Monthly Archives: December 2017

Why I Do, What I Do

Folks,

I trust you're well. Today, I just wanted to take a few minutes to answer a few questions that I've been asked so many times.


Here are the answers to the Top-5 questions I am frequently asked -

  1. You're the CEO of a company (Paramount Defenses), so why do you blog so often, and how do you have time to do so?

    Good question. This is a bit of a unique situation, in that whilst I am the CEO of a company, I am also a subject matter expert in Active Directory Security (simply by virtue of my background) and thus I feel that it is my civic duty to help organizations understand the paramount importance of securing their foundational Active Directory deployments.

    In fact, over the last 7+ years, I've penned 150+ blog posts on Active Directory Security (here) and Cyber Security (here) on various topics such as Active Directory Privilege Escalation, the OPM Breach, Kerberos Token Bloat, Eff Perms, AdminSDHolder, Mimikatz DCSync, Sneaky Persistence, How to Correctly Identify Stealthy Admins in Active Directory, How to Correctly Identify Shadow Admins in Active Directory etc. and most recently on Active Directory Botnets.

    As to how I have the time to do so, that's actually not that difficult. We have a world-class team at Paramount Defenses, and I've been able to delegate a substantial amount of my CEO-related work amongst our executive leadership team.




  2. Speaking of which, how big is Paramount Defenses?

    At Paramount Defenses, we believe that less is more, so our entire global team is less than a 100 people. For security reasons, 100% of our staff are U.S. Citizens, and to-date, the entirety of our R&D team are former Microsoft employees.

    If by how big we are, you meant how many organizations we impact, today our unique high-value cyber security solutions and insights help adequately secure and defend thousands of prominent organizations across six continents worldwide.




  3. Why is it just you (and why aren't your employees) on Social Media (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.)?

    The simple answer to this question - For Security Reasons.

    At Paramount Defenses, we care deeply about cyber security, so we also strive to lead by example in every way.

    As it pertains to cyber security, we have found that the presence of an organization's employees on social-media almost always results in excessive information disclosure that could be very valuable for hackers and various other entities who may have malicious intent, so our corporate policies do not permit a social media presence.

    Also, we're not huge fans of Twitter, and we certainly don't care about being on Facebook. We do like and appreciate LinkedIn, and in fact, we lead the world's largest community of Active Directory Security Professionals on LinkedIn.




  4. What do you intend to accomplish by blogging?

    The intention is to help organizations worldwide understand just how profoundly important Active Directory Security is to organizational cyber security, and how paramount Active Directory Effective Permissions are to Active Directory Security.

    That's because this impacts global security today, and here's why -




    You see, the Crown Jewels of cyber security reside in Active Directory, and if they're compromised, its Game Over. By Crown Jewels, I'm referring to privileged access, or as commonly known, Domain Admin equivalent accounts.

    It is a fact that 100% of all major recent cyber security breaches (except Equifax) involved the compromise of a single Active Directory privileged user account. Such accounts are Target #1 for hackers, which is why it is so very important that organizations be able to exactly identify and minimize the number of such privileged accounts in Active Directory.

    Now, when it comes to identifying privileged user accounts in Active Directory, most organizations focus on enumerating the memberships of their default administrative groups in Active Directory, and that's it. Unfortunately, that's just the Tip of the Iceberg, and we have found that most of them do not even seem to know that in fact there are FAR many more accounts with varying levels of elevated admin/privileged access in Active Directory than they seem to know about.

    This isn't a secret; its something you know if you've ever heard about Active Directory's most powerful and capable cyber security feature - Delegation of Administration. The truth is that at most organizations, a substantial amount of delegation has been done over the years, yet no one seems to have a clue as to who has what privileged access. Here's why.

    In fact, Active Directory privileged access accounts have been getting a lot of attention lately, because so many cyber security experts and companies are starting to realize that there exists a treasure-trove of privileged access in Active Directory. Thus, recently many such cyber security expert and companies have started shedding light on them (for example, one, two, three etc.), and some have even started developing amateur tools to identify such accounts.

    What these experts and companies may not know is that their amateur tools are substantially inaccurate since they rely on finding out "Who has what Permissions in Active Directory" WHEREAS the ONLY way to correctly identify privileged user accounts in Active Directory is by accurately finding out "Who has what Effective Permissions in Active Directory?"

    On a lighter note, I find it rather amusing that for lack of knowing better, most cyber security experts and vendors that may be new to Active Directory Security have been referring to such accounts as Stealthy Admins, Shadow Admins etc.

    To make matters worse, there are many prominent vendors in the Active Directory space that merely offer basic Active Directory Permissions Analysis/Audit Tooling, yet they mislead organizations by claiming to help them "Find out who has what privileged access in Active Directory," and since so many IT personnel don't seem to know better, they get misled.

    Thus, there's an imperative need to help organizations learn how to correctly audit privileged users in Active Directory.

    Consequently, the intention of my blogging is to HELP thousands of organizations and cyber security experts worldwide UNDERSTAND that the ONLY correct way to identify privileged users in Active Directory is by accurately determining effective permissions / effective access in Active Directory. There is only ONE correct way to accomplish this objective.




  5. Why have you been a little hard on Microsoft lately?

    Let me begin by saying that I deeply love and care for Microsoft. It may appear that I may have been a tad hard on them, but that is all well-intentioned and only meant to help them realize that they have an obligation to their global customer base to adequately educate them about various aspects of cyber security in Windows, particularly the most vital aspects.

    In that regard, if you truly understand cyber security in Windows environments, you know that Active Directory Effective Permissions and Active Directory Effective Access play an absolutely paramount role in securing Windows deployments worldwide, and since Active Directory has been around for almost two decades by now, one would expect the world to unequivocally understand this by now. Unfortunately, we found that (as evidenced above) no one seems to have a clue.

    You may be surprised if I were to share with you that at most organizations worldwide, hardly anyone seems to even know about what Active Directory Effective Permissions are, let alone why they're paramount to their security, and this a highly concerning fact, because this means that most organizations worldwide are operating in the proverbial dark today.

    It is upon looking into the reason for this that we realized that in the last decade, it appears that (for whatever reason) Microsoft may not have educated its global customer based about Active Directory Effective Permissions at all - Proof.

    Thus, it is in the best interest of organizations worldwide that we felt a need to substantially raise awareness.

    As to how on earth Microsoft may have completely forgotten to educate the world about this, I can only guess that perhaps they must've gotten so involved in building their Cloud offering and dealing with the menace of local-machine credential-theft attack vectors that they completely seem to have missed this one paramount aspect of Windows security.

    Fortunately for them and the world, we've had our eye on this problem for a decade know and we've been laser-focused. Besides, actions speak louder than words, so once you understand what it is we do at Paramount Defenses, you'll see that we've done more to help secure Microsoft's global customer base than possibly any other company on the planet.

    Those who understand what we've built, know that we may be Microsoft's most strategic ally in the cyber security space.


Finally, the most important reason as to why I do, what I do is because I care deeply and passionately about cyber security.

Best wishes,

Info Stealing: a new operation in the wild

Attack attribution is always a very hard work. False Flags, Code Reuse and Spaghetti Code  makes impossible to assert "This attack belongs to X". Indeed nowadays makes more sense talking about Attribution Probability rather then Attribution by itself. "This attack belongs to X with 65% of attribution probability" it would be a correct sentence.

I made this quick introduction because the following analysis would probably take the reader to think about specific attribution, but it wont be so accurate, so please be prepared to have not such a clear conclusions.

Today I'd like to show an interesting analysis of a quite new InfoStealer Malware delivered by eMail to many International Companies. The analysis shows up interesting Code Reuse capabilities, apparently originated by Japanese Attackers reusing an English Speaker Attacker source code. Again I have not enough artifacts to give attributions but only few clues as follows. In the described analysis, the original sample was delivered by sarah@labaire.co.za (with high probability a compromised South Africa account) to one of my spamming email addresses.

The obtained sample is a Microsoft Word document within macro in it. The macros were heavily obfuscated by using four rounds of substitutions and UTF-8 encoding charsets (which, by the way, is super annoying). The following image shows the obfuscated macro code with UTF-8 charsets.

Stage 1: Obfuscation
 By using oletools and "tons" of cups of coffee (to be awake until late night to make recursive steps) I finally was able to extract the invoked command, showed in the following image.

Stage 1: Invoked Command
A fashionable powershell command drops and executes: hxxp://ssrdevelopments.co.za/a2/off.exe. Powershell seems to be a "must have" in contemporary Malware. Analyzing the "dropping" url and tracking down the time it is in "Index Of" mode (2017-0-13), I suspect it is not a compromised website rather a crafted web server or a compromised host of a dead company.

Dropping Web Site

By surfing on the Malware propagator web site I founded out many malicious executables (sees IoC section) each one showing up specific behaviors such as: password stealers, RAT and Banking Trojans. Even if the samples were developed for different targets, all of them shared the following basic behaviors:

  • Check for victims IP address before getting into Malicious activities (maybe related to targeted activities)
  • Install itself into auto execution path
  • Tries to fingerprint the target system (such as CPU, HD, Memory, Username, System, etc..)
  • Sniff for Keystrokes

I'd like to write a simple analysis for each found sample, but today time is not my friend, so let's focalize to one of the malicious samples. Let's get done the received sample by digging into the "second stage" dropped by the powershell "first stage" from ssrdevelopments.co.za/a2/off.exe. After few seconds on second stage (off.exe) it became clear that it was a .NET software. By reversing the interpreted .NET language some clear text comments appeared interesting. Japanese language such as comments and variable names came out from static analysis. Let's have a look to them.

Stage 2: Apparently Japanese characters

While the sample pretends to be compiled from "Coca-Cola Enterprise" (maybe a target operation against Coca-Cola ? Or a targeted operation agains Coca-Cola Suppliers ? So why it ended up to my inbox ? Anyway ... ) google translator suggests me that Japanese characters are in text: such as the "Entry Point", "Class names" and "Function Names". 

Stage 2: Japanese Names and Self Encoding Structures

It was not hard to figure out that Stage 2 was auto-extracting bytes from itself (local variables) and saving them back to hard drive after having set up auto execution registry key on windows local registry.  The following image shows the xoring function used to decrypt converted bytes to the real payload. 


Stage 2: Xoring function to extract Stage 3

On my run, the xored payload took the name of GIL.exe; another .NET  executable. We are now facing the third stage. By analyzing the decompiled sample it became clear that:
  • The coding style was quite different from the previous stage (Stage 2)
  • The implementation style was different from the previous stage as well
  • The sample was interested on information about the user, the machine, the webservices on the PC and to many more windows specific parameters.
Stage 3:  New Language in Strings and Class names
Stage 3: New Code Style

By closely investigating Stage 3, the analyst would probably notice the heavy presence of "decorators", a different format in the definition style and last but not least the code composition. Everything looks like belonging to different single developers. The variable language, the comments structure and the general usage of terms, takes the analyst to believe in having found two different developers belonging to different cultures (maybe countries). Finally the malware looks for users, computes, and webservices informations and drops everything up to C2 by posting parameters to : ssrdevelopments.co.za/cgi-bin/

IoC:
Following the principal IoC for the described threat.
  • Hash Stage 1:
    • 7f1860673de9b1c2e6f7d6963a499e8ba4e412a1
    • bf4a26c9e52a8cacc7afd7d95d197bff1e47fb00
  • Hash Stage 2:
    • ac55ee783f3ed0bd23eccd01040a128dc6dc7851
  • Hash Stage 3:
    • 6a38e4acd9ade0d85697d10683ec84fa0daed11c
  • Persistence: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\kij %APPDATA%\Roaming\kij\kij.exe
  • Dropping URL:
    • ssrdevelopments.co.za
  • Command and Control:
    • ssrdevelopments.co.za/cgi-bin/
  • Related hashes from harvesting Dropping URL:
    • 62c9d2ae7bafa9c594230c570b66ec2d4fa674a6
    • b15b69170994918621ceb33cb339149bdff5b065
    • 55abcfb85e664fbc8ad1cb8b60a08409c2d26caa
    • f843427e9b7890f056eaa9909a5103bba6ffb8fd
    • f2b81e66fcb1032238415b83b75b3fe8bf28247d
    • cab90f7c935d355172b0db123d20b6a7d1403f65
    • c1ba30d7adec6d545d5274f95943f787ad4c03e7
    • ed9959bb0087f2c985b603cee0e760f3e0faaab15
    • c93851627ffd996443f85d916f3dbedd70e0ff69
    • 144b34b4816062c2308a755273159e0460ffd604
    • 98293b80ccf312a8da99c2b5ca36656adebd0d0f 
    • 2875d1b54337b1c17c8f4cd5f6b2d579667ee3d9 
    • 0b4299ffb3f9aa59e19dd726e79d95365fe1d461
    • 46bb0b10d790a3f21867308e7dcdeb06784a1570
    • 0960726560a94fbbb327aa84244f9588a3c68be8 
    • a480a75c3af576e5656abadb47d11515a18a82be
    • 2ba809c53eda2a475b1353c34f87ce62b6496e16
    • 5b0c3071aa63e18aa91af59083223d3cceb0fa3c 
    • dc780bf338053e9c1b0fdf259c831eb8a2768169

As final thought I'd like to highlight the following key concept of that analysis:
  • From a single email, the analyst could discover attacker's assets, mapping them and disarming them (through IoC). 
  • The analyzed code shows apparent evidences to belonging to different groups of attackers.
  • The analyzed samples show code reuse. Code reuse is dangerous because it makes attackers more powerful and extremely quick to change Malware behavior.
Hope you enjoyed.


DEMANDS ON ETHICAL HACKERS ARE RAPIDLY GROWING

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Interior and Defence (Mindef) will be inviting about 300 international and local hackers to hunt for vulnerabilities in its Internet-connected systems next year (2018), in a bid to guard against ever-evolving cyber threats.

From Jan 15 to Feb 4, these selected experts will try to penetrate eight of Mindef's Internet-facing systems, such as the Mindef website, the NS Portal and LearNet 2 Portal, a learning resource portal for trainees.

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These registered hackers can earn cash rewards - or bounties - between $150 and $20,000, based on how critical the flaws discovered are. Called the Mindef Bug Bounty Programme, it will be the Government's first crowdsourced hacking programme.


This follows an incident earlier this year when Mindef discovered that hackers had stolen the NRIC numbers, telephone numbers and birth dates of 854 personnel through a breach of its I-Net system.

One of the systems being tested, Defence Mail, uses the I-Net system for Mindef and SAF personnel to connect to the Internet.

On Tuesday (Dec 12), defence cyber chief David Koh announced the new programme after a visit to the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTEC) - a cyber "live-firing range" where servicemen train against simulated cyber-attacks - at Stagmont Camp in Choa Chu Kang.

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UPDATES: “Ransomware assaults seem to be getting increasingly dangerous,” said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN. “Besides, system administrators are not ready to protect their networks from more sophisticated breaches. We believe that attacks will only keep getting worse.”
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On the significance of the "Hack Mindef" initiative, he told reporters: "The SAF is a highly networked force. How we conduct our military operations depends on networking across the army, navy, air force and the joint staff.

"Every day, we see new cyber attacks launched by malicious actors who are constantly seeking new ways to breach our systems... Clearly, this is a fast-evolving environment and increasingly, you see that it is one that is of relevance to the defence and security domain."

The bigger picture is that cyberspace is emerging as the next battlefield, said Mr Koh, who is also deputy secretary for special projects at Mindef.

"Some countries have begun to recognise cyber as a domain similar to air, land and sea. Some have even gone so far as to say that the next major conflict will see cyber activity as the first activity of a major conflict," he added.



While there will be some risks in inviting hackers to test the systems, such as an increase in website traffic and the chance that these "white hat" hackers will turn over discovered vulnerabilities to the dark Web, measures will be put in place.

"(If) we can't even manage the increase in traffic, that in itself would be a vulnerability that we would need to address," said Mr Koh.

White-hat hackers are those who break into protected systems to improve security, while black-hat hackers are malicious ones who aim to exploit flaws.

The programme conducted by US-based bug bounty company HackerOne is expected to cost about $100,000, depending on the bugs found. But Mr Koh noted that this would be less than hiring a dedicated vulnerability assessment team, which might cost up to a million dollars.

Mr Teo Chin Hock, deputy chief executive for development at the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), said: "By embarking on a bug bounty programme, companies have the advantage of uncovering security vulnerabilities on their own by harnessing the collective intelligence and capabilities of these experts and addressing these vulnerabilities before the black hats do."


In a statement, he added that the CSA is currently in discussions with some of Singapore's 11 designated critical information infrastructure sectors which have expressed interest in exploring a similar programme for their public-facing systems.

Large organisations, such as Facebook and the United States Department of Defence, have embarked on similar initiatives with some success.

For instance, a similar Hack the Pentagon programme, also conducted by HackerOne, was launched by the US defence department in 2016. A total of 138 bugs were found by more than a thousand individuals within three weeks.

The initiative caps a year in which Singapore has been gearing up for the battlefront in cyberspace.


In March, it was announced that the Defence Cyber Organisation will be set up to bolster Singapore's cyber defence, with a force of cyber defenders trained to help in this fight.

Time to DEMONSTRATE Thought Leadership in the Cyber Security Space

Folks,

Hope you're all well. Last year I had said that it was time for us to provide Thought Leadership to the Cyber Security space.


Since then, I've penned over 50 blog posts, on numerous important topics,
and helped 1000s of organizations worldwide better understand -

  1. The Importance of Active Directory Security

  2. Insight into Active Directory ACLs - Attack and Defense

  3. How to Defend Active Directory Against Cyber Attacks

  4. How to Mitigate the Risk Posed by Mimikatz DCSync

  5. How to Thwart Sneaky Persistence in Active Directory

  1. How to Identify Stealthy Admins in Active Directory

  2. Understand Windows Elevation of Privilege Vulnerability

  3. Illustrate Active Directory Privilege Escalation

  4. Correctly Identify Privileged Users in Active Directory

  5. Importance of Active Directory Effective Permissions
There's so much more to share, and I will continue to do so.





A Paramount Global Cyber Security Need

Today, I wanted to take a moment to touch upon one (not so) little aspect of cyber security that today profoundly impacts the foundational security of 85% of all business and government organizations worldwide, including most cyber security companies.

Folks, I am talking about empowering organizations worldwide identify exactly who holds the proverbial "Keys to the Kingdom" i.e. helping them accurately identify exactly who actually possesses what privileged access in Active Directory deployments.


The reason this is so important is because 100% of all major recent cyber security breaches (e.g. Snowden, Target, JP Morgan, Sony, Anthem, OPM) involved the compromise and misuse of guess what - just ONE Active Directory Privileged User Account.

Since we've been silently working on this 2006, we've a head start of about a decade. Over the last few months, we've seen several prominent vendors finally realize the importance of doing so, and we've seen them share guidance to this subject.

Unfortunately, just about every piece of advice out there, whether it be from prominent cyber security experts or billion dollar cyber security companies, on how to actually correctly audit privileged access in Active Directory, is dangerously inaccurate.





Thought Leadership

There's an old saying - "Actions Speak Louder Than Words." While there's no dearth of talk by so many big names out there on how to improve cyber security, identify privileged users etc., the key to actually (demonstrably and provably) enhancing cyber security lies in actually helping organizations do so, and we've been silently at work for a decade to help organizations do so.

So, in days to come, right here on this blog, I'm going to (hopefully for one last time), share exactly how organizations worldwide can today accurately and efficiently identify privileged access in their foundational Active Directory deployments worldwide.


In doing so, we will yet again demonstrate Thought Leadership in the Cyber Security space. By the way, this is neither about us, nor about pride. I've already said I'm just a nobody (, whose work possibly impacts everybody.) This is about a desire to help.

So, that post should be out right here on this blog next week, possibly as early as Monday morning.

Best wishes,
Sanjay

KUELEKEA MWISHO WA MWAKA TUNATEGEMEA MASHAMBULIZI MTANDAO ZAIDI

Nikizungumza na kundi maalum katika vikao vinavyoendelea nimewasilisha ujumbe wa Tahadhari ambapo Uma umetahadharishwa juu ya mashambulizi takriban Milioni hamsini (50 Milioni) duniani kote katika kipindi cha sikukuu yatakayo gharimu kati ya Dola 50 – Dola 5’000 kwa kila shambulizi.

Matarajio hayo ni kutokana na matumizi makubwa ya mtandao katika kufanya miamala mbali mbali ya manunuzi ya bidhaa katika kipindi hiki cha sikukuu ambapo watu wengi duniani kote wamekua wakinunua vitu mbali mbali kwa wingi kwa njia ya mitandao.

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Kwa mujibu wa ripoti ya kitelijensia ya matishio mtandao, iliyo wasilishwa na NTT Security – Imeeleza uwepo wa takriban utengenezwaji wa tovutiMilioni moja na nusu zenye mlengo wa kurubuni  kila mwezi ambazo baadhi yao zinadumu kati ya masaa ma nne had inane na kutoweka. Hili niongezeko la asilimia 74 (74%) kulinganisha na takwimu za miezi sita iliyopita.




Maangalizo kadhaa ya muhimu ambayo watumia mitandao wanatakiwa kuzingatia ili walau kupunguza wimbi hili la uhalifu mtandao ni kama ifuatavyo:-

Jiepushe kutumia Wi-Fi za bure unapofanya miamala kwa njia ya mtandao.

Kua makini na program tumishi unazopakua mtandaoni – hakikisha zinatoka katika vyanzo vyenye sifa njema na kuaminika.

Usisambaze mtandaoni taarifa zako binafsi ikiwa ni pamoja na Nywila (neon siri)
Hakikisha unatumia neon siri (Nywila) madhubuti ili kujiepusha na udukuzi unaoweza kukukuta.

Upokeapo jumbe mtandaoni zenye mlengo wa ushawishi wa kukupatia zawadi na kukutaka ufungue viambatanishi, Usifungue viambatanishi hivyo kwani wahalifu mtandao wanatumia fursa hii kusambaza virusi vinavyoweza kukuletea athari mbali mbali ikiwemo kupelekea wizi mtandao.

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NEWS BRIEF:
"In the first half of 2017, 1.9 billion data records were either lost or stolen through 918 cyber-attacks. Most of the attacks used ransomware, a malware that infects computers and restricts access to files in exchange for a ransom"
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Kakikisha vifaa vyako unavyotumia kwa ajili ya mtandao (Simu, Tableti , Komputa yako na vinginevyo) vimewekwa Ant-Virus iliyo ndani ya wakati na pia una sakinisha (Install patches) mara tu zinapo tolewa.

 Jijengee tabia ya kupitia taarifa fupi za miamala (Bank statement) na unapo ona kuna muamala usio utambua utoe taarifa mara moja kwa hatua Zaidi.

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UPDATES:
" We have seen many incidents using anti-forensics tools and methods in an effort to erase signs of their presence and increase the time they are able to explore the network before they are detected, commonly known as “dwell time”.
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Aidha, Kwa Upande Mwingine - Baroness Shields (Mshauri wa waziri mkuu wa uingereza) ametoa wito kwa wabunge wa nchini humo kuacha mara moja tabia ya kuweka wazi maneno yao ya siri (Nywila) au kuwapatia wasaidizi wao.



Akizungumza nao, Aliwaeleza wakiona kuna umuhimu basi wasaidizi wao watapatiwa maneno siri yao (Nywila) pale wanapo wahudumia katika kazi zao.