There’s Your Sign.

There’s Your Sign.

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There’s Your Sign.

Tools don’t Save the Day, People Do.

Swinging Pendulum

I think you’d agree with me that the pendulum swings too far in one direction sometimes. Over the past decade, we’ve watched the security pendulum swing from one tool to the next. Next-Gen Firewalls to Next-Gen AV to SIEM to EDR to Cloud to AI and now to XDR. While all these tools have been helpful in some regard (some more than others), you may have noticed the security problem has only worsened. A tool is meant to empower a human being to perform at a higher or more efficient level. But only if they are properly configured and monitored.

Here’s What I Mean

“On 31 March 2021, the HSE’s antivirus software detected the execution of two software tools commonly used by ransomware groups: Cobalt Strike and Mimikatz, on the patient zero’s workstation. The antivirus software was set to monitor mode, so it did not block the malicious commands.”

– Excerpt from Conti Cyberattack on the HSE Independent Post Incident Review

Consider this stunning example found in the Independent Post Incident Report covering the 2021 Conti Ransomware attack on the Irish Health Service Executive (or “HSE”).  [Hat’s off to the HSE for releasing it to the public.] The massive breach at the HSE disrupted the operations of some 4,000 locations, 54 acute hospitals and over 70,000 devices. Turns out patient zero was infected by a simple phishing email with an infected Microsoft Office Excel document.

Any good antivirus should have stopped it at that point. Two weeks later the antivirus tool alerted that Cobalt Strike and Mimikatz had been executed. Yikes. The execution of two well-known penetration testing tools should have been stopped by the antivirus and set off the equivalent of a ‘Mariachi Band’ in the SOC.

They didn’t have one. However, the report goes on to say that the antivirus tool was deployed in an ad-hoc fashion (i.e., not thoughtfully) and was configured only to monitor, not block. Plus no one was monitoring it. Ouch. There’s your sign! Their tools were useless without the proper people to architect, configure and monitor them. The event cost the HSE an estimated $600 million.

Experienced People

I like the first recommendation listed in the report: “Appoint an interim senior leader for cybersecurity (a CISO) who has experience rapidly reducing an organisation’s vulnerability to threats and designing cyber security transformation programmes.” I read that as a polite way of saying: Get someone in here who knows what the hell they are doing!

In other words, the security pendulum needs to swing back towards experienced human beings. We need to focus more on making more experienced people! Tools can never replace them. If you need some experienced human threat hunters to help you ensure this doesn’t happen to your organization, give us a call at 1-800-864-4667, or reach out via our Contact Us form.

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