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SIEM: Sprint or Marathon?

Winning a marathon requires dedication and preparation. Over long periods of time. A sprint requires intense energy but for a short period of time. While some tasks in IT Security are closer to a sprint (e.g., configuring a firewall), many, like deploying and using a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution, are closer to a marathon.

What are the hard parts?

  1. Identifying the scope
  2. Ingesting log data and filtering out noise events
  3. Reviewing the data with discipline

Surveys show that 75% of organizations need to perform significant discovery to determine which devices, platforms, applications and databases should be included in the scope for log monitoring. The point is that when most companies really evaluate their log monitoring process, most of them don’t really know what systems are even available for them to include. They don’t know what they have. Additionally, 50% of organizations later realize that this initial discovery phase is not sufficient to meet their security needs. So, even after performing the discovery, they are not sure they have identified the right systems.

While on-boarding new clients, we usually identify legacy systems or firewall policies that generate large volumes of unnecessary data. This includes discovery of service accounts or scripts with expired credentials that appear to generate suspicious looking login failures. Other common items uncovered include network health monitoring systems which generate an abnormal amount of ICMP or SNMP activity, backup tools and internal applications using non-standard ports and cleartext protocols. Each of these false positives or legitimate activities add straw to the haystack(s), which makes it more difficult to find the needle. Every network contains activities that might appear suspicious or benign to an outside observer that lacks background on everyday activities of the company being monitored. It is important for network and security administrators to provide monitoring tools with additional context and background detail to account for the variety of networks that are thrown at them.

Reviewing the data with discipline is a difficult ask for organizations with a lean IT staff. Since IT is often viewed as a “cost center,” it is rare to see organizations (esp. mid-sized ones) with suitably trained IT Security staff.

Take heart — if getting there using only internal resources is a hard problem, our SIEM Simplified service gets you there. The bonus is the cost savings compared to a DIY approach.

The Assume Breach Paradigm

Given today’s threat landscape, let’s acknowledge that a breach has either already occurred within our network or that it’s only a matter of time until it will. Security prevention strategies and technologies cannot guarantee safety from every attack. It is more likely that an organization has already been compromised, but just hasn’t discovered it yet.

Operating with this assumption reshapes detection and response strategies in a way that pushes the limits of any organization’s infrastructure, people, processes and technologies.

In the current threat landscape, a prevention-only focus is not enough to address determined and persistent adversaries. Additionally, with common security tools, such as antivirus and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), it is difficult to capture or mitigate the full breadth of today’s breaches. Network edge controls may keep amateurs out, but talented and motivated attackers will always find the means to get inside these virtual perimeters. As a result, organizations are all too often ill prepared when faced with the need to respond to the depth and breadth of a breach.

Assume Breach is a mindset that guides security investments, design decisions and operational security practices. Assume Breach limits the trust placed in applications, services, identities and networks by treating them all—both internal and external—as not secure and probably already compromised.

While Prevent Breach security processes, such as threat modeling, code reviews and security testing may be common in secure development lifecycles, Assume Breach provides numerous advantages that help account for overall security by exercising and measuring reactive capabilities in the event of a breach.

assume breach

With Assume Breach, security focus changes to identifying and addressing gaps in:

  • Detection of attack and penetration
  • Response to attack and penetration
  • Recovery from data leakage, tampering or compromise
  • Prevention of future attacks and penetration

Assume Breach verifies that protection, detection and response mechanisms are implemented properly — even reducing potential threats from “knowledgeable attackers” (using legitimate assets, such as compromised accounts and machines).

To defend effectively, we must:

  • Gather evidence left by the adversary
  • Detect the evidence as an Indication of Compromise
  • Alert the appropriate Engineering and Operation team(s)
  • Triage the alerts to determine whether they warrant further investigation
  • Gather context from the environment to scope the breach
  • Form a remediation plan to contain or evict the adversary
  • Execute the remediation plan and recover from breach

Since this can be overwhelming for any but the largest organizations, our SIEM Simplified service is used by many organizations to supplement their existing teams. We contribute our technology, people and processes to the blue team and help defend the network.

See what we’ve caught recently.

5 IT Security resolutions

Ho hum. Another new year, time for some more New Year’s resolutions. Did you keep the ones you made last year? Meant to but somehow did not get around to it? This time how about making it easy on yourself?

New Year Resolutions for IT security

Here are some New Year’s resolutions for IT security that you can keep easily — by doing nothing at all!

5) Give out administrator privileges freely to most users. Less hassle for you. They don’t need to bother asking you install software or access some files.

4) Don’t bother inventorying hardware or software. It changes all the time. It’s hard to maintain a list, and what’s the point anyway?

3) Allow unfettered mobile device usage in the network. You know they are going to bring their own phone and tablet anyway. It’s better this way. Maybe they’ll get more work done now.

2) Use default configurations everywhere. It’s far easier to manage. Factory default resets are needed anyway and then you can find the default password on google.

And our favorite:

1) Ignore logs of every kind — audit logs, security logs, application logs. They just fill up disk space anyway.