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.
- Quick and dirty Palo Alto log parsing
- Quick and dirty user and context monitoring in AD/Windows
- Making parsed logs into CSV
- Sorting examples in shell script
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.