My Time as a HoneyPoint Client

Prior to joining MicroSolved as an Intelligence Engineer, I was the Information Security Officer and Infrastructure Manager for a medical management company.  My company provided medical care and disease management services to over 2 million individuals.  Throughout my tenure at the medical management organization, I kept a piece of paper on my bulletin board that said “$100,000,000”.

 

Why “$100,000,000”?  At the time, several studies demonstrated that the average “street value” of a stolen medical identity was $50.  If each record was worth $50, that meant I was responsible for protecting $100,000,000 worth of information from attackers.  Clearly, this wasn’t a task I could accomplish alone.

 

Enter: MicroSolved & HoneyPoint

 

Through my membership with the Central Ohio Information Systems Security Association, I met several members of the MicroSolved team.  I engaged them to see if they could help me protect my organization from the aforementioned attackers.  They guided me through HIPPA/HITECH laws and helped me gain a further understanding of how I could protect our customers.  We worked together to come up with innovative solutions that helped my team mitigate a lot of the risks associated with handling/processing 2 million health care records.

 

A core part of our solution was to leverage the use of HoneyPoint Security Server.  By using HoneyPoint, I was able to quickly gain visibility into areas of our network that I was often logically and physically separated from.  I couldn’t possibly defend our company against every 0-day attack.  However, with HoneyPoint, I knew I could quickly identify any attackers that had penetrated our network.

 

Working for a SMB, I wore many hats.  This meant that I didn’t have time to manage another appliance that required signature updates.  I quickly found out that HoneyPoint didn’t require much upkeep at all.  A majority of my administrative tasks surrounding HoneyPoint were completed when I deployed agents throughout our LAN segments that mimicked existing applications and services.  I quickly gained the real-time threat analysis that I was looking for.

 

If you need any assistance securing your environment or if you have any questions about HoneyPoint Security Server, feel free to contact us by sending an email to: info@microsolved.com.

 

This post contributed by Adam Luck.

Here’s Why You Don’t Want RDP on the Internet

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the HITME project, it is a set of deployed HoneyPoints that gather real-world, real-time attacker data from around the world. The sensors gather attack sources, frequency, targeting information, vulnerability patterns, exploits, malware and other crucial event data for the technical team at MSI to analyze. We frequently feed these attack signatures into our vulnerability management service to ensure that our customers are tested against the most current forms of attacks being used on the Internet.

It’s also important that we take a step back and look at our HITME data from a bird’s-eye view to find common attack patterns. This allows us to give our customers a preemptive warning in the event that we identify a significant increase in a specific threat activity. We recently analyzed  some of the data that we collected during the month of November. We found that over 47% of the observed attacks in the public data set were against the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)(often also known as Microsoft Terminal Services). This was more than attacks against web servers, telnet servers and FTP servers combined!

Be sure that all recommended security measures are applied to RDP systems. This should include requiring the use of RDP clients that leverage high levels of encryption. If you need any assistance verifying that you are protected against attacks against your terminal servers, feel free to contact us by sending an email to info(at)microsolved(dot)com.

This post by Adam Luck.

Hacktivism on the Rise

With all of the attention to the Ferguson case and the new issues around the public response to the New York Police Department Grand Jury verdict, your organization should expect to be extra vigilant if you have any connection to these events. This could include supply chain/vendor relationships, locations or even staff members speaking out publicly about the issues. 

Pay careful attention to remote access logs, egress traffic and malware detections during the ongoing social focus on these issues and press coverage.

As always, if MSI can be of assistance to you in any security incident, please don’t hesitate to let us know! 

Remember, Log Analysis is Important, Especially Now

Remember, during the holiday season, attacks tend to increase and so do compromises. With vacations and staff parties, monitoring the logs and investigating anomalies can quickly get forgotten. Please make sure you remain vigilant during this time and pay close attention to logs during and just after holiday breaks.

As always, thanks for reading and we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Using TigerTrax to Analyze Device Configurations & Discover Networks

One of the biggest challenges that our M&A clients face is discovering what networks look like, how they are interconnected and what assets are priorities in their newly acquired environments. Sure, you bought the company and the ink is drying on the contracts — but now you have to fold their network into yours, make sure they meet your security standards and double check to make sure you know what’s out there.

That’s where the trouble begins. Because, in many cases, the result is “ask the IT folks”. You know, the already overworked, newly acquired, untrusted and now very nervous IT staff of the company you just bought. Even if they are honest and expedient, they often forget some parts of the environment or don’t know themselves that parts exist…

Thus, we get brought in, as a part of our Information Security Mergers & Acquisitions practice. Our job is usually to discover assets, map the networks and perform security assessments to identify gaps that don’t meet the acquiring company’s policies. Given that we have had to do this so often, we have designed a great new technique for performing these type of mapping and asset identification engagements. For us, instead of asking the humans, we simply ask the machines. We accumulate the router, switch, firewall and other device configurations and then leverage TigerTrax’s unique analytics capabilities to quickly establish network instances, interconnections, prioritized network hosts & segments, common configuration mistakes, etc. “en masse”. TigerTrax  then outputs that data for the MSI analysts, who can quickly perform their assessments, device reviews and inventories — armed with real-world data about the environment!

This approach has been winning us client kudos again and again!

Want to discuss our M&A practice and the unique ways that TigerTrax and MSI can help you before, during and after a merger or acquisition? Give us a call at (614) 351-1237 or drop us a line at info (at) microsolved /dot/ com. We’d be happy to schedule a FREE, no commitment & no pressure call with our Customer Champions & our security engineers.

Centralization: The Hidden Trap

Everything is about efficiency and economies of scale now days. Thats all we seem to care about. We build vast power generation plants and happily pay the electrical resistance price to push energy across great distances. We establish large central natural gas pipelines that carry most of the gas that is eventually distributed to our homes and factories. And we establish giant data centers that hold and process enormous amounts of our private and business information; information that if lost or altered could produce immediate adverse impacts on our everyday lives.

Centralization like this has obvious benefits. It allows us to provide more products and services while employing less people. It allows us to build and maintain less facilities and infrastructure while keeping our service levels high. It is simply more efficient and cost effective. But the costthat is more effectivehere is purely rated in dollars. How about the hidden costin these systems that nobody seems to talk about?

What I am referring to here is the vulnerability centralization brings to any system. It is great to pay less for electricity and to avoid some of the local blackouts we used to experience, but how many power plants and transmission towers would an enemy have to take out to cripple the whole grid? How many pipeline segments and pumping stations would an enemy have to destroy to widely interrupt gas delivery? And how many data centers would an enemy need to compromise to gain access to the bulk of our important records? The answer to these questions is: not as many as yesterday, and the number becomes smaller every year.

However, I am not advocating eschewing efficiency and economies of scale; they make life in this overcrowded world better for everyone. What I am saying is that we need to realize the dangers we are putting ourselves in and make plans and infrastructure alterations to cope with attacks and disasters when they come. These kinds of systems need to have built-in redundancies and effective disaster recovery plans if we are to avoid crisis.

Common wisdom tells us that you shouldnt put all your eggs in one basket, and Murphys Law tells us that anything that can go wrong eventually will go wrong. Lets remember these gems of wisdom. That way our progeny cannot say of us: those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it

Thanks to John Davis for this post.

Mergers and Acquisitions: Look Before You Leap!

Mergers and acquisitions are taking place constantly. Companies combine with other companies (either amicably or forcibly) to fill some perceived strategic business need or to gain a foothold in a new market. M&As are most often driven by individual high ranking company executives, not by the company as a whole. If successful, such deals can be the highpoint in a CEOs career. If unsuccessful, they can lead to ignominy and professional doom.

Of course this level of risk/reward is irresistible to many at the top, and executives are constantly on the lookout for companies to take over or merge with. And the competition is fierce! So when they do spot a likely candidate, these individuals are naturally loath to hesitate or over question. They want to pull the trigger right away before conditions change or someone else beats them to the draw. Because of this, deal-drivers often limit their research of the target company to surface information that lacks depth and scope, but that can be gathered relatively quickly.

However, it is an unfortunate fact that just over half of all M&As fail. And one of the reasons this is true is that companies fail to gain adequate information about their acquisitions, the people that are really responsible for their successes and the current state of the marketplace they operate in before they negotiate terms and complete deals. Today more than ever, knowledge truly is power; power that can spell the difference between success and failure.

Fortunately, technology and innovation continues to march forward. MSIs TigerTraxTM intelligence engine can provide the information and analysis you need to make informed decisions, and they can get it to you fast. TigerTraxTM can quickly sift through and analyze multiple sources and billions of records to provide insights into the security posture and intellectual property integrity of the company in question. It can also be used to provide restricted individual tracing, supply chain analysis, key stakeholder profiling, history of compromise research and a myriad of other services. So why not take advantage of this boon and lookbefore you leap into your next M&A? 

This post courtesy of John Davis.

Tips for Writing Good Security Policies

Almost all organizations dread writing security policies. When I ask people why this process is so intimidating, the answer I get most often is that the task just seems overwhelming and they don’t know where to start. But this chore does not have to be as onerous or difficult as most people think. The key is pre-planning and taking one step at a time.

First you should outline all the policies you are going to need for your particular organization. Now this step itself is what I think intimidates people most. How are they supposed to ensure that they have all the policies they should have without going overboard and burdening the organization with too many and too restrictive policies? There are a few steps you can take to answer these questions:

  • Examine existing information security policies used by other, similar organizations and open source information security policy templates such as those available at SANS. You can find these easily online. However, you should resist simply copying such policies and adopting them as your own. Just use them for ideas. Every organization is unique and security policies should always reflect the culture of the organization and be pertinent, usable and enforceable across the board.
  • In reality, you should have information security policies for all of the business processes, facilities and equipment used by the organization. A good way to find out what these are is to look at the organizations business impact analysis (BIA). This most valuable of risk management studies will include all essential business processes and equipment needed to maintain business continuity. If the organization does not have a current BIA, you may have to interview personnel from all of the different business departments to get this information. 
  • If the organization is subject to information security or privacy regulation, such as financial institutions or health care concerns, you can easily download all of the information security policies mandated by these regulations and ensure that you include them in the organization’s security policy. 
  • You should also familiarize yourself with the available information security guidance such as ISO 27002, NIST 800-35, the Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense, etc. This guidance will give you a pool of available security controls that you can apply to fit your particular security needs and organizational culture.

Once you have the outline of your security needs in front of you it is time to start writing. You should begin with broad brush stroke, high level policies first and then add detail as you go along. Remember information security “policy” really includes policies, standards, guidelines and procedures. I’ve found it a very good idea to write “policy” in just that order.

Remember to constantly refer back to your outline and to consult with the business departments and users as you go along. It will take some adjustments and rewrites to make your policy complete and useable. Once you reach that stage, however, it is just a matter of keeping your policy current. Review and amend your security policy regularly to ensure it remains useable and enforceable. That way you won’t have to go through the whole process again!

Thanks to John Davis for this post.

Three Danger Signs I Look for when Scoping Risk Assessments

Scoping an enterprise-level risk assessment can be a real guessing game. One of the main problems is that it’s much more difficult and time consuming to do competent risk assessments of organizations with shoddy, disorganized information security programs than it is organizations with complete, well organized information security programs. There are many reasons why this is true, but generally it is because attaining accurate information is more difficult and because one must dig more deeply to ascertain the truth. So when I want to quickly judge the state of an organization’s information security program, I look for “danger” signs in three areas.

First, I’ll find out what kinds of network security assessments the organization undertakes. Is external network security assessment limited to vulnerability studies, or are penetration testing and social engineering exercises also performed on occasion? Does the organization also perform regular vulnerability assessments of the internal network? Is internal penetration testing also done? How about software application security testing? Are configuration and network architecture security reviews ever done?

Second, I look to see how complete and well maintained their written information security program is. Does the organization have a complete set of written information security policies that cover all of the business processes, IT processes and equipment used by the organization? Are there detailed network diagrams, inventories and data flow maps in place? Does the organization have written vendor management, incident response and business continuity plans? Are there written procedures in place for all of the above? Are all of these documents updated and refined on a regular basis? 

Third, I’ll look at the organization’s security awareness and training program. Does the organization provide security training to all personnel on a recurring basis? Is this training “real world”? Are security awareness reminders generously provided throughout the year? If asked, will general employees be able to tell you what their information security responsibilities are? Do they know how to keep their work areas, laptops and passwords safe? Do they know how to recognize and resist social engineering tricks like phishing emails? Do they know how to recognize and report a security incident, and do they know their responsibilities in case a disaster of some kind occurs?

I’ve found that if the answer to all of these questions is “yes”, you will have a pretty easy time conducting a thorough risk assessment of the organization in question. All of the information you need will be readily available and employees will be knowledgeable and cooperative. Conversely I’ve found that if the answer to most (or even some) of these questions is “no” you are going to have more problems and delays to deal with. And if the answers to all of these questions is “no”, you should really build in plenty of extra time for the assessment. You will need it!

Thanks to John Davis for this post.

Data Breaches are a Global Problem

For those of you who maybe just thought that data breaches were only happening against US companies, and only by a certain country as the culprit, we wanted to remind you that this certainly isn’t so.

In fact, just in the last several weeks, breaches against major companies in the UK, Australia, Japan, Kenya, Korea, China and others have come to light. Sources of attacks show evidence of criminal groups working from the US, Brazil, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Asia among others. Just follow the data for a few weeks, and it quickly becomes clear that this is a GLOBAL problem and is multi-directional.

Even loose alliances seem to come and go amongst these criminal groups. They often steal data, talent, techniques, tools and resources from each other. They work together on one deal, while treating each other as competitors in other deals simultaneously. The entire underground is dynamic, shifting in players, goals and techniques on almost moment by moment basis. What works now spreads, and then gets innovated.

This rapidly changing landscape makes it hard for defenders to fight against the bleeding edge. So much so, in fact, that doing the basics of information security and doing them well, seems to be far more effective than trying to keep up with the latest 0-day or social engineering techniques.

That said, next time you read a report that seems to cast the data breach problem as a US issue versus the big red ghost, take a breath. Today, everyone is hacking everyone. That’s the new normal…