Using Modern Threat Hunting for a More Effective Investigation of Cyber Threats

| August 16, 2018

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Until recently, most security operations centers (SOC) were dependent on their analysts’ skill level and relied on manual steps to detect the cyber threats to their organization. This typically required examining known indicators of compromise (IOC)—one painful threat at a time. When a suspicious behavior was discovered, analysts relied on advanced skills such as sophisticated querying to find the threat, then had to stitch together all the relevant events to understand the context and patterns in order to build a timeline of what occurred.

Spotlight

Consumer Cellular, Inc.

Consumer Cellular is proud to be endorsed by AARP and is a top-rated carrier that provides no-contract cellphones and service plans. Founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have affordable access to the safety and convenience of cellular service, Consumer Cellular is privately held with more than 800 employees. The Portland, Ore.-based company utilizes the nation’s largest voice and data network, covering more than 296 million people – or 97 percent of the U.S. population.

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Cybersecurity: Five Key Questions The CEO Must Ask

Article | December 15, 2020

Just about every single day, somewhere in the world, a company falls victim to cyber attackers, even with millions spent on cybersecurity. Every company is a target because they have data and there are too many doors, windows and entryways for cyber attackers to get in, whether on-premise or in the cloud. It is not a question of if, but when, the attackers will get in. Prevention efforts are of course important, but since attackers will get in, equal attention must be on detection going forward. And the focus must be on early detection, otherwise, it will be too late. My book, Next Level Cybersecurity, is based on intensive reviews of the world’s largest hacks and uncovers the signals of the attackers that companies are either missing or don’t know how to detect early, apart from all of the noise. So, the attackers are slipping by the cybersecurity, staying undetected and stealing data or committing other harm. In the book I explain the Cyber Attack Chain. It is a simplified model that shows the steps that cyber attackers tend to follow in just about every single hack. There are five steps: external reconnaissance; intrusion; lateral movement; command and control; and execution. At each step, there will be signals of the attackers’ behavior and activity. But the signals in the intrusion, lateral movement and command and control steps provide the greatest value because they are timely. The external reconnaissance step is very early and the signals may not materialize into an attack, while detecting signals in the execution step is too late because by this time the data theft or harm will have already occurred. My research uncovered 15 major signals in the intrusion, lateral movement and command and control steps that should be the focus of detection. My research of the world’s largest hacks reveals that if the company had detected signals of the attackers early, in the intrusion, lateral movement or command and control steps, they would have been able to stop the hack and prevent the loss or damage. My book shows how to detect the signals in time, using a seven-step early detection method. One of the key steps in this method is to map relevant signals to the Crown Jewels (crucial data, IP or other assets). It is a great use case for machine learning and AI. There is a lot of noise, so machine learning and AI can help eliminate false positives and expose the attackers’ signals early to stop the hack. There are two blind spots that just about every single company world-wide faces that cyber attackers will exploit, beginning in 2019, that companies must get on top of. One blind spot is the cloud. There is a false sense of comfort and lack of attention to detection, thinking the cloud is safer because of the cloud provider’s cybersecurity or because the cloud provider has an out-of-the-box monitoring system. However, if the company fails to identify all Crown Jewels and map all relevant cyber attacker signals for the monitoring, the attackers will get in, remain undetected and steal data or commit other harm in the cloud. The other blind spot is Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices (e.g. smart TVs, webcams, routers, sensors, etc.), with 5G on the way, will be ubiquitous in companies world-wide. While IoT devices provide many benefits, they are a weak link in the chain due to poor built-in security and lack of monitoring. Cyber attackers will focus on IoT devices to make the intrusion, then pivot to get to the Crown Jewels. Detecting early signals of cyber attackers trying to exploit IoT devices will be critical. Companies world-wide need to make cybersecurity a priority, starting in the board room and with the CEO. It all starts at the top. My intensive reviews of the world’s largest hacks reveal in each case a common theme: inadequate or missing CEO and board cybersecurity oversight. Here are five key questions from my book that the CEO must take the lead on and together with the board ask of the management team to make sure the company will not become the next victim of cyber attackers and suffer significant financial and reputational harm: Have we identified all of our Crown Jewels and are not missing any? Do we know where all of the Crown Jewels are located? Have we identified all of the ways cyber attackers could get to the Crown Jewels? Have we mapped high probability signals of cyber attackers trying to get to the Crown Jewels with each Crown Jewel? Are we sifting through all of the noise to detect signals early and reporting to the CEO and the board in a dashboard report for timely oversight? If your answer is No to any of the questions or you are unsure, you have a gap or blind spot and are at risk, and you must follow up to get to a high confidence Yes answer. In my book, Next Level Cybersecurity, I provide other key questions to ask and a practical seven-step method to take cybersecurity to the next level to stay one step ahead of the attackers. It is written in plain language for boards, executives and management, so everyone can get on the same page and together mitigate one of the most significant and disruptive risks faced today, cybersecurity.

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New Ransomware hitting Industrial Control Systems like a nuclear bomb

Article | February 10, 2020

Researchers at security firms including Sentinel One and Drago’s have been mystified by a piece of code named Ekans or Snake, over the last month. Drago’s publically released its full report on Ekans Ransomware that has recently inflicted Industrial Control Systems and these are some of the most high-value systems that bridge the gap between digital and physical systems. In the history of hacking, only a few times a piece of malicious code has been marked attempting to intrude Industrial Control Systems. Ekans is supposed to be the first Ransomware with real primitive capability against the Industrial Control Systems, software, and hardware used in everything from oil refineries to power grids. Researchers say this ransomware holds the capability to attack ICS by Honeywell and GE as well.

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What is Ransomware and What You Need to Know to Stay Safe?

Article | March 5, 2020

While there may be more than 1 billion pieces of malware prowling the internet for a chance to infect victims, one particular piece of nastiness has been inflicting financial losses and security headaches for years.Known as ransomware, its sole purpose is to block access to computer systems or files until the victim pays a ransom. These ransom demands fluctuate wildly, from the equivalent of a couple of hundred dollars to several hundred thousand. In the simplest terms, ransomware is a piece of malicious software that prevents users from using their devices or accessing their personal or important files, unless a sum of money is paid. Payment is usually demanded in cryptocurrency, such as Monero or Bitcoin. Victims are told to purchase these digital assets and then transfer them to the attackers.

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A Closer Look at the Microsoft Exchange Server Cyberattacks

Article | May 13, 2021

We recently posted an article that highlighted the high-profile Microsoft Exchange hack that impacted hundreds of thousands of organizations across the globe. (This article offered some recommendations on how this could have been avoided as well as a special three-month offer to help any company who may have been affected.) Since this cyber attack, even more details are emerging. For example, the White House recently urged victims to quickly patch applications and systems and pushed for them to do it as quickly as possible. One senior administration official emphasized that the window to update these systems could be measured in hours, not even days.

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Spotlight

Consumer Cellular, Inc.

Consumer Cellular is proud to be endorsed by AARP and is a top-rated carrier that provides no-contract cellphones and service plans. Founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have affordable access to the safety and convenience of cellular service, Consumer Cellular is privately held with more than 800 employees. The Portland, Ore.-based company utilizes the nation’s largest voice and data network, covering more than 296 million people – or 97 percent of the U.S. population.

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