Industry News

Our industry news section covers a broad range of news items of particular relevance to the cybersecurity industry and managed service providers (MSPs).

This section also included details of the latest white papers and research studies relating to malware, ransomware, phishing and data breaches. These articles provide some insight into the general state of cybersecurity, the industries currently most heavily targeted by cybercriminals, and figures and statistics for your own reports.

Hackers and scammers conduct massive spam campaigns designed to infect as many computers as possible. These attacks are random, using email addresses stolen in large data breaches such as the cyberattacks on LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and Yahoo. However, highly targeted attacks are increasing in frequency, with campaigns geared to specific industries. These industry-specific cyberattacks and spam and malware campaigns are detailed in this section, along with possible mitigations for reducing the risk of a successful attack.

This category is therefore of relevance to organizations in the education, healthcare, and financial services industries – the most common attacked industries according to recent security reports.

The articles contain information about current campaigns, spam email identifiers and details of the social engineering tactics used to fool end users and gain access to business networks. By following the advice in these articles, it may be possible to prevent similar attacks on your organization.

Endpoint Security Risk Study Shows Major Rise in Fileless Malware Attacks

The Ponemon Institute has published the findings of a new report on endpoint security risk, which shows that ransomware attacks have occurred at most companies, the risk of fileless malware attacks has increased significantly, and successful cyberattacks are resulting in average losses of more than $5 million.

For the Barkly-sponsored endpoint security risk study, the Ponemon Institute surveyed 665 IT security professionals that were responsible for the management of their organization’s security risk.

7 out of ten respondents claimed endpoint security risk was significantly higher this year than in 2016, and one of the biggest threats was now fileless malware. Companies are still using traditional anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, although they are not effective at preventing fileless malware attacks.

Fileless malware is not detected by most anti-virus solutions since no files are written to the hard drive. Instead, fileless malware remains in the memory, oftentimes leveraging legitimate system tools to gain persistence and spread to other devices on the network.

These fileless malware attacks are occurring far more frequently, with respondents estimating a 20% rise in attacks in 2017. 29% of all cyberattacks in 2017 involved fileless malware, and the threat is expected to continue to increase, and will account for more than a third of all attacks in 2018.

The switch from file-based malware to fileless malware is understandable. The attacks are often successful. 54% of companies surveyed said they had experienced at least one cyberattack that resulted in data being compromised, and 77% of those attacks involved exploits or fileless malware. 42% of respondents said they had experienced a fileless malware attack that resulted in systems or data being compromised in 2017.

Fileless malware attacks are increasing, but so are ransomware attacks. Over half of companies that took part in the endpoint security risk study said they had experienced at least one ransomware attack in 2017, while four out of ten firms experienced multiple ransomware attacks. Even though most companies backup their files, 65% of respondents said they had paid a ransom to recover their data, with the average amount being $3,675. The primary method of ransomware delivery is email.

While the ransom payments may be relatively low, that represents only a small proportion of the costs of such attacks. For the endpoint security risk study, firms were asked to estimate the total cost of cyberattacks – On average, each successful attack on endpoints cost an average of $5,010,600 to resolve – $301 per employee.

Protect Against Malware Attacks by Blocking the Primary Delivery Vector

Email is the primary method for distributing malware. Implementing a spam filtering solution, preferably a gateway solution, can keep an organization protected from malicious emails and will prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users, and is important for helping organizations manage endpoint security risk.

Many companies opt for an email gateway filtering appliance – an appliance located between the firewall and email server. These solutions are powerful, but they come at a cost since the appliance must be purchased. These appliance-based solutions also lack scalability.

If you want the power of an appliance, but want to keep costs to a minimum, consider a solution such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan offers the same power as a dedicated appliance, without the need to purchase any additional hardware. SpamTitan can be deployed as a virtual appliance on existing hardware, offering the same level of protection as an email gateway filtering appliance at a fraction of the cost.

Don’t Forget to Train Your Employees to be More Security Conscious

A recent InfoBlox survey on healthcare organizations in the United States and United Kingdom revealed that companies in this sector are realizing the benefits of training employees to be more security aware, although only 35% of firms currently provide training to employees.

No matter what email filtering solution you use, there will be times when spammers succeed, and messages are delivered. It is therefore important that staff are trained how to identify and respond to suspicious emails. If end users are not aware of the threats, and do not know how to recognize potential phishing emails, there is a higher chance of them engaging in risky behavior and compromising their device and the network.

Microsoft Patches 17-Year Old MS Office Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

A serious MS Office remote code execution vulnerability has been patched by Microsoft – One that would allow malware to be installed remotely with no user interaction required. The flaw has been present in MS Office for the past 17 years.

The flaw, which was discovered by researchers at Embedi, is being tracked as CVE-2017-11882. The vulnerability is in the Microsoft Equation Editor, a part of MS Office that is used for inserting and editing equations – OLE objects – in documents: Specifically, the vulnerability is in the executable file EQNEDT32.exe.

The memory corruption vulnerability allows remote code execution on a targeted computer, and would allow an attacker to take full control of the system, if used with Windows Kernel privilege exploits. The flaw can be exploited on all Windows operating systems, including unpatched systems with the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Microsoft addressed the vulnerability in its November round of security updates. Any unpatched system is vulnerable to attack, so it is strongly advisable to apply the patch promptly. While the vulnerability could potentially have been exploited at any point in the past 17 years, attacks exploiting this MS Office remote code execution vulnerability are much more likely now that a patch has been released.

The flaw does not require the use of macros, only for the victim to open a specially crafted malicious Office document. Malicious documents designed to exploit the vulnerability would likely arrive via spam email, highlighting the importance of implementing a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block the threat.

End users who are fooled into opening a malicious document can prevent infection by closing the document without enabling macros. In this case, malware would be installed simply by opening the document.

Microsoft has rated the vulnerability as important, rather than critical, although researchers at Embedi say this flaw is “extremely dangerous.” Embedi has developed a proof of concept attack that allowed them to successfully exploit the vulnerability. The researchers said, “By inserting several OLEs that exploited the described vulnerability, it was possible to execute an arbitrary sequence of commands (e.g. to download an arbitrary file from the Internet and execute it),”

EQNEDT32.exe is run outside of the Microsoft Office environment, so it is therefore not subject to Office and many Windows 10 protections. In addition to applying the patch, security researchers at Embedi recommend disabling EQNEDT32.EXE in the registry, as even with the patch applied, the executable still has a number of other vulnerabilities. Disabling the executable will not impact users since this is a feature of Office that is never needed by most users.

Silence Trojan Used in New Wave of Cyberattacks on Financial Institutions

A new wave of cyberattacks on financial institutions using malware called the Silence Trojan has been detected. In contrast to many attacks on banks that target the bank customers, this attack targets the bank itself. The attack method bears a number of similarities to the attacks conducted by the Eastern European hacking group, Carbanak.

The Silence Trojan is being used to target banks and other financial institutions in several countries, although so far, the majority of victims are in Russia. The similarity of the Silence Trojan attacks to Carbanak suggests these attacks could be conducted by Carbanak, or a spinoff of that group, although that has yet to be established.

The attacks start with the malicious actors behind the campaign gaining access to banks’ networks using spear phishing campaigns. Spear phishing emails are sent to bank employees requesting they open an account. The emails are well written, and the premise is believable, especially since in many cases the emails are sent from within using email addresses that have previously been compromised in other attacks. When emails are sent from within, the requests seem perfectly credible.

Some of these emails were intercepted by Kaspersky Lab. Researchers report that the emails contain a Microsoft Compiled HTML Help file with the extension .chm.

These files contain JavaScript, which is run when the attachments are opened, triggering the download of a malicious payload from a hardcoded URL. That initial payload is a VBS script, which in turn downloads the dropper – a Win32 executable binary, which enables contact to be established between the infected machine and the attacker’s C2 server. Further malicious files, including the Silence Trojan, are then downloaded.

The attackers gain persistent access to an infected computer and spend a considerable amount of time gathering data. Screen activity is recorded and transmitted to the C2, with the bitmaps combined to form a stream of activity from the infected device, allowing the attackers to monitor day to day activities on the bank network.

This is not a quick smash and grab raid, but one that takes place over an extended period. The aim of the attack is to gather as much information as possible to maximize the opportunity to steal money from the bank.

Since the attackers are using legitimate administration tools to gather intelligence, detecting the attacks in progress is complicated. Implementing solutions to detect and block phishing attacks can help to keep banks protected.

Since security vulnerabilities are often exploited, organizations should ensure that all vulnerabilities are identified and corrected.  Kaspersky Lab recommends conducting penetration tests to identify vulnerabilities before they are exploited by hackers.

Kaspersky Lab notes that when an organization has already been compromised, the use of .chm attachments in combination with spear phishing emails from within the organization has proved to be a highly effective attack method for conducting cyberattacks on financial institutions.

Global Data Breach Study Shows 1.9 Billion Records Were Exposed in the First Half of 1017

A global data breach study by Gemalto provides valuable insights into data breaches reported over the first six months of 2017, showing there has been a significant increase in data breaches and the number of records exposed.

Barely a day has gone by without a report of a data breach in the media, so it will probably not come as a surprise to hear that data breaches have risen again in 2017. What is surprising is the scale of the increase. Compared to the first six months of 2016 – which saw huge numbers of data breaches reported – 2017 saw a 13% increase in incidents. However, it is the scale of those breaches that is shocking. 2017 saw 164% more records exposed than in 2016.

During the first six months of 2017, a staggering 918 data breaches were confirmed, resulting in 1.9 billion records and email credentials being exposed or stolen. Further, that figure is a conservative. According to Gemalto’s global data breach study, it is unknown how many records were compromised in 59.3% of data breaches between January and June 2017.

What is clear is the data breaches are increasing in size. Between January and the end of June, there were 22 breaches reported that each impacted more than 1 million individuals.

To put the global data breach study figures into perspective, more than 10.5 million records were exposed each day in the first half of 2017 – or 122 records per second.

What is the Biggest Cause of Data Breaches in the First Half of 2017?

While malicious insiders pose a significant threat, and caused 8% of breaches, accidental loss of devices or records accounted for 18% of incidents. But the biggest cause of data breaches was malicious outsiders, who caused 74% of all tracked data breaches.

However, in terms of the severity of breaches, it is accidental loss that tops the list. There many have only been 166/918 breaches due to accidental loss according to the global data breach study, but those incidents accounted for 86% of all records – That’s 1.6 billion.

Malicious outsiders may have caused the most breaches – 679/918 – but those breaches involved just 13% of the total number of records – 254 million. In the first half of 2016, malicious outsiders were the leading breach cause and data breaches and accounted for 76% of breached records.

It is worth noting that while malicious insiders were responsible for just 8% of incidents, those incidents saw 20 million records exposed. Compared to 2016, that’s a 4114% increase.

Which Regions Had the Most Data Breaches in the First Half of 2017?

While North America was the hardest hit, accounting for 88% of all reported breaches, that does not necessarily mean that most breaches are occurring in the United States. In the U.S. there are far stricter reporting requirements, and companies are forced to disclose data breaches.

In Europe, many companies choose not to announce data breaches. It will therefore be interesting to see how the figures change next year. From May 2018, there will be far stricter reporting requirements due to the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). For this report, there were 49 reported breaches in Europe – 5% of the total. 40% of those breaches were in the United Kingdom. There were 47 breaches in the Asia Pacific region – 5% of the total – with 15 in India and the same percentage in Australia.

Which Industries Suffer the Most Data Breaches?

The worst affected industry was healthcare, accounting for 25% of all breaches. However, bear in mind that HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to report all breaches in the United States. The financial services industry was in second place with 14% of the total, followed by education with 13% of breaches. The retail industry recorded 12% of breaches, followed by the government on 10% and technology on 7%.

In terms of the number of records breached, it is ‘other industries’ that were the worst hit. Even though that group accounted for just 6% of breaches they resulted in the exposure of 71% of records. Government breaches accounted for 21% of the total, followed by technology (3%), education (2%), healthcare (2%) and social media firms (1%).

How Can These Breaches be Stopped?

In the most part, these data breaches occurred due to poor cybersecurity protections, basic security failures, poor internal security practices, and the failure to use data encryption. Previous research by PhishMe has shown that 91% of data breaches start with a phishing email. Anti-spam defenses are therefore critical in preventing data breaches. If phishing emails are prevented from being delivered, a large percentage of external attacks can be stopped.

Organizations that have yet to use two factor authentication should ensure that this basic security control is employed. Employees should receive cybersecurity awareness training, and training programs should be ongoing. In particular, employees should be trained how to identify phishing emails and the actions they should take when a suspicious email is encountered.

Accidental loss of data from lost and stolen devices can be prevented with the use of encryption, although most accidental losses were due to poorly configured databases. Organizations should pay particular attention to their databases and cloud instances, to make sure they are appropriately secured and cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals.

Bad Rabbit Ransomware Hits Russia, Ukraine and Europe

Bad Rabbit ransomware attacks have been reported throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe. While new ransomware variants are constantly being developed, Bad Rabbit ransomware stands out due to the speed at which attacks are occurring, the ransomware’s ability to spread within a network, and its similarity to the NotPetya attacks in June 2017.

Bad Rabbit Ransomware Spreads via Fake Flash Player Updates

While Bad Rabbit ransomware has been likened to NotPetya, the method of attack differs. Rather than exploit the Windows Server Message Block vulnerability, the latest attacks involve drive-by downloads that are triggered when users respond to a warning about an urgent Flash Player update. The Flash Player update warnings have been displayed on prominent news and media websites.

The malicious payload packed in an executable file called install_flash_player.exe. That executable drops and executes the file C:\Windows\infpub.dat, which starts the encryption process. The ransomware uses the open source encryption software DiskCryptor to encrypt files with AES, with the keys then encrypted with a RSA-2048 public key. There is no change to the file extension of encrypted files, but every encrypted file has the .encrypted extension tacked on.

Once installed, it spreads laterally via SMB. Researchers at ESET do not believe bad rabbit is using the ETERNALBLUE exploit that was incorporated into WannaCry and NotPetya. Instead, the ransomware uses a hardcoded list of commonly used login credentials for network shares, in addition to extracting credentials from a compromised device using the Mimikatz tool.

Similar to NotPetya, Bad Rabbit replaces the Master Boot Record (MBR). Once the MBR has been replaced, a reboot is triggered, and the ransom note is then displayed.

Victims are asked to pay a ransom payment of 0.5 Bitcoin ($280) via the TOR network. The failure to pay the ransom demand within 40 hours of infection will see the ransom payment increase. It is currently unclear whether payment of the ransom will result in a valid key being provided.

So far confirmed victims include the Russian news agencies Interfax and Fontanka, the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine, the Odessa International Airport, and the Kiev Metro. In total there are believed to have been more than 200 attacks so far in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria, Japan, and Germany.

How to Block Bad Rabbit Ransomware

To prevent infection, Kaspersky Lab has advised companies to restrict the execution of files with the paths C:\windows\infpub.dat and C:\Windows\cscc.dat.

Alternatively, those files can be created with read, write, and execute permissions removed for all users.

US-CERT Warns of Phishing Attacks on Energy Companies

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) computer emergency readiness team (US-CERT) issued a new warning about phishing attacks on energy companies and other critical infrastructure sectors.

Advanced persistent threat (APT) actors are conducting widespread attacks on organizations in the energy, aviation, nuclear, water, and critical manufacturing sectors. Those attacks, some of which have been successful, have been occurring with increasing frequency since at least May 2017. The group behind the attack has been called Dragonfly by AV firm Symantec, which reported on the attacks in September.

DHS believes the Dragonfly group is a nation-state sponsored hacking group whose intentions are espionage, open source reconnaissance and cyberattacks designed to disrupt energy systems.

These cyberattacks are not opportunistic like most phishing campaigns. They are targeted attacks on specific firms within the critical infrastructure sectors. While some firms have been attacked directly, in many cases the attacks occur through a ‘staging’ company that has previously been compromised. These staging companies are trusted vendors of the targeted organization. By conducting attacks through those companies, the probability of an attack on the target firm succeeding is increased.

DHS warns that the attackers are using several methods to install malware and obtain login credentials. The phishing attacks on energy companies have included spear phishing emails designed to get end users to reveal their login credentials and malicious attachments that install malware.

In the case of the former, emails direct users to malicious websites where they are required to enter in their credentials to confirm their identity and view content. While some websites have been created by the attackers, watering hole attacks are also occurring on legitimate websites that have been compromised with malicious code. DHS warns that approximately half of the attacks have occurred through sites used by trade publications and informational websites “related to process control, ICS, or critical infrastructure.”

Phishing emails containing malicious attachments are used to directly install malware or the files contain hyperlinks that direct the user to websites where a drive-by malware download occurs. The links are often shortened URLS creating using the bit.ly and tinyurl URL shortening services. The attackers are also using email attachments to leverage Windows functions such as Server Message Block (SMB) protocol to retrieve malicious files. A similar SMB technique is also used to harvest login credentials.

The malicious attachments are often PDF files which claim to be policy documents, invitations, or resumés. Some of the phishing attacks on energy companies have used a PDF file attachment with the name “AGREEMENT & Confidential.” In this case, the PDF file does not include any malicious code, only a hyperlink to a website where the user is prompted to download the malicious payload.

US-CERT has advised companies in the targeted sectors that the attacks are ongoing, and action should be taken to minimize risk. Those actions include implementing standard defenses to prevent web and email-based phishing attacks such as spam filtering solutions and web filters.

Since it is possible that systems may have already been breached, firms should be regularly checking for signs of an intrusion, such as event and application logs, file deletions, file changes, and the creation of new user accounts.

Average Enterprise Data Breach Cost Now $1.3 Million

The average enterprise data breach cost has risen to $1.3 million, according to a new report from antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab – An increase of $100,000 year over year. Small to medium size businesses are also having to dig deeper to remediate data breaches. The average data breach cost for SMBs is now $117,000.

For the cost of a data breach study, Kaspersky Lab surveyed more than 5,000 businesses, asking questions about how much firms are spending on data breach resolution and how those costs are split between various aspects of the breach response. Businesses were also asked about future spending and how much their IT security budgets are increasing year over year.

The survey reveals that in North America, the percentage of the budget being spent on IT security is increasing. However, overall budgets are reducing, so the net spend on IT security has decreased year over year. Last year, businesses were allocating 16% of their budgets to IT security, which has risen to 18% this year. However, average enterprise IT security budgets have dropped from $25.5 million last year to just $13.7 million this year.

Breaking Down the Enterprise Data Breach Cost

So how is the enterprise data breach cost broken down? What is the biggest cost of resolving a data breach? The biggest single data breach resolution cost is additional staff wages, which costs an average of $207,000 per breach.

Other major costs were infrastructure improvements and software upgrades ($172,000), hiring external computer forensics experts and cybersecurity firms ($154,000), additional staff training ($153,000), lost business ($148,000), and compensation payments ($147,000).

The average SMB data breach resolution cost was $117,000. The biggest costs were contracting external cybersecurity firms to conduct forensic investigations and the loss of business as a direct result of a breach, both cost an average of $21,000 each. Additional staff wages cost $16,000, increases in insurance premiums and credit rating damage cost an average of $11,000, new security software and infrastructure costs were $11,000, and new staff and brand damage repair cost $10,000 each. Further staff training and compensation payouts cost $9,000 and $8,000 respectively.

The high cost of data breach mitigation shows just how important it is for enterprises and SMBs to invest in data breach prevention and detection technologies. Blocking cyberattacks is essential, but so too is detecting breaches when they do occur. As the IBM/Ponemon Institute 2017 Cost of a Data Breach Study showed, the faster a breach is detected, the lower the enterprise data breach cost will be.

The Importance of an Effective Spam Filter

There are many potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, so it is important for businesses of all sizes to conduct regular risk assessments to find holes in their defenses before cybercriminals do. A risk management plan should be devised to address any vulnerabilities uncovered during the risk assessment. Priority should be given to the most serious risks and those that would have the greatest impact if exploited.

While there is no single cybersecurity solution that can be adopted to prevent data breaches, one aspect of data breach prevention that should be given priority is a software solution that can block email threats. Spam email represents the biggest threat to organizations. Research conducted by PhishMe suggests 91% of all data breaches start with a phishing email. Blocking those malicious emails is therefore essential.

TitanHQ has developed a highly effective spam filtering solution for enterprises – and SMBs – that blocks more than 99.9% of spam email, preventing phishing emails, malware, and ransomware from reaching employees’ inboxes.

To find out how SpamTitan can protect your business from email threats, for a product demonstration and to register for a free trial of SpamTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Email Security and HIPAA Compliance

Healthcare organizations are being targeted by hackers and scammers and email is the No1 attack vector. 91% of all cyberattacks start with a phishing email and figures from the Anti-Phishing Working Group indicate end users open 30% of phishing emails that are delivered to their inboxes. Stopping emails from reaching inboxes is therefore essential, as is training healthcare employees to be more security aware.

Since so many healthcare data breaches occur as a result of phishing emails, healthcare organizations must implement robust defenses to prevent attacks. Further, email security is also an important element of HIPAA compliance. Fail to follow HIPAA Rules on email security and a financial penalty could follow a data breach.

Email Security is an Important Element of HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA Rules require healthcare organizations to implement safeguards to secure electronic protected health information to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of health data.

Email security is an important element of HIPAA compliance. With so many attacks on networks starting with phishing emails, it is essential for healthcare organizations to implement anti-phishing defenses to keep their networks secure.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has already issued fines to healthcare organizations that have experienced data breaches as a result of employees falling for phishing emails. UW medicine paid OCR $750,000 following a malware-related breach caused when an employee responded to a phishing email. Metro Community Provider Network settled a phishing-related case for $400,000.

One aspect of HIPAA compliance related to email is the risk assessment. The risk assessment should cover all systems, including email. Risk must be assessed and then managed and reduced to an appropriate and acceptable level.

Managing the risk of phishing involves the use of technology and training. All email should be routed through a secure email gateway, and it is essential for employees to receive training to raise awareness of the risk of phishing and the actions to take if a suspicious email is received.

How to Secure Email, Prevent and Identify Phishing Attacks

Email phishing scams today are sophisticated, well written, and highly convincing. It is often hard to differentiate a phishing email from a legitimate communication. However, there are some simple steps that all healthcare organizations can take to improve email security. Simply adopting the measures below can greatly reduce phishing risk and the likelihood of experiencing an email-related breach.

While uninstalling all email services is the only surefire way to prevent email phishing attacks, that is far from a practical solution. Email is essential for communicating with staff members, stakeholders, business associates, and even patients.

Since email is required, two steps that covered entities should take to improve email security are detailed below:

Implement a Third-Party AntiSpam Solution Into Your Email Infrastructure

Securing your email gateway is the single most important step to take to prevent phishing attacks on your organization. Many healthcare organizations will already have added an antispam solution to block spam emails from being delivered to end users’ inboxes, but what about cloud-based email services? Have you secured your Office 365 email gateway with a third-party solution?

You will already be protected by Microsoft’s spam filter, but when all it takes is for one malicious email to reach an inbox, you really need more robust defenses.  SpamTitan integrates perfectly with Office 365, offering an extra layer of security that blocks known malware and more than 99.9% of spam email.

Continuously Train Employees and they Will Become Security Assets

End users – the cause of countless data breaches and a constant thorn in the side of IT security staff. They are a weak link and can easily undo the best security defenses, but they can be turned into security assets and an impressive last line of defense. That is unlikely to happen with a single training session, or even a training session given once a year.

End user training is an important element of HIPAA compliance. While HIPAA Rules do not specify how often training should be provide, given the fact that phishing is the number one security threat, training should be a continuous process.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights recently highlighted some email security training best practices in its July cybersecurity newsletter, suggesting “An organization’s training program should be an ongoing, evolving process and flexible enough to educate workforce members on new cybersecurity threats and how to respond to them.”

The frequency of training should be dictated by the level of risk faced by an organization. Many covered entities have opted for bi-annual training sessions for the workforce, with monthly newsletters and security updates provided via email, including information on the latest threats such as new phishing scams and social engineering techniques.

OCR also reminded HIPAA covered entities that not all employees respond to the same training methods. It is best to mix it up and use a variety of training tools, such as CBT training, classroom sessions, newsletters, posters, email alerts, team discussions, and phishing email simulation exercises.

Simple Steps to Verify Emails and Identify Phishing Scams

Healthcare employees can greatly reduce the risk of falling of a phishing scam by performing these checks. With practice, these become second nature.

  • Hovering the mouse over an email hyperlink to check the true domain. Any anchor text –hyperlinked text other than the actual URL – should be treated as suspicious until the true domain is identified. Also check that the destination URL starts with HTTPS.
  • Never reply directly to an email – Always click forward. It’s a little slower, but you will get to see the full email address of the person who sent the message. You can then check that domain name against the one used by the company.
  • Pay close attention to the email signature – Any legitimate email should contain contact information. This can be faked, or real contact information may be used in a spam email, but phishers often make mistakes in signatures that are easy to identify.
  • Never open an email attachment from an unknown sender – If you need to open the attachment, never click on any links in the document, or on any embedded objects, or click to enable content or run macros. Forward the email to your IT department if you are unsure and ask for verification.
  • Never make any bank transfers requested by email without verifying the legitimacy of the request.
  • Legitimate organizations will not ask for login credentials by email
  • If you are asked to take urgent action to secure your account, do not use any links contained in the email. Visit the official website by typing the URL directly into your browser. If you are not 100% of the URL, check on Google.

Major Rise in Cyberattacks on Websites Reported

Email may be the primary vector used to conduct cyberattacks on businesses, but there has been a massive rise in cyberattacks on websites in recent months. The second quarter of 2017 saw a 186% increase in cyberattacks on websites, rising from an average of 22 attacks per day in Q1 to 63 attacks per day in Q2, according to a recent report from SiteLock. These sites were typically run by small to mid-sized companies.

WordPress websites were the most commonly attacked – The average number of attacks per day was twice as high for WordPress sites as other content management platforms. That said, security on WordPress sites is typically better than other content management platforms.

Joomla websites were found to contain twice the number of vulnerabilities as WordPress sites, on average. Many users of Joomla were discovered to be running versions of the CMS that are no longer supported. One in five Joomla sites had a CMS that had not been updated in the past 5 years. Typically, users of Joomla do not sign up for automatic updates.

WordPress sites are updated more frequently, either manually or automatically, although that is not the case for plugins used on those sites. While the CMS may be updated to address vulnerabilities, the updates will not prevent attacks that leverage vulnerabilities in third party plugins.

The study revealed 44% of 6 million websites assessed for the study had plugins that were out of date by a year or more. Even when websites were running the latest version of the CMS, they are still being compromised by cybercriminals who exploited out of date plugins. Seven out of 10 compromised WordPress sites were running the latest version of the WordPress.

There is a common misconception than website security is the responsibility of the hosting provider, when that is not the case. 40% of the 20,000 website owners who were surveyed believed it was their hosting company that was responsible for securing their websites.

Most cyberattacks on websites are automated. Bots are used to conduct 85% of cyberattacks on websites. The types of attacks were highly varied, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting attacks, local and remote file inclusion, and cross-site request forgery.

SiteLock noted that in 77% of cases where sites had been compromised with malware, this was not picked up by the search engines and warnings were not being displayed by browsers. Only 23% of sites that were compromised with malware triggered a browser warning or were marked as potentially malicious websites by search engines.

Due to major increase in attacks, it is strongly recommended that SMBs conduct regular scans of their sites for malware, ensure their CMS is updated automatically, and updates are performed on all plugins on the site.  Taking proactive steps to secure websites will help SMBs prevent website-related breaches and stop their sites being used to spread malware or be used for phishing.

It’s National Cyber Security Month: Time to Start Developing a Security Culture

Today is the start of the 14th National Cyber Security Month – A time when U.S. citizens are reminded of the importance of practicing good cyber hygiene, and awareness is raised about the threat from malware, phishing, and social engineering attacks.

The cybersecurity initiative was launched in 2004 by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the aim of creating resources for all Americans to help them stay safe online.

While protecting consumers has been the main focus of National Cyber Security Month since its creation, during the past 14 years the initiative has been expanded considerably. Now small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, and healthcare and educational institutions are assisted over the 31 days of October, with advice given to help develop policies, procedures, and implement technology to keep networks and data secure.

National Cyber Security Month Themes

2017 National Cyber Security Month focuses on a new theme each week, with resources provided to improve understanding of the main cybersecurity threats and explain the actions that can be taken to mitigate risk.

Week 1: Oct 2-6 – Simple Steps to Online Safety

It’s been 7 years since the STOP. THINK. CONNECT campaign was launched by the NCSA and the Anti-Phishing Workshop. As the name suggests, the campaign encourages users learn good cybersecurity habits – To assume that every email and website may be a scam, and to be cautions online and when opening emails. Week one will see more resources provided to help consumers learn cybersecurity best practices.

Week 2: Oct 9-13 – Cybersecurity in the Workplace

With awareness of cyber threats raised with consumers, the DHS and NCSA turn their attention to businesses. Employees may be the weakest link in the security chain, but that need not be the case. Education programs can be highly effective at improving resilience to cyberattacks. Week 2 will see businesses given help with their cyber education programs to develop a cybersecurity culture and address vulnerabilities. DHS/NCSA will also be promoting the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and explaining how its adoption can greatly improve organizations’ security posture.

Week 3: Oct 16-20 –Predictions for Tomorrow’s Internet

The proliferation of IoT devices has introduced many new risks. The aim of week three is to raise awareness of those risks – both for consumers and businesses – and to provide practical advice on taking advantage of the benefits of smart devices, while ensuring they are deployed in a secure and safe way.

Week 4: Oct 23-27 –Careers in Cybersecurity

There is a crisis looming – A severe lack of cybersecurity professionals and not enough students taking up cybersecurity as a profession. The aim of week 4 is to encourage students to consider taking up cybersecurity as a career, by providing resources for students and guidance for key influencers to help engage the younger generation and encourage them to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

Week 5: Oct 30-31 – Protecting Critical Infrastructure

As we have seen already this year, nation-state sponsored groups have been sabotaging critical infrastructure and cybercriminals have been targeting critical infrastructure to extort money. The last two days of October will see awareness raised of the need for cybersecurity to protect critical infrastructure, which will serve as an introduction to Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month in November.

European Cyber Security Month

While National Cyber Security Month takes place in the United States, across the Atlantic, European Cyber Security Month is running in tandem. In Europe, similar themes will be covered with the aim of raising awareness of cyber threats and explaining the actions EU citizens and businesses can take to stay secure.

This year is the 5th anniversary of European Cyber Security Month – a collaboration between The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), the European Commission DG CONNECT and public and private sector partners.

As in the United States, each week of October has a different theme with new resources and reports released, and events and activities being conducted to educate the public and businesses on cybersecurity.

European Cyber Security Month Themes

This year, the program for European Cyber Security Month is as follows:

Week 1: Oct 2-6 – Cybersecurity in the Workplace

A week dedicated to helping businesses train their employees to be security assets and raise awareness of the risks from phishing, ransomware, and malware. Resources will be provided to help businesses teach their employees about good cyber hygiene.

Week 2: Oct 9-13 – Governance, Privacy & Data Protection

With the GDPR compliance date just around the corner, businesses will receive guidance on compliance with GDPR and the NIS Directive to help businesses get ready for May 2018.

Week 3: Oct 16-20 – Cybersecurity in the Home

As more IoT devices are being used in the home, the risk of cyberattacks has grown. The aim of week 3 is to raise awareness of the threats from IoT devices and to explain how to keep home networks secure. Awareness will also be raised about online fraud and scams targeting consumers.

Week 4: Oct 23-27 – Skills in Cyber Security

The aim in week 4 is to encourage the younger generation to gain the cyber skills they will need to embark upon a career in cybersecurity. Educational resources will be made available to help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Use October to Improve Your Cybersecurity Defenses and Train Your Workforce to Be Security Titans

This Cyber Security Month, why not take advantage of the additional resources available and use October to improve your cybersecurity awareness and train your employees to be more security conscious.

When the month is over, don’t shelve cybersecurity for another 12 months. The key to remaining secure and creating a security culture in the workplace is to continue training, assessments, and phishing tests throughout the year. October should be taken as a month to develop and implement training programs and to work toward creating a secure work environment and build a cybersecurity culture in your place of work.

CCleaner Hack Worse Than Previously Thought: Tech Firms Targeted

The CCleaner hack that saw a backdoor inserted into the CCleaner binary and distributed to at least 2.27 million users was far from the work of a rogue employee. The attack was much more sophisticated and bears the hallmarks of a nation state actor. The number of users infected with the first stage malware may have been be high, but they were not being targeted. The real targets were technology firms and the goal was industrial espionage.

Avast, which acquired Piriform – the developer of Cleaner – in the summer, announced earlier this month that the CCleaner v5.33.6162 build released on August 15 was used as a distribution vehicle for a backdoor. Avast’s analysis suggested this was a multi-stage malware, capable of installing a second-stage payload; however, Avast did not believe the second-stage payload ever executed.

Swift action was taken following the discovery of the CCleaner hack to take down the attacker’s server and a new malware-free version of CCleaner was released. Avast said in a blog post that simply updating to the new version of CCleaner – v5.35 – would be sufficient to remove the backdoor, and that while this appeared to be a multi-stage malware

Further analysis of the CCleaner hack has revealed that was not the case, at least for some users of CCleaner. The second stage malware did execute in some cases.

The second payload differed depending on the operating system of the compromised system. Avast said, “On Windows 7+, the binary is dumped to a file called “C:\Windows\system32\lTSMSISrv.dll” and automatic loading of the library is ensured by autorunning the NT service “SessionEnv” (the RDP service). On XP, the binary is saved as “C:\Windows\system32\spool\prtprocs\w32x86\localspl.dll” and the code uses the “Spooler” service to load.”

Avast determined the malware was an Advanced Persistent Threat that would only deliver the second-stage payload to specific users. Avast was able to determine that 20 machines spread across 8 organizations had the second stage malware delivered, although since logs were only collected for a little over 3 days, the actual total infected with the second stage was undoubtedly higher. Avast estimates the number of devices infected was likely “in the hundreds”.

Avast has since issued an update saying, “At the time the server was taken down, the attack was targeting select large technology and telecommunication companies in Japan, Taiwan, UK, Germany.”

The majority of devices infected with the first backdoor were consumers, since CCleaner is a consumer-oriented product; however, consumers are believed to be of no interest to the attackers and that the CCleaner hack was a watering hole attack. The aim was to gain access to computers used by employees of tech firms. Some of the firms targeted in this CCleaner hack include Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Intel, HTC, Linksys, D-Link, and Cisco.

The second stage of the attack delivered keylogging and data collection malware. Kaspersky and FireEye researchers have connected the attack to the hacking group APT 17, noting similarities in the infrastructure with the nation state actor. It was APT 17 that was behind the Operation Aurora attack which similarly targeted tech companies in 2009. Cisco Talos researchers noted that one of the configuration files was set to a Chinese time zone, further suggesting this was the work of a nation-state hacking group based in China.

While Avast previously said upgrading to the latest version would be sufficient to remove the backdoor, it would not remove the second-stage malware. Data could still be exfiltrated to the attackers C2 server, which was still active. Avast is currently working with the targeted companies and is providing assistance.

Cisco Talos criticized Avast’s stance on the attack, explaining in a recent blog post, “it’s imperative to take these attacks seriously and not to downplay their severity,” also suggesting users should “restore from backups or reimage systems to ensure that they completely remove not only the backdoored version of CCleaner but also any other malware that may be resident on the system.”

Poor Patch Management Policies to Blame for Equifax Data Breach

It has been confirmed that poor patch management policies opened the door for hackers and allowed them to gain access to the consumer data stored by the credit monitoring bureau Equifax.  The massive Equifax data breach announced earlier this month saw the personal information – including Social Security numbers – of almost half the population of the United States exposed/stolen by hackers.

Poor Patch Management Policies to Blame for Yet Another Major Cyberattack

The vulnerability may have been different to that exploited in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May, but it was a similar scenario. In the case of WannaCry, a Microsoft Server Message Block vulnerability was exploited, allowing hackers to install WannaCry ransomware.

The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2017-010, was corrected in March 2017 and a patch was issued to prevent the flaw from being exploited. Two months later, the WannaCry ransomware attacks affected organizations around the world that had not yet applied the patch.

Few details about the Equifax data breach were initially released, with the firm only announcing that access to consumer data was gained via a website application vulnerability. Equifax has now confirmed that access to data was gained by exploiting a vulnerability in Apache Struts, specifically, the Apache Struts vulnerability tracked as CVE-2017-5638.

As with WannaCry, a patch had been released two months before the attack took place. Hackers took advantage of poor patch management policies and exploited the vulnerability to gain access to consumer information.

The Exploited Apache Struts Vulnerability

Apache Struts is used by many Fortune 100 firms and is popular with banks, airlines, governments, and e-commerce stores. Apache Struts is an open-source, MVC framework that allows organizations to create front and back-end Java web applications, such as applications on the public website of Equifax.

The CVE-2017-5638 Apache Struts vulnerability is well known. Details of the vulnerability were published in March 2017 and a patch was issued to correct the flaw. The flaw is relatively easy to exploit, and within three days of the patch being issued, hackers started to exploit the vulnerability and attack web applications that had not been patched.

The remote code execution vulnerability allows an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the affected application. While many organizations acted quickly, for some, applying the patch was not straightforward. The process of upgrading and fixing the flaw can be a difficult and labor-intensive task. Some websites have hundreds of apps that all need to be updated and tested. While it is currently unclear if Equifax was in the process of upgrading the software, two months after the patch had been released, Equifax had still not updated its software. In mid-May, the flaw was exploited by hackers and access was gained to consumer data.

Poor Patch Management Policies Will Lead to Data Breaches

All software contains vulnerabilities that can be exploited. It is just a case of those vulnerabilities being found. Already this year, there have been several vulnerabilities discovered in Apache Struts of varying severity. As soon as new vulnerabilities are discovered, patches are developed to correct the flaws. It is up to organizations to ensure patches are applied promptly to keep their systems and data secure. Had the patch been applied promptly, the breach could have been prevented.

Even though a widely exploited vulnerability was known to exist, Equifax was not only slow to correct the flaw but also failed to detect that a breach had occurred for several weeks. In this case, it would appear that the attackers were throttling down on data exfiltration to avoid detection, although questions will certainly be asked about why it took so long for the Equifax cyberattack to be discovered.

Since zero-day vulnerabilities are often exploited before software developers become aware of flaws and develop patches, organizations – especially those of the size of Equifax – should be using intrusion detection solutions to monitor for abnormal application activity. This will help to ensure any zero-day exploits are rapidly identified and action is taken to limit the severity of any breach.

What Will the Cost of the Equifax Data Breach Be?

The cost of the Equifax data breach will be considerable. State attorneys general are lining up to take action against the credit monitoring bureau for failing prevent the breach. 40 attorneys general have already launched and Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey has announced the state will be suing Equifax for breaching state laws.

Healey said, the Equifax data breach was “the most egregious data breach we have ever seen. It is as bad as it gets.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also spoken out about the breach promising an in-depth investigation to determine whether state laws have been violated. If they have, action will certainly be taken.

U.S. consumers are also extremely angry that their highly sensitive information has been breached, especially since they did not provide their data to Equifax directly. Class-action lawsuits are certain to be launched to recover damages.

As if the breach itself is not bad enough, questions have been raised about the possibility of insider trading. Three Equifax executives allegedly sold $2 million in stock just days after the breach was discovered and before it had been made public.

The final cost of the Equifax data breach will not be known for years to come, although already the firm has lost 35% of its stock value – wiping out around $6 billion. Multiple lawsuits will be filed, there are likely to be heavy fines. The cost of the Equifax breach is therefore certain to be of the order of hundreds of millions. Some experts have suggested a figure of at least 300 million is likely, and possibly considerably more.

Bashware Allows Malware to be Run on Windows 10 Undetected

A new attack method – termed Bashware – could allow attackers to install malware on Windows 10 computers without being detected by security software, according to research conducted by Check Point.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was introduced to make it easier for developers to run Linux tools on Windows without having to resort to virtualization; however, the decision to add this feature could open the door to cybercriminals and allow them to install and run malware undetected.

Checkpoint researchers have conducted tests on Bashware attacks against leading antivirus and antimalware security solutions and in all cases, the attacks went undetected. Check Point says no current antivirus or security solutions are capable of detecting Bashware attacks as they have not been configured to search for these threats. Unless cybersecurity solutions are updated to search for the processes of Linux executables on Windows systems, attacks will not be detected.

Microsoft says the Bashware technique has been reviewed and has been determined to be of low risk, since WSL is not turned on by default and several steps would need to be taken before the attack is possible.

For an attack to take place, administrator privileges would need to be gained. As has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, those credentials could easily be gained by conducting phishing or social engineering attacks.

The computer must also have WSL turned on. By default, WSL is turned off, so the attacks would either be limited to computers with WSL turned on or users would have to turn on WSL manually, switching to development mode and rebooting their device. The potential for Bashware attacks to succeed is therefore somewhat limited.

That said, Check Point researchers explained that WSL mode can be switched on by changing a few registry keys. The Bashware attack method automates this process and will install all the necessary components, turn on WSL mode and could even be used to download and extract the Linux file system from Microsoft.

It is also not necessary for Linux malware to be written for use in these attacks. The Bashware technique installs a program called Wine that allows Windows malware to be launched and run undetected.

WSL is now a fully supported feature of Windows. Check Point says around 400 million computers are running Windows 10 are currently exposed to Bashware attacks.

Researchers Gal Elbaz and Dvir Atias at Check Point said in a recent blog post, “Bashware is so alarming because it shows how easy it is to take advantage of the WSL mechanism to allow any malware to bypass security products.”

Check Point has already updated its solutions to detect these types of attacks, and Kaspersky Lab is making changes to its solutions to prevent these types of attacks. Symantec said its solutions already check for malware created using WSL.

UNITEDRAKE Malware Released by Shadow Brokers

Shadow Brokers are offering a new National Security Agency (NSA) hacking tool – UNITEDRAKE malware – making good on their promise to issue monthly releases of NSA exploits. The latest malware variant is one of several that were allegedly stolen from the NSA last year.

Shadow Brokers previously released the ETERNALBLUE exploit which was used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May that affected thousands of businesses around the world. There is no reason to suggest that this new hacking tool is not exactly what they claim.

UNITEDRAKE malware is a modular remote access and control tool that can capture microphone and webcam output, log keystrokes, and gain access to external drives. Shadow Brokers claim UNITEDRAKE malware is a ‘fully extensive remote collection system’ that includes a variety of plugins offering a range of functions that allow malicious actors to perform surveillance and gather information for use in further cyberattacks. UNITEDRAKE malware gives attackers the ability to take full control of an infected device.

Plugins include CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE, which records conversations via an infected computer’s microphone, GUMFISH gives the attackers control of the webcam and allows them to record video and take images. FOGGYBOTTOM steals data such as login credentials, browsing histories and passwords, SALVAGERABBIT can access data on external drives such as flash drives and portable hard drives when they are connected, and GROK is a keylogger plugin. The malware is also able to self-destruct when its tasks have been performed.

The malware works on older Windows versions including Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8 and Windows Server 2012.

According to documents released by Edward Snowden in 2014, the malware has been used by the NSA to infect millions of computers around the world. The malware will soon be in the hands of any cybercriminal willing to pay the asking price of 500 Zcash – around $124,000. Shadow Brokers have released a manual for the malware explaining how it works and its various functions.

TrendMicro said in a recent blog post there is currently no way of blocking or stopping the malware. When attacks occur, they will be analyzed by security researchers looking for clues as to how the malware works. That should ultimately lead to the development of tools to block attacks.

In the meantime, organizations need to improve their security posture by ensuring all systems are patched and operating systems are upgraded to the latest versions. An incident response plan should also be developed to ensure it can be implemented promptly in the event of an attack.

A further NSA exploit is expected to be released later this month, with the monthly dumps scheduled for at least the next two months.

Recently Discovered Spambot Contains 711-Million Email Addresses

A Netherlands-based spambot has recently been discovered that is being used to send massive volumes of spam email containing ransomware and malware. What sets this spambot aside from the many others in use is the scale of the spamming operations. Paris-based cybersecurity firm Benkow says the spambot contains an astonishing 711,000,000 email addresses.

To put that absurdly high figure into perspective, it corresponds to the entire population of Europe or two email addresses for every resident in the United States and Canada.

The spambot – called Onliner – is being used as part of a massive malware distribution network that has been distributing Ursnif banking malware. Not only are these email addresses being used for spamming and malware distribution, the passwords associated with many of those accounts are also publicly available on the same server. Malicious actors could access the data and use the information to gain access to the compromised accounts to search for sensitive information.

All of the email addresses in the list have now been uploaded to HaveIBeenPwned. Troy Hunt of HaveIBeenPwned recently explained in a blog post that this is the single largest set of email addresses that has ever been uploaded to the database. Hunt said it took 110 separate data breaches and more than two and a half years for the site to amass a database of that size.

Hunt explained that an analysis of some of the email addresses in one of the text files were all present in the data from the LinkedIn breach, another set related to the Badoo breach and another batch were all in the exploit.in list, suggesting this massive collection of email addresses has been amalgamated from past data breaches. That shows data is being extensively bought and sold on forums and darknet marketplaces. However, not all of the email addresses were already in the database, suggesting they came either from previously undisclosed breaches and scrapes of Internet sites.

Some of the lists obtained contained email addresses, corresponding passwords, SMTP servers and ports, which allow spammers to abuse those accounts and servers in their spamming campaigns. Hunt says the list includes approximately 80 million email servers that are being used in spamming campaigns.

The problem is these are legitimate accounts and servers, which the spammers can abuse to send massive amounts of spam and even defeat some spam filters, ensuring malicious messages get delivered. Hunt says authorities in the Netherlands are currently attempting to shut down Onliner.

As a precaution, everyone is recommended to visit HaveIBeenPwned to check if their email addresses/passwords have been added to the database. If they are present, it is important to update the passwords for those email accounts and never to use those passwords again.

Biggest Cybersecurity Threat? Employees, Say 100% of Survey Respondents!

What is biggest cybersecurity threat currently faced by organizations? According to a recent survey of government IT professionals, the biggest cybersecurity threat is employees. 100% of respondents to the survey said employees were the biggest cybersecurity threat faced by their organziation.

The survey, conducted by Netwrix, explored IT security and compliance risks at a wide range of organizations around the globe, including government agencies.

Government agencies are an attractive target for cybercriminals. They store vast quantities of sensitive data on consumers and cybersecurity protections are often inferior to private sector organizations. Consequently, cyberattacks are easier to pull off. In addition to a treasure trove of consumer data, government agencies hold highly sensitive information critical to national security. With access to that information, hackers can take out critical infrastructure.

There are plenty of hackers attempting to gain access to government networks and oftentimes attacks are successful. The Office of Personnel Management breach in 2015 resulted in the Social Security numbers of 21.5 million individuals being compromised. In 2015, there was also a 6.2 million record breach at the Georgia Secretary of State Office and 191 million individuals were affected by a hack of the U.S. voter database.

The survey revealed 72% of government entities around the world had experienced at least one data breach in 2016 and only 14% of respondents felt their department was well protected against cyberattacks.

Employees Are the Biggest Cybersecurity Threat

Last year, 57% of data breaches at government entities were caused by insider error, while 43% of respondents from government agencies said they had investigated instances of insider misuse. Given the high percentage of security incidents caused by insiders – deliberate and accidental – it is no surprise that insiders are perceived to be the biggest cybersecurity threat.

How Can Employees be Turned from Liabilities into Security Titans?

Employees may be widely regarded as liabilities when it comes to information security, but that need not be the case. With training, employees can be turned into security titans. For that to happen, a onetime security awareness training program is not going to cut it. Creating a security culture requires considerable effort, resources and investment.

Security awareness training needs to be a continuous process with training sessions for employees scheduled at least twice a year, with monthly updates and weekly security bulletins distributed to highlight the latest threats. Training must also be backed up with testing – both to determine how effective training has been and to provide employees with the opportunity to test their skills. Phishing simulations are highly effective in this regard. If an employee fails a simulation it can be turned into a training opportunity. Studies by security training companies have shown susceptibility to phishing attacks can be reduced by more than 90% with effective training and phishing simulation exercises.

However, fail to invest in an effective security awareness program and employees will remain the biggest cybersecurity threat and will continue to cause costly data breaches.

How to Reduce Exposure to Phishing and Malware Threats

With the workforce trained to respond correctly to phishing emails, employees can be turned into a formidable last line of defense. The defensive line should be tested with simulated phishing emails, but technological solutions should be introduced to prevent real phishing emails from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

The majority of malware and ransomware attacks start with a phishing email, so it is essential that these malicious messages are filtered out. An advanced spam filtering solution should therefore be at the heart of an organization’s email defenses.

SpamTitan is a highly effective enterprise-class spam filtering solution that blocks malicious messages and more than 99.9% of spam email, helping organizations to mount an impressive defense against email-based attacks. Dual anti-virus engines are used to identity and block malware and ransomware, with each email subjected to deep analysis using Sender Policy Framework (SPF), SURBL’s, RBL’s and Bayesian analysis to block threats.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing and email-based malware attacks, SpamTitan should be at the heart of your email defenses. To find out more about SpamTitan and how it can prevent your employees having their phishing email identification skills frequently put to the test, contact the TitanHQ team today.

2017 Spam Study Reveals Majority of Malicious Messages Sent During Office Hours

The busiest day of the week for email spam is Tuesday and spammers concentrate on sending messages during working hours, Monday to Friday, according to a 2017 spam study conducted by IBM X-Force.

The study was conducted over a 6-month period from December 2016 to June 2017. The study analyzed more than 20 million spam messages and 27 billion webpages and images a day. The researchers also incorporated data provided by several anti-spam organizations, making the 2017 spam study one of the largest ever conducted.

The 2017 spam study showed the majority of spam emails – 83% – were sent to arrive in inboxes during office hours with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the spammiest days. Spam volume was much lower on Mondays and Fridays.

While spam is sent 24/7, the busiest times are between 1am and 4pm ET. If an email arrives at an inbox when a worker is at his/her desk, it is more likely to be opened. Spammers therefore concentrate their messages during office hours.

Malicious spam messages increase around the holidays and during tax season when email scams are rife. The increase in numbers of individuals heading online to shop for goods means rich pickings for spammers. Spam volume also increases during sporting events such as the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Football World Cup, with sports-themed spam messages capitalizing on interest in the events.

Malicious messages aim to get email recipients to reveal their banking credentials, logins and passwords and install malware. The researchers found 44% of spam emails contained malicious code, and out of those emails, 85% were used to spread ransomware.

While the majority of spam messages are automated, the IBM researchers point out that spammers work at their campaigns. There is also considerable manual work required to control botnets and spam mailers. The process is not entirely automated. Considerable work is put into malicious messages that spread ransomware and malware, with these campaigns requiring the highest level of manual control. These campaigns also involve extensive planning to maximize the number of victims.

Spam is sent from countries all around the world, although the biggest percentage hails from India, which sends 30% of all spam emails. South America and China also send a high percentage of global spam. Only 7% of spam emails are sent from the United States and Canada.

Companies are getting better at filtering out spam emails and preventing the messages from reaching inboxes. Spam filtering technology has improved enormously in recent years, meaning fewer messages are being delivered; however, spam is still the main method of distributing malware and phishing scams are rife. Spammers are also getting much better at masking their malicious messages and they frequently change delivery vehicles develop new methods of hiding malicious code to avoid detection.

The researchers say spam email volume has increased fourfold over the past 12 months and malicious messages are now being increasingly targeted at organizations and individuals, rather than being sent randomly in huge spamming campaigns. Targeting allows the attackers to send carefully crafted campaigns which are more likely to result in the recipients taking the desired action.

Retail Industry Data Breaches Double in a Year

The retail industry is under attack with cybercriminals increasing their efforts to gain access to PoS systems. Retail industry data breaches are now being reported twice as frequently as last year, according to a recent report from UK law firm RPC.

Retailers are an attractive target. They process many thousands of credit card transactions each week and store huge volumes of personal information of consumers. If cybercriminals can gain access to Point of Sale systems, they can siphon off credit and debit card information and stolen consumer data can be used for a multitude of nefarious purposes.

Many retailers lack robust cybersecurity defenses and run complex systems on aging platforms, making attacks relatively easy.

While cyberattacks are common, the increase in data breaches does not necessarily mean hacks are on the rise. RPC points out that there are many possible causes of data breaches, including theft of data by insiders. Retailers need to improve they defenses against attacks by third parties, although it is important not to forget that systems need to be protected from internal threats.

Preventing retail industry data breaches requires a range of cybersecurity protections, but technology isn’t always the answer. Errors made by staff can easily result in cybercriminals gaining easy access to systems, such as when employees respond to phishing emails.

Employees are the last line of defense and that defensive line is frequently tested. It is therefore essential to improve security awareness. Security awareness training should be provided to all employees to raise awareness of the threat from phishing, malware and web-based attacks.

Phishing emails are the primary method of spreading malware and ransomware. Training staff how to identify phishing emails – and take the correct actions when email-based threats are received – will go a long way toward preventing retail industry data breaches. Employees should be taught the security basics such as never opening email attachments or clicking hyperlinks in emails from unknown individuals and never divulging login credentials online in response to email requests.

Employees can be trained to recognize email-based threats, although it is important to take steps to prevent threats from reaching inboxes. An advanced spam filtering solution is therefore a good investment. Spam filters can block the vast majority of spam and malicious emails, ensuring employees security awareness is not frequently put to the test. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam and malicious emails, ensuring threats never reach inboxes.

Web-based attacks can be blocked with a web filtering solution. By carefully controlling the types of websites employees can access, retailers can greatly reduce the risk of malware downloads.

As the recent WannaCry and NotPetya malware attacks have shown, user interaction is not always required to install malware. Both of those global attacks were conducted remotely without any input from employees. Vulnerabilities in operating systems were exploited to download malware.

In both cases, patches had been released prior to the attacks that would have protected organizations from the threat. Keeping software up to date is therefore essential. Patches must be applied promptly and regular checks conducted to ensure all software is kept 100% up to date.

This is not only important for preventing retail industry data breaches. Next year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force and heavy fines await retailers that fail to do enough to improve data security. Ahead of the May 25, 2018 deadline for compliance, retailers need to improve security to prevent breaches and ensure systems are in place to detect breaches rapidly when they do occur.

NSA Exploit Used in Cyberattacks on Hotel WiFi Networks

Security researchers have discovered a wave of cyberattacks on hotel WiFi networks that leverage an NSA exploit – EternalBlue – for a vulnerability that was fixed by Microsoft in March.

The same exploit was used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May and the NotPetya wiper attacks in June. Even though the malware campaigns affected hundreds of companies and caused millions (if not billions) of dollars of losses, there are still companies that have yet to apply the update.

The recent cyberattacks on hotel WiFi networks have affected establishments in the Middle East and Europe. Once access is gained to hotel networks, the attackers spy on guests via hotel WiFi networks and steal their login credentials.

Researchers at FireEye discovered the new campaign, which they have attributed to the Russian hacking group APT28, also known as Fancy Bear. Fancy Bear is believed to receive backing from the Russian government and has performed many high profile cyberattacks in recent years, including the cyberattack on the World Anti-Doping agency (WADA). Following that attack, Fancy Bear published athletes’ therapeutic use exemption (TUE) data.

In contrast to the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks that were conducted remotely without any user involvement, the latest campaign is being conducted via a spear phishing campaign. The hacking group sends malicious emails to hotel employees and uses email attachments to download their backdoor – Gamefish. In this case, the attachment appears to be a reservation form for a hotel booking. Gamefish is installed if hotel employees run the macros in the document.

Once the backdoor is installed, the hackers search for internal and guest WiFi networks using EternalBlue and spread to other devices. Once embedded in computers that control the WiFi networks, the attackers can launch attacks on devices that attempt to connect to the hotel WiFi network.

The hackers use the open-source Responder tool to listen for MBT-NS (UDP/137) broadcasts from devices that are attempting to connect to WiFi network resources. Instead of connecting, they connect to Responder which obtains usernames and hashed passwords. That information is transferred to a computer controlled by the attackers. Once the hashed passwords have been cracked they can be used to attack hotel guests.

The names of the affected hotels have not been disclosed, although FireEye has confirmed that at least one Middle Eastern hotel and seven in Europe have been attacked. The hotels were well respected establishments likely to be frequented by high-net worth guests and business travellers.

The advice for travellers is to exercise caution when connecting to hotel WiFi networks, such as avoiding accessing online bank accounts or better still, avoiding connecting to hotel WiFi networks altogether. While the use of a VPN when connecting to hotel WiFi networks is a good idea, in this case the attack can occur before a secure VPN connection is made.

FireEye reports that this type of attack is difficult to detect and block. The attackers passively collect data and leave virtually no traces. Once login credentials have been obtained, guests are vulnerable and not just while they are at the hotel. FireEye believes the credentials are then used to attack individuals when they return home and connect to their home networks.

The best way for hotels to prevent cyberattacks on hotel WiFi networks such as this is by blocking the phishing and spear phishing attacks that lead to installation of the malware. Hotels should ensure all employees are provided with security awareness training and a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan is deployed to stop malicious emails from being delivered to employees’ inboxes.

Cyberattacks in Q2 2017 Jumped by Almost a Quarter

Cyberattacks are continuing to rise, according to the latest threat report from NTT Security. Cyberattacks in Q2 2017 jumped considerably, while phishing emails are now being extensively used to spread malware. The majority of cyberattacks in Q2 2017 affected the manufacturing, finance and healthcare industries, which accounted for 72% of all detected attacks.

Cyberattacks in Q2 2017 Increased by Almost a Quarter

Cyberattacks in Q2 2017 were 24% higher than the previous quarter and the manufacturing industry is in hackers’ crosshairs. Manufacturing accounted for 34% of all malicious attacks last quarter, followed by finance with 25% of attacks and healthcare on 13%.

Cyberattacks on manufacturing firms are not limited geographically. Manufacturing was the most attacked industry in five out of the six geographical regions tracked by NTT Security. The attacks have involved ransomware, industrial espionage, sabotage and data theft. Even though cyberattacks on manufacturing firms have increased sharply, 37% of firms in the sector have yet to develop an incident response plan.

Flash Continues to Cause Security Headaches for Businesses

Unpatched vulnerabilities continue to cause headaches for businesses, with Adobe Flash the main culprit. Adobe will finally retire Flash in 2020, but until then, it remains something of a liability. 98% of vulnerabilities corrected by Adobe were in Flash, and in Q2, an Adobe Flash vulnerability was the most commonly exploited. The Adobe Flash remote code execution vulnerability CVE-2016-4116 was exploited in 57% of vulnerability exploitation attacks.

The message to businesses is clear. If Adobe Flash is not essential it should be disabled or uninstalled. If it is necessary, it is essential that patches are applied as soon as humanly possible. NTT Security notes that attacks increase exponentially once proof-of-concept code is published.

Increase in Use of Phishing Emails for Malware Delivery

The NTT Security report shows 67% of malware attacks on organizations were the result of phishing emails. The NTT Security report ties in with the findings of a recent threat report issued by Symantec, which showed that malware emails were at now at the highest levels seen this year.

The use of phishing emails to deliver malware is understandable. The emails target employees – a weak link in most organizations’ defenses. Phishing emails take just a few minutes to craft and can be sent in large volumes quickly and easily. The phishing scams are also highly effective, taking advantages of flaws in human nature.

Many organizations are still only providing annual security awareness training, rather than regular refresher training sessions, ongoing CBT courses and monthly bulletins detailing the new threats. Ineffective spam filtering also results in more messages reaching end users’ inboxes, increasing the chance of one of those emails being opened and malware being downloaded.

Improving defenses against phishing is now critical, yet many organizations are failing to appreciate how serious the threat from phishing really is. The volume of malware infections now occurring via phishing emails should be a wakeup call for organizations.

Technical solutions such as advanced spam filters, link blocking technology such as web filters and employee security awareness training should all now feature in organizations’ cybersecurity defenses.

Ransomware Attacks on Small Businesses Cause Devastating Losses

Ransomware attacks on small businesses can be devastating. Many small businesses have little spare capital and certainly not enough to be handing out cash to cybercriminals, let alone enough to cover the cost of loss of business while systems are taken out of action. Many small businesses are one ransomware attack away from total disaster. One attack and they may have to permanently shut their doors.

A recent research study commissioned by Malwarebytes – conducted by Osterman Research – has highlighted the devastating effect of ransomware attacks on small businesses.

1,054 businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees were surveyed and asked about the number of ransomware attacks they had experienced, the cost of mitigating those attacks and the impact of the ransomware attacks on their business.

Anyone following the news should be aware of the increase in ransomware attacks. Barely a week goes by without a major attack being announced. The latest study has confirmed the frequency of attacks has increased. More than one third of companies that took part in the survey revealed they had experienced at least one ransomware attack in the past 12 months.

22% of Small Businesses Shut Down Operations Immediately Following a Ransomware Attack

The survey also showed the devastating impact of ransomware attacks on small businesses. More than one fifth of small businesses were forced to cease operations immediately after an attack. 22% of businesses were forced to close their businesses.

Those companies able to weather the storm incurred significant costs. 15% of companies lost revenue as a result of having their systems and data locked by ransomware and one in six companies experienced downtime in excess of 25 hours. Some businesses said their systems were taken out of action for more than 100 hours.

Paying a ransom is no guarantee that systems can be brought back online quickly. Each computer affected requires its own security key. Those keys must be used carefully. A mistake could see data locked forever. A ransomware attack involving multiple devices could take several days to resolve. Forensic investigations must also be conducted to ensure all traces of the ransomware have been removed and no backdoors have been installed. That can be a long-winded, painstaking process.

Multiple-device attacks are becoming more common. WannaCry-style ransomware attacks that incorporate a worm component see infections spread rapidly across a network. However, many ransomware variants can scan neworks and self-replicate. One third of companies that experienced attack, said it spread to other devices and 2% said all devices had been encrypted.

Can Ransomware Attacks on Small Businesses be Prevented?

Can ransomware attacks on small businesses be prevented? Confidence appears to be low. Almost half of respondents were only moderately confident they could prevent a ransomware attack on their business. Even though a third of businesses had ‘anti-ransomware’ defenses in place, one third still experienced attacks.

Unfortunately, there is no single solution that can prevent ransomware attacks on small businesses. What organizations must do is employ multi-layered defenses, although that can be a major challenge, especially with limited resources.

A risk assessment is a good place to start. Organizations need to look at their defenses critically and assess their infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

Improving Defenses Against Ransomware

Ransomware attacks on small businesses usually occur via email with employees targeted using phishing emails. Organizations should consider implementing a spam filtering solution to reduce the number of malicious emails that reach inboxes.

Some emails will inevitably slip past these defenses, so it is important for staff to be security aware. Security awareness training should be ongoing and should involve phishing simulations to find out how effective training has been and to single out employees that need further training.

While ransomware can arrive as an attachment, it is usually downloaded via scripts of when users visit malicious websites. By blocking links and preventing end users from visiting malicious sites, ransomware downloads can be blocked. A web filtering solution can be used to block malicious links and sites.

Anti-virus solutions should be kept up to date, although traditional signature-based detection technology is not as effective as it once was. Alone, anti-virus software will not offer sufficient levels of protection.

As was clearly shown by the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks, malware can be installed without any user interaction if systems are not configured correctly and patches and software updates are not applied promptly. Sign up to alerts and regularly check for updated software and don’t delay patching computers.

A ransomware attack need not be devastating. If organizations back up their data to the cloud, on a portable (unplugged) local storage device and have a copy of data off site, in the event of an attack, data will not be lost.

Ransomware and Phishing Attacks in 2017 Have Soared

A new survey from CSO shows ransomware and phishing attacks in 2017 have increased, although companies have reported a decline in the number of cyber incidents experienced over the past year. While it is certainly good news that organizations are experiencing fewer cyberattacks, the report suggests that the severity of the attacks has increased and more organizations have reported suffering losses as a result of security incidents.

CSO conducted the annual U.S State of Cybercrime survey on 510 respondents, 70% of whom were at the vice president level or higher. Companies had an average IT security budget of $11 million.

This year’s report suggests organizations are struggling to keep up with the number of patches and software upgrades now being issued, although the consequences of the delays have been clearly shown this year with the NotPetya and WannaCry attacks. The failure to patch promptly has seen many organizations attacked, with some companies still struggling to recover. Nuance Communications was badly affected by NotPetya, and a month after the attacks, only 75% of its customers have regained access to its services. TNT also suffered extensive disruption to services in the weeks following the attacks, although these are just two companies out of many to experience extended disruption.

IT security budgets have increased by an average of 7.5% year over year with 10% of companies saying they have increased IT security spending by 20% or more in the past 12 months. While new technologies are taking up the bulk of the new budgets, organizations are also investing in audits and knowledge assessments, information sharing, redeveloping their cybersecurity strategy, policies and processes and are adding new skills. 67% of respondents said they have now expanded their security capabilities in include mobile devices, the cloud and IoT.

Even though the threat of attack is severe, many companies still believe a cyber response plan should not be part of their cybersecurity strategy, although acceptance that cyberattacks will occur has seen 19% of respondents plan to implement a response strategy in the next 12 months.

Even though there was a fall in the number of security incidents, losses experienced as a result of those attacks have remained constant or have increased over the past 12 months for 68% of respondents. Only 30% of companies said they had experienced no losses as a result of security incidents, down 6 percentage points from last year.

More CSOs and CISOs are now reporting directly to the board on a monthly basis, up 17% since last year. However, as was also confirmed by a recent survey conducted by KPMG, many boards still view cybersecurity as an IT issue – The CSO survey suggests 61% of boards believe cybersecurity is a concern of the IT department not a matter for the board, a drop of just two percentage points since last year.

Phishing attacks in 2017 have increased significantly, with 36% of companies reporting attacks – up from 26% last year. 17% of companies experienced ransomware attacks – up from 14% – and financial fraud increased from 7% to 12%. Business email compromise scams are also increasing, up from 5% to 9% in the past 12 months.

The increase in ransomware and phishing attacks in 2017 highlights the need for security awareness training for employees and an improvement to spam filtering controls. Organizations need to ensure they have sufficient staffing levels to ensure patches are applied promptly, while investment in people must improve to ensure they have the skills, resources and training to respond to the latest threats.  Boards must also appreciate that cybersecurity is not just a matter for IT departments, and the CSO survey shows that too much faith is being placed in cybersecurity protections. Currently only 53% of companies are testing the effectiveness of their security programs.

Federal Agencies Urged to Use DMARC to Prevent Impersonation Attacks

A U.S senator is urging the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to adopt DMARC to prevent impersonation attacks via email. Over the past few months, several government agencies have been targeted by phishers who have used government domains to send huge numbers of spam emails.

The emails appear legitimate as they have been sent from government-owned domains, and while the text in the emails often contains clues to suggest the emails are not genuine, the official domain adds sufficient authenticity to see many email recipients fooled.

The use of official domains by phishers is nothing new of course, but government-owned domains should be protected to prevent them being used in phishing campaigns. The problem is that in the vast majority of cases, insufficient controls have been implemented to prevent impersonation attacks.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) wrote to the Department of Homeland Security voicing his concerns about the problem, and specifically, the failure of federal agencies – including DHS – to use the Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) standard.

DMARC is a proven tool that can help to prevent impersonation attacks via email by allowing email recipients to verify the sender of an email. If DMARC is used, it is possible to determine whether the emails have genuinely been sent from federal agencies or if they have been sent by a third party unauthorized to use the domain. In short, it will prevent impersonation attacks and protect consumers. If DMARC was used, it would make it much harder for government agencies to be impersonated.

The standard is recommended by the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). DMARC has also recently been adopted in the UK by the British government with hugely positive results. Since DMARC has been implemented, the UK Tax agency alone has reduced impersonation attacks to the tune of 300 million messages in a single year.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has also created a central system where it processes all of the DMARC reports from all government agencies to monitor impersonation attacks across all government departments

Currently the Department of Homeland Security does not use DMARC and it is not used on the majority of government owned domains. The U.S. government owns approximately 1,300 domains, yet DMARC is only used on an estimated 2% of those domains.

Impersonation attacks are on the rise and numerous government agencies have been impersonated in recent months including the Department of Health and Human Services, the IRS and even the Defense Security Service – part of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Sen. Wyden suggests the Department of Homeland Security should immediately adopt DMARC and mandate its use across all federal agencies.  DHS already scans other federal agencies for vulnerabilities under the Cyber Hygiene program. Sen. Wyden says DMARC scanning should be incorporated into that program. As in the UK, Sen. Wyden suggests a central repository should be created for all DMARC reports by the General Services Administration (GSA) to give DHA visibility into impersonation attacks across all federal agencies.

58% of Companies Not Deprovisioning Former Employees Promptly

You’ve secured the network perimeter, installed a spam filter, trained your employees to recognize phishing emails and have an intrusion detection system in place, but are you deprovisioning former employees to prevent data theft? According to a new report from OneLogin, 58% of companies are lax when it comes to blocking network access when employees leave the company.

For the study, 600 IT professionals with responsibility or partial responsibility for security decisions about hardware, software or cloud services were interviewed. When asked about the time delay between employees leaving the company and their accounts being deactivated, 58% said that it takes more than a day for that to happen and a quarter said it takes more than a week. 28% of respondents said deprovisioning former employees takes a month or longer.

48% of respondents said they were aware that former employees still had access to applications after they had left the company and 44% said they were not confident that deprovisioning former employees had actually occurred.

Even though there is a significant time delay involved in blocking access for former employees, only four out of ten organizations are using a security information and event management solution (SIEM). A SIEM would allow them to monitor app usage by former employees and would alert them if systems were still being accessed, yet only 45% of respondents said they used such a solution.

Organizations are taking a big risk by not ensuring accounts are deactivated before employees walk through the door for the final time. The study revealed that the risk is considerable. When asked if they had suffered data breaches due to former employees, 24% said they had.

Deprovisioning employees is time consuming, especially when they have been employed for a long time and have access to many business applications and networks. 92% of respondents said it takes up to an hour to deprovision employees and many must complete the process manually. Time may be pressed, but failing to block access promptly is a data breach waiting to happen.

Trump Hotels Confirms 14 Locations Affected by Sabre Hospitality Solutions Data Breach

Trump Hotels has announced that guests at some of its hotels have been impacted by the Sabre Hospitality Solutions data breach and have had their credit/debit card details stolen. Sabre Hospitality Solutions provides the hotel reservation system used at certain Trump Hotels, and it was this system that was compromised not the systems used at Trump Hotels. Sabre’s system is used by more than 32,000 hotels and lodging establishments around the world.

Attackers gained access to the Sabre SynXis Central Reservations system (CRS) which is used by hotels and travel agencies to make hotel bookings. Sabre discovered the breach on June 5, 2017, with the attacker understood to have obtained account credentials that enabled access to the CRS and the payment card data processed through the system.

The data breach affected 13 Trump Hotels (Central Park, Chicago, Doonbeg, Doral, Las Vegas, Panama, Soho, Toronto, Turnberry, Vancouver, Waikiki, DC, Rio de Janeiro) and the Albemarle Estate. Each hotel was affected at a different time and for a different duration, with the first instance occurring on August 10, 2016. The last data access was on March 9, 2017. The hotel reservation system was compromised at most of the affected hotels for a few days up to three weeks in November 2016, with the exception of Trump Las Vegas, Trump Panama, and Trump DC, which saw systems compromised for around four months.

When the Sabre Hospitality Solutions data breach was detected, the company contracted cybersecurity firm Mandiant to conduct a forensic analysis to determine how the breach occurred, which hotels were affected and to ensure that access to its systems was blocked. Sabre reports that after March 9, 2017, no further unauthorized access to its system has occurred.

During the time that access to data was possible, the attackers were able to obtain the names of card holders, card numbers, expiration dates and in some cases, CVV codes. Other information potentially accessed includes guests’ names, addresses, phone numbers and potentially other information, although not Social Security numbers or driver’s licenses.

The Sabre Hospitality Solutions data breach affected many organizations, with Google recently announcing that some of its employees have had information exposed. In the case of Google, it was a travel agency – Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) – that was affected. CWT was one of the companies used by Google to book hotels for its staff.

The hospitality industry has been hit with numerous POS system breaches over the past few years. The industry is an attractive target for cybercriminals. Most hotel bookings are made with credit and debit cards, cybersecurity protections are often poor and once access is gained to the systems it can be months before a data breach is detected.

A variety of attack vectors are used, although login credentials are commonly stolen in phishing attacks. Phishing emails are sent to company employees and social engineering tricks are used to convince those employees to disclose their login credentials or open malicious email attachments that install malware.

Email security solutions that prevent spam emails from being delivered to end users’ inboxes offer protection against phishing attacks. As an additional precaution, security awareness training should be provided to all hotel employees who have access to corporate email accounts.

With SpamTitan installed, hotel chains are well protected from phishing attacks. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam emails, adding an important layer of protection for hotels to prevent data breaches.

57% Cyber Incidents Caused by Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing and social engineering attacks are the biggest cyber risks faced by organizations. Not only are attacks on the rise, they are becoming more sophisticated. The increase in attacks and cost of mitigating cyber incidents is having a major negative impact on businesses.

Organizations can tackle the problem of phishing and social engineering by implementing technologies that preventing phishing emails from reaching end users’ inboxes and ensuring employees know how to identify threats and response when a malicious email arrives in their inbox.

One of the most effective ways of blocking these phishing and social engineering attacks is implementing an advanced spam filtering solution. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of email spam and uses two antivirus engines to identify and block emails with malicious attachments.

Many organizations provide security training to their employees and teach them to be more security aware, although a new report from the Business Continuity Institute calls for businesses to do more in this regard. In order to tackle phishing and improve resilience to attacks BCI says user education needs to improve.

A one-off training program as part of an employee’s induction is no longer sufficient. Training should be an ongoing process with regular refresher training sessions provided throughout the year. Phishing simulation exercises are also highly beneficial for reinforcing training and gauging how effective training has been.

However, the study suggests only 52% of companies conduct awareness-raising seminars and just 55% conduct regular exercises on likely cybersecurity scenarios. Only 46% run desktop exercises such as attack simulations.

The BCI study confirmed just how often phishing and social engineering attacks result in cyber incidents. The report shows that 57% of cyber incidents involve phishing or social engineering emails. Malware is responsible for 41% of cyber disruptions, with spear phishing emails accounting for 30% of attacks. Ransomware has grown into a major issue in recent months and is behind 19% of cyber disruptions.

The survey was conducted on 734 individuals from 69 countries. Two thirds of respondents had experienced a cybersecurity incident in the past 12 months with 15% saying they had experienced 10 or more disruptions in the past year. 5% said they experienced between 11 and 20 incidents in the past 12 months, a further 5% experienced between 21 and 50 incidents and 5% said they experienced 51 or more incidents. Responding to these incidents takes up valuable time. 67% of attacks take more than an hour to resolve with 16% taking more than four hours.

These incidents are costing businesses dearly. 33% of organizations said the cost of those attacks exceeded €50,000, while 13% of respondents said they had spent over €250,000 remediating attacks. It should be noted that 40% of respondents that took part in the survey were from SMEs with an annual turnover of less than €1 million.

Cybercriminals are only likely to increase their efforts and conduct more phishing and social engineering attacks. It is therefore essential for businesses to have a high commitment to cyber resilience and to do more to improve cybersecurity defenses. The survey suggests only 60% of senior management are committed to improving their defenses, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.

NotPetya Ransomware Attacks Spread to 65 Countries

NotPetya ransomware attacks have spread globally, with the latest figures from Microsoft suggesting there are now more than 12,500 reported victims spread across 65 countries. The attacks first started to be reported on Tuesday morning with companies in the Ukraine hit particularly hard.

At first it appeared that the attacks involved Petya ransomware, although it has since been confirmed that this is a new ransomware variant. The ransomware has already attracted a variety of names such as GoldenEye, SortaPetya, ExPetr, and NotPetya. We shall use the latter.

Security researchers believe the NotPetya ransomware attacks started in Ukraine. The first attacks occurred the day before a national holiday – a common time to launch an attack. IT staff were unlikely to be working, so the probability of the attacks being halted before the ransomware was allowed to run would be increased.

The NotPetya ransomware attacks have been discovered to have occurred via a variety of vectors. Ukraine was hit particularly hard, which suggested a country-specific attack vector. Some security researchers have suggested the first attacks occurred via a Ukrainian accounting package called M.E. Doc, with the attackers managing to compromise a software update. M.E.Doc hinted that this may be the case initially, but later denied they were the cause of the attack. If it is true that a software update was involved, it would not be the first time M.E.Doc was attacked. A similar ransomware attack occurred via M.E.Doc software updates in May.

However, that is only one potential attack vector used in the NotPetya ransomware attacks. It has been confirmed that the attackers are also using two NSA exploits that were released by Shadow Brokers in April. As was the case with the WannaCry ransomware attacks, the EternalBlue exploit is being used. The latest attacks are also using another exploit released at the same time called EternalRomance.

In contrast to the WannaCry ransomware attacks last month, the exploits used in the NotPetya ransomware attacks only scan for vulnerable devices on local networks, not via the Internet.

Both exploits will not work if computers have already been patched with MS17-010 released by Microsoft in March. Following the WannaCry attacks, Microsoft also issued a patch for older, unsupported Windows versions to prevent further ransomware attacks.

However, patching would not necessarily have prevented infection. In contrast to WannaCry, NotPetya ransomware attacks have been reported by companies that have patched their computers. Security researchers have confirmed that all it takes for infection to occur is for one computer to have been missed when applying the patches. That allows the attackers to attack that machine, and also any other machines connected to the local network, even if the patch has been applied.

The attacks also appear to be occurring via phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office documents.  As has been the case with many other ransomware attacks, the failure to implement spam defenses can result in infection. The use of an advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan offers excellent protection against email-based ransomware attacks, preventing those emails from reaching end users’ inboxes.

Upon infection, the ransomware waits one hour before executing and forcing a reboot. When the computer restarts, the ransom note appears. The ransom demand is for $300 per infected machine. In contrast to the majority of ransomware variants, NotPetya does not encrypt files. Instead it replaces the Master File Table (MFT). Since the MFT shows the computer where files are located on the hard drive, without it files cannot be found. Files are not encrypted, but they still cannot be accessed.

Preventing ransomware attacks such as this requires regular patching to address vulnerabilities and anti-spam solutions to prevent malicious emails from being delivered.

Fortunately, NotPetya ransomware attacks can be blocked. Cybereason security researcher Amit Serber has found a way to vaccinate computers against this specific ransomware variant. He suggests IT teams “Create a file called perfc in the C:\Windows folder and make it read only.” This method has been confirmed as effective by other security researchers, although it will not work if infection has already occurred.

Unfortunately, recovery following an attack may not be possible if infected computers cannot be restored from backups. Kaspersky Lab reports there is a flaw in the ransomware saying, “We have analyzed the high level code of the encryption routine and we have figured out that after disk encryption, the threat actor could not decrypt victims’ disks.” Further, the email account used by the attacker to verify ransom payments has been shut down by a German email provider.

Erebus Ransomware Attack Results in $1 Million Ransom Payment

A $1 million ransom payment has been made to cybercriminals who used Erebus ransomware to attack the South Korean web hosting firm Nayana.

Erebus ransomware was first detected in September last year and was downloaded via websites hosting the Rig exploit kit. Traffic was directed to the malicious website hosting the Rig EK via malvertising campaigns. Vulnerable computers then had Erebus ransomware downloaded. This Erebus ransomware attack is unlikely to have occurred the same way. Trend Micro suggests the attackers leveraged vulnerabilities on the comapny’s Linux servers, used a local exploit or both.

The infection spread to all 153 Linux servers used by Nayana. Those servers hosted the websites of 3,400 businesses. All of the firm’s customers appear to have been affected, with website files and databases encrypted.

Nayana was attacked on June 10, 2017 in the early hours. The hosting company responded rapidly. Law enforcement was contacted and it was initially hoped that it would be possible to crack the ransomware and decrypt files without paying the ransom. It soon became clear that was not an option.

Companies can avoid paying ransom payments following ransomware attacks by ensuring backups are made of all data. Having multiple backups increases the likelihood of files being recoverable. In this case, Nayana had an internal and external backup; however, both of those backups were also encrypted in the attack. Nayana therefore had no alternative but to negotiate with the attackers.

While ransom payments for businesses are often in the $10,000 to $25,000 price bracket, the gang behind this attack demanded an astonishing 550 Bitcoin for the keys to unlock the encryption – Approximately $1.62 million. On June 14, Nayana reported that it had negotiated a ransom payment of 397.6 Bitcoin – Approximately $1.01 million, making this the largest ransomware ransom payment reported to date.

That payment is being made in three instalments, with keys supplied to restore files on the servers in batches. When one batch of servers was successfully recovered, the second ransom payment was made. Nayana said that the recovery process would take approximately 2 weeks for each of the three batches of servers, resulting in considerable downtime for the company’s business customers. Nayana experienced some problems restoring databases but says it is now paying the final payment.

This incident shows how costly ransomware resolution can be and highlights how important it is to ensure that operating systems and software are updated regularly. Patches should be applied promptly to address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by cybercriminals.

Simply having a backup is no guarantee that files can be recovered. If the backup device is connected to a networked machine when a ransomware attack occurs, backup files can also be encrypted. This is why it is essential for organizations to ensure one backup is always offline. It is also wise to segment networks to limit the damage caused by a ransomware attack. If ransomware is installed, only part of the network will be affected.

Southern Oregon University Phishing Attack Nets Criminals $1.9 Million

A recent Southern Oregon University phishing attack has clearly demonstrated why so many cybercriminals have chosen phishing as their main source of income.

Hacking an organization takes considerable planning and effort, typically requiring many hours of hard work and a considerable amount of skill. Phishing on the other hand is easy by comparison, requiring little work. Furthermore, the potential profits from phishing can be considerable.

The Southern Oregon University Phishing Attack Required a Single Email

The Southern Oregon University phishing attack involved a single phishing email. The attackers impersonated a construction company – Andersen Construction – that was building a pavilion and student recreation center at the University.

The attackers spoofed the email address of the construction firm and requested all future payments be directed to a different bank account. The university then wired the next payment to the new account in April. The payment was for $1.9 million.

The university discovered the construction firm had not received the funds three days later. The FBI was contacted as soon as the fraud was discovered and efforts are continuing to recover the funds. The university reports that the attackers have not withdrawn all of the funds from their account, although a sizeable chunk is missing. Joe Mosley, a spokesperson for SOU said, “It’s certainly not all of the money that was transferred, but it’s not just nickels and dimes, either.”

In order to pull off a scam such as this, the attackers would need to know that the construction project was taking place and the name of the firm. Such information is not hard to find and universities often have construction projects taking place.

These attacks are known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams. They typically involve a contractor’s email account being hacked and used to send an email to a vendor. It is not clear whether the vendors email account had been hacked, but that step may not be required to pull off a phishing attack such as this.

Rise in BEC Attacks Prompts FBI Warning to Universities

In this case, the payment was substantial but it is far from an isolated incident. Last month, the FBI released a public service announcement warning universities of attacks such as this.

The FBI warned that access to a construction firm’s email account is not necessary. All that is required is for the scammer to purchase a similar domain to the one used by the firm. Accounts department employees may check the email address and not notice that there is a letter different.

By the time the university discovered a payment has not been received, the funds have already been cleared from the scammer’s account and cannot be recovered. Payments are commonly of the order of several hundred thousand dollars.

The FBI informed SOU that there have been 78 such attacks in the past year, some of which have been conducted on universities. However, all organizations are at risk from these BEC scams.

The Southern Oregon University phishing attack shows just how easy it can be for scammers to pull off a BEC attack. Protecting against this time of scam requires employees to be vigilant and to exercise extreme caution when requests are made to change bank accounts. Such a request should always be verified by a means other than email. A telephone call to the construction firm could easily have stopped this scam before any transfer was made.

New Microsoft Windows XP Updates Released in Wake of WannaCry Attacks

Microsoft took the decision to issue emergency Windows XP updates to prevent exploitation of the Windows Server Message Block (SMB) vulnerability used to infect worldwide computers with ransomware on May 12, 2017.

The move came as a surprise since the operating system is no longer supported. Extended support came to an end on April 8, 2014. Yesterday, saw further Microsoft Windows XP updates released. The patches prevent further flaws in the operating system from being exploited by cybercriminals in WannaCry ransomware-style attacks.

Microsoft’s Cyber Defense Operations Center head, Adrienne Hall, said “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision to take this action because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt.”

In total, nearly 100 vulnerabilities were patched this Patch Tuesday, including 18 critical flaws that can be remotely exploited by cybercriminals to take full control of vulnerable systems. In some cases, as was the case with the WannaCry ransomware attacks, no user interaction is required for the flaws to be exploited.

One of the flaws – tracked as CVE-2017-8543 – similarly affects the Windows Server Message Block service. Microsoft says CVE-2017-8543 is being actively exploited in the wild, with Windows Server 2008, 2012, and 2016 all affected as well as more recent versions of Windows – v7, 8.1 and Windows 10. It is this flaw that has been patched for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. As was the case on May 12, once the attackers infect one device, they can search for other vulnerable devices. Infection can spread incredibly quickly to many other networked devices.

Some security experts have criticized Microsoft for issuing yet more Windows XP updates, arguing that this sends a message to users of outdated operating systems that it is OK not to upgrade the OS. Windows XP has many unpatched flaws, but the recent Windows XP updates suggest that if a particularly serious vulnerability is discovered that is being actively exploited, patches will be issued.

While Microsoft Windows XP updates have been released, this should not be taken as signaling a change in Microsoft’s standard servicing policies. Further patches may not be released for unsupported Windows versions, so organizations should not delay upgrading their OS. Microsoft’s general manager of its Security Response Center, Eric Doerr, said “The best protection is to be on a modern, up-to-date system that incorporates the latest defense-in-depth innovations. Older systems, even if fully up-to-date, lack the latest security features and advancements.”

In total, there were 95 updates issued this patch Tuesday. Like CVE-2017-8543, a LNK remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2017-8464) is also being exploited in the wild.

The latest round of updates also includes a patch for a serious flaw in Microsoft Outlook (CVE-2017-8507). Typically, in order to exploit vulnerabilities an end user would be required to open a specially crafted email attachment. However, if an attacker were to send a specially crafted message to an Outlook user, simply viewing the message would allow the attacker to take full control of the machine.

Adobe has also issued a slew of updates to address 21 vulnerabilities spread across four products (Flash, Shockwave Player, Captivate and Adobe Digital editions). 15 of those vulnerabilities have been marked as critical and would allow remote code execution.

As the WannaCry ransomware attacks clearly showed, the failure to apply patches promptly leaves the door wide open to cybercriminals. These updates should therefore not be delayed, especially since two of the flaws are being actively exploited.

Samba Flaw Could Be Exploited and Used in Network Worm Attacks

A critical Samba flaw has been discovered that has potential to be exploited and used for network worm attacks similar to those that resulted in more than 300,000 global WannaCry ransomware infections.

Samba is used to provide Windows-like file and print services on Unix and Linux servers and is based on the Windows Server Message Block (SMB) protocol that was exploited in the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks. The wormable remote code execution vulnerability has been identified in versions 3.5.0 an above.

The Samba flaw – tracked as CVE-2017-7494 – has existed for around 7 years, although no known attacks are understood to have occurred. That may not remain the case for long.

Samba is commonly installed on enterprise Linux servers, with around 104,000 machines believed to be vulnerable, per a recent search conducted by Rapid7 researchers. The Samba flaw can be exploited easily, requiring just a single line of code.

The Samba vulnerability has been rated as critical, although the good news is Samba has already issued an update that addresses the vulnerability. The patch can be applied to versions 4.4 and above. Any organization that is using an unsupported version of Samba, or is unable to apply the patch, can use a workaround to address the Samba vulnerability and secure their Linux and Unix servers.

The workaround is straightforward, requiring the addition of the following parameter to the [global] section of your smb.conf

nt pipe support = no

After the parameter has been added, the smbd daemon must be restarted. This will prevent clients from accessing any named pipe endpoints.

US-CERT has advised all organizations to apply the patch or use the workaround as soon as possible to prevent the vulnerability from being exploited.

If a threat actor were to exploit the Samba flaw, it would allow them to “upload a shared library to a writable share, and then cause the server to load and execute it.” A malicious file could be remotely uploaded on any vulnerable device. That could be ransomware, a network worm, or any other malicious file. That file could then be executed with root access privileges.

NAS devices also use Samba and may also be vulnerable to attack. Malicious actors could target NAS devices and access or encrypt stored data. Many organizations use NAS devices to store backups. An attack on those devices, using ransomware for instance, could be devastating. Bob Rudis, chief data scientist at Rapid7, said “A direct attack or worm would render those backups almost useless. Organizations would have little choice but to pay the ransom demand.

A proof-of-concept exploit for the Samba vulnerability is available to the public. It is therefore only a matter of time before the vulnerability is exploited. The patch or workaround should therefore be applied ASAP to mitigate risk.

TitanHQ Partners with Purple to Provide Secure Content Filtering for WiFi Networks

TitanHQ announced a new partnership with Purple, the intelligent spaces company, which is now using the WebTitan WiFi filtering solution to control the content that can be accessed through its WiFi networks.

Businesses are now realizing they can attract more customers by providing free WiFi access, with Purple allowing businesses to get something back from providing free WiFi access to customers.

Purple provides WiFi analytics and marketing solutions allowing businesses to get more out of their WiFi networks. Those services have proven incredibly popular, with Purple rapidly expanding its business to serve clients in more than 70 countries.

Businesses are facing increasing pressure not only to provide Internet access to customers, but also to ensure that the Internet can be accessed safely and securely. The recent WannaCry ransomware attacks have highlighted just how important Internet security has now become. An Internet content filtering solution is therefore necessary to ensure inappropriate website content can be filtered out and malicious websites are blocked.

TitanHQ’s website content filtering solution – WebTitan – is the global leading content filtering solution for WiFi networks. Each day, WebTitan detects and blocks more than 60,000 different types of malware and ransomware, preventing users from infecting their devices. The solution is managed from a web-based control panel and can instantly be applied to any number of global WiFi access points.

The solution can be easily configured, has no latency, and allows precise control over the types of content that can be accessed through WiFi networks.

Following the rollout of WebTitan, which took just a few days, Purple customers have started benefitting from the industry-leading WiFi filtering solution.

James Wood, Head of Integration at Purple, communicated Purple’s unique requirements to TitanHQ which was able to provide a solution that exactly matched the company’s needs. Wood said, “From day one it was evident that they were capable of not only providing what we needed but were very responsive and technically adept.”

The solution was ideal for Purple. Woods explained that “Along with superior protection, WebTitan also allows us to extend the control to our customers via their API. Our customers can now manage their own filtering settings directly from the Purple Portal.”

More and more companies are realizing that it is no longer sufficient to just offer free WiFi access to customers. Customers now want to be reassured that they can access the Internet securely. TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh said “Content filtering for Wi-Fi will be a given in service terms over the next few years. Purple again is leading the way with their focus on this area.”

Who Conducted the WannaCry Ransomware Attacks? Link Found to North Korea

Who Conducted the WannaCry Ransomware Attacks?

The WannaCry ransomware attacks that started on Friday May 12 rapidly spread to more than 150 countries. While the attacks have been halted, IT security professionals are still scrambling to secure their systems and the search is now on for the perpetrators.

Malware researchers are analyzing the ransomware code and attack method to try to find clues that will reveal who conducted the WannaCry ransomware attacks.

At this stage in the investigation, no concrete evidence has been uncovered that links the attacks to any individual or hacking group, although a Google security researcher, Neel Mehta, has found a possible link to the Lazarus Group; a hacking organization believed to be based in China with links to North Korea.

The Lazarus Group is thought to be behind the attack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and the major heist on the Bangladesh central bank in February this year. While the link between the Lazarus Group and North Korea has not been comprehensively proven, the U.S. government is sure the group has been backed by North Korea in the past.

WannaCry Ransomware Code has been Reused

Mehta discovered parts of the ransomware code from the latest attacks were the same as code in a 2015 backdoor used by the Lazarus Group, suggesting the WannaCry ransomware attacks were conducted either by the Lazarus Group or by someone who has access to the same code.

Mehta also compared the code from the latest WannaCry ransomware variant and the backdoor to an earlier version of WannaCry ransomware from February and found code had been shared between all three. Symantec’s researchers have confirmed the code similarities.

Whether the Lazarus Group conducted the attacks is far from proven, and there is no evidence to suggest that were that to be the case, that the group had any backing from North Korea. The group could have been acting independently.

While some have called this link ‘strong evidence’, it should be explained that comparing code between malware samples does not confirm origin. Code is often reused and it is possible that the actors behind this campaign may have put in a false flag to divert attention from themselves onto the Lazarus Group and North Korea.

While the false flag idea is possible and plausible, Kaspersky Lab believes it is improbable and that the similarities in the source code point the finger of blame at the Lazarus Group.

Many Questions Remain Unanswered

The link with the Lazarus Group/North Korea is now being investigated further, but there are currently many questions unanswered.

The ransomware included a self-replicating function making it act like a worm, allowing it to rapidly spread to all vulnerable computers on a network. The sophistication of the attack suggests it was the work of a highly capable organization rather than an individual. However, the kill switch in the ransomware that was discovered by UK researcher ‘Malware Tech,’ allowed the infections to be halted. Such an ‘easily found’ kill switch would be atypical of such a sophisticated hacking group.

Previous attacks linked with the Lazarus Group have also been highly targeted. The WannaCry ransomware attacks over the weekend were purposely conducted in multiple countries, including China and Russia. The widespread nature of the attacks would be a departure from the typical attack methods used by Lazarus.

There are doubts as to whether North Korea would back an attack on its neighbours and allies, and while financially motivated attacks cannot be ruled out, past state-sponsored attacks have had a political purpose.

At this stage, it is not possible to tell who conducted the WannaCry ransomware attacks, but the latest discovery is an important clue as to who may be responsible.

Does GDPR Apply to American Companies?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data privacy and security law in Europe that comes into force next year, but does GDPR apply to American companies? As many U.S. companies have recently discovered, not only does GDPR apply to American companies, doing business within the EU is likely to be extremely costly for companies that do not comply with GDPR.

Any organization or individual that does business within any of the 28 EU member states (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) must comply with GDPR or face heavy penalties.

The penalty for non-compliance with GDPR for enterprises is up to 20,000,000 Euros ($23,138,200) or 4% of the annual global turnover of the company for the previous fiscal year, whichever is the greatest. An enterprise found not to have complied with GDPR will also be subjected to regular, periodic data protection audits to ensure its policies and procedures are updated and the firm continues to comply with GDPR.

So, what is the regulation and how does GDPR apply to American companies? What do U.S firms need to do to comply with GDPR?

How Does GDPR Apply to American Companies?

The main purpose of GDPR is to give EU citizens greater control over how their personal data is collected, protected and used. While the legislation applies to EU companies, it also applies to any company that chooses to do business in the EU. That includes any online business that owns a website that is accessible by EU citizens if that website collects user data.

Since the definition of personal information includes online identifiers such as cookies, GDPR has implications for huge numbers of U.S businesses. GDPR applies to all companies that do business with persons based in EU member states, with the exception of law enforcement agencies or when data are collected for national security activities.

To continue to do business in the EU, most companies will have to implement additional privacy protections and adopt end-to-end data protection strategies.

The EU classes personal data as “Any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person,” which includes a wide range of information from names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses to bank information and credit card details, photos, posts on social media websites, medical information, and even an individuals IP address.

Even when controls have been implemented to keep data secure, it may still be necessary to overhaul systems to ensure sufficient protections are in place. Companies must be aware where data are stored and employees must be trained to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities with regards to the use of data.

Organizations will need to provide customers – and website visitors – with detailed information on data that are collected and how data will be used. Consent must be obtained before any data are collected and consent must be obtained from a parent or custodian of a minor.

There must be a legitimate and lawful reason for collecting data and limited to the minimum necessary information for the purpose for which data are collected. Data must be deleted when that purpose has been achieved.

Organizations must appoint a Data Protection Officer who is knowledgeable about GDPR and will oversee compliance if their core activities are data collection, storage or data processing. That individual must also have a thorough understanding of the company’s organizational and technical infrastructure.

Organizations also need to implement appropriate policies, procedures and technologies to ensure that the data of EU citizens can be permanently erased. GDPR includes the right to be forgotten – termed ‘Right to Erasure’.

The legislation that GDPR replaces only required data to be deleted when it caused substantial damage or distress. However, from next year, an EU citizen can request that all data collected on them be permanently deleted if the information is no longer needed for the purpose that it was originally collected. Data must also be deleted if consent to use the data is withdrawn or if the processing of data is unlawful and breaches GDPR.

Many U.S. companies already have technologies in place that will comply with the data protection requirements of GDPR, but the right to erasure requirement could pose problems.

Symantec recently conducted a survey that revealed 9 out of 10 businesses were concerned that they would not be able to comply with the right to erasure requirement of GDPR, with only 4 out of 10 businesses already having a system in place that could potentially allow all data to be deleted.

Compliance with GDPR in the United States

A recent survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers on large multinational companies in the United States shows efforts are already underway to ensure compliance with the EU regulation. More than half of surveyed firms said GDPR is now their main data protection priority, with 92% saying compliance with GDPR is a top priority this year.  The cost of compliance is considerable. 77% of surveyed firms said they are planning to spend more than $1 million on GDPR compliance, with one of the main spending priorities being improving their information security defenses.

Many companies are starting to ask how how does GDPR apply to American companies, but a study conducted by NTT Security suggests that three quarters of U.S. businesses are ignoring GDPR because they do not believe the regulation applies to them. Ignorance could prove very costly indeed. Further, time is running out. For many companies, compliance with GDPR will not be a quick process and the deadline is fast approaching. GDPR comes into effect on May 25, 2018. Miss the deadline and fines await.

Healthcare Ransomware Attacks Accounted for 50% of All Security Incidents

Hackers are continuing to attack healthcare organizations, but healthcare ransomware attacks are the biggest cause of security incidents, according to the NTT Security 2017 Global Threat Intelligence Report.

Healthcare ransomware attacks accounted for 50% of all security breaches reported by healthcare organizations between October 2015 and September 2016 and are the largest single cause of security breaches.

However, healthcare is far from the only sector to be targeted. Retail, government, and the business & professional services sector have also suffered many ransomware attacks during the same period. Those four sectors accounted for 77% of global ransomware attacks. The worst affected sector was business & professional services, with 28% of reported ransomware attacks, followed by the government (19%), healthcare (15%) and retail (15%).

NTT Security reports that phishing emails are the most common mechanism for ransomware delivery, being used in 73% of ransomware and malware attacks. Poor choices of password are also commonly exploited to gain access to networks and email accounts. NTT says just 25 passwords were used in 33% of all authentication attempts on its honeypots, while 76% of authentication attempts used a password known to have been implemented in the Mirai botnet.

Zero-day exploits tend to attract considerable media attention, but they are used in relatively few attacks. Web-based attacks have fallen but they still pose a significant threat. The most commonly attacked products were Microsoft Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash Player, and Microsoft Silverlight. Exploit kit activity has fallen throughout the year as cybercriminals have turned to phishing emails to spread malware and ransomware. There was a steady decline in exploit kit attacks throughout the year.

With phishing posing the highest risk, it is essential that organizations ensure they have adequate defenses in place. Phishing attacks are sophisticated and hard to distinguish from genuine emails. Security awareness training is important, but training alone will not prevent some attacks from being successful. It is also important to ensure that training is not just a one time exercise. Regular training sessions should be conducted, highlighting the latest tactics used by cybercriminals and recent threats.

The best form of defense against phishing attacks is to use anti-phishing technologies such as spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching end users. The more phishing emails that are blocked, the less reliance organizations place on end users being able to identify phishing emails. Solutions should also be implemented to block users from visiting phishing websites via hyperlinks sent via email.

Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions Increase Sharply

Cyberattacks on educational institutions are occurring at an alarming rate. While the education sector has not been as heavily targeted as the financial services and healthcare in recent years, that is no longer the case. Cybercriminals and state-actors now have the education sector in their crosshairs.

Cybercriminals have realized that cyberattacks on educational institutions can be highly profitable, with this year seeing a sharp rise in attacks.

Schools, colleges and higher education institutions hold vast quantities of data that can be used for fraud and identity theft. As we have already seen this year, cyberattacks on educational institutions are now much more common. The first quarter of the year saw a rise in W-2 phishing attacks, with criminals managing to obtain the tax information of many thousands of staff members. Those data were used to file fraudulent tax returns. Student records can be used for identity theft and can be sold for big bucks on darknet marketplaces. Attacks aimed at obtaining the personal data of students have similarly increased.

Educational institutions also conduct extensive research. The past year has seen a sharp rise in espionage related cyberattacks on educational institutions. Criminals are also conducting attacks to gain access to bank accounts. This year, two major cyberattacks on educational organizations have resulted in bank transfers being made to criminals’ accounts. At the start of the year, a phishing attack on the Cleveland Metropolitan School District resulted in more than $100,000 being obtained by the attackers. Denver Public Schools was also attacked, with the attackers redirecting $40,000 in payroll funds to their own accounts.

The recently published Data Breach Investigation Report from Verizon clearly shows the new attack trend. Over the past year, there have been 455 incidents reported by educational institutions, 73 of which have resulted in the theft of data.

While many industries see cyberattacks conducted for financial reasons, in education, financial gain was only the motive behind 45% of cyberattacks. 43% of attacks involved espionage and 9% of attacks were conducted for fun. Out of all reported data breaches, 26% involved espionage. Last year the percentage was just 5%.

Attacks are coming from all angles – Internal attacks by students; attacks by cybercriminals looking to steal data, and state-sponsored actors looking to steal research. The latter accounted for more than half of data breaches in the past year.

The Verizon report indicates hacking is the biggest threat. 43% of breaches were due to hacks, although social attacks and malware were also common. Verizon reports that almost 44% of breaches involved social and around a third involved malware. Social attacks and malware have increased considerably over the course of the past year. The most common social attack was phishing via email.

As long cyberattacks on educational institutions remain beneficial or profitable, cyberattacks will continue.  Educational institutions therefore need to take steps to improve their security posture. Since social attacks such as phishing are commonplace, and malware infections commonly occur via email, educational institutions need review their email defenses.

Password policies should be introduced to ensure strong passwords are set on email accounts and policies introduced to ensure passwords are regularly changed. Spam filtering solutions should be implemented and all staff and students should receive training on security awareness. Verizon suggests staff and students should be encouraged or rewarded for reporting phishing and pretexting attacks.

Shoney’s Restaurants Malware Incident Affects 37 Restaurants

A Shoney’s Restaurants malware infection has resulted in the theft of customers’ payment card details. Hackers managed to install malware on the POS system used by dozens of Shoney’s restaurants

Shoney’s is a 70-year-old Nashville, Tennessee-based restaurant chain that operates approximately 150 restaurants across the Southern United States, Midwest and lower Atlantic region. The chain serves customers in 17 states, although only selected restaurants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia were affected. At least 37 restaurants were affected.

Financial institutions identified a trend in credit card fraud and were able to determine that all of the affected cardholders had visited a Shoney’s Restaurant. Best American Hospitality Corp., which manages and operates a number of Shoney’s establishments, was notified of a potential cyberattack and started an investigation. Kroll Cyber Security LLC was hired to conduct an investigation into the attack.

Kroll’s investigation revealed the malware enabled the attackers to steal cardholder names, credit card numbers, CVV codes, and expiry dates, although in some cases, cardholder names were not obtained. It is unclear how many individuals have been impacted, although any individual who visited one of the affected restaurants and paid by credit card has potentially had their information stolen. The malware was capable of reading data from the magnetic strips of payment cards as the information was routed through its computer system.

Access to the POS system is understood to have first been gained on December 27, 2016, although some restaurants were not infected until January 11. The Shoney’s Restaurants malware infection was contained on March 6, 2017, according to a press release issued by Best American Hospitality Corp.

The Shoney’s Restaurants malware attack is the latest is a slew of POS system breaches that have hit the hospitality sector hard. Earlier this year, the Arby’s restaurant chain was attacked and had credit card data stolen, while Wendy’s suffered a major credit card breach last year. Hotels have also been attacked, with more than 1,100 Intercontinental Hotel Group hotels discovered to have had malware installed that accessed its POS system.

Cyberattacks on the hospitality sector are to be expected. Hotels and restaurants are visited by tens of thousands of customers, and payment by credit card is common. Card details can be stolen and encoded onto magnetic strips on blank cards and used for fraudulent purchases. Each card number can allow criminals to steal hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

All too often, data breaches occur due to poor security practices such as the failure to use strong passwords or failing to change default passwords. Other basic security failures that can open the door to attackers include failing to use web and email security products, not using two-factor authentication and not implementing security patches promptly.  Businesses should also conduct regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests to ensure all of their systems are secure.

If you would like advice on web and email security protections that can prevent hackers from gaining access to your POS system and installing malware, contact the TitanHQ team today and find out how you can improve your resilience against malware and cyberattacks.

Kelihos Botnet Takedown: Spam King Arrested

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that one of the leading email spammers has been arrested as part of an operation to disrupt and dismantle the infamous Kelihos botnet.

The Kelihos botnet is a network of tens of thousands of computers that are used to launch massive spamming campaigns comprising millions of emails. Those spam emails are used for a variety of nefarious purposes including the distribution of ransomware and malware. The botnet has been extensively used to spread fake antivirus software and spread credential-stealing malware.

Computers are added to the Kelihos botnet using malware. Once installed, Kelihos malware runs silently and users are unaware that their computers have been hijacked. The Kelihos botnet can be quickly weaponized and used for a variety of malicious purposes. The botnet has previously been used for spamming campaigns that artificially inflate stock prices, promote counterfeit drugs and recruit people to fraudulent work-at-home schemes.

Pyotr Levashov is believed to operate the botnet in addition to conducting a wide range of cybercriminal activities out of Russia. In what turned out to be an unwise move, Levashov left the relative safety of his home country and travelled to Barcelona, Spain on holiday. Levashov was arrested on Sunday, April 9 by Spanish authorities acting on a U.S. issued international arrest warrant.

Levashov is suspected of playing a role in the alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, although Levashov is best known for his spamming activities, click fraud and DDoS attacks.

Levashov, or Peter Severa as he is otherwise known, is heavily involved in distributing virus spamming software and is believed to have written numerous viruses and Trojans. Spamhaus lists Levashov in seventh place on the list of the 10 worst spammers.

Levashov is believed to have run multiple operations that connected virus developers with spamming networks, and is suspected of running the Kelihos botnet, the Waledac botnet – which was taken down in 2010 – and the Storm botnet.  Levashov was indicted for his role in the latter in 2009, although he managed to avoid extradition to the United States. At the time, Storm was the biggest spamming botnet in operation and was used to send millions of emails every day. Levashov also moderates many spamming forums and is well known in underground circles. Levashov is believed to have been extensively involved in spamming and other cybercriminal activities for the past 20 years; although to date he has avoided prosecution.

A statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice reads, “The operation announced today targeted an ongoing international scheme that was distributing hundreds of millions of fraudulent e-mails per year, intercepting the credentials to online and financial accounts belonging to thousands of Americans, and spreading ransomware throughout our networks.”

The DOJ operation also involved the takedown of domains associated with the Kelihos botnet starting on April 8, 2017. The DOJ says shutting down those domains was “an extraordinary task.”

While it is certainly good news that such a high profile and prolific spammer has been arrested and the Kelihos botnet has been severely disrupted, other spammers are likely to soon take Levashov’s place. Vitali Kremez, director of research at Flashpoint said his firm had seen chatter on underground forums indicating other major spammers are responding to the news of the arrest by taking acting to secure their own operations. There may be a blip in email spam volume, but that blip is only likely to be temporary.

It’s World Backup Day – A Time to Review Your Backup Strategies

Today is World Backup Day: An annual event that started in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of backing up data.

Backups are used to recover data in the event of disaster; however, having a backup of data does not necessarily mean data can be recovered. Restoring files from backups is not always effective. Backups can be corrupted and the restoration of files can fail.

While World Backup Day raises awareness of the importance of backing up data, we would like to emphasize the importance of testing backups and reviewing backup strategies to ensure they are effective. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to ensure your strategies are effective and files can be recovered. By then it will be too late.

How Common is Data Loss?

Recent research conducted by Kroll OnTrack has revealed an alarming number of companies have experienced data loss, even when backups of data were performed. Kroll polled 1,000 companies in the United States, Europe, and Australia and discovered that a third of companies had experienced a data loss incident.

Out of those companies, 35% did not have a current backup and experienced data loss as a direct result. Two thirds (67%) of organizations were able to recover the majority of their data from backup files, while 13% said they could recover up to three quarters of their data. Corrupted backup files were cited as the reason for data loss by 12% of companies, but a quarter of companies that lost data said their backup system did not work as it should.

A quarter of companies that backed up their data said they did not test those backups to make sure files could be recovered. A quarter said they tested backups once a week to ensure data were recoverable, and 30% tested their backups on a monthly basis.

Backups are an organization’s insurance against data loss. Just as an insurance policy should not be taken out until the fine print has been read, backups should not be trusted until they have been tested.

The World Backup Day pledge is “I solemnly swear to backup my important documents and precious memories on March 31st.” However, to that we add, “I also swear to test my backups to make sure my important documents can be recovered.”

Ransomware – A Major Data Loss Risk for All Businesses

The past 12 months have clearly highlighted the importance of backing up data. Ransomware attacks soared in 2016. Ransomware is a form of malware that locks files with powerful encryption. A ransom demand is then issued to supply the key to unlock the data. Without access to that key, data will remain locked forever if a backup of data does not exisit.

The only way to unlock files is to pay a sizable ransom payment. That payment could be tens of thousands of dollars. In February, last year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was forced to pay a ransom of $17,000 to obtain the key to unlock ransomware-encrypted data after it was discovered files could not be recovered from backups.

Ransomware has fast become one of the biggest cybersecurity threats. Research conducted by Kaspersky Lab revealed the number of ransomware variants increased 11-fold between Q1 and Q3, 2016, by which time 32,091 different ransomware variants had been detected. By Q3 2016, a business was being attacked with ransomware every 40 seconds and 42% of small to medium sized businesses had been attacked with ransomware. 32% of businesses were forced to pay the ransom in order to recover their data.

While ransomware attacks have soared, the malicious software is only the third main cause of data loss. Hardware failure poses the biggest risk followed by the loss or theft of devices. Software errors and data loss due to system upgrades round off the top five list.

A Good Data Backup Strategy

Backup systems can be used to continuously backup data, but at the very least a daily backup should be made. Those backups should be tested at least once a week to ensure data can be successfully recovered.

To prevent data loss and maximize the probability of data recovery, organizations should use the 3-2-1 approach. Each organization should ensure they have three copies of data. The original and two backups. Those backups should be stored on two different media and one of those copies should be stored off site. The easiest option to satisfy those requirements is to have a physical copy on a storage device and a backup in the cloud. Since ransomware can encrypt data on network drives and connected storage devices, a local drive should be disconnected after the backup has been made.

Take out some time this World Backup Day to test your backups and review your backup strategies and ensure that you will be able to recover your data if disaster strikes.

2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index Provides Insight into Cyberattack Trends

The 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index has been released this week. The report provides an insight into the main cybersecurity threats faced by all industries and major cyberattack trends, data breaches and security incidents experienced by U.S. organizations in 2016.

Last year’s IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index showed healthcare was the industry most heavily targeted by cybercriminals. However, the 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index shows cybercriminals changed their focus in 2016. Last year, the financial services was hit the hardest. The healthcare dropped down to fifth place.

The healthcare industry did not suffer mega data breaches of the same scale as 2015 – which saw a 78.8 million-record cyberattack on Anthem Inc., and 10 million record+ data breaches at Premera Blue Cross and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. However, there were security breaches aplenty. 2016 was the worst ever year for healthcare industry breaches, with more incidents reported than any other year in history.

Those breaches resulted in far fewer records being exposed or stolen. The 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index indicates there was an 88% drop in exposed or stolen healthcare records in 2016 compared to the previous year. Around 12 million healthcare records were exposed or stolen in 2016.

The 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index also shows that there was a shift in the nature of attacks, with cybercriminals targeting unstructured data rather than structured data. Data breaches involving email archives, intellectual property, and business documents all rose in 2016.

The healthcare industry may not have seen so many records exposed, but that was certainly not the case across all industry sectors. 2016 was a very bad year for cyberattacks. In 2015, around 600 million records were exposed or stolen. In 2016 the total jumped to an incredible 4 million records, helped in no small part by the 1.5 billion record breach at Yahoo and the discovery of massive data breaches at LinkedIn, MySpace, and Dropbox. It is therefore no surprise that IBM called 2016 The Year of the Mega Data Breach.

Top of the list of attacked industries in 2016 was financial services. Both the financial services and healthcare sectors saw a fall in attacks by outsiders, but attacks by malicious insiders and inadvertent actors increased in both industry sectors.

In the financial services, 5% of attacks involved malicious insiders and 53% involved inadvertent actors. In healthcare, 25% of attacks involved malicious insiders and 46% involved inadvertent actors. The financial services saw 42% of attacks conducted by outsiders. Healthcare cyberattacks by outsiders accounted for 29% of the annual total.

According to the 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, the second most targeted industry was information and communications, followed by manufacturing and retail. All three industries saw increases in attacks by outsiders, which accounted for the vast majority of attacks. 96% of attacks on information and communications were by outsiders, with 91% apiece for manufacturing and retail.

The financial services sector saw a substantial rise in SQLi and OS CMDi attacks in 2016 – The most common attack method for the industry. The main attack method on the information and communications sector involved exploitation of vulnerabilities allowing attackers to trigger buffer overflow conditions. The main attack method on the manufacturing, retail and healthcare industries was also SQLi and OS CMDi attacks, which accounted for 71% of manufacturing industry cyberattacks, 50% of retail cyberattacks, and 48% of healthcare cyberattacks.

The 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index indicates cybercriminals favored older attack methods in 2016 such as ransomware, malware toolkits, and command injection to gain access to valuable data and resources.

Ransomware was big news in 2016. Many cybercriminals turned to ransomware as a quick and easy source of income. Figures from the FBI indicate $209 million in ransom payments were made in the first three months of 2016 alone.

Malware was also extensively used in attacks, with Android malware and banking Trojans big in 2016. Not all attacks targeted organizations for their data. DDoS attacks increased, both in frequency and severity. While attacks of 300+ Mbps were unusual in 2015, they became the norm in 2016. One attack in excess of 1 Tbps was reported.

While 2015 saw exploit kits extensively used to infect endpoints with malware, in 2016 spam email was favored. Spam was a primary attack tool of cybercriminals, especially in the second half of the year. While the first half of the year saw spam email volume remain steady, the 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index indicates there was a significant increase in spam volume in the second half of the year and a massive rise in the number of malicious email attachments.

The 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index shows the vast majority of malicious attachments were ransomware or ransomware downloaders, which accounted for 85% of malicious email attachments.

The increase in the use of spam email as an attack vector shows how important it is for organizations to improve their defenses against email attacks. An advanced spam filter is essential as is training of employees on security best practices and phishing attack prevention.