Advanced Persistent Threats are probably the most remarkable events for Information Security in 2011 since they are redefining the infosec landscape from both technology and market perspective.
I consider the recent shopping in the SIEM arena made by IBM and McAfee a sign of the times and a demonstration of this trend. This is not a coincidence: as a matter of fact the only way to stop an APT before it reaches its goal (the Organization data), is an accurate analysis and correlation of data collected by security devices. An APT attack deploys different stages with different tactics, different techniques and different timeframes, which moreover affect different portion of the infrastructure. As a consequence an holistic view and an holistic information management are needed in order to correlate pieces of information spread in different pieces of the networks and collected by different, somewhat heterogeneous and apparently unrelated, security devices.
Consider for instance the typical cycle of an attack carried on by an APT:
Of course the picture does not take into consideration the user, which is the greatest vulnerability (but unfortunately an user does not generate logs except in a verbal format not so easy to analyze for a SIEM). Moreover the model should be multiplied for the numbers of victims since it is “unlikely” that such a similar attack could be performed on a single user at a time.
At the end, however, it is clear that an APT affects different components of the information security infrastructure at different times with different threat vectors:
- Usually stage 1 of an APT attack involves a spear phishing E-mail containing appealing subject and argument, and a malicious payload in form of an attachment or a link. In both cases the Email AV or Antispam are impacted in the ingress stream (and should be supposed to detect the attack, am I naive if I suggest that a DNS lookup could have avoided attacks like this?). The impacted security device produce some logs (even if they are not straightforward to detect if the malicious E-mail has not been detected as a possible threat or also has been detected with a low confidence threshold). In this stage of the attack the time interval between the receipt of the e-mail and its reading can take from few minutes up to several hours.
- The following stage involves user interaction. Unfortunately there is no human firewall so far (it is something we are working on) but user education (a very rare gift). As a consequence the victim is lured to follow the malicious link or click on the malicious attachment. In the first scenario the user is directed to a compromised (or crafted) web site where he downloads and installs a malware (or also insert some credentials which are used to steal his identity for instance for a remote access login). In the second scenario the user clicks on the attached file that exploits a 0-day vulnerability to install a Remote Administration Tool. The interval between reading the malicious email and installing the RAT takes likely several seconds. In any case Endpoint Security Tools may help to avoid surfing to malicious site or, if leveraging behavioral analysis, to detect anomalous pattern from an application (a 0-day is always a 0-day and often they are released after making reasonably sure not to be detected by traditional AV). Hopefully In both cases some suspicious logs are generated by the endpoint.
- RAT Control is the following stage: after installation the malware uses the HTTP protocol to fetch commands from a remote C&C Server. Of course the malicious traffic is forged so that it may be hidden inside legitimate traffic. In any case the traffic pass through Firewalls and NIDS at the perimeter (matching allowed rules on the traffic). In this case both kind of devices should be supposed to produce related logs;
- Once in full control of the Attacker, the compromised machine is used as a hop for the attacker to reach other hosts (now he is inside) or also to sweep the internal network looking for the target data. In this case a NIDS/anomaly detector should be able to detect the attack, monitoring, for instance, the number of attempted authentications or wrong logins: that is the way in which Lockheed Martin prevented an attack perpetrated by mean of compromised RSA seeds, and also, during the infamous breach, RSA detected the attack using a technology of anomaly detection Netwitness, acquired by EMC, its parent company immediately after the event.
At this point should be clear that this lethal blend of threats is pushing the security firms to redefine their product strategies, since they face the double crucial challenge to dramatically improve not only their 0-day detection ability, but also to dramatically improve the capability to manage and correlate the data collected from their security solutions.
As far as 0-day detection ability is concerned, next-gen technologies will include processor assisted endpoint security or also a new class of network devices such as DNS Firewalls (thanks to @nientenomi for reporting the article).
As far data management and correlation are concerned, yes of course a SIEM is beautiful concept… until one needs to face the issue of correlation, which definitively mean that often SIEM projects become useless because of correlation patterns, which are too complex and not straightforward. This is the reason why the leading vendors are rushing to include an integrated SIEM technology in their product portfolio in order to provide an out-of-the-box correlation engine optimized for their products. The price to pay will probably be a segmentation and verticalization of SIEM Market in which lead vendors will have their own solution (not so optimized for competitor technologies) at the expense of generalist SIEM vendors.
On the other hand APT are alive and kicking, keep on targeting US Defense contractors (Raytheon is the latest) and are also learning to fly though the clouds. Moreover they are also well hidden considered that, according to the Security Intelligence Report Volume 11 issued by Microsoft, less than one per cent of exploits in the first half of 2011 were against zero-day vulnerabilities. The 1% makes the difference! And it is a big difference!
- Information, The Next Battlefield (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
Update: F-Secure posted in their blog the complete description on how the patient 0 was found: And here it is the infamous “2011 recruitment plan message”.
Have a look to the fake sender: a message from beyond…
Original Post follows:
I am working hard for the August 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline (stay tuned it is almost ready! Meanwhile you may check the previous ones) while I stumbled upon this very interesting article. Yes, I may say that finally I saw one of the Emails used for spear phishing attacks against RSA customers, using compromised seeds.
As you will probably know everything started on March 17, 2011, when RSA admitted to have been targeted by a sophisticated attack which led to certain information specifically related to RSA’s SecurID two-factor authentication products being subtracted from RSA’s systems.
Of course the sole seed and serial number of the token (the alleged information subtracted) is not enough to carry on a successful attack, so the attacker (whose possible target were presumably RSA customers) had to find a way to get the missing pieces of the puzzle, that is the username and the PIN. And which is the best way? Of course Spear Phishing!
And here the example of a fake spear phishing E-mail targeting one of the One of America’s Most Secret (and Important) Agencies and in the same Time RSA customers:
Likely the same attack vector was utilized against three Contractors (RSA Customers) which were targeted by attacks based on compromised SecurID seeds between April and May (Lockheed Martin, L-3, and Northrop Grumman). What a terrible year for Contractors and DHS related agencies!
By chance today F-Secure revealed to have discovered the patient zero, that is the mail (“2011 Recruitment Plan”) used to convey the APT inside RSA. Someone (who decided to follow the best practices for anomalous e-mails) submitted it to Virus Total, a cloud based service for scanning files, and it looks like that F-Secure antimalware analyst Timo Hirvonen discovered the e-mail message buried in the millions of submissions stored in this crowd-sourced database of malicious or potentially malicious files.
The Antisec Typhoon seems unstoppable and has apparently hacked another Defense Contractor. Continuing their campaign against law enforcement agencies and related organizations, driven by the infamous hash #FFFriday, this time they have targeted Richard Garcia, the Senior Vice President of Vanguard Defense Industries (VDI). During the Breach nearly 4,713 emails and thousands of documents were stolen.
According to TechHerald, AntiSec targeted VDI’s website due to their relationship with several law enforcement agencies from Texas and other parts of the U.S., as well as their relationship with the FBI, the DHS, and U.S. Marshals Service. Moreover, with this hack Antisec (in)directly targeted FBI since Richard Garcia is the former Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles. To those supporting AntiSec, this alone is reason enough to target VDI and release Garcia’s corporate email to the public.
As usual the attack had been anticipated by an enigmatic and threatening tweet:
The emails were taken after AntiSec breached VDI’s website, based on the popular WordPress platform. According to Antisec source, VDI had two outdated plugins installed on their website, which had its development outsourced to a local marketing company in Texas. Although the person from AntiSec did not disclose the exact method used to access Garcia’s email, he stated that the hack was performed through the VDI website, and that his password was rather weak.
VDI is the responsible for ShadowHawk, an unmanned helicopter that can be tasked with aerial surveillance or equipped for military usage. At its base, the ShadowHawk comes with CCD TV optics, or an upgraded version includes CCD TV optics and FLIR optics. A third version, for military or law enforcement usage only, can be equipped with a single or multiple shot 37 mm or 40mm grenade launcher, as well as a 12g shotgun, and thermal cameras.
The is only the last leak to Defense Contractor, scroll down the list for attacks targeting Defense Contractors in this very troubled year:
| Feb 5
Anonymous hacks HBGary Federal Web Site, copies tens of thousands of documents, posts tens of thousands of emails online and usurps CEO Aaron Baar’s Twitter Account.
| Apr 6
An E-mail dated April 6, sent to 5,000 employees of U.S. Defense Contractor L-3 warns of an attack attempt made with compromised SecureIDs. It is not clear if the attack was successful (it was revelead half a month later). This is in absolute the first attack perpetrated with RSA Seeds.
This is the first known (and the only officially recognized so far) attack perpetrated with compromised SecureID seeds targeting a U.S. Defense Contractor. This Attack was detected before any sensitive information could be stolen. 100,000 accounts were locked as a precaution.
Third U.S. Defense Contractor attacked using Compromised RSA Seeds. Attacked detected before any sensitive data was stolen.
| Jun 3
As part of the FFFriday campaign, LulzSec steals 180 usernames, real names, hashed and plain text passwords, are acquired and posted publicily
| Jul 8
Anonymous attacks IRC Federal and dumps the content of the attack on a torrent available at The Pirate Bay. The dumped content include databases, private emails, contracts, development schematics, and internal documents for various government institutions.
Anonymous attacks consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and releases details of internal data including 90,000 military emails and passwords. Estimated cost of the breach is around $5,400,000.00.
The Pentagon reveals to have suffered a breach of 24,000 documents in March, during a single intrusion believed to have been perpetrated by a Foreign Country. As a consequence of the Intrusion, a classified U.S. Military Weapon System will need to be redesigned after specs and plans were stolen during the breach.
| Jul 28
Anonymous hacks Mantech International Corporation, another FBI Contractor, as a consolidated tradition on Friday, and releases details of internal data and documsnts.
| Jul 29
As part of the Antisec operation and in retaliation for the raids and the arrest again alleged Anonymous and LulzSec members, Anonymous attacks 77 U.S. Law Enforcement Institutions, defacing and destroying their servers.
| Aug 1
||PCS ConsultantsAnother U.S. Government contractor, PCS Consultants gets hacked by Anonymous & Antisec. Hackers extract website Database and leak it on the internet via Twitter on Pastebin (as usual!). Leaked Data include Admin’s and 110 users emails, plus passwords in encrypted hashes.||?|
| Aug 16
Antisec targets Richard Garcia, the Senior Vice President of Vanguard Defense Industries (VDI). During the Breach nearly 4,713 emails and thousands of documents are stolen. As consolidated tradtion, the torrent is released on Friday, August the 19th.
|Vulnerability in WordPress Hosting Platform|
- Vanguard Defense Industries compromised by AntiSec (thetechherald.com)
Actually I cleaned it up a little bit in order to show only some of the events happened in 2011, which were inserted in the original matrix. As a reference I left some events of the previous years (inserted in the original matrix as well) in order to have a kind of normalization. They include the infamous Ufo Hacker, the Greek Cellphone Caper, and finally the Palin’s Email Hacking.
As you may easily notice, Stuxnet deserves the Top of the Rock for Innovation and Impact. The infamous malware (the terror the nuclear power plants) has divided the infosec community in different factions: those who consider the malware as the first example of next-gen cyber-weapons developed (maybe by Israel and the U.S.) to seriously damage and delay the Iranian nuclear program (whose development took at least ten years of work), or those who consider it the work of an amateur, a script kid, possibly an astronomer with knowledge of the Holy Bible. Regardless of the real origin, because of its huge exploitation of 0-day vulnerabilities (which make it really contagious) the malware has established a new level, and probably a new standard for the information security landscape.
The RSA breach ranks in a considerable position as well. As known, compromised seeds were used to attack several main contractors of U.S. Defense (L-3, at the beginning of April but disclosed at the end of May, Lockheed Martin, on May, the 22nd, and Northrop Grumman on May, the 26th). As I told in one few posts ago I am afraid that also the Mother of All Breaches, that is the breach of 24,000 files by a Contractor, happened in March but disclosed by Pentagon last week, may be somehow related to the RSA Breach. As a consequence of the latter breach, a classified US military weapons system will have to be redesigned. Because of the impact, this breach should also be included in the matrix.
Probably the effects of the Epsilon Data Breach have been underestimated, since it is likely that security concerns, in terms of phishing, for the owners of breached e-mail addresses will last for years.
Obviously the matrix could not miss the infamous Anonymous and LulzSec Hacking groups. Their actions are considered quite simple with a major impact for the Lulz Boat. The Anonymous group is perhaps unfairly considered only for DDoS, and probably the matrix was drawn before the events of the last days such as the Monsanto Hack performed by Anonymous (whose impact is quite huge and denotes a growing interest of the group towards social problems), or the Sun Hacking (at this link some technical details on the hack).
Finally a quick consideration, of course it is a coincidence, but I could not help noticing that the author of the Ufo Hack, Gary McKinnon, has been diagnosed with the Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism. Curiously the same disease has been diagnosed to Ryan Cleary, the alleged LulzSec member arrested in U.K. on June, the 21st. Probably some individuals suffering of autism spectrum disorders establish with machines the links and relationships they are not able to establish with the other human beings. This explains in part why they are so able with hacking…
Again, thanks to Massimo for reporting this really interesting (and enjoying) link.
- The LulzSec Boat is Back (and sails under The SUN) (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
Update July 15: Reuters reports that hat a classified US military weapons system will now need to be redesigned after specs and plans for the system were stolen from a defense contractor database during the breach of March,
According to an AP Statement, on Thursday the Pentagon revelead to have suffered a breach of 24,000 documents in March, during a single intrusion. Particularly interesting is the fact that sources believe the attack was perpetrated by a Foreign Country, confirming the fact that cyberspace has really become the fifth domain of war (earlier in this year China had been charged to have hacked some gmail accounts including those of senior US and South Korean government officials, and similarly at the end of 2009 some gmail accounts belonging to dissidents).
According to the original statement by AP:
William Lynn, the deputy secretary of defense, said in a speech outlining the strategy that 24,000 files containing Pentagon data were stolen from a defense industry computer network in a single intrusion in March. He offered no details about what was taken but in an interview before the speech he said the Pentagon believes the attacker was a foreign government. He didn’t say which nation.
“We have a pretty good idea” who did it, Lynn said the interview. He would not elaborate.
For the chronicle, DoD operates over 15,000 networks and seven million computing devices across hundreds of installations in dozens of countries around the globe.
It is not a coincidence that at the beginning of the year Pentagon declared that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that
for the first time opened the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force (probably at that time they were alre
ady aware of the above attack, which explains the change in strategy).
In the same wake, yesterday the Department of Defence announced its Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, which relies on five strategic initiatives. At first glance the strategy aims to defend and prevent with a measured, reasonable approach focused on good network hygiene and data-sharing, rather than bombing hackers into submission.
- Strategic Initiative 1: Treat cyberspace as an operational domain to organize, train, and equip so that DoD can take full advantage of cyberspace’s potential;
- Strategic Initiative 2: Employ new defense operating concepts to protect DoD networks and systems;
- Strategic Initiative 3: Partner with other U.S. government departments and agencies and the private sector to enable a whole-of-government cybersecurity strategy;
- Strategic Initiative 4: Build robust relationships with U.S. allies and international partners to strengthen collective cybersecurity;
- Strategic Initiative 5: Leverage the nation’s ingenuity through an exceptional cyber workforce and rapid technological innovation.
Honestly Speaking I must confess that, as soon as I stumbled upon this report I could not help thinking (but this is a mere personal speculation) to the RSA Breach. Details of the Pentagon breach are not known so far, but I would not be surprised if they were somehow related. On the other hand the RSA breach happened in mid-March and was followed to attacks towards three US Defense Contractors (L-3, happened at the beginning of April but disclosed at the end of May, Lockheed Martin, discovered on May, the 22nd, and Northrop Grumman on May, the 26th). Only a coincidence?
It looks like that security issues for US Military contractors never end. The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is only the last which has fallen under the blows of anonymous. In the name of the #AntiSec operation hackers claimed today that they compromised a server released internal data, including about 90,000 military e-mail addresses. Due to the huge amount of data leaked, the operation was called #MilitaryMeltdownMonday.
We infiltrated a server on their network that basically had no security measures in place. We were able to run our own application, which turned out to be a shell and began plundering some booty. Most shiny is probably a list of roughly 90,000 military emails and password hashes (md5, non-salted of course!). We also added the complete sqldump, compressed ~50mb, for a good measure.
The entire statement is available on pastebin, while the leaked data have been inserted into a torrent at The Pirate Bay, and are also already available on pastebin, although password are hashed (but not salted).
We also were able to access their svn, grabbing 4gb of source code. But this was deemed insignificant and a waste of valuable space, so we merely grabbed it, and wiped it from their system.
It was clear that something was in the air since a couple of days, as some tweets announced “the biggest day in #anonymous‘ history according to sabu”:
This might be an indication that the ghost of the infamous group LulzSec played a crucial role in the attack to Booz Allen Hamilton. As a matter of fact Sabu, is the alleged leader of the infamous group LulzSec, and also the alleged author of the hack to HBGary Federal, another military contractor hacked earlier this year becouse of its CEO Aaron Barr claimed to have unmasked some Anonymous members. In response to his actions, the hackers dumped 71,000 emails which revealed, among the others things, that HBGary had worked with Booz Allen Hamilton to develop a response plan for Bank of America based on what the bank feared might be an upcoming leak of its internal documents by WikiLeaks.
The Anonymous statement also paints the contractor as another player involved (together with HBGary) on a military project, dubbed Operation Metal Gear by Anonymous (for lack of an official title) designed to manipulate social media, and as a revolving door of military-related conflicts of interest, and argues that the firm has been involved in mass surveillance projects.
The company wrote on its Twitter feed that “as part of @BoozeAllen security policy, we generally do not comment on specific threats or actions taken against our systems.”
This is only the last attack to a U.S. Contractor. On July, the 9th, Anonymous attacked IRC Federal, an FBI contractor, and dumped the content of the attack on a torrent available once again at The Pirate Bay. The dumped content apparently included databases, private emails, contracts, development schematics, and internal documents for various government institutions. The attack was performed as a sequel to the first one against Infragard, another FBI affiliate, on June, the 3rd performed (what a coincidence) from LulzSec.
After HBGary Federal, between April and May 2011 three U.S. Defense contractors: L-3, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were attacked by using compromised RSA seeds, although in this case no one has been identified as the author of the attacks, and also no connection with anonymous has been found.
- Hackers claim they exposed Booz Allen Hamilton data (news.cnet.com)
- 50 Days of Hunt (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
As already suggested, I considered the original 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline graph by Thomson Reuters not enough complete since it did not show some important attacks occurred during this tremendous 2011. This is the reason why I decided to draw an enhanced version which shows, according to my personal opinion (and metric), the list of 2011 major cyber attacks both for size and impact. Moreover in this version I added the cost of the breaches (where possible), and the alleged kind of attack perpetrated.
All the data were taken from the bulletins or statements released by the victims, or from the tweets released by the attackers.
Costs were calculated, where possible, using the indications from the Ponemon’s insitute: the average cost of a Data Breach is US $214 for each compromised record, if the targeted company decided to respond immediately the cost is around UD $268 for each compromised record, which drops to US $ 174 if the company takes longer to react.
The Total Cost is an incredible number: nearly US $ 18 billion.
Useless to say, Sony achieves rank #1 with US $ 13.4 billion. In this unenviable chart, Epsilon gains the second place with an estimated cost for its breach, of US $ 4 billion.
The others breaches, although not comparable with the previous ones, if summed, allow to achieve the grand total.
Even if smaller in size, and apparently in importance, I decided to insert in the chart also the attack to Comodo Certificates, happened in March, the 24th. In this annus horribilis, it came immediately after the RSA affaire and it has decreed, together with the RSA breach, the fall of the modern bastions of Strong Authentication (in few days tokens and certificates have proved to be vulnerable). Moreover I consider the message of the author a memorable declaration of Cyberwar. On the trail of the RSA breach the wave of attacks towards US contractors is noteworthy as well.
Hackers focused on Media Sites (Fox, PBS, Sony, Sony BMG), with a clear message against censorship (and probably the neverending problem of copyright). Interesting the second attack to PBS made to show the poor skill of LuzSecs by Warv0x, one of their enemies. In the last part of June Videogame industry was the preferred target (also Epic suffered a breach) with different intentions: LulzSec attacked Nintendo and Bethesda (the second attack resulted in data breach for the victim), but offered to avenge Sega (the manufacturer of Dreamcast), after the disastrous breach.
Direct attacks to governments focused essentially on LOIC based DDoS, albeit some infamous breaches to related sites (as in case of Infoguard/FBI and NATO) lead to Data Breaches.
Last but not least, please notice the intense activity from LulzSec in their intense “50 days of living dangerously”, just before the sudden dissolution of the group happened on June, the 25th.
- What do RSA, Epsilon and Sony breaches have in common? (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- It was only a matter of time… (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- More Random Thoughts on the RSA Breach (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- 2011 CyberAttacks Timeline (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)