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L'IA neutralise l'attaque IoT qui menaçait de perturber les Jeux olympiques de Tokyo

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19
Sep 2021
19
Sep 2021
When a cyber-attack struck a national sporting body one week before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Darktrace was on hand to autonomously stop the threat. This blog breaks down the attack in detail.

One of the greatest issues in security is how to deal with high-stress scenarios when there is a significant breach, and there is too much to do in too little time. The nightmare scenario for any CISO is when this happens during a critical moment for the organization: an important acquisition, a crucial news announcement, or in this case, a global sporting event attracting an audience of millions.

Threat actors often exploit the pressure of these events to cause disruption or extract hefty sums. Sporting occasions, especially Formula 1 races, the Super Bowl, and the Olympics, attract a great deal of criminal interest.

The games begin

There have been several recorded attacks and data breaches at the Olympics this year, including an incident when a volleyball commentator asked his colleague for his computer password – not realizing he was still on air.

In a more nefarious case discovered by Darktrace, a Raspberry Pi device was covertly implanted into a national sporting body directly involved in the Olympics, in an attempt to exfiltrate sensitive data. The events took place one week before the start of the Games, and a data breach at this time would have had significant ramifications for the reputation of the organization, the confidentiality of their plans, and potentially the safety of their athletes.

Darktrace AI recognized this activity as malicious given its evolving understanding of ‘self’ for the organization, and Antigena – Darktrace’s autonomous response capability – took action at machine speed to interrupt the threat, affording the human security team the critical time they needed to catch up and neutralize the attack.

In what follows, we break down the attack.

Figure 1: The overall dwell time was three days.

Breaking down the attack

July 15, 14:09 — Initial intrusion

An unauthorized Raspberry Pi device connected to the organization’s digital environment – disguised and named in a way which mimicked the corporate naming convention. As a small IoT device, Raspberry Pis can be easily hidden and are difficult to locate physically in large environments. They have been used in various high-profile hacks in the past including the 2018 NASA breach.

IoT devices – from printers to fish tanks – pose a serious risk to security, as they can be exploited to gather information, move laterally, and escalate privileges.

July 15, 15:25 — External VPN activity

Anomalous UDP connections were made to an external endpoint over port 1194 (Open VPN activity). URIs showed that the device downloaded data potentially associated with Open VPN configuration files. This could represent an attempt to establish a secure channel for malicious activity such as data exfiltration.

By establishing an outgoing VPN, the attacker obfuscated their activity and bypassed the organization’s signature-based security, which could not detect the encrypted traffic. Antigena immediately blocked the suspicious connectivity, regardless of the encryption, identifying that the activity was a deviation from the ‘pattern of life’ for new devices.

July 15, 16:04 — Possible C2 activity

The Raspberry Pi soon began making repeated HTTP connections to a new external endpoint and downloaded octet streams — arbitrary binary data. It seems the activity was initiated by a standalone software process as opposed to a web browser.

Darktrace revealed that the device was performing an unusual external data transfer to the same endpoint, uploading 7.5 MB which likely contained call home data about the new location and name of the device.

July 15, 16:41 — Internal reconnaissance

The device engaged in TCP scanning across three unique internal IP addresses over a wide range of ports. Although the network scan only targeted three internal servers, the activity was identified by Darktrace as a suspicious increase in internal connections and failed internal connections.

Antigena instantly stopped the Raspberry Pi from making internal connections over the ports involved in the scanning activity, as well as enforcing the device’s ‘pattern of life’.

Figure 2: Device event log showing the components which enable Darktrace to detect network scanning.

July 15, 18:14 — Multiple internal reconnaissance tactics

The Raspberry Pi then scanned a large number of devices on SMB port 445 and engaged in suspicious use of the outdated SMB version 1 protocol, suggesting more in-depth reconnaissance to find exploitable vulnerabilities.

Reacting to the scanning activity alongside the insecure protocol SMBv1, Antigena blocked connections from the source device to the destination IPs for one hour.

Four minutes later, the device engaged in connections to the open-source vulnerability scanner, Nmap. Nmap can be used legitimately for vulnerability scanning and so often is not alerted to by traditional security tools. However, Darktrace’s AI detected that the use of the tool was highly anomalous, and so blocked all outgoing traffic for ten minutes.

July 15, 22:03 — Final reconnaissance

Three hours later, the Raspberry Pi initiated another network scan across six unique external IPs – this was in preparation for the final data exfiltration. Antigena responded with instant, specific blocks to the external IPs which the device was attempting to connect to – before any data could be exfiltrated.

After 30 minutes, Darktrace detected bruteforcing activity from the Raspberry Pi using the SMB and NTLM authentication protocols. The device made a large number of failed login attempts to a single internal device using over 100 unique user accounts. Antigena blocked the activity, successfully stopping another wave of attempted SMB lateral movement.

By this stage, Antigena had bought the security team enough time to respond. The team applied an Antigena quarantine rule (the most severe action Antigena can take) to the Raspberry Pi, until they were able to find the physical location of the device and unplug it from the network.

How AI Analyst stitched together the incident

Cyber AI Analyst autonomously reported on three key moments of the attack:

  • Unusual External Data Transfer
  • Possible HTTP Command and Control
  • TCP Scanning of Multiple Devices (the attempted data exfiltration)

It tied together activities over the span of multiple days, which could have been easily missed by human analysis. The AI provided crucial pieces of information, including the extent of the scanning activity. Such insights are time-consuming to calculate manually.

Figure 3: A screenshot from Cyber AI Analyst summarizing potential C2 activity.

Réponse autonome

Antigena took targeted action throughout to neutralize the suspicious behavior, while allowing normal business operations to continue unhindered.

Rather than widespread blocking, Antigena implemented a range of nuanced responses depending on the situation, always taking the smallest action necessary to deal with the threat.

Figure 4: Darktrace’s UI reveals the attempted network reconnaissance, and Antigena actions a targeted response. All IP addresses have been randomized.

Raspberry Pi: IoT threats

In an event involving 206 countries and 11,000 athletes, facing attacks from hacktivists, criminal groups, and nation states, with many broadcasters working remotely and millions watching from home, organizations involved in the Olympics needed a security solution which could rise to the occasion.

Even with the largest affairs, threats can come from the smallest places. The ability to detect unauthorized IoT devices and maintain visibility over all activity in your digital estate is essential.

Autonomous Response protects against the unexpected, stopping malicious activity at machine speed without any user input. This is necessary for rapid response and remediation, especially for resource-stretched internal security teams. When it comes to defending systems and outpacing attackers, AI always wins the race.

Thanks to Darktrace analysts Emma Foulger and Greg Chapman for their insights on the above threat find.

Learn how two rogue Raspberry Pi devices infected a healthcare provider

Darktrace model detections:

  • Compromise / Ransomware / Suspicious SMB Activity
  • Tags / New Raspberry Pi Device
  • Device / Network Scan
  • Unusual Activity / Unusual Raspberry Pi Activity
  • Antigena / Network / Insider Threat / Antigena Network Scan Block
  • Device / Suspicious Network Scan Activity
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Significant Anomaly from Client Block
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Controlled and Model Breach
  • Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Breaches Over Time Block
  • Device / Attack and Recon Tools
  • Device / New Device with Attack Tools
  • Device / Anomalous Nmap Activity
  • Device / External Network Scan
  • Device / SMB Session Bruteforce
  • Antigena / Network / Manual / Block All Outgoing Connections
DANS LE SOC
Darktrace sont des experts de classe mondiale en matière de renseignement sur les menaces, de chasse aux menaces et de réponse aux incidents. Ils fournissent une assistance SOC 24 heures sur 24 et 7 jours sur 7 à des milliers de clients Darktrace dans le monde entier. Inside the SOC est exclusivement rédigé par ces experts et fournit une analyse des cyberincidents et des tendances en matière de menaces, basée sur une expérience réelle sur le terrain.
AUTEUR
à propos de l'auteur
Oakley Cox
Analyst Technical Director, APAC

Oakley is a technical expert with 5 years’ experience as a Cyber Analyst. After leading a team of Cyber Analysts at the Cambridge headquarters, he relocated to New Zealand and now oversees the defense of critical infrastructure and industrial control systems across the APAC region. His research into cyber-physical security has been published by Cyber Security journals and CISA. Oakley is GIAC certified in Response and Industrial Defense (GRID), and has a Doctorate (PhD) from the University of Oxford.

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Lost in Translation: Darktrace Blocks Non-English Phishing Campaign Concealing Hidden Payloads

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15
May 2024

Email – the vector of choice for threat actors

In times of unprecedented globalization and internationalization, the enormous number of emails sent and received by organizations every day has opened the door for threat actors looking to gain unauthorized access to target networks.

Now, increasingly global organizations not only need to safeguard their email environments against phishing campaigns targeting their employees in their own language, but they also need to be able to detect malicious emails sent in foreign languages too [1].

Why are non-English language phishing emails more popular?

Many traditional email security vendors rely on pre-trained English language models which, while function adequately against malicious emails composed in English, would struggle in the face of emails composed in other languages. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that this limitation is becoming increasingly taken advantage of by attackers.  

Darktrace/Email™, on the other hand, focuses on behavioral analysis and its Self-Learning AI understands what is considered ‘normal’ for every user within an organization’s email environment, bypassing any limitations that would come from relying on language-trained models [1].

In March 2024, Darktrace observed anomalous emails on a customer’s network that were sent from email addresses belonging to an international fast-food chain. Despite this seeming legitimacy, Darktrace promptly identified them as phishing emails that contained malicious payloads, preventing a potentially disruptive network compromise.

Attack Overview and Darktrace Coverage

On March 3, 2024, Darktrace observed one of the customer’s employees receiving an email which would turn out to be the first of more than 50 malicious emails sent by attackers over the course of three days.

The Sender

Darktrace/Email immediately understood that the sender never had any previous correspondence with the organization or its employees, and therefore treated the emails with caution from the onset. Not only was Darktrace able to detect this new sender, but it also identified that the emails had been sent from a domain located in China and contained an attachment with a Chinese file name.

The phishing emails detected by Darktrace sent from a domain in China and containing an attachment with a Chinese file name.
Figure 1: The phishing emails detected by Darktrace sent from a domain in China and containing an attachment with a Chinese file name.

Darktrace further detected that the phishing emails had been sent in a synchronized fashion between March 3 and March 5. Eight unique senders were observed sending a total of 55 emails to 55 separate recipients within the customer’s email environment. The format of the addresses used to send these suspicious emails was “12345@fastflavor-shack[.]cn”*. The domain “fastflavor-shack[.]cn” is the legitimate domain of the Chinese division of an international fast-food company, and the numerical username contained five numbers, with the final three digits changing which likely represented different stores.

*(To maintain anonymity, the pseudonym “Fast Flavor Shack” and its fictitious domain, “fastflavor-shack[.]cn”, have been used in this blog to represent the actual fast-food company and the domains identified by Darktrace throughout this incident.)

The use of legitimate domains for malicious activities become commonplace in recent years, with attackers attempting to leverage the trust endpoint users have for reputable organizations or services, in order to achieve their nefarious goals. One similar example was observed when Darktrace detected an attacker attempting to carry out a phishing attack using the cloud storage service Dropbox.

As these emails were sent from a legitimate domain associated with a trusted organization and seemed to be coming from the correct connection source, they were verified by Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and were able to evade the customer’s native email security measures. Darktrace/Email; however, recognized that these emails were actually sent from a user located in Singapore, not China.

Darktrace/Email identified that the email had been sent by a user who had logged in from Singapore, despite the connection source being in China.
Figure 2: Darktrace/Email identified that the email had been sent by a user who had logged in from Singapore, despite the connection source being in China.

The Emails

Darktrace/Email autonomously analyzed the suspicious emails and identified that they were likely phishing emails containing a malicious multistage payload.

Darktrace/Email identifying the presence of a malicious phishing link and a multistage payload.
Figure 3: Darktrace/Email identifying the presence of a malicious phishing link and a multistage payload.

There has been a significant increase in multistage payload attacks in recent years, whereby a malicious email attempts to elicit recipients to follow a series of steps, such as clicking a link or scanning a QR code, before delivering a malicious payload or attempting to harvest credentials [2].

In this case, the malicious actor had embedded a suspicious link into a QR code inside a Microsoft Word document which was then attached to the email in order to direct targets to a malicious domain. While this attempt to utilize a malicious QR code may have bypassed traditional email security tools that do not scan for QR codes, Darktrace was able to identify the presence of the QR code and scan its destination, revealing it to be a suspicious domain that had never previously been seen on the network, “sssafjeuihiolsw[.]bond”.

Suspicious link embedded in QR Code, which was detected and extracted by Darktrace.
Figure 4: Suspicious link embedded in QR Code, which was detected and extracted by Darktrace.

At the time of the attack, there was no open-source intelligence (OSINT) on the domain in question as it had only been registered earlier the same day. This is significant as newly registered domains are typically much more likely to bypass gateways until traditional security tools have enough intelligence to determine that these domains are malicious, by which point a malicious actor may likely have already gained access to internal systems [4]. Despite this, Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI enabled it to recognize the activity surrounding these unusual emails as suspicious and indicative of a malicious phishing campaign, without needing to rely on existing threat intelligence.

The most commonly used sender name line for the observed phishing emails was “财务部”, meaning “finance department”, and Darktrace observed subject lines including “The document has been delivered”, “Income Tax Return Notice” and “The file has been released”, all written in Chinese.  The emails also contained an attachment named “通知文件.docx” (“Notification document”), further indicating that they had been crafted to pass for emails related to financial transaction documents.

 Darktrace/Email took autonomous mitigative action against the suspicious emails by holding the message from recipient inboxes.
Figure 5: Darktrace/Email took autonomous mitigative action against the suspicious emails by holding the message from recipient inboxes.

Conclusion

Although this phishing attack was ultimately thwarted by Darktrace/Email, it serves to demonstrate the potential risks of relying on solely language-trained models to detect suspicious email activity. Darktrace’s behavioral and contextual learning-based detection ensures that any deviations in expected email activity, be that a new sender, unusual locations or unexpected attachments or link, are promptly identified and actioned to disrupt the attacks at the earliest opportunity.

In this example, attackers attempted to use non-English language phishing emails containing a multistage payload hidden behind a QR code. As traditional email security measures typically rely on pre-trained language models or the signature-based detection of blacklisted senders or known malicious endpoints, this multistage approach would likely bypass native protection.  

Darktrace/Email, meanwhile, is able to autonomously scan attachments and detect QR codes within them, whilst also identifying the embedded links. This ensured that the customer’s email environment was protected against this phishing threat, preventing potential financial and reputation damage.

Credit to: Rajendra Rushanth, Cyber Analyst, Steven Haworth, Head of Threat Modelling, Email

Appendices  

List of Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)  

IoC – Type – Description

sssafjeuihiolsw[.]bond – Domain Name – Suspicious Link Domain

通知文件.docx – File - Payload  

References

[1] https://darktrace.com/blog/stopping-phishing-attacks-in-enter-language  

[2] https://darktrace.com/blog/attacks-are-getting-personal

[3] https://darktrace.com/blog/phishing-with-qr-codes-how-darktrace-detected-and-blocked-the-bait

[4] https://darktrace.com/blog/the-domain-game-how-email-attackers-are-buying-their-way-into-inboxes

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Rajendra Rushanth
Cyber Analyst

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The State of AI in Cybersecurity: The Impact of AI on Cybersecurity Solutions

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13
May 2024

About the AI Cybersecurity Report

Darktrace surveyed 1,800 CISOs, security leaders, administrators, and practitioners from industries around the globe. Our research was conducted to understand how the adoption of new AI-powered offensive and defensive cybersecurity technologies are being managed by organizations.

This blog continues the conversation from “The State of AI in Cybersecurity: Unveiling Global Insights from 1,800 Security Practitioners” which was an overview of the entire report. This blog will focus on one aspect of the overarching report, the impact of AI on cybersecurity solutions.

To access the full report, click here.

The effects of AI on cybersecurity solutions

Overwhelming alert volumes, high false positive rates, and endlessly innovative threat actors keep security teams scrambling. Defenders have been forced to take a reactive approach, struggling to keep pace with an ever-evolving threat landscape. It is hard to find time to address long-term objectives or revamp operational processes when you are always engaged in hand-to-hand combat.                  

The impact of AI on the threat landscape will soon make yesterday’s approaches untenable. Cybersecurity vendors are racing to capitalize on buyer interest in AI by supplying solutions that promise to meet the need. But not all AI is created equal, and not all these solutions live up to the widespread hype.  

Do security professionals believe AI will impact their security operations?

Yes! 95% of cybersecurity professionals agree that AI-powered solutions will level up their organization’s defenses.                                                                

Not only is there strong agreement about the ability of AI-powered cybersecurity solutions to improve the speed and efficiency of prevention, detection, response, and recovery, but that agreement is nearly universal, with more than 95% alignment.

This AI-powered future is about much more than generative AI. While generative AI can help accelerate the data retrieval process within threat detection, create quick incident summaries, automate low-level tasks in security operations, and simulate phishing emails and other attack tactics, most of these use cases were ranked lower in their impact to security operations by survey participants.

There are many other types of AI, which can be applied to many other use cases:

Supervised machine learning: Applied more often than any other type of AI in cybersecurity. Trained on attack patterns and historical threat intelligence to recognize known attacks.

Natural language processing (NLP): Applies computational techniques to process and understand human language. It can be used in threat intelligence, incident investigation, and summarization.

Large language models (LLMs): Used in generative AI tools, this type of AI applies deep learning models trained on massively large data sets to understand, summarize, and generate new content. The integrity of the output depends upon the quality of the data on which the AI was trained.

Unsupervised machine learning: Continuously learns from raw, unstructured data to identify deviations that represent true anomalies. With the correct models, this AI can use anomaly-based detections to identify all kinds of cyber-attacks, including entirely unknown and novel ones.

What are the areas of cybersecurity AI will impact the most?

Improving threat detection is the #1 area within cybersecurity where AI is expected to have an impact.                                                                                  

The most frequent response to this question, improving threat detection capabilities in general, was top ranked by slightly more than half (57%) of respondents. This suggests security professionals hope that AI will rapidly analyze enormous numbers of validated threats within huge volumes of fast-flowing events and signals. And that it will ultimately prove a boon to front-line security analysts. They are not wrong.

Identifying exploitable vulnerabilities (mentioned by 50% of respondents) is also important. Strengthening vulnerability management by applying AI to continuously monitor the exposed attack surface for risks and high-impact vulnerabilities can give defenders an edge. If it prevents threats from ever reaching the network, AI will have a major downstream impact on incident prevalence and breach risk.

Where will defensive AI have the greatest impact on cybersecurity?

Cloud security (61%), data security (50%), and network security (46%) are the domains where defensive AI is expected to have the greatest impact.        

Respondents selected broader domains over specific technologies. In particular, they chose the areas experiencing a renaissance. Cloud is the future for most organizations,
and the effects of cloud adoption on data and networks are intertwined. All three domains are increasingly central to business operations, impacting everything everywhere.

Responses were remarkably consistent across demographics, geographies, and organization sizes, suggesting that nearly all survey participants are thinking about this similarly—that AI will likely have far-reaching applications across the broadest fields, as well as fewer, more specific applications within narrower categories.

Going forward, it will be paramount for organizations to augment their cloud and SaaS security with AI-powered anomaly detection, as threat actors sharpen their focus on these targets.

How will security teams stop AI-powered threats?            

Most security stakeholders (71%) are confident that AI-powered security solutions are better able to block AI-powered threats than traditional tools.

There is strong agreement that AI-powered solutions will be better at stopping AI-powered threats (71% of respondents are confident in this), and there’s also agreement (66%) that AI-powered solutions will be able to do so automatically. This implies significant faith in the ability of AI to detect threats both precisely and accurately, and also orchestrate the correct response actions.

There is also a high degree of confidence in the ability of security teams to implement and operate AI-powered solutions, with only 30% of respondents expressing doubt. This bodes well for the acceptance of AI-powered solutions, with stakeholders saying they’re prepared for the shift.

On the one hand, it is positive that cybersecurity stakeholders are beginning to understand the terms of this contest—that is, that only AI can be used to fight AI. On the other hand, there are persistent misunderstandings about what AI is, what it can do, and why choosing the right type of AI is so important. Only when those popular misconceptions have become far less widespread can our industry advance its effectiveness.  

To access the full report, click here.

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