Reducing Hacker Operational Freedom and Capability

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 11.18.22.pngI've been thinking about how to defend your network and in my last post I talked about knowing the bad guys at a deeper level. The topic for this post is the various options for using that understanding to reduce their freedom to operate and their overall offensive capability.

 

The Internet provides a massive unrestricted, anonymous and largely unaccountable medium for criminal behavior. As much effort as we security practitioners spend trying to control our various IT environments, the dominant portion of the global Internet is completely unsecured and highly dangerous. Our defended corporate enterprises are really just small castles under constant siege.

 

Even the largest security team will only have a very small purview in terms of the overall Internet. This fact alone mandates community information sharing. Many security conscious companies are joining such intelligence sharing organizations as the ISACs and are participating in Threat Intelligence exchanges like HP's Threat Central offering. I consider this to be good Internet citizenship and without this sharing, we are all operating alone. 

 

Sharing threat intelligence from around the trusted areas of the Internet is corollary to an immune system response; the faster a pathogen is recognized and communicated, the less likely it is to have a real impact on the overall organism. We are terrible at this! Security teams have an institutionally paranoid mindset and everything is done in secret. Governments and Law Enforcement have a very hard time cooperating across international boundaries and there is a serious lack of criminal accountability in much of the world. Basically we have a “trust-based” immune disorder. The ratio of cyber criminals to those who are caught and prosecuted is likely one of the worst in human history outside of the dark ages.

 

To draw parallels with physical defense you cannot simply wait for an attacker to reach your main defensive line. You want to channel their approach to the most advantageous area for you to defend. I call this the hacker DMZ. This is where you attract them and then monitor at a much deeper level with your SIEM to gather as much intelligence as possible. This information is then shared across your internal teams so they know who is likely heading their direction. Place more obstacles in front of critical network areas and less where you would rather deal with the enemy.

 

Though we all own networks, we are on the Internet because of what exists outside of what we own; like customers, partners and a business supply chain. In order to reduce the "bad guy's" freedom to operate we need to target the attack infrastructure they use outside our enterprise borders. Botnets and various components of the darknet are used to enable the entire attacker ecosystem the more we can drive them out the more time and energy they have to put into administering their covert infrastructure rather than attacking us. Thus botnet takedowns and pressure on darknet sites is indirectly very beneficial to the defender. Think of it this way; it’s easier to collect more intelligence on less attack infrastructure.

 

Another area of potential defensive benefit is to identify and reduce the value of their end game attack monetization. An example could be for credit card companies to correlate an attack on a block of cards and reissue them as fast as possible to reduce their value to the criminal underground. If there is anything we have learned in the last 5-10 years its that economic incentive has a direct impact on the volume of attacks we deal with. 

 

The more cyber counter-intelligence we conduct on the underside of the Internet the more time they will have to spend protecting their communication channels. This increases their costs AND their paranoia and sometime we actually manage to catch a few of them. This helps but it also imposes a Darwinian pressure that improves our adversary and they have historically improved faster than we have. Basically, the more we can disrupt their operations the less time they have to attack us.

 

For more information on how HP’s enterprise security products can help you know your enterprise to defend your critical information, visit hp.com/go/espservices.

Tags: Defense| HP| security
Labels: defense
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