Tag Archives: maliciuos insider

The 70/30 split is the new guiding principle in IT security

23 April 2015

About 70% of all cyber-attacks are executed by malicious insiders. 30% are performed by external attackers from outside the organization’s network.

But do we take this 70/30 split into account when planning IT security programs and allocating budgets? My personal feeling is that it is exactly the other way.

However, it seems that the IT security industry is reconsidering the direction of further development. The following statement of the new RSA President Amit Yoran saved my day:

“Building taller walls and digging deeper moats is not solving our problems. The perimeter mindset is still clinging to us. We say we know the perimeter is dead; we say we know the adversary is on the inside, but we don’t change our actions.”

For more details please see report “Yoran: RSA, information security industry needs ‘radical change’”, published 21 April 2015 by Michael Heller.

Take care!

Premera hacked – 11 million financial and medical records stolen

19 March 2014

When news about the Premera hack showed up in my mailbox this afternoon I was really amazed. The second time for this year a health insurance company was hit.

On skim reading the news about the Premera attack I wondered, when the magic word encryption would appear the first time. Finally I found this statement in Warwick Ashford’s post ‘Premera hack exposes 11 million financial and medical records’. Richard Blech, chief executive of security firm Secure Channels, said:

“With advanced and unhackable encryption, the hacker is left with a bunch of useless bits and bytes.”

Richard Blech talks about encryption at the application level. Application level encryption is not as useless as database level transparent encryption in the defense against attackers.

But even application level encryption is almost useless in the case of malicious insiders because, apart from the fact that they use stolen login data, they sign in to the company just like a normal employee. Therefore they are able to access even data which are encrypted on the application level, because they are authorized to do this.

In my opinion, to use advanced encryption as the core process of a protection strategy is as irresponsible as to use no encryption at all. Strict Identity and Access Management, combined with Two Factor Authorization for all employees, and regular security trainings create the first and second line of defense. Encryption is the last line of defense.

Take care!

The technology dimension of social engineering

7 February 2015

In his post ‘Weird Security Term of the Week: “Social Engineering”’ Kurt Ellzey talks of ‘Social Engineering’ as the ‘Art of Getting Information’ about a person.

A short query on Google reveals a multitude of information that could be used to create a rough profile of a person. A malicious insider could easily enhance this profile by personal information gathered from e.g. a company intranet or SharePoint MySites.

Besides this ‘personal information’ a rich set of easy to extract ‘technical information’ about an employee is available from a company network.

A Windows workstation is a universal machine. It can be used to run an application as well as to administer a server or network. For example, the built-in ‘net’ command could be used to retrieve detailed employee account data from the Active Directory.

Some colors to fight the winter depression.

Some colors to fight the winter depression.
50°53’28.3″N 4°21’31.9″E

IAM (Identity and Access Management) systems, very often deployed as self-services to improve user satisfaction, could be used to get detailed information about the applications used by employees to get their job done.

But the worst is that this information sources are available for all employees, irrespective of whether they are needed in the job. This is a massive violation of the Principle of Least Privilege.

Attackers can read in company networks like in an open book.

And, when enriched with technical information, a personal profile becomes an invaluable information source for targeted attacks.

Just some suggestions on how to tackle these problems.

As general design principle I would strongly recommend to enforce the principle of least privilege for all information systems. Software restriction policies could be used to reject standard user access to administrative commands. IAM systems should offer only user related information on a user’s request.

I dream of an operating system which provides only those commands and applications which are essential for a user’s job. This could reduce the attack surface of a company dramatically.

Have a nice weekend!

Fun with 24h Admin Rights

19 January 2015

Once you granted 24h admin rights to a user he is able to grant himself privileges with a just few clicks. Startup scripts give an easy means to do this.

About startup scripts.

With startup scripts Windows offers administrators a powerful tool to run commands at system boot. Scripts are stored in directory %windir%\System32\Group Policy\Machine\Scripts\Startup and executed with system privileges.

But just adding a script to the startup directory is not sufficient to execute the script. Because startup scripts could be easily used to compromise a system they have to be enabled through the Local Group Policy Editor gpedit.msc. And at least for enabling a startup script with gpedit.msc local admin privileges are required.

3 Steps for 24h admins to get admin privileges again.

  1. Create a PowerShell script for adding your user account to the local administrators group.
# addMalUser.ps1
$Domain = "YourDomain
$Computer = "YourComputer"
$Username = "YourUsername"

$Group = [ADSI]"WinNT://$Computer/Administrators,group"
$User = [ADSI]"WinNT://$Domain/$Username,user"
$Group.Add($User.Path)

Save this script to file addMalUser.ps1. To get the exact values for $Domain, $Computer and $User please run set in a command prompt.

  1. Copy script addMalUser.ps1 to %windir%\System32\GroupPolicy\Machine\Scripts\Startup.

  2. Start gpedit.msc and add script addMalUser.ps1 to the startup scripts.

GPEdit Add Startup Script

Gpedit Add Startup Script Dialog (click to enlarge)

Tips for would-be malicious users.

  1. Purple Loosestrife in my Garden. Feels like Summer.
    Purple Loosestrife in my Garden. Feels like Summer.

    Please note that this operation is recorded in the Security Event Log of your computer.
    Never mind! Only very few organizations are scanning security events on user workstations. Those which tolerate 24h admin rights are certainly not amongst them.

  2. Please feel free to add switches to this script to run it on demand only. This will help to hide your malicious activities, because you could remove yourself from the admin group or reset the Security Event Log after the job is done.

Have Fun with 24h Admin Rights!

Still looking for a good New Year’s Resolution?

8 January 2015

In the past weeks I read a lot about Pass-the-Hash (PtH) attacks, the Zeus botnet and other frightening attack vectors.

For example in PtH attacks, access to specially protected files and registry settings is required. Standard users have very limited or no access to this system objects. If an attacker hijacks your computer he will take all your privileges, in the best case administrative privileges for your computer only, but, in the worst case, administrative privileges for a network.

I think a good New Year’s resolution would be to do everyday work with standard user accounts, and to use accounts with administrative privileges only when required.

If you are managing a company network please avoid login to member servers and workstations with a domain administrator account. Windows stores your password in the computer’s SAM (Security Accounts Manager). Thus it could be attacked by a malicious user …

You will not gain 100% safety, but you will become a lot safer than if you don’t take basic security precautions.

That’s it for today. The only thing left for me to say is …

Happy New Year!

It was just a test server…

20 September 2014

In his post ‘Healthcare.gov breach shows poor website security testing’, published on 11 September 2014, George Leopold talks about the latest security breach of the Healthcare.gov website.

It was just an intrusion on a test server ‘that did not contain consumers’ personal information, no data was transmitted and the Healthcare.gov website was not specifically targeted.’

That sounds to me as if someone wants to downplay the problem, or to sing the bull to sleep. Keep in mind that this test server is also connected to the internal network. Since it took one month to detect the intrusion, it is very likely that the attackers tried to get access to other systems. And it is very likely, that this attacks were not detected yet, or will not be detected at all.

The proposed solution is security testing and, as always, data analytics. In my opinion, this will neither solve the problem, that the default passwords aren’t changed on the test system, nor the problem, that once the server was hijacked the attackers act as internal users or administrators.

PPT - People, Processes, Technology

PPT – People, Processes, Technology

Only the classic PPT approach, which includes measures on the people, processes and technology level, will lead to sustainable change.

For example, a plain checklist for commissioning of servers, that has to be reviewed by another person ( four eyes principle), will solve lots of those problems at nearly no additional costs. If it’s absolutely necessary to invest in new technology decide about Multiple Factor Authorization.

It’s always the same old story…