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Trend Micro Targets Advanced Persistent Threat C&C Communication With 'Custom Defense' Approach

Trend Micro has enhanced its ability to identify and block command and control (C&C) communications used by advanced persistent threats (APTs) targeting enterprises.

According data released by TrendLabs, the company's research arm, more than 1,500 active C&C sites were found, with the number of victims per site ranging from one to more 25,000. More than two-thirds of these sites had three or fewer active victims, and more than 25 percent of the sites had a lifespan of one day or less. More than half were gone after four days.

The challenge of detecting C&C communications of APTs is different than detecting C&C communications of botnets, said Kevin Faulkner, senior enterprise product marketing manager at Trend Micro. For one, APT C&C traffic is low-volume and intermittent, and attackers often use evasive methods such as masking traffic through redirections and establishing C&C servers inside the compromised network.  

The good news however is that organizations can still identify and analyze the communication according to activity patterns, he said.

"Once you've seen that pattern in a targeted attack," he explained, "if you've got the right kind of technology you can look for that pattern – 'oh, it's 25 bytes followed by six bytes followed by a series of four-byte exchanges'… and you can look for that."

Trend Micro's answer to this challenge is its new Custom Defense approach, which combines global threat intelligence and technology to identify threats. Using its Smart Protection Network, Trend Micro seeks to automatically identify active C&C sites worldwide based on daily processing of 12 Billion IP/URL inquires and the correlation of over six terabytes of data. Using correlation engines, the company focuses on keeping up with constantly changing C&C addresses. The C&C detection is identified on a centralized console, and security efforts are aided by Threat Connect intelligence on the severity, activity, origins and related addresses of the C&C site.

In addition, Trend Micro Deep Discovery uses "fingerprint" detection of cloaked C&C traffic can identify attackers’ use of legitimate applications and websites, as well as other advanced techniques such as the use of internal C&C servers. Deep Discovery also utilizes custom sandbox analysis to discover new C&C destinations of zero-day malware attacks and update the Smart Protection Network and all customer security protection points, the company said.

"We really believe that not only the detection needs to get better, but also this kind of alerting for the customer so that they can react properly," Faulkner said.

Several Trend Micro products – including DeepDiscovery and InterScan Mail Security will include the new Custom Defense C&C functions, with Beta versions available in February 2013 and individual product general availability dates throughout the first half of 2013.

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