Blog

E-Mail

Vordenkerrolle

The Domain Game: Wie sich E-Mail-Angreifer ihren Weg in die Posteingänge erkaufen

Standard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-Blogbild
29
April 2020
29
April 2020
Dan Fein untersucht, wie der massenhafte Kauf von Domains es Cyber-Kriminellen ermöglicht, herkömmlichen E-Mail-Tools einen Schritt voraus zu sein - und wie Cyber-KI die Bedrohungen stoppt, die ihnen entgehen.

It is by now common knowledge that the vast majority of cyber-threats start with an email. In the current working conditions, this is more true than ever – with a recent study reporting a 30,000% increase in phishing, websites, and malware targeting remote users.

Many email security tools struggle to detect threats they encounter for the first time. Attackers know this and are leveraging many techniques to take advantage of this fundamental flaw. This includes automation to mutate common threat variants, resulting in a massive increase in unknown threats. Another technique, which will be the focus of this blog post, is the rapid and widespread creation of new domains in order to evade reputation checks and signature-based detection.

The recent surge in domain creation

While traditional tools have to rely on identifying campaigns and patterns across multiple emails to establish whether or not an email is malicious, Cyber AI technology doesn’t require classifying emails into buckets in order to know they don’t belong. There is no need, therefore, to actively track campaigns. But as security researchers, it’s hard to miss some trends.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have seen the number of domains registered related to COVID-19 increase by 130,000. In this time, 60% of all spear phishing threats neutralized by Antigena Email were related to COVID-19 or remote work. Another recent study determined that 10,000 coronavirus-related domains are created every day, with roughly nine out of ten of these either malicious or attempting to generate sales of fake products.

With attackers also taking advantage of changing online behaviors arising from the pandemic, another trend we’ve seen is the proliferation of the keyword ‘Zoom’ in some of the unpopular domains that bypassed traditional tools, as attackers leverage the video conferencing platform’s recent rise in usage.

“I believe that hackers identified coronavirus as something users are desperate to find information on. Panic leads to irrational thinking and people forget the basics of cyber security.”

— COO, Atlas VPN

I recently wrote a blog post on the idea of ‘fearware’ and why it’s so successful. Right now, people are desperate for information, and attackers know this. Cyber-criminals play into fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) through a number of mechanisms, and we have since seen a variety of imaginative attempts to engage recipients. These emails range from fake ‘virus trackers’, to sending emails purporting to be from Amazon, claiming an unmanageable rise in newly registered accounts, and demanding “re-registration” of the recipient’s credit card details should they wish to keep their account.

Domain name purchasing: A vicious cycle

Purchasing thousands of new domains and sending malicious emails en masse is a tried and tested technique that cyber-criminals have been leveraging for decades. Now with automation, they’re doing it faster than ever before.

Here’s why it works.

Traditional security tools work by analyzing emails in isolation, measuring them against static blacklists of ‘known bads’. By way of analogy, the gateway tool here is acting like a security guard standing at the perimeter of an organization’s physical premises, asking every individual who enters: “are you malicious?”

The binary answer to this sole question is extracted by looking at some metadata around the email, including the sender’s IP, their email address domain, and any embedded links or attachments. They analyze this data in a vacuum, and at face value, with no consideration towards the relationship between that data, the recipient, and the rest of the business. They run reputation checks, asking “have I seen this IP or domain before?” Crucially, if the answer is no, they let them straight through.

To spell that out, if the domain is brand new, it won’t have a reputation, and as these traditional tools have a limited ability to identify potential harmful elements via any other means, they have no choice but to let them in by default.

These methods barely scratch the surface of a much wider range of characteristics that a malicious email might contain. And as email threats get ever more sophisticated, the ‘innocent until proven guilty approach’ is not enough. For a comprehensive check, we would want to ask: does the domain have any previous relationship with the recipient? The organization as a whole? Does it look suspiciously visually similar to other domains? Is this the first time we’ve seen an inbound email from this user? Has anybody in the organization ever shared a link with this domain? Has any user ever visited this link?

Legacy tools are blatantly asking the wrong questions, to which attackers know the answers. And usually, they can skirt by these inattentive security guards by paying just a few pennies for new domains.

How to buy your way in

Let’s look at the situation from an attacker’s perspective. They just need one email to land and it could be keys to the kingdom, so an upfront purchase of a few thousand new domains will almost inevitably pay off. And they’d pay the price as long as it’s working and they’re profiting.

This is exactly what attackers are doing. Newly-registered domains consistently get through gateways until these traditional tools are armed with enough information to determine that the domains are bad, by which point thousands or even millions of emails could have been successfully delivered. As soon as the attack infrastructure is worn out, the attackers will abandon it, and very easily just purchase and deploy a new set of domains.

And so, the vicious cycle continues. Like a game of ‘whack-a-mole’, these legacy ‘solutions’ will continue to hammer down on recognized ‘bad’ emails – all the while more malicious domains are being created in the thousands in preparation for the next campaign. This is the ‘Domain Game’, and it’s a hard game for defenders to win.

Asking the right questions

Thankfully, the solution to this problem is as simple as the problem itself. It requires a movement away from the legacy approach and towards deploying technology that is up to par with the speed and scale of today’s attackers.

In the last two years, new technologies have emerged that leverage AI, seeking to understand the human behind the email address. Rather than inspecting incoming traffic at the surface-level and asking binary questions, this paradigm shift away from this insufficient legacy approach asks the right questions: not simply “are you malicious?”, but crucially: “do you belong?”

Informed by a nuanced understanding of the recipient, their peers, and the organization at large, every inbound, outbound, and internal email is analyzed in context, and is then re-analyzed over and over again in light of evolving evidence. Asking the right questions and understanding the human invariably sets a far higher standard for acceptable catch rates with unknown threats on first encounter. This approach far outpaces traditional email defenses which have proven to fail and leave companies and their employees vulnerable to malicious emails sitting in their inboxes.

Rather than desperately bashing away at blacklisted domains and IP addresses in an ill-fated attempt to beat the attackers, we can change the game altogether, tilting the scales in favor of the defenders – securing our inboxes and our organizations at large.

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.

Book a 1-1 meeting with one of our experts
share this article
ANWENDUNGSFÄLLE
Keine Artikel gefunden.
PRODUKT-SPOTLIGHT
Keine Artikel gefunden.
COre-Abdeckung
Keine Artikel gefunden.

More in this series

Keine Artikel gefunden.

Blog

Keine Artikel gefunden.

Customer Blog: Community Housing Limited Enhancing Incident Response

Standard-BlogbildStandard-Blogbild
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.  

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

Blog

E-Mail

Beyond DMARC: Navigating the Gaps in Email Security

Standard-BlogbildStandard-Blogbild
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

Continue reading
About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

Gute Nachrichten für Ihr Unternehmen.
Schlechte Nachrichten für die Bösewichte.

Starten Sie Ihren kostenlosen Test

Starten Sie Ihren kostenlosen Test

Flexible Lieferung
Cloud-based deployment.
Schnelle Installation
Nur 1 Stunde für die Einrichtung - und noch weniger für eine Testversion der E-Mail-Sicherheit.
Wählen Sie Ihre Reise
Testen Sie selbstlernende KI dort, wo Sie sie am meisten brauchen - in der Cloud, im Netzwerk oder für E-Mail.
Keine Verpflichtung
Voller Zugriff auf den Darktrace Threat Visualizer und drei maßgeschneiderte Bedrohungsberichte, ohne Kaufverpflichtung.
For more information, please see our Privacy Notice.
Thanks, your request has been received
A member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.
YOU MAY FIND INTERESTING
Huch! Beim Absenden des Formulars ist etwas schief gelaufen.

Demo anfordern

Flexible Lieferung
Sie können es entweder virtuell oder mit Hardware installieren.
Schnelle Installation
Nur 1 Stunde für die Einrichtung - und noch weniger für eine Testversion der E-Mail-Sicherheit.
Wählen Sie Ihre Reise
Testen Sie selbstlernende KI dort, wo Sie sie am meisten brauchen - in der Cloud, im Netzwerk oder für E-Mail.
Keine Verpflichtung
Voller Zugriff auf den Darktrace Threat Visualizer und drei maßgeschneiderte Bedrohungsberichte, ohne Kaufverpflichtung.
Vielen Dank! Ihre Anfrage ist eingegangen!
Huch! Beim Absenden des Formulars ist etwas schief gelaufen.