In medicine, there are two types of treatment: those that treat the symptoms and those that cure the disease. Many doctors -- and most pharmaceutical companies -- devote the majority of their time toward managing and relieving symptoms, rather than stopping a disease at its source.
Enterprise security professionals -- and most security vendors -- are in this same mode today. We focus a great deal of attention on technical analysis of malware and security events, but precious little time asking questions about who the attackers are or why they are targeting us. As a result, enterprises have built defenses that are somewhat effective in preventing the symptoms of an attack -- but the attackers themselves work in a relatively safe environment where it is unlikely they will be identified and even less likely they will suffer any consequences of their actions.
A week ago, I had a chance to meet with George Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of CrowdStrike, about the rollout of Falcon, the company's new platform for identifying and responding to the sources of targeted attacks. Falcon is the realization of CrowdStrike's concept of "Active Defense," which involves not only identifying the malware, but identifying its source and then taking steps to make the attacker's life more difficult. CrowdStrike calls this "raising the adversary's costs" -- the company does not use terms such as "strike back" or "hack back," which sometimes involve tactics that cause enterprises to get into legal problems. CrowdStrike's defenses are designed to frustrate attackers within legal limits.
CrowdStrike has been talking about Active Defense for more than 18 months now, but last week's announcements were the first real chance for the industry to see how this concept would be manifested in a product. In a nutshell, Falcon is a cloud service that correlates intelligence and security events in real-time from a global network of agent applications -- CrowdStrike calls them "sensors" -- that are deployed to endpoints and devices. By storing and analyzing a vast amount of event data gathered from all of these sensors, CrowdStrike has created a massive intelligence repository that is constantly mined, and advanced analytics are used to reveal threat intelligence insights that may escape currently available anti-malware and threat intelligence products and services.
In the future, CrowdStrike plans to instrument the event data so that it can be shared, enabling enterprises to share information on new attacks and respond more quickly to them, Kurtz says.
Running on top of the Falcon platform are two applications: CrowdStrike Threat Protect and CrowdStrike Adversary Intelligence. Threat Protect uses the CrowdStrike sensors to identify the adversary's mode of operation and create a profile that can be matched up with known attacks and attackers. Instead of focusing on only the malware itself, Threat Protect identifies mission objectives of the adversary leveraging the Kill Chain model and provides real-time detection by focusing on what the attacker is doing, such as reconnaissance, exploitation, privilege escalation, lateral movement, and exfiltration. It also records this activity with CrowdStrike's Activity Flight Recorder (AFR) technology so that the attacks can be analyzed at a later date.
Adversary Intelligence Intelligence is a Web-based intelligence subscription service that provides strategic analysis and customized views of advanced attacker activity. CrowdStrike says it can provide an extremely granular view into specific adversary campaigns and use that data to proactively defend against future attacks.
Just how effective the Falcon platform and applications will be remains to be seen. CrowdStrike is approaching the malware problem from an entirely new direction, and at this point, there's no way to predict what the bad guys' reaction will be. But the fact that a company is focusing on the source of the problem -- the attacker -- rather than simply treating the malware seems like a step in the right direction. Finding a cure usually starts with asking the right questions and coming up with a plan to fight the infection at its source, rather than just treating the symptoms. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio