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.

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.

New Netflix Phishing Scam Prompts FTC to Issue Warning

A new Netflix phishing scam has been detected that attempts to fool Netflix subscribers into disclosing their login credentials and other sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and bank account numbers.

This Netflix phishing scam is similar to others that have been intercepted over the past few months. A major campaign was detected in October and another in November. The latest Netflix phishing scam confirms that the threat actors are now launching large-scale phishing attacks on a monthly basis.

The number of recent Netflix scams and the scale of the campaigns has prompted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue a warning to raise awareness of the threat.

The latest campaign was detected by an officer in the Ohio Police Department. As with past campaigns, the attackers use a tried and tested method to get users to click on the link in the email – The threat of account closure due to issues with the user’s billing information.

In order to prevent closure of the user’s Netflix account a link in the email must be clicked. That will direct the user to the Netflix site where login credentials and banking information must be entered. While the web page looks genuine, it is hosted on a domain controlled by the attackers. Any information entered on that web page will be obtained by the threat actors behind the scam.

The emails appear genuine and contain the correct logos and color schemes and are almost identical to the official emails sent to users by Netflix. Netflix also includes links in its emails, so unwary users may click without first checking the authenticity of the email.

Netflix Phishing Scam

Image Source: FTC via Ohio Police Department

There are signs that the email is not what it seems. The email is incorrectly addressed “Hi Dear”; British English is used, even though the email is sent to U.S. citizens; the email is sent from a domain that is not used by Netflix; and the domain to which the email directs users is similarly suspect. However, the scam is sure to fool many users who fail to carefully check emails before taking any action.

Consumers need to exercise caution with email and should carefully check messages before responding, no matter how urgent the call for action is. It is a good best practice to always visit a website directly by entering in the domain into the address bar of a web browser, rather than clicking a link in an email.

If the email is determined to be a scam, it should be reported to the appropriate authorities in the country in which you reside and also to the company the scammers are impersonating. In the case of Netflix phishing scams, emails should be sent to phishing@netflix.com.

While this Netflix phishing scam targets consumers, businesses are also at risk. Many similar scams attempt to get users to part with business login credentials and bank account information. Businesses can reduce the risk of data and financial losses to phishing scams by ensuring all members of the company, from the CEO down, are given regular security awareness training and are taught cybersecurity best practices and are made aware of the latest threats.

An advanced spam filtering solution is also strongly recommended to ensure the vast majority of these scam emails are blocked and do not reach inboxes. SpamTitan for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and 100% of known malware.

For further information on anti-phishing solutions for businesses, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Major San Diego School District Phishing Attack Discovered

A major San Diego School District phishing attack has been discovered. The phishing attack stands out from the many similar phishing attacks on schools due to the extent of accounts that were compromised, the amount of data that was potentially obtained, and the length of time it took for the data breach to be detected.

According to a recent breach announcement, the login credentials of around 50 district employees were obtained by the attacker. It is not unusual for multiple accounts to be breached in school phishing attacks. Once access is gained to one account, it can be used to send internal phishing emails to other staff members. Since those emails come from within, they are more likely to be trusted and less likely to be detected. Investigations into similar phishing attacks often reveal many more email accounts have been compromised than was initially thought, although 50 sets of compromised credentials is particularly high.

Those accounts were compromised over a period of 11 months. The San Diego School District phishing attack was first detected in October 2018 after staff alerted the district’s IT department to phishing emails that had been received. Multiple reports tipped off the IT department that an ongoing cyberattack was occurring and there may have been a data breach.

The investigation revealed the credentials obtained by the attacker provided access to the district’s network services, which included access to the district’s database of staff and student records. The school district is the second largest in California and serves over 121,000 students each year. The database contained records going back to the 2008/2009 school year. In total, the records of more than 500,000 individuals were potentially obtained by the hacker. Given the length of time that the hacker had access to the network, data theft is highly probable.

The data potentially obtained was considerable. Student information compromised included names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, email addresses, enrollment and attendance information, discipline incident information, health data, legal notices on file, state student ID numbers, emergency contact information, and Social Security numbers. Compromised staff information also included salary information, health benefits data, paychecks and pay advices, tax data, and details of bank accounts used for direct deposits.

Data could be accessed from January 2018 to November 2018. While it is typical for unauthorized access to be immediately blocked upon discovery of a breach, in this case the investigation into the breach was conducted prior to shutting down access. This allowed the identity of the suspected hacker to be determined without tipping off the hacker that the breach had been detected. The investigation into the breach is ongoing, although access has now been blocked and affected individuals have been notified. Additional cybersecurity controls have now been implemented to block future attacks.

School district phishing attacks are commonplace. School districts often lack the resources of large businesses to devote to cybersecurity. Consequently, cyberattacks on school districts are much easier to pull off. Schools also store large volumes of sensitive data of staff and students, which can be used for a wide range of malicious purposes. The relative ease of attacks and a potential big payday for hackers and phishers make schools an attractive target.

The San Diego School District phishing attack is just one of many such attacks that have been reported this year. During tax season at the start of 2018, many school districts were targeted by phishers seeking the W-2 forms of employees. It is a similar story every year, although the threat actors behind these W-2 phishing attacks have been more active in the past two years.

In December this year, Cape Cod Community College suffered a different type of phishing attack. The aim of that attack was to convince staff to make fraudulent wire transfers. At least $800,000 was transferred to the attackers’ accounts in that attack.

These attacks clearly demonstrate the seriousness of the threat of phishing attacks on school districts and highlights the importance of implementing robust cybersecurity protections to protect against phishing.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information on anti-phishing solutions for schools.

Office 365 Phishing Emails Masquerade as Non-Delivery Notifications

campaign is to obtain users’ Office 365 passwords.

The phishing campaign was detected by ISC Handler Xavier Mertens and the campaign appears to still be active.

The phishing emails closely resemble legitimate Office 365 non-delivery notifications and include Office 365 branding. As is the case with official non-delivery notifications, the user is alerted that messages have not been delivered and told that action is required.

The Office 365 phishing emails claim that “Microsoft found Several Undelivered Messages” and attributes the non-delivery to “Server Congestion.” The emails ask the sender to retype the recipient’s email address and send the message again, although conveniently they include a Send Again button.

If users click the Send Again button, they will be directed to a website that closely resembles the official Office 365 website and includes a login box that has been auto-populated with the user’s email address.

If the password is entered, a JavaScript function sends both the email address and password to the scammer. The user will then be redirected to the genuine outlook.office365.com website where they will be presented with a real Office 365 login box.

While the Office 365 phishing emails and the website look legitimate, there are signs that all is not what it seems. The emails are well written and the sender’s email – postmaster@us.ibm.com – looks official but there is irregular capitalization of the warning message: Something that would not occur on an official Microsoft notification.

The clearest sign that this is a phishing scam is the domain to which users are directed if they click on the Send Again button. It is not an official Microsoft domain (agilones.com).

While the error in the email may be overlooked, users should notice the domain, although some users may proceed and enter passwords as the login box is identical to the login on the official Microsoft site.

The campaign shows just how important it is to carefully check every message before taking any action and to always check the domain before disclosing any sensitive information.

Scammers use Office 365 phishing emails because so many businesses have signed up to use Office 365. Mass email campaigns therefore have a high probability of reaching an Outlook inbox. That said, it is easy to target office 365 users. A business that is using Office 365 broadcasts it through their public DNS MX records.

Businesses can improve their resilience to phishing attacks through mandatory security awareness training for all employees. Employees should be told to always check messages carefully and should be taught how to identify phishing emails.

Businesses should also ensure they have an advanced spam filtering solution in place. While Microsoft does offer anti-phishing protection for Office 365 through its Advanced Threat Protection (APT) offering, businesses should consider using a third-party spam filtering solution with Office 365.

SpamTitan provides superior protection against phishing and zero-day attacks, an area where APT struggles.

Irish Phishing Study Shows Millennials’ Confidence in Security Awareness is Misplaced

According to a recent Irish phishing study, as many as 185,000 office workers in the country have fallen victim to phishing scams.

Phishing is a method used by cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information such as login credentials, financial information, and other sensitive data. While phishing can take place over the phone, via messaging platforms or by text message, email is most commonly used.

Messages are sent in bulk in the hope that some individuals will respond, or campaigns can be much more targeted. The latter is referred to as spear phishing. With spear phishing attacks, cybercriminals often research their victims and tailor messages to maximize the probability of them eliciting a response.

A successful phishing attack on employees can see them disclose their email credentials which allows their accounts to be accessed. Then the attackers can search emails accounts for sensitive information or use the accounts to conduct further phishing attacks on other employees. When financial information is disclosed, business bank accounts can be emptied.

Businesses can suffer major financial losses as a result of employees responding to phishing emails, the reputation of the business can be damaged, customers can be lost, and there is also a risk of major regulatory fines.

Irish Phishing Study Findings

The Irish phishing study was conducted on 500 Irish office workers by the survey consultancy firm Censuswide. Respondents to the Irish phishing study were asked questions about phishing, whether they had fallen for a phishing scam in the past, and how they rated their ability to identify phishing attacks.

In line with findings from surveys conducted in other countries, 14% of respondents said they had been a victim of a phishing attack. There were also marked differences between different age groups.  Censuswide analyzed three age groups: Millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers. The latter two age groups were fairly resistant to phishing attempts. Gen X were the most phishing-savvy, with just 6% of respondents in the age group admitting to having been fooled by phishing emails in the past, closely followed by the baby boomer generation on 7%. However, 17% of millennials admitted having fallen for a phishing scam – The generation that should, in theory, be the most tech-savvy.

Interestingly, millennials were also the most confident in their ability to recognize phishing attempts. 14% of millennials said they would not be certain that they could detect fraud, compared to 17% of Gen X, and 26% of baby boomers.

It is easy to be confident about one’s ability to spot standard phishing attempts, but phishing attacks are becoming much more sophisticated and very realistic. Complacency can be very dangerous.

Phishing Protection for Businesses

The results of the Irish phishing study make it clear that businesses need to do more to protect themselves from phishing attacks. Naturally, an advanced spam filtering solution is required to ensure that employees do not have their phishing email identification skills put to the test constantly. SpamTitan, for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails, thus reducing reliance on employees’ ability to identify scam emails.

The Irish phishing study also highlights the importance of providing security awareness training to employees. The study revealed 44% of the over 54 age group had opened an attachment or clicked on a link in an email from an unknown sender, as had 34% of millennials and 26% of the Gen X age group. Alarmingly, one in five respondents said that their employer had not provided any security awareness training whatsoever.

Employees need to learn how to identify scams, so security awareness training must be provided. Since cybercriminals’ tactics are constantly evolving, training needs to be continuous. Annual or biannual training sessions should be provided, along with shorter refresher training sessions. Businesses should also consider conducting phishing email simulations to test resilience to phishing attacks and highlight weak links.

To be effective, anti-phishing training needs to be provided to all employees and requires buy-in from all departments. Unless that happens, it will be difficult to develop a culture of security awareness.

How to Improve Office 365 Security

In this post we offer four simple steps to take to improve Office 365 security and make it harder for hackers and phishers to gain access to users’ accounts.

Hackers are Targeting Office 365 Accounts

It should come as no surprise to hear that hackers are targeting Office 365 accounts. Any software package that has 155 million global users is going to be a target for hackers, and with the number of users growing by an astonishing 3 million a month, Office 365 accounts are likely to be attacked even more frequently.

One study this year has confirmed that to be the case. There has been a 13% increase in attempts to hack into Office 365 email accounts this year, and many of those attacks succeed. You should therefore take steps to improve Office 365 security.

Hackers themselves are paying for Office 365 and are probing its security protections to find vulnerabilities that can be exploited. They also test their phishing emails on real office 365 accounts to find out which ones bypass Microsoft’s anti-phishing protections.

When emails have been developed that bypass Microsoft’s anti-phishing protections, mass email campaigns are launched on Office 365 users. Businesses using Office 365 can easily be found and targeted because it is made clear that they use Office 365 through public DNS MX records.

So how can you improve office 365 security and make it harder for hackers? If you take the four steps below, you will be able to greatly improve Office 365 security and thwart more attacks.

Enforce the Use of Strong Passwords

Hackers often conduct brute force attacks on Office 365 email accounts so you need to develop a strong password policy and prevent users from setting passwords that are easy to brute force. You should not allow dictionary words or any commonly used weak passwords, that otherwise meet your password policy requirements – Password1! for instance.

The minimum length for a password should be 8 characters but consider increasing that minimum. A password of between 12 and 15 characters is recommended. Make sure you do not set a too restrictive maximum number of characters to encourage the use of longer passphrases. Passphrases are harder to crack than 8-digit passwords and easier for users to remember. To make it even easier for your users, consider using a password manager.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Even with strong passwords, some users’ passwords may be guessed, or users may respond to phishing emails and disclose their password to a scammer. An additional login control is therefore required to prevent compromised passwords from being used to access Office 365 accounts.

Multi-factor authentication is not infallible, but it will help you improve Office 365 security. With MFA, in addition to a password, another method of authentication is required such as a token or a code sent to a mobile phone. If a password is obtained by a hacker, and an attempt is made to login from a new location or device, further authentication will be required to access the account.

Enable Mailbox Auditing in Office 365

Mailbox auditing in Office 365 is not turned on by default so it needs to be enabled. You can set various parameters for logging activity including successful login attempts and various mailbox activities. This can help you identify whether a mailbox has been compromised. You can also logs failed login attempts to help you identify when you are being attacked.

Improve Office 365 Security with a Third-Party Spam Filter

As previously mentioned, hackers can test their phishing emails to find out if they bypass Office 365 anti-phishing controls and your organization can be identified as using Office 365. To improve Office 365 security and reduce the number of phishing emails that are delivered to end users’ inboxes, consider implementing a third-party spam filter rather than relying on Microsoft’s anti-phishing controls. Dedicated email security vendors, such as TitanHQ, offer more effective and more flexible anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions than Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection at a lower cost.

Office 365 Spam Filtering Controls Failed to Prevent Costly Malware Infection

A U.S. school system had Office 365 spam filtering controls in place and other cybersecurity solutions installed, but still experienced a costly 6-week malware infection. In this post we explore what went wrong and how you can improve security in your organization.

Multi-Layered Defenses Breached

If you want to mount a solid defense and prevent hackers from gaining access to your networks and data, multi-layered cybersecurity defenses are required, but for one Georgia school district that was not enough. On paper, their defenses looked sound. Office 365 spam filtering controls had been applied to protect the email system, the school district had a firewall appliance protecting the network, and a web filter had been installed to control what users could do online. Endpoint security had also been installed.

The school district was also updating its desktops to Windows 10 and its servers to Windows Server 2012 or later. Everything looked nice and secure.

However, the transportation department delayed the upgrades. The department was still sharing files on a local Windows 2003 server and some of the desktops were still running Windows XP, even though support for the OS had long since ended. The outdated software and lack of patching was exploited by the attackers.

How Was the Malware Installed?

The investigation has not yet determined exactly how the attack was initiated, but it is believed that it all started with an email. As a result of the actions of an end user, a chain of events was triggered that resulted in a 6-week struggle to mitigate the attack, the cost of which – in terms of time and resources – was considerable.

The attack is believed to have started on a Windows XP machine with SMBv1 enabled. That device had drives mapped to the Windows 2003 server. The malware that was installed was the Emotet Trojan, which used the EternalBlue exploit to spread across the network to other vulnerable devices. The attackers were able to gain control of those devices and installed cryptocurrency mining malware.

The cryptocurrency mining slowed the devices to such an extent that they were virtually unusable, causing many to continually crash and reboot. The network also slowed to a snail’s pace due to the streams of malicious traffic. While the upgraded Windows 10 machines were not affected initially, the attackers subsequently downloaded keyloggers onto the compromised devices and obtained the credentials of an IT support technician who had domain administration rights. The attackers then used those privileges to disable Windows Defender updates on desktops, servers, and domain controllers.

Over the course of a week, further Trojan modules were downloaded by creating scheduled tasks using the credentials of the IT support worker. A spam module was used to send malicious messages throughout the school district and several email accounts were compromised as a result and had malware downloaded. Other devices were infected through network shares. The TrickBot banking Trojan was downloaded and was used to attack the systems used by the finance department, although that Trojan was detected and blocked.

Remediation Took 6 Weeks

Remediating the attack was complicated. First the IT department disabled SMBv1 on all devices as it was not known what devices were vulnerable. Via a Windows Group Policy, the IT team then blocked the creation of scheduled tasks. Every device on the network had Windows Defender updates downloaded manually, and via autoruns for Windows, all processes and files run by the Trojan were deleted. The whole process of identifying, containing, and disabling the malware took 6 weeks.

The attack was made possible through an attack on a single user, although it was the continued use of unsupported operating systems and software that made the malware attack so severe.

The attack shows why it is crucial to ensure that IT best practices are followed and why patching is so important. For that to happen, the IT department needs to have a complete inventory of all devices and needs to make sure that each one is updated.

While Microsoft released a patch to correct the flaw in SMBv1 that was exploited through EternalBlue, the vulnerable Windows XP devices were not updated, even though Microsoft had released an update for the unsupported operating system in the spring of 2017.

Additional Protection is Required for Office 365 Inboxes

The attack also shows how the actions of a single user can have grave repercussions. By blocking malicious emails at source, attacks such as this will be much harder to pull off. While Office 365 spam filtering controls block many email-based threats, even with Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection many emails slip through and are delivered to inboxes.

Hackers can also see whether Office 365 is being used as it is broadcast through DNS MX records, which allows them to target Office 365 users and launch attacks.

Due to the additional cost of APT, the lack of flexibility, and the volume of malicious emails that are still delivered to inboxes, many businesses have chosen to implement a more powerful spam filtering solution on top of Office 365.

One such solution that has been developed to work seamlessly with Office 365 to improve protection against email threats is SpamTitan.

Sextortion Scams Now Combine Threat of Exposure with Multiple Malware Infections

Sextortion scams have proven popular with cybercriminals this year. A well written email and an email list are all that is required. The latter can easily be purchased for next to nothing via darknet marketplaces and hacking forums. Next to no technical skill is required to run sextortion scams and as scammers’ Bitcoin wallets show, they are effective.

Many sextortion scams use the tried and tested technique of threatening to expose a user’s online activities (pornography habits, dating/adultery site usage) to all their contacts and friends/family unless a payment is made. Some of the recent sextortion scams have added credibility by claiming to have users’ passwords. However, new sextortion scams have been detected in the past few days that are using a different tactic to get users to pay up.

The email template used in this scam is similar to other recent sextortion scams. The scammers claim to have a video of the victim viewing adult content. The footage was recorded through the victim’s webcam and has been spliced with screenshots of the content that was being viewed at the time.

In the new campaign the email contains the user’s email account in the body of the email, a password (Most likely an old password compromised in a previous breach), and a hyperlink that the victim is encouraged to click to download the video that has been created and see exactly what will soon be distributed via email and social media networks.

Clicking the link in the video will trigger the downloading of a zip file. The compressed file contains a document including the text of the email along with the supposed video file. That video file is actually an information stealer – The Azorult Trojan.

This form of the scam is even more likely to work than past campaigns. Many individuals who receive a sextortion scam email will see it for what it really is: A mass email containing an empty threat. However, the inclusion of a link to download a video is likely to see many individuals download the file to find out if the threat is real.

If the zip file is opened and the Azorult Trojan executed, it will silently collect information from the user’s computer – Similar information to what the attacker claims to have already obtained: Cookies from websites the user has visited, chat histories, files stored on the computer, and login information entered through browsers such as email account and bank credentials.

However, it doesn’t end there. The Azorult Trojan will also download a secondary payload: GandCrab ransomware. Once information has been collected, the user will have their personal files encrypted: Documents, spreadsheets, digital photos, databases, music, videos, and more. Recovery will depend on those files having been backed up and not also encrypted by the ransomware. Aside from permanent file loss, the only other alternative will be to pay a sizeable ransom for the key to decrypt the files.

If the email was sent to a business email account, or a personal email account that was accessed at work, files on the victim’s work computer will be encrypted. Since a record of the original email will have been extracted on the device, the reason why the malware was installed will be made clear to the IT department.

The key to not being scammed is to ignore any threats sent via email and never click links in the emails nor open email attachments.

Businesses can counter the threat by using cybersecurity solutions such as spam filters and web filters. The former prevents the emails from being delivered while the latter blocks access to sites that host malware.

Warning About Uptick in Holiday Season Gift Card Scams

The search for Christmas gifts can be a difficult process. All too often that search proves to be unfruitful and consumers opt to buy gift cards instead. At least with a gift card you can be sure that your friends and family members will be able to buy a gift that they want; however, beware of holiday season gift card scams. Many threat actors are using gift cards as the lure to fool end users into installing malware or parting with sensitive information.

Holiday Season Sees Marked Increase Gift Card Phishing Scams

Holiday season gift card scams are commonplace, and this year is no exception. Many gift card-themed scams were detected over Thanksgiving weekend that offered free or cheap gift cards to lure online shoppers into parting with their credit card details.

Everyone loves a bargain and the offer of something for nothing may be too hard to resist. Many people fall for these scams which is why threat actors switch to gift card scams around this time of year.

Consumers can be convinced to part with credit card details, but businesses too are at risk. Many of these campaigns are conducted to gain access to login credentials or are used to install malware. If an end user responds to such a scam while at work, it is their employer that will likely pay the price.

This year has seen many businesses targeted with gift card scams. Figures from Proofpoint suggest that out of the organizations that have been targeted with email fraud attacks, almost 16% had experienced a gif card-themed attack: Up from 11% in Q2, 2018.

This year has also seen an increase in business email compromise (BEC) style tactics, with emails appearing to have been sent from within a company. The emails claim to have been sent from the CEO (or another executive) requesting accounts and administration staff purchase gift cards for clients or ask for gift cards be purchased to be used for charitable donations.

To reduce the risk from gift card scams and other holiday-themed phishing emails, businesses need to ensure they have powerful spam filtering technology in place to block the emails at source and prevent them from being delivered to inboxes.

Advanced Anti-Phishing protection for Office 365

Many businesses use Office 365, but even Microsoft’s anti-phishing protections see many phishing emails slip through the net, especially at businesses that have not paid extra for advanced phishing protection. Even with the advanced anti-phishing controls, emails still make it past Microsoft’s filters.

To block these malicious messages, an advanced third-party spam filter is required. SpamTitan has been developed to work seamlessly with Office 365 to improved protection against malware, phishing emails, and more sophisticated phishing attacks.

SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam email, while dual anti-virus engines block 100% of known malware. What really sets SpamTitan in a different class is the level of protection it offers against new threats. A combination of Bayesian analysis, greylisting, machine learning, and heuristics help to identify zero-day attacks, which often slip past Office 365 defenses.

If you want to improve protection from email-based attacks and reduce the volume of spam and malicious messages that are being delivered to Office 365 inboxes, give TitanHQ a call today and book a product demonstration to see SpamTitan in action. You can sign up for a free trial of SpamTitan to test the solution in your own environment and see for yourself the difference it makes.

Phishing Attacks on Retailers and Food Industry Install Remote Access Trojans

There has been an increase in phishing attacks on retailers, supermarket chains, and restaurants in recent weeks. The aim of the phishing attacks is to deliver remote access Trojans and remote manipulator software to gain persistent access to computers and, ultimately, obtain banking credentials and sensitive customer data on POS systems.

Several new campaigns have been detected in recent weeks targeting retail and food sector companies, both of which are well into the busiest time of the year. With employees working hard, it is likely that less care will be taken opening emails which gives cybercriminals an opportunity.

PUB Files Used in Phishing Attacks on Retailers

Over the past few weeks, security researchers have noted an uptick in phishing attacks on retailers, with one threat group switching to using.pub files to install malware. Many phishing attacks use Word documents containing malicious macros. The use of macros with .pub files is relatively uncommon. The change to this new attachment type may fool employees, as they will be less likely to associate these files with cyberattacks.

Social engineering techniques are used to fool end users into opening the files, with the .pub files masquerading as invoices. Many emails have been intercepted that appear to have been sent from within a company, which helps to make the files appear genuine.

If opened, the .pub files, via malicious macros, run Microsoft Installer (MSI) files that deliver a remote access Trojan. Since these installers will most likely be familiar to end users, they may not realize the installers are malicious. Further, the MSI files are time delayed so they do not run immediately when the .pub files are opened, increasing the probability that the RAT downloads will go unnoticed.

The TA505 threat group is using this tactic to install the FlawedAmmy remote access Trojan and other malicious payloads such as Remote Manipulator System (RMS) clients.

The phishing emails used to deliver these malicious files are targeted and tailored to a specific business to increase the likelihood of success. These targeted spear phishing attacks are now becoming the norm, as threat actors move away from the spray and pray tactics of old.

Cape Cod Community College Phishing Attack Results in Theft of More Than $800,000

Phishing attacks on retailers have increased, but other industries are also at risk. Educational institutions are also prime targets, as has been highlighted by a recent phishing attack on Cape Cod Community College.

The Cape Cod Community College phishing attack involved sophisticated messages that delivered malware capable of evading the college’s anti-virus software. The malware was used to obtain the banking credentials of the college, and once those credentials had been obtained, the hackers proceeded to make fraudulent transfers and empty bank accounts. Transfers totaling $807,130 were made, and so far, the college and its bank have only been able to recover $278,887.

All too often, fraudulent transfers are not detected quickly enough to recover any funds. Once the transfers have cleared the attacker-controlled bank accounts are emptied, after which the probability of recovering funds falls to near zero.

Defense in Depth the Key to Phishing Protection

Email is the primary vector used to phish for sensitive information and deliver malware to businesses. Regardless of whether businesses use local email systems or cloud-based email services such as Office 365, advanced spam filtering controls are required to block threats. For instance, SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam email and 100% of known malware. SpamTitan also uses heuristics, machine learning, and Bayesian analysis to identify previously unseen threats – One of the areas of weakness of Office 365’s anti-phishing defenses.

Network segmentation is also essential. Critical services must be separated to ensure that the installation of malware or ransomware on one device will not allow the attackers to gain access to the entire network. This is especially important for retailers and other businesses with POS systems. Network segmentation will help to keep POS systems and the financial data of customers secure.

Advanced endpoint protection solutions offer far greater protection than standard antivirus solutions and are less reliant on malware signatures. Standard AV solutions will only block known malware. With standard AV solutions, new malware variants can easily slip through the net.

End user security awareness training should be mandatory for all employees and training needs to be a continuous process. A once a year training session is no longer sufficient. Regular training throughout the year is required to ensure employees are made aware of the latest threats and tactics being used to gain access to login credentials and install malware.

For further information on improving email security to improve protection against phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.

TrickBot Malware Updated with POS Data Stealing Capabilities

A new module has been added to TrickBot malware that adds point-of-sale (POS) data collection capabilities.

TrickBot is a modular malware that is being actively developed. In early November, TrickBot was updated with a password stealing module, but the latest update has made it even more dangerous, especially for hotels, retail outlets, and restaurants: Businesses that process large volumes of card payments.

The new module was identified by security researchers at Trend Micro who note that, at present, the module is not being used to record POS data such as credit/debit card numbers. Currently, the new TrickBot malware module is only collecting data about whether an infected device is part of a network that supports POS services and the types of POS systems in use. The researchers have not yet determined how the POS information will be used, but it is highly likely that the module is being used for reconnaissance. Once targets with networks supporting POS systems have been identified, they will likely be subjected to further intrusions.

The new module, named psfin32, is similar to a previous network domain harvesting module, but has been developed specifically to identify POS-related terms from domain controllers and basic accounts. The module achieves this by using LDAP queries to Active Directory Services which search for a dnsHostName that contains strings such as ‘pos’, ‘retail’, ‘store’, ‘micros’, ‘cash’, ‘reg’, ‘aloha’, ‘lane’, ‘boh’, and ‘term.’

The timing of the update, so close to the holiday period, suggests the threat actors are planning to take advantage of the increase in holiday trade and are gathering as much information as possible before the module is used to harvest POS data.

The recent updates to TrickBot malware have been accompanied by a malicious spam email campaign (identified by Brad Duncan) which is targeting businesses in the United States. The malspam campaign uses Word documents containing malicious macros that download the TrickBot binary.

Protecting against TrickBot and other information stealing malware requires a defense-in-depth approach to cybersecurity. The main attack vector used by the threat actors behind TrickBot is spam email, so it is essential for an advanced anti-spam solution to be deployed to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. End user training is also essential to ensure employees are made aware of the danger of opening emails from unknown senders, launching suspicious email attachments, and clicking hyperlinks in those messages.

Antivirus solutions and endpoint security controls should also be deployed to identify and quarantine potentially malicious files in case malware makes it past perimeter defenses.

Beware of this California Wildfire Scam

A California wildfire scam is circulating that requests donations to help the victims of the recent wildfires. The emails appear to come from the CEO of a company and are directed at its employees in the accounts and finance department.

It should come as no surprise that cybercriminals are taking advantage of yet another natural disaster and are attempting to con people into giving donations. Scammers often take advantage of natural disasters to pull on the heart strings and defraud businesses. Similar scams were conducted in the wake of the recent hurricanes that hit the United States and caused widespread damage.

The California wildfire scam, identified by Agari, is a form of business email compromise (BEC) attack. The emails appear to have been sent by the CEO of a company, with his/her email address used to send messages to company employees. This is often achieved by spoofing the email address although in some cases the CEO’s email account has been compromised and is used to send the messages.

The California wildfire scam contains one major red flag. Instead of asking for a monetary donation, the scammers request money in the form of Google play gift cards. The messages request the redemption codes be sent back to the CEO by return.

The emails are sent to employees in the accounts and finance departments and the emails request that the money be sent in 4 x $500 denomination gift cards. If these are sent back to the CEO, he/she will then forward them on to company clients that have been affected by the California wildfires.

The reason Google play gift cards are requested is because they can easily be exchanged on darknet forums for other currencies. The gift cards are virtually impossible to trace back to the scammer.

The messages are full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Even so, it is another sign that the messages are not genuine. However, scams such as this are sent because they work. Many people have been fooled by similar scams in the past.

Protecting against scams such as this requires a combination of technical controls, end user training, and company policies. An advanced spam filtering solution should be used – SpamTitan for instance – to prevent messages such as these from reaching inboxes. SpamTitan checks all incoming emails for spam signatures and uses advanced techniques such as heuristics, machine learning, and Bayesian analysis to identify advanced and never-before-seen phishing attacks.

End user training is essential for all employees, especially those with access to corporate bank accounts. Those individuals are often targeted by scammers. Policies should be introduced that require all requests for changes to bank accounts, atypical payment requests, and wire transfers above a certain threshold to be confirmed by phone or in person before they are authorized.

A combination of these measures will help to protect businesses from BEC attacks and other email scams.

Stealthy Cannon Trojan Being Distributed Through Lion Air Spear Phishing Campaign

A previously unseen malware variant, dubbed the Cannon Trojan, is being used in targeted attacks on government agencies in the United States and Europe. The new malware threat has been strongly linked to a threat group known under many names – APT28, Fancy Bear, Sofacy, Sednet, Strontium – that has links to the Russian government.

The Cannon Trojan is being used to gather information on potential targets, collecting system information and taking screenshots that are sent back to APT28. The Cannon Trojan is also a downloader capable of installing further malware variants onto a compromised system.

The new malware threat is stealthy and uses a variety of tricks to avoid detection and hide communications with its C2. Rather than communicating over HTTP/HTTPS, like other malware variants used by APT28, the Cannon Trojan communicates via email over SMTPs and POP3S.

Once installed, an email is sent over SMTPS through port 465 and a further two email addresses are obtained through which the malware communicates with its C2 using the POP3S protocol to receive instructions and send back data. While the use of email for communicating with a C2 is not unknown, it is relatively rare. One advantage offered by this method of communication is it is more difficult to identify and block that HTTP/HTTPS.

The Cannon Trojan, like the Zebrocy Trojan which is also being used by APT28, is being distributed via spear phishing emails. Two email templates have been intercepted by Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 team, one of which takes advantage of interest in the Lion Air plane crash in Indonesia.

The Lion Air spear phishing campaign appears to provide information on the victims of the crash, which the email claims are detailed in an attached Word document titled Crash List (Lion Air Boeing 737).docx. The user must Enable Content to view the contents of the document. It is claimed that the document was created in an earlier version of Word and content must be enabled for the file to be displayed. Opening the email and enabling content would trigger the macro to run, which would then silently download the Cannon Trojan.

Rather than the macro running and downloading the payload straightaway, as an anti-analysis mechanism, the attackers use the Windows AutoClose tool to delay completion of the macro routine until the document is closed. Only then is the Trojan downloaded. Any sandbox that analyzes the document and exits before closing the document would be unlikely to identify it as malicious. Further, the macro will only run if a connection with the C2 is established. Even if the document is opened and content is enabled, the macro will not run without its C2 channel open.

The techniques used by the attackers to obfuscate the macro and hide communications make this threat difficult to detect. The key to preventing infection is blocking the threat at source and preventing it from reaching inboxes. The provision of end user training to help employees identify threats such as emails with attachments from unknown senders is also important.

Enhance Protection Against Zero-Day Malware and Spear Phishing

TitanHQ has developed a powerful anti-phishing and anti-spam solution that is effective at blocking advanced persistent threats and zero-day malware, which does not rely on signature-based detection methods. While dual anti-virus engines offer protection against 100% of known malware, unlike many other spam filtering solutions, SpamTitan uses a variant of predictive techniques to identify previously unseen threats and spear phishing attacks.

Greylisting is used to identify domains used for spamming that have yet to be blacklisted. All incoming emails are subjected to Bayesian analysis, and heuristics are used to identify new threats.

To further protect against phishing attacks, URIBL and SURBL protocols are used to scan embedded hyperlinks. SpamTitan also scans outbound mail to prevent abuse and identify attempted data theft.

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

Thanksgiving Themed Spam Emails Used to Spread Emotet Malware

There has been an increase in malspam campaigns spreading Emotet malware in recent weeks, with several new campaigns launched that spoof financial institutions – the modus operandi of the threat group behind the campaigns.

The Emotet malware campaigns use Word documents containing malicious macros. If macros are enabled, the Emotet malware payload is downloaded. The Word documents are either sent as email attachments or the spam emails contain hyperlinks which direct users to a website where the Word document is downloaded.

Various social engineering tricks have been used in these campaigns. One new tactic that was identified by Cofense is the wrapping of malicious hyperlinks in Proofpoint’s (PFPT) TAP URL Defense wrapping service to make the email appear benign.

According to Cofense, the campaign delivers Emotet malware, although Emotet in turn downloads a secondary payload. In past campaigns, Emotet has been delivered along with ransomware. First, Emotet steals credentials, then the ransomware is used to extort money from victims. In the latest campaign, the secondary malware is the banking Trojan named IcedID.

A further campaign has been detected that uses Thanksgiving themed spam emails. The messages appear to be Thanksgiving greetings for employees, and similarly contain a malicious hyperlink or document. The messages claim the document is a Thanksgiving card or greeting. Many of the emails have been personalized to aid the deception and include the user’s name. In this campaign, while the document downloaded appears to be a Word file, it is actually an XML file.

Emotet malware has been updated recently. In addition to stealing credentials, a new module has been added that harvests emails from an infected user. The previous 6 months’ emails – which include subjects, senders, and message content – are stolen. This new module is believed to have been added to improve the effectiveness of future phishing campaigns, for corporate espionage, and data theft.

The recent increase in Emotet malware campaigns, and the highly varied tactics used by the threat actors behind these campaigns, highlight the importance of adopting a defense in depth strategy to block phishing emails. Organizations should not rely on one cybersecurity solution to provide protection against email attacks.

Phishing campaigns target a weak link in security defenses: Employees. It is therefore important to ensure that all employees with corporate email accounts are taught how to recognize phishing threats. Training needs to be ongoing and should cover the latest tactics used by cybercriminals to spread malware and steal credentials. Employees are the last line of defense. Through security awareness training, the defensive line can be significantly strengthened.

As a frontline defense, all businesses and organizations should deploy an advanced spam filtering solution. While Office 365 email includes a basic level of protection against phishing attacks, a powerful third-party anti-phishing and spam filtering solution is required to provide protection against more sophisticated email attacks.

SpamTitan is an advanced email filtering solution that uses predictive techniques to provide superior protection against phishing attacks, zero-day attacks, and new malware variants that bypass signature-based defenses.

In addition to scanning message content, headers, attachments, and hyperlinks for spam and malware signatures, SpamTitan uses heuristics, machine learning, and Bayesian analysis to identify emerging threats. Greylisting is used to identify and block large scale spam campaigns, such as those typically conducted by the threat actors spreading banking Trojans and Emotet malware.

How SpamTitan Spam Filtering Works

How SpamTitan Protects Businesses from Email Threats

A web filter – such as WebTitan – adds an additional layer of protection against web-based attacks by preventing end users from visiting malicious websites where malware is downloaded. A web filter assesses all attempts to access web content, checks sites against blacklists, assesses the domain, scans web content, and blocks access to sites that violate its policies.

For further information on how you can improve your defenses against web-based and email-based attacks and block malware, ransomware, botnets, viruses, phishing, and spear phishing attacks, contact TitanHQ today.