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PREVENT

Exploring the Cyber AI Loop as an Analyst: PREVENT/ASM & DETECT

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02
Jan 2023
02
Jan 2023
This blog explores the use of Darktrace PREVENT/ASM and Darktrace DETECT/Network as triage tools for security teams and the increased visibility provided when they complement each other. An example and mock scenario from an Australian environmental customer is also highlighted.

On countless occasions, Darktrace has observed cyber-attacks disrupting business operations by using a vulnerable internet-facing asset as a starting point for infection. Finding that one entry point could be all a threat actor needs to compromise an entire organization. With the objective to prevent such vulnerabilities from being exploited, Darktrace’s latest product family includes Attack Surface Management (ASM) to continuously monitor customer attack surfaces for risks, high-impact vulnerabilities and potential external threats. 

An attack surface is the sum of exposed and internet-facing assets and the associated risks a hacker can exploit to carry out a cyber-attack. PREVENT/ASM uses AI to understand what external assets belong to an organization by searching beyond known servers, networks, and IPs across public data sources. 

This blog discusses how Darktrace PREVENT/ASM could combine with DETECT to find potential vulnerabilities and subsequent exploitation within network traffic. In particular, this blog will investigate the assets of a large Australian company which operates in the environmental sciences industry.   

Introducing ASM

In order to understand the link between PREVENT and DETECT, the core features of ASM should first be showcased.

Figure 1: The PREVENT/ASM dashboard.

When facing the landing page, the UI highlights the number of registered assets identified (with zero prior deployment). The tool then organizes the information gathered online in an easily assessable manner. Analysts can see vulnerable assets according to groupings like ‘Misconfiguration’, ‘Social Media Threat’ and ‘Information Leak’ which shows the type of risk posed to said assets.

Figure 2: The Network tab identifies the external facing assets and their hierarchy in a graphical format.

The Network tab helps analysts to filter further to take more rapid action on the most vulnerable assets and interact with them to gather more information. The image below has been filtered by assets with the ‘highest scoring’ risk.

Figure 3: PREVENT/ASM showing a high scoring asset.

Interacting with the showcased asset selected above allows pivoting to the following page, this provides more granular information around risk metrics and the asset itself. This includes a more detailed description of what the vulnerabilities are, as well as general information about the endpoint including its location, URL, web status and technologies used.

  Figure 4: Asset pages for an external web page at risk.

Filtering does not end here. Within the Insights tab, analysts can use the search bar to craft personalized queries and narrow their focus to specific types of risk such as vulnerable software, open ports, or potential cybersquatting attempts from malicious actors impersonating company brands. Likewise, filters can be made for assets that may be running software at risk from a new CVE. 

Figure 5: Insights page with custom queries to search for assets at risk of Log4J exploitation.

For each of the entries that can be read on the left-hand side, a query that could resemble the one on the top right exists. This allows users to locate specific findings beyond those risks that are categorized as critical. These broader searches can range from viewing the inventory as a whole, to seeing exposed APIs, expiring certificates, or potential shadow IT. Queries will return a list with all the assets matching the given criteria, and users can then explore them further by viewing the asset page as seen in Figure 4.

Compromise Scenario

Now that a basic explanation of PREVENT/ASM has been given, this scenario will continue to look at the Australian customer but show how Darktrace can follow a potential compromise of an at-risk ASM asset into the network. 

Having certain ports open could make it particularly easy for an attacker to access an internet-facing asset, particularly those sensitive ones such as 3389 (RDP), 445 (SMB), 135 (RPC Epmapper). Alternatively, a vulnerable program with a well-known exploitation could also aid the task for threat actors.

In this specific case, PREVENT/ASM identified multiple external assets that belonged to the customer with port 3389 open. One of these assets can be labelled as ‘Server A'. Whilst RDP connections can be protected with a password for a given user, if those were weak to bruteforce, it could be an easy task for an attacker to establish an admin session remotely to the victim machine.

Figure 6: Insights tab query filtering for open RDP port 3389.

N or zero-day vulnerabilities associated with the protocol could also be exploited; for example, CVE-2019-0708 exploits an RCE vulnerability in Remote Desktop where an unauthenticated attacker connects to the target system using RDP and sends specially crafted requests. This vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction. 

Certain protocols are known to be sensitive according to the control they provide on a destination machine. These are developed for administrative purposes but have the potential to ease an attacker’s job if accessible. Thanks to PREVENT/ASM, security teams can anticipate such activity by having visibility over those assets that could be vulnerable. If this RDP were successfully exploited, DETECT/Network would then highlight the unusual activity performed by the compromised device as the attacker moved through the kill chain.  

There are several models within DETECT/Network which monitor for risks against internet facing assets. For example, ‘Server A’ which had an open 3389 port on ASM registered the following model breach in the network:

Figure 7: Breach log showing Anomalous Server Activity / New Internet Facing System model for ‘Server A’.

A model like this could highlight a misconfiguration that has caused an internal device to become unexpectedly open to the internet. It could also suggest a compromised device that has now been opened to the internet to allow further exploitation. If the result of a sudden change, such an asset would also be detected by ASM and highlighted within the ‘New Assets’ part of the Insights page. Ultimately this connection was not malicious, however it shows the ability for security teams to track between PREVENT to DETECT and verify an initial compromise.  

A mock scenario can take this further. Using the continued example of an open port 3389 intrusion, new RDP cookies may be registered (perhaps even administrative). This could enable further lateral movement and eventual privilege escalation. Various DETECT models would highlight actions of this nature, two examples are below:

Figure 8: RDP Lateral Movement related model breaches on customer.

Alongside efforts to move laterally, Darktrace may find attempts at reconnaissance or C2 communication from compromised internet facing devices by looking at Darktrace DETECT model breaches including ‘Network Scan’, ‘SMB Scanning’ and ‘Active Directory Reconnaissance’. In this case the network also saw repeated failed internal connections followed by the ‘LDAP Brute-Force Activity model’ around the same time as the RDP activity. Had this been malicious, DETECT would then continue to provide visibility into the C2 and eventual malware deployment stages. 

With the combined visibility of both tools, Darktrace users have support for greater triage across the whole kill chain. For customers also using RESPOND, actions will be taken from the DETECT alerting to subsequently block malicious activity. In doing so, inputs will have fed across the whole Cyber AI Loop by having learnt from PREVENT, DETECT and RESPOND.

This feed from the Cyber AI Loop works both ways. In Figure 9, below, a DETECT model breach shows a customer alert from an internet facing device: 

Figure 9: Model breach on internet-facing server.

This breach took place because an established server suddenly started serving HTTP sessions on a port commonly used for HTTPS (secure) connections. This could be an indicator that a criminal may have gained control of the device and set it to listen on the given port and enable direct connection to the attacker’s machine or command and control server. This device can be viewed by an analyst in its Darktrace PREVENT version, where new metrics can be observed from a perspective outside of the network.

Figure 10: Assets page for server. PREVENT shows few risks for this asset. 

This page reports the associated risks that could be leveraged by malicious actors. In this case, the events are not correlated, but in the event of an attack, this backwards pivoting could help to pinpoint a weak link in the chain and show what allowed the attacker into the network. In doing so this supports the remediation and recovery process. More importantly though, it allows organizations to be proactive and take appropriate security measures required before it could ever be exploited.

Concluding Thoughts

The combination of PREVENT/ASM with DETECT/Network provides wide and in-depth visibility over a company’s infrastructure. Through the Cyber AI Loop, this coverage is continually learning and updating based on inputs from both. PREVENT/ASM can show companies the potential weaknesses that a cybercriminal could take advantage of. In turn this allows them to prioritize patching, updating, and management of their internet facing assets. At the same time, Darktrace DETECT will show the anomalous behavior of any of these internet facing devices, enabling security teams or RESPOND to stop an attack. Use of these tools by an analyst together is effective in gaining informed security data which can be fed back to IT management. Leveraging this allows normal company operations to be performed without the worry of cyber disruption.

Credit to: Emma Foulger, Senior Cyber Analyst at Darktrace

INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
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Email

Looking Beyond Secure Email Gateways with the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/Email

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09
Apr 2024

Organizations Should Demand More from their Email Security

In response to a more intricate threat landscape, organizations should view email security as a critical component of their defense-in-depth strategy, rather than defending the inbox alone with a traditional Secure Email Gateway (SEG). Organizations need more than a traditional gateway – that doubles, instead of replaces, the capabilities provided by native security vendor – and require an equally granular degree of analysis across all messaging, including inbound, outbound, and lateral mail, plus Teams messages.  

Darktrace/Email is the industry’s most advanced cloud email security, powered by Self-Learning AI. It combines AI techniques to exceed the accuracy and efficiency of leading security solutions, and is the only security built to elevate, not duplicate, native email security.  

With its largest update ever, Darktrace/Email introduces the following innovations, finally allowing security teams to look beyond secure email gateways with autonomous AI:

  • AI-augmented data loss prevention to stop the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats
  • an easy way to deploy DMARC quickly with AI
  • major enhancements to streamline SOC workflows and increase the detection of sophisticated phishing links
  • expansion of Darktrace’s leading AI prevention to lateral mail, account compromise and Microsoft Teams

What’s New with Darktrace/Email  

Data Loss Prevention  

Block the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats with advanced data loss prevention that builds on tags in native email to stop unknown, accidental, and malicious data loss

Darktrace understands normal at individual user, group and organization level with a proven AI that detects abnormal user behavior and dynamic content changes. Using this understanding, Darktrace/Email actions outbound emails to stop unknown, accidental and malicious data loss.  

Traditional DLP solutions only take into account classified data, which relies on the manual input of labelling each data piece, or creating rules to catch pattern matches that try to stop data of certain types leaving the organization. But in today’s world of constantly changing data, regular expression and fingerprinting detection are no longer enough.

  • Human error – Because it understands normal for every user, Darktrace/Email can recognize cases of misdirected emails. Even if the data is correctly labelled or insensitive, Darktrace recognizes when the context in which it is being sent could be a case of data loss and warns the user.  
  • Unclassified data – Whereas traditional DLP solutions can only take action on classified data, Darktrace analyzes the range of data that is either pending labels or can’t be labeled with typical capabilities due to its understanding of the content and context of every email.  
  • Insider threat – If a malicious actor has compromised an account, data exfiltration may still be attempted on encrypted, intellectual property, or other forms of unlabelled data to avoid detection. Darktrace analyses user behaviour to catch cases of unusual data exfiltration from individual accounts.

And classification efforts already in place aren’t wasted – Darktrace/Email extends Microsoft Purview policies and sensitivity labels to avoid duplicate workflows for the security team, combining the best of both approaches to ensure organizations maintain control and visibility over their data.

End User and Security Workflows

Achieve more than 60% improvement in the quality of end-user phishing reports and detection of sophisticated malicious weblinks1

Darktrace/Email improves end-user reporting from the ground up to save security team resource. Employees will always be on the front line of email security – while other solutions assume that end-user reporting is automatically of poor quality, Darktrace prioritizes improving users’ security awareness to increase the quality of end-user reporting from day one.  

Users are empowered to assess and report suspicious activity with contextual banners and Cyber AI Analyst generated narratives for potentially suspicious emails, resulting in 60% fewer benign emails reported.  

Out of the higher-quality emails that end up being reported, the next step is to reduce the amount of emails that reach the SOC. Darktrace/Email’s Mailbox Security Assistant automates their triage with secondary analysis combining additional behavioral signals – using x20 more metrics than previously – with advanced link analysis to detect 70% more sophisticated malicious phishing links.2 This directly alleviates the burden of manual triage for security analysts.

For the emails that are received by the SOC, Darktrace/Email uses automation to reduce time spent investigating per incident. With live inbox view, security teams gain access to a centralized platform that combines intuitive search capabilities, Cyber AI Analyst reports, and mobile application access. Analysts can take remediation actions from within Darktrace/Email, eliminating console hopping and accelerating incident response.

Darktrace takes a user-focused and business-centric approach to email security, in contrast to the attack-centric rules and signatures approach of secure email gateways

Microsoft Teams

Detect threats within your Teams environment such as account compromise, phishing, malware and data loss

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services, particularly Teams and SharePoint.3

Darktrace now leverages the same behavioral AI techniques for Microsoft customers across 365 and Teams, allowing organizations to detect threats and signals of account compromise within their Teams environment including social engineering, malware and data loss.  

The primary use case for Microsoft Teams protection is as a potential entry vector. While messaging has traditionally been internal only, as organizations open up it is becoming an entry vector which needs to be treated with the same level of caution as email. That’s why we’re bringing our proven AI approach to Microsoft Teams, that understands the user behind the message.  

Anomalous messaging behavior is also a highly relevant indicator of whether a user has been compromised. Unlike other solutions that analyze Microsoft Teams content which focus on payloads, Darktrace goes beyond basic link and sandbox analysis and looks at actual user behavior from both a content and context perspective. This linguistic understanding isn’t bound by the requirement to match a signature to a malicious payload, rather it looks at the context in which the message has been delivered. From this analysis, Darktrace can spot the early symptoms of account compromise such as early-stage social engineering before a payload is delivered.

Lateral Mail Analysis

Detect and respond to internal mailflow with multi-layered AI to prevent account takeover, lateral phishing and data leaks

The industry’s most robust account takeover protection now prevents lateral mail account compromise. Darktrace has always looked at internal mail to inform inbound and outbound decisions, but will now elevate suspicious lateral mail behaviour using the same AI techniques for inbound, outbound and Teams analysis.

Darktrace integrates signals from across the entire mailflow and communication patterns to determine symptoms of account compromise, now including lateral mailflow

Unlike other solutions which only analyze payloads, Darktrace analyzes a whole range of signals to catch lateral movement before a payload is delivered. Contributing yet another layer to the AI behavioral profile for each user, security teams can now use signals from lateral mail to spot the early symptoms of account takeover and take autonomous actions to prevent further compromise.

DMARC

Gain in-depth visibility and control of 3rd parties using your domain with an industry-first AI-assisted DMARC

Darktrace has created the easiest path to brand protection and compliance with the new Darktrace/DMARC. This new capability continuously stops spoofing and phishing from the enterprise domain, while automatically enhancing email security and reducing the attack surface.

Darktrace/DMARC helps to upskill businesses by providing step by step guidance and automated record suggestions provide a clear, efficient road to enforcement. It allows organizations to quickly achieve compliance with requirements from Google, Yahoo, and others, to ensure that their emails are reaching mailboxes.  

Meanwhile, Darktrace/DMARC helps to reduce the overall attack surface by providing visibility over shadow-IT and third-party vendors sending on behalf of an organization’s brand, while informing recipients when emails from their domains are sent from un-authenticated DMARC source.

Darktrace/DMARC integrates with the wider Darktrace product platform, sharing insights to help further secure your business across Email Attack Path and Attack Surface management.

Conclusion

To learn more about the new innovations to Darktrace/Email download the solution brief here.

All of the new updates to Darktrace/Email sit within the new Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform, creating a feedback loop between email security and the rest of the digital estate for better protection. Click to read more about the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform or to hear about the latest innovations to Darktrace/OT, the most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for critical infrastructures.  

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.

References

[1] Internal Darktrace Research

[2] Internal Darktrace Research

[3] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

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Carlos Gray
Product Manager

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Managing Risk Beyond CVE Scores With the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/OT

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09
Apr 2024

Identifying Cyber Risk in Industrial Organizations

Compromised OT devices in ICS and SCADA environments pose significant physical risks, even endangering lives. However, identifying CVEs in the multitude of complex OT devices is labor-intensive and time-consuming, draining valuable resources.

Even after identifying a vulnerability, implementing a patch presents its own challenges limited maintenance windows and the need for uninterrupted operations strain IT and OT teams often leading organizations to prioritize availability over security leading vulnerabilities remaining unresolved for over 5 years on average. (1)

Darktrace’s New Innovation

Darktrace is an industry leader in cybersecurity with 10+ years of experience securing OT environments where we take a fundamentally different approach using Self-Learning AI to enhance threat detection and response.

Continuing to combat the expanding threat landscape, Darktrace is excited to announce new capabilities that enable a contextualized and proactive approach to managing cyber risk at industrial organizations.

Today we launch an innovation to our OT Cybersecurity solution, Darktrace/OT, that will add a layer of proactivity, enabling a comprehensive approach to risk management. This industry leading innovation for Darktrace/OT moves beyond CVE scores to redefine vulnerability management for critical infrastructure, tackling the full breadth of risks not limited by traditional controls.  

Darktrace/OT is the only OT security solution with comprehensive Risk Management which includes:

  • Contextualized risk analysis unique to your organization
  • The most realistic evaluation and prioritization of OT risk
  • Effectively mitigate risk across your OT infrastructure, with and without patching.
  • The only OT security solution that evaluates your defenses against Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Groups.

The most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for Critical Infrastructures

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI technology is a cutting-edge innovation that implements real time prevention, detection, response, and recovery for operational technologies and enables a fundamental shift from the traditional approach to cyber defense by learning a ‘pattern of life’ for every network, device, and user.  

Rather than relying on knowledge of past attacks, AI technology learns what is ‘normal’ for its environment, discovering previously unknown threats by detecting subtle shifts in behavior. Through identifying these unexpected anomalies, security teams can investigate novel attacks, discover blind spots, have live time visibility across all their physical and digital assets, and reduce time to detect, respond to, and triage security events.  

  • Achieve greater visibility of OT and IT devices across all levels of the Purdue Model.
  • The industry's only OT security to scale threat detection and response, with a 92% time saving from triage to recovery.  
  • The only OT focused security solution to provide bespoke Risk Management.

To learn more about how Darktrace/OT approaches unique use cases for industrial organizations visit the Darktrace/OT Webpage or join us LIVE at a city near you.

Read more below to discover how new innovations to Darktrace/OT are bringing a new, contextualized approach to Risk Management for Industrial organizations.

For more information on the entire Darktrace/OT Solution read our solution brief here.

Darktrace/OT and New Risk Management

Risk Identification

Leveraging the visibility of Darktrace/OT which identifies individual systems throughout the Purdue Model and the relationship between them, Darktrace/OT identifies high-risk CVEs and presents potential attack routes that go beyond techniques requiring a known exploit, such as misuse of legitimate services. Each attack path will have a mathematical evaluation of difficulty and impact from initial access to the high value objectives.  

Together this gives comprehensive coverage over your real and potential risks from both an attacker and known vulnerability perspectives. OT attack paths as seen here even leverage insights between the industrial and corporate communications to reveal ways threat actors may take advantage of IT-OT convergence. This revelation of imperceptible risks fills gaps in traditional risk analysis like remote access and insider threats.

Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 2: A specific Attack Path identified by Darktrace/OT

Risk Prioritization

Darktrace/OT prioritizes remediations and mitigations based on difficulty and damage to your unique organization, using the established Attack Paths.

We ascertain the priorities that apply to your organization beyond pure theoretical damage answering questions like:

  • How difficult is a particular vulnerability to exploit considering the steps an attacker would require to reach it?
  • And, how significant would the impact be if it was exploited within this particular network?

This expanded approach to risk prioritization has a much more comprehensive evaluation of your organization's unique risk than has ever been possible before. Traditional approaches of ranking only known vulnerabilities with isolated scores using CVSS and exploitability metrics, often leaves gaps in IT-OT risks and is blind to legitimate service exploitation.

Figure 3: Darktrace/OT leverages its contextual understand of the organization’s network to prioritize remediation that will have the positive impact on the risk score

Darktrace provides mitigation strategies associated with each identified risk and the relevant impact it has on your overall risk posture, across all MITRE ATT&CK techniques.

What sets Darktrace apart is our ability to contextualize these mitigations within the broader business. When patching vulnerabilities directly isn’t possible, Darktrace identifies alternative actions that harden attack paths leading to critical assets. Hardening the surrounding attack path increases the difficulty and therefore reduces the likelihood and impact of a breach.

That means unpatched vulnerabilities and vulnerable devices aren’t left unprotected. This also has an added bonus, those hardening techniques work for all devices in that network segment, so apply one change, secure many.

Figure 4: Darktrace prioritizes mitigation reducing accessibility of vulnerability and the overall risk score when patches aren’t available

Communicate Board Level Risk with APT Threat Mapping

Darktrace/OT bridges theory and practice as the only security solution that maps MITRE techniques, frequently used by APT Groups, onto AI-assessed critical Attack Paths. This unique solution provides unparalleled insights including sector and location intelligence, possible operating platforms, common techniques, exploited CVEs, and the number of potential devices affected in your environment, supporting holistic risk assessment and proactive defense measures.

Ultimately, this becomes a power dashboard to communicate board level risk, using both metric based evidence and industry standard threat mapping.

Conclusion

Darktrace/OT is part of the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform a native, holistic, AI-driven platform built on over ten years of AI research. It helps security teams shift to more a productive mode, finding the known and the unknown attacks and transforming the SOC with the various Darktrace products to drive efficiency gains. It does this across the whole incident lifecycle to lower risk, reduce time spent on active incidents, and drive return on investment.

Discover more about Darktrace's ever-strengthening platform with the upcoming changes coming to our Darktrace/Email product and other launch day blogs.

Join Darktrace LIVE half-day event to understand the reality versus the hype surrounding AI and how to achieve cyber resilience.

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.  

References

1. https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/313646831/Catch_Me_if_You_Can.pdf

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About the author
Mitchell Bezzina
VP, Product and Solutions Marketing
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