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Endpoint Visibility is Key to Combatting Attacks

As an IT security practitioner, you have a lot on your plate. Malware attacks are ever present. Hackers are smarter than ever and have the resources and persistence to compromise your organization. The malware being created today is more sophisticated. And the number and types of devices being used in the workplace are expanding, which is increasing the attack surface for malware delivery. With all of these new endpoints being used in the workplace, it’s no surprise that more than 70% of respondents in the 2014 State of Endpoint Risk study by Ponemon say that endpoint security risk is more difficult than ever to manage. Without visibility into potential malicious activity on the endpoints, how are you expected to effectively defend against an attack launched from an endpoint?

Let’s face it: endpoints are everywhere now. The definition of an endpoint has expanded vastly from its first iteration as a tethered desktop computer. We have Windows and Mac laptops; tablets and smartphones; virtual environments; and now even smart watches. We rely on these devices every day. Furthermore, with the advent of the Internet of Everything (IoE), the number and variety of connected devices are set to explode. Cisco estimates that as many as 50 billion devices will be connected to the network by the end of the decade.[1]

The number of attacks targeting these devices is on the rise. In the same Ponemon study, 68% of respondents reported that their mobile endpoints have been the target of malware in the last 12 months. Examples are plentiful. A user with a personal Android phone that has been infected with malware plugs the phone into the office computer to charge it and the malware infiltrates the corporate network. An employee connects their work laptop to their home wi-fi connection and malware lying dormant seizes the opportunity to launch an attack through the back door. Someone surfing the web visits a legitimate website and clicks on an ad that is actually infected. Third-party applications downloaded from seemingly reputable sites can also introduce security risks.

Attackers understand how to exploit these gaps in protection that a proliferation of endpoints can create and work relentlessly to drive their attacks home. Their attacks are dynamic and multidimensional and require continuous scrutiny. As an IT security practitioner, you can’t protect what you can’t see. You need security solutions on the endpoint that couple continuous visibility and control so that you can not only see what’s happening on all of the endpoints on your extended network, but have the power to stop an outbreak quickly if an attack gets through.

Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) for Endpoints gives you unmatched visibility and control on endpoints, including PCs, Macs, mobile devices, and virtual environments. AMP is continuously monitoring activity on your endpoints, recording everything that it sees, which gives you the ability to roll back time on would-be attackers. When a file starts behaving badly, AMP is there to catch it, and gives you detailed information on how the malware got there in the first place, where it has gone, what other systems have been affected, and what exactly the malware is doing. With this information on root cause and point-of-entry, the complete ancestry and lifecycle of the file, and detailed analysis on the malware’s activity, you can surgically remediate malware from all of the affected areas on your endpoints and extended network. Whether you’re dealing with endpoints connected to a protected network or roaming on public or personal in-home wi-fi, AMP provides you with continuous and integrated detection, response, and remediation capabilities. Download this whitepaper to learn more about a new model to protect the endpoint.

To learn more about AMP for Endpoints, visit www.cisco.com/go/amp

[1] Cisco Internet of Things: http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/iot/indepth.html

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Naughty Users! Protect Your Endpoints From Users’ Bad Behavior

Every organization needs to face the fact that breaches can and do happen. Hackers have the resources, the expertise, and the persistence to infiltrate any organization, and there is no such thing as a 100 percent effective, silver-bullet detection technology. As security professionals, we tend to focus on what we can do to defend directly against hackers that will infiltrate a system. But, what about our own users? Increasingly we need to look at how user behavior contributes to attacks and how to deal with that.

The 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report found that 71 percent of malware attacks target user devices. And, the 2014 report finds that the use of user devices as an attack vector has been growing over time, probably because they offer an easy foot in the door. According to the 2014 Cisco Midyear Security Report, global spam is at its highest level since 2010 and that’s just one technique targeted at end users. “Watering hole” attacks, phishing, and drive-by attacks launched from mainstream websites are all popular ways to target devices. And, then there’s the shadow IT phenomenon where users will ignore approved corporate standards to use the hottest technologies or whatever device or application will help them get their job done faster, better, and easier.

Educating users is important. They need to be wise to attackers’ techniques and the dangers that unsanctioned websites and applications can present. Also, putting policies in place to restrict user behavior can go a long way toward preventing malicious attacks that often rely on relatively simple methods. But it is not enough.

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Visualizing a String of Paerls

Researchers from the Cisco Talos Security Intelligence and Research Team recently discovered an elaborate attack dubbed the String of Paerls. The attack, a combined spearphishing and exploit attempt, was able to bypass most antivirus engines and used a targeted phishing email that included a malicious Word document attachment. Upon opening the Word attachment, a macro downloaded and launched an executable on the victim’s machine, which then called out to command and control servers.

In the graphic below you can see an illustration of each of the major steps of the attack. A common thread is that Cisco security provides protection against attacks like this one using the approach of integrated threat defense. Specifically, Advanced Malware Protection tools were used throughout the discovery and analysis process to expose the exploit.

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For a complete play-by-play of this attack, read the String of Paerls blog post from Talos. For more about integrated threat defense in our products, see the new Cisco ASA with FirePOWER Services.

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Threat Spotlight: “Kyle and Stan” Malvertising Network 9 Times Larger Than Expected

This post was authored by Armin Pelkmann.

On September 8th, Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence & Research Group unveiled the existence of the “Kyle and Stan” Malvertisement Network. The network was responsible for placing malicious advertisements on big websites like amazon.com, ads.yahoo.com, www.winrar.com, youtube.com and 70 other domains. As it turns out, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Ongoing research now reveals the real size of the attackers’ network is 9 times larger than reported in our first blog. For more details, read the Kyle and Stan Blog.

The infographic below illustrates how much more of the malvertisement network was uncovered in comparison to our first assessment. We have now isolated 6491 domains sharing the same infrastructure. This is over 9 times the previously mentioned 703 domains.  We have observed and analyzed 31151 connections made to these domains. This equals over 3 times the amount of connections previously observed. The increase in connections is most likely not proportional to the domains due to the fact that a long time that has passed since the initial attacks.

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The discovery difference from the previous blog to this one in raw numbers. With more than 3-times the now observed connections and over 9-times the revealed malicious domains, this malvertising network is of unusually massive proportions.

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Threat Spotlight: “Kyle and Stan” Malvertising Network Threatens Windows and Mac Users With Mutating Malware

This post was authored by Shaun Hurley, David McDaniel and Armin Pelkmann.

Update 2014-09-22: Updates on this threat can be found here

img_MetricsHave you visited amazon.com, ads.yahoo.com, www.winrar.com, youtube.com, or any of the 74 domains listed below lately? If the answer is yes, then you may have been a victim to the “Kyle and Stan” Malvertising Network that distributes sophisticated, mutating malware for Windows and even Macs.

Table of contents

Attack in a Nutshell
Timeline
Technical Breakdown
Reversing of the Mac Malware
Reversing of the Windows Malware
IOCs
Conclusion
Protecting Users Against These Threats

Malvertising is a short form for “malicious advertising.” The idea is very simple: use online advertising to spread malware. Read More »

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