How Can You Tell If Hackers Are Hacking You?

Obviously if you have been hacked and have ransomware that is too late to know that you have been hacked:

I would like to discuss how we can find out if hackers are altering your files or are looking around in your network. There are several ways to explain what is happening when a criminal hacker is trying to attack your machines. Usually it starts with reconnaissance of your computers, online profile and other system methods.


The cybersecurity  industry has  created something called the Cyber Kill Chain which explains this phenomena(how does a criminal hacker attack you). CSOonline explains it a little… But Cyber Kill Chain was created by Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor with defense terminology.

Advanced (targeted)                 Persistent(month after month)       Threat (person with intent, opportunity and capability)


The cybersecurity industry is obsessed with this Cyber Kill Chain – why? because the explanation is a good method of detailing the steps an attacker uses to find a way into your network.

If you think about it there must be a way for us to explain how an attacker attacks, so that we can look and find this attack.

I tried to use less technical  terms with my SVAPE & C diagram using the Mandiant attack analysis of the Chinese hackers.

Scan Vulnerability Analysis – Penetrate Exploit and Control  – i.e. SVAPE & C

The portion of criminal attack we want to dissect is the Penetrate and Exploit.  In other words, recon has already been done, vulnerabilities analyzed, and reviewed.Or as in the Cyber Kill Chain, somewhere between delivery, exploitation, and installation.

Now the attacker is actually trying to take over the machine, by exploiting the system somehow.

What is it that we are looking for? If a system is being altered by a human being the event logs  will also be altered. So keeping an eye on event logs is a good idea.

But if this attack is by an automated program (bot or virus or other malware) then the event logs will only be changed if the bot decides to do this, so likely the bot needs to send information back to the programmer at some point (information like cc numbers, health info, whatever data that you keep on your computer).

How do these criminal hackers attack your computers?

It turns out they use the same techniques as people in DEFCON 25 would (latest convention in Las Vegas). So you can browse through the media server to see what the presentations were.

I like the Leveraging-Powershell-Basics by Carlos Perez

In this presentation the theme is to run little known commands using Powershell which you have to be looking for when trying to find hackers in your network.

The Powershell commands can perform many things for the hackers, and to find out whether commands are run you must turn on advanced auditing enabled, some command line jiu-jitsu is also required.  Hackerhurricane Blog discusses the commands  and settings in Win7 and Windows 2008  and later.

So the key is to find what the hackers do and then try to detect these types of actions.  But then there is another issue, including making sure there are people to modify the scripts to detect the criminal hackers.

Target had the methods(detection) but failed in personnel to act on the detection, because one has to find the real problem within the many false positives.

Most important there must be a will to defend and act.

Contact Us to review your plans, we can audit your defensive plans.


Why Spend Time On Cybersecurity?

Security does not add value to the company, people, or product.  Why is Cybersecurity important?

As our lives become more connected (not less). Our communications are on the Internet, our phone conversations are on the Internet, our devices that we keep on us and we depend on for business and pleasure have to connect to the Internet.

This video is an attempt at explaining this complex subject:

If we connect to the Internet the problem is that we are also connected to all the digital criminals in the world. Ransomware can destroy our data and even ruin our businesses (40% of businesses were hit by Ransomware and 20% were forced to shut down).

The problem with these digital criminal software makers is that like all software it does not act like it is supposed to. So sometimes when your data is encrypted  and lost, it may not get decrypted even if you pay them.

So the issue is if we do not pay any attention to Cybersecurity then eventually you will bump into the frailty of our digital lives. The simple truth is that the people who do not pay attention may not know they may go out of business if hit with a catastrophic Cybersecurity event.   We are used to watching the news and in our connected world we see a storm coming where the storm is going to potentially destroy our buildings etc.  But in Cybersecurity everything is below the radar, there is even a “Darknet” where the Digital criminal sells your information they stole.

Didyou know that you are playing Cybersecurity Russian Roulette? Do you have a 500Barrel Gun or a 1000barrel gun?

What is you risk level? Tells what size your Russian Roulette gun is.

Well we have to find out what kind of software you have…  and the vulnerabilities they have.

Attack timeline vulnerabilities tell the story of how the criminal gets into your systems and inserts Ransomware.

What can be done? Patch your devices, learn how to perform risk management with all digital devices.

You are playing Cybersecurity roulette whether you know it or not.

I know Cybersecurity is not simple, but you must start working on tackling it, or it will come to you soon enough.

Contact me to create a risk management profile and move away from risky cybersecurity practices.

What Are The Cybersecurity Top-10?

There is only so much time to work on anything. And Cybersecurity is not any different, it requires a focus of IT Management (and Cybersecurity specifically)


As far as Cybersecurity goes, what is it that we all must know and understand thoroughly?

  1. Ransomware defense, IT basics such as test your backup (this means you have a valid backup)
  2. Weakest link = Human Social Engineering – If someone  can call you and you give them access how does a security department defend against this?
  3. NGFW (Next Generation FireWall) and other automation – A new updated firewall is a must these days
  4. Threat Analysis
  5. Compliance only is weak
  6. Password Failure
  7. Simplify Instructions to Employees  re: Cybersecurity
  8. Not enough training
  9. Governance process and procedure
  10. Good defense is a good offense (what does that mean in Cybersecurity)


How can I come up with this list?


Previous posts and research.

Here are the previous posts or “reference points”:

#1 Ransomware: A German hospital was affected by Ransomware and was down a considerable length of time due to having to rebuild all machines infected. (likely from scratch).  But that is not the only story  I tried to answer why ransomware is effective in this post:

7 common mistakes (listed in post) are mistakes or failures in security procedures. The German hospital that got hit with ransomware did not have a proper backup

#2 Social Engineering:  This is a primary cause of concern as human error is a major cause of security breaches including at DEFCON22 at the social engineering Capture the Flag event, needless to say the retail teams were breached. If somebody calls you to ask for information on your computer and network be very careful.

#3 NGFW The Next Generation FireWall, the successor to a standard firewall, and really a must in this day and age in a decent size operation.

(A NGFW can inspect applications as well as filter traffic by origin or destination)


#4  Threat analysis: Cyber Threat Intelligence is used to help us defend and make the job of the attacker harder. I.e. the attackers “Pyramid Of Pain” needs to be closer to the top.

FireEye has attempted to explain Threat Intel with a Pyramid representation and I use it here to use the info as an industry standard.

#5 Compliance only is weak – And I discuss that in several ways


If your focus is so narrow as to only focus on crossing all the checks to be marked off a compliance list, then you will miss the overall company security.

#6 Weak passwords and other Password Failures (like 90% of all Point of Sale systems still have default passwords)   Our weakness of not solving password management hurts many organizations

#7 Simplify Instructions to Employees as logistical problems create issues and thus hamper Cybersecurity. Some security issues are complicated and IT terms may cloud what non-IT people have to review and learn.  Why is simple important?   Tom Kolditz of West Point explains: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

#8 Not enough training with regards to cybersecurity. No employee should ever answer a phone call and give out too much information, click on bad emails, set up good passwords, but there is a bigger problem. The general sense that we are getting inundated with more and more information. IoT – and Denial of Service and more complexity. But this complexity creates confusion in regular people that needs to be reviewed and trained.

#9 Governance Process and Procedure. Writing complete procedures will be difficult as all are, but once done will be good for the people and the company

#10  Test your network by getting a red team which will act like an attacker — This issue could be higher, and maybe one of the most important items.  The best defense is a good offense is well known adage. And the way it is used in Cybersecurity red team is the offense and the blue team is the defense.

This post and image explain red vs blue team as well:


Contact US to review your own Cybersecurity priorities.

Why is Ransomware so Effective?

Most people do not think about security in general. We ignore risks when they cost money and time due to our inherent impulse for this phenomena


I have discussed this before  in the last post of 2016:

How bad is it? Will Cybersecurity get worse?

The problem is one of business decisions which means a little bit of known knowledge and a little bit of psychology, it does not have to do with technical capabilities.

What is the worst problem that can happen to you in your business?

Lose all data? I.e. without a backup!

That is what can happen with a phenomena called “Ransomware”.

What do you think the 7 common causes that companies get hacked are? (From DarkReading article)

  1. Failure to check code before deployed
  2. Leaving source code exposed
  3. failure to change default passwords
  4. Poor patching process
  5. Human error in social engineering , phishing
  6. Poor exfiltration control
  7. Failure to recognize infiltration


All of the 7 common causes are mistakes or failures in operating Information technology in one way or another are directly related to human failures in security procedures

Remember from Bruce Schneier’s Psychology of security 70 % of us do not believe that it is wise to spend money on risk avoidance,  there are other things that we as humans naturally tend to do.


So the bottom line? Ransomware is not going away. Criminals will make more money and make better Ransomware.

I am sure you reading does not have problems, and is paying just enough attention to deny the Criminal any actual pound of flesh (data to exploit).


The key to improve your OODA Loop  (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act ) is to reduce the time delay and to actually apply patches or reconfigure devices properly.

The only way to ensure that this has been done by your team is to test them with an outside testing person/agency.

There are many stories of Ransomware failures, and here is another one(01/20/17):  Fox2Now  (Channel 2 – Saint Louis) Saint Louis Library system got 1000 systems infected with Ransomware.  Because once 1 system is infected it could affect other systems on the network.

In this story there will be no payment, as the systems will just have to be reinitialized (reinstalled from scratch).

But something is wrong there so it will possibly happen again until the process and procedure failure is rectified.

Contact US to help you fix your processes to prevent ransomware.






Planning Security? You must know TTP







Planning Security? You must know TTP

In this new year of 2017 it is good to know your past so as not create the same situation in the future.

But what is TTP you say?

TTP – Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures.

By that I mean the tactics and procedures of you and your IT team of course.

Some call this acronym Tools, Techniques, and Procedures. Which is very close if not the same thing, as your IT team must have some tools to use within their tactics of defending the network and computer devices.

Interesting to note that TTP is not just in Cybersecurity, but also Terrorist security as well:

Oodaloop discusses a form of TTP,

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act and this was originally developed by Col Boyd during the Korean war for use in Air-to-Air combat.

Image above from webpage

The OODA loop can apply to Cybersecurity with a small amount of tweaking.

The above image equates Observe with looking at network traffic and logs on the firewall and computer systems.

Orient is  where we analyze the logs and network traffic with a certain time delay, as it takes time and manpower to review these items. (this is also a place to do pentest or vulnerability analysis)

Decide is next where we have to decide what to do with the data we are analyzing. Of course Analyzing and deciding what to do can take time especially in large environments.

The final point in the process is to Act – Test, patch, and reconfigure .

As this video from Derbycon last year mentions we have to find ways to reduce our time to detection – use new methods, learn new methods.

As Marines say – Adapt, Overcome, Improvise, and get the job done.

So we need to continue to learn new methods of detecting threats into our environments.


The devil is in the details… as we have to find actual new threats to detect.  Testing those threats is a good idea and time is actually on the attackers side. As they only have to get in once and then the game changes. Once attackers are in your network now it is harder to deny more information and access to the data we are defending.

TTP is Tactics, Techniques and Procedure, and if the IT department is not aware of the new attacks the bad guys are coming in with, then the current actions are not good enough.  Knowing your TTP means understanding the OODA loop and it’s weaknesses.  Knowing your weaknesses should also allow you to review the areas where we need to review the most.

Notice the time delay in Boyd’s rule OODA and how I specifically added it in my drawing to signify our lack of forthright ability sometimes and general malaise. Especially when we don’t know the baseline for example (what is good and bad traffic?).

Is it enough to go about your day to entrust your network to a blue team (a blue team is the combined efforts to defend your network)

If we knew all the exact ways the attackers would attack we would never be breached. But we have to find new ways to find the new attacks that we don’t know about yet.

Remember more military axioms:

  1. Your best plans will change contact with the enemy
  2. What you really need to worry about is the unknown unknown… i.e. the breach that you cant see in any logs.


You don’t want to see your company in lights, in the papers, the online journals that explain how companies get breached.

Contact Us to help you with the process of improving detection of attackers, and improving your security policy.