Investigate and fight cyberattacks with SIFT Workstation

 

Digital forensics and incident response (DFIR) has hit a tipping point. No longer just for law enforcement solving cybercrimes, DFIR tools and practices are a necessary component of any organization’s cybersecurity. After all, attacks are increasing daily and getting more sophisticated – exposing millions of people’s personal data, hijacking systems around the world and shutting down numerous sites.

SANS has a smorgasbord of DFIR training, and we also offer a free Linux distribution for DFIR work. Our SANS Investigative Forensic Toolkit (SIFT) Workstation is a powerful collection of tools for examining forensic artifacts related to file system, registry, memory, and network investigations. It is also available bundled as a virtual machine (VM), and includes everything one needs to conduct any in-depth forensic investigation or response investigation.

Capture9The SIFT Workstation was developed by an international team of forensics experts, including entrepreneur, consultant and SANS Fellow Rob Lee, and is available to the digital forensics and incident response community as a public service. Just because it’s freely available and originally designed for training, though, doesn’t mean it can’t stand up to field investigations. The SIFT Workstation incorporates powerful, cutting-edge open-source tools that are frequently updated, vetted by the open source community and able to match any modern DFIR tool suite. Don’t just take our word for it. Thousands of individuals download SIFT yearly, and it’s used by tens of thousands of people all over the world, including those at multiple Fortune 500 companies. And recently, HackRead named SIFT Workstation in a list of the top 7 cyber forensic tools preferred by specialists and investigators around the world.

SIFT got its start in 2007, during the time SANS instructors were developing virtual machines (VMs) for use in the classroom. In its earliest iterations, it was available online as a download, but was hard-coded and static so whenever there were updates, users had to download a new version. By 2014, SIFT Workstation could be downloaded as an application series and was later updated to a very robust package based on Ubuntu. It can also be installed on Windows, if there is an Ubuntu subsystem running on the system.

In November 2017, SANS unveiled a new version of SIFT Workstation that allows for much more functionality, is much more stable, and is comprised of specific tools such as the Package Manager. This time the package supports rolling updates, and uses SALT, a Python-based configuration management platform, rather than a bootstrap executable and configuration tool.

The new version can work with more than 200 tools and plug-ins from third-parties, and newly added memory analysis functionality enables the SIFT Workstation to leverage data from other sources. New automation and configuration functions mean the user only has to type one command to download and configure SIFT. Because SIFT is scriptable, users can string together commands and create automated analysis, customizing the system to the needs of their investigation.

Download SIFT Workstation today, and get started on your own DFIR initatives. And look into our FOR508: Advanced Incident Response and Threat Hunting course for hands-on learning with SIFT, and how to detect breaches, identify compromised and affected systems, determine damage, contain incidents, and more.

Shortcuts for Understanding Malicious Scripts

You are being exposed to malicious scripts in one form or another every day, whether it be in email, malicious documents, or malicious websites. Many malicious scripts at first glance appear to be impossible to understand. However, with a few tips and some simple utility scripts, you can deobfuscate them in just a few minutes.

Capture3SANS Instructor Evan Dygert conducted a webcast on October 3rd, 2018. This webcast teaches you how to cut through the obfuscation techniques the script authors use and not spend a lot of time doing it. Evan also demonstrates how to quickly deobfuscate a variety of malicious scripts.

The samples of the scripts he provided during the webcast can be downloaded here: https://dfir.to/MaliciousScripts. Please note the password for the samples.zip folder is: “infected”

 

 

Capture4We hope that the techniques presented in this webcast help you to begin deobfuscating potentially malicious JavaScript.  This topic is explored in depth in the SANS FOR610: Reverse-Engineering Malware: Malware Analysis Tools and Techniques course.  This class offers an excellent opportunity to understand the unique and insightful perspective that malware analysis can bring to your investigations.

 

 

 

New CheatSheets you might be interested in:

Tips for Reverse-Engineering Malicious Code – This cheat sheet outlines tips for reversing malicious Windows executables via static and dynamic code analysis with the help of a debugger and a disassembler. Download Here

REMnux Usage Tips for Malware Analysis on Linux – This cheat sheet outlines the tools and commands for analyzing malicious software on the REMnux Linux distribution Download Here

Cheat Sheet for Analyzing Malicious Documents – This cheat sheet presents tips for analyzing and reverse-engineering malware. It outlines the steps for performing behavioral and code-level analysis of malicious software. Download Here

Malware Analysis and Reverse-Engineering Cheat Sheet – This cheat sheet outlines tips and tools for analyzing malicious documents, such as Microsoft Office, RTF and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files Download Here

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For opportunities to take the FOR610 course, consider upcoming runs and modalities: 

US & International live training : Live events offered throughout the US, EMEA & APAC regions.

 DFIR Summits :  Two days of industry expert talks plus DFIR training events

Simulcast :   Live events from anywhere in the world.

OnDemand  : Learn at your own pace, anytime, anywhere.

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DFIR Resources: Digital Forensic Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Community Listservice | DFIR Newsletter

How to build an Android application testing toolbox

 

Mobile devices hold a trove a data that could be crucial to criminal cases, and they also can play a key role in accident reconstructions, IP theft investigations and more. It’s not just investigators who care about examining a mobile device – so do those interested in application research and data, and enterprises who rely on smartphones and tablets to perform work tasks, engage with customers and deliver new services.

Capture3 Effectively accessing and testing smartphones requires an optimal application toolbox, and the chops to use it. Listen to this webinar that details how to build your Android application testing toolbox to ensure you’re set up to successfully access and examine the information you need from Android mobile phones.

SANS instructor Domenica Crognale, who is one of the course co-authors of SANS FOR585: Advanced Smart Phone Forensics, and who teaches the course as well, details why testing of mobile phone applications is critical – especially given the fact that Android apps change weekly and even daily. It is becoming more common for application developers to restrict very important user artifacts from being accessed from these Android devices. This most often includes the SQLite databases, which likely contain the information that examiners are after. It’s not just commercially available applications you have to consider. Often, custom-built apps aren’t parsed by commercial tools, so you’ll need to know how to access and parse any data stored on the device.

During the webinar, Domenica talks about the importance of rooting Android devices as well as ways to access and parse the data. She explains how to do this using utilities that exist on the SIFT workstation or that can be downloaded for free from the SANS website.

This webcast explores topics such as:

  • Choosing the best test device
    During a forensics acquisition, many tools will apply a soft root onto the phone that is then removed once the data is obtained. But a full physical acquisition is not always necessary for application testing. Ideally, we want a test phone that is always rooted, whether or not the device loses power, because the root basically unlocks access to the core of the device’s operating system so you can access, add, remove or tweak anything inside the phone.
  • Rooting your Android
    During the webinar, Domenica walks through a demo of a root, how to locate the root and share information on free and publicly-available root tools.
  • Utilizing File Browsers for quick file/folder access
    Sometimes a file browser is all you really need to get to the data you’re after. Domenica shares her favorite third-party applications for accessing the file system.
  • Examining application directories of interest
    Once you have access to the files you need, utilize tools available on the SIFT workstation to view the contents of SQLite databases.

Listen to the recording, “Building your Android application testing toolbox” webcast now.  And check out our FOR585: Advanced Smartphone Forensics, a week-long course that teaches you how to find key evidence on a smartphone, how to recover deleted mobile device data that forensic tools miss, advanced acquisition terminology and free techniques to gain access to data on smartphones, how to handle locked or encrypted devices, applications, and containers, and much more

650x125_CDI-2018_No-EBDomenica will be teaching FOR585: Advanced Smartphone Forensics at SANS Cyber Defense Initiative  Dec 11-18.  Register to attend live here: sans.org/u/JGl  or to  try it from home via Simulcast register here: sans.org/u/JGq

For additional course runs log in here

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Top 11 Reasons Why You Should NOT Miss the SANS DFIR Summit and Training this Year

The SANS DFIR Summit and Training 2018 is turning 11! The 2018 event marks 11 years since SANS started what is today the digital forensics and incident response event of the year, attended by forensicators time after time. Join us and enjoy the latest in-depth presentations from influential DFIR experts and the opportunity to take an array of hands-on SANS DFIR courses. You can also earn CPE credits and get the opportunity to win coveted DFIR course coins!

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To commemorate the 11th annual DFIR Summit and Training 2018, here are 11 reasons why you should NOT miss the Summit this year:

1.     Save money! There are two ways to save on your DFIR Summit & Training registration (offers cannot be combined):

·       Register for a DFIR course by May 7 and get 50% off a Summit seat (discount automatically applied at registration), or

·       Pay by April 19 and save $400 on any 4-day or 6-day course, or up to $200 off of the Summit. Enter code “EarlyBird18” when registering.

2.     Check out our jam-packed DFIR Summit agenda!

·       The two-day Summit will kick off with a keynote presentation by Kim Zetter, an award-winning journalist who has provided the industry with the most in-depth and important investigative reporting on information security topics. Her research on such topical issues as Stuxnet and election security has brought critical technical issues to the public in a way that clearly shows why we must continue to push the security industry forward.

·       The Summit agenda will also include a presentation about the Shadow Brokers, the group that allegedly leaked National Security Agency cyber tools, leading to some of the most significant cybersecurity incidents of 2017. Jake Williams and Matt Suiche, who were among those targeted by the Shadow Brokers, will cover the history of the group and the implications of its actions.

·       All DFIR Summit speakers are industry experts who practice digital forensics, incident response, and threat hunting in their daily jobs. The Summit Advisory Board handpicked these professionals to provide you with highly technical presentations that will give you a brand-new perspective of how the industry is evolving to fight against even the toughest of adversaries. But don’t take our word for it, have a sneak peek, check out some of the past DFIR Summit talks.

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Immerse yourself in six days of the best in SANS DFIR training. Here are the courses you can choose from:

·       FOR500 – Advanced Windows Forensics

·       FOR585 – Advanced Smartphone Forensics

·       FOR610 – Reverse-Engineering Malware

·       FOR508 – Digital Forensics, Incident Response & Threat Hunting

·       FOR572 – Advanced Network Forensics: Threat Hunting, Analysis, and Incident Response

·       FOR578 – Cyber Threat Intelligence

·       FOR526 – Memory Forensics In-Depth

·       FOR518 – Mac and iOS Forensic Analysis and Incident Response

·       MGT517 – Managing Security Operations: Detection, Response, and Intelligence

3.    All courses will be taught by SANS’s best DFIR instructors. Stay tuned for more information on the courses we’re offering at the conference in a future article post.

4.     Rub elbows and network with DFIR pros at evening events, including networking gatherings and receptions. On the first night of the Summit, we’re going to gather at one of Austin’s newest entertainment venues, SPiN, a ping pong restaurant and bar featuring 14 ping pong tables, lounges, great food, and drinks. Give your overloaded brain a break after class and join us at our SANS Community Night, Monday, June 9 at Speakeasy. We will have plenty of snacks and drinks to give you the opportunity to network with fellow students.

5.     Staying to take a DFIR course after the two-day Summit? Attend SANS@Night talks guaranteed to enrich your DFIR training experience with us. Want to know about threat detection on the cheap and other topics? As for cheap (and in this case, that doesn’t mean weak), there are actions you can take now to make threat detection more effective without breaking the bank. Attend this SANS@Night talk on Sunday evening to learn some baselines you should be measuring against and how to gain visibility into high-value actionable events that occur on your systems and networks.

6.     Celebrate this year’s Ken Johnson Scholarship Recipient, who will be announced at the Summit. This scholarship was created by the SANS Institute and KPMG LLP in honor of Ken Johnson, who passed away in 2016. Early in Ken’s digital forensics career, he submitted to a Call for Presentations and was accepted to present his findings at the 2012 SANS DFIR Summit. His networking at the Summit led to his job with KPMG.

7.     Prove you’ve mastered the DFIR arts by playing in the DFIR NetWars – Coin Slayer Tournament. Created by popular demand, this tournament will give you the chance to leave Austin with a motherlode of DFIR coinage! To win the new course coins, you must answer all questions correctly from all four levels of one or more of the six DFIR Domains: Windows Forensics & Incident Response, Smartphone Analysis, Mac Forensics, Memory Forensics, Advanced Network Forensics, and Malware Analysis. Take your pick or win them all!

 

8.     Enjoy updated DFIR NetWars levels with new challenges. See them first at the Summit! But not to worry, you will have the opportunity to train before the tournament. You’ll have access to a lot of updated posters that can serve as cheat sheets to help you conquer the new challenges, as well as the famous SIFT WorkStation that will arm you with the most powerful DFIR open-source tools available. You could also choose to do an hour of crash training on how to use some of our Summit sponsors’ tools prior to the tournament. That should help give you an edge, right? That new DFIR NetWars coin is as good as won!

9. The Forensic 4:cast Awards winners will be announced at the Summit. Help us text2985celebrate the achievements of digital forensic investigators around the world deemed worthy of the award by their peers. There is still time to cast your vote. (You may only submit one set of votes; any additional voting will be discounted). Voting will close at the end of the day on May 25, 2018.

10.  Come see the latest in tools offered by DFIR solution providers. Summit sponsors and exhibitors will showcase everything from managed services covering advanced threat detection, proactive threat hunting, and accredited incident response to tools that deliver rapid threat detection at scale, and reports that provide insights for identifying potential threats before they cause damage.

11.  Last but not least, who doesn’t want to go to Austin?!? When you think Austin, you think BBQ, right? This city isn’t just BBQ, Austin has amazing food everywhere and there’s no place like it when it comes to having a great time. The nightlife and music include the famous 6th Street – which, by the way, is just walking distance from the Summit venue. There are many other landmarks such as Red River, the Warehouse District, Downtown, and the Market District. You will find entertainment of all kinds no matter what you’re up for. Nothing wrong with some well-deserved play after days full of DFIR training, lectures, and networking!

As you can see, this is an event you do not want to miss! The SANS DFIR Summit and Training 2018 will be held at the Hilton Austin. The event features two days of in-depth digital forensics and incident response talks, nine SANS DFIR courses, two nights of DFIR NetWars, evening events, and SANS@Night talks.

The Summit will be held on June 7-8, and the training courses run from June 9-14.

We hope to see you there!

SANS Threat Hunting and Incident Response Summit 2018 Call for Speakers – Deadline 3/5

 

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Summit Dates: September 6 & 7, 2018
Call for Presentations Closes on Monday, March 5, 2018 at 5 p.m CST
Submit your presentation here

The Threat Hunting & Incident Response Summit will focus on specific hunting and incident response techniques and capabilities that can be used to identify, contain, and eliminate adversaries targeting your networks. SANS and our advisory partner Carbon Black are pleased to invite you to the Summit where you will have the opportunity to directly learn from and collaborate with incident response and detection experts who are uncovering and stopping the most recent, sophisticated, and dangerous attacks against organizations.

Chances are very high that hidden threats already exist inside your organization’s networks. Organizations can’t afford to assume that their security measures are impenetrable, no matter how thorough their security precautions might be. Prevention systems alone are insufficient to counter focused human adversaries who know how to get around most security and monitoring tools.

The key is to constantly look for attacks that get past security systems, and to catch intrusions in progress rather than after attackers have attained their objectives and done worse damage to the organization. For the incident responder, this process is known as “threat hunting.” Threat hunting uses known adversary behaviors to proactively examine the network and endpoints and identify new data breaches.

Call for Presentations Closes on Monday, March 5, 2018
Submit your presentation here

If you are interested in presenting, SANS and our advisory partner Carbon Black would be delighted to consider your threat hunting-focused proposal with use cases and communicable lessons. We are looking for presentations from both the intelligence producer and the intelligence consumer fields, with actionable takeaways for the audience.

The THIR Summit offers speakers opportunities for exposure and recognition as industry leaders. If you have something substantive, challenging, and original to offer, you are encouraged to submit a proposal.

CFP submissions should detail how the proposed case study, tool, or technique can be utilized by attendees to increase their security posture. All THIR Summit presentations will be 30 minutes with 5 minutes for questions.

We are looking for presentations that focus on:
– Endpoint threat hunting
– Network threat hunting
– Hunt teams and how to organize them to be extremely effective
– Using known attacker methodologies to hunt/track adversaries
– Innovative threat hunting tools, tactics, and techniques
– Case studies on the application of threat hunting to security operations

Call for Presentations Closes on Monday, March 5, 2018
Submit your presentation here 

Meltdown and Spectre – Enterprise Action Plan

Meltdown and Spectre – Enterprise Action Plan by SANS Senior Instructor Jake Williams
Blog originally posted January 4, 2018 by RenditionSec

Watch the webcast now
WATCH WEBCAST NOW

MELTDOWN SPECTRE VULNERABILITIES
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, you’ve heard about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. I did a webcast with SANS about these vulnerabilities, how they work, and some thoughts on mitigation. I highly recommend that you watch the webcast and/or download the slides to understand more of the technical details. In this blog post, I would like to leave the technology behind and talk about action plans. Our goal is to keep this hyperbole free and just talk about actionable steps to take moving forward. Action talks, hyperbole walks.

To that end, I introduce you to the “six step action plan for dealing with Meltdown and Spectre.”

  1. Step up your monitoring plan
  2. Reconsider cohabitation of data with different protection requirements
  3. Review your change management procedures
  4. Examine procurement and refresh intervals
  5. Evaluate the security of your hosted applications
  6. Have an executive communications plan

Step 1: Step up your monitoring plan

Meltdown allows attackers to elevate privileges on unpatched systems. This means that attackers who have a toehold in your network can elevate to a privileged user account on a system. From there, they could install backdoor and rootkits or take other anti-forensic measures. But at the end of the day, the vulnerability doesn’t exfiltrate data from your network or encrypt your data, delete your backups, or extort a ransom. Vulnerabilities like Meltdown will enable attackers, but they are only a means to an end. Solid monitoring practices will catch attackers whether they use an 0-day or a misconfiguration to compromise your systems. As a wise man once told me, “if you can’t find an attacker who exploits you with an 0-day, you need to be worried about more than 0-days.”

Simply put, monitor like your network is already compromised. Keeping attackers out is so 1990. Today, we assume compromise and architect our monitoring systems to detect badness. The #1 goal of any monitoring program in 2018 must be to minimize attacker dwell time in the network.

Step 2. Reconsider cohabitation of data with different protection requirements

Don’t assume OS controls are sufficient to separate data with different protection requirements. The Spectre paper introduces a number of other possible avenues for exploitation. The smart money says that at least some of those will be exploited eventually. Even if other exploitable CPU vulnerabilities are not discovered (unlikely since this was already an area of active research before these vulnerabilities), future OS privilege escalation vulnerabilities are a near certainty.

Reconsider your architecture and examine how effective your security is if an attacker (or insider) with unprivileged access can elevate to a privileged account. In particular, I worry about those systems that give a large number of semi-trusted insiders shell access to a system. Research hospitals are notorious for this. Other organizations with Linux mail servers have configured the servers so that everyone with an email address has a shell account. Obviously this is far from ideal, but when combined with a privilege escalation vulnerability the results can be catastrophic.

Take some time to determine if your security models collapse when a privilege escalation vulnerability becomes public. At Rendition, we’re still running into systems that we can exploit with DirtyCOW – Meltdown isn’t going away any time soon. While you’re thinking about your security model, ask how you would detect illicit use of a privileged account (see step #1).

Step 3. Review your change management procedures

Every time there’s a “big one” people worry about getting patches out. But this month Microsoft is patching several critical vulnerabilities. Some of these might be easier to exploit than Meltdown. When thinking about patches, measure your response time. We advise clients to keep three metrics/goals in mind:

Normal patch Tuesday
Patch Tuesday with “active exploit in the wild”
“Out of cycle” patch
How you handle regular patches probably says more about your organization than how you handle out of cycle patches. But considering all three events (and having different targets for response) is wise.

Because of performance impacts, Meltdown definitely should be patched in a test environment first. Antivirus software has reportedly caused problems (BSOD) with the Windows patches for Spectre and Meltdown as well. This shows a definite example where “throw caution to the wind and patch now” is not advisable. Think about your test cycles for patches and figure out how long is “long enough” to test (both for performance and stability) in your test environment before pushing patches to production.

Step 4. Examine procurement and refresh intervals

There is little doubt that future processors (yet to be released) will handle some functions more securely than today’s models. If you’re currently on a 5 year IT refresh cycle, should you compress that cycle? It’s probably early to tell for hardware, but there are a number of older operating systems that will never receive patches. You definitely need to re-evaluate whether leaving those unpatchable systems in place is wise. Just because you performed a risk assessment in the past, you don’t get a pass on this. You have new information today that likely wasn’t available when you completed your last risk assessment. Make sure your choices still make sense in light of Meltdown and Spectre.

When budgeting for any IT refresh, don’t forget about the costs to secure that newly deployed hardware. Every time a server is rebuilt, an application is installed, etc. there is some error/misconfiguration rate (hopefully small, often very large). Some of these misconfigurations are critical in nature and can be remotely exploited. Ensure that you budget for security review and penetration testing of newly deployed/redeployed assets. Once the assets are in production, ensure that they are monitored to detect anything that configuration review may have missed (see step #1).

Step 5. Evaluate the security of your hosted applications

You can delegate control, but you can’t delegate responsibility. Particularly when it comes to hosted applications, cloud servers, and Platform as a Service (PaaS), ask some hard questions of your infrastructure providers. Sure your patching plan is awesome and went off without a hitch (see step #3). What about your PaaS provider? How about your IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider? Ask your infrastructure provider:

Did they know about the embargoed vulnerability?
If so, what did they do to address the issue ahead of patches being available?
Have they patched now?
If not, when will they be fully patched?
What steps are they taking to look for active exploitation of Meltdown? *
* #5 is sort of a trick question, but see what they tell you…

Putting an application, server, or database in the cloud doesn’t make it “someone else’s problem.” It’s still your problem, it’s just off-prem. At Rendition, we’ve put out quite a few calls today to MSPs we work with. Some of them have been awesome – they’ve got an action plan to finish patching quickly and monitoring for all assets. One called us last night for advice, another called us this morning. Others responded with “Melt-what?” leading us to wonder what was going on there. Not all hosting providers are created equal. Even if you evaluated your hosting provider for security before you trusted them with your data, now is a great time to reassess your happiness with how they are handling your security. It is your security after all…

Step 6. Have an executive communications plan

When any new vulnerability of this magnitude is disclosed, you will inevitably field questions from management about the scope and the impact. That’s just a fact of life. You need to be ready to communicate with management. To that end, in the early hours of any of these events there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Other sources of information aren’t wrong, they’re just not on point. Diving into the register specific implementations of a given attack won’t help explain the business impact to an executive.

Spend some time today and select some sources you’ll turn to for information the next time this happens (this won’t be the last time). I’m obviously biased towards SANS, but I wouldn’t be there if they didn’t do great work cutting through the FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) when it matters. The webcast today was written by me, but reviewed by other (some less technical) experts to make sure that it was useful to a broad audience. My #1 goal was to deliver actionable information you could use to educate a wide range of audiences. I think I hit that mark. I’ve seen other information sources today that missed that mark completely. Some were overly technical, others were completely lacking in actionable information.

Once you evaluate your data sources for the next “big one,” walk through a couple of exercises with smaller vulnerabilities/issues to draft communications to executives and senior leadership. Don’t learn how to “communicate effectively” under the pressure of a “big one.” Your experience will likely be anything but “effective.”

Closing thoughts

Take some time today to consider your security requirements. It’s a new year and we certainly have new challenges to go with it. Even if you feel like you dodged this bullet, spend some time today thinking about how your organization will handle the next “big one.” I think we all know it’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when and how bad.”

Of course, if I don’t tell you to consider Rendition for your cyber security needs, my marketing guy is going to slap me silly tomorrow. So Dave, rest easy my friend. I’ve got it covered

Automated Hunting of Software Update Supply Chain Attacks

 

Software that automatically updates itself presents an attack surface, which can be leveraged en masse through the compromise of the vendor’s infrastructure. This has been seen multiple times during 2017, with high profile examples including NotPetya and CCleaner.

Most large organisations have built robust perimeter defences for incoming and outgoing traffic, but this threat vector is slightly different and far more difficult to detect. Update packages are often deployed in compressed, encrypted or proprietary formats and would not easily be subject to an antivirus scan or sandbox analysis during transit. This leaves us with a large number of trusted processes within our infrastructure that could turn on us at any time and download something evil, which could potentially be undetectable by endpoint antivirus software.

It would be almost impossible to detect all potential malicious code changes, as they could be as simple as changing a single assembly instruction from JNZ to JZ to allow for unauthorised access or privilege escalation to occur. However, this doesn’t prevent some additional proportionate due diligence on the update package being pulled down and installed.

 

Methodology for discovering inbound evil updates

1. Discover all the software across your estate that could be auto updating
Let us consider for a moment software that automatically updates, and how it looks on the endpoint. Firstly, it needs to open an internet connection to a server that will allow it to identify whether the version currently running is up to date, or whether there is a newer version available. This may occur when the process is first executed or at intervals (set dates or times or even randomly). If the version is current then it will try again later, mostly likely connecting to the same server and repeating the process of checking the version numbers. The traffic volume on each occasion is likely to be very small, after all, all that it needs to ask is “what is the current version number?” and the reply need only be “1.0.32” or similar.

If we put these components together we can build a search for a process, other than a browser (to reduce the noise), which makes repetitive connections to the same server on multiple occasions. We can further refine by looking for low volume traffic in the transmissions. This data may contain false positives such as the checking of licence validation, however this doesn’t matter as we will refine this further in the next stages.
2. Monitor traffic ratios for evidence of updates being downloaded
Once we have a list of processes, devices and servers that have displayed the behaviour from our discovery phase, we can now monitor the traffic volume ratios for abnormal behaviour. Consider a process that had been polling the same server with 5KB uploads followed by 50KB downloads for the past month when suddenly the volume of the download changes to 300MB. It would be a clear outlier based on volumes and upload/download ratios.
3. Perform automated sandbox analysis on detected binaries post update
Now we’re looking for a suspicious update, not just any update, so we can send the installer from the endpoint to an internal sandbox for analysis. Alternatively, we could trigger the same update to occur within a sandbox running our gold image. The sandbox would perform a behavioural analysis, which we would use to highlight any suspicious behaviour during, or after the update process takes place.
4. Alert CERT for further examination should there be evidence of anything suspicious
This can then feed the alerting system used by our SOC/CERT for a manual review and prompt containment activity should the updates contain malware – at this point the number of machines that have pulled the update should be small and we can prevent further infections through proxy blocks etc.

 

Demonstration of concept

Here we will demonstrate the concept by conducting a deep dive into the behavior of the Notepad++ update process. We begin by identifying the polling between the process and update server. We can see from Process Monitor below that the traffic volumes are low, and the upload / download ratio is relatively similar, approximately 1:11 when there is no update to be downloaded.

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Now let’s have a look at what happens when there is an update available.

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We can see the difference when there is an update to be pulled, in this case the download volume is significantly higher than the upload as we would expect, in fact it’s over 673 times higher at 1:7756.

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In addition, following the network activity we can see that a process launch has been identified. This is the start of the update installation and provides us details on the location of the update binary.  At this point we can take the desired action to review the file, this may include a local scan or better yet, uploading the binary to an internal sandbox for behavioural analysis to take place – this would give us the added benefit of detecting a threat before the antivirus signatures are available.

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Practicalities and further ideas

In a large network there is going to be a lot of noise and you may want to select the top 50 auto updating processes that are most widely utilised across the estate and focus on them. This way you can be more selective about the alerts that go to your SOC.

Some processes may update on the fly using hot patching, in which case better results would be obtained from the creation of a custom image for your sandbox with all of these processes installed, so there would be no need to send/pull binaries and you could monitor the entirety of the update process taking place, including all files dropped to disk and executed during the update.

Feedback and ideas are always welcome!

Happy hunting

-Adam (Twitter: @CyberKramer)

Acquiring a Memory Dump from Fleeting Malware

Introduction

The acquisition of process memory during behavioural analysis of malware can provide quick and detailed insight. Examples of where it can be really useful include packed malware, which may be in a more accessible state while running, and malware, which receives live configuration updates from the internet and stores them in memory. Unfortunately the execution of some samples can be transient and the processes will be long gone before the analyst has a chance to fire up ProcDump. A while back, HBGary released a nifty tool called Flypaper, which prevented a process from closing down, allowing more time for the memory to be grabbed, but unfortunately the tool is now difficult to find and awkward to use. I’ve spent some time considering a suitable alternative that would work on the latest versions of Windows.

A little known feature…

During my research I found an article detailing a little known feature in Windows entitled ‘Monitoring Silent Process Exit‘.

TL;DR – You can configure Windows to automatically generate a memory dump when a process with a specified name exits.

So what this means for us is, even though the malware finishes running very quickly, we can obtain a full memory dump and extract what we need from it at our leisure.

This feature is designed as part of the Windows debugging portfolio, but we can use it as a tool in our belt. The easiest way to configure is by using a Microsoft tool named gflags.exe, which is easy to download and use. The screenshot below shows the configuration that I’ve had success with. You provide the name of the executable you’re interested in keeping an eye on (it doesn’t matter from where the process is run). In addition you have the option to choose what kind of memory dump you want generating, Custom Dump Type 2 represents MiniDumpWithFullMemory, which I found to give the most comprehensive output. There are plenty of other options that can be found on MSDN. Then you just need to run the process and wait for it to finish.

gflags_screenshot

Testing the concept

To test the concept I wrote a tiny program, shown below, designed to load a string to memory and have the process exit very quickly – certainly before we would have a change to pull the string from live memory.

int main()
{
char secretString[] = “This is a secret string!”;
return 0;
}

I compiled, executed and the mini dump appeared in the appropriate folder. A quick check with BinText showed the secret string that had been stored in memory.

bintext_screenshot

This is all instigated through a small number of registry entries, details of which are listed in the Microsoft article on the subject, and could easily be implemented into a sandbox or endpoint security setup to gather clues about what has occurred. I’ve found this to be a neat alternative to Flypaper without having to go to the trouble of writing a hook for the ExitProcess function.

Happy analysing!

-Adam (Twitter: @CyberKramer)

Coin Check: Win the challenge, join the elite list of lethal forensicators & take home a brand new DFIR challenge coin!

forensics_coin (1)Hundreds of SANS Institute digital forensics students have stepped up to the challenge and conquered. They’ve mastered the concepts and skills, beat out their classmates, and proven their prowess. These are the elite, the recipients of the SANS Lethal Forensicator Coin, an award given to a select portion of the thousands of students that have taken any of the SANS Institute Digital Forensics or Incident Response (DFIR) courses. Now, the institute is expanding the opportunity for students to earn these highly coveted tokens in each of the SANS DFIR courses.

Thanks to an effort led by curriculum lead Rob Lee & the SANS DFIR faculty, students can now win specific SANS Lethal Forensicator Coins designed to go with each of the DFIR course themes. These coins are tailored to be icons and the precious prizes to be won by students as a proof and symbol of their mastery in a specific digital forensics specialty.

New DFIR course challenge coins available now:

500FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis

“Ex Umbra in Solem”: From the Shadows into the Light
In today’s digital world, forensics plays a critical role in uncovering the truth. Forensic examiners shine light on the facts of the case, making good decisions possible. And the forces of evil unceasingly develop new ways to hide their activities, forcing us to continually improve our skills to counter them.

508FOR508: Advanced Digital Forensics, Incident Response & Threat Hunting

“Non Potestis Celare”: You  cannot hide
The most successful incident response teams are evolving rapidly due to near-daily interaction with adversaries. New tools and techniques are being developed, providing better visibility and making the network more defensible. Adversaries can no longer hide.

610FOR610: Reverse-Engineering Malware

“R.E.M”: Reverse-Engineering Master

Today,  attackers are modifying their malware with increasing frequency to bypass antivirus and other endpoint controls. Through reverse-engineering Malware (R.E.M) Analysis Masters can isolate the most appropriate Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) to stop & identify malware.

585FOR585: Advanced Smartphone Forensics

“Omnis Tactus Vestigium Relinquit”:  Every contact leaves a trace
Knowing how to recover all of the data residing on the smartphone is now an expectation in the digital forensics field, and examiners must understand the fundamentals of smartphone handling, data recovery, accessing locked devices, and manually recovering data hiding in the background on the device. There are traces of evidence hiding on the device, and you know how to uncover them.

572FOR572: Advanced Network Forensics Analysis

“Malum Loquitur, Bonum Auscultat”: Evil must talk, so good must listen

Network Forensic professionals are hunters with great visibility, who can find a target among a mass of camouflaging data. Wisdom, experience, and stealth are all embodied by the owl’s watchful, unwavering eye, seeking its prey under the cover of darkness. No matter how crafty an adversary may be, their communications will allow the hunter to find, identify, and ultimately eliminate their presence.

518FOR518: Mac Forensics

“Impera magis. Aliter cogita”: Command more and think differently.

Apple users have always thought differently and that goes for Apple forensicators too. The analysts who hold this coin take command of their forensic analysis and appreciate looking at the raw data and interpreting it correctly without the necessity of superfluous tools. Knowing where you came from can help you move forward, this is where the hat tip to the original colored Apple logo comes in. New artifacts are presented to analysts in every OS update, the knowledge of historic elements may provide insight.

FOR578_coinFOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence

“Hominem unius libri timeo”: I fear the man of one book.

FOR578 is all about developing analytical skills. To think critically and expand our views which is a skill that applies to any security profession. The quote is attributed to Thomas Aquinas and despite the common use of the phrase (which is meant to deride the person who is not well studied across multiple subjects) the original meaning was to state that a person who understood one good book well could defeat their opponent. Thus, this phrase can be interpreted two entirely different ways. Both are about self-education and broadening our views on the world.

FOR526_coinFOR526: Memory Forensics In-Depth

“Cur mihi oculi dolent?” Why do my eyes hurt?

Memory forensics reveals deeper insights into the state of a compromised system and stands as the best source for detection of malware and OS/process manipulation/subversion. These analysis methods reveal key evidence which may not be uncovered through querying the operating system or digging through network packets. This quote comes from the original Matrix movie, a question Neo asks of Morpheus when he first wakes from his life in the artificial reality created by sentient machines. It is this awakening and raw view of reality that we as forensic examiners/incident responders strive to achieve through deeper analysis of system memory.

 

Netwars DFIR Netwars

Staying up-to-date with the latest challenges in the digital forensics field demand analytical skills that cannot be gained by just reading a textbook. Just like firemen could never learn the skills of how to fight a fire by just studying theory, incident responders, threat hunters, and digital forensic investigators can test their skills with DFIR Netwars.

New DFIR Challenge coin back design:

BackThe challenges for each course are held on the last day. Students must successfully overcome a number of obstacles, directly compete against fellow students, and prove their proficiency during timed, hands-on incidents. The obstacles, competitions and hands-on scenarios have been created by SANS’ top instructors – digital forensics practitioners, subject matter experts, experienced teachers and professional leaders in their own right. At the end of the challenge, the instructor announces the winner(s) who are awarded the coins at the end of the 6th day of class and winners are later on listed on the SANS Institute’s virtual wall of Lethal Forensicator Coin Holders.

 

History of the SANS Challenge coins:

The coin – more precisely, Round Metal Object (RMO) – was initially created to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent, contributions, or who serve as leaders in the digital forensics profession and community. The coin is meant to be an honor; it is also intended to be rare. SANS Institute uses the coins to identify and honor those who excel at detecting and eradicating threats, understand the critical importance of cybersecurity and continually strive to further not only their knowledge but also the knowledge of the entire digital forensics field. They actively share their experience and encourage learning through participation in the community and are typically leaders in the digital forensics and incident response community.

Those who are awarded the Lethal Forensicator are also bestowed special privileges and recognition, including participation in the so-called and well-regarded “coin check” challenge and response.

“Coin check” Challenge:

Initiated by one coin holder to another, a coin check typically begins by a challenger holding his or her coin in the air or slamming it on a table and yelling “coin check!” All who are challenged must respond by showing their coins to the challenger within 10 seconds, and whoever fails to do so must buy everyone a round of drinks. If all the challenged coin holders do produce their coin, the challenger must by the round of drinks. (By the way, if you accidentally drop your coin and it makes an audible sound on impact, then you’ve “accidentally” initiated a coin check. And, there are no exceptions to the rules!)

Coin checks aside, there are other ways to win the DFIR Challenge coins besides being an exceptional DFIR student and winning the classroom challenges. Each GOLD GCFA, GREM, GCFE member that has written a published white paper that has furthered the field of research in the Digital Forensics field receives a coin, as do SANS Digital Forensics Blog authors who have written six published entries over a one-year span. In addition, speakers and panelists who participate at a SANS Digital Forensic Summit are awarded coins (vendors and vendor-related speakers are not eligible). Finally, any coin holder can nominate an individual in the digital forensics field who has contributed knowledge, tools or service.

For more information on our SANS DFIR courses, please visit our Forensics Courses list. And to read more about the coin and the history of the term “Forensicator,” check out our Community – Lethal Forensicator Coin page.

Three Steps to Communicate Threat Intelligence to Executives.

As the community of security professionals matures there is a merging of the intel community, the incident response professionals, and security operations. One struggle folks have is how to make the threat intelligence actionable for the business. You have the large data from Recorded Future, yet, how do you apply the data in a practical way and communicate to the business?

The answer is keep it short and to the point and in the risk language, they use.  Bring solutions, not problems to the table. An executives greatest challenge is time. They want smart people who can make the day to day decisions to protect the company from attacks, in order for them to address large strategic topics.

In addition, the business media channels are talking about the security problems.  Just browse to The Wall Street Journal and see the latest cyber security news posts. That is good for our profession, so we need to be proactive. How do we be proactive? There are four steps that need to be done.

The first is know what is a business differentiator for the company.  Ask the executives what makes this organization competitive. Why is it different? Ask how might that difference be vulnerable to cyber-attack?

The second step is to do the analysis. Be proactive, being situationally aware, Recorded Future can provide access to that data. Not only knowing the threats, but how they apply to the organization. What part of the kill chain does the attack occur? Does it already map to an attacker campaign?

I’ll give a fictitious example.  You are an analyst at a power company. Reading the latest blogs on exploits and attacks you see a media release of a new type of malware attacking the power grid.  You know from business discussions that power production is critical for the business.  Is the threat, “the new malware” a risk to the organization?

Using Recorded Future, search for the first time the malware was mentioned in the score card.  In the case below of the Furtim malware, Recorded Future data shows blogs from a few years ago and a Virus Total post too. So much for the vendor hype that this is a new threat.

Ask yourself, does the organization have mitigations and controls in place to stop the threat, in this case at this point in time, the organizations anti-virus does detect the malware. Are there any other controls in place? Are there mitigations in place?  Maybe there is an IPS signature in place. If not, then run the attack in a test environment, build blue team solutions. Begin tracking the attack indicators and possible campaign by mapping the attack to the kill chain for the organization.

The third step is to communicate. Executives understand risk, so explaining the threat in terms of risk is effective and if there is not a control in place find one and communicate when it will be implemented.  Below is a canned example:

Dear All,

I’d like to make you aware of an item, in case you are asked about it. It involves a business concern, the power grid.  It appears there are a couple articles on the internet about a malware sample called Furtim, getting more media attention.

 One of the articles becoming popular is found here: https://sentinelone.com/blogs/sfg-furtims-parent/

The article makes a few points to gain media attention. 

Such as:

  • “sophisticated malware campaign specifically targeting at least one European energy company”
  • “potentially shut down an energy grid “
  • “The sample appears to be targeting facilities that not only have software security in place, but physical security as well “

So I took a look to see if we are protected or if there are gaps in the organization.  What the authors forget to mention is that for the infect to work, other gaps are needed.  For example, the sophisticated malware, in the article is a “final payload” and needs to use another common malware to infect a computer before it can be harmful.  After researching the Furtim malware and with the virus total results found here 

 https://www.virustotal.com/en/file/766e49811c0bb7cce217e72e73a6aa866c15de0ba11d7dda3bd7e9ec33ed6963/analysis/ the information shows Anti-virus detects the common malware as part of the infection chain.  Granted the malware can be re-coded but based on the current information I have today, this is a low risk to the organizations environment.  I’ll continue to monitor logs for specific connections out from our network that are related to command and control.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

 In General, follow the three steps to apply threat intelligence. One, know the organization you are defending, what drives it? Two, be technically proactive, do the research, analyze the attack data and map it to the kill chain.  Three, communicate risk and solutions.  For more information about practical threat intelligence see Rob M. Lee’s blog and enroll in the SANS Threat Intelligence class.