The Cult of Passion in Infosec

Recently I read an interesting analysis (by the talented Chris Sanders) reflecting on passion; how we use it to screen infosec candidates and asking the question if what we really mean (or should mean) is ‘curiosity‘.

“Passion is very difficult to attribute to a source. In fact, most people aren’t good at identifying the things they are passionate about themselves. The vast majority of security practitioners are not passionate about information security itself. Instead, they’re passionate about problem-solving, being an agent of justice, being intelligent, being seen as intelligent, actually being intelligence, solving mysteries, making a lot of money, or simply providing for their families.”

One particularly interesting observation which caused me to pause and reflect was the line:

“Not everyone is extraordinary and that’s okay. There is this myth that we all must be the best. As Ricky Bobby famously said, “If you ain’t first, your last!”. But, by constantly trying to be the best it breeds things like imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and depression.”

It is sometimes difficult to not constantly look to the ‘next-step’ overly focusing on comparisons with other members of the infosec community. Staying grounded is important and using self-awareness and reflection to identify areas for steady development; but not at the detriment to your own well-being or the people around you.

Sending out a thank you to Chris for drawing further attention to both the issue of misplaced searching for ‘passion’ and also to the dangers of trying to be in that 5% of practitioners who truly are exceptional but who also often sacrifice other areas of their life to fuel their passion.

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Analyzing Documents for Insights into Malicious Macros

Recently read an interesting piece asking the question why so many attacks/compromise analysis papers/articles only focus on the malware and not the dropper/document which is often (and increasingly so) the method of initial compromise (from either an infected web page or attachment). The author (Harlan Carvey) points out that understanding the way in which a document is used (via macros) to infect a target machine gives the defenders lots of useful insight and threat data which can be used to thwart future (or on-going) attacks.

“In the output we see what appear to be 2 base64-encoded Powershell commands, one that downloads PupyRAT to the system, and another that appears to be shell code.  Copying and decoding both of the streams gives us the command that downloads PupyRAT, as well as a second command that appears to be some form of shell code.  Some of the variable names ($Qsc, $zw5) appear to be unique, so searching for those via Google leads us to this Hybrid-Analysis write-up, which provides some insight into what the shell code may do.”

See here for a great write up and deconstruction of one such document:

“Recently, we’ve seen reports of malicious files that misuse the legitimate Office object linking and embedding (OLE) capability to trick users into enabling and downloading malicious content. Previously, we’ve seen macros used in a similar matter, and this use of OLE might indicate a shift in behavior as administrators and enterprises are mitigating against this infection vector with better security and new options in Office.

In these new cases, we’re seeing OLE-embedded objects and content surrounded by well-formatted text and images to encourage users to enable the object or content, and thus run the malicious code. So far, we’ve seen these files use malicious Visual Basic (VB) and JavaScript (JS) scripts embedded in a document.”

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