Gunter Ollmann

Gunter Ollmann

CTO at NCC Group Domain Services
Joined on May 10, 2011 – United States
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Customer Confusion over New(ish) gTLDs Targeting Financial Services

For the last decade and a bit, banking customers have been relentlessly targeted by professional phishers with a never-ending barrage of deceitful emails, malicious websites and unstoppable crimeware -- each campaign seeking to relieve the victim of their online banking credentials and funds. In the battle for the high-ground, many client-side and server-side security technologies have been invented and consequently circumvented over the years. Now we're about to enter a new era of mitigation attempts... more»

.trust Technical Policy Launch

Whenever I examine the technical elements of the various Internet security certifications and standards that organisations are clamouring to achieve compliance against, I can't help but feel that in too many cases those businesses are prioritising the wrong things and wasting valuable resources. They may as well be following a WWI field guide on how to keep cavalry horses nourished and bayonets polished in a world of stealth aircraft and dirty bombs. more»

If Compliance Were an Olympic Sport

It probably won't raise any eyebrows to know that for practically every penetration tester, security researcher, or would-be hacker I know, nothing is more likely to make their eyes glaze over and send them to sleep faster than a discussion on Governance, Risk, and Compliance (i.e. GRC); yet the dreaded "C-word" (Compliance) is a core tenet of modern enterprise security practice. more»

Bypassing Geo-Locked BYOD Applications

In the wake of increasingly lenient bring your own device (BYOD) policies within large corporations, there's been a growing emphasis upon restricting access to business applications (and data) to specific geographic locations. Over the last 18 months more than a dozen start-ups in North America alone have sprung up seeking to offer novel security solutions in this space - essentially looking to provide mechanisms for locking application usage to a specific location or distance from an office, and ensuring that key data or functionality becomes inaccessible outside these prescribed zones. more»

SQL Injection in the Wild

As attack vectors go, very few are as significant as obtaining the ability to insert bespoke code in to an application and have it automatically execute upon "inaccessible" backend systems. In the Web application arena, SQL Injection vulnerabilities are often the scariest threat that developers and system administrators come face to face with (albeit way too regularly). more»

Exploits, Curdled Milk and Nukes (Oh my!)

Throughout the second half of 2012 many security folks have been asking "how much is a zero-day vulnerability worth?" and it's often been hard to believe the numbers that have been (and continue to be) thrown around. For the sake of clarity though, I do believe that it's the wrong question... the correct question should be "how much do people pay for working exploits against zero-day vulnerabilities?" more»

Persistent Threat Detection on a Budget

If there's one simple - high impact - thing you could do to quickly check whether your network has been taken over by a criminal entity, or uncover whether some nefarious character is rummaging through your organizations most sensitive intellectual property out of business hours, what would it be? In a nutshell, I'd look to my DNS logs. It's staggering to me how few security teams have gotten wise to regularly interrogating the logs from their recursive DNS servers. more»

Nitol and 3322.org Takedown by Microsoft

Reading this morning's blog from Microsoft about "Operation b70" left me wondering a lot of things. Most analysts within the botnet field are more than familiar with 3322.org - a free dynamic DNS provider based in China known to be unresponsive to abuse notifications and a popular home to domain names used extensively for malicious purposes - and its links to several botnets around the world. more»

The Sportsmanship of Cyber-warfare

As a bit of a history buff I can't avoid a slight tingling of déjà vu every time I read some new story commenting upon the ethics, morality and legality of cyber-warfare/cyber-espionage/cyberwar/cyber-attack/cyber-whatever. All this rhetoric about Stuxnet, Flame, and other nation-state cyber-attack tools, combined with the parade of newly acknowledged cyber-warfare capabilities and units within the armed services of countries around the globe, brings to the fore so many parallels... Call me a cynic if you will, but when the parallels in history are so evident, we'd be crazy to ignore them. more»

Botnet Metrics and Calibration

As ISP's continue to spin up their anti-botnet defenses and begin taking a more active role in dealing with the botnet menace, more and more interested parties are looking for statistics that help define both the scale of the threat and the success of the various tactics being deployed... To overcome this problem there are several initiatives trying to grapple with this problem at the moment.. Obviously, if every ISP was using the same detection technology, in the same way, at the same time, it wouldn't be such a difficult task. Unfortunately, that's not the case. more»

A Closer Look at the Flame/Flamer/sKyWIper Malware

The world is abuzz this week with some flaming malware - well "Flame" is the family name if you want to be precise. The malware package itself is considerably larger than what you'll typically bump into on average, but the interest it is garnering with the media and antivirus vendors has more to do with the kinds of victims that have sprung up - victims mostly in the Middle East, including Iran - and a couple of vendors claiming the malware as being related to Stuxnet and Duku. more»

The Antivirus Uncertainty Principle

The antivirus industry has been trying to deal with false positive detection issues for a long, long time - and it's not going to be fixed anytime soon. To better understand why, the physicist in me draws an analogy with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle - where, in its simplest distillation, the better you know where an atom is, the less likely you'll know it's momentum (and vice versa) - aka the "observer effect". more»

Rethinking Protection Technologies: A Change Has Occurred

Talking technical is easy. Distilling technical detail, complex threats and operation nuances down to something that can be consumed by people whose responsibility for dealing with cybercrime lays three levels below them in their organizational hierarchy is somewhat more difficult. Since so many readers here have strong technical backgrounds and often face the task of educating upwards within their own organizations, I figured I'd share 4 slides from my recent presentation that may be helpful in communicating how the world has changed. more»

The Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) Deception

Most of the good thrillers I tend to watch have spies and assassins in them for some diabolical reason. In those movies you'll often find their target, the Archduke of Villainess, holed up in some remote local and the spy has to fake an identity in order to penetrate the layers of defense. Almost without exception the spy enters the country using a fake passport; relying upon a passport from any country other than their own... So, with that bit of non-fiction in mind, why do so many people automatically assume that cyber-attacks sourced from IP addresses within China are targeted, state-sponsored, attacks? more»

BYOD Woes and Worries

Like the scene of a movie in which a biblical character holds back the mighty sea and is about to release the tide against his foes, BYOD has become a force of nature poised to flood those charged with keeping corporate systems secure. Despite years of practice hardening systems and enforcing policies that restrict what can and can't be done within the corporate network, businesses are under increasing (if not insurmountable) pressure to allow a diversifying number of personal devices to connect to their networks and be used for business operations. more»

Global Payments Breach Confirmation

This morning, Global Payments held a conference call with investors and analysts covering their earlier breach announcement and projected earnings. Global Payments had also released an update advisory yesterday stating that "the company believes that the affected portion of its processing system is confined to North America and less than 1,500,000 card numbers have been exported" and that only Track 2 card data may have been stolen. more»

The Take Away from Global Payments Breach

Global Payments, an Atlanta-based payment card processing firm, announced yesterday that they had suffered "unauthorized access into a portion of its processing system". Sometime in early March they uncovered the attack, and there are some indications that the breach occurred between January 21st and February 25th of this year... There are a number of unverified reports that a New York City street gang with Central American ties took control of "an administrative account that was not protected sufficiently". more»

Kelihos Is Dead: Long Live Kelihos

The King is dead. Long live the King! Or, given this week's events, should the phrase now be "Kelihos is dead. Long live Kelihos"? It is with a little amusement and a lot of cynicism that I've been watching the kerfuffle relating to the latest attempt to take down the Kelihos botnet. You may remember that a similar event ("Kelihos is dead") occurred late last year after Microsoft and Kaspersky took it on themselves to shut down the botnet known as Kelihos (or sometimes as Waledac 2.0 or Hlux). more»

I Don't Need a Signature to Know It's Going to Be Bad…

There was a period of time not long ago in which signature-based threat detection was cutting-edge. Antivirus, intrusion detection systems (IDS), data leakage prevention (DLP), content filtering and even anomaly detection systems (ADS) all continue to rely heavily upon static signatures. In recent years vendors have shied away from discussing their dependence on such signatures -- instead extolling supplemental "non-signature-based" detection technologies. more»

Household Botnet Infections

Pinning down the number of infected computers is really, really hard. I'd go as far as saying it's practically impossible to calculate, let alone observe. Still, that's not going to stop people from attempting to guess or extrapolate from their own observations. Over the years I've heard "reliable" numbers ranging from 10% through to 60% -- and I don't trust any of them. There's a whole gaggle of reasons why the numbers being thrown out to the public are inaccurate and should ideally be interpreted with a lot of skepticism by any right-minded folks. more»

Protection Is Only One Side of the Security Coin

"Security is all about protecting the user." That's the comment that came up the other week in the twittersphere that kicked off a not-unexpected trail of pro and con tweets. Being limited to 140 characters makes it rather difficult to have a deep and meaningful discussion on the topic and the micro-blogging apparatus isn't particularly conducive to the communicating the nuances of a more detailed thought. So I thought I'd address the topic here in blog format instead. more»

Understanding and Detecting Mobile Malware Threats

Every couple of years there's a new "hot threat" in security for which vendors abruptly tout newfangled protection and potential customers clamor for additional defense options. Once upon a time it was spyware, a few years ago it was data leakage, and today it's mobile malware. It's a reoccurring cycle, analogous to the "blue is the new black" in fashion -- if you fancy adopting a certain cynical tone. more»

Chinese Hackers and Cyber Realpolitik

For many people the comments made by Michael Hayden, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, at this week's Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Abu Dhabi may have been unsettling as he commented upon the state of Chinese cyber espionage. I appreciate the candor of his observations and the distinction he made between state-level motivations. In particular, his comment... more»

2012 Security Predictions: APT's, Mobile Malware and Botnet Takedowns

As the weeks remaining in 2011 dwindle and 2012 peaks out from behind the last page of the calendar, it must once again be that time of year for purposeful reflection and prediction. Or is that navel gazing and star gazing? At the highest level of navel gazing you could probably sum up 2011 with one word -- "More"... But let's put that aside for now. What does 2012 hold in stall for us? more»

Taking the Leap to Cloud-Based Malware Inspection

Is desktop anti-virus dead? Someday I'd love to make that announcement, but it still feels to me that there's a Patron Saint of Voodoo with an affinity for bringing it back to life -- like some macabre mirror image of the malicious zombies it's supposed to provide protection against. It's kind of ironic that today's innovation in desktop anti-virus isn't really happening at the desktop; rather it's occurring in the cloud. more»

Growth in Commercial Sinkholing Operations

The last couple of years have seen a growth in commercial sinkholing operations. What was once an academic method for studying botnets and other types of Internet-born threat, has more recently turned in to an increasingly profitable business for some organizations. Yesterday I published a blog on the DarkReading site titled Sinkholing For Profit, and I wanted to expand upon some aspects of the sinkholing discussion (there's only so much you can fit in to 800-ish word limits). more»

On the Success of Malware

There's often a lot of discussion about whether a piece of malware is advanced or not. To a large extent these discussions can be categorized as academic nitpicking because, at the end of the day, the malware's sophistication only needs to be at the level for which it is required to perform -- no more, no less. Perhaps the "advanced" malware label should more precisely be reattributed as "feature rich" instead. more»

TLD Domain Abuse: Threat Report - First Half 2011

When it comes to building a robust globe-spanning network of crimeware and making the victims dance to a tune of the cyber-criminals' choosing, you're guaranteed to find domain name abuse at the heart of the operation. DNS provides the critical flexibility and underlying scalability of modern command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure. Cyber-criminals that master DNS (and manage to maintain the stream of new domain registrations that keep it fed) tend to find themselves in command of the largest and most profitable crimeware networks. more»

Hiding in Plain Sight: Post-Breach

The majority of network breaches begin and end with the installation of malware upon a vulnerable device. For the rest, once that initial malware beachhead has been achieved, the story is only just beginning. The breach disclosures that make the news are often confusing as they're frequently compiled from third-hand reports, opinions and technical assumptions. More often than not, they include a discussion about the malware - how advanced it was, etc. - and whether any 0-day vulnerabilities were likely used by the mysterious attacker. more»

Prediction Methods for Crime

There's a new sheriff in town and he's riding the horse of "predictive policing". Back in July the Santa Cruz Police Department began deploying police officers to places where crime is likely to occur in the future -- making use of new predictive modeling programs that are designed to provide daily forecasts of crime hotspots -- thereby allowing the Department to preempt more serious crimes before they occurred. In essence, this is another physical-world application of machine learning and clustering technologies -- applied to preempting a criminal problem. In the cyber-world we've been applying these techniques for a number of years with great success. more»

Who Broke the WHOIS?

As Internet services go, WHOIS held a lot of promise but has repeatedly failed to live up to its potential; raising the question "is it time to retire WHOIS?" The concept behind WHOIS was simple. For each and every registered domain name, provide the facility for querying details about who owns it, who administers it, when was it created and when it will expire. Unfortunately the service lost its way practically from day one after failing to agree upon or adhere to any formal structure of the content it provides. more»

The Crimeware Infection Lifecycle

The distribution and installation of malicious and unauthorized software has evolved consistently throughout the 21st Century. The evolutionary path from annoying viruses, to destructive malware and on to financially driven crimeware, is well documented and can even be conveniently traced via the parallel evolution of technologies that were designed to counter each new aspect of the then contemporary threat. more»

Understanding the Modern DDoS Threat

The breadth of cyber threats that an organization must engage with and combat seemingly change on a daily basis. Each new technology, vulnerability or exploit vector results in a new threat that must be protected against. Meanwhile some forms of attack never appear to age -- they remain a threat to business continuity despite years of advances in defensive strategy. One particularly insidious and never-ending threat is that of the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. more»

Topic Interests

CybercrimeCyberattackSecurityDDoSMalwareDomain NamesTop-Level DomainsWhoisDNSLawRegistry ServicesCybersquattingPolicy & RegulationCloud ComputingMobileWireless

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Popular Posts

SQL Injection in the Wild

TLD Domain Abuse: Threat Report - First Half 2011

2012 Security Predictions: APT's, Mobile Malware and Botnet Takedowns

Chinese Hackers and Cyber Realpolitik

Nitol and 3322.org Takedown by Microsoft