Reports of Internet users that have been caught out by email scams continue to increase. Whether it is drivers being told to pay speeding fines via a link on an email, or Facebook users being advised that they have violated the terms of their account, innocent victims continue to be ripped off by cybercriminals using email scams.
Business email compromise scams are also reported to have increased. These email scams involve the cybercriminal gaining access to a corporate email account – such as that of the CEO. An email is then sent apparently from the CEO to a member of the finance department requesting a bank transfer to the cybercriminal´s account. All too often the transfer is made without question.
Many email scams attempt to extract log-in credentials by asking the recipient of the email to log into an account to resolve an issue. The email contains a link to a bogus website, where the recipient keys in their username and password. In the case of the Facebook email scam, this gives the cybercriminal access to the recipient´s genuine account and all their social media contacts.
Many individuals use similar username and password combinations for multiple accounts and a cybercriminal could get the individual´s log-in credentials to all their online accounts (personal and work accounts) from just one scam email. Alternatively they could use the log-in credentials to infect the user´s accounts with malware.
To protect against email scams, security experts advise if you are contacted by email and asked to click a link, pay a fine, or open an attachment, assume it is a scam. Try to contact the individual sender or company supposed to have sent the email to confirm its authenticity. Do not use the contact information supplied in the email. Perform an Internet search to independently obtain the sender´s genuine contact details.
Other measures that can be taken to protect yourself from email scams include:
Carefully check the sender’s email. Does it look like it is genuine?
Never open email attachments from someone you do not know
If you receive an email offering you a prize or refund, stay safe and delete the email
Ensure anti-virus software is installed on your computer and is up to date.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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. Book Free Demo
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 messages can come from a range of sources, including:
Social Media 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
To protect their clients from phishing attacks, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) need to provide a comprehensive range of cybersecurity solutions. This post explores the risks from phishing and suggests some easy to implement anti-phishing solutions for MSPs to add to their security offerings.
Phishing is the Number One Cyber Threat Faced by SMBs
Phishing is the number one cyber threat faced by businesses and one of the hardest to defend against. All it takes is for an employee to respond to a single phishing email for a costly data breach to occur. The consequences for the company can be severe.
Email accounts contain a wide range of sensitive information. A phishing attack on a UnityPoint Health hospital in Des Moines, IA, in 2018 saw the protected health information of 1.4 million patients compromised. Also in 2018, a phishing attack on the Boys Town National Research Hospital saw one account compromised that contained the information of more than 105,300 patients. Phishing emails are also used to introduce malware and ransomware. These attacks can be even more damaging and costly to mitigate.
The healthcare industry is extensively targeted by phishers due to the high value of healthcare data, although all industry sectors are at risk. In response to the high number of cyberattacks and the current threat levels, the Trump administration recently launched the “Know the Risk, Raise your Shield” campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the threat from phishing and other attack methods and encourage private businesses to do more to improve their defenses.
Phishing will continue to be a major threat to businesses for the foreseeable future. Attacks will continue because they require relatively little skill to conduct, phishing is highly effective, and attacks can be extremely lucrative.
Easy to Implement Anti-Phishing Solutions for MSPs
There is no single solution that will provide total protection against phishing attacks. Businesses need layered defenses, which provides an opportunity for MSPs. SMBs can struggle to implement effective defenses against phishing on their own and look to MSPs for assistance.
MSPs that can provide a comprehensive anti-phishing package will be able to protect their clients, prevent costly phishing attacks, and generate more business. Effective anti-phishing controls are also an easy sell. Given the cost of mitigating attacks, the package is likely to pay for itself. But what solutions should be included in MSPs anti-phishing offerings?
Listed below are three easy-to-implement anti-phishing solutions for MSPs to offer to their clients, either individually or part of an anti-phishing security package.
Advanced Spam Filtering
Advanced spam filtering solutions are essential. They block phishing emails on the server before they can be delivered to inboxes or employees’ spam folders. An advanced spam filter will block in excess of 99.9% of spam and malicious emails and by itself, is the single most important solution to implement.
SpamTitan is an ideal anti-phishing solution for MSPs. This cloud-based solution supports an unlimited number of domains, all of which can be protected through an easy to use interface. The solution supports per domain administrators, with each able to implement elements of their own email such as searches and the release of messages from the quarantine folder. Reports can be generated per domain and those reports can be scheduled and automatically sent to clients. The solution can be fully rebranded to take an MSP logo and color scheme, and the solution can be hosted in TitanHQ’s private cloud or within your own data center.
Security Awareness Training and Testing
While the majority of malicious emails will be blocked at source, a very small percentage may slip through the net. It is therefore essential for employees to be aware of the risks from phishing and to have the skills to identify potential phishing emails. MSPs can help their clients by providing a staff training program. Many security awareness training companies offer MSP programs to help manage training for clients and a platform to conduct phishing simulation exercises to test security awareness.
DNS-Based Web Filtering
Even with training, some employees may be fooled by phishing emails. This is to be expected, since many phishing campaigns use messages which are highly realistic and virtually indistinguishable from genuine emails. Spam filters will block malicious attachments, but a web filter offers protection from malicious hyperlinks that direct users to phishing websites.
A DNS-based web filter blocks attempts by employees to access phishing websites at the DNS-level, before any content is downloaded. When an employee clicks on a phishing email, they will be directed to a block screen rather than the phishing website. Being DNS-based, web filters are easy to implement and no appliances are required.
WebTitan is an ideal web filtering solution for MSPs. WebTitan can be configured in just a couple of minutes and can protect all clients from web-based phishing attacks, with the solution managed and controlled through a single easy-to-use interface. Reports can be automatically scheduled and sent to clients, and the solution is available in full white-label form ready for MSPs branding. A choice of hosting solutions is also offered, and the solution can connect with deployment, billing and management tools through APIs.
Key Product Features of SpamTitan and WebTitan for MSPs
Easy to manage: There is a low management overhead. SpamTitan and WebTitan are set and forget solution. We handle all the updates and are constantly protecting against new threats globally, in real-time.
Scalability: Regardless of your size you can deploy the solution within minutes. SpamTitan and WebTitan are scalable to thousands of users.
Extensive API: MSPs provided with API integration to provision customers through their own centralized management system; a growth-enabling licensing program, with usage-based pricing and monthly billing.
Hosting Options: SpamTitan and WebTitan can be deployed as a cloud based service hosted in the TitanHQ cloud, as a dedicated private cloud, or in the service provider’s own data center.
Extensive drill down reporting: Integration with Active Directory allows detailed end user reporting. Comprehensive reports can be created on demand or via the scheduled reporting options.
Support: World class support – we are renowned for our focus on supporting customers.
Tried & Tested: TitanHQ solutions are used by over 1500 Managed Service Providers worldwide.
Rebrandable: Rebrand the platform with your corporate logo and corporate colors to reinforce your brand or to resell it as a hosted service.
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:
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
Social Network participation
Access to Global Partner Program Hotline
Free 30-day evaluations
Access to Partner Knowledge Base
Joint White Papers
Partner Events and Conferences
24/7 Priority Technical Support
Tiered Deal Registration
5 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) Technical Support
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
For further information on TitanHQ’s anti-phishing solutions for MSPs, contact the TitanHQ team today and enquire about joining the TitanSHIELD program.
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.
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.
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.
Phishers are constantly changing their tactics to fool employees into clicking on links and disclosing their credentials. During the pandemic, many scammers switched from their tried and tested campaigns using standard business-themed lures such as fake invoices, purchase orders, and shipping notices to COVID-19 themed lures. These lures were topical and took advantage of people craving information about the coronavirus and COVID-19.
Phishers Use Fake Internal Memos About Changes to HR Work from Home Policies
Now a new phishing campaign has emerged that takes advantage of the changed business practices due to COVID-19. Many employees are still working remotely, even though their employers have started reopening their offices. During the pandemic, employees have got used to receiving regular internal company memos and updates.
The new phishing campaign spoofs the company’s HR department and appears to be an automated internal company email, similar to the messages employees are used to receiving. The emails claim to have voicemail attachments, which will also be familiar to many remote workers. The HTML attachments are personalized with the recipient’s name to add credibility to the message.
If the file attachment is opened, the user will be presented with a link they are required to click to receive the company information. In one campaign, this was a SharePoint link, although other cloud services could similarly be used. The link directs the user to SharePoint and provides an update on the company’s remote working policy. After reading the message, the worker is required to click a link that directs them to the actual phishing page where sensitive information is collected.
This campaign is very realistic. The fake remote working policy is well written and plausible and states that if employees wish to continue working from home after the pandemic, they are required to complete an HR form to provide notice in writing. The SharePoint-hosted Excel form where the user is directed is also plausible, but in addition to the request to continue to work from home, the user is required to supply their email credentials.
Phishing Campaign Offers Government Financial Aid to COVID-Affected Workers
A separate phishing campaign has been identified that is also linked to the pandemic, spoofing government agencies and offering pandemic-related financial assistance for individuals prevented from working due to COVID-19 restrictions or have otherwise been adversely affected. This campaign has targeted U.S. citizens, although similar campaigns could be conducted targeting individuals in other countries.
In this campaign, which has the subject message “US government to give citizens emergency financial aid,” the message states that the government begun issuing payments of cash compensation in October 2020. The message states that payment is only provided to USA residents and the maximum payout is $5,800.
A link is supplied in the email that the user is required to click to make a claim, which the email states will be reviewed by a support representative who will send a personal response within 24 hours. The link directs the user to a domain that spoofs the U.S. government. The user is required to enter their name and date of birth, followed by their address, contact information, Social Security number, and driver’s license number on a second form.
Phishing is the Most Common Type of Cybercrime
A recent Clario/Demos survey confirmed that phishing and email attacks are the most common types of cybercrime reported in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
The pandemic has made it easier for phishing attacks to succeed. Phishers are taking advantage of the uncertainty about changes to new ways of working caused by the pandemic, people working home alone without such a high level of support, and vulnerabilities that have been introduced as a result of the change to a fully remote workforce.
Businesses can better protect their employees by using cloud-based email and web filtering solutions. These solutions work in tandem to block the email and web-based component of phishing attacks and malware distribution campaigns. A cloud-based email filtering solution will filter out the majority of malicious messages and will keep inboxes free of threats. A web filter will prevent end users from visiting malicious links, downloading malicious attachments, or visiting malicious websites either through work-related or non-work-related Internet activity when working from the office or remotely.
TitanHQ has developed two easy to use, easy to implement, and highly effective email and web security solutions for protecting office-based and remote workers from the full range of web and email threats, including previously seen phishing emails and zero-minute attacks and new malware threats.
To better protect your business, your employees, and your networks from threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today to find out more. You will also have the opportunity to trial the SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security solutions to see for yourself how easy they are to use and the protection they offer. You are also likely to be pleasantly surprised by how little this level of protection will cost.
The threat of phishing is ever present, especially for the healthcare industry which is often targeted by phishers due to the high value of healthcare data and compromised email accounts. Phishing attacks are having a major impact on healthcare providers in the United States, which are reporting record numbers of successful phishing attacks. The industry is also plagued by ransomware attacks, with many of the attacks having their roots in a successful phishing attack. One that delivers a ransomware downloader such as the Emotet and TrickBot Trojans, for example.
A recent survey conducted by HIMSS on U.S. healthcare cybersecurity professionals has confirmed the extent to which phishing attacks are succeeding. The survey, which was conducted between March and September 2020, revealed phishing to be the leading cause of cybersecurity incidents at healthcare organizations in the past year, being cited as the cause of 57% of incidents.
One interesting fact to emerge from the survey is the lack of appropriate protections against phishing and other email attacks. While it is reassuring that 91% of surveyed organizations have implemented antivirus and antimalware solutions, it is extremely concerning that 9% appear to have not. Only 89% said they had implemented firewalls to prevent cybersecurity incidents.
Then there is multi-factor authentication. Multifactor authentication will do nothing to stop phishing emails from being delivered, but it is highly effective at preventing stolen credentials from being used to remotely access email accounts. Microsoft suggested in a Summer 2020 blog post that multifactor authentication will stop 99.9% of attempts to use stolen credential to access accounts, yet multifactor authentication had only been implemented by 64% of healthcare organizations.
That does represent a considerable improvement from 2015 when the survey was last conducted, when just 37% had implemented MFA, but it shows there is still considerable for improvement, especially in an industry that suffers more than its fair share of phishing attacks.
In the data breach reports that are required for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules, which healthcare organizations in the U.S are required to comply with, it is common for breached organizations to state they are implementing MFA after experiencing a breach, when MFA could have prevented that costly breach from occurring in the first place. The HIMSS survey revealed 75% of organizations augment security after suffering a cyberattack.
These cyberattacks not only take up valuable resources and disrupt busines operations, but they can also have a negative impact on patient care. 28% of respondents said cyberattacks disrupted IT operations, 27% said they disrupted business operations, and 20% said they resulted in monetary losses. 61% of respondents said the attacks had an impact on non-emergency clinical care and 28% said the attacks had disrupted emergency care, with 17% saying they had resulted in patient harm. The latter figure could be underestimated, as many organizations do not have the mechanisms in place to determine whether patient safety has been affected.
The volume of phishing attacks that are succeeding cannot be attributed to a single factor, but what is clear is there needs to be greater investment in cybersecurity to prevent these attacks from succeeding. An effective email security solution should be top of the list – One that can block phishing emails and malware attacks. Training on cybersecurity must be provided to employees for HIPAA compliance, but training should be provided regularly, not just once a year to meet compliance requirements. Implementation of multifactor authentication is also an essential anti-phishing measure.
One area of phishing protection that is often overlooked is a web filter. A web filter blocks the web-based component of phishing attacks, preventing employees from accessing webpages hosting phishing forms. With the sophisticated nature of today’s phishing attacks, and the realistic fake login pages used to capture credentials, this anti-phishing measure is also important.
Many hospitals and physician practices have limited budgets for cybersecurity, so it is important to not only implement effective anti-phishing and anti-malware solutions, but to get effective solutions at a reasonable price. That is an area where TitanHQ excels.
TitanHQ can provide cost-effective cloud-based anti-phishing and anti-malware solutions to protect against the email- and web-based components of cyberattacks and both of these solutions are provided at a very reasonable cost, with flexible payment options.
Further, these solutions have been designed to be easy to use and require no technical skill to set up and maintain. The ease of use, effectiveness, and low price are part of the reason why the solutions are ranked so highly by users, achieving the best rankings on Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice.
If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, prevent costly cyberattacks and data breaches, and the potential regulatory fines that can follow, give the TitanHQ team today and inquire about SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fast approaching and this year even more shoppers will be heading online to secure their Christmas bargains due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In many countries, such as the UK, lockdowns are in place that have forced retailers to close the doors of their physical shops, meaning Black Friday deals will only be available online. 2020 is likely to see previous records smashed with even more shoppers opting to purchase online due to many shops being closed and to reduce the risk of infection.
Surge in Phishing Attacks in the Run Up to Black Friday
The fact that many consumers have been forced to shop online due to COVID-19 has not been missed by cybercriminals, who have started their holiday season scams early this year. Every year sees a sharp rise in phishing emails and online scams that take advantage of the increase in sales in the run up to Christmas, but this year the data show cybercriminals have stepped up their efforts to spread malware, steal sensitive data, and fool the unwary into making fraudulent purchases.
Recent figures released by Check Point show there has been a 13-fold increase in phishing emails in the past 6 weeks with one in every 826 emails now a phishing attempt. To put that figure into perspective, 1 in 11,000 emails in October 2020 were phishing emails. Check Point reports 80% of the phishing emails were related to online sales, discounts, and special offers, and as Black Friday and Cyber Monday draws ever closer, the emails are likely to increase further.
Local lockdowns have piled pressure on smaller retailers, who are at risk of losing even more busines to the large retailers such as Amazon. In order to get their much-needed share of sales in the run up to Christmas, many have started conducting marketing campaigns via email to showcase their special offers and discounts. Those messages are likely to make it easier for cybercriminals to operate and harder for individuals to distinguish the genuine special offers from the fraudulent messages.
Cybercriminals have also started using a range of different techniques to make it harder for individuals to identify phishing and scam messages. Some campaigns involved the use of CAPTCHAs to fool both security solutions and end users, and the use of legitimate cloud services such as Google Drive and Dropbox for phishing and malware distribution is also rife.
With the scams even harder to spot and the volume of phishing and other scam emails up considerably, it is even more important for businesses to ensure their security measures are up to scratch and scam websites and phishing emails are identified and blocked.
How to Improve your Defenses Against Black Friday Phishing Scams and Other Threats
This is an area where TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ has developed two security solutions that work seamlessly together to provide protection from phishing and malware attacks via email and the Internet, not just protecting against previously seen threats, but also zero-day malware and phishing threats.
The SpamTitan email security and WebTitan web security solutions use a layered approach to threat detection, each incorporating multiple layers of protection to ensure that threats are identified and blocked. Both solutions leverage threat intelligence using a crowd sourced approach, to provide protection against emerging and even zero-minute threats.
SpamTitan uses smart email filtering and scanning, incorporating machine learning and behavioral analysis techniques to detect and isolate suspicious emails, dual antivirus engines, sandboxing to trick cybercriminals into thinking they have reached their target, and SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to detect and block email impersonation attacks.
WebTitan is an AI-powered cloud-based DNS web filtering solution that provides protection from online threats such as malware and ransomware and the web-based component of phishing attacks. The solution uses automation and advanced analytics to search through billions of URLs/IPs and phishing sites that could lead to a malware or ransomware infection or the compromising of employee credentials. The solution is an effective cybersecurity measure for protecting against web-based threats for office-based employees and remote workers alike.
If you want to protect your business this holiday season and beyond and improve your defenses against email and web-based threats, give the TitanHQ team a call. Product demonstrations can be arranged, advice offered on the best deployments, and if the solutions are not suitable for your business, we will tell you so. You can also trial both solutions free of charge to evaluate their performance in your own environment before making a decision on a purchase.
A phishing campaign has been identified that spoofs the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and advises recipients that they are facing imminent legal action to recover outstanding tax.
The emails are convincing and well written and are final demands for payment to prevent legal action to recover the outstanding funds. The emails warn the recipient that the IRS has made several attempts to make contact by telephone after no response was received to a written demand for payment that the emails claim was mailed 18 months previously in May 2019. The failure to respond has led to the IRS taking legal action, with charges due to be filed imminently to recover the outstanding tax.
In contrast to many scams that seek login credentials or attempt to get the user to open file attachments to trigger a malware download, this scam uses social engineering techniques to scare the recipient into making contact via email to resolve the fictitious issue. The purpose of the scam is to get the recipient to make a fraudulent payment or disclose their financial account information.
The lack of any hyperlinks or email attachments makes it more likely that the email will be delivered to inboxes and will not be identified as malicious by security solutions. Fortunately, SpamTitan users will be protected from this scam as multiple checks are performed which identify the scam for what it is.
The message body contains all the classic hallmarks of a phishing scam:
There is urgency to get prompt action taken – Immediate resolution of the issue is necessary
There is a threat of negative consequences if no action is taken – Legal action to recover funds
The request is plausible, but an atypical request is made – to only make contact via email
The emails include a case file number, detail the outstanding amount – $1450.61 in this case – and include a docket number and warrant ID for the impending legal action. The recipient is told that legal action will proceed in 4 days if payment is not made, and that the opportunity for voluntary action to rectify the issue is coming to an end.
In addition to the threat of legal action and a court case, the recipient is informed that credit reference bureaus may also be notified about the late/missed payment, which would negatively impact their credit score.
The emails have the subject line “Re: Re: Case ID#ON/7722 / WARRANT FOR YOUR ARREST,” indicating this is not the first time that the message has been sent, helping to emphasize that this is a final warning.
Steps have been taken to make the email appear official, with the display text of the sender address indicating the message has been sent from support @ irs.gov – the legitimate domain used by the IRS. However, the reply to email address supplied is legal.cc @ outlook.com – Which is clearly not an official IRS domain and the message headers show that the email was not sent from the domain stated.
The email does include a postal address; however, no telephone number is supplied. Full contact information would be provided in official IRS communications, although the IRS would not initiate contact with individuals via email.
The phishing emails highlight the importance of stopping to think about what is being requested and to take time to check emails carefully before responding, no matter how pressing the threat may be. Any request for payment should be verified by phone, with contact information obtained from a trusted source, never the contact details supplied in the email. A call to the IRS would quickly reveal this to be a scam.
The reason these scams succeed is because they rely on individuals responding quickly without thinking. Fortunately, an effective spam filter will detect these scam emails and will quarantine or reject the messages.
Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the uncertainty over the U.S. presidential election result over the past few days and are using exploiting fear about voting fraud to infect users with malware. With so many postal votes being sent this year, which take much longer to count than in-person votes, there was always going to be a delay in determining the outcome of the presidential election. In such a close election a winner may not be declared for some time, certainly several days after election day, and possibly weeks given the likelihood of several legal challenges and recounts.
Spam campaigns exploiting the situation started to be sent soon after the polls had closed distributing the QBot banking Trojan. When a device is infected with the QBot Trojan, the user’s email account is hijacked and used to send copies of the malware to the user’s contacts. To increase the probability of emails being opened by the recipients, previous email threads are hijacked, and a response is sent with a malicious attachment containing a macro that downloads the malware.
In this campaign, a search is performed for emails containing the word “election” and replies are sent to the senders of those messages. A zip file is attached to the emails named “ElectionInterference,” with the zip file containing a malicious spreadsheet.
The messages encourage the recipient to open the attached spreadsheet to discover important information about interference in the election. With President Trump suggesting in press conferences that there is substantial evidence of election fraud, these messages may seem very credible and enticing to recipients.
The spreadsheet mimics a secure DocuSign file and the user is instructed to enable content to decrypt the file and view the contents; however, doing so will allow macros to run which will silently download the Qbot Trojan.
The QBot Trojan was first identified in 2008; however, it has received many updates over the years to add new functions and mechanisms to evade security solutions. The ability to hijack Outlook email threads is a fairly new feature. The same tactic is also used by the Emotet Trojan to increase the probability of messages and their malicious attachments being opened. The tactic has proven very effective for the operators of Emotet.
In addition to targeting customers of major financial institutions, the QBot Trojan steals sensitive information such as credit card information and passwords. Like Emotet and the TrickBot Trojan, QBot is also a malware dropper. The operators of QBot team up with other threat groups and deliver their malicious payloads, with ransomware often delivered to QBot victims.
Threat actors are quick to seize any opportunity to infect devices with malware, as was seen in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when threat groups switched their spamming infrastructure to send COVID-19 themed lures. Election-themed emails are likely to continue for some time with legal challenges to the result expected. Holiday season is also fast approaching, and like previous years, threat actors will send Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday period themed phishing lures to steal credentials and distribute malware.
Businesses can protect against these phishing and malspam campaigns using a combination of a spam filter, web filter, antivirus software, and end user training.