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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.

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.