How to Make Your Employees Your First Line of Cyber Defense

May 01, 2024
The Hacker News

There’s a natural human desire to avoid threatening scenarios. The irony, of course, is if you hope to attain any semblance of security, you’ve got to remain prepared to confront those very same threats.

As a decision-maker for your organization, you know this well. But no matter how many experts or trusted cybersecurity tools your organization has a standing guard, you’re only as secure as your weakest link. There’s still one group that can inadvertently open the gates to unwanted threat actors—your own people.

Security must be second nature for your first line of defense #

For your organization to thrive, you need capable employees. After all, they’re your source for great ideas, innovation, and ingenuity. However, they’re also human. And humans are fallible. Hackers understand no one is perfect, and that’s precisely what they seek to exploit.

This is why your people must become your first line of defense against cyber threats. But to do so, they need to learn how to defend themselves against the treachery of hackers. That’s where security awareness training (SAT) comes in.

What is Security Awareness Training (SAT)? #

The overall objective of an SAT program is to keep your employees and organization secure. The underlying benefit, however, is demonstrating compliance. While content may differ from program to program, most are generally similar, requiring your employees to watch scripted videos, study generic presentations, and take tests on cyber “hygiene.” At their core, SAT programs are designed to help you:

  • Educate your employees on recognizing cybersecurity risks such as phishing and ransomware
  • Minimize your organization’s exposure to cyber threats
  • Maintain regulatory compliance with cyber insurance stipulations

These are all worthwhile goals in helping your organization thrive amidst ever-evolving cyber threats. However, attaining these outcomes can feel like a pipe dream. That’s because of one unfortunate truth about most SAT programs: they don’t work.

Age-Old Challenges of Old-School SATs#

Traditional SAT programs have long been scrutinized for their inability to drive meaningful behavioral changes. In fact, 69% of employees admit to “intentionally bypassing” their enterprise’s cybersecurity guidance.

If you oversee cybersecurity for an organization, then you’re likely familiar with the pain that comes with implementing one, managing it, and encouraging its usage. Given their complexities, traditional SAT solutions practically force non-technical employees to become full-on technologists.

Challenges for AdministratorsChallenges for EmployeesChallenges for Your Organization
Complex, ongoing management is frustrating. Plus, through it all they just find poor results.They’re bored. Unengaging content is detrimental, as it doesn’t lead to knowledge retention. Boring, unengaging content doesn’t help with knowledge retention.Most SATs aren’t effective because they’re created by generalists, not real cybersecurity experts And many are designed with little reporting capabilities, leading to limited visibility into success rates

Because most SAT programs are complex to manage, they’re usually dismissed as a means to an end. Just check a box for compliance and move on. But when done right, SAT can be a potent tool to help your employees make more intelligent, more instinctive, security-conscious decisions.

Ask the Right Questions Before Choosing Your SAT Solution#

When it comes to choosing the right solution for your organization, there are some questions you should first ask yourself. By assessing the following, you’ll be better equipped to select the option that best fits your specific needs.

Learning-Based Questions

  • Are the topics covered in this SAT relevant to my organization’s security and compliance concerns?
  • Are episodes updated regularly to reflect current threats and scenarios?
  • Does this SAT engage users in a unique, meaningful manner?
  • Is this SAT built and supported by cybersecurity practitioners?
  • Is the teaching methodology proven to increase knowledge retention?

Management-Based Questions

  • Can someone outside of my organization manage the SAT for me?
  • Can it be deployed quickly?
  • Does it automatically enroll new users and automate management?
  • Is it smart enough to skip non-human identities so I don’t assign training to, say, our copy machine?
  • Is it simple and intuitive enough for anyone across my organization to use?

Your ideal SAT will allow you to answer a resounding “Yes” to all of the above.

Essential Features of an Effective SAT#

A SAT solution that’s easy to deploy, manage, and use can have a substantial positive impact. That’s because a solution that delivers “ease” has considered all of your organization’s cybersecurity needs in advance. In other words, an effective SAT does all the heavy lifting on your behalf, as it features:

Relevant topics
…based on real threats you might encounter.
What to look for:

To avoid canned, outdated training, choose a SAT solution that’s backed by experts. Cybersecurity practitioners should be the ones regularly creating and updating episodes based on the latest trends they see hackers leveraging in the wild. Additionally, every episode should cover a unique cybersecurity topic that reflects the most recent real-world tradecraft.
Full management by real experts
…so you don’t have to waste time creating, managing, and assigning training.
What to look for:

Ideally, you want a SAT solution that can manage all necessary tasks for you. Seek a SAT solution that’s backed by real cybersecurity experts who can create, curate, and deploy your learning programs and phishing scenarios on your behalf.
Memorable episodes
…with fun, story-driven lessons that are relatable and easy to comprehend.
What to look for:

Strive for a SAT solution that features character-based narratives. This indicates the SAT is carefully designed to engage learners of all attention spans. Remember, if the episodes are intentionally entertaining and whimsical, you’re more likely to find your employees conversing about inside jokes, recurring characters, and, of course, what they’ve learned. As a result, these ongoing discussions only serve to fortify your culture of security.
Continual enhancements …so episodes are updated regularly in response to real-world threats.
What to look for:
Seek out a SAT solution that provides monthly episodes, as this will keep your learners up to date. Regular encounters with simulated cybersecurity scenarios can help enhance their abilities to spot and defend against risks, such as phishing attempts. These simulations should also be dispersed at unpredictable time intervals (i.e. morning, night, weekends, early in the month, later in the month, etc.), keeping learners on their toes and allowing them to put their security knowledge into practice.
Minimal time commitment
…so you don’t have to invest countless hours managing it all.
What to look for:
For your learners, choose a SAT solution that doesn’t feel like an arduous chore. Look for solutions that specialize in engaging episodes that are designed to be completed in shorter periods of time.
For your own administrative needs, select a SAT that can sync regularly with your most popular platforms, such as Microsoft 365, Google, Okta, or Slack. It should also sync your employee directories with ease, so whenever you activate or deactivate users, it’ll automatically update the information. Finally, make sure it’s intelligent enough to decipher between human and non-human identities, so you’re only charged for accounts linked to real individuals.
Real results …through episodes that instill meaningful security-focused behaviors and habits.
What to look for:
An impactful SAT should deliver monthly training that’s rooted in science-backed teaching methodologies proven to help your employees internalize and retain lessons better. Your SAT should feature engaging videos, text, and short quizzes that showcase realistic cyber threats you and your employees are likely to encounter in the wild, such as:PhishingSocial engineeringPhysical device securityand more
Measurable data …with easy-to-read reports on usage and success rates.
What to look for:
An impactful SAT program should provide robust reporting. Comprehensible summaries should highlight those learners who haven’t taken their training or those whom a phishing simulation has compromised. Additionally, detailed reports should give you all the data you need to help prove business, insurance, and regulatory compliance.
Easy adoption
….that makes it easy to deploy and easy to scale with your organization.
What to look for:
Choose a SAT solution that’s specially built to accommodate organizations with limited time and resources. A solution that’s easy to implement can be deployed across your organization in a matter of minutes.
Compliance …with a range of standards and regulations
What to look for:
While compliance is the bare minimum of what a SAT should offer your organization, it shouldn’t be understated. Whether to meet insurance check boxes or critical industry regulations, every business has its own compliance demands. At the very least, your SAT solution should cover the requirements of:
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI)Service Organization Control Type 2 (SOC 2)EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The Threat Landscape is Changing. Your SAT Should Change With It. #

Cybercriminals think they’re smart, maliciously targeting individuals across organizations like yours. That’s why you need to ensure your employees are smarter. If they’re aware of the ever-changing tactics hackers employ, they can stand as your first line of defense. But first, you need to deploy a training solution you can trust, backed by real cybersecurity experts who understand emerging real-world threats.

Huntress Security Awareness Training is an easy, effective, and enjoyable solution that helps:

  • Minimize time-consuming maintenance and management tasks
  • Improve knowledge retention through neuroscience-based learning principles
  • Update you and your employees on the current threat landscape
  • Establish a culture that values cybersecurity
  • Inspire meaningful behavioral habits to improve security awareness
  • Engage you and your employees in a creative, impactful manner
  • Assure regulatory compliance
  • Keep cyber criminals out of your organization

Discover how a fully managed SAT can free up your time and resources, all while empowering your employees with smarter habits that better protect your organization from cyber threats.

Say goodbye to ineffective, outdated training. Say hello to Huntress SAT.

Start your free trial of Huntress SAT today.

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Empowering Cybersecurity with AI: The Future of Cisco XDR

May 7, 2024
Siddhant Dash

In 2007, there was a study from the University of Maryland proving that internet-connected systems were attacked every 39 seconds on average. Today, that number has grown more than 60%. Cisco sees 64 attempts to connect to ransomware infrastructure every second. The world is becoming digitized, and hybrid, which creates an environment that criminals target with increasing sophistication. It’s too much for human-scale, and so a hybrid world requires a hybrid approach that sits between humans and machines.

Envision an AI Assistant that serves as a reliable partner for incident responders, offering precise, real-time guidance on the subsequent steps to take, tailored to the specific state of the incident at hand and allowing SOC (Security Operations Center) teams to respond faster and do more with less. I am pleased to announce the launch of the AI Assistant in XDR as a part of our Breach Protection Suite.

In our RSAC 2023 announcement, we introduced a vision of our Cisco SOC Assistant, designed to expedite threat detection and response. Today, this vision is realized and available in private preview. It enhances our Breach Protection Suite which is powered by Cisco XDR’s capabilities. It significantly speeds up investigations and responses, enabling security teams to safeguard their environments more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Assist with Information Discovery

In 2024, the global shortfall of 3.5 million security professionals, as reported by ISC2, underscores the importance of retaining and recruiting skilled personnel to counter increasingly sophisticated cyber threats and safeguard enterprises. Moreover, the lack of appropriate tools often leads to ineffective cyber risk management and professional burnout, adversely affecting staff retention and the SOC’s capacity to thwart attacks.

The AI Assistant in XDR acts as a potent enhancer, empowering SOC teams to maximize their efficiency and effectively close the personnel and skill gap. When an incident occurs, the assistant will contextualize events across email, the web, endpoints, and the network to tell the SOC analyst exactly what happened and its impact on their environment. It presents a short description of the incident that quickly answers what, when and how an incident happened. It also provides a long description of the incident which explains the timeline of events that have happened in this active incident.

Figure 1: Short Description of Incident Details generated by the AI Assistant
Figure 2: Long Description of Incident Details and Events Timeline

Moreover, our AI Assistant utilizes XDR’s patented ability to prioritize critical incidents, reducing alert fatigue for the SOC team and enhancing their efficiency in handling active incidents.

Figure 3: Targeted Prioritization of Incidents by AI Assistant that Need Immediate Attention

Augment and Elevate SOC Teams with Best Practice Recommendations

Today’s SOCs often struggle with a fragmented technology stack, making it difficult to respond effectively to cyber threats. Alert fatigue is a major hurdle for modern SOC teams, hindering proactive threat hunting and leading to overlooked alerts and burnout. The Cisco AI Assistant comes to the rescue and jumpstarts the incident response process for a modern SOC team.

Our AI Assistant, powered by Cisco XDR the platform for Cisco’s Breach Protection Suite, synthesizes data from email, web, processes, endpoints, cloud, and network domains, offering precise action recommendations to effectively contain ongoing cyber-attacks. It works at machine scale to identify patterns and potential attacks that humans might miss because of alert fatigue, if a defender is only looking at one domain in isolation, or while trying to manually correlate data. The AI Assistant is context aware, meaning it tracks the state of the incident in real-time and generates tailored recommendations specific to that incident.

Figure 4: Tailored Recommendations for an Incident by the AI Assistant

Mean Time to Detection (MTTD) and Mean Time to Respond (MTTR) are two primary metrics that SOC teams want to optimize for. Cisco XDR with our AI Assistant enables security teams to reduce these metrics by jumpstarting investigations and incident response by providing tailored recommendations for that specific incident.

Enable Seamless Collaboration Across Security Teams

The Cisco AI Assistant, embedded within XDR, facilitates team collaboration using Webex, Teams, or Slack. This empowers security teams to swiftly assemble the right experts for an active incident, thereby speeding up the MTTR. The AI Assistant unifies the team by setting up WAR rooms, summarizing messages, and logging them in XDR for instant audit-readiness.

Figure 5: AI Assistant creates a Webex WAR Room and brings the right experts together for Incident Response

Automate Workflows to Neutralize Threats Across the Enterprise

Today’s SOCs often lack a cohesive technology stack to respond to cyber threats efficiently and consistently. As the IT environment grows beyond the on-premises data center to cloud, hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud country specific data centers, organizations accumulate point solutions to monitor and protect pieces of the environment. As a result, SOC analysts must do a lot of the heavy lifting required to detect and respond to an attack. This includes logging into different tools to execute workflows that contain an attack.

Our AI Assistant taps into advanced workflows and atomics with Cisco XDR’s 90+ integrations. Our AI assistant enables the execution of workflows at a single click, guided by the AI Assistant’s personalized recommendations that consider the incident’s playbook and current state in real-time.

Figure 6: Execution of Automated Workflows by the AI Assistant to Contain an Incident

Gone are the days when security teams had to juggle multiple isolated products and execute workflows in each to mitigate an attack. With Cisco Breach Protection Suite, billions of security events can be correlated and recommended actions can be generated and executed all in one place. This is the transformative power of the Cisco XDR combined with Cisco’s AI Assistant revolutionizing enterprise security.


By leveraging comprehensive telemetry data from various sources in Cisco XDR and combining that with our AI Assistant, we enable SOC teams to rapidly respond to active incidents and fortify defenses against complex threats. The AI Assistant amplifies the SOC’s existing knowledge, streamlines routine tasks, and empowers analysts to focus on strategic initiatives. This boosts analyst productivity and job satisfaction, leading to improved staff retention and SOC effectiveness, ultimately resulting in precise, consistent, and accurate security outcomes.

Learn how Cisco Breach Protection SuiteCisco XDR and our AI Assistant can simplify your security operations.

We’d love to hear what you think. Ask a Question, Comment Below, and Stay Connected with Cisco Security on social!

Cisco Security Social Channels


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NIST Launches Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) 2.0

By: Shannon Murphy, Greg Young
March 20, 2024
Read time: 2 min (589 words)

On February 26, 2024, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the official 2.0 version of the Cyber Security Framework (CSF).

What is the NIST CSF?

The NIST CSF is a series of guidelines and best practices to reduce cyber risk and improve security posture. The framework is divided into pillars or “functions” and each function is subdivided into “categories” which outline specific outcomes.

As titled, it is a framework. Although it was published by a standards body, it is not a technical standard.

What Is the CSF Really Used For?

Unlike some very prescriptive NIST standards (for example, crypto standards like FIPS-140-2), the CSF framework is similar to the ISO 27001 certification guidance. It aims to set out general requirements to inventory security risk, design and implement compensating controls, and adopt an overarching process to ensure continuous improvement to meet shifting security needs.

It’s a high-level map for security leaders to identify categories of protection that are not being serviced well. Think of the CSF as a series of buckets with labels. You metaphorically put all the actions, technology deployments, and processes you do in cybersecurity into these buckets, and then look for buckets with too little activity in them or have too much activity — or repetitive activity — and not enough of other requirements in them.

The CSF hierarchy is that Functions contain many Categories — or in other words, there are big buckets that contain smaller buckets.

What Is New in CSF 2.0?

The most noteworthy change is the introduction of Governance as a sixth pillar in the CSF Framework. This shift sees governance being given significantly more importance from just a mention within the previous five Categories to now being its owna separate Function.

According to NIST the Govern function refers to how an organization’s, “cybersecurity risk management strategy, expectations, and policy are established, communicated, and monitored.”  This is a positive and needed evolution, as when governance is weak, it often isn’t restricted to a single function (e.g. IAM) and can be systemic.

Governance aligns to a broader paradigm shift where we see cybersecurity becoming highly relevant within the business context as an operational risk. The Govern expectation is cybersecurity is integrated into the broader enterprise risk management strategy and requires dedicated accountability and oversight.

There are some other reassignments and minor changes in the remaining five Categories. CSF version 1.0 was published in 2014, and 1.1 in 2018. A lot has changed in security since then. The 2.0 update acknowledges that a review has been conducted.

As a framework, the CISO domain has not radically changed. Yes, the technology has radically evolved, but the greatest evolution in the CISO role really has been around governance: greater interaction with C-suite and board, while some activities have been handed off to operations.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

So How Will This Impact Me in the Short Term?

The update to the NIST CSF provides a fresh opportunity to security leaders to start or reopen conversations with business leaders on evolving needs.

  • The greatest impact will be to auditors and consultants who will need to make formatting changes to their templates and work products to align with version 2.0.
  • CISOs and security leaders will have to make some similar changes to how they track and report compliance.
  • But overall, the greatest impact (aside from some extra billable cybersecurity consulting fees) will be a boost of relevance to the CSF that could attract new adherents both through security leaders choosing to look at themselves through the CSF lens and management asking the same of CISOs.

Source :

Setting up a Multi-Server CrowdSec Security Engine Installation

MARCH 28, 2024
WRITTEN BY Manuel Sabban

This article was originally published on 30 April 2021 in the Linux Journal.

Updated: 14 March 2024

With the launch of Security Engine 1.0.x, we enabled the Security Engine to function as an HTTP REST API, allowing it to gather signals from other Security Engines.

In this guide, I will guide you through the steps to set up the CrowdSec Security Engine across multiple servers, where one server will serve as the parent and two additional machines will forward alerts to it.

To learn about the three different ways to achieve secure TLS communications between your CrowdSec Security Engines in this multi-server setup, check out the second part of this series: Secure A Multi-Server CrowdSec Security Engine Installation With HTTPS.


Sharing cybersecurity incidents across machines using the CrowdSec Security Engine is a highly effective strategy to enhance collective security defenses. By leveraging CrowdSec’s capability to distribute remediations among connected machines, each machine benefits from real-time updates about new threats detected elsewhere in the network.


In the diagram above, the parent Security Engine, designated as server-1, will be set up as the HTTP REST API, commonly known as the LAPI (Local API). This engine will be in charge of storing and distributing the gathered signals. Remediation is managed through the Remediation Components, which depend on the LAPI offered by server-1. It’s crucial to understand that mitigation can occur independently from detection.

Server-2 and server-3 are designated as internet-facing machines that will host services available to the public and will be known as the child Log Processors. On these servers, we will install CrowdSec Security Engine and Remediation Components, which will interact with the server-1 LAPI. 

Note: The phrase “child Log Processors” refers to a CrowdSec Security Engine that operates with its LAPI turned off. For more information on this, consult our Taxonomy Update Article

We strongly encourage you to explore the CrowdSec Hub to learn about the extensive range of services the Security Engine can protect. This platform showcases the diverse capabilities of the Engine in securing everything from web applications to databases against cyber threats.

Architecture Decisions

I chose a postgresql backend for the server-1 LAPI to achieve greater stability in database read and write operations. Nevertheless, depending on your operational scale, you might discover that the default SQLite with WAL (Write-Ahead Logging) enabled meets your needs, if so you can skip section 1b.


To follow this tutorial, you will need the following:

  • Two internet-facing Ubuntu 22.04 machines hosting services.
  • One Ubuntu 22.04 machine.
  • A local network connection between the Parent and Child machines.

Step 1: Setup and Configure Parent LAPI server-1

Step 1a: Install CrowdSec Security Engine

Let’s install the Security Engine, following the installation guide.

curl -s | sudo bash
sudo apt install crowdsec

Step 1b (Optional): Using postgresql on Parent server-1 

Install the PostgreSQL package using the apt package manager.

sudo apt install postgresql

Next, transition to the postgres Linux user and then connect by executing the psql command.

sudo -i -u postgres

You can set up the database and create an authorized user using the commands below. Replace  with a password you select, you must keep it within the single quotes.

postgres=# CREATE DATABASE crowdsec;
postgres=# GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON DATABASE crowdsec TO crowdsec;

Now, we’ll set up the Security Engine to utilize this newly created database as its backend. This requires updating the db_config section in the /etc/crowdsec/config.yaml file.

  log_level: info
  type:	postgres
  user: crowdsec
  password: ""
  db_name: crowdsec
  port: 5432

During the installation of the Security Engine, the local machine was configured to use the SQLite database. To switch to the newly set up postgres database, you will need to regenerate the credentials and then proceed to restart the Security Engine.

sudo cscli machines add -a –force
sudo systemctl restart crowdsec

Step 1c: Expose LAPI port

To enable communication between the LAPI and the child Log Processors/Remediation Components, it is necessary to adjust the LAPI’s settings to accept connections from external sources, since its default configuration binds it to the machine’s loopback address ( This adjustment can be made by editing the /etc/crowdsec/config.yaml configuration file and changing the specified settings.


In the mentioned setup, we adjust the settings to listen on the interface on port 8080. Should you wish to listen on several interfaces, you can change this to and implement firewall rules to permit specific connections.

Step 2: Setup and Configure Child Log Processors

Step 2a: Install CrowdSec Security Engine

Let’s install the Security Engine, following the installation guide.

curl -s | sudo bash
sudo apt install crowdsec

Step 2b: Configure to use LAPI server

First, lets register the Log Processor to the LAPI server using the following command

sudo cscli lapi register -u

Ensure you adjust the -u flag to suit your network. Utilize the IP address if it’s static, or opt for the hostname if your network allows it.

Next, we’ll turn off the local API on the Security Engine, turning it into a Log Processor. This action is taken because the API won’t be utilized, which will conserve system resources and avoid occupying a TCP port unnecessarily.

To achieve this, we can disable the API in the configuration with:

    enable: false

Step 2c: Validate the registration request on LAPI

Since we used the cscli lapi register on the child Log Processor we must validate the request on server-1 via the following commands:

sudo cscli machines list
  NAME                                              IP ADDRESS      LAST UPDATE           STATUS  VERSION                                                            
  dc6f34b3a4994700a2e333df43728701D0iARTSQ6dxiwyMR  2021-04-13T12:16:11Z  ✔️  v1.0.9-4-debian-pragmatic-a8b16a66b110ebe03bb330cda2600226a3a862d7
  9f3602d1c9244f02b0d6fd2e92933e75zLVg8zSRkyANxHbC   2021-04-13T12:24:12Z  🚫

From this output, it’s evident there’s a new machine that hasn’t been validated yet by the 🚫 within the status column. We need to manually validate this machine to ensure the LAPI recognizes which machines are authorized to transmit signals.

Note: If you don’t see a new machine marked with a 🚫 in the status column, make sure you are executing the command on the LAPI server.

sudo cscli machines validate 9f3602d1c9244f02b0d6fd2e92933e75zLVg8zSRkyANxHbC

Make sure to change the argument following validate to correspond with the new machine name displayed in the list output.

Step 2d: Restart the child Log Processor service

On the child Log Processor machine you can run the following command to restart the service:

sudo systemctl restart crowdsec

Then, for each machine you wish to connect, repeat step 2. In our case, we will perform this action twice, once for each Ubuntu machine.

Step 3: Setting up Remediation

Now, it’s important to configure remediation measures for your internet-facing servers since merely running the Log Processor does not implement enforcement actions. In this article, we’ll focus on setting up the Linux firewall Remediation Component. For additional remediation options, be sure to explore the extensive list available in the CrowdSec Documentation.

Step 3a: Generating API key on LAPI

First, we’ll create API token on the LAPI server by executing the following command:

sudo cscli bouncers add server-2-firewall
Api key for 'server-2-firewall':

Please keep this key since you will not be able to retrieve it!

I used server-2-firewall as the name for the key, but you can choose any name you prefer. It’s crucial to select a descriptive name for the key to facilitate future management, especially if you need to revoke a key due to a token compromise.

Step 3b: Install the Remediation Component

IPtables firewall is among the most commonly used on Linux, so we’ll proceed to install the Component that interacts with it, using the apt package manager.

sudo apt install cs-firewall-bouncer-iptables

Once the Component is installed, we will edit the configuration under /etc/crowdsec/bouncers/crowdsec-firewall-bouncer.yaml to point towards the LAPI

api_key: 02954e85c72cf442a4dee357f0ca5a7c

Ensure you modify the api_url to align with your LAPI address and update the api_key to the one generated by the previous command. Remember, you can use either the IP address or the hostname.

Once you have altered the configuration, let’s restart the firewall Remediation Component.

sudo systemctl restart crowdsec-firewall-bouncer

Then, for each Remediation Component you wish to connect, repeat step 3. In our case, we will perform this action twice, once for each firewall on the Ubuntu machines. Make sure to alter the naming scheme of the API key.

A few closing thoughts

This guide illustrated the process for establishing a multi-server Security Engine setup. While this example utilized three servers, the architecture allows for easy expansion. The resource consumption on server-2 and server-3 remains minimal since the majority of operations are directed towards server-1, facilitating straightforward scalability of the system:

  • Register and validate additional Security Engines on the LAPI server
  • Add any additional Remediation Components

As previously stated, there’s no requirement for the Remediation Components and Security Engines to be installed on the same server. This implies that the Security Engine should be installed at the location where logs are produced, whereas the Remediation Component can be deployed at any desired location.

It’s important to note that this configuration comes with certain limitations:

  • The communication between Security Engines occurs via unencrypted HTTP, which is suitable for a local network but not secure for internet use. However, the CrowdSec Security Engine supports the use of HTTPS for these interactions.
  • This article does not delve into monitoring or alerting. Nonetheless, the Security Engine supports comprehensive monitoring capabilities via Prometheus, and you can find more detailed information about it in this article.
  • Having both the CrowdSec LAPI and PostgreSQL on server-1 creates a single point of failure, potentially leading to delays in threat response should any issues arise with the server.

Now you may be wondering — how do I build a highly available multi-server CrowdSec setup? We will have a dedicated article on that in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! 

We are always more than happy to receive your feedback! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us on our community platforms on Discord and Discourse.

Source :

Secure A Multi-Server CrowdSec Security Engine Installation With HTTPS

MARCH 28, 2024
WRITTEN BY Manuel Sabban

This article was originally published on 31 August 2021 in the Linux Journal.

Updated: 14 March 2024

Welcome to the second part of our tutorial on how to set up and secure a multi-server CrowdSec Security Engine installation. In the first part, I walked you through the setup of CrowdSec Security Engines across multiple servers, with one server serving as the parent and two additional machines forwarding alerts to it.

In this part, I will address security issues posed by clear HTTP communication in the previous multi-server Security Engine installation. To solve this, I propose establishing the communication between Security Engines over encrypted channels. This solution allows server-2 or server-3 to trust the server-1 identity and avoid man-in-the-middle attacks.

Using self-signed certificates

Create the certificate

First, you need to create a certificate. This can be achieved with the following one-liner.

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:4096 -keyout encrypted-key.pem -out cert.pem -days 365 -addext "subjectAltName = IP:

For now, the Security Engine is not able to ask for the passphrase of the private key when starting. So, you have the choice to decipher the private key by hand each time you start or reload the Security Engine or store the key unencrypted. In any way, to strip the passphrase, you can use the following:

openssl rsa -in encrypted-key.pem -out key.pem

Then, the unencrypted key file can be safely deleted after the Security Engine is started.

Configure the Security Engine to use a self-signed certificate

On server-1 you need to configure the Security Engine to use the generated certificate. As seen below, the  tls.cert_file and tls.key_file option in the api.server section of the following /etc/crowdec/config.yaml excerpt is set to the generated certificate file.



    log_level: info
    profiles_path: /etc/crowdsec/profiles.yaml
    online_client: # Crowdsec API credentials (to push signals and receive bad 

      cert_file: /etc/crowdsec/ssl/cert.pem
      key_file: /etc/crowdsec/ssl/key.pem

On the client side, configuration changes happen in two files. First, modify /etc/crowdec/config.yaml to accept self-signed certificates by setting the insecure_skip_verify to true.

You also need to change HTTP for HTTPS in the /etc/crowdsec/local_api_credentials.yaml file in order to reflect the changes. This small change has to be done on all three servers (server-1server-2 andserver-3).

Note: Please keep in mind that this LAPI configuration has to be done on server-1 as well if it’s used as a log processor too.

login: [login]
password: [password]

Side note: Obviously using self-signed certificates doesn’t provide any confidence over ownership on the LAPI server. Servers using the service (server-2 or server-3 in this setup) are still vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, but at least this setup provides encrypted communications. That’s the reason why the InsecureSkipVerify option is needed.

Using a Certificate Authority-issued certificate

Let’s Encrypt, or services like Amazon ACM, can be leveraged to workaround the InsecureSkipVerify, by issuing a certificate for a fully qualified domain name that can be added to /etc/hosts or to a local DNS server.  /etc/crowdsec/local_api_credentials.yaml can then be filled with this specified fully qualified domain name.

This indeed works and prevents the InsecureSkipVerify option from being set. This ensures that communication between client and server can’t be tampered with as long as the DNS configuration can be trusted, but should still be considered as a workaround.

Using a PKI

The process of configuring and managing an SSL Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) falls outside the scope of this tutorial, but I highly recommend you take a look at the official OpenSSL documentation. The simple PKI scenario is enough for this Security Engine setup.

Following the OpenSSL documentation, there are a few things worth mentioning.

To be usable in our CrowdSec TLS scenario, the certificate requests have to be issued with a subject alternative name corresponding to the IP of the Crowdsec LAPI server. This can be done by positioning the SAN environment variable when invoking OpenSSL for the certificate request (see step 3.3 in the OpenSSL simple PKI scenario).

SAN=IP: openssl req -new -config etc/server.conf -out certs/crowdsec.csr -keyout certs/crowdsec.key

The public part of the root and the signing certificates (bundle file created at step 4.5 in the OpenSSL simple PKI scenario) have to be added to the local certificate store before starting the CrowdSec Security Engine. In this setup, this is required to connect to the LAPI server. There’re many ways to do so, golang sources specify where certificates are expected, or you can use the SSL_CERT_FILE environment variable in the systemd service file to specify where to find the certificate when launching the Security Engine.

Updated note on CrowdSec and TLS authentication

After the first publication of this article, we added a new feature to the Security Engine you are now able not only to secure communication over TLS but also ensure authentication with certificate. In the official documentation you can find a great example that shows how TLS authentication can be done using certificates between Security Engines or between Security Engine and Remediation Component.


This article gives some highlights on how to secure communications between different CrowdSec Security Engine installations. The considered use case is Security Engine installations in a private network, but this can also be deployed on a public network with communication over the internet. In such a case, a third-party certificate would easily do the trick.

Depending on the needs, I proposed three different ways to achieve secure TLS communications between your Security Engines — using self-signed certificates, using certificates issued by a Certificate Authority, and using an SSL Public Key Infrastructure.

The first scenario, with self-signed certificates, only applies if you want to ensure encrypted communication with no need for authentication. The second scenario proposed may only be considered as a workaround when you have the possibility to modify local DNS resolutions. The third proposed scenario is the most complicated but would fit in most use cases and may be the way to go when security concerns are high.

I hope this tutorial comes in handy. Thanks for reading and stay tuned! 

If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on our community platforms on Discord and Discourse.

Source :

New Surge in VMware Workspace ONE Vulnerability CVE-2022-22954 Exploit Attempts Detected

MARCH 19, 2024
WRITTEN BY Emanuel Seemann

Among the 29,000 vulnerabilities published as a CVE in 2022, CVE-2022-22954 is one of the more dangerous vulnerabilities, with a CVSS base score of 9.8. Recently there has been a significant uptick in exploitation attempts detected by the CrowdSec Network from bad actors located in China. To swiftly remediate this issue, we added the exploit as a rule for The CrowdSec AppSec Component.

This article serves as a reminder for security professionals to patch your VMware workspaces. Here I will also share some insights into the new attackers using this vulnerability.

The exploit

Since its introduction in 1999 there have been over 200,000 vulnerabilities published in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) framework. As the number of vulnerabilities published each day grows, cyber security professionals are overwhelmed with figuring out whether a given vulnerability is actually at risk of being exploited. By leveraging CrowdSec’s large threat intelligence network, we know that most of these vulnerabilities very rarely lead to widespread adoption by threat actors. We suspect that this is mostly because proof-of-concept attacks are rarely published, which means that attackers don’t know a priori how difficult it will be to exploit the vulnerability in practice.

In the case of CVE-2022-22954, however, the exploit, as explained very succinctly by the Rapid7 team back in 2022, is simple and small enough to fit into a tweet. The Rapid7 team also showed that this vulnerability could be chained with other vulnerabilities of VMware products to gain a root shell for remote code execution. This showed that the exploit was both easy to use and significantly powerful in practice, which gave it a very high CVSS score.

The exploit itself is a classic case of Server-Side Template Injection (SSTI). Templating engines are systems used to insert user data into static HTML websites. For example, the web developer can write the template: 

And for the user John Doe, it will then show up as:

In an SSTI, the user is able to get the server to render a user-submitted template. The templating engine used by VMware, Apache FreeMarker, allows a developer to execute system commands within the template using the freemarker.template.utility.Execute function. This function call is, therefore, often used in template injection attacks. In the specific case of CVE-2022-22954, templates could be injected into the deviceUdid parameter of the /catalog-portal/ui/oauth/verify endpoint. 

To detect this, the CrowdSec Security Engine looks for calls to the utility.Execute function at this endpoint. Note that modern versions of FreeMarker allow sandboxing of the Execute function to prevent template injections from being easily exploitable.

A new surge in exploit attempts of the CVE-2022-22954

Usually, high CVSS scores cause defenders to patch their systems quickly and attacks to fall off as the attack surface rapidly decreases. This has been the case with log4shell as well. After a while, the real attacks drop away and, in turn, are replaced by a vast number of security scanners. This means that it’s not unusual to still see signals for old outdated vulnerabilities. To avoid such scanners polluting our threat intelligence, we maintain curated filters for the addresses of most scanner companies. 

The following chart depicts the number of unique IPs reported for CVE-2022-22954 each day over the past 3 months:

Unique IPs Reported for CVE-2022-22954

The chart is split into two phases. A stable phase for 2 months, followed by a growth phase starting on the 19th of February 2024. The first phase is the baseline noise generated by vulnerability scanners. The second phase is the new surge in attacks. The same trend can be seen in the number of signals and the number of unique Security Engines reporting attacks.

Signals and Security Engines Reporting CVE-2022-22954

Most of the attackers participating in this new attack wave have previously not been seen by the CrowdSec network. A good 40% of them come from Chinese IP addresses. Overlap analysis also reveals that the attackers attempt multiple similar attacks. Of note here should be the http-probing scenario which detects attackers that get served a significant number of 404/403 responses in a short time span. 

Combined with the fact that most of these IPs were previously unseen, we suspect that this might be an attempt to build a new botnet using very common vulnerabilities, not all of which we currently have detection scenarios for. 

Scenario Overlap

We provide the following top 3 Indicators of Compromise (IoC) for this new wave of attacks:



In response to this new wave of attacks, we have added detection for this exploit to our Web Application Firewall (WAF) using a rule in the CrowdSec AppSec Component. CrowdSec WAF users are now protected against future attempts by these attackers. If you are not using the CrowdSec WAF solution yet, make sure to activate the AppSec Component in your Security Engine. You can find more information in the CrowdSec documentation.

In addition to the new AppSec Component rule, about 30% of the malicious IPs performing CVE-2022-22954 exploitation attempts are by now part of the CrowdSec Intelligence Blocklist, and considering the ramping intensity of these attackers, more will be added in the coming days. 

Want to stay ahead of the curve? Proactively block these IPs and don’t take any chances with the IPs massively exploiting the CVE-2022-22954 vulnerability potentially reaching your systems.

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Introducing the IP Range Reputation System: Identify Organized Cyber Crime vs. Petty Criminals

MARCH 7, 2024
WRITTEN BY Emanuel Seemann

One of the big lessons we learned from collecting and analyzing huge amounts of data at CrowdSec is that cyberattacks are not distributed equally over the internet. 

There are Autonomous Systems (AS) — think internet service providers or hosters — and IP ranges that harbor significantly more criminal activity than others. This insight prompted us to aggregate the signals we receive not only by IP address but also by IP range and Autonomous System. 

In this article we provide an example of what this looks like in practice and how these new aggregations are used by us internally to improve our blocklist offerings. However, we first need to explore a crime scene to understand these insights.

Capturing petty criminals

The following table presents a sample of IPs that recently participated in http-path-traversal-probing attacks. These attacks are quite simplistic. They aim to get a web server to reveal files outside of the sitemap by trying to escape paths and walking backward along the file tree using ../

While most modern web servers are not vulnerable to such attacks, the attackers show up directly in the log even on failed attempts which makes this a good Indicator of Compromise (IoC) for the Crowdsec Security Engine to investigate.

Now, good detectives will have already noticed something afoot here. But in case you didn’t notice, the table below draws your attention to certain IPs.

While some IPs in this table seem to come from all over the internet, the IPs highlighted all share the first 3 sections of their IP address. What this means is that these IP addresses originate from the same neighborhood or IP range of the internet. To further explore this strange coincidence, we need to learn a little bit about how the internet works.

IP ranges — The neighborhoods of the internet

At the core, an IP address is a representation of a 32-digit binary number. Wikipedia has a nice graphic to show how each of the 4 numbers of the dot-decimal notation corresponds to an 8-digit binary part of the IP address. 

Source: Wikimedia

Usually, these IP addresses are not owned by individuals but by internet service providers and big technology companies, which then assign them to their customers and servers. To simplify the who-owns-what question, the service providers are not given lists of single IPs but so-called IP ranges. 

IP ranges are blocks of consecutive IP addresses. They are specified by the number of digits of the binary address that they have in common. So, a /31 range for a given address includes all IPs that have the same 31 first bits as this address. As an IP address is only 32 bits long that means that a `/31` range contains exactly two IPs. 

Generally, the lower the number on the range, the higher the number of IPs in it. At CrowdSec, we mainly consider range /24 neighborhoods, which are all the IPs that share the same 24 first bits. This is a convenient range size as it is still fairly small at 256 IPs per range, but also because the boundary falls right on one of the decimals in dot-decimal notation. So, the range contains all the IPs from to This makes /24 an extremely useful range to look at.

Fighting organized crime

With the crash course in internet protocol and IP ranges finished, let’s turn our attention back to the matter at hand and recall the table of petty criminals seen earlier.

With your newly gained knowledge of the internet protocol, you can now identify that some of the criminals seen in the table operate from the same neighborhood of the internet. 

So, it’s not difficult to realize that we might not be dealing with petty criminals who do some path traversal on the side here, but we are facing an organized crime network operating from the XXX.234.140.0/24 neighborhood of the internet. 

Properly detecting such bad neighborhoods and taking the appropriate measures against these perpetrators is vital to our goal of always providing our users with blocklists that contain verified malicious IPs to help them proactively protect their systems from cyberattacks.

Block Mass Exploitation Attempts

Get immediate protection against active malicious IPs with CrowdSec’s actionable and real-time Blocklists.Get started

To generate the CrowdSec Intelligence Blocklist, we have built a fairly sophisticated system of rules that evaluate an IP on a diverse set of metrics to ultimately decide whether it gets added to the blocklist. This system is called the Expert System. The best way to understand the functionality of the Expert System is to imagine a judge ruling in a court. 

Every IP is put to a trial with evidence supporting the case. The judge (Expert System) has a code of law (CrowdSec ruleset) within which it has to decide whether to convict the suspect. For validation, we have a lawmakers’ convention (internal meeting) every week where we inspect the rulings and change the laws if needed. 

Staying within this law analogy, we face similar issues as real courts when fighting organized crime. Each individual IP in this range might not be criminal enough on its own to get convicted for a big sentence, but as an organization, it is clear that there is significant abuse coming from this range. Similar to real courts, we can keep playing whack-a-mole and jail abusers who cross the line for petty crimes, but to put a real dent into the criminal organization, we need a bigger mallet. In the real world, this big mallet is called the RICO Act — in the CrowdSec cybersecurity court, it is the Range Reputation System.

Introducing the IP Range Reputation System

The IP Range Reputation System is an aggregation of stats on individual IPs at the level of their /24 range. That means that for every /24 range, we track the following:

  • The number of IPs from this range we have seen in reports from Security Engines
  • The number of IPs from this range that landed in the CrowdSec Intelligence Blocklist
  • The average duration of any given IP remaining in our data lake
  • The trust score of the Security Engines reporting this IP 
  • The behaviors identified for IPs in this range

The CrowdSec Data

Explore CrowdSec’s fail-proof approach to tactical intelligence and learn how CrowdSec guarantees unmatched data curation.Learn more

We then use this information to build an organized crime case. The case is built on two components. 

  • Neighborhood reputation: This is based on how many other IPs have already been reported and how many of them have landed in the CrowdSec Intelligence Blocklist. 
  • Attacker behavior: How the behavior of this specific attacker compares to the other IPs in its range. The analogy for this is that while a pickpocket and a bike thief might operate in the same neighborhood, as long as they do their separate things, there is no reason to suspect that they are part of the same organized crime unit. 

These two components are then weighted, scored, and fed to the Expert System as additional evidence. If an IP is convicted of operating within a criminal network, it gets into the CrowdSec Intelligence Blocklist significantly faster, turning this simple system into an effective large mallet to bleed cybercriminals of their most valuable resource — fresh IP addresses. 

The Range Reputation System we built alongside this feature powers our insights in the Majority Report and allows us to act on emerging threats with confidence even when there is little primary information to go on.

Get your hands on the IP Range Reputation feature

The IP Range Reputation feature is now available in our CTI API to help incident response teams and threat researchers gain improved visibility in low-information environments and act fast and decisively against threats, even in situations where the defenders are outnumbered.

To use the IP Range Reputation feature today, simply sign in to your CrowdSec Console account or sign up for free if you don’t have an account yet. Then navigate to the Settings page to generate a CTI API key.

Equipped with your API key, you can get started by querying the API using curl or any other tool. If you don’t have any interesting IP addresses at hand, you can always find an interesting selection under

curl -H "x-api-key: YOUR_API_KEY" | jq .

The response you receive from the API will contain, among other things, our new range reputation information.

  "ip_range_24": "YOUR_INTERESTING_IP.0/24",      
  "ip_range_24_reputation": "malicious",
  "ip_range_24_score": 5,               

Similar to our ratings of individual IPs, the range reputation comes as both a score ranging from 0 to 5 and as a single label of either malicious, suspicious, or known. For further information on our CTI API, including exhaustive documentation and a swagger portal, check out our CTI API documentation.

The CrowdSec team is working on expanding and improving the capabilities of the IP Range Reputation feature, so stay tuned as we’ll be sharing more updates on this soon!

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Tools to Keep Your WooCommerce Store Running Smoothly

MARCH 27, 2024

Running a WooCommerce store demands more than just listing your products and waiting for sales to happen. It requires a proactive approach to maintenance, optimization, and engagement to ensure that every aspect of your store functions smoothly and efficiently. From the careful crafting of product attributes to secure checkout processes, each element plays a critical role in the overall success of your online business.

With a plethora of tools at your disposal, it can be overwhelming to navigate the options and identify what will best support your store’s unique needs. As we dive into the various tools and strategies to keep your WooCommerce store running smoothly, remember that the goal is not just to maintain but to excel.

Enhancing store performance

A well-performing WooCommerce store is the cornerstone of a successful eCommerce business. As your store grows, so does the complexity of managing its performance. Here, we’ll explore key tools and practices to enhance your store’s speed, efficiency, and overall performance, ensuring a seamless experience for your customers.

Database optimization

One of the most critical yet overlooked aspects of maintaining a high-performing WooCommerce store is database optimization. Over time, your store’s database can become cluttered with old product revisions, outdated orders, and unnecessary data, leading to slower loading times and a sluggish site experience. Tools like WP-Optimize provide an easy-to-use solution for database cleanup and optimization. By regularly clearing out this digital detritus, you can ensure your store operates at peak efficiency, maintaining swift navigation and quick access to product information for your customers.

Image optimization tools

Visuals play a crucial role in eCommerce, but high-quality images often come at the cost of file size, which can significantly slow down your site. Leveraging tools to optimize WordPress images is essential for balancing quality and performance. Plugins like Smush or SEO Image Optimizer automatically optimize product images without degrading quality, ensuring your site remains fast and visually appealing. This not only enhances the user experience but also positively impacts your store’s SEO, as page load speed is a key ranking factor for search engines.

Streamlining order processing and delivery

Efficient order processing and timely delivery are pivotal in ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty in eCommerce. This section delves into tools and plugins that can significantly streamline these aspects of your WooCommerce store, from the moment an order is placed to when it reaches the customer’s doorstep.

Automated order printing

In the bustling environment of an eCommerce business, automating mundane tasks can save valuable time and reduce the risk of errors. For WooCommerce store owners, automatically printing orders as they come in can be a game-changer, ensuring that every order is promptly prepared for shipping and enhancing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. This automation allows store managers to focus on more strategic tasks rather than getting bogged down with manual order processing.

Delivery date plugins

Giving customers the power to choose their preferred delivery date not only enhances the shopping experience but also helps in managing logistics more effectively. Delivery date plugins for WooCommerce enable customers to select dates that work best for them at checkout. This level of customization improves the likelihood of successful first-time delivery, thereby reducing the costs and hassles associated with missed deliveries. Moreover, it allows businesses to plan their dispatch schedules better, ensuring that peak times are managed more efficiently and resources are allocated appropriately.

Boosting conversions and sales

Improving your WooCommerce store’s conversion rate can be achieved through various means, from simplifying the checkout process to using upselling and cross-selling techniques. Tools like Checkout Field Editor allow you to customize the checkout experience, removing unnecessary fields to streamline the process and make it as quick and painless as possible for customers. Additionally, integrating plugins that suggest related products or offer last-minute deals can tempt customers to add more to their carts, increasing the average order value.

An effective email marketing strategy can also boost conversions. For example, when promoting a webinar with an email sequence, crafting a well-timed sequence of emails can nurture leads and gently guide them toward registration. Starting with an announcement email, followed by reminder emails that add value and build anticipation, can increase engagement and conversion rates. Tools like Mailchimp integrate seamlessly with WooCommerce, enabling you to automate these sequences and tailor your messaging based on customer behavior and preferences, thereby enhancing the chances of conversion.

Enhancing user experience

The success of an eCommerce store largely hinges on the user experience (UX) it provides. A seamless, engaging, and intuitive UX can significantly boost customer satisfaction, repeat business, and word-of-mouth recommendations. In this section, we’ll cover tools and practices that can enhance the UX of your WooCommerce store, from collaborative content creation to managing contact form inquiries efficiently.

Content collaboration

High-quality, compelling content is crucial for attracting and retaining customers. Tools like MultiCollab offer a WordPress plugin that facilitates content collaboration directly within the Gutenberg editor, allowing teams to work together more efficiently on product descriptions, blog posts, and other content. This not only improves the quality of your store’s content but also ensures it’s consistently updated and relevant, enhancing the overall user experience by providing valuable information and engaging narratives that guide customers through your store.

Managing spam

Effective communication channels are vital for customer service and feedback, but spam can significantly hinder these processes. Implementing robust spam filters and captchas for your contact forms can streamline customer inquiries, ensuring that genuine messages are promptly addressed while keeping the nuisance of spam at bay.

Improving searchability

A critical aspect of optimizing user experience in your WooCommerce store is making it easy for customers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Clear navigation and efficient product search mechanisms can significantly reduce bounce rates and increase conversions. Carefully defined product attributes play a vital role in enhancing product discoverability. Attributes such as size, color, brand, and material not only help in organizing your inventory but also improve the shopping experience for customers. By using a plugin to implement filters based on these attributes, you enable customers to quickly narrow down their search to find their desired products effortlessly.

Security and maintenance

Maintaining the security and proper functioning of your WooCommerce store is not just about protecting your data and assets; it’s about safeguarding your customers’ trust. A secure and smoothly running store enhances user confidence and encourages repeat business. This section will cover essential practices and tools for ensuring your WooCommerce store remains secure and operates without hitches, focusing on malware removal and the importance of regular maintenance.

Malware removal tools

The threat of malware and cyber-attacks is a constant concern for online businesses. Malware can compromise customer information, disrupt transactions, and tarnish your store’s reputation. Utilizing robust malware removal tools is critical for detecting and eliminating threats before they cause harm. Plugins can provide comprehensive security solutions, offering firewall protection, malware scan, and threat removal features specifically designed for WordPress sites. Regularly scanning your WooCommerce store for vulnerabilities and ensuring all security patches are up-to-date can prevent potential breaches and keep your business and customers safe.

Regular maintenance checks

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to eCommerce. Regular maintenance checks are essential for identifying and addressing issues before they escalate into serious problems. This includes updating WordPress and WooCommerce to the latest versions, ensuring all plugins are compatible and current, and checking for broken links or outdated content. Establishing a routine maintenance schedule helps in preempting issues that could disrupt your store’s operations, ensuring a smooth and reliable shopping experience for your customers.


Overall, the journey to a well-maintained WooCommerce store is multifaceted, involving everything from database optimization and image compression to malware protection and content collaboration. By leveraging the tools and strategies discussed, store owners can address the myriad challenges that come with running an online business.

Remember, the goal is not just to maintain your store but to continuously improve it. The eCommerce landscape is ever-evolving, and staying ahead requires an adaptable approach and a willingness to embrace new technologies and methodologies. Engaging with your customers, understanding their needs, and providing them with a seamless shopping experience will set your WooCommerce store apart in a crowded marketplace.

As you implement these tools and strategies, monitor their impact on your store’s performance and customer satisfaction closely. This data-driven approach will help you refine your tactics, ensuring your store not only runs smoothly but thrives. With dedication and the right tools at your disposal, your WooCommerce store can achieve remarkable success, grow its customer base, and secure a prominent place in the digital marketplace.

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How to Restrict Login Access by Whitelisting IP Addresses in WordPress

MARCH 29, 2024

Are you concerned about the security of your WordPress website? Do you want to restrict login access to only trusted IP addresses? Whitelisting IP addresses is an effective way to enhance the security of your WordPress login page. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at whitelisting within Shield Security PRO, exploring its dual applications: 

  • Whitelisting your entire site to ensure exclusive access for approved users.
  • Whitelisting users from Shield Security Pro’s Bad Bot detection system to ensure that specific IP addresses are recognized as legitimate, reducing false positives and preventing these users from being blocked from the site.

While shielding against bad bots protects site access for legitimate users, full-site whitelisting takes security even further. Full-site whitelisting, set up through Shield Security PRO’s full-site lockdown feature, ensures that your site won’t load at all for non-whitelisted users. This is an intense security measure that may serve a vital role for businesses with strict security and access requirements.

We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of both whitelisting approaches and how to set them up, while helping you decide whether they’re necessary and practical for your business.

Let’s get started!

Understanding full-site IP whitelisting and its importance in WordPress security

Although it is too restrictive for public-facing platforms, full-site IP whitelisting is great for contexts where stringent access control is vital. Industries like finance, government, and healthcare, dealing with Sensitive Personal Information (SPI) or Private Personal Information (PPI), benefit from this heightened security. However, these are far from the only sites that can benefit from full-site whitelisting

For instance, although an eCommerce site catering to the public will find full-site IP whitelisting impractical, it could make sense for a wholesale retailer that only works with pre-approved buyers. It can also be useful for corporate intranets, which are limited to employee access only, or websites used to manage private security systems. 

The decision to implement a full-site whitelist shouldn’t be taken lightly. Site owners must carefully weigh the pros and cons and remember that the extreme nature of IP whitelisting makes it fully incompatible for general public facing businesses and platforms.

Benefits and drawbacks of full-site whitelisting in WordPress

There are many benefits and drawbacks to full-site whitelisting that users should consider before setting this up on their site. For example, some benefits include that this gives you strict access control, ensuring that only approved users can interact with the site. It’s a highly effective security measure that can easily safeguard sensitive and confidential information. 

It’s a great tool for building a secure environment that provides a safe and secure place for authorised individuals to access sensitive data. It’s a good way to balance security and accessibility when working with highly sensitive information, such as for financial transactions or healthcare. 

One major drawback to consider, however, is that it’s time-consuming and resource-intensive to get a full-site whitelist set up. It also needs continuous attention and maintenance. It can be inconvenient for users, since it restricts them to a specific computer and location. There are workarounds like virtual machines, but they introduce additional complexities as well. 

Lastly, no single measure, even whitelisting your whole site, is a foolproof solution against cyber attacks, as it does not provide complete protection. For example, you still have basic cybersecurity measures to keep in mind, such as the risks associated with remote workers logging in on shared family devices. However, the whitelisting itself can lull users into a false sense of security, which may lead to lapses in other vital security practices. 

Step-by-Step guide to implementing full-site lockdown in WordPress

Shield Security PRO provides an advanced Site Lockdown feature that transforms your website into a whitelist-only accessible domain. When activated, this setting renders your site inaccessible to everyone except those IP addresses listed on your site’s bypass/whitelist list. 

🚨Warning! Before enabling this feature, it’s crucial to add your own IP address to the bypass list to prevent locking yourself out.

Understanding the Site Lockdown Feature

In Shield Security PRO, the Site Lockdown feature simplifies the process of creating a whitelist-only site. It is also a useful solution to deploy during attacks, helping to limit access t the site until the situation can be fully assessed. 

Shield Security Pro streamlines the process by doing all the heavy lifting for you, leaving little room for error. To enable the Site Lockdown feature, you need to:

  1. Access your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Navigate to ShieldPRO from the left-hand menu.
  3. Go to Tools → Site Lockdown.
  4. Check the box to whitelist your own IP address, if you haven’t already done so. Do not skip this – otherwise you will be locked out of your own site.
  5. Review and confirm you understand the warnings and risks associated with this process. 
  6. Select “Lockdown The Site” 
Shield Security PRO’s Site Lockdown feature limits site access to only approved IP addresses.

With this setting turned on, your site will only be accessible to users you have whitelisted using Shield Security PRO IP bypass rules, referenced earlier in the article.

Although the Shield Security PRO Site Lockdown feature makes full-site whitelisting a breeze, you can alternatively restrict access to your website by supplying access rules within your .htaccess file (for Apache servers). This method is totally different from Shield Security PRO’s Lockdown capability and requires technical expertise. So, if you’re in any doubt, we recommend hiring a developer to help with the manual approach.

Here is how to manually restrict access to your WordPress site:

  1. Back up your WordPress site:

Use a plugin like UpdraftPlus or your hosting control panel to back up files and databases.

  1. Accessing the .htaccess file:

Connect to the server using an FTP client (like FileZilla) or through the hosting control panel.

Navigate to the root directory (usually public_html, www, htdocs, etc.).

  1. Modify the .htaccess file:
  • Locate and download the .htaccess file.
  • Open it in a text editor.
  • Add the following lines at the top to restrict access to specific IP addresses:
Order deny,allow
Deny from all
# whitelist Your First IP address
Allow from
# whitelist Your Second IP address (if any)

Allow from

📝Note on code: Replace with the actual IP addresses.

If you are using Apache 2.4 or newer, it’s recommended to use the new Require directive for access control, which is more flexible and straightforward.

# whitelist Your First IP address
Require ip
# whitelist Your Second IP address
Require ip

📝Note on code: Replace with the actual IP addresses. The Require directive is part of Apache’s authorisation features, allowing you to specify which users or systems can access your site.

  • Once you have done this, the changes should be saved and uploaded again to the server (replacing the old .htaccess file).

Whitelisting IP addresses in the Shield Security PRO plugin

When using Shield Security PRO, safeguarding your website involves understanding and managing the ADE, which detects bad bot signals, defending your site from malicious entities. 

However, this system, while effective, can occasionally result in false positives – legitimate users being mistakenly flagged as bots.

To prevent the accidental blocking of known users, you can whitelist IP addresses with Shield Security PRO. By adding these trusted users to the IP Bypass list, you ensure uninterrupted access while maintaining a robust defence against malicious bots. Here’s how to do this: 

  1. Identify the IP address of the user you want to whitelist. Online tools, like Shield Security PRO’s IP address finder, can help users find this information.
  2. Go to your WordPress dashboard and select ShieldPRO from the left-hand menu to open the Shield Security PRO dashboard.
ShieldPRO button in WordPress
  1. Within Shield Security Pro’s dashboard, go to IP Rules and select the gear icon in the top right-hand corner.
IP Rules in Shield Security PRO 
Settings tab in IP Rules
  1. Choose Create new IP rule to initiate the whitelisting process.
Create New IP Rule in IP Rules
  1. Enter the IP address or range you want to whitelist.
Enter IP address or IP range
  1. Provide a clear and memorable label, such as “Whitelist”, for easy identification.
  2. Select Add to bypass list to confirm the whitelisting.

Once an IP address is whitelisted, the ADE will bypass it completely. However, exercising caution is important as this practice may pose security risks, particularly if the whitelisted IP address becomes compromised. It’s wise to periodically review your IP whitelists and remove any entries that are no longer required.

Maintaining your whitelist: Regular reviews and updates

One of the most important things to remember is that whitelisted addresses, once approved, are never blocked, regardless of their onsite activity.

Unlike Shield’s Automatic IP Blocking system which keeps your IP rules list lean for performance purposes, there is no automated pruning of whitelisted IP addresses.

The potential risks associated with outdated whitelist entries shouldn’t be overlooked.

Unauthorised access through excessive permissions could pose significant security threats. That’s why due diligence in the form of regular security audits are crucial to ensure authorised users retain the necessary access and unauthorised entities are promptly removed. 

Here is our recommended approach to whitelist maintenance:

  • Review: Periodically review the existing whitelist to identify any outdated or unnecessary entries. Always verify the legitimacy of each whitelisted IP address.
  • Deleting out-of-date IPs:  Always remove outdated entries promptly.
  • Periodic checks: Conduct periodic checks, aligning with your usual website security audit schedule. Ensure that the whitelist aligns with the current needs of your website.

Shield Security Pro’s IP management and analysis features facilitate the whitelist maintenance process – allowing you to specify individual IPs, IP ranges, or removing addresses as needed.

Secure your WordPress site with Site Lockdown today

While Site Lockdown may not suit every website, it’s invaluable for security sensitive industries like finance, government, and healthcare, where stringent cybersecurity measures are vital.

IP whitelisting helps streamline access for some users, and it can be complex without a plugin to manage it for you, but Shield Security PRO simplifies the process. 

Don’t compromise on cybersecurity. Download the Shield Security PRO plugin today for peace of mind and fortify your WordPress site!

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How to Rectify the WordPress Timthumb Hack: A DIY Guide

FEBRUARY 29, 2024

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in the world, powering millions of websites. However, its popularity makes it a target for hackers. One common vulnerability that hackers exploit is the TimThumb vulnerability

In this post, we will discuss what the TimThumb hack is, how it affects your WordPress site, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to rectify the hack yourself.

Understanding the TimThumb vulnerability in WordPress

TimThumb was a PHP code snippet used in WordPress themes and plugins to dynamically resize images to predefined dimensions to simplify the process of generating thumbnails on the fly. Before WordPress introduced this functionality into Core, TimThumb was an extremely popular script and included with many WordPress themes. Unfortunately, this script became a focal point for a significant cybersecurity concern within the WordPress community.

In 2011, a significant security incident unfolded as hackers exploited a vulnerability in TimThumb, a widely-used script at the time for dynamic image resizing in WordPress. This issue became particularly widespread due to several unique circumstances:

Lack of dynamic image resizing in WordPress

Early versions of WordPress couldn’t resize images dynamically on its own. But when mobile-responsive design gained popularity in the early 2010s, TimThumb came to the rescue. It allowed users to upload an image once and automatically get properly sized images for different screen sizes, even on mobile devices. As a result, TimThumb became a widely used solution in themes.

Prevalence in paid themes

Many premium WordPress themes incorporated TimThumb, bundling the script with their designs. Given that automatic theme updates were not yet widely adopted, users were required to manually update their themes. This posed a challenge as users often neglected updates, leaving vulnerable versions of TimThumb in use for extended periods.

Delayed awareness and remediation

The security issue with TimThumb allowed hackers to upload malicious PHP files, injecting harmful code into websites. Due to the lack of awareness, delayed updates, and the absence of automated security solutions like Shield (which wasn’t available in 2011!), the impact of the hack persisted for years, affecting a substantial number of WordPress sites.

Improved automatic updates

Notably, such a widespread and prolonged vulnerability would be less likely to occur in the present day. Modern WordPress versions benefit from improved automatic update mechanisms. If a security issue were to arise, updates are promptly issued, enabling site owners to quickly secure their websites.

The widespread effect was enhanced by the lack of updates made by website owners. This vulnerability shows us the importance of robust cybersecurity measures for the broader WordPress user base.

Though modern cybersecurity measures have substantially mitigated the TimThumb vulnerability’s impact, it remains an active threat. In fact, at least 56,606 websites are still using TimThumb to this day, including government websites.

💭Did you know? The most exploited plugin on this list, responsible for a huge 36% of WordPress hacks, was Contact Form 7.

The TimThumb script is no longer officially maintained or supported. Yet, it continues to persist on users’ sites, especially if they use outdated plugins and themes. This poses a threat, as TimThumb might unknowingly find its way onto your page, leaving you vulnerable.

Why did this happen in the first place?

Bugs are found in code all the time. When Ben Gillbanks, who initially wrote the TimTumb script, became aware of it, a fix was issued. This is, generally speaking, normal. The issue was that the update didn’t reach end-users because of how developers distributed WordPress themes at the time (as there were no automatic updates), so un-updated sites are still around now.

Ben told us:

When TimThumb was developed, WordPress lacked image thumbnails, prompting its creation to enhance website aesthetics, initially intended for premium WordPress themes. Unexpectedly, its popularity grew as other theme shops adopted the image resizing script.

The first indication that something was wrong was when my own site was defaced. Someone had changed my footer to link somewhere else. Unsure of the cause, I reverted it and ensured everything was up to date. Fortunately, this was before hackers started introducing backdoors, so it didn’t happen again.

A couple of days later, reports emerged that TimThumb was hacked, and my heart sank. I felt super guilty and spent a lot of time over the next few days trying to make it more secure.

Ben hosted TimThumb on Google Code, as GitHub wasn’t an option at the time. TimThumb was open source, and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg got personally involved, introducing Ben and developer Mark Maunder. A fixed version was released, but without automatic updates in WordPress, it didn’t reach end-users with the scale as you’d see now.

Ben shared some insight into the root of the issue:

The vulnerability arose from a few different factors:

  1. I had allowed resizing of external images, which meant files from other websites could be loaded.
  2. I enabled data caching for those external files without performing any file type checks to ensure they were images, not code.

Detecting the hack: Tools and techniques

The TimThumb exploit from 2011 is still an issue today. As discussed above, over 50,000 sites still use the script. One can assume that a smaller share of these are using the vulnerable version, but with TimThumb no longer maintained and WordPress offering dynamic image resizing, there’s little need for using it in 2024 or beyond.

For those with older websites or looking for absolute certainty about their site’s security, certain steps can be taken to assess and address any lingering use of TimThumb:

  1. Access files.

Use your FTP client, Secure Shell, or your hosting provider to access your website’s files.

  1. Backup.

Before proceeding, create a backup of your site files to avoid data loss.

  1. Search for TimThumb files.

Thoroughly check every file in your root directory. Look specifically for files labelled timthumb.php or thumb.php.

📝Please note: Manual file inspection is time-consuming and liable to human error. We recommend exploring alternative methods, such as using vulnerability scanner plugins.

While there are several plugin options on the market, Shield Security PRO is a great choice due to its extensive suite of customisable features, particularly the Anti-Bot Detection Engine

Using Shield Security PRO for early detection and prevention

Using Shield Security PRO is a great way to detect and prevent TimThumb hacks on WordPress sites. It has a vulnerability scanner that identifies known vulnerabilities, including the TimThumb script, allowing users to remove potential threats. The scan is also powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Dubbed MAL{ai}, the scanner can identify threats it’s never even seen before with 80-90% accuracy

Automatic file scanning is a key feature that compares your website to the default WordPress install to pinpoint files that shouldn’t be present. Shield Security PRO also takes charge of updating themes and plugins while flagging any out-of-date plugins, ensuring your site stays fortified against potential exploits.

The faster vulnerabilities – like the use of the TimThumb script  – are detected, the less opportunity hackers have to exploit and insert malicious code. Shield Security PRO provides a defence mechanism, enhancing your website’s resilience against emerging threats.

Steps to recover your WordPress site post-hack

Discovering a TimThumb vulnerability – or worse, an exploit – can be stressful. To help you with recovery, follow these steps:

Assessing the damage

Compare your site files and databases to the original versions to identify any discrepancies. Use tools like Shield Security PRO’s Malware Scanner to detect malicious code. Look for signs of unauthorised access, unexpected content changes, or alterations to your website’s structure.

Here’s how to scan on Shield Security PRO:

ShieldPRO in WordPress.
  1. Go to your WordPress dashboard and press ShieldPRO.
Run scans in the ShieldPRO section of WordPress.
  1. Click Scans.
The cog icon within ShieldPRO
  1. Click the settings icon in the right-hand corner. 
The Run Manual Scan button will appear once cog has been pressed
  1. Press Run Manual Scan.
Run scans now button.
  1. Press Run Scans Now.
The results of your scan in Shield Security PRO.
  1. From here, you will be notified if anything suspicious is occurring.

Cleaning up the infection

Change all passwords associated with your WordPress site, including admin, FTP, and database passwords. This helps secure your site and prevent further unauthorised access.

Ensure all elements of your WordPress site are up-to-date. This includes the core software, themes, and plugins. Regular updates patch security vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of future attacks.

Remove malicious injections from your databases and files. While technical details can be complex, it’s crucial to ensure your site is entirely free from compromised code. Note that manual cleanup may be risky for non-technical users; consider using specialised tools for a safer and more efficient cleanup. 

For example, Shield Security PRO’s automated scanning and malware removal feature can remove all traces of malicious scripts, including those related to TimThumb vulnerabilities. 

Recovering from backups

If available, restore your WordPress site from a clean backup. It is vital to regularly back up your site as a precautionary measure. There are a variety of WordPress backup plugins available to automate this process.

Communicating the incident

If user data might have been compromised, inform your site users about the breach. We recommend creating a draft communication statement in advance to save time and minimise stress. Include information like the type of attack, compromised data, impact on performance, and assurances about resolving the issue.

🔎 An example email for communicating a breach:

⚠️ You may want to consult legal professionals when drafting and releasing such communications, to ensure compliance with laws like GDPR.

Subject: Important notice regarding recent security incident on [Your Website Name]

Dear [Website Users],

I hope this message finds you well. We are writing to inform you about a recent security incident that has come to our attention. Your trust in our website’s security is of utmost importance to us, and we want to be transparent about the steps we are taking to address the situation.

What happened?
Our website recently experienced a security breach, and we believe it is our responsibility to notify you. The breach involved [brief description of the type of attack, e.g., unauthorised access or a specific vulnerability]. We want to assure you that we are taking immediate action to rectify the situation.

Was there any compromised data?
While we are still conducting a thorough investigation, it is possible that some user data may have been compromised. This may include [specify the type of data that might have been affected, e.g., usernames, email addresses, etc.]. We want to be transparent with you about the extent of the incident and assure you that we are doing everything in our power to safeguard your information.

Will this impact performance?
We understand the importance of secure data. The breach may have had some impact on the performance of our website. We are actively working to address any performance issues and enhance our security measures to prevent future incidents.
We want to assure you that our team is working diligently to resolve the issue. We have taken immediate steps to secure our website and are implementing additional security measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Your security and privacy are our top priorities.

What can you do?
As a precautionary measure, we recommend changing your password on our website. Additionally, if you use the same password on other sites, consider updating it there as well – and to avoid using the same password across multiple sites in the future. We also advise monitoring your accounts for any suspicious activity.

We are committed to keeping you informed about the progress of our investigation and the actions we are taking. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at [provide a contact email or phone number].

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this incident may have caused. Your understanding and cooperation during this time are greatly appreciated.

Thank you for being a valued member of our community.

[Your Company/Organisation Name][Contact Information]

Assessing and learning

After the recovery, take time to analyse how the hack occurred. Understanding the vulnerability can help you prevent future attacks. 

Securing your WordPress website against TimThumb and other vulnerability attacks

While TimThumb is no longer actively used in WordPress themes or plugins, it could be lingering in out-of-date sections of your site’s code. Regularly updating and removing previous instances of TimThumb in your WordPress site significantly reduces the risk of its exploits. 

Paul Goodchild, creator of Shield Security PRO, says, “If you’re performing regular maintenance on your WordPress sites, the likelihood that you’ll be susceptible to a vulnerability is slim-to-almost-none. You’ll have updated the affected plugin or theme, so you’re already protected.”

Recognising that technology evolves, relying on the right protection is important. A cybersecurity plugin like Shield Security PRO offers security with vulnerability detection, malware scanning, and bad-bot blocking. 

Stay ahead of potential threats by downloading the Shield Security PRO plugin today – your proactive defense against evolving cybersecurity challenges! 

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