Mitigation Strategies

Application Whitelisting

Application whitelisting of approved/trusted programs to prevent execution of unapproved/malicious programs including .exe, DLL, scripts (e.g. Windows Script Host, PowerShell and HTA) and installers

Patch applications

Patch applications e.g. Flash, web browsers, Microsoft Office, Java and PDF viewers. Patch/mitigate computers with “extreme risk”1 vulnerabilities within 48 hours. Use the latest version of applications.

Configure Microsoft Office macro

Configure Microsoft Office macro settings to block macros from the Internet, and only allow vetted macros either in “trusted locations” with limited write access or digitally signed with a trusted certificate.

User application hardening

Configure web browsers to block Flash (ideally uninstall it), ads and Java on the Internet. Disable unneeded features in Microsoft Office (e.g. OLE), web browsers and PDF viewers.

Automated dynamic analysis

Automated dynamic analysis of email and web content run in a sandbox, blocked if suspicious behaviour is identified e.g. network traffic, new or modified files, or other system configuration changes.

Email content filtering

Whitelist allowed attachment types (including in archives and nested archives). Analyse/sanitise hyperlinks, PDF and Microsoft Office attachments. Quarantine Microsoft Office macros

Web content filtering

Whitelist allowed types of web content and websites with good reputation ratings. Block access to malicious domains and IP addresses, ads, anonymity networks and free domains.

Deny corporate computers direct Internet connectivity

Use a gateway firewall to require use of a split DNS server, an email server, and an authenticated web proxy server for outbound web connections

Operating system generic exploit mitigation

Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR) and Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

Server application hardening

Server application hardening especially Internet-accessible web applications (sanitise input and use TLS not SSL) and databases, as well as applications that access important (sensitive/high-availability) data.

Operating system hardening

Operating system hardening (including for network devices) based on a Standard Operating Environment, disabling unneeded functionality e.g. RDP, AutoRun, LanMan, SMB/NetBIOS, LLMNR and WPAD.

Antivirus software using heuristics and reputation ratings

Antivirus software using heuristics and reputation ratings to check a file’s prevalence and digital signature prior to execution. Use antivirus software from different vendors for gateways versus computers.

Control removable storage media and connected devices

Block unapproved CD/DVD/USB storage media. Block connectivity with unapproved smartphones, tablets and Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/3G/4G devices

Block spoofed emails

Use Sender Policy Framework (SPF) or Sender ID to check incoming emails. Use “hard fail” SPF TXT and DMARC DNS records to mitigate emails that spoof the organisation’s domain

User education

Avoid phishing emails (e.g. with links to login to fake websites), weak passphrases, passphrase reuse, as well as unapproved: removable storage media, connected devices and cloud services.

Antivirus software with up-to-date signatures

Antivirus software with up-to-date signatures to identify malware, from a vendor that rapidly adds signatures for new malware. Use antivirus software from different vendors for gateways versus computers

TLS encryption between email servers

TLS encryption between email servers to help prevent legitimate emails being intercepted and subsequently leveraged for social engineering. Perform content scanning after email traffic is decrypted.

Restrict administrative privileges

Restrict administrative privileges to operating systems and applications based on user duties. Regularly revalidate the need for privileges. Don’t use privileged accounts for reading email and web browsing.

Patch operating systems

Patch/mitigate computers (including network devices) with “extreme risk”1 vulnerabilities within 48 hours. Use the latest operating system version. Don’t use unsupported versions

Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication including for VPNs, RDP, SSH and other remote access, and for all users when they perform a privileged action or access an important (sensitive/high-availability) data repository.

Disable local administrator accounts

Disable local administrator accounts or assign passphrases that are random and unique for each computer’s local administrator account to prevent propagation using shared local administrator credentials.

Network segmentation

Network segmentation. Deny traffic between computers unless required. Constrain devices with low assurance e.g. BYOD and IoT. Restrict access to network drives and data repositories based on user duties.

Protect authentication credentials

Remove CPassword values (MS14-025). Configure WDigest (KB2871997). Use Credential Guard. Change default passphrases. Require long complex passphrases.

Non-persistent virtualised sandboxed environment

Non-persistent virtualised sandboxed environment, denying access to important (sensitive/high-availability) data, for risky activities e.g. web browsing, and viewing untrusted Microsoft Office and PDF files

Software-based application firewall

Software-based application firewall, blocking incoming network traffic that is malicious/unauthorised, and denying network traffic by default e.g. unneeded/unauthorised RDP and SMB/NetBIOS traffic.

Software-based application firewall, blocking outgoing network traffic

Software-based application firewall, blocking outgoing network traffic that is not generated by approved/trusted programs, and denying network traffic by default.

Outbound web and email data loss prevention

Block unapproved cloud computing services. Log recipient, size and frequency of outbound emails. Block and log emails with sensitive words or data patterns

Continuous incident detection and response

Continuous incident detection and response with automated immediate analysis of centralised time-synchronised logs of permitted and denied: computer events, authentication, file access, network activity.

Host-based intrusion detection/prevention system

Host-based intrusion detection/prevention system to identify anomalous behaviour during program execution e.g. process injection, keystroke logging, driver loading and persistence.

Endpoint detection and response software

Endpoint detection and response software on all computers to centrally log system behaviour and facilitate incident response. Microsoft’s free SysMon tool is an entry level option

Hunt to discover incidents

Hunt to discover incidents based on knowledge of adversary tradecraft. Leverage threat intelligence consisting of analysed threat data with context enabling mitigating action, not just indicators of compromise

Network-based intrusion detection/prevention system

Network-based intrusion detection/prevention system using signatures and heuristics to identify anomalous traffic both internally and crossing network perimeter boundaries

Capture network traffic

Capture network traffic to and from corporate computers storing important data or considered as critical assets, and network traffic traversing the network perimeter, to perform incident detection and analysis

Daily backups

Daily backups of important new/changed data, software and configuration settings, stored disconnected, retained for at least three months. Test restoration initially, annually and when IT infrastructure changes

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans which are tested, documented and printed in hardcopy with a softcopy stored offline. Focus on the highest priority systems and data to recover

System recovery capabilities

System recovery capabilities e.g. virtualisation with snapshot backups, remotely installing operating systems and applications on computers, approved enterprise mobility, and onsite vendor support contracts

Personnel management

Personnel management e.g. ongoing vetting especially for users with privileged access, immediately disable all accounts of departing users, and remind users of their security obligations and penalties.