Blog

No se ha encontrado ningún artículo.

Agilización de la investigación de infecciones generalizadas de troyanos con Darktrace

Default blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog image
07
Dec 2017
07
Dec 2017
Darktrace helps security operations centre (SOC) teams become more efficient by drastically cutting down the time needed to investigate incidents.

This blog post outlines how Darktrace helps security operations centre (SOC) teams become more efficient by drastically cutting down the time needed to investigate incidents. This is illustrated by an example encountered in a recent Proof of Value where over 350 client devices had been infected by a stealthy banking trojan.

Identifying and investigating a compromise of this size would usually take a SOC team several hours if not days using disparate traditional security tools. Employing Darktrace, the most important questions were answered within 90 minutes. The main reason for this is that Darktrace provides full visibility and context into network activity for all devices monitored on a single, unified platform.

Alert fatigue & the cyber security skill gap

Getting cyber security right is difficult and time-consuming. Complexity is one of the main challenges the cyber security community is facing. These days, networks are only vaguely defined with digital supply chains, outsourcing, the push into the cloud and the advent of micro-virtualisation like Docker. The amount of data stored, devices connected to internal networks, connections made by devices and the heterogeneity in IT adds to this complexity. Managing it is difficult at best and securing it with traditional tools can be a daunting task.

Our industry is struggling with what has been labelled the ‘cyber security skill gap’. The demand for skilled, experienced security practitioners consistently outstrips supply. SOC teams struggle to find the right people for the job and to keep their analysts motivated in the face of a rapidly evolving threat landscape. Alert fatigue and burnout are common symptoms for SOC analysts working long hours and graveyard shifts.

Investigation methodology

Any incident responder will always begin by asking some high-level questions concerning the incident under investigation – regardless of it being an adware infection, a banking trojan, ransomware, an active intrusion or any other form of cyber security incident.

The most important questions usually are:

  • How did the infection occur? (To prevent the same initial infection vector in the future)
  • What behavior is the infected device exhibiting? (To understand the threat and the risk of the infection)
  • What Indicators of Compromise (IoC) are seen? (To update other security tools and to use for further investigation)
  • Are other devices infected as well? (To assess the extent of the infection)

We did a recent Proof of Value with an IT service provider in EMEA. Darktrace entered an environment which had already succumbed to a widespread compromise – over 350 client devices had been infected with banking trojans. Let’s walk through how we identified, triaged and investigated this infection using Darktrace.

Identifying the incident

Darktrace came into the environment after the initial infection had taken place already. Darktrace instantly identified several devices exhibiting unexpected HTTP beaconing to unusual, rare external IP addresses. The devices made HTTP POST requests without prior GET requests along other suspicious behavior. Darktrace created several high-severity alerts for this, e.g. ‘Compromise / Suspicious HTTP Beacons to Dotted Quad’ and ‘Compromise / Possible Malware HTTP Comms’:

Figure 1: Example Darktrace alert.

Triaging the incident

Darktrace then provides context around this alert - e.g. the external IP the beaconing was made to, the internal device including the associated user, and the suspicious behavior:

Figure 2: Detection context and C2 IP.

A quick investigation of the external IP reveals that it is a recently discovered command and control (C2) IP address for the Dridex banking trojan.

Drilling deeper into this, Darktrace provides PCAPs for every connection seen. A PCAP for the C2 connection above confirms this incident as active, successful, encoded beaconing to a malicious C2 IP:

Figure 3: PCAP and encoded HTTP POSTs.

Investigating the incident

At this stage, we want to further examine the behavior of the infected device around the time of the incident. Darktrace provides full visibility into past activity, including all network connection made by any device - regardless of whether the incident occurred on the device or not.

We attend to all external connections made by the infected device around the time of the incident and immediately identify more suspicious C2 communication:

Figure 4: More device behavior; further C2 IPs.

By now we have identified 6 different C2 IP addresses.

We can use Darktrace’s ‘External Sites Summary’ to view all devices that have connected to a specific IP or domain in the recent past. Doing this for the initial C2 IP yields the following result (excerpt):

Figure 5: External Sites Summary; further infections.

We immediately identify 5 additional devices that made successful connections to the C2 IP address. In fact, the list above is abridged as we actually saw over 350 devices connecting to this and other C2 IP addresses. Notably, all observed devices appear to have a similar naming structure - this will become important in the next part of the analysis.

At this point we have answered all but the first question: ‘How did the infection occur?’

Darktrace started monitoring the network after the initial infection occurred and spread. Further research into the C2 IP addresses shows that they are associated with the Emotet trojan. This sophisticated malware often precedes banking trojan (e.g. Dridex) infections and is spread via phishing. We can thus assume that phishing was a likely initial infection vector.

How then did the infection manage to spread to so many devices?

Surely not all users clicked on suspicious phishing emails? Recent versions of Emotet have limited lateral movement capabilities. They mainly propagate via SMB brute forcing - trying administrative accounts and hard-coded password lists. The naming convention on the infected devices is very similar - this could indicate a similar build-process and setup of the devices. If a vulnerability - such as an administrative account with a weak password - existed on one of the devices, it might be present in all of the devices with a similar build.

Using Darktrace, the security team has now a solid understanding of the nature and size of the infection, the IoCs available to update firewalls and other preventive security controls and outstanding remediation-activities.

What would this investigation look like with traditional tools, not using Darktrace?

Detecting these covert banking trojans in the first place, let alone triaging them fully, can be a difficult challenge in itself. Current banking Trojan strains such as Dridex, Fedeo or Vawtrak keep updating the malware with new C2 addresses to avoid blacklisting. Initial detection could be at any stage of the attack lifecycle – likely it will be in the latter stages though, when considerable damage has already been done.

An analyst will have to log into various security devices to get close to the same level of visibility provided in Darktrace – web proxy logs, anti-virus logs, running PCAPs on infected hosts, SIEM logs. Having to switch between all those disparate security tools is not time-efficient and produces a fragmentary picture of what actually transpired.

Conclusion

A working hypothesis is that a single device was initially infected via phishing, allowing Emotet to spread to over 350 internal devices via SMB brute forcing. It took no longer than 90 minutes to come from an initial detection of the incident to this conclusion, which forms the basis for an actionable report.

The last thing a SOC needs is yet another tool producing a profusion of alerts. Using Darktrace’s machine learning and unrivalled network visibility, you can focus on the small set of relevant alerts and rapidly investigate those incidents according to their severity and priority.

Darktrace can reduce costs even if you bring in a third-party incident response team. You will be able to significantly speed up their ongoing investigation if they have access to Darktrace. Third-party incident response teams are expensive – their daily rates ranging between £2,000 and £3,000 per day. Cutting their work down from days to hours will result in cost and efforts saved.

DENTRO DEL SOC
Darktrace son expertos de talla mundial en inteligencia de amenazas, caza de amenazas y respuesta a incidentes, y proporcionan apoyo al SOC las 24 horas del día a miles de clientes de Darktrace en todo el mundo. Inside the SOC está redactado exclusivamente por estos expertos y ofrece un análisis de los ciberincidentes y las tendencias de las amenazas, basado en la experiencia real sobre el terreno.
AUTOR
SOBRE EL AUTOR
Max Heinemeyer
Chief Product Officer

Max is a cyber security expert with over a decade of experience in the field, specializing in a wide range of areas such as Penetration Testing, Red-Teaming, SIEM and SOC consulting and hunting Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups. At Darktrace, Max is closely involved with Darktrace’s strategic customers & prospects. He works with the R&D team at Darktrace, shaping research into new AI innovations and their various defensive and offensive applications. Max’s insights are regularly featured in international media outlets such as the BBC, Forbes and WIRED. Max holds an MSc from the University of Duisburg-Essen and a BSc from the Cooperative State University Stuttgart in International Business Information Systems.

Book a 1-1 meeting with one of our experts
share this article
CASOS DE USO
No se ha encontrado ningún artículo.
PRODUCTOS DESTACADOS
No se ha encontrado ningún artículo.
Cobertura básica
No se ha encontrado ningún artículo.

More in this series

No se ha encontrado ningún artículo.

Blog

Email

How to Protect your Organization Against Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks

Default blog imageDefault blog image
21
May 2024

The problem: Microsoft Teams phishing attacks are on the rise

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services1, with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint in particular emerging as critical platforms to the business operations of the everyday workplace. Researchers across the threat landscape have begun to observe these legitimate services being leveraged more and more by malicious actors as an initial access method.

As Teams becomes a more prominent feature of the workplace many employees rely on it for daily internal and external communication, even surpassing email usage in some organizations. As Microsoft2 states, "Teams changes your relationship with email. When your whole group is working in Teams, it means you'll all get fewer emails. And you'll spend less time in your inbox, because you'll use Teams for more of your conversations."

However, Teams can be exploited to send targeted phishing messages to individuals either internally or externally, while appearing legitimate and safe. Users might receive an external message request from a Teams account claiming to be an IT support service or otherwise affiliated with the organization. Once a user has accepted, the threat actor can launch a social engineering campaign or deliver a malicious payload. As a primarily internal tool there is naturally less training and security awareness around Teams – due to the nature of the channel it is assumed to be a trusted source, meaning that social engineering is already one step ahead.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)
Figure 1: Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams Phishing Examples

Microsoft has identified several major phishing attacks using Teams within the past year.

In July 2023, Microsoft announced that the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard – identified by the United States as a Russian state-sponsored group – had launched a series of phishing campaigns via Teams with the aim of stealing user credentials. These attacks used previously compromised Microsoft 365 accounts and set up new domain names that impersonated legitimate IT support organizations. The threat actors then used social engineering tactics to trick targeted users into sharing their credentials via Teams, enabling them to access sensitive data.  

At a similar time, threat actor Storm-0324 was observed sending phishing lures via Teams containing links to malicious SharePoint-hosted files. The group targeted organizations that allow Teams users to interact and share files externally. Storm-0324’s goal is to gain initial access to hand over to other threat actors to pursue more dangerous follow-on attacks like ransomware.

For a more in depth look at how Darktrace stops Microsoft Teams phishing read our blog: Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

The market: Existing Microsoft Teams security solutions are insufficient

Microsoft’s native Teams security focuses on payloads, namely links and attachments, as the principal malicious component of any phishing. These payloads are relatively straightforward to detect with their experience in anti-virus, sandboxing, and IOCs. However, this approach is unable to intervene before the stage at which payloads are delivered, before the user even gets the chance to accept or deny an external message request. At the same time, it risks missing more subtle threats that don’t include attachments or links – like early stage phishing, which is pure social engineering – or completely new payloads.

Equally, the market offering for Teams security is limited. Security solutions available on the market are always payload-focused, rather than taking into account the content and context in which a link or attachment is sent. Answering questions like:

  • Does it make sense for these two accounts to speak to each other?
  • Are there any linguistic indicators of inducement?

Furthermore, they do not correlate with email to track threats across multiple communication environments which could signal a wider campaign. Effectively, other market solutions aren’t adding extra value – they are protecting against the same types of threats that Microsoft is already covering by default.

The other aspect of Teams security that native and market solutions fail to address is the account itself. As well as focusing on Teams threats, it’s important to analyze messages to understand the normal mode of communication for a user, and spot when a user’s Teams activity might signal account takeover.

The solution: How Darktrace protects Microsoft Teams against sophisticated threats

With its biggest update to Darktrace/Email ever, Darktrace now offers support for Microsoft Teams. With that, we are bringing the same AI philosophy that protects your email and accounts to your messaging environment.  

Our Self-Learning AI looks at content and context for every communication, whether that’s sent in an email or Teams message. It looks at actual user behavior, including language patterns, relationship history of sender and recipient, tone and payloads, to understand if a message poses a threat. This approach allows Darktrace to detect threats such as social engineering and payloadless attacks using visibility and forensic capabilities that Microsoft security doesn’t currently offer, as well as early symptoms of account compromise.  

Unlike market solutions, Darktrace doesn’t offer a siloed approach to Teams security. Data and signals from Teams are shared across email to inform detection, and also with the wider Darktrace ActiveAI security platform. By correlating information from email and Teams with network and apps security, Darktrace is able to better identify suspicious Teams activity and vice versa.  

Interested in the other ways Darktrace/Email augments threat detection? Read our latest blog on how improving the quality of end-user reporting can decrease the burden on the SOC. To find our more about Darktrace's enduring partnership with Microsoft, click here.

References

[1] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

[2] Microsoft blog, Microsoft Teams and email, living in harmony, 2024

Continue reading
About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

Blog

Dentro del SOC

Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

Default blog imageDefault blog image
20
May 2024

Social Engineering in Phishing Attacks

Faced with increasingly cyber-aware endpoint users and vigilant security teams, more and more threat actors are forced to think psychologically about the individuals they are targeting with their phishing attacks. Social engineering methods like taking advantage of the human emotions of their would-be victims, pressuring them to open emails or follow links or face financial or legal repercussions, and impersonating known and trusted brands or services, have become common place in phishing campaigns in recent years.

Phishing with Microsoft Teams

The malicious use of the popular communications platform Microsoft Teams has become widely observed and discussed across the threat landscape, with many organizations adopting it as their primary means of business communication, and many threat actors using it as an attack vector. As Teams allows users to communicate with people outside of their organization by default [1], it becomes an easy entry point for potential attackers to use as a social engineering vector.

In early 2024, Darktrace/Apps™ identified two separate instances of malicious actors using Microsoft Teams to launch a phishing attack against Darktrace customers in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Interestingly, in this case the attackers not only used a well-known legitimate service to carry out their phishing campaign, but they were also attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

Despite these attempts to evade endpoint users and traditional security measures, Darktrace’s anomaly detection enabled it to identify the suspicious phishing messages and bring them to the customer’s attention. Additionally, Darktrace’s autonomous response capability, was able to follow-up these detections with targeted actions to contain the suspicious activity in the first instance.

Darktrace Coverage of Microsoft Teams Phishing

Chats Sent by External User and Following Actions by Darktrace

On February 29, 2024, Darktrace detected the presence of a new external user on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment of an EMEA customer for the first time. The user, “REDACTED@InternationalHotelChain[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” was only observed on this date and no further activities were detected from this user after February 29.

Later the same day, the unusual external user created its first chat on Microsoft Teams named “New Employee Loyalty Program”. Over the course of around 5 minutes, the user sent 63 messages across 21 different chats to unique internal users on the customer’s SaaS platform. All these chats included the ‘foreign tenant user’ and one of the customer’s internal users, likely in an attempt to remain undetected. Foreign tenant user, in this case, refers to users without access to typical internal software and privileges, indicating the presence of an external user.

Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Figure 1: Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.
Figure 2: Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.

Darktrace identified that the external user had connected from an unusual IP address located in Poland, 195.242.125[.]186. Darktrace understood that this was unexpected behavior for this user who had only previously been observed connecting from the United Kingdom; it further recognized that no other users within the customer’s environment had connected from this external source, thereby deeming it suspicious. Further investigation by Darktrace’s analyst team revealed that the endpoint had been flagged as malicious by several open-source intelligence (OSINT) vendors.

External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.
Figure 3: External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.

Following Darktrace’s initial detection of these suspicious Microsoft Teams messages, Darktrace's autonomous response was able to further support the customer by providing suggested mitigative actions that could be applied to stop the external user from sending any additional phishing messages.

Unfortunately, at the time of this attack Darktrace's autonomous response capability was configured in human confirmation mode, meaning any autonomous response actions had to be manually actioned by the customer. Had it been enabled in autonomous response mode, it would have been able promptly disrupt the attack, disabling the external user to prevent them from continuing their phishing attempts and securing precious time for the customer’s security team to begin their own remediation procedures.

Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.
Figure 4: Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.

External URL Sent within Teams Chats

Within the 21 Teams chats created by the threat actor, Darktrace identified 21 different external URLs being sent, all of which included the domain "cloud-sharcpoint[.]com”. Many of these URLs had been recently established and had been flagged as malicious by OSINT providers [3]. This was likely an attempt to impersonate “cloud-sharepoint[.]com”, the legitimate domain of Microsoft SharePoint, with the threat actor attempting to ‘typo-squat’ the URL to convince endpoint users to trust the legitimacy of the link. Typo-squatted domains are commonly misspelled URLs registered by opportunistic attackers in the hope of gaining the trust of unsuspecting targets. They are often used for nefarious purposes like dropping malicious files on devices or harvesting credentials.

Upon clicking this malicious link, users were directed to a similarly typo-squatted domain, “InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpoInte-docs[.]com”. This domain was likely made to appear like the SharePoint URL used by the international hotel chain being impersonated.

Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.
Figure 5: Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

This fake SharePoint page used the branding of the international hotel chain and contained a document named “New Employee Loyalty Program”; the same name given to the phishing messages sent by the attacker on Microsoft Teams. Upon accessing this file, users would be directed to a credential harvester, masquerading as a Microsoft login page, and prompted to enter their credentials. If successful, this would allow the attacker to gain unauthorized access to a user’s SaaS account, thereby compromising the account and enabling further escalation in the customer’s environment.

Figure 6: A fake Microsoft login page that popped-up when attempting to open the ’New Employee Loyalty Program’ document.

This is a clear example of an attacker attempting to leverage social engineering tactics to gain the trust of their targets and convince them to inadvertently compromise their account. Many corporate organizations partner with other companies and well-known brands to offer their employees loyalty programs as part of their employment benefits and perks. As such, it would not necessarily be unexpected for employees to receive such an offer from an international hotel chain. By impersonating an international hotel chain, threat actors would increase the probability of convincing their targets to trust and click their malicious messages and links, and unintentionally compromising their accounts.

In spite of the attacker’s attempts to impersonate reputable brands, platforms, Darktrace/Apps was able to successfully recognize the malicious intent behind this phishing campaign and suggest steps to contain the attack. Darktrace recognized that the user in question had deviated from its ‘learned’ pattern of behavior by connecting to the customer’s SaaS environment from an unusual external location, before proceeding to send an unusually large volume of messages via Teams, indicating that the SaaS account had been compromised.

A Wider Campaign?

Around a month later, in March 2024, Darktrace observed a similar incident of a malicious actor impersonating the same international hotel chain in a phishing attacking using Microsoft Teams, suggesting that this was part of a wider phishing campaign. Like the previous example, this customer was also based in the EMEA region.  

The attack tactics identified in this instance were very similar to the previously example, with a new external user identified within the network proceeding to create a series of Teams messages named “New Employee Loyalty Program” containing a typo-squatted external links.

There were a few differences with this second incident, however, with the attacker using the domain “@InternationalHotelChainExpeditions[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” to send their malicious Teams messages and using differently typo-squatted URLs to imitate Microsoft SharePoint.

As both customers targeted by this phishing campaign were subscribed to Darktrace’s Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, this suspicious SaaS activity was promptly escalated to the Darktrace Security Operations Center (SOC) for immediate triage and investigation. Following their investigation, the SOC team sent an alert to the customers informing them of the compromise and advising urgent follow-up.

Conclusion

While there are clear similarities between these Microsoft Teams-based phishing attacks, the attackers here have seemingly sought ways to refine their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), leveraging new connection locations and creating new malicious URLs in an effort to outmaneuver human security teams and conventional security tools.

As cyber threats grow increasingly sophisticated and evasive, it is crucial for organizations to employ intelligent security solutions that can see through social engineering techniques and pinpoint suspicious activity early.

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI understands customer environments and is able to recognize the subtle deviations in a device’s behavioral pattern, enabling it to effectively identify suspicious activity even when attackers adapt their strategies. In this instance, this allowed Darktrace to detect the phishing messages, and the malicious links contained within them, despite the seemingly trustworthy source and use of a reputable platform like Microsoft Teams.

Credit to Min Kim, Cyber Security Analyst, Raymond Norbert, Cyber Security Analyst and Ryan Traill, Threat Content Lead

Appendix

Darktrace Model Detections

SaaS Model

Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

SaaS / Unusual Activity / Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

IoC – Type - Description

https://cloud-sharcpoint[.]com/[a-zA-Z0-9]{15} - Example hostname - Malicious phishing redirection link

InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpolnte-docs[.]com – Hostname – Redirected Link

195.242.125[.]186 - External Source IP Address – Malicious Endpoint

MITRE Tactics

Tactic – Technique

Phishing – Initial Access (T1566)

References

[1] https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/trusted-organizations-external-meetings-chat?tabs=organization-settings

[2] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/195.242.125.186/detection

[3] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/domain/cloud-sharcpoint.com

Continue reading
About the author
Min Kim
Cyber Security Analyst
Our ai. Your data.

Elevate your cyber defenses with Darktrace AI

Inicie su prueba gratuita
Darktrace AI protecting a business from cyber threats.