Research Lifts the Veil on Penetration Testing Practices that Undermine Industry Goals

August 07, 2019

BLACK HAT USA 2019 – LAS VEGAS BlackBerry Limited (NYSE: BB; TSX: BB) today announced that new research from the BlackBerry® Cylance® Threat Intelligence Team has uncovered a trove of highly sensitive data.  Included in the report is confidential information detailing aspects of a country’s civilian air traffic control system in a semi-public malware repository, the apparent by-product of penetration testing, one of a number of startling findings.

In Thin Red Line: Penetration Testing Practices Examined, the BlackBerry Cylance Threat Intelligence Team sheds light on a range of questionable pentesting practices, by-products and outcomes. The report raises critical questions about the industry’s adherence to expectations of privacy and confidentiality, as well as compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Included in the report is a case study of an advanced persistent threat (APT) like group which the research team found to be operating openly as a Brazilian security firm that is linked to the exposure of sensitive air traffic control data. This revelation is one of a number of findings in the report that demonstrate how the line distinguishing pentesting exercises from actual threat actor behavior has thinned.

“Though many of our findings are uncomfortable, we are sharing this research in order to start a conversation we hope will help better educate security researchers, pentesters, and the clients they both seek to serve,” says Kevin Livelli, Director of Threat Intelligence at BlackBerry Cylance. “We must hold ourselves accountable to each other and to ourselves to ensure that we remain good stewards for those who rely on our support - and be deserving of their trust.”

The research also explores the tradecraft of more than two dozen well-known companies offering pentesting services, from boutiques to blue chips, and finds the widespread exposure of client data in semi-public repositories.

“Over the past five years the explosion of groups around the globe offering offensive testing services has led to practices that can materially compromise a company’s security posture” said Josh Lemos, VP of Research and Intelligence at BlackBerry Cylance. “We want this report to help the security community, and the clients they serve, think more critically about how red teaming operations can impact security, agree to guiding principles for engagements such as data handling, and bring awareness to dangerous testing practices, inadvertent or not.”

Download the Thin Red Line: Penetration Testing Practices Examined report here.

Visit BlackBerry Cylance at Black Hat USA 2019 in booth #514 to learn more. Also, see our experts at sessions throughout the show, including “Black Hat Arsenal: Sharing Is Winning!!” (Aug. 6 at 5:20 pm in the South Pacific room); “How Artificial Intelligence Is Enabling Cyber Resilience” (Aug. 7 at 3 pm in Business Hall Theater A); “ICU-ICS: An ICS Assessment Framework Tool” (Aug. 7 at 11:55 am, Aug. 8 at 10 am and 3:45 pm in Business Hall Oceanside, Arsenal); and “CyBot: Open-Source Threat Intelligence Chat Bot” (Aug. 8 at 2 pm in Business Hall Oceanside, Arsenal Station 4).

About BlackBerry

BlackBerry (NYSE: BB; TSX: BB) is a trusted security software and services company that provides enterprises and governments with the technology they need to secure the Internet of Things. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, the company is unwavering in its commitment to safety, cybersecurity and data privacy, and leads in key areas such as artificial intelligence, endpoint security and management, encryption and embedded systems. For more information, visit and follow @BlackBerry.

Trademarks, including but not limited to BLACKBERRY and EMBLEM Design are the trademarks or registered trademarks of BlackBerry Limited and the exclusive rights to such trademarks are expressly reserved. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


Media Contact:

BlackBerry Media Relations

(519) 597-7273

Investor Contact:

BlackBerry Investor Relations

(519) 888-7465