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January 2018 Archives

Great news: If you're a security professional, your skills have never been more in demand. On the flip side, if you're looking for security talent, the search will likely be lengthy and difficult.

ISACA predicts that by 2019 there will be a shortage of two million cyber security professionals globally. And in a survey released by ESG and ISSA in November 2017, 70% of respondents stated that security skills shortages were impacting their organization. The survey also highlighted that highly- experienced staff were overloaded dealing with urgent security events that left them little time to focus on security strategy or training.

Algorithms, Alerts, and Akamai Threat Intelligence

Let me start by posing a question: If in one week security solution A produces 120 alerts and security solution B produces 45 alerts, which solution is providing you with more effective protection? The answer is: It depends.

On the face of it, solution A appears to be more effective because it's delivering more alerts than solution B. But what if solution A is actually delivering a considerable number of alerts that don't represent a real security risk to the organization, or in other words, are false positive alerts?

Gone Phishing For The Holidays

Written by Or Katz and Amiram Cohen

Overview:

While our team, Akamai's Enterprise Threat Protector Security Research Team, monitored internet traffic throughout the 2017 holiday season, we spotted a wide-spread phishing campaign targeting users through an advertising tactic. During the six week timeframe, we tracked thirty different domains with the same prefix: "holidaybonus{.}com". Each one advertised the opportunity to win an expensive technology prize - a free iPhone 8, PlayStation 4, or Samsung Galaxy S8.

The websites associated with this phishing campaign used a combination of social engineering techniques such as creating trust (by using the reputation of well-known companies) and dismantling suspicion (through IP verification and social sharing). They lead users to willingly give away sensitive information by asking them to answer three trivia questions and submit their email address in order to win one of the offered prizes.

 

The Botconf Experience

By Yohai Einav, Amir Asiaee, Ali Fakiri-Tabrizi and Alexey Sarychev

Originally Posted on January 4, 2018

Earlier this month we took our show on the road, presenting some of our team's work at the Botconf conference in beautiful Montpellier, France. We could talk here for hours about the food, wine, culture, etc., but it would probably be more plausible for our readers to learn about the current developments in the war against bots first. So we'll start with that and perhaps get to the food discussion in the appendix.

 

2017 was a year of epic proportions that broke numerous retail records worldwide. The stage was set earlier in the year by Amazon's Prime Day, which became Amazon's biggest day ever by generating over $1 Billion in sales (60% increase YoY). This was followed by Singles' Day, during which Alibaba generated a record $25 billion in sales (a 39-percent increase over 2016). And then Black Friday and Cyber Monday joined the party by generating revenue of over $11.5 billion. Cyber Monday went on to become the largest online shopping day in US history.

A key trend that played out throughout the year was a significant shift in buying patterns; more consumers moved to shopping online and, as a result, there was a decrease in traffic at brick and mortar stores.  Among the three major platforms for online shopping (namely desktops, mobiles and tablets), mobile devices played a pivotal role during this year's holiday season. In fact, close to 40% of the Black Friday revenue was generated via mobile devices and smartphone revenue on Cyber Monday grew 32.2% from last year, reaching a new all-time high of $1.59B.

The week before Christmas was the last peak period for retailers in 2017 to appeal to consumers that were frantically looking to buy gifts for their loved ones. A recent NRF survey showed that only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of December 12, with the average shopper having completed only 61 percent. As a result of this, there was a huge surge in traffic on our platform during the week before Christmas. Here are the key trends that we observed on our platform in 2017, one of the most successful years for retailers:

 

A Death Match of Domain Generation Algorithms

By Hongliang Liu and Yuriy Yuzifovich

Originally posted on December 29, 2017 

Today's post is all about DGA's (Domain Generation Algorithms): what they are, why they came into existence, what are some use cases where they are used, and, most importantly - how to detect and block them. As we will demonstrate here, the most effective defense against DGAs is a combination of traditional methods with modern machine intelligence.

Impact of Meltdown and Spectre on Akamai

Overview

On Wednesday, January 3rd, researchers from Google Project Zero, Cyberus Technology, Graz University of Technology, and other organizations released details about a pair of related vulnerabilities, dubbed Meltdown and Spectre.  These vulnerabilities appear to affect all modern processors and enables malicious code to read sensitive portions of memory on nearly all systems, including computers and mobile devices.  

Akamai is aware of side-effects of "speculative execution", the core capabilities that enable the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.   We are testing the performance and efficacy of the available patches on our systems.  Because of our technical approach to handling data of many customers, we do not believe these vulnerabilities pose a significant threat to the Akamai platform. Akamai does not rely on the capabilities that enable these vulnerabilities.  We will continue to update further, as more details become public.

Details

All modern CPU architectures use a technique called "speculative execution", including Intel, AMD, and ARM.  This technique takes advantage of times when the CPU is waiting for a slow process, such as reading or writing to main memory, to proactively perform tasks predicted from the current activities.  This speeds up overall processing by completing tasks before they're required, and if the task is not needed, the CPU unwinds the work and frees up the resources. Unfortunately, this process is not perfect, and the CPU can be tricked into giving access to read kernel memory.

 The vulnerability that speculative execution introduces leads to the paired vulnerabilities called Meltdown and Spectre.  Both vulnerabilities grant a user program read access to the kernel memory and to the memory space of other programs and hence all secrets they contain.  The impact of these vulnerabilities is especially concerning in the case of shared cloud services, as they can lead to escaping the memory space of the hypervisor to read other sections of virtual memory and potentially access secrets of other virtual hosts.

 The difference between Meltdown and Spectre is in the mechanism they use to read memory. Meltdown allows a user program to read any physical memory on the machine directly during speculative execution, leaving "tell-tale" effects that indicate what value has been read. With Spectre, a user program "tricks" the kernel into reading the memory itself during speculative execution and leaving "tell-tale" effects (that the user can see) that indicate what value has been read.

Because these vulnerabilities are at the hardware level, they affect almost all operating systems.  Patches for Meltdown are available for the most popular operating systems, with additional patches being released quickly. The Spectre vulnerability is not patchable at this time, and it is projected this will require new hardware to mitigate, meaning a new generation of CPU's.  The potential of patching software compilers to disable the exposed features that make Spectre possible exists, but it comes with significant costs.

 An additional concern with patching these vulnerabilities is that they cause a significant performance penalty on the CPU. This is a significant impact that many high use systems may not be able to absorb.

 Impact to Akamai

Akamai is in the process of evaluating the patches for these vulnerabilities.  Our desktop platforms--Macs, Windows, Linux--are as affected as anyone else's.  We're rolling out vendor patches and making suggested configuration changes as we receive them. Our production systems are not significantly impacted by it at this time.  There are two primary aspects of Akamai's environment that limit exposure to Meltdown and Spectre.  First, Akamai's platforms do not rely on CPU-enforced page table isolation for separation of customer data.  Second, the platforms do not allow for the execution of arbitrary code by customers or users, severely limiting any potential to exploit this weakness.  

Akamai believes there is minimal customer impact from these vulnerabilities, but we will continue to proactively evaluate this problem. Customer secrets and personally identifiable information are not exposed by this vulnerability. 

Details about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are still evolving, and Akamai is continuing to research their impact on our systems and our customers.  

More details can be found in Intel's Newsroom https://newsroom.intel.com/.