Business Email Compromise prevention and response

An illustration of a phishing attack

Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks are easy, cheap, and often very effective. This high Return on Investment makes BEC an extremely popular with attackers of any skill level—from low-level scammers to state-sponsored groups. BEC occurs when an attacker is able to access an email inbox within a business. From there, an attacker examine sensitive emails, insert themselves into email threads, and spread phishing emails from the trusted email account. While BEC can be devastating to the finances, reputation, and operations of any business, small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Fortunately. the defenses against BEC such as multi-factor authentication and user training are also simple, cheap and effective.

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SEIMs and Other Forensic Tools Vulnerable to Log4j Exploits

The Auopsy, Ghidra, Graylog, Log4j, and Splunk logos

This article was last updated on 2022-01-03.

After several Log4j vulnerabilities (known as Log4shell or LogJam in the tech press) were publicly exposed, IT teams around the globe have been rushing to patch all of their applications against the flaws. Log4j is an very popular open source software library for implementing logging in Java applications. The first discovered flaw, tracked as CVE-2021-44228, allows logged data to include remote lookup that would then download and execute arbitrary code from a remote server, which is known as a Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerability. Many security tools such as Splunk, Graylog, Autopsy, and Ghidra use Log4j to generate usage and diagnostic logs.

Tools commonly used by information security professionals to investigate breaches could be leveraged to cause a security breach.

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How to use Farsight Security’s DNSDB to harness the power of passive DNS

The logo of Farsight Security, makers of the DNSDB passive DNS service

DNS describes the structure of resources on the internet. It can provide lots of valuable information about (attacker or target) infrastructure. However, in order to query DNS records, you must already know the exact domains or subdomains to query. When examining unknown infrastructure, this is not practical. On top of that, DNS records can change often, so historical information is lost. Passive DNS databases help solve both of these problems. Farsight Security DNSDB is the largest passive DNS database in the world. With DNSDB, you can answer questions like “How has this network infrastructure changed over time?”, “What other domains and subdomain point (or have pointed to) this IP address?”, “What are the subdomains and resource records for this domain?”

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How the Parler data was legally acquired by activists

The logo of Parler

Based on published source code and conversations with the woman behind the Parler dump (donk_enby on Twitter), I can completely explain how the Parler data was acquired, and why it was legal. The story making the rounds on Reddit claiming that she somehow hacked Parler and got admin access is third-hand bad techno-madlibs fiction. What she actually did was reverse-engineer the protocol (API) used by the Parler iOS app to communicate with the website backend.

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How to forward a forensic copy of an email as an attachment

If you receive a fraudulent email, can be very useful to send a full forensic copy to an organization that is being spoofed, industry partners, and law enforcement.

When a user clicks forward in a mail client, the client copies the message’s content and attachments to a new message. The original message headers are not included.

In order to send a full forensic sample that includes the original message headers, the original message must be sent as an attachment in a new message. The process for doing this varies by mail client.

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How to view email headers

A screenshot of email headers

Email headers contain very useful information for tracing a message’s origin and troubleshooting its delivery. Email headers are written with the oldest headers at the bottom, and the newest headers at the top. By reading the headers in the correct order, you can see how the message was passed from one mail server to another, and the actions each mail server took along the way.

Most email clients have a function to display a message’s headers. The exact steps depends on the client.

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Proofpoint is forcing their customers to pay for Email Fraud Defense to get aggregate DMARC data from their own gateways

A redacted screenshot of the Proofpoint Email Fraud Defense dashboard

I have written extensively about the DMARC email security standard, including publishing a comprehensive guide on how to implement it, with or without additional third party vendors.  I also do a little consulting on DMARC deployment best practices. One of those consulting clients uses Proofpoint for their email gateway. They also use Dmarcian, a reasonably priced DMARC report analytics service that also publishes a ton of public content for the good of the community. We were considering moving the client’s DMARC policy from monitor only (p=none) to an enforced state (p=reject) after many hours of steadily improving the SPF and DKIM alignment of their email sources. As I took another look at the aggregate (rua) DMARC data in Dmarcian, I noticed something odd: Dmarcian was getting aggregate reports from all of the expected third party email recipients, like Google, Yahoo, Comcast, and the client’s industry partners, but I didn’t see any reporting from the client’s own Proofpoint gateways.

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