RSA Admin

Finding Aurora googlehack

Blog Post created by RSA Admin Employee on Aug 22, 2012




I was helping a fortune customer yesterday determine if they were targeted by Operation Aurora. From everything we know to date, they were not. How do we know this? We looked. In 15 minutes or so, we looked back over the last 6 months of every bit and byte that has left that company, and compared every hostname, IP address, and HTTP URL that have been associated with these attacks. This is the power of full network surveillance, and this is why you MUST be performing real-time continual deep analysis of your network activities.


There is a discussion today of some of the malware, and zero day exploits out of McAfee. They are now calling this Operation “Aurora”. In the post, George Kurtz discusses how APT, or Advanced Persistent Threats is changing the security landscape once again. It is a message, and the discussion we at NetWitness have been pushing for years. While this attack has gone largely unnoticed for months, NetWitness customers have all the historic evidence necessary to assess damage. For some, this means gaining rapid confidence that they were not compromised. For some, it means rapid damage assessment, capturing evidence, and using everything they learn to increase their security today. As I watch the best security teams in the world struggle to collect evidence of this attack over the course of days or weeks, I cannot help but wonder how much easier it would have been had we been in place.


In early December, we were called into one of the affected companies, in partnership with a large service provider. Within days, we had NetWitness gear recording at every major gateway in the country, and were scheduling international deployments. While it appears that the damage was already done to this company long before we arrived, we were instrumental in shutting down many other infestations, as well as identifying hundreds of systems that were displaying abnormal or concerning communication patterns. Had this company been a NetWitness client only 30 or 60 days before, I am absolutely confident we would have been able to bring this particular activity to light weeks earlier.


We have been reaching out to our customers, providing them details of the communication that Operation Aurora utilized, along with very simple instructions that allow them to look back over time and reassess their security. One thing is certain, while we may not know the vector of a specific attack until after the fact, it is imperative that we have the ability to quickly assess the damage and retain evidence.


This is why we must begin recording our network activity NOW. Giving your network some form of memory is an absolute imperative, and the foremost defense against APT. Furthermore, simple recording is not enough. Good luck if your recording architecture is IP based. Customers of NetWitness can search the URLs, hostnames, and other application level beaconing activities in seconds. Try doing this by scanning over 50 terabytes of packet data manually. Had this attack employed more sophisticated hosting or resolution techniques like fast flux, and even the IP addresses would have been useless.


George is absolutely correct in his assessment that the landscape has changed. These types of organized, sponsored attacks are here to stay. I am sure those in the financial community, used to dealing with advanced ACH fraud and highly targeted attacks by the Russian Business Network are sitting back this morning and saying “Welcome to the party, pal!”