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Best Practices to Prevent Zero-Day Attacks

A Zero-Day Attack refers to a cyber security attack launched by exploiting a security vulnerability that has not yet been discovered by IT team yet. Zero-day attacks have emerged as a major cyber security challenge as there has been a significant increase in the number of zero-day attacks recently. 

Why Have Zero-Day Cyber Attacks Increased?

There are many reasons that contribute to an increase in the number of zero-day attacks.

  1. Zero-day attacks can exploit security vulnerabilities at multiple levels such as in the code, configuration settings, and hardware. This widens the attack surface for the cyber criminals.
  2. A global proliferation of available hacking tools is another major reason. Hacking tools are now easily available in the form of Software-as-a-Service package. This has facilitated cyber criminals to launch attacks at a rapid pace as soon as a vulnerability is detected without the need to code or fabricate attacking software.
  3. Once a vulnerability is detected, the software developer has to review the code and replace the defective piece of code. This is time consuming which gives the cyber criminals an opportunity to exploit the vulnerability in the meantime.
  4. After the software developer issues an update to patch the vulnerability, the users generally take time to download and install the updates. This allows hackers to exploit devices running on vulnerable software.

These technical challenges make it difficult to cope up with zero-day attacks. However, adopting some best practices in cyber security strategy can help prevent zero-day attacks.

Zero-Day Attack Prevention Best Practices

  1. Well-Defined Perimeters: Identifying all the end-points connected to your organization’s network is the first step towards preventing vulnerability attacks on the devices. Now implement Endpoint protection platforms (EPP) and Endpoint detection and threat response (EDR) solutions to monitor/record user-behavior, identify malware, and block malicious scripts. To ensure efficiency of EPP and EDR solutions, it is important to lay down well-defined perimeters. 
  2. Use Web Application Firewall: A Web Application Firewall (WAF) monitors and reviews all the traffic directed toward the web applications. When configurated efficiently, WAF plays a vital role in blocking malicious traffic by filtering it out and preventing the malware from exploiting any vulnerabilities. It ensures a quick response as WAF can be trained to adapt to real-time threats.
  3. Deploy Multiple Security Controls: The vulnerabilities exploited by the zero-day attacks can expose devices and networks to multiple security breaches. Thus, it is important to deploy security controls which may include malware detection & prevention controls, firewalls, traffic filtering software, patch management, password & access management, and identity management solutions. 
  4. Segmentize The Network: An organization uses multiple networks to perform its functions. Segmenting the networks allows the IT team to define different security controls suitable for the defined network. It also helps in containing the impact of an attack, if any, to a single network.
  5. Anti-Bot Strategy: The majority of modern attacks rely on botnets. Botnets are networks of compromised machines connected to a hacker’s server by malware. If any vulnerability arises in the organization’s network, the compromised machines report it to the hacker’s server and hackers exploit the vulnerability to launch an attack. Implement an anti-bot strategy as a part of your cyber security routine. Make sure to inspect all machines or devices connected to the network to check if any of the devices have been compromised. Remove all the compromised machines from the network to mitigate the risk of an attack.

In addition to above mentioned best practices, make sure to follow cyber security hygiene including a regular update of software and hardware, password ethics, regular security inspection, etc.

You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454 for advanced cybersecurity solutions for businesses. 

Role of Interoperability In Cyber Response Effectiveness

In general terms, Interoperability refers to the ability of diverse software and computer-based systems to exchange and utilize information. It involves uninterrupted and seamless data communication between apps, servers, and devices followed by the processing of data without any involvement of end users. Different apps, software, and devices understand different data structures and languages; interoperability relies on a data dictionary that sets definitive rules for data such that it is understandable across apps and software.

Need for Interoperability in Cyber Security

Cyber security is a highly dynamic landscape which needs constant upgrades to tackle new threats. Besides cyber threats, new software vulnerabilities, misconfigured devices, and human errors make it tough for cyber security professionals to ensure complete security of a network.

Interoperability among software, apps, and devices helps in improving cyber security efficiency for a business.

  1. Cyber security professionals have to perform many tasks such as conducting regular cyber security audits, mitigating IT threats, configuring and updating devices, and setting up diverse cybersecurity tools. This puts cyber security professionals at a shortage of time and resources to analyze threat trends/data and make preparations to prevent attacks.
  2. Apps, software, and data of an organization are spread across multiple on-site and cloud locations. Data has to travel from one software/location to another to ensure seamless operations. It is practically impossible to manually change data structure every time it travels while maintaining security procedures. This is both time-consuming and prone to errors which may lead to breaches. Thus, it is important for software, apps, and devices to transmit, receive, understand, and process data seamlessly and automatically.
  3. Diverse threats require organizations to deploy software and tools to ensure multiple layers of cyber security defense. These tools may include analytical tools, firewalls, penetration testing apps, peripheral security software, antivirus software, etc. To perform efficiently, multiple software share and utilize data from one another. For example, firewalls need data from analytical tools to understand the latest threat patterns and trends to reconfigure themselves and block malicious traffic efficiently. Hence, it arises need for seamless data sharing among apps/devices.

Importance of Interoperability in Cyber Security:

Interoperability offers multiple benefits that vouch for its importance in today’s cyber security landscape.

  1. Adaptability: It allows the systems, apps, and software to connect and share the threat information automatically. It helps in transmitting the information to the relevant defense team in the organization without the time-consuming process of downloading, converting, and re-transmitting the information.
  2. Higher Efficiency: It improves the efficiency of different cyber security tools as the updated information is available and accessible across the system. Thus, it leads to smooth and efficient operations of the cyber defense machinery.
  3. Data Unity: Interoperability promotes data unity which facilitates the cyber security tools to receive, process, and act upon information from external sources such as threat intelligence.
  4. Data Protection: Interoperability allows the users to access sensitive data via shared records instead of manually and repeatedly punching in information or user login information to access data. This lowers the chances of data breaches and improves data protection.
  5. Cost Efficiency: Interoperable systems are capable of communicating information automatically which reduces the costs associated.

For more information about role of interoperability in cyber security and to know about the latest cybersecurity tools, contact Centex Technologies. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Steps to Measure Security Control Effectiveness

Cyber security controls can be defined as the set of tools that help in prevention, detection, and mitigation of cyber crimes or threats. Cyber security controls can be broadly classified as administrative, physical, technical, and operational. Every set of controls deals with a specific threat vertical.

Different types of cyber security controls are:

  1. Preventive controls
  2. Detective controls
  3. Deterrents
  4. Corrective controls
  5. Recovery controls
  6. Compensating controls

In order to ensure effectiveness, every set of security controls needs to be employed efficiently. Once you have established a cyber security control strategy, it is advised to regularly test the efficiency of cyber security controls to find any misconfiguration. This helps refine the cyber security control implementation to improve the detection and prevention of cyber threats and recovery from cyber-attacks if any.

But, how can you measure the efficiency of cyber security controls?

There are numerous methods to assess security control efficiency. These methods can be classified based on their approach.

  1. Indirect Assessment
  2. Direct Assessment

Indirect assessment involves collecting data from sources such as perimeter servers, DNS configurations, etc., to analyze security risks likely to be faced by the organization.

Direct assessment involves testing and measuring the operations and configuration of security controls.

Let us delve deeper into methods to measure security control effectiveness:

  1. Analyze Attack Surface: To understand the effectiveness of security controls, organizations first need to understand their attack surface. Attack surface refers to network backdoors that can act as entry path for cyber-attacks. The attack surface comprises exposed credentials, misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, etc.  Active Directory also constitutes a major part of the attack surface as it is one of the most desirable targets for cyber-attacks due to the important information it holds. The attack surface can be analyzed using diverse tools such as Endpoint Detection & Response tools, Extended Detection & Response tools, and Identity Threat Detection & Response tools. Gaining visibility throughout the network is the first step toward ensuring effective security controls.
  2. Track Incident Response Times: One of the best ways to measure security control efficiency is to track cyber security violations or incidents. This can provide effective insight into how well the security controls are configured. Tracking the time between infestation and the first report against the problem, response time taken to fix the issue, steps taken to mitigate the issue, and if the incidents have been recurrent helps provide information about security control’s health. Additionally, check if the outcomes of the mitigation steps were favorable or not. This allows a fair analysis of effectiveness of security controls.
  3. Check the Permissions: Assigning extensive access permissions to users can provide cyber criminals an opportunity to gain access to sensitive data. This makes it imperative to investigate the permissions granted to every user in the organization. Zero-Trust Architecture can help in mitigating this risk.
  4. Analyze Detection Alerts: Fake alerts can deter the cyber security personnel and cause delay in detecting actual threat. Tracking False Positive Reporting Rate (FPRR) helps in improving the configuration of detection tools to ensure more accurate threat alerts. Incorporating AI and ML capabilities in the detection tools can make the detection controls more sensitive.

For complete cybersecurity solutions for your business, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Expert Tips to Protect Active Directory

What is Active Directory & Why is it Important?

An Active Directory can be defined as a database and identity management system. The directory contains information about the network environment, including details of all users, systems connected to the network, applications, devices such as printers, and shared folders. It further contains details of the level of access for every user.

The Active Directory services also serve the role of user authentication based on the login credentials entered by the user and allow access to the data based on authorization.

The Active Directory stores files at a centralized location, making them accessible to all users and devices across the network as per their access level. Thus, an active directory is essential to ensure that all the users can access network resources required to perform their tasks.

How To Secure Active Directory?

The importance of Active Directory makes it a desirable target for cybercriminals. Here are some expert tips to help you protect the Active Directory:

  1. Follow Industry Best Practices: Implementing industry best practices, such as security guidelines laid out by NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology, USA), is the first step towards securing Active Directory. The guidelines issued by NIST are based on data and statistical analysis, making them highly impactful in preventing cyberattacks.
  2. Limit Domain Admins: Privileged groups such as Domain Admins have extensive access authority. The users added to Domain Admins group have deep rooted access across the network, including all systems connected to the network and all data created, stored or shared across the network. In case hackers crack the user credentials of any member of Domain Admins group, they can gain access to all the data and information across the network. Additionally, they can move laterally across the network and gain access to other systems connected to the network. It is important to check the user accounts in Domain Admins group and remove the dead user accounts from the group.
  3. Multiple Accounts: Instead of adding all the users to privileged groups, encourage multiple user accounts and provide different privileges. This is referred to as a tiered approach. User accounts can be provided with different access levels, such as a regular account (with minimum privileges), server administration account, network administration account, and workforce administration account. Encourage users to login with a regular account for daily tasks and use privileged accounts for administrative tasks only. This limits the exposure to cyber-attacks.
  4. Password Security: Cyber criminals usually employ tactics to steal user credentials such as passwords to gain access to the Active Directory. Implement password strengthening strategies to avoid falling victim to identity theft attacks.
  5. Detect Delegation: Delegation allows users to impersonate other accounts on the Active Directory if their unconstrained delegation is enabled. This can lead to security issues if hackers access one account and use delegation to gain further access. The problem is aggravated by privileged accounts with unconstrained delegation. Make sure to regularly check for accounts with delegation enabled and report these accounts. Additionally, make a list of privileged users, delegated admins, and service accounts to help IT professionals keep a check on the potential vulnerabilities and authorization risks.

To know more about IT security for businesses, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Why Identity Theft Has Become A Bigger Threat?

In 2021, 5.7 million fraud reports were received by FTC and Identity Theft was the top fraud category followed by Imposter Scams. In an alarming survey, it has been reported that Americans incurred a loss of $5.8 billion from identity theft in 2021. (Source: https://identitytheft.org/statistics/)

What is Identity Theft & Why has It Emerged as A Big Threat?

Identity Theft or more popularly known as ID Theft is when someone steals the identity of victim and uses it to commit a fraud. This is very commonly linked with financial frauds such as taking credit or loans while there might be other reasons as well. Threat actors may also use stolen identity to hamper victim’s reputation.

There are many types of Identity Thefts:

  1. Financial Identity Theft is the most common type of identity theft where threat actors use victim’s identity or financial information to buy products or take credit.
  2. Social Security Theft is when threat actors get access to victim’s Social Security Number and use this information to apply for loans or receive benefits such as disability, free medical care, etc.
  3. Synthetic Identity Theft is an advanced type of identity theft where the fraudsters combine information from stolen identity with fake information to build a new identity. This identity is then used to commit crimes such as money laundering.

Some other reasons for identity theft include filing fake tax returns, avoiding criminal conviction, etc.

Although identity theft has been a problem since long, but the threat has escalated many folds in recent times. There are many reasons that contribute to the increase in the number of identity theft cases.

  1. Rise in Cyber Attacks: In earlier days, identity theft was made possible by stealing wallet, credit cards, or physical documents. But with increasing use of internet and digital resources, identity thieves now employ cyber attack techniques to gain access to personal & financial information of the victim. Phishing is one of the most commonly used methods where fraudsters send an email or message to the victim, posing to be a bank or tax official. The email or message is personalized to motivate the victim to click on the malicious link contained in the message. The link then navigates the victim to a spoof website where the victim is asked to provide personal and financial details. These details are sent to the threat actors. The ease of stealing the credentials has contributed to the rise in number of identity theft cases.
  2. Social Media: Social media has become an alter-universe as more than 4.48 billion people use social media around the globe. It has become an inherent habit for users to share photos and videos from their daily life on social media. While this helps in staying connected with your friends & family, over sharing on social media has become a problem. The fraudsters track and analyze the social media posts of their victim to draw a daily activity map. Social media tags also let the fraudsters know about the victim’s friends, family, place of work, etc. This makes it very handy for them to build a fake identity of the victim and use it.
  3. Saving Financial Information Online: Online shopping has become the new normal! While it is easy, it also adds to the threat of identity theft. It is common for users to save their credit card details, address, & personal information online to avoid the hassle of filling in the details every time. However, in case the server of online store is hacked, it can lead to the theft of these details.

For businesses, it is important to safeguard their customer and vendor information to prevent financial repercussions in case of data theft.

To know more about identity thefts and how to protect your business from cyberattacks, you can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

How Do Hackers Bypass Firewall Security?

A firewall acts as the first layer of security against cyberattacks. It is a perimeter security device that is configured to monitor & analyze incoming and outgoing traffic. It either allows or blocks data packets based on the network configuration settings.

Although a firewall is an essential component of cyber security structure for any network, some cyberattacks manage to bypass the firewall and penetrate the network.

So how do hackers succeed in bypassing a firewall?

Let’s first understand how a firewall work.

To begin with, a firewall can be in the form of physical hardware or a configured software that runs on endpoint workstations or servers connected to a network.

  1. Firewall has pre-configured rules that are used to differentiate malicious traffic from regular traffic.
  2. The configuration rules may include the source of traffic, destination, content of data, permission requirements, etc.
  3. All incoming or outgoing traffic is analyzed against the configuration rules.
  4. The traffic adhering to set rules is allowed to pass through, while the traffic contradicting the configuration rules is blocked.

Now let’s understand what techniques hackers use to bypass a firewall.

  1. Exploiting Older Versions: This method is particularly used to bypass older version firewalls that lack “deep packet inspection” or DPI features. DPI enables the firewall to monitor & analyze the incoming & outgoing data packets for malicious code. However, the lack of DPI features reduces the capability of a firewall to detect & block malicious traffic. Threat actors take advantage of this reduced capability & penetrate the firewall by sending phishing emails with a link to inject malicious code into the system.
  2. IoT Devices: Large number of IoT devices connected to a network and difficulty in updating them make IoT devices highly vulnerable. This problem is enhanced by UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) feature of IoT devices that enables them to communicate freely with each other. Threat actors take advantage of the automated protocol implemented by IoT devices which allows them to bypass the firewall & connect to the router. Once the threat actors bypass the firewall, they use this path to deliver malware to the router & other devices connected to the WiFi.
  3. Exploiting Outgoing Traffic: If a firewall is configured to monitor incoming traffic only, the threat actors can steal data & send it to their own server unnoticed. Some organizations use selective configuration & set rules that allow only outgoing traffic only via HTTP, HTTPS, & DNS protocols. This limits the problem but doesn’t act as a complete solution. The threat actors can still use DNS to move any data across the firewall, as the data moving out via DNS is not monitored or blocked.
  4. Social Engineering Attacks: In a social engineering attack, hackers do not try to bypass the firewall. Instead, they gain legitimate access by posing as an allowed user to trick the employees. The hackers may pose as a system admin, a team member, or an IT support executive to gain remote access to the system and get past the firewall. This can be prevented by enabling multi-factor authentication to verify the identity of the person requesting access.
  5. SQL Injection Attacks: Traditional firewalls such as network firewall, generally operates at the network, transport, & session layers. This keeps the application layer unmonitored & exposed to attacks that are designed to target the application layer, such as SQL Injection attacks. Attackers take advantage of application vulnerabilities to inject malicious code into the system & gain access to data such as login credentials, financial details, etc.
  6. Misconfiguration: A misconfigured firewall offers an easy passage to hackers. This may happen when an organization makes infrastructure changes or sets highly permissive firewall rules. This lowers the capability of the firewall to identify and block malicious traffic.

To know more about cyber security solutions and how to protect your network from cyberattacks, contact Centex Technologies. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Key Aspects of Effective Cloud Security Solution

Cloud environments have become the core of business operations. Cloud networks have helped in generating numerous new opportunities for businesses, including faster, cheaper, & robust application capabilities, team collaboration, and data storage & distribution. However, cybercriminals are also taking advantage of the increased use of cloud storage by exploiting vulnerabilities in the cloud. They use these vulnerabilities to gain access to the cloud network & steal user credentials, data, and application functions.

The increasing number of cyber attacks involving cloud networks has made it crucial for organizations to focus on cloud security. A cloud security solution helps in ensuring data integrity, confidentiality, & availability across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments deployed by an organization. In addition, a cloud security solution also assists an organization in ensuring compliance with laws & regulations emphasized across the industry.

Choosing the right cloud security solution is one of the major tasks when formulating a cloud security strategy for the organization. In general, an effective cloud security solution is one that is easily scalable, can detect & manage multiple & complex threats, and is easy to deploy.

Let us delve more into the important factors that a cloud security solution must address in order to be efficient.

  1. Workload Visibility: The cloud security solution should provide deep and clear visibility of all the workloads running in the cloud environment of an organization. Thorough visibility at all times helps in the effective monitoring of the workloads and helps in reducing the risk of being exposed to cyber threats. It also helps in the early detection of vulnerabilities and intruding cyber threats. However, an important point to consider is that the cloud security solution should be able to maintain visibility even when new workloads are added to the cloud environment. In case new workloads are not monitored, they can be exposed to misconfigurations & vulnerabilities.
  2. Advanced Threat Prevention: The cloud security solution must be able to detect and prevent known and zero-day vulnerabilities. With new vulnerabilities & threats emerging every day, this is one of the critical aspects of cloud security. The cloud security solution must have features such as deep traffic inspection and threat intelligence to ensure effective prevention. It should monitor incoming & outgoing traffic regularly and isolate any suspicious traffic until validation.
  3. Seamless Integration: What is the point of deploying a security solution that is incompatible with your cloud environment? A cloud security solution can serve its purpose only if it integrates seamlessly with your cloud set-up, irrespective of whether it is a public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud environment. The compatibility & effective integration helps in ensuring in-depth monitoring & data synchronization across the network while making sure that no workload runs in isolation.
  4. Automation & Real-Time Detection: The amount of data being created, fast scalability of DevOps, and high speed of digital operations make it impractical to manually configure the cloud security solution while matching the pace of operations. If the security tools are not configured according to the processes running across the cloud network, they will not be able to monitor the operations in real-time. As a result, it can allow cyber criminals ample time to exploit the vulnerabilities of new workloads. Therefore, the solution needs to offer a high level of automation, including policy updates, security gateways control, automated threat response, and remediation to ensure real-time detection of threats & vulnerabilities. This can be achieved by employing AI & ML based solutions.
  5. Data Compliance: An organization has to comply with internal data policies & local or state laws governing the collection, storage, & sharing of data. The cloud security solution should allow the usage, storage, management, transmission, & protection of sensitive data while adhering to applicable compliance laws.
  6. Context-Aware Security Management: Cloud environment is highly dynamic & changes at a fast pace. The cloud security solution should be capable of collecting, aggregating, & correlating information across the entire cloud environment of the organization & update the security policies such that they are context-aware & consistent across the whole environment.

To know more about cyber security solutions, contact Centex Technologies. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Understanding BlueSky Ransomware

Ransomware is malicious software that is designed to encrypt files on the victim’s system or device and demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key or tools. BlueSky is a modern ransomware that uses multiple techniques for security evasions and device infection. It targets Windows hosts & encrypts the files on the system using multi-threading.

BlueSky was first spotted in June 2022. A deeper analysis of the multithread architecture of BlueSky ransomware has revealed code resemblance to Conti v3. Additionally, it has been found that the BlueSky ransomware uses the ChaCha20 algorithm for file encryption and Curve25519 for key generation which marks its similarity to Babuk ransomware.

How does BlueSky Ransomware infect a system?

The ransomware uses downloads from fake sites and phishing emails for initial infection. Once the user clicks on the malicious link, a PowerShell script is dropped in the target device using a Base64-encoded initial dropper. After extraction, it launches another PowerShell script which contains multiple comments to overshadow the malicious code.

This code analyzes the device configuration and downloads multiple payloads in accordance with the configuration to increase the privilege of the script. Some examples of these payloads include JuicyPotato, CVE-2022-21882, and SMBGhost. These payloads allow the script to run as a privileged user and gain access to all files on the system.

What does BlueSky Ransomware do?

Once the ransomware code runs successfully, it encrypts the files on the system. The encrypted files are saved with a new file extension ‘.bluesky’. For example, if a file was initially saved as ‘1.pptx’ on the system, it will be saved as ‘1.pptx.bluesky’ after encryption.

After encrypting all files, the ransomware drops two ransomware notes (one in html format and other in txt format) on the desktop. The notes are identical in contents and inform the user about the ransomware attack & ways to contact the cyber criminals via their Tor network.

The ransomware notes also contain warnings against the use of decryption methods other than contacting cyber criminals as it may lead to permanent encryption of files.

The website of the ransomware attackers creates a panic environment by stating decryption fees on the first day and then increasing ransom after week 1. It also states

How to stay protected against BlueSky Ransomware?

Prevention is the best action against BlueSky ransomware. Exercise following cautionary practices to stay protected against BlueSky ransomware.

  • Make sure to download software from the official website only.
  • Do not crack software & always use authentic activation tools provided by the developer to activate the software.
  • Be cautious with emails and avoid clicking on links in irrelevant or suspicious emails.
  • It is highly important to install an antivirus on the system and keep it updated.
  • Regularly scan your system.

For more information about cybersecurity solutions, contact Centex Technologies. You can call the following office locations - Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.