Blog Post

Detecting Sunburst Network Traffic

December 17, 2020

What is Sunburst?

Recent news reports of widespread infiltration of IT systems and the possibility of exfiltration of data are very concerning, and always brings up the questions:

  • How did this happen?
  • What can be done to prevent this from happening to us?
  • How can we monitor our own systems to ensure they are not currently compromised?

In case you haven’t already seen a description, “Sunburst” is malicious code which attaches itself to legitimate libraries, installs itself as a service, then reaches out to command-and-control remote network infrastructure to prepare a second stage of attack: to move throughout the environment and compromise or exfiltrate data. Pretty nasty stuff, and we should all be concerned.

IT security is an ever-evolving space, as attackers evolve, our efforts to monitor the state of our IT systems and mitigate risk of intrusion must also evolve.

Our answers are the subject of this blog, in the form of best practices and practical steps. There are many ways GroundWork Monitor can assist with helping to monitor and manage such situations. Of course, we can’t set your security policies for you, so let’s focus on one of these key questions, how to monitor our own systems to ensure they aren’t currently compromised. We cover just one of the indicators for this purpose.

A list of Indicators of Compromise for this particular malware have been released by Microsoft™, as well as additional useful information for countering the threat:

GroundWork Monitor can assist you in countering threats like this as well. We have methods for detection of the network Indicators of Compromise, allowing you to more quickly engage cybersecurity professionals to contain the malware. In general, we believe “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, so we decided to describe one way to use GroundWork Monitor to detect and measure some signs your installed software is being actively exploited. The same methods can be applied to other exploits.

Detecting Network Indicators of Compromise

GroundWork Monitor provides the capability to capture and decode packets, and to monitor NetFlow and sFlow traffic on the network. From these sources you can then create “policies”, or actions for the system to take if there is traffic on the network matching a filter. Policy filters follow tcpdump syntax; anything that can be detected with a tcpdump expression can be turned into a policy. You can choose to have GroundWork Monitor send you an alert should traffic matching a policy filter come across the wire.

Malwarebytes™ has aggregated a list of possible IP addresses and domains used to host the command-and-control portions of this malware. We will add these to monitoring:

  • avsvmcloud[.]com – 13.59.205[.]66
  • deftsecurity[.]com – 54.193.127[.]66
  • freescanonline[.]com – 54.215.192[.]52
  • Thedoccloud[.]com – 34.203.203[.]23
  • Websitetheme[.]com – 139.99.115[.]204
  • Highdatabase[.]com – 5.252.177[.]25
  • Incomeupdate[.]com – 5.252.177[.]21
  • Databasegalore[.]com – 204.188.205[.]176
  • Panhardware[.]com – 51.89.125[.]18
  • Zupertech[.]com – 167.114.213[.]199

Of course, this list is meant as an example. It will evolve with the threat, but is current with the latest report of the malware as of this writing.

First, within the Network Discovery (NeDi) system in GroundWork Monitor, we’ll need to enable nfdumpd for NetFlow or sFlow monitoring, following the procedure outlined in the documentation GroundWork as a NetFlow Collector.

You will also need to enable the (advanced) policy monitoring feature, see Network Policy Monitoring.

Once you are capturing data, you can set policies using any tcpdump based filters. One (of numerous) ways to detect traffic to specific IP addresses is called traffic bytes, where we can set a policy to get an alert should traffic exceed the thresholds we specify. This can be extremely useful not only in this instance, where we will give it a low setting, but also if we give it a higher setting which could be useful in to detect events where data is flowing, such as data exfiltration.

With that, let’s create our first policy. We can do this by:

Navigating within the GroundWork Monitor UI to Configuration > Network Discovery, then go to System > Policy.

Set your policy up to look like the example here, then click Add:

GroundWork System Policy

With this policy, we will trigger an alarm if traffic greater than 1 byte for the specified filter (ip x.x.x.x) is present in our captures.

Now, all we need to do is change the IP address in the filter to the next IP we want to add, and click Add again, and repeat the process until all IP addresses are added. The result will be a policy table below the policy configuration, and look something like this:

GroundWork Policy Configuration

Then, if you want to be alerted on the events (of course you do!), enable the NeDi Cloud Hub connector in Configuration > Cloud Hub, described in the documentation referred to above.

While you’re in the Cloud Hub configuration, it may make sense to give your new services a name to identify their purpose. You can do this (once the connector is active) by clicking on the Modify button of the NeDi connector, click Load Policies, then Next. In the nedipolicy accordion you can give your new services a display name, here is how we’ve set ours up:

GroundWork NeDi Policies

In Summary

A good security policy is essential to the success of any organization, but you need to monitor it’s efficacy, as with any measure taken to prevent catastrophe.

At GroundWork, we of course monitor our own infrastructure. We also include best practices such as:

  • Scans of our code before it is available for an update (we do not perform automatic updates)
  • Scans of any dependencies we pull in to our builds
  • Manual verification of code pulls and commits
  • MD5 checksum verification of built packages, these are also provided for customers to verify they are downloading only versions released by us

As you can tell (and probably already know if you’re reading this), the security space is always evolving and there’s always some new vulnerability out there to tackle. If you are already familiar with how to monitor the general indicators of compromise (such as network traffic), you can be ahead of the game and respond much faster should the need arise.


Thanks for reading our Blog.

GroundWork Open Source

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