How public-private partnerships can combat cyber adversaries

December 13th, 2017 No comments

For several years now, policymakers and practitioners from governments, CERTs, and the security industry have been speaking about the importance of public-private partnerships as an essential part of combating cyber threats. It is impossible to attend a security conference without a keynote presenter talking about it. In fact, these conferences increasingly include sessions or entire tracks dedicated to the topic. During the three conferences Ive attended since Junetwo US Department of Defense symposia, and NATOs annual Information Symposium in Belgium, the message has been consistent: public-private information-sharing is crucial to combat cyber adversaries and protect users and systems.

Unfortunately, we stink at it. Information-sharing is the Charlie Brown football of cyber: we keep running toward it only to fall flat on our backs as attackers continually pursue us. Just wait til next year. Its become easier to talk about the need to improve information-sharing than to actually make it work, and its now the technology industrys convenient crutch. Why? Because no one owns it, so no one is accountable. I suspect we each have our own definition of what information-sharing means, and of what success looks like. Without a sharp vision, can we really expect it to happen?

So, what can be done?

First, some good news: the security industry wants to do this–to partner with governments and CERTs. So, when we talk about it at conferences, or when a humble security advisor in Redmond blogs about it, its because we are committed to finding a solution. Microsoft recently hosted BlueHat, where hundreds of malware hunters, threat analysts, reverse engineers, and product developers from the industry put aside competitive priorities to exchange ideas and build partnerships. In my ten years with Microsoft, Ive directly participated in and led information-sharing initiatives that we established for the very purpose of advancing information assurance and protecting cyberspace. In fact, in 2013, Microsoft created a single legal and programmatic framework to address this issue, the Government Security Program.

For the partnership to work, it is important to understand and anticipate the requirements and needs of government agencies. For example, we need to consider cyber threat information, YARA rules, attacker campaign details, IP address, host, network traffic, and the like.

What can governments and CERTs do to better partner with industry?

  • Be flexible, especially on the terms. Communicate. Prioritize. In my experience, the mean-time-to-signature for a government to negotiate an info-sharing agreement with Microsoft is between six months and THREE YEARS.
  • Prioritize information sharing. If this is already a priority, close the gap. I fear governments attorneys are not sufficiently aware of how important the agreements are to their constituents. The information-sharing agreements may well be non-traditional agreements, but if information-sharing is truly a priority, lets standardize and expedite the agreements. Start by reading the 6 Nov Department of Homeland Security OIG report, DHS Can Improve Cyber Threat Information-Sharing document.
  • Develop and share with industry partners a plan to show how government agencies will consume and use our data. Let industry help government and CERTs improve our collective ROI. Before asking for data, lets ensure it will be impactful.
  • Develop KPIs to measure whether an information-sharing initiative is making a difference, quantitative or qualitative. In industry, we could do a better job at this, as we generally assume that were providing information for the right reason. However, I frequently question whether our efforts make a real difference. Whether we look for mean-time-to-detection improvements or other metrics, this is an area for improvement.
  • Commit to feedback. Public-private information-sharing implies two-way communication. Understand that more companies are making feedback a criterion to justify continuing investment in these not-for-profit engagements. Feedback helps us justify up the chain the efficacy of efforts that we know are important. It also improves two-way trust and contributes to a virtuous cycle of more and closer information-sharing. At Microsoft, we require structured feedback as the price of entry for a few of our programs.
  • Balance interests in understanding todays and tomorrows threats with an equal commitment to lock down what is currently owned.(My favorite) Information-sharing usually includes going after threat actors and understanding whats coming next. Thats important, but in an assume compromise environment, we need to continue to hammer on the basics:

    • Patch.If an integrator or on-site provider indicates patching and upgrading will break an application, and if that is used as an excuse not to patch, that is a problem. Authoritative third-parties such as US-CERT, SANS, and others recommend a 48- to 72-hour patch cycle. Review www.microsoft.com/secure to learn more.

      • Review www.microsoft.com/sdl to learn more about tackling this issue even earlier in the IT development cycle, and how to have important conversations with contractors, subcontractors,and ISVs in the software and services supply chain.

    • Reduce administrative privilege. This is especially important for contractor or vendor accounts. Up to 90 percent of breaches come from credential compromise. This is largely caused by a lack of, or obsolete, administrative, physical and technical controls to sensitive assets. Basic information-sharing demands that we focus on this. Here is guidance regarding securing access.

Ultimately, we in the industry can better serve governments and CERTs by incentivizing migrations to newer platforms which offer more built-in security; and that are more securely developed. As we think about improving information-sharing, lets be clear that this includes not only sharing technical details about threats and actors but also guidance on making governments fundamentally more secure on newer and more secure technologies.

 

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4053440 – Securely opening Microsoft Office documents that contain Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields – Version: 2.0

Revision Note: V2.0 (December 12, 2017): Microsoft has released an update for all supported editions of Microsoft Word that allows users to set the functionality of the DDE protocol based on their environment. For more information and to download the update, see ADV170021.
Summary: Microsoft is releasing this security advisory to provide information regarding security settings for Microsoft Office applications. This advisory provides guidance on what users can do to ensure that these applications are properly secured when processing Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields.

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4056318 – Guidance for securing AD DS account used by Azure AD Connect for directory synchronization – Version: 1.0

Revision Note: V1.0 (December 12, 2017): Advisory published.
Summary: Microsoft is releasing this security advisory to provide information regarding security settings for the AD DS (Active Directory Domain Services) account used by Azure AD Connect for directory synchronization. This advisory also provides guidance on what on-premises AD administrators can do to ensure that the account is properly secured.

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4053440 – Securely opening Microsoft Office documents that contain Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields – Version: 2.0

Revision Note: V2.0 (December 12, 2017): Microsoft has released an update for all supported editions of Microsoft Word that allows users to set the functionality of the DDE protocol based on their environment. For more information and to download the update, see ADV170021.
Summary: Microsoft is releasing this security advisory to provide information regarding security settings for Microsoft Office applications. This advisory provides guidance on what users can do to ensure that these applications are properly secured when processing Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields.

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4056318 – Guidance for securing AD DS account used by Azure AD Connect for directory synchronization – Version: 1.0

Revision Note: V1.0 (December 12, 2017): Advisory published.
Summary: Microsoft is releasing this security advisory to provide information regarding security settings for the AD DS (Active Directory Domain Services) account used by Azure AD Connect for directory synchronization. This advisory also provides guidance on what on-premises AD administrators can do to ensure that the account is properly secured.

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Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection defense for corporate networks against recent Office exploit attacks

November 21st, 2017 No comments

The Office 365 Threat Research team has seen an uptick in the use of Office exploits in attacks across various industry sectors in recent months. In this blog, we will review several of these exploits, including a group of Office moniker exploits that attackers have used in targeted as well as crimeware attacks. We will also describe the payloads associated with these exploits andhighlight our research into a particularly sophisticated piece of malware. Finally, we will demonstrate how Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, and Windows Defender Exploit Guard protect customers from these exploits.

Exploit attacks in Fall 2017

The discovery and public availability of a few Office exploits in the last six months led to these exploits gaining popularity among crimeware and targeted attackers alike. While crimeware attackers stick to payloads like ransomware and info stealers to attain financial gain or information theft, more sophisticated attackers clearly distinguish themselves by using advanced and multi-stage implants.

The Office 365 Threat Research team has been closely monitoring these attacks. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) backs up our threat research with premium threat intelligence services that we use to correlate and track attacks and the threat actors behind them.

CVE-2017-0199

CVE-2017-0199 is a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Microsoft Office allows a remote attacker to take control of a vulnerable machine if the user chooses to ignore protected view warning message. The vulnerability, which is a logic bug in the URL moniker that executes the HTA content using the htafile OLE object, was fixed in April 2017 security updates.

Figure 1. CVE-2017-0199 exploit code

Ever since FireEye blogged about the vulnerability, we have identified numerous attacks using this exploit. The original exploit was used in limited targeted attacks, but soon after, commodity crimeware started picking them up from the publicly available exploit generator toolkits. As shown in Figure 2, the creator and lastModifiedBy attributes help identify the use of such toolkits in generating exploit documents.

Figure 2. Exploit kit identifier

A slight variation of this exploit, this time in script moniker, was also released. When activated, this exploit can launch scriptlets (which consist of HTML code and script) hosted on a remote server. A proof-of-concept (PoC) made publicly available used a Microsoft PowerPoint Slideshow (PPSX) file to activate the script moniker and execute a remote code, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. PPSX activation for script moniker

CVE-2017-8570

The July 2017 security update from Microsoft included a fix for another variation of the CVE-2017-0199 exploit, CVE-2017-8570, which was discovered in URL moniker that, similar to HTA files, can launch scriptlets hosted on a remote server. Even though the vulnerability was not exploited as zero-day, the public availability of exploit toolkit created a wave of malicious PPSX attachments.

CVE-2017-8759

In September 2017, FireEye discovered another exploit used in targeted attacks. The CVE-2017-8759 exploit takes advantage of a code injection vulnerability in .Net Framework while parsing WSDL definition using SOAP moniker. The vulnerability was fixed in the September 2017 security update. The original exploit used an HTA file similar to CVE-2017-0199 to execute the attacker code in vulnerable machines. This exploit piqued our interest because it delivered one of the most complex and multiple VM-layered malware, FinFisher, whose techniques we discuss in the succeeding section.

The CVE-2017-8759 exploit soon got ported to PPSX file. Figure 4 below shows an example of the exploit.

Figure 4. CVE-2017-8759 exploit

CVE-2017-11826

Finally, onSeptember 28,2017, Qihoo 360 identified an RTF file in targeted attacks that exploited a memory corruption vulnerability in Microsoft Office. The vulnerability exists in the way Office parses objects within nested Office tags and was fixed in the October 2017 security update. The forced address space layout randomization (ASLR) prevented the exploit from running in Office 2013 and above. Figure 5 shows the nested tags from the original exploit that led to the bug.

Figure 5. CVE-2017-11826 exploit

Payloads

Except for the memory, corruption exploit CVE-2017-11826, the exploits discussed in this blog pull the malware payload from remote locations, which could make it difficult for antivirus and sandboxes to reliably detect these exploits. Additionally, the public availability of scripts that generate exploit templates could make it challenging for incident responders.

As cited above, these exploits were used in both commodity and targeted attacks. Attackers attempt to bypass AV engine defenses using different obfuscation techniques. Here are some of the obfuscation techniques used in attacks that we recently analyzed:

  • Attackers used HLFL as element type in the malicious RTF attachment. This element is not supported in RTF official specification but serves as an effective obfuscation for static detections.

  • Similarly, we have seen attackers using ATNREF and MEQARR elements in malicious RTF attachments.

In most of the attacks we analyzed, the exploits used PowerShell to download and execute malware payloads, which are usually crimeware samples like ransomware or info stealers.

Figure 6. PowerShell payload from the HTA file

However, every now and then, we stumble upon an interesting piece of malware that particularly catches our attention. One such malware is Wingbird, also known as FinFisher, which was used in one of the targeted attacks using the CVE-2017-8759 exploit.

WingBird (also known as FinFisher)

Wingbird is an advanced piece of malware that shares characteristics with a government-grade commercial surveillance software, FinFisher. The activity group NEODYMIUM is known to use this malware in their attack campaigns.

The group behind WingBird has proven to be highly capable of using zero-day exploits in their attacks, as mentioned in our previous blog post on CVE-2017-8759. So far, we have seen the group use the exploits below in campaigns. These are mostly in line with the findings of Kaspersky Labs, which they documented in a blog:

  • CVE-2015-5119 (Adobe Flash)
  • CVE-2016-4117 (Adobe Flash)
  • CVE-2017-8759 (Microsoft Office)
  • CVE-2017-11292 (Adobe Flash)

The interesting part of this malware is the use of spaghetti code, multiple virtual machines, and lots of anti-debug and anti-analysis techniques. Due to the complexity of the threat, it could take analysts some time to completely unravel its functionality. Heres a summary of interesting tidbits, which we will expand in an upcoming detailed report on Wingbird.

The Wingbird malware goes through many stages of execution and has at least four VMs protecting the malware code. The first few stages are loaders that can probe if it is being run in virtualized or debugged environments. We found at least 12 different checks to evade the malwares execution in these environments. The most effective ones are:

  • Sandbox environment checks

    • Checks if the malware is executed under the root folder of a drive
    • Checks if the malware file is readable from an external source and if execution path contains the MD5 of its own contents

  • Fingerprinting check

    • Checks if the machine GUID, Windows product ID, and system Bios are from well-known sources

  • VM detection

    • Checks if the machine hardware IDs are VmBus in case of HyperV, or VEN_15AD in case of VMware, etc.

  • Debugger detection

    • Detects debugger and tries to kill it using undocumented APIs and information classes (specifically ThreadHideFromDebugger, ProcessDebugPort, ProcessDebugObjectHandle)

The latter stages act as an installation program that drops the following files on the disk and installs the malware based on the startup command received from the previous stage:

  • [randomName].cab –Encrypted configuration file
  • setup.cab – The last PE code section of the setup module; content still unknown
  • d3d9.dll –Malware loader used on system with restricted privileges; the module is protected by a VM
  • aepic.dll (or other name) – Malware loader used on admin privileged systems; executed from (and injected into) a faked service; protected by a VM
  • msvcr90.dll – Malware loader DLL injected into explorer.exe or winlogon.exe process; protected by a VM
  • [randomName].7z – Encrypted network plugin, used to spy the victim network communications
  • wsecedit.rar – Main malware dropped executable, protected by a VM

In the sample we analyzed, the command was 3, which led the malware to create a global event, 0x0A7F1FFAB12BB2, and drop malware components under a folder located in %ProgramData%, or in the %APPDATA% folder. If the malware is running with restricted privileges, the persistence is achieved by setting the RUN key with the value below. The name of the key is taken from the encrypted configuration file.

HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
Value: “{Random value taken from config file}”
With data: “C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\RUNDLL32.EXE C:\PROGRAMDATA\AUDITAPP\D3D9.DLL, CONTROL_RUN”

If the startup command is 2, the malware copies explorer.exe in the local installation directory, renames d3d9.dll to uxtheme.dll, and creates a new explorer.exe process that loads the malware DLL in memory using the DLL sideloading technique.

All of Wingbirds plugins are stored in its resource section and provide the malware various capabilities, including stealing sensitive information, spying on internet connection, or even diverting SSL connections.

Given the complex nature of the threat, we will provide more detailed analysis of the Wingbird protection mechanism and capabilities in an upcoming blog post.

Detecting Office exploit attacks with Office 365 ATP and Windows Defender Suite

Microsoft Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection blocks attacks that use these exploits based on the detection of malicious behaviors. Office 365 ATP helps secure mailboxes against email attack by blocking emails with unsafe attachments, malicious links, and linked-to files leveraging time-of-click protection. SecOps personnel can see ATP behavioral detections like below in Office 365s Threat Explorer page:

Figure 7. Office 365 ATP detection

Customers using Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection can also see multiple alerts raised based on the activities performed by the exploit on compromised machines. Windows Defender Advanced ATP is a post-breach solution that alerts SecOps personnel about hostile activity. Windows Defender ATP uses rich security data, advanced behavioral analytics, and machine learning to detect attacks.

Figure 8. Windows Defender ATP alert

In addition, enterprises can block malicious documents using Windows Defender Exploit Guard, which is part of the defense-in-depth protection in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. The Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) feature in Windows Defender Exploit Guard uses a set of built-in intelligence that can block malicious behaviors observed in malicious documents. ASR rules can also be turned on to block malicious attachments from being run or launched from Microsoft Outlook or webmail (such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo!).

Figure 9. Windows Defender Exploit Guard detection

Crimeware and targeted activity groups are always on the lookout for attack vectors to infiltrate systems and networks and deploy different kinds of payloads, from commodity to advanced implants. These attack vectors include Office exploits, which we observed in multiple attack campaigns. The availability of open-source and off-the-shelf exploit builders helps drive this trend.

AtMicrosoft, we dont stop working to protect our customers mailboxes. Our global network of expert research teams continuously monitors the threat landscape for new malware campaigns, exploits, and attack methods. Our end-to-end defense suite includes Office 365 ATP, Windows Defender ATP, and Windows Defender Exploit Guard, among others, which work together to provide a holistic protection for individuals and enterprises.

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Minimize cybersecurity risk with Software Asset Management

This post is authored by Patam Chantaruck, General Manager of Worldwide Software Asset Management & Compliance.

By 2021, worldwide cybercrime damage is expected to reach $6 trilliondouble what it cost businesses in 2015. Unapproved apps, unmanaged devices, poor password protection, and other security issues are leaving far too many organizations vulnerable to attack. And as organizations embrace digital transformation, it becomes increasingly urgent for them to increase control over their IT infrastructures and reduce security risks.

The question is: where to start?

Driving greater security through software asset management

Software asset management (SAM) is a set of proven IT practices that unites people, processes, and technology to control and optimize the use of software across an organization. SAM is designed to help you control costs, manage business and legal risks, optimize licensing investments, and align IT investments with business needs.

Effective SAM can identify discrepancies between software licenses owned and deployed, thus providing insights into software usage. These insights are then used to devise upgrade plans for each software release that will optimize license use, ensure worthwhile software investments, save money, reduce security risks associated with software piracy, and promote good corporate governance, including management effectiveness and transparency.

Introducing the Microsoft SAM cybersecurity engagement

At Microsoft, we take SAM a step further with our cybersecurity engagement. This comprehensive analysis of your cybersecurity infrastructureincluding your current software deployment, usage, and licensing datahelps to ensure that you have the right processes in place to minimize cyber-risk. Through this engagement we also provide prescriptive cybersecurity guidance and best practices, freeing your organization to focus on innovation instead of protection.

A Microsoft SAM cybersecurity engagement will help you:

  • Minimize data loss, fraud, and employee downtime
  • Save money combatting cyberattacks and increasing efficiencies
  • Securely manage software assets and promote reliable cybersecurity practices
  • Build a resilient IT infrastructure that can quickly respond to threats
  • Ensure that you have a secure and effective defense against attacks

What IDC has to say about SAM

IDC has identified SAM as a key component to securing infrastructure and battling cyberattacks and predicts that an increasing number of organizations will rely on SAM practices to reduce risks. Below is a direct quote from The Business Value of Software Asset Management:

Cyberattacks often take advantage of the high vulnerability of end-of-life (EOL) IT systems and/or software that have ceased to receive product updates and security patches from vendor sources. Understanding risk impact is challenging when there is limited or no understanding of where the assets reside and precisely how the assets support the business. To that end, SAM initiatives enable organizations to quickly discover how many devices and applications are in the environment, along with their location and their warranty status, which can significantly reduce unnecessary cost, waste, and cybersecurity risks. Establishing a comprehensive asset management program provides a common source of record, which enables IT to carry out more timely security patches and identify security threats sooner as well as better respond to software audits. Therefore, asset management should be viewed holistically as an essential component of an effective IT infrastructure, service, and cybersecurity management program.

How SAM helped a sugar manufacturer reduce security risks

Here is one example of how Microsoft SAM for cybersecurity is helping customers around the world.

Ranking as the fourth largest sugar manufacturer in the world, Mitr Phol Group wanted to achieve effective SAM and reduce security risks. They moved away from decentralized IT systems to a more consolidated structure, centralizing the organizations software deployments and management. To further increase the value of their established SAM processes, they became the first company in Thailand to conduct SAM for cybersecurity. As a result, they were able to identify and remediate system vulnerabilities and mitigate security risks and threat impacts while protecting their sensitive data.

SAM should be a key part of your security strategy. And Microsoft can help. To learn more, visit www.microsoft.com/sam to hear how other customers are benefiting. Find a SAM partner near you to help you establish Software Asset Management practice.

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A decade inside Microsoft Security

November 9th, 2017 No comments

Ten years ago, I walked onto Microsofts Redmond campus to take a role on a team that partnered with governments and CERTs on cybersecurity. Id just left a meaningful career in US federal government service because I thought it would be fascinating to experience first-hand the security challenges and innovation from the perspective of the IT industry, especially within Microsoft, given its presence around the US federal government. I fully expected to spend a year or two in Microsoft and then resume my federal career with useful IT industry perspectives on security. Two days after I started, Popular Sciences annual Ten worst jobs in science survey came out, and I was surprised to see Microsoft Security Grunt in sixth place. Though the article was tongue-in-cheek, saluting those who take on tough challenges, the fact that we made this ignominious list certainly made me wonder if Id made a huge mistake.

I spent much of my first few years hearing from government and enterprise executives that Microsoft was part of the security problem. Working with so many hard-working engineers, researchers, security architects, threat hunters, and developers trying to tackle these increasingly complex challenges, I disagreed. But, we all recognized that we needed to do more to defend the ecosystem, and to better articulate our efforts. Wed been investing in security well before 2007, notably with the Trustworthy Computing Initiative and Security Development Lifecycle, and we continue to invest heavily in technologies and people – we now employ over 3,500 people in security across the company. I rarely hear anymore that we are perceived as a security liability, but our work isnt done. Ten years later, Im still here, busier than ever, delaying my long-expected return to federal service, helping enterprise CISOs secure their environments, their users, and their data.

Complexity vs. security

Is it possible, however, that our industrys investments in security have created another problem – that of complexity? Have we innovated our way into a more challenging situation? My fellow security advisors at Microsoft have shared customer frustrations over the growing security vendor presence in their environments. While these different technologies may solve specific requirements, in doing so, they create a management headache. Twice this week in Redmond, CISOs from large manufacturers challenged me to help them better understand security capabilities they already owned from Microsoft, but werent aware of. They sought to use this discovery process to identify opportunities to rationalize their security vendor presence. As one CISO said, Just help me simplify all of this.

There is a large ecosystem of very capable and innovative professionals delivering solutions into a vibrant and crowded security marketplace. With all of this IP, how can we best help CISOs use important innovation while reducing complexity in their environments? And, can we help them maximize value from their investments without sacrificing security and performance?

Best-of-suite capabilities

Large enterprises may employ up to 100 vendors technologies to handle different security functions. Different vendors may handle identity and access management, data loss prevention, key management, service management, cloud application security, and so on. Many companies are now turning to machine learning and user behavior technologies. Many claim best of breed or best in class, capabilities and there is impressive innovation in the marketplace. Recognizing this, we have made acquisition a part of Microsofts security strategy – since 2013 weve acquired companies like Aorato, Secure Islands, Adallom, and most recently Hexadite.

Microsofts experience as a large global enterprise is similar to our enterprise customers. Weve been working to rationalize the 100+ different security providers in our infrastructure to help us better manage our external dependencies and more efficiently manage budgets. Weve been moving toward a default policy of Microsoft first security technology where possible in our environment. Doing so helps us standardize on newer and familiar technologies that complement each other.

That said, whether we build or buy, our focus is to deliver an overall best in suite approach to help customers deploy, maintain, monitor, and protect our enterprise products and services as securely as possible. We are investing heavily in the Intelligent Security Graph. It leverages our vast security intelligence, connects and correlates information, and uses advanced analytics to help detect and respond to threats faster. If you are already working with Microsoft to advance your productivity and collaboration needs by deploying Windows 10, Office 365, Azure, or other core enterprise services, you should make better use of these investments and reduce dependency on third-party solutions by taking advantage of built-in monitoring and detection capabilities in these solutions. A best-of-suite approach also lowers the costs and complexity of administering a security program, e.g. making vendor assessments and procurement easier, reducing training and learning curves, and standardizing on common dashboards.

Reducing complexity also requires that we make our security technologies easy to acquire and use. Here are some interesting examples of how our various offerings connect to each other and have built-in capabilities:

  • The Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection(ATP) offer seamlessly integrates with O365 ATP to provide more visibility into adversary activity against devices and mailboxes, and to give your security teams more control over these resources. Watch this great video to learn more about the services integration. Windows Defender ATP monitors behaviors on a device and sends alerts on suspicious activities. The console provides your security team with the ability to perform one-click actions such as isolating a machine, collecting a forensics package, and stopping and quarantining files. You can then track the kill chain into your O365 environment if a suspicious file on the device arrived via email. Once in O365 ATP, you can quarantine the email, detonate a potentially malicious payload, block the traffic from your environment, and identify other users who may have been targeted.
  • Azure Information Protection provides built-in capabilities to classify and label data, apply rights-management protections (that follows the data object) and gives data owners and admins visibility into, and control over, where that data goes and whether recipients attempt to violate policy.

Thousands of companies around the world are innovating, competing, and partnering to defeat adversaries and to secure the computing ecosystem. No single company can do it all. But by making it as convenient as possible for you to acquire and deploy technologies that integrate, communicate and complement each other, we believe we can offer a best-of-suite benefit to help secure users, devices, apps, data, and infrastructure. Visit https://www.microsoft.com/secure to learn about our solutions and reach out to your local Microsoft representative to learn more about compelling security technologies that you may already own. For additional information, and to stay on top of our investments in security, bookmark this Microsoft Secure blog.


Mark McIntyre, CISSP, is an Executive Security Advisor (ESA) in the Microsoft Enterprise and Cybersecurity Group. Mark works with global public sector and commercial enterprises, helping them transform their businesses while protecting data and assets by moving securely to the Cloud. As an ESA, Mark supports CISOs and their teams with cybersecurity reviews and planning. He also helps them understand Microsofts perspectives on the evolving cyber threat landscape and how Microsoft defends its enterprise, employees and users around the world.

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4053440 – Securely opening Microsoft Office documents that contain Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields – Version: 1.0

Revision Note: V1.0 (November 8, 2017): Advisory published.
Summary: Microsoft is releasing this security advisory to provide information regarding security settings for Microsoft Office applications. This advisory provides guidance on what users can do to ensure that these applications are properly secured when processing Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

4053440 – Securely opening Microsoft Office documents that contain Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields – Version: 1.0

Revision Note: V1.0 (November 8, 2017): Advisory published.
Summary: Microsoft is releasing this security advisory to provide information regarding security settings for Microsoft Office applications. This advisory provides guidance on what users can do to ensure that these applications are properly secured when processing Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields.

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Defending against ransomware using system design

This post is authored by Michael Melone, Principal Cybersecurity Consultant, Enterprise Cybersecurity Group.

Earlier this year, the world experienced a new and highly-destructive type of ransomware. The novel aspects of WannaCry and Petya were not skills as ransomware, but the combination of commonplace ransomware tactics paired with worm capability to improve propagation.

WannaCry achieved its saturation primarily through exploiting a discovered and patched vulnerability in a common Windows service. The vulnerability (MS17-010) impacted the Windows Server service which enables communication between computers using the SMB protocol. Machines infected by WannaCry propagate by connecting to a nearby unpatched machine, performing the exploit, and executing the malware. Execution of the exploit did not require authentication, thus enabling infection of any unpatched machine.

Petya took this worming functionality one step further and additionally introduced credential theft and impersonation as a form of worming capability. These techniques target single sign-on technologies, such as traditional domain membership. This added capability specifically targeted enterprise environments and enabled the malware to use a single unpatched endpoint to springboard into the network, then used active sessions on the machine to infect other machines regardless of patch level. To an enterprise, a single unpatched endpoint paired with poor credential hygiene could be used to enable propagation throughout the enterprise.

Most impersonation and credential theft attacks are possible only when malware obtains local administrator or equivalent authorization to the operating system. For Petya, this would mean successful exploitation of MS17-010, or running under the context of a user with local administrator authorization.

Measuring the value of a user account

To a hacker, an infected or stolen identity is measurable in two ways: the breadth of computers that trust and grant authorization to the account and the level of authorization granted upon successful authentication. Since encryption can be performed by any user account, ransomware benefits most when it infects an account which can convey write authorization to a large amount of data.

In most cases (thus far), the data sought out by ransomware has been either local files or those accessible over a network attached share data which can be accessed by the malware using out-of-the-box operating system interfaces. As such, data encrypted by most ransomware includes files in the users profile, home directory, or on shared directories where the user has access and write authorization.

In the case of WannaCry, the identity used by the ransomware was SYSTEM an effectively unrestricted account from an authorization perspective. Running as SYSTEM, WannaCry had authorization to encrypt any file on the infected machine.

Petyas encryption mechanism required the ability to overwrite the boot sector of the hard drive to invoke its encryption mechanism. The malware then creates a scheduled task to restart the machine at least 10 minutes later to perform the encryption. The offline encryption mechanism prevented destruction of network files by Petya.

Infected machines and worms

Pivoting our focus to the worm aspect of these ransomware variants, the value of an infected host to a hacker is measurable in two ways: the quantity of newly accessible targets resulting from infection and the data which now becomes available because of the infection. Malware with worming capability focuses on widespread propagation, thus machines which can access new targets are highly valuable.

To both WannaCry and Petya, a newly infected system offered a means to access previously inaccessible machines. For WannaCry, any potential new targets needed to be vulnerable to MS17-010. Vulnerability gave both malware variants SYSTEM-level authority, thus enabling successful execution of their payload.

Additionally, in the case of Petya, any machine having reusable credentials in memory furthered its ability to propagate. Petya searches for active sessions on an infected machine and tries to use the session to infect machines which may not have been vulnerable to MS17-010. As a result, a single vulnerable endpoint may expose a reusable administrative credential usable to infect potential targets which grant that credential a necessary level of authorization.

Codifying the vulnerability

To defend against a ransomware application with worm capability we need to target the following areas:

  • Ransomware

    • Reduce the authorization level of users relative to the operating system of an infected machine
    • Perform backups or versioning of files to prevent loss of data due to encryption, deletion, or corruption
    • Limit authorization to delete or tamper with the data backups

  • Worms

    • Reduce the ability for an infected host to access a potential infection target
    • Reduce the number of remotely exploitable vulnerabilities that provide remote code execution
    • Reduce exposure of reusable credentials relative to the likelihood of a host to compromise

Resolving Concerns through design

Many of the risks associated with ransomware and worm malware can be alleviated through systems design. Referring to our now codified list of vulnerabilities, we know that our solution must:

  • Limit the number (and value) of potential targets that an infected machine can contact
  • Limit exposure of reusable credentials that grant administrative authorization to potential victim machines
  • Prevent infected identities from damaging or destroying data
  • Limit unnecessary risk exposure to servers housing data

Windows 10, BYOD, and Azure AD Join

Windows 10 offers a new management model that differs significantly from traditional domain joined machines. Azure Active Directory joined machines can still convey identity to organizational resources; however, the machine itself does not trust domain credentials. This design prevents reusable accounts from exposure to workstations, thus protecting the confidentiality of the credential. Additionally, this limits the impact of a compromised domain account since Azure AD joined machines will not trust the identity.

Another benefit of Windows 10 with Azure AD is the ability to move workstations outside of the firewall, thus reducing the number of potential targets once infection occurs. Moving endpoints outside the firewall reduces the impact of any workstation threat by reducing the benefits normally gained by compromising a machine within the corporate firewall. As a result, this design exposes fewer server ports to potentially compromised endpoints, thus limiting the attack surface and reducing the likelihood of worm propagation.

Moving workstations outside of the firewall offers added security for the workstation as well. Migrating to a BYOD architecture can enable a more stringent client firewall policy, which in turn reduces the number of services exposed to other hosts, and thus improves the machines defense against worms and other inbound attacks.

Additionally, most organizations use many laptops which often connect from untrusted locations outside the firewall. While outside of the firewall, these machines can connect to untrusted sources, become infected, then bring the infection inside the firewall next time it is able to connect to the internal network. This causes confusion when trying to identify the initial infection during an incident response, and potentially exposes the internal network to unnecessary risk.

Consider migration file shares to OneDrive or Office365

Migrating data from traditional file shares into a solution such as SharePoint or OneDrive can limit the impact of a ransomware attack. Data stored in these technologies can enforce version control, thus potentially simplifying recovery. To further protect this data, limit the number of SharePoint users who had administrative authority to the site to prevent emptying of the recycle bin.

Ensure resilient backups

When an attack occurs, it is crucial to ensure ransomware cannot destroy data backups. Although convenient, online data backups may be subject to destruction during an attack. Depending on design, an online backup solution may trust a stolen reusable single sign-on credential to enable deletion or encryption of backup data. If this occurs, backups may be rendered unusable during the attack.

To prevent against this, consider Azure Cloud Backup a secure off-site backup solution. Azure Cloud Backup is managed through the Azure Portal which can be configured to require separate authentication, to include multi-factor authentication. Volumes used to store backup data reside in Azure and cannot be initialized or overwritten using on-premises domain credentials.

Closing

Windows 10 and BYOD architecture offers significant defense against a variety of cyberattacks, to include worms and ransomware. This article covers only some of the protections that Windows 10 offers against credential theft, bootkits, rootkits, and other malware techniques employed by this class of highly destructive malware.

To better defend your organization against future malware outbreaks:

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Learn from leading cybersecurity experts

More than 170K technology and business leaders from across the world depend on Microsofts Modern Workplace monthly webcast to shed new light on business challenges related to technology. Over the past four years, Modern Workplace has had the worlds leading experts share their advice on technology topics, such as security, including CISOs, Chief Privacy Officers, Cyber Intelligence Advisors, and Chief Digital Officers. Just in the past year, Modern Workplace security episodes included:

These episodes include more than just security checklists and basicsthey go into depth around the decisions business leaders are faced with every day. In the episode on data privacy, Hillery Nye, Chief Privacy Officer at Glympse, explained how the startup company made a very conscious decision to not collect data that it could have easily gathered from its real-time location sharing app. The company collects customer data and uses it for very specific purposes, but it never stores or sells that data. The company may have given up some opportunities to monetize its customer data, but Nye feels that the company gains even more by being a responsible corporate citizen and establishing a reputation for privacy. She discussed how a companys brand is affected by its privacy policies, and how businesses can better align their privacy policies with business strategy for long term success.

The Modern Workplace series has been nominated for four regional Emmy awards because of its creative presentation of diverse perspectives and insights. To learn more about how technology can help drive your business, check out the Modern Workplace episodes on-demand today!

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A 4-point action plan for proactive security

It can be difficult these days to make sense of all the potential ways you could step up your security. But with automated attacks moving faster and faster, many organizations are feeling a real need to change their approach and get more proactive about security.

Should you focus on endpoint detection and response (EDR)? Should you deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA) to control access to all your corporate resources? Or do you need to control your cloud apps and infrastructure more closely with a cloud access security broker (CASB)? Should your first step be deploying data loss prevention (DLP)?

If youre feeling a little confused about where to start, join us for our webinar: A 4-point action plan for proactive security. Well share how Microsoft approaches security and how you can cut through all the confusion to prioritize a few projects that will have real impact on your level of protection.

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SSN for authentication is all wrong

October 23rd, 2017 No comments

Unless you were stranded on a deserted island or participating in a zen digital fast chances are youve heard plenty about the massive Equifax breach and the head-rolling fallout. In the flurry of headlines and advice about credit freezes an important part of the conversation was lost: if we didnt misuse our social security numbers, losing them wouldnt be a big deal. Let me explain: most people, and that mainly includes some pretty high-up identity experts that Ive met in my travels, dont understand the difference between identification and verification. In the real world, conflating those two points doesnt often have dire consequences. In the digital world, its a huge mistake that can lead to severe impacts.

Isnt it all just authentication you may ask? Well, yes, identification and verification are both parts of the authentication whole, but failure to understand the differences is where the mess comes in. However, one reason its so hard for many of us to separate identification and verification is that historically we havent had to. Think back to how humans authenticated to each other before the ability to travel long distances came into the picture. Our circle of acquaintances was pretty small and we knew each other by sight and sound. Just by looking at your neighbor, Bob, you could authenticate him. If you met a stranger, chances are someone else in the village knew the stranger and could vouch for her.

The ability to travel long distances changed the equation a bit. We developed documents that provided verification during the initiation phase, for example when you have to bring a birth certificate to the DMV to get your initial drivers license. And ongoing identification like a unique ID and a photo. These documents served as a single identification and verification mechanism. And that was great! Worked fine for years, until the digital age.

The digital age changed the model because rather than one person holding a single license with their photo on it, we had billions of people trying to authenticate to billions of systems with simple credentials like user name and password. And no friendly local villager to vouch for us.

Who are you? Prove it!

This is where the difference between the two really starts to matter. Identification answers the question: Who are you? Your name is an identifier. It could also be an alias, such as your unique employee ID number.

Do you want your name to be private? Imagine meeting another parent at your kids soccer game and refusing to tell them your name for security reasons. How about: Oh your new puppy is so adorable, whats her name? And you respond, If I told you, Id have to kill you. Or you try to find an address in a town with no street signs because the town is super security conscious. Ridiculous, right? Identifiers are public specifically so we can share them to help identify things.

We also want consistency in our identifiers. Imagine if that town had street signs, but changed the names of the streets every 24 hours for security reasons. And uniqueness, if every street had the same name, youd still have a heck of a time finding the right address wouldnt you?

Now that were clear on what the identifier is, we can enumerate a few aspects that make up a really good one:

  • Public
  • Unchanging
  • Unique

In a town or public road, we have a level of trust that the street sign is correct because the local authorities have governance over road signs. Back in our village, we trust Bob is Bob because we can verify him ourselves. But in the digital world, things get pretty tricky how do you verify someone or something youve never met before? Ask them to- Prove It!

We use these two aspects of authentication almost daily when we log into systems with a user ID (identification) and password (verification). How we verify in the real world can be public, unchanging, and unique because its very hard to forge a whole person. Or to switch all the street signs in a town. But verification online is trickier. We need to be able toprovide verification of who we are to a number of entities, many of whom arent great at protecting data. And if the same verification is re-used across entities, and one loses it, attackers could gain access to every site where it was used. This is why experts strongly recommend using unique passwords for every website/app. This goes for those challenge questions too. Which can lead to some fun calls with customer service, Oh, the town where I was born? Its: xja*21njaJK)`jjAQ^. At this point in time our fathers middle name, first pets name, town where we were born, school we went to and address history should be assumed public, using them as secrets for verification doesnt make sense anymore.

If one site loses your digital verification info, no worries. You only used it for that site and can create new info for the next one. What if you couldnt change your password ever? It was permanent and also got lost during the Yahoo! breach? And it was the one you use at your bank, and for your college and car loans, and your health insurance? How would you feel?

So, with that in mind, youd probably agree that the best digital verifiers are:

  • Private
  • Easily changed
  • Unique

Your turn

OK, now that you know the difference between identification and verification and the challenges of verification in a digital world, what do you think – Is your SSN a better identifier or verifier?

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MS14-085 – Important: Vulnerability in Microsoft Graphics Component Could Allow Information Disclosure (3013126) – Version: 1.1

Severity Rating: Important
Revision Note: V1.1 (October 19, 2017): Corrected a typo in the CVE description.
Summary: This security update resolves a publicly disclosed vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The vulnerability could allow information disclosure if a user browses to a website containing specially crafted JPEG content. An attacker could use this information disclosure vulnerability to gain information about the system that could then be combined with other attacks to compromise the system. The information disclosure vulnerability by itself does not allow arbitrary code execution. However, an attacker could use this information disclosure vulnerability in conjunction with another vulnerability to bypass security features such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR).

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MS14-085 – Important: Vulnerability in Microsoft Graphics Component Could Allow Information Disclosure (3013126) – Version: 1.1

Severity Rating: Important
Revision Note: V1.1 (October 19, 2017): Corrected a typo in the CVE description.
Summary: This security update resolves a publicly disclosed vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The vulnerability could allow information disclosure if a user browses to a website containing specially crafted JPEG content. An attacker could use this information disclosure vulnerability to gain information about the system that could then be combined with other attacks to compromise the system. The information disclosure vulnerability by itself does not allow arbitrary code execution. However, an attacker could use this information disclosure vulnerability in conjunction with another vulnerability to bypass security features such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR).

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Event recap: Security at Microsoft Ignite

Microsoft Ignite recently gathered 24,000+ attendees from around the world in Orlando, FL. CEO Satya Nadella kicked off an exciting week with his Vision Keynote by articulating how we enable digital transformation, specifically through empowering employees, engaging customers, optimizing operations, and finally through transforming products.

Commitment to security, privacy, and transparency

At the event, Microsoft reaffirmed its commitment to security, privacy, and transparency to its customers and partners through all the four main solution areas: Modern Workplace, Business Applications, Applications & Infrastructure, and Data & Artificial Intelligence. Julia White explained Microsofts approach to security during her session, Microsoft 365: Step up your protection with intelligent security.

Learnings from our customers and partners

During the event, the Microsoft team had the privilege to engage in 410,000 unique interactions within the Expo. In addition, 8,000+ labs were consumed, 54 sessions, two general sessions, 40 breakout sessions across CE, Windows and Office 365 tracks and 12 theater sessions. Our top three security takeaways were:

  1. Build awareness of Microsofts commitment to security and privacy
  2. Early and frequent product updates communications
  3. Transparency from Microsoft equates to trust from customers

Key security related sessions to check out

Key security sessions we recommend you check out are based entirely upon feedback from our customers and partners who attended the sessions. Please take a moment to watch them and learn about new ways you can improve the security posture of your organization.

On demand access to content

All breakout sessions and general sessions were recorded for on demand viewing. These recordings are now available at Microsoft Ignite on demand sessions. Please continue to share this link with your customers and partners. Labs will be available for 6 months through MyIgnite.

Conclusion

Microsoft Ignite was a fantastic week for all who attended. We not only shared product visions, but also, we listened and learned from engagements with customers and partners. With continued advances in our security offerings and development in better ways for partners to build a more modern, collaborative and secure work environment, it will be an exciting year for Security.

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Cybersecurity in a modern age

By 2021, worldwide cybercrime damage is expected to reach $6 trilliondouble what it cost businesses in 2015. As digital transformation sweeps the globe, the imminent threat of cybercrime grows alongside it. As a result, new techniques in cybersecurity must be developed at a growing rate to keep pace.

Digital-first is the new business frontier, and if we want to keep this landscape a safe space to store and share information, we must be able to quickly identify opportunities to bolster security and adapt to evolving threats. Microsofts cloud technology offers organizations the tools to advance security, enhance government compliance, improve security education, and enable industry collaboration to shut down new threats. Microsoft is creating a new path toward digital transformation in a secure space.

Through cloud technologies, IT professionals now have advanced tools at their fingertips that provide real-time visibility into cybersecurity and the ability to proactively thwart threats before they become an issue. As more organizations move to the cloud, management of security risks can occur in real time. This real-time action on cyber threats helps create cost efficiency, and allows for frequent and seamless updates without reconfiguration, giving IT leaders the upper hand in staying compliant with regulatory guidelines.

With cloud-based technology come real solutions in data loss prevention. IT professionals are using the cloud to secure employee data in new and highly effective ways. Through improved cloud encryption capabilities, organizations can better help protect sensitive information in motion and at rest. Even if cybercriminals are able to breach your network and bypass the first lines of cyber defense, encryption helps keep organizational data from falling into unauthorized hands. Additionally, advanced measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO) provide additional layers of security by ensuring only those with the proper credentials are able to gain access to information and company platforms. These solutions and innovations in tech security are just the beginning.

With the advent of new technology and the digitization of how IT experts and professionals communicate, a quicker dissemination of knowledge can occur in a collaborative space. Experts can share and explore new ideas and concepts to quickly improve upon cloud technology and how to best address security concerns. By partnering up, industries are able to break new ground on how to secure information, share information, and revolutionize the way government, private enterprise, education systems, and average people navigate a digitally transforming world.

Ready to discover how Microsoft technology is transforming security for a digital-first, cloud-first world, and participate in interactive sessions led by subject matter experts? Microsoft is hosting a series of Security Forums in cities across the United States to demonstrate how organizations can use the latest technology to update and improve their cybersecurity efforts. We invite you to join your fellow IT professionals alongside Microsoft experts to discuss new ways to address evolving cyber threats. Find out how your business can use the power of the cloud to boost security, and get a firsthand look at what Microsoft has to offer.

For more information, including locations near you and a full event calendar, visit the Microsoft Security Forum events page. Dont delay, as seats are limited. Register now to save your spot!

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Microsoft and Progeny Systems enhance security for mobile applications across U.S. Government

In our mobile-first, cloud-first world, security is paramount for organizations of any size. It is especially critical to applications used across the U.S. Government, which is why we are working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and Progeny Systems to enhance mobile application security.

In support of the broader federal initiative to enable access to quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device, Progeny will build a mobile application development security framework for iOS, Android and Windows apps that will be used across several US Government agencies, both for public facing and internal enterprise use cases. This framework will broadly enable developers across the United States Government to focus on building mobile apps that provide business value, with the confidence that security is built in.

The cross-platform, native approach using Visual Studio, the open-source .NET framework, and Xamarin platform will enable developers to build higher quality apps that are fully compliant with the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) mobile app vetting standards, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-163 guidance and the Department of Homeland Securitys Mobile Application Playbook. Utilizing Microsofts leading mobile application development tools, the framework will support mobile apps built to run on-premise and on any cloud platform, including government-only clouds such as Azure Government, which meet critical government regulatory compliance requirements.

Id like to congratulate the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate for their commitment to addressing the mandates of both security and mobility for their stakeholders, said Greg Myers, Microsoft Vice President of Federal. We look forward to partnering with DHS and ultimately, by bringing mobile, secure, and compliant technology solutions helping them fulfil their critical mission.

Microsofts latest award from the DHS comes on the heels of several related public sector certifications and big data and analytics enhancements to our leading mobile apps and security. It also builds on our current work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Applied Research Associates, whose Instant Notification System enables the U.S. governments Combating Terrorism and Threat Support Offices Tactical Support Working Group (TSWG) to quickly and effectively notify team members about suspicious packages or events over commercially available networks.

You can read more about our mobile application security work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and Progeny Systems in their news release. For details on Microsofts leadership in mobile application development, visit Gartners Magic Quadrant report.

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Easily create securely configured virtual machines

This blog post is authored by Jonathan Trull, Cheif Security Advisor, Enterprise Cybersecurity Group.

While a securely configured operating system is essential to repelling todays cyber attacks, the base images provided by vendors do not come pre-hardened and require significant research, expertise, and proper configuration by the customer. To make it easier for Microsoft customers to deploy secured virtual machines out of the box, I am excited to share the recent availability for purchase of hardened virtual machine images within Azure, based on the partnership between Microsoft and the Center for Internet Security(CIS). CIS is a non-profit entity focused on developing global standards and recognized best practices for securing IT systems and data against the most pervasive attacks. Hardened images are virtual machine images that have been hardened, or configured, to be more resilient to cyber attacks. These images are available in the Azure Marketplace and can be used by Azure customers to create new, securely configured virtual machines.

Establishing and maintaining the secure configuration of an entitys IT infrastructure continues to be a core tenet of information security. History has shown that the misconfiguration or poor configuration of laptops, servers, and network devices is a common cause of data breaches. Global standards, governments, and regulatory bodies have also highlighted the importance of establishing and maintaining secure configurations, and in many cases, have mandated their use due to their effectiveness. I have included a few of the most relevant and wide-ranging examples in the table below.

Source Control Reference
Center for Internet Security Critical Security Controls CIS Control 3 Secure configurations for hardware and software on mobile devices, laptops, workstations, and servers https://www.cisecurity.org/controls/secure-configurations-for-hardware-and-software/
Australian Signals Directorate Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incidents User Application Hardening
Server Application Hardening
Operating System Hardening
https://www.asd.gov.au/infosec/mitigationstrategies.htm
US NIST Cyber Framework PR.IP-1: A baseline configuration of information technology/ industrial control systems is created and maintained https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cyberframework/cybersecurity-framework-021214.pdf
Payment Card Industry Build and maintain a secure network and systems https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/documents/PCIDSS_QRGv3_2.pdf?agreement=true&time=1505339723255

Accessing and Deploying CIS Hardened Images

To view the CIS hardened images, login to the Azure portal and navigate to the Marketplace. You can then search for and filter on the Center for Internet Security. As you can see below, there are hardened images for many of the common operating systems, including Windows Server 2012, Oracle Linux, and Windows Server 2016.

From within the Marketplace blade, you can then select the appropriate image and select the create button to start the deployment journey within the portal or gain further details on deploying the image programmatically. Below is an example showing the start of the deployment of new CIS hardened Windows Server 2016 image.

The hardened images are configured based on the technical specifications established in the related benchmark. These benchmarks are freely available on the CIS website in PDF format.

The CIS benchmarks contain two levels, each with slightly different technical specifications:

  • Level 1 Recommended, minimum security settings that should be configured on any system and should cause little or no interruption of service or reduced functionality
  • Level 2 Recommended security settings for highly secure environments and could result in some reduced functionality.

Prior to deploying one of the CIS hardened images, it is important for the administrator to review the benchmarks specifications and ensure it conforms to the companys policy, procedures, and standards and perform sufficient testing before deploying to a production environment.

CIS is working to release additional, hardened images, so check the Azure Marketplace for new updates.

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