GuidePoint Security Recognized for Excellence in Managed IT Services

CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has named GuidePoint Security to its 2018 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Security 100 category. This annual list recognizes North American solution providers with cutting-edge approaches to delivering managed services. Their offerings help companies navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of IT, improve operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on IT investments.

In today’s fast-paced business environments, MSPs play an important role in helping companies leverage new technologies without straining their budgets or losing focus on their core business. CRN’s MSP 500 list shines a light on the most forward-thinking and innovative of these key organizations.

The list is divided into three categories: the MSP Pioneer 250, recognizing companies with business models weighted toward managed services and largely focused on the SMB market; the MSP Elite 150, recognizing large, data center-focused MSPs with a strong mix of on-premises and off-premises services; and the Managed Security 100, recognizing MSPs focused primarily on off-premise, cloud-based security services.

GuidePoint Security invested in a specialized team that developed our Virtual Security Operations Center (vSOC), to address flaws commonly found with other Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs). As a result, GuidePoint’s vSOC provides differentiated customer-centric managed security services.

GuidePoint’s vSOC combines advanced detection and response capabilites, threat hunting powered by proprietary machine learning, and experienced security personnel, all provided as a service.

“Managed service providers have become integral to the success of businesses everywhere, both large and small,” said Bob Skelley, CEO of The Channel Company. “Capable MSPs enable companies to take their cloud computing to the next level, streamline spending, effectively allocate limited resources and navigate the vast field of available technologies. The companies on CRN’s 2018 MSP 500 list stand out for their innovative services, excellence in adapting to customers’ changing needs and demonstrated ability to help businesses get the most out of their IT investments.”

“Significant enhancements to our service offerings and processes, as well as the expansion of our vSOC team over the last year enabled GuidePoint to respond to the increased demand for our offerings,” explained GuidePoint’s Director of vSOC Product Development, Robert Vaile. “Our passion around continued innovation, key technology partnerships and world-class customer satisfaction are powerful differentiators for us and will continue to fuel our success.”

The MSP500 list will be featured in the February 2018 issue of CRN and online at

About GuidePoint Security

GuidePoint Security LLC provides innovative and valuable cybersecurity solutions and expertise that enable organizations to successfully achieve their missions. By embracing new technologies, GuidePoint Security helps clients recognize the threats, understand the solutions, and mitigate the risks present in their evolving IT environments. Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, GuidePoint Security is a small business, and classification is with the System for Award Management (SAM). Learn more at:

No Cookie Cutters

Many organizations trying to mature their Application Security Programs are buying SAST (Static Application Security Testing) and DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) solutions. For those unfamiliar, SAST tools are used for binary, byte, or source code analysis, and look for flaws at the code level, whereas DAST tools are meant to test an application at run time. These tool sets can add a lot of value to an organization, but how they are implemented into the SDLC will determine the true return on investment. Some organizations create a budget, then buy some tools…but beyond that, still need help figuring out next steps. Where there may not be a cookie cutter solution for this, there are common factors that will help you determine the most effective strategy for implementation.

Before we talk about implementing SAST and DAST tools into the SDLC, organizations should first gain an understanding of the size of their application portfolio, how many licenses they can reasonably budget for, and the amount of resources required to implement, tune, support and run these tools. Once those factors are understood, one must put the cart before the horse and ask how the results from these tests will be reviewed, who will review them, and how they will get tracked and prioritized for remediation.

Smaller development shops tend to have tighter budgets and a more tactical approach, given that they may only have one or two application security resources. With environments like this, the development leads are often getting asked for help, and being trained to run the tools themselves so that the application security resources can focus their time on reviewing, validating, analyzing, and tracking the results. Organizations should try to avoid implementing tools which are licensed per user. Why should you have to choose which developer should be able to proactively find issues in the code being developed? The whole purpose of driving automated tools into the SDLC is to encourage all developers to develop based on secure coding principles and be able to test their code as early in the SDLC as possible. When everyone on the development team has the same chance at secure development, a formalized secure coding standard starts to take shape.

Developers leveraging these tools are a very good thing for an organization, but this activity should never replace the more formal review performed by application security professionals. Frequency of testing factors in several other considerations that are a bit off topic for this blog, but may be revisited in a future article.

For issue tracking, the organization may leverage their ticketing, bug tracking, or GRC systems, but needs to also take into consideration what kind of detail is contained within the tickets. In other words, not everyone who can access the tickets should be able to access vulnerability details or application specifics. The ticket should be as generic as possible with details tracked in a system that can be limited to least privilege. Even a developer of one application shouldn’t necessarily have access to the vulnerabilities of another application they don’t work with. It’s important to keep the existence of insider threats in mind when deciding how much detail to reveal within an environment. If the application security issues are available to everyone, and an attack is executed before remediation is in place, this could introduce a great deal of complexity into an internal investigation.

Another important part of the process is aligning the findings that come out of the tools with the security policies/standards that may already be in place. Each tool assigns default levels of severity for each finding. These are typically configurable and should be reviewed, as some organizations may want to change some of these levels based on their own unique environments or controls. It is common for our clients to have a policy or standard in place (whether it be formal or informal) that requires the remediation of all high or medium severity findings prior to code being implemented to production. Ensuring the findings in the tools are configured to help meet this standard also aligns the business and security with the process. It should be noted that if developers can access and run these tools, they should not be able to reconfigure the severity levels themselves and should not deem anything a false positive without a formal review by the security team. Checks and balances are important to maintain, even in a large development shop or organization.

Overall, automated tools are an important part of a Secure SDLC program and provide a lot of value to any development organization. They can help increase the coverage for testing, help identify “low hanging fruit”, and are a great first step to help kick start a new Application Security Program within an existing SDLC. However, organizations must consider implementing usage plans and developing processes to expand the quality and security of the code, as well as provide a much more significant return on investment. Just remember, the solution is as unique as your development environment and overall business. There are no cookie cutter solutions to implementing tools, but GuidePoint is here to help you, and we might even have cookies!

About the Author

Kristen Bell, Managing Security Consultant – Application Security

Kristen is a Managing Security Consultant at GuidePoint Security who started in Application Security in 2005. Prior to joining GuidePoint, Kristen consulted for numerous companies performing application security services. Kristen has a background in the government sector, building application security programs and providing guidance in secure application design.

Kristen’s experience includes conducting application security assessments and database security reviews, secure SDLC consulting, as well as working with clients to improve their enterprise vulnerability management. Kristen’s ability to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical people, coupled with her strong interpersonal skills, has made her a strong champion for application security frameworks and controls for her customers. Kristen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Kentucky State University.

Exim MTA

vSOC SPOT Report: Exim Remote Code Execution Vulnerability


On March 6th, 2018, a security researcher by the name of Meh Chang of Devcore, a Taiwanese security consulting firm, published a remote code execution vulnerability that is present in the mail transfer agent, Exim. Exim is a mail transfer agent (MTA for short) for Unix servers that was developed at the University of Cambridge. Its use is very widespread, estimated to be used on hundreds of thousands of different servers, and it is the default mail transfer agent on some popular web control panels, such as cPanel. It is also the default mail transfer agent in the Debian and Ubuntu Linux distributions. Due to the widespread use of Exim, we believe this vulnerability is particularly dangerous. The vulnerability was first disclosed to Exim on February 2nd, 2018, and a patch was published on February 10th to resolve this issue. This vulnerability is currently being tracked under CVE-2018-6789.

Attack Details

The attack exploits the Base64 decode function of the Exim MTA. The AUTH function of Exim, in most cases, uses Base64 encoding to communicate with the client. Exim uses a buffer to store the decoded Base64 data. Chang found that it was possible to use a certain invalid Base64 string to cause Exim to allocate less space for the buffer than it consumed, creating a buffer overflow. Normally this buffer overflow is harmless, but it is possible to craft the Base64 string to a certain length to overwrite critical data.

Remote execution is possible depending on the use of the Access Control List (ACL) strings in Exim. Chang found that it was possible to overwrite the ACL strings, and then initiate an ACL Check using the ‘MAIL FROM’ SMTP command. When an ACL Check is performed, any code in these strings will be executed if it encounters ${run{cmd}}.

Potential Impact

There have been no known active exploits or proofs of concept of this vulnerability, but this is expected to change in the days following the disclosure due to the ease of exploiting it. Also, the estimated number of machines affected by this vulnerability is very high. A successful exploit of this vulnerability could allow the attacker to gain full access to the mail server. This could then be used to compromise privileged information through the use of reading emails, or the copying, modifying, sending, or deleting of email. This server can then be used as a launching point for further attacks within your network. Even if you are not using Exim within your environment for mail, you could still be vulnerable if Exim is installed and there are open SMTP ports that allow incoming mail.

What You Should Do

Exim has already published Exim 40.9.1 to fix this vulnerability. ALL versions of Exim prior to 40.9.1 are vulnerable to this. Patches are available for Debian, Fedora, SuSE, and Ubuntu Linux distributions as standard packages. Some vulnerability scanners have already added checks for this vulnerability, such as Qualys, Rapid7 and Tenable. We would recommend you review your environment for any indication of vulnerable mail servers and ensure these are updated

GuidePoint’s vSOC will provide additional information as it is made public to help protect our clients.

Supporting Information

GuidePoint Security recognized as recipient of 2018 Splunk Partner+ Awards

GuidePoint Security Named Global Partner of the Year and Americas Partner of the Year for Outstanding Performance

HERNDON, VA – March 5, 2018 – GuidePoint Security, a cybersecurity company that provides world-class solutions, today announced it has received the Splunk 2018 Global Partner of the Year award as well as the Americas Partner of the Year award, for exceptional performance and commitment to the Splunk® Partner+ Program. The prestigious Global Partner of the Year and Americas Partner of the Year awards recognize the Splunk partner who has demonstrated the ability to find and lead incremental business with a continued commitment to their partnership with Splunk. Learn more about the Splunk Partner+ Program here.

The Splunk Partner+ Awards are designed to recognize members of the Splunk ecosystem for industry-leading business practices and dedication to constant collaboration. Areas of consideration for an award include commitment to customer success, innovative program execution, investment in Splunk capabilities, technology integrations and extensions, and creative sales techniques.

“We’re honored to receive such prestigious awards,” GuidePoint Security Co-Founder and Principal Justin Morehouse noted. “It’s a testament to the strong partnership our two organizations developed over several years. Beyond our capabilities to provide Splunk certified professional services, our strategic partnership is supported by GuidePoint’s vSOC Managed Security Services, which continues to disrupt the MSS industry,” Morehouse added.

“As a vital partner to Splunk, we applaud GuidePoint Security for being recognized as the Global Partner of the Year and the Americas Partner of the Year, said Cheryln Chin, vice president of Global Partners, Splunk. “The Splunk Partner+ Awards recognize partners like GuidePoint Security who exemplify the core values of the Partner+ Program coupled with a strong commitment to growth, innovation and customer success.”

Winners of the Splunk Partner+ Awards reflect the top-performing partners globally and regionally. All award recipients were selected by a group of the Splunk executives and global partner organization. Read more about the Splunk Partner+ Program.

About GuidePoint Security

GuidePoint Security LLC provides innovative and valuable cybersecurity solutions and expertise that enable organizations to successfully achieve their missions. By embracing new technologies, GuidePoint Security helps clients recognize the threats, understand the solutions, and mitigate the risks present in their evolving IT environments. Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, GuidePoint Security is a small business, and classification is with the System for Award Management (SAM). Learn more at:

When user behavioral analytics isn’t the right name

There is a lot of talk about “machine learning” and “behavioral analytics” in the cybersecurity world. Some products and companies are doing a great job designing big data based solutions that use higher math and analytics to find and alert on unusual or malicious activities. Some products are simply a higher order of signatures hiding behind a shiny veneer to make them look like math and analytics.

But sometimes there is a way of doing things that’s simply, well, more than that. There are user behavioral products out there that I think really should be named something different. I’m not sure what that marketing name should be, but let me explain what they do and maybe someone can create a cool shiny name for it.

These products do in fact use math and analytics to baseline activities and alert on deviations, but more importantly, they collect up activities around those deviations and create timelines of total activity and then score them. This is higher order incident response. If you walk into any SOC when a major alert is being investigated, the first thing a SOC analyst will do is collect up evidence and create a timeline of activity around it. Then once all this information is plotted together of “what just happened” they make a decision about whether it was a user who hit something, an application that hiccupped, or the possibility of something much more sinister.

At least one of the user behavioral analytics products does most of that heavy lifting, and does it fast and automatically. Its hands over the timelines and evidence for a human to then validate the “risk score” or invalidate and throw in the trash. Who wouldn’t like to have more time back for their SOC analysts to go proactively hunting instead of reacting? It could be a game changer for many cash and talent strapped agency SOCs.

So, what should these products be called? They aren’t classic automation and orchestration products. They aren’t an IR tool for forensics. They are doing rock star user behavioral analytics, that’s true. Oh alright, I’ll keep calling them user behavioral analytics for now… until someone smarter than me figures out that cool shiny marketing term.

Join GuidePoint Security and Exabeam on March 21st, for a live webinar, to learn more about how they aren’t, well maybe are,  the best User Behavioral Analytics product on the market.  Click here for more information.

About the Author

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.

Enabling Public Cloud Application Performance and Security

There has been a lot of talk about cloud security and how to monitor SaaS and IaaS access and usage, both sanctioned and unsanctioned. However, one thing that needs to be talked about more is how applications that are known, tracked and managed are being deployed in the cloud, via IaaS.

When deploying applications on premise, either in a datacenter or in a DMZ, there are firewalls, network monitoring and various security controls that are known and already in place before an application even enters the discussion. However, when moving an application to the cloud via IaaS, none of those security controls exist by default, despite what customers might believe. This specifically applies to application hosting front ends such as ADC/WAFs.

Unfortunately, many cloud hosting deployments are being managed by development teams, not network or security teams. And while developer teams know what they are doing and are professionals, they often are not even aware of what network and security teams have done before they deploy their applications. An example of this is how many development teams are deploying default application delivery controllers offered up by IaaS providers. These ADCs appear to be point and click and cheap. And they are.

The problem is that they lack the performance and security that typical enterprise ADC/WAF appliances, virtual or otherwise, offer. Some of the clearest examples are features like DAST that allows an application to be scanned and resulting vulnerabilities be virtually patched by the application. Another example is the ability to automate security controls and requirements through industry standard DevOps tools like Ansible, Puppet, Chef as well as classic scripting languages like python and PowerShell. Further, using a product like F5 ASM that leverages broad industry support, application templates can be deployed with little or no customization or for custom applications, creating a custom security policy that can be accomplished with little or no user interaction with a Rapid Deployment Policy interface.

The final value, and probably the most critical, is a must-have for any government agency. A true enterprise virtual ADC/WAF offers FIPS level data encryption for application data in-flight. Without integrating with physical FIPS hardened appliances, the private keys necessary to do secure SSL transit data cannot be stored properly. Default ADC/WAFS supplied by the major IaaS providers do not have the ability to do this. Therefore, an enterprise software version is required.

Besides the added functionality, using a software enterprise ADC/WAF like F5 also provides consistency across on premise physical, on premise virtual and cloud application hosting. First and foremost, no new learning is required to ensure that the ADC/WAFS in the cloud are meeting security policy and are configured correctly. Any security issue can be resolved in the same manner that is currently used and probably will be used for on premise applications in most agencies that are going to persist to be hybrid computing for some time. A single management can be used for all and no additional training or risk of misconfiguration is added into the application life-cycle.

This consistency can be the difference between resolving a security issue with a few clicks in the proxy of an enterprise solution, and scrambling to figure out how to patch or fix code in an application that now has a major vulnerability and is in production. A common example is Heartbleed. When that hit enterprises, F5 front ended applications were able to resolve all applications, in some cases hundreds by simply pushing out a mitigation at the proxy, and then mapping out the patching and code fixes of the applications with more time and planning.

For a deeper dive into the differences between default IaaS ADC/WAFS, HSM integration to secure application traffic in-flight and how to securely move application to the cloud, join GuidePoint Security, F5 and Thales Security on Feb 27th for our live webinar.  Click here to register.

About the Author

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.

vSOC Background

GuidePoint Security Managed Services and Splunk providing value together

Recently, mainstream industry surveying and analyst firms have echoed what security leaders have known for some time, there are insufficient skilled security professionals to meet the demands for in-house cybersecurity expertise. This is driving security leaders from all industry segments to consider capable external security services providers to deliver needed expertise. Even organizations that have traditionally preferred or mandated that staff security resources be provided internally, have begun to explore outsourcing security capabilities. Federal government agencies that have strict control requirements and historically internal security teams are increasingly looking externally for capable managed security service providers (MSSP).

One of the hottest areas of need is Splunk expertise. Both installing, configuring and running as well as “eyes-on-glass” SOC analysts are using the application to keep agencies secure. While Splunk is an incredibly powerful platform that is taking the Federal government by storm, the situation has created an expected inability to find qualified “Splunkers” at an affordable cost for government agencies.

The challenge and opportunity for MSSPs like GuidePoint Security, is to deliver highly mature services that are compatible with the requirements of government organizations. For example, GuidePoint employs only US citizens who are based in the United States to manage security services for our customers. GuidePoint vSOC managed services, based on Splunk technology, can be deployed to FedRamp environments, and support FedRamp controls. These types of capabilities will be key to supporting an increasing government client base.

But government clients do not simply require checkbox compliance requirements to be met, they also expect sophisticated operational capabilities and high levels of service. Agencies expect to maximize the value delivered by the MSSP, and to minimize the time and effort of scarce internal security resources. GuidePoint prides itself on delivering white-glove service to its customers by managing SIEM to a higher level than typical of MSSPs. For example, vSOC analysts validate every Splunk event with the intent of eliminating false positives before providing an alert to clients. GuidePoint has augmented its core service (vSOC Detect) with advanced technologies and processes that integrate natively with Splunk, including extensive threat intelligence enrichment, darkweb threat monitoring, security automation and orchestration, active threat hunting, and managed endpoint detection & response. These capabilities allow GuidePoint to deliver advanced security operations that can significantly augment a client’s internal security capabilities. These service features also offer a level of capability and sophistication required by government clients.

Join us on Thursday Feb 22nd, for a live webinar, to hear more about how GuidePoint’s vSOC managed security services is leveraging Splunk to provide differentiated SOC-as-a-service to federal agencies.  Register now.

Security Tool Consolidation to fight “Tool Sprawl”

I’ve been talking about the problem of “Tool Sprawl” for over four years. I may have made up the term, or acquired it from somewhere else. I don’t remember. But the core idea is that buying a ton of security tools to fill in compliance gaps and spit out alerts doesn’t equate to security.  Even the coolest cyber security technology can be rendered useless if it is part of an avalanche of technology that an enterprise is trying to manage and respond to.

The clearest example of this is the constant problem of misconfigured firewalls, both traditional and next-gen, that have created a whole new category of products centered around validating FW rules and configurations or “Rule Clean Up.”  I’ll start by saying I think that those products are worth it, and I have proposed them to customers and would advocate they be used by any enterprise looking to protect their perimeters.

The problem is that only one category of product is being addressed to double check configurations.  What about your WAF/ADC, IPS/IDS, AV, EDR, Active Directory, PAM, vulnerability scanners, route/switch, or *gasp*? Shall I go on? How do we know anything in our network, end-point, and security tool environments are set up and configured right?  Adding more tools to check our tools only compounds the problem of tool sprawl mentioned above.

As a recovering Data Center enterprise architect, and present cyber security enterprise architect, my desire is to keep things simple, yet effective.  I am drawn to products and services that provide both Security ROI and Financial ROI.  Most assume correctly what a Financial ROI is, but what is “Security ROI”?  I look at it as quantifiably moving an enterprise’s security posture forward vs. the dollars spent.  Some good quick hit products in the security field are high bang for the buck I can rank with another tools Security ROI.  Believe it or not, there are some security tools out there that actually offer a true Financial ROI as well.  The best reduces both CAPEX and OPEX costs, as well as the labor overhead needed to manage everything.

The absolute home runs have both Security ROI and Financial ROI.  These are rare of course.  Keep an eye out for our soon to be released Federal whitepaper that will detail more about enterprise architectures and some go-to solutions that do have both. One of those solutions in our whitepaper is called security efficacy testing and automation. Sometimes referred to as “Security Instrumentation”, this software exposes misconfigured security tools, overlapping security products, confirms security teams are correctly responding to incidents, and allows an agency to continuously validate and improve layered defenses.  Often deploying a Security Instrumentation platform can immediately improve the security posture of an agency, as well as improve SOC processes in dealing with an incident, both with simple changes and little capital expenditure.

This is exactly what enterprise security teams need to battle tool sprawl.  Once you are able to identify what is and what is not working, you can justify consolidation and possible removal of ineffective tools, opening up CAPEX and OPEX for new tools that can fill in the gaps.

Join GuidePoint Security and Verodin on Feb 8th to hear more about security tool consolidation and how government agencies can move their security posture forward with less funds.


Click here to Register for the Feb 8th, 2018 Webinar.


About the author:

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.


vSOC SPOT Report: Mozilla Firefox Arbitrary Code Execution Vulnerability


On January 29th, Mozilla developer Johann Hofmann reported that there was a major Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability (CVE-2018-5124) within the browser’s user interface (UI) that allows a remote attacker to execute specially crafted code by exploitation of the unsanitized HTML output in the browser’s “Chrome” component. The UI vulnerability has received a CVSS score of 8.8 out of 10 due to the ability for it to be easily exploited without the user’s knowledge.

Technical Overview

The attacker hides unsanitized HTML code within the Firefox “Chrome” component, which does not run separately from the HTML present on a web page. If the attacker hides unsanitized HTML inside the browser’s UI code, the execution chain can be broken away from Firefox’s UI component and allow commands to be run on the computer. The code itself runs with whatever the current user’s privileges are. For example, if the user is an administrator then the code can run SYSTEM level commands. Due to the fact CVE-2018-5124 relies on running untrusted code, it has the ability to be hidden within an iframe, loaded-off screen, or loaded via a drive-by download without the user’s knowledge.

Potential Impact

Exploit kit developers are expected to jump on this vulnerability and add CVE-2018-5124 to their arsenal of targeted vulnerabilities in order to load malware on users’ machines. The biggest impact would come from exploitation of this flaw involving a user with administrative privileges and could allow an attacker to gain a foothold due to the factors involving this vulnerability by running SYSTEM level commands on the compromised system. This security flaw allows an attacker to easily deliver malware and potentially gain control over the user’s machine. This vulnerability is not currently known to affect Firefox for Android and Firefox 52 ESR.

What You Should Do

It is recommended that users update their version of Mozilla Firefox if it is one of the following versions:

  • Mozilla Firefox 56.x
  • Mozilla Firefox 57.x
  • Mozilla Firefox 58.0.0

Mozilla has fixed the flaw by sanitizing the code executed by its chrome UI component, and this is included as part of the new patch released for the vulnerable versions.

Supporting Information


vSOC SPOT Report: Ploutus-D ATM Malware


On Friday, January 26th, vendor Diebold Nixdorf released a statement to customers housing their front load ATM appliances of an attack being leveraged against them. The Ploutus-D malware, which has previously been seen in Latin America, has been observed in several regions of the United States including the Pacific Northwest, Texas, and several locations across the Southeast. The attack is coined “Jackpotting” due to the ability to make the ATM device unload all of its funds.

Attack Details

In order for an attacker to gain access to implant the malicious binary, they must have physical access to the device. They must open the top hat of the ATM via a clone key, picking, forcing the lock or any other method. Once they gain physical access, the attacker will attach a USB or PS/2 keyboard and either load the malicious binary via USB drive or other removable media or will replace the hard drive of the system with one preloaded with the malicious operating system and program files. Once complete, this will allow the attacker to “jackpot” the ATM directly via command line or remotely via SMS text message.

Recognizing Jackpotting Attacks

Physical access is necessary to perform this attack as well as potential damage to the device. Routine sweeps should be made by the device administrator to ensure there is no damage to the locking mechanism, top hat, or casing indicating that the device has been tampered with. Additionally, if the device has a built-in tamper alarm to the opening of the top hat, it should be enabled.


Image 1: Hole drilled into ATM for endoscope – Courtesy of EuroPol

Keyboard Attached to ATM

Image 2: Top hat removed and Keyboard attached – Courtesy of FireEye

How Jackpotting Works

The attacker gains physical access to the computer inside the ATM either via forcing the top hat, or in the case of embedded systems, via social engineering their way into the maintenance area for the devices. They then load the Ploutus-D Configuration utility (AgilisConfigurationUtility.exe) along with software dependencies onto the system which permits the attacker control. Once the applications are installed, the malware hooks into the keyboard and permits the use of the “F” function keys (typically at the top of the keyboard, as in the above image) as well as the number keys to provide input. At this point, the attacker can press the “F3” key and distribute funds from the device without authorization or can close everything back up and create a cash drop where they are able to distribute funds at their leisure.

In order for this particular attack to be successful, the attacker MUST have the 8 digit activation code, which is only valid for 24 hours.

Attack Detection and Prevention

To detect and prevent this attack, the best starting point is to reinforce the device’s physical security. Additional security controls for ATM maintenance and stronger access control are critical. Additional options to reduce the attack surface are:

  • Many of the ATMs in circulation use the same keys. Replacing the top hat lock with a different lock will reduce the instances of this crime.
  • Have a technician physically inspect the device at regular intervals to ensure it has not been tampered with.
  • Use appropriate locking mechanisms to secure the head compartment of the ATM.
  • Control access to areas used by personnel to service the ATM.
  • Implement access control for service technicians based on two-factor authentication.
  • Use firmware with the latest security functionality.
  • Use the most secure configuration of encrypted communications including physical authentication:
    • Agilis® XFS for Opteva®
    • Advanced Function Dispenser (AFD) Version 4.1.41 incl.AFD Application Firmware Version – (or later)
    • Agilis® XFS for Opteva®, Core Version 4.1.59 (or later)
    • Optional – OSD+/DSST 3.3.30 (or later)
  • Investigate suspicious activities such as deviating or non-consistent transaction or event patterns, which are caused by an interrupted connection to the dispenser.
  • Have a plan in place for what to do if someone has physically tampered with the ATM.
    • Who is the point of contact?
    • Who is your local law enforcement agency?
    • Do you have a regular contact there?
  • Running regular updates and ensuring that your operating system is still supported (Many of these attacks are made far easier due to the ATM running Windows XP).
  • Implementation of full disk encryption and encrypt the connection between the ATM and the dispenser.

Affected Systems

  • Diebold Nixdorf Front-load Opteva terminals with the Advanced Function Dispenser (AFD).
    • Opteva 500 and 700
  • Other terminals and ATM vendors without physical authentication could be affected.


The following IOCs are available to detect the instance of the attacker:

  • [D-Z]:\Data\P.bin
  • C:\Diebold\EDC\edclocal.dat

The following files should be found at the same place where the service Diebold.exe is located:

  • Log.txt
  • Log2.txt
  • P.bin – Mac address of the system, plus string: “PLOUTUS-MADE-IN-LATIN-AMERICA-XD”
  • PDLL.bin – Encoded version of P.bin
Mutex names:
  • Ploutos
  • KaligniteAPP
  • Service Name: DIEBOLDP

\\HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Userinit=”Diebold.exe,%system32%/userinit.exe”

Additional Resources