Learning USB Lessons the Hard Way

I worked an incident recently that was a pretty interesting one.
The company involved has an application running on a set of Windows kiosks on a hardened, private network that though geographically diverse, is architected in such a way that no Internet access is possible at any machine or point. The kiosk machines are completely tied to a centralized web-based application at a central datacenter and that’s all the kiosk machines can talk to. Pretty common for such installs and generally, a pretty secure architecture.

The client had just chosen to install HoneyPoint and Wasp into this closed network the previous week to give them a new layer of detection and visibility into the kiosk systems since they are so far apart and physical access to them is quite difficult in some locations. The Wasp installs went fine and the product had reached the point where it was learning the baselines and humming along well. That’s when the trouble began. On Saturday, at around 5am Eastern time, Wasp identified a new application running on about 6 of the kiosk machines. The piece of code was flagged by Wasp and reported to the console. The path, name and MD5 hash did not match any of the applications the client had installed and only these 6 machines were running it, with all of them being within about 20 miles of each other. This piqued our curiosity as they brought us in, especially given that no Internet access is possible on these machines and users are locked into the specific web application the environment was designed for.

Our team quickly isolated the 6 hosts and began log reviews, which sure enough showed outbound attempts on port 80 to a host in China known to host malware and bots. The 6 machines were inspected and revealed a job in the scheduler, set to kick off on Saturdays at 5am. The scheduler launched this particular malware component which appeared to be designed to grab the cookies from the browser and some credentials from the system and users and throw them out to the host in China. In this case, the closed network stopped the egress, so little harm was done. Anti-virus installed on the kiosk machines showed clean, completely missing the code installed. A later scan of the components on virustotal.com also showed no detections, though the sample has now been shared with the appropriate vendors so they can work on detections.

In the end, the 6 machines were blown away and re-installed from scratch, which is the response we highly suggest against today’s malware. The big question was how did it get there? It turned out that a bit of digging uncovered a single technician that had visited all 6 sites the previous week. This technician had just had a baby and he was doing as all proud fathers do and showing off pictures of his child. He was doing so by carrying a USB key with him holding the pictures. Since he was a maintenance tech, he had access to drop out of the kiosk and perform system management, including browsing USB devices, which he did to show his pictures to his friends. This completely human, innocent act of love, though much understandable, had dire results. It exposed the business, the users, the customers and his career to potential danger. Fortunately, thanks to a secure architecture, excellent detection with Wasp, good incident planning and a very understanding boss, no harm was done. The young man got his lesson taught to him and the errors of his ways explained to him in “deep detail”. Close call, but excellent lessons and payoff on hard work done BEFORE the security issue ever happened.

Wasp brought excellent visibility to this company and let them quickly identify activity outside the norm. It did so with very little effort in deployment and management, but with HUGE payoff when things went wrong. Hopefully this story helps folks understand where Wasp can prove useful for them. After all, not all networks are closed to the Internet. Is yours? If you had infected hosts like this and AV didn’t catch it, would you know? If not, give us a call or drop us a line and let’s talk about how it might fit for your team. As always, thanks for reading!

Yes, Information Security Is Hot, But Are You Cut Out For It?

Recently, I saw this article: Top Ten High-Demand, Low-Supply Jobs and noticed that information security was one of those “Top Ten” jobs.

This is good news for the information security industry but is it good news for you? Have you wondered if information security is a good career choice?

We posted some thoughts in this post: “So, You Wanna Be In InfoSec?” and it’s worth checking out if you’re serious.

Here’s a snippet:

One of the most common questions I get asked is “How can I become an information security professional?”. These days, it seems that a ton more people want to be in the “business” of information security. I get the question so often, I thought I would write this post as a quick and easy way to respond.

Are You Serious?

The first response is a “gut check”. Are you serious that you want to be an infosec person? Do you even know what you are asking? My suggestion is 2 steps.

1. Read a basic information security guide (not Hacking Exposed or something on an aspect, but something more general like the ISO standards).

2. Invest in your career option enough to buy a few coffees or beers and ask a couple of security folks you know of and trust to sit down, one on one with you for an hour chat. Talk about that person’s career, what day to day security work is like in their experience and what they think about your ideas for moving forward. If you can’t or won’t invest in these basic steps, then quit now and choose another career path. Security work is all about research, reading, guidance, networking and conversations with other humans. If you can’t do these toddler steps, then forget running with the big dogs and find another pack.

To read more, click here.

Good luck!

Incident Response: Practice Makes Perfect


Is it possible to keep information secure? Read on to find out.

IF there is only one person that knows the information, IF that person never writes that information down or records it electronically, and IF that person is lucky enough not to blurt out the information while they are sleeping, drugged or injured, then the answer is yes…probably. Under any other conditions, then the answer is an emphatic NO! It is an unfortunate truth that no system ever developed to protect the security of information is perfect; they all can be breached one way or another. That is why it is so important to have a good incident response program in place at your organization.

And most of you out there, I’m sure, have an incident response plan in place. All information security standards organizations such as ISO and NIST include incident response in their guidance, and many of you are required to have incident response programs in place in order to comply with regulation. But how many of you practice responding to incidents to make sure your planning actually works? At MicroSolved, we’ve been involved in reviewing, developing and testing information security incident response programs for many years. And we have found that no matter how good response plans looks on paper, they’re just not effective if you don’t practice them. Practicing doesn’t have to be a big chore, either. We’ve helped many organizations conduct table top incident response exercises and they usually only last a few hours. They’ve never failed to produce valuable returns.

Unfortunately, there are no good incident response exercise frameworks available out there – we’ve looked. But it is not hard to create your own. Simply pick a type of incident you want to practice – a malware attack for example. You imagine what such an attack would look like to your help desk personnel, system administrators, security personnel, etc. and construct a scenario from that. You just need a basic outline since the details of the response will construct themselves as you proceed with the exercise.

What we have found from conducting and observing these exercises is that problems with the written plan are always exposed. Sure, maybe the plan says that this group of people should be contacted, but is there a procedure for ensuring that list is always kept current in place? Have you made pre-arrangements with a forensic specialist in case you need one? Are the help desk personnel and desk top administrators trained in how to recognize the signs of an attack in process? These are the types of issues performing simple table top incident response exercises will reveal.

Perhaps you will be lucky and never experience a bad information security incident. But if you do, you will be very glad indeed if you have a well practiced information security incident response program in place!

What To Do When Your Identity Gets Stolen

OK, so it happens. A lot. Companies and people don’t always do the right things and sometimes, criminals win. They steal identity data and get the chance to commit massive fraud. We all know about it. We hear the stories and we hear people talking, but we don’t think it will happen to us, until it does.

What now? What should you do when such an event occurs in your life? Well, this great article from our friends over at Help Net Security summarizes best practices for identify theft victims and their support systems as described by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). I thought the article was not only good content, but an excellent point of reference for folks who might be impacted by identity theft. You should check it out here. Here are some more tips:

  1. You should also be well aware of your legal rights and responsibilities and not be afraid to engage with your state Attorney General’s office if you suspect vendors are not playing by the rules. You can find a list of state Attorney General contacts here: http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/stateattorneygenerallist.php
  2. Legal representation may also be of assistance if the fraud you face is large enough to warrant the cost of representation. Don’t be afraid to engage with an attorney if the fraud costs are large or the legal complexity you face is astounding. Contact your state bar association for information on finding reputable consumer law attorneys in your area.
  3. If you are considering something like one of these consumer data/life “locking” services or the like, please check out a DIY approach here.

We hope you never have to use this information, but if you do, these are a few quick tidbits to get you started while avoiding further scams, fraud and abuse. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe out there!

Quick Pointer to a Very Cool Tool

I recently was made aware of a very cool tool for analyzing netflow data that may you may be collecting from around your network. I’d seen netflow and visual analysis tools like this before, but in this case, the product performed very nicely, was very robust and starts at the low price of FREE for real time analysis. The tool is called Scrutinizer and you can find it for download and purchase here.

The free version works well for real time analysis and is nice complement to your health checks and the like if you have a network monitoring team. It is also pretty useful in digging into real-time netflow data to identify compromised hosts and components of bot nets in your network. With some careful attention, the low hanging bot net zombies will stand out from the data streams. Pretty useful to find the easy pickings…

With the commercial version, you can also add historical netflow data analysis, which opens the tool up to being very useful for over time analysis, forensics and deep anomaly detection, not to mention the network monitoring work the tool was originally designed for. MicroSolved has no relationship with the company who makes the product, but we thought it was worth it to point out a useful tool when we saw it.

Super Secret Squirrel Preview Shot of the New HoneyPoint Console

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a picture for you to consider. This is a super secret screen shot of the new HoneyPoint Console (version 3.50) that is currently in development in the lab. If you haven’t seen HoneyPoint Console since the 2.xx days, the Console is now a whole new thing. Feedback from the alpha testing teams has been fabulous. And yes, those tabs expand, we compressed them to hide the info in the columns. And, yes, one of the new features is now persitent placement of the columns, window locations, sizes and sort routines between instances. We heard you and we love your ideas on the product, so keep them coming!

You can give us feedback via email to your account executive, blog comment below or hit us up on Twitter via @lbhuston or @microsolved. We look forward to hearing what you think!

Thanks for reading!

MicroSolved, Inc. Releases New Malware Protection for MS Windows

Our HoneyPoint Wasp 1.50 is cleaner, faster, and more flexible than ever!

COLUMBUS, Ohio March 14, 2011 — MicroSolved, Inc. is pleased to announce their new version of HoneyPoint Wasp 1.50. The new Wasp gives more capability to the security team to easily gain visibility into Windows systems and more power to their efforts to secure them against intrusion.

HoneyPoint Wasp, a tool used to monitor the security of user workstations, has been upgraded with several new features. New behavior-based detections are now included to help extend your existing AV investment. This will provide an extra layer of detection for malware that slips past the AV shield.

Wasp detects infections frequently missed by other malware tools in laboratory testing and real world environments.

“We’re proud of Wasp’s ability to identify compromised systems that other tools and techniques would have shown to be OK, leaving systems online and under attacker control for a longer period than needed,” said Brent Huston, CEO and Security Visionary for MicroSolved. “With HoneyPoint Wasp, you can more quickly and easily take compromised machines away from the attacker and significantly raise the bar in what they have to do to compromise your environment, avoid detection and steal your data.”

To learn more about HoneyPoint Wasp and how it can help an organization protect their desktop network, please visit our HoneyPoint Wasp page!

3 Things Good Security Processes Won’t Do

We hear a lot of talk about needing good information security processes, but why are they so important? Well, besides being the basis for a strong security program and compliance with regulatory guidance, they also represent the best way to get consistency across the security initiative and between silos of knowledge. Done right, good security processes halt infosec by “cult of personality”, but they aren’t infallible. Here are three things that having good information security processes won’t do:

1. Defense Without Funding – Even the best security teams often struggle to convince upper management of proper budget needs. While good security processes might help you generate metrics and real world threat insights that you can use to explain risk to your management, as the old saying goes, if they spend more on coffee than infosec, they will get hacked and they will deserve it. Even good processes can’t save you if your security team is resource starved.

2. Pet Project Sink Holes – We’ve all been there, a manager or executive has this idea that steam rolls into a project and yet is just a doomed thing to start with. IT and other parts of the business, including security, can get drawn into the vision and throw a seemingly never ending set of resources down the gullet of this project that never seems to progress, but just won’t die. Unfortunately, this another place where strong processes just don’t help. Once the project steals the imagination of the executive team, the game is pretty much over. You ride along or die. Where you can win here with strong processes though, is by defining good minimum levels of resources that your policy forbids being switched to other tasks. Then, at least, you have a base to stick to when one of the hurricanes of fail comes over the horizon.

3. Zombie Apocalypse – Nope, they won’t help you here either. Good processes tend to break down when the zombies are munching on the brains of your teams as a snack. Yeah, we know, we saw the screenplay too, but we still think that whole Charlie Sheen in grubby clothes and grey make up thing is just another tacky grab for more attention. 🙂

Seriously, other than these, good processes help with infosec. Get started on them right away, before the zombies reach the data center….

More Tales From the Tweetstream: HoneyPoint Wasp Detects Trojan Attack

A very interesting discovery!

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/lbhuston/status/44751049545879552″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/lbhuston/status/44751709305708544″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/lbhuston/status/44752439404011520″]

We’re pretty proud of HoneyPoint Wasp, our newest addition to our HoneyPoint family; for exactly this reason. It is able to detecti attacks earlier, automatically disrupting attacker activity and by giving you intelligence about the source, intent and capability of attackers.

Want to learn more? Check out our HoneyPoint Wasp page!