Log management is a critical piece of your information technology and cybersecurity strategies, and a potentially required piece if your organization falls under any compliance regulations. Read more about why log management is important and how your organization could benefit.
Logging events seems like an obvious IT requirement for any network administrator to ensure the uptime of equipment, but aggregating and managing logs is essential for other benefits including analytics, fast response times, and the health of your infrastructure. Events are any activity performed on a server or application including authentication failures, errors, changes to environment variables, and resource utilization spikes. An enterprise environment could potentially have thousands of events in just one file, so log management is critical for organizing and analyzing events to identify issues that must be remediated before a system failure.
What is Log Management?
When you have just a single server on your network, a file that contains hundreds of events doesn’t seem like something that should be unmanageable but think about what happens when you have dozens of servers including computing resources in the cloud logging thousands of events every day. Without log management, events across multiple network appliances turn into a disorganized mess.
The first step in log management is aggregating events into one location. Log aggregation takes all events and consolidates them into one location. When events are in one location, they can be much more easily managed. Log aggregation is offered by several software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers to make it easier to implement a solution, so it’s often a solution for organizations unsure of where to start with log management.
Proper management of logs also improves the reliability and cybersecurity of infrastructure events. Because events are stored in a centralized location, administrators also reduce their attack surface. Security analysts suggest reducing an attack surface by limiting the number of potential compromise points available across the network. By keeping logs in one location, administrators just need to secure one location instead of multiple storage points across the network.
Reliability is also a factor when proper log management is implemented. With logs located in one location, any application used to consume and analyze events can be configured to retrieve them from a single storage point. Should events fail to store, administrators can quickly identify the one source failing to send events to the single location.
Why is Log Management Necessary for Developers?
Every application and infrastructure component should log events. Logs benefit developers in several ways. The primary reason for logs aggregated within an application is to track and monitor errors. Errors cause user frustrations and could result in a loss of the organization’s user base. Most users won’t complain about an error if they can simply work with another provider instead, so it’s critical for developers to know when their software throws errors and interrupts user workflows.
A few other reasons developers log events include:
Determining if an error is handled so that users do not simply see an error message without instructions on what to do next.
Prioritize issues so that critical crashes can be handled before dealing with benign warnings.
Applications that consume events for analysis can be used to monitor performance and stability.
Performance degradation can be monitored to determine if it’s caused by server resources or application coding.
Why is Log Management Important for System Administrators?
As a network grows, it’s difficult for administrators to track new resources added to the environment and manage resources retired and taken out of service. An administrator must be able to monitor all appliances installed on the network for performance, resource exhaustion, potential cyber-events, and uptime. Events related to these metrics are sent to log files that can then be consumed by applications used to display analytics to administrators.
Several other benefits of log management for administrators include:
Analysis of potential issues with infrastructure, which can be remediated quickly before downtime.
Detect changes to infrastructure configurations, which could cause downtime or indicate an ongoing cyber-attack.
Determine if servers are running at peak performance.
Identify any servers that need added resources for speed improvements.
Locate storage that could be at capacity.
How Does Log Management Help IT Security?
Logs are typically used for monitoring hardware and applications, but security analysts also rely heavily on logged events to detect ongoing attacks, investigate events, and perform incident response. Most enterprise networks have a security operations center (SOC), and the people who staff the SOC rely on log management to conduct analysis on the environment’s cybersecurity.
A few other benefits of log management for IT security include:
Logged events can be used to monitor the network environment 24/7 without requiring human reviewers.
Send alerts to administrators and cybersecurity staff if a threat is detected.
Locate security misconfigurations before the vulnerability can be exploited.
Perform forensics and investigations after a cyber event to determine the vulnerability location.
Provide analytics to administrators so that they can determine the cybersecurity health of the system.
How Do Administrators Read Logged Events?
Most network devices have an easy setup so that logs can be aggregated into one location and events are stored on one dedicated storage device. Storage can be located onsite or in the cloud provided all events aggregate into one location. Wherever you decide events should be stored, it’s important that the storage is properly secured. Some administrators choose to aggregate logs in the cloud, and this will work well too with analyst tools.
The benefit of managing logs in one location is that most applications used to analyze, query, and report on events will pull them from a configured storage device. It’s common for organizations to use a security information and event management (SIEM) platform to consume and analyze data. Reading thousands of line items in a log file is inefficient and unmanageable for administrators, but a SIEM will analyze data and display results in a dashboard. This dashboard helps administrators make informed decisions on reports.
The most important reason log management is important is its ability to organize data so that it can be consumable by analytical applications. These applications help administrators and developers identify issues so that they can be remediated faster. The reduction in downtime leads to lower revenue loss and keeps users across the network productive and allows customers to interface with the software with no frustration.
Managing a SIEM isn’t easy, and having the staff available 24/7 that has the skills to read and respond to an alert is a luxury many companies do not have. Cybriant offer 24/7 security monitoring for your SIEM tool. Let’s have a conversation and see if we may be a good match for your organization.
As a vital piece of your overall cybersecurity strategy, here are 8 best practices for patch management.
When you receive a message to update the software on your personal computer, updating to the latest version is a simple click of the button and a possible reboot is painless and quick. For network administrators, however, patching software can cause numerous issues and must be carefully scheduled. Patching critical infrastructure can introduce bugs, and rebooting could potentially cause downtime. It’s necessary for network administrators to patch systems, so following some best practices will help alleviate many of the issues experienced when indiscriminately updating software without testing and scheduled deployments.
Why Patch Servers Quickly after a Software Release?
It’s not uncommon for administrators to schedule server and firmware patches several weeks or months after updates are released by software vendors. The issue with this type of patch management is that every day the system is unpatched leaves it open to the latest vulnerabilities. Most patches address zero-day vulnerabilities reported to software developers or found by researchers. The findings are published publicly, and the patch is released on the same day that the vulnerability is listed in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database.
After a vulnerability is public, hackers create scripts and exploits against it. In some cases, the vulnerability is published along with sample exploit code for researchers to study and understand. This gives anyone the ability to exploit the vulnerability without requiring any coding time. With exploit code, an attacker can begin finding vulnerable systems and exploiting them immediately. The exploit depends on the vulnerability, but a critical vulnerability could give the attacker remote control of the system or allow an attacker to execute code. Unpatched systems have been responsible for numerous large data breaches, so this wait time is dangerous for the cybersecurity and health of the environment.
The longer an administrator waits to patch a system, the larger the window of availability for attackers. Public-facing systems are especially vulnerable and should be patched immediately. Unfortunately, many administrators must test patches before installing them and schedule a patch when a server can be reboot. In addition, rebooting a server can have its own issues where a smooth process is not always guaranteed. For example, if other systems rely on the rebooted machine, it could cause issues such as corrupted data or downtime for anyone using the system for productivity.
Perform an Audit on the Network Environment
To know what must be patched, you first need to audit the network. Auditing the network tells administrators the number of devices connected to the environment and determines if any systems are currently outdated. It also helps administrators prioritize systems so that they know which servers and network appliances need attention the quickest.
Installing anything on a critical infrastructure component should never be done without testing. This can be expensive but is necessary for enterprise environments. Most large environments have a staging environment that mirrors production. A staging environment is the best way to test, but if no staging system exists then make sure there is a solid rollback plan and procedures to test in a similar environment.
Create a Rollback Plan
What happens if patching fails or creates failure during reboots? Most operating systems have a way to keep a system restore point available should any updates fail. For database servers, a backup of the database should also be available. A rollback plan allows you to restore the system back to its original state and restore it to production so that patches can be retested before attempting the install again.
Use Central Deploying Dashboards
In a large enterprise environment, there could be hundreds of servers patching at any given time. If patching fails for one server, other servers could still be functional with the latest patch. It’s possible to have servers with different installed versions, and administrators must be able to organize and audit systems across the environment.
Centralized dashboards perform patch management by allowing administrators to deploy scheduled updates, monitor currently installed versions, get feedback on the patching process, and display errors. With hundreds of servers scheduled for patch deployment, a centralized dashboard specifically designed for patch management organizes updates and provides information to audit the network.
Monitor Patches and CVE Releases
Either with a third-party solution or manually reviewed, the CVE database should be monitored for any vulnerabilities related to system software. Software developers also publish any related vulnerabilities warning users that they should patch their software. Always stay updated on the latest versions and releases so that they can be quickly tested and a patch deployed.
Plan for Errors
As much as you try to avoid issues, errors occur and will impede progress. In a large environment, at least one server will be unsuccessfully patched. Administrators should plan for these issues with follow-up testing, troubleshooting, and a retry of the patching process again. If errors cause the system to crash, the rollback plan must be executed. In some scenarios, errors can be bypassed, and the patch can be installed anyway. If using a central dashboard, the feedback tells administrators about any failed installations to help them organize the update process.
Use Live Patching Services
Several software vendors offer live patching solutions. Live patching is a specialized service that will update the software in memory while the server remains active, and then no reboot is required after installation completes. Several Linux operating system vendors have this software available for their distributions. Third-party vendors also offer live patching across multiple distributions.
Don’t Forget User Devices
Most patching focuses on critical systems such as servers and network appliances, but user devices can also become a target for hackers. Outdated software on user devices could be vulnerable to sophisticated attacks that give attackers remote control or code execution privileges. When the user connects to the network, the right exploit could give an attacker access to the environment. For example, some ransomware scans network connections to make copies of itself to store on remote storage locations.
As your network grows, you eventually need to organize and manage software updates. Patch management helps monitor systems and scheduled update deployments. It also gives administrators constant updates on the status of every system so that software is safely patched to avoid data breaches from the latest exploits and vulnerabilities.
Consider Vulnerability Management from Cybriant
An asset is no longer just a laptop or server. It’s now a complex mix of digital computing platforms and assets which represent your modern attack surface, including cloud, containers, web applications, and mobile devices. The time between each scan is all an attacker needs to compromise a network. With continuous scanning, our security experts automatically have visibility to assess where each asset is secure or exposed. By using risk prioritization, our security experts have the skills to understand exposures in context. They will prioritize remediation based on asset criticality, threat context, and vulnerability severity.
Get back to the basics with this Complete Beginner’s Guide to Protecting Corporate Network Infrastructure. Here are the main items of concern when protecting your infrastructure.
In organizations, networks are set up to interlink different workstations and a central server. These interlinks form part of the corporate network allowing the organization to achieve its business functions.
Most organizations set up their networks to perform transactions, allow them to communicate with clients, and keep records. However, most organizations set up these networks and forget a critical component that is network security.
Often the result of not implementing network security is that organizations lose valuable data to hackers. But how? There have been organizations losing their whole network infrastructure to hackers, like WannaCry malware which led to many organizations losing their workstations due to ransomware.
One of the factors attributed to such attacks has been linked to the IT managers’ negligence in these corporate settings. But how can one address such cases? What measures can be taken to ensure that organization protects their network infrastructures? Well protecting network infrastructure abides by the concept of prevention is better than cure. To mitigate the risks that come with corporate network infrastructure, IT practitioners can:
Implement Physical Access Controls
Protection first starts with the physical location. With corporate network infrastructures, hackers can gain physical access to server rooms. The most damage can be done when a hacker can access the core hardware that facilitates the network connectivity within an organization. Suppose a hacker can access the server room. In that case, they can easily destroy network equipment, whether by malware or physically destroying the servers.
IT managers can implement access control measures such as biometric authentication measures and limiting access to only authorized personnel. Implementing such measures can significantly reduce occurrences of networks being compromised.
Stay Up to Date with The Latest Software
Of all the causes of network breaches, outdated software has often been attributed to organizations losing all their resources. For example, the Equifax data breach was widely attributed to outdated software. The hackers were able to access sensitive information through a software vulnerability that had earlier been patched.
The fault was attributed to the organization’s gross negligence to update their software and patch these security vulnerabilities. IT managers should practice staying updated on the latest software changes to reduce data breaches and address issues associated with security vulnerabilities.
Train Employees on Security Measures
One notable factor to consider in corporate organizations is that not every employee is a tech guru and can identify potential security threats. In organizations, employees are the most vulnerable to hacking. Employees can be hacked through malicious emails and social engineering. They can be gateways through which hackers gain access to the entire corporate network and sabotaging the organization. To ensure that such cases don’t occur, IT technicians can sensitize employees on proper security measures.
These security measures can range from using strong passwords, avoiding opening unverified emails, and avoiding sharing corporate resources with outsiders. Training will ensure that employees remain protected at all times.
The biggest source of network breaches is malware. Hackers often create malware with the intent of harming an organization. In most cases, the malware goes undetected and can cause significant harm to the organization.
Antivirus has been designed to identify and mitigate any potential threats to the network. But, it’s possible
Problems with Network Infrastructure in 2021
Unknown Assets and Devices
An asset is no longer just a laptop or server. It’s now a complex mix of digital computing platforms and assets which represent your modern attack surface, including cloud, containers, web applications, and mobile devices. Proactively discover true asset identities (rather than IP addresses) across any digital computing environment and keep a live view of your assets with our managed vulnerability management service.
Sporadic Vulnerability Scans
Periodic vulnerability scans, like annual physicals, are limited in the type of protection that they can provide to assure system fitness. However, continuous network monitoring is game-changing technology and is becoming the new normal. Continuous network monitoring is not a fad, it implements the 5 healthy best practices that your organization should be monitoring, and it provides daily visibility into your progress. Tenable is proud to be leading the trend.
Performing only a single vulnerability scan each year or quarter puts organizations at risk of not uncovering new vulnerabilities. The time between each scan is all an attacker needs to compromise a network. With continuous scanning, our security experts automatically have visibility to assess where each asset is secure or exposed.
By using risk prioritization, our security experts have the skills to understand exposures in context. They will prioritize remediation based on asset criticality, threat context, and vulnerability severity. Our reporting will help you prioritize which exposures to fix first, if at all, and apply the appropriate remediation technique
Introduction to The Modern Approach to Vulnerability Scanning
Today’s enterprise networks are in a perpetual state of flux. The use of mobile devices to access corporate data is skyrocketing. More IT services are being delivered via the cloud than ever before. And users are constantly subscribing to SaaS-based applications, including file sharing applications like Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive, without IT’s consent. Meanwhile, hardly a day goes by without reports of a major data breach appearing in the trade rags or some high-profile cyberattack being featured on the evening news.
But why? Are the bad guys really getting smarter? Or are our existing defenses becoming outdated? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Innovations in continuous network monitoring are giving savvy IT security teams a leg up in mitigating risks associated with advanced threats. Unlike legacy vulnerability management systems that rely on active scanning, continuous network monitoring provides real-time visibility into mobile devices, virtual platforms, cloud applications, and network infrastructure — including their inherent security risks. If you and your colleagues are tasked with reducing network security risks while maintaining compliance with industry or government regulations, then this book is for you.
The larger the gap, the greater the risk of a business-impacting cyber event occurring. Traditional Vulnerability Management is no longer sufficient. Managed Vulnerability Management extends vulnerability management by covering the breadth of the attack surface (IT, Cloud, IoT/OT) and provide a depth of insight into the data (including prioritization/analytics/decision support). We help security leaders answer the following questions:
Where are we exposed?
What assets are affected, where, and what is the significance/severity? The changing technology and threat landscape have made this harder to see.
Where should we prioritize based on risk?
Data overload and lack of security staffing have made this more important than ever.
How are we reducing exposure over time?
Security leaders want to understand and report on their progress and show the value of their investments to senior management.
If you are unsure how to respond to these questions, let’s talk.
When you outsource your vulnerability management to a security provider like Cybriant, you’ll be able to:
Discover: Identify and map every asset for visibility across any computing environment
Assess: Understand the state of all assets, including vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other health indicators
Analyze: Understand exposures in context, to prioritize remediation based on asset criticality, threat context, and vulnerability severity
Fix: Prioritize which exposures to fix first, if at all, and apply the appropriate remediation technique
Measure: Model and analyze cyber exposure to make better business and technology decisions
Report: Cybriant’s staff of security experts will work report and give security and IT teams complete and accurate visibility and insight.
While these measures directly address corporate network vulnerabilities, the implementation rests solely on the IT managers. Prevention is better than cure, and the earlier these measures are implemented, the lower the chances of vulnerable attacks to the network infrastructure.
3 Levels of Cyber Protection – Essential Cyber Risk Management Services Integrated into an Affordable, Flexible, Subscription-Based Model.
What are the Cybersecurity Risks Associated with Continued Long-Term Remote Work? The majority of the workforce is still working from home due to COVID19. What are the associated risks when we consider a continued and potentially permanent remote working scenario?
Just over a year ago, COVID19 changed the working world as we knew it. To protect ourselves and others, many employees were no longer allowed to go to their workplaces and other crowded places. Companies were rushing to determine the best policies and procedures to avert as much risk as possible while protecting their employees.
Today, those work from home policies are still happening for many companies. Working from home may remain a reality for the near future and potentially permanently for many organizations. What are the cybersecurity risks when it comes to long-term remote work?
Research conducted by Buffer shows that more than 95% of employees surveyed would like to continue working remotely and would also recommend it to other employees. These respondents stated flexibility to work from anywhere apart from home and the workplace as another benefit of remote working.
It is also vital to understand that 45% of the respondents attributed to being more productive while working remotely than at the workplace. 52%, on the other hand, noted that they engage in more meetings with remote working than they did in the traditional workplaces. Based on the above observations, remote working has brought along major benefits despite the few challenges that employers and employees are striving to find solutions on how to deal with.
What Are Some of The Cybersecurity Risks of Long-Term Remote Working?
According to the Buffer survey, 38% of those surveyed were unsure about the future of working remotely in their organization while 46% of organizations will permanently allow remote work. At the beginning of the COVID19 quarantine, employers were forced to rely on the home networks and personal devices of their employees, many of them without the policies and procedures of their corporate networks.
The good news when it comes to long-term remote work is that companies have been given time to prepare and plan for the potential future of long-term remote work. When organizations start with a security plan or framework, their odds of success are significantly higher.
Research done by CISO Benchmark in 2020 shows that companies are struggling to control and monitor their remote workers’ use of devices such as computers and phones. 52% of the respondents agreed that it is so challenging to safeguard their mobile devices from cybercriminals and bullies.
In addition to using personal devices, other cybersecurity risks associated with long term remote work include:
Despite all the cybersecurity risks associated with working remotely, it is said that millions of employees do not act securely worldwide. Most of them do so due to carelessness and not ignorance, as they are equipped with all the tips that they need to keep cybercriminals away and avoid data breaches.
According to research conducted by OpenVPN, 90% of IT experts believe that remote workers do not act securely, which leaves them vulnerable to cybercriminals.
Most than 70% of these respondents also believe that remote employees pose greater cybersecurity risks compared to onsite workers.
How Do You Maintain Security When Employees Work Remotely?
Despite the risks associated with working remotely, it is possible to maintain security among employees working remotely.
In our recently released Remote Workers Guide, our CTO Andrew Hamilton describes all the ways Cybriant is protecting our organization while we are working from home because of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US.
In this guide, we discuss tips to secure personal devices and the exact steps to take if you think you have been compromised. Our team deals with highly sensitive data and our remote workers must be vigilant when working remotely. Download the guide and see what steps we’ve taken to prevent our team from cyber attacks.
You’ll also be interested to learn the types of cyber attacks you may see while working from home. Download the guide today and let Cybriant assist your organization during this unique time in our lives.
Now More Than Ever: Hackers Want Endpoints
Hackers understand the global pandemic we are currently experiencing. They also know that whatever you are NOT focused on defending, and they will flow like water to get to it.
Where are you not focused as a defender? That’s where the hacker will go.
Since working remotely has been mandated to slow the spread of COVID-19, focus on your users’ endpoints.
According to the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 94% of all attacks start with email. Be aware that even more users will click on malicious links when they are using their mobile devices.
Mobile Devices Users are More Vulnerable to Phishing Attacks
According to a recent mobile phishing report, there is an 85% increase annually in the rate at which people are falling for phishing attacks on mobile.
Mobile devices are connected outside traditional firewalls, typically lack endpoint security solutions, and access a plethora of new messaging platforms not used on desktops. Additionally, the mobile user interface does not have the depth of detail needed to identify phishing attacks, such as hovering over hyperlinks to show the destination.
As a result, mobile users are three times more likely to fall for phishing scams, according to IBM.
Finally, the huge amount of personal and corporate data on mobile devices is making these devices the preferred target for phishing attacks.
In fact, in spite of being protected by traditional phishing protection and education, 56% of Lookout users received and tapped a phishing URL on their mobile device between 2011–2016. Fortunately, in these cases the attack was thwarted by Lookout.
Before enterprises can achieve comprehensive protection against phishing attacks across all vectors, including the mobile device, security and IT professionals need to understand how current phishing myths muddy the waters and get the facts that will help them make informed decisions on how to protect corporate data.
For a comprehensive mobile device protection strategy, you need a tool or service for endpoints that can offer a form of antivirus, an EDR-type tool that can record and log instances for future forensics, as well as vulnerability management for mobile.
Your mobile device security strategy should provide phishing protection for:
– Social Media
– Messaging Apps
You should also consider Mobile Threat Defense that defends against:
– Application Threats
– Device Threats
– Network Threats
Managed Detection and Remediation (MDR) for Endpoint Security
Not only does MDR from Cybriant help reduce the time between breach and detection, but we can also help stop the threat before it can fully execute.
Our experts utilize a static AI engine to provide pre-threat execution protection. The static AI engine replaces traditional signatures and obviates recurring scans that kill end-user productivity.
By tracking all processes, our team is able to detect malicious activities and use behavioral AI technology to respond at top speed. We can detect and stop file-based malware, scripts, weaponized documents, lateral movement, file-less malware, and even zero-days.
With MDR from Cybriant, our security analysts monitor your endpoints 24/7 and filter out false positives. You’ll receive alerts when relevant threats are detected along with advice and insight from our cyber security team to help you mitigate and respond to the threat.
As an extension of your team, our experts will investigate, triage, and remediate security events and provide executive-level reporting. Remediation may reveal dormant or trojan threat actors that evade network and endpoint detection solutions. Our MDR solution includes leveraging the talents of our experienced team as well as next-generation antivirus and EDR tools that utilize AI.
The MDR service from Cybriant will allow you to protect your organization’s data and reduce your threat landscape against the most advanced threats.
Recommendations from Cybriant
We typically recommend starting with an assessment so our team has a better grasp of where you are in your security strategy. We offer all assessments including:
The company should for instance formulate solid remote working policies that should be followed by every employee. Extensive training should be conducted to ensure that each of them understands the policies and can follow every step to the end.
The CPO Magazine recommends additional security tips as discussed below:
Beefing up all network security- Employees working remotely must ensure that they use VPN all the time as a way of maintaining end-to-end encryption of anything they share. Storing of data on the cloud also enhances the security, performance, and reliability of the data.
Caution must be taken when using personal devices and IT experts must always be on standby to manage and monitor them.
Having reliable authorization and authentication plans in place for remote workers can also keep off cybercriminals.
Watching out for phishing threats.
Securing all collaboration apps.
Constantly training and equipping employees with safety cybersecurity tips such as using strong passwords, multiple authentications, and using cloud services.
Setting up plans for crises and critical systems in advance.
Every time you get on the internet, you are exposed to many forms of risk. Encrypted traffic is supposed to be secure, but what are the dangers of encrypted malware?
Hackers are constantly finding new ways to identify security flaws and exploit them, compromising your data or device. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the effect of the financial market caused by cybercrime is expected to rise to 6 trillion dollars in 2021.
Most websites on the internet have resulted in encrypted connections to beef up their security. You’ve probably encountered it. For instance, when a site has a padlock icon at the top of the browser, it is a sign that the site’s communication is through an encrypted connection under a valid TLS/SSL certificate.
SSL encryption is key for any application or site to safely transfer sensitive information. This includes financial data, credit card numbers, and passwords. SSL certificates are also a great defense tactic to stop intruders on their tracks when trying to get wind of your internet activity.
However, most people have become too trusting whenever they spot the padlock icon assuming that they are safe from all kinds of attacks.
The truth is, bad guys have found ways around encryption. Cybercriminals and hackers have found ways to cover malicious code using SSL/HTTPS and in the process, send encrypted malware.
What is Encrypted Malware?
Encrypted malware is a program that can go around common security blockers and infiltrate corporate networks with the goal of acquiring data or setting a ransomware attack.
How are the hackers able to bypass security measures?
The most common IT security solutions nowadays involve combining firewalls and intrusion detection systems to comb through and analyze all of the incoming traffic to the local network. The notion is for the system to detect and stop cyberattacks and any hacking threats automatically before the users become vulnerable.
However, there is an in-built loophole in how these systems operate. These systems are made to scan network traffic in a bid to spot patterns that are related to malware or some malicious attacks. Even so, if the systems cannot decode the full body of every incoming network request, they become blind to a portion of the traffic.
For instance, when you download a PDF document from a website outside the network, your intrusion detection system or firewall can check through the packets of data that get into the local network. However, if the communication is taking place over an SSL connection, then the firewall/system is blind to the encryption and cannot detect what is inside the PDF document.
Businesses need to invest more in cybersecurity if they are to gain the confidence of clients. An Arcserve survey on consumers showed that 70 percent of consumers were not confident with how businesses were securing their personal information. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A report by Varonis discovered that only an average of 5 percent of companies’ folders is protected properly from cybersecurity risks.
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that in 2021, there will be a ransomware attack every 11 seconds on businesses. Additionally, Arcserve projects damages caused by ransomware to reach 20 billion dollars in 2021. Even worse, the Arcserve report shows that 59 percent of buyers will not do business with companies that experienced a cyberattack in 2020.
Encrypted ransomware is a type of ransomware where complex and advanced encryption algorithms are leveraged by ransomware creators to encrypt all of the data saved on an infected device.
Ransomware creators in this case apply military-grade encryption algorithms that prevent you from decrypting the files on your own. The ransomware is even able to scramble all the file names, making it difficult for you to determine the affected files and those that are not affected.
In an encryption ransomware attack, the attacker tries to spot all kinds of potential vulnerabilities that they can identify in your computer’s security system. A ransom note is then shown on your computer screen after the attack is complete. The note has all the information you’ll need to regain the encrypted content. Usually, the creators of the ransomware will give the victims about 96 hours to pay the amount.
What are the Dangers of Encrypted Malware?
Some interesting statistics by Comparitech continue to show that many people are still prone to malware attacks. For example, 3.7 million malware attacks got sent via encrypted SSL/TSL traffic in 2019, a 27 percent increase from 2018. These encrypted channels make it difficult to detect and mitigate, thus the malware packages experience higher success rates.
Additionally, according to Mimecast, 51 percent of organizations encountered a ransomware attack that caused at least a temporary disruption of business operations.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the dangers of encrypted malware:
Loss of data
Loss of profits in businesses especially during downtime
Cost of having to replace compromised devices
Reputation damage that may lead to loss of business
Cost of recovery
Having to invest in new security systems
Illegal withdrawal of balance from bank accounts
Unauthorized people getting access to valuable documents
Polymorphic Malware vs Encrypted Malware
A finding by Webroot shows that 93.6 percent of malware that was observed in 2019 was polymorphic. Polymorphic malware is a kind of malware that constantly alters its identifiable features so as to evade detection. The polymorphic techniques include changing file names and types or even encryption keys, ensuring the malware is unrecognizable to detection systems.
Many of the common kinds of malware can be polymorphic, such as keyloggers, bots, trojans, viruses, and worms.
Polymorphism is leveraged to avoid pattern-matching detection that is relied on by security solutions such as antivirus software. While some characteristics of this malware may change, its functional purpose remains undeterred.
Does this mean that polymorphic malware is impossible to detect? Not exactly.
Polymorphic malware can be spotted using 2 techniques. These are entry point algorithms and generic description technology. The entry point algorithm utilizes a special malware detection program to go through machine code at the point of entry of every file. The generic description technology, on the other hand, runs the file through a protected virtual computer.
In encrypted malware, the signature is hidden under a layer of encryption. Polymorphic malware, on the other hand, is an improvement over encrypted malware. Where encrypted malware is prone to signature scanning, malware writers began morphing the decryption code in polymorphic malware to avoid detection.
Can Encrypted Files be Hacked?
It would take 6.4 quadrillion years for current classical computers to decrypt your encrypted data. However, hackers still find ways to get hold of the original content. They often result in stealing encryption keys or intercepting data before it is encrypted or after it is decrypted. The most common way that encrypted data is hacked is by adding an encryption layer while using an attacker’s key.
Let’s take an in-depth look at some encryption mistakes that lead to data breaches
Handling key management poorly
Failing to handle key management in the right way, is the most common way that hackers get their hands on sensitive data regardless of it having been encrypted correctly. If hackers get hold of your encrypted data and the encryption key, your defense is gone. So what are some of the key management failures?
Keeping the key ‘under the mat’
So you’ve encrypted all your sensitive data and signed it properly. Where do you hide the encryption key? In the database? On the file system? In an app config file? All these are bad choices for storing your encryption key.
Failing to protect the key
Even if you hide the key in a separate place, your job is not cut out for you since hackers might get to it there too. You should encrypt the encryption key with another encryption key, preferably, a Key Encryption Key, that you’ll then have to store in a different location. To beef up your security even more, you can secure all your KEKs using a Master Encryption Key and a Master Signing Key.
Insecurely fetching the key
Despite having 3 layers of encryption protecting the data, you still have to transfer the key to the app securely. Ideally, this requires authentication between the key management server and your app, as well as delivering it over an encrypted connection, thus the fourth layer of encryption. Furthermore, there include performance considerations including caching the key securely in memory which can be troublesome. All these complexities are grounds for data hacks.
Same key for all data
Some people use the one encryption key to safeguard their sensitive data. This is the equivalent of using one key for your house, office, and your car, which is not usually the case. For this reason, you should split your data into several security partitions, each having its encryption key. This can be complex as it requires that you intelligently figure out the key you need to fetch each time you encrypt and decrypt data, but it is necessary.
Never altering the key
It’s common knowledge that it’s wise to change the locks occasionally on your doors, and the same principle applies to encryption. This is known as key rotation and it should not be overlooked. It entails maintaining several versions of every encryption key and matching it to its corresponding version of the encrypted data. In some cases, you need to move the existing data from an old key to the new key.
Expecting cloud providers to secure your data
With the rise in popularity in cloud computing, many server-side applications are migrating from server rooms to data centers. These centers are spread out across the globe and are under the management of companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. These tech giants have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into cybersecurity, to ensure that they are “THE” secure cloud.
This causes many organizations to assume that any data that is stored by these providers are safe. This is a very risky assumption.
While the physical infrastructure powering the cloud providers may be secure, and even some offering encryption options, still, they recommend that developers first encrypt their sensitive data before they send it to the cloud.
How to Protect Yourself or Your Business from Encrypted Malware
You should be on the look for the padlock symbol on your browser to be sure that the site you are on has SSL encryption enabled. However, don’t just assume that this is enough since many suspicious websites also spoof their own sites with SSL certificates to seem legitimate.
Every time you key in your personal information or perform a financial transaction, take some time to assess the platform you are using and if the URL in your browser, as well as any organization details found on the SSL certificate, corresponds to the organization.
Hackers can still use advanced DNS spoofing to give seemingly correct URLs that in turn get user credentials. Using strong password managers will help protect you from this as they cross-reference URLs. Still, users need to be cautious when inputting login info.
Opt to add a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to strengthen your online security. This service is growing in popularity among many internet users as it is easily available via subscription, and leverages different kinds of encryption apart from SSL to ensure your network is secure and anonymous during online sessions.
Ensure that your organization has intrusion detection systems and firewalls that are correctly configured. Hackers never tire from spotting vulnerabilities in your system. This means that even after taking the right precautions, there is a chance that you might still be vulnerable to malware.
Ensure that your organization is utilizing deep packet inspection and/or SSL inspection to weed out threats that may come through encrypted web traffic.
Invest in proven anti-virus tools from credible sources, and always keep them up to date. While this might not be completely foolproof, there is no sure way, given the latest technology, to protect your network other than having anti-malware, anti-virus software, and a firewall manning your network.
Embark on offline backups and online files. Companies are doubling up in a bid to safeguard their information. Firstly, they are storing large parts of their files in the cloud, ensuring that their physical devices will not be affected in the event of an infection. Secondly, they are storing secure backups offline, to prevent them from getting affected by an infection.
An analysis by CybSafe of data from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office discovered that 90 percent of the cybersecurity breaches in Britain were linked to human error. As such, other simple measures include advising employees not to click on links or download attachments that are from unknown sources. They should also be keen on the spelling of email addresses, and if there are inconsistencies, delete them immediately. They should also ignore and bin emails that have poor formatting and grammar.
Dangers of Encrypted Malware – The Bottom line
Encrypted traffic is very important in making networks secure while keeping information safe. Even so, it does not mean that it is totally safe from attacks, such as encrypted malware. This could result in huge financial losses and data breaches. For this reason, companies need to practice proactive precaution.
Consider Cybriant’s PREtect Service as an All-in-One Cybersecurity Solution for your organization. Learn more here.