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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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.