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Understanding Cyber Threat Hunting

Despite deploying security precautions to protect their networks from cyberattacks, numerous firms have experienced network breaches. Nowadays, threat actors use complex and sophisticated tactics to infiltrate a network, the impact of which may not be mitigated by traditional methods. The proactive procedure of checking the network for any hostile activity is referred to as cyber threat hunting.

Cyber threat hunting and cyber threat intelligence

Continuously monitoring the network for suspicious activity and gaps in the organization's ecosystem is required for cyber threat hunting. By analyzing previous data from a variety of sources, cyber threat hunting techniques keep a watch for potential new risks. Threat hunting techniques can discover, identify, and fix security flaws, vulnerabilities, and malicious behavior that normal security measures frequently fail to detect.

How to start hunting threats inside the Cyber or IT infrastructure?

Proactive preparation is the key to success in cyber security operations. It is critical to establish a solid foundation before beginning to develop the cyber threat hunting program.

A business is advised to take the following actions

  • Plan a cyber-threat hunting program - To begin cyber threat hunting, map the security process to any existing security model, such as the MITRE ATT&CK architecture. It is also recommended that the security posture be assessed to see how vulnerable the organization is to hazards and attacks.
  • Maturing the threat hunting program - After determining the level of cyber maturity, the next step is to decide whether the cyber threat hunting process should be carried out internally, externally, or a combination of both.
  • Identifying and addressing gaps in tool and technology implementation -  Analyze the current tools and determine what is required for successful threat hunting and the effectiveness of preventative technology.
  • Identifying and addressing security personnel training gaps - Threat detection necessitates the skills of an expert. If the organization lacks experienced internal specialists, it is recommended to use a third-party source.
  • Adoption of a cyber-threat hunting strategy - Any firm must have a solid cyber threat hunting strategy which can help in mitigating the impact of cyberattacks on its infrastructure.

What kind of professionals can perform active cyber threat hunting?

Cyber threat hunting calls for knowledge of all the systems and data in use at the firm. This has to be combined with exquisite expertize in threat intelligence analysis, reverse engineering and malware analysis. Threat hunters must also be excellent communicators who can present their results and contribute to the business case for sustained threat hunting resources. It is preferable to put together a team of curious, analytical issue resolvers who have these talents and are motivated to further improve them. The willingness to keep learning is another essential quality of effective cyber threat hunters. Cyber threats are continuously changing, thus threat hunters must be dedicated to keeping their knowledge current by following researchers, participating in online groups, and attending industry forums, which enables them to learn about new strategies.

Advanced next-generation technology and human professionals work in unison to create an effective threat hunting process. To find any potential risks and harmful activity, the threat hunters need investigation tools and other inputs. These tools make it possible for threat hunters to find and examine the risks. For example, XDR (Extended Detection and Response) collects all the signals from the IT ecosystem and EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) delivers inputs from the endpoint solution. These tools aid in the earlier identification of any possible threats.

Cyber threat hunters should be aware of the automated procedures, alarms, and behavior analyses that have already been run on the data to avoid duplicating work. Threat hunting may go down a lot of rabbit holes, therefore it demands agility. However, there should be a structured framework in place to direct the hunt and allow for any necessary withdrawal from the rabbit holes.

Contact Centex Technologies for more information on cyber threat hunting. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

 

Malware Analysis & Cybersecurity

Malware is a type of invasive software that can harm and destroy computer networks, servers, hosts, and computer systems. It serves as a blanket word for any forms of malicious software that are created with the purpose of causing harm to or abusing any programmable system, network, or service. Malware threats emerge in a variety of forms, including viruses, worms, adware, spyware, trojan viruses, and ransomware.

Malware analysis is the process of identifying and minimizing possible dangers to a website, application, or server. It is an essential procedure that improves sensitive information protection as well as computer security for a company. Vulnerabilities are addressed through malware analysis before they become major problems.

How can Malware analysis assist security professionals in detecting and preventing security threats?

Performing Malware analysis helps security professionals in the following ways: -

  1. To determine the origin of cyber-attacks.
  2. To estimate the severity and impact of a potential security threat.
  3. To determine the exploitation potential, vulnerabilities, and patching mechanisms.
  4. To logically prioritize the malware activity based on the seriousness of the threats.
  5. To identify and block any hidden IoCs (Indicators of Compromise) and IoAs (Indicators of Attack)
  6. To improve the effectiveness of IoCs, IoAs, SOC alerts, and notifications.

Malware analysis methodologies preferred by Cyber Security professionals

Static Analysis

During a static malware analysis, the malware's source code is inspected. After decoding the malware's source code, the IT team can inspect it to determine how it operates. By observing how the code operates, IT personnel may be able to build more secure procedures. In addition, static malware analysis serves as a logic check for the final analysis of dynamic malware.

Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic malware investigation refers to the process of quickly analyzing how malware acts. This requires checking the system for any changes the virus may have done. Newly launched processes and those whose settings have recently changed are tracked. In addition, the analysis would consider any changes to the DNS server settings on the client workstation. In addition to analyzing files and processes, dynamic malware investigation also analyzes network traffic and system behavior.

Combinatorial Malware Analysis

The most advantageous method is to combine both kinds of malware analysis methods. Combinatorial malware analysis can extract many more IoCs from statically generated code and uncover buried malicious code. Even the most complex malware may be detected by it.

Application of Malware Analysis in cybersecurity

Application of YARA and Sigma rules to detect and hunt threats

More advanced methods are being used by adversaries to elude existing detection systems. Threats may be found more quickly by using YARA and Sigma rules to spot malicious functionality or suspicious infrastructure. Extraction of IoCs is another result of malware investigation. To help teams stay alert to relevant risks in the future, the IoCs may subsequently be fed into SIEM solutions, TIPs (Threat Intelligence Platforms), and security orchestration tools.

Research & Development in Detection Engineering

Malware researchers from academia or corporate industries analyze malware to learn about the most recent tactics, vulnerabilities, and tools employed by adversaries. Threat researchers can leverage behavior and artifacts revealed by malware analysis to identify comparable activities, such as access to a certain network connection, port, or domain. SOC teams may utilize this data to detect comparable threats by analyzing firewall and proxy logs or SIEM data. Early in the attack life cycle, malware analysis systems offer higher-fidelity alarms. Security teams can therefore save time by prioritizing the outcomes from these alerts over other technologies.

Contact Centex Technologies for more information on how to protect your business from cyberattacks. You can call Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

What is Secure Distributed Data Storage?

Data is the foundation of every organization. Business organizations collect and generate large amounts of data which may include trade secrets, client information, financial data, employee information, R&D data, etc. Cybercriminals target this data to cause business disruption for multiple reasons including financial benefits (ransom), causing harm to the business organization, etc.

A data breach can cause significant financial and reputational harm to a business. This makes it imperative for all organizations to protect their data. Secure Distributed Data Storage has evolved as an effective solution for storing data.

What is Secure Distributed Data Storage?

Secure Distributed Data Storage is a system that stores and processes data at multiple physical locations instead of one centralized location. This approach is the exact opposite of the traditional cloud storage system as it eliminates the use of a central server. The data is distributed across a number of physical network nodes or even multiple cloud servers.

A popular example of Secure Distributed Data Storage is Google Cloud Platform’s Spanner.

What is the Importance of Secure Distributed Data Storage?

The importance of Secure Distributed Data Storage lies in the advantages this approach offers as compared to a single machine or single server data store.

  1. Performance: Even the minutest delay in data retrieval or an app loading can immensely impact a business. When a large amount of data is stored on a centralized server, multiple data requests can lower its performance by causing data traffic resulting in user frustration, loss of sales, and revenue loss. When data is distributed across multiple locations, data requests are also distributed, which helps in improving the performance by lowering the response time.
  2. Scalability: Rapid growth in user number and cyclical usage pattern are two major reasons why businesses or applications need to scale up the data storage regularly. Scaling up helps in meeting the load requirements without causing a delay in response time. In case of a single machine storage system, only vertical scaling is possible. Vertical scaling refers to the process of upgrading the machine’s CPU, RAM, or storage capacity. However, Secure Distributed Data Storage offers horizontal scaling in addition to vertical scaling. Horizontal scaling means adding new network nodes or cloud servers.
  3. Reliability: Secure Distributed Data Storage is highly reliable. By distributing data across multiple locations, it also distributes the risk factor. Most Secure Distributed Data Storage systems replicate data before storing it at multiple locations. So, in case one server is compromised resulting in data loss, data can easily be retrieved from other servers. Additionally, use of multiple servers helps in improving the percentage availability time and fault-tolerance of the system.

Key Features of Secure Distributed Data Storage:

  1. Secure Environment
  2. Fully Authenticated System
  3. Zero-Trust Practice
  4. Data Replication
  5. Data Encryption at Rest & in Transit

Contact Centex Technologies for more information on Secure Distributed Data Storage and enterprise network planning. You can contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Understanding Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Cryptography is fundamentally dependent on mathematical operations and computations. The complexity of data computations directly relates to how secure the technique is. AES is one of the most complex encryption software. It encrypts data using highly complex mathematical operations.

Data transmissions via the internet are secured by ciphers like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). AES employs a symmetric encryption methodology. Symmetric encryption algorithms use the same key for performing both encryption as well as decryption operations. It involves multiple iterations of implementing the SPN (Substitution Permutation Network) algorithm to encrypt data. The impenetrability of AES results from these encryption rounds, which are impossible to get through due to their sheer number.

The AES algorithm is compact, safe, and suitable for various hardware, software, and firmware. It is available for public or private businesses, for-profit or nonprofit endeavors, without any cost to any third party.

How does AES provide secure encryption using multiple lengths of encryption keys?

AES keys come in three different lengths. Several key combinations may be used for each key length, including: -

  • AES 128-bit key length: 3.4 x 1038 (or 3.4 x 1038 possible combinations),
  • AES 192-bit key length: 6.2 x 1057 (or 6.2 x 1057 possible combinations),
  • AES 256-bit key length: 1.1 x 1077 (or 1.1 x 1077 possible combinations).

The static size of the encryption block is 128 bits equating to 16 bytes. The use of varied key lengths has exacerbated a few problems. Since it is the least crackable, some experts prefer to utilize the key length of 256 bits. Several military forces and LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies) also use 256-bit keys. The AES method with 256-bit keys is frequently referred to as military-grade encryption. However, the longer the key length, the more processing power is needed to encrypt and decode the data or message.

For instance, software that uses AES-256 rather than AES-128 may cause the laptop battery to discharge a little bit more quickly. Thankfully, contemporary technology reduces the resource difference to such a negligible level that there is no justification for not using 256-bit AES encryption.

How has AES facilitated and benefitted the secure communications arena?

  • The length of the encryption key is customizable as per application use

Keys of lengths of 128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits can all be used for AES encryption. Cybersecurity experts recommend using a 128-bit key for commercial business purposes. AES-256 offers higher security and can be used by governments to secure their private servers.

  • Publicly vetted and approved algorithm used by Law Enforcement and Military forces

The AES algorithm has been standardized by NIST and made available as an open-source resource, making it simpler for the general public to trust. Furthermore, since the same method is used by hardware, software, and firmware, there are no interoperability problems.

  • AES can function in limited computing resources

NIST said that it wants to replace DES and included a requirement that the new algorithm should work on hardware with a range of different computational power. That condition is exactly met by AES. On 8-bit smart cards and quick computers, it functions equally effectively.

  • Quicker rate of encryption and decryption operations

Compared to DES and Triple-DES, AES encryption processes data more quickly. AES outperforms Triple-DES by a factor of around six on the same hardware.

  • Resistant and impenetrable encryption to quantum computing attacks

AES-256 is a widely accepted encryption algorithm across the globe. The software has been tested to resist decryption or cracking attacks by quantum computers within a given amount of time.

Is AES the most secure encryption algorithm known?

A 128-bit AES encryption key may be cracked in as little as 36 quadrillion years. A 256-bit AES key has an incredible 984,665,640,564,039,457,584,007,913,129,639,936 possible combinations. Hence, experts assume that a brute-force cyber-attack on AES encryption might not occur without heavy computing resources. As a result, AES is one of the most secure symmetric encryption ciphers available today.

The development of social networking applications, remote work, and eCommerce were all made possible by the powerful encryption offered by AES. The AES algorithm is crucial for the majority of online businesses since it can function on devices with low computational power.

To know more about various encryption standards and how to keep your mobile and web applications secure, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.

Do You Need Vendor Risk Management System?

The Vendor Risk Management (VRM) technique involves managing and planning outside suppliers that offer goods and services to a business. Many IT organizations mistakenly refer to VRM as TPRM (Third Party Risk Management). The processes related to TPRM advise businesses to evaluate, monitor and manage their risks to prevent business disruptions and adverse effects on business performance from third-party providers of IT services and goods. The detection and reduction of Business risks need the use of a technology called VRM. Corporates implement VRMS (and often TPRMS) to quickly protect their businesses with ease from the following types of imminent risks:

  1. Operational and logistics risk
  2. Regulatory compliance risk
  3. Market reputation and brand management risk
  4. Business strategy risk
  5. Financial (monetary, stocks, revenue, profits) risk

So why do enterprises and businesses need to implement a VRMS?

VRMS supports AD (Active Directory) and IAM (Identity Access Management)

VRMS solutions are often considered tools that centralize the risk information across the organization. Along with centralizing the compliance and non-compliance information, they help IAM personnel assign specific access privileges and user-group-domain roles to users accessing the VRMS. An organizational hierarchy from the HR (Human Resources) database can be imported into a VRMS to check the relevant hierarchical permissions and design the ACLs (Access Control Lists) accordingly. Such tools are often used to access all the organizational asset information from vendors-suppliers, clients-customers, tenders-contract agreements, purchase invoices, tax rebatements, and likewise.

Accelerates businesses by quickly complying with various laws and regulations

VRMS, these days, are facilitated by heavy Machine Learning algorithms that speed up automated compliance activities. The various preventative, detective and mitigative security/ legal controls are directly executed using Artificial Intelligence computing systems. Business leaders looking for Accountability and Transparency can trust these systems known to perform without any human error. This negligible human intervention helps a better risk assessment across various functional aspects of regulatory compliance such as taxation/ revenue, logistics and operations, product quality control, and likewise.

Simpler, quicker, and easy-to-use VRMS

Why mitigate risks when businesses can prevent them in the first place? VRM Systems are well known for managing risks and analyzing their impacts on various client-customer relationships. Every impact is categorized by a business risk index, usually in the form of a 5*5 or 10*10 matrix. The VRMS along with TPRM systems, have revolutionized how risks across vendors and 3rd parties are managed. GRC (Governance, Risk management, and Compliance) personnel do not need to monitor every vendor, client, customer, or business partner, and likewise, by looking within the large backend databases. The GRC team and the external auditors may now process and evaluate this comprehensive information as a single segment widget on a dashboard.

The advent of AI reduces the business overhead of hiring and retaining human resources.

The system is not particularly successful in managing risks within a company by using antiquated approaches for managing vendors, such as spreadsheets and checklists. Businesses require an adequate and qualified workforce to finish the job tasks using the VRM techniques. Since most VRMS solutions are enabled by ML and AI algorithms, they can do all complex human functions without human intervention. As a result, fewer employees are needed to manage risks efficiently.

Visualization dashboards for a wide range of audience

To ensure that business rules and government legislative requirements are being followed, compliance officers and GRC teams frequently employ VRM software. Supply chain managers and procurement professionals use vendor risk management software to reduce operational risks.

Cyber security and regulatory compliance

The Defense-in-Depth approach in Cyber security is very much related to the various VRMS and TPRMS solutions available in the market. IT Security comprises Cybersecurity and IT Compliance, which are crucial for organizations to run their businesses in compliance with certain regulations. Along with the GRC team and Auditors, even SOC personnel are responsible for maintaining the security compliance of IT assets of the business. Along with proactive mechanisms, reactive and mitigating measures, and procedures must be implemented to contain a potential breach or a cyber-incident. Experts advise thorough due diligence before procuring and integrating any 3rd-party tool with the organization.

Deploying a VRMS tool is not enough for organizations to comply with IT and business regulations. The GRC team has to be accountable for updating the multiple workflows with those solutions to address the evolving risk mitigation and regulatory requirements. The SOC team can help the GRC team actively monitor the imminent risks. 

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

What Is Cache Poisoning?

Cache poisoning is also known as DNS cache poisoning. DNS or Domain Name System is a system that translates man-readable internet addresses into machine language numeric addresses. These numeric addresses are known as IP addresses. 

When a user tries to access a website via his browser, the browser forwards the request to the DNS server. The DNS then looks up the corresponding IP address and reverts to the request. The browser receives the IP address and uses it to load the website or domain requested by the user. 

DNS remembers the requests and stores the requested IP addresses in its memory. It helps the server reduce the revert time if the same domain request is received in the future.

This system nullifies the need to remember complex IP addresses associated with a webpage. Humans can remember the domain name, and DNS does the translation for the computer. However, the system has some loopholes that allow the hackers to carry out Cache Poisoning attacks.

What is Cache poisoning? 

DNS Cache poisoning refers to adding an incorrect entry to the DNS Cache. Here is the most common process followed by hackers for cache poisoning.

  • A browser submits a requester to the DNS resolver
  • Hackers build a dupe DNS nameserver that matches the authentic domain 
  • When the DNS resolver contacts the nameserver, hackers respond to the request via a fake nameserver
  • The DNS resolver receives this response and forwards it to the requesting browser
  • The fake response is stored in the DNS cache for future reference 
  • Every time a user requests for this domain, he is redirected to the incorrect domain stored in cache memory

The success of this type of cache poisoning is that DNS uses UDP (User Datagram Protocol) rather than TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). UDP does not verify the identity of the parties involved in the conversation. Hackers can easily alter the heading of UDP requests and respond to the request under pretend of a trusted DNS server. 

There are several vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit for implementing a DNS cache poisoning attack. Some of these vulnerabilities are:

  • Lack of identity verification and validation
  • Recursive DNS server vulnerability (forged information spreads from one DNS server to another)
  • Unencrypted DNS protocol

Cyber Security Risks Imposed by DNS Cache Poisoning:

DNS cache poisoning redirects a user to a fake and possibly malicious website. It may result in multiple cyber security risks.

  • Data theft
  • Malware infection
  • Delaying security updates
  • Censorship

Preventing DNS Cache Poisoning:

Once a forged entry is stored in DNS cache memory, it stays there until its Time To Live (TTL) expires. In the meantime, cache poisoning can spread to other DNS servers. So, it is required to delete the forged entry to prevent the DNS server from redirecting requests to the fake website.

Users can implement some measures to protect their server from cache poisoning attacks:

  • Business organizations should hire an IT professional to configure DNS servers rather than relying on relationships with other DNS servers. It will prevent hackers from using their DNS server to corrupt or influence an organization’s server.
  • Configure DNS server to run permitted services only. It limits the DNS server from running additional services not required by the organization. Limited exposure reduces the chances of an encounter with cache poisoning attacks.
  • Make use of an SSL/TLS certificate that binds the company’s details to a cryptographic key. It activates the HTTPS protocol to secure and encrypt the connection between the browser and your web server.

Centex Technologies provides cyber-security services & IT consultation to help businesses ward off cyber-attacks. To know more, contact Centex Technologies at Killeen (254) 213 - 4740, Dallas (972) 375 - 9654, Atlanta (404) 994 - 5074, and Austin (512) 956 – 5454.