Archive for the ‘x-force’ Category
It’s been a busy year for IT security incidents. Yesterday, John Markoff and Nicole Perlroth with The New York Times told us about yet another incident, this time a cyberattack involving antispam group Spamhaus and an anonymous group unhappy with their efforts.
But the list goes on and on. From the discovery of sophisticated toolkits with ominous names like Flame to cross-platform zero-day vulnerabilities, both consumers and corporations have been inundated with advisories and alerts regarding emerging threats. The frequency of data breaches and incidents—which had already hit a new high in 2011—continued their upward trajectory.
At the mid-year of 2012, IBM’s X-Force team predicted that the explosive nature of attacks and security breaches seen in the first half would continue. Indeed this was the case. While talk of sophisticated attacks and widespread distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attempts made the year’s headlines, a large percentage of breaches relied on tried and true techniques such as SQL injection.
What continues to be clear is that attackers, regardless of operational sophistication, will pursue a path-of-least-resistance approach to reach their objectives. Integration of mobile devices into the enterprise continues to be a challenge. In the previous report, X-Force looked at some of the pitfalls and perils of implementing BYOD programs without strict formulations of policy and governance to support the use of these devices.
That said, recent developments have indicated that while these dangers still exist, and X-Force believes mobile devices should be more secure than traditional user computing devices by 2014. While this prediction may seem far fetched on the surface, it is based on security control trends and requirements that are being driven into the market by knowledgeable security executives.
In its latest report, X-Force explores how security executives are advocating the separation of personas or roles on employee-owned devices. It also addresses some secure software mobile application development initiatives that are taking place today. The distribution and installation of malware on end-user systems has been greatly enabled by the use of Web browser exploit kits built specifically for this purpose.
Exploit kits first began to appear in 2006 and are provided or sold by their authors to attackers that want to install malware on a large number of systems. They continue to be popular because they provide attackers a turnkey solution for installing malware on end-user systems.
Java vulnerabilities have become a key target for exploit kits as attackers take advantage of three key elements: reliable exploitation, unsandboxed code execution, and cross-platform availability across multiple operating systems. Java exploits have become key targets in 2012 and IBM X-Force predicts this attack activity to continue into 2013.
As X-Force also reported in the mid-year, spam volume remained nearly flat in 2012, with India claiming the top country of origin for spam distribution, but the nature of spam is changing. Broadly targeted phishing scams, as well as more personalized spear-phishing efforts continue to fool end users with crafty social-engineering email messages that look like legitimate businesses. Also, fake banking alerts and package delivery service emails have been effective as attackers refine their messages to look like the authentic messages that customers might normally receive.
Whether the target is individuals or the enterprise, once again, X-Force reminds organizations that many breaches were a result of poorly applied security fundamentals and policies and could have been mitigated by putting some basic security hygiene into practice.
Web applications are still topping the chart of most disclosed vulnerabilities, rising 14% in 2012 over the 2011 end of year numbers. As reported earlier in the mid-year report, cross-site scripting (XSS) dominated the web vulnerability disclosures at 53% of all publicly released vulnerabilities. Although SQL injection attack methods remain as a top attack technique, the actual disclosures of new SQL injection vulnerabilities remain lower than the 2010 peak X-Force recorded.
Social media has dramatically changed our lives with new ways to connect, personally and professionally. From this constant availability of information about individuals, attackers can readily access data to use in their activities.
Now, more than ever, individual employees who share personal details in their social profiles can be targeted for attacks.
2012 X-Force Trend And Risk Report Highlight
Malware and the malicious web
- In 2012, near daily leaks of private information about victims were announced like game scoreboards through tweets and other social media. Personal details, such as email addresses, passwords (both encrypted and clear text), and even national ID numbers were put on public display.
- Based on data for 2012, it is not surprising that the bulk of the security incidents disclosed were carried out with the majority of attackers going after a broad target base while using off-the-shelf tools and techniques. X-Force attributes this to the wide public availability of toolkits and to the large number of vulnerable web applications that exist on the Internet.
- The year began and ended with a series of politically motivated, high-profile DDoS attacks against the banking industry. An interesting twist to the banking DDoS attacks was the implementation of botnets on compromised web servers residing in high bandwidth data centers. This technique assisted in much higher connected uptime as well as having more bandwidth than home PC’s to carry out the attacks. In the sampling of security incidents from 2012, the United States had the most breaches, at 46%. The United Kingdom was second at 8% of total incidents, with Australia and India tied for third at 3%.
- IBM Managed Security Services (MSS) security incident trends are markers that represent the state of security across the globe. The relative volume of the various alerts can help to describe how attacks are established and launched. They also frequently provide hints about how methods have evolved. Based on this, the main focus in 2012 may have been the subversion of systems, with larger coordinated attacks being executed across fairly broad swaths of the Internet.
- IBM MSS has noted a dramatic and sustained rise in SQL injection-based traffic due, in large part, to a consistent effort from the Asia Pacific region. The alerts came from all industry sectors, with a bias toward banking and finance targets.
- Web browser exploit kits (also known as exploit packs) are built for one particular purpose: to install malware on end-user systems. In 2012 X-Force observed an upsurge in web browser exploit kit development and activity—the primary target of which are Java vulnerabilities—and X-Force supplies some strategies and tips to help protect against future attacks (see end of post to download full report).
- Java continues to be a key target for attackers. It has the advantage of being both cross-browser and cross-platform—a rare combination that affords attackers a lot of value for their investment. Web content trends, spam, and phishing Web content trends Top used websites are readily deployed as IPv6- ready, although attackers do not yet seem to be targeting IPv6 on a large scale.
- One third of all web access is done on websites which allow users to submit content such as web applications and social media.
- Nearly 50% of the relevant websites now link to a social network platform, and this intense proliferation poses new challenges to companies that need to control the sharing of confidential information.
Spam and phishing
- Spam volume remained nearly flat in 2012.
- India remains the top country for distributing spam, sending out more than 20% of all spam in the autumn of 2012. Following India was the United States where more than 8% of all spam was generated in the second half of the year. Rounding out the top five spam sending countries of origin were Vietnam, Peru, and Spain.
- At the end of 2012, IBM reports that traditional spam is on the retreat, while scam and spam containing malicious attachments is on the rise. In addition, attackers are demonstrating more resiliency to botnet take downs which results in an uninterrupted flow of spam volume.
Operational Security Practices
Vulnerabilities and exploitation
- In 2012, there were over 8,168 publicly disclosed vulnerabilities. While not the record amount X-Force expected to see after reviewing its mid-year data, it still represents an increase of over 14% over 2011.
- Web application vulnerabilities surged 14% from 2,921 vulnerabilities in 2011 to 3,551 vulnerabilities in 2012.
- Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities accounted for over half of the total web application vulnerabilities disclosed in 2012. Cross-site scripting dominated the web vulnerability disclosures. Fifty-three percent of all publicly released web application vulnerabilities were cross-site scripting related. This is the highest rate X-Force has ever seen. This dramatic increase occurred while SQL injection vulnerabilities enjoyed a higher rate than 2011 but were still down significantly since 2010.
- There were 3,436 public exploits in 2012. This is 42% of the total number of vulnerabilities, up 4% from 2011 levels.
- Web browser vulnerabilities declined slightly for 2012, but not at as high a rate as document format issues. While the overall number of web browser vulnerabilities dropped by a nominal 6% from 2011, the number of high- and critical severity web browser vulnerabilities saw an increase of 59% for the year.
- Few innovations have impacted the way the world communicates quite as much as social media. However, with the mass interconnection and constant availability of individuals, new vulnerabilities and a fundamental shift in intelligence-gathering capabilities has provided attackers and security professionals alike with information useful for enhancing their activities.
- Rather than seeing a particular enterprise as an individual entity, attackers can view enterprises as a collection of personalities. This gives attackers the opportunity to target specific people rather than enterprise infrastructures or applications. Furthermore, targeted people may also be targeted as individuals and not just as employees. In other words, the personal activities and lives of employees can be leveraged to target an enterprise.
Emerging Trends In Security
- Prediction: Mobile computing devices should be more secure than traditional user computing devices by 2014. This is a bold prediction that IBM recently made as part of its look ahead in technology trends. While this prediction may seem far-fetched on the surface, it is based on security control trends and requirements that are being driven into the market by knowledgeable security executives.
- Separation of personas or roles: While a small percentage of enterprises have dealt with BYOD by using virtualized desktop solutions to separate and control enterprise applications and data from the rest of the personally owned device, a greater number of enterprises have wanted or required some form of separation or dual persona on mobile devices. This difference in use or adoption could be the result of greater numbers of devices driving greater risk in the percentage of personally owned mobile devices versus personally owned PCs in a BYOD program.
- In many cases, enterprises have made significant investments into implementing Secure Software Development Life Cycle (SSDLC) processes. Today’s mobile application development benefits from this. Tools exist to support secure development as part of the process instead of being conducted in qualification or production. As a result, it should be more common for enterprises to have more securely developed mobile applications than their existing legacy applications. Closure of vulnerabilities in some traditional computing applications may only conclude as existing versions are sunset and replaced with newer, more securely developed replacements.
- Over 2012, it is safe to conclude that more enterprises are supporting BYOD or the use of personally owned devices than previously. In the last two years, IBM Security has spoken to hundreds of global 2000 customers and out of those interviewed, only three said they had no plans to implement any kind of BYOD program.
To learn more on how your organization can work to address these types of vulnerabilities, download the full IBM X-Force 2012 Trend And Risk Report here.
As hackers increasingly find new and nefarious ways to threaten the global digital infrastructure, recent policy advancements such as the proposed “Cybersecurity Act of 2012″ in the U.S. have been introduced as solutions to the world’s growing cybersecurity problem.
While IBM accepts it is an imperative to properly secure critical systems, private sector advancements should be balanced with pragmatic legislative policies that avoid overly-prescriptive mandates that can inhibit the very innovation needed to ensure cybersecurity.
Consequently, IBM moved quickly and sent a letter urging the U.S. Senate to address flaws in the proposed cybersecurity bill.
According to IBM’s X-Force 2011 Trend and Risk Report, cyber attackers are adapting and moving quickly to target newer information technologies such as social networks and mobile devices. This rapidly evolving nature of cyber attacks necessitates a new approach to enabling cybersecurity.
Responding to the ever-changing nature and volume of attacks requires agility, risk-based management, and a commitment to innovative defensive measures. IBM supports bipartisan, cybersecurity legislation, but the “Cybersecurity Act of 2012″ would add bureaucracy to a process that needs speed to succeed.
Government and industry would be best served by a common-sense approach to cybersecurity that allows for investment in R&D, improved information sharing between public and private sectors, better security for federal IT networks, and criminal penalties for cyber-crimes.
Industry Solutions To A Network Problem
Advanced threats, rapid adoption of social media, and Web applications have also been driving the need for new, intelligent approaches to security.
As employee access to the Web has become ubiquitous, enterprises are struggling with massive increases in malware as well as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), which can compromise proprietary data.
Many of today’s security solutions often offer limited visibility and control over network activity, which can put the company at risk.
To help clients proactively protect against evolving security threats, including those posed by social media sites and malicious websites, IBM today announced a new class of network security appliance that delivers a more granular view of a company’s security posture and a simplified security management interface.
This new next-generation intrusion prevention appliance helps clients address advanced attacks targeting their organization, providing visibility into exactly what applications are being used on the network, where users are going on the Web, with the ability to monitor and control this activity, which can result in improved security and reduced operational costs.
IBM Security Network Protection XGS 5000 is a next-generation intrusion protection system specifically designed to address the constantly evolving, increasingly sophisticated threats that organizations face today.
It builds on the proven, core security features found in IBM Security Network Intrusion Prevention System, including helping protect against “zero-day” exploits, by adding new levels of visibility and control over the network, applications, data and users to help improve security by helping prevent misuse and identify previously undetectable threats.
IBM Security Network Protection incorporates global threat intelligence from X-Force, including a Web filter database of over 15 billion URLs — capable of monitoring and categorizing millions of Web servers and applications each day to provide superior protection against the changing threat landscape.
Gaining Control, And Visibility, Into Security Events
Once organizations are aware of the nature of activity on their network, the new application control features enable clients to have granular control over what is happening on their network; this means granular user and group-level control over which applications and Websites are permitted, and how they are used down to individual actions or activities within these applications and sites.
IBM Security’s Advanced Threat Protection Platform helps clients by providing the following features and capabilities:
- Proven security to help protect against zero-day threats: enables preemptive protection against a full spectrum of advanced threats, including Web application attacks and exploits hidden in files. IBM’s protection engine is built upon years of security intelligence gathered by X-Force Research, and can stop entire classes of attacks — including new and unknown threats – without updates; most solutions available today match individual protection signatures — a process that can be too slow to stop evolving threats and can result in higher rates of false positives and false negatives.
- Visibility and insight: provides application awareness, monitoring and control, with high level dashboards for drilling down into events and reporting. Also provides deep insight into the nature of activities on the network through broad application awareness and flow data analysis. Integrates with QRadar Security Intelligence Platform to provide even greater levels of insight including anomaly detection and event correlation.
- Control: utilizes intelligence related to Web applications, Websites, and non-Web applications, including Web application and Web site coverage with over 15 Billion URLs across 68 categories and support for 1000+ applications and actions.
IBM Security Network Protection XGS 5000 will be available starting in 3Q12.
About IBM Security
IBM’s security portfolio provides the security intelligence to help organizations holistically protect their people, data, applications and infrastructure. IBM offers solutions for identity and access management, security information and event management, database security, application development, risk management, endpoint management, next-generation intrusion protection and more.
IBM operates one of the world’s broadest security research and development, and delivery organizations. This comprises nine security operations centers, nine IBM Research centers, 11 software security development labs and an Institute for Advanced Security with chapters in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific. IBM monitors 15 billion security events per day in more than 130 countries and holds more than 3,000 security patents.
How ironic that here I am at Pulse 2012, where we’re talking about Internet and other related security matters, and then this headline: EXCLUSIVE: Infamous international hacking group LulzSec brought down by own leader.
Apparently, law enforcement agents on two continents arrested five members of the infamous hacking group, Anonymous, early this morning. Furthermore, they were apparently acting on information and evidence gathered by the organization’s leader, who apparently had been cooperating with the government for months.
Anonymous and its various offshoots — LulzSec, AntiSec, etc. — Are believed to have caused billions of dollars of damage to the government, banks, and corporations around the world.
The New York field office of the Federal Bureau of investigation released a press statement which indicated that five computer hackers in the United States and abroad were charged today, and six pled guilty, for computer hacking and other crimes.
The six hackers identified themselves as aligned with the group anonymous, which is a loose confederation of computer hackers and others, and/or offshoot groups related to Anonymous.
The now unsealed indictment revealed the perps were charged with hacks including of Fox Broadcasting Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the Public Broadcasting Service. Included in the indictment were that of Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka “Sabu” and “Leon” and “Xavier DeLeon,” who pled guilty last August 15th to a 12-count information charging him with computer hacking conspiracies and other crimes, and who apparently has been cooperating with the government to bring several of the others to justice.
According to the New York Times’ coverage of the story, Mr. Monsegur ran his schemes out of a public housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
So was he the head of the Anonymous snake? Now that the indictments are out, I suspect we’ll be finding out very, very soon.
IBM has announced a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Q1 Labs, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based provider of security intelligence software.
The move aims to accelerate IBM’s efforts to help clients more intelligently secure their enterprises by applying analytics to correlate information from key security domains and creating security dashboards for their organizations.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Following the close of the acquisition, Q1 Labs will join the newly-formed IBM Security Systems division, representing the world’s most comprehensive security portfolio. After the close, IBM intends the new division to be led by Brendan Hannigan, CEO of Q1 Labs.
The new division will target a $94 billion opportunity in security software and services, which has a nearly 12 percent compound annual growth rate, according to IBM estimates.
Q1 Labs will join the more than 10 strategic security acquisitions IBM has made in the last decade and the more than 25 analytics-related purchases, including the recently announced acquisition of security analytics software firm, i2.
Organizations face a landscape with high-impact corporate breaches, growing mobile security concerns and advanced security threats, as highlighted in last week’s IBM X-Force Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report.
Firms must be equipped to identify threats, detect insider fraud, predict business risk and address regulatory mandates. Three quarters of firms feel cyberattacks are hard to detect and their effectiveness would increase with end-to-end solutions, according to a recent industry report.
Q1 Labs’ advanced analytics and correlation capabilities can automatically detect and flag actions across an enterprise that deviate from prescribed policies and typical behavior to help prevent breaches, such as an employee accessing unauthorized information.
“Since perimeter defense alone is no longer capable of thwarting all threats, IBM is in a unique position to shift security thinking to an integrated, predictive approach,” said Brendan Hannigan, CEO of Q1 Labs. “Q1 Labs’ security analytics will add greater intelligence to IBM’s security portfolio and continue to distinguish IBM from competitors.”
IBM operates the world’s broadest security research and development organization, comprising nine security operations centers, nine IBM Research centers, 11 software security development labs and three Institutes for Advanced Security.
It employs thousands of security experts globally such as security operations analysts, consultants, sales and tech specialists, and strategic outsourcing delivery professionals. IBM monitors 12 billion security events per day in more than 130 countries and holds 3,000 security patents. IBM has been in the security business for nearly 50 years dating back to the security innovation in its mainframe systems.
You can learn more about IBM’s security offerings here.
Okay, it’s my last day in Bangalore. At least for this particular journey.
I don’t have any more India-related news, except to report that the Kolkata Night Riders beat the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the CLT20 last night, here in Bangalore.
KKR won by nine wickets, and now I know why there were such sad faces in the stadium as I watched the end of the match late last night on TV.
As I was watching cricket, IBM was releasing the results of its “X-Force 2011 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report,” a tiding I always attempt to cover in some depth, both because I find the reports fascinating and enlightening, and because I consider it a real service that IBM is providing to the global IT community.
Poised at the frontline of security, the IBM X-Force team serves as the eyes and ears for thousands of IBM clients – studying security attack techniques and creating defenses before many vulnerabilities are even announced.
The X-Force Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report is based on intelligence gathered through IBM’s research of public vulnerability disclosures as well as the monitoring and analysis of an average of 12 billion security events daily since the beginning of 2011.
Drumroll, Please: Moble Exploits Are Ripe For Exploitation!
The headline: This report demonstrates the rapidly changing security landscape characterized by high-profile attacks, growing mobile vulnerabilities and more sophisticated threats such as “whaling.”
Adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in the enterprise, including the “Bring Your Own Device” approach, which allows personal devices to access the corporate network, is raising new security concerns.
IBM X-Force has documented a steady rise in the disclosure of security vulnerabilities affecting these devices. X-Force research recommends that IT teams consistently employ anti-malware and patch management software for phones in enterprise environments.
Other key findings from the study:
- Malicious software targeting mobile phones is often distributed through third-party app markets. Mobile phones are an increasingly attractive platform for malware developers as the sheer size of the user base is growing rapidly, and there is an easy way to monetize mobile phone infections. Malware distributors can set up premium texting (SMS messaging) services that charge users that text to a specific number. Malware then sends text messages to those premium numbers from infected phones.
- Some mobile malware is designed to collect end user’s personal information. This data could then be used in phishing attacks or for identity theft. Mobile malware is often capable of spying on victim’s personal communications as well as monitoring and tracking their physical movements via the GPS capabilities common in these phones.
“For years, observers have been wondering when malware would become a real problem for the latest generation of mobile devices,” said Tom Cross, manager of Threat Intelligence and Strategy for IBM X-Force. “It appears that the wait is over.”
Critical Vulnerabilities Triple in 2011
The X-Force team also reports that the percentage of critical vulnerabilities has tripled thus far in 2011.
X-Force is declaring 2011 the “Year of the Security Breach” due to the large number of high-profile attacks and network compromises that have occurred this year.
There is a cadre of notable emerging threats from this year’s breaches:
- Teams of professional attackers motivated by a desire to collect strategic intelligence have been able to gain and maintain access to critical computer networks through a combination of stealth, sophisticated technical capabilities and careful planning. These attackers are often referred to as “Advanced Persistent Threats” (APTs).
- The success of APTs has raised the profile of “whaling,” a type of spear phishing which targets “big fish,” or those positioned in high levels of an organization with access to critical data. These targeted attacks are often launched after careful study of a person’s online profiles has armed an attacker with the information needed to create a compelling phishing email that the victim will be fooled into clicking on.
- Attacks from ‘hacktivist’ groups, who targeted web sites and computer networks for political ends rather than just financial gain. Hacktivist groups have been successful in using well known, off-the-shelf attack techniques such as SQL Injection, which is one of the most common attack techniques seen in the Internet.
- Anonymous proxies have more than quadrupled in number compared to three years earlier. Anonymous proxies are a critical type of website to track, because they allow people to hide potentially malicious intent.
Advances In Security
“The rash of high-profile breaches this year highlights the challenges organizations often face in executing their security strategy,” said Cross. “Although we understand how to defend against many of these attacks on a technical level, organizations don’t always have the cross-company operational practices in place to protect themselves.”
Although the X-Force team declared 2011 as a watershed in high-profile security breaches, the report also uncovered some improvements in areas of computer security that show headway in the fight against crime on the Internet.
- The first half of 2011 saw an unexpected decrease in web application vulnerabilities, from 49 percent of all vulnerability disclosures down to 37 percent. This is the first time in five years X-Force has seen a decrease.
- High and critical vulnerabilities in web browsers were also at their lowest point since 2007, despite an increasingly complex browser market. These improvements in web browser and application security are important as many attacks are targeted against those categories of software
- As major botnet operators are taken down and off-line by law enforcement officials, the report shows a trend in the decline of spam and more traditional phishing tactics.
- After years of consistent spam growth until the middle of 2010, there has been a significant decline in spam volumes in the first half of this year.In the first half of 2011, the percentage of spam that is phishing on a weekly basis was less than 0.01 percent. Traditional phishing has greatly declined from the levels X-Force was seeing prior to the middle of 2010.
Also of note, the SQL Slammer Worm has been one of the most common sources of malicious packets on the Internet since its appearance and naming by the IBM X-Force team in 2003, but it has fallen down the list after a dramatic disappearance observed in March 2011.
The most recent analysis strongly suggested that the SQL Slammer Worm’s disappearance is due to an unknown source or actor. The analysis showed that a time-based trigger using a Slammer’s server clock was used to shut it down, proving that it was disabled by a single cause.
Traditional Vulnerabilities Still a Problem
The X-Force report uncovered numerous attacks that target traditional security vulnerabilities. According to the report, attacks on weak passwords are commonplace on the Internet, as are attacks that leverage SQL Injection vulnerabilities in web applications to compromise backend databases.
Databases have become an important target for attackers. Critical data used to run organizations — including financial/ERP, customer, employee, and intellectual property information such as new product designs — is stored in relational databases.
IBM Launches Institute for Advanced Security in Asia Pacific
To help combat security risks and to foster collaboration amongst security industry leaders, IBM is launching the IBM Institute for Advanced Security in Asia Pacific in order to combat growing security threats in the region.
The IBM Mid-Year X-Force report states that top countries originating spam have shifted to Asia Pacific, with India sending out roughly 10 percent of all spam registered today, and South Korea and Indonesia also making the top five list.
This Institute joins its predecessors in Brussels, Belgium and Washington, D.C., focused on European and U.S. clients respectively.
About the IBM X-Force Team and the Trend and Risk Report
This report comes from IBM’s X-Force team, the premier security research organization within IBM that has catalogued, analyzed and researched more than 50,000 vulnerability disclosures since 1997.
The IBM X-Force Trend and Risk Report is an annual assessment of the security landscape, designed to help clients better understand the latest security risks, and stay ahead of these threats.
It is the result of the work done in IBM’s nine global Security Operations Centers, which is provided as a managed security service to clients.
The report gathers facts from numerous intelligence sources, including its database of computer security vulnerabilities, global web crawler, international spam collectors, and the real-time monitoring of an average of 12 billion security events every day for nearly 4,000 clients in more than 130 countries.