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Wie die KI von Darktrace zwei Microsoft 365-Kontoübernahmen aufdeckte

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07
Jun 2020
07
Jun 2020
This blog outlines two cases of Microsoft 365 account takeover, detailing how Darktrace’s ability to correlate insights across SaaS applications and email activity enabled it to neutralize the threats.

Social engineering’. ‘Credential theft’. ‘Account takeover’. If you were a fly on the wall of a Security Operations Center in 2020, you would have heard these phrases far more often than ‘banking trojan’, ‘SQL injection’ or ‘exploit kit’. The reason for this is simple – the reality for most security teams now is that their perimeter has shifted into the cloud. Identities are being attacked more than devices.

Microsoft 365 account compromise’ is the current favorite, with 29% of organizations reporting a related incident in one month alone. Security teams struggle with these attacks because the evidence needed to detect them is scattered across the enterprise: they begin via email, are executed over the network, and progress in the cloud. This broad and spread out digital footprint means that following the breadcrumbs is not easy.

Darktrace’s Cyber AI Platform is designed to understand a user’s behavior as they move between devices and cloud services, tracking their activity to identify a compromise. To help understand how these attacks avoid detection, it is useful to look at a couple of examples of Microsoft Office 365 compromise detected recently in one of our customers.

Microsoft 365 compromised to launch external email threat

A Microsoft 365 account was recently compromised at a public accounting firm based in the United States. Darktrace initially picked up on several anomalies, including a sudden surge in outbound email traffic as well as the unusual login location – while the company and nearly all of its users were located in Wisconsin, an IP address located in Kansas was used to log in to the Microsoft 365 account. Along with the unusual login, a login to Microsoft Teams from the same Kansas IP address was detected.

Figure 1: Just after the new email rule was created, a Microsoft Teams 100% rare IP login occurred.

‘Impossible travel’ rules alone would have missed these anomalies, but an understanding of activity and behavior across different SaaS applications allowed Darktrace’s AI to recognize these events as one systematic case of credential theft. When the threat-actor subsequently created a new email rule, Darktrace was able to connect this event with the other anomalous behavior and understand its potentially malicious nature.

Figure 2: Darktrace’s SaaS Module noted a 100% rare IP logging into the user’s Microsoft 365 account and the creation of a new mailbox rules. All factors indicated 100% unusual SaaS activity.

Five minutes later, Antigena Email alerted on a large number of outbound emails containing a generic subject line and an attached PDF. The technology also detected that there was a clear spike in outbound emails from this user and flagged each of these emails with the “Out of Character” tag, which in this case denoted a change from normal behavior with the surge in recipients, and likely internal compromise.

Figure 3: Antigena Email detected a surge in recipients that indicated a serious breach of normal behavior for this user.

The unusual login behavior detected by Darktrace’s SaaS Module could be connected to the anomalous outbound email behavior flagged by Antigena Email, allowing the security team to see the extent of the attack and neutralize it as it emerged. It was clear that the account was being used to engage in malicious activity, as each of the 220 outbound emails used a generic subject line and contained a suspicious attachment. The security team therefore immediately disabled the compromised account.

Figure 4: A recreation of the email sent by the attacker, containing the malicious attachment.

‘Change of bank details’ sent from accounts department

When an Accounts Department’s Microsoft 365 account was compromised and used to send targeted phishing emails, Darktrace was able to track the attacker’s movement within the inbox, tying together information from Darktrace’s SaaS Module with Antigena Email’s alerts to understand the full picture of the threat and stop the attack.

The SaaS account appears to have been compromised via an inbound spear phishing attack, or some other form of attack that occurred before Darktrace began monitoring the organization. While Darktrace Cyber AI had no oversight of the initial compromise, it was still able to distinguish later attacker behavior as malicious, based on its actively evolving understanding of the organization and its workforce.

When the account user logged in from a 100% rare French IP address, Darktrace’s SaaS Module picked up on the anomaly immediately, and further detected a series of activities carried out after the unusual login. At the same time, Antigena Email noted an email being sent.

Figure 5: The login from a French IP was noted as 100% rare for this user and SaaS account.

Darktrace then identified more activity occurring from a second rare login location, a Swiss IP address. Very little email activity occurred when the account was logged in from this IP. Instead, Cyber AI saw the threat-actor using their illegitimate SaaS access to view information on the legitimate account user and files related to banking, invoices, and payments.

Antigena Email then identified a series of email communications that, when seen in the context of the SaaS account compromise, pointed to a clear threat. There were no obvious malicious attachments or links in the emails. However, the subject of the final reply was ‘Change of Bank Details’, and the email prompted a high Solicitation Inducement Score within Antigena Email, strongly implying that the malicious actor had sent emails instructing the destination to change payment details in order to route money to the attacker, instead of the company.

It seems the attackers went through the banking and invoicing files in order to find a customer with a big bill to pay, then used the compromised email account to launch an outbound phishing attack, changing the billing details. With Darktrace AI correlating information within the SaaS platform and insights from Antigena Email, this targeted phishing attack could be contained before further compromise or damage could occur.

The below screenshot also indicates a series of inbox processing rules made on the compromised account, showing actions that are typical of an account takeover.

Figure 6: Darktrace’s records of new inbox rules being set up on the compromised SaaS account.

The benefits of a unified approach

These stories are all too familiar. Most security tools would not be able to take action on any one of these steps individually. But the combination reveals the tell-tale sign of a Microsoft 365 account hijack. Organizations are struggling to manage their user identities across their cloud infrastructure, and rule and policy-based detection is no longer feasible.

However, by learning identities and behavior across the enterprise, Darktrace is able to detect, and seamlessly respond, to combat these threats. Hundreds of organizations are now using Antigena Email to protect their email and cloud environments continuously, trusting it to dynamically enforce MFA, lock accounts, block network traffic, and withhold emails when necessary.

As cloud-native applications become more popular, organizations face the growing problem of separate end-to-end security solutions for each type of workload. With Antigena Email working in conjunction with Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System, defenders can be assured that a single, unified platform is tracking every suspicious behavior, wherever it arises in the organization.

Learn more about Antigena Email


EINBLICKE IN DAS SOC-Team
Darktrace Cyber-Analysten sind erstklassige Experten für Threat Intelligence, Threat Hunting und Incident Response. Sie bieten Tausenden von Darktrace Kunden auf der ganzen Welt rund um die Uhr SOC-Support. Einblicke in das SOC-Team wird ausschließlich von diesen Experten verfasst und bietet Analysen von Cyber-Vorfällen und Bedrohungstrends, die auf praktischen Erfahrungen in diesem Bereich basieren.
AUTOR
ÜBER DEN AUTOR
Dan Fein
VP, Produkt

Based in New York, Dan joined Darktrace’s technical team in 2015, helping customers quickly achieve a complete and granular understanding of Darktrace’s product suite. Dan has a particular focus on Darktrace/Email, ensuring that it is effectively deployed in complex digital environments, and works closely with the development, marketing, sales, and technical teams. Dan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from New York University.

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Customer Blog: Community Housing Limited Enhancing Incident Response

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04
Mar 2024

About Community Housing Limited

Community Housing Limited is a non-profit organization based in Australia that focuses on providing affordable, long-term housing and creating employment opportunities where possible. We give people the security of having a home so that they can focus on other essential pathways. As such, we are responsible for sensitive information on our clients.

As part of our commitment to strengthening our cyber security, we sought to simplify and unify our incident response plans and equip our engineers and desktop support teams with all the information we need at our fingertips.

Why Community Housing Limited chose Darktrace

Our team hoped to achieve a response procedure that allowed us to have oversight over any potential security risks, even cases that don’t overtly seem like a security risk. For example, an incident could start as a payroll issue and end up in the hands of HR, instead of surfacing as a security problem. In this case, our security team has no way of knowing the real number of events or how the threat had actually started and played out, making incident response and mitigation even more challenging.

We were already a customer of Darktrace’s autonomous threat detection, attack intervention, and attack surface management capabilities, and decided to add Darktrace for AI-assisted incident response and AI cyber-attack simulation.

AI-generated playbooks save time during incident response

I wanted to reduce the time and resources it took our security team to appropriately respond to a threat. Darktrace automates several steps of the recovery process to accelerate the rate of incident response by using AI that learns the granular details of the specific organization, building a dynamic understanding of the devices, connections, and user behaviors that make up the normal “pattern of life.”  

The AI then uses this understanding to create bespoke, AI-generated incident response playbooks that leverage an evolving understanding of our organization to determine recovery steps that are tailored not only to the specific incident but also to our unique environment.

For my security team, this means having access to all the information we need to respond to a threat. When running through an incident, rather than going to different places to synthesize relevant information, which takes up valuable resources and time, we can speed up its remediation with Darktrace.  

The playbooks created by Darktrace help lower the technical skills required to respond to incidents by elevating the workload of the staff, tripling our capacity for incident response.

Realistic attack simulations upskill teams while saving resources

We have differing levels of experience on the team which means some members know exactly what to do during incident response while others are slower and need more guidance. Thus, we have to either outsource skilled security professionals or add a security solution that could lower the technical skills bar.

You don’t want to be second guessing and searching for the right move – it’s urgent – there should be certainty. Our goal with running attack simulations is to test and train our team's response capabilities in a “realistic” scenario. But this takes considerable time to plan and execute or can be expensive if outsourced, which can be a challenge for organizations short on resources. 

Darktrace provides AI-assisted incident response and cyber-attack simulation using AI that understands the organization to run simulations that effectively map onto the real digital environment and the assets within it, providing training for actual incidents.

It is one thing to sit together in a meeting and discuss various outcomes of a cyber-attack, talking through the best response strategies. It is a huge benefit being able to run attack simulations that emulate real-world scenarios.

Our team can now see how an incident would play out over several days to resemble a real-world scenario or it can play through the simulation quickly to ascertain outcomes immediately. It then uses these insights to strengthen its technology, processes, and training.

AI-Powered Incident Response

Darktrace helps my security team save resources and upskill staff using AI to generate bespoke playbooks and run realistic simulations. Its real-time understanding of our business ensures incident preparedness and incident response are tailored to not only the specific threat in question, but also to the contextual infrastructure of the organization.  

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About the author
Jamie Woodland
Head of Technology at Community Housing Limited

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E-Mail

Beyond DMARC: Navigating the Gaps in Email Security

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29
Feb 2024

Email threat landscape  

Email has consistently ranked among the most targeted attack vectors, given its ubiquity and criticality to business operations. From September to December 2023, 10.4 million phishing emails were detected across Darktrace’s customer fleet demonstrating the frequency of attempted email-based attacks.

Businesses are searching for ways to harden their email security posture alongside email providers who are aiming to reduce malicious emails traversing their infrastructure, affecting their clients. Domain-based Message Authentication (DMARC) is a useful industry-wide protocol organizations can leverage to move towards these goals.  

What is DMARC?

DMARC is an email authentication protocol designed to enhance the security of email communication.

Major email service providers Google and Yahoo recently made the protocol mandatory for bulk senders in an effort to make inboxes safer worldwide. The new requirements demonstrate an increasing need for a standardized solution as misconfigured or nonexistent authentication systems continue to allow threat actors to evade detection and leverage the legitimate reputation of third parties.  

DMARC is a powerful tool that allows email administrators to confidently identify and stop certain spoofed emails; however, more organizations must implement the standard for it to reach its full potential. The success and effectiveness of DMARC is dependent on broad adoption of the standard – by organizations of all sizes.  

How does DMARC work?

DMARC builds on two key authentication technologies, Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and helps to significantly improve their ability to prevent domain spoofing. SPF verifies that a sender’s IP address is authorized to send emails on behalf of a particular domain and DKIM ensures integrity of email content by providing a verifiable digital signature.  

DMARC adds to this by allowing domain owners to publish policies that set expectations for how SPF and DKIM verification checks relate to email addresses presented to users and whose authenticity the receiving mail server is looking to establish.  

These policies work in tandem to help authenticate email senders by verifying the emails are from the domain they say they are, working to prevent domain spoofing attacks. Key benefits of DMARC include:

  1. Phishing protection DMARC protects against direct domain spoofing in which a threat actor impersonates a legitimate domain, a common phishing technique threat actors use to trick employees to obtain sensitive information such as privileged credentials, bank information, etc.  
  2. Improving brand reputation: As DMARC helps to prevent impersonation of domains, it stands to maintain and increase an organization’s brand reputation. Additionally, as organizational reputation improves, so will the deliverability of emails.
  3. Increased visibility: DMARC provides enhanced visibility into email communication channels, including reports of all emails sent on behalf of your domain. This allows security teams to identify shadow-IT and any unauthorized parties using their domain.

Understanding DMARC’s Limitations

DMARC is often positioned as a way for organizations to ‘solve’ their email security problems, however, 65% of the phishing emails observed by Darktrace successfully passed DMARC verification, indicating that a significant number of threat actors are capable of manipulating email security and authentication systems in their exploits. While DMARC is a valuable tool in the fight against email-based attacks, the evolving threat landscape demands a closer look at its limitations.  

As threat actors continue to innovate, improving their stealth and evasion tactics, the number of attacks with valid DMARC authentication will only continue to increase in volume and sophistication. These can include:

  1. Phishing attacks that leverage non-spoofed domains: DMARC allows an organization to protect the domains that they own, preventing threat actors from being able to send phishing emails from their domains. However, threat actors will often create and use ‘look-a-like’ domains that closely resemble an organization’s domain to dupe users. 3% of the phishing emails identified by Darktrace utilized newly created domains, demonstrating shifting tactics.  
  2. Email Account Takeovers: If a threat actor gains access to a user’s email account through other social engineering means such as credential stuffing, they can then send phishing emails from the legitimate domain to pursue further attacks. Even though these emails are malicious, DMARC would not identify them as such because they are coming from an authorized domain or sender.  

Organizations must also ensure their inbound analysis of emails is not skewed by successful DMARC authentication. Security teams cannot inherently trust emails that pass DMARC, because the source cannot always be legitimized, like in the event of an account takeover. If a threat actor gains access to an authenticated email account, emails sent by the threat actor from that account will pass DMARC – however the contents of that email may be malicious. Sender behavior must be continuously evaluated and vetted in real time as past communication history and validated DMARC cannot be solely relied upon amid an ever-changing threat landscape.  

Security teams should lean on other security measures, such as anomaly detection tools that can identify suspicious emails without relying on historical attack rules and static data. While DMARC is not a silver bullet for email security, it is nevertheless foundational in helping organizations protect their brand identity and must be viewed as an essential layer in an organization's overall cyber security strategy.  

Implementing DMARC

Despite the criticality of DMARC for preserving brand reputation and trust, adoption of the standard has been inconsistent. DMARC can be complex to implement with many organizations lacking the time required to understand and successfully implement the standard. Because of this, DMARC set-up is often outsourced, giving security and infrastructure teams little to no visibility into or control of the process.  

Implementation of DMARC is only the start of this process, as DMARC reports must be consistently monitored to ensure organizations have visibility into who is sending mail from their domain, the volume of mail being sent and whether the mail is passing authentication protocols. This process can be time consuming for security teams who are already faced with mounting responsibilities, tight budgets, and personnel shortages. These complexities unfortunately delay organizations from using DMARC – especially as many today still view it as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential.  

With the potential complexities of the DMARC implementation process, there are many ways security and infrastructure teams can still successfully roll out the standard. Initial implementation should start with monitoring, policy adjustment and then enforcement. As business changes over time, DMARC should be reviewed regularly to ensure ongoing protection and maintain domain reputation.

The Future of Email Security

As email-based attacks continue to rise, the industry must recognize the importance of driving adoption of foundational email authentication protocols. To do this, a new and innovative approach to DMARC is needed. DMARC products must evolve to better support organizations throughout the ongoing DMARC monitoring process, rather than just initial implementation. These products must also be able to share intelligence across an organization’s security stack, extending beyond email security tools. Integration across these products and tools will help organizations optimize their posture, ensuring deep understanding of their domain and increased visibility across the entire enterprise.

DMARC is critical in protecting brand identity and mitigating exact-domain based attacks. However, organizations must understand DMARC’s unique benefits and limitations to ensure their inboxes are fully protected. In today’s evolving threat landscape, organizations require a robust, multi-layered approach to stop email threats – in inbound mail and beyond. Email threats have evolved – its time security does too.

Join Darktrace on 9 April for a virtual event to explore the latest innovations needed to get ahead of the rapidly evolving threat landscape. Register today to hear more about our latest innovations coming to Darktrace’s offerings. For additional insights check out Darktrace’s 2023 End of Year Threat Report.

Credit to Carlos Gray and Stephen Pickman for their contribution to this blog

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About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

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