Each year, MITRE Engenuity conducts independent evaluations of cybersecurity products to help government and industry make better decisions to combat security threats and improve industry’s threat detection capabilities. These evaluations are based on MITRE ATT&CK®, which is widely recognized as the de facto framework for tracking adversarial tactics and techniques. At McAfee we know that cybercriminals are always evolving their tradecraft, and we are committed to providing blue teams (cyber defenders) the capabilities needed to win the game. To do so, we believe in the importance of putting our security solutions through rigorous testing. To demonstrate our commitment, McAfee has participated in all MITRE Engenuity Enterprise Evaluations to date, including the previous round 1 (APT3 emulation) and round 2 (APT29 emulation).
Today, MITRE Engenuity released the results of the Carbanak and FIN7 evaluations (round 3) that were conducted over the last few months. McAfee participated in this evaluation, along with 28 other vendors, which tested the capabilities of their cybersecurity solutions, in what has been the most comprehensive ATT&CK Evaluation to date, covering 20 major steps and 174 sub-steps.
For the first time ever, MITRE Engenuity offered an optional extension to the detection evaluations to examine a vendor’s ability to protect against specific adversary techniques utilized by these groups. This was also the first time that the evaluations went beyond Windows systems and addressed techniques aimed at the Linux devices that are often used on networks as file servers or domain controllers.
While it’s important to note that the goal of these ATT&CK Evaluations is not to rank or score products, our analysis of the results found that McAfee’s blue team was able to use MVISION EDR, complemented by McAfee’s portfolio, to obtain a significant advantage over the adversary, achieving:
- 100% visibility across the 10 major attack steps on Day 1 (Carbanak), and 100% visibility across the 10 major attack steps on Day 2 (FIN7).
- 100% analytic detections (any non-telemetry detection) across the 10 major attack steps on Day 1 (Carbanak), and 100% analytic detections across the 10 major attack steps on Day 2 (FIN7).
- 87% visibility across the total of 174 sub-steps for the 2 attack scenarios.
- 72% detections leveraging two or more data sources for additional context and enrichment.
- 100% of blocking of the 10 major attack steps emulated in the protection test (Carbanak + FIN7) and blocking early in the attack cycle.
While prior emulated groups were more focused on espionage, the ATT&CK Evaluations team chose to emulate Carbanak and FIN7 due to the wide range of industries these groups target for financial gain. Both groups carry a firm reputation of using innovative tradecraft. Efficient espionage and stealth are at the forefront of their strategy, as they often rely heavily on scripting, obfuscation, “hiding in plain sight,” and fully exploiting the users behind the machine while pillaging an environment. They also leverage a unique spectrum of operational utilities, spanning both sophisticated malware as well as legitimate administration tools capable of interacting with various platforms.
The ATT&CK Evaluation was conducted over a total of 4 days, including the protection testing. On each day a different version of the attack comprised of 10 steps was executed. On Day 1, MITRE Engenuity emulated an attack carried out by the Carbanak group to a financial institution that starts with the breach of the HR Manager’s workstation, and includes elevation of privileges, credential theft, lateral movement to the CFO’s system, collection of sensitive data on both Windows and Linux systems, and the spoofing of money transfers. On Day 2, MITRE Engenuity emulated an attack carried out by the FIN7 group against a hotel, involving the breach of the hotel manager’s system, persistence, credential theft, discovery, lateral movement to an accounting system and the skim of customer payment data.
The McAfee blue team successfully defended against these two advanced adversaries, demonstrating the power of the McAfee portfolio, including MVISION EDR, complemented by MVISION Endpoint Security (ENS), Advanced Threat Detection (ATD), Network Security Platform (NSP), Data Loss Prevention (DLP), and Enterprise Security Manager (ESM). These products were configured following MITRE Engenuity’s standards:
- For the detection evaluation all ENS scanners and rules were set to report-only.
- For the protection evaluation ENS Attack Behavior Blocking (ABB)/Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules were set to block while the “Remotely creating or modifying files or folders” rule was disabled at MITRE’s request.
During these 4 days of extensive purple teaming, McAfee demonstrated that its portfolio provides solid cyber defense across the top 5 capabilities that matter the most to any security operations team: time-based security, alert actionability, detection in depth, protection, and visibility.
Time-Based Security (TBS) is one of the most relevant, effective, and simple security models a defender can apply. It provides a mechanism to determine if a blue teamer would have the necessary, timely, and actionable information to effectively defend against adversarial attacks.
Using the results of the ATT&CK Evaluation, we modeled the data following an attack timeline, grouping the techniques executed by the ATT&CK red team for Days 1 (Carbanak) and 2 (FIN7) into each of the steps (attack milestones) they employed. To represent the data for each evaluation day, we list the detection categories used by MITRE Engenuity. As Figures 1 and 2 show, during the evaluation, McAfee provided the maximum level of visibility, detection and context for every major step in the attack. An analyst that used McAfee’s products would have received a correlated and enriched threat alert for each of the steps of these advanced attacks, including references to MITRE Engenuity’s ATT&CK framework and pivoting points to enriched telemetry, enabling faster detection, investigation and reaction, and therefore resulting in reduced exposure.
Figure 1. Time Based Security for Carbanak (Day 1)
Figure 2. Time Based Security for FIN7 (Day 2)
To be successful as a defender, it is essential to react in the fastest possible way, raising an alarm as early as possible on the attack chain, while correlating, aggregating and summarizing all subsequent activity to preserve actionability. McAfee’s MVISION EDR preserved actionability and reduced alert fatigue during the evaluation providing context and enrichment, resulting in a ratio of 62%1 analytic detections (non-telemetry detections) out of the 274-total count of detections. This was possible due to McAfee’s strong correlation and having all telemetry tagged and labeled as close to the source as possible.
Effective attack technique detection requires certain vantage points. Additional perspective improves context, correlation, and subsequently fidelity. Having diverse data sources for every technique enables coverage quantity and quality.
McAfee demonstrated coverage across a dozen of different data sources during the evaluation with 72% of detections utilizing two or more data sources.
Figure 3. McAfee data source diversity across 274 detections
For the first time in an ATT&CK Evaluation, MITRE Engenuity exercised 10 protection scenarios; a subset of the attack sequences used during the detection assessment. McAfee demonstrated its superior protection efficacy by successfully disrupting all 10 attacks, early in the chain, before any impact occurred. Before the disruption, high context detections and telemetry was produced to alert the analyst.
Figure 4. 100% blocking at every protection test
Many organizations live in an alert driven world where there is not enough data to support key security operations activities, including investigations or threat hunting. During the Carbanak+FIN7 evaluation, McAfee provided visibility across all major steps of the attack, and 87% visibility of the total count of sub-steps across both days. It is worth noting that the remaining 13% does not necessarily represent blind spots, but rather that the minimum criteria selected by MITRE Engenuity was not met, according to the evaluation rules. For example, more visibility was obtained through the automated detonation of samples in our ATD sandbox, which provides additional data context to security analysts during a real attack.
At McAfee, we know how security operations work, and that’s why we designed our detection and response platform with ‘Human Machine Teaming’ in mind. For this latest round of the MITRE Engenuity ATT&CK Evaluation, our Threat Detection Engineering and Applied Countermeasures (AC3) team have delivered 85% more visibility and over 22% more analytic detections than in the previous APT29 evaluation.
During this evaluation, we demonstrated that McAfee delivers best-balanced defense across the top 5 capabilities that matter the most to any security operations team: time-based security, alert actionability, detection in depth, protection, and visibility. Our McAfee detection and response platform offered enhanced meaningful context across the entire attack chain, allowing cyber defenders to disrupt attacks early, before damage occurs.
Stay tuned for upcoming details on how each of these security capabilities played a key role in the Carbanak+FIN7 evaluation as part of our ATT&CK Evaluation blog series.
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