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Reading Room: Most Popular Papers

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Featuring the 25 most popular papers within the past month as of February 23, 2017

  • Back to Basics: Focus on the First Six CIS Critical Security Controls Analyst Paper
    by John Pescatore - January 24, 2017 in Best Practices, Data Protection

    Rather than a lack of choices in security solutions, a major problem in cyber security is an inability to implement mature processes - many organizations lack a defined and repeatable process for selecting, implementing and monitoring the security controls that are most effective against real-world threats. This paper explores how the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Critical Security Controls has proven to be an effective framework for addressing that problem.


  • Forensication Education: Towards a Digital Forensics Instructional Framework STI Graduate Student Research
    by J. Richard “Rick” Kiper - February 3, 2017 in Best Practices, Forensics, Training

    The field of digital forensics is a diverse and fast-paced branch of cyber investigations. Unfortunately, common efforts to train individuals in this area have been inconsistent and ineffective, as curriculum managers attempt to plug in off-the-shelf courses without an overall educational strategy. The aim of this study is to identify the most effective instructional design features for a future entry-level digital forensics course. To achieve this goal, an expert panel of digital forensics professionals was assembled to identify and prioritize the features, which included general learning outcomes, specific learning goals, instructional delivery formats, instructor characteristics, and assessment strategies. Data was collected from participants using validated group consensus methods such as Delphi and cumulative voting. The product of this effort was the Digital Forensics Framework for Instruction Design (DFFID), a comprehensive digital forensics instructional framework meant to guide the development of future digital forensics curricula.


  • The DevSecOps Approach to Securing Your Code and Your Cloud Analyst Paper
    by Dave Shackleford - February 7, 2017 in Security Trends, Threats/Vulnerabilities

    DevSecOps, at heart, is about collaboration. More specifically, it is continual collaboration between information security, application development and IT operations teams. Having all three teams immersed in all development and deployment activities makes it easier for information security teams to integrate controls into the deployment pipeline without causing delays or creating issues by implementing security controls after systems are already running. Despite the potential benefits, getting started with DevSecOps will likely require some cultural changes and considerable planning, especially when automating the configuration and security of assets in the cloud. To help the shift toward a more collaborative culture, security teams need to integrate with the developers who are promoting code to cloud-based applications to show they can bring quality conditions to bear on any production code push without slowing the process. Security teams should also work with QA and development to define the key qualifiers and parameters that need to be met before any code can be promoted. This paper also has an additional resource titled, "DevSecOps Transformation: The New DNA of Agile Business". The resource can be accessed by clicking this link.


  • Attack and Defend: Linux Privilege Escalation Techniques of 2016 STI Graduate Student Research
    by Michael Long II - January 30, 2017 in Linux Issues, Privilege Management, Penetration Testing

    Recent kernel exploits such as Dirty COW show that despite continuous improvements in Linux security, privilege escalation vectors are still in widespread use and remain a problem for the Linux community. Linux system administrators are generally cognizant of the importance of hardening their Linux systems against privilege escalation attacks; however, they often lack the knowledge, skill, and resources to effectively safeguard their systems against such threats. This paper will examine Linux privilege escalation techniques used throughout 2016 in detail, highlighting how these techniques work and how adversaries are using them. Additionally, this paper will offer remediation procedures in order to inform system administrators on methods to mitigate the impact of Linux privilege escalation attacks.


  • Packets Don't Lie: LogRythm NetMon Freemium Review Analyst Paper
    by Dave Shackleford - January 18, 2017 in Intrusion Detection, Data Loss Prevention

    With more traffic than ever passing through our environments, and adversaries who know how to blend in, network security analysts need all the help they can get. At the same time, data is leaking out of our environments right under our noses. This paper investigates how LogRhythm’s Network Monitor Freemium (NetMon Freemium) Version 3.2.3 provides intelligent monitoring, and helps organizations to identify sensitive data leaving the network and to respond when loss occurs.


  • Building and Maintaining a Denial of Service Defense for Businesses STI Graduate Student Research
    by Matt Freeman - January 25, 2017 in Critical Controls, Getting Started/InfoSec, Security Trends

    Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have been around for decades but still cause problems for most businesses. While easy to launch, DDoS attacks can be difficult to sustain and even more difficult to monetize for attackers. From the business perspective, a DDoS attack might result in lost revenue but is unlikely to have the same long term impact that a data breach may have. Recent changes in the IT landscape have made DDoS a more attractive attack vector for hackers. The industry trend to connect more and more devices to the Internet (often with minimal to no security), dubbed the "Internet of Things" has created a new marketplace for bad actors to sell their resource exhaustion services. Businesses need to consider all options when planning and implementing a defensive posture against denial of service attacks. As security vendors continue to offer new (and expensive) options to defend against these attacks, how does an InfoSec manager know which is best for their business. Using an "Offense informs the Defense" approach, this paper will analyze the methods used during DDoS attacks in order to determine the most appropriate defensive postures.


  • Countering Impersonation, Spearphishing and Other Email-Borne Threats: A Review of Mimecast Targeted Threat Protection Analyst Paper
    by Jerry Shenk - January 24, 2017 in Data Loss Prevention, Social Engineering

    The FBI estimates that between October 2013 and August 2015, more than 7,000 U.S.-based organizations lost a total of $748 million to business email scams. Such scams rely on the same tricks as confidence artists in the real world: the appearance of legitimacy and the tendency of victims to go along with requests that appear to be on the up-and-up, without checking to be sure. In this whitepaper, SANS senior analyst Jerry Shenk evaluates Targeted Threat Protect, an email-security service from Mimecast that is focused on stopping sophisticated phishing attacks. Among its most difficult targets: “whaling” attacks that spoof high-level executives asking for sensitive data, access or the transfer of money to accounts owned by scammers.


  • Implementing the Critical Security Controls Analyst Paper
    by Jim D. Hietala - January 24, 2017 in Critical Controls

    This paper serves as a how-to for organizations in various stages of implementing the controls and offers two real-world examples of CIS Control adoption. The case studies are based on real-time interviews with the people behind the efforts and includes the security environments before the implementation, the challenges experienced in adopting the controls and the benefits they’ve experienced.


  • Moving Toward Better Security Testing of Software for Financial Services Analyst Paper
    by Steve Kosten - February 7, 2017 in Application and Database Security

    The financial services industry (FSI) maintains high-value assets and typically operates in a very complex environment. Applications of all types--web applications, mobile applications, internal web services and so forth--are being developed quickly in response to market pressures by developers with limited security training and with relatively immature processes to support secure application development. This combination presents a juicy target for attackers, and data shows that the FSI continues to be a top target. Attempts to introduce security into the application life cycle frequently face challenges such as a lack of available application security expertise, concerns about costs for tooling, and a fear among product owners that security processes might impede the development cycle and slow their response to market conditions. This paper explores why the applications are being targeted, what is motivating the attackers and what some inhibitors of application security are. Most important, this paper specifies some best practices for developing a secure development life cycle to safeguard applications in the FSI.


  • Dissect the Phish to Hunt Infections STI Graduate Student Research
    by Seth Polley - February 3, 2017 in Security Awareness

    Internal defense is a perilous problem facing many organizations today. The sole reliance on external defenses is all too common, leaving the internal organization largely unprotected. The times when internal defense is actually considered, how many think beyond the fallible antivirus (AV) or immature data loss prevention (DLP) solutions? Considering the rise of phishing emails and other social engineering campaigns, there is a significantly increased risk that an organization’s current external and internal defenses will fail to prevent compromises. How would a cyber security team detect an attacker establishing a foothold within the center of the organization or undetectable malware being downloaded internally if a user were to fall for a phishing attempt?


  • Digital Ghost: Turning the Tables Analyst Paper
    by Michael J. Assante - February 1, 2017 in Industrial Control Systems / SCADA

    The complex weave of digital technology relies heavily on hyperconnected systems to move data and unlock value through analytics. The benefits are real, but the stakes involved require a serious look at the potential downsides, including the risk of cyber attacks. Organizations embracing technology innovation should not focus solely on efficiency and productivity, for innovation done correctly can also reduce the risks that come with expanding digital touchpoints.


  • 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.


  • Using COIN Doctrine to Improve Cyber Security Policies STI Graduate Student Research
    by Sebastien Godin - January 27, 2017 in Security Policy Issues

    In today’s ever-evolving Cyber environment, the “bad guys” seem to prosper, and the “good guys” cannot seem to find a solution to create a proper defensive posture. As the Cyber environment becomes an integral part of society, it is imperative to find a way to increase the global defensive posture in the most efficient way possible. This paper will focus on possible security policies that are easy to implement, are proven, and have a significant impact on an enterprise's security practices and posture. The argument will use field data and firsthand combat experience. Working within the framework of the Cyber environment as an insurgency, applying proven Counterinsurgency policies, there can be a great increase in security and a more efficient Cyber defender. The application of this solution gives the potential for the Cyber defender to have a new set of tools for the Cyber domain that are proven to be useful in the physical domain of a counterinsurgency.


  • 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.


  • From Security Perspective, the Quickest Way to Assess Your Web Application by Mohammed Alduhaymi - February 3, 2017 in Web Application Security

    The aim of this paper is to explain how to assess web applications with a fast, easy and effective method. A framework has been created as a Chrome Extension to solve two problems. 1. The first problem is when the IT team wants to know the security posture of their web application, but they did not have the budget/time to hire a penetration tester. Therefore, they can use this framework "WPSecAnalyzer Chrome Extension" to check their web application scores from a security perspective without having a deep knowledge of penetration testing. 2. The second problem is when the penetration tester wants to do the reconnaissance phase, he will use many tools, which will consume his time/effort. Consequently, to reduce the time/effort consumed he can use "WPSecAnalyzer Extension" to check many issues/vulnerabilities from one place with an efficient and effective method. The Chrome Extension which is called "WPSecAnalyzer" checks and verifies eleven issues/vulnerabilities on any website the end user visits, and provides him with a report based on the findings. The report will have the score of the website, as well as a list of the findings based on eleven issues/vulnerabilities.


  • Obfuscation and Polymorphism in Interpreted Code by Kristopher L. Russo - February 10, 2017 in Active Defense, Forensics, Malicious Code

    Malware research has operated primarily in a reactive state to date but will need to become more proactive to bring malware time to detection rates down to acceptable levels. Challenging researchers to begin creating their own code that defeats traditional malware detection will help bring about this change. This paper demonstrates a sample code framework that is easily and dynamically expanded on. It shows that it is possible for malware researchers to proactively mock up new threats and analyze them to test and improve malware mitigation systems. The code sample documented within demonstrates that modern malware mitigation systems are not robust enough to prevent even the most basic of threats. A significant amount of difficult to detect malware that is in circulation today is evidence of this deficiency. This paper is designed to demonstrate how malware researchers can approach this problem in a way that partners researchers with vendors in a way that follows code development from ideation through design to implementation and ultimately on to identification and mitigation.


  • 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.


  • Cyber Insurance Conundrum: Using CIS Critical Security Controls for Underwriting Cyber Risk STI Graduate Student Research
    by Oleg Bogomolniy - February 1, 2017 in Legal Issues

    There has been a number of insurance industry- related research done to define new cyber security frameworks to help insurers underwrite cyber risk. This research includes copula-based actuarial models for pricing cyber insurance based on the number of computers; using peaks-over-threshold method (from extreme value theory) to identifying "cyber risks of daily life"; using Principal-Agent model (from microeconomic theory); creating methodology for common cyber risk categorization; modeling cyber risk based on operational risk, and more. However, there has been little to no input or research into cyber insurance related topics from cyber security experts. The purpose of this exploratory study is to propose the integration of a risk framework for underwriting cyber risk. This paper will analyze how CIS Critical Security Controls, along with its accompanying quantified metrics, benchmarking, and auditing tools can be used as a rating mechanism for determining the cybersecurity posture of insured organizations. Furthermore, such mechanism can be perpetually used for either self-assessments by insured organizations, or by independent qualified security assessors.


  • Detecting and Preventing Anonymous Proxy Usage STI Graduate Student Research
    by John Brozycki - November 6, 2008 in Intrusion Detection

    This paper explores methods organizations may use to detect and prevent anonymous proxy usage.


  • 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


  • Windows Logon Forensics by Sunil Gupta - March 12, 2013 in Forensics

    Digital forensics, also known as computer and network forensics, is the application of science to the identification, collection, examination, and analysis of data while preserving the integrity of the information and maintaining a strict chain of custody for the data.


  • Tracking Malware With Public Proxy Lists by James Powers - January 27, 2011 in Malicious Code, Tools

    The Web was born on Christmas Day, 1990 when the CERN Web server (CERN httpd 1.0) went online. By version 2.0, released in 1993, CERN httpd, was also capable of performing as an application gateway. By 1994, content caching was added. With the publication of RFC 1945 two years later, proxy capabilities were forever embedded into the HTTP specification (Berners-Lee, Fielding, & Frystyk, 1996).


  • Detecting DNS Tunneling STI Graduate Student Research
    by Greg Farnham - March 19, 2013 in DNS Issues

    Web browsing and email use the important protocol, the Domain Name System (DNS), which allows applications to function using names, such as example.com, instead of hard-to-remember IP addresses.


  • Building a World-Class Security Operations Center: A Roadmap Analyst Paper
    by Alissa Torres - April 15, 2015 
    • Sponsored By: RSA

    Explore how you can build a world-class security operations center (SOC) by focusing on the triad of people, process and technology.


  • Penetration Testing: Assessing Your Overall Security Before Attackers Do Analyst Paper
    by Stephen Northcutt, Jerry Shenk, Dave Shackleford, Tim Rosenberg, Raul Sile, Steve Mancini - November 17, 2006 in Penetration Testing

    CORE IMPACT provides a stable, quality-assured testing tool that can be used to accurately assess systems by penetrating existing vulnerabilities.


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

STI Graduate Student Research - This paper was created by a SANS Technology Institute student as part of the graduate program curriculum.