Attackers Are Embracing Automation, Why Aren’t We?

Attackers have long embraced the concept of automation. Although attackers were likely automating their attacks prior to the Morris worm, in 1988 the Morris worm brought attack automation to the attention of the security industry when it brought down a large portion of the Internet. Since then, the sophistication of attack automation has increased exponentially. Frameworks such as the Metasploit Framework allow attackers to script the entire attack process, from information gathering to exploitation, to post-exploitation and data exfiltration. This sort of automation has allowed the attackers to exploit systems with much greater efficiency.

According to the 2017 SANS Incident Response Survey, almost 50% of organizations who responded reported average detection to containment times of greater than 24 hours. Put another way, almost half of these organizations are allowing attackers to remain in their networks for more than a day after they have first been detected, and that does not even include the time that elapses from compromise to detection. Even an unskilled attacker can cause catastrophic damage to an organization with 24 hours of uninterrupted exploitation time. A skilled attacker automating network reconnaissance, establishing persistence on additional hosts and performing data exfiltration, can cause damage in 24 hours that it will take an organization months to fully discover and recover from.

Three decades later, why have we as a security industry been so slow to adopt the same methods of automation? Sure, we have long automated portions of the incident response process, such as automatically removing detected malicious files or automatically quarantining suspicious emails, but we have yet to achieve the sort of automation efficiency that has been being used by attackers for decades. Even for commodity attacks, this level of automation is often ineffective as attackers have adapted to include multiple mechanisms to maintain persistence when a single file or registry key is deleted. To a skilled and determined attacker, this level of automated prevention is trivial to bypass in most instances.

Attackers have learned that automating large portions of the steps along the Cyber Kill Chain allow them to more quickly infiltrate a single target, as well as more efficiently attack multiple targets. Why then has the security industry yet to follow suit and automate larger portions of the incident response lifecycle? The two most commonly encounter objections are that is it not possible or too risky to automate larger portions of the incident response lifecycle.  The answer to the first objection is easy; it is certainly possible. The emergence of Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platforms, such as DFLabs IncMan, have made automation of a large part of the incident response lifecycle possible.

The answer to the second objection to automation is a little more complicated. There is certainly reason for a cautious approach to automating more of the incident response lifecycle, especially when we consider automating containment, eradication, and recovery.  After all, there is little risk to the attackers when their automation fails; they may be detected or they may not successfully exploit the target. In either case, the attacker can simply try another method, or move on to the next target.  The potential risk is much greater for organizations automating the incident response process. Automatically containing a business-critical system because of a malware detection or automatically blocking business-critical IP address because it was erroneously flagged as malicious, could cost an organization millions of dollars.

While these risks can never be completely eliminated, automation processes and technology have reached a level at which failing to embrace greater levels of automation carries with it significantly more risk than implementing automation in a well-planned, controlled manner. Appropriate automation pre-planning, identifying the repeatable processes which can most safely and easily be automated and carry the greatest risk/reward benefit, maximizes the benefit of increased automation. Proper use of both internal and external sources of enrichment information, such as threat intelligence and internal databases, to inform the automation containment decision process can greatly reduce the risk of containment actions which could negatively impact the organization.  In addition, many SOAR platforms have incorporated the ability to include human input during critical decision points in the automation process. For example, IncMan’s Dual-Mode Orchestration allows users to switch between automated actions and human intervention at critical junctures in the response process, allowing the majority of the process to be automated while still permitting human input and reducing the risks posed by pure automation in some critical processes.

Although we are likely still decades away from the proverbial incident response “easy button”, or being able to say “Alexa, remediate that threat”, the current threat landscape is also demanding that we do more with less and respond faster, and that means automation. SOAR platforms are no longer just “nice to have” technologies, they are becoming a requirement for organizations to remain one step ahead of the onslaught of attacks. As an industry, we must continue to learn from our adversaries and continue to embrace increasing levels of automation.

For more information about using automation check out our resources created in conjunction with the SANS Institute, including the white paper entitled “SOC Automation – Deliverance or Disaster”  and webinar “Myths and Best Practices Surrounding SOC Automation”.

Tools Required to Meet GDPR Breach Notification Compliance

With the GDPR going into effect this week, organizations that this new data protection regulation applies to are left with little time to make sure they have completed the preparations needed in order to achieve compliance with all provisions it entails. The GDPR is aimed at protecting consumer data privacy, and organizations that control and manage personal information of EU citizens in any capacity have until May 25th to adjust their procedures with regards to protection against, and respond to data breaches, in accordance with the new legislation.

Specific measures that organizations have to implement include formalized incident response procedures and internal data breach notification processes, along with demonstration of capability to notify authorities and data subjects in the event of a data breach within a strictly specified timeframe. Putting these measures in place can be an expensive and extremely complicated process, but absolutely necessary nonetheless. Therefore organizations can probably use all the help they can get to reduce the costs associated with meeting GDPR breach notification requirements while streamlining their existing processes as much as possible. This is where a host of security tools come into play, with a vast amount of different solutions available to choose from.  While variety and choice is good, on the other hand it can also cause a headache for security professionals, making it difficult for them to make an informed decision and to choose the most cost-effective and relevant solution to cater for their needs.

To make it easier for security professionals to evaluate what they need in order to make sure their organizations are compliant with the upcoming GDPR requirements, this post will offer an overview of the most essential tools and why they are essential for GDPR breach notification compliance.

Incident Response

One of the most important elements of GDPR compliance is how organizations respond to cyber incidents, particularly as it relates to breach notification procedures. Among other things, the GDPR requires that in the event of a data breach that has an impact of data subjects, the affected organization notify the appropriate supervisory authorities within 72 hours of the moment the breach occurred. This is arguably one of the GDPR requirements that organizations are most concerned about, as it involves a short timeframe within which they must not only detect and contain the breach, but be able to fully report on the details while following strict protocols, including documenting the events and making sure the proper incident response and case management procedures have been followed. Failure to comply with these rules can lead to severe and long-lasting consequences, damaging organizations’ reputation as well as their bottom line.

In order to be able to gather evidence and document a data breach and provide proof to authorities that the appropriate formalized procedures have been followed, organizations need a tool that can help make that process as streamlined as possible. That’s exactly the purpose of incident response and case management solutions, which are designed to allow reactions to incidents to be immediate and thorough by following set procedures, processes and workflows. These solutions have the ability to perform effective case management, including creation of an incident record, task assignment and management, evidence collation and analysis, along with data sharing and reporting, all of which are essential elements of meeting various GDPR requirements.

Automated and Orchestrated Response

In addition to case management and incident response procedures, organizations should be looking to automate and orchestrate their response to incidents such as breaches as much as possible.  72 hrs will lapse very fast and it is critical to get these potential incidents under control as soon as possible. With increasing numbers of alerts being received by security teams while usually facing the issue of limited resources, this not only accelerates the mean time to detection and mean time to resolution of potential incidents, but also helps to meet GDPR compliance timeframes.  

Security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) solutions can do this by providing incident response and breach notification playbooks specifically designed to align an organization’s reaction to these types of events with GDPR best practices in mind. They also entail specific GDPR workflows that can be automatically enforced, repeated and formalized, which is another important aspect of achieving GDPR compliance.

How DFLabs IncMan SOAR Platform Can Help

Meeting GDPR requirements and being able to demonstrate compliance takes a comprehensive approach that inevitably requires the implementation of a set of tools that have the capability to ensure a proper implementation of the required procedures in the event of a data breach impacting data subjects. Having a platform in place to formalize and support these requirements is crucial, so why use multiple tools and solutions when you can just use one?

DFLabs IncMan SOAR platform combines incident response and case management processes with comprehensive automation and orchestration functions. This enables organizations to fully adhere to breach notification requirements by implementing an incident response plan in case of a potential breach, automating associated processes, prioritizing incident response and related enrichment and containment actions, managing notification distribution and subsequent advanced reporting documentation of any incident.

If you would like further information about how DFLabs IncMan SOAR platform can help your security team adhere to these new GDPR requirements, visit our dedicated web page or request a demo.

How To Expedite DDoS Attacks With SOAR Technology

Worldwide infrastructure outages caused by DDoS attacks are continuing to be a growing threat to today’s organizations as attackers find new ways to bypass existing mitigation technologies. According to a recent report by Kaspersky, DDoS attacks in Q1 2018 were at an all-time high in terms of both volume and duration. In addition to these growing numbers of attacks, organizations are experiencing a shortage of experienced cybersecurity professionals, making it more difficult to effectively defend their infrastructure and quickly remediate such attacks.

How SOAR Tools Can Help Expedite DDoS Incident Response

Manual data collection is time-consuming and requires an individual to manually access each tool to get the specific information they require, then export the data and manually perform data correlation. Depending on the organization’s workflow, the information may also need to be added to the incident management ticketing system in order to be shared with other teams within the organization. This process requires a skillful analyst to spend a significant amount of time performing mundane and repetitive tasks which can easily be automated, greatly reducing their value to the organization.

A security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platform, properly integrated into the security program, can help maximize the value of these skilled analysts. The IncMan SOAR platform from DFLabs allows security program administrators to create automated, conditional workflows to respond to incidents such as a DDoS attack though IncMan’s R3 Rapid Response Runbooks. These runbooks allow the automation of mundane, repetitive tasks, while IncMan’s Dual Mode Orchestration technology allows security program administrators to ensure that human intervention, oversight or approval is required when necessary. This allows security analysts to focus solely on the tasks which require human input, allowing organizations to maximize the efficiency of their security teams, as well as speed up the mean time to detection (MTTD) and mean time to resolution (MTTR).  

IncMan SOAR is able to collect data from sources such as email, syslogs, database queries, as well as custom scripts and an assortment of bi-directional integrations with third-party solutions. With the right SOAR solution in place, it is possible to expedite data collection, collect threat intelligence and acquire forensic information from automatically triggered actions, notify the appropriate stakeholders and conduct supervised containment actions when appropriate. The use of the platform will heavily reduce the number of manual and mundane tasks that the analyst needs to perform, freeing up their time to complete more in-depth analysis and incident mitigation.

How Can Threat Intelligence Prevent DDoS Attacks?

A vast amount of threat data is being generated from a number of security tools and other data sources on an ongoing basis. It is critical that this information is accurately collected, stored and applied in order for the intelligence to be actionable and provide benefit to the organization.  

Using the analogy of cooking, there is little value in having all of the ingredients for a recipe without the proper context regarding how each ingredient is used.  Simply throwing all of the ingredients into a single pot will not create a culinary masterpiece and will not produce the desired results. The same concept applies to threat intelligence data. The vast amount of threat data is of little value to a security team without the proper context. The right SOAR platform should assist the security team in correlating this threat data, turning a list of ingredients into a proper dish, or threat data into actionable threat intelligence.  

Accurately correlated threat intelligence can provide critical insight to inform decisions as well as to contain and mitigate present and future attacks. Intelligence data should be made available in multiple forms, including visualizations, to assist security analysts in correctly understanding the full context of the information. Correlation graphs and search capabilities can also be utilized to enable threat hunting, allowing security analysts to proactively seek out threats which may be looming or have gone undetected by automated detection technologies.

The Best Approach to Prevent DDoS Attacks

A layered approach of defense is the best method to prevent, or at the very least minimize the impact of a DDoS attack, while eliminating any single points of failure. Maintaining network baseline information, monitoring the network for any anomalies and ensuring all systems remain patched are all critical components of DDoS mitigation.

For critical systems which cannot tolerate any downtime, it is important to have a documented DDoS mitigation strategy in place. DDoS mitigation strategies may vary depending on the type of network being protected and the maximum tolerable downtime, however, may include high availability or redundant systems, backup connections or DDoS scrubbing services.

In Summary

DDoS attacks represent a dominant threat and often target organizations that provide a service to a wide customer base, area or network in order to have the largest impact. DDoS attacks are also continuing to become more complex and larger in size, as recently seen in the attacks on GitHub in early March which generated 1.3 Tbs of traffic, shortly to be followed by another attack of 1.7 Tbs two weeks later.  

Some organizations are now experiencing over 10,000 threat events weekly; an overwhelming number of events to be manually investigated and mitigated by incident responders. A SOAR solution will act as a force multiplier, enabling security teams to do more with fewer resources, and will help reduce the MTTD and MTTR, proactively helping to respond to future alerts and even preventing incidents from occurring in the first instance. Historical event and data correlation is critical and can be used to identify security gaps, harden networks and allow for early detection of potential security incidents, further increasing the ROI of a SOAR platform.

Upcoming Cyber Security Events to Attend and Why

Regardless of the number of cyber security events you attend, their specific focus, size or location, there are always several important items on the agenda and key takeaways for both security professionals and security vendors alike, which keeps us going back for more.

Cyber security professionals attend these events to gather with people who share the same interest and expertise as they do, to learn about new and upcoming things in the industry, to network and meet people, as well as seek out potential vendor solutions to solve their common day challenges and pain points.

On the flipside, cyber security vendors want to do pretty much the same in terms of hearing about the latest trends and advancements in technologies and solutions, while taking the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded people, as today we tend to largely focus our communications less formally over email and social networks, rather than by using the old-fashioned face to face method.  If they can, they will, of course, want to showcase their solution first-hand, so the full benefits can be seen, which isn’t a bad thing, as face to face meetings are becoming somewhat few and far between.

There are literally hundreds happening daily, weekly, monthly on a global scale, too many to possibly count. Conferences and events DFLabs has recently participated in include probably the most renowned event, RSA Conference US in San Francisco, as well as last week’s GISEC event in Dubai, which were great successes, meeting with new prospects, existing customers, as well as channel and technology partners. If you didn’t get a chance to meet up with us then, feel free to drop us a line.

So how do you choose which ones to attend?  This will depend on a number of deciding factors personal to you, including your agenda, the event program, what you want to achieve, size, location, cost of attending, as well as what fits in with juggling your busy schedule and availability. If Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) is a high priority on your list, these are some of the events to look out for and plan to attend in the next few months.

InfoSecurity Europe

Upcoming Events: 5-7 June, London, UK

Coming into its 23rd year, Infosecurity Europe continues to be the main hub for cyber security professionals to gather and meet in the city once a year, featuring a comprehensive conference program with a large host of exhibitors.  With nearly 20,000 expected visitors, it is a huge networking opportunity for most, so don’t forget to register here.

With only 4 weeks to go, contact me to schedule a date and time in your diary now to meet with one of the DFLabs team.  If you don’t like the hustle and bustle of the expo floor, not a problem, we would be happy to meet in a quieter setting outside of the conference hall.  

ConnectTech Asia

Upcoming Events: 26-28 June, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

ConnectTechAsia consists of three events encompassing CommunicAsia, BroadcastAsia and its latest addition NXTAsia.  Covering the entire spectrum of communication, broadcast, and enterprise technology and services it is where technology ideas and business converge.  

Meet DFLabs at NXTAsia where you can visit us on stand #5H2-08 to learn more about how to leverage your existing security operations tools with Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technology. Also listen to our VP of Engineering, Andrea Fumagalli to hear more about the benefits of utilizing a SOAR solution in the NXTAsia Theatre on 28th June at 15:15.  Save the date, register now and ensure you reach out to us to arrange to meet up.

SANS Summits

Upcoming Events:  Security Operations Summit, 30-31 July, New Orleans, US & Threat Hunting and Incident Response Summit, 6-7 Sept, New Orleans, US

The SANS Institute is one of the most trusted and largest sources for information security training and security certification in the world, with over 165,000 members.  Established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization, it is now home to the largest collection of research documents about various aspects of information security.  Hosting a number of summits, it educates delegates on a vast number of topics including Security Awareness, Cyber Threat Intelligence, and Security Operations to name a few.

DFLabs will be sponsoring the Security Operations Summit at the end of July, where you will be able to meet with us, as well as listen to our Lunch and Learn session hosted on Day 1.  John Moran, Senior Product Manager from DFLabs will also be speaking at the Threat Hunting and Incident Response Summit in September on the topic “Threat Hunting Using Live Box Forensics”, so save the dates in your diaries.  More information and event details are available here.  

Black Hat Conference

Upcoming Events:  4-9 August – Las Vegas, US & 3-6 December – London, UK

Black Hat is one of the most technical global information security event in the world, running for 20+ years.  It provides attendees with the very latest research, development, and trends driven by the needs of the security community in the form of briefings and trainings. You can meet some of the friendliest hackers here!

DFLabs has a booth at both events and will be networking on the floor throughout. Visit us in Vegas at booth #2329 within the Innovation City, or in London later in the year at booth #1010.  Learn more and arrange to meet us, whichever side of the pond you are on.

There will be many other upcoming opportunities to meet up with us throughout the year, but if you are attending one of these events this summer and would like to organize something ahead of time, please do get in touch to arrange a suitable time and a place. We look forward to meeting you.  Or alternatively why wait? Arrange for an informal chat and a demo today.

Leverage Your Existing SIEM with SOAR Technology

With a vast range of security technologies, tools and platforms now widely available in the market for security teams, it is ever more complex to decide which tools are best to deploy to suitably defend the organization’s infrastructure.

Within security structures of larger organizations, it is common to have a security information and event management (SIEM) tool in place, alongside or sitting on top of several other systems, but how can it benefit from implementing a Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) solution on top of its existing SIEM infrastructure to further manage its security operations and incident response processes and tasks?  Let’s find out.

The Differences Between a SIEM and SOAR Solution

In simple terms, a SIEM collates and analyses the information generated from various sources, identifying issues and raising the initial security alerts. Alert triage is then often carried out by security analysts in a very manual and non-methodical way and subject to mistakes and errors due to the sheer volumes and number of repetitive and mundane actions required, often not being able to fulfill all of them. One of the original core drivers for SIEM technology was to ingest and process large volumes of security events; a function which SIEMs continue to excel at today. However, although some advanced SIEMs have incorporated additional features, such as integration with threat intelligence and other third-party solutions, many SIEMs are still largely focused on data ingestion and presentation.

Another fundamental limitation of many SIEM solutions is that the communication between the SIEM and other third-party products is unidirectional.  SIEMs were designed to ingest information, however, support for two-way communication with third-party tools is often limited at best. In most cases, this severely limits a SIEM’s ability to carry out actions beyond the initial alert; this is where a SOAR solution can add significant additional value.

A SOAR solution, on the other hand, is often used in conjunction with a SIEM, however, it is not dependent on having a SIEM in place. A SOAR solution is not intended to be a SIEM replacement, instead, when used in conjunction with a SIEM it is intended to be utilized to help security teams automate and orchestrate actions across their entire portfolio of security products in a bidirectional manner to reduce analyst workload, alert fatigue, time to respond and remediate and reduce overall risk.

Sitting on top of the SIEM, the SOAR solution would orchestrate and automate multiple third-party tools from different vendors, whereas the SIEM would be used to collate and analyze data and generate the alert, which is just the first step of a multistep process. SOAR technology would then be leveraged once the initial security threat had been detected and the security alert generated by the SIEM.

When to Implement a SOAR Solution?

The amount of security events that cybersecurity professionals deal with on a day to day basis can be overwhelming and analysts often have to delve through a deluge of data to find what they are looking for, ultimately preventing them from tackling incidents more efficiently. SIEM tools collect large amounts of information from different areas of the IT framework, but too much information sometimes is just as crippling as not enough information.

A SIEM used in isolation helps to centralize information gathered from various other security tools being used, but it can often lead to an overwhelming amount of information, that then needs to be filtered and correlated to eliminate the false positives to leave only the critical events that need to be acted upon. It can produce a vast quantity of security alerts, leaving security analysts inundated, not knowing which alerts should take priority and be tackled first. This will have a negative impact on the security team, with what is already considered a scarce resource.

Most security teams do not realize the sheer number of alerts that will be received and the resulting alert fatigue until they have deployed a SIEM and a full advanced threat detection architecture. There is a common misconception that a SIEM will reduce the number of incoming alerts by applying correlation rules.  However, this is not always the case and correlation rules may only reduce a small percentage of the total number of alerts.  Most enterprises will see a clear business need for implementing a SOAR solution to help reduce alert fatigue, orchestrate the organization’s different security tools and automate menial tasks.

The Benefits

Integrating a SIEM with a SOAR solution combines the power of each to create a more robust, efficient and responsive security program. Taking advantage of the SIEM’s ability to ingest large volumes of data and generate alerts, the SOAR solution can be layered on top of the SIEM to manage the incident response process to each alert, automating and orchestrating a number of mundane and repetitive tasks that would take many manual man hours to complete.

SOAR solutions such as IncMan from DFLabs support SIEM integrations and present a comprehensive solution for all organizations that are trying to create a successful and affordable security program, by effectively reducing the noise generated by a high number of alerts and sometimes less than reliable threat intelligence. This can ultimately enable security teams to minimize incident resolution time, maximize analyst efficiency and overall increase handled incidents.

The combined power of a SOAR solution working alongside a SIEM is crucial to ensure that alerts do not go untouched or ignored. More importantly, it ensures all alerts are dealt with in a timely manner and are acted upon following a standard set of consistent and repeatable practices and procedures.

Final Thoughts

A SIEM is a crucial tool within any security infrastructure, amongst other tools. However, it is critical to keep in mind what a SIEM is designed to achieve, and what gaps may still exist within the security program. The combination of a SIEM and a SOAR solution can transform the security operations and incident response capability and take it from one level to the next, in an intelligent and predetermined manner, so why wait? To learn more about the topic read our new whitepaper “How to Leverage Your Existing SIEM Tool with SOAR Technology