Responding to a new security incident in the fastest possible time frame is critical for any security operations center (SOC) or computer security incident response team (CSIRT), but having the necessary information at your fingertips is key in order to help improve response times and appropriately deal with the threat at hand. In this blog post we’ll take a closer look at how security teams can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their response by adding context and enrichment to the alert information directly from ArcSight, when utilizing DFLabs’ Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platform and its many other bidirectional integrations.
Organizations are generating more log data than ever before and are increasingly turning to SIEM tools to help manage, correlate and alert on potential events from this large quantity of data. Once data is correlated and an alert is generated, enriching alert data is often a manual task which consumes a significant amount of analysts’ time. Pivoting from a single alert or from enriched information is often also a manual process, requiring many more custom written queries within the SIEM. Enriched and additional data must then be correlated manually by the analyst before it becomes actionable.
On a daily basis an analyst will face a number of challenges and is likely to be asking themselves the following questions:
- How can I use the SIEM logs to add context to a security event?
- How can I enrich information from the initial security alert?
- How can I pivot from the initial security alert to further my investigation?
The DFLabs and ArcSight Solution
DFLabs and MicroFocus ArcSight bring SOAR and SIEM together to allow rapid, informed responses to security incidents based on enriched, actionable information. DFLabs’ IncMan SOAR platform allows users to automatically query ArcSight to pivot from an initial alert to gather increase insight into the activity within the organization. IncMan also allows users to enrich information retrieved from ArcSight, such as IP addresses, hostnames and domains, using any number of IncMan’s other integrations.
About MicroFocus ArcSight
ArcSight is an industry-leading Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution from MicroFocus. ArcSight collects and analyzes events from across systems and security tools. It detects security threats in real time so that analysts respond quickly, and it scales to meet demanding security requirements. ArcSight’s advanced distributed correlation engine, helps security teams detect and respond to internal and external threats, reduces response time from hours or days to just minutes.
To get a real understanding of how the two solutions work together, here is a simple use case in action.
A Web Application Firewall (WAF) has observed a potential attack against an application server in the organization’s DMZ. IncMan automatically responds by initiating an appropriate runbook for the alert. The runbook begins by performing basic enrichment on the source IP address of the malicious traffic. This basic enrichment is followed by a query for IP reputation information on the source IP address from the organization’s threat reputation service of choice.
Following the threat reputation search, ArcSight is queried for any other events which have been recently generated by the source IP address. If ArcSight returns any other recent events generated by the source IP address, or the source IP address has a negative threat reputation, the severity of the incident is automatically upgraded to High. The analyst is then presented with a user choice decision to determine if the source IP address should be blocked at the perimeter firewall. If the analyst chooses to automatically block the source IP address, a ticket will be created in ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager (ESM) to notify the appropriate teams to follow up on the emergency change according to the organization’s policies.
These actions are followed by a second query to ArcSight, this time for any other recent events involving the web application server. If ArcSight returns any other recent events generated from the web application server, the severity of the incident is automatically upgraded to High (unless it has already previously been upgraded). The runbook concludes by performing a query of the organization’s endpoint detection solution for all recent events from the web application server. This information will be retained for review by the analyst during the investigative process.
In summary, here are the actions available to security analysts by using ArcSight.
- Get Active List Entries
- Search Into Events
- Add Active List Entries
- Clean Active List Entries
- Create Ticket
- Get Ticket
- Update Ticket
Integrating ArcSight with DFLabs’ IncMan SOAR allows organizations to efficiently triage the volume of alerts being generated by the SIEM, automatically prioritizing those alerts which may pose the greatest risk to the organization. By automating and orchestrating the SIEM with other security solutions, IncMan SOAR can automatically enrich the alert information, then pivot based on the enriched information as an analyst would do during a manual investigation. This ability to automatically enrich and pivot allows IncMan to more accurately prioritize incidents which may initially seem innocuous.
Threat actors are increasingly adopting security automation and machine learning – security teams will have to follow suit, or risk falling behind.
Many organizations still conduct incident response based on manual processes. Many playbooks that we have seen in our customer base, for example, hand off to other stakeholders within the organization to wait for additional forensic data, and to execute remediation and containment actions.
While this may seem like good practice to avoid inadvertent negative consequences such as accidentally shutting down critical systems or locking out innocent users, it also means that many attacks are not contained in a sufficiently short time to avoid the worst of their consequences.
Manual Processes Cannot Compete with Automation
Reports are mounting about threat actors and hackers leveraging security automation and machine learning to increase the scale and volume, as well as the velocity of attacks. The implications for organizations should be cause for concern, considering that we have been challenged to effectively respond to less sophisticated attacks in the past.
Ransomware is a case in point. In its most simple form, a ransomware attack does not require the full cyber kill chain to be successful. A user receives an email attachment, executes it, the data is encrypted and the damage is done. At that point, incident response turns into disaster recovery.
Automated attacks have been with us for a long time. Worms and Autorooters have been around since the beginning of hacking, with WannaCry and its worming capability only the most recent example. But these have only automated some aspects of the attack, still permitting timely and successful threat containment further along the kill chain.
Threat actors have also leveraged automated command and control infrastructure for many years. DDoS Zombie Botnets, for example, are almost fully automated. To sum it up, the bad guys have automated, the defenders have not. Manual processes cannot compete with automation.
With the increase in the adoption of automation and machine learning by cyber criminals, enterprises will find that they will have to automate as well. The future mantra will be “Automate or Die”.
Making the Cure More Palatable Than the Disease
But automating containment actions is still a challenging topic. Here at DFLabs we still encounter a lot of resistance to the idea by our customers. Security teams understand that the escalating sophistication and velocity of cyber-attacks means that they must become more agile to rapidly respond to cyber incidents. But the risk of detrimentally impacting operations means that they are reluctant to do so, and rarely have the political backing and clout even if they want to.
Security teams will find themselves having to rationalize the automation of incident response to other stakeholders in their organization more and more in the future. This will require being able to build a business case to justify the risk of automating containment. They will have to explain why the cure is not worse than the disease.
There are three questions that are decisive in evaluating whether to automate containment actions:
- How reliable are the detection and identification?
- What is the potential detrimental impact if the automation goes wrong?
- What is the potential risk if this is not automated?
Our approach at DFLabs to this is to carefully evaluate what to automate, and how to do this safely. We support organizations in selectively applying automation through our R3 Rapid Response Runbooks. Incident Responders can apply dual-mode actions that combine manual, semi-automated and fully automated steps to provide granular control over what is automated. R3 Runbooks can also include conditional statements that apply full automation when it is safe to do so but request that a human vet’s the decision in critical environments or where it may have a detrimental impact on operational integrity.