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Big Data in Security – Part I: TRAC Tools

TRACRecently I had an opportunity to sit down with the talented data scientists from Cisco’s Threat Research, Analysis, and Communications (TRAC) team to discuss Big Data security challenges, tools and methodologies. The following is part one of five in this series where Jisheng Wang, John Conley, and Preetham Raghunanda share how TRAC is tackling Big Data.

Given the hype surrounding “Big Data,” what does that term actually mean?

John:  First of all, because of overuse, the “Big Data” term has become almost meaningless. For us and for SIO (Security Intelligence and Operations) it means a combination of infrastructure, tools, and data sources all coming together to make it possible to have unified repositories of data that can address problems that we never thought we could solve before. It really means taking advantage of new technologies, tools, and new ways of thinking about problems.

Big Data

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The Internet of Everything, Including Malware

December 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm PST

We are witnessing the growth of the Internet of Everything (IoE), the network of embedded physical objects accessed through the Internet, and it’s connecting new devices to the Internet which may not traditionally have been there before. Unfortunately, some of these devices may be deployed with a security posture that may need improvement.

Naturally when we saw a few posts about multi-architecture malware focused on the “Internet of Things”, we decided to take a look. The issue being exploited in those posts is CVE-2012-1823, which has both an existing Cisco IPS signature as well as some for Snort. It turns out this vulnerability is actually quite heavily exploited by many different worms, and it took quite a bit of effort to exclude all of the alerts generated by other pieces of malware in Cisco IPS network participation. Due to the vulnerability-specific nature of the Cisco IPS signature, the same signature covers this issue as well as any others that use this technique; just one signature provides protection against all attempts to exploit this vulnerability.  As you can see in the graph below this is a heavily exploited vulnerability. Note that these events are any attack attempting to exploit this issue, not necessarily just the Zollard worm.

The graph below is derived from both Cisco IPS and Sourcefire IPS customers. The Cisco data is from customers who have ‘opted-in’ to network participation. This service is not on by default. The Sourcefire data below is derived from their SPARK network of test sensors. This graph is showing the percent increase of alert volume from the normal for each dataset at the specified time.

zollard_cisco_sf

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“Feliz Natal” – Bank Theft by Proxy.

Proxy auto-config or PAC files are commonly used by IT departments to update browser settings so that internet traffic passes through the corporate web gateway. The ability to redirect web traffic to malicious proxy servers is particularly attractive for malicious actors since it gives them a method of intercepting and modifying traffic to and from websites from which they can gain financially.

Malicious PAC files have been described since 2005 [1], but this obfuscated example contains a timely festive message. The Portuguese phrase for “Happy Christmas”, “Feliz Natal” is used to encode the IP address of the malicious proxy, 199.188.72.87.
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Christmas Packets: Web Browsing and the Festive Period

The web browsing behaviour of users changes as the end of the year approaches. The holiday season can provide a large distraction from work duties that may need to be managed. Equally, even during periods when the office is closed, there will be some individuals who cannot resist accessing work systems. Managing these changes in behaviour is difficult for network administrators unless they know what to expect.
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Don’t Click Tired

As the day draws to a close, and especially during the early morning, users become far more likely to click on links that lead to malware. Those responsible for network security need to ensure that users’ awareness of information security continues after work hours, so that users “don’t click tired.”
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