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Investigating Ransomware Infections with QRadar

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Ransomware is the nightmare of most of system administrators and security officers. It’s an emerging threat and the trend unfortunately is upward: more and more companies are being hit by ransomware, from small shops to large corporations.

In a previous post we discussed on how to use your QRadar to detect ongoing ransomware infections. In this post we will be discussing how to investigate ransomware attacks using your SIEM.

You may be wondering, “why bothering if it’s too late?”. It is extremely important to understand the vectors exploited and the timeline of the attack so we can avoid future infections and even stop current ransomware attacks.

Here’s a list of items to check using your QRadar:

  • Anti Virus logs: That seems the most obvious thing to check. We can try to identify if the antivirus detected the threat and which was the first computer affected (the “entry point”). We can also check if the users infected had turned their antivirus off or if the ransomware was not even detected by the antivirus (a potential zero-day).
  • Network Traffic: The majority of the ransomware strains communicate to a Command & Control server for two main reasons: synchronize the malware data, and in some cases, exfiltrate sensitive data. You can use your QRadar to find if your machines are connecting to a new external IP. For example, if you had all your HR laptops infected, and in the same period you observe all the laptops connecting to a new specific IP, that’s most likely the command and control server. You can blacklist this IP in your firewalls and create custom rules on QRadar to alert in case new machines trying to connect to this IP.
  • Windows Logs: The windows logs can provide a lot of useful information
    • Network Connection Logs: You can try to identify the command and control server by the windows network logs. Those logs can also indicate an anomalous number of connections in a port. For example, the latest ransomware threats were exploiting a vulnerability in the SMB protocol, so if you see an unusual number of connections on port 139 or 445, that may indicate a ransomware proliferating into your network. If that’s the case, you can disable the vulnerable service or block the connections on the windows firewall.
    • File Modification Logs: As discussed in this previous post an ongoing ransomware infection generates a lot of “file update” logs. If you detect an anomalous number of file update logs, that may indicate a ransomware threat.
    • USB Logs: Most of the ransomware attacks spread through emails and webpages, but they can also be delivered through infected USB sticks. If you know the approximate time of the infection, you can check for USB logs, looking for inserted devices. If the source is a USB stick, contact the user and make sure other people do not do the same.
  • Email Logs: Most of the ransomware strains use an email phishing campaign as entry point in a company. Check your email logs (example: Microsoft Exchange logs) for suspicious attachments sent to internal users. If you find the first person infected, you can find the sender and prevent other people of receiving similar emails and getting infected.
  • HTTP Logs: Ransomware can also be distributed through malicious websites. If you have your HTTP proxy logs, check for unusual downloads or unusual websites. If you find the source of the ransomware it is easy to block the access and avoid that other users get infected.

Having a proper incident investigation will help you to reduce the impact of an ongoing ransomware attack and may help you to prevent future attacks.

How do you investigate your ransomware attacks? Share with us in the comments.

QRadar New Features (7.2.5 – 7.2.7)

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Since my last post several new features were introduced on QRadar. In the last couple of years, IBM is really trying to stay ahead of its competitors (and also trying to catch up and in some forgotten features). In this post I want to discuss about the new capabilities that I believe are significant improvements in the new versions of QRadar (7.2.5 – 7.2.7).

  • Multitenancy: Probably the feature that all the SOC service providers were waiting for. Now it’s possible to have multiple clients in one single QRadar installation, meaning that if you monitor QRadar for more than one company now you can see all your clients in one single dashboard. This feature also allow you to assign a specific amount of EPS for each tenant, making it easy to control the SIEM usage for each client. There’s a lot of improvements with this feature, so if you want more information just check the official IBM video about this feature.
  • Historical Correlation: Several times in the past I struggled with the fact it was not possible to apply a new offense rule to past events. I had to use several bash tricks to be able to replay logs. However, in the latest versions of QRadar it is possible to “replay” historical logs to figure out if your new offense rule happened in the past. IBM also has a good video about this topic.
  • Deployment Editor: Finally IBM got rid of the java applet that managed the QRadar deployment. The new QRadar 7.2.7 allows you to manage your appliances through the web interface!
  • Custom Action Scripts: This is a feature that can be powerful if well written or dangerous if misconfigured. It can be powerful because allow an offense to trigger any action on an external system, for example, allow you to write an script that creates a new firewall rule if an “brute-force offense” is observed. At same time this is a great feature, the pentester side of me can see a lot of potential vulnerabilities with this feature: basically you’re allowing an script to execute a command in a server based on an input of a log received from a non-trusted device, meaning that if someone properly craft a syslog, they may be able to inject a command into your script. It’s not easy, but it may be possible. So make sure you properly sanitize the inputs in your action script. Also, make sure you properly configure the access to the script file (since it probably will contain access keys to other systems)
  • Data Obfuscation: This feature basically obfuscate sensitive data coming in the logs. For example: let’s say that your application use as user-id the credit card number of the customer (which is NOT recommended), then your application sends the user-id to QRadar as part of the logs of some action. With this feature, you can obfuscate the user-id to ensure your SOC team will NOT see the credit card number of your customers. Check this IBM video for more information, they discuss where you can apply data obfuscation and where you shouldn’t apply it.

 

There are several other new features in the new QRadar versions but the above are the ones that in my opinion really aggregated value to the tool! Check out the IBM channel on Youtube, you can find several videos about the new QRadar features! What is your favorite new QRadar feature?

QRadar and Big Data

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Today I was reading about the new QRadar integration with the IBM BigData solution. Instead of writing down here, I decided to share with you guys a very nice video that summarize the benefits of this integration.

 

(Part 1) QRadar Basics and Big Data

 

(Part 2) QRadar BigData Extension:

 

I hope you guys enjoy the videos. You can also check more from the author in his youtube channel.

QRadar Certification – Certified Deployment Professional (C2150-196)

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IBM recently released the new “IBM Security QRadar Certified Deployment Professional” or also called ” IBM Security QRadar SIEM V7.1 Implementation”. For the most of the people certifications are just accomplishments to attach on their CV, but the real value of the certification is not the paper itself, but is the study to get the certification. Even people that work years with the product, when studying to the certification discover new features or new ways to work with the solution, and being certified (after the proper study) gives you the necessary confidence that at least you already saw all the features of the product and you are able to use the tool in its best way.

The new certification (code C2150-196) consists in a 90-minutes test containing 64 questions involving all the phases of the project. From installing the hardware to tuning the rules. As mentioned in the first paragraph, studying and getting certified will give you a broader vision about the product, not only the tasks that you are used. The test passing score is 70%, a high score compared to another certifications from IBM, and as it involves all phases of the project, you should dedicate part of you time to study the tool.

The best way to prepare yourself to the certification is exploring the tool. Don’t try to go to the certification having never even logged on QRadar. Another good source of information, is the study guide from IBM that you can find on this link. It basically provides you with all the topics of the certification.

A personal tip to you is focus in the following categories: Difference between the versions (SIEM, LogManager, etc); theory behind the offences (how it is generates, how to configure the rules, etc); Interface usage (where can you find the features, how to do things in the interface, etc); and Solution Architecture (Components).

Another suggestion for people who have budget for it, go for the IBM classes. I went to two QRadar courses (2 years ago) and both were very helpful and practical. The courses were filled with useful exercises and hands-on activities. The bad point is the prices, but usually the companies pays for the training. To learn more about the IBM QRadar course, check this link out.

After studying the study guide (or attending the official training), exploring the tool and practicing the theory, you will be good to go for the certification. To get more information about how to schedule your certification visit the official IBM learning center.

SIEM Magic Quadrant 2013

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The Gartner Group published in June of this year the result of the Magic Quadrand for SIEM solutions. For the folks that don’t know what is a magic quadrant, it is a chart comparison between all the SIEM solutions in therms of “ability to execute” and “completeness of vision”, dividing the competitors in 4 categories: Niche Players, Challengers, Visionaries and Leaders.

Since IBM aquired the Q1Labs, every year the QRadar is classified as Leader, and in 2013 it was not different. The following image is the Gatner Magic Quadrant for SIEM solutions of 2013:

Magic-Quadrant-for-Security-Information-and-Event-Management_IBM-Q1-Labs-HP-Arcsight-McAfee

Just to remember, this chart evaluate only the SIEM solution, not considering the several another features from QRadar (Risk Management, Vulnerability Assessment/Management, Network Analysis, etc).

To read more about the results of 2013, read this article in the Security Intelligence blog.

What is your opinion about the QRadar facing the competitors? Leave a comment!