Microsoft is the Most Impersonated Brand in Phishing Attacks on Businesses

Phishing scams can be difficult for employees to identify. The emails provide a plausible reason for taking a certain action, such as clicking a link in an email. The websites that users are directed to are virtually indistinguishable from the genuine websites that the scammers spoof and credentials are commonly captured.

The pandemic has seen increasing numbers of employees working from home and accessing their company’s cloud applications remotely. Businesses are now much more reliant on email for communication than when employees were all office based. Cybercriminals have been taking advantage and have been targeting remote workers with phishing scams and many of these attacks have been successful.

Employees often receive training on cybersecurity and are told to be wary of emails that have been sent from unknown individuals, but many still open the emails and take the requested action. The emails often spoof an individual that is known to the recipient, which increases the likelihood of that email being opened. It is also common for well known brands to be impersonated in phishing attacks, with the attackers exploiting trust in that brand.

A recent analysis of phishing emails by Check Point revealed the most commonly impersonated brand in phishing attacks over the past 3 months is Microsoft, which is not surprising given the number of businesses using Office 365. The study revealed 43% of phishing attempts that mimic brands impersonate Microsoft.

Microsoft credentials are then captured in these attacks and are used to remotely access accounts. The data stored in a single email account can be substantial. There have been many healthcare phishing attacks that have seen a single account compromised that contained the sensitive data of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of patients. These phishing emails are often only the first step in a multi-stage attack that gives the threat actors the foothold they need for a much more extensive attack on the organization, often resulting in the theft of large amounts of data and ending with the deployment of ransomware.

Microsoft is far from the only brand impersonated. The analysis revealed DHL to be the second most impersonated brand. DHL-based phishing attacks use failed delivery notifications and shipping notices as the lure to get individuals to either disclose sensitive information such as login credentials or open malicious email attachments that download malware. 18% of all brand impersonation phishing attacks involve the impersonation of DHL. This makes sense as the phishers target businesses and especially during a pandemic when there is increased reliance on courier companies.

Other well-known brands that are commonly impersonated include PayPal and Chase to obtain account credentials, LinkedIn to allow professional networking accounts to be compromised, and Google and Yahoo are commonly impersonated to obtain account credentials. Attacks spoofing Amazon, Rakuten, and IKEA also make the top 10 most spoofed brand list.

Phishers mostly target business users as their credentials are far more valuable. Businesses therefore need to ensure that their phishing defenses are up to scratch. Security awareness training for employees is important but given the realistic nature of phishing emails and the plausibility of the lures used, it is essential for more reliable measures to be implemented to block phishing attacks.

Top of the list of anti-phishing measures should be an advanced spam filter. Many businesses rely on the spam filtering capabilities of Office 365, but this only provides a level of protection. The default spam filter in Office 365 is not particularly effective at blocking sophisticated phishing attacks. Businesses that rely on Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection (EOP) see many phishing emails delivered to inboxes where they can be opened by employees.

To better protect against phishing attacks, a third-party spam filter should be layered on top of Office 365. SpamTitan has been developed to provide enhanced protection for businesses that use Office 365. The solution implements seamlessly with Office 365 and the solution is easy to implement and maintain. The result will be far greater protection from phishing attacks and other malicious emails that employees struggle to identify.

For further information on SpamTitan, to register for a free trial, and for details of pricing, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

Trump-Themed Phishing Emails Attempt to Deliver QRAT Malware

A Trump-themed phishing campaign has been detected that attempts to deliver the Qnode Remote Access Trojan (QRAT) under the guise of a video file that appears to be a Donald Trump sex tape.

QRAT is a Java-based RAT that was first detected in 2015 that has been used in several phishing campaigns over the years, with an uptick in distribution observed from August 2020. Interestingly, the malicious file attachment – named “TRUMP_SEX_SCANDAL_VIDEO.jar” – bears no relation to the phishing email body and subject line, which offers a loan as an investment for a dream project or business plan. The subject line is “GOOD LOAN OFFER,” and the sender claims a loan will be provided if there is a good return on the investment and between $500,000 and $100 million can be provided. It is unclear whether an error has been made and the wrong file attachment was added to the email or if this was a deliberate mismatching of a malicious .jar file. While the emails are unlikely to fool many end users, there may be enough interest in the video to pique the interest of some recipients.

The phishing campaign does appear to be poorly constructed, but the same cannot be said of the malware the campaign attempts to deliver. The version of QRAT delivered in this campaign is more sophisticated than previously detected versions, with several improvements made to evade security solutions. For instance, the malicious code used as the QRAT downloader is obfuscated and split across several different buffers within the .jar file.

Phishing campaigns often take advantage of interest in popular new stories and the Presidential election, allegations of election fraud, and recent events at Capitol Hill have seen President Trump trending. It is likely that this will not be the only Trump-themed phishing campaign to be conducted over the next few days and months.

This campaign appears to target businesses, where the potential returns from a malware infection is likely to be far higher than an attack on consumers. Blocking threats such as this is easiest with an advanced email security solution capable of detecting known and new malware variants.

SpamTitan is an advanced, cost-effective spam filtering for businesses and the leading cloud-based spam filter for managed service providers serving the SMB market. SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines to identify known malware threats, and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox to identify zero-day malware. The solution also supports the blocking of risky file types such as JARs and other executable files.

SpamTitan is also effective at blocking phishing emails without malicious attachments, such as emails with hyperlinks to malicious websites. The solution has multiple threat detection features that can identify and block spam and email impersonation attacks and machine learning technology and multiple threat intelligence feeds that provide protection against zero-minute phishing attacks.

One of the main reasons why the solution is such as popular choice with SMBs and MSPs is the ease of implementation, use, and maintenance. SpamTitan takes the complexity out of email security to allow IT teams to concentrate on other key tasks.

SpamTitan is the most and top-rated email security solution on Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice, is a top three solution in the three email security categories on Expert Insights and has been a leader in the G2 Email Security grids for 10 consecutive quarters.

If you want a spam filtering solution that is effective and easy to use, look no further than SpamTitan. For more information, give the TitanHQ team a call. SpamTitan is also available on a free trial to allow you to evaluate the solution in your own environment before deciding on a purchase.

2020 Phishing Statistics

The threat from phishing is ever present and phishing remains the leading cause of data breaches. All it takes is for one employee to fall for a phishing email for threat actors to gain the foothold they need to conduct more extensive attacks on the organization. But how common is phishing? In this post we provide some key 2020 phishing statistics to raise awareness of the threat and highlight the need for businesses to rethink their current phishing defenses.

2020 Phishing Statistics

Phishing is the easiest way for cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive data and distribute malware. Little skill or effort is required to conduct a successful phishing campaign and steal credentials or infect users with malware. The latest figures show that in 2020, 22% of reported data breaches started with a phishing email and some of the largest data breaches in history have started with a phishing attack, including the 78.8 million record data breach at the health insurer Anthem Inc., and the massive Home Depot data breach in 2014 that saw the email addresses of 53 million individuals stolen.

Phishing can be conducted over the phone, via SMS, social media networks, or instant messaging platforms, but email is most commonly used. Around 96% of all phishing attacks occur via email. Successful phishing attacks result in the loss of data, theft of credentials, or the installation of malware and ransomware. The cost of resolving the incidents and resultant data breaches is substantial. The 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report by the Ponemon Institute/IBM Security revealed the average cost of a data breach is around $150 per compromised record with a total cost of $3.86 million per breach. A single spear phishing attack costs around $1.6 million to resolve.

Employees may believe they are able to spot phishing emails, but data from security awareness training companies show that in many cases, that confidence is misplaced. One study in 2020 revealed that 30% of end users opened phishing emails, 12% of users clicked a malicious link or opened the attachment in the email, and one in 8 users then shared sensitive data on phishing websites. Bear in mind that 78% of users claimed that they know they shouldn’t open email attachments from unknown senders or click links in unsolicited emails.

The 2020 phishing statistics show phishing and spear phishing are still incredibly common and that phishing attacks often succeed. Another study revealed 85% of companies have fallen victim to a phishing attack at least once. Phishing websites are constantly being created and used in these scams. Once a URL is confirmed as malicious and added to a blacklist, it has often already been abandoned by the threat actors. In 2020, around 1.5 million new phishing URLs were identified every month.

2020 has seem a massive increase in ransomware attacks. While manual ransomware attacks often see networks compromised by exploiting vulnerabilities in firewalls, VPNs, RDP, and networking equipment, ransomware is also delivered via email. Since 2016, the number of phishing emails containing ransomware has increased by more than 97%.

How to Detect and Block Phishing Threats

Tackling phishing and preventing successful attacks requires a defense in depth approach. An advanced spam filtering solution is a must to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes. Companies that use Office 365 often rely on the protections provided as standard with their licenses, but studies have shown that the basic level of protection provided by Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is insufficient and average at best and phishing emails are often not detected. A third-party, solution is recommended to layer on top of Office 365 – One that incorporates machine learning to identify never before seen phishing threats. The solution should use email authentication protocols such as DMARC, DKIM, and SPF to identify and block email impersonation attacks and outbound scanning to identify compromised mailboxes.

End user training is also important. In the event of a phishing email arriving in an inbox, employees should be trained to identify it as such and be conditioned into reporting the threat to their IT team to ensure action can be taken to remove all instances of the threat from the email system. Web filters are also important for blocking the web-based component of phishing attacks and preventing employees from visiting phishing URLs. Multi-factor authentication on email accounts is also essential. In the event of credentials being stolen, MFA will help to ensure that the credentials cannot be used to access email accounts.

Beware of COVID-19 Vaccine Phishing Scams!

Cybercriminals are leveraging interest in COVID-19 vaccination programs and are conducting a range of COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams with the goal of obtaining sensitive data such as login credentials or to distribute malware. Several government agencies in the United States have recently issued warnings to businesses and consumers about the scams including the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI.

COVID-19 vaccine scams can take many forms. Campaigns have already been detected that offer early access to COVID-19 vaccines. These scams require a payment to be made as a deposit or a fee to get to the top of the waiting list. Other scams offer the recipients a place on the waiting list if they apply and provide personal information.

COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams are being conducted via email; however, it is likely that fraudsters will advertise on websites, social media channels, or conduct scams over the telephone or via SMS messages and instant messaging platforms. While many of these scams target consumers, there is potential for businesses to be affected if employees access their personal emails at work or if the scam emails are sent to work email addresses.

Scam emails often include links to websites where information is harvested. These links may be hidden in email attachments to hide them from email security solutions. Office documents are also commonly used for delivering malware, via malicious macros.

The emails typically impersonate trusted entities or individuals. COVID-19 vaccine scam emails are likely to impersonate healthcare providers, health insurance companies, vaccine centers, and federal, state, or local public health authorities. During the pandemic there have been many cases of fraudsters impersonating the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Covid-19 related phishing scams.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that two domains have been seized that impersonated vaccine developers. The domains were virtual carbon copies of the legitimate websites of two biotechnology companies involved in vaccine development. The malicious content has been removed, but there are likely to be many more domains registered and used in COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams over the coming weeks.

Warnings have also been issued about the risk of ransomware attacks that take advantage of interest in COVID-19 vaccines and provide the attackers with the foothold in networks they need to conduct their attacks.

There are four important steps that businesses can take to reduce to risk of falling victim to these scams. Since email is extensively used, it is essential to have an effective spam filtering solution in place. Spam filters use blacklists of malicious email and IP addresses to block malicious emails, but since new IP addresses are constantly being used in these scams, it is important to choose a solution that incorporates machine learning. Machine learning helps to identify phishing threats from IP addresses that have not previously been used for malicious purposes and to identify and block zero-day phishing threats. Sandboxing is also important for identifying and blocking zero-day malware threats that have yet to have their signatures incorporated into the virus definition lists of antivirus engines.

While spam filters can identify and block emails that contain malicious links, a web filtering solution is also recommended. Web filters are used to control the websites that employees can access and prevent visits to malicious websites through general web browsing, redirects, and clicks on malicious links in emails. Web filters are constantly updated via threat intelligence feeds to provide protection against recently discovered malicious URLs.

Businesses should not neglect end user training and should regularly provide refresher training to employees to help them identify phishing threats and malicious emails. Phishing simulation exercises are also beneficial for evaluating the effectiveness of security awareness training.

Multi-factor authentication should also be applied as a last line of defense. In the event of credentials being compromised, multi-factor authentication will help to ensure that stolen credentials cannot be used to remotely access accounts.

With these measures implemented, businesses will be well protected from malware, COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams, and other phishing threats.

For further information on spam filtering, web filtering, and protecting your business from malware and phishing attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

Code Injection Technique Used to Obtain Data from Within PDF Files

Recently, a new technique has been identified that is being used by hackers to conduct cross-site scripting attacks from within PDF files.

PDF files have long been used by hackers for phishing attacks and malware delivery. Oftentimes, emails are sent with PDF file attachments that contain hyperlinks to malicious websites. By adding these links into the files rather than the body of the email message, it is harder for security solutions to identify those malicious links.

The latest attack method also uses PDF files, but instead of tricking employees into revealing their login credentials or visiting a malicious website where malware is downloaded, the attackers attempt to obtain sensitive information contained in PDF files.

The technique is similar to those used to by hackers in web application attacks. Cross-site scripting attacks – or XXS attacks for short – typically involve injecting malicious scripts into trusted websites and applications. When a user visits a website or a hacked application, the script executes. The scripts give the attackers access to user information such as cookies, session tokens, and sensitive data saved in browsers, such as passwords. Since the website or application is trusted, the web browser will not recognize the script as malicious. These attacks are possible in websites and web applications where user input is used to generate output without properly validating or encoding it.

The same technique has been shown to also work within PDF files and is used to inject code and capture data. This is achieved by taking advantage of escape characters such as parentheses, which are commonly used to accept user input. If the input is not validated correctly, hackers can inject malicious URLs or JavaScript code into the PDF files. Even injecting a malicious URL can be enough to capture data in the document and exfiltrate it to the attacker-controlled website, as was demonstrated at the Black Hat online conference this month.

What sort of data could be captured in such an attack? A substantial amount of sensitive data is contained in PDF files. PDF files are used extensively for reports, statements, logs, e-tickets, receipts, boarding passes, and much more. PDF files may contain passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account information, and a range of other sensitive data. The presenters at the conference explained they found some of the largest libraries of PDF files worldwide were sensitive to XXS attacks.

In the most part, the vulnerabilities in PDF files that allow XXS attacks are not due to the PDF files themselves, but improper coding. If PDF libraries fail to properly parse code of escape characters and allow unprotected formats, they will be vulnerable. Fortunately, Adobe released an update on December 9 which prevents this type of security vulnerability from being exploited, although companies that create PDF files must update their software and apply the update to be protected.

This is just one way that malicious attachments can be used to obtain sensitive information. As previously mentioned, malicious macros are commonly added to office documents, executable files are added as attachments to emails and masquerade as legitimate files, and malicious code can be injected into a range of different file types.

One of the best ways to protect against attacks via email using malicious attachments is to use an advanced email security solution that can detect not just known malware but also never-before-seen malicious code. This is an area where SpamTitan Email Security excels.

SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines (Bitdefender/ClamAV) to catch known malware threats and sandboxing to identify malicious code that has been added to email attachments. Files are subjected to in-depth analysis in the security of the sandbox and are checked for any malicious actions.

To find out more about protecting your organization from malicious emails and malware, give the TitanHQ team a call.