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NSA release Ghidra, a free software reverse engineering toolkit

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Image: NSA

At the RSA security conference today, the National Security Agency, released Ghidra, a free software reverse engineering tool that the agency had been using internally for well over a decade.

The tool is ideal for software engineers, but will be especially useful for malware analysts first and foremost.

The NSA’s general plan was to release Ghidra so security researchers can get used to working with it before applying for positions at the NSA or other government intelligence agencies with which the NSA has previously shared Ghidra in private.

Ghidra is currently available for download only through its official website, but the NSA also plans to release its source code under an open source license on GitHub in the coming future.

News that the NSA was going to release Ghidra first broke at the start of the year, and the tool has been on everybody’s mind for the past two months.

The reason is that Ghidra is a free alternative to IDA Pro, a similar reverse engineering tool that’s only available under a very expensive commercial license, priced in the range of thousands of US dollars per year.

Being offered for free, most experts expect Ghidra to snap up a big portion of the reverse engineering tools market share within weeks, especially since early user reviews are almost all entirely positive.

Ghidra code browser

Image: ZDNet
Ghidra version tracking

Image: ZDNet

As for its technical features, Ghidra is coded in Java, has a graphical user interface (GUI), and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

According to Rob Joyce, Senior Advisor at the National Security Agency and the NSA official who announced the tool’s release today at the RSA conference, Ghidra can analyze binaries written for a wide variety of architectures, and can be easily extended with more, if ever needed.

Installing Ghidra is as simple as unpacking a ZIP archive. The only requirement is a version of the Java Development Kit 11 or later that’s needed to run the app’s GUI. More on the tool’s installation routine from the tool’s official docs:

Ghidra does not use a traditional installer program. Instead, the Ghidra distribution file is simply extracted in-place on the filesystem. This approach has advantages and disadvantages. On the up side, administrative privilege is not required to install Ghidra for personal use. Also, because installing Ghidra does not update any OS configurations such as the registry on Windows, removing Ghidra is as simple as deleting the Ghidra installation directory.

Besides an installation guide, Ghidra’s docs also come with classes and exercises for beginners, intermediates, and advanced levels that will help users get used to the tool’s GUI, which is very different from any similar tools.

You’re a IDA Pro power user? No problem, there’s a guide for that too.

Need a keyboard shortcut cheatsheet? No problem, there’s one hosted online, here.

Don’t like the bright GUI? No problem, there’s a dark mode included in Ghidra’s settings section.

Ghidra dark mode

Image: ZDNet

At the time of this article –an hour after the tool’s release– the reaction from the infosec (information security) community has been almost entirely positive, with glowing reviews from some of the biggest names in the cyber-security industry.

Ghidra may not be the IDA Pro killer most experts expected, since IDA Pro still offers a debugger component not present in Ghidra, but things are looking up.

Because Ghidra’s code will be open-sourced, this also means it will be open to community contributions, and many expect it to receive a debugger in the coming future and allow malware analysts to jump ship and stop paying a fortune for IDA licenses.

And the infosec community has already started contributing back to Ghidra, even if the tool’s source code hasn’t been published on GitHub just yet.

Just minutes after the tool’s release, Matthew Hickey, co-founder and director of UK-based cyber-security firm Hacker House, reported the first security issue in the NSA’s tool, which apprently runs a server component that listens to commands it receives from the internet. Fixing it should be a one-line change, though, according to Hickey.

“By open-sourcing GHIDRA, the NSA will benefit from a diverse user base whose feedback will make the tool even more effective,” Patrick Miller, security researcher at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services told ZDNet via email.

“For underprivileged cyber teams grappling with a lack of personnel or resources, the free tool is a game changer to easing the barrier of entry into the cyber workforce and raising the proficiency of these teams. As a user of this tool for years, I cannot wait to see how it improves in the hands of my peers,” Miller said.

ZDNet readers looking for additional information on the tool, please refer to its official website, GitHub repo, or the included documentation.

The news of the NSA open-sourcing one of its internal tools should not be a surprise anymore. The NSA has open-sourced all sorts of tools over the past few years, with the most successful of them being Apache NiFi, a project for automating large data transfers between web apps, and which has become a favorite on the cloud computing scene.

In total, the NSA has open-sourced 32 projects as part of its Technology Transfer Program (TTP) so far and has most recently even opened an official GitHub account.

Below is a video of security researcher Marcus “MalwareTech” Hutchins taking a first look at Ghidra and its features. Also, within an hour of it’s release, Ghidra has already been made available as a package for Arch Linux, an operating system preferred by most white, gray, and black-hat hackers.

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GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)

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Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) emerged as a product category in the mid-2010s. At that point, SOAR solutions were very much an automation and orchestration engine based on playbooks and integrations. Since then, the platforms have developed beyond the initial core SOAR capabilities to offer more holistic experiences to security analysts, with the aim of developing SOAR as the main workspace for practitioners.

Newer features offered by this holistic experience include case management, collaboration, simulations, threat enrichment, and visual correlations. Additionally, SOAR vendors have gradually implemented artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to enable their platforms to learn from past events and fine-tune existing processes. This is where evolving threat categorization and autonomous improvement become differentiators in the space. While these two metrics are not critical for a SOAR platform, they may offer advantages in terms of reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR), resilience against employee turnover, and overall flexibility.

We’ve observed a lot of acquisition activity in the SOAR space. This was to be expected considering that, after 2015, a sizable number of pure-play SOAR vendors entered the market. Larger players with a wider security portfolio are acquiring these SOAR-specific vendors in order to enter the automation and orchestration market. We expect to see more SOAR acquisitions as the security tools converge, very likely into next-generation Security Information & Event Management products and services (SIEMs).

SIEM is a great candidate for a central management platform for security activities. It was designed to be a single source of truth, an aggregator of multiple security logs, but has been limited historically in its ability to carry out actions. In the past few years, however, SIEMs have either started developing their own automation and orchestration engines or integrated with third-party SOAR vendors. Through a number of acquisitions and developments, multiple players with wider security portfolios have begun to offer SOAR capabilities natively as part of other security solutions.

Going forward, we expect SOAR solutions to be further integrated into other products. This will include not only SIEM, but also solutions such as Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and IT automation. The number of pure-play SOAR vendors is unlikely to increase, although a handful may remain as fully agnostic solutions that enterprises can leverage in instances when their existing next-generation SIEM platforms do not meet all their use cases. However, for pure-play SOAR vendors to remain competitive, they will need to either expand into other security areas or consistently outperform their integrated counterparts.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

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Very few organizations see disaster recovery (DR) for their IT systems as a business differentiator, so they often prefer to outsource the process and consume it as a service (DRaaS) that’s billed monthly. There are many DRaaS providers with varying backgrounds, whose services are often shaped by that background. Products that started as customer-managed DR applications tend to have the most mature orchestration and automation, but vendors may face challenges transforming their application into a consumable service. Backup as a Service (BaaS) providers typically have great consumption models and off-site data protection, but they might be lacking in rich orchestration for failover. Other DRaaS providers come from IaaS backgrounds, with well-developed, on-demand resource deployment for recovery and often a broader platform with automation capabilities.

Before you invest in a DRaaS solution, you should attempt to be clear on what you see as its value. If your motivation is simply not to operate a recovery site, you probably want a service that uses technology similar to what you’re using at the protected site. If the objective is to spend less effort on DR protection, you will be less concerned about similarity and more with simplicity. And if you want to enable regular and granular testing of application recovery with on-demand resources, advanced failover automation and sandboxing will be vital features.

Be clear as well on the scale of disaster you are protecting against. On-premises recovery will protect against shared component failure in your data center. A DRaaS location in the same city will allow a lower RPO and provide lower latency after failover, but might be affected by the same disaster as your on-premises data center. A more distant DR location would be immune to your local disaster, but what about the rest of your business? It doesn’t help to have operational IT in another city if your only factory is under six feet of water.

DR services are designed to protect enterprise application architectures that are centered on VMs with persistent data and configuration. A lift-and-shift cloud adoption strategy leads to enterprise applications in the cloud, requiring cloud-to-cloud DR that is very similar to DRaaS from on-premises. Keep in mind, however, that cloud-native applications have different DR requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection

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With ransomware getting all the news coverage when it comes to internet threats, it is easy to lose sight of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks even as these attacks become more frequent and aggressive. In fact, the two threats have recently been combined in a DDoS ransom attack, in which a company is hit with a DDoS and then a ransom demanded in exchange for not launching a larger DDoS. Clearly, a solid mechanism for thwarting such attacks is needed, and that is exactly what a good DDoS protection product will include. This will allow users, both staff and customers, to access their applications with no indication that a DDoS attack is underway. To achieve this, the DDoS protection product needs to know about your applications and, most importantly, have the capability to absorb the massive bandwidth generated by botnet attacks.

All the DDoS protection vendors we evaluated have a cloud-service element in their products. The scale-out nature of cloud platforms is the right response to the scale-out nature of DDoS attacks using botnets, thousands of compromised computers, and/or embedded devices. A DDoS protection network that is larger, faster, and more distributed will defend better against larger DDoS attacks.

Two public cloud platforms we review have their own DDoS protection, both providing it for applications running on their public cloud and offering only cloud-based protection. We also look at two content delivery networks (CDNs) that offer only cloud-based protection but also have a large network of locations for distributed protection. Many of the other vendors offer both on-premises and cloud-based services that are integrated to provide unified protection against the various attack vectors that target the network and application layers.

Some of the vendors have been protecting applications since the early days of the commercial internet. These vendors tend to have products with strong on-premises protection and integration with a web application firewall or application delivery capabilities. These companies may not have developed their cloud-based protections as fully as the born-in-the-cloud DDoS vendors.

In the end, you need a DDoS protection platform equal to the DDoS threat that faces your business, keeping in mind that such threats are on the rise.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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