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Thoughts on DarkSeoul: Data Sharing and Targeted Attackers

The attacks against South Korean media and banking organizations last week severely disrupted a handful of organizations with a coordinated distribution of “wiper” malware designed to destroy data on hard drives and render them unbootable. At 14:00 KST on March 20, 2013, the wiper was triggered across three media organizations and four banks, setting off a firestorm of speculation and finger-pointing and that which continues as of this writing. In this post, I’ll share a perspective no one else seems to be talking about, but may be the real motivation behind these attacks.

The What and the Possible Why

Let’s start with what we know:

  • The attack was highly targeted
  • The malware was specifically designed to distribute the wiper payload throughout the impacted organizations
  • The malware was timed to deploy its destructive payload simultaneously across all affected organizations
  • The resulting loss of data and downtime has been severe

While the “what” of the attack is well established, the “why” and “how” are still a matter of debate. Theories postulated include an outright act of warfare from North Korea designed to economically disrupt South Korea, or an act of sabotage to cover the tracks of data exfiltration allegedly wrought by China. But what if there were an explanation that was less about countries and politics and more about that all-time motivator of crime: money? Consider, if you will, the following timeline. Read More »

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Network Threats Are Hitching a Ride in Mobile Environments

Innovation never stops in the mobile world, and that rule applies to security threats as well. Network attacks are becoming more sophisticated and even high-tech businesses with the most advanced security may find themselves in the crosshairs as we shift to more devices and anywhere access.

Just a few weeks ago, multiple leading social networking and large enterprises were hit with an attack when their employees visited a known and trusted website focused on mobile application development. Attackers used a method commonly referred to as “water-holing,” where they compromise a legitimate site commonly visited by employees of their target organizations. Using zero-day vulnerabilities and malicious code that change at a rapid rate, these attacks highlight the need to consistently enhance traditional defenses based on signatures or reputation with global and local context analysis.

This episode underscores how important security is in a more mobile, more connected world—attackers are paying attention, using these industry trends to create targeted and sophisticated attacks that can bypass traditional defenses. The Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report found that Android Malware grew 2,577 percent in 2012 alone. The Internet of Everything is taking shape and the number of online connections is soaring. According to Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013, 30 billion things will be connected by 2020.

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Cisco Hosting Amsterdam 2013 FIRST Technical Colloquium

There is still time to register for the upcoming FIRST Technical Colloquium April 2-3 2013. The event has a very exciting program covering, bitsquatting, webthreats, RPZ, Passive DNS, Real-world monitoring examples, Spamhaus, SIE, Cuckoo Sandbox, Malware Analysis and many more current issues facing the incident response community.

The event’s line-up includes notables from Cisco Security Intelligence Operations (SIO), Internet Systems Consortium, Shadowserver foundation, KPN-CERT, NATO, MyCert and ING amongst others. Program details can be found here.
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Missing the Mark on Cloud-based Intelligence

This week, Juniper Networks announced a new cloud-based threat intelligence service focused on fingerprinting attackers’ individual devices. We’d like to officially welcome Juniper to the cloud-based security intelligence market—a space where Cisco has a proven track record of leadership through Security Intelligence Operations (SIO). Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, but in Juniper’s case, they entered the market years late and with limited visibility.

Let’s take a closer look at Juniper’s latest offering.

To start, here is what we know for certain: cyber threats take advantage of multiple attack vectors, striking quickly or lurking for days, months and even years inside your network. Not only this, but the Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report showcases how the web is an equal opportunity infector, with cyber threats crossing national, geographic and organizational boundaries as quickly and easily as users can click on a link. Security solutions must understand the attacks and infrastructure they are launched from, with tracking individual hackers doing far less for your defenses than blocking malicious activity being actively distributed over the network.

The Problem of Visibility

When a detective walks onto a crime scene, they don’t just focus on one thing. The only way to understand an event is to look at the entire scene: interview witnesses, check the neighborhood and look into the history of everyone involved; in other words, context—or the “who, what, where and how” information using every available piece of data.

Just as a skilled investigator builds a holistic picture, security solutions are only as reliable as the intelligence they receive, with Juniper’s being limited by the number of “honeypots” across their customer base. In network security, focusing on a single piece of information, a single attack vector, or one delivery mechanism misses the global visibility and context needed to stop advanced attacks. Cisco SIO powers our security solutions, receiving over 100 terabytes of network intelligence across 1.6 million deployed web, email, firewall and IPS devices. We correlate this data from physical, virtual and cloud-based solutions with a world-class threat research team, augmenting all of this with an ecosystem of third-party contributors. Fingerprinting is one small tool you should deploy in your arsenal, even though it has limited utility and perhaps even limited accuracy.

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Addressing Government Cloud Security Challenges – AFCEA Cyberspace Symposium

Boutelle Press Photo[1]Guest post from Steve Boutelle, VP, Business Development, Global Government Solutions, Cisco.

Cybersecurity and innovative IT solutions play a central role in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2013 fiscal year, highlighting the military’s increasing reliance on IT. In order to address new and evolving threats today and into the future, the DOD is challenged to develop a strategy to acquire next-generation host-based cyber-security tools and capabilities that go beyond current anti-malware and signature-based threat detection.

Government information systems today are more sophisticated and globally integrated than ever before, and attacks are growing in frequency and complexity. The challenge of data protection is constantly increasing in scope. While government organizations have always needed to secure confidential information, changes in information technology models have introduced new stakeholders, new threats and new regulations. As a result, government organizations need to think beyond the traditional models of securing the perimeter and locking down specific segments of IT infrastructure. For example, the risks of unauthorized access to data in the cloud can be mitigated through the use of next generation technologies.

This year’s AFCEA CYBERSPACE Symposium is themed, “Cyber – The New Center of Gravity.” The event serves as a key opportunity for interaction between industry and government to explore this new domain that has become the center stage of national defense.

At the event, I will be moderating a panel, “Securing the Cloud,” featuring Bret Hartman, CTO, Security Office, Cisco and leaders from Lockheed Martin, ThreatMetrix and Terremark. The panel session will explore current and future technologies for addressing government concerns about new threats targeting the cloud.

By ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of critical information that flows through today’s cloud-based infrastructures, new and emerging technologies enable government organizations to reduce risk, demonstrate compliance, enhance agility and pursue strategic goals with greater confidence. This panel will be an opportunity for attendees to learn more about a wide variety of current and future technologies that address cloud security challenges.

More information about AFCEA Cyberspace Symposium and the panel is available here: http://www.afceacyberspace.com/

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