Illuminating AWS cloud environments with Darktrace Cyber AI
Cloud platforms transform the way we build digital infrastructure, allowing us to create incredibly innovative environments for business – but often, it’s at the cost of visibility and control.
With complex hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures becoming an essential part of increasingly diverse digital estates, the journey to the cloud has fundamentally reshaped the traditional paradigm of the network perimeter, while expanding the attack surface at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, traditional security controls still only offer point solutions that rely on retrospective rules and threat signatures and fail to stop novel and advanced attacks.
To shoulder the weight of shared responsibility for cloud security, organizations require the approach offered by Darktrace DETECT & RESPOND. With Self-Learning AI, DETECT continuously learns what normal ‘patterns of life’ look like for every user, device, virtual machine, and container across an organization. By actively developing a bespoke understanding of ‘self,’ the DETECT can identify the subtle anomalies that point to an advanced attack, without any pre-defined assumptions of ‘good’ or ‘bad' and RESPOND can autonomously interfere to stop emerging threats without disrupting business operations.
As more and more businesses turn to AWS to leverage the benefits of cloud infrastructure, gaining visibility and security for AWS-hosted data and applications is absolutely crucial. The advent of AWS VPC traffic mirroring has allowed Darktrace to shine a light on blind spots in our customers’ AWS environments, ensuring that our Cyber AI security platform can stop any type of threat that emerges. With the AI-powered security securing your AWS environment, you can embrace all the benefits of the cloud with confidence.
Self-learning Cyber AI with granular, real-time visibility
VPC traffic mirroring gives our Self-Learning AI access to granular packet data, allowing DETECT to extract hundreds of features from the raw data and build rich behavioral models for our customers’ AWS cloud environments. This real-time visibility to the underlying fabric of AWS environments provided by VPC traffic mirroring helps Darktrace Cyber AI learn ‘on the job,’ continuously adapting as your business evolves. Darktrace provides the only security solution that learns in real time, a critical feature given the speed and scale of development in the cloud.
Unified control: Correlating patterns across infrastructure
Taking a fundamentally unique approach, DETECT actively correlates activity across AWS and beyond – whether your digital ecosystem includes other cloud environments, SaaS applications, or any range of on- and off-premise infrastructure. From a threat detection perspective, this is crucial, as security events detected in one part of an organization are often part of a broader security incident. This ensures that threats in the cloud are not siloed from monitoring of the rest of the infrastructure, nor are the implications for cloud security ignored when intrusions occur elsewhere in the network.
Neutralizing sophisticated and novel attacks
Legacy security controls miss novel and advanced attacks targeting cloud infrastructure. With VPC traffic mirroring supporting Darktrace Cyber AI’s understanding of an organization’s AWS environment, any slight changes from normal behavior that may indicate a potential threat can be detected immediately. This allows the DETECT to catch the full range of cloud-based attacks, from zero-day malware, to stealthy insider threats.
“Darktrace represents a new frontier in AI-based cyber defense. Our team now has complete real-time coverage across our SaaS applications and cloud containers.”
— CIO, City of Las Vegas
How it works: Using VPC traffic mirroring to analyze AWS traffic
For customers leveraging AWS within an IaaS model, Darktrace uses VPC traffic mirroring to collect metadata from mirrored VPC packets in a Darktrace probe known as a ‘vSensor’. The vSensor captures real-time traffic and selectively forwards relevant metadata to a Darktrace cloud instance or on-premise probe. From here, DETECT correlates VPC traffic with cloud, email, network, and SaaS traffic across a customer’s hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure for analysis.
By utilizing VPC traffic mirroring in this way, the Immune System can perform deep packet inspection on traffic in the customer’s AWS cloud environment, up to and including the application layer. Hundreds of features are extracted from the raw data, ranging from high-level metrics of data flow quantities, to peer relationship meta-data, to specific application layer events. These features allow Darktrace Cyber AI to build rich behavioral models that let it understand normal patterns of life for the organization and detect malicious activity. It is important that Darktrace is able to construct these metrics from the raw data rather than relying on flow logs alone, as flow logs don't provide the required level of granularity or real-time events within connections.
For non-Nitro AWS instances, we deploy lightweight agents known as ‘OS-Sensors’ that feed relevant traffic to a local vSensor and, in turn, to a Darktrace cloud instance or on-premise probe. Once configured, OS-Sensors can easily be scaled as new instances are spun up. Darktrace also offers a specialized OS-Sensor that provides coverage in containerized systems like Docker and Kubernetes.
Richer context with AWS CloudTrail logs
In addition to analyzing data with VPC traffic mirroring, the DETECT also monitors management and data events within AWS. It does so via HTTP requests for logfiles generated by AWS CloudTrail, which monitors events from all AWS services, including:
Different event types produced via CloudTrail are organized by Darktrace into categories based on the action type and the AWS services that generate it. These different categories show up as metrics in the DETECT user interface, the Threat Visualizer. This information is used to provide even richer context in connection with mirrored traffic in VPCs, as well as all cloud, network, email, and SaaS traffic across a customer’s entire digital environment.
Darktrace deployment scenarios for AWS customers
For IaaS environments, Darktrace deploys a vSensor in each cloud environment. Within AWS environments, the vSensor captures real-time traffic with AWS VPC traffic mirroring. The receiving vSensor processes the data and feeds it back to the cloud-based Darktrace instance. AWS customers additionally have the option of deploying a ‘Darktrace Security Module’ to monitor IaaS management and data events at the API level, such as logins, editing virtual servers, or creating new access credentials.
Figure 1: A cloud-only deployment scenario — Darktrace manages a master cloud probe which receives traffic from sensors and connectors in IaaS and/or SaaS environments.
For hybrid IaaS deployments, Darktrace will similarly deploy vSensors, and OS-Sensors as appropriate. Cloud traffic and event data from AWS and any other cloud environments is then fed to a Darktrace probe in the cloud or on-premise network. For the latter scenario, Darktrace will deploy a physical appliance that ingests real-time network traffic via a SPAN port or network tap, allowing it to correlate patterns across the entire digital ecosystem.
Figure 2: A hybrid cloud deployment scenario, with multi-cloud infrastructure across AWS, Azure and GCP
For hybrid SaaS deployments, Darktrace will deploy provider-specific Darktrace Security Modules on either a physical or cloud-based Darktrace probe, in addition to any other relevant vSensors and OS-Sensors in place. SaaS data is then analyzed and correlated with traffic and user behaviors across AWS, other cloud environments, and any on- and off- premise cyber-physical infrastructure.
Defense against the full range of threats in the cloud
With the deep insight and powerful reaction capabilities of Cyber AI, Darktrace DETECT & RESPOND are the only proven technologies to stop the full range of cyber-threats in the cloud, including:
- Critical misconfigurations
- Insider threat
- Compromised credentials
- Novel and advanced malware
- Password brute-force attacks
- Data exfiltration
- Lateral movement
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Violations of policy
Crypto mining malware inadvertently installed
Darktrace detected a mistake from a junior DevOps engineer in a multinational organization with workloads across AWS and Azure and leveraging containerized systems like Docker and Kubernetes. The engineer accidentally downloaded an update that included a crypto miner, which led to an infection across multiple cloud production systems.
After the initial infection, the malware started beaconing out to an external command and control server, which was immediately picked up by Darktrace. With the external connection established and the attack mission instructions delivered, the crypto malware infection was then able to rapidly spread across the organization’s expansive cloud infrastructure at machine speed, infecting 20 cloud servers in under 15 seconds.
Extensive visibility into the organization’s AWS environment via VPC traffic mirroring was a key factor allowing Darktrace Cyber AI to identify the scale of the attack. With the dynamic and unified view across the company’s sprawling hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure provided by Darktrace, the company’s security team was able to contain the attack within minutes, rather than hours or days. Even though the attack moved at machine speed, by leveraging solutions like VPC traffic mirroring to continuously analyze behavior in the cloud, Darktrace caught the threat at an early enough stage – well before the costs could start to mount.
Developer misuse of AWS cloud infrastructure
At an insurance group, a DevOps Engineer was attempting to build a parallel back-up infrastructure within AWS to replicate the organization’s data center production systems. The technical implementation was perfect, and the back-up systems were created – however, the cost of running the system would have been several million dollars per year.
The DevOps Engineer was unaware of the costs associated with the project and kept management in the dark. The cloud infrastructure was launched, and the costs started rising. Yet with real-time access to the company’s AWS environment provided by VPC traffic mirroring, Darktrace’s Cyber AI was immediately alerted to this unusual behavior, allowing the security team to take preventative action immediately.
With Darktrace Cyber AI, embrace the benefits of AWS
As organizations increasingly turn to the cloud and the threat surface continues to expand, security teams need self-learning AI on their side to gain the strongest insights, illuminate every blind spot, and stop all attacks.
By providing an enterprise-wide Cyber AI platform, Darktrace helps teams overcome the traditional security challenge of manually piecing together incidents across disparate corners of an organization. The unified visibility and control offered by Darktrace PREVENT, DETECT, RESPOND, & HEAL reduces the complexity and dashboard fatigue that many teams continue to struggle with, while the system’s multi-dimensional insight enhances its decision-making and threat confidence. Darktrace further augments this process with the Immune System’s AI Analyst capability, which takes the additional step of automatically investigating threats detected by Darktrace and producing concise, AI-generated reports that communicate the full scope of an incident.
With the granular, real-time visibility of VPC traffic mirroring Darktrace, you can be certain your AWS cloud environments are always protected.
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Inside the SOC
How Abuse of ‘PerfectData Software’ May Create a Perfect Storm: An Emerging Trend in Account Takeovers
Amidst the ever-changing threat landscape, new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) seem to emerge daily, creating extreme challenges for security teams. The broad range of attack methods utilized by attackers seems to present an insurmountable problem: how do you defend against a playbook that does not yet exist?
Faced with the growing number of novel and uncommon attack methods, it is essential for organizations to adopt a security solution able to detect threats based on their anomalies, rather than relying on threat intelligence alone.
In March 2023, Darktrace observed an emerging trend in the use of an application known as ‘PerfectData Software’ for probable malicious purposes in several Microsoft 365 account takeovers.
Using its anomaly-based detection, Darktrace DETECT™ was able to identify the activity chain surrounding the use of this application, potentially uncovering a novel piece of threat actor tradecraft in the process.
Microsoft 365 Intrusions
In recent years, Microsoft’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite, Microsoft 365, along with its built-in identity and access management (IAM) service, Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), have been heavily targeted by threat actors due to their near-ubiquitous usage across industries. Four out of every five Fortune 500 companies, for example, use Microsoft 365 services .
Malicious actors typically gain entry to organizations’ Microsoft 365 environments by abusing either stolen account credentials or stolen session cookies . Once inside, actors can access sensitive data within mailboxes or SharePoint repositories, and send out emails or Teams messages. This activity can often result in serious financial harm, especially in cases where the malicious actor’s end-goal is to elicit fraudulent transactions.
Darktrace regularly observes malicious actors behaving in predictable ways once they gain access to customer Microsoft 365 environment. One typical example is the creation of new inbox rules and sending deceitful emails intended to convince recipients to carry out subsequent actions, such as following a malicious link or providing sensitive information. It is also common for actors to register new applications in Azure AD so that they can be used to conduct follow-up activities, like mass-mailing or data theft. The registration of applications in Azure AD therefore seems to be a relatively predictable threat actor behavior . Darktrace DETECT understands that unusual application registrations in Azure AD may constitute a deviation in expected behavior, and therefore a possible indicator of account compromise.
These registrations of applications in Azure AD are evidenced by creations of, as well as assignments of permissions to, Service Principals in Azure AD. Darktrace has detected a growing trend in actors creating and assigning permissions to a Service Principal named ‘PerfectData Software’. Further investigation of this Azure AD activity revealed it to be part of an ongoing account takeover.
‘PerfectData Software’ Activity
Darktrace observed variations of the following pattern of activity relating to an application named ‘PerfectData Software’ within its customer base:
- Actor signs in to a Microsoft 365 account from an endpoint associated with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Virtual Private Network (VPN) service
- Actor registers an application called 'PerfectData Software' with Azure AD, and then grants permissions to the application
- Actor accesses mailbox data and creates inbox rule
In two separate incidents, malicious actors were observed conducting their activities from endpoints associated with VPN services (HideMyAss (HMA) VPN and Surfshark VPN, respectively) and from endpoints within the Autonomous System AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01.
In March 2023, Darktrace observed a malicious actor signing in to a Microsoft 365 account from a Kuwait-based IP address within the Autonomous System, AS198605 AVAST Software s.r.o. This IP address is associated with the VPN service, HMA VPN. Over the next couple of days, an actor (likely the same malicious actor) signed in to the account several more times from two different Nigeria-based endpoints, as well as a VPS-related endpoint and a HMA VPN endpoint.
During their login sessions, the actor performed a variety of actions. First, they created and assigned permissions to a Service Principal named ‘PerfectData Software’. This Service Principal creation represents the registration of an application called ‘PerfectData Software’ in Azure AD. Although the reason for registering this application is unclear, within a few days the actor registered and granted permission to another application, ‘Newsletter Software Supermailer’, and created a new inbox rule names ‘s’ on the mailbox of the hijacked account. This inbox rule moved emails meeting certain conditions to a folder named ‘RSS Subscription. The ‘Newsletter Software Supermailer’ application was likely registered by the actor to facilitate mass-mailing activity.
Immediately after these actions, Darktrace detected the actor sending out thousands of malicious emails from the account. The emails included an attachment named ‘Credit Transfer Copy.html’, which contained a suspicious link. Further investigation revealed that the customer’s network had received several fake invoice emails prior to this initial intrusion activity. Additionally, there was an unusually high volume of failed logins to the compromised account around the time of the initial access.
In a separate case also observed by Darktrace in March 2023, a malicious actor was observed signing in to a Microsoft 365 account from an endpoint within the Autonomous System, AS397086 LAYER-HOST-HOUSTON. The endpoint appears to be related to the VPN service, Surfshark VPN. This login was followed by several failed and successful logins from a VPS-related within the Autonomous System, AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01. The actor was then seen registering and assigning permissions to an application called ‘PerfectData Software’. As with the previous example, the motives for this registration are unclear. The actor proceeded to log in several more times from a Surfshark VPN endpoint, however, they were not observed carrying out any further suspicious activity.
It was not clear in either of these examples, nor in fact any of cases observed by Darktrace, why actors had registered and assigned permissions to an application called ‘PerfectData Software’, and there do not appear to be any open-source intelligence (OSINT) resources or online literature related to the malicious usage of an application by that name. That said, there are several websites which appear to provide email migration and data recovery/backup tools under the moniker ‘PerfectData Software’.
It is unclear whether the use of ‘PerfectData Software’ by malicious actors observed on the networks of Darktrace customers was one of these tools. However, given the nature of the tools, it is possible that the actors intended to use them to facilitate the exfiltration of email data from compromises mailboxes.
If the legitimate software ‘PerfectData’ is the application in question in these incidents, it is likely being purchased and misused by attackers for malicious purposes. It is also possible the application referenced in the incidents is a spoof of the legitimate ‘PerfectData’ software designed to masquerade a malicious application as legitimate.
Cases of ‘PerfectData Software’ activity chains detected by Darktrace typically began with an actor signing into an internal user’s Microsoft 365 account from a VPN or VPS-related endpoint. These login events, along with the suspicious email and/or brute-force activity which preceded them, caused the following DETECT models to breach:
- SaaS / Access / Unusual External Source for SaaS Credential Use
- SaaS / Access / Suspicious Login Attempt
- SaaS / Compromise / Login From Rare Following Suspicious Login Attempt(s)
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Unusual Location for SaaS and Email Activity
Subsequent activities, including inbox rule creations, registration of applications in Azure AD, and mass-mailing activity, resulted in breaches of the following DETECT models.
- SaaS / Admin / OAuth Permission Grant
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Logic Following OAuth Grant
- SaaS / Admin / New Application Service Principal
- IaaS / Admin / Azure Application Administration Activities
- SaaS / Compliance / New Email Rule
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and New Email Rule
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Suspicious Internal Exchange Activity
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Possible Outbound Email Spam
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and Outbound Email Spam
- SaaS / Compromise / Suspicious Login and Suspicious Outbound Email(s)
In cases where Darktrace RESPOND™ was enabled in autonomous response mode, ‘PerfectData Software’ activity chains resulted in breaches of the following RESPOND models:
• Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block
• Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Significant Compliance Activity Block
In response to these model breaches, Darktrace RESPOND took immediate action, performing aggressive, inhibitive actions, such as forcing the actor to log out of the SaaS platform, and disabling the user entirely. When applied autonomously, these RESPOND actions would seriously impede an attacker’s progress and minimize network disruption.
In addition, Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst was able to autonomously investigate registrations of the ‘PerfectData Software’ application and summarized its findings into digestible reports.
Due to the widespread adoption of Microsoft 365 services in the workplace and continued emphasis on a remote workforce, account hijackings now pose a more serious threat to organizations around the world than ever before. The cases discussed here illustrate the tendency of malicious actors to conduct their activities from endpoints associated with VPN services, while also registering new applications, like PerfectData Software, with malicious intent.
While it was unclear exactly why the malicious actors were using ‘PerfectData Software’ as part of their account hijacking, it is clear that either the legitimate or spoofed version of the application is becoming an very likely emergent piece of threat actor tradecraft.
Darktrace DETECT’s anomaly-based approach to threat detection allowed it to recognize that the use of ‘PerfectData Software’ represented a deviation in the SaaS user’s expected behavior. While Darktrace RESPOND, when enabled in autonomous response mode, was able to quickly take preventative action against threat actors, blocking the potential use of the application for data exfiltration or other nefarious purposes.
MITRE ATT&CK Mapping
• T1598 – Phishing for Information
• T1110 – Brute Force
• T1078.004 – Valid Accounts: Cloud Accounts
Command and Control:
• T1105 – Ingress Tool Transfer
• T1098.003 – Account Manipulation: Additional Cloud Roles
• T1114 – Email Collection
• T1564.008 – Hide Artifacts: Email Hiding Rules
• T1534 – Internal Spearphishing
Unusual Source IPs
• 5.62.60[.]202 (AS198605 AVAST Software s.r.o.)
• 160.152.10[.]215 (AS37637 Smile-Nigeria-AS)
• 197.244.250[.]155 (AS37705 TOPNET)
• 169.159.92[.]36 (AS37122 SMILE)
• 45.62.170[.]237 (AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01)
• 92.38.180[.]49 (AS202422 G-Core Labs S.A)
• 129.56.36[.]26 (AS327952 AS-NATCOM)
• 92.38.180[.]47 (AS202422 G-Core Labs S.A.)
• 107.179.20[.]214 (AS397086 LAYER-HOST-HOUSTON)
• 45.62.170[.]31 (AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01)
Darktrace Integrates Self-Learning AI with Amazon Security Lake to Support Security Investigations
Darktrace has deepened its relationship with AWS by integrating its detection and response capabilities with Amazon Security Lake.
This development will allow mutual customers to seamlessly combine Darktrace AI’s bespoke understanding of their organization with the Threat Intelligence offered by other security tools, and investigate all of their alerts in one central location.
This integration will improve the value security teams get from both products, streamlining analyst workflows and improving their ability to detect and respond to the full spectrum of known and unknown cyber-threats.
How Darktrace and Amazon Security Lake augment security teams
Amazon Security Lake is a newly-released service that automatically centralizes an organization’s security data from cloud, on-premises, and custom sources into a customer owned purpose-built data lake. Both Darktrace and Amazon Security Lake support the Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework (OCSF), an open standard to simplify, combine, and analyze security logs.
Customers can store security logs, events, alerts, and other relevant data generated by various AWS services and security tools. By consolidating security data in a central lake, organizations can gain a holistic view of their security posture, perform advanced analytics, detect anomalies and open investigations to improve their security practices.
With Darktrace DETECT and RESPOND AI engines covering all assets across IT, OT, network, endpoint, IoT, email and cloud, organizations can augment the value of their security data lakes by feeding Darktrace’s rich and context-aware datapoints to Amazon Security Lake.
Amazon Security Lake empowers security teams to improve the protection of your digital estate:
- Quick and painless data normalization
- Fast-tracks ability to investigate, triage and respond to security events
- Broader visibility aids more effective decision-making
- Surfaces and prioritizes anomalies for further investigation
- Single interface for seamless data management
How will Darktrace customers benefit?
Across the Cyber AI Loop, all Darktrace solutions have been architected with AWS best practices in mind. With this integration, Darktrace is bringing together its understanding of ‘self’ for every organization with the centralized data visibility of the Amazon Security Lake. Darktrace’s unique approach to cyber security, powered by groundbreaking AI research, delivers a superior dataset based on a deep and interconnected understanding of the enterprise.
Where other cyber security solutions are trained to identify threats based on historical attack data and techniques, Darktrace DETECT gains a bespoke understanding of every digital environment, continuously analyzing users, assets, devices and the complex relationships between them. Our AI analyzes thousands of metrics to reveal subtle deviations that may signal an evolving issue – even unknown techniques and novel malware. It distinguishes between malicious and benign behavior, identifying harmful activity that typically goes unnoticed. This rich dataset is fed into RESPOND, which takes precise action to neutralize threats against any and every asset, no matter where data resides.
Both DETECT and RESPOND are supported by Darktrace Self-Learning AI, which provides full, real-time visibility into an organization’s systems and data. This always-on threat analysis already makes humans better at cyber security, improving decisions and outcomes based on total visibility of the digital ecosystem, supporting human performance with AI coverage and empowering security teams to proactively protect critical assets.
Converting Darktrace alerts to the Amazon Security Lake Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework (OCSF) supplies the Security Operations Center (SOC) and incident response team with contextualized data, empowering them to accelerate their investigation, triage and response to potential cyber threats.
Darktrace is available for purchase on the AWS Marketplace.
Learn more about how Darktrace provides full-coverage, AI-powered cloud security for AWS, or see how our customers use Darktrace in their AWS cloud environments.