Menu
Many attackers lurk undetected for months, then pounce, study finds

Many attackers lurk undetected for months, then pounce, study finds

Gaining access credentials is a way to keep access without installing malware, Mandiant said

Attackers who penetrate company networks often pose as legitimate users for long periods of time, causing lengthy delays before victims figure out they've been hacked.

FireEye's Mandiant forensics service found that it took a median of 205 days for an organization to detect a compromise, down slightly from 229 days in 2013, according to its 2015 Threat Report.

The drop is nearly insignificant. "I don't think it's enough to make a claim that people are getting better at this," said Matt Hastings, a senior consultant with Mandiant who works on incident response.

One of the main problems is that attackers are moving away from using malware that can be quickly detected. Instead, they're stealing authentication credentials and using them to log into systems remotely. In that way, they look like legitimate users logging into systems, which becomes difficult to detect.

In two of the largest payment card data breaches, affecting Target and Home Depot, attackers obtained credentials used by third-parties to access those retailers' networks, allowing them to gain a foothold that eventually enabled attacks on their point-of-sale systems.

To be sure, attackers still use malware and backdoors, but more judiciously. In fact, victims will often find components and tools used for an attack and remove them, Hastings said, but still fail to understand fully what is going on.

As a result, the hackers -- seeing that some of their intrusions have been detected -- can change tactics to maintain their presence in a network.

Mandiant's report said in 69 percent of breaches, an organization found out about an attack from another group, such as law enforcement. That's up from 67 percent in 2013 and 63 percent in 2012.

One of the ways an attacker can appear to be an authorized user is by gaining VPN access. Mandiant saw attackers obtain login credentials for those systems more in 2014 than ever before.

Once they enter through a VPN, an attacker can often get access to other systems, Hastings said. That opens the possibility of using a tool such as Mimikatz, which can collect clear-text passwords of users currently logged in.

Windows will keep credentials in memory so they can be reused for single-sign on, and that can allow Mimikatz to grab them.

Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1 have a defensive mechanism called "protected processes" to defend against this kind of attack, Hastings said. But most organizations use Windows Server 2008 functional domains and Windows 7 endpoints.

"Unfortunately, at this point, it's very hard to mitigate this type of risk," Hastings said.

To further blur their activity, attackers modify and recompile Mimikatz's source code. Mandiant said it did not find a single instance in which an organization's antivirus software detected or prevented Mimikatz from running, despite its reputation.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intrusionsecurityFireEyemalware

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments