Pay Attention to Egress Anomalies on Weekends

Just a quick note to pay careful attention to egress anomalies when the majority of your employees are not likely to be using the network. Most organizations, even those that are 24/7, experience reduced network egress to the Internet during nights and weekends. This is the perfect time to look for anomalies and to take advantage of the reduced traffic levels to perform deeper analysis such as a traffic level monitoring, average session/connection sizes, anomalies in levels of blocked egress ports, new and never before seen DNS resolutions, etc. 

If you can baseline traffic, even using something abstract like net flow, you may find some amazing stuff. Check it out! 

Password Breach Mining is a Major Threat on the Horizon

Just a quick note today to get you thinking about a very big issue that is just over the security horizon.

As machine learning capabilities grow rapidly and mass storage pricing drops to close to zero, we will see a collision that will easily benefit common criminals. That is, they will begin to apply machine learning correlation and prediction capabilities to breach data – particularly passwords, in my opinion.

Millions of passwords are often breached at a time these days. Compiling these stolen password is quite easy, and with each added set, the idea of tracking and tracing individual users and their password selection patterns becomes trivial. Learning systems could be used to turn that raw data into insights about particular user patterns. For example, if a user continually creates passwords based on a season and a number (ex: Summer16) and several breaches show that same pattern as being associated with that particular user (ex: Summer16 on one site, Autumn12 on another and so on…) then the criminals can use prediction algorithms to create a custom dictionary to target that user. The dictionary set will be concise and is likely to be highly effective.

Hopefully, we have been teaching users not to use the same password in multiple locations – but a quick review of breach data sets show that these patterns are common. I believe they may well become the next evolution of bad password choices.

Now might be the time to add this to your awareness programs. Talk to users about password randomization, password vaults and the impacts that machine learning and AI are likely to have on crime. If we can change user behavior today, we may be able to prevent the breaches of tomorrow!

3 Reasons You Need Customized Threat Intelligence

Many clients have been asking us about our customized threat intelligence services and how to best use the data that we can provide.

1. Using HoneyPoint™, we can deploy fake systems and applications, both internally and in key external situations that allow you to generate real-time, specific to your organization, indicators of compromise (IoC) data – including a wide variety of threat source information for blacklisting, baseline metrics to make it easy to measure changes in the levels of threat actions against your organization up to the moment, and a wide variety of scenarios for application and attack surface hardening.

2. Our SilentTiger™ passive assessments, can help you provide a wider lens for vulnerability assessment visibility than your perimeter, specifically. It can be used to assess, either single instance or ongoing, the security posture of locations where your brand is extended to business partners, cloud providers, supply chain vendors, critical dependency API and data flows and other systems well beyond your perimeter. Since the testing is passive, you don’t need permission, contract language or control of the systems being assessed. You can get the data in a stable, familiar format – very similar to vulnerability scanning reports or via customized data feeds into your SEIM/GRC/Ticketing tools or the like. This means you can be more vigilant against more attack surfaces without more effort and more resources.

3. Our customized TigerTrax™ Targeted Threat Intelligence (TTI) offerings can be used for brand specific monitoring around the world, answering specific research questions based on industry / geographic / demographic / psychographic profiles or even products / patents or economic threat research. If you want to know how your brand is being perceived, discussed or threatened around the world, this service can provide that either as a one-time deliverable, or as an ongoing periodic service. If you want our intelligence analysts to look at industry trends, fraud, underground economics, changing activist or attacker tactics and the way they collide with your industry or organization – this is the service that can provide that data to you in a clear and concise manner that lets you take real-world actions.

We have been offering many of these services to select clients for the last several years. Only recently have we decided to offer them to our wider client and reader base. If you’d like to learn how others are using the data or how they are actively hardening their environments and operations based on real-world data and trends, let us know. We’d love to discuss it with you! 

What is MSI Passive Assessment & How Does it Empower Supply Chain Security

MSI’s passive assessment represents a new approach to understanding the security risks associated with an organization, be it yours or a vendor, prospect or business partner’s. MSI’s passive assessment leverages the unique power of the MSI TigerTrax™ analytics platform to perform automated research, intelligence gathering and correlation from hundreds of sources, both public and private, that describe the effective security posture of an organization.
 
The engine is able to combine the power of hundreds of existing tools to build the definitive profile of an organization’s security posture –  such as:
  • open source intelligence
  • corporate data analytics
  • honeypot sources
  • deep & dark net search engines
  • other data mining tools 
 
MSI’s passive assessment gives you current and historical information about the security posture of the target, such as:
  • Current IOCs associated with them or their hosted applications/systems (perfect for cloud environments!)
  • Historic campaigns, breaches or outbreaks that have been identified or reported in public and in our proprietary intelligence sources
  • Leaked credentials, account information or intellectual property associated with the target
  • Underground and dark net data associated with the target
  • Misconfigurations or risky exposures of systems and services that could empower attackers
  • Public vulnerabilities
  • Other relevant intelligence about their risks, threats and vulnerabilities – new sources added weekly…
 
Best of all, it gathers and correlates that data without touching the target’s network or systems directly in any way. That means you do not need the organization’s permission or knowledge of your research, so you can keep your interest private!
 
In the supply chain security use case, the tool can be run against organizations as a replacement for full risk assessment processes and used as an initial layer to identify and focus on vendors with identified security issues. You can find more information about it used in the following posts about creating a process for supply chain security initiatives:
 
Clients are currently using this service for M&A, vendor supply chain security management, risk assessment and to get an attacker’s eye view of their own networks or cloud deployments/hosted solutions.
 
To learn more about MSI’s passive assessment, please talk with your MSI account executive today!
 
 
 

Interesting Talk on Post Quantum Computing Impacts on Crypto

If you want to really get some great understanding of how the future of crypto is impacted by quantum computing, there is a fantastic talk embedded in this link
 
The talk really turns the high level math and theory of most of these discussions into knowledge you can parse and use. Take an hour and listen to it. I think you will find it most rewarding.
 
If you want to talk about your thoughts on the matter, hit us up on Twitter. (@microsolved)

Got MS DNS Servers? Get the Patch ASAP!

If you run DNS on Microsoft Windows, pay careful attention to the MS-15-127 patch.

Microsoft rates this patch as critical for most Windows platforms running DNS services.

Remote exploits are possible, including remote code execution. Attackers exploiting this issue could obtain Local System context and privileges.

We are currently aware that reverse engineering of the patch has begun by researchers and exploit development is under way in the underground pertaining to this issue. A working exploit is likely to be made available soon, if it is not already in play, as you read this. 

Social Media Targeting: A Cautionary Tale

I was recently doing some deep penetration testing against an organization in a red-team, zero knowledge type exercise. The targets were aware of the test at only the highest levels of management, who had retained myself and my team for the engagement. The mission was simple, obtain either a file that listed more than 100 of their key suppliers, or obtain credentials and successfully logon to their internal supply system from an account that could obtain such a file.

Once we laid some basic groundwork, it was clear that we needed to find the key people who would have access to such data. Given the size of this multi-national company and the thousands of employees they had across continents, we faced two choices – either penetrate the network environment and work our way through it to find and obtain the victory data and/or find a specific person or set of persons who were likely to have the data themselves or have credentials and hack them get a shortcut to victory.
 
We quickly decided to try the shortcut for a week or less, preserving time for a hack the network approach should we need it as a backup. We had approximately 6 weeks to accomplish the goal. It turned out, it took less than 6 hours…
 
We turned our TigerTrax intelligence & analytics platform to the task of identifying the likely targets for the shortcut attack. In less than 30 minutes, our intelligence team had identified three likely targets who we could direcly link to the internal systems in question, or the business processes associated with the victory condition. Of these three people, one of them was an extensive participant in their local dance club scene. Their social media profile was loaded with pictures of them dancing at various locales and reviewing local dance clubs and DJs. 
 
A plan was quickly developed to use the dance club angle as an approach for the attack, and a quick malware serving web site was mocked up to look like an new night club in the target’s city. The team them posted a few other sites pointing to a new club opening and opened a social media account for the supposed club’s new name. The next day, the penetration team tested the exploits and malware against the likely OS installs of the victim (obtained from some of their social media data that was shared publicly). Once the team was sure the exploits and malware were likely to function properly, the club’s social media account sent a tweet to the account of the target and several other people linked to the club scene, inviting them to a private “soft opening” of the club — starring the favorite DJ of the target (obtained from his twitter data). Each person was sent a unique link, and only the target’s link contained the exploit and malware. Once the hook was delivered, the team sat back and waited a bit. They continued to tweet and interact with people using the club’s account throughout the rest of the day. Within hours, the target followed the club’s account and visited the exploit site. The exploit worked, and our remote access trojan (RAT) was installed and connected back to us.
 
It took the team about an hour to hoover through the laptop of the target and find the file we needed. About the same time, an automated search mechanism of the RAT returned a file called passwords.xls with a list of passwords and login information, including the victory system in question. The team grabbed the victory files, screen shotted all of our metrics and data dashboards and cleaned up after themselves. The target was none the wiser.
 
When we walked the client through this pen-test and explained how we performed our attack, what controls they lacked and how to improve their defenses, the criticality of social media profiling to attackers became crystal clear. The client asked for examples of real world attackers using such methods, and the team quickly pulled more than a dozen public breach profiles from the last few years from our threat intelligence data.
 
The bottom line is this – this is a COMMON and EFFECTIVE approach. It is trivial for attackers to accomplish these goals, given the time and will to profile your employees. The bad guys ARE doing it. The bigger question is – ARE YOU?
 
To learn more about our penetration testing, social engineering and other security testing services, please call your account executive to book a free education session or send us an email to info@microsolved.com. As always, thanks for reading and until next time, stay safe out there!

Benefits of using TigerTrax to Monitor Your Industry

Have you ever wanted to know what is being said in regards to your business or product line on social media? How about getting the scoop on a company prior to your big merger or acquisition? Perhaps you have a need for continual code of conduct monitoring for your business or franchise. These are but a few of the things that we at MicroSolved, Inc can provide for you and your company! MicroSolved has a whole host of proprietary software including TigerTrax, that will give your company an edge over your competition!

With our TigerTrax platform we can help provide you with a competitive advantage by receiving actionable intelligence about your product line from the social media hemisphere. Imagine scouring the entire population of Twitter, which boasts some 645 million registered users with over 115 million active users monthly. That is an enormous market that you can tap into with our help. A market where you can see where you think that your product line may be heading versus what people are actually talking about in regards to your product line. Imagine being able to fine-tune your marketing campaign based on our intelligence gathering ability!

In every business there are times whether for a short duration or a long term one where you may want us to provide you with code of conduct information about your employees. Perhaps their contracts clearly state what sort of things they may or may not post on social media and the internet; but also and more importantly you may want to know what everyone else is posting about them. We can help provide you that information. Our TigerTrax platform does in minutes what takes a roomful of employees days or weeks to do and in a very short time you can have actionable information that may be used to help protect your companies brand!

As you can see TigerTrax is a wonderful tool in your arsenal for providing actionable data that will enable you to adjust your marketing campaign or perform ongoing code of conduct monitoring. We can also perform threat intelligence, assess whether your intellectual property has been leaked online, and of course perform brand intelligence. As you can imagine we are only scratching the surface of what we at MicroSolved, Inc and the TigerTrax platform can do for you. So please if you need any assistance for your company feel free to contact us by sending an email to: info@microsolved.com.

This post by Preston Kershner.

5 Ways My Medical Background Makes Me a Better Intelligence Analyst

When I first started for MicroSolved, Inc.(MSI), I wasn’t sure what to think, but now that I have been here for nearly three months I feel I am starting to get the hang of  what it is to be an intelligence analyst. At least a little bit anyhow. Now mind you I am not your typical intelligence analyst, nor am I a new college graduate, but rather I am coming to MSI from the health care industry with over twenty years of work experience in that industry. This was a completely different mindset, with a whole host of new things for me to experience and learn. For me this was totally refreshing and exactly what I wanted and more importantly, needed! There are a few things that I have noticed in my short time here that could be considered pearls of wisdom rather than actual characteristics of a good employee that I feel make me a good intelligence analyst for MSI. Perhaps they are one and the same. At least that is my hope 😉

First, while I am not a seasoned IT professional like so many others that I work with, I am not naive to the fact that there are deadlines and expectations thrust upon all of us. This in my opinion is no different than in being in the hospital setting where people expect you to act quickly and in the best interests of your patient at all times. Couldn’t we say the same is true working for a company like MSI?  In that it is the expectation to be professional, performing your best at all times, and the like? I would like to think that is what I strive for.

After thinking a bit longer perhaps it is that we share a tenacity for getting to the bottom of whatever mystery that we are looking at. Whether it is a series of questions that we may be asking our patients in an effort to try to figure out what ailment they be suffering from. This is not unlike when we are looking for a key bit of code for an algorithm to help us do our work more efficiently. Regardless, it is this mentality of never giving up! To keep fighting, keep looking, to keep trying. Just keep chipping away at it. 

I think the next characteristic would have to be patience. Something that we all have often heard from our grandparents growing up as children. Something that in my mind and in my experience has played a provocative role in both my dealings with patients, their families and with challenging projects in the IT world. Now while as I previously stated in the above paragraph that tenacity plays a role, I also think having a measure of patience does too. There are times in the medical world where even the most experienced physician stands there for a moment and scratches his or her head and says “I don’t know”. Now to a patient that is the last thing that they want to here, but sometimes we truly have to “wait and see”. Sometimes grandma was right! There have been times while working on projects with MSI, where sitting back even if it’s just a few moments, allowed me to gain a better “bird’s eye view” of a given project and really helped me figure out what it was that I was looking for and ultimately aided the project.

Another area that I think gives me an edge would be that I am willing to go the extra mile and I am not afraid to work hard to attain my goals. It isn’t enough to just punch a clock or be mediocre! I have told this to my children, my patients and my friends. Never give up, always work your butt off for what you want in life! It may take time for what you want to come to fruition, but if you’re willing to put the time, energy and effort into it, then it will come!  It takes sacrifice to get to your goals. Others will recognize your efforts and aid you in your path. That’s what I feel MSI has done and is continuing to do for me!

Lastly, laugh! I have not laughed so hard in any of my previous work experiences as compared to working for MSI these past few months. Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of wonderful times, but here at MSI it is a whole new animal! Yes, we work hard, but I think having a healthy sense of humor and a desire to see others laugh is what really sets MSI apart. If you are down, they help pick you up! So often we spend our work lives with people that aren’t our family for hours on end. Shouldn’t we have some fun while we work? If you are lucky enough you do. Then, by choice those people that aren’t your family start to become them and find a place in your heart. Then, your work doesn’t seem like work anymore. 

Yes it’s true that I am new to the world of information technology as a career choice, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some very real life experiences to draw upon. Remember, it is a combination of work ethic, tenacity, patience, a sense of humor and ultimately a willingness to never give up. These are the things that will make you successful, not only in your career path, but in life as well. These are my little pearls of wisdom, just a few tidbits of information to help you get to where you want to be in life. Who knows it might even be right here at MSI.

This post by Preston Kershner.

Compliance-Based Infosec Vs Threat-Based Infosec

In the world of Information Security (infosec), there are two main philosophies: compliance-based infosec and threat-based infosec. Compliance-based infosec means meeting a set of written security standards designed to fulfill some goal such as the requirements of statute law or financial information privacy requirements. Threat-based infosec, on the other hand, means applying information security controls in reaction to (or anticipation of) threats that organizations currently (or soon will) face. 

Compliance-based infosec is generally applied smoothly across the organization. In other words, all the security controls mandated in the security standard must be put in place by the organization, and the relative effectiveness of each control is largely ignored. In contrast, security controls are applied in a hierarchical manner in threat-based infosec. The most effective or greatly needed security controls are applied first according to the threats that are most likely to occur or that will cause the most damage to the organization if they do occur. 

The difference is sort of like the defensive strategy of the Chinese versus that of the Normans in post-conquest England. The Chinese built very long walls that went from one end of their territory to the other. Their goal was to keep out all invaders everywhere. This is a grand idea, but takes a very large amount of resources to implement and maintain. In practice, it takes tons of men and infrastructure and the defensive capabilities at any one place are spread thin. The Normans in England, on the other hand, built strong castles with many layers of defense in strategic locations where the threats were greatest and where it was easiest to support neighboring castles. In practice, there are fewer defenses at any one point, but the places where defenses are implemented are very strong indeed. Both of these strategies have merit, and are really driven by the particular set of circumstances faced by the defender. But which is better for your organization? Let’s look at compliance-based infosec first.

Compliance-based infosec, when implemented correctly, is really the best kind of defense there is. The problem is, the only place I’ve ever seen it really done right is in the military. In military information security, failure to protect private information can lead to death and disaster. Because of this, no expense or inconvenience is spared when protecting this information. Everything is compartmentalized and access is strictly based on need to know. Every system and connection is monitored, and there are people watching your every move. There are rules and checklists for everything and failure to comply is severely punished. In addition, finding better ways to protect information are sought after, and those that come up with valuable ideas are generously rewarded.

This is not the way compliance-base infosec works in the private sector, or even in non-military government agencies. First, statute law is tremendously vague when discussing implementing information security. Laws make broad statements such as “personal health information will be protected from unauthorized access or modification”. Fine. So a group of people get together and write up a body of regulations to further spell out the requirements organizations need to meet to comply with the law. Unfortunately, you are still dealing with pretty broad brush strokes here. To try to get a handle on things, agencies and auditors rely on information security standards and guidelines such as are documented in NIST or ISO. From these, baseline standards and requirements are set down. The problems here are many. First, baseline standards are minimums. They are not saying “it’s best if you do this”, they are saying “you will at least do this”. However, typical organizations, (which generally have very limited infosec budgets), take these baseline standards as goals to be strived for, not starting points. They very rarely meet baseline standards, let alone exceed them. Also, NIST and ISO standards are not very timely. The standards are only updated occasionally, and they are not very useful for countering new and rapidly developing threats. So, unless your organization is really serious about information security and has the money and manpower to make it work, I would say compliance-based infosec is not for you. I know that many organizations (such as health care and financial institutions) are required to meet baseline standards, but remember what happened to Target last year. They were found to be compliant with the PCI DSS, but still had tens of millions of financial records compromised.

Now let’s look at threat-based infosec. To implement a threat-based information security program, the organization first looks at the information assets they need to protect, the threats and vulnerabilities that menace them and the consequences that will ensue if those information assets are actually compromised (basic asset inventory and risk assessment). They then prioritize the risks they face and decide how to implement security controls in the most effective and efficient way to counter those particular risks. That might mean implementing strong egress filtering and log monitoring as opposed to buying the fanciest firewall. Or it might mean doing something simple like ensuring that system admins use separate access credentials for simple network access and administrative access to the system. Whatever controls are applied, they are chosen to solve particular problems, not to meet some broad baseline that is designed to meet generally defined problems. Also, threat-based infosec programs are much better at anticipating and preparing for emerging threats, since reassessments of the security program are made whenever there are significant changes in the system or threat picture.

These are the reasons that I think most of us in non-military organizations should go with threat-based infosec programs. Even those organizations that must meet regulatory requirements can ensure that they are spending the bulk of their infosec money and effort on the effective controls, and are minimizing efforts spent on those controls that don’t directly counter real-world threats. After all, the laws and regulations themselves are pretty vague. What counts in the long run is real information security, not blind compliance with inadequate and antiquated baselines. 

Thanks to John Davis for this post.