Prioritize mitigating threats to data


Cybersecurity weaknesses identified in your organization are mapped to actionable security recommendations and prioritized by their impact. Prioritized recommendations help shorten the time to mitigate or remediate vulnerabilities and drive compliance.

Most attacks follow a common process referred to within the security industry as the "Kill Chain." An attack follows a basic pattern and proceeds from one step to the next to achieve the wanted outcomes. This step-wise process can be defended against by implementing security measures on choke points in the chain. Since any step can be bypassed through various exploitation techniques, the best strategies apply defenses at every step along the chain.

Diagram that depicts the Cyber Kill Chain and its step-wise pattern.

How much control do companies have?

Diagram that shows the degree of control that companies have over their infrastructure.

In an on-premises environment, you have firewalls, email gateways, and proxies that can conduct a content inspection. That protection boundary has now expanded to include mobile devices, tablets, and cloud assets. Often the devices that have access to a company's data are either lightly managed or not managed at all. Some companies may use Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions to help enforce some level of security, such as encrypting the device or configuring it for remote wipe in the event the device gets stolen. However, they still don't have any control when data on those devices moves outside their controlled environment.

In today's cloud-centric world, organizations are faced with the unregulated (such as files on cloud storage services) and the unknown (such as advanced threats targeting users' email). This situation is more difficult to protect because data is now stored everywhere - it's on-premises, on PCs, on phones, and in the cloud.

Security recommendations to mitigate threats to data

Product/Service Article
Machine Trust Boundary Ensure that binaries are obfuscated if they contain sensitive information
Consider using an Encrypted File System (EFS) to protect confidential user-specific data
Ensure that sensitive data stored by the application on the file system is encrypted
Web Application Ensure that sensitive content isn't cached on the browser
Encrypt sections of Web App's configuration files that contain sensitive data
Explicitly disable the autocomplete HTML attribute in sensitive forms and inputs
Ensure that sensitive data displayed on the user screen is masked
Database Implement dynamic data masking to limit sensitive data exposure non privileged users
Ensure that passwords are stored in salted hash format
Ensure that sensitive data in database columns are encrypted
Ensure that database-level encryption (TDE) is enabled
Ensure that database backups are encrypted
Web API Ensure that sensitive data relevant to Web API isn't stored in the browser's storage
Azure Document DB Encrypt sensitive data stored in Azure Cosmos DB
Azure IaaS VM Trust Boundary Use Azure Disk Encryption to encrypt disks used by Virtual Machines
Service Fabric Trust Boundary Encrypt secrets in Service Fabric applications
Dynamics CRM Perform security modeling and use Business Units/Teams where required
Minimize access to share feature on critical entities
Train users on the risks associated with the Dynamics CRM Share feature and good security practices
Include a development standards rule proscribing showing config details in exception management
Azure Storage Use Azure Storage Service Encryption (SSE) for Data at Rest (Preview)
Use Client-Side Encryption to store sensitive data in Azure Storage
Mobile Client Encrypt sensitive or personally-identifiable information (PII) data written to phones' local storage
Obfuscate generated binaries before distributing to end users
WCF Set clientCredentialType to Certificate or Windows
WCF-Security Mode isn't enabled

Ransomware Protection

Mitigating ransomware and extortion attacks is an urgent priority for organizations because of the high impact of these attacks and high likelihood an organization will experience one.

Ransomware is a type of extortion attack that encrypts files and folders, preventing access to important data. Criminals use ransomware to extort money from victims by demanding money, usually in form of cryptocurrency, in exchange for a decryption key. Criminals also often use ransomware to extort money from victims in exchange for not releasing sensitive data to the dark web or the public internet.

These attacks can be catastrophic to business operations and are difficult to clean up, requiring complete adversary eviction to protect against future attacks. Unlike early forms of ransomware that only required malware remediation, human-operated ransomware can continue to threaten your business operations after the initial encounter.

Prevent and Recover from Ransomware

Phase 1. Prepare your recovery plan

This phase is designed to minimize the monetary incentive from ransomware attackers by making it:

  • Much harder to access and disrupt systems or encrypt or damage key organization data.

  • Easier for your organization to recover from an attack without paying the ransom.

Phase 2. Limit the scope of damage

Make the attackers work a lot harder to gain access to multiple business critical systems through privileged access roles. Limiting the attacker's ability to get privileged access makes it much harder to profit off of an attack on your organization, making it more likely they will give up and go elsewhere.

Phase 3. Make it harder to get in

This last set of tasks is important to raise friction for entry but will take time to complete as part of a larger security journey. The goal of this phase is for attackers to have to work a lot harder to obtain access to your on-premises or cloud infrastructures at the various common points of entry. There are a lot of these tasks, so it's important to prioritize your work here based on how fast you can accomplish these with your current resources.

For a comprehensive view of ransomware and extortion and how to protect your organization, use the information in the Human-Operated Ransomware Mitigation Project Plan PowerPoint presentation.

Here's a summary of the guidance:

Diagram that shows the summary of the guidance in the Human-Operated Ransomware Mitigation Project Plan.

  • The stakes of ransomware and extortion-based attacks are high.
  • However, the attacks have weaknesses that can mitigate your likelihood of being attacked.
  • There are three phases to configure your infrastructure to exploit attack weaknesses.

For additional information on Mitigating Threats to Data, see thefollowing: