APT malware crack squad CrowdStrike hires ex-US Air Force Colonel

CrowdStrike, the ‘big data’ security startup promising to raise the cost of targeted malware attacks, has added a former US Air Force Colonel to its star-studded cyber security line up.

Retired USAF Colonel Mike Convertino will become CrowdStrike’s senior director for strategic operations where he will focus on “executing offensive/active defense and information operations” for its customers.

CrowdStrike’s chief and co-founder, George Kurtz, points out that Convertino has earned his cyber stripes -- both within the US Airforce and later at Microsoft.

“As Commander of the 318th Information Operations Group, the premier information warfare group within the Air Force, Mike established a consistent track record of taking the lead in developing information operations techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) and the tools to execute them for use by the combat air forces and other agencies.”

After retiring as a USAF commander, Convertino joined Microsoft where he headed up the Redmond company’s cyber forensics investigations and monitoring of networks behind Microsoft’s core online platforms.

CrowdStrike attracted attention for its claim to offer clients “offensive” security capabilities, which could be interpreted as launching attacks on hacker adversaries, but appears to be more closely associated with destabilising attacks on its clients.

Kurtz, a former CTO for Intel-owned McAfee, founded the company with fellow ex-McAfee executive Dmitri Alperovitch, and has described CrowdStrike’s techniques as “deception, denial, disruption”. The idea is to create uncertainty about the reliability of the stolen data.

Other high profile appointments at CrowdStrike include Shawn Henry, head of its professional services team and a retired executive assistant director of an FBI cyber response team. Steve Chabinsky, another former FBI staffer with a legal and policy background, joined as the company’s chief risk officer earlier this year.

The company does focus on malware attacks, but according to Kurtz, it goes beyond anti-malware technologies and forensics by identifying the attacker based on a profile of the weapons they use.

“One of the things we’re focussed on via technology is linking the malware to the adversary to their intent,” Kurtz told CSO.com.au in an earlier interview.

The company does not claim to identify individuals behind an attack, but does claim it can narrow down a group in China that is the likely attacker.

“It’s not saying it’s this particular guy in China. It’s more about this particular group of people and there’s a finite number of people or groups that are operating. It’s not unlimited. If you understand how they operate - they may change the malware, but you can still understand who’s coming after you.

“From the physical world, if someone is shooting at you, do you ask is that a 9mm or a 45? Or do you ask who is shooting at me, why are they shooting at me and how do I get it to stop?

“So in the digital world what do you do? I just saw downloader X,Y,Z, I just saw Flame, or this. That’s the digital bullet but no one is trying to connect it to who the shooter is. But there are tell-tale signs of the way -- the TTPs of how people operate -- and I wouldn’t say with 100 per cent certainty, but with a high probability, you can begin linking all this together.”

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