One simple action you can take to prevent 99.9 percent of attacks on your accounts

There are over 300 million fraudulent sign-in attempts to our cloud services every day. Cyberattacks aren’t slowing down, and it’s worth noting that many attacks have been successful without the use of advanced technology. All it takes is one compromised credential or one legacy application to cause a data breach. This underscores how critical it is to ensure password security and strong authentication. Read on to learn about common vulnerabilities and the single action you can take to protect your accounts from attacks.

Animated image showing the number of malware attacks and data breaches organizations face every day. 4,000 daily ransomware attacks. 300,000,000 fraudulent sign-in attempts. 167,000,000 daily malware attacks. 81% of breaches are caused by credential theft. 73% of passwords are duplicates. 50% of employees use apps that aren't approved by the enterprise. 99.9% of attacks can be blocked with multi-factor authentication.

Common vulnerabilities

In a recent paper from the SANS Software Security Institute, the most common vulnerabilities include:

  • Business email compromise, where an attacker gains access to a corporate email account, such as through phishing or spoofing, and uses it to exploit the system and steal money. Accounts that are protected with only a password are easy targets.
  • Legacy protocols can create a major vulnerability because applications that use basic protocols, such as SMTP, were not designed to manage Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). So even if you require MFA for most use cases, attackers will search for opportunities to use outdated browsers or email applications to force the use of less secure protocols.
  • Password reuse, where password spray and credential stuffing attacks come into play. Common passwords and credentials compromised by attackers in public breaches are used against corporate accounts to try to gain access. Considering that up to 73 percent of passwords are duplicates, this has been a successful strategy for many attackers and it’s easy to do.

What you can do to protect your company

You can help prevent some of these attacks by banning the use of bad passwords, blocking legacy authentication, and training employees on phishing. However, one of the best things you can do is to just turn on MFA. By providing an extra barrier and layer of security that makes it incredibly difficult for attackers to get past, MFA can block over 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks. With MFA, knowing or cracking the password won’t be enough to gain access. To learn more, read Your Pa$$word doesn’t matter.

MFA is easier than you think

According to the SANS Software Security Institute there are two primary obstacles to adopting MFA implementations today:

  1. Misconception that MFA requires external hardware devices.
  2. Concern about potential user disruption or concern over what may break.

Matt Bromiley, SANS Digital Forensics and Incident Response instructor, says, “It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. There are different approaches your organization could use to limit the disruption while moving to a more advanced state of authentication.” These include a role-based or by application approach—starting with a small group and expanding from there. Bret Arsenault shares his advice on transitioning to a passwordless model in Preparing your enterprise to eliminate passwords.

Take a leap and go passwordless

Industry protocols such as WebAuthn and CTAP2, ratified in 2018, have made it possible to remove passwords from the equation altogether. These standards, collectively known as the FIDO2 standard, ensure that user credentials are protected end-to-end and strengthen the entire security chain. The use of biometrics has become more mainstream, popularized on mobile devices and laptops, so it’s a familiar technology for many users and one that is often preferred to passwords anyway. Passwordless authentication technologies are not only more convenient for people but are extremely difficult and costly for hackers to compromise. Learn more about Microsoft passwordless authentication solutions in a variety of form factors to meet user needs.

Convince your boss

Download the SANS white paper Bye Bye Passwords: New Ways to Authenticate to read more on guidance for companies ready to take the next step to better protect their environments from password risk. Remember, talk is easy, action gets results!

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Protect yourself against ‘wormable’ BlueKeep vulnerability

Worms are the cause of many cyber headaches. They can easily replicate themselves to spread malicious malware to other computers in your network. As the field responders providing Microsoft enterprise customers with onsite assistance to serious cybersecurity threats, our Detection and Response Team (DART) has seen quite a few worms. If you’ve met the DART Team, then you know your worms are our concern and that’s why we keep an eye out for BlueKeep.

Protect against BlueKeep

This summer, the DART team has been preparing for CVE-2019-0708, colloquially known as BlueKeep, and has some advice on how you can protect your network. The BlueKeep vulnerability is “wormable,” meaning it creates the risk of a large-scale outbreak due to its ability to replicate and propagate, similar to Conficker and WannaCry. Conficker has been widely estimated to have impacted 10- to 12-million computer systems worldwide. WannaCry was responsible for approximately $300 million in damages at just one global enterprise.

To protect against BlueKeep, we strongly recommend you apply the Windows Update, which includes a patch for the vulnerability. If you use Remote Desktop in your environment, it’s very important to apply all the updates. If you have Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) listening on the internet, we also strongly encourage you to move the RDP listener behind some type of second factor authentication, such as VPN, SSL Tunnel, or RDP gateway.

You also want to enable Network Level Authentication (NLA), which is a mitigation to prevent un-authenticated access to the RDP tunnel. NLA forces users to authenticate before connecting to remote systems, which dramatically decreases the chance of success for RDP-based worms. The DART team highly recommends you enable NLA regardless of this patch, as it mitigates a whole slew of other attacks against RDP.

If you’re already aware of the BlueKeep remediation methods, but are thinking about testing it before going live, we recommend that you deploy the patch. It’s important to note that the exploit code is now publicly and widely available to everyone, including malicious actors. By exploiting a vulnerable RDP system, attackers will also have access to all user credentials used on the RDP system.

Why the urgency?

Via open source telemetry, we see more than 400,000 endpoints lacking any form of network level authentication, which puts each of these systems potentially at risk from a worm-based weaponization of the BlueKeep vulnerability.

The timeline between patch release and the appearance of a worm outbreak is difficult to predict and varies from case to case. As always, the DART team is ready for the worst-case scenario. We also want to help our customers be prepared, so we’re sharing a few previous worms and the timeline from patch to attack. Hopefully, this will encourage everyone to patch immediately.

Chart showing vulnerability, patch release, and outbreak. Vulnerability: MS08-067; Patch release: October 23, 2008; Outbreak: late December 2008. Vulnerability: MS17-010; Patch release: March 14, 2017; Outbreak: May 12, 2017. Vulnerability: CVE-2019-0708; Patch release: May 13, 2019; Outbreak column shows three question marks.

Learn more

To learn more about DART, our engagements, and how they are delivered by experienced cybersecurity professionals who devote 100 percent of their time to providing cybersecurity solutions to customers worldwide, please contact your account executive. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

This document is for informational purposes only and Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, in this blog.

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General availability for the Azure Security Center for IoT announced

As organizations pursue digital transformation by connecting vital equipment or creating new connected products, IoT deployments will get bigger and more common. In fact, IDC forecasts that IoT will continue to grow at double digit rates until IoT spending surpasses $1 trillion in 2022. As these IoT deployments come online, newly connected devices will expand the attack surface available to attackers, creating opportunities to target the valuable data generated by IoT.

Organizations understand the risks and are rightly worried about IoT. Bain’s research shows that security concerns are the top reason organizations have slowed or paused IoT rollouts*. Because IoT requires integrating many different technologies (heterogenous devices must be linked to IoT cloud services that connect to analytics services and business applications), organizations face the challenge of securing both the pieces of their IoT solution and the connections between those pieces. Attackers target weak spots; even one weak device configuration, cloud service, or admin account can provide a way into your solution. Your organization must monitor for threats and misconfigurations across all parts of your IoT solution: devices, cloud services, the supporting infrastructure, and the admin accounts who access them.

To give your organization IoT threat protection and security posture management across your entire IoT solution, we’re announcing the general availability of Azure Security Center for IoT. Azure Security Center allows you to protect your end-to-end IoT deployment by identifying and responding to emerging threats, as well as finding issues in your configurations before attackers can use them to compromise your deployment. As organizations use Azure Security Center for IoT to manage their security roadblocks, they remove the barriers keeping them from business transformation:

“With Azure Security Center for IoT, we can both address very real IoT threat models with the velocity of Azure and gain management control over the fastest scaling part of our business, which allows me to focus on delivering outcomes rather than hot fixing devices.” – Alex Kreilein, CISO RapidDeploy

Building secure IoT solutions with Azure Security Center

Securing IoT is challenging for many reasons: IoT deployments are complicated, creating opportunity for integration errors that attackers can exploit; IoT devices are heterogenous and often lack proper security measures; organizations may not have the skillsets or SecOps headcount to take on a new IoT security workload; and IoT deployments are difficult to monitor using traditional IT security tools. When organizations choose Microsoft for their IoT deployments, however, they get secure-by-design devices and services such as Azure Sphere and IoT Hub, end-to-end integration and monitoring from device to cloud, and the expertise from Microsoft and our partners to build a secure solution that meets their exact use case.

Azure Security Center for IoT builds on Microsoft’s secure-by-design IoT services with threat protection and security posture management designed for securing entire IoT deployments, including Microsoft and 3rd party devices. Azure Security Center is the first IoT security service from a major cloud provider that enables organizations to prevent, detect, and help remediate potential attacks on all the different components that make up an IoT deployment: from small sensors, to edge computing devices and gateways, to Azure IoT Hub, and on to the compute, storage, databases, and AI/ML workloads that organizations connect to their IoT deployments. This end-to-end protection is vital to secure IoT deployments. Although devices may be a common target for attackers, the services that store your data and the admins who manage your IoT solution are also valuable targets.

An image showing the Overview tab in Azure Security Center.

As IoT threats evolve due to creative attackers analyzing the new devices, use cases, and applications the industry creates, Microsoft’s unique threat intelligence, sourced from the more than 6 trillion signals that Microsoft collects every day, keeps your organization ahead of attackers. Azure Security Center creates a list of potential threats, ranked by importance, so security pros and IoT admins can remediate problems across devices, IoT services, connected Azure services, and the admins who use them.

Azure Security Center also creates ranked lists of possible misconfigurations and insecure settings, allowing IoT admins and security pros to fix the most important issues in their IoT security posture first. To create these security posture suggestions, Azure Security Center draws from Microsoft’s unique threat intelligence, as well as the industry standards. Customers can also port their data into SIEMs such as Azure Sentinel, allowing security pros to combine IoT security data with data from across the organization for artificial intelligence or advanced analysis.

Organizations can monitor their entire IoT solution, stay ahead of evolving threats, and fix configuration issues before they become threats. When combined with Microsoft’s secure-by-design devices, services, and the expertise we share with you and your partners, Azure Security Center for IoT provides an important way to reduce the risk of IoT while achieving your business goals. 

Next steps

*Used with permission from Bain & Company

Command line quick tips: More about permissions

A previous article covered some basics about file permissions on your Fedora system. This installment shows you additional ways to use permissions to manage file access and sharing. It also builds on the knowledge and examples in the previous article, so if you haven’t read that one, do check it out.

Symbolic and octal

In the previous article you saw how there are three distinct permission sets for a file. The user that owns the file has a set, members of the group that owns the file has a set, and then a final set is for everyone else. These permissions are expressed on screen in a long listing (ls -l) using symbolic mode.

Each set has r, w, and x entries for whether a particular user (owner, group member, or other) can read, write, or execute that file. But there’s another way to express these permissions: in octal mode.

You’re used to the decimal numbering system, which has ten distinct values (0 through 9). The octal system, on the other hand, has eight distinct values (0 through 7). In the case of permissions, octal is used as a shorthand to show the value of the r, w, and x fields. Think of each field as having a value:

  • r = 4
  • w = 2
  • x = 1

Now you can express any combination with a single octal value. For instance, read and write permission, but no execute permission, would have a value of 6. Read and execute permission only would have a value of 5. A file’s rwxr-xr-x symbolic permission has an octal value of 755.

You can use octal values to set file permissions with the chmod command similarly to symbolic values. The following two commands set the same permissions on a file:

chmod u=rw,g=r,o=r myfile1
chmod 644 myfile1

Special permission bits

There are several special permission bits also available on a file. These are called setuid (or suid), setgid (or sgid), and the sticky bit (or delete inhibit). Think of this as yet another set of octal values:

  • setuid = 4
  • setgid = 2
  • sticky = 1

The setuid bit is ignored unless the file is executable. If that’s the case, the file (presumably an app or a script) runs as if it were launched by the user who owns the file. A good example of setuid is the /bin/passwd utility, which allows a user to set or change passwords. This utility must be able to write to files no user should be allowed to change. Therefore it is carefully written, owned by the root user, and has a setuid bit so it can alter the password related files.

The setgid bit works similarly for executable files. The file will run with the permissions of the group that owns it. However, setgid also has an additional use for directories. If a file is created in a directory with setgid permission, the group owner for the file will be set to the group owner of the directory.

Finally, the sticky bit, while ignored for files, is useful for directories. The sticky bit set on a directory will prevent a user from deleting files in that directory owned by other users.

The way to set these bits with chmod in octal mode is to add a value prefix, such as 4755 to add setuid to an executable file. In symbolic mode, the u and g can be used to set or remove setuid and setgid, such as u+s,g+s. The sticky bit is set using o+t. (Other combinations, like o+s or u+t, are meaningless and ignored.)

Sharing and special permissions

Recall the example from the previous article concerning a finance team that needs to share files. As you can imagine, the special permission bits help to solve their problem even more effectively. The original solution simply made a directory the whole group could write to:

drwxrwx---. 2 root finance 4096 Jul 6 15:35 finance

One problem with this directory is that users dwayne and jill, who are both members of the finance group, can delete each other’s files. That’s not optimal for a shared space. It might be useful in some situations, but probably not when dealing with financial records!

Another problem is that files in this directory may not be truly shared, because they will be owned by the default groups of dwayne and jill — most likely the user private groups also named dwayne and jill.

A better way to solve this is to set both setgid and the sticky bit on the folder. This will do two things — cause files created in the folder to be owned by the finance group automatically, and prevent dwayne and jill from deleting each other’s files. Either of these commands will work:

sudo chmod 3770 finance
sudo chmod u+rwx,g+rwxs,o+t finance

The long listing for the file now shows the new special permissions applied. The sticky bit appears as T and not t because the folder is not searchable for users outside the finance group.

drwxrws--T. 2 root finance 4096 Jul 6 15:35 finance

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New machine learning model sifts through the good to unearth the bad in evasive malware

We continuously harden machine learning protections against evasion and adversarial attacks. One of the latest innovations in our protection technology is the addition of a class of hardened malware detection machine learning models called monotonic models to Microsoft Defender ATP‘s Antivirus.

Historically, detection evasion has followed a common pattern: attackers would build new versions of their malware and test them offline against antivirus solutions. They’d keep making adjustments until the malware can evade antivirus products. Attackers then carry out their campaign knowing that the malware won’t initially be blocked by AV solutions, which are then forced to catch up by adding detections for the malware. In the cybercriminal underground, antivirus evasion services are available to make this process easier for attackers.

Microsoft Defender ATP’s Antivirus has significantly advanced in becoming resistant to attacker tactics like this. A sizeable portion of the protection we deliver are powered by machine learning models hosted in the cloud. The cloud protection service breaks attackers’ ability to test and adapt to our defenses in an offline environment, because attackers must either forgo testing, or test against our defenses in the cloud, where we can observe them and react even before they begin.

Hardening our defenses against adversarial attacks doesn’t end there. In this blog we’ll discuss a new class of cloud-based ML models that further harden our protections against detection evasion.

Most machine learning models are trained on a mix of malicious and clean features. Attackers routinely try to throw these models off balance by stuffing clean features into malware.

Monotonic models are resistant against adversarial attacks because they are trained differently: they only look for malicious features. The magic is this: Attackers can’t evade a monotonic model by adding clean features. To evade a monotonic model, an attacker would have to remove malicious features.

Monotonic models explained

Last summer, researchers from UC Berkeley (Incer, Inigo, et al, “Adversarially robust malware detection using monotonic classification”, Proceedings of the Fourth ACM International Workshop on Security and Privacy Analytics, ACM, 2018) proposed applying a technique of adding monotonic constraints to malware detection machine learning models to make models robust against adversaries. Simply put, the said technique only allows the machine learning model to leverage malicious features when considering a file – it’s not allowed to use any clean features.

Figure 1. Features used by a baseline versus a monotonic constrained logistic regression classifier. The monotonic classifier does not use cleanly-weighted features so that it’s more robust to adversaries.

Inspired by the academic research, we deployed our first monotonic logistic regression models to Microsoft Defender ATP cloud protection service in late 2018. Since then, they’ve played an important part in protecting against attacks.

Figure 2 below illustrates the production performance of the monotonic classifiers versus the baseline unconstrained model. Monotonic-constrained models expectedly have lower outcome in detecting malware overall compared to classic models. However, they can detect malware attacks that otherwise would have been missed because of clean features.

Figure 2. Malware detection machine learning classifiers comparing the unconstrained baseline classifier versus the monotonic constrained classifier in customer protection.

The monotonic classifiers don’t replace baseline classifiers; they run in addition to the baseline and add additional protection. We combine all our classifiers using stacked classifier ensembles–monotonic classifiers add significant value because of the unique classification they provide.

How Microsoft Defender ATP uses monotonic models to stop adversarial attacks

One common way for attackers to add clean features to malware is to digitally code-sign malware with trusted certificates. Malware families like ShadowHammer, Kovter, and Balamid are known to abuse certificates to evade detection. In many of these cases, the attackers impersonate legitimate registered businesses to defraud certificate authorities into issuing them trusted code-signing certificates.

LockerGoga, a strain of ransomware that’s known for being used in targeted attacks, is another example of malware that uses digital certificates. LockerGoga emerged in early 2019 and has been used by attackers in high-profile campaigns that targeted organizations in the industrial sector. Once attackers are able breach a target network, they use LockerGoga to encrypt enterprise data en masse and demand ransom.

Figure 3. LockerGoga variant digitally code-signed with a trusted CA

When Microsoft Defender ATP encounters a new threat like LockerGoga, the client sends a featurized description of the file to the cloud protection service for real-time classification. An array of machine learning classifiers processes the features describing the content, including whether attackers had digitally code-signed the malware with a trusted code-signing certificate that chains to a trusted CA. By ignoring certificates and other clean features, monotonic models in Microsoft Defender ATP can correctly identify attacks that otherwise would have slipped through defenses.

Very recently, researchers demonstrated an adversarial attack that appends a large volume of clean strings from a computer game executable to several well-known malware and credential dumping tools – essentially adding clean features to the malicious files – to evade detection. The researchers showed how this technique can successfully impact machine learning prediction scores so that the malware files are not classified as malware. The monotonic model hardening that we’ve deployed in Microsoft Defender ATP is key to preventing this type of attack, because, for a monotonic classifier, adding features to a file can only increase the malicious score.

Given how they significantly harden defenses, monotonic models are now standard components of machine learning protections in Microsoft Defender ATP‘s Antivirus. One of our monotonic models uniquely blocks malware on an average of 200,000 distinct devices every month. We now have three different monotonic classifiers deployed, protecting against different attack scenarios.

Monotonic models are just the latest enhancements to Microsoft Defender ATP’s Antivirus. We continue to evolve machine learning-based protections to be more resilient to adversarial attacks. More effective protections against malware and other threats on endpoints increases defense across the entire Microsoft Threat Protection. By unifying and enabling signal-sharing across Microsoft’s security services, Microsoft Threat Protection secures identities, endpoints, email and data, apps, and infrastructure.

Geoff McDonald (@glmcdona),Microsoft Defender ATP Research team
with Taylor Spangler, Windows Data Science team


Talk to us

Questions, concerns, or insights on this story? Join discussions at the Microsoft Defender ATP community.

Follow us on Twitter @MsftSecIntel.

Manage your passwords with Bitwarden and Podman

You might have encountered a few advertisements the past year trying to sell you a password manager. Some examples are LastPass, 1Password, or Dashlane. A password manager removes the burden of remembering the passwords for all your websites. No longer do you need to re-use passwords or use easy-to-remember passwords. Instead, you only need to remember one single password that can unlock all your other passwords for you.

This can make you more secure by having one strong password instead of many weak passwords. You can also sync your passwords across devices if you have a cloud-based password manager like LastPass, 1Password, or Dashlane. Unfortunately, none of these products are open source. Luckily there are open source alternatives available.

Open source password managers

These alternatives include Bitwarden, LessPass, or KeePass. Bitwarden is an open source password manager that stores all your passwords encrypted on the server, which works the same way as LastPass, 1Password, or Dashlane. LessPass is a bit different as it focuses on being a stateless password manager. This means it derives passwords based on a master password, the website, and your username rather than storing the passwords encrypted. On the other side of the spectrum there’s KeePass, a file-based password manager with a lot of flexibility with its plugins and applications.

Each of these three apps has its own downsides. Bitwarden stores everything in one place and is exposed to the web through its API and website interface. LessPass can’t store custom passwords since it’s stateless, so you need to use their derived passwords. KeePass, a file-based password manager, can’t easily sync between devices. You can utilize a cloud-storage provider together with WebDAV to get around this, but a lot of clients do not support it and you might get file conflicts if devices do not sync correctly.

This article focuses on Bitwarden.

Running an unofficial Bitwarden implementation

There is a community implementation of the server and its API called bitwarden_rs. This implementation is fully open source as it can use SQLite or MariaDB/MySQL, instead of the proprietary Microsoft SQL Server that the official server uses.

It’s important to recognize some differences exist between the official and the unofficial version. For instance, the official server has been audited by a third-party, whereas the unofficial one hasn’t. When it comes to implementations, the unofficial version lacks email confirmation and support for two-factor authentication using Duo or email codes.

Let’s get started running the server with SELinux in mind. Following the documentation for bitwarden_rs you can construct a Podman command as follows:

$ podman run -d \ 
--userns=keep-id \
--name bitwarden \
-e SIGNUPS_ALLOWED=false \
-e ROCKET_PORT=8080 \
-v /home/egustavs/Bitwarden/bw-data/:/data/:Z \
-p 8080:8080 \
bitwardenrs/server:latest

This downloads the bitwarden_rs image and runs it in a user container under the user’s namespace. It uses a port above 1024 so that non-root users can bind to it. It also changes the volume’s SELinux context with :Z to prevent permission issues with read-write on /data.

If you host this under a domain, it’s recommended to put this server under a reverse proxy with Apache or Nginx. That way you can use port 80 and 443 which points to the container’s 8080 port without running the container as root.

Running under systemd

With Bitwarden now running, you probably want to keep it that way. Next, create a unit file that keeps the container running, automatically restarts if it doesn’t respond, and starts running after a system restart. Create this file as /etc/systemd/system/bitwarden.service:

[Unit]
Description=Bitwarden Podman container
Wants=syslog.service

[Service]
User=egustavs
Group=egustavs
TimeoutStartSec=0
ExecStart=/usr/bin/podman run 'bitwarden'
ExecStop=-/usr/bin/podman stop -t 10 'bitwarden'
Restart=always
RestartSec=30s
KillMode=none

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Now, enable and start it using sudo:

$ sudo systemctl enable bitwarden.service && sudo systemctl start bitwarden.service
$ systemctl status bitwarden.service
bitwarden.service - Bitwarden Podman container
Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/bitwarden.service; enabled; vendor preset: disabled)
Active: active (running) since Tue 2019-07-09 20:23:16 UTC; 1 day 14h ago
Main PID: 14861 (podman)
Tasks: 44 (limit: 4696)
Memory: 463.4M

Success! Bitwarden is now running under system and will keep running.

Adding LetsEncrypt

It’s strongly recommended to run your Bitwarden instance through an encrypted channel with something like LetsEncrypt if you have a domain. Certbot is a bot that creates LetsEncrypt certificates for us, and they have a guide for doing this through Fedora.

After you generate a certificate, you can follow the bitwarden_rs guide about HTTPS. Just remember to append :Z to the LetsEncrypt volume to handle permissions while not changing the port.


Photo by CMDR Shane on Unsplash.

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Microsoft’s Threat & Vulnerability Management solution now generally available

I’m excited to announce that Microsoft’s Threat & Vulnerability Management solution is generally available as of June 30! We have been working closely with customers for more than a year to incorporate their real needs and feedback to better address vulnerability management. Our goal is to empower defenders with the tools they need to better protect against evolving threats, and we believe this solution will help provide that additional visibility and agility they need.

Threat & Vulnerability Management (TVM) is a built-in capability in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) that uses a risk-based approach to discover, prioritize, and remediate endpoint vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. With Microsoft Defender ATP’s Threat & Vulnerability Management, customers benefit from:

  • Continuous discovery of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations
  • Prioritization based on business context and dynamic threat landscape
  • Correlation of vulnerabilities with endpoint detection and response (EDR) alerts to expose breach insights
  • Machine-level vulnerability context during incident investigations
  • Built-in remediation processes through unique integration with Microsoft Intune and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager

Traditional vulnerability scanning only happens periodically, leaving organizations with security blind spots between scans. The one-size-fits-all approach that these traditional solutions use ignores critical business-specific context, as well as the dynamic threat landscape. This is coupled with the fact that mitigation of vulnerabilities is a manual process, often across teams, that can take days, weeks, or months to complete. This leaves a window of opportunity for attackers and puts our defenders in a tough spot.

To address these challenges Microsoft partnered with a dozen enterprise customers on the design and creation of this new Threat & Vulnerability Management solution. One of them is Telit, a global leader in IoT enablement offering end-to-end IoT solutions, including enterprise-grade hardware, connectivity, platform, and consulting services. Telit already had a well-defined vulnerability management program in place, but said they were missing several critical capabilities, including visibility, prioritization, and remediation.

Our design partners play a key role throughout the entire process, from planning and building to operationalizing and maturing the product so we can deliver the best experience. Many of our customers have existing vulnerability management programs, so we knew that to have them switch to Microsoft we would need a disruptive approach to vulnerability management. From private preview to general availability and beyond, our key goals were to bridge the gap between Security and IT roles in threat protection, to reduce time to threat resolution while enabling real-time prioritization and risk reduction based on the evolving threat landscape and business context. The team continues to incorporate feedback from customers and partners, adding these new capabilities on a monthly basis.

“Telit’s previous threat and vulnerability solutions were limited to on-premises connected endpoints. Moving to Microsoft’s TVM cloud-based solution provides us much better visibility into roaming endpoints with a continuous assessment, especially when our endpoints are connected to untrusted networks.”
— Itzik Menashe, VP of IT & Information Security, Telit

Working together with Telit, we quickly understood that the current prioritization norm is not enough to properly reduce risk in an organization. We consulted with our partners on a new risk-based approach, which is focused on continuous discovery of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations and correlated those insights with context specific to their business and the dynamic threat landscape.

Microsoft’s built-in, end-to-end remediation process helps Telit bridge the gap between their security and operations teams. The unique integration with Microsoft Intune allows their security team to create remediation requests with a click of a button, and the operations team receives the requests automatically with all relevant information and can start the remediation process right away. The security team can then watch their exposure score drop in real time as remediation progresses.

“Microsoft’s TVM provides Telit with an easy-to-use solution that incorporates strong discovery capabilities, a risk-based approach to prioritization, and an effective remediation process. With this solution we are able to cover a large number of endpoints using a very small team of security engineers.”
— Mor Asher, Global IT and Information Security Manager, Telit

The product experience and ease of implementation was a big driver for Telit and thousands of other active customers to start using Microsoft Defender ATP Threat & Vulnerability Management. Telit had Microsoft Defender ATP’s TVM up and running within seconds.

To learn more about threat and vulnerability management watch our video that walks you through the experience.

If you already have Microsoft Defender ATP, the TVM solution is now available within your ATP portal. If you would like to sign up for a trial of Microsoft Defender ATP including TVM, sign up here.

We’re excited for our customers to evaluate this new solution and are looking forward to continued feedback.

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New identity threat investigation experience for security analysts announced

As the modern workplace transforms, the identity attack surface area is growing exponentially, across on-premises and cloud, spanning a multitude of endpoints and applications. Security Operations (SecOps) teams are challenged to monitor user activities, suspicious or otherwise, across all dimensions of the identity attack surface, using multiple security solutions that often are not connected. Because identity protection is paramount for the modern workplace, investigating identity threats requires a single experience to monitor all user activities and hunt for suspicious behaviors in order to triage users quickly.

Today, Microsoft is announcing the new identity threat investigation experience, which correlates identity alerts and activities from Azure Advanced Threat Protection (Azure ATP), Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Identity Protection, and Microsoft Cloud App Security into a single investigation experience for security analysts and hunters alike.

Modern identity attacks leverage hybrid cloud environments as a single attack surface

The identity threat investigation experience combines user identity signals from your on-premises and cloud services to close the gap between disparate signals in your environment and leverages state-of-the-art User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) capabilities to provide a risk score and rich contextual information for each user. It empowers security analysts to prioritize their investigations and reduce investigation times, ending the need to toggle between identity security solutions. This gives your SecOps teams more time and the right information to make better decisions and actively remediate identity threats and risks.

Azure ATP provides on-premises detections and activities with abnormal behavior analytics to assist in investigating the most at-risk users. Microsoft Cloud App Security detects and alerts security analysts to the potential of sensitive data exfiltration for first- and third-party cloud apps. And Azure AD Identity Protection detects unusual sign-in information, implementing conditional access on the compromised user until the issue is resolved. Combined, these services analyze the activities and alerts, using UEBA, to determine risky behaviors and provide you with an investigation priority score to streamline incident response for compromised identities.

To further simplify your SecOps workflows, we embedded the new experience into the Cloud App Security portal, regardless of whether you’re using Microsoft Cloud App Security today. While it enriches each alert with additional information, it also allows you to easily pivot from the correlated alert timeline directly into a deeper dive investigation and hunting experience.

User investigation priority

We’re adding a new dimension to the current investigation model that is based on the number of total alerts with a new user investigation priority, which is determined by all user activities and alerts that could indicate an active advanced attack or insider threat.

To calculate the user investigation priority, each abnormal event is scored based on the user’s profile history, their peers, and the organization. Additionally, the potential business and asset impact of any given user is analyzed to determine the investigation priority score.

The new concept is included on the updated user page, which provides relevant information about who the user is, the investigation priority score, how it compares across all users within the organization, and abnormal alerts and activities of the user.

In the image below, the user’s investigation priority score of 155 puts them in the top percentile within the organization, making them a top user for a security analyst to investigate.

Identity threat investigation user page.

The score is surfaced on the main dashboard to help you get an immediate idea of which users currently represent the highest risk within your organization and should be prioritized for further investigation.

Top users by investigation priority on the main dashboard.

Improved investigation and hunting experience

Beyond signal correlation and a redesigned user page, the new identity threat investigation experience also adds new and advanced investigation capabilities specifically for Azure ATP customers, regardless of whether you choose to use Azure AD Identity Protection and or Microsoft Cloud App Security.

These capabilities include the:

  • Ability for security analysts to perform threat hunting with greater context over both cloud and on-premises resources by leveraging advanced filtering capabilities and enriched alert information.
  • Visibility and management of Azure AD user risk levels with the ability to confirm compromised user status, which changes the Azure AD user risk level to High.
  • Creation of activity policies to determine governance actions and leverage built-in automation capabilities via the native integration with Microsoft Flow to more easily triage alerts.

New threat hunting experience to analyze alerts and activities.

Get started with the public preview today

If you’re one of the many enterprise customers already using Azure ATP, Microsoft Cloud App Security, and/or Azure AD Identity Protection and want to test the new identity threat investigation experience, get started by checking out our comprehensive technical documentation.

If you’re just starting your journey, begin a trial of Microsoft Threat Protection to experience the benefits of the most comprehensive, integrated, and secure threat protection solution for the modern workplace.

We would love your feedback! Find us on the Azure ATP Tech Community and send us your questions or feedback on the new experience.

Securing telnet connections with stunnel

Telnet is a client-server protocol that connects to a remote server through TCP over port 23. Telnet does not encrypt data and is considered insecure and passwords can be easily sniffed because data is sent in the clear. However there are still legacy systems that need to use it. This is where stunnel comes to the rescue.

Stunnel is designed to add SSL encryption to programs that have insecure connection protocols. This article shows you how to use it, with telnet as an example.

Server Installation

Install stunnel along with the telnet server and client using sudo:

sudo dnf -y install stunnel telnet-server telnet

Add a firewall rule, entering your password when prompted:

firewall-cmd --add-service=telnet --perm
firewall-cmd --reload

Next, generate an RSA private key and an SSL certificate:

openssl genrsa 2048 > stunnel.key
openssl req -new -key stunnel.key -x509 -days 90 -out stunnel.crt

You will be prompted for the following information one line at a time. When asked for Common Name you must enter the correct host name or IP address, but everything else you can skip through by hitting the Enter key.

You are about to be asked to enter information that will be
incorporated into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
-----
Country Name (2 letter code) [XX]:
State or Province Name (full name) []:
Locality Name (eg, city) [Default City]:
Organization Name (eg, company) [Default Company Ltd]:
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:
Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) []:
Email Address []

Merge the RSA key and SSL certificate into a single .pem file, and copy that to the SSL certificate directory:

cat stunnel.crt stunnel.key > stunnel.pem
sudo cp stunnel.pem /etc/pki/tls/certs/

Now it’s time to define the service and the ports to use for encrypting your connection. Choose a port that is not already in use. This example uses port 450 for tunneling telnet. Edit or create the /etc/stunnel/telnet.conf file:

cert = /etc/pki/tls/certs/stunnel.pem
sslVersion = TLSv1
chroot = /var/run/stunnel
setuid = nobody
setgid = nobody
pid = /stunnel.pid
socket = l:TCP_NODELAY=1
socket = r:TCP_NODELAY=1
[telnet]
accept = 450
connect = 23

The accept option is the port the server will listen to for incoming telnet requests. The connect option is the internal port the telnet server listens to.

Next, make a copy of the systemd unit file that allows you to override the packaged version:

sudo cp /usr/lib/systemd/system/stunnel.service /etc/systemd/system

Edit the /etc/systemd/system/stunnel.service file to add two lines. These lines create a chroot jail for the service when it starts.

[Unit]
Description=TLS tunnel for network daemons
After=syslog.target network.target

[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/bin/stunnel
Type=forking
PrivateTmp=true
ExecStartPre=-/usr/bin/mkdir /var/run/stunnel
ExecStartPre=/usr/bin/chown -R nobody:nobody /var/run/stunnel

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Next, configure SELinux to listen to telnet on the new port you just specified:

sudo semanage port -a -t telnetd_port_t -p tcp 450

Finally, add a new firewall rule:

firewall-cmd --add-port=450/tcp --perm
firewall-cmd --reload

Now you can enable and start telnet and stunnel.

systemctl enable telnet.socket stunnel@telnet.service --now

A note on the systemctl command is in order. Systemd and the stunnel package provide an additional template unit file by default. The template lets you drop multiple configuration files for stunnel into /etc/stunnel, and use the filename to start the service. For instance, if you had a foobar.conf file, you could start that instance of stunnel with systemctl start stunnel@foobar.service, without having to write any unit files yourself.

If you want, you can set this stunnel template service to start on boot:

systemctl enable stunnel@telnet.service

Client Installation

This part of the article assumes you are logged in as a normal user (with sudo privileges) on the client system. Install stunnel and the telnet client:

dnf -y install stunnel telnet

Copy the stunnel.pem file from the remote server to your client /etc/pki/tls/certs directory. In this example, the IP address of the remote telnet server is 192.168.1.143.

sudo scp myuser@192.168.1.143:/etc/pki/tls/certs/stunnel.pem
/etc/pki/tls/certs/

Create the /etc/stunnel/telnet.conf file:

cert = /etc/pki/tls/certs/stunnel.pem
client=yes
[telnet]
accept=450
connect=192.168.1.143:450

The accept option is the port that will be used for telnet sessions. The connect option is the IP address of your remote server and the port it’s listening on.

Next, enable and start stunnel:

systemctl enable stunnel@telnet.service --now

Test your connection. Since you have a connection established, you will telnet to localhost instead of the hostname or IP address of the remote telnet server:

[user@client ~]$ telnet localhost 450
Trying ::1...
telnet: connect to address ::1: Connection refused
Trying 127.0.0.1...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.

Kernel 5.0.9-301.fc30.x86_64 on an x86_64 (0)
server login: myuser
Password: XXXXXXX
Last login: Sun May  5 14:28:22 from localhost
[myuser@server ~]$
post

3 investments Microsoft is making to improve identity management

As a large enterprise with global reach, Microsoft has the same security risks as its customers. We have a distributed, mobile workforce who access corporate resources from external networks. Many individuals struggle to remember complex passwords or reuse one password across many accounts, which makes them vulnerable to attackers. As Microsoft has embraced digital transformation for our own business, we shifted to a security strategy that places strong employee identities at the center. Many of our customers are on a similar journey and may find value in our current identity management approach.

Our goal is to reduce the risk of compromised identity and empower people to be efficient and agile whether they’re on our network or not.

Our identity management solutions focus on three key areas:

Read on for more details for each of these investment areas, advice on scaling your investment to meet your budget, and a wrap-up of some key insights that can help you smoothly implement new policies.

Securing administrator accounts

Our administrators have access to Microsoft’s most sensitive data and systems, which makes them a target of attackers. To improve protection of our organization, it’s important to limit the number of people who have privileged access and implement elevated controls for when, how, and where administrator accounts can be used. This helps reduce the odds that a malicious actor will gain access.

There are three practices that we advise:

  • Secure devices—Establish a separate device for administrative tasks that is updated and patched with the most recent software and operating system. Set the security controls at high levels and prevent administrative tasks from being executed remotely.
  • Isolated identity—Issue an administrator identity from a separate namespace or forest that cannot access the internet and is different from the user’s information worker identity. Our administrators are required to use a smartcard to access this account.
  • Non-persistent access—Provide zero rights by default to administration accounts. Require that they request just-in-time (JIT) privileges that gives them access for a finite amount of time and logs it in a system.

Budget allocations may limit the amount that you can invest in these three areas; however, we still recommend that you do all three at the level that makes sense for your organization. Calibrate the level of security controls on the secure device to meet your risk profile.

Eliminating passwords

The security community has recognized for several years that passwords are not safe. Users struggle to create and remember dozens of complex passwords, and attackers excel at acquiring passwords through methods like password spray attacks and phishing. When Microsoft first explored the use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for our workforce, we issued smartcards to each employee. This was a very secure authentication method; however, it was cumbersome for employees. They found workarounds, such as forwarding work email to a personal account, that made us less safe.

Eventually we realized that eliminating passwords was a much better solution. This drove home an important lesson: as you institute policies to improve security, always remember that a great user experience is critical for adoption.

Here are steps you can take to prepare for a password-less world:

  • Enforce MFA—Conform to the fast identity online (FIDO) 2.0 standard, so you can require a PIN and a biometric for authentication rather than a password. Windows Hello is one good example, but choose the MFA method that works for your organization.
  • Reduce legacy authentication workflows—Place apps that require passwords into a separate user access portal and migrate users to modern authentication flows most of the time. At Microsoft only 10 percent of our users enter a password on a given day.
  • Remove passwords—Create consistency across Active Directory and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) to enable administrators to remove passwords from identity directory.

Simplifying identity provisioning

We believe the most underrated identity management step you can take is to simplify identity provisioning. Set up your identities with access to exactly the right systems and tools. If you provide too much access, you put the organization at risk if the identity becomes compromised. However, under-provisioning may encourage people to request access for more than they need in order to avoid requesting permission again.

We take these two approaches:

  • Set up role-based access—Identify the systems, tools, and resources that each role needs to do their job. Establish access rules that make it easy to give a new user the right permissions when you set up their account or they change roles.
  • Establish an identity governance process—Make sure that as people move roles they don’t carry forward access they no longer need.

Establishing the right access for each role is so important that if you are only able to follow one of our recommendations focus on identity provisioning and lifecycle management.

What we learned

As you take steps to improve your identity management, keep in mind the following lessons Microsoft has learned along the way:

  • Enterprise-level cultural shifts—Getting the technology and hardware resources for a more secure enterprise can be difficult. Getting people to modify their behavior is even harder. To successfully roll out a new initiative, plan for enterprise-level cultural shifts.
  • Beyond the device—Strong identity management works hand-in-hand with healthy devices.
  • Security starts at provisioning—Don’t put governance off until later. Identity governance is crucial to ensure that companies of all sizes can audit the access privileges of all accounts. Invest early in capabilities that give the right people access to the right things at the right time.
  • User experience—We found that if you combine user experience factors with security best practices, you get the best outcome.

Learn more

For more details on how identity management fits within the overall Microsoft security framework and our roadmap forward, watch the Speaking of security: Identity management webinar.