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Commentary

Using USBs For Incident Response

I was honored to be the keynote speaker this week at Operation WebLock, a cyber incident response two-day seminar hosted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The event focused on helping administrators and IT staff respond better to cyber-threats that could affect their networks and Florida's infrastructure -- a very worthwhile endeavor, and awesome that it was offered free to local business, government, and law enforcement.
I was honored to be the keynote speaker this week at Operation WebLock, a cyber incident response two-day seminar hosted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The event focused on helping administrators and IT staff respond better to cyber-threats that could affect their networks and Florida's infrastructure -- a very worthwhile endeavor, and awesome that it was offered free to local business, government, and law enforcement.The presentations included topics like incident response, social networks, working with law enforcement on cases, and using USB devices for attack. The last topic, presented by Steve Goldsby, was my favorite because we've all read about how malicious USB devices can be, and in the presentation, Steve gave live demonstrations of tools he uses during penetration tests. What I thought made this presentation unique was his examples of using USB U3 devices to exfiltrate data, as well as information on defense and how these devices could be used for good.

There was a good discussion on how companies can protect themselves against the threat of malicious USB devices. There's the approach I talked about last year, where some companies have taken the extreme approach and put epoxy into the USB ports making them completely unusable. But the other option is to implement a software-based solution, which can vary from commercial offerings to a free update from Microsoft. The recent update to Security Advisory 967940 and an associated software fix properly prevents devices from automatically running Autorun.inf files (something Conficker took advantage of).

One thing I want to point out about Steve's presentation is that while it is easy to look at the negative side of USB devices because of all the ways they can be used to attack you, they don't have to be evil. He gave an example of a good USB device--one with automated code for incident response. I know I've preached about incident response needing to be automated and repeatable. But by creating a USB device with all the tools bundled with a script that executes each one either by just inserting the device or by double-clicking the script, it makes it almost fool-proof for a first responder to use.

In the end, I think it was a good eye-opener for the attendees. Although many of them have read Steve Stasiukonis' story on how he used USB flash drives during a penetration test against a credit union, the "seeing is believing" mantra definitely applies.

More information on Operation WebLock can be found on their website.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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