Thursday, February 20, 2014

Internal Vulnerability scanning

The hardest thing about vulnerability scanning is not the scanning itself. There are literally dozens of pretty decent scanning tools and vendors out there at way reasonable prices. The hard part is prioritizing the mountain of vulnerability data you get back. This is especially true if you’re scanning your inside network, which I highly recommend you do as frequently as possible. Our team runs scans nearly every other day, tho the scans are different (which I’ll get into), with the entire suite of scans completing once a week. I’m a big believer in getting an “attacker's eye view” of my network and using that as a component of my risk and architecture decision making.

 However, every scan seems to generate dozens and dozens of vulnerabilities per host. Multiply that by a good sized network and you’ll find things are quickly unmanageable. If your organization is lucky enough where you’re seeing only a few hits or none per host, then congratulations, you’re very lucky (either than or your scanner is malfunctioning). I live in the hyper-fast world where innovation, customer service, and agility (you can’t spell agility without Agile) are key profit drivers while InfoSec is not. So my team has a lot of stuff to wade through. Here’s how we deal with it.  

Multiple scans
 I do most my scanning after hours as not to disrupt the business and clog up the pipes. Yes, I have blown up boxes and switches doing vuln scans, despite a decade and a half of experience using these things. It happens. So, I do it at night. But that gives me limited time. Also, for risk management purposes, I want to get different perspectives on scans, which some scanners can do with a single deep scan but others it’s harder. There are some tools that let you aggregate your scans in a database and let you slice and dice there. I haven’t found one that I thought was worth the money… mostly because I like munging the data directly with my own risk models and none let me do that. If I have some spare time (ha!) I might right my own vuln database analysis tool. But for now, it works out easiest for me to run different scans on different days, and then look at the aggregate. Here are the type of scans I run:

1) Full-bore with credentials. The scanner has full administrative login creds for everything on the network. All the signatures are active and even some automated web app hacking is enabled. These can run so long that I have to break them up over several days to catch all of my enterprise (or buy even more scanners if my budget can handle it). It gives me the fullest grandest possible picture of what is messed up and where. Problem is that it also generates a ton of data.

2) Pivot scan with limited credentials. Now the scanner has the login creds of an ordinary user. This scan are much faster than above. The report tells me what my network looks like if a user’s workstation gets popped and an attacker is pivoting laterally and looking for soft targets. A very interesting perspective.

3) External scan with no credentials. Fast and quick, find everything that’s low-hanging fruit. I do these frequently.

4) Patch and default settings scan. Another fast and quick scan, look for missing patches and default creds and other dumb stuff. I do these frequently as well.

5) Discovery scan. Quick and fast network mapping to make sure nothing new has been added to the network. Also done frequently.  

Break-it down
Whether you’ve done one big scan & aggregated it, or stitched together your multiple scans, you can’t possible have IT patch every single hole. Especially in a dynamic corporate environment such as ours. I long for the restricted deployment world of no-local-admins, certified install images and mandatory configuration compliance… but then that world isn't known for innovation or profit. So I have this pile of vulns to deal with. How do I break them down?

1) Take High-Med-Low/Red-Orange-Yellow/CVSS with a grain of salt. Yeah, a Purple Critical 11.5 scored vuln is probably bad. But then there seems to be a lot of vulnerability score inflation out there. I need something I can work with. One thing is to think of a points system. Maybe start with a CVSS score (or whatever you like) and add/subtract priority points based on the rest of these rules.

 2) Vulnerabilities that have known exploits are high priority. If there’s a hole and a script kiddie can poke it, we need to fix it. We’re below the Mendoza Line for Security.

 3) Protocol attacks, especially on the inside, are lower priority. Yeah, man-in-the-middle or crypto-break attacks happen. But they’re less common than the dumb stuff (see previous).

 4) Extra attention to the key servers. Duh. But yes, your AD controllers, Sharepoints, databases, terminal servers and file shares need to be clean. Not only do they hold important goodies hackers want (like data or password databases) but if they go down, lots of folks can’t work. Bad news for the SLA and IT”s reputation.

5) Easy wins are high priority. This includes basic OS patches, fixing default passwords, turning off dumb services.

6) User workstation “Internet contact points” are scored higher as well. This means un-patched browsers, Java, Adobe readers, mail clients, etc. This where malware comes into the organization. Lock them down.  

Hand-check the important stuff
I don’t trust machines. It’s why I’m in this business. So the really important systems, we hand check critical things at least once a month. This means logging into the box, making sure anti-virus is running and updated, patches have been run, local security policies are in place, and no suspicious local users have been added. We also do hand checks of key ACLs on routers, switches and firewalls. I wish I could say that these checks are superfluous but unfortunately they’ve proven fruitful enough that we keep doing them. Scanners miss things for complicated reasons. We don’t check a lot things this way, just the 10 to 15% of really critical servers and hosts.  

Find out where the money is If you can afford it, I suggest looking into Digital Leak Prevention tools. Pairing up a scan for confidential data laying around on servers and workstations against a vuln scan is really helpful. Your idea of “important servers” and “work flows” changes when you see where things end up. There are a lot of DLP tools out there. I haven’t found one I liked. So we wrote our own. But that is a story for another day.  

Happy scanning


dre said...

Asset identification often precludes the need for vulnerability management using scanning technology. For example, comparing PRADS data with nmap.nasl (with good versioning and perhaps NSE scripts like vulcan) fed OpenVAS data would be more important than running any commercial vulnerability scanner or vulnerability management solution/platform.

The best results can be had by using a trusted advisor to provide risk management using threat modeling based on years of penetration test experience and simply matching that outside experience to the org's previous findings. Risk assessments, or even posture assessments done in this manner typically get the best results because they leverage talent instead of antiquated technology. Perhaps even more important would be managing the appsec, DFIR, and NSM gaps prevalent in most Enterprise orgs.

Ruby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruby said...

I've read another article on the web about the realities and dangers of cloud service hosting which is in practice, a private network, and vulnerability scanning would certainly identify and pindown high risk content. That way, the risks associated with the said service can be minimized in a way. I'll surely take your tips at heart because vulnerability scanning can really be pain and the things listed here will definitely help. Thanks! P.S. Looking forward to your post about your own DLP tool.

Ruby Badcoe @

Vulnerability scanning said...

Vulnerability scanning is useful to find vulnerabilities, Test your intrusion detection system, Test incident response , Test managed security provider.

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