As soon as the first indicator of compromise is located, the most common next step is to try to pivot from that indicator to find additional indicators or evidence on the network. While it is sometimes necessary to perform your own research to determine what additional additional indicators may be present, it is common to make use of previous research when looking for new indicators to hunt for.
This is especially true when dealing with an indicator of malicious software. Perhaps you have found a host communicating with an IP address known to be associated with a particular malware variant; the logical next step would be to search for communication with other IPs, domains and URLs the malware may be associated with, along with looking for the host-based activity the malware is known to use.
For example, suppose an IDS alerted on the IP address 144.202.87[.]106. A quick search on VirusTotal indicates that this IP address may be malicious, however, it does not provide much information which could be used to pivot to other indicators. So where does every good analyst turn at this point? Google, of course! A quick Google search for the IP address returns several results, including a blog post from MalwareBytes on the Hidden Bee miner.
Along with a detailed analysis of the Hidden Bee miner, the post also includes several other IP addresses and URLs which analysts observed in this attack. Now we have some data to pivot and hunt with!
This entire analysis from the MalwareBytes team can easily be added into DFLabs’ IncMan SOAR platform by copying and pasting the blog into the Additional Info section of the incident. In addition to allowing this information to be accessed by the working on this incident, adding this text to the Additional Info field has an additional advantage we have not yet discussed; Automatic Observable Harvesting.
When text is added to a field such as the Additional Info fields in IncMan, Automatic Observable Harvesting will automatically parse through the text and attempt to harvest observables from the unstructured text.
In the case of the Hidden Bee analysis from MalwareBytes, Automatic Observable Harvesting automatically harvested four IP addresses, a URL and a domain from the unstructured text and added them to the observables section.
While six observables may not take long to manually enter into the platform, it is not uncommon to find detailed malware analysis that contains dozens of IP addresses, hash values, domains, and other observables. Entering this many observables into IncMan manually in order to take advantage of IncMan’s automation and orchestration features on the new observables would be a time-consuming process. Automatic Observable Harvesting performs this task automatically.
Once these new observables are added into IncMan, analysts can take advantage of IncMan’s automation and orchestration features to begin performing additional enrichment on the observables, as well as searching across any internal data sources for evidence of the observables and blocking them if needed.
We’ve been witnessing the continual transformation of the cyber security ecosystem in the past few years. With cyber attacks becoming ever-more sophisticated, organizations have been forced to spend huge amounts of their budgets on improving their security programs in an attempt to protect their infrastructure, corporate assets, and their brand reputation from potential hackers.
Recent research, however, still shows that a large number of organizations are experiencing an alarming shortage of the cyber security skills and tools required to adequately detect and prevent the variety of attacks being faced by organizations. Protecting your organization today is a never-ending and complex process. I am sure, like me, you are regularly reading many cyber security articles and statistics detailing these alarming figures, which are becoming more of a daily reality.
Many organizations are now transitioning the majority of their efforts on implementing comprehensive incident response plans, processes and workflows to respond to potential incidents in the quickest and most efficient ways possible. But even with this new approach, many experts and organizations alike express concerns that we will still be faced with a shortage of skilled labor able to deal with these security incidents, with security teams struggling to fight back thousands of potential threats generated from incoming security alerts on a daily basis.
With so many mundane and repetitive tasks to complete, there’s little time for new strategies, planning, training, and knowledge transfer. To make things worse, security teams are spending far too much of their valuable time reacting to the increasing numbers of false positives, to threats that aren’t real. This results in spending hours, even days on analyzing and investigating false positives, which leaves little time for the team to focus on mitigating real, legitimate cyber threats, which could result in a serious and potentially damaging security incident. Essentially, we need to enable security operations teams to work smarter, not harder; but is this easier said than done?
How does security orchestration and automation help security teams?
With this in mind, organizations need to find new ways combat these issues, while at the same time add value to their existing security program and tools and technologies being used, to improve their overall security operations performance. The answer is in the use of Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technology.
Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response SOAR solutions focus on the following core functions of security operations and incident response and help security operations centers (SOCs), computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs) work smarter and act faster:
- Orchestration – Enables security operations to connect and coordinate complex workflows, tools and technologies, with flexible SOAR solutions supporting a vast number of integrations and APIs.
- Automation – Speeds up the entire workflow by executing actions across infrastructures in seconds, instead of hours if tasks are performed manually.
- Collaboration – Promotes more efficient communication and knowledge transfer across security teams
- Incident Management – Activities and information from a single incident are managed within a single, comprehensive platform, allowing tactical and strategic decision makers alike complete oversight of the incident management process.
- Dashboards and Reporting: Combines of core information to provide a holistic view of the organization’s security infrastructure also providing detailed information for any incident, event or case when it is required by different levels of stakeholders.
Now let’s focus on the details of these core functions and see how they improve the overall performance.
Security Orchestration is the capacity to coordinate, formalize, and automate responsive actions upon measuring risk posture and the state of affairs in the environment; more precisely, it’s the fashion in which disparate security systems are connected together to deliver larger visibility and enable automated responses; it also coordinates volumes of alert data into workflows.
With automation, multiple tasks on partial or full elements of the security process can be executed without the need for human intervention. Security operations can create sophisticated processes with automation, which can improve accuracy. While the concepts behind both security orchestration and automation are somewhat related, their aims are quite different. Automation aims to reduce the time processes take, making them more effective and efficient by automating repeatable processes and tasks. Some SOAR solutions also applying machine learning to recommend actions based on the responses to previous incidents. Automation also aims to reduce the number of mundane actions that must be completed manually by security analysts, allowing them to focus on a high level and more important actions that require human intervention.
Incident Management and Collaboration
Incident management and collaboration consist of the following activities:
- Alert processing and triage
- Journaling and evidentiary support
- Analytics and incident investigation
- Threat intelligence management
- Case and event management, and workflow
Security orchestration and automation tools are designed to facilitate all of these processes, while at the same making the process of threat identification, investigation and management significantly easier for the entire security operations team.
Dashboards and Reporting
SOAR tools generate reports and dashboards for a range of stakeholders from the day to day analysts, SOC managers, other organization departments and even C-level executives. These dashboards and reports are not only used to provide security intelligence, but they can also be used to develop analyst skills.
Human Factor Still Paramount
Security orchestration and automation solutions create a more focused and streamlined approach and methodology for detection and response to cyber threats by integrating the company’s security capacity and resources with existing experts and processes in order to automate manual tasks, orchestrate processes and workflows, and create an overall faster and more effective incident response.
Whichever security orchestration and automation solution a company chooses, it is important to remember that no one single miracle solution guarantees full protection. Human skills remain the core of every future security undertaking and the use of security orchestration and automation should not be viewed as a total replacement of a security team. Rather, it should be considered a supplement that enables the security team by easing the workload, alleviating the repetitive, time-consuming tasks, formalizing processes and workflows, while supporting and empowering the existing security team to turn into proactive threat hunters as opposed to reactive incident investigators.
Humans and machines combined can work wonders for the overall performance of an organization’s security program and in the long run allows the experts in the team to customize and tailor their actions to suit the specific business needs of the company.
Finally, by investing in a SOAR solution for threat detection and incident response, organizations can increase their capacity to detect, respond to and remediate all security incidents and alerts they are faced with in the quickest possible time frames.
Security teams are inundated with a constant barrage of alerts. Depending on the severity of each alert, it is often minutes to hours before an analyst can properly triage and investigate the alert. The manual triage and investigation process adds additional time, as analysts must determine the validity of the alert and gather additional information. While these manual processes are occurring, the potential attacker has been hard at work; likely using scripted or automated processes to probe the network, pivot to other hosts and potential begin exfiltrating data. By the time the security team has verified the threat and begun blocking the attacker, the damage is often already done.
So, how can security operations temporarily contain a possible threat and/or permanently block a known threat? This blog will explain how by utilizing the IncMan SOAR technology from DFLabs with its integration with McAfee Web Gateway, including a use case example in action.
DFLabs and McAfee Web Gateway Integration
McAfee Web Gateway delivers comprehensive security for all aspects of web traffic in one high-performance appliance software architecture. For user-initiated web requests, McAfee Web Gateway first enforces an organization’s internet use policy. For all allowed traffic, it then uses local and global techniques to analyze the nature and intent of all content and active code, providing immediate protection. McAfee Web Gateway can examine the secure sockets layer (SSL) traffic to provide in-depth protection against malicious code or control applications.
Attackers are scripting and automating their attacks, meaning that additional infections and data exfiltration can occur in mere seconds. Security teams must find new ways to keep pace with attackers in order to minimize the impact from even a moderately skilled threat. Utilizing DFLabs IncMan’s integration with McAfee Web Gateway, IncMan’s R3 Rapid Response Runbooks automate and orchestrate the response to newly detected threats on the network, enabling organizations to immediately take containment actions on verified malicious IPs and ports, as well as temporarily preventing additional damage while further investigation is performed on suspicious IP addresses and ports.
Use Case in Action
McAfee Web Gateway has generated an alert based on potentially malicious traffic originating from a host inside the network to an unknown host on the Internet. Based on a predefined Incident Template, IncMan has automatically generated an Incident and notified the Security Operations Team. As part of the Incident Template, the following R3 Runbook has been automatically added to the Incident and executed.
Data exfiltration can occur in mere seconds. By the time a security team has validated the threat and blocked the malicious traffic, it is often too late. DFLabs integration with McAfee Web Gateway allows organizations to automatically contain the threat and stop the bleeding until further action can be taken.
The Runbook begins by performing several basic Enrichment actions, such as gathering WHOIS and reverse DNS information on the destination IP address. Following these basic Enrichment actions, the Runbook continues by querying two separate threat reputation services for the destination IP address. If either threat reputation service returns threat data above a certain user-defined threshold the Runbook will continue along a path which takes additional action. Otherwise, the Runbook will record all previously gathered data, then end.
If either threat reputation service has deemed the destination IP address to be potentially malicious, the Runbook will continue by using an additional Enrichment action to query the organization’s IT asset inventory. Although this information will not be utilized by the automated Runbook, it will play an important role in the process shortly.
Next, the Runbook will query a database of known-good hosts for the destination IP address. In this use case, it is assumed that this external database has been preconfigured by the organization and contains a list of all known-good, whitelisted, external hosts by IP address, hostname and domain. If the destination IP address does not exist in the known-good hosts’ database, the security analyst will be prompted with a User Choice decision. This optional special condition within IncMan will pause the automatic execution of the Runbook, allow the security analyst to review the previously gathered Enrichment information and allow the security analyst to make a conditional flow decision. In this case, the User Choice decision asks the security analyst if they wish to block the destination IP address. If the analyst chooses to block the destination IP address, a Containment action will utilize McAfee Web Gateway to block the IP until further investigation and remediation can be conducted.
If you want to learn more about how to contain threats, block malicious traffic and halt data exfiltration utilizing Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technology, get in touch with one of the team today to request your live one to one demo.
Discussions about security breaches often focus on the planning elements, but simply talking about planning is not enough. Comprehensive plans need to be drawn up, fully executed and regularly reviewed in order to be successful. This is the only way to potentially contain the breach and limit the impact it could have on the organization. Properly planning and implementing is the difference between success and failure for companies when it comes to security and incident response.
As the ever-evolving cyber security landscape poses new challenges, companies are pushed even more to fight back the growing number and even more sophisticated levels of cyber attacks. Organizations across all sectors and industries are potential targets and could become victims at any time. With attacks escalating in all areas, whether via phishing or malware, for example, security operations teams need to be prepared to respond to existing and new types and strains of threats, in order to fully defend and protect their company assets and networks.
Along with prevention becoming increasingly difficult for security teams, some organizations also tend to have a weakness when it comes to incident response. Below outlines some of the main reasons why this failure is happening today and if this a true representation of your organization, it is important for action to be taken in order to improve it.
With the number of sophisticated cyber threats in the past several years growing at a phenomenal rate, the security industry has been facing an explosion of security tools available in the market. Many of these though have adversely resulted in creating more tasks for security teams and analysts in terms of monitoring, correlating, and responding to alerts. Analysts are pushed to work on multiple platforms and generate data from every single source manually, while afterwards then needing to enrich and correlate that data which can take many hours or even days.
Security budgets are often limited, and while it is often easier to gain support and approval for additional security apps and tools than it is for additional staff members, this means that many security teams often are forced to search innovative ways to perform many different tasks with extremely limited personnel resources.
Another important point to note is that with increased market competition for experienced and skilled analysts, companies are often forced to choose between hiring one highly skilled staff member versus a couple of less experienced, junior level ones.
Over the years, organizations have witnessed an increasing number of security tools to fight back the growing number of security threats. But even though these tools manage alerts and correlate through security information and management system, security teams are still overwhelmed by the volume of alerts being generated and in many instances are not physically able to respond to them all.
Every single alert must be verified manually and triaged by an analyst. Then, if the alert is determined to be valid, additional manual research and enrichment must take place before any other action to address the threat. While all of these processes take place, other potential alerts wait unresolved in a queue, while new alerts keep being added. The problem is, any one of these alerts may be an opportunity window for an attacker while they wait to be addressed.
Risk of Losing Skilled Analysts
Security processes are performed manually and are quite complex in nature, therefore training new staff members takes time. Organizations still rely on the most experienced analysts when it comes to decision making, based on their knowledge and work experience in the company, even with documented procedures in place. This is commonly referred to as tribal knowledge, and the more manual the processes are, the longer the knowledge transfer takes. Moreover, highly qualified analysts are considered a real treasure for the company, and every time a company loses such staff member, part of the tribal knowledge is also lost, and the entire incident response process suffers a tremendous loss. Even though companies make efforts to keep at least one skilled analyst who is able to teach other staff members the skills they have, they aren’t always successful in that.
Failure to Manage Phases
Security teams work with metrics that could be highly subjective and abstract, compared to other departments which often work with proven processes for measuring the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a program. This is largely due to the fact that conservative approaches and methods for measuring ROI aren’t applicable, nor appropriate when it comes to security projects, and might give misleading results. Proper measurement techniques are of utmost importance when it comes to measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of a security program, therefore it is necessary to come up with a measurement process customized according to the needs of the company.
Another important issue that should be mentioned here is the one concerning the management of different steps of the incident response process. Security incidents are very dynamic processes that involve different phases, and the inability to manage these steps could result in great losses and damages to the company. For the best results, companies should focus on implementing documented and repeatable processes that have been tested and well understood.
In order to resolve these issues, organizations should consider the following best practices.
The coordination of security data sources and security tools in a single seamless process is referred to as orchestration. Technology integrations are most often used to support the orchestration process. APIs, software development kits, or direct database connections are just a few of the numerous methods that can be used to integrate technologies such as endpoint detection and response, threat intelligence, network detection, and infrastructure, IT service and account management.
Orchestration and automation might be related, but their end goals are completely different. Orchestration aims to improve efficiency by increased coordination and decreased context switch among tools for a faster and better-informed decision-making, while automation aims to reduce the time these processes take and make them repeatable by applying machine learning to respective tasks. Ideally, automation increases the efficiency of orchestrated processes.
Strategic and Tactical Measurement
Information in favor of tactical decisions usually consists of incident data for analysts and managers, which might consist of indicators of compromise assets, process status, and threat intelligence. This information improves decision-making from incident triage and investigation, through containment and eradication.
On the other hand, strategic information is aimed at executives and managers, and it’s used for high-level decision making. This information might comprise statistics and incident trends, threat intelligence and incident correlation. Advanced security programs might also use strategic information to enable proactive threat hunting.
If these challenges sound familiar within your security operations team, find out how DFLabs’ Security Orchestration, Automation and Response solution can help to address these to improve your overall incident response.
Nowadays, businesses face the fact that cyber attacks are part of the overall picture, and will happen at any given moment. Nobody is in doubt about this, and the question has shifted from ‘if they happen’, to ‘when they happen’. Along with this, cybercriminals have become much more sophisticated, raising the costs of fighting back on all industry levels.
Managing cyber security issues can pose a real challenge within a company. The new and complex networks, business requirements for innovation and new ways of delivery of services require new methods and approaches to the way security is handled. Traditional security management methods no longer work. Today, cyber security management should aim towards efficiency when it comes to possible future threats.
Serious data breaches can cost a company hundreds of millions of dollars. Often, what makes a breach serious is the effectiveness and speed of the incident response process.
This being said, creating an incident response program is of utmost importance. It has to excel in the following areas: visibility, incident management, workflows, threat intelligence, and collaboration/information-sharing. Below we’ll take a closer look at each of these areas and discover their importance from a systems level perspective.
Having in mind the number of security products in an average company, visibility should be the core of any incident response system – this means aggregating data feeds from commercial and open-source products. When setting up an incident response system, specialists should consider platforms that offer support for security products out of the box. Although not all of them support everything by default, the one you choose should be flexible to add bi-directional integrations with security products not supported by default. But even though bi-directional integrations are important for the support of full automation and orchestration, these are not always necessary for each technology. For example, with simple detection and alerting technologies, unidirectional event forwarding integration will do the work. Just check that common methods of event forwarding and data transfer (such as syslog, database connections, APIs, email and online forms) are supported.
A well-structured incident response program should enable orchestration and automation of the security products that the organization uses. Above everything else, it should include the ability to manage the entire incident response process, starting from the basics, such as tracking cases, recording actions during the incident, as well as reporting on critical metrics and KPIs.
Furthermore, a more advanced incident response system should provide the following:
- Phase and objective tracking
- Detailed task tracking, including assignment, time spent and status
- Asset management — tracking all physical and virtual assets involved in the incident
- Evidence and chain of custody management
- Indicator and sample tracking, correlation and sharing
- Document and report management
- Time and monetary effort tracking
One of the key capabilities that should part of the incident response system is the automation and orchestration workflows. The result is more efficient processes and heavy reduction in repetitive tasks for analysts.
These are the core methods for a codification of process workflows: linear-style playbooks or flow-controlled workflows or runbooks.
Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and as each is suitable for different use cases, they both should be supported by the incident response system. In both cases, workflows should be flexible and support almost any process, and should support the use of built-in and custom integrations, and creating manual tasks that should be completed by an analyst.
The capability of incorporating threat intelligence feeds is one of the most basic requirements for an incident response system. Moreover, with the ability to correlate threat intelligence, it’s easier to discover attack patterns, vulnerabilities, and other current risks without manual analysis. Adding the automated correlation also helps identify whether an ongoing incident shares common factors with any previous incidents. But even though automated correlation is crucial for analysts to make decisions, visual correlation is also important. Visualizations of threat intelligence and correlated events are particularly useful for threat hunting and detecting attacks/patterns that could not have been detected using other methods.
Collaboration and Information-Sharing
Incident response is never a one-person show. Generally, it requires the participation of many people, and often of multiple teams. To be highly effective in such an environment, an incident response system should support seamless collaboration and information-sharing between all stakeholders and team members.
This means that authorized staff members should have access to the status of the incident and other generated information, including team members actions. Also, all staff members should communicate in a secure fashion, using out-of-band communications mechanism.
Furthermore, information-sharing and cooperation should be a regular practice with external entities, especially with law-enforcement agencies. Information-sharing, such as threat intelligence reports, is vital in the fight against cybercrime.
Most companies will experience data breach sooner or later, and how they respond will affect the future of the business. These essential components will help ensure that an organization’s incident response program can detect, contain and mitigate a breach before it can reach more serious status.
Forensic incidents can be complex and difficult to manage. Large-scale forensic investigations involve dozens or even hundreds of assets, and this information must be recorded, managed and correlated to be effective. DFLabs and OpenText are key partners in delivering these capabilities. This blog post will outline some of the key challenges that security operations are tackling when it comes to effective forensics management, how they can be resolved and briefly present a use case of the integration in action.
Acquiring forensic data from dozens, even hundreds of potentially impacted hosts across an enterprise can pose a real challenge. This is especially true when these hosts span across continents. Once this data is acquired, it must be organized, enriched and correlated before effective analysis can begin. This results in potentially hundreds of analyst hours lost performing these repetitive tasks before any actual investigative work can take place, during which time, potential attackers could be continuing to further compromise the network or exfiltrate data.
DFLabs integration with EnCase via its IncMan SOAR platform, allows users to more quickly gather critical asset data, manage this data and further enrich this data using IncMan’s orchestration and automation capabilities. It helps to solve these specific security operations challenges often faced by analysts on a daily basis:
- How can I quickly gather host information from endpoints across my infrastructure?
- How can I correlate and enrich data collected from across the different hosts in my infrastructure?
- How can I track my evidence, including acquisition information, location and chain of custody?
- How can I manage all the findings from my forensic examination in one location, correlate and enrich them?
Complete Forensic and Evidence Management
EnCase from OpenText is the premier digital investigation platform for both law enforcement and private industry. EnCase allows acquisition of data from the greatest variety of devices, including over 25 types of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and GPS devices. EnCase enables a comprehensive, forensically sound investigation and produces extensive reports on findings while maintaining the evidence integrity. EnCase Enterprise, built specifically for large enterprise clients, allows forensic analysts to reach across the enterprise network, gathering critical forensic data from hosts across a campus or across the world.
By integrating with OpenText EnCase, DFLabs IncMan SOAR can harness the power of EnCase Enterprise Snapshots, making gathering critical forensic artifacts from hosts around the globe a seamless task. Once this information has been collected by EnCase, IncMan automatically organizes this data by host, performs correlation, and allows a user to harness the power of IncMan’s other integrations to further enrich this information.
In addition to Snapshot information, IncMan is also able to ingest EnCase bookmarks, correlating forensic tools and findings between EnCase cases, as well as acquisition information, making the tracking of forensic clones easier than ever before.
Use Case in Action
An IDS alert for suspicious activity on a host has automatically generated an Incident within IncMan, triggering an investigation. Utilizing IncMan’s EnCase Snapshot EnScript, an analyst performs a snapshot of the host in question, gathering critical process, network and handle information.
Using IncMan’s enrichment capabilities on the newly acquired snapshot information, a suspicious process and several suspicious network connections have been identified, prompting the need for a more detailed forensic investigation.
Utilizing several of IncMan’s containment integrations, traffic from the suspicious IP addresses has been temporarily blocked and the process’s hash value has been banned from running across the environment.
A forensic clone of the host is created to permit a more detailed forensics and root cause analysis. Once the forensic clone is created, IncMan’s Bookmarks and Clones EnScript is used to transfer information regarding the clone from EnCase to IncMan, making tracking the clone’s location and verification simple and easy.
Based on the forensic analysis of the host, a suspicious executable and configuration files have been identified and bookmarked for further analysis. Utilizing IncMan’s Bookmarks and Clones EnScript, these EnCase bookmarks are imported in to IncMan to permit improved tracking and information sharing between analysis.
Making use of one of IncMan’s several integrations with various sandboxing technologies, the executable bookmarked in EnCase is identified as a variant of known malware. Further research on this known malware variant leads to a remediation strategy for the infection of this host.
If you currently use EnCase from OpenText and would like to learn more, request a bespoke one to one demonstration of the integration with DFLabs’ SOAR platform. See for yourself how we can help you to free up valuable analyst time and improve the overall performance of your security program by automating host data acquisitions, tracking and managing important information, while storing all forensic artifacts in a single location for easier use and correlation.
Also for further reading, check out our white paper titled “DFLabs IncMan SOAR: For Incident and Forensics Management”.
Incident and Forensics Investigations Management
Security incidents and digital forensics investigations are complex events with many facets, all of which must be managed in parallel to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. When investigations are not managed and documented properly, processes fail, critical items are overlooked, inefficiencies develop, and key indicators are missed, all leading to increased potential risk and losses.
Investigation management can be broken down into a number of key components and it is important that an organization is able to carry out all of these elements collectively and seamlessly in order to properly handle and manage any incident they may potentially face.
This blog will briefly cover 9 key areas that I believe are the most important when it comes to incident and forensics management. Ensuring these are firmly in place within your security operations or CSIRT team will ensure more efficient and effective incident management when an incident does occur.
If you would like to learn more about each of the components in more detail and how DFLabs has incorporated them into its comprehensive and complete Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platform to enable organizations to improve their security program, you can download our in-depth white paper here.
Every investigation must be organized into a logical container, commonly referred to as a case or incident. This is necessary for several reasons. Most obviously, this container is used to identify the investigation and contain information such as observables, tasks, evidence, notes and other information associated with the investigation, discussed in greater detail in the subsequent sections. Many investigations contain sensitive information which should only be accessible by those with a legitimate need to know. These containers also serve to enforce a level of access control.
Observables and Findings
Investigations generate a large volume of data, from simple observables such as IP addresses, domain names and hash values, to more complex observables such as malware and attacker TTPs, as well as findings such as those made from log analysis, forensic examination and malware analysis. All this information must be recorded and shared with all appropriate stakeholders to ensure the most effective response to a security incident.
Data gathered from previous incidents can be an invaluable tool in responding more effectively to future security incidents. As individual data points are associated with each other, this information is transformed from simple data into actionable threat intelligence which can inform future decisions and responses.
Phase, Expectation and Task Management
Investigations generally progress through a series of phases, each of which will contain a series of management expectations and a set of tasks required to meet those expectations. As the complexity of an investigation increases the tracking of these phases, expectations and tasks become both more critical and more difficult to manage. Failing to properly track and manage investigation phases, expectations and tasks can lead to duplicated efforts, overlooked items and other inefficiencies which lead to an increase in both cost and time to successfully complete an investigation.
Evidence and Chain of Custody
Documenting evidence and tracking chain of custody can be a complex process during an investigation of any size. Documentation using older paper-based or spreadsheet systems does not scale to larger investigations, is prone to error and is time-consuming. Failing to maintain a full list of evidence or maintain chain of custody can result in lost evidence, duplication of efforts and inability to use critical evidence during legal processes.
Forensic Tool Integration
Security operations use a multitude of tools and technologies on a daily basis with different ones being utilized for varying types of investigations. Logging into several platforms individually to collect data is often a manual process and can be tiresome and painful, as well as extremely time-consuming, and time is always of the essence. It is critical that security tools are connected and integrated to improve efficiencies and to fuse intelligence seamlessly together so that all data can be analyzed and documented in a single location and immediately shared with relevant stakeholders.
Reporting and Management
Reporting and the management of reports is a vital function during any investigation. Once information is documented, it must be able to be accessed easily and in multiple formats appropriate for a wide variety of audiences. As the scale of an investigation grows, so does the number of individual reports which will be generated. This can result in many complexities, including sharing logistics, proper access controls and managing different versions of reports. To reduce the impact of these complexities, a single report management platform should be used to act as the authoritative source for all reports.
Activity Tracking and Auditing
Tracking actions taken during an investigation is important to ensure a consistent response, identify areas where process improvements are needed, and to prove that the actions taken were appropriate. Not only must actions be documented, but it is also crucial to ensure that the integrity of this documentation cannot be called into question later. However, documenting activity during an investigation can be time-consuming, taking analysts attention away from the tasks at hand, and is often an afterthought.
Investigative data can be extremely sensitive, and it is crucial that the confidentiality of such data be maintained at all times. Confidentiality must be maintained not only for those outside of the organization but also for those internal users who may not be authorized to access some or all of the incident information.
No matter the specific roles a team is tasked with, the team will require many different physical and logical internal assets to accomplish their tasks. This may include workstations, storage media, license dongles, software and other hardware. Regardless of the asset, an organization must be able to track that asset throughout its life, ensuring that they (and the money spent on them) do not go to waste. As the team grows, managing the tracking of these assets, who they are issued, their expiration dates and more can become a full-time task.
These core components combined enable security teams to work more efficiently throughout the entire investigative lifecycle, reducing both cost and risk posed by the wide variety of events facing organizations today. Providing a holistic view of the security landscape and the organization’s broad infrastructure allows for better use of existing tools and technologies to minimize the time team members must spend on the administrative portions of investigations, allowing them to focus on the more important tasks that will ultimately impact the outcome of the response.
Learn more about the topic by downloading our latest Whitepaper titled “DFLabs IncMan SOAR: For Incident and Forensics Management“.
SANS recently released their 2018 SOC Survey and many of their findings were of no surprise to anyone who has been responsible for maintaining their organization’s security posture. Many respondents reported a continued breakdown in communication between NOC and SOC operations, lack of dynamic asset discovery procedures, and event correlation continues to be a manual process even though SOC staffing is being worn thin by the surmounting responsibilities they have to take on.
Why Measuring SOC-cess Matters?
Anyone who has been a part of a security team knows these issues are an everyday battle, but those “common” issues were not what caught me off guard. The most shocking statistic I gathered from this survey is that only 54% of respondents reported that they are actively using metrics to measure their SOC’s success! I was taken aback by this finding and couldn’t help but wonder if all the other reported SOC deficiencies could be directly related to this missing link?
I have been in the security industry for close to ten years, most of which was spent as a SOC analyst and SIEM engineer for a large MSSP. It was my responsibility to be an extension of my client’s security arm and those clients ranged from large Fortune 500 companies to small family owned businesses. Each client was unique, what one found to be important, another thought of as noise. The diversity between each of these clients taught me early on how important it is to understand what their definition of success was so that I may help them to not only achieve their security goals but to assist them in staying ahead of today’s rapidly expanding threat landscape.
This diversity also taught me another valuable lesson: not all security programs are created equally. Naturally, my larger clients had a more mature security posture, they knew what they wanted and what it would take to get them there, and they had the funding to back it up. Unfortunately, some of my smaller clients were not as lucky. They were severely understaffed, their IT department was the Security department, they lacked adequate funding to stay ahead of the ever-growing security curve, and in many cases, the measurement of success resembled a game of whack a mole.
Does this sound familiar? If the answer is yes, you can rest assured that you are not alone. Even the most secure, highly funded organizations have struggled with these obstacles. However, I believe one of the biggest differences between these organizations and the organizations striving to be like them isn’t directly due to the lack of funds, but instead the metrics they are using to show value in what they are trying to accomplish.
Don’t get me wrong, funding is and always will be an obstacle that organizations, large or small, will have to overcome when trying to build and maintain a security program. But the larger and more dangerous obstacle is the one we are creating for ourselves by not measuring and monitoring our security strengths and weaknesses through a strong security metrics program.
This type of security program will be as different as the organization it aims to define. To truly understand what success looks like for you there are a few recommended tasks, that when completed, will give you a greater understanding of your environment and a strong foundation for your security metrics program.
How to enhance your security program
- Conduct a risk assessment
A risk assessment is meant to help identify what an organization should be protecting and why. A successful assessment should highlight an organization’s valuable assets and showcase how they may be attacked and what would be at stake if an attack is successful. Armed with the results of this assessment, organizations can not only begin to address their deficiencies but now have a solid set of metrics that they can use to measure their success as they move forward.
- Perform vulnerability assessments
Vulnerability assessments are another vital security tool which is designed to detect as many vulnerabilities as possible in an environment, and aid security teams in prioritizing and remediating the issues as they are uncovered. All organizations regardless of maturity will benefit from these types of assessments, but organizations with a low to medium security posture may benefit the most. The result of these assessments will help give greater definition to what an organization’s metrics should consist of and what steps are necessary for continued success.
- Adopt a security framework
Even if you are not held to a compliance standard, adopt a security framework anyway. I understand that choosing a framework to model form does not guarantee an organization’s safety, but it is proven that those organizations who adopt a standard have a higher security maturity and are more likely to identify, contain, and recover from an incident faster than those who do not follow security program’s best practices. These frameworks, in conjunction with the security assessments mentioned above, were built to give organizations a blueprint of how to best protect their environment and measure their successes.
I sincerely believe in the value of a rich metrics program and have seen first hand what it can do for an organization. With the level of sophistication in today’s cyber attacks and the environments they target, we can no longer afford to leave our security up to chance. It is my hope that when SANS publish their SOC Survey for 2019, that we have taken the steps necessary to change this statistic because I know as an industry we can do better.
If you want to read more about KPIs and the metrics that we suggest should be set, monitored and measured for a more efficient and effective security program, read our white paper titled “Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Security Operations and Incident Response”.
In security, information is power. Having actionable information available at the touch of a button can be the difference between stopping a threat in its tracks and becoming the victim of the next big breach. However, the many disparate security products deployed in most organizations make information sharing and integration difficult, if not impossible.
Lack of information sharing and integrations between security products leads to a time consuming and disjointed response to a security incident; an environment ripe for mistakes to be made.
Information sharing and security product integration and orchestration have always been at the core of the many values provided by DFLabs. By designing a solution that is OpenDXL compatible, DFLabs has provided joint DFLabs and McAfee customers with yet another way to streamline their security processes.
DFLabs IncMan SOAR and McAfee OpenDXL solve these specific challenges:
- How can I share security information between my security products?
- How can I quickly integrate my security products without the need for time-consuming custom integrations?
McAfee’s OpenDXL allows compatible security applications to seamlessly share security information without the need for complicated custom integrations. DFLabs IncMan OpenDXL implementation is now certified as McAfee compatible. All integrations between DFLabs IncMan platform and McAfee, including ePO, ATD and TIE, have been enhanced to include OpenDXL, significantly reducing the complexity gathering actionable enrichment information from these solutions.
OpenDXL lets developers join an adaptive system of interconnected services that communicate and share information to make real-time accurate security decisions. OpenDXL leverages the Data Exchange Layer (DXL), which many vendors and enterprises already utilize, and delivers a simple, open path for integrating security technologies regardless of vendor.
Together, this integration enables the ability to share information seamlessly between IncMan SOAR and McAfee products using OpenDXL, which leverages the power of OpenDXL for easy to use, feature rich integrations between products.
One of the most common and versatile use cases for OpenDXL within IncMan is integration with McAfee Threat Intelligence Exchange (TIE). McAfee TIE is a reputation broker which combines threat intelligence from imported global sources, such as McAfee Global Threat Intelligence (McAfee GTI) and third-party threat information (such as VirusTotal) with intelligence from local sources, including endpoints, gateways, and advanced analysis solutions. Using Data Exchange Layer (DXL), it instantly shares this collective intelligence across your security ecosystem, allowing security solutions to operate as one to enhance protection throughout the organization.
McAfee TIE makes it possible for administrators to easily tailor threat intelligence. Security administrators are empowered to assemble, override, augment, and tune the comprehensive intelligence information to customize protection for their environment and organization. This locally prioritized and tuned threat information provides instant response to any future encounters. Threat intelligence from McAfee TIE can be used to enrich indicators, such as file hashes, using IncMan’s R3 Rapid Response Runbooks to enable intelligent automated or manual decisions during the incident response process.
DFLabs IncMan also integrates with other McAfee tools. You can learn more about our integration with McAfee ATD and ePO in our previous blog posts.
Within any organization’s security operations center (SOC), regardless of the level of role undertaken (security analyst, engineer or manager), when it comes to the security program at hand, the overall high level goal is to ensure that potential security risks from the alerts generated are dealt with in the most efficient and effective way possible, keeping the threat and potential incident under control, resulting in minimal impact to the day to day operations of the business.
As more and more security alerts are being triggered, potentially with increasing veracity as hackers get more sophisticated, the mean time to detection and mean time to resolution (MTTR) is vital. This is when it becomes critical to make sure your security operation center and incident response teams are fully utilizing the tools and resources they have available to them, to detect, orchestrate, automate and measure their security operations and incident response processes and tasks.
With security incidents becoming more costly, organizations must find new ways to further reduce the mean time to detection and the mean time to resolution. At the same time, they face pressure from being heavily monitored based on a number of security program KPIs to accurately measure (and improve) performance, which will inevitably be reported back to varying levels of stakeholders, including security management, c-level executives, and even board level. (For more information about KPIs for security operations and incident response, download our recent whitepaper here). While some members of the SOC team such as the analysts will solely be focused on the incidents at hand, KPIs and questions surrounding service level agreements (SLAs), mean time to resolution (MTTR) and the overall return on investment (ROI) of security tools and technologies are bound to be at the forefront of the agenda of perhaps the SOC manager, but in particularly the CISO.
In this blog we will briefly discuss how a SOC can enhance its security operations program SLAs, MTTR and ROI, by investing in a Security Orchestration, Automation and Response tool, such as the IncMan SOAR platform from DFLabs and we will run through a basic scenario of what happens when a security alert is detected and triggered using IncMan SOAR.
Many large organizations already use a number of third-party solutions, including security information and event management (SIEM) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools, but the question is…is all of the information being generated by these tools and technologies being utilized and fused together providing meaningful aggregated, correlated and analyzed security intelligence? The answer is most probably no and the likelihood is the SOC team is being overwhelmed with the number of alerts and information that it is receiving, therefore not easily being able to identify which is a high level vs. low level threat, or know exactly which process should initially be taken to start putting a playbook or runbook into action to contain the specific threat alert they are dealing with.
How IncMan Tackles an Alert with Security Orchestration and Automation
An incident was automatically triggered in IncMan SOAR when the organization’s vulnerability management systems found that one of the critical servers reported non-compliance due to missing patches. The security analyst on duty assessed that the problem needed an immediate remediation. An incident management record was created to assign the correction of the problem to the system administrator in charge of the server. Automated actions triggered email notifications to the system administrator and to the security architecture and governance team, who manage the organization’s compliance.
Earlier in the year, the CISO mandated that changes within the large organization were monitored end to end through the system development lifecycle (SDLC). This would try to ensure that there were no security gaps in the infrastructure, as non-compliance within servers can create a security gap that can easily be exploited and misused by a hacker.
This is just one example of an alert that an organization could receive and in this case, it is quite a simple one. Imagine hundreds of alerts coming in per day related to suspected phishing attempts, malware injections, ransomware attacks and data breaches etc. to name a few, that are more complex. Analysts often get overwhelmed with the number of alerts they receive but need to be able to respond quickly to all of them, while also prioritizing them at the same time. The key is to transform the resource intensive and manual tasks into an effective and efficient automated and orchestrated process, where dual actions (automated and manual) can occur side by side as needed. Automating the process with the use of tools such as the IncMan SOAR platform will cut down the time to gather the data manually and the number of resources needed to complete the several stages of the process.
IncMan SOAR provided this customer with a real-time alert that was responded to and remediated almost immediately. Automated processes were followed, reducing the amount of human manual interaction required, including data collection, enrichment, containment and remediation, all in a more efficient, standardized and timely manner. IncMan SOAR facilitated the enrichment of information via the integration tools that the security team was already using and this helped to provide additional intelligence to the investigation, that triggered the original security alert, helping to validate its severity.
With a vast amount of information being generated, having the ability to provide this information in an easy to use and understand format, then facilitated the communication among different IT team members and departments, allowing them to share the visualized information via dashboards and detailed reports that standardize the information sharing process.
Utilizing Playbooks and Runbooks
So how does a SOAR solution like IncMan know which actions to automate when a security alert is triggered? A security operations center can maximize its incident response process by utilizing a range of already predefined automation and orchestration processes via playbooks and runbooks that expedite activities based on the type of security alert. You could have specific ones for ransomware or a phishing attack for example that have been written, trialed and tested a number of times, over and over again to ensure the correct actions are taken.
IncMan’s SOAR powerful engine provides an assortment of automation and actions that within second of being triggered can enrich, contain, remediate and notify stakeholders faster than a human being can react, to gather diverse information from different data sources. The process is flexible and can be used fully automated or in hybrid mode with human interaction to approve certain actions, for example, to block an IP-address or quarantine a compromised asset.
In summary, the above example would have been a mundane and manual process without the use of orchestration and automation, that would depend on human resources collecting information from different data sources, actioning a number of activities and writing a manual report.
The power of the correlation engine in IncMan SOAR cuts down the time by facilitating the collection of the threat information via the integrated third-party vendors’ data sources. With the help of playbooks and automated runbooks meaningful threat intelligence can be easily gathered enriched and correlated to produce a visualization of the incidents, that can be displayed in an automated standard report. The information is quickly available, easily shared to make available to all teams as necessary, without having to wait for dependencies to obtain additional information about the incident from the project teams.
IncMan SOAR maximizes the SLAs for security availability and MTTR, by delivering key details expeditiously via digital computation from multiple data sources of information and delivering it in a visual or readable detailed report format to multiple stakeholders, leadership team or anyone that needs them. The data can subsequently be kept, helping to build and identify historical trending, analysis, patterns, type of attacks to name a few, facilitating the automation actions of future alerts, creating a better security defense system.
Overall the benefits of using a Security Orchestration, Automation and Response platform outweigh the negatives and such a solution can increases the efficiency of your security operations center, enabling it to become more effective, focused on incident response management, proactively threat hunting while minimizing cybersecurity vulnerabilities, as opposed to carrying out the multitude of mundane, repetitive and time consuming basic tasks.
Automation and orchestration reduces the MTTR, as well as aiding the organization’s management team with standard visualization and focused detailed written reports, that helps to contribute to better meeting compliance such as breach notification requirements, while meeting the organization mission to operate in a secure infrastructure in an efficient manner, by increasing cybersecurity governance SLAs and ROI, ultimately maximizing the company resources by doing more with less.