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How Darktrace’s SOC Helped Thwart a BEC Attack in its Early Stages

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18
Jul 2023
18
Jul 2023
This blog details how Darktrace detected a case of Business Email Compromise (BEC) on a customer network. Darktrace’s SOC was able to alert the customer to the ongoing compromise within their SaaS environment, thwarting the attack in its tracks.

What is Business Email Compromise (BEC)?

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is the practice of tricking an organization into transferring funds or sensitive data to a malicious actor.

Although at face value this type of attack may not carry the same gravitas as the more blockbuster, cloak-and-dagger type of attack such as ransomware [1], the costs of BEC actually dwarf that of ransomware [2]. Moreover, among UK organizations that reported a cyber breach in 2023, attacks related to BEC – namely phishing attacks, email impersonation, attempted hacking of online back accounts, and account takeover – were reported as the most disruptive, ahead of ransomware and other types of cyber-attack [3].  

What makes a BEC attack successful?

BEC attacks are so successful and damaging due to the difficulty of detection for traditional security systems, along with their ease of execution.  BEC does not require much technical sophistication to accomplish; rather, it exploits humans’ natural trust in known correspondents, via a phishing email for example, to induce them to perform a certain action.

How does a BEC attack work?

BEC attacks typically begin with a phishing email to an employee of an organization. Traditional email gateways may be unable to block the initial phishing email, as the email often appear to have been sent by a known correspondent, or it may contain minimal payload content.

The recipient’s interaction with the initial phishing email will likely result in the attacker gaining access to the user’s identity. Once access is obtained, the attacker may abuse the identity of the compromised user to obtain details of the user’s financial relations to the rest of the organization or its customers, eventually using these details to conduct further malicious email activity, such as sending out emails containing fraudulent wire transfer requests.  Today, the continued growth in adoption of services to support remote working, such as cloud file storage and sharing, means that the compromise of a single user’s email account can also grant access to a wide range of corporate sensitive information.

How to protect against BEC attacks

The rapid uptake of cloud-based infrastructure and software-as-a-service (SaaS) outpaces the adoption of skills and expertise required to secure it, meaning that security teams are often less prepared to detect and respond to cloud-based attacks.  

Alongside the adoption of security measures that specialize in anomaly-based detection and autonomous response, like Darktrace DETECT™ and Darktrace RESPOND™, it is extremely beneficial for organizations to have an around the clock security operations center (SOC) in place to monitor and investigate ongoing suspicious activity as it emerges.

In June 2023, Darktrace’s SOC alerted a customer to an active BEC attack within their cloud environment, following the successful detection of suspicious activity by Darktrace’s AI, playing a fundamental role in thwarting the attack in its early stages.

Darktrace Mitigates BEC Attack

Figure 1: Screenshot of the SaaS Console showing location information for the compromised SaaS account.  The ability to visualize the distance between these two locations enables a SOC Analyst to deduce that the simultaneous activity from London and Derby may represent impossible travel’.

It was suspected the attack began with a phishing email, as on the previous day the user had received a highly anomalous email from an external sender with which the organization had not previously communicated. However, the customer had configured Darktrace/Email™ in passive mode, which meant that Darktrace was not able to carry out any RESPOND actions on this anomalous email to prevent it from landing in the user’s inbox. Despite this, Darktrace/Apps was able to instantly detect the subsequent unusual login to the customer’s SaaS environment; its anomaly-based approach to threat detection allowed it to recognize the anomalous behavior even though the malicious email had successfully reached the user.

Following the anomalous ExpressVPN login, Darktrace detected further account anomalies originating from another ExpressVPN IP (45.92.229[.]195), as the attacker accessed files over SharePoint.  Notably, Darktrace identified that the logins from ExpressVPN IPs were performed with the software Chrome 114, however, activity from the legitimate account owner prior to these unusual logins was performed using the software Chrome 102. It is unusual for a user to be using multiple browser versions simultaneously, therefore in addition to the observed impossible travel, this further implied the presence of different actors behind the simultaneous account activity.

Figure 2: Screenshot of the Event Log for the compromised SaaS account, showing simultaneous login and file access activity on the account from different browser versions, and thus likely from different devices.

Darktrace identified that the files observed during this anomalous activity referenced financial information and personnel schedules, suggesting that the attacker was performing internal reconnaissance to gather information about sensitive internal company procedures, in preparation for further fraudulent financial activity.

Although the actions taken by the attacker were mostly passive, Darktrace/Apps chained together the multiple anomalies to understand that this pattern of activity was indicative of movement along the cyber kill chain. The multiple model breaches generated by the ongoing unusual activity triggered an Enhanced Monitoring model breach that was escalated to Darktrace’s SOC as the customer had subscribed to Darktrace’s Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service.  Enhanced Monitoring models detect activities that are more likely to be indicative of compromise.  

Subsequently, Darktrace’s SOC triaged the activity detected on the SaaS account and sent a PTN alert to the customer, advising urgent follow up action.  The encrypted alert contained relevant technical details of the incident that were summarized by an expert Darktrace Analyst, along with recommendations to the customer’s internal SOC team to take immediate action.  Upon receipt and validation of the alert, the customer used Darktrace RESPOND to perform a manual force logout and block access from the external ExpressVPN IP.

Had Darktrace RESPOND been enabled in autonomous response mode, it would have immediately taken action to disable the account after ongoing anomalies were detected from it. However, as the customer only had RESPOND configured in the manual human confirmation model, the expertise of Darktrace’s SOC team was critical in enabling the customer to react and prevent further escalation of post-compromise activity.  Evidence of further attempts to access the compromised account were observed hours after RESPOND actions were taken, including failed login attempts from another rare external IP, this time associated with the VPN service NordVPN.

Figure 3: Timeline of attack and response actions from Darktrace SOC and Darktrace RESPOND.

Because the customer had subscribed to Darktrace’s PTN service, they were able to further leverage the expertise of Darktrace’s global team of cyber analysts and request further analysis of which files were accessed by the legitimate account owner versus the attacker.  This information was shared securely within the same Customer Portal ticket that was automatically opened on behalf of the customer when the PTN was alerted, allowing the customer’s security team to submit further queries and feedback, and request assistance to further investigate this alert within Darktrace. A similar service called Ask the Expert (ATE) exists for customers to draw from the expertise of Darktrace’s analysts at any time, not just when PTNs are alerted.

Schlussfolgerung

The growing prevalence and impact of BEC attacks amid the shift to cloud-based infrastructure means that already stretched internal security teams may not have the sufficient human capacity to detect and respond to these threats.

Darktrace’s round-the-clock SOC thwarted a BEC attack that had the potential to result in significant financial and reputational damage to the legal services company, by alerting the customer to high priority activity during the early stages of the attack and sharing actionable insights that the customer could use to prevent further escalation.  Following the confirmed compromise, the support and in-depth analysis provided by Darktrace’s SOC on the files accessed by the attacker enabled the customer to effectively report this breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office, to maintain compliance with UK data protection regulations. [4].  

Although the attacker used IP addresses that were local to the customer’s country of operations and did not perform overtly noisy actions during reconnaissance, Darktrace was able to identify that this activity deviated from the legitimate user’s typical pattern of life, triggering model breaches at each stage of the attack as it progressed from initial access to internal reconnaissance. While Darktrace RESPOND triggered an action that would have prevented the attack autonomously, the customer’s configuration meant that Darktrace’s SOC had an even more significant role in alerting the customer directly to take manual action.

Credit to: Sam Lister, Senior Analyst, for his contributions to this blog.

Appendices

Darktrace DETECT/Apps Models Breached:

  • SaaS / Access / Unusual External Source for SaaS Credential Use
  • SaaS / Compromise / Login From Rare Endpoint While User Is Active
  • SaaS / Unusual Activity / Activity from Multiple Unusual IPs
  • SaaS / Unusual Activity / Multiple Unusual SaaS Activities
  • SaaS / Access / Suspicious Login Attempt
  • SaaS / Compromise / SaaS Anomaly Following Anomalous Login (Enhanced Monitoring Model)

Darktrace RESPOND/Apps Models Breached:

  • Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Unusual Activity Block
  • Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block

MITRE ATT&CK Mapping

Tactic Techniques
Reconnaissance • T1598 – Phishing for Information
Initial Access • T1078.004 – Valid Accounts: Cloud Accounts
Collection • T1213.002 – Data from Information Repositories: Sharepoint

References

[1] Rand, D. (2022, November 10). Why Business Email Compromise Costs Companies More Than Ransomware Attacks. Retrieved from Tanium: https://www.tanium.com/blog/whybusiness-email-compromise-costs-companies-more-than-ransomware-attacks/

[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). 2022 IC3 Report. Retrieved from IC3.gov: https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2022_IC3Report.pdf

[3] Department for Science, Innovation & Technology. (2023, April 19). Cyber security breaches survey 2023. Retrieved from gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/cyber-security-breaches-survey-2023/cybersecurity-breaches-survey-2023

[4] ICO. (2023). Personal data breaches: a guide. Retrieved from Information Commissioner's Office: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/report-a-breach/personal-data-breach/personal-data-breaches-a-guide/#whatbreachesdo

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Einblicke in das SOC-Team

PurpleFox in a Henhouse: How Darktrace Hunted Down a Persistent and Dynamic Rootkit

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27
Nov 2023

Versatile Malware: PurpleFox

As organizations and security teams across the world move to bolster their digital defenses against cyber threats, threats actors, in turn, are forced to adopt more sophisticated tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to circumvent them. Rather than being static and predictable, malware strains are becoming increasingly versatile and therefore elusive to traditional security tools.

One such example is PurpleFox. First observed in 2018, PurpleFox is a combined fileless rootkit and backdoor trojan known to target Windows machines. PurpleFox is known for consistently adapting its functionalities over time, utilizing different infection vectors including known vulnerabilities (CVEs), fake Telegram installers, and phishing. It is also leveraged by other campaigns to deliver ransomware tools, spyware, and cryptocurrency mining malware. It is also widely known for using Microsoft Software Installer (MSI) files masquerading as other file types.

The Evolution of PurpleFox

The Original Strain

First reported in March 2018, PurpleFox was identified to be a trojan that drops itself onto Windows machines using an MSI installation package that alters registry values to replace a legitimate Windows system file [1]. The initial stage of infection relied on the third-party toolkit RIG Exploit Kit (EK). RIG EK is hosted on compromised or malicious websites and is dropped onto the unsuspecting system when they visit browse that site. The built-in Windows installer (MSIEXEC) is leveraged to run the installation package retrieved from the website. This, in turn, drops two files into the Windows directory – namely a malicious dynamic-link library (DLL) that acts as a loader, and the payload of the malware. After infection, PurpleFox is often used to retrieve and deploy other types of malware.  

Subsequent Variants

Since its initial discovery, PurpleFox has also been observed leveraging PowerShell to enable fileless infection and additional privilege escalation vulnerabilities to increase the likelihood of successful infection [2]. The PowerShell script had also been reported to be masquerading as a .jpg image file. PowerSploit modules are utilized to gain elevated privileges if the current user lacks administrator privileges. Once obtained, the script proceeds to retrieve and execute a malicious MSI package, also masquerading as an image file. As of 2020, PurpleFox no longer relied on the RIG EK for its delivery phase, instead spreading via the exploitation of the SMB protocol [3]. The malware would leverage the compromised systems as hosts for the PurpleFox payloads to facilitate its spread to other systems. This mode of infection can occur without any user action, akin to a worm.

The current iteration of PurpleFox reportedly uses brute-forcing of vulnerable services, such as SMB, to facilitate its spread over the network and escalate privileges. By scanning internet-facing Windows computers, PurpleFox exploits weak passwords for Windows user accounts through SMB, including administrative credentials to facilitate further privilege escalation.

Darktrace detection of PurpleFox

In July 2023, Darktrace observed an example of a PurpleFox infection on the network of a customer in the healthcare sector. This observation was a slightly different method of downloading the PurpleFox payload. An affected device was observed initiating a series of service control requests using DCE-RPC, instructing the device to make connections to a host of servers to download a malicious .PNG file, later confirmed to be the PurpleFox rootkit. The device was then observed carrying out worm-like activity to other external internet-facing servers, as well as scanning related subnets.

Darktrace DETECT™ was able to successfully identify and track this compromise across the cyber kill chain and ensure the customer was able to take swift remedial action to prevent the attack from escalating further.

While the customer in question did have Darktrace RESPOND™, it was configured in human confirmation mode, meaning any mitigative actions had to be manually applied by the customer’s security team. If RESPOND had been enabled in autonomous response mode at the time of the attack, it would have been able to take swift action against the compromise to contain it at the earliest instance.

Attack Overview

Figure 1: Timeline of PurpleFox malware kill chain.

Initial Scanning over SMB

On July 14, 2023, Darktrace detected the affected device scanning other internal devices on the customer’s network via port 445. The numerous connections were consistent with the aforementioned worm-like activity that has been reported from PurpleFox behavior as it appears to be targeting SMB services looking for open or vulnerable channels to exploit.

This initial scanning activity was detected by Darktrace DETECT, specifically through the model breach ‘Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity’. Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst™ then launched an autonomous investigation into these internal connections and tied them into one larger-scale network reconnaissance incident, rather than a series of isolated connections.

Figure 2: Cyber AI Analyst technical details summarizing the initial scanning activity seen with the internal network scan over port 445.

As Darktrace RESPOND was configured in human confirmation mode, it was unable to autonomously block these internal connections. However, it did suggest blocking connections on port 445, which could have been manually applied by the customer’s security team.

Figure 3: The affected device’s Model Breach Event Log showing the initial scanning activity observed by Darktrace DETECT and the corresponding suggested RESPOND action.

Privilege Escalation

The device successfully logged in via NTLM with the credential, ‘administrator’. Darktrace recognized that the endpoint was external to the customer’s environment, indicating that the affected device was now being used to propagate the malware to other networks. Considering the lack of observed brute-force activity up to this point, the credentials for ‘administrator’ had likely been compromised prior to Darktrace’s deployment on the network, or outside of Darktrace’s purview via a phishing attack.

Exploitation

Darktrace then detected a series of service control requests over DCE-RPC using the credential ‘admin’ to make SVCCTL Create Service W Requests. A script was then observed where the controlled device is instructed to launch mshta.exe, a Windows-native binary designed to execute Microsoft HTML Application (HTA) files. This enables the execution of arbitrary script code, VBScript in this case.

Figure 4: PurpleFox remote service control activity captured by a Darktrace DETECT model breach.
Figure 5: The infected device’s Model Breach Event Log showing the anomalous service control activity being picked up by DETECT.

There are a few MSIEXEC flags to note:

  • /i : installs or configures a product
  • /Q : sets the user interface level. In this case, it is set to ‘No UI’, which is used for “quiet” execution, so no user interaction is required

Evidently, this was an attempt to evade detection by endpoint users as it is surreptitiously installed onto the system. This corresponds to the download of the rootkit that has previously been associated with PurpleFox. At this stage, the infected device continues to be leveraged as an attack device and scans SMB services over external endpoints. The device also appeared to attempt brute-forcing over NTLM using the same ‘administrator’ credential to these endpoints. This activity was identified by Darktrace DETECT which, if enabled in autonomous response mode would have instantly blocked similar outbound connections, thus preventing the spread of PurpleFox.

Figure 6: The infected device’s Model Breach Event Log showing the outbound activity corresponding to PurpleFox’s wormlike spread. This was caught by DETECT and the corresponding suggested RESPOND action.

Installation

On August 9, Darktrace observed the device making initial attempts to download a malicious .PNG file. This was a notable change in tactics from previously reported PurpleFox campaigns which had been observed utilizing .MOE files for their payloads [3]. The .MOE payloads are binary files that are more easily detected and blocked by traditional signatured-based security measures as they are not associated with known software. The ubiquity of .PNG files, especially on the web, make identifying and blacklisting the files significantly more difficult.

The first connection was made with the URI ‘/test.png’.  It was noted that the HTTP method here was HEAD, a method similar to GET requests except the server must not return a message-body in the response.

The metainformation contained in the HTTP headers in response to a HEAD request should be identical to the information sent in response to a GET request. This method is often used to test hypertext links for validity and recent modification. This is likely a way of checking if the server hosting the payload is still active. Avoiding connections that could possibly be detected by antivirus solutions can help keep this activity under-the-radar.

Figure 7: Packet Capture from an affected customer device showing the initial HTTP requests to the payload server.
Figure 8: Packet Capture showing the HTTP requests to download the payloads.

The server responds with a status code of 200 before the download begins. The HEAD request could be part of the attacker’s verification that the server is still running, and that the payload is available for download. The ‘/test.png’ HEAD request was sent twice, likely for double confirmation to begin the file transfer.

Figure 9: PCAP from the affected customer device showing the Windows Installer user-agent associated with the .PNG file download.

Subsequent analysis using a Packet Capture (PCAP) tool revealed that this connection used the Windows Installer user agent that has previously been associated with PurpleFox. The device then began to download a payload that was masquerading as a Microsoft Word document. The device was thus able to download the payload twice, from two separate endpoints.

By masquerading as a Microsoft Word file, the threat actor was likely attempting to evade the detection of the endpoint user and traditional security tools by passing off as an innocuous text document. Likewise, using a Windows Installer user agent would enable threat actors to bypass antivirus measures and disguise the malicious installation as legitimate download activity.  

Darktrace DETECT identified that these were masqueraded file downloads by correctly identifying the mismatch between the file extension and the true file type. Subsequently, AI Analyst was able to correctly identify the file type and deduced that this download was indicative of the device having been compromised.

In this case, the device attempted to download the payload from several different endpoints, many of which had low antivirus detection rates or open-source intelligence (OSINT) flags, highlighting the need to move beyond traditional signature-base detections.

Figure 10: Cyber AI Analyst technical details summarizing the downloads of the PurpleFox payload.
Figure 11 (a): The Model Breach generated by the masqueraded file transfer associated with the PurpleFox payload.
Figure 11 (b): The Model Breach generated by the masqueraded file transfer associated with the PurpleFox payload.

If Darktrace RESPOND was enabled in autonomous response mode at the time of the attack it would have acted by blocking connections to these suspicious endpoints, thus preventing the download of malicious files. However, as RESPOND was in human confirmation mode, RESPOND actions required manual application by the customer’s security team which unfortunately did not happen, as such the device was able to download the payloads.

Schlussfolgerung

The PurpleFox malware is a particularly dynamic strain known to continually evolve over time, utilizing a blend of old and new approaches to achieve its goals which is likely to muddy expectations on its behavior. By frequently employing new methods of attack, malicious actors are able to bypass traditional security tools that rely on signature-based detections and static lists of indicators of compromise (IoCs), necessitating a more sophisticated approach to threat detection.  

Darktrace DETECT’s Self-Learning AI enables it to confront adaptable and elusive threats like PurpleFox. By learning and understanding customer networks, it is able to discern normal network behavior and patterns of life, distinguishing expected activity from potential deviations. This anomaly-based approach to threat detection allows Darktrace to detect cyber threats as soon as they emerge.  

By combining DETECT with the autonomous response capabilities of RESPOND, Darktrace customers are able to effectively safeguard their digital environments and ensure that emerging threats can be identified and shut down at the earliest stage of the kill chain, regardless of the tactics employed by would-be attackers.

Credit to Piramol Krishnan, Cyber Analyst, Qing Hong Kwa, Senior Cyber Analyst & Deputy Team Lead, Singapore

Appendices

Darktrace Model Detections

  • Device / Increased External Connectivity
  • Device / Large Number of Connections to New Endpoints
  • Device / SMB Session Brute Force (Admin)
  • Compliance / External Windows Communications
  • Anomalous Connection / New or Uncommon Service Control
  • Compromise / Unusual SVCCTL Activity
  • Compromise / Rare Domain Pointing to Internal IP
  • Anomalous File / Masqueraded File Transfer

RESPOND Models

  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Breaches Over Time Block
  • Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena Suspicious Activity Block
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Significant Anomaly from Client Block
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Enhanced Monitoring from Client Block
  • Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena Suspicious File Block
  • Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena File then New Outbound Block

List of IoCs

IoC - Type - Description

/C558B828.Png - URI - URI for Purple Fox Rootkit [4]

5b1de649f2bc4eb08f1d83f7ea052de5b8fe141f - File Hash - SHA1 hash of C558B828.Png file (Malware payload)

190.4.210[.]242 - IP - Purple Fox C2 Servers

218.4.170[.]236 - IP - IP for download of .PNG file (Malware payload)

180.169.1[.]220 - IP - IP for download of .PNG file (Malware payload)

103.94.108[.]114:10837 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

221.199.171[.]174:16543 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

61.222.155[.]49:14098 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

178.128.103[.]246:17880 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

222.134.99[.]132:12539 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

164.90.152[.]252:18075 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

198.199.80[.]121:11490 - IP - IP from Service Control MSIEXEC script to download PNG file (Malware payload)

MITRE ATT&CK Mapping

Tactic - Technique

Reconnaissance - Active Scanning T1595, Active Scanning: Scanning IP Blocks T1595.001, Active Scanning: Vulnerability Scanning T1595.002

Resource Development - Obtain Capabilities: Malware T1588.001

Initial Access, Defense Evasion, Persistence, Privilege Escalation - Valid Accounts: Default Accounts T1078.001

Initial Access - Drive-by Compromise T1189

Defense Evasion - Masquerading T1036

Credential Access - Brute Force T1110

Discovery - Network Service Discovery T1046

Command and Control - Proxy: External Proxy T1090.002

References

  1. https://blog.360totalsecurity.com/en/purple-fox-trojan-burst-out-globally-and-infected-more-than-30000-users/
  2. https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/research/19/i/purple-fox-fileless-malware-with-rookit-component-delivered-by-rig-exploit-kit-now-abuses-powershell.html
  3. https://www.akamai.com/blog/security/purple-fox-rootkit-now-propagates-as-a-worm
  4. https://www.foregenix.com/blog/an-overview-on-purple-fox
  5. https://www.trendmicro.com/en_sg/research/21/j/purplefox-adds-new-backdoor-that-uses-websockets.html
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About the author
Piramol Krishnan
Cyber Security Analyst

$70 Million in Cyber Security Funding for Electric Cooperatives & Utilities

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22
Nov 2023

What is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal?

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by congress in 2021 aimed to upgrade power and infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable energy across the US to achieve zero-emissions. To date, the largest investment in clean energy, the deal will fund new programs to support the development and deployment of clean energy technology.

Why is it relevant to electric municipalities?

Section 40124 of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $250 million over a 5-year period to create the Rural and Municipal Utility Cybersecurity (RMUC) Program to help electric cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned utilities protect against, detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity threats.1 This act illuminates the value behind a full life-cycle approach to cyber security. Thus, finding a cyber security solution that can provide all aspects of security in one integrated platform would enhance the overall security posture and ease many of the challenges that arise with adopting multiple point solutions.

On November 16, 2023 the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) released the Advanced Cybersecurity Technology (ACT) for electric utilities offering a $70 million funding opportunity that aims to enhance the cybersecurity posture of electric cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned utilities.

Funding Details

10 projects will be funded with application submissions due November 29, 2023, 5:00 pm ET with $200,000 each in cash prizes in the following areas:

  1. Direct support for eligible utilities to make investments in cybersecurity technologies, tools, training, and improvements in utility processes and procedures;
  2. Funding to strengthen the peer-to-peer and not-for-profit cybersecurity technical assistance ecosystem currently serving eligible electric utilities; and
  3. Increasing access to cybersecurity technical assistance and training for eligible utilities with limited cybersecurity resources. 2

To submit for this award visit: https://www.herox.com/ACT1Prize

How can electric municipalities utilize the funding?

While the adoption of hybrid working patterns increase cloud and SaaS usage, the number of industrial IoT devices also continues to rise. The result is decrease in visibility for security teams and new entry points for attackers. Particularly for energy and utility organizations.

Electric cooperatives seeking to enhance their cyber security posture can aim to invest in cyber security tools that provide the following:

Compliance support: Consider finding an OT security solution that maps out how its solutions and features help your organization comply with relevant compliance mandates such as NIST, ISA, FERC, TSA, HIPAA, CIS Controls, and more.

Anomaly based detection: Siloed security solutions also fail to detect attacks that span
the entire organization. Anomaly-based detection enhances an organization’s cyber security posture by proactively defending against potential attacks and maintaining a comprehensive view of their attack surface.

Integration capabilities: Implementation of several point solutions that complete individual tasks runs the risk of increasing workloads for operators and creates additional challenges with compliance, budgeting, and technical support. Look for cyber security tools that integrate with your existing technologies.

Passive and active asset tracking: Active Identification offers accurate enumeration, real time updates, vulnerability assessment, asset validation while Passive Identification eliminates the risk of operational disruption, minimizes risk, does not generate additional network traffic. It would be ideal to find a security solution that can do both.

Can secure both IT and OT in unison: Given that most OT cyber-attacks actually start in IT networks before pivoting into OT, a mature security posture for critical infrastructure would include a single solution for both IT and OT. Separate solutions for IT and OT present challenges when defending network boundaries and detecting incidents when an attacker pivots from IT to OT. These independent solutions also significantly increase operator workload and materially diminish risk mitigation efforts.

Darktrace/OT for Electric Cooperatives and Utilities

For smaller teams with just one or two dedicated employees, Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst and Investigation features allow end users to spend less time in the platform as it compiles critical incidents into comprehensive actionable event reports. AI Analyst brings all the information into a centralized view with incident reporting in natural language summaries and can be generated for compliance reports specific to regulatory requirements.  

For larger teams, Darktrace alerts can be forwarded to 3rd party platforms such as a SIEM, where security team decision making is augmented. Additionally, executive reports and autonomous response reduce the alert fatigue generally associated with legacy tools. Most importantly, Darktrace’s unique understanding of normal allows security teams to detect zero-days and signatureless attacks regardless of the size of the organization and how alerts are consumed.

Key Benefits of Darktrace/OT

Figure 1: Darktrace/OT stops threats moving from IT to OT by providing a unified view across both systems

References

1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/11/06/fact-sheet-the-bipartisan-infrastructure-deal/

2. https://www.energy.gov/ceser/rural-and-municipal-utility-advanced-cybersecurity-grant-and-technical-assistance-rmuc

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About the author
Jeff Cornelius
EVP, Cyber-Physische Sicherheit

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Voller Zugriff auf den Darktrace Threat Visualizer und drei maßgeschneiderte Bedrohungsberichte, ohne Kaufverpflichtung.
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