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Syspeace for internal brute force protection on Windows Servers

After installing Syspeace , the tech guys started getting notifications that their Exchange Server was trying to login to another server and it was rejected. There was no reason for this server to do so whatsoever and it had not been noticed earlier so it’s hard to say when it actually started.

After disabling the whitelist for the LAN at the customer site they started getting mail notifications that every workstation on their LAN was actually trying to login to various servers using various usernames and password, hence a brute force attack/dictionary attack from the inside.

Most likely a trojan has been planted somewhere and it has infected the rest.

This is a fairly simple example of how Syspeace can actually reveal a security breach a customer wasn’t even aware of had occured.

It is totally up to any customer to use whitelists for the LAN but as a precaution, I personnally wouldn’t recommend it since it acutally gives you a great heads up that something has happened if a computer or multiple computers suddenly starts to try and login to servers they’re not supposed to.

As a system administrator, you get the chance to get attack automatically blocked, logged, traced and reported and you can have a closer at the computer responsible for the attack or have a word the user to see what’s going on.

You can even create extensive reports on all activity originating from that user or computer using the Access Reports section in Syspeace to get a more clear view on how long it’s been trying and so on.

Since Syspeace automatically protects failed logins using Winlogon authentication, your Windows servers are also protected from computers/users trying to use the “net use” or “map network drive” with invalid logon credentials trying to acces shares they’re not supposed to.

If you don’t have processes in place for scanning logs, saving them and monitoring every login activity, it will become grusome task to even know if there’s something going on at all. You simply won’t have the tools to do so.

Have your own servers run the fully functional Syspeace free trial and see if you get any unexpected login failures from the internal network and from Internet.
You might be surprised.

By Juha Jurvanen

Using various brute force and dictionary attack prevention methods to prevent hackers – and why they don’t work . Repost

This is actually a repost on a fairly well read blogpost but I thought I’d share it with you again.

Intro on brute force / dictionary attack prevention tactics and some common misconceptions

Protection from brute force attempts on Windows servers has always been a nightmare and would continue to be so if not .. Yes, I admit, I will come up with a solution further down.

Most system administrators with selfrespect start off with the best of intentions to actually keep track of brute force / dictianary attack attempts but eventually give up because of the sheer number of attacks that occur daily.

Others, unfortunately, believe that a firewall takes care of the problem which it doesn’t or that an account lockout policy is the answer. Neither of them is and I’ll show you why.

The firewall approach:

Think about it. What does a firewall actually do ? The role of the firewall is to block traffic on unwanted ports and to drop portscans and variuos SYN FLOOD attacks. That’s about it. A firewall is basically a harsch doorman deciding who gets in to speak with the guys on the inside and who doesn’t.

If an attacker actually connects on a valid port , the traffic is redirected/port forwarded to the server in question let’s say the webmail interface of a Microsoft Exchange Server or a Microsoft Windows Terminal Server or a Citrix Server. Once the attacker is there, the actual logon request is handled by the server,not the firewall. The logon process is managed by the Windows Authentication process (which in turn may be validated against Active Directoy or a local user database using SAM). The firewall is already out of the picture really since it has no connection with the Windws server apart from  the TCP connection and keeping it alive really. They don’t communicate the result of the logon process between eachother.

Also, a changing of from standard ports won’t help you much, will it ? The logon process is still managed by the Windows Server although you will get rid a of a lot of portscans and “lazy background, script kiddie attempts” if you’re using non standard ports. Basically you get rid of the script kiddies but the problem isn’t solved, the traffic is still redirected/port forwarded to the server that does the actual authentication.

Using for instance a Remote Desktop Gateway won’t handle the problem either. Using a RDP Gateway minimizes the attack surface, yes, but it is still reachable and the user logons still have to be validated. The problem is with any server that services logon request basically, regardless of on what ports and how they get there. That is Microsoft Windows server, Exchange Server, Citrix, Sharepoint, CRM , Terminal server and so on . The list can probably go on and on.

There’s also the risk of stuff stops working each time you apply some updates or patches to your Windows Servers if you start changing standard ports or standard configurations. It’s happened to me a few times and it’s not that amusing to be honest when you’ve got 1000 users not being able to log in beacuse you’ve just done your job and patched the servers to keep peolpe datas safe. Trust me, that’s not a good Monday morning.

The VPN approach:

Yes. That’s a safer approach but also here we do have some issues. First of all, it’s not that easy to keep track of VPN certificates, to set all of it up and manage all the licensing costs (that can be quite significant really ) and (sometimes costly) hardware you need to have in place. Historically there has also always been performance issues with most VPN solutions since all traffic is directed through one or a few VPN servers / connectors. Some of them also charge you for the bandwidth you want it to be able to use for VPN connections or charge you for the number of simultaneous VPN connections, A VPN solution can be quite costly as an initial investment and taking into account all of the administration involved in it.

You also probably won’t be demanding your users to have a VPN connection to the Microsoft Exchange OWA etiher snce the whole idea of the OWA i that it’s supposed to easy to reach from anywhere. I know there are some companies actually requiring VPN even for OWA and that’s just fine I guess but the more we’re moving our data and applications to cloud services, this hassle with different VPNs and stuff will eventually be fading into the dark corners of the Internet (that’s my personal belief anyways). The thing is that your users don’t want to be tied down by complicated VPN clients and stuff, users nowdays are used “stuff just working” and it has to be easy and intuititive for them. The days of the “System Administrators from Hell” implementing all kinds of complex solutions to keep stuff secure and forcing users to having very specific and complex ways of accessing data are over. They were good times, good times but they’re over. Deal with it.

The IDS/IPS approach:

Using a centralized IDS/IPS This is a more efficient method, yes. The downside is, most of these systems require you to change your infrastructure and get specific, costly hardware, licenses and costly consultants to get it up and running. And someone needs to monitor it, take care of it and so on. There are parllells to the VPN approach here although an IDS/IPS does a while lot more such as examines all the network traffic, examines it for malicious code and so on. I’m not sure actually if an IDS/IPS can communicate with the Windows Server Authentication Process so I’ll actually won’t say anything about that. I would presume they can, otherwise I fail to see the point (from the brute force logon prespective, that is) and you’d still need to handle the logon attempt on the Windows server.

The Account Lockout Policy approach:

The acccount lockout method is also flawed due to the fact that an attacker can quite easily cause a DOS (Denial of Service) simply by hammering your server with invalid logon request but with valid usernames, thus rendering the accounts unusable for the valid users. Basically, all he (or she)  needs to know is the user logon name and in many system , it’s not tha hard to guess (try the companynameusername or the mail address for the user since it’s quite often also a valid logon name if you have a look at the properties of the user in Active Directory Users and Group snap-in)

The Cloud Computing approach

We are shifting  more and more of our data and applications into various Cloud Services (like it or not but, it’s a fact and you know it). This way we do get rid of some of these problems on our own servers and hopefully, your Cloud Service provider actually has a plan for these scenarios and has the necessary surveillance software and systems in place. If you’re using a Cloud Computing platform based on Windows Servers, you should actually ask your provider how they handle brute force attempts on their servers. Most likely they will give you one or more of the scenarios described above and, as I’ve showed you, they are not adequate to handle the task at hand. They’re just not up for the job. Feel free to ask your own provider and see what answer you get. My guess is .. mumbo jumbo but basically , they don’t have anything in place really, more or less.
You could even try logging into you own account with your own username but the wrong password loads of times and see what happens. Will it be locked out? Will your machine be locked out? How does your Cloud Srvice Provider respond and are you informed in any way that an intrsuion attempt has been made using your account ? How many times can anypne try to access your account without you being notifed of it? And from where are they trying to get to your data and why?
Personally I know of only one Cloud Service Provider that has also taken these questions into account and that’s Red Cloud IT in Sweden.

Is there a solution then?

Yeah. I told you so in the beginning and even if you choose not to use what I suggest, I highly recommend that you start thinking about these things properly because these problems will accelerate in the future. Just take a look at all the hacktivism with DDOS attacks going on out there. It’s just a start because the Internet is still young.

First of all, and this is extremely important you realize, , it doesn’t matter if you hosting your own servers or if you’re using VPS (Virtual Private Servers) hosted somewhere else or even if you’re a Cloud Service Provider. The basic principal stands: if you are providing any kind of service to users using the Windows Authentication mechanism you should be reading this and hopefully my point has come across.

If you’re having brute force attacks on your Windows systems today and I’m pretty sure you do (just turn on logon auditing and I’m sure you’ll see you have more than you actually thought you did, *for some odd reason this is NOT turned on by defaut in Windows*) there’s a few things you should be doing (that I’m guessing you’re not beacuse you’re not a cyborg and you need to sleep, meet your friends and family and actually be doing something productive during your work hours). On the other hand, if you are doing all of these things I’m guessing you have quite a large IT staff with a lot of time on their hands. Good for you. Call me and I’ll apply for a position.

First of all. Block the attack.

You need the attack to stop! Instantly. This is of course your first priority That’s basically blocking it in the firewall, either in the local Windows firewall or the external one, it’s actually up to you which way is the easiest one. The reason is that you don’t want to be wasting CPU and RAM and bandwidth on these people (or botnets)  and of course, you don’t want them to actually succeed in logging on (should you have a lousy password policy in place ) or even them disguising a real intrusion attempt behind a DDOS attack to fill your logfiles and hide themselves in there. (Yes, it’s not an uncommon method). There’s also quite a few reports of DDOS attacks being used to disguise the actual reason for it which is to find out what security measures are in places for future reference. The “know your enemy principal”.

Second. Trace the attack. From where did it come?

Second , you need to find out from where the attack originated and what username was used. This is because you want to know if it is a competitor trying to hack you and access your corporate data or if you find yourself in the interesting position of your own username trying to login from sunny Brazil and you’re just not in Brazil (although you’d love to be) . You’re in Chicago looking at winter. Somethng’s up.
You also want to see if it’s a former employee trying to log on and so on .. This is stuff you need to know and keep track of since there may be legal issues involved further down the line.

Points one and two , you want to be handled in real time. There’s no use for you to find out two days after the attack that something actually happened. You want it stopped, reported and handled as it happens.

The legal stuff.

Third, you need to decide what to do with your information. Should it be handed over to the legal departement, your boss, the police or is it just “nothing” and can be discarded ?

So. “What would you suggest as a solution then” ? 

The easiest and most cost efficient way to handle brute force attacks on Windows server is to have an automated sysem to block, track and report each attack and that’s where Syspeace comes into play.

Syspeace is a locally installed Windows service, thus using a minimum of system resources,  that monitors the server for unwanted logon attempts and blocks the intruders in real time in the local firewall based on the rules you’ve set up. For instance “if this IP address has failed logging on 20 times during the last 30 minutes then block it completely for 5 hours and send me an email about it”

This means that you can for instance set up a blocking rule that is you “Account lockout policy – 1” in your rules and that way simply blocking the bruteforce attack but not locking your users accounts and causing them unecesseray disruption.

Since Syspeace monitors the Windows Authentication logon oprocess, it doesn’t matter what firewall your using or what ports you’re using, the monitoring and blocking is done where the actual login attempts is made and therefore caught and handled automatically.

Once the intruders IP address is blocked, it’s blocked on ALL ports from that server which means that if you have other services also running on it (like FTP or well.. anyhting really) those ports and services are also protected instantly from the attacker. Not giving them the chance to find other ways of gaining access to that server through exploits.

A few other features in Syspeace

A few other nice features with Syspeace is for instance the GBL (Global BlackLlist) where every Syspeace installation around the world , reports each attack to a databse where they are examined and weighed and , if deemed “meneace to Internet and all of mankind” the database is then propagated to all other Syspeace installations. In this way, you’re preemptively protected when the bad guys come knocking on your door. So far , there has been over 200 000 brute force attcks blocked by Syspeace worldwide (and that’s just since mid July 2012) and some of them have made it to the GBL. Lucky them.
Of course there are white lists and stuff, giving you the ability to have your customers or internal users keep hammering you servers all day long if they (and you) want  without being blocked out.

There’s also the Attack Cintrol section that gives you the ability to sort out information about successful and failed logons, findind the ones that are trying to stay under the radar, viewing reports.
You get daily and weekly reports email to you and each attack is also mailed to you with detailed but easy to understand information from where the attack originated including country, what username was used and how many times they actually tried to hack or overload you. This gives you the ability to quickly see of it’s something you should be taking care of or just carry on with your working day and leave it be with a smile on your face.

The GUI is easy to use (and there’s an even easier coming up in the next version) so there’s no need to hire costly consultants to be up & running or start using various scripts and change parameters in them to suite you needs and hope for the best and hope they don’t hang your servers.

Syspeace also protects the Microsoft Exchange Server Connectors from being attacked.

The licensing is not steep, I’d even dare say cheap and it’s extremely flexible.

As an example. If you buy yourself a new server today (evereybody loves new toys ) , you install Syspeace on it and then you get yourself a second server in 4 months. You can easily align the licensing renewal dates for both servers , not having to keep track of licensing renewals scattered over the entire year. If you’re up for , you could even byt yourslef just a one months license. Or a week. I’s up to you and what needs you have.

Download a free trial and see for yourself.
We know it works and so does all of the people around the world who are already running it.

Syspeace – let the silence do the talking

Syspeace - intrusion prevention for Windows servers

Syspeace website

Blog post written by Juha Jurvanen
Senior IT consultant in backup, IT security, server operations and cloud

Closing in on 1 Million blocked brute force and dictionary attacks on Windows Servers world wide

Just a quick post about the numbers so far really.

Last night , Syspeace had blocked 962 553 brute force and dictionary attacks on Windows 2003 / 2008 / SBS server / RDS servers / Citrix WorldWide.

As a prediction , we will reach over 1 Million later on this week or early next week. We think that’s pretty cool. Considering Syspeace has been publically available only since July 15th 2012..

New version coming up

Other news regarding Syspeace is that we’re beta testing the new release now that will support Windows Server 2012, SQL Server and also have a completely new reporting, sorting and exporting feature called Access Reports.

The new Access Reports feature lets you create reports on failed and succesful logins on your Windows Servers and export them to .CSV reports. The information is saved in the local database so even if the Windows Security Log is cleared, the information is still available for use in for instance forensics and other tasks.

For a free trial download of the brute force and dictionaray attack preventon software Syspeace, please refer to the Syspeace Download page.

Syspeace license password reset

Hi, all.

As all of you know, we put a lot of effort and work into getting various features and improvements in place to help you protect your Windows 2003/2008/2008R2 and the Windows Server 2012 support coming up , Terminal Servers, Sharepoint Servers, Citrix Servers, Exchange Servers and so on.

We’re just so into making Syspeace the nr 1 product for intrusion prevention for Windows servers and a natural part of any Windows servers baseline security so that’s where our main focus is.

From time to time, our administrative efforts get left behind.

One of the most common questions , acually by far the most common question, emailed to our support is that when you wanted to buy a license for Syspeace, you’d forgotten your password and we provided you with a password reset link manually.
From one point of view, we’re happy to talk to you guys and help you out but of course, a password reset thing should be automated to help you get your licenses as soon as possible.

So, finally, we’ve now implemented a “Password reset” feature on the licensing page. Simply fill in the emailaddress you used when you registered and a password reset link will be emailed to you.

We’ve also got the instructions more clearly into the email you receive when you buy a license that you actually won’t have to do anything.

The trial license you’re running will be automatically verified as a valid, live license the next time your Syspeace contacts the license server.

So, in short, you won’t have to wait for a license number to be sent to you since you’ve already got it.

PS. As a heads up, we’ll be releasing the SQL Server support and we’re also working on a GUI feature to easily sort, search, find and export various reports to CSV files D.S.

by Juha Jurvanen

Syspeace now also for Windows 2003 Server

We’re happy to annonuce that the 2.0 version of Syspeace now also supports Windows 2003.

A few other changes in there are that the engine is rewritten to be even faster, the GUI has been simplified and we’ve done a few other changes “under the hood” to make it more modular for future development for new functions.

If you’re looking for an easy to use , cost efficient brute force and dictionary attack intrusion prevention software for Windows Servers on Windows 2003, 2008 2008 R2, 2003 SBS, 2008 SBS and so on.

We have also tested it on Windows 2012 but the official support will come later, but so far though, it has worked as expected.

Once you install Syspeace it protect your Citrix, Sharepoint, Exchange OWA, Terminal Servers and more ..

Have a look at Syspeace.,

The fully working trial is absolutely free for one month

Syspeace saves time and money blocking brute force attempts. So far we’ve saved 4 292 968 US$

This is just a geeky, cost calculating experiment really. Nothing scientific or anything. Just a fun thought on how easy it is to calculate the ROI for the low cost of Syspeace licenses.

Yesterday evening we had a really interesting meeting with a future reseller so we thought we’d take a look at the actual numbers of blocked attacks.
Syspeace had blocked over +314 000 brute force attempts on Windows servers worldwide.

This morning I started thinking.

If each attack takes 15 minutes to manage manually with these steps
1. Find the IP address of the attacker in the event viewer, then block the attack (in the internal or external firewall)
2 Trace the origin (using traceroute, nslookup and whois) and log it somwhere
3. Decide if it’s worth following up and making ot a police matter

That would mean we’ve saved 314 000 * 15 minutes = 78 500 man hours of manual work around the world.

The US$ is about 6.8 Swedish Cronas today.

If each tech has a salary of 35 000 (approx. 5100 US$) per month (an average tekkie salary in Sweden)  the average hourly salary is 218 Swedish Krona (32 US$) .

For the employer , that number is about the salary time 1,7 (due to taxes and stuff ) so that would basically amount up to 371 Swedish Krona as a cost for the employer.

What we saved in manual labor with Syspeace would be 78 500 * 371 = 29 192 187 Swedish Cronas (or 4 292 968 US$) in actual cost savings bot most of all, we’ve made the life of the sysadmin easier and he can focus on other stuff than managing brute force attempts and let Syspeace do the work.

A lot of IT projects could do with an extra 78 500 man hours..

If you’re up for cutting costs and increasing security at the same time, have a look at the free trial download at the Syspeace website

A thought by Juha Jurvanen @ JufCorp