Infrastructure, Safety, and the Want for Visibility

Infrastructure, Security, and the Need for Visibility

America and different authorities entities search to bolster the safety of vital infrastructure networks as a result of a mix of high-profile, probably state-directed intrusions and more and more disruptive criminally pushed ransomware incidents. Occasions such because the SolarWinds and Microsoft assaults found in 2020 and the latest Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident present latent, pervasive vulnerabilities and weaknesses within the safety posture of economically important entities. In response to those and different occasions, the US authorities alone issued the next statements, government orders, and legislative actions:

Whereas producing most consideration, US actions are mirrored elsewhere as entities starting from the European Union to Australia
equally work to strengthen community protection in vital infrastructure sectors. That an issue has been recognized by a number of events is clear, however exactly cope with these safety points stays an open query in most situations.

Requires modernization and enchancment emphasize business buzzwords and advertising terminology starting from “hybrid cloud adoption” to implementing “zero belief” safety structure. Whereas these concepts have benefit, and are cornerstones of the Might 2021 Government Order, they presuppose that organizations can quickly undertake and implement complicated, superior safety options. Sadly, the fact for a lot of industries, together with lots of the sectors recognized as “vital infrastructure” by entities such because the US Division of Homeland Safety, displays a definite lack of maturity essential to succeed.

In the beginning, organizations and significant infrastructure entities should guarantee a minimum of minimal ranges of visibility — throughout each endpoint and community house — to have any hope of succeeding in safety duties. Put bluntly, organizations that lack inherent understanding of and visibility into networks and processes might be hard-pressed to make sure the safety of the identical. But, in leapfrogging these safety “fundamentals” towards extra complicated and unique potentialities, well-intentioned and vital efforts to modernize the safety posture of vital infrastructure networks will virtually definitely fail.

Whereas sure intrusion situations, such because the SolarWinds/Microsoft incident, seem on their face to signify extremely complicated, near-insurmountable issues, nearer examination signifies {that a} mixture of visibility into community exercise and examination of recognized occasions can uncover even essentially the most “complicated” intrusions. As beforehand documented by a number of
entities, post-intrusion operations after the provision chain portion of the incident, whereas nonetheless retaining comparatively excessive levels of operational safety, nonetheless produced artifacts for identification and detection, together with:

  • Irregular DNS queries containing encoded data
  • Uncommon site visitors exercise to community infrastructure not related to another, reputable service
  • Cobalt Strike Beacon command and management (C2) exercise

Whereas the entity behind this occasion — often called Nobelium, UNC2452, and Darkish Halo, amongst different names — went to nice lengths to each obscure and conceal their exercise, the above gives comparatively easy gadgets for remark in well-documented, well-architected community environments. Adequate visibility into environments, mixed with a capability to research and perceive ensuing observations, could not supply an ideal, impregnable protection, however it could give community defenders and system operators a number of potentialities for detecting uncommon community exercise referring to this marketing campaign.

Reviewing different vital infrastructure incidents over the previous decade, there are related examples the place primary visibility and investigation may allow early-stage detection and intrusion identification:

  • Within the 2015
    and 2016
    Ukraine energy incidents, comparatively frequent intrusion methodologies had been deployed throughout ICS-specific intrusion phases of operations. Visibility into community site visitors exercise, even at simply the community movement stage, may establish preliminary entry, lateral motion, and command-and-control behaviors previous to the execution of the disruptive occasions.
  • For the 2017 Triton
    or Trisis
    incident, subsequent evaluation
    revealed lateral motion and credential reuse exercise, amongst different tradecraft, for migrating by way of the sufferer community en path to trying execution of a probable harmful assault.
  • A number of intrusions into water and wastewater utilities in Israel
    and the US
    from 2019 by way of 2021 largely relied on insecure distant entry mechanisms to authenticate to the sufferer environments. Monitoring for and monitoring distant authentication and entry exercise may shortly establish such makes an attempt when carried out with out important obfuscation of site visitors supply.
  • Latest ransomware occasions, from the Colonial Pipeline
    incident to JBS Meals, amongst others, seem to all make the most of commonplace intrusion tradecraft for preliminary entry and lateral motion previous to ransomware deployment. But lack of visibility in sufferer networks let these occasions progress from entry to eventual operational disruption.

Primarily based on the above, we are able to see a number of authorities authorities throughout many nations are more and more severe about bolstering vital infrastructure safety, which is nice. However current emphasis on next-generation applied sciences and superior structure practices reveals a lack of expertise of what most important infrastructure operators want: larger visibility into and understanding of community and host operations inside their atmosphere. Thus, whereas growing funding in cybersecurity inside these sectors is fascinating, if such actions happen with out addressing safety and operational fundamentals, these efforts will return far much less worth than desired.

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