IncMan SOAR v4.5 – With New Open Integration Framework for Enhanced Customization

DFLabs is thrilled to announce the release of the latest version of its award-winning and industry leading Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) solution, IncMan SOAR version 4.5.  

IncMan SOAR version 4.5 includes some of our most exciting enhancements to date. Many of the most significant new features in this latest release are centered around DFLabs’ commitment to delivering a more open, extensible and community-oriented solution to some of the most challenging problems facing SOCs, CSIRTs and MSSPs today. Stay tuned into our website in the coming months, as we will be announcing several other new features and programs centered around creating a more open, community solution soon!

As part of this latest release, DFLabs has added many new integrations across a wide variety of product spaces including ITSM, vulnerability management and threat intelligence. This includes integrations with AlienVault OTX, RSA NetWitness, ServiceNow and Tenable. We have also enhanced several of our existing integrations, including those with IBM QRadar, Splunk and TAXII.

You have asked, and we have listened; version 4.5 will include a significantly expanded REST API, allowing users to extend the functionality of IncMan SOAR and integrate it into other processes in new and exciting ways. Over the next several releases, DFLabs will continue to add new functionality to its API, allowing even greater extensibility for our customers and integration partners.

We have expanded the functionality of our one of a kind START Triage Module in version 4.5 as well. START Triage can now accept inputs from any of our supported data ingestion methods, including syslog, email and the API.  With this increased support, IncMan SOAR users now have highly granular control over which events are forwarded to the START Triage module for enrichment and validation and which events are converted directly into incidents.

Without a doubt, our most exciting and innovative feature in this latest release is IncMan SOAR’s new Open Integration Framework.  The DFLabs Open Integration Framework will fundamentally change the way integrations can be used and extended within the platform. Close, proprietary integrations are out and open, text-based integrations are in. The DFLabs Open Integration Framework allows integration code to be defined in any of our supported scripting languages: Bash Perl, PowerShell, and Python, along with all the other components that make an integration tick within a SOAR solution.

From version 4.5 onward, DFLabs will be developing all integrations in this new Open Integration Framework, giving customers full visibility into the integrations, as well as the ability to extend these integrations. Of course, this Open Integration Framework will also allow customers to develop their own integrations from the ground up as well.

One of the key differentiators in DFLabs’ approach to providing an open framework for integration development is the action level approach taken in this framework. The DFLabs Open Integration Framework defines all integrations at the action level, not as one monolithic file. This action level definition makes the DFLabs Open Integration Framework much more accessible to users with more limited coding experience. It also allows users to easily add actions to existing integrations without the need to modify existing code and enables portability and sharing at the action level. Execution of each integration in a unique Docker container, easily configured from within the integration file, provides additional security and eliminates the risk of conflicting libraries.

For more information on DFLabs Open Integration Framework and other features of IncMan SOAR version 4.5, register for our upcoming webinar on Nov 27th at 3pm GMT and check out our new short overview video.

Make sure to stay tuned in as DFLabs will be releasing some other exciting news focused on increased community involvement soon!

Why Knowledge Transfer is Crucial in Incident Response

One common challenge for organizations in both the public and private sector that’s almost ubiquitous, is how successfully knowledge transfer happens between employees in a consistent way. A process for training and knowledge transfer often seems to be a low priority when other items are competing for time and money. As a result, knowledge transfer becomes somewhat an ad-hoc process. There’s frequently no formalized processes in place and this leads to inconsistent and unreliable performance of security team members.

What is knowledge transfer and why do we need it?

Essentially, it’s the transfer of knowledge related to incident response processes, intelligence, and procedures from senior, more experienced incident responders to less experienced ones, acting as an organizational force multiplier. “Force multiplier” here means taking existing resources and preparing them in a way that improves your organization’s or team’s processes. Depending on the industry, sometimes this is referred to as “tribal knowledge”.

Why do we need knowledge transfer as part of our IR infrastructure?

As threats evolve, our response capabilities have to evolve too. So how do we make sure that the knowledge picked up during an investigation by one incident responder is effectively communicated to the other team members? We all know that experience is the best teacher, but transferring the experience they have garnered from previous investigations can be time-consuming. One thing that incident response teams don’t have is a plethora of time to afford spending on all the tasks that need to be done. Therefore, a training program has to be built on a foundation of knowledge application (how it was effectively used), and not merely on the provision of knowledge (this usually comes out as anecdotal examples that frequently lack validity).

Knowledge transfer provides us with three key elements needed for a successful incident management process. That process has to be repeatable, defensible and consistent. Unfortunately, there are still many organizations that lack the capacity to transfer the knowledge and skills among employees, and a lot of the time as a senior more experienced expert leaves so does their knowledge. This is a significant issue that should be addressed and steps need to be taken in order to manage and mitigate this in the future.

Knowledge transfer is such an important segment of cybersecurity, it is strange how it’s still not a core part of SOC operations. There is hardware and software personnel leading to a growing necessity for integrating knowledge transfer into SOCs. Unfortunately, training doesn’t have a high priority when team members get so many alerts daily and are always reacting to the next potential serious incident. Typically an analyst joins an organization and they’re handed basic information and are thrown into the deep, without really having a good knowledge foundation.

Another important point to highlight is the difficulty to gauge the ROI. If you take an analyst that is untrained and measure how long it takes them to work on an incident compared to an analyst who is trained, it is a time-consuming process in itself. So, if we can’t gauge the ROI (it quickly becomes a non-priority considering the importance of SOC metrics, for example, mean time to detection, mean time to response and the number of incidents handled.

There are other alternatives to a formalized process, but with no structure it is easy for something such as an internal shared drive to become a dumping ground for information, leaving small positive impact on the daily operations.

Knowledge transfer doesn’t just concern incident responders. Legal experts need to be included for GDPR compliance and HR for personnel issues considering the dangers of insider threats. HR should be working closely with all teams and must be aware at all times of the processes taking place within the security team.

And finally, the stakeholders for ROI considerations and funding. It’s important that they know exactly how your processes and procedures work, even if it’s at a high level, so when the time comes to present quarterly reports and present them to the board, they’re have firm understanding exactly how it contributes to a positive ROI.

These are just some of the factors that determine why knowledge transfer should be a fundamental part of SOC operations and if knowledge transfer can be effectively facilitated it can have a positive impact on individual analysts, security teams and overall performance.  

In a future blog we will discuss the 5 key elements of implementing successful knowledge transfer in incident response, but if you can’t wait, why not check out our recent webinar on-demand now “How to Facilitate Knowledge Transfer in SecOps Utilizing SOAR Technology”.

Understanding the Difference Between SOCs and CSIRTs

Building an effective security strategy in organizations today requires the right combination of experts, processes, tools and technologies. Luckily, there are many different ways in which you can organize them to fit your company’s needs.

The two types of teams most often mentioned today are Security Operations Centers (SOCs) and Computer Security Incident Response Teams (or CSIRTs). SOCs and CSIRTs have distinctive roles and responsibilities, so deciding which one is better for your organization’s security program isn’t always easy. This blog post will focus on explaining their main objectives and how they differ in structure, which may help you to decide which one is more suitable for your organization’s internal infrastructure and strategy, especially if you are looking to set one up in the near future as your business expands.  

Security Operations Center (SOC)

The term SOC bears the connotation of an environment designed specifically to defend corporate data and networks, and it can be used to describe the facility where carrying out security tasks takes place or the people who are responsible for that.

A SOC is the “brain” of a security organization, as it acts as the center of all roles and responsibilities, with the main goal of protecting information within the organization. Its main tasks are:

  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Incident management / response
  • Reporting
  • Anything that involves managing and protecting information within the company

Furthermore, the SOC also monitors people, technology and tools, and processes involved in all aspects of cybersecurity. Often companies have a SOC before they decide to establish a separate CSIRT. The end objective of every SOC is to monitor and take care of every cyber activity that takes place and ultimately ensure the organization is protected against any type of attack.

The SOC is also responsible for incident response if there is no formal CSIRT established within the organization. If there is, the SOC helps the CSIRT in responding faster and more efficiently to a cyber threat.

The SOC is responsible for the following:

  • Monitoring the security of users, systems, and applications
  • Prevention, detection, and response to security threats
  • Creating and managing procedures
  • Integration of security systems with other tools

What makes a SOC unique and different from other units within the organization is its centralized role with a strong focus on combining techniques, skills, and technology, by utilizing tools to increase the protection of the company against threats. It’s also important to underline that even though incident prevention and management is not its specialty, a SOC may still cover these events as well, being a department that covers all things related to cyber security.

Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)

CSIRT is a centralized department within an organization whose main responsibilities include receiving, reviewing, and responding to security incidents. CSIRTs may work under SOCs, or function individually, depending on the organization’s needs and structure.

The main goal of a CSIRT is to minimize and control the consequences from an incident. It’s not just addressing the attack itself, their role involves communicating with boards, executives, and clients about the incident.

Some of its main responsibilities include:

  • Prevention, detection, and response to security threats
  • Ranking alerts and tasks
  • Investigating and conducting forensics on incidents
  • Coordinating strategies
What do CSIRTs do?

The basis of every CSIRT is providing incident management. The CSIRT is the central point of contact in the event of a security incident. Depending on how fast a CSIRT team responds to an incident, it can limit the damage from the incident by providing rapid response and recovery solutions. This ensures the workflow is uninterrupted and lowers the overall costs.

Incident management presupposes three functions: reporting, analysis and response. With this being said, the CSIRT activities usually involve the following:

  • Understanding incidents – CSIRTs must be aware of the nature of the incident and the consequences that might arise from it. A repository helps teams gain insights of the patterns of a certain cyber attack and this could lead to future activities that could prevent the occurrence of such attacks.
  • Handling negative impact – CSIRTs carry out elaborate research of a certain problem and recommend solutions for it.
  • Assist other departments – CSIRT teams distribute alerts across the organizations on the latest threats and risks.
  • Compose security strategies
Does my organization need a CSIRT?

The CSIRT within an organization may be a formal unit or an ad-hoc team, depending on the company’s needs. If your organization is not facing a cyber threat on a regular basis, the need for a CSIRT might not be as big as for larger organizations, or companies in high-risk industries, such as healthcare, finance or government. In industries such as these, responding to threats happens daily and there’s a need for a formal, full-time CSIRT.

Whatever the needs of your organization, don’t forget that a CSIRT team will evolve with time. What might start as an ad-hoc team may develop into a fully functioning department as the business expands and progresses.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the final choice, which will depend on a number of individual requirements and factors, (including but not limited to the size of the organization, the number of threats it faces, the industry and the company’s security program maturity), don’t forget that whatever team is established, it is always important to clearly define roles and responsibilities, have efficient processes in place that can be automated, and implement the right tools and technologies that will help your team do their job more effectively. Set up correctly, SOCs and CSIRTs will facilitate the organization to respond to all security alerts and react faster to the ever-evolving cyber security incidents.

Automatic Observable Harvesting With IncMan SOAR

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 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.

If you would like to see IncMan SOAR from DFLabs in action, including its Automatic Observable Harvesting functionality, get in touch to arrange and see one to one demo now.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Understanding the Benefits of Implementing SOAR Technology

About National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM)

Every year since 2004, October has been recognized and celebrated as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). NCSAM was created in a united effort between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to raise awareness on a variety of cybersecurity issues. NCSAM has grown exponentially over the years, reaching consumers, small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, government entities, the military, educational institutions, and young people nationally and internationally. NCSAM was designed with one goal, to engage and educate the public as well as the private sector partners through a series of events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity in order to increase the resiliency of the nation in the event of facing cyber incidents. This unified effort is necessary to maintain a cyberspace that is safer and more resilient and remains a source of tremendous opportunity and growth for years to come.

What’s New in 2018

This year, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) focuses on internet security as a shared responsibility among consumers, businesses and the cyber workforce. NCSAM 2018 aims to “shine a spotlight on the critical need to build a strong, cyber-secure workforce to help ensure families, communities, businesses and the country’s infrastructure are better protected.” The month is divided into four week-long topics:

Week 1 (Oct. 1–5): Make Your Home a Haven for Online Safety
Week 2 (Oct. 8–12): Millions of Rewarding Jobs — Educating for a Career in Cybersecurity
Week 3 (Oct. 15–19): It’s Everyone’s Job to Ensure Online Safety at Work
Week 4 (Oct. 22–26): Safeguarding the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure

Staying Safe Online

This month, organizations should make it a priority to build on their existing cybersecurity knowledge and practices, better understand the current cyber threats impacting their industry. With the spotlight on security, NCSAM is a great time to review current cybersecurity strategies and map out strategic actions that could be undertaken to secure the organization’s infrastructure as much as possible.

Even though preventing every single attack is an impossible mission, all stakeholders within any organization, regardless of their position, capability or involvement within cybersecurity should aim to increase their security knowledge, as one phishing attack could have devastating consequences. Working towards increasing levels of awareness and training, strengthening partnerships and defenses, exchanging valuable information, and with advancing technology will help organizations to protect their brands and valuable assets.

With that being said, we know from experience that today cyber attacks are inevitable and regardless of the vast number of preventative measures we take to protect ourselves, our businesses and our infrastructure are still at risk.  We can never be 100% certain that they are fully secure. Therefore it is key that organizations also have an appropriate and in-depth incident response plan in place in order to be able to respond efficiently and effectively to any type of incident that should unfortunately occur.

How SOAR Technology Helps To Improve Incident Response

Effective cyber defense demands a team effort where employees, end users, and enterprises recognize their shared role in reducing cybersecurity risks. As the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape poses new challenges, companies are pushed even more to combat the growing number and even more sophisticated levels of cyber attacks. Organizations across all sectors and industries are a potential target. Security operations teams need to be prepared to respond to existing as well as to new types of cyber threats, in order to fully defend and protect their company assets.

As prevention is becoming increasingly difficult for security teams, some organizations also tend to have a weakness when it comes to incident response and the processes and workflows that should be implemented in order to minimize the impact. The main reasons why companies are failing at Incident Response is due to a number of factors including but not limited to inadequate resources, lack of skilled analysts, failure to manage phases, task overload and more.

Adopting a complete and comprehensive Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) solution can go a long way towards preventing and mitigating the consequences of cyber incidents. The deployment of a SOAR solution can help alleviate a number of current security operations challenges (including the growing number of alerts, increased workloads and repetitive tasks, current talent shortage and competition for skilled analysts, lack of knowledge transfer and budget constraints), while improving the overall organization’s security posture by eliminating the most-common scenarios of resource-constrained security teams struggling to identify critical cyber incidents.

Some of the key benefits of using a Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) solution are outlined below.

Top 10 Benefits of Adopting a SOAR Solution
  • Acts as a force multiplier for security teams
  • Automates manual repetitive processes to avoid alert fatigue
  • Responds to all security alerts eliminating false positives
  • Decreases the time to detect, remediate and resolve incidents
  • Simplifies incident response and investigation processes
  • Integrates with existing security operations tools and technologies
  • Improves the overall efficiency and effectiveness of existing security programs
  • Reduces operational costs and improves ROI
  • Minimizes the risk and damage resulting from incidents
  • Meets legal and regulatory compliance (e.g. NIST and GDPR) including incident reporting and breach notification
Security Orchestration, Automation and Response With DFLabs IncMan SOAR Platform

DFLabs’ IncMan SOAR platform provides a complete and comprehensive solution to streamline the full incident response lifecycle. IncMan SOAR, is designed for SOCs, CSIRTs and MSSPs to automate, orchestrate and measure security operations and incident response processes and tasks, all from within one single, intuitive platform. IncMan SOAR is easy to implement and use, allowing you to leverage the capabilities of your existing security infrastructure and assets.

Take this October’s national cybersecurity awareness month seriously and do your part in learning something new which could help your organization to better protect itself. Contact us today to organize a bespoke demonstration and to discuss your individual requirements.

How Security Orchestration and Automation Helps You Work Smarter and Improve Incident Response

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.

Orchestration

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.

Automation

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.

Companies Are Failing at Incident Response: Here Are The Top Reasons Why

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.

Inadequate Resources

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.

Task Overload

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.

Orchestration

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.

Automation

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.

Key Elements of Every Successful Incident Response Program

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.

Visibility

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.

Incident Management

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
Process Workflows

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.

Threat Intelligence

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.

Conclusion

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.

How to Perform Threat Hunting and Incident Response on Live Hosts

Performing threat hunting and incident response on live hosts, collectively referred to here as live analysis, can be a complicated task. When performed properly, they can detect and preserve volatile artifacts, such as network connections, running processes, hooks and open files, which may be the only evidence of today’s advanced attacks. Live analysis may also be the only option when taking a host offline for traditional disk forensics is not an option, such as with business-critical application servers or domain controllers. However, if performed improperly, they can alert attackers to your presence, destroy critical information or render any evidence gathered inadmissible in legal proceedings.

Live forensics and live threat hunting

Live forensics and live threat hunting begin as two different processes. When performing live forensics, we typically start with a pivot point; something has already been detected as anomalous which has prompted us to examine the host. During live threat hunting, we are seeking that anomaly, that indicator of potential malicious activity, to use as a pivot point for further investigation. Once that initial indicator has been discovered, the traditional incident response process, often involving further live forensics begins.

Unique challenges

Performing live analysis poses several unique challenges when compared to traditional offline disk forensics. Although any forensic process must be documented and repeatable, these attributes are especially important when performing live analysis. Unlike offline disk forensics, where the original evidence should theoretically remain static and unchanged, live evidence is constantly changing. In fact, we are changing the live evidence by performing live forensics. Although the live analysis process is repeatable, it cannot be repeated while achieving exactly the same results; processes start and end, network connections are terminated, and memory is re-allocated. This means that our live analysis processes must be able to stand up to increased scrutiny.

Because live analysis involves executing commands on a running host, it is crucial that the process is also performed in a secure manner. Only trusted tools should be executed. Each tool and the commands used to execute them should be tested prior to being executed during a live analysis to ensure that the results are known and only the intended actions occur. It is also important to ensure that the tools and commands you tested are the same ones being executed during each live analysis situation.

On Friday, September 7th, I will be speaking at the SANS Threat Hunting and IR Summit in New Orleans regarding some of the challenges and best practices when performing threat hunting and incident response on live hosts. I will also be demoing DFLabs free tool, the No-Script Automation Tool (NAT), which can be used to assist in the live data acquisition process. If you have not had a chance to see NAT, please check out our blog post hereand our demo video here.

Also, find out which top cyber security events DFLabs will attend this fall.

I hope to see you all at the SANS Threat Hunting and IR Summit soon. Safe travels and avoid the storm!

Streamline Incident Management and Issue Tracking Using DFLabs SOAR and Jira

Security incidents are complex and dynamic events, requiring the coordinated participation from multiple teams across the organization. For these teams to work with maximum efficiency, as a single body, it is critical that information flows seamlessly between all teams in real-time. Faced with a continued onslaught of security incidents, organizations must find ways to maximize the utilization of their limited resources to remain ahead of the attackers and ensure the integrity of the organization’s critical resources.

This blog will briefly discuss how your security operations team can manage security incidents in a whole new and efficient way by integrating DFLabs IncMan Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platform with your existing Jira solution, including a simple use case.

It is critical to bridge the gap between security teams orchestrating incidents with SOAR solutions such as IncMan and teams tracking other tasks with Jira, to ensure that all teams maintain a holistic view of the incident and function together as a single, unified body.

The Challenges

Today there are many challenges faced by security teams within their specific security programs. By integrating DFLabs IncMan SOAR with Jira you will be able to overcome the following key problems:

  • How can I ensure that all teams have the most up-to-date incident information?
  • How can I integrate the power of IncMan into my existing issues management process?
  • How can I enable all teams to work as a single unified body to increase the efficiency of the incident response process?
  • How can I quickly communicate critical information to those outside the security team?


Let’s discuss how in more detail.

How to Streamline Incident Management and Issue Tracking With The DFLabs SOAR and Jira Solution

Security operations teams struggle to gain visibility of threats and rapidly respond to cyber incidents due to the sheer number of different security technologies they must maintain and manage and the resulting flood of alerts. Aggregating these into a single pane of glass to prioritize what is critical and needs immediate attention requires a platform that can consolidate disparate technologies and alerts, and provides a cohesive and comprehensive capability set to orchestrate incident response efforts.

Jira’s industry-leading issue tracking solution has been battle-tested and becomes the core of an organization’s support, IT, incident response and project management processes worldwide. Jira allows teams from across the organization to collaborate and share information to plan, track and report projects and issues in real-time, maximizing efficiency and reducing impacts on the organization’s critical business processes.

By integrating with Jira, DFLabs IncMan extends these capabilities to Jira users, combining the orchestration, automation and response power of IncMan with the organization’s existing issue tracking process. IncMan’s R3 Rapid Response Runbooks can be used to automatically create issues within Jira and continue to update the issue as the incident progresses.

Allowing organizations to seamlessly share information between IncMan and Jira ensures that all involved in the incident response process are working with a unified set of information, enabling organizations to maximize security analyst efficiency, reduce incident resolution time, as well as reduce the number of incidents handled.

Use Case

An alert of a host communicating with a potentially malicious domain has automatically generated an Incident within IncMan.This alert is automatically categorized within IncMan based on the organizations’ policies, which initiates the organization’s Domain reputation runbook, shown below:

incident management DFLabs


Through this runbook, IncMan automatically gathers domain reputation information for the domain which generated the alert. If the resulting domain reputation information indicates that the domain may be malicious, IncMan will use a Notification action to automatically create a new Issue within Jira, allowing Jira users to immediately begin next steps. Next, using additional Enrichment actions, IncMan will automatically gather additional information regarding the suspicious domain, such as WHOIS and geolocation information. IncMan will then automatically update the Jira issue with this information. Finally, a screenshot of the page (if applicable), is taken and added to IncMan.

The automated workflow of IncMan’s R3 Runbooks means that an IncMan incident and Jira issue will have been automatically generated, and these enrichment actions through the Quick Integration Connector with Jira and other enrichment sources will have already been committed before an analyst is even aware that an incident has occurred. Both IncMan and Jira users are now able to perform their respective tasks, knowing that they are each working with the same information, and can continue to do so as the incident progresses.  

By harnessing the power of Jira’s industry-leading issue tracking solution, along with the orchestration, automation and response capabilities of DFLab’s IncMan SOAR platform, organizations can elevate their incident response process, leading to faster and more effective incident response and reduced risk across the entire organization.

If you would like to see IncMan and Jira in action together in more detail, get in touch to request a live demo of IncMan with one of the team.