Threat Analytics – The Game of Weeds

Martin Cannard
May 9th, 2016

Threat Analytics

In a previous blog post, I outlined the threat of attack by exploitation of weak links— attack vectors insignificant enough to pop up on the radar, but exploitable enough to move an attacker one step further into your organization.

It’s a little like playing a board game. You don’t move from one end of the board to another in one swoop. You move square by square (hopefully without your opponent noticing you) until you are in a position to strike.

To extend the game analogy to a corporate environment, you are not playing one game board against one opponent. You are playing against multiple opponents on hundreds or thousands of game boards (your systems) simultaneously. So just how do you keep track of these moves? Any one move might be legitimate by a valid user, or it could be an attacker.

Anomaly Detection and Threat Analytics

Logging user activity is a given for most environments, but often you get so much information back that it is very difficult to manually identify patterns of behavior in audit trails. This is where threat analytics comes to the rescue. Self-learning algorithms learn what activity standard behavior is made of (this is also known as base lining.) Whenever something changes, it can generate an event to alert you to the fact that a user has done something different.

So we can just implement a baselining tool and we’re covered, right?

Not quite. Patterns of behavior can be quite complex, and often it’s not a single anomaly that stands out— it’s a collection of anomalies threaded together. I’ll give an example:

Let’s say I have a rule that highlights when a user logs onto a new server; this rule may well be firing off hundreds of times a day as administrators build up and tear down virtualized environments. We’ll simply give this anomalous behavior a score of “1”. Now we look at what time of day the user is making the access request— we’ll score all those events as “1”. What about servers that have unpatched vulnerabilities? I think that access to these systems are a little riskier, so we’ll give these events a score of “1”.

What you will see is that by looking at activity from multiple angles, and incrementing up the activities score based on different factors, we can start to see events that “pop out”. To give another example:

A user tried to access a vulnerable server they had not used before, at a time they do not normally work. The access request came over a VPN from a foreign location, and the user tried to jump to another host using the MSTSC command. These factors combined to elevate the event threat level enough that it stood out and received immediate attention.

BeyondInsight Clarity in conjunction with PowerBroker Password Safe

BeyondInsight Clarity is an advanced threat analytics tool that helps pinpoint breaches that many other products miss. It processes and analyses data from network devices such as Palo Alto, as well as BeyondTrust’s full range of Privilege Access Management and Vulnerability solutions:

By processing activity coming from the vulnerability and delegation solutions, as well as network devices, Clarity is able to add rich context to any single event whether host or network initiated.

Password Safe automates privileged password and privileged session management. Available for both on-prem and in the cloud, the solution provides secure access control, auditing, alerting and recording for any privileged account – from local or domain shared administrator, to a user’s personal admin account, to service, operating system, network device, database and application accounts.

On top of granular access controls, PowerBroker Password Safe ensures managed accounts have their passwords (and SSH keys) regularly rotated, even upon release – every password issued can be a one-time password for security.

The combination of BeyondInsight Clarity with PowerBroker Password Safe allows anomalous events that would otherwise have gone undetected to generate actionable alerts.

If you’d like to speak with us to learn how we can help you identify and weed out the threats in your organization, contact us today.

Martin Cannard

Martin has been helping organizations solve challenges in the privileged account management and identity and access management space for over 24 years. At Dell Software, Martin managed a team of Solution Architects, focused on designing and implementing solutions in the Privileged Account Management (PAM) space. Prior to joining Dell, Martin was Sr. Product Manager for Novell Privileged User Manager, a privilege management application acquired from Fortefi, an organization where he served as Vice President, Corporate Development. Prior to this, he was Program Manager of Client Technologies at Symantec where he was responsible for many ground-breaking field and channel enablement applications. Additionally, Martin managed the European QA group at Axent Technologies and has held various management positions in consulting, systems development, and operations. Martin is a regular speaker for security events, and webinars.