Cloud

6/24/2015
05:00 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

How To Avoid Collateral Damage In Cybercrime Takedowns

Internet pioneer and DNS expert Paul Vixie says 'passive DNS' is way to shut down malicious servers and infrastructure without affecting innocent users.

Botnet and bad-actor IP hosting service takedowns by law enforcement and industry contingents have been all the rage for the past few years as the good guys have taken a more aggressive tack against the bad guys.

These efforts typically serve as an effective yet short-term disruption for the most determined cybercriminal operations, but they also sometimes inadvertently harm innocent users and providers, a problem Internet pioneer and DNS expert Paul Vixie says can be solved by employing a more targeted takedown method.

Vixie, CEO of FarSight Security, which detects potentially malicious new domain names and other DNS malicious traffic trends, says using a passive DNS approach would reduce or even eliminate the chance of collateral damage when cybercriminal infrastructure is wrested from the attackers' control. Vixie will drill down on this topic during his presentation at Black Hat USA in August.

Takedowns typically include seizing domains, sinkholing IPs, and sometimes physically removing equipment, to derail a botnet or other malicious operation.

Perhaps the most infamous case of collateral damage from a takedown was Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit's takeover of 22 dynamic DNS domains from provider No-IP a year ago. The move did some damage to Syrian Electronic Army and cybercrime groups, but innocent users were also knocked offline. Microsoft said a "technical error" led to the legitimate No-IP users losing their service as well, and No-IP maintained that millions of its users were affected.

The issue was eventually resolved, but not after some posturing in hearings on Capitol Hill, and debate over whether Microsoft was getting too heavy-handed in its takedown operations.

Vixie says the key to ensuring innocent users and organizations don't get swept up in the law enforcement cyber-sweep is get a more accurate picture of just what is attached to and relying on the infrastructure in question. "There is a tool that you can use to find out [whether] the Net infrastructure belongs to bad guys so you don't target anything else" that shares that infrastructure and is not malicious, Vixie says.

Passive DNS is a way to do that, says Vixie. With passive DNS, DNS messages among DNS servers are captured by sensors and then analyzed. While Vixie's company does run a Passive DNS database, he says he's advocating that investigators and task forces doing botnet or domain takedowns use any passive DNS tool or service.

Vixie says the two-part challenge in takedowns to date has been ensuring law enforcement "got it all" while not inadvertently cutting off innocent users and operations in the process.

Passive DNS not only can help spot critical DNS name servers, popular websites, shared hosting environments, and other legit operations so they aren't hit in a takedown operation, he says, but it can also help spot related malicious domains that might otherwise get missed. That helps investigators drill down to the malicious tentacles of the operation, according to Vixie.

Vixie in his talk at Black Hat also plans to lobby for researchers and service providers to contribute data to passive DNS efforts.

Meanwhile, it's unclear what long-term effects takedowns have had on the cybercrime underground. "I'm involved in the same [volume] of [takedown] cases than I ever was. The trend of bad guys is on an upward swing," Vixie says.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2015 | 10:42:27 AM
Re: More Stringent Vetting Process
> Even though you used reductio ad absurdum to make it

What's wrong with that?  :p  It's a technique, not a logical fallacy.

> I don't think registration of trusted parties is comparable to a myriad of ID's.

Just another form of multifactor identification.  ;)

In any case, tell NSTIC that...
RyanSepe
50%
50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2015 | 7:42:08 AM
Re: More Stringent Vetting Process
Very much agree with your statement. Even though you used reductio ad absurdum to make it as I don't think registration of trusted parties is comparable to a myriad of ID's.

To your point, balance is important. Otherwise, other methods that provide an increased ease of use will be leveraged and those could contain even less security measures then the previously mentioned. This premise is not exclusive to OpenDNS.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2015 | 11:03:41 PM
Re: More Stringent Vetting Process
Well, that's always the detriment/tradeoff, isn't it?  Alas, security and accessibility are fated to be eternal mortal foes.

We could secure access to email and other systems rather well by eliminating networks altogether by requiring face-to-face authentication at a designated computer terminal with three forms of government ID, along with eye and fingerprint scans, but that would be highly impractical.  Cybersecurity is only partly about protection; it's about finding the balance -- the line -- in that tradeoff between functionality and protection.
RyanSepe
50%
50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2015 | 11:37:23 AM
More Stringent Vetting Process
I think a better approach from a security standpoint would be a more stringent registration practice. This way, all malicious intenders would have a more difficult time getting into the "group". This would minimize the collateral damage substantially as any outside the database could be purged with minimal risk. Some would slip through obviously but revocation is always available upon discovery. Benefits: It would strengthen security posture. Detriments: It would take longer to register due to more stringent protocols and handling. This is also dependent on a centralized model of DNS providers.
Russia Hacked Clinton's Computers Five Hours After Trump's Call
Robert Lemos, Technology Journalist/Data Researcher,  4/19/2019
Why We Need a 'Cleaner Internet'
Darren Anstee, Chief Technology Officer at Arbor Networks,  4/19/2019
4 Tips to Protect Your Business Against Social Media Mistakes
Guy Bunker, CTO of Clearswift,  4/22/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-16558
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-25
Contao 3.0.0 to 3.5.30 and 4.0.0 to 4.4.7 contains an SQL injection vulnerability in the back end as well as in the listing module.
CVE-2018-18369
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-25
Norton Security (Windows client) prior to 22.16.3 and SEP SBE (Windows client) prior to Cloud Agent 3.00.31.2817, NIS-22.15.2.22 & SEP-12.1.7484.7002, may be susceptible to a DLL Preloading vulnerability, which is a type of issue that can occur when an application looks to call a DLL for executi...
CVE-2018-19442
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-25
A Buffer Overflow in Network::AuthenticationClient::VerifySignature in /bin/astro in Neato Botvac Connected 2.2.0 allows a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code with root privileges via a crafted POST request to a nucleo.neatocloud.com:4443/vendors/neato/robots/[robot_serial]/messages Neato clou...
CVE-2019-9135
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-25
DaviewIndy 8.98.7 and earlier versions have a Heap-based overflow vulnerability, triggered when the user opens a specific file that is mishandled by Daview.exe. Attackers could exploit this and arbitrary code execution. .
CVE-2019-9136
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-25
DaviewIndy 8.98.7 and earlier versions have a Heap-based overflow vulnerability, triggered when the user opens a malformed JPEG2000 format file that is mishandled by Daview.exe. Attackers could exploit this and arbitrary code execution.