There’s been a significant rise in the number of dark web listings for malware and other hacking tools which target the enterprise, and an increasing number of underground vendors are touting tools that are designed to target particular industries.
A study by cybersecurity company Bromium and criminologists at the University of Surrey involved researchers studying underground forums and interacting with cyber-criminal vendors. The study found that the dark web is fast becoming a significant source of bespoke malware.
SEE: 10 tips for new cybersecurity pros (free PDF)
In many cases, the dark web sellers demonstrated intimate knowledge of email systems, networks and even cybersecurity protocols in a way that suggests they themselves have spent a lot of time inside enterprise networks, raising questions about security for some companies.
“What surprised me is the extent you could obtain malware targeting enterprise, you could obtain operational data relating to enterprise,” Mike McGuire, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey and author of the study, told ZDNet.
“There seems to be an awareness and sophistication among these cyber criminals, to go for the big fry, to go where the money is, as a criminal, and the enterprise is providing that,” he said, adding: “What surprised me is just how easy it is to get hold of it if you want to.”
McGuire and his team interacted with around 30 sellers on dark web marketplaces – sometimes on forums, sometimes via encrypted channels, sometimes by email – and the findings have been detailed in the Behind the Dark Net Black Mirror report.
The study calculated that since 2016, there’s been a 20 percent rise in the number of dark web listings that have the potential to harm the enterprise.
Malware and distributed denial of service (DDoS) form almost half of the attacks on offer – a quarter of the listings examined advertised malware and one in five offered DDoS and botnet services. Other common services targeting enterprises that were for sale include espionage tools, such as remote-access Trojans and keyloggers
In many cases, attackers are specifically advertising their products as a means of compromising enterprises. For example, researchers found listings for Nuke malware being advertised in this way – a particularly worrying example because of how destructive it can be.
Not only does it allow users to open remote sessions and effectively take over an infected machine, it can bypass many kinds of Windows firewall protections used by the enterprise. On several Russian-language forums, Nuke is actively being advertised as an ideal attack tool for use against enterprise networks.
While all sectors are targeted by hackers, banking and finance were the most likely to be targeted by dark-web sellers – 35% of listings were for malicious tools specifically designed to target banks; e-commerce accounted for 20% of listings. Malware designed to work against healthcare, education and media targets were also found to be prominently advertised.
SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)
The study investigates vendors offering access to specific enterprise networks – be it via malware, stolen admin credentials or other backdoors into systems – such as remote-desktop protocols.
Over 60 percent of sellers were offering access to more than ten business networks – in some cases, the credentials were offered for as low as $2.
However, while posing as a potential buyer, researchers found that just under half of dark web sellers claimed they could offer services that specifically target FTSE 100 or Fortune 500 companies – depending on the company involved, these services were offered for as little s $150 and as much as $10,000.
“You can buy tailored malware where people had obviously got an understanding about a particular network, its functions, its protections – and it isn’t necessarily zero-days, it’s an interesting combination of human-backed cybercrime and some of this more refined software,” said McGuire.
Gregory Webb, CEO of Bromium, told ZDNet that large enterprises should have eyes on the dark web, allowing them to see if criminals are talking about their network – and what malware and attacks are targeting them.
“It is a dark and strange place – but enterprise needs to be aware of it,” he said. “The more you familiarize yourself with that environment, the better cybersecurity you’ll end up having”
CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions
Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.
Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.
“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”
As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.
Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.
“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.
So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:
“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”
Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.
“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”
Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast
Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications
Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.
Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection
“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”
In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.
A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.
Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.
When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?
DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.
But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.
The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.
From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”
This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.
Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”
A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:
- Create: Help to set and implement policy
- Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
- Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
- Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application
The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.
Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”
In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.
Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.
DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise
While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.
The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.
At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”
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