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Understanding the MITRE ATT&CK Framework and Evaluations – Part 2

Capture Client delivers capabilities that are underscored by the ATT&CK framework. Here’s how CISOs can leverage these capabilities to define and implement their security strategy.

(Note: In Part 1, we explained the MITRE ATT&CK framework and how security products are evaluated for detection efficacy and efficiency. Check it out here if you haven’t already.)

With attacks rising almost across the board, ensuring your security posture is up to date has never been more critical. But as a CISO, navigating through various cybersecurity vendors’ positions can be a real challenge. How can you know that you’re actually getting what you’re paying for? Here are a few critical pointers:

  • Be wary of excessive misses, delays and config changes: Vendors that have lots of delays are getting credit for detections using means typically outside of the tool’s normal workflow — which means your people will have to do the same thing. Vendors with lots of config changes felt the need to modify their detection capabilities in the middle of the test. Try to understand whether these changes are understandable or if the test was being gamed.
  • Be wary of high Telemetry numbers and low Techniques numbers: Vendors that trumpet their big Telemetry numbers without many Techniques have a tool that does not automate the correlation of events. This means your people will have to do it manually or that there may be significant delays and inaccuracy in connecting the dots. Delays here lead to delays in response, and that leads to more risk.
  • Be wary of vendors that invent their own scoring systems: We’ve seen many vendors obfuscating poor results with statistics and numbers that make them look good but are complete nonsense. Stats like “Context per alert” and “100% Detection” (when a closer look shows there clearly were missed detections) are silly. Read the fine print.

Capture Client and the MITRE ATT&CK Framework

SonicWall’s Capture Client is powered by SentinelOne, which delivers best-in-class autonomous endpoint protection with next-gen antivirus, EDR (endpoint detection and response), and Deep Visibility. SentinelOne has been a participant in the MITRE ATT&CK Evaluations since 2018 and was a top performer in the 2022 Evaluations (emulating Wizard Spider and Sandworm threat groups). Here is a quick summary of how SentinelOne leads in protection against the attacks better than any other vendor.

  1. Autonomous Protection Instantly Stops and Remediates Attacks
    Security teams demand technology that matches the rapid pace at which adversaries operate. MITRE Protection determines the vendor’s ability to rapidly analyze detections and execute automated remediation to protect systems.
    Delivered 100% Protection: (9 of 9 MITRE ATT&CK tests)
    Source: www.sentinelone.com
  2. The Most Useful Detections are Analytic Detections
    Analytic detections are contextual detections that are built from a broader data set and are a combination of technique plus tactic detections.
    Delivered 100% Detection: (19 of 19 attack steps)
    Delivered 99% – Highest Analytic Coverage: (108 of 109 detections)
    Source: www.sentinelone.com
  3. Detection Delays Undermine Cybersecurity Effectiveness
    Time plays a critical factor whether you’re detecting or neutralizing an attack. Organizations that want to reduce exposure need to have real-time detections and automated remediation as part of their security program.
    Delivered 100% Real-time (0 Delays)

    Source: www.sentinelone.com
  4. Visibility Ensures That No Threats Go Undetected
    Visibility is the building block of EDR and is a core metric across MITRE Engenuity results. In order to understand what’s going on in the enterprise as well as accurately threat hunt, cybersecurity technology needs to create a visibility aperture. The data needs to be accurate and provide an end-to-end view of what happened, where it happened, and who did the happening regardless of device connectivity or type.

Conclusion

The MITRE Engenuity ATT&CK Evaluations continue to push the security industry forward, bringing much-needed visibility and independent testing to the EDR space. As a security leader or practitioner, it’s important to move beyond just the numbers game to look holistically at which vendors can provide high visibility and high-quality detections while reducing the burden on your security team. CISOs will find these product-centric tenets to be compatible with the spirit of MITRE Engenuity’s objectives:

  1. EDR Visibility and Coverage Are Table Stakes: The foundation of a superior EDR solution lies in its ability to consume and correlate data economically and at scale by harnessing the power of the cloud. Every piece of pertinent data should be captured — with few to no misses — to provide breadth of visibility for the SecOps team. Data, specifically capturing all events, is the building block of EDR and should be considered table stakes and a key MITRE Engenuity metric.
  2. Machine-Built Context and Correlation Is Indispensable: Correlation is the process of building relationships among atomic data points. Preferably, correlation is performed by machines and at machine speed, so an analyst doesn’t have to waste precious time manually stitching data together. Furthermore, this correlation should be accessible in its original context for long periods of time in case it’s needed.
  3. Console Alert Consolidation Is Critical: “More signal, less noise” is a challenge for the SOC and modern IR teams who face information overload. Rather than getting alerted on every piece of telemetry within an incident and fatiguing the already-burdened SOC team, ensure that the solution automatically groups data points into consolidated alerts. Ideally, a solution can correlate related activity into unified alerts to provide campaign-level insight. This reduces manual effort, helps with alert fatigue and significantly lowers the skillset barrier of responding to alerts. All of this leads to better outcomes for the SOC in the form of shorter containment times and an overall reduction in response times.

For a first-hand look at how Capture Client delivers best-in-class protection and detection, click here for a free trial.

Five Times Flawless: SonicWall Earns Its Fifth Perfect Score from ICSA Labs

SonicWall Capture ATP has earned its fifth consecutive perfect score in third-party ICSA Labs testing — validating SonicWall’s position as an industry leader in threat prevention.

It’s exactly one week after National High Five Day, and exactly one week before Cinco de Mayo. But this year, SonicWall has its own reason to celebrate the number five: SonicWall Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) with patented Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI)™ just earned its fifth consecutive perfect score in independent ICSA testing.

Starting in Q1 2021, SonicWall Capture ATP has found 100% of malicious threats in quarterly test rounds without issuing a single false positive. This means that for 160 days of continuous testing, consisting of 6,719 total test runs, SonicWall Capture ATP found all 3,131 malicious samples — the majority of which were four hours old or less. And it did so without misidentifying a single one of the 3,588 innocuous apps scattered throughout.

“SonicWall has now received an amazing five consecutive perfect scores when tested against some of the most unknown and rigorous threats — an unprecedented achievement among tested vendors,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner. “These third-party, real-world tests validate SonicWall as a clear leader in the cybersecurity space and play a significant role in our efforts to deliver quality-driven security products.”

As the latest in a streak of perfect scores, SonicWall’s Q1 2022 test results reflect not only excellence, but also consistency. From Jan. 19 through Feb. 19, 2022, a SonicWall NSa 3600 next-generation firewall equipped with Capture ATP and patented RTDMI™ technology was once again put through its paces. And once again, it correctly identified all 553 of the malicious samples (100% detection rate) without alerting on any of the 578 innocuous apps (0% false positive rate).

ICSA Advanced Threat Defense: Real-World Results

Standard ICSA Labs Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) testing evaluates vendor solutions designed to detect new threats that traditional security products miss.

Eligible security vendors are tested quarterly for a minimum of three weeks. During that time, ICSA Labs subjects the vendors’ advanced threat solutions to hundreds of test runs consisting of a mixture of innocuous applications, new threats and little-known threats. These threats are delivered via the primary vectors that lead to enterprise breaches, according to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report. The test cycles evaluate how good vendor ATD solutions are at detecting unknown and little-known threats — and whether they can do so while minimizing false positives.

100% Efficacy. One Solution.

The continued success of SonicWall Capture ATP with RTDMI is due to two main factors: the solution’s ability to identify even the most sophisticated and obfuscated threats, and its ability to use what it learns doing so to improve itself over time.

SonicWall Capture ATP is a multi-layer sandbox service designed to mitigate new forms of malware capable of circumventing traditional network defenses.

Included as part of Capture ATP, RTDMI™ leverages proprietary memory inspection, CPU instruction tracking and machine-learning capabilities to become increasingly efficient at recognizing and mitigating never-before-seen cyberattacks — including threats that traditional sandboxes will most likely miss.

And since RTDMI can detect malicious code or data in memory and in real time during execution, no malicious system behavior is necessary for detection. In other words, the presence of malicious code can be identified prior to any malicious behavior taking place, allowing for a quicker verdict.

Best of all, because it incorporates AI and machine learning technologies, RTDMI™ is continuously becoming more efficient and effective.

In 2021, the technology identified a total of 442,151 never-before-seen malware variants, a 65% increase over 2020’s count. And while 2022 numbers have not yet been tallied, in 14 of the last 16 quarters through the end of 2021, the number of new malware variants identified has exceeded that found in the previous quarter.

“In today’s fast-moving and unpredictable threat landscape, it is really hard to earn consistent third-party validation,” said SonicWall Vice President of Software Engineering & Threat Research Alex Dubrovsky. “Our five consecutive perfect scores are a confirmation of our vision and a significant milestone to the SonicWall team’s dedication to providing organizations with the very best threat intelligence technology.”

Third-Party ICSA Testing – Perfect Score Number 4

SonicWall Capture ATP with RTDMI identified all malicious samples with no false positives — four times in a row.

As those in the cybersecurity industry know, ICSA doesn’t grade on a curve: testing rounds with no perfect scores are common, and the standards are both objective and unforgiving. It’s highly unusual for any vendor solution to identify 100% of malicious threats without flagging a single benign sample.

So when SonicWall’s Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) with patented Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI)™ did just that in Q1 2021, it was quite the accomplishment.

Then we did the same thing in Q2, Q3 and Q4, becoming the first cybersecurity vendor in history to earn four consecutive perfect scores in Standard ICSA Labs Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) testing.

How ICSA Testing Works

Standard ICSA Labs Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) testing is designed with vendor solutions in mind, and helps determine new threats traditional security products do not detect. Eligible security vendors are tested quarterly for a minimum of three weeks. During that time, the ICSA Labs subjects advanced threat defense solutions to hundreds of test runs. The test set is comprised of a mixture of new threats, little-known threats and innocuous applications and activities.

Q4 2021’s testing cycle was particularly rigorous. Over 32 days of continuous testing, a SonicWall NSa 3600 NGFW with Capture ATP was subjected to 1,625 total test runs. During this time, SonicWall Capture ATP detected all 801 of the malicious samples, including the 432 threats that were four hours old or less. The testing also included 824 innocuous apps — none of which were improperly categorized as malicious by Capture ATP.

As a result, SonicWall received the highest ranking in this category, concluding a full year of perfect scores and eight consecutive ICSA certifications for SonicWall Capture ATP.

Capture ATP: Superior Threat Detection

Third-party testing cycles like these become even more important as cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated and stealthy. The introduction of state-sponsored attacks in particular has changed the game, and what used to be no more than a hobby or a source of secondary income has turned into a full-time job. As a result, we are seeing a slew of complex and refined never-before-seen attacks that are capable of passing through the defenses of many organizations.

This highlights two tenets of modern cybersecurity:  the importance of sandboxing technology for a security vendor and the fact that not all technologies are created equally.

SonicWall Capture ATP — a cloud-based service available with SonicWall firewalls — detects and can block advanced threats at the gateway until verdict. This service is the only advanced threat-detection offering that combines multi-layer sandboxing (including SonicWall’s RTDMI™ technology), full-system emulation and virtualization techniques in order to analyze suspicious code behavior.

A graph showing the results of malware variants found by SonicWall Capture ATP

This combination allows Capture ATP to detect more threats than single-engine sandbox solutions, which are compute-environment specific and susceptible to evasion. And because it incorporates AI and machine learning technologies, it’s constantly becoming more effective.

For example, 141,390 never-before-seen malware variants were recorded in Q4 2021 — more than any quarter on record. A total of 442,151 total never-before-seen malware variants was identified in 2021, a 65% increase over 2020’s count and an average of 1,211 per day.

The full ICSA Labs report can be downloaded here. To learn more about SonicWall Capture ATP with RTDMI, visit our website.

 

New PDF Fraud Campaign Spotlights Shifting Cybercriminal Phishing Tactics

PDF cyberattacks are nothing new. They are, however, growing in volume, deception, sophistication and are now used as vehicles to modernize phishing campaigns.

SonicWall Capture Labs Threat Researchers announced a substantial increase of malicious or fraudulent PDF files. These fraud campaigns take advantage of recipients’ trust in PDF files as a “safe” file format that is widely used and relied upon for business operations.

In March 2019 alone, SonicWall Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI™) discovered more than 73,000 new PDF-based attacks. In comparison, we found 47,000 new attack variants in PDF files in all of 2018.

“Increasingly, email, Office documents and PDFs are the vehicle of choice for malware and fraud in the cyber landscape,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner in the official announcement. “SonicWall Capture ATP with its RTDMI technology is at the forefront of catching new cyberattacks that elude traditional security sandbox technology.”

Last year, RTDMI identified over 74,000 never-before-seen cyberattacks, a number that has already been surpassed in the first quarter of 2019 with more than 173,000 new variants detected.

In March, the patent-pending technology identified over 83,000 unique, never-before-seen malicious events, of which over 67,000 were PDFs linked to scammers and more than 5,500 were PDFs with direct links to other malware.

Since 2017, Capture ATP with RTDMI has discovered increasing volumes of new threats leveraging PDFs and Office files.

Most traditional security controls cannot identify and mitigate malware hidden in PDF file types, greatly increasing the success of the payload. This increase implies a growing, widespread and effective strategy against small- and medium-sized businesses, enterprises and government agencies.

That’s where SonicWall RTDMI is unique. The technology analyzes documents dynamically via proprietary exploit detection technology, along with static inspection, to detect many malicious document categories, including PDFs, Office files, and a wide range of scripts and executables.

PDF malware attacks: A technical autopsy

SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers dissected specific paths these fraudulent PDF campaigns take victims to infect them with malware.

In one example (see image below), Capture Labs cross-referenced a malicious file, at the time of detection, with popular collaboration tools from VirusTotal and ReversingLabs. No results were found, indicating the effectiveness of the RTDMI engine.

Targets of the scam email campaigns receive malicious documents from businesses luring victims with PDF files that are made to look deceivingly realistic with misleading links to fraudulent pages. The proposed “business offer” within the PDF is enticing to recipients, often promising free and profitable opportunities with just the click of a link.

Pictured below, the victim is sent to a fraudulent landing page masquerading as a legitimate money-making offer.

SonicWall hypothesizes that by using PDFs as delivery vehicles within their phishing campaigns, attackers are attempting to circumvent email security spam filters and next-generation firewalls — a core reason RTDMI is finding so many new malicious PDFs.

What does this PDF fraud campaign mean?

PDFs are becoming a very attractive tool for cybercriminals. Whether or not these are new attacks — or we are just developing the ability to detect them with RTDMI — the volume indicates that they are a serious problem for SMBs, enterprises, governments and organizations across a wide range of industries.

What’s the motive?

While SonicWall data doesn’t help us understand motivation, it does show that the amount of malicious, PDF-related activity is on the rise. We believe that this is happening for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Better awareness. Users have learned that executables sent to them are potential dangerous and could contain viruses, so they are more hesitant to click .exe files, forcing attackers to try new techniques.
  • Deprecation of Flash. Adobe Flash was a key attack vector in the past, but has been deprecated and will be completely end of life in 2020. So, attackers’ ability to use Flash exploits have been greatly reduced, forcing them to change tactics.
  • Must-trust files. Businesses move fast. Users are under constant pressure and don’t have the time, experience or know-how to vet every file type that hits their inbox. As such, users make assumptions that trusted file types (e.g., PDFs, Office files) used daily are, for the most part, safe. So, users are more likely to read and click links within them without considering the source or ramifications.

What is the impact of the PDF fraud campaigns?

This is very difficult to determine. In the 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, Capture Labs reported that 34% of the new attack variants found by Capture ATP were either PDF or Office files — a figure that had grown from 13% since the last half of 2017. This data implies that this attack vector is growing, is widespread and is an effective strategy.

Who is behind this?

While attribution is difficult, SonicWall believes the latest spike in malicious PDF activity is Russian-based because of the use of many .ru top-level domains leveraged across analyzed campaigns.

How to stop cyberattacks that use PDF and Office files

  • Force attacks to reveal intentions. SonicWall RTDMI operates in parallel with the SonicWall Capture ATP sandbox service to quickly get a verdict on any suspicious piece of code as it operates in memory, including malicious PDFs and Office files.
  • Protect the most common attack vectors. Another important layer of defense against malicious PDFs is email security. SonicWall offers cloudhosted and on-premises email security solutions. SonicWall leverages advanced security controls to examine files, senders, domains and URLs to look for malicious activity.
  • Make training a policy. Improve awareness by implementing employee training protocols to ensure users know how to examine PDF and Office file attachments carefully before opening or clicking unknown links.
  • Use endpoint protection. SonicWall recommends using advanced endpoint security, such as Capture Client powered by SentinelOne, to constantly monitor the behavior of a system to scout for malicious behavior, including PDF attacks.

Stopping PDF Attacks: 5 Ways Users & Organizations Can Work Together

Leveraging malicious PDFs is a great tactic for threat actors because the file format and file readers have a long history of exposed and, later, patched flaws.

Because of the useful, dynamic features included in the document format, it’s reasonable to assume further flaws will be exposed and exploited by adversaries; these attacks may not go away for some time. Furthermore, there’s no way for the average user to diagnose a benign or malicious PDF as it opens.

Since the average SonicWall customer will see nearly 5,500 phishing and social engineering attacks targeting their users each year, it’s vital to remain vigilant about the dangers of PDFs and deploy advanced security to prevent attacks.

Why are malicious PDFs being used in cyberattacks?

In many kinds of malicious PDF attacks, the PDF reader itself contains a vulnerability or flaw that allows a file to execute malicious code. Remember, PDF readers aren’t just applications like Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. Most web browsers contain a built-in PDF reader engine that can also be targeted.

In other cases, attackers might leverage AcroForms or XFA Forms, which are scripting technologies used in PDF creation that were intended to add useful, interactive features to a standard PDF document. To the average person, a malicious PDF looks like another innocent document and they have no idea that it is executing code. According to Adobe, “One of the easiest and most powerful ways to customize PDF files is by using JavaScript.”

If you are a threat actor reading this, you are well versed in the above. And your victims are not. If you are an administrator responsible for keeping threats out and their damage to a minimum, it’s time to take some necessary precautions.

Stop PDF attacks with user-side prevention

First, there are a couple of things users can do to help reduce exposure to PDF-based attacks. Most readers and browsers will have some form of JavaScript control that will require adjustment.

  • Change you preferences. In Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, for example, you can disable Acrobat JavaScript in the preferences to help manage access to URLs.
  • Customize controls. Similarly, with a bit of effort, users can also customize how Windows handles NTLM authentication.

While these mitigations are “nice to have” and certainly worth considering, these features were added, just like Microsoft Office Macros, to improve usability and productivity. Therefore, be sure that you’re not disabling functionality that is an important part of your own or your organization’s workflow.

Stop PDF attacks with company-wide protections

Thankfully, SonicWall technology can quickly decode PDFs to see what the malware wants to really do, such as contact malicious domains or steal credentials. Here are three key ways organizations can limit exposure to PDF-based attacks.

  • Implement advanced email security. The first line of defense against malicious PDFs is email security. SonicWall offers cloud, hosted and on-premises email security solutions. SonicWall leverages advanced security controls to examine files, senders, domains and URLs to look for malicious activity.
  • Use endpoint protection. SonicWall recommends using advanced endpoint security, such as Capture Client powered by SentinelOne, to constantly monitor the behavior of a system to scout for malicious behavior. Capture Client stops threats before they execute and has great EDR capabilities to stop them as they do, see where they came from, and remediation steps, such as rollback in case they fully do.
  • Identify new threats. One thing that separates SonicWall from the rest is our patent-pending Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM (RTDMI). RTDMI operates in parallel with the SonicWall Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox service. This is just one of our parallel engines in the sandboxing environment that gives us the ability to quickly get a verdict on any suspicious piece of code as it operates in memory, including malicious PDFs and Office files.

Malicious PDFs will be around for the foreseeable future, but through advanced security and good end-user awareness, your company will be better suited to prevent attacks.

For a more technical view on this, I recommend reading Philip Stokes’ blog from SentinelOne that inspired and supplied part of the content for this story. I also recommend watching our on-demand webinar, “Best Practices for Protecting Against Phishing, Ransomware and Email Fraud.”

RTDMI Evolving with Machine Learning to Stop ‘Never-Before-Seen’ Cyberattacks

If I asked you, “How many new forms of malware did SonicWall discover last year?” What would be your response?

When I pose this question to audiences around the world, the most common guess is 8,000. People are often shocked when they hear that SonicWall discovered 45 million new malware variants in 2018, as reported in the 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report.

The SonicWall Capture Labs threat research team was established in the mid-‘90s to catalog and build defenses for the massive volume of malware they would find each year. Because our threat researchers process more than 100,000 malware samples a day, they have to work smart, not hard. This is why SonicWall Capture Labs developed technology using machine learning to discover and identify new malware. And it continues to evolve each day.

How Automation, Machine Learning Stops New Malware

Released to the public in 2016, the SonicWall Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox service was designed to mitigate millions of new forms of malware that attempt to circumvent traditional network defenses via evasion tactics. It was built as a multi-engine architecture in order to present the malicious code different environments to detonate within. In 2018, this technology found nearly 400,000 brand new forms of malware, much of which came from customer submissions.

In order to make determinations happen faster with better accuracy, the team developed Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM (RTDMI), a patent-pending technology that allows malware to go straight to memory and extract the payload within the 100-nanosecond window it is exposed. The 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report also mapped how the engine discovered nearly 75,000 ‘never-before-seen’ threats in 2018 alone — despite being released (at no additional cost to Capture ATP customers) in February 2018.

‘Never-Before-Seen’ Attacks Discovered by RTDMI in 2018

Image source: 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report

Using proprietary machine learning capabilities, RTDMI has become more and more efficient at identifying and mitigating cyberattacks never seen by anyone in the cybersecurity industry. Since July 2018, the technology’s machine learning capabilities caught more undetectable cyberattacks in every month except one. In January 2019, this figure eclipsed 17,000 and continues to rise in 2019.

Year of the Processor Vulnerability

Much like how Heartbleed and other vulnerabilities in cryptographic libraries introduced researchers and attackers to a new battleground in 2014, so were the numerous announcements of vulnerabilities affecting processors in 2018.

Since these theoretical (currently) attacks operate in memory, RTDMI is well positioned to discover and stop these attacks from happening. By applying the information on how a theoretical attack would work to the machine learning engine, RTDMI was able to identify a Spectre attack within 30 days. Shortly thereafter, it was hardened for Meltdown. With each new processor vulnerability discovered (e.g., Foreshadow, PortSmash), it took RTDMI less and less time to harden against the attack.

Then, in March 2019, while much of the security world was at RSA Conference 2019 in San Francisco, the Spoiler vulnerability was announced. With the maturity found within RTDMI, it took the engine literally no time at all to identify if the vulnerability was being exploited.

Although we have yet to see these side-channel attacks in the wild, RTDMI is primed for the fight and even if there is a new vulnerability announced tomorrow with the ability to weaponize it, this layer of defense is ready to identify and block side-channel attacks against processor vulnerabilities.

Image source: 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report

Scouting for New Technology

Now, if you are not a SonicWall customer yet and are evaluating solutions to stop unknown and ‘never-before-seen’ attacks (i.e., zero-day threats), ask your prospective vendors how they do against these types of attacks. Ask how they did on Day 1 of the WannaCry crisis. As for the volume of attacks their solutions are finding, ask for evidence the solution works in a real-world situation, not just as a proof of concept (POC) in a lab.

If you are a customer, Capture ATP, which includes RTDMI, is available as an add-on purchase within many of our offerings from the firewall, to email, to the wireless access point. You read that correctly: right on the access point.

We believe in the technology so much that we place it in everything to protect your networks and endpoints, such as laptops and IoT devices. This is why large enterprises, school districts, SMBs, retail giants, carrier networks and service providers, and government offices and agencies trust this technology to safeguard their networks, data and users every day.