Be On The Alert For Ransomware Threats – Charles Leaver

By | June 30, 2016

Written By Dr Al Hartmann And Presented By Ziften CEO Charles Leaver

Ransomware that is tailored to business attack projects has emerged in the wild. This is an apparent development of consumer-grade ransomware, fueled by the bigger bounties which businesses are able to pay out coupled to the sheer scale of the attack surface area (internet-facing endpoints and un-patched software applications). To the cyber attacker, your enterprise is an appealing target with a big fat wallet just asking to be knocked over.

Your Organization is an Enticing Target

Easy Google inquiries may currently have recognized un-patched internet facing servers by the scores across your domain, or your credulous users might currently be opening “spear phishing” e-mails crafted just for them most likely authored by individuals they know.

The weaponized invoices are sent to your accounting department, the weaponized legal notices go to your legal department, the weaponized resumes go to your human resources department, and the weaponized trade publication articles go to your public relations firm. That need to cover it, for starters. Add the watering hole drive-by’s planted on market sites often visited by your employees, the social media attacks targeted to your essential executives and their family members, the infected USB sticks scattered around your facilities, and the compromises of your providers, clients, and company partners.

Enterprise compromise isn’t an “if” however a “when”– the when is continual, the who is legion.

Targeted Ransomware Has Arrived

Malware researchers are now reporting on enterprise-targeted ransomware, a natural evolution in the money making of enterprise cyber intrusions. Christiaan Beek and Andrew Furtak explain this in an excerpt from Intel Security Advanced Threat Research study, February 2016:

” During the past few weeks, we have actually received info about a brand-new campaign of targeted ransomware attacks. Instead of the normal modus operandi (phishing attacks or drive-by downloads that cause automatic execution of ransomware), the assailants gained relentless access to the victim’s network through vulnerability exploitation and spread their access to any linked systems that they could. On each system, numerous tools were used to find, encrypt, and delete the original files along with any backups.”

Cautious reading of this citation immediately reveals actions to be taken. Initial penetration was by “vulnerability exploitation,” as is typically the case. A sound vulnerability management program with tracked and implemented exposure tolerances (measured in days) is mandatory. Considering that the attackers “spread their access to any linked system,” it is also requisite to have robust network segmentation and access controls. Consider it as a watertight compartment on a warship to prevent sinking when the hull is breached. Of special note, the hackers “delete the initial files as well as any backups,” so there should be no delete access from a jeopardized system to its backup files – systems need to just have the ability to append to their backups.

Your Backups Are Not Current Are They?

Of course, there should be current backups of any files that should survive a business intrusion. Paying the ransom is not an efficient choice since any files produced by malware are naturally suspect and must be thought about tainted. Enterprise auditors or regulators can not accept files excreted from some malware orifice as lawfully valid, the chain of custody having actually been entirely broken. Financial data might have been changed with fraudulent transactions, configuration data may have been interfered with, infections might have been planted for later re-entry, or the malware file manipulations might merely have actually had mistakes or omissions. There would be no way to place any confidence in this data, and accepting it as legitimate might even more compromise all future downstream data reliant upon or derived from it. Treat ransomware data as trash. Either have a robust backup plan – routinely checked and validated – or prepare to suffer your losses.

Exactly what is Your Preparation for a Breach?

Even with sound backups privacy of affected data must be assumed to be breached since it was read by malware. Even with detailed network logs, it would be unwise to prove that no data had been exfiltrated. In a targeted attack the assailants generally take data inventory, examining a minimum of samples of the data to assess its potential worth – they could be leaving cash on the table otherwise. Data ransom demands may just be the last monetization phase in an enterprise breach after mining all other worth from the invasion because the ransom demand exposes the compromise.

Have a Thorough Removal Strategy

One should assume that qualified hackers have actually set up numerous, cunningly-concealed opportunities of re-entry at numerous staggered time points (well after your crisis team has stood down and pricey experts flown off to their next gig). Any stray proof remaining was carefully staged to mislead detectives and deflect blame. Expensive re-imaging of systems should be exceptionally extensive, touching every sector of the disk throughout its whole recording surface area and re-creating master boot records (MBR’s) and volume boot records from scratch. Some ransomware is understood to compromise MBR’s.

Also, don’t assume system firmware has not been jeopardized. If you can update the firmware, so can hackers. It isn’t really difficult for hacking groups to check out firmware hacking choices when their business targets standardize system hardware configurations, enabling a little laboratory effort to go a long way. The industrialization of cyber crime enables the advancement and sale of firmware hacks on the dark web to a more comprehensive criminal market.

Assistance Is Available With Excellent EDR Tools

After all of this bad news, there is an answer. When it comes to targeted ransomware attacks, taking proactive actions instead of reactive clean-up is far less agonizing. A great Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tool can assist on both ends. EDR tools are good for recognizing exposed vulnerabilities and active applications. Some applications have such an infamous history of exposing vulnerabilities that they are best eliminated from the environment (Adobe Flash, for instance). EDR tools are likewise proficient at tracking all significant endpoint incidents, so that detectives can recognize a “patient zero” and track the pivot activity of targeted enterprise-spreading ransomware. Attackers rely on endpoint opacity to help with hiding their actions from security personnel, but EDR exists to enable open visibility of significant endpoint events that might indicate an attack in progress. EDR isn’t really restricted to the old anti-virus convict-or-acquit design, that allows newly remixed attack code to avert antivirus detection.

Good EDR tools are constantly watchful, constantly reporting, always tracking, readily available when you need it: now or retroactively. You wouldn’t disregard enterprise network activity, so do not disregard enterprise endpoint activity.

 

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