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Non-standard Incident Prediction

Published: 2006-06-03
Last Updated: 2006-06-03 22:47:58 UTC
by Marcus Sachs (Version: 1)
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We are all familiar with the use of firewall logs, intrusion detection alerts, antivirus warnings, and watching for "funny" entries in our system logs as ways to indicate that somebody on the Internet is up to no good.  But those traditional detection systems don't do any good against attacks that are not oriented on one of the traditional seven layers of the OSI model.

For example, consider what we witnessed last year following the Katrina and Rita hurricanes that struck the southern coast of the USA.  Within 24 hours of landfall, the Internet Storm Center observed a dramatic increase in fraudulent web sites aimed at good-hearted people wanting to donate to charities or relief efforts.  We can predict with fairly high certainty that the same thing is going to happen again this year.  We are monitoring DNS registrations and have seen several new names appear in the last few weeks with the strings "alberto", "beryl", "donation", or "hurricane" in them.  (Alberto and Beryl are the first two names on the list for 2006.)  Are they all legitimate?  Well, let's see what happens as soon as the first storm forms and makes landfall.

In fact, one of our observant readers (thanks, George!) wrote us to say, "I work in a government research lab with a very diverse user population, including many soccer fans.  The last World Cup led to a malware spike.  I expect another spike this year, but with a potential for more sophisticated attacks."  So George is keeping an eye out for a potential rise in malware attacks, basing his prediction on the fact that during the World Cup many fraudsters and pranksters will likely launch specially crafted emails and set up bogus web sites designed to lure in sports fans around the world.

It's important to recognize that a large percentage of today's Internet attacks are oriented on fraud and criminal activity, and that the criminals will use any event or circumstance to "hack layer eight" as I like to say when I teach SANS Security Essentials.  (Layer eight is the "carbon layer" that sits on top of layer seven, application.)

So what are you doing to protect your layer eight from future incidents?  Do you have early warning and detection devices in place?  Are you educating your users and arming them to defend themselves and your networks against con-jobs aimed directly at them?  Do you have not just good, but GREAT, organizational policy in place?  Remember, the first step in incident handling is Preparation, and the time to start preparing is now.

Marcus H. Sachs
Director, SANS Internet Storm Center

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