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Espionage in the Internet Age

If you had asked me a few years ago, I might have predicted that the rise of large scale hacking and network-based Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) would spell the end of old-school espionage (poison-tipped umbrellas, office break-ins, dangles and the like). Those of us who fancy ourselves logical, savvy cyber security specialists can be forgiven for thinking such analog antics wouldn’t persist in a digital world.

And yet, human espionage remains a nagging issue. A Russian spy ring was disrupted in New York in January. New stories about employees stealing trade secrets from their employers regularly make headlines, such as this one in May. More than one article alleges that Vienna and Lausanne (home to recent Iranian nuclear negotiations) are swarming with spies from Tehran. And these are just the stories that get reported.

There is no question that spycraft is changing with the times. Recent, damaging breaches of US government employee information—amply documented elsewhere—provide some interesting hints as to how: Read More »

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Continuous Analysis Yields Continuous Leadership Against Advanced Threats

Organizations today have no shortage of challenges when it comes to cyber security and their growing IT infrastructure. Not only is the frequency and sophistication of malware attacks on the rise, but with the proliferation of mobility, BYOD, IoT, and cloud services; the number of entry points an attacker has into the network grows exponentially with them.

Given this landscape we know the most effective way to address these threats is with security offering continuous analysis and retrospective protection that extends across all attack vectors in the extended network. With AMP Everywhere, security is just as pervasive as today’s advanced threats, and thanks to continuous analysis and retrospective protection, our customers gain reduced time to detection.

For the second year in a row, we have third-party validation from NSS Labs that we provide the most effective security available in the market today. Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) was tested along with seven other vendors and achieved a 99.2% security effectiveness score – the highest of all vendors tested in the 2015 NSS Labs Security Value Map (SVM) for Breach Detection Systems. What I find most interesting and rather disappointing in these results is that Cisco is the only vendor in the test to successfully handle all evasion attempts.

nss-bds-svm Read More »

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Remembering the small things: IT Security

There are many tasks and responsibilities of the (lone) IT sysadmin, they are sometimes varied, sometimes monotonous.  We know what they are without thinking about them, as if they are unwritten commandments, specific to the IT world.

Security has featured greatly in the world news over the past few years, and even more so within the IT circles. We have the aspects of social responsibility, who is watching the watchers, how should they be held to account (NSA, GCHQ). We have the more particular stories, such as Heartbleed, and the “simplicity” of gaining information from a system.

Sitting down and reading about the recently highlighted issue surrounding a fake Trojan copy of the popular terminal tool, PuTTY, I realized that over all, we spend a great deal thinking about security within IT systems. But sometimes we don’t think about security in the actions we take, or we forget to think about them. Read More »

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Threat Spotlight: Rombertik – Gazing Past the Smoke, Mirrors, and Trapdoors

This post was authored by Ben Baker and Alex Chiu.

Executive Summary

Threat actors and security researchers are constantly looking for ways to better detect and evade each other.  As researchers have become more adept and efficient at malware analysis, malware authors have made an effort to build more evasive samples.  Better static, dynamic, and automated analysis tools have made it more difficult for attackers to remain undetected. As a result, attackers have been forced to find methods to evade these tools and complicate both static and dynamic analysis.

Table of Contents
Executive Summary
The 10,000 Foot View at Rombertik
Analysis
A Nasty Trap Door
The Actual Malware
Coverage and Indicators of Compromise
Conclusion

It becomes critical for researchers to reverse engineer evasive samples to find out how attackers are attempting to evade analysis tools. It is also important for researchers to communicate how the threat landscape is evolving to ensure that these same tools remain effective. A recent example of these behaviors is a malware sample Talos has identified as Rombertik. In the process of reverse engineering Rombertik, Talos discovered multiple layers of obfuscation and anti-analysis functionality. This functionality was designed to evade both static and dynamic analysis tools, make debugging difficult. If the sample detected it was being analyzed or debugged it would ultimately destroy the master boot record (MBR).

Talos’ goal is to protect our customer’s networks.  Reverse engineering Romberik helps Talos achieve that goal by better understanding how attackers are evolving to evade detection and make analysis difficult.  Identifying these techniques gives Talos new insight and knowledge that can be communicated to Cisco’s product teams.  This knowledge can then be used to harden our security products to ensure these anti-analysis techniques are ineffective and allow detection technologies to accurately identify malware to protect customers. Read More »

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Threat Spotlight: Upatre – Say No to Drones, Say Yes to Malware

This post was authored by Nick Biasini and Joel Esler

Talos has observed an explosion of malicious downloaders in 2015 which we’ve documented on several occasions on our blog. These downloaders provide a method for attackers to push different types of malware to endpoint systems easily and effectively. Upatre is an example of a malicious downloader Talos has been monitoring since late 2013. However, in the last 24-48 hours, things have shifted dramatically. We’ve monitored at least fifteen different spam campaigns that are active between one and two days.  While the topic associated with the spam message has varied over time, the common attachment provided is a compressed file (.zip or .rar) that contains an executable made to look like a PDF document by changing the icon.

Execution

When Upatre is executed, a PDF document is quickly downloaded and displayed while Upatre is delivered in the background. The document displayed has been either one of two PDFs.  The first PDF, which was used until March 17, contained some information about Viagra:

Figure 1: Sexual Dysfunction, what’s your function?

Figure 1: Sexual Dysfunction, what’s your function?

Read More »

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