Do You Browse From a Virtual Machine?

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This article brings to mind an interesting trend we see going on among our financial and highly regulated clients – using a virtual machine for all Internet browsing. Several of our clients have begun using this technique in testing and small production groups. Often they are using ChromeOS images with VirtualBox or some other dedicated browser appliance and a light VM manager. 

Have you or your organization considered, tried or implemented this yet? Give us a shout on Twitter (@lbhuston, @microsolved) and let us know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Three Security People You Should Be Following on Twitter

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There are a lot of security people on Twitter. There are a lot of people people on Twitter. That said, finding great people to follow on Twitter is often a difficult task, especially around something as noisy as Information Security.

That said, I wanted to take a quick moment and post three people I think you should be following on Twitter in the Infosec space and might not be.

Here they are, in no particular order:

@sempf – A great person (and a personal friend), his posts rock the mic with content ranging from locksport (lock picking as a sport/hobby), deep coding tips, application security and even parenting advice. It’s fun! 

@abedra – Deep knowledge, deep code advice (ask him about Clojure…we’ll wait…). The inventor of RepSheet and whole bunch of other cool tools. His day gig is pretty fun and he is widely known for embracing the idea of tampering with attackers and their expectations. Check him out for a unique view. Do remind him to change hats occasionally, he often forgets… :)

@NocturnalCM – Hidden deep in the brain of the person behind this account is an incredible wealth of knowledge about cellular infrastructures, mobile code, security, devops and whole lot more. Don’t let the “Code Monkey” name fool you, there’s a LOT of grey matter behind the keyboard. If nothing else, the occasional humor, comic strips and geek culture references make them a worthwhile follow!

So, there you go. 3 amazing people to follow on Twitter. PS – they also know some stuff about infosec. Of course, you can always follow me (@lbhuston) and our team (@microsolved) on Twitter as well. As always, thanks for reading and get back to keeping the inter-tubes safe for all mankind!

Are You Using STIX?

In the last several weeks, we have been working on a new iteration of our threat intelligence offering for some of our clients. In many of the cases, we expected to hear that folks have embraced the STIX project from MITRE as the basis for sharing such data.

Sadly, however, many customers don’t seem to be aware of the STIX project. As such, can you please take a moment and review it, via the link and then let us know via email, Twitter of comments if you or your chosen security products currently support it?

Thanks for your help and insight! As always, we appreciate the feedback. 

Email: info <at> microsolved [dot] com

Twitter: @microsolved or @lbhuston

Thanks again!

Interested in What We Do? Join MSI Now!

We are thrilled to announce the immediate availability for a new position at MSI. Yes, if you have what it takes, you can join our team! We are seeking a very talented, motivated individual who can come aboard and help us with tasks related to HoneyPoint and TigerTrax. The new position is detailed below. The successful candidate will be local to the Central Ohio area (must be able to be work from the Columbus HQ) and will be motivated, engaging and capable of self-directed work. Primarily, the position will be focused on helping clients with scoping and installation of HoneyPoint and performing TigerTrax engagements.

Future career options for the position would be a choice between pursuing a future position on the technical security team (including pen-testing, etc.) or to grow into the deeper intelligence/research team that currently is embodied by TigerTrax. While the initial position will expose you to both, together, we can help scope where your interests and talents lie. Management and team leadership are also possible in either career path, as well.

This is a full time salary position, with benefits and a wide range of flexible working arrangements once the proper skills and trust are built. It also includes profit sharing, 401K with match and a variety of other benefit packages.

Successful candidates will present a resume, cover letter and a sample of their professional writing. You can apply for the position by emailing these items (PDF format) to info <at> microsolved <dot> com. No calls or placement/recruiters, please.

Further details of the position:

The information technology analyst is a key member of the MicroSolved, Inc. team who specializes in our software and research tool set. This team member must be: 

  • proficient with research skills
  • knowledgeable of social media networks and formats
  • knowledgeable of basic networking skills
  • proficient with Windows, Mac OS/X and Linux at the command line
  • proficient with command line scripting (shell/Python) and be a power-user of the Internet 

The successful analyst should be detail oriented, enjoy reading, solving logic and language puzzles and be proficient with technical writing and technical reports. Occasional travel, including internationally, is required. 

This team member is responsible for research projects beginning with data generation through report preparation and delivery to the client. This team member is also responsible for the scoping and deployment of MicroSolved, Inc’s threat detection platform – HoneyPoint Security Server (HPSS). 

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on the team very soon!

Client Calls HoneyPoint a “No Lose” Deployment

One of the clients we were working with recently wanted me to share their thoughts on deploying HoneyPoint Security Server with the blog audience.

His company recently installed the HoneyPoint Security Server suite into their network. Their management teams were a little nervous, at first, that offering a honeypot to attackers might attract bad people to their networks. But, when the security team explained that these were going to be simply deployed on the INTERNAL networks and not visible from the Internet, so someone would already have to be inside the network to see them, they gained approval. The security team explained that they planned to use HoneyPoint as a supplement to their existing perimeter network IDS, and their log monitoring tools.

The security team convinced their immediate manager of the HoneyPoint product by describing it as a “No Lose” product to deploy. If they dropped in the HoneyPoint Agents and captured bad actors or malware moving in the network, they would win by identifying existing compromises. If they dropped in HoneyPoint and never got a hit at all, they would win, and could tell the management that even upon closer examination with the new detection tools, the network seemed to be clean of malware and overt attacker activity. This, in combination with the other forms of detection and reporting they were doing would further strengthen their position with management that the security team was remaining vigilant. 

In the end, the team observed a few pieces of malware within the first 90 days and quickly eliminated the infections. They then began to plan on deploying HoneyPoint Agent into a malware black hole, in coordination with their internal DNS team. As of this writing, the deployment in the new position should go live within 30 days. In most cases, teams using HoneyPoint in this fashion quickly identify other more deeply hidden malware. The security team looks forward to leveraging the data from the HoneyPoint black hole to clean the environment more aggressively.

So, there you have it. Another client strikes a win with HoneyPoint. You can learn more about this “No Lose” product by getting in touch with your MSI account executive. You can also find more information by clicking here. 

Best Practices for DNS Security

I wanted to share with you a great FREE resource that I found on the Cisco web site that details a great deal of information about DNS and the best practices around securing it. While, obviously, the content is heavy on Cisco products and commands, the general information, overview and many of the ideas contained in the article are very useful for network and security admins getting used to the basics of DNS.

Additionally, there are great resources listed, including several free/open source tools that can be used to manage and monitor DNS servers. 

If you are interested in learning more about DNS or need a quick refresher, check this article out. 

You can find it here.

Several other resources are available around the web, but this seems to be one of the best summaries I have seen. As always, thanks for reading and let me know on Twitter (@lbhuston) if you have other favorite resources that you would like to share.

Guest Post: More on BYOD

As the world of computers, mobile devices, and technology in general, continue to exponentially evolve, so too must our need and desire to secure our communications, our data, and to that end our privacy. There is hardly a day that goes by anymore that we don’t hear of some major security breach of a large corporation, but this also directly impacts the individual. We have to make a concerted effort to protect our information – particularly on our mobile devices. Our mobile devices are inherently difficult to secure because they send their data over WiFi, which is susceptible to man-in-the middle attacks. We must pursue the security of our data on our mobile devices passionately. People nowadays carry so much private and more importantly valuable information on them that we just absolutely have to protect it. Particularly in this age of BYOD (bring your own device) to work. An even more difficult realm for the infosecurity folks trying to protect their networks. How does one protect a device on a network from malicious intent? How does one keep viruses, Trojans and worms off of the networks when everyone seems to be plugged in to their devices? This article intends to describe some steps that one can take to protect their mobile device both locally by encrypting the mobile device itself and also by utilizing apps that help to secure their email and telemobile device conversations from malevolence.  

 

As noted on the previous article on State of Security released on June 17, 2014, Brent recently discussed 3 tips for BYOD, which were to get these devices off of the production networks, teach people about mobile device security, and finally use what you already have to your advantage when it comes to your own architecture when developing BYOD policies and processes.

 

There are numerous steps that the IT folks can take to help secure their networks in this age of BYOD as mentioned in our previous article, but there are also some very simple and usefultips that we can all follow that will help us in protecting our mobile devices too.

 

Every company should have policies in place regarding the use and misuse of BYOD devices. This must include encryption of the data and remote wiping of the data if the device is lost or stolen, (such as Find my iMobile device, Android Lost, Mobile Security, and Autowipe,). Assuming the BYOD device is under the company’s control.  If not then as  mentioned in the previous article getting these devices off of the production network is a must. Every  company should at least require authentication and hopefully two-factor authentication of the device.  This would allow the organization some degree of control when it comes to resetting passwords, locking the device when it’s not in use, logging, etc. If it’s not, then asking employees to adhere and sign a code of conduct with regard to their device is a must, as well as periodic employee education. A quick Google search will reveal apps that can help with two-factor authentication too. Such as RSA Secure Alternative, SMS passcode, and Duosecurity.

 

The next step is to encrypt the mobile device itself upon ending your session. Thereby protecting your information from even the apps that you currently having running on the mobile device itself. All apps go through an approval process where they are tested, validated and checked for security, but there have been times where an app passed through such a process and still contained malicious code that sent back stolen personal information to the attacker. This is a particular issue in the Android market. Companies such as Cryptanium and Arxan offer integrity protection, jailbreak detection, anti-debug detection and reverse engineering protection. So if a attacker does manage to get ahold of your device it makes it much more tamper resistant. 

 

Apps that offer encrypted communication such as voice, video, text and/or file transfers are also a consideration. Silent Circle, Redmobile device and Whisper Systems offer such encrypted communication for a fee. Wickr and Cryptocat do this too, but are free. If you are just interested in encrypted text messages (SMS) then perhaps Babel, Whisper, or Akario is for you.

 

In today’s mobile device market there are a plethora of apps many of which do what they describe when it comes to helping to protect our information. Yet as with anything else if there is a will, there is a way, this is particularly true for those that mean to steal our information. If they have a desire to acquire your information they will make a concerted effort to try to extract it from your device. It is up to us to make it as difficult as possible for them to ever get it. For now there does’t seem to be a lot of apps that actually encrypt all of your information locally to the mobile device. Or if it does offer some degree of encryption then it does so over a potentially vulnerable, networked platform. In short there is no single magic bullet that will encrypt all of your mobile devices data and communications for free, but there are some out there for a fee will offer to do so. The other issue that arises is if you use said company do they have access to the information that you were trying to protect in the first place. What’s to keep a rogue employee from accessing your data? All of this can make your head spin. The moral of the story is to make good choices, use your common sense and don’t put anything on a mobile device that you aren’t willing to share with others. Be safe out there.

 

About Preston:

Preston Kershner is new to the info-security family, where he has a variety of lateral interests in topics such as cybersecurity, information security, incident handling and response, computer forensics and malware analysis. Preston has been in the medical field for over 20 years and is currently transitioning into the infosec community. When not being an information junkie, Preston enoys spending time with his family. He also enjoys learning everything he can about astrobiology (the search for exoplanets that have a potential to habour life). You can follow Preston as he continues to expand his knowledge and experience in these realms at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/preston-kershner/3a/493/965/ & follow him on Twitter (@redman7373).

 

About Brent:

Brent Huston is the Security Evangelist and CEO of MicroSolved, Inc. He spends a LOT of time breaking things, including the tools/techniques and actors of crime. When he is not focusing his energies on chaos & entropy, he sets his mind to the order side of the universe where he helps organizations create better security processes, policies and technologies. He is a well recognized author, surfer, inventor, sailor, trickster, entrepreneur and international speaker. He has spent the last 20+ years dedicated to information security on a global scale. He likes honeypots, obscure vulnerabilities, a touch of code & a wealth of data. He also does a lot of things that start with the letter “s”. You can learn more about his professional background here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lbhuston & follow him on Twitter (@lbhuston).

 

Disclaimer:

It should be noted that some of the apps are free, some apps are cloud-based, some are open source and some are at a cost to the consumer. In no way do we endorse the applications in this article. 


Crypto Locker Down, but NOT Out

So, the US govt and law enforcement claim to have managed the disruption of crypto locker. And officials are either touting it as a total victory or a more realistic slowdown of the criminals leveraging the malware and bot-nets.

Even as the govt was touting their takedown, threat intelligence companies around the world (including MSI), were already noticing that the attackers were mutating, adapting and re-building a new platform to continue their attacks. The attackers involved aren’t likely to stay down for long, especially given how lucrative the crypto locker malware has been. Many estimates exist for the number of infections, and the amount of payments received, but most of them are, in a word, staggering. With that much money on the line, you can expect a return of the nastiness and you can expect it rather quickly.

Takedowns are effective for short term management of specific threats, and they make great PR, but they do little, in most cases, to actually turn the tide. The criminals, who often escape prosecution or real penalties, usually just re-focus and rebuild. 

This is just another reminder that even older malware remains a profit center. Mutations, variants and enhancements can turn old problems like Zeus, back into new problems. Expect that with crypto locker and its ilk. This is not a problem that is likely to go away soon and not a problem that a simple takedown can solve.

Social Engineering Even Exists in the Animal World

OK, so we have all read about birds that social engineer other birds into raising their young, and maybe you’ve even seen the TV special about it. But, this picture brings to mind a lesson in social engineering, thanks to our friends in the animal world. It all comes down to confidence, doesn’t it? :)

I am pretty sure that one of these things is not like the other. Would your security team spot the difference? How about your users?

Credit: The first time I saw the pic, it was here, just in case you want to use it for awareness training. — Thanks to @robertjbennett for the pic!

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ATM Attacks are WEIRD

So this week, while doing some TigerTrax research for a client, I ran into something that was “new to me”, but apparently is old hat for the folks focused on ATM security. The attacks against ATMs run from the comical, like when would-be thieves leave behind cell phones, license plates or get knocked out by their own sledge hammers during their capers to the extremely violent – attacks with explosives, firearms and dangerous chemicals. But, this week, my attention caught on an attack called “Plofkraak”. 

In this attack, which is apparently spreading around the world from its birth in Eastern Europe, an ATM is injected with high levels of flammable gas. The attackers basically tape up all of the areas where the gas could easily leak out, and then fill the empty spaces inside the ATM with a common flammable gas. Once the injection is completed, the gas is fired by the attacker, causing an explosion that emanates from INSIDE the ATM.

The force of the explosion tears the ATM apart, and if the attackers are lucky, cracks open the safe that holds the money, allowing them to make off with the cash and deposits. Not all attackers are lucky though, and some get injured in the blast, fail to open the safe and even torch the money they were seeking. However, the attack is cheap, fast, and if the ATM doesn’t have adequate safeguards, effective.

The collateral damage from an attack of this type can be pretty dangerous. Fires, other explosions and structural damages have been linked to the attack. Here is an example of what one instance looked like upon discovery. 

Some ATM vendors have developed counter measures for the attack, including gas sensors/neutralizing chemical systems, additional controls to prevent injection into the core of the machine, hardening techniques for the safe against explosions and other tricks of the trade. However, given the age of ATM machines in the field and their widespread international deployment, it is obvious that a number of vulnerable systems are likely to be available for the criminals to exploit.

While this is a weird and interesting technique, it did give me some reminders about just how creative and ambitious criminals can be. Even extending that into Information Security, it never ceases to amaze me how creative people will get to steal. Spend some time today thinking about that. What areas of your organization might be vulnerable to novel attacks? Where are the areas that a single failure of a security control could cause immense harm? Make a note of those, and include them in your next risk assessment, pen-test or threat modeling exercise.

Don’t forget, that just like the inventors of Plofkraa”, attackers around the world are working on the odd, novel and unexpected attack vector. Vigilance is a necessary skill, and one we need more of, in infosec. As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe out there!