Connecting the Dots

This year I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Black Hat 2013 conference in Las Vegas. The opening keynote by General Alexander set the mood for what I think will be a common trend throughout the rest of conference this year, connecting the dots.

It was a heckle-filled talk that left the general unfazed while he kept restating in different ways how we need to “connect the dots” across different dimensions of information to keep our country safe and failing to do so… essentially, will allow the bad guys to win.

Being able to efficiently and accurately connect the dots is the Holy Grail in all domains of security, including information/network security. From the talks I’ve attended in just one day, it’s obvious that there are a lot of bright people and companies out there in the malware community who are studying, reverse engineering and coming up with ingenious ways to identify malware.

It always fascinates me to see how clever malware can be and the various tricks they employ. For instance, fast flux domain switching. This isn’t a new technique but has been widely utilized for a variety of criminal enterprises.

Enterprises akin to malware delivery, spamming, phishing schemes and to other activities leading to even darker criminal intentions. It’s an efficient way to utilize a botnet by having numerous DNS A records associated with a single FQDN. Then the key step is to swap out these IPs every 5 minutes or so without changing the domain name. This technique is only becoming easier to implement as time goes on with competing hosting sites practically giving away domains for just 99 cents.

The good news is that the detection of malware employing the use of fast flux domain switching exists. It has existed for a while. It just requires the collection, storage, and normalization of webserver and DNS logs—not to mention efficient lookup & dot connecting capabilities on that data.

You hear this a lot, but I think it bears repeating. The amount of data floating around out there is beyond non-trivial, it’s overwhelming. Being able to leverage advanced intelligence techniques on key meta data fields is the fundamental step in being able to connect the dots required for the identification of advanced malicious threats.