Here are three of the worst breaches, attacker tactics and techniques of 2022, and the security controls that can provide effective, enterprise security protection for them.
#1: 2 RaaS Attacks in 13 Months
Ransomware as a service is a type of attack in which the ransomware software and infrastructure are leased out to the attackers. These ransomware services can be purchased on the dark web from other threat actors and ransomware gangs. Common purchasing plans include buying the entire tool, using the existing infrastructure while paying per infection, or letting other attackers perform the service while sharing revenue with them.
In this attack, the threat actor consists of one of the most prevalent ransomware groups, specializing in access via third parties, while the targeted company is a medium-sized retailer with dozens of sites in the United States.
The threat actors used ransomware as a service to breach the victim’s network. They were able to exploit third-party credentials to gain initial access, progress laterally, and ransom the company, all within mere minutes.
The swiftness of this attack was unusual. In most RaaS cases, attackers usually stay in the networks for weeks and months before demanding ransom. What is particularly interesting about this attack is that the company was ransomed in minutes, with no need for discovery or weeks of lateral movement.
A log investigation revealed that the attackers targeted servers that did not exist in this system. As it turns out, the victim was initially breached and ransomed 13 months before this second ransomware attack. Subsequently, the first attacker group monetized the first attack not only through the ransom they obtained, but also by selling the company’s network information to the second ransomware group.
In the 13 months between the two attacks, the victim changed its network and removed servers, but the new attackers were not aware of these architectural modifications. The scripts they developed were designed for the previous network map. This also explains how they were able to attack so quickly – they had plenty of information about the network. The main lesson here is that ransomware attacks can be repeated by different groups, especially if the victim pays well.
“RaaS attacks such as this one are a good example of how full visibility allows for early alerting. A global, converged, cloud-native SASE platform that supports all edges, like Cato Networks provides complete network visibility into network events that are invisible to other providers or may go under the radar as benign events. And, being able to fully contextualize the events allows for early detection and remediation.
#2: The Critical Infrastructure Attack on Radiation Alert Networks
Attacks on critical infrastructure are becoming more common and more dangerous. Breaches of water supply plants, sewage systems and other such infrastructures could put millions of residents at risk of a human crisis. These infrastructures are also becoming more vulnerable, and attack surface management tools for OSINT like Shodan and Censys allow security teams to find such vulnerabilities with ease.
In 2021, two hackers were suspected of targeting radiation alert networks. Their attack relied on two insiders that worked for a third party. These insiders disabled the radiation alert systems, significantly debilitating their ability to monitor radiation attacks. The attackers were then able to delete critical software and disable radiation gauges (which is part of the infrastructure itself).
“Unfortunately, scanning for vulnerable systems in critical infrastructure is easier than ever. While many such organizations have multiple layers of security, they are still using point solutions to try and defend their infrastructure rather than one system that can look holistically at the full attack lifecycle. Breaches are never just a phishing problem, or a credentials problem, or a vulnerable system problem – they are always a combination of multiple compromises performed by the threat actor,” said Etay Maor, Sr. Director of Security Strategy at Cato Networks.
#3: The Three-Step Ransomware Attack That Started with Phishing
The third attack is also a ransomware attack. This time, it consisted of three steps:
1. Infiltration – The attacker was able to gain access to the network through a phishing attack. The victim clicked on a link that generated a connection to an external site, which resulted in the download of the payload.
2. Network activity – In the second phase, the attacker progressed laterally in the network for two weeks. During this time, it collected admin passwords and used in-memory fileless malware. Then on New Year’s Eve, it performed the encryption. This date was chosen since it was (rightfully) assumed the security team would be off on vacation.
3. Exfiltration – Finally, the attackers uploaded the data out of the network.
In addition to these three main steps, additional sub-techniques were employed during the attack and the victim’s point security solutions were not able to block this attack.
“A multiple choke point approach, one that looks horizontally (so to speak) at the attack rather than as a set of vertical, disjointed issues, is the way to enhance detection, mitigation and prevention of such threats. Opposed to popular belief, the attacker needs to be right many times and the defenders only need to be right just once. The underlying technologies to implement a multiple choke point approach are full network visibility via a cloud-native backbone, and a single pass security stack that’s based on ZTNA.” said Etay Maor, Sr. Director of Security Strategy at Cato Networks.
How Do Security Point Solutions Stack Up?
It is common for security professionals to succumb to the “single point of failure fallacy”. However, cyber-attacks are sophisticated events that rarely involve just one tactic or technique which is the cause of the breach. Therefore, an all-encompassing outlook is required to successfully mitigate cyber-attacks. Security point solutions are a solution for single points of failure. These tools can identify risks, but they will not connect the dots, which could and has led to a breach.
Here’s Watch Out for in the Coming Months
According to ongoing security research conducted by Cato Networks Security Team, they have identified two additional vulnerabilities and exploit attempts that they recommend including in your upcoming security plans:
While Log4j made its debut as early as December of 2021, the noise its making hasn’t died down. Log4j is still being used by attackers to exploit systems, as not all organizations have been able to patch their Log4j vulnerabilities or detect Log4j attacks, in what is known as “virtual patching”. They recommend prioritizing Log4j mitigation.
2. Misconfigured Firewalls and VPNs
Security solutions like firewalls and VPNs have become access points for attackers. Patching them has become increasingly difficult, especially in the era of architecture cloudification and remote work. It is recommended to pay close attention to these components as they are increasingly vulnerable.
How to Minimize Your Attack Surface and Gain Visibility into the Network
To reduce the attack surface, security professionals need visibility into their networks. Visibility relies on three pillars:
- Actionable information – that can be used to mitigate attacks
- Reliable information – that minimizes the number of false positives
- Timely information – to ensure mitigation happens before the attack has an impact
Once an organization has complete visibility to the activity on their network they can contextualize the data, decide whether the activity witnessed should be allowed, denied, monitored, restricted (or any other action) and then have the ability to enforce this decision. All these elements must be applied to every entity, be it a user, device, cloud app etc. All the time everywhere. That is what SASE is all about.