New Research: Know Your Adversary

Rick Holland
Mandiant's APT1 report changed the threat intelligence marketing game, and you would be hard pressed to find a cybersecurity company that doesn't have a research/intelligence team that produces threat actor reports. The previous few weeks have seen a significant amount of threat intelligence marketing around threat actor groups. FireEye released "APT28: A Window into Russia’s Cyber Espionage Operations?" The analytics firm Novetta released "Operation SMN: Axiom Threat Actor Group Report."  
 
We have even seen law enforcement documents on threat actors. In August, Mr. Su Bin, a Chinese national, was indicted for the theft of Boeing’s trade secrets. The criminal complaint regarding Su Bin’s activities became public in June and offers a fascinating perspective into espionage as a service.  
 
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got STIX?

Rick Holland
The sharing of threat intelligence is a hot topic these days. When I do conference speeches, I typically ask how many organizations see value in sharing, and most in the room will raise their hand.  Next, I ask how many organizations are actually sharing threat intelligence, and roughly 25% to 30% in the room raises their hand. When our 2014 Security Survey data comes in, I will have some empirical data to quote, but anecdotally, there seems to be more interest than action when it comes to sharing. I wrote about some of the challenges around sharing in “Four Best Practices To Maximize The Value Of Using And Sharing Threat Intelligence.” Trust is at the epicenter of sharing and just like in "Meet the Parents," you have to be in the circle of trust. You can enable sharing, but automating trust does take time. 
 
 
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Introducing Forrester’s Targeted-Attack Hierarchy Of Needs

Rick Holland

We recently published part 1 of a new series designed to help organizations build resiliency against targeted attacks. In the spirit of Maslow, we designed our Targeted-Attack Hierarchy Of Needs. One factor that significantly drove the tone and direction of this research was Forrester client inquiries and consulting. Many organizations were looking for a malware sandbox to check off their targeted attack/advanced persistent threat/advanced threat protection/insert buzzword needs. Malware analysis has a role in enterprise defense, but focusing exclusively on it is a myopic approach to addressing the problem.  

Part 1 of the research is designed to help organizations broaden their perspective and lay the foundation for a resilient security program. Part 2 (currently writing at a non George R.R. Martin pace) will move beyond the basics and address strategies for detecting and responding to advanced adversaries. Here is a preview of the research and the six needs we identified: 

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Actionable Intelligence, Meet Terry Tate, Office Linebacker

Rick Holland
sdfasdfaasdfThe #Forrester Security & Risk team is hiring. We are looking for consultants to join our team bit.ly/M9gWS5 #infosecasdfasdasdfasdddsadfas

We are now less than two weeks away from our annual sojourn to the RSA security conference. RSAC is a great time for learning, meeting and making friends. (Please hold cynical remarks; RSAC is what you make of it.)  As the date grows near and my excitement grows, I am preparing my mind and patience for the ubiquitous silver bullet marketing that is predestined to appear.  

One of these silver bullets will be the term "actionable intelligence." You will be surrounded by actionable intelligence. You will bask in the glory of actionable intelligence. In fact, the Moscone expo floor will have so much actionable intelligence per capita you will leave the conference feeling like the threat landscape challenge has been solved. Achievement unlocked, check that off the list. Woot!

Well not so fast. I frequently talk to vendors that espouse the greatness of their actionable intelligence. Whenever I hear the term actionable intelligence I want to introduce them to Terry Tate, Office Linebacker.  Terry Tate first appeared in a 2003 Reebok Super Bowl commercial. 

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If Everything Is Threat Intelligence, Then Nothing Is Threat Intelligence

Rick Holland

The hype surrounding threat intelligence has continued to build since I wrote the blog "My Threat Intel Can Beat Up Your Threat Intel” in mid-2012.  S&R pros are responding to both the hope and promise of threat intelligence. According to our Forrsights survey data, 75% of security decision-makers report that establishing or improving threat intelligence capabilities is a top priority for their organization.   

One of the most significant challenges in leveraging threat intelligence is operationalizing it. Today, there are two broad categories of organizations that leverage threat intelligence. I’ll use an analogy to describe them. The US television show “Sons of Anarchy” follows the lives of an outlaw motorcycle club. The Sons of Anarchy refer to themselves as “1%ers”: They have the power, resources, and means to accomplish anything they desire. This is in contrast with the 99% who are merely motorcycle enthusiasts without these capabilities.  Some of these early adopters include financial services, technology, and manufacturing companies. 

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Counter-Strike?

Rick Holland

On Monday the Wall Street Journal ran a story on hacking back titled, “Support Grows to Let Cybertheft Victims Hack Back.”  The article describes a growing desire to permit the private sector to retaliate against attackers. Being proactive is one thing, but the notion of enterprises retaliating against attackers is ludicrous. I honestly cannot understand why this topic is still in the public discourse. I thought debating this was so 2012.  Legality is an issue, but so is the ability of companies to successfully conduct these types of operations without blowback. 

The article explains, “… companies that experience cybertheft ought to be able to retrieve their electronic files or prevent the exploitation of their stolen information." I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for most organizations, once the data has left your environment the chances of you retrieving it are very slim. Your data has left the building and it isn’t going to “re-spawn.”  If you couldn’t prevent exfiltration of this data in the first place, what would make you think that you could prevent the subsequent exploitation of it?  

As I said back in January in my “Five Steps To Build An Effective Threat Intelligence Capability” report, “If you have a mature security program, you can consider counterintelligence operations, but leave the hacking back to governments and militaries.” 

There are many suggested strategies for dealing with the threat landscape. Hacking back should not be one. 

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Avoid The Information Security Squirrel

Rick Holland

"My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!"  

In the Pixar film Up, squirrels frequently distract Dug the talking dog. In our space, we are frequently distracted by technology. "I am a good and smart security professional; I must protect my enterprise so that we are secure. APT defense in a box!"  

The expo floors at industry events such as the RSA Conference and Blackhat contribute to this. Signage touts the next great piece of technology that will solve all of our security problems. We allow Big Data, security analytics, threat intelligence, and APT defense in a box to distract us.  It is easy to do; there is no shortage of challenges for today’s security and risk professional. The threat landscape is overwhelming. We have problems recruiting and retaining the right staff.  Day-to-day operational duties take up too much time. Our environments are complex, and we struggle to get the appropriate budget.

These “security technology du jour” solutions are very appetizing.  They compel us much like IDS, IPS, and SIM did in the past. We want and need the “easy” button.  Sadly, there is no “easy” button and we must understand that threat protection doesn't equal a product or service; there is no single solution. Technology alone isn't the answer we are looking for. 

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Observations From Black Hat - More Defense Please

Rick Holland

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 15th annual Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. I have attended DEFCON in the past, but never Black Hat. The conference has grown significantly each year, and judging by the size of the expo floor, the vendors understand its significance. I enjoyed the conference and had great conversations with practitioners and vendors alike. Here are some observations from two of the sessions that I attended:

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My Threat Intelligence Can Beat Up Your Threat Intelligence

Rick Holland

Have you ever been in a vendor meeting and heard the vendor extol the greatness of their threat intelligence?  You may have even seen a slide that looks similar to this:

The vendor probably proceeded to highlight the key differentiators that make their threat intelligence network stand second to none.  Bullets containing statistics like this surely followed:

  • Global coverage, in well over 100 countries
  • 50 million network devices
  • 50 billion web queries each month
  • 30 billion emails a month
  • 100 million users
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