Increase in Netwalker Ransomware Attacks Prompts FBI Warning

Over the past few months, cyberattacks involving Netwalker ransomware have been steadily increasing and Netwalker has now become one of the biggest ransomware threats of 2020.

Netwalker ransomware is the new name for a ransomware variant called Mailto, which first appeared a year ago in August 2019. The threat actors behind the ransomware rebranded their malware as Netwalker in late 2019 and in 2020 started advertising for affiliates to distribute the ransomware under the ransomware-as-a-service model. In contrast to many RaaS offerings, the threat group is being particularly choosy about who they recruit to distribute the ransomware and has been attempting to build a select group of affiliates with the ability to conduct network attacks on enterprises that have the means to pay large ransoms and the data to warrant such large payments if attacked.

Netwalker ransomware was used in an attack in February on Toll Group, an Australian logistics and transportation company, which caused widespread disruption although the firm claims not to have paid the ransom. Like several other ransomware gangs, the Netwalker gang took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and was using COVID-19 lures in phishing emails to spread the ransomware payload via a malicious email attachment, opting for a Visual Basic Scripting (.vbs) loader attachments.

Then followed attacks on Michigan State University and Columbia College of Chicago, with the frequency of attacks increasing in June. The University of California San Francisco, which was conducting research into COVID-19, was attacked and had little choice other than to pay the $1.14 million ransom demand to regain access to essential research data that was encrypted in the attack. More recently Lorien Health Services, a Maryland operator of assisted living facilities, also had files encrypted by the Netwalker gang.

The recent attacks have seen the attack vector change, suggesting the attacks have been the work of affiliates and the recruitment campaign has worked. Recent attacks have seen a range of techniques used in attacks, including brute force attacks on RDP servers, exploitation of vulnerabilities in unpatched VPN systems such as Pulse Secure VPNs that have not had the patch applied to correct the CVE-2019-11510 vulnerability. Attacks have also been performed exploiting user interface components of web apps, such as the Telerik UI vulnerability CVE-2019-18935, in addition to vulnerabilities in Oracle WebLogic and Apache Tomcat servers.

With the ransoms paid so far, the group is now far better funded and appears to have skilled affiliates working at distributing the ransomware. Netwalker has now become one of the biggest ransomware threats and has joined the ranks of Ryuk and Sodinokibi. Like those threat groups, data is stolen prior to file encryption and threats are issued to publish or sell the data if the ransom is not paid.

The increase in activity and skill of the group at gaining access to enterprise networks prompted the FBI to issue a flash alert warning of the risk of attack in late July. The group appears to be targeting government organizations, educational institutions, healthcare providers and entities involved in COVID-19 research, and the attacks are showing no sign of slowing, in fact they are more than likely to increase.

Defending against the attacks requires a defense in depth approach and adoption of good cyber hygiene. An advanced spam filtering solution should be used to block email attacks, end users should be taught how to recognize malicious emails and shown what to do if a suspicious email is received. Vulnerabilities in software are being exploited so prompt patching is essential. All devices should be running the latest software versions.

Antivirus and anti-malware software should be used on all devices and kept up to date, and policies requiring strong passwords to be implemented should be enforced to prevent brute force tactics from succeeding. Patched VPNs should be used for remote access, two-factor authentication should be implemented, web filters used for secure browsing of the internet, and backups should be performed regularly. Backups should be stored on a non-networked device that is not accessible over the internet to ensure they too are not encrypted in an attack.

Watch Out for This New Netflix Phishing Scam!

Any popular platform is an attractive target for phishers, and with more than 167 million subscribers worldwide, the Netflix streaming service certainly falls into that category. While Netflix may not seem a key target for phishers, a successful attack could give scammers access to credit card and banking information.

Netflix phishing scams are common, so it is not unusual to see yet another scam launched, but one of the latest uses a novel tactic to evade security solutions. By incorporating a CAPTCHA challenge, it is harder for security solutions to access the phishing websites and identify their malicious nature.

This Netflix phishing scam starts with an email like many other Netflix scams that precede it. The emails appear to have been sent from the Netflix customer support team and advise the recipient there has been a problem with billing for the latest monthly payment. As a result, the subscription will be suspended in the next 24 hours.

The Netflix user is provided with a link to click and they are told they need to update their information on file. The emails also include a link to unsubscribe and manage communication preferences, although they do not work.

As with most phishing scams there is urgency and a threat. Update your information within 24 hours or you will lose access to the service. Clicking the link will direct the user to a fully functioning CAPTCHA page, where they are required to go through the standard CAPTCHA checks to verify they are not a bot. If the CAPTCHA challenge is passed, the user will be directed to a hijacked domain where they are presented with the standard Netflix sign-in page.

They must sign-in, then they are asked to enter their billing address, along with their full name and date of birth, followed by a second page where they are asked for their card number, expiry date, CVV code, and optional fields for their bank sort code, account number, and bank name. If the information is entered, they are told that they have correctly verified their information and they will be redirected to the real Netflix page, most likely unaware that they have given highly sensitive information to the scammers.

There have been many Netflix phishing emails intercepted over the past few months claiming accounts have been put on hold due to problems with payments. The emails are convincing and very closely resemble the emails sent out regularly by Netflix to service subscribers. The emails feature the Netflix logo, correct color schemes, and direct the recipients to very realistic looking login pages.

What all of these emails have in common is they link to a domain other than Netflix.com. If you receive an email from Netflix, especially one that contains some sort of warning or threat, login to the site by typing the correct domain into the address bar and always make sure you are on the correct website before entering any sensitive information.

Phishing Warning Issued to Sports Industry Following Spate of Attacks

Football is big business and large quantities of money are often transferred electronically between clubs to bring in new players. If scammers were to insert themselves into the communications between clubs, huge payments could easily be diverted. In 2018, the Italian football club Lazio was targeted with a phishing scam that resulted in a payment of €2 million being sent to an account under the control of scammers. The money was never recovered.

Now it appears that the sports industry is being targeted again. Recently, a similar scam was conducted on a Premier League football club in England. The hackers gained access to the email account of the managing director of the club through a phishing campaign after directing the MD to a domain where Office credentials were harvested. Those credentials were then used to access the MD’s email account, and the scammers inserted themselves into and email conversation with another club looking to purchase a player. Fortunately, the scam was detected by the bank and a £1 million fraudulent payment was blocked.

This type of scam starts with a phishing email but is referred to as a Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam. BEC scams are commonplace and often successful. They range from simple scams to complicated multi-email communications between two parties, whether one party believes they are communicating with the genuine email account holder when they are actually communicating with the scammer. When the time comes to make payment, the scammer supplies their own account credentials. All too often, these scams are not detected until after payment is made.

That is far from the only cyberattack on the sports industry in recent weeks and months. There have been several attempted cyberattacks which prompted to the UK’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) to issue a warning advising the UK sports sector to be on high alert.

Prior to lockdown, a football club in the UK was hit with a ransomware attack that encrypted essential systems, including the computer systems that controlled the turnstiles, preventing them from working. A game nearly had to be abandoned due to the attack. The ransomware attack is suspected to have also started with a phishing email.

The recent attacks are not limited to football clubs. NCSC data show that 70% of sports institutions in the United Kingdom have suffered a cyberattack in the past 12 months.

NCSC figures show approximately 30% of incidents resulted in financial losses, with the average loss being £10,000, although one organization lost £4 million in a scam. 40% of the attacks involved the use of malware, which is often delivered via spam email. A quarter of attacks involved ransomware.

While malware and ransomware attacks are costly and disruptive, the biggest cause of losses is BEC attacks. Figures from the FBI show these scams accounted for around half of all losses to cybercrime in 2019. $1.77 billion was lost to BEC attacks in 2019, with an average loss of $75,000 (£63,333). The true figure is likely to be even higher, as not all BEC attacks are reported. The FBI anticipates even greater losses this year.

While there are many different attack methods, email remains the most common vector used in cyberattacks on businesses. It is therefore essential to implement a robust email security solution that can block malicious emails and prevent them from being delivered to inboxes.

TitanHQ has developed a powerful, advanced email security solution that can help businesses improve their email security defenses and block phishing, spear phishing, BEC, malware, and ransomware attacks. SpamTitan incorporates multiple threat intelligence feeds, machine learning systems to identify phishing attempts, dual anti-virus engines, and a sandbox to subject suspicious email attachments to in-depth analysis. SpamTitan also incorporates SPF and DMARC to identify and block email impersonation attacks.

If you are concerned about email security and want to improve your defenses against email threats, give the TitanHQ team a call to find out more about SpamTitan and other security solutions that can help you defend your organization from cyberattacks.

Our customer service team will be happy to discuss your options and help set you up for a free trial so you can see for yourself the difference SpamTitan makes to email security.

Phishers Use Google Cloud Services to Steal Office 365 Credentials

A new phishing campaign has been detected that uses Google Cloud Services to fool victims into giving up their Office 365 credentials. The new campaign is part of a growing trend of disguising phishing attacks using legitimate cloud services.

The phishing attack starts like any other with an email containing a hyperlink that the recipient is requested to click. If the user clicks the link in the email, they are directed to Google Drive where a PDF file has been uploaded. When the file is opened, users are asked to click a hyperlink in the document, which appears to be an invitation to access a file hosted on SharePoint Online.

The PDF file asks the victim to click the link to sign in with their Office 365 ID. Clicking the link will direct the user to a landing page hosted using Google’s storage.googleapis.com. When the user arrives on the landing page, they are presented with an Office 365 login prompt that looks exactly like the real thing. After entering their credentials, they will be directed to a legitimate PDF whitepaper that has been obtained from a well-respected global consulting firm.

The campaign has been designed to make it appear that the victim is simply being directed to a PDF file that has been shared via Sharepoint, and the actual PDF file is displayed after the victim has divulged their credentials. It is therefore likely that the victim will not realize that their Office 365 credentials have been phished. The only sign that this is a scam is the source code on the phishing page, which even tech-savvy individuals would be unlikely to check.

This campaign was identified by researchers at Check Point, but it is just one of many similar campaigns to have been identified over the past few months. Since these domains are legitimate and have valid SSL certificates, they are difficult to detect as malicious. This campaign abused Google Cloud Services, but several other campaigns have been detected using the likes of IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and others to add legitimacy to the campaigns.

This campaign highlights the importance of providing security awareness training to the workforce and warning employees about the risks of clicking links in unsolicited emails, even those that link to genuine domains. An advanced email security solution should also be implemented to block malicious emails and ensure the majority of malicious messages are not delivered to inboxes. That is an area where TitanHQ can help.

Emotet Botnet Activity Resumes with Trickbot/Qakbot Malware Campaign

Emotet was the most prolific malware botnet of 2018 and 2019, but the botnet fell silent on February 7, 2020 but it has now sprung back to life and is being used to distribute Trojan malware.  The botnet returned with a malicious spam campaign on July 17 of at least 30,000 emails, mostly targeting organizations in the United States and United Kingdom. The scale of the campaign has now grown to around 250,000 emails a day with the campaign now global.

The Emotet botnet is a network of computers infected with Emotet malware and there are estimated to be around half a million infected Windows computers under the control of the botnet operators. Those infected devices are contacted through the attackers’ command and control (C2) servers and are sent instructions to send out spam emails spreading Emotet malware.

Once the malware is downloaded, the infected computer is added to the botnet and is used to send spam emails. Emotet infections can also spread laterally within an organization. When investigations are launched following the detection of Emotet, it is common for other computers to be discovered to be infected with the malware.

What makes Emotet particularly dangerous is the operators of the botnet pair up with other threat groups and deliver other malware variants. Emotet has been used to distribute a range of malware variants since its creation in 2014, but recently the malware payload of choice was the TrickBot Trojan. TrickBot is a banking trojan cum information stealer that also serves as a malware downloader. In addition to stealing sensitive data, the operators of TrickBot pair up with other malware developers, notably the developers of Ryuk ransomware.  Once TrickBot has stolen information, the baton is passed over to Ryuk, which will also steal data before encrypting files on network. The new Emotet campaign started by distributing the TrickBot Trojan, although the payload has since switched to the QakBot banking Trojan.  QakBot also delivers ransomware as a secondary payload, with Prolock often used in the past.

Emotet emails use a variety of lures to get recipients to click links to malicious websites or open infected email attachments. Emotet targets businesses, so the lures used are business related, such as fake shipping notices, invoices, purchase orders, receipts, and job applications. The emails are often personalized, and the threat actors known to hijack email threads and send responses with malicious documents added.

An Emotet infection is serious and should be treated with the same urgency as a ransomware attack. Prompt action may allow Emotet to be removed before a secondary payload is delivered.

Fortunately, Emotet malware is delivered via email so that gives businesses an opportunity to prevent infections. By deploying an advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan that has sandboxing to subject email attachments to deep analysis, these malicious emails can be identified and quarantined. Coupled with other email security measures such as end user training, businesses can mount a robust defense and block infections.

The return of Emotet was inevitable, and while the resumption of activity is bad news, there is some good news. A vigilante hacker has started sabotaging Emotet operations by targeting a weak link in their infrastructure. Emotet malware is downloaded from the internet from a range of hacked WordPress sites. The vigilante has found that the temporary stores of Emotet can be easily hacked as they tend to all use the same password. After guessing that password, the Emotet payload has been replaced with a variety of animated GIFs and has disrupted operations, reducing infections to around a quarter of their normal levels. That said, the Emotet gang is attempting to regain control of its web shells and infections with Emotet are still growing.