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Research Spotlight: FreeSentry Mitigating use-after-free Vulnerabilities

This post was authored by Earl Carter & Yves Younan.

Talos is constantly researching the ways in which threat actors take advantage of security weaknesses to exploit systems. Use-after-free vulnerabilities have become an important class of security problems due to the existence of mitigations that protect against other types of vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows. Today, Talos is releasing FreeSentry, a mitigation for use-after-free vulnerabilities.

FreeSentry works as a plugin for LLVM with an associated runtime library that tracks pointers when they are set to objects and invalidates them when the memory associated with that object is freed. Our initial approach was published at the 2015 Network and Distributed System Security (NDSS) Symposium in February. The paper can be downloaded here. At CanSecWest 2015, Yves Younan of Talos presented an enhanced version of FreeSentry which included further developments, such as porting the original mitigation from C Intermediate Language (CIL) to LLVM. The CanSecWest slides are available here. Note that the LLVM performance numbers in the CanSecWest presentation were preliminary numbers, and have been updated for this post.

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Endpoint Visibility to Combat Advanced Attacks – I Want That

Protecting data, maintaining compliance, and enabling the business is a balancing act. Put too many controls in place and you inhibit workflow. Rely exclusively on traditional security tools and you lack the visibility to detect and respond to advanced attacks quickly.

The industrialization of hacking has created an effective and efficient criminal economy. Attackers are fast and the malware they write and resell is smart, able to evade traditional defenses and quick to do damage. If attackers get through – and they will since there is no such thing as 100% breach prevention – IT security professionals need to be able to detect potential malicious activity as it happens, analyze it, and take action. And, increasingly, network-centric detection is not enough.

An explosion of new, untethered devices means that endpoints extend everywhere and so does the workplace you need to protect. Windows and Mac desktops and laptops, tablets and smartphones, and even smart watches make it possible to connect back to the corporate network anytime from anywhere. Attackers are taking advantage of this proliferation of endpoints and using gaps in security to drive their attacks home. Endpoint visibility is becoming a must-have.

To combat these more frequent and destructive attacks, you need to see beyond traditional indicators of a breach, like a signature or a hash or an IP address, to identify behavior-based activities that may point to malicious activities. This visibility must be on workstations so that you can track executables and processes across your environment and cut detection time down to minutes or seconds. You also need to maintain that visibility on devices connected to a protected network or roaming on public or personal in-home wi-fi.

Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) for Endpoints gives you the visibility and control you need to protect data, maintain compliance, and enable the business – everywhere workers may be. For example, the Prevalence capability in Cisco AMP displays files that have been executed across the organization ordered from lowest to highest number of instances. Files with low prevalence likely indicate a malicious executable you need to investigate. And because AMP is cloud-based you can continue to track devices and deliver the same level of protection whether devices are on or off the network.

Customers across a broad range of industries are using Cisco AMP for Endpoints to increase protection against today’s elusive attacks. Listen to Tim McGuffin, Information Security Officer at Sam Houston State University, describe how his team used Cisco AMP for Endpoints to detect and respond to a malware attack disguised as bad user behavior, and how they maintain a secure infrastructure while ensuring academic freedom and research.

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Research Spotlight: Project FTR

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Intro

Historically, networks have always been at risk for new, undiscovered threats. The risk of state sponsored hackers or criminal organizations utilizing 0-day was a constant, and the best defense was simply to keep adding on technologies to maximize the odds of detecting the new threat – like adding more locks to the door if you will. Here at Cisco Talos we’re constantly pushing the envelope. Recently after some thinking juice we started brainstorming ways to better address the constant threat of attacker utilizing unknown 0-day. Today, we’re happy to inform our customer base about our new inspection technology code name project Faster Than Realtime, or FTR. Project FTR is the next generation of detection technology, that which will truly revolutionize the industry.

Project FTR

To mitigate the ever-growing threat of new and unknown attacks we simply decided to add a few options to our existing inspection infrastructure. Snort’s new Quantum Pre-Detection (QPD) leverages Predictive Attack Detection (PAD) by putting packets into an Ethereally-Buffered Capture (EBC) file.  Snort then reads the .ebc via PAD so that QPD can tell you that you are under attack before you’re even under attack.

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Threat Spotlight: Dyre/Dyreza: An Analysis to Discover the DGA

This post was authored by Alex Chiu & Angel Villegas.

Overview

Banking and sensitive financial information is a highly coveted target for attackers because of the high value and obvious financial implications.  In the past year, a large amount of attention has been centered on Point of Sale (PoS) malware due to its major role in the compromise of several retailers.  While PoS malware is a major concern, attackers have also realized that targeting individual end users is an effective method of harvesting other types of financial data.  As a result, banking malware has become a prevalent category of malware that poses a major threat to users and organizations of all sizes.  One of the more well known examples of banking malware is Zeus.

Table of Contents

Overview
Technical Analysis
Domain Generation Algorithm
Other Thoughts
Conclusion
Appendix

Banking malware typically operates by redirecting users to malicious phishing sites where victim’s input their banking credentials thinking they are logging into their bank’s website.  Banking malware can also operate more stealthily by hooking into a browser’s functionality, capturing the victim’s credentials as they are typed in, and exfiltrating them.  Once an attacker has a victim’s banking credentials, attackers can then sell it or use it to perform illicit transactions (such as transferring funds to another account on behalf of the victim). Read More »

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Announcing the First Cisco IOS Software and IOS XE Software Security Advisory Bundled Publication

Today, we released the first ever Cisco IOS Software and IOS XE Software Security Advisory Bundled Publication. As a reminder, Cisco discloses IOS vulnerabilities on a predictable schedule (on the fourth Wednesday of March and September each calendar year). In direct response to your feedback, we have also included a Cisco Security Advisory addressing vulnerabilities in Cisco IOS XE Software in this publication. We hope this timeline and additional “bundling” continues to allow your organization to plan and ensure resources are available to analyze, test, and remediate vulnerabilities in your environments.

Today’s edition of the Cisco IOS Software Security Advisory Bundled Publication includes seven advisories that affect the following technologies:
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