INSIDE A HACKER's PLAYBOOK TEN TARGETED TECHNIQUES that WILL BREAK YOUR security Look inside for notes on how to stop ‘em! Targeted attacks are successful because they are stealthy, specific and disarmingly personal. If they do it right, advanced attackers can quietly infiltrate a network and steal data or information at will for months or even years. Learn how to stop them by taking a page from their playbook—literally. Trustwave presents a never-before-seen copy of an advanced attacker’s technique manual. Use it well to design security that counters their plays perfectly. A Playbook On Profiting From Targeted Attacks Before we tackle the finer techniques of building a money-making cyber scam, let’s talk a little about the basics of this gig, shall we? First of all here’s what we are not trying to do. We’re not trying to blanket the internet with malicious V1agrow spam or mass SQL inject a zillion websites. We’re narrowing our work down to a specific company or industry based on vulnerability opportunities that we scare up. The broadest we’ll get is hitting a range of companies vulnerable to one precise vulnerability — either never discovered by security researchers or just recently patched by a vendor. Do it right and you’ll get your hands on huge caches of valuable customer data, and maybe even hit the jackpot with the target’s most important intellectual property. With that, you can blackmail people or sell to competitors — or even to nation states. You won’t just be buying a new Ferrari. You’ll be buying a fleet of ‘em. Know Your Adversary With a little bit of research, some crafty writing and the right technology, crooks make a good living running targeted attacks to steal corporate and government data. The more we can learn about their techniques, the better we can counter them. As we sneak a look at each of the plays inside this bad guy instruction manual, let’s look for ways to turn this inside knowledge on its head. We’ll also offer advice on how to block each attack technique. Play 1: Staging Your Attack Let’s get to easy money! Most times, there are five stages to a really gnarly targeted attack: Research: Start by doing recon on the anticipated target. Dig for publicly available information and socially engineer your way to exploitable info about their IT systems Intrude: Use that information to find the right employee to spearphish and the right vulnerability to target with your malicious payload—once the bait’s taken you’ll have your initial toehold in the target’s network Propagate: When you pwn one machine, use its network connections to spread malware onto other machines so even if you’re detected in one place you’ve got control of other machines Infect: Once you get the lay of the land through your different connections, install more tools to really start to steal and aggregate data Exfiltrate: Finally, you’ve got to get all that data out of there. Among other options, public web traffic works well e K ted st targe n i a g a t figh e in the ng executive n o p e t S ally are velopi e e r d s s k i c s a t e at attack hat thes acks are t t t s a s e e s n e e th , awar Because void detection . g n i n e to a happ recisely u’re not being p d e n g yo e desi pretend But chances ar o t y s a . it’s e attacked mpromised. r o d e t e targ y be co d a e r l a y you ma 76% of breached organizations needed someone else to tell them they'd been compromised 48% were told by regulatory bodies 25% by law enforcement 1% 2% by the public by a third party Play 2: Specialize and Outsource It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Put together your own little mafia with specialists who work together to keep your multi-step campaign running. Just like cave men split labor into hunting and gathering, you just have to break it up into hacking and scamming. Build the team however you like. Hire people, outsource to malware kit vendors, even work in an equal partnership. Just remember what they say about honor among thieves… Just think: no n00bs allowed. If they can’t spell or find the caps lock, or code better than your average script kiddie can, it’s hasta la vista, baby. w The FBIs List of Cyber Crime Specialties Targeted attackers are building a business around stealing from your business. Just as you’d dedicate a lot of specialized employees and vendors to solving your business problem, they’re sourcing skills necessary to crack your defenses. Here are the top five out of 10 common specialties named by the FBI: Coders: write malware, exploits and data theft tools Vendors: trade and sell stolen data, malware kits, footprints into compromised networks Criminal IT Guys: Maintain criminal IT infrastructure like servers and bullet-proof ISPs Hackers: seek and exploit application, system and network vulnerabilities Fraudsters: create and execute social engineering ploys like phishing and domain squatting Play 3: Scale Your Attacks Once you get together that A-team, you’re going to milk every vulnerability dry. Developed or bought an exploit for a new vulnerability in some sorry old company’s retail point of sale (POS) system? Maybe it's for some small-time grocery store in San Francisco, but then maybe that same exact vulnerability and system configuration is going to work in POS machines at other franchises of the same brand. Then, son, your meal-ticket is punched. You’ll steal ten times the data but only really do the work to break into one location. In order to stay a step ahead of the attackers, you’ve got to start thinking like them. One key way to do that is to hire penetration testers to barrage your systems with the same type of techniques the bad guys use. Doing so can help you find widespread vulnerabilities like the POS example highlighted above. >1/3 More than a third of data breach investigations occur within franchise businesses 48% of large companies have experienced 25 or more social engineering attacks in the past two years1 70% of young workers regularly ignore IT policies2 Play 4: Play The Player, Not The Game There’s a good chance your target’s employees will be oh-so-helpful without even knowing it. They’ll give you information, help you upload malware on their machine and even hold the door open for you if you need to sneak into a building. These peeps should be your best friends during the first two stages of attack: research and intrusion. So work this to your advantage. Here are some tips: • If you want information-about the org chart, location of a data center, technology they use or whatever—call someone who would know, pretend to be from another department and just ask. Nine times out of ten they’ll freely tell you out of the kindness of their hearts. • Official-sounding emergencies work every time. Act like you need help to get a ‘mission-critical’ project done or else heads will roll. Works best if you know the name of their boss’ boss. SOURCES: 1 www.securingthehuman.org/blog/2011/09/22/ justifying-your-awareness-program-withsocial-engineering-survey 2 www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/Younger-Employees- Ignore-IT-Policies-Dont-Think-About-SecuritySays-Cisco-274940/ 3 www.securingthehuman.org/blog/2011/09/22/ justifying-your-awareness-program-withsocial-engineering-survey • If your target employee is high up the food chain and too paranoid to take your bait, try working someone in their entourage. A lot of admins—even temps—are sitting at workstations that can access the same systems the boss’ computers are hooked into. • Congrats—you just got a job in HR. Pretend to be a recruiter. In this market, people’s judgment tends to get clouded if they think there’s a new job on the horizon. 0 • Depending on how much you’ve got riding on this attack, you may even invest in a little in-person social engineering. Put on a delivery uniform, bring some flowers and see if someone will let you in the building. P pically play a big Your employees ty tack and their role in a targeted at ed attackers’ response to advanc tential to make probes have the po nization’s chances or break your orga guys at bay. In of keeping the bad ry estimates spite of that, indust that as few as a show consistently employees today of d ir th a to r te ar qu how to respond are ever trained on neering ploys. to these social engi n make it much ca ng ni ai tr ee oy pl Em attacks to ever harder for targeted versary who can’t take shape—an ad formation will gather the right in more difficult to find it imminently . customize an attack 30% of large companies said social engineering cost them an average of $100,000 per incident3 Play 5:Get Social For Better Recon Sometimes you don’t even need to ask employees for information—they’ll offer it up right on their Twitter feed. Use social media to find out all sorts of sweet intel. Here’s what you can find out by making a dummy Facebook account and tricking someone into friending it: • Where they went to high school or college • Their mother’s maiden name • Their birthday • Their dog’s name • Facts about their job: title, promotions, boss’ name, big projects coming up etc. All of these are valuable hints at passwords, system challenge question answers and information that’s gonna grease the skids of your targeted campaign. Even if you don’t friend the person directly, you can potentially dig up info by friending one of THEIR friends. Evil genius, no? Social media also rules when it comes to building a psych profile on an employee who might turn out to be the kind of tool to help you roll out that first intrusion into a target company. If you know what his or her hobbies are, what teams they root for or any other personal information, you can craft the perfect bait that will get them to visit a site you’ve infected or trick them into opening a malicious document. “Elite cybercriminals are tapping into search engines and social networks to help them target specific employees for socialengineering trickery at a wide range of companies, professional firms and government agencies.” — Byron Acohido USA Today 32.8% According to recent numbers, more than half of enterprises today have seen malware infections rise as a result of employees’ use of social media. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how a persistent attacker will use social media to their advantage. Social media as an intelligence goldmine is an extremely effective method for hackers to start planning their plan. There’s no silver bullet, but a combination of smart social media policies, automated enforcement of these policies and a workforce well-trained in the ways of social engineers can help stem the tide of these attacks. 42 B of passwords contain a name in the top 100 girl and boy name lists 16.7% of passwords contain a name on the top 100 dog names list (this is the kind of info people readily give away on their social media feeds) 42% of organizations have IT staff sharing passwords or access to systems or applications4 48% don't change their privileged passwords within 90 days5 Play 6: Probe for Every Weakness Why break a window when you’ve got the key for the front door? Look for user credentials at every step of the way. Goal number two is to find clues about the architecture of the target company’s IT infrastructure to choose the right malware kit or custom build something that can help you pick the proverbial locks if the keys aren’t lying around. This can be anything from unencrypted password files to lists of company IP addresses to system version information of deployed assets. There are vulnerabilities in just about every corporate network between here and the moon. If your target company doesn’t have them, chances are a third party vendor or partner company with ties into the network probably does. Should you exploit zero-day vulnerabilities never before discovered by the security industry or vulnerabilities that already have a patch? Uh, yeah. Yeah, you should. If you’re smart, they’ll both play a part in your plans. SOURCES: 4 www.liebsoft.com/Password_Security_Survey/ 5 www.liebsoft.com/Password_Security_Survey/ 40% or more enterprises have informal or no patch management processes in place7 6 www.trustwave.com/global-security-report 7 https://securosis.com/assets/library/main/ quant-survey-report-072709.pdf Zero-day vulnerabilities rock. But they’re expensive to find and exploit, and known vulnerabilities can be pretty wide open. Most IT departments are too busy to plug their holes with patches. In situations where you’re seeking very specific information—say manufacturing schematics you’re stealing for a competing company or nation state—and detection isn’t an option, then shelling out for zero-day discovery and exploitation makes sense. But if it is all about propagating malware in a company you already know (or have a hunch about) has unpatched systems, it makes more sense to take advantage of old vulnerabilities. 30% DEFENSE: Hackers might not start with a client-sid e attack to gain entry into your systems. Sometimes the first step is to run a SQL injection on your website to find unencr ypted password files. Given users’ propensity to reuse passwords, that early work may yield long term access to accounts across many syst ems. Strong password management—includin g enforcement of frequent password cha nges—is a must to limiting damage in these inst ances. On the vulnerability front, organization s have got to do a better job patching their syst em to limit malicious software’s mojo. Zer o-day attacks are a tougher nut to crack and defense against exploitation will depend upon security mechanisms at other security layers to prevent a widespread attack from gaining muc h ground within the network or exfiltrat ing data elsewhere. of Apache Tomcat installations with accessible administrative interface have the default credentials The most common corporate password is Password1, because it just barely meets the minimum complexity requirements of Active Directory for length, capitalization and numerical figures6 50% of targeted attacks initially occur through web use 48% of targeted attacks initially occur through e-mail use 2% enter through local devices Play 7: Reinvent old Web & Email Attacks Once your crew has done its homework on a target, it’s time to cast your line and wait for a bite. Some of the most effective initial intrusion plays are fundamentally pretty old-school in nature—you’re just phishing people with fake emails, IMs or social media messages to trick them into visiting an infected site or downloading a malicious executable. Now use the information you gathered to custom fit that interaction! Craft a lure that’s believable and build a hook that seems so painless that no one even notices they’ve been landed. Do it like this: Example 1: Your hackers just found a killer vulnerability in a software platform commonly used by entertainment companies. But you need control of a machine with access to exploit it. Fortunately for you, there are more than a few gossip fanatics in the entertainment community. Since most of the companies you’re targeting are based in Hollywood, you use SQL injection to strategically compromise the homepage of a few local gossip sites with malicious code that downloads on visitors’ machines. To keep pesky reputation-based filters from finding your website infection, you set it up so that it will only interact with machines working within a block of IP addresses originating from Los Angeles. Intel About the Enemy Advanced attackers are increasingly using strategic web compromises to infect their targets via drive-bydownload: “The goal is not largescale malware distribution through mass compromises. Instead the attackers place their exploit code on websites that cater towards a particular set of visitors that they might be interested in.” --Shadowserver Example 2: You’ve found some middle manager in accounting who’s got access to systems that hold tons of saleable financial and customer data. You chum it up with him on Facebook, convincing him you met him at an accounting professional group conference. Through your friend status you find out his real passion isn’t ledger books but photography. So, you task your hackers and coders to build a basic photography buff website with some hidden drive-by-download payloads. While he looks at tips on digital SLRs, your malicious payload silently loads in the background. k Example 3: You’ve gotten your hands on the organizational chart of a target company and read in a company blog about a strategic new hire of John Smith in the marketing department. You create a Gmail account under the name of the HR manager and use it to write an email that looks like HR blew it and gave everyone info on Smith’s salary and benefits. They open the attachment, “JohnSmithcompensation.xls,” and bang, curiosity killed the network. The examples named at left and on the previous page are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the type of creativity targeted attacks are employing to personalize their intrusion attempts. Secure web and email gateways are critical to stopping all manifestations of blended email and web attacks. As Example 1 illustrates, old web filtering technology won't always work—techniques like initiating IP address-specific malware downloads can get around defenses that depend on reputation filtering. This is where advanced technology with real-time code inspection comes into play. In 76% of incident response investigations, a third party responsible for system support, development and/ or maintenance of business environments introduced the security deficiencies. 88% of targeted malware remains undetected by traditional anti-virus Play 8: Think Sideways One backdoor into a corporate network might be good, but more is always better. If you want to stay on a network for a long time, you’ve got to use that initial client-side pwnage to move sideways through the network. That way, if your first intrusion is detected and your malware package is eliminated from that machine, you’ll still keep your hands on the steering wheel elsewhere. The secret? You’ve got to propagate with diversity. You need to use completely different types of payloads on different systems because once one type is found out, odds are they’re gonna scan the network looking for everything that looks like that sample. But if you control a bunch of endpoints with different types of malware, they’ll probably never even know they’re still compromised. F Intel about the enemy 118+82= 41.2% 140+60= 29.4% 176+24= 11.8% of malware uses https to exfiltrate data uses FTP uses SMTP Targeted attacks are so ingenious these days that even with the tools and practices we've suggested already , there's still a chance that some attacks will slip through. Always operate under the assumption that you've already been hacked and utilize practices and technologies that will seek out existing infections, risky security configurations and any suspect file system changes that could be a red flag of infection. Play 9: Hide in plain sight Stealth is the name of the game in these targeted attacks. Sometimes you just want to do the old smashand-grab, where you want to get in and out of the network with as much loot as possible or with a very specific piece of information. But generally the most profitable way is to drain the database is a little at a time for a LONG time. Put some technical noise dampeners on your intrusions. You don’t want to knock over any expensive vases while you digitally cat burgle the place, do you? Every movement should be planned to avoid setting off any alarms. As you drop tools on systems to aggregate data and control backdoors, here are some tips: • Avoid self-replicating malware • Hide malware in system folders and get them to look like common processes • Make use of webmail accounts to route SSL-encrypted command-and-control traffic to your backdoors • Use packer utilities to hide malicious binaries • If you can, store some malware components in the cloud Intel About the Enemy Because the endgame for any targeted attack is to steal data, it only makes sense to depend on datacentric security tools to frustrate adversaries. This can be accomplished by understanding the context of the data and detecting malicious network application traffic that is dragging the data out through application-aware, next generation firewalls. The use of encryption to hide attacks and theft of data is on the rise. Over 25 percent of all data exfiltrated by attackers is encrypted by cyber criminals. Also critical are encryption techniques that render data useless even if it is exfiltrated. Play 10: Take data Quietly So maybe you’re a l33t spearphisher, you’re wicked good taking over a network and you’ve got a nose like a bloodhound for juicy data. It all amounts to nada if you can’t get the data out of the network. Be patient! Quiet and slow exfiltration makes it easier to steal larger stores of information without setting off alarms that will shut you down midstream. Lucky for you, most companies today don’t set up their firewalls to block outbound traffic so you have a lot of options. Public web traffic can prove to be one of the most efficient ways of slowly leaking data off the network. HTTPS traffic can have added benefit of steering clear of data leak prevention tools by hiding data under cloak of SSL. T have Network monitoring tools er the years to advanced considerably ov of attacks, but better find common signs ying one step attackers do a good job sta gy. One of the ahead of alerting technolo nizations have most effective tools orga ver malicious in their struggle to disco ation—but we activity is system inform k for. That have to know what to loo events alerts means correlating small ture so that from across the infrastruc en enough of one big alarm sounds wh a specialty them happen at once. It's d event of security information an and the management (SIEM) tools how to use skilled analyst that know e in the fight them—both indispensibl against targeted attacks. SECURITY IS A PROCESS, NOT A PRODUCT That’s why, through an integrated, automated and agile approach, Trustwave delivers stronger security, continuous compliance and fewer headaches. Our broad portfolio of integrated technologies, compliance and risk services, and elite SpiderLabs research, testing and threat intelligence can help you to secure your business, centralize compliance, and gain the meaningful, actionable intelligence you need to make faster and proactive decisions. And our unique approach helps you to seamlessly achieve business continuity and compliance by swiftly implementing, monitoring, auditing and enforcing protection and control over your sensitive assets and data. Interested in how Trustwave can help? Visit www.trustwave.com.
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