Wednesday, January 17, 2018

From my Gartner Blog - Security Monitoring Use Cases, the UPDATE!

Posting about updated documents is often boring, but this time I’m talking about my favorite Gartner document, as usual, co-authored with Anton“How to Develop and Maintain Security Monitoring Use Cases”!

This document described an approach to identity, prioritize, implement and manage security monitoring use cases. Of course, it has a lot on SIEM, as it’s usually the chosen tool for implementation of those use cases, but we revised to ensure we are also covering technologies such as UEBA, EDR and even SOAR. If we consider that detection can often be implemented as multi-stage process, that’s a natural evolution!

The major changes are:

  • Revamping the main graphic of the document to better illustrate how the process works (below)
  • Putting more emphasis on some of the artifacts generated by the process, such as use case lists
  • Evolving the language around about doing use case development as software development to say “doing it as AGILE software development”
  • Reinforcing the types of use cases that are usually managed by this process: threat, controls and asset oriented
  • Including tips for use case management when working with a MSSP (we are writing more about this in our upcoming MSSP doc, BTW)

The summary diagram for the framework can be seen below:Enlarge Image

Again, we are always looking for feedback on our research. If you have anything to say about this document, please use this page to do it.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

From my Gartner Blog - Automation – Why Only Now?

As we ramp up our research on SOAR and start looking at some interesting tools for automated security testing, something crossed my mind: Why are we only seeing security operations automation and security testing automation technologies come to market now? I mean, automating workflows is not new technology, so why are these specific workflows only being automated now?

I believe the answer includes multiple reasons, but I see two as key:

The need: Of course it would be great to automate SOC tasks back in 2005, but at that time the environments were more stable, and the volume of threat activity lower. Because virtualization was still not everywhere, the number of systems running was also smaller. The smaller pace of change and size of the technology environments, as well as a less aggressive threat landscape were still compatible with mostly manual security operations. With cloud, devops, crazy state sponsored threats and very short breach to impact scenarios like ransomware it is imperative for organizations to be able to adapt and react faster. At the required scale, that’s only possible with more automation.

The tools: Yes, the ability to write an automated workflow was already there, but integration was still painful! There were only some APIs available from the different security (or even general IT) tools, and most of the time they were not standardized and not simple as the abundant REST APIs we see today. In the past, if you wanted to fully automate a SOC playbook you would probably need to include all required capabilities in a single tool, without the option to orchestrate the work of multiple independent solutions. So, it is not that automation tools were not available; the broad menu of tools to be centrally orchestrated didn’t exist.

 

The increase in need is independent of how the security industry evolves, but I see the second reason in a very positive way. We are constantly bashing the vendor community on the release of new tools based on exaggerated marketing claims, but we should also acknowledge this movement of making the tools friendlier to integration as a positive evolution of the industry. There have been many standards and attempts to create common languages and protocols to integrate tools, but apparently opening them for integration via REST APIs has provided far more benefits than initiatives like IF-MAP, DXL, CIF, IODEF, IDMEF.

What else do you think is driving this automation trend in security?

 

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

From my Gartner Blog - Threat Simulation – How real does it have to be?

We are starting our research on “Testing Security”. So far we’ve been working with a fairly broad scope, as Anton’s post on the topic explained. One of the things we are looking at is the group of tools that has been called “breach and attack simulation tools”.

Tools that automate exploitation have been around for years; we can mention things like Metasploit, Core Impact, CANVAS and others. Those are tools used by pentesters so they don’t need to rewrite their exploits for each specific condition they find during their test. So what’s different in the new wave of tools?

The idea of using these tools is to have a consistent way to continuously test your controls, from prevention to detection (and even response). They are not focused on making exploitation easier, but to run an entire intrusion scenario, end to end, to check how the controls in the attacked environment react to each step. They go beyond exploitation and include automation of the many steps in the attack chain, including command and control, lateral movement, resource access and exfiltration. They also add a layer of reporting and visualization that allows the users to see how each attack  is performed and what the tool was (or was not) able to accomplish.

We are just starting to talk to some of the vendors in this space, but I noticed there’s one point they seem to argue about: how much real should these tests be? Some of the vendors in this space noticed there is a strong resistance from many organizations in running automated exploitation tools in their production environments, so they built their tools to only simulate the more aggressive steps of the attacks. Some of these tools even take the approach of “assuming compromise”, bypassing the exploitation phase and focusing on the later stages of the attack chain.

It is an interesting strategy to provide something acceptable to the more conservative organizations, but there are some limitations that come with that approach. In fact, I see two:

First, many prevention and detection technologies are focused on the exploitation actions. If there are no exploitation actions, they just won’t be tested. So, if the tool replicates a “lateral movement scenario” on an endpoint using a arbitrary fake credential that mimics the outcome of successfully running mimikatz, no tool or approach that looks for the signs (or prevents) of that attack technique being used (like this) will be tested. If the organization uses deception breadcrumbs, for example, they wouldn’t be touched, so there’s no way to check if they would actually be extracted and used during an attack. Same thing for monitoring signs of the exploit or even preventing them from working using exploitation mitigation technologies. So, the testing scenarios would be, in a certain way, incomplete.

Second, the fact that exploitation is not necessarily something that happens only in the beginning of the attack chain. It is often used as one of the first steps to get code running into the target environment, but many exploitation actions could come later as part of the attack chain for privilege elevation, lateral movement and resource access. So, assuming that exploitation has only a small role, at the beginning of the attack chain, is a very risky approach when you are looking for what needs to be tested in the entire control set.

Looking at these two points in isolation suggests that breach and attack simulation tools should perform real exploitation to properly test the existing controls. But apart from the concerns of disrupting production systems, there are other challenges with incorporating exploits in the automated tests. The vendor or the organization using the systems now needs to the ability to incorporate new exploits as new vulnerabilities come up, check if each one of those are safe or if they could damage the ability of the real systems to protect themselves after the test is completed (some exploits disable security controls permanently, so using them during a test could actually reduce the security of the environment). The approach of avoiding exploitation eliminates those concerns.

If both approaches are valid, it is important to the organization to understand the limitations of the tests and what still needs to be tested manually or through alternative means (such as good and old checklist?). This also brings another question we should look at during this research: how to integrate the findings of all these testing approaches to provide a unique view of the state of the security controls? That’s something for another post.

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