Financial institutions must look beyond their own defensive perimeters

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions released today the results of a recent study conducted on global financial institutions and the risks introduced by their trusted partners and providers, and they revealed that 100% of third-party networks sampled showed either signs of compromise or increased risk.

This study demonstrates that third-party networks extend the attack surface and introduce risks that often go overlooked. It’s a lesson that companies such as Target are learning the hard way: Originally believed to be an insider, the recent Target breach was actually the result of a third party compromise. Without the proper tools in place, organizations simply can’t monitor or validate these events in a timely fashion.

The analysis illustrates the hazards of ignoring third-party risk:

  • Outbound botnet traffic and malicious behavior were the most common indicators, accounting for 75% of the assessed third-party sample set.
  • 25% of the assessed third-party sample set revealed specific indicators related to the ZeuS Banking Trojan.
  • Targeted access and more general malware were also prevalent within these networks.
  • The presence of hosts across 25% of the third parties attempting to communicate with multiple Conficker sinkholes.

Lookingglass also found a link between degraded performance and the fact that 15% of third parties relied on a single upstream Internet provider, as 25% of these companies were victims of DNS incursions. Further, the analysis suggested that the third parties examined rely on additional third parties to provide hosting and other services, increasing the overall risk within the supply chain of the primary customer set.

Performing a cursory 6th degree intelligence assessment of some of these providers revealed several network adjacent hosts with high-concern indicators of compromise that could potentially leverage the third-party resource as an attack vector into the primary customer set. For example, if a popular webhost used by the business is compromised, this in turn would allow the attackers to inject malicious ads to unsuspecting customers.

“This study highlights a weakness that the industry has been very hesitant to talk about in public – the fact that trusted third parties should not and cannot be truly trusted,” said Chris Coleman, CEO of Lookingglass. “Global organizations such as financial institutions, as well as retailers and critical infrastructure organizations, must look beyond their own defensive perimeters and consider monitoring their public Internet presence to better understand their attack surface. Gaining insight into third parties is crucial to mitigating risk within the supply chain.”

To conduct its analysis, Lookingglass evaluated payment processors, auditors and other financial services within the financial industry supply chain over a 35-day span in Q4 of 2013. Lookingglass analyzed the entities’ public address space and monitored for any and all indicators of compromise or risk stemming from their publicly mapped IP and domain space. The indicators of compromise and risk were gathered from a multitude of global collection sensors and intelligence sources.

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