It’s a cyberwar, and you are the target.

The Target?  You.                               Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment of the Russian operatives (July 13, 2018) who successfully compromised DCCC and then DNC computers makes for some interesting reading.

Some excerpts:

  • “….<the Russian operatives> were dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental, and non-governmental organizations with spearphishing emails and other computer intrusion activity.”
  • ——————–
  • “….used various online personas, including “Kate S. Milton,” “James McMorgans,” and “Karen W. Millen,”
  • ——————–
  • “….sent spearphishing emails to members of the
    Clinton Campaign and affiliated individuals, including the chairman of the Clinton Campaign”
  • ——————–
  • “….. altered the appearance of the sender email address in order to make it look like the email was a security notification from Google (a technique known as “spoofing”), instructing the user to change his password by clicking the embedded link. Those instructions were followed. On or about March 21, 2016, LUKASHEV, YERMAKOV, and their co-conspirators stole the contents of the chairman’s email account, which consisted of over 50,000 emails.
  • ——————–
  • “… created an email account in the name (with a one-letter deviation from the actual spelling) of a known member of the Clinton Campaign. The Conspirators then used that account to send spearphishing emails to the work accounts of more than thirty different Clinton Campaign employees. In the spearphishing emails, LUKASHEV and his co-conspirators embedded a link purporting to direct the recipient to a document titled “hillary-clinton-favorable-rating.xlsx.” In fact, this link directed the recipients’ computers to a GRU-created website
  • ——————–
  • “…used an email account designed to look like a Vendor 1 email address to send over 100 spearphishing emails to organizations and personnel involved in administering elections in numerous Florida counties. The spearphishing emails contained malware that the Conspirators embedded into Word documents bearing Vendor 1’s logo.

That last one strikes close to home for me as it is a technique I have used successfully when conducting “white-hat”  phishing exercises for MSI’s clients.

The indictment makes it clear that we are very much in a “cyberwar” right now and that the targets of greatest opportunity in that war are not information infrastructure – but people. You and I, feverishly pounding away at a keyboard in an attempt to meet some deadline (like writing a blog post?).  Or, even better and more dangerous, responding to emails with a mobile device while we sit waiting at a stoplight. None of us, of course.

Many of you likely regard yourselves as targets of little interest in any cyberwar attack. And that may be true for you specifically, but is it true of your family members and friends as well?

Perhaps one of them works for an HVAC vendor that does work for government?

The point is that everyone is connected via some device and everyone shares infrastructure (cloud storage?) with others.  Any person in that chain of connectedness is a potential stepping stone to items of real interest to an attacker.

Phishing has become the primary attack vector and the target can be anyone who is connected to someone else with access to sensitive information. It’s low cost and relies on information about us that we and those who know us have freely given up,

And… it just works. Those Russian operatives know that, and so should you.

Everyone is now a potential target in this new type of warfare

What to do?

  • Make sure you, your family members, and your co-workers have a basic understanding of phishing and what to look out for.
  • ——–
  • If your company provides training on phishing awareness, take it seriously. If it has none, lobby for it.
  • ——–
  • If you are in management, realize that your employees are the new attack surface. Make sure they are trained to detect phishing and are willing to report it – even if they think they may have been successfully phished. That last is important. Your company will be the real loser if employees are afraid to speak out. Do not rely on magic-bullet technology alone to address what is fundamentally a problem in human behavior. . Conduct periodic tests to see how aware your people really are. No punishment – education!
  • ——–
  • Use Multifactor Factor Authentication (MFA)! If an attacker obtains your traditional login credentials (login/password) and that’s all you use, they have you. Multifactor authentication requires the addition of “something you know” or “something you have”.  Typical examples involve login sequences that require you enter a one-time code texted to your phone (“something you have”). Adding that extra factor complicates the whole phishing process and may even render it futile. All modern infrastructure supports some form of MFA.
  • ——–
  • Keep your work environment separate from your home environment. Consider segmenting your home network. A unique “work” wifi environment, with separate IP addressing, used only for your work (no family members, guests, or IOT devices) may be a good place to start.

See:


Update:  The war continues: https://www.npr.org/2018/07/28/633056819/russian-hackers-targeted-the-most-vulnerable-part-of-u-s-elections-again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile devices…innocent until proven guilty?

How many of us have been on Facebook, and laughed when a friend’s child posts “Child is my favorite!” after their parent left the table with their phone unlocked?

And who has had a friend – or been the friend – who left their phone at the table? Don’t laugh – try being the one who did that WITH the security team. (Guilty…)

Amusing anecdotes? Absolutely. Now, let’s imagine that mobile device is unlocked when it’s left unattended, and contains your corporate data…now what?

That’s where MDM – mobile device management – comes into play. There are a few things to consider when you’re planning your deployment:

  • Who will have access to corporate information on the device?
  • Will you allow people to use personal devices – BYOD – or restrict this to corporate assets?
  • What will you allow, and what do you want to prevent, with device access? Email only? Other resources? Will you allow attachments to be downloaded and stored on the device?
  • How important are remote wipe capabilities – think of the worst case scenario with a disgruntled employee at all levels, with access to your data?
  • What about geolocation capability? Do you want the ability to block access from certain areas of the world – and how easy will it be to fix this when the VP is in Hong Kong, and you’ve blocked APNIC? Do you want to be able to pinpoint the device’s location if it has been lost or stolen?
  • What platforms will you support? Android, iOS, others? Yes, there are other platforms…
  • Consider whether it makes sense to only allow mobile devices to access corporate data via a VPN? Depending on the sensitivity of your data, this may make sense for your scenario.

The majority of MDM vendors will support some or all of the feature set that you desire. Once you’ve weighed out your desired list, and chosen your vendor, there are a number of other factors to look at when considering your actual deployment. A few things to consider:

  • Back to the basics. Passwords – require devices, whether corporate or BYOD, to have a password and to change that password regularly.
  • Encryption. Again, another basic – devices that carry your corporate data should be encrypted.
  • Jailbroken, rooted, and otherwise compromised phones should not be allowed to access corporate data.
  • Require virus/malware protection, particularly for Android devices. Free solutions from well regarded vendors exist, so this is not an onerous requirement for employees.
  • Have valid, documented procedures for geolocation features – whether blocking access or locating devices. Include removal as well as deployment in those procedures – when the VP is back, you will want to remove the access to Hong Kong. And when an employee leaves your company, so should your ability to track their BYOD device.
  • Another item to have documented is your remote wipe or content removal process when a user leaves the company – willingly or not – or when a device is lost or stolen.
  • Decide what you will and will not allow in terms of software on a corporate device. Will you allow users to install Waze? Their favorite game? Define that line in advance, rather than closing the loop later.
  • Regularly audit your configuration, the device compliance, and any exceptions that have been granted. Are there changes that need to be made in light of emerging threats? Are there exceptions that are no longer required?

And remember to take a real vacation occasionally, and put that mobile device down, folks. Those nice people? They’re your family, friends, or others in your life outside of work.

Questions, comments? I’d love to hear from you – lwallace@microsolved.com, or @TheTokenFemale on Twitter!

Good Inventory Control is a Must for Effective Security Maintenance & Configuration Control

Maintaining current inventories of all hardware devices, software applications, operating systems and firmware applications on your networks is listed as Job #1 in cutting-edge information security guidance. This is true for a number of reasons, but today I want to discuss the paramount importance of good inventory control processes in mounting trackable and effective security maintenance and configuration control programs.

In a recent Threatpost report on top threats for2018, it was reported that exploit kits were still the top web-based threat. Exploit kits are very good at uncovering missing patches, misconfigurations, default passwords and the like, and they are most assuredly not limited to Windows systems only.

In the work we do, it is very common for us find networks that are obviously being generally well administered. We see that most systems are well configured, that Windows patching is very good and that most access controls are strong. But on these same networks, we almost always find glaring anomalies that don’t fit the overall picture. Maybe we’ll find a couple of hosts with factory default credentials in place, or a firewall that is running an exploitable firmware version, or maybe it will virtual machine software that is missing security patches. The list is extensive. But they all have one thing in common; these are systems and hosts that have somehow fallen through the cracks.

This is where good inventory control comes in. Most of the organizations I referred to above have inventories in place, but they are just there to be there; nobody seems to use them for anything. I think this is mainly because most infosec programs are driven by compliance, and compliance means you have to be able to check the “inventories in place” box. What a mistake! Those inventories are useful!

Inventories should be central to all security maintenance and configuration control efforts. All hardware devices, software applications, operating systems and firmware applications should be included in IT inventories. Security maintenance and configuration control administrators should ensure that all entities on these lists are included in their efforts. Those in charge of these processes should also always ensure that they are communicating and coordinating their efforts, and that everything is kept up-to-date. In fact, I’ll go one step further.

An effective information security program, although made up of many different processes, needs to work together like a single entity. It’s very much like our own bodies. We have a brain, a heart, limbs, bones, eyes, skin and numerous other individual parts, but they all cooperate together to function as a single entity. If you don’t leverage each part of your infosec program to feed and enable all of the other parts, then you are wasting a lot of time and money!

What to Do When You Gotta Have FTP

FTP has been around for a long time. While it has grown long in the tooth, it continues to be an essential protocol for many business processes – especially in the financial industry. Clearly, it is a functional and useful tool, but it certainly also comes with significant security risk.

First of all, in its bare form, it is a plain-text protocol and open to capture and observation by anyone in the communications path. Firewall rules pertaining to its different modes of operation are also often confusing for novice network techs and admins, sometimes leading to inadvertent security issues in its deployment. Worse yet, it is a commonly scanned, brute forced and exploited attack surface as well.

But, if you are any of the industry firms where FTP is still a mainstay (banking, wealth management, title management, loan processing, imaging, etc.) how can you do your work and still try and keep security as tight as possible?

Let’s start with identification. You need to know if you have FTP exposed to the Internet, partner networks or on any segments where trust is low. For each instance, you need to understand the data that is being moved, the sources and destinations of that data, the authentication mechanism and model in play (you’re using strong passwords and MFA, right?) and you need to carefully consider the trusts that exist within the system and network environment where the server lives.

Then, you can address prevention. Do you have an alternative to replace it with SFTP or another encrypted protocol? Does it have to be exposed to the world, or can you use access controls or restrict the source IPs allowed to connect to it with either host configurations or firewall rules? How is the server component kept updated to ensure that patching is taking place?

Let’s talk detection. Are logs being generated, stored and reviewed? How would you know if a brute force attack had exposed your data or credentials? How would you identify malicious behavior against the FTP service? Many companies we talk to (especially smaller ones), don’t have good plans for monitoring these systems, even though they may be mission critical.

If something bad happened, you should also have a response process in place for managing FTP data. What would you do if the data were compromised? What would you need to do if the FTP server were not available or the network was down for an extended period? Running table top exercises is usually a good way to develop and refine the policies and processes needed around FTP data exchanges.

Lastly, your organization should have a plan for recovering from problems with the FTP server. Is the data backed up within an appropriate window and how would/could that data be restored? What would be the business and financial challenges to recovery? How would you handle notification of partners or customers that were impacted?

These are pretty basic questions for infosec teams, but for many organizations with more ad-hoc IT staff or for smaller organizations with only contractors they can be daunting. 

Hopefully our advice above gets you thinking about FTP. As always, if you have questions or need assistance executing any of the above – MSI is here to help. But, if your team takes this list and executes against it – you should be much better off than before the project began.

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

Prescription pharmacy bags – do you just trash them?

When you get your prescription filled at a pharmacy, the medication is usually dispensed in amber colored pill bottles packaged in a pharmacy paper or plastic bag. Once the medication has been consumed, many discard or recycle the bottles.

There have been several articles on how to remove the sensitive information contained in the medication labels on the bottles. The information include the patient’s name and address, name of doctor and medication details. Recommended methods of removing the information include striking them out with a marker pen or removing the label. Some locations will accept the bottles and remove the labels and information for you, and recycle the bottles.

However, nothing is said of the pharmacy paper or plastic bag that the pill bottles come in when you get them from the pharmacist. When I get my meds from the pharmacist – from a big name national grocery store – I am asked for identification to receive them. I am asked of my name and phone or birthdate, and they verify with the information printed on the bag.

Most people are not aware of or don’t consider the information on the front of these bags. The information can be much more sensitive than what’s on the pill bottle labels. These bags are thrown in with the trash, never shredded. That leaves the information vulnerable to dumpster divers and identity theft.

The pharmacy bags the big grocery store dispenses the prescriptions in are sealed plastic bags. I can’t shred them so I stretch and tear the plastic to destroy the information. Most people will not take the trouble to do that. I have spoken with the pharmacist at the location I pick up my medications at with my concerns. Their process is obviously not up to him but perhaps he could pass on the concerns.

Take note of the label information your medications come in, not just the pill bottles but the pharmacy bag. Your private information is not only on the pill bottles but on the bag when they hand you your meds. Dispose of these packaging appropriately.

 

Resources:

http://rxoutreach.org/education-understanding-prescription-medication-labels/

https://www.popsci.com/old-medications-prescriptions-disposal

There’s Still Treasure in the Trash

Most businesses have processes and policies for handling sensitive data on paper, whether thats selectively shredding papers or shredding everything, along with training about what goes in trash bins and what goes in shredding bins. However, how many are ensuring that these policies and processes are being followed? Brent asked

Which got me thinking about this. I couldn’t remember the last time an organization actually asked us about it beyond reviewing policies. I know this problem didn’t disappear, even as we move more and more away from paper. Paper still gets used, people write stuff down, things get printed, and no solution completely ensures that that paper doesn’t end up in the wrong bin. I know from doing it. I found something useful in almost every engagement that we’ve done in the past, whether it was an administrative password, or contact information that I can use for phishing.

Recently, some researchers performed a trash inspection of some hospitals in Toronto. What they found didn’t surprise me. They found PII and PHI, a good bit of it.  A resident in Palolo Hawaii found these too. A nuclear security complex was found to be dumping trash that had classified documents in it. None of these were reported breaches, just there for the taking. Who knows if anyone malicious found them too?

Let’s keep working on the most prevalent topics of the day, such as phishing defense and training, but we can’t forget all of the things that were an issue in the past, because they’re still an issue now even if they’re not making the big headlines in the current moment.

That phone call you dread…

So, you’re a sysadmin, and you get a call from that friend and co-worker…we all know that our buddies don’t call the helpdesk, right?

This person sheepishly admits that they got an email that looked maybe a bit suspicious in hindsight, it had an attachment…and they clicked.

Yikes. Now what?

Well, since you’re an EXCELLENT sysadmin, and you work for the best company ever, you’ve done a few things to make sure you’re ready for this day…

  • The company has had a business impact analysis, so all of the relevant policies and procedures are in place.
  • Your backups are in place, offsite, and you know you can restore them with a modicum of effort – and because you’ve done baselines, you know how long it will take to restore.
  • Your team has been doing incident response tabletops, so all of the IR processes are documented and up-to-date. And you set it up to be a good time, so they were fully engaged in the process.

But now, one of your people has clicked…now what, indeed..

  • Pull. The. Plug. Disconnect that system. If it’s hard wired, yank the cord. If it’s on a wifi network, kick it off – take down the whole wifi network if feasible. The productivity that you’ll lose will be outweighed by the gains if you can stop lateral spread of the infection.
  • Pull any devices – external hard drives, USB sticks, etc.
  • DO NOT power the system off – not yet! If you need to do forensics, the live system memory will be important.

Now you can breathe, but just for a minute. This is the time to act with strategy as well as haste. Establish whether you’ve got a virus or ransomware infection, or if the ill-advised click was an attachment of another nature.

If it’s spam, but not malicious:

  • Check the email information in your email administration portal, and see if it was delivered to other users. Notify them as necessary.
  • Evaluate key features of the email – are there changes you should make to your blocking and filtering? Start that process.
  • Parse and evaluate the email headers for IPs and/or domains that should be blocked. See if there are indicators of other emails with these parameters that were blocked or delivered.
  • Add the scenario of this email to your user education program for future educational use.

If it’s a real infection, full forensics is beyond the scope of this blog post. But we’ll give a few pointers to get you started.

If it’s a virus, but not ransomware:

  • If the file that was delivered is still accessible, use VirusTotal and other sites to see if it’s known to be malicious. The hash can be checked, as well as the file itself.
  • Consider a full wipe of the affected system, as opposed to a virus removal – unless you’re 100% successful with removal, repeated infection is likely.
  • All drives or devices – network, USB, etc. – that were connected to the system should be suspect. Discard those you can, clean network drives or restore from backup.
  • Evaluate the end user account – did the attacker have time to elevate privileges? Check for any newly created accounts, as well.
  • Check system and firewall logs for traffic to and from the affected system, as well as any ancillary systems.

If it’s ransomware:

  • Determine what kind of ransomware you are dealing with.
  • Determine the scope of the infection – ancillary devices, network shares, etc.
  • Check to see if a decrypt tool is available – be aware these are not always successful.
  • Paying the ransom, or not, is a business decision – often the ransom payments are not successful, and the files remain encrypted. Address this in your IR plan, so the company policy is defined ahead of time.
  • Restore files from backup.
  • Strongly consider a full wipe of the system, even if the files are decrypted.
  • Evaluate the end user account – did the attacker have time to elevate privileges? Check for any newly created accounts, as well.
  • Check system and firewall logs for traffic to and from the affected system, as well as any ancillary systems.

In all cases, go back and map the attack vector. How did the suspect attachment get in, and how can you prevent it going forward?

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you – lwallace@microsolved.com, or @TheTokenFemale on Twitter!

You backed it up, right?

Yes, folks…we’re back to basics here. Anyone think we’d still be talking about this in 2018? We are…

Our recent incident response work has brought this to the front of my mind. Think for just a minute about a company who has a business vs. technology conflict. They want their backups to be QUICK! So they put their backups on a NAS. Network attached storage.

Key word there – attached. Now, let’s role play that they have been hit by ransomware. They can restore their backups quickly…and now they’ve lost their backups quickly as well. How catastrophic would this be for you?

There are several things to think about when it comes to your backup strategy. First, what do you need to protect against?

  • Natural disasters. Onsite backups are convenient, but not terribly convenient if your whole building burns down. Are you in an earthquake zone? Tornadoes? Hurricanes?What kind of catastrophic happenings could you experience, and how far away do your backups have to be to be protected?
  • Risk from external attackers. Going back to our ransomeware scenario above, what’s the balance between ease of restoring backups vs. protection from harm for your organization?
  • Risk from internal attackers. We all want to trust our sysadmins. What happens if one of them is disgruntled? What safeguards are in place to protect your backups from internal threats?
  • Testing your backups. Periodically perform testing of your backups, both inside and outside of an incident response tabletop. Make sure that your backed up data really IS backed up, and restores in the manner you’d expect. This is a good time to create some baselines on the restore process, as well – what’s your time to restoration if a crisis happens?
  • Hot vs. cold disaster recovery systems. How critical is downtime to your business? If hours means millions, you should have – or seriously consider – a “hot” disaster recovery site to minimize downtime as you pivot over.

Backups are routine, and boring…and when things go well, they should be this way. Prepare yourself for the day things do NOT go well, eh?

What do you think? I’d love to hear what I’ve forgotten – reach out to lwallace@microsolved.com or @TheTokenFemale on Twitter.

Micro Podcast – Office 365

With today’s social engineering threats, every company should be evaluating the configuration and security of their Office 365 presence.
Microsoft has provided many robust feature to secure their Office 365 technology.  Many of these features are not enabled by default or they are not enabled by default or they are not enabled with the optimal settings.
For this reason, we created a podcast about potential issues and remediation strategies for Office 365, enjoy!

MSI announces new online store “Small Bytes”

MSI is pleased to announce the opening of our new online Assessment Portal “Small Bytes”!

Small Bytes is an easy-to-use store where you can purchase a subset of MSI assessment product offerings. These are typically quick hit assessments, smaller in scope than our regular product offerings, which allows them to be completed in a relatively short time frame.

  • Targeted Threat Intelligence
  • AWS Configuration Security Audit
  • Office 365 Security Audit
  • Social Engineering – Phishing
  • External Network Vulnerability Assessments
  • Block of Security Engineer Consulting Hours

Small Bytes uses credit cards as a payment methodology and eliminates the need to generate P.O.’s or issue a check to pay invoices.

The only paperwork needed is a one page Customer Order Form (COF) that MSI will send for you to complete after your purchase. This helps to ensure the scope of your engagement and the quality of your results. Please use the link below to check it out!

https://smallbytes.microsolved.com

Thank you as always for choosing MSI to partner with when it comes to your security concerns.

MSI – When quality matters!