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Using a “Playbook” Model to Organize Your Information Security Monitoring Strategy

CSIRT, I have a project for you. We have a big network and we’re definitely getting hacked constantly. Your group needs to develop and implement security monitoring to get our malware and hacking problem under control.

 

If you’ve been a security engineer for more than a few years, no doubt you’ve received a directive similar to this. If you’re anything like me, your mind probably races a mile a minute thinking of all of the cool detection techniques you’re going to develop and all of the awesome things you’re going to find.

I know, I’ll take the set of all hosts in our web proxy logs doing periodic POSTs and intersect that with…

STOP!

 

You shouldn’t leap before you look into a project like this. Read More »

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To SIEM or Not to SIEM? Part II

The Great Correlate Debate

SIEMs have been pitched in the past as “correlation engines” and their special algorithms can take in volumes of logs and filter everything down to just the good stuff. In its most basic form, correlation is a mathematical, statistical, or logical relationship between a set of different events. Correlation is incredibly important, and is a very powerful method for confirming details of a security incident. Correlation helps shake out circumstantial evidence, which is completely fair to use in the incident response game. Noticing one alarm from one host can certainly be compelling evidence, but in many cases it’s not sufficient. Let’s say my web proxy logs indicate a host on the network was a possible victim of a drive-by download attack. The SIEM could notify the analysts team that this issue occurred, but what do we really know at this point? That some host may have downloaded a complete file from a bad host -- that’s it. We don’t know if it has been unpacked, executed, etc. and have no idea if the threat is still relevant. If the antivirus deleted or otherwise quarantined the file, do we still have anything to worry about? If the proxy blocked the file from downloading, what does that mean for this incident?

This is the problem that correlation can solve. If after the malware file downloaded we see port scanning behavior, large outbound netflow to unusual servers, repeated connections to PHP scripts hosted in sketchy places, or other suspicious activity from the same host, we can create an incident for the host based on our additional details. The order is important as well. Since most attacks follow the same pattern (bait, redirect, exploit, additional malware delivery, check-in), we tie these steps together with security alarms and timestamps. If we see the events happening in the proper order we can be assured an incident has occurred.

 

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Big Security—Mining Mountains of Log Data to Find Bad Stuff

Your network, servers, and a horde of laptops have been hacked. You might suspect it, or you might think it’s not possible, but it’s happened already. What’s your next move?

The dilemma of the “next move” is that you can only discover an attack either as it’s happening, or after it’s already happened. In most cases, it’s the latter, which justifies the need for a computer security incident response team (CSIRT). Brandon Enright, Matthew Valites, myself, and many other security professionals constitute Cisco’s CSIRT. We’re the team that gets called in to investigate security incidents for Cisco. We help architect monitoring solutions and strategies and enable the rest of our team to discover security incidents as soon as possible. We are responsible for monitoring the network and responding to incidents discovered both internally by our systems or reported to us externally via csirt-notify@cisco.com.

Securing and monitoring a giant multinational high-speed network can be quite a challenge. Volume and diversity, not complexity, are our primary enemies when it comes to incident response. We index close to a terabyte of log data per day across Cisco, along with processing billions of NetFlow records, millions of intrusion detection alarms, and millions of host security log records. This doesn’t even include the much larger data store of authentication and authorization data for thousands of people. Naturally, like all large corporations, dedicated attackers, hacking collectives, hacktivists, and typical malware/crimeware affect Cisco. Combine these threats with internally sourced security issues, and we’ve got plenty of work cut out for us.

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The Role of Executives in Employee Engagement: Crossing Your T’s and Dotting Your I’s

August 21, 2013 at 11:58 am PST

In our #ciscosmt Twitter chat yesterday, we talked about how to engage employees in social media. On a very high level, I presented the pillars of our program: identify, activate, recognize and measure. And previously, I blogged about a potential framework you can use for your own Social Ambassador program (that’s what we call our employee engagement program at Cisco).

At the end of the session, I offered 3 key takeaways for companies interested in starting or improving their employee engagement programs (these are all Twitter-friendly nuggets): Read More »

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The Impact of Cloud Consumption Models

Cloud is already here—and thriving. Today, twenty-three percent of total IT spending is devoted to cloud, and the increase in cloud’s share of IT spending is expected to increase by 17 percent over the next three years. Yet as we transition into the next phase of IT evolution, Cisco and its partners will need to know how to adapt and seize opportunities in a rapidly changing ecosystem.

In our most recent “Winning in the Cloud” partner webcast, we discussed a groundbreaking new study, “Impact of Cloud on IT Consumption Models.” That study, conducted in collaboration between Cisco® Consulting Services (CCS) and Intel®, explores the forces transforming IT organizations, and determines just what skills our IT leaders and service providers will need to succeed.

The study is based on customer-focused surveys of more than 4,000 IT decision makers, from enterprise and midsized companies, spanning 18 industries and nine key economies in developed and emerging markets alike. It presents a detailed analysis of what IT organizations of the future will look like — and what their leaders need to do today to ensure their future success.

Some of the report’s key findings include: Read More »

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