CISA Releases Free “CISA Hunt and Incident Response Program” Tool (CHIRP) | Ron Benvenisti

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released a free tool into the public domain on March 18 which addresses the “Sparrow” malware which was discovered as it compromised the “Smartmatic” software used in the elections.

The latest indications are that the malware was utilized by North Korea and Iran in the elections but is widely used to compromise and alter information on servers and workstation PCs in the private, public and government sectors. Sparrow and Smartmatic are considered a threat to National Security when used on any system regardless of type of entity.

The use of Sparrow was only discovered during forensics performed by former agent Bill Binney, on machines used in the election but it has been in use since at least 2016.

It has been discovered, as mentioned above, having infected several thousands of machines and likely in the millions which are yet undetected. It has been literally impossible to know if you have been compromised, therefore CISA has released this tool as part of the free CHIRP program.

The following is meant for network administrators, third-party IT providers in any and every sector.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency CISA

Detecting Post-Compromise Threat Activity Using the CHIRP IOC Detection Tool

CISA Hunt and Incident Response Program (CHIRP) is a new forensics collection tool that CISA developed to help network defenders find indicators of compromise (IOCs) associated with the SolarWinds and Active Directory/M365 Compromise. CHIRP is freely available on the CISA GitHub repository.

Similar to the CISA-developed Sparrow tool

—which scans for signs of APT compromise within an M365 or Azure environment—CHIRP scans for signs of APT compromise within an on-premises environment.

CISA Alert AA21-077A: Detecting Post-Compromise Threat Activity using the CHIRP IOC Detection Tool provides guidance on using the new tool. This Alert is a companion to AA20-352A: Advanced Persistent Threat Compromise of Government Agencies, Critical Infrastructure, and Private Sector Organizations and AA21-008A: Detecting Post-Compromise Threat Activity in Microsoft Cloud. For additional guidance watch CISA’s CHIRP Overview video.

CISA encourages users and administrations to review the Alert for more information. For more technical information on the SolarWinds Orion supply chain compromise, see CISA’s Remediating Networks Affected by the SolarWinds and Active Directory/M365 Compromise web page. For general information on CISA’s response to the supply chain compromise, refer to cisa.gov/supply-chain-compromise.

Using CHIRP to Detect Post-Compromise Threat Activity in On-Premises Environments

Summary

This Alert announces the CISA Hunt and Incident Response Program (CHIRP) tool. CHIRP is a forensics collection tool that CISA developed to help network defenders find indicators of compromise (IOCs) associated with activity detailed in the following CISA Alerts:

Similar to Sparrow

—which scans for signs of APT compromise within an M365 or Azure environment—CHIRP scans for signs of APT compromise within an on-premises environment.

In this release, CHIRP, by default, searches for IOCs associated with malicious activity detailed in AA20-352A and AA21-008A that has spilled into an on-premises enterprise environment.

CHIRP is freely available on the CISA GitHub Repository

. Note: CISA will continue to release plugins and IOC packages for new threats via the CISA GitHub Repository.

CISA advises organizations to use CHIRP to:

  • Examine Windows event logs for artifacts associated with this activity;
  • Examine Windows Registry for evidence of intrusion;
  • Query Windows network artifacts; and
  • Apply YARA rules to detect malware, backdoors, or implants.

Network defenders should review and confirm any post-compromise threat activity detected by the tool. CISA has provided confidence scores for each IOC and YARA rule included with CHIRP’s release. For confirmed positive hits, CISA recommends collecting a forensic image of the relevant system(s) and conducting a forensic analysis on the system(s).

If an organization does not have the capability to follow the guidance in this Alert, consider soliciting third-party IT security support. Note: Responding to confirmed positive hits is essential to evict an adversary from a compromised network.

Click here for a PDF version of this report.

Technical Details

How CHIRP Works

CHIRP is a command-line executable with a dynamic plugin and indicator system to search for signs of compromise. CHIRP has plugins to search through event logs and registry keys and run YARA rules to scan for signs of APT tactics, techniques, and procedures. CHIRP also has a YAML file that contains a list of IOCs that CISA associates with the malware and APT activity detailed in CISA Alerts AA20-352A and AA21-008A.

Currently, the tool looks for:

  • The presence of malware identified by security researchers as TEARDROP and RAINDROP;
  • Credential dumping certificate pulls;
  • Certain persistence mechanisms identified as associated with this campaign;
  • System, network, and M365 enumeration; and
  • Known observable indicators of lateral movement.

Network defenders can follow step-by-step instructions on the CISA CHIRP GitHub repository

 to add additional IOCs, YARA rules, or plugins to CHIRP to search for post-compromise threat activity related to the SolarWinds Orion supply chain compromise or new threat activity.

Compatibility

CHIRP currently only scans Windows operating systems.

Instructions

CHIRP is available on CISA’s GitHub repository in two forms:

  1. A compiled executable
  2. A python script

CISA recommends using the compiled version to easily scan a system for APT activity. For instructions to run, read the README.md in the CHIRP GitHub repository.

If you choose to use the native Python version, see the detailed instructions on the CHIRP GitHub repository.

Mitigations

Interpreting the Results

CHIRP provides results of its scan in JSON format. CISA encourages uploading the results into a security information and event management (SIEM) system, if available. If no SIEM system is available, results can be viewed in a compatible web browser or text editor. If CHIRP detects any post-compromise threat activity, those detections should be reviewed and confirmed. CISA has provided confidence scores for each IOC and YARA rule included with CHIRP’s release. For confirmed positive hits, CISA recommends collecting a forensic image of the relevant system(s) and conducting a forensic analysis on the system(s).

If you do not have the capability to follow the guidance in this Alert, consider soliciting third-party IT security support. Note: Responding to confirmed positive hits is essential to evict an adversary from a compromised network.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What systems should CHIRP run on?

Systems running SolarWinds Orion or believed to be involved in any resulting lateral movement.

  1. What should I do with results?

Ingest the JSON results into a SIEM system, web browser, or text editor.

  1. Are there existing tools that CHIRP complements and/or provide the same benefit as CHIRP?
    1. Antivirus software developers may have begun to roll out detections for the SolarWinds post-compromise activity. However, those products can miss historical signs of compromise. CHIRP can provide a complementary benefit to antivirus when run.
    2. CISA previously released the Sparrow tool that scans for APT activity within M365 and Azure environments related to activity detailed in CISA Alerts AA20-352A and AA21-008A. CHIRP provides a complementary capability to Sparrow by scanning for on-premises systems for similar activity.
  2. How often should I run CHIRP?

CHIRP can be run once or routinely. Currently, CHIRP does not provide a mechanism to run repeatedly in its native format.

  1. Do I need to configure the tool before I run it?

No.

  1. Will CHIRP change or affect anything on the system(s) it runs on?

No, CHIRP only scans the system(s) it runs on and makes no active changes.

  1. How long will it take to run CHIRP?

CHIRP will complete its scan in approximately 1 to 2 hours. Duration will be dependent on the level of activity, the system, and the size of the resident data sets. CHIRP will provide periodic progress updates as it runs.

  1. If I have questions, who do I contact?  

For general questions regarding CHIRP, please contact CISA via email at [email protected]

or by phone at 1-888-282-0870. For reporting indicators of potential compromise, contact us by submitting a report through our website at https://us-cert.cisa.gov/report. For all technical issues or support for CHIRP, please submit issues at the CISA CHIRP GitHub Repository

Revisions

March 18, 2021: Initial Publication

 

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