Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

11/11/2019
05:35 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Researchers Find New Approach to Attacking Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud APIs' accessibility over the Internet opens a new window for adversaries to gain highly privileged access to cloud assets.

Public cloud infrastructure presents security teams with a new invisible management layer, creating new security challenges that demand better understanding. Many organizations don't properly understand the cloud identity and access management layer and often fail to secure it.

Such misunderstandings usually lead to dangerous misconfigurations that can drive customer risk; for example, in the case of the recent Capital One breach. Current security practices and controls are not sufficient to mitigate the risk posed by misunderstanding of the public cloud, explain Igal Gofman, XM head of security research, and Yaron Shani, XM senior security researcher.

When Gofman and Shani began to research cloud-focused threats, they realized many popular defense mechanisms focus on specific attack vectors: for example, brute force protections against cloud services and applications like password spray tools or AWS recon tools. Post-breach defense is usually based on different user activities and machine learning algorithms.

"The missing link in this approach is that those mechanisms are usually defensive in nature and usually not predictive," the researchers explain in an interview with Dark Reading. Traditional protections primarily focus on network, application, and operating system defense, they say.

A new attack vector exists in cloud providers' application programming interfaces (API), which are accessible through the Internet and give adversaries an opportunity to take advantage and gain highly privileged access to critical assets in the cloud. The people in charge of managing cloud resources are usually members of the DevOps, development, and IT teams, who gain access to APIs using different software development kits and dedicated command line tools.

"Once those account credentials are compromised, gaining access to high-value resources is trivial," the researchers say. Even if an organization makes a private subnet not open to the Internet, they add, cloud APIs can be easily accessed from the Internet with the right API key. Cloud provider tools—for example, the command-line interface tool (CLI) — save the user's credentials inside a file, which is typically locally stored on the individual's workstation.

At this year's Black Hat Europe, Gofman and Shani plan to demonstrate an alternative new approach to attacking cloud infrastructure in a talk titled "Inside Out — The Cloud Has Never Been So Close." Their methodology involves using a graph to show permission relationships between different entities, revealing risky choke points that need to be addressed and eliminated. The outcome of this graph, they say, can be used by red and blue teams to gain deeper understanding of permission relationships in cloud environments. After explaining the connections, they'll show how attackers can abuse features to gain privileges.

Attackers don't need to be sophisticated to take advantage of public cloud APIs, they say, noting they didn't find any open-source tools that automate the entire stack of the research.

"In practice, the sophistication required to develop such tools is not high, because basically all the information is publicly available and well-documented by most cloud providers, meaning they document each security feature in great detail and it can serve both the defenders and the adversaries," Gofman and Shani say. In general, they continue, developing an offensive tool that leverages their attack research would be easier than building a defensive system around it.

In terms of protecting themselves, the first and most important steps companies should follow are best practice guides from cloud providers, the researchers say. Large and complex organizations often have trouble tracking and monitoring permissions in large cloud infrastructures, and evaluating general organizational risk factors, they explain. They suggest constantly monitoring paths attacks can take to high-value cloud resources.  

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "What a Security Products Blacklist Means for End Users and Integrators."

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
greg.jensen
50%
50%
greg.jensen,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2019 | 12:40:49 PM
Moving beyond the API
One of the most understood areas of ITsec is the issues that a modern DevSecOps program is starting to expose. Many of today's most sophisticated business-critical applications (Finance, HR, supply chain, CRM) that are 100% cloud native, often are part of a hybrid model with back-end services that reside in the customer's data center.  This often creates the risk that a compromise of the cloud service in question sometimes has entitled access to non-cloud data repositories in the customer data center.  This is why a DevSecOps model must be designed to canvas the "hybrid cloud" with consistent policies and workflows. 
SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
Navigating Security in the Cloud
Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "This is the last time we hire Game of Thrones Security"
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-4428
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
IBM Watson Assistant for IBM Cloud Pak for Data 1.0.0 through 1.3.0 is vulnerable to cross-site scripting. This vulnerability allows users to embed arbitrary JavaScript code in the Web UI thus altering the intended functionality potentially leading to credentials disclosure within a trusted session....
CVE-2019-4611
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
IBM Planning Analytics 2.0 is vulnerable to cross-site scripting. This vulnerability allows users to embed arbitrary JavaScript code in the Web UI thus altering the intended functionality potentially leading to credentials disclosure within a trusted session. IBM X-Force ID: 168519.
CVE-2019-4612
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
IBM Planning Analytics 2.0 is vulnerable to malicious file upload in the My Account Portal. Attackers can make use of this weakness and upload malicious executable files into the system and it can be sent to victim for performing further attacks. IBM X-Force ID: 168523.
CVE-2019-4621
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
IBM DataPower Gateway 7.6.0.0-7 throug 6.0.14 and 2018.4.1.0 through 2018.4.1.5 have a default administrator account that is enabled if the IPMI LAN channel is enabled. A remote attacker could use this account to gain unauthorised access to the BMC. IBM X-Force ID: 168883.
CVE-2019-19230
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
An unsafe deserialization vulnerability exists in CA Release Automation (Nolio) 6.6 with the DataManagement component that can allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code.