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PREVENT Use Cases: Identifying High Impact Attack Paths

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22
Feb 2023
22
Feb 2023
This blog explains the benefits of thinking like an attacker and modeling attack paths in order to understand where you need to invest your defenses.

What are the people, process and technology assets that would do the most harm, if compromised by an attacker?

Attack path modeling provides a detailed map of all the roads that lead to an organization's crown jewels, prioritized in order of likelihood and potential impact. CISO's are increasingly looking to this kind of solution to complement their security stack because it highlights risks that are specific to this organization's structure, as well as potentially unexpected relationships between devices or users that would prove catastrophic if they were exploited.  

What makes Darktrace's Attack Path Modeling solution stand out?

  • Data sources are varied and information from the entire digital estate is considered
  • Modeling is real-time and continuously re-evaluated
  • Output does not require expert technical knowledge to be leveraged
  • Valuable as a standalone for vulnerability prioritization
  • As a component of the Cyber AI Loop, the solution provides immediate value by feeding back into DETECT and RESPOND (e.g. tag critical assets for detection) but also provides long term systemic improvements as outcomes are followed up.

Thinking like an attacker

In 2023, CISOs will move beyond just insurance and checkbox compliance, as underwriters include more and more exclusions for certain types of cyber-attacks and the limits of compliance ticking the protection box rather than bolstering operational assurance become more apparent. They will push their teams to opt for more proactive cyber security measures to maximize ROI in the face of budget cuts, shifting investment into tools and capabilities that continuously improve their cyber resilience and demonstrate cyber risk reduction.

While red teams can provide insight into where effort and resource should be most immediately applied, the exercises themselves are often costly, non-exhaustive and infrequently run.

Hackers are constantly seeking pathways, preferably those of least resistance, to compromise a system by exploiting its vulnerabilities. Attack path modeling enables security teams to look at their environment from the perspective of the attacker. In turn, this helps them eliminate attack paths progressively, reducing the options an attacker would have, should they breach the walls.

A deeper dive into Attack Path Modeling

An attack path is a visual representation of the path that an attacker takes to exploit a weakness in the system. It highlights the series of steps (attack vectors) that a threat actor might take from one of the doors into the organization (attack surface) to access valuable assets.

It is typically unusual for an attacker to have a boulevard straight down to the crown jewels. They will most likely leverage a couple of loopholes, unexpected relationships and blind spots in the security stack to piece together a path to these confidential assets. Attack path modeling can help to highlight the attack vectors that connect, to form this path to compromise.  

Figure 1: Screengrabs from the Darktrace PREVENT/End-To-End user interface.

How to model attack paths

Darktrace's proprietary Self-Learning AI models relationships, and graph theory is incorporated to understand the importance of users, documents and relationships between these.

Darktrace PREVENT's Attack Path Modeling component identifies target nodes (users, accounts, devices), it then calculates the shortest paths to these target nodes and weights the results according to the likelihood of this attack path and the damage caused if the target asset was compromised. This is exactly what an attacker would do when planning an attack, albeit with a significant advantage to Darktrace PREVENT's AI Engine, which has access to more information than the attacker. For the first time, defenders have the upper hand against attackers.

Avoiding siloed efforts

According to a Gartner survey, 75% of organizations are looking at consolidating security tools, not primarily because of cost, but because it helps drive cyber risk reduction. Ensuring that security efforts are part of a wider security ecosystem, rather than siloed efforts, is crucial to maximize the return on these investments. Darktrace's Attack Path Modeling solution is a component of Darktrace PREVENT's End-to-End (E2E) offering.

Darktrace PREVENT integrates with Darktrace's DETECT and RESPOND to ensure that the organization's security posture is hardened, even if the team doesn't have time to eliminate the attack path.

Defensive superiority is key, and Attack Path Modeling is one way to help security teams gain back an advantage. Find out how you can test it in your own environment.

Attack Path Modeling is an objective, however, and there are a few important questions to consider when assessing the different methods of creating these models.

Are we considering all the relevant data when building my attack paths map?

Consider the case where one of your marketing executives has a close friendship with someone in your development team. How do you model that into your attack paths cartography? Attack paths encompass the full digital estate, so the attack path modeling solution should consider information from various parts, internal and external. This may include data from the Email environment, the Network, Endpoints, SaaS & Cloud, Active Directory, Vulnerability Scanners, etc.  

Cross-data analysis is the only way to understand holistic attack paths.

Are we looking at the most up to date map of attack paths?

Relationships between users, devices and other sensitive assets can evolve on a daily basis, this implies attack paths evolve on a daily basis. Ensuring that the methods or solutions used update their understanding continuously and in real-time is vital if security teams want the most up to date understanding of their organization's risk posture.

To improve our security posture, how do we know which attack paths to start with?

One thing is to map the sum-total of attack paths, another is to prioritize them. Attack path modeling gives you the map but adding a risk-assessment (explored in more depth below) layer on top is how you prioritize. This is where graph theory can be very useful to identify choke points that you may want to strengthen.  

Does this output yield actionable insights?

The prime objective of this solution is not simply to provide an assessment of cyber risk posture, but rather to help drive security efforts in the right direction. To that end, the output needs to be accessible to team members that may not have expert cyber skills. Lowering barriers to entry with usable insights and mitigation advice is key to successfully improve the organization's security posture.

Assessing risk to prioritize attack paths

Darktrace Attack Path Modeling (APM) is a risk-based approach to assessing cyber-attack pathways, thinking like an attacker, and probing the path of least resistance. 'Risk' in this case is defined as the product of two factors: Probability and Impact. By using this information to categorize possible attack paths in the risk matrix below, Darktrace's APM can prioritize attack paths to ensure security team efforts are spent on controlling for the most relevant risks for their organization.

Figure 2: Risk matrix for attack path prioritization

A: Defining Probability

There are two types of probability to consider:

The likelihood of one particular door being chosen by an attacker to infiltrate the organization (among the assets at the attack surface - this could be an internet-facing server, an inbox, a SaaS/Cloud account, etc). And,

The likelihood of one particular node (defined as a device or user account) being compromised next, via lateral movement.

Figure 3: Simplified example of calculating probability of lateral movement from a compromised agent to one of two servers

B Defining Impact

Impact refers to the overall impact of an asset being compromised and unusable. In the case of an asset (e.g.: a key server), the bigger the disruption if this asset goes down, the higher the impact score. If considering a particular document, restricted access and sensitivity score of users accessing it are some of the variables used to estimate impact.

Figure 4: Diagram showing a simplified example of mapping access volume and sensitivity to estimate document value.

Both variables are calculated by the AI autonomously, without requiring human input. Security teams can of course reinforce the AI's understanding of the organization with their business expertise (by tagging additional sensitive devices for example).

A more in-depth description of how impact is propagated to identify key servers or sensitive documents, as well as other components that comprise the Darktrace Attack Path Modeling module can be found in this white paper.

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
Elliot Stocker
Product SME

After 2 years in a commercial role helping to deploy Darktrace across a broad range of digital environments, Elliot currently occupies the role of Product Subject Matter Expert, where he helps to articulate the value of Darktrace’s technology to customers around the world. Elliot holds a Masters degree in Data Science and Machine Learning, using this knowledge to communicate concepts around machine learning and AI in an accessible way to different audiences.

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Looking Beyond Secure Email Gateways with the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/Email

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09
Apr 2024

Organizations Should Demand More from their Email Security

In response to a more intricate threat landscape, organizations should view email security as a critical component of their defense-in-depth strategy, rather than defending the inbox alone with a traditional Secure Email Gateway (SEG). Organizations need more than a traditional gateway – that doubles, instead of replaces, the capabilities provided by native security vendor – and require an equally granular degree of analysis across all messaging, including inbound, outbound, and lateral mail, plus Teams messages.  

Darktrace/Email is the industry’s most advanced cloud email security, powered by Self-Learning AI. It combines AI techniques to exceed the accuracy and efficiency of leading security solutions, and is the only security built to elevate, not duplicate, native email security.  

With its largest update ever, Darktrace/Email introduces the following innovations, finally allowing security teams to look beyond secure email gateways with autonomous AI:

  • AI-augmented data loss prevention to stop the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats
  • an easy way to deploy DMARC quickly with AI
  • major enhancements to streamline SOC workflows and increase the detection of sophisticated phishing links
  • expansion of Darktrace’s leading AI prevention to lateral mail, account compromise and Microsoft Teams

What’s New with Darktrace/Email  

Data Loss Prevention  

Block the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats with advanced data loss prevention that builds on tags in native email to stop unknown, accidental, and malicious data loss

Darktrace understands normal at individual user, group and organization level with a proven AI that detects abnormal user behavior and dynamic content changes. Using this understanding, Darktrace/Email actions outbound emails to stop unknown, accidental and malicious data loss.  

Traditional DLP solutions only take into account classified data, which relies on the manual input of labelling each data piece, or creating rules to catch pattern matches that try to stop data of certain types leaving the organization. But in today’s world of constantly changing data, regular expression and fingerprinting detection are no longer enough.

  • Human error – Because it understands normal for every user, Darktrace/Email can recognize cases of misdirected emails. Even if the data is correctly labelled or insensitive, Darktrace recognizes when the context in which it is being sent could be a case of data loss and warns the user.  
  • Unclassified data – Whereas traditional DLP solutions can only take action on classified data, Darktrace analyzes the range of data that is either pending labels or can’t be labeled with typical capabilities due to its understanding of the content and context of every email.  
  • Insider threat – If a malicious actor has compromised an account, data exfiltration may still be attempted on encrypted, intellectual property, or other forms of unlabelled data to avoid detection. Darktrace analyses user behaviour to catch cases of unusual data exfiltration from individual accounts.

And classification efforts already in place aren’t wasted – Darktrace/Email extends Microsoft Purview policies and sensitivity labels to avoid duplicate workflows for the security team, combining the best of both approaches to ensure organizations maintain control and visibility over their data.

End User and Security Workflows

Achieve more than 60% improvement in the quality of end-user phishing reports and detection of sophisticated malicious weblinks1

Darktrace/Email improves end-user reporting from the ground up to save security team resource. Employees will always be on the front line of email security – while other solutions assume that end-user reporting is automatically of poor quality, Darktrace prioritizes improving users’ security awareness to increase the quality of end-user reporting from day one.  

Users are empowered to assess and report suspicious activity with contextual banners and Cyber AI Analyst generated narratives for potentially suspicious emails, resulting in 60% fewer benign emails reported.  

Out of the higher-quality emails that end up being reported, the next step is to reduce the amount of emails that reach the SOC. Darktrace/Email’s Mailbox Security Assistant automates their triage with secondary analysis combining additional behavioral signals – using x20 more metrics than previously – with advanced link analysis to detect 70% more sophisticated malicious phishing links.2 This directly alleviates the burden of manual triage for security analysts.

For the emails that are received by the SOC, Darktrace/Email uses automation to reduce time spent investigating per incident. With live inbox view, security teams gain access to a centralized platform that combines intuitive search capabilities, Cyber AI Analyst reports, and mobile application access. Analysts can take remediation actions from within Darktrace/Email, eliminating console hopping and accelerating incident response.

Darktrace takes a user-focused and business-centric approach to email security, in contrast to the attack-centric rules and signatures approach of secure email gateways

Microsoft Teams

Detect threats within your Teams environment such as account compromise, phishing, malware and data loss

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services, particularly Teams and SharePoint.3

Darktrace now leverages the same behavioral AI techniques for Microsoft customers across 365 and Teams, allowing organizations to detect threats and signals of account compromise within their Teams environment including social engineering, malware and data loss.  

The primary use case for Microsoft Teams protection is as a potential entry vector. While messaging has traditionally been internal only, as organizations open up it is becoming an entry vector which needs to be treated with the same level of caution as email. That’s why we’re bringing our proven AI approach to Microsoft Teams, that understands the user behind the message.  

Anomalous messaging behavior is also a highly relevant indicator of whether a user has been compromised. Unlike other solutions that analyze Microsoft Teams content which focus on payloads, Darktrace goes beyond basic link and sandbox analysis and looks at actual user behavior from both a content and context perspective. This linguistic understanding isn’t bound by the requirement to match a signature to a malicious payload, rather it looks at the context in which the message has been delivered. From this analysis, Darktrace can spot the early symptoms of account compromise such as early-stage social engineering before a payload is delivered.

Lateral Mail Analysis

Detect and respond to internal mailflow with multi-layered AI to prevent account takeover, lateral phishing and data leaks

The industry’s most robust account takeover protection now prevents lateral mail account compromise. Darktrace has always looked at internal mail to inform inbound and outbound decisions, but will now elevate suspicious lateral mail behaviour using the same AI techniques for inbound, outbound and Teams analysis.

Darktrace integrates signals from across the entire mailflow and communication patterns to determine symptoms of account compromise, now including lateral mailflow

Unlike other solutions which only analyze payloads, Darktrace analyzes a whole range of signals to catch lateral movement before a payload is delivered. Contributing yet another layer to the AI behavioral profile for each user, security teams can now use signals from lateral mail to spot the early symptoms of account takeover and take autonomous actions to prevent further compromise.

DMARC

Gain in-depth visibility and control of 3rd parties using your domain with an industry-first AI-assisted DMARC

Darktrace has created the easiest path to brand protection and compliance with the new Darktrace/DMARC. This new capability continuously stops spoofing and phishing from the enterprise domain, while automatically enhancing email security and reducing the attack surface.

Darktrace/DMARC helps to upskill businesses by providing step by step guidance and automated record suggestions provide a clear, efficient road to enforcement. It allows organizations to quickly achieve compliance with requirements from Google, Yahoo, and others, to ensure that their emails are reaching mailboxes.  

Meanwhile, Darktrace/DMARC helps to reduce the overall attack surface by providing visibility over shadow-IT and third-party vendors sending on behalf of an organization’s brand, while informing recipients when emails from their domains are sent from un-authenticated DMARC source.

Darktrace/DMARC integrates with the wider Darktrace product platform, sharing insights to help further secure your business across Email Attack Path and Attack Surface management.

Schlussfolgerung

To learn more about the new innovations to Darktrace/Email download the solution brief here.

All of the new updates to Darktrace/Email sit within the new Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform, creating a feedback loop between email security and the rest of the digital estate for better protection. Click to read more about the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform or to hear about the latest innovations to Darktrace/OT, the most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for critical infrastructures.  

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.

References

[1] Internal Darktrace Research

[2] Internal Darktrace Research

[3] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

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Carlos Gray
Product Manager

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Managing Risk Beyond CVE Scores With the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/OT

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09
Apr 2024

Identifying Cyber Risk in Industrial Organizations

Compromised OT devices in ICS and SCADA environments pose significant physical risks, even endangering lives. However, identifying CVEs in the multitude of complex OT devices is labor-intensive and time-consuming, draining valuable resources.

Even after identifying a vulnerability, implementing a patch presents its own challenges limited maintenance windows and the need for uninterrupted operations strain IT and OT teams often leading organizations to prioritize availability over security leading vulnerabilities remaining unresolved for over 5 years on average. (1)

Darktrace’s New Innovation

Darktrace is an industry leader in cybersecurity with 10+ years of experience securing OT environments where we take a fundamentally different approach using Self-Learning AI to enhance threat detection and response.

Continuing to combat the expanding threat landscape, Darktrace is excited to announce new capabilities that enable a contextualized and proactive approach to managing cyber risk at industrial organizations.

Today we launch an innovation to our OT Cybersecurity solution, Darktrace/OT, that will add a layer of proactivity, enabling a comprehensive approach to risk management. This industry leading innovation for Darktrace/OT moves beyond CVE scores to redefine vulnerability management for critical infrastructure, tackling the full breadth of risks not limited by traditional controls.  

Darktrace/OT is the only OT security solution with comprehensive Risk Management which includes:

  • Contextualized risk analysis unique to your organization
  • The most realistic evaluation and prioritization of OT risk
  • Effectively mitigate risk across your OT infrastructure, with and without patching.
  • The only OT security solution that evaluates your defenses against Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Groups.

The most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for Critical Infrastructures

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI technology is a cutting-edge innovation that implements real time prevention, detection, response, and recovery for operational technologies and enables a fundamental shift from the traditional approach to cyber defense by learning a ‘pattern of life’ for every network, device, and user.  

Rather than relying on knowledge of past attacks, AI technology learns what is ‘normal’ for its environment, discovering previously unknown threats by detecting subtle shifts in behavior. Through identifying these unexpected anomalies, security teams can investigate novel attacks, discover blind spots, have live time visibility across all their physical and digital assets, and reduce time to detect, respond to, and triage security events.  

  • Achieve greater visibility of OT and IT devices across all levels of the Purdue Model.
  • The industry's only OT security to scale threat detection and response, with a 92% time saving from triage to recovery.  
  • The only OT focused security solution to provide bespoke Risk Management.

To learn more about how Darktrace/OT approaches unique use cases for industrial organizations visit the Darktrace/OT Webpage or join us LIVE at a city near you.

Read more below to discover how new innovations to Darktrace/OT are bringing a new, contextualized approach to Risk Management for Industrial organizations.

For more information on the entire Darktrace/OT Solution read our solution brief here.

Darktrace/OT and New Risk Management

Risk Identification

Leveraging the visibility of Darktrace/OT which identifies individual systems throughout the Purdue Model and the relationship between them, Darktrace/OT identifies high-risk CVEs and presents potential attack routes that go beyond techniques requiring a known exploit, such as misuse of legitimate services. Each attack path will have a mathematical evaluation of difficulty and impact from initial access to the high value objectives.  

Together this gives comprehensive coverage over your real and potential risks from both an attacker and known vulnerability perspectives. OT attack paths as seen here even leverage insights between the industrial and corporate communications to reveal ways threat actors may take advantage of IT-OT convergence. This revelation of imperceptible risks fills gaps in traditional risk analysis like remote access and insider threats.

Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 2: A specific Attack Path identified by Darktrace/OT

Risk Prioritization

Darktrace/OT prioritizes remediations and mitigations based on difficulty and damage to your unique organization, using the established Attack Paths.

We ascertain the priorities that apply to your organization beyond pure theoretical damage answering questions like:

  • How difficult is a particular vulnerability to exploit considering the steps an attacker would require to reach it?
  • And, how significant would the impact be if it was exploited within this particular network?

This expanded approach to risk prioritization has a much more comprehensive evaluation of your organization's unique risk than has ever been possible before. Traditional approaches of ranking only known vulnerabilities with isolated scores using CVSS and exploitability metrics, often leaves gaps in IT-OT risks and is blind to legitimate service exploitation.

Figure 3: Darktrace/OT leverages its contextual understand of the organization’s network to prioritize remediation that will have the positive impact on the risk score

Darktrace provides mitigation strategies associated with each identified risk and the relevant impact it has on your overall risk posture, across all MITRE ATT&CK techniques.

What sets Darktrace apart is our ability to contextualize these mitigations within the broader business. When patching vulnerabilities directly isn’t possible, Darktrace identifies alternative actions that harden attack paths leading to critical assets. Hardening the surrounding attack path increases the difficulty and therefore reduces the likelihood and impact of a breach.

That means unpatched vulnerabilities and vulnerable devices aren’t left unprotected. This also has an added bonus, those hardening techniques work for all devices in that network segment, so apply one change, secure many.

Figure 4: Darktrace prioritizes mitigation reducing accessibility of vulnerability and the overall risk score when patches aren’t available

Communicate Board Level Risk with APT Threat Mapping

Darktrace/OT bridges theory and practice as the only security solution that maps MITRE techniques, frequently used by APT Groups, onto AI-assessed critical Attack Paths. This unique solution provides unparalleled insights including sector and location intelligence, possible operating platforms, common techniques, exploited CVEs, and the number of potential devices affected in your environment, supporting holistic risk assessment and proactive defense measures.

Ultimately, this becomes a power dashboard to communicate board level risk, using both metric based evidence and industry standard threat mapping.

Schlussfolgerung

Darktrace/OT is part of the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform a native, holistic, AI-driven platform built on over ten years of AI research. It helps security teams shift to more a productive mode, finding the known and the unknown attacks and transforming the SOC with the various Darktrace products to drive efficiency gains. It does this across the whole incident lifecycle to lower risk, reduce time spent on active incidents, and drive return on investment.

Discover more about Darktrace's ever-strengthening platform with the upcoming changes coming to our Darktrace/Email product and other launch day blogs.

Join Darktrace LIVE half-day event to understand the reality versus the hype surrounding AI and how to achieve cyber resilience.

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.  

References

1. https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/313646831/Catch_Me_if_You_Can.pdf

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About the author
Mitchell Bezzina
VP, Product and Solutions Marketing
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