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Cyber Security

It’s Time to Debunk XDR Misconceptions Floating Around

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Written by Yossi Naar, Chief Visionary Officer, and Cofounder, Cybereason

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is everywhere today, and it seems that every company is rolling out a strategy and products to meet the growing demand. According to the industry analyst firm Gartner, XDR is “a SaaS-based, vendor-specific, security threat detection and incident response tool that natively integrates multiple security products into a cohesive security operations system that unifies all licensed components.”

Notwithstanding XDR’s tremendous growth in adoption, more than a few misconceptions about XDR remain, so let’s debunk three of those myths here:

Myth 1: XDR is all about Endpoint Security
No, that’s what Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) does, which is just one aspect of what XDR delivers. EDR solutions focus solely on the endpoint, and they don’t correlate intelligence from the cloud and other parts of an organization’s infrastructure.

In fact, most EDR platforms are not even capable of ingesting all of the relevant endpoint telemetry and are forced to “filter out” intelligence without even knowing if that information is critical to making a detection because the solutions cannot handle the volumes of data generated.

Indeed, there are vendors that simply cannot ingest all available telemetry for EDR, yet they profess to be able to deliver an XDR solution that ingests endpoint data plus an array of telemetry from numerous other sources on the network and in the cloud.

Data filtering negatively impacts the ability to proactively thwart attacks because it omits telemetry that could allow for earlier detection of malicious activity. When broadened to include non-endpoint sources, data filtering can further distort an organization’s visibility into the threats confronting them.

XDR does not suffer from these limitations. It extends continuous threat detection and monitoring as well as an automated response to endpoints, applications, cloud workloads, and the network…all without data filtering. This helps to ensure the high fidelity of a threat detection yielded by XDR.

Myth 2: XDR Should be Augmented by a SIEM
It’s true that XDR delivers some of the same functionality as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools. Chief among their similarities is the ability to aggregate and correlate data from a variety of sources spread across an organization’s infrastructure, thereby providing the required visibility for threat detection, investigation and response.

But there are several key factors that hold SIEMs back: SIEMs are nothing without the data lake structure and cloud analytics they need to centralize security events. Those resources vary in the types and quality of data to which they have access, a reality that affects the value and effectiveness of a SIEM.

There are also the costs, time, and other resources involved with building, tuning, and maintaining a SIEM. Tuning is an especially common pain point with SIEMs. Indeed, these tools frequently generate false positives and an overwhelming volume of alerts.

Such noise contributes to “alert fatigue” in the organization, motivating infosec personnel to overlook the deluge of alerts coming in and miss opportunities to launch investigations at the earliest signs of an incursion. Simultaneously, SIEMs don’t do much to help security teams with executing a response beyond generating a lot of alerts that need to be manually triaged.

XDR, by contrast, doesn’t require any data lake structure. It correlates alerts across disparate network assets to deliver actionable intelligence that works to reduce alert fatigue. What’s more, XDR enables security teams to build automated playbooks using the platform itself, thereby streamlining response.

Myth 3: All XDR Platforms Are Created Equal
No. Consider the fact that there’s hybrid/open vs. native XDR. The latter only offers integrations to other security tools developed by the same vendor. This can lock customers into an agreement with a vendor that might not offer the security capabilities they need to protect their systems and data. It also means existing investments in solutions from other vendors cannot be fully realized.

In contrast, Open (or hybrid) XDR takes a collective approach that leverages multiple security tools, vendors, and telemetry types to meet organizations’ needs from within a single detection and response platform. There’s no vendor lock-in here. Security teams are free to choose the vendors and tools they want, allowing them to get the most out of their XDR platform, and the DevOps and API integrations enable personnel to bring these tools and telemetry sources together.

There’s also an argument to be made about what defines a truly mature XDR offering versus pseudo-XDR solutions that are basically nothing more than an EDR tool with cloud integration. All XDR platforms integrate with threat intelligence to spot known Indicators of Compromise (IOCs), but only an advanced XDR solution can detect them based on Indicators of Behavior (IOBs).

IOBs are the more subtle signs of an attack in progress which include otherwise benign activity one would expect to see occurring on a network. When these “legitimate” behaviors are chained in certain sequences, they produce conditions that are either exceedingly rare or represent a distinct advantage for an attacker.

This is where the context-rich correlations across endpoints, the cloud, application suites, and user identities that a mature XDR solution delivers are critical for detecting malicious activity at the earliest stages of an attack. Take ransomware attacks for example – most security solutions are focused on detecting the exploit and blocking the ransomware payload, or rolling back the encryption after the attack was successful. But the detonation of the ransomware executable is the tail end of what is actually a much longer attack sequence, with weeks or even months of detectable activity from initial ingress, to lateral movement, to credential abuse and privilege escalation, to name a few.

An AI-driven XDR solution can make the necessary correlations to detect that activity long before the ransomware payload is delivered, reducing a potentially devastating attack to the level of an intrusion attempt or similar. Additionally, the ability to leverage AI/ML to correlate telemetry from across an organization’s infrastructure is a key aspect of a mature XDR solution. The application of AI/ML allows Defenders to move from a detect and respond mode to a more proactive “predictive response” posture where the next steps an attack can and would take are instantly anticipated and blocked, eliminating the opportunity to progress the attack to the next stage.

This predictive capability is the key to the future of security, enabling organizations to “defend forward” by understanding attacks from an operation-centric approach, where analysts are freed from chasing alerts that point to individual elements of an attack in favor of a holistic view of the entire attack story from root cause to every affected device, system and user. And only an AI-driven XDR solution can deliver this “predictive response” capability that will shorten detection and remediation periods from days or weeks down to minutes.

The AI-Driven XDR Advantage
An AI-driven XDR solution enables organizations to embrace an operation-centric approach to security that delivers the visibility organizations require to be confident in their security posture across all network assets, and the automated responses to halt attack progressions at the earliest stages. This approach also provides defenders with the ability to predict, detect and respond to cyberattacks across the entire enterprise, including endpoints, networks, identities, cloud, application workspaces, and more.

Cyber Security

CrowdStrike Announces New Features for the CrowdStrike Falcon Platform

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CrowdStrike has introduced the industry’s first AI-powered Indicators of Attack (IoAs), new innovations for fileless attack prevention at scale and enhanced visibility for stealthy cloud intrusions. Delivered on the CrowdStrike Falcon platform and powered by the CrowdStrike Security Cloud, these new detection and response capabilities stop emerging attack techniques and enable organizations to optimize the threat detection and response lifecycle with speed, scale and accuracy.

More than a decade ago, CrowdStrike invented IoAs, which brought a fundamentally new approach to stopping breaches based on real adversary behaviour, irrespective of the malware or exploit used in an attack. CrowdStrike has also pushed the boundaries of applying AI in cybersecurity to identify and stop the most advanced, emerging attacks. Now, CrowdStrike is leveraging powerful AI techniques to create new IoAs at machine speed and scale.

“CrowdStrike leads the way in stopping the most sophisticated attacks with our industry-leading Indicators of Attack capability, which revolutionized how security teams prevent threats based on adversary behaviour, not easily changed indicators,” said Amol Kulkarni, chief product and engineering officer at CrowdStrike. “Now, we are changing the game again with the addition of AI-powered Indicators of Attack, which enable organizations to harness the power of the CrowdStrike Security Cloud to examine adversary behaviour at machine speed and scale to stop breaches in the most effective way possible.”

The Falcon platform’s new capabilities include:

Industry’s first AI-powered IoAs
Organizations today are under pressure to defend expanding attack surfaces against emerging threats and adversary tradecraft. With the Falcon platform, organizations can:

  • Detect new classes of attacks, faster than ever: Find emerging attack techniques with new IoAs created by continuously learning AI models trained on real-world adversary behaviour and the world’s richest threat intelligence.
  • Drive automated prevention with high-fidelity detections: Shutdown attacks based on a chain of behaviours, irrespective of the specific malware or tools used, with cloud-native AI models constantly delivered to the Falcon agent with newly-found IoAs.
  • Activate IoAs at cloud scale, trained on human-led expertise: Synthesize insights with AI-powered IoAs from CrowdStrike’s world-renowned threat hunting team to minimize false positives, maximize analyst productivity and deploy threat hunting at scale.

Of note, AI-powered IoAs have identified over 20 never-before-seen adversary patterns, which have been validated by experts and enforced on the Falcon platform for automated detection and prevention.

New innovations for fileless attack prevention at scale
According to the 2022 CrowdStrike Global Threat Report, 62% of all attacks are malware-free. These fileless attacks can be carried out entirely in memory, creating a blindspot for threat actors to exploit. With the Falcon platform, organizations can:

  • Prevent the most advanced fileless attacks: Stop advanced persistent threats (APT) and prevalent tools, like Cobalt Strike, with advanced memory scanning techniques that augment best-of-breed AI/ML and IoA detections with lightning-fast scanning of all memory at an unprecedented scale.
  • Leave bloated memory scanning behind: Shed the heavy resource constraints of legacy approaches that made memory scanning a non-starter with high-performance memory scanning techniques, optimized for Intel CPU/GPUs.
  • Initiate memory scans on behaviour, not a fixed schedule: Automate scans with behaviour-based triggers to find and stop fileless attack patterns in real-time, not after a potential breach.

Enhanced visibility for stealthy cloud intrusions
As Linux environments, data and applications have moved to the cloud, adversaries have also moved to the cloud to open backdoors, steal sensitive data and conceal their movement. With the Falcon platform, organizations can:

  • Hunt stealthy rootkits and reduce dwell time: Identify malicious activity early in the kill chain with deep Linux kernel visibility to fuel threat hunting and investigation of hidden, emerging Linux attacks.
  • Bolster managed cloud threat hunting: Disrupt the most sophisticated threats in cloud environments with new kernel telemetry events for Falcon OverWatch experts, building on CrowdStrike’s recently announced Fallon OverWatch Cloud Threat Hunting service.

“Using CrowdStrike sets Cundall apart as one of the more advanced organizations in an industry that typically lags behind other sectors in IT and cybersecurity adoption,” said Lou Lwin, CIO at Cundall. “Today, attacks are becoming more sophisticated and if they are machine-based attacks, there is no way an operator can keep up. The threat landscape is ever-changing. So, you need machine-based defences and a partner that understands security is not ‘one and done.’ It is evolving all the time.”

According to Forrester, “No security tool can detect every attack. Cybersecurity pits adversaries against defenders. Defensive technologies rely on rules, heuristics, and outliers to find evil. Those technologies lack one essential component that threat hunting introduces: the creativity of the practitioners defending enterprise environments.”

These capabilities are generally available for Falcon Prevent (NGAV) and Falcon Insight (EDR) customers.

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Cloud

Preparing a Secure Cloud Environment in the Digital New Norm

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Written by Daniel Jiang, General Manager of the Middle East and Africa, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence

As hybrid or remote working is being adopted by many companies globally and becoming the ‘new norm’ for millions of workers, cyberattacks meanwhile continue unabated. Building a secure and reliable IT environment has therefore become an increasingly important priority for many businesses who are exploring opportunities in the global digital economy. While moving to the cloud and using cloud-based security features is a good way to challenge cyber risks, it’s important to delve deeper into how best to construct a secure and reliable cloud environment that can fend off even the most determined attacker.

In today’s digital environment, discussions about cyber security’s best practices have never been more important. The UAE in particular established the Cybersecurity Council to develop a cybersecurity strategy and build a secure cyber infrastructure by creating related regulations. Following this move, the nation ranked 5th place on the International Telecommunications Union’s Global Cybersecurity Index 2020, jumping 33 places and it continues to prioritize cyber security and awareness. Creating a secure cloud environment – from building the architecture to adopting cutting-edge security technologies and putting in place important security management practices – will inspire more thorough conversations on this subject.

A resilient and robust security architecture is essential for creating a cloud environment capable of assuring an organisation about the availability, confidentiality and integrity of its systems and data. From the bottom up, the architecture should include security modules of different layers, so that companies can build trustworthy data security solutions on the cloud layer by layer – from the infrastructure security, data security, and application security to business security layers.

In addition to the security modules of all of the layers, there are a variety of automated data protection tools that enable companies to perform data encryption, visualisation, leakage prevention, operation log management and access control in a secure computing environment. Enterprises can also leverage cloud-based IT governance solutions for custom designs of cloud security systems to meet compliance requirements from network security and data security to operation auditing and configuration auditing. This ensures full-lifecycle data security on the cloud, with controllable and compliant data security solutions in place.

Another consideration is to build a multi-tenant environment, abiding by the principle of least privilege and adopting consistent management and control standards to protect user data from unauthorised access. In addition, establishing strict rules for data ownership and operations on data, such as data access, retention and deletion, is also pivotal in creating a safe environment.

Moreover, enterprises can embrace the zero-trust security architecture and build a zero-trust practice by design to protect the most sensitive systems. The architecture requires everything (including users, devices and nodes) requesting access to internal systems to be authenticated and authorised using identity access protocols. As such, the zero-trust security architecture cuts down on automatic trust, or trust without continuous verification, addressing modern challenges in securing remote working environments, hybrid cloud settings and increasingly aggressive cyber threats.

Cutting-edge security technologies such as comprehensive data encryption, confidential computing and many more emerging tech solutions, can be leveraged to ensure we stay on top of the trends in cybersecurity. Comprehensive data encryption provides advanced data encryption capabilities on transmission links (such as data-in-motion), compute nodes (such as data-in-use), and storage nodes (such as data-at-rest). Key Management Service and Data Encryption Service help users securely manage their keys and use a variety of encryption algorithms to perform encryption operations.

Another emerging technology to safeguard the cloud environment is confidential computing. Confidential computing is dedicated to securing data in use while it is being processed, protecting users’ most sensitive workloads. Confidential computing based on trusted execution environments (TEEs), ensures data security, integrity and confidentiality while simplifying the development and delivery of trusted or confidential applications at lower costs.

It is equally important to adopt proper security management practices and mechanisms to maximise the security protection of one’s critical system and important data. One essential mechanism to protect the cloud environment is to develop a comprehensive disaster recovery system, which enables businesses to configure emergency plans for data centres based on factors such as power, temperature and disasters, and establish redundant systems for basic services such as cloud computing, network and storage. It helps companies to deploy their business across regions and zones and build disaster recovery systems that support multiple recovery models.

Setting the effective reviewing and response mechanism for your cloud security issues is imperative. First, having vulnerability scanning and testing in place is important to assess the security status of systems; second, it is vital to use cloud-native monitoring tools to detect any anomalous behaviour or insider threats; furthermore, establishing proper procedures and responsibility models to quickly and accurately assess where vulnerabilities exist and their severity, will help ensure that quick remedy actions can be taken when security problems emerge.

In the future, developing the security architecture, technologies, management and response mechanism will no longer be perceived as a cost-centre burden for companies, but rather, as critical capabilities to safeguard the performance and security of daily business operations. Crafting a comprehensive cloud security plan, adopting the best industrial practices, and choosing a professional cloud service provider with strong security credentials to work with, should be an imperative subjects in a CXO’s agenda.

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Cyber Security

Hive, LockBit and BlackCat Ransomware Gangs Consecutively Attack the Same Network: Sophos

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Sophos, a global leader in next-generation cybersecurity, today announced in the Sophos X-Ops Active Adversary whitepaper, “Multiple Attackers: A Clear and Present Danger,” that Hive, LockBit and BlackCat, three prominent ransomware gangs, consecutively attacked the same network. The first two attacks took place within two hours, and the third attack took place two weeks later. Each ransomware gang left its own ransom demand, and some of the files were triple encrypted.

“It’s bad enough to get one ransomware note, let alone three,” said John Shier, senior security advisor at Sophos. “Multiple attackers create a whole new level of complexity for recovery, particularly when network files are triple encrypted. Cybersecurity that includes prevention, detection and response are critical for organizations of any size and type—no business is immune.”

The whitepaper further outlines additional cases of overlapping cyberattacks, including cryptominers, remote access trojans (RATs) and bots. In the past, when multiple attackers targeted the same system, the attacks usually occurred across many months or multiple years. The attacks described in Sophos’ whitepaper took place within days or weeks of each other—and, in one case, simultaneously—often with the different attackers accessing a target’s network through the same vulnerable entry point.

Typically, criminal groups compete for resources, making it more difficult for multiple attackers to operate simultaneously. Cryptominers normally kill their competitors on the same system, and today’s RATs often highlight bot killing as a feature on criminal forums. However, in the attack involving the three ransomware groups, for example, BlackCat—the last ransomware group on the system—not only deleted traces of its own activity but also deleted the activity of LockBit and Hive. In another case, a system was infected by LockBit ransomware. Then, about three months later, members of the Karakurt Team, a group with reported ties to Conti, were able to leverage the backdoor LockBit created to steal data and hold it for ransom.

“On the whole, ransomware groups don’t appear openly antagonistic towards one another. In fact, LockBit explicitly doesn’t forbid affiliates from working with competitors, as indicated in Sophos’ whitepaper,” said Shier. “We don’t have evidence of collaboration, but it’s possible this is due to attackers recognizing that there are a finite number of ‘resources’ in an increasingly competitive market. Or, perhaps they believe the more pressure placed on a target—i.e. multiple attacks—the more likely the victims are to pay. Perhaps they’re having discussions at a high level, agreeing to mutually beneficial agreements, for example, where one group encrypts the data and the other exfiltrates. At some point, these groups will have to decide how they feel about cooperation—whether to further embrace it or become more competitive—but, for now, the playing field is open for multiple attacks by different groups.”

Most of the initial infections for the attacks highlighted in the whitepaper occurred through either an unpatched vulnerability, with some of the most notable being Log4Shell, ProxyLogon, and ProxyShell, or poorly configured unsecured Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers. In most cases involving multiple attackers, the victims failed to remediate the initial attack effectively, leaving the door open for future cybercriminal activity. In those instances, the same RDP misconfigurations, as well as applications like RDWeb or AnyDesk, became an easily exploitable pathway for follow-up attacks. In fact, exposed RDP and VPN servers are some of the most popular listings sold on the dark web.

“As noted in the latest Active Adversary Playbook, in 2021 Sophos began seeing organizations falling victim to multiple attacks simultaneously and indicated that this may be a growing trend,” said Shier. “While the rise in multiple attackers is still based on anecdotal evidence, the availability of exploitable systems gives cybercriminals ample opportunity to continue heading in this direction.”

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