About Brent Huston

I am the CEO of MicroSolved, Inc. and a security evangelist. I have spent the last 20+ years working to make the Internet safer for everyone on a global scale. I believe the Internet has the capability to contribute to the next great leap for mankind, and I want to help make that happen!

SonicWall SMA Urgent Issue

Please be aware that SonicWall has identified a significant issue in their SMA product line. 

Users should immediately review the following: https://us-cert.cisa.gov/ncas/current-activity/2021/02/02/zero-day-vulnerability-sonicwall-sma-100-series-version-10x

Please act accordingly, and if you need assistance, please get in touch with MSI for help

Beware of Increasing Attacker Automation

Attacker tools and workflows are getting more and more automated. They are able to quickly integrate a variety of attack techniques and targets to automate wider-scale compromises and exploitation. This increase in automated capabilities applies to all phases of the attacker methodologies.

For example, modern attacker and bot-net tools can integrate stolen credentials use (“credential stuffing”) into a wider variety of approaches. They can automate the work of the attackers when they find a successful login. They can also try those credentials against a wider set of targets, including various e-commerce and popular social media sites. Essentially, this makes exploitation of stolen credentials significantly easier for an attacker, and potentially, more damaging to the victims whose credentials have leaked.

Stolen credentials and the tools to use them are evolving rapidly, and a significant amount of innovation and evolution are expected in these tool sets over the next year to 18 months. Entire platforms given to user emulation and capable of doing en masse correlation of stolen user data across breach sets are what I expect to see in the next year or so. When these tools emerge, new economies of scale for online identity theft will quickly emerge, raising both awareness and criticality of the problem.

Folks at various security organizations, including Akamai, are also tracking the problem. (https://portswigger.net/daily-swig/behind-the-botnet-akamais-tony-lauro-on-tackling-real-world-credential-stuffing-attacks) Robust defenses against these automated platforms are going to be needed, and it will place significant stress on organizations who lack mature security programs with advanced visibility and analytics capabilities.

If you’d like some assistance preparing for these types of automated attacks or would like to discuss the potential impacts they may have on your organization, feel free to get in touch (https://microsolved.com/contact) or give us a call at 614-351-1237.

Preparing for the End of SMS Authentication

Over the last several years, wealth management/asset management firms have been integrating their systems with banking, trading and other financial platforms. One of the largest challenges wealth management firms face, from a technology standpoint, is managing multi-factor authentication when connecting to the accounts of their clients. In the coming year to eighteen months, this is likely to get even more challenging as SMS-based authentication is phased out. 

Today, many financial web sites, applications and phone apps require the use of SMS one-time security verification codes to be sent via text to the user. This usually happens once the user has entered their login and password to the system, after which it triggers the credential to be sent to their mobile phone number on record. The user then inputs this code into a form on the system and it is verified, and if correct, allows the user to proceed to access the application. This is called two factor authentication/multi-factor authentication (“MFA”) and is one of the most common mechanisms for performing this type of user authorization.

The problem with this mechanism for regulating sign ins to applications is that the method of sending the code is insecure. Attackers have a variety of means of intercepting SMS text messages and thus defeating this type of authentication. Just do some quick Google searches and you’ll find plenty of examples of this attack being successful. You’ll also find regulatory guidance about ending SMS authentication from a variety of sources like NIST and various financial regulators around the world. 

The likely successor to SMS text message authentication is the authenticator app on user mobile devices and smartphones. These authenticator apps reside in encrypted storage on the user’s phone and when prompted, provide a one-time password (“OTP”) just like the code sent in the text message. The difference is, through a variety of cryptographic techniques, once the application is setup and  the settings configured, it doesn’t need to communicate with the financial platform, and thus is significantly more difficult for attackers to compromise. Indeed, they must actually have the user’s device, or at the very least, access to the data that resides on it. This greatly reduces the risk of interception and mis-use of the codes in question, and increases the security of the user’s account with the financial institution.

This presents a significant problem, and opportunity, for wealth management firms. Transitioning their business processes from integrating with SMS-based authentication to authenticator apps can be a challenge on the technical level. Updates to the user interaction processes, for those firms that handle it manually, usually by calling the user and asking for the code, are also going to be needed. It is especially important, for these manual interactions, that some passphrase or the like is used, as banks, trading platforms and other financial institutions will be training their users to NEVER provide an authenticator app secret to anyone over the phone. Attackers leveraging social engineering are going to be the most prevalent form of danger to this authentication model, so wealth management firms must create controls to help assure their clients that they are who they say they are and train them to resist attackers pretending to be the wealth management firm. 

Technical and manual implementations of this form of authentication will prove to be an ongoing challenge for wealth management firms. We are already working with a variety of our clients, helping them update their processes, policies and controls for these changes. If your organization has been traditionally using SMS message authentication with your own clients, there is even more impetus to get moving on changes to your own processes. 

Let us know if we can be of service. You can reach out and have a no stress, no hassle discussion with our team by completing this web form. You can also give us a call anytime at 614-351-1237. We’d love to help! 

Getting ROI with ClawBack, our Data Leak Detection Platform

So, by now, you have likely heard about MicroSolved’s ClawBack™ data leakage detection engine. We launched it back in October of 2019, and it has been very successful among many of our clients that have in-house development teams. They are using it heavily to identify leaks of source code that could expose their intellectual property or cause a data breach at the application level.

While source code leaks remain a signficant concern, it is really only the beginning of how to take advantage of ClawBack. I’m going to discuss a few additional ways to get extreme return on investment with ClawBack’s capabilities, even if you don’t have in-house developers.

One of the most valuable solutions that you can create with ClawBack is to identify leaked credentials (user names and passwords). Hackers and cyber-criminals love to use stolen passwords for credential-stuffing attacks. ClawBack can give you a heads up when stolen credentials show up on the common pastebin sites or get leaked inadvertantly through a variety of common ways. Knowing about stolen credentials makes sense and gives you a chance to change them before they can be used against you. 

We’ve also talked a lot about sensitive data contained in device configurations. Many potentially sensitive details are often in configuration files that end up getting posted in support forums, as parts of resumes or even in GITHub repositories. A variety of identifiable information is often found in these files and evidence suggests that attackers, hackers and cybercriminals have developed several techniques for exploiting them. Our data leak detection platform specializes in hunting down these leaks, which are often missed by most traditional data loss prevention/data leakage prevention (DLP)/data protection tools. With ClawBack watching for configurations exposures, you’ve got a great return on investment.

But, what about other types of data theft? Many clients have gotten clever with adding watermarks, unique identity theft controls, specific security measures and honing in on techniques to watch for leaked API keys (especially by customers and business partners). These techniques have had high payoffs in finding compromised data and other exposures, often in near real time. Clients use this information to declare security incidents, issue take down orders for data leaks and prevent social engineering attackers from making use of leaked data. It often becomes a key part of their intrusion detection and threat intelligence processes, and can be a key differentiator in being able to track down and avoid suspicious activity.

ClawBack is a powerful SaaS Platform to help organizations reduce data leaks, minimize reputational risk, discover unusual and often unintentional insider threats and help prevent unauthorized access stemming from exposed data. To learn more about it, check out https://microsolved.com/clawback today.

Saved By Ransomware Presentation Now Available

I recently spoke at ISSA Charlotte, and had a great crowd via Zoom. 

Here is the presentation deck and MP3 of the event. In it, I shared a story about an incident I worked around the start of Covid, where a client was literally saved from significant data breach and lateral spread from a simple compromise. What saved them, you might ask? Ransomware. 

That’s right. In this case, ransomware rescued the customer organization from significant damage and a potential loss of human life. 

Check out the story. I think you’ll find it very interesting. 

Let me know if you have questions – hit me up the social networks as @lbhuston.

Thanks for reading and listening! 

Deck: https://media.microsolved.com/SavedByRansomware.pdf

MP3: https://media.microsolved.com/SavedByRansomware.mp3

PS – I miss telling you folks stories, in person, so I hope you enjoy this virtual format as much as I did creating it! 

Example of Pole Mounted Device Threats Visualized

As a part of our threat modeling work, which we do sometimes as a stand-alone activity or as part of an deeper assessment, we often build simple mind maps of the high level threats we identify. Here is an example of a very simple diagram we did recently while working on a threat model for pole mounted environments (PME’s) for a utility client. 

This is only part of the work plan, but I am putting it forward as a sort of guideline to help folks understand our process. In most cases, we continually expand on the diagram throughout the engagement, often adding links to photos or videos of the testing and results. 

We find this a useful way to convey much of the engagement details with clients as we progress. 

Does your current assessment or threat modeling use visual tools like this? If not, why not? If so, drop me a line on Twitter (@lbhuston) and tell me about it. 

Thanks for reading! 

Pole Mounted Environment Threats

Getting Started with HoneyPoint Special

Now through November 1st, 2020 – I am proud to announce a new special for HoneyPoint Security Server.

We are running a “Getting Started with HoneyPoint” promotion. If you’ve ever thought of deploying internal honey pots, but thought that it would take a huge budget to get a real enterprise product deployed, this special is for you! 

Now through November 1st, 2020, you can buy 5 HoneyPoint Agents (either stand-alone software, or our decoy host virtual machine (or Raspberry Pi if you bring your own hardware)) and get a 20% discount on your first year. As always, we’ll include the Console, email/phone support and upgrades/fixes for one year for all deployments. The first year cost is $4,000 (a 20% discount). After that, the price returns to the normal $1,000 per sensor, per year as is the current pricing for the platform. 

This will get you five deployed honeypots, reporting to a centralized Console and capable of passing events into SEIM solutions or other logging platforms. You also get all of the ability for HoneyPoint to securely emulate thousands of services, capture UDP transactions, perform all of our deception capabilities and even our patented autonomous defensive fuzzing self defense. Read all about it on the website, or by searching for more information on StateOfSecurity.

Of course, you can add on other HoneyPoint components as well, such as Wasp, AirWasp, Bees, Trojans, etc. Additional charges apply.

To learn more or discuss this special offer, you can get in touch with us via this web form, or by calling (614) 351-1237.

3 Steps To Increase Cyber Security At Your Dealership

Car dealerships and automotive groups are juicy targets for cybercriminals with their wealth of identity and financial information. Cyber security in many dealerships is lax, and many don’t even have full time IT teams, with even fewer having cybersecurity risk management skills in house. While this is changing, for the better, as dealerships become more data-centric and more automated, many are moving to become more proactive against cybersecurity threats. 

In addition to organized criminals seeking to capture and sell personal information,  global threats stemming from phishing, malware, ransomware and social engineering also plague dealerships. Phishing and ransomware are among the leading causes of financial losses tied to cybersecurity in the dealership space. Even as the federal regulators refine their focus on dealerships as financial institutions, more and more attackers have shifted some of their attention in the automotive sales direction.

Additionally, a short walk through social media doesn’t require much effort to identify dealerships as a common target for consumer anger, frustration and threats. Some of the anger shown toward car dealerships has proven to turn into physical security concerns, while it is almost assured that some of the industry’s network breaches and data breaches can also be tied back to this form of “hacktivism”. In fact, spend some time on Twitter or chat rooms, and you can find conversations and a variety of information of hacking dealership wireless networks and WiFi cameras. These types of cybersecurity incidents are proving to be more and more popular. 

With all of this cybersecurity attention to dealerships, are there any quick wins to be had? We asked our MSI team and the folks we work with at the SecureDrive Alliance that very question. Here’s the best 3 tips they could put forth:

1) Perform a yearly cybersecurity risk assessment – this should be a comprehensive view of your network architecture, security posture, defenses, detection tools, incident response plans and disaster recovery/business continuity plan capabilities. It should include a complete inventory of all PII and threats that your dealership faces. Usually this is combined with penetration testing and vulnerability assessment of your information systems to measure network security and computer security, as well as address issues with applications and social engineering. 

2) Ensure that all customer wireless networks and physical security systems are logically and physically segmented from operations networks – all networks should be hardened in accordance with information security best practices and separated from the networks used for normal operations, especially finance and other PII related processes. Network traffic from the customer wireless networks should only be allowed to traverse the firewall to the Internet, and may even have its own Internet connection such as a cable modem or the like. Cameras and physical security systems should be hardened against attacks and all common credentials and default passwords should be changed. Software updates for all systems should be applied on a regular basis.

3) Train your staff to recognize phishing, eliminate password re-use among systems and applications and reportcybersecurity attacks to the proper team members – your staff is your single best means of detecting cyber threats. The more you train them to identify and resist dangerous behaviors, the stronger your cybersecurity maturity will be. Training staff members to recognize, handle, report and resist cyber risks is one of the strongest value propositions in information security today. The more your team members know about your dealership’s security protocols, service providers and threats, the more effective they can be at protecting the company and themselves. Buidling a training resource center, and setting up a single point of contact for reporting issues, along with sending out email blasts about the latest threats are all great ways to keep your team on top of the issues.

There you have it, three quick and easy wins to help your dealership do the due diligence of keeping things cyber secure. These three basic steps will go a long way to protecting the business, meeting the requirements of your regulatory authority and reduce the chances of substantial harm from cyber attacks. As always, remaining vigilant and attentive can turn the tide. 

If you need any assistance with cybersecurity, risk management, penetration testing or training, MicroSolved and the SecureDrive Alliance are here to help. No matter if you’re a small business or a large auto group, our risk management and information security processes based on the cybersecurity framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will get you on the road to effective data security. Simply contact MSI via this web form, or the SecureDrive Alliance via our site, and we will be happy to have a no cost, no hassle discussion to see how we can assist you.  

All About Credit Union Credential Stuffing Attacks

Credential stuffing attacks continue to be a grave concern for all organizations worldwide. However, for many Credit Unions and other financial institutions, they represent one of the most significant threats. They are a common cause of data breaches and are involved in some 76% of all security incidents. On average, our honey nets pretending to be Credit Union and other financial services experience targeted credential stuffing attacks several times per week. 

What Is Credential Stuffing?

“Credential stuffing occurs when hackers use stolen information, such as usernames and passwords from database breaches or phishing software from one account, and attempt to gain access to another. The hackers prey on people’s habit of using the same usernames and passwords for multiple sites. Using automated tools, they run large amounts of stolen information across multiple sites looking to find the same usernames and passwords being used elsewhere. Once they find a match, they can monetize the personal and financial information they gather.” (ardentcu.org)

How Common is Credential Stuffing?

Beyond our honey nets, which are completely fake environments used to study attackers, credential stuffing and the damage it causes is quite starteling. Here are some quick facts:

  • It is estimated that automated credential-stuffing attempts makes up 90% of enterprise login traffic in the US. (securityboulevard.com)
  • It’s estimated that credential stuffing costs companies more than $5 billion a year and creates havoc with consumers. (ardentcu.org)

  • According to Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report on credential stuffing, its customers alone were deluged by 30 billion malicious login attempts between November 2017 and June this year, an average of 3.75 billion per month. (theregister.com)

  • Significant credential stuffing attacks are a favorite of professional hacking groups from Russia, India, Asia and Africa. They often gather extensive lists of stolen and leaked credentials through advanced Google hacking techniques, by combing social media for password dumps (so called “credential spills”) and by purchasing lists of exposed credentials from other criminals on the dark web. Lists of member information from compromised online banking, online retailers and business association sites are common. This information often includes names, addresses, bank account numbers/credit card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers and other sensitive data – enabling credential stuffing and social engineering attacks against victims around the world.

What Can Credit Unions Do About Credential Stuffing?

The key to handling this threat is to be able to prevent, or at the very least, identify illicit login attempts and automate actions in response to failed logins. Cybercriminals use a variety of tools, rented botnets (including specifically built credential stuffing bots) and brute force attacks to pick off less than strong passwords all around the Internet. Then, as we discussed above, they use that stolen information to probe your credit union for the same login credentials. 

The first, and easiest step, in reducing these cybercriminals’ success rate is to teach all of your legitimate users not to use the same password across multiple systems, and NEVER use passwords from public sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter for example, as account credentials at work or on other important sites. Instead, suggest that they use a password manager application to make it simple to have different passwords for every site. Not only does this help make their passwords stronger, but it can even reduce support costs by reducing password reset requests. Ongoing security awareness is the key to helping them understand this issue and the significance their password choices have on the security of their own personal information and that of the company.

Next, the Credit Union should have a complete inventory of every remote login service, across their Internet presence. Every web application, email service, VPN or remote access portal and every single place that a cybercriminal could try or use their stolen credentials to gain an account takeover. Once, the Credit Union knows where login credentials can be used, they should go about preventing abuse and cyberattacks against those attack surfaces. 

The key to prevention should start with eliminating any Internet login capability that is not required. It should then progress to reducing the scope of each login surface by restricting the source IP addresses that can access that service, if possible. Often Credit Unions are able to restrict this access down to specific countries or geographic areas. While this is not an absolute defense, it does help to reduce the impacts of brute force attacks and botnet scans on the login surfaces. 

The single best control for any authentication mechanism, however, is multi factor authentication (MFA) (basically a form of secure access code provided to the user). Wheverever possible, this control should be used. While multi factor authentication can be difficult to implement on some services, it is widely available and a variety of products exist to support nearly every application and platform. Financial services should already be aware of MFA, since it has been widely regulated by FFIEC, NCUA and FDIC guidance for some time.

More and more, however, credential stuffing is being used against web mail, Office 365 and other email systems. This has become so common, that a subset of data breaches called Business Email Compromise now exists and is tracked separately by law enforcement. This form of unauthorized access has been wildly popular across the world and especially against the financial services of the United States. Compromised email addresses and the resulting wire transfer fraud and ACH fraud that stems from this form of credential theft/identity theft are among some of the highest financial impacts today. Additionally, they commonly lead to malware spread and ransomware infections, if the attacker can’t find a way to steal money or has already managed to do so.

No matter what login mechanism is being abused, even when MFA is in place, logging of both legitimate access and unauthorized access attempts is needed. In the event that a security breach does occur, this data is nearly invaluable to the forensics and investigation processes. Do keep in mind, that many default configurations of web services and cloud-based environments (like Office 365) have much of this logging disabled by default. 

While Credit Unions remain prime targets, having good prevention and detection are a key part of strong risk management against credential stuffing. Practicing incident response skills and business recovery via tabletop exercises and the like also go a long way to stengthening your security team’s capabilities.

How Can MicroSolved Help?

Our team (the oldest security firm in the midwest) has extensive experience with a variety of risk management and security controls, including helping Credit Unions inventory their attack surfaces, identify the best multi factor authentication system for their environment, create policies and processes for ensuring safe operations and performing assessments, configuration audits of devices/applications/cloud environments. 

We also scope and run custom tabletop exercises and help Credit Unions build better information security programs. Our team has extensive experience with business email compromise, wire/ACH/credit card fraud prevention, cybercriminal tactics and incident response, in the event that you discover that credential theft has occurred. 

Lastly, our ClawBack data leak detection platform, can help you watch for leaked credentials, find source code and scripts that might contain reuseable account credentials and even hunt down device configurations that can expose the entire network to easy compromise. 

You can learn more about all of our services, and our 28 years of information security thought leadership here.

Lastly, just reach out to us and get in touch here. We’d love to talk with your Credit Union and help you with any and all of these controls for protecting against credential stuffing attacks or any other cybersecurity issue.

3 Quick Thoughts for Small Utilities and Co-Ops

Recently I was asked to help some very small utilities and co-ops come up with some low cost/free ideas around detection. The group was very nice about explaining their issues, and here is a quick summary of some of the ideas we discussed.

1) Dump external router, firewall, AD and any remote access logs weekly to text and use simple parsers in python/perl or shell script to identify any high risk issues. Sure, this isn’t the same as having robust log monitoring tools (which none of these folks had), but even if you detect something really awful a week after it happens, you will still be ahead of the average curve of attackers having access for a month or more. You can build your scripts using some basis analytics, they will get better over time, and here are some ideas to get you started. You don’t need a lot of money to quickly handle dumped logs. Do the basics and improve.

2) Take advantage of cheap hardware, like the Raspberry Pi for easy to learn/use Linux boxes for scripting, log parsing or setting up cron jobs to automate tasks. For less than 50 bucks, you can have a powerful machine to do a lot of work for you and serve as a monitoring platform for a variety of tools. The group was all tied up in getting budget to buy server and workstation hardware – but had never taken the Pi seriously as a work platform. It’s mature enough to do a lot of non-mission critical (and some very important) work. It’s fantastic if you’re looking for a quick and dirty way to gain some Linux capabilities in confined Windows world.

3) One of the best bang for the buck services we have at MSI is device configuration reviews. For significantly less money than a penetration test, we can review your external routers, firewall and VPN for configuration issues, improper rules/ACLs and insecure settings. If you combine this with an exercise like attack surface mapping and threat modeling, you can get a significant amount of insight without resorting to (and paying for) vulnerability assessments and penetration testing. Sure, the data might not be as granular, and we still have to do some level of port scanning and service ID, but we have a variety of safe ways to do that work – and you get some great information. You can then make risk-based decisions about the data and decide what you want to act on and pay attention to. If your budget is tight – get in touch and discuss this approach with us.

I love to talk with utilities and especially smaller organizations that want to do the right thing, but might face budget constraints. If they’re willing to have an open, honest conversation, I am more than willing to get creative and engage to help them solve problems within their needs. We’d rather get creative and solve an issue to protect the infrastructure than have them get compromised by threat actors looking to do harm.

If you want to discuss this or any security or risk management issue, get in touch here.