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Randy's Blog on Infosec and Other Stuff

Get rid of QuickTime as Quickly and Efficiently – For FREE!

Mon, 25 Apr 2016 12:53:01 GMT

Hi folks.  If you are wondering how many computers on your network have QuickTime installed and how to get rid of it, I’ve got some help for you in the form of a video, PowerShell script, AppLocker policy and free tools from SolarWinds.  If you don’t already know why it’s urgent to uninstall QuickTime, be aware that Apple has announced it’s no longer supporting QuickTime for Windows even though TrendMicro has announced 2 zero-day heap corruption vulnerabilities that allow remote code execution.  According to my understanding of this, Apple never provided any warning that they’d stop patching their software.  That’s really lame.  You have to say this for Microsoft, they give you warning.  So every Windows endpoint with QuickTime installed is a sitting duck.  Even the Department of Homeland Security is warning folks to kill QuickTime before the bad guys exploit it against you and your network.

Barry and I have put together 2 videos:

1.  How to spend about 15 minutes with a trial download of SolarWinds Patch Manager to

a.  Quickly inventory all the endpoints with QuickTime installed

i.  We got the folks at SolarWinds to post a report on Thwack that reports all computers with QuickTime installed.

b.  Remotely un-install QuickTime from those PCs

c.  Without installing any agents!

2.  Or you can use AppLocker to block QuickTime from executing on PCs where it is installed

I recommend using the SolarWinds Patch Manager option because it’s fast, easy and free and it eliminates the risk by uninstalling QuickTime.  My alternative AppLocker procedure only blocks QuickTime; it doesn’t install it and it doesn’t address malware that knows how to bypass the Application Identity service.

If you are going to the 30-day trial of SolarWinds Patch Manager to remove QuickTime please use this URL to download it because that helps us keep the lights on here at UltimateWindowsSecurity.  And don’t worry, the good folks at SolarWinds are good with you using the eval to solve this problem.  You might want to keep Patch Manager once you see it.  After explaining how to use it to get rid of QuickTime I’ll explain why I like Patch Manager.

Download PatchManager and install it.  Watch Barry’s video to help you save time.  It only takes Barry 11 minutes to install Patch Manager, find all the PCs with QuickTime and uninstall it.  Follow along with Barry and you’ll be done in time to take the rest of the morning off. 

If you are interested in my alternative (and less secure) AppLocker method, watch this video.

Download Randy's Powershell Script here:

Both methods work without agents!  But only Patch Manager actually eliminates the risk.  And the no agent thing is what I love about Patch Manager.  It provides software inventory and 3rd party patching (Adobe, Java, Apple, etc) without requiring you to install yet another agent.  How does it do it?  It’s pretty cool. Patch Manager uses WMI for querying PCs but then it leverages the already existing Windows Update agent baked into every Windows computer to push 3rd party patches and of course Microsoft patches too.  It does this through a really cool integration with WSUS. 

So you get the best of both worlds.  Leverage the built-in infrastructure Windows already provides for patching Microsoft products to patch 3rd party products too!  Brilliant.  Again, if you want to use Patch Manager for getting rid of QuickTime for free or just want to try it out, please use this URL.  It helps fund our research and real training for free we provide nearly each week.

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Understanding the Difference between “Account Logon” and “Logon/Logoff” Events in the Windows Security Log

Certificates and Digitally Signed Applications: A Double Edged Sword

Mon, 11 Apr 2016 11:28:31 GMT

Windows supports the digitally signing of EXEs and other application files so that you can verify the provenance of software before it executes on your system. This is an important element in the defense against malware. When a software publisher like Adobe signs their application they use the private key associated with a certificate they’ve obtained from one of the major certification authorities like Verisign.

Later when you attempt to run a program Windows can check the file’s signature and verify that it was signed by Adobe and that its bits haven’t been tampered with such as by the insertion of malicious code.

Windows doesn’t enforce digital signatures or limit which publisher’s programs can execute by default but you can enable with AppLocker. As powerful as AppLocker potentially is, it is also complicated to set up except for environments with a very limited and standardized set of applications. You must create rules for at least every publisher whose code runs on your system.

The good news however is that AppLocker can also be activated in audit mode. And you can quickly set up a base set of allow rules by having AppLocker scan a sample system. The idea with running AppLocker in audit mode is that you then monitor the AppLocker event log for warnings about programs that failed to match any of the allow rules. This means the program has an invalid signature, was signed by a publisher you don’t trust or isn’t signed at all. The events you look for are 8003, 8006, 8021 and 8024 and these events are in the logs under AppLocker as shown here:

These events are described here which is part of the AppLocker Technical Reference.

If you are going to use AppLocker in audit mode for detecting untrusted software remember that Windows logs these events on teach local system. So be sure you are using a SIEM with an efficient agent like EventTracker to collect these events or use Windows Event Forwarding.

There are some other issues to be aware of though with digitally signed applications and certificates. Certificates are part of a very complicated technology called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). PKI has so many components and ties together so many different parties there is unfortunately a lot of room for error. Here’s a brief list of what has gone wrong in the past year or so with signed applications and the PKI that signatures depend on:

  1. Compromised code-signing server

    I’d said earlier that code signing allows you to make sure a program really came from the publisher and that it hasn’t been modified (tampered). But depends on how well publisher protects their private key. And unfortunately Adobe is a case in point. A while back some bad guys broke into Adobe’s network and eventually found their way to the very server Adobe uses to sign applications like Acrobat. They uploaded their own malware and signed it with Adobe’s code signing certificate’s private key and then proceeded to deploy that malware to target systems that graciously ran the program as a trusted Adobe application. How do you protect against publishers that get hacked? There’s only so much you can do. You can create stricter rules that limit execution to specific versions of known applications but of course that makes your policy much more fragile.

  2. Fraudulently obtained certificates

    Everything in PKI depends on the Certification Authority only issuing certificates after rigorously verifying the party purchasing the certificate is really who they way the are. This doesn’t always work. A pretty recent example is Spymel a piece of malware signed by a certificate DigiCert issued to a company called SBO Invest. What can you do here? Well, using something like AppLocker to limit software to known publishers does help in this case. Of course if the CA itself is hacked then you can’t trust any certificate issued by it. And that brings us to the next point.

  3. Untrustworthy CAs

    I’ve always been amazed at all the CA Windows trusts out of the box. It’s better than it used to be but at one time I remember that my Windows 2000 system automatically trusted certificates issued by some government agency of Peru. But you don’t have trust every CA Microsoft does. Trusted CAs are defined in the Trusted Root CAs store in the Certificates MMC snap-in and you can control the contents of this store centrally via group policy

  4. Insecure CAs from PC Vendors

    Late last year Dell made the headlines when it was discovered that they were shipping PCs with their own CA’s certificate in the Trusted Root store. This was so that drivers and other files signed by Dell would be trusted. That might have been OK but they mistakenly broke The Number One Rule in PKI. They failed to keep the private key private. That’s bad with any certificate let alone a CA’s root certificate. Specifically, Dell included the private key with the certificate. That allowed anyone that bought an affected Dell PC to sign their own custom malware with Dell’s private key and then once deployed on other affected Dell systems to run it with impunity since it appeared to be legit and from Dell.

So, certificates and code signing is far from perfect show me any security control that is. I really encourage you to try out AppLocker in audit mode and monitor the warnings it produces.  You won’t break any user experience, the performance impact hardly measurable and if you are monitoring those warnings you might just detect some malware the first time it executes instead of the 6 months or so that it takes on average.


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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
SolarWinds Log & Event Manager Includes My Favorite Feature in a SIEM…

Catching Hackers Living of the Land Requires More than Just Logs

Mon, 21 Dec 2015 13:56:30 GMT

If attackers can deploy a remote administration tool (RAT) on your network, it makes it so much easier for them. RATs make it luxurious for bad guys; it’s like being there on your network. RATs can log keystrokes, capture screens, provide RDP-like remote control, steal password hashes, scan networks, scan for files and upload them back to home. So if you can deny attackers the use of RATs you’ve just made life a lot harder for them.

And we are getting better at catching so-called advanced persistent threats by detecting the malware they deploy on compromised systems. We can say this because experts are seeing more attackers “living off the land”. Living off the land means for an attacker to go malware free and instead rely on the utilities, scripting engines, command shells and other native resources available on systems where they gain an entry point.

By living off the land, they keep a much lower profile. They aren’t stopped as much by application control and whitelisting controls. There’s no malware for antivirus to detect.

And Windows provides plenty of native resources for this kind of attacker. (Linux and UNIX do too, but I’m focusing on Windows since client endpoints initially targeted by today’s attackers mostly run Windows.) You might be surprised how much you can do with just simple batch files. Let alone PowerShell. And then there’s WMI. Both PowerShell and WMI provide a crazy amount of functionality. You can access remote systems and basically interface with any API of the operating system. You can open up network connections for “phoning home” to command and control servers and more. This is all stuff that in years past required an EXE or DLL. Now you can basically do anything that a custom built EXE can do but without touching the file system which so much of our current security technology is based on.

How do you prevent attacks like this? PowerShell has optional security restrictions you can implement for preventing API access and limiting script execution to signed script files. With WMI it’s not as clear. Obviously all the normal endpoint security technologies have a part to play.

But let’s focus on detection. It’s impossible to prevent everything and mitigate every vulnerability. So we can’t neglect detection. The challenge with detecting attackers living off the land is 2 fold. The activities you need to monitor:

  1. Aren’t found in logs
  2. Are happening on client endpoints

Both of these create big challenges. Let’s talk about #1 first. A.N. Ananth and I describe the types of activities that are clues to possible attacker living off the land in 5 Indicators of Evil on Windows Hosts using Endpoint Threat Detection and Response and I encourage you to watch that session which is full of good technical tips. But the point is that the thing you need to watch for aren’t in the Windows security log or other logs. Instead detection requires a combination of file scanning, configuration checks, querying of running processes and so on. All stuff that requires code running on the local system or very powerful and complex remote access. If we were only talking about servers we could consider deploying an agent. But to catch todays threats you need to be monitoring where they begin which is on client endpoints – the desktops and laptops of your employees. And there’s no way to remotely reach into that many systems in real time even if you overcame the technical hurdles of that kind of remote access. So that leaves agents which always causes a degree of pushback.

But it’s time to stop calling them agents. Today what we need on endpoints are sensors. It’s a subtle but important shift in mindset. In the physical world, everyone understand the need for sensors and that sensors have to deployed where the condition is being monitored. If you want to know when someone enters your building at night you need sensor on every door. Likewise, if you want the earliest possible warning that your organizations have been compromised you need a sensor on every endpoint.

So I encourage you to start thinking and speaking in terms of leveraging your endpoints as a sensor rather than yet another system that requires an agent. And look for security vendors that get this. EventTracker has done a great job of evolving their agent into a powerful and irreplaceable endpoint security agent that “see” things that are just impossible any other way.

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
Understanding the Difference between “Account Logon” and “Logon/Logoff” Events in the Windows Security Log
Live with SecureAuth at RSA 2015

How to Detect Low Level Permission Changes in Active Directory

Wed, 16 Dec 2015 09:26:50 GMT

We hear a lot about tracking privileged access today because privileged users like Domain Admins can do a lot of damage but more importantly if there accounts are compromised the attacker gets full control of your environment.

In line with this concern, many security standards and compliance documents recommend tracking changes to privileged groups like Administrators, Domain Admins and Enterprise Admins in Windows and related groups and roles in other applications and platforms.

But in some systems you can also granularly delegate privileged access – ultimately giving someone the same level of authority as a Domain Admins but “underneath the radar”. This is especially true in AD. This capability is a double edged sword because it’s necessary if you are going to implement least privilege but it also creates a way for privileged access to be granted inadvertently or even maliciously in such a way that will go unnoticed unless you are specifically looking for it. Here’s how:

First you need to enable “Audit Directory Service Changes” on your domain controllers – probably using the Default Domain Controllers Policy GPO.

Then open Active Directory Users and Computers and enable Advanced Features under View. Next select the root of the domain and open Properties. Navigate the Audit tab of the domain’s Advanced Security Settings dialog shown below.

Add an entry for Everyone that audits “Modify permissions” on all objects like the entry highlighted above. At this point domain controllers will record Event ID 5136 whenever someone delegates authority of any object in the domain – whether an entire OU or a single user account. Here’s an example event:

A directory service object was modified.


     Security ID:         MTG\pad-rsmith

     Account Name:        pad-rsmith

     Account Domain:      MTG

     Logon ID:       0x5061582

Directory Service:

     Name: mtg.local

     Type: Active Directory Domain Services


     DN:  OU=scratch,DC=mtg,DC=local

     GUID: OU=scratch,DC=mtg,DC=local

     Class:     organizationalUnit


     LDAP Display Name:   nTSecurityDescriptor

     Syntax (OID):



     Type: Value Added

     Correlation ID: {29fbbb83-5567-4935-9593-73496cc98461}

     Application Correlation ID:     -

This event tells you that a MTG\pad-rsmith (that’s me) modified the permissions on the Scratch organizational unit in the MTG.local domain. nTSecurityDescriptor and “Value Added” tell us it was a permissions change. The Class field tells the type of object and DN gives us the distinguished name of the object whose permissions were changed. Subject tells us who made the change. I removed the lengthy text for Attribute Value because it’s too long to display and it’s in SDDL format which isn’t really human readable without a significant amount of effort. Technically it does provide you with the full content of the OU’s new access control list (aka Security Descriptor) but it’s just not practical to try to decode it. It’s probably going to be faster to actually find the object in Active Directory Users and Computers and view its security settings dialog via the GUI.

So the Security Log isn’t perfect but this method does give you a comprehensive audit trail of all permission changes and delegation within Active Directory. If you combine this with group membership auditing you’ll have a full picture of all changes that could impact privileged access in AD which is a key part of security and compliance.

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
SolarWinds Log & Event Manager Includes My Favorite Feature in a SIEM…

Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond

Thu, 15 Oct 2015 15:37:14 GMT

Every year, organizations spend millions of frustrating hours and countless sums of money trying to reverse the damage done by malware attacks. The harm caused by malware can be astronomical, going well beyond intellectual property loss and huge fines levied for non-compliance. In 2014, the cost of malware attacks and resulting breaches was estimated at $491 billion. [i] And these costs include more than just the money spent trying to directly respond to security breaches. Productivity, long-term profitability, and brand reputation are often severely impacted as well.

The malware threat is growing larger and becoming more challenging to respond to every year. It seems like every month there are more major breaches. Target, Neiman Marcus, and UPS have all been victims of costly breaches in the past couple years, with each event showing signs that the breaches could have been prevented. Phishing-based malware was the starting point 95 percent of the time in state-sponsored attacks, and 67 percent of the time in cyber-espionage attacks.[ii]

With such high-profile organizations being the target of attacks, do you really need to be worried?


It’s easy to shrug off the threat of malware and believe that the target will always be a retail organization or a huge brand name, that it will never be your organization. However, according to a 2015 Ponemon study, 80 percent of all organizations experience some form of Web-borne malware. [iii] So don’t be lulled into a false sense of security: All industries are at risk, including the financial, health care, and government sectors you hear about in the news.

And remember, these attacks aren’t confined to large, multinational corporations. Cybercriminals frequently target small and midsized businesses (SMBs). A prime example of an attack on a small business is Pennsylvania-based A cyberattack occurred in 2014, costing the company $200,000, not including lost sales after the attack while the company had to temporarily stop accepting credit card payments. Granted, this attack is not on the same scale from a total dollar perspective as the more well-publicized breaches we hear about in the media. But for a small company, an attack of this size can be just as devastating, if not more so.

Malware is not just an annoyance or minor inconvenience. It is the gateway to far more serious problems for a company and its customers. And it invades a network easily. There are many insidious ways it can infect a system email attachments, phishing email messages, various file-sharing programs, and out-of-date OS patching, to name a few. And once it affects a single computer or network node, it can quickly spread throughout your network like an out-of-control forest fire.  This is called a horizontal kill chain and features heavily in every attack we analyze.


What if there were a way to solve these potentially devastating problems before they got out of hand? Or even before they occurred in the first place? There is. This paper discusses just such a real-life situation, in which a malware attack took place but was discovered by the built-in rules of LogRhythm before any damage occurred.

The situation involves a customer of LogRhythm. LogRhythm is a leading provider of security intelligence and analytics solutions. LogRhythm empowers organizations around the globe to rapidly detect, respond to, and neutralize damaging cyber threats, giving clients the ability to catch and proactively solve problems they might not have otherwise anticipated.

What follows is a textbook example of the kind of problems LogRhythm solves on a regular basis and the risks it mitigates for its customers every day. This malicious activity could have led to a very serious intrusion with devastating repercussions, but LogRhythm caught it immediately and the client was able to research and mitigate it easily and quickly by using additional capabilities of LogRhythm including packet analysis, custom alarms and more.


It all started when the organization received a SIEM alarm from LogRhythm’s Advanced Intelligence Engine (AIE), notifying the IT team of a suspicious situation: A single domain user account had established simultaneous VPN access from two separate locations. This anomaly was caught because of a default, out of the box rule in LogRhythm as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: LogRhythm's AI Engine

The situation was an obvious case of compromised user credentials. A corporate end user should typically not be logging in simultaneously from two geographically separate locations. In response, the organization’s Security Operations Center (SOC) called the end user (who happened to be a technical security staff member himself) to investigate the matter. The SOC wondered if the user had set up a proxy device from home, or was perhaps using his mobile device to initiate a connection or even running his own penetration test just to play with his colleagues. The SOC determined that the end user had no malicious intent; he was using the VPN in a legitimate fashion while traveling on a business trip.

Because he was boarding a return flight soon and would not need his laptop, the SOC instructed the user to turn it off until he arrived back at the home office and could deliver it to the investigation team. Additionally, the SOC disabled the compromised Active Directory account, and the user’s computer account was removed from the network.


Once the laptop was received, IT ran a full antivirus scan and found no suspicious files or programs on the system. The IT team then placed the unit in an isolation/test lab for observation before reimaging it, because they wanted to identify the source of the problem and take steps to prevent it in the future. So, the computer was isolated and observed with LogRhythm’s network monitoring probe running.

At many organization management frequently over-relies on antivirus and assumes the organization is protected from any sort of malware damage. This is a serious misconception.

This particular threat was polymorphic in nature and as the name implies, it has the ability to change or “morph” regularly, thereby altering the appearance of its code. This characteristic bypasses detection by traditional antivirus tools and signatures. In our scenario, a more advanced scanner was deployed, and a file related to the threat was indeed found.

A proven, reliable antivirus solution is an important network security tool that you need on your network, but in today’s virulent, ever-changing threat landscape, it by no means provides the comprehensive protection you need. There is no substitute for comprehensive monitoring by a SIEM with a wealth of built-in knowledge about cryptic security logs and intelligent, pre-built rules to catch unusual activity.

Adobe Flash was suspected as the malware’s entry point because Shockwave was found to be improperly patched during a patch-scanning assessment of the computer.  (Figure 2) Unusual, irregular browser helper objects were also found; this situation is common when malware wants to hijack and redirect a browser session or send a user to a malicious site.


The organization used LogRhythm to initiate a full packet capture and deep packet inspection (DPI) of all traffic initiated during tests on the computer. A common destination IP address was found that did not belong to the organization. Naturally, this address raised suspicions: All traffic from the isolated laptop was going to the same IP address (which did not belong to the organization), indicating a possible hidden proxy mechanism on the isolated computer. See Figure 3.

Figure 3: A DPI showed traffic consistently going to the same IP address

Running ipconfig/displaydns showed that all traffic from the computer resolved to a common host record. Obviously, this was a glaring red-flag. Because the computer was sending every outbound packet to the same IP address, the problem was identified as intentional DNS poisoning.

It was important to the SOC to find out where the traffic was headed. Studying the IP address itself, the team identified a proxy IP address (DHCP lease) from an ISP in the United States. The SOC then contacted the ISP, which confirmed that the server was a compromised computer on its watch list.

The ISP then notified its customer (who had no malicious intent) that their server was hosting a compromised node (which was redirecting traffic to a location in Finland). The customer then took the server off the network and got the situation resolved.

Cybercriminals had been capturing and redirecting traffic through illegally compromised systems and would have had many opportunities to do harm, but they were thwarted in this case.


The investigation team uploaded the suspicious files to the antivirus community for the purpose of building awareness and with the hope that the community could create and deploy signatures and other heuristics to combat the malware threat.

Finally, to help prevent the same problem from happening again, the organization used LogRhythm to create a DPI rule to flag, alert, and capture proxy traffic and the same malware, should it reappear. (Figure 4) The computer that experienced the suspicious activity was reimaged, and patching was tightened on it and on computers across the company for potential Flash- and Shockwave-related problems for even greater risk mitigation.

Figure 4: A DPI rule monitors for traffic sent to the malicious IP address

None of the organization’s vital information was compromised, because the suspicious activity was caught so quickly and aggressively, and because effective action was taken so promptly. What could have been a major incident, or even a catastrophic data breach, was a mere bump in the road.


Malicious external attackers will use any means to access corporate information. Delivery mechanisms such as phishing-based attachments and malware-laden websites allow attackers to enter the figurative four walls of your organization. Unpatched applications such as Flash and Java allow access to credentials, the underlying operating system, data, and applications, giving the external attacker the ability to not just access corporate data but, as in the case of the scenario above, the ability to pass any obtained information outside the corporate walls for further malicious use. It all starts with one compromised endpoint.

Organizations can no longer rely simply on signature-based scanning of machines to identify malware. Polymorphic malware takes on an infinite number of forms, making it difficult to identify. And malware doesn’t exist for the sake of just existing; it has a purpose in mind that always involves taking something from you. So, a comprehensive approach to protecting your organization will entail not just looking at malware as a set of files to be detected, but also looking at it in terms of the actions it takes. You should be looking for ways to detect those actions on your network with the same determination with which you’d use an antivirus scanner to look for malware executables.

By taking this approach to thwarting malware, LogRhythm’s customer was able to automatically identify and address a potential issue the moment it arose, well before any damage could be done. Expanding your anti-malware efforts beyond simple machine scans to include scanning the network for malware activity will create a layered defense, ensuring the greatest effort in stopping malware in its tracks.

ABOUT Logrhythm

LogRhythm, a leader in security intelligence and analytics, empowers organizations around the globe to rapidly detect, respond to and neutralize damaging cyber threats. The company’s award-winning platform unifies next-generation SIEM, log management, network and endpoint monitoring and forensics, and security analytics. In addition to protecting customers from the risks associated with cyber threats, LogRhythm provides innovative compliance automation and assurance, and enhanced IT intelligence.

Consistently recognized by third-party experts, LogRhythm has been positioned as a Leader in Gartner’s SIEM Magic Quadrant report for four consecutive years, named a “Champion” in Info-Tech Research Group’s 2014-15 SIEM Vendor Landscape report and ranked Best-in-Class (No. 1) in DCIG’s 2014-15 SIEM Appliance Buyer’s Guide, awarded the SANS Institute's "Best of 2014" award in SIEM and received the SC Magazine Reader Trust Award for "Best SIEM Solution" in April 2015. Additionally, the company earned Frost & Sullivan’s SIEM/LM Global Market Penetration Leadership Award and been named a Top Workplace by the Denver Post. LogRhythm is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, with operations throughout North and South America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.


[i]  IDC, The Link Between Pirated Software and Cybersecurity Breaches (2014)

[ii]  Verizon, Data Breach Investigations Report (2015)

[iii]  Ponemon, State of the Endpoint Report: User-Centric Risk (2015)

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
SolarWinds Log & Event Manager Includes My Favorite Feature in a SIEM…

Strengthen your defenses where the battle is actually being fought – the endpoint

Tue, 29 Sep 2015 08:32:38 GMT

Defense-in-depth pretty much backs up the thought that every security technology has a place. But are they all created equal? Security is not a democratic process and no one is going to complain about security inequality if you are successful in stopping breaches. So I think we need to acknowledge a few things. Right now the bad guys are winning on the endpoint – in particular the workstation. One way or another they are getting users to execute bad code on their workstation. Having achieved a beach head, they work their way out across our network following a horizontal kill chain until they reach “the goods”. Next generation firewalls, identity and access control and privileged account management all have a part to play in detecting and slowing down this process. But we are not doing enough on the endpoint to recognize malicious code and key changes in user and application behavior. The strength of NGFWs is their eye in the sky ability to watch network traffic as a whole. But they can’t see inside encrypted packets and they don’t know which program inside the endpoint is sending or receiving observed packets. Much less can an NGFW tell you when that program appeared on the endpoint, how it got there, who executed it and so on.

So am I arguing for collecting endpoint security logs? Including workstations? Well that’s a start. But getting all your workstation security logs is challenging and may not meet your requirements because native logs do lack important information. If you have more than a handful of workstations, forget trying to collect their logs using any kind of pull/polling method; it just isn’t going to work. If you stick with native logs you need implement Windows native Event Forwarding which is a great technology but right now lacks management tools. So for most organizations that means agents.

Historically there’s been a lot of push back to deploying YAA (yet another agent) on workstations simply for the purpose of collecting logs. And I have to agree that going to the trouble of installing and maintaining an agent on every workstation when all you get is it’s native logs is a tough proposition.

That’s why I like what EventTracker has done with EventTracker 8 and the powerful detection, behavior analysis and prevention capabilities in their new agent. Basically it goes like this:

  1. We are losing the war on the endpoint front
  2. Ergo, we need to beef up defenses on the endpoint
  3. But native logs aren’t valuable enough alone to justify installing an agent
  4. Conclusion: increase the value of the agent by doing more than just efficiently forwarding logs

EventTracker 8’s Windows agent does much more than just forward logs. In fact, maybe we shouldn’t call it an agent. Perhaps sensor would be a better term.

One of the key things we need to do on endpoints is analyze the programs executing and identify new, suspect and known-bad programs. With native logs all you can get is the name of the program, who ran it and when (event ID 4688). The native log can’t tell you anything about the contents (i.e. the “bits”) of the program, whether it’s been signed, etc. Here’s what EventTracker 8 does every time a process is launched. It takes the process’s signature, pathname and md5 hash. It compares that information against:

  • A local whitelist
  • National Software Reference Library
  • VirusTotal

This is stuff you can only do if you have your own bits (i.e. an agent) running on the endpoint. You can’t do it with native logs and or with an NGFW. Here’s an example “synthetic” event generated by EventTracker that says it all:


I wish Windows had that event.

“But, wait. There’s more!”

Visibility inside the programs running on your endpoints and being able to compare them against internal and external reputation data is extremely valuable to detecting and stopping attacks. But if we have a good agent on the endpoint we can do even more. We can analyze what that program is doing on the network. What other systems is trying to access internally and where is it sending data out on the Internet? Here’s an example of what EventTracker 8 does with that information. How would you like to know whenever a non-browser application connects to a standard port on some unnamed system on the Internet? Check out the event below.

If you are up on malware techniques, though, you realize that discreet EXEs are not the only way attackers get arbitrary code to run on target systems. They have developed many different ways to hide bad guy code inside legit processes. One thing EventTracker does to detect this is by looking for suspicious threads injected into commonly abused processes like svchost.exe. EventTracker also does sophisticated analysis of the user too – not just programs – and alerts you when it sees suspicious combinations of user account, destination and source IP addresses.

EventTracker combines all the data that can only be obtained with an endpoint agent with general blacklist data from outside security organizations and specific whitelist data automatically built from internal activity. This is a great example of what you can do once you have your own code running on the endpoint. Combine native logs from each endpoint with all this other information and you are way ahead of the game.

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
Understanding the Difference between “Account Logon” and “Logon/Logoff” Events in the Windows Security Log
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond

Making SIEM better by focusing on the top 3 blind spots

Mon, 21 Sep 2015 17:28:31 GMT

To be even better, your SIEM needs more intelligence without noise. Like the universe we live in, the area that must be monitored for APTs constantly expands. It is hard to focus on the significant security events when the field of view keeps getting larger.

The key to information security is what you focus on must be worth catching. Enforcing systemic, organizational proficiency to focus on the narrower relevant field is absolutely crucial to organizations’ security practice.

Focus on the Top 3 Blind Spots

A lot of the organizations we talk to are finding a way to address that challenge of making their SIEM better, not burdened. They do it by dedicating their primary effort to solving the SIEM’s top 3 blind spots:

  1. Applications,
  2. the cloud, and
  3. failure to monitor all the Windows endpoints

We believe in this so much it’s where we are putting all our money. Here’s how:

LOGbinder provides the market-leading solution for SIEM’s to have visibility into what’s happening inside Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server. Soon after the public availability of Exchange 2016, SharePoint 2016 and SQL Server 2016 (expected mid-2016), LOGbinder intends to release compatible updates to its core products. We already have these versions in development and are excited about their potential to help make your SIEM better. Our SIEM integrations help you isolate and monitor only what’s important.

Microsoft’s cloud-based products, especially Office 365 and Azure are hugely attractive to organizations of all sizes. Their limitation has been a lack of audit capability, but that is soon to change. Microsoft expects to release (also mid-2016) a completely new and very good audit function to both Office 365 and Azure’s Active Directory. LOGbinder is poised to deliver a matching solution to put cloud-based application security intelligence where it belongs – your SIEM. We are investing significant resources with the plan to deliver the solution 30 days after public availability.

By the way (and this is important), it is going to require special effort on the part of all of us in the IT security business to pitch in and make cloud security audit and monitoring possible. LOGbinder will provide the audit data from cloud, as well as guidance about what to watch. But… you should talk to your SIEM product development team today to make sure they are talking to LOGbinder and working on their integration for LOGbinder’s cloud-based solutions.

The 3rd problem area for SIEM security intelligence is monitoring all Windows endpoints. If you don’t know which endpoint is installing a new program...

Your SIEM is perhaps your greatest bandwidth hog as it is, adding all that traffic from the endpoints isn’t feasible, right? But that’s not a good enough reason; nobody wants to have to explain a data breach because of it. The real reason is probably a financial one. LOGbinder has developed a solution and is devoting significant money to bring that solution to market early in 2016. We discussed it at length at the recent HP Protect conference. We call it SuperCharger for Windows Event Collection. It is software that – with no agents and no polling – uses the native Windows event functionality to deliver only the relevant security events to the SIEM from all the Windows endpoints with no noise! It’s really cool and we’re super-excited. So are our SIEM partners who’ve taken the time to talk to us about it.

We are very excited about the opportunities now (and soon to be) available for SIEM security analysts. Putting meaningful security event logs in the SIEM where they belong is our passion.

LOGbinder is committed to making your SIEM even more powerful by feeding it more intelligence without the noise.

Note: The statements in this post about our new product delivery dates are “forward-looking”. We can’t predict the future with certainty. Our plans are presented here, and we expect to be able to make those plans a reality. But like all future plans, they are vulnerable to unanticipated events.

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
Understanding the Difference between “Account Logon” and “Logon/Logoff” Events in the Windows Security Log

Are You Listening to Your Endpoints?

Tue, 04 Aug 2015 13:24:52 GMT

There’s plenty of interest in all kinds of advanced security technologies like threat intelligence, strong/dynamic authentication, data loss prevention and information rights management. But so many organizations still don’t know one of the basic indicators of compromise on their network – new processes and modified executables. This is so important because in every high profile case of data breaches over the past few years a common thread has been the presence of a malicious program that provided the attackers with persistent access to the internal network of the victim organization.

Moreover, some security technologies – such as strong authentication – are no defense if you have malicious code running on the endpoint of a strongly authenticated user.

So rapid detection of malicious code is paramount. The importance can’t be over-stated. Detecting malicious code isn’t easy and traditional signature-based AV is only going to catch comparatively “old” and widely distributed malware. It isn’t likely to catch the targeted attacks we are up against today in which the bad guy uses shrink wrapped tools to build and package unique malicious agent to use against your organization.

How do you detect and even prevent malware like this? Like everything it takes a defense-in-depth approach. Advanced 3rd party application white- and advanced memory protection are very effective. But whether you have such technologies deployed or on the radar, your SIEM solution can provide you early warning when new software is observed on your network.

The key thing is to look for Event ID 4688 in the Windows security log. Compare the executable name in that event to a list of whitelisted EXEs you expect to see –or better yet a list of executables that automatically builds from past events.

You want these events from every possible system – including workstations. If you are concerned about the amount of log data involved, I should mention that the sponsor of this article, EventTracker, provides an agent that can efficiently forward just the relevant events you want from thousands of endpoints.

Will there be false positives? Yes – especially until you refine your rules to take into account patches. Will this catch every malicious agent? Of course not. After all, there are multiple ways to insert malicious code on an endpoint and some are completely in-memory with no new executable involved. 3rd party advanced memory protection products or Microsoft’s EMET can provide some help with detecting memory exploits though and using your SIEM to collect and monitor those events is the obvious thing to do if you use EMET or another memory protection technology.

Some malware embeds itself in the existing, trusted EXEs and DLLs so it makes sense to monitor for modifications to such files. Again you want this from your workstations – not just server endpoints. Getting EXE/DLL modification events requires either Windows file monitoring or a file integrity monitoring (FIM) solution. Enabling auditing of just EXE and DLL files with Windows file auditing though is not that easy. You can’t configure audit policy on files with Group Policy without also impacting permssions. So widely distributed scripts would be required. FIM is definitely and easier route. Again, it’s worth mentioning that EventTracker’s agent includes FIM monitoring making it easy to catch changes to existing software as soon as it happens.

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5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
SolarWinds Log & Event Manager Includes My Favorite Feature in a SIEM…

Help me! Community Survey 2015

Tue, 28 Jul 2015 14:25:55 GMT

Please help me help you in the coming year. I need your help to determine which security topics to cover and to prioritize my real training for free™ sessions.

The survey will take about 15 minutes of your time, but it will make a big impact on what I do at One of our best sponsors, HEAT Software (formerly Lumension), helped me design the survey and will be sharing in the analysis of it.

Besides some general questions this survey covers 3 key areas of security today: cloud, mobile and endpoint management. Your time will really help me tailor my real training for free ™ webinars to fit your needs, priorities and interests. And it will help us understand the changing world of IT and information security.

Click here to complete the 2nd Annual UWS Community Survey. All participants will receive the annual report, developed from this survey. We thank you in advance for your participation in this important survey.


Thanks so much for your support!
Randy Franklin Smith

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Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Help me! Community Survey 2015
Does Microsoft care about the Security log?
Enriching Event Log Monitoring by Correlating Non Event Security Information

Enriching Event Log Monitoring by Correlating Non Event Security Information

Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:35:13 GMT

Sometimes we get hung up on event monitoring and forget about the “I” in SIEM which stands for information. And that’s important because there are more sources of non-event security information that your SIEM should be ingesting and correlating with security events than ever before. There’s at least 4 categories of security information that you can leverage in your SIEM to do better analysis of security events:

  1. Identify information from your directory (e.g. Active Directory)

    Your directory has a wealth of identify information that can help you sift the wheat from the chaff in your security logs. Here’s one example. Let’s say you regularly import a list of all members of Administrator groups from Active Directory into your SIEM and call the list PrivliegedAccounts. Now, enhance any rules or reports looking for suspicious user activity by also comparing the user name in the event against the PrivilegedAccounts list. If there’s a match, then the already suspicious event becomes even more important since it involves a privileged user. But you also likely have certain control over privileged user sessions. The PrivilegedAccounts list helps you identify anyone (internal or external) bypassing those controls whether a malicious insider or an outside attacker ignorant of your controls. Perhaps you require all administrators to go through a clean and hardened “jump box”. You can setup a rule to identify logon sessions where the username is in PrivilegedAccounts but was not initiated from the jump box.

  2. Environmental information (both internal and global)

    A global example of environment information is geocoding. Perhaps there are certain countries that you do not do business with which also have a bad reputation for cybercrime and espionage. Another popular way to leverage geocoding is to detect when a given user is apparently in 2 places at once which can indicate compromised credentials.

    But you can also leverage organization specific (i.e. internal) environment information. For instance, perhaps all of your administrators’ workstations fall within a certain range of IP addresses. Use this information in a rule examining logon attempts to your jump box or other hardened infrastructure systems (such as the management network interface on ESXi and HyperV systems) and alert when you see attempts to access these systems from non-administrators.(As always, the real world may be a little more complicated. Case in point: you may also need to factor in logon attempts through whatever means administrators use for remote access.

  3. Threat intelligence feeds available from security organizations

    There’s a growing array of threat intelligence feeds ranging from community-based free feeds to those commercially produced and available for a fee. These feeds range from lists of IP addresses linked to command and control networks, botnets and compromised hosts to network indicators of compromise and malware signatures. We recently look at the free feeds available from in this webinar sponsored by EventTracker. Correlating event logs from all levels of your network to threat intelligence can help you identify compromised systems and persistent attackers much earlier in the process.

  4. Internal threat intelligence.

    A. N. Ananth (EventTracker) coined this term to describe information that you can compile from your own network and systems using similar techniques as outside threat intelligence organizations. There’s no arguing the “crowd-sourced” value of external threat intelligence but such information is missing a key aspect that is addressed by internal threat intelligence. External threat intelligence tend to be “black lists” of “known bad” data. On the other hand, internal threat intelligence usually take the form of “white lists” of “known good” data. White lists tend to be much smaller, more effective and easier to tune and maintain. For instance if your SIEM can determine from past history that server A normally only communicates with 10 other hosts – that is very valuable to know – especially if your SIEM can alert you when it sees that host suddenly start sending gigabytes of data to an entirely new host on an unusual port.

    The bottom line is that your SIEM needs as much data (both event and non-event) as possible and it needs to be effective at correlating it into valuable situational intelligence. Don’t stop at logs. Look for other kinds of security information from your directory, the local and global environment and threat intelligence from the security community and internal.

email this digg reddit dzone
comments (0)references (0)

5 Indicators of Endpoint Evil
Anatomy of a Hack Disrupted: How one of SIEM’s out-of-the-box rules caught an intrusion and beyond
Live with Dell at RSA 2015
Understanding the Difference between “Account Logon” and “Logon/Logoff” Events in the Windows Security Log

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