In the last months and years we have seen multiple DDoS attacks based on amplification techniques (DNS, NTP, Chargen, SSDP)
A new amplification attack was spotted in the last week of February (25th – 27th of February).
It is, by far, the strongest amplification attack we had and it is based on the Memcached protocol running on UDP port 11211.
Sources at CloudFlare state the attack reached 257Gbps.
Why the Memcached Protocol?
The answer is simple, it supports UDP which is stateless (which is necessary for amplification attacks), it lacks any form of authentication, and when it turns out it provides excellent ratio in amplification (the difference between the size of the trigger packet and the response).
Amplification ratio in the attack was around x10000 times but the protocol itself is capable of x51200.
The attack stats detected on CloudFlare show UDP datagrams with 1400B size. The number of packets peaked to 23Mpps which measures to the reported total 257Gbps of bandwidth. And that is a lot, it can cause very serious outages.
How does an amplification attack work and how it can be prevented?
To successfully lunch an amplification attack you need 3 components:
- Capability to spoof IP packets, meaning access to a high-bandwidth pipe on ISP that does not do a solid job in securing anti-spoofing
- Application/Protocol that is amplification friendly – UDP based, no authentication, protocol allowing large responses to be created based on small requests
- Reflector servers running a suitable protocol – These are servers that are reachable from Internet and that are going to respond to requests
How does the attack work?
The attackers send a large number of very small requests from a high-bandwidth pipe behind ISP(s), that allow ip spoofing, destined at a large list of publicly accessible application servers. The attacker is spoofing the source IP on all these requests to the target public IP address. All servers are made to respond with much larger packets to the requests, wrongfully directing all that traffic towards the unsuspecting target. The idea is to cripple either the target server/device or to congest its internet pipe, both causing Denial of Service.
How can Amp Attacks be prevented?
If any of the three components outlined above is not available, then there is no way to perform a successful Amplification attack.
Simple steps can make a bit difference.
- ISP should always adhere to the strict anti-spoofing rules and allow outbound traffic only from sources belonging to their IP ranges.
- Developers should think about security when creating new applications and protocols. UDP should be avoided unless low-latency is needed, and if UDP is used, the protocol should have some form of authentication and should never allow a reply to a request ratio bigger than 1. Meaning all replies should be smaller or equal to the request that generate them.
- Administrators should correctly “firewall” their servers and allow access to the services to whomever needs them; and not the whole Internet. Certain types of responses might be blocked from within the application or at Firewall level.
Malware is evolving constantly. The threat landscape is so dynamic that yesterday’s news is not news today. The malware business is a full-blown industry that can easily size up with the IT security industry.
Recent major security breaches:
NiceHash, the largest Bitcoin mining marketplace, has been hacked, which resulted in the theft of more than 4,700 Bitcoins worth over $57 million (at the time of breach) – more than 70 million now. The breach is reported to have happened via vulnerability on their website.
Teamviewer vulnerability – critical vulnerability discovered in the software that could allow users sharing a desktop session to gain complete control of the other’s PC without permission.
By using naked inline hooking and direct memory modification, in addition, the PoC allows users to harness control of the mouse without altering settings and permissions.
Uber – Uber’s October 2016 data breach affected some 2.7 million UK users, it has now been revealed. Uber did not disclose until now and paid a ransom (100k USD). Lawsuits to follow. Information held by a third-party cloud service provider used by Uber was accessed by the two hackers.
PayPal subsidiary breach – ID Theft for 1.6 Million Customers. PayPal Holdings Inc. said that a review of its recently acquired company TIO Networks showed evidence of unauthorized access to the company’s network, including some confidential parts where the personal information of TIO’s customers were stored.
Numerous unidentified security vulnerabilities were found in the platform (bugs that lead to security related vulnerabilities). Evidence of a breach discovered. Forensics are under way.
Equifax – breach allowed 15.2 million UK records to be made public (and 145 Million US records). Bad guys used a known vulnerability in an internet accessible service for initial penetration.
Recent Apple Root vulnerability – Any Mac system running macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 or 10.13.2 beta was vulnerable. There was no real exploit, you just typed root for username and keep the password empty and keep pressing enter and after several tries you are logged in with root rights. A logic error existed in the validation of credentials or simply a bug.
Making malware today has become more available. Malware development processes does not differentiate much from any software development, people use online available sources for much of the code, and will combine it together to their liking and purpose. A lot of the bad guys would also release the code for their creations which can later be changed and further modified (example Petya and NotPetya). Even code stolen from the government cyber agencies is now used in modern malware (example EternalBlue use in multiple malware as a way of effective horizontal spread – used in WannaCry).
Another typical trend in malware these days is to be modular. It will install and run multiple services on the infected host in specific order after the initial infection.
1st stage – there is always the initial infection – usual methods here are unpatched vulnerability of a running service or in the cases of more advanced malware – the use of Zero-Day vulnerability. Example here is the EternalBlue exploit of the SMBv1 service. Usually the delivery of the exploit is via Internet on accessible services or once inside the organization, horizontally meaning within the internal networks of the organization. That stage ends with having temporary access to the system and dropping off the malware in questions
2nd stage – privilege escalation – will try to gather credentials from the infected device in different ways – cracking the specific files on the system that holds the accounts, trying to locate account information on the local drives, or even brute-forcing credentials. These credentials will be leveraged for either privilege escalation on that machine or access to other similar machines on the network and infecting them.
3rd stage – installing a backdoor. Making sure the access is permanent
4th stage – doing the job. Downloading all necessary pieces of malware to finish the job. If that is a crypto virus it will download the tools to encrypt the sensitive files, also change desktop or even download application to show the user the ransom note, a tool to clean keys and traces of the encryption etc.
5th stage – spread, can be done again by using vulnerable services within the organization or by leveraging any credentials that are discovered in the privilege escalating process and using legit sys admin management channels such as WMI and PSExec. Sometimes the spread can be done before or simultaneously with the 4th stage as not to warn the organization of its presence before it managed to infect multiple systems.
Types of malware:
It is very hard to categorize malware these days. Most traditional classification such as: virus, worm, trojan, backdoor does not really cut it anymore as most modern malware shares the features of all of them (again example WannaCry, it is a virus, it is a worm as it spreads itself and it is a backdoor as it does install a hidden unauthorized way into the compromised system, and on top of that does encryption).
Ransomware – attacks aimed at making money by forcing victims to pay for accessing again their personal files
DDoS attacks – attacks aimed at crippling or disabling services at the victim
Attacks aimed at stealing sensitive information – attacks aimed at spying on users and gathering sensitive data – credentials, S/N, banking details, impersonating info (DOB etc.), private communications etc
Zombie/Botnet – attacks that rely on the collective resources of multiple compromised hosts that are managed by a central C&C (command and control). Can be used for multiple things, DDoS, span relay, stealing sensitive information from users
APT attacks – Advanced Persistent Attacks. Specially crafted attacks, usually used in nation-state cyber activities. Example could be the attack versus Iranian Nuclear Program
IoT related attacks – again these blur with other, as normally the compromised IoT devices are used for other kind of attacks (DDoS). This kind of IoT are very typical these days, the IoT devices are cheap network connected devices that were not designed with security in mind. The Mirai attack was a shining example on how powerful attacks can be executed using a Botnet of compromised IoT devices (DYN case). Furthermore, the number of IoT will continue to grow.
Mobile devices – attacks that are specific for mobile devices, most dangerous ones are compromised apps that go under the radar and give away sensitive information from the smart phone (ID theft, or sell personal info to ad companies, or steal financial data (credit card info etc.)). There are no such thing as free apps, they steal data from you and use it in illegal way to monetize it and make profit.
Phishing / Spear-Headed Phishing – Becoming more and more popular, bad actors will put in the effort now to get to know the victim so they can deliver the malware content in a shape and form that is interesting to the target
Some top Cyber Security Trends:
- Less number of security breaches (due to more investments in in IT Security) reported globally but more impact upon breach.
- More time is needed for the detection of breached (average time in 2016 was 80.6 days, in 2017 it is 92.2 days)
- Predictions of crime damage costs to sky rocket in the next 3 years (by 2021) to 6 Trillion USD
- Successful phishing and ransomware attacks are climbing
- Global ransomware damage cost estimated to exceed 5 Billion USD by the end of 2017
Data was gathered by CSO 2017 Cyber Security report (csoonline.com)
Summary of the evolution of Security Controls
- Intrusion Prevention (Advanced Network Threat Detection) becomes a must
Advanced IPS systems have replaced the traditional status firewalls. They incorporate multiple security technologies (signatures, behavior analytics, heuristics, sandboxing, central intelligence feeds etc.), to be able to successfully detect intrusion events and malware.
- Logging and Alerting platforms more important than ever
Logging and alerting are hugely important for each organization to be able to both proactively secure your network but in case of a breach to re-actively do forensics
- Data Loss Prevention is gaining momentum
DLP is becoming more popular as numerous breaches that year were connected to leaked sensitive information (ID theft in the Equifax and Uber)
- Endpoint security/malware is again in the front lines of combating malware
The focus of the security has shifted in the recent years from the network to the endpoint. Network and endpoint security controls should collaborate to create a strong security posture for your organization
- Systemwide threat defense is becoming necessary to adequately protect your organization
Security has become closely connected to intelligence. All major security vendors syphon off as much data from the internet as they can just, so they can filter through it in a strive to find first the zero-day exploits and provide first adequate protection for their customers. All parts of the network infrastructure can be used as sensors and deliver intelligence data to a centralized place that provides the analysis (big data).
We are experiencing a new phase in our vision of network security. There is currently no quick fix solution, no 100% proof network security protection/prevention tool or product. There is always zero-day or purposely built (very focused, low spread) APT malware that current vendors are unable to detect at the time of the breach.
Hence total prevention is a myth.
Most of the current network security solutions offer only Point-In-Time detection/prevention. Namely they inspect the traffic when the traffic goes via the firewall and if they deem the traffic is clean or unknown, at that exact time, they will allow it and forget about it. That could lead to malware passing through and being undetected for long periods of time. All vendors rely on intercepting the C&C communication to the botnet servers but not all malware uses such a centralized operation method so that cannot be considered a proven method of detection. That is why most of the vendors will apply their own sandboxing solution, namely send all files of unknown malware type to the cloud where they will be detonated in a controlled environment and the result of their execution will be deemed malicious or not by machines or sometimes humans. Upon discovery of malicious actions, the file is marked as malware and an update is shot out to all vendor appliances out there so they can intercept and drop such files. That process however takes time (typically more than 8 hours) and usually stops more than 96% of the malware spread (it depends on how quickly the different vendors discover that the file is malicious and how quickly the update is sent out) and that percentage was deemed high-enough for most companies.
What about that 4% though? I am sure any business owner would not like to be in this position and would like greater protection and value for their money. When a mere 4% can cause 100% of your security problems, you’re not protected.
Cisco is the only vendor in the NGFW market that currently has its vision also set on the retrospective side of the network security, the so-called After-The-Attack phase. Cisco uses the combination between Firepower and AMP for both network and endpoint to be able to provide threat context and to pinpoint the progress and spread of the malware in historical time so you will know exactly when and how the malware moved in your network, which hosts were infected so that you can immediately deploy mitigation techniques. First restrict the malware, block the effect of the malware and finally remove the malware that has already breached your network. Without this continuous analysis, the attack can run rampant on the network and it will be extremely difficult to determine the scope of the outbreak and the root cause or provide on-time/adequate response. Here is an example of such an event and how Firepower and AMP deal with it.
The following 4 simple steps represent how Firepower and Amp works with zero-day malware files:
- Unknown file gets downloaded to a client ip (184.108.40.206 for example) via http application with Firefox, the file is then allowed to reach the endpoint. The unknown file is sent to the cloud to be detonated and given a verdict.
- The Firepower tracks the movement/copying of the file within the network so it sees the file being propagated via any protocol at any time. For example, the file gets copied to another host 220.127.116.11 via SMB at 12:41 AM on the 1st of Dec 2016.
- Within 30min the same file gets replicated to 5 more devices within the internal range, all via SMB. The Firepower has a map of the file trajectory with hosts and timing of the movements.
- Two hours since the file was first seen, Cisco Security Intelligence Cloud had reached a verdict that the file in question is in fact malicious. From now on all Cisco AMP and Firepower enabled devices will drop that file upon encounter and alarm/log, but here comes the difference between Cisco and other vendors, namely the retrospective part. In our example, all future transfer of the files will be blocked and the file itself will be quarantined on all endpoints that have this file (requires AMP for endpoint), even more the administrators can leverage the trajectory map and verify the malicious file has been quarantined/removed and hosts have been remediated.
APT – Advanced Persistent Threats
C&C – Command and Control
NGFW – Next-Generation Firewall
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