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5-Award Haul for TitanHQ in Expert Insights Fall 2022 ‘Best-Of’ Awards

TitanHQ has collected 5 awards for its cybersecurity solutions in the Expert Insights Fall 2022 ‘Best-Of’ Awards across 5 product categories.

Expert Insights is an online platform for businesses that provides independent advice on business software solutions to help businesses make informed purchasing decisions about software solutions. The advice provided on the website is honest and objective, and the site features helpful guides to help businesses purchase with confidence. The site is used by more than 85,000 businesses each month, with the website helping more than 1 million readers each year.

Twice yearly, Best-of awards are given to the top ten solutions in each of the 41 product categories. The awards showcase the best quality solutions that are helping businesses to achieve their goals and defend against the barrage of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. The awards are based on several factors, such as the features of products, market presence, ease of use, and customer satisfaction scores, with the award winners chosen by the in-house team of editors. The editorial team conducts research into each solution to assess its performance, functionality, and usability, and assesses the reviews from genuine business users of the solutions.

TitanHQ collected five awards for its products in the Spring 2022 Best-of awards, and this has been followed up with another 5 Fall 2022 Best-of awards. TitanHQ was given a Best-of award for SafeTitan in the Phishing Simulation and Security Awareness Training categories, SpamTitan Cloud received an award in the Email Security category, WebTitan Cloud got an award in the Web Security category, and ArcTitan won in the Email Archiving category. Further, ArcTitan Email Archiving was rated the top solution in the Email Archiving category and SpamTitan was rated the top solution in the Email Security category.

There were several big winners at the Fall 2022 Expert Insights Best-of awards, with TitanHQ joining companies such as ESET, CrowdStrike, and Connectwise in winning big.

“We are honored that TitanHQ was named as a Fall 2022 winner of Expert Insights Best-Of award for phishing simulation, email security, security awareness training, web security and email archiving” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh.  “Our cloud-based platform allows partners and MSPs to take advantage of TitanHQ’s proven technology so they can sell, implement and deliver our advanced network security solutions directly to their client base”.

TitanHQ Adds Several New Features and Enhancements to the WebTitan DNS Filter

WebTitan Cloud is an award-winning DNS filter that prevents access to malicious websites and allows businesses to control the web content users can access with precision. This week, TitanHQ has announced the release of a new version of WebTitan Cloud, that includes new features to improve usability, security, protection for remote workers, and provides greater insights into DNS requests. These new features now form part of an industry-leading feature set that is in a cloud-delivered solution that is easy to set up, use, and maintain.

New UI with Advanced Reporting Features

If you are a current WebTitan Cloud user, the first change you will notice is the new user interface which provides easy access to all WebTitan Cloud features. The enhancements provide intuitive, advanced, relevant, and easy-to-digest data, through new interactive reports and data visualization tools, which are embedded into the UI to improve the user experience.

The advanced security reports show malware-infected clients, malware-infected domains, malware-infected users, blocked phishing sites, blocked phishing domains, and blocked phishing sites by user, and the view can be customized by date and client IP. New reports show behavior, blocked sites, and trends to provide insights into network use and threats. These reports have been added based on the feedback received by WebTitan Cloud users.

Interactive Threat Intelligence with DNS Data Offload

The latest version of WebTitan Cloud provides users with easier access to valuable threat intelligence to aid IT decision-making, network troubleshooting, and security planning. Users can now list DNS request history on screen, download DNS request logs, view all DNS data to gain valuable insights into activity, and easily extract DNS query data for sophisticated integrations and advanced data analysis.

DNSSEC Security Enhancements

WebTitan Cloud now benefits from security enhancements to protect against DNS attacks by strengthening authentication using Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC). DNSSEC uses digital cryptographic signatures to verify the origin and integrity of data during the DNS resolution process to protect against malicious DNS poisoning attacks. Users of WebTitan Cloud can implement DNSSEC through a simple and straightforward process to improve security.

WebTitan OTG Improvements for Protecting Off Network Users

The WebTitan On-the-Go (OTG) agent allows users to extend the protection of WebTitan Cloud to off-network users, no matter where they connect to the Internet. WebTitan OTG was introduced some time ago; however, the latest release includes several enhancements. The JSON Config filters have been replaced for OTG devices, and the agent used to protect, manage, and monitor off-network users has been significantly improved. It is also much easier to add and update exceptions to OTG devices through an easy-to-use interface.

“This WebTitan release is hitting so many key pillars of success for TitanHQ. The data offload feature has been requested by many customers and creates real differentiation for our solution in the market. This coupled with our new advanced reporting were major requests from our MSP customers,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ. “Finally, security is at the heart of what we do and are, the addition of DNSSEC just continues to add to our credentials.”

New Reverse Proxy Phishing-as-a-Service Helps Low-Skilled Hackers Bypass MFA

When multifactor authentication is set up on accounts, attempts to access those accounts using stolen credentials will be prevented, as in addition to a correct username and password, another factor must be provided to authenticate users. Phishing attacks may allow credentials to be stolen, but that does not guarantee accounts can be accessed. More companies are implementing multifactor authentication which means phishing attacks need to be more sophisticated to bypass the protection provided by multifactor authentication.

One of the ways that multifactor authentication can be bypassed is by using a reverse proxy. In a phishing attack, an email is sent to a target and a link is provided to a malicious website hosting a phishing form that spoofs the service of the credentials being targeted – Microsoft 365 for example. Instead of just collecting the login credentials and using them to try to remotely access the user’s account, a reverse proxy is used.

The reverse proxy sits between the phishing site and the genuine service that the attacker is attempting to access and displays the login form on that service. When the credentials are entered, they are relayed in real-time to the legitimate service, and requests are returned from that service, such as MFA requests. When the login process is successfully completed, a session cookie is returned which allows the threat actor to access the genuine service as the victim. The session cookie can also contain the authentication token. In these attacks, once the session cookie has been obtained, the victim is usually presented with a notification telling them the login attempt has failed or they are directed to another site and will likely be unaware that their credentials have been stolen and their account is being accessed.

These attacks allow the victim’s account to be accessed for as long as the session cookie remains valid. If it expires or is revoked, the attacker will lose access to the account. To get around this and gain persistent access, account details may be changed or other authentication methods will be set up.

These types of phishing attacks are much more sophisticated than standard phishing attacks, but the extra effort is worth the investment of time, money, and resources. Many advanced persistent threat actors use reverse proxies in their phishing campaigns and have developed their own custom reverse proxies and tools.  There are, however, publicly available kits that can be used in phishing campaigns such as Modlishka, Necrobrowser, and Evilginx2. These kits can be used at a cost and allow MFA to be bypassed, although they can be complicated to set up and use.

Now a new phishing-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform has been identified – EvilProxy – that is being pushed on hacking forums. EvilProxy allows authentication tokens to be stolen from a range of vendors including Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and more, according to Resecurity which recently reported on the phishing kit.

EvilProxy lowers the bar considerably and makes conducting reverse proxy phishing attacks far simpler. The service includes instructional videos, provides a user-friendly graphical interface, and even supplies templates of cloned phishing pages for stealing credentials and auth tokens. Through the graphical interface, threat actors can set up and manage their phishing campaigns with ease. EvilProxy comes at a cost, starting at $150 for 10 days up to $400 for a month. While the service is not cheap, the potential rewards can be considerable. EvilProxy allows low-skill threat actors to gain access to valuable accounts, which could be used or sold on to other threat actors such as ransomware gangs.

Multifactor authentication is strongly recommended as it will block the majority of attacks on accounts; however, it can be bypassed by using reverse proxies. Protecting against reverse proxy phishing attacks requires a defense-in-depth approach. An email security solution – SpamTitan for example – should be implemented to block the initial phishing email. A web filter – WebTitan – should be used to block attempts to visit the malicious websites used in these man-in-the-middle attacks. Security awareness training is important for training employees on how to recognize and avoid phishing threats, and employers should conduct phishing simulation tests as part of the training process. TitanHQ’s SafeTitan platform allows businesses to conduct regular training and phishing simulations with ease.

Vote for SpamTitan in the PeerSpot 2022 User Choice Awards!

For more than 10 years, PeerSpot (formerly IT Central Station) has been helping tech pros make intelligent decisions on the best information technology solutions to implement to ensure they get the solutions that perfectly address the needs of their businesses. The PeerSpot Buying Intelligence Platform is powered by the world’s largest community of enterprise tech buyers and bridges the gap between vendors and buyers. Vendors are helped through the voice of their customers, and enterprise tech buyers receive relevant and practical advice to help them make better purchasing decisions. The platform provides in-depth reviews of products, online forums, and tech buyers have access to direct Q&A support.

This year sees PeerSpot launch its first Annual User’s Choice Award program to recognize the products that are helping businesses to achieve their goals. Customers of enterprise technology vendors are invited to vote for their favorite B2B Enterprise Technology products across 11 product categories.

In 2022, those product categories are:

  • Endpoint Protection for Business
  • Firewalls
  • Backup and Recovery Software
  • Network Monitoring Software
  • HCI
  • All-Flash Storage Arrays
  • Email Security
  • Ethernet Switches
  • Application Security Tools
  • Functional Testing Tools
  • Rapid Application Development Software

In order for a solution to be included in the relevant category, it must be amongst the highest-rated products on the PeerSpot Buying Intelligence Platform. That requires a product to have generated significant user engagement on the platform and to have been rated highly by verified users of the solutions.

The winners in each category will be decided by popular vote.

TitanHQ is proud to have had its SpamTitan solution included as one of the top spam filtering, anti-phishing, and anti-malware solutions in the email security category. SpamTitan provides layered protection for enterprises, SMBs, and managed service providers and blocks email-based threats such as phishing, malware, spam, viruses, and botnets. The solution incorporates signature- and behavior-based detection to block malware threats and predictive technologies to anticipate zero-minute threats.  SpamTitan is much loved by users not just for its performance, but also ease of set up, use, maintenance, price, and the industry-leading customer support provided by TitanHQ. SpamTitan has an overall star rating of 4.6/5 on the platform.

If you love using SpamTitan and it has helped your business block more threats, cut down on the resources you have had to devote to email security, or saved you money, TitanHQ encourages you to vote for SpamTitan. Voting will take around a minute of your time. Votes are being accepted until September 16th, 2022, and the winners in each category will be announced by PeerSpot on October 25, 2022.

Vote for SpamTitan Email Security Here

Common Security Awareness Training Mistakes to Avoid

Technology is vital for defending against cyberattacks, but it is important not to neglect employee training. Training the workforce on how to recognize and avoid threats should be a key part of your security strategy, but if you want to get the best return on your investment it is important to avoid these common security awareness training mistakes.

Why Security Awareness Training is Essential

Data from the ransomware remediation firm, Coveware, shows phishing is the main way that ransomware gangs gain initial access to business networks, and IBM reports that phishing is the main way that data breaches occur. In 2021, 40% of all data breaches started with a phishing email. Businesses should implement technologies to block these attacks, such as a spam filter, antivirus software, and a web filter; however, even with these defenses in place, threats will arrive in inboxes, they can be encountered over the Internet, or via instant messaging services, SMS, or over the phone. Unless you totally isolate your business from the outside world, employees will encounter threats.

It is therefore important to provide security awareness training to teach employees how to recognize and avoid threats and to educate them on cybersecurity best practices that they should always follow. Security awareness training is concerned with equipping employees with the skills they need to play their part in the overall security of the organization, to give them practice at detecting threats, and build confidence. Through training, you can create a human firewall to add an extra layer to your cybersecurity defenses.

Security Awareness Training Mistakes to Avoid

It is important to avoid these common security awareness training mistakes, as they can seriously reduce the effectiveness of your training.

Infrequent training

Creating a training course that covers all security best practices and threats to educate the workforce is important, but if you want to change employee behavior and get the best return on your investment, it is important to ensure that your training is effective. If you provide a once-a-year training session, after a few weeks the training may be forgotten. One of the most common mistakes with security awareness training is not providing training often enough. Training should be an ongoing process, provided regularly. You should therefore be providing training regularly in small chunks. A 10-minute training session once a month is much more likely to change behavior than a once-a-year training session.

Not making training fun and engaging

Cybersecurity is a serious subject, but that does not mean that training cannot be enjoyable. If your training course is dull and boring, your employees are likely to switch off, and if they are not paying attention, they will not take the training on board. Use a third-party security awareness training course that includes interactive, gamified, and fun content that will engage employees, and use a variety of training materials, as not everyone learns in the same way.

Using the same training course for all employees

Don’t develop a training course and give the same course to everyone. Use a modular training course that teaches the important aspects of security, but tailor it to user groups, departments, and roles. Training should be relevant. There is no point in training everyone how to recognize specific threats that they will never encounter.

Not conducting phishing simulations

Training and then testing is important to make sure that the training content has been understood, but that is unlikely to change employee behavior sufficiently. The best way to reinforce training and change employee behavior is by conducting phishing simulations. These simulations should be relevant, reflect real-world threats, and should be conducted regularly. Phishing simulations will show you how employees respond to threats when they are completing their work duties and are not in a training setting. If a phishing simulation is failed, it is a training opportunity. Provide targeted training to employees who fail, specific to the mistake they made.

Not providing training in real-time

Intervention training is the most effective. When an employee makes a security mistake, training should be automatically triggered, such as when an employee fails a phishing simulation or takes a security shortcut. If the employee is immediately notified of the error and is told where they went wrong, that will be much more effective at changing behavior than waiting until the next scheduled training session.

Speak with TitanHQ About Security Awareness Training

TitanHQ offers a security awareness training and phishing simulation platform for businesses – SafeTitan – that makes workforce training simple. The platform includes an extensive library of gamified, fun, and engaging content on all aspects of security to allow businesses to create customized training for all members of the workforce and automate phishing simulations.

The platform is easy to set up, use, and customize, and the platform is the only security awareness training solution that provides intervention training in real-time in response to employees’ security errors. For more information contact TitanHQ and take the first step toward creating a human firewall.

What is Callback Phishing?

Phishing attacks are mostly conducted via email but there has been a major increase in hybrid phishing attacks over the past 12 months, especially callback phishing. Here we explain what callback phishing is, why it poses such a threat to businesses, and why threat actors are favoring this new approach.

What is Callback Phishing?

Email phishing is used for credential theft and malware distribution, but one of the problems with this type of phishing is most businesses have email security solutions that scan inbound emails for malicious content. Phishing emails and malicious files distributed via email are often identified as such and are rejected or quarantined. Some threat actors conduct voice phishing, where an individual is contacted by telephone, and attempts are made to trick them into taking an action that benefits the scammer using a variety of social engineering tactics.

Callback phishing is a type of hybrid phishing where these two methods of phishing are combined. Initially, an email is sent to a targeted individual or company that alerts the recipient to a potential problem. This could be an outstanding invoice, an upcoming payment or charge, a fictitious malware infection or security issue, or any of a long list of phishing lures. Instead of further information being provided in an attachment or on a website linked in the email, a telephone number is provided. The recipient must call the number for more information and to address the issue detailed in the email.

The phone number is manned by the threat actor who uses social engineering techniques to trick the caller into taking an action. That action is usually to disclose credentials, download a malicious file, or open a remote desktop session. In the case of the latter, the remote desktop session is used to deliver malware that serves as a backdoor into the victim’s computer and network.

This hybrid approach to phishing allows threat actors to get around email security solutions. The only malicious element in the initial email is a phone number, which is difficult for email security solutions to identify as malicious and block. That means the emails are likely to reach their targets.

Major Increase in Callback Phishing Attacks

Callback phishing was adopted by the Ryuk ransomware threat group in 2019 to trick people into installing BazarBackdoor malware, in a campaign that was dubbed BazarCall/BazaCall. Typically, the lure used in these attacks was to advise the user about an upcoming payment for a subscription or the end of a free trial, with a payment due to be automatically taken unless the trial/subscription is canceled by phone.

The Ryuk ransomware operation is no more. The threat actors rebranded as Conti, and the Conti ransomware operation has also now shut down; however, three threat groups have been formed by members of the Conti ransomware operation – Silent Ransom, Quantum, and Zeon – and all have adopted callback phishing as one of the main methods for gaining initial access to victims’ networks for conducting ransomware attacks. These three groups impersonate a variety of companies in their initial emails and trick people into believing they are communicating with a genuine company. The aim is to get the user to establish a remote desktop session. While the user is distracted by the call, a second member of the team uses that connection to install a backdoor or probe for ways to attack the company, without the user being aware what is happening.

Callback phishing is also used by other threat groups for credentials theft and malware distribution, often by impersonating a cybersecurity firm and alerting the user to a security threat that needs to be resolved quickly. These attacks see the user tricked into installing malware or disclosing their credentials. According to cybersecurity firm Agari, phishing attacks increased by 6% from Q1, 2022 to Q2, 2022, and over that same time frame hybrid phishing attacks increased by an incredible 625%.

How to Protect Against Callback Phishing Attacks

As is the case with other forms of phishing, the key to defending against attacks is to implement layered defenses. Email security solutions should be implemented that perform a range of checks of inbound emails to identify malicious IP addresses. Email security solutions such as SpamTitan incorporate machine learning mechanisms that can detect emails that deviate from those normally received by an organization. Multi-factor authentication should be implemented on accounts to block attempts to use stolen credentials.

The best defense against callback phishing is to provide security awareness training to the workforce. Employees should be told about the social engineering tactics used in these attacks, the checks everyone should perform before responding to any email, and the signs of callback phishing to look out for. Callback phishing simulations should also be conducted to gauge how susceptible the workforce is to callback phishing. A failed simulation can be turned into a training opportunity to proactively address the lack of understanding.

TitanHQ offers a comprehensive security awareness training platform for businesses – SafeTitan – that covers all forms of phishing and the platform included a phishing simulator for conducting phishing tests on employees. For more information, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

BEC Attacks on Businesses are Increasing: How To Improve Your Defenses Against These Damaging Attacks

Business Email Compromise (BEC), also known as Email Account Compromise (EAC), is one of the most financially damaging types of cyberattacks, and attacks have been increasing. These attacks involve gaining access to business email accounts, often the email account of the CEO or CFO, and using those accounts to send emails to staff that has responsibility for making payments and tricking them into wiring funds to an attacker-controlled account. The attacks can also be conducted to make changes to payroll information to get employees’ salaries deposited to attacker-controlled accounts.

BEC scams have resulted in losses in excess of $43 billion over the past 5 years according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and that is just complaints submitted to its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In 2021 alone, almost $2.4 billion in losses to BEC attacks were reported to IC3.

Anatomy of a BEC Attack

BEC attacks require considerable effort by threat actors, but the rewards from a successful attack are high. BEC attacks often see fraudulent transfers made for hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases several million. Companies are researched, individuals to target are identified, and attempts are made to compromise their accounts. Accounts can be compromised through phishing or brute force attempts to guess weak passwords.

With access to the right email accounts, the attacker can study the emails in the account. The usual communication channels can be identified along with the style of emails that are usually sent. The attacker will identify contracts that are about to be renewed, invoices that will soon be due, and other regular payments to try to divert. Timely and convincing emails can then be sent to divert payments and give the attacker sufficient time to move the funds before the scam is uncovered.

A recent report from Accenture suggests the rise in ransomware attacks is helping to fuel the rise in BEC attacks. Ransomware gangs steal data before encrypting files and publish the data on their data leak sites. The stolen data can be used to identify businesses and employees that can be targeted, and often includes contract information, invoices, and other documents that can cut down on the time spent researching targets and identifying payments to divert. Some ransomware gangs are offering indexed, searchable data, which makes life even easier for BEC scammers.

How to Improve Your Defenses Against BEC Attacks

Defending against BEC attacks can be a challenge for businesses. Once an email account has been compromised, the emails sent from the account to the finance department to make wire transfers can be difficult to distinguish from genuine communications.

Use an Email Security Solution with Outbound Scanning

An email security solution such as SpamTitan can help in this regard, as all outbound emails are scanned in addition to inbound emails. However, the key to blocking attacks is to prevent the email accounts from being compromised in the first place, which is where SpamTitan will really help. SpamTitan protects against phishing emails using multiple layers of protection. Known malicious email accounts and IP addresses are blocked, other checks are performed on message headers looking for the signs of phishing, and the content of the emails is checked, including attachments and embedded hyperlinks. Emails are checked using heuristics and Bayesian analysis to identify irregularities, and machine learning helps to identify messages that deviate from the normal emails received by a business.

Implement Robust Password Policies and MFA

Unfortunately, it is not only phishing that is used to compromise email accounts. Brute force tactics are used to guess weak passwords or credentials stuffing attacks are performed to guess passwords that have been used to secure users’ other accounts. To block this attack vector, businesses need to implement robust password policies and enforce the use of strong passwords. Remembering complex passwords is difficult for employees, so a password manager solution should be used so they don’t need to. Password managers suggest complex, unique passwords, and store them securely in a vault. They autofill the passwords when they are needed so employees don’t need to remember them. If email account credentials are compromised, they can be used to remotely access accounts. Multifactor authentication can stop this, as in addition to a password, another form of authentication must be provided.

Provide Security Awareness Training to the Workforce

Providing security awareness training to the workforce is a must. Employees need to be taught how to recognize phishing emails and should be trained on cybersecurity best practices. If employees are unaware of the threats they are likely to encounter, when the threats land in their inboxes or are encountered on the web, they may not be able to recognize them as malicious. Training should be tailored for different users, and training on BEC attacks should be provided to the individuals who are likely to be targeted: the board, finance department, payroll, etc.

Security awareness should be accompanied by phishing simulations – fake, but realistic, phishing emails sent to the workforce to test how they respond. BEC attacks can be simulated to see whether the scams can be recognized. If a simulation is failed it can be turned into a training opportunity. These campaigns can be created, and automated, with the SafeTitan Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation Platform.

Set Up Communication Channels for Verifying Transfer Requests

Employees responsible for making wire transfers or changing payroll information should have a communication channel they can use to verify transfers and bank account changes. Providing them with a list of verified phone numbers will allow them to make a quick call to verify changes. A quick phone call to verify a request can be the difference between an avoided scam and a major financial loss.

Speak to TitanHQ about Improving Your Defenses Against BEC Attacks

TitanHQ offers a range of cybersecurity solutions for blocking email and web-based cyber threats. For more information on SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan Web Filtering, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training, give the TitanHQ team a call. All solutions are quick and easy to set up and use, and all have been developed to make it easy for MSPs to offer these cybersecurity solutions to their clients. With TitanHQ solutions in place, you will be well protected from phishing, malware, ransomware, botnets, social engineering, and BEC attacks.

Twilio SMS Phishing Attack Highlights Importance of Security Awareness Training on all Forms of Phishing

Phishing is mostly conducted via email; however, a recent data breach at the cloud communication company Twilio demonstrates that phishing can be highly effective when conducted using other popular communication methods, such as SMS messages.

An SMS phishing attack – known as SMiShing – involves sending SMS messages with a link to a malicious website with some kind of lure to get people to click. Once a click occurs, the scam progresses as an email phishing attack does, with the user being prompted to disclose their credentials on a website that is usually a spoofed site to make it appear genuine. The credentials are then captured and used by the attacker to remotely access the victims’ accounts.

Twillio provides programmable voice, text, chat, video, and email APIs, which are used by more than 10 million developers and 150,000 businesses to create customer engagement platforms. In this smishing attack, Twilio employees were sent SMS messages that appeared to have been sent by the Twilio IT department that directed them to a cloned website that had the Twilio sign-in page. Due to the small screen size on mobile devices, the full URL is not displayed, but certain keywords are added to the URLs that will be displayed to add realism to the scam. The URLs in this campaign included keywords such as SSO, Okta, and Twilio.

According to Twilio EMEA Communications director, Katherine James, the company detected suspicious account activity on August 4, 2022, and the investigation confirmed that several employee accounts had been accessed by unauthorized individuals following responses to the SMS messages. The attackers were able to access certain customer data through the Twilio accounts, although James declined to say how many employees were tricked by the scam and how many customers had been affected.

Twilio was transparent about the data breach and shared the text of one of the phishing emails, which read:

Notice! [redacted] login has expired. Please tap twilio-sso-com to update your password!

The text messages were sent from U.S. carrier networks. Twilio contacted those companies and the hosting providers to shut down the operation and take down the malicious URLs. Twilio said they were not the only company to be targeted in this SMS phishing campaign, and the company worked in conjunction with those other companies to try to shut the operation down; however, as is common in these campaigns, the threat actors simply switch mobile carriers and hosting providers to continue their attacks.

The smishing attack and data breach should serve as a reminder to all businesses of the risk of smishing. Blocking these types of phishing attacks can be a challenge for businesses. The best starting point for improving your defenses is to provide security awareness training for the workforce. Security awareness training for employees usually has a strong emphasis on email phishing, since this type of phishing is far more common, but it is important to also ensure that employees are trained on how to recognize phishing in all its forms, including smishing, social media phishing, and voice phishing – vishing – which takes place over the telephone.

The easiest way to do this is to work with a security vendor such as TitanHQ. TitanHQ offers a comprehensive security awareness training platform – SafeTitan – with an extensive range of training content on all aspects of security, including smishing and voice phishing. The training content is engaging, interactive, and effective at improving cybersecurity understanding, and SafeTitan is the only security awareness training platform that delivers training in real-time in response to the behavior of employees. The platform also includes a phishing simulator for automating simulated phishing tests on employees.

For more information about improving security awareness in your organization, contact TitanHQ today.

Predictive Threat Detection Capabilities Enhanced in SpamTitan Plus

TitanHQ has announced an update has been made to its flagship anti-phishing solution, SpamTitan Plus. The new enhancements have been added to the predictive phishing detection capabilities of SpamTitan Plus to help users block personalized URL attacks.

Phishing attacks on businesses have become much more sophisticated and new tactics are constantly being developed to evade standard email security solutions. While commercial email security solutions perform well at identifying and blocking spam emails, achieving detection rates in excess of 99%, blocking phishing emails is more of a challenge and many phishing threats sneak past email security solutions and are delivered to inboxes.

One of the ways that cyber threat actors bypass email security solutions is by creating personalized URLs for their phishing emails. One of the methods used by email security solutions for blocking phishing URLs is a real-time blacklist of known malicious URLs and IP addresses. If an email is sent from an IP address that has previously been used to send spam or phishing emails, the IP address is added to a blacklist and all emails from that IP address will be blocked. The URLs in phishing campaigns are set up and massive email runs are performed. When those URLs are detected as malicious, they are also added to a blacklist and will be blocked by email security solutions.

However, it is becoming increasingly common for personalized URLs to be used. These URLs can be personalized for the targeted organizations at the path and parameter level, and since a unique URL is used in each attack, standard anti-phishing measures such as blacklists are ineffective at detecting these URLs as malicious. That means the emails containing these malicious URLs are likely to be delivered to inboxes and can only be blocked after they have been delivered. That typically means an employee needs to report the email to their security team, and the security team must then act quickly to remove all phishing emails in that campaign from the email system. That process takes time and there is a risk that the links in the emails could be clicked, resulting in credential theft or malware infections. Most of the phishing detection feeds that are used by email security solutions do not gather the necessary intelligence to be able to inform customers of the level at which a phishing campaign should be blocked. SpamTitan Plus, however, does have that capability.

“With predictive phishing detection, SpamTitan Plus can now combat automated bot phishing,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ. “At TitanHQ we always strive to innovate and develop solutions that solve real-security problems and provide tangible value to our customers. The end goal is to have our partners and customers two or three steps ahead of the phishers and cybercriminals.”

SpamTitan Plus

SpamTitan Plus is an AI-driven anti-phishing solution that is capable of blocking even the newest zero-day phishing threats. The solution has better coverage than any of the current market leaders and provides unparalleled time-of-click protection against malicious hyperlinks in phishing emails, with the lowest false positive rate of any product. SpamTitan Plus benefits from massive clickstream traffic from 600+ million users and endpoints worldwide, which sees the solution block 10 million new, never-before-seen phishing and malicious URLs a day.

The solution protects against URL-based email threats including malware and phishing, performs predictive analyses to identify suspicious URLs, URLs are rewritten to protect users, real-time checks are performed on every click, and the solution includes 100% of all current market-leading anti-phishing feeds. That translates into a 1.5x increase in unique phishing URL detections, 1.6x faster phishing detections than the current market leaders, and 5 minutes from initial detection of a malicious URL to protecting all end user mailboxes.

For more information about the best phishing solution for businesses, give the TitanHQ team a call today. Current users of SpamTitan Plus already have these new capabilities added, at no additional cost.

Cybersecurity Companies Impersonated in Convincing Callback Phishing Campaign

A new phishing campaign is being conducted that abuses trust in cybersecurity companies. The campaign uses scare tactics to get company employers to pick up the phone and speak to the cybersecurity vendor about a recently detected data breach and potential workstation compromise.

It is becoming increasingly common for phishing scams to involve initial contact via email with requests to make a call. This tactic is often used in tech support scams, where victims are convinced they have a malware infection or another serious security issue on their device, and they are tricked into downloading malicious software such as Remote Access Trojans (RATs).

RATs give the attackers access to the user’s computer, and that access can be abused by the attacker or the access can be sold to other threat groups such as ransomware gangs. Affiliates of ransomware-as-a-service operations may use this technique to conduct attacks and are then paid a percentage of any ransom payments they generate.

In this campaign, the impersonated companies are very well-known providers of enterprise security solutions, such as CrowdStrike, and the emails are very well written and convincing. They claim that a data breach has been detected that affected the part of the cybersecurity provider’s network associated with the customer’s workstation and warns that all workstations on the network may have been compromised. As such, the cybersecurity company is conducting an audit.

The emails claim that the cybersecurity vendor has reached out to the IT department, which has instructed the vendor to contain individual users directly. The emails claim that the audit is necessary for compliance with the Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) and other regulations and that the agreement between the targeted individual’s company and the cybersecurity vendor allows it to conduct regular audits and security checks. A phone number is provided for the individual to make contact, and the email includes the correct corporate logo and genuine address of the cybersecurity vendor.

CrowdStrike reports that a similar scam has been conducted by the Wizard Spider threat group, which was responsible for Ryuk ransomware attacks. That campaign delivered BazarLoader malware, which was used to deliver the ransomware payload.

This type of phishing attempt is known as callback phishing. This technique can be effective at bypassing email security solutions since the emails contain no malicious content – There are no hyperlinks and no file attachments. This scam highlights the importance of conducting security awareness training on the workforce to help employees identify and avoid phishing scams.

How TitanHQ Can Help

TitanHQ provides a range of security solutions for blocking phishing attacks, including SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan DNS Filtering, and the SafeTitan Security Awareness and Phishing Simulation Platform.

SafeTitan has an extensive library of interactive, gamified, and engaging training content for improving security awareness of the workforce, including phishing and the full range of cyberattacks that employees are likely to encounter. The training is delivered in easily assimilated modules of no more than 8 to 10 minutes, and training can be delivered in real-time in response to risky user behaviors to nip bad security practices in the bud. The platform also includes hundreds of phishing templates for conducting and automating phishing simulations on the workforce, to gain insights into the individuals who are susceptible to phishing attacks and any knowledge gaps.

For more information on improving your defenses against phishing attacks, review our solutions in the links at the top of this page or give the team a call. Products are available on a free trial and demonstrations can be arranged on request.

Social Media Phishing Attacks are on the Rise

Phishing can take many forms and while email is the most common vector used in these scams, other types of phishing such as voice phishing (vishing), SMS phishing (Smishing), and social media phishing increasing. In particular, there has been a recent spike in social media phishing attempts.

The threat from email phishing can be greatly reduced with an email security solution; however, these solutions will do nothing to block vishing, smishing, and social media phishing attempts. Businesses can improve their defenses by also using a DNS filtering solution. DNS filters block attempts to visit malicious websites and work in tandem with email security solutions to block email phishing and can also block the web-based component of smishing attacks and social media phishing to a certain extent. Unfortunately, since the social media networks where phishing takes place are not malicious websites, it will not prevent people from encountering phishing attempts.

This is why security awareness training is so important. Security awareness training gives employees the skills they need to recognize and avoid phishing attempts, no matter where the phishing attack is conducted. By training the workforce on security threats, risky behaviors can be eradicated, and employees can be taught the signs of phishing to look out for. The SafeTitan Security Awareness Training platform also delivers training in real-time, in response to risky behaviors by employees. This ensures training is delivered instantly when risky behavior is detected and training is likely to have the greatest benefit.

Social Media Phishing

Two social media phishing campaigns have recently been identified by researchers at Malwarebytes, the goal of which is to obtain the credentials for social media accounts. If the credentials are disclosed, the attacker can access the victim’s account and use it to conduct further attacks on the victim’s followers. If the credentials for a corporate social media account are stolen, attacks could be conducted on all the company’s followers. These attacks abuse the trust customers have in the company. The two campaigns have been conducted on Twitter and Discord users. Both use social engineering to trick people into disclosing their account credentials.

Twitter Phishing Campaign

In the Twitter campaign, the scammer sends a direct message to the user informing them that their account has been flagged for hate speech and threatens an immediate suspension of the account unless action is taken. The user is told that they must authenticate the account via the Twitter Help Center, a link for which is provided in the message. The link directs the user to a phishing page that spoofs Twitter where they are asked to log in. If they do, their credentials will be captured.

Discord Phishing Campaign

The Discord campaign sees a message sent from either a contact of the victim using a compromised Discord account or from strangers. The account owner is accused of disseminating explicit photographs and the sender says they are going to block the account until an explanation is provided. A link is provided to a server where the recipient has allegedly been named and shamed. If the message recipient tries to respond to the message, their message will not be sent as they will have been blocked, increasing the likelihood of their clicking the link to the server.

Victims are required to log in via a QR code and once they have attempted that they are locked out of their accounts, which are then under the full control of the scammer. The scammer is then free to use the legitimate account to continue their scam on all the victims’ contacts. Social media scams such as these try to scare or shame users into responding. This tactic can be very effective, even if the user has never said a bad word on Twitter or sent an explicit photograph to anyone on Discord.

Other Social Media Phishing Campaigns

Phishing can – and does – occur on all social media platforms. One scam that has proven successful targets Instagram users and offers them the verified Instagram badge. In order to receive the badge, they are required to log in to verify their identity, naturally via a malicious link. Doing so will allow the scammer to take full control of the user’s Instagram account.

It is a similar story on LinkedIn. One of the most common scams involves impersonating a company and sending a message to an individual about a job offer, or a message suggesting they have been headhunted. Fake connection requests are also common. In this scam, the user is provided with a link to a scam site that spoofs LinkedIn and again is conducted to harvest credentials.

On Facebook, phishing scams are rife but often they seem innocuous. If you use Facebook, you will no doubt have seen countless posts asking site users to determine their band name, porn star name, pirate name, etc., by providing information such as the month and year of birth.  Posts asking what was your first car? Where did you grow up? What was your favorite teacher’s name? and many more do not seek credentials, but the information disclosed can be used to answer security questions that are asked in order to recover accounts. These scams also make brute force attacks to guess passwords so much easier.

Dangers of Social Media Phishing

The loss of access to a social media account may not be the end of the world and is likely far better than having a bank account emptied, but the damage caused can be considerable. Many small businesses rely on social media for publicity and generating sales, and the loss of an account or scamming of customers can be devastating. The passwords used for social media accounts are often reused across multiple platforms. Scammers often conduct credential stuffing attacks on other platforms and accounts using the same password. Fall victim to a social media phishing scam and many other accounts could be compromised.

Blocking social media phishing attacks can be a challenge. You should also ensure that two-factor authentication is enabled on social media accounts, consider restricting who can send direct messages to your account, and who can view your profiles. If you encounter a scam, be sure to report it.

For businesses, employees with access to corporate social media accounts should be given specific training on social media phishing to ensure they can recognize and avoid phishing scams. The SafeTitan Security Awareness Training platform makes this simple and helps businesses instantly correct risky behaviors through the automated delivery of a relevant training course in real-time. The platform has a wealth of engaging, gamified training content and a phishing simulation platform for testing resilience to phishing attacks.

For more information on SafeTitan and improving your phishing defenses through the use of an email security solution and DNS filtering, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

Microsoft’s Automatic Blocking of Macros Has Been Temporarily Rolled Back

Microsoft previously announced a new security feature that would see VBA macros automatically blocked by default, but there has been a rollback in response to negative feedback from users.

Phishing emails are commonly used for malware delivery which contain links to websites where the malware is hosted or by using malicious email attachments. Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Visio files are commonly attached to emails that include VBA macros. While there are legitimate uses for VBA macros, they are often used for malware delivery. When the documents are opened, the macros would run and deliver a malware loader or sometimes the malware payload directly.

Office macros have been used to deliver some of the most dangerous malware variants, including Emotet, TrickBot, Qakbot, Dridex. To improve security, in February 2022, Microsoft announced that it would be blocking VBA macros by default. If macros are blocked automatically, it makes it much harder for this method of malware delivery to succeed.

With autoblocking of macros, users are presented with a security alert if a file is opened that includes a VBA macro. When opening a file with a VBA macro, the following message is displayed in red:

“SECURITY RISK: Microsoft has blocked macros from running because the source of this file is untrusted.”

The user would not be able to click the warning to override the blocking, instead, they would be directed to a resource that provides further information on the risk of enabling macros. They would have the option of ignoring the warning but would be strongly advised not to. Previously, a security warning was displayed in a yellow warning box that says, “Security Warning: Macros have been disabled.” The user would be presented with a prompt to Enable Content, and thus ignore the warning.

Microsoft had rolled out this new security feature, but recently Windows users started to notice that the new security warning was no longer being displayed, instead, Microsoft appeared to have rolled back to its previous system without announcing it was doing so.

Microsoft did confirm that it is rolling back this security feature and that an update announcing that has been planned; however, it had not been announced before the rollback started. The process has been heavily criticized, not for the rollback itself (although there has been criticism of that), but for starting the rollback without first making an announcement.

Microsoft said the rollback was due to negative feedback it had received, but it is not known at this stage which users had complained. It is suspected that the change posed a problem for individuals who commonly use VBA macros, and the automatic blocking made the process of running macros cumbersome. Most SMB users, however, do not deal with macros frequently, so the rollback means a reduction in security.

It took several days for Microsoft to confirm that the rollback is temporary and that it was necessary to make changes to improve usability. Microsoft said it is still committed to blocking macros by default for users. So, while this is a U-turn, it is just a temporary one.

While automatically blocking macros is important to improve security, it is still strongly recommended to implement a robust email security solution, as macros are not the only way that malware is delivered via email. Also, blocking macros will do nothing to stop phishing emails from being delivered.

With SpamTitan Email Security, phishing and malware threats can be easily blocked. For more information, give the TitanHQ team a call.

Copyright Infringement Notices used in Phishing Emails for Delivering Lockbit 2.0 Ransomware

Cybercriminals are constantly changing tactics and lures in their phishing campaigns, so it is no surprise to see a new technique being used by affiliates of the Lockbit ransomware-as-a-service operation. A campaign has been identified by researchers at AhnLab in Korea that attempts to deliver a malware loader named Bumblebee, which in turn is used to deliver the LockBit 2.0 ransomware payload.

Various lures are used in phishing campaigns for delivering malware loaders, with this campaign using a warning about a copyright violation due to the unauthorized use of images on the company’s website. As is common in phishing emails, the emails contain a threat should no action be taken – legal action. Emails that deliver malware loaders either use attached files or contain links to files hosted online. The problem with attaching files to emails is they can be detected by email security solutions. To get around this, links are often included. In this case, the campaign uses the latter, and to further evade detection, the linked file is a password-protected archive. This is a common trick used in malware delivery via email to prevent the file from being detected as malicious by security solutions, which are unable to open the file and examine the contents. The recipient of the message is provided with the password to open the file in the message body.

The password-protected zip file contains a file that masquerades as a PDF file, which the user is required to open to obtain further information about the copyright violation. However, a double file extension is used, and the attached file is actually an executable file, which will deliver the Bumblebee loader, and thereafter, LockBit 2.0 ransomware.

These types of phishing attacks are all too common. Believable lures are used to trick people into taking the requested action, a threat is included should no action be taken, and multiple measures are used to evade security solutions. Any warning about a copyright violation must be taken seriously but as with most phishing emails, there are red flags in this email that suggest this is a scam. Security-aware employees should be able to recognize the red flags and while they may not be able to confirm the malicious nature of the email, they should report such messages to their IT department or security team for further investigation. However, in order to be able to identify those red flags, employees should be provided with security awareness training.

Through regular training employees will learn the signs of phishing emails, can be conditioned to always report the emails to their security team, and can be kept abreast of the latest tactics used in phishing emails for malware delivery. It is also recommended to conduct phishing simulations to test whether employees are being fooled by phishing attempts. If employees fail phishing simulations it could indicate issues with the training course that need to be addressed, or that certain employees need to be provided with additional training. Through regular security awareness training and phishing simulations, businesses can create a human firewall capable of detecting phishing attempts that bypass the organization’s email and web security defenses.

TitanHQ can provide assistance in this regard through the SafeTitan Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation Platform – Further information on the solution can be found here.

How to Run Effective Phishing Simulations in the Workplace

If you want to create a culture of security in your organization, you need to provide comprehensive security awareness training to teach employees the skills they will need to be able to identify and avoid cyber threats. It is also important to conduct phishing simulations on all members of the workforce.

Phishing simulations are realistic but fake phishing emails that are sent to employees to determine the level of security awareness of the organization, assess whether employee security awareness training has been effective, identify any gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed, and to identify any individuals who require further training.

If phishing simulations are not used, organizations will be unaware whether their training has worked and has reduced the susceptibility of the workforce to phishing attacks, and gaps in knowledge could exist that could easily be exploited in real world phishing attacks.

Sending phishing emails to employees to see if they click links or open potentially malicious attachments is important, but to get the full benefits of phishing simulation exercises you need to create a structured phishing simulation program. To help you get started we have provided some tips on how to run effective phishing simulations in the workplace, and highlight some areas where businesses go wrong.

How to Run Effective Phishing Simulations at Work

One of most common assumptions made about phishing simulations is that in order to determine whether employees will respond to genuine phishing emails, employees should not be aware that you will be conducting phishing simulations. That is a mistake. When employers conduct phishing simulations on an unsuspecting workforce, it has the potential to backfire.

Employees often feel like they are being targeted and it can create friction between employees and the IT department, and that is best avoided. You should warn employees when you provide training that part of the training process will involve phishing simulations and that the simulations are not being conducted to catch employees out but to assess how effective training has been. Do not provide specific notice when you are conducting campaigns, just make the workforce aware that you do periodically run phishing simulations.

When you conduct phishing simulations, the emails you send need to be realistic. You should use templates that are based on real-world phishing attacks, after all, the aim of the simulations is to determine if employees will fall for real phishing emails.  You should use a variety of lures and send different types of phishing emails, including emails with links, attachments, and Word documents with macros. You should also vary the difficulty of the simulations and include targeted spear-phishing attacks.

Before sending simulated phishing emails to the workforce, test out the emails in small numbers, as this will allow you to correct any problems. Do not send the same email to everyone at the same time, as this often results in employees tipping each other off and will not give you accurate data. Vary the emails you send in any one campaign, and this can be avoided. Each email should include at least two red flags that will allow it to be identified as a phishing attempt. Be careful about the lures you choose. If you send an email offering a pay rise – there are genuine phishing campaigns that do this – be prepared for a backlash, as such a campaign is likely to cause upset. These types of phishing simulations are best avoided.

The first phishing campaigns you send should serve as a baseline against which you can measure how awareness improves over time, so use a moderately difficult phishing attempt, not an incredibly difficult spear phishing email. Anyone can be fooled by a phishing email so ensure that everyone is part of the program, including board members. They too need to be taught how to recognize phishing emails and be tested to see how security aware they are. The C-suite is the top target for phishers.

It is important not to name and shame employees that fail phishing simulations. A failed phishing simulation should be seen as an opportunity for further training, not a reason for punishing an employee. If you opt for positive rather than negative reinforcement, you are likely to get much better results.

Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulations from TitanHQ

SafeTitan from TitanHQ is a comprehensive security awareness training platform with an extensive library of training courses, videos & quizzes. The content is highly interactive and fun, with short and efficient testing and a phishing simulation platform with hundreds of real-world phishing templates to use. SafeTitan is also the only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security training in real-time. Phishing simulations have shown that SafeTitan reduces staff susceptibility to phishing by up to 92%.

For more information and to arrange a product demonstration, give the TitanHQ team a call.

TitanHQ Finalist in the 2022 CompTIA UK Spotlight Awards

Following on from being included in the Expert Insights’ list of the Top 100 Most Innovative Cybersecurity Companies of 2022, TitanHQ has been named a finalist in the 2022 CompTIA UK Spotlight Awards in the Innovative Vendor Award Category.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is an advocate for the $5 trillion global information technology ecosystem and the estimated 75 million professionals who design, implement, manage, and safeguard the technology that powers the world’s economy.

CompTIA provides education, training, certifications, philanthropy, and market research and promotes industry growth, the development of a highly-skilled workforce, and the creation of an environment where innovation happens and opportunities are made possible through technology that is available to all.

Every year, CompTIA recognizes individual and organizational excellence in the UK tech industry through the CompTIA UK Spotlight Awards, which took place on June 16 at the CompTIA UK Business Technology Community Meeting, in Bristol.

TitanHQ is delighted to have been named a finalist at this year’s awards and to be recognized for its innovative cybersecurity solutions that are helping SMBs and Managed Service Providers defend against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

Over the past 12 months, TitanHQ has enjoyed excellent growth, has brought in a wealth of new talent, and has released two innovative new cybersecurity solutions to its product portfolio: SpamTitan Plus and the SafeTitan Security Awareness and Phishing Simulation Platform.

SpamTitan Plus provides cutting-edge, industry-leading protection against zero-day phishing threats. The AI-driven anti-phishing solution has better coverage, a significant uplift in phishing link detections, and faster detection speeds, with the lowest false positive rate of any product. The solution includes updates from massive clickstream traffic of 600+ million users and endpoints worldwide, which protects against 10 million+ new, never-before-seen phishing and malicious URLs each day.

According to research, 97% of users fail to identify all phishing emails, so advanced phishing protection is essential. So too is security awareness training, to teach employees how to identify phishing and other threats and increase threat reporting rates to security teams.

TitanHQ now offers a comprehensive platform that businesses can use to train their employees to be security titans and create a human firewall to complement their technical anti-phishing safeguards. SafeTitan includes an extensive library of interactive, fun, and engaging training content, a phishing simulator, and is the only behavior-driven security awareness training platform that delivers security awareness training in real-time.

If you want to benefit from these new solutions and any of TitanHQ’s other innovative cybersecurity protects – DNS filtering, email encryption, and email archiving- contact TitanHQ today.

TitanHQ Named in Top 100 List of the Most Innovative Companies in Cybersecurity

TitanHQ has collected several accolades already in 2022 for the full range of cloud-delivered solutions. The 2022 tally now includes recognition as one of the top 100 most innovative cybersecurity companies.

The Expert Insights’ Top 100 Most Innovative Cybersecurity Companies list was created to recognize the most innovative companies in cybersecurity – companies that develop highly innovative solutions to better protect businesses and consumers from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. The Top 100 list is broken down into 12 different categories, with TitanHQ included in the Email and Messaging Security Category.

It is vital for businesses of all sizes to implement robust defenses to block email-based attacks. Email is the leading vector for malware delivery and phishing attacks are increasing in number and sophistication. As TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh, pointed out, “The overwhelming feedback from our users and customer base has been that phishing attacks are becoming more advanced, proficient and dangerous. Phishing is the number one problem to solve in the email security community.”

TitanHQ’s SpamTitan suite of products provides cutting-edge, robust, and rapid protection against phishing attacks, malware threats, and other email-borne cyberattacks. In addition to the SpamTitan Gateway and SpamTitan Cloud solutions, TitanHQ recently released SpamTitan Plus, which provides best-in-class protection against phishing attacks, with the most comprehensive coverage of any solution, incorporating 100% of current market-leading anti-phishing feeds. That translates into 1.5x faster URL threat detection, 1.6x faster phishing detection than the current market leaders, and just 5 minutes from initial detection of malicious URLs to protecting all mailboxes.

“Over the past year, TitanHQ has significantly grown its global presence, strengthened its executive leadership team, and added to its product and services portfolio, all of which have contributed to our impressive placement on the 2022 Expert Insights’ Top 100 Most Innovative Cybersecurity Companies list,” said Kavanagh.

The latest accolade follows on from TitanHQ collecting no fewer than five Expert Insights’ ‘Best of’ Awards in the spring for SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan DNS Filter, ArcTitan Email Archiving, with two awards for SafeTitan Security Awareness Training.

Webinar: June 7, 2022: Employee Cyber Risks in a Growing Organization: Balancing Safety and Agility

On June 7, TitanHQ, in partnership with the Oxford Cyber Academy, will be hosting a webinar to discuss employee cyber risks in growing organizations, and how to balance safety and agility.

Organizations are facing an increasing number of threats when trying to stay agile, competitive, and innovative in a digital world, and for small- and medium-sized businesses, those threats have significant potential to threaten growth. Businesses of all sizes are being targeted by cyber threat actors, and successful attacks can cause significant damage to a business’s hard-won market reputation and operations. Those threat actors target a common weak point in security defenses – employees. Digital security needs to be front and center of your continued innovation, but it can be a challenge to stay competitive whilst sustaining a cyber-savvy workforce. Help is at hand, however.

During this webinar, attendees will be provided with valuable information on the changing nature of the cyber threats facing small- and mid-sized businesses and will discover what they need to protect, what they have to lose if they fail to protect it, how to balance technology and human cyber risks, and how to improve employee security awareness and achieve measurable changes in employee behavior through easy, intuitive, personalized and targeted training that is delivered where it’s needed the most.

Join TitanHQ on June 7th where Nick Wilding, Neil Sinclair, Cyber Programme Lead, UK Police Crime Prevention Initiatives, and Richard Knowlton, Director of Security Studies at the Oxford Cyber Academy will discuss:

If you can’t make the event, register anyway and you will receive the webinar to watch on-demand at any time.

Register for the Webinar Today

Tom Watson Appointed as New TitanHQ Channel Chief

TitanHQ has recruited the popular channel veteran Tom Watson, who will serve as the company’s new Channel Chief to help bring profitable growth to all TitanHQ Managed Service Provider (MSP) partners.

TitanHQ is committed to serving the MSP community and channel and offers a wide range of cybersecurity solutions that have been developed from the ground up to meet the needs of MSPs. The TitanHQ product portfolio now includes best-in-class email security, DNS filtering, email archiving, email encryption, and security awareness training and phishing simulation solutions, that are easy to implement, manage, and fit seamlessly into MSP’s service stacks. The solutions are delivered through an MSP-centric platform to allow MSPs to provide defense-in-depth security solutions to their SMB and enterprise clients.

Demand from MSPs in North America for TitanHQ solutions has prompted a major expansion of US operations. TitanHQ is well aware that such tremendous growth must be supported by locally sourced experienced advisors such as Tom Watson. Tom brings considerable experience to TitanHQ, having previously owned an MSP business and served as Channel Chief at top-level vendors such as NinjaOne and Axcient. Tom will be based at TitanHQ’s new North American base in Shelton, Connecticut, where he will be working alongside locally sourced talent such as TitanHQ VP of Sales, Jeff Benedetti, and his North American team.

Tom has been tasked with managing TitanHQ’s MSP tradeshows, roadshows, and webinars, and will oversee the creation of a brand-new MSP partner program. “I see my role as being more of a liaison than anything,” said Tom, regarding his new position at TitanHQ. “TitanHQ already has a fantastic offering. You’ll be hearing me talk about that in the future. For now, I think it’s more important to highlight the commitments TitanHQ has made to the channel. This is a company that is 100% dedicated to making sure they serve the MSP community.”

Tom went on to explain the reason why he chose to join the TitanHQ team. “I’ve wanted to work for a rising cybersecurity company for quite a while now. Here I know I can use my skills and understanding of MSP operations, sales, and marketing to help MSPs succeed. Working together with TitanHQ we can give MSPs everything they need to provide quality cyber services to their clients.”

Everyone at TitanHQ is excited about Tom joining the company and the role he will play in ensuring TitanHQ remains the leading provider of cloud-based cybersecurity solutions to MSPs serving the SMB market by supporting growth in the North American market.

“As we continue to further expand into the North American market, introducing industry experts like Tom to our team is vital to allow us to continue to partner with MSPs looking for best in class cybersecurity solutions,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “We are thrilled to welcome Tom to the team, his wealth of experience working with the MSP sector will serve us well as we continue on our growth journey.”

New ‘Eternity Project’ Malware-as-a-Service Operation Offers Extensive Attack Capabilities

A new malware-as-a-service operation has been identified named Eternity Project which is offering a modular malware with extensive capabilities, allowing threat actors to conduct a range of malicious activities based on the modules they pay for. The capabilities of the malware are being enhanced to include further modules. Currently, the threat group is offering an information stealer, clipper, miner, dropper, worm, and ransomware, with distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) bots to be provided in an upcoming module.

The threat actors claim the stealer module will allow users to obtain passwords stored in multiple browsers, data from email clients, instant messaging services, password managers, VPN clients, gaming software, system credentials, cryptocurrency wallets, and more. The miner allows victim devices to become cryptocurrency mining slaves, the clipper allows data to be stolen from the clipboard, which specifically targets cryptocurrency wallets and replaces them with the threat actors’ crypto-wallet addresses, with the ransomware allowing data encryption, although no data exfiltration. The worm module allows the user to infect other devices on the network, with the dropper used to drop the payload of choice onto infected devices. The Eternity Project malware was analyzed by researchers at Cyble, who report that the malware is being offered via a Telegram channel which, at the time of publication, had over 500 subscribers, as well as on the threat group’s TOR website.

Malware-as-a-service operations such as the Eternity Project give unskilled hackers the capability to conduct a range of attacks that they would otherwise not be able to perform. According to Cyble, the malware modules are being offered from as little as $90 up to $490 for the most expensive module – ransomware. Those costs could easily be recovered from the capabilities provided. The methods used to distribute Eternity malware will depend on the capabilities of the threat actors that pay for the modules. Since multiple methods of distribution could be used, defending against Eternity malware and other malware-as-a-service offerings requires a defense-in-depth approach and for security best practices to be followed.

Email Security

Phishing remains the number one vector for delivering malware. Campaigns are easy and cheap to conduct, and phishing campaigns can be very effective. Email security solutions are fed threat intelligence and have anti-virus components, but many solutions rely on signature-based detection and are only effective at detecting known malware. Behavior-based detection methods are needed for detecting heavily obfuscated malware and zero-day threats. SpamTitan combines signature-based threat detection using dual AV engines and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox for identifying zero-day malware threats and allows the blocking of specified attachments such as zip files and executable files. SpamTitan protects against malicious links in emails and scans all inbound emails in real-time, using advanced threat protection methods such as Bayesian analysis, machine learning, greylisting, and heuristics which provide a market-leading 99.99% spam catch rate with a 0.003% false-positive rate

DNS Filtering

Defense-in-depth against phishing is critical for blocking malware threats. Protection can be significantly improved using DNS filtering. DNS filtering is used to block the web-based component of phishing attacks by providing time-of-click protection to prevent users from visiting malicious web pages linked in phishing emails. DNS filtering is used to filter out malicious websites by preventing users from visiting those sites when web browsing, blocking redirects to malicious sites, and category and keyword-based filters to control the content that users can access, preventing access to risky websites. DNS filters can also be used to block downloads of certain file types from the Internet, such as those associated with malware.

The WebTitan DNS Filter provides these capabilities without latency, and protections can be applied for users on or off the network, no matter where they access the Internet. WebTitan is fed threat intelligence from more than 500 million endpoints worldwide and provides AI-based protection against active and emerging phishing URLs and zero-minute threats.

Security Awareness Training & Phishing Simulations

Technical measures to block email and web-based threats are essential, but it is also important to provide security awareness training to the workforce on security best practices and to teach employees how to recognize and avoid threats such as phishing. Security awareness training should be provided regularly, and phishing simulations conducted to identify gaps in knowledge to allow them to be addressed before they can be exploited.

SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security awareness training in real-time in response to specific user behaviors and includes an extensive library of training content that is delivered in easy-to-digest chunks for creating a human firewall to augment your technical cybersecurity measures.

Enforce Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication should be implemented on all accounts and services to prevent compromised, stolen, or leaked credentials from being used to gain access to accounts. It is especially important to apply multifactor authentication to administrator accounts and for remote access services. Multifactor authentication requires an additional factor to be provided before access is granted, in addition to a password.

Backup Regularly

To protect against destructive malware attacks involving wipers and ransomware, it is essential to back up data regularly and to test backups to ensure that file recovery is possible. A good approach to take is the 3-2-1 method for backing up – make three copies, stored on at least two different media, and ensure that one copy is stored securely off-site. Backup files should also be encrypted.

Patch Promptly

You should ensure that updates for software and operating systems are applied promptly, with patching prioritized to address the most critical vulnerabilities first.

Change Default Credentials and Set Strong Passwords

Default credentials should be changed, as should the default configurations of off-the-shelf software and strong, unique passwords should be set to protect against brute force attacks. Threat actors can easily gain initial access to the network through brute force attempts to steal passwords, such as password spraying – using passwords compromised in previous data breaches.

How Phishing Emails Led to The Theft of $23.5 Million from the U.S. Department of Defense

Phishing is commonly used to gain access to credentials to hijack email accounts for use in business email compromise (BEC) attacks. Once credentials have been obtained, the email account can be used to send phishing emails internally, with a view to obtaining the credentials of the main target. Alternatively, by spear phishing the target account, those steps can be eliminated.

If the credentials are obtained for the CEO or CFO, emails can be crafted and sent to individuals responsible for wire transfers, requesting payments be made to an attacker-controlled account. A common alternative is to target vendors, in an attack referred to as vendor email compromise (VEC). Once access is gained to a vendor’s account, the information contained in the email accounts provides detailed information on customers that can be targeted.

When a payment is due to be made, the vendor’s email account is used to request a change to the account for the upcoming payment. When the payment is made to the attacker-controlled account, it usually takes a few days before the non-payment is identified by the vendor, by which time it may be too late to recover the fraudulently transferred funds. While BEC and VEC attacks are nowhere near as common as phishing attacks, they are the leading cause of losses to cybercrime due to the large amounts of money obtained through fraudulent wire transfers. One attack in 2018 resulted in the theft of $23.5 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense.

In this case, two individuals involved in the scam were identified, including a Californian man who has just pleaded guilty to six counts related to the attack. He now faces up to 107 years in jail for the scam, although these scams are commonly conducted by threat actors in overseas countries, and the perpetrators often escape justice. The scam was conducted like many others. The BEC gang targeted DoD vendors between June 2018 and September 2018 and used phishing emails to obtain credentials for email accounts. An employee at a DoD vendor that had a contract to supply Aviation JA1 Turbine fuel to troops in southeast Asia for the DoD received an email that spoofed the U.S. government and included a hyperlink to a malicious website that had been created to support the scam.

The website used for the scam had the domain dia-mil.com, which mimicked the official dla.mil website, and email accounts were set up on that domain to closely resemble official email accounts. The phishing emails directed the employee to a cloned version of the government website, login.gov, which harvested the employee’s credentials. The credentials allowed the scammer to change bank account information in the SAM (System for Award Management) database to the account credentials of the shell company set up for the scam. When the payment of $23,453,350 for the jet fuel was made, it went to the scammers rather than the vendor.

Security systems were in place to identify fraudulent changes to bank account information, but despite those measures, the payment was made. The SAM database is scanned every 24 hours and any bank account changes are flagged and checked. The scammers learned of this and made calls to the Defense Logistics Agency and provided a reason why the change was made and succeeded in getting the change manually approved, although flags were still raised as the payment was made to a company that was not an official government contractor. That allowed the transfer to be reverted. Many similar scams are not detected in time and the recovery of funds is not possible. By the time the scam is identified, the scammers’ account has been emptied or closed.

The key to preventing BEC and VEC attacks is to deal with the issue at its source to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes and teach employees how to identify and avoid phishing scams. TitanHQ can help in both areas through SpamTitan Email Security and the SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulation platform. Businesses should also implement multifactor authentication to stop stolen credentials from being used to access accounts.

Tips for Effective Security Awareness Training

Providing security awareness training to the workforce is necessary for compliance and is often a requirement for getting cybersecurity insurance, but the real purpose of security awareness training is to reduce risk and avoid costly cyberattacks and data breaches.

To get the full benefits you need an effective security awareness training program, where susceptibility to phishing attacks is reduced and your resilience to cyberattacks targeting employees is significantly improved. To help you, we offer some top tips for creating an effective security awareness training program.

Security Awareness Training Must be a Continuous Process

Security awareness training should not be seen as a checkbox item for compliance. To be effective, training needs to be an ongoing process, where the training is reinforced over time. That if unlikely to happen with a once-a-year training session. Another reason for providing ongoing training is cyber threat actors are constantly changing their tactics and regularly come up with new scams. It would be unreasonable to expect employees to be able to recognize these new threats if they have not been covered in training sessions. Through regular training, provided in bite-sized chunks, you can make your employees are made aware of the latest threats which will help them to recognize them when they are encountered.

Make Sure Your Training Content is Interesting

Different employees will respond to different training methods. A classroom-based training session may be good for some employees, but others will respond better to computer-based training, infographics, videos, and quizzes. Keep your training varied to make sure it appeals to a wide audience and try to make the training interesting and engaging to improve knowledge retention, such as using storytelling to trigger emotions and the imagination, and don’t be afraid to use humor. Cybersecurity can be a pretty dry topic for many people and if they can enjoy it, they are more likely to retain the information and apply the training on a day-to-day basis.

Get Buy-in from the C-Suite

If you want to create a security culture in your organization, you will need to get buy in from the C-suite.  Any change in culture in an organization needs to start at the top. The C-Suite must be made aware of the importance of security awareness training and cybersecurity, and using data is usually the best approach. Using a security awareness training company that can provide data on the effectiveness of training at reducing risk will help. You will be able to prove the return on investment you are likely to achieve.

Conduct Phishing Simulations After Providing Training

Providing security awareness training is only one step toward developing a security culture and reducing risk. You also need to conduct tests to determine whether your training is being applied on a day-to-day basis, and the best way to test that is with phishing simulations. Conduct realistic simulations to determine whether the training has been effective. If employees fail simulations, provide extra training.

Do Not Punish Employees for Failing Phishing Simulations

Many companies operate a three strikes and you’re out policy for failing phishing simulations or penalize employees in other ways for falling for phishing emails. Around 40% of organizations take disciplinary action against employees for cybersecurity errors such as phishing simulation failures. Punishing employees for failing to identify phishing simulations often does not have the desired effect.

If you want to encourage employees to be more security-aware and create a security culture, creating a culture of fear is unlikely to help. This approach is likely to cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to the creation of a hostile working environment, and that does not help employees become more security aware. Further, when mistakes are made, employees will be much less likely to report their mistakes to the security team out of fear of negative consequences.

Conduct Real-Time Security Awareness Training

Training is likely to be most effective immediately after employees have made a mistake. By using a security awareness training solution such as SafeTitan, the only behavior-driven security training solution that delivers contextual training in real-time, you can deliver relevant training immediately and explain how a mistake was made and how similar errors can be avoided in the future. For instance, if an employee is discovered to be downloading free software from the Internet, an immediate alert can be delivered explaining why it is not allowed and the risks of installing software without approval from the IT department. If a phishing simulation is failed, employees can be alerted immediately, and it can be turned into a relevant training session.

Benchmark to Learn the Effectiveness of Security Awareness Training

Businesses conduct security awareness training to reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks and other cyber threats, but to gauge the effectiveness of the training there must be a benchmark to measure against. Conducting phishing simulations prior to providing training will allow you to measure how effective the training has been. You can use pre-training simulations to determine how many employees are falling for scams and the percentage of simulated phishing emails that are being reported. You can then reassess after providing training and can determine exactly how effective the training has been.

Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulations are Not Enough

Providing regular security awareness training and conducting phishing simulations are important for improving resilience to cyber threats and will allow you to prove training has been provided for compliance or insurance purposes, but you also need to make sure that training has been absorbed by employees. Don’t just provide training – use quizzes to assess whether the training has been absorbed. You should also analyze the results of phishing simulations to identify any knowledge gaps that need to be addressed with future training courses. If employees are still falling for a certain type of scam, it could be your training that is the issue.

For more information about security awareness training, conducting phishing simulations, and to discover the benefits of real-time security awareness training, contact TitanHQ today for more information about SafeTitan. You can also take advantage of a free trial of the solution before deciding on a purchase.

 

Have You Created a Human Firewall?

It is important for security to implement an advanced spam filtering solution to block email threats such as phishing and malware, but security awareness training for the workforce is still necessary. The reason why phishing attacks are successful is that they target a weak point: employees. Humans make mistakes and are one of the biggest vulnerabilities as far as security is concerned. All it takes is for one phishing email to sneak through your defenses and land in an inbox and for the recipient to click a link in the email or open a malicious attachment for a threat actor to get the foothold they need in your network.

The easiest way to target employees is with phishing emails. The majority of phishing emails will be blocked by your spam filter, but some emails will be delivered. It doesn’t matter how advanced and effective your spam filter is, it will not block every single phishing email without also blocking an unacceptable number of genuine emails.

Phishing emails are used to achieve one of three aims: To trick individuals into disclosing credentials, to trick them into emailing sensitive data, or to trick them into installing malware. There are many tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed in phishing attacks to make the emails realistic, convincing, and to get employees to act quickly. The emails may closely match standard business emails related to deliveries, job applications, invoices, or requests for collaboration. Spoofing is used to make the messages appear to have come from a trusted sender. Emails can spoof brands and often include the correct corporate logos, formats, and color schemes. While phishing emails include red flags that indicate all is not what it seems, busy employees may not notice those flags. Further, sophisticated, targeted phishing attacks contain very few red flags and are very difficult to identify. Even system administrators can be fooled by these attacks.

Businesses cannot expect every employee to be an expert at identifying phishing emails and other email threats, nor should they assume that employees have a good understanding of security practices that need to be employed. The only way to ensure employees know about security practices and how to recognize a phishing email is to provide security awareness training.

Security Awareness Training Improves Resilience to Phishing Attacks

The purpose of security awareness training is to make the workforce aware of the threats they are likely to encounter and to provide them with the tools they need to recognize and avoid those threats. Security awareness training is not a checkbox item that needs to be completed for compliance, it is one of the most important steps to take to improve your organization’s security posture and it needs to be an ongoing process. You could provide a classroom-based training session or computer-based training session once a year, but the TTPs of cyber threat actors are constantly changing, so that is not going to be sufficient. More frequent training, coupled with security reminders, newsletters, and updates on the latest threats to be wary of will ensure that security is always fresh in the mind, and it will help you to develop a security culture in your organization.

One of the most effective strategies is to augment training with phishing simulations. Phishing simulations involve sending fake but realistic phishing emails to employees to see how they respond. If you do not conduct these tests, you will not know if your training has been effective. The simulations will identify employees that require further training and the simulations will give employees practice at recognizing malicious emails. Reports from these simulations allow security teams to assess how resilient they are to phishing attacks and other email threats and will allow them to take action and focus their efforts to make immediate improvements.

SafeTitan Security Awareness Training & Phishing Simulations

TitanHQ can now help businesses create a human firewall through SafeTitan Security Awareness Training. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness platform that delivers training in real-time and will greatly improve resilience to social engineering and advanced phishing attacks.

If you want to improve your resilience to cyberattacks, prevent more data breaches, and avoid the costs and reputation damage caused by those incidents, you need to be training your workforce and running phishing simulations. Get in touch with TitanHQ today for more information and get started creating your human firewall.

New TTPs Help Emotet Regain its Place as the Top Malware Threat

It took 10 months for the operators of the Emotet botnet to return after their botnet infrastructure was shut down in an international law enforcement operation, and then just a further 3 months for Emotet malware to regain its position as the most widely deployed malware.

According to Check Point, in March 2022, Emotet reestablished itself as the most widely distributed malware. Emotet has emerged like a phoenix from the flames, and infections have been soaring, with March seeing an astonishing increase in infections. Check Point says as many as 10% of all organizations globally were infected with Emotet in March, which is twice the number of infections the firm recorded in February.

Emotet first appeared in 2014 and was initially a banking Trojan; however, the malware has evolved considerably. Like many other banking Trojans, modules have been added to give the malware new functionality and today the malware is operated under the malware-as-a-service model, with access to Emotet-infected devices sold to other cybercriminal operations, which in the past has included the TrickBot operators and ransomware gangs.

In November 2021, 10 months after the botnet’s infrastructure was taken down, security researchers started reporting the resurrection of Emotet. The TrickBot operators helped to rebuild the Emotet botnet by using their malware to download Emotet as a secondary payload, and in the past couple of months, massive spamming campaigns have been launched to distribute Emotet which have proven to be highly successful. Emotet is also a self-propagating malware and the emails used to distribute it are convincing. One of the Emotet spam email campaigns being tracked by Kaspersky has been scaled up considerably, increasing 10-fold in just one month. That campaign is being used to distribute Emotet and the linked malware QBot. In February, Kaspersky intercepted 3,000 emails. In March, 30,000 emails were intercepted.

Like previous campaigns distributing Emotet, business email threads are hijacked and replies are sent to those messages that contain malicious hyperlinks or attachments. Since the messages come from trusted senders and appear to be responses to genuine messages, the chance of them attracting a click is high. This campaign highlights the importance of having an email security solution than conducts scans of outbound as well as inbound mail. Security Awareness training is also important to condition the workforce to constantly be on the lookout for potential threats, even when emails appear to have been sent internally from corporate accounts or other trusted senders.

Some of the spam email campaigns have revealed new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) are being tested to distribute the malware. This April, Microsoft started blocking macros in Office files downloaded from the Internet by default. This is a problem for threat actors that have previously relied on macros in Excel spreadsheets and Word documents to download their malware, so it is no surprise to see the Emotet operators changing their tactics to get around this.

One campaign has been identified that uses XLL files – a type of dynamic link library (DLL) file – rather than Excel and Word files. XLL files increase the functionality of Excel, and using these files gets around the problem of VBA macros being blocked. Emotet is known for large spamming campaigns; however, this campaign was conducted on a small scale, possibly to test its effectiveness. Should the campaign prove successful, it will likely be scaled up. In this campaign, the emails are linked to OneDrive, and if the link in the email is clicked, the XLL file is downloaded in a password-protected .zip file. The password to unlock the .zip file is provided in the message body.

Emotet is also being distributed via Windows shortcut files (.LNK). The Emotet operators have used this tactic in the past in combination with VBS code; however, this campaign does away with the VBS code, and instead, the .LNK files are used to directly execute PowerShell commands that download the Emotet payload.

Is likely that the operators will switch to new variants that have lower detection rates by AV engines, as has been done many times in the past, which is why it is important to have an email security solution that is not reliant on signature-based detection mechanisms. Behavioral analysis is vital for detecting these new variants. An email security solution with email sandboxing will help to protect against new malware variants that have not had their Signatures uploaded into AV engines.

TitanHQ Collects Five Expert Insights Spring 2022 Best-Of Awards

This month, TitanHQ has collected five prestigious awards for its cloud-based security solutions from Expert Insights. Expert Insights is an online publication with editorial and technical teams in the UK and US, that provide insights into cybersecurity and cloud-based technologies to help businesses make the right purchasing decisions.

Hundreds of B2B solutions are covered on the website, along with editorial buyers’ guides, blog articles, and industry analyses, with interviews and technical product reviews written by industry experts. More than 80,000 business owners, IT admins, and users visit the website every month to research products ahead of making a purchase.

Expert Insights issues ‘Best-Of’ awards to recognize companies that have developed products that provide essential services to businesses, help drive business growth, improve efficiency, and secure their IT environments against an ever-increasing range of cyber threats. The Expert Insights’ Spring 2022 Best-Of awards are issued across a range of categories, including cloud software, security, and storage, with up to 11 vendors chosen in each category. Vendors and their products are selected based on extensive research into the solutions by industry experts, and from feedback from genuine business users of the solutions. “These awards recognize the continued excellence of the providers in these categories,” said Joel Witts, Expert Insights’ Content Director.

TitanHQ collected awards for SpamTitan Email Protection, WebTitan DNS Filter, ArcTitan Email Archiving, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training, with each product being awarded Best-in-Class in their respective categories.

SpamTitan was named as the Best Email Security Gateway and was ranked the number 1 solution. WebTitan ranked best in the Web Security Solution category, ArcTitan was ranked number 1 in the Email Archiving Solution for Business category, and SafeTitan collected two best-of awards, one in the Security Awareness Training Category and another in the Phishing Simulation category.

“The recent pandemic and the growth of remote working initiatives have further highlighted the need for multiple layers of cybersecurity and our award-winning solutions form key pillars in this security strategy,” said TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh. “We will continue to innovate and provide solutions that MSPs can use to deliver a consistent, secure, and reliable experience to their customers.”

LinkedIn is Now the Most Impersonated Brand in Phishing Attacks

LinkedIn has jumped to the top of the list of the most impersonated brands in phishing attacks, now accounting for 52% of all phishing attacks involving brand impersonation – a 550% increase from the 8% in the previous quarter, according to Check Point.

LinkedIn phishing scams take various forms, although one of the most common is a fake request from an individual to connect on the platform. The phishing emails include the official LinkedIn logo and are indistinguishable from the genuine LinkedIn communications that they spoof. If the user clicks on the Accept button, they are directed to a phishing webpage that is a carbon copy of the genuine LinkedIn page aside from the domain.

The increase in LinkedIn phishing attacks is part of a trend in attacks targeting social media credentials. While these credentials do not provide an immediate financial return, social media account credentials are valuable to cybercriminals as they allow them to conduct highly effective spear phishing attacks. If a corporate social media account is compromised, trust in the company can be abused to distribute malware and links can be added to direct followers to malicious websites.

Failed delivery and shipping notifications are still a common theme in phishing emails targeting businesses and consumers. Around 22% of phishing attacks in Q1, 2022 involved the impersonation of shipping and delivery companies. The package delivery firm DHL is the second most spoofed brand accounting for 14% of brand impersonation attacks. Many of these shipping and delivery phishing emails are conducted to distribute malware, usually through the downloading of fake documents that include malicious code that installs malware such as remote access Trojans.

Phishing is the number one threat faced by businesses. Most successful cyberattacks start with a phishing email, with stolen credentials or malware providing cybercriminals with the foothold they need in a corporate network to launch an extensive attack. Phishing attacks are cheap and easy to conduct and they target employees, who can easily be fooled into installing malware or disclosing their credentials.

This month, a healthcare data breach was reported by Christie Clinic in the United States that involved a hacker gaining access to a single email account. That account was used in a business email compromise attack to divert a large vendor payment. Business email compromise attacks are the main cause of losses to cybercrime according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In this breach, the compromised email account contained the personal data of more than half a million patients. Cyberattacks such as this only require one employee to respond to a phishing email for a costly data breach to occur.

Also this month, a new malware distribution campaign has been identified that attempts to install the Meta information stealer, which is capable of stealing passwords stored in browsers and cryptocurrency wallets. The malware is delivered via phishing emails with Excel spreadsheet attachments, which include malicious macros that download and install malware via HTTPS from GitHub. In this campaign, the lure used to trick recipients into opening the file claims to be a notification about an approved transfer of funds to Home Depot, the details of which are detailed in the attached spreadsheet. In order to view the contents of the spreadsheet, the user is told they must enable content to remove DocuSign protection. Enabling content allows the macros to run.

An advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan will help to ensure that inboxes are kept free of phishing emails and any emails containing malicious scripts or attachments are not delivered. SpamTitan includes dual antivirus engines to ensure malware is identified and sandboxing to catch malware variants that bypass signature-based detection mechanisms.

While a spam filter used to be sufficient for blocking phishing emails, the sophisticated nature of phishing attacks today and the sheer volume of phishing emails being sent, mean some phishing emails will inevitably arrive in inboxes. For this reason it is also important to provide regular security awareness training to the workforce. TitanHQ can help in this regard through SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulations. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security awareness training in real-time. The solution is proven to significantly improve resilience to phishing attacks.

Scary Browser-in-the-Browser Phishing Attack Steals Credentials Using Realistic SSO Popups

Phishing remains the top cybersecurity threat to businesses. Phishing scams can be realistic and difficult for people to identify for the scams that they are. The sender field is often spoofed to make it appear that the emails have been sent by known individuals or trusted companies, the body of the messages often contains well-known branding, and templates are used for messages that are carbon copies of the genuine emails they impersonate.

The emails may contain malicious attachments if the aim is to install malware, and malicious hyperlinks if credential harvesting is the goal. The hyperlinks direct users to a website where they are asked to enter their credentials – a web page that is difficult to distinguish from the genuine web page being spoofed. As if those messages were not convincing enough, there is now a new Chrome phishing toolkit that makes credential theft even easier.

Most Internet users will be familiar with websites that use Single Sign-on popups to authenticate users. Rather than requiring website users to register an account, they can authenticate using an existing Google, Apple, or Facebook account. This way of logging in is popular, as users do not need to create and remember another set of login credentials. There is, however, a problem with this approach, and that is that single sign-on popups are easy to spoof in Chrome.

As previously mentioned, phishing scams can be convincing, but there are often red flags and the biggest flag is the URL of the website used for phishing. If you are expecting to sign in to Facebook for example, and you are directed to what is clearly not a Facebook-owned domain, the phishing scam can be easily identified.

The latest toolkit does not produce this red flag. The single sign-on popup generated on the webpage looks exactly the same as the genuine popup being spoofed, including the URL. If an individual is directed to one of these fake phishing forms, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to identify it as malicious and their credentials will be stolen.

A phishing email could be sent advising the recipient that a file has been shared with them, inviting them to log in to Dropbox for instance. The link is clicked, and the user will be directed to the website and will be presented with the login box which includes the address bar with the URL of the login form. For example, if you attempt to log in with your Google account, the URL will start with accounts.google.com/. The phishing toolkit uses pre-made templates that are fake, but incredibly realistic. These Chrome popup windows allow a custom address URL and title to be displayed.

This toolkit was created by the security researcher dr. d0x, who made them available on GitHub. They allow any would-be hacker to quickly and easily create a highly convincing SSO pop-up window, which could be added to any website and be used for a browser-in-the-browser phishing attack. This attack method is nothing new, as fake SSO pop-up windows have been created in the past, but previous attempts have not been particularly convincing, as they do not exactly replicate the genuine pop-ups. The popups have previously been used on fake gaming websites to harvest credentials from the unwary. This kit is different as it is so convincing, and could easily be used to steal credentials and even 2FA codes.

Critical Infrastructure Organizations Targeted by Ransomware Gangs

2019 was a particularly bad year for ransomware attacks, and while there was a reduction in the use of ransomware in 2020, attacks increased sharply in 2021, with the education sector and government organizations the most attacked sectors, although no industry sector is immune to attacks.

There is growing concern about the increase in attacks on critical infrastructure organizations, which are an attractive target for ransomware gangs. According to the data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the National Security Agency (NSA), 14 of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the United States reported ransomware attacks in 2021, including the defense industrial base, emergency services, healthcare, food and agriculture, information technology, and government facilities. Cybersecurity agencies in the United Kingdom and Australia have also said critical infrastructure has been targeted.

Critical Infrastructure Organizations Warned About AvosLocker Ransomware Attacks

This week, a warning has been issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) about ransomware attacks using AvosLocker ransomware.

AvosLocker was first identified as a threat in late June 2021 and despite being a relatively new threat, poses a significant risk. Attacks using the ransomware increased in the latter half of 2021, with spikes in attacks occurring in November and December. Variants of AvosLocker ransomware have now been developed to attack Linux as well as Windows systems.

As is now common, the attackers engage in double extortion and demand payment for the keys to decrypt files and to prevent the release of stolen data. The gang operates a data leak site where a sample of stolen data is uploaded and made accessible to the public. The gang says it then sells the stolen data to cybercriminals if payment is not made. AvosLocker is one of a handful of ransomware operations that also makes contact with victims by phone to encourage them to pay the ransom. The gang is known to issue threats of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) to further pressure victims into paying the ransom.

AvosLocker is a ransomware-as-a-service operation where affiliates are recruited to conduct attacks for a percentage of any ransom payments they generate. Consequently, the attack vectors used in attacks depend on the skillsets of the affiliates. Common vulnerabilities are known to be exploited to gain initial access to networks, including vulnerabilities associated with Proxy Shell and unpatched vulnerabilities in on-premises Microsoft Exchange Servers. However, over the past year, spam email campaigns have been a primary attack vector.

Email Filtering Vital for Defending Against Ransomware Attacks

Spam email is a common attack vector used by ransomware gangs. Spam email campaigns are effective and provide low-cost access to victim networks. Phishing and spam campaigns either use malicious attachments or embedded hyperlinks in emails, along with social engineering techniques to convince end users to open the attachments or click the links.

The primary defense against these attacks is email filters. Email filters scan all inbound emails and attachments and prevent malicious messages from being delivered to inboxes. Since cyber actors are constantly changing their lures, social engineering methods, and strategies to bypass email security solutions, it is vital to have an email security solution in place that can respond to changing tactics.

Email security solutions that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify and block threats outperform solutions that rely on antivirus engines and blacklists of known malicious IP addresses. SpamTitan incorporates artificial intelligence in addition to blacklists, dual antivirus engines, and sandboxing to identify malicious emails, and has comprehensive threat intelligence feeds to identify new threats rapidly. SpamTitan also provides time-of-click protection against malicious hyperlinks in emails to ensure users are well protected against phishing, malware, ransomware, and other email threats.

Don’t Neglect Security Awareness Training for the Workforce

It is also important to provide security awareness training to all members of the workforce from the CEO down. The FBI and the U.S. Treasury Department recommended in the latest alert to “Focus on cyber security awareness and training,” and “Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities (i.e., ransomware and phishing scams).” TitanHQ can help in this regard with SafeTitan – “The only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security training in real-time.”

For more information on improving your defenses against ransomware and other cyber threats, give the TitanHQ team a call to inquire about email filtering, web filtering, and security awareness training for your workforce.

TitanHQ Recruits 12 New High Profile Staff Members in Response to Blistering U.S. Growth

Less than two months after hiring channel chief Jeff Benedetti, TitanHQ has announced 12 further strategic new hires who will form a new North American team to service the US and Canadian Managed Service Provider (MSP) market.

The new team members have extensive channel experience, having previously held positions at the likes of Datto, Skout Cybersecurity, Agile Blue, and Barracuda and are based in TitanHQ’s new North American base in Shelton, Connecticut, headed up by Channel Chief Benedetti.

The new team includes Eric Morano, who has been appointed Director of Channel Development. Eric has 15 years of sales leadership and GTM experience at Datto, Skout Cybersecurity (BarracudaMSP), AgileBlue XDR, CDW, and Verizon. Moreno will be responsible for optimizing TitanHQ’s partner engagement and growth.

New Channel Account Managers include Craig Somma, who has 25 years of technology sales GTM leadership that was gained at Tech Dept, Micro Warehouse, and Gov Connection, Joseph Rende who has 10+ years of channel sales experience at Gartner and Datto, Pat DeAngelis who has 10+ years of MSP technology experience at Datto, Threatlocker and Armor Cybersecurity, and Jeff Brown has 10+ years of sales experience at Datto, SKOUT Cybersecurity, Agile Blue. New Account Executives include Alex De Los Santos, who has 8 years of sales experience at Datto and ADP, Alex Nankervis, who has 8 years of sales experience at Datto and Indeed, Kyle Leyerzapf, who has 5 years of sales experience at Datto, Patrick Barry who has 6 years of sales and accounts experience with Accu-Tech Corporation and Maxim Healthcare, and Jamal Ibrahim, who has 4 years account management experience with Altium and RCG. Marc Bonnaci has also joined the Sales Development team and has 7 years of sales and professional experience most recently at Agile Blue.

The new TitanHQ North American Team

The past three months have seen significant activity at TitanHQ. In addition to bringing in Benedetti to head the channel team, TitanHQ launched its SpamTitan Plus Anti Phishing solution in December 2021 and announced the acquisition of Cyber Risk Aware in February, and launched SafeTitan Security Awareness Training.

SpamTitan Plus is a cutting-edge, AI-driven anti-phishing solution with more comprehensive “zero-day” threat protection and intelligence than all of the current market leaders, with significant uplifts in phishing link detections and much faster detection speeds. This new addition to the SpamTitan product family has been very well received.

Cyber Risk Aware is a global leader in security awareness training to mitigate human cyber risk, and the platform is used by many companies to train their workforces to improve threat awareness. The platform, which has been re-launched as SafeTitan, is an intuitive, real-time security awareness training platform that improves awareness and human resilience to ransomware, malware, BEC attacks, and phishing. Demand for the new SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulation platform has been exceptional, with huge interest coming from MSPs and IT departments globally.

On top of these major launches, TitanHQ recorded record-breaking growth in January and February 2022 and has generated the highest revenue and new MSP partner figures in its 20-year history. More than 2,200 MSPs now use TitanHQ’s best-in-class SaaS Cybersecurity Platform daily, with the numbers continuing to grow at an incredible rate, especially in the United States and Canada, hence the need to open a new U.S. office and bring in a wealth of new talent.

Lapsus Ransomware Gang Ups the Ante with Impresa and NVIDIA Attacks

The Lapsus ransomware gang has arrived on the scene and has already claimed several high-profile targets, with victims including Impresa – the largest media conglomerate in Portugal, Brazil’s Ministry of Health (MoH), the Brazilian telecommunications operator Claro, and most recently, the Santa Clara, CA-based GPU vendor NVIDIA.

The Lapsus ransomware gang – also referred to as Lapsus$ – is a relatively new threat actor and is making a reputation for itself in an already crowded ransomware market. Most ransomware gangs now practice double extortion, where prior to encrypting files they exfiltrate sensitive data and threaten to publish the data if the ransom is not paid. Triple extortion tactics are now becoming common, where threats are also issued to notify shareholders, partners, and customers about attacks. The Lapsus gang has taken things a step further still and is boasting about its attacks and causing major embarrassment for victims.

In January, the Lapsus ransomware gang attacked the Brazilian car rental firm Localiza, which is one of the largest car rental firms in South America. In addition to stealing data and encrypting files, the gang redirected the company’s website to an adult website and publicly announced that the company is now a porn site. The redirection was only in place for a few hours, but it was enough to damage the company’s reputation.

Also in January, Impresa was targeted. Impresa is the owner of SIC and Expresso, the largest TV channel and weekly newspaper in Portugal. The attack targeted Impresa’s online IT servers resulting in company websites being taken offline and the temporary loss of Internet streaming services. The gang defaced the company’s websites by adding their ransom note and claimed they had taken control of Impresa’s Amazon Web Services account. The gang then used the hijacked Expresso Twitter account and sent a tweet stating, “Lapsus$ is officially the new president of Portugal.” The gang also gained access to its newsletter and sent phishing emails to subscribers informing them in the emails that the President of Portugal had been murdered.

On February 25, NVIDIA experienced a cyberattack that saw parts of its IT infrastructure taken offline for a couple of days. NVIDIA announced that it was investigating a security incident, and then the Lapsus gang said it was behind the attack and issued a threat to leak around 1TB of data. The gang published screenshots indicating they had leaked password hashes for NVIDIA employees, source code, and highly sensitive proprietary company information.

There was some good news – the Lapsus gang then experienced its own ‘ransomware’ attack. There have been reports in the media that NVIDIA hacked back and gained access to the attackers’ virtual machine and encrypted its data, although security research Marcus Hutchins offered an alternative view, suggesting this could have been due to the gang installing Nvidia’s corporate agent on their virtual machine and then triggering a data loss prevention policy.

In addition to demanding a ransom, the Lapsus ransomware gang also demanded NVIDIA remove its lite hast rate (LHR) limitations on its GeForce 30 series firmware – which halve the hash rate when it detects the GPUs are being used for mining Ethereum – and also requested NVIDIA commits to completely open source their GPU drivers forever. If the demands are not met, the gang said it will release the complete silicon, graphics, and computer chipset files for its most recent GPUs.

While many ransomware gangs are focused purely on extortion, the Lapsus gang appears to like the limelight and brags about their attacks, which makes attacks by the gang even more serious for victims due to the brand and reputation damage they cause.

The extent of the attack vectors used by the gang is not known, but they appear to have used phishing emails to gain access to some victims’ networks, including the attack on Impresa. Phishing is a popular attack vector in ransomware attacks. Around half of all ransomware attacks start with a phishing email, according to a recent Statista survey. Employees respond to phishing emails and disclose their credentials, which give the attackers the foothold in the network they need for a deeper compromise.

Businesses could be lulled into a false sense of security with the disbanding of major ransomware operations and arrests of key gang members. The REvil ransomware gang may be no more, and DarkSide has been shut down, but other ransomware gangs are more than happy to plug the gap. Lapsus only announced its presence on the scene at the start of the year but is already growing into a major threat.

The best defense against Lapsus ransomware attacks and other cyberattacks is to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy. That should include an advanced spam filtering solution to block email phishing attacks, content filtering to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites, multi-factor authentication on all email accounts and local/cloud apps, ensuring patches and software updates are applied promptly, and providing ongoing security awareness training to the workforce to help employees identify and avoid phishing and social engineering attempts.

TitanHQ can help organizations improve their defenses against the full range of cyberattacks by providing advanced cybersecurity solutions for SMBs, enterprises, and Managed Service Providers, including spam filtering, DNS filtering, email encryption, email archiving, and security awareness training.

LinkedIn Phishing Attacks Soar as Scammers Take Advantage of “The Great Resignation”

Microsoft may be the most impersonated brand in phishing attacks, but the impersonation of LinkedIn is also common and there has been a massive increase in phishing attacks spoofing the professional networking platform in recent weeks.

LinkedIn is an ideal brand to impersonate in phishing attacks and now is the perfect time to be running phishing campaigns due to the Great Resignation. For those unaware of the term, the Great Resignation is a phenomenon where record numbers of employees quit their jobs. The term was coined in May 2021 by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University, who predicted that when the pandemic ends there will be a mass exodus of people leaving their jobs.

While there were mass layoffs as a result of the pandemic, many workers who retained their jobs chose not to leave due to the uncertainty of the job market, but now many workers who are not living from paycheck to paycheck are reconsidering their positions. There has certainly been an upward trend in workers voluntarily leaving their jobs since the start of 2021, indicating the great resignation has begun.

LinkedIn is used by job seekers to identify contacts, network, research companies, and find new employment opportunities. A phishing email that spoofs LinkedIn and indicates a potential employer has been reading a user’s profile, shows a message has been sent through the platform, or advises the user about a new job opportunity is likely to be clicked.

LinkedIn phishing campaigns are helped by the regular email communications from LinkedIn advising users of the platform of the number of searches they appeared in, new messages, and alerts about jobs. That means that users of the platform are used to receiving regular communications from the platform, so if a phishing email is received that looks exactly like a LinkedIn communication, there is likely to be less scrutiny of the email that there would be of an email from a platform that rarely communicates with users via email.

The latest LinkedIn phishing campaign uses HTML templates that include the LinkedIn logo and the color scheme used in official LinkedIn communications. The emails also have the same footer as genuine email communications from the platform, including the correct address and unsubscribe option. The display name is spoofed to make it appear as if the emails are official communications; however, closer inspection will reveal the emails have been sent from webmail addresses.

The phishing emails include subject lines such as “Who’s searching for you online”, “You Have 1 New Message,” and “You appeared in 4 searches this week,” exactly mirroring official LinkedIn emails and they also reference well-known companies such as American Express and Tesla to make it appear that the user is being headhunted by a major corporation. The emails have an HTML button to click that will direct the user to a website where LinkedIn credentials are harvested.

LinkedIn phishing campaigns can be highly effective, but as with all phishing scams, there are ways of blocking the attacks. The first is to ensure that an advanced email security solution is deployed to block the phishing emails at the gateway to prevent them from being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan Plus uses machine learning techniques and predictive analysis to identify suspicious URLs in emails and provides time-of-click protection. If a link is found to be unsafe, a user will be presented with a block page containing additional information and further options.

SpamTitan Plus has 100% coverage of all current market-leading anti-phishing feeds, a 1.5X increase in unique phishing URL detections, and 1.6X faster phishing detections than the current market leaders, with 10 million net new, previously undiscovered phishing URLs added to the solution every single day.

It is also important to provide security awareness training to the workforce to teach employees how to identify phishing emails and to encourage following email security best practices. TitanHQ has created SafeTitan security awareness training to help train the workforce to be security titans. SafeTitan provides behavior-driven security awareness training tailored for the behaviors of individual employees, includes an extensive library of training courses, videos, and quizzes, and provides real-time intervention training combined with simulated phishing attacks. The solution is proven to reduce employee susceptibility to phishing attacks by up to 92%.

For more information on SpamTitan Plus and SafeTitan security awareness training, give the TitanHQ team a call and take the first step toward improving your defenses against phishing attacks.

BEC Scammers Use Virtual Meeting Platforms to Trick Employees into Making Fraudulent Wire Transfers

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is the leading cause of financial losses to cybercrime. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 19,369 complaints about BEC scams in 2020, resulting in adjusted losses of $1.87 billion. While BEC crime ranked number 10 based on victim count, it topped the list in terms of the losses sustained by victims, with three times as much lost to the scams as the second-biggest loss to cybercrime – Confidence/romance fraud.

Business Email Compromise scams usually start with a phishing attack to gain access to email credentials. The attackers seek the credentials of the CEO, CFO, or another executive, and either target those individuals directly with spear phishing emails or compromise the email accounts of lower-level employees and use their email accounts to send phishing emails to the targeted individuals. Once the right credentials have been obtained, the executive’s email account is used to send messages to individuals responsible for wire transfers to trick them into making substantial wire transfers to attacker-controlled bank accounts. While these scams require planning and research, the time spent setting up the scams is well spent, as BEC attacks are often successful.

While BEC scams are usually conducted via email, BEC scammers are increasingly using virtual meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom in their scams. The scammers have taken advantage of the increase in remote working due to the pandemic and the popularity of virtual meeting platforms for communication and collaboration.

Once the scammers have access to the CEO’s email account, they identify their next target and send a request for a virtual meeting. When the target connects to the meeting, the scammer explains that they are having problems with their audio and video, so the meeting proceeds with the scammer on text chat. Oftentimes they will insert a picture of the CEO for added realism. The scammer then provides a reason for the out-of-band request, then asks the employee to make a wire transfer, either in the meeting or after the meeting via email.

The FBI has recently issued a warning to businesses about the increase in the use of virtual meetings for BEC scams, having observed an increase in the use of these platforms for BEC scams between 2019 and 2021. Scammers are also compromising employee email accounts and are inserting themselves into work meetings to gather information about the day-to-day processes at businesses. Since the scammers use genuine email accounts to connect, and audio/visual problems are relatively common, they are able to gather information and steal funds without being detected. The scammers also use compromised CEO email accounts to send emails to employees claiming they are stuck in a virtual meeting and unable to arrange an important wire transfer and ask an employee to initiate the transfer on their behalf.

There are several steps that businesses can take to improve their defenses against BEC attacks. Defending against these attacks should start with an advanced email security solution to block the phishing attacks that allow scammers to gain access to email accounts. SpamTitan has industry-leading detection of phishing URLs in emails and can prevent employees from visiting the web pages where credentials are harvested.

Security awareness training is important as some malicious emails bypass all spam filters. Employees need to be trained on how to identify scam emails. Security awareness training is concerned with creating a ‘human firewall’ to augment technical defenses and should make employees aware of BEC scams and how to identify scam emails from internal email accounts. TitanHQ has recently launched a new security awareness platform called SafeTitan to help businesses with training. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness platform that provides real-time training to deal with threats targeting employees.

It is also recommended to implement policies and procedures that require secondary channels or two-factor authentication to verify requests for any changes to account information or atypical requests for bank transfers.

TitanHQ Completes Acquisition of Cyber Risk Aware

TitanHQ, the leading cybersecurity SaaS business, today announced its acquisition of Cyber Risk Aware. Established in 2016, Cyber Risk Aware is a global leader in security awareness and mitigation of human cyber risk, providing assistance to companies to train the workforce on how to protect the company network.

Cyber Risk Aware delivers real-time cyber security awareness training to staff in response to actual staff network behavior. This intuitive and real-time security awareness training reduces the likelihood users will be impacted by the latest threats such as ransomware, BEC attacks, and data breaches, whilst also enabling organizations to meet compliance obligations. Leading global businesses that trust Cyber Risk Aware include Standard Charter, Glen Dimplex, and Invesco.

The acquisition will further bolster TitanHQ’s already extensive cybersecurity offering. The combination of intelligent security awareness training with phishing simulations and TitanHQ’s advanced email protection and DNS security solutions creates a powerful, multi-layered cybersecurity platform that secures end users from compromise. This is the go-to cybersecurity platform for IT Managed Service Providers and internal IT teams.

“This is a fantastic addition to the TitanHQ team and solution portfolio. It allows us to add a human protection layer to our MSP Security platform, with a fantastic feature-rich solution as demonstrated by the high caliber customers using it. Stephen and his team have built a great company over the years, and we are delighted to have them join the exciting TitanHQ journey.” said TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh.

The solution is available to both new and existing customers and MSP partners at TitanHQ.com and has been re-branded as SafeTitan, Security Awareness Training. Cyber Risk Aware existing clients are unaffected and will benefit from improvements in the platform in terms of phishing simulation content and an exciting, innovative product roadmap.

Stephen Burke, CEO of Cyber Risk Aware, commented: “I am incredibly proud that Cyber Risk Aware has been acquired by TitanHQ, cybersecurity business that I have greatly admired for a long time. Today’s announcement is fantastic news for both our clients and partners. We will jointly bring together a platform of innovative security solutions that address the #1 threat vector used by bad actors that cause 99% of security breaches, “End User Compromise”. When I first started Cyber Risk Aware, my aim was to be the global security awareness leader in delivering the right message, to the right user at the right time. Now as part of TitanHQ, I am more excited than ever about the unique value proposition we bring to market”.

For more information on TitanHQ’s new Security Awareness Solution, visit www.TitanHQ.com/SafeTitan

Phishing Campaign Uses CSV Email Attachments to Deliver BazarBackdoor Malware

If you provide security awareness training to the workforce, you will no doubt have highlighted the risk of opening Microsoft Office email attachments, especially when sent from unknown individuals. Microsoft Office files can include macros, which if allowed to run, can silently deliver malicious payloads. Comma-separated values (CSV) files are often not viewed as malicious, as they are simple text files, but a campaign has been identified by security researcher Chris Campbell that uses CSV files to deliver BazarBackdoor malware.

BazarBackdoor is a fileless malware that is believed to have been created by the threat actors behind the TrickBot banking Trojan. BazarBackdoor is used as the first stage of an attack that provides threat actors with remote access to an infected device, which can be leveraged to conduct more extensive compromises and deliver other malicious payloads. BazarBackdoor is fileless malware, which makes it difficult to detect. It resides in the memory, does not touch the hard drive, and does not leave a footprint.

Throughout the pandemic, BazarBackdoor has been delivered using COVID-19-themed and business-related lures via embedded hyperlinks in emails. The links direct users to a web page where they are tricked into downloading and running an executable file. The landing pages often claim to be web-hosted PDF, Word, or Excel files. When the file is downloaded and executed, it delivers BazarBackdoor malware. The latest campaign is a departure from the typical method of malware delivery and is one that could easily fool users as CSV files are often viewed as benign.

CSV files are often used to transfer data between different applications, such as databases and spreadsheets. A CSV file contains text separated by commas, with each comma denoting a new column and each line denoting a new row. Since a CSV file is a text file, it cannot contain any macros and cannot, by itself, execute any malicious code; however, that does not mean CSV files are entirely benign, as this latest campaign demonstrates.

The issue is not the CSV file itself, but a feature of Microsoft Excel that allows CSV files to be used in a malicious way. Excel supports Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), which is a message-based protocol for sharing data between applications running under Windows systems. DDE can be used to execute commands that have their output inputted into an open spreadsheet, including CSV files.

The CSV files used in this campaign are like any other, with data separated by commas; however, the file includes a WMIC call that launches a PowerShell command. If the CSV file is opened using Excel – on most devices CSV files are associated with Excel – DDE uses WMIC to create a PowerShell process, which opens a remote URL that uses PowerShell to download a .jpg file, which is saved as a DLL file and executed using rundll32.exe. The DLL file installs BazarLoader, which in turn downloads and executes BazarBackdoor. If the CSV file is opened in Excel, two warnings will be generated, but users may ignore those warnings, and it would appear many have done so.

Since BazarBackdoor and other fileless malware are difficult to detect, the key to protecting against campaigns such as this is to block the threat before the malware can be delivered, which requires a combination of technical measures and end user training.

The lures and techniques used to deliver malware via phishing emails are diverse and new methods are constantly being developed to fool end users and email security solutions. While the use of Office files for delivering malware is common, other files can also be used so it is important to teach employees to be wary of any email file attachment and to never ignore any security warnings. An advanced email security solution is required to identify malicious email attachments, but antivirus engines alone will not block threats such as this. Email security solutions that include sandboxing are important. Suspicious email attachments are opened in the sandbox and are subjected to in-depth analysis. It is also recommended to also use a web filter to block access to malicious websites and control the files that can be downloaded to users’ devices.

If you want to improve your defenses against email- and web-based cyber threats, give the TitanHQ team a call. TitanHQ has developed advanced, effective, and easy-to-use cloud-based cybersecurity solutions for SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers to protect against all email- and web-delivered threats. You may be surprised to discover how little it costs to implement these solutions and ensure malware and phishing threats never trouble your business.

Jeff Benedetti Joins TitanHQ as New VP of Sales – North America

TitanHQ has appointed channel veteran Jeff Benedetti as the company’s new Vice President of Sales – North America.

Jeff Benedetti – TitanHQ VP of Sales, North America

TitanHQ is the leading web filtering, email filtering, and email archiving Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business and already has a strong presence in North America, with the North American operations run from TitanHQ’s U.S. base in Tampa, Florida. TitanHQ has been enjoying strong growth in the region and the new appointment will help to ensure the growth continues over the long term.

Jeff Benedetti has nearly two decades of experience in sales and go-to-market leadership in the technology and security markets. Benedetti joins the TitanHQ Go-to-Market leadership team from SKOUT Cybersecurity, where he led the Sales and Marketing teams. The firm was acquired by Barracuda Networks last summer. Prior to the position at SKOUT Cybersecurity, Benedetti served as the Director of US Sales at Datto where he played a key role in improving partner growth and expansion in the U.S. while Datto achieved unicorn status and an acquisition by Vista Private Equity. Benedetti has also held leadership roles at Apple Inc. and Tech Depot.

“End-user compromise is the #1 threat vector for bad actors and causes 99% of security breaches. As the cyber problem compounds, MSPs continue to be a single resource to secure their customers’ users, networks, and infrastructure,” said Benedetti. “The opportunity to enable our partners with a best-in-class security platform and partner program built for growth is massive.”

TitanHQ has been providing security solutions to business and managed service providers (MSPs) for more than 20 years and now provides email security, DNS security, email archiving, and email encryption services to more than 8,500 businesses worldwide. Among TitanHQ’s customers are more than 2,500 MSPs, which use TitanHQ solutions to protect themselves and their clients from malware, ransomware, botnets, viruses, phishing attacks, and other cyber threats.

TitanHQ has developed its solutions to meet the needs of MSPs, with MSP needs factored into the products at the development stage. The company has grown to become the leading provider of cloud-based email and web cybersecurity solutions for MSPs serving the SMB market, and the company is enjoying continued, strong growth. TitanHQ is looking to continue to build long-term growth and as the IT service provider of choice for MSPs.

“We are thrilled Jeff has joined TitanHQ to further expand our already strong growth in the U.S. market. As a well-respected International sales executive within cybersecurity, Jeff is an important addition to TitanHQ. His decades of expertise will be pivotal in driving growth and will benefit partners and customers as TitanHQ continues to innovate and grow,” said TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh.

Meet the TitanHQ Team at Zero Trust World 2022

This coming February, some of the world’s brightest cybersecurity professionals will be converging at Threatlocker’s Zero Trust World 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Over the course of the two-and-a-half-day event which runs February 21-23, attendees will be treated to live hacking demonstrations, will be able to take part in hands-on exercises in workshops, and there will be training opportunities and certification labs. The event is very much focused on providing valuable insights into how to become an even more successful MSP and IT professional.

This year, attendees will hear from some of the world’s leading cybersecurity professionals who will be discussing the importance of zero trust in today’s cyber threat landscape and other important cybersecurity topics. They will provide expert advice that can be actioned when attendees return to their jobs to better defend against the full range of cyber threats.

This year, TitanHQ is excited to be attending the event and will be exhibiting and showcasing SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan DNS filtering, ArcTitan email archiving, and EncryptTitan email encryption.

For the past 20 years, TitanHQ has been providing cloud-based security solutions to SMBs and managed service providers serving the SMB market. Today, more than 12,000 businesses rely on TitanHQ’s security solutions, including more than 2,500 MSPs in 150 countries.

If you are attending the event, be sure to visit the TitanHQ stand to find out more about TitanHQ solutions and to discover how they can make your life easier, protect against cyber threats, and improve the profitability of your business.

If you have not yet booked your place at the event, you can register here.

Interpol Operation Targeting Nigerian Cybercrime Gang Sheds Light on Extensive BEC Operation

A recent law enforcement operation led by Interpol has seen 11 members of a Nigerian cybercrime gang arrested for their role in a massive campaign of business email compromise (BEC) attacks. The operation has shed light on how the gangs operate and defraud their victims.

According to the FBI, business email compromise (BEC) is the costliest type of computer fraud. While the number of BEC attacks is relatively low compared to phishing, the attacks result in the largest losses of any type of cybercrime, even ransomware attacks. In 2020, $1.8 billion was lost to BEC scams and $5 billion has been lost to the scams between 2018 and 2020.

BEC attacks often involve the impersonation of a vendor. A vendor email account is compromised, and an email is sent to a customer requesting a change to payment details for an upcoming invoice. The victim is tricked into sending the payment to an attacker-controlled account, and by the time the scam is detected, the money has usually been withdrawn from the account and is unrecoverable. The transfers are often for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.

These scams usually start with phishing emails. A spear phishing email is sent to the targeted company with a view to compromising the email account of the CEO, CFO, or another individual high up in the organization. With access to the account, the attacker is able to monitor communications and forward emails of interest to their own account – messages containing payment, invoice, transfer, and those containing payment information. The emails are redirected to the attacker’s account before they can be viewed by the account holder or are hidden in service directories. The attacker can then send their version of a message with altered payment details. In some of the scams, both parties – the victim and a business partner – believe they are communicating with each other, when they are each communicating with the scammer.

Another version of the scam involves the use of a compromised company email account to send messages to employees with responsibilities for making SWIFT transfers asking for payments to be made. Since the emails are sent from the CEO or CFO’s email account and the attackers copy the writing style of the account holder, these requests are often not questioned and the payments are made per the requests.

The Nigerian gang is tracked as Silver Terrier by Palo Alto Networks, which assisted Interpol in the investigation. Around 500 individuals in Nigeria are believed to be involved in the attacks. In this operation, rather than targeting the money mules, the law enforcement operation targeted the individuals involved in the technical infrastructure of the operation such as malware development, phishing attacks, and the domain infrastructure.

One suspect’s computer was found to contain th800,000 usernames and passwords that could potentially be used to hack into corporate email accounts. Another suspect’s computer showed he was monitoring conversations between 16 companies and their clients with a view to diverting legitimate payments as they were about to be made.

Once BEC scammers have access to corporate email accounts, it can be difficult to identify their scam emails. While policies can be introduced that require all requests for bank account changes or changes to the method of payment be verified by telephone, that is often impractical for every single transaction.

The best method of avoiding becoming a victim of these scams is to implement robust email security measures to block the initial phishing emails, ensure strong credentials are set for email accounts, and multi-factor authentication is implemented. The Nigerian gangs are prolific malware developers and use their malware to provide access to victims’ computers to steal credentials. It is essential for antimalware solutions to be deployed on all endpoints, and to have an email security solution with strong antimalware controls.

TitanHQ’s SpamTitan suite of email security solutions provides protection against phishing and malware attacks that are used to obtain credentials to access email accounts. SpamTitan Plus has faster and more comprehensive detection of links in phishing emails than any of the current market-leading email security solutions and the entire suite of products has excellent protection against malware, thanks to dual antivirus engines and sandboxing.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, malware, and BEC attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

How to Protect Against Redline Malware and Other Email Malware Threats

Cyberattacks are now being reported at an incredible rate, with many of those attacks having devastating consequences for small- and medium-sized businesses. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, around 60% of small- to medium-sized companies go out of business within 6 months of suffering a data breach. Cyberattacks are becoming much more sophisticated, but oftentimes these incredibly damaging attacks are not conducted by highly skilled hackers. The bar for conducting these attacks can be incredibly low, which means anyone with a modicum of skill can conduct attacks and profit. One of the ways that would-be hackers can start conducting attacks is by taking advantage of the many ransomware-as-a-service and malware-as-a-service offerings on hacking forums and darknet marketplaces. Take Redline malware for example.

Redline malware is a commodity information stealer that is easily obtained on hacking and cybercrime forums. The malware costs between $100-$200, and payment can be made anonymously using cryptocurrencies. At such a low price it is available to virtually anyone, and conducting attacks requires little effort or skill.

The Redline stealer was first identified in March 2020 and soon became one of the most prevalent malware threats with the number of attacks continuing to grow. Redline malware has been used in attacks on a wide range of businesses, with the manufacturing and healthcare sectors two of the most commonly attacked sectors.

Redline malware has been updated several times since it first emerged, with new features added such as the ability to exfiltrate credentials, steal cryptocurrency wallets, FTP authentication data, passwords stored in browsers, and gather information about the infected system. It is also capable of loading remote payloads and uses a SOAP API for C2 communication. One successful attack could see the attacker recover the purchase cost many times over.

Like many other malware variants, the most common method of delivery is email. Emails are broadcast using huge mailing lists, which can also be purchased at a low cost on cybercrime forums.  Alternatively, more targeted campaigns can be conducted on specific businesses, with the emails often having a much higher chance of success due to the personalization of the emails.

The emails usually contain a malicious hyperlink and use social engineering techniques to trick employees into clicking. When the link is clicked, the binary file is downloaded and installed on the user’s device. While antivirus software should identify and block the malware threat, there have been many cases where AV engines have failed to detect the malware.

Redline malware will obtain a list of processes running on an infected device, including the security solutions in place. Attackers can interact with the malware remotely and view information about the infected system, can create and download remote files, silently run commands on an infected machine, and steal highly sensitive information. One of the biggest threats is the ability to steal data from browsers, including passwords stored in the Chrome, Edge, and opera browsers.  Most browsers encrypt stored passwords, but Redline malware can programmatically decrypt the password store in Chromium-based browsers, provided they are logged in as the same user. Redline malware runs as the user that infected the device and can steal that user’s passwords from their password file.

Not everyone stores their passwords in their browser, but there is still a threat. When the browser suggests storing a password and the request is refused, a record is kept about that refusal so a further request will not be suggested next time the user visits that particular website. That record can be stolen from the browser, so the attacker will discover what accounts the user has and can then conduct phishing campaigns to obtain the passwords or use credential stuffing attacks. Much of the data stolen in redline malware attacks can easily be monetized on cybercrime forums.

Malware-as-a-service has opened up cyberattacks to a much broader range of individuals, but ultimately the attacks depend on employees being tricked into clicking links in emails or opening infected email attachments. Blocking those emails is the best approach to blocking the malware threats, which is where SpamTitan is invaluable.

SpamTitan Plus includes 100% of all current market-leading anti-phishing feeds. That translates into a 1.5x increase in phishing URL detections and 1.6x faster phishing detections than the current market leaders. 10 million net new, previously undiscovered phishing URLs are identified every day, and it takes just 5 minutes from a phishing URL being detected to all end users’ inboxes being protected. Time-of-click verification of links in emails involves multiple dynamic checks of redirects and there are dual anti-virus engines and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox to identify any malicious files attached to emails.

If you want to protect against malware and phishing attacks and ensure your company does not suffer an incredibly damaging cyberattack and data breach, give the TitanHQ team a call for more information on SpamTitan.

Join TitanHQ at the Free Channel Pitch Exclusive MSP Livestream Event on January 21, 2022

Managed Service Providers have a great opportunity on January 21, 2022, to discover some of the key products they can incorporate into their service stacks to help grow their business and provide even better value to their clients.

The Channel Pitch Livestream Event is totally free of charge for MSPs, MSSPs, ISPs, VARs, IT solution providers, and consultants and will introduce attendees to products from 7 innovative technology vendors that have been specifically curated for the Chanel Pitch event. The technology vendors have had their solutions adopted by some of the most successful MSPs and are being used to better protect their clients, improve efficiency, and significantly improve their bottom lines.

The event is being hosted by Serial Tech Entrepreneur Kevin Lancaster and Channel Evangelist Matt Solomon, both of whom are highly esteemed MSP industry professionals. They will be introducing 7 emerging technology vendors, each of which will give a 7-minute presentation on a key product for MSPs and other service providers.

TitanHQ is happy to announce that Conor Madden, Director of Sales, will be hosting one of the 7-minute presentations to introduce MSPs to TitanHQ’s award-winning cybersecurity solutions that have been proven to help MSPs significantly improve their profits while also ensuring downstream businesses are well protected from cyber threats.

The LiveStream Event will take place on January 21, 2022, at 4.00 p.m. GMT, 11 a.m. EST, 8 a.m. PST and attendees will be able to see presentations from the following vendors:

  • TitanHQ – Email and Web Security
  • Hook Security – Security Awareness Training
  • Nerdio – Azure
  • Nuvolex – XaaS Management
  • Speartip – SOC
  • Threatlocker – Application Whitelisting
  • Zomentum – Sales Automation

Attendees will be able to engage directly with vendors or provide 100% anonymous feedback.

Register Your FREE Place Here!

 

Study Sheds Light the Employees Most Likely to Fall for Phishing Scams

Phishing is the attack vector of choice for many cybercriminals. Attacks are easy to perform, they are often successful, and they provide the foothold in business networks that is required for more extensive compromises. The best defense against phishing is to implement a technological solution – a spam filter – to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes. If phishing emails are blocked at the email gateway, they will not arrive in inboxes where they can fool employees.

End-user training is also important, as no spam filter will block all malicious emails. A recent large-scale study has been conducted to determine whether end-user training and phishing warnings are effective, how vulnerability to phishing attacks evolves over time, which employees are most likely to fall for a phishing scam, and whether employees can actually play an important role in phishing email detection, The results of the survey are interesting and provide insights into susceptibility to phishing attacks that can be used by businesses to develop effective employee training programs.

The study was conducted on 14,733 participants by researchers at ETH Zurich and over a period of 15 months and involved another company sending phishing email simulations to see who opened the messages and who clicked on links in the emails. The employees that were tested had no knowledge that simulations were being conducted to make the simulations closely mirror real-world phishing attacks.

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There were notable differences in susceptibility to phishing attacks with different age groups, with younger employees more likely to respond to the phishing emails than all other age groups. 18- and 19-year-olds were by far the most likely age group to fall for phishing emails, with the over 60s the least likely. From ages 20 to 59, the percentage of dangerous actions taken in response to phishing emails increased for each age group, with 20- to 29-year olds the least likely to take dangerous actions.

Individuals who are not required to use computers for their day-to-day jobs might be considered to be most at risk of falling for a phishing scam, but that was not the case. Infrequent computer users were the least likely to fall for the scams followed by frequent users, with individuals who use specialized software for repetitive tasks the most susceptible to phishing emails.

In this study, men and women were found to be equally susceptible to phishing emails across the entire study. This contrasts with several other studies that suggest there is a gender bias, with women less likely to fall for phishing scams than men. However, there were differences between the genders when combined with the frequency of computer use data. Men who use specialist software to automate tasks were the most likely to fall for phishing emails, followed by women who used specialist software, then women who are frequent users of computers, and men who are infrequent users. Female infrequent users were the least likely to fall for phishing scams.

The study confirmed the findings of several others in that some individuals are prone to respond to phishing emails. After responding to one simulated phishing email they would go on to respond to more. 30.62% of individuals who clicked on one phishing email were repeated clickers, and 23.91% of individuals who took dangerous actions such as enabling macros in email attachments did it on more than one occasion. These findings show the importance of conducting phishing email simulations to identify weak links who can receive additional training.

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Phishing simulations are often conducted by businesses to test the effectiveness of their training programs, but one notable finding was that voluntary training when a simulated phishing email attracted a response was not effective. In fact, not only was this not effective, it appeared to make employees even more susceptible to phishing emails.

Another interesting finding related to adding warnings to emails. When warnings about potential phishing emails, such as emails coming from an external email address, were included in emails, employees were less likely to be duped. However, the lengthier the warning, the less effective it is. Detailed warnings were less likely to be read and acted upon.

When a phishing email reporting option was added to the mail client, employees often reported phishing emails. This feature involved a phishing email button that sent a warning to the IT team. There did not appear to be any waning of reporting over time, with employees not appearing to suffer from reporting fatigue. A few reports would be submitted within 5 minutes of an email arriving, around 30% of reports were within 30 minutes, and over 50% came within 4 hours. The reports could give IT security teams time to take action to remove all instances of phishing emails from the mail system or send warnings to employees.

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What the study clearly demonstrated is that even employees who are adept at identifying phishing emails are likely to fall for one eventually, so while security awareness training is important, having an effective spam filtering solution is vital. Even individuals who were regularly exposed to phishing emails were eventually duped into clicking a phishing link or taking a dangerous action. Across the entire study, 32.1% of employees clicked on at least one dangerous link or opened a potentially dangerous email attachment.

Personal and Health Information of 398K Patients Exposed in Mon Health Phishing Attack

Healthcare data carries a high value on the black market as it can be monetized in a variety of ways. One of the main methods used to gain access to the healthcare networks where patient data are stored is phishing emails. Phishing emails are also a leading vector for malware delivery, and initial access brokers often target healthcare providers with phishing emails to steal credentials, then provide access to healthcare networks to ransomware gangs.

This month, a major phishing attack was reported by Morgantown, WV-based Monongalia Health System (Mon Health) which affected two of its hospitals. Hackers sent phishing emails to Mon Health employees, with the responses to those messages providing the hackers with the credentials they needed to access corporate email accounts. Those email accounts contained the personal and protected health information of patients and employee information. Notification letters have recently been sent to 398,000 individuals affected by the attack.

While healthcare data is valuable, this phishing attack was conducted for another reason, although it is possible healthcare data were stolen by the attackers. This attack was what is commonly referred to as a business email compromise (BEC) attack.

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BEC attacks can involve the theft of sensitive data but they are most commonly conducted to trick individuals responsible for making wire transfers into making fraudulent transfers to attacker-controlled accounts or to change payroll details to get direct deposits of salaries paid into the attacker’s account.

BEC attacks often start with a phishing email. Once access is gained to an employee’s account, phishing emails are sent to other employees to compromise more accounts. When the required accounts are compromised, the account owner is impersonated and an email is sent to an individual responsible for wire transfers that requests a change to bank account information on file.

In this attack, the attackers gained access to a contractor’s email account that was used to change payment details. Since the email requesting the payment details change came from a legitimate and trusted email account, the change was made and the attack went undetected. The BEC attack was detected when a payment issue was reported, and it was confirmed that the payment had left Mon Health’s account.

Mon Health is far from the only U.S. healthcare organization to suffer an attack such as this. Also this month, Florida Digestive Health Specialists started notifying 212,000 patients about an email breach that occurred in December 2020. Again, the attack was conducted to try to divert payments to an attacker-controlled account. In this case, the process of checking every email and attachment for sensitive patient data took 11 months.

These attacks risk the loss of funds through fraudulent transfers, but even if patient data are not stolen, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires patients to be notified, and usually, it is necessary to offer complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to affected patients. Those costs, in addition to the investigation and mitigation measures, can be substantial.

Once an employee email account has been compromised it can be difficult to detect and block an attack, and recovering funds after they have been transferred may not be possible unless the fraudulent wire transfer is detected quickly. The key to blocking these attacks and preventing losses is to prevent the phishing emails from reaching employee inboxes, to provide training to the workforce to help employees identify phishing emails that are delivered, and to implement multifactor authentication on email accounts to make it harder for stolen credentials to be used to access accounts.

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SpamTitan Gateway and SpamTitan Cloud are two excellent choices for businesses looking to improve their defenses against phishing attacks. The solutions block more than 99.97% of spam and phishing emails from reaching inboxes, and also include outbound scanning to help identify compromised mailboxes. SpamTitan Plus, a new phishing solution released this month, takes protection to another level. SpamTitan Plus includes all major phishing feeds and has faster and better detection of malicious URLs in emails than any of the current market-leading anti-phishing solutions.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing and BEC attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call for further information on the SpamTitan suite of products.

TitanHQ Placed 33 in 2021 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 List

TitanHQ has been included in the 2021 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 List of the fastest-growing tech companies in Ireland. The Award program has now been running for 22 years and celebrates innovation and entrepreneurship in Ireland’s indigenous technology sector.

Deloitte compiles the list based on percentage revenue growth over the past 4 years, with TitanHQ ranking in position 33 in the list after a long period of sustained growth. That growth continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses have struggled. Not only has the company significantly increased its customer base over the past 4 years, the workforce has also had a major expansion. Between September 2020 and April 2021, TitanHQ’s workforce doubled in size.

As well as impressive organic growth, TitanHQ has benefitted from investment from Livingbridge Investor Group which has allowed the company to continue to recruit the best talent to support its business and invest in product development. As well as making improvements to its existing product portfolio, the company released a new product this month – SpamTitan Plus.

SpamTitan Plus builds on the protection provided by SpamTitan Gateway and SpamTitan Cloud but significantly improves detection of the malicious URLs in emails that are used for phishing and malware distribution. SpamTitan Plus has coverage of all major phishing feeds and has the fastest and best detection rates of malicious URLs than any of the market-leading anti-spam solutions.

“As a result of increased demand globally for our solutions, we have invested heavily in product development and embarked on a recruitment campaign to double our workforce in a program that will allow that growth to continue,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “The quick move to remote working last year has made us all aware of how important it is to be adaptable and have the right security solutions in place to protect users, customers, company data, and systems.”

TitanHQ’s customer base has now increased to more than 12,000 businesses, including over 2,500 managed service providers in 150 countries, with much of TitanHQ’s growth over the past 4 years due to the increase in overseas customers. That growth was also recognized by Deloitte, which awarded TitanHQ runner-up spot in the Scale Up Award. The Scale Up Award recognizes companies that have enjoyed significant overseas growth over the past 4 years.

“Congratulations to all of the companies that ranked this year. This is the first year we have seen the impact the pandemic has had on revenues of Irish tech companies,” said David Shanahan, Partner, Deloitte “It will come as no surprise that many of this year’s winners have achieved accelerated growth and scale as a result of the pandemic and being able to capitalize on the global move to a digital way of life.”

Hijacked Email Threads with Malicious Links to Fake PDF Files Used to Distribute the Emotet Trojan

The Emotet botnet was one of the largest ever seen and certainly one of the most dangerous. Phishing emails were used to infect devices with Emotet malware, which added the devices to the botnet. The operators of Emotet then sold access to other threat actors such as ransomware gangs. The botnet was shut down by an international law enforcement effort and the cleanup operation saw the malware removed from all infected devices. While that severely disrupted the Emotet operation for several months, the botnet is now back with a vengeance.

The TrickBot Trojan was one of the malware variants downloaded by Emotet, but it was used in the early stages of rebuilding the Emotet botnet, with the two malware operations completely reversing roles. The Emotet botnet has been rapidly rebuilt and is being used once again to infect victims’ devices with malware Qbot. Emotet is no longer relying on TrickBot to infect devices.

Emotet is once again being distributed by hijacking email threads and sending messages that appear to a reply to a previous conversation. While this method has previously seen malicious attachments added to those threads, according to Bleeping Computer a new tactic is now being used. A malicious hyperlink is inserted into the message threads that appears to be a link to a PDF file hosted on a remote server. In one example, “Please see attached and thanks” was inserted along with a hyperlink in response to a previous conversation.

If the link is clicked, the user is directed to what appears to be a shared document on Google Drive, where the user is asked to click the link to preview the PDF file. However, clicking the link attempts to open an appinstaller file hosted on Microsoft Azure. The user is required to accept the appinstaller prompt, which appears to be attempting to install an Adobe PDF component with permissions to use all system resources.

The package has a valid certificate and includes the Adobe PDF logo, but it will install a malicious appxbundle that will infect the user’s device with the Emotet Trojan. Emotet will then download other malicious payloads, which often lead to a ransomware attack. The Cryptolaemus group, which tracks and reports on Emotet activity, says the new URL-based lures are being used in addition to the standard Emotet tactics of distributing the malware using .zip and .docx email attachments.

The Emotet botnet has been rebuilt at a tremendous pace and there has been a massive increase in Emotet activity in the past few days. Malwarebytes detected a major spike in activity on November 26 and abuse.ch reported an even bigger spike on December 1, when 447% more malicious sites were being used to distribute the malware than in early November. Emotet has once again grown into a significant threat and its infrastructure has been upgraded to make it even more resilient and prevent any further takedown attempts by law enforcement. It is looking like the Emotet botnet is back and stronger than it was before the takedown.

So how can businesses protect against Emotet? End user training is important, but the tactics used by the Emotet gang are effective and fool many users into starting the infection process. The key to protection is to block the phishing emails that are the initial attack vector and that requires an advanced spam filtering solution.

TitanHQ has recently launched a new product – SpamTitan Plus – with significantly improved protection against malicious links which, coupled with dual antivirus protection and sandboxing, can protect against phishing and malware threats delivered by email.

To find out more about how TitanHQ solutions can protect your business against malware, phishing, and ransomware attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call.

UK Omicron Phishing Campaign Takes Advantage of New WHO Variant of Concern

A new Omicron phishing scam has been detected in the UK that spoofs the NHS and attempts to steal personal and financial information using a free COVID Omicron PCR test as a lure. The campaign is likely to be one of many taking advantage of fears about the latest SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern.

COVID-19 phishing scams have been a regular feature of the pandemic, so it is no surprise that the latest turn of events has triggered a wave of new phishing emails. The emergence of Omicron, a variant of concern that has the potential to escape the protections provided by COVID-19 vaccines, has naturally alarmed scientists and the general public alike and has created an opportunity for phishers.

Phishers use fear and urgency in their phishing scams to convince people to take an action that they would otherwise not do. The emergence of the Omicron variant has already generated fear, and the phishers are providing a solution. The Omicron phishing campaign was detected in the United Kingdom and impersonates the National Health Service (NHS). The emails offer a newly developed COVID-19 PCR test that is able to detect infection with the Omicron variant. The campaign is being conducted via email and text message, but this approach could easily be conducted by telephone.

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One of the intercepted phishing emails tells the recipient that “NHS scientists have warned that the new Covid variant omicron spreads rapidly, can be transmitted between fully vaccinated people, and makes jabs less effective,” echoing the current fears of scientists. The email goes on to say, “However, as the new covid variant (Omicron) has quickly become apparent, we have had to make new test kits as the new variant appears dormant in the original tests.”

In order to receive the new test, the victim must click on a hyperlink in the email and will be directed to a webpage that spoofs the NHS patient portal. They are asked to enter their personal information, including their name, address, date of birth, contact telephone numbers, and email address. The NHS is a free healthcare service; however, the scammers request payment to cover postage costs. In order to pay the £1.24 delivery charge, the phishing page asks for bank account/credit card information and mother’s maiden name.

As is common in phishing campaigns, emails also include a threat. In a section titled, “What happens if you decline a COVID-19 Omicron test?”, victims are told that they will be required to isolate. While the emails contain red flags, such as multiple spelling and grammatical errors, the NHS branding and email address used to send the messages – contact-nhs[@]nhscontact.com – may be enough to convince people that the request is legitimate.

The success of this Omicron phishing scam depends on people taking action without carefully considering what they are being asked to do. While Omicron is a genuine cause of concern, always stop and think about any request for sensitive information via email, text message, social media messages, or phone calls. Official messages from the NHS will be free of spelling mistakes and the NHS will never ask for payment for sending COVID-19 tests.

While this Omicron phishing scam targets individuals, many COVID-19 phishing campaigns have targeted businesses and attempt to either obtain credentials or deliver malware. Businesses need to ensure they implement an anti-phishing solution that is capable of identifying and blocking phishing emails.

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TitanHQ has developed a suite of cybersecurity solutions to protect businesses from cyberattacks such as phishing, with the latest solution – SpamTitan Plus – providing even greater protection against phishing attacks. SpamTitan Plus includes additional measures to improve malicious URL detection along with time-of-click protection to prevent employees from visiting the malicious websites linked in phishing emails.

If you want to improve protection against phishing attacks and the full range of email threats, contact TitanHQ today for more information on the best phishing solution to meet the needs of your business.

SpamTitan Plus Launched by TitanHQ to Combat Zero-Day Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the number one cybersecurity threat faced by businesses and attacks are becoming highly sophisticated. Phishing is used to obtain sensitive information such as login credentials and for distributing malware and ransomware. 91% of all cyberattacks start with phishing emails.

Many businesses now provide security awareness training for the workforce to raise awareness of the threat from phishing and to teach employees the skills that will allow them to identify and avoid phishing emails, but the click rates in phishing emails remain high. According to Security Affairs, 97% of users fail to identify phishing emails. The reason is phishing emails are now being created that are virtually indistinguishable from genuine communications from trusted sources and phishers are experts at social engineering.

The best defense against phishing is a spam filter – A technical solution that scans all inbound (and outbound) emails and performs a wide range of checks and analyses, all of which must be passed in order for an email to be sent to an inbox. Spam filters scan the message headers and message body for signs of spam and phishing, and attachments are scanned using anti-virus engines that identify known malware variants. Hyperlinks in messages are also checked; however, phishers are constantly developing new techniques for hiding malicious URLs from email security solutions.

TitanHQ’s spam and phishing protection solution – SpamTitan – already provides excellent protection from spam and phishing emails; however, a new product – SpamTitan Plus – has now been launched that significantly improves detection rates. SpamTitan Plus provides advanced phishing protection with better coverage, better phishing link detections, faster detection speed, and also has the lowest false positive rate of any product.

“The overwhelming feedback from our users and customer base has been that phishing attacks are becoming more advanced, proficient, and dangerous. Phishing is the number one problem to solve in the email security community,” said TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh. “With that in mind, we allocated resources and investment to develop a solution with new, cutting-edge, robust, fast phishing threat intelligence driven by a team of security specialists. We’re very happy with the result – SpamTitan Plus”.

SpamTitan Plus includes leading-edge, AI-driven anti-phishing prevention and incorporates the newest “zero-day” threat intelligence, providing better protection than current market-leading email security solution providers at neutralizing malicious links in emails.

All URLs in emails are inspected to determine if they are malicious and are rewritten, and a time-of-click analysis is performed. This is important as the URLs in phishing emails may not be malicious at the time of delivery and may be weaponized with malware after they have passed email security checks. The time-of-click protection involves several dynamic checks, including a page evaluation to identify spoofed websites and login pages and the following of any redirects. If a user clicks on a malicious URL, instead of being directed to the website they will be sent to a local block page that provides further information.

Independent tests of SpamTitan Plus show:

  • 100% coverage of phishing threats from the current market-leading anti-phishing feeds
  • 5X increase in unique phishing URL threat detection than the current market leaders
  • 6X faster and more rapid phishing detection than the current market leaders

10 million new, previously undiscovered phishing URLs are detected every single day and there is only a 5-minute delay from the initial detection of a malicious URL to protect an end user’s mailbox.

SpamTitan is relied upon by 12,000 customers and 3,000 Managed Service Providers for protecting against spam and phishing emails. They can now choose to significantly improve protection with SpamTitan Plus. For more information about SpamTitan Plus, Give the TitanHQ team a call today.

Warning Issued About Brand Phishing Attacks and the Widespread Availability of Scampage Tools

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning about an increase in spear phishing campaigns impersonating big name brands. Brand phishing is incredibly common and is an effective way of getting individuals to disclose sensitive information such as login credentials or install malware.

Brand phishing abuses trust in a brand. When individuals receive an email from a brand they know and trust, they are more likely to take the action requested in the email. Brand phishing emails usually include the logo of the targeted brand, and the emails use the same message formats as genuine communications from those brands. Links are usually included to malicious web pages that are often hidden in buttons to hide the true destination URL.

If a user clicks the link, they are directed to an attacker-controlled domain that similarly uses branding to fool the victim and make them think they are on the genuine website of the spoofed brand. These webpages include forms that harvest sensitive data. Alternatively, malicious files may be downloaded, with social engineering techniques used to trick victims into opening the files and installing malware.

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Cyber threat actors are offering scampage tools on underground marketplaces to help other cybercriminals conduct more effective phishing campaigns. These scampage tools are offered under the product-as-a-service model and allow individuals to conduct convincing phishing campaigns, even people who do not possess the skills to conduct phishing campaigns. With phishing opened up to would-be cybercriminals, the threat to individuals and businesses increases.

The FBI says the scampage tools now being offered can recognize when individuals use their email address as their login ID for a website. Websites require a unique username to be provided when creating an account, and many use an individual’s email address as their username by default.

The scampage tools can identify when a user has set their email address as their username, and when that is detected, they will be directed to a scampage for the same email domain. The user is required to enter their password to log in, which will allow the threat actor to obtain the password and access the victim’s email. With access to the email account, attackers can intercept 2-factor authentication codes, thus bypassing this important control mechanism. With 2FA codes, the attacker will be able to gain access to accounts and make changes, including updating passwords to lock users out of their accounts or change security rules before the owner of the account can be notified.

“Much like the threat with ransomware-as-a-service, this type of product-as-a-service distribution of scampage and credential harvesting tools presents an increased nationwide risk to private sector businesses and their consumers,” said the FBI in its public service announcement. “Brand-phishing email campaigns and scampage tools that help bypass 2FA security measures represent another aspect to this emerging cyber threat.”

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To counter the threat, businesses should implement an advanced spam filtering solution to block phishing emails and prevent them from being delivered to employee inboxes. Password policies should be created that require strong passwords to be set, and checks performed to ensure commonly used or weak passwords cannot be set on accounts. Employees should be told to never reuse passwords on multiple accounts and to ensure that all business accounts have unique passwords. Security awareness training should be provided to the workforce to teach email security best practices and train employees on how to identify phishing emails and other scams.

Given the increase in the use of scampage tools, if there is the option, users should set a unique username for an account that is not associated with their primary email address. 2-factor authentication should be configured, and where possible, a software-based authenticator program should be used or a USB security key as the second factor. Alternatively, provide a mobile number for a 2FA code and avoid using a primary email address to receive 2FA codes. If an email address is required, it is best to use an alternative email account.

LinkedIn Phishing Attacks on the Rise

There has been an increase in LinkedIn phishing scams of late that attempt to trick professionals into installing malware, disclosing their login credentials, or providing sensitive information that can be used to create convincing spear phishing emails.

Watch Out for LinkedIn Phishing Attacks!

Many professionals rely on LinkedIn for getting new business and finding employment. The professional networking platform has proven to be incredibly popular and, being business-related, notifications from the platform are less likely to be turned off, as they often are with social media networks such as Facebook.

A notification from LinkedIn could be a prospective client, a potential job opportunity, or an opportunity to grow your network but LinkedIn notifications may not be what they seem.

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Common LinkedIn Phishing Scams

LinkedIn phishing attacks can take many forms and are conducted to achieve a variety of objectives. One common denominator in LinkedIn phishing emails is the use of LinkedIn logos and color schemes to make it appear that the notifications are genuine.

One of the most common scams involves messages that appear to have been sent via the professional networking platform from an individual looking to do business with a company. The emails include buttons that appear at face value to direct a user to LinkedIn, yet the destination URL is different. The landing page displays the LinkedIn login box, which has been scraped from the genuine website. The scam aims to steal LinkedIn credentials, which can be used to hijack accounts and conduct scams on the user’s connections. These scams can be identified quite easily by checking the destination URL in the message before clicking. If a link is clicked, always check the URL in the address bar before attempting to log in to ensure you are on the genuine LinkedIn website.

There has been an uptick in another type of LinkedIn phishing scam of late. Standard LinkedIn email templates, such as information about the number of profile views a user has received and the number of searches they have appeared in are common. As with the previous scam, while the messages look genuine, the hyperlinks in the messages do not direct the user to the LinkedIn website, instead they direct them to URLs hosting phishing kits. The landing pages use a variety of ruses to get the user to disclose sensitive information. One common scam is an online survey that asks a series of questions to obtain information that can be used to create convincing spear phishing emails.

Scammers often create fake profiles in an attempt to trick platform users into thinking they are conversing with a genuine user. These profiles tend to be used in targeted attacks for cyberespionage purposes. These attacks often see the scammer engage in conversations with the targets to build trust, before tricking them into visiting a malicious website or opening an emailed document that installs malware. These scams can be more difficult to identify than the previous two scams, although there are clues that this is a scam. Always check the profile of any potential connection. Fake profiles often have incomplete or inconsistent information, suspiciously low numbers of connections, and odd connections given the individual’s claimed job. Even if the profile appears genuine, you should always be wary of any links or documents that are shared.

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A Spam Filtering Solution Could be Your Savior!

Some of the scams are easy to identify, but many are very realistic and have convincing lures that can be difficult to distinguish from genuine emails. These scams fool many people into disclosing sensitive information or installing malware, even individuals who believe they are security-aware and would not be fooled by phishing scams. Vigilance is the key to identifying the scams but an advanced spam filtering solution will ensure that you are not troubled by these scam emails and phishing attempts.

Businesses that rely on the basic spam protections provided with the Microsoft 365 license should consider investing in a more advanced spam filtering solution, as many phishing emails bypass the Exchange Online Protection (EOP) mechanisms provided free with Microsoft 365 accounts.  For greater protection, consider a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan, which augments Microsoft 365 defenses and will better protect you against phishing attacks.

For more information about SpamTitan and how it can protect you and your employees from phishing attacks, botnets, viruses, malware, and ransomware attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call or sign up for the free trial and find out for yourself the different SpamTitan makes.

TrickBot Infrastructure Being Used to Rebuild the Emotet Botnet

At the start of 2021, a Europol and Eurojust-led operation involving law enforcement agencies in 8 countries successfully took down the infamous Emotet botnet. The botnet consisted of an estimated 1.6 million devices worldwide that had been infected with the Emotet Trojan.

The Emotet Trojan first appeared in 2014 and was originally a banking trojan, although it evolved into a malware downloader that was rented out to cybercrime gangs under the malware-as-a-service model. The botnet was used to give those threat actors a foothold in victims’ environments and allowed them to install malware such as IcedID, QakBot, and TrickBot. Those malware variants were then used to deliver ransomware such as Conti and Ryuk.

Emotet posed a massive threat to businesses worldwide prior to its takedown. In addition to being a malware distribution tool, the botnet was used to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and largescale spamming campaigns against high-profile targets around the world.

The Emotet botnet was controlled by a network of hundreds of servers worldwide. The takedown, which occurred on January 27, 2021, saw its infrastructure taken over by law enforcement. On April 25, 2021, law enforcement in Germany launched a cleanup operation that added a module that removed the Emotet Trojan from victims’ systems. 2 individuals were arrested who were suspected of involvement in maintaining the botnet, and in the weeks and months that followed no Emotet activity was detected. However, that has now changed.

The Emotet Botnet is Back

Law enforcement took control of the command-and-control infrastructure of Emotet and removed the Emotet Trojan from all infected devices, and while that was sufficient to kill the botnet, it was not enough to prevent its return. Researchers at GData, Advanced Intel, and Cryptolaemus have all discovered instances where the TrickBot Trojan has delivered an Emotet loader.

The Emotet botnet operators have previously worked with the threat actors behind the Trickbot Trojan, using their botnet to grow the TrickBot botnet. That process is now happening in reverse. A new version of the loader and Emotet Trojan have been created and it appears that the Emotet botnet is being reconstructed from scratch.

At this stage, there are relatively few devices infected with Emotet but that is not likely to remain the case for long. Around 246 devices are known to have had the Emotet Trojan installed, and they are being used as its command-and-control infrastructure at present.

Emotet was known for conducting malspam campaigns to grow the botnet, and spamming campaigns have already been detected using several different lures and a variety of attachments. Spam emails spreading Emotet have used Word files and Excel spreadsheets with malicious macros, and to prevent analysis by email security solutions, some emails have used password-protected zip files. Some of the lures detected by security researchers in the first campaigns include notifications about canceled dental insurance, Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales, notifications about canceled meetings, and requests for political party donations.

How to Protect Against Infection with Emotet

Protecting against Emotet involves implementing measures that also protect against TrickBot infections. Since both Emotet and TrickBot are extensively delivered via malspam emails, implementing an advanced email security solution is a good place to start.

One of the most effective tactics used by the Emotet gang was hijacking message threads. This involves sending replies to previous message conversations and adding a malicious hyperlink or infected email attachment. Since the messages were sent from email accounts known to the recipient, links were often clicked, and attachments opened.

Security awareness training often teaches employees to be suspicious of unsolicited messages from unknown individuals. It is important to make employees aware that malicious emails may also come from known individuals and to warn employees that hijacked message threads are used to deliver malware. Security awareness training can be effective, but it is nowhere near as effective as technical solutions that block malicious messages.

Security can be improved by choosing an email security solution with outbound email scanning. This feature will scan outgoing messages to detect compromised email accounts, allowing security teams to take prompt action to isolate infected devices. You should also ensure that your email security solution includes sandboxing in addition to antivirus engines, as the latter can only detect known malware variants. Attachments that pass standard AV scans are sent to a sandbox where they are subjected to in-depth analysis to identify malicious actions.

These features and many more are included in SpamTitan from TitanHQ. SpamTitan is effective at blocking the full range of email-based threats and is easy to implement and use. If you want to improve your defenses against dangerous email threats such as TrickBot, IcedID, QakBot, and Emotet without breaking the bank, give the TitanHQ team a call for more information about SpamTitan.

SpamTitan is available on a free trial and product demonstrations can be arranged on request.

Ransomware Attacks Increased by 900% in 1H 2021

There has been an alarming surge in ransomware attacks in 2021. Attacks have been conducted on businesses of all sizes, from large international enterprises with multi-million-dollar cybersecurity budgets to small businesses with just a handful of employees. The attacks have shown that no business is to large or small to be targeted.

Ransomware is a form of malware that is used to encrypt files to prevent them from being accessed. The attacker holds the keys to allow data to be decrypted, and those keys will only be provided if a ransom is paid. Ransom demands can range from a few thousand dollars for individual devices up to tens of millions of dollars for large companies.

900% Increase in Ransomware Attacks in 2021

This year has seen ransomware attacks conducted at an alarming level. CybSafe‘s data has revealed a 900% increase in ransomware attacks in the first 6 months of 2021 compared to the corresponding period last year. In addition to the increase in number, the cost of mitigating the attacks has increased and the ransom demands have been growing. This week, for example, Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailer – MediaMarkt – confirmed it was the victim of a Hive ransomware attack. The attackers reportedly demanded a payment of $240 million for the keys to decrypt files.

2021 has shown no company is off limits with multiple attacks conducted on critical infrastructure firms. One attack on Colonial Pipeline in the United States resulted in the shutdown of a fuel pipeline serving the Eastern Seaboard of the United States for a week. A ransom payment of $4.4 million was paid to the attackers to recover data.

The U.S. software company Kaseya, which provides a range of software solutions to businesses and managed service providers, suffered a major ransomware attack involving REvil ransomware. The REvil gang demanded a payment of $70 million for the keys to decrypt files. The attack affected around 40 managed service providers and an estimated 1,500 downstream businesses.

Attacks have also been conducted on many healthcare providers, with those attacks disrupting healthcare services and putting patient safety at risk. In May 2021, Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) suffered a ransomware attack which is believed to have started with a phishing email. The response gave the Conti ransomware gang the access needed to encrypt files. A $20 million ransom demand was issued, although the attackers provided the keys free of charge in the end. Even so, the HSE took months to recover from the attack at considerable cost.

Ransomware Gangs Targeted by Law Enforcement

The above attacks represent just a tiny percentage of the ransomware attacks that have been publicly disclosed this year and it is clear that the threat of attack is unlikely to wane any time soon.

There has been some good news, however. The attacks on critical infrastructure firms have forced the U.S. government to step up its efforts to target ransomware-related crime. Following the attacks, ransomware attacks were elevated to a level akin to terrorist attacks, and with that comes additional resources.

Already the United States and law enforcement partners around the worked have succeeded in disrupting the activities of several ransomware gangs. The REvil ransomware infrastructure taken down and arrests have been made, the Darkside operation shut down and its suspected successor BlackMatter also. Suspected members of the Clop ransomware operation have been arrested, and Europol has arrested 12 individuals in connection with LockerGoga, MegaCortex, and Dharma ransomware attacks.

While the arrests and infrastructure takedowns will have a short-term effect, ransomware threat actors are likely to regroup, set up new operations, and recommence their attacks as they have done in the past.

An Easy Step to Take to Improve Ransomware Defenses

Businesses need to take steps to combat the ransomware threat, but since many different methods are used to gain access to networks, this can be a challenge. The best place to start is to make sure defenses against phishing emails are put in place. Most ransomware attacks start with a phishing email, which either delivers malware or gives attackers credentials that provide them with the foothold in networks that they need to conduct their attacks.

Email security solutions such as SpamTitan filter out malicious messages and prevent them from reaching inboxes where they can fool employees. Technical solutions such as email security gateways are far more effective than end user training at blocking threats, although it is also important to make sure employees are aware of cybersecurity best practices and are taught how to identify a phishing email.

Email filtering solutions such as SpamTitan perform an in-depth analysis of all email content and can detect malicious links and email attachments. When emails fail the checks, they are sent to the quarantine folder where they can be reviewed. This allows security teams to gain a better understanding of the threats that are targeting their organization and also allows false positives to be identified so filtering rules can be updated.

SpamTitan incorporates dual antivirus engines, sandboxing that allows suspicious attachments to be analyzed to identify new malware variants, and machine learning technology to ensure that spam filtering improves over time.

A huge array of checks and controls ensure malicious messages are blocked, but that all happens behind the scenes. Administrators benefit from a clean, easy-to-use interface that requires no technical skills to navigate and use. All information and controls are intuitive.

If you would like to find out more about improving your defenses against ransomware, malware, phishing, and other email and web-based threats, give the TitanHQ team a call. All TitanHQ cybersecurity solutions are available on a free trial, allowing you to put them to the test in your own environment before making a decision about a purchase.

Warning of Phishing Attacks on Users of Robinhood Trading Platform

The stock trading platform Robinhood has announced a major breach of the personal data of 7 million of its customers, who now face an elevated risk of phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks on businesses are incredibly common. While phishing can take many forms, the most common method involves sending emails to company employees and using social engineering tactics to get them to take a specific action. That action is often to click on a malicious hyperlink in the email that directs them to a website where they are asked to provide sensitive information such as their login credentials.

Phishing can also occur via SMS messages, instant messaging platforms, or social media networks. While it is less common for phishing to occur over the telephone – termed vishing – this method actually predates email phishing attacks. Vishing attacks are more labor-intensive and are a form of spear phishing, where a small number of individuals are targeted.

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Vishing Attack Allowed Attacker to Obtain 5 Million Email Addresses

It was a vishing attack that allowed a threat actor to obtain the personal data of Robinhood customers. The threat actor called a Robinhood customer service employee and used social engineering techniques over the phone to get the employee to disclose sensitive information. The information obtained allowed the threat actor to access its customer service system, through which it was possible to obtain a limited amount of data of a portion of its customer base.

It is unclear what tactics the threat actor used, although, in these types of attacks, tech support scams are common. This is where a threat actor impersonates the IT department and tricks an employee into disclosing credentials under the guise of a software update or a fix for a malware infection.

Regardless of the lure, the threat actor was able to access its system and stole a list of 5 million customer email addresses, a list of the full names of 2 million individuals, and the names, dates of birth, and zip codes of 310 individuals.

No financial information or Social Security numbers are believed to have been obtained in the attack, but the Robinhood data breach is still serious for affected individuals who now face an elevated risk of phishing attacks.

Robinhood said after the customer lists were exfiltrated, a ransom demand was received. Robinhood did not say whether the ransom was paid, only that the cybersecurity firm Mandiant was investigating, and the incident has been reported to law enforcement.

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Risk of Phishing Attacks in Wake of Robinhood Data Breach

Attacks such as this where an attempt is made to extort money from a company after sensitive data are stolen are commonplace. If a company refuses to pay, the attack is monetized by selling the stolen data. Even if a ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that data will not be sold. A list of the email addresses of users of a trading platform would be highly sought after by cybercriminals, who could craft convincing phishing emails to obtain sensitive data to allow users’ accounts to be accessed.

There have been many cases where email addresses have been used in phishing campaigns that reference the breach itself, spoofing the company that was attacked although all manner of lures could be used. There is a fair probability that phishing campaigns will be conducted using the stolen data, so users of the Robinhood platform should be on high alert.

Robinhood has advised customers to be wary of any emails that claim to be from the company and said it would never send a hyperlink in an email to access an account, instead users should only trust Robinhood messages that are sent within the app. For further protection, 2-factor authentication should be enabled, and users of the app should be cautious when opening any email messages, and to be particularly wary about any message that requests sensitive information or includes a hyperlink or email attachment, especially if it is an unsolicited email from an unknown sender.

TitanHQ Recognized as Leading Irish Cybersecurity Company

With the number of cyber threats increasing, it has never been more important for business leaders to ensure their networks and systems are well defended. Throughout the pandemic, companies have been reporting data breaches at an alarming rate, with many of those cyberattacks having a devastating impact on victims.

Look no further than the ransomware attacks on the Irish Department of Health and the Health Service Executive in May 2021. Those attacks saw highly sensitive data stolen, files encrypted, and doctors and nurses were prevented from accessing patient records. The attacks resulted in almost all systems being taken offline, all core services were affected, and many outpatient services had to be canceled. The effects of the cyberattacks were still being felt several months later.

In light of the increased threat of attack and the seriousness of the consequences should an attack succeed, Think Business, Ireland has raised awareness to the importance of improving cybersecurity defenses. To help Irish businesses find the cybersecurity solutions they need, Think Business, Ireland has recently compiled a list of the top 26 Irish-owned businesses that are leading the charge in the fight against cybercrime.

Ireland punches well above its weight when it comes to cybersecurity. Ireland is a top investment location for global cybersecurity players, but there are many homegrown Irish companies that provide truly world-class cybersecurity solutions on the global stage, including software-as-a-service offerings and cloud-based security solutions.

One of those companies is Salthill, Galway-based TitanHQ, which has been included in the list of the country’s top cybersecurity firms. TitanHQ has been in business for 25 years and has won multiple awards for its email security, web filtering, and email archiving solutions and the company has been enjoying impressive growth at a time when many businesses were under incredible strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has ambitious growth plans and has been heavily investing in product development and people, with that investment expected to significantly improve on the 12,000 businesses and 2,500 managed service providers that rely on its solutions to keep cyber threats at bay.

Helped by significant investment from Livingbridge investor group, the company’s growth has been turbocharged. Over the past 18 months, TitanHQ has more than doubled its workforce, which now consists of a rock-solid team of 90+ people. The company has certainly earned its place in Think Business, Ireland’s list of the top 26 Irish cybersecurity companies to watch out for.

“We are delighted to be listed next to some of the biggest names in the Irish Cybersecurity space. As the threat landscape continues to be a significant risk to organizations across the globe, we are dedicated to continuous innovation to provide consistent, secure, and reliable protection to our customers,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanah.

Left to Right: Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, Diane Wright, people operations manager, Sean Morris, chief technical officer, Gina Mc Grath, digital marketing executive, and Dryden Geary, marketing director.

Left to Right: Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, Diane Wright, people operations manager, Sean Morris, chief technical officer, Gina Mc Grath, digital marketing executive, and Dryden Geary, marketing director.

TodayZoo Phishing Kit Being Used in Extensive Phishing Campaigns Targeting Microsoft 365 Credentials

Phishing involves sending emails that try to trick the recipients into taking a specific action, which could be to send sensitive data via email, open an infected email attachment, or click a link to a malicious website.

Phishing campaigns require little effort or skill to conduct. Lists of email addresses can easily be purchased on hacking forums or can be scraped from websites using widely available programs. Malware does not need to be developed, as this can be purchased through many malware-as-a-service operations. Phishing campaigns that direct individuals to a malicious website where credentials are harvested require those websites to be set up to trick users and capture credentials, but even that process is made simple with phishing kits.

Phishing kits can easily be purchased on hacking forums. These kits contain files that can be uploaded to compromised or owned websites that will collect and transmit credentials when they are entered. Phishing kits are usually sold on hacking forums for a one-time payment and typically contain everything required to start conducting phishing campaigns, including scripts, HTML pages, images, and often phishing email templates. Phishing kits allow individuals without much knowledge of how to conduct a phishing campaign to easily start running their own campaigns.

New Phishing Kit Being Used in Extensive Series of Phishing Campaigns

There are many phishing kits currently available on hacking forums, but a new one has recently been discovered that appears to have been developed using at least six other phishing kits. The new phishing kit, which Microsoft calls TodayZoo, combines the best features of other available phishing kits and is believed to have been developed by an individual who has decided to get into the phishing kit market by plagiarizing others.

The TodayZoo kit has been active since at least December 2020 and is known to have been used in an extensive series of phishing campaigns to steal Microsoft 365 credentials. The TodayZoo phishing campaigns detected so far impersonate Microsoft, with the emails using lures such as password resets, and fake notifications about faxes and shared scanned documents.

The messages direct the recipients to a webpage hosting the phishing kit that similarly impersonates Microsoft, with victims told they must log in with their Microsoft 365 credentials to either reset their password or view the fake faxes or documents. If credentials are entered, the phishing kit captures the information and transmits it to the person running the campaign.

A large part of the TodayZoo phishing kit has been taken from the DanceVida kit, with Microsoft’s analysis revealing it also includes code from the Botssoft, FLCFood, Office-RD117, WikiRed, and Zenfo phishing kits.

So not only are phishing kits purchased for conducting campaigns, but those also kits themselves can be copied and customized and used by individuals to launch their own phishing-as-a-service operations.

Phishing Prevention Requires a Defense in Depth Approach

Phishing kits lower the bar for conducting phishing campaigns, and along with malware-as-a-service and ransomware-as-a-service offerings, allow low-level threat actors to start conducting their own campaigns with ease. These services are fueling the increase in cyberattacks on businesses. Fortunately, there are low-cost cybersecurity solutions that businesses can use to block these phishing and malware campaigns.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. It is no longer sufficient given the level of the threat to rely on one method of blocking attacks. A defense-in-depth approach is required, which means implementing multiple layers of protection. If one of those layers fails to block a threat, others are there to provide protection.

Phishing protection should start with a spam filter. Spam filters conduct a range of checks on all incoming emails and will block more than 99% of spam and phishing emails. TitanHQ’s email security solution, SpamTitan, has been independently tested and shown to block in excess of 99.9% of spam and phishing emails. SpamTitan also includes dual anti-virus engines to detect malicious attachments, and a sandbox to subject attachments that pass AV controls to an in-depth analysis. SpamTitan uses blacklists of malicious IP addresses, performs a range of checks on the message body and headers, and incorporates machine learning technology to detect messages that deviate from standard messages ensuring the spam filter improves over time.

A web filter is another important security measure that should be included in a defense-in-depth strategy to block phishing and malware attacks. A web filter works in tandem with a spam filter but blocks the web component of the attacks. When a user clicks a link in an email that directs them to a phishing website, that attempt is blocked. A web filter also allows users to block certain file downloads from the Internet, such as those commonly associated with malware.

Antivirus software should be installed on all endpoints as additional protection against malicious file downloads, and security awareness training should be regularly provided to the workforce. In the event of credentials being obtained in a phishing attack, multifactor authentication can prevent those credentials from being used to gain access to accounts. With these measures in place, businesses will be well protected.

For further information on spam filtering, web filtering, and to find out more about SpamTitan and WebTitan, give the TitanHQ team a call today. Both solutions are available on a 100% free trial to allow you to evaluate the products in your own environment to see how effective they are and how easy they are to use before committing to a purchase.

Squirrelwaffle Malware Loader Being Distributed in Spam Emails

A new malware variant dubbed Squirrelwaffle has been identified which is being distributed via spam emails. Squirrelwaffle was first identified in September 2021, with the number of spam emails distributing the malware increasing throughout the month and peaking at the end of September.

The takedown of the Emotet botnet in January 2021 left a gap in the malware-as-a-service market, and several new malware variants have since emerged to fill that gap. Emotet was a banking Trojan that was used to distribute other malware variants to Emotet-infected machines, with Squirrelwaffle having similar capabilities. Squirrelwaffle allows the threat group to gain a foothold in compromised devices and networks, which allows other malware variants to be delivered.

Investigations of the malspam campaign have revealed it is currently being used to distribute Qakbot and Cobalt Strike, although the malware could be used to download any malware variant. The spam emails that deliver Squirrelwaffle include a hyperlink to a malicious website which is used to deliver a .zip file that contains either a .doc or .xls file. The Office files have a malicious script that will deliver the Squirrelwaffle payload.

The Word documents use the DocuSign signing platform to lure users to activate macros, claiming the document was created using a previous version of Microsoft Office Word which requires the user to “enable editing” then click “enable content” to view the contents of the file. Doing so will execute code that will deliver and execute a Visual Basic script, which retrieves the Squirrelwaffle payload from one of 5 hardcoded URLs. Squirrelwaffle is delivered as a DLL which is then executed when downloaded and will silently download Qakbot or Cobalt Strike, which both provide persistent access to compromised devices.

As was the case with the Emotet Trojan, Squirrelwaffle can hijack message threads and send malspam emails from infected devices. Since replies to genuine messages are sent from a legitimate email account, a response to the message is more likely. This tactic proved to be highly effective at distributing the Emotet Trojan. The campaign is mostly conducted in English, although security researchers have identified emails in other languages including French, German, Dutch, and Polish.

The similarities with Emotet could indicate some individuals involved in that operation are attempting a return after the law enforcement takedown, although it could simply be an attempt by unrelated threat actors to fill the gap left by Emotet. Currently, the malware is not being distributed in anywhere near the volume of Emotet but it is still early days. Squirrelwaffle may turn out to be the malware distribution vehicle of choice in the weeks and months to come.

To counter the threat, it is vital for email security measures to be implemented to block the malspam at source and ensure the malicious messages are not delivered to inboxes. Since message threads are hijacked, a spam filtering solution that also scans outbound emails– SpamTitan for example – should be used. Outbound scanning will help to identify compromised devices and prevent attacks on other individuals in the organization and address book contacts. SpamTitan also incorporates sandboxing, which works in conjunction with antivirus engines. Suspicious attachments that bypass the AV engines are sent to the sandbox for in-depth analysis.

As part of a defense-in-depth strategy, other measures should also be deployed. A web filter is a useful tool for blocking C2 communications, endpoint security solutions will help to protect against Squirrelwaffle downloads, and regular security awareness training for the workforce is recommended to teach cybersecurity best practices and train employees how to identify malicious emails.  Employees should be told to never click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or messages and to be wary of messages from unknown accounts. It is also important to explain that some malware variants can hijack message threads, so malicious emails may come from colleagues and other address book contacts.

TA505 is Conducting Large Scale Phishing Campaigns that Deliver a RAT via Weaponized Excel Files

The threat group known as TA505 (aka Hive0065) is known for conducting large-scale phishing campaigns but has not been active since 2020. Now phishing campaigns have been detected that indicate the threat group is conducting attacks once again, with the first mass-phishing campaigns by the group detected in September 2021.

The initial campaigns were small and consisted of a few thousand phishing emails, but as the month progressed larger and larger campaigns were conducted, with phishing campaigns conducted by the group now consisting of tens of thousands of messages. The geographic range has also been increased beyond North American where the gang was initially concentrating its attacks.

Social engineering techniques are used to convince victims to open email attachments or visit links and view shared files, with a variety of lures used by the gang in its phishing attacks. Emails intercepted from the latest campaigns claim to provide insurance claims paperwork, situation reports, media release requests, health claims, and legal requests. Many of the campaigns so far have targeted employees in financial services.

One of the hallmarks of the group is using Excel file attachments in emails that contain malicious macros which deliver a Remote Access Trojan (RAT), the downloading and execution of which gives the group control over victims’ devices. The group is also known to use HTML files that link to malicious websites where the malicious Excel files are downloaded.

While the attacks often start with a file attachment, later in the attack process a Google feedproxy URL is used with a SharePoint and OneDrive lure that appears to be a file share request, which delivers the weaponized Excel file.

The initial infection stage involves the downloading of a Microsoft installer package, which delivers either a KiXtart or REBOL malware loader, which pulls a different MSI package from the C2 server, which then installs and executes the malware. TA505 is known to use the FlawedGrace RAT, which first appeared in 2017, and the latest campaign delivers a new variant of this malware using a malware loader dubbed MirrorBlast. According to an analysis of MirrorBlast by Morphisec labs, the malware will only run in 32-bit versions of Microsoft Office as there are compatibility issues with ActiveX objects.

Macros are disabled by default in Microsoft Excel as a security measure, so social engineering techniques are used in the attacks to convince victims to enable macros. Macros are more commonly used in Excel files than Word files, and end users may not be as suspicious of Excel macros as Word macros.

Email security solutions are capable of detecting files containing Excel macros, especially email security solutions with sandboxing. In an attempt to bypass those measures and ensure the emails are delivered, TA505 uses lightweight, legacy Excel 4.0 XLM macros rather than the newer VBA macros, which has seen many of the messages bypass email security gateways.

TA505 is a highly creative threat group that regularly changes its attack techniques to achieve its goals, with the gang known to have conducted campaigns to deliver the Dridex banking Trojan, Locky and Jaff ransomware, and the Trick banking Trojan.

The group is known for conducting high-volume phishing campaigns that have targeted a range of different industry sectors and geographical areas.

TA505’s tactics, techniques, and procedures are expected to continue to evolve so it is vital for organizations to ensure email security defenses are implemented to block the emails. Security awareness training should also be provided to the workforce and employees should be made aware of the latest tricks and tactics used by the gang, including raising awareness of the use of Excel files with macros in phishing emails.

TitanHQ Achieves Clean Sweep at Expert Insights Annual Awards

Expert Insights has announced its Fall 2021 Best-of Cybersecurity Awards and each of TitanHQ’s products was ranked No1 in their respective categories. This is the second successive year where TitanHQ has had a clean sweep and topped the list for Best Email Security Gateway, Best Web Security Solution, and Best Email Archiving Solution for Business. In addition, SpamTitan ranked top in the Best Email Security Solution for Office 365 category.

Expert Insights is a recognized online cybersecurity publication and industry analyst, that has technical and editorial teams in both the United States and United Kingdom. The publication covers cybersecurity and cloud-based technologies, and its website is used by more than 80,000 business owners, IT admins, and others each month to research B2B solutions. Expert Insights produces editorial buyers’ guides, blog posts, conducts interviews, and publishes industry analyses and technical product reviews from industry experts.

The annual awards are intended to recognize the leading cybersecurity companies and their products, with the winners selected based on industry recognition, customer feedback, and research conducted by its editorial team and independent technical analysts.

SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security were both recognized for their powerful threat protection, and along with ArcTitan Email Archiving, were praised for ease-of-use, cost-effectiveness, and industry-leading technical and customer support.

“TitanHQ are proud to have received continued recognition for all three of our advanced cybersecurity solutions. As the threat landscape continues to be a significant risk to organizations across the globe, we are dedicated to continuous innovation to provide consistent, secure, and reliable protection to our customers,” said Ronan Kavanagh, TitanHQ CEO.

The advanced threat protection, ease-of-use, and cost-effectiveness of the solutions are part of the reason why TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based security solutions for managed service providers serving the SMB market. These factors have helped to make the solutions the gold standard for SMBs looking to improve security and ensure compliance.

5 Ways to Protect Against Healthcare Phishing Attacks

The healthcare industry has long been targeted by cybercriminals looking to gain access to sensitive patient data, which is easy to sell on the black market to fraudsters such as identity thieves. In recent years hackers have turned to ransomware. They gain access to healthcare networks and encrypt data to prevent patient information being accessed and issue a ransom demand to the keys to decrypt files. Since the start of 2020, these two goals have been combined. Hackers have been gaining access to healthcare networks, then exfiltrate data prior to deploying ransomware. If the ransom is not paid, the data is leaked online or sold on. Patient data may even be sold even if the ransom is paid.

Both of these attack types can be achieved using phishing. Phishing allows threat actors to steal credentials and raid email accounts and use the credentials for more extensive attacks on the organization. Phishing emails can also trick healthcare employees into downloading malware that gives attackers persistent access to the network.

Protecting against phishing attacks is one of the most important ways to prevent data breaches and stop ransomware attacks, but there is no single measure that can be implemented that will provide total protection. Here we explain 5 steps that healthcare organizations should take to protect against healthcare phishing attacks. These include measures required by the HIPAA Security Rule so can help to ensure you achieve and maintain compliance.

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5 Measures to Protect Against Healthcare Phishing Attacks

Each of the measures we have listed below is important and will work with the others to significantly improve your security posture; however, the first measure is the most important of all as it will stop the majority of phishing emails from being delivered to employee inboxes.

Spam Filtering

To achieve Security Rule compliance, HIPAA regulated entities must implement technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information. A spam filter is one of the most important technical safeguards to protect against email-based attacks such as phishing. Spam filters will generally block in excess of 99% of spam and phishing emails and 100% of known malware.

Any inbound email must pass through the spam filter where it will be subjected to a variety of checks. These include antivirus scanning to block malware, checks against blacklists of known malicious IP and email addresses, and frameworks such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to identify and block email impersonation attacks. Advanced spam filters such as SpamTitan include additional malware protection through the use of a sandbox. Email attachments are executed in this safe environment and are checked for potentially malicious actions. This measure helps to identify previously unknown malware and ransomware variants.

SpamTitan also uses techniques such as Bayesian analysis to determine the probability of an email being spam or malicious. Greylisting is also used, which involves the initial rejection of a message with a request to resend. Spam servers do not tend to respond to these requests, so the lack of response or delay is a good indicator of spam.

SpamTitan also incorporates machine learning techniques, ensuring spam filtering improves over times. Thresholds can also be set for individual users, user groups, departments, and organization-wide, to give the greatest protection to accounts that are most likely to be targeted.

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2-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication

2-factor or multi-factor authentication is another technical safeguard to protect against phishing attacks. 2FA/MFA blocks the next stage of a phishing attack, where credentials for an account have already been obtained by an attacker, either through phishing, brute force attacks or other methods.

In addition to a password, a second factor must be provided before an individual is authenticated. This is often a token on a verified device. When an attempt is made to use a password to access the account from an unfamiliar device, location, or IP address, another factor must be provided before access is granted. This is typically a code sent to a mobile phone. 2-factor authentication will block more than 99.9% of automated attempts to gain access to an account according to Microsoft.

Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training is concerned with educating the workforce about threats such as phishing and teaching them how to recognize and avoid those threats. In security awareness training, employees are taught how to identify phishing emails and social engineering scams and are taught cybersecurity best practices to eradicate risky behaviors. Employees are targeted by phishers and not all phishing emails will be blocked by a spam filter. By training the workforce, and providing regular refresher training sessions, employees will get better at identifying and avoiding threats.

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights explained in guidance for the healthcare industry that teaching employees how to recognize phishing is part of the requirements for HIPAA compliance. Financial penalties have been imposed for organizations that have not provided security awareness training to the workforce.

Conduct Phishing Email Simulations

Training for the workforce will raise awareness of threats, but it is important to test whether training has been assimilated and if it is being applied in real world situations. By setting up a phishing simulation program, security teams will be able to gauge how effective training has been. A failed phishing simulation can be turned into a training opportunity, and employees who regularly fail phishing email simulations can be provided with further training.

Phishing email simulation programs use real-world phishing examples on employees to see how good they are at identifying phishing emails. They can be used to gain an understanding of the types of phishing emails that are being opened and which links are being clicked. This information can be used to improve security awareness training programs.

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Sign Up to Receive Threat Intelligence

Another important step to take to protect against phishing attacks is to stay up to date on the latest threats. The tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) of hackers and phishers is constantly evolving, and being aware of the latest TTPs will help healthcare organizations mitigate the threats.

Stay up to date by reading the threat alerts published by agencies such as CISA, the FBI, NSA, and HC3, and consider signing up an information sharing and analysis center to receive timely cyber threat intelligence updates. Knowing about new phishing campaigns targeting the sector will allow steps to be taken to block those threats, whether that is a cybersecurity newsletter for staff, implementing new spam filter rules, or other proactive steps to reduce risk.

Common Phishing Threats You Should be Aware of

Phishing is one of the most common ways that cybercriminals gain access to networks to steal credentials and sensitive data, deploy malware, and conduct ransomware attacks. Phishing is most commonly conducted via email and uses deception and ‘social engineering’ to trick people into disclosing sensitive information or running code that downloads malicious software.

Phishing emails often impersonate trusted individuals or companies. The email addresses used to send these messages can appear legitimate, and the messages often include the logos and layouts of the genuine communications they spoof. The emails often include a hyperlink to a website where credentials are harvested. The online component of the phishing scam similarly spoofs a trusted entity and, in many campaigns, it is difficult to distinguish the phishing website from the genuine site being spoofed.

Phishing attacks are increasing and for one very simple reason. They work. Not only do these messages fool huge numbers of people, they are also easy to conduct and there is little risk of phishers being caught. Even the Italian mafia and other organized crime operations have adopted phishing in addition to the standard protection rackets as a way to rake in money. This week, Europol announced it broke up an organized crime gang with links to the Italian mafia which had raked in €10 million in revenue from phishing and other online fraud scams in the past year.

Phishing Lures are Constantly Changing

The lures used in phishing scams are constantly evolving. While standard phishing campaigns involving fake invoices and resumes, missed deliveries, and fake account charge notifications are regularly used, topical lures related to news stories and COVID-19 are also thrown in into the mix. The lures may change, but there are commonalities with these phishing scams that individuals should be able to recognize.

Phishing scams attempt to get the recipient to take a specific action, such as visit a link in the email or open an email attachment. There is usually a sense of urgency to get recipients to take prompt action, such as a threat of account closure or potential legal action. While suspicions may be raised by these messages, many people still take the requested action, either through fear of missing out or fear of negative repercussions if no action is taken.

It is best to adopt a mindset where every email received is potentially a phishing scam, and any request suggested in an email could well be a scam. Any email received that threatens account closure if no action is taken can easily be checked for legitimacy by logging in to the account via a web browser (never use the links in the email). If there is an unauthorized charge or a problem with the account, this will be clear when you login.

If you receive a message from a company stating there is an unpaid invoice or an order has been made that is not recognized, search for the company online and use trusted contact information to verify the legitimacy of the email.

If you receive an email from your IT team telling you to install a program or take another action that seems suspicious, give the support desk a call to verify the legitimacy of the request.

Links in emails are the most common way to direct people to phishing webpages. You should always hover your mouse arrow over the link to check the true destination, and if the URL is not on an official domain, do not click.

Common Phishing Lures You Should be Aware Of

  • An email about a charge that has been applied to your account that has been flagged as suspicious and requires you to login to block the charge
  • An email threatening imminent account closure or loss of service if you do not take immediate action to correct the issue
  • An email from law enforcement threatening arrest or legal action for a crime you are alleged to have committed
  • An email from the IRS or another tax authority offering a refund as you have overpaid tax, or legal action over nonpayment of tax
  • An email with an invoice for a product or service you have not purchased
  • An email telling you malware has been detected on your computer that requires a software download to remove it
  • An email with a link that requires you to provide credentials to view content or confirm your identify by verifying your credit/debit card number.

If you receive any message, the important thing is to stop and think before taking any action and to carefully assess the legitimacy of the request.

Spam Software will Block the Majority of Phishing Emails

One of the best ways that businesses can improve email security is to implement an advanced spam filtering solution. SpamTitan provides protection against phishing and other malicious emails using a wide range of tools that include machine-learning to identify suspicious messages, sandboxing, dual anti-virus engines, greylisting, and malicious link detection mechanisms. SpamTitan will ensure that malicious messages are not delivered to end users where they can be clicked. When combined with security awareness training to teach cybersecurity best practices, businesses can mount a formidable defense against phishers.

To find out more about how you can protect against phishing and other malicious emails, give the TitanHQ team a call. SpamTitan is available on a free trial, product demonstrations can be arranged on request, and you may be surprised to discover how little it costs to improve protection against all types of email attacks.

SpamTitan 7.11 Release Includes New Geo-blocking Email Security Feature

TitanHQ has released a new version of its award-winning email security solution that includes a new security feature – Geo-blocking email filtering, as well as several other security updates and fixes to improve usability.

Geo-blocking is a feature that has been requested by customers and has now been included in the product at no additional cost to users. Geo-blocking, as the name suggests, allows SpamTitan users to block or allow emails originating from certain geographical locations, based on either IP address or country. This feature allows businesses to add an extra layer of protection to block geographic threat vectors and stop malware, ransomware, and phishing emails from reaching inboxes.

The new feature allows businesses and organizations to block emails coming from any country. This extra control is important, as most malware-containing emails come from a handful of overseas countries – Countries that most small- to medium-sized businesses do not normally work with. Blocking emails from those countries eliminates threats, without negatively impacting the business.

Activating the geo-blocking feature could not be any easier. SpamTitan users can click to restrict emails from any country in the SpamTitan Country IP Database and all emails coming from those countries will be blocked. There will naturally be instances where things are not so cut and dry, but that is not a problem. Geo-blocking can be activated for a specific country, and IP addresses, domains, or email addresses of trusted senders within those countries can simply be whitelisted to ensure their messages are delivered.

“Geoblocking has been a much-requested feature and as always we listen to our customers and provide what they need to implement the very best email security they can,” said TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh. “After experiencing 30% growth in 2021, TitanHQ expects these product enhancements and new features to make 2021 another record-breaking year.”

Several other security enhancements have been made to further improve the already excellent threat detection and blocking mechanisms within SpamTitan. SpamTitan 7.11 includes an upgraded sandboxing feature to provide even greater protection against malware, ransomware, phishing, spear-phishing, Advanced Persistent Threats, and malicious URLs embedded in emails. These enhancements also provide more detailed information into new threats to help SpamTitan users mitigate risk.

As always with a new release, recently reported bugs have been fixed, and SpamTitan has been further improved with enhanced email rendering in Mail Viewer. Users also now have the ability to remove quarantine report token expiry and improve domain verification, to name but a few of the enhancements.

SpamTitan is delivered either as a 100% cloud-based solution or as an anti-spam gateway, which is run as a virtual appliance on existing hardware. Existing SpamTitan Cloud customers need do nothing to upgrade to the new version of the solution, released on September 14, 2021. SpamTitan Cloud is automatically updated to the latest version.

Users of SpamTitan Gateway will need to manually upgrade to the latest version via System Setup > System Updates.

A full description of the latest updates in SpamTitan 7.11 is available here.

New Hampshire Town Loses $2.3 Million to BEC Scammers

Ransomware attacks are being conducted at alarming rates, but even though the cost of these attacks is considerable, they are not the leading cause of losses to cybercrime. According to figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), business email compromise attacks are the costliest type of cyber fraud. In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 19,369 complaints about business email compromise scams. $1.8 billion was lost to these sophisticated email scams in 2020 and many of these scams are never reported.

Business email compromise (BEC) scams, also known as email account compromise (EAC) scams, involve business email accounts being compromised by attackers and then used to send messages to individuals in the company responsible for making wire transfers. The goal of the attacks is to compromise the email account of the chief executive officer (CEO) or the chief financial officer (CFO), and to use that account to send messages to others in the company asking them to make a wire transfer to an attacker-controlled account.

Attacks are also conducted on vendors and their accounts are used to send requests to change payment methods or the destination account for an upcoming payments. In addition to requesting wire transfers, the scammers are also known to request sensitive data such as W2 forms, the information on which can be used to submit fraudulent tax returns to claim tax refunds. BEC scammers are also known to request gift cards or request changes to payroll direct deposit information.

BEC scams can result in major losses. Recently, a town in New Hampshire (Peterborough) was targeted by BEC scammers who successfully redirected multiple bank transfers before the scam was uncovered. The attackers sent forged documents to staff members in the Finance Department of the town to make changes to account information for various payments. The scam was sophisticated, and the scammers participated in multiple email exchanges between staff members. The attackers had conducted extensive research to find out about the most valuable transactions to redirect.

The scam was uncovered when the ConVal School District notified the town when they failed to receive a $1.2 million transfer of funds. Peterborough officials confirmed that the transfer had been made, with the investigation revealing the bank account details had been changed. Further investigation revealed two large bank transfers to the contractor used for the Main Street Bridge Project had also been redirected to attacker-controlled accounts. In total, $2.3 million was lost to the scammers and there is little hope of any of the funds being recovered.

BEC attacks are sophisticated, the attackers are skilled at what they do, and it is all too easy for employees in the finance department to be fooled into thinking they are conversing with the CEO, CFO, or a vendor via email, since the genuine email account is being used. The attackers also study the style of emails sent by the owner of the account and copy that style so as not to arouse suspicion.

There are steps that organizations can take to block the initial attack vector and to identify scams in time to stop any fraudulent transfers of funds. The primary defense against BEC attacks is a spam filtering solution, which will block the initial phishing emails used to obtain the credentials for internal email accounts. SpamTitan incorporates a range of features to detect and block these phishing emails, including machine learning technology that can identify email messages that deviate from the normal messages usually received by individuals. Outbound scanning is also incorporated, which can detect phishing attempts as the attackers try to use employee email accounts to compromise the accounts of their final target – the CFO or CEO. Rules can also be set to flag attempts to send sensitive data – such as W-2 forms – via email.

In addition to spam filtering, it is important for organizations to raise awareness of the threat of BEC attacks with the workforce, especially employees in the finance department. Policies and procedures should also be put in place that require any change to payment details to be verified by telephone using previously confirmed contact information. Implementing these simple measures can be the difference between blocking an attack and transferring millions of dollars directly to the attackers’ accounts.

If you want to improve your defenses against BEC and phishing attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call. Demonstrations of SpamTitan can be booked on request, and the full product – including full technical and customer support – is available on a free trial to allow you to see the solution in action and test it within your own environment before making a decision about a purchase.

OnePercent Ransomware Delivered via Phishing Emails

Ransomware attacks have been rife in 2021, with the increase in attacks seen in 2020 continuing throughout 2021. The number of attacks conducted in 2021 has been staggering. There were more attempted ransomware attacks in the first 6 months of 2021 than there were in all of 2020, according to one report.

Ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations that were active throughout 2020 have increased their attacks, and while some RaaS operations have been shut down, attack volume is showing no sign of reducing. There is also a new ransomware threat to defend against.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning about a new ransomware threat actor that has been particularly active in the United States. The group, known as OnePercent, has been using its ransomware to attack U.S. businesses since at least November 2020, according to a recent FBI Flash Alert. The group is known to use the legitimate penetration testing tool Cobalt Strike in its attacks, and prior to using their OnePercent ransomware variant to encrypt files, the attackers exfiltrate sensitive data from victims’ systems.  A ransom demand is issued for the keys to decrypt files and to prevent the publication of the stolen data on the group’s data leak sites on the TOR network and the publicly accessible Internet.

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Like many ransomware gangs, the initial attack vector is phishing emails. Phishing emails are sent to targeted organizations that have malicious .ZIP email attachments which contain Word documents or Excel spreadsheets with malicious macros that deliver the IcedID banking Trojan. The Trojan downloads and installs Cobalt Strike on endpoints to allow the attacker to move laterally within victims’ networks to compromise as many devices as possible. The group is also known to use PowerShell, Mimikatz, SharpKatz, BetterSafetyKatz, and SharpSploit, and Rclone for data extraction.

The attackers are known to take their time within networks to identify and steal critical data. In attacks reported to the FBI, the group has spent up to a month from the initial compromise to the deployment of OnePercent ransomware. During that time, considerable volumes of data are exfiltrated. The ransomware itself encrypts files and uses a random 8-character extension for encrypted files.

As is now the norm, there is no fixed ransom payment. Victims are required to make contact with the attackers to receive ‘technical support’ recovering their files and to discover how much needs to be paid for the decryptors and to ensure data deletion. If the ransom is paid, the attackers say they will deliver the decryption keys within 48 hours. The threat group is also known to contact the victim by telephone using spoofed telephone numbers to pressure victims into paying by threatening to publish the stolen data. The group has also threatened to sell the stolen data to the Sodinokibi ransomware gang to list for sale at a public auction.

Since the group uses phishing emails as the initial attack vector, preventing those messages from reaching inboxes is the best defense against attacks. That requires an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. It is also recommended to configure emails to display a warning when they are received from a sender that is outside the organization.

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It is also important to follow cybersecurity best practices such as network segmentation to limit the potential for lateral movement, to audit user accounts with admin privileges and restrict their use as far as possible, and to configure access controls using the principle of least privilege. All critical data should be backed up offline on an external hard drive or storage device that is disconnected once the backup has been performed. Backups should also be tested to make sure file recovery is possible.

While the OnePercent ransomware gang is only known to use phishing emails as the attack vector, other methods of attack may also be adopted. It is therefore recommended to ensure that remote access and RDP ports are disabled if not used, to monitor remote access/RDP logs, to keep computers and applications up to date and to apply patches promptly, and to ensure that strong passwords are set and multi-factor authentication is implemented.

Ransomware and BEC Attacks Often Start with a Phishing Email: Are Your Phishing Defenses Good Enough?

Ransomware attacks can be incredibly expensive and business email compromise (BEC) scams can result in transfers of millions of dollars to attackers, but these breaches often start with an email.

Phishing emails are sent to employees that ask them to click on a link, which directs them to a webpage where they are asked to provide their login credentials, for Microsoft 365 for example. Once credentials are entered, they are captured and used to access that individual’s account. The employee is often unaware that anything untoward has happened.

The stolen credentials give an attacker the foothold in the network that is needed to launch a major cyberattack on the business. The phisher may use the email account to send further phishing emails to other employees in the company, with the aim being to gain access to the credentials of an individual with administrative privileges or the credentials of an executive.

An executive’s account can be used to send emails to an individual in the company responsible for making wire transfers. A request is sent for a wire transfer to be made and the transfer request is often not recognized as fraudulent until the funds have been transferred and withdrawn from the attacker’s account. These BEC scams often result in tens of thousands of dollars – or even millions – being transferred.

An alternative attack involves compromising the email accounts of employees and sending requests to payroll to have direct deposit information changed. Salaries are then transferred into attacker-controlled accounts.

Phishers may act as affiliates for ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) gangs and use the access they gain through phishing to compromise other parts of the network, steal data, and then deploy ransomware, or they may simply sell the network access to ransomware gangs.

When email accounts are compromised, they can be used to attack vendors, customers, and other contacts. From a single compromised email account, the damage caused is considerable and often far reaching. Data breaches often cost millions of dollars to mitigate. All this from a single response to a phishing email.

Phishing campaigns require very little skill to conduct and require next to no capital investment. The ease at which phishing attacks can be conducted and the potential profits that can be gained from attacks make this attack method very attractive for cybercriminals. Phishing can be used to attack small businesses with poor cybersecurity defenses, but it is often just as effective when attacking large enterprises with sophisticated perimeter defenses. This is why phishing has long been one of the most common ways that cybercriminals attack businesses.

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How to Deal with the Phishing Threat

Phishing attacks may lead to the costliest data breaches, but they are one of the easiest types of cyberattacks to prevent; however, some investment in cybersecurity and training is required. The most important first step is to purchase an advanced spam filter. This technical control is essential for preventing phishing emails from reaching end users’ inboxes. If the phishing emails do not arrive in an inbox, they cannot be clicked by an employee.

Not all spam filtering solutions are created equal. Basic spam filters are effective at blocking most threats, but some phishing emails will still be delivered to inboxes. Bear in mind that phishers are constantly changing tactics and are trying to get one step ahead of cybersecurity firms. Most spam filtering solutions will block messages from malicious IP addresses and IP addresses with poor reputations, along with any messages identified in previous phishing campaigns and messages containing known variants of malware.

Advanced spam filtering solutions use AI and machine learning techniques to identify messages that deviate from the normal emails a business typically receives, are able to detect previously unseen phishing emails, and incorporate Sender Policy Framework and DMARC to identify email impersonation attacks. Sandboxing is also included which is used to identify previously unseen malware threats. Greylisting is a feature of advanced spam filters that involves initially rejecting a message and requesting it be resent. The delay in a response, if one is received at all, indicates the mail server is most likely being used for spamming. Spam servers are usually too busy on huge spam runs to resend messages that have initially been rejected.

Advanced spam filters also feature outbound email scanning, which can identify compromised email accounts and can block phishing messages from being sent internally or externally from a hacked mailbox.

SpamTitan incorporates all of these advanced controls, which is why it is capable of blocking more threats than basic spam filters. Independent tests have shown SpamTitan blocks in excess of 99.97% of malicious messages.

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Don’t Neglect End User Training

No spam filter will be 100% effective at blocking phishing threats, at least not without also blocking an unacceptable number of genuine emails. It is therefore important to provide regular security awareness training to the workforce, with a strong emphasis on phishing. Employees need to be taught how to identify a phishing email and conditioned how to respond when a threat is received (alert their security team).

Since phishing tactics are constantly changing, regular training is required. When training is reinforced, it is easier to develop a security culture and regular training sessions will raise awareness of the latest phishing threats. It is also recommended to conduct phishing simulation exercises to test the effectiveness of the training program and to identify individuals who require further training.

Web Filtering is an Important Anti-Phishing Control

The key to blocking phishing attacks is to adopt a defense-in-depth approach. That means implementing multiple overlapping layers of security. One important additional layer is a web filtering solution. Spam filters target the phishing emails, whereas web filters work by blocking access to the webpages hosting the phishing kits that harvest credentials. With a spam filter and web filter implemented, you are tackling phishing from different angles and will improve your defenses.

A web filter will block access to known malicious websites, providing time-of-click protection against malicious hyperlinks in phishing emails. A web filter will also prevent employees from being redirected to phishing web pages from malicious website adverts when browsing the Internet. Web filters also analyze the content of web pages and will block access to malicious web content that has not previously been identified as malicious. Web filters will also block malware and ransomware downloads.

WebTitan is a highly effective DNS-based web filtering solution that protects against phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks. The solution can protect office workers but also employees who are working remotely.

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Speak to TitanHQ Today About Improving your Phishing Defenses

TitanHQ has been developing anti-phishing and anti-malware solutions for more than two decades. TitanHQ’s email and web security solutions are cost effective, flexible, easy to implement, and easy to maintain. They are consistently given top marks on software review sites and are a big hit with IT security professionals and managed service providers (MSPs). TitanHQ is the leading provider of email and web security solutions to MSPs serving the SMB market.

If you want to improve your phishing defenses and block more threats, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information on SpamTitan and WebTitan. Both solutions are available on a 100% free trial of the full product complete with product support. Product demonstrations can also be booked on request.

Sneaky Tactics Used in Two Ongoing Phishing Campaigns Targeting User Credentials

New phishing campaigns are constantly being launched that impersonate trusted companies, organizations, and individuals, and use social engineering techniques to trick end users into divulging sensitive information such as their email credentials. Two such phishing campaigns have recently been discovered that use sneaky tactics to fool the unwary.

Sneaky Tactics Used to Obtain Office 365 Credentials

Organizations using Office 365 are being targeted in a sneaky phishing campaign that has been ongoing for several months. The phishing campaign incorporates a range of measures to fool end users and email security solutions. The goal of the campaign is to steal Office 365 credentials.

The phishing emails are sent from believable email addresses with spoofed display names to make the sender appear legitimate. The campaign targets specific organizations and uses believable usernames and domains for sender display names related to the target and the messages also include genuine logos for the targeted company and Microsoft branding.

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The messages use believable Microsoft SharePoint lures to trick end users into clicking an embedded hyperlink and visiting the phishing URL. Recipients of the messages are informed that a colleague has sent a file-share request that they may have missed, along with a link directing the recipient to a webpage hosting a fake Microsoft Office 365 login box.

To encourage users to click, the emails suggest the shared file contains information about bonuses, staff reports, or price books. The phishing emails include two URLs with malformed HTTP headers. The primary phishing URL is for a Google storage resource which points to an AppSpot domain. If the user signs in, they are served a Google User Content domain with an Office 365 phishing page. The second URL is embedded in the notification settings and links to a compromise SharePoint site, which again requires the user to sign in to get to the final page.

To fool email security solutions, the messages use extensive obfuscation and encryption for file types often associated with malicious messages, including JavaScript, in addition to multi-layer obfuscation in HTML. The threat actors have used old and unusual encryption methods, including the use of morse code to hide segments of the HTML used in the attack. Some of the code segments used in the campaign reside in several open directories and are called by encoded scripts. Microsoft researchers discovered and tracked the campaign and likened it to a jigsaw puzzle, where all the pieces look harmless individually and only reveal their malicious nature when correctly pieced together.

This campaign is particularly sneaky, with the threat actor having gone to great lengths to fool both end users and security solutions.

FINRA Impersonated in Phishing Campaign

A new phishing campaign has recently been detected that impersonates the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). In this campaign, cyber threat actors have used domains that mimic FINRA, which are close enough to the genuine finra.org domain to fool unsuspecting individuals into disclosing sensitive information.

The phishing emails have been sent from three fraudulent domains: finrar-reporting.org, finpro-finrar.org, and gateway2-finra.org. The use of hyphens in phishing domains is very common, and it is often enough to trick people into thinking the site is a subdomain of the official website that the campaign mimics.

The emails ask the recipients to click a link in the email to “view request.” If the link is clicked, the users are prompted to then provide information to complete the request. As is typical in phishing campaigns, there is a threat should no action be taken, which in this case is “late submission may attract financial penalties.”

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The financial services regulator has taken steps to take down these fraudulent domains, but it is likely that the threat actor will continue using other lookalike domains. Similar domains were used in the campaign spoofing FINRA earlier this year, including finra-online.com and gateway-finra.org.

These campaign highlights the need for security awareness training, an advanced email security solution, and other anti-phishing measures such as a web filter.

If you are concerned about your cybersecurity defenses and want to block threats such as these, give the TitanHQ team a call for advice on security solutions that can be easily implemented to block phishing and other email threats to improve your security posture and prevent costly data breaches.

Phishing Attacks Surge and Businesses are Struggling to Deal with the Threat

Ransomware attacks have increased significantly since the start of 2020 and that increase has continued in 2021. While these attacks are occurring more frequently than ever, the threat from phishing has not gone away and attacks are still rife. Phishing attacks may not make headline news like ransomware attacks on hospitals that threaten patient safety, but they can still be incredibly damaging.

The aim of many phishing attacks is to obtain credentials. Email credentials are often targeted as email accounts contain a treasure trove of data. That data can be extremely valuable to cybercriminals. In healthcare for example, email accounts contain valuable healthcare data, health insurance information, and Social Security numbers, which can be used to commit identity theft, obtain medical treatment, and for tax fraud. Entire email accounts are often exfiltrated in the attacks and the accounts used to send tailored phishing emails to other individuals in the company.

Many data breaches start with a phishing email, with phishing often used by an attacker to gain a foothold in a network that can be used in a much more extensive attack on an organization. Phishing emails are often the first step in a malware or ransomware attack.

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Multiple surveys have recently been conducted on IT leaders and employees that show phishing is a very real and present danger. Two recent surveys conducted in the United States and United Kingdom indicate almost three quarters of businesses have experienced a data breach as a result of a phishing attack in the past 12 months. One study indicated over 50% of IT leaders had seen an increase in phishing attacks in the past 12 months, while the other put the figure at 80%.

During the pandemic, many businesses were faced with the option of switching to a remote workforce or shutting down. The increase in remote working was a godsend for phishers, who increase their attacks on employees. Many IT departments lacked visibility with a remote workforce and found it harder to block phishing attacks than when employees are in the office. Staff shortages in IT have certainly not helped.

Staff training is important to raise awareness of the threat from phishing, but remote working has made that harder. Training needs to be provided regularly as it can easily be forgotten and bad habits can slip in. Phishing tactics are also constantly changing, so regular training is needed to keep employees aware of the latest threats and phishing techniques, so they know what to look for. It does not help that phishing attacks are increasingly targeted and more sophisticated and can be difficult for employees to spot even if they have received regular training.

So how can businesses combat the threat from phishing and avoid being one of the three quarters of companies that experience a phishing data breach each year? Training is important, but the right technology is required.

Two of the most important technical solutions that should be implemented to block phishing attacks are spam filters and web filters. Both are effective at combatting phishing, albeit from different angles. When both are used together, protection is better than the sum of both parts.

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A spam filter must have certain features to block sophisticated phishing threats. Blacklists are great for identifying emails from known malicious IP addresses, but IP addresses frequently change. Machine learning approaches are needed to identify previously unseen phishing tactics and threats from IP addresses not known to be malicious. Multiple AV engines can help to block more malware threats, while sandboxing can be used identify new malware variants. DMARC is also vital to block email impersonation attacks, while outbound scanning is important to rapidly detect compromised mailboxes. All of these features are employed by SpamTitan, which is why the solution has such a high block rate (over 99.97%) and low false positive rate.

Web filters are primarily used to restrict access to malicious and undesirable websites, whether they are sites with pornographic content or malicious sites used for phishing and malware distribution. Web filters, especially DNS-based filters, greatly improve protection against threats and will block access to known malicious websites. They will also block malware downloads and restrict access to questionable websites that serve no work purpose but increase risk. WebTitan will do this and more, and can easily be configured to protect remote workers, no matter where they choose to access the Internet.

With phishing attacks increasing it is important that businesses deploy solutions to counter the threat to stay one step ahead of the phishers. For further information on SpamTitan and WebTitan, and how they can protect your business, give the TitanHQ team a call. Both solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself the difference they make. You can sign up for a free trial of SpamTitan here, and WebTitan on this link.

ZLoader Banking Trojan Distributed in Phishing Campaign That Disables Office Macro Warnings

One of the most common ways for malware to be distributed is in phishing emails. These emails usually require some user interaction, such as clicking on a link and opening an attached Microsoft Office file. Word and Excel files are often used in malware distribution, with macros used to deliver the malicious payload.

Macros are potentially dangerous as they can contain malicious code, so they are usually disabled by default and will only be allowed to run if they are manually enabled by the end user.  When an Office file is opened which contains a macro, a warning message will appear instructing the user that there is a macro and that it is potentially malicious. If the macro is not manually enabled by the end user, malware cannot be downloaded.

A phishing campaign has recently been detected that is typical of most phishing campaigns distributing malware. The initial attack vector is a phishing email, and Office files are used which contain macros that download the malware payload – in this case ZLoader. However, a novel method is used to deliver the malicious Office files that disables to usual macro warnings and protection mechanism.

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In this campaign, malicious DLLs – Zloader malware – are delivered as the payload, but the initial phishing email does not contain the malicious code. The phishing email has a Microsoft Word attachment which will trigger the download of a password-protected Excel spreadsheet from the attacker’s remote server when the file is opened and macros are enabled.

The attack relies on Microsoft Word Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and the Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields of Microsoft Excel, and is effective on systems that support the legacy .xls file format.

Once the encrypted Excel file is downloaded, Word VBA-based instructions in the document read the cell contents from the specially crafted XLS file. Word VBS then writes the cell contents into XLS VBA to create a new macro for the XLS file. When the macros are ready, Excel macro defenses are disabled by the Word document by setting the policy in the registry to Disable Excel Macro Warning. The Excel VBA is then run and downloads the malicious DLL files, which are executed using rundll32.exe.

While the malicious files will be silently downloaded and executed, this attack still requires the victim to enable macros in the initial Word document. Victims are tricked into doing this by telling them “This document created in previous version of Microsoft Office Word. To view or edit this document, please click ‘Enable editing’ button on the top bar, and then click ‘Enable content’,” when they open the Word file. That one click will start the entire infection chain.

ZLoader is a variant of the infamous Zeus banking Trojan, which first appeared in 2006. The malware is also known by the name ZBot and Silent Night and is used by multiple threat groups. The malware was used in large scale campaigns in 2020 using COVID-19 themed lures, such as COVID-19 prevention tips, along with more standard lures such as job applications.

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Once installed, the malware uses webinjects to steal passwords, login credentials and browser cookies. When an infected computer is used to access online banking and financial accounts, banking information and other sensitive data are stolen and exfiltrated to the attacker’s C2 server.

If you want to improve your defenses against malware and phishing, give the TitanHQ team a call and enquire about SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security. These solutions can both be downloaded, configured, and protecting you from the full range of web and email threats in under an hour, and both are available on a no obligation 14-day free trial so you can see for yourself how easy they are to use and how effective they are at blocking threats before making a purchase decision.

Mac Users Targeted in Phishing Campaign Distributing XLoader Malware

Apple Mac users are comparatively safe when it comes to malware as most malware variants target Windows users; however, the number of malware variants targeting Mac users has been increasing. When there is a very low risk of a malware infection, it is easy to become complacent, but threats do come along so it is important to remain on one’s guard.

That is especially true now as a new malware threat has been discovered and Mac users are in the attackers’ crosshairs. Further, this is not some half-baked malware. This is a very serious threat. This new malware variant is very malicious, very dangerous, and it has been getting past Apple Mac security defenses.

The threat is more likely to be familiar to Windows users, as it is them who have previously been targeted; however, the malware has now jumped platforms and is being used to target Mac users. The malware is a new variant of FormBook malware. FormBook malware is a well-known commercially available malware that has been around since 2016. The malware, which was rebranded as XLoader last year, is sold as-a-service on hacking forums and is usually delivered via malicious attachments in emails – often PowerPoint documents. The malware has been developed to log keystrokes and, as the name suggests, grab data from online forms when input by users. It can also steal data from instant messenger apps, email clients, and FTP clients. In the latter half of 2020, attacks involving the malware increased substantially, and during the first 6 months of 2021 it has been prolific.

The Apple version of the malware similarly has a wide range of malicious capabilities. It will harvest credentials from web browsers, steal form data, take screenshots, monitor and log keystrokes, and can also download and execute files from the attackers’ C2 servers. The malware also incorporates several features to resist attempts at reverse engineering.

The Mac version of XLoader is under active development and it is likely that throughout the remainder of 2021 it will grow into an even bigger threat. Already, this version is able to move much deeper into systems and move much faster.

Mac users may be complacent as they are not often targeted, but this is not due to Macs being harder to attack. Malware developers simply choose to target Windows devices as there are many more users that can be targeted. Fewer Mac users mean the potential profits from attacks will be lower, but attacks are growing and the complacency of Mac users works to the advantage of attackers. It makes it easier to get their malware installed as users are not anticipating threats. A much broader range of threat actors will be able to use the latest XLoader version and target Mac users, as they can simply pay a licensing fee and use it under the malware-as-a-serve model. That fee can be as low as $69.

As with the Windows campaigns, XLoader is primarily delivered via phishing emails, mostly using malicious Microsoft Office documents. Check Point says it has tracked infections in 69 countries, although the majority of infected devices are in the United States.

Since the malware can bypass Mac security defenses, it is important to check whether it has already been installed by looking for suspicious filenames in the LaunchAgents directory in the library, which is normally hidden from view. While various different file names have been used, an example of XLoader is com.wznlVRt83Jsd.HPyT0b4Hwxh.plist.

Blocking attacks is actually straightforward. Antivirus software should be installed and kept up to date, and businesses should implement a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block the malicious emails that deliver the malware. End users should also exercise caution opening emails and should never open attachments or click links in emails from unknown sources or click unsolicited links in messaging apps.

LemonDuck Malware Campaign Escalates with Attacks on Windows and Linux Systems Increasing

The threat actors behind LemonDuck malware have escalated their operation and have added new capabilities to the malware making it far more dangerous. LemonDuck malware is best known for its botnet and cryptocurrency mining objectives; however, the malware is being actively developed. While its bot and cryptocurrency mining activities continue, the malware is also capable of removing security controls on infected devices, rapidly moving laterally within networks, dropping a range of tools onto infected devices, and stealing and exfiltrating credentials. The malware is also capable of spreading via email.

The threat group behind the malware is known to take advantage of the latest news and events to create topical and convincing phishing emails to spread the malware, often through malicious Microsoft Office attachments; however, the threat actor also takes advantage of new exploits to infect devices, as well as several older vulnerabilities. Last year, the threat group was distributing the malware using phishing emails with OVID-19 themed lures, and while phishing emails are still being used to distribute the malware, the threat actor has also been exploiting the recently disclosed vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange to gain access to systems, according to a recent security alert from Microsoft.

LemonDuck malware is a somewhat atypical bot malware, as it is relatively rare for these types of malware variants to be used to attack both Windows and Linux systems. The malware operators like to have sole control of infected devices and remove competing malware if they are encountered. To make sure no other malware variants are installed, after gaining access to a device, the vulnerability LemonDuck exploited to gain access to a system is patched.

If the malware is installed on a device with Microsoft Outlook installed, a script is run that uses saved credentials to gain access to the mailbox and copies of itself are then sent in phishing emails to all contacts in the mailbox, using a preset message and the a malware downloader as an attachment.

The malware was first detected in May 2019, with the earlier forms of LemonDuck malware used in attacks within China, but the malware is now being distributed much more widely. It has now been detected in United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, India, Germany, Korea, Canada, and Vietnam.

Microsoft has identified two distinct operating structures that both use LemonDuck malware which could indicate the malware is being used by different groups with different objectives. The ‘LemonCat’ infrastructure was used in a campaign exploiting Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerabilities to install backdoors, steal credentials and data, and deliver other malware variants, including Ramnit.

Blocking attacks involving this malware requires a combination of approaches. An advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan should be used to block the phishing emails used to deliver the malware. SpamTitan also scans outbound messages to prevent malware variants with emailing capabilities from being sent to contacts. Since vulnerabilities are exploited to gain access to networks, it is important to have a rigorous patch management policy and to apply patches quickly after they are released.  Antivirus software should be implemented and set to automatically update, and a web filter is recommended to block malware downloads over the Internet.

For further information on improving your defenses against LemonDucck malware and other malware threats, give the TitanHQ team a call. Both the SpamTitan email security and WebTitan web security solutions are available on a free trial, and can be implemented, configured, and protecting your devices in less than an hour.

Fake Windows 11 Installers Being Used to Deliver Malware

On June 24, 2021, Microsoft announced Windows 11 will soon be released. Windows 11 is a major upgrade of the Windows NT operating system, which will be the successor to Windows 10. Such a major release doesn’t happen that often – Windows 10 was released in 2015 – so there has been a lot of interest in the new operating system. The new Windows version is due for public release at the end of 2021, but there is an opportunity to get an early copy for free.

On June 28, Microsoft revealed the first Insider Preview of Windows 11. Upgrading to the new Windows version is straightforward. For a lucky few (or unlucky few if Windows 11 turns out to be exceptionally buggy), an upgrade just requires a user to enroll in the Dev channel of the Windows Insider Program.  That said, many people have been trying to get an upgrade from unofficial sources.

Unsurprisingly, unofficial ISOs that claim to provide Windows 11 do not. Instead, they deliver malware. Threat actors have been distributing these fake Windows 11 installers and using them to deliver a wide range of malicious payloads. At best, these fake Windows 11 installers will deliver adware or unwanted programs. More likely, malware will be installed with various degrees of maliciousness, such as Remote Access Trojans and backdoors that give the attackers full access to the victims’ devices, information stealers such as keyloggers that steal passwords and other sensitive data, cryptocurrency miners, and ransomware.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have identified several fake Windows 11 installers doing the rounds, including one seemingly legitimate installer named 86307_windows 11 build 21996.1 x64 + activator.exe. Despite the name and 1.76GB file size, it was not what it seemed. If the user executed the file and agreed to the terms and conditions, the file would proceed to download a different executable that delivers a range of malicious software onto the user’s device.

As the hype builds ahead of the official release date, we can expect there to be many other fake installers released. Hackers do love a major software release, as its easy to get users to double click on executable files. Malicious adverts, websites, and emails offering free copies of Windows 11 will increase, so beware.

Ensure you have an advanced and effective spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan in place to protect against malicious emails, and a web filter such as WebTitan installed to block malicious file downloads. You should also make sure that you only install software or applications from official sources and take care to ensure that you really are on the official website of the software developer before downloading any files. A double click on a malicious executable file could cause a great deal of pain and expense for you and your employer.

MSPs Targeted in Phishing Campaign Using Fake Kaseya Update to Deliver Cobalt Strike

On July 2, 2021, IT management software provider Kaseya suffered a ransomware attack that impacted its managed service provider (MSP) customers. Ransomware was pushed out to users of the Kaseya Virtual System Administrator (VSA) platform through the software update mechanism and, through them, to MSP clients. Kaspersky Lab said it found evidence of around 5,000 attempts to infect systems with ransomware across 22 countries in the first 3 days since the attack was identified. Kaseya recently said it believes around 1,500 of its direct customers and downstream businesses were affected.

The attackers exploited vulnerabilities in the KSA platform that had been reported to Kaseya by the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure (DIVD) in April. Kaseya had issued updates to fix four of the seven reported vulnerabilities in April and May and was working on patches to fix the remaining three flaws. One of those flaws, CVE-2021-30116, was a credential leaking flaw which was exploited by the REvil ransomware gang before the patch was released.

Kaseya detected the attack quickly and was able to implement mitigations that limited the extent of the attacks. the steps taken by Kaseya have been effective at blocking any further attacks, customers are now at risk from Kaseya phishing campaigns.

Cybercriminals have started conducting phishing campaigns targeting Kaseya customers pushing Cobalt Strike payloads disguised as Kaseya VSA security updates. Cobalt Strike is a legitimate penetration testing and threat emulation tool, but it is also extensively used by hackers and ransomware gangs to gain remote access to business networks.

The campaign was first detected by the Threat intelligence team at Malwarebytes. The emails contain an attachment named SecurityUpdates.exe and a hyperlink that claims to provide a Microsoft update to fix the Kaseya vulnerability exploited by the ransomware gang.

Users are told to open the attached file or click the link in the email to update the Kaseya VSA to protect against ransomware attacks but doing so delivers Cobalt Strike beacons and will give attackers persistent access to victims’ networks.

Since Kaseya is working on a patch to fix the flaw exploited in the attack, customers will be expecting a security update and may be fooled into installing the fake update.

Kaseya has issued a warning to all customers telling them not to open any attachments or click links in emails that claim to provide updates for the Kaseya VSA. Kaseya said any future email updates it sends to customers will not include any hyperlinks or attachments.

A similar campaign was conducted following the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. The emails claimed to provide system updates to detect and block ransomware attacks.

Any email received that claims to offer a security update should be treated as suspicious. Do not click links in those emails or open attachments, instead visit the software vendor’s official website to check for security updates that have been released.

10 Reasons MSPs Choose SpamTitan to Protect Against Email Threats

Phishing is the most common way that cybercriminals gain access to business networks, and the primary defense against these attacks is a spam filter. Spam filters inspect all inbound emails for the signatures of spam, phishing, and malware and keep inboxes free of these threats.

There are many spam filtering solutions on the market that can protect against advanced email threats, but why have so many managed service providers (MSP) chosen TitanHQ has their email security solution provider? What does SpamTitan provide that is proving to be such a bit hit with MSPs?

Why Managed Service Providers Choose SpamTitan Email Security for Their Clients

SpamTitan in a multi-award-winning anti-spam solution that incorporates powerful features to protect against phishing and other email-based attacks. The solution is currently used by more than 1,500 MSPs worldwide with that number growing steadily each month.

We have listed 10 of the main reasons why SpamTitan is proving to be such a popular choice with MSPs.

Excellent malware protection

SpamTitan includes dual anti-virus engines from two leading AV providers and sandboxing that incorporates machine learning and behavioral analysis to safely detonate suspicious files.

Defense in depth protection for Office 365 environments

SpamTitan includes multiple protection measures that provide defense in depth against email threats, with easy integration into Office 365 environments to significantly improve defenses against phishing and email-based malware attacks.

Advanced email blocking

SpamTitan supports upload block and allow lists per policy, advanced reporting, recipient verification and outbound email scanning, with the ability to whitelist/blacklist at both a global level as well as a domain level.

Protection against zero-day attacks

SpamTitan uses machine learning predictive technology to block zero-day threats, with AI-driven threat intelligence to block zero-minute attacks.

Data leak prevention

Easily set powerful data leak prevention rules and tag data to identify and prevent internal data loss.

Simple integration

SpamTitan is easy to integrate into your existing Service Stack through TitanHQ API’s and MSPs benefit from streamlined management with RMM integrations.

Competitive pricing with monthly billing

MSPs benefit from a fully transparent pricing policy, competitive pricing, generous margins, and monthly billing. There is also a short sales cycle – only 14 days of a free trial is required to fully test the solution.

White label option to reinforce your brand

SpamTitan can be provided to managed service providers as a white label version that can be fully rebranded to reinforce an MSPs brand.

Intuitive multi-tenant dashboard

MSP-client hierarchy enables you to keep clients separated and choose whether to manage client settings in bulk or on an individual basis. SpamTitan is also a set and forget solution, requiring minimal IT service intervention.

Industry-leading customer support

TitanHQ provides the best customer service in the industry. MSPs benefit from world class pre-sales and technical support and sales & technical training. MSPs get a dedicated account manager, assigned sales engineer support, access to the Global Partner Program Hotline, and 24/7 priority technical support.

If you have not yet started offering SpamTitan to your clients, give the TitanHQ channel team a call today for more information, to get started on a free trial, or for a product demonstration.

HMRC Phishing Attacks Increased by 87% in the Past 12 Months

Cybercriminals often impersonate trusted entities in phishing campaigns. While Microsoft tops the list of the most impersonated brand, phishing scams impersonating tax authorities are also common. In the United Kingdom, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – the UK government department responsible for tax collection – it is often impersonated, and phishing attacks are on the rise. In the past 12 months, the number of phishing attacks impersonating HMRC increased by 87%.

The number of HMRC phishing attacks jumped from 572,029 in 2019/2020 to 1,069,522 in 2020/2021, according to official figures obtained by Lanop Outsourcing under a Freedom of information request.

Phishing can take many forms, but email scams are the most common. The number of HMRC phishing attacks conducted via email increased by 109% to 630,193 scams in 2020/2021. The most common lures used in these phishing campaigns were fake notifications about tax rebates and refunds, which were up 90% year-over-year. There were also major increases in text-based phishing (smishing) scams, which rose 52% year-over-year, and voice phishing (vishing) scams which increased by 66%.

There was an even bigger increase in phishing scams impersonating the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). In 2019/2020, HMRC received 5,549 reports of phishing scams impersonating the DVLA, but in 2020/2021 there was a whopping 661% increase with 42,233 reports.

Phishing scams impersonating HMRC and the DVLA target individuals, but they are dangerous for businesses too. The aim of these scams is to obtain sensitive data such as passwords, which could then be used in attacks on businesses. Phishing scams are also conducted to distribute malware. If malware is downloaded onto the business network, the attackers can use the access provided by the malware to move laterally and compromise an entire network.

Protecting against phishing scams requires a defense in depth approach. End user training is important as it is employees who are targeted. Employees need to be taught how to identify phishing scams and told what to do if a suspicious email is received. This is even more important at a time when employees are working from home as IT departments often lack visibility into the devices of remote workers.

Even with training, employees make mistakes. One study conducted on home workers revealed many have taken security shortcuts when working from home which has put their organization at risk. It is therefore important to implement technical defenses to ensure phishing emails do not reach inboxes.

An advanced spam filtering solution is a must. A spam filter is the most important technical measure to implement to block phishing attacks. While spam filters are good at blocking phishing emails from known malicious IP addresses, advanced spam filters such as SpamTitan have superior detection rates and can identify never-before-seen phishing scams. SpamTitan uses predictive technologies and AI to identify zero-day attacks involving IP addresses that have yet to be identified as malicious. Sandboxing provides protection from malware that has yet to have its signature added to antivirus engines, while DMARC is used to block email impersonation attacks such as those impersonating HMRC.

In phishing attacks, a lure is sent via email but the harvesting of credentials takes place on an attacker-controlled website. Links in emails to known malicious sites will be blocked, but protection can be significantly improved by using a web filter. A web filter will also block attempts to visit malicious sites via smishing messages and through web browsing as well and will block downloads of files associated with malware.

If you want to protect your business from phishing attacks, malware and ransomware and avoid costly data breaches, give the TitanHQ a team a call and find out more about improving your security posture by blocking more email- and web-based threats.

How to Improve Your Defenses Against Business Email Compromise Attacks

The recent TitanHQ/Osterman Research survey of IT security professionals showed the most common security incidents experienced by businesses were business email compromise (BEC) attacks. A BEC attack is where a cybercriminal spoofs a trusted contact or company, usually to trick an employee into making a fraudulent wire transfer, send sensitive data via email, or obtain money by other means.

In a BEC attack, the attacker usually spoofs an email account or website or uses a genuine, trusted email account that has previously been compromised in a phishing attack. If a compromised email account is not used, an individual is usually spoofed by changing the display name to make it appear that the email has been sent by a genuine contact, often the CEO, CFO, or a vendor.

It is also common for lookalike domains to be used in BEC attacks. The attacker discovers the spoofed company’s format for email accounts, and copies that format using a domain that very closely resembles the genuine domain used by that company. At first glance, the spoofed domain appears perfectly legitimate.

BEC attacks are usually highly targeted. An email is carefully crafted to target an individual within an organization or a person in a particular role. Since many attacks attempt to get employees to make fraudulent wire transfers, it is most common for individuals in the finance department to be targeted, although BEC attackers also commonly target the HR department, marketing department, IT department, and executives.

Since the requests in the emails are plausible and the message format, signatures, and branding are often copied from genuine emails, the BEC emails can be very convincing. It is also not uncommon for the attacks to involve conversations that span multiple messages before the attacker makes a request.

While phishing attacks are more common, losses to BEC attacks are far greater. According to FBI figures, BEC attacks are the leading cause of losses to cybercrime.

Defending against BEC attacks requires a combination of measures. Naturally, since these attacks target employees, it is important to raise awareness of the threat and teach employees how to identify a BEC attack. Policies and procedures should also be implemented that require any email request to change bank account details, payment methods, or make changes to direct deposit information for payroll to be verified using trusted contact information. A quick telephone call could easily thwart an attack.

While these measures are important, the best defense is to prevent BEC emails from reaching end users’ inboxes as that eliminates the potential for human error. For that you need to have solid email security. A good email security solution will block attempts to steal email credentials – the precursor to many BEC attacks.  An advanced spam filtering solution that incorporates machine learning techniques can detect and block zero-day attacks – the tailored, often unique messages that are used by the attackers to target individuals. Solutions that incorporate DMARC and sender policy framework (SPF) will help to detect emails from individuals not authorized to send messages from a particular domain – A vital protection against BEC attacks.

SpamTitan incorporates all of those measures – and more – to keep businesses protected. When combined with end user training and administrative measures, businesses can greatly improve their defenses against BEC attacks. For more information on how SpamTitan can protect your business from the full range of email attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

You can also find out about other measures you can implement to block phishing and ransomware attacks at the upcoming TitanHQ webinar on June 30, 2021 – How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing and Ransomware. During the webinar – hosted by TitanHQ and Osterman Research – you will discover the results of the latest TitanHQ survey of security professionals and gain valuable insights into how you can improve your cybersecurity posture.

You can REGISTER YOUR PLACE HERE.

Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack Started with a Compromised Password

In April 2021, hackers gained access to the network of Colonial Pipeline and deployed ransomware that forced the shutdown of a fuel pipeline system serving the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. With fuel supplies threatened, there was panic buying of fuel by Americans on the East Coast which led to local fuel shortages. Gasoline prices rose to their highest level in more than 6 years, and stockpiles of gasoline on the East Coast fell by 4.6 million barrels.

The attack has been attributed to the DarkSide ransomware-as-a-service operation, which has since shut down. Prior to the shutdown, Colonial Pipeline paid a $4.4 million ransom for the keys to unlock the encrypted files.  The decision to pay the ransom was made because of the threat to fuel supplies. Colonial Pipeline supplied 45% of fuel to the East Coast, and while paying the attackers was a difficult decision, payment was made due to the threat to fuel supplies given how long it was likely to take to recover without the attacker-supplied decryption keys.

Such a major attack on a critical infrastructure firm should have been difficult; however, an investigation into the cyberattack revealed gaining access to the company’s computer system couldn’t have been simpler. The attackers used a compromised password to remotely access Colonial Pipeline’s systems, and that account was not protected with multi-factor authentication.

The password was for a virtual private network account, according to Charles Carmakal, senior vice president at cybersecurity firm Mandiant which was involved in the investigation. The account was not in use, but it was still possible to use the login credentials to access Colonial Pipeline’s network.

It is not known how the hackers obtained the password. The password has since been found in a database of breached passwords that was leaked on the darkweb. It is possible that an individual had set a password for the account that had been used on another account that had been breached. It is common for passwords from data breaches to be attempted in brute force attacks as password reuse is common. Passwords are also often obtained in phishing attacks.

Mandiant looked for evidence of how the password was obtained by the hackers. The researchers found no signs of attacker activity before the April 29, 2021 nor any evidence of phishing. How the password was obtained and the username determined may never be known.

What is clear is that the attack could have easily been prevented had cybersecurity best practices been followed such as conducting audits of accounts and shutting down accounts that are no longer in use, setting unique, complex passwords for each account, implementing multi-factor authentication to stop compromised passwords from being used, and implementing an effective anti-spam solution to block phishing emails.

Webinar June 30, 2021: How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing and Ransomware Attacks

The two main cybersecurity threats that businesses now have to deal with are phishing and ransomware attacks and those threats have become even more common over the past 12 months. Cybercriminals stepped up their attacks during the pandemic with many phishing campaigns launched using the novel coronavirus as a lure. These campaigns sought to distribute malware and steal credentials.

Ransomware attacks also increased in 2020. Several new ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations were launched in 2020 and the number of attacks on businesses soared. In addition to encrypting files, data theft was also highly prevalent n 2020, with most ransomware operators stealing data prior to encrypting files. This double extortion tactic proved to be very effective. Many businesses were forced to pay the ransom even though they had backups and could have recovered their files. Payments were made to ensure data stolen in the attack was deleted and not misused, published, or sold.

Phishing and ransomware attacks often go hand in hand and are often used together in the same attack. Phishing emails are used to install malware, which in turn is used to provide access for ransomware gangs. The Emotet and TrickBot Trojans are notable examples. Operators of both of those Trojans teamed up with ransomware gangs and sold access once they had achieved their own objectives. The credentials stolen in phishing attacks are also sold onto RaaS affiliates and provide the foothold they need to conduct their devastating attacks.

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Phishing campaigns are easy to conduct, low cost, and they can be very effective. Largescale campaigns involve millions of messages, and while most of those emails will be blocked by email security solutions or will be identified by employees as a threat, all it takes is for one employee to respond to a phishing email for an attacker to gain the access they need.

TitanHQ recently partnered with Osterman Research to explore how these and other cyber threats have affected businesses over the past 12 months. This new and original study involved an in-depth survey of security professionals to find out how those threats have affected their organization and how effective their defenses are at repelling attackers.

The survey showed the most common security incidents suffered by businesses were business email compromise (BEC) attacks, where employees are tricked into taking an action suggested in a scam email from the CEO, CFO or another high-level executive. These attacks often involve the genuine email account of an executive being compromised in a phishing scam and the attacker using that account to target employees in the same organization.

The next biggest threat was phishing emails that resulted in a malware infection, followed by phishing messages that stole credentials and resulted in an account compromise. The survey showed that these attacks are extremely common. 85% of interviewed security professionals said they had experienced one or more of 17 different types of security breaches in the past 12 months. While attacks were common, only 37% of respondents said their defenses against phishing and ransomware attacks were highly effective.

There are several steps that can be taken to improve defenses against phishing and ransomware attacks. End user training is important to teach employees what to look for and how to identify these types of threats. However, there is always potential for human error, so training alone is not the answer. Email security is the best defense. By blocking these threats at source, they will not land in inboxes and employees will not be tested. Email security should be combined with a web security solution to block the web-based component of phishing attacks and stop malware and ransomware downloads from the Internet.

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The findings of the Osterman and TitanHQ survey will be explained in detail at an upcoming webinar on June 30, 2021. Attendees will also learn how they can significantly reduce the risk of ransomware and phishing attacks.

The webinar will be conducted by Michael Sampson, Senior Analyst at Osterman Research and Sean Morris, Chief Technology Officer at TitanHQ.  You can Register Your Place Here

Sophisticated COVID-19 Phishing Campaign Targets Employees Returning to Offices

Threat actors seized the opportunities provided by the pandemic and conducted many phishing campaigns using COVID-19 themed lures. These campaigns took advantage of global interest in the novel coronavirus and preyed on fears of contracting COVID-19 to get people to open the emails, click on malicious hyperlinks, or open attachments that downloaded malware and ransomware payloads. Now that a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated, employers are opening up their offices again and employees are returning to the workplace.

The return to offices has presented another opportunity for scammers, who have launched a new phishing campaign targeting workers returning to offices. The emails appear to be a message from the CIO welcoming employees back to the workplace and claims to provide information about post-pandemic protocols and the procedures that have been put in place to accommodate returning workers to reduce the risk of infection.

The emails have been crafted to make them appear as if they have been sent internally, and include the logo of the targeted company and are signed by the CIO. The emails include a hyperlink that directs employees to a fake Microsoft SharePoint page that hosts two documents, both of which have the company’s branding. The documents are a COVID-19 factsheet and an implementation letter that includes steps that the company has taken based on updates provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and local health officials.

Most phishing campaigns would simply direct people to a landing page that hosts a phishing form where they are asked to enter their Office 365 credentials. This campaign is more sophisticated and includes an additional step. Nothing happens when an employee lands on the page. They are first required to click to open a document before the phish is activated. When the document is clicked, a fake Microsoft login prompt appears and credentials must then be entered in order to view the documents.

If credentials are entered, a message is then generated advising the employee that their account or password is not correct, and they are made to reenter their credentials several times before they are finally redirected to a genuine Microsoft page and are given access to the documents on OneDrive, most likely unaware that their credentials have been phished.

This COVID-19 phishing scam, like many others conducted throughout the pandemic, has a plausible lure. In this case, the emails have been well written and have been targeted for specific companies, making them very believable and likely to fool a great many employees. It is unclear what aims the attackers have once credentials have been harvested. They could be used to plunder sensitive information in Office 365 email accounts, would give the attackers a foothold in the corporate network for a more extensive compromise, or they could be sold to other threat groups such as ransomware gangs.

The best way to counter the threat is to prevent the malicious emails from arriving in inboxes, which requires an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. With SpamTitan in place, phishing threats such as this will be identified and blocked at the gateway to ensure that employees’ phishing email identification skills are not put to the test.

If you want to improve your security posture and block more phishing threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today to discover how SpamTitan Email Security and the WebTitan DNS Filter can improve cybersecurity in your organization.

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. Offering spam filtering can help to generate additional recurring revenue, with SpamTitan provided as a high margin, subscription based SaaS solution.

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. Email archiving is available with office 365, but the solution has some severe drawbacks, and may not meet compliance requirements. Offering a feature-rich email archiving solution that is fully compliant, easy to use, with lightning fast search and retrieval should be an easy sell to Office 365 users.

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 and should not be too difficult to sell to Office 365 users.

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. All TitanHQ solutions are quick and easy to deploy, and can be implemented into your existing Service Stack through API’s and RMM integrations. The MSP-client hierarchy enables you to keep clients separated and choose whether to manage client settings in bulk or on an individual basis. MSPs benefit from competitive pricing strategies, including monthly billing as we understand your clients are billed monthly.

There are multiple hosting options, including hosting the solution within your own data center, and all TitanHQ products can be supplied as a white label, ready to take your own branding. We have made our solutions as easy as possible to use, with intuitive controls and everything placed at your fingertips. However, should you ever have a problem, you will benefit from the best customer service in the industry, as well as scalable pre-sales and technical support and sales & technical training.

Why SpamTitan is Perfect for MSP’s?

  • The best spam and virus protection for MSPs with dual AV engines and Bitdefender-powered sandboxing
  • Low management overhead – A set and forget solution
  • Use our private cloud or your own data center
  • Extensive suite of APIs for integration into your central management system
  • Multi-tenant solution with multiple management roles
  • Scalable to thousands of users
  • In and outbound email scanning with IP domain protection
  • Extensive drill down reporting
  • Flexible pricing models to suit your needs, including monthly billing
  • Generous margins for MSPs
  • Fully customizable branding

TitanSHIELD Program for MSPs

To make it as easy as possible for MSPs to incorporate our world class network security solutions into their service stacks, TitanHQ developed the TitanSHIELD program. The TitanShield MSP Program allows MSPs to take advantage of TitanHQ’s proven technology so that they can sell, implement and deliver our advanced network security solutions directly to their client base. Under the TitanSHIELD program you get the following benefits:

TitanSHIELD Benefits

Sales Enablement

Marketing

Partner Support Private or Public Cloud deployment Access to the Partner Portal
Dedicated Account Manager White Label or Co-branding Co-Branded Evaluation Site
Assigned Sales Engineer Support API integration Social Network participation
Access to Global Partner Program Hotline Free 30-day evaluations Joint PR
Access to Partner Knowledge Base Product Discounts Joint White Papers
Technical Support Competitive upgrades Partner Events and Conferences
24/7 Priority Technical Support Tiered Deal Registration TitanHQ Newsletter
5 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) Technical Support Renewal Protection Better Together Webinars
Online Technical Training and FAQs Advanced Product Information Partner Certificate – Sales and technical
Access to Partner Technical Knowledge Base Competitive Information and Research Sales Campaigns in a box
Not-for-Resale (NFR) Key Public Relations Program and Customer Testimonials
Product Brochures and Sales Tools TitanHQ Corporate Style Guide and Logo Usage
Partner Advisory Council Eligibility TitanHQ Partner Welcome Kit
QTRLY Business Planning and Review Access to TitanHQ’s MVP Rewards Program
Access to Partner Support

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.

How to Defend Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the leading cause of data breaches and 2020 saw phishing-related data breaches increase again. The recently released Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report shows there was an 11% increase in phishing attacks in 2020, with work-from-home employees extensively targeted with COVID-19 themed phishing lures.

Phishing attacks are conducted to steal credentials or deliver malware, with the former often leading to the latter. Once credentials have been obtained, they can either be used by threat actors to gain access to business networks to steal data and launch further attacks on an organization. Credentials stolen in phishing attacks are often sold to other threat groups such as ransomware gangs. From a single phishing email, a business could be brought to its knees and even prevented from operating.

The fallout from a phishing attack can be considerable, and it is therefore no surprise that many businesses fail after a successful cyberattack. According to ID Agent, 60% of companies go out of business within 6 months of a cyberattack – The cost of recovery and the damage to the company’s reputation can simply be too great.

Considering the potentially devastating consequences of a phishing attack it is surprising that many businesses fail to implement appropriate protections to block attacks and do not make sure their employees are able to recognize and avoid phishing threats.

A recent study conducted by the phishing simulation vendor KeepNet Labs highlighted just how often employees fall for these scams. In a test involving 410,000 simulated phishing emails, more than half of the emails were opened, 32% of individuals clicked a (fake) malicious link or opened an attachment, and 13% of individuals provided their login credentials in response to the emails.

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How to Defend Against Phishing Attacks

It is vital for the workforce to be prepared, as phishing emails can easily end up in inboxes regardless of the security protections in place to block the messages. Fortunately, through regular security awareness training, employees can be trained how to spot a phishing email. Following security awareness training, phishing email simulations are useful for identifying weak links – employees that need further training. Over time, it is possible to significantly improve resilience to these damaging and incredibly costly cyberattacks.

The importance of solid technical email security defenses cannot be overestimated as even with training, phishing emails can be very difficult for employees to identify. Phishing emails often have plausible lures, the email messages can be extremely well written, and often appear to have come from trusted sources. It is common for the emails to impersonate trusted companies and include their color schemes and logos and the websites that users are directed to are often carbon copies of the genuine websites they spoof.

There are three technical solutions that can be implemented in addition to the provision of training that can greatly improve the security posture of an organization against phishing attacks. These three solutions provide three layers of defenses, so should one fail to detect and block a threat, the others will be in place to provide protection.

3 Essential Technical Phishing Controls for Businesses

The most important technical control against phishing is a spam filter. A spam filter will block the majority of phishing and spam emails and will stop them reaching inboxes, but the percentage of emails blocked can vary considerably from solution to solution. Most spam filters will block 99% or more of spam and phishing emails, but what is needed is a solution that will block more than 99.9% of spam and malicious emails. SpamTitan for instance, has an independently verified catch rate of 99.97%, ensuring your inboxes are kept free of threats.

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An often-neglected area of phishing protection is a web filter. Web filters are extensively used by businesses and the education sector for blocking access to inappropriate web content such as pornography. Web filters are also an important anti-phishing measure for blocking the web-based component of phishing attacks. When an employee clicks a link in an email that directs them to a phishing page, the web filter will block access. WebTitan Cloud is constantly updated with new malicious URLs as they are created via multiple threat intelligence feeds. WebTitan blocks malware downloads from the Internet and can be configured to block access to risky websites that serve no work purpose.

The last measure that should be implemented is multi-factor authentication for email accounts. In addition to a password, MFA requires another form of authentication to be provided before access is granted.  Without that additional factor, the account cannot be accessed. This is an important security measure that kicks in when credentials have been stolen to block unauthorized account access.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, these three technical controls along with end user training will keep your business safe. To find out more, and how little these protections cost, give the TitanHQ team a call today!

TitanHQ Launches WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks with Latest WebTitan Cloud Release

TitanHQ has announced the release of a new version of WebTitan Cloud that includes new security features, easier administration, and the introduction of WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks for the education sector.

One of the main changes introduced with WebTitan Cloud version 4.16 is the addition of DNS Proxy 2.06, which supports filtering of users in Azure Active Directory. This is in addition to on-premise AD and directory integration for Active Directory. The support for Azure Active Directory will make it easier for customers to enjoy the benefits of WebTitan Cloud, while making management easier and less time-consuming. Support for further directory services will be added with future releases to meet the needs of customers.

Current WebTitan customers do not need to do anything to upgrade to the latest version of WebTitan, as updates to WebTitan Cloud are handled by TitanHQ and users will be upgraded to the latest version automatically to ensure they benefit from improved security, the latest fixes, and new functionality.

The latest WebTitan Cloud release has allowed TitanHQ to introduce a new solution specifically to meet the needs of clients in the education sector – WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks.

The use of Chromebooks has grown significantly over the past year, which corresponds with an increase in student online activity. WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks allows IT professionals in the education sector to ensure compliance with federal and state laws, including the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and ensure students can use their Chromebooks safely and securely.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks is a DNS-based web filtering solution that requires no proxies, VPNs or any additional hardware and since the solution is DNS-based, there is no impact on Internet speed. Once implemented, filtering controls can be set for all Chromebook users, no matter where they connect to the Internet. The controls will be in place in the classroom and at home and all locations in between.

Administrators can easily apply filtering controls for all students, different groups of students, and staff members, including enforcing Safe Search. The solution will block access to age-inappropriate content, phishing web pages, malicious websites used for distributing malware, and any category of website administrators wish to block. Chromebooks can also easily be locked down to prevent anyone bypassing the filtering controls set by the administrator.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks delivers fast and effective user- and device-level web filtering and empowers students to discover the Internet in a safe and secure fashion. Reports can be generated on demand or scheduled which provide information on Chromebook user locations, the content that has been accessed, and any attempts to bypass filtering, with real-time views of Internet access also possible.

“This new release comes after an expansive first quarter. The launch of WebTitan Cloud 4.16 brings phenomenal new security features to our customers,” Said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “After experiencing significant growth in 2020, TitanHQ expects these product enhancements and new features to make 2021 another record-breaking year.”

Further information on the Azure AD app is available here.

Further Information on WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks is available here.

Passwordstate Breach Notification Letters Spoofed to Distribute Malware

Following on from a supply chain attack that saw the software update feature of the Passwordstate password manager hijacked the threat group developed a convincing phishing campaign targeting enterprise users of the password manager solution.

The supply chain attack was used to infect users of the password manager with malware dubbed Moserpass. Between April 20 and April 22, users of the password manager who downloaded an update through the In-Pass Upgrade mechanism may have had a malicious file downloaded – a malformed Passwordstate_upgrade.zip file.

Downloading the file started a chain of events that resulted in Moserpass being installed, which collected and exfiltrated information about the computer, users, domains, running services and processes, along with password data from the Passwordstate app. The malware also had a loader module, so could potentially download other malware variants onto victims’ devices. Since passwords were potentially compromised, affected users have been advised to reset all of their passwords.

The attack only lasted 28 hours before it was identified and blocked, but in order to remove the malware from customers’ devices, Click Studios, the developer of the password app, emailed customers and encouraged them to apply a hotfix to remove the malware.

Some customers who received the email from Click Studios shared a copy of the message on social media networks. The threat group behind the attack were monitoring social media channels, obtained a copy of the genuine Click Studios email about the hotfix, and used the exact same email for a phishing campaign. Instead of directing users to the hotfix to remove Moserpass malware, the phishing email directed users to a website not under the control of Click Studios which installed an updated version of Moserpass malware.

Since the Passswordstate breach notification emails were virtual carbon copies of genuine communications from Click Studios they were very convincing. Users who followed the instructions in the email would likely think they were removing malware, when they were actually installing it. The fake versions of the emails do not have a domain suffix used by Click Studios, request the hotfix is downloaded from a subdomain, and claim an ‘urgent’ update is required to fix a bug, but it is easy to see how these messages could fool end users.

Click Studios supplies its password manager to around 29,000 enterprises and the solution has hundreds of thousands of users, many of whom will have heard of the breach and be concerned about a malware infection. Click Studios said only a very small number of its customers were affected and had the malware installed – those who downloaded the update in the 28-hour period between April 20 and April 22 – but anyone receiving the fake email could well have been convinced that the email was genuine and taken the requested action.

Phishers often use fake security warnings as a lure, and data breach notifications are ideal for use in phishing attacks. This Passswordstate breach notification phishing campaign highlights the importance of carefully checking any message for signs of phishing, even if the email content seems genuine and the message includes the right branding, and the risks of posting copies of genuine breach notification letters on social media networks.

Many phishing attacks are sophisticated, and it can be difficult for employees to differential between genuine and malicious messages, which is why advanced spam and phishing defenses are required. If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, get in touch with TitanHQ and discover how SpamTitan Email Security can improve your security posture and better protect your organization from phishing and other email-based threats.

What is a Common Indicator of a Phishing Attempt?

Virtually everyone uses email which makes it an attractive attack vector for cybercriminals who use phishing emails to steal credentials, deliver malware, and gain a foothold in corporate networks, but what is a common indicator of a phishing attempt? How can these malicious emails be identified and avoided?

In this post we will list some of the main signs of phishing emails that that all email users should be looking out for in their inboxes.

Phishing is the Number 1 Attack Vector!

In 2021, and for several years previously, phishing has been the main way that cybercriminals obtain login credentials to allow them to access sensitive business data and gain the foothold they need in business networks for more extensive compromises. Phishing emails are also used to deliver malware that provides persistent access to computers and the networks to which they connect. Malware downloaders are commonly delivered via email that download other malicious payloads such as ransomware. Most data breaches start with a phishing email!

Phishing emails were once easy to detect, but that is not always the case now. Many phishing attempts are extremely sophisticated. Emails may only be sent to a handful of people, and even individuals are targeted. The emails are convincing and can be almost impossible to distinguish from the genuine email messages that they spoof.

With an advanced email security solution in place, the majority of these messages will be blocked; however, no email security solution will block every malicious message without blocking an unacceptable number of genuine messages. That means all employees must have the necessary skills to identify a phishing email when it arrives in their inbox.

What is a Common Indicator of a Phishing Attempt?

In order to identify a phishing email, you need to know what to look for, so what is a common indicator of a phishing attempt? Listed below are some of the most common signs of phishing emails for you to look out for.

Unfortunately, there is no single common indicator of a phishing attempt. Tactics, techniques, and procedures are constantly changing, but if you identify any of these signs in an email in your inbox or spam folder, there is a reasonable chance that the message is not genuine and should be reported to your security team. Chances are, there will be other copies of the message in the email system that will need to be removed.

The message is in your spam folder

There is a reason why messages are classified as spam by email security solutions. Analysis of the message has highlighted telltale signs of spam or phishing, but not enough for the message to be blocked at the email gateway. If a message is sent to your spam folder you should exercise caution when opening the message.

It is an unsolicited message

Phishing emails are unsolicited – You certainly didn’t ask to be phished! There may be a seemingly valid reason why you have been sent the message, but if you didn’t request the email and are not on a marketing list for the company or individual sending the message it should be treated as suspect.

Important information is in an attachment

One of the ways that phishers attempt to conceal their malicious intent is to use email attachments. This could be a link in an attached file that you need to click (why not just add it to the message body?) or commonly, you must enable content in an Office file to view the content of the attachment. Doing so will allow macros to run that will download a malicious file. Zip files are also commonly used as they are hard for spam filters to access, or files may be password protected. The files must always be scanned with AV software prior to opening and, even then, treat them with extreme caution.

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Urgent action is required and there is a threat in the email

Phishing emails often convey a sense of urgency to get people to respond quickly without thinking too much about the request. There may be a threat of bad consequences if no action is taken – your account will be closed – or some other sense of urgency, such as missing out on an amazing opportunity. Always take time to carefully consider what is being asked and check the email for other signs of phishing.

You are asked to click a link in an email

Spam filters scan messages for malware, so it is common for the malware to be hosted on a website. A link is included that users must click to obtain information or to download a file. The link may take you to a website where you are required to enter your login credentials, and that site may have an exact copy of your usual login prompt – for Google or Office 365 for example. You should carefully check the link to find out the true destination (hover your mouse arrow over it) and then double check the full URL on the destination site. You may have been redirected to a different site after clicking. Is the page on the genuine website used by that company?

The sender of the email is not known to you or the email address is suspect

Phishers spoof email addresses and change the display name to make it appear that the email has been sent from a contact or official source. Check that the actual email address is legitimate – it is the correct domain for the company or individual. Check against past messages received from that individual or company to make sure the email address is the same. Remember, the sender’s email account may have been compromised, so even if the email address is correct that doesn’t necessarily mean the account holder sent the message!

The message has grammatical and spelling errors

Grammatical and spelling errors are common in phishing emails. This could be because English is not the first language of the sender or be deliberate to only get people to respond who are likely to fall for the next stage of the scam. Business emails, especially official communications and marketing emails, do not contain spelling errors or have grammatical mistakes.

The request is unusual, or the tone seems odd

Often the language used in phishing emails is a little odd. Emails impersonating known contacts may be overly familiar or may seem rather formal and different to typical emails you receive from the sender. If the tone is off or you are addressed in a strange way, it could well be a phishing attempt. Phishing emails will also try to get you to take unusual actions, such as send data via email that you have not been asked to send before. A quick phone call using trusted contact information is always wise to verify the legitimacy of an unusual request.

How Businesses can Improve their Phishing Defenses

If you want to block more phishing emails and malware you will need an advanced email security solution. The email security gateway is the first line of defense against malicious emails, but it is not necessary to spend a fortune to have good protection. If you have a limited budget or simply want to save money on email security, TitanHQ is here to help.

SpamTitan is an award-winning advanced email security solution that blocks in excess of 99.97% of malicious messages and spam. The solution is easy to implement, configure, maintain and use, the pricing policy is transparent and extremely competitive, and with TitanHQ you will benefit from industry-leading customer support. You can even try SpamTitan for free to see for yourself how effective it is. Get in touch with us today to find out more via email or just pick up the phone and speak to our friendly and knowledgeable sales team.

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UK Universities Schools Increasingly Targeted by Ransomware Gangs

Ransomware attacks on the education sector in the United Kingdom have increased sharply since February, and the sector was already extensively targeted by threat groups long before then. The education sector is an attractive target for cybercriminals as sizeable amounts of sensitive data are stored within computer systems that can be easily monetized if stolen.

Students’ personally identifiable information is of more value than that of adults, and it can often be used for years before any fraud is detected. Higher education institutions often have intellectual property and research data that is incredibly valuable and can easily be sold on for a huge profit. Ransomware attacks prevent access to essential data, and with the pandemic forcing the education sector to largely switch to online learning, when communication channels and websites are taken out of action learning can grind to a halt.

In the United Kingdom, the reopening of schools and universities has only been possible with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which is also disrupted by ransomware attacks. Files are encrypted which prevents access to essential testing and monitoring data, further hampering the ability of schools, colleges, and universities to operate.

As is the case with healthcare, which has also seen a major increase in cyberattacks during the pandemic, services are majorly disrupted without access to computer systems, and there is considerable pressure on both industries to pay the ransom demands to recover from the attacks more quickly. Ransoms are more likely to be paid than in other industry sectors.

What makes the education sector an even more attractive prospect for cybercriminals is poorer security defenses than other industries. The lack of security controls makes attacks much more likely to succeed. On top of that, students often use their own devices to connect to networks so security can be very difficult to police, and many departments make their own IT decisions, which can easily result in vulnerabilities being introduced and remaining unaddressed.

The ease and profitability of attacks has made education a top target for ransomware gangs. Emsisoft reports education was the sector most targeted by ransomware gangs in 2020.

The increase in ransomware attacks on educational institutions in the United Kingdom prompted the UK’s National Cyber Security Center to issue a warning in March to all entities in the education sector about the risk of cyberattacks. NCSC noted in its alert that there was a significant increase in attacks in August and September 2020, and a further rise in attacks since February 2021.

University of Hertfordshire Suffers Major Cyberattack

One of the most damaging university cyberattacks in recent months occurred at the University of Hertfordshire. Late on April 14, cybercriminals struck, with the attack impacting all of the university’s systems. No cloud systems were available, nor MS Teams, Canvas, or Zoom. The attack forced the university to cancel all of its online classes for the following day, although in person teaching was able to continue provided computer access was not necessary.

It has been more than a week since the attack, and while some systems are now back online, disruption is still being experienced with student records, university business services, learning resource centre services, data storage, student services, staff services, and the postgraduate application portal, with the email system also considered to be at risk.

The university has not confirmed the nature of the attack, but it has the hallmarks of a ransomware attack, although the university has issued a statement stating that the attack did not involve data theft.

The University of Hertfordshire is certainly not alone. In March, South and City College of Birmingham was hit with a ransomware attack that took all of its computer systems out of action, with the college forced to switch to online learning for its 13,000 students.

UK Schools also Under Attack

The cyberattacks in the United Kingdom have not been limited to universities. School systems have also suffered more than their fair share of attacks. In March, the Harris Federation, which runs 50 schools in the UK, suffered a ransomware attack that took out communications systems and majorly affecting online learning for 37,000 students.

Also in March, the Nova Education Trust suffered a ransomware attack that took its systems out of action and affected 15 schools, all of which lost access to their communication channels including the phone system, email, and websites. The Castle School Education Trust also suffered a ransomware attack in March that disrupted the online functions of 23 schools.

What Can Be Done to Stop Cyberattacks in Education?

Cybersecurity must become a major focus for schools, colleges, and universities. The attacks are being conducted because they are easy and profitable and, until that changes, the attacks are not likely to slow and, in all likelihood, will continue to increase.

To protect against attacks, the education sector needs to implement multi-layered security defenses and find and address vulnerabilities before they are discovered by ransomware gangs and other cybercriminal operations.

The best place to start is by improving security for the two main attack vectors: email and the Internet. That is an area where TitanHQ can help. To find out more, get in touch with the TitanHQ team today and take the first step towards improving your security posture and better protecting your networks and endpoints from extremely damaging cyberattacks.

Saint Bot Malware: A New Malware Dropper Being Distributed via Phishing Emails

A previously unknown malware variant dubbed Saint Bot malware is being distributed in phishing emails using a Bitcoin-themed lure. With the value of Bitcoin setting new records, many individuals may be tempted into opening the attachment to get access to a bitcoin wallet. Doing so will trigger a sequence of events that will result in the delivery of Saint Bot malware.

Saint Bot malware is a malware dropper that is currently being used to deliver secondary payloads such as information stealers, although it can be used to drop any malware variant. The malware was first detected and analyzed by researchers at Malwarebytes who report that while the malware does not use any novel techniques, there is a degree of sophistication to the malware and it appears that the malware is being actively developed. At present, detections have been at a relatively low level but Saint Bot malware could develop into a significant threat.

The phishing emails used to distribute the malware claim to include a Bitcoin wallet in the attached Zip file. The contents of the Zip file include a text file with instructions and a LNK file that has an embedded PowerShell script. A PowerShell downloader delivers an obfuscated .Net dropper and downloader, which in turn deliver a BAT script that disables Windows Defender and the Saint Bot malware binary.

The malware is capable of detecting if it is in a controlled environment and terminates and deletes itself should that be the case. Otherwise, the malware will communicate with its hardcoded command and control servers, send information gathered from the infected system, and download secondary payloads to the infected device via Discord.

The malware has not been linked with any specific threat group and could well be distributed to multiple actors via darknet hacking forums, but it could well become a major threat and be used in widespread campaigns to take advantage of the gap in the malware-as-a-service (MaaS) market left by the takedown of the Emotet Trojan.

Protecting against malware downloaders such as Saint Bot malware requires a defense in depth approach. The easiest way of blocking infections is to implement an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block the phishing emails that deliver the malware. Antivirus software should also be installed on all endpoints and set to update automatically, and communication with the C2 servers should be blocked via firewall rules.

In addition to technical defenses, it is important to provide security awareness training to the workforce to help employees identify malicious emails and condition them how to respond when a potential threat is detected.

How SpamTitan Can Protect Against Phishing and Malware Attacks

SpamTitan is an award-winning anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that provides protection against the full range of email threats from productivity-draining spam to dangerous phishing and spear phishing emails, malware and ransomware.

SpamTitan has a catch rate in excess of 99.99% with a low false positive rate and uses a variety of methods to detect malicious emails, including dual antivirus engines, sandboxing for detecting new malware variants, and machine learning techniques to identify zero-day threats.

SpamTitan’s advanced threat protection defenses include inbuilt Bayesian auto learning and heuristics to defend against sophisticated threats and evolving cyberattack techniques, with 6 specialized Real Time Blacklists to block malicious domains and URLs, DMARC to block email impersonation attacks, and outbound email policies for data loss prevention.

SpamTitan is quick and easy to set up and configure and is frequently praised for the level of protection provided and ease of use. SpamTitan is a 5-star rated solution on Spiceworks, Capterra, G2 Crowd and has won no less than 37 consecutive Virus Bulletin Spam awards.

If you want to improve your email defenses at a very reasonable price and benefit from industry-leading customer support, give the TitanHQ team a call today. Product demonstrations can be arranged, and you can trial the solution free of charge, with full support provided during the trial to help you get the most out of SpamTitan.

IcedID Malware Distribution Increases Using Phishing Emails and Hijacked Web Forms

Threat actors are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to increase the chances of getting their malicious payloads delivered. Spam and phishing emails are still the most common methods used for delivering malware, with the malicious payloads often downloaded via the web via hyperlinks embedded in emails.

A new tactic that has been adopted by the threat group behind the IcedID banking Trojan cum malware downloader involves hijacking contact forms on company websites. Contact forms are used on most websites to allow individuals to register interest. These contact forms typically have CAPTCHA protections which limit their potential for use in malicious campaigns, as they block bots and require each contact request to be performed manually.

However, the threat actors behind the IcedID banking Trojan have found a way of bypassing CATCHA protections and have been using contact forms to deliver malicious emails. The emails generated by contact forms will usually be delivered to inboxes, as the contact forms are trusted and are often whitelisted, which means email security gateways will not block any malicious messages.

In this campaign, the contact forms are used to send messages threatening legal action over a copyright violation. The messages submitted claim the company has used images on its website that have been added without the image owner’s permission. The message threatens legal action if the images are not immediately removed from the website, and a hyperlink is provided in the message to Google Sites that contains details of the copyrighted images and proof they are the intellectual property of the sender of the message.

Clicking the hyperlink to review the supplied evidence will result in the download of zip file containing an obfuscated .js downloader that will deliver the IcedID payload. Once IcedID is installed, it will deliver secondary payloads such as TrickBot, Qakbot, and Ryuk ransomware.

IcedID distribution has increased in recent weeks, not only via this method but also via phishing emails. A large-scale phishing campaign is underway that uses a variety of business-themed lures in phishing emails with Excel attachments that have Excel 4 macros that deliver the banking Trojan.

The increase in IcedID malware distribution is likely part of a campaign to infect large numbers of devices to create a botnet that can be rented out to other threat groups under the malware-as-a-service model. Now that the Emotet botnet has been taken down, which was used to deliver different malware and ransomware variants, there is a gap in the market and IcedID could be the threat that takes over from Emotet. In many ways the IcedID Trojan is very similar to Emotet and could become the leading malware-as-a-service offering for delivering malware payloads.

To find out how you can protect your business against malware and phishing threats at a reasonable price, give the TitanHQ team a call today and discover for yourself why TitanHQ email and web security solutions consistently get 5-star ratings from users for protection, price, ease of use, and customer service and support.

Strong Growth Sees TitanHQ Almost Double Workforce in 6 Months

It has been an exceptionally busy year for TitanHQ with global demand for TitanHQ solutions has skyrocketing. Enterprises, SMBs and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have been turning to TitanHQ to provide the security they need to protect their now largely distributed workforces from email and web-based attacks during the pandemic and block malware, ransomware, phishing attacks and other growing threats.

TitanHQ’s email security solution – SpamTitan; web security solution – WebTitan; and email archiving solution – ArcTitan, have now been adopted by more than 12,000 businesses worldwide, including more than 2,500 MSPs, with customers including well-known names such as Pepsi, Virgin, T-Mobile, O2, Nokia, Datto, Viasat, and Purple.

The past year has seen tremendous organic year-on-year growth and during the pandemic the company received significant investment from the Livingbridge investor group, which has really helped turbocharge company growth with significant investment in product development.

While many businesses have been forced to contract during the pandemic, business has gone from strength to strength for TitanHQ, as can clearly be seen from the huge investment in people. TitanHQ has embarked upon a major recruitment drive that has seen the TitanHQ workforce almost double since September 2020, with many of the new members of the workforce widely distributed and working remotely.

“As a result of increased demand globally for our solutions, we have invested heavily and embarked on a recruitment campaign to double our workforce in a programme that will allow that growth to continue,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “We have also invested because while we believe remote working is a by-product of the current pandemic, it is very much going to be the mode of future work. The quick move to remote working last year has made us all aware of how important it is to be adaptable and have the right security solutions in place to protect users, customers, company data, and systems.”

The ambitious growth plans are sent to continue, with new roles created across many departments including sales, technical support, software development, and marketing, with the expanded workforce helping the company to achieve even greater heights and reach even more clients internationally.

If you want to join the growing team at TitanHQ and become a member of an innovative and growing workforce, positions are still available.

Universities Targeted with IRS Phishing Scam Promising Tax Refunds

During tax season, tax professionals and tax filers are targeted with a variety of IRS phishing scams that attempt to obtain sensitive information that can be used by the scammers to steal identities and file fraudulent tax returns in the names of their victims. The potential rewards for the attackers are significant, with the fake tax returns often resulting in refunds of thousands of dollars being issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

This year is certainly no exception. Several tax season phishing scams have been identified in 2021 with one of the latest scams using phishing lures related to tax refund payments. The phishing emails have subject lines such as “Tax Refund Payment” and “Recalculation of your tax refund payment” which are likely to attract the recipient’s attention and get them to open the emails.

The emails use the genuine IRS logo and inform recipients that they are eligible to receive an additional tax refund, but in order to receive the payment they must click a link and complete a form. The form appears to be an official IRS.gov form, with the page an exact match of the IRS website, although the website on which the form is hosted is not an official IRS domain.

The form asks for a range of highly sensitive personal information to be provided in order for the refund to be processed. The form asks for the individual’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, current address, and electronic filing PIN. For added realism, the phishing page also displays a popup notification stating, “This US Government System is for Authorized Use Only”, which is the same warning message that is displayed on the genuine IRS website.

The attackers appear to be targeting universities and other educational institutions, both public and private, profit and nonprofit with many of the reported phishing emails from staff and students with .edu email addresses.

Educational institutions should take steps to reduce the risk off their staff and students being duped by these scams. Alerting all .edu account holders to warn them about the campaign is important, especially as these messages are bypassing Office 365 anti-phishing measures and are arriving in inboxes.

Any educational institution that is relying on Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) for blocking spam and phishing emails – EOP is the default protection provided free with Office 365 licenses – should strongly consider improving their anti-phishing defenses with a third-party spam filter.

SpamTitan has been developed to provide superior protection for Office 365 environments. The solution is layered on top of Office 365 and seamlessly integrates with Office 365 email. In addition to significantly improving spam and phishing email protection, dual antivirus engines and sandboxing provide excellent protection from malware.

For further information on SpamTitan anti-phishing protection for higher education, give the SpamTitan team a call today. You can start protecting your institution immediately, with installation and configuration of SpamTitan taking just a few minutes. The solution is also available on a free trial to allow you to assess SpamTitan in your own environment to see the difference it makes before deciding on a purchase.

Attack on California State Controller Serves as Warning for All Businesses on Phishing Threat

A phishing attack on an employee of the California State Controller’s Office Unclaimed Property Division highlights how a single response from an employee to a phishing email could easily result in a massive breach. In this case, the phishing attack was detected promptly, with the attacker only having access to an employee’s email account for less than 24 hours from March 18.

In the 24 hours that the attacker had access to the email account, the contents of the account could have been exfiltrated. Emails in the account included unclaimed property holder reports. Those reports included names, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers – the type of information that could be used to steal identities.

The email that fooled the employee into clicking a link and disclosing login credentials appeared to have been sent from a trusted outside entity, which is why the email was assumed to be legitimate. After stealing the employee’s credentials undetected, the attacker immediately went to work and tried to compromise the email accounts of other state workers.

In the short time that the individual had access to the account, around 9,000 other state workers were sent phishing emails from the compromised account. Fortunately, the attack was detected promptly and all contacts were alerted about the phishing emails and told to delete the messages.  That single compromised account could easily have led to a massive email account breach.

Phishing is now the biggest data security threat faced by businesses. The attacks are easy to conduct, require little skill, and can be extremely lucrative. Email accounts often contain a treasure trove of data that can be easily monetized, the accounts can be used to send further phishing emails internally and to external contacts and customers, and a breach of Microsoft 365 credentials could allow a much more extensive attack on a company. Many ransomware attacks start with a single response to a phishing email.

To improve protection against phishing attacks it is important to train the workforce how to identify phishing emails, teach cybersecurity best practices, and condition employees to stop and think before taking any action requested in emails. However, phishing attacks are often highly sophisticated and the emails can be difficult to distinguish from genuine email communications. As this phishing attack demonstrates, emails often come from trusted sources whose accounts have been compromised in previous phishing attacks.

What is needed is an advanced anti-phishing solution that can detect these malicious emails and prevent them from being delivered to employee inboxes. The solution should also include outbound email scanning to identify messages sent from compromised email accounts.

SpamTitan offers protection against these phishing attacks. All incoming emails are subjected to deep analysis using a plethora of detection mechanisms. Machine learning technology is used to identify phishing emails that deviate from typical emails received by employees, and outbound scanning can identify compromised email accounts and block outbound phishing attacks on company employees and contacts.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, give the SpamTitan team a call today to find out more. The full product is available on a free trial, and during the trial you will have full access to the product support team who, will help you get the most out of your trial.

An Easy Way to Block Email Impersonation Attacks on Businesses

Ransomware attacks are soaring and phishing and email impersonation attacks are being conducted at unprecedented levels. In 2020, ransomware attacks ran amok. Security experts estimate the final cost to global businesses from ransomware in 2020 will be $20 billion. They also predict that the ransomware trend will continue to be the number one threat in the coming years. Why? Because ransomware makes money for cybercriminals.

Ransomware criminals know no boundaries in their rush to make money. Every social engineering trick in the book has played out over the years, from sextortion to phishing. Feeding the loop of social manipulation to generate a ransom demand is the proliferation of stolen data, including login credentials: credential stuffing attacks, for example, are often related to ransomware attacks, login to privileged accounts allowing malware installation. Cybersecurity defenses are being tested like never before.

Find out more about securing email accounts and blocking email impersonation attacks. Sign up for a free SpamTitan demo today.
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Personal Data is Targeted

Large enterprises are big targets as they store vast quantities of personal data which can be used for identity theft. Retailers are being attacked to obtain credit/debit card information and attacks on hospitals provide sensitive health data that can be used for medical identity theft.

Small businesses are not such an attractive target, but they do store reasonable amounts of customer data and attacks can still be profitable. A successful attack on Walmart would be preferable, but attacks on SMBs are far easier to pull off. SMBs typically do not have the budgets to invest in cybersecurity and often leave gaps that can be easily exploited by cybercriminals.

One of the most common methods of attacking SMBs is phishing. If a phishing email makes it to an inbox, there is a reasonable chance that the message will be opened, the requested action taken and, as a result, credentials will be compromised or malware will be installed.

The 2018 KnowBe4 Phishing Industry Benchmarking Report shows that on average, the probability of an employee clicking on a malicious hyperlink or taking another fraudulent request is 27%. That means one in four employees will click a link in a phishing email or obey a fraudulent request.

Email impersonation attacks are often successful. They involve sending an email to an individual or small group in an organization with a plausible request. The sender of the message is spoofed so the email appears to have been sent from a known individual or company. The email will use a genuine email address on a known business domain. Without appropriate security controls in place, that message will arrive in inboxes and several employees are likely to click and disclose their credentials or open an infected email attachment and install malware. Most likely, they will not realize they have been scammed.

SpamTitan is an award winning spam filter – Read over 300+ reviews on Capterra.

One method that can be used to prevent these spoofed messages from being delivered is to apply Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) rules. In a nutshell, DMARC consists of two technologies – Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

SPF is a DNS-based filtering control that helps to identify spoofed messages. SPF sets authorized sender IP addresses on DNS servers. Recipient servers perform lookups on the SPF records to make sure that the sender IP matches one of the authorized vendors on the organization’s DNS servers. If there is a match the message is delivered. If the check fails, the message is rejected or quarantined.

DKIM involves the use of an encrypted signature to verify the sender’s identity. That signature is created using the organization’s public key and is decrypted using the private key available to the email server. DMARC rules are then applied to either reject or quarantine messages that fail authentication checks. Quarantining messages is useful as it allows administrators to check to make sure the genuine emails have not been flagged incorrectly.

Reports can be generated to monitor email activity and administrators can see the number of messages that are being rejected or dropped. A sudden increase in the number of rejected messages indicates an attack is in progress.

DMARC seems complex, but with the right setup, it’s an invaluable security tool that defends against phishing and malicious email content. With phishing one of the most common ways attackers steal data, it’s important for organizations to implement the right solutions and rules that stop these messages before they can reach a user’s inbox.

While SPF provides a certain degree of protection against email spoofing, DMARC is far more dependable. SpamTitan email security incorporates DMARC authentication to provide even greater protection against email spoofing attacks. DMARC is not a silver bullet that will stop all email impersonation and phishing attacks. It is an extra layer of security that can greatly reduce the number of threats that arrive in inboxes.

SpamTitan is an award winning spam filter – Read over 300+ reviews on Capterra.

Find out more about securing email accounts and blocking email impersonation attacks. Sign up for a free SpamTitan demo today.
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Organizations  must adapt to Cyber-Threats

Phishing, Impersonation attacks, ransomware – all must be stopped before the point of entry and not left to be dealt with after an attack has taken hold. The use of social engineering to manipulate users, along with stolen data and credentials to propagate attacks, and adaptive tools that evade detection, makes ransomware a formidable security threat.

Endpoint protection is clearly not enough. A powerful anti-spam solution like SpamTitan  can detect threats in real-time before they become an infection. Unlike traditional endpoint anti-malware, smart monitoring platforms perform real-time updates and protect against active and emerging phishing URLs and threats. Cybercriminals are masters of invention and have many tricks up their sleeve, however, businesses can fight back, but to do so, they must take real-time action.

TitanHQ’s anti-phishing and anti-spam solution – SpamTitan – incorporates DMARC to stop email impersonation attacks along with advanced anti-malware features, including a Bitdefender-powered sandbox.

For further information securing  email accounts and blocking email impersonation attacks, contact TitanHQ today.

FAQs

Can you explain how to stop email impersonation with DMARC?

You need to create a DMARC record with your DNS hosting provider. You create a new TXT record, add a _DMARC host value, add value information by setting v=DMARC1 and the p tag as p=none or p=quarantine or p=reject. Then perform a DMARC check to verify the values and syntax are correct. Start with p=none to verify, then change to p=quarantine or p=reject once you have checked the validity of the record. The p record tells the receiving mail server what to do with a message that doesn’t pass DMARC checks.

How to stop email impersonation using DMARC on SpamTitan

Configuring DMARC settings in SpamTitan is quick and easy. You can do this by navigating to System Setup > Mail Authentication > DMARC. We have produced a step-by-step guide on how to enable and configure DMARC in SpamTitan, which can be found in the SpamTitan Gateway Admin Guide.

How does DMARC prevent an email impersonation attack?

DMARC is a protocol that works in conjunction with SPF and DKIM to ensure a message is sent from a sender indicated in the From header. DMARC uses the SPF and DKIM authentication checks and authenticates them against the same domain that is visible in the From header field. In short, DMARC checks whether the message was really was sent from the email address that is visible to the recipient.

I need to know how to prevent impersonation attacks on our clients

SpamTitan helps to stop impersonation and manipulation attacks on clients by scanning outbound emails. In the event of a mailbox being compromised, outbound scanning will alert your SpamTitan administrator about any email impersonation attack being attempted from that mailbox, as well as identifying mailboxes that are being used for spamming or malware delivery.

Do employees need to be taught how to prevent impersonation attacks?

With SpamTitan, email impersonation attacks can be blocked; however, it is still recommended to provide training to the workforce on how to identify phishing emails and other malicious messages. Training should include telling employees the signs of an email impersonation attack and should be tailored to user groups based on the level of risk. Training should be reinforced throughout the year.

Find out more about securing email accounts and blocking email impersonation attacks. Sign up for a free SpamTitan demo today.
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New PayPal Phishing Scam Seeks Extensive Amount of Personal Information

A new PayPal phishing scam has been identified that attempts to obtain an extensive amount of personal information from victims under the guise of a PayPal security alert.

Fake PayPal Email Notifications

The emails appear to have been sent from PayPal’s Notifications Center and warn users that their account has been temporarily blocked due to an attempt to log into their account from a previously unknown browser or device.

The emails include a hyperlink that users are asked to click to log in to PayPal to verify their identity. A button is included in the email which users are requested to click to “Secure and update my account now !”. The hyperlink is a shortened bit.ly address, that directs the victim to a spoofed PayPal page on an attacker-controlled domain via a redirect mechanism.

If the link is clicked, the user is presented with a spoofed PayPal login. After entering PayPal account credentials, the victim is told to enter a range of sensitive information to verify their identity as part of a PayPal Security check. The information must be entered to unlock the account, with the list of steps detailed on the page along with the progress that has been made toward unlocking the account.

First of all, the attackers request the user’s full name, billing address, and phone number. Then they are required to confirm their credit/debit card details in full. The next page requests the user’s date of birth, social security number, ATM or Debit Card PIN number, and finally the user is required to upload a proof of identity document, which must be either a scan of a credit card, passport, driver’s license, or a government-issued photo ID.

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Request for Excessive Information

This PayPal phishing scam seeks an extensive amount of information, which should serve as a warning that all is not what it seems, especially the request to enter highly sensitive information such as a Social Security number and PIN.

There are also warning signs in the email that the request is not what it seems. The email is not sent from a domain associated with PayPal, the message starts with “Good Morning Customer” rather than the account holder’s name, and the notice included at the bottom of the email telling the user to mark whitelist the sender if the email was delivered to the spam folder is poorly written. However, the email has been written to encourage the recipient to act quickly to avoid financial loss. As with other PayPal phishing scams, many users are likely to be fooled into disclosing at least some of their personal information.

Consumers need to always exercise caution and should never respond immediately to any email that warns of a security breach, instead they should stop and think before acting and carefully check the sender of the email and should read the email very carefully. To check whether there is a genuine issue with the account, the PayPal website should be visited by typing in the correct URL into the address bar of the browser. URLs in emails should never be used.

To find out more about current phishing scams and some of the key protections you can put in place to improve your resilience against attacks, contact the SpamTitan team today.

 

Do you use the same password across online accounts?

  • Make your password hard to guess - use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Change your password frequently.
  • Never use the same password with more than one account. If you do and you password is stolen you are exposed and hackers could potentially gain access to every single account that that email address is associated.

If you receive one of these Paypal texts, to delete it immediately. Always read your messages before you click, or even better – don’t click on the link and contact PayPal directly.

Phishing Sources

Phishing messages can come from a range of sources, including:

  • Email
  • Phone calls
  • Fraudulent software
  • Social Media messages
  • Advertisements
  • Text messages

SpamTitan provides phishing protection to prevent whaling and spear phishing by scanning all inbound email in real-time. SpamTitan searches for key indicators in the email header, domain information, and content. SpamTitan also performs reputation analysis on all links (including shortened URLs) contained in emails and block malicious emails before being delivered to the end user. How SpamTitan protects from phishing attempts:

  • URL reputation analysis during scanning against multiple reputations.
  • Detect and block malicious spear-phishing emails with either existing or new malware.
  • Heuristic rules to detect phishing based on message headers. These are updated frequently to address new threats.
  • Easy synchronization with Active Directory and LDAP.
  • Spam Confidence Levels can be applied by user, user-group and domain.
  • Whitelisting or blacklisting senders/IP addresses.
  • Infinitely scalable and universally compatible.

SpamTitan checks every URL in an email against known blacklists - with 100% active web coverage. Protect your users from email links to malicious sites with SpamTitan. SpamTitan's sandboxing feature protects against breaches and sophisticated email attacks by providing a powerful environment to run in-depth, sophisticated analysis of unknown or suspicious programs and files.

Our free trial gives you the opportunity to evaluate our industry-leading email security solution in your own environment, and your clients the opportunity to provide feedback on how effective SpamTitan is at preventing all types of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks from entering your network.

SpamTitan is a multi-award-winning email protection, anti-phishing, and email filtering solution. Start your free trial for SpamTitan today to discover how we can prevent malware attacks.

Phishing attacks are extremely complex and  increasing.  The best way to protect against phishing scams is with a modern, robust email security solution such as SpamTitan.  SpamTitan utilizes an array of anti-phishing tools such as antivirus scanning, heuristic analysis, DMARC authentication and sandboxing.  Few vendors offer all of these solutions in one package.

To protect against advanced threats you need advanced protection. Take a closer look at SpamTitan – sign up for a free demo at a time that suits you.

Find out about some of the key protections you can put in place to improve your resilience against attacks. Book a free SpamTitan demo today.
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Pysa Ransomware Gang Targeting Education Sector

Throughout 2020 the healthcare sector has been a major target of ransomware gangs, but the education sector is also facing an increase in attacks, with the Pysa (Mespinoza) ransomware gang now targeting the education sector.

Pysa ransomware is a variant of Mespinoza ransomware that was first observed being used in attacks in October 2019. The threat group behind the attacks, like many other ransomware threat groups, uses double extortion tactics on victims. Files are encrypted and a ransom demand is issued for the keys to decrypt files, but to increase the probability of the ransom being paid, data is exfiltrated prior to file encryption. The gang threatens to monetize the stolen data on the darkweb if the ransom is not paid. Many attacked entities have been forced to pay the ransom demand even when they have backups to prevent the sale of their data.

Since October 2019, the Pysa ransomware gang has targeted large companies, the healthcare sector, and local government agencies, but there has been a recent increase in attacks on the education sector. Attacks have been conducted on K12 schools, higher education institutions, and seminaries, with attacks occurring in 12 U.S. states and the United Kingdom. The rise in attacks prompted the FBI to issue a Flash Alert in March 2020 warning the education sector about the increased risk of attack.

Analyses of attacks revealed the gang conducts network reconnaissance using open source tools such as Advanced Port Scanner and Advanced IP Scanner. Tools such as PowerShell Empire, Koadic, and Mimikatz are used to obtain credentials, escalate privileges, and move laterally within networks. The gang identifies and exfiltrates sensitive data before delivering and executing the ransomware payload. The types of data stolen are those that can be used to pressure victims into paying and can easily be monetized on the darkweb.

Identifying a Pysa ransomware attack in progress is challenging, so it is essential for defenses to be hardened to prevent initial access. Several methods have been used to gain access to networks, although in many cases it is unclear how the attack started. In attacks on French companies and government agencies brute force tactics were used against management consoles and exposed Active Directory accounts. Some attacks have involved exploitation of Remote Desktop Protocol vulnerabilities, with the gang is also known to use spam and phishing emails to obtain credentials to get a foothold in networks.

Since several methods are used for gaining access, there is no single solution that can be implemented to block attacks. Educational institutions need to use a combination of security solutions and cybersecurity best practices to harden their defenses.

Antivirus/antimalware solution is a must, as is ensuring it is kept up to date. Since many attacks start with a phishing email, an advanced email security gateway is also important. Choosing a solution such as SpamTitan that incorporates dual AV engines and sandboxing will maximize the chance of detecting malicious emails. SpamTitan also incorporates machine learning methods to identify new methods of email attacks.

End user training is also important to teach staff how to identify potentially malicious emails and train them on cybersecurity best practices such as setting strong passwords, not reusing passwords, and the dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks. Also consider disabling hyperlinks in emails, flagging emails that arrive from external sources, and implementing multi-factor authentication on accounts.

Patches and security updates should be implemented promptly after they have been released to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited. You should use the rule of least privilege for accounts, restrict the use of administrative accounts as far as possible, and segment networks to limit the potential for lateral movement. You should also be scanning your network for suspicious activity and configure alerts to allow any potential infiltration to be rapidly identified. All unused RDP ports should be closed, and a VPN used for remote access.

It is essential for backups to be made of all critical data to ensure that file recovery is possible without paying the ransom. Multiple backups of data should be created, those backups should be tested to make sure file recovery is possible, and at least one copy should be stored securely on an air-gapped device.

New PayPal Phishing Scam Uses Unusual Activity Alerts to Obtain Credentials

A PayPal phishing scam was first detected in  2019 – the scam used unusual activity alerts as a lure to get users to login to PayPal to secure their account. This is a common tactic that has been used to steal PayPal credentials before, but this campaign was different as the attackers are after much more than just account credentials. This PayPal phishing campaign stole credentials, credit card details, email addresses and passwords, and security questions and answers.

This PayPal phishing scam  has mutated over the years and has proved to be one of the most dangerous to date in terms of the financial harm caused. PayPal accounts can be drained, credit cards maxed out, sensitive information can be stolen from email accounts, and email accounts can be then used for further phishing scams on the victim’s family members, friends, and contacts.

How these Phishing Attacks Work

The PayPal phishing scams usually start with a warning designed to get the recipient to take immediate action to secure their account. They are informed that their PayPal account has been accessed from a new browser or device. They are told PayPal’s security controls kicked in and as a result, the user is required to login to their account to confirm their identity and remove limitations that have been placed on the account.

The email points out that PayPal could not determine whether this was a legitimate attempt to access their account from a new browser or device, or a fraudulent attempt to gain access to their PayPal Account. Either way, action is required to confirm their identity. A link is included to allow them to do that.

If the link is clicked, the user will be directed to a fake PayPal website where they are required to login to restore their account. In this first stage, PayPal account credentials are obtained.  The user is then directed to a new page where they are asked to update their billing address. In addition to their address, they are also asked for their date of birth and telephone number.

The next page asks for their credit card number, security code, and expiry date, which it is claimed will mean they do not need to re-enter that information again when using PayPal. They are also then asked to confirm the details in a second step, which is an attempt to make sure no errors have been made entering credit card information.

The user is then taken to another page where they are asked for their email address and password to link it to their PayPal account. After all the information has been entered, they are told the process has been completed and their account has been secured and successfully restored.

All of these phishing pages have the feel of genuine PayPal web pages, complete with genuine PayPal logos and footers. The domains used for the scam are naturally fake but have some relevance to PayPal. The domains also have authentic SSL certificates and display the green padlock in the browser.

Security experts are still finding fake paypal websites that impersonate PayPal. Using advanced social engineering techniques they try to trick users into handing over sensitive data including log in credentials.

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Read more on current phishing scams and how to prevent attacks.

https://www.spamtitan.com/blog/protect-against-spoofed-email-phishing-scams/

https://www.spamtitan.com/blog/category/email-scams/

Rising Number of COVID-19 Phishing Attacks

IT professionals are seeing an enormous number of Covid-19 themed email phishing attacks. SpamTitan  is blocking increasing levels of  these phishing emails. What started out as  dozens of Covid 19 phishing websites has morphed to tens of thousands – more are being identified and blocked daily.  With a large percentage of the workforce working from home, cybercriminals are trying to capitalize on the heightened anxieties of the public during the current crisis.

COVID-19 phishing scams are the most sophisticated versions of phishing emails the industry has seen. Are your employees and customers aware and are they protected?

COVID-19 vaccine scams

Cybercriminals are now shifting their focus to phishing email around Covid-10 vaccines.  These vaccine themed phishing emails use subject lines referencing vaccine registration, locations to receive the vaccine, how to reserve a vaccine, and vaccine requirements.

For your employees looking for vaccination information on company devices the consequences are obvious. If the user falls for the scam email they may divulge sensitive or financial information,  open malicious links or attachments exposing the organization to attack. These phishing campaigns are sophisticated and may impersonate trusted entities, such as health or government agencies playing a central role in the COVID vaccination rollout.

Preventing Phishing Attacks

Naturally you should take any security warning you receive seriously, but do not take the warnings at face value. Google, PayPal, and other service providers often send security warnings to alert users to suspicious activity. These warnings may not always be genuine and that you should always exercise caution.

The golden rule? Never click links in emails.

Always visit the service provider’s site by entering the correct information into your web browser to login, and always carefully check the domain before providing any credentials.

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Phishing Protection

Without the right security tools in place, organizations are vulnerable to phishing attacks.  SpamTitan provides phishing protection by scanning all inbound email in real-time. SpamTitan searches for key indicators in the email header, domain information, and content and performs reputation analysis on all email links, ultimately blocking malicious emails before they reach the end-user.

SpamTitan checks every URL in an email against known blacklists - with 100% active web coverage. SpamTitan's sandboxing feature protects against sophisticated email attacks by providing a powerful environment to run in-depth analysis of unknown or suspicious programs.

Phishing attacks are increasingly complex and growing in number. One of the most effective ways to protect against phishing scams is with a powerful email security solution such as SpamTitan.  SpamTitan utilizes an array of anti-phishing tools such as antivirus scanning, heuristic analysis, DMARC authentication and sandboxing.  Few vendors offer all of these solutions in one package.

To protect against advanced phishing threats you need advanced protection.

Take a closer look at SpamTitan today – sign up for a free demo at a time that suits you.

PayPal Phishing FAQs

How can I tell if an email from PayPal is genuine?

Generally speaking, emails originating from PayPal will always address you by your full name in capital letters – e.g., JOHN SMITH rather than John Smith. Also, PayPal will never ask for your bank account number, debit, or credit card number. It will also never ask for your full name, your account password, or the answers to your PayPal security questions in an email. If you have any concerns about an email from PayPal, forward the email to spoof@paypal.com where PayPal´s security experts will have a look at it and let you know whether or not it is genuine.

How does SpamTitan mitigate the threat of PayPal phishing scams?

There are several ways in which SpamTitan mitigates the threat of phishing scams. The most effective is DMARC authentication – an authentication process jointly developed by PayPal which leverages existing authentication processes (i.e., Sender Policy Frameworks and Domain Keys Identified Mail) to give domain owners control over emails sent from their domain names. DMARC authentication quickly identifies “spoof” emails claiming to be from PayPal and either rejects them or marks them as spam depending on how the authentication process is configured.

Other than DMARC authentication, how else does SpamTitan protect customers from PayPal phishing scams?

SpamTitan provides the option to “greylist” all inbound emails – which involves returning emails from unknown sources to the originating mail server with a request to resend the email. SMTP-compliant mail servers resend greylisted emails automatically. However, spammers´ servers are rarely SMTP-compliant, so the phishing email is never returned. In the event a phishing email is resent, SpamTitan´s anti-spam engine will run a series of tests to determine a spam score for the email. Whether the email is rejected, marked as spam, or delivered, will depend on the spam score threshold applied by the system administrator.

Doesn´t the greylisting process delay the delivery of genuine emails?

When you configure SpamTitan to greylist inbound emails, you can specify a number of successful deliveries after which the greylisting process is suspended for each sender. Therefore, if you set the “auto-allow” field to “2”, the first two emails from a sender will be greylisted; and – provided the first two emails are successfully returned – no further emails from that sender will be greylisted. You can also exempt senders by name or IP address, and exempt emails sent to specific recipients (although recipient email exemptions are not recommended).

What is the difference between a PayPal phishing scam and a COVID-19 vaccine scam?

Although both scams have the objective of obtaining sensitive information, COVID-19 vaccine scams tend to request Medicare and Medicaid numbers in return for illegitimate COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and treatments. Healthcare information such as this can be used to commit medical identity theft which enables the scammer to receive medical treatment under your name. If Medicare or Medicaid subsequently denies the claim for fraudulently-provided healthcare treatment, the victim of the COVID-19 vaccine scam could be liable for the cost.

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How to Manage Requests to Disclose Employees Passwords

How many times have you had a phone call or an email from a manager in your organization asking for you to give them the password of an employee to enable them to access their email account?

This request is often made when an individual is on leave and a call is received from a client or colleague wanting to know if they have actioned a request sent before they left. All too often a client has sent an email to their account manager before he or she went on vacation, but it was accidentally missed.

Access to the email account is necessary to avoid embarrassment or to ensure that a sales opportunity is not missed. Maybe the employee in question has failed to set up their Out of Office message and clients are not aware that they need to contact a different person to get their questions answered.

In years gone by, managers used to keep a log of all users’ passwords in a file on their computer. In case of emergency, they could check the password and access any user account. However, this is risky. Nowadays this is not acceptable behavior. It also invades the privacy of employees. If a password is known by any other individual, there is nothing to stop that person from using those login credentials any time they like. Since passwords are frequently used for personal accounts as well as work accounts, disclosing that password could compromise the individual’s personal accounts as well.

Maintaining lists of passwords also makes it harder to take action over inappropriate internet and email use. If a password has been shared, there is no way of determining whether an individual has broken the law or breached company policies. It could have been someone else using that person’s login.

IT staff are therefore not permitted to give out passwords. Instead they must reset the user’s password, issue a temporary one, and the user will need to reset it when they return to work. Many managers will be unhappy with these procedures and will still want to maintain their lists. Employees will be unhappy as they often use their work email accounts to send personal emails. Resetting a password and giving a manager access could be seen as a major invasion of privacy.

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What is the solution?

There is a simple solution which will ensure that the privacy of individuals is assured, while forgotten Out of Office auto-responders can be set. Important emails will not be missed either. To do this you can set up shared mailboxes, although these are not always popular.

Do this in Outlook and a manager may need to have many set up in their Outlook program. It will also be necessary for them to train staff members how to use the shared mailboxes, and policies might need to be written. They may need to have to permanently keep the mailboxes of multiple teams open in Outlook.

Is there an easier option?

There is another choice, and that is to delegate permissions. It is more complicated to implement this control as it requires an MS Exchange Administrator to provide Delegate Access. Using Delegate Access will make it possible for an individual, with the appropriate permissions, to send an email on behalf of another employee. This means mailboxes do not have to be open all the time. They can just be opened when an email needs to be sent. This may be ideal, but it will not allow a manager to set up a forgotten Out-of-Office auto-responder.

That would require a member of the IT department, a domain manager, to do it. A ticket would need to be submitted requesting the action. This may not be popular with managers, but it is the only way for the task to be performed without revealing the user’s login credentials or setting up a temporary password which would breach their privacy.

You might be unpopular, but security is vital

If you encounter resistance, you must explain the reasons why password sharing is not permitted: The risks it poses and the problems it can cause.

These matters should be included in a company’s computer, Internet and email usage policies. If the sharing of passwords contravenes company policies, any requests to share passwords would result in the IT department breaching those policies. Requests to divulge that information would therefore have to be denied.

Of course, Out-Of-Office auto-responders are not an IT issue. This is an issue that should be dealt in staff training. It is also a check that a manager should make before a member of staff leaves and goes on holiday, while the employee is still at work.

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The dangers of password sharing

Organizations are facing an ever-growing threat from cybercriminals. In 2019 and 2020, we have seen many high-profile data breaches, resulting in serious financial repercussions and damaged brand reputation. Password-sharing at work carries a massive  risk for organizations. 81% of breaches originate with stolen or weak passwords. When hackers gain entry to your system, shared passwords make it easier for them to access other parts of your network.

If by chance an intruder finds a document full of shared passwords in a employee’s Google drive that opens up the entire system to attack.  This also exposes your organization to legal issues if customers’ privacy rights are violated.

Why do employees share passwords ?

Sharing passwords is extremely risky for the organization . Oftentimes the reason cited for doing this is easier collaboration with colleagues. Sometimes employees share passwords because it’s the company policy. In these situations it’s vital for I.T. to intervene and provide a better way for employees to collaborate, and potentially serious consequences down the road.

Reasons why passwords should never be shared, even with a manager

  • Passwords are private: This is a fundamental element of IT and network security. This rule cannot be broken or bent
  • There are alternatives to sharing of passwords that will achieve the same aim: ticket requests, shared mailboxes, and delegate permissions these should be used instead
  • The sharing of passwords violates an individual’s privacy
  • If a password is shared, the results of an account audit cannot be trusted.
  • Password reuse– Many people use the same password to access multiple accounts and platforms. By sharing reused passwords, employees increases the risk a single stolen password poses for companies.
  • You’re responsible for any activity conducted under your username. If someone else is logged in under your account, you’re still responsible for whatever happens.Data security is more important than an auto-responder
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – Employees are increasingly working from home and use their personal smartphones and laptops in addition to company-issued devices. The WFH trend has led  to productivity gains. Unfortunately, the benefits can easily be wiped out if passwords shared with friends or family gives unauthorized access to your network and confidential data.
  • Acceptable Usage Policies would be violated
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Multi-Factor authentication to stop password sharing

 When MFA is in place, access is only possible when the user validates using two authentication factors. For example, they initially enter their password but must then complete a second authentication request. This could be a code received via a device. Multi-factor authentication, like any security approach, works best when used in tandem with other security strategies.

If a ban on password sharing does not exist in your organization, it must be implemented as a priority. You will not be able to do this without the support of senior managers. You may not feel that it is your job to try to implement a ban, but you should make a case for it. It will help your department protect the network, it will save you time in the long run, and it will be better for the business.

To find out more about password security and some of the key protections you can put in place to improve your resilience against attacks, contact the SpamTitan team today.

Fake Google ReCAPTCHA and Other Tactics in Ongoing Phishing Campaigns

A round up of some of the phishing campaigns and phishing tactics identified over the past few days in campaigns targeting businesses in the banking and IT sectors, and individuals seeking unemployment benefits.

Fake Google ReCAPTCHA Used in Ongoing Phishing Campaigns

The use of CAPTCHA, an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, is now common in phishing campaigns. CAPTCHA involves an image test, such as identifying all images in a group that contain cars, a test to identify characters in a slightly obfuscated image, or simply confirming that “I am not a robot.”

The Google reCAPTCHA is used on websites to distinguish human traffic from machines to protect against abusive activities by malicious code and software. ReCAPTCHA is a sign of security and the use of this system on a website helps to inspire trust. That trust is being abused by cybercriminals who have added fake Google ReCAPTCHAs to phishing sites. This tactic is becoming much more common.

One recently identified campaign uses emails with a message about a voicemail message that impersonate company communication tools. The attachment directs the user to a phishing website where they are presented with a CAPTCHA challenge. In this campaign, the user must complete the standard ‘I am not a robot’ challenge and will then be presented with a Microsoft 365 login prompt. In addition to using Microsoft logos, the corporate logo of the company being targeted is also included. When credentials are entered, the user is told they have successfully validated and will proceed to a generic voicemail message. The lures used in these campaigns change frequently, with requests to review documents also common.

This campaigns targets business executives in the banking and IT sectors, although the same tactic has been used throughout 2020 on targets in other industry sectors.

NFA Impersonated in Phishing Campaign Targeting Member Firms

A phishing campaign has been detected targeting the financial industry which impersonates the National Futures Association (NFA). The tactics used in this campaign are common in phishing scams – Impersonating a trusted entity and abusing that trust to get individuals to install malware.

The emails in this campaign have been sent from an email address on a domain that closely resembles the legitimate NFA domain. The official NFA domain is nfa.futures.org, whereas the phishing emails have been sent from the domain nfa-futures[.]org.

The emails appear to have been sent by legitimate NFA staff members, with the signature including their name, job title, and the correct address of the office, with fake phone numbers. The signature of the email lists two websites: The official domain and also the fake domain.

As with many phishing campaigns, the recipient is told urgent action must be taken. The message says the NFA has made many attempts to contact the recipient about a matter that requires an urgent response. These emails are being used to direct individuals to malicious website or convince them to open malicious attachments with the aim of delivering malware.

Phishing Campaign Impersonates State Workforce Agencies Offering Unemployment Benefits

Cybercriminals are creating fake websites that mimic genuine state workforce agencies (SWAs) in the United States in order to steal sensitive personal information that can be used for identity theft and fraud. The tactics are similar to the above campaign, although the aim is to obtain sensitive information rather than install malware on a business network.

The state workforce agency websites that the malicious sites impersonate are used by individuals to apply for unemployment benefits. In order to receive those benefits, individuals must provide personally identifiable information. Campaigns are being conducted to impersonate these sites and trick people into believing they are on the genuine website. After landing on the malicious page, a series of questions must be answered as part of a fake application for unemployment insurance benefits.

Traffic to the fake unemployment benefit websites is generated through phishing emails and text messages that impersonate an SWA, encouraging recipients to apply for benefits. These messages have been created to closely resemble official communications, using the official logos and color schemes of each SWA, with the domain linked in the email closely resembling the official SWA website.

Solutions to Improve Defenses Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are often sophisticated and highly targeted, and tactics, techniques, and procedures continually change to bypass technical and human defenses. To stay one step ahead of the scammers, businesses need to adopt a defense in depth approach to cybersecurity and implement multiple overlapping layers of security to block threats. If phishers and hackers manage to bypass one layer of security defenses, others will be in place to provide protection.

Human defenses, such as training the workforce how to identify phishing emails is important. When a threat is encountered, employees will know how to react. It is also possible to condition employees not to take risks, such as opening emails attachments in unsolicited messages from unknown senders. The sophistication of campaigns, spoofing of email addresses, lookalike domains, and email impersonation tactics make it difficult for some phishing emails to be distinguished from genuine email communications.

Technical defenses will ensure most threats are blocked and do not reach inboxes. An email security gateway solution is a must and should also be used on Office 365 environments. The standard Office 365 spam filter is simply not good enough at blocking threats. Spam filters with machine learning capabilities and greylisting will help to ensure more threats are blocked, and multiple malware detection methods should be used, including sandboxing to detect new malware threats. A web filter should also be considered for blocking the web-based component of phishing attacks. A web filter will provide time-of click protection and prevent individuals from visiting malicious sites and downloading potentially malicious files.

For more information on improving your phishing defenses and to register for a free trial of two award-winning anti-phishing solutions, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Ryuk Ransomware Can Now Automatically Infect All Devices on the Network

One of the most prolific ransomware gangs has updated its ransomware giving it worm-like capabilities, allowing it to self-propagate and spread to other devices on the local network.

Ryuk ransomware first emerged in the summer of 2018 and has grown to become one of the biggest ransomware threats. The ransomware operation is believed to be run by an Eastern European threat group known as Wizard Spider, aka UNC1878.

In 2020, Ryuk ransomware was extensively used in attacks on large organizations. While some ransomware gangs took the decision not to attack healthcare organizations that were on the front line in the fight against COVID-19, that was not the case with Ryuk. In fact, the threat group embarked upon a major campaign specifically targeting the healthcare industry in the United States. In October 2020, the gang attacked 6 U.S. hospitals in a single day. If security researchers had not uncovered a plan by the gang to attack around 400 hospitals, the campaign would have claimed many more victims.

According to the ransomware remediation firm Coveware, Ryuk ransomware was the third most prolific ransomware variant in 2020 and was used in 9% of all ransomware attacks. An analysis of the Bitcoin wallets associated with the gang suggest more than $150 million in ransoms have been paid to the gang.

Ryuk ransomware is under active development and new capabilities are frequently added. The Ryuk gang was one of the first ransomware operators to adopt the double-extortion tactics first used by the operators of Sodinokibi and Maze ransomware, which involve stealing data prior to the use of encryption and threatening to publish or sell the stolen data if the ransom is not paid.

Ryuk ransomware also had a feature added that allowed it to mount and encrypt the drives of remote computers. The ransomware accesses the ARP table on a compromised device to obtain a list of IP addresses and mac addresses, and a wake-on-LAN packet is sent to the devices to power them up to allow them to be encrypted.

The latest update was discovered by the French national cybersecurity agency ANSSI during an incident response it handled in January. ANSSI discovered the latest variant had worm-like capabilities that allow it to propagate automatically and infect all machines within the Windows domain. Every reachable machine on which Windows RPC accesses are possible can be infected and encrypted.

Ryuk is a human-operated ransomware variant, but the new update will greatly reduce the manual tasks that need to be performed. This will allow the gang to conduct more attacks and will decrease the time from infection to encryption, which gives security teams even less time to identify and remediate an attack in progress.

While different methods are used for initial access, Ryuk ransomware is usually delivered by a malware dropper such as Emotet, TrickBot, Zloader, Qakbot, Buer Loader, or Bazar Loader. These malware droppers are delivered via phishing and spear phishing emails. Around 80% of Ryuk ransomware attacks use phishing emails as the initial attack vector.

Once a device has been compromised it is often too late to identify and block the attack before data theft and file encryption, especially since the attacks typically occur overnight and during the weekend when IT teams are depleted. The best defense is to block the initial attack vector: The phishing emails that deliver the malware droppers.

Having an advanced spam filtering solution in place is essential for blocking Ryuk ransomware attacks. By identifying and quarantining the phishing emails and preventing them from reaching inboxes, the malware droppers that deliver Ryuk will not be downloaded.

To block these attacks, consider augmenting your email security defenses with SpamTitan. SpamTitan is an award-winning email security gateway that is proven to block phishing emails that deliver malware downloaders. To find out more, contact the SpamTitan team or start a free trial of the solution today.

TitanHQ Wins 3 Experts Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards

TitanHQ has been recognized for its email security, web security, and email archiving solutions, collecting not one, not two, but three prestigious awards from Expert Insights.

Expert Insights was launched in 2018 to help businesses find cybersecurity solutions to protect their networks and devices from an ever-increasing number of cyber threats. Researching cybersecurity solutions can be a time-consuming process, and the insights and information provided by Expert Insights considerably shortens that process. Unlike many resources highlighting the best software solutions, Expert Insights includes ratings from verified users of the products to give users of the resource valuable insights about how easy products are to use and how effective they are at blocking threats. Expert Insights has helped more than 100,000 businesses choose cybersecurity solutions and the website is visited by more than 40,000 individuals a month.

Each year, Expert Insights recognizes the best and most innovative cybersecurity solutions on the market in its “Best-Of” Awards. The editorial team at Expert Insights assesses vendors and their products on a range of criteria, including technical features, ease-of-use, market presence, and reviews by verified users of the solutions. Each product is assessed by technology experts to determine the winners in a broad range of categories, including cloud, email, endpoint, web, identity, and backup security.

“2020 was an unprecedented year of cybersecurity challenges, with a rapid rise in remote working causing a massive acceleration in cybercrime,” said Craig MacAlpine, CEO and Founder, Expert Insights. “Expert Insights’ Best-Of awards are designed to recognize innovative cybersecurity providers like TitanHQ that have developed powerful solutions to keep businesses safe against increasingly sophisticated cybercrime.”

Three TitanHQ cybersecurity solutions were selected and named winners in the Expert Insights’ 2021 “Best-Of” Awards in the Email Security Gateway, Web Security, and Email Archiving categories. SpamTitan was named winner in the Email Security Gateway category, WebTitan won in the Web Security category, and ArcTitan was named a winner in the Email Archiving category. SpamTitan and WebTitan were praised for the level of protection provided, while being among the easiest to use and most cost-effective solutions in their respective categories.

All three products are consistently praised for the level of protection provided and are a bit hit with enterprises, SMBs, and MSPs.  The solutions attract many 5-star reviews from real users on the Expert Insights site and many other review sites, including Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, Google Reviews, and G2 Crowd.  The cybersecurity solutions are now used by more than 8,500 businesses and over 2,500 MSPs.

“The recent pandemic and the growth of remote working initiatives have further highlighted the need for multiple layers of cybersecurity and our award-winning solutions form key pillars in this security strategy,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “We will continue to innovate and provide solutions that MSPs can use to deliver a consistent, secure and reliable experience to their customers.”

NHS Phishing Emails Detected Offering COVID-19 Vaccine

A new phishing scam has been detected targeting UK residents that spoofs the National Health Service (NHS) and offers recipients the opportunity to register to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The NHS COVID-19 vaccine scam is one of several to be intercepted in recent weeks that offers the chance to get a vaccine, when in reality it will involve disclosing sensitive information.

Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus started spreading beyond the borders of China, scammers have been conducting a wide range of COVID-19 phishing scams. Now that the vaccine rollout is progressing in the UK and globally, using the promise of an early vaccine as a lure was to be expected.

In the latest campaign, the sender’s address has been spoofed to make it appear than the messages have been sent by the NHS, and NHS branding is used in the message body. Recipients are instructed that they have been selected to receive the vaccine based on their family and medical history.

The lure is plausible, as in the UK the most at-risk groups have mostly been vaccinated, and the NHS is now moving into priority group 6, which is all individuals aged 16 to 65 with an underlying medical condition. The NHS has also asked people to be patient and to wait until they are contacted about the vaccine to arrange an appointment, which may be via email.

The NHS COVID-19 vaccine scam emails require the recipient to click a link that directs them to a website where they are instructed to provide some information to confirm their identity. In this case, the aim of the scam is not to obtain credentials, but personal information including name, address, date of birth, and credit card details.

Phishing has become the attack vector of choice for many cybercriminal operations during the pandemic. One study indicates an increase of 667% in phishing as an attack vector, showing the extent to which cybercriminals have changed their attack tactics during the pandemic. One study by Centrify shows the number of phishing attacks had increased by 73% between March 2020 and September 2020.

Research published by the ransomware response firm Coveware shows that the volume of ransomware attacks using phishing as the infection vector increased sharpy in the final quarter of 2020, overtaking all other methods of attacks to become the main method of gaining access to business networks.

Phishing attacks are expected to continue to increase in 2021 due to the ease at which they can be conducted and the effectiveness of the campaigns. Attacks are also becoming more sophisticated and harder for employees to identify.

Spear phishing attacks that target certain companies and individuals are becoming much more prevalent. These campaigns involve prior research, and the messages are tailored to maximize the chance of a response.

With phishing so prevalent, it is vital for businesses to ensure they are sufficiently protected and have an email security solution installed that is capable to blocking these threats.

Dual AV engines and sandboxing are capable of blocking known and zero-day malware and ransomware threats, while machine learning technology and multiple threat intelligence feeds provides protection against current and emerging phishing threats.

SpamTitan significantly improves protection for Microsoft Office 365 accounts, the credentials to which are highly sought after by phishers and offers businesses excellent protection from all email-based attacks at a very affordable price.

If you want to protect your inboxes and block more malicious emails, contact TitanHQ for more information about SpamTitan. The multi-award-winning antispam solution is also available on a free trial for you to see for yourself how effective it is and how easy it is to use.

Tax Professionals Targeted in Phishing Campaign Seeking Electronic Filing Identification Numbers

Tax season has begun and so have the annual scams targeting tax professionals. Each year in the run up to the tax filing deadline, cybercriminals conduct scams in order to obtain electronic filing identification numbers (EFINs).

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues EFINS to tax professionals and individuals to allow them to file tax returns electronically. If cybercriminals obtain these EFINs they can file fraudulent tax returns in victims’ names to obtain tax rebates. Obtaining an e-file number of a tax professional will allow tax returns to be filed for many individuals, so these scams can be very lucrative.

These scams usually start with a phishing email using a lure to get the recipient to visit a malicious website where they are asked to provide information or upload documents that contain sensitive information. Alternatively, recipients are told to download files which silently install a malware downloader which ultimately gives the attackers full control of the victim’s computer.

Commonly, the spam emails spoof the IRS and instruct tax professionals to provide information or documents in order to prevent the suspension of their account. At such as busy time of year, suspension of an account is best avoided. Faced with this threat, tax professionals may provide the requested information.

One of the phishing emails recently intercepted spoofed the IRS by using the sender name “IRS Tax E-Filing,” with the subject line “Verifying your EFIN before e-filing.” The emails looked convincing and required “authorized e-file originators” to reverify prior to filing returns through the IRS system. The emails claimed the IRS had started using this new security measure to prevent unauthorized and fraudulent activities. The scammers requested a PDF file/scan of the EFIN acceptance letter and both sides of the individual’s driver’s license. Similar scams have been conducted that require tax preparers’ ID numbers and e-services usernames and passwords to be provided.

This year, in addition to the usual phishing emails spoofing the IRS, campaigns have been detected where the attackers claim to be potential clients looking for tax preparers ahead of the filing deadline. Attachments are provided that would typically be needed by tax preparers, but they are laced with malicious scripts that install keylogging malware that records and exfiltrates keystrokes, with are likely to include usernames and passwords.

Tax preparers that fall victim to these scams can suffer catastrophic damage to their reputations, so it is important to exercise caution when opening any emails and to stop and think carefully about any request to provide sensitive information or download files.

One of the easiest ways to protect against these scams is to implement an advanced spam filtering solution that can identify and block these malicious messages. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that identifies and blocks malware and documents containing malicious scripts with dual antivirus engines, sandboxing, and machine learning techniques. In addition to blocking malware threats, SpamTitan is highly effective at blocking phishing emails containing malicious links.

The award-winning spam filter is quick and easy to implement and maintain, requiring no technical knowledge. You can be up and running in minutes and protecting your inbox from phishing and malware attacks, which will allow you to concentrate on your business at this busy time of year and avoid costly cyberattacks.

For more information about SpamTitan, to book a product demonstration or to register for a free trail, give the SpamTitan team a call today.

Novel Phishing Campaign Identified Using Malformed URL Prefixes

Phishers regularly changes their tactics, techniques and procedures and create more convincing scams to trick employees into disclosing sensitive information or installing malware on their computers. One novel tactic that was first observed in the fall of 2020 involved the use of malformed URL prefixes. Over the following months, the number of emails sent with these atypical URL prefixes grew, and according to GreatHorn researchers, the volume of these messages increased by almost 6,000% in the first month of the year.

URLs start with either HTTP:// or HTTPS://, which are the standard URL protocols. While end users may check to see if the URL starts with HTTP or HTTPS to determine whether the connection to the website is encrypted, they may not notice or be overly concerned about what comes after the colon. That is also true of certain security solutions and browsers, which also do not check that part of the URL.

The new tactic sees one of the forward slashes swapped with a backslash, so HTTPS:// becomes HTTP:/\ and it is enough of a change to see phishing emails delivered to inboxes. This tactic has been combined with another tactic that reduces the chance of the link being identified as malicious. The URL linked in the emails directs the user to a web page that includes a reCAPTCHA security feature. This feature will be known to most internet users, as it is used by a great deal of websites and search engines to distinguish between real users and robots.

The challenge must be passed for a connection to the website to me made. Having this security feature helps to convince the visitor that they are arriving on a legitimate site, but it also stops security solutions from assessing the content of the site. If the user passes the reCAPTCHA challenge, they are then redirected to a different URL that hosts the phishing form.  That webpage very closely resembles the login prompt of Office 365 or Google Workspace, with this campaign mostly targeting Office 365 credentials.

Since this new tactic is now proving popular it is worthwhile incorporating this into your security awareness training sessions to make employees aware of the need to check the URL prefix, and also add a rule in SpamTitan to block these malformed URLs.

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 93rd anniversary and is giving 3000 lucky customers a free pair of Adidas sneakers and a free $50 a month subscription.

“Adidas is giving away 3000 Free Pair of Shoes to celebrate its 93rd anniversary. Get your free shoes at <link>”

The very same scam was run in 2019 claiming to celebrate 69th anniversary and on that occasion was giving 2,500 lucky customers a free pair of Adidas sneakers and a free $50 a month subscription. The scammer saw success previously and have clearly decided it’s worth trying again.

The Scam Adidas Email

There is also an email version of the scam. The fake Adidas email claims  the recipient has won a large sum of money and all they need to do to claim the cash is send their personal details via email.

Scam emails are now a very effective form of cyber attack. Most successful hacking attacks today begin with a phishing email. Scam emails containing ransomware or BEC are a challenge for corporate security.

A successful breach can cost an organization millions but defending against this kind of attack requires powerful  anti-spam and malware technology. To defend against this kind of phishing attack  you need a cutting edge email security solution to stop scam emails, a security aware workforce to identify a scam email and spot a spoof email, and powerful web protection that blocks user from accessing dangerous websites

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WhatsApp phishing scam

The WhatsApp phishing 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 spoofing different shoe manufacturers.

The link supplied in the WhatsApp phishing 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, best to assume it is a phishing scam.

To find out more about some of the key protections you can put in place to improve your resilience against email scams and phishing attacks, contact the SpamTitan team today.

Most Ransomware Attacks Start with a Phishing Email

Ransomware attacks in 2020 were conducted at twice the rate of the previous year, with many organizations falling victim and having to pay large ransoms to recover their data or risk sensitive information being published or sold to cybercriminal organizations.

At the start of 2020, data exfiltration prior to the deployment of ransomware was still only being conducted by a small number of ransomware gangs, but that soon changed as the year progressed. By the end of the year, at least 17 cybercriminal gangs were using this double extortion tactic and were stealing sensitive data prior to encrypting files. Faced with the threat of publication of sensitive data, many attacked organizations felt they had little alternative other than to pay the ransom demand.

The extent of ransomware attacks in 2020 has been highlighted by various studies by cybersecurity researchers over the past few weeks. Chainalysis recently released a report that suggests more than $350 million has been paid to cybercriminals in 2020 alone, based on an analysis of the transactions to blockchain addresses known to be used by ransomware threat groups. Of course, that figure is likely to be far lower than the true total, as many companies do not disclose that they have suffered ransomware attacks. To put that figure into perspective, a similar analysis in 2019 estimated the losses to be around $90 million. Those figures are for ransom payments alone, not the cost of resolving attacks, which would be several orders of magnitude higher.

The increase in attacks can be partly attributed to the change in working practices due to the pandemic. Many companies switched from office-based working to a distributed remote workforce to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep their employees protected. The rapid change involved hastily implementing remote access solutions to support those workers which introduced vulnerabilities that were readily exploited by ransomware gangs.

Most Ransomware Attacks Now Start with Phishing

Throughout 2020, phishing was commonly used as a way to gain access to corporate networks, accounting for between 25% and 30% of all ransomware attacks, but new data released by the ransomware attack remediation firm Coveware shows the attack methods changed in the last quarter of 2020. As companies and organizations addressed vulnerabilities in remote access solutions and VPNs and improved their defenses, phishing became the most common attack method. Coveware’s analysis shows that in the final quarter of 2020, more than 50% of ransomware attacks started with a phishing email.

Ransomware can be delivered directly through phishing emails, although it is more common to use intermediary malware. The most commonly used malware variants for distributing ransomware are Trojans such as Emotet and TrickBot, both of which are extensively delivered via phishing emails. These malware variants are also capable of self-propagating and spreading to other devices on the network.

Access to compromised devices is then sold to ransomware gangs, who access the devices, steal sensitive data, then deploy their ransomware payload. The Emotet botnet played a large role in ransomware attacks in 2020, and while it has now been disrupted following a joint law enforcement operation, other malware variants are certain to take its place.

The same report also highlighted the nature of businesses attacked with ransomware. Far from the gangs targeting large enterprises with deep pockets, most attacks are on small- to medium-sized businesses with under 250 employees. 30.2% of attacks were on businesses with between 11 and 100 employees, with 35.7% on businesses with 101 to 1,000 employees. Healthcare organizations, professional services firms, and financial services companies have all been targeted and commonly fall victim to attacks, although no sector is immune.

70% of ransomware attacks now involve data theft prior to encryption, so even if backups exist and can be used to restore data, it may not be possible to avoid paying the ransom. There is also a growing trend for data to be permanently deleted, which leaves businesses with no way of recovering data after a ransomware attack.

Steps to Take to Block Ransomware Attacks

What all businesses and organizations need to do is to make it as hard as possible for the attacks to succeed. While there is no single solution for blocking ransomware attacks, there are measures that can be taken that make it much harder for the attacks to succeed.

With most ransomware attacks now starting with a phishing email, an advanced email security solution is a must. By deploying best-of-breed solutions such as SpamTitan to proactively protect the Office365 environment it will be much easier to block threats than simply relying on Office 365 anti-spam protections, which are commonly bypassed to deliver Trojans and ransomware.

A web filtering solution can provide protection against ransomware delivered over the internet, including via links sent in phishing emails. Multi-factor authentication should be implemented for email accounts and cloud apps, employees should be trained how to identify threats, and monitoring systems should be implemented to allow attacks in progress to be detected and mitigated before ransomware is deployed.

What is DMARC Email Authentication and Why is it Important?

DMARC email authentication is an important element of phishing defenses, but what is DMARC email authentication, what does it do, and how does it protect against email impersonation attacks?

There is some confusion about what DMARC email authentication is and what it can do. In this post we explain in clear English what DMARC means and why it should be part of your anti-phishing defenses.

What is DMARC

DMARC is short for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. Its purpose is to make it harder for threat actors to conduct phishing attacks that spoof brands and get those messages delivered to inboxes. DMARC is a critical component of email cybersecurity that reduces an attacker’s ability to get email threat to an end user’s inbox.

With DMARC, organizations can create a record of who is authorized to send emails from their domain. This helps to prevent misuse of a company brand in phishing campaigns.

If DMARC is implemented on email, a business can have all incoming emails checked against DMARC records and any email that fails the check can be subjected to certain actions.

The message can be delivered as normal with a warning and the email will be included in a report of emails that failed the check. The message could automatically be sent to quarantine for manual approval before delivery is made. Alternatively, the message could be rejected or subjected to a custom policy. An organization can select the best policy to adopt based on their level of risk tolerance.

DMARC will not stop all phishing emails from being delivered, but it is an important measure to implement to stop email spoofing and reduce the number of phishing emails that reach inboxes. DMARC is just one of several rules that are used to determine whether emails are genuine and should be delivered or if the messages have been sent from an unauthorized user.

Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and DNS records are also used to determine whether the email server being used is authorized to send emails for the organization. 

Find out more about improving your email security defenses. Sign up for a free SpamTitan demo today.
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What is  Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email-authentication technique used to restrict who can send emails from your domain. It allows your mail server determine when a message comes from the domain that it uses. SPF has three major elements: a policy framework, an authentication method and specialized headers to convey the information.

An email message contains two sender addresses:

  1. The From:header, displaying the name and email address of the sender
  2. The Envelope From:or Return-Path email address.

Both types of sender addresses can be easily spoofed.

SPF uses a DNS record to verify the Envelope From: only. This means that if a spammer spoofs the Envelope From: address using a domain where SPF is enabled, the mail will be caught by the receiving server. If the spammer spoofs the From: header, SPF will not catch this. The SPF record indicates which email servers are authorized to send mail on behalf of a domain. This would be the organization itself and any third parties, such as marketing companies.  The SPF record is a DNS TXT record that includes IP addresses and hostnames that are allowed to send emails from a particular domain. The SPF record is the first thing checked by DMARC rules.

Together with the DMARC related information, this gives the receiver (or receiving systems) information on how trustworthy the origin of an email is. SPF is, just like DMARC, an email authentication technique that uses DNS (Domain Name Service). This gives you, as an email sender, the ability to specify which email servers are permitted to send email on behalf of your domain.

DKIM

DKIM is more advanced and uses a TXT record and asymmetric public-private key encryption. With DMARC enabled, the signature is encrypted with the public key and the key is published on DNS servers. The domain’s private key is then used at the recipient’s email server for verification.

If DKIM is enabled, the public key-encrypted signature is compared with the message that is decrypted using a newly generated key to confirm that the message has not been altered. DKIM also confirms that the sender is from the listed domain and that the sender has not been spoofed.

DMARC offers a much greater level of protection than SPF and is more dependable, so both should be implemented. Both SPF and DMARC are incorporated into SpamTitan to better protect users from email spoofing attacks. Enabling SPF, DKIM and DMARC will help greatly reduce the amount of spoof emails recieved, and that is only good.

To find out more about improving your email security defenses, contact the TitanHQ team today.

 

Coordinated Law Enforcement Effort Takes Down Emotet Botnet

The notorious Emotet botnet, which has been used in extensive attacks on companies around the globe for many years, has been taken down as part of a coordinated effort by Europol, the FBI, the UK National Crime Agency, and other law enforcement agencies.

The threat actors behind Emotet used their malware to create a backdoor in the systems of many companies, with access then sold to other threat groups to conduct further malicious activities including stealing sensitive data and extortion through the deployment of ransomware.

The operation has been planned for around two years and was coordinated to ensure that the multi-country infrastructure was simultaneously taken down to disrupt any attempts by the threat group to reconstruct the network. Law enforcement agencies have seized control of hundreds of servers and have taken control of the entire Emotet infrastructure, in what will be seen by many to be the most important malware takedowns to date. The takedown has prevented the Emotet gang from communicating with the malware and has resulted in the loss of control of the army of compromised devices that make up the botnet.

Europol and its partners succeeded in mapping the entire infrastructure, took control of the network, and deactivated the Emotet Trojan. A software update was placed on the main servers used to control the malware, two of which were located in the Netherlands. Infected computer systems will retrieve the update, which will see Emotet Trojan on those systems quarantined.

The Most Dangerous Malware and Most Prolific Botnet

Emotet is arguably the most dangerous malware of recent years and the botnet used to distribute it is one of the most prolific. Around 30% of all malware attacks in 2020 involved the Emotet Trojan.

Phishing emails were used to deliver the Emotet Trojan. Massive phishing campaigns were conducted using a wide range of lures to trick recipients into opening malicious attachments or visiting websites that downloaded the Emotet Trojan. The lures used in the campaigns frequently changed, taking advantage of world events to maximize the probability of the attachments being opened.

Emotet started life as a banking Trojan but was later developed to also serve as a malware dropper. Emotet delivered other banking Trojans such as TrickBot as the secondary malware payload, and ransomware variants such as Ryuk – each of which were dangerous in their own right.

Devices infected with Emotet are added to the botnet and used to distribute copies of the Emotet Trojan to other devices on the network and the user’s contacts by hijacking the user’s email account. A single device on a corporate network that was infected with Emotet could quickly result in widespread infection. The Trojan was also particularly difficult to eradicate, as removal of the infection would only be temporary, with other devices on the network simply re-infecting the cleaned device.

In the leadup to the 2020 Presidential election in the United States, Microsoft and its partners succeeded in seizing control of some of the infrastructure used to control and distribute the TrickBot Trojan. In that case the operation was only temporarily successful, as the TrickBot gang was able to rapidly recover and restore its infrastructure.

Time will tell as to how successful the Emotet takedown has been and whether the operation has only temporarily disrupted the activities of the Emotet gang or whether the takedown has left it completely crippled.

Phishing Campaign Abuses Windows Finger Utility to Download MineBridge Backdoor

A new phishing campaign has been identified that abuses the Windows Finger command to download a malware variant called MineBridge.

The Finger command in Windows can be used by a local user to obtain a list of users on a remote machine or, alternatively, to obtain information about a specific remote user. The Finger utility originated in Linux and Unix operating systems but is also included in Windows. The utility allows commands to be executed to find out whether a particular user is logged on, although this is now rarely used.

There are also security concerns with the finger utility, and it has been abused in the past to find out basic information about users that can be targeted in social engineering attacks. Vulnerabilities in the finger protocol have also been exploited in the past by some malware variants.

Recently, security researchers discovered Finger can be used as a LOLBin to download malware from a remote server or to exfiltrate data without triggering alerts from security solutions. Finger is now being used in at least one phishing campaign to download malware.

MineBridge malware is a Windows backdoor written in C++ that has previously been used in attacks on South Korean companies. The malware was first identified in December 2020 by researchers at FireEye and in January 2020 several campaigns were identified distributing the malware via phishing emails with malicious Word attachments.

The latest campaign sees the attackers impersonate a recruitment company. The email is a recommendation of a candidate for consideration for a position at the targeted firm. The sender recommends even if there are no current openings, the CV should be checked, and the candidate considered. The email is well written and believeable.

As is common in phishing campaigns, if the document is opened a message will be displayed that tells the user the document has been created in an old version of Windows and to view the content the user needs to ‘enable editing’ and then ‘enable content’. Doing so will run the macro, which will fetch and download a Base64 encoded certificate using the Finger command. The certificate is a malware downloader that used DLL hijacking to sideload the MineBridge backdoor. Once installed, MineBridge will give the attacker control over an infected device and allow a range of malicious actions to be performed.

It is easiest to block attacks like this by installing an advanced spam filtering solution to block the malicious emails and prevent them from reaching inboxes. As an additional protection against this and other campaigns that abuse the Finger.exe utility in Windows, admins should consider disabling finger.exe if it is never used.