Is Your Industry at High Risk of Insider Threat?

By Jeremy Zoss, Managing Editor, Code42

In the movies, data theft is usually the work of outsiders. You’ve witnessed the scene a million times: A cyber thief breaks into a business, avoiding security measures, dodging guards and employees, and making off with a USB stick of valuable data seconds before he or she would have been spotted. But in the real world, data theft is much more mundane. Most cyberattacks are carried out by someone within the company or someone posing as such. Sometimes they take data that’s essentially harmless, like personal files they feel entitled to keep. Other times, what they take is potentially much more harmful. According to a 2016 report from Deloitte, 59 percent of employees who leave an organization say they take sensitive data with them! With IP making up 80 percent of a company’s value, insider threat is something that every company should take seriously.

Some industries are much more at risk of insider threat than others. Is your industry one of the most vulnerable? The infographic below details the industries hit with the most instances of insider threat in 2015. If you work in one of these industries, perhaps it is time to revisit your cyber security policies.


The Rise in SSL-based Threats

By Derek Gooley, Security Researcher, Zscaler

The majority of Internet traffic is now encrypted. With the advent of free SSL providers like Let’s Encrypt, the move to encryption has become easy and free. On any given day in the Zscaler cloud, more than half of the traffic that inspected uses SSL. It is no surprise, then, that malicious actors have also been using the SSL protocol in their activities over the last several years. The increasing use of SSL creates problems for organizations that are unable to monitor SSL traffic, as they must rely on less-effective techniques like IP and domain blocking in an attempt to identify and block threats.

In this report, we will outline trends we have seen in the use of SSL in the malware lifecycle and in adware distribution, based on a review of traffic on the Zscaler cloud from August 2016 through January 2017. What follows is a graphic illustrating our findings, and an analysis of recent activities.


Malicious SSL Activity
During the six-month period, the ThreatLabZ research team observed that the Zscaler cloud blocked an average 600,000 malicious activities each day that used SSL, including exploit kit traffic, malware and adware distribution, malware callbacks, and other malicious traffic.

Figure 1. Total SSL blocks, August 2016 – January 2017

In our cloud, we observed an overall increase in malicious SSL traffic in nearly all categories — a trend we expect to continue — with periodic spikes, such as those in early August and late November, when SSL malware blocks reached nearly two million a day.

Browser Exploits and Payload Delivery
Exploit kit (EK) authors are more frequently including SSL in the infection chain at some point. Previous malvertising campaigns have been observed in which EKs took advantage of SSL-enabled advertising networks to inject malicious scripts into legitimate webpages. EK authors may also abuse services that provide free SSL certificates to add HTTPS support to their maliciously controlled domains. This maneuver enables them to bypass the SSL integrity checks built into modern web browsers.

Figure 2. SSL web exploit monthly total hits, August 2016 – January 2017

Figure 3. SSL web exploit blocks, August 2016 – January 2017

During the observation period, we saw an average of 10,000 hits per month for web exploits that included SSL as part of the infection chain.


Figure 4. Phishing blocks, August 2016 – January 2017

Phishing campaigns have been increasingly using SSL in their attacks. Many phishing attacks involve hosting the phishing page on a legitimate domain that has been compromised. Since the number of legitimate sites that support SSL is constantly increasing, so are the number of SSL-enabled phishing attacks. This rise presents a significant threat, because organizations, in an attempt to thwart ransomware and other phishing schemes, have implemented security hardware solutions to detect and block phishing, but few of them support SSL inspection.

Malware Families That Use SSL
Several years ago, it was rare to see malware using SSL to encrypt command-and-control (C&C) mechanisms. As malware design has become more sophisticated, and with the near ubiquity of SSL on the Internet, it made sense for malware authors to begin using SSL to hide their activities. Some malware families have gone further, using anonymity services such as Tor to hide the location of their C&C servers, connecting to (otherwise legitimate) HTTP Tor gateways via SSL.

Botnets typically use self-signed SSL certificates, frequently using the names and information of real companies to try to appear legitimate. The SSL Blacklist is a project that tracks the SSL certificates used by malware authors.

Figure 5. Malware callbacks over SSL, September 2016 – January 2017

Corresponding with the increase in malicious payload deliveries in November 2016, we also observed an increase in blocked malicious SSL traffic during that time.

In our analysis, we came across many malware families that were using SSL for malicious purposes. Some of the recent and notorious malware families actively using SSL are:

  • Dridex/Dyre/TrickLoader: The Dridex, Dyre, and TrickLoader banking Trojans are capable of communicating to the C&C servers via SSL using its own SSL certificate. These family previously used the common browser hooking technique for callbacks, but the latest versions can perform redirects via local proxy or local DNS poisoning to fake websites, controlled by the attacker.
  • Vawtrak: Vawtrak is a well-crafted piece of malware supporting the VNC and SOCKS proxies, screenshot and video capturing, and extensibility with regular updates from C&C servers. Vawtrak samples contain code for downloading and validating SSL certificates and are capable of initiating an HTTPS connection. The malware contains a list of HTTPS-secured hosts that contain updated lists of live C&C servers.
  • Gootkit: Gootkit is a stealth banking trojan with backdoor and spyware capabilities that uses fileless infection and communications over SSL. Gootkit intercepts user data via web injections into HTTPS traffic.

A common function of adware is to inject unwanted advertisements into web traffic. These advertisements can also lead to malicious infections, as exploit authors frequently take advantage of less-scrupulous advertising networks to distribute exploit redirect scripts. Securing web traffic with SSL/HTTPS prevents this distribution in most cases. Adware installed on a client machine would not be able to perform a man-in-the-middle attack with a self-signed certificate due to the HTTPS safeguards included in modern browsers.

However, in several notable cases, major adware distributions have circumvented these safeguards to inject advertisements into HTTPS traffic. The two most high-profiles examples are the Superfish and PrivDog adware distributions, which were first abusing SSL in 2015. Both of these adware programs install a self-signed root CA certificate onto the victim’s computer, and intercept all web traffic in order to inject advertisements into web pages. PrivDog in particular was a serious concern because it did not validate SSL certificates on its end of the proxy, allowing users to inadvertently navigate to websites with invalid SSL certificates, exposing them to additional threats.

Adware variants have also started to host their files on HTTPS sites. We came across a family of adware called InstallCore, which was doing this kind of activity. InstallCore is a Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA) that installs a program to display and/or download unwanted advertisements and toolbars, and tracks a computer’s web usage to feed the victim undesired ad pop-ups; some versions can even hijack a browser’s start or search pages, redirecting the user to a different site or search engine.

InstallCore is often delivered by tricking the user into installing the Flash plugin or a Java update. In some cases, InstallCore is delivered by misdirected download buttons. These fake pop-ups of the Flash player or download buttons appear on content distribution sites, like torrent sites, or free software sites that work on HTTPS.

Figure 6. Fake Flash download pop-up

Due to the rising use of SSL encryption to hide exploit kits, malware, and other threats, it is important to have a security infrastructure that can detect and block these threats. The problem is that SSL inspection is compute-intensive, so even organizations whose security appliances support SSL inspection often disable this feature, as its use would slow traffic throughput to unacceptable levels. Dedicated appliances for SSL inspection are available, but their price puts them out of reach for many organizations. SSL inspection is built into the Zscaler security platform, which, due to its scale, can inspect all SSL traffic without latency.

Research by: Derek Gooley, Jithin Nair, Manohar Ghule

The Growth of Macs in the Enterprise Is Challenging the PC’s Dominance

By Jeremy Zoss, Managing Editor, Code42

The PC has long been the default choice for business computers, but perhaps not for much longer. The growth of Macs in the enterprise has been exponential in recent years, as illustrated by the infographic below.

For context on why Macs are growing in popularity in the workplace, look at some of the big-name companies embracing the platform. Once a sworn enemy of Macintosh, IBM has become a high-profile proponent of Macs for its own workforce. Cisco allows its employees to choose between iOS and Windows devices, and now has 35,000 Macs in use. At SAP, the company believes that “offering Mac is key for any modern enterprise.

Mac usage lowers IT costs
Simpler IT support for Macs and a high level of user self-service drive the bulk of this cost savings. IBM reports that just 3.5 percent of its Mac users currently call the help desk, compared to 25 percent of its PC users. Media company Buzzfeed maintains only a small IT staff for its thousands of employees–only 30-35 employees use Windows machines, while the rest operate on Macs.

User preference—not business value—still drives most Mac adoption
IT cost savings aren’t the only thing driving Mac adoption among big names in business tech. Security and productivity are also driving Mac adoption. Deloitte says iOS is “the most secure platform for business” and states that “Apple’s products are essential to the modern workforce.” Cisco stated it believes Apple devices accelerate productivity. Basic user satisfaction is another important factor. IBM reports a 91 percent satisfaction rate among Mac users and says its pro-Mac policies help the company attract and retain top talent.

While IBM and others put total cost of ownership, security and productivity as top reasons for Mac adoption, a survey conducted by Code42 shows user preference continues to be the main reason that enterprises are embracing Macs today.

Top reasons for Mac adoption

1. Happier end users (37%)
2. Fewer help desk tickets (14%)
3. Better OS security (12%)

Top IT challenges are Macs’ top strengths
Macs also offer advantages in areas that are typically sources of major challenges for IT. According to our survey, the most time-consuming tasks for IT are tech refresh and help desk tickets, followed by malware and ransomware. These are actually areas where Macs excel. Macs traditionally enable a much higher level of self-service, and Code42 enables user-driven tech refresh for Mac users (and PC users, too). This level of self-service produces the kind of IT cost savings IBM has seen with its dramatically reduced help desk tickets.

Avoid the Heartbreak of Insider Threat

By Ashley Jarosch, Manager/Marketing Programs, Code42

While everyone else is celebrating love and romance this Valentine’s Day, here at Code42 we’re reflecting on heartbreak—specifically, the heartbreak of insider threat.

The Heartbreak and Betrayal of Insider Threat
It’s a feeling anyone in the enterprise world is familiar with. Someone you trust—someone you hired, work with, maybe even talk to daily—betrays that trust and steals data, deletes data or gives away access credentials. In fact, you’ve probably had it happen recently. Nine in 10 organizations experience at least one insider threat each month—and according to the Ponemon Institute, one in three of those incidents are the result of intentional or malicious insider activities.

You Don’t Have to Be a Cynic—Just Know the Warning Signs
What’s truly heartbreaking is that most organizations don’t see these insider threats coming. They miss the signs of disgruntled employees and suspicious or risky behavior. They’re shocked by insider threat and they end up bitter and cynical—feeling like they can’t trust their own employees.

But you don’t have to be a cynic. By knowing the warning signs, you can spot the employees most likely to steal or destroy sensitive data—and get back to the trusting relationship that empowers the rest of your staff to do good, honest work.

The New CSA Consultancy Program Will Ensure Best Practices in Secure Cloud Implementation

By Daniele Catteddu, Chief Technology Officer, CSA

As increasing numbers of enterprises begin the move to the cloud in earnest, there has simultaneously developed a host of third-party consultancy firms, offering guidance on cloud technology best practices and implementation. Recognizing that there is a genuine need for a trusted network, where organizations and professionals can be relied on to provide high-quality cloud security consultancy services based on CSA best practices, we are launching a new initiative–the CSA Consultancy Program (CSA-CP) that will go live in mid-2017 with Optiv as the first certified provider.

The overreaching goal of the CSA-CP is to support organizations looking to improve their cloud security posture and implement high standards of compliance and assurance. This new program will provide a registry–the CSA Consultancy Services Registry (CSA-CSR)–a web repository similar to the CSA STAR Registry and in doing so will simplify the research for trusted consultancy services and speed the adoption of effective, secure cloud implementations.

Grounded with CSA’s best practices, the program will be offered from a highly-vetted, trusted network of organizations and professionals, and we couldn’t be more pleased to count Optiv as our first provider.

“As a long-time supporter of CSA’s best practices, certifications and guidance, we look forward to helping organizations better understand how to implement an effective cloud security posture and ensure compliance and assurance standards are met,” said JD Sherry, Vice President, GM, Cloud Security & Strategy, Optiv, Inc. “The consultancy program will serve an excellent purpose in this regard and we are proud that Optiv is part of what we expect to be a valuable program in the future.”

The qualifications that must be met are rigorous. In order to be listed as a CSA Qualified Consultancy Service Provider, organizations must demonstrate they have completed and passed the:

  • Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) examination,
  • CSA CCM training course,
  • CSA STAR Certification Qualified Auditor designation and/or Consultant designation, and
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) current year exam completion.

With the widespread adoption of CSA best practices, we see an opportunity and need for a repository of qualified and trusted cloud security experts. Securing the cloud continues to be our top priority, and the CSA-CP will help achieve this.

New Security Research – the Software-Defined Perimeter for the Cloud

By Jason Garbis, Vice President of Products, Cryptzone

On behalf of the Cloud Security Alliance, I’m pleased to announce the publication of our newest security research from the Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) Working Group, exploring how the SDP can be applied to Infrastructure-as-a-Service environments. Thanks to all the people who commented and contributed to this research over the past 10 months, especially Puneet Thapliyal from Trusted Passage.

Cloud adoption has soared over the past few years, and yet recent surveys indicate that security is still a concern. In one Cloud Security Alliance survey, over 67% of respondents indicated that an inability to enforce corporate security standards represents a barrier to cloud adoption, while 61% noted that compliance concerns pose a barrier.

It’s quickly becoming widely understood that SDP is the preferred new way to securely deploy services. Leading analyst firms are recommending that public-facing services be protected with a new security approach, and are talking about SDP as a strong alternative to traditional network security solutions.

Enterprises have recognized that SDP can address their concerns about adopting cloud, but the Software-Defined Perimeter approach is still relatively unknown to many (here is a quick primer on SDP if you need a refresh). Security architects and IT leaders are eager to learn more about how to best design and deploy SDP-based systems.

As a vendor that offers an SDP solution, and as a leader of the SDP Working Group, we’re happy to share our knowledge and experience. This is why we’ve spent the time and effort, in partnership with other SDP practitioners, to create this new security research outlining how Software-Defined Perimeter applies to IaaS environments.

Security for IaaS is particularly interesting, because it’s a responsibility that’s shared between enterprises and cloud providers, and because IaaS has different (and in some ways more challenging) user access and security requirements than traditional on-premises systems. Our new research focuses on how SDP can be applied to Infrastructure-as-a-Service environments, and explores the following use cases:

  • Secure Access by Developers into IaaS Environment
  • Secure Business User Access to Internal Corporate Application Services
  • Secure Admin Access To Public Facing Services
  • Updating User Access When New Server Instances Are Created
  • Hardware Management Plane Access for Service Provider
  • Controlling Access Across Multiple Enterprise Accounts

This research is now available here – and we look forward to getting your feedback. Please join the SDP Working Group to collaborate.

Finally, now that this research has been published, we’re just beginning work to outline more architectures and new applications of the protocol in version 2 of the SDP specification. Please join us if you’re interesting in contributing or learning more about that project as well.

3-2-1, Takeoff. The STARWatch Cloud Security Management Application Has Launched

By Daniele Catteddu, Chief Technology Officer, Cloud Security Alliance

Compliance, assurance and vendor management are becoming more and more complex and resource-intensive issues, so we created STARWatch, a Software as a Service (SaaS) application designed to provide organizations a centralized way to manage and maintain the integrity of the vendor review and assessment process. Today, we’re excited to announce its official launch. Even more exciting is that we are emerging from Beta with more than 250 active licenses activated.

STARWatch delivers the content of the CSA’s de facto standards Cloud Control Matrix (CCM) and CSA’s Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire v3.0.1 (CAIQ) in a database format, enabling users to manage compliance of cloud services with CSA best practices. It was designed to provide cloud users, providers, auditors and security providers with assurance and compliance on-demand. Additionally, it provides users the ability to:

  • manage all cloud service providers and their own private clouds to assure a consistent security baseline is maintained;
  • build and maintain a CSA Security Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR) entry and provide customers with rapid responses to their compliance questions;
  • perform audits and assessments of cloud services/provider security;
  • have a clear reference between CCM controls and the corresponding controls in other industry standards;
  • leverage the STARWatch solution database format and technical specifications for integration within an organization’s cloud environment; and
  • enabling sharing and peer reviewing of cloud services security assessments.

CSA STARWatch is free to CSA corporate members. Non-members may purchase licenses starting at $3,000 annually for an Expert license and $5,000 annually for Enterprise licenses. Learn more about CSA STARWatch.

STARWatch is part of the larger CSA STAR program, the industry’s most powerful program for security assurance in the cloud, which encompasses the key principles of transparency, rigorous auditing and harmonization of standards, with continuous monitoring. Currently there are 230 Cloud Service Providers in the STAR program, which includes STAR Self-Assessment, STAR Certification, STAR Attestation and C-STAR Assessment.