It takes a hacker only one web page and one email to gain access to a major corporation’s internal network. Catchy we know, but this is not an exaggeration of what an attacker can do to gain access on their internal network. In culmination with exploiting a few systems on the internal network, they can have free reign. Securing your network infrastructure begins with your employees. This post is not new techniques or concepts, rather about the importance of safe end user practices as well as securing internal networks and resources.
Much of the governance and regulatory focus is securing your external networks, but what if they get in? We have seen a rise in external vulnerability scans and a decrease in internal/external penetration tests. Did we forget security awareness, defense in depth, network architecture or even the most basic administrative practices? Not surprisingly, it seems corporations are searching for that check mark on their audit and not concerned with actual security.
Getting it right
Even the most security-aware corporations’ are still falling victim to social engineering exercises. Valuable resources which an attacker can use are found in the most trivial places such as social networking sites. Anyone can acquire an adequate employee list in minutes with all the social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, etc. From the vast amount of information that can be collected from social networking sites, message boards, and online-groups you can realistically create an organization chart (which helps addressing employees and providing focus for your phishing attack).
Most of the workforce has at one point or the other logged into a VPN or Online Web Account (OWA) once in their lifetimes. Corporations are offering many services remotely to keep their workers adequately connected. These basic infrastructure items seem the most prone and widespread systems for an attacker to prey on. The first step an attacker makes is basic reconnaissance and choosing their targets. Often employees in administrative or sales roles are selected because they tend to login to resources remotely. Next, an attacker will search for an external facing login prompt to clone it to a dummy system with a basic logging to record IP and user credentials. After that, well-crafted emails directing unsuspecting users to the dummy login…Done. Simple as that, login credentials obtained within minutes.
Providing the Right Protection
There are three fronts that could dramatically improve the outcome of these scenarios. First off, end user training and policies geared towards making employees more aware of possible attacks and best practices. I am not talking about handing a policy to the employee and having them read it either. Second, internal penetrations tests still are viable and will cover a number of areas that will protect from employee attacks as well as minimizing potential sophisticated attacks. This may include additional tasks of hardening of hosts, segregation of networks/assets, and adjusting the appropriate policies. Third, static passwords on critical systems externally facing should be changed to a more secure method such as token authentication. The truth is there is no magic bullet to prevent phishing or social attacks, we will always be combating the human tendency to trust.