ClawBack Insights :: A Conversation with MicroSolved, CEO, Brent Huston

I recently got interviewed over email by one of my mentees. I thought their questions were pretty interesting and worth sharing with the community. This session focused on ClawBack™ and was done for a college media class assignment. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did giving it. 

Q: What is ClawBack?

ClawBack is a platform for helping organizations detect data leaks. It’s a cloud-based engine focused on three specific kinds of leaked data – source code, device and application configurations and credentials. It systematizes many of the manual efforts which mature organizations had been doing either partially, or in an ad hoc fashion, and makes them ongoing, dependable and available to organizations of any size and technical capability.

The engine lets the customer pick monitoring terms, and yes, we have a very nice guide available in the online help to guide them. Once the terms are chosen, the engine goes to work and begins to scour the sites most commonly associated with these types of leaks. At first, it does historical searches to catch the client up to the moment, and then, periodically, it provides ongoing searching for signs of leaked data.

Once a leaked dataset is found, the user is alerted and can view the findings in the web portal. They can take immediate action from the takedown advice we provide in online help, or they can choose to archive the alert or mark it as a false positive to be ignored in the future. Email alerts, team accounts and alert exports for SEIM/SOAR integration are also available to customers at the advanced levels.

Basically, ClawBack is a tool to help developers find code that accidentally slipped to the Internet, network admins and security teams find configurations and credentials that have escaped into the wild. We wanted to make this easy, and raise the maturity level of data leak detection for all organizations. We think we hit the mark with ClawBack, and we hope you do too.

Q: Why did your team create ClawBack and why now?

This is a great question! For many years now, we have been working a variety of security incidents that all tie back to attackers exploiting leaked data. They routinely comb the Internet looking in these common repositories and posting locations for code, configs and credentials. Once they find them, they are pretty quick to take advantage.

Take for example, a leaked device configuration from a router. The global paste bins, code repositories and forums are full of these kinds of leaks. In many cases, these leaked files contain not just the insights the attacker can gain from the configuration, but often, logins and passwords that they can use to compromise the device. Many also give up cryptographic secrets, network management credentials and other significantly dangerous information. The attackers just harvest it, use it and then spread into other parts of the network – stealing as they go.

At MSI, we just got tired of seeing organizations compromised the same way, over and over again. Time after time, the clients would say they had no idea the data had been exposed. Some had ad hoc processes they ran to search for them, and others had tools that just weren’t getting the job done. We knew we had to make something that could help everyone solve this problem and it had to be easy to use, flexible and affordable. Nothing like that was on the market, so we built it instead.

Q: How does ClawBack address the issues of leaked critical data?

As you read above, we wanted to focus on the things that hurt the most – leaked code, configs and credentials. These three types of leaks are at the core of more than 90% of the leak-related incidents we’ve worked over the last several years. We didn’t try to solve every problem with this new tool – or make it a swiss army knife. We focused only on those 3 kinds of leaks.

Today, ClawBack monitors the most common sites where these leaks often occur. It monitors many of the global pastebins associated with leaks, forums and support sites where folks often accidentally expose data while getting or giving help and work repositories where many of these items often end up from inadvertent user errors or via misconfigured tools.

ClawBack provides the dependable process and ongoing vigilance that the most mature firms have access to – and it brings that capability to everyone for less than a fancy cup of coffee a day.

Q: How is it different than DLP solutions?

For starters, there’s no hardware, software or agents to deploy and manage. The cloud-based platform is so simple to use that most customers are up and monitoring in less than 5 minutes. You simply register, select your subscription, input monitoring terms and ClawBack is off and running. It’s literally that easy!

Now, DLP is a great tool. When it’s properly configured and managed, it’s very capable. Most of our ClawBack clients have DLP solutions of some sort in place. The problem is, most of these data leaks occur in ways that render the DLP unable to assist. In most cases, the data leaks in the incidents we have worked have occurred outside of the corporate network that the DLP is monitoring. When we traced back the root of the incident, most of them came from workers who were not using the corporate network when they made their grave mistake.

Additionally, of those that did use the corporate network, often the DLP was either misconfigured, the alert was missed or the transaction was protected by cryptography that circumvented the DLP solution. A few of the incidents came from users who routinely handle code and configuration files, so the anomaly-based DLP tools assumed the leak was normal, usual traffic.

Sadly, the last group of incidents that had DLP in place went undetected, simply because the DLP solution was configured to meet some regulatory baseline like HIPAA, PCI or the like and was only searching for leaked PII that matched those specific kinds of patterns. In those cases, source code, configurations and even dumped credentials were far outside of the protection provided by the DLP.

ClawBack takes a different approach. It lets users know when this type of data turns up and lets them respond. It’s easy, plain language monitoring term management makes it trivial to define proper terms to tackle the 3 critical types of leaks. We provide a very detailed set of suggested terms for customers in our online help, which most folks master in moments.

Q: If an organization doesn’t have any in-house development or code, what can ClawBack do for them? Same question for organizations that outsource their device management – how can they get help from ClawBack?

Organizations that don’t do any development or have any source code are few and far between, but they still gain immense capability from ClawBack. Nearly every organization has device and application configurations and credentials that they need to monitor for exposure. Even if you outsource network management, you should still use ClawBack as a sanity check to watch for data leaks. We’ve seen significant numbers of leak-related security breaches from networks managed by third parties.

Requesting the key device configurations from your vendor and inputting identifying data into ClawBack is easy and makes sure that those configurations don’t end up somewhere they shouldn’t – causing you pain. Identifying unique account names and such, and using those as ClawBack monitoring terms can give you early warning when attackers dump credentials, hashes or other secrets that could cause you harm. Being able to change those passwords, kill accounts, increase monitoring and claw back those files through takedown efforts can mean the difference between a simple security incident and a complete data breach with full legal, regulatory and reputational impacts.

Q: Several people have said you are leaving money on the table with your pricing model – why is the pricing so affordable?

The main reason that the product costs under $200 per month at the highest level, currently, is that I wanted not-for-profit firms to be able to afford to protect themselves. Credit unions, charities, co-op utilities and the like have been huge supporters of MicroSolved for the last 30 years, and I wanted to build a solution that didn’t leave them out – simply because they have limited funds. Sure, we could charge larger fees and only target the Fortune 500 or the like, and make a lot of money doing it. The problem is, the security incidents we built this to help eliminate happen to small, mid-size and less than Fortune 500 companies too and there are a LOT MORE of those firms than 500. They need help, and they need to be able to afford the help they require.

Secondly, we were able to get to such an affordable price point by really focusing on the specific problem. We didn’t build a bunch of unneeded features or spend years coding capabilities to address other security problems. ClawBack detects leaks of critical data. That’s it. It provides basic alerting and reporting. We based the monitoring technology off our existing machine learning platform and re-used much of the know how we have developing past products and services like TigerTrax™ and SilentTiger™. What saves us money and resources, saves our clients money and resources.

Lastly, at MSI, we believe in making more value than we harvest. We want to provide significant levels of value to our clients that way over scales what they pay for it. We can do that using technology, our expertise and by building solutions that focus on significant problems that many feel are untenable. We’ve been doing it for almost 30 years now, so we must be getting something right…

Q: What’s next for ClawBack? Is there a road map?

We are talking about adding some forms of risk determination to the findings. We are currently in discussion with clients and experts about how best to do that and communicate it. We are discussing using some additional machine learning techniques that we developed for our social media monitoring and threat intelligence platforms. That’s the next step for us, that we can see.

We’re also looking at user feedback and curating what folks are asking about and thinking about when using the product. That feedback is being ranked and added to the road map as we create it. We’ve got some ideas of where we want to go with ClawBack, but honestly, the tool addresses the problem we built it to help with. That’s the core mission, and anything outside of that is likely to fall out of the mix.

Q: You have a history of designing interesting products – what is on the horizon or what are you playing with in the lab these days?

I wish I could tell you about the things we are playing with, because it is fascinating. We are exploring a lot of new capabilities in TigerTrax with different machine learning models and predictive techniques. We’re working on updates to HoneyPoint™ and SilentTiger that will bring some very cool new features to those capabilities.

We’re also continuing to gather, analyze and deliver specific types of threat intelligence and data analytics of hostile data sets. We’re studying adversarial use of machine learning techniques, attacks against different AI, IoT and cloud platforms and we’re diving deep into cyber-economics and other factors related to breaches. I’m also working on a pretty interesting project with some of my mentees, where we are studying the evolution, use and capability growth of various phishing kits in use today. The mentees are learning a lot and I’m getting to apply significant amounts of machine learning techniques to new data and in new ways that I haven’t explored before. All in all, pretty cool stuff!

I’ll let you know what we come up with. Thanks for interviewing me, and thanks to the readers for checking this out. Give me a shout out on Twitter – @lbhuston and let me know if you have questions or feedback on ClawBack. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Petya/PetyaWrap Threat Info

As we speak, there is a global ransomware outbreak spreading. The infosec community is working together, in the open, on Twitter and mailing lists sharing information with each other and the world about the threat. 

The infector is called “Petya”/“PetyaWrap” and it appears to use psexec to execute the EternalBlue exploits from the NSA.

The current infector has the following list of target file extensions in the current (as of an hour ago) release. https://twitter.com/bry_campbell/status/879702644394270720/photo/1

Those with robust networks will likely find containment a usual activity, while those who haven’t implement defense in depth and a holistic enclaving strategy are likely in trouble.

Here are the exploits it is using: CVE-2017-0199 and MS17-010, so make sure you have these patched on all systems. Make sure you find anything that is outside the usual patch cycle, like HVAC, elevators, network cameras, ATMs, IoT devices, printers and copiers, ICS components, etc. Note that this a combination of a client-side attack and a network attack, so likely very capable of spreading to internal systems… Client side likely to yield access to internals pretty easily.

May only be affecting the MBR, so check that to see if it is true for you. Some chatter about multiple variants. If you can open a command prompt, bootrec may help. Booting from a CD/USB or using a drive rescue tool may be of use. Restore/rebuild the MBR seems to be successful for some victims. >>  “bootrec /RebuildBcd bootrec /fixMbr bootrec /fixboot” (untested)

New Petrwrap/Petya ransomware has a fake Microsoft digital signature appended. Copied from Sysinternals Utils. – https://t.co/JooBu8lb9e

Lastline indicated this hash as an IOC: 027cc450ef5f8c5f653329641ec1fed91f694e0d229928963b30f6b0d7d3a745 – They also found these activities: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DDVj-llVYAAHqk4.jpg

Eternal Blue detection rules are firing in several detection products, ET Rules firing on that Petya 71b6a493388e7d0b40c83ce903bc6b04  (drops 7e37ab34ecdcc3e77e24522ddfd4852d ) – https://twitter.com/kafeine/status/879711519038210048

Make sure Office updates are applied, in addition to OS updates for Windows. <<Office updates needed to be immune to CVE-2017-0199.

Now is a great time to ensure you have backups that work for critical systems and that your restore processes are functional.

Chatter about wide scale spread to POS systems across europe. Many industries impacted so far.

Bitdefender initial analysis – https://labs.bitdefender.com/2017/06/massive-goldeneye-ransomware-campaign-slams-worldwide-users/?utm_source=SMGlobal&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_campaign=labs

Stay safe out there! 

 

3:48pm Eastern

Update: Lots of great info on detection, response, spread and prevention can be found here: https://securelist.com/schroedingers-petya/78870/

Also, this is the last update to this post unless something significant changes. Follow me on Twitter for more info: @lbhuston 

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! 

From Dark Net Research to Real World Safety Issue

On a recent engagement by the MSI Intelligence team, our client had us researching the dark net to discover threats against their global brands. This is a normal and methodology-driven process for the team and the TigerTrax™ platform has been optimized for this work for several years.

We’ve seen plenty of physical threats against clients before. In particular, our threat intelligence and brand monitoring services for professional sports teams have identified several significant threats of violence in the last few years. Unfortunately, this is much more common for high visibility brands and organizations than you might otherwise assume.

In this particular instance, conversations were flagged by TigerTrax from underground forums that were discussing physical attacks against the particular brand. The descriptions were detailed, politically motivated and threatened harm to employees and potentially the public. We immediately reported the issue and provided the captured data to the client. The client reviewed the conversations and correlated them with other physical security occurrences that had been reported by their employees. In today’s world, such threats require vigilant attention and a rapid response.

In this case, the client was able to turn our identified data into insights by using it to gain context from their internal security issue reporting system. From those insights, they were able to quickly launch an awareness campaign for their employees in the areas identified, report the issue to localized law enforcement and invest in additional fire and safety controls for their locations. We may never know if these efforts were truly effective, but if they prevented even a single occurrence of violence or saved a single human life, then that is a strong victory.

Security is often about working against things so that they don’t happen – making it abstract, sometimes frustrating and difficult to explain to some audiences. But, when you can act on binary data as intelligence and use it to prevent violence in the kinetic world, that is the highest of security goals! That is the reason we built TigerTrax and offer the types of intelligence services we do to mature organizations. We believe that insights like these can make a difference and we are proud to help our clients achieve them.

Attention to Privacy Issues Growing

From the board room to main street, digital privacy is becoming more and more of a hot topic.

Organizations have been asking us to discuss it with steering committees and boards. Our intelligence team has been performing privacy-related recon and other testing engagements for the last several years. More and more of our security engagements are starting to include elements of privacy concerns from organizations and individuals alike.

In the mainstream media, you have articles being pushed heavily like this – which discusses supposedly stolen NSA technology for monitoring, to discussions of personal privacy from the likes of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

As such, security teams should take the time to verse themselves in the privacy debate. It is likely that management and boards will be asking in the near future, if they aren’t already, for advice on the topic. This is a fantastic opportunity for security teams to engage in meaningful discussions with organizational leaders about a security-related topic on both a professional and personal scale. It might even be worth putting together a presentation, preemptively, and delivering it to the upper management and line managers around your company.

With so much attention to privacy these days, it’s a great chance to engage with people, teach basic infosec practices and have deep discussions about the changing digital world. That’s what your security team has been asking for, right? Now’s the time… 🙂 

Tips on Reducing Human Error Risks

One of the largest risks that organizations face is human error. The outcome of human errors show themselves in security, architecture, business operations, IT & non-IT projects, etc. The list goes on and on. You can read more about the impacts of human error on infosec here and here.

It’s important to understand some of the reasons why these errors occur, especially when critical projects or changes are being considered.

Some of the high level things to think about:

  • Physical fatigue – this is likely the leading cause of human errors, workers may not be getting enough sleep or downtime, especially during critical projects when stress and demands may be high, not to speak of their personal lives – organizations should allow for key resources to have adequate downtime to reduce errors during critical projects
  • Decision fatigue – the more decisions that someone has to make, the worse their decisions get over time – just like physical fatigue, preserving their decision making capability should be a consideration during critical projects for key resources
  • Lack of time on task – in many organizations, critical project key personnel are often called to meeting after meeting to discuss, plan or execute parts of the project – when this minimizes their time on task to perform the research, work or development for the project then quality suffers – at the very least, it may aggravate the other problems of fatigue; organizations should focus key resources on time on task to up the quality of their work during critical projects
  • Lack of peer review – peer review is an essential control for human error, since it can catch such usual conditions as typos, missing words, simple mistakes in logic, etc. Critical projects should always include several layers of peer review to ensure higher quality of the process or outcome
  • Lack of preparation for failure – many critical projects suffer from this form of error as many people assume that their plans will be successful, but failure occurs often, and the more complex the systems or plans, the more likely it is to occur – have a contingency plan to prevent emotional decisions which can deeply impact quality and successful outcomes

There are many other issues around human error in critical projects and even more in day to day operations. But, these seem to be the most prevalent and immediate issues we see around critical projects with clients in the last few years. 

How does your team manage human errors? What controls have you implemented? Share with us on Twitter (@microsolved, @lbhuston) and we may write about it in future posts. As always, thanks for reading! 

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. 

Patch for MS15-034 RIGHT NOW!

If you have exposed IIS servers or internal ones as well, pay attention to MS15-034.

Accelerate this patch to immediate. Don’t wait for patching windows, SLAs or maintenance periods. Test the patch, sure, but get it applied ASAP.

This is a remotely executable vulnerability without authentication. It affects a wide range of Windows systems. It offers trivial denial of service exploitation and the bad guys are hard at work building click and drool tools for remote code execution. The clock is ticking, so please, accelerate this patch if possible.

For any additional information or assistance, please contact your account executive or drop us a line via info@microsolved.com.

Thanks and stay safe out there! 

Lots of PHP Web Shells Still Circulating

Many PHP-based web shells are still making the rounds, and while many of them are based on old code, mutations, customizations and updates abound. They are so common, that new variants and modified versions are often seen at the rate of about 10 a day in our TigerTrax Threat Intelligence systems and honeypots.

Variants exist for a wide variety of platforms and human languages, many with some very nasty features and even some cool ASCII art. There are many variants for attackers to choose from for just about any of the popular PHP-based content management platforms. From WordPress to Joomla and beyond to the far less common apps, there are easily used exploits and shell kits widely available.

If you run a PHP-based site or server, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the file system changes and watch closely for new files being uploaded or added. Pay particular attention to those using the “base64_decode” function, since it is so common among these tools.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe out there! 

Malware Can Hide in a LOT of Places

This article about research showing how malware could be hidden in Blu-Ray disks should serve as a reminder to us all that a lot of those “smart” and “Internet-enabled” devices we are buying can also be a risk to our information. In the past, malware has used digital picture frames, vendor disks & CD’s, USB keys, smart “dongles” and a wide variety of other things that can plug into a computer or network as a transmission medium.

As the so called, Internet of Things (IoT), continues to grow in both substance and hype, more and more of these devices will be prevalent across homes and businesses everywhere. In a recent neighbor visit, I enumerated (with permission), more than 30 different computers, phones, tablets, smart TV’s and other miscellaneous devices on their home network. This family of 5 has smart radios, smart TVs and even a Wifi-connected set of toys that their kids play with. That’s a LOT of places for malware to hide…

I hope all of us can take a few minutes and just give that some thought. I am sure few of us really have a plan that includes such objects. Most families are lucky if they have a firewall and AV on all of their systems. Let alone a plan for “smart devices” and other network gook.

How will you handle this? What plans are you making? Ping us on Twitter (@lbhuston or @microsolved) and let us know your thoughts.