Prevent, detect, and contain: Those are the key overarching strategies for combating data-destroying malware attacks, according to a new report issued this month by the National Security Agency.
The NSA's Information Assurance Directorate (IAD) outlined key best practices for defending against such attacks-- à la Sony or Saudi Aramco -- that require organizations being proactive rather than reactive to a cyberattack.
"Once a malicious actor achieves privileged control of an organization's network, the actor has the ability to steal or destroy all of the data that is on the network," the NSA says in its new "Defensive Best Practices for Destructive Malware" report.
The report comes in the wake of the massive and destructive attack on Sony, and includes some already well-known best security practices.
Some tools can mitigate some of the damage, the report says, but preventing the attacker from getting control over the network is a more effective defense. "The earlier that network defenders can detect and contain an intrusion, the less damage the intruder can possible cause," the report says. Planning for the worst-case scenario is also key, according to the NSA.
NSA's recommendations recap some strategies the NSA previously had published in its "Information Assurance Mitigation Strategies" report. Among the best practices in the latest report for preventing, detecting, and containing attacks are:
- Segregate network systems and functions so that if an attacker hacks in one area, he can't necessarily reach others
- Reduce and protect administrator privileges to minimize the damage if a bad guy obtains them
- Employ application whitelisting to prevent malicious code from executing
- Limit workstation-to-workstation communication to reduce the attack surface
- Run perimeter firewalls, application-layer firewalls, forward proxies, and sandboxing or other dynamic traffic and code analyses
- Use and monitor host and network logging
- Implement pass-the-hash mitigations
- Run Microsoft's EMET or other anti-exploit tools
- Employ antivirus reputation services to augment traditional signature-based AV
- Run host intrusion prevention systems
- Regularly update and patch software
On the incident response side, NSA recommends an incident response plan and regular testing of the plan. "Preparing through offline backups and exercised incident response and recovery plans can make the organization more resilient, enabling quick reconstitution and the resumption of normal business functions as soon as possible," the report says.