Advanced Defense Posture Assessment

Advanced Defense Posture Assessment: Analytical Tradecraft to Evolve Detection Capability and Precision

NG-OPS Advanced Defense
Defensible Security Posture
APT Detection Framework

Multi-dimensional Targeted Threats continue to evolve and exploit vulnerabilities that lead to significant loss of data and resources for organizations of all regions and sizes. These attacks are very much today’s news. They represent a danger to an organization’s intellectual property, financial assets and reputation.

Advanced Defense Posture
The era of advanced threats calls for a new approach to information security. When dedicated cyber adversaries have the means and methods to elude commonly used defenses, such as signature based detection, it is clear that conventional approaches are no longer sufficient.

“Breaches happen in hours but often go un-detected for weeks or even months.”

Advanced targeted threats present challenges that are distinct from traditional security risks. There are too many entry points in today’s virtual enterprise, too many individual endpoint security solutions triggering alerts, too much security threat intelligence to process in real-time. More importantly, there are too few trained personnel who can spot and respond to advanced threats.

The pain points all cry out for a common holistic solution: Advanced Defense based upon Actionable Intelligence and ever evolving Analytical Tradecraft to continually improve detection capability and precision.

Detection Precision versus Cost

This blog is a part of the new Smart Practices Series complemented by the NG-OPS Advanced Security Series which will drill into greater details on the methodology and concepts used by these proposed advanced best-practices. Advanced Defense takes your organization to the next-level of detection capability.

Potential Benefits

  • Baseline and Validate Defensible Security Posture
  • Benchmark against Advanced Defense Reference Architecture (see NG-OPS Advanced Defense series)
  • Identify Gaps in Detection Capability, Visibility, Precision
  • Develop Advanced Defense Strategy & Roadmap with Continuous Analytical Improvement

Features

  • Leverage Intrusion Kill Chain
  • Advanced Defense Reference Architecture
  • APT Detection Framework
  • Defensible Actions Matrix
  • Develop Advanced Defense Strategy & Roadmap

Advanced Defense

Today’s cyber security paradigm is a reactive cycle: when a threat is exposed, it is analyzed and a counter-solution is designed with response times varying from weeks to years. The trouble is that attackers can easily reuse pieces of previous malware, modify them, and create a brand new threat, bypassing the newly updated security measures.

In today’s threat environment the only constant is change. In fact, everything is changing – the way our users work, the types of adversaries we face, and the techniques hackers use to infiltrate our networks. Such threats have become even more sophisticated than ever, bringing new risks and uncertainties that require more visibility in operations.

Attack vs Defense

The Attacker versus Defender View

The need for an Advanced Defense mindset is evident across the industry. Technologies will continue to improve but in parallel we do need to ensure that we also evolve and improve our security detection capability and precision, processes as well as invaluable resources and skills.

“Attackers are constantly evaluating their methods and improvising new techniques.
Defenders must think in those same fluid terms to keep pace.”

Advanced Defense Posture (ADP) Assessment

An ADP assessment evaluates your organization’s evolving ability to detect, contain, investigate and respond to a targeted or advanced threat. The assessment methodology is designed to help organizations to, as follows:

  • Understand defensible security posture
  • Benchmark and validate ability to address stealthy targeted threats
  • Take proactive actions to continually improve detection capability and precision
  • Use a set of indicators or behaviors to enhance situational awareness.

Leveraging the Intrusion Kill Chain

The Advanced Defense Posture assessment makes use of the Intrusion Kill Chain. In any targeted attack there are typically a pre-defined set of phases that act as a ‘signature’. The importance is not that this is a linear flow – some phases may occur in parallel, and the order of earlier phases can be interchanged – but rather how far along an adversary has progressed in order to be able to quickly detect, contain and, respond.

Intrusion Kill Chain

Simplified View of Intrusion Kill Chain

The intrusion kill chain becomes a model for actionable intelligence to help align organizational defensive capabilities to the specific processes an adversary undertakes to target your organization.

The end goal of this is to analyze the data for patterns of attack methods, behaviors of distinct hostile actors, and other indicators which can inform the development of unique adaptive and agile responses. The assessment addresses key questions, for example:

  • What scenarios do we need to be able to detect?
  • What are our options for detecting them?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of our detection program today?
  • What is our detection stance against specific actors?
  • What is our overall plan for detection across our enterprise?

ADP Assessment Methodology

The ADP assessment process should include:

ADP-A Methodology

Advanced Defense Posture Assessment Methodology
  • Baseline Current Defensive Posture
    • Conduct discovery sessions to clearly identify defensible architecture, key assets/services and, posture
    • Document baseline across Intrusion Kill Chain using APT Detection Framework
  • Reference Architecture Analysis
    • Identify tools, tactics, techniques  gaps and improvements in detection capability/precision using Advanced Defense Reference Architecture to establish goal  (see NG-OPS Advanced Defense series)
  • Identify Defensible Actions Matrix
    • Determine detection toolset, i.e., tactics, techniques and, procedures to Detect, Deny, Contain, Disrupt Eradicate, Deceive or, Recover
  • Develop Advanced Defense Strategy & Roadmap
    • Develop Advanced Defense Strategy & Roadmap to remediate gaps, deploy improvements and, leverage continuous improvement  (see NG-OPS Advanced Defense series)

Conclusion

Recent incidents clearly demonstrate that cybercriminals can conduct operations that involve intrusion, lateral movement, and data exfiltration in complex networks secured to current best-practices. Attackers can adapt their attack techniques to the unique circumstances of targeted environment.

This level of resourcefulness points to the realization that current best-practices and regulatory compliance are a necessary minimum baseline but are not sufficient alone. Today there is an increasing need for organizations to progressively evolve and advance from current security posture to a more defensible and advanced defense program with visibility, validation and, vigilance.

My solutions include the adoption of a security architectural and design foundation approach that compartmentalizes breaches into managed zones on networks and on endpoints. To strategically leverage the Adaptive Zone Defense series of blogs to develop an innovative architecture foundation with well-organized applications and services, managed communications and – good visibility to flows and logs that can actually detect the cyber kill chain activity and stop the breach.

This requires an ongoing lifecycle process with evolving actionable intelligence and analytical tradecraft to take the now legacy, rapidly deployed and complex infrastructure to consolidate it into a new core foundation based on the architecture/design blueprint, while continually evolving the blueprint based on new business requirements, technology solutions and, regulatory requirements, for more information see: Adaptive Security Lifecycle.

Coming Soon

  • APT Detection Indicators – Part 4: Behavioral Indicators Lifecycle
  • APT Threat Analytics – Part 3: Targets, Threat Actors, Scenarios & Modeling
  • NG-OPS Advanced Defense – Part 2: Analytical Tradecraft Practices
  • NG-OPS Advanced Defense – Part 3: Network Profiling and Validation

Thanks for your interest!

Nige the Security Guy.

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About secureadvisor
Security Guy

3 Responses to Advanced Defense Posture Assessment

  1. Ron says:

    “Our solutions include the adoption of a security architectural and design foundation approach that compartmentalizes breaches into managed zones on networks and on endpoints”. Where do you think off when you speak of compartmentalizes breaches into managed zones on Endpoints? Separated virtual environments on the endpoint perhaps? The whole problem with the Zone approach is that the (most of the time not so secure) endpoints are process data / information from various different zones. Things like BYOD and Cloud make it very hard to implement measures like separated virtual environments…. How do you look at this problem? (thx for all the great posts btw!!)

    • Thanks for the question. I have performed this on many projects, entitled Application & System Zoning Strategy. It required a series of steps to baseline, gather requirements, design, develop migration and implementation for new virtualized data centers that had some physical servers in the mix. The key goal was to KISS both in terms of the Zones as well as Virtualization (since that’s just another layer of abstraction). It requires a complete understanding of the assets/data, flows (both server to server and user communities) and other criteria for placement, policy, controls. I called this an Application Architecture Taxonomy and identified about 30 criteria which is discussed at a high-level in my Adaptive Zone Defense blogs. With Gigamon taps to manage and capture inter-zone netflows it not only enabled us to organize but also gain visibility for situational awareness and behavioral analysis to detect a potential APT as part of the Cyber Kill Chain.

  2. Pingback: NG-OPS Advanced Defense – Part 1 | Nige the Security Guy

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