You need your own “cop on the beat”: Why security scanning services are not enough.

He knows what “normal” is. Source: Wikimedia Commons

I have repeatedly had the experience of performing external vulnerability assessments and discovering significant issues that were not being called out as such by the regular commercial assessment services employed by the client organization.

I recently discovered a case where active web server logs were freely available on the open Internet .  The usual information – source IP address, target resource, and status codes –  were all available.

Example:

64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:07 -0400] “GET /client/chat.php?id=1%22%20%3E%3C/script%3E%3Cscript%3Ealert%28%27QualysXSSTestPart2%27%29%3C/script%3E&xhash=1 HTTP/1.1” 302 433 “-” “-“
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:08 -0400] “GET /index.do HTTP/1.1” 302 301 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:10 -0400] “GET /userui/welcome.php HTTP/1.1” 302 311 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:12 -0400] “GET /struts2-rest-showcase/orders HTTP/1.1” 302 321 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:08:58 -0400] “POST /rest/json/login HTTP/1.1” 302 308 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:14 -0400] “GET /node.xml HTTP/1.1” 302 301 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:14 -0400] “GET /user/login HTTP/1.1” 302 303 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:15 -0400] “GET / HTTP/1.1” 302 293 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:16 -0400] “GET /admin.php HTTP/1.1” 302 302 “-” “-”
64.39.99.99 – – [02/Aug/2017:10:09:16 -0400] “GET /console/login/LoginForm.jsp HTTP/1.1” 302 320 “-” “-”

The highlighted entry is a “cross site scripting” (XSS) test being run over the Internet by the vulnerability management service “Qualys“.

From “whois 64.39.99.99”

NetRange: 64.39.96.0 – 64.39.111.255
CIDR: 64.39.96.0/20
NetName: QUALYS

Anyone on the Internet was able to view these logs and learn of the organization’s use of Qualys and something of the types of tests being performed and what the outcome of those tests were.

All highly useful information to any potential attacker.

Note that the problem here is NOT with Qualys.

The site that allowed these logs to be revealed had no “technical” security problem. Any internal user who was basing their understanding of the external security status of the organization strictly on the scanning service reports would likely have no reason to believe anything was wrong.

Your organization needs at least one knowledgeable and caring staff member whose job it is to know what your organization looks like from the Internet and can see when something is clearly wrong in the same way a neighborhood patrol officer can notice a strange car or a gate open that is normally locked.

You need your own “cop on the beat”.

 

 

 

We’re Growing Again!

From social media:

Got #infosec skills? We’re looking for a new team member to join MicroSolved. Pen-testing, threat intel & innovation are core reqs. Ethics, rapid learning, positivity are must haves. #Columbus preferred. Get in touch!  

Here is a bit more information: 

This engineer will engage with clients to review technical systems/applications, perform vulnerability assessments/pen-testing, application assessments, cyber threat intelligence assessments, network segmentation analysis, validate technical findings and support customers with security issues across the attack event horizon. 

Projects will cover the scope of networks, applications, security devices, servers/systems and likely embedded systems/components. Deep enterprise network knowledge in one or more areas of networking and/or security is a requirement. Familiarity with NIST standards/cyber security frameworks is preferred. 

To apply, send a resume and cover letter to (jobs <at> microsolved <dot> com). Please, no recruiters and no phone calls. If you have questions, please reach out on Twitter to @lbhuston. 

Thanks! 

Phishing URLs

How many of us inspect a link before we actually click on it? Be honest now, how many hover your mouse over the link and identify the destination in the status bar or popup, before you actually click? If the link is from a trusted site, say in the middle of a CNN article, very likely you don’t. If it’s a link in an email from your colleague, maybe. And even then, how closely do you look?

In many of MicroSolved’s social engineering exercises, alright, authorized phishing campaigns, creating fake links that appear valid is a tried and true method. To make an email look like it’s from John Glenn, a very familiar name recognized as an American hero, it takes 2 minutes to create an email address JohnGlemn@gmail.com. Or BilllyCrystal@gmail.com. Alright, how many of you actually caught the 3 lower case L’s in Billly? And the misspelling of Glemn in the email address?

Same thing with domains. Not to pick on this domain but why is MICRPSOFT.COM registered? Don’t browse to that domain, it gets forwarded to a suspicious link – which proves the point. An internet search for the string “MICRPSOFT” comes up with nothing for that string, all results are for “MICROSOFT.”

It’s a common technique referred to as URL hijacking or Typosquatting. It counts on the user not paying attention to what they’re typing into the browser address bar. Or it counts on the user not noticing the misspelling even if they were hovering the mouse over a link before they clicked.

Many of you have heard of the Equifax breach earlier this year. They registered and set up a domain for the public – equifaxsecurity2017.com. At this site, you could get more information, as well as enter your SSN (last few digits) to find out if your personal data had been part of the breach. However, a security professional registered securityequifax2017.com – and many legitimate sites actually directed traffic to this fake domain instead. Fortunately, it wasn’t anyone malicious, but someone who wanted to prove the point – and did – that these domain names can easily be abused. Equifax itself tweeted the fake domain, thinking it was their own.

So what are we to do? It’s easy to say, just be vigilant, be cautious, be on the lookout. There are tools, browser plugins, background running processes that can check links or clicks. But here’s an anecdote on relying on an “automated” tool that does things for us. I was pulled over at dusk couple weeks ago (wasn’t night yet, could still see the setting sun), driving my wife’s car that did NOT have daytime running lights. My car does. I have so heavily relied on this automated feature that when I was in a different environment that did not have it, I forgot to check the basics – it’s getting dark, are my lights on? Incidentally, the officer just gave me a warning.

Recommendation is, be vigilant, be cautious, be on the lookout. Check those links or email addresses. Check the spelling. Type in the link instead of clicking on it. Copy the link and paste it into the browser address bar, and verify before pressing Enter to navigate to it.

It’s a jungle out there. Be safe…

Malicious libraries and plugins

How closely do you inspect what 3rd party plugins and libraries you use with software and development? We kind of tend to take for granted that once we vet a library or plugin and add that into our usage, then it’s likely to never be a threat in the future. However, over the last few years attackers have started increasing abuse of this trust. A type of watering hole attack that reaches a larger amount of people than a typical focused attack.

There’s 3 main ways this has happened:

  • Attackers buy the plugin/library from the original author or assume control of one that is abondened
  • Development system or other system in chain is compromised by attacker
  • Attackers create releases that mimic popular and established libraries/plugins in name and function

This has affected a wide range of software, from web applications to web browsers to text editors/IDE’s. Let’s take a brief look at a few instances.

WordPress Display-Widgets plugin. This plugin was sold by the original developer, and at that time had several hundred thousand active installations. The new developers then added code to it that downloaded and installed a plugin that added spam the site.

The Node.js package repository was found to have malicious packages that looked like real packages, differing slightly in the name in an attempt to fool anyone trying to find specific packages. The malicious packages generally tried to send sensitive environment data back to a server.

Python also experienced something very similar. Package uploaded in an attempt to fool anyone not paying close enough attention. Not relying on just misspelling the name, but with names that look legitimate, such as “bzip” for the real package “bzip2file”.

Those are just a few examples, Chrome and Firefox have both had similar issues multiple times as well. So how do we protect against this? Partly some of this has to be on the software that allows the plugins to run. There are some bad policies and practices here, such as WordPress letting anyone claim “abandoned” plugins.

Some things you can do yourself are to install any libraries/plugins (for python, ruby etc) with your systems package manager. If you use pip, gem or the like, make sure you are using the correct plugins, avoid misspellings or “close enough” names. Check the reputations of plugins via Twitter or search for reviews and info on plugins, by name, in your search engine. If you find any  anomalies report them on social media and forums associated with your language. Try not to use plugins that have been abandoned and recovered by another developer with no reputation.

Are You Seeing This? Join a Threat Sharing Group!

Just a quick note today about threat sharing groups. 

I am talking to more and more companies and organizations that are putting together local, regional or vertical market threat sharing groups. These are often adhoc and usually driven by security practitioners, who are helping each other with cooperative defenses and sharing of new tactics and threat patterns (think TTPs (tactics, techniques & procedures)) or indicators of compromise (IOCs). Many times, these are informal email lists or RSS feeds that the technicians subscribe to and share what they are seeing in the trenches. 

A few folks have tried to commercialize them, but in most cases, these days, the sharing is simply free and open. 

If you get a chance to participate in one or more of these open source networks, you might want to check it out. Many of our clients are saying great things about the data they get via the networks and often they have helped contain incidents and breaches in a rapid fashion.

If you want to discuss your network, or if you have one that you’d like me to help promote, hit me up on Twitter (@lbhuston). If you are looking for one to join, check Twitter and I’ll share as folks allow, or I’ll make private connections as possible. 

As always, thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe out there! 

Human-Based Infosec: Monitoring

For this third installment in my series on human-based information security I will be discussing the idea that human analysis and interaction must be at the core of any truly effective monitoring program. To reiterate the basic point of this series, it is axiomatic that information security is a human problem, not a technological problem. It is my contention that our failure to embrace this truth is demonstrated in the fact that not only are more data breaches and other security failures still occurring, they are actually becoming more prevalent over time.

Largely because of this increase in data breaches, and the public outcry about them, incident response has become an increasingly important part of the information security effort over recent years. And as anyone who has actually participated in the effort knows, the most difficult part of incident response is detection. Most network compromises go unnoticed for days, weeks, months, even years! And the only way that l know of to address this problem is through verbose system logging and effective monitoring processes.

System logging and monitoring has always been a thorn in the side of every CISO and network security admin. It seems like such an overwhelming task that most of them automatically give up and either hardly log and monitor at all, or turn the effort over to a third-party service provider that will never be as invested in the task as they would be in their own company’s security monitoring. We always go that extra mile to protect our own, don’t you think?

However, this task isn’t nearly as daunting as it seems. With the help of proper parsing and aggregating tools and a handful of command line tools, the task can be reduced to the human scale. Personnel can pull just that information they need from these mounds of data, and are much better at recognizing anomalies and danger signs than any program, especially over time. It is also a happy fact that the more you perform log searching and monitoring, the easier it is and the better you get at it. One particularly good log monitoring engineer I know even gleans valuable information by simply scrolling through the raw log data at high speed; he is able to see areas of concern in the data through pattern recognition alone.

The caveat of all this is that you need to allocate dedicated personnel to perform these tasks, and these personnel need to be very well trained and knowledgeable about the full capabilities of the tools they use to parse, aggregate and monitor the log data generated by the system. This means proper support and funds allocation at the management level. Our job as information security professionals is to ensure that these folks understand the reality and importance of logging and monitoring to the overall information security effort.

Office 365 – all your stuff belongs to…who?

We’ve had a surprising number of incident response engagements involving Office 365 lately, and I’d like to discuss some best practices to keep you from an incident. There are also some actions that should be taken to allow effective investigation if you should suspect a user or resource is compromised.

The single most important thing that would have kept most of these incidents from occurring? Enable multi-factor authentication. Period.

Yes, I know. But our users complain! It’s a hassle! It’s an extra step!

Let’s consider carefully. Look at each user in the organization. Consider what they have access to, if their credentials are compromised. Look at these resources in your organization:

  • Exchange
  • All Office 365 documents
  • Sharepoint

Weigh out the user inconvenience vs. the loss of any and all data that they have access to….and discuss with your risk and compliance staff.

Still with me? Here’s how to enable multifactor authentication in Office 365.

If you are on a hosted Office 365 infrastructure, your service provider should be ready and willing to help with this if you do not have access in place to enable the option.

Next, let’s talk about investigating an actual compromise. Microsoft has some fairly robust mailbox audit capability for user access, etc. And…it’s not turned on by default.

Crazy, you say? Just a bit!

First, you need to turn the options on – instructions to do that are here.

Then you need to enable it for mailboxes. Instructions to do that are here.

Please note that this second step requires Powershell access – so if you are in a managed Office 365 environment, your service provider will likely need to assist. (and don’t take no for an answer!)

There are a number of other options that are useful for fine-tuning the spam and malware settings, enabling DLP, and other useful things that are not on by default – or not configured for the most optimal settings.

Would you like an audit of your Office 365 environment? Our engineers can help you fine tune your settings to optimize the available options. Reach out, we’d love to help.

Questions, comments? Twitter – @TheTokenFemale, or lwallace@microsolved.com. I’d love to hear from you!

We’re all on….Krack?

Yesterday, the media exploded with news of the new Krack attack against WPA2. What’s Krack? While it sounds like a new designer drug, it’s short for – Key Reinstallation Attacks.

What’s that mean in English? Due to a flaw in the WPA2 protocol, a determined attacker can target and break the 4-way handshake and compromise the unique session keys. They can force reuse of a key, and intercept (as well as potentially modify) unencrypted traffic. The full whitepaper is here.

The good news, such as it is:

  • This is not a remote attack – the attacker needs to be in range of the affected Wifi connection
  • At this point, there is no evidence of these attacks in the wild. Caveat, at this point.

There have been a couple of reports suggesting that WPA2 should be disabled in lieu of WPA or (ack) WEP. These are not better options, as a general rule. WEP in particular is vulnerable far beyond the WPA2 protocol issues.

What can we do, and what should our user base do?

  • As soon as there’s a patch available, take advantage of it.
  • Watch your vendors – who is patching quickly, and who is not? If your vendor is months behind the curve, why? It may be time to look at other options.
  • Wired connections are immune. This should go without saying – this includes tethering directly to mobile devices, not tethering via WiFi.
  • You’re already horribly suspicious of free public WiFi, right? Double that paranoia.
  • If you must use a public WiFi, do not do so without using a VPN or other traffic encryption mechanism. Split tunnel VPN is not your friend here – configure a full tunnel VPN connection
  • Bring your physical security staff into the conversation. They will be integral in observation of potential attackers in the sphere of your physical presence. (Have you checked how far your WiFi signal is traveling lately? Consider checking…)

CERT has a complete list of vendors and their known status here.

Questions, comments, things I haven’t thought about? Reach out, I’d love to hear from you. Twitter @TheTokenFemale at any time.

Where Does Trouble Come From?

One of the most common questions I get is, “Where does attack traffic come from?”. I want to present a quick and dirty answer, just to show you how diverse illicit traffic sources are. 

To give you a glimpse into that, here is a list of the top 20 ISPs, based on the number of unique malicious source IP addresses who touched one of my HoneyPoint deployments in a single 24 hour period.

The list:

9 korea telecom
7 hinet
6 dynamic distribution ip’s for broadband services ojsc rosteleom, regional branch “urals”
5 sl-reverse
5 sfr
5 rr
5 chinanet jiangsu province network china telecom no.31,jingrong street beijing 100032
5 china mobile communications corporation mobile communications network operator in china internet service provider in china
4 turknet-dsl
4 superonline
4 sbcglobal
4 chinanet jiangsu province network china telecom 260 zhongyang road,nanjing 210037
3 zenlayer inc
3 virginm
3 verizon
3 totbb
3 jsc rostelecom regional branch “siberia”
3 intercable
3 comcastbusiness
3 comcast
3 charter
3 broadband multiplay project, o/o dgm bb, noc bsnl bangalore
3 as13285

As you can see by the above, the list is pretty diverse. It covers sources in many countries and across both domestic and foreign ISPs. In my experience, the list is also pretty dynamic, at least in terms of the top 10-20 ISPs. They tend to spike and fall like waves throughout different time periods. One of these days, maybe I will get around to visualizing some of that data to get a better view of the entropy around it. But, for now, I hope this gives you an idea of the diversity in sources of attacks.

The diversity also makes it very difficult to baseline log activity and such. As such, there may be some effective risk reduction in blocking ISPs by netblock, if your organization can tolerate the risk associated with doing so. But, more on that in another post. Hit me up on Twitter (@lbhuston) and let me know what your firm’s experience with that type blocking has been; if you’ve tried it or are doing it today. I’d love to hear if it reduced log noise, made traffic modeling easier or led to any specific risk reductions.

Thanks for reading! 

The Golden Rule and Security Staffing: Treat others’ data as you would your own

Since I began working at MSI several years ago I have been able to study the behaviors of organizations of various sizes in terms of information security.

Sort of a forced march through  “infosec cyber-anthropology”.

One thing that has always surprised me is the number of comparatively large organizations – often ones with significant IT staffing in the form of networking, database and sysadmin staff – who do NOT have dedicated security staff.

This to me is a lot like expecting the postmen,  utility crews, trash workers, and all the rest of the specialist priesthood that keeps our immediate environment working, to also pick up the slack and do police work on the side.

As in all bureaucracies, IT staff can be very turf-conscious. In some cases the hiring of dedicated security staff is clearly actively resisted by existing groups. Threatened sysadmins will claim that they can handle any security issues – often as long as they have the right tools. And that plays into the “magical thinking” that security product vendors are quite willing to cultivate in the minds of management: “Don’t hire people – buy my stuff!  Burn enough money on my altar and the evil will be held at bay.”

I believe strongly this is the road to hell – or at least career death for executive management when the inevitable breach occurs.

Ask those Equifax execs.

Gardens need gardeners. Your information security environment will be an illusion if there are not people who truly care about it and feel a moral obligation to protect your organization and the information that customers entrust to you. That obligation includes questioning things as they supposedly are and not believing that what your SIEM says is necessarily the truth.

No “managed security services provider” is going to do this for you. Only loyal, engaged and actively concerned staff who have a clear sense of local mission can provide such care.

It is a level of care you would want for yourself and for your family.

Provide it to your customers.