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Reading Room: Most Popular Papers

Featuring the 25 most popular papers within the past month as of September 29, 2016

  • A Hands-on XML External Entity Vulnerability Training Module Masters
    by Carrie Roberts - November 4, 2013 in Application and Database Security

    Web based attacks are on the rise, and the most exploited vulnerabilities are often not the newest (Symantec Corporation, 2013).


  • Demystifying Malware Traffic by Sourabh Saxena - August 29, 2016 in Active Defense, Incident Handling, Malicious Code

    In today's world, adversaries use established techniques, innovative and intricate methods for cyber-crimes and to infiltrate firms or an individual's system. Usage of Malware is one of those approaches. Malware not only creates an inlet for attacks, but it also turns systems into "zombies" and "bots" forcing them to obey commands and perform activities as per the whims and fancies of the adversary. Thus, attacks like data theft, mail relay, access to confidential/restricted area, Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) can easily be launched against not just the infected system but against other systems and environments as well by utilizing these zombies, bots, and botnets. Attackers not only obfuscate the code but can encrypt payloads as well as malware's traffic simultaneously, using approaches like mutation and polymorphism making their detection difficult not just for antiviruses, but even for firewalls, IDS and IPS, Incident Handlers, and Forensic teams. Organizations, having learned from past mistakes, have also shifted their approach from simple defense mechanisms such as antiviruses, IDS and IPS to aggressive strategies like DNS Sinkhole and Live Traffic Analysis. These strategies not only help in the identification and removal of malware but also in understanding the actual impact, blocking of malicious activities and identification of adversaries.


  • Intelligent Network Defense Analyst Paper
    by Jake Williams - September 8, 2016 in Clients and Endpoints, Threats/Vulnerabilities

    When an army invades a sovereign nation, one of the defenders first goals is to disrupt the invaders command and control (C2) operations. The same is true when cyber attackers invade your network. Network defenders must prevent adversary communication, stopping the attack in its tracks while alerting the incident response (IR) team to the point of compromise and nature of the attack. Read on to learn more.


  • SSL and TLS: A Beginners Guide by Holly McKinley - May 12, 2003 in Protocols

    This paper particularly serves as a resource to those who are new to the information assurance field, and provides an insight to two common protocols used in Internet security.


  • Using Vagrant to Build a Manageable and Sharable Intrusion Detection Lab Masters
    by Shaun McCullough - September 20, 2016 in Information Assurance, Intrusion Detection, Tools

    This paper investigates how the Vagrant software application can be used by Information Security (InfoSec) professionals looking to provide their audience with an infrastructure environment to accompany their research. InfoSec professionals conducting research or publishing write-ups can provide opportunities for their audience to replicate or walk through the research themselves in their own environment. Vagrant is a popular DevOps tool for providing portable and repeatable production environments for application developers, and may solve the needs of the InfoSec professional. This paper will investigate how Vagrant works, the pros and cons of the technology, and how it is typically used. The paper describes how to build or repurpose three environments, highlighting different features of Vagrant. Finally, the paper will discuss lessons learned.


  • Data Breaches: Is Prevention Practical? Analyst Paper
    by Barbara Filkins - September 13, 2016 in Data Protection, Data Loss Prevention

    Despite the potential costs, legal consequences and other negative outcomes of data breaches, they continue to happen. A new SANS Institute survey looks at the preventive aspect of breaches and what security and IT practitioners actually are, or are not, implementing for prevention.


  • Applying Machine Learning Techniques to Measure Critical Security Controls by Balaji Balakrishnan - September 6, 2016 in Critical Controls

    Implementing and measuring Critical Security Controls (CSC) requires analyzing all data types (structured, semi-structured and unstructured). This implementation can be a daunting task. One of the goals of effective implementation of Critical Security Controls is to automate as much as possible. Machine learning techniques can help automate many of the measurements in Critical Security Controls. This paper proposes a method to integrate all types of data into a single data repository, extract relationships between different entities and perform machine learning to automate the analysis. This solution provides the security team the ability to analyze the information, and make data-driven security decisions.


  • Incident Handler's Handbook by Patrick Kral - February 21, 2012 in Incident Handling

    An incident is a matter of when, not if, a compromise or violation of an organization's security will happen.


  • Automating Provisioning of NetFlow Analyzers Masters
    by Sumesh Shivdas - September 14, 2016 in Critical Controls, Intrusion Detection

    NetFlow is an embedded instrumentation within Cisco IOS software (Introduction to Cisco IOS NetFlow). NetFlow tracks every network conversation and thus provides insight into the network traffic. Third party NetFlow analyzers are available to store, analyze, alert and report on the NetFlow data. NetFlow analyzers allow users to create custom alerts and reports based on the network traffic. To maximize the benefits from custom alerting and reporting the analyzers must be configured with details of the network environment. Manual configuration of the analyzer can soon be out of sync with the actual setup thus creating false negatives and false positives. This paper proposes an option to automate the configuration of the NetFlow analyzer from a central repository.


  • Threat Intelligence: What It Is, and How to Use It Effectively Analyst Paper
    by Matt Bromiley - September 19, 2016 in Threat Hunting

    In todays cyber landscape, decision makers constantly question the value of their security investments, asking whether each dollar is helping secure the business. Meanwhile, cyber attackers are growing smarter and more capable every day. Todays security teams often nd themselves falling behind, left to analyze artifacts from the past to try to determine the future. As organizations work to bridge this gap, threat intelligence (TI) is growing in popularity, usefulness and applicability.


  • A security assessment of Z-Wave devices and replay attack vulnerability Masters
    by Mark Devito - August 31, 2016 in Internet of Things

    Within many modern homes, there exists a compelling array of vulnerable wireless devices. These devices present the potential for unauthorized access to networks, personal data and even the physical home itself. The threat originates from the Internet-connected devices, a ubiquitous collection of devices the consumer market dubbed the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices utilize a variety of communication protocols; a replay attack against the Z-Wave protocol was accomplished and demonstrated at ShmooCon 2016. The attack was carried out using two HackRF radios. This paper attempts to conduct a similar attack but employing a $35 US SDR, a $130 US sub-1Ghz dongle, and readily available Open Source applications, instead of the more expensive HackRF hardware.


  • Disaster Recovery Plan Strategies and Processes by Bryan Martin - March 5, 2002 in Disaster Recovery

    This paper discusses the development, maintenance and testing of the Disaster Recovery Plan, as well as addressing employee education and management procedures to insure provable recovery capability.


  • Arming SMB's Against Ransomware Attacks by TIm Ashford - August 31, 2016 in Malicious Code

    Ransomware has become one of the most serious cyber threats to small and medium businesses today. A recent variant permanently deletes files within one hour of infection. The situation grows increasingly dire: the FBI even encourages victims to make payment, though there is still no guarantee that owners will recover their data (ICIT Fellows, 2016). Despite such threats, small and medium enterprises can follow recommended best practices to mitigate this risk. Businesses with tighter budgets and fewer security team members can adopt many of the protections available to the largest enterprises. The most important recommendation is the use of application whitelisting. In Windows environments, this can be accomplished through free tools within Active Directory. Other options will also be discussed, as well as a brief discussion of the future of ransomware.


  • The GICSP: A Keystone Certification by Derek R. Harp and Bengt Gregory-Brown - August 29, 2016 in Training

    The Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional (GICSP) certification was conceived in the winter of 2013 to address a growing challenge spanning multiple industries. Rapid and accelerating changes in technology were increasingly opening process control and automation system networks and equipment to security exposures, and developing a workforce to protect these systems was a growing concern. As a step towards addressing these and other control system security issues, representatives from Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco, BP, Rockwell Automation, Yokogawa Industries, Emerson, ABB, Cimation and the SANS Institute came together and laid out the framework of what would become the GICSP.


  • Generating Hypotheses for Successful Threat Hunting by Robert M. Lee and David Bianco - August 15, 2016 in Threat Hunting, Threats/Vulnerabilities

    Threat hunting is a proactive and iterative approach to detecting threats. Although threat hunters should rely heavily on automation and machine assistance, the process itself cannot be fully automated. One of the humans key contributions to a hunt is the formulation of a hypotheses to guide the hunt. This paper explores three types of hypotheses and outlines how and when to formulate each of them.


  • The SANS State of Cyber Threat Intelligence Survey: CTI Important and Maturing Analyst Paper
    by Dave Shackleford - August 15, 2016 in Best Practices, Threats/Vulnerabilities

    Its 2016, and the attacks (and attackers) continue to be more brazen than ever. In this threat landscape, the use of cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is becoming more important to IT security and response teams than ever before. This paper provides survey results along with advice and best practices for getting the most out of CTI.


  • Building a Home Network Configured to Collect Artifacts for Supporting Network Forensic Incident Response by Gordon Fraser - September 21, 2016 in Forensics

    A commonly accepted Incident Response process includes six phases: Preparation, Identification, Containment, Eradication, Recovery, and Lessons Learned. Preparation is key. It sets the foundation for a successful incident response. The incident responder does not want to be trying to figure out where to collect the information necessary to quickly assess the situation and to respond appropriately to the incident. Nor does the incident responder want to hope that the information he needs is available at the level of detail necessary to most effectively analyze the situation so he can make informed decisions on the best course of action. This paper identifies artifacts that are important to support network forensics during incident response and discusses an architecture and implementation for a home lab to support the collection of them. It then validates the architecture using an incident scenario.


  • Windows Installed Software Inventory by Jonathan Risto - September 7, 2016 in Critical Controls

    The 20 Critical Controls provide a guideline for the controls that need to be placed in our networks to manage and secure our systems. The second control states there should be a software inventory that contains the names and versions of the products for all devices within the infrastructure. The challenge for a large number of organizations is the ability to have accurate information available with minimal impact on tight IT budgets. This paper will discuss the Microsoft Windows command line tools that will gather this information, and provide example scripts that can be run by the reader.


  • Protect the Network from the Endpoint with the Critical Security Controls Analyst Paper
    by G. W. Ray Davidson, PhD - August 22, 2016 in Network Access Control

    The endpoint is rapidly evolving and often the first vector of attack into enterprises, according to the SANS 2016 State of Endpoint Security Survey. As such, all endpoints should be considered potentially hostile.


  • Configuring a NetScreen Firewall: Best practice guideline for the basic setup of a NetScreen firewal by Robert Bayley - April 14, 2002 in Firewalls & Perimeter Protection

    This paper will detail how to setup a NetScreen firewall using the command line configuration options.


  • Profiling Web Applications for Improved Intrusion Detection by Manuel Leos Rivas - September 7, 2016 in Intrusion Detection

    Web application firewalls using generic out of the box configurations work well for common vulnerabilities but lack the capability to address application-specific contexts. Due to this lack of context, it is difficult for the firewall to determine what it is good versus bad. In addition, several learning features of certain high-end devices are inaccessible to companies and individuals. This document provides a generic approach to protecting web applications using freely available software by configuring ModSecurity. This approach enables differentiation between what is acceptable for the application and what may be interesting for investigation purposes. The process for creating an application profile should be well documented, repeatable, verifiable and automated as much as possible to ease integration into the application development lifecycle.


  • Simple Approach to Access Control: Port Control and MAC Filtering by Bill Knaffl - August 22, 2016 in Network Access Control, Breaches, Critical Controls

    Many times businesses will spend time and money on "Magic Bullet" security and focus on a single technology or threat. This focus can lend itself more towards placing a "check in the box" for compliance rather than on actual security and facing today's threats. Frequently, missing controls can have a cascading effect where because one control was missing or inadequate, other failures occur turning a minor problem into a breach. This paper approaches one such incident, calls out which control was identified as the primary failure and offers an evaluation of a specific tool that could have helped prevent this attack. It covers not only the cost of the tool and the time to implement but discusses other costs such as training, monitoring, maintenance, user impact and offers a guide for a successful implementation.


  • An Overview of Threat and Risk Assessment by James Bayne - January 22, 2002 in Auditing & Assessment

    The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of the process involved in performing a threat and risk assessment


  • Implementing a Vulnerability Management Process by Tom Palmaers - April 9, 2013 in Threats/Vulnerabilities

    A vulnerability is defined in the ISO 27002 standard as "A weakness of an asset or group of assets that can be exploited by one or more threats" (International Organization for Standardization, 2005).


  • Know Thy Network - Cisco Firepower and Critical Security Controls 1 & 2 Masters
    by Ryan Firth - September 19, 2016 in Critical Controls

    Previously known as the SANS Top 20, the Critical Security Controls are based on real-world attack and security breach data from around the world, and are objectively the most effective technical controls against known cyber-attacks. Due to competing priorities and demands, however, organizations may not have the expertise to figure out how to implement and operationalize the Critical Security Controls in their environments. This paper will help bridge that gap for security and network teams using Cisco Firepower.


All papers are copyrighted. No re-posting or distribution of papers is permitted.

Masters - This paper was created by a SANS Technology Institute student as part of their Master's curriculum.