Tag Archive for: Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities Age Like Dynamite

In NSA: The Silence of the Zero Days, published in Data Breach Today, Mathew Schwartz discusses hackers’ rapid response to newly discovered flaws and/or exploits.

I was struck by a quote from David Hogue, the head of the NSA’s Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center (NCTOC). “Within 24 hours of a vulnerability or exploit being released, it’s weaponized and used against us.”

Vulnerabilities don’t get worse; they just get better for malicious actors. Like dynamite, they get more dangerous with age. Over time hackers develop new and more damaging ways to leverage known vulnerabilities. They become part of malware campaigns like WannaCry and NotPetya, which were based on existing vulnerabilities identified in the NSA leaked Eternal Blue exploit.

He also said, “… the existing state of network defenses wasn’t robust enough to make attackers have to rely on secret exploits that might get burned once used. ‘If you can live off the land, so to speak, you don’t need to dip into your toolkit.’”

The whole article is an excellent read and I recommend you do so. I have three main takeaways for government cyber leaders.

Worry about known vulnerabilities.

Rather than fret over exotic zero-day threats, focus on basic cyber hygiene. RedSeal can help by modeling your “as-built” network, including those in the cloud, by calculating all the ways data—and intruders—can move from one point to any other. Leveraging this knowledge of access, RedSeal ranks identified vulnerabilities based on the true risks to the organization, so your team’s effort is focused and maximized.

When zero days are identified, stay ahead of the onslaught.

When a zero-day exploit is made public, every hacker will be scanning for unpatched machines. RedSeal will identify the systems at the greatest risk and help identify the best course of action for each — whether applying a network change or patching the exposed systems.

Streamline and automate NSA’s Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center (NCTOC) best practices in your environment.

Applying NCTOC’s Top 5 SOC Principles to your organization, means using RedSeal to automate processes and free up humans to engage in high impact activities. RedSeal’s network modeling and risk scoring platform provides actionable intelligence for rapid investigation by identifying exposed assets and prioritizing actions.

Do you have a problem identifying and managing your network’s vulnerabilities? Click here to set up your free trial of RedSeal and choose the better way.

Vulnerabilities: The Weeds of Your Digital Terrain

RedSeal Blog - Vulnerabilities - The Weeds of Your Digital Terrain

In the warmer months when I’m not traveling I often get up early and wander my property pulling and spraying weeds. This is an endless and thankless task, yet a necessary evil to preserve my investment and maintain appearances. I am amazed how quickly weeds grow and by the places they find purchase. In just a few days, given the right conditions whole beds can be overtaken.

A few days ago I was meandering about my yard wondering why I don’t have a gardener when it struck me. My own personal battle for yard supremacy provides a great parallel to the efforts of cybersecurity professionals. It occurred to me that vulnerabilities are the weeds of the digital terrain. They are constantly popping up in the strangest places; you can never seem to get them all; and they can quickly get out of hand if you let your attention slip.

Just like weeds, all vulnerabilities are not created equal. Their type, and more importantly their location, are factors we need to consider. The poison ivy at the far end of the property where no one goes is a concern, but far less of one than the poison ivy on the kids’ play set. In the digital terrain, this is the equivalent of vulnerabilities on assets that don’t provide access to critical data verses those that do — whether directly or via pivot attacks. So, it’s not the type of vulnerability that’s important, it’s the exposure that vulnerability delivers to critical resources that is the true cause of risk. The common practice of focusing on CAT1 vulnerabilities is inherently flawed, since the severity of the vulnerability has little to do with the risk it causes for the organization.

People have been fighting weeds since the first crops were sown sometime around 9000 BC. We know weeds and have developed many tools to fight them, yet they persist. We pull them, spray them and set up lines of defense for them to cross. Sound familiar? This is akin to patching, firewalls, and micro segmentation.

I’m making two points here: first and most importantly I need a gardener, but also it is worth reminding ourselves that vulnerabilities aren’t going away anytime soon. Regardless of how much effort you put in, you’ll never have the necessary resources to patch them all. A better strategy is to prioritize what you patch based on the actual risk it causes for your organization. A CAT1 vulnerability isolated by firewall rules provides little risk, but that CAT3 vulnerability exposed directly to the internet may provide a beachhead that exposes your most important data and systems. To quote the old adage, we need to work smarter not harder. For cyber, that means moving from a patch-based methodology to one that focuses on risk.