Integration in Focus: Bringing Machine Learning to Third-Party EDR Alerts
This blog demonstrates how we use EDR integration in Darktrace for detection & investigation. We’ll look at four key features, which are summarised with an example below:
1) Contextualizing existing Darktrace information – E.g. ‘There was a Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (MDE) alert 5 minutes after Darktrace saw the device beacon to an unusual destination on the internet. Let me pivot back into the Defender UI’
2) Cross-data detection engineering – ‘Darktrace, create an alert or trigger a response if you see a specific MDE alert and a native Darktrace detection on the same entity over a period of time’
3) Applying unsupervised machine learning to third-party EDR alerts – ‘Darktrace, create an alert or trigger a response if there is a specific MDE alert that is unusual for the entity, given the context’
4) Use third-party EDR alerts to trigger AI Analyst – ‘AI Analyst, this low-fidelity MDE alert flagged something on the endpoint. Please take a deep look at that device at the time of the Defender alert, conduct an investigation on Darktrace data and share your conclusions about whether there is more to it or not’
MDE is used as an example above, but Darktrace’s EDR integration capabilities extend beyond MDE to other EDRs as well, for example to Sentinel One and CrowdStrike EDR.
Darktrace brings its Self-Learning AI to your data, no matter where it resides. The data can be anywhere – in email environments, cloud, SaaS, OT, endpoints, or the network, for example. Usually, we want to get as close to the raw data as possible to get the maximum context for our machine learning.
We will explain how we leverage high-value integrations from our technology partners to bring further context to Darktrace, but also how we apply our Self-Learning AI to third-party data. While there are a broad range of integrations and capabilities available, we will primarily look at Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, CrowdStrike, and SentinelOne and focus on detection in this blog post.
The Nuts and Bolts – Setting up the Integration
Darktrace is an open platform – almost everything it does is API-driven. Our system and machine learning are flexible enough to ingest new types of data & combine it with already existing information.
The EDR integrations mentioned here are part of our 1-click integrations. All it requires is the right level of API access from the EDR solutions and the ability for Darktrace to communicate with the EDR’s API. This type of integration can be setup within minutes – it currently doesn’t require additional Darktrace licenses.
Figure 1: Set-up of Darktrace Graph Security API integration
As soon as the setup is complete, it enables various additional capabilities.
Let’s look at some of the key detection & investigation-focussed capabilities step-by-step.
Contextualizing Existing Darktrace Information
The most basic, but still highly-useful integration is enriching existing Darktrace information with EDR alerts. Darktrace shows a chronological history of associated telemetry and machine learning for each entity observed in the entities event log.
With an EDR integration enabled, we now start to see EDR alerts for the respective entities turn up in the entity’s event log at the correct point in time – with a ton of context and a 1-click pivot back to the native EDR console:
Figure 2: A pivot from the Darktrace Threat Visualizer to Microsoft Defender
This context is extremely useful to have in a single screen during investigations. Context is king – it reduces time-to-meaning and skill required to understand alerts.
Cross-Data Detection Engineering
When an EDR integration is activated, Darktrace enables an additional set of detections that leverage the new EDR alerts. This comes out of the box and doesn’t require any further detection engineering. It is worth mentioning though that the new EDR information is being made available in the background for bespoke detection engineering, if advanced users want to leverage these as custom metrics.
The trick here is that the added context provided by the additional EDR alerts allows for more refined detections – primarily to detect malicious activity with higher confidence. A network detection showing us beaconing over an unusual protocol or port combination to a rare destination on the internet is great – but seeing within Darktrace that CrowdStrike detected a potentially hostile file or process three minutes prior to the beaconing detection on the same device will greatly help to prioritize the detections and aid a subsequent investigation.
Here is an example of what this looks like in Darktrace:
Figure 3: A combined model breach in the Threat Visualizer
Applying Unsupervised Machine Learning to Third-Party EDR Alerts
Once we start seeing EDR alerts in Darktrace, we can start treating it like any other data – by applying unsupervised machine learning to it. This means we can then understand how unusual a given EDR detection is for each device in question. This is extremely powerful – it allows to reduce noisy alerts without requiring ongoing EDR alert tuning and opens a whole world of new detection capabilities.
As an example – let’s imagine a low-level malware alert keeps appearing from the EDR on a specific device. This might be a false-positive in the EDR, or just not of interest for the security team, but they may not have the resources or knowledge to further tune their EDR and get rid of this noisy alert.
While Darktrace keeps adding this as contextual information in the device’s event log, it could, depending on the context of the device, the EDR alert, and the overall environment, stop alerting on this particular EDR malware alert on this specific device if it stops being unusual. Over time, noise is reduced across the environment – but if that particular EDR alert appears on another device, or on the same device in a different context, it might get flagged again, as it now is unusual in the given context.
Darktrace then goes a step further, taking those unusual EDR alerts and combining them with unusual activity seen in other Darktrace coverage areas, like the network for example. Combining an unusual EDR alert with an unusual lateral movement attempt, for example, allows it to find these combined, high-precision, cross-data set anomalous events that are highly indicative of an active cyber-attack – without having to pre-define the exact nature of what ‘unusual’ looks like.
Figure 4: Combined EDR & network detection using unsupervised machine learning in Darktrace
Use Third-Party EDR Alerts to Trigger AI Analyst
Everything we discussed so far is great for improving precision in initial detections, adding context, and cutting through alert-noise. We don’t stop there though – we can also now use the third-party EDR alerts to trigger our investigation engine, the AI Analyst.
Cyber AI Analyst replicates and automates typical level 1 and level 2 Security Operations Centre (SOC) workflows. It is usually triggered by every native Darktrace detection. This is not a SOAR where playbooks are statically defined – AI Analyst builds hypotheses, gathers data, evaluates the data & reports on its findings based on the context of each individual scenario & investigation.
Darktrace can use EDR alerts as starting points for its investigation, with every EDR alert ingested now triggering AI Analyst. This is similar to giving a (low-level) EDR alert to a human analyst and telling them: ‘Go and take a look at information in Darktrace and try to conclude whether there is more to this EDR alert or not.’
The AI Analyst subsequently looks at the entity which had triggered the EDR alert and investigates all available Darktrace data on that entity, over a period of time, in light of that EDR alert. It does not pivot outside Darktrace itself for that investigation (e.g. back into the Microsoft console) but looks at all of the context natively available in Darktrace. If concludes that there is more to this EDR alert – e.g. a bigger incident – it will report on that and clearly flag it. The report can of course be directly downloaded as a PDF to be shared with other stakeholders.
This comes in handy for a variety of reasons – primarily to further automate security operations and alleviate pressure from human teams. AI Analyst’s investigative capabilities sit on top of everything we discussed so far (combining EDR detections with detections from other coverage areas, applying unsupervised machine learning to EDR detections, …).
However, it can also come in handy to follow up on low-severity EDR alerts for which you might not have the human resources to do so.
The below screenshot shows an example of a concluded AI Analyst investigation that was triggered by an EDR alert:
Figure 5: An AI Analyst incident trained on third-party data
The Impact of EDR Integrations
The purpose behind all of this is to augment human teams, save them time and drive further security automation.
By ingesting third-party endpoint alerts, combining it with our existing intelligence and applying unsupervised machine learning to it, we achieve that further security automation.
Analysts don’t have to switch between consoles for investigations. They can leverage our high-fidelity detections that look for unusual endpoint alerts, in combination with our already powerful detections across cloud and email systems, zero trust architecture, IT and OT networks, and more.
In our experience, this pinpoints the needle in the haystack – it cuts through noise and reduces the mean-time-to-detect and mean-time-to-investigate drastically.
All of this is done out of the box in Darktrace once the endpoint integrations are enabled. It does not need a data scientist to make the machine learning work. Nor does it need a detection engineer or threat hunter to create bespoke, meaningful detections. We want to reduce the barrier to entry for using detection and investigation solutions – in terms of skill and experience required. The system is still flexible, transparent, and open, meaning that advanced users can create their own combined detections, leveraging unsupervised machine learning across different data sets with a few clicks.
There are of course more endpoint integration capabilities available than what we covered here, and we will explore these in future blog posts.
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Inside the SOC
How Abuse of ‘PerfectData Software’ May Create a Perfect Storm: An Emerging Trend in Account Takeovers
Amidst the ever-changing threat landscape, new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) seem to emerge daily, creating extreme challenges for security teams. The broad range of attack methods utilized by attackers seems to present an insurmountable problem: how do you defend against a playbook that does not yet exist?
Faced with the growing number of novel and uncommon attack methods, it is essential for organizations to adopt a security solution able to detect threats based on their anomalies, rather than relying on threat intelligence alone.
In March 2023, Darktrace observed an emerging trend in the use of an application known as ‘PerfectData Software’ for probable malicious purposes in several Microsoft 365 account takeovers.
Using its anomaly-based detection, Darktrace DETECT™ was able to identify the activity chain surrounding the use of this application, potentially uncovering a novel piece of threat actor tradecraft in the process.
Microsoft 365 Intrusions
In recent years, Microsoft’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite, Microsoft 365, along with its built-in identity and access management (IAM) service, Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), have been heavily targeted by threat actors due to their near-ubiquitous usage across industries. Four out of every five Fortune 500 companies, for example, use Microsoft 365 services .
Malicious actors typically gain entry to organizations’ Microsoft 365 environments by abusing either stolen account credentials or stolen session cookies . Once inside, actors can access sensitive data within mailboxes or SharePoint repositories, and send out emails or Teams messages. This activity can often result in serious financial harm, especially in cases where the malicious actor’s end-goal is to elicit fraudulent transactions.
Darktrace regularly observes malicious actors behaving in predictable ways once they gain access to customer Microsoft 365 environment. One typical example is the creation of new inbox rules and sending deceitful emails intended to convince recipients to carry out subsequent actions, such as following a malicious link or providing sensitive information. It is also common for actors to register new applications in Azure AD so that they can be used to conduct follow-up activities, like mass-mailing or data theft. The registration of applications in Azure AD therefore seems to be a relatively predictable threat actor behavior . Darktrace DETECT understands that unusual application registrations in Azure AD may constitute a deviation in expected behavior, and therefore a possible indicator of account compromise.
These registrations of applications in Azure AD are evidenced by creations of, as well as assignments of permissions to, Service Principals in Azure AD. Darktrace has detected a growing trend in actors creating and assigning permissions to a Service Principal named ‘PerfectData Software’. Further investigation of this Azure AD activity revealed it to be part of an ongoing account takeover.
‘PerfectData Software’ Activity
Darktrace observed variations of the following pattern of activity relating to an application named ‘PerfectData Software’ within its customer base:
- Actor signs in to a Microsoft 365 account from an endpoint associated with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Virtual Private Network (VPN) service
- Actor registers an application called 'PerfectData Software' with Azure AD, and then grants permissions to the application
- Actor accesses mailbox data and creates inbox rule
In two separate incidents, malicious actors were observed conducting their activities from endpoints associated with VPN services (HideMyAss (HMA) VPN and Surfshark VPN, respectively) and from endpoints within the Autonomous System AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01.
In March 2023, Darktrace observed a malicious actor signing in to a Microsoft 365 account from a Kuwait-based IP address within the Autonomous System, AS198605 AVAST Software s.r.o. This IP address is associated with the VPN service, HMA VPN. Over the next couple of days, an actor (likely the same malicious actor) signed in to the account several more times from two different Nigeria-based endpoints, as well as a VPS-related endpoint and a HMA VPN endpoint.
During their login sessions, the actor performed a variety of actions. First, they created and assigned permissions to a Service Principal named ‘PerfectData Software’. This Service Principal creation represents the registration of an application called ‘PerfectData Software’ in Azure AD. Although the reason for registering this application is unclear, within a few days the actor registered and granted permission to another application, ‘Newsletter Software Supermailer’, and created a new inbox rule names ‘s’ on the mailbox of the hijacked account. This inbox rule moved emails meeting certain conditions to a folder named ‘RSS Subscription. The ‘Newsletter Software Supermailer’ application was likely registered by the actor to facilitate mass-mailing activity.
Immediately after these actions, Darktrace detected the actor sending out thousands of malicious emails from the account. The emails included an attachment named ‘Credit Transfer Copy.html’, which contained a suspicious link. Further investigation revealed that the customer’s network had received several fake invoice emails prior to this initial intrusion activity. Additionally, there was an unusually high volume of failed logins to the compromised account around the time of the initial access.
In a separate case also observed by Darktrace in March 2023, a malicious actor was observed signing in to a Microsoft 365 account from an endpoint within the Autonomous System, AS397086 LAYER-HOST-HOUSTON. The endpoint appears to be related to the VPN service, Surfshark VPN. This login was followed by several failed and successful logins from a VPS-related within the Autonomous System, AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01. The actor was then seen registering and assigning permissions to an application called ‘PerfectData Software’. As with the previous example, the motives for this registration are unclear. The actor proceeded to log in several more times from a Surfshark VPN endpoint, however, they were not observed carrying out any further suspicious activity.
It was not clear in either of these examples, nor in fact any of cases observed by Darktrace, why actors had registered and assigned permissions to an application called ‘PerfectData Software’, and there do not appear to be any open-source intelligence (OSINT) resources or online literature related to the malicious usage of an application by that name. That said, there are several websites which appear to provide email migration and data recovery/backup tools under the moniker ‘PerfectData Software’.
It is unclear whether the use of ‘PerfectData Software’ by malicious actors observed on the networks of Darktrace customers was one of these tools. However, given the nature of the tools, it is possible that the actors intended to use them to facilitate the exfiltration of email data from compromises mailboxes.
If the legitimate software ‘PerfectData’ is the application in question in these incidents, it is likely being purchased and misused by attackers for malicious purposes. It is also possible the application referenced in the incidents is a spoof of the legitimate ‘PerfectData’ software designed to masquerade a malicious application as legitimate.
Cases of ‘PerfectData Software’ activity chains detected by Darktrace typically began with an actor signing into an internal user’s Microsoft 365 account from a VPN or VPS-related endpoint. These login events, along with the suspicious email and/or brute-force activity which preceded them, caused the following DETECT models to breach:
- SaaS / Access / Unusual External Source for SaaS Credential Use
- SaaS / Access / Suspicious Login Attempt
- SaaS / Compromise / Login From Rare Following Suspicious Login Attempt(s)
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Unusual Location for SaaS and Email Activity
Subsequent activities, including inbox rule creations, registration of applications in Azure AD, and mass-mailing activity, resulted in breaches of the following DETECT models.
- SaaS / Admin / OAuth Permission Grant
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Logic Following OAuth Grant
- SaaS / Admin / New Application Service Principal
- IaaS / Admin / Azure Application Administration Activities
- SaaS / Compliance / New Email Rule
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and New Email Rule
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Suspicious Internal Exchange Activity
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Possible Outbound Email Spam
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and Outbound Email Spam
- SaaS / Compromise / Suspicious Login and Suspicious Outbound Email(s)
In cases where Darktrace RESPOND™ was enabled in autonomous response mode, ‘PerfectData Software’ activity chains resulted in breaches of the following RESPOND models:
• Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block
• Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Significant Compliance Activity Block
In response to these model breaches, Darktrace RESPOND took immediate action, performing aggressive, inhibitive actions, such as forcing the actor to log out of the SaaS platform, and disabling the user entirely. When applied autonomously, these RESPOND actions would seriously impede an attacker’s progress and minimize network disruption.
In addition, Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst was able to autonomously investigate registrations of the ‘PerfectData Software’ application and summarized its findings into digestible reports.
Due to the widespread adoption of Microsoft 365 services in the workplace and continued emphasis on a remote workforce, account hijackings now pose a more serious threat to organizations around the world than ever before. The cases discussed here illustrate the tendency of malicious actors to conduct their activities from endpoints associated with VPN services, while also registering new applications, like PerfectData Software, with malicious intent.
While it was unclear exactly why the malicious actors were using ‘PerfectData Software’ as part of their account hijacking, it is clear that either the legitimate or spoofed version of the application is becoming an very likely emergent piece of threat actor tradecraft.
Darktrace DETECT’s anomaly-based approach to threat detection allowed it to recognize that the use of ‘PerfectData Software’ represented a deviation in the SaaS user’s expected behavior. While Darktrace RESPOND, when enabled in autonomous response mode, was able to quickly take preventative action against threat actors, blocking the potential use of the application for data exfiltration or other nefarious purposes.
MITRE ATT&CK Mapping
• T1598 – Phishing for Information
• T1110 – Brute Force
• T1078.004 – Valid Accounts: Cloud Accounts
Command and Control:
• T1105 – Ingress Tool Transfer
• T1098.003 – Account Manipulation: Additional Cloud Roles
• T1114 – Email Collection
• T1564.008 – Hide Artifacts: Email Hiding Rules
• T1534 – Internal Spearphishing
Unusual Source IPs
• 5.62.60[.]202 (AS198605 AVAST Software s.r.o.)
• 160.152.10[.]215 (AS37637 Smile-Nigeria-AS)
• 197.244.250[.]155 (AS37705 TOPNET)
• 169.159.92[.]36 (AS37122 SMILE)
• 45.62.170[.]237 (AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01)
• 92.38.180[.]49 (AS202422 G-Core Labs S.A)
• 129.56.36[.]26 (AS327952 AS-NATCOM)
• 92.38.180[.]47 (AS202422 G-Core Labs S.A.)
• 107.179.20[.]214 (AS397086 LAYER-HOST-HOUSTON)
• 45.62.170[.]31 (AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01)
Darktrace Integrates Self-Learning AI with Amazon Security Lake to Support Security Investigations
Darktrace has deepened its relationship with AWS by integrating its detection and response capabilities with Amazon Security Lake.
This development will allow mutual customers to seamlessly combine Darktrace AI’s bespoke understanding of their organization with the Threat Intelligence offered by other security tools, and investigate all of their alerts in one central location.
This integration will improve the value security teams get from both products, streamlining analyst workflows and improving their ability to detect and respond to the full spectrum of known and unknown cyber-threats.
How Darktrace and Amazon Security Lake augment security teams
Amazon Security Lake is a newly-released service that automatically centralizes an organization’s security data from cloud, on-premises, and custom sources into a customer owned purpose-built data lake. Both Darktrace and Amazon Security Lake support the Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework (OCSF), an open standard to simplify, combine, and analyze security logs.
Customers can store security logs, events, alerts, and other relevant data generated by various AWS services and security tools. By consolidating security data in a central lake, organizations can gain a holistic view of their security posture, perform advanced analytics, detect anomalies and open investigations to improve their security practices.
With Darktrace DETECT and RESPOND AI engines covering all assets across IT, OT, network, endpoint, IoT, email and cloud, organizations can augment the value of their security data lakes by feeding Darktrace’s rich and context-aware datapoints to Amazon Security Lake.
Amazon Security Lake empowers security teams to improve the protection of your digital estate:
- Quick and painless data normalization
- Fast-tracks ability to investigate, triage and respond to security events
- Broader visibility aids more effective decision-making
- Surfaces and prioritizes anomalies for further investigation
- Single interface for seamless data management
How will Darktrace customers benefit?
Across the Cyber AI Loop, all Darktrace solutions have been architected with AWS best practices in mind. With this integration, Darktrace is bringing together its understanding of ‘self’ for every organization with the centralized data visibility of the Amazon Security Lake. Darktrace’s unique approach to cyber security, powered by groundbreaking AI research, delivers a superior dataset based on a deep and interconnected understanding of the enterprise.
Where other cyber security solutions are trained to identify threats based on historical attack data and techniques, Darktrace DETECT gains a bespoke understanding of every digital environment, continuously analyzing users, assets, devices and the complex relationships between them. Our AI analyzes thousands of metrics to reveal subtle deviations that may signal an evolving issue – even unknown techniques and novel malware. It distinguishes between malicious and benign behavior, identifying harmful activity that typically goes unnoticed. This rich dataset is fed into RESPOND, which takes precise action to neutralize threats against any and every asset, no matter where data resides.
Both DETECT and RESPOND are supported by Darktrace Self-Learning AI, which provides full, real-time visibility into an organization’s systems and data. This always-on threat analysis already makes humans better at cyber security, improving decisions and outcomes based on total visibility of the digital ecosystem, supporting human performance with AI coverage and empowering security teams to proactively protect critical assets.
Converting Darktrace alerts to the Amazon Security Lake Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework (OCSF) supplies the Security Operations Center (SOC) and incident response team with contextualized data, empowering them to accelerate their investigation, triage and response to potential cyber threats.
Darktrace is available for purchase on the AWS Marketplace.
Learn more about how Darktrace provides full-coverage, AI-powered cloud security for AWS, or see how our customers use Darktrace in their AWS cloud environments.