HoneyPoint Trojans Overview

Here’s another quick overview graphic of how HoneyPoint Trojans work. We have been using these techniques since around 2008 and they are very powerful. 

We have incorporated them into phishing exercises, piracy studies, incident response, intrusion detection, intelligence gathering, marketing analysis and even privacy research. To hear more about HoneyPoint Trojans, give us a call.

If the graphic below is blurry on your device, you can download a PDF version here.

HPTrojanOverview

HoneyPoint in a Point of Sale Network

We have been getting a LOT of questions lately about how HoneyPoint Security Server (HPSS) fits into a Point of Sale (POS) network.

To make it pretty easy and as a high level overview, below is a use case diagram we use to discuss the solution. If you would like a walkthrough of our technology, or to discuss how it might fit into your specific use cases, please let us know.

As always, thanks for reading and for partnering with MicroSolved, Inc.

PS - If the graphic below is difficult to read on your device, you can grab a PDF version here.

HP POSNetworks

New Podcast: Threats from the Net – Starring Jim Klun

You can find the newest podcast for public consumption, MicroSolved’s Threats from the Net online now. The new podcast will be a monthly release and stars Jim Klun as the host. 

Tune in often and check it out. The Kluniac has some elder geek insights to share, and it is ALWAYS informative and entertaining!

You can grab this month’s edition by clicking here

Incident Response: Are You Ready?

All of us suffer from complacency to one extent or another. We know intellectually that bad things can happen to us, but when days, months and years go by with no serious adverse incidents arising, we tend to lose all visceral fear of harm. We may even become contemptuous of danger and resentful of all the resources and worry we expend in aid of problems that never seem to manifest themselves. But this is a dangerous attitude to fall into. When serious problems strike the complacent and unprepared, the result is inevitably shock followed by panic. And hindsight teaches us that decisions made during such agitated states are almost always the wrong ones. This is true on the institutional level as well.

During my years in the information security industry, I have seen a number of organizations founder when struck by their first serious information security incident. I’ve seen them react slowly, I’ve seen them throw money and resources into the wrong solutions, and I’ve seen them suffer regulatory and legal sanctions that they didn’t have to incur. And after the incident has been resolved, I’ve also seen them all put their incident response programs in order; they never want to have it happen again! So why not take a lesson from the stricken and put your program in order before it happens to your organization too? Preparing your organization for an information security incident isn’t really very taxing. It only takes two things: planning and practice.

When undertaking incident response planning, the first thing to do is to examine the threat picture. Join user groups and consult with other similar organizations to see what kinds of information security incidents they have experienced. Take advantage of free resources such as the Verizon Data Breach Reports and US-CERT. The important thing is to limit your serious preparations to the top several most credible incident types you are likely to encounter. This streamlines the process, lessens the amount of resources you need to put into it and makes it more palatable to the personnel that have to implement it. 

Once you have determined which threats are most likely to affect your organization, the next step is to fully document your incident response plan. Now this appears to be a daunting task, but in reality there are many resources available on the Internet that can help guide you through the process. Example incident response plans, procedures and guidance are available from SANS, FFIEC, NIST and many other reputable organizations free of charge. I have found that the best way to proceed is to read through a number of these resources and to adapt the parts that seem to fit your particular organization the best. Remember, your incident response plan is a living document and needs to reflect the needs of your organization as well as possible. It won’t do to simply adopt the first boiler plate you come across and hope that it will work.

Also, be sure that your plan and procedures contain the proper level of detail. You need to spell out things such as who will be on the incident response team, their individual duties during incidents, where the team will meet and where evidence will be stored, who should be contacted and when, how to properly react to different incidents and many other details. 

The next, and possibly the most important step in effective incident response is to practice the plan. You can have the most elegantly written security incident response plan in the world, and it is still doomed to fail during an actual incident if the plan is not practiced regularly. In all my years of helping organizations conduct their table top incident response practice sessions, I have never failed to see the process reveal holes in the plan and provide valuable lessons for the team members who participate. The important thing here is to pick real-world incident scenarios and to conduct the practice as close to the way it would actually occur as possible. We like to only inform a minimum number of response personnel in advance, and surprise the bulk of responders with the event just as it would happen if it were real. Of course there is much more to proper incident response planning and practice than I have included here. But this should start your organization along the right path. For more complete information and help with the process, don’t hesitate to contact your MSI representative. 

Thanks to John Davis for writing this post.

Digital Images and Recordings: How Can We Deal with the Loss of Trust?

For many decades now the human race has benefitted from the evidentiary value of surveillance videos and audio recordings. Human beings cannot be relied on to give accurate accounts of events that they have witnessed. It is a frustrating fact that eye witness testimony is highly inaccurate. More often than not, people are mistaken in their recollections or they simply fail to tell the truth. But, with some reservations, we have learned to trust our surveillance recordings. Sure, analog videos and audio recordings can be tampered with. But almost universally, analysis of such tampered material exposes the fraud. Not so anymore!

Virtually every camera, video recorder and audio recorder on the planet is now digital. And it is theoretically possible to manipulate or totally forge digital recordings perfectly. Every year now, computer generated images and sounds used in movies are becoming more seamless and convincing. I see no reason at all why we couldn’t make totally realistic-appearing movies that contain not a single human actor or location shot. Just think of it: Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, in their primes, with their own voices, starring in a brand new western of epic proportions! Awesome! And if Hollywood can do it, you can bet that a lot of other less reputable individuals can do it as well.

So what are we going to do about surveillance recordings (everything from ATMs and convenience store videos to recordings made by the FBI)? We won’t be able to trust that they are real or accurate anymore. Are we going to return to the old days of relying on eye witness testimony and the perceptiveness of juries? Are we going to let even more lying, larcenous and violent offenders off scot free than we are today? I don’t think we as a society will be able to tolerate that. After all, many crimes don’t produce any significant forensic evidence such as finger prints and DNA. Often, video and audio recordings are our only means of identifying the bad guys and what they do.

This means that we are going to have to find ways and means to certify that the digital recordings we make remain unaltered. (Do you see a new service industry in the offing)? The only thing I can think of to solve the problem is a service similar in many ways to the certificate authorities and token providers we use today. Trusted third parties that employ cryptographic techniques and other means to ensure that their equipment and recordings remain pristine.

But that still leaves the problem of the recordings of events that individuals make with their smart phones and camcorders. Can we in all good faith trust that these recordings are any more real than the surveillance recordings we are making today? These, too, are digital recordings and can theoretically be perfectly manipulated. But I can’t see the average Joe going through the hassle and spending the money necessary to certify their private recordings. I can’t see a way out of this part of the problem. Perhaps you can come up with some ideas that would work?

Thanks to John Davis for writing this post.


Business Impact Analysis: A Good Way to Jumpstart an Information Security Program

Is your organization’s information security program stuck in the era of perimeter firewalls and anti-virus software? Are you a Chief Information Security Officer or IT Manager stuck with the unenviable task of bringing your information security program into the 21st Century? Why not start the ball rolling with a business impact analysis (BIA)? It will provide you with a wealth of useful information, and it takes some of the weight from your shoulders by involving every business department in the organization.

BIA is traditionally seen as part of the business continuity process. It helps organizations recognize and prioritize which information, hardware and personnel assets are crucial to the business so that proper planning for contingency situations can be undertaken. This is very useful in and of itself, and is indeed crucial for proper business continuity and disaster recovery planning. But what other information security tasks can it help you with?

When MSI does a BIA, the first thing we do in issue a questionnaire to every business department and management function in the organization. These questionnaires are completed by the “power users” of the organization who are typically the most experienced and knowledgeable personnel in the business. This means that not only do you get the most reliable information possible, but that one person or one small group is not burdened with doing all of the information gathering. Typical responses include (but are not limited to):

  • A list of every business function each department undertakes
  • All of the hardware assets needed to perform each business function
  • All of the software assets needed to perform each business function
  • Inputs needed to perform each business function and where they come from
  • Outputs of each business function and where they are sent
  • Personnel needed to perform each business function
  • Knowledge and skills needed to perform each business function

So how does this knowledge help jumpstart your information security program as a whole? First, in order to properly protect information assets, you must know what you have and how it moves. In the Top 20 Critical Controls for Effective Cyber Defense, the first control is an inventory of devices and the second control is an inventory of software. The BIA lists all of the hardware and software assets needed to perform each business function. So in effect you have your starting inventories. This not only tells you what you need, but is useful in exposing assets wasting time and effort on your network that are not necessary; if it’s not on the critical lists, you probably don’t need it. 

In MSI’s own 80/20 Rule of Information Security, the first requirement is not only producing inventories of software and hardware assets, but mapping of data flows and trust relationships. The inputs and outputs listed by each business department include these data flows and trust relationships. All you have to do is compile them and put them into a graphical map. And I can tell you from experience; this is a great savings in time and effort. If you have ever tried to map data flows and trust relationships as a stand-alone task, you know what I mean!

Another security control a BIA can help you implement is network segmentation and enclaving. The MSI 80/20 Rule has network enclaving as their #6 control and the Top 20 controls include secure network engineering as their #19 control. The information from a good BIA makes it easy to see how assets are naturally grouped, and therefore the best places to segment the network.

How about egress filtering? Egress filtering is widely recognized as one of the most effect security controls in preventing large scale data loss, and the most effective type of egress filtering employs white listing. White listing is typically much harder to tune and implement than black listing, but is very much more effective. With the information a BIA provides you, it is much easier to construct a useful white list; you have what each department needs to perform each business function at your fingertips.

Then there is skill and security training. The BIA tells you what information users need to know to perform their jobs, so that helps you make sure that personnel are trained correctly and in enough depth to deal with contingency situations. Also, knowing where all your critical assets lie and how they move helps you make sure you provide the right people with the right kind of security training.

And there are other crucial information security mechanisms that a BIA can help you with. What about access control? Wouldn’t knowing the relative importance of assets and their nexus points help you structure AD more effectively? And there is physical security. Knowing where the most crucial information lies and what departments process it would help you set up internal secure areas, wouldn’t it? What other information useful to setting up an effective information security program can you think of that is included in a proper BIA?

Thanks to John Davis for writing this post.

The First Five Quick Wins

The Top 20 Critical Controls for Effective Cyber Defense have been around for half a decade now, and are constantly gaining more praise and acceptance among information security groups and government organizations across the globe. One of the main reasons for this is that all of these controls have been shown to stop or mitigate known, real-world attacks. Another reason for their success is that they are constantly being updated and adjusted to fit the changing threat picture as it emerges. 

One of these recent updates is the delineation of the “First Five” from the other “Quick Wins” category of sub-controls included in the guidance (Quick Wins security controls are those that provide solid risk reduction without major procedural, architectural or technical changes to an environment, or that provide substantial and immediate risk reduction against very common attacks – in other words, these are the controls that give you the most bang for the buck). The First Five Quick Wins controls are those that have been shown to be the most effective means yet to stop the targeted intrusions that are doing the greatest damage to many organizations. They include:

  1. Application white listing: Application white listing technology only allows systems to run software applications that are included in the white list. This control prevents both external and internal attackers from implementing malicious and unwanted applications on the system. One caveat that should be kept in mind is that the organization must strictly control access to and modifications of the white list itself. New software applications should be approved by a change control committee and access/changes to the white list should be strictly monitored.
  2. Secure standard images: Organizations should employ secure standard images for configuring their systems. These standard images should utilize hardened versions of underlying operating systems and applications. It is important to keep in mind that these standard images need to be updated and validated on a regular basis in order to meet the changing threat picture.
  3. Automated patching tools and processes: Automated patching tools, along with appropriate policies and procedures, allow organizations to close vulnerabilities in their systems in a timely manner. The standard for this control is patching of both application and operating system software within 48 hours of release.
  4. Removal or replacement of outdated software applications: Many computer networks we test have outdated or legacy software applications present on the system. Dated software applications may have both known and previously undiscovered vulnerabilities associated with them, and are consequently very useful to cyber attackers. Organizations should have mechanisms in place to identify then remove or replace such vulnerable applications in a timely manner just as is done with the patching process above.
  5. Control of administrative privileges and accounts: One of the most useful mechanisms employed by cyber attackers is elevation of privileges. Attackers can turn simple compromise of one client machine to full domain compromise by this means, simply because administrative access is not well controlled. To thwart this, administrative access should be given to as few users as possible, and administrative privileged functions should be monitored for anomalous behavior. MSI also recommends that administrators use separate credentials for simple network access and administrative access to the system. In addition, multi-part authentication for administrative access should be considered. Attackers can’t do that much damage if they are limited to isolated client machines!

Certainly, the controls detailed above are not the only security controls that organizations should implement to protect their information assets. However, these are the controls that are currently being implemented first by the most security-aware and skilled organizations out there. Perhaps your organization can also benefit from the lessons they have learned.

Thanks to John Davis for writing this post.

Touchdown Task for January: Audit Your News Feeds

This month, our suggested Touchdown Task is for the security team to do an “audit” of their news/RSS feeds and the other mechanisms by which you get advisories, patch and upgrade alerts, breakout information and details about emerging threats.

Since RSS feeds and account names and such can change, it’s a good idea to review these sources occasionally. Are the feeds you depend on timely and accurate? Have you added new technology to your organization since you last reviewed your advisory feeds? Maybe you might need to add a vendor or regulator feed.

Have a discussion with all of your team members and understand who monitors what. Make sure you have good cross communication, but aren’t struggling with a lot of duplicated efforts.

Once you get your news and threat feeds in order, trace how the information is shared and make sure it is getting to the system and network admins who might need it. Do you have the right people getting the right information? If not, adjust. 

Most teams can do this review in less than an hour. So focus, communicate and create a robust way to handle the flow of information.

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

January CMHSecLunch is Monday (1/13)

Just a reminder that Monday’s CMHSecLunch is this Monday (1/13/14) at 11:30am Eastern at the Easton Mall food court. Come on out and see your friends. 

If you are unable to attend in person, and you would like to take part in the Google Hangout, bring your lunch to your laptop and ping me (lbhuston (at) gmail -dot- com) or send me a Twitter message at @lbhuston and I will add you. Hope to see you then! 

As always, you can learn more and RSVP (not required, but appreciated) here. 

Egress Filtering

As I mentioned in my last post (Datacenter Attack Surfaces), I’d like to take some time to discuss the basics of “Egress Filtering“.  

Egress = “the action of going out of or leaving a place“.  In the context of controlling information flow within a datacenter,  egress filtering is the practice of examining, and potentially denying, outbound communication to external networks such as the Internet. The topic is discussed in the Wikipedia article on Egress Filtering, an article I have helped maintain. 

Here is a diagram that shows the type of environments I typically encounter that have no egress filtering. The risks are illustrated. 

No-Egress

Employee laptops go home to an environment beyond your control. Regardless of your “end-point” security, a subset of those laptops will be compromised and under the control of attackers.  That control will be re-asserted the minute the laptop fires up within your organization and makes that unfiltered outbound connection. The diagram above shows what can – and does,  in my experience – happen. 

The next diagram shows an environment with egress filtering in place. 

Egress

Egress filtering as depicted above has a chance of minimizing the potential impact to your organization from a compromised laptop.  By tightly controlling outbound access and paying strict attention to denied attempts you will be able to quickly zero in on a subset of your compromised internal machines. 

Various proxy or “content filtering” solutions exist that will satisfy the basic requirements for an intermediary device that examines outbound connection attempts.   An open-source Squid proxy alone can blunt the effect of much malware. More elaborate (and costly) commercial solutions exist that can update restrictions in real-time based on malware events being reported globally.   

Finally, as discussed in the “Datacenter Attack Surfaces”  post, try to limit the network visibility your core servers have from the vantage point of your employee’s machines. That will limit the ability of a compromised laptop being used as a attack platform against your datacenter. 

Minimizing your internal attack surfaces and controlling egress gives you a fighting chance against modern malware.  If you have trouble convincing management that the cost and effort is worth it, get in contact with us.  We can help you make the case. 

Good luck… and as always: Watch your logs!

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