01:15 PM

Mandiant Appliance Accelerates Incident Response

MIR gets to the heart of system compromises, but its forensic tools are limited.

Incident response is a straightforward process when you're looking at a single infected machine. But what if hundreds, or even thousands, of hosts are affected? Mandiant Intelligent Response addresses this scenario, and our tests show it ought to help information security pros sleep at night.

At $86,500, MIR is aimed at enterprises. And prospective customers must realize that there's no "Find Evidence" button that users can click on to immediately solve a case. MIR requires an understanding of incident response and what attackers and malware do once they've compromised a system. That said, MIR makes finding evidence easier by providing the tools to do it effectively on one machine or a thousand.

• Mandiant's MIR appliance significantly accelerates the incident response process.
• MIR's multiuser system allows investigators to collaborate on incidents, request more audits, and share notes.
• Users must have a strong understanding of incident response to use the product to its fullest potential.
• Deeper forensic investigations will require an additional forensic tool such as Forensic Toolkit or Encase.
MIR differs from competitors in a couple of important ways. First, it's a self-contained appliance that includes all necessary hardware and software for enterprise incident response. Second, it's built for incident response first; forensics abilities take a backseat. MIR will allow you to start an investigation, but it can't perform end-to-end forensic analysis and remediation. You'd need a separate tool--or one of MIR's software-based competitors--for that.

However, when responding to an incident is top priority, MIR has you covered. Its intuitive drag-and-drop interface enables first responders and forensic investigators to quickly perform detailed audits of one host or many. Information and activities, such as process listings, memory acquisition, and rootkit detection, are at the analyst's fingertips.

The MIR appliance contains 2 TB of storage; dual Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces; USB 2.0, DVD-RW, and FireWire capabilities; and dual hot-swappable power supplies. MIR's software components include the Controller, a hardened Linux OS running an administrative Web interface for initial configuration and basic system administration; the Windows-based investigative Console; and the endpoint Agents. The Controller connects to each Agent to perform audits. Investigators use the Controller to review information gathered through audits and to request additional audits.

Currently, Agents are available only for Windows, but Linux and Mac OS X support is on the road map. The Console also is Windows-only, but the Controller contains an easily accessible, open API.


More than a sporty facede
Compromising Position

To test MIR, we compromised machines, then performed audits on a single host to learn traits of the compromise that we could then leverage to perform targeted audits across all machines, something that's very important when dealing with hundreds or thousands of hosts. MIR can significantly speed the incident-response process compared with the ad hoc response methodologies in place within many organizations. We could quickly get the information we needed to determine the host was compromised, then proceed with a more detailed forensic analysis using another tool, like Forensic Toolkit or Encase.

However, the true power of MIR is in its extensive audit and search capabilities. Audits include file, disk, and physical memory acquisition; event log collection; registry analysis; rootkit hook detection; and services, tasks, and user account listings. The scripting capability allowed us to tie several audits together in a repeatable process, which is important during the initial stage of an incident.

Into The Breach
Get the most out of your forensic tools.

Once audits are run and results returned to the Controller, they're indexed, making searches very quick. MIR's powerful keyword search allows investigators to refine searches based on specific attributes, ranging from mundane things like host name and MAC address to advanced items like functions and addresses hooked by a rootkit. The list of searchable fields is impressive and well worth the entire appendix given to it in the user's guide.

John H. Sawyer is senior security engineer on the University of Florida IT Security Team. Write to us at iweekletters

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