CISO Challenges and the Best Way to Manage Them

Faced with a growing threat landscape, a shortage of skilled cyber security professionals, and non-technical employees who lack awareness of cyber security best practices, to name a few, CISOs are continuously confronted with a number of existing and new challenges. To mitigate some of these challenges by eliminating security threats and minimizing security gaps, they must make some critical strategic decisions within their organizations.

Even though we are only at the beginning of April, 2018 is already proving to be a year of increasing cyber incidents, with security threats spanning across a range of industry sectors, impacting both the private and public sectors alike. We have seen many data breaches including Uber, Facebook and Experian that have made it clear that no organization, not even the corporate giants, are safe from these cyber threats and attacks.  We are now also seeing newly evolving threats affecting the popular and latest smart devices including products such as Alexa and Goоgle Home. New technology not fully tested, or security vulnerabilities from IoT devices being brought into the workplace, now bring additional concerns for CISOs and their security teams, as they try to proactively defend and protect their corporate networks.

This problem seems quite simple to identify in that corporate policies are not being updated fast enough to keep up with dynamic changes and advancements in technology, as well as to cope with the increasing sophistication of advancing threats, but managing this problem is seemingly more difficult. This generates an additional set of challenges for CISOs to enforce policies that still need to be written, while conquering internal corporate bureaucracy to get them created, modified or updated. This is just one challenge. Let’s now discuss a few more and some suggested actions to manage them.

How CISOs Can Overcome Their Challenges

CISOs in international corporations need to focus on global compliance and regulations to abide with a range of privacy laws, including the upcoming European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This new regulation due to come into force on May 25th, 2018 has set the stage for protection of consumer data privacy and in time we expect to see other regulations closely follow suite. International companies that hold EU personal identifiable information inside or outside of the EU will need to abide by the regulation and establish a formalized incident response procedure, implement an internal breach notification process, communicate the personal data breach to the data subject without delay, as well as notify the Supervisory Authority within 72 hours, regardless of where the breach occurred. Organizations need to report all breaches and inform their affected customers, or face fines of up to 20 million Euros or four percent of annual turnover (whichever is higher). A new law called the Data Security and Breach Notification Act is also being worked on presently by the U.S. Senate to promote this protection for customers affected.  This new legislation will impose up to a five year prison sentence on any individual that conceals a new data breach, without notifying the customers that had been impacted.

So how can CISOs proactively stay ahead of the growing number of cyber security threats, notify affected customers as soon as possible and respond within 72 hrs of a breach? The key is to carry out security risk assessments, implement the necessary procedures, as well as utilize tools that can help facilitate Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), such as the IncMan SOAR platform from DLFabs. IncMan has capabilities to automate and prioritize incident response and related enrichment and containment tasks, distribute appropriate notifications and implement an incident response plan in case of a potential data breach.  IncMan handles different stages of the incident response and breach notification process including providing advanced reporting capabilities with appropriate metrics and the ability to gather or share intelligence with 3rd parties. This timely collection of enriched threat intelligence helps expedite the incident response time and contribute to better management of the corporate landscape.

The Need to Harden New Technology Policies

Endpoint protection has also become a heightened concern for security departments in recent months, with an increasing number of organizations facing multiple ransomware and zero days attacks. New technologies used by employees within the organization, not covered by corporate policies, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Internet of things (IoT) have brought new challenges to the CISOs threat landscape. One example as we mentioned earlier are gadgets such as Alexa or Google Home, where users bring them into the office and connect them to the corporate WIFI or network without prior approval. When connected to the network, they can immediately introduce vulnerabilities and access gaps in the security network that can be easily exploited by hackers.

Devices that are not managed under corporate policies need to be restricted to a guest network that cannot exploit vulnerabilities and should not be allowed to use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).  CISOs need to ensure that stricter corporate policies are implemented to restrict and manage new technologies, as well as utilizing tools such as an Endpoint Protection Product (EPP) or Next-Generation Anti Virus (NGAV) solution to help prevent malware from executing when found on a user machine. NAGV tools can learn the behaviors of the endpoint devices and query a signature database of vaccines for exploits and other malware on real time to help expedite containment and remediation to minimize threats.

Maximizing Resources With Technology as a Solution

With the significant increase in the number of and advancing sophistication of potential cyber security threats and security alerts, combined with a shortage of cyber security staff with the required skill set and knowledge, CISOs are under even more pressure to protect their organizations and ask themselves questions such as: How do I effectively investigate incidents coming in from so many data points? How can I quickly prioritize incidents that present the greatest threat to my organization? How can I reduce the amount of time necessary to resolve an incident and give staff more time hunting emerging threats?

They will need to assess their current organization security landscape and available resources, while assessing their skill level and maturity.  Based on the company size it may even make business sense to outsource some aspects, for example by hiring a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) to manage alert monitoring, threat detection and incident response. CISOs should also evaluate the range of tools available to them and make the decision whether they can benefit from utilizing Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technology to increase their security program efficiency and effectiveness within their current structure.

Security Infrastructure and Employee Training Are Paramount

In summary, CISOs will be faced with more advancing challenges and increasing threats and these are only set to continue over the coming months. They should ensure that their security infrastructures follow sufficient frameworks such as NIST, ISO, SANS, PCI/DSS, as well as best practices for application security, cloud computing and encryption.   

They should prepare to resource their security teams with adequate technology and tools to respond to threats and alerts and to minimize the impact as much as feasibly possible, with set policies and procedures in place. To enforce security best practices across all departments of the company, it is important that security decisions are fully understood and supported by the leadership team as well as human resources, with a range of corporate policies to meet the challenges of ever changing technologies.

CISOs need to promote security best practices and corporate policies, industry laws regulations and compliance by educating and training relevant stakeholders, starting with employees. The use of workshops, seminars, websites, banners, posters and training in all areas of the company will heighten people’s awareness to threats and exploits, increasing their knowledge, while also teaching them the best way to respond or to raise the alarm if there is a potential threat. The initial investment in education and training may be a burden on time and resources but in the long run will prove beneficial and could potentially prevent the company from experiencing a serious threat or penalty from non-compliance.

Completing a full analysis of current resources, skill sets and security tools and platforms will all play a part when deciding whether in-house or outsourced security operations is the best approach, but the benefits of using SOAR technology to leverage existing security products to dramatically reduce the response and remediation gap caused by limited resources and the increasing volume of threats and incidents, as well as to assist with important breach notification requirements, should not be overlooked.

How DFLabs IncMan Tackles Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Following on from my recent blog post entitled “Meltdown and Spectre – What They Mean to the Enterprise” published in January, I wanted to take a closer look at how these types of hardware vulnerabilities could (and should) easily be detected, managed and mitigated using Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technology, for example with a platform such as IncMan from DFLabs.

Using Meltdown and Spectre as a use case, I wanted to enlighten you about the automated processes an organization can undertake.  There are many pros and cons for using automation, but if used in the correct way it can significantly improve Security Operations Center (SOC) efficiencies, saving security analyst many man hours of mundane tasks.  Alerts can also potentially be responded to and contained before an analyst has even been notified.  Using IncMan’s integrations and R3 Rapid Response Runbooks, SOCs can quickly respond to such an alert when a vulnerability is detected.  The overall goals would be as follows, in order to reduce the risk these vulnerabilities present to the organization.

1)  Automatically receive alerts for the host which have been identified as being vulnerable to Meltdown or Spectre.

2) Create an Incident and perform automated Notification, Enrichment and Containment tasks.

Implementation

Let’s move on to the implementation stages.  Where should you start? For ease I will break it down into 3 simple sections, creating a runbook, utilizing the rebook and seeing the runbook in action.  So, let’s begin…

Creating an R3 Rapid Response Runbook

The first step in reducing the risk from the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities is to create a runbook to handle alerts for newly detected vulnerable hosts.  In this use case, we will use integrations with Jira, McAfee ePO, McAfee Web Gateway, MSSQL Server and QRadar to perform Notification, Enrichment and Containment actions; however, this can easily be adapted to include any other technology integrations as well.

 

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

 

Using a Jira Notification action, a new Jira issue is created.  This Notification action should notify the IT or Infrastructure teams and initiate the organizations’ normal vulnerability management process.

Next, an MSSQL Server Enrichment action is used to query an IT asset inventory for the host name of the vulnerable host, which is passed to the runbook automatically when the incident is created.  This asset information is then available to the analyst for further review.

Once the IT asset information is retrieved, a decision point is reached.  If the IT asset information indicates that the host is a server, one path (the top path) is taken.  If the IT asset information indicates that the host is not a server, another path (the bottom path) is taken.

If the asset is determined to be a server the Jira Enrichment action is used to update the Jira issue, informing the appropriate parties that the host has been determined to be a server and should be treated as a higher priority.  Next, two McAfee ePO Enrichment actions are performed.  The first Enrichment action queries McAfee ePO for the system information of the given host name, providing the analyst with additional information.  The second Enrichment action uses McAfee ePO to tag the host with the appropriate tag.  Finally, a Task is added to IncMan reminding the analyst to follow up with the appropriate teams to ensure that the vulnerability has been appropriately mitigated.

If the asset is determined not to be a server, the two previously mentioned McAfee ePO Enrichment actions are immediately be run (System Info and TAG).  Following these two Enrichment actions, a McAfee Web Gateway Containment action is used to block the host from communicating outside of the network.  This Containment step is completely optional but is performed here on non-servers only to minimize the Containment action’s potential impact on critical systems.

Utilizing the R3 Rapid Response Runbook

Once the new runbook is created, IncMan must be told how and when to automate the use of this runbook.  This is achieved by creating an Incident Template, which will be used any time an incident is generated for a Meltdown or Spectre vulnerability.  Through this incident template, critical pieces of information such as Type, Summary, Category can be automatically applied to the newly created incident.

 

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities 1

 

From the Runbook tab of the Incident Template wizard, the previously created Meltdown and Spectre runbook is selected and set to autorun.  Each time this template is used to generate an incident, the appropriate information such as host name and host IP address will be used as inputs to the runbook and the runbook will be automatically executed.

 

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities 2

 

In this use case, alerts from QRadar are utilized to initiate automatic incident creation within IncMan.  However, another SIEM integration, syslog or email could also be utilized to achieve the same outcome.  A new QRadar Incoming Event Automation rule is added and the defined action is to generate a new incident from the previously created Meltdown and Spectre Incident Template.

 

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

 

Solution in Action

When a QRadar Alert is generated matching the criteria defined for a Meltdown or Spectre vulnerability detection, IncMan will automatically generate a new incident based on the Meltdown and Spectre Incident Template.

 

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

 

Without requiring any action on the part of an analyst, the Meltdown and Spectre runbook is automatically initiated, performing the defined Notification, Enrichment and Containment actions.(In the example shown here, the ‘server’ path is taken).

 

Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities 5

 

Conclusion

How easy was that?  The entire process has taken place in a matter of minutes, likely before anyone has even had time to acknowledge the alert.  As an analyst begins to manually examine the alert, many of the mundane tasks have already been completed, allowing the analyst to focus on the tasks which require human intervention and reducing the time required to remediate this issue, ultimately reducing risk to the organization.

IncMan has over 100 customizable playbooks for similar use cases like this.  If you would like to see IncMan in action, please do feel free to request a demo.

DFLabs 3rd Party Integrations vs the Market

A consistent feedback point we receive from our users is that their security technology stack is rapidly growing to keep pace with the evolving threat landscape. The days where it was sufficient to deploy a firewall, an intrusion prevention system, antivirus and an identity access management system are long gone. Enterprises are literally spoilt when it comes to selecting a wide variety of different security technologies – User Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA), Network Traffic Analysis (NTA), Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS), are just a few of the emerging technologies available to security teams, and this list does not even include mobile, cloud and IoT offerings that are required to secure the expanding attack surface. This can seem daunting to many organizations, not just the budgetary impact, but also the fact that every one of these technologies requires the expertise and knowledge to effectively operate them.

As a vendor offering a Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response platform that is designed to integrate with, and orchestrate these different solutions, we often have to make difficult choices as to what we integrate with, and how deeply we integrate. Our focus is on market-leading security technologies, technologies we identify as emerging but of growing importance and effectiveness, and of course also based on what our customers have deployed and ask us to integrate.

There is a trend in our market to exaggerate the amount of 3rd party integrations. Marketing collateral often cites hundreds of different 3rd party tools, yet rarely differentiates between the depth of the integration, whether these are truly bidirectional and whether they certified by the 3rd party. As an example, any solution that supports Syslog can claim to support hundreds of 3rd party technologies. It’s an open standard and many solutions can forward syslog message to a syslog collector. But that does not necessarily mean that the solution also has out of the box parsers to normalize the messages, or that there are automation actions, playbooks or report templates available that can parse and use their content.

Reducing this to a pure quantitative marketing message also entirely misses the point. Organization only really care about the technologies they have deployed, or are planning to acquire. The quantity here is entirely misleading. More importantly, users are not stupid. They will see through this charade at the latest when conducting a proof of concept. And at that point any vendor following this approach has some uncomfortable explaining to do. No relationship, personal or business, gets off to a good start based on fudging the truth.

I have rarely seen an RFP that was based purely on a quantitative measure of supported 3rd party integrations, so it is baffling why marketers believe this to have any impact.

At DFLabs we have decided to go a different way. We want to clearly state which of our integrations are bidirectional as opposed to only based on data ingestion, and which integrations are certified, or compatibility tested by our integration partners.

While at first glance this appears to put as at a disadvantage, we trust in the intelligence of our customers. We hope that it will help them to make better-informed decisions and they give us credit for being honest and realistic.

When is Security Automation and Orchestration a Must-Have Technology? – Addressing Gartner’s SOAR Question

Last week, Anton Chuvakin from Gartner announced that Augusto Barros and himself are planning to conduct research in Q4 2017 on the topic of Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), or Security Automation and Orchestration, depending on which analyst firms’ market designation you follow. At DFLabs we are very excited that Gartner is finally showing our market space some love and will be helping end users to better assess and differentiate SAO offerings.

Anton provided many questions that he wanted SAO vendors to prepare for. The questions immediately piqued our interest, with one question, in particular, standing out to us.

1.When is SOAR a MUST have technology? What has to be true about the organization to truly require SOAR? Why your best customer acquired the tools?

Anton also said that he had one main problem with Security Automation and Orchestration. In his own words, “For now, my main problem with SOAR (however you call those security orchestration and automation tools…if you say SOAPA or SAO we won’t hate you much) is that I have never (NEVER!) met anybody who thought “my SOAR is a MUST HAVE.”

The question is not entirely unwarranted. During my own time at Gartner covering the SOAR space, I spoke to many clients who were seeking an SAO solution without knowing that they were. Typical comments were, “I have too many alerts and false positives to be able to deal with them all”, or “We are struggling to hire enough skilled people to be able to respond to all of the incidents that we have to manage”. Another common comment was, “I am struggling to report operational performance to my executives?”. Often, these comments were followed by the question, “Do you know of any technology that can help?”.

Typically, these organizations had a mature security monitoring program, usually built around a SIEM. They often had critical drivers, such as regulatory requirements, or held sensitive customer data. We hear the same buying drivers from our own customer base.

To sum up the most common drivers for someone asking about Security Automation and Orchestration:

  1.  A high volume of alerts and incidents and the challenge in managing them
  2.  A large portfolio of diverse 3rd party security detection products resulting in a large volume of alerts
  3.  Regulatory mandates for incident response and breach notification
  4.  An overstretched security operations team
  5.  Reporting risk and the operational performance of the CSIRT and SOC to an executive audience

One interesting thing is that when there is no external driver like regulatory compliance, deploying a Security Automation and Orchestration solution is often determined by maturity. Most organizations don’t realize that they will be unable to cope with the volume of alerts and the resulting alert fatigue until they have deployed a SIEM and a full advanced threat detection architecture.

The common misconception is that the SIEM can help to reduce the number of incoming alerts by applying correlation rules. This not entirely untrue, but correlation rules will only reduce a small percentage. They are essentially signature based. You need to know in advance what you want to correlate, and adding a correlation rule to cover all and every incoming alert is not a trivial task. Even with correlation rules, additional work will be required to qualify an incident. Gathering additional IoC’s, incident observables and context is still a very manual process. Lastly, detection is only one part of the entire incident response process – notifying stakeholders, gathering forensic evidence and threat containment will also have to be done manually. These are the areas where SAO solutions provide the greatest ROI – as a force multiplier.

Latest Ransomware Attack Highlights the Need for Advanced Security Automation and Orchestration Solutions

The latest ransomware attack that broke out last Friday, affecting more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries by Sunday, once again highlighted the need for improved preparedness to respond to large-scale cyber incidents by implementing advanced security automation and orchestration solutions capable of containing the damage from such events. In this case, the attackers exploited a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, which had been discovered and kept quiet for exclusive use by the National Security Agency (NSA).

WannaCry, as the virus is called, is delivered via an email attachment and when executed, paralyzes computers running vulnerable Windows operating systems by encrypting their files. Once it encrypts a computer’s hard disk, WannaCry then spreads to vulnerable computers connected to the same network, and also beyond, via the Internet. This is in many ways a typical ransomware attack, infecting computers with a virus that has the ability to spread quickly to other vulnerable systems; however, the infection in this instance, and the speed at which it spread, was more intense than any other such attack in recent memory. The consensus among cyber security experts around the world is that the damage from this attack could have been reduced to a minimum, and more serious consequences could have been avoided, if organizations had been better prepared and had more effective cyber incident response plans and solutions in place.

Early Detection and Damage Containment via Automation and Orchestration

When affected by an attack such as WannaCry, after an organization’s computer system has been breached, the best thing that the organization can do is try to keep the incident under control by preventing the infection from spreading. There are various security solutions designed to achieve this end, but an automation and orchestration platform is arguably the best suited for the task. When an infected computer is detected, this platform can quickly isolate it in the early stages of an attack, blocking traffic to and from it to contain its spread, and thus reduce the business impact to a minimum.

Recovery and Remediation

Once containment is achieved, the platform provides organizations with the ability to quickly remediate the incident by guiding cybersecurity professionals through the entire process, using pre-defined playbook actions for a faster and more effective execution. The playbook actions can suggest the best remediation and recovery methods, and how to enforce them in the most effective manner. For instance, how to restore files and update the appropriate firewall rules.

All of the above is only a fraction of the capabilities of a typical automation and orchestration platform, a security tool that has become critical for any organization seeking to avoid the immense cost and long-lasting consequences of cyber-attacks such as WannaCry.

Cyber-attacks such as this one are only expected to become more common and more sophisticated in the future, and for this reason WannaCry should serve as an example of why now is the time for organizations serious about cyber security to focus on improving preparedness and containment capabilities through investment in advanced security automation and orchestration.

Top 5 Features to Evaluate When Selecting a Security Orchestration and Automated Response Product

Security Orchestration and Automated Response (SOAR) is a relatively new cyber security solution category. The aim of these platforms is to provide a centralized software solution to manage the complete lifecycle of a cyber incident, orchestrate security products to a determined goal, and respond to cyber incidents in an automated or semi-automated fashion. The SOAR category is of particular interest to Security Operations Center Teams, as this product is now seen as the backbone of incident management.

Given the differences that can exist between Security Operations Center or Cyber Incident Response teams, it’s rare to find items that share a commonality between the incident response organizations when evaluating incident response solutions. Given that, the following seem to share a common focus during the evaluation process:

In no particular order:

1. Supervised Active Intelligence™
This is a methodology that best describes one of our most powerful features within IncMan™, the ability to arm your SOC teams with selected intelligence related to a cyber incident. This feature provides targeted information and is provided directly to the assigned investigator. This information is paramount to starting a cyber investigation, and we see on a daily basis that cyber incidents without this information have a very slow reaction time. However, the most important factor is your teams take steps that are guided by the intelligence generated within an IncMan playbook as they work through their playbook actions.

2. Intelligent Correlation Engine
As per the Supervised Active Intelligence feature, within our IncMan platform, the intelligence will be captured and build upon the growing information around cyber incidents. This information is analyzed by IncMan, providing a visual representation of how an incident has progressed and if any other incidents share common features. I.e. they affected the same users, or same machine types, patterns that have emerged etc. We visualize this information over a timeline, allowing the SOC team the ability to correlate the cyber security incidents to business events or even basic tracking how malware has traversed through several machines and at what rate.

3. Extended Knowledge base with your own intelligence or from others
We understand as an organization how important it is to use multiple sources of external intelligence. This has allowed us to provide the ability to extend the IncMan knowledge base with the information required by your SOC team. For example, some clients use the knowledge base to add additional fraud intelligence and prevention information. We natively support TAXII and other feeds using the STIX format of intelligence sharing. Alternatively, if you are a part of an intelligence sharing network, IncMan permits the API connection.

Another feature which we often see utilized by CSO’s and CISO’s alike is regarding the knowledge base and Cyber Incident linking capabilities. We allow tagging and linking of knowledge base articles with cyber incidents to aid reporting and impact visibility to the stake holders.

4. Integrating your environment
As mentioned earlier, IncMan allows the use of your current environment and the products you already have readily available. As our client, we want to bring you from “Zero to Hero” in the shortest time span possible with pre-configured integrations that are enabled within minutes. With IncMan you choose how you want to leverage your existing products. The crucial point is we know every environment is a mixture of multiple moving parts and we can integrate with your existing framework to ensure maximum availability while minimizing response time and resource expenditures.

5. Playbooks
Playbooks can be thought of in the context of American football. The term playbook was created to give a visual meaning to orchestrating team members for a single goal, given a scenario presented to a team or organization. The three distinct teams are as follows

Defense, and containment for cyber incident response
Special Teams for enrichment and providing both teams with more information and field position for American football
The offense for mitigating incidents and going on the offensive to put the company in a positive, advantageous position given the situation that is presented in front of them.

For those of you not into the American Football analogy; Playbooks give your teams meticulous control over pre-defined workflows to drive policy and procedures in a repeatable, consistent and enforced manner. This allows for enrichment, containment, and mitigation driven through one product – IncMan.