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Hilton Hotels made headlines last week when it confirmed it was the victim of a security breach, which compromised the credit card information of potentially millions of customers who visited Hilton’s more than 4,500 hotels around the world.
Concerned about the breadth of this breach, Hilton advised visitors to contact their credit card companies to assess whether or not they had been affected. While Hilton “took action to eradicate unauthorized malware” and “further strengthened” its systems, the reality is they simply do not know the full extent of the damage or the impact from this breach.
Hilton cannot say for certain who was impacted, when the breach occurred, what time period they were exposed, or the geographic reach of the attack because they do not have the capability to go back through their network traffic and pinpoint the moment they were compromised, and then trace the sinister activity through their systems until the moment it was exposed.
Hilton is not alone in being unable to look back in time and evaluate suspicious activity on its network. Until recently, the best cybersecurity protection only monitors network traffic in real-time, evaluating and mitigating threats by taking them offline for assessment all within seconds. The challenge is that while real-time monitoring is necessary and effective, without being able to evaluate historical data, you may not know you were compromised six months ago or three years before you established a robust cybersecurity posture.
Visitors who stayed at Hilton properties ahead of the announced breach can call their credit card agency and look back at their charges for the past month, four months or even longer to assess whether or not they have questionable charges on their account. As consumers, we would find it absurd to learn our credit card was compromised and yet have no data to review before we were notified to assess the damage. But that is what is happening in businesses everyday when companies cannot use historical data to assess security breaches.
It’s unlikely Hilton stores all of its network traffic, so in a case like this, a company is left with no choice but to fix the issue going forward, based on the information it has today, and ask its customers to rely on their credit card companies to protect them. But, without knowing the full scale of the security impact from this incident, Hilton and its customers are left wondering what other damage these cybercriminals have caused.
The lack of full resolution historical data poses a significant challenge to Incident Response (IR) investigators. Having nothing other than vague log and event data limits an investigators ability to unravel the breach. This is why eSentire has always utilized full packet capture in its Active Threat Protection service. This capability allows SOC Security Analysts to investigate potential threats using the recorded network traffic like a PVR to review the steps leading up to a potential breach.
eSentire has taken this rich forensic capability a massive step further by developing a new service called Targeted Retrospection Analysis Platform (TRAP) to operationalize the analysis of historical network traffic in search of new and previously unseen attacks.
Utilizing Active Threat Protection and TRAP can dramatically change the outcome for companies in Hilton’s position. The ability to detect new threats using the rich forensic capabilities available to eSentire’s SOC Analysts prevents “micro-breaches” from becoming large, business disrupting ones. And TRAP provides assurance that unknown attacks that occurred months ago are identified and managed when they become known in the future.
This ability to conduct forensic analysis marks a shift in cybersecurity sophistication and defines a new standard of certainty for businesses, particularly those with high value data of any kind. With this ability to ‘go back in time’, businesses can re-secure with confidence following a breach because the information and the solution are absolute.
Mark is a cybersecurity evangelist who has spent significant time researching and speaking to peripheral factors influencing the way that legal firms integrate cybersecurity into their day-to-day operations.