Microsoft

Finding a common language to describe AI security threats

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Fri, 12/13/2019 - 12:00pm

As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems become increasingly important to our lives, it’s critical that when they fail we understand how and why. Many research papers have been dedicated to this topic, but inconsistent vocabulary has limited their usefulness. In collaboration with Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center, Microsoft published a series of materials that define common vocabulary that can be used to describe intentional and unintentional failures.

Read Solving the challenge of securing AI and machine learning systems to learn more about Microsoft’s AI taxonomy papers.

The post Finding a common language to describe AI security threats appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Multi-stage downloader Trojan sLoad abuses BITS almost exclusively for malicious activities

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 12:30pm

Many of today’s threats evolve to incorporate as many living-off-the-land techniques as possible into the attack chain. The PowerShell-based downloader Trojan known as sLoad, however, puts all its bets on BITS.

Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) is a component of the Windows operating system that provides an ability to transfer files in an asynchronous and throttled fashion using idle bandwidth. Abusing BITS, which provides the ability to create self-contained jobs that can be prioritized and queued up and that can launch other programs, has become a prevalent attack technique. Recent sophisticated malware campaigns like Astaroth have found success in the use of BITS for downloading payloads or additional components, especially in systems where the firewall is not configured to block malicious traffic from BITS jobs.

sLoad, detected by Windows Defender Antivirus as TrojanDownloader:PowerShell/sLoad, is used by adversaries for exfiltrating system information and delivering additional payloads in targeted attacks. It has been around for a few years and has not stopped evolving. What hasn’t changed, though, is its use of BITS for all of its exfiltration activities, as well as command-and-control (C2) communications from handshake to downloading additional payloads.

Once sLoad has infiltrated a machine, it can allow attackers to do further, potentially more damaging actions. Using exfiltrated information, attackers can identify what security solutions are running and test payloads before they are sneaked into the compromised system or, worse, high-priced targets. sLoad uses scheduled tasks, which runs the malware every three minutes, opening the window of opportunity for further compromise—hence raising the risk for the affected machine—every time it runs. We have already seen the malware attempt to deliver several other, potentially more dangerous Trojans to compromised machines.

While several malware campaigns have leveraged BITS, sLoad’s almost exclusive use of the service is notable. sLoad uses BITS as an alternative protocol to perform data exfiltration and most of its other malicious activities, enabling the malware to evade defenders and protections that may not be inspecting this unconventional protocol. Cloud-based machine learning-driven behavioral blocking and containment capabilities in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection detect and block sLoad’s activities as Behavior:Win32/sLoad.A.

In this blog we’ll share our analysis of the multiple ways in which sLoad is abusing BITS and share how Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection defeats these advanced malware techniques.

Stealthy installation via multiple cascaded scripts

sLoad is known to infect machines using spear-phishing emails and a common but effective detection evasion technique: the cascaded scripts. One script drops or downloads one or more scripts, passes control to one of these scripts, and repeats the process multiple times until the final component is installed.

Over time, we’ve seen some variations of this technique. One sLoad campaign used the link target field of a LNK file to run PowerShell commands that extracts and runs the first-stage PowerShell code, which is appended to the end of the LNK file or, in one instance, the end of the ZIP file that originally contained the LNK file. In another campaign, the first-stage PowerShell code itself uses a download BITS job to download either the sLoad script and the C2 URL file or the sLoad dropper PowerShell script that embeds the encrypted sLoad script and C2 URL file within itself.

In the most recent attacks, for the first stage, sLoad shifted from using PowerShell script to VBScript. The randomly named VBScript file is simply a proxy that builds and then drops and runs a PowerShell script, always named rr.ps1. This is none other than the same sLoad PowerShell dropper mentioned earlier that embeds the encrypted sLoad script and C2 URL file within itself.

In most variations of the installation, the sLoad dropper script is the last intermediate stage that performs the following actions, and eventually decrypts and runs the final sLoad script:

  1. Creates an installation folder in the %APPDATA% folder named after the first 6 characters of the Win32 Product UUID. 
  2. Drops an infection marker file named _in, and during the successive executions, uses the LastWriteTime on this file to check whether the malware is installed within last 30 mins, in which case, it terminates. 
  3. Drops the encrypted sLoad script and the C2 URL file as config.ini and web.ini, respectively. 
  4. Builds and drops two more randomly named scripts: one VBScript and one PowerShell script. 
  5. Uses schtasks.exe to create a scheduled task named AppRunLog to run the randomly named VBScript from the previous step with decryption key supplied as a command line parameter; deletes the previously created related tasks (if found) before creating this one. The scheduled task is configured to start at 7:00 AM and run every 3 mins. 

The dropped VBScript that runs under the scheduled task is yet another proxy that simply runs the dropped PowerShell script with the same command line parameter (the decryption key). The PowerShell script decrypts the contents of the previously dropped config.ini in the memory into another piece of PowerShell code, which it then runs. This is the final component, the script detected as TrojanDownloader:PowerShell/sLoad, that uses BITS to perform every important malicious activity.

BITS abuse

The sLoad PowerShell script (the final component) then abuses BITS to carry out all of the following activities:

Finding an active C2 server

The malware decrypts the contents of previously dropped web.ini into a set of 2 URLs and creates a BITS download jobs to test the connection to these URLs. It then saves the URL that responds in the form of a file that contains a message “sok”, being downloaded as part of created BITS job. This ensures that the handshake is complete.

If none responds, the script appends the number “1” to the domain names in both URLs, saves the encrypted data back to the web.ini file, and exits from the script. As a result, the next time the scheduled job runs, the script uses the modified web.ini to obtain the modified URLs to attempt connecting to an active C2. With each unsuccessful attempt of connecting with C2s, the number appended to the domain names is increased by increments of 1 until it reaches 50, at which time it resets to 1. This technique offers a bit of a cushion and ensures continued contact between a compromised machine and a C2, in case the primary C2 is blocked.

This prevents the malware infrastructure from losing a compromised host if the primary C2 is blocked. It’s also interesting to see how the URLs used to reach C2 are structured to appear related to CAPTCHA verification, an attempt to escape watchful eyes.

Fetching a new list of C2s

For continued exfiltration of information, it’s important to maintain contact with an active C2. As the malicious domains cannot stay up running for a long time, the malware packs a functionality to refresh the list of C2 every time the scheduled task runs. Using a BITS download job, the malware downloads a new copy of web.ini from the active C2 to provisions a new set of C2s for future use.

Exfiltrating system information

Once an active C2 is identified, the malware starts collecting system information by performing the following:

  • saves the output of “net view” command
  • enumerates network drives and saves the provider names and device ids
  • produces the list of all running processes
  • obtains the OS caption
  • looks for Outlook folder, as well as Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) files, which are used by Citrix application servers to store configuration information

It then creates a BITS download job with the RemoteURL built using the URL for active C2 and the system information collected up this point.

Crafting URLs infused with stolen info is not a novel attacker technique. In addition, creating a BITS job with an extremely large RemoteURL parameter that includes non-encrypted system information stands out and is relatively easy to detect. However, this malware’s use of a download job instead of an upload job is a clever move to achieve stealth.

Deploying additional payloads

Because the malware exfiltrates system information using a BITS download job, it gets an opportunity to receive a response in the form of a file downloaded to the machine. It uses this opportunity to obtain additional payloads from the C2.

It sleeps and waits for the file to be downloaded. If the downloaded file instructs to download and invoke additional PowerShell codes, the supplied URL is used for the task. If not, then the URL is assumed to be pointing to an encoded PE image payload. The malware creates another BITS download job to download this payload, creates a copy of this newly downloaded encoded file, and uses another Windows utility, certutil.exe, to decode it into a portable executable (PE) file with .exe extension. Finally, it uses PowerShell.exe to run the decoded PE payload. One more BITS download job is created to download additional files.

Spying

The malware comes built with one of the most notorious spyware features: uploading screenshots. At several stages during the installation as well as when running additional payloads, the malware takes several screenshots at short intervals. It then uses a BITS upload job to send the stolen screenshots to the active C2. This is the only time that it uses an upload job, and these are the only files it uploads to the C2. Once uploaded, the screenshots are deleted from the machine.

Conclusion: Multiple layers of protection against multi-stage living-off-the-land threats

sLoad is just one example of the increasingly more prevalent threats that can perform most of their malicious activities by simply living off the land. In this case, it’s a dangerous threat that’s equipped with notorious spyware capabilities, infiltrative payload delivery, and data exfiltration capabilities. sLoad’s behavior can be classified as a Type III fileless technique: while it drops some malware files during installation, its use of only BITS jobs to perform most of its harmful behaviors and scheduled tasks for persistence achieves an almost fileless presence on compromised machines.

To defeat multi-stage, stealthy, and persistent threats like sLoad, Microsoft Defender ATP’s antivirus component uses multiple next-generation protection engines on the client and in the cloud. While most threats are identified and stopped by many of these engines, behavioral blocking and containment capabilities detects malicious behaviors and blocks threats after they have started running:

These detections are also surfaced in Microsoft Defender Security Center. Security operations teams can then use Microsoft Defender ATP’s other capabilities like endpoint detection and response (EDR), automated investigation and response, Threat and Vulnerability Management, and Microsoft Threat Experts to investigate and respond to attacks. This reflects the defense-in-depth strategy that is central to the unified endpoint protection provided by Microsoft Defender ATP.

As part of Microsoft Threat Protection, Microsoft Defender ATP shares security signals about this threat to other security services, which likewise inform and enrich endpoint protection. For example, Office 365 ATP’s intelligence on the emails that carry sLoad is shared to and used by Microsoft Defender ATP to build even stronger defenses at the source of infection. Real-time signal-sharing across Microsoft’s security services gives Microsoft Threat Protection unparalleled visibility across attack vectors and the unique ability to provide comprehensive protection against identities, endpoints, data, cloud apps, and infrastructure.

 

Sujit Magar
Microsoft Defender ATP Research Team

 

 

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The post Multi-stage downloader Trojan sLoad abuses BITS almost exclusively for malicious activities appeared first on Microsoft Security.

GALLIUM: Targeting global telecom

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 12:00pm

Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) is raising awareness of the ongoing activity by a group we call GALLIUM, targeting telecommunication providers. When Microsoft customers have been targeted by this activity, we notified them directly with the relevant information they need to protect themselves. By sharing the detailed methodology and indicators related to GALLIUM activity, we’re encouraging the security community to implement active defenses to secure the broader ecosystem from these attacks.

To compromise targeted networks, GALLIUM target unpatched internet-facing services using publicly available exploits and have been known to target vulnerabilities in WildFly/JBoss. Once persistence is established in a network, GALLIUM uses common techniques and tools like Mimikatz to obtain credentials that allows for lateral movement across the target network. Within compromised networks, GALLIUM makes no attempt to obfuscate their intent and are known to use common versions of malware and publicly available toolkits with small modifications. The operators rely on low cost and easy to replace infrastructure that consists of dynamic-DNS domains and regularly reused hop points.

This activity from GALLIUM has been identified predominantly through 2018 to mid-2019. GALLIUM is still active; however, activity levels have dropped when compared to what was previously observed.

Following Microsoft’s internal practices of assigning chemical elements to activity groups, GALLIUM is the code name for this activity group.

GALLIUM’s profile

Reconnaissance methods

As is often the case with the reconnaissance methods, it’s difficult to be definitive about those employed by GALLIUM. This is due to the passive nature of reconnaissance activities by the actor including the use of freely available data from open sources, such as public websites and social media outlets. However, based on MSTIC analyst assessments, GALLIUM’s exploitation of internet-facing services indicates it’s likely they use open source research and network scanning tools to identify likely targets.

Delivery and exploitation

To gain initial access a target network, GALLIUM locates and exploits internet-facing services such as web servers. GALLIUM has been observed exploiting unpatched web services, such as WildFly/JBoss, for which exploits are widely available. Compromising a web server gives GALLIUM a foothold in the victim network that doesn’t require user interaction, such as traditional delivery methods like phishing.

Following exploitation of the web servers, GALLIUM actors typically install web shells, and then install additional tooling to allow them to explore the target network.

Lateral movement

GALLIUM uses a variety of tools to perform reconnaissance and move laterally within a target network. The majority of these are off-the-shelf tools or modified versions of known security tools. MSTIC investigations indicate that GALLIUM modifies its tooling to the extent it evades antimalware detections rather than develop custom functionality. This behavior has been observed with GALLIUM actors across several operational areas.

GALLIUM has been observed using several tools. Samples of the most prevalent are noted in Table 1.

Tool Purpose HTRAN Connection bouncer to proxy connections. Mimikatz Credential dumper. NBTScan Scanner for open NETBIOS nameservers on a local or remote TCP/IP network. Netcat Reads from and writes to network connections using TCP or UDP protocols. PsExec Executes a command line process on a remote machine. Windows Credential Editor (WCE) Credential dumper. WinRAR Archiving utility.

Table 1: GALLIUM tooling.

GALLIUM has signed several tools using stolen code signing certificates. For example, they’ve used a credential dumping tool signed using a stolen certificate from Whizzimo, LLC, as shown in Figure 1. The code signing certificate shown in Figure 1 was no longer valid at the time of writing; however, it shows GALLIUM had access to such certificates.

Figure 1. Credential dumping tool signed using a stolen Whizzimo, LLC certificate.

GALLIUM primarily relies on compromised domain credentials to move through the target network, and as outlined above, uses several credential harvesting tools. Once they have acquired credentials, the activity group uses PsExec extensively to move laterally between hosts in the target network.

Installation

GALLIUM predominantly uses widely available tools. In certain instances, GALLIUM has modified these tools to add additional functionality. However, it’s likely these modifications have been made to subvert antimalware solutions since much of the malware and tooling employed by GALLIUM is historic and is widely detected by security products. For example, QuarkBandit is a modified version of the widely used Gh0st RAT, an openly available remote access tool (RAT). Similarly, GALLIUM has made use of a modified version of the widely available Poison Ivy RAT. These RATs and the China Chopper web shell form the basis of GALLIUM’s toolkit for maintaining access to a victim network.

Infrastructure

GALLIUM predominantly uses dynamic DNS subdomains to provide command and control (C2) infrastructure for their malware. Typically, the group uses the ddns.net and myftp.biz domains provided by noip.com. MSTIC analysis indicates the use of dynamic DNS providers as opposed to registered domains is in line with GALLIUM’s trend towards low cost and low effort operations.

GALLIUM domains have been observed hosted on infrastructure in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, and Taiwan.

When connecting to web shells on a target network GALLIUM has been observed employing Taiwan-based servers. Observed IP addresses appear to be exclusive to GALLIUM, have little to no legitimate activity, and are reused in multiple operations. These servers provide high fidelity pivot points during an investigation.

A package of GALLIUM indicators containing GALLIUM command and control domains used during this operation have been prepared for Azure Sentinel and is available on the Microsoft GitHub.

Figure 2. Azure Sentinel query of GALLIUM indicators.

GALLIUM use of malware

First stage

GALLIUM does not typically use a traditional first stage installer for their malware. Instead, the group relies heavily on web shells as a first method of persistence in a victim network following successful exploitation. Subsequent malware is then delivered through existing web shell access.

Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) exposes anomalous behavior that indicate web shell installation and post compromise activity by analysing script file writes and process executions. Microsoft Defender ATP offers a number of detections for web shell activity protecting customers not just from GALLIUM activity but broader web shell activity too. Read the full report in your Microsoft Defender ATP portal.

Figure 3. Microsoft Defender ATP web shell detection.

When alerted of these activities, the security operations team can then use the rich capabilities in Microsoft Defender ATP to investigate web shell activity and subsequent reconnaissance and enumeration activity to resolve web shell attacks.

Figure 4. Microsoft Defender ATP web shell process tree.

In addition to standard China Chopper, GALLIUM has been observed using a native web shell for servers running Microsoft IIS that is based on the China Chopper web shell; Microsoft has called this “BlackMould.”

BlackMould contains functionality to perform the following tasks on a victim host:

  • Enumerate local drives.
  • Employ basic file operations like find, read, write, delete, and copy.
  • Set file attributes.
  • Exfiltrate and infiltrate files.
  • Run cmd.exe with parameters.

Commands are sent in the body of HTTP POST requests.

Second stage

In cases where GALLIUM has deployed additional malware on a victim network, they’ve used versions of the Gh0st RAT (modified Ghost RAT detected as QuarkBandit) and Poison Ivy malware. In both cases, GALLIUM has modified the communication method used by the malware, likely to prevent detection through existing antimalware signatures since both malware families have several detections based on their original communication methods. Malware families are noted in Table 2.

Malware family Description and primary usage BlackMould Native IIS web shell based on the China Chopper web shell. China Chopper Commonly used and widely shared web shell used by several threat actors. Not unique to GALLIUM. Poison Ivy (modified) Poison Ivy is a widely shared remote access tool (RAT) first identified in 2005. While Poison Ivy is widely used, the variant GALLIUM has been observed using is a modified version that appears to be unique to GALLIUM. QuarkBandit Gh0st RAT variant with modified configuration options and encryption.

Table 2. GALLIUM malware families.

GALLIUM’s malware and tools appear to be highly disposable and low cost. In cases where GALLIUM has invested in modifications to their toolset, they appear to focus on evading antimalware detection, likely to make the malware and tooling more effective.

The MSTIC team works closely with Microsoft security products to implement detections and protections for GALLIUM malware and tooling in a number of Microsoft products. Figure 4 shows one such detection for a GALLIUM PoisonIvy loader in Microsoft Defender ATP.

Figure 5. GALLIUM PoisonIvy loader in Microsoft Defender ATP.

Additionally, MSTIC has authored a number of antimalware signatures for Windows Defender Antivirus covering the aforementioned malware families, a list of GALLIUM exclusive signature can be found in the Related indicators” section.

In addition to these malware families, GALLIUM has been observed employing SoftEther VPN software to facilitate access and maintain persistence to a target network. By installing SoftEther on internal systems, GALLIUM is able to connect through that system as though they are on the internal network of the target. SoftEther provides GALLIUM with another means of persistence and flexibility with the added benefit that its traffic may appear to be benign on the target network.

Recommended defenses

The following are recommended defenses security operations teams can take to mitigate the impact of threats like GALLIUM in your corporate environment:

  • Maintain web server patching and log audits, run web services with minimum required operating system permissions
  • Install security updates on all applications and operating systems promptly. Check the Security Update Guide for detailed information about available Microsoft security updates.
  • For efficient incident response, maintain a forensics-ready network with centralized event logging, file detonation services, and up-to-date asset inventories.
  • Enable cloud-delivered protection and maintain updated antivirus.
  • Turn on cloud-delivered protection and automatic sample submission on Windows Defender Antivirus. These capabilities use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to quickly identify and stop new and unknown threats.
  • Use behavior detection solutions to catch credential dumping or other activity that may indicate a breach.
  • Adopt Azure ATP—a cloud-based security solution that leverages your on-premises Active Directory signals—to identify, detect, and investigate advanced threats, compromised identities, and malicious insider actions directed at your organization.
  • Use Microsoft Defender ATP to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. Educate users about protecting personal and business information in social media, filtering unsolicited communication, identifying lures in spear-phishing email and watering holes, and reporting of reconnaissance attempts and other suspicious activity.
  • Encourage users to use Microsoft Edge and other web browsers that support SmartScreen, which identifies and blocks malicious websites, including phishing sites, scam sites, and sites that contain exploits and host malware.
  • Institute Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to mitigate against compromised accounts.
Related indicators

The list below provides known GALLIUM tooling and Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) observed during this activity. Microsoft encourages customers to implement detections and protections to identify possible prior campaigns or prevent future campaigns against their systems.

Tooling

Tool Purpose HTRAN Connection bouncer to proxy connections. Mimikatz Credential dumper. NBTScan Scanner for open NETBIOS nameservers on a local or remote TCP/IP network. Netcat Reads from and writes to network connections using TCP or UDP protocols. PsExec Executes a command line process on a remote machine. Windows Credential Editor (WCE) Credential dumper. WinRAR Archiving utility.

Malware

Malware Notes BlackMould Native IIS version of the China Chopper web shell. China Chopper Commonly used and widely shared web shell used by several threat actors. Not unique to GALLIUM. Poison Ivy (modified) Poison Ivy is a widely shared remote access tool (RAT) first identified in 2005. While Poison Ivy is widely used, the variant GALLIUM has been observed using is a modified version which appears to be unique to GALLIUM. QuarkBandit Gh0st RAT variant with modified configuration options and encryption.

Indicators

Indicator Type asyspy256[.]ddns[.]net Domain hotkillmail9sddcc[.]ddns[.]net Domain rosaf112[.]ddns[.]net Domain cvdfhjh1231[.]myftp[.]biz Domain sz2016rose[.]ddns[.]net Domain dffwescwer4325[.]myftp[.]biz Domain cvdfhjh1231[.]ddns[.]net Domain 9ae7c4a4e1cfe9b505c3a47e66551eb1357affee65bfefb0109d02f4e97c06dd Sha256 7772d624e1aed327abcd24ce2068063da0e31bb1d5d3bf2841fc977e198c6c5b Sha256 657fc7e6447e0065d488a7db2caab13071e44741875044f9024ca843fe4e86b5 Sha256 2ef157a97e28574356e1d871abf75deca7d7a1ea662f38b577a06dd039dbae29 Sha256 52fd7b90d7144ac448af4008be639d4d45c252e51823f4311011af3207a5fc77 Sha256 a370e47cb97b35f1ae6590d14ada7561d22b4a73be0cb6df7e851d85054b1ac3 Sha256 5bf80b871278a29f356bd42af1e35428aead20cd90b0c7642247afcaaa95b022 Sha256 6f690ccfd54c2b02f0c3cb89c938162c10cbeee693286e809579c540b07ed883 Sha256 3c884f776fbd16597c072afd81029e8764dd57ee79d798829ca111f5e170bd8e Sha256 1922a419f57afb351b58330ed456143cc8de8b3ebcbd236d26a219b03b3464d7 Sha256 fe0e4ef832b62d49b43433e10c47dc51072959af93963c790892efc20ec422f1 Sha256 7ce9e1c5562c8a5c93878629a47fe6071a35d604ed57a8f918f3eadf82c11a9c Sha256 178d5ee8c04401d332af331087a80fb4e5e2937edfba7266f9be34a5029b6945 Sha256 51f70956fa8c487784fd21ab795f6ba2199b5c2d346acdeef1de0318a4c729d9 Sha256 889bca95f1a69e94aaade1e959ed0d3620531dc0fc563be9a8decf41899b4d79 Sha256 332ddaa00e2eb862742cb8d7e24ce52a5d38ffb22f6c8bd51162bd35e84d7ddf Sha256 44bcf82fa536318622798504e8369e9dcdb32686b95fcb44579f0b4efa79df08 Sha256 63552772fdd8c947712a2cff00dfe25c7a34133716784b6d486227384f8cf3ef Sha256 056744a3c371b5938d63c396fe094afce8fb153796a65afa5103e1bffd7ca070 Sha256 TrojanDropper:Win32/BlackMould.A!dha Signature Name Trojan:Win32/BlackMould.B!dha Signature Name Trojan:Win32/QuarkBandit.A!dha Signature Name Trojan:Win32/Sidelod.A!dha Signature Name

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The post GALLIUM: Targeting global telecom appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Go passwordless to strengthen security and reduce costs

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 7:00pm

We all know passwords are inherently unsecure. They’re also expensive to manage. Users struggle to remember them. It’s why we’re so passionate about eliminating passwords entirely. Passwordless solutions, such as Windows Hello, FIDO2 security keys, and the Microsoft Authenticator app, provide more secure and convenient sign-in methods. But transitioning your organization to passwordless authentication takes time and careful planning. You may wonder where to start and how long it will take to realize benefits. Today, we examine:

  • How biometrics improve security while safeguarding user privacy.
  • The cost reductions Microsoft realized from passwordless migration.
  • Steps you can take to better secure your organization and prepare for passwordless.

Microsoft passwordless solutions include Windows Hello, the Microsoft Authenticator app, and FIDO2 security keys.

Biometric technology improves security and safeguards user privacy

The goal of user authentication protocols, including passwords, is to verify user identity. But just because a user knows a password doesn’t mean they are the person they claim to be. In fact, 81 percent of breaches leverage stolen or compromised passwords.1 Passwords are not unique identifiers.

To improve security, we need a better way to uniquely identify users. This is where biometrics come in. Your iris, fingerprint, and face are unique to you—nobody else has the same fingerprint, for example. Passwordless solutions, like Windows Hello, rely on biometrics instead of passwords because biometrics are better at accurately identifying a user.

Biometrics, like other personal identifying information (PII), may raise privacy concerns. Some people worry that technology companies will collect PII and make it available to other entities. Or that their biometric image might get stolen. That’s why Microsoft and other security companies in the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) Alliance developed the FIDO2 standard to raise the bar for securing credentials. Rest assured, Microsoft uses FIDO2-compliant technology that does NOT view, store, or transfer ANY biometric images.

Here’s how it works:

  • When a user creates a biometric sign-in, Windows Hello uses an algorithm to create a unique identifier that is stored locally on the device, encrypted and secured, and never shared with Microsoft.
  • Each time a user signs in, the biometric is compared against the unique identifier.
  • If there is a match, the user is authenticated to the device.

Technologies like Windows Hello are secure, convenient, and safeguard user privacy.

Users can sign in to Windows Hello with a fingerprint scan. The fingerprint image is turned into a unique identifier stored on the device. It does not get stored by Microsoft.

Improve security, reduce costs, and increase productivity

To help you think about the costs associated with passwords, we’ll share some numbers from Microsoft’s own experience rolling out passwordless to its users. After about a year since Microsoft began this journey, most users don’t use a password to authenticate to corporate systems, resources, and applications. The company is better protected, but it has also reduced costs.

Passwords are expensive because users frequently forget them. For every password reset Microsoft incurs, soft costs are associated with the productivity lost while a user can’t sign in. The company also incurs hard costs for every hour a Helpdesk administrator spends helping a Microsoft user reset their password.

Microsoft estimated the following costs before rolling out passwordless to its employees:

  • $3 million a year in hard costs.
  • $6 million a year in lost productivity.

As of today, Microsoft has achieved the following benefits from its passwordless rollout:

  • Reduced hard and soft costs by 87 percent.
  • As Microsoft costs go down, attackers’ costs go up, so the company is less of a target.
Going passwordless starts with Multi-Factor Authentication

Whether you’re ready to roll out a passwordless authentication strategy today or in a few years, these steps will help get your organization ready.

  • Step 1: Define your passwordless and biometrics strategy—At Microsoft, we allow more than one biometric factor to choose from for authentication, which gives people options and helps us meet accessibility needs.
  • Step 2: Move your identities to the cloud—Leverage Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) user behavior analytics and security intelligence to help protect your identities, uncover breach patterns, and recover if there is a breach.
  • Step 3: Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)—MFA increases security by requiring more than one factor of verification, usually in addition to a password. By enabling MFA, you can reduce the odds of account compromise by 99.9 percent.2 But passwords don’t have to be a factor. With passwordless authentication, the biometric identifier is one factor of verification and the device possession is another, removing the risk of passwords from the equation.
  • Step 4: Pilot passwordless—Start a pilot test with your riskiest users or groups.

The Microsoft Authenticator app can be used to augment a password as a second factor or to replace a password with biometrics or a device PIN for authentication.

If you aren’t ready to go passwordless, enable MFA to reduce your odds of a breach. We also recommend that you ban the most easily guessable passwords. Azure AD processes 60 billion authentications in a month and uses the telemetry to automatically block commonly used, weak, or compromised passwords for all Azure AD accounts, but you can add your own custom banned passwords, too.

Learn more

Microsoft passwordless solutions include Windows Hello, the Microsoft Authenticator app, and FIDO2 security keys from select partners. Each can help you accomplish the following:

  • Stronger security.
  • Reduced costs over time.
  • Increased attacker costs.
  • More productive users.

Read more about Microsoft passwordless solutions.

Watch the CISO Spotlight Series: Passwordless: What’s it worth?

 

12018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report
22018 Microsoft Security Research

The post Go passwordless to strengthen security and reduce costs appeared first on Microsoft Security.

The quiet evolution of phishing

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 12:00pm

The battle against phishing is a silent one: every day, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection detects millions of distinct malicious URLs and email attachments. Every year, billions of phishing emails don’t ever reach mailboxes—real-world attacks foiled in real-time. Heuristics, detonation, and machine learning, enriched by signals from Microsoft Threat Protection services, provide dynamic, robust protection against email threats.

Phishers have been quietly retaliating, evolving their techniques to try and evade these protections. In 2019, we saw phishing attacks reach new levels of creativity and sophistication. Notably, these techniques involve the abuse of legitimate cloud services like those offered by Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others. At Microsoft, we have aggressive processes to identify and take down nefarious uses of our services without affecting legitimate applications.

In this blog we’ll share three of the most notable attack techniques we spotted this year. We uncovered these attacks while studying Office 365 ATP signals, which we use to track and deeply understand attacker activity and build durable defenses against evolving and increasingly sophisticated email threats.

Hijacked search results lead to phishing

Over the years, phishers have become better at evading detection by hiding malicious artifacts behind benign ones. This tactic manifests in, among many others, the use of URLs that point to legitimate but compromised websites or multiple harmless-looking redirectors that eventually lead to phishing.

One clever phishing campaign we saw in 2019 used links to Google search results that were poisoned so that they pointed to an attacker-controlled page, which eventually redirected to a phishing page. A traffic generator ensured that the redirector page was the top result for certain keywords.

Figure 1. Phishing attack that used poisoned search results

Using this technique, phishers were able to send phishing emails that contained only legitimate URLs (i.e., link to search results), and a trusted domain at that, for example:

  • hxxps://www[.]google[.]ru/#btnI&q=%3Ca%3EhOJoXatrCPy%3C/a%3E
  • hxxps://www[.]google[.]ru/#btnI&q=%3Ca%3EyEg5xg1736iIgQVF%3C/a%3E

The campaign was made even stealthier by its use of location-specific search results. When accessed by users in Europe, the phishing URL led to the redirector website c77684gq[.]beget[.]tech, and eventually to the phishing page. Outside Europe, the same URL returned no search results.

For this to work, attackers had to make sure that their website, c77684gq[.]beget[.]tech, was the top search result for the keyword “hOJoXatrCPy” when queried from certain regions. The website’s HTML code is composed of a redirector script and a series of anchor elements:

Figure 2. Redirector code

These anchor elements were designed to be crawled by search engines so that the page is indexed and returned as result for the search keywords that attackers wanted to use for their campaign.

Figure 3. Anchor tags containing search keywords

The attackers then set up a traffic generator to poison search results. Because the phishing URL used the open redirector functionality, it redirected to the top search result, hence the redirector page.

404 Not Found pages customized to be phishing sites

The other way that phishers evade detection is to use multiple URLs and sometimes even multiple domains for their campaigns. They use techniques like subdomain generation algorithms to try and always get ahead of solutions, which, without the right dynamic technologies, will be forced continually catch up as phishers generate more and more domains and URLs.

This year, attackers have found another shrewd way to serve phishing: custom 404 pages. We uncovered a phishing campaign targeting Microsoft that used 404 pages crafted as phishing pages, which gave phishers virtually unlimited phishing URLs.

Figure 4. Phishing attack that uses specially crafted 404 Not Found error page

The custom 404 page was designed to look like the legitimate Microsoft account sign-in page.

Figure 5. 404 page designed as phishing page

Because the malformed 404 page is served to any non-existent URL in an attacker-controlled domain, the phishers could use random URLs for their campaigns. For example, we saw these two URLs used in phishing campaigns; the attackers added a single character to the second one to generate a new URL but serve the same phishing page:

  • hxxps://skype-online8024[.]web[.]app/8cc1083b0ffdf1e5b9594c045c825b02d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e#ZG1jY2FubkBtb3Jicm9zLmNvbQ
  • hxxps://skype-online8024[.]web[.]app/8cc1083b0ffdf1e5b9594c045c825b02d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e#ZG1jY2FubkBtb3Jicm9zLmNvbQs

We also found that the attackers randomized domains, exponentially increasing the number of phishing URLs:

  • outlookloffice365usertcph4l3q[.]web[.]app
  • outlookloffice365userdqz75j6h[.]web[.]app
  • outlookloffice365usery6ykxo07[.]web[.]app

All of these non-existent URLs returned the 404 error page, i.e., the phishing page:

Figure 6. When phishing URL is accessed, server responds with HTTP 404 error message, which is a phishing page

Man-in-the-middle component for dynamic phishing attack

Phishers have also been getting better at impersonation: the more legitimate the phishing emails looked, the better their chances at tricking recipients. Countless brands both big and small have been targets of spoofing by phishers.

One particular phishing campaign in 2019 took impersonation to the next level. Instead of attackers copying elements from the spoofed legitimate website, a man-in-the-middle component captured company-specific information like logos, banners, text, and background images from Microsoft’s rendering site.

Phishers sent out emails with URLs pointing to an attacker-controlled server, which served as the man-in-the-middle component and simulated Microsoft sign-in pages. The server identified certain specific information based on the recipient’s email address, including the target company, and then gathered the information specific to that company. The result was the exact same experience as the legitimate sign-page, which could significantly reduce suspicion.

Figure 7. Phishing attack that abuses Microsoft’s rendering site

Using the same URL, the phishing site was rendered differently for different targeted users. To generate legitimate-looking phishing sites, the server used the following code to retrieve the banner used by the target’s victim company as identified by the domain information in the email address; the response is the URL for the company banner:

Figure 8. Code snippet for requesting the banner

The server also retrieved the text used in the company’s sign-in page; the response is the actual text specific to the target victim’s company:

Figure 9. Code snippet for requesting the company-specific text

To complete the legitimate-looking phishing page, the server requested the background image using the code below; the response is the URL to the image:

Figure 10. Codes snippets for requesting background image

Office 365 ATP: Durable and dynamic defense for evolving email threats

The phishing techniques that we discussed in this blog are vastly different from each, but they are all clever attempts to achieve something that’s very important for phishers and other cybercrooks: stealth. The longer phishers can quietly hide from security solutions, the more chances they have to invade inboxes and trick people into divulging sensitive information.

To hunt down phishing and other threats that don’t want to be found, Office 365 ATP uses advanced security technologies that expose sophisticated techniques. Our URL detonation technology can follow the attack chain so it can detect threats even if they hide behind legitimate services and multiple layers of redirectors.

This rich visibility into email threats allows Office 365 ATP to continuously inform and improve its heuristic and machine learning protections so that new and emerging campaigns are blocked in real-time—silently protecting customers from attacks even when they don’t know it. The insights from Office 365 ATP also allow our security experts to track emerging techniques and other attacker activities like the ones we discussed in this blog, allowing us to ensure that our protections are effective not just for the campaigns that we see today but those that might emerge in the future.

As an important component of Microsoft Threat Protection, Office 365 ATP provides critical security signals about threat that arrive via email—a common entry point for cyberattacks—to the rest of Microsoft’s security technologies, helping provide crucial protection at the early stages of attacks. Through signal-sharing and remediation orchestration across security solutions, Microsoft Threat Protection provides comprehensive and integrated protection for identities, endpoints, user data, apps, and infrastructure.

 

Patrick Estavillo
Office 365 ATP Research Team

 

 

 

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The post The quiet evolution of phishing appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Improve cyber supply chain risk management with Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Mon, 12/09/2019 - 12:00pm

For years, Microsoft has tracked threat actors exploiting federal cyber supply chain vulnerabilities. Supply chain attacks target software developers, systems integrators, and technology companies. Tactics often include obtaining source code, build processes, or update mechanisms to compromise legitimate applications. This is a key concern for government cybersecurity in the cloud, as the expanding digital estate requires movement towards a Zero Trust security model.

There are several techniques to attack cyber supply chains in Information Communications and Technology (ICT) products and services. Supply chain attacks are most concerning because they target vulnerabilities in your infrastructure before you even deploy your assets and software.

Attackers can:

  • Compromise software building tools to ensure that their malware is imprinted into all software generated from the building tools.
  • Replace software update repositories with malicious replicas that distribute malware across entire software ecosystems.
  • Steal code-signing certificates to make malicious software appear as legitimate code.
  • Intercept hardware shipments to inject malicious code into hardware, firmware, and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).
  • Pre-install malware onto IoT devices before they arrive to target organizations.
Managing Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) to defend against supply chain attacks

Defending against supply chain attacks requires a comprehensive approach to managing Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM). Federal risk managers must deploy strong code integrity policies and technical screening controls to ensure their software complies with organizational directives such as applying NIST SP 800-53A security controls for Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance. Code integrity requires full non-repudiation of software to validate information producer associations, identity, and chain of custody for systems and components (NIST SP 800-161, 2015). One critical opportunity for addressing code integrity in your supply chain is to implement and adhere to a secure software development lifecycle for applications that you develop in-house and that you acquire from third-party supply chain partners.

Microsoft continues to use the Security Development Lifecycle, a fundamental process of continuous learning and improvement in the security, integrity, and resiliency of our enterprise applications. We require supply chain providers to adhere to these practices as well.

Organizations should employ asset monitoring and tracking systems such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and digital signatures to track hardware and software from producers to consumers to ensure system and component integrity. FIPS 200 specifies that federal organizations “must identify, report, and correct information and information system flaws in a timely manner while providing protection from malicious code at appropriate locations within organizational information systems” (FIPS 200, 2006).

How Microsoft fights against malware

Microsoft understands how to fight malware and have worked hard for many years to offer our customers leading endpoint protection to defend against increasingly sophisticated attacks across a variety of devices. These efforts have been recognized, for example, in this year’s 2019 Gartner Endpoint Protection Platforms Magic Quadrant. In addition, Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) integrates directly with Microsoft Azure Security Center to alert your security teams of threat actors exploiting your vulnerabilities.

Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms.*

Endpoint Protection Platforms can support software development and fight malware, but government organizations must follow recommendations for software vendors and developers by applying patches for operating systems and software, implementing mandatory integrity controls, and requiring Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for administrators.

Azure Security Center Recommendations help government organizations eliminate security vulnerabilities before an attack occurs by facilitating actions to secure resources, including OS vulnerability detection, mandatory controls, and enforcing authentication with MFA and secure access with just-in-time (JIT) virtual machine access.

When you remediate recommendations, your Secure Score and your workloads’ security postures improve. Azure Security Center automatically discovers new resources you deploy, assesses them against your security policy, and provides new recommendations for securing them.

Azure Security Center also facilitates cyber learning through gamification. Secure Score allows your SecOps and Security Governance Risk & Compliance (SGRC) teams to remediate vulnerabilities through a points-based system. This capability can enhance system configurations and reinforce supply chain risk management in a single pane of glass for your infrastructure security posture, and even includes a regulatory and compliance dashboard to facilitate federal compliance requirements and can be tailored to your organization.

Security of federal information systems requires compliance with stringent standards such as NIST SP 800-53, FISMA, CIS Benchmarks, and FedRAMP Moderate. Azure Blueprints facilitates compliance with these standards ensuring a secure-by-design approach to federal information security. Azure Blueprints enable cloud architects and information technology groups to define a repeatable set of Azure resources that implements and adheres to an organization’s standards, patterns, and requirements.

Azure Blueprints are a declarative way to orchestrate the deployment of various resource templates and other artifacts such as role assignments, policy assignments, and Azure Resource Manager templates. Azure Blueprints also provide recommendations and a framework to directly apply compliance requirements to your environment while monitoring configurations through Continuous Monitoring (CM).

Employing a comprehensive monitoring program

Protecting your supply chain also requires a comprehensive monitoring program with cyber incident response and security operations capabilities. Azure Sentinel is a cloud-native security information and event manager (SIEM) platform that uses built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to help analyze large volumes of data across an enterprise—fast. Azure Sentinel aggregates data from all sources, including users, applications, servers, and devices running on-premises or in any cloud, letting you reason over millions of records in a few seconds.

Azure Sentinel leverages the Microsoft Graph, which detects threats, reduces false positives, and puts your responders on target. Azure Sentinel Workbooks optimize productivity with dozens of built in dashboards to enhance security monitoring.

Azure Sentinel Analytics allow your cyber defenders to employ proactive alerting to detect threats impacting your supply chain security. Azure Sentinel Playbooks includes over 200 connectors to leverage full automation through Azure Logic Apps. This powerful capability allows federal agencies to compensate for the cyber talent gap with Security Automation & Orchestration Response (SOAR) capabilities while leveraging machine learning and AI capabilities. Azure Sentinel deep investigation allows your incident response teams to dig into incidents and identify the root cause of attacks.

Azure Sentinel’s powerful hunting search-and-query tools are based in the MITRE ATT&K Framework, allowing your responders to proactively hunt threats across the network before alerts are triggered. The Azure Sentinel community is growing on GitHub and allows your team to collaborate with the information security community for best practices, efficiencies, and security innovation.

Azure Sentinel

Intelligent security analytics for your entire enterprise.

Learn more

Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) is a growing concern within the federal sector. Microsoft is committed to bolstering government cybersecurity in the cloud. Microsoft Azure goes the distance to protect your network against supply chain attacks through Microsoft Defender ATP’s industry leading Endpoint Protection Platform, Azure Security Center’s comprehensive continuous monitoring platform, Azure Blueprints approach to rapidly deploying a compliant cloud, and Azure Sentinel’s cloud-native SIEM that harnesses the limitless power of the cloud through threat intelligence, machine learning, AI, and automation.

Learn more about government cybersecurity in the cloud with Microsoft

Here are some of the best resource to learn more about government cybersecurity in the cloud with Microsoft:

Also, join us for the Microsoft Ignite Government Tour in Washington, D.C., February 6, 2020.

Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters and follow us at @MSFTSecurity or visit our website for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

Are you a federal government agency that needs help with cybersecurity? Reach out to TJ Banasik or Mark McIntyre for additional details on the content above, or if you have any other questions about Microsoft’s cybersecurity investments for the federal government.

 

*This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of larger research documents and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner documents are available upon request from Microsoft. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

The post Improve cyber supply chain risk management with Microsoft Azure appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Microsoft Security—a Leader in 5 Gartner Magic Quadrants

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Tue, 12/03/2019 - 12:00pm

Gartner has named Microsoft Security a Leader in five Magic Quadrants. This is exciting news that we believe speaks to the breadth and depth of our security offerings. Gartner places vendors as Leaders who demonstrate balanced progress and effort in all execution and vision categories. This means that Leaders not only have the people and capabilities to deliver strong solutions today, they also understand the market and have a strategy for meeting customer needs in the future. Microsoft was identified as a Leader in the following five security areas:

  • Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) solutions1
  • Access Management2
  • Enterprise Information Archiving3
  • Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) tools4
  • Endpoint Protection Platforms5

Given this, Microsoft Security doesn’t just deliver strong security products in five crucial security areas only. We provide a comprehensive set of security solutions that are built to work together, from identity and access management to threat protection to information protection and cloud security.

Our products integrate easily and share intelligence from the trillions of signals generated daily on the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. And they work with non-Microsoft solutions too. You can monitor and safeguard your assets across clouds—whether you use Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Slack, Salesforce, or all the above.

By unifying security tools, you get visibility into your entire environment across on-premises and the cloud, to better protect all your users, data, devices, and applications. Today, we’ll review the five areas where Microsoft is recognized as a Leader in security.

A Leader in CASB

Our cloud security solutions provide cross-cloud protection, whether you use Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google Cloud Platform—or all three. We also help you safeguard your data in third-party apps like Salesforce and Slack.

Gartner named Microsoft a Leader in CASB based on the ability to execute and completeness of vision. Cloud App Security provides rich visibility into your shadow IT, enables you to identify and remediate cloud native attacks, and allows you to control how your data travels across all your cloud apps—whether they’re from Microsoft or third-party applications.

As Gartner says in the CASB Magic Quadrant, “platforms from leading CASB vendors were born in the cloud and designed for the cloud. They have a deeper understanding of users, devices, applications, transactions, and sensitive data than CASB functions designed to be extensions of traditional network security and SWG security technologies.”

We work closely with customer to improve our products, which is one of the reasons our customer base for Cloud App Security continues to grow.

A Leader in Access Management

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is a universal identity and access management platform that provides the right people the right access to the right resources. It safeguards identities and simplifies access for users. Users sign in once with a single identity to access all the apps they need—whether they’re on-premises apps, Microsoft apps, or third-party cloud apps. Microsoft was recognized for high scores in market understanding and customer experience.

Gartner says, “Vendors that have developed Access Management as a service have risen in popularity. Gartner estimates that 90 percent or more of clients based in North America and approximately 65 percent in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region countries are also seeking SaaS-delivered models for new Access Management purchases. This demonstrates a preference for agility, quicker time to new features, elimination of continual software upgrades, reduction of supported infrastructure and other SaaS versus software benefits demonstrated in the market.”

A Leader in Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving solutions help organizations archive emails, instant messages, SMS, and social media content. Gartner recognized us as a Leader in this Magic Quadrant based on ability to execute and completeness of vision.

Gartner estimates, “By 2023, 45 percent of enterprise customers will adopt an enterprise information archiving (EIA) solution to meet new requirements driven by data privacy regulations; this is a major increase from five percent in 2019.”

A Leader in Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solutions provide a comprehensive solution to manage mobile devices and traditional endpoints, like PCs and Macs. Microsoft’s solution, Microsoft Intune, lets you securely support company-provided devices and bring your own device policies. You can even protect company apps and data on unmanaged devices. We have seen rapid growth in Intune deployments and expect that growth to continue.

Gartner noted that, “Leaders are identified as those vendors with strong execution and vision scores with products that exemplify the suite of functions that assist organizations in managing a diverse field of mobile and traditional endpoints. Leaders provide tools that catalyze the migration of PCs from legacy CMT management tools to modern, UEM-based management.”

Intune is built to work with other Microsoft 365 security solutions, such as Cloud App Security and Azure AD to unify your security approach across all your clouds and devices. As Gartner writes, “Achieving a truly simplified, single-console approach to endpoint management promises many operational benefits.”

A Leader in Endpoint Protection Platforms

Our threat protection solutions provide tools to identify, investigate, and respond to threats across all your endpoints. Gartner named Microsoft a Leader for Endpoint Protection Platforms, recognizing our products and our strengths and ability to execute and completeness of vision. Azure Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) detects and investigates advanced attacks on-premises and in the cloud. Windows Defender Antivirus protects PCs against software threats like viruses, malware, and spyware across email, apps, the cloud, and the web.

Gartner says, “A Leader in this category will have broad capabilities in advanced malware protection, and proven management capabilities for large-enterprise accounts.”

Learn more

Microsoft is committed to helping our customers digitally transform while providing the security solutions that enable them to focus on what they do best. Learn more about our comprehensive security solutions across identity and access management, cloud security, information protection, threat protection, and universal endpoint management by visiting our website.

1Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Cloud Access Security Brokers,” by Steve Riley, Craig Lawson, October 2019

2Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Access Management,” by Michael Kelley, Abhyuday Data, Henrique, Teixeira, August 2019

3Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving,” by Julian Tirsu, Michael Hoech, November 2019

4Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Unified Endpoint Management Tools,” by Chris Silva, Manjunath Bhat, Rich Doheny, Rob Smith, August 2019

5Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms,” by Peter Firstbrook, Dionisio Zumerle, Prateek Bhajanka, Lawrence Pingree, Paul Webber, August 2019

These graphics were published by Gartner, Inc. as part of larger research documents and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner documents are available upon request from Microsoft. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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Spear phishing campaigns—they’re sharper than you think

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Mon, 12/02/2019 - 12:00pm

Even your most security-savvy users may have difficulty identifying honed spear phishing campaigns. Unlike traditional phishing campaigns that are blasted to a large email list in hopes that just one person will bite, advanced spear phishing campaigns are highly targeted and personal. They are so targeted, in fact, that we sometimes refer to them as “laser” phishing. And because these attacks are so focused, even tech-savvy executives and other senior managers have been duped into handing over money and sensitive files by a well-targeted email. That’s how good they are.

Even though spear phishing campaigns can be highly effective, they aren’t foolproof. If you understand how they work, you can put measures in place to reduce their power. Today, we provide an overview of how these campaigns work and steps you can take to better protect your organization and users.

Figure 1. Percentage of inbound emails associated with phishing on average increased in the past year, according to Microsoft security research (source: Microsoft Security Intelligence Report).

Step 1: Select the victims

To illustrate how clever some of these campaigns are, imagine a busy recruiter who is responsible for filling several IT positions. The IT director is under a deadline and desperate for good candidates. The recruiter posts the open roles on their social networks asking people to refer leads. A few days later they receive an email from a prospective candidate who describes the role in the email. The recruiter opens the attached resume and inadvertently infects their computer with malware. They have just been duped by a spear phisher.

How did it happen?

In a spear phishing campaign, the first thing an attacker needs to do is identify the victims. These are typically individuals who have access to the data the attacker wants. In this instance, the attackers want to infiltrate the human resources department because they want to exfiltrate employee social security numbers. To identify potential candidates they conduct extensive research, such as:

  • Review corporate websites to gain insight into processes, departments, and locations.
  • Use scripts to harvest email addresses.
  • Follow company social media accounts to understand company roles and the relationships between different people and departments.

In our example, the attackers learned by browsing the website that the convention for emails is first.last@company.com. They browsed the website, social media, and other digital sources for human resources professionals and potential hooks. It didn’t take long to notice several job openings. Once the recruiter shared details of jobs online, would-be attackers had everything they needed.

Why it might work: In this instance it would be logical for the victim to open the attachment. One of their job responsibilities is to collect resumes from people they don’t know.

Figure 2. Research and the attack are the first steps in a longer strategy to exfiltrate sensitive data.

Step 2: Identify the credible source

Now let’s consider a new executive who receives an email late at night from their boss, the CEO. The CEO is on a trip to China meeting with a vendor, and in the email, the CEO references the city they’re in and requests that the executive immediately wire $10,000 to pay the vendor. The executive wants to impress the new boss, so they jump on the request right away.

How did it happen?

In spear phishing schemes, the attacker needs to identify a credible source whose emails the victim will open and act on. This could be someone who appears to be internal to the company, a friend, or someone from a partner organization. Research into the victim’s relationships informs this selection. In the first example, we imagined a would-be job seeker that the victim doesn’t know. However, in many spear phishing campaigns, such as with our executive, the credible source is someone the victim knows.

To execute the spear phishing campaign against the executive, the attackers uncovered the following information:

  • Identified senior leaders at the company who have authority to sign off on large sums of money.
  • Selected the CEO as the credible source who is most likely to ask for the money.
  • Discovered details about the CEO’s upcoming trip based on social media posts.

Why it might work: Targeting executives by impersonating the CEO is increasingly common—some refer to it as whale phishing. Executives have more authority and access to information and resources than the average employee. People are inclined to respond quickly when the boss emails—especially if they say it’s urgent. This scenario takes advantage of those human power dynamics.

Figure 3. The more targeted the campaign, the bigger the potential payoff.

Step 3: Victim acts on the request

The final step in the process is for the victim to act on the request. In our first example, the human resources recruiter could have initiated a payload that would take over his computer or provide a tunnel for the attacker to access information. In our second scenario, the victim could have wired large sums of money to a fraudulent actor. If the victim does accidentally open the spear phishing email and respond to the call to action, open a malicious attachment, or visit an infected webpage, the following could happen:

  • The machine could be infected with malware.
  • Confidential information could be shared with an adversary.
  • A fraudulent payment could be made to an adversary.
Catch more phishy emails

Attackers have improved their phishing campaigns to better target your users, but there are steps you can take to reduce the odds that employees will respond to the call to action. We recommend that you do the following:

  • Educate users on how to detect phishing emails—Spear phishing emails do a great job of effectively impersonating a credible source; however, there are often small details that can give them away. Help users identify phish using training tools that simulate a real phish. Here are a few tells that are found in some phish that you can incorporate into your training:
    • An incorrect email address or one that resembles what you expect but is slightly off.
    • A sense of urgency coupled with a request to break company policy. For example, fast tracking payments without the usual checks and procedures.
    • Emotive language to evoke sympathy or fear. For example, the impersonated CEO might say you’re letting them down if you do not make the urgent payment.
    • Inconsistent wording or terminology. Does the business lingo align with company conventions? Does the source typically use those words?

  • Encourage users to communicate potential phishing emails—It’s important that users flag phishing emails to the proper team. This can be done natively within many enterprise email systems. It can also be helpful if users talk with their peers about the phishing emails they receive. Spear phishers typically don’t send blast emails; however, they may select several people from the same department or with business relationships. Talking will alert other users to be on the lookout for phishy emails.

Figure 4. Enhanced anti-phishing capabilities are available in Microsoft Office 365.

  • Deploy technology designed to block phishing emails—If users don’t receive the phishing email, they can’t act on it! Deploy technology that can help you catch phishing emails before they land in someone’s inbox. For instance, Office 365, one of the world’s largest email providers, offers a variety of protection against phishing attacks by default and through additional offerings such as Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) anti-phishing. Importantly, Microsoft has both been advancing the anti-phishing capabilities of Office 365 (see Figure 4 above) and improving catch rates of phishing emails.
Get in touch

Reach out to Diana Kelley on LinkedIn or Twitter or Seema Kathuria on LinkedIn or Twitter and let them know what you’d like to see us cover as they talk about new security products and capabilities.

Also, bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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Gartner Names Microsoft a Leader in the 2019 Enterprise Information Archiving (EIA) Magic Quadrant

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Tue, 11/26/2019 - 1:09pm

We often hear from customers about the explosion of data, and the challenge this presents for organizations in remaining compliant and protecting their information. We’ve invested in capabilities across the landscape of information protection and information governance, inclusive of archiving, retention, eDiscovery and communications supervision. In Gartner’s annual Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving (EIA), Microsoft was named a Leader again in 2019.

According to Gartner, “Leaders have the highest combined measures of Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision. They may have the most comprehensive and scalable products. In terms of vision, they are perceived to be thought leaders, with well-articulated plans for ease of use, product breadth and how to address scalability.” We believe this recognition represents our ability to provide best-in-class protection and deliver on innovations that keep pace with today’s compliance needs.

This recognition comes at a great point in our product journey. We are continuing to invest in solutions that are integrated into Office 365 and address information protection and information governance needs of customers. Earlier this month, at our Ignite 2019 conference, we announced updates to our compliance portfolio including new data connectors, machine learning powered governance, retention, discovery and supervision – and innovative capabilities such as threading Microsoft Teams or Yammer messages into conversations, allowing you to efficiently review and export complete dialogues with context, not just individual messages. In customer conversations, many of them say these are the types of advancements that are helping them be more efficient with their compliance requirements, without impacting end-user productivity.

Learn more

Read the complimentary report for the analysis behind Microsoft’s position as a Leader.

For more information about our Information Archiving solution, visit our website and stay up to date with our blog.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving, Julian Tirsu, Michael Hoeck, 20 November 2019.

*This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Microsoft.

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GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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Insights from one year of tracking a polymorphic threat

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Tue, 11/26/2019 - 12:00pm

A little over a year ago, in October 2018, our polymorphic outbreak monitoring system detected a large surge in reports, indicating that a large-scale campaign was unfolding. We observed as the new threat attempted to deploy files that changed every 20-30 minutes on thousands of devices. We gave the threat the name “Dexphot,” based on certain characteristics of the malware code.

The Dexphot attack used a variety of sophisticated methods to evade security solutions. Layers of obfuscation, encryption, and the use of randomized file names hid the installation process. Dexphot then used fileless techniques to run malicious code directly in memory, leaving only a few traces that can be used for forensics. It hijacked legitimate system processes to disguise malicious activity. If not stopped, Dexphot ultimately ran a cryptocurrency miner on the device, with monitoring services and scheduled tasks triggering re-infection when defenders attempt to remove the malware.

In the months that followed, we closely tracked the threat and witnessed the attackers upgrade the malware, target new processes, and work around defensive measures:

While Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection’s pre-execution detection engines blocked Dexphot in most cases, behavior-based machine learning models provided protection for cases where the threat slipped through. Given the threat’s persistence mechanisms, polymorphism, and use of fileless techniques, behavior-based detection was a critical component of the comprehensive protection against this malware and other threats that exhibit similar malicious behaviors.

Microsoft Defender ATP data shows the effectiveness of behavioral blocking and containment capabilities in stopping the Dexphot campaign. Over time, Dexphot-related malicious behavior reports dropped to a low hum, as the threat lost steam.

Our close monitoring of Dexphot helped us ensure that our customers were protected from the evolving threat. More importantly, one year’s worth of intelligence helped us gain insight not only into the goals and motivations of Dexphot’s authors, but of cybercriminals in general.

Complex attack chain

The early stages of a Dexphot infection involves numerous files and processes. During the execution stage, Dexphot writes five key files to disk:

  1. An installer with two URLs
  2. An MSI package file downloaded from one of the URLs
  3. A password-protected ZIP archive
  4. A loader DLL, which is extracted from the archive
  5. An encrypted data file that holds three additional executables that are loaded into system processes via process hollowing

Except for the installer, the other processes that run during execution are legitimate system processes. This can make detection and remediation more difficult. These legitimate system processes include msiexec.exe (for installing MSI packages), unzip.exe (for extracting files from the password-protected ZIP archive), rundll32.exe (for loading the loader DLL), schtasks.exe (for scheduled tasks), powershell.exe (for forced updates). In later stages, Dexphot targets a few other system processes for process hollowing: svchost.exe, tracert.exe, and setup.exe.

Multiple layers of security evasion

Based on Microsoft Defender ATP signals, SoftwareBundler:Win32/ICLoader and its variants are primarily used to drop and run the Dexphot installer. The installer uses two URLs to download malicious payloads. These are the same two URLs that Dexphot use later to establish persistence, update the malware, and re-infect the device.

The installer downloads an MSI package from one of the two URLs, and then launches msiexec.exe to perform a silent install. This is the first of several instances of Dexphot employing living-off-the-land techniques, the use of legitimate system processes for nefarious purposes.

Dexphot’s package often contains an obfuscated batch script. If the package contains this file, the script is the first thing that msiexec.exe runs when it begins the installation process. The said obfuscated script is designed to check for antivirus products. Dexphot halts the infection process immediately if an antivirus product is found running.

When we first began our research, the batch script only checked for antivirus products from Avast and AVG. Later, Windows Defender Antivirus was added to the checklist.

If the process is not halted, Dexphot decompresses the password-protected ZIP archive from the MSI package. The password to this archive is within the MSI package. Along with the password, the malware’s authors also include a clean version of unzip.exe so that they don’t have to rely on the target system having a ZIP utility. The unzip.exe file in the package is usually named various things, such as z.exe or ex.exe, to avoid scrutiny.

The ZIP archive usually contains three files: the loader DLL, an encrypted data file (usually named bin.dat), and, often, one clean unrelated DLL, which is likely included to mislead detection.

Dexphot usually extracts the decompressed files to the target system’s Favorites folder. The files are given new, random names, which are generated by concatenating words and numbers based on the time of execution (for example, C:\Users\<user>\Favorites\\Res.Center.ponse\<numbers>). The commands to generate the new names are also obfuscated, for example:

Msiexec.exe next calls rundll32.exe, specifying loader DLL (urlmon.7z in the example above) in order to decrypt the data file. The decryption process involves ADD and XOR operations, using a key hardcoded in the binary.

The decrypted data contains three executables. Unlike the files described earlier, these executables are never written to the filesystem. Instead, they exist only in memory, and Dexphot runs them by loading them into other system processes via process hollowing.

Stealthy execution through fileless techniques

Process hollowing is a technique that can hide malware within a legitimate system process. It replaces the contents of the legitimate process with malicious code. Detecting malicious code hidden using this method is not trivial, so process hollowing has become a prevalent technique used by malware today.

This method has the additional benefit of being fileless: the code can be run without actually being saved on the file system. Not only is it harder to detect the malicious code while it’s running, it’s harder to find useful forensics after the process has stopped.

To initiate process hollowing, the loader DLL targets two legitimate system processes, for example svchost.exe or nslookup.exe, and spawns them in a suspended state. The loader DLL replaces the contents of these processes with the first and second decrypted executables. These executables are monitoring services for maintaining Dexphot’s components. The now-malicious processes are released from suspension and run.

Next, the loader DLL targets the setup.exe file in SysWoW64. It removes setup.exe’s contents and replaces them with the third decrypted executable, a cryptocurrency miner. Although Dexphot always uses a cryptocurrency miner of some kind, it’s not always the same miner. It used different programs like XMRig and JCE Miner over the course of our research.

Persistence through regularly scheduled malware updates

The two monitoring services simultaneously check the status of all three malicious processes. Having dual monitoring services provides redundancy in case one of the monitoring processes is halted. If any of the processes are terminated, the monitors immediately identify the situation, terminate all remaining malicious processes, and re-infect the device. This forced update/re-infection process is started by a PowerShell command similar to the one below:

The monitoring components also detect freshly launched cmd.exe processes and terminate them promptly. As a final fail-safe, Dexphot uses schtasks.exe to create scheduled tasks, with the command below.

This persistence technique is interesting, because it employs two distinct MITRE ATT&CK techniques: Scheduled Task and Signed Binary Proxy Execution.

The scheduled tasks call msiexec.exe as a proxy to run the malicious code, much like how msiexec.exe was used during installation. Using msiexec.exe, a legitimate system process, can make it harder to trace the source of malicious activity.

Furthermore, the tasks allow Dexphot to conveniently update the payload from the web every time the tasks run. They automatically update all of Dexphot’s components, both upon system reboot as well as every 90 or 110 minutes while the system is running.

Dexphot also generates the names for the tasks at runtime, which means a simple block list of hardcoded task names will not be effective in preventing them from running. The names are usually in a GUID format, although after we released our first round of Dexphot-blocking protections, the threat authors began to use random strings.

The threat authors have one more evasion technique for these scheduled tasks: some Dexphot variants copy msiexec.exe to an arbitrary location and give it a random name, such as %AppData%\<random>.exe. This makes the system process running malicious code a literal moving target.

Polymorphism

Dexphot exhibits multiple layers of polymorphism across the binaries it distributes. For example, the MSI package used in the campaign contains different files, as shown in the table below. The MSI packages generally include a clean version of unzip.exe, a password-protected ZIP file, and a batch file that checks for currently installed antivirus products. However, the batch file is not always present, and the names of the ZIP files and Loader DLLs, as well as the password for extracting the ZIP file, all change from one package to the next.

In addition, the contents of each Loader DLL differs from package to package, as does the encrypted data included in the ZIP file. This leads to the generation of a different ZIP archive and, in turn, a unique MSI package, each time the attacker bundles the files together. Because of these carefully designed layers of polymorphism, a traditional file-based detection approach wouldn’t be effective against Dexphot.

 

MSI package ID MSI package contents Password for ZIP file Contents of encrypted ZIP Unzip.exe name ZIP file name Batch file name Loader DLL file name Encrypted data name MSI-1 ex.exe webUI.r0_ f.bat kjfhwehjkf IECache.dll bin.dat MSI-2 ex.exe analog.tv f.bat ZvDagW kernel32.bin bin.dat MSI-3 z.exe yandex.zip f.bat jeremy SetupUi.dll bin.dat MSI-4 unzip.exe ERDNT.LOC.zip iso100 ERDNT.LOC data.bin MSI-5 pck.exe mse.zip kika _steam.dll bin.dat MSI-6 z.exe msi.zip arima ic64.dll bin.dat MSI-7 z.exe mse.zip f.bat kika _steam.dll bin.dat MSI-8 z.exe mse.zip kika _steam.dll bin.dat MSI-9 z.exe yandex.zip f.bat jeremy SetupUi.dll bin.dat MSI-10 hf.exe update.dat f.bat namr x32Frame.dll data.bin MSI-11 z.exe yandex.zip f.bat jeremy SetupUi.dll bin.dat MSI-12 unzip.exe PkgMgr.iso.zip pack PkgMgr.iso data.bin MSI-13 ex.exe analog.tv f.bat kjfhwefkjwehjkf urlmon.7z bin.dat MSI-14 ex.exe icon.ico f.bat ZDADW default.ocx bin.dat MSI-15 hf.exe update.dat namr AvastFileRep.dll data.bin MSI-16 pck.exe mse.zip f.bat kika _steam.dll bin.dat MSI-17 z.exe mse.zip f.bat joft win2k.wim bin.dat MSI-18 ex.exe plugin.cx f.bat ZDW _setup.ini bin.dat MSI-19 hf.exe update.dat namr AvastFileRep.dll data.bin MSI-20 ex.exe installers.msu f.bat 000cehjkf MSE.Engine.dll bin.dat MSI-21 z.exe msi.zip f.bat arima ic64.dll bin.dat MSI-22 z.exe archive00.x f.bat 00Jmsjeh20 chrome_watcher.dll bin.dat A multitude of payload hosts

Besides tracking the files and processes that Dexphot uses to execute an attack, we have also been monitoring the domains used to host malicious payloads. The URLs used for hosting all follow a similar pattern. The domain address usually ends in a .info or .net TLD, while the file name for the actual payload consists of random characters, similar to the randomness previously seen being used to generate file names and scheduled tasks. Some examples from our research are shown in the table below.

 

Scheduled task name Download URL hboavboja https://supe********709.info/xoslqzu.pdi {C0B15B19-AB02-0A10-259B-1789B8BD78D6} https://fa*****r.com/jz5jmdouv4js.uoe ytiazuceqeif https://supe********709.info/spkfuvjwadou.bbo beoxlwayou https://rb*****.info/xgvylniu.feo {F1B4C720-5A8B-8E97-8949-696A113E8BA5} https://emp*******winc.com/f85kr64p1s5k.naj gxcxhbvlkie https://gu*****me.net/ssitocdfsiu.pef {BE7FFC87-6635-429F-9F2D-CD3FD0E6DA51} https://sy*****.info/pasuuy/xqeilinooyesejou.oew {0575F553-1277-FB0F-AF67-EB649EE04B39} https://sumb*******on.info/gbzycb.kiz gposiiobhkwz https://gu*****me.net/uyuvmueie.hui {EAABDEAC-2258-1340-6375-5D5C1B7CEA7F} https://refr*******r711.info/3WIfUntot.1Mb zsayuuec https://gu*****me.net/dexaeuioiexpyva.dil njibqhcq https://supe********709.info/aodoweuvmnamugu.fux {22D36F35-F5C2-29D3-1CF1-C51AC19564A4} https://pr*****.info/ppaorpbafeualuwfx/hix.ayk qeubpmnu https://gu*****me.net/ddssaizauuaxvt.cup adeuuelv https://supe********709.info/tpneevqlqziee.okn {0B44027E-7514-5EC6-CE79-26EB87434AEF} https://sy*****.info/huauroxaxhlvyyhp/xho.eqx {5A29AFD9-63FD-9F5E-F249-5EC1F2238023} https://refr*******r711rb.info/s28ZXoDH4.78y {C5C1D86D-44BB-8EAA-5CDC-26B37F92E411} https://fa*****r.com/rbvelfbflyvf.rws

Many of the URLs listed were in use for an extended period. However, the MSI packages hosted at each URL are frequently changed or updated. In addition, every few days more domains are generated to host more payloads. After a few months of monitoring, we were able to identify around 200 unique Dexphot domains.

Conclusion: Dynamic, comprehensive protection against increasingly complex everyday threats

Dexphot is not the type of attack that generates mainstream media attention; it’s one of the countless malware campaigns that are active at any given time. Its goal is a very common one in cybercriminal circles — to install a coin miner that silently steals computer resources and generates revenue for the attackers — yet Dexphot exemplifies the level of complexity and rate of evolution of even everyday threats, intent on evading protections and motivated to fly under the radar for the prospect of profit.

To combat threats, several next-generation protection engines in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection’s antivirus component detect and stop malicious techniques at multiple points along the attack chain. For Dexphot, machine learning-based detections in the cloud recognize and block the DLLs loaded by rundll32.exe, stopping the attack chain in its early stages. Memory scans detect and terminate the loading of malicious code hidden by process hollowing — including the monitoring processes that attempt to update the malware code and re-infect the machine via PowerShell commands.

Behavioral blocking and containment capabilities are especially effective in defeating Dexphot’s fileless techniques, detection evasion, and persistence mechanisms, including the periodic and boot-time attempts to update the malware via scheduled tasks. As mentioned, given the complexity of the attack chain and of Dexphot’s persistence methods, we released a remediation solution that prevents re-infection by removing artifacts.

The detection, blocking, and remediation of Dexphot on endpoints are exposed in Microsoft Defender Security Center, where Microsoft Defender ATP’s rich capabilities like endpoint detection and response, automated investigation and remediation, and others enable security operations teams to investigate and remediate attacks in enterprise environments. With these capabilities, Microsoft Defender ATP provides comprehensive protection against Dexphot and the countless other complex and evolving threats that we face every day.

 

Sample indicators of compromise (IoCs)

Installer (SHA-256):
72acaf9ff8a43c68416884a3fff3b23e749b4bb8fb39e16f9976643360ed391f

MSI files (SHA-256):
22beffb61cbdc2e0c3eefaf068b498b63a193b239500dab25d03790c467379e3
65eac7f9b67ff69cefed288f563b4d77917c94c410c6c6c4e4390db66305ca2a
ba9467e0d63ba65bf10650a3c8d36cd292b3f846983032a44a835e5966bc7e88

Loader DLLs  (SHA-256):
537d7fe3b426827e40bbdd1d127ddb59effe1e9b3c160804df8922f92e0b366e
504cc403e0b83233f8d20c0c86b0611facc040b868964b4afbda3214a2c8e1c5
aa5c56fe01af091f07c56ac7cbd240948ea6482b6146e0d3848d450977dff152

 

 

 

Hazel Kim

Microsoft Defender ATP Research Team

 

 

Talk to us

Questions, concerns, or insights on this story? Join discussions at the Microsoft Defender ATP community.

Read all Microsoft security intelligence blog posts.

Follow us on Twitter @MsftSecIntel.

 

The post Insights from one year of tracking a polymorphic threat appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Going in-depth on the Windows 10 random number generation infrastructure

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Mon, 11/25/2019 - 2:00pm

Throughout the years, we’ve had ongoing conversations with researchers, developers, and customers around our implementation of certain security features within the Windows operating system. Most recently, we have open-sourced our cryptography libraries as a way to contribute and show our continued support to the security community

For our most recent contribution, we have decided to go in-depth on our implementation of pseudo-random number generation in Windows 10.

We are happy to release to the public The Windows 10 random number generation infrastructure white paper.

This whitepaper explores details about the Windows 10 pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) infrastructure, and lists the primary RNG APIs. The whitepaper also explains how the entropy system works, what the entropy sources are, and how initial seeding works.

We expect academic and security researchers, as well as operating system developers and people with an in-depth understanding of random number generation, to get the most value out of this whitepaper. Note: Some of the terminology used in this whitepaper assumes prior knowledge of random number generators and entropy collection terms.

We welcome and look forward to your feedback on this whitepaper and the technologies it describes in the comments below. We also appreciate any reports of security vulnerabilities that you may find in our implementation.

 

The post Going in-depth on the Windows 10 random number generation infrastructure appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Rethinking cyber learning—consider gamification

Microsoft Malware Protection Center - Mon, 11/25/2019 - 12:00pm

As promised, I’m back with a follow-up to my recent post, Rethinking how we learn security, on how we need modernize the learning experience for cybersecurity professionals by gamifying training to make learning fun. Some of you may have attended the recent Microsoft Ignite events in Orlando and Paris. I missed the conferences (ironically, due to attending a cybersecurity certification boot camp) but heard great things about the Microsoft/Circadence joint Into the Breach capture the flag exercise.

If you missed Ignite, we’re planning several additional Microsoft Ignite The Tour events around the world, where you’ll be able to try your hand at this capture the flag experience. Look for me at the Washington, DC event in early February.

In the meantime, due to the great feedback I received from my previous blog—which I do really appreciate, especially if you have ideas for how we should tackle the shortage of cyber professionals—I’ll be digging deeper into the mechanics of learning to understand what it really takes to learn cyber in today’s evolving landscape.

Today, I want to address the important questions of how a new employee could actually ramp up their learning, and how employers can prepare employees for success and track the efficacy of the learning curriculum. Once again, I’m pleased to share this post with Keenan Skelly, chief evangelist at Boulder, Colorado-based Circadence.

Here are some of some of her recommendations from our Q&A:

Q: Keenan, in our last blog, you discussed Circadence’s “Project Ares” cyber learning platform. How do new cyber practitioners get started on Project Ares?

A: The way that Project Ares is set up allows for a user to acquire a variety of different skill levels when launched. It’s important to understand what kind of work roles you’re looking to learn about as a user as well as what kinds of tools you’re looking to understand better before you get started on Project Ares. For example, if I were to take some of my Girls Who Code or Cyber Patriot students and put them into the platform, I would probably have them start in the Battle School. This is where they’re going to learn about basic cybersecurity fundamentals such as ports and protocols, regular expressions, and the cyber kill chain. Then they can transition into Battle Rooms, where they’ll start to learn about very specific tools, tactics, and procedures or TTPs, for a variety of different work roles. If you’re a much more skilled cyber ninja, however, you can probably go ahead and get right into Missions, but we do recommend that everyone who comes into Project Ares does some work in the Battle Rooms first, specifically if they are trying to learn a tool or a skill for their work role.

Project Ares also has a couple of different routes that an expert or an enterprising cybersecurity professional can come into that’s really focused more on their role. For example, we have an assessments area based entirely on the work role. This aligns to the NIST framework and the NICE cybersecurity work roles. For example, if you’re a network defender, you can come into that assessment pathway and have steps laid out before you to identify your skill level in that role as you see below:

Assessment pathway.

Q: What areas within Project Ares do you recommend for enterprise cyber professionals to train against role-based job functions and prepare for cyber certifications?

A: You might start with something simple like understanding very basic things about your work role through a questionnaire in the Battle School arena as seen in the illustrations below. You may then move into a couple of Battle Rooms that tease out very detailed skills in tools that you would be using for that role. And then eventually you’ll get to go into a mission by yourself, and potentially a mission with your entire team to really certify that you are capable in that work role. All this practice helps prepare professionals to take official cyber certifications and exams.

Battle School questionnaire.

Battle School mission.

Q: Describe some of the gamification elements in Project Ares and share how it enhances cyber learning.

A: One of the best things about Project Ares is gamification. Everyone loves to play games, whether it’s on your phone playing Angry Birds, or on your computer or gaming console. So we really tried to put a lot of gaming elements inside Project Ares. Since everything is scored within Project Ares, everything you do from learning about ports and protocols, to battle rooms and missions, gives you experience points. Experience points add up to skill badges. All these things make learning more fun for the user. For example, if you’re a defender, you might have skill badges in infrastructure, network design, network defense, etc. And the way Project Ares is set up, once you have a certain combination of those skill badges you can earn a work role achievement certificate within Project Ares.

This kind of thing is taken very much from Call of Duty and other types of games where you can really build up your skills by doing a very specific skill-based activity and earn points towards badges. One of the other things that is great about Project Ares is it’s quite immersive. For example, Missions allows a user to come into a specific cyber situation or cyber response situation (e.g., water treatment plant cyberattack) and have multimedia effects that demonstrate what is going—very much reflective of that cool guy video look. Being able to talk through challenges in the exercises with our in-game advisor, Athena, adds another element to the learning experience as shown in the illustration below.

Athena was inspired by the trends of personal assistants like Cortana and other such AI-bots, which have been integrated into games. So things like chat bots, narrative storylines, and skill badges are super important for really immersing the individual in the process. It’s so much more fun, and easier to learn things in this way, as opposed to sitting through a static presentation or watching someone on a video and trying to learn the skill passively.

Athena—the in-game advisor.

Q: What kinds of insights and reporting capability can Project Ares deliver to cyber team supervisors and C-Suite leaders to help them assessing cyber readiness?

A: Project Ares offers a couple great features that are good for managers, all the way up to the C-Suite, who are trying to understand how their cybersecurity team is doing. The first one is called Project Ares Trainer View. This is where a supervisor or manager can jump into the Project Ares environment, with the students or with the enterprise team members, and observe in a couple of different ways.

The instructor or the manager can jump into the environment as Athena, so the user doesn’t know that they are there. They can then provide additional insight or help that is needed to a student. A supervisor or leader can also jump in as the opponent, which gives them the ability to see someone who is just breezing by everything and maybe make it a little more challenging. Or they can just observe and leave comments for the individuals. This piece is really helpful when we’re talking about managers who are looking to understand their team’s skill level in much more detail.

The other piece of this is a product we have coming out soon called Dendrite—an analytics tool that looks at everything that happens at Project Ares. We record all the key strokes and chats a user had with Athena or any with other team members while in a mission or battle room. Cyber team leads can then see what’s going on. Users can see what they’re doing well, and not doing well. This feedback can be provided up to the manager level, the senior manager level, and even to the C-Suite level to demonstrate exactly where that individual is in their particular skill path. It helps the cyber team leads understand what tools are being used appropriately and which tools are not being used appropriately.

For example, if you’re a financial institution and you paid quite a bit of money for Tanium, but upon viewing tool use in Dendrite, you find that no one is using it. It might prompt you to rethink your strategy on how to use tools in your organization or look at how you train your folks to use those tools. These types of insights are absolutely critical if you want to understand the best way to grow the individual in cybersecurity and make sure they’re really on top of their game.

The Dendrite assessment and analysis solution.

Q: How can non-technical employees improve their cyber readiness?

A: At Circadence, we don’t just provide learning capabilities for advanced cyber warriors. For mid-range people just coming into the technical side of cybersecurity, we have an entire learning path that starts with a product called inCyt. Now, inCyt is a very fun browser-based game of strategy where players have some hackable devices they must protect—like operating systems and phones. Meanwhile, your opponent has the same objective: protect their devices from attacks. Players continually hack each other by gathering intel on their opponent and then launching different cyberattacks. While they’re doing this, players get a fundamental understanding of the cyber kill chain. They learn things like what reconnaissance means to a hacker, what weaponizing means to a hacker, what deploying that weapon means to a hacker, so they can start to recognize that behavior in their everyday interactions online.

Some people ask why this is important and I always say, “I used to be a bomb technician, and there is no possible way I could defuse an IED or nuclear weapon without understanding how those things are put together.” It’s the same kind of concept.

It’s impossible to assume that someone is going to learn cyber awareness by answering some questions or watching a five-minute phishing tutorial after they have already clicked a link in a suspicious email. Those are very reactive ways of learning cyber. inCyt is very proactive. And we want to teach you in-depth understanding of what to look for, not just for phishing but for all the attacks we’re susceptible to. inCyt is also being used by some of our customers as a preliminary gate track for those who are interested in cybersecurity. So if you demonstrate a very high aptitude within inCyt, we would send you over to our CyberBridge portal where you can start learning some of the basics of cybersecurity to see if it might be the right field for you. Within our CyberBridge access management portal, you can then go into Project Ares Academy, which is just a lighter version of Project Ares.

Professional and Enterprise licenses in Project Ares pave more intricate learning pathways for people to advance in learning, from novice to expert cyber defender. You’ll be able to track all metrics of where you started, how far you came, what kind of skill path you’re on, and what kind of skill path you want to be on. Very crucial items for your own work role pathway.

How to close the cybersecurity talent gap

Keenan’s perspective and the solution offered by Project Ares really helps to understand how to train security professionals and give them the hands-on experience they require and want. We’re in interesting times, right? With innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), we’re increasingly able to pivot from reactive cyber defense to get more predictive. Still, right now we’re facing a cybersecurity talent gap of up to 4 million people, depending on which analyst group you follow. The only way that we’re going to get folks interested in cybersecurity is to make it exactly what we have been talking about: a career-long opportunity to learn.

Make it something that they can attain, they can grow in, and see themselves going from a novice to a leader in an organization. This is tough right now because there are relatively few cybersecurity operators compared to demand, and the operators on the front lines are subject to burnout. With uncertain and undefined career paths beyond tactical SecOps, what is there to look forward to?

We need to get better as a community in cybersecurity, not only protect the cybersecurity defenders that we have already, but also help to bring in new cybersecurity defenders and offenders who are really going to push the boundaries of where we’re at today. This is where we have an excellent and transformational opportunity to introduce more immersive and gamified learning to improve the learning experience and put our people in a position to succeed.

Learn more

To learn more about how to close the cybersecurity talent gap, read the e-book: CISO essentials: How to optimize recruiting while strengthening cybersecurity. For more information on Microsoft intelligence security solutions, see Achieve an optimal state of Zero Trust.

You can also watch my full interview with Keenan.

Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters and follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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