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Chris Morales

Christopher Morales is Head of Security Analytics at Vectra® Networks, where he advises and designs incident response and threat management programs for Fortune 500 enterprise clients. He has nearly two decades of information security experience in an array of cybersecurity consulting, sales, and research roles. Christopher is a widely respected expert on cybersecurity issues and technologies and has researched, written and presented numerous information security architecture programs and processes.
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Recent Posts

Most attacks against energy and utilities occur in the enterprise IT network

Posted by Chris Morales on Nov 1, 2018 5:00:00 AM

The United States has not been hit by a paralyzing cyberattack on critical infrastructure like the one that sidelined Ukraine in 2015. That attack disabled Ukraine's power grid, leaving more than 700,000 people in the dark.

But the enterprise IT networks inside energy and utilities networks have been infiltrated for years. Based on an analysis by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI, these networks have been compromised since at least March 2016 by nation-state actors who perform reconnaissance activities looking industrial control system (ICS) designs and blueprints to steal.

Read More »

Topics: attacker behavior, cybersecurity, Threat Detection, AI, critical infrastructure, IT, cyberattackers


2018 Black Hat Superpower Survey: It's about time and talent

Posted by Chris Morales on Aug 22, 2018 2:57:12 PM

2018 Black Hat survey: It’s about time and talent

We love Black Hat. It’s the best place to learn what information security practitioners really care about and what is the truth of our industry. Because we want to always be relevant to customers, we figured Black Hat is an ideal event to ask what matters.

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Topics: attacker behavior, cybersecurity, Threat Detection, AI, SOC


Cyberattack detections from more than 250 Vectra customers with over 4 million devices and workloads

Posted by Chris Morales on Aug 8, 2018 5:08:00 AM

Recently, Vectra published the 2018 Black Hat Edition of the Attacker Behavior Industry Report, which covers the period from January through June 2018. While there are plenty of threat-research reports out there, this one offers unique insights about real-world cyberattacker behaviors found in cloud, data center and enterprise networks.

Read More »

Topics: attacker behavior


The alarming surge in cryptocurrency mining on college campuses

Posted by Chris Morales on Mar 29, 2018 12:01:00 AM

While ransomware attacks like NotPetya and WannaCry were making headlines (and money) in 2017, cryptocurrency mining was quietly gaining strength as the heir apparent when it comes to opportunistic behaviors for monetary gain.

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Topics: cryptojacking, cryptocurrency, bitcoin, Cyberattacks, cybersecurity


Vectra is positioned as the sole visionary in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for IDPS

Posted by Chris Morales on Jan 12, 2018 9:11:39 AM

Vectra® was recently positioned as the sole Visionary in the Gartner 2018 Magic Quadrant for Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS). I’m pretty ecstatic about that.                                                                                                 

Over the years, intrusion detection systems (IDS) have converged with intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and the two are now known collectively as IDPS. This convergence occurred as the security industry focused more on preventing external threat actors.

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Topics: network traffic, cybersecurity, IDPS, Intrusion detection prevention systems, gartner, AI, security operations centers


BGP hijackers: “This traffic is going to Russia!”

Posted by Chris Morales on Dec 14, 2017 2:11:27 PM

Traffic sent to and from major internet sites was briefly rerouted to an ISP in Russia by an unknown party. The likely precursor of an attack, researchers describe the Dec. 13 event as suspicious and intentional.

According to BGPMON, which detected the event, starting at 04:43 (UTC) 80 prefixes normally announced by several organizations were detected in the global BGP routing tables with an Origin AS of 39523 (DV-LINK-AS), out of Russia.

Read More »

Topics: russia, HTTPS, network traffic, internet traffic, cybersecurity, espionage, Encryption, BGP, ssl, tls, BGP hijack


The imminent threat against industrial control systems

Posted by Chris Morales on Nov 30, 2017 10:03:34 AM

The United States has not been the victim of a paralyzing cyber-attack on critical infrastructure like the one that occurred in the Ukraine in 2015. That attack disabled the Ukrainian power grid, leaving more than 700,000 people helpless.

But the United States has had its share of smaller attacks against critical infrastructure. Most of these attacks targeted industrial control systems (ICS) and the engineering personnel who have privileged access.

Read More »

Topics: cybersecurity, Cyberattacks, industrial control systems, critical infrastructure, IoT


Gain Visibility and Automate Threat Hunting in the Cloud with Gigamon and Vectra

Posted by Chris Morales on Sep 13, 2017 9:00:00 AM

As enterprises migrate to the cloud, strong perimeter defenses are not enough to stop cyber attackers from infiltrating the network. Together, Gigamon and Vectra enable organizations to gain network visibility and automate threat management - providing continuous monitoring of network traffic to pinpoint cyber attacks that evaded perimeter defenses.

Chris Morales, Head of Security Analytics at Vectra joins us to discuss what challenges he sees customers facing when moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and how Gigamon and Vectra can help them.

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Man + machine is the winning combo for combating cyber threats

Posted by Chris Morales on Aug 10, 2017 8:45:00 AM

In the fight against cyber-attacks, time is money. According to the Ponemon institute, the average cost of a data breach is $3.62 million. Reducing the time to detect and time contain an incident can significantly mitigate the cost of a breach, and possibly prevent it.

Maturity level and effectiveness are two of the most important measurements of SOC performance. Maturity reflects an enterprise’s development level regarding its approach to managing cybersecurity risk, including risk and threat awareness, repeatability, and adaptiveness. Effectiveness is a measurement of the SOC’s ability to detect and respond to an incident as it happens.

We conducted a survey.

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Goldeneye. Petya. WannaCry. It's all ransomware.

Posted by Chris Morales on Jun 27, 2017 5:46:22 PM

We are seeing another outbreak of ransomware that appears to be a combination of previous other ransomware campaigns. As is always the case, criminal gangs learn from each other.

Petya was successful in 2016 using email attack campaigns and a ransomware-as-a-service business model. Wannacry introduced new worm propagation techniques proving highly successful in hitting thousands of systems in a short time span last month.

Read More »

Topics: AI, Cyberattacks, cyber security, Ransomware, WannaCry, petya, goldeneye


How AI detects and mitigates cyber attacks in software-defined data centers

Posted by Chris Morales on Jun 22, 2017 7:47:16 PM

Earlier this month Vectra announced plans to leverage the capabilities of VMware NSX to accelerate the detection and mitigation of hidden cyber attackers in virtualized data centers.

Vectra currently applies artificial intelligence to automatically detect attacker behaviors inside virtualized data centers. Vectra also integrates with endpoint and network response tools to automate the workflow.

Read More »

Topics: AI, Cyberattacks, cyber security, Datacenter


A behind-the-scenes look at how cybercriminals carry out attacks inside enterprise networks

Posted by Chris Morales on Jun 13, 2017 5:16:09 PM

Vectra Networks last week published the 2017 Post-Intrusion Report, which covers the period from January through March. While there are plenty of threat research reports out there, this one offers unique insights about real-world cyber attacks against actual enterprise networks.

Most industry security reports focus on statistics of known threats (exploits and malware families) or give a post-mortem look back at breaches that were successful. The first one looks at threats that network perimeter defenses were able to block and the second lists attacks that were missed entirely. 

Read More »

Topics: AI, Cyberattacks, cyber security, Security Analytics


Vectra detection and response to WannaCry ransomware

Posted by Chris Morales on May 16, 2017 8:59:36 AM

Vectra Threat Labs analyzed the WannaCry ransomware to understand its inner workings. They learned that while the way it infects computers is new, the behaviors it performs are business as usual.

WannaCry and its variants behave similarly to other forms of ransomware that Vectra has detected and enabled customers to stop before experiencing widespread damage. This is a direct benefit of focusing on detecting ransomware behaviors rather than specific exploits or malware. Many of WannaCry’s behaviors are reconnaissance and lateral movement on the internal network, within the enterprise perimeter.

Read More »

Topics: AI, Ransomware, Cyberattacks, cyber security, cyber defense, cyber security gap, WannaCry


Fighting the ransomware pandemic

Posted by Chris Morales on May 12, 2017 5:00:14 PM

What just happened?

A ransomware attack is spreading very rapidly among unpatched Windows systems worldwide. This morning, the attack was initially believed to target the UK National Health Service, but throughout the day, it has become apparent this is a global attack.

Kaspersky labs reported on Friday afternoon that at least 45,000 hosts in 74 countries were infected. Avast put the tally at 57,000 infections in 99 countries. All this, during just 10 hours. Of those infected hosts, Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan were the top targets.

Read More »

Topics: Ransomware, Cyberattacks, cyber security, AI, Windows vulnerability, attacker behavior, Attacker Detection, bitcoin, shadow brokers, Threat Labs, threat research


How to win the cybersecurity battle in healthcare

Posted by Chris Morales on May 3, 2017 6:11:22 PM

Risky business

There is some startling data in the 2017 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report. What stood out to me as most concerning is that more breaches occurred in healthcare this year than last year. After reviewing the report, I see three key trends.

  1. The real threat is already inside healthcare networks in the form of privileged access misuse
  2. When healthcare organizations are hit from the outside, it is usually ransomware extorting them for money
  3. The growth in healthcare IoT is overwhelming and dangerous
Read More »

Topics: Cyberattacks, artificial intelligence


AI: Is science fiction on a collision course with science fact?

Posted by Chris Morales on Mar 30, 2017 3:48:43 PM

Sometimes science fiction becomes less fantastic over time than the actual reality. Take the film Ghost in the Shell, for example, which hits the big screen this week. It’s an adaptation of the fictional 28-year-old cult classic Japanese manga about human and machine augmentation.

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Topics: artificial intelligence, cyber security, machine learning


Don't let your cybersecurity vendor leave you vulnerable

Posted by Chris Morales on Mar 23, 2017 12:57:20 PM

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-Cert) issued a warning last week stating HTTPS interception weakens TLS security. As the use of encryption for privacy has increased, the security industry has responded by intercepting and decrypting SSL sessions to perform deep-packet inspection (DPI).

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Topics: cyber security, Cyberattacks, SSL Encryption, security architecture


Splunk integration: A deep dive into the adaptive security architecture

Posted by Chris Morales on Feb 8, 2017 5:16:46 PM

Integration decreases cost and increases effectiveness. For this reason, Vectra is adaptive by design. Everything we do considers how to help our customers be more efficient and faster at fighting attacks. Sometimes it involves determining where to deliver sophisticated threat intelligence beyond the Vectra. Working with Splunk is a great example of this integration. 

According to Gartner, “The goal is not to replace traditional SIEM systems, but rather to provide high-assurance, domain specific, risk-prioritized actionable insight into threats, helping enterprises to focus their security operations response processes on the threats and events that represent the most risk to them."

Read More »

Shamoon 2: Same or better than the original?

Posted by Chris Morales on Jan 27, 2017 4:29:03 PM

Shamoon is back, although we are not entirely sure it ever left.

 On Monday, Saudi Arabia warned organizations in the kingdom to be on alert for the Shamoon virus, which cripples computers by wiping their disks. The labor ministry said it had been attacked and a chemicals firm reported a network disruption. This has been dubbed Shamoon 2 by some news outlets.

 Here is a simple explanation of what is likely to be happening.

 The adversary is using a combination of social engineering and email phishing to infect one or a number of computers on an organization’s networks. Either downloading a file or clicking a link downloads an exploit kit.

 The computers infected with the exploit kit rapidly perform port sweeps across the subnet to which hosts are connected. Using automated replication, it then attempts to move laterally via remote procedure calls (RPCs). To cover an organization’s entire network, the adversary needs to infect machines on many subnets.

Shamoon 2, like Shamoon that struck Saudi Aramco in 2012, moves extremely fast with the sole objective of destroying systems and bringing businesses to their knees. 

Read More »

Healthcare is one of cybercrime’s most targeted sectors

Posted by Chris Morales on Jan 25, 2017 7:02:52 PM

Healthcare organizations are prime targets of cyber attackers because they are reliant on vulnerable legacy systems, medical IoT devices with weak security and have a life or death need for immediate access to information.

Read More »

The UEBA market will be gone by 2022

Posted by Chris Morales on Jan 11, 2017 12:50:14 PM

This is a prediction made by Gartner analyst Avivah Litan in her latest blog entry, The Disappearing UEBA Market. Of course it caught our attention here at Vectra. We are not a standalone UEBA company, nor do we want to be. First and foremost, we are an AI company that empowers threat hunters. But we often find ourselves in this discussion with people who believe UEBA alone will solve the world's problems (and possibly make coffee in the morning, too).

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Encrypt everything. Don’t let security be the reason you don’t (and attackers do)

Posted by Chris Morales on Dec 15, 2016 9:32:58 AM

On the cybersecurity website ThirdCertainty.com, Byron Acohido makes some very important points about the use of encryption by hackers to avoid detection tools and the need to detect these attacks. This is a water cooler discussion at Vectra headquarters. Encrypted traffic is an easy hiding place for attackers and difficult for organizations to deal with. 

However, trying to monitor this traffic by decrypting first, performing deep-packet inspection, and then encrypting again at line-rate speeds is problematic, even with dedicated SSL decryption, especially in the long term. There are several factors at play here. 

With an increasing global desire for privacy, more traffic is encrypted by default. It is becoming a standard for cloud applications. The Sandvine Internet Phenomena Report states that encryption doubled last year in North America.

This is actually great news, especially for consumer privacy. Enterprises have a strategy to encrypt everything. With this encryption however, attempts to perform SSL decryption mean there will be large volumes of encrypted data to process.

Read More »

Topics: Encryption, hacker


Cyber attack of the clones

Posted by Chris Morales on Nov 27, 2016 12:00:00 PM

In previous research from the Vectra Threat Labs, we learned that seemingly innocuous vulnerabilities can become serious problems in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is the unattended attack surface, and more IoT devices means bigger clone armies.

 

The recent public release of source code for malware named "Mirai" has proven exactly that. Mirai continuously scans the Internet for IoT devices using factory default usernames and passwords, primarily CCTV and DVRs.

Read More »

Topics: Vulnerabilities, IoT


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