What is MITRE ATT&CK Initial Access (TA0001)?
The MITRE ATT&CK Framework is a widely accepted model for understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that cyber adversaries use to attack systems. The framework is designed as a matrix with various stages of the cyber-attack lifecycle. The first stage is Initial Access (TA0001).
Initial Access (TA0001) is the tactic that covers the different ways adversaries can gain entry into your system, network, or device.
Techniques Under Initial Access
Initial Access can involve a number of techniques, such as:
- Drive-by Compromise: Attackers exploit vulnerable software on a user’s device when the user visits a malicious website.
- Phishing: Attackers send deceptive messages, often with malicious attachments or links, to trick recipients into performing an action like providing credentials or installing malware.
- Spearphishing Attachment: A more targeted form of phishing where the attacker sends a malicious attachment to a specific individual or organization.
- External Remote Services: Utilizing external services like SSH, FTP, or RDP to gain access.
- Exploit Public-Facing Application: Taking advantage of vulnerabilities in applications that are accessible from the Internet.
- Supply Chain Compromise: Attacking one of the steps in the supply chain to compromise a target, like injecting malicious code into legitimate software before it is installed.
- Hardware Additions: Physically attaching hardware to systems in order to gain access.
- Valid Accounts: Using either stolen, default, or otherwise compromised credentials to gain access to a system.
Importance of Protecting Against Initial Access
Preventing Initial Access is critical for several reasons:
- First Line of Defense: If you can stop an attacker at the initial access stage, you effectively prevent them from moving laterally in your network or reaching their ultimate objective, whether that's data exfiltration, data manipulation, or another form of attack.
- Cost Efficiency: Responding to a successful breach is generally far more expensive than implementing preventive measures. This includes both the direct costs of remediation and the indirect costs like reputational damage and potential legal repercussions.
- Reduced Complexity of Defense: Once an attacker gains access, they can use a multitude of techniques to escalate privileges, move laterally, and achieve their objectives. It's often easier to defend against the limited set of initial access techniques than it is to defend against every possible action post-breach.
- Compliance: Many regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS require that reasonable measures are taken to prevent unauthorized access.
How to Protect Against Initial Access in Your Security Stack
- Endpoint Protection: Ensure all devices connected to your network are secured against known vulnerabilities. Keep software updated and use antivirus and anti-malware tools.
- Network Segmentation and Firewalling: Limit the opportunities for initial access by only allowing necessary connections.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Make it more difficult for attackers to use stolen credentials by requiring a second form of authentication.
- Email Filtering: Detect and filter out phishing emails before they reach the inbox.
- Security Awareness Training: Educate employees about the risks of phishing and other social engineering tactics.
- Web Application Firewall (WAF): Protect public-facing applications from common exploits.
- Monitoring and Detection: Use Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools to monitor for signs of unauthorized or suspicious activity.
- Regular Audits and Penetration Testing: Regularly test your defenses to ensure they are effective against the latest techniques.
By focusing on preventing Initial Access, you can build a strong foundational defense against cyber threats, helping to protect your organization’s data, assets, and reputation.
How NETSCOUT Helps
Omnis Cyber Intelligence (OCI) from NETSCOUT provides unparalleled visibility and scalability to monitor and protect even the most complex networks. OCI provides round-the-clock monitoring of network packets to help you identify adversaries quickly and easily when they are attempting to gain access to your network environment, integrating with the most prevalent SIEM platforms on the market, such as Splunk.
OCI can detect various methods of gaining initial access to a network, including SQL injection and OS Command injection in HTTP parameters. These queries can be used to gather information about the server, active users, and more that can be utilized to gain access to a network and give adversaries an initial footing.