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Threat actor tactics in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict: analyst observations and predictions

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09
Aug 2022
09
Aug 2022
The escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has led to fears of a full-scale cyberwar. In this discursive blog, analysts cover the most popular methods of attack in the conflict so far, some of the hacking groups involved, and the observations Darktrace has made in its own customer environments.

Introducción

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, cyber communities around the world have been witnessing what can be called a ‘renaissance of cyberwarfare' [1]. Rather than being financially motivated, threat actors are being guided by political convictions to defend allies or attack their enemies. This blog reviews some of the main threat actors involved in this conflict and their ongoing tactics, and advises on how organizations can best protect themselves. Darktrace’s preliminary assessments predicted that attacks would be observed globally with a focus on pro-Ukrainian nations such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members and that identified Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups would develop new and complex malware deployed through increasingly sophisticated attack vectors. This blog will show that many of these assessments had unexpected outcomes.

Context for Conflict 

Cyber confrontation between Russia and Ukraine dates back to 2013, when Viktor Yanukovych, (former President of Ukraine) rejected an EU trade pact in favour of an agreement with Russia. This sparked mass protests leading to his overthrow, and shortly after, Russian troops annexed Crimea and initiated the beginning of Russian-Ukrainian ground and cyber warfare. Since then, Russian threat actors have been periodically targeting Ukrainian infrastructure. One of the most notable examples of this, an attack against their national power grid in December 2015, resulted in power outages for approximately 255,000 people in Ukraine and was later attributed to the Russian hacking group Sandworm [2 & 3]. 

Another well-known attack in June 2017 overwhelmed the websites of hundreds of Ukrainian organizations using the infamous NotPetya malware. This attack is still considered the most damaging cyberattack in history, with more than €10 billion euros in financial damage [4]. In February 2022, countries witnessed the next stage of cyberwar against Ukraine with both new and familiar actors deploying various techniques to target their rival’s critical infrastructure. 

Tactic 1: Ransomware

Although some sources suggest US ransomware incidents and expectations of ransom may have declined during the conflict, ransomware still remained a significant tactic deployed globally across this period [5] [6] [7]. A Ukrainian hacking group, Network Battalion 65 (NB65), used ransomware to attack the Russian state-owned television and radio broadcasting network VGTRK. NB65 managed to steal 900,000 emails and 4000 files, and later demanded a ransom which they promised to donate to the Ukrainian army. This attack was unique because the group used the previously leaked source code of Conti, another infamous hacker group that had pledged its support to the Russian government earlier in the conflict. NB65 modified the leaked code to make unique ransomware for each of its targets [5]. 

Against expectations, Darktrace’s customer base appeared to deviate from these ransom trends. Analysts have seen relatively unsophisticated ransomware attacks during the conflict period, with limited evidence to suggest they were connected to any APT activity. Between November 2021 and June 2022, there were 51 confirmed ransomware compromises across the Darktrace customer base. This represents an increase of 43.16% compared to the same period the year before, accounting for relative customer growth. Whilst this suggests an overall growth in ransom cases, many of these confirmed incidents were unattributed and did not appear to be targeting any particular verticals or regions. While there was an increase in the energy sector, this could not be explicitly linked to the conflict. 

The Darktrace DETECT family has a variety of models related to ransomware visibility:

Darktrace Detections for T1486 (Data Encrypted for Impact):

- Compromise / Ransomware / Ransom or Offensive Words Written to SMB

- Compromise / Ransomware / Suspicious SMB Activity

- Anomalous Connection / Sustained MIME Type Conversion

- Unusual Activity / Sustained Anomalous SMB Activity

- Compromise / Ransomware / Suspicious SMB File Extension

- Unusual Activity / Anomalous SMB Read & Write

- Unusual Activity / Anomalous SMB Read & Write from New Device

- SaaS / Resource / SaaS Resources with Additional Extensions

- Compromise / Ransomware / Possible Ransom Note Read

- [If RESPOND is enabled] Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena Ransomware Block

Tactic 2: Wipers

One of the largest groups of executables seen during the conflict were wipers. On the eve of the invasion, Ukrainian organizations were targeted by a new wiper malware given the name “HermeticWiper”. Hermetic refers to the name of the Cyprian company “Hermetica Digital Ltd.” which was used by attackers to request a code signing certificate [6]. Such a digital certificate is used to verify the ownership of the code and that it has not been altered. The 24-year-old owner of Hermetica Digital says he had no idea that his company was abused to retrieve a code signing certificate [7]. 

HermeticWiper consists of three components: a worm, decoy ransomware and the wiper malware. The custom worm designed for HermeticWiper was used to spread the malware across the network of its infected machines. ESET researchers discovered that the decoy ransomware and the wiper were released at the same time [8]. The decoy ransomware was used to make it look like the machine was hit by ransomware, when in reality the wiper was already permanently wiping data from the machines. In the attack’s initial stage, it bypasses Windows security features designed to prevent overwriting boot records by installing a separate driver. After wiping data from the machine, HermeticWiper prevents that data from being re-fragmented and overwrites the files to fragment it further. This is done to make it more challenging to reconstruct data for post-compromise forensics [9]. Overall, the function and purpose of HermeticWiper seems similar to that of NotPetya ransomware. 

HermeticWiper is not the only conflict-associated wiper malware which has been observed. In January 2022, Microsoft warned Ukrainian customers that they detected wiper intrusion activity against several European organizations. One example of this was the MBR (Master Boot Record) wiper. This type of wiper overwrites the MBR, the disk sector that instructs a computer on how to load its operating system, with a ransomware note. In reality, the note is a misdirection and the malware destroys the MBR and targeted files [10].  

One of the most notable groups that used wiper malware was Sandworm. Sandworm is an APT attributed to Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency, GRU. The group has been active since 2009 and has used a variety of TTPs within their attacks. They have a history of targeting Ukraine including attacks in 2015 on Ukraine’s energy distribution companies and in 2017 when they used the aforementioned NotPetya malware against several Ukrainian organizations [11]. Another Russian (or pro-Russian) group using wiper malware to target Ukraine is DEV-0586. This group targeted various Ukrainian organizations in January 2022 with Whispergate wiper malware. This type of wiper malware presents itself as ransomware by displaying a file instructing the victim to pay Bitcoin to have their files decrypted [12].  

Darktrace did not observe any confirmed cases of HermeticWiper nor other conflict-associated wipers (e.g IsaacWiper and CaddyWiper) within the customer base over this period. Despite this, Darktrace DETECT has a variety of models related to wipers and data destruction:

Darktrace Detections for T1485 (Data Destruction)- this is the main technique exploited during wiper attacks

- Unusual Activity / Anomalous SMB Delete Volume

- IaaS / Unusual Activity / Anomalous AWS Resources Deleted

- IaaS / Storage / S3 Bucket Delete

- SaaS / Resource / Mass Email Deletes from Rare Location

- SaaS / Resource / Anomalous SaaS Resources Deleted

- SaaS / Resource / Resource Permanent Delete

- [If RESPOND is enabled] Antigena / Network / Manual / Enforce Pattern of Life

- [If RESPOND is enabled] Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Unusual Activity Block

Tactic 3: Spear-Phishing

Another strategy that some threat actors employ is spear-phishing. Targeting can be done using email, social media, messaging, or other platforms.

The hacking group Armageddon (also known as Gamaredon) has been responsible for several spear-phishing attacks during the crisis, primarily targeting individuals involved in the Ukrainian Government [13]. Since the beginning of the war, the group has been sending out a large volume of emails containing an HTML file which, if opened, downloads and launches a RAR payload. Those who click the attached link download an HTA with a PowerShell script which obtains the final Armageddon payload. Using the same strategy, the group is also targeting governmental agencies in the European Union [14]. With high-value targets, the need to improve teaching around phishing identification to minimize the chance of being caught in an attacker's net is higher than ever. 

In comparison to the wider trends, Darktrace analysts again saw little-to-no evidence of conflict-associated phishing campaigns affecting customers. Those phishing attempts which did target customers were largely not conflict-related. In some cases, the conflict was used opportunistically, such as when one customer was targeted with a phishing email referencing Russian bank exclusions from the SWIFT payment system (Figures 1 and 2). The email was identified by Darktrace/Email as a probable attempt at financial extortion and inducement - in this case the company received a spoofed email from a major bank’s remittance department.  

Figure 1- Screencap of targeted phishing email sent to Darktrace customer
Figure 2- Attached file contains soliciting reference to SWIFT, a money payment system which select Russian banks were removed from because of the conflict [15]

 Although the conflict was used as a reference in some examples, in most of Darktrace’s observed phishing cases during the conflict period there was little-to-no evidence to suggest that the company being targeted nor the threat actor behind the phishing attempt was associated with or attributable to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

However, Darktrace/Email has several model categories which pick up phishing related threats:

Sample of Darktrace for Email Detections for T1566 (Phishing)- this is the overarching technique exploited during spear-phishing events

Model Categories:

- Inducement

- Internal / External User Spoofing

- Internal / External Domain Spoofing

- Fake Support

- Link to Rare Domains

- Link to File Storage

- Redirect Links

- Anomalous / Malicious Attachments

- Compromised Known Sender

Specific models can be located on the Email Console

 

Tactic 4: Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS)

Another tactic employed by both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian threat actors was DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Both pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine actors were seen targeting critical infrastructure, information resources, and governmental platforms with mass DDoS attacks. The Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, called on an IT Army of underground Ukrainian hackers and volunteers to protect Ukraine's critical infrastructure and conduct DDoS attacks against Russia [16]. As of 1 August 2022, more than two hundred thousand people are subscribed to the group's official Telegram channel, where potential DDoS targets are announced [17].

Darktrace observed similar pro-Ukraine DDoS behaviors within a variety of customer environments. These DDoS campaigns appeared to involve low-volume individual support combined with crowd-sourced DDoS activity. They were hosted on a range of public-sourced DDoS sites and seemed to share sentiments of groups such as the IT Army of Ukraine (Figure 3).

Figure 3- Example DDoS outsource domain with unusual TLD 

From the Russian side, one of the prominent newly emerged groups, Killnet, is striking back, launching several massive DDoS attacks against the critical infrastructure of countries that provide weaponry to Ukraine [18 & 19]. Today, the number of supporters of Killnet has grown to eighty-four thousand on their Telegram channel. The group has already launched a number of mass attacks on several NATO states, including Germany, Poland, Italy, Lithuania and Norway. This shows the conflict has attracted new and fast-growing groups with large backing and the capacity to undertake widespread attacks. 

DETECT has several models to identify anomalous DoS/DDoS activity:

Darktrace Detection for T1498 (Network Denial of Service)- this is the main technique exploited during DDoS attacks

- Device / Anomaly Indicators / Denial of Service Activity Indicator

- Anomalous Server Activity / Possible Denial of Service Activity

- [If RESPOND is enabled] Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena Suspicious Activity Block

What did Darktrace observe?

Darktrace’s cross-fleet detections were largely contrary to expectations. Analysts did not see large-scale complex conflict-linked attacks utilizing either conflict-associated ransomware, malware, or other TTPs. Instead, cyber incidents observed were largely opportunistic, using malware that could be purchased through Malware-as-a-Service models and other widely available toolkits, (rather than APT or conflict-attributable attacks). Overall, this is not to say there have been no repercussions from the conflict or that opportunistic attacks will cease, but evidence suggests that there were fewer wider cyber consequences beyond the initial APT-based attacks seen in the public forum. 

Another trend expected since the beginning of the conflict was targeted responses to sanction announcements focusing on NATO businesses and governments. Analysts, however, saw the limited reactive actions, with little-to-no direct impact from sanction announcements. Although cyber-attacks on some NATO organizations did take place, they were not as widespread or impactful as expected. Lastly, it was thought that exposure to new and sophisticated exploits would increase and be used to weaken NATO nations - especially corporations in critical industries. However, analysts observed relatively common exploits deployed indiscriminately and opportunistically. Overall, with the wider industry expecting chaos, Darktrace analysts did not see the crisis taken advantage of to target wider businesses outside of Ukraine. Based on this comparison between expectations and reality, the conflict has demonstrated the danger of  falling prey to confirmation bias and the need to remain vigilant and expect the unexpected. It may be possible to say that cyberwar is ‘cold’ right now, however the element of surprise is always present, and it is better to be prepared to protect yourself and your organization.    

What to Expect from the Future

As cyberattacks continue to become less monetarily and physically costly, it is to be expected that they will increase in frequency. Even after a political ceasefire is established, hacking groups can harbour resentment and continue their attacks, though possibly on a smaller scale.  

Additionally, the longer this conflict continues, the more sophisticated hacking groups’s attacks may become. In one of their publications, Killnet shared with subscribers that they had created ‘network weaponry’ powerful enough to simultaneously take down five European countries (Figure 4) [20]. Whether or not this claim is true, it is vital to be prepared. The European Union and the United States have supported Ukraine since the start of the invasion, and the EU has also stated that it is considering providing further assistance to help Ukraine in cyberspace [21].

Figure 4- Snapshot of Killnet Telegram announcement

How to Protect Against these Attacks

In the face of wider conflict and cybersecurity tensions, it is crucial that organizations evaluate their security stack and practise the following: 

·       Know what your critical assets are and what software is running on them. 

·       Keep your software up to date. Prioritize patching critical and high vulnerabilities that allow remote code execution. 

·       Enforce Multifactor Authentication (MFA) to the greatest extent possible. 

·       Require the use of a password manager to generate strong and unique passwords for each separate account. 

·       Backup all the essential files on the cloud and external drives and regularly maintain them. 

·       Train your employees to recognize phishing emails, suspicious websites, infected links or other abnormalities to prevent successful compromise of email accounts. 

In order to prevent an organization from suffering damage due to one of the attacks mentioned above, a full-circle approach is needed. This defence starts with a thorough understanding of the attack surface to provide timely mitigation. This can be supported by Darktrace products: 

·       As shown throughout this blog, Darktrace DETECT and Darktrace/Email have several models relating to conflict-associated TTPs and attacks. These help to quickly alert security teams and provide visibility of anomalous behaviors.

·       Darktrace PREVENT/ASM helps to identify vulnerable external-facing assets. By patching and securing these devices, the risk of exploit is drastically reduced.

·       Darktrace RESPOND and RESPOND/Email can make targeted actions to a range of threats such as blocking incoming DDoS connections or locking malicious email links.

Thanks to the Darktrace Threat Intelligence Unit for their contributions to this blog.

Appendices 

Reference List

[1] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/vladimir-putins-ukraine-invasion-is-the-worlds-first-full-scale-cyberwar/ 

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-cybersecurity-idUSKCN0VY30K

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-cybersecurity-sandworm-idUSKBN0UM00N20160108

[4 & 11] https://www.wired.com/story/notpetya-cyberattack-ukraine-russia-code-crashed-the-world/ 

[5] https://www.scmagazine.com/analysis/ransomware/despite-hopes-for-decline-ransomware-attacks-increased-during-russia-ukraine-conflict

[6] https://ransomware.org/blog/has-the-ukraine-conflict-disrupted-ransomware-attacks/

[7] https://www.cfr.org/blog/financial-incentives-may-explain-perceived-lack-ransomware-russias-latest-assault-ukraine

[8] https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/hackers-use-contis-leaked-ransomware-to-attack-russian-companies/ 

[9] https://voi.id/en/technology/138937/hermetica-owner-from-cyprus-didnt-know-his-server-was-used-in-malicious-malware-attack-in-ukraine 

[10] https://www.reuters.com/article/ukraine-crisis-cyber-cyprus-idCAKBN2KT2QI 

[11] https://www.eset.com/int/about/newsroom/press-releases/research/eset-research-ukraine-hit-by-destructive-attacks-before-and-during-the-russian-invasion-with-hermet/ 

[12] https://blog.malwarebytes.com/threat-intelligence/2022/03/hermeticwiper-a-detailed-analysis-of-the-destructive-malware-that-targeted-ukraine/ 

[13] https://www.microsoft.com/security/blog/2022/01/15/destructive-malware-targeting-ukrainian-organizations/ 

[15] https://www.cisa.gov/uscert/ncas/alerts/aa22-057a 

[16] https://attack.mitre.org/groups/G0047/ 

[17] https://cyware.com/news/ukraine-cert-warns-of-increasing-attacks-by-armageddon-group-850081f8 

[18] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60521822

[19] https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/04/11/russia-cyberwarfare-us-ukraine-volunteer-hackers-it-army/

[20] https://t.me/itarmyofukraine2022

[21] https://www.csoonline.com/article/3664859/russian-ddos-attack-on-lithuania-was-planned-on-telegram-flashpoint-says.html

[19 & 20] https://flashpoint.io/blog/killnet-kaliningrad-and-lithuanias-transport-standoff-with-russia/ 

[21] https://presidence-francaise.consilium.europa.eu/en/news/member-states-united-in-supporting-ukraine-and-strengthening-the-eu-s-telecommunications-and-cybersecurity-resilience/ 

DENTRO DEL SOC
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Rosa Jong
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Taisiia Garkava
Security Analyst
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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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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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About the author
Mitchell Bezzina
VP, Product and Solutions Marketing
Our ai. Your data.

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