Technical Blog

Learn about the latest in technical Cyber Security news, information, techniques and more with original posts by GuidePoint’s seasoned technical personnel.


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.

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.

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.

Managing Spectre and Meltdown at Enterprise Scale

1/05/2018 Update:  Apple announced late in the day on 1/4 that its products are vulnerable. Its most recent versions of iOS 11.2.1 and macOS 11.12.3, released before this vulnerability went public, included some fixes. Apple is still working on further updates and will release them at an unspecified time in the future.

The dawn of the new year brings with it a pair of new designer vulnerabilities, Meltdown and Spectre, which affect virtually any CPU made after Intel’s original Pentium CPU, regardless of what operating system it runs.

What is Meltdown and Spectre?

Modern CPUs use a trick called speculative execution to speed up processing. When there is a branch in program code, the CPU runs both possibilities at once, then discards the one it didn’t need. Meltdown and Spectre use different tricks to find data from those discarded results and access memory that they normally wouldn’t be able to access.

An attacker could use this to steal passwords or credit card numbers, or in the case of cloud infrastructure, steal data from virtual machines belonging to other customers. In cloud environments, it is possible to read data belonging to the hypervisor or other virtual machines.

The biggest problems occur on Intel CPUs. CPUs from AMD and ARM are susceptible to a smaller number of more complex attacks, but still must be considered vulnerable. In enterprise environments, Intel CPUs are far more common than AMD or ARM.

Why should you care?

Almost any computer made in the last 22 years is vulnerable to one degree or another for this. These vulnerabilities have received a tremendous amount of coverage, even bleeding into the mainstream press, so everyone from customers to board members have likely heard about this and are concerned.

What can you do?

First, don’t panic. So far there are no reports of reliable exploits circulating in the wild. Operating system vendors are releasing patches as we speak. Spectre is difficult to mitigate at the CPU or operating system level, so browser makers are attempting to mitigate it at the browser level, since browsers are both an effective attack vector and an attractive target.

Scan your network with a proven vulnerability scanning solution. Check your results for CVEs CVE-2017-5753, CVE-2017-5715, and CVE-2017-5754, and check your web browser versions to build an inventory of patches that will need to be deployed and where. For best results, ensure you are scanning your entire network with authenticated scans. Vendors will be releasing updates through the end of January, so keep in mind, this is a moving target.

Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Internet Explorer all received updates this week. Chrome will receive another update by January 23. Safari, Opera and Vivaldi will receive updates on or before January 31. Additionally, Google recommends enabling site isolation in Chrome. Opera and Vivaldi have the same feature. This setting is in chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process.

If your vulnerability management platform is capable of scanning your mobile device management solution, scan your MDM solution as well to ensure your Android devices are running the January 2018 update from Google, and your iOS devices are running iOS 11.2.1 from Apple.

Microsoft released out-of-band updates for this, but its patch has issues with many third-party antivirus solutions. Unless you have other information direct from your antivirus vendor, GuidePoint Security recommends waiting until Monday for your antivirus vendor to catch up. On Monday, push the update to your antivirus client, then start pushing Microsoft’s update.

Patch in a controlled, prioritized fashion. Workstations and cloud infrastructure are the most critical, as they are most susceptible to attacks. Servers running on hardware you control are much more difficult to exploit, so they can be in your later round of patching. If possible, patch a test environment first so you can monitor for performance impact, as servers that do large amounts of I/O, such as database and web servers, can experience performance degradation of 20 or even 30 percent. Google and Intel have experimental mitigations to help with these degradations in the long term. However, these fixes will require recompiling code so these changes will take time to appear.

After patching, be sure to follow up with subsequent vulnerability scans. GuidePoint engineers have observed Microsoft’s patch giving false error messages that suggest the patch failed when, in fact, it had succeeded. Your vulnerability management solution has more thorough checks that can validate the patch actually succeeded. Microsoft is working on an update for this patch to fix the error messages.

If you cannot update all of your browsers, consider updating one browser and limiting general web access to one particular browser at your proxy server until you are able to update all of the browsers in your network. Please note that technologies like Microsoft EMET and Malwarebytes Anti Exploit, while very useful against certain types of exploits, are not able to protect your browser against Spectre and Meltdown.

GuidePoint Security is here to help

GuidePoint’s cybersecurity advisors have years of experience managing vulnerabilities in enterprise environments. We can help you ensure your vulnerability management solution is correctly sized for your environment, and our Virtual Security Operations Center (vSOC) Identify Team can even run your vulnerability management program for you. Learn more at


Dave Farquhar, vSOC Analyst at GuidePoint Security, is a Cyber Security professional who has worked in the field for 8 years with Vulnerability Management, Policy Compliance, and Incident Handling as his main focuses. Dave most recently managed accounts for 30 large customers at a major vulnerability management vendor, where he helped his most successful clients reduce their vulnerability counts by 50 percent. Prior to moving to security, Dave specialized in remediation management on the infrastructure side of IT. Dave has a Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri as well as holding CISSP and Security+ certifications.

An Incident Responders Take on 2018’s Cybersecurity Predictions

In his article, The Top 18 Security Predictions for 2018, Dan Lohrmann’s roundup outlined the cybersecurity industry’s top predictions from some of the major industry vendors, including TrendMicro, McAfee, Symantec, Check Point, and others.

As with any prediction, there are always those who either agree, agree in part or totally disagree. I would place myself in the second category of agree in part, although there are a few salient points that I believe should be included.

Additionally, I am going to add a bit of fidelity to their predictions based on my market visibility and experiences. You will see some similarities and some differences in view but remember, they are based on my exposure to the industry, GuidePoint Security’s customer base, independent research I’ve performed, and input I have received from other valued Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) professionals.

Without further delay, here are my thoughts on the Top Security Predictions for 2018.

1) IoT devices will be the key victims for Ransomware

a. A lot of IoT device manufactures have implemented minimal security safeguards and these connected devices are low hanging fruit for attackers.
b. Moreover, these devices are relatively easy to target, have a highly visible public impact, and ransomware continues to provide a nice profit margin for attackers. I expect the combination of these factors to lead to a significant uptick in successful Ransomware attacks against IoT devices in 2018.

2) Most companies will take definitive action on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but only after the first set of high-profile fines or lawsuits are filed.

a. GDPR is the latest set of requirements that has companies scrambling to meet the compliance deadline, but few companies have invested the time and resources required to be properly prepared by May.
b. Also, with the EU wielding such power, European assets of American companies can be seized.

3) Malspam will increase and will focus on account compromises for Outlook Web Access (OWA) and Office 365 (O365) email/account access. Additionally, unsecured AWS and Azure environments could lead to large-scale compromises.

a. A large amount of companies are moving their email and Office environments into OWA and O365 as well as their workloads into Azure and AWS. As is often the case, security requirements are not included in these migrations in the haste to move to the new environment. (Remember, in 2017 we have already seen an uptick in the number of discovered publically accessible S3 buckets and there’s nothing to suggest that this will not continue well into 2018.)
b. Overall, malspam attacks are easy to execute and only requires gullible end-users to be successful.
c. Malspam success is based on the Human Element (HE) and you can never remove HE from cybersecurity, hence it will remain the weakest link in the chain

4) Companies in the cryptocurrency business will see the most attacks in 2018, with one or more declaring bankruptcy from the losses suffered in the attacks.

a. 2017 was a banner year for hacking the cryptocurrency businesses with at least one crypto currency dealer being hacked twice then filing for bankruptcy (e.g., Youbit[1]).

5) Non-malware and File-less malware attacks will dominate the tech industry.

a. These types of attacks were dominant and profitable in 2017 and I see them gaining strength in 2018. Many companies are ill-prepared to deal with these types of attacks, and the attackers are well aware of this weakness.

6) The Corporate Cyber Insurance industry will suffer large financial losses in 2018. This will not be a record for that industry but their claims will reach record levels.

a. I think the Cyber Insurance industry has a significant amount of maturing and change to accomplish in 2018.
b. The Cyber Insurance market will continue to explode. However, the common underwriting framework and process to measure the risk of the policies has lagged behind the policy writing.
c. I also believe the current cryptocurrency businesses are improperly designed and are too high of a risk for the cyber insurance market.

7) New POS malware variants will emerge in 2018 that will focus on EMV / Chip and PIN technologies with an increase of Ransomware targeting POS devices.

a. This is a bit of a reach for me but I refuse to believe the crime syndicates are not testing or trying to target Chip and PIN.
b. Ransomware on a POS device is simple, easy, cheap and effective and we will see it deployed effectively against retailers in 2018.

8) Online gaming agents will be used as bots in an DDoS attack. It is only a matter of time before this “innocent” avenue will be exploited and with the wide distribution of online gaming, these bots will be a force to reckon with in 2018.

a. This attack vector isn’t new but is often overlooked. I have been waiting for the past five years for this to happen and I think we are at that point in cyber-history to witness this type of massive distributed-global attack.

9) Increase in malware that targets PLC type devices. Much like we saw with the Trisis malware, the PLC device manufactures are unaware of how exposed they are to exploit and this type of targeting, especially for a Ransomware attack, can be extremely profitable.

a. With PLC devices connecting to the internet and/or to internal networks, most are not protected and large industrial corporations with deep pockets utilize the PLC devices. Therefore, with a well-planned Ransomware attack the payout could be massive.

10) NIST 800-171/ DFARS standard violations will outpace the US Government’s ability to contract and waivers will be provided to lessen the impact.

a. Many of the companies that claim compliance to 800-171 have scrambled to get a basic compliance program in place to meet the assessment criteria.
b. The DoD will need to make contracting adjustments to its FAR in order to keep up with DoD contracting demands.

Well, I guess it is a matter of record now, so we will have to revisit my prognostications in 2019 and see how close I was with each one.

Happy New Year everyone!


Image credit:


Bill Corbitt, National Practice Director for Digital Forensics Incident Response & Forensic Intelligence at GuidePoint Security, is a seasoned, results-oriented leader with extensive corporate, federal, and international experience, dealing with cybersecurity, forensic, and Incident Response dilemmas. In addition to his demonstrated success in aligning security results with business requirements, Bill is recognized for his abilities in implementing accurate cyber-countermeasures to protect intellectual property, reduce cybersecurity risk, and protect intellectual property on a global scale. A respected strategist within the forensic and incident response communities, Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Valdosta State University.

2017 the year of the Non-Malware Attacks

What is a “non-malware” attack?

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A non-malware attack is an attack that does not use malware. Simple.

More realistically, a non-malware attack is one in which an attacker uses existing software or allows (remote access) applications and authorized protocols (e.g., RDP, ssh, etc.) to carry out malicious activities on your network.

In a non-malware attack, the threat actor uses the accessible software to gain entry into the targeted network, control the victimized computers and from this point perform any sort of nefarious actions all within “full view” of all security safeguards.

These native tools grant users exceptional rights and privileges to carry out the most basic commands across a network that will eventually lead to your valuable data. With a non-malware attack, the victim has built into their traditional business model all the tools and access the threat actor needs to have to be successful. Yes, you could have made the bad-guy successful.

Without proper monitoring, the victim has, with legitimate business software (e.g., PowerShell, UltraVNC, TeamViewer, DesktopNow, etc.)[1], opened the front door to their kingdom and welcomed the threat actor with a big, warm hug and a hot cup of coffee.

In a recent Carbon Black report[2] they make note that; “Virtually every organization included in this research was targeted by a non-malware attack in 2016.” Furthermore, in the same report, Carbon Black also states there has been a +92% increase in non-malware based attacks for 2016.

The Carbon Black report says common types of non-malware attacks researches reported seeing and the percentage that saw them were: remote logins (55%); WMI-based attacks (41%); in-memory attacks (39%); PowerShell-based attacks (34%); and attacks leveraging Office macros (31%).[3]

Remember, I am not saying that any of these remote access utilities do not have a legitimate use. What I am pointing out is that non-malware remote access utilities, properly managed and not used in an ad-hoc fashion, can be very useful. However, after you add in the hubris of the Human Element (HE), this is hardly ever the case and security professionals are left scrambling to identify authorized vs. unauthorized use and access which is quite time-consuming.

What makes a non-malware attack work?

What makes a non-malware attack so successful? The answer is simple, we give the threat actor all the tools they need to be successful. We (the royal “we”) fully equip the threat actor with all the necessary tools and access simply by doing our normal daily activity and business.

Some of the more famous non-malware attacks or attack trends include the attack against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the “PowerWare”[4]  campaign tracked by the Carbon Black teams.

Remember, the basis of a non-malware attack is to gain a toe-hold with little threat of detection. From this point, the threat actor determines how to promulgate the attack internally.

Why are non-malware attacks so hard to prevent and detect?

Traditional security approaches in detecting non-malware (malicious) attacks will probably be 100% ineffective. This is because traditional security platforms and most modern security platforms were not designed to detect non-malware attacks in mind.

In addition to GuidePoint’s IR experiences, Carbon Black[5] has performed extensive research on non-malware based attacks, and has provided their findings in {}. Unfortunately, traditional antivirus (A/V) is ineffective in detecting non-malware based attacks, and security professionals should consider the use of technologies that incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) to effectively thwart non-malware based attacks.

Traditional A/V was never designed to detect non-malware attacks. They are basically designed as a signature-based threat detection platform that typically only monitors when a known malware signature has been written to disk. Non-malware based attacks are not identified as malware.

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“AI and ML’s roles in preventing cyberattacks have been met with both hope and skepticism. They have been marketed as game-changing technologies though doubts still persist, especially when used in siloes. Their emergence is due largely to the climbing number of breaches, increased prevalence of non-malware attacks, and the waning efficacy of legacy antivirus (AV)”.[6]

Real-World Example

In one real world example, of a non-malware attack the GPS/DFIR team responded to a customer request to analyze some anomalous network activity their security team had been witnessing for a couple of months (yes, months).

The Incident Responders were able to monitor an initial select set of endpoints and network segments.  Soon the GuidePoint Security Digital Forensics & Incident Response (GPS/DFIR) team identified the fact that no remote access malware was present and that network/system access was gained through compromised accounts via non-malware attack.

This was a complex DFIR investigation that involved multiple security and forensic disciplines, 24/7 monitoring of all network segments and an enterprise wide deployment with high fidelity endpoint sensors.  Also, customized onsite databases had to be designed so that all sensor data could be aggregated and analyzed in near-real-time.

The end result was a lengthy engagement with multiple forensic responders chasing and tracking the threat actor inside a global network.  The threat actor was using non-malware techniques, system administration tools and a variety of security tools to compromise user accounts, escalate privileges, access systems and exfiltrate data for profit.

Defense for non-malware based attacks

Remember, non-malware attacks will use legitimate software to perform malicious activity.  However, fielding a proper, holistic security strategy that encompasses enterprise level end point and UEBA advanced analysis that enables your overall investigative, cyber-hunt and security strategy should be carefully considered.

GPS/DFIR has a track record of investigating and analyzing such non-malware based attacks and with the combined strategic arm of GuidePoint’s security experts and knowledge of the security platforms available, we can help define the best short-term and long-term security roadmap for your organization.

As a basic defense, there are some “snap-shot” remedies that can be easily implemented:

  • Allow few (justified) remote access applications to be used (e.g., Windows RDP, TeamViewer, etc.) in your environment on your systems.  Ensure all remote access requires multi-factor authentication.
  • Because some applications can be manipulated and replaced it is important to have forensically hashed versions identified
    • Share those authorized forensic hash values with your security and IR teams
    • Place the authorized hash values into any white listing or AV applications
  • Only allow a pre-defined group of employees with a legitimate business need to use the remote access applications
  • Identify to your internal security and IR teams the list of who is authorized to use the remote access software
  • Have employees read and sign an “Acceptable Use” policy for the software or applications
  • Develop internal security alerts and rules that identify anomalous behavior and/or connections and alert/respond to those “out of parameter” activities
  • Educate your employees as to the vulnerabilities of such applications
  • Incorporate all non-malware investigative and response activities into your IR plans and run-books

The first line of defense in any effective security organization is the Human Element (HE). With proper education and training, employees can and do typically provide significant feedback as to unusual or questionable behavior.  So, open lines of communication within all business units can only benefit the entire security posture of your organization.


In conclusion, as in the real-world example, forensic analysis validated this particular threat actor using a non-malware attack method was active on this global network for over two years.  Essentially, most of their malicious activity was completely cloaked within the victim’s daily business activity and they were able to work autonomously.

This real-world example is being played out every day in companies all over the globe.  And as GPS/DFIR witnessed in this example, talented security teams recognized the threat but also realized their own team’s limitations and asked for outside help.

Non-malware attacks will never go away, rather we strongly believe that they will only increase in count and complexity and we strongly recommend that you ensure your organization is prepared to deal with this growing threat.








Bill Corbitt, National Practice Director for Digital Forensics Incident Response & Forensic Intelligence at GuidePoint Security, is a seasoned, results-oriented leader with extensive corporate, federal, and international experience, dealing with cybersecurity, forensic, and Incident Response dilemmas. In addition to his demonstrated success in aligning security results with business requirements, Bill is recognized for his abilities in implementing accurate cyber-countermeasures to protect intellectual property, reduce cybersecurity risk, and protect intellectual property on a global scale. A respected strategist within the forensic and incident response communities, Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Valdosta State University.

Android Malware (SonicSpy) “Ludo Coins RAT”

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Android malware is not something I typically perform forensic analysis on, but this one caught my eye. This caught my eye mainly because it was in a threat actor database directory that GuidePoint Security’s (GPS) Digital Forensic and Incident Response (DFIR) team has been watching, and also because it is the first sample of Android malware I have seen posted on this particular threat actors database.

Knowing this threat actor has had some recent successes, I thought I should take a look at this Android malware and give it the ole’ forensic once-over. I’m glad I did.

Considering Google is fighting a massive Android malware outbreak [1], and 99% of all mobile malware is Android malware[2], this would be a good way to “enter” into a targeted environment and start to move laterally.  But wait until you see what this Android Remote Access Trojan (RAT) can do.

GPS DFIR teams perform forensic analysis of malware in an effort to provide OSINT and our customers real, actionable and valid forensic IOCs (e.g., Hash values, IPv4, etc.).  It is these IOCs that allow our customers the ability to “plug” them into security devices for action, detection and prevention.


Because of ongoing threat investigations that I will not disclose in this analysis, I have labeled this Android malware “Ludo Coins” RAT.  Yes, I believe there could be a direct correlation to and, among other things, this RAT could be used to capitalize on the Ludo Coins business model for cash.


GPS DFIR harvested this sample directly from the threat actor’s database server and was subsequently analyzed in the GPS forensic malware analysis lab.

Overall impression of this RAT is that it has a good overall design and will capture and control all major components and features of your Android mobile device.  The reader should be quite aware that after installation the victimized user will have no control over that mobile device.

Sample Analyzed

MD5:   ee7fba3487165f00533e4fd90bca531f
SHA256:    7eb6a65a7d9ee2bfc9b8df6442cfa2c76f4753663297d2dabafc023b1bd2370b

Analysis Platform

Android x86 5.1 (“Android 4”)

Analysis Summary

Overall, this RAT has very little visual clues that it has been installed.  Remember, this is a RAT and it will allow a remote threat actor full control of your Android device.

It does have the ability to change the wallpaper so the threat actor can change ( if they so wish.

Test Image 1: Android Screen Capture

During testing, I also noted the RAT can access the Android keyguard (lock screen) and allow the remote threat actor to query the phone’s “GPS” location.

The RAT also performs anti-forensic activities once it is initialized:

  • Deletes call logs/history
  • Deletes other (installed) packages (platform dependent)
  • Kills background processes
  • Obfuscates method names

After deployment/installation, the RAT has the capability of performing a variety of command level functions – remotely:

  • Dials phone numbers and sends SMS (SmsManager) in the background
  • Monitors, redirects and/or block calls
  • Records audio (while running in the background)
  • Takes photos
  • Records any audio/media running on the Android device

The RAT also has specific remote access functionality:

  • Uses Download Manager to fetch additional RAT components
  • Redirects camera/video feed
  • Reads call logs & browser history
  • Monitors incoming & outgoing phone calls and SMS messages
  • Conducts remote query
    • Query list of installed applications
    • Camera Information
    • Stored mail
    • Phone contact information
  • Queries the SIM provider ISO country code
  • Queries the network operator ISO country code
  • Queries device unique ID (e.g., IMEI, MEID, etc.)


This RAT has the ability to spread throughout a WiFi environment after initial installation.  It can change the (local) WiFi settings in which it can chose to connect and disconnect from selected WiFi networks.  It can also scan access points for available WiFi networks.

Remember, once it conducts these activities it will transmit the information back to the threat actor and with a reasonable level of effort the threat actor will be able to plot your general geographical location and have knowledge of your WiFi preferences and access.


Overall, if this Android malware (SonicSpy) infects an Android device, the user will have few visual indications that they have been infected and unless the network IOCs are being monitored, there will be little evidence of an infection.

In my opinion, if an Android device has been infected with SonicSpy, it will command root level access, remain persistent, and make other malicious changes to your mobile device. About the only safe thing you can do at that point is to take a hammer to the Android device and physically destroy it.

At least after you destroy your Android you can buy an iPhone and not worry about being infected with SonicSpy or any Android variant.

SonicSpy IOCs

File name:   SonicSpy.apk

File size:   840735
MD5:   ee7fba3487165f00533e4fd90bca531f
SHA256:   7eb6a65a7d9ee2bfc9b8df6442cfa2c76f4753663297d2dabafc023b1bd2370b



Port: 5228 (sample tested seems to always want to connect to CnC to this outbound port)




Bill Corbitt, National Practice Director for Digital Forensics Incident Response & Forensic Intelligence, is a seasoned, results-oriented leader with extensive corporate, federal, and international experience, dealing with cybersecurity, forensic, and Incident Response dilemmas. In addition to his demonstrated success in aligning security results with business requirements, Bill is recognized for his abilities in implementing accurate cyber-countermeasures to protect intellectual property, reduce cybersecurity risk, and protect intellectual property on a global scale. A respected strategist within the forensic and incident response communities, Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Valdosta State University.

BadRabbit Malware Analysis

Image Source:

Image Source

10.27.2017 UPDATE:  BadRabbit CnC Dormancy

Looks like the Threat Actors caged this “Killer Rabbit” for now.  Most of the servers and sites used by the hackers behind the ransomware appear to be taken out of service for no.[1]

Overview: On October 24, 2017, Bad Rabbit, a ransomware infection, a new variant of Petya, has hit a number of organizations in Russia and Ukraine.  First announced in a tweet, the Russian cybersecurity firm Group-IB said initially three media organizations in the country have been hit by file-encrypting malware. [2]

At the same time, Russian news agency Interfax said its systems have been affected by a “hacker attack”.

“Interfax Group’s servers have come under a hacker attack. The technical department is taking all measures to resume news services. We apologize for inconvenience,” [3]
This new strain of ransomware, actively being used in the wild and code-named “BadRabbit”, disguises itself as an Adobe Flash installer in order to gain the user’s trust.  It reportedly uses EternalBlue and Mimikatz to steal passwords and spread in a “worm-like” fashion.

Once executed, the ransomware modifies the bootloader and encrypts the files on the user’s machine.  After the infection is complete BadRabbit presents the user a UI demanding a Bitcoin ransom payment in order to have the files unlocked.

The malware also has the capability to spread throughout the local network via SMB or limited credential brute force over Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC) and PSExec after infecting the user’s machine.

Initial reports indicated the ransomware was targeting multiple Eastern-European countries including Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and Bulgaria, however, additional reports of the ransomware have surfaced in South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Reports surfaced of attacks to government institutions, news agencies, and transportation organizations. The ransomware is reportedly being delivered through compromised legitimate websites – mainly news and media sites at the time of this writing.

Ukrainian organizations have posted about systems failing: payment systems on the Kiev Metro appear to have fallen victim to the attack, while in a statement on its Facebook page, Odessa International Airport said its information system had been hit by hackers.[4]

“We inform that the information system of the International Airport “Odessa” suffered a hacker attack,” a translation of the post says. [5]

On 24 OCT 2017 – 05:20PM, ESET announced that their telemetry has detected hundreds of occurrences of Diskcoder.D. Most of the detections are in Russia and Ukraine, however, also there are reports of computers in Turkey, Bulgaria and other countries are affected. [6]

Bad Rabbit shares some similarities with Petya – the ransom note looks almost identical and it can also use SMB to propagate across the infected network. However, researchers say much of the code appears to have been rewritten in this case.

GPS Huntmasters

GuidePoint’s Forensic Intelligence Division, GPS Huntmasters, has had the opportunity to analyze a couple variants of the BadRabbit malware/ransomware.  Through this analysis this elite GuidePoint team was able to confirm additional (unannounced) IOCs [7] as well as documenting the software’s [8] behavior within our testing environments.

Technical Overview

BadRabbit has been distributed through malicious websites with fake Adobe Flash updates with popup (decision) boxes that the end user must execute.  After the user clicks on the malicious popup, the ransomware is downloaded (via http/https) to the victim in the form of a malicious windows binary (e.g., install_flash_player.exe). After execution, the file will require the user to accept a Windows User Account Control (UAC) popup granting the malware escalated rights to the system.

Once executed, the malware deploys the ransomware onto the user’s machine completely compromising the end-user.

Image: Group-IB [9]


The malware drops the file Infpub.dat, which is then executed by a rundll32 command. Infpub.dat will then create the files cscc.dat and dispci.exe within the C:\Windows directory. The file cscc.dat is actually a renamed file from the legitimate DiskCryptor program. These files are used to encrypt the disk and modify the bootloader preventing a normal bootup of Windows. A scheduled task is also created to ensure the dispci.exe file is run at bootup. Upon reboot, the user is presented with the Ransomware message demanding payment.

Landfall: BadRabbit

Although the USA and other western countries were not specifically targeted by this campaign, it is only a matter of time before BadRabbit will make US “Landfall”. In fact, according to cybersecurity and antivirus vendor Avast, BadRabbit has now been detected in the USA [10](2:44 PM – 24 Oct 2017).

Remember, BadRabbit attempts to spread through SMB. [11] It does this with account information stolen from the victim using Mimikatz or by trying an embedded list of common account names and passwords that is hard coded in the actual malware.

GuidePoint Forensic Analysis

On October 24, 2017 GuidePoint’s Forensic Intelligence team obtained and analyzed two samples of BadRabbit. The GuidePoint team has included a summary of our findings that may help future identification and of upcoming variants.

It should be noted that with each variant, file names and hash values may change depending on software variants and Threat Actor activity and strategy.

Analyst Note:  Although the tested samples were done in a forensically pure fashion BadRabbit did exhibit anti-forensic features and file deletion capabilities as noted in some “zero-byte file size” noted during our analysis and testing.

Samples Analyzed

File name: 9y6VPA4OK.exe
File size: 441899
MD5: fbbdc39af1139aebba4da004475e8839
SHA1: de5c8d858e6e41da715dca1c019df0bfb92d32c0
SHA256: 630325cac09ac3fab908f903e3b00d0dadd5fdaa0875ed8496fcbb97a558d0da

File name: infpu.dll
File size: 410760
MD5: 1d724f95c61f1055f0d02c2154bbccd3
SHA1: 79116fe99f2b421c52ef64097f0f39b815b20907
SHA256: 579fd8a0385482fb4c789561a30b09f25671e86422f40ef5cca2036b28f99648

File name: 6CQZJL6EH.exe
File size: 142848
MD5: b14d8faf7f0cbcfad051cefe5f39645f
SHA1: afeee8b4acff87bc469a6f0364a81ae5d60a2add
SHA256: 8ebc97e05c8e1073bda2efb6f4d00ad7e789260afa2c276f0c72740b838a0a93

Forensic Overview

This malware has multiple elements. Execution starts in the binary file that is responsible for dropping and installing other elements.

During testing, once launched initial malware dropped files and conducted the following;
• Clears the windows event log
• Clears the journal log
• Drops executables to the windows directory (C:\Windows) and starts them
• Shows the ability to spread by using its contained functionality to enumerate network
shares of other (attached) devices
• Uses shutdown.exe to shut down or reboot the system
• Contacts additional CnC servers
• Contains functionality to register a low-level keyboard hook
• Contains functionality to infect the boot sector
• File names are dynamically generated
**NOTE: Dropped files appear to be kernel level key loggers

Sample Analysis: fbbdc39af1139aebba4da004475e8839

Memory Analysis

Analysis of volatile memory (RAM) disclosed that there were URLs that were forensically resident during testing that are attributed to the binaries tested;

Noted Binary Activity

Uses schtasks.exe or at.exe to add and modify task schedules
C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal

Contains functionality which may be used to detect a debugger (GetProcessHeap)

CnC Connection Attempts:

Drops PE Files

Path:  C:\Windows\infpub.dat (zero byte file size)
MD5: D41D8CD98F00B204E9800998ECF8427E
SHA1: 79116FE99F2B421C52EF64097F0F39B815B20907
SHA-256: 579FD8A0385482FB4C789561A30B09F25671E86422F40EF5CCA2036B28F99648

Binary Startup Activity

Test System is Windows 7 sp1

  • 9y6VPA4OKL.exe (PID: 3424 cmdline: ‘C:\Users\user\Desktop\9y6VPA4OKL.exe’ MD5: FBBDC39AF1139AEBBA4DA004475E8839)
  • rundll32.exe (PID: 3452 cmdline: C:\Windows\system32\rundll32.exe C:\Windows\infpub.dat,#1 15 MD5: 51138BEEA3E2C21EC44D0932C71762A8)
  • cmd.exe (PID: 3464 cmdline: /c schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)
  • schtasks.exe (PID: 3484 cmdline: schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal MD5: 2003E9B15E1C502B146DAD2E383AC1E3)
  • cmd.exe (PID: 3500 cmdline: /c schtasks /Create /RU SYSTEM /SC ONSTART /TN rhaegal /TR ‘C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe /C Start \’\’ \’C:\Windows\dispci.exe\’ -id 4038216979 && exit’ MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)
  • cmd.exe (PID: 3520 cmdline: /c schtasks /Create /SC once /TN drogon /RU SYSTEM /TR ‘C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r /t 0 /f’ /ST 15:25:00 MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)

 cleanup

Windows Behavior

– read attributes and synchronize and generic read
– read data or list directory and execute or traverse and synchronize

– read attributes and synchronize and generic read

– read data or list directory and execute or traverse and synchronize

Sample Analysis: 1d724f95c61f1055f0d02c2154bbccd3

Memory Analysis

Noted Binary Activity

Boot Survival:
Uses schtasks.exe or at.exe to add and modify task schedules
– C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe schtasks /Delete /F /TN Rhaegal

Spawns processes
– C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c schtasks /Create /SC once /TN drogon /RU SYSTEM /TR
‘C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r /t 0 /f’ /ST
– C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c schtasks /Create /RU SYSTEM /SC ONSTART /TN rhaegal /TR ‘C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe /C Start \’\’ \’C:\Windows\dispci.exe\’ -id 2835140717 && exit’
– C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal

Drops PE Files

(Zero byte File Size)
MD5: D41D8CD98F00B204E9800998ECF8427E
SHA1: B4D371272FE9C5A7C7936D32DEE609019CC24C31
SHA-256: FA6FE917BCB4F9CE5FE03B71F5E4AF392FB63A4DA4E142C691CCAF9042AB4DCE

Binary Startup Activity

 Test System is Windows 7 sp1

  • loaddll32.exe (PID: 3276 cmdline: loaddll32.exe ‘C:\Users\user\Desktop\infpub.dll’ MD5: D2792A55032CFE825F07DCD4BEC5F40F)
  • rundll32.exe (PID: 3284 cmdline: rundll32.exe C:\Users\user\Desktop\infpub.dll,#1 MD5: 51138BEEA3E2C21EC44D0932C71762A8)
  • cmd.exe (PID: 3296 cmdline: /c schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)
  • schtasks.exe (PID: 3316 cmdline: schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal MD5: 2003E9B15E1C502B146DAD2E383AC1E3)
  • cmd.exe (PID: 3328 cmdline: /c schtasks /Create /RU SYSTEM /SC ONSTART /TN rhaegal /TR ‘C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe /C Start \’\’ \’C:\Windows\dispci.exe\’ -id 2835140717 && exit’ MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)
  • cmd.exe (PID: 3340 cmdline: /c schtasks /Create /SC once /TN drogon /RU SYSTEM /TR ‘C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r /t 0 /f’ /ST 16:03:00 MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)

 cleanup

Windows Behavior


Sample Analysis: b14d8faf7f0cbcfad051cefe5f39645f

Memory Analysis

Analysis of volatile memory (RAM) disclosed that there were URLs that were forensically resident during testing that are attributed to the binaries tested;


Noted Binary Activity

Contains functionality to register a low-level keyboard hook
– SetWindowsHookExW 00000002,Function_00003FC0,00000000,00000000
Contains functionality for read data from the clipboard
Contains functionality to infect the boot sector
Detected the Windows Explorer process (often used for injection)
Connects to many different private IPs via SMB (likely to spread or exploit)

Drops PE Files

This file has been seen in most BadRabbit samples analyzed
C:\Windows\dispci.exe (zero byte file size)
File Type: PE32 executable (console) Intel 80386, for MS Windows
MD5: D41D8CD98F00B204E9800998ECF8427E
SHA-256: 8EBC97E05C8E1073BDA2EFB6F4D00AD7E789260AFA2C276F0C72740B838A0A93
File name: cscc.dat
File size: 181448
MD5: b4e6d97dafd9224ed9a547d52c26ce02SHA1: 59cd4907a438b8300a467cee1c6fc31135757039SHA256: 682adcb55fe4649f7b22505a54a9dbc454b4090fc2bb84af7db5b0908f3b7806

Binary Startup Activity

 Test System is Windows 7 sp1

• 6CQZJL6EHc.exe (PID: 3464 cmdline: ‘C:\Users\user\Desktop\6CQZJL6EHc.exe’ MD5: B14D8FAF7F0CBCFAD051CEFE5F39645F)• cmd.exe (PID: 3492 cmdline: /c schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal MD5: AD7B9C14083B52BC532FBA5948342B98)• schtasks.exe (PID: 3512 cmdline: schtasks /Delete /F /TN rhaegal MD5: 2003E9B15E1C502B146DAD2E383AC1E3)

 cleanup

Windows Behavior

– read attributes and synchronize and generic read
– read attributes and synchronize and generic read
– read data or list directory and execute or traverse and synchronize
– File attributes queried
– Return Compare (GetFileAttributesW) executed

BadRabbit Vaccine

According to Cyberreason, users can “vaccinate” their computers against BadRabbit. Note: GuidePoint has not tested this “vaccine” and all changes to any systems should be approved by your network administration teams and proper change control procedures should be followed before they are implemented.

An overview of the process contains two primary steps;
1. Create a file “C:\Windows\infpub.dat & C:\Windows\cscc.dat”
2. Go into the each of the files properties and remove all permissions to both files. When doing this, remove the inheritance so the files do not inherit the perms of the C:\Windows folder.

Detailed guide on setting up files with no permissions or a “BadRabbit Vaccine”.

BadRabbit IOCs

GuidePoint has identified additional IOCs during the course of the testing that should be incorporated into organizational defenses. These IOCs are provided below:



“*” Not previously identified and discovered by GuidePoint

HASH Values

– de5c8d858e6e41da715dca1c019df0bfb92d32c0
o install_flash_player.exe
– afeee8b4acff87bc469a6f0364a81ae5d60a2add
– fbbdc39af1139aebba4da004475e8839
o Dropper
– 1d724f95c61f1055f0d02c2154bbccd3
o infpub.dat
 the main DLL
– b4e6d97dafd9224ed9a547d52c26ce02
o cscc.dat
 legitimate driver used for the disk encryption (
– b14d8faf7f0cbcfad051cefe5f39645fo dispci.exe
 installs the bootlocker, communicates with the driver (cscc.dat)
– d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e (zero byte file size)



Tor Payment URL:- caforssztxqzf2nm[.]onion

Additional References warn-researchers/ ransomware/

Bad Rabbit ransomware

BadRabbit malware

Image Source:

Cited Resources







[7] IOCs were identified exclusively in the GuidePoint vSOC Spot Report; “Bad Rabbit Ransomware”, Update 1, October 25, 2017

[8] Malware is software that is designed to do malicious or unauthorized activity or have unauthorized functionality





Bill Corbitt, National Practice Director for Digital Forensics Incident Response & Forensic Intelligence, is a seasoned, results-oriented leader with extensive corporate, federal, and international experience, dealing with cybersecurity, forensic, and Incident Response dilemmas. In addition to his demonstrated success in aligning security results with business requirements, Bill is recognized for his abilities in implementing accurate cyber-countermeasures to protect intellectual property, reduce cybersecurity risk, and protect intellectual property on a global scale. A respected strategist within the forensic and incident response communities, Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Valdosta State University.

New F5 ASM Version 12.x Features Improve Performance

In today’s blog, we will discuss the newest features of F5’s Web Application Firewall (WAF), Application Security Manager (ASM). ASM has been around for quite some time, but with recent updates I thought it is worth discussion.

F5 Networks recently released version 12.1.1, the first long-term support release for version 12. If you haven’t read through the release notes, take a few minutes and do so. I am really excited by some of the most recent features and I would like to share some of them with you.

I was ecstatic to see Unified Policy Building in 12.0 because now you have one screen to view all learning suggestions. This makes it far easier to sort through. If your policy builds automatically or statically based on your custom thresholds, you now have only one screen to manage.

Following the style already set in ASM, there is a dropdown menu that allows you to select the policy for which you want to see suggestions. Tabbed across the top is also Enforcement Readiness, and they moved Learning and Blocking Settings here as well. This makes the overall flow better while making it easier to see which settings you have for each selected policy — no more bouncing around the mouseover menus.

Next up in 12.0 is Proactive Bot Defense. This is a set of additional features added to the Denial of Service (DoS) functions ASM already used. F5 added improved defense against unwanted browsers and browsing agents that are non-human initiated. CAPTCHA and javascript insertion does this, but with some caveats. If you use CORS (Cross-Origin Resource Sharing), like with AJAX calls, you will have issues and you should add those URLs to the bot whitelist.

F5 Networks also added malicious bot signatures. Now when you update your ASM application signatures, bot signatures are classified as malicious or benign. Just like with application signatures, you can create your bot signatures as well. You even have the ability to create signature sets with either malicious or benign classifications. This gives you greater control. Once created and applied via a “dos” profile, traffic is automatically classified and either accepted or discarded as configured.

Version 12.1 was not outshined by 12.0, and really cranked up the dial. It added more dos enhancements with the ability to track using device IDs. Now device IDs can use dos, brute force, and session hijacking. You can define bad behavior and set thresholds to classify traffic from them and either log or block them. F5 even extended Analytics to sort by these IDs. More reporting is always a good thing!

Using a similar set of metric definitions, you can now automatically blacklist IPs attacking your layer 7 resources and increase your dos footprint. This does not require use of IP intelligence or any other classification engine. This dos feature is through your config definitions. Adding IP intelligence, however, is a good thing in my opinion. I encourage you to look at it as more than just ASM.

Two huge new features in ASM are the ability to define methods per URL and support websockets per URL. In previous versions, methods were globally defined for an application. This is great news. For apps that might have only one page that support a POST, you can define it only for that page.

Websockets are new altogether. Websocket protocol allows client and server to stream data bidirectionally indefinitely. Websockets create a connection over HTTP, but then switch to a single TCP connection using message frames. This allows full duplex and low latency transport. Chances are you used these in your last internet chat. When you think of what could be hiding in one of those, protection really matters.

The last feature I want to mention is the ability for ASM to automatically detect and configure login pages in your application. If you have spent time parsing through someone else’s code to define a login page, you will welcome this feature. Now, that alone would be cool, but if you defined policy settings for brute force and session tracking, it will automatically add those options to the login forms it creates. This is a rockstar feature!

These are some of the main features ASM received in 12.0 and 12.1. There are still others like improved policy building, reduced policy building resource consumption, etc. Once again, if you have not reviewed the release notes, you should. I hope this generates a little interest in seeing what ASM has to offer now, and that you continue to find success in using F5 Networks Application Security Manager.

If you don’t already have ASM, consider what ASM can do for you. If you are already a Guidepoint Security customer and want to know more, reach out to your representative. If you are not a customer and would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us. We have several ASM certified engineers to answer your questions. For more information, email

About GuidePoint Security
GuidePoint Security LLC provides innovative and valuable cyber security solutions and expertise that enable organizations to successfully achieve their mission. 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:

F5 Networks’ ASM: Secure Your Applications, Don’t Give Away Your Kingdom

It occurred to me while I was writing another blog that we need to talk about Web Application Firewalls (WAF). We think everyone should use one. Your current network and security infrastructure is the castle and drawbridge, whereas WAF is your portcullis. Not securing your applications is like giving away the keys to your kingdom.

What is a WAF?

WAFs are the first and last line of defense for your application. A WAF takes over at layer 4 of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, moves up to layer 7, and looks at the request, response, and payload. It validates data and the package it’s carried in, and its authenticity. In essence, a WAF applies a set of security rules to all aspects of an HTTP conversation.

The difference from your next-generation firewalls (NGFW) and IDS/IPS units, which only inspect packet-by-packet, is that a WAF digs into HTTP content and conversations, and validates the content request, response, and payload against white and black lists. Using predefined signatures or behavioral baselines, the WAF takes appropriate countermeasures based on configured policy elements. WAFs also include enhanced logging, alerting, connection intermediation, and even content manipulation to mitigate the impacts of attacks, mislead attackers, or inject content designed to raise confidence levels for WAF detection mechanisms.

A WAF validates traffic and payloads by learning the way the application should work, prevents bad input or manipulations, and prevents dangerous query/responses. A WAF maintains HTTP RFC compliance on all aspects of the session, and enforces session rules and session flows. It is a multifaceted tool.

F5 Networks Application Security Manager (ASM), in my opinion, is the right tool for the job. It is a tool that complements the F5 Global Traffic Manager (GTM) and Local Traffic Manager (LTM) devices you already use. To illustrate this, let us look at the traffic flow.

First, the GTM picks up the DNS request. Utilizing GTM, you can create a high-speed query frontend with DNS Express and can secure that zone with DNSSEC. GTM also evaluates your DNS request and traffic-shapes your response based on a host of criteria and settings, sending your session on to the network.

Sure, you have a firewall at your internet edge. It might even be next-gen, performs packet inspection, and has some signatures to eliminate some bad traffic. The same might also be true of your IPS/IDS, but these are packet-by-packet inspections and not the whole HTTP conversation (for the most part) and bad traffic gets by.

Here is where the F5 picks up and starts defending. LTM gets the traffic first and blocks malicious IPs, sorts out countries you may or may not want, defends against DDoS, and mitigates ciphers that are too weak or broken, all while restricting IP/port/landing page. LTM also traffic shapes it handoff to the next level, ASM.

ASM starts slow and builds in levels based on policy. It receives that traffic and checks if it matches the defined site. Then it checks to see if it is a new session. From there, it starts checking everything. It checks against signatures, RFC compliance, session-tracking info, methods, request timing, number of requests, header information, etc. And this is only the initial request. We haven’t even gotten to response!

ASM comes with quick-start policy templates for a ton of popular application templates like Exchange, Sharepoint, PeopleSoft, SAP, etc. If one of those doesn’t fit your build, ASM ships with an auto-policy builder. Fire this up and you turn your ASM device into Sherlock Holmes. It watches traffic pass through and automatically starts writing its own suggestions. When those suggestions get enough hits, ASM makes them into policy. The longer it runs, the better the policy.

If you change the application or add to it, it automatically picks that up and starts the building piece again. You can even build policy without affecting users. By keeping it out of blocking mode, you can mature the policy and reduce the likelihood that false alarms will create negative impact for users.

The ASM comes with other cool features, too, such as preventing forceful browsing, where attackers try to gain access to pages not part of the site that might have admin access. You can keep users from bookmarking deep into the app and redirect them to login pages you defined first to define flow. This keeps the application more secure and enables the organization to track sessions to support security, problem resolution, and compliance use-cases.

With this information, you can restrict application access to secondary login pages or other admin-related content by enforcing application flows and protect against webscraping. Brute force protection will even keep those login pages safe by adding a layer of protection including limiting login attempts, identifying automated attacks and more for these critical security entry points for the application.

DataGuard is an awesome feature as well. It protects sensitive fields like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other administrator-defined sensitive data from passing through clear text. Instead, it utilizes masking to overwrite these values in responses with ‘****’. ASM will also mask these in the logs so you don’t have to worry about admins having access to that info as well.

There are so many other features, including signatures and security responses for common web application security threats such as cross-site request forgery (CSRF), cross-site scripting (XSS), clickjacking, cookie manipulation, etc. Any of these topics, as well as the mechanisms ASM utilizes to protect against them, would be worthy of their own blog post.  

I hope this blog has sparked a little more interest in your traffic and maybe even a hard look into the available security measures you can take. If you are already a Guidepoint Security customer, reach out to your representative to learn more. If you are not a customer and would like to learn more, please feel free to reach out to us. We have several ASM certified engineers to answer your questions. For more information, email

About GuidePoint Security
GuidePoint Security LLC provides innovative and valuable cyber security solutions and expertise that enable organizations to successfully achieve their mission. 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: