Friday, August 25, 2017

Recovering Luddite?

Growing up Mennonite in Lancaster County with no computer, and no television, only to become a Digital Forensic Analyst and Incident Response Specialist living in New York City, has been quite a journey. My friends tell me the uniqueness of my life requires a blog, but I tell them, I haven't changed much, really.

Personal blog, nothing on here represents my employer.

Homegrown Hunt: You Can Do This! (or How to Think Like a RAT!)

Preamble and Assumptions:

1. Before we begin, this post won’t by any means try to define Hunt.  There are already hundreds of articles arguing about what that term means, this isn’t one of them.  I use the word sprinkled throughout quite loosely and you are free to take poetic license of your own while reading.

2. This is by no means an exhaustive guide to hunt; hunt never ends, it evolves daily, sometimes hourly. The following is meant to simply get you started thinking about some easy, low-hanging fruit, so that maybe you’ll want to take it further. There’s so much more that I could have included, but as someone I respect and look up to recently taught me, “MaryEllen, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good!”  In other words, at some point you just have to cut bait and drop it, hook, line and sinker, or you’ll never publish it!

3. Regardless of the maturity level of your enterprise, work with what you have.  At the end of the day, if you read the following and it affords you the opportunity to increase the security posture of your organization even a little, everybody wins!

4. Some of the concepts mentioned below are from brainstorming sessions with someone far smarter than me, my long-time friend and colleague, Lawrence Judd.  Thank you Lawrence.  I strive to be at your level every single day, and it’s a privilege to call you friend.  Lawrence is wicked smart, and sometimes when I’m chatting with him, I find myself harkening back to one of my first conversations with a NYC building Superintendent.  He would tell me, “MaryEllen, if you want to catch a rat, you have to think like a rat, behave like a rat, and sometimes even pretend you ARE a rat!”

5. I’m finally digging through all the stuff I learned at BlackHat and DEF CON, and you may see some of that referenced below.  Enjoy!

Let’s Dive In!

Bytes In vs. Bytes Out (Producer-Consumer Ratio, or PCR) from Robert M. Lee and David J. Bianco’s BlackHat presentation:

  • See slide #12.  One way to implement that might be to run a daily script that calculates the bytes-in vs. bytes-out per endpoint (PCR). When you do that over time, you can begin to compare the data and look for blips which could indicate someone was staging, i.e. planning to leave in a couple weeks and siphoning a bunch of stuff out.  I've worked in companies where they had v.v. expensive tools that could track all of those types of behaviors, but if the security posture (or budget) within your organization is still maturing, get down in the weeds and write your own, you can do this!
  • There are a couple other slides in David and Robert's deck that I would like to try to turn into use cases as well. 
Moving on - Ground Speed; badging/access logs, including but not limited to:

⇨If I physically badge into an office in North America but then log into the network later that day from the APAC region, whassup?

⇨If I log into the network from the APAC region, but then later that same day I physically badge into an office in North America, whassup?

⇨If I log into a system in North America and then later that day I also log in from the APAC region, whassup?

Login time behaviors oddities:

⇨For example, let’s say someone almost always works 8am-4pm but now all of a sudden they are logged in at 2am, whassup?

Don’t just monitor your logs for unsuccessful logins, also track successful logins, but with correlation, for example, did any of those unsuccessful login attempts just log in, or was there a successful login from an account we have no record of?  Just today, FS-ISAC warned that credential stuffing/ATO attacks are at an elevated level and there is a huge uptick in brute force attacks attempting to leverage stolen credentials. They suggested a possible defense around that would be to monitor your Call Center for increases in account lock-outs.

If you have Splunk, take a look at Shannon Entropy via the following 
(if you don’t have Splunk, try to see how you can improvise using other tools):

Also with Splunk, take a look at the following (again, if you don’t have Splunk, try to see how you can improvise using other tools):

Huge shout-out to Google Chrome’s Andrew R. Whalley who I had the great fortune of meeting at BlackHat.  I was invited to a small group where Mr. Whalley was discussing browser security and some interesting trickery such as Unicode characters and xn--, some of which are outlined here, and here. There are nuggets in both URL's to begin building alerts for.

Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) probably shouldn’t be spawning .exe, cmd.exe, PowerShell, and a host of other items, for example.

You can hunt down private domain registrations so as to properly investigate, triage and submit for takedown.  I attended a Lunch and Learn in June at the SANS Austin Summit by DomainTools that specifically talked about just that, it was fascinating.  Lunch and Learns aren't recorded and don't always release a slide deck afterward, but I found a free video on the DomainTools Web site which is similar to the talk they gave in Austin.  If you advance the video to exactly 15 minutes in, at the "Hunt Case Study" section, they discuss work-arounds/pivots for private registrations.  It's not in the video link, but at the Lunch and Learn they were even showing how you could pivot off of Google Analytics code to see if anyone else had used it.  I wish I had taken better notes, but I was pretty fried at that point from the malware 610 class I was taking...the video link is close to what was in their talk, just start at exactly 15 minutes in, at "Hunt Case Study."

Track anomalies in CarbonBlack, NetWitness, Splunk, Tanium or a million other other tools, including but not limited to:

o Large outbound files.
o Outbound .rar and .tar files.
o Traffic to high risk geo locations such as .cn, .nk, .ru, .su, tr, etc.
o Traffic from any of the top 20 in your APL reaching-out to high risk locations such as .cn, .nk, .ru, .su, .tr, etc.
o Traffic to odd TLD’s such as .xyz, .sex, .sexy, .xxx, etc.

Applications running which have a hash that’s different than all known good application hashes in the enterprise.

Detecting MimiKatz running in memory:

  • If I understood the author correctly, regardless of what process MimiKatz is injected into, it needs both of these to run: vaultcli.dll and wlanapi.dll.

Known Web Server apps being launched from non-standard locales:

o apache.exe where path is NOT: c:\oracle\program files\apache
o tomcat.exe where path is NOT: c:\program files\tomcat

Track exe’s that could be associated with evil (impersonating the legitimate versions), for example, if any of the following have a running path that is NOT c:\windows  OR c:\winnt (not an exhaustive list):

o aspnet_compiler.exe
o at.exe
o bcdedit.exe
o bitsadmin.exe
o cmd.exe
o conhost.exe
o csc.exe
o cscript.exe
o csrss.exe
o dfsvc.exe
o excel.exe
o expler.exe
o hh.exe
o hkcmd.exe
o IEExec.exe
o iexple.exe
o iexpress.exe
o igfxpers.exe
o igfxsrvc.exe
o ilasm.exe
o InstallUtil.exe
o journal.exe
o jsc.exe
o lsass.exe
o lsm.exe
o MSBuild.exe
o msdt.exe
o mshta.exe
o msiexec.exe
o mstsc.exe
o Net.exe
o Net1.exe
o ping.exe
o PowerShell.exe
o PowerShell_ise.exe
o PresentationHost.exe
o reg.exe
o RegSvcs.exe
o RegSvr32.exe
o rundll32.exe
o sc.exe
o script.exe
o SearchFilterHost.exe
o SearchProtocolHost.exe
o services.exe
o set.exe
o setx.exe
o spoolsv.exe
o svchost.exe
o systemreset.exe
o taskhost.exe
o taskmgr.exe
o vbc.exe
o vssadmin.exe
o w3wp.exe
o winlogon.exe
o winword.exe
o wmic.exe
o Wscript.exe
o wuauclt.exe

Detect single character file name executables, including but not limited to: 0-9.exe and A-Z.exe as well as other characters like ..exe, _.exe, $.exe, etc.

Monitor email for certain file-types within zip, such as .js or scr.

Monitor for encrypted zips.

Check email for .iso, .scr, etc. attachments.

Detect zero-byte files.
o There are several concerns with zero-byte files, some I am sure I am not even aware of, but think of log deletion...files that should contain content but all of a sudden do NOT.  Also, think of destructive malware, which can zero-out files: - there are probably a lot of other things, so if anyone wants to pile on, please do!

Take a look at the SANS “Finding Evil” poster.  Note which processes should never spawn certain other processes, etc. and create rule-sets or dashboards to look for those types of anomalies.  Additionally, this may help you begin tracking known malware injects.

Check the “Behavior Rule-sets” and “Digital Signatures” as outlined in this famous SANS poster.

Monitor what’s being downloaded across the organization.

Correlate hosts that generate greater than one a/v alert within the span of up to one week.

Track a/v hits where the action was “Allowed”, “Deferred”, “Left Alone”, etc.  Create rule-sets for correlation.

Track a/v hits where the action was “Blocked”, “Deleted”, “Quarantined”, etc.  Create rule-sets for correlation.

CarbonBlack offers the following threat indicators:

o Execution from Recycle Bin
o Suspicious process name
o Processes with obfuscated extensions
o Known malware file name
o Execution from System Volume Information folder
o Possible BlackPOS malware registry artifact
o Possible APT backdoor installation
o Possible Ransomware file artifac
o Possible Point-of-Sale malware file artifact
o Execution from APT staging area
o Possible credential theft or misuse
o Possible ZeroAccess activity
o Possible Tibet.c backdoor installation
o Possible wirelurker infection
o ntvdm.exe spawned by office application
o Siesta campaign indicators
o PlugX campaign indicators
o Modification of launchd.conf
o Suspicious OSX persistence mechanism
o Modification of /etc/rc.common
o Possible Olyx/Lasyr activity
o Possible wirenet and/or netweird activity
o Possible Flashback infection
o Possible iWorm infection
o Possible NetWeirdRC infection
o Suspicious local password change
o Attempted osx password hash collection
o Execution from trash bin
o Suspicious process execution
o Suspicious shell activity
o Powershell executed with encoded instructions
o Modification of powershell execution policy
o Possible malicious powershell activity
o Possible WMI Persistence
o Possible WMI command invocation
o WinRM command activity

Begin looking at all the remote access software being utilized in your environment and start to baseline the activity around it. I'm not just talking about Windows built-in RDP, but also tools like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, and even Web-Based products such as (to name a few).  These can all be valuable tools but if a SysAdmin has one sitting on his/her server that they didn't install themselves...ummm...gulp.

Lastly, it’s too much to retype it all, but there is a wealth of additional information along the topic of hunt at the following links:

I met Cheryl Biswas at DEF CON a few weeks ago when her laptop malfunctioned as she was taking the stage for her talk. She asked if anyone in the audience had a spare laptop, and guess what, I did...and I gained a wonderful new friendship as well!  Not only is Cheryl incredibly smart, this woman knows her stuff when it comes to Threat Intel and Hunt!  Take a read!

Contains 87 references to Hunt, just search the page for “Hunt”

Contains 21 references to Hunt, just search the page for “Hunt”

Friday, July 7, 2017

How to Lose Like a Champion

Some of you may remember that just recently a little side project which I am a part of with Devon Ackerman had been nominated for a very prestigious award in our field of Digital Forensics and Incident Response called the Forensic 4:cast award. Perhaps some of you reading this even voted for us, thank you for that. We didn't walk away with the award and I know this sounds trite, but it truly was an honor just to be nominated. I mean that. It hurt to lose, I don't know how else to phrase it, it really did, but when we lose in life, there can be real value in that, and that's what I'd like to focus on.

The first thing I thought when we didn't win was, what am I going to tell my little girls back home. Of course the truth, but how could I hide my sadness from them and not look like a poor loser! I texted home and an answer shot right back..."We have to show them real life!" That was great advice, and honestly, it was the kick in the [you know what] that I needed!

The reality is, there was a ton of good in our loss. Let's count all of the blessings first. I had finally gotten a chance to meet my partner Devon Ackerman in person, what a joy! I also had the pleasure of meeting more than one person who came up to us to tell us how much value they have gotten out of our project

One of the persons who approached us was Jessica Hyde. Jessica was one of the first persons I met at the conference. She made a point to march right over to us and introduce herself and tell us how much she enjoyed our project. Turns out, she was born a few miles from my home and the next time she visits her parents, she's coming to dinner! But there's one more thing you need to know about Jessica (besides the fact that she is a wicked h@cker and gave one of the most awesome talks at the con). Jessica works for Magnet Forensics, the company that won the award in our category. Yup, that's right folks. Here we were competing against her company, but she had taken it upon herself to come over to us and compliment us on how much she enjoyed our project. Wow! None of us knew at that point who had won the award or who had lost, but I can assure you that when her team won the award and we didn't, she was one of the first persons I reached out to to congratulate.

I had put some thought into what I might write in a blog post in the off-chance that we won, and I think those ideas still hold some value so I'll share some of them below.

I believe that one of the things that makes our DFIR community great, is that we share, but what's ironic (and complicated) about that is, when you look at some of the folks in our space who have shared, and their incredible tools, blog posts, code, etc., it can be rather intimidating, at least to someone like me who sometimes wonders if I'd be more comfortable in a cave.

The other thing about sharing is that when you put yourself out there, you give up some control of your work, which can be scary on different levels. For one, control is a hot-button topic among many security practitioners. We love our controls, but I bet we've all worked for someone who's taken it a bit too far and either (a) not shared enough and kept too many keys to the kingdom to themselves and then the business suffered a single point of failure, or (b) locked-down users to the point they had trouble getting actual work done.

Also, in some respects, sharing can make you vulnerable to criticism (good or bad) - here's an example - if you're a singer-songwriter like myself, you might publish a song and then have someone get a totally different meaning from it, or someone else might hear a lyric incorrectly and have that song take on a whole other meaning. I remember my agent having to explain to me how I shouldn't get so bent out of shape by that. She called it, "poetic license" and went on to point out how it can be a beautiful thing. Afterward, I thought about all the times I had sung the wrong words to popular songs and was guilty of the same myself!

So when I returned home from the conference, my daughters were so excited for me! My oldest asked me, "Mom, what prize did you win for second place?!" And I took such great pleasure in sharing my wonderful life lesson with them, that for a fleeting second, I was almost glad we'd lost.

In closing, I suppose some of the above can be reasons not to publish or post, but our community is built on sharing, and it only gets better if everyone contributes. Don't be afraid! There's a little song I used to sing when I was a child called, "This Little Light of Mine" - I bet some of you know it!  Everyone has an inner light, find yours and let it shine!  Even if all you think you have is a bunch of annotated URL's in a NotePad file floating around somewhere (like yours truly), you can still turn that into something useful for others - and if one person benefits, isn't that winning? Isn't that your real prize?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Little Engine That Could?

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper is one of my favorite books to read to my little ones.  It's chock-full of lessons such as The Golden Rule and The Power of Positive Thinking, to name just a couple.  Funny thing is, as an adult, it applies to me these days too.  You see, my partner Devon Ackerman and I have just been nominated for an industry award called the Forensic :4cast Award which is arguably one of the biggest awards in our industry.  We run a little site called and we were nominated as "Digital Forensic Organization of the Year".   We're up against some industry giants, but with your vote, we could (did you get that reference?) win.  It's a long shot, so here's where I humbly and respectfully request your vote, if you feel we've earned itDevon and I are both passionate about DFIR (and malware), and we each have full-time jobs and small children as well, so we do the best we can with the little bit of free time that we have, but we do it with a great love for our industry and the belief that if we think we can, we *will* leave our profession "better than we found it," which is advice I often impart upon my children.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who nominated us and we'd be honored if you voted for usAs for our competition, Magnet Forensics and Cellebrite (and who doesn’t LOVE those two industry luminaries?!) my thinking is, you can still vote for them in other categories and then choose us for your "Organization of the Year" vote.  Just my personal elevator pitch, but maybe it makes sense?!  Regardless, it’s simply splendid and an honor to be nominated!  Thank you everyone!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2017 Partnership

Today I have the great pleasure of announcing a partnership that has formed between Devon Ackerman and myself.  Devon had been sharing a DFIR resource that was similar to my Threat Intel list but we have now merged those two projects into one bigger and better repository that we host at!

Our merger is still a work in progress so if you don't see a familiar data set, it's probably because we haven't quite ported everythin
g over yet.  One of our goals is to offer continuous, timely and meaningful resources, in a very easy to use format and in one central repository.

I'd like to thank a few people who have been silent cheerleaders during this transition period, offering their support, wisdom, and in some cases their own resources.  David Cowen, who took a big chunk of his very valuable time to answer several questions and offer guidance.  Josh Sutfin, who offered valuable data which we will look forward to adding as time allows.  Matt Bromiley, Harlan Carvey, Phill Moore, and Andreas Sfakianakis, each industry rockstars in their own right, have been so kind to mention my research.

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank Devon. Devon quickly became a friend, and when I would get really stressed about the added pressure of a project of this magnitude on top of a full-time job and raising two children (which is another FT job LOL!), he would simply remind me that this was a hobby, and something that we chose to do because it was fun, so no angina allowed!

One more thing, if you're reading this and you are new to the field of DFIR, Threat Intelligence, Malware Analysis/Research or perhaps deciding whether or not to pursue a career in Information Security, I hope you will find our new shared resource DFIR - The Definitive Compendium Project helpful.  There is real community in Security, and one of our goals is to shine a light on that.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Threat Intelligence

UPDATE: Just added a new tab for CTF, Challenges and Sample Image Files, check it out!
I am really looking forward to sharing a new post with the community! 

I revamped my older "Links I Follow" spreadsheet and added a repository of Threat Intelligence portals, Hunt tactics and more malware links.  The new spreadsheet has tabs, so don't miss all three tabs. The "Research" tab has my old "Links I Follow" spreadsheet, with anything new in bold.  A good portion of the entries are free or open source, but if you like something you see and the author asks for a small donation, remember it's nice to give back if you are able.

Some time ago my "IR A-Z" paper was warmly welcomed, as was my list of tools that I shared.  I've since found a whole bunch more tools, but my new list doesn't have very many tools in it, instead I decided to focus my energy on answering a question I received from a former co-worker as well as from some of the listserv's I follow.  A few weeks back a good friend texted me, "Do you happen to have a list of blog intel stuff, API feeds, or anything that reports on current malware or phishing?"  Well, turns out I did, but it seems now that I follow Twitter, I come across so much incredible intel every day, that all I have time to do is copy the URL and move on!  I'd had links and links and links that I had saved but not taken the time to add to my spreadsheet!  But I knew, that in order to help my friend, I needed to sit down and take some time to cull through my pile of information and organize some of it.  There's tons more, but it's an infinite process, which at some point I just have to cut my losses and say, here's all I have time to record.

So that's what this post is about.  It's not meant to be an exhaustive directory by any means, and trust me, I've labored over how to categorize things, where to place them in the list, and eventually just ran out of time. So you might find some malware research under Threat Intelligence or some Hunt stuff under Tools, etc.  I did the best I could with the little bit of free time that I had, so please know that the list is far from perfect, but hopefully it will be helpful to the community.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Unofficial Holiday Hack Countdown

I am so eager for this year's SANS Holiday Hack Challenge that I created a fun counter for myself! Thank you to the wonderful Katie Knowles for letting me use her pic!