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Cómo la IA descubrió la operación secreta de minería de criptomonedas de Outlaw

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10
Oct 2021
10
Oct 2021
Durante años, el famoso grupo de cripto-robo Outlaw ha estado adaptando su red de bots para superar las medidas de seguridad tradicionales. Este blog explica cómo Darktrace fue capaz de ver a través de sus disfraces y descifrar sus métodos.

Infamy is a paradoxical calling for cyber-criminals. While for some, bragging rights are a motivation for cyber-crime in and of themselves, notoriety is usually not a sensible goal for those hoping to avoid detection. This is what threat actors behind the prolific Emotet botnet learned earlier in 2021, for instance, when a coordinated effort was launched by eight national law enforcement agencies to take down their operation. There are, however, certain names which appear again and again in cyber security media and consistently avoid detection – names like Outlaw.

How Outlaw plans an ambush

Despite being active since 2018, very little is known about the hacking group Outlaw, which has staged numerous botnet and crypto-jacking attacks in China and internationally. The group is recognized by a variety of calling cards, be they repeated filenames or a tendency to illicitly mine Monero cryptocurrency, but its success ultimately lies in its tendency to adapt and evolve during months of dormancy between attacks.

Outlaw’s attacks are marked by constant changes and updates, which they work on in relative silence, before targeting security systems which are too-often defeated by the unfamiliarity of the threat.

In 2020, Outlaw gained attention when they updated their botnet toolset to find and eradicate other criminals’ crypto-jacking software, maximizing their own payout from infected devices. While it might come as no surprise that there’s no honor among cyber-thieves, this update also implemented more troubling changes which allowed Outlaw’s malware to evade traditional security defenses.

By switching disguises between each big robbery, and laying low with the loot, Outlaw ensures that traditional security systems which rely on historical attack data will never be ready for them, no matter how much notoriety is attached to their name. When organizations move beyond these systems’ rules-based approaches, however, adopting Self-Learning AI to protect their digital estates, they can begin to turn the tables on groups like Outlaw.

This blog explores how two pre-infected zombie devices in two very different parts of the world were activated by Outlaw’s botnet in the summer of 2021, and how Darktrace was able to detect the activity despite the devices being pre-infected.

Bounty hunting: First signs of attack

Figure 1: Timeline of the attack.

When a new device was added to the network of a Central American telecomms company in July, Darktrace detected a series of regular connections to two suspicious endpoints which it identified as beaconing behavior. The same behavior was noticed independently, but almost simultaneously, at a financial company in the APAC region, which was implementing Darktrace for the first time. Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI was able to identify the pre-infected devices by clustering similarly-behaving devices into peer groups within the local digital estates and therefore recognize that both were acting unusually based on a range of behaviors.

The first sign that the zombie devices had been activated by Outlaw was the initiation of cryptocurrency mining. Both devices, despite their geographical distance, were discovered to be connected to a single crypto-account, exemplifying the indiscriminate and exponential nature by which a botnet grows.

Outlaw has in the past restricted its activities to devices within China in what was assumed to be a show of caution, but recent activities like this one speak to a growing confidence.

The botnet recruitment process

The subsequent initiation of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) connections across port 443, a port more often associated with HTTPS activity, was perfectly characteristic of the Outlaw botnet’s earlier activity in 2020. IRC is a tool regularly used for communication between botmasters and zombie devices, but by using port 443 the attacker was attempting to blend into normal Internet traffic.

Soon after this exchange, the devices downloaded a shell script. Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst was able to intercept and recreate this shell script as it passed through the network, revealing its full function. Intriguingly, the script identified and excluded devices utilizing ARM architecture from the botnet. Due to its notably low battery consumption, ARM architecture is used primarily by portable mobile devices.

This selectivity is evidence that malicious crypto-mining remains Outlaw’s primary objective. By circumventing smaller devices which offer limited crypto-mining capabilities, this shell script focuses the botnet on the most high-powered, and therefore profitable, devices, such as desktop computers and servers. In this way, it reduces the Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) left behind by the wider botnet without greatly affecting the scale of its crypto-mining operation.

The two devices in question did not employ ARM architecture, and minutes later received a secondary payload containing a file named dota3[.]tar[.]gz, a sequel of sorts to the previous incarnation of the Outlaw botnet, ‘dota2’, which itself referenced a popular video game of the same name. With the arrival of this file, the devices appear to have been updated with the latest version of Outlaw’s world-spanning botnet.

This download was made possible in part by the attacker’s use of ‘Living off the Land’ tactics. By using only common Linux programs already present on the devices (‘curl’ and ‘Wget’ respectively), Outlaw had avoided having its activity flagged by traditional security systems. Wget, for instance, is ostensibly a reputable program used for retrieving content from web servers, and was never previously recorded as part of Outlaw’s TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures).

By evolving and adapting its approach, Outlaw is continually able to outsmart and outrun rules-based security. Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI, however, kept pace, immediately identifying this Wget connection as suspicious and advising further investigation.

Figure 2: Cyber AI Analyst identifies Wget use on the morning of July 15 as suspicious and begins investigating potentially related HTTP connections made on the morning of July 14. In this way, it builds a complete picture of the attack.

The botnet unchained

In the following 36 hours, Darktrace detected over 6 million TCP and SSH connections directed to rare external IP addresses using ports often associated with SSH, such as 22, 2222, and 2022.

Exactly what the botnet was undertaking with these connections can only be speculated on. The devices may have been made part of a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, bruteforce attempts on targeted SSH accounts, or simply have taken up the task of seeking and infecting new targets, further expanding the botnet. Darktrace recognized that neither device had made SSH connections prior to this event and, had Antigena been in active mode, would have enacted measures to stop them.

Figure 3: The behavior on the device before and after the bot was activated on July 14, 2021. The large spike in model breaches shows clear deviation from the established ‘pattern of life’.

Afortunadamente, los propietarios de ambos dispositivos respondieron a las alertas de detección de Darktrace con la suficiente antelación como para evitar cualquier daño grave a sus propios patrimonios digitales. Si estos dispositivos hubieran seguido bajo la influencia de la red de bots, las ramificaciones podrían haber sido mucho más graves.

The use of SSH protocol would have allowed Outlaw to pivot into any number of activities, potentially compromising each device’s network further and causing data or monetary loss to their respective organizations.

Call the sheriff: Self-Learning AI

Rules-based security solutions operate much like the ‘wanted’ posters of the old west, looking out for the criminals who came through town last week without preparing for those riding over the hill today. When black hats and outlaws are adopting new looks and employing new techniques with every attack, a new way of responding to threats is needed.

Darktrace doesn’t need to know the name ‘Outlaw’, or the group’s history of evolving attacks, in order to stop them. With its fundamental self-learning approach, Darktrace learns its surroundings from the ground up, and identifies subtle deviations indicative of a cyber-threat. And with Autonomous Response, it will even take targeted action to neutralize the threat at machine speed, without the need for human intervention.

Thanks to Darktrace analyst Jun Qi Wong for his insights on the above threat find.

Learn more about how Cyber AI Analyst sheds light on complex attacks

Technical details

Darktrace model detections

  • Compliance / Crypto Currency Mining Activity
  • Compromise / High Priority Crypto Currency Mining [Enhanced Monitoring]
  • Anomalous Connection / New User Agent to IP Without Hostname
  • Anomalous File / Zip or Gzip from Rare External Location
  • Anomalous Connection / Application Protocol on Uncommon Port
  • Device / Increased External Connectivity
  • Unusual Activity / Unusual External Activity
  • Compromise / SSH Beacon
  • Compromise / High Frequency SSH Beacon
  • Anomalous Connection / Multiple Connections to New External TCP Port

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
Oakley Cox
Analyst Technical Director, APAC

Oakley is a technical expert with 5 years’ experience as a Cyber Analyst. After leading a team of Cyber Analysts at the Cambridge headquarters, he relocated to New Zealand and now oversees the defense of critical infrastructure and industrial control systems across the APAC region. His research into cyber-physical security has been published by Cyber Security journals and CISA. Oakley is GIAC certified in Response and Industrial Defense (GRID), and has a Doctorate (PhD) from the University of Oxford.

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Email

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.

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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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Mitchell Bezzina
VP, Product and Solutions Marketing
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