Never Trust Your Victim: Weaponizing Vulnerabilities in Security Scanners


Andrea Valenza, University of Genova; Gabriele Costa, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca; Alessandro Armando, University of Genova


The first step of every attack is reconnaissance, i.e., to acquire information about the target. A common belief is that there is almost no risk in scanning a target from a remote location. In this paper we falsify this belief by showing that scanners are exposed to the same risks as their targets. Our methodology is based on a novel attacker model where the scan author becomes the victim of a counter-strike. We developed a working prototype, called RevOK, and we applied it to 78 scanning systems. Out of them, 36 were found vulnerable to XSS. Remarkably, RevOK also found a severe vulnerability in Metasploit Pro, a mainstream penetration testing tool.

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@inproceedings {259717,
author = {Andrea Valenza and Gabriele Costa and Alessandro Armando},
title = {Never Trust Your Victim: Weaponizing Vulnerabilities in Security Scanners},
booktitle = {23rd International Symposium on Research in Attacks, Intrusions and Defenses ({RAID} 2020)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-18-2},
address = {San Sebastian},
pages = {17--29},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = oct,