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Automating incident response lets IDT take battle to the enemy

Maria Korolov | May 6, 2015
Two years ago, attackers had Newark-based telecom and payments provider IDT Corp. pinned down.

Two years ago, attackers had Newark-based telecom and payments provider IDT Corp. pinned down.

Security staffers had their hands full dealing with a constant inflow of attacks against the company's infrastructure.

Sorting out real attacks from false positives, cleaning up malware, and ensuring that infections didn't spread could take hours — or longer — for a single incident. Meanwhile, every additional minute that an infected machine stayed on the network was that much more opportunity for the attackers to bury themselves deep or to make lateral jumps to other machines.

By automating the incident response process, IDT was able to reduce the time before the infection was quarantined, shorten the remediation cycle, reduce investigation time, and free up security staff to go after the bad guys themselves.

Quicker quarantine

At the end of 2013, it took about 30 minutes to isolate an infected device and remove it from the company's network, said Golan Ben-Oni, IDT's CSO and senior vice president of network architecture.

"Because of the danger of what happens when a compromised asset sits on the network, we wanted that time to be reduced from about 30 minutes to just seconds," he said.

To do this, the company used the application programming interfaces from Palo Alto Networks, its firewall vendor, and Splunk, its big data analytics platform.

Previously, a WildFire alert would be sent to the company's security information and event management system, at which point a security professional would manually isolate the suspicious host and start looking for the downloaded malware file.

Now, the WildFire alert is delivered to Splunk in about one second. Within seven seconds, Palo Alto isolates the device, the user gets an alert that their machine is being investigated, and the WildFire alert is sent on for analysis.

"We might get an alert from a user analytics platform that a user ID was being used improperly, or that malware was detected on an end user device," said Ben-Oni.

Ready remediation

Then the company turned to the remediation process which previously took more than eight hours of manual labor.

Those alerts that scored high and were most likely to be real and not false positive are now handled automatically.

"We locate all the newly downloaded files and initiate forensics on memory and disk to try to identify more information about the event," he said. "Once we've collected all this, we'll go ahead and image that system to our forensic capture platform, and re-image it, bringing that system to a golden image."

It takes about five minutes to collect the initial round of data, he said, then another 30 minutes to collect all the disk information for deeper forensic analysis.


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