Organizations of all sizes have the best chance of discovering and defeating their threat actors if they do scaled and cost-effective attack surface and digital threat monitoring.
Detecting ransomware is usually a losing proposition. Security teams normally report the moment a vulnerability or exploit is made public, Within 12 hours, attackers are usually able to exploit the flaws. Internal networks are quickly accessed. More concerning, the time it takes from initial access to escalating privileges and ransomware deployment can be as little as six hours. In other words, whether it’s a set of credentials acquired on the dark web with no two-factor authentication or the exploitation of an internet-facing service, a threat actor only needs a short amount of time to start sending emails to executives demanding ransom.
It’s challenging to defend against such a threat. Focusing on systematically identifying first access vectors and supply chain vulnerabilities that act as precursors to ransomware attacks and data theft is better for businesses. Monitoring the dark web, open source, and external attack surfaces at scale and with the right collection parameters is a critical tool for detecting and preventing threats.
Challenges for small and medium-size businesses
Small and medium-sized businesses find it difficult, if not impossible, to respond within six hours. They don’t have the resources to conduct emergency patch management cycles in a timely manner, and they have a restricted amount of security resources. Those restricted resources are most typically devoted to “on-network” tasks including configuration and patch management, anti-virus, network and application firewall setups, identify access management controls, and logging endpoints and Windows events. They have, at best, implemented endpoint detection and response as well as a SIEM, maybe via an MSSP.
Challenges for large businesses
Large businesses with more resources have a better chance, but bureaucracy can occasionally stymie them. To quickly remedy initial access and supply chain exploits, it takes attention and execution. Security and audit functions identify vulnerabilities on a regular basis, but it’s up to information technology to patch or roll out credentials.
When acquisitions and/or subsidiaries are involved, things get a lot more difficult. Patch and configuration management for the individual business entities may not be centralized in certain instances. Meanwhile, the threat hunting team within security operations is keeping an eye on attackers who are taking advantage of exploits and working to keep them out of the environment so they don’t move laterally and escalate privileges. This is a common occurrence. And there’s always an issue with it.
Stop threat actors with threat intelligence
Given the rapidity with which ransomware actors can seize control of a network, monitoring outbound and inbound malicious traffic flows to ransomware actor command and control nodes is mostly a losing proposition. This is particularly true for small and medium-sized businesses. The inappropriate misconfigurations and faults that ransomware perpetrators take advantage of can be discovered and remediated before an attack begins with properly defined and on-going monitoring in place “beyond the firewall.”
Monitoring digital threats on the dark web and open source
It’s crucial to find the right forums and internet resources to scale digital threat monitoring, especially when seeking for credentials to staff devices. When internal access points and exploits are attempted, businesses can take the following steps:
- Monitor brands, personalities, and interest groups on social media and private forums.
- Perform surface web, deep web, and dark web monitoring, as well as human intelligence and analysis, to collect breach datasets according to client-specific requirements.
- Create and maintain personas as well as misattributable infrastructure.
- Data leakage, especially Github leaks, should be monitored and detected.
- Keep an eye on the external attack surface.
Monitor the external attack surface
External attack surface monitoring combines asset discovery, shadow IT, threat actor infrastructure mapping and malicious/anomalous traffic detection into a single comprehensive contextual analysis. As a result, stakeholders can get a clear picture of business risk from the outside. This isn’t just vulnerability management scanning the perimeter on a regular basis.
External attack surface control is more than just compiling a list of IP addresses and websites. It’s a contextual understanding of how internet-exposed assets relate to the company and the threats they pose.
While there is no silver bullet for preventing ransomware actors from accessing the environment or exploiting a gap in the technology supply chain, it is vital to prevent them from doing so. Organizations of all sizes have the best chance of discovering and defeating their opponents if they do scaled and cost-effective attack surface and digital threat monitoring.
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