Surprising Application-Threat Analysis from Palo Alto Networks

This past week, Palo Alto Networks released its H2/2012 Application Usage and Threat Report. Actually, it’s the first time Palo Alto has integrated Application Usage and Threat Analysis. Previous reports were focused only on Application Risk. This report analyzed 12.6 petabytes of data from 3,056 networks, covering 1,395 applications. 5,307 unique threats were identified from 268 million threat logs.

Here are the four most interesting items I noted:

1. Of the 1,395 applications found, 10 were responsible for 97% of all Exploit* logs. One of these was web-browsing. This is to be expected. However, the other nine were internal applications representing 82% of the Exploit* logs!!

This proves once again that perimeter traffic security monitoring is not adequate. Internal network segmentation and threat monitoring are required.

2. Custom or Unknown UDP traffic represented only 2% of all the bandwidth analyzed, yet it accounted for 55% of the Malware* logs!!

This clearly shows the importance of minimizing unidentified application traffic. Therefore the ratio of unidentified to identified traffic is a key security performance indicator and ought to trend down over time.

3. DNS traffic total bytes was only 0.4% of traffic but 25.4% of sessions, and was 3rd for Malware* logs at 13%.

No doubt most, if not all, of this represents malicious Command & Control traffic. If you are not actively monitoring and analyzing DNS traffic, you are missing a key method of detecting compromised devices in your network.

4. 85 of the 356 applications that use SSL never use port 443.

If your firewall is not monitoring all ports for all applications all of the time, you are simply not getting complete visibility and cannot re-establish a Positive Control Model.

*If you are not familiar with Palo Alto Networks’ Threat Protection function, “Exploit” and “Malware” are the two main categories of “Threat” logs. There is a table at the top of page 4 of this AUT report that summarizes the categories and sub-categories of the 268 million Threat Logs captured and analyzed. The “Exploit” logs refer to matches against vulnerability signatures which are typical of Intrusion Prevention Systems. The “Malware” logs are for Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware signature matches.

What is not covered in this report is Palo Alto’s cloud-based, Wildfire zero-day analysis service which analyzes files not seen before to determine if they benign or malicious. If malicious behavior is found, signatures of the appropriate types are generated in less than one hour and update Threat Protection. In addition, the appropriate IP addresses and URLs are added to their respective blacklists.

This report is well worth reading.




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Specialists in information security. Helping organizations secure their networks and mitigate the risks of modern threats.

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