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Microsoft: Defender ATP is coming to Linux in 2020

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Why is Windows Defender so successful?
Microsoft claims it rules the Windows antivirus world, with Defender on over half a billion PCs.

Microsoft is planning to bring its Defender antivirus to Linux systems next year and will be giving a demo of how security specialists can use Microsoft Defender at the Ignite Conference this week. 

Microsoft announced the brand change from Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender in March after giving security analysts the tools to inspect enterprise Mac computers for malware via the Microsoft Defender console.    

Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s M365 Security, told ZDNet that Microsoft Defender for Linux systems will be available for customers in 2020. 

Application Guard is also coming to all Office 365 documents. Previously, this security feature was only available in Edge and allowed users to safely open a webpage in an isolated virtual machine to protect them from malware. Now, users who open Office 365 apps, like Word or Excel, will have the same protection. 

“It’s coming in preview first, but when you get an untrusted document with potentially malicious macros via email, it will open in a container,” he said.  

It means when an attacker attempts to download more code from the internet and then install malware on the machine, the machine is a VM, so the victim never actually installs the malware. 

The move should help protect against phishing and other attacks that attempt to trick users into exiting from Protected View, which prevents users from running macros by default.  

Lefferts will also discuss how Microsoft is protecting organizations from sophisticated malware attackers who are exploiting the ‘information parity problem’ – a highbrow term for how aspects of a network can influence its overall design. 

“Defenders have to know everything perfectly and attackers only need to know one thing kind of well. The point is, it’s not a level playing field and it’s getting worse,” said Lefferts. 

Key to this ability is the Microsoft Security Intelligent Graph that Microsoft is selling to enterprise customers. But what exactly is the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph? 

“It’s built into Defender ATP, Office 365, and Azure. We have signals built into events, behaviors, and things as simple as a user logged on to a machine or as complicated as the behavior of the memory layout in Word on this device is different to what it normally looks like,” explained Lefferts. 

“Essentially we have sensors across all the identities, endpoints, cloud apps, and infrastructure and they’re sending all of this to a central place inside Microsoft’s cloud.”

Microsoft doesn’t mean physical sensors in the context of its Intelligent Security Graph but rather pieces of code sitting inside its various applications that feed into to the Intelligent Security Graph. 

The idea is to assist security teams to solve challenges differently to the way humans would do it. 

“Humans aren’t great at huge numbers, but this is the place where machines can provide new insight.”

Microsoft’s evidence that it is making a difference is that it has helped prevent 13.5 billion malicious emails so far in 2019, and Lefferts expects Microsoft to have blocked 14 billion by the end of the year. The company has highlighted its work in defending US and European political organizations against cyberattacks attacks ahead of the 2020 US presidential mid-term elections.  

“Defending democracy is a big point for us because we’re making sure we take all the capabilities we’re building here and use it to help organizations and governments around the world,” he said.

“The goal is to help defenders cut through the noise and prioritize important work and be ready to help protect and respond, both smarter and faster using signals from Windows, Office, and Azure.”

The key tool Microsoft is introducing now is automated remediation for Office 365 customers that have Microsoft Threat Protection. 

“There’s a kill chain that represents every step an attacker takes as they move through the organization. When you find that going on, you want to ensure that you clean up the whole thing,” said Lefferts. 

For example, a hacker breaches a network through a phishing email, installs malware on the device, and then moves laterally to critical infrastructure, such as an email server or domain controller. The hacker can maintain a presence on the network for potentially years.

“The whole point about automation is finding all the compromised accounts and resetting those passwords, finding all the users who got malicious emails and scrubbing them out of inboxes, and finding all the devices that were impacted and isolating them, quarantining them, and cleaning them.”  

Lefferts was careful not to use the word artificial intelligence and stressed that Microsoft’s technologies are aimed at “augmentation of people” in security teams or “exoskeletons” for people rather than robots. 

So how would it help enterprise organizations respond to the next NotPetya ransomware outbreak? 

NotPetya spread initially through a poisoned update from a Ukraine-based accounting software firm, crippling several global firms, including Maersk and Mondelez. 

“The first thing is that it happens faster than the vendors can respond, which is a huge issue. [Responders] really need the augmentation that we’re talking about so that they can go faster. There are also so many opportunities for defenders to intermediate and break the kill chain and fix everything. And we want to make sure we can work across that kill chain.”

Microsoft will also roll out new features for customers using Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, offering admins a better overview of targeted phishing attacks. The idea is to subvert typical strategies that attackers use to avoid detection, such as sending email from different IP addresses.

“However they pick their targets, they’re going to have a factory where they’re going to build a campaign that they’re going to direct at those targets. And they will keep iterating on all the pieces of that campaign to see what’s most effective at getting past the defenders and how they best trick the user into clicking something,” said Lefferts. 

“It shows up as an onslaught of email across multiple users within the organization – sometimes just a few, sometimes in the hundreds. What we give defenders is a view of what’s happening. There’s email coming from different IP addresses and different sender domains and it’s got different components in it because they keep running different experiments. We put the whole picture together to show you the flow, how it evolved over time.”



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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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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

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