Accelerate Incident Response and Investigations

Knowing which hosts are involved in a security incident is critical information for anyone who is an incident handler. The quicker the attackers and their targets can be identified the quicker the incident can be stopped. Collecting this information from a plethora of systems and log sources can be difficult and time consuming. Compounding the problem even further Forrester reported that “62% of enterprise security decision makers report not having enough security staff[1].” Lack of resources and time spent verifying devices instead of dealing with the threat right away contribute to the damage done by threat actors.

For an incident response team to perform their job effectively, on top of understanding and responding to threats, they need to understand the network. This includes all entrances to a network, the route information flows through their network, the critical systems needed to run their business, the location of the critical systems within their network, and an understanding of how the attack can spread once the network is compromised. Understanding the network and the topology is the foundation of any good incident response team. How do you protect and contain an outbreak if you don’t understand how it spreads? The network is the medium in which it spreads.

Allowing your incident response team to access the RedSeal appliance will drop your “average time to achieve incident resolution” and “time to containment” KPIs. RedSeal ingests all network device configurations and will show the paths information takes, where the attacks are coming from, and where the targets exist within your network. RedSeal simplifies locating devices by parsing through the NAT, VPN, and Load Balancer configuration files with only a few clicks of the mouse. In a matter of minutes, the incident response team will be able to find where both the target and the attacker exist on the network as well as the path the attack traffic is taking. Otherwise, in most situations, incident response must parse through and follow routing tables manually or engage the network team to get an understanding of the path.

Another challenge incident response teams face is overlooking subnets and devices, especially in large and complex organizations. RedSeal will shine light onto forgotten devices and subnets. Again, with a few clicks of a mouse, RedSeal will analyze the configurations and report if there is a direct connection from untrusted zones to these devices. Once found, the devices can be hardened against threats and appropriate decisions can be made to take them offline, upgrade, or migrate them to a more protected area of the network.

An incident response team’s main goal is to keep the level of impact to an organization down to an acceptable level. It is the time between detection and containment that has the biggest impact on mitigating the severity of the incident and data loss. Stopping the threat faster, before it spreads, also means fewer resources spent in recovering from the impact of the incident. RedSeal reduces the amount of time incident response spends identifying targets, moves the team to stopping the incident faster, and improves your organization’s resiliency against attacks.

[1] Forrester “Breakout Vendors: Security Automation and Orchestration.”

To learn more about how RedSeal can accelerate your incident response, watch our animated video, or contact us.

Digital Resilience Helps Mitigate or Prevent the ExPetr/NotPetya/ GoldenEye Malware

What is it?

The most recent malware campaign hitting Ukraine and the rest of the world is a wiper style malware which is packaged with several propagation mechanisms including the same weaponized Windows SMBv1 exploit utilized by WannaCry.  What was initially thought to be a variant of the 2016 Petya ransomware has now been shown to be a professionally developed cyber-attack masquerading as run-of-the-mill ransomware gone wild. In fact, security researchers have demonstrated that, despite demanding a ransom payment, the payload irreversibly wipes the hard drives of infected systems with no way to decrypt even if a ransom is paid to the specified wallet.

Purpose & Impact

The motivation behind the attack appears to be one of destruction and disruption. Indeed, it has had a devastating impact on enterprise’s operations world-wide as it is designed to rapidly spread throughout corporate networks, irreversibly wiping hard drive in its wake. The initial infection is believed to have targeted Ukrainian businesses and government, managing to wreak havoc in the country’s financial, manufacturing, and transportation industries. Even Chernobyl radiation monitoring systems were impacted, forcing technicians to switch to manual monitoring of radiation levels. ExPetr managed to quickly spread worldwide to thousands of computers in dozens of countries with significant disruption to major enterprises across industries as varied as shipping, pharmaceuticals, and law. Over 50% of the companies being attacked worldwide are in the industrial manufacturing or oil & gas sectors.

How it Spreads

Researchers have identified several distinct mechanisms utilized by the ExPetr malware to penetrate enterprises’ perimeter defenses for an initial infection as well as lateral movement after a successful compromise. The malware’s lifecycle is split into three distinct phases: 1) initial infection, 2) lateral movement, and finally 3) wiping the compromised system. The initial infection is believed to have spread by a malicious payload delivered through a highjacked auto-update mechanism of accounting software used by businesses in Ukraine. Alternatively, ExPetr has been observed to achieve initial infection through phishing and watering hole attacks. Next, once inside, the malware utilizes a different array of techniques to self-propagate and move laterally. Critically, ExPetr attempts to infect all accessible systems with the same Windows SMBv1 vulnerability as last month’s WannaCry attack over TCP ports 445 and 139. The malware is also able to spread laterally by deploying credential stealing packages in search of valid admin and domain credentials. It will leverage any stolen credentials to copy itself through normal Windows file transfer functionality (over TCP ports 445 and 139) and then remotely execute the copied file using the standard administrative tools, PSEXEC or WMIC.


Figure 1: Visualizing all accessible areas of the network from a compromised system.


How Digital Resilience Helps

Because one of the primary ways the ExPetr malware spreads is through the same Windows SMBv1 vulnerability addressed by Microsoft’s MS17-010 patch in March 2017, the same prevention and mitigation techniques described in depth in RedSeal’s WannaCry response are effective. To review:

  1. Assess and limit exposure by using an access query to discover any assets accessible through TCP ports 445 or 139 from untrusted networks like the Internet or a 3rd party.
  2. Identify vulnerable hosts and prioritize remediation efforts based on risk to the enterprise by importing vulnerability scanner findings and sorting based on risk score.
  3. Isolate critical assets and contain high risk or compromised systems by discovering and eliminating unnecessary access to or from sensitive areas of the network.
  4. Continuously monitor compliance with network segmentation policies by analyzing the relevant rules in RedSeal’s Zones & Policy.
  5. Accelerate incident response by reactively or proactively discovering the blast radius from a compromised system, understanding which assets are network-accessible and deploying the relevant mitigating controls.


Figure 2 Results of an access query revealing what access exists from all subnets leading to the critical assets over TCP 139 or 445.


While applying the MS17-010 patch to vulnerable systems per a risk-based prioritization of vulnerable hosts is necessary, it is not sufficient to mitigate or prevent infection. ExPetr moves laterally through normal file-transfer and administrative capabilities using stolen credentials. As such, it is important to also reduce the attack surface of production and other mission critical assets through sensible network segmentation techniques, paying close attention to access over ports 445 and 139. RedSeal users can accomplish this by running an access query to determine what can reach critical systems through the implicated ports. Next, access that is not necessary or out of compliance can be cut off by examining the detailed path to see all network devices touched along the path and determine the optimal placement of a network countermeasure, such as a firewall rule, to eliminate the unnecessary access.


Figure 3 Detailed Path from the DMZ to a critical asset is 6 hops long with several routers and firewalls along the way



Cyber attacks are getting more efficient, more aggressive, and more destructive. Only a digitally resilient organization with full visibility into their network composition and security posture can hope to avoid falling victim, or to mitigate fallout in the event of compromise. Reducing your attack surface is essential to decreasing risk. This can best be done by adhering to standard IT best practices including implementing a robust backup strategy, a vulnerability management program, and a segmented internal network. In this day and age, network segmentation and micro-segmentation are increasingly important as attackers and malware routinely get past perimeter defenses, and often move laterally with impunity due to a lack of internal boundaries. RedSeal helps customers gain visibility into their network as it is built today, providing assurance through continuous monitoring of compliance with network access and segmentation policies. With the increased visibility and understanding, digitally resilient organizations can perform risk-based prioritization of remediation and mitigation activity to efficiently marshal resources and minimize overall enterprise risk.

For more information on how RedSeal can help you become resilient, please contact

Does Your Company have a DFARS NIST 800-171 Time Bomb?

On December 30, 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) published a three-page interim rule to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), revising its earlier August 2015 interim rule on Safeguarding Covered Defense Information.

This new interim rule is a ticking time bomb that gives government contractors a deadline of December 31, 2017 to implement all of the requirements of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171-Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations —  or lose their contracts.

The NIST Special Publication 800-171 provides federal agencies with requirements for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) when:

  • The CUI is resident in non-federal information systems and organizations
  • The information systems where the CUI resides are not used or operated by contractors of federal agencies or other organizations on behalf of those agencies
  • There are no specific safeguarding requirements for protecting the confidentiality of CUI prescribed by the authorizing law, regulation, or government wide policy for the CUI category or subcategory listed in the CUI Registry.

Cybersecurity and compliance teams at government contractors are searching for technology to automate the necessary, but taxing process of implementing the mandated controls and remaining compliant on an ongoing basis. Organizations are finding that it is one thing to implement the 800-171 controls once, but quite another to implement and monitor them continuously.

RedSeal has a history of support for federal government cybersecurity initiatives. The company’s innovative software platform is installed in numerous DoD, intelligence, and civilian organizations for the purpose of continuous monitoring. At the highest level, RedSeal delivers three core security controls: visibility, verification, and prioritization.

RedSeal’s cybersecurity capabilities align with many of the controls in NIST 800-171. RedSeal supports a total of 26 controls in 7 of the 14 NIST 800-171 security requirements families; at a high level RedSeal supports 800-171 control areas as follows:

Configuration Management Continuous validation of actual system configurations versus desired state across multi-vendor infrastructure.
Risk Assessment & Incident Response Prioritization of vulnerabilities for efficient and effective remediation and response.
Network Security Architecture & Access Control Network map and situational awareness for risk assessment and systems categorization and segmentation validation.
Security Assessment and Continuous Monitoring Analysis of actual, deployed information flow architecture and continuous comparison with desired architecture and policy.
Planning, Program Management and Acquisition Inventory, audit and analysis of network security architecture for legacy, new deployments, and acquired systems.


With RedSeal, federal system integrators can significantly reduce the cost and time associated with enforcing compliance against SP 800-171 by automating assessment of many of the SP 800-171 controls. Certain controls have traditionally been difficult to automate, and therefore resource intensive to maintain and audit. However, RedSeal’s unique technology automates and prioritizes these difficult controls, greatly decreasing resource requirements while improving the quality of the control.

The federal government is placing a greater sense of urgency on real-time situational awareness and continuous monitoring to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of responses to emerging security threats, and is now including government contractors in that effort.  By implementing RedSeal, organizations can lower the cost of compliance, increase situational awareness, and improve control activity efficacy in an operationally efficient manner.

Will you defuse this bomb in time?

For more information on how RedSeal can assist with NIST 800-171 controls, please contact Matt Venditto, or download a more detailed datasheet on NIST 800-171 here.

Data Dearth Hobbles Cyber Insurance Market

The Deloitte Center for Financial Services just issued a report discussing why cyber insurance has yet to take off. “Demystifying cyber insurance” is an excellent summary of the challenges facing the nascent cyber insurance industry. The authors identify a fundamental problem early in the report: a dearth of data creates a vicious circle that limits both underwriters and customers. Briefly, while cyber insurance underwriters have access to external assessments of the cyber threats a customer faces, the customer’s network itself is a black box.

The situation is analogous to underwriting a life insurance policy based only on the neighborhood the customer lives in. Underwriters ask: Does the neighborhood have indoor plumbing and a modern sewer system?  Is garbage disposed of properly?  Is the community suffering from serious communicable diseases? What criminal activity exists?

All this information is relevant and helpful, but the key missing element is a physical exam of the customer to determine his or her current health profile. Is the applicant overweight? A smoker? An active athlete?  Such an exam provides a much more specific (and actionable) assessment of a customer’s health risk to inform life insurance underwriting.

The same applies to cyber insurance. Underwriters need to understand not only cyber threats in the environment, but also the health of a specific network.  Are all parts of the network identified? Are all network devices set up properly?  Are known vulnerabilities reachable for exploitation?

Ideally, this assessment would involve modeling the network and distilling complicated network security risks into an understandable and comparable score, similar to a credit-worthiness score.  Of course, modeling a network requires a customer’s approval, so the approach must be fast, accurate, and cost-effective.

Cyber insurance promises to be a critical element in effective cyber security management.  The “dearth of data” is a significant obstacle to cyber insurance development, but the effective use of network risk scoring will be crucial to break the vicious circle.

The Bleed Goes On

Some people are surprised that Heartbleed is still out there, 3 years on, as you can read here. What this illustrates is two important truths of security, depending on whether you see the glass half full or half empty.

One perspective is that, once again, we know what to do, but failed to do it.  Heartbleed is well understood, and directly patchable.  Why haven’t we eradicated this by now? The problem is that the Internet is big. Calling the Internet an “organization” would be a stretch – it’s larger, more diverse, and harder to control than any one organization.  But if you’ve tried to manage vulnerabilities at any normal organization – even a global scale one – you have a pretty good idea how hard it gets to eliminate any one thing. It’s like Zeno’s Paradox – when you try to eradicate any one problem you choose, you can fix half the instances in a short period of time. The trouble is that it takes about that long again to fix the next half of what remains, and that amount again for the half after that. Once you’ve dealt with the easy stuff – well known machines, with well documented purpose, and a friendly owner in IT – it starts to get hard fast, for an array of reasons from the political to the technical.  You can reduce the prevalence of a problem really quickly, but to eradicate it takes near-infinite time.  And the problem, of course, is that attackers will find whatever you miss – they can use automation to track down every defect.  (That’s how researchers found there is still a lot of Heartbleed out there.)  Any one time you miss might open up access to far more important parts of your organization.  It’s a chilling prospect, and it’s fundamental to the unfair fight in security – attackers only need one way in, defenders need to cover all possible paths.

To flip to the positive perspective, perhaps the remaining Heartbleed instances are not important – that is, it’s possible that we prioritized well as a community, and only left the unimportant instances dangling for all this time.  I know first-hand that major banks and critical infrastructure companies scrambled to stamp out Heartbleed from their critical servers as fast as they could – it was impressive.  So perhaps we fixed the most important gaps first, and left until later any assets that are too hard to reach, or better yet, have no useful access to anything else after they are compromised.  This would be great if it were true.  The question is, how would we know?

The answer is obvious – we’d need to assess each instance, in context, to understand which instances must get fixed, and which can be deferred until later, or perhaps until after we move on to the next fire drill, and the fire drill after that. The security game is a never-ending arms race, and so we always have to be responsive and dynamic as the rules of the game change.  So how would we ever know if the stuff we deferred from last quarter’s crises is more important or less important than this quarter’s?  Only automated prioritization of all your defensive gaps can tell you.

Shadow Brokers Turn Out the Lights

The Shadow Brokers are turning out the lights. On their way out they dumped another suite of alleged National Security Agency hacking tools.  Unlike last time, where the released exploits focused on network gear from vendors such as Cisco and Fortinet, these tools and exploits target Microsoft Windows operating systems.  Most of the sixty plus exploits are already detected by antivirus vendors, such as Kaspersky, and it is a safe bet that all antivirus vendors will detect them shortly.

In Shadow Brokers’ farewell post, they say they are leaving the account open for someone to deposit 10,000 bitcoins — the equivalent of $8.2 million — to obtain the entire cache of alleged NSA hacking tools. To date, no one has paid the requested amount.  With such a high price it has been speculated that the Shadow Brokers never seriously expected anyone to pay. This leads some to believe they are associated with a nation state who is trying to cause headaches for US spy agencies and the administration.

What can be done to protect your systems from these tools and exploits?  Basic security practices of course.  Keep your systems up to date with patches and operating system releases.  Practice your usual good cyber hygiene such not clicking on links in emails.  Be conscientious about what you plug into your home or business computers as a lot of malware can spread through external hard drives and USB sticks.

Also, it is imperative to have good backups and test your backups.  Many times after a breach occurs, organizations find out too late that they’ve never tested their restore procedures to verify they have good backups. Or, they learn that their backups have been infected with malware from previous backups of compromised systems.

Have an incident response plan in place and practice your incident response plans regularly. Having a plan is great. But you need to practice to make sure your team can execute your plan. Plans without practicing is the equivalent of a firefighter knowing it takes water to put a fire out, but not knowing how to get the water off of the fire truck and onto the fire.

Know your network; and consider using RedSeal.   Even if you don’t use us, knowing your network will lead to greatly enhanced resilience and enable your incident responders to keep business and mission critical systems online and functioning during an incident.  Security is not sexy, despite what Hollywood depicts. There is no silver bullet that will magically make your network impervious.  It takes hard work and continuous effort to build and maintain resilient networks.  So, do you know yours — completely?