For Top Cyber Threats, Look in the Mirror

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By: Kevin Jackson|

A recent report by Praetorian, a cybersecurity company headquartered in Austin, TX, focused on threats that resulted in data compromise or access to sensitive information. Based on a review of 100 separate internal penetration test engagements the study identified the five most prevalent threats to corporate data.  The amazing thing about these weaknesses is that the top four are all based on utilizing stolen credentials and the last one helps an attacker be more effective in using those stolen credentials.  In other words, the enemy is right there in the mirror!  The study spanned 75 unique organizations and only focused on security weaknesses that were used to obtain a full network compromise.

The most prevalent threat is something we’ve all heard of before – Weak Domain User Passwords.  Since most corporate environments use Microsoft’s Active Directory to manage employee accounts and access, it needs some improvements in order to fully address complex passwords. Since Active Directory only requires passwords to be a specific length and contain specific character sets so addressing this weakness will require the use of third-party software.

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Figure 1: Where are your security pain points?

The next most common corporate threat is Broadcast Name Resolution Poisoning.  Using this vector, an attacker responds to broadcast requests (i.e. LLMNR, NetBIOS, MDNS, etc) by providing its own IP.  When this is done, the credentials of a user accessing network resources can be instead transmitted to the attacker’s system.

The next big no-no is when system administrators all use the same Local Admin password. If an attacker is able to compromise the LM/NT hash representation of the password, then the attacker can use the hash to authenticate and execute commands on other systems that have the same password.  Using the hash, an attacker doesn’t need the actual password at all!

Microsoft Windows operating systems have another embedded password weakness.  Believe it or not, the operating system stores domain credentials in cleartext within memory of the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) process.  Although this weakness requires an attacker to have Local Admin or SYSTEM-level access, it ranks high on the threat list.

This last threat enhances all of the other – Insufficient Network Access Controls. Many organizations don’t restrict network access based on business requirements.  This will enable unfettered attacker mobility after only a single system on the internal network has been compromised.

These threat vectors, last updated by Praetorian in June 2016, were evaluated as part of a complete corporate network compromise kill chain.  They also highlight the importance of understanding the cybersecurity threat.  Although the mirror is a good place to start improving on network security, you must also work to identify all your organization’s security pain points.  With that knowledge you can more effectively enhance your team’s defenses and eventually evolve towards a better understanding of your security threat environment.

If you are serious about protecting your data, download the full report and read about the effective strategies your company can use to protect itself.  If you are a CISO or corporate executives, IBM also provides some excellent information on how to secure the C-suite.  They also provide an interactive tool that can help better analyze your threats, protect your users and save your data from these and many other security challenges.

Securing the C-Suite

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About The Author

Kevin Jackson

CEO/Founder, GovCloud Network

Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized cloud computing expert and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog. Mr. Jackson has also been recognized as a “Top 100 Cybersecurity Influencer and Brand” by Onalytica (2015), a Huffington Post “Top 100 Cloud Computing Experts on Twitter” (2013) and a “Top 50 Cloud Computing Blogger for IT Integrators” by CRN (2015). Mr. Jackson’s professional career includes service in the US Navy Space Systems Command, Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and NJVC Vice President, Cloud Services. He is currently part of a team responsible for onboarding mission applications to the US Intelligence Community cloud computing environment (IC ITE). He is also a National Cyber security Institute Fellow. His first book, “GovCloud: Cloud Computing for the Business of Government” was published by Government Training Inc. and released in March 2011. His second book, released in 2012 by the same publisher, is titled “GovCloud II: Implementation and Cloud Brokerage Services". His next publication, “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View”, will be released by Taylor & Francis in the spring of 2016.

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