Tag Archives: Insider

Threat Hunting II – Recommendations

An effective threat hunting is critical because it is hard to think like attackers and to search for the unknown in an enterprise network. This post may help organizations for an effective and successful threat hunting.

Knowledge of Topology and Environment

The purpose of threat hunting is to find the anomalies and their sources in the network and endpoint. So, a threat hunter should know what is normal and so can understand what is not normal.

From the risk management point of view, critical assets – servers, applications, data – should be known to protect more effectively. With the knowledge of the environment, the threat hunter knows the critical assets and hunts according to this. If there is segmentation in network, it is also critical to know the network topology and networks – or vlans – of these critical assets.

It is also necessary to know which application is running on which operating system, so the threat hunter can know the weaknesses of the system and can search according to these weaknesses.

Effective Endpoint Management

For threat hunting, the most used tools are EDRs. Organizations should be sure that they installed endpoint security tools to all endpoints and detect when they removed or stopped. Asset management is something more than CMDB. It must be managed by security teams whose understanding the criticality of the lack of endpoint security tool in an endpoint.

Intel

Threat intelligence is one of the most important feeds of threat hunting. Threat hunters need to have most recent intelligence and IoCs so they cant perform hunting the latest threats. Many malicious are produced and detected every day. This situation causes a lot of noises about intel. To avoid this noise, hunters should get valuable intelligence about their organization’s sector and geolocation, and integrate these IoCs with SIEM, EDR, etc..

Personnel

We all know that new tactics and techniques are created by attackers in general. The most important reason for this is while security professionals in organizations have to deal with so many different things, attackers can only focus on their target. Even if it so important to have valuable/experienced personnel, if they are dealing with different organizational missions while they are working, it will be difficult for them to think like an hacker and detect the unknown in the network. Threat hunters should focus to their mission to create their methodology and hunt. So, there should be dedicated personnels for threat hunting.

Coordination Across the Organization

Yes, threat hunters work in a strange mission, think like a hacker and search across the network but they must not work alone. A threat hunter should have a good relationships with key personnel in IT departments like network and system admins, help desk personnel and so on. With these relationships, they better understand the network, systems and more importantly the company’s and personnels’ way of doing business. For organization’s perspective, when a threat hunter finds a weaknesses during the hunting process, they inform critical IT personnel for remediation. This team working will result as a success in remediation phase of the incidents or weaknesses.

TTPs

Pyramid of Pain

Intelligence is critical for hunting for the known threats but hunters should be familiar with the TTPs of the attackers against the zero day threats. Threat hunters also should be aware of the updated or newly TTPs. Only with this knowledge hunters can act like an attacker. TTPs are at the top of Pyramid of Pain (defined by David Bianco).

Tools

To disclose the anomaly or malicious activity, threat hunters should use advanced tools like EDR, NDR, SIEM, FIM, etc.. These tools will help hunter to find abnormal activities if configured properly. In different posts, we tried to explain why they should be used.

Threat Hunting I – Understanding Threat Hunting

Although Threat Hunting is nothing new, it is a very hot topic lately. Even if you have perimeter and endpoint security devices and SIEM for collecting and correlating logs from them, it is not a good way to wait for incidents coming. Without Threat Hunting, dwell time is increasing more than 150 days, and this is not acceptable anymore. While attackers are working proactively and developing new techniques day by day, security teams need to be more proactive too. Threat Hunting is the most proactive approach in an organization’s security structure and improves its security posture.

Dwell time is the dirty metric nobody wants to talk about in cyber security. It signifies the amount of time threat actors go undetected in an environment, and the industry stats about it are staggering.
Source: Extrahop

In its simplest definition, Threat Hunting is detecting abnormal activities on endpoints and network. But, what to look for hunting threats?

What to Hunt?

Threat Hunting is a continuous process. Hunters should check anything that could be an evidence of an incident.

  • Processes: Processes are important components of OSs. Adversaries may inject malicious code into hijacked processes. Therefore, hunters should check processes and child processes regularly.
  • Binaries: Hunters should check binaries with their checksum, name and other specifications.
  • Network: Network activities to specific destinations and anomalies in network should be checked.
  • Registery: Hunters should check registery key additions and modifications.

The Team

For a continuous hunting, organizations need to have threat hunters in their CSIRT. The difference between analysts and threat hunters is the proactive approach as mentioned before. Also in smaller organizations, SOC analysts may work on threat hunting but actually, a threat hunter may has more specifications than an analyst. In larger organizations, it is important to have a dedicated threat hunting leader and team. This team should has detailed knowledge about;

  • OSs: The Threat Hunting team should have knowledge about OSs that organization is using. This knowledge must include process structures, files, permissions, and registery depending on the OS. This is important because malicious files and attackers make changes in OS here. A threat hunter need to understand what is normal and what is not. Something is not normal could be a sign of an intrusion. For having this knowledge, baselines could be created for all critical systems. These baselines will help to know the normal and the anomalies.
  • Apps: Threat Hunters should have knowledge about the applications used in the organization. It is also important to know perimeter and endpoint security devices and applications used by organization.
  • Business: Threat Hunting team should have knowledge about the organization’s business so they need to follow adversaries working on the organization’s sector and geographical location. It is also important to know third party companies the organization works and communication ways with them.
  • Network: In a big and segmented network structure, it is important to know where the critical assets are.
  • The Lockheed Martin Cyber Kill Chain: Also known as APT phases, represents the phases of an advanced attack.
  • TTPs: IoCs are important components for hunting but they provide to detect “known knowns”. TTPs are at the top of Pyramid of Pain (defined by David Bianco) and especially adversaries’ techniques and tactics should be known those are threatening the organization’s sector and location.
  • Threat Hunting Tools: In CSIRT plan, it needs to be included that which tools and techniques can be used for threat hunting. Threat hunters should have knowledge of these tools and techniques.
  • IR&H Plan: Threat hunting is only a step of proactive approach. If threat hunters successfully find an intrusion or anomaly in systems, they need to know the next step. Who should they inform? What should be done?..etc..

Requirements

  • Threat Intelligence: Threat intelligence is one of the most important feeds of threat hunting. Threat hunters need to have most recent intelligence and IoCs so they cant perform hunting the latest threats.
  • EDR: Threat hunters need IoCs but also need to know how to use these IoCs. After gathering the most recent IoCs from TI platforms, an IoC sweep must be made on endpoints.
  • NDR: Just like endpoints, network traffic also need to be checked with the latest IoCs. For doing this, CSIRT need to collect all east-west and south-north network traffic. NDR devices those have AI capabilities also detect anomalies in the network.
  • SIEM: Depending on the hunt’s scope, the threat hunter may need to check IPS/IDS, proxy, DNS, firewall or some other tools’ logs. Because logs are coming from different sources, CSIRT need to collect and correlate these logs in SIEM and feeding SIEM with the latest IoCs, these logs will more meaningful.
  • FIM: We said that baselines must be created for critical systems. FIM solutions will help CSIRT to create baselines for OSs and alert analysts when an unauthorized transaction is made.

Incident Handling and Response to Insider Threats

Because an insider is an employee, is a trusted person and has access to various data, insider threats are major risks for organizations. Organizations are investing to prevent perimeter against external threat but focusing less on internal threats. This is the other factor that making insider threat more risky.

Attacks may come from different type of employees. These attackers may be system admins or managers who have authorized access to critical data, some unhappy or terminated employees, users who lost a device including sensitive data, or sending e-mail to incorrect receipints, or untrained personnel about security policies and best practices who subjected to social enginneering attacks.

All types of incidents require similar steps to respond. Here, we will try to explain the stages incident responders and actually whole organization must realize against an insider attack.

IH&R Steps for Insider Threats

EFFECTIVENESS OF INSIDER THREAT

Insider threat is a major risk because these kind of attack are very effective. It is difficult to detect and can go undetected for years. It is very easy to attack from inside since users have authorization to some data and systems, and can easily cover their actions by reaching to logs and deleting or modifying them. This makes also difficult to detect these type of attacks. Organizations need to monitor users’ behavior to detect and respond quickly.

As against all type of attacks, organizations need a well planned and regularly tested incident response plans to contain and eradicate insider attacks.

PREPERATION

The organizations must always be ready to an insider attack. Preparation stage is important to detect and respond these attacks.

  • Conduct security awareness trainings regularly to inform users against social engineering techniques. Insider attacks are not only done by malicious employees. Regular security awareness trainings will prevent your users with access to sensitive data from being used by malicious people.
  • Train users how to report any policy violation.
  • Classify organization’s data, identify the critical ones and apply need to know approach to reach to data.
  • Be sure all necessary logs are collected in SIEM.
  • Use privileged access management tools for storing passwords for all types of accounts reaching to critical data or production environment.
  • Make sure that terminated employees’ access rights are immediately removed both for logical and physical systems.
  • Deploy data loss prevention tools, but never trust that DLP will fully protect you. It is important to know the gaps of DLP tools to prevent data better. Make sure you read our post about DLP 🙂
  • Install NDR to detect abnormal behaviors of users. You can access our article explaining the importance of NDR against insider threat.
  • Install honeypot and honeytokens to lure attackers.
  • Segregate backup network from production or test networks and implement secure access methodologies to backup files.
  • Device control should be applied in the whole systems of the organizations. Users should not be allowed to use external storage.
  • Employees should sign a confidentiality and nondisclouse agreement bu Human Resources department.
  • Regularly and objective interviews and feedbacks from employees will help organization keep employees more peaceful.

DETECT AND ANALYZE

Indicators for insider threats are mostly abnormal behaviors of users. So, NDR with artifical intelligence technologies to detect anomaly in the network, UEBA, and Honeypot tools are critical to detect these type of attacks. The changes in network usage pattern may be indicator for ann insider threat.

It is important to collect logs in SIEM but in most cases, we saw in real life that huge amount of log data causes missing of malicious activity. It is more important to collect valuable logs and corralate them than collecting. Also, missing or modified logs may be indicator for insider threats. All log sources must be checked regularly to detect such an incident.

Accessing resources in unusual time and from unusal location may be indicator of insider threats. However, multiple login fail attempts may be used with these time and location information to cover unauthorized access attempts.

Users’ social media actions should be monitored. Unhappy and unmotivated users may try to post some unnecessary information about the organization.

Incident responders must analyze different logs from different sources after a suspicious activity has been reported. These logs may include IDS/IPS, proxy, NDR, EDR, DLP and email logs. They should check for a suspicious network connection and data transfers outside the network.

CONTAINMENT

For all types of attacks, containment is an indispensable stage for incident responders. It is fatally important to contain the source in question to prevent bad actors’ actions both laterally and outbound. Containment will minimizes the damages. Advanced EDR tools allows containment of such sources without having to be physically present near the source and incident handlers can still keep analyzing these sources while the threat could not be spread.

After detecting the malicious insider and containment, all privileges and credentials of this actor should be blocked, including e-mail and domain account and physical access cards.

ERADICATION

The organization should have an incident response plan and procedures to be able to move fast after an incident occurs. Eradication is also an important stage for incident handling and incident handlers should know in advance what to do in a case of insider attack by checking the policies and procedures.  However, eradication is not just CSIRT’s job. These are some processes all departments and emmployees must be involved. Malicious actor’s behaviors should be determined step by step and the preventive or detective control missings that allow her to do must be corrected. New security controls should be added and preperation stage should be reviewed again.

RECOVERY

The recovery stage must begin immediately after detecting, containing and eradicating the insider threat incident. If data is stolen and exfiltrated, incident responders should contact immmediately with the threat actor before selling or disclosuring it publicly.

Incident responders must be sure to gather ennough evidence for legal proceedings. This evidence will also help insurance processes.

In case the attacker placed malware or a backdoor inside the network, all systems should be checked carefully and all outbound connections should be checked against a C&C communication. A threat Hunting activity may be required.

If information is stolen and the stolen data is including user credentials, passwords should be changed whole over the organization.

POST-INCIDENT ACTIVITIES

This is one of the most important steps in incident Response. CSIRT should create a lessons learnt document after all incidents, this is also goes for insider threat incidents too. This lesson learnt documents will help organization preparing more effective to possible future incidents. In this stage, all the confusion caused by the incident will be gone and teams and responsible can identify what needs to be done for future readiness. Also, policies and procedures should be reviewed and changed if needed after lesson learnt works.

Also, all incidents and evidences should be documented properly to use in future.