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Authored by David Shipley, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Information Technology Services, University of New Brunswick.

Embracing Cognitive Security Solutions

In many organizations, security is assumed rather than actively pursued. It is my job to make sure that isn’t the case. As the data center for three other universities in our province, my security team at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) protects a large digital bank of information with a fraction of the security resources of larger organizations. We have to protect student records, proprietary research material and other assets that criminals value highly.

A university is like the Mos Eisley spaceport of cybersecurity. We have every bad thing you could imagine: malware, vulnerable devices, patching issues and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) everywhere. We are, by our nature, open and transparent, yet we are supposed to be secure. Those two things do not go well together; we exist in that uncomfortable friction. Because of that, however, we are the perfect breeding ground for new ideas.

After the Gold Rush

We are faced with an exponentially growing volume of attacks due to the proliferation of new tools for cybercriminals. Today, the barriers to entry for cybercrime are tremendously low, creating a kind of gold rush. I feel this is due to a number of different factors, including the lack of a real, global cybercrime framework and national policing resources to address incidents and attacks. I am also worried about the amount of money that cybercriminals are obtaining to reinvest into their capabilities, widening the gap between the attackers and the attacked.

We are outgunned and need new capabilities to use as force multipliers to level the playing field with cybercriminals. UNB is exploring cognitive security solutions with IBM to augment our capabilities to deal with these challenges. UNB is one of eight universities in North America chosen by IBM to help adapt Watson cognitive technology for use in the cybersecurity battle. We are feeding real data into the Watson system as a natural extension of the work we are doing for security information and event management (SIEM).

Stop Fighting Fires

We have high expectations for cognitive security solutions in the coming years. The technology has so much potential to address our labor shortage gap, reduce our risk profile and increase our efficiency of response.

Cognitive systems can leverage unstructured data to provide the context behind attacks and provide an informed second opinion to increase our confidence for making decisions. I read a lot on a daily basis, but that might help me discover roughly 1 percent of what is out there in terms of the latest threats and risks at any given time. How am I supposed to apply only 1 percent against hundreds of active offenses on a daily basis? I hope cognitive security solutions can enable me to take a more holistic view of my cybersecurity situation.

Ultimately, I believe that these Watson-based solutions will allow security professionals to move to a higher level of value for their organizations. Cognitive solutions can help them get away from merely firefighting and into tackling longer-term strategic issues, such as user behavior and organizational culture, that can change the outcome of the present one-sided battle.

Read the IBM Executive Report: Cybersecurity in the cognitive era


Security Intelligence

Brazilian cybercriminals are expanding their tactics and have recently adopted ransomware as a new means of attack, Kaspersky Lab reveals.

Security researchers from the Moscow-based security firm have analyzed a new variant of the Brazilian-made ransomware "Xpan" Trojan (Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Xpan). The malware has been used by the “TeamXRat” group, also identified as “CorporacaoXRat” (the Portuguese equivalent of “CorporationXRat”) to target local companies and hospitals. The ransomware’s signature is extension “.___xratteamLucked,” which is appended to encrypted files.

While Xpan isn’t the first ransomware to come out of Brazil – TorLocker and HiddenTear copycats were seen in local attacks – it packs code improvements that reveal increased interest in this type of malware. The threat is developed by an organized gang that uses targeted attacks via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to infect systems, Kaspersky says.

When executed, the ransomware checks the system’s default language, sets a registry key, obtains the computer name from the registry, and deletes any Proxy settings defined in the system. During execution, Xpan logs all actions to the console, but clears it when the process is completed. It then informs victims that their files were encrypted using a RSA 2048-bit encryption.

Unlike the previous ransomware used by the TeamXRat group, Xpan doesn’t use persistence, has switched from Tiny Encryption Algorithm to AES-256, and encrypts all files on the system, except for .exe and .dll files, and those that include blacklisted substrings in the path. The malware, Kaspersky says, uses the implementation of cryptographic algorithms provided by MS CryptoAPI.

The security researchers have identified two versions of the Trojan, based on their extensions and the different encryption techniques. The first version uses the “___xratteamLucked” (3 ‘_’ symbols) extension and generates a single 255-symbol password for all files, while the second one uses the “____xratteamLucked” (4 ‘_’ symbols) extension and generates a new 255-symbol password for each file.

Before encryption, the ransomware attempts to stop popular database services, and deletes itself when the process has been completed. After encryption, the Trojan modifies the registry so that, when the victim double-clicks on a file with the extension “.____xratteamLucked,” the ransom note is displayed using msg.exe (a standard Windows utility).

The TeamXRat attacks are performed manually by hacking servers via RDP brute force and installing the ransomware on them. After gaining  access to a server, the attackers disable the installed anti-virus product and begin installing their malware.

“Connecting remote desktop servers directly to the Internet is not recommended and brute forcing them is nothing new; but without the proper controls in place to prevent or at least detect and respond to compromised machines, brute force RDP attacks are still relevant and something that cybercriminals enjoy,” Kaspersky researchers explain.

RDP vulnerabilities are also exploited for remote code execution when an attacker sends a specially crafted sequence of packets to a targeted system. Servers that haven’t been patched are extremely valuable to cybercriminals, as the reports on the xDedic server marketplace revealed.

“Not surprisingly, Brazil was the country with the most compromised servers being offered in the underground market to any cybercriminal,” Kaspersky notes.

The good news when it comes to the Xpan ransomware is that Kaspersky managed to break the malware’s encryption, allowing for free file decryption. In fact, the researchers already helped a hospital in Brazil to recover from an Xpan attack. The security researchers expect new ransomware variants to come from the same threat actor.

Related: Apocalypse Ransomware Leverages RDP for Infection

Related: Shade Ransomware Updated With Backdoor Capabilities

 

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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<¸¿ª¢¯¿ dÒˆK\Eå scÍãÌø6:̘Ê6vp“v¦Ã‡GG¡+z{Ÿpû{¥–ãJ®]Wˆ *9ãSŠ¼a5#~2û¢ŸÉU¿ËnwkEÛ)T Nà7Ÿrúôé¶6Ö㈤(ñP&!ÊÁSÅw•Š‰OœÏßȲÞË·8„{Jø¬²£ '\Ž£;8ÓÑDÄǬö=áþ!eLŽ¯ËΨfFüüJ‹ñþËïy~¹=ÂFôbÄÆ'"1ñ)==}ˆs-­pÁnülüp#ÄŒŒ,}ðTðqÝB‰O-¼RxíÖŠÚjÆÎßȈÀGìdp4ãcãÌ*vH5ö/½dŠ²§§¿qÏG,]Êßæ5ˆT¹3òˆjø„¢6œúúšBý‰ûËʿ÷ªÆ¦–¦æ[email protected]'P±¬¼Â€ïJ->%ñ)¢gcÅíHõ  àé âÌoqÜ&ÊvV÷‘òÔãSKªV²"8«ë vÚyhVj¶iâÍò¦§¦5ûúžÄîSjáŒoßÅ"*j‘M ruºøJÔ‰¢Øwزîg4B¥š¾ŽXʺݏ«­k¨«oD¤œm#ÄаÑhÆZ]¨l_FÊSÉŠ÷½ªâ“zïÜ‚føT¹b…‘"·Ã‡›ë¯œŸÐÕ××_XXˆ ö•´"û“žÿÛ÷iœQŽ¨zˆBØP‰ÁŠýËþ•H+î{¼L!î ¡!‹ªÐKáÚÍÍ-5µõ€ J ¡2ÄŠÊ*ñ=Y›çý—+eû£¼p ´4«««KKKQ ˆñ¾ Ä÷­AdÂF)1Pìã‡?¦ªžE†»‡·)D1Œ?/¿p¡$ ç±²ªºê@ ¢ìêîÑA¬®©ñ󲥿’ÒW/HîÏ)e;Sà$ ]´ø[email protected]|ÂõLØ8…ÑáÙÌBSEYVV¶ÿþŽŽS‚ˆ-RÒ¢" ¥Nä-6BÕP,}àŠë¿[ÄR1PJ†ˆX*n¨™šš:7$ „t©¨<ˆM͝]ÝÔš-CtÚ±S–`ñóÁ«ôéïß [email protected]ÈQîøpN::;mà3u=…mjG¸ÙD‰ü[^^ˆMMMÖ ˆ[¬AdêT­_¾E‘¦"!bé¶íÎòl¢¸+ª¸¤ôì݈äN7÷`ÔoÍ–!æäækô§!~*ê‰~Åm¬~ëÖŠŇsÒÙÙi ܼ­½S±ÅÚë:{kjj©¬¨Äææf bÿ€Q §¼Ä`u"µØ0Us‹šo`Jà%–ʺg„ˆXJ÷'ú¥ª°iY ¢Ž­Ù2ÄÏÖ®·4¿þ¤òÇÏï='ÒßmL³!ý1Æر¢UU¢m‚:OÔQm±áª†%Dc,½ÿrÑÚæà¸]7ï A„IJòŠ³qC8 ®>k 6·°¶PÄ”Ôt1ÎS¦?Y¿ƒ6~jÒŸ„ïC†ïÇŸ<ÐÙÙ%)OCð”#§.l9:yT¶©#dSS_šdf9¤¥¹åÀj‚8+Á¯ŒÂæ=QìKªÆKÕâºôák/XråO¼NHxœ"|“n÷FÝqòäü;ñ¿øâÀ*)-DȨPjЖ[email protected]¡?¥ø)ÒÔáŸãûˆá»t5'¨-¬á“sÜ¬àŽªfJ“Ž­©©…J#ˆ8cöBP!¾/ Ê Q©-º”j¸¤ÝO[·g DqÏ>NõWóª Ù˜'àzÅ%û±¶*¦U1#3[€úS-´éð-úñÇ÷ߥkƒ ¦Ée6K-óY,½‰±‘%Í’«.Y|µÈ†tW”"jCš=#m_æ©S§æá†ø†ÃÃ#…E¥EÅ¥ˆ¢¨©KB†¸mûÈÌ-l|éOmü$ õ"ð]úéx´Q|ŠÆ1=>«ì,°¦¦MGG!«¢œkkëfffæ1Î÷ߌ±”t)~>IJÙpç.Wã\p JS  '>|x®-¥Ô[[ßPPXˆ4S"Ô© RÔ: "`HJñSJ—®¾Å—~¶¤‹Ôâ›°Ÿ`'HM6£šòŒåÀÀ@CCƒžØÓÓ348„¯sôèQÄ"{ J ‘ÅRE—šº!²áb– Emh:¡Ÿ˜Çæ@u 2Úœ‚øôôta1M©TRS[‚:ˆ~þ–PvÀ'ŒÈéOKü>‹^úÙƒŒ Yüäø&'fç73›)(q`gª‰


SANS Information Security Reading Room

A malware lab in the Cybercrime Center on Microsoft's campus lets members of the company's Digital Crimes Unit work on malicious software in a controlled environment.

One of the biggest security risks for computer users is their web browser. According to Microsoft, 90 percent of phishing emails use the browser to initiate attacks, which can then be used to help attackers establish a beachhead inside a company.

Microsoft is aiming to better protect users and organizations from the threats that they face with a new feature called Windows Defender Application Guard. It's designed to isolate Microsoft Edge from the rest of the files and processes running on a user's computer and prevent computer exploits from taking hold.

[ The essentials for Windows 10 installation: Download the Windows 10 Installation Superguide today. | Stay up on key Microsoft technologies with the Windows Report newsletter. ]

This is a move that could drive greater adoption of Microsoft's browser in the enterprise, at a time when the company is fiercely competing with Google in that space. Security of company assets is a big problem for enterprises, and Microsoft is offering them another way to help protect their users without requiring those users to be security experts.

Here's how it works: when users navigate to untrusted websites in Edge with the feature enabled, Microsoft's browser launches new sessions that run in virtualized containers on their Windows 10 PCs and tablets.

In the event there's malicious code on those sites that tries to deploy on users' machines, it gets deployed into the container, isolated from the operating system and everything else.

When users quit their Edge sessions, the container is destroyed, and the malicious code is supposed to go along with it, thereby protecting users from whatever payload they may have been exposed to.

According to Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's director of program management for Windows Enterprise and Security, the other key thing about the feature is that the container's isolation is enforced using a secure root of trust that runs on the computer's processor itself.  

While Application Guard is a powerful capability, that comes at a cost. Because the container is destroyed whenever a user quits Edge, any cookies or cached items accumulated during that time go with it. In other words, even if users check the "Remember Me" button on a website, they'll have to log back in next time they open Edge. Virtualizing Microsoft's browser will also lead to some loss of performance.

IT administrators will be able to set the service up to whitelist certain trusted sites which will run in a traditional, non-containerized form, so users can get the same sort of browsing experience they're used to from those sites.

Lefferts cautioned that the feature won't be right for every organization, or even every employee.

"It is really [for] environments that want to run locked-down browsers," he said in an interview. "Finance organizations, healthcare organizations, a whole slew of military organizations that I talk to."

Microsoft is still in the process of building the feature, and will be rolling it out to Windows Insiders in the coming months. The company expects Windows Defender Application Guard to be generally available some time in 2017, for organizations that are subscribed to the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans.

That means there are still some questions left unanswered about what Windows 10 Application Guard will mean for users. For example, the company isn't saying yet what sort of impact running Edge in a container will have on its performance.

Lefferts said that the company is still working on getting the performance right, and wants to make both the Edge startup experience and the browsing experience feel good to users.

Looking forward, Microsoft may make the same containerization technology available to other applications, Matt Barlow, the corporate vice president for Windows Marketing, said during a press conference. But right now, the company is working to ship the first version of the feature.

Windows Defender Application Guard is one of a number of security-focused announcements that the company made at its Ignite conference in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday. It also announced that Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection will share intelligence across both services to provide IT administrators with an easier way to manage threats.  

The company is also releasing a new Secure Productive Enterprise service, which gives companies an easy way to buy a suite of its advanced security capabilities across Office, Windows and its Enterprise Mobility + Security suite.


InfoWorld Security

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Note: the current version of the following document is available here:
https://h20564.www2.hpe.com/hpsc/doc/public/display?docId=emr_na-c052577
11

SUPPORT COMMUNICATION - SECURITY BULLETIN

Document ID: c05257711
Version: 1

HPSBST03640 rev.1 - HP XP7 Command View Advance Edition Suite (CVAE) using
Replication Manager (RepMgr) and Device Manager (DevMgr), Local Access
Restriction Bypass

NOTICE: The information in this Security Bulletin should be acted upon as
soon as possible.

Release Date: 2016-09-01
Last Updated: 2016-09-01

Potential Security Impact: Local Access Restriction Bypass

Source: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Product Security Response Team

VULNERABILITY SUMMARY
A potential security vulnerability has been identified in HP XP7 Command View
Advance Edition Suite (CVAE) using Replication Manager (RepMgr) and Device
Manager (DevMgr). This vulnerability could be locally exploited to allow
access restriction bypass.

References:

- CVE-2016-4381
- PSRT110214

SUPPORTED SOFTWARE VERSIONS*: ONLY impacted versions are listed.
HP XP7 Command View Advanced Edition Suite RepMgr and DevMgr version 6.2.0-00
to versions prior to 8.4.1-02

BACKGROUND

CVSS Base Metrics
=================
Reference, CVSS V3 Score/Vector, CVSS V2 Score/Vector

CVE-2016-4381
5.3 CVSS:3.0/AV:L/AC:L/PR:N/UI:R/S:U/C:L/I:L/A:L
4.6 (AV:L/AC:L/Au:N/C:P/I:P/A:P)

Information on CVSS is documented in
HPE Customer Notice HPSN-2008-002 here:

https://h20564.www2.hpe.com/hpsc/doc/public/display?docId=emr_na-c013454
99

RESOLUTION

HPE has released the following software updates to resolve the vulnerability
in HP XP7 Command View Advance Edition Suite.

- Device Manager (DevMgr) version 8.4.1-02
- Replication Manager (RepMgr) version 8.4.1-02

The updates are available from the following locations.

- Full installer updates:

https://h20575.www2.hp.com/usbportal/softwareupdate.do

- Patches:

https://h20575.www2.hpe.com/tsusbportal/index.do?lc=EN_US&src=HPSC

**Note:** A valid HPE Passport account is needed to download the patches.
Please contact HPE Technical Support for assistance.

HISTORY
Version:1 (rev.1) - 1 September 2016 Initial release

Third Party Security Patches: Third party security patches that are to be
installed on systems running Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) software
products should be applied in accordance with the customer's patch management
policy.

Support: For issues about implementing the recommendations of this Security
Bulletin, contact normal HPE Services support channel. For other issues about
the content of this Security Bulletin, send e-mail to security-alert (at) hpe (dot) com. [email concealed]

Report: To report a potential security vulnerability for any HPE supported
product:
Web form: https://www.hpe.com/info/report-security-vulnerability
Email: security-alert (at) hpe (dot) com [email concealed]

Subscribe: To initiate a subscription to receive future HPE Security Bulletin
alerts via Email: http://www.hpe.com/support/Subscriber_Choice

Security Bulletin Archive: A list of recently released Security Bulletins is
available here: http://www.hpe.com/support/Security_Bulletin_Archive

Software Product Category: The Software Product Category is represented in
the title by the two characters following HPSB.

3C = 3COM
3P = 3rd Party Software
GN = HPE General Software
HF = HPE Hardware and Firmware
MU = Multi-Platform Software
NS = NonStop Servers
OV = OpenVMS
PV = ProCurve
ST = Storage Software
UX = HP-UX

Copyright 2016 Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise shall not be liable for technical or editorial
errors or omissions contained herein. The information provided is provided
"as is" without warranty of any kind. To the extent permitted by law, neither
HP or its affiliates, subcontractors or suppliers will be liable for
incidental,special or consequential damages including downtime cost; lost
profits; damages relating to the procurement of substitute products or
services; or damages for loss of data, or software restoration. The
information in this document is subject to change without notice. Hewlett
Packard Enterprise and the names of Hewlett Packard Enterprise products
referenced herein are trademarks of Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the United
States and other countries. Other product and company names mentioned herein
may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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[ reply ]


SecurityFocus Vulnerabilities

blog-using-PSTs-2016-bad-idea_SQUsing outdated technologies created for personal use in an enterprise environment has never been a good idea. Using Outlook’s PST files in 2016 is a typical example of such a poor practice.

I was working with a customer the other day on their Office 365 deployment, and the topic of OneDrive for Business came up. Everything was going along just fine, until they mentioned in passing that amongst all the files they want to move from fileservers to users’ OneDrives, PSTs will be the most beneficial, since they are clogging up the fileservers and bogging everything down.

I wasn’t sure at first if I heard him correctly, but then I couldn’t decide which surprised me more. Was it that they planned to move PSTs files to a storage location, which then wouldn’t work, or that with a 50GB mailbox size in Office 365 they felt like they still needed PSTs. Regardless, I had to educate them on PSTs and why they are evil… uhm, I mean unsupported, and why storing them on anything other than a local hard drive is not only explicitly unsupported, but also a very bad idea. In case you are still using PSTs in your organization, or know someone who is, even though it’s the year 2016, I would like to share some thoughts about this practice.

What are PSTs?

PST files are Personal Storage Table files, first introduced in early versions of Microsoft Outlook to store personal data, but which have since grown beyond all reckoning as a local storage repository for data, especially when your mean ol’ Exchange admin won’t give you enough space in your mailbox. PST files are an old, proprietary, monolithic file format which Outlook can use to store data, but really shouldn’t. You see, the nature of this file format is to be very “expensive” in disk I/O terms, they are easily corrupted when a write operation is interrupted, and were actually never intended for enterprise use.

So what are they meant for?

PST files were originally intended to provide a local storage for non-critical, non-enterprise data. If you had Outlook connected to both your enterprise Exchange environment and your personal email account, you were supposed to keep your enterprise mail on enterprise storage, but since your ISP would want you to keep your mailbox small, preferably empty, PST files were a good way to store your personal emails coming from POP3 or IMAP systems.

And where did things go wrong?

Unfortunately, this was just a theory. In practice, combined with the extreme costs of high performing disks for Exchange, low mailbox quotas drove users to save company emails to PSTs when they ran out of space in Exchange. Admins, having no alternative recourse, actually encouraged this practice. And since storing mail in PSTs meant that enterprise data loss was a real risk, users were encouraged to store their PSTs in their home directories, so they could be backed up. And this is where things went horribly wrong.

The monolithic file format of PSTs means that reads and writes must be performed using serialized I/O. When one machine is doing this to one local file, it’s not that noticeable or impactful. But store a PST on a network drive and the client must encapsulate the serialized I/O in RPC packets, which the file server must fulfill using a very costly mechanism that creates an execution lock, depletes non-paged pool memory, and ultimately can lead to server crashes.

Remember scheduling reboots of 32-bit file servers every night? Odds are good that PSTs were the root cause of the NPP depletion. And since writes to PSTs are not ACID, if a server crash, client crash, or network connectivity loss occurs, you can get a corrupted PST. Microsoft actually published a KB article in the early 2000s, warning against PST use by the enterprise: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/297019.

Why is storing them to the cloud a bad idea?

As bad as storing and accessing PST files is over the LAN, trying to take them to the cloud “as is” can be an even worse idea. OneDrive for Business, Dropbox, and other cloud storage solutions keep a local copy of the file on the client’s hard drive, and sync any changes up to the cloud. But when Outlook mounts a PST it creates a lock on that file, which prevents the sync engine of your storage solution from synching the deltas, so it must cache each of the reads and writes until Outlook closes, and only then it can sync. The more changes you make, the larger that cache will grow.

Of course, consider the moment when most users close Outlook. It’s usually about 10 seconds before they shut down their computer, which means that the cloud sync engine cannot sync the changes of such a large file before the PC shuts down. The next day, the user logs on, and what’s the first app they are likely to launch? Yes, Facebook, but what comes next? That’s right, Outlook. And if the sync engine hasn’t finished synching yet, that’s too bad. Eventually either the sync cache runs out of space, or the drive does, either way, it’s bad news for the PST, your emails, and your company’s bandwidth.

Many users want to access their mail from multiple clients. But when two different clients try to access PSTs one at a time, you can get file corruption. When you try to do it at the same time (like when you left your home computer on and Outlook running) the PST file on the local drive is locked and cannot sync to the cloud instance, so the other computer cannot sync changes back down. You wind up with, at best, an inconsistent view of the data, and at worst, with a corrupted PST file.

What’s the alternative?

Give users enough space to store the data they need. Use a combination of messaging records management (MRM) policies and corporate guidance to help figure out what that space is, and remember that today’s Exchange servers are very happy with JBOD and can perform quite nicely with that. With today’s prices of hard drives and enterprise storage, keeping user mailbox quotas like it’s 2006 is really unnecessary.

Or if you don’t want to provision that much storage for users, look at cloud-based solutions like Microsoft Office 365 or Google for Work. Office 365 in particular offers users a 50GB mailbox, and has license plans that can provide an unlimited archive mailbox. Google has similar plans, with competitive pricing, and these two are not the only enterprise cloud providers out there. Email is very much a utility offering these days, and moving to the cloud may let you get out of the mailbox database quota management business altogether, allowing you to focus on more important things.

How can I stop the pain?

Use Group Policy to stop the creation and expansion of PST files by deploying the administrative templates for your version(s) of Outlook. But also provide users with enough space to store what they need, and use MRM policies to deal with the hoarders. If you move to the cloud, either rehydrate your mailboxes from PSTs before you move, or use the free tools from Microsoft or for pay tools from third parties to migrate PST data.

Do NOT let your users drag and drop from PST to the cloud unless you want to get nothing else done that day. You can stop PST drag and drop by implementing a regkey called “DisableCrossAccountCopy”. I tested it and it works great; you can read more about it at http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2015/07/08/deep-sixing-pst-files.aspx.

So with all of that in mind, make sure you don’t continue the madness or grow the problems worse than they are. Stop PST use immediately, ensure that users cannot do bad things with them, and ensure that between MRM policies and cheap disks, your users have enough space to save what they really need.

You may also like:

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GFI Blog

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SANS Information Security Reading Room

A honeytoken is data or a computing resource that exists for the purpose of alerting you when someone accesses it. This type of a honeypot could take many form, such as a user account that no one should use, a file that no one should access and a link on which no one should click. While there are several approaches to implementing honeytokens, open source toolkit Canarytokens, created by Thinkst Applied Research, makes it easy to start experimenting with this approach to detecting and tracking cyber-adversaries.

Getting to Know Canarytokens

Thinkst sees honeytokens as a “quick, painless way to help defenders discover they’ve been breached (by having attackers announce themselves).” To accomplish this, you can use the Canarytokens web application to generate tokens such as:

  • A URL an adversary might visit
  • A domain or hostname an adversary might resolve
  • A Word or PDF document an adversary might open
  • A Bitcoin wallet from which an adversary might withdraw funds

When the intruder accesses or makes use of the honeytoken generated by Canarytokens, the tool will notify you via email and share a few details about the event.

The easiest way to get a sense for Canarytokens’ capabilities is to utilize the pre-deployed version of the tool hosted by Thinkst at canarytokens.org. The site allows you to generate and monitor honeytokens without having to setup and configure your own infrastructure. The downsides to this approach include having to give up control over the data that the tool generates and the inability to customize the domain names that it uses for tracking.

Deploying Your Own Canarytokens Application

If you’d like to retain full control over the use of honeytokens, you can set up your own instance of Canarytokens. This is a relatively painless process, though it does require registering a domain name and installing Canarytokens software on an Internet-accessible server.

You can host Canarytokens on an inexpensive Linux system at a public cloud provider such as DigitalOcean (the link includes my referral code). I like this provider in part because it offers a low-end virtual private server instance for as little as $ 5 per month. You can start by deploying a “droplet” running Ubuntu there in a few clicks:

Once the new system is active, log into it and execute the following commands to install Canarytokens software there. (The lines may have been wrapped to fit your screen.)

 apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://p80.pool.sks-keyservers.net:80 --recv-keys 58118E89F3A912897C070ADBF76221572C52609D add-apt-repository -y "deb https://apt.dockerproject.org/repo ubuntu-$ (lsb_release -sc) main" apt-get update apt-get -y dist-upgrade apt-get -y install docker-engine python-pip python-dev libyaml-dev pip install -U docker-compose git clone https://github.com/thinkst/canarytokens-docker cd canarytokens-docker 

Separately from the instructions above, you’ll need to register your own domain name, which you will use exclusively for Canarytokens. You’ll need to use the registrar’s interface to designate the publicly-accessible system where the toolkit will run as the domain’s DNS server. (I used Google Domains for this purpose, which keeps registration details private without additional fees.) If you’ll use Canarytokens’ PDF tokens, you’ll need two domains.

Once you’ve registered the domain name, configured it properly and installed Canarytokens software, you’ll need to modify two configuration files: frontenv.env and switchboard.env.

In the frontenv.env file you should specify the domain name that you’ve registered and configured for Canarytokens as the CANARY_DOMAINS parameter. If you’ve registered a second domain for PDF tokens, specify it as the CANARY_NXDOMAINS parameter; otherwise, set that parameter to the same value as CANARY_DOMAINS.

In the switchboard.env file, specify in the CANARY_PUBLIC_DOMAIN parameter the domain you’ve listed as CANARY_DOMAINS in the other file. Also, specify the public IP address of your server as CANARY_PUBLIC_IP. Customize CANARY_ALERT_EMAIL parameters to your liking. To receive email alerts, you’ll need to first open and set up a free Mailgun account, then specify the corresponding details as CANARY_MAILGUN parameters.

This is how my Canarytokens configuration files looked. Yours, of course, will have different values for domain names, the IP address and Mailgun details.

Once you’ve configured Canarytokens, you can launch the application by running the “docker-compose up” command, which will automatically download the appropriate Docker images the first time you run it.

Afterwards, use your browser to visit the /generate URL on the server where you’ve activated Canarytokens, using its IP address or the domain name you’ve set up for the app. Keep in mind that the URL will be publicly accessible to anyone who comes across it, as the app doesn’t presently support admin user authentication by default.

Running Your Canarytokens Application

You will see the following screen after directing your browser to your Canarytokens instance, which will give you the opportunity to generate a new token, after specifying the email address where the app will send the alert whenever the token is accessed.

I suggest starting your experiments with the default DNS/HTTP token. This token can be triggered in many ways, including access to the Canarytokens-generated URL, hostname resolution, document file opening, etc.

For instance, when I accessed a URL that corresponded to the token above, the application emailed me the following alert. As you can see, the alert includes the IP address of the system from which I accessed the link and the browser’s User-Agent header. If you fail to receive the notification, check your Mailgun setup and your email spam folder.

This token could also be triggered whenever the intruder resolves its hostname. Note that in the DNS-triggered alert below, the notice includes the IP address of the adversary’s DNS server. This information can help triage the person’s location, because even if he or she is using a VPN, DNS queries are often not tunneled through the VPN.

If you use Canarytokens to generate a Microsoft Word document, you will be alerted whenever someone opens the .docx file. The notification will look just like the one for an HTTP token, but the User-Agent header will include Microsoft Office version details. Canarytokens accomplishes this by including in the Word document’s footer a reference to an invisible image file. Keep in mind that modern versions of Word won’t access the file in Protected View; the person will need to click the “Enable Editing” button to trigger the honeytoken.

To turn off the Canarytokens application, press Ctrl+C in the terminal window where you’ve launched it. The app preserves state in the dump.rdb file that it creates. This way, it will remember your earlier tokens the next time you start Canarytokens. If you want to start with a clean slate, simply remove the file.

Start Experimenting with Honeytokens

Honeytokens offer an enticing way of detecting adversaries’ attempts to interact with our data, infrastructure and applications. Since legitimate users should not be interacting with these honeypot resources, any activity associated with them is suspect, offering an intrusion detection and threat research method with a relatively low rate of false positives. Implementing deception-based defensive techniques in a safe and useful manner can be tricky. Canarytokens offers a convenient way of starting to experiment with honeytokens without too many difficulties and with an attractive value proposition. Give them a try—see what you learn.

To learn more about honeypots and deception, see my other articles on this topic:

  • Experimenting with Honeypots Using The Modern Honey Network
  • Reflections Upon Deception and Protean Security Tactics
  • Honeypots as Part of a Modern IT Infrastructure

Updated


Lenny Zeltser

Nishang is a framework, and a collection of scripts and payloads which enables PowerShell usage for offensive security, penetration testing and red teaming.

“Nishang“

The tool is the brainchild of information security researcher Nikhil Mittal, who created it after realizing he needed something custom for his penetration testing engagements, and later decided to share it with the community through GitHub.

“The wide use of Windows as server and user desktop in the enterprise made PowerShell an attractive target. I was taken aback with the ease with which various penetration testing tasks can be performed with PowerShell,” Mittal told Help Net Security.

Nishang future plans

Mittal is currently working on bypassing various restrictions like Applocker whitelisting, and Windows 10 AMSI. Nishang user’s will soon see scripts related to Active Directory and SQL Server.

“In the long term, I would like the tool to be able to handle multiple connect backs (reverse shells) from a PowerShell console,” says Mittal.

If you’re at Black Hat USA 2016 in Las Vegas this week, you can see Nishang in action at the Arsenal.

Black Hat USA 2016


Help Net Security

Oct 16 2015   4:45PM GMT

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

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Gosh, I’ve been busier than a centipede on a tightwire and now this. The big news last week is that LastPass was purchased by LogMeIn. LastPass is the #1 rated password manager that I have used for years. This caused quite a stir with many of its users, given LogMeIn’s not-favorable reputation after removing free account support from products in 2014 and starting to cross-sell products to increase revenue.

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