Living Off the Land (LOTL) is an infiltration technique that enables hackers to conduct stealthy attacks undetected by security tools. Attackers can blend into their environment undetected by mimicking legitimate programs and processes.
LotL attacks differ from traditional malware because they use native tools on a victim's system rather than signature files to carry out an attack plan, remaining hidden for weeks or even months and providing access to data without detection.
What Are the LOTL Attacks?
Living Off the Land (LOTL) attacks are a popular form of malware that conceals itself behind legitimate tools to avoid detection. RaaS gangs increasingly employ these evasion techniques to gain entry into victims' networks and steal sensitive data.
LOTL attacks employ binaries, scripts, and tools native to an operating system and are difficult to detect as security tools cannot search for known malware files and scripts to spot an attack.
Asset Inventory can help prevent and detect attacks by showing what machines are active on your network. Once identified, team members can take appropriate measures to mitigate threats by taking steps such as updating software.
Another way to combat LOTL attacks is using an asset monitoring tool that automatically searches your organization's assets for changes in registry settings, which could indicate whether an attacker has established continued access. As these changes are difficult to spot with traditional rules alone, machine learning-based heuristics should also be utilized to detect this activity.
One of the hallmarks of LOTL attacks is their ability to remain undetected by IT security teams; hackers may evade detection for weeks or months without traditional surveillance equipment being activated.
How Does LOTL Work?
LOTL attacks are an innovative form of cyberattack that allow attackers to infiltrate a victim's network without being detected by security solutions, thus performing illicit activity while remaining hidden from detection and undetected by security solutions. These attacks allow hackers to bypass detection, steal information, install backdoors on vulnerable computers, and evade detection altogether.
Fileless attacks, in which executable files or malware do not remain behind after an attack, are difficult for cybersecurity tools that rely on specific malware scripts and files to detect.
Attackers utilizing LOTO leverage tools already present on a victim's system, such as PowerShell or Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), for successful attacks.
This method allows an attacker to gain entry to a network without raising any alarm bells, using other methods, such as phishing attacks. Furthermore, it enables them to avoid antivirus detections.
Although LOTL attacks may be hard to spot, they pose a real threat that should be mitigated with adequate security measures. Network security teams can implement several essential techniques and practices that will help safeguard their organization against this type of attack.
Legal tools used to attack systems are a growing cyber trend, and security professionals need to know how these attacks operate if they want their organization to remain safe. With more and more LOTL attacks appearing every year, security personnel must understand these attacks and how best to combat them to remain effective at keeping organizations secure.
Tools Used for LOTL Attacks
Living Off The Land (LotL) attacks are becoming an increasingly common way for attackers to bypass traditional security solutions and penetrate a system undetected. These attacks allow attackers to execute commands on an infected system without raising red flags or leaving any traces behind.
Threat actors will use legitimate tools already existing within an organization's digital environment to achieve their aim - tools like Powershell, RDP, and WMI commonly used for administrative duties.
Another popular strategy involves downloading tools not usually present on user machines - credential dumpers and other malicious software are examples of such items - to gain entry.
Network hygiene practices must be continuously reviewed at any company to ensure that threat actors are not exploiting system tools.
But detecting this activity can be challenging; many tools alter computer settings without being detectable by traditional endpoint detection and response (EDR) software.
Symantec's Self-Learning AI technology can assist defenders by recognizing patterns of activity unique to each device and user - helping defenders detect Living Off the Land attacks quickly in real-time while also helping identify any threats behind them.
Preventing & Detecting LOTL Attacks
Living off the Land (LOTL) attacks are an emerging cyber attack strategy, using legitimate software and functions to conduct malicious activities invisibly. They've proven particularly popular among nation-state attackers as well as cybercriminals.
To protect against LOTL attacks, organizations must understand what they are and how to recognize them. First and foremost, organizations should implement several security measures, including two-factor authentication and credential authorization for access control of critical systems and network firewalls that monitor traffic for alerts if someone attempts to modify the root kernel or access sensitive information on the network.
Additionally, they should review user logs to identify any unusual activities that might indicate an attack and use threat intelligence feeds to stay current on new attack techniques, indicators of compromise, and relevant threat data.
At its core, the best way to detect and prevent LOTL attacks is by implementing an approach combining monitoring tools with advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. This enables timely detection of deviations from normal behavior that might indicate an ongoing attack; furthermore, rapid response capabilities provide swift mitigation should an attacker succeed in attacking.
Symantec provides various protection features to combat LOTL attacks, from memory exploit mitigation and behavior-based detection engines that block dual-use tools and remote code execution vulnerabilities proactively to its Targeted Attack Analytics service that leverages threat intelligence feeds to detect abnormal behaviors associated with LOTL attacks.
What to Do if You're a Victim of a LOTL Attack?
If you find yourself the victim of a LOTL attack, you must know how to protect yourself. If you suspect being compromised, disconnect your device from the internet and isolate it from other devices before reporting the event to the IT department.
A malware detection software designed to spot LOTL attacks is the best way to detect them. These tools can identify suspicious activity across various sources like processes, file systems, registry, and network activity.
Malwarebytes Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) can help detect suspicious activity that could indicate a Loss-Of-Trust (LOTL) attack. EDR uses a heuristic algorithm to analyze network and system behavior in search of anomalies or patterns which might signal that an attacker is employing legitimate tools in an attack against you.
As part of your ongoing security plan, it is also wise to use secure software and operating systems on all your up-to-date devices. This can help defend against LotL attacks by eliminating backdoors hidden within native programs or installed as part of the OS.
Finally, it is wise to perform regular backups of your data. A solid backup strategy can help restore files after an attack and get your business up and running again quickly. Furthermore, regular backups allow you to identify when infection occurred and whether any unauthorized entry points remain active within your environment.
Recovering from Living off the Land Attacks
Living Off The Land (LOTL) attacks take advantage of tools already on a target system rather than installing their custom software and malware to circumvent antivirus detection while concealing their presence among regular administrative duties.
Contrary to traditional malware that relies on signature files for identification and execution, LOTL attacks do not use signature files - instead, utilizing native, legitimate tools on the victim's system to sustain and advance an attack plan.
Attackers frequently employ PowerShell, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), and Mimikatz to steal credentials, disable security instruments, bypass antivirus protection, and steal files.
These attacks can also traverse networks, providing access to other computers and systems. Unfortunately, such attacks often go undetected for weeks or even months before being discovered, giving an attacker no time to respond effectively.
To protect and recover from Living Off the Land attacks, creating a comprehensive Asset Inventory is essential. This will enable you to quickly identify what machines are running on your network while ensuring no hidden systems operate behind the scenes.
Symantec Endpoint Protection also makes it easy to search, identify and contain endpoints with integrated EDR capabilities compromised using its Search and Isolate feature, helping quickly resolve breaches by taking control of impacted endpoints. This reduces the time it takes to investigate an incident so you can focus on preventing further compromises.
LOTL attacks refer to the technique used by threat actors to leverage legitimate system tools and processes already present in an environment to carry out malicious activities, making detection more challenging.
LOTL attacks blend with normal system behavior, using native tools that are already authorized, making it harder for security solutions to differentiate between malicious and legitimate activities.
Common LOTL techniques include using PowerShell to execute malicious scripts, abusing WMI for lateral movement, utilizing macros in documents for malware delivery, or leveraging legitimate administrative tools for data exfiltration.