Email Scams

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.

Employees Frequently Respond to Phishing Emails and Business Phishing Protections are Coming Up Short

Recent research has highlighted just how important it is for businesses to implement a range of defenses to ensure phishing emails are not delivered to inboxes and how business phishing protections are failing.

The studies were conducted to determine how likely employees are to click on phishing emails that arrive in their inboxes. Alarmingly, one study indicated almost three quarters of employees were fooled by a phishing test and provided their credentials to the attacker. In this case, the attacker was the consultancy firm Coalfire.

71% of the 525 businesses that were tested had at least one employee disclose login credentials in the phishing test, compared to 63% last year. At 20% of businesses, more than half of the employees who were tested fell for the phishing scam, compared to 10% last year.

A second study conducted by GetApp revealed a quarter of 714 surveyed businesses said they had at least one employee who responded to a phishing attack and disclosed their login credentials and 43% of businesses had employees that had clicked on phishing emails. The study also revealed only 27% of businesses provide security awareness training to employees, only 30% conduct phishing simulations, and 36% do not have multi-factor authentication in place on email.

The Importance of Layered Phishing Defenses

To mount an effective defense against phishing and other cyberattacks, a defense in depth approach to security is required.

With layered defenses, businesses are not replying on a single solution to block phishing attacks. Multiple defenses are put in place with the layers overlapping. If one measure proves to be ineffective at blocking a phishing email, others are in place to provide protection.

One area where many businesses fail is relying on Office 365 anti-phishing controls. A study by Avanan showed Office 365 phishing defenses to be effective at blocking most spam emails, but 25% of phishing emails were delivered to inboxes.

What is required is an advanced anti-spam and anti-phishing platform that can be layered on top of Office 365 to ensure that these phishing emails are blocked. SpamTitan can be seamlessly implemented in Office 365 environments and provides superior protection against phishing and malware attacks. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails, 100% of known malware, and incorporates a host of features to identify zero-day threats.

As good as SpamTitan is at blocking email threats, other layers should be implemented to block phishing attacks. If a phishing email arrives in an inbox, a web filter will provide protection by blocking attempts by employees to visit phishing websites and sites hosting malware. WebTitan is a powerful DNS filtering solution that protects against the web-based element of phishing attacks. WebTitan adds an extra layer to phishing defenses and will block attempts by employees to visit malicious sites.

If an attacker succeeds in obtaining the credentials of an employee, it is important that those credentials cannot be used to gain access to the account. That protection is provided by multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication is not infallible, but it will prevent stolen credentials from being used to access accounts in the majority of cases.

Security awareness training is also vital. Employees are the last line of defense and that defensive line will be tested. If employees are not trained how to identify phishing emails and other email security threats, they cannot be expected to recognize threats when they land in inboxes. An annual training session is no longer enough, considering how many phishing attacks are conducted on businesses and how sophisticated the attacks are becoming.

Security awareness training should consist of an annual training session with regular refresher training sessions throughout the year. Employees should be kept up to date on the latest tactics being used by cybercriminals to help them identify new scam emails that may bypass email security defenses. Phishing simulation exercises are also important. If these simulations are not conducted, businesses will have no idea how effective their training sessions have been, and which employees have not taken the training on board.

8 Essential Email Security Best Practices for SMBs

The aim of this post is to provide you with some easy to adopt email security best practices that will greatly improve your organization’s security posture.

Email is the Most Common Attack Vector!

It is a certainty that business email systems will be attacked so email security measures must be implemented. The best form of email security is to do away with email altogether, but since businesses rely on email to communicate with customers, partners, and suppliers, that simply isn’t an option.

Email not only makes it easy to communicate with the people you need to for your business to operate, it also allows cybercriminals to easily communicate with your employees and conduct phishing attacks, spread malware and, if a corporate email account is compromised, communicate with your customers, partners and suppliers.

Email security is therefore essential, but there is no single solution that will protect the email channel. A spam filtering solution will stop the majority of spam and malicious email from reaching inboxes, but it will not block 100% of unwanted emails, no matter what solution you implement. The key to robust email security is layered defenses. If one defensive measure fails, others are in place that will provide protection.

You need a combination of technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to secure your email. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be adopted to secure the email channel but there are email security best practices that you can adopt that will improve your security posture and make it much harder for cybercriminals to succeed.

With this in mind, we have outlined some of the most important email security best practices for your business and your employees to adopt.

Email Security Best Practices to Implement Immediately

Cybercriminals will attempt to send malware and ransomware via email, and phishing tactics will be used to steal sensitive information such as login credentials, so it is important to be prepared. Listed below are 8 email security best practices that will help you keep your email system secure. If you have not yet implemented any of these best practices, or have only done so partially, now is the time to make some changes.

Develop a Cybersecurity Plan for Your Business

We have included this as the first best practice because it is so important. It is essential for you to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for your entire organization as not all threats arrive via email. Attacks come from all angles and improving email security is only one of the steps you need to take to improve your overall cybersecurity posture.

There are many resources available to help you develop a cybersecurity plan that addresses all cyber risks. The Federal Communications Commission has developed a Cyberplanner to help with the creation of a custom cybersecurity plan and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has recently issued a Cyber Essentials Guide for Small Businesses and Governments. Take advantage of these and other resources to develop an effective cybersecurity plan.

Implement an Advanced Spam Filtering Solution

A spam filter serves as a semi-permeable membrane that prevents email threats from being delivered to inboxes and lets genuine emails pass through unimpeded. This is the single most important security measure to implement to protect against email threats and productivity-draining spam.

If you use Office 365 you will already have some protection, as Office 365 includes a spam filter and anti-virus software, but it falls short on phishing protection and will not block zero-day malware threats. You need layered defenses to secure email which means a third-party spam filter should be used on top of Office 365. Research from Avanan showed 25% of phishing emails bypass Office 365 defenses.

There are many spam filtering services for SMBs, but for all round protection against known and zero-day threats, ease of implementation, ease of use, and price, SpamTitan is the best choice for SMBs.

Ensure Your Anti-Virus Solution Scans Incoming Emails

You will no doubt have anti-virus software in place, but does it scan incoming emails? Email is one of the main ways that malware is delivered, so anti-virus software for email is a must. This does not necessarily mean you need a different antivirus solution. Your existing solution may have that functionality. Your spam filter is also likely to include AV protection. For example, SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines for greater protection and a sandbox where email attachments are analyzed for malicious actions. The sandbox his used to detect and block zero-day malware – New, never-before seen malware variants that have yet to have their signatures incorporated into AV engines.

Create and Enforce Password Policies

Another obvious email security best practice is to create a password policy that requires strong passwords to be set. There is no point creating a password policy if it is not enforced. Make sure you implement a control measure to prevent weak passwords from being set. Weak passwords (password, 123456, or dictionary words for example) are easy to remember but also easy to guess. Consider that cybercriminals are not sitting at a computer guessing passwords one at a time. Automation tools are used that make thousands of password guesses a minute. It doesn’t take long to guess a weak password! You should also make sure rate limiting is applied to block an IP from logging in after a set number of failed login attempts.

It is a good best practice to require a password of at least 8 characters to be set, with a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols and to block the use of dictionary words. Consider allowing long passphrases to be used as these are easier for employees to remember. Check National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) advice on secure password practices if you are unsure about creating a password policy.

Implement DMARC to Stop Email Impersonation Attacks and Domain Abuse

DMARC, or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance to give it its full name, is an email protocol that uses Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to determine whether an email is authentic.

By creating a DMARC record you are preventing unauthorized individuals from sending messages from your domain. DMARC also lets you know who is sending messages from your domain, and it lets you set a policy to determine what happens to messages that are not authenticated, I.e. quarantine them or reject them. Some email security solutions, such as SpamTitan, incorporate DMARC authentication.

Not only DMARC help you block email impersonation attacks, it also prevents abuse of your domain. Your DMARC record tells receiving email servers not to accept messages sent from authenticated users, thus helping protect your brand.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is yet another layer you can add to your anti-phishing defenses. Multi-factor authentication, as the name suggests, means more than one method is used to authenticate a user. The first factor is usually a password. A second factor is also required, which is something a person knows or possesses. This could be a mobile phone, to which a one-time PIN code is sent, or a token on a trusted device.

This safeguard is vital. If a password is obtained, in a phishing attack for example, the password alone will not grant access to the email account without an additional factor being provided. A combination of a password, token, and one-time PIN is a good combination.

Train Your Employees and Train Them Again

No matter how tech savvy your employees appear to be, assume they known nothing about cybersecurity. They will certainly not routinely stick to email security best practices unless you train them to do so and then hammer the message home.

Before letting any employee have access to email, you should provide security awareness training. Your training should cover email security best practices such as never opening email attachments from unknown senders, never enabling content in documents unless the document has been verified as legitimate, and never to click hyperlinks in emails or send highly sensitive information such as passwords via email.

You must also train your employees how to recognize phishing emails and other malicious messages and tell them what to do when suspicious emails are received. Anyone with access to email or a computer must be provided with security awareness training, from the CEO down.

One training session is not enough. Even an annual training session is no longer sufficient. You should be providing regular training, be sending cybersecurity newsletters warning about the latest threats, and using other tools to help create a security culture in your organization.

Conduct Phishing Awareness Simulation Exercises

You have provided training, but how do you know if it has been effective? The only way to tell is to conduct tests and that is easiest with phishing simulation exercises. These are dummy phishing emails that are sent to employees when they are not expecting them to see how they respond. You maybe surprised at how many employees respond and disclose sensitive information, open attachments, or click links in the emails.

The aim of these emails is to identify people that have not taken their training on board. The idea is not to punish those employees, but to tell you who needs further training. There are several companies that can assist you with these exercises. Some even offer free phishing simulation emails for SMBs.

TitanHQ is Here to Help!

TitanHQ has developed SpamTitan to be easy for SMBs to implement, use, and maintain. It requires no hardware, no software, and all filtering takes place in the cloud. Not only does SpamTitan offer excellent protection against the full range of email-based threats, it is also one of the lowest cost solutions for SMBs to implement.

Give the TitanHQ team a call today for more information on SpamTitan and to find out about how you can also protect your business from web-based threats and meet your compliance requirements for email.

Fake Court Subpoenas Used as Phishing Lure for Malware Distribution

Phishers are constantly changing tactics and coming up with new ways to fool people into handing over their credentials or installing malware. New campaigns are being launched on a daily basis, with tried and tested lures such as fake package delivery notices, fake invoices and purchase orders, and collaboration requests all very common.

In a departure from these common phishing lures, one threat group has opted for a rarely seen lure, but one that has potential to be very effective: Fake court subpoenas. The emails use fear and urgency and are designed to get users to panic and click quickly.

This campaign has been running for a few weeks and is targeting users in the United Kingdom, although this scam could easily be adapted and used in attacks on users in other countries.

Many phishing scams have the goal of stealing credentials to allow email accounts or Office 365 accounts to be accessed. In this case, the aim of the attack is to spread information stealing malware called Predator the Thief.

The phishing emails appear to have been sent by the Ministry of Justice in the UK. The sender field has Ministry of Justice as the display name and the emails have the Ministry of Justice crest, although the actual email address suggests the email has come from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The emails warn the user that they have been subpoenaed. They are supplied with a case number along with a date when they have been ordered to attend court.

The emails include a hyperlink which the user must click to find out details of the charge and the documents they will need to bring with them to court. Urgency is added by warning the recipient they only have 14 days to respond to provide notice, and that the court case will proceed without them if they do not respond.

The URL in the email is seemingly benign, as it links to Google Docs – a trusted website. Clicking the link will see the user first directed to Google Docs, then redirected to OneDrive. When the user arrives on the OneDrive site, a document is downloaded. That document contains a malicious macro that launches a PowerShell command that downloads Predator the Thief malware.

Predator the Thief is an information stealer that can take screenshots and steals email and FTP credentials, along with cryptocurrency wallets and browser information. In contrast to many browser information stealers, this malware variant doesn’t just target the main browsers, but a host of less popular browsers. Once information has been stolen, the malware cleans up and exits, which makes it harder for the infection to be detected.

Phishing scams such as this highlight the need for layered security. Naturally, an advanced anti-spam solution such as SpamTitan should be implemented to block these threats and ensure and ensure messages are not delivered to end users’ inboxes.  SpamTitan also includes DMARC email authentication to block mail impersonation attempts and a sandbox where email attachments are analyzed for malicious actions.

SpamTItan blocks in excess of 99.9% of all malicious emails, but it is not possible to block 100% of threats no matter what email security solution you use. This is where another layer is required. WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that blocks threats such as this at the point where a DNS lookup is performed. This allows malicious websites to be blocked before any content is downloaded. WebTitan can also be configured to block downloads of certain file types.

With these two solutions in place, your business will be well protected against phishing emails and web-based malware downloads.

New Stripe Phishing Campaign Masks URL to Get Credentials and Bank Account information

A new Stripe phishing campaign has been detected that uses fake warnings advising users about an invalid account to lure people into divulging their credentials and bank account information.

Stripe is an online payment processor used by many online firms on their e-commerce websites to accept payments from their customers. As such, the company is perfect for spoofing as many people will be aware that the company processes payments and will think it reasonable that they need to provide credentials and bank account information to ensure payments are processed.

The scam starts with a phishing email supposedly from the Stripe Support department. The email advises the customer that the information associated with their account is currently invalid. The message is sent as a courtesy notice warning the user that their account will be placed on hold until the matter is corrected. The user is asked to review their details to correct the issue. A button is included in the email for users to click to do this.

The emails contain spelling mistakes and questionable grammar, so are likely to be identified as suspect by vigilant individuals. Security awareness training often teaches employees to hover their mouse arrow over a hyperlink to find out the true URL, but in this campaign it will not work. The attackers have added a title to the HTML tag of the embedded hyperlink so when the mouse arrow is hovered over the “Review your Details” button, that text will be displayed instead of the URL.

If that button is clicked, the user will be directed to a seemingly legitimate Stripe login page. The login box is a clone of the real login page and a series of boxes will be displayed, each requiring different information to be entered, including bank account and contact information.

When the user is required to enter their password, regardless of what is typed, the user will be advised that they have entered an incorrect password and will be asked to enter the password again. The user is then directed to the legitimate Stripe login page to make it appear they have been on the correct Stripe website all along.

Similar tactics are used in countless other phishing campaigns targeting other well-known companies. The presence of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in messages should tip off end users that the email is a phishing attempt, but all too often end users fail to notice these errors and click and divulge sensitive information.

One issue is a lack of cybersecurity training in the workplace. If employees are not trained how to identify phishing emails, it is inevitable that some will end up falling for these scams and will divulge their credentials. Those credentials can be used to gain access to bank accounts or email accounts, with the latter often used to conduct further phishing attacks on the organization. One email account breach can easily lead to dozens of breached accounts.

For example, a phishing attack on a U.S. healthcare provider started with a single phishing email and led to 73 email accounts being compromised. As for cybersecurity awareness training, this is often nonexistent. One recent study on 2,000 employees in the United Kingdom revealed three quarters had received no workplace cybersecurity training whatsoever.

Protected by Microsoft Office 365 Anti-Phishing Controls? Are You Sure?

One in every 99 emails is a phishing email, so it is important to ensure your defenses are capable of blocking those messages. Many businesses mistakenly believe they are protected against these emails by Microsoft’s Office 365 anti-phishing controls. While those measures do block spam email and some phishing messages, one recent study by Avanan has shown 25% of phishing attacks sneak past Office 365 defenses and are delivered to inboxes. For an average firm that means several phishing emails will reach end users’ inboxes every day. To ensure your business is protected against phishing attacks, additional anti-phishing controls are required on top of Office 365.

Businesses can protect their Office 365 accounts against phishing by layering SpamTitan on top of Office 365. SpamTitan is an advanced anti-phishing and anti-malware solution that provides superior protection against phishing, malware, spear phishing, and zero-day attacks.

Heuristics rules are used to analyze message headers and these rules are constantly updated to include the latest threats. Bayesian analysis and heuristics are used to check message content, and along with machine learning techniques, new threats are blocked and prevented from reaching inboxes. Sandboxing is also used to assess email attachments for malicious code used to install malware in addition to dual-AV engines that scan for known malware.

These advanced measures ensure that Office 365 inboxes are kept free from malware and phishing emails. These advanced capabilities along with the ease of implementation and use and industry-leading customer support are why SpamTitan is the leading provider of anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions for SMBs and managed service providers that serve the SMB market.

For further information on SpamTitan, to book a product demonstration or set up a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Beware of Thomas Cook Phishing Scams

The collapse of the package holiday operator Thomas Cook left thousands of holidaymakers stranded, hundreds of thousands of holiday bookings have been cancelled, and more than 9,000 staff have lost their jobs. The company and other UK firms in its group have been forced into compulsory liquidation and cybercriminals have been quick to take advantage. Dozens of Thomas Cook-related domains were registered following the collapse of the firm and several Thomas Cook phishing scams have been detected.

Customer that have incurred out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the collapse of the company and anyone who has paid for a package holiday that has been cancelled may be entitled to a refund or compensation. That has given scammers the perfect opportunity to launch phishing attacks seeking bank account an credit card information.

Customers who have booked Thomas Cook holidays are protected under the ATOL scheme and refunds are being processed by the Civil Aviation Authority, which has set up a subdomain on its website – thomascook.caa.co.uk – where customers can submit claims for refunds. More than 360,000 holidays have been booked for more than 800,000 holidaymakers, who are entitled to refunds. More than 60,000 customers submitted refund forms on the first day that the website was set up and claims for out-of-pocket expenses are being processed by travel insurance firms. The CAA has stated that it will take 60 days for the refunds to be issued.

Anyone who has yet to submit their claim should exercise caution as there are multiple phishing scams being conducted offering money back on canceled holidays, reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, compensation, and fake updates on the status of refund claims. Any email received in relation to Thomas Cook should be treated as a potential scam.

Scams may be conducted with the aim of spreading malware or ransomware. Malicious code is contained in file attachments that trigger a malware download when the attachment is opened. However, far more common in situations when people are demanding refunds is to send phishing emails containing hyperlinks to malicious websites. Those websites require sensitive information such as credit card information and bank account details to be entered. Scammers are well aware that in order for refunds to be processed, bank account information would be required and phishing forms have been set up on fake Thomas Cook domains to do just that.

While there may be some giveaways that emails are not genuine – spelling mistakes and grammatical errors – some Thomas Cook phishing scams are virtually impossible to distinguish from genuine communications. Banks have also been notifying customers by email, which has presented scammers with even more opportunities to hoodwink Thomas Cook customers. There have also been reports of former employees being targeted by scammers offering compensation.

The golden rule to avoid becoming a victim of Thomas Cook phishing scams is never to respond to a request in an unsolicited email. Attachments should not be opened, hyperlinks in emails should not be followed, and contact information included in the message body should not be used. Only use official channels such as the CAA website, and contact banks and travel insurance firms directly using verified contact information.

Free Copy of Edward Snowden’s Book Used as Lure in New Emotet Malspam Campaign

The Emotet botnet sprung back to life following a 4-month period of dormancy over the summer. The first campaigns, which involved hundreds of thousands of messages, used lures such as fake invoices, payment remittance advice notices, and statements to lure recipients into opening a malicious Word document, enabling content, and inadvertently launching a string of actions that result in the downloading of Emotet: One of the most dangerous malware variants currently being distributed via email.

It has only been a few days since those campaigns were detected, but now a new campaign has been detected. The latest malspam campaign also delivers Emotet but this time the lure is a free copy of Edward Snowden’s book – Permanent Record. The book is an account of Edward Snowden’s life that led up to his whistleblowing actions in 2013.

The campaign includes English, Italian, Spanish, and German language versions which claim to offer a free scanned copy of the former CIA staffer’s book. The English language version of the book is being distributed via email, so the attackers claim, because it is “Time to organize collective readings of Snowden book everywhere.” The email tells the recipient to “Go buy the book now, read it, share it, discuss it,” but conveniently a scanned copy is attached called Scan.doc.

As with the previous campaign, opening the attachment will display a Microsoft Product Notice – with appropriate logo – informing the user that Word has not been activated. The user is required to enable content to continue using Word and view the content of the document. At this point, all it takes is a single click to silently install Emotet. Once installed, Emotet will download other malware variants, including the TrickBot Trojan. Emotet is also being used to distribute ransomware payloads.

While the lures in the Emotet campaigns are regularly changed, they have all used malicious scripts in Word documents which download Emotet. The emails may be sent from unknown individuals or email addresses may be spoofed to make the emails appear to have come from a contact or work colleague.

The lures are convincing and are likely to fool may end users into opening the attachments and enabling content. For businesses, that can lead to a costly malware infection, theft of credentials, fraudulent bank transfers, and ransomware attacks.

Businesses can reduce risk by ensuring employees are told never to open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unknown senders, but also to verify the authenticity of any email attachment by phone before taking any action. It is also important to condition employees never to enable content in any document sent via email.

While end user security awareness training is essential, advanced anti-malware solutions are also required to prevent those messages from ever reaching inboxes.

SpamTitan includes DMARC authentication to block email impersonation phishing attacks and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox where suspicious email attachments can be safely executed and studied for malicious actions.

Along with a wide range of other content checks, including Bayesian analysis and greylisting, emails such as these can be blocked and prevented from being delivered to end users.

Businesses Beware! The Emotet Botnet is Back With a Vengeance

After a quiet summer, the Emotet botnet is back in action. The threat actors behind Emotet are sending hundreds of thousands of malicious spam emails spreading the Emotet Trojan via malicious Word documents.

Emotet first appeared in 2014 and was initially a banking Trojan used to obtain credentials to online bank accounts. The stolen credentials are used to make fraudulent wire transfers and empty business accounts. Over the years the Trojan has evolved considerably, with new modules being added to give the malware a host of new features. Emotet is also polymorphic, which means it can change itself each time it is downloaded to avoid being detected by signature-based anti-malware solutions. Up until the start of 2019, more than 750 variants of Emotet had been detected.

The latest iteration of Emotet is capable of stealing banking credentials and other types of information. It is also capable of downloading other malware variants, which has led to security researchers naming it ‘triple-threat malware,’ as it has been used recently to download the TrickBot Trojan and Ryuk ransomware. These three malware threats along with the scale of the operation make Emotet one of the most dangerous threats faced by businesses. It is arguably the costliest and most destructive botnet ever seen.

Last summer, Emotet activity was so high and the threat so severe that the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert to all businesses in July 2018 warning them of the threat. That warning was mirrored by the UK National Cyber Security Center which published its own warning about the malware in September 2018. Activity remained high well into 2019, but suddenly stopped at the start of June when command and control server activity fell to next to nothing.

The hiatus in activity was only brief. Researchers at Cofense Labs discovered its command and control servers had been activated again in late August and a massive spamming campaign commenced on September 16 using bots in Germany. The campaign was initially focused on businesses in the United States, Germany, and United Kingdom but the campaign has now spread to Austria, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland.

After being downloaded, Emotet spreads laterally and infects as many devices as possible on the network. Email accounts on infected machines are hijacked and used to send further spam emails to all contacts in the account. Finally the malware downloader module is used to a secondary and often tertiary malware variant.

The latest campaign uses Word documents containing malicious macros, which launch PowerShell scripts that fetch the Emotet Trojan from a variety of different compromised websites, many of which are running the WordPress CMS.

The campaign uses a variety of lures including invoices, payment remittance advice, and statements, the details of which are contained in Word documents that require content to be enabled to view the document content.

Upon opening the document, the user is requested to accept the Office 365 license agreement. Failure to enable content, so the document claims, will result in Microsoft Word features being disabled.

This campaign includes personalized subject lines including the recipients name to increase the likelihood of a user taking the requested action. Genuine email thread are also hijacked to make it appear that the user has already been communicating with the sender of the email. Around a quarter of attacks use hijacked email threads. Data from Cofense indicates emails are being sent from 3,362 hijacked email accounts from 1,875 domains.

It is currently unclear whether Ryuk ransomware is being distributed in this campaign. Several researchers have confirmed that TrickBot is being downloaded as a secondary payload.

The key to blocking attacks with polymorphic malware is to implement layered defenses, including an advanced spam filtering solution, anti-virus software, and web filter. It is also important to ensure that the staff is made aware of the threat of attack and the types of email that are being used to spread the Trojan.

How to Block Google Calendar Phishing Scams

Google has acknowledged a vulnerability in the Google Calendar app is being exploited by cybercriminals to inject fake and malicious items into Google Calendar.

Several Google Calendar phishing campaigns were detected over the summer of 2019 which were exploiting this flaw. The campaigns saw Google Calendar spam sent to large numbers of users, including invites to events and other requests and special offers that popped up on unsuspecting users’ screens.

These notifications contained links to webpages where users could find out more information about the events and special offers. If events were accepted, they would be inserted into users’ calendars and would trigger automatic notifications. The offers and invites would keep on appearing until the users’ clicked the link. Those links directed users to phishing pages where credentials were harvested.

Some of the scams required credit card information to be entered, others required the user to login using their Office 365 credentials. Links could also direct users to webpages where drive-by malware downloads take place.

Most people are aware of the threat of phishing emails, malicious text messages, and social media posts that harvest sensitive information, but attacks on calendar services are relatively unheard of. Consequently, many users will fail to recognize these notifications and calendar items as malicious, especially when they appear in a trusted app such as Google Calendar.

Unfortunately, these attacks are possible because in the default setting, anyone can send a calendar event to a user. That event will be inserted into the user’s calendar and will automatically trigger notifications, as is the case with legitimate events.

In addition to events, messages can include special offers, notifications of cash prizes, alerts about money transfers, and all manner of other messages to entice the user to click a malicious link and disclose sensitive information or download malware.

Google Calendar is not the only calendar service that is prone to these attacks. Apple users have also been targeted, as have users of other calendar apps.

How to Block Google Calendar Phishing Attacks

Recently, a Google employee acknowledged the increase in ‘calendar spam’ and confirmed action was being taken by Google to address the problem.

In the meantime, users can prevent these spam and phishing messages from appearing by making a change to the app settings. Users should navigate to Event Settings > Automatically Add Invitations, and select the option “No, only show invitations to which I’ve responded” and uncheck the “show declined events” option in View Options.

Businesses should also consider including Google Calendar phishing scams in their security awareness training programs to ensure employees are aware that phishing attacks are not limited to email, text message, telephone calls, and social media posts.

Business Email Compromise Scams Now the Leading Cause of Losses to Cybercrime

Business email compromise scams are now the leading cause of cyberattack-related losses. Billion are being lost each year and there are no signs of the attacks abating. In fact, it has been predicted that the number of attacks and losses will continue to increase.

Around 1% of global GDP is lost to cybercrime each year and that figure is increasing rapidly. Currently, around $600 billion is lost each year to cybercrime. A FinCEN report from July 2018 shows that suspicious activity report (SAR) filings have increased from $110 million per month in 2016 to $301 million per month in 2018 and Cybersecurity Ventures predicts losses will increase to $6 trillion globally by 2021. According to the FBI, more than $1.2 billion was lost to business email compromise scams in the United States alone in 2018.

Business email compromise (BEC) scams involve the impersonation of an executive or other individual, whose compromise email account is used to send fraudulent wire transfer requests. A variation sees a business associate of the company spoofed and requests sent demanding outstanding involves be paid.  The latter is now more common than attacks spoofing the CEO.

BEC attacks usually start with a spear phishing attack to obtain email account credentials. Once email credentials are compromised, the account is used to send messages to other individuals in the organization, such as employees in the payroll, HR, or finance department. Since the emails come from a trusted source within the organization and the wire transfer requests are not unusual, payment is often made.

A successful attack can see sizable wire transfers made to accounts controlled by the attackers. Payments are often for tens of thousands of dollars or, in some cases, millions of dollars. A recent attack on a subsidiary of the car manufacturer Toyota Boshoku Corporation saw a fraudulent transfer of $37 million made to the attackers.

While that incident stands out due to the scale of the loss, fraudulent transfers of millions of dollars are far from unusual. In many cases, only a small percentage of the transferred funds are recovered. Since these attacks can be extremely profitable, it is no surprise that the so many cybercriminal gangs are getting in on the act and are conducting campaigns.

A new report from the insurer AIG shows BEC attacks are now the leading reason for cybersecurity-related insurance claims, having overtaken ransomware attacks for the first time. 23% of all cyberattack-related claims are due to BEC scams.

In the most part, these BEC attacks can be prevented with basic cybersecurity measures. AIG attributes the rise in claims to poor security measures at the targeted organizations. Investigations have uncovered numerous basic cybersecurity failures such as not providing security awareness training to employees, the failure to enforce the use of strong passwords, no multi-factor authentication, and poor email security controls.

If businesses fail to implement these basic cybersecurity measures, attacks are inevitable. Cyber-insurance policies may cover some of the losses, but many SMBs will not be in a position to make a claim. For them, BEC attacks can be catastrophic.

If you run a business and are concerned about your defenses against phishing, spear phishing, and BEC attacks, contact TitanHQ to find out more about effective cybersecurity solutions that can block BEC attacks.

Office 365 Phishing Campaign Uses Scraped Branded Office 365 Tenant Login Pages

An innovative phishing campaign has been discovered that uses branded Microsoft Office 365 login pages to trick victims into believing they are logging into their genuine Office 365 account.

The phishing emails warn the user that a message synchronization failure has blocked the delivery of emails to the user’s account. A link is supplied with the anchor text “Read Message” which directs the user to a fake Office 365 login page where they can review the messages and decide what to do with them.

If the user clicks on the link, their email address will be checked and validated, and the user will be directed to the phishing page. What makes this campaign unique is the check allows the attackers to scrape the branded tenant Office 365 login page used by the company via HTTP GET requests. The company’s custom background and logo are added dynamically to the phishing page. If a company does not have a custom login page, the standard Office 365 background is used.

The login pages are clones of the tenant pages, so they are unlikely to be recognized as fake by users. The phishing pages are also hosted on legitimate cloud storage infrastructure. The domains include either the blob.core.windows.net or azurewebsites.net domains, which have valid Microsoft SSL certificates. The result is a highly convincing campaign that is likely to fool many employees into divulging their login credentials.

Microsoft Office 365 Users are Under Attack!

Microsoft Office 365 is the most widely adopted cloud service by user count and has more than 155 million active users. 1 in 5 U.S. employees use at least one Office 365 service and half of businesses that use cloud services use Office 365. With such high numbers it is no surprise that Office 365 users are being targeted.

What is of major concern is the number of phishing emails that are bypassing standard Office 365 phishing defenses. A study by Avanan this year showed 25% of phishing emails bypass Office 365 defenses and arrive in employees’ inboxes.

When access is gained to one email account, it can be used for lateral phishing attacks on other employees in the organization. The goal of the attackers is to compromise as many accounts as possible and, ideally, an administrator account. Compromised accounts can also be used for BEC attacks, credentials can be used to access other Office 365 resources, and email accounts can be plundered for sensitive data.

How to Protect Your Business and Block Office 365 Phishing Attacks

There are three key measures to take to improve your defenses against Office 365 phishing attacks. The most important step is to improve anti-phishing protections with a third-party anti-spam and anti-phishing solution.

SpamTitan can be implemented in minutes and will provide superior protection against phishing attacks on Office 365 accounts. The solution has been independently tested and shown to block more than 99.9% of spam emails and 100% of known malware. A sandboxing feature allows suspicious attachments to be detonated in a safe and secure environment where all actions are analyzed for malicious activity and DMARC authentication of emails provides protection from email impersonation attacks that usually bypass Office 365 filters.

No anti-phishing solution will provide total protection against phishing attacks, so it is important to ensure that employees receive security awareness training. The workforce should be taught about the risks of email attacks and how to identify phishing emails. With training, you can turn your employees into strong last line of defense.

Even the most security-conscious employee could be fooled into disclosing their Office 365 credentials by a sophisticated phishing email. It is therefore important to implement 2-factor authentication.

2-factor authentication requires a second method of authenticating users, other than a password, when they attempt to login from an unfamiliar location or new device. In the event of credentials being compromised, account access can be blocked by -factor authentication. However, 2-factor authentication is not infallible, so businesses should not rely on this measure alone to protect their Office 365 accounts.

If you want to find out more about improving Office 365 defenses, give the TitanHQ team a call today and book a product demonstration. SpamTitan is also available on a free trial to let you see the difference the solution makes before you make a purchase decision.

New CAPTCHA Phishing Scam Targets Android Users and Steals SMS Security Codes

A new CAPTCHA phishing scam has been detected which is being used to trick users into downloading a malicious file that intercepts multi-factor authentication codes on a user’s smartphone. With the codes, hackers can perform a more extensive attack and gain access to a much wider range of resources such as email and bank accounts.

When a visitor lands on the phishing page, a check is performed to determine what device is being used. If the user is on an Android device, a malicious APK file is downloaded to their device. Any other platform will receive a zip file containing malware.

A fake version of the familiar Google reCAPTCHA is displayed on the phishing page. It closely resembles the legitimate version, although it does not support sound and the images do not change when they are clicked. The fake reCAPTCHA is housed on a PHP webpage and any clicks on the images are submitted to the PHP page, which triggers the download of the malicious file. This campaign appears to be focused on mobile users.

On an Android device, the malicious APK intercepts PIN codes from two-factor authentication messages, which allow the attackers to gain access to the user’s bank account.  With these PIN codes, an email account can also be compromised, which would allow further accounts to be compromised by requesting password resets.

A successful attack could see several accounts used by an individual subjected to unauthorized access. Businesses are also attacked in a similar manner. Successful attacks on businesses could give the attackers access to huge volumes of sensitive company data and even infrastructure resources.

This method of delivering malware is nothing new and has been around since 2009. A CAPTCHA phishing campaign was detected in February 2018 attempting to download a malicious file, and a similar campaign was run in 2016.

A method of attack is adopted for a while then dropped. While it is possible to prepare the workforce for phishing attacks such as this through training, security awareness training alone is not enough as tactics frequently change, and new methods of attack are frequently developed.

As this attack shows, two-factor authentication is far from infallible. In addition to this method of obtaining 2FA codes, the SS7 protocol used to send SMS messages has flaws that can be exploited to intercept messages.

Security awareness training and 2FA are important, but what is required on top of these protections is a powerful anti-spam and anti-phishing solution. Such a solution will block phishing emails at the gateway and make sure they are not delivered to inboxes.

It is important to choose a solution that provides protection against impersonation attacks. Many phishing campaigns spoof a familiar brand or known individual. A solution that incorporates Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) will help to ensure that the sender of the message is genuine, by performing checks to make sure that the sender of the message is authorized to send messages from that domain.

Most anti-phishing solutions incorporate an anti-virus component that scans all incoming attachments for malware and malicious code, but cybercriminals are using sophisticated methods to evade detection by AV solutions. Files may include malicious code that is hard to detect. A sandbox is therefore required to execute suspicious attachments in a safe environment where they can be monitored for malicious activity. By testing attachments in the sandbox, malicious files can be identified and more genuine emails and attachments will arrive in inboxes.

SpamTitan incorporates these features and more. Together they help to ensure a catch rate in excess of 99.9%, with a low false positive rate of 0.03%. With SpamTitan in place, you will be well protected against phishing attacks such as the latest CAPTCHA scam.

Equifax Phishing Scams Offer Victims Compensation But Steal Bank Credentials

Equifax phishing scams have been detected which are attempting to take advantage of individuals who were affected by the 143-million record data breach and want to make a claim to recover their out-of-pocket expenses.

Several lawsuits have been filed against Equifax over the breach. One of those lawsuits, filed by the Federal Trade Commission, has recently been settled for $700 million. That figure includes a fund of $425 million to cover claims from victims of the breach.

Anyone who was affected by the breach is entitled to submit a claim, and with so many people affected, scammers have a more than reasonable chance of landing an email in the inbox of an individual who was affected by the breach. More than half the population of the United States had their information exposed.

In order to make a claim, victims of the breach must visit a website set up by Equifax where claims can be processed. The name of the correct domain reflects its purpose – equifaxbreachsettlement.com – which does have a hint of phishiness about it.

Cybercriminals have set up a plethora of fake sites that closely resemble the genuine website, with similarly phishy but realistic names. Those sites similarly allow victims of the breach to submit a claim.

When submitting a claim on the genuine website, the claimant must enter their contact information and make their claim. They can choose to have the payment sent on a pre-paid card or by check in the mail. At no point must a Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card information be entered.

Large-scale spam campaigns are being conducted inviting victims of the breach to submit their claim and receive their share of the settlement amount.  Hyperlinks are embedded in the messages which link to fake Equifax claim webpages.

After landing on these phishing webpages, users are guided through making a claim. Contact information is requested along with other sensitive information to confirm identity. Bank account information is also requested to process direct deposit refunds.

After entering in all that information, the claim is submitted, and the user is likely to be unaware that their sensitive information has been stolen.

Any email received in relation to the Equifax data breach settlement should be treated as potentially suspicious. Anyone wanting to make a claim should visit equifaxbreachsettlement.com

New Tactics Identified in Ongoing Office 365 Phishing Scams

Microsoft Office 365 is being adopted by businesses at a staggering rate. Office 365 is now the most widely used cloud service in terms of number of users. One in 5 corporate employees use an Office 365 cloud service and, according to Gartner, 56% of businesses using cloud services use Office 365.

Any platform that attracts such high numbers of business users is a major target for cybercriminals. Hackers are developing innovative ways of attacking businesses and bypassing Office 365 protections to get their phishing emails delivered to inboxes.

Campaigns are tested on genuine Office 365 accounts to ensure Office 365 defenses are bypassed, before targeted campaigns are conducted on business users. Microsoft’s standard Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is not sufficient to block these threats. At a minimum, users need to pay for Advanced Threat Protection (APT) to provide the level of protection required to block the types of sophisticated phishing attacks that are fast becoming the norm.

Four campaigns that have recently been identified use novel tactics to evade detection and fool end users into disclosing their login credentials.

Custom 404 Error Pages Used to Host Office 365 Phishing Forms

Microsoft researchers identified a novel tactic being used in a phishing campaign targeting office 365 users – 404 error pages to host phishing forms. 404 error pages are displayed when a website visitor attempts to visit a page that does not exist. By customizing the 404 page and using it to host a phishing form, the attackers have a virtually unlimited supply of phishing URLs to use. Any random URL would bring up the 404 page and the phishing form. Many email security solutions would not detect the link as malicious.

Voicemail Notifications Used as Lure in Office 365 Phishing Campaign

Avanan researchers recently identified a phishing campaign that uses voicemail notifications as a lure to obtain Office 365 credentials.  The emails include Microsoft Office 365 logos and notification of the time of a call, the caller number, and the length of the voicemail message.

The text and logos are combined into three images in the email and an HTML file is attached which the email claims is the voicemail message. If opened, the HTML attachment uses meta refresh to redirect a user from the locally stored HTML page to an Internet-hosted page where they are presented with an Office 365 login box. Credentials are required to listen to the message through the spoofed voicemail management system.

Office 365 Admin Credentials Targeted

Office 365 credentials are valuable, but none more so than administrator credentials. A typical employee may have an email account containing sensitive data and their credentials may allow a limited number of cloud resources to be accessed. A set of administrator credentials would give an attacker the ability to create new accounts, access other users’ accounts, send messages from their email accounts, and access a much greater range of resources.

Office 365 admins are being targeted in a campaign that uses Office admin alerts about time-sensitive issues to lure them into disclosing their credentials. Two common lures are a critical problem with the mail service and the discovery of an unauthorized access incident.

Attacks Use Credentials in Real Time

A phishing campaign has been detected in which the attackers use the data captured from fake Office 365 login forms to access the genuine Office 365 account in real-time. If the login fails, a warning is displayed requesting the user re-enter their credentials.  When the correct credentials have been entered, the user is redirected to their real Office 365 inbox, most likely totally unaware that their credentials have been stolen.

These are just four new tactics being used by cybercriminals to gain access to the Office 365 credentials of business users. Without advanced anti-phishing defenses in place, many of these sophisticated phishing emails will be delivered to end users’ inboxes. Security awareness training for employees will go a long way toward strengthening your last line of defense, but unless the majority of email threats are blocked, data breaches will occur.

Businesses using Office 365 need to ensure their email security defenses are up to scratch and can detect and block advanced phishing threats. That means paying for Office 365 ATP or using a third-party anti-spam and anti-phishing solution.

With SpamTitan layered over Office 365, businesses will be protected from the full range of email-based threats. Advanced phishing techniques such as those detailed above are detected and neutralized by SpamTItan.

TitanHQ’s DNS filtering solution, WebTitan, adds another layer of security to protect against phishing attacks. WebTitan blocks all known malicious web pages and scans new websites for malicious content. Threats are detected and webpages are blocked before any content can be downloaded.

For further information on securing Office 365 accounts and improving your anti-phishing defenses, contact the TitanHQ team today.

U.S Hotels Targeted In Malspam Campaign Spreading NetWiredRC RAT

Hotels in America are being targeted by cybercriminals in a campaign spreading a remote access Trojan (RAT) called NetWiredRC. The RAT is delivered via malicious emails targeting financial staff in hotels in North America.

The campaign uses a typical lure to get recipients to open the attached file. The message claims there are invoices outstanding and the recipient is asked to validate payment. The invoices are included in a zip file attached to the email.

If the file is extracted and the executable is launched, the Trojan will be downloaded by a PowerShell script. The Trojan achieves persistence by loading itself into the startup folder and will run each time the computer boots.  The malware gives the attacker full control over an infected computer. Files can be uploaded and downloaded, further malware variants can be installed, keystrokes can be logged, and credentials can be stolen.

The ultimate aim of the threat actors behind this campaign is not known, although most cyberattacks on hotels are conducted to gain access to guest databases and payment systems. If malware can be loaded onto POS systems, card details can be skimmed when guests pay for their rooms. It can be months before hotels discover their systems have been breached, by which time the card details of tens of thousands of guests may have been stolen. Hutton Hotel in Nashville, TN, discovered in 2016 that its POS system had been infected with malware for three years.

There have been several recent cases of cyberattacks on hotels resulting in guest databases being stolen and sold on darknet marketplaces. The data breach at Marriott resulted in the theft of 339 million records and Huazhu Hotels Group in China experienced a breach of 130 million records.

Data breaches can prove incredibly costly. The cost of the data breach at Marriott could well reach $200 million, but even smaller data breaches can prove costly to resolve and can cause serious damage to a hotel’s reputation.

The latest spam campaign shows just how easy it is to gain a foothold in a network that ultimately leads to a 3-year data breach or the theft of more than 300 records: The opening of an attachment by a busy employee.

Hotels can improve their defenses by implementing cybersecurity solutions that block the threats at source.  SpamTitan protects businesses by securing the email system and preventing malicious messages from reaching end users’ inboxes. WebTitan is an advanced web filtering solution that allows hotels to block malware downloads and carefully control the websites that can be accessed by staff and guests.

For further information on TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions for hotels, contact the sale team today.

North Carolina County Loses $1.7 Million to BEC Scam

Cabarrus County in North Carolina is the latest victim of a major Business Email Compromise attack. The scammers impersonated a building contractor that was constructing a new high school in the County and succeeded in redirecting a $2.5 million payment to their account.

One of the contractor’s email accounts was compromised and an email was sent to a contact at the County requesting a change to the usual bank account.

Any request for such a change naturally needed to pass checks, but since the scammers had sent through all the appropriate documentation, the banking information was changed. The scammers then waited until the next regular payment was made. That payment was for $2,504,601.

The missing payment was queried by the contractor, Branch and Associates, and an investigation uncovered the scam. The relevant banks were informed to freeze the accounts to prevent the money from being withdrawn, but despite the quick response, the banks were only able to recover $776,518.40. The scammers had managed to divert $1,728,082.60 to a variety of accounts and had pocketed the funds.

The County was protected by an insurance policy, but it only provided $75,000 of coverage. $1,653,082.60 of the funds had to be covered by the County, in addition to the costs of investigating the attack, implementing additional security measures, and the cost increase of its insurance premiums after making such a large claim.

In this case the transfer was substantially larger than the average fraudulent BEC wire transfer, but transfers of this magnitude are far from unusual. Figures released by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) show there has been a 172% increase in losses to BEC attacks since 2016. Attacks are also increasing in frequency. In 2018, 1,100 BEC attacks were reported by businesses and $310 million per month was lost to BEC attacks.

FinCEN’s report shows businesses in the manufacturing and construction industries are the most commonly targeted and face the greatest risk of attack, although all businesses need to be aware of the threat and should take steps to reduce risk.

Defending against BEC attacks requires a variety of technical and administrative safeguards. There is no single solution that can be implemented which will detect and block all BEC attacks.

BEC scams usually start with a phishing email, so steps should be taken to improve email security. Advanced email security solutions such as SpamTitan can identify and block these BEC threats. SpamTitan also provides protection against the second stage of the attack. In addition to scanning all incoming emails, SpamTitan also scans outbound email for potential threats coming from within the organization.

Not all threats can be blocked, even with highly advanced email security defenses, so it is essential for the workforce to be trained how to identify potential email threats. Policies and procedures should also be developed covering amendments to banking credentials and email requests for bank transfers over a certain size.

Companies that fail to take action to reduce risk could well find their losses included in next year’s FinCEN BEC financial losses report.

If you have not implemented an anti-spam solution, if you are unhappy with your current provider, or if you use Office 365 for email, contact the TitanHQ team today to find out more about improving your security posture and increasing your defenses against BEC attacks.

Business Email Compromise Attacks Cost $310 Million a Month in 2018

New figures have been released by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on 2018 Business Email Compromise attacks. The latest FinCEN report highlighted the pervasiveness of the threat and potential for the attacks to result in serious financial harm.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks are concerned with gaining access to a business email account and using that account to send messages to other individuals in an organization and business contacts. While compromised email accounts can be used for a variety of purposes, with BEC the primary goal is usually to convince an employee to make a fraudulent wire transfer or send sensitive information such as employee W-2 Forms.

Social engineering techniques are used to obtain the credentials of a high-level executive and convince an employee to make a fraudulent transfer. While at face value these scams are simplistic – they involve sending an email that requests a bank transfer be made – the scams are often highly sophisticated.

More than $300 Million a Month Was Lost to 2018 Business Email Compromise Attacks

The FinCEN report shows why these attacks are worth the effort. The average fraudulent transaction value in 2018 was $125,439 and $310 million per month was lost to BEC scams in 2018.

FinCEN received approximately 1,100 suspicious activity reports in 2018 that were attributed to BEC scams. It should be taken into consideration that many businesses are not obliged to report security breaches such as BEC scams, so the total losses will be considerably higher.

BEC attacks are also being conducted far more frequently and losses to the scams have skyrocketed. The 2016 FinCEN report indicates at least $110 million was lost to BEC scams. Losses to BEC scams have increased by 172% increase in just two years.

There has been a marked change in BEC scam tactics over the last two years, which has helped to increase the dollar amount of each fraudulent transaction.

As previously mentioned, the scams involve compromising an email account, which was commonly the email account of the CEO or CFO. The email accounts were used to send wire transfer requests and the average transaction value was $50,272. The 2018 figures show that there has been a shift from attacks that impersonate the CEO to attacks impersonating contractors and other vendors.

If a vendor’s email account is compromised, fake invoices can be sent to all companies that the vendor works for. Further, the typical amount of a vendor invoice is substantially higher than the transfer amounts typically requested by CEOs.

FinCEN’s figures show the average fake invoice transaction value was $125,439 for fake invoices from contractors, which is $75,167 more than the typical CEO email request.

FinCEN’s 2017 figures indicate 33% of BEC attacks involved impersonation of the CEO, but the percentage had fallen to just 12% in 2018. 39% of all BEC attacks in 2018 involved the impersonation of an outside entity such as a business associate, contractor, or vendor.

How to Improve Defenses Against BEC Attacks

With attacks increasing and losses spiraling, businesses need to take steps to reduce risk by improving email security and providing further training to employees. Employees should be made aware of the risk of BEC attacks, told about the latest threats, and should be taught how to identify a scam email. Policies should also be developed and implemented which require verification of all emailed transfer requests and bank account changes.

Training and policies will help to create a strong last line of defense, but the primary goal should be blocking the scam emails at the email gateway to ensure end users are not tested. That requires a powerful anti-spam and anti-phishing solution such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.97% of all spam and malicious emails to keep business inboxes threat free.

For further information on SpamTitan and other cybersecurity protections to reduce the risk of phishing and BEC attacks, contact TitanHQ today.

New Office 365 Phishing Scams Detected

Two new Office 365 phishing scams have been detected in the past few days. One scam uses a fake Office 365 site to deliver the Trickbot Trojan and the other is a spear phishing campaign targeting Office 365 administrators to capture their credentials.

The Trickbot campaign uses a realistic domain – get.office365.live – that has all the typical elements of a genuine Microsoft website, including links to Microsoft resources. The website, identified by MalwareHunterTeam, detects the visitor’s browser and displays a popup within a few seconds of landing on the website.

A different warning is displayed for Firefox and Chrome users, with the associated logos. The warning comes from either the Chrome or Firefox Update Center. The message states that the user has an older version of the browser, which may cause incorrect site mapping, loss of all stored and personal data, and browser errors. An update button is supplied to download the browser update.

If the update button is clicked, it triggers the download of an executable file called upd365_58v01.exe. If that executable is run, the Trickbot Trojan will be downloaded and inserted into a svchost.exe process. That makes it harder for the user to detect the information stealer through Task Manager.

The Trickbot Trojan has several capabilities. It is a banking Trojan that can intercept banking credentials using webinjects. It also contains a password grabbing module which steals saved login credentials, autofill information, browsing history, and Bitcoin wallets. The malware also serves as a downloader for other malware variants and a module also been developed for propagation which includes the EternalBlue exploit.

Once installed, the malware stays in continuous contact with its C2. Due to the obfuscation methods used, the infection is unlikely to be detected by an end user, but the network admin may notice unusual traffic or attempts to connect to blacklisted domains.

This is a professional campaign that is likely to fool many end users. It is currently unclear whether traffic is being directed to the site through malvertising redirects or phishing emails.

Office 365 Admins Targeted

A phishing campaign has been detected which is targeting Office 365 administrators. Fake browser warnings are used to trick admins into disclosing their login credentials.

Emails have been constructed using the Microsoft and Office 365 logos which contain a warning about an aspect of Office 365 which requires the admin’s immediate attention. One message warns the admin about a mail redirect on an Office 365 inbox which indicates there has been an account compromise. Another advises the admin that the company’s Office 365 licenses have expired.

The emails contain a link for the admin to use to login to their Office 365 account to address the problem. The user will be directed to a webpage on the windows.net domain which has a valid certificate from Microsoft. The Microsoft login box is identical to that used on the Microsoft site.

Most admins will be vigilant and wary of warnings such as these. Even if the links are clicked, admins are likely to check the domain to make sure it is genuine. However, these scams are conducted because they do work. Some admins will be fooled and will disclose their credentials.

Admin credentials are highly valuable as they allow an attacker to create new office 365 accounts, access other user’s mailboxes, and send phishing emails from other accounts on the domain. These targeted attacks on admins are becoming more common due to the high value of the accounts and the range of attacks they allow a hacker to perform.

There is no single cybersecurity solution that will provide total protection from phishing attacks. What is needed is a defense in depth approach. End users should be provided with ongoing security awareness training to ensure they are aware of the most common threats and know how to identify potential scams. Phishing simulations are useful for gauging how effective training has been.

However, the priority must be to block these attacks and prevent end users from being tested. An advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan blocks more than 99.97% of spam and phishing emails. SpamTitan scans all incoming messages for malware and uses dual anti-virus engines for greater accuracy. A sandboxing feature has also now been added to allow the safe execution and analysis of suspicious email attachments.

WebTitan serves as an additional security layer that prevents end users from visiting malicious websites. The DNS filter can be used to exercise control over the types of websites that can be visited by employees and blocks all attempts to visit blacklisted websites, such as those that have been used for malware distribution, scams, or phishing.

Contact TitanHQ today to find out more about SpamTitan and WebTitan for SMBs and MSPs, the different deployment options, pricing information, and to book a product demonstration.

An Easy Way to Block Email Impersonation Attacks on Businesses

Ransomware attacks are soaring and phishing and email impersonation attacks are being conducted at unprecedented levels. Cybersecurity defenses are being tested like never before.

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 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.

TitanHQ’s anti-phishing and anti-spam solution – SpamTitan – incorporates DMARC to protect against email impersonation attacks along with advanced anti-malware features, including a Bitdefender-powered sandbox.

For further information securing your email channel and blocking email-based threats, contact TitanHQ today.

Increase in Cyberattacks on Ships Prompts U.S. Coast Guard Warning

The past few months have seen an increase in reported cyberattacks on ships. The rise in cyberattacks on the commercial shipping network has prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a warning.

This is the second such warning to be issued by the U.S. Coast Guard in the past three months. Together with a recent shipping industry report, they confirm that shipping companies and commercial vessels are being targeted by hackers and many of those attacks are succeeding.

Ships are now largely controlled by computers and mouse clicks and there is increasing reliance on electronic navigation systems. It is now common for operational technology and information technology to be linked together via onboard networks and certain systems are now connected to the internet. When devices are networked and connect to the Internet, hackers are given the opportunity to attack.

The cyberattack that prompted the latest warning occurred in February 2019. A ship bound for the Port of New York started experiencing severe disruption to its shipboard network. Vessel control systems were not affected, although the functionality of the network was severely degraded. The U.S. Coast Guard led a forensic investigation which revealed malware had been installed on the network.

The ship was known to be vulnerable to attack so the crew did not typically use the network for personal matters such as email. The network was only used for business purposes, which involved contact with third parties to maintain charts, manage cargo data, and communicate with shore-side facilities. It is currently unclear how the malware was installed, but what is clear is that cybersecurity defenses were nowhere near sufficient.

The advice from the Coast Guard is to implement network segmentation to limit the harm that can be caused in the event of an attack. Network profiles should be created for each user, and the rule of least privilege should be applied. Anti-virus software should be installed, all software should be kept up to date, and care should be taken connecting any external device to a networked computer due to the risk of malware.

If hackers can gain access to the network, they can steal sensitive data, cause serious disruption to internal networks, and systems could even be rendered inoperable. An extortion attack involving ransomware, for instance, could leave shipping firms with no alternative other than to pay up.

These attacks are the latest in a string of cyberattacks on commercial vessels. In December 2018, 21 shipping associations and industry groups produced a set of guidelines on cybersecurity onboard ships to help commercial vessel operators improve security, secure their networks, and make it difficult for hackers.

The report details recent USB-based attacks, RDP-based attacks, phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, and attacks involving malware, viruses, and worms. The attacks have caused major delays to shipping firms, financial losses, and in some cases have jeopardized safety.

Just as captains must make sure that access to the engine room is restricted, the same should be the case for computer systems. If systems are not secured, cyberattacks are inevitable.

TitanHQ can help shipping firms protect against email and web-based attacks and block the two main vectors that are used to attack commercial vessels.

Contact the team today to ask about SpamTitan and WebTitan: TitanHQ’s award winning antispam and DNS filtering solutions.

U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Warns of Wiper Malware Attacks

Tension is rising between the United States and Iran following the downing of a U.S. Global Hawk surveillance drone close to the Strait of Hormuz and the recent mine attacks.

Less visual are the attacks on IT systems. The Washington post recently reported that the United States had conducted a successful cyberattack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, part of the Iranian military, which is believed to have been involved in the mine attacks.

Iranian-affiliated hacking groups have conducted cyberattacks on U.S. industries and government agencies and those attacks are increasing in frequency. So much so that the Director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Chris Krebs, sent out a warning on Twitter about the increased risk of attack.

“CISA is aware of a recent rise in malicious cyber activity directed at United States industries and government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies,” said Krebs.

Threat actors affiliated with Iran have been using wiper malware in targeted attacks on businesses, government agencies, industries, and infrastructure. Whereas ransomware encrypts files with the aim of receiving a ransom payment, the purpose of wiper malware is to permanently destroy data and wipe systems clean.

Wiper malware has previously been used in major attacks, some targeted, others less so. In 2012, Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian oil firm, was attacked with a wiper malware variant called Shamoon. The malware wiped tens of thousands of computers.

More recently were the NotPetya attacks. While initially thought to be ransomware, it was later discovered there was no mechanism for file recovery and the malware was a wiper. Some companies were hit hard.  The shipping firm Maersk suffered losses of around $300 million due to NotPetya. Global losses are estimated to be between $4-8 billion.

Hackers working for the Iranian regime commonly gain access to computers and servers through the use of phishing, spear phishing, credential stuffing, and password spraying.

“What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network,” warned Krebs.

As with ransomware, recovery from a wiper malware attack is reliant on backups, except there is no safety net as a ransom cannot be paid to recover data. It is therefore essential that a working copy of all data is maintained, with one copy stored securely off-site on a non-networked, non-internet exposed device.

Even with a working copy of data, recovery can be time consuming and costly. It is therefore important to ensure that solutions are in place to block the main attack vectors.

A spam filtering solution with advanced anti-malware capabilities is therefore required to block email-based attacks. A web filtering solution can prevent users from visiting malicious websites or inadvertently downloading malware and employees should be provided with security awareness training to help them recognize potential threats.

Standard cybersecurity best practices should be adopted such as ensuring strong password policies are implemented and enforced, multi-factor authentication is implemented, all software is kept up to date and patched are applied promptly. IT departments should also ensure permissions are set to the rule of least privilege.

U.S Universities Targeted in Widespread Phishing Campaign

A phishing campaign targeting university employees has already claimed several victims and has seen many email accounts compromised.

Emails are tailored to the institution and use a range of social engineering tricks to convince employees to click a link in the email and enter their Office 365 login credentials to access online content. The credentials are captured and used to gain access to university email accounts.

Once credentials have been obtained, a treasure trove of sensitive data can be plundered. Emails and email attachments contain personally identifiable information of staff, students, and parents, which can be used to commit identity theft and other fraudulent acts. Proprietary information can be obtained, along with details of contacts. The compromised accounts can also be used to conduct further phishing attacks on the university and externally on business contacts and other educational institutions.

Campaigns convincing users to install malware can give the attackers full control of university computers and a foothold to move laterally throughout the network. Access to university email accounts and backdoors in university computers are sold on the dark web, along with a range of stolen and forged university documents.

The healthcare industry is heavily targeted by cybercriminals due to the high value of health data. Health data is versatile and can be used for a multitude of fraudulent purposes. It also has a long-life span and can be used for much longer than financial information.  Cybercriminals are also now realizing the potential rewards from attacks on universities. Student data is similarly versatile, and the wealth of data stored in university email accounts provides plenty of opportunities for profit.

Oregon State University is the latest university to announce it is the victim of a phishing attack. The Office 365 email account of an employee was compromised, through which the attacker had access to the records of 636 students. The account was used to send phishing emails to other entities throughout the United States.

Graceland University in Iowa and Southern Missouri State University recently announced that several email accounts had been compromised in recent phishing attacks, which would have allowed access to be gained to sensitive information.

It is unclear whether this is a single campaign or part of a wave of separate attacks on universities. What is clear is the attacks are increasing, so universities should take steps to improve email and web security.

Employees are being targeted so it is important to ensure that staff members are taught email security best practices and are shown how to identify phishing emails.

Technological defenses can also be improved to prevent malicious messages from arriving in Office 365 inboxes. As an additional protection, a DNS filter can be used to prevent users from accessing phishing websites and other known malicious web pages.

TitanHQ has developed powerful anti-phishing and anti-malware solutions for universities that help them protect against email and web-based attacks.

SpamTitan is a powerful anti-spam solution that incorporates DMARC authentication and sandboxing to provide superior protection against impersonation and malware attacks for Office 365 users.

WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that prevents users from accessing known malicious websites, such as those used for phishing and distributing malware.

To improve Office 365 phishing defenses and better protect your email accounts and networks from malware attacks, contact TitanHQ for further information on these two powerful cybersecurity solutions for educational institutions.

Ransomware Attacks on the Rise Once More and Cities are in Attackers’ Crosshairs

The use of ransomware to attack businesses continued to decline throughout 2018 after extensive use of the file-encrypting malware by cybercriminals in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, ransomware fell out of favor with cybercriminals, who turned to other forms of cybercrime to make money.

However, ransomware is seeing something of a resurgence in 2019. The latest Breach Insights Report from Beazley Breach Response Services shows ransomware attacks are increasing once again. In the first quarter of 2019, ransomware attack notifications from its clients increased by 105% from Q1, 2018. Ransom demands are also increasing.

The rise in attacks has continued in Q2. Attacks using MegaCortex ransomware surged in late April. The ransomware variant was first identified in January and was only used in a handful of attacks in the following three months, but in the last week in April, 47 confirmed attacks were reported.

Dharma ransomware attacks have similarly increased. According to Malwarebytes, the past two months have seen a 148% increase in attacks. The threat actors behind Dharma ransomware are now using a variety of methods to distribute their ransomware payload.

The most common method of distribution is phishing emails. Emails contain embedded hyperlinks that direct users to a malicious website where the ransomware payload is downloaded. Email attachments containing malicious scripts are also used to download the ransomware payload.

Attacks are also taking place via remote desktop protocol over TCP port 3389. Brute force attacks are conducted to gain access to a device then ransomware is deployed. Dharma ransomware has also been identified in fake antivirus software programs which are pushed via a variety of websites. Users are tricked into downloading fake AV software after receiving a fake alert about a malware infection that has been detected on the user’s device.

Ransomware has also been used in conjunction with other malware such as Emotet. Emotet was once a banking Trojan but has since morphed into a botnet, capable of stealing login credentials, propagating itself via email on an infected device, and is capable of downloading other malware payloads. Emotet has been used to distribute Ryuk ransomware.

There have been upticks in attacks using other ransomware variants and the popularity of ransomware continues to grow, with some industries targeted more than others. Healthcare organizations are an attractive target as access to patient data is critical for providing medical services. There is a higher probability of ransom demands being paid due to reliance on patient data.

A recent report from Recorded Future has confirmed that attacks on towns, cities, and local government systems are soaring. Its study confirmed that there were 169 attacks on county, city, or state government systems and police and sheriffs’ offices since 2013. There were 38 ransomware attacks in 2017, 53 in 2018, and 22 attacks have already occurred in 2019 and the year is not yet halfway through.

Akron, OH; Albany, NY; Jackson County and Cartersville, GA; and Lynn, MA, have all been attacked this year and the city of Baltimore, MA, has been struggling to recover from its attack for the past two weeks with many city services still disrupted.

The rise in attacks is understandable. The potential rewards from a successful attack are high, many victims have no alternative but to pay, and thanks to ransomware-as-a-service, attacks are easy to pull off and require little in the way of skill.

As long as the attacks continue to be profitable, they will continue. What businesses need to do is to make it much harder for the attacks to succeed and to ensure that if disaster does strike, recovery is possible without having to pay a ransom.

Recovery depends on viable backups of all critical files being available. That means regular backups must be made, those backups need to be tested to make sure files can be restored, and copies need to be stored securely where they cannot also be encrypted.

Remote Desktop Protocol is a weak point that is commonly exploited. If RDP is not required, it should be disabled. If disabling RDP is not an option, strong, complex passwords should be used and access should only be possible using a VPN.

To block web-based attacks, consider implementing a web filtering solution such as WebTitan which prevents users from visiting known malicious websites and downloading executable files types.

One of the primary methods of delivering ransomware is spam and phishing emails. An advanced spam filtering solution should be implemented to block malicious emails and ensure they are not delivered to end users’ inboxes. SpamTitan now incorporates a sandbox, which allows suspicious files to be executed in a secure environment where activities of the files can be safely analyzed for malicious actions. SpamTitan also scans outgoing mail for signs of infection with Emotet.

While these technical controls are important, you should not forget end users. By providing security awareness training and teaching end users how to recognize potential threats, they can be turned into a strong last line of defense.

Fortunately, with layered defenses you can make it much harder for ransomware attacks to succeed and can avoid becoming yet another ransomware statistic.

United States Businesses Targeted in Shade Ransomware Attacks

Shade ransomware was first identified by security researchers in 2014, when it was primarily being used in attacks on Russian businesses; however the threat actors behind this ransomware variant have broadened their horizons and attacks are now being conducted around the world. The United States is now the most attacked country followed by Japan, India, Thailand, and Canada. Russia has now fallen from top spot to seventh.

Shade ransomware, like many ransomware variants, is primarily spread via email. Emails are sent to businesses which appear at first glance to be invoices or bills. The emails contain links to websites hosting malicious files which are downloaded to the user’s device. A variant of this method uses a PDF attachment which contains a link inside which must be clicked to download a fake invoice or bill.

The downloaded files use JavaScript or other scripts to download the Shade ransomware payload. Shade ransomware encrypts a wide range of files and changes the background on the infected computer to alert the user that their files have been encrypted. Ransom notes are also saved to the Desktop with the filename of README1.txt through to README10.txt. Those text files advise the victim to email a code to an email address to receive instructions on how the ransom payment must be made.

An analysis of the latest campaigns was recently conducted by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 team. That analysis revealed the attackers are concentrating their attacks on high-tech companies, retailers, wholesalers, telecommunications, and educational institutions and the threat actors behind the campaigns have been highly active in 2019.

Since Shade ransomware is most commonly spread via spam email, to reduce the risk of an attack, businesses should implement an advanced email gateway solution that is capable of identifying and blocking the malspam emails that ultimately deliver Shade ransomware.

SpamTitan protects businesses from Shade ransomware and other email-based malware attacks. SpamTitan includes dual antivirus engines to detect malicious files attached to emails and scans the content of messages and subjects them to a Bayesian analysis and heuristics to identify signatures of spam and malicious messages.

The solution now incorporates a Bitdefender-powered sandbox feature which allows files to be opened in a safe and secure environment where they can be analyzed for malicious activity. The solution also allows users to block attachments commonly used to deliver malware, such as zip files and executable files such as .exe and .js.

These and other protection mechanisms help to ensure that only legitimate emails are delivered and malicious messages are prevented from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

If you want to protect your business against ransomware and malware attacks, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about SpamTitan and take the first step towards improving your security posture.

Business Email Compromise Losses Doubled to $1.2 Billion in 2018

Malware and ransomware attacks are causing major problems for businesses, but the biggest threat in terms of losses are business email compromise scams.

The 2018 Internet Crime Report from the FBI clearly shows how serious the threat of BEC attacks has become. In 2017, reported losses from BEC attacks reached $675 million. In 2018, losses to BEC scams doubled to reach a staggering $1.2 billion.

It is no surprised that so many cybercriminal gangs are conducting BEC attacks. In contrast to many other forms of cybercrime, BEC scams can be extremely profitable and they require little in the way of technical skill to perform. As with phishing attacks, they often involve an attacker sending an email to trick an individual into making a wire transfer.

The scams often start with a spear phishing email targeting an executive in a company. The aim of the initial phase of the attack is to gain access to that individual’s email account. Once the email account is compromised, emails are then sent to finance department employees or payroll staff requesting a wire transfer be made.

Highly convincing emails are sent, and since they come from a genuine internal email account, the recipient is less likely to question the request.

Large enterprises often make large wire transfers, so a sizable transfer request for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars may be authorized without question. There have even been cases where much more substantial wire transfers have been made. A town in New Jersey discovered that, as a result of a BEC attack, a transfer of $1 million had been made to a criminal’s account. In that case, the FBI was able to freeze the funds in time, but with many scams, funds are withdrawn before the scam is identified.

In many cases, the first step in the attack is skipped and emails are simply spoofed to make them appear to have been sent from within the organization, from a contractor, or another individual with a relationship with the targeted entity.

The tactics and techniques being used are constantly changing. In addition to requests for wire transfers, cybercriminals often request tax (W2) forms of employees. This year has also seen an increase in gift card related BEC attacks. Instead of requesting wire transfers, requests are made to send gift cards for iTunes and online retailers. Cybercriminals then exchange the gift cards for Bitcoin online.

Confidence fraud and romance scams were the second main cause of losses. $362 million was lost to those scams and investment-related scams resulted in losses of over $252 million.

The real estate sector was extensively targeted in 2018. Criminals have attempted to get deposits and payments for house purchases diverted, often posing as the buyer, seller, real estate agents, or lawyers.

Phishing attacks are also on the rise. In 2018, the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3) received 26,379 complaints about phishing, smishing, and vishing, More than $48 million was lost to those scams in 2018.

Many of these scams are either conducted over email or start with a phishing email. It is therefore important for businesses to implement solutions that protect the email gateway and block these attacks at source to prevent malicious messages from reaching end users. It is also essential to provide training to staff to ensure they if they do encounter a phishing email or other scam, they have the skills to identify it as such.

 

Email Campaign Uses CDC Flu Pandemic Warning to Fool Users into Installing GandCrab Ransomware

Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new scams to convince people to part with their login credentials or install botnets, viruses, malware, or ransomware.

Email is one of the easiest ways to get these scams out to the masses, accompanied with a good hook to get the user to open the message. Various tactics are used to achieve the latter, one of the most common being fear. Scaring people into taking action is very effective. A recently identified campaign is a good example. It uses fear of a flu pandemic to get users to take action.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu killed about 80,000 in the 2017 to 2018 season, which was a record year for flu deaths. The previous record in the past three decades was beaten by 24,000.

For any phishing email to stand a good chance of fooling large numbers of people, the emails must be credible. This campaign provides that credibility by spoofing the CDC. The subject lines used in the campaign warn of a flu pandemic, and the email addresses used and the logos in the message body make the messages appear to have genuinely been sent by the CDC.

The message included an attachment – named Flu Pandemic Warning – provides important information that users need to know to prevent infection and stop the disease from spreading. The fear of contracting flu combined with the realistic looking emails make it likely that this campaign will fool many individuals.

That document contains malicious code that downloads and runs GandCrab ransomware v5.2, for which there is currently no free decryptor. Once downloaded, GandCrab ransomware will encrypt files on the infected computer preventing them from being accessed. The average ransom demand is $800 per infected computer.

In order for the malicious code to download the ransomware, the content must be enabled. In the message body, recipients are told that in order to view all the information in the document they must enable content. This prior instruction is intended to get the user to click ‘enable content’ quickly when the document is opened, rather than to stop and think.

All users should be alert to these kind of email scams. Caution should be exercised before opening any email attachment, no matter how urgent the message appears to be. Any unsolicited email should be carefully checked as there will usually be signs that indicates all is not what it seems.

Businesses are particularly at risk and can suffer major losses as a result of ransomware attacks, especially when several employees are fooled by these email scams.

Signature-based email defenses were once effective at blocking malware, but malware developers are constantly releasing new versions that have never before been seen. Signature-based AV software struggles to maintain pace and is not effective against zero-day malware variants and malicious code that downloads the malware.

End user training certainly goes a long way and can help to prevent mass infections, but what is really needed is an advanced anti-phishing solution that blocks phishing emails and email scams at source before they are delivered to inboxes. That is an area where TitanHQ can help.

To protect against email-based attacks, TitanHQ developed SpamTitan – A highly effective anti-phishing and anti-spam solution with advanced features that provide superior protection against phishing and malware attacks.

In addition to dual anti-virus engines, SpamTitan incorporates a wide range of checks to distinguish malicious emails from genuine messages. Recently, Spamtitan has had two new features incorporated: DMARC email authentication and sandboxing. DMARC helps to ensure that spoofed email messages, such as those that appear to have been sent by the CDC, are identified as scams and are blocked. Sandboxing is important for protecting against zero-day malware threats and malicious downloaders.

Potentially malicious attachments are executed and analyzed in a Bitdefender-powered sandbox, where the actions performed by malware and malicious code can be assessed without causing harm. When malicious code is detected it is blocked across all users’ inboxes.

With SpamTitan in place, businesses will be well protected against campaigns such as this. For further information on TitanHQ’s award-winning anti-spam solution, for a product demonstration, or to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today and take the first step toward making your email channel much more secure.

Emotet Malware Revives Old Email Conversations Threads to Increase Infection Rates

Emotet malware was first identified in 2014 and its original purpose was to obtain banking credentials and other sensitive information; however, the malware is regularly updated and new functionality is added. Emotet malware is now one of the most prevalent and dangerous malware threats faced by businesses.

The malware can detect whether it is running in a virtual environment and will generate false indicators in such cases. The malware is polymorphic, which means it changes every time it is downloaded. That makes it difficult to detect using the signature-based detection methods employed by standard anti-virus software.

The malware also has worm-like features which allows it to rapidly spread to other networked computers. Emotet is also capable of spamming and forwarding itself to email contacts. As if infection with Emotet is not bad enough, it can also download other malware variants onto infected devices.

Emotet malware is one of the most destructive malware variants currently in use and cleaning up Emotet attacks can be incredibly costly. The Department of Homeland Security has reported that some attacks on state, local, tribal, and territorial governments have cost more than $1 million to resolve.

Emotet malware is primarily distributed via spam email, either through malicious attachments or hyperlinks to websites where the malware is silently downloaded. The lures used in the messages are highly varied and include most of the commonly used phishing lures such as shipping notifications, fake invoices, payment requests, PayPal receipts.

Now the threat actors behind the malware have adopted a new tactic to increase infection rates. Once installed on a device, the malware accesses email conversation threads and forwards the message to individuals named in the thread.

The original email conversation is unaltered, but a hyperlink is added to the top of the message. The link directs the recipient to a webpage where a file download is triggered. Opening the document and enabling macros will see Emotet downloaded. Email attachments may also be added to previous conversation threads in place of hyperlinks.

Since the messages come from a known individual with whom an email conversation has taken place in the past, the probability of the document being opened is greater than if messages come out of the blue or are sent from an unknown individual.

Several cybersecurity firms have identified a campaign using this tactic, including phishing intelligence provider Cofense and security researcher Marcus Hutchins (MalwareTech).

The current campaign uses revived conversations from before November 2018, although more recent conversations may be revived in further campaigns. Any revived old email conversation that contains a link or an attachment could indicate a user has been targeted and that at least one member of the email exchange has been infected with Emotet.

The current campaign is not only extensive, it is also proving to be extremely successful. Spamhaus reports that there have been 47,000 new infections in the past two months alone, while Cofense reports that it has identified more than 700,000 infections in the past 12 months.

Protecting against this dangerous malware requires a powerful anti-spam solution and good security awareness training for staff. SpamTitan’s new features can help to detect malicious emails spreading Emotet malware to better protect businesses from attack.

To find out more about SpamTitan and how the solution can protect your business, give TitanHQ a call today.

Tax-Related Phishing Scams Delivering TrickBot Trojan

Monday April 15 is Tax Day in the United States – the deadline for submitting 2018 tax returns. Each year in the run up to Tax Day, cybercriminals step up their efforts to obtain users’ tax credentials. In the past few weeks, many tax-related phishing scams have been detected which attempt to install information stealing malware.

One of the main aims of these campaigns is to obtain tax credentials. These are subsequently used to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. Tax is refunded to accounts controlled by the attackers, checks are redirected, and a range of other methods are used to obtain the payments.

Attacks on tax professionals are commonplace. If access can be gained to a tax professional’s computer, the tax credentials of clients can be stolen, and fraudulent tax returns can be filed in their names. A single successful attack on a tax professional can see the attacker obtain many thousands of dollars in tax rebates.

There has been the usual high level of tax-related phishing scams during the 2019 tax season and businesses of all types have been targeted. It is not only tax credentials that cybercriminals are after. Many tax-themed phishing scams have been conducted which attempt to install malware and ransomware such as the TrickBot banking Trojan.

The TrickBot banking Trojan is a powerful malware variant which, once installed, can give an attacker full control of an infected computer. The malware is primarily an information stealer. A successful installation on one business computer can allow the attackers to move laterally and spread the malware across the whole network.

The primary purpose of the TrickBot trojan is to steal banking credentials which can be used to make fraudulent wire transfers: however, TrickBot is regularly updated with new features. In addition to stealing banking credentials, the malware can steal VNC. RDP, and PuTTY credentials.

The threat actors behind TrickBot are highly organized and well resourced. More than 2,400 command and control servers are used by the cybercriminal gang and that number continues to grow.

The three new TrickBot malware campaigns were detected since late January by IBM X-Force researchers. Spam email messages are carefully crafted to appear legitimate and look innocuous to business users and appear to have been sent by well-known accounting and payroll firms such as ADP and Paychex.

Spoofed email addresses are commonly used, although in these campaigns, the attackers have used domain squatting. They have registered domains that are very similar to those used by the accounting firms. The domains have transposed letters and slight misspellings to make the email appear to have been sent from a legitimate source. The domains can be highly convincing and, in some cases, are extremely difficult to identify as fake.

The emails are well written and claim to include tax billing records, which are included as attached spreadsheets. The spreadsheets contain malicious macros which, if allowed to run, will download the TrickBot Trojan.

To prevent attacks, several steps should be taken. Macros should be disabled by default on all devices. Prompt patching is required to keep all software and operating systems up to date to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited.

End users should receive security awareness training and should be taught cybersecurity best practices and how to identify phishing emails. An advanced spam and anti-phishing solution should also be implemented to ensure phishing emails are identified and prevented from reaching end users inboxes. Further, all IoCs and IPs known to be associated with the threat actors should be blocked through spam filtering solutions, firewalls, and web gateways.

The latter is made easy with SpamTitan and WebTitan – TitanHQ’s anti-phishing and web filtering solutions for SMBs.

 

Webinar: Discover the Exciting New Features of SpamTitan

Current users of the SpamTitan email security solution and SMBs and MSPs that are considering implementing SpamTitan or offering it to their clients are invited to join a webinar in which TitanHQ will explains the exciting new features that have recently been incorporated into the anti-phishing and anti-spam solution.

SpamTitan has recently received a major update that has seen the incorporation of DMARC email authentication to better protect users from email impersonation attacks and the addition of a new Bitdefender-powered sandbox. The sandbox allows users to safely assess email attachments for malicious actions, to better protect them against zero-day malware and other malicious software delivered via email.

The webinar will explain these and other features of SpamTitan in detail and the benefits they offer to customers, including how they better protect SMBs and SMEs from phishing, spear phishing, spoofing, ransomware, malware, and zero-day attacks.

The webinar will also explain why SpamTitan is the leading email security solution for managed service providers serving the SMB and SME market and how the solution can help to enhance security for their clients and can easily be slotted into their service stacks.

The webinar will be taking place on Thursday April 4, 2019 at 12pm, EST and will last approximately 30 minutes.

Advance registration is necessary. You can sign up for the webinar on this link.

Cybercriminals Launch Malware and Phishing Campaigns Using Boeing Crash and Christchurch Massacre as Lures

The past few weeks have seen two major disasters in which hundreds of people lost their lives. 157 people lost their lives in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash and the Christchurch mosque massacre saw 50 people killed.

Both events were terrible tragedies that shocked people the world over. Victims and their families have been receiving messages of support on social media and many people have shown their support by making financial donations. More than US$5 million has so far been raised to help the victims of the New Zealand attack.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are taking advantage. In the past few days, phishing campaigns have been detected that are using the tragedies to infect computers with malware and steal charitable donations.

According to New Zealand’s cybersecurity agency, CERT NZ, multiple campaigns have been detected that are using the Christchurch attack as a lure. Malware has been embedded in video footage of the tragedy which is currently being shared online, including on social media websites.

Phishing attacks are also being conducted which contain links to faked online banking forms that attempt to obtain users banking credentials. One campaign spoofed the Westpac New Zealand bank and emails appeared to have been sent from its domain. Other email campaigns contain pleas for financial assistance and supply bank account details for donations, but the details are for criminal-controlled accounts.

Another campaign has been detected that is using the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash to spread a remote access Trojan and information stealer. The emails claim to offer information to air travelers about airlines that are likely to also suffer crashes. The emails offer information that has been found on the darkweb by a security analyst. The emails include a JAR file which, it is claimed, has important information for all air travelers on airlines to avoid due to the risk of plane crashes.

Whenever there is a tragedy that is extensively covered in the media cybercriminals try to take advantage. By adopting cybersecurity best practices such as never opening email attachments from unknown senders nor clicking links in emails, these scams can be avoided.

Unfortunately, email spoofing makes it difficult to detect phishing threats. Scam emails often appear genuine and seem to have been sent from a trusted source. To combat the threat to businesses, TitanHQ has recently updated its spam filtering solution, SpamTitan, to provide greater protection from these threats.

SpamTitan now incorporates DMARC to authenticate senders of emails and protect against email impersonation attacks. To provide even greater protection from malware, in addition to dual anti-virus engines, SpamTitan now incorporates a Bitdefender-powered sandbox, where suspicious files can be safely analyzed to determine whether they are malicious.

These additional controls will help to protect businesses and end users from new malware threats and advanced phishing and email impersonation scams.

IRS Issues Warning About Tax Phishing Scams

During tax season, tax phishing scams are rife. If cybercriminals can steal personal information such as the information contained on W2 forms, they can use the information to file fraudulent tax returns. Each set of credentials can net cybercriminals thousands of dollars. Attacks on businesses can be even more profitable. If an attack results in the theft of the tax credentials of a company’s entire workforce, hundreds of fraudulent tax returns can be filed.

The IRS works hard to combat fraud, but even so, many of these attacks are successful and fraudulent tax refunds are issued. This week, as part of its efforts to combat tax fraud, the IRS has launched its 2019 Dirty Dozen campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the threat of tax fraud and encourages taxpayers, businesses, and tax professionals to be vigilant.

The campaign features 12 common tax scams that attempt to obtain personal information or access to systems that contain such information. The campaign will see a different scam highlighted for 12 consecutive days. The campaign was launched on March 4 with the biggest threat in tax season: Tax phishing scams.

Common Tax Phishing Scams

Tax phishing scams are constantly evolving and each year several new tax phishing scams are identified. The most common scams and attacks are:

  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks
  • Business Email Spoofing (BES) attacks
  • Email impersonation attacks
  • Malware

BEC attacks involve the use of a genuine business email account to send messages to employees requesting the W2 form information of employees, changes to business account information, requests to reroute direct deposits and make fraudulent wire transfers. The attackers often gain access to a high-level executive’s email account through a spear phishing campaign. BEC is one of the most common business tax phishing scams.

BES attacks are similar, except that no email account has been compromised. The email address of an executive or other employee is spoofed so that emails appears to have been sent from within an organization.

Email impersonation attacks are common during tax season. Scammers impersonate the IRS and use a variety of lures to obtain personal information. Common lures are threats of legal action or fines for outstanding taxes and offers of tax refunds. They often direct users to a website where they are required to enter their personal information. These phishing webpages are also linked to on social media websites. The clients of tax professionals may also be impersonated. Emails often request changes be made to direct deposit accounts or contain requests for sensitive information.

Malware is often used to gain access to the computers of tax professionals, and employees in the payroll and HR departments. Keyloggers are commonly used as they allow the attackers to steal login credentials. Malware can also transfer files containing sensitive information to the attackers’ servers. Malware is often installed via scripts in email attachments – malicious macros for instance – or via drive-by downloads from malicious websites.

New Phishing Scam Targeting Tax Professionals

One of the new tax phishing scams to emerge this year targets tax professionals. First the attackers gain access to tax professionals’ computers, either through spear phishing campaigns or by installing malware. Client tax information is then stolen and fraudulent tax returns are files in the clients’ names. When the IRS processes the refunds, payments are sent to taxpayers’ bank accounts. Those taxpayers then receive a call or an email demanding the return of the funds which have been paid in error. The attackers claim to be from a debt collection agency used by the IRS or the IRS itself.

Don’t Become a Victim of a Tax Phishing Scam

Many taxpayers and businesses fall victim to tax phishing scams each year, especially during tax season when attacks increase; however, by taking some simple steps and being vigilant it is possible to identify scams and keep financial and personal data secure.

Any email, text, or telephone call that requests personal/tax information should be treated as a potential scam. If an email or text message is received that claims to be from the IRS demanding payment of outstanding taxes, an offer of a tax refund, or a threat of legal action, bear in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact via email or text message asking for personal information. If such a message is received, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov and contact the IRS or check your online tax account to find out if there is a genuine problem. Never use the contact information or links in an email and do not open an email attachment in an email that appears to have been sent by the IRS.

Businesses can include information about tax phishing scams in their security awareness training sessions, but departments that are likely to be targeted by cybercriminals – payroll, human resources, finance and accounting Etc.) should receive specific training ahead off the start of tax season. Sending monthly reminders about phishing attacks and other tax scams each month via email is also a good best practice.

Since most attacks start with a phishing email, businesses should ensure that they have an advanced spam filtering solution in place to block phishing and other emails at the gateway before they can be delivered to end users. SpamTitan is an ideal anti-spam solution for businesses and tax professionals to protect against tax phishing scams. The solution blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and includes outbound email scanning to ensure that compromised email accounts cannot be used for spamming.

To protect against internet phishing scams, a web filtering solution is ideal. WebTitan prevents end users from visiting phishing websites, including blocking visits to malicious websites via hyperlinks in scam emails. The solution also blocks drive-by malware downloads and other web-based threats.

If you are a tax professional or you run a business and are unhappy with your current anti-spam or web filtering solution provider, or you have yet to implement either of these solutions, give the TitanHQ team a call today for further information on how these solutions can protect your business, details of pricing, and to book a product demonstration.

How to Protect Against Spoofed Email Phishing Scams

Spoofed email phishing scams can be hard for end users to identify. The scams involve sending a phishing email to a user and making the email appear as if it has been sent by a known individual. This could be a known contact such as a supplier, a work colleague, a friend or family member, or a well-known company.

These phishing campaigns abuse trust in the sender and they are highly effective. Many end users are warned never to click on links in emails or open email attachments in messages from unknown senders, but when the sender is known, many users feel that the email is safe.

One of the most effective spoofed email phishing scams involves impersonation of the CEO or a high-level executive such as the CFO. This type of scam is often referred to as a business email compromise scam or BEC attack. A message is sent to an employee in the accounts department requesting an urgent wire transfer be made along with the account details. The attacker may first start an email conversation with the target before the request is made. No employee wants to refuse a direct request from the CEO, so the requested action is often taken.

Over the past few months, sextortion scams have grown in popularity with cybercriminals. Sextortion scams are those which threaten to oust the victim unless a payment is made. This could be disclosing the user’s internet browsing habits (dating sites, adult sites) to a spouse, work colleagues, and family members. There were many of these scams launched following the hacking of the Ashley Madison website when details of users of the site were dumped online.

Several sextortion scams have been detected in the past few months which claim that the sender (a hacker) has gained access to the user’s computer and installed malware that provided access to the webcam, microphone, and internet browsing history. The email message informs the recipient that they have been recorded while viewing adult websites and a video of them has been spliced with the content they were viewing at the time. The attacker threatens to send the video to every one of the user’s contacts on email and social media accounts.

Two recent sextortion campaigns have been detected that spoof the users own email address, so the email appears to have been sent from their own email account. This tactic backs up the claim that the attacker has full control of the user’s device and access to their email contacts. The reality is the email header has just been spoofed. Additionally, the user’s password is included in the message, which has been obtained from a past data breach. The password may not be current, but it may be recognized.

A check of the bitcoin wallet address included in the emails for the blackmail payment shows these scam emails have been highly effective and several victims have paid up to avoid being outed. One campaign netted the attacker $100,000 in one week, another saw payments made totaling $250,000.

These spoofed email phishing scams are not difficult to block, yet many businesses are vulnerable to these types of attacks. Security awareness training for employees is a must. If employees are not taught how to check for spoofed email phishing scams, they are unlikely to recognize threats for what they are. Even so, it is difficult for an average employee to identify every possible phishing attempt, as phishing email simulations show.

What is needed is an advanced spam filtering solution that can detect spoofed email phishing attacks and block the malicious emails at source to prevent messages from being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan Cloud, for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails to keep businesses protected.

If you want to keep your business protected and prevent these all to common spoofed email phishing attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call. A member of the team will be happy to talk about the product, the best set up for your organization, and can arrange to give you a full product demonstration and set you up for a free trial.

 

Recently Disclosed WinRAR Vulnerability Being Actively Exploited in Malspam Campaign

It doesn’t take long after the release of a patch for hackers to take advantage, especially when the vulnerability potentially impacts 500 million users. It is therefore not surprising that at least one hacker is taking advantage of a recently disclosed WinRAR vulnerability.

Oftentimes, vulnerabilities are found in certain versions of software, but this vulnerability affects all WinRAR users and dates back 19 years. The WinRAR vulnerability was identified by researchers at Check Point. WinRAR was alerted and confirmed the vulnerability existed, and promptly issued an updated version of the file compression tool with the vulnerability removed. Details of the vulnerability were disclosed in a Check Point blog post on February 20, 2019.

The WinRAR vulnerability in question was present in a third-party DLL file which was included in WinRAR to allow ACE archive files to be uncompressed. The researchers found that by renaming a .rar archive to make it appear that the compressed file was an ACE archive, it was possible to extract a malicious file into the startup folder unbeknown to the user. That file would then run on boot, potentially giving an attacker full control of the device. The malicious file would continue to load on startup until discovered and removed.

All an attacker would need to do to exploit the WinRAR vulnerability is to convince a user to open a specially crafted .rar archive file attached to an email. Compressed files are often used in malspam campaigns to hide malicious executable files. Since .rar and .zip files are commonly used by businesses to send large files via email, they are likely to be recognized and may be opened by end users.

In this case, if the archive contents are extracted, the user would likely be unaware that anything untoward had happened, as the executable is loaded into the startup folder without giving any indication the file has been extracted. Due to the location of extraction, no further actions are required by the user.

In this case, the executable installs a backdoor, although only if the user has User Account Control (UAC) disabled. That said, this is unlikely to be the only campaign exploiting the WinRAR vulnerability. Other threat actors may develop a way to exploit the vulnerability for all users that have yet to update to the latest WinRAR version.

Many users will have WinRAR installed on their computer but will rarely use the program, so may not be aware that there is an update available. It is possible that a large percentage of users with the program installed have yet to update to the latest version and are vulnerable to attack.

This campaign illustrates just how important it is to patch promptly. As soon as a patch is released for a popular software program it is only a matter of time before that vulnerability is exploited, even just a few days.

Patching all devices in use in an organization can take time. It is therefore important to make sure that all employees receive security awareness training and are taught email security best practices and how to identify potentially malicious emails.

Unfortunately, social engineering techniques can be highly convincing, and many users may be fooled into opening email attachments, especially when the attacker spoofs the sender’s email address and the email appears to come from a known individual. It is therefore essential to have an advanced spam filtering solution in place that is capable of detecting malicious attachments at source, including malicious files hidden inside compressed files, and stop the messages from being delivered to inboxes.

Office 365 Phishing Scam Uses SharePoint Lure

A new Office 365 phishing scam has been detected that attempts to get users to part with their Office 365 credentials with a request for collaboration via SharePoint.

The campaign was first detected in the summer of 2018 by researchers at cybersecurity firm Avanan. The Office 365 phishing scam is ongoing and has proven to be highly effective. According to Kaspersky Lab, the phishing campaign has been used in targeted attacks on at least 10% of companies that use Office 365.

This Office 365 phishing scam abuses trust in SharePoint services that are often used by employees. An email is sent to an Office 365 user that contains a link to a document stored in OneDrive for Business. In contrast to many phishing campaigns that spoof links and fool users into visiting a website other than the one indicated by the link text, this link actually does direct the user to an access request document on OneDrive.

A link in the document then directs users to a third-party website where they are presented with a Microsoft Office 365 login page that is a perfect copy of the official Office 365 login page. If login credentials are entered, they are given to the scammers. Once obtained, it is possible for the scammers to gain access to the Office 365 account of the user, including email and cloud storage.

The email accounts can be used for further phishing campaigns on the user’s contacts. Since those messages come from within the organization, they are more likely to be trusted. Email accounts can also contain a wealth of sensitive information which is of great value to competitors. In healthcare, email accounts can contain patient information, including data that can be used to steal identities. The attackers can also use the compromised credentials to spread malware. Employees may know not to open attachments from unknown individuals, but when they are sent from a colleague, they are more likely to be opened.

Businesses that use Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection (APT) service may mistakenly believe they are protected from phishing attacks such as this. However, since the links in the email are genuine OneDrive links, they are not identified as malicious. It is only the link in those documents that is malicious, but once the document is opened, Microsoft’s APT protection has already been bypassed.

Finding Office 365 users is not difficult. According to a 2017 Spiceworks survey, 83% of enterprises use Office 365 and figures from 2018 suggest 56% of organizations globally have adopted Office 365. However, a basic check can easily identify Office 365 users as it is broadcast on public DNS MX records. If one user can be found in an organization, it is highly likely that every other user will be using Office 365.

Businesses can take steps to avoid Office 365 phishing scams such as this.

  1. Ensure that all employees are made aware of the threat from phishing, and specifically this Office 365 phishing scam. They should be told to exercise caution with offers to collaborate that have not been preceded by a conversation.
  2. Conduct phishing email simulations to test defenses against phishing and identify individuals that require further security awareness training.
  3. Activate multifactor authentication to prevent stolen credentials from being used to access Office 365 accounts from unknown locations/devices.
  4. Change from APT anti-phishing controls to a third-party spam filter such as SpamTitan. This will not only improve catch rates, it will also not broadcast that the organization uses Office 365.
  5. Use an endpoint protection solution that is capable of detecting phishing attacks.
  6. Implement a web filter to prevent users from visiting known phishing websites and other malicious web pages.

Allscripts EHR Breach Highlights Need for Improved Ransomware Protections for Healthcare Organizations

The massive Allscripts EHR breach in January 2018 resulted in massive disruption for the company and its clients. Clients were locked out of their electronic health records for several days while the company battled to recover from the attack. Around 1,500 of the company’s clients were affected.

The cost of mitigating the ransomware attack was considerable, and in addition to those costs, the Allscripts EHR breach prompted many clients to take legal action. The costs continue to mount.

The Allscripts EHR breach involved SamSam ransomware, which has plagued the healthcare industry over the past couple of years. The threat actors behind the attacks typically gain access to healthcare networks through RDP vulnerabilities and deploy the ransomware manually after scouting the network. This way, maximum damage can be inflicted, which increases the probability of the ransom being paid.

The Allscripts EHR breach certain stands out as one of the most damaging ransomware attacks of 2018, although it was just one of many healthcare ransomware attacks in 2018 involving many ransomware variants.

According to Beazley Breach Response Services, ransomware attacks more than doubled in September. Many cybercriminals have switched to cryptocurrency mining malware, but the ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations are continuing and show no sign of slowing.

In recent months, there has been a growing trend of combining malware variants to maximize the profitability of attacks. Ransomware is a quick and easy way for cybercriminals to earn money but combining ransomware with other malware variants is much more profitable. Further, if files are recovered from backups and no ransom is paid, cybercriminals can still profit from the attacks.

Several campaigns have been detected recently that combine Trojans such as AZORult, Emotet and Trickbot with ransomware. Attacks with these Trojans have increased by 132% since 2017 according to Malwarebytes. The Trojans steal sensitive information through keylogging, are capable lateral movement within a network, and also serve as downloaders for other malware such as Ryuk and GandCrab ransomware. Once information has been stolen, the ransomware payload is deployed.

The Allscripts EHR breach was somewhat atypical. It is far more common for ransomware to be delivered via email than brute force attacks on RDP. The campaigns combining Emotet, Trickbot, and AZORult with ransomware are primarily delivered by email.

In addition to ransomware attacks, phishing attacks are rife in healthcare. Email was the most common location of exposed protected health information in 2018. Email security is a weak point in healthcare defenses.

The number of successful ransomware and phishing attacks in healthcare make it clear that email security needs to improve. An advanced spam filter to block malicious emails, improved end user training is required to teach employees how to recognize email threats, intrusion detection systems need to be deployed, along with powerful anti-virus solutions. Only by implementing layered defenses to block email attacks and other attack vectors will healthcare organizations be able to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks.

Latest Ursnif Trojan Campaign Highlights Need to Improve Anti-Phishing Defenses

A new Ursnif Trojan campaign has been detected that uses a new variant of the malware which uses fileless techniques to avoid detection. In addition to the banking Trojan, GandCrab ransomware is also downloaded.

Increase in Banking Trojan and Ransomware Combination Attacks

Ransomware attacks can cause considerable disruption to businesses, although a good backup strategy can allow businesses to recover quickly in the event of a successful attack without having to pay the ransom demand.

However, there has been a significant increase in phishing attacks that deliver not one but two malware variants – ransomware to extort money from companies but also an information stealer to obtain sensitive information such as login and banking credentials. Malware variants used in these attacks also have the capability to download other malware variants and gather system data and process information for use in further attacks.

These phishing campaigns allow hackers to maximize the profitability of attacks and make the attack profitable even if the business does not pay the ransom.

There have been several examples of these attacks in recent months. Earlier in January, warnings were issued about the combination of Ryuk ransomware with the Trickbot and Emotet Trojans – Two malware variants that are used in wire fraud attacks. Ryuk ransomware has been extensively used in attacks on U.S. healthcare providers. The combination with the banking Trojans makes the attacks far more damaging.

Now another campaign has been detected using different malware variants – The Ursnif Trojan and the latest version of GandCrab ransomware.

What Does the Ursnif Trojan Do?

The Ursnif Trojan is one of the most active banking Trojans currently in use. The main functions of the malware is to steal system information and bank account credentials from browsers. The latest variants of the Ursnif Trojan have also been used to deploy other malware variants such as GandCrab ransomware.

According to security researchers at Carbon Black, who identified the latest campaign, the Ursnif Trojan now uses fileless execution mechanisms to make detection more difficult. Instead of downloading and writing files to the hard drive – which can be detected – a PowerShell script downloads a payload and executes it in the memory. That payload then downloads a further file and injects it into the PowerShell process, ultimately resulting in the downloading of the ransomware.

When code is loaded in the memory, it often does not survive a reboot, although the latest variant of Ursnif has persistence. This is achieved by storing an encoded PowerShell command inside a registry key and subsequently launching the command via the Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC).

Once information has been collected from an infected system, it is packaged inside a CAB file and sent back to the attackers C2 via encrypted HTTPS. This makes data exfiltration difficult to detect.

The Ursnif Trojan campaign uses email as the attack vector with infection occurring via a Word document attachment that contains a VBA macro. If the attachment is opened and macros are enabled (automatically or manually), the infection process will be triggered.

How Businesses can Protect Against Attacks

Due to the difficulty detecting the malware attack once it has started, the best way to protect against this attack is by improving anti-phishing defenses. It is important to prevent the malicious emails from being delivered to inboxes and to ensure that employees are trained how to identify the messages if they make it past email defenses. The former can be achieved with a powerful spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan.

Along with security awareness training for employees to condition them not to open emails from unknown senders or open attachments and enable macros, businesses can mount an effective defense against the attack.

How Does Business Email Get Hacked?

Barely a day goes by without an announcement being made about an email account compromise, especially in the healthcare industry, but how does business email get hacked? What are the main ways that email account access is gained by unauthorized individuals?

Four Ways Business Email Gets Hacked

There four main ways that business email gets hacked, although fortunately there are simple steps that can be taken to improve email security and reduce the risk of an email account compromise at your business.

Phishing Attacks

The easiest way for a hacker to gain access to a business email account is to ask the account holder for their password. This method is incredibly simple, costs next to nothing, and is very effective. Phishing, like fishing, uses a lure to achieve its aim. An attacker only needs to craft an email with a plausible reason for divulging a password.

The attack could be as simple as spoofing an email from the IT department that requests the user change his or her password for security reasons. A link is supplied in the email that directs the user to a site where they have to enter their password and a replacement. Office 365 phishing scams are now common. A user is directed to a spoofed website where they are presented with a standard Office 365 login box, which they need to enter to open a shared file for example.

The lures are diverse, although there is usually a valid reason for providing login credentials, urgency, and often a threat – The failure to take action will result in harm or loss.

Brute Force Attacks

An alternative method of hacking a business email account is for the attacker to attempt to guess a user’s password. This is a much more long-winded approach that can require thousands of attempts before the password is guessed. This technique is automated and made easier by poor password choices and the failure to change default passwords. Passwords obtained in previous breaches can be used, which will catch out people who use the same passwords for multiple platforms. Information about a person can also be found on social media – A partner’s name, child’s name, pet name, or dates of birth – Information that is commonly used to create passwords.

Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

A man-in-the-middle attack involves an attacker intercepting information such as a password when it is sent between two parties. Information can be intercepted in unencrypted emails or when a user logs into a web-based platform via their browser. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and evil twin Wi-Fi hotspots – Hotspots that mimic a genuine hotspot provider, such as a coffee shop or hotel. Any information transmitted via that hotspot can be easily intercepted.

Writing Down Passwords

Many businesses have implemented password polices that require the use of strong and difficult to remember passwords. As a result, some employees write their passwords down on post-it notes, tape a password to their computer, or keep a note under their keyboard where any visitor to an office could discover it.

How to Stop Business Email Getting Hacked

These methods of gaining access to business email accounts are easy and inexpensive to block through low-cost cybersecurity solutions, policies and procedures, and staff training.

For businesses, the most important control to implement to protect against phishing is an advanced spam filter. A spam filter inspects all incoming emails for common spam signatures and malicious links and blocks messages before they are delivered to end users. Some spam filters also inspect outgoing email, which helps to prevent a breached email account from being used for further phishing attacks on contacts.

Even the best spam filters will not block every single phishing email so security awareness training for staff is essential. Regular training sessions should be provided – at least twice annually – and these should be augmented with more regular reminders about security and newsletters about the latest threats. Phishing simulations are useful for testing the effectiveness of training and to condition employees how to respond to email threats.

Brute force attacks are best prevented with good password policies that prevent weak passwords from being set. To prevent employees from writing passwords down, consider paying for a password manager or allowing the use of long passphrases, which are easy to remember but difficult to guess. Ensure two-factor authentication is enabled and rate limiting is applied to block login attempts after a set number of failed password guesses.

Man-in-the-middle attacks can be prevented in a number of ways. Remote workers should be provided with a VPN to access work networks and email. Some web filters, WebTitan for instance, can be used to protect remote workers online and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and can also to prevent users from visiting malicious websites, such as those used for phishing.

If you want to improve email security, TitanHQ can help. Contact the team today for information on spam filters to block phishing attacks and to find out more about the benefits of web filtering.

Love Letter Email Scam Delivers Cocktail of Malware

A new email campaign is being conducted in the run up to Valentine’s Day which attempts to get users to open email attachments by fooling them into thinking they are love letters. The love letter email scam includes enticing subject lines such as ‘Love Letter’, ‘I Love You’, ‘This is my love letter to you’, ‘Always thinking about you’, and other love and love letter themes.

These types of scams are common in the run up to Valentine’s Day, and as the day draws closer, the likelihood of the scams succeeding grows.

The emails contain a zip file containing a JavaScript file with a variety of names, all of which start with Love_You. Extracting and running the file will result in the download of ransomware and other malware variants.

If the JavaScript file is run, it launches a PowerShell command that downloads and runs a malware variant named krablin.exe. Krablin.exe is also copied to USB thumb drives that are plugged into the computer.

A further four malware variants are subsequently downloaded to the victim’s device: The Phorpiex spambot, a Monero cryptocurrency miner (XMRig), a further malware downloader, and the latest version of GandCrab ransomware: A particularly nasty combination of malware.

The malspam campaign was detected by SANS ISC researcher Brad Duncan who determined the campaign has been running since at least November 2018. Several different subject lines and attachments have been identified and multiple spoofed sending addresses are used in this campaign.

Word documents and Excel spreadsheets containing malicious macros are more commonly used to spread malware, although JavaScript based malspam is nothing new. Most individuals are not familiar with .js files so may choose not to open them, although the theme of this love letter email scam may tempt people into making an exception. JavaScript malware may also be executed by Windows, without the user having to open the file. Simply saving a JavaScript file may be all that is required to trigger the infection process.

To prevent email scams such as this from succeeding, businesses should ensure that their employees receive ongoing security awareness training. Regular email security alerts should be sent to the workforce to keep them abreast of the latest techniques that are being used by scammers to install malware and phish for sensitive information.

It is also essential for an advanced spam filter to be implemented. This will ensure the majority of malicious messages are blocked and not delivered to end users. SpamTitan scans all incoming and outgoing messages and uses a variety of techniques to identify spam and malicious messages. Those controls ensure a block rate in excess of 99.9%, while dual antivirus engines provide total protection against all known malware variants.

SpamTitan is available on a free trial with options to suit all businesses and managed service providers. For further information, to register for the no-obligation free trial, or to book a product demonstration, contact TitanHQ today.

Easy to Implement Anti-Phishing Solutions for MSPs

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 release of messages from quarantine. Reports can be generated per domain and those reports can be automatically sent to clients. The solution can be fully rebranded to take MSP logos and color schemes, and the solution can be hosted in a private cloud.

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.

For further information on TitanHQ’s anti-phishing solutions for MSPs, contact the TitanHQ team today and enquire about joining the TitanHQ Alliance program.

Novel Phishing Scam Uses Custom Web Fonts to Evade Detection

A new phishing scam has been detected that uses a novel method to evade detection – The use of custom fonts to implement a substitution cipher that makes the source code of the phishing page appear as plaintext.

Many phishing web pages obfuscate their source code to make it harder for automated security solutions to uncover malicious actions and make the phishing pages appear harmless. As such, the phishing sites are not blocked and users may be fooled into supplying their credentials as requested. The phishing web pages used in this scam will display what appears to be a genuine website when the page is rendered in the browser. Users will be presented with a spoofed web page that closely resembles the standard login page of their bank. To the user, apart from the domain name, there is nothing to indicate that the site is not genuine. If credentials are entered, they will be harvested by the scammer and used to gain access to the users’ bank account.

In this case, a substitution cipher is used to obfuscate the source code. To security solutions, the text is encoded, which makes it difficult to determine what that code does. This tactic has been used in previous phishing campaigns, with the substitution cipher applied using JavaScript. While users may be fooled, automated security solutions can detect the JavaScript fairly easily and can block access to the web page.

The latest campaign uses custom fonts – termed woff files – which are present on the page and hidden through base64 encoding.  These custom fonts are used to implement the cipher and make the source code appear as plaintext, while the actual source code is encrypted and remains hidden.  The substitution is performed using CSS on the landing page, rather than JavaScript. This technique has not been seen before and is much harder to detect.

The substitution cipher results in the user being displayed the correct text when the page is rendered in the browser, although that text will not exist on the page. Solutions that search for certain keywords to identify whether a site is malicious will therefore not find those keywords and will not block access to the page. This technique substitutes individual letters such as abcd with alternate letters jehr for example using woff and woff2 fonts. While the page is rendered correctly for the user, when a program reads the source code it is presented with jumbled, gibberish letters.

As an additional measure to avoid detection, the logos that have been stolen from the targeted bank are also obfuscated. It is common for bank logos to be stolen and included on phishing pages to convince visitors they are on a genuine site, but the use of the logos can be detected. By rendering the graphics using scalable vector graphics (SVG) files, the logos and their source do not appear in the source code of the page and are hard to detect.

These new techniques show just how important it is to block phishing emails at source before they are delivered to end users’ inboxes and the need for comprehensive cybersecurity training to be provided to employees to help them identify potentially malicious emails. A web filtering solution is also important to prevent users from visiting phishing pages, either through general browsing, redirects via malvertising, or blocking users when they click embedded hyperlinks in phishing emails.

To find out more about cybersecurity solutions that can protect against phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Does 2-Factor Authentication Stop Phishing Attacks?

2-factor authentication is an important safeguard to prevent unauthorized account access, but does 2-factor authentication stop phishing attacks?

What is 2-Factor Authentication?

2-Factor authentication is commonly used as an additional protection measure to prevent accounts from being accessed by unauthorized individuals in the event that a password is compromised.

If a password is disclosed in a phishing attack or has otherwise been obtained or guessed, a second authentication method is required before the account can be accessed.

Two-factor authentication uses a combination of two different methods of authentication, commonly something a person owns (device/bank card), something a person knows knows (a password or PIN), and/or something a person has (fingerprint, iris scan, voice pattern, or a token).

The second factor control is triggered if an individual, authorized or otherwise, attempts to login from an unfamiliar location or from a device that has not previously been used to access the account.

For instance, a person uses their laptop to connect from a known network and enters their password. No second factor is required. The same person uses the same device and password from an unfamiliar location and a second factor must be supplied. If the login credentials are used from an unfamiliar device, by a hacker for instance that has obtained a username and password in a phishing attack, the second factor is also required.

A token or code is often used to verify identity, which is sent to a mobile phone. In such cases, in addition to a password, an attacker would also need to have the user’s phone.

Does 2-Factor Authentication Stop Phishing Attacks?

So, does 2-factor authentication stop phishing attacks from succeeding? In many cases, it does, but 2-factor authentication is not infallible. While it was once thought to be highly effective at stopping unauthorized account access, opinion is now changing. It is certainly an important additional, low-cost layer of security that is worthwhile implementing, but 2-factor authentication alone will not prevent all phishing attacks from succeeding.

There are various methods that can be used to bypass 2-factor authentication, for instance, if a user is directed to a phishing page and enters their credentials, the hacker can then use those details in real-time to login to the legitimate site. A 2FA code is sent to the user’s device, the user then enters that code into the phishing page. The attacker then uses the code on the legitimate site.

This 2-factor authentication bypass is somewhat cumbersome, but this week a phishing tool has been released that automates this process. The penetration testing tool was created by a Polish researcher named Piotr Duszynski, and it allows 2FA to be bypassed with ease.

The tool, named Modlishka, is a reverse proxy that has been modified for handling login page traffic. The tool sits between the user and the target website on a phishing domain. When the user connects to the phishing page hosting this tool, the tool serves content from the legitimate site – Gmail for instance – but all traffic passes through the tool and is recorded, including the 2FA code.

The user supplies their credentials, a 2-factor code is sent to their phone, and that code is entered, giving the attacker account access.

It is an automated version of the above bypass that only requires a hacker to have a domain to use, a valid TLS certificate for the domain, and a copy of the tool. No website phishing templates need to be created as they are served from the genuine site. Since the tool has been made available on Github, the 2FA bypass could easily be used by hackers.

Additional Controls to Stop Phishing Attacks

To protect against phishing, a variety of methods must be used. First, an advanced spam filter is required to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes. SpamTitan, for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails.

Fewer than 0.1% of emails may make it past the spam filter, but any one could result in an account compromise. Security awareness training should therefore be provided to employees to help them identify suspicious emails.

Unfortunately, people do make mistakes and phishing emails can be highly realistic, so it is wise to also implement a web filter.

A web filter will block attempts to connect to known phishing sites and can assess sites in real time to help determine their authenticity. If the checks fail, the user will be prevented from accessing the site.

These anti-phishing controls are now essential cybersecurity measures for businesses to protect against phishing attacks, and are all the more important since 2FA cannot be relied upon to protect against unauthorized access once a password has been compromised.

You can find out more about SpamTitan and WebTitan by contacting TitanHQ.