By Nicholas Sheble
A new defense for killer intrusions to corporate networks and industrial control systems presumes that external firewalls won’t work at all times. Eventually enemy viruses will get to the soft side of all systems where hackers can escalate their privileges.
“Application whitelisting is a new protection paradigm,” said Dan Teal, founder and chief technology officer of CoreTrace an Austin, TX-based cyber security firm. Teal is a cyber warfare veteran of the United States Air Force.
Application whitelisting is a concept whereby only authorized applications can run on the networks and its nodes. So rather than searching out malware using antivirus software, the system blocks everything … except those functions that the user designates to run.
The anti-malware applications of this technique suppose that malware never gets on the whitelist. As long as the whitelist remains malware-free then malware cannot run.
Stuxnet was a sophisticated program and Night Dragon was far less so, actually quite pedestrian, and succeeded through its relentlessness. The common factor of the two is they breached the outer most firewall, got into the system and went to work on the PLCs, SCADA systems, and information networks causing havoc and eventually, in the Stuxnet/Iran case, death.
“Social engineering is the method that worked for Stuxnet,” said Joel Langill president of SCADAhacker during his and Teal’s webinar Tuesday entitled “How to slay the beast (and others like it): Night Dragon, Stuxnet and ICS (industrial control systems) Attacks.”
Social engineering includes actions like targeting individuals to carry malware into a facility on a thumb drive or laptop computer. It also includes gaining network entry via what seem to be emails from friends, known colleagues, vendors, or maintenance contractors but which actually carry corrosive code.
Social engineering deals with people issues and that can sometimes be the weakest link in a security solution.
“One thing we need to talk about is the vulnerability from the people on the process side. The people out there on the sites really don’t have a security culture yet. I would liken it to where safety was 10 or 15 years ago. It’s taken a long time to build up a safety culture in operations and I think it’s going to take a long time to build up a security culture as well,” said Andrew Wadsworth, technical director for process security at Amor Group.
In the webinar, technologists from CoreTrace, SCADAhacker, and Amor Group:
• Dissect Night Dragon into its multitude of attack techniques
• Outline the possible approaches/solutions for each component of the attack
• Detail why application whitelisting is a powerful component for defense
Click here for coverage of the Stuxnet and Night Dragon events.
Nicholas Sheble (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer, engineer, and industry analyst.