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Vulnerabilities / Threats

10/12/2016
09:00 AM
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Executable Files, Old Exploit Kits Top Most Effective Attack Methods

Researchers for the new 'Hacker's Playbook' analyzed 4 million breach methods from an attacker's point of view to gauge the real risks today to enterprises.

No organization is immune to the risk of a data breach. Security leaders who want to assume the strongest protection must analyze their security posture from a hacker's point of view to understand risk, validate security controls, and prioritize resources. 

That is the premise behind the SafeBreach Hacker's Playbook, which was released in its second edition today. The first edition of the playbook, published in January, details enterprise security threats and risky habits from the point-of-view of an attacker. 

Researchers at SafeBreach "play the hacker" by deploying simulators that assume the role of a "virtual hacker" across endpoints, network, and the cloud. The new Hacker's Playbook incorporates a total of 3,985,011 breach methods, all executed between January and September 2016.

SafeBreach's research team had two main objectives in compiling this playbook, says CTO and co-founder Itzik Kotler.

The first is to take highly publicized breaches such as those at Sony and Target, and to create artificial models so customers can better understand these attacks and how they happen. Researchers also figure out how to attack; they analyze different methods to create simulation events to give users a better idea of the threats they face.

"They're [the researchers] pushing the envelope in creating new ideas and experimenting with existing ones," says Kotler. "It's all to show customers what kind of malicious ideas exist."

Successful breaches are sorted into three pillars: infiltration, how hackers enter a machine; lateral movement, how they jump from one server to the other, for instance; and exfiltration, how they steal valuable data out of the victim organization.

The top infiltration methods used by attackers, according to the report, involved hiding executable files inside non-executable files. Specifically, executable files embedded within Windows script files, macros, and Visual Basic had great success. 

Old exploit kits, many of which have been around for a year or longer, are still considered effective means of delivering malware. These kits challenge endpoint security and secure web gateway products; top picks include Sweet Orange, Neutrino, and Rig Exploit Kit.

Another finding, consistent with the last Hacker's Playbook, is the danger of misconfigured security products. Researchers passed malware between internal and external simulators and found many malware sandboxing solutions were not properly set up to safeguard all protocols, encrypted traffic, ports, and file formats.

In exploring lateral movement, researchers were successful in infiltrating networks via brute-force methods and discovered issues with proxies, which can segment internal networks when deployed correctly. If proxies are misconfigured, hackers can breach new network paths both internally and externally through proxy fuzzing.

It's easy for hackers to pull data outside victim organizations because most have fairly open outbound communication channels to the Internet. Top successful protocols include HTTP, IRC, SIP, and Syslogs, but IT support tools like externally bound syslogs can also be used to steal data.

"One thing we are continuously seeing from the previous Hacker's Playbook is the exfiltration of information, the ability of the hacker to steal something you care about, is still at 100%," says Kotler. This is a proven problem that will continue to pose a business risk in the future.

The means of mitigating these risks varies depending on the business, as different companies and security programs have different needs, he continues. Knowing where the business is lacking, investing in the right technology, and driving employee awareness are key.

"It all begins with an understanding of what is the problem and where are the gaps, and making sure they are validated correctly," he says.

There is a positive finding from this collection of research, however, Kotler notes.

"Companies today are being more and more proactive when it comes to understanding their security posture, and the notion of running simulations ahead of the curve so they can mitigate [risk]," he says.

Related Content:

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
 

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