Email Campaign Uses CDC Flu Pandemic Warning to Fool Users into Installing GandCrab Ransomware

Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new scams to convince people to part with their login credentials or install botnets, viruses, malware, or ransomware.

Email is one of the easiest ways to get these scams out to the masses, accompanied with a good hook to get the user to open the message. Various tactics are used to achieve the latter, one of the most common being fear. Scaring people into taking action is very effective. A recently identified campaign is a good example. It uses fear of a flu pandemic to get users to take action.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu killed about 80,000 in the 2017 to 2018 season, which was a record year for flu deaths. The previous record in the past three decades was beaten by 24,000.

For any phishing email to stand a good chance of fooling large numbers of people, the emails must be credible. This campaign provides that credibility by spoofing the CDC. The subject lines used in the campaign warn of a flu pandemic, and the email addresses used and the logos in the message body make the messages appear to have genuinely been sent by the CDC.

The message included an attachment – named Flu Pandemic Warning – provides important information that users need to know to prevent infection and stop the disease from spreading. The fear of contracting flu combined with the realistic looking emails make it likely that this campaign will fool many individuals.

That document contains malicious code that downloads and runs GandCrab ransomware v5.2, for which there is currently no free decryptor. Once downloaded, GandCrab ransomware will encrypt files on the infected computer preventing them from being accessed. The average ransom demand is $800 per infected computer.

In order for the malicious code to download the ransomware, the content must be enabled. In the message body, recipients are told that in order to view all the information in the document they must enable content. This prior instruction is intended to get the user to click ‘enable content’ quickly when the document is opened, rather than to stop and think.

All users should be alert to these kind of email scams. Caution should be exercised before opening any email attachment, no matter how urgent the message appears to be. Any unsolicited email should be carefully checked as there will usually be signs that indicates all is not what it seems.

Businesses are particularly at risk and can suffer major losses as a result of ransomware attacks, especially when several employees are fooled by these email scams.

Signature-based email defenses were once effective at blocking malware, but malware developers are constantly releasing new versions that have never before been seen. Signature-based AV software struggles to maintain pace and is not effective against zero-day malware variants and malicious code that downloads the malware.

End user training certainly goes a long way and can help to prevent mass infections, but what is really needed is an advanced anti-phishing solution that blocks phishing emails and email scams at source before they are delivered to inboxes. That is an area where TitanHQ can help.

To protect against email-based attacks, TitanHQ developed SpamTitan – A highly effective anti-phishing and anti-spam solution with advanced features that provide superior protection against phishing and malware attacks.

In addition to dual anti-virus engines, SpamTitan incorporates a wide range of checks to distinguish malicious emails from genuine messages. Recently, Spamtitan has had two new features incorporated: DMARC email authentication and sandboxing. DMARC helps to ensure that spoofed email messages, such as those that appear to have been sent by the CDC, are identified as scams and are blocked. Sandboxing is important for protecting against zero-day malware threats and malicious downloaders.

Potentially malicious attachments are executed and analyzed in a Bitdefender-powered sandbox, where the actions performed by malware and malicious code can be assessed without causing harm. When malicious code is detected it is blocked across all users’ inboxes.

With SpamTitan in place, businesses will be well protected against campaigns such as this. For further information on TitanHQ’s award-winning anti-spam solution, for a product demonstration, or to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today and take the first step toward making your email channel much more secure.

SpamTitan Named Leading Secure Email Gateway Solution

SpamTitan, TitanHQ’s business email security solution, has been named leader in the Spring G2 Crowd Grid Report for Email Security Gateways.

G2 Crowd is a peer-to-peer review platform for business solutions. G2 Crowd aggregates user reviews of business software and the company’s quarterly G2 Crowd Grid Reports provide a definitive ranking of business software solutions.

The amalgamated reviews are read by more than 1.5 million site visitors each month, who use the reviews to inform software purchases. To ensure that only genuine reviews are included, each individual review is subjected to manual review.

The latest G2 Crowd Grid Report covers email security gateway solutions. Gateway solutions are comprehensive email security platforms that protect against email-based attacks such as phishing and malware. The email gateway is a weak point for many businesses and it is one that is often exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to business networks. A powerful and effective email gateway solution will prevent the vast majority of threats from reaching end users and will keep businesses protected.

To qualify for inclusion in the report, email gateway solutions needed to scan incoming mail to identify spam, malware, and viruses, securely encrypt communications, identify and block potentially malicious content, offer compliant storage through archiving capabilities, and allow whitelisting and blacklisting to control suspicious accounts.

For the report, 10 popular email security gateway solutions were assessed from Cisco, Barracuda, Barracuda Essentials, Proofpoint, Mimecast, Symantec, McAfee, Solarwinds MSP, MobileIron, and TitanHQ. Customers of all solutions were required to give the product a rating in four areas: Quality of support, ease of use, meets requirements and ease of administration.

TitanHQ the leader in business email security, today announced it has been recognized as a leader in the G2 Crowd Grid? Spring 2019 Report for Email Security.

TitanHQ’s SpamTitan was named leader based on consistently high scores for customer satisfaction and market presence. 97% of users of SpamTitan awarded the solution 4 or 5 stars out of 5 and 92% said they would recommend SpamTitan to others.

SpamTitan scored 94% for quality of support and meeting requirements. The industry average in these two areas was 84% and 88% respectively. The solution scored 92% for ease of use against an industry average of 82%, and 90% for ease of admin against an average value of 83%.

“TitanHQ are honored that our flagship email security solution SpamTitan has been named a leader in the email security gateway category,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “Our customers value the uncompromised security and real-time threat detection. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from SpamTitan users on G2 Crowd is indicative of our commitment to ensuring the highest levels of customer success.”

If you want to improve email security without breaking the bank and want a solution that your IT staff will like using, SpamTitan is the ideal choice.

SpamTitan is available on a 100% free trial to allow you to try before committing to a purchase; however, if you have any questions about the solution, contact the TitanHQ team who will be happy to help and can schedule a product demonstration.

Emotet Malware Revives Old Email Conversations Threads to Increase Infection Rates

Emotet malware was first identified in 2014 and its original purpose was to obtain banking credentials and other sensitive information; however, the malware is regularly updated and new functionality is added. Emotet malware is now one of the most prevalent and dangerous malware threats faced by businesses.

The malware can detect whether it is running in a virtual environment and will generate false indicators in such cases. The malware is polymorphic, which means it changes every time it is downloaded. That makes it difficult to detect using the signature-based detection methods employed by standard anti-virus software.

The malware also has worm-like features which allows it to rapidly spread to other networked computers. Emotet is also capable of spamming and forwarding itself to email contacts. As if infection with Emotet is not bad enough, it can also download other malware variants onto infected devices.

Emotet malware is one of the most destructive malware variants currently in use and cleaning up Emotet attacks can be incredibly costly. The Department of Homeland Security has reported that some attacks on state, local, tribal, and territorial governments have cost more than $1 million to resolve.

Emotet malware is primarily distributed via spam email, either through malicious attachments or hyperlinks to websites where the malware is silently downloaded. The lures used in the messages are highly varied and include most of the commonly used phishing lures such as shipping notifications, fake invoices, payment requests, PayPal receipts.

Now the threat actors behind the malware have adopted a new tactic to increase infection rates. Once installed on a device, the malware accesses email conversation threads and forwards the message to individuals named in the thread.

The original email conversation is unaltered, but a hyperlink is added to the top of the message. The link directs the recipient to a webpage where a file download is triggered. Opening the document and enabling macros will see Emotet downloaded. Email attachments may also be added to previous conversation threads in place of hyperlinks.

Since the messages come from a known individual with whom an email conversation has taken place in the past, the probability of the document being opened is greater than if messages come out of the blue or are sent from an unknown individual.

Several cybersecurity firms have identified a campaign using this tactic, including phishing intelligence provider Cofense and security researcher Marcus Hutchins (MalwareTech).

The current campaign uses revived conversations from before November 2018, although more recent conversations may be revived in further campaigns. Any revived old email conversation that contains a link or an attachment could indicate a user has been targeted and that at least one member of the email exchange has been infected with Emotet.

The current campaign is not only extensive, it is also proving to be extremely successful. Spamhaus reports that there have been 47,000 new infections in the past two months alone, while Cofense reports that it has identified more than 700,000 infections in the past 12 months.

Protecting against this dangerous malware requires a powerful anti-spam solution and good security awareness training for staff. SpamTitan’s new features can help to detect malicious emails spreading Emotet malware to better protect businesses from attack.

To find out more about SpamTitan and how the solution can protect your business, give TitanHQ a call today.

Tax-Related Phishing Scams Delivering TrickBot Trojan

Monday April 15 is Tax Day in the United States – the deadline for submitting 2018 tax returns. Each year in the run up to Tax Day, cybercriminals step up their efforts to obtain users’ tax credentials. In the past few weeks, many tax-related phishing scams have been detected which attempt to install information stealing malware.

One of the main aims of these campaigns is to obtain tax credentials. These are subsequently used to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. Tax is refunded to accounts controlled by the attackers, checks are redirected, and a range of other methods are used to obtain the payments.

Attacks on tax professionals are commonplace. If access can be gained to a tax professional’s computer, the tax credentials of clients can be stolen, and fraudulent tax returns can be filed in their names. A single successful attack on a tax professional can see the attacker obtain many thousands of dollars in tax rebates.

There has been the usual high level of tax-related phishing scams during the 2019 tax season and businesses of all types have been targeted. It is not only tax credentials that cybercriminals are after. Many tax-themed phishing scams have been conducted which attempt to install malware and ransomware such as the TrickBot banking Trojan.

The TrickBot banking Trojan is a powerful malware variant which, once installed, can give an attacker full control of an infected computer. The malware is primarily an information stealer. A successful installation on one business computer can allow the attackers to move laterally and spread the malware across the whole network.

The primary purpose of the TrickBot trojan is to steal banking credentials which can be used to make fraudulent wire transfers: however, TrickBot is regularly updated with new features. In addition to stealing banking credentials, the malware can steal VNC. RDP, and PuTTY credentials.

The threat actors behind TrickBot are highly organized and well resourced. More than 2,400 command and control servers are used by the cybercriminal gang and that number continues to grow.

The three new TrickBot malware campaigns were detected since late January by IBM X-Force researchers. Spam email messages are carefully crafted to appear legitimate and look innocuous to business users and appear to have been sent by well-known accounting and payroll firms such as ADP and Paychex.

Spoofed email addresses are commonly used, although in these campaigns, the attackers have used domain squatting. They have registered domains that are very similar to those used by the accounting firms. The domains have transposed letters and slight misspellings to make the email appear to have been sent from a legitimate source. The domains can be highly convincing and, in some cases, are extremely difficult to identify as fake.

The emails are well written and claim to include tax billing records, which are included as attached spreadsheets. The spreadsheets contain malicious macros which, if allowed to run, will download the TrickBot Trojan.

To prevent attacks, several steps should be taken. Macros should be disabled by default on all devices. Prompt patching is required to keep all software and operating systems up to date to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited.

End users should receive security awareness training and should be taught cybersecurity best practices and how to identify phishing emails. An advanced spam and anti-phishing solution should also be implemented to ensure phishing emails are identified and prevented from reaching end users inboxes. Further, all IoCs and IPs known to be associated with the threat actors should be blocked through spam filtering solutions, firewalls, and web gateways.

The latter is made easy with SpamTitan and WebTitan – TitanHQ’s anti-phishing and web filtering solutions for SMBs.

Webinar: Discover the Exciting New Features of SpamTitan

Current users of the SpamTitan email security solution and SMBs and MSPs that are considering implementing SpamTitan or offering it to their clients are invited to join a webinar in which TitanHQ will explains the exciting new features that have recently been incorporated into the anti-phishing and anti-spam solution.

SpamTitan has recently received a major update that has seen the incorporation of DMARC email authentication to better protect users from email impersonation attacks and the addition of a new Bitdefender-powered sandbox. The sandbox allows users to safely assess email attachments for malicious actions, to better protect them against zero-day malware and other malicious software delivered via email.

The webinar will explain these and other features of SpamTitan in detail and the benefits they offer to customers, including how they better protect SMBs and SMEs from phishing, spear phishing, spoofing, ransomware, malware, and zero-day attacks.

The webinar will also explain why SpamTitan is the leading email security solution for managed service providers serving the SMB and SME market and how the solution can help to enhance security for their clients and can easily be slotted into their service stacks.

The webinar will be taking place on Thursday April 4, 2019 at 12pm, EST and will last approximately 30 minutes.

Advance registration is necessary. You can sign up for the webinar on this link.

Cybercriminals Launch Malware and Phishing Campaigns Using Boeing Crash and Christchurch Massacre as Lures

The past few weeks have seen two major disasters in which hundreds of people lost their lives. 157 people lost their lives in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash and the Christchurch mosque massacre saw 50 people killed.

Both events were terrible tragedies that shocked people the world over. Victims and their families have been receiving messages of support on social media and many people have shown their support by making financial donations. More than US$5 million has so far been raised to help the victims of the New Zealand attack.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are taking advantage. In the past few days, phishing campaigns have been detected that are using the tragedies to infect computers with malware and steal charitable donations.

According to New Zealand’s cybersecurity agency, CERT NZ, multiple campaigns have been detected that are using the Christchurch attack as a lure. Malware has been embedded in video footage of the tragedy which is currently being shared online, including on social media websites.

Phishing attacks are also being conducted which contain links to faked online banking forms that attempt to obtain users banking credentials. One campaign spoofed the Westpac New Zealand bank and emails appeared to have been sent from its domain. Other email campaigns contain pleas for financial assistance and supply bank account details for donations, but the details are for criminal-controlled accounts.

Another campaign has been detected that is using the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash to spread a remote access Trojan and information stealer. The emails claim to offer information to air travelers about airlines that are likely to also suffer crashes. The emails offer information that has been found on the darkweb by a security analyst. The emails include a JAR file which, it is claimed, has important information for all air travelers on airlines to avoid due to the risk of plane crashes.

Whenever there is a tragedy that is extensively covered in the media cybercriminals try to take advantage. By adopting cybersecurity best practices such as never opening email attachments from unknown senders nor clicking links in emails, these scams can be avoided.

Unfortunately, email spoofing makes it difficult to detect phishing threats. Scam emails often appear genuine and seem to have been sent from a trusted source. To combat the threat to businesses, TitanHQ has recently updated its spam filtering solution, SpamTitan, to provide greater protection from these threats.

SpamTitan now incorporates DMARC to authenticate senders of emails and protect against email impersonation attacks. To provide even greater protection from malware, in addition to dual anti-virus engines, SpamTitan now incorporates a Bitdefender-powered sandbox, where suspicious files can be safely analyzed to determine whether they are malicious.

These additional controls will help to protect businesses and end users from new malware threats and advanced phishing and email impersonation scams.

Sandboxing and DMARC Authentication Added to SpamTitan Email Security Solution

Sandboxing and DMARC Authentication Added to SpamTitan Email Security Solution

This week, TitanHQ has rolled out two new features for its award-winning email security solution SpamTitan: Sandboxing and DMARC email authentication.

TitanHQ developed the technology behind its email security solution more than 20 years ago and over the past two decades SpamTitan has received many updates to improve features for end users and increase detection rates.

SpamTitan already blocks more than 99.9% of spam and malicious emails to prevent threats from reaching end users’ inboxes. The level of protection SpamTitan provides against email attacks has made it the gold standard in email security for the SMB market and managed service providers serving SMBs.

In order to provide even greater protection against increasingly sophisticated email threats, TitanHQ added a new sandboxing feature. The next-generation sandboxing feature, powered by Bitdefender, provides SpamTitan customers with a safe environment to run in-depth analyses of suspicious programs and files that have been delivered via email.

New SpamTitan Sandboxing Service

The sandbox is a powerful virtual environment totally separate from other systems. When programs are run in the sandbox, they behave as they would on an ordinary endpoint and can be assessed for suspicious behavior and malicious actions without causing harm.

Prior to being sent to the sandbox, files are first analyzed using SpamTitan’s anti-malware technologies. Only files that require further analysis make it to the sandbox where they are safely detonated. Tactics used by malware to evade detection and avoid analysis are logged and flagged. Purpose-built, advanced machine learning algorithms they assess the files and check their actions against an extensive array of known threats from a range on online repositories in a matter of minutes.

If the file is confirmed as benign, it can be released. If the file is determined to be malicious, the sandboxing service automatically sends a report to the Bitdefender’s Global Protective Network and all further instances of the threat will then be blocked globally to ensure the file does not need to be analysed again.

The sandbox provides advanced protection against zero-day exploits, polymorphic threats, APTs, malicious URLs, new malware samples that have yet to be identified as malicious, and new threats that have been developed for undetectable targeted attacks.

Incorporation of this feature into SpamTitan gives customers advanced emulation-based malware analysis capabilities without having to purchase a separate sandboxing solution and ensures customers are protected against rapidly evolving advanced threats.

DMARC Email Authentication Added to SpamTitan

Email spoofing is the term given to the use of a forged sender address. Email spoofing is used to increase the likelihood of an email being delivered and opened by an end user. The email address of a known contact, well known company, or government organization is usually spoofed to abuse trust in that individual, brand, or organization.

DMARC authentication is now essential for all businesses and is a powerful control to prevent spoofing attacks. DMARC is used to check email headers to provide further information about the true sender of an email. Through DMARC, the message is authenticated as having been sent from the organization that owns the domain. If authentication fails, the message is rejected.

While SPF provides a certain degree of protection against email spoofing, DMARC is far more dependable. SpamTitan now incorporates DMARC authentication to provide even greater protection against email spoofing attacks.

Both of these new features have been added in the latest update to SpamTitan and are available to users at no extra cost.

“We have listened to requests from customers to have new features added to SpamTitan, and by far the most requested improvements are anti-spoofing technology and sandboxing,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “I’m delighted to say that both of these new features have now been added to provide enhanced security for customers at no extra cost.”

IRS Issues Warning About Tax Phishing Scams

During tax season, tax phishing scams are rife. If cybercriminals can steal personal information such as the information contained on W2 forms, they can use the information to file fraudulent tax returns. Each set of credentials can net cybercriminals thousands of dollars. Attacks on businesses can be even more profitable. If an attack results in the theft of the tax credentials of a company’s entire workforce, hundreds of fraudulent tax returns can be filed.

The IRS works hard to combat fraud, but even so, many of these attacks are successful and fraudulent tax refunds are issued. This week, as part of its efforts to combat tax fraud, the IRS has launched its 2019 Dirty Dozen campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the threat of tax fraud and encourages taxpayers, businesses, and tax professionals to be vigilant.

The campaign features 12 common tax scams that attempt to obtain personal information or access to systems that contain such information. The campaign will see a different scam highlighted for 12 consecutive days. The campaign was launched on March 4 with the biggest threat in tax season: Tax phishing scams.

Common Tax Phishing Scams

Tax phishing scams are constantly evolving and each year several new tax phishing scams are identified. The most common scams and attacks are:

  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks
  • Business Email Spoofing (BES) attacks
  • Email impersonation attacks
  • Malware

BEC attacks involve the use of a genuine business email account to send messages to employees requesting the W2 form information of employees, changes to business account information, requests to reroute direct deposits and make fraudulent wire transfers. The attackers often gain access to a high-level executive’s email account through a spear phishing campaign. BEC is one of the most common business tax phishing scams.

BES attacks are similar, except that no email account has been compromised. The email address of an executive or other employee is spoofed so that emails appears to have been sent from within an organization.

Email impersonation attacks are common during tax season. Scammers impersonate the IRS and use a variety of lures to obtain personal information. Common lures are threats of legal action or fines for outstanding taxes and offers of tax refunds. They often direct users to a website where they are required to enter their personal information. These phishing webpages are also linked to on social media websites. The clients of tax professionals may also be impersonated. Emails often request changes be made to direct deposit accounts or contain requests for sensitive information.

Malware is often used to gain access to the computers of tax professionals, and employees in the payroll and HR departments. Keyloggers are commonly used as they allow the attackers to steal login credentials. Malware can also transfer files containing sensitive information to the attackers’ servers. Malware is often installed via scripts in email attachments – malicious macros for instance – or via drive-by downloads from malicious websites.

New Phishing Scam Targeting Tax Professionals

One of the new tax phishing scams to emerge this year targets tax professionals. First the attackers gain access to tax professionals’ computers, either through spear phishing campaigns or by installing malware. Client tax information is then stolen and fraudulent tax returns are files in the clients’ names. When the IRS processes the refunds, payments are sent to taxpayers’ bank accounts. Those taxpayers then receive a call or an email demanding the return of the funds which have been paid in error. The attackers claim to be from a debt collection agency used by the IRS or the IRS itself.

Don’t Become a Victim of a Tax Phishing Scam

Many taxpayers and businesses fall victim to tax phishing scams each year, especially during tax season when attacks increase; however, by taking some simple steps and being vigilant it is possible to identify scams and keep financial and personal data secure.

Any email, text, or telephone call that requests personal/tax information should be treated as a potential scam. If an email or text message is received that claims to be from the IRS demanding payment of outstanding taxes, an offer of a tax refund, or a threat of legal action, bear in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact via email or text message asking for personal information. If such a message is received, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov and contact the IRS or check your online tax account to find out if there is a genuine problem. Never use the contact information or links in an email and do not open an email attachment in an email that appears to have been sent by the IRS.

Businesses can include information about tax phishing scams in their security awareness training sessions, but departments that are likely to be targeted by cybercriminals – payroll, human resources, finance and accounting Etc.) should receive specific training ahead off the start of tax season. Sending monthly reminders about phishing attacks and other tax scams each month via email is also a good best practice.

Since most attacks start with a phishing email, businesses should ensure that they have an advanced spam filtering solution in place to block phishing and other emails at the gateway before they can be delivered to end users. SpamTitan is an ideal anti-spam solution for businesses and tax professionals to protect against tax phishing scams. The solution blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and includes outbound email scanning to ensure that compromised email accounts cannot be used for spamming.

To protect against internet phishing scams, a web filtering solution is ideal. WebTitan prevents end users from visiting phishing websites, including blocking visits to malicious websites via hyperlinks in scam emails. The solution also blocks drive-by malware downloads and other web-based threats.

If you are a tax professional or you run a business and are unhappy with your current anti-spam or web filtering solution provider, or you have yet to implement either of these solutions, give the TitanHQ team a call today for further information on how these solutions can protect your business, details of pricing, and to book a product demonstration.

How to Protect Against Spoofed Email Phishing Scams

Spoofed email phishing scams can be hard for end users to identify. The scams involve sending a phishing email to a user and making the email appear as if it has been sent by a known individual. This could be a known contact such as a supplier, a work colleague, a friend or family member, or a well-known company.

These phishing campaigns abuse trust in the sender and they are highly effective. Many end users are warned never to click on links in emails or open email attachments in messages from unknown senders, but when the sender is known, many users feel that the email is safe.

One of the most effective spoofed email phishing scams involves impersonation of the CEO or a high-level executive such as the CFO. This type of scam is often referred to as a business email compromise scam or BEC attack. A message is sent to an employee in the accounts department requesting an urgent wire transfer be made along with the account details. The attacker may first start an email conversation with the target before the request is made. No employee wants to refuse a direct request from the CEO, so the requested action is often taken.

Over the past few months, sextortion scams have grown in popularity with cybercriminals. Sextortion scams are those which threaten to oust the victim unless a payment is made. This could be disclosing the user’s internet browsing habits (dating sites, adult sites) to a spouse, work colleagues, and family members. There were many of these scams launched following the hacking of the Ashley Madison website when details of users of the site were dumped online.

Several sextortion scams have been detected in the past few months which claim that the sender (a hacker) has gained access to the user’s computer and installed malware that provided access to the webcam, microphone, and internet browsing history. The email message informs the recipient that they have been recorded while viewing adult websites and a video of them has been spliced with the content they were viewing at the time. The attacker threatens to send the video to every one of the user’s contacts on email and social media accounts.

Two recent sextortion campaigns have been detected that spoof the users own email address, so the email appears to have been sent from their own email account. This tactic backs up the claim that the attacker has full control of the user’s device and access to their email contacts. The reality is the email header has just been spoofed. Additionally, the user’s password is included in the message, which has been obtained from a past data breach. The password may not be current, but it may be recognized.

A check of the bitcoin wallet address included in the emails for the blackmail payment shows these scam emails have been highly effective and several victims have paid up to avoid being outed. One campaign netted the attacker $100,000 in one week, another saw payments made totaling $250,000.

These spoofed email phishing scams are not difficult to block, yet many businesses are vulnerable to these types of attacks. Security awareness training for employees is a must. If employees are not taught how to check for spoofed email phishing scams, they are unlikely to recognize threats for what they are. Even so, it is difficult for an average employee to identify every possible phishing attempt, as phishing email simulations show.

What is needed is an advanced spam filtering solution that can detect spoofed email phishing attacks and block the malicious emails at source to prevent messages from being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan Cloud, for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails to keep businesses protected.

If you want to keep your business protected and prevent these all to common spoofed email phishing attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call. A member of the team will be happy to talk about the product, the best set up for your organization, and can arrange to give you a full product demonstration and set you up for a free trial.

 

Recently Disclosed WinRAR Vulnerability Being Actively Exploited in Malspam Campaign

It doesn’t take long after the release of a patch for hackers to take advantage, especially when the vulnerability potentially impacts 500 million users. It is therefore not surprising that at least one hacker is taking advantage of a recently disclosed WinRAR vulnerability.

Oftentimes, vulnerabilities are found in certain versions of software, but this vulnerability affects all WinRAR users and dates back 19 years. The WinRAR vulnerability was identified by researchers at Check Point. WinRAR was alerted and confirmed the vulnerability existed, and promptly issued an updated version of the file compression tool with the vulnerability removed. Details of the vulnerability were disclosed in a Check Point blog post on February 20, 2019.

The WinRAR vulnerability in question was present in a third-party DLL file which was included in WinRAR to allow ACE archive files to be uncompressed. The researchers found that by renaming a .rar archive to make it appear that the compressed file was an ACE archive, it was possible to extract a malicious file into the startup folder unbeknown to the user. That file would then run on boot, potentially giving an attacker full control of the device. The malicious file would continue to load on startup until discovered and removed.

All an attacker would need to do to exploit the WinRAR vulnerability is to convince a user to open a specially crafted .rar archive file attached to an email. Compressed files are often used in malspam campaigns to hide malicious executable files. Since .rar and .zip files are commonly used by businesses to send large files via email, they are likely to be recognized and may be opened by end users.

In this case, if the archive contents are extracted, the user would likely be unaware that anything untoward had happened, as the executable is loaded into the startup folder without giving any indication the file has been extracted. Due to the location of extraction, no further actions are required by the user.

In this case, the executable installs a backdoor, although only if the user has User Account Control (UAC) disabled. That said, this is unlikely to be the only campaign exploiting the WinRAR vulnerability. Other threat actors may develop a way to exploit the vulnerability for all users that have yet to update to the latest WinRAR version.

Many users will have WinRAR installed on their computer but will rarely use the program, so may not be aware that there is an update available. It is possible that a large percentage of users with the program installed have yet to update to the latest version and are vulnerable to attack.

This campaign illustrates just how important it is to patch promptly. As soon as a patch is released for a popular software program it is only a matter of time before that vulnerability is exploited, even just a few days.

Patching all devices in use in an organization can take time. It is therefore important to make sure that all employees receive security awareness training and are taught email security best practices and how to identify potentially malicious emails.

Unfortunately, social engineering techniques can be highly convincing, and many users may be fooled into opening email attachments, especially when the attacker spoofs the sender’s email address and the email appears to come from a known individual. It is therefore essential to have an advanced spam filtering solution in place that is capable of detecting malicious attachments at source, including malicious files hidden inside compressed files, and stop the messages from being delivered to inboxes.

Year-Old Connectwise Vulnerability Exploited in MSP Ransomware Attacks

A year-old vulnerability in the Connectwise plugin for Kaseya VSA has been exploited in a series of MSP ransomware attacks over the past two weeks. The latest campaign is one of several cyberattacks targeting MSPs in recent months that abuse trusted relationships between MSPs and their clients. The aim of the attacks is to gain access to MSP systems in order to attack their clients.

MSPs are trusted by SMBs to improve security, identify and correct vulnerabilities, and prevent costly cyberattacks. However, if MSPs do not follow cybersecurity best practices such as ensuring patches and software updates are applied on their own systems, they place their clients at risk.

MSP ransomware attacks such as these have potential to cause considerable damage to an MSP’s reputation, could easily result in loss of clients, and also possible legal action.

On MSP Reddit poster explained that cybercriminals recently exploited a vulnerability to gain access to clients’ systems and had installed ransomware on approximately 80% of client machines. Other attacks have also succeeded in encrypting files on client networks.

It is not always possible to update plugins, apply patches, and perform software updates instantly, but in this case the vulnerability was identified in November 2017. A proof of concept exploit was published, and an updated plugin was rapidly released by Connectwise to correct the flaw. Despite this, 126 MSPs are still using the out of date and vulnerable plugin according to a recent Kaseya security warning.

The Connectwise plugin for Kaseya VSA contained a flaw – CVE-2017-18362 – that allowed commands to be run on a Kaseya VSA server without the need for authentication due to an error within the Connectwise API. By exploiting the vulnerability, an attacker would be able to gain access to the Kaseya VSA server and conduct attacks on MSP clients. In this case, GandCrab ransomware was installed.

The group behind this campaign may not be the only criminal gang to attempt to exploit the vulnerability. It is possible that some MSPs who failed to update the plugin may have also had their server compromised and less conspicuous malware may have been installed.

All MSPs that use Connectwise and have the plugin installed on their on-premise server should ensure the latest version of the plugin is installed. Connectwise has made a tool available to users that will conduct a scan to determine if the vulnerable plugin is in use. It is also recommended to disconnect the VSA server from the internet and to perform an audit to determine if the server has been compromised.

Thanks to advanced cybersecurity defenses, many of which are provided by MSPs to their clients, it is becoming harder for cybercriminals to use standard tactics such as mass spam emails to gain access to business networks. As the past few months have shown, cybercriminals are now targeting MSPs to gain access to their clients’ systems. It is therefore essentials that MSPs ensure they scan for vulnerabilities on their own systems to identify potential weaknesses before they are exploited by hackers.

TitanHQ Launches 2019 MSP Roadshow Campaign in London and Tampa

TitanHQ is on the road again and has kick started a busy 2019 schedule of conferences with events on both sides of the Atlantic.

On February 14, 2019, TitanHQ Alliance Manager Patrick Regan attended the TitanHQ-sponsored Datto Roadshow in Tampa, Florida, and has been meeting with MSP partners from the region to help them with their existing and new email security, DNS filtering, and email archiving projects. TitanHQ has been working very closely with Datto MSP partners to ensure they get the most out of TitanHQ products to better support their clients.

On the other side to the pond, TitanHQ Alliance Manager Eddie Monaghan kicked off a week at the IT Nation Q1 EMEA Meeting in London and has been meeting MSP clients and finding what is going in in their world.

TitanHQ Alliance Manager, Eddie Monaghan 

At both locations and in the upcoming roadshow events the TitanHQ team is available to meet with prospective MSP partners to explain about TitanHQ’s award-winning email security (SpamTitan), web security (WebTitan) and email archiving (ArcTitan) solutions and how they can easily be slotted into MSPs security stacks to better help and protect their clients. Current MSP partners will be given tips to help them get the very most out of the products.

Partner with TitanHQ

TitanHQ is the leading provider of email and web security products for MSPs serving the SMB market and now provides its products to more than 1,500 MSP partners serving clients in more than 200 countries. The combination of SpamTitan and WebTitan allows MSPs to provide their clients with superior protection against malware, ransomware, phishing and other cyber threats.

All TitanHQ products have been developed to specifically meet the needs of MSPs and save them support and engineering time by blocking cyber threats at source.

TitanHQ has developed it’s TitanShield Program to help partners in a wide range of industry sectors take advantage of TitanHQ’s suite of products. The TitanShield Program consists of four elements which meet the needs of MSP, ISP, and technology partners:

The MSP Program: Allows MSPs and resellers adopt the TitanHQ platform and security solutions to provide TitanHQ products direct to their clients.

The OEM program: TitanHQ’s entire suite of products is supplied in white-label form ready to take your company’s branding.

The Technology Alliance Program: Allows tech companies to partner with TitanHQ to offer spam filtering, web filtering, and email archiving solutions to clients alongside their own products.

The Wi-Fi Program: A program for Wi-Fi providers allowing the incorporation of TitanHQ’s cloud-based WiFi content filtering solution partners’ WiFi services.

Over the coming few months, TitanHQ will be visiting Dublin, heading across the channel to the Netherlands, and will be travelling through the UK and United States. If you are a current MSP partner or are interested in finding out how TitanHQ products could benefit your clients and be slotted into your technology stack, be sure to come and meet the team at one the following events.

We look forward to seeing you at one of the roadshow events in 2019.

TitanHQ 2019 MSP Roadshow Dates

February 2019

Date Event Location
February 14, 2019 IT Nation (HTG) Q1 EMEA Meeting London, UK
February 14, 2019 Datto Roadshow Tampa, FL, USA

March 2019

Date Event Location
March 5, 2019 CompTIA UK Channel Community Manchester, UK
March 7, 2019 Datto Roadshow EMEA Dublin, IE
March 11, 2019 CompTIA Community Forum Chicago, IL, USA
March 12, 2019 Datto Roadshow NA Norwalk, CT, USA
March 19, 2019 Datto Roadshow EMEA London, UK
March 26, 2019 Datto Roadshow EMEA Houten, Netherlands
March 26, 2019 Datto Roadshow NA Toronto, Canada

April 2019

Date Event Location
April 25, 2019 Datto Roadshow Long Island, NY, USA
April 29, 2019 IT Nation Evolve (HTG 2) Dallas, TX, USA

May 2019

Date Event Location
May 6, 2019 Connect IT Global (Kaseya Connect) Las Vegas, NV, USA
May 13, 2019 IT Nation (HTG) Q1 EMEA Meeting Birmingham, UK
May 14, 2019 Wifi Now Washington DC, USA

June 2019

Date Event Location
June 17, 2019 DattoCon San Diego, CA, USA

Survey Highlights Healthcare Email Security Weaknesses

The 2019 Cybersecurity Survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has highlighted healthcare email security weaknesses and the seriousness of the threat of phishing attacks.

HIMSS conducts the survey each year to identify attack trends, security weaknesses, and areas where healthcare organizations need to improve their cybersecurity defenses. This year’s survey confirmed that phishing remains the number one threat faced by healthcare organizations and the extent that email is involved in healthcare data breaches.

This year’s study was conducted on 166 healthcare IT leaders between November and December 2018. Respondents were asked questions about data breaches and security incidents they had experienced in the past 12 months, the causes of those breaches, and other cybersecurity matters.

Phishing attacks are pervasive in healthcare and a universal problem for healthcare providers and health plans of all sizes. 69% of significant security incidents at hospitals in the past 12 months used email as the initial point of compromise. Overall, across all healthcare organizations, email was involved in 59% of significant security incidents.

The email incidents include phishing attacks, spear phishing, whaling, business email compromise, and other email impersonation attacks. Those attacks resulted in network breaches, data theft, email account compromises, malware infections, and fraudulent wire transfers.

When asked about the categories of threat actors behind the attacks, 28% named ‘online scam artists’ and 20% negligence by insiders. Online scam artists include phishers who send hyperlinks to malicious websites via email. It was a similar story the previous year when the survey was last conducted.

Given the number of email-related breaches it is clear that anti-phishing defenses in healthcare need to be improved. HIPAA requires all healthcare employees to receive security awareness training, part of which should include training on how to identify phishing attacks. While this is a requirement for compliance, a significant percentage (18%) of healthcare organizations do not take this further and are not conducting phishing simulations, even though they have been shown to improve resilience against phishing attacks by reinforcing training and identifying weaknesses in training programs.

The continued use of out of date and unsupported software was also a major concern. Software such as Windows Server and Windows XP are still extensively used in healthcare, despite the number of vulnerabilities they contain. 69% of respondents admitted still using legacy software on at least some machines. When end users visit websites containing exploit kits, vulnerabilities on those devices can easily be exploited to download malware.

It may take some time to phase out those legacy systems, but improving healthcare email security is a quick and easy win. HIMSS recommends improving training for all employees on the threat from phishing with the aim of decreasing click rates on phishing emails. That is best achieved through training, phishing simulations, and better monitoring of responses to phishing emails to identify repeat offenders.

At TitanHQ, we can offer two further solutions to improve healthcare email security. The first is an advanced spam filtering solution that blocks phishing emails and prevents them from being delivered to inboxes. The second is a solution that prevents employees from visiting phishing and other malicious websites such as online scams.

SpamTitan is an advanced anti-phishing solution that scans all incoming emails using a wide range of methods to identify malicious messages. The solution has a catch rate in excess of 99.9% with a false positive rate of just 0.03%. The solution also scans outbound messages for spam signatures to help identify compromised email accounts.

WebTitan Cloud is a cloud-based web filtering solution that blocks attempts by employees to visit malicious websites, either through web surfing or responses to phishing emails. Should an employee click on a link to a known malicious site, the action will be blocked before any harm is caused. WebTitan also scans websites for malicious content to identify and block previously known phishing websites and other online scams. Alongside robust security awareness training programs, these two solutions can help to significantly improve healthcare email security.

For further information on TitanHQ’s healthcare email security and anti-phishing solutions, contact TitanHQ today.

Office 365 Phishing Scam Uses SharePoint Lure

A new Office 365 phishing scam has been detected that attempts to get users to part with their Office 365 credentials with a request for collaboration via SharePoint.

The campaign was first detected in the summer of 2018 by researchers at cybersecurity firm Avanan. The Office 365 phishing scam is ongoing and has proven to be highly effective. According to Kaspersky Lab, the phishing campaign has been used in targeted attacks on at least 10% of companies that use Office 365.

This Office 365 phishing scam abuses trust in SharePoint services that are often used by employees. An email is sent to an Office 365 user that contains a link to a document stored in OneDrive for Business. In contrast to many phishing campaigns that spoof links and fool users into visiting a website other than the one indicated by the link text, this link actually does direct the user to an access request document on OneDrive.

A link in the document then directs users to a third-party website where they are presented with a Microsoft Office 365 login page that is a perfect copy of the official Office 365 login page. If login credentials are entered, they are given to the scammers. Once obtained, it is possible for the scammers to gain access to the Office 365 account of the user, including email and cloud storage.

The email accounts can be used for further phishing campaigns on the user’s contacts. Since those messages come from within the organization, they are more likely to be trusted. Email accounts can also contain a wealth of sensitive information which is of great value to competitors. In healthcare, email accounts can contain patient information, including data that can be used to steal identities. The attackers can also use the compromised credentials to spread malware. Employees may know not to open attachments from unknown individuals, but when they are sent from a colleague, they are more likely to be opened.

Businesses that use Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection (APT) service may mistakenly believe they are protected from phishing attacks such as this. However, since the links in the email are genuine OneDrive links, they are not identified as malicious. It is only the link in those documents that is malicious, but once the document is opened, Microsoft’s APT protection has already been bypassed.

Finding Office 365 users is not difficult. According to a 2017 Spiceworks survey, 83% of enterprises use Office 365 and figures from 2018 suggest 56% of organizations globally have adopted Office 365. However, a basic check can easily identify Office 365 users as it is broadcast on public DNS MX records. If one user can be found in an organization, it is highly likely that every other user will be using Office 365.

Businesses can take steps to avoid Office 365 phishing scams such as this.

  1. Ensure that all employees are made aware of the threat from phishing, and specifically this Office 365 phishing scam. They should be told to exercise caution with offers to collaborate that have not been preceded by a conversation.
  2. Conduct phishing email simulations to test defenses against phishing and identify individuals that require further security awareness training.
  3. Activate multifactor authentication to prevent stolen credentials from being used to access Office 365 accounts from unknown locations/devices.
  4. Change from APT anti-phishing controls to a third-party spam filter such as SpamTitan. This will not only improve catch rates, it will also not broadcast that the organization uses Office 365.
  5. Use an endpoint protection solution that is capable of detecting phishing attacks.
  6. Implement a web filter to prevent users from visiting known phishing websites and other malicious web pages.

LockerGoga Ransomware Suspected in Altran Cyberattack

The French engineering firm Altran Technologies has been grappling with a malware infection that hit the firm on January 24, 2019.

Immediately following the malware attack, Altran shut down its network and applications to prevent the spread of the infection and to protect its clients. Technical and computer forensics experts are now assisting with the investigation. The Altran cyberattack has affected operations in some European countries and the firm is currently working through its recovery plan.

A public announcement has been made about the attack although the malware involved has not been officially confirmed. Some cybersecurity experts believe the attack involved a new ransomware variant named LockerGoga which emerged in the past few days.

LockerGoga ransomware was first identified on January 24 in Romania and subsequently in the Netherlands. It was named by MalwareHunterTeam, based on the path used for compiling the source code into an executable.

LockerGoga ransomware does not appear to be a particularly sophisticated malware variant. Security researcher Valthek, who analyzed the malware, claimed the code was ‘sloppy’, the encryption process was slow, and little effort appears to have been made to evade detection. The ransomware appends encrypted files with the .locked file extension.

The ransomware note suggests that companies are being targeted although it is currently unclear how the ransomware is being distributed.

LockerGoga ransomware encrypts a wide range of file types and, depending on the command line argument, may target all files. Since the encryption process is slow, fast detection and remediation will limit the damage caused. Failure to detect the ransomware and take prompt action to mitigate the attack could prove costly. The ransomware can spread laterally through network connections and network shares, resulting in widespread file encryption.

The ransomware had a valid certificate that was issued to a UK firm by Comodo Certificate Authority. The certificate has since been revoked.

LockerGoga ransomware is currently being detected as malicious by 46/69 AV engines on VirusTotal, including Bitdefender, the primary AV engine used by SpamTitan.

Allscripts EHR Breach Highlights Need for Improved Ransomware Protections for Healthcare Organizations

The massive Allscripts EHR breach in January 2018 resulted in massive disruption for the company and its clients. Clients were locked out of their electronic health records for several days while the company battled to recover from the attack. Around 1,500 of the company’s clients were affected.

The cost of mitigating the ransomware attack was considerable, and in addition to those costs, the Allscripts EHR breach prompted many clients to take legal action. The costs continue to mount.

The Allscripts EHR breach involved SamSam ransomware, which has plagued the healthcare industry over the past couple of years. The threat actors behind the attacks typically gain access to healthcare networks through RDP vulnerabilities and deploy the ransomware manually after scouting the network. This way, maximum damage can be inflicted, which increases the probability of the ransom being paid.

The Allscripts EHR breach certain stands out as one of the most damaging ransomware attacks of 2018, although it was just one of many healthcare ransomware attacks in 2018 involving many ransomware variants.

According to Beazley Breach Response Services, ransomware attacks more than doubled in September. Many cybercriminals have switched to cryptocurrency mining malware, but the ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations are continuing and show no sign of slowing.

In recent months, there has been a growing trend of combining malware variants to maximize the profitability of attacks. Ransomware is a quick and easy way for cybercriminals to earn money but combining ransomware with other malware variants is much more profitable. Further, if files are recovered from backups and no ransom is paid, cybercriminals can still profit from the attacks.

Several campaigns have been detected recently that combine Trojans such as AZORult, Emotet and Trickbot with ransomware. Attacks with these Trojans have increased by 132% since 2017 according to Malwarebytes. The Trojans steal sensitive information through keylogging, are capable lateral movement within a network, and also serve as downloaders for other malware such as Ryuk and GandCrab ransomware. Once information has been stolen, the ransomware payload is deployed.

The Allscripts EHR breach was somewhat atypical. It is far more common for ransomware to be delivered via email than brute force attacks on RDP. The campaigns combining Emotet, Trickbot, and AZORult with ransomware are primarily delivered by email.

In addition to ransomware attacks, phishing attacks are rife in healthcare. Email was the most common location of exposed protected health information in 2018. Email security is a weak point in healthcare defenses.

The number of successful ransomware and phishing attacks in healthcare make it clear that email security needs to improve. An advanced spam filter to block malicious emails, improved end user training is required to teach employees how to recognize email threats, intrusion detection systems need to be deployed, along with powerful anti-virus solutions. Only by implementing layered defenses to block email attacks and other attack vectors will healthcare organizations be able to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks.

Latest Ursnif Trojan Campaign Highlights Need to Improve Anti-Phishing Defenses

A new Ursnif Trojan campaign has been detected that uses a new variant of the malware which uses fileless techniques to avoid detection. In addition to the banking Trojan, GandCrab ransomware is also downloaded.

Increase in Banking Trojan and Ransomware Combination Attacks

Ransomware attacks can cause considerable disruption to businesses, although a good backup strategy can allow businesses to recover quickly in the event of a successful attack without having to pay the ransom demand.

However, there has been a significant increase in phishing attacks that deliver not one but two malware variants – ransomware to extort money from companies but also an information stealer to obtain sensitive information such as login and banking credentials. Malware variants used in these attacks also have the capability to download other malware variants and gather system data and process information for use in further attacks.

These phishing campaigns allow hackers to maximize the profitability of attacks and make the attack profitable even if the business does not pay the ransom.

There have been several examples of these attacks in recent months. Earlier in January, warnings were issued about the combination of Ryuk ransomware with the Trickbot and Emotet Trojans – Two malware variants that are used in wire fraud attacks. Ryuk ransomware has been extensively used in attacks on U.S. healthcare providers. The combination with the banking Trojans makes the attacks far more damaging.

Now another campaign has been detected using different malware variants – The Ursnif Trojan and the latest version of GandCrab ransomware.

What Does the Ursnif Trojan Do?

The Ursnif Trojan is one of the most active banking Trojans currently in use. The main functions of the malware is to steal system information and bank account credentials from browsers. The latest variants of the Ursnif Trojan have also been used to deploy other malware variants such as GandCrab ransomware.

According to security researchers at Carbon Black, who identified the latest campaign, the Ursnif Trojan now uses fileless execution mechanisms to make detection more difficult. Instead of downloading and writing files to the hard drive – which can be detected – a PowerShell script downloads a payload and executes it in the memory. That payload then downloads a further file and injects it into the PowerShell process, ultimately resulting in the downloading of the ransomware.

When code is loaded in the memory, it often does not survive a reboot, although the latest variant of Ursnif has persistence. This is achieved by storing an encoded PowerShell command inside a registry key and subsequently launching the command via the Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC).

Once information has been collected from an infected system, it is packaged inside a CAB file and sent back to the attackers C2 via encrypted HTTPS. This makes data exfiltration difficult to detect.

The Ursnif Trojan campaign uses email as the attack vector with infection occurring via a Word document attachment that contains a VBA macro. If the attachment is opened and macros are enabled (automatically or manually), the infection process will be triggered.

How Businesses can Protect Against Attacks

Due to the difficulty detecting the malware attack once it has started, the best way to protect against this attack is by improving anti-phishing defenses. It is important to prevent the malicious emails from being delivered to inboxes and to ensure that employees are trained how to identify the messages if they make it past email defenses. The former can be achieved with a powerful spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan.

Along with security awareness training for employees to condition them not to open emails from unknown senders or open attachments and enable macros, businesses can mount an effective defense against the attack.

Why SMB Cybersecurity Protections Need to be Improved

SMB cybersecurity protections do not need to be advanced as those of large enterprises, but improvements need to be made to ensure smaller businesses are protected. The risk of a cyberattack is not theoretical. While large businesses are having their defenses regularly tested, small to medium sized businesses are also being attacked. And alarmingly often.

Large businesses may store much higher volumes of valuable data, but they also tend to invest heavily in the latest cybersecurity technologies and have dedicated teams to oversee security. Cyberattacks are therefore much harder to pull off. SMBs are much easier targets. Cyberattacks may be less profitable, but they are easier and require less effort.

SMB Cyberattacks are Increasing

A 2017 SCORE study confirmed the extent to which hackers are attacking SMBs. Its study of macro-based malware showed there had been at least 113,000 attacks on SMBs in 2017 and 43% of those attacks were on SMBs. SMBs suffered at least 54,000 ransomware attacks in 2017 and online banking attacks were highly prevalent in the SMB sector.

The 2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium Size Businesses study, conducted by the Ponemon Institute, painted an even bleaker picture for SMBs. The study suggests SMBs face the same cybersecurity risks as larger businesses and are being attacked almost as often. In its study, 67% of SMB respondents reported having experienced a cyberattack in the past 12 months and 58 had suffered a data breach. Alarmingly, almost half of respondents (47%) said they had little or no understanding about how SMB cyberattacks could be prevented.

The study revealed 60% of successful cyberattacks were the result of employee negligence, hackers were behind 37% of breaches, and for 32% of cyberattacks the cause could not be established.

The high number of successful cyberattacks makes it clear that SMB cybersecurity needs to be improved. Unfortunately, many SMBs simply don’t have the budget to pay for expensive cybersecurity solutions and a lack of skilled staff is also an issue. So, given these restraints, where should SMBs start?

Where to Start with SMB Cybersecurity

Improving SMB cybersecurity does not necessarily mean hiring skilled cybersecurity staff and spending heavily on state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions. The best place to start is by ensuring basic cybersecurity best practices are adopted. Highly sophisticated cyberattacks are becoming more common, but many successful attacks are the result of basic cybersecurity failures.

These include the failure to implement password policies that enforce the use of strong passwords, not changing all default passwords, or not using a unique password for each account. Implementing 2-factor authentication is a quick way to improve security, as is the setting of rate limiting to lock accounts after a set number of failed login attempts.

Many successful cyberattacks start with a phishing email. An advanced spam filtering solution is therefore essential. This will ensure virtually all malicious messages are blocked and are not delivered to end users. A web filter also offers protection against phishing by preventing employees from visiting phishing websites. It will also block web-based attacks and malware downloads. Both of these SMB cybersecurity solutions can be implemented at a low cost. It costs just a few dollars per year, per employee, to implement SpamTitan and WebTitan.

A little training goes a long way. Employees should be provided with cybersecurity training and should be taught how to identify email and web-based threats. There are plenty of free and low-cost resources for SMBs to help them train their employees. US-CERT is a good place to start.

Good backup policies are an essential part of SMB cybersecurity. In the event of a cyberattack or ransomware attack, this will prevent catastrophic data loss. A good strategy to adopt is the 3-2-1 approach. Three copies of backups, on two different types of media, with one copy stored securely off-site. Also make sure backups are tested to ensure file recovery is possible.

Once the basics have been covered, it is important to conduct a security audit to discover just how secure your network and systems are. Many managed service providers can assist with security audits and assessments if you do not have sufficiently skilled staff to perform an audit inhouse.

Improvements to SMB cybersecurity will carry a cost but bear in mind that an ounce of security is worth a pound of protection and investment in cybersecurity will prove to be much less expensive than having to deal with a successful cyberattack.

How Does Business Email Get Hacked?

Barely a day goes by without an announcement being made about an email account compromise, especially in the healthcare industry, but how does business email get hacked? What are the main ways that email account access is gained by unauthorized individuals?

Four Ways Business Email Gets Hacked

There four main ways that business email gets hacked, although fortunately there are simple steps that can be taken to improve email security and reduce the risk of an email account compromise at your business.

Phishing Attacks

The easiest way for a hacker to gain access to a business email account is to ask the account holder for their password. This method is incredibly simple, costs next to nothing, and is very effective. Phishing, like fishing, uses a lure to achieve its aim. An attacker only needs to craft an email with a plausible reason for divulging a password.

The attack could be as simple as spoofing an email from the IT department that requests the user change his or her password for security reasons. A link is supplied in the email that directs the user to a site where they have to enter their password and a replacement. Office 365 phishing scams are now common. A user is directed to a spoofed website where they are presented with a standard Office 365 login box, which they need to enter to open a shared file for example.

The lures are diverse, although there is usually a valid reason for providing login credentials, urgency, and often a threat – The failure to take action will result in harm or loss.

Brute Force Attacks

An alternative method of hacking a business email account is for the attacker to attempt to guess a user’s password. This is a much more long-winded approach that can require thousands of attempts before the password is guessed. This technique is automated and made easier by poor password choices and the failure to change default passwords. Passwords obtained in previous breaches can be used, which will catch out people who use the same passwords for multiple platforms. Information about a person can also be found on social media – A partner’s name, child’s name, pet name, or dates of birth – Information that is commonly used to create passwords.

Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

A man-in-the-middle attack involves an attacker intercepting information such as a password when it is sent between two parties. Information can be intercepted in unencrypted emails or when a user logs into a web-based platform via their browser. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and evil twin Wi-Fi hotspots – Hotspots that mimic a genuine hotspot provider, such as a coffee shop or hotel. Any information transmitted via that hotspot can be easily intercepted.

Writing Down Passwords

Many businesses have implemented password polices that require the use of strong and difficult to remember passwords. As a result, some employees write their passwords down on post-it notes, tape a password to their computer, or keep a note under their keyboard where any visitor to an office could discover it.

How to Stop Business Email Getting Hacked

These methods of gaining access to business email accounts are easy and inexpensive to block through low-cost cybersecurity solutions, policies and procedures, and staff training.

For businesses, the most important control to implement to protect against phishing is an advanced spam filter. A spam filter inspects all incoming emails for common spam signatures and malicious links and blocks messages before they are delivered to end users. Some spam filters also inspect outgoing email, which helps to prevent a breached email account from being used for further phishing attacks on contacts.

Even the best spam filters will not block every single phishing email so security awareness training for staff is essential. Regular training sessions should be provided – at least twice annually – and these should be augmented with more regular reminders about security and newsletters about the latest threats. Phishing simulations are useful for testing the effectiveness of training and to condition employees how to respond to email threats.

Brute force attacks are best prevented with good password policies that prevent weak passwords from being set. To prevent employees from writing passwords down, consider paying for a password manager or allowing the use of long passphrases, which are easy to remember but difficult to guess. Ensure two-factor authentication is enabled and rate limiting is applied to block login attempts after a set number of failed password guesses.

Man-in-the-middle attacks can be prevented in a number of ways. Remote workers should be provided with a VPN to access work networks and email. Some web filters, WebTitan for instance, can be used to protect remote workers online and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and can also to prevent users from visiting malicious websites, such as those used for phishing.

If you want to improve email security, TitanHQ can help. Contact the team today for information on spam filters to block phishing attacks and to find out more about the benefits of web filtering.

Love Letter Email Scam Delivers Cocktail of Malware

A new email campaign is being conducted in the run up to Valentine’s Day which attempts to get users to open email attachments by fooling them into thinking they are love letters. The love letter email scam includes enticing subject lines such as ‘Love Letter’, ‘I Love You’, ‘This is my love letter to you’, ‘Always thinking about you’, and other love and love letter themes.

These types of scams are common in the run up to Valentine’s Day, and as the day draws closer, the likelihood of the scams succeeding grows.

The emails contain a zip file containing a JavaScript file with a variety of names, all of which start with Love_You. Extracting and running the file will result in the download of ransomware and other malware variants.

If the JavaScript file is run, it launches a PowerShell command that downloads and runs a malware variant named krablin.exe. Krablin.exe is also copied to USB thumb drives that are plugged into the computer.

A further four malware variants are subsequently downloaded to the victim’s device: The Phorpiex spambot, a Monero cryptocurrency miner (XMRig), a further malware downloader, and the latest version of GandCrab ransomware: A particularly nasty combination of malware.

The malspam campaign was detected by SANS ISC researcher Brad Duncan who determined the campaign has been running since at least November 2018. Several different subject lines and attachments have been identified and multiple spoofed sending addresses are used in this campaign.

Word documents and Excel spreadsheets containing malicious macros are more commonly used to spread malware, although JavaScript based malspam is nothing new. Most individuals are not familiar with .js files so may choose not to open them, although the theme of this love letter email scam may tempt people into making an exception. JavaScript malware may also be executed by Windows, without the user having to open the file. Simply saving a JavaScript file may be all that is required to trigger the infection process.

To prevent email scams such as this from succeeding, businesses should ensure that their employees receive ongoing security awareness training. Regular email security alerts should be sent to the workforce to keep them abreast of the latest techniques that are being used by scammers to install malware and phish for sensitive information.

It is also essential for an advanced spam filter to be implemented. This will ensure the majority of malicious messages are blocked and not delivered to end users. SpamTitan scans all incoming and outgoing messages and uses a variety of techniques to identify spam and malicious messages. Those controls ensure a block rate in excess of 99.9%, while dual antivirus engines provide total protection against all known malware variants.

SpamTitan is available on a free trial with options to suit all businesses and managed service providers. For further information, to register for the no-obligation free trial, or to book a product demonstration, contact TitanHQ today.

Easy to Implement Anti-Phishing Solutions for MSPs

To protect their clients from phishing attacks, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) need to provide a comprehensive range of cybersecurity solutions. This post explores the risks from phishing and suggests some easy to implement anti-phishing solutions for MSPs to add to their security offerings.

Phishing is the Number One Cyber Threat Faced by SMBs

Phishing is the number one cyber threat faced by businesses and one of the hardest to defend against. All it takes is for an employee to respond to a single phishing email for a costly data breach to occur. The consequences for the company can be severe.

Email accounts contain a wide range of sensitive information. A phishing attack on a UnityPoint Health hospital in Des Moines, IA, in 2018 saw the protected health information of 1.4 million patients compromised.  Also in 2018, a phishing attack on the Boys Town National Research Hospital saw one account compromised that contained the information of more than 105,300 patients. Phishing emails are also used to introduce malware and ransomware. These attacks can be even more damaging and costly to mitigate.

The healthcare industry is extensively targeted by phishers due to the high value of healthcare data, although all industry sectors are at risk. In response to the high number of cyberattacks and the current threat levels, the Trump administration recently launched the “Know the Risk, Raise your Shield” campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the threat from phishing and other attack methods and encourage private businesses to do more to improve their defenses.

Phishing will continue to be a major threat to businesses for the foreseeable future. Attacks will continue because they require relatively little skill to conduct, phishing is highly effective, and attacks can be extremely lucrative.

Easy to Implement Anti-Phishing Solutions for MSPs

There is no single solution that will provide total protection against phishing attacks. Businesses need layered defenses, which provides an opportunity for MSPs. SMBs can struggle to implement effective defenses against phishing on their own and look to MSPs for assistance.

MSPs that can provide a comprehensive anti-phishing package will be able to protect their clients, prevent costly phishing attacks, and generate more business. Effective anti-phishing controls are also an easy sell. Given the cost of mitigating attacks, the package is likely to pay for itself. But what solutions should be included in MSPs anti-phishing offerings?

Listed below are three easy-to-implement anti-phishing solutions for MSPs to offer to their clients, either individually or part of an anti-phishing security package.

Advanced Spam Filtering

Advanced spam filtering solutions are essential. They block phishing emails on the server before they can be delivered to inboxes or employees’ spam folders. An advanced spam filter will block in excess of 99.9% of spam and malicious emails and by itself, is the single most important solution to implement.

SpamTitan is an ideal anti-phishing solution for MSPs. This cloud-based solution supports an unlimited number of domains, all of which can be protected through an easy to use interface. The solution supports per domain administrators, with each able to implement elements of their own email such as searches and release of messages from quarantine. Reports can be generated per domain and those reports can be automatically sent to clients. The solution can be fully rebranded to take MSP logos and color schemes, and the solution can be hosted in a private cloud.

Security Awareness Training and Testing

While the majority of malicious emails will be blocked at source, a very small percentage may slip through the net. It is therefore essential for employees to be aware of the risks from phishing and to have the skills to identify potential phishing emails. MSPs can help their clients by providing a staff training program. Many security awareness training companies offer MSP programs to help manage training for clients and a platform to conduct phishing simulation exercises to test security awareness.

DNS-Based Web Filtering

Even with training, some employees may be fooled by phishing emails. This is to be expected, since many phishing campaigns use messages which are highly realistic and virtually indistinguishable from genuine emails. Spam filters will block malicious attachments, but a web filter offers protection from malicious hyperlinks that direct users to phishing websites.

A DNS-based web filter blocks attempts by employees to access phishing websites at the DNS-level, before any content is downloaded. When an employee clicks on a phishing email, they will be directed to a block screen rather than the phishing website. Being DNS-based, web filters are easy to implement and no appliances are required.

WebTitan is an ideal web filtering solution for MSPs. WebTitan can be configured in just a couple of minutes and can protect all clients from web-based phishing attacks, with the solution managed and controlled through a single easy-to-use interface. Reports can be automatically scheduled and sent to clients, and the solution is available in full white-label form ready for MSPs branding. A choice of hosting solutions is also offered, and the solution can connect with deployment, billing and management tools through APIs.

For further information on TitanHQ’s anti-phishing solutions for MSPs, contact the TitanHQ team today and enquire about joining the TitanHQ Alliance program.

Novel Phishing Scam Uses Custom Web Fonts to Evade Detection

A new phishing scam has been detected that uses a novel method to evade detection – The use of custom fonts to implement a substitution cipher that makes the source code of the phishing kit appear normal.

When users visit the phishing website they are presented with the logos and standard login page of their bank. To the user, apart from the domain name, there is nothing to indicate that the site is not genuine. As with similar phishing scams, if the user enters their credentials they will be harvested by the scammer and used to gain access to the users’ bank account.

These types of phishing scams are now commonplace, although the latest campaign has an interesting twist – one that make it much harder to detect the site as malicious.

Many phishing kits obfuscate their source code to make it harder to determine what it does. One method that has been used in the past is the use of substitution functions to make the sites harder to detect. This technique substitutes individual letters such as abcd with alternate letters jehr for example. While the page is rendered correctly for the user, when a program reads the source code it is presented with jumbled, gibberish letters.

Substitution ciphers are often implemented in JavaScript, which can be detected fairly easily. The latest campaign achieves this using custom fonts – termed woff files – which are present on the page and hidden through base64 encoding.  These custom fonts are used to implement the cipher and make the source code appear to be plaintext, while the actual source code is encrypted and remains hidden.  The substitution is performed by code in CSS on the landing page, rather than JavaScript. This technique has not been used before.

The result is users see a standard banking login page as does software than scans the site. Further, as an additional measure to avoid detection, the branding that has been stolen from the targeted bank is also obfuscated. It is common for bank logos to be stolen and included on phishing pages to convince visitors they are on the genuine site, but the use of the logos can be detected. By rendering the graphics using scalable vector graphics files, the logos and their source do not appear in the source code of the page.

These tactics could easily be used to target finance department employees and fool them into disclosing their corporate banking credentials, allowing business accounts to be plundered.

These new techniques show just how important it is to block phishing emails at source before they are delivered to end users’ inboxes and the need for comprehensive cybersecurity training to be provided to employees to help them identify potentially malicious emails.

Does 2-Factor Authentication Stop Phishing Attacks?

2-factor authentication is an important safeguard to prevent unauthorized account access, but does 2-factor authentication stop phishing attacks?

What is 2-Factor Authentication?

2-Factor authentication is commonly used as an additional protection measure to prevent accounts from being accessed by unauthorized individuals in the event that a password is compromised.

If a password is disclosed in a phishing attack or has otherwise been obtained or guessed, a second authentication method is required before the account can be accessed.

Two-factor authentication uses a combination of two different methods of authentication, commonly something a person owns (device/bank card), something a person knows knows (a password or PIN), and/or something a person has (fingerprint, iris scan, voice pattern, or a token).

The second factor control is triggered if an individual, authorized or otherwise, attempts to login from an unfamiliar location or from a device that has not previously been used to access the account.

For instance, a person uses their laptop to connect from a known network and enters their password. No second factor is required. The same person uses the same device and password from an unfamiliar location and a second factor must be supplied. If the login credentials are used from an unfamiliar device, by a hacker for instance that has obtained a username and password in a phishing attack, the second factor is also required.

A token or code is often used to verify identity, which is sent to a mobile phone. In such cases, in addition to a password, an attacker would also need to have the user’s phone.

Does 2-Factor Authentication Stop Phishing Attacks?

So, does 2-factor authentication stop phishing attacks from succeeding? In many cases, it does, but 2-factor authentication is not infallible. While it was once thought to be highly effective at stopping unauthorized account access, opinion is now changing. It is certainly an important additional, low-cost layer of security that is worthwhile implementing, but 2-factor authentication alone will not prevent all phishing attacks from succeeding.

There are various methods that can be used to bypass 2-factor authentication, for instance, if a user is directed to a phishing page and enters their credentials, the hacker can then use those details in real-time to login to the legitimate site. A 2FA code is sent to the user’s device, the user then enters that code into the phishing page. The attacker then uses the code on the legitimate site.

This 2-factor authentication bypass is somewhat cumbersome, but this week a phishing tool has been released that automates this process. The penetration testing tool was created by a Polish researcher named Piotr Duszynski, and it allows 2FA to be bypassed with ease.

The tool, named Modlishka, is a reverse proxy that has been modified for handling login page traffic. The tool sits between the user and the target website on a phishing domain. When the user connects to the phishing page hosting this tool, the tool serves content from the legitimate site – Gmail for instance – but all traffic passes through the tool and is recorded, including the 2FA code.

The user supplies their credentials, a 2-factor code is sent to their phone, and that code is entered, giving the attacker account access.

It is an automated version of the above bypass that only requires a hacker to have a domain to use, a valid TLS certificate for the domain, and a copy of the tool. No website phishing templates need to be created as they are served from the genuine site. Since the tool has been made available on Github, the 2FA bypass could easily be used by hackers.

Additional Controls to Stop Phishing Attacks

To protect against phishing, a variety of methods must be used. First, an advanced spam filter is required to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes. SpamTitan, for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails.

Fewer than 0.1% of emails may make it past the spam filter, but any one could result in an account compromise. Security awareness training should therefore be provided to employees to help them identify suspicious emails.

Unfortunately, people do make mistakes and phishing emails can be highly realistic, so it is wise to also implement a web filter.

A web filter will block attempts to connect to known phishing sites and can assess sites in real time to help determine their authenticity. If the checks fail, the user will be prevented from accessing the site.

These anti-phishing controls are now essential cybersecurity measures for businesses to protect against phishing attacks, and are all the more important since 2FA cannot be relied upon to protect against unauthorized access once a password has been compromised.

You can find out more about SpamTitan and WebTitan by contacting TitanHQ.

Suspected Use of Ryuk Ransomware in Newspaper Cyberattack

The last weekend of 2018 has seen a major newspaper cyberattack in the United States that has disrupted production of several newspapers produced by Tribune Publishing.

The attacks were malware-related and affected the Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others. The malware attack occurred on Thursday, December 27, and caused major problems throughout Friday.

All of the affected newspapers shared the same production platform, which was disrupted by the malware infection. While the type of malware used in the attack has not been publicly confirmed, several insiders at the Tribune have reported that the attack involved Ryuk ransomware.

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts critical files preventing them from being accessed. The primary goal of attackers is usually to obtain ransom payments in exchange for the keys to decrypt the encrypted files. It is also common for ransomware to be deployed after network access has been gained and sensitive information has been stolen, either to mask a data breach or in an attempt to make an attack even more profitable. It is also not unknown for ransomware attacks to be conducted to cause disruption. It is suspected that this newspaper cyberattack was conducted primarily to disable infrastructure.

The type of ransomware used in an attack is usually easy to identify. After encrypting files, ransomware changes file extensions to an (often) unique extension. In the case of Ryuk ransomware, extensions are changed to .ryk.

The Los Angeles Times has attributed it to threat actors based outside the United States, although it is unclear which group was behind the cyberattacks. If the attack was conducted to disable infrastructure it is probable that this was a nation-state sponsored attack.

The first Ryuk ransomware cyberattacks occurred in August. Three U.S. companies were attacked, and the attackers were paid at least $640,000 for the keys to unlock the data. An analysis of the ransomware revealed it shared code with Hermes malware, which had previously been linked to the Lazarus Group – An APT group with links to North Korea.

While many ransomware campaigns used mass spamming tactics to distribute the ransomware and infect as many end users as possible, the Ryuk ransomware attacks were much more targeted and involved considerable reconnaissance and extensive network mapping before the ransomware is finally deployed. As is the case with SamSam ransomware attacks, the campaign is conducted manually.

Several methods are used to gain access to networks, although earlier this year a warning about Ryuk ransomware was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claiming email to be one of the main attack vectors, highlighting the importance of email security and end user training to help employees recognize email-based threats.

Importance of WiFi Filtering for Protecting Your Brand

There are many costs associated with cyberattacks and data breaches, but one of the hardest to quantify is damage to a brand. Brand damage following a data breach is one of the most serious issues, and one that money cannot easily resolve.

Businesses can invest in cybersecurity solutions to prevent further security breaches, but when customers lose trust in a brand, they will simply take their business elsewhere. Winning customers back can be a long process. In many cases, once trust in a brand is lost, customers will leave and never return.

Consumers Expect Businesses to Protect Their Personal Data

If a company asks consumers to provide them with personal data, it is essential that steps are taken to ensure that information remains private and confidential. Consumers believe that any company that collects personal data has an obligation to protect it. A Ponemon Institute study in 2017 confirmed that to be the case. 71% of consumers believed companies that collect personal data have a responsibility to protect it. When a cyberattack occurs that results in the exposure or theft of personal data, consumers are naturally angry at a company for failing to take sufficient precautions to keep their data private.

The same survey revealed that following a data breach, two thirds of consumers lost trust in the breached company and almost a third of consumers said they had terminated their relationship with a brand following a data breach. Companies that were surveyed reported customer churn rates increased up to 7% following a breach. Another study suggests customer loss is more severe and up to 20% of customers have switched brands after their personal information was stolen from a company they did business with. A 2017 study by Gemalto suggests those figures are very conservative. The Gemalto study suggested 70% of customers would switch brands following a data breach.

Loss of Trust in a Brand can have Catastrophic Consequences

Large businesses may be able to weather the storm and regain customer trust over time, but smaller businesses can really struggle. On top of the considerable costs of mitigating a data breach, a loss of anywhere between 20% and 70% of customers would likely be the final nail in the coffin. Loss of customer trust is part of the reason why 60% of SMBs fold within 6 months of a data breach (National Cyber Security Alliance).

Blocking cyberattacks and preventing data breaches requires investment in cybersecurity solutions. Naturally, an advanced firewall is required, and solutions should be introduced to block the most common attack vectors – email for instance – but one area of cybersecurity that is often overlooked is WiFi filtering. WiFi filtering and protecting your brand go hand in hand.

WiFi Filtering and Protecting your Brand

The importance of WiFi Filtering for protecting your brand should not be underestimated. Implementing a web filtering solution shows your customers that you care about security and want to ensure they are protected when they access the Internet through your WiFi network. By implementing a WiFi filter you can prevent customers from downloading malware and ransomware and stop them from connecting to phishing websites.

A WiFi filter can also prevent users from accessing illegal content on your WiFi network. There have been cases of businesses having Internet access terminated by their ISPs over illegal online activity by users – the accessing of banned web content or copyright infringing downloads for instance.

One of the most important uses of a WiFi filter is to prevent users from accessing unacceptable content such as pornography. There is growing pressure on businesses to prevent adult content from being accessed on WiFi networks that are used by customers. McDonalds decided to implement a WiFi filter in 2016 following campaigns by consumers to make its access points family-friendly and in 2018 Starbucks was pressured into doing the same. The coffee shop chain will finally start filtering the internet on its WiFi networks in 2019.

A WiFi filter will also prevent employees from visiting malicious websites and downloading malware that gives criminals access to your internal networks and customer data, thus preventing costly, reputation damaging data breaches.

Businesses that fail to block web-based attacks are taking a major risk, and an unnecessary one considering the low cost of WiFi filtering.

For further information on WiFi Filtering and protecting your brand, contact the TitanHQ team today. Our cybersecurity experts will explain how WebTitan can protect your business and will be happy to schedule a product demonstration and help you set up a free trial of WebTitan to evaluate the solution in your own environment.

New Netflix Phishing Scam Prompts FTC to Issue Warning

A new Netflix phishing scam has been detected that attempts to fool Netflix subscribers into disclosing their login credentials and other sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and bank account numbers.

This Netflix phishing scam is similar to others that have been intercepted over the past few months. A major campaign was detected in October and another in November. The latest Netflix phishing scam confirms that the threat actors are now launching large-scale phishing attacks on a monthly basis.

The number of recent Netflix scams and the scale of the campaigns has prompted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue a warning to raise awareness of the threat.

The latest campaign was detected by an officer in the Ohio Police Department. As with past campaigns, the attackers use a tried and tested method to get users to click on the link in the email – The threat of account closure due to issues with the user’s billing information.

In order to prevent closure of the user’s Netflix account a link in the email must be clicked. That will direct the user to the Netflix site where login credentials and banking information must be entered. While the web page looks genuine, it is hosted on a domain controlled by the attackers. Any information entered on that web page will be obtained by the threat actors behind the scam.

The emails appear genuine and contain the correct logos and color schemes and are almost identical to the official emails sent to users by Netflix. Netflix also includes links in its emails, so unwary users may click without first checking the authenticity of the email.

Netflix Phishing Scam

Image Source: FTC via Ohio Police Department

There are signs that the email is not what it seems. The email is incorrectly addressed “Hi Dear”; British English is used, even though the email is sent to U.S. citizens; the email is sent from a domain that is not used by Netflix; and the domain to which the email directs users is similarly suspect. However, the scam is sure to fool many users who fail to carefully check emails before taking any action.

Consumers need to exercise caution with email and should carefully check messages before responding, no matter how urgent the call for action is. It is a good best practice to always visit a website directly by entering in the domain into the address bar of a web browser, rather than clicking a link in an email.

If the email is determined to be a scam, it should be reported to the appropriate authorities in the country in which you reside and also to the company the scammers are impersonating. In the case of Netflix phishing scams, emails should be sent to phishing@netflix.com.

While this Netflix phishing scam targets consumers, businesses are also at risk. Many similar scams attempt to get users to part with business login credentials and bank account information. Businesses can reduce the risk of data and financial losses to phishing scams by ensuring all members of the company, from the CEO down, are given regular security awareness training and are taught cybersecurity best practices and are made aware of the latest threats.

An advanced spam filtering solution is also strongly recommended to ensure the vast majority of these scam emails are blocked and do not reach inboxes. SpamTitan for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and 100% of known malware.

For further information on anti-phishing solutions for businesses, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Major San Diego School District Phishing Attack Discovered

A major San Diego School District phishing attack has been discovered. The phishing attack stands out from the many similar phishing attacks on schools due to the extent of accounts that were compromised, the amount of data that was potentially obtained, and the length of time it took for the data breach to be detected.

According to a recent breach announcement, the login credentials of around 50 district employees were obtained by the attacker. It is not unusual for multiple accounts to be breached in school phishing attacks. Once access is gained to one account, it can be used to send internal phishing emails to other staff members. Since those emails come from within, they are more likely to be trusted and less likely to be detected. Investigations into similar phishing attacks often reveal many more email accounts have been compromised than was initially thought, although 50 sets of compromised credentials is particularly high.

Those accounts were compromised over a period of 11 months. The San Diego School District phishing attack was first detected in October 2018 after staff alerted the district’s IT department to phishing emails that had been received. Multiple reports tipped off the IT department that an ongoing cyberattack was occurring and there may have been a data breach.

The investigation revealed the credentials obtained by the attacker provided access to the district’s network services, which included access to the district’s database of staff and student records. The school district is the second largest in California and serves over 121,000 students each year. The database contained records going back to the 2008/2009 school year. In total, the records of more than 500,000 individuals were potentially obtained by the hacker. Given the length of time that the hacker had access to the network, data theft is highly probable.

The data potentially obtained was considerable. Student information compromised included names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, email addresses, enrollment and attendance information, discipline incident information, health data, legal notices on file, state student ID numbers, emergency contact information, and Social Security numbers. Compromised staff information also included salary information, health benefits data, paychecks and pay advices, tax data, and details of bank accounts used for direct deposits.

Data could be accessed from January 2018 to November 2018. While it is typical for unauthorized access to be immediately blocked upon discovery of a breach, in this case the investigation into the breach was conducted prior to shutting down access. This allowed the identity of the suspected hacker to be determined without tipping off the hacker that the breach had been detected. The investigation into the breach is ongoing, although access has now been blocked and affected individuals have been notified. Additional cybersecurity controls have now been implemented to block future attacks.

School district phishing attacks are commonplace. School districts often lack the resources of large businesses to devote to cybersecurity. Consequently, cyberattacks on school districts are much easier to pull off. Schools also store large volumes of sensitive data of staff and students, which can be used for a wide range of malicious purposes. The relative ease of attacks and a potential big payday for hackers and phishers make schools an attractive target.

The San Diego School District phishing attack is just one of many such attacks that have been reported this year. During tax season at the start of 2018, many school districts were targeted by phishers seeking the W-2 forms of employees. It is a similar story every year, although the threat actors behind these W-2 phishing attacks have been more active in the past two years.

In December this year, Cape Cod Community College suffered a different type of phishing attack. The aim of that attack was to convince staff to make fraudulent wire transfers. At least $800,000 was transferred to the attackers’ accounts in that attack.

These attacks clearly demonstrate the seriousness of the threat of phishing attacks on school districts and highlights the importance of implementing robust cybersecurity protections to protect against phishing.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information on anti-phishing solutions for schools.

SpamTitan Rated High Performer for Email Security

G2 Crowd, the trusted business software review platform, has recognized SpamTitan as a High Performer for email security. The solution has been praised for speed of implementation, ease of use, quality of support, and its spam filtering capabilities.

Finding the right software solution can take a lot of time and effort. Even when software is carefully and painstakingly reviewed, making a purchase can be risky. G2 Crowd helps businesses find the most suitable software and services and make informed buying decisions, taking the guesswork out of software selection.

The G2 Crowd platform contains more than half a million independent, authenticated reviews from users of software solutions that give honest feedback on software solutions after having put them through their paces. The platform is trusted by businesses and its user reviews are read by more than 2 million buyers every month.

This December, G2 Crowd released its Winter Secure Email Gateway Grid℠, which ranked SpamTitan as the highest performer in the mid-market segment. According to G2 Crowd, “High Performers provide products that are highly rated by their users,” and have achieved consistently positive reviews from the people that matter – customers.

The high position is due to consistent 5-star reviews from users. 93% of user-reviewers on the site have awarded SpamTitan 5 stars out of 5, with the remaining 7% giving the solution 4 stars out of 5. SpamTitan has attracted praise across the board, notably for how easy it is to set up, use, maintain, its reporting tools, the quality of customer support, and price.

SpamTitan has also been rated as a 5-star email security solution by users of Spiceworks and has won more than 37 consecutive Virus Bulletin Spam awards.

Not only is SpamTitan an ideal solution for SMBs to block spam email, malware, and phishing threats, it has been developed to also meet the needs of managed services providers to allow them to easily add spam filtering and phishing protection to their service stacks.

SpamTitan is available with three deployment choices: SpamTitan Gateway, SpamTitan Cloud, and SpamTitan Private Cloud, to meet the needs of all businesses.

Check out the SpamTitan reviews on G2 Crowd and contact TitanHQ to schedule a product demonstration. SpamTitan is also available on a free 14-day trial to allow you to test the solution for yourself in your own environment.

Office 365 Phishing Emails Masquerade as Non-Delivery Notifications

campaign is to obtain users’ Office 365 passwords.

The phishing campaign was detected by ISC Handler Xavier Mertens and the campaign appears to still be active.

The phishing emails closely resemble legitimate Office 365 non-delivery notifications and include Office 365 branding. As is the case with official non-delivery notifications, the user is alerted that messages have not been delivered and told that action is required.

The Office 365 phishing emails claim that “Microsoft found Several Undelivered Messages” and attributes the non-delivery to “Server Congestion.” The emails ask the sender to retype the recipient’s email address and send the message again, although conveniently they include a Send Again button.

If users click the Send Again button, they will be directed to a website that closely resembles the official Office 365 website and includes a login box that has been auto-populated with the user’s email address.

If the password is entered, a JavaScript function sends both the email address and password to the scammer. The user will then be redirected to the genuine outlook.office365.com website where they will be presented with a real Office 365 login box.

While the Office 365 phishing emails and the website look legitimate, there are signs that all is not what it seems. The emails are well written and the sender’s email – postmaster@us.ibm.com – looks official but there is irregular capitalization of the warning message: Something that would not occur on an official Microsoft notification.

The clearest sign that this is a phishing scam is the domain to which users are directed if they click on the Send Again button. It is not an official Microsoft domain (agilones.com).

While the error in the email may be overlooked, users should notice the domain, although some users may proceed and enter passwords as the login box is identical to the login on the official Microsoft site.

The campaign shows just how important it is to carefully check every message before taking any action and to always check the domain before disclosing any sensitive information.

Scammers use Office 365 phishing emails because so many businesses have signed up to use Office 365. Mass email campaigns therefore have a high probability of reaching an Outlook inbox. That said, it is easy to target office 365 users. A business that is using Office 365 broadcasts it through their public DNS MX records.

Businesses can improve their resilience to phishing attacks through mandatory security awareness training for all employees. Employees should be told to always check messages carefully and should be taught how to identify phishing emails.

Businesses should also ensure they have an advanced spam filtering solution in place. While Microsoft does offer anti-phishing protection for Office 365 through its Advanced Threat Protection (APT) offering, businesses should consider using a third-party spam filtering solution with Office 365.

SpamTitan provides superior protection against phishing and zero-day attacks, an area where APT struggles.

Irish Phishing Study Shows Millennials’ Confidence in Security Awareness is Misplaced

According to a recent Irish phishing study, as many as 185,000 office workers in the country have fallen victim to phishing scams.

Phishing is a method used by cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information such as login credentials, financial information, and other sensitive data. While phishing can take place over the phone, via messaging platforms or by text message, email is most commonly used.

Messages are sent in bulk in the hope that some individuals will respond, or campaigns can be much more targeted. The latter is referred to as spear phishing. With spear phishing attacks, cybercriminals often research their victims and tailor messages to maximize the probability of them eliciting a response.

A successful phishing attack on employees can see them disclose their email credentials which allows their accounts to be accessed. Then the attackers can search emails accounts for sensitive information or use the accounts to conduct further phishing attacks on other employees. When financial information is disclosed, business bank accounts can be emptied.

Businesses can suffer major financial losses as a result of employees responding to phishing emails, the reputation of the business can be damaged, customers can be lost, and there is also a risk of major regulatory fines.

Irish Phishing Study Findings

The Irish phishing study was conducted on 500 Irish office workers by the survey consultancy firm Censuswide. Respondents to the Irish phishing study were asked questions about phishing, whether they had fallen for a phishing scam in the past, and how they rated their ability to identify phishing attacks.

In line with findings from surveys conducted in other countries, 14% of respondents said they had been a victim of a phishing attack. There were also marked differences between different age groups.  Censuswide analyzed three age groups: Millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers. The latter two age groups were fairly resistant to phishing attempts. Gen X were the most phishing-savvy, with just 6% of respondents in the age group admitting to having been fooled by phishing emails in the past, closely followed by the baby boomer generation on 7%. However, 17% of millennials admitted having fallen for a phishing scam – The generation that should, in theory, be the most tech-savvy.

Interestingly, millennials were also the most confident in their ability to recognize phishing attempts. 14% of millennials said they would not be certain that they could detect fraud, compared to 17% of Gen X, and 26% of baby boomers.

It is easy to be confident about one’s ability to spot standard phishing attempts, but phishing attacks are becoming much more sophisticated and very realistic. Complacency can be very dangerous.

Phishing Protection for Businesses

The results of the Irish phishing study make it clear that businesses need to do more to protect themselves from phishing attacks. Naturally, an advanced spam filtering solution is required to ensure that employees do not have their phishing email identification skills put to the test constantly. SpamTitan, for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails, thus reducing reliance on employees’ ability to identify scam emails.

The Irish phishing study also highlights the importance of providing security awareness training to employees. The study revealed 44% of the over 54 age group had opened an attachment or clicked on a link in an email from an unknown sender, as had 34% of millennials and 26% of the Gen X age group. Alarmingly, one in five respondents said that their employer had not provided any security awareness training whatsoever.

Employees need to learn how to identify scams, so security awareness training must be provided. Since cybercriminals’ tactics are constantly evolving, training needs to be continuous. Annual or biannual training sessions should be provided, along with shorter refresher training sessions. Businesses should also consider conducting phishing email simulations to test resilience to phishing attacks and highlight weak links.

To be effective, anti-phishing training needs to be provided to all employees and requires buy-in from all departments. Unless that happens, it will be difficult to develop a culture of security awareness.

How to Improve Office 365 Security

In this post we offer four simple steps to take to improve Office 365 security and make it harder for hackers and phishers to gain access to users’ accounts.

Hackers are Targeting Office 365 Accounts

It should come as no surprise to hear that hackers are targeting Office 365 accounts. Any software package that has 155 million global users is going to be a target for hackers, and with the number of users growing by an astonishing 3 million a month, Office 365 accounts are likely to be attacked even more frequently.

One study this year has confirmed that to be the case. There has been a 13% increase in attempts to hack into Office 365 email accounts this year, and many of those attacks succeed. You should therefore take steps to improve Office 365 security.

Hackers themselves are paying for Office 365 and are probing its security protections to find vulnerabilities that can be exploited. They also test their phishing emails on real office 365 accounts to find out which ones bypass Microsoft’s anti-phishing protections.

When emails have been developed that bypass Microsoft’s anti-phishing protections, mass email campaigns are launched on Office 365 users. Businesses using Office 365 can easily be found and targeted because it is made clear that they use Office 365 through public DNS MX records.

So how can you improve office 365 security and make it harder for hackers? If you take the four steps below, you will be able to greatly improve Office 365 security and thwart more attacks.

Enforce the Use of Strong Passwords

Hackers often conduct brute force attacks on Office 365 email accounts so you need to develop a strong password policy and prevent users from setting passwords that are easy to brute force. You should not allow dictionary words or any commonly used weak passwords, that otherwise meet your password policy requirements – Password1! for instance.

The minimum length for a password should be 8 characters but consider increasing that minimum. A password of between 12 and 15 characters is recommended. Make sure you do not set a too restrictive maximum number of characters to encourage the use of longer passphrases. Passphrases are harder to crack than 8-digit passwords and easier for users to remember. To make it even easier for your users, consider using a password manager.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Even with strong passwords, some users’ passwords may be guessed, or users may respond to phishing emails and disclose their password to a scammer. An additional login control is therefore required to prevent compromised passwords from being used to access Office 365 accounts.

Multi-factor authentication is not infallible, but it will help you improve Office 365 security. With MFA, in addition to a password, another method of authentication is required such as a token or a code sent to a mobile phone. If a password is obtained by a hacker, and an attempt is made to login from a new location or device, further authentication will be required to access the account.

Enable Mailbox Auditing in Office 365

Mailbox auditing in Office 365 is not turned on by default so it needs to be enabled. You can set various parameters for logging activity including successful login attempts and various mailbox activities. This can help you identify whether a mailbox has been compromised. You can also logs failed login attempts to help you identify when you are being attacked.

Improve Office 365 Security with a Third-Party Spam Filter

As previously mentioned, hackers can test their phishing emails to find out if they bypass Office 365 anti-phishing controls and your organization can be identified as using Office 365. To improve Office 365 security and reduce the number of phishing emails that are delivered to end users’ inboxes, consider implementing a third-party spam filter rather than relying on Microsoft’s anti-phishing controls. Dedicated email security vendors, such as TitanHQ, offer more effective and more flexible anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions than Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection at a lower cost.

Office 365 Spam Filtering Controls Failed to Prevent Costly Malware Infection

A U.S. school system had Office 365 spam filtering controls in place and other cybersecurity solutions installed, but still experienced a costly 6-week malware infection. In this post we explore what went wrong and how you can improve security in your organization.

Multi-Layered Defenses Breached

If you want to mount a solid defense and prevent hackers from gaining access to your networks and data, multi-layered cybersecurity defenses are required, but for one Georgia school district that was not enough. On paper, their defenses looked sound. Office 365 spam filtering controls had been applied to protect the email system, the school district had a firewall appliance protecting the network, and a web filter had been installed to control what users could do online. Endpoint security had also been installed.

The school district was also updating its desktops to Windows 10 and its servers to Windows Server 2012 or later. Everything looked nice and secure.

However, the transportation department delayed the upgrades. The department was still sharing files on a local Windows 2003 server and some of the desktops were still running Windows XP, even though support for the OS had long since ended. The outdated software and lack of patching was exploited by the attackers.

How Was the Malware Installed?

The investigation has not yet determined exactly how the attack was initiated, but it is believed that it all started with an email. As a result of the actions of an end user, a chain of events was triggered that resulted in a 6-week struggle to mitigate the attack, the cost of which – in terms of time and resources – was considerable.

The attack is believed to have started on a Windows XP machine with SMBv1 enabled. That device had drives mapped to the Windows 2003 server. The malware that was installed was the Emotet Trojan, which used the EternalBlue exploit to spread across the network to other vulnerable devices. The attackers were able to gain control of those devices and installed cryptocurrency mining malware.

The cryptocurrency mining slowed the devices to such an extent that they were virtually unusable, causing many to continually crash and reboot. The network also slowed to a snail’s pace due to the streams of malicious traffic. While the upgraded Windows 10 machines were not affected initially, the attackers subsequently downloaded keyloggers onto the compromised devices and obtained the credentials of an IT support technician who had domain administration rights. The attackers then used those privileges to disable Windows Defender updates on desktops, servers, and domain controllers.

Over the course of a week, further Trojan modules were downloaded by creating scheduled tasks using the credentials of the IT support worker. A spam module was used to send malicious messages throughout the school district and several email accounts were compromised as a result and had malware downloaded. Other devices were infected through network shares. The TrickBot banking Trojan was downloaded and was used to attack the systems used by the finance department, although that Trojan was detected and blocked.

Remediation Took 6 Weeks

Remediating the attack was complicated. First the IT department disabled SMBv1 on all devices as it was not known what devices were vulnerable. Via a Windows Group Policy, the IT team then blocked the creation of scheduled tasks. Every device on the network had Windows Defender updates downloaded manually, and via autoruns for Windows, all processes and files run by the Trojan were deleted. The whole process of identifying, containing, and disabling the malware took 6 weeks.

The attack was made possible through an attack on a single user, although it was the continued use of unsupported operating systems and software that made the malware attack so severe.

The attack shows why it is crucial to ensure that IT best practices are followed and why patching is so important. For that to happen, the IT department needs to have a complete inventory of all devices and needs to make sure that each one is updated.

While Microsoft released a patch to correct the flaw in SMBv1 that was exploited through EternalBlue, the vulnerable Windows XP devices were not updated, even though Microsoft had released an update for the unsupported operating system in the spring of 2017.

Additional Protection is Required for Office 365 Inboxes

The attack also shows how the actions of a single user can have grave repercussions. By blocking malicious emails at source, attacks such as this will be much harder to pull off. While Office 365 spam filtering controls block many email-based threats, even with Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection many emails slip through and are delivered to inboxes.

Hackers can also see whether Office 365 is being used as it is broadcast through DNS MX records, which allows them to target Office 365 users and launch attacks.

Due to the additional cost of APT, the lack of flexibility, and the volume of malicious emails that are still delivered to inboxes, many businesses have chosen to implement a more powerful spam filtering solution on top of Office 365.

One such solution that has been developed to work seamlessly with Office 365 to improve protection against email threats is SpamTitan.

You can find out more about how SpamTitan improves protection for Office 365 in this article – Protecting Office 365 from Attack.

Sextortion Scams Now Combine Threat of Exposure with Multiple Malware Infections

Sextortion scams have proven popular with cybercriminals this year. A well written email and an email list are all that is required. The latter can easily be purchased for next to nothing via darknet marketplaces and hacking forums. Next to no technical skill is required to run sextortion scams and as scammers’ Bitcoin wallets show, they are effective.

Many sextortion scams use the tried and tested technique of threatening to expose a user’s online activities (pornography habits, dating/adultery site usage) to all their contacts and friends/family unless a payment is made. Some of the recent sextortion scams have added credibility by claiming to have users’ passwords. However, new sextortion scams have been detected in the past few days that are using a different tactic to get users to pay up.

The email template used in this scam is similar to other recent sextortion scams. The scammers claim to have a video of the victim viewing adult content. The footage was recorded through the victim’s webcam and has been spliced with screenshots of the content that was being viewed at the time.

In the new campaign the email contains the user’s email account in the body of the email, a password (Most likely an old password compromised in a previous breach), and a hyperlink that the victim is encouraged to click to download the video that has been created and see exactly what will soon be distributed via email and social media networks.

Clicking the link in the video will trigger the downloading of a zip file. The compressed file contains a document including the text of the email along with the supposed video file. That video file is actually an information stealer – The Azorult Trojan.

This form of the scam is even more likely to work than past campaigns. Many individuals who receive a sextortion scam email will see it for what it really is: A mass email containing an empty threat. However, the inclusion of a link to download a video is likely to see many individuals download the file to find out if the threat is real.

If the zip file is opened and the Azorult Trojan executed, it will silently collect information from the user’s computer – Similar information to what the attacker claims to have already obtained: Cookies from websites the user has visited, chat histories, files stored on the computer, and login information entered through browsers such as email account and bank credentials.

However, it doesn’t end there. The Azorult Trojan will also download a secondary payload: GandCrab ransomware. Once information has been collected, the user will have their personal files encrypted: Documents, spreadsheets, digital photos, databases, music, videos, and more. Recovery will depend on those files having been backed up and not also encrypted by the ransomware. Aside from permanent file loss, the only other alternative will be to pay a sizeable ransom for the key to decrypt the files.

If the email was sent to a business email account, or a personal email account that was accessed at work, files on the victim’s work computer will be encrypted. Since a record of the original email will have been extracted on the device, the reason why the malware was installed will be made clear to the IT department.

The key to not being scammed is to ignore any threats sent via email and never click links in the emails nor open email attachments.

Businesses can counter the threat by using cybersecurity solutions such as spam filters and web filters. The former prevents the emails from being delivered while the latter blocks access to sites that host malware.

Warning About Uptick in Holiday Season Gift Card Scams

The search for Christmas gifts can be a difficult process. All too often that search proves to be unfruitful and consumers opt to buy gift cards instead. At least with a gift card you can be sure that your friends and family members will be able to buy a gift that they want; however, beware of holiday season gift card scams. Many threat actors are using gift cards as the lure to fool end users into installing malware or parting with sensitive information.

Holiday Season Sees Marked Increase Gift Card Phishing Scams

Holiday season gift card scams are commonplace, and this year is no exception. Many gift card-themed scams were detected over Thanksgiving weekend that offered free or cheap gift cards to lure online shoppers into parting with their credit card details.

Everyone loves a bargain and the offer of something for nothing may be too hard to resist. Many people fall for these scams which is why threat actors switch to gift card scams around this time of year.

Consumers can be convinced to part with credit card details, but businesses too are at risk. Many of these campaigns are conducted to gain access to login credentials or are used to install malware. If an end user responds to such a scam while at work, it is their employer that will likely pay the price.

This year has seen many businesses targeted with gift card scams. Figures from Proofpoint suggest that out of the organizations that have been targeted with email fraud attacks, almost 16% had experienced a gif card-themed attack: Up from 11% in Q2, 2018.

This year has also seen an increase in business email compromise (BEC) style tactics, with emails appearing to have been sent from within a company. The emails claim to have been sent from the CEO (or another executive) requesting accounts and administration staff purchase gift cards for clients or ask for gift cards be purchased to be used for charitable donations.

To reduce the risk from gift card scams and other holiday-themed phishing emails, businesses need to ensure they have powerful spam filtering technology in place to block the emails at source and prevent them from being delivered to inboxes.

Advanced Anti-Phishing protection for Office 365

Many businesses use Office 365, but even Microsoft’s anti-phishing protections see many phishing emails slip through the net, especially at businesses that have not paid extra for advanced phishing protection. Even with the advanced anti-phishing controls, emails still make it past Microsoft’s filters.

To block these malicious messages, an advanced third-party spam filter is required. SpamTitan has been developed to work seamlessly with Office 365 to improved protection against malware, phishing emails, and more sophisticated phishing attacks.

SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam email, while dual anti-virus engines block 100% of known malware. What really sets SpamTitan in a different class is the level of protection it offers against new threats. A combination of Bayesian analysis, greylisting, machine learning, and heuristics help to identify zero-day attacks, which often slip past Office 365 defenses.

If you want to improve protection from email-based attacks and reduce the volume of spam and malicious messages that are being delivered to Office 365 inboxes, give TitanHQ a call today and book a product demonstration to see SpamTitan in action. You can sign up for a free trial of SpamTitan to test the solution in your own environment and see for yourself the difference it makes.

Phishing Attacks on Retailers and Food Industry Install Remote Access Trojans

There has been an increase in phishing attacks on retailers, supermarket chains, and restaurants in recent weeks. The aim of the phishing attacks is to deliver remote access Trojans and remote manipulator software to gain persistent access to computers and, ultimately, obtain banking credentials and sensitive customer data on POS systems.

Several new campaigns have been detected in recent weeks targeting retail and food sector companies, both of which are well into the busiest time of the year. With employees working hard, it is likely that less care will be taken opening emails which gives cybercriminals an opportunity.

PUB Files Used in Phishing Attacks on Retailers

Over the past few weeks, security researchers have noted an uptick in phishing attacks on retailers, with one threat group switching to using.pub files to install malware. Many phishing attacks use Word documents containing malicious macros. The use of macros with .pub files is relatively uncommon. The change to this new attachment type may fool employees, as they will be less likely to associate these files with cyberattacks.

Social engineering techniques are used to fool end users into opening the files, with the .pub files masquerading as invoices. Many emails have been intercepted that appear to have been sent from within a company, which helps to make the files appear genuine.

If opened, the .pub files, via malicious macros, run Microsoft Installer (MSI) files that deliver a remote access Trojan. Since these installers will most likely be familiar to end users, they may not realize the installers are malicious. Further, the MSI files are time delayed so they do not run immediately when the .pub files are opened, increasing the probability that the RAT downloads will go unnoticed.

The TA505 threat group is using this tactic to install the FlawedAmmy remote access Trojan and other malicious payloads such as Remote Manipulator System (RMS) clients.

The phishing emails used to deliver these malicious files are targeted and tailored to a specific business to increase the likelihood of success. These targeted spear phishing attacks are now becoming the norm, as threat actors move away from the spray and pray tactics of old.

Cape Cod Community College Phishing Attack Results in Theft of More Than $800,000

Phishing attacks on retailers have increased, but other industries are also at risk. Educational institutions are also prime targets, as has been highlighted by a recent phishing attack on Cape Cod Community College.

The Cape Cod Community College phishing attack involved sophisticated messages that delivered malware capable of evading the college’s anti-virus software. The malware was used to obtain the banking credentials of the college, and once those credentials had been obtained, the hackers proceeded to make fraudulent transfers and empty bank accounts. Transfers totaling $807,130 were made, and so far, the college and its bank have only been able to recover $278,887.

All too often, fraudulent transfers are not detected quickly enough to recover any funds. Once the transfers have cleared the attacker-controlled bank accounts are emptied, after which the probability of recovering funds falls to near zero.

Defense in Depth the Key to Phishing Protection

Email is the primary vector used to phish for sensitive information and deliver malware to businesses. Regardless of whether businesses use local email systems or cloud-based email services such as Office 365, advanced spam filtering controls are required to block threats. For instance, SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam email and 100% of known malware. SpamTitan also uses heuristics, machine learning, and Bayesian analysis to identify previously unseen threats – One of the areas of weakness of Office 365’s anti-phishing defenses.

Network segmentation is also essential. Critical services must be separated to ensure that the installation of malware or ransomware on one device will not allow the attackers to gain access to the entire network. This is especially important for retailers and other businesses with POS systems. Network segmentation will help to keep POS systems and the financial data of customers secure.

Advanced endpoint protection solutions offer far greater protection than standard antivirus solutions and are less reliant on malware signatures. Standard AV solutions will only block known malware. With standard AV solutions, new malware variants can easily slip through the net.

End user security awareness training should be mandatory for all employees and training needs to be a continuous process. A once a year training session is no longer sufficient. Regular training throughout the year is required to ensure employees are made aware of the latest threats and tactics being used to gain access to login credentials and install malware.

For further information on improving email security to improve protection against phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Flash Player Vulnerability Being Actively Exploited via Spear Phishing Campaign

Adobe has issued an unscheduled update to correct flaws in Adobe Flash Player, including a zero-day vulnerability that is currently being exploited in the wild by an APT threat group on targets in Russia. One target was a Russian healthcare facility that provides medical and cosmetic surgery services to high level civil servants of the Russian Federation.

The zero-day flaw is a use-after-free vulnerability – CVE-2018-15982 – which allows arbitrary code execution and privilege execution in Flash Player. A malicious Flash object runs malicious code on a victim’s computer which gives command line access to the system.

The vulnerability was discovered by security researchers at Gigamon ATR who reported the flaw to Adobe on November 29. Researchers at Qihoo 360 identified a spear phishing campaign that is being used to deliver a malicious document and associated files that exploit the flaw. The document used in the campaign was a forged employee questionnaire.

The emails included a .rar compressed file attachment which contained a Word document, the vulnerability, and the payload. If the .rar file is unpacked and the document opened, the user is presented with a warning that the document may be harmful to the computer. If the content is enabled, a malicious command is executed which extracts and runs the payload – A Windows executable file named backup.exe that is disguised as an NVIDIA Control Panel application. Backup.exe serves as a backdoor into a system. The malicious payload collects system information which is sent back to the attackers via HTTP POST. The payload also downloads and executes shell code on the infected device.

Qihoo 360 researchers have named the campaign Operation Poison Needles due to the identified target being a healthcare clinic. While the attack appears to be politically motivated and highly targeted, now that details of the vulnerability have been released it is likely that other threat groups will use exploits for the vulnerability in more widespread attacks.

It is therefore important for businesses that have Flash Player installed on some of their devices to update to the latest version of the software as soon as possible. That said, uninstalling Flash Player, if it is not required, is a better option given the number of vulnerabilities that are discovered in the software each month.

The vulnerability is present in Flash Player 31.0.0.153 and all earlier versions. Adobe has corrected the flaw together with a DLL hijacking vulnerability in version 32.0.0.101.

TrickBot Malware Updated with POS Data Stealing Capabilities

A new module has been added to TrickBot malware that adds point-of-sale (POS) data collection capabilities.

TrickBot is a modular malware that is being actively developed. In early November, TrickBot was updated with a password stealing module, but the latest update has made it even more dangerous, especially for hotels, retail outlets, and restaurants: Businesses that process large volumes of card payments.

The new module was identified by security researchers at Trend Micro who note that, at present, the module is not being used to record POS data such as credit/debit card numbers. Currently, the new TrickBot malware module is only collecting data about whether an infected device is part of a network that supports POS services and the types of POS systems in use. The researchers have not yet determined how the POS information will be used, but it is highly likely that the module is being used for reconnaissance. Once targets with networks supporting POS systems have been identified, they will likely be subjected to further intrusions.

The new module, named psfin32, is similar to a previous network domain harvesting module, but has been developed specifically to identify POS-related terms from domain controllers and basic accounts. The module achieves this by using LDAP queries to Active Directory Services which search for a dnsHostName that contains strings such as ‘pos’, ‘retail’, ‘store’, ‘micros’, ‘cash’, ‘reg’, ‘aloha’, ‘lane’, ‘boh’, and ‘term.’

The timing of the update, so close to the holiday period, suggests the threat actors are planning to take advantage of the increase in holiday trade and are gathering as much information as possible before the module is used to harvest POS data.

The recent updates to TrickBot malware have been accompanied by a malicious spam email campaign (identified by Brad Duncan) which is targeting businesses in the United States. The malspam campaign uses Word documents containing malicious macros that download the TrickBot binary.

Protecting against TrickBot and other information stealing malware requires a defense-in-depth approach to cybersecurity. The main attack vector used by the threat actors behind TrickBot is spam email, so it is essential for an advanced anti-spam solution to be deployed to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. End user training is also essential to ensure employees are made aware of the danger of opening emails from unknown senders, launching suspicious email attachments, and clicking hyperlinks in those messages.

Antivirus solutions and endpoint security controls should also be deployed to identify and quarantine potentially malicious files in case malware makes it past perimeter defenses.

Dec 5, 2018 Webinar: Find Out About a More Cost-Effective Alternative to Cisco OpenDNS

There is a more cost-effective alternative to Cisco OpenDNS that provides total protection against web-based threats at a fraction of the price of OpenDNS. If you are currently running OpenDNS or have yet to implement a web filtering solution, you can find out about this powerful web filtering solution in a December 5, 2018 webinar.

Cybersecurity defenses can be implemented to secure the network perimeter, but employees often take risks online that can lead to costly data breaches. The online activities of employees can easily result in malware, ransomware, and viruses being downloaded. Employees may also respond to malicious adverts (malvertising) or visit phishing websites where they are relieved of their login credentials.

Mitigating malware infections, dealing with ransomware attacks, and resolving phishing-related breaches have a negative impact on the business and the resultant data breaches can be incredibly costly. Consequently, the threat from web-based attacks cannot be ignored.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution that offers protection against web-based threats by carefully controlling the web content that their employees can access: A DNS-based web filter.

DNS-based web filtering requires no hardware purchases and no software downloads. Within around 5 minutes, a business will be able to control employee internet access and block web-based threats. Some DNS-based web filters such as OpenDNS can be costly, but there is a more cost-effective alternative to Cisco OpenDNS.

TitanHQ and Celestix Networks will be running a joint webinar to introduce an alternative to Cisco OpenDNS – The WebTitan-powered solution, Celestix WebFilter Cloud.

Celestix will be joined by Rocco Donnino, TitanHQ EVP of Strategic Alliances, and Senior Sales Engineer, Derek Higgins who will explain how the DNS-based filtering technology offers total protection from web-based threats at a fraction of the cost of OpenDNS.

The webinar will be taking place on Wednesday December 5, 2018 at 10:00 AM US Pacific Time

Advance registration is required. You can register for the webinar on this link.

ArcTitan: Lightning-Fast, Enterprise-Class Microsoft Exchange Email Archiving for SMBs and MSPs

An email archiving solution is now a requirement in business to ensure that emails are not lost, storage space is kept to a minimum, and emails can be retrieved on demand. While native Microsoft Exchange Email Archiving is available, many businesses will find the archiving options come up short. The alternative is to use a third-party email archiving solution. Not only will this provide all the features required by businesses, it will improve efficiency and will save on cost. To meet the requirements of businesses and improve efficiency, TitanHQ developed ArcTitan: A secure, fast, cloud-based email archiving solution.

What is Email Archiving and Why is it Important?

Federal, state, and industry regulations require businesses to retain emails for many years. Storing emails can take up a considerable amount of storage space, especially considering the volume of emails that are typically sent and received on a daily basis by employees. While businesses can get away with storing emails in backups to meet legal requirements, backups are not searchable. If emails need to be recovered, they need to be recovered quickly. That is simply not possible with backups as they are not searchable. The solution is an email archive. In contrast to backups, email archives are searchable, and messages can be retrieved on-demand quickly and with minimal effort.

Email Archiving is Essential for eDiscovery and GDPR Compliance

The importance of an email archiving solutions for eDiscovery cannot be underestimated. There have been many cases where businesses have received heavy fines for the failure to produce emails as part of the eDiscovery process. For instance, in the Zubulake v. USB Warburg case, the plaintiff was awarded $29 million as a result of the failure to produce emails. In Coleman Holdings v. Morgan Stanley, eDiscovery failures resulted in a fine of $15 million.

Email archives are now essential for GDPR compliance. Sine the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on May 25, 2018, companies have been required to produce – and delete – on request every element of an individual’s personal data, including personal data contained in emails. Without an email archive, this can be incredibly time consuming and may result in data being unlawfully retained since backups are not searchable. The fines for GDPR compliance failures can be as high as €20 million or 4% of global annual revenue, whichever is greater.

Native Microsoft Exchange Email Archiving

Native Microsoft exchange email archiving provides businesses with journaling and personal archive functions, but each has its drawbacks. The functions meet some business requirements, such as freeing up space in mailboxes, but they lack the full functions of a dedicated archive and do not meet all eDiscovery requirements.

Wirth native Microsoft Exchange email archiving, end users have far too much control over the information that is loaded into an archive and they can delete emails unless a legal hold is activated. For admins, the control panel is difficult to use and retrieving emails can be complicated and time consuming.

Native Microsoft Exchange email archiving functions fail to meet the needs of many businesses, especially those in highly regulated industries. While the native Microsoft Exchange email archiving functions have improved over the years, there are limitations with most product versions and archiving can be complex with certain email architectures.

Any business that uses multiple email systems alongside Microsoft Exchange will require a third-party email archiving solution. Microsoft Exchange does not support the archiving of email from other platforms.

Email archiving has improved with Office 365. SMBs that use Office 365 have email archiving functionality included in their plans, but it is only free of charge with E3-E5 plans. Other plans charge around $3 per user, which is more expensive than custom-built archiving solutions such as ArcTitan.

Native Microsoft Exchange email archiving is an option for businesses, but Microsoft Exchange was not developed for email archiving. A third-party solution for email archiving on Microsoft Exchange is still a requirement, despite the improvements that have been made by Microsoft.

A third-party email archiving solution will save your IT department a considerable amount of time trying to locate old messages, especially for the typical requests that are received which are light on detail. The advanced search options in ArcTitan make search and retrieval of messages much faster and easier.

Feature-Rich, Lightning Fast Email Archiving with ArcTitan

ArcTitan has been developed specifically for email archiving and email archiving alone. ArcTitan has been designed to meet all archiving needs of businesses and allow managed service providers to offer email archiving to their clients.

The benefits of ArcTitan include lighting fast email archiving and message retrieval, secure encrypted storage, and compliance with industry regulations such as HIPAA, SOX, SEC, FINRA, and GDPR. ArcTitan ensures businesses meet eDiscovery requirements without having to pay for additional eDiscovery services from Microsoft.

With ArcTitan, an accurate audit trail is maintained, and businesses have near instant access to all company emails. ArcTitan serves as a black box recorder for all email to meet all eDiscovery requirements and ensures compliance with federal, state, and industry regulations.

ArcTitan Features

ArcTitan requires no hardware or software, is quick and easy to install, and easily slots in to the email architecture of businesses. The solution is highly scalable (there are no limits on storage space or users), it is lightning fast, easy to use, and stores all emails safely and securely.

Businesses that have yet to implement a Microsoft Exchange email archiving solution typically save up to 75% storage space and costs are kept to a minimum with a flexible pay as you go pricing policy, with subscriptions paid per live user.

If you have yet to implement an email archiving solution, if you are unhappy with the native Microsoft Exchange email archiving features, or find your current archiving solution expensive or difficult to use, get in touch with TitanHQ today to find out more about the benefits of ArcTitan and the improvements it can make to your business.

HTTPS Phishing Websites Now Account for Half of All Phishing Sites

There has been a steady increase in HTTPS phishing websites over the past couple of years, mirroring the transition from HTTP to HTTPS on commercial websites. HTTPS sites are those that have SSL/TLS certificates and display a green padlock next to the URL. The green padlock is an indicator of site security. It confirms to website visitors that the connection between their browser and the website is encrypted. This provides protection against man-in-the-middle attacks by ensuring data sent from the browser to the website cannot be intercepted and viewed by third parties.

HTTPS websites are now used by a large number of businesses, especially e-commerce website owners. This has become increasingly important since search engines such as Google Chrome provide clear indications to Internet users that sites may not be secure if the connection is not encrypted.

This is all good of course, but there is one caveat. Users have been told to look for the green padlock to make sure a site is secure, but the green padlock is viewed by many Internet users as a sign that the site is secure and legitimate. While the former is true, the latter is not. The green padlock does not mean that the site is genuine and just because it is displayed next to the URL it does not mean the site is safe.

If the website is controlled by a cybercriminal, all the green padlock means is that other cybercriminals will not be able to intercept data. Any information entered on the website will be divulged to the criminal operating that site.

It stands to reason for HTTPS phishing websites to be used. If Internet users are aware that HTTPS means insecure, they will be less likely to enter sensitive information if the green padlock is not present. Unfortunately, free SSL certificates can easily be obtained to turn HTTP sites into HTTPS phishing websites.

According to PhishLabs, back in Q1, 2016, fewer than 5% of phishing websites used HTTPS. By Q3, 2016, the percentage started to rise sharply. By Q1, 2017, the percentage had almost reached 10%, and by Q3, 2017, a quarter of phishing websites were using HTTPS. The 30% milestone was passed around Q1, 2018, and at the end of Q3, 2018, 49% of all phishing sites were using HTTPS.

A PhishLabs survey conducted late last year clearly highlighted the lack of understanding of the meaning of the green padlock. 63% of consumers surveyed viewed the green padlock as meaning the website was legitimate, and 72% saw the website as being safe. Only 18% of respondents correctly identified the green padlock as only meaning communications with the website were encrypted.

It is important for all Internet users to understand that HTTPS phishing websites not only exist, but before long the majority of phishing websites will be on HTTPS and displaying the green padlock. A conversation about the true meaning of HTTPS is long overdue and it is certainly something that should be covered in security awareness training sessions.

It is also now important for businesses to deploy a web filtering solution that is capable of SSL inspection – The decryption, scanning, and re-encryption of HTTPS traffic to ensure that access to these malicious websites is blocked. In addition to reading content and assessing websites to determine whether they are malicious, SSL inspection ensures site content can be categorized correctly. This ensures that sites that violate a company’s acceptable usage policies are blocked.

There is a downside to using SSL inspection, and that is the strain placed on CPUs and a reduction in Internet speeds. SSL inspection is therefore optional with many advanced web filters. To ensure that the strain is reduced, IT teams should use whitelisting to prevent commonly used websites from being subjected to SSL filtering.

WebTitan Includes SSL Filtering to Block HTTPS Phishing Websites

WebTitan is a powerful web filtering solution for SMBs and managed service providers (MSPs) that provides protection against web-based threats. There are three products in the WebTitan family – WebTitan Gateway, WebTitan Cloud, and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi; all of which include SSL filtering as standard. If SSL filtering is activated, users will be protected against HTTPS phishing websites and other malicious sites that have SSL certificates.

All WebTitan products can be installed in minutes, require no technical knowledge, and have been designed to be easy to use. An intuitive user interface places all information, settings, and reports at users’ fingertips which makes for easy enforcement of acceptable Internet usage polices and fast reporting to identify potential issues – employees browsing habits and users that are attempting to bypass filtering controls for instance.

Whether you are an MSP that wants to start offering web filtering to your clients or a SMB owner that wants greater protection against web-based threats, the WebTitan suite of products will provide all the features you need and will allow you to improve security and employee productivity, reduce legal liability, and create a safe browsing environment for all users of your wired and wireless networks.

For further information on WebTitan, details of pricing, web filtering advice, to book a product demonstration, or to register for a free trial of the product, contact TitanHQ today.

 

Beware of this California Wildfire Scam

A California wildfire scam is circulating that requests donations to help the victims of the recent wildfires. The emails appear to come from the CEO of a company and are directed at its employees in the accounts and finance department.

It should come as no surprise that cybercriminals are taking advantage of yet another natural disaster and are attempting to con people into giving donations. Scammers often take advantage of natural disasters to pull on the heart strings and defraud businesses. Similar scams were conducted in the wake of the recent hurricanes that hit the United States and caused widespread damage.

The California wildfire scam, identified by Agari, is a form of business email compromise (BEC) attack. The emails appear to have been sent by the CEO of a company, with his/her email address used to send messages to company employees. This is often achieved by spoofing the email address although in some cases the CEO’s email account has been compromised and is used to send the messages.

The California wildfire scam contains one major red flag. Instead of asking for a monetary donation, the scammers request money in the form of Google play gift cards. The messages request the redemption codes be sent back to the CEO by return.

The emails are sent to employees in the accounts and finance departments and the emails request that the money be sent in 4 x $500 denomination gift cards. If these are sent back to the CEO, he/she will then forward them on to company clients that have been affected by the California wildfires.

The reason Google play gift cards are requested is because they can easily be exchanged on darknet forums for other currencies. The gift cards are virtually impossible to trace back to the scammer.

The messages are full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Even so, it is another sign that the messages are not genuine. However, scams such as this are sent because they work. Many people have been fooled by similar scams in the past.

Protecting against scams such as this requires a combination of technical controls, end user training, and company policies. An advanced spam filtering solution should be used – SpamTitan for instance – to prevent messages such as these from reaching inboxes. SpamTitan checks all incoming emails for spam signatures and uses advanced techniques such as heuristics, machine learning, and Bayesian analysis to identify advanced and never-before-seen phishing attacks.

End user training is essential for all employees, especially those with access to corporate bank accounts. Those individuals are often targeted by scammers. Policies should be introduced that require all requests for changes to bank accounts, atypical payment requests, and wire transfers above a certain threshold to be confirmed by phone or in person before they are authorized.

A combination of these measures will help to protect businesses from BEC attacks and other email scams.

Stealthy Cannon Trojan Being Distributed Through Lion Air Spear Phishing Campaign

A previously unseen malware variant, dubbed the Cannon Trojan, is being used in targeted attacks on government agencies in the United States and Europe. The new malware threat has been strongly linked to a threat group known under many names – APT28, Fancy Bear, Sofacy, Sednet, Strontium – that has links to the Russian government.

The Cannon Trojan is being used to gather information on potential targets, collecting system information and taking screenshots that are sent back to APT28. The Cannon Trojan is also a downloader capable of installing further malware variants onto a compromised system.

The new malware threat is stealthy and uses a variety of tricks to avoid detection and hide communications with its C2. Rather than communicating over HTTP/HTTPS, like other malware variants used by APT28, the Cannon Trojan communicates via email over SMTPs and POP3S.

Once installed, an email is sent over SMTPS through port 465 and a further two email addresses are obtained through which the malware communicates with its C2 using the POP3S protocol to receive instructions and send back data. While the use of email for communicating with a C2 is not unknown, it is relatively rare. One advantage offered by this method of communication is it is more difficult to identify and block that HTTP/HTTPS.

The Cannon Trojan, like the Zebrocy Trojan which is also being used by APT28, is being distributed via spear phishing emails. Two email templates have been intercepted by Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 team, one of which takes advantage of interest in the Lion Air plane crash in Indonesia.

The Lion Air spear phishing campaign appears to provide information on the victims of the crash, which the email claims are detailed in an attached Word document titled Crash List (Lion Air Boeing 737).docx. The user must Enable Content to view the contents of the document. It is claimed that the document was created in an earlier version of Word and content must be enabled for the file to be displayed. Opening the email and enabling content would trigger the macro to run, which would then silently download the Cannon Trojan.

Rather than the macro running and downloading the payload straightaway, as an anti-analysis mechanism, the attackers use the Windows AutoClose tool to delay completion of the macro routine until the document is closed. Only then is the Trojan downloaded. Any sandbox that analyzes the document and exits before closing the document would be unlikely to identify it as malicious. Further, the macro will only run if a connection with the C2 is established. Even if the document is opened and content is enabled, the macro will not run without its C2 channel open.

The techniques used by the attackers to obfuscate the macro and hide communications make this threat difficult to detect. The key to preventing infection is blocking the threat at source and preventing it from reaching inboxes. The provision of end user training to help employees identify threats such as emails with attachments from unknown senders is also important.

Enhance Protection Against Zero-Day Malware and Spear Phishing

TitanHQ has developed a powerful anti-phishing and anti-spam solution that is effective at blocking advanced persistent threats and zero-day malware, which does not rely on signature-based detection methods. While dual anti-virus engines offer protection against 100% of known malware, unlike many other spam filtering solutions, SpamTitan uses a variant of predictive techniques to identify previously unseen threats and spear phishing attacks.

Greylisting is used to identify domains used for spamming that have yet to be blacklisted. All incoming emails are subjected to Bayesian analysis, and heuristics are used to identify new threats.

To further protect against phishing attacks, URIBL and SURBL protocols are used to scan embedded hyperlinks. SpamTitan also scans outbound mail to prevent abuse and identify attempted data theft.

For further information on SpamTitan, to book a product demonstration, or to sign up for a free trial of the full product, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Thanksgiving Themed Spam Emails Used to Spread Emotet Malware

There has been an increase in malspam campaigns spreading Emotet malware in recent weeks, with several new campaigns launched that spoof financial institutions – the modus operandi of the threat group behind the campaigns.

The Emotet malware campaigns use Word documents containing malicious macros. If macros are enabled, the Emotet malware payload is downloaded. The Word documents are either sent as email attachments or the spam emails contain hyperlinks which direct users to a website where the Word document is downloaded.

Various social engineering tricks have been used in these campaigns. One new tactic that was identified by Cofense is the wrapping of malicious hyperlinks in Proofpoint’s (PFPT) TAP URL Defense wrapping service to make the email appear benign.

According to Cofense, the campaign delivers Emotet malware, although Emotet in turn downloads a secondary payload. In past campaigns, Emotet has been delivered along with ransomware. First, Emotet steals credentials, then the ransomware is used to extort money from victims. In the latest campaign, the secondary malware is the banking Trojan named IcedID.

A further campaign has been detected that uses Thanksgiving themed spam emails. The messages appear to be Thanksgiving greetings for employees, and similarly contain a malicious hyperlink or document. The messages claim the document is a Thanksgiving card or greeting. Many of the emails have been personalized to aid the deception and include the user’s name. In this campaign, while the document downloaded appears to be a Word file, it is actually an XML file.

Emotet malware has been updated recently. In addition to stealing credentials, a new module has been added that harvests emails from an infected user. The previous 6 months’ emails – which include subjects, senders, and message content – are stolen. This new module is believed to have been added to improve the effectiveness of future phishing campaigns, for corporate espionage, and data theft.

The recent increase in Emotet malware campaigns, and the highly varied tactics used by the threat actors behind these campaigns, highlight the importance of adopting a defense in depth strategy to block phishing emails. Organizations should not rely on one cybersecurity solution to provide protection against email attacks.

Phishing campaigns target a weak link in security defenses: Employees. It is therefore important to ensure that all employees with corporate email accounts are taught how to recognize phishing threats. Training needs to be ongoing and should cover the latest tactics used by cybercriminals to spread malware and steal credentials. Employees are the last line of defense. Through security awareness training, the defensive line can be significantly strengthened.

As a frontline defense, all businesses and organizations should deploy an advanced spam filtering solution. While Office 365 email includes a basic level of protection against phishing attacks, a powerful third-party anti-phishing and spam filtering solution is required to provide protection against more sophisticated email attacks.

SpamTitan is an advanced email filtering solution that uses predictive techniques to provide superior protection against phishing attacks, zero-day attacks, and new malware variants that bypass signature-based defenses.

In addition to scanning message content, headers, attachments, and hyperlinks for spam and malware signatures, SpamTitan uses heuristics, machine learning, and Bayesian analysis to identify emerging threats. Greylisting is used to identify and block large scale spam campaigns, such as those typically conducted by the threat actors spreading banking Trojans and Emotet malware.

How SpamTitan Spam Filtering Works

How SpamTitan Protects Businesses from Email Threats

A web filter – such as WebTitan – adds an additional layer of protection against web-based attacks by preventing end users from visiting malicious websites where malware is downloaded. A web filter assesses all attempts to access web content, checks sites against blacklists, assesses the domain, scans web content, and blocks access to sites that violate its policies.

For further information on how you can improve your defenses against web-based and email-based attacks and block malware, ransomware, botnets, viruses, phishing, and spear phishing attacks, contact TitanHQ today.

How to Improve the Office 365 Spam Filter

Office 365 has many benefits, so it is no surprise that it is proving so popular with businesses, but one common complaint is the number of spam and malicious emails that sneak past Microsoft’s defenses. If you have a problem with spam and phishing emails, there is an easy solution to improve the Office 365 spam filter.

Office 365 Email Protection

More than 135 million commercial users are now on Office 365. Unfortunately, the popularity of Office 365 has made it a target for hackers. Microsoft has been proactively taking steps to improve the Office 365 spam filter to make it more effective at blocking spam and phishing attempts. Office 365 phishing protections have been improved and more malicious emails are now being blocked; however, even with the recent anti-phish enhancements, many businesses still have to deal with spam, phishing emails, and other malicious messages.

Businesses using Office 365 as a hosted email solution are likely to have their email filtered using Exchange Online protection or EOP. EOP does provide a decent level of protection and blocks spam, phishing emails, and malware. Osterman Research confirmed that EOP eliminates 100% of known malware and blocks 99% of spam email but struggles with the last 1%. Many businesses have found that EOP blocks basic phishing attacks but comes up short at blocking more advanced email threats such as spear phishing and advanced persistent threats.

To improve the Office 365 spam filter, it is necessary to upgrade to Advanced Threat Protection, the second level of protection offered with Office 365. The level of protection is much better, although Advanced Threat Protection cannot identify zero-day threats and falls short of many third-party solutions on blocking other advanced threats. A SE Labs study in the summer of 2017 found that even with the additional level of protection, which is only available in the Office 365 E5 license tier, protection only ranked in the low-middle of the market.

The number of cases of hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in Office 365 and the volume of direct attacks on Office 365 users has seen an increasing number of businesses looking for a way to improve the Office 365 spam filter further.

An Easy Way to Improve the Office 365 Spam Filter

Businesses that want to further improve the Office 365 spam filter (and those looking for an Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection alternative) need to consider implementing a third-party anti-spam solution.

Fortunately, there is a solution that will not only improve Office 365 spam filtering, it is quick and easy to implement, requires no software downloads, and no hardware purchases are necessary. In fact, it can be implemented, configured, and be up and running in a few minutes.

SpamTitan is a powerful cloud-based email security solution that has been developed to provide superior protection against spam, phishing, malware, zero-day attacks, and data loss via email.

In contrast to Office 365, SpamTitan uses predictive techniques such as Bayesian analysis, machine learning, and heuristics to block zero-day attacks, advanced persistent threats, new malware variants, and new spear phishing methods.

SpamTitan searches email headers, analyzes domains, and scans email content to identify phishing threats. Embedded hyperlinks, including shortened URLs, are scanned in real time and subjected to URL multiple reputation checks, while dual antivirus engines scan and block 100% of known malware.

SpamTitan also incorporates data loss prevention tools for emails and attachments, which are not available with EOP. Users can create tags for keywords and data elements such as Social Security numbers to protect against theft by insiders. SpamTitan also serves as a backup for your mail server to ensure business continuity.

With SpamTitan you get a greater level of protection against spam and malicious emails, a higher spam catch rate (over 99.9%), greater granularity, improved control over outbound email, and better business continuity protections.

If you have transitioned to Office 365 yet are still having problems with spam, phishing, and other malicious emails or if you are an MSP that wants to offer clients enhanced Office 365 email security, contact the TitanHQ team today.

The TitanHQ team will be happy to schedule a product demonstration and help you put SpamTitan through the paces in your own environment in a no-obligation free trial.

How Can MSPs Make Office 365 More Profitable?

Reselling Office 365 doesn’t offer much in the way of profit for MSPs, although there are benefits for MSPs that come from offering Office 365 and it is possible to make Office 365 more profitable.

Before explaining where the margin is for MSPs in Office 365, let’s first take a look at the benefits for MSPs from offering Office 365.

Benefits for MSPs from Offering Office 365 to Clients

SMBs are increasingly moving from on-premises solutions to the cloud and Office 365 is one of the most popular cloud services. Office 365 now has more than 135 million commercial monthly users and that number is growing rapidly.

MSPs may not be able to make much from Office 365 alone, but by providing Office 365 MSPs can win more business and gain a competitive advantage. There is no outlay involved with offering Office 365 to clients, the product is great and meets clients’ needs, and money can be made from handling Office 365 migrations.

MSPs can also benefit from migrating existing clients from Exchange or SBS Exchange to Office 365. Office 365 is far easier to manage so they stand to save a great deal of time on troubleshooting and maintenance, which can be a major headache with Exchange.

By offering Office 365 you can win more business, reduce operational costs, and stay competitive. However, the best way to make money from Office 365 is through add-on services.

How MSPs Can Make Office 365 More Profitable

The margins for MSPs on Office 365 are rather thin to say the least. Many MSPs find that offering Office 365 on its own doesn’t provide any profit at all. Charging extra per license to improve profitability is an option, but clients could just go direct to avoid the extra cost.

The margins may be small, but managing Office 365 does not require a great deal of effort. You may only make around 50c or $1 per user but sign up enough clients and you could get a reasonable return. There is an opportunity for profit at scale; however, to make a decent return you need to sell services around Office 365.

One of the best ways to make Office 365 more profitable is by offering additional security services. Security is an area where Office 365 can be significantly improved, especially spam filtering. Microsoft has incorporated a spam filter and anti-phishing protections into Office 365, but they fall short of the protection offered by a dedicated third-party spam filter.

Phishing is the number one security threat faced by businesses and Office 365 anti-phishing protections leave a lot to be desired. By offering enhanced spam and phishing protection through a third-party spam filter, not only can MSPs make a decent margin on the add-on solution, by blocking phishing attacks and malware at source, a considerable amount of time can be saved on support.

There are plenty of other opportunities for selling third-party solutions to make up for the lack of options in Office 365. Email archiving is an easy sell and a quick win for MSPs. An email archive is important for compliance and security, saves on storage space, and improves efficiency, and gives clients access to emails from any location.

Spam filtering, email archiving, web filtering, and encryption can be bundled together as an enhanced security package, with each element providing a decent return for MSPs. Given the cost of mitigating a data breach, by preventing breaches, an enhanced security offering will pay for itself. Consequently, Office 365 security should be an easy sell.

Office 365 MSP Add-ons from TitanHQ

For more than 20 years TitanHQ has been developing innovative security solutions for businesses. Today, more than 7,500 businesses are protected by TitanHQ security solutions and more than 2,000 MSPs have signed up to the TitanHQ Alliance Program.

All TitanHQ solutions have been developed from the ground to meet the needs of the SMB marketplace and MSPs. TitanHQ’s spam filtering solution – SpamTitan, email archiving solution – ArcTitan, and web filtering solution – WebTitan, save MSPs support and engineering time, have great margins, and can be easily integrated into MSPs security stacks to make Office 365 more profitable.

To find out more about TitanHQ’s MSP offerings, for details of pricing and MSP margins, contact the TitanHQ Alliance Program team today and take the first step toward making Office 365 more profitable.

Email Archiving for MSPs: An Easy Way to Win Business and Boost Email Revenue

Email archiving for MSPs is an often-overlooked service that can add value and improve profits. Email archiving is easy to implement and manage, has a high margin, generates regular additional income, and is an easy sell to clients.

In this post we explore the benefits for clients and MSPs and explain why email archiving for MSPs and their clients is a win-win.

Benefits of Email Archiving for SMBs

Email archiving is now important for organizations of all sizes, from SMBs to the largest enterprises. Huge volumes of emails are sent and received on a daily basis and copies of those emails need to be stored, saved, and often retrieved.  Storage of emails in mailboxes poses problems. The storage space required for emails and attachments can be considerable, which means hardware must be purchased and maintained. In terms of security, storing large volumes of emails in mailboxes is never a good idea.

Storing emails in backups is an option, although it is far from ideal.  Space is still required and recovering emails when they are needed is a major headache as backup files are not indexed and searching for messages can be extremely time consuming.

An email archive on the other hand is indexed and searchable and emails can be quickly and easily retrieved on demand. If there is a legal dispute or when an organization needs to demonstrate compliance – with GDPR or HIPAA for example – businesses need to be able to recover emails quickly and easily. An email archive also provides a clear chain of custody, which is also required for compliance with many regulations.

Cloud-based archives offer secure storage for emails with no restrictions on storage space. Cloud storage is highly scalable and emails can be easily retrieved from any location.

In short, email archiving can improve efficiency, enhance security, lower costs, and is an invaluable compliance tool.

Benefits of Email Archiving for MSPs

Given the benefits of email archiving it should be an easy sell for MSPs, either as Office 365 archiving-as-a-service as an add-on or incorporated into existing email packages to offer greater value and make your packages stand out from those of your competitors.

As an add-on service, Office 365 archiving-as-a-service will generate regular income for very little effort and will improve the meagre returns from simply offering Office 365 to your clients. As part of a package it can help you to attract more business.

ArcTitan –Email Archiving for MSPs Made Simple

TitanHQ is a leading provider of cloud-based security solutions for MSPs. All TitanHQ products – SpamTitan, WebTitan and ArcTitan SaaS email archiving – have been developed from the group up to specifically meet the needs of MSPs.

ArcTitan has been developed to be easy to implement and manage and it seamlessly integrates into MSPs service stacks, allowing them to provide greater value to clients and make email services much more lucrative offering. On that front, TitanHQ is able to offer generous margins on ArcTitan for MSPs.

ArcTitan Benefits for MSPs

  • Easy to implement
  • No hardware required
  • No software downloads necessary
  • Highly scalable email archiving
  • Secure, cloud-based storage with an easy to use centralized management system
  • Improves profitability of Office 365
  • Easy for MSPs to set up
  • Easy for clients to use
  • Great margins for MSPs
  • Supplied with a full suite of APIs for easy integration
  • Usage-based pricing and monthly billing
  • Multiple hosting options: TitanHQ Cloud, dedicated private cloud, or host the solution in your own data center
  • Fully rebrandable – ArcTitan can be supplied in white-label form ready for your own branding
  • World class customer service and support

If you have yet to start offering email archiving to your clients or if you are unhappy with your current provider, contact the TitanHQ MSP team today for full ArcTitan product information, details of pricing, and further information on our Alliance program.

New Dharma Ransomware Variant Detected

A new Dharma ransomware variant has been developed that is currently evading detection by the majority of antivirus engines. According to Heimdal Security, the latest Dharma ransomware variant captured by its researchers was only detected as malware by one of the 53 AV engines on VirusTotal.

Dharma ransomware (also known as CrySiS) first appeared in 2006 and is still being developed. This year, several new Dharma ransomware variants have been released, each using new file extensions for encrypted files (.bip, .xxxxx, .like, java, .arrow, .gamma, .arena, .betta, and .tron to name but a few). In the past two months alone four new Dharma ransomware variants have been detected.

The threat actors behind Dharma ransomware have claimed many victims in recent months. Successful attacks have been reported recently by Altus Baytown Hospital in Texas, the Arran brewery in Scotland, and the port of San Diego.

While free decryptors for Dharma ransomware have been developed, the constant evolution of this ransomware threat rapidly renders these decryptors obsolete.  Infection with the latest variants of the ransomware threat only give victims three options: pay a sizeable ransom to recover files, restore files from backups, or face permanent file loss.

The latter is not an option given the extent of files that are encrypted. Restoring files from backups is not always possible as Dharma ransomware can also encrypt backup files and can delete shadow copies. Payment of a ransom is not advised as there is no guarantee that files can or will be decrypted.

Protecting against ransomware attacks requires a combination of policies, procedures, and cybersecurity solutions. Dharma ransomware attacks are mostly conducted via two attack vectors: The exploitation of Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) and via email malspam campaigns.

The latest Dharma ransomware variant attacks involve an executable file being dropped by a .NET file and HTA file. Infections occur via RDP-enabled endpoints using brute force attempts to guess passwords. Once the password is obtained, the malicious payload is deployed.

While it is not exactly clear how the Arran brewery attack occurred, a phishing attack is suspected. Phishing emails had been received just before file encryption. “We cannot be 100 percent sure that this was the vector that infection occurred through, but the timing seems to be more than coincidental,” said Arran Brewery’s managing director Gerald Michaluk.

To protect against RDP attacks, RDP should be disabled unless it is absolutely necessary. If RDP is required, access should only be possible through a VPN and strong passwords should be set. Rate limiting on login attempts should be configured to block login attempts after a set number of failures.

Naturally, good backup policies are essential. They will ensure that file recovery is possible without payment of a ransom. Multiple copies of backups should be made with one copy stored securely off site.

To protect against email-based attacks, an advanced spam filter is required. Spam filters that rely on AV engines may not detect the latest ransomware variants. Advanced analyses of incoming messages are essential.

SpamTitan can improve protection for businesses through combination of two AV engines and predictive techniques to block new types of malware whose signatures have not yet been uploaded to AV engines.

For further information on SpamTitan and protecting your email gateway from ransomware attacks and other threats, speak to TitanHQ’s security experts today.

What are the Top Phishing Lures of 2018?

Phishing is the number one security threat faced by businesses. In this post we explore why phishing is such as serious threat and the top phishing lures that are proving to be the most effective at getting employees to open malicious attachments and click on hyperlinks and visit phishing websites.

Phishing is the Biggest Security Threat Faced by Businesses

Phishing is a tried and tested social engineering technique that is favored by cybercriminals for one very simple reason. It is very effective. Phishing emails can be used to fool end users into installing malware or disclosing their login credentials. It is an easy way for hackers to gain a foothold in a network to conduct further cyberattacks on a business.

Phishing works because it targets the weakest link in security defenses: End users. If an email is delivered to an inbox, there is a relatively high probability that the email will be opened. Messages include a variety of cunning ploys to fool end users into taking a specific action such as opening a malicious email attachment or clicking on an embedded hyperlink.

Listed below are the top phishing lures of 2018 – The messages that have proven to be the most effective at getting end users to divulge sensitive information or install malware.

Top Phishing Lures of 2018

Determining the top phishing lures is not straightforward. Many organizations are required to publicly disclose data breaches to comply with industry regulations, but details of the phishing lures that have fooled employees are not usually made public.

Instead, the best way to determine the top phishing lures is to use data from security awareness training companies. These companies have developed platforms that businesses can use to run phishing simulation exercises. To obtain reliable data on the most effective phishing lures it is necessary to analyze huge volumes of data. Since these phishing simulation platforms are used to send millions of dummy phishing emails to employees and track responses, they are useful for determining the most effective phishing lures.

In the past few weeks, two security awareness training companies have published reports detailing the top phishing lures of 2018: Cofense and KnowBe4.

Top Phishing Lures on the Cofense Platform

Cofense has created two lists of the top phishing lures of 2018. One is based on the Cofense Intelligence platform which collects data on real phishing attacks and the second list is compiled from responses to phishing simulations.

Both lists are dominated by phishing attacks involving fake invoices. Seven out of the ten most effective phishing campaigns of 2018 mentioned invoice in the subject line. The other three were also finance related: Payment remittance, statement and payment. This stands to reason. The finance department is the primary target in phishing attacks on businesses.

The list of the top phishing lures from phishing simulations were also dominated by fake invoices, which outnumbered the second most clicked phishing lure by 2 to 1.

Rank Phishing Subject/Theme Number of Reported Emails
1 Attached Invoice 4,796
2 Payment Notification 2,267
3 New Message in Mailbox 2,088
4 Online Order (Attachment) 679
5 Fax Message 629
6 Secure Message (MS Office Macro) 408
7 Online Order (Hyperlink) 399
8 Confidential Scanned document (Attachment) 330
9 Conversational Wire transfer (BEC Scam) 278
10 Bill Copy 251

 

Top Phishing Lures on the KnowBe4 Platform

KnowBe4 has released two lists of the top phishing lures of Q3, 2018, which were compiled from responses to simulated phishing emails and real-world phishing attempted on businesses that were reported to IT security departments.

The most common real-world phishing attacks in Q3 were:

Rank Subject
1 You have a new encrypted message
2 IT: Syncing Error – Returned incoming messages
3 HR: Contact information
4 FedEx: Sorry we missed you.
5 Microsoft: Multiple log in attempts
6 IT: IMPORTANT – NEW SERVER BACKUP
7 Wells Fargo: Irregular Activities Detected on Your Credit Card
8 LinkedIn: Your account is at risk!
9 Microsoft/Office 365: [Reminder]: your secured message
10 Coinbase: Your cryptocurrency wallet: Two-factor settings changed

 

The most commonly clicked phishing lures in Q3 were:

Rank Subject % of Emails Clicked
1 Password Check Required Immediately 34%
2 You Have a New Voicemail 13%
3 Your order is on the way 11%
4 Change of Password Required Immediately 9%
5 De-activation of [[email]] in Process 8%
6 UPS Label Delivery 1ZBE312TNY00015011 6%
7 Revised Vacation & Sick Time Policy 6%
8 You’ve received a Document for Signature 5%
9 Spam Notification: 1 New Messages 4%
10 [ACTION REQUIRED] – Potential Acceptable Use Violation 4%

 

The Importance of Blocking Phishing Attacks at their Source

If login credentials to email accounts, Office 365, Dropbox, and other cloud services are obtained by cybercriminals, the accounts can be plundered. Sensitive information can be stolen and Office 365/email accounts can be used for further phishing attacks on other employees. If malware is installed, cybercriminals can gain full control of infected devices. The cost of mitigating these attacks is considerable and a successful phishing attack can seriously damage a company’s reputation.

Due to the harm that can be caused by phishing, it is essential for businesses of all sizes to train staff how to identify phishing threats and implement a system that allows suspicious emails to be reported to security teams quickly. Resilience to phishing attacks can be greatly improved with an effective training program and phishing email simulations. It is also essential to deploy an effective email security solution that blocks threats and ensures they are not delivered to inboxes.

SpamTitan is a highly effective, easy to implement email filtering solution that blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and 100% of known malware through dual anti-virus engines (Bitdefender and ClamAV). With SpamTitan protecting inboxes, businesses are less reliant on their employees’ ability to identify phishing threats.

SpamTitan subjects each incoming email to a barrage of checks to determine if a message is genuine and should be delivered or is potentially malicious and should be blocked. SpamTitan also performs checks on outbound emails to ensure that in the event that an email account is compromised, it cannot be used to end spam and phishing emails internally and to clients and contacts, thus helping to protect the reputation of the business.

Improve Office 365 Email Security with SpamTitan

There are more than 135 million subscribers to Office 365, and such high numbers make Office 365 a big target for cybercriminals. One of the main ways that Office 365 credentials are obtained is through phishing. Emails are crafted to bypass Office 365 defenses and hyperlinks are used to direct end users to fake Office 365 login pages where credentials are harvested.

Businesses that have adopted Office 365 are likely to still see a significant number of malicious emails delivered to inboxes. To enhance Office 365 security, a third-party email filtering control is required. If SpamTitan is installed on top of Office 365, a higher percentage of phishing emails and other email threats can be blocked at source.

To find out more about SpamTitan, including details of pricing and to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today. During the free trial you will discover just how much better SpamTitan is at blocking phishing attacks than standard Office 365 anti-spam controls.

New Office 365 Threat Uses Windows Components to Install Banking Trojans

A new Office 365 threat has been detected that stealthily installs malware by hiding communications and downloads by abusing legitimate Windows components.

New Office 365 Threat Uses Legitimate Windows Files to Hide Malicious Activity

The attack starts with malspam containing a malicious link embedded in an email. Various themes could be used to entice users into clicking the link, although one recent campaign masquerades as emails from the national postal service in Brazil.

The emails claim the postal service attempted to deliver a package, but the delivery failed as there was no one in. The tracking code for the package is included in the email and the user is requested to click the link in the email to receive the tracking information.

In this case, clicking the link will trigger a popup asking the user to confirm the download of a zip file, which it is alleged contains the tracking information. If the zip file is extracted, the user is required to click on a LNK file to receive the information. The LNK file runs cmd.exe, which executes a Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) file: wmic.exe. This legitimate Windows file will be used to communicate with the attacker’s C2 server and will create a copy of another Windows file – certutil.exe in the %temp% folder with the name certis.exe. A script then runs which instructs the certis.exe file to connect to a different C2 server to download malicious files.

The aim of this attack is to use legitimate Windows files to download the malicious payload: A banking Trojan. The use of legitimate Windows files for communication and downloading files helps the attackers bypass security controls and install the malicious payload undetected.

These Windows files have the capability to download other files for legitimate purposes, so it is hard for security teams to identify malicious activity. This campaign targets users in Brazil, but this Office 365 threat should be a concern for all users as other threat actors have also adopted this tactic to install malware.

Due to the difficultly distinguishing between legitimate and malicious wmic.exe and certutil.exe activity, blocking an office 365 threat such as this is easiest at the initial point of attack: Preventing the malicious email from being delivered to an inbox and providing security awareness training to employees to help them identify this Office 365 threat. The latter is essential for all businesses. Employees can be turned into a strong last line of defense through security awareness training. The former can be achieved with a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan will prevent the last line of defense from being tested.

How to Block this Office 365 Threat with SpamTitan and Improve Email Security

Microsoft uses several techniques to identify malspam and prevent malicious messages from reaching users’ inboxes; however, while efforts have been made to improve the effectiveness of the spam filtering controls of Office 365, many malicious messages are still delivered.

To improve Office 365 security, a third-party spam filtering solution should be used. SpamTitan has been developed to allow easy integration into Office 365 and provides superior protection against a wide range of email threats.

SpamTitan uses a variety of methods to prevent malspam from being delivered to end users’ inboxes, including predictive techniques to identify threats that are misidentified by Office 365 security controls. These techniques ensure industry-leading catch rates in excess of 99.9% and prevent malicious emails from reaching inboxes.

How SpamTitan Spam Filtering Works

How SpamTitan Protects Businesses from Email Threats

Security Solutions for MSPs to Block Office 365 Threats

Many MSPs resell Office 365 licenses to their customers. Office 365 allows MSPs to capture new business, but the margins are small. By offering additional services to enhance Office 365 security, MSPs can make their Office 365 offering more desirable to businesses while improving the profitability of Office 365.

TitanHQ has been developing innovative email and web security solutions for more than 25 years. Those solutions have been developed from the ground up with MSPs for MSPs. Three solutions are ideal for use with Office 365 for compliance ad to improve security – SpamTitan email filtering, WebTitan web filtering, and ArcTitan email archiving.

By incorporating these solutions into Office 365 packages, MSPs can provide clients with much greater value as well as significantly boosting the profitability of offering Office 365.

To find out more about each of these solutions, speak to TitanHQ. The MSP team will be happy to explain how the products work, how they can be implemented, and how they can boost margins on Office 365.

Warning Issued After Increase in Phishing Attacks on Publishers and Literary Scouting Agencies

Financial institutions, healthcare organizations and universities have seen an increase in cyberattack in recent months, but there has also been an increase in phishing attacks on publishers and literary scouting agencies.

Any business that stores sensitive information that can be monetized is at risk of cyberattacks, and publishers and literary scouting agencies are no exception. Like any employer, scouting agencies and publishers store sensitive information such as bank account numbers, credit card details, Social Security numbers, contract information, and W-2 Tax forms, all of which carry a high value on the black market. The companies also regularly make wire transfers and are therefore targets for BEC scammers.

However, in a somewhat new development, there have been several reports of phishing attacks on publishers and literary scouting agencies that attempt to gain access to unpublished manuscripts and typescripts. These are naturally extremely valuable. If an advance copy of an eagerly awaited book can be obtained before it is published, there will be no shortage of fans willing to pay top dollar for a copy. Theft of manuscripts can result in extortion attempts with ransoms demanded to prevent their publication online.

2018 has seen a significant increase in phishing attacks on publishers and literary scouting agencies. Currently, campaigns are being conducted by scammers that appear to have a good understanding of the industry. Highly realistic and plausible emails are being to publishing houses and agencies which use the correct industry terminology, which suggests they are the work of an industry insider.

One current campaign is spoofing the email account of Catherine Eccles, owner of the international literary scouting agency Eccles Fisher.  Emails are being sent using Catherine Eccles’ name, and include her signature and contact information. The messages come from what appears to be her genuine email account, although the email address has been spoofed and replies are directed to an alternative account controlled by the scammer. The messages attempt to get other literary agencies to send manuscripts via email or disclose their website passwords.

An increase in phishing attacks on publishers on both sides of the Atlantic have been reported, with the threat already having prompted Penguin Random House North America to send out warnings to employees to alert them to the threat.  According to a recent report in The Bookseller, several publishers have been targeted with similar phishing schemes, including Penguin Random House UK and Pan Macmillan.

Protecting against phishing attacks requires a combination of technical solutions, policies and procedures, and employee training.

Publishers and scouting agencies should deploy software solutions that can block phishing attacks and prevent malicious emails from being delivered to their employees’ inboxes.

SpamTitan is a powerful anti-phishing tool that blocks 99.97% of spam emails and 100% of known malware. DMARC email-validation is incorporated to detect email spoofing and prevent malicious emails from reaching employees’ inboxes.

End user training is also essential to raise awareness of the risks of phishing. All staff should be trained how to recognize phishing emails and other email threats to ensure they do not fall for these email scams.

If you run a publishing house or literary scouting agency and are interested in improving your cyber defenses, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information on cybersecurity solutions that can improve your security posture against phishing and other email and web-based threats.

Cyberattacks on Universities Rise as Hackers Search for Valuable Research Data

Hackers have been going back to school and entering higher education. Quite literally in fact, although not through conventional channels. Entry is gained through cyberattacks on universities, which have increased over the course of the past 12 months, according to figures recently released by Kaspersky Lab.

Cyberattacks on Universities on the Rise

Credit cards information can be sold for a few bucks, but universities have much more valuable information. As research organizations they have valuable proprietary data. The results of research studies are particularly valuable. It may not be possible to sell data as quickly as credit cards and Social Security numbers, but there are certainly buyers willing to pay top dollar for valuable research. Nation state sponsored hacking groups are targeting universities and independent hacking groups are getting in on the act and conducting cyberattacks on universities.

There are many potential attack vectors that can be used to gain access to university systems. Software vulnerabilities that have yet to be patched can be exploited, misconfigured cloud services such as unsecured S3 buckets can be accessed, and brute force attempts can be conducted to guess passwords. However, phishing attacks on universities are commonplace.

Phishing is often associated with scams to obtain credit card information or login credentials to Office 365 accounts, with businesses and healthcare organizations often targeted. Universities are also in the firing line and are being attacked.

The reason phishing is so popular is because it is often the easiest way to gain access to networks, or at least gain a foothold for further attacks. Universities are naturally careful about guarding their research and security controls are usually deployed accordingly. Phishing allows those controls to be bypassed relatively easily.

A successful phishing attack on a student may not prove to be particularly profitable, at least initially. However, once access to their email account is gained, it can be used for further phishing attacks on lecturers for example.

Spear phishing attacks on lecturers and research associates offer a more direct route. They are likely to have higher privileges and access to valuable research data. Their accounts are also likely to contain other interesting and useful information that can be used in a wide range of secondary attacks.

Email-based attacks can involve malicious attachments that deliver information stealing malware such as keyloggers, although many of the recent attacks have used links to fake university login pages. The login pages are exact copies of the genuine login pages used by universities, the only difference being the URL on which the page is located.

More than 1,000 Phishing Attacks on Universities Detected in a Year

According to Kaspersky Lab, more than 1,000 phishing attacks on universities have been detected in the past 12 months and 131 universities have been targeted. Those universities are spread across 16 countries, although 83/131 universities were in the United States.

Preventing phishing attacks on universities, staff, and students requires a multi layered approach. Technical controls must be implemented to reduce risk, such as an advanced spam filter to block the vast majority of phishing emails and stop them being delivered to end users. A web filtering solution is important for blocking access to phishing websites and web pages hosting malware. Multi-factor authentication is also essential to ensure that if account information is compromised or passwords are guessed, an additional form of authentication is required to access accounts.

As a last line of defense, staff and students should be made aware of the risk from phishing. Training should be made available to all students and cybersecurity awareness training for researchers, lecturers, and other staff should be mandatory.

Webinar: TitanHQ and Datto Explain Bullet Proofing Managed Networks to MSPs

TitanHQ, the leading provider of web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) recently formed a strategic partnership with Datto Networking, the leading provider of MSP-delivered IT solutions to SMBs.

The partnership has seen TitanHQ’s advanced web filtering technology incorporated into the Datto Networking Appliance to ensure all users benefit from reliable and secure internet access.

TitanHQ’s web filtering technology provides enhanced protection from web-based threats while allowing acceptable internet usage policies to be easily enforced for all users at the organization, department, user group, or user level.

On October 18, 2018, Datto and TitanHQ will be hosting a webinar to explain the enhanced functionality of the Datto Networking Appliance to MSPs, including a deep dive into the new web filtering technology.

Webinar: Datto Networking & Titan HQ Deliver Enhanced Web Content Filtering
Date: Thursday, October 18th
Time: 11AM ET | 8AM PT | 4PM GMT/BST

Speakers: John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking; Andy Katz, Network Solutions Engineer; Rocco Donnino, EVP of Strategic Alliances, TitanHQ

Click here to sign up for the webinar

Spear Phishing Attack Results in $16 Million Anthem Data Breach Settlement

In 2015, Anthem Inc., experienced a colossal data breach. 78.8 million health plan records were stolen. This year, the health insurer settled a class action data breach for $115 million and OCR has now agreed a $16 million Anthem data breach settlement.

It Started with a Spear Phishing Email…

The Anthem data breach came as a huge shock back in February 2015, due to the sheer scale of the breach. Healthcare data breaches were common, but the Anthem data breach in a different league.

Prior to the announcement, the unenviable record was held by Science Applications International Corporation, a vendor used by healthcare organizations, that experienced a 4.9 million record breach in 2011. The Anthem data breach was on an entirely different scale.

The hacking group behind the Anthem data breach was clearly skilled. Mandiant, the cybersecurity firm that assisted with the investigation, suspected the attack was a nation-state sponsored cyberattack. The hackers managed to gain access to Anthem’s data warehouse and exfiltrated a huge volume of data undetected. The time of the initial attack to discovery was almost a year.

While the attack was sophisticated, a foothold in the network was not gained through an elaborate hack or zero-day exploit but through phishing emails.

At least one employee responded to a spear phishing email, sent to one of Anthem’s subsidiaries, which gave the attackers the entry point they needed to launch a further attack and gain access to Anthem’s health plan member database.

The Anthem Data Breach Settlement is the Largest Ever Penalty for a Healthcare Data Breach

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigates healthcare data breaches that result in the exposure or theft of 500 or more records. An in-depth investigation of the Anthem breach was therefore a certainty given its scale. A penalty for non-compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules was a very likely outcome as HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to safeguard health data. The scale of the breach also made it likely that it would result in the largest ever penalty for a healthcare data breach.

Before the Anthem data breach settlement, the largest penalty for a healthcare data breach was $5.55 million, which was agreed between OCR and Advocate Health Care Network in 2016. The Anthem data breach settlement was almost three times that amount, which reflected the seriousness of the breach, the number of people impacted, and the extent to which HIPAA Rules were alleged to have been violated.

OCR alleged that Anthem Inc., had violated five provisions of HIPAA Rules, and by doing so failed to prevent the breach and limit its severity. The Anthem data breach settlement was however agreed with no admission of liability.

The regulatory fine represents a small fraction of the total cost of the Anthem data breach. On top of the Anthem data breach settlement with OCR, Anthem faced multiple lawsuits in the wake of the data breach. The consolidated class action lawsuit was settled by Anthem in January 2018 for $115 million.

The class action settlement document indicated Anthem had already paid $2.5 to consultants in the wake of the breach, $31 million was spent mailing notification letters, $115 million went on improvements to security, and $112 million was paid to provide identity theft protection and credit monitoring services to affected plan members.

With the $115 million class action settlement and the $16 million OCR settlement, that brings the total cost of the Anthem data breach to $391.5 million.

At $391.5 million, that makes this the most expensive healthcare phishing attack by some distance and the cost clearly highlights just how important it is to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy to protect against phishing attacks.

Iceland Police Spoofed in Sophisticated Phishing Scam

Police in Iceland have said a highly sophisticated phishing attack is the largest ever cyberattack the country has ever experienced. The campaign saw thousands of messages sent that attempted to get Icelanders to install a remote access tool that would give the attackers full access to their computers.

The software used in this campaign is a legitimate remote access tool called Remcos. Remcos is used to allow remote access to a computer, often for the purpose of providing IT support, for surveillance, or as an anti-theft tool for laptop computers. However, while it was developed for legitimate use, because it gives the administrator full control over the computer once installed, it has significant potential to be used for malicious purposes. Unsurprisingly, Remcos has been used by cybercriminals in several malware campaigns in the past, often conducted via spear phishing campaigns. One notable attack involved the spoofing of the Turkish Revenue Administration, Turkey’s equivalent of the IRS, to get the RAT installed to provide access to victim’s computers.

The use of Remcos for malicious purposes violates the terms and conditions of use. If discovered, the developer can block the customer’s license to prevent use of the software. However, during the time that Remcos is present on a system, considerable harm can be caused – sabotage, theft of sensitive information, installation of malicious software, and file encryption with ransomware to name but a few.

As was the case in Turkey, the phishing campaign in Iceland attempted to fool end users into installing the program through deception. In this case, the emails claimed to have come from the Icelandic Police. The emails used fear to get recipients of the message to click a link in the email and download the remote access tool.

The emails informed the recipients that they were required to visit the police for questioning. Urgency was added by informing the recipient of the message that an arrest warrant would be issued if they failed to respond. Clicking the link in the email directed the user to what appeared to be the correct website of the Icelandic police. The website was a carbon copy of the legitimate website and required the visitor to enter their Social Security number along with an authentication code sent in the email to find out more information about the police case.

In Iceland, Social Security numbers are often required on websites to access official services, so the request would not appear unusual. On official websites, Social Security numbers are checked against a database and are rejected if they are not genuine. In this case, the attacker was also able to check the validity of the SSN, which means access to a database had been gained, most likely an old database that had been previously leaked or the attacker may have had legitimate access and misused the database.

After entering the information, a password protected archive was downloaded which allegedly contained documents with details of the case. The webpage provided the password to unlock the password protected archive, which contained a .scr file disguised as a Word document.

In this case, the RAT was augmented with a VBS script to ensure it ran on startup. The RAT had keylogging and password stealing capabilities and was used to steal banking credentials. After gaining access to banking credentials, the information was sent back to command and control servers in Germany and the Netherlands.

While the campaign looked entirely legitimate, a common trick was used to fool recipients of the email, which number in the thousands. The domain used in the attack closely resembled the official police website, logreglan.is but contained a lower case i instead of the second l – logregian.is.  A casual glance at the sender of the email or the domain name in the address bar would unlikely reveal the domain was not genuine. Further, the link in the email replaced the lower case i with a capital I, which is almost impossible to distinguish from a lower-case L.

The Icelandic police responded quickly to the attack and the malicious domain was taken down the following day. It is unknown how may people fell for the scam.

New Sextortion Scam: Emails Appear to Have Been Sent from User’s Email Account

A new sextortion scam has been detected that attempts to fool the recipient of the message into believing their email account has been compromised and that their computer is under full control of the attacker.

The scammers spoof the user’s email address so that it appears that the message has been sent from the user’s email account – The sender and the recipient names are identical.

A quick and easy check that can be performed to determine whether the sender name displayed is the actual account that has been used to send the email is to click forward. When this is done, the display name is shown, but so too is the actual email address that the message has been sent from. In this case, that check fails making it seem that the user’s email account has actually been compromised.

The messages used in this campaign attempt to extort money by suggesting the hacker has gained access to the user’s computer by means of a computer virus. It is claimed that the virus gives the attacker the ability to monitor the user’s internet activities in real time and use the computer’s webcam to record the user.

The attacker claims that the virus was downloaded to the computer as a result of the user visiting an adult website and that while viewing internet pornography the webcam was active and recording. “Your tastes are so weird,” states the scammer in the email.

The scammer claims that they will synch the webcam footage with the content that the user was viewing and send a copy of the video to all the user’s partner, friends, and relatives. It is claimed that all the user’s accounts have been compromised. The message also includes an example of one of the user’s passwords.

While it is extremely unlikely that the password supplied in the email is valid for any of the user’s account, the message itself will still be chilling for some individuals and will be enough to get them to make the requested payment of $800 to have the footage deleted.

However, this is a sextortion scam where the attackers have no leverage as there is no virus and no webcam footage. However, it is clear that at least some recipients were not willing to take a chance.

According to security researcher SecGuru, who received a version of the email in Dutch and found a similar English language version, the Bitcoin account used by the scammer had received payments of 0.37997578 Bitcoin – $3,500 – in the first two days of the campaign.  Now 7 days after the first payment was made, the earnings have risen to 1.1203 Bitcoin – $6,418 – with 15 individuals having paid.

This scam will no doubt be familiar to viewers of Black Mirror, a recent episode of which covered a very similar sextortion scam.

This tactic is nothing new. Many similar scams have been conducted in the past and many more will be in the future. What makes this campaign more chilling is the apparent hijacking of the email account and the highly effective spoofing.

A similar sextortion scam was conducted in the summer which also had an interesting twist. It used an old password for the account that had been obtained from a data dump. In that case, the password was real, at least at some point in the past, which made the scam seem genuine.

Office 365 Phishing Attacks Are Abusing Cloud Service Providers’ SSL Certificates

Office 365 phishing attacks are commonplace, highly convincing, and Office 365 spam filtering controls are easily being bypassed by cybercriminals to ensure messages reach inboxes. Further, phishing forms are being hosted on webpages that are secured with valid Microsoft SLL certificates to convince users the websites are genuine.

Office 365 Phishing Attacks Can Be Difficult to Identify

In the event of a phishing email making it past perimeter defenses and arriving in an inbox, there are several tell-tale signs that the email is not genuine.

There are often spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar, and the messages are sent from questionable senders or domains. To improve the response rate, cybercriminals are now spending much more time carefully crafting their phishing emails and they are often virtually indistinguishable from genuine communications from the brand they are spoofing. In terms of formatting, they are carbon copies of genuine emails complete with the branding, contact information, sender details, and logos of the company being spoofed. The subject is perfectly believable and the content well written. The actions the user is requested to take are perfectly plausible.

Hyperlinks are contained in emails that direct users to a website where they are required to enter their login credentials. At this stage of the phishing attack there are usually further signs that all is not as it seems. A warning may flash up that the website may not be genuine, the website may start with HTTP rather than the secure HTTPS, or the SSL certificate may not be owned by the company that the website is spoofing.

Even these tell-tale signs are not always there, as has been shown is several recent Office 365 phishing attacks, which have the phishing forms hosted on webpages that have valid Microsoft SSL certificates or SSL certificates that have been issued to other cloud service providers such as CloudFlare, DocuSign, or Google.

Microsoft Azure Blog Storage Phishing Scam

One recent phishing scam uses Azure blob storage to obtain a valid SSL certificate for the phishing form. Blob storage can be used for storing a variety of unstructured data. While it is possible to use HTTP and HTTPS, the phishing campaign uses the latter, which will show a signed SSL certificate from Microsoft.

In this campaign, end users are sent an email with a button that must be clicked to view the content of a cloud-hosted document. In this case, the document appears to be from a Denver law firm. Clicking the button directs the user to an HTML page hosted on Azure blog storage that requires Office 365 credentials to be entered to view the document. Since the document is hosted on Azure blob storage, a Microsoft service, it has a valid SSL certificate that was issued to Microsoft adding legitimacy to the scam.

Entering login credentials into the form will send them to the attackers. The user will then be directed to another webpage, most likely unaware that they have been phished.

CloudFlare IPFS Gateway Abused

A similar campaign has been detected that abuses the CloudFlare IPFS gateway. Users can access content on the IPFS distributed file system through a web browser. When connecting to this gateway through a web browser, the HTML page will be secured with a CloudFlare SSL certificate. In this case, the login requires information to be entered including username, password, and recovery email address and phone number – which will be forwarded to the attacker, while the user will be directed to a PDF file unaware that their credentials have been stolen.

Office 365 Phishing Protections are Insufficient

Office 365 users are being targeted by cybercriminals as they know Office 365 phishing controls can be easily bypassed. Even with Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection for Office 365, phishing emails are still delivered. A 2017 study by SE Labs showed even with this additional anti-phishing control, Office 365 anti-phishing measures were only rated in the low-middle of the market for protection. With only the basic Exchange Online Protection, the protection was worse still.

Whether you run an SMB or a large enterprise, you are likely to receive high volumes of spam and phishing emails and many messages will be delivered to end users’ inboxes. Since the emails can be virtually impossible for end users to identify as malicious, it is probable that all but the most experienced, well trained, security conscious workers will be fooled. What is therefore needed is an advanced third-party spam filtering solution that will work alongside Office 365 spam filtering controls to provide far greater protection.

How to Make Office 365 More Secure

While Office 365 will block spam emails and phishing emails (Osterman Research showed it blocks 100% of known malware), it has been shown to lack performance against advanced phishing threats such as spear phishing.

Office 365 does not have the same level of predictive technology as dedicated on-premises and cloud-based email security gateways which are much better at detecting zero-day attacks, new malware, and advanced spear phishing campaigns.

To greatly improve protection what is needed is a dedicated third-party spam filtering solution for Office 365 such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan focuses on defense in depth, and provides superior protection against advanced phishing attacks, new malware, and sophisticated email attacks to ensure malicious messages are blocked or quarantined rather than being delivered to end users’ inboxes. Some of the additional protections provided by SpamTitan against Office 365 phishing attacks are detailed in the image below:

To find out more about making Office 365 more secure and how SpamTitan can benefit your company, contact TitanHQ. Our highly experienced sales consultants will be able to advise you on the full range of benefits of SpamTitan, the best deployment option, and can offer you a free trial to allow you to personally evaluate the solution before committing to a purchase.

Ransomware is Still the Main Malware Threat Warns Europol

Cybercriminals have turned to cryptocurrency mining malware as an easy, low-risk way of making money although ransomware is still the main malware threat according to Europol.

While it was common for large-scale spam email campaigns to be sent to random recipients to spread ransomware, tactics used to infect devices with the file-encrypting malware are changing.

There has been a decline in the use of ‘spray and pray’ spam campaigns involving millions of messages toward targeted attacks on businesses. Organized cybercriminal gangs are researching victims and are conducting highly targeted attacks that first involve compromising a network before manually deploying ransomware.

The cybercriminal group behind SamSam ransomware has been particularly prolific. Companies that have failed to address software vulnerabilities are attacked and access is gained to their networks. The SamSam group also conducts brute force attacks on RDP to gain access to business networks. Once access is gained, ransomware is manually installed on as many computers as possible, before the encryption routine is started across all infected devices. With a large number of devices encrypted, the ransom demand can be much higher – Typically around $50,000 per company. The group has collected at least $6 million in ransom payments to date.

Europol warns that ransomware attacks will continue to be a major threat over the following years, although a new threat is emerging – cryptojacking malware. This form of malware is used to hijack computer processors to mine cryptocurrency. Europol warns that if the rise in the use of cryptojacking malware continues it may overtake ransomware and become the biggest malware threat.

Not only does cryptojacking offer considerable rewards, in many cases use of the malware is not classed as illegal, such as when it is installed on websites. This not only means that cybercriminals can generate considerable profits, but the risk involved in these types of attacks is far lower than using ransomware.

Cybercriminals are still extensively using social engineering techniques to fool consumers and employees into disclosing sensitive personal information and login credentials. Social engineering is also extensively used to trick employees into making fraudulent bank transfers. Phishing is the most common form of social engineering, although vishing – voice phishing – and smishing – SMS phishing are also used. Europol notes that social engineering is still the engine of many cybercrimes.

While exploit kits have been extensively used to silently download malware, Europol notes that the use of exploit kits continues to decline. The main attack vectors are spam email and RDP brute-forcing.

As-a-service cyberattacks continue to be a major problem. DDoS-as-a-service and ransomware-as-a-service allow low-level and relatively unskilled individuals to conduct cyberattacks. Europol recommends law enforcement should concentrate on locating and shutting down these criminal operations to make it much harder for low-level criminals to conduct cyberattacks that would otherwise be beyond their skill level.

With spam email still a major attack vector, it is essential for businesses to implement cybersecurity solutions to prevent malicious emails from being delivered to inboxes and ensure cybersecurity best practices are adopted to make them less susceptible to attack. With phishing the main form of social engineering, anti-phishing training for employees is vital.

RDP attacks are now commonplace, so steps must be taken by businesses to block this attack vector, such as disabling RDP if it is not required, using extremely strong passwords for RDP, limiting users who can login, configuring account lockouts after a set number of failed login attempts, and using RDP gateways.

Cybercrime Losses in Germany Estimated to be €43 Billion

With the largest economy, the United States is naturally a major target for cybercriminals. Various studies have been conducted on the cost of cybercrime in the United States, but little data is available on cybercrime losses in Germany – Europe’s largest economy.

The International Monetary Fund produces a list of countries with the largest economies. In 2017, Germany was ranked fourth behind the United States, China, and Japan. Its GDP of $3,68 trillion represents 4.61% of global GDP.

A recent study conducted by Germany’s federal association for Information Technology – BitKom – has placed a figure on the toll that cybercrime is taking on the German economy.

The study was conducted on security chiefs and managers at Germany’s top 503 companies in the manufacturing sector. Based on the findings of that survey, BitKom estimated cybercrime losses in Germany to be €43 billion ($50.2 billion). That represents 1.36% of the country’s GDP.

Extrapolate those cybercrime losses in Germany and it places the global cost of cybercrime at $1 trillion, substantially higher than the $600 billion figure estimate from cybersecurity firm McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in February 2018. That study placed the global percentage of GDP lost to cybercrime at between 0.59% and 0.80%, with GDP losses to cybercrime across Europe estimated to be between 0.79 to 0.89% of GDP.

Small to Medium Sized Businesses Most at Risk

While cyberattacks on large enterprises have potential to be highly profitable for cybercriminals, those firms tend to have the resources available to invest heavily in cybersecurity. Attacks on large enterprises are therefore much more difficult and time consuming. It is far easier to target smaller companies with less robust cybersecurity defenses.

Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) often lack the resources to invest heavily in cybersecurity, and consequently are far easier to attack. The BitKom study confirmed that these companies, which form the backbone of the economy in Germany, are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks and have been extensively targeted by cybercriminals.

It is not only organized cybercriminal groups that are conducting these attacks. Security officials in Germany have long been concerned about attacks by well-resourced foreign spy agencies. Those agencies are using cyberattacks to gain access to the advanced manufacturing techniques developed by German firms that give them a competitive advantage. Germany is one of the world’s leading manufacturing nations, so it stands to reason that the German firms are an attractive target.

Cybercriminals are extorting money from German firms and selling stolen data on the black market and nation-state sponsored hackers are stealing proprietary data and technology to advance manufacturing in their own countries. According to the survey, one third of companies have had mobile phones stolen and sensitive digital data has been lost by a quarter of German firms. 11% of German firms report that their communications systems have been tapped.

Attacks are also being conducted to sabotage German firms. According to the study, almost one in five German firms (19%) have had their IT and production systems sabotaged through cyberattacks.

Businesses Must Improve Their Defenses Against Cyberattacks

“With its worldwide market leaders, German industry is particularly interesting for criminals,” said Achim Berg, head of BitKom. Companies, SMBs in particular, therefore need to take cybersecurity much more seriously and invest commensurately in cybersecurity solutions to prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to their systems and data.

According to Thomas Haldenweg, deputy president of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, “Illegal knowledge and technology transfer … is a mass phenomenon.”

Preventing cyberattacks is not straightforward. There is no single solution that can protect against all attacks. Only defense-in-depth will ensure that cybercriminals and nation-state sponsored hacking groups are prevented from gaining access to sensitive information.

Companies need to conduct regular, comprehensive organization-wide risk analyses to identify all threats to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their data and systems. All identified risks must then be addressed through a robust risk management process and layered defenses implemented to thwart attackers.

One of the main vectors for attack is email. Figures from Cofense suggest that 91% of all cyberattacks start with a malicious email. It stands to reason that improving email security should be a key priority for German firms. This is an area where TitanHQ can help.

TitanHQ is a provider of world-class cybersecurity solutions for SMBs and enterprises that block the most commonly used attack vectors. To find out more about how TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions can help to improve the security posture of your company and block email and web-based attacks, contact the TitanHQ sales team today.

Leading MSPs are Reaping the Rewards from Security-as-a-Service

Managed service providers (MSPs) are discovering the huge potential for profit from offering security-as-a-service to their clients. Managed security services are now the biggest growth area for the majority of leading MSPs, with security-as-a-service well ahead of cloud migration, cloud management, and managed Office 365 services according to a recent survey conducted by Channel Futures.

Channel Futures conducted the survey as part of its annual MSP 501 ranking initiative, which ranks MSPs based on their ability to act on current trends and ensure they remain competitive in the fast-evolving IT channel market. The survey evaluated MSP revenue growth, hiring trends, workforce dynamics, service deliverables, business models, and business strategies.

The survey revealed that by far the biggest growth area is managed security services. Security-as-a-service was rated the biggest growth area by 73% of MSPs. 55% of MSPs said professional services were a major growth area, 52% said Office 365, and 51% said consulting services.

It is no surprise that security-as-a-service is proving so popular as the volume of attacks on enterprises and SMBs has soared. Cybercriminals are attacking enterprises and SMBs trying to gain access to sensitive data to sell on the black market. Attacks are conducted to sabotage competitors, nation-state-sponsored hackers are attempting to disrupt critical infrastructure, and data is being encrypted to extort money. There is also a thriving market for proprietary data and corporate secrets.

The cost of mitigating attacks when they succeed is considerable. For enterprises, the attacks can make a significant dent in profits, but cyberattacks on SMBs can be catastrophic. A study conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance suggests as many as 60% of SMBs go out of business in the 6 months following a hacking incident.

Enterprises and SMBs alike have had to respond to the increased threat by investing heavily in security, but simply throwing money at security will not necessarily mean all security breaches are prevented. Companies need to employee skilled IT security professionals to implement, monitor and maintain those cybersecurity solutions, conduct vulnerability scans, and identify and address security gaps. Unfortunately, there is a major shortage of skilled staff and attracting the right talent can be next to impossible. Faced with major challenges, many firms have turned to MSPs to and have signed up for security-as-service offerings.

Forward-thinking MSPs have seized the opportunity and are now providing a comprehensive range of managed security services to meet the needs of their clients. They are offering a wide range of tools and services from phishing protection to breach mitigation services; however, for many MSPs, developing such a package is not straightforward.

Security-as-a-service is in high demand, but MSPs must be able to package the right services to meet customers’ needs and have a platform that can handle the business end. They too must attract the staff who can implement, monitor, and manage those services for their clients.

When devising a security-as-a-service offering, one option is to use a common security architecture for all clients and provide them with a range of solutions from the same provider. Many companies have implemented a slew of different security tools from multiple providers, only to discover they are still experiencing breaches. It is a relatively easy sell to get them to move over to a system where all the component parts are seamlessly integrated and to benefit from an MSP’s expertise in managing those solutions. There is a risk of course that clients will just choose to go direct rather than obtain those services from an MSP. This single platform strategy has been adopted by Liberty Technology – ranked 242 in the MSP 501 list – and is working well, especially for clients that have fewer than 1,000 employees.

At the other end of the spectrum is Valiant Technologies, ranked 206 in the MSP 501 list. Valiant has chosen a wide range of products from multiple cybersecurity solution providers and has built a unique package of products for its security service.

The products were chosen for the level of protection they offered and how well they work together. This approach has been a success for the firm. “Providing a bundle of offerings from different vendors that work well together is the most effective way for an MSP to retain its role as a trusted adviser,” said the firm’s CEO Tom Clancy. The security service has been added to other business services provided by the MSP and has proved to be an easy sell to clients.

ComTec Solutions, which ranked in position 248 in the MSP 501 list, is still deciding on the best way forward. The provision of security-as-a-service is a no brainer, but the company is currently assessing whether it is worthwhile building a security operations center (SOC) and becoming a managed security service provider (MSSP) or outsourcing the SOC service.

There are several different approaches to take when developing a managed security service offering. What is vital is that such a service is provided. The MSP 501 survey has shown that the most successful MSPs have responded to demand and are now helping their clients secure their networks through their security-as-a-service offerings. Those MSPs are clearly reaping the rewards.

If you are an MSP that is considering developing a security-as-a-service offering, be sure to speak to TitanHQ about its world-class cloud-based security solutions for MSPs – WebTitan and SpamTitan – and find out how they can be integrated into your security stack.

Python-Based PyLocky Ransomware Distributed in Spam Email Campaigns in Europe

A new Python-based form of ransomware has been detected that masquerades as Locky, one of the most widely used ransomware variants in 2016. The new ransomware variant has been named PyLocky ransomware by security researchers at Trend Micro who have observed it being used in attacks in Europe, particularly France, throughout July and August.

The spam email campaigns were initially sent in relatively small batches, although over time the volume of emails distributing PyLocky ransomware has increased significantly.

Various social engineering tactics are being used by the attackers to get the ransomware installed, including fake invoices. The emails intercepted by Trend Micro have included an embedded hyperlink which directs users to a malicious webpage where a zip file is downloaded. The zip file contains PyLocky ransomware which has been compiled using the PyInstaller tool, which allows Python applications to be converted to standalone executable files.

If installed, PyLocky ransomware will encrypt approximately 150 different file types including Office documents, image files, sound files, video files, databases, game files, archives, and program files. Files stored on all logical drives will be encrypted and the original copies will be overwritten. A ransom note is then dropped on the desktop which has been copied from the note used by the threat actors behind Locky, although the two cryptoransomware threats are unrelated. Ransom notes are written in French, English, Korean, and Italian so it is probable that the attacks will become more widespread over the coming weeks.

While Python is not typically used to create ransomware, PyLocky is not the only Python-based ransomware variant to have been created. Pyl33t was used in several attacks in 2017, and CryPy emerged in 2016. What makes the latest ransomware variant stand out is its anti-machine learning capabilities, which help to prevent analysis using standard static analysis methods.

The ransomware abuses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to determine the properties of the system on which it is installed. If the total visible memory of a system is 4GB or greater, the ransomware will execute immediately. If it is lower than 4GB, the ransomware will sleep for 11.5 days – an attempt to determine if it is in a sandbox environment.

Preventing attacks requires a variety of cybersecurity measures. An advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan will help to prevent the spam emails being delivered to end users’ inboxes. A web filter, such as WebTitan, can be employed to control the websites that can be accessed by end users and block malicious file downloads. Security awareness training will help to ensure that end users recognize the threat for what it is. Advanced malware detection tools are required to identify the threat due to its anti-machine learning capabilities.

There is no free decryptor for PyLocky. Recovery without paying the ransom will depend on a viable backup copy existing, which has not also been encrypted in the attack.

ICO and IQY Files Used in Spam Campaigns Delivering Marap and Loki Bot Malware

A spam email campaign is being conducted targeting corporate email accounts to distribute Loki Bot malware. Loki Bot malware is an information stealer capable of obtaining passwords stored in browsers, obtaining email account passwords, FTP client logins, cryptocurrency wallet passwords, and passwords used for messaging apps.

In addition to stealing saved passwords, Loki Bot malware has keylogging capabilities and is potentially capable of downloading and running executable files. All information captured by the malware is transferred to the attacker’s C2 server.

Kaspersky Lab researchers identified an increase in email spam activity targeting corporate email accounts, with the campaign discovered to be used to spread Loki Bot malware. The malware was delivered hidden in a malicious email attachment.

The intercepted emails included an ICO file attachment. ICO files are copies of optical discs, which are usually mounted in a virtual CD/DVD drive to open. While specialist software can be used to open these files, most modern operating systems have the ability to access the contents of the files without the need for any additional software.

In this case, the ICO file contains Loki Bot malware and double clicking on the file will result in installation of the malware on operating systems that support the files (Vista and later).

It is relatively rare for ICO files to be used to deliver malware, although not unheard of. The unfamiliarity with ICO files for malware delivery may see end users attempt to open the files.

The campaign included a wide range of lures including fake purchase orders, speculative enquiries from companies containing product lists, fake invoices, bank transfer details, payment requests, credit notifications, and payment confirmations. Well-known companies such as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and DHL were spoofed in some of the emails.

Spam Email Campaign Distributing Marap Malware Targets Financial Institutions

A separate and unrelated spam email campaign has been identified that is using IQY files to deliver a new form of malware known as Marap. Marap malware is a downloader capable of downloading a variety of different payloads and additional modules.

Upon installation, the malware fingerprints the system and gathers information such as username, domain name, IP address, hostname, language, country, Windows version, details of Microsoft .ost files, and any anti-virus solutions detected on the infected computer. What happens next depends on the system on which it is installed. If the system is of particular interest, it is earmarked for a more extensive compromise.

Four separate campaigns involving millions of messages were detected by researchers at Proofpoint. One campaign included an IQY file as an attachment, one included an IQY file within a zip file and a third used an embedded IQY file in a PDF file. The fourth used a Microsoft Word document containing a malicious macro. The campaigns appear to be targeting financial institutions.

IQY files are used by Excel to download web content directly into spreadsheets. They have been used in several spam email campaigns in recent weeks to install a variety of different malware variants. The file type is proving popular with cybercriminals because many anti-spam solutions fail to recognize the files as malicious.

Since the majority of end users would not have any need to open ICO or IQY files, these file types should be added to the list of blocked file types in email spam filters to prevent them from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

WhatsApp Phishing: Attacks Soar as Criminals Take Advantage of Lack of Anti-Phishing Protections

While the majority of phishing attempts are conducted via email, there has been a significant rise in the use of other communications platforms such messaging services, with WhatsApp phishing scams now increasing in popularity amongst phishers.

WhatsApp phishing attacks are common for two main reasons. First is the sheer number of people that are on the platform. In January 2018, the number of monthly users of WhatsApp worldwide reached 1.5 billion, up from 1 billion users six months previously. Secondly, is the lack of anti-phishing measures to prevent malicious messages from being delivered.

Many businesses have implemented spam filtering solutions such as SpamTitan, while personal users are benefiting by significant improvements to spam filtering on webmail services such as Gmail. Spam filtering solutions are highly effective at identifying phishing emails and other malicious messages and send them to the spam folder rather than delivering them to inboxes.

Messaging services often lack spam filtering controls. Therefore, malicious messages have a much greater chance of being delivered. Various tactics are used to entice recipients to click the links in the messages, usually an offer of a free gift, an exceptionally good special offer on a product – the new iPhone for instance – or a money off voucher or gift card is offered.

The messages contain a link that directs the recipient to the phishing website. The link usually contains a preview of the website, so even if a shortlink is used for the URL, the recipient can see some information about the site. A logo may be displayed along with the page title. That makes it much more likely that the link will be clicked.

Further, the message often comes from a known individual – A person in the user’s WhatsApp contact list. When a known individual vouches for the site, the probability of the link being clicked is much greater.

To add further legitimacy to the WhatsApp phishing scams, the websites often contact fake comments from social media sites confirming that a gift card has been won or a reward has been received. Some of those comments are positive, and some are neutral, as you would expect from a real prize draw where not everyone is a winner.

The websites used in WhatsApp phishing scams often use HTTPS, which show a green tick next to the URL to show that the site is ‘secure.’ Even though the green tick is no guarantee of the legitimacy of a site, many people believe the green tick means the site is genuine.

Gift cards are often given out for taking part in legitimate surveys, so the offer of either a gift card or entry into a free draw is not out of the ordinary. In return, the visitor to the site is required to answer some standard questions and provide information that would allow them to be contacted – their name, address, phone number, and email address for instance.

The information gathered through these sites is then used for further phishing attempts via email, telephone, or snail mail which aim to obtain even more personal information. After completing the questions, the website may claim that the user has one, which requires entry of bank account information or credit card details… in order for prize money to be paid or for confirmation of age.

These WhatsApp phishing scams often have another component which helps to spread the messages much more efficiently to other potential victims. Before any individual can claim their free prize or even submit their details for a prize draw, they must first agree to share the offer with some of their WhatsApp contacts.

If you receive an unsolicited link from a contact that offers a free gift or money-off voucher, there is a high chance it may not be genuine and is a WhatsApp phishing scam. If an offer seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

AdvisorsBot: A Versatile New Malware Threat Distributed Through Spam Email

Hotels, restaurants, and telecommunications companies are being targeted with a new spam email campaign that delivers a new form of malware called AdvisorsBot. AdvisorsBot is a malware downloader which, like many malware variants, is being distributed vis spam emails containing Microsoft Word attachments with malicious macros.

Opening an infected email attachment and enabling macros on the document will see Advisorsbot installed. Advisorsbot’s primary role is to perform fingerprinting on an infected device. Information will be gathered on the infected device is then communicated to the threat actors’ command and control servers and further instructions are provided to the malware based on the information gathered on the system. The malware records system information, details of programs installed on the device, Office account details, and other information. It is also able to take screenshots on an infected device.

AdvisorsBot malware is so named because the early samples of the malware that were first identified in May 2018 contacted command and control servers that contained the word advisors.

The spam email campaign is primarily being conducted on targets in the United States, although infections have been detected globally. Several thousands of devices have been infected with the malware since May, according to the security researchers at Proofpoint who discovered the new malware threat. The threat actors believed to be behind the attacks are a APT group known as TA555.

Various email lures are being used in this malware campaign to get the recipients to open the infected attachment and enable macros. The emails sent to hotels appear to be from individuals who have been charged twice for their stay. The campaign on restaurants uses emails which claim that the sender has suffered food poisoning after eating in a particular establishment, while the attacks on telecommunications companies use email attachments that appear to be resumes from job applicants.

AdvisorsBot is written in C, but a second form of the malware has also been detected that is written in .NET and PowerShell. The second variant has been given the name PoshAdvisor. PoshAdvisor is executed via a malicious macro which runs a PowerShell command that downloads a PowerShell script which executes shellcode that runs the malware in the memory without writing it to the disk.

These malware threats are still under development and are typical of many recent malware threats which have a wide range of capabilities and the versatility to be used for many different types of attack such as information stealing, ransomware delivery, and cryptocurrency mining. The malicious actions performed are determined based on the system on which the malware has been installed. If that system is ideally suited for mining cryptocurrency, the relevant code will be installed. If the business is of particular interest, it will be earmarked for a more extensive compromise.

The best form of defense against this campaign is the use of an advanced spam filtering solution to prevent the emails from being delivered and security awareness training for employees to condition them how to respond when such a threat arrives in their inbox.

Two Factor Authentication Flaws Discovered in Microsoft ADFS

Two factor authentication flaws have been identified that allow accounts to be accessed even when protected by a password and second authentication factor.

Two-factor authentication is an important safeguard to secure accounts. In the event of login credentials being guessed or otherwise obtained by a third party, an additional method of authentication is required to gain access to the account. Without that second factor, access to the account is blocked. But not always. Multiple two-factor authentication flaws have been identified.

Two Factor Authentication Flaws Exploited in Reddit, LinkedIn and Yahoo Cyberattacks

Two-factor authentication is not infallible. Recently, Reddit disclosed that it had suffered a data breach even though two factor authentication had been implemented. Rather than use a token, Reddit used SMS messages to a mobile phone owned by the account holder as the second authentication factor. As Reddit discovered, SMS messages can be intercepted. The attacker was able to intercept a 2FA SMS message and gain access to an employee’s account, through which it was possible to access to an old database of user credentials.

Two-factor authentication was also in place at Yahoo in 2013, yet the company still experienced a massive data breach that resulted in all three billion of its users having their information obtained by hackers. Go back a year and there was the massive 167 million record data breach at LinkedIn, which had also implemented two-factor authentication.

A phone call or text message to a phone owned by the account holder does not necessarily prevent access to the account from being gained by a third party. In August last year, a Bitcoin investor had $150,000 of cryptocurrency stolen from his wallet after it was accessed by a third party. In that case, the investor’s second factor phone number had been re-routed to a device owned by the attacker after the phone company was duped.

Any second factor that uses the phone system of SMS messages provides an additional layer of protection, but it is not enough to protect against a determined skilled hacker.

Two Factor Authentication Flaws Discovered in Microsoft’s Active Directory Federation Services

A major two-factor authentication vulnerability was recently discovered by a security researcher at Okta. Okta, like many companies, uses Microsoft’s Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) to provide multi-factor authentication.

Okta security researcher Andrew Lee discovered the system have a serious vulnerability that was not only straightforward to exploit, doing so would render an organization’s multi-factor authentication controls virtually useless.

Lee discovered that someone with a username, password, and a valid 2-factor token for one account could use the same token to gain access to any other account in the organization in AD with only a username and password. Any employee who is given an account and specified their own second factor could use it to access other accounts. Essentially the token was like a hotel room key card that opens all rooms in the hotel.

Obtaining another employee’s login credentials would only require a phishing campaign to be conducted. If an individual responded and disclosed their credentials, their account could be accessed without the need for a second factor.

The vulnerability in question, which was patched by Microsoft on August 14 in its August Patch Tuesday updates, was present in how ADFA communicates. When a user tries to login, an encrypted context log is sent by the server which contains the second factor token but not the username. This flaw could be exploited to fool the system into thinking the correct token had been supplied, as no check was made to determine whether the correct token had been supplied for a specific user’s account. As long as one valid username, password and 2FA token combo was owned, the 2FA system could be bypassed.

Two factor Authentication is Not a Silver Bullet

These two factor authentication flaws show that while 2-factor authentication is an important control to implement, businesses should not rely on the system to prevent unauthorized accessing of accounts. The two-factor authentication flaws discussed here are unlikely to be the last to be uncovered.

2-factor authentication should be just one element of an organization’s defenses against phishing and hacking, along with spam filters web filters, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, antivirus solutions, network segmentation, and employee security awareness training. 2FA should not be viewed as a silver bullet to prevent unauthorized account access.

Sextortion Phishing Emails Proving Lucrative for Scammers

A new sextortion phishing threat has been detected that is proving to have the desired effect. Many recipients of the emails have paid up to avoid being exposed.

On the face of it, this sextortion phishing scam is as simple as it gets. A threat actor claims to have taken control of the target’s computer and recorded them via their webcam while they were visiting an adult website. A threat is made to publicly release the video of them viewing pornography unless a payment is made.

For some recipients of such an email, such a threat would be enough to get them opening their Bitcoin wallet and making the payment without a second’s hesitation. Most people would likely see the email for what it really is. A scam and an empty threat.

However, a second variant of the email is being used that is a lot more personalized and includes a snippet of information to add credibility to the scam. The message includes the user’s password as ‘confirmation’ that it is not an empty threat. The attacker also claims, through compromising the target’s computer, to have obtained all the victim’s contacts including contacts in their social media accounts.

While the threat actor claims to have control of the user’s computer, that is not the case. The password has been obtained from a previous data breach and a list has likely been purchased on the darknet.

For many of the email recipients, the password will be old and will have been changed long ago. That may be enough in some cases to see payment made. However, for those who are still using that password, the threat may seem very real.

This is in reality a very simple scam that in many cases only works because despite the risk of failing to change passwords frequently, recycling old passwords, and reusing passwords on multiple sites, the practice is still commonplace.

It is not known how many emails have been sent by the scammers – most likely millions – but it only takes a handful of people to respond and make payment for the scheme to be profitable.

So far, at least 151 people have responded to the sextortion phishing scam and made a payment to one of 313 Bitcoin addresses known to be used by the scammers. So far, at least 30.08 BTC had been raised – Approximately $250,000 – from the scam as of July 26 and it has only been running for a few weeks. The researcher tracking the payments (SecGuru) pointed out that the attackers have made three times as much as the individuals behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks last year.

Even without the password, the sextortion phishing scam has proved effective. Payments have been made in both versions of the scam. The standard scam asks for a payment of a few hundred dollars, although the inclusion of a password sees the payment rise considerably. Some individuals have been told it will cost them $8,000 to prevent the release of the video. Some individuals have paid thousands to the scammers.

Given the widespread coverage of the scam, and its success rate, it is probable that many more similar schemes will be conducted. Variations along the same theme could direct recipients to a phishing website where they are enticed into disclosing their current password, to an exploit kit that downloads malware, or to another scam site.

Protecting against a scam such as this is easiest by using strong passwords, regularly changing them, and never reusing passwords on multiple sites. It is also worthwhile periodically checking to find out if their credentials have been exposed in a data breach on HaveIBeenPwned.com and immediately changing passwords if they have.

Anyone receiving a sextortion phishing email such as this should be aware that this is a scam. If the password included is currently being used, it is essential to change it immediately across all sites. And of course, set a strong, unique password for each account.

Why Are Email Account Compromises Soaring and How Can Email Accounts Be Protected?

The past year has seen a steady increase in the number of reported email account compromises, with the healthcare industry one of the main targets for hackers.

Some of those breaches have seen the protected health information of thousands of patients compromised, with the largest phishing attack in 2018 – The phishing attack on Boys Town National Research Hospital – seeing more than 105,000 patients’ healthcare information exposed. Due to reporting requirements under HIPAA, healthcare phishing attacks are highly visible, although email account compromises are occurring across all industry sectors and the problem is getting worse.

284% Increase in Email Account Compromises in a Year

The increase in successful phishing attacks has been tracked by Beazley, a provider of specialist insurance services. The company’s research shows the number of reported phishing attacks increased every quarter since Q1, 2017 when there were 45 reported breaches that involved email accounts being compromised. In Q2, 2018, there were 184 email account compromises reported. Between Q1, 2017 and Q1, 2018, the number of reported data breaches involving compromised email accounts increased by 284%.

Why are email account compromises increasing? What do hackers gain from accessing email accounts rather than say, gaining access to networks which store vast amounts of data?

It can take a significant amount of time and effort to identify a vulnerability such a missed patch, an exposed S3 bucket, or an unsecured medical device, and exploit it.

By comparison, gaining access to an email account is relatively easy. Once access is gained, accessing further email accounts becomes easier still. If a hacker can gain access to an email account with the right level of administrative privileges, it may be possible for the entire mail system of an organization to be accessed.

If a hacker can gain access to a single email account, the messages in the account can be studied to gain valuable information about a company, its employees, and vendors. The hackers can identify further targets within an organization for spear phishing campaigns – termed Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks – and attacks on contractors and suppliers.

Once One Account is Breached, Others Will Follow

If an executive’s email account is compromised, it can be used to send requests for wire transfers to the accounts department, HR can be emailed requesting W2-Forms that contain all the information necessary for filing fake tax returns and for identity theft. Requests can be sent via email to redirect employees’ paychecks and phishing emails can be sent to other employees directing them to websites where they have to divulge their email credentials.

Figures from the FBI show just how lucrative these Business Email Compromise (BEC) phishing attacks can be. Since October 2013, more than $12.5 billion has been lost to BEC attacks, up from $5.3 billion in December 2016.

Once access to the email system is gained, it is much easier to craft highly convincing spear phishing emails. Past email conversations can be studied, and an individual’s style of writing emails can be copied to avoid raising any red flags.

Email Account Compromises Are Costly to Resolve

Beazley also notes that email account compromises are some of the costliest breaches to resolve, requiring many hours of painstaking work to manually checking each email in a compromised account for PII and PHI. One example provided involved a programmatic search of compromised email accounts to identify PHI, yet that search uncovered 350,000 documents that required a manual check. The cost of checking those documents alone was $800,000.

Beazley also notes that when investigating breaches, the breached entity often discovers that only half of the compromised email accounts have been identified. The data breaches are usually much more extensive than was initially thought.

Unfortunately, once access to a single email account is gained, it is much harder to prevent further email compromises as technological controls are not so effective at identifying emails sent from within a company. However, it is relatively easy to block the initial phishing attempt.

How to Prevent Email Account Compromises

Many companies fail to implement basic controls to block phishing attacks. Even when a phishing-related breach is experienced, companies often remain susceptible to further breaches. The Ponemon Institute/IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach study showed there is a 27.9% probability of a company experiencing a further breach in the 24 months following a data breach.

To prevent phishing attacks, companies need to:

  • Deploy an advanced spam filtering solution that blocks the vast majority of malicious messages
  • Provide ongoing security awareness training to all staff and teach employees how to identify phishing emails
  • Conduct regular phishing simulation exercises to reinforce training and condition employees to be more security aware
  • Implement two-factor authentication to prevent attempts to access email accounts remotely
  • Implement a web filter as an additional control to block the accessing of phishing websites
  • Use strong, unique passwords or passphrases to make brute force and dictionary attacks harder
  • Limit or prevent third party applications from connecting to Office 365 accounts, which makes it harder for PowerShell to be used to access email accounts for reconnaissance.

1.4 Million Patients Potentially Affected by UnityPoint Health Phishing Attack

In recent weeks, several large healthcare data breaches have been reported that have seen cybercriminals gain access to employees’ email accounts and sensitive data, although the recently disclosed UnityPoint Health phishing attack stands out due to the huge number of individuals that have been impacted and the extent of sensitive data exposed.

UnityPoint Health is one of the largest healthcare systems serving Iowa residents. The Des Moines-based healthcare provider recently discovered that its employees have been targeted in a phishing campaign that has seen several email accounts compromised. Those email accounts contained the sensitive information of approximately 1.4 million patients.

That not only makes this the largest phishing incident to have been suffered by a U.S. healthcare provider in 2018, it is also the largest healthcare data breach of 2018 and one of the most serious phishing attacks and data breaches ever reported.

The UnityPoint Health phishing attack has seen highly sensitive data compromised, including names, addresses, health insurance information, medical record numbers, diagnoses, treatment information, lab test results, medications, providers, dates of service, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and, for a limited number of patients, their payment card information.

The phishing emails were sent to employees between March 14 and April 3, 2018, although the breach was not detected until May 31. As is common in phishing attacks on businesses, access to email accounts was gained through the impersonation of a senior executive.

A series of spoofed emails were sent to employees that appeared to have come from a trusted executive’s email account. Employees who opened the email were instructed to click a link that required them to enter their email login information. That information was captured by the attackers who were then able to gain access to the employees’ email accounts.

The UnityPoint Health phishing attack potentially gave the hackers access to all the information stored in the compromised email accounts – Information that could be used for identity theft and fraud. It is unclear whether mailboxes were downloaded, although UnityPoint Health said its forensic investigation suggests that the primary goal was to divert payroll payments and to use account access to fool accounts department staff into making fraudulent wire transfers. It is unclear if any of those attempts succeeded.

This is also not the only UnityPoint Health phishing attack to be reported this year. In March, UnityPoint Health announced that 16,400 patients had been affected by a separate phishing attack that saw multiple email accounts compromised.

The latest incident has prompted the healthcare provider to implement new technology to detect phishing and BEC attacks, multi-factor authentication has been implemented, and additional security awareness training has been provided to employees. Credit monitoring and identify theft monitoring services have been offered to patients whose driver’s license or Social Security number has been exposed, and all patients have been notified by mail.

As the Ponemon Institute’s 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study showed, the cost of these million-record+ data breaches is considerable. The average cost of such a breach was estimated to be around $40 million.

Cryptocurrency Mining PowerGhost Malware Spreading Like Wildfire

A massive cryptocurrency mining campaign has been uncovered by security researchers at Kaspersky Lab – A campaign that has resulted in the creation of a vast network of devices infected with PowerGhost malware.

PowerGhost malware is being installed on all manner of devices including servers, endpoints, and POS devices. Once infected, each device generates a small amount of a cryptocurrency each day by using the device’s processing power to solve complex computational problems.

While a single device can be used to mine a few dollars of cryptocurrency each day, the returns are significant when the attackers are able to infect server farms and add hundreds of thousands of endpoints to their army of cryptocurrency mining slaves.

Once a device is infected, the cryptocurrency mining tool is downloaded and gets to work. A portion of an infected device’s processing power is then dedicated to mining cryptocurrency until the infection is identified and the malware is removed. PowerGhost malware also spreads laterally to all other vulnerable networked devices.

What makes PowerGhost such a difficult threat to detect is the fact that it doesn’t use any files, instead it is capable of mining cryptocurrency from the memory. PowerGhost is an obfuscated PowerShell script that includes various add-on modules, including the cryptocurrency mining component, mimikatz, and the DLLs required for the operation of the miner. Various fileless techniques are used to infect devices, ensure persistence, and avoid detection by anti-virus solutions. The malware also includes shellcode for the EternalBlue exploit to allow it to spread across a network to other vulnerable devices. Attacks are occurring through the exploitation of unpatched vulnerabilities and through remote administration tools.

PowerGhost malware is primarily being used in attacks on companies in Latin America, although it is far from confined to this geographical region with India and Turkey also heavily targeted and infections detected in Europe and North America.

Companies are being targeted. If a foothold can be gained in a corporate network, hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of devices can be infected and used for cryptocurrency mining. The potential rewards for a successful attack on a medium to large enterprise is substantial.

In addition to cryptocurrency mining, Kaspersky Lab researchers note that one version of the PowerGhost malware is capable of being used for DDoS attacks, offering another income stream for the cybercriminal gang behind the campaign.

Prompt patching, disabling of remote desktop protocol, and the setting of strong complex passwords can help to protect against this PowerGhost malware campaign.

Cosco Ransomware Attack Affects Americas Arm of Shipping Firm

One of the world’s biggest shipping firms – Cosco – has experienced a ransomware attack that has seen its local email system and network telephone in the Americas taken out of action as the result of widespread file encryption.

The Cosco ransomware attack is believed to have been contained in the Americas region. As a precaution and to prevent further spread to other systems, connections to all other regions have been disabled pending a full investigation. A warning has also been issued to all other regions warning of the threat of attack by email, with the firm telling its staff not to open any suspicious email communications. IT staff in other regions have also been advised to conduct scans of their network with antivirus software as a precaution.

The attack started on Tuesday, July 24, and its IT infrastructure remains down; however, the firm has confirmed that that attack has not affected any of its vessels which continue to operate as normal. Its main business systems are still operational, although the operators of terminals at some U.S ports are experiencing delays processing documentation and delivery orders.

It would appear that the Cosco ransomware attack is nowhere near the scale of the attack on the world’s biggest shipping firm A.P. Møller-Maersk, which like many other firms, fell victim to the NotPetya attacks last year. In that case, while the malware appeared to be ransomware, it was actually a wiper with no chance of file recovery.

The attack, which affected more than 45,000 endpoints and 4,000 servers, is estimated to have cost the shipping company between $250 million and $350 million to resolve. All servers and endpoints needed to be rebuilt, and the firm was crippled for 10 days. In that case, the attack was possible due to an unpatched vulnerability.

Another major ransomware attack was reported last week in the United States. LabCorp, one of the leading networks of clinical testing laboratories in the United States, experienced a ransomware attack involving a suspected variant of SamSam ransomware.  While the variant of ransomware has not been confirmed, LabCorp did confirm the ransomware was installed as a result of a brute force attack on Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Labcorp was both quick to detect the attack and contain it, responding within 50 minutes, although 7,000 systems and 1,900 servers are understood to have been affected. It has taken several days for the systems to be brought back online, during which time customers have been experiencing delays obtaining their lab test results.

Several cybersecurity firms have reported that ransomware attacks are in decline, with cryptocurrency mining offering better rewards, although the threat from ransomware is still ever present and attacks are occurring through a variety of attack vectors – exploitation of vulnerabilities, brute force attacks, exploit kit downloads, and, commonly, through spam and phishing emails.

To protect against ransomware attacks, companies must ensure security best practices are followed. Patches must be applied promptly on all networks, endpoints, applications, and databases, spam filtering software should be used to prevent malicious messages from reaching inboxes, web filters used to prevent downloads of ransomware from malicious websites, and all staff should receive ongoing cybersecurity awareness training.

Additionally, systems should be implemented to detect anomalies such as excessing file renaming, and networks should be segmented to prevent lateral movement in the event that ransomware is deployed.

Naturally, it is also essential that data are backed up regularly to ensure recovery is possible without having to resort to paying the ransom demand. As the NotPetya attacks showed, paying a ransom to recover files may not be an option.

Phishing Attacks on National Bank of Blacksburg Result in $2.4 Million Loss

The National Bank of Blacksburg in Virginia has discovered just how important it is to have effective controls in place to protect against phishing. The bank suffered two costly phishing attacks in the space of eight months that have resulted in losses exceeding $2.4 million.

Phishing is the leading tactic used by cybercriminals to gain access to login credentials, steal data, and install malware. Emails are sent to employees with malicious attachments, which if opened, result in the installation of malware. Alternatively, links are sent in emails that direct employees to fraudulent websites where they are fooled into disclosing their login credentials.

The first attack on Blacksburg Bank took place on May 28, 2016. Malware was installed on its systems which gave the attackers access to the STAR Network – The system that manages debit card ATM activity. After gaining access to the STAR Network, the hackers were able to change account balances, remove security measures such as anti-theft and anti-fraud protections, conduct keystroke logging, and authorize withdrawals from customers’ accounts via ATMs.

In the two days that the hackers had access to the system, they were able to make withdrawals at hundreds of ATMs across the country and stole $569,648.24 from customers’ accounts. This was possible without stealing customers cards or using skimmers to create fake bank cards.

The malware was detected on May 30, 2016 and the attack was investigated by the computer forensics firm Foregenix which determined that the malware was installed as a result of an employee being duped by a phishing email.

Eight months later, on January 7, 2017, a similar attack occurred which involved cybercriminals gaining access to the STAR Network. Similarly, access was possible for two days, although in this case approximately $1.8 million was withdrawn from customers’ accounts. Verizon investigated the breach and concluded that access was gained as a result of an employee falling for a phishing scam.

The National Bank of Blacksburg holds an insurance policy against cyberattacks although its insurer, Everest National Insurance Company, has refused to cover the losses. Blacksburg is now suing its insurer for breach of contract.

What these incidents show is just how easy it is for major losses to be suffered as a result of employees falling for phishing scams and the importance of having robust anti-phishing measures in place.

There is no single solution that will provide total protection against phishing, although a good place to start is with an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan.

SpamTitan uses dual antivirus engines (Bitdefender and ClamAV) that provides superior protection against phishing and block emails containing malware and malware downloaders. The solution performs multiple checks on each incoming email to determine whether it is genuine, spam, or malicious, including standard checks of email headers, a Bayesian analysis on message content, and greylisting. Together, these controls ensure 99.97% of spam emails are detected and blocked, with a false positive rate of just 0.03%. Independent tests at Virus Bulletin have confirmed a 100% malware detection rate.

No anti-spam solution will block 100% of all spam and phishing emails so it is essential for employees to be trained how to recognize phishing emails. While it was once a best practice to provide annual training, with the volume of phishing emails now being sent and the increased sophistication of attacks, an annual training session is no longer sufficient.

Training needs to be ongoing, with regular training sessions scheduled throughout the year and employees conditioned through phishing simulation exercises. With effective spam filtering and employee security awareness training, the majority of phishing attempts can be thwarted.

Average Data Breach Mitigation Costs Now $3.86 Million

In 2017, data breach mitigation costs fell year-on year; however, that appears to be a blip. The 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study conducted by the Ponemon Institute (on behalf of IBM Security) has revealed data breach mitigation costs have risen once again.

The Ponemon Institute conducts the Cost of a Data Breach Study every year. For the 2018 study, the Ponemon Institute conducted interviews with 2,200 IT, data security, and compliance professionals from 477 companies in 15 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Australia. The companies represented in the study came from a wide range of industry sectors. Each of those companies had experienced a data breach in the past 12 months.

Naturally, the larger the breach, the higher the cost of mitigation is likely to be. Breaches involving millions of records would naturally cost more to resolve than breaches of 50,000 records. Catastrophic data breaches – those involving millions of records – are not normally included in the study. This year was the first time that mega data breaches – those involving more than 1,000,000 records – were included, although they were treated separately.

The analysis of the main part of the study involved breaches ranging from 2,500 records to a little over 100,000 records. The average breach size was 24,615 records globally, 31,465 records in the United States, 22,800 records in the UK, and 19,200 records in Japan.

The costs associated with those data breaches was analyzed using the activity-based costing (ABC) methodology. The ABC methodology identified four process-related activities and assigned costs based on actual use. Those activities were Detection and Escalation, Post Data Breach Response, Breach Notifications, and Lost Business Cost. The analysis identified the average total cost of a data breach taking all four activity areas into account.

The study also revealed measures taken prior to the breach, during, and after, that can limit losses or increase data breach mitigation costs.

Average Data Breach Mitigation Costs Have Reached $3.86 Million

A data breach now costs an average of $3.86 million to revolve. Last year, the average cost of a data breach was $3.62 million. Data breach costs have therefore increased by 6.4% in the space of a year.

On average, per capita data breach mitigation costs rose by 4.8%, with a data breach costing, on average, $148 per record. Last year, the global average was $141 per record.

In addition to the rising cost, the severity of the breaches also increased, with the data breaches in this year’s sample impacting 2.2% more individuals on average.

Data breaches cost more to resolve in the United States than any other country. The average data breach mitigation costs in the United States is $7.91 million per breach. The lowest costs were in India, where the average breach cost was $1.77 million. The highest per capita costs were also in the United States at £233 per record.

Hackers and malicious insiders caused the most breaches and they were also the costliest to resolve at $157 per record. System glitches cost an average of £131 per record and breaches caused by human error cost the least at $128 per record.

Data breach costs varied considerably by industry sector, with healthcare data breach mitigation costs the highest by some distance at an average of $408 per record, followed by financial services breaches at $206 per record, services at $181 per record, and pharmaceutical industry breaches at $174 per record. Breaches in the education sector cost an average of $166 per record, retail industry breaches were $116 per record, and the lowest data breach mitigation costs were in the public sector at $75 per record.

The study of mega data breaches revealed a breach of 1 million records costs an estimated $39.49 million to resolve, while a breach of 50 million records costs an estimated $350 million. Since there were only 11 breaches of more than 1 million records in the sample it was not possible to accurately calculate the average cost of these breaches.

What Factors Affect Data Breach Mitigation Costs the Most?

For the study, 22 different factors were assessed to determine how they affected data breach mitigation costs. The most important cost saving measures that can be taken to reduce the cost of a data breach are having an incident response team ($14 less per record), widespread use of encryption ($13.1 less per record), BCM involvement ($9.3 less per record), employee training ($9.3 less per record), participation in threat sharing ($8.7 less per record) and use of an artificial intelligence platform ($8.2 less per record).

The main factors that increased data breach mitigation costs were third party involvement ($13.4 more per record), extensive cloud migration at the time of the breach ($11.9 more per record), compliance failures ($11.9 more per record), extensive use of mobile platforms ($10.0 more per record), lost or stolen devices ($6.5 more per record), and extensive use of IoT devices ($5.4 more per record).

With the cost of data breaches rising, more cyberattacks being conducted, and the likelihood of a breach being experienced now higher, it is essential not only for companies to implement layered security defenses, but also to make sure they are prepared for the worst.

Companies need to assume a breach will be experienced and policies and procedures need to be developed to deal with the breach when it happens. An incident response team should be prepared to spring into action to ensure everyone known what needs to be done when disaster strikes. The sooner a breach is identified and mitigated, the lower the breach mitigation costs will be.

Cryptojacking Attacks Replace Ransomware as Primary Threat

There has been a major increase in cryptojacking attacks in recent months. Many cybercriminal gangs now favoring this method of attack over ransomware and other forms of malware and are taking advantage of the high value of cryptocurrencies.

As with ransomware attacks, cybercriminals need to install malicious code on computers. Instead of encrypting files like ransomware, the code is used to mine for cryptocurrency. Mining cryptocurrencies involves a computers CPU being used to solve complex computational problems, which are necessary for verifying cryptocurrency transactions and adding to the blockchain. In exchange for verifying transactions, the miner is paid a small amount for the effort.

Devoting one computer to the task of cryptocurrency mining could generate a few dollars a day. Using multiple computers for the task can generate a substantial return. The more computers that are used, the more blocks can be added to the blockchain and the greater the profits. When a network of cryptocurrency mining slave computers can be amassed, the profits can be considerable. According to Kaspersky Lab, one cryptojacking gang that focusses on infecting enterprise servers and spreading the malicious code using NSA exploits, has generated around 9,000 Monero, which equates to $2 million.

Not all computers are suitable for mining cryptocurrency. One cybercriminal gang has got around this by developing malware that can decide whether to deploy a cryptocurrency miner or ransomware, with the decision based on the processing power of the computer. If its not suitable for use mining cryptocurrency, ransomware is deployed. This tactic helps maximize profits after compromising a device.

The use of cryptocurrency miners increased sharply last year as the value of cryptocurrencies started to soar. The price of those cryptocurrencies may have fallen, but cryptojacking attacks are still on the rise. The volume of new cryptojacking malware variants has also increased considerably over the past few months.  Figures from McAfee indicate the number of cryptojacking malware variants increased by a staggering 1,189% in the first three months of 2018 alone, rising from around 400,000 malware variants to more than 2.9 million.

Over the same time frame, there has been a fall in the number of ransomware attacks. In Q1, ransomware attacks fell by around 32%, indicating threat actors who previously used ransomware to make money have changed their tactics and are now using cryptocurrency miners.

Ransomware attacks falling by a third is certainly good news, although the threat from ransomware cannot be ignored. Steps must be taken to prevent the installation of the file encrypting code and good backup practices are essential to ensure files can be recovered in the event of an attack. Certain industries face a higher risk of ransomware attacks than others, such as the healthcare industry, where attacks are still rife.

Cryptojacking attacks are more widespread, although the education sector has proven to be a major target. Many mining operations have been discovered in the education sector, although it is unclear whether these mining operations are legitimate, computers are being used by students to mine cryptocurrency, or if educational institutions are being targeted.

One thing is clear. As the value of cryptocurrencies rose, the number of mining attacks increased. That suggests that should prices fall, cybercriminals will switch to other types of attacks, and there could be a resurgence in ransomware attacks.

It could be argued that the installation of cryptocurrency mining malware on a computer is far less of a problem than ransomware or other forms of malware. When the CPU is mining cryptocurrency, the user is likely to find their computer somewhat sluggish. This can result in a drop in productivity. Heavy processing can also cause computers to overheat and hardware damage can result.

Cryptojacking malware is usually installed by a downloader, which can remain on a computer. If the profits from mining cryptocurrency fall, new malware variants could easily be downloaded in its place. Cryptocurrency mining malware can also be bundled with other malware variants that steal sensitive information. Cryptojacking attacks are therefore a major threat.

Protecting against cryptojacking attacks involves the same security controls that are used to block other forms of malware. Cryptojacking malware can be installed by exploiting vulnerabilities so good patch management is essential. Spam and phishing emails are used to install malware downloaders, so an advanced spam filtering solution is a must. Web filters can prevent web-based mining attacks and malware downloads and offer an important extra layer of protection. It is also important not to neglect end users. Security awareness training can help to eradicate risky behaviors.

Additionally, security audits should be conducted, first to scan for the presence of cryptojacking malware, which includes searching for anomalies that could indicate the presence of the malware. Those audits should include servers, end points, POS systems, and all other systems. Any system connected to the network could potentially be used for mining cryptocurrency.

New Rakhni Ransomware Variant Decides Whether to Encrypt Files or Turn Device into a Cryptocurrency Miner

Rakhni ransomware, a malware variant first detected in 2013, has spawned many variants over the past three years and is still an active threat. Rakhni ransomware locks files on an infected device to prevent the user from accessing their data. A ransom demand is issued and if payment is made, the attackers will supply the keys to unlock the encryption. If the ransom is not paid the files will remain encrypted. In such cases, the only option for file recovery is to restore files from backups.

Now the developers of Rakhni ransomware have incorporated new functionality. Checks are performed on an infected device to determine whether it has sufficient processing power to be used as a cryptocurrency mining slave. If so, cryptocurrency mining malware will be downloaded. If not, ransomware will be deployed.

This new development should not come as a major surprise. The massive rise in the value of many cryptocurrencies has made mining cryptocurrencies far more profitable for cybercriminals than ransomware. When ransomware is installed, many victims choose not to pay and instead recover files from backups. Infection is no guarantee that a payment will be received. If a cryptocurrency miner can be installed, it gets straight to work generating money for the attackers. Ransomware attacks are still a major threat, although many cybercriminals have switched their operations to mining cryptocurrencies. In fact, cryptocurrency mining malware attacks are now much more common than ransomware attacks.

However, not all computers have sufficient CPU processing power to make cryptocurrency mining worthwhile, so the method used by the threat actors behind Rakhni ransomware helps them maximize their profits.

The new Rakhni ransomware campaign was detected by researchers at Kaspersky Lab. The malware used is Delphi-based and is being distributed in phishing emails containing a Microsoft Word file attachment.

The user is advised to save the document and enable editing. The document contains a PDF file icon which, if clicked, launches a fake error message suggesting the DLL file required to open the PDF file has not been found. The user needs to click on the OK box to close the error message.

When the error box is closed, the malware performs a series of checks on the machine to identify the processes running on the device and assesses those processes to determine if it is running in a sandbox environment and the likelihood of it being able to run undetected. After these checks have been performed the system is assessed to determine its capabilities.

If the machine has more than two processors and does not have a Bitcoin folder in the AppData folder, a cryptocurrency miner will be installed. The cryptocurrency miner uses fake root certificates which show the program has been issued by Microsoft Corporation to help disguise the miner as a trusted application.

If a Bitcoin folder does exist, certain processes will be stopped, and Rakhni ransomware will be downloaded and run. If there is no Bitcoin folder and only one processor, the malware will use its worm component and twill attempt to spread to other devices on the network where the process starts over.

Advanced anti-virus software can provide protection against this attack, while spam filtering solutions can prevent the phishing emails from being delivered to end users. Businesses should also ensure that their employees are made aware of the risk of these types of attacks through security awareness training. Employees should be instructed never to open attachments in emails from unknown senders and taught the warning signs of a potential attack in progress. Naturally, good data backup practices are essential to ensure that if all other controls fail, files can be recovered without paying a ransom.

Children’s Mercy Hospital Phishing Attack Highlights Need for Effective Anti-Phishing Protections

A major Children’s Mercy Hospital phishing attack has highlighted the importance of implementing effective spam filtering controls and the need to provide security awareness training to end users.

Phishing is a method of fraudulently obtaining sensitive information through deception. While attacks can occur over the telephone, via social media sites, or through text messages and chat platforms, the most common attack vector is email.

Convincing emails are sent to end users urging them to open an email attachment or to click on a malicious link. Attachments are used to install malware, either directly through malware attached to the email, or more commonly, using macros or other malicious code in documents which download scripts that in turn download the malicious payload.

In the case of embedded hyperlinks in emails, they typically direct an end user to a website that asks them to login. The website could ask for their email credentials, appear to be a Google login box, Dropbox login page, or other file sharing platform. Disclosing login credentials on that webpage sends the information to the attackers. These login pages are convincing. They look exactly like the sites that they are spoofing.

That was the case with the Children’s Mercy Hospital phishing attack. The Kansas City, MO, hospital received several phishing emails which directed employees to fake login pages on criminally-controlled websites.

The phishing attack occurred on or shortly before December 2, 2017. On Dec 2, Children’s Mercy’s security team identified authorized access to two employees’ email accounts. Access to the accounts was blocked the same day and the passwords were reset. Two weeks later, on December 15 and Dec 16, two further email accounts were accessed by unauthorized individuals. Again, unauthorized access was detected and blocked the same day. A fifth email account was accessed on January 3, 2018 with access blocked the following day.

The prompt action in response to the Children’s Mercy phishing attack limited the potential for those email accounts to be abused. When criminals gain access to email accounts they often use them to send further phishing emails. Since those emails come from a legitimate email account, the recipients of the messages sent from that account are more likely to open the emails as they come from a trusted source. That is why business email compromise scams are so effective – because employees trust the sender of the email and take action as requested in the belief that they are genuine communications.

In the case of the Children’s Mercy phishing attack, the criminals acted quickly. Following a forensic investigation into the attacks, Children’s Mercy discovered on January 19, 2018, that even though access to the accounts was promptly blocked, the attackers had successfully downloaded the mailboxes of four of the five employees. The messages contained a wide range of protected health information (PHI) of 63,049 patients.

The PHI included information such as name, gender, age, height, weight, BMI score, procedure dates, admission dates, discharge dates, diagnosis and procedure codes, diagnoses, health conditions, treatment information, contact details, and demographic information.

While Social Security numbers, insurance information, and financial data were not obtained – information most typically required to commit fraud – such detailed information on patients could be used in impersonation attacks on the patients. It would be quite easy for the attackers to pretend they were from the hospital and convince patients to provide their insurance information for example, which could then be used for medical identity fraud.

Due to the scale of the attack and number of emails in the compromised accounts, it has taken a considerable time to identify the individuals affected. The Kansas City Star reports that some patients are only just being notified.

In response, the hospital implemented 2-factor authentication and other technical controls to prevent further attacks.

2-factor authentication is an important security measure that provides protection after a phishing attack has occurred. If login credentials are supplied, but the location or the device used to access the account is unfamiliar, an additional method of authentication is required before access to the account is granted – a code sent to a mobile phone for example.

Two of the most effective security controls to prevent credential theft via phishing are spam filters and security awareness training.

An advanced spam filter is an essential security measure to block phishing attacks. The changing tactics of cybercriminals means no spam filtering solution will be able to block every single phishing email, although SpamTitan, a highly effective spam filtering solution with advanced anti-phishing protections, blocks more than 99.97% of spam and malicious emails to ensure they do not arrive in end users’ inboxes.

Security awareness training helps to prevent employees from clicking on the small percentage of messages that get past perimeter defenses. Employees need to be trained to give them the skills to identify phishing attempts and report them to their security teams. An ongoing training program, with phishing simulation exercises, will help to condition employees to recognize threats and respond appropriately. Over time, phishing email detection skills will improve considerably.

An effective training program can limit the number of employees that respond to phishing attacks, either preventing the attackers from gaining access to email accounts or severely limiting the number of employees who respond and disclose their credentials.

The Children’s Mercy phishing attack is one of many such attacks on healthcare organizations and businesses, and as those attacks increase and more data is obtained by criminals, implementing advanced phishing protections has never been more important.

For further information on email security controls that can prevent phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today and enquire about SpamTitan.

Survey Explores the Effect of Web Filtering on Security and Productivity

A recent survey of members of the Spiceworks community investigated the use of web filtering by businesses and the effect of web filtering on security and productivity. The survey was conducted on 645 members of its professional network based in the United States and Europe from a wide range of industries including healthcare, finance, and manufacturing.

Web filtering is an important security control that can provide an additional layer of protection against malware and phishing attacks. Web filters can also be used to improve the productivity of the workforce by limiting access to certain types of websites. The Internet can help to improve productivity, although it can also prove a temptation for workers and a major distraction. When a complicated report must be produced, cat videos can be especially tempting.

The survey sought to find out more about the effect of web filtering on security and productivity, how web filters are being used by businesses, the amount of time that employees are wasting on personal Internet use, and the types of websites that businesses are blocking to improve productivity.

Web Filtering is Used by the Majority of Businesses

The survey revealed widespread use of web filters by businesses. Overall, 89% of organizations have implemented a web filter and use it to block certain types of productivity-draining Internet content such as social media websites, dating sites, gambling sites, and streaming services.

The larger the business, the more likely it is that Internet content control will be implemented. 96% of large organizations (1,000+ employees) use web filters to limit employee Internet activity. The percentage drops to 92% for mid-sized businesses (100-999 employees) and 81% for small businesses (up to 99 employees). 58% of organizations said they use a web filtering solution to monitor Internet use by employees.

The survey asked IT professionals who have not implemented a web filtering solution how many hours they think employees are wasting on personal Internet use each week. 58% of employees were thought to waste around 4 hours a week on personal internet use and around 26% of workers spend more than 7 hours a week on non-work-related websites. Without a web filter, most employees will spend around 26 days a year on personal Internet use which, based on average earnings, corresponds to $4,500 paid per employee to slack off on the Internet.

Compare that to the figures for companies that restrict access to at least one category of website and the percentages fall to 43% of employees spending more than 4 hours a week on personal Internet use and 18% who spend more than 7 hours a week on non-work-related websites. The biggest drain of productivity was social media sites, with the figures falling to 30% of employees spending more than 4 hours a week on non-work-related sites when social media sites were blocked.

What are the Most Commonly Blocked Websites?

How are web filters used by businesses and what types of website are most commonly blocked? Unsurprisingly, the most commonly blocked websites were illegal sites and inappropriate sites (pornography for example). Both categories were blocked by 85% or organizations.

After that, the most commonly blocked category of content was dating sites – blocked by 61% of organizations. Businesses are more permissive about the use of social media websites, with only 38% blocking those sites, while instant messaging services were blocked by 34% of organizations. Even though they can be a major drain on bandwidth, streaming services were only blocked by 26% of companies.

What are the Main Reasons for Implementing a Web Filter?

While Internet content control – in some form – has been implemented by the majority of companies, it was not the main reason for implementing a web filter. Money could be saved by improving productivity, but the biggest reason for implementing a web filter was security. 90% of businesses said they had implemented a web filter to protect against malware and ransomware infections and with good reason: Inappropriate Internet access leads to data breaches.

38% of surveyed companies said they had experienced a data breach in the past 12 months as a result of employees visiting non-work-related websites, most commonly webmail services (15%) and social media sites (11%).

Other reasons for implementing a web filter were to block illegal activity (84%) and discourage inappropriate Internet access (83%). 66% of organizations use a web filter to avoid legal liability while 57% used web filters to prevent data leakage and block hacking.

Web Filtering from TitanHQ

TitanHQ has developed an innovative web filtering solution for businesses that helps them improve their security posture, block malware downloads, prevent employees from visiting phishing websites, and limit personal Internet use.

WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based web filtering solution that can be easily implemented by businesses, without the need for any hardware purchases or software downloads. The solution has excellent scalability, is cost effective, and easy to configure and maintain.

The solution provides Internet content control and malware protection regardless of the device being used to access the Internet and the solution can provide malware protection and allow content control for on-site and remote workers.

Granular controls ensure accurate content filtering without overblocking, time-based filters can be set to restrict access to certain websites at busy times of the day, and different policies can be applied at the organization, department, group, or individual level.

If you have not yet implemented a web filtering solution, are unhappy with your current provider or the cost of your solution, contact the TitanHQ team today and find out more about WebTitan.

Largest Data Breach of 2018: 340 Million-Records Exposed Online

A database of U.S. consumer information has been left unsecured online by the marketing firm Exactis. At 340 million records, this is the largest data breach of 2018.

The Largest Data Breach of 2018 by Some Distance

You will probably be unaware of the existence of the Palm Coast, FL-based data broker Exactis, but chances are the firm has heard of you. The firm holds 3.5 billion consumer, business and digital records while its email database contains 500 million consumer emails and 16 million business emails.

One database maintained by the firm contains around 340 million records, including 230 million consumer records and 110 million records of businesses. That database was recently discovered to have been left exposed on the Internet. The database could be accessed without any authentication. Anyone who knew where to look would have been able to access the database. At least one person did.

Security researcher Vinny Troia who runs NightLion Security, a New York consultancy firm, was searching online for instances of Elasticsearch databases. Troia was curious about the security of the databases as they are designed to be easily queried over the Internet. Troia searched for the databases using the search engine Shodan. Shodan is a search engine that allows people to find specific types of computers that are connected to the Internet.

Troia discovered more than 7,000 Elasticsearch databases that were visible on publicly accessible servers with U.S. IP addresses and set about determining which, if any, had data exposed on the Internet. He wrote a script that queried those databases and searched for keywords that would indicate they contained sensitive information – fields such as date of birth.

2 Terabytes of Data Exposed

One database stood out due to the amount of data it contained – around 2 terabytes of data. The database was not protected by a firewall and could be accessed without authentication. The database was discovered to contain huge numbers of detailed records about consumers. Troia noted, “It seems like this is a database with pretty much every U.S. citizen in it… it’s one of the most comprehensive collections I’ve ever seen.”

He discovered the records contained up to 150 data fields, with highly detailed information on consumers including names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and descriptions of the person, including information such as the estimated value of their home, hobbies, mortgage provider, ethnic group, whether the individual owns any stock, their religion, if they have made political donations, number of children, people in the household, whether they are smokers, if they own any pets…the list goes on and on.

While the database did not contain Social Security numbers or financial information, the data could be used by scammers in spear phishing campaigns, telephone scams and social engineering attacks. Around half the records contained email addresses, making it particularly valuable to spammers.

Troia said he is certainly not the only person who has searched for Elasticsearch databases, and the database was easy to find using Shodan: A popular search engine with white hat and black hat hackers. It is unknown whether anyone else found the database, but Troia explains that it would not be hard for anyone to find it. He could not be sure how long the database had been exposed online, but said it was at least 2 months.

After identifying an IP address which he believed belonged to the owner, Troia contacted two hosting companies, one of which notified Exactis. Troia also alerted the FBI. Exactis made contact with Troia and the database has now been secured and is no longer accessible.

At 340 million records, this the largest data breach of 2018 and one of the largest breaches ever discovered. The breach is more than twice the size of the Experian data breach of last year, although not on the scale of the Yahoo data breach that contained around 3 billion records. However, the types of information exposed potentially make the breach far more serious than Yahoo’s.

A database containing such detailed information on consumers should not have been left exposed. Safeguards should have been in place to alert the company that security protections had either been turned off or had not been implemented.

This security breach certainly stands out in terms of scale, but it is sadly only one of many that have been identified in recent months involving databases left freely accessible over the Internet.

FBI 2017 Internet Crime Report: $1.4 Billion Lost to Business Email Compromise Scams

The FBI has published its 2017 Internet Crime Report, which details the main types of online crime reported to its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

In 2017, businesses and consumers reported 301,580 incidents to IC3 and more than $1.4 billion was lost to cybercriminals. Of course, these are only reported losses. Many Internet crimes go unreported, so the true losses are likely to be substantially higher.

2017 saw more complaints of Internet crime than any other year since 2013 when the reports first started to be published.

Identity theft and corporate data breaches often make the headlines, although by far the biggest area of criminal activity are business email compromise (BEC) scams – or email account compromise (EAC) when the scams target individuals.

Business Email Compromise Scams – The Main Cause of Losses in 2017

More than three times as much money was lost to BEC and EAC scams than the next highest cause of losses: confidence fraud/romance scams. In 2017, the reported losses from BEC/EAC scams was $676,151,185.

Business email compromise and email account compromise scams involve the use of a compromised email account to convince individuals to make transfers of funds to accounts controlled by criminals or to send sensitive data via email.

BEC scams usually start with compromising the email account of the CEO, CFO or another board member – which is why this type of scam is also known as CEO fraud. Access to the executive’s email account is gained via brute force guessing of passwords or, most commonly, social engineering techniques and phishing scams.

Once access to the email account is gained, an email conversation is initiated with another member of the workforce, typically an individual responsible for making wire transfers. That individual is instructed to make a transfer to a new bank account – that of the attacker. Alternatively, the data of employees is requested – W2 Forms – or other sensitive company information.  These scams often involve large transfers of funds. In 2017 there were 15,690 such scams reported to IC3, making the average loss $43,094.

Phishing Extensively Used in Internet Crime

Phishing, vishing, smishing and pharming were grouped together. They ‘only’ resulted in losses of $29,703,421, although the losses from these crimes are difficult to calculate accurately. The losses associated with phishing are grouped in many other categories. BEC scams often start with a phishing attack and research from Cofense suggests 91% of corporate data breaches start with a phishing email.

The 2017 Internet Crime Report reveals the extent to which phishing is used in cyberattacks. There were 25,344 phishing incidents reported to IC3 in 2017 – the third highest category of Internet crime behind non-payment/non-delivery and personal data breaches. Many personal data breaches start with a phishing email.

Ransomware Attack Mitigation Proves Expensive

In addition to the threat of BEC attacks, the FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Report warns of the threat from ransomware. Ransomware only resulted in reported losses of $2.3 million and attracted 1,783 complaints, although it is worthy of a mention due to the considerable disruption that attacks can cause. The reported losses – in terms of the ransoms paid – may be low, but actual losses are substantially higher. The ransomware attack on the City of Atlanta in April 2018 saw a ransom demand of $52,000 issued, although the actual cost of mitigating the attack was reported to be at least $2.7 million in April. However, in June 2018, city Information Management head Daphney Rackley indicated a further $9.5 million may be required over the coming year to cover the cost of mitigating the attack.

Tech Support Fraud Losses Increased by 90%

Another hot topic detailed in the 2017 Internet Crime Report is tech support fraud – This is a widespread scam where individuals are fooled into thinking they have a computer problem such as a virus or malware installed, when they do not. Calls are made warning of detected malware, and users are directed to malicious websites via phishing emails where pop-up warnings are displayed, or screen lockers are used.

These scams usually require the victim to pay the scammer to remove a fictitious infection and provide them with remote access to a computer. In addition to the scammers charge for removing the infection, sensitive data such as usernames, passwords, Social Security numbers, and bank account information are often stolen. 2017 saw a 90% increase in losses from tech support scams.

Protecting Against Internet Crime

One of the most important defenses for businesses to implement to protect against the leading cause of financial losses is an advanced spam filtering solution. Business email compromise scams often start with a phishing email and effective spam filtering will reduce the potential for email accounts to be compromised. Ransomware and malware are also primarily distributed via email. An advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan will block 100% of all known malware and prevent malicious messages from being delivered to inboxes.

Security awareness training is also essential. Malicious messages will make it past spam filtering solutions on occasion, so it is important for all end users to be prepared for malicious messages and taught security best practices. Training should be provided to every individual in the company with a corporate email account or access to an Internet facing computer, including board members.

A web filtering solution is also an important consideration. A web filter is an additional anti-malware control that can be used to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites – either via links in emails, redirects, or through general web browsing. A web filter, such as WebTitan, will block ransomware and malware downloads and prevent end users from accessing the types of phishing websites used to initiate BEC attacks.

These three cybersecurity measures should be part of all organizations’ cybersecurity defenses. They will help to prevent businesses from being included in next year’s FBI Internet Crime Report.

Fake WannaCry Ransomware Campaign Detected

UK users are being targeted with a fake WannaCry ransomware alert threatening file encryption if a ransom demand is not paid.

Fraudsters Claim WannaCry is Back!

In May last year, WannaCry ransomware attacks brought many companies to a standstill, with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) a notable victim. Now, a little more than a year later, a new WannaCry ransomware campaign is being run, or so the sender of a batch of phishing emails claims.

Email recipients are told “WannaCry is back!” and are warned that their devices have been hacked and ransomware has been installed.

Email recipients are warned that the threat actors have perfected their ransomware and this time around antivirus software and firewalls will not prevent file encryption. Further, recovery will not be possible if the ransom is not paid.

Failure to pay, or any attempt to try to remove the ransomware without paying the ransom demand will result in permanent file deletion. Further, the ransomware can propagate and infect the local network, cloud data, and remote devices, regardless of operating system.

Email recipients are told that the ransomware has already been deployed and payment of a ransom of 0.1 Bitcoin – Around $650 – must be made to stop the attack. Email recipients are given just 24 hours to pay the ransom before data are permanently deleted.

The email is signed by WannaCry-Hack-Team, and so far, more than 300 copies of the message have been reported to the UK government’s National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, Action Fraud.

A Phishing Scam that Preys on WannaCry Fears

There are some signs that the email is not a genuine threat, and instead is just preying on fears about another WannaCry style attack.

Ransomware attackers encrypt data then ask for a ransom to unlock files. They do not send a warning saying they will encrypt data if a ransom is not paid. That tactic may be used by some DDoS attackers, but not by ransomware threat actors.

Email recipients are told that this version of WannaCry will work on “any version of Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux.” The original version of WannaCry took advantage of a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block. WannaCry only affected vulnerable Windows devices that had not been patched. The ransomware was not a threat on other operating systems.

Phishing campaigns often include spelling mistakes in the subject line and message body and this email is no different. The subject line is – “Attantion WannaCry”.

This is simply a phishing campaign that attempts to extort money from the recipient. No ransomware has been installed and the attackers cannot encrypt any files.

If you receive such a message threatening file encryption unless you pay a ransom, report the message to Action Fraud (UK), US-CERT (phishing-report@us-cert.gov) in the United States, or the government Fraud and Cyber Crime agency in your country of residence and delete the email and do not pay any Bitcoin ransom.

Of course, not all ransomware threats are as benign as this and many attackers will be able to encrypt your data. To protect against real ransomware threats ensure you create multiple backups of your files, deploy a spam filtering solution, ensure your operating system and all software are kept up to date, and keep your anti-virus protection up to date.

Don’t Be Fooled by this Adidas Phishing Scam!

A new Adidas phishing scam has been detected that offers free shoes and money. The messages claim that Adidas is celebrating its 69th anniversary and is giving 2,500 lucky customers a free pair of Adidas sneakers and a free $50 a month subscription.

The scam is targeting users on mobile devices in specific locations. If the user clicks the link in the message and is determined not to be using a mobile device, they will be directed to a webpage that displays a 404 error. The scam will also only run if the user is in the United States, Pakistan, India, Norway, Sweden, Nigeria, Kenya, Macau, Belgium or the Netherlands.

Provided the user is on a mobile device and located in one of the targeted countries, a series of four questions will be asked. The responses to the questions are irrelevant as all users will be offered a “free” pair of sneakers after answering the four questions.

In order to be able to claim the prize, users must share the offer with their contacts on WhatsApp. Regardless of whether the user does this, they will be directed to another webpage where they are asked further questions and are finally offered a “free” pair of sneakers worth $199.

There is another catch. In order to claim their free sneakers, the user must pay $1. The user is advised that they will also be charged $49.99 a month for the subscription at the end of the month if they do not cancel. The user is told they can cancel at any point.

On the payment screen the user is told that the payment will be processed by organizejobs.net. Proceeding with the payment will see the user charged $1, followed by the subscription cost of $49.99 in 7 days.

The campaign is being run on WhatsApp, although similar scams have been conducted via email and SMS messages. Several variations along the same theme have also been identified using different shoe manufacturers.

The link supplied in the WhatsApp message appears to be genuine, using the official domain for the country in which the user is located. While the domain looks correct, this is an example of a homoglyph attack. Instead of the domain adidas.de, the i is replaced with a vertical line – a homoglyph attack.

These types of scams are commonplace. Homoglyph scams take advantage of the ability to use non-ASCII characters in domain names. Similar scams use a technique called typosquatting – where domains closely matching real brand names are registered: Incorrect spellings for instance, such as “Addidas” instead of Adidas, or with an i replaced with a 1 or an L.

In this case, the attackers appear to be earning a commission for getting users to sign up, although disclosing debit and credit card details could easily see the information used to run up huge bills or drain bank accounts.

There are various warning signs indicating this is an Adidas phishing scam. Close scrutiny of the domain will reveal it is incorrect. The need to share the message to contacts is atypical, being notified of a charge after being told the shoes are free, the failure to ask the user to choose a pair of shoes or even select their size, and an odd domain name is used to process payment. However, even with these tell-tale signs that the offer is not genuine, this adidas phishing scam is likely to fool many people.

Be warned. If you receive any unsolicited WhatsApp message offering you free goods, assume it is a scam.

Ransomcloud Attack Encrypts Gmail and Office 365 Cloud Email Accounts

A new type of ransomware attack could be on the horizon. The attack method, termed ransomcloud, was developed by a white hat hacker to demonstrate just how easy it is to launch an attack that results in cloud-based emails being encrypted.

A successful attack will see the attacker gain full control of a cloud-based email account, allowing them to deploy a ransomware payload that encrypts all emails in the account. This method could also be used to gain full control of the account to use for spamming and other malicious purposes.

The attack works on all cloud-based email accounts that allow third party applications account access via OAuth, which includes Gmail and Office 365 accounts.

The ransomcloud attack starts with a phishing email. In this example, the message appears to have been sent by Microsoft offering the user the opportunity to sign up and use a new email spam filtering service called AntiSpamPro. The email includes the Microsoft logo and appears to be a new Microsoft service that provides the user with better spam protection.

In order to take advantage of this service, the user is required to click a hyperlink in the email to give authorization for the new service to be installed. Clicking the link will result in a popup window appearing that requires the user to authorize the app to access their email account.

Such a request is perfectly reasonable, as an app that offers protection against spam would naturally require access to the email account. Emails would need to be read in order for the app to determine whether the messages are genuine or spam. Clicking on ‘accept’ would give the attacker full control of the email account via an OAuth token. If access is granted, the user loses control of their email account.

In this example, ransomware is installed which encrypts the body text of all emails in the account. An email then appears in the inbox containing the ransom note. The user is required to pay a ransom to regain access to their emails.

Additionally, the attacker could claim the email account as their own and lock the user out, send phishing emails to all the user’s contacts, access sensitive information in emails, use email information to learn about the individual to use in future attacks such as spear phishing campaigns to gain access to their computer.

The ransomcloud attack method is astonishingly simple to pull off and could be adopted by cybercriminals as a new way of extorting money and gaining access to sensitive information.

TitanHQ’s WebTitan Added to Datto Networking Solution Suite

TitanHQ, the award-winning provider of email and web security solutions to SMBs, has partnered with the networking giant Datto. The partnership has seen TitanHQ integrate its cutting-edge cloud-based web filtering solutions – WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi – into the Datto networking range.

Datto was formed in 2007 and fast became the leading provider of MSP-delivered IT solutions to SMBs. The company selects the best products and tools for its MSP partners to allow them to meet the needs of their clients and improve their bottom lines.

The company’s solutions include data backup and disaster recovery solutions, cloud-to-cloud data protection services, managed networking services, professional services automation, remote monitoring and management tools, and a wide range of security solutions.

Now that TitanHQ’s DNS-based web filtering solutions have been included, MSPs can offer their clients even greater protection from malware and phishing threats.

WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi use a combination of AI-based services and human-supervised machine learning to block Internet-based threats. The solutions provide real-time protection against malicious URLs and phishing sites by preventing end users from visiting malicious webpages. The solutions also allow companies to carefully control the Internet content that can be accessed through their wired and wireless networks.

The MSP-friendly solutions can be rapidly deployed by MSPs, without the need for site visits, software installations or additional hardware purchases. The multi-tenant solutions allow all client deployments to be managed through a single, intuitive administration console and can be configured in minutes.

MSPs are also offered multiple hosting solutions, including hosting WebTitan in their own environment, and the solutions can be provided in full white-label format.

“We are delighted that Datto has chosen TitanHQ as a partner in web security. By integrating TitanHQ’s secure content and web filtering service, we are well positioned to offer Datto MSPs a best of breed solution for their small to mid-size customers,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh.

“We pride ourselves in equipping our community of Managed Service Provider partners with the right products and tools to allow each and every customer to succeed,” said John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking. “With that in mind, I’m delighted to welcome TitanHQ as a security partner and look forward to growing our partnership.”  

TitanHQ is a sponsor of the upcoming DattoCon 2018 conference – The largest MSP event in the United States. The full TitanHQ team will be in attendance and Datto’s MSP partners can come and meet the team and see WebTitan in action.

In addition to showcasing WebTitan Cloud, MSPs will also be able to find out more about SpamTitan – TitanHQ’s 100% cloud-based spam filtering solution, and ArcTitan – Its MSP-friendly email archiving solution.

DattoCon 2018 runs from June 18-20 in Austin, Texas at the Fairmont Austin Hotel. The TitanHQ team will be at booth #66 in the exhibition hall for all three days of the conference.

Worst Passwords of 2018 and Bad Password Trends Revealed

A recent study of commonly used passwords by Dashlane/Virginia Tech has revealed some of the worst passwords of 2018.

For the study, Virginia Tech researchers provided Dashlane with an anonymized copy of 61.5 million passwords. The password list was created from 107 individual lists of passwords available on forums and in data archives, many of which have come from past data breaches.

The analysis of the list revealed many common themes. These include the names of favorite sports teams: In the UK, common password choices were liverpool, chelsea and arsenal – the leading soccer teams in the premier league.

Popular brand names were also chosen, such as cocacola, snickers, mercedes, skittles, mustang, and playboy. MySpace and LinkedIn were also common choices, alarmingly, to secure accounts on those sites.

Bands and movie references were often used, with Spiderman, superman, starwars, and pokemon all common choices as were expressions of frustration – a**hole, bull****, and f***you were often chosen.

The Dashlane report shows that despite warnings about the risk of using easy-to-remember passwords, end users are still choosing weak passwords. One particularly worrying trend is the use of seemingly secure passwords, which are anything but secure.

1q2w3e4r5t6y and 1qaz2wsx3edc may appear to be relatively secure passwords; however, how they are created makes them easy to guess. They are certainly better than “password” or letmein” but not by much.

The passwords are created by a process that Dashlane calls password walking – the use of letters, numbers, and symbols next to each other on a keyboard. Simpler variations on this theme are qwerty and asdfghjk. To get around password rules, the same technique is used with the incorporation of capital letters and symbols.

The study shows that even though many companies require end users to set strong passwords, employees ignore password advice or choose passwords that pass security checks but are really not that secure.

What Makes a Good Password?

A good password will not be in the dictionary, will not use sequential numbers or be created by walking fingers along a keyboard. Brand names and locations should also be avoided. Passwords should be a minimum of 8 characters and should be unique – never used before by the user, and never reused on a different platform.

Passwords should include at least one capital letter, lowercase letter, symbol and number. If all lowercase letters are used, each letter in the password could be one of 26 letters. Add in capitals and the possible options double to 52. There are 10 digits, increasing the options to 62, and let’s say 32 special characters, bringing the total up to 94 options. With so many options and possible combinations, randomly generated passwords are particularly difficult to guess. However, randomly generated passwords are also particularly difficult to remember.

Recently, that problem has been recognized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has revised its advice on passwords (See special publication 800-63B).

While the use of random strings of characters and symbols makes passwords particularly difficult to guess and more resilient to hackers’ brute force password guessing tactics, end users have trouble remembering their passwords and that leads to particularly risky behaviors such as writing the password down or storing it in a browser.

NIST now suggests the use of longer passphrases rather than passwords – Iboughtacarwithmyfirstpaypacket or ifihadahorseIwouldcallitDave– for example. Passphrases are more user-friendly and easier to remember, but are still secure – provided a sufficient number of characters are used. If passphrases are encouraged rather than difficult to remember passwords, end users will be less likely to set passwords that meet strong password guidelines but are not particularly secure – LetMeIn! for example.

The minimum number of characters can be set by each organization, but rather than restricting the characters at 16, companies should consider expanding this to at least 64. They should also accept all printable ASCII characters, including spaces, and UNICODE characters.

Since some end users will attempt to set weak passwords, it is important to incorporate controls that prevent commonly used passwords from being chosen. Each password choice should be checked against a blacklist before it can be set.

New Spam Campaign Uses Malicious Excel Web Query Files to Deliver Malware

A new spam campaign has been identified that uses Excel Web Query files to deliver malware. In this case, the .iqy files are used to launch PowerShell scripts that give the attackers root access to a device. .iqy files are not usually blocked by spam filters, making the technique effective at silently delivering malware.

The spam emails are being delivered via the Necurs botnet. Three spam campaigns have been detected by Barkly that use these attachments, although further campaigns are almost certain to be launched.

Excel Web Query files obtain data from an external source and load it to Excel. In this case, the external data is a formula which is executed in Excel. The formula is used to run PowerShell scripts which, in at least one campaign, downloads a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) called FlawedAmmyy Admin – a tweaked legitimate remote administration tool that gives the attacker full control of a computer, allowing any number of malicious programs to be installed.

The emails masquerade as purchase orders, unpaid invoices, and scanned documents – Common themes used in spam emails to deliver malware. These spam email campaigns often use Word documents with malicious macros. Macros are usually disabled by default. Through security awareness training, end users have been conditioned not to enable macros on documents from unknown senders, thus preventing malware downloads.

Since most end users will not be used to receiving .iqy files, these attachments should arouse suspicion. Microsoft has also built in warnings to prevent these files from being run by end users. If an end user attempts to open one of these files it will trigger a warning alerting the user that the file may not be safe as it enables an external connection. The end user would be required to click enable before the connection is made and data is pulled into Excel.  A second warning would then be displayed, again requiring authorization. Only if both warnings are ignored will the script be allowed to run that downloads the malicious payload.

There are two steps you can take to protect your endpoints and networks from these types of attacks. The first is to configure your email spam filter to quarantine any emails containing .iqy attachments. SpamTitan allows certain attachment types to be blocked such as executable files and iqy files. You can set the policy to quarantine, reject, or delete the emails. Since these types of files are not usually sent via email, rejecting the messages or deleting them is the safest option.

You should also cover the use of these files in your security awareness training sessions and should consider sending an email alert to end users warning them about the threat.

Further information on steps you can take to prevent malware infections spread via email can be found in our anti-spam tips page. You can find out more about the capabilities of SpamTitan by calling the sales team:

  • USA: +1 5859735070
  • UK/EU: +44 (0)2476993640
  • Ireland: +353 91 545555
  • Mid East: +971 4 3886998

Beware of These World Cup 2018 Phishing Scams

World Cup 2018 phishing scams can be expected over the coming weeks. There has already been a spike in World Cup related phishing emails and many malicious World Cup-themed domains have been registered.

World Cup 2018 Phishing Scams Detected!

The World Cup may be two weeks away, but interest in the soccer extravaganza is already reaching fever pitch. The World Cup is watched by billions of people around the world, and there are expected to be around 5 million soccer fans expected to travel to Russia to see the matches live between June 14 to July 15. With such interest in the sporting event it should be no surprise that cybercriminals are poised to take advantage.

Kaspersky Lab has already detected several World Cup 2018 phishing scams, with many of the early scams using emails to direct soccer fans to malicious websites offering the opportunity to buy tickets for the games.

Fake Tickets and Fake Touts

With tickets for the big matches scarce and demand outstripping supply, many fans are turning to touts to secure tickets to the big matches. Steps have been taken by FIFA to make it harder for ticket touts to operate, such as only allowing one ticket for a game to be purchased by any football fan. That individual is also named on the ticket. However, it is still possible for individuals to purchase tickets for guests and touts are taking advantage. The price for guest tickets is extortionate – up to ten times face value – and that price will likely rise as the event draws closer.

Such high prices mean the opportunity of snapping up a cheaper ticket may seem too good to miss. However, there are plenty of scammers who have registered websites and are posing as touts and third parties that have spare tickets.

Purchasing a ticket through any site other than the official FIFA is a tremendous risk. The only guarantee is that the price paid will be substantially higher, but there are no guarantees that a ticket will be sent after payment is made. Even if a ticket is purchased from an unofficial seller, it may turn out to be a fake. Worse, paying with a credit or debit card could see bank accounts emptied.

Kaspersky Lab detected large numbers of malicious domains set up and loaded with phishing pages to take advantage of the rush to buy tickets ahead of the tournament. The websites are often clones of the official site.To add credibility, domains have been purchased that include the words worldcup2018 and variations along that theme. Cheap SSL certifications have also been purchased, so the fact that a website starts with HTTPS is no guarantee that a site is legitimate. Tickets should only be purchased through the official FIFA website.

Competition Scams

Why pay a high price for a ticket when there is a chance of obtaining one for free? Many competition-themed World Cup 2018 phishing emails have been detected. These emails are sent out in the millions offering soccer fans the change to win a free ticket to a match. To be in with a chance, the email recipient is required to register their contact details. Those details are subsequently used for further phishing and spamming campaigns. Stage two of the scam, where the ‘lucky’ registrant is told they have one tickets, involves opening an email attachment, which installs malware.

Notifications from FIFA and Prizes from FIFA World Cup 2018 Partners

Be wary of any communications from FIFA or any company claiming to be an official World Cup Partner. Kaspersky Lab has detected several emails that appear, at face value, to have been sent by FIFA or its World Cup 2018 partners. These emails usually request the recipient to update their account for security reasons.

Visa is one brand in particular that is being spoofed in World Cup 2018 phishing emails for obvious reasons. Fake security alerts from Visa require credit card credentials to be entered on spoofed websites. If any security alert is received, visit the official website by typing in the official domain into the browser. Do not click the links contained in the emails.

Cheap Travel Accommodation Scams

Airline tickets to cities staging World Cup matches may be difficult to find, and with more than 5 million fans expected in Russia for the World Cup, accommodation will be scarce. Scammers take advantage of the scarcity of flights and accommodation and the high prices being charged and offer cheap deals, usually via spam email. A host of malicious websites have been set up mimicking official travel companies and accommodation providers to fool the unwary into disclosing their credit card details. Retail brands are also being spoofed, with offers sent via email for cut price replica shirts and various other World Cup apparel.

These World Cup 2018 phishing scams can usually be identified from the domain name, which needs to be checked carefully. These websites are often clones and are otherwise indistinguishable from the official websites.

Team and Match News and World Cup Gossip

As the World Cup gets underway, there are likely to be waves of spam emails sent with news about matches, team information, betting odds, and juicy gossip about teams and players. Every major sporting event sees a variety of lures sent via spam email to get users to click links and visit malicious websites. Hyperlinks often direct users to webpages containing fake login pages – Facebook and Google etc. – where credentials need to be entered before content is displayed.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a World Cup 2018 Phishing Scam

These are just a few of the World Cup 2018 phishing scams that have been detected so far and a great deal more can be expected by the time the World Cup winner lifts the trophy on July 15.

Standard security best practices will help soccer fans avoid World Cup 2018 phishing scams. Make sure you:

  • Only buy tickets from the official FIFA website
  • Only book travel and accommodation from trusted vendors and review the vendors online before making a purchase
  • Never buy products or services advertised in spam email
  • Never opening attachments in World Cup-themed emails from unknown senders
  • Do not click hyperlinks in emails from unknown senders
  • Never click a hyperlink until you have checked the true domain and avoid clicking on shortened URLs
  • Ensure all software, including browsers and plugins, is patched and kept fully up to date
  • Ensure anti-virus software is installed and is kept up to date
  • Consider implementing a third-party spam filtering solution to prevent spam and malicious messages from being delivered – Something especially important for businesses to stop employees from being duped into installing malware on work computers.
  • Stay alert – If an offer seems to good to be true, it most likely is

Cybersecurity Breaches Survey Shows Almost Half of UK Businesses Experienced a Cyberattack in 2017

The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, & Sport has published its Cybersecurity Breaches Survey for 2018. The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI, was a quantitative and qualitative survey conducted in the winter of 2017 on 1,519 UK businesses and 569 UK registered charities.

The purpose of the cybersecurity breaches survey was to identify the nature and significance of cyberthreats, determine how prevalent cyberattacks are, and what is being done to prevent such attacks.

The cybersecurity breaches survey revealed UK businesses and charities are being targeted by cybercriminals intent on gaining access to sensitive information, email accounts, corporate networks, and bank accounts and attacks are on the rise.

43% of businesses and 19% of charities experienced a cybersecurity breach or cyberattack in the past 12 months with large businesses and charities more likely to be attacked. 72% of large businesses – those with more than 250 employees – and 73% of large charities – with incomes over £5 million – experienced a cyberattack in the past year.

While not all security breaches result in material losses such as theft of data or personal information, when there is a material outcome the costs can be significant. The average costs of breaches with a material outcome is £3,100 for businesses and £1,030 for charities, although the larger the business, the greater the cost. Medium sized businesses have average costs of £16,100 and large businesses have an average breach cost of £22,300.

The high probability of a breach occurring and the high cost of remediating breaches has seen cybersecurity become a priority for senior managers. The percentage of businesses (74%) and charities (53%) that say cybersecurity is a high priority has risen year on year and the percentage of businesses (30%) and charities (24%) that say cybersecurity is a low priority has fallen once again. Cybersecurity is also now a high priority for many small businesses (42%) having risen from 33% last year when the survey was conducted. Cybersecurity may be a high priority, but just 3 out of 10 businesses and under a quarter of charities have board members with a responsibility for cybersecurity.

The most common type of breaches and cyberattacks involve fraudulent emails directing employees to malicious websites. 75% of UK businesses and 74% of UK charities that experienced a breach in the past year experienced these types of attacks. Email impersonation attacks were the second most common breach type with 28% of UK businesses and 27% of UK charities saying they had experienced these types of incidents in the past 12 months.

Not only are these types of attacks common, they also cause the most disruption. 48% of UK businesses and charities said fraudulent emails and being directed to malicious websites caused the most disruption out of all cybersecurity breaches experienced, well ahead of malware infections which were rated as the most disruptive cyberattacks by 13% of UK businesses and 12% of UK charities.

The cybersecurity breaches survey clearly highlights the importance of implementing robust defenses to prevent malicious emails from being delivered to employees’ inboxes and to ensure staff are well trained and taught how to identify malicious emails.

TitanHQ offers two cybersecurity solutions that can help UK businesses block the most common and most disruptive types of cyberattack. SpamTitan is a powerful spam filtering solution that blocks more than 99.97% of spam emails and 100% of known malware from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

WebTitan is a cloud-based web filtering solution that prevents employees from visiting malicious websites, such as those used in phishing emails to steal credentials and spread malware.  Implementing these solutions is far cheaper than having to cover the cost of remediating cyberattacks.

There is also clearly a problem with training in the UK. Only 20% of UK businesses and 15% of UK charities have had staff attend internal or external cybersecurity training in the past year, even though security awareness training has clearly been shown to be effective at reducing susceptibility to email-based attacks.

TSB Phishing Scams Soar as Hackers Capitalize on Bank’s IT Misfortunes

According to data from the UK’s fraud tracking team, Action Fraud, there has been a massive rise in TSB phishing scams in the past few weeks. Customers of TSB have been duped into handing over their online banking credentials to scammers. Action Fraud is now receiving around 10 complaints a day from TSB customers who have fallen for phishing scams.

A Nightmare Scenario for TSB Customers

The problem that made the scams possible was the separation of the TSB banking system from Lloyds Bank, of which TSB was part until 2015. TSB moved over to a new core banking system provided by Banco Sabadell, the Spanish bank which took over TSB. That transition happened in April. Unfortunately for TSB and its customers, it did not go smoothly.

While migrating customer information to the new core banking system, many customers were locked out of their accounts and were unable to access their money. Some customers were presented with other customers’ bank accounts when they logged in online, and there have been cases of customers having money taken from their accounts without authorization, and transfers have been made to the wrong bank accounts. It is almost June, and the problems have still not been completely resolved.

Customers starting to experience problems over the weekend of 21/22 April and the problems were understandably covered extensively by the media with many customers taking to Social Media sites to vent their spleens over the chaos. For scammers, this was too good an opportunity to miss.

Action Fraud had received more than 320 reports of TSB phishing scams in the first three weeks in May. There were only 30 reports of such scams in the entire month of April. That’s an increase of 969%.

TSB Phishing Scams Soar

The situation was ideal for scammers. Many TSB customers could not access their accounts, so there was little chance of customers realizing they had been defrauded until it was too late.

TSB staff were overworked dealing with the IT problems and its helplines were overwhelmed with calls from customers unable to access their money. When customers realized they had been scammed they were unable to contact the bank quickly. There have been reports of customers seeing money taken from their accounts while they were logged in, yet they could not get through to customer support to stop transfers being made.

The TSB phishing scams used a combination of SMS messages, emails, and telephone calls to obtain customers banking credentials. As is typical in these types of scams, customers were sent links and were asked to use them to login to their accounts. The websites the bank’s customers visited looked exactly how they should. The only sign that the website was not genuine was the URL, otherwise the website was a carbon copy of the genuine TSB website.

Many victims of the scam had received an email or text messages, which was followed up with a voice call to obtain the 2-factor authentication code that would allow the scammers to gain access to the victim’s account. While the requests from the scammers may have seemed unusual or suspicious, this was an unusual situation for TSB customers.After that information was obtained, the scammers went to work and emptied bank accounts.

According to data from cybersecurity firm Wandera, TSB has now jumped to second spot in the list of the financial brands most commonly used in impersonation attacks. Prior to the IT problems, TSB wasn’t even in the top five.

With the bank’s IT issues ongoing, the TSB phishing scams are likely to continue at high levels for some time to come. The advice to TSB customers is to be extremely wary of any email, text message or call received from TSB bank. Scammers can spoof email addresses and phone numbers and can make text messages appear as if they have been sent by someone else.

Data Breach Costs Have Increased by 36% for SMBs in the Past Year

Data breach costs have risen considerably in the past year, according to a recent study of corporate IT security risks by Kaspersky Lab. Compared to 2016, the cost of a data breach for enterprises increased by 24% in 2017, and by even more for SMBs, who saw data breach costs rise by 36% in 2017.

The average cost of data breach recovery for an average-sized enterprise is now $1.23 million per data breach, while the cost for SMBs is now $120,000 per incident.

For the study, Kaspersky Lab surveyed 6,614 business decision makers. Respondents were asked about the main threats they have to deal with, cybersecurity incidents they have experienced in the past year, how much they spent resolving those incidents, and how that money was spent.

When a data breach is experienced, the costs can quickly mount. Enterprises and SMBs must contain the attack, scan systems for malware and backdoors, and pay for improvements to security and infrastructure to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future. Staff need to receive additional training, new staff often need to be brought in, and third-parties hired to assist with recovery and security assessments.

Data breach recovery can take time and considerable effort. Additional wages have to be paid to staff assisting in the recovery process, there can be losses due to system downtime, repairing damage to a brand prove costly, credit monitoring and identity theft recovery services may have to be provided to breach victims, insurance premiums rise, credit ratings drop, and there may also be regulatory fines to cover.

The largest component of data breach costs is making emergency improvements to security and infrastructure to prevent further attacks, which is around $193,000 per breach for enterprises, the second biggest cost for enterprises is repairing reputation damage, which causes major increases in insurance costs and can severely damage credit ratings. On average, this costs enterprises $180,000. Providing after-the-event security awareness training to the workforce was the third biggest cost for enterprises at $137,000.

It is a similar story for SMBs who typically pay around $15,000 for each of the above three cost categories. A lack of inhouse expertise means SMBs often have to call in cybersecurity experts to assist with making improvements to security and for forensic analyses to determine how access to data was gained.

Data breaches affecting third-party hosted infrastructure are the costliest for SMBs, followed by attacks on non-computing connected devices, third party cloud services, and targeted attacks. For enterprises, the costliest data breaches are targeted attacks followed by attacks on third-party infrastructure, attacks on non-computing connected devices, third party cloud services, and leaks from internal systems.

The high cost of recovering from a data breach means a successful cyberattack on an SMB could be catastrophic, forcing the company to permanently shut its doors. It is therefore no surprise that businesses are allocating more of their IT budgets to improving their security defenses. Enterprises are now spending an average of $8.9 million on cybersecurity each year, while SMBs spend an average of $246,000. Even though the cost of additional cybersecurity defenses is high, it is still far lower than the cost of recovering from data breaches.

While data breach prevention is a key driver for greater investment in cybersecurity, that is far from the only reason for devoting a higher percentage of IT budgets to security. The main drivers for increasing security spending are the increasing complexity of IT infrastructure (34%), improving the level of security expertise (34%), and management wanting to improve security defenses (29%).

VPNFilter Malware Installed on More than Half a Million Routers

A suspected nation-state sponsored hacking group has succeeded in infecting at least half a million routers with VPNFilter malware.

VPNFilter is a modular malware capable of various functions, including the monitoring of all communications, launching attacks on other devices, theft of credentials and data, and even destroying the router on which the malware has been installed. While most IoT malware infections – including those used to build large botnets for DDoS attacks – are not capable of surviving a reboot, VPNFilter malware can survive such a reset.

The malware can be installed on the type of routers often used by small businesses and consumers such as those manufactured by Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link and MikroTik, as well as network-attached storage (NAS) devices from QNAP, according to security researchers at Cisco Talos who have been monitoring infections over the past few months.

The ultimate aim of the attackers is unknown, although the infected devices could potentially be used for a wide range of malicious activities, including major cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, such as disrupting power grids – as was the case with BlackEnergy malware.

Since it is possible for the malware to disable Internet access, the threat actors behind the campaign could easily prevent large numbers of individuals in a targeted region from going online.

While the malware has been installed on routers around the world – infections have been detected in 54 countries – the majority of infections are in Ukraine. Infections in Ukraine have increased significantly in the past few weeks.

While the investigation into the campaign is ongoing, the decision was taken to go public due to a massive increase in infected devices over the past three weeks, together with the incorporation of advanced capabilities which have made the malware a much more significant threat.

While the researchers have not pointed the finger at Russia, they have identified parts of the code which are identical to that used in BlackEnergy malware, which was used in several attacks in Ukraine. BlackEnergy has been linked to Russia by some security researchers. BlackEnergy malware has been used by other threat actors not believed to be tied to Russia to the presence of the same code in both forms of malware is not concrete proof of any link to Russia.

The FBI has gone a step further by attributing the malware campaign to the hacking group Fancy Bear (APT28/Pawn Storm) which has links to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. Regardless of any nation-state backing, the sophisticated nature of the malware means it is the work of a particularly advanced hacking group.

Most of the attacked routers are aging devices that have not received firmware updates to correct known flaws and many of the attacked devices have not had default passwords changed, leaving them vulnerable to attack. It is not entirely clear exactly how devices are being infected although the exploitation of known vulnerabilities is most probable, rather than the use of zero-day exploits; however, the latter has not been ruled out.

Some progress has been made disrupting the VPNFilter malware campaign. The FBI has seized and sinkholed a domain used by the malware to communicate with the threat group behind the campaign. Without that domain, the attackers cannot control the infected routers and neither identify new devices that have been infected.

Ensuring a router is updated and has the latest firmware will offer some degree of protection, as will changing default passwords on vulnerable devices. Unfortunately, it is not easy to tell if a vulnerable router has been infected. Performing a factory reset of a vulnerable router is strongly recommended as a precaution.

Rebooting the device will not eradicate the malware, but it will succeed in removing some of the additional code downloaded to the device. However, those additional malware components could be reinstalled once contact is re-established with the device.

Beware of GDPR Phishing Scams

Several GDPR phishing scams have been detected in the past few days as scammers capitalize on the last-minute rush by companies to ensure compliance ahead of the May 25, 2018 GDPR deadline. Be wary about any GDPR related email requests – they may be a scam.

GDPR Provides Scammers with a New Opportunity

You will probably already be sick of receiving email requests from companies asking if they can continue sending you emails, but that is one of the requirements of GDPR. GDPR requires consent to be obtained to use – or continue to use – personal information. With previous privacy policies failing to comply with the new EU law, email requests are being sent to all individuals on mailing lists and those who have previously registered on websites to re-obtain consent.

All companies that have dealings with EU residents are required to comply with GDPR, regardless of their location. Emails are therefore being sent from companies far and wide. Consumers are receiving messages from companies that they may have forgotten they had dealings with in the past. If personal data is still on file, email requests are likely to be sent asking for permission to retain that information.

The masses of emails now being sent relating to GDPR has created an opportunity for scammers. GDPR phishing scams have been developed to fool users into revealing sensitive information under the guise of GDPR related requests. There have been many GDPR phishing scams identified in recent weeks. It is ironic that a regulation that aims to improve privacy protections for EU residents is being used to violate privacy.

Apple Spoofed in New Phishing Scam

Phishers often spoof large, familiar brands as there is a greater chance that the recipient of the message will have an account with that company. The most popular global brands – Netflix, PayPal, Apple, and Google are all commonly impersonated.

These impersonation scams can be highly convincing. A request is sent via email that seems perfectly reasonable, the emails appear to have been sent from the company, and the email address of the sender is spoofed to appear genuine. The emails contain branding and images which are familiar, and the messages can be almost indistinguishable from genuine communications.

The aim is to get users to click on an embedded hyperlink and visit the company’s website and login. There is usually an urgent call to action, such as a security alert, threat of account closure, or loss of services.

Apple is one such brand that has recently been impersonated in GDPR phishing scams. The aim of the attackers is to get Apple customers to login to a fake site and disclose their credentials. Once the credentials have been obtained, the scammers have access the user’s account, which includes financial information, credit card details, and other personal information.

Airbnb GDPR Phishing Scams Detected

Redscan has detected Airbnb GDPR phishing scams recently. Users of its home sharing platform are required to update their contact details due to GDPR law in order to continue to use the platform. The request is entirely reasonable given so many companies are sending similar emails.

The emails claim to be from Airbnb customer service, contain the correct images and branding, and direct users to a familiar looking website that differs only in the domain name. Users are asked to re-enter their contact information and payment card details.

Watch Out for GDPR Phishing Scams

These scams are just two of several. More can be expected over the coming days in the run up to the compliance deadline and beyond. To avoid falling for the scams, make sure you treat all GDPR-related requests as potentially suspicious.

The easiest way to avoid the scams is to visit the website of the brand by typing the correct address directly into the browser or using your usual bookmark. It should be clear when you login if you need to update your information because of GDPR.

Ransomware Attacks on the Decline but the Threat Level is Still Critical

Ransomware attacks on businesses appear to be declining. In 2017 and 2018 there has been a marked decrease in the number of attacks. While this is certainly good news, it is currently unclear whether the fall in attacks is just a temporary blip or if the trend will continue.

Ransomware attacks may have declined, but there has been a rise in the use of cryptocurrency mining malware, with cybercriminals taking advantage in the high price of cryptocurrencies to hijack computers and turn them into cryptocurrency-mining slaves. These attacks are not as devastating or costly as ransomware attacks, although they can still take their toll, slowing down endpoints which naturally has an impact on productivity.

While ransomware attacks are now occurring at a fraction of the level of 2016 – SonicWall’s figures suggest there were 184 million attacks in 2017 compared to 638 million in 2016 – the risk of an attack is still significant.

Small players are still taking advantage of ransomware-as-a-service – available through darknet forums and marketplaces – to conduct attacks and organized cybercriminal gangs are conducting targeted attacks. In the case of the latter, victims are being selected based on their ability to pay and the likelihood of a payment being made.

These targeted attacks have primarily been conducted on organizations in the healthcare industry, educational institutions, municipalities and the government. Municipalities are targeted because massive disruption can be caused, and attacks are relatively easy to pull off. Municipalities typically do not have the budgets to devote to cybersecurity.

Attacks in healthcare and education industries are made easier by the continued use of legacy software and operating systems and highly complex networks that are difficult to secure. Add to that the reliance on access to data and not only are attacks relatively easy, there is a higher than average chance of a ransom being paid.

In the past, the aim of ransomware gangs was to infect as many users as possible. Now, targeted attacks are conducted with the aim of infecting as many end points as possible within an organization. The more systems and computers that are taken out of action, the greater the disruption and cost of mitigating the attack without paying the ransom.

Most organizations, government agencies, municipalities, have sound backup policies and can recover all data encrypted by ransomware without paying the ransom. However, the time taken to recover files from backups and restore systems – and the cost of doing so – makes payment of the ransom preferable.

The attack on the City of Atlanta shows just how expensive recovery can be. The cost of restoring systems and mitigating the attack was at least $2.6 million – The ransom demand was in the region of $50,000. It is therefore no surprise that so many victims have chosen to pay up.

Even though the ransom payment is relatively low compared to the cost of recovery, it is still far more expensive than the cost of implementing security solutions to prevent attacks.

There is no single solution that can block ransomware and malware attacks. Multi-layered defenses must be installed to protect the entire attack surface. Most organizations have implemented anti-spam solutions to reduce the risk of email-based attacks, and security awareness training is helping to eliminate risky behaviors and teach security best practices, but vulnerabilities still remain with DNS security often lacking.

Vulnerabilities in DNS are being abused to install ransomware and other malware variants and hide communications with command and control servers and call home addresses. Implementing a DNS-based web filtering solution offers protection against phishing, ransomware and malware by preventing users from visiting malicious websites where malware and ransomware is downloaded and blocking C2 server communications. DNS-based web filters also provide protection against the growing threat from cryptocurrency mining malware.

To mount an effective defense against phishing, malware and ransomware attacks, traditional cybersecurity defenses such as ant-virus software, spam filters, and firewalls should be augmented with web filtering to provide security at the DNS layer. To find out more about how DNS layer security can improve your security posture, contact TitanHQ today and ask about WebTitan.

Leominster School District Ransomware Attack Sees $10,000 Ransom Paid

Another school district has fallen victim to a ransomware attack, which has seen files encrypted and systems taken out of action for two weeks. The Leominster school district ransomware attack saw a ransom demand of approximately $10,000 in Bitcoin was issued for the keys to unlock the encrypted files, which includes the school’s entire student database.

School districts attacked with ransomware often face a difficult decision when ransomware is installed. Attempt to restore systems and recover lost data from backups or pay the ransom demand. The first option is time consuming, costly, and can see systems remain out of action for several days. The second option includes no guarantees that the attackers will make good on their promise and will supply valid keys to unlock the encryption. The keys may not be held, it may not be possible to unlock files, or a further ransom demand could be issued. There have been many examples of all three of those scenarios.

The decision not to pay the ransom demand may be the costlier option. The recent ransomware attack on the City of Atlanta saw a ransom demand issued in the region of $50,000. The cost of recovering from the attack was $2.6 million, although that figure does include the cost of improvements to its security systems to prevent further attacks.

School districts are often targeted by cybercriminals and ransomware offers a quick and easy way to make money. The attackers know all too well that data can most likely be recovered from backups and that the ransom does not need to be paid, but the cost of recovery is considerable. Ransom demands are set accordingly – high enough for the attackers to make a worthwhile amount, but low enough to tempt the victims into paying.

In the case of the Leominster ransomware attack, the second option was chosen and the ransom demand of was paid. That decision was taken after carefully weighing up both options. The risk that no keys would be supplied was accepted. In this case, they were supplied, and efforts are well underway to restore files and implement further protections to ensure similar incidents do not occur in the future.

Even though the ransom was paid, the school district was still without access to its database and some of its computer systems two weeks after the attack. Files were encrypted on April 14, but systems were not brought back online until May 1.

Unfortunately for the Leominster School District, ransom payments are not covered by its cyberinsurance policy, so the payment had to come from its general fund.

There is no simple way to defend against ransomware attacks, as no single cybersecurity solution will prove to be 100% effective at blocking the threat. Multiple attack vectors are used, and it is up to school districts to implement defenses to protect the entire attack surface. The solution is to defend in numbers – use multiple security solutions to create layered defenses.

Some of the most important defenses include:

  • An advanced firewall to defend the network perimeter
  • Antivirus and anti-malware solutions on all endpoints/servers
  • Vulnerability scanning and good patch management policies. All software, systems, websites, applications, and operating systems should be kept up to date with patches applied promptly
  • An advanced spam filtering solution to prevent malicious emails from being delivered to end users. The solution should block all executable files
  • Disable RDP if it is not required
  • Provide security awareness training for employees and teach staff and students the skills to enable them to identify malicious emails and stop risky behaviors
  • A web filtering solution capable of blocking access to malicious websites

The cost of implementing these solutions is likely to be far lower than the cost of a ransom payment and certainly lower than the cost of mitigating a ransomware attack.

The Cost of the Equifax Data Breach? $242 Million and Rising

The cost of the Equifax data breach has risen to more than $242 million, and that figure will continue to rise and could even double.

According to the Equifax financial report for the first quarter of 2018, the total spent on mitigation and preventative measures to avoid a further security breach is now $242.7 million.

The breach, which was made public in September 2017, affected 147.9 million customers, making it one of the largest data breaches ever discovered and certainly one of the most serious considering the types of data involved. Yahoo may have experienced much larger breaches, but the data exposed in those incidents was far less sensitive.

Fortunately for Equifax, it holds a sizable insurance policy against cybersecurity incidents. The policy will cover up to $125 million of the cost, minus a $7.5 million deductible. That insurance policy has already paid out $60 million, with $10 million in payments received in the first quarter of 2018.

The breakdown of cost of the Equifax data breach so far for Q1, 2018 is:

  • $45.7 million on IT security
  • $28.9 million on legal fees and investigation of the breach
  • $4.1 million on product liability
  • $10 million has been recovered from an insurance payout.

The net expenses from the breach in the first quarter of 2018 was $68.7 million. That is on top of the $114 million spent in the final quarter of 2017, which is broken down as $64.6 million on product costs and customer support, $99.4 million on professional fees, minus $50 million that was paid by its insurance carrier. The net spend so far for Q4, 2017 and Q1, 2018 is $140.5 million, although Equifax reports that the total costs related to the cybersecurity incident and incremental IT and data security costs has been $242.7 million.

Equifax has also reported that throughout 2018 and 2019 the firm will be investing heavily in IT and is committed to building an industry-leading data security system, although the firm has not disclosed how much it is expecting to spend, as the company does not have visibility into costs past 2018.

Equifax has predicted that there will be at least a further $275 million in expenses related to the cyberattack which must still be covered, although a further $57.5 million should be covered by its insurance policy.

While considerable costs have been incurred so far, the firm has done little to repair the reputational damage suffered as a result of the breach and has yet to hire many of the new staff it plans to bring in to help with the breach recovery, including a new CTO. The firm has said that it is taking a very aggressive approach in attracting the top talent in both IT and data security.

The high cost of the Equifax data breach to date, and the ongoing costs, is likely to make this the most expensive data breach of all time.

Atlanta Ransomware Attack Recovery Cost City $2.6 Million

The Atlanta ransomware attack that took IT systems and computers out of action and brought many municipal operations to a grinding halt has proven particularly costly for the city.

On March 22, 2018, ransomware was deployed on its network forcing a shutdown of PCs and systems used by some 8,000 employees. Those employees were forced to work on pen and paper while attempts were made to recover from the attack. With IT systems offline, many municipal services stopped entirely.

The attackers sent a ransom demand for approximately $50,000. By paying the ransom, the city could potentially have been given the keys to unlock the files encrypted by the SamSam ransomware variant used in the attack. However, there are never any guarantees decryption keys will be supplied. Many victims have received further demands for payment after the initial demand was paid, and there have been many cases where the attackers have not made good on their promise and did not supply any valid keys.

It is unclear whether the ransom payment was made, although that appears unlikely. The payment portal used by the attackers went offline shortly after the attack and the cleanup costs following the Atlanta ransomware attack have been considerable. The high cost suggests the city opted to recover its data and restore systems from backups.

In the immediate aftermath of the Atlanta ransomware attack, the city awarded emergency procurements to eight firms to assist with recovery efforts. The total cost of those services was $2,667,328.

The city spent $60,000 on incident response services, $50,000 on crisis communication services, and $60,000 on support staff augmentation. Secureworks was paid $650,000 for emergency incident response services, Two contracts were awarded to assist with its Microsoft cloud and Windows environments, including migrating certain on-premises systems to the cloud. Those two contracts totaled $1,330,000 and a further $600,000 was paid to Ernst & Young for advisory services for cyber incident response. The $2.6 million cost could rise further still.

Paying the threat actors who conducted the Atlanta ransomware attack could well have seen sizable savings made, although it would certainly not have cost $50,000. Some of the costs associated with recovery from the attack have been spent on improving security to prevent further incidents, and certainly to make recovery less costly. Those costs would still have to be recovered even if the ransom was paid.

What is clear however, is that $2.6 million paid on reactive services following a ransomware attack will not give tremendous value for money. Had that amount been spent on preventative measures prior to the attack, the city would have got substantially more value for every buck spent. Some industry experts have estimated the cost of preventative measures rather than reactive measures would have been just 20% of the price that was paid.

The attack revealed the City of Atlanta was unprepared and had failed to implement appropriate defenses. The city was vulnerable to attack due to the failure to apply security best practices, such as closing open ports on its systems and segmenting its network. The vulnerabilities made an attack far to easy. However, it would be unfair to single out the city as many others are in exactly the same position.

This incident should therefore serve as a stern warning to other cities and organizations that the failure to adequately prepare for an attack, implement appropriate defenses, and apply security best practices will likely lead to an incredibly costly attack.

It may be difficult to find the money to spend on ransomware attack prevention measures, but it will be much harder to find five times the cost to implement defenses and respond after an attack has taken place.

Orangeworm Threat Group Has Spent Three Years Conducting Targeted Attacks on the Healthcare Industry

A warning has been issued to the healthcare industry over an extensive campaign of targeted cyberattacks by the Orangeworm threat group. The Orangeworm threat group has been operating since 2015, but activity has been largely under the radar. It is only recently that the group’s activities have been identified and disclosed.

Attacks have been conducted on a range of industries, although the primary targets appear to be large healthcare organizations. 39% of confirmed attacks by the Orangeworm threat group have been on organizations in the healthcare industry, including large healthcare providers and pharmaceutical firms. IT service providers, manufacturers, and logistics firms have also been attacked, many of which have links to the healthcare industry.

Some of the IT service providers discovered to have been attacked have contracts with healthcare organizations, while logistics firms have been attacked that deliver medical equipment, as have manufacturers of medical devices. The aim appears to be to infect and investigate the infrastructure of the entire supply chain.

The Orangeworm threat group is using a custom backdoor, which is deployed once access to a network is gained. First the backdoor is deployed on one device, giving the Orangeworm threat group full control of that device. The backdoor is then aggressively spread laterally within a network via unprotected network shares to infect as many devices as possible with the Kwampirs backdoor. While some steps have been taken by the group to avoid detection, this lateral worm-like movement is noisy and easily detected. The threat group does not seem to be overly concerned about hiding its activity.

This attack method works best on legacy operating systems such as Windows XP. Windows XP is no longer supported, and even though the continued use of the operating system is risky and in breach of industry regulations, many healthcare organizations still have many devices operating on Windows XP, especially machines connected to imaging equipment such as MRI and X-Ray machines. It is these machines that have been discovered to have been infected with the Kwampirs backdoor.

Once access is gained, the group is spending a considerable amount of time exploring networks and collecting information. While the theft of patient health information is possible, this does not appear to be a financially motivated attack and systems are not sabotaged.

Symantec, which identified a signature which has allowed the identification of the backdoor and raised the alert about the Orangeworm threat group, believes this is a large-scale espionage campaign with the aim of learning as much as possible about the targets’ systems. What the ultimate goal of the threat group is, no one knows.

The method of spreading the backdoor does not have the hallmarks of nation-state sponsored attacks, which tend to use quieter methods of spreading malware to avoid detection. However, the attacks are anything but random. The companies that have been attacked appear to have been targeted and well researched before the attacks have taken place.

That suggests the Orangeworm threat group is a cybercriminal gang or small collective of hackers, but the group is clearly organized, committed to its goals, and is capable of developing quite sophisticated malware. However, even though the group is clearly capable, and has operated under the radar for three years, during that time no updates have been made to their backdoor. That suggests the group has been confident that they would not be detected, or that they simply didn’t see the need to make any updates when their campaign was working so well.

While espionage may be the ultimate aim, the Orangeworm threat group could easily turn to more malicious and damaging attacks. Once the backdoor has been installed on multiple devices, they would be under full control of the hackers. The group has the capability to deploy malware such as wipers and ransomware and cause considerable damage or financial harm.

The ease at which networks can be infiltrated and the backdoor spread should be of major concern for the healthcare industry. The attacks show just how vulnerable the industry is and how poorly protected many organizations are.

The continued use of outdated and unsupported operating systems, a lack of network segmentation to prevent lateral movement once access has been gained, the failure to protect network shares, and poor visibility of the entire network make these attacks far too easy. In fact, simply following security best practices will prevent such attacks.

The attacks by the Orangeworm threat group should serve as a wakeup call to the industry. The next wave of attacks could be far, far worse.

2017 Saw 24% Increase in Tech Support Scams

Microsoft has released new figures that show there has been a sizeable increase in tech support scams over the past year. The number of victims that have reported these scams to Microsoft increased by 24% in 2017. The true increase could be much higher. Many victims fail to report the incidents.

According to Microsoft, in 2017 there were 153,000 reports submitted from customers in 183 countries who had been fooled by such a scam. While not all of the complainants admitted to losing money as a result, 15% said they paid for technical support. The average cost of support was between $200 and $400, although many individuals were scammed out of much more significant amounts. While victims may not willingly pay much more to fix the fictitious problem on their computers, if bank account details are provided to the scammers, accounts can easily be drained. One victim from the Netherlands claims a scammer emptied a bank account and stole €89,000.

The rise in complaints about tech support scams could, in part, be explained by more scammers pretending to be software engineers from Microsoft, prompting them to report the incidents to Microsoft when they realize they have been scammed.

However, the rise in tech support scams is backed up by figures released by the FBI. Its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 86% more complaints in 2017 from victims of tech support scams. Around 11,000 complaints were received by IC3 about tech support scams last year and more than $15 million was lost to the scams.

It is easy to see why these scams are so attractive for would-be cybercriminals. In many cases, little effort is required to pull off the scam. All that is required in many cases is a telephone. Cold calling is still common, although many of the scams are now much more sophisticated and have a much higher success rate.

Email is also used. Some tech support scams involve warnings and use social engineering techniques to convince the recipient to call the helpline. Others involve malware, sent as an attachment or downloaded as a result of visiting a malicious website via a hyperlink supplied in the email.

Once installed, the malware displays fake warning messages that convince the user that they have been infected with malware that requires a call to the technical support department.

The use of popups on websites is common. These popups cannot be closed and remain on screen. Browser lockers are also common which serve the same purpose. To prompt the user to call the support helpline.

While many more experienced users would know how to close the browser – CTRL+ALT+DEL and shut down the browser via Windows Task Manager – less experienced users may panic and call the helpline number, especially when the popup claims to be from a well-known company such as Microsoft or even law enforcement.

The typical process used in these tech support scams is to establish contact by telephone, get the user to download software to remove a fictitious virus or malware that has previously been installed by the attackers. Remote administration tools are used that allows the scammer to access the computer. The user is convinced there is malware installed and told they must pay for support. Payment is made and the fictitious problem is fixed.

These techniques are nothing new, it is just that more cybercriminals have got in on the act and operations have been expanded due to the high success rate. Fortunately, there are simple steps to take that can prevent users from falling for these tech support scams.

To avoid becoming a victim of such a scam:

  • Never open any email attachments you receive from unknown senders
  • Do not visit hyperlinks in email messages from unknown senders
  • If contacted by phone, take a number and say you will call back. Then contact the service provider using verified contact information, not the details supplied over the telephone
  • If you are presented with a warning via a popup message or website claiming your device has been infected, stop and think before acting. Genuine warnings do not include telephone numbers and do not have spelling mistakes or questionable grammar
  • If you receive a warning about viruses online and want to perform a scan, download free antivirus software from a reputable firm from the official website (Malwarebytes, AVG, Avast for instance)
  • Before making any call, verify the phone number. Use a search engine to search for the number and see if it has been associated with scams in the past
  • ISPs and service providers rarely make unsolicited telephone calls to customers about viruses and technical issues and offer to fix the device

If you believe you are a victim of a tech support scam, report the incident to the service provider who was spoofed and notify appropriate authorities in your country of residence.

In the USA, that is the Federal Trade Commission or the FBI’s IC3; in the UK it is the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Center, the European Consumer Center in Ireland, or the equivalent organizations in other countries.

Active Shooter and Syrian Refugee Phishing Campaigns

Two new phishing campaigns have been detected in the past few days that have seen phishers sink to new lows. An active shooter phishing campaign has been detected that uses fear and urgency to steal credentials, while a Syrian refugee phishing campaign takes advantage of compassion to increase the probability of victims paying ransom demands.

Active Shooter Phishing Campaign

Mass shootings at U.S schools are on the rise, with the latest incident in Parkland, Florida placing teachers and other staff on high alert to the threat of campus shootings. A rapid response is essential when an active shooter alert is issued. Law enforcement must be notified quickly to apprehend the suspect and children and staff must be protected.

It is therefore no surprise that fake active shooter threats have been used in a phishing campaign. The emails are designed to get email recipients to click without thinking to receive further information on the threat and have been developed to cause fear and panic.

The active shooter phishing campaign was being used in a targeted attack on a Florida school – an area of the country where teachers are hypersensitive to the threat of shootings, given recent events in the state.

Three active shooter phishing email variants were reported to the anti-phishing and security awareness platform provider KnowBe4, all of which were used to direct recipients to a fake Microsoft login page where they were required to enter in their login credentials to view the alert. Doing so would give those credentials to the attacker.

The email subject lines used – although other variants could also be in use – were:

  • IT DESK: Security Alert Reported on Campus
  • IT DESK: Campus Emergency Scare
  • IT DESK: Security Concern on Campus Earlier

It is likely that similar campaigns will be conducted in the future. Regardless of the level of urgency, the same rules apply. Stop and think about any message before taking any action suggested in the email.

Syrian Refugee Phishing Campaign

Phishing campaigns often use crises, major world events, and news of sports tournaments to get users to click links or open email attachments. Any news that is current and attracting a lot of interest is more likely to result in users taking the desired action.

There have been several Syrian refugee phishing campaigns run in recent months that take advantage of compassion to infect users with malware and steal their credentials. Now researchers at MalwareHunterTeam have identified a ransomware campaign that is using the terrible situation in Syria to convince victims to pay the ransom – By indicating the ransom payments will go to a very good cause: Helping refugees.

Infection with what has been called RansSIRIA ransomware will see the victim presented with a ransom note that claims all ransom payments will be directed to the victims of the war in Syria. A link is also provided to a video showing the seriousness of the situation in Syria and links to a WorldVision document explaining the plight of children affected by the war.

While the document and images are genuine, the claim of the attackers is likely not. There is no indication that any of the ransom payments will be directed to the victims of the war. If infected, the advice is not to pay and to try to recover files by other means. If you want to do your bit to help the victims of the war, make a donation to a registered charity that is assisting in the region.

What is the Future of the System Administrator?

What is the future of the system administrator? What can sysadmins expect over the coming months and years and how are their jobs likely to change? Our predictions on what is likely to happen to the role in the foreseeable future.

What Does the Future of the System Administrator Have in Store?

The system administrator is an important role in any organization. Without sysadmins to deal with the day to day IT problems faced by organizations, the business would grind to a halt. Sysadmins also play an essential role in ensuring the security of the network by taking proactive steps to keep systems secure as well as responding to threats before they result in a data breach. With more cyberattacks occurring, increasingly complex IT systems being installed, and the fast pace of technological development, one thing is for sure: The future of the system administrator is likely to continue to involve long hours and hard work.

It is also easy to predict that the future of the system administrator will involve major changes to job descriptions. That has always been the case and never more so than now. There will be a continued need for on the job training and new systems and processes must continue to be learned. Being a System administrator is therefore unlikely to be boring.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is likely to be sustained growth in the profession for the next two years. While the forecast was previously 12% growth, this has now been reduced to 6% – similar to other occupations. The increased automation of many sysadmin tasks is partly responsible for this decline in growth, since businesses are likely to need less staff as manual processes are reduced. That said, the figures indicate demand for IT workers will remain high. Even with newer, faster technology being implemented, staff are still required to keep everything running smoothly.

XaaS, the Cloud, Virtualization, and VoIP Use to Grow

Unfortunately, while automation means greater efficiency, it can entail many hidden costs. For a start, with more automation it can become harder to determine the source of a problem when something goes wrong. Increased automation also means the system administrator must become even more knowledgeable. Automation typically involves scripting in various languages, so while you may have been able to get away with knowing Python or Windows PowerShell, you will probably need to become proficient in both, and maybe more.

If you are considering becoming a system administrator, now is the time to learn your first scripting language, as it will make it easier to learn others on the job if you understand the basics. It will also help you to get the job in the first place. The more you know, the better.

Use of the cloud is increasing, especially for backup and archiving, which in turn has reduced the need for server-centered tasks. While there has been a reduction in labor-intensive routine data operations, there has been a rise in the need to become proficient in the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

While many functions are now being outsourced through XaaS, it is still important to understand those functions. The future of the system administrator is likely to require XaaS to be screened and assessed to make sure those services match the IT needs of the organization. Sales staff will likely say their XaaS meets all business needs. Having an SA that understands the functions, the technology, and the needs of the business will be invaluable for screening out the services that are unsuitable.

To cut costs, many businesses are turning to VoIP. While this does offer considerable cost savings, businesses cannot tolerate less than the 99.999% of uptime offered by phone companies. The future of the system administrator is therefore likely to involve a thorough understanding of the dynamics of network load.

Virtualization has also increased, with a myriad of virtual networks making the SA’s job more complex. That means knowledge of switching and routing will have to improve.

Communication, Collaboration, and Negotiation Skills Required

The SA’s job no longer just involves studying manuals and learning new systems. SAs are now expected to be able to communicate more effectively, understand the business, and collaborate with others. SAs will need strong communication skills, must become excellent collaborators, and also be skilled at negotiation. Fortunately, there are many courses available that can help SAs improve in these areas.

Study Highlights Lack of Effective Security Awareness Training for Employees

Providing security awareness training for employees helps to eradicate risky behaviors that could potentially lead to a network compromise. Training programs should cover all the major threats faced by your organization, including web-based attacks, phishing emails, malware, and social engineering scams via the telephone, text message, or social media channels.

All too often, businesses concentrate on securing the network perimeter with firewalls, deploying advanced anti-malware solutions, and implementing other technological controls such as spam filters and endpoint protection systems, yet they fail to provide effective security awareness training for employees. Even when security awareness training programs are developed, they are often once-a-year classroom-based training sessions that are forgotten quickly.

If you view security awareness training for employees as a once-a-year checkbox item that needs to be completed to ensure compliance with industry regulations, chances are your training will not have been effective.

The threat landscape is changing rapidly. Cybercriminals often change their tactics and develop new methods to attack organizations. If your security program does not incorporate these new methods of attack, and you do not provider refresher security awareness training for employees throughout the year, your employees will be more likely to fall for a scam or engage in actions that threaten the security of your data and the integrity of your network.

Many Businesses Fail to Provide Effective Security Awareness Training for Employees

One recent study has highlighted just own ineffective many security awareness training programs are. Positive Technologies ran a phishing and social engineering study on ten organizations to determine how effective their security awareness programs were and how susceptible employees are to some of the most common email-based scams.

These include emails with potentially malicious attachments, emails with hyperlinks to websites where the employee was required to enter their login credentials, and emails with attachments and links to a website. While none of the emails were malicious in nature, they mirrored real-world attack scenarios.

27% of employees responded to the emails with a link that required them to enter their login credentials, 15% responded to emails with links and attachments, and 7% responded to emails with attachments.

Even a business with 100 employees could see multiple email accounts compromised by a single phishing campaign or have to deal with multiple ransomware downloads. The cost of mitigating real world attacks is considerable. Take the recent City of Atlanta ransomware attack as an example. Resolving the attack has cost the city $2.7 million, according to Channel 2 Action News.

The study revealed a lack of security awareness across each organization. While employees were the biggest threat to network security, accounting for 31% of all individuals who responded to the emails, 25% were team supervisors who would have elevated privileges. 19% were accountants, administrative workers, or finance department employees, whose computers and login credentials would be considerably more valuable to attackers. Department managers accounted for 13% of the responders.

Even the IT department was not immune. While there may not have been a lack of security awareness, 9% of responders were in IT and 3% were in information security.

The study highlights just how important it is not only to provide security awareness training for employees, but to test the effectiveness of training and ensure training is continuous, not just a once a year session to ensure compliance.

Tips for Developing Effective Employee Security Awareness Training Programs

Employee security awareness training programs can reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks and other email and web-based threats. If you want to improve your security posture, consider the following when developing security awareness training for employees:

  • Create a benchmark against which the effectiveness of your training can be measured. Conduct phishing simulations and determine the overall level of susceptibility and which departments are most at risk
  • Offer a classroom-style training session once a year in which the importance of security awareness is explained and the threats that employees should be aware of are covered
  • Use computer-based training sessions throughout the year and ensure all employees complete the training session. Everyone with access to email or the network should receive general training, with job and department-specific training sessions provided to tackle specific threats
  • Training should be followed by further phishing and social engineering simulations to determine the effectiveness of training. A phishing simulation failure should be turned into a training opportunity. If employees continue to fail, re-evaluate the style of training provided
  • Use different training methods to help with knowledge retention
  • Keep security fresh in the mind with newsletters, posters, quizzes, and games
  • Implement a one-click reporting system that allows employees to report potentially suspicious emails to their security teams, who can quickly take action to remove all instances of the email from company inboxes

Healthcare Industry Warned About Ongoing SamSam Ransomware Attacks

The SamSam ransomware attacks are continuing and the threat actors behind the campaign are showing no sign of stopping. So far in 2018 there have been at least 10 attacks in the United States, although many more may have gone unreported. Most of the known attacks have hit government agencies, municipalities, and healthcare organizations – all of whom are required to disclose attacks.

The attacks have caused massive disruption, taking computers, servers, and information systems out of action for several days to several weeks. Faced with the prospect of continued disruption to essential business processes, some organizations have chosen to pay the ransom – a risky strategy since there is no guarantee that the keys to unlock the encryption will work or even be supplied.

Others have refused to be extorted, often at great cost. One U.S. healthcare provider, Erie County Medical Center, took six weeks to fully recover from the attack. Mitigating the attack has cost several million dollars.

Multiple SamSam ransomware attacks are possible as the Colorado Department of Transportation discovered. After recovering from an attack in February, a second attack occurred in March.

It is not only financial harm that is caused by the attacks. Another hospital was attacked, and its outpatient clinic and three physician hospitals were unable to view histories or schedule appointments. The ransomware attack on the electronic medical record provider AllScripts saw its EMR systems taken out of action for several days. During that time, around 1,500 medical centers were unable to access patient health records resulting in many cancellations of non-critical medical appointments.

The March SamSam ransomware attack on the City of Atlanta brought many government services to a grinding halt. The extensive attack forced the shutdown of many systems, many of which remained inaccessible for six days. Bills and parking tickets couldn’t be paid and court proceedings had to be cancelled. The huge backlog of work continued to cause delays when systems were restored.

While the SamSam ransomware attacks have been concentrated on just a few industry sectors, the attacks are not necessarily targeted. What the victims have in common is they have been found to have easily exploitable vulnerabilities on public facing servers. They were attacked because mistakes had been made, vulnerabilities had not been patched promptly, and weak passwords had been set.

The threat actors behind the latest SamSam ransomware attacks have not been confirmed, although researchers at Secureworks believe the attacks are being conducted by the Gold LOWELL threat group. It is not known whether they are a defined group or a network of closely affiliated threat actors. What is known, whether it is GOLD LOWELL or other group, is they are largely staying under the radar.

What is more certain is the SamSam ransomware attacks will continue. In the first four weeks of January, the Bitcoin wallet used by the attackers showed $325,000 of ransom payments had been paid. The total in April is likely to be substantially higher. Hancock Health, one of two Indiana hospitals attacked this year, has confirmed that it paid a ransom demand of approximately $55,000 for the keys to unlock the encryption. As long as the attacks remain profitable and the threat actors can stay under the radar, there is no incentive to stop.

In contrast to many threat actors that use phishing emails and spam messages to deliver ransomware downloaders, this group exploits vulnerabilities on public-facing servers. Access is gained to the network, the attackers spend time navigating the network and moving laterally, before the ransomware payload is finally deployed. Detecting network intrusions quickly may prevent file encryption, or at least limit the damage caused.

The ongoing campaign has now prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthcare Cybersecurity Integration and Communications Center (HCCIC) to issue a warning to healthcare organizations about the continued threat of attacks. Healthcare organizations should heed the advice of the HCCIC and not only implement defences to block attacks but also to prepare for the worst. If contingency plans are made and incident response procedures are developed in advance, disruption and cost will be kept to a minimum.

That advice from the HCCIC to prevent SamSam ransomware attacks is:

  • Conduct vulnerability scans and risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities
  • Ensure those vulnerabilities are remediated
  • Ensure patches are applied promptly
  • Use strong usernames and passwords and two-factor authentication
  • Limit the number of users who can login to remote desktop solutions
  • Restrict access to RDP behind firewalls and use a VPN or RDP gateway
  • Use rate limiting to stop brute force attacks
  • Ensure backups are made for all data to allow recovery without paying the ransom and make sure those backups are secured
  • Develop a contingency plan to ensure that the business can continue to function while the attack is mitigated
  • Develop procedures that can easily be followed in the event of a ransomware attack
  • Implement defenses capable of detecting attacks quickly when they occur
  • Conduct annual penetration tests to identify vulnerabilities and ensure those vulnerabilities are rapidly addressed

Phishing Attacks Expected Following Massive MyFitnessPal Data Breach

Under Armour has experienced a massive MyFitnessPal data breach that has resulted in the personal information of 150 million users being accessed and stolen by a hacker.

The data relates to users of the mobile MyFitnessPal app and the web version of the fitness and health tracking platform. The types of data stolen in the MyFitnessPal data breach include hashed usernames, passwords and email addresses.

While payment card data is held by Under Armour, the information is processed and stored separately and was unaffected. Other highly sensitive information typically used for identity theft and fraud such as Social Security numbers was not obtained by the attacker.

The MyFitnessPal data breach is notable for the sheer volume of data obtained and is the largest data breach to be detected this year; however, the theft of hashed data would not normally pose an immediate risk to users. That is certainly the case for the passwords, which were hashed using bcrypt – a particularly strong hashing algorithm. However, usernames and passwords were only hashed using the SHA-1 hashing function, which does not offer the same level of protection. It is possible to decode SHA-1 hashed data, which means the information could potentially be accessed by the attacker.

Further, the attacker has had the data for some time. Under Armour became aware of the breach on March 25, 2018, but the attack took place more than a month before it was detected – some six weeks before the announcement about the data breach was made.

Given the method used to protect the usernames and passwords, the data can be considered accessible and it is almost certain the person or persons responsible for the attack will attempt to monetize the data. If the attacker cannot personally decrypt the data, it is certain that the data will be some to someone who can.

While it is possible that the bcrypt-encrypted passwords can be decoded, it is unlikely that decryption will be attempted. To do so would take a considerable amount of time and effort. Further, Under Armour is notifying affected users and is encouraging them to change their passwords as a precaution to ensure accounts cannot be accessed.

While MyFitnessPal accounts may remain secure, that does not mean that users of MyFitnessPal will be unaffected by the breach. The attacker – or current holders of the data – will no doubt use the 150 million email addresses and usernames for phishing campaigns.

Under Armour started notifying affected users four days following the MyFitnessPal data breach. Any user affected should login and change their password as a precaution to prevent their account from being accessed. Users also need to be alert to the risk from phishing.

Phishing campaigns related to the MyFitnessPal data breach can be expected although the attackers will likely develop a variety of phishing emails to target breach victims.

An incident of the scale of the MyFitnessPal data breach also poses a risk to businesses. If an employee was to respond to a phishing campaign, it is possible that they could download malware onto their work device – an action that could result in the business network being compromised.

Attacks on this scale are becoming far more common, and with huge volumes of email addresses now being used for phishing campaigns, advanced spam filtering solutions for businesses are now a necessity.

If you have yet to implement a spam filter, are unhappy with your current provider and the detection/false positive rate, contact TitanHQ to find out about SpamTitan – The leading anti-spam software for enterprises and SMBs.