor as much as a DNS server does while it runs. HOSTS file are merely a FILTER for the kernel mode/PnP TCP/IP subsystem, which runs FAR FASTER & MORE EFFICIENTLY than any ring 3/rpl3/usermode app can since hosts files run in MORE EFFICIENT & FASTER Ring 0/RPL 0/Kernelmode operations acting merely as a filter for the IP stack (via the “Plug-N-Play” designed IP stack in Windows) vs. SLOWER & LESS EFFICIENT Ring 3/RPL 3/Usermode operations (which webbrowsers run in + their addons like AdBlock slow down even MORESO due to their parsing operations).

7.) HOSTS files will allow you to get to sites you like, via hardcoding your favs into a HOSTS file, FAR faster than remote DNS servers can by FAR (by saving the roundtrip inquiry time to a DNS server, typically 30-100’s of ms, vs. 7-10ms HardDisk speed of access/seek + SSD seek in ns, & back to you – hosts resolutions of IP address for host-domain names is FAR faster…). Hosts are only a filter for an already fast & efficient IP stack, no more layered b.s. (remote OR local). Hosts eat less CPU, RAM, I/O in other forms, + electricity than a locally running DNS server easily, and less than a local DNS program on a single PC. Fact. Hosts are easier to setup & maintain too.

8.) AdBlock doesn’t let you block out known bad sites or servers that are known to be maliciously scripted, hosts can and many reputable lists for this exist:

Spybot “Search & Destroy” IMMUNIZE feature (fortifies HOSTS files with KNOWN bad servers blocked)

And yes: Even SLASHDOT &/or The Register help!

(Via articles on security (when the source articles they use are “detailed” that is, & list the servers/sites involved in attempting to bushwhack others online that is… not ALL do!)).

2 examples thereof in the past I have used, & noted it there, are/were: [] []

9.) AdBlock & DNS servers are programs, and subject to bugs programs can get. Hosts files are merely a filter and not a program, thus not subject to bugs of the nature just discussed.

10.) HOSTS files protect you vs. DNS-poisoning &/or the Kaminsky flaw in DNS servers, and allow you to get to sites reliably vs. things like the Chinese are doing to DNS -> []

11.) HOSTS files are EASILY user controlled, obtained (for reliable ones -> [] ) & edited too, via texteditors like Windows notepad.exe or Linux nano (etc.)

12.) With Adblock you had better be able to code javascript to play with its code (to customize it better than the GUI front does @ least). With hosts you don’t even need source to control it (edit, update, delete, insert of new entries via a text editor).

13.) Hosts files are easily secured via using MAC/ACL (even moreso “automagically” for Vista, 7/Server 2008 + beyond by UAC by default) &/or Read-Only attributes applied.

14.) Custom HOSTS files also speed you up, unlike anonymous proxy servers systems variations (like TOR, or other “highly anonymous” proxy server list servers typically do, in the severe speed hit they often have a cost in) either via “hardcoding” your fav. sites into your hosts file (avoids DNS servers, totally) OR blocking out adbanners – see this below for evidence of that:

US Military Blocks Websites To Free Up Bandwidth: []

(Yes, even the US Military used this type of technique… because IT WORKS! Most of what they blocked? Ad banners ala doubleclick etc.)

Adbanners slow you down & consume your bandwidth YOU pay for:


And people do NOT LIKE ads on the web:


As well as this:

Users Know Advertisers Watch Them, and Hate It: []

Even WORSE still, is this:

Advertising Network Caught History Stealing: []

15.) HOSTS files usage lets you avoid being charged on some ISP/BSP’s (OR phone providers) “pay as you use” policy [] , because you are using less bandwidth (& go faster doing so no less) by NOT hauling in adbanner content and processing it (which can lead to infestation by malware/malicious script, in & of itself -> [] ).

16.) If/when ISP/BSP’s decide to go to -> FCC Approving Pay-As-You-Go Internet Plans: [] your internet bill will go DOWN if you use a HOSTS file for blocking adbanners as well as maliciously scripted hacker/cracker malware maker sites too (after all – it’s your money & time online downloading adbanner content & processing it)

Plus, your adbanner content? Well, it may also be hijacked with malicious code too mind you:

Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing display toxic ads: []

Malware torrent delivered over Google, Yahoo! ad services: []

Google’s DoubleClick spreads malicious ads (again): []

Rogue ads infiltrate Expedia and Rhapsody: []

Google sponsored links caught punting malware: []

DoubleClick caught supplying malware-tainted ads: []

Yahoo feeds Trojan-laced ads to MySpace and PhotoBucket users: []

Real Media attacks real people via RealPlayer: []

Ad networks owned by Google, Microsoft serve malware: []

Attacks Targeting Classified Ad Sites Surge: []

Hackers Respond To Help Wanted Ads With Malware: []

Hackers Use Banner Ads on Major Sites to Hijack Your PC: []

Ruskie gang hijacks Microsoft network to push penis pills: []

Major ISPs Injecting Ads, Vulnerabilities Into Web: []

Two Major Ad Networks Found Serving Malware: []






London Stock Exchange Web Site Serving Malware: []

Spotify splattered with malware-tainted ads: []

As my list “multiple evidences thereof” as to adbanners & viruses + the fact they slow you down & cost you more (from reputable & reliable sources no less)).

17.) Per point #16, a way to save some money: ANDROID phones can also use the HOSTS FILE TO KEEP DOWN BILLABLE TIME ONLINE, vs. adbanners or malware such as this:

Infected Androids Run Up Big Texting Bills: []

AND, for protection vs. other “botnets” migrating from the PC world, to “smartphones” such as ZITMO (a ZEUS botnet variant): []

It’s easily done too, via the ADB dev. tool, & mounting ANDROID OS’ system mountpoint for system/etc as READ + WRITE/ADMIN-ROOT PERMISSIONS, then copying your new custom HOSTS over the old one using ADB PULL/ADB PUSH to do so (otherwise ANDROID complains of “this file cannot be overwritten on production models of this Operating System”, or something very along those lines – this way gets you around that annoyance along with you possibly having to clear some space there yourself if you packed it with things!).

18.) Bad news: ADBLOCK CAN BE DETECTED FOR: See here on that note -> []

HOSTS files are NOT THAT EASILY “webbug” BLOCKABLE by websites, as was tried on users by ARSTECHNICA (and it worked on AdBlock in that manner), to that websites’ users’ dismay:



An experiment gone wrong – By Ken Fisher | Last updated March 6, 2010 11:11 AM []

“Starting late Friday afternoon we conducted a 12 hour experiment to see if it would be possible to simply make content disappear for visitors who were using a very popular ad blocking tool. Technologically, it was a success in that it worked. Ad blockers, and only ad blockers, couldn’t see our content.”


“Our experiment is over, and we’re glad we did it because it led to us learning that we needed to communicate our point of view every once in a while. Sure, some people told us we deserved to die in a fire. But that’s the Internet!”

Thus, as you can see? Well – THAT all “went over like a lead balloon” with their users in other words, because Arstechnica was forced to change it back to the old way where ADBLOCK still could work to do its job (REDDIT however, has not, for example). However/Again – this is proof that HOSTS files can still do the job, blocking potentially malscripted ads (or ads in general because they slow you down) vs. adblockers like ADBLOCK!


19.) Even WIKILEAKS “favors” blacklists (because they work, and HOSTS can be a blacklist vs. known BAD sites/servers/domain-host names):


“we are in favour of ‘Blacklists’, be it for mail servers or websites, they have to be compiled with care… Fortunately, more responsible blacklists, like (which protects the Firefox browser)…

20.) AND, LASTLY? SINCE MALWARE GENERALLY HAS TO OPERATE ON WHAT YOU YOURSELF CAN DO (running as limited class/least privlege user, hopefully, OR even as ADMIN/ROOT/SUPERUSER)? HOSTS “LOCK IN” malware too, vs. communicating “back to mama” for orders (provided they have name servers + C&C botnet servers listed in them, blocked off in your HOSTS that is) – you might think they use a hardcoded IP, which IS possible, but generally they do not & RECYCLE domain/host names they own (such as has been seen with the RBN (Russian Business Network) lately though it was considered “dead”, other malwares are using its domains/hostnames now, & this? This stops that cold, too – Bonus!)…

21.) Custom HOSTS files gain users back more “screen real estate” by blocking out banner ads… it’s great on PC’s for speed along with MORE of what I want to see/read (not ads), & efficiency too, but EVEN BETTER ON SMARTPHONES – by far. It matters MOST there imo @ least, in regards to extra screen real-estate.

Still – It’s a GOOD idea to layer in the usage of BOTH browser addons for security like adblock ( [] ), IE 9’s new TPL’s ( [] ), &/or NoScript ( [] especially this one, as it covers what HOSTS files can’t in javascript which is the main deliverer of MOST attacks online & SECUNIA.COM can verify this for anyone really by looking @ the past few years of attacks nowadays), for the concept of “layered security”….

It’s just that HOSTS files offer you a LOT MORE gains than Adblock ( [] ) does alone (as hosts do things adblock just plain cannot & on more programs, for more speed, security, and “stealth” to a degree even), and it corrects problems in DNS (as shown above via hardcodes of your favorite sites into your HOSTS file, and more (such as avoiding DNS request logs)).

ALSO – Some more notes on DNS servers & their problems, very recent + ongoing ones:

DNS flaw reanimates slain evil sites as ghost domains: []

BIND vs. what the Chinese are doing to DNS lately? See here: []


(Yes, even “security pros” are helpless vs. DNS problems in code bugs OR redirect DNS poisoning issues, & they can only try to “set the DNS record straight” & then, they still have to wait for corrected DNS info. to propogate across all subordinate DNS servers too – lagtime in which folks DO get “abused” in mind you!)

DNS vs. the “Kaminsky DNS flaw”, here (and even MORE problems in DNS than just that): []

(Seems others are saying that some NEW “Bind9 flaw” is worse than the Kaminsky flaw ALONE, up there, mind you… probably corrected (hopefully), but it shows yet again, DNS hassles (DNS redirect/DNS poisoning) being exploited!)

Moxie Marlinspike’s found others (0 hack) as well…

Nope… “layered security” truly IS the “way to go” – hacker/cracker types know it, & they do NOT want the rest of us knowing it too!…

(So until DNSSEC takes “widespread adoption”? HOSTS are your answer vs. such types of attack, because the 1st thing your system refers to, by default, IS your HOSTS file (over say, DNS server usage). There are decent DNS servers though, such as OpenDNS, ScrubIT, or even NORTON DNS (more on each specifically below), & because I cannot “cache the entire internet” in a HOSTS file? I opt to use those, because I have to (& OpenDNS has been noted to “fix immediately”, per the Kaminsky flaw, in fact… just as a sort of reference to how WELL they are maintained really!)

DNS Hijacks Now Being Used to Serve Black Hole Exploit Kit: []

DNS experts admit some of the underlying foundations of the DNS protocol are inherently weak: []

Potential 0-Day Vulnerability For BIND 9: []

Five DNS Threats You Should Protect Against: []

DNS provider decked by DDoS dastards: []

Ten Percent of DNS Servers Still Vulnerable: (so much for “conscientious patching”, eh? Many DNS providers weren’t patching when they had to!) []


TimeWarner DNS Hijacking: []

DNS Re-Binding Attacks: []

DNS Server Survey Reveals Mixed Security Picture: []

Halvar figured out super-secret DNS vulnerability: []

BIND Still Susceptible To DNS Cache Poisoning: []

DNS Poisoning Hits One of China’s Biggest ISPs: []

DDoS Attacks Via DNS Recursion: []

High Severity BIND DNS Vulnerability Advisory Issued: []

Photobucketâ(TM)s DNS records hijacked: []

Protecting Browsers from DNS Rebinding Attacks: []

DNS Problem Linked To DDoS Attacks Gets Worse: []

HOWEVER – Some DNS servers are “really good stuff” vs. phishing, known bad sites/servers/hosts-domains that serve up malware-in-general & malicious scripting, botnet C&C servers, & more, such as:

Norton DNS -> []
ScrubIT DNS -> []
OpenDNS -> []

(Norton DNS in particular, is exclusively for blocking out malware, for those of you that are security-conscious. ScrubIT filters pr0n material too, but does the same, & OpenDNS does phishing protection. Each page lists how & why they work, & why they do so. Norton DNS can even show you its exceptions lists, plus user reviews & removal procedures requests, AND growth stats (every 1/2 hour or so) here -> [] so, that ought to “take care of the naysayers” on removal requests, &/or methods used plus updates frequency etc./et al…)

HOWEVER – There’s ONLY 1 WEAKNESS TO ANY network defense, including HOSTS files (vs. host-domain name based threats) & firewalls (hardware router type OR software type, vs. IP address based threats): Human beings, & they not being ‘disciplined’ about the indiscriminate usage of javascript (the main “harbinger of doom” out there today online), OR, what they download for example… & there is NOTHING I can do about that! (Per Dr. Manhattan of “The Watchmen”, ala -> “I can change almost anything, but I can’t change human nature”)

HOWEVER AGAIN – That’s where NORTON DNS, OpenDNS, &/or ScrubIT DNS help!

(Especially for noob/grandma level users who are unaware of how to secure themselves in fact, per a guide like mine noted above that uses “layered-security” principles!)

ScrubIT DNS, &/or OpenDNS are others alongside Norton DNS (adding on phishing protection too) as well!

( & it’s possible to use ALL THREE in your hardware NAT routers, and, in your Local Area Connection DNS properties in Windows, for again, “Layered Security” too)…


“Ever since I’ve installed a host file ( to redirect advertisers to my loopback, I haven’t had any malware, spyware, or adware issues. I first started using the host file 5 years ago.” – by TestedDoughnut (1324447) on Monday December 13, @12:18AM (#34532122)

“I use a custom/etc/hosts to block ads… my file gets parsed basically instantly … So basically, for any modern computer, it has zero visible impact. And even if it took, say, a second to parse, that would be more than offset by the MANY seconds saved by not downloading and rendering ads. I have noticed NO ill effects from running a custom /etc/hosts file for the last several years. And as a matter of fact I DO run http servers on my computers and I’ve never had an /etc/hosts-related problem… it FUCKING WORKS and makes my life better overall.” – by sootman (158191) on Monday July 13 2009, @11:47AM (#28677363) Homepage Journal

“I actually went and downloaded a 16k line hosts file and started using that after seeing that post, you know just for trying it out. some sites load up faster.” – by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday November 17, @11:20AM (#38086752) Homepage Journal

“Better than an ad blocker, imo. Hosts file entries: [] ” – by TempestRose (1187397) on Tuesday March 15, @12:53PM (#35493274)

“^^ One of the many reasons why I like the user-friendliness of the/etc/hosts file.” – by lennier1 (264730) on Saturday March 05, @09:26PM (#35393448)

“They’ve been on my HOSTS block for years” – by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Thursday August 05 2010, @01:52AM (#33147212)

“I’m currently only using my hosts file to block pheedo ads from showing up in my RSS feeds and causing them to take forever to load. Regardless of its original intent, it’s still a valid tool, when used judiciously.” – by Bill Dog (726542) on Monday April 25, @02:16AM (#35927050) Homepage Journal

“you’re right about hosts files” – by drinkypoo (153816) on Thursday May 26, @01:21PM (#36252958) Homepage

“APK’s monolithic hosts file is looking pretty good at the moment.” – by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday November 17, @10:08AM (#38085666)

“I also use the MVPS ad blocking hosts file.” – by Rick17JJ (744063) on Wednesday January 19, @03:04PM (#34931482)

“I use ad-Block and a hostfile” – by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Tuesday March 01, @10:11AM (#35346902)

“I do use Hosts, for a couple fake domains I use.” – by icebraining (1313345) on Saturday December 11, @09:34AM (#34523012) Homepage

“It’s a good write up on something everybody should use, why you were modded down is beyond me. Using a HOSTS file, ADblock is of no concern and they can do what they want.” – by Trax3001BBS (2368736) on Monday December 12, @10:07PM (#38351398) Homepage Journal

“I want my surfing speed back so I block EVERY fucking ad. i.e. [] and [] FTW” – by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Tuesday December 13, @12:04PM (#38356782)

“Let me introduce you to the file:/etc/hosts” – by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday December 19, @05:03PM (#38427432)

“I use a hosts file” – by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday December 13, @01:17PM (#38357816)

“I’m tempted to go for a hacked hosts file that simply resolves most advert sites to” – by bLanark (123342) on Tuesday December 13, @01:13PM (#38357760)

“this is not a troll, which hosts file source you recommend nowadays? it’s a really handy method for speeding up web and it works.” – by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday March 22, @08:07PM (#39446525) Homepage Journal

“A hosts file certainly does not require “a lot of work” to maintain, and it quite effectively kills a LOT of advertising and tracking schemes. . In fact, I never would have considered trying to use it for ddefending against viruses or malware.” – by RocketRabbit (830691) on Thursday December 30 2010, @05:48PM (#34715060)

Then, there is also the words of respected security expert, Mr. Oliver Day, from SECURITYFOCUS.COM to “top that all off” as well:


Some “PERTINENT QUOTES/EXCERPTS” to back up my points with (for starters):

“The host file on my day-to-day laptop is now over 16,000 lines long. Accessing the Internet — particularly browsing the Web — is actually faster now.”

Speed, and security, is the gain… others like Mr. Day note it as well!

“From what I have seen in my research, major efforts to share lists of unwanted hosts began gaining serious momentum earlier this decade. The most popular appear to have started as a means to block advertising and as a way to avoid being tracked by sites that use cookies to gather data on the user across Web properties. More recently, projects like Spybot Search and Destroy offer lists of known malicious servers to add a layer of defense against trojans and other forms of malware.

Per my points exactly, no less… & guess who was posting about HOSTS files a 14++ yrs. or more back & Mr. Day was reading & now using? Yours truly (& this is one of the later ones, from 2001 [] (but the example HOSTS file with my initials in it is FAR older, circa 1998 or so) or thereabouts, and referred to later by a pal of mine who moderates (where I posted on HOSTS for YEARS (1997 onwards)) -> [] !

“Shared host files could be beneficial for other groups as well. Human rights groups have sought after block resistant technologies for quite some time. The GoDaddy debacle with NMap creator Fyodor (corrected) showed a particularly vicious blocking mechanism using DNS registrars. Once a registrar pulls a website from its records, the world ceases to have an effective way to find it. Shared host files could provide a DNS-proof method of reaching sites, not to mention removing an additional vector of detection if anyone were trying to monitor the use of subversive sites. One of the known weaknesses of the Tor system, for example, is direct DNS requests by applications not configured to route such requests through Tor’s network.”

There you go: AND, it also works vs. the “KAMINSKY DNS FLAW” & DNS poisoning/redirect attacks, for redirectable weaknesses in DNS servers (non DNSSEC type, & set into recursive mode especially) and also in the TOR system as well (that lends itself to anonymous proxy usage weaknesses I noted above also) and, you’ll get to sites you want to, even IF a DNS registrar drops said websites from its tables as shown here Beating Censorship By Routing Around DNS -> [] & even DNSBL also (DNS Block Lists) -> [] as well – DOUBLE-BONUS!

* POSTS ABOUT HOSTS FILES I DID on “/.” THAT HAVE DONE WELL BY OTHERS & WERE RATED HIGHLY, 26++ THUSFAR (from +3 -> +1 RATINGS, usually “informative” or “interesting” etc./et al):

HOSTS MOD UP:2010 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2009 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2010 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2009 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2009 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2009 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2010 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2010 -> []
APK 20++ POINTS ON HOSTS MOD UP:2010 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2010 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2010 (w/ facebook known bad sites blocked) -> []
HOSTS MOD UP CAN DO SAME AS THE “CloudFlare” Server-Side service:2011 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2011 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP & OPERA HAUTE SECURE:2011 -> [] in HOSTS:2009 -> [] IN HOSTS:2009 -> [] in HOSTS:2009 -> [] in HOSTS:2009 -> []
HOSTS MOD UP:2009 -> [] (still says INSIGHTFUL)
HOSTS MOD UP vs. botnet: 2012 -> []

Windows 7, VISTA, & Server 2008 have a couple of “issues” I don’t like in them, & you may not either, depending on your point of view (mine’s based solely on efficiency & security), & if my take on these issues aren’t “good enough”? I suggest reading what ROOTKIT.COM says, link URL is in my “p.s.” @ the bottom of this post:

1.) HOSTS files being unable to use “0” for a blocking IP address – this started in 12/09/2008 after an “MS Patch Tuesday” in fact for VISTA (when it had NO problem using it before that, as Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003 still can)… & yes, this continues in its descendants, Windows Server 2008 &/or Windows 7 as well.

So, why is this a “problem” you might ask?

Ok – since you can technically use either:

a.) (the “loopback adapter address”)
b.) (next smallest & next most efficient)
c.) The smallest & fastest plain-jane 0


You can use ANY of those, in order to block out known bad sites &/or adbanners in a HOSTS file this way??

Microsoft has “promoted bloat” in doing so… no questions asked.

Simply because

1.) = 9 bytes in size on disk & is the largest/slowest
2.) = 7 bytes & is the next largest/slowest in size on disk
3.) 0 = 1 byte

(& HOSTS files extend across EVERY webbrowser, email program, or in general every webbound program you use & thus HOSTS are “global” in coverage this way AND function on any OS that uses the BSD derived IP stack (which most all do mind you, even MS is based off of it, as BSD’s IS truly, “the best in the business”), & when coupled with say, IE restricted zones, FireFox addons like NoScript &/or AdBlock, or Opera filter.ini/urlfilter.ini, for layered security in this capacity for webbrowsers & SOME email programs (here, I mean ones “built into” browsers themselves like Opera has for example))

MS has literally promoted bloat in this file, making it load slower from disk, into memory! This compounds itself, the more entries your HOSTS file contains… & for instance? Mine currently contains nearly 654,000 entries of known bad adbanners, bad websites, &/or bad nameservers (used for controlling botnets, misdirecting net requests, etc. et al).

Now, IF I were to use My “huge” HOSTS file would be approximately 27mb in size… using (next smallest) it would be 19mb in size – HOWEVER? Using 0 as my blocking IP, it is only 14mb in size. See my point?

(For loads either in the local DNS cache, or system diskcache if you run w/out the local DNS client service running, this gets slower the larger each HOSTS file entry is (which you have to stall the DNS client service in Windows for larger ones, especially if you use a “giant HOSTS file” (purely relative term, but once it goes over (iirc) 4mb in size, you have to cut the local DNS cache client service)))

NO questions asked – the physics of it backed me up in theory alone, but when I was questioned on it for PROOF thereof?

I wrote a small test program to load such a list into a “pascal record” (which is analagous to a C/C++ structure), which is EXACTLY what the DNS client/DNS API does as well, using a C/C++ structure (basically an array of sorts really, & a structure/record is a precursor part to a full-blown CLASS or OBJECT, minus the functions built in, this is for treating numerous variables as a SINGLE VARIABLE (for efficiency, which FORTRAN as a single example, lacks as a feature, @ least Fortran 77 did, but other languages do not))!

I even wrote another that just loaded my HOSTS file’s entirety into a listbox, same results… slowest using, next slowest using, & fastest using 0.

And, sure: Some MORE “goes on” during DNS API loads (iirc, removal of duplicated entries (which I made sure my personal copy does not have these via a program I wrote to purge it of duplicated entries + to sort each entry alphabetically for easier mgt. via say, notepad.exe) & a conversion from decimal values to hex ones), but, nevertheless? My point here “holds true”, of slower value loads, record-by-record, from a HOSTS file, when the entries become larger.

So, to “prove my point” to my naysayers?

I timed it using the Win32 API calls “GetTickCount” & then again, using the API calls of “QueryPerformanceCounter” as well, seeing the SAME results (a slowdown when reading in this file from disk, especially when using the larger or line item entries in a HOSTS file, vs. the smaller/faster/more efficient 0).

In my test, I saw a decline in speed/efficiency in my test doing so by using larger blocking addresses ( &/or, vs. the smallest/fastest in 0)… proving me correct on this note!

On this HOSTS issue, and the WFP design issue in my next post below?

I also then questioned MS’ own staff, even their VP of development (S. Sinofsky) on this here -> [] & other places in their blogs, to get them to tell me WHY this seemingly intentional inefficiency was implemented… & I have YET to get a solid LOGICAL answer on this as to why it was done – THUS, @ this point?

I am convinced they (MS) do NOT have a good reason for doing this… because of their lack of response there on this note. Unless it has something to do with IPv6 (most folks use IPv4 still), I cannot understand WHY this design mistake imo, has occurred, in HOSTS files…


2.) The “Windows Filtering Platform”, which is now how the firewall works in VISTA, Server 2008, & Windows 7…

Sure it works in this new single point method & it is simple to manage & “sync” all points of it, making it easier for network techs/admins to manage than the older 3 part method, but that very thing works against it as well, because it is only a single part system now!

Thus, however?

This “single layer design” in WFP, now represents a SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE/ATTACK for malware makers to ‘take down’!

(Which is 1 of the 1st things a malware attempts to do, is to take down any software firewalls present, or even the “Windows Security Center” itself which should warn you of the firewall “going down”, & it’s fairly easy to do either by messaging the services they use, or messing up their registry init. settings)

VS. the older (up to) 3 part method used in Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003, for protecting a system via IP Filtering, the Windows native Firewall, &/or IPSEC. Each of which uses diff. drivers, & layers of the IP stack to function from, as well as registry initialization settings.

Think of the older 3 part design much the same as the reason why folks use door handle locks, deadbolt locks, & chain locks on their doors… multipart layered security.

(Each of which the latter older method used, had 3 separate drivers & registry settings to do their jobs, representing a “phalanx like”/”zone defense like” system of backup of one another (like you see in sports OR ancient wars, and trust me, it WORKS, because on either side of yourself, you have “backup”, even if YOU “go down” vs. the opponent)).

I.E.-> Take 1 of the “older method’s” 3 part defenses down? 2 others STILL stand in the way, & they are not that simple to take them ALL down…

(Well, @ least NOT as easily as “taking out” a single part defensive system like WFP (the new “Windows Filtering Platform”, which powers the VISTA, Windows Server 2008, & yes, Windows 7 firewall defense system)).

On this “single-part/single-point of attack” WFP (vs. Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003’s IP stack defense design in 3-part/zone defense/phalanx type arrangement) as well as the HOSTS issue in my post above?

I also then questioned MS’ own staff, even their VP of development (S. Sinofsky) on this here -> [] & other places in their blogs, to get them to tell me WHY this seemingly intentional inefficiency was implemented… & I have YET to get a solid LOGICAL answer on this as to why it was done – THUS, @ this point?

I’ll stick to my thoughts on it, until I am shown otherwise & proven wrong.


Following up on what I wrote up above, so those here reading have actual technical references from Microsoft themselves (“The horses’ mouth”), in regards to the Firewall/PortFilter/IPSec designs (not HOSTS files, that I am SURE I am correct about, no questions asked) from my “Point #2” above?

Thus, I’ll now note how:


1.) TCP/IP packet processing paths differences between in how Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003 did it (IPSEC.SYS (IP Security Policies), IPNAT.SYS (Windows Firewall), IPFLTDRV.SYS (Port Filtering), & TCPIP.SYS (base IP driver))…

2.) AND, how VISTA/Server 2008/Windows 7 do it now currently, using a SINGLE layer (WFP)…


First off, here is HOW it worked in Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003 – using 3 discrete & different drivers AND LEVELS/LAYERS of the packet processing path they worked in: []

The Cable Guy – June 2005: TCP/IP Packet Processing Paths


The following components process IP packets:

IP forwarding Determines the next-hop interface and address for packets being sent or forwarded.

TCP/IP filtering Allows you to specify by IP protocol, TCP port, or UDP port, the types of traffic that are acceptable for incoming local host traffic (packets destined for the host). You can configure TCP/IP filtering on the Options tab from the advanced properties of the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) component in the Network Connections folder.

* “Here endeth the lesson…” and, if you REALLY want to secure your system? Please refer to this: []

APK [mailto]

P.S.=> SOME MINOR “CAVEATS/CATCH-22’s” – things to be aware of for “layered security” + HOSTS file performance – easily overcome, or not a problem at all:

A.) HOSTS files don’t function under PROXY SERVERS (except for Proximitron, which has a filter that allows it) – Which is *the “WHY”* of why I state in my “P.S.” section below to use both AdBlock type browser addon methods (or even built-in block lists browsers have such as Opera’s URLFILTER.INI file, & FireFox has such as list as does IE also in the form of TPL (tracking protection lists -> [] , good stuff )) in combination with HOSTS, for the best in “layered security” (alongside .pac files + custom cascading style sheets that can filter off various tags such as scripts or ads etc.) – but proxies, especially “HIGHLY ANONYMOUS” types, generally slow you down to a CRAWL online (& personally, I cannot see using proxies “for the good” typically – as they allow “truly anonymous posting” & have bugs (such as TOR has been shown to have & be “bypassable/traceable” via its “onion routing” methods)).

B.) HOSTS files do NOT protect you vs. javascript (this only holds true IF you don’t already have a bad site blocked out in your HOSTS file though, & the list of sites where you can obtain such lists to add to your HOSTS are above (& updated daily in many of them)).

C.) HOSTS files (relatively “largish ones”) require you to turn off Windows’ native “DNS local client cache service” (which has a problem in that it’s designed with a non-redimensionable/resizeable list, array, or queue (DNS data loads into a C/C++ structure actually/afaik, which IS a form of array)) – covers that in detail and how to easily do this in Windows (this is NOT a problem in Linux, & it’s 1 thing I will give Linux over Windows, hands-down). Relatively “smallish” HOSTS files don’t have this problem ( offers 2 types for this).

D.) HOSTS files, once read/loaded, once? GET CACHED! Right into the kernelmode diskcaching subsystem (fast & efficient RAM speed), for speed of access/re-access (@ system startup in older MS OS’ like 2000, or, upon a users’ 1st request that’s “Webbound” via say, a webbrowser) gets read into either the DNS local caching client service (noted above), OR, if that’s turned off? Into your local diskcache (like ANY file is), so it reads F A S T upon re-reads/subsequent reads (until it’s changed in %WinDir%\system32\drivers\etc on Windows, which marks it “Dirty” & then it gets re-read + reloaded into the local diskcache again). This may cause a SMALL initial load 1 time lag upon reload though, depending on the size of your HOSTS file.

E.) HOSTS files don’t protect vs. BGP exploits – Sorry, once it’s out of your hands/machine + past any interior network + routers you have, the packets you send are out there into the ISP/BSP’s hands – they’re “the Agents” holding all the keys to the doorways at that point (hosts are just a forcefield-filter (for lack of a better description) armor on what can come in mostly, & a bit of what can go out too (per point #20 above on “locking in malware”)). Hosts work as a “I can’t get burned if I can’t go into the kitchen” protection, for you: Not your ISP/BSP. It doesn’t extend to them

F.) HOSTS files don’t protect vs. IP addressed adbanners (rare) &/or IP address utilizing malwares (rare too, most used domain/host names because they’re “RECYCLABLE/REUSEABLE”), so here, you must couple HOSTS files w/ firewall rules tables (either in software firewalls OR router firewall rules table lists)… apk