Wade Williamson

Recent Posts

Bringing attack detections to the data center

Posted by Wade Williamson on Sep 12, 2016 11:59:00 PM

In extending the Vectra cybersecurity platform to enterprise data centers and public clouds, we wanted to do more than simply port the existing product into a virtualized environment. So, Vectra security researchers, data scientists, and developers started with a fresh sheet of paper to address the real-world challenges and threats that are unique to the enterprise data centers and clouds.


Visibility and intelligence that spans the enterprise

First, it was important to remember that the data center can be both integrally connected, yet in some ways separated from the physical enterprise. For example, attacks can spread from the campus environment to the data center environment, and security teams absolutely need to know how these events are connected. On the other hand, 80% of data center traffic never leaves the data center, making it invisible to traditional security controls.

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Topics: Cyberattacks, cybersecurity, Data Center

The new vulnerability that creates a dangerous watering hole in your network

Posted by Wade Williamson on Jul 12, 2016 10:06:41 AM

Security researchers with Vectra Threat Labs recently uncovered a critical vulnerability affecting all versions of Microsoft Windows reaching all the way back to Windows 95. The vulnerability allows an attacker to execute code at system level either over a local network or the Internet. As a result, attackers could use this vulnerability both to infect an end-user from the Internet, and then spread through the internal network. 

Vectra and Microsoft collaborated during the investigation of this issue, and Microsoft has delivered a fix as part of Security Bulletin MS16-087, which is available here.

The vulnerabilities, CVE-2016-3238 (MS16-087), and CVE-2016-3239, stem from the way users connect to printers in the office and over the Internet. This vulnerability could enable a relatively unsophisticated attacker to incorporate IoT devices as part of an attack and quickly infiltrate and spread through a network without detection. While this blog provides an overview of the vulnerability, you can read the in-depth technical analysis here. In addition, a video summary of the vulnerability is available here

The vulnerability in question centers around the ways that network users find and use printers on a network. Needless to say, modern organizations often have many users, and likewise often have many different makes and models of printers. Users expect to connect to and use whatever printer is most convenient, and likewise, mobile users expect to be able to come in to the office and print.

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Topics: APT, vulnerability, Microsoft

Introducing the Spring 2016 Post-Intrusion Report

Posted by Wade Williamson on Apr 20, 2016 5:00:00 AM

Insights from inside the kill chain

Detection_Overview.pngThis week we are proud to announce the release of the third edition of the Vectra Post-Intrusion Report. And while there are plenty of reports from security vendors out there, this one provides something that is unique.

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Will IDS ever be able to detect intrusions again?

Posted by Wade Williamson on Nov 3, 2015 9:23:04 AM

IDS has been around for decades and has long been a cornerstone of network security. But over the years, IDS was gradually absorbed by IPS, and IDS simply became thought of as a deployment option of IPS.

However, this subservient role of IDS in relation to IPS introduces a subtle but important compromise – detection takes a backseat to prevention. Because IPS is deployed in-line with network traffic, performance concerns are paramount. Prevention cannot slow the speed or flow of business, and that meant detections must be near-instantaneous.

The need to block threats within milliseconds locks IDS/IPS into using signatures for detections. While signatures can detect a wide variety of threats, they rely on the fast-pattern-matching of known threats.

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Topics: IDS

A revolutionary new approach to detecting malicious covert communications

Posted by Wade Williamson on Oct 28, 2015 9:42:05 AM

Today’s cyber attackers are patient, as they infiltrate and steadily persist within an organization’s network over time. These long-term attacks require ongoing communication to orchestrate the various phases of attack.

By understanding how attackers conceal their communications, we can rob attackers of the persistence and coordination that makes modern attacks so successful.

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Topics: Cyberattacks, Covert Communications

The Impact of IoT on Your Attack Surface

Posted by Wade Williamson on Sep 29, 2015 8:12:00 AM

Researchers from Vectra Threat Labs recently performed an in-depth analysis of vulnerabilities found in a common Belkin wireless repeater. Today in an article on Dark Reading, Vectra CTO Oliver Tavakoli digs into why seemingly innocuous vulnerabilities can become serious problems in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT). Read the full article here.

Of particular importance to security teams, IoT is not only bringing far more devices into the network, but they are also devices that very rarely get patches and updates. This means that vulnerabilities can be left unaddressed for months or even years.  Likewise, these devices are unlikely to be protected by signatures and will almost assuredly be unable to run client-based security.

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Topics: Vulnerabilities, IoT

The industry needs a real alternative to signatures

Posted by Wade Williamson on Sep 9, 2015 10:20:00 AM

For years, security professionals have become increasingly aware of the limitations of signatures. And yet for all this awareness, the industry is still focused on making signatures faster instead of addressing the fundamental problem.

Threat feeds deliver signatures faster and faster and malware sandboxes generate new signatures for newly discovered malware. Nonetheless, attackers continue to evade them and are wining at an ever-increasing rate.

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Topics: Cyberattacks, Signatures

What cyber threats are lurking about in your network?

Posted by Wade Williamson on Jun 23, 2015 5:00:00 AM

Today, Vectra Networks published its second edition Post-Intrusion Report that offers a first-hand look at modern threats that get past perimeter security and spread inside the network.

In the latest report, we analyzed behaviors and techniques across the entire lifecycle of real-world cyber attacks. We also looked back and saw alarming changes in the threat landscape and observed emerging trends in attack techniques.

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Topics: Cyberattacks, Post Breach Detection, Tor, cyber security

Duqu: The Sequel

Posted by Wade Williamson on Jun 12, 2015 12:54:00 PM

Doqu_2.0_Wade_Williamson_Blog_Image_Recently, Kasperky Labs disclosed that it was the victim of a sophisticated cyber attack, which they have named Duqu 2.0. The team at Kaspersky Labs has published a detailed analysis of Duqu 2.0 and it’s definitely worth a read.

The original Duqu threat actor was a family of malware that most researchers believe was created by a nation-state and it’s related to the infamous Stuxnet worm. While Stuxnet was used to damage centrifuges used to enrich uranium, the original Duqu appeared more intent on surveillance and collecting information within a compromised network.

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Topics: Cyberattacks, cyber security

Insider threats surge while budgets retreat

Posted by Wade Williamson on Jun 4, 2015 5:00:00 AM

The Information Security Community on LinkedIn recently completed a survey of more than 500 cybersecurity professionals on the topic of insider threats. This report reveals the real-world trends and challenges of combating insider threats from the viewpoint of the security professionals who do it every day.

Let’s take a look at some of these trends and what they may mean for information security.

Insider threats are on the rise, but budgets are not
Security teams have long been asked to do more with less, but this trend is particularly stark in the area of malicious insiders.

The study shows that 62% of respondents saw more insider threats over the past year, but only 34% expect to get more budget to address the problem. Underscoring this problem, 68% feel vulnerable and less than half feel they have appropriate control over insider threats.

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Topics: Insider Threats

Dyre Malware Games the Test

Posted by Wade Williamson on May 7, 2015 12:45:23 PM

The Dyre family of banking malware is back in the news after researchers recently observed that the malware incorporated tricks to avoid detection in malware sandboxes. Previously, Dyre was most notable for targeting high-value bank accounts, including business accounts, and incorporating sophisticated social engineering components to overcome the 2-factor authentication used by most banks.

In this latest twist, the Dyre malware aims to identify when it is being run in a malware sandbox by counting the cores of the machine on which it is running. The trick, in this case, is that many malware sandboxes will run as a virtual machine with only a single processor and single core in order to conserve resources. Malware sandboxes have to analyze a very large number of files, so each virtual machine often gets provisioned with a bare minimum of resources in order to run as many VMs as possible. 

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Topics: Malware Attacks

Superfish: When Bloatware Goes Bad

Posted by Wade Williamson on Mar 4, 2015 10:33:00 AM

The recent Superfish debacle is yet another reminder that as security professionals we live in an inherently post-prevention world. Increasingly everyone must assume that despite all our best efforts, users on our networks are may already compromised. While the focus is often on the many ways that a user can be infected with malware, Superfish is a reminder that a device can be compromised before it ever comes out of the box.

As a quick recap, Superfish is software that acts as an SSL man-in-the-middle in order to control the ads a user sees while browsing the Web – it’s “adware” which pretends to provide a service you would want.  To break SSL encryption without triggering a browser warning, Superfish installs a signed root certificate on the machine. More specifically, the software installs the exact same root cert on a series of laptops, and researchers (and attackers) are able to quickly extract the cert. Rob Graham at Errata Security provides a nice write-up on how he was able to do this. 

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Topics: SSL Encryption, Post-prevention

The Carbanak APT - Redefining Banking Malware

Posted by Wade Williamson on Feb 19, 2015 3:00:00 PM

Recent research from Kaspersky has revealed a massive criminal campaign that was able to infiltrate more than 100 different banks and steal upwards of $1 billion from the affected institutions. Kaspersky dubbed this operation the Carbanak APT due to a connection between the malware used in the attacks and the now infamous Carberp banking botnet.

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Topics: Malware Attacks, Cyberattacks, Finance

The Anthem Breach and Security Going Forward

Posted by Wade Williamson on Feb 6, 2015 3:52:00 PM

Yesterday Anthem became the latest company to suffer a massive, high-profile data breach that almost certainly will become the largest data breach to date in the healthcare industry. Attackers were able to infiltrate the network and steal personal information for over 80 million customers. The stolen data included a variety of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including Social Security numbers, contact details as well as employment and income information.

This is a particularly dangerous combination of data that is worth significantly more on the black market than stolen credit card numbers. Unlike a credit card, which can be easily cancelled and replaced, a full identity can be used for long-term fraud such as taking out loans in the victim’s name. Employment information is particularly sought after when selling an identity. The one silver lining is that it does not appear that medical records and other Personal Health Information (PHI) were exposed in the breach.

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Topics: Targeted Attacks, Cyberattacks

Morgan Stanley Meets the Insider Threat

Posted by Wade Williamson on Jan 6, 2015 1:58:00 PM

Earlier today news broke that financial services firm Morgan Stanley had experienced an insider breach, which resulted in customer data being posted online. The breach was initially detected when data related to a portion of the firm’s wealth management clients was observed on Pastebin. Pastebin is a popular site for sharing text-based data, and while it is widely used for sharing code between developers, it has also long been a thriving marketplace for advertising and selling stolen data for everything from compromised user accounts, cracked passwords, credit card numbers, and in this case account data.

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Topics: Cyberattacks, Insider Threats

Applying Vectra to the Regin Malware

Posted by Wade Williamson on Dec 3, 2014 7:20:18 AM

Researchers at Symantec have recently disclosed the presence of a highly sophisticated malware platform known as ‘Regin’. This new strain of malware instantly joins Stuxnet, Flame, and Duqu on the list of some of the most advanced malware ever seen. And like the other members of this elite state-sponsored fraternity, Regin malware appears to be purpose-built for espionage with the ability to quietly infect, spread, and persist within a target network for long periods of time.

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Topics: Malware Attacks, Cyberattacks, Nation-State Attacks

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