Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Cyber Threat Hunting is a proactive security search across networks, endpoints and datasets to hunt down malicious, suspicious or risky activities that have escaped detection by existing tools.
There is a distinction between malware detection and cyber threat hunting . Threat detection is a passive approach to monitoring data and systems to identify potential security problems. However, it is a necessity and can help a threat hunter . Instead, proactive threat hunting tactics have evolved to use new threat intelligence on previously collected data to identify and classify potential risks before the attack .
Security personnel cannot afford to believe that their security system is impenetrable. Must always remain vigilant for the next threat or vulnerability . Rather than sitting around and waiting for threats to strike, cyber threat hunting develops hypotheses based on knowing the behaviors of threat actors and validating those hypotheses through active research in the environment .
With threat hunting, an expert doesn’t start with an alarm or indicators of compromise (IOC), but with deeper reasoning. In many cases the threat hunter’s efforts create and concretize the alarm or the IOC.
This aggressively assumes that a breach has occurred or will occur at the company. Security officers hunt down threats in their environment rather than rely on automatisms.
Threat hunting practice
For companies that are ready to take a more proactive approach to cybersecurity , which tries to stop attacks before they get too deep, adding threat hunting protocols to their security program is the next logical step.
After consolidating endpoint security and incident response strategies to mitigate the now unavoidable known malware attacks, companies can begin to take the offensive . This means digging deep and finding what hasn’t been detected yet. This is precisely the purpose of cyber threat hunting.
As mentioned earlier, threat hunting is an aggressive tactic that starts from the premise of the “assumption of violation”. Attackers are already inside an organization’s network and are secretly monitoring and moving into it.
This may sound far-fetched, but in reality, attackers can be inside a network for days, weeks, and even months . In the meantime, they prepare and execute attacks as advanced persistent threats, with no automatic defense detecting their presence . Cyber threat hunting stops these attacks by looking for covert indicators of compromise (IOCs) so they can be mitigated before the attacks reach their goals.
The key elements of a threat hunting
The goal of the threat hunt is to monitor daily activities and traffic across the network and investigate possible anomalies to find any undiscovered malicious activity that could lead to a complete breach . To achieve this level of proactive detection, threat hunting incorporates four equally important components.
To be successful in hunt for threats, companies must commit to a proactive, full-time approach that is continuous and evolving. Instead, a responsive, ad hoc implementation, “ when we have time “, will be self-defeating and will only lead to minimal results.
Most companies already have comprehensive endpoint security solutions with automatic detection. Threat hunting works in addition to these and adds advanced technologies . The aim is to find anomalies, unusual patterns, and other traces of attackers that shouldn’t be in systems and files.
The new cloud-native endpoint protection (EPP) platforms that leverage big data analytics can capture and analyze large volumes of non-data filtered on endpoints, while behavioral analytics and artificial intelligence can provide broad, high-speed visibility into malicious behaviors that seem normal at first.
3. Highly qualified and dedicated staff
The threat hunters are a race of their own. These experts know how to use the security technology deployed by companies. In addition, also combine the aspiration to go on the offensive with intuitive problem-solving skills to uncover and mitigate hidden threats.
4. Threat intelligence
Having access to evidence-based global intelligence from experts from around the world (e.g. Miter Att & amp; ck ) further improves and accelerates hunting for existing threats. Hunters are aided by information such as attack classifications for identifying malware and threat groups , as well as advanced threat indicators.
The abilities of a threat hunter
The Threat Hunting Report from Crowd Research Partners confirms the importance of certain capabilities for threat hunting. When asked to rank the most important skill, the survey found that:
69% chose threat intelligence
57% chose behavior analysis
56% chose automatic detection
54% chose machine learning and automated analysis
The profile of a threat hunter
Threat hunters look for attackers who manage to break through vulnerabilities that a company might not even know exist . These attackers spend a considerable amount of time planning and performing the reconnaissance, acting only when they know they can successfully penetrate the network without warning. They also inject and build malware that has not yet been recognized or use techniques that do not rely on malware at all, to provide a persistent base from which to attack.
What does it take to outsmart even the smartest attackers?
A cyber threat hunter is relentless and can find even the smallest trace of what attackers have left behind. In general, threat hunters use their skills to undo the small changes that occur when attackers make their moves within a system or file.
The best threat hunters rely on their instincts to sniff out the stealth moves of the most dangerous attacker.
Are you a threat hunter? Contact us!
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Classic cyber threat defense tools and systems are rapidly becoming obsolete, and there are ways to overcome them. What remains confidently common among cyber criminals attempting an attack is the intent of the attack itself. Indeed, knowing that there are systems capable of detecting indicators of compromise (IOC), it is natural that competent hackers will try not to leave traces traceable to standards. User and Entity Behavior Analysis (UEBA) offers a more comprehensive way to make sure your business has world-class IT security. At the same time, it helps detect users and entities that could compromise the entire system.
A definition of User Entity Behavior Analytics
User and Entity Behavior Analysis or UEBA, is a type of cybersecurity process that takes note of standard user behavior. In turn, the system detects any abnormal behavior or cases where there are deviations from the “normal” patterns mentioned above. For example, if a particular user regularly downloads 10MB of files every day, and suddenly downloads 1GB, the system would be able to detect this anomaly and immediately alert operators. The behavior may be legitimate, but it’s worth checking out.
The UEBA system uses machine learning, algorithms and statistical analysis to know when there is a deviation from established patterns. Next, it shows which of these anomalies could result in a potential and real threat. Additionally, UEBA can aggregate report and log data, as well as analyze file, stream and packet information.
With a UEBA all users and entities of the system are tracked. In this way the system focuses on insider threats, such as dishonest employees, compromised ones and people who have access to the system and then carry out targeted attacks and fraud attempts, as well as the servers, applications and devices that work inside. of the system.
It is the unfortunate truth that today’s cybersecurity tools are rapidly becoming obsolete. Now the most skilled hackers and cyber criminals are able to bypass the perimeter defenses used by most companies. A few years ago you were sure if you had web gateways, firewalls, and intrusion prevention tools. This is no longer the case in the complex threat landscape, and is especially true for large companies that have proven to have very porous IT perimeters that are also very difficult to manage and supervise.
The key point? Preventive measures are no longer sufficient. Firewalls will not be 100% infallible and attackers will enter the system at one point or another. That’s why detection is just as important: when hackers successfully enter your system, then you need to be able to quickly detect their presence to minimize damage.
How does it work?
The premise of the system is actually very simple. You can easily steal an employee’s username and password, but it is much more difficult to mimic the person’s normal behavior once inside the network.
For example, let’s say you manage to steal John Smith’s password and username. However, it is almost impossible to act exactly like Mario Rossi once inside the system, unless extensive research and preparation is also done in this direction. Therefore, when Mario’s username is logged into the system and his behavior is different than typical, that’s when the UEBA alarms start ringing.
Another related analogy would be the theft of a credit card. A thief can steal your wallet and go to a luxury store and start spending thousands of dollars. But, if the spending pattern on that card is different from that of the thief, the fraud detection department will recognize the anomalous expenses and block suspicious purchases, either by sending you an alert or asking you to verify the authenticity of a transaction. .
What can UEBA do?
UEBA is a very important component of modern IT security and allows you to:
1. Detect insider threats: It is not too far fetched to imagine that an employee, or perhaps a group of employees, could disobey, steal data and information using their login. UEBA can help you detect data breaches, sabotage, abuse of privileges and policy violations by staff.
2. Detect Compromised Accounts: Sometimes, user accounts are compromised. It could be that the user has unintentionally installed malware on his machine, or that sometimes a legitimate account has been forged. UEBA can help eliminate compromised users before they can do any damage.
3. Detect Brute Force Attacks: Hackers sometimes target cloud-based entities as well as third-party authentication systems. With UEBA, you are able to detect brute force attack attempts, allowing you to block access to these entities.
4. Detect permission changes and super user creation: Some attacks involve the use of super users. UEBA allows you to detect when super users are created, or if there are accounts that have been granted unnecessary permissions.
5. Detect Secure Data Breach: If you have secured data, it’s not enough to keep it safe. Know when a user accesses this data if they have no legitimate business reason for doing so.
UEBA and SIEM
Security Information and Event Management, or SIEM, is the use of a complex set of tools and technologies that provides a complete view of the security of your IT system. It leverages event data and information, allowing you to see normal patterns and trends, and to warn of anomalies. UEBA works the same way, only it uses information on user (and entity) behavior to verify what is normal and what is not.
SIEM, however, is based on rules, and competent hackers can easily circumvent or evade these rules. Furthermore, the SIEM rules are designed to immediately detect threats that occur in real time, while the most advanced attacks are usually carried out over months or years. The UEBA, on the other hand, is not based on rules. Instead, it uses risk scoring techniques and advanced algorithms that allow it to detect anomalies over time.
One of the best practices for cybersecurity is to use both SIEM and UEBA to have better security and detection capabilities.
How a UEBA should be used
UEBA was born out of the need to identify the harmful behavior of users and other entities. UEBA tools and processes are not intended to replace legacy monitoring systems, but should instead be used to complement them and improve a company’s overall security. Another great practice is to take advantage of the storage and calculation capabilities of big data, using machine learning and statistical analysis to avoid receiving an avalanche of unnecessary alarms and being overwhelmed by the large volume of data. generated.
UEBA uses machine learning and algorithms to strengthen security by monitoring users and other entities, detecting anomalies in behavior patterns that could be indicative of a threat. By taking a proactive approach to security and gaining greater visibility into user and entity behavior, today’s businesses are able to build stronger security systems and more effectively mitigate threats and prevent breaches.
SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation and Response) technology helps coordinate, execute and automate activities between people and tools, enabling companies to respond quickly to cyber security attacks. The aim is to improve their overall security position. SOAR tools use playbooks (strategies and procedures) to automate and coordinate workflows which may include security tools and manual tasks.
How does SOAR help in the security field?
1. Combining security orchestration, intelligent automation, incident management and interactive investigations in a single solution.
2. Facilitating team collaboration and enabling security analysts to take automated actions on tools across their security stack.
3. Providing teams with a single centralized console to manage and coordinate all aspects of their company’s security.
4. Optimizing case management, increasing efficiency by opening and closing tickets to investigate and resolve incidents.
Why do companies need a SOAR?
Modern companies regularly face many challenges and obstacles when it comes to fighting cyber threats.
A first challenge is represented by an ever increasing volume of complex security threats. Furthermore, the security tools involved very often struggle to talk to each other, which is in itself a nuisance.
Such a large amount of data and software can only mean a large number of security alerts. In fact, there is too much threat intelligence data to allow teams to manually classify, prioritize, investigate and target threats. Furthermore, the work of security officers involves very specific skills and with increasing demand it is increasingly difficult to find a sufficient number of security officers to carry out the work.
SOAR helps companies address and overcome these challenges by enabling them to:
– Unify existing security systems and centralize data collection to achieve full visibility.
– Automate repetitive manual activities and manage all aspects of the accident life cycle.
– Define incident analysis and response procedures, as well as leverage security playbooks to prioritize, standardize and scale response processes in a consistent, transparent and documented way.
– Quickly and accurately identify and assign the severity levels of incidents to safety alarms and support the reduction of alarms.
– Identify and better manage potential vulnerabilities in a proactive and reactive way.
– Direct each security incident to the analyst best suited to respond, while providing features that support easy collaboration and monitoring between teams and their members.
Below I wanted to list some practical examples of how a SOAR comes into action in certain situations.
Enrichment and Phishing Response: Activating a Playbook. Automation and execution of repeatable activities such as triage and involvement of interested users. Apply an extraction and control of indicators to identify false positives, then request activation of the SOC for a standardized response at scale.
Endpoint Malware Infection: Extracting threat feed data from endpoint tools and enriching that data. Cross-reference between recovered files and hashes with a SIEM solution, notify analysts, clean up endpoints, and update the tools database.
Failed User Login: After a predefined number of failed user login attempts, evaluating whether a failed login is genuine or malicious, a SOAR can activate in various ways. First of all by putting into practice a playbook, involving users and then analyzing their answers, then also the expiring passwords and finally closing the process.
Indicators of Compromise (IOC): Take and extract indicators from files, track indicators through intelligence tools and update databases.
Malware Analysis: Verify data from multiple sources, extract and delete malicious files. A report is then generated and checked for malice.
Cloud Incident Response: This is done through the use of data from cloud-focused threat detection and event logging tools. The data is then unified between the cloud and on-premises security infrastructures, correlated thanks to a SIEM. The indicators are then extracted and enriched, to then check for the presence of malice. A final step of human control to the analysts who review their information update the database and close the case.
The benefits of a SOAR
Basically, a SOAR implements working methods and protocols of action in the system for fighting against cyber threats of a company. This significantly improves operational efficiency and accelerates incident detection as well as response times, which are effectively standardized.
A SOAR increases analysts’ productivity and allows them to focus on improving security instead of performing manual tasks.
By exploiting and coordinating the existing security technology investments in a company, it is possible to make a real difference.
Tempo di lettura: 5 min
Un numero crescente di aziende fa leva sul SOAR per migliorare l’efficacia delle proprie operazioni di sicurezza informatica. In questo articolo, spieghiamo come avvantaggiarsi del valore del SOAR potrebbe essere cruciale per migliorare la sicurezza della vostra organizzazione.
Che cos’e’ il SOAR?
Coniato dalla societa’ di ricerca Gartner, Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) e’ un termine usato per descrivere la convergenza di tre mercati tecnologici distinti:
1. L’orchestrazione e l’automazione della sicurezza.
2. Le piattaforme di risposta agli incidenti di sicurezza.
3. Le piattaforme di intelligence delle minacce.
Le tecnologie SOAR consentono alle organizzazioni di raccogliere e aggregare grandi quantita’ di dati e allarmi di sicurezza provenienti da una vasta gamma di fonti. Di conseguenza l’analisi umana e meccanica e’ migliorata, cosi’ come la standardizzazione e l’automazione del rilevamento e del ripristino delle minacce.
E’ stimato che entro la fine del 2020, il 15% delle organizzazioni con un team di sicurezza fara’ leva sulle tecnologie SOAR. Nel 2018 erano l’1%.
In che modo SOAR sta aiutando le aziende a superare le sfide della sicurezza?
La veloce evoluzione tecnologica sta portando in campo sfide complicate per il settore IT. Le minacce sono in continua evoluzione, il personale qualificato e’ in costante carenza e le proprieta’ IT da gestire sono in continuo aumento. Di conseguenza, il concetto di SOAR sta aiutando le aziende di tutte le dimensioni a migliorare la loro capacita’ di rilevare e rispondere rapidamente agli attacchi. Vediamo come, nella pratica, SOAR può migliorare la sicurezza aziendale.
1. Fornire intelligence di migliore qualita’
Affrontare le piu’ recenti e sofisticate minacce alla sicurezza informatica richiede una conoscenza approfondita delle tattiche, delle tecniche e delle procedure (TTP) degli aggressori, cosi’ come la capacita’ di identificare gli indicatori di compromesso (CIO).
SOAR aggrega e convalida i dati provenienti da un’ampia gamma di fonti. Nello specifico, queste sono piattaforme di informazioni sulle minacce, tecnologie di sicurezza, sistemi di rilevamento delle intrusioni e le tecnologie SIEM e UEBA. Cosi’, attraverso i dati raccolti e convalidati, il SOAR aiuta i SOC a diventare piu’ orientati all’intelligence.
L’effetto di cio’ e’ che il personale di sicurezza e’ in grado di contestualizzare gli incidenti, prendere decisioni piu’ informate e accelerare il rilevamento degli incidenti così come la risposta alle minacce.
2. Migliorare l’efficienza e l’efficacia delle operazioni
La necessita’ di gestire cosi’ tante tecnologie di sicurezza disparate puo’ mettere a dura prova il personale addetto alla sicurezza. I sistemi hanno bisogno di un monitoraggio costante per garantire prestazioni efficienti. Inoltre, le migliaia di allarmi giornalieri che generano possono anche portare ad un affaticamento pericoloso. Il costante passaggio da un sistema all’altro non fa che peggiorare la situazione, costando alle squadre tempo e fatica, oltre ad aumentare il rischio di errori.
Le soluzioni SOAR aiutano i SOC ad automatizzare e semi-automatizzare alcuni dei compiti quotidiani delle operazioni di sicurezza.
Presentando intelligence e controlli attraverso un unico pannello e utilizzando intelligenza artificiale e apprendimento automatico, gli strumenti SOAR riducono significativamente la necessita’ per i team SOC di eseguire il ‘cambio di contesto’.
Inolte, possono contribuire a garantire che i processi siano gestiti in modo piu’ efficiente. Questo migliora la produttivita’ e la capacita’ delle organizzazioni di affrontare un maggior numero di incidenti senza la necessita’ di assumere personale aggiuntivo. Un obiettivo chiave dell’approccio SOAR e’ quello di aiutare il personale di sicurezza a lavorare in modo piu’ intelligente e non piu’ duramente.
3. Migliorare la risposta agli incidenti
Per ridurre al minimo il rischio di violazioni e limitare i vasti danni che possono causare, una risposta rapida e’ di vitale importanza. SOAR aiuta l’organizzazione a ridurre il tempo medio di rilevamento (MTTD) e il tempo medio di risposta (MTTR). E’ possibile qualificare gli allarmi di sicurezza e porvi rimedio in pochi minuti, anziche’ in giorni, settimane o mesi.
SOAR, quindi, consente alle squadre di sicurezza di automatizzare le procedure di risposta agli incidenti. Le risposte automatizzate possono includere il blocco di un indirizzo IP su un firewall, la sospensione di account utenti o la messa in quarantena degli endpoint infetti di una rete.
4. Semplificare la reportistica
In molti centri operativi di cyber security, gli operatori in prima linea passano molto tempo nella gestione dei casi, redazione e creazione di rapporti e nella documentazione delle procedure di risposta agli incidenti. Invece, aggregando le informazioni provenienti da un’ampia gamma di fonti e presentandole tramite dashboard visive e personalizzate, SOAR puo’ aiutare le organizzazioni a ridurre il lavoro collaterale, migliorando al contempo la comunicazione interna.
Inoltre, grazie all’automazione dei compiti delle procedure, SOAR aiuta a codificare la conoscenza sulle minacce.
In ultima analisi, svolgere i compiti piu’ velocemente significa avere piu’ tempo per la risoluzione e mitigazione delle minacce. Piu’ a lungo queste non vengono affrontate, maggiori sono le possibilita’ di danni e malfunzionamenti.
Mentre sia le informazioni sulla sicurezza che la gestione degli eventi (SIEM) e SOAR accumulano dati rilevanti da piu’ fonti, i servizi SOAR si integrano con una piu’ ampia gamma di applicazioni interne ed esterne.
Al momento, molte aziende utilizzano i servizi SOAR per potenziale il software SIEM interno. In futuro, si prevede che, man mano che i fornitori SIEM cominceranno ad aggiungere le funzionalita’ SOAR ai loro servizi, il mercato di queste due linee di prodotti si fondera’.
SOD applica la tecnologia SIEM Next Generation e UEBA per la gestione dei cyber threats e dei processi SOAR. Questo garantisce prevenzione e tempestivita’ di ottimo livello. Se vuoi saperne di piu’, visita la nostra pagina del servizio SOCaaS e contattaci per maggiori informazioni.
A SIEM solution in IT is one of the essential components of a SOC (Security Operation Center). Its task is to collect information and analyze it in search of anomalies and possible breaches in the system. But the defense process hasn’t always been that simple. What we now call SIEM, Security Information and Event Management, is the union of two different types of cyber security tools.
SIM and SEM: the origins
Before the arrival of a complete SIEM solution in computing, security was heavily focused on perimeter security and did not keep the internal network adequately controlled. The first solutions developed in the 90s were basic and basically dealt with security information management (SIM) or security event management (SEM). They were solutions available as tools that had to be deployed on-site in the data center to be protected. This limited scalability, because adding capacity required the purchase of additional equipment.
These early solutions were also built on proprietary databases that forced customers to use technology from a single vendor. If you wanted to move your data to another system, the process was long and complicated. It should also be noted that archiving was more expensive, so only the most valuable data was collected. Furthermore, although the SIM and SEM solutions contained all the data necessary for the defense, the search and alarm were rudimentary. Additionally, they depended on experienced security analysts to research, understand and interpret what they found in the data.
SIEM origins in computer science
As data became more sensitive and technology more powerful, SIEM systems (SIM + SEM) became capable of ingesting, processing and storing a great deal of data. Next-generation SIEM IT solutions are able to use signature-based alerts to identify threats in collected data. However, only those alerts that have identified indicators of compromise (IOC) of a certain threat can be identified in this way.
To be clear, if the type of attack to which a system is subjected has not been cataloged in a series of IOCs, a first generation SIEM is not able to detect it. The main drawback of those systems was the very limited ability to detect unknown cyber threats.
To give a practical example: it was possible to use a rule like this: “give a warning if a user enters 10 consecutive wrong passwords“. In theory this could be used to detect brute force password attacks. But what if the attacker only tried 9 passwords in a row? Or what if the alarm was given for a very forgetful user?
Next Gen SIEM (NGS)
A next generation SIEM is built on a large data platform that provides unlimited scalability and is hosted in the cloud. A next gen SIEM includes log management, advanced threat detection based on behavior analysis and automatic incident response, all on a single platform.
This eliminates the problems that old on-premises systems were prone to. Not having to install anything and being able to send the necessary data to the cloud quite simply, the computing power of the local machine is not compromised and the SIEM can manage all the data safely.
How a SIEM proceeds in cyber threat analysis
1. Data Collection: An IT SIEM solution collects data from across the organization using agents installed on various devices, including endpoints, servers, network equipment and other security solutions. Next generation SIEM includes support for cloud applications and infrastructure, business applications, identity data and non-technical data feeds.
2. Data enrichment: Enrichment adds further context to events. SIEM will enrich data with identity, resources, geolocation and threat information.
3. Data storage: The data will then be stored in a database so that it can be searched for during investigations. The next generation SIEM exploits open source architectures and big data architectures, exploiting their scalability.
4. Correlation and Analysis: SIEM solutions use several techniques to draw actionable conclusions from SIEM data. These techniques vary greatly.
5. Report: A SIEM, particularly a next generation SIEM, gives you the ability to quickly search for data, allowing you to dig through alerts and search for threat actors and indicators of compromise. The displayed data can be saved or exported. It is also possible to use out-of-the-box reports or create ad hoc reports as needed.
What a SIEM is used for
Threat hunting and investigation
The ability to perform threat hunting on a SIEM is critical to understanding the true patterns of attacks based on access, activity and data breaches. By developing a detailed and contextual view of attacks, security analysts can more easily develop policies, countermeasures and incident response processes to help mitigate and remove the threat.
Response in case of an accident
An effective response to incidents is essential to intervene more quickly and reduce the residence time of the threat. For this, a SIEM provides an incident response playbook with configurable automated actions. A SIEM is able to integrate with third party solutions for security orchestration (SOAR) or individual case management.
Defense against insider threats
The reason why insider threats are such a big problem is because it’s not about entering the perimeter, but about exploiting insider positions. They can be your employees, contractors or business associates. It may be they themselves wanting to exploit their location, or their account may have been hacked.
With all kinds of internal threats, the attacker tries to stay hidden, gathering sensitive data to exploit. This could cause significant damage to the company, its position in the industry and its relationship with consumers or investors. By using a SIEM, you avoid this risk.
Cyber threat detection
Your organization is likely to have at least one sensitive data repository. Cybercriminals thrive on looting this data for financial gain. Many breaches begin with a simple phishing email against an organization’s target. Simply clicking on an attachment can leave malicious code behind. A SIEM will allow you to monitor advanced cyberthreat patterns such as phishing, beaconing and lateral movement.
For many industries, adherence to compliance standards is critical. A SIEM can help by providing reports focused on data compliance requests. Integrated packages covering all major mandates, including PCI DSS, SOX, and ISO 27001, are a standard feature of SIEMs as well.
Next Generation SIEM
A next generation SIEM is not just a cloud hosted system. It also makes use of the implementation of AI and Machine Learning to increase the defense of the IT system.
We will see it in a future article, but it is right to specify that the SOCaaS offered by SOD makes use of the latest generation technology offered by Next Gen. SIEM systems. Contact us to find out more about it and talk to experts who can dispel all your doubts.
During a cyber attack, hackers have only one goal in mind. This goal could be accessing a developer’s machine and stealing a project’s source code, analyzing emails from a particular executive, or extracting customer data from a server. All they have to do is log into the machine or system that contains the data they want, right? Not exactly. Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. To achieve their goal, hackers are likely to break into a low-level web server, email account, or employee device, to name a few. From that node, they will move sideways (hence the name network lateral movement) to achieve their goal.
In fact, when attackers compromise a resource on a network, that device is almost never their final destination. In addition, the initial compromise rarely causes serious damage and may go unnoticed. Only if the security teams are able to detect a lateral movement before the attackers reach their intended goal, it is possible to prevent the data breach.
In this article, we will look at some of the more common types of network lateral movement and identify ways in which we can detect the attack and defend ourselves.
Understanding the network lateral movement
Lateral movement occurs when an attacker takes possession of a resource within a network and then extends its reach from that device to others within the same network. Let’s see it with an outline to help us understand better.
The perimeter of the infrastructure to be penetrated is represented with a horizontal line. The upper half represents what is outside the net, while what is below the line represents what is inside. In order for an attacker to enter the network, it must move vertically, ie from the outside to the inside (also called North-South traffic). But once a foothold has been established, it is possible to move sideways or horizontally, ie within the same network (called East-West traffic) to reach the final goal of the attack.
Approaches to the Lateral Movement
Overall, there are two common methods by which a hacker applies the lateral movement.
First approach: The attacker performs an internal scan to find out what other machines are on the network. In particular, it scans open ports that are listening and machines that suffer from vulnerabilities. At that point, the attacker can abuse these weaknesses to move sideways to another resource.
The second approach to the lateral movement exploits stolen credentials, and is the more common of the two. In this type of attack, the hacker could use an email phishing technique to infect a machine that interfaces with a particular server. Then he can use his login to recover passwords via a keylogger or other similar tools. At this point, he can use whatever credentials he was able to obtain to impersonate the user who was the victim of the phishing and log in to another machine. Once you have established access to that computer, you can repeat the tactic looking for additional credentials and / or privileges to exploit. In this way, the attacker can make their way and create remote connections to the target device.
In both cases it is difficult to identify the attack, because it does not occur through software or application malfunctions.
How to defend yourself
A lateral movement often manifests itself through anomalous network activity. For example, it is suspicious that a machine, which normally communicates with a few others, starts scanning the entire network. The same is true if that machine tries to connect to open ports, to interact with services and credentials with which it normally has no contact, or to use a username that has never been used before.
The list of alarm bells goes on and on. The key thing to understand is that a lateral movement involves machines doing something out of their routine, without proper authorization from IT.
This is what gives organizations the ability to detect this type of attack. Implementing log file monitoring is a first step in defense. Ideally, the data should be constantly analyzed for anomalies and possible breaches.
These defenses are not infallible. Security teams that simply rely on log files limit the scope of their defensive position, for example, due to log files collected only from particular applications. You might decide to monitor a certain service for credential theft, but attackers might not use that particular service to perform a lateral movement. This means that any malicious actions that do not use the monitored services will not be detected promptly.
In addition to this, hackers know the types of protocols that security personnel tend to monitor, making their task even more complex. Attackers can use this knowledge to model their attack campaigns in order to have a better chance of going unnoticed. It is one of the reasons why the MITER ATT & CK database was created to collect known techniques and raise the defenses.
The advantage of a SOCaaS
It is not enough for organizations to seek lateral movement using log files or an EDR tool. It is necessary to turn attention to the network as a whole. In this way it is possible to see all network traffic, establish a baseline of normal network activity for each user and device, and then monitor any unusual actions that could be indicative of attacks. It is known as anomaly detection, and is more comprehensive and often easier than examining each log file for out-of-the-ordinary events.
The problem with anomaly detection is that many of these irregularities are benign, and a lot of time is spent analyzing them. What is needed to separate harmful lateral movement from benign network anomalies is an understanding of the aspect of harmful behavior.
This is where a complete system that uses both behavioral analysis tools and professional security technicians comes into play.
The SOCaaS offered by SOD includes a Security Data Lake (SDL) for data collection and various tools for data analysis. One of these is the UEBA, particularly suitable for the detection of social threats, as it analyzes user behavior through AI using their actions as a source of data.
With these and other tools that make up the SOC, you can actively reduce the risk of attacks on your corporate data. If you are interested in learning more about SOD SOCaaS, I invite you to visit the dedicated page or contact us directly.
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