CHRONICLES OF A BREACH FORETOLD
The recent surge in Emotet-based attacks has posed a significant challenge to organizations worldwide, demanding a closer examination of defense layers and their effectiveness in preventing breaches. Despite the implementation of various security measures, organizations continue to fall victim to these insidious attacks.
Emotet, once a banking trojan, has evolved into a highly adaptable adversary that exploits human trust through convincing phishing emails. Its infiltration has severe consequences such as data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. Existing defense layers attempt to counter Emotet; however, its agility often surpasses traditional security measures, exploiting vulnerabilities effectively.
Organizations face several challenges, including limited visibility across security tools, shortage of skilled labor, software patch delays, and complex security system management. Email security solutions, the first line of defense, employ filters and scanners to detect and block malicious emails. Yet, Emotet’s innovation allows it to evade detection and infiltrate inboxes. Network-level protections like firewalls and IPS safeguard network perimeters but fail to detect Emotet’s encrypted activities. Similarly, Endpoint Protection solutions also struggle to detect Emotet’s rapidly mutating strains.
To combat Emotet-based attacks, organizations must consolidate all security tools into a unified security platform. Continuously evaluate the current state of the cyber organizational affairs and adapt the security posture when needed.
DEFENSE LAYERS: ASSESSING THE GAPS
DEFENSE IN DEPTH: STRENGTHENING SECURITY POSTURE
To effectively combat Emotet, it is essential to employ a comprehensive and diverse security approach. This approach entails deploying multiple layers of protection to establish a resilient security posture. By implementing a multi-layered defense strategy, organizations can mitigate the risk of successful breaches and significantly enhance their ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats.
The concept of Defense in Depth is rooted in the principle of diversification. Just as diversifying investments reduces financial risk, diversifying security measures minimizes the likelihood of a single point of failure compromising the entire system. Each layer of defense provides an additional barrier, making it more difficult for attackers to penetrate the organization’s infrastructure. If one layer is breached, subsequent layers can act as a fallback preventing the attacker from progressing further and limiting the potential damage.
Secondly, different layers of defense can address various attack vectors and techniques. Cybercriminals employ a wide array of tactics, such as social engineering, malware infections, and network exploits. By diversifying defense layers, organizations can effectively counter these threats at different stages of an attack lifecycle. From email security solutions to network-level protections and endpoint security measures, each layer focuses on specific aspects of defense, collectively creating a robust security ecosystem.
EVALUATION OF EXISTING DEFENSE LAYERS
Email security plays a vital role in preventing Emotet infections, as the initial attack often occurs through malicious attachments or links in emails. Evaluating email security measures involves assessing their ability to detect and block Emotet-related emails. This includes the effectiveness of intrusion prevention systems (IPS) in analyzing attachments, particularly Microsoft Office files with macros, and identifying suspicious content. Hash-based protection compares file hashes against known Emotet samples to prevent their delivery. Additionally, the effectiveness of sandboxing technology in isolating and analyzing suspicious attachments should be evaluated.
The life cycle of a hash-based detection, specifically related to the Emotet attack, unfolds as follows:
1. Initial Detection: A malicious file associated with the Emotet attack is examined using its hash to determine its threat level.
2. Low Confidence Detection: Out of 58 antivirus vendors, only 9 identify the file as malicious based on its hash, but no immediate action is taken due to low confidence.
3. Time for Verdict: It takes 8 days for the hash-based signature to reach a high confidence level and classify the file as malicious.
4. Increased Detection and Change in Action: As time progresses, more antivirus vendors detect the file as malicious, leading to a change in the action from “Alert” to “Block.
These findings underscore the importance of implementing additional layers of security to minimize the potential risks during the time it takes for a hash-based detection to reach a confident verdict. Integrating behavioral analysis, machine learning, and real-time threat intelligence can significantly enhance the speed and accuracy of detecting malicious files, such as those associated with the Emotet attack.
Network-level protections are essential for preventing the spread of Emotet within the organization’s network. Evaluating network-level defense layers entails assessing the capabilities of intrusion prevention systems (IPS) in detecting and blocking Emotet-related network traffic, especially when it involves Microsoft Office files with macros or other known indicators of compromise. Hash-based protection should also be evaluated at the network level to prevent downloading and propagating infected files. Again, the effectiveness of sandboxing technologies in executing files in an isolated environment and detecting any malicious behaviors should be examined.
Endpoint protection measures are critical for detecting and preventing Emotet infections at individual devices. Other than hash-based protection, a dynamic inspection of file content is also important, as it analyzes the behavior and content of files during runtime to detect any suspicious or malicious activities associated with Emotet. Endpoint Protection solutions should be evaluated for their ability to detect the initial infection steps of Emotet, such as creating registry entries or establishing network connections, and intervene to prevent further infection.
IDENTIFICATION OF POTENTIAL GAPS AND VULNERABILITIES
While implementing multiple defense layers is crucial for enhancing security against Emotet attacks, organizations may encounter challenges in managing and optimizing these layers effectively. It is important to continually monitor potential gaps and vulnerabilities in the security infrastructure to strengthen the overall defense posture. The following challenges contribute to these gaps:
THE COMPLEXITY OF COORDINATING AND INTEGRATING DEFENSE LAYERS
Managing and optimizing multiple defense layers can be complex. Coordinating and integrating diverse security solutions to work harmoniously as a cohesive defense system requires dedicated effort and expertise. It involves configuring each layer correctly, monitoring their performance, and ensuring timely updates. The complexity increases as the number of defense layers grows, demanding the involvement of subject matter experts and specialized knowledge.
OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF DASHBOARDS, LOGS, AND ALERTS
Deploying various defense layers generates a significant amount of dashboards, logs, and alerts. This influx of information can overwhelm security teams and lead to alert fatigue. With numerous alerts to investigate, security personnel may struggle to differentiate between genuine threats and false positives. The noise generated by multiple defense layers can result in missed detections or delayed responses, potentially leaving the organization vulnerable to Emotet attacks.
LACK OF FLEXIBILITY IN REMEDIATION AND MITIGATION OPTIONS
Traditional approaches to managing security layers often rely on rigid policies and rule-based actions. While these measures provide a baseline level of security, they may not offer the flexibility required to respond effectively to evolving threats. Emotet, for instance, continuously adapts its tactics and employs sophisticated evasion techniques. Limited remediation and mitigation options can hinder the organization’s ability to swiftly respond and mitigate emerging risks, allowing Emotet to exploit vulnerabilities.
OUTDATED SOFTWARE AND PATCH MANAGEMENT
Unpatched software, especially operating systems and applications commonly targeted by Emotet, can serve as entry points for infection. Failure to maintain up-to-date software versions and apply necessary security patches leaves organizations vulnerable to Emotet attacks. Addressing this vulnerability requires robust patch (and virtual patch)management processes, regular software updates, and vulnerability assessments to identify and remediate potential entry points.
ORCHESTRATING A RESILIENT DEFENSE
THE COMPREHENSIVE DEFENSE STRATEGY
To establish a robust defense against Emotet attacks, organizations must develop a comprehensive strategy integratingproactive monitoring, threat intelligence, and incident response. This approach ensures a proactive and agile defense posture. By continuously monitoring the network, systems, and applications, organizations can promptly identify potential threats and vulnerabilities. Integrating threat intelligence feeds provides up-to-date information on emerging threats, enabling organizations to stay ahead of attackers. A well-defined incident response plan ensures that security incidents are swiftly detected, analyzed, and mitigated, minimizing their impact on the organization.
VERITI’S CONSOLIDATED WAY
Veriti aims to eliminate complexity and operational friction in managing multiple cybersecurity solutions. It provides a consolidated, governing platform that empowers security teams and business executives to manage the organization’s security program effectively. Leveraging machine learning algorithms, Veriti automatically analyzes security configurations, correlates them with sensor telemetries, security logs, and threat intelligence feeds to provide contextual, actionable insights. These insights help proactively remediate security gaps and misconfigurations before they are exploited. Veriti also optimizes security controls to address immediate risks without impacting business applications and identifies security controls that impact business applications, helping security teams analyze scope and remediation options rapidly.
IMPROVING SECURITY POSTURE THROUGH CONSOLIDATED VISIBILITY
While security vendors claim to offer complete visibility into cyber threats, each tool provides only a limited view of the overall security environment. This fragmented approach leaves security teams with too much detail, noise, and disparate information, making it challenging to discern critical signals from noise and respond appropriately. Veriti’s continuous monitoring capabilities empower infrastructure security teams with powerful visibility into the function and use of security controls, their preventative maintenance level, and behavioral patterns that impact security and business applications. By identifying and remediating these controls, Veriti optimizes their usage, minimizes false positives, and reduces alert fatigue, allowing security teams to focus on addressing actual security incidents. This consolidated visibility helps organizations achieve a holistic view of their risk posture and streamline security posture optimization operations.
ROI AND AUTOMATION
The resources required to maximize the functionality of each security product are becoming more expensive, increasing the indirect cost of every solution purchased. Consequently, many organizations rely on vendor default configurations, resulting in potentially inadequate security postures with inherent security gaps. Veriti addresses this issue by automating the process of security configuration optimization and implementing zero-business-disruption verification procedures. It employs machine learning to verify that organizations obtain the full value of their security configurations without disrupting business operations. Veriti also reduces the number of false positive events throughout the security estate, enabling security operation teams to speed up the investigation, identify high-risk events, and significantly improve the mean time to respond (MTTR). Automating risk assessment