Internet Security

Our Internet security section covers a wide range of topics including the latest online threats such as new phishing scams, changes in exploit kit activity, and up to date information on new malware and ransomware variants and social media scams.

Here you will find articles on data breaches, together with the causes of attacks and potential mitigations to reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring at your organization. Lessons can be learned from attacks on other organizations and threat intelligence can help security teams prepare for impending cyberattacks.

This section also contains news on the latest remote code execution vulnerabilities and zero day exploits that are being used to gain access to business networks, such as the network worm attacks that were used to spread WannaCry ransomware around the globe in May 2017.

In addition to mitigations – such as news of patches and software upgrades – articles are included to help organizations improve Internet security. Employees are a weak link in security defenses and frequently download malware or engage in risky behavior that could result in a network compromise. This section includes information that can be used by organizations to reduce the risk of employees inadvertently downloading malicious software or disclosing their credentials on phishing websites, turning them from liabilities into security assets.

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.

Ursnif Banking Trojan Uses New Tactic to Spread More Rapidly

A new variant of the Ursnif banking Trojan has been detected and the actors behind the latest campaign have adopted a new tactic to spread the malware more rapidly.  

Ransomware attacks may make the headlines, but banking Trojans can cause considerably more damage. The $60 million heist from a Taiwanese bank last month shows just how serious infection with banking Trojans can be. The Dridex Trojan raked in more than $40 million in 2015.

The Ursnif banking Trojan is one of the most commonly used Trojans. As with other banking Trojans, the purpose of the Ursnif Trojan is to steal credentials such as logins to banking websites, corporate bank details, and credit card numbers. The stolen credentials are then used for financial transactions. It is not uncommon for accounts to be emptied before the transactions are discovered, by which time the funds have cleared, have been withdrawn, and the criminal’s account has been closed. Recovering the stolen funds can be impossible.

Infection will see the malware record a wide range of sensitive data, capturing credentials as they are entered through the browser. The Ursnif banking Trojan also takes screenshots of the infected device and logs keystrokes. All of that information is silently transmitted to the attacker’s C2 server.

Banking Trojans can be installed in a number of ways. They are often loaded onto websites where they are downloaded in drive-by attacks. Traffic is generated to the malicious websites via malvertising campaigns or spam emails contacting hyperlinks. Legitimate websites are compromised using brute force tactics, and kits loaded to the sites that prey on individuals who have failed to keep their software up to date. Oftentimes, downloads are sent via spam email, hidden in attachments.

Spam email has previously been used to spread the Ursnif banking Trojan, and the latest campaign is no different in that respect. However, the latest campaign uses a new tactic to maximize the chance of infection and spread infections more rapidly and widely. Financial institutions have been the primary target of this banking Trojan, but with this latest attack method they are far more widespread.

Infection will see the user’s contact list abused and spear phishing emails sent to each of the user’s contacts. Since the spear phishing emails arrive from a trusted email account, the likelihood of the emails being opened is significantly increased. Simply opening the email will not result in infection. For that to occur, the recipient must open the email attachment. Again, since it has come from a trusted sender, that is more likely.

The actors behind this latest Ursnif banking Trojan campaign have another trick to increase trust and ensure their payload is delivered. The spear phishing emails contain message threads from past conversations. The email appears to be a response to a previous email, and include details of past conversations.

A short line of text is included as a prompt to get the recipient to open the email attachment – A Word document containing a malicious macro. That macro needs to be authorized to run – if macros have not been set to run automatically, but it will not until the Word document is closed. When the macro runs, it launches PowerShell commands that download the Ursnif Trojan, which then starts logging activity on the infected device and sends further spear phishing emails to the new victim’s contact list.

This is not a brand-new tactic, but it is new to Ursnif – and it is likely to see infections spread much more quickly. Further, the malware incorporates a number of additional tactics to hamper detection, allowing information to be stolen and bank accounts emptied before infection is detected – the Trojan even deletes itself once it has run.

Malware is constantly evolving, and new tactics are constantly developed to increase the likelihood of infection. The latest campaign shows just how important it is to block email threats before they reach end users’ inboxes.

With an advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan in place, malicious emails can be blocked to stop them from reaching end user’s inboxes, greatly reducing the risk of malware infections.

Malicious Spam Email Volume Jumps 85%: Malicious URLs Favored Over Attachments

2017 has seen a major rise in malicious spam email volume. As the year has progressed, the volume of malicious messages sent each month has grown. A new report from Proofpoint shows malicious spam email volume rose by 85% in Q3, 2017.

A deeper dive into the content of those messages shows cybercriminals’ tactics have changed. In 2017, there has been a notable rise in the use of malicious URLs sent via email compared to malicious attachments containing malware. URL links to sites hosting malware have jumped by an astonishing 600% in Q3, which represents a 2,200% increase since this time last year. This level of malicious URLs has not been seen since 2014.

The links direct users to malicious websites that have been registered by cybercriminals, and legitimate sites that have been hijacked and loaded hacking toolkits. In many cases, simply clicking on the links is all that is required to infect the user’s computer with malware.

While there is a myriad of malware types now in use, the biggest threat category in Q3 was ransomware, which accounted for 64% of all email-based malware attacks. There are many ransomware variants in use, but the undisputed king in Q3 was Locky, accounting for 55% of total message volume and 86% of all ransomware attacks. There was also a rising trend in destructive ransomware – ransomware that encrypts files but does not include the option of letting victims’ recover their files.

The second biggest malware threat category was banking Trojans, which accounted for 24% of malicious spam email volume. Dridex has long been a major threat, although in Q3 it was a Trojan called The Trick that become the top banking Trojan threat. The Trick Trojan was used in 70% of all banking Trojan attacks.

Unsurprisingly, with such as substantial rise in malicious spam email volume, email fraud has also risen, up 12% quarter over quarter and up 32% from this time last year.

Cybercriminals are constantly changing tactics and frequently switch malware variants and attack methods, but for the time being at least, exploit kits are still not favored. Exploit kit attacks are at just 10% of the level of last year’s high, with spam email now the main method of malware delivery.

With malicious spam email volume having increased once again, and a plethora of new threats and highly damaging malware attacks posing a very real risk, it is essential that businesses double down on their defenses. The best way to defend against email threats is to improve spam defenses. An advanced spam filtering solution is essential for blocking email threats. The more malicious emails that are captured and prevented from being delivered, the lower the chance of end users clicking on malicious links and downloading malware.

SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam emails, helping to keep inboxes free from malware threats. No single solution can block all email threats, so a spam filtering solution should be accompanied with endpoint security solutions, web filters to block malicious links from being visited, antimalware and antivirus solutions, and email authentication technology.

While it is easy to concentrate on technology to protect against email threats, it is important not to forget to train employees to be more security aware. Regular training sessions, cybersecurity newsletters and bulletins about the latest threats, and phishing simulation exercises can help employees improve their threat detection skills and raise cybersecurity awareness.

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.

DoubleLocker Ransomware: An Innovative New Android Threat

DoubleLocker ransomware is a new Android threat, which as the name suggests, uses two methods to lock the device and prevent victims from accessing their files and using their device.

As with Windows ransomware variants, DoubleLocker encrypts files on the device to prevent them from being accessed. DoubleLocker ransomware uses a powerful AES encryption algorithm to encrypt stored data, changing files extensions to .cryeye

While new ransomware variants sometimes have a poorly developed encryption process with flaws that allow decryptors to be developed, with DoubleLocker ransomware victims are out of luck.

While it is possible for victims to recover their files from backups, first they must contend with the second lock on the device. Rather than combine the encryption with a screen locker, DoubleLocker ransomware changes the PIN on the device. Without the PIN, the device cannot be unlocked.

Researchers at ESET who first detected this new ransomware variant report that the new PIN is a randomly generated number, which is not stored on the device and neither is it transmitted to the attacker’s C&C. The developers allegedly have the ability to remotely delete the PIN lock and supply a valid key to decrypt data.

The ransom demand is much lower than is typical for Windows ransomware variants, which reflects the smaller quantity of data users store on their smartphones. The ransom demand is set at 0.0130 Bitcoin – around $54. The payment must be made within 24 hours of infection, otherwise the attackers claim the device will be permanently locked. The malware is set as the default home app on the infected device, which displays the ransom note. The device will be permanently locked, so the attackers claim, if any attempts are made to block or remove DoubleLocker.

Researchers at ESET have analyzed DoubleLocker ransomware and report that it is based on an existing Android banking Trojan called Android.BankBot.211.origin, although the ransomware variant does not have the functionality to steal banking credentials from the user’s device.

While many Android ransomware variants are installed via bogus or compromised applications, especially those available through unofficial app stores, DoubleLocker is spread via fake Flash updates on compromised websites.

Even though this ransomware variant is particularly advanced, it is possible to recover files if they have been backed up prior to infection. The device can also be recovered by performing a factory reset. If no backup exists, and the ransom is not paid, files will be lost unless the device has been rooted and debugging mode has been switched on prior to infection.

This new threat shows just how important it is to backup files stored on mobile devices, just as it is with those on your PC or Mac and to think before downloading any web content or software update.

Microsoft Office Attacks Without Macros and New Locky Ransomware Variants Discovered

Microsoft Office documents containing malicious macros are commonly used to spread malware and ransomware. However, security researchers have now identified Microsoft Office attacks without macros, and the technique is harder to block.

Microsoft Office Attacks Without Macros

While it is possible to disable macros so they do not run automatically, and even disable macros entirely, that will not protect you from this new attack method, which leverages a feature of MS Office called Dynamic Data Exchange or DDE, according to researchers at SensePost. This in-built feature of Windows allows two applications to share the same data, for example MS Word and MS Excel. DDE allows a one- time exchange of data between two applications or continuous sharing of data.

Cybercriminals can use this feature of MS Office to get a document to execute an application without the use of macros as part of a multi-stage attack on the victim. In contrast to macros which flash a security warning before being allowed to run, this attack method does not present the user with a security warning as such.

Opening the MS Office file will present the user with a message saying “This document contains links that may refer to other files. Do you want to open this document with the data from the linked files?” Users who regularly use files that use the DDE protocol may automatically click on yes.

A second dialog box is then displayed asking the user to confirm that they wish to execute the file specified in the command, but the researchers explain that it is possible to suppress that warning.

This technique has already been used by at least one group of hackers in spear phishing campaigns, with the emails and documents appearing to have been sent from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In this case, the hackers were using the technique to infect users with DNSMessenger fileless malware.

Unlike macros, disabling DDE is problematic. While it is possible to monitor for these types of attacks, the best defense is blocking the emails that deliver these malicious messages using a spam filter, and to train staff to be more security aware and to verify the source of the email before opening any attachments.

Locky Ransomware Updated Again (..and again)

If you have rules set to detect ransomware attacks by scanning for specific file extensions, you will need to update your rules with two new extensions to detect two new Locky ransomware variants. The authors of Locky ransomware have updated their code again, marking four new changes now in a little over a month.

In August and September, Locky was using the .lukitus and .diablo extensions. Then the authors switched to the .ykcol extension. In the past week, a further campaign has been detected using the .asasin extension.

The good news regarding the latter file extension, is it is being distributed in a spam email campaign that will not result in infection. An error was made adding the attachment. However, that is likely to be corrected soon.

The ykcol variant is being spread via spam email and uses fake invoices as the lure to get users to open the attachments. The documents contain a macro that launches a JavaScript or PowerShell downloader than installs and runs the Locky binary. The .asasin variant is being spread via emails that spoof RightSignature, and appear to have been sent from the documents[@]rightsignature.com email address. The emails claim the attached file has been completed and contains a digital signature.

The authors of Locky are constantly changing tactics. They use highly varied spam campaigns, a variety of social engineering techniques, and various attachments and malicious URLs to deliver their malicious payload.

For this reason, it is essential to implement a spam filtering solution to prevent these emails from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. You should also ensure you have multiple copies of backups stored in different locations, and be sure to test those backups to make sure file recovery is possible.

To find out more about how you can protect your networks from malicious email messages – those containing macros as well as non-macro attacks – contact the TitanHQ team today.

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.

2013 Yahoo Data Breach Involved 3 Billion Email Accounts

The 2013 Yahoo data breach was already the largest data breach in U.S. history, now it has been confirmed that it was even larger than first thought.

Verizon has now confirmed that rather than the breach impacting approximately 1 billion email accounts, the 2013 Yahoo data breach involved all of the company’s 3 billion email accounts.

Prior to the disclosure of the 2013 Yahoo data breach, a deal had been agreed with Yahoo to Verizon. The disclosure of a 1-billion record data breach and a previous breach impacting 500 accounts during the final stages of negotiations saw the sale price cut to $4.48 billion – A reduction of around $350 million or 7% of the sale price. It is unclear whether this discovery will prompt Verizon to seek a refund of some of that money.

Verizon reports that while Yahoo’s email business was being integrated into its new Oath service, new intelligence was obtained to suggest all of Yahoo’s 3 billion accounts had been compromised. Third party forensic experts made the discovery. That makes it the largest data breach ever reported by a considerable distance, eclipsing the 360 million record breach at MySpace discovered in 2016 and the 145 million record breach at E-Bay in 2015.

The data breach involved the theft of email addresses and user ID’s along with hashed passwords. No stored clear-text passwords are understood to have been obtained, and neither any financial information. However, since the method used to encrypt the data was outdated, and could potentially be cracked, it is possible that access to the email accounts was gained. Security questions and backup email addresses were also reportedly obtained by the attackers.

The scale of the cyberattack is astonishing, and so is the potential fallout. Already there have been more than 40 class action lawsuits filed by consumers, with the number certain to grow considerably since the announcement that the scale of the breach has tripled.

Verizon has said all of the additional breach victims have been notified by email, but that many of the additional accounts were opened and never used, or had only been used briefly. Even so, this is still the largest data breach ever reported.

The 2013 Yahoo data breach was investigated and has been linked to state-sponsored hackers, four of whom have been charged with the hack and data theft, including two former Russian intelligence officers.One of those individuals is now in custody in the Untied States.

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.

How to Stop SMBv1 Ransomware Attacks

While most ransomware attacks occur via phishing emails or exploit kits and require some user interaction, SMBv1 ransomware attacks occur remotely with no user interaction required.

These attacks exploit a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block protocol (SMB), a communication protocol typically used for sharing printers and other network resources. SMB operates in the application layer and is typically used over TCP/IP Port 445 and 139.

A critical flaw in SMBv1 was identified and addressed by Microsoft in a March 14, 2017 security update – MS17-010. At the time, Microsoft warned that exploitation of the flaw could allow remote code execution on a vulnerable system.

An exploit for the flaw, termed EternalBlue, was reportedly used by the U.S. National Security Agency’s Equation Group for four years prior to the vulnerability being plugged. That exploit, along with several others, was obtained by a hacking group called Shadow Brokers. The EternalBlue exploit was disclosed publicly in April, after attempts to sell the exploit failed. Following its release, it was not long before malware developers incorporated the exploit and used it to remotely attack vulnerable systems.

The exploit was primarily used to attack older operating systems such as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012, although other systems are also vulnerable, including Windows Server 2016. The security update addresses the flaw in all vulnerable systems. Microsoft also released a patch for the long-retired Windows XP.

The most widely reported SMBv1 ransomware attacks occurred in May and involved WannaCry ransomware. WannaCry exploited the SMBv1 vulnerability and used TCP Port 445 to propagate. These SMBv1 ransomware attacks were conducted around the globe, although fortunately a kill switch was found which was used to disable the ransomware and prevent file encryption.

While that spelled the end of WannaCry, the SMBv1 attacks continued. NotPetya – not a ransomware variant but a wiper – also used the EternalBlue exploit to attack systems, and with the code still publicly available, other malware developers have incorporated the exploit into their arsenal. Any business that has not yet applied the MS17-010 patch will still be vulnerable to SMBv1 ransomware attacks. Other malware developers are now using the exploit to deliver banking Trojans.

While most businesses have now applied the patch, there are some that are still running vulnerable operating systems. There is also a risk that even when patches have been applied, devices may have been missed.

All businesses should therefore make sure their systems have been patched, but should also perform a scan to ensure no devices have slipped through the net and remain vulnerable. All it takes is for one unpatched device to exist on a network for ransomware or malware to be installed.

There are several commercially available tools that can be used to scan for unpatched devices, including this free tool from ESET. It is also recommended to block traffic associated with EternalBlue through your IDS system or firewall.

If you still insist on using Windows XP, you can at least stop the SMB flaw from being exploited with this patch, although an upgrade to a supported OS is long overdue. The MS17-010 patch for all other systems can be found on this link.

CCleaner Malware Inclusion Potentially Impacts More Than 2 Million Users

CCleaner malware infections continued for a month before the compromised binary was detected and the backdoor was removed.

Avast, which acquired Piriform over the summer, announced that between August 15 and September 15, a rogue version of the application was available on its server and was being downloaded by users. During that time, around 3% of users of the PC cleaning application had been infected according to Piriform.

Cisco Talos, which independently discovered the build of CCleaner had malware included, reported around 5 million users download the program each week, potentially meaning up to 20 million users may have been affected. However, Piriform suggests around 2.27 users had downloaded and installed the backdoor along with the legitimate application. On Monday this week, around 730,000 users had not yet updated to the latest, clean version of the program.

Any individual that downloaded the application on a 32-bit system between August 15 and September 15 was infected with the CCleaner malware, which was capable of gathering information about the users’ system. The malware in question was the Floxif Trojan, which had been incorporated into the build before Avast acquired Piriform.

The CCleaner malware collected details of users’ IP addresses, computer names, details of software installed on their systems and the MAC addresses of network adaptors, which were exfiltrated to the attackers C2 server. The CCleaner malware laced application was only part of the story. Avast says the attack involved a second stage payload, although it would appear the additional malware never executed.

The versions of the software affected were v5.33.6162 and CCleaner Cloud v1.07.3191. The malware reportedly did not execute on 64-bit systems and the Android app was unaffected. The malware was detected on September 13, 2017, although an announcement was not initially made as Avast and Piriform were working with law enforcement and did not want to alert the attackers that the malware had been detected.

The individuals behind the attack used a valid digital signature that was issued to Piriform by Symantec along with a Domain Generation Algorithm to ensure that new domains could be generated to receive exfiltrated data from compromised systems in the event that the main domain was taken down.

Now that the malware has been removed, users can simply download version 5.34 of the application which will remove the backdoor. Users of the Cloud version need do nothing, as the application has been updated to a clean version automatically. While simply updating the software should resolve all issues, users are advised to perform a full virus scan to make sure no additional malware has been introduced onto their system.

At present, it is unclear who was responsible for this supply chain attack or how the Floxif Trojan was introduced. It is possible that external hackers gained access to the development or build environment or that the Trojan was introduced from within.

Attacks such as this have potential to infect many millions of users since downloads from the developers of an application are trusted. In this case, the malware was included in the binary which was hosted on Piriform’s server – not on a third-party site.

A similar supply chain attack saw a software update for the Ukrainian accounting application MeDoc compromised. That attack resulted in the download of the NotPetya wiper, which caused billions of dollars of losses for companies.

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.

Patch Released to Fix Actively Exploited Microsoft .Net Framework Flaw

Microsoft has corrected 27 critical vulnerabilities this Patch Tuesday, including a Microsoft .Net Framework flaw that is being actively exploited to install Finspy surveillance software on devices running Windows 10.

Microsoft .Net Framework Flaw Exploited by ‘Multiple’ Actors

Finspy is legitimate software developed by the UK-based Gamma Group, which is used by governments around the world for cyber-surveillance. The software has been installed in at least two attacks in the past few months according to FireEye researchers, the latest attack leveraged the Microsoft .Net Framework flaw.

The attack starts with a spam email containing a malicious RTF document. The document uses the CVE-2017-8759 vulnerability to inject arbitrary code, which downloads and executes a VB script containing PowerShell commands, which in turn downloads the malicious payload, which includes Finspy.

FireEye suggests at least one attack was conducted by a nation-state against a Russian target; however, FireEye researchers also believe other actors may also be leveraging the vulnerability to conduct attacks.

According to a blog post on Tuesday, the Microsoft .Net Framework flaw has been detected and neutralized. Microsoft strongly recommends installing the latest update promptly to reduce exposure. Microsoft says the flaw could allow a malicious actor to take full control of an affected system.

BlueBorne Bluetooth Bug Fixed

Several Bluetooth vulnerabilities were discovered and disclosed on Tuesday by security firm Aramis. The vulnerabilities affect billions of Bluetooth-enabled devices around the world. The eight vulnerabilities, termed BlueBorne, could be used to perform man-in-the-middle attacks on devices via Bluetooth, rerouting traffic to the attacker’s computer. The bugs exist in Windows, iOS, Android and Linux.

In order to exploit the vulnerabilities, Bluetooth would need to be enabled on the targeted device, although it would not be necessary for the device to be in discoverable mode. An attacker could use the vulnerabilities to connect to a device – a TV or speaker for example – and initiate a connection to a computer without the user’s knowledge. In order to pull off the attack, it would be necessary to be in relatively close proximity to the targeted device.

In addition to intercepting communications, an attacker could also take full control of a device and steal data, download ransomware or malware, or perform other malicious activities such as adding the device to a botnet. Microsoft corrected one of the Bluetooth driver spoofing bugs – CVE-2017-8628 – in the latest round of updates.

Critical NetBIOS Remote Code Execution Vulnerability Patched

One of the most pressing updates is for a remote code execution vulnerability in NetBIOS (CVE-2017-0161). The vulnerability affects both servers and workstations. While the vulnerability is not believed to be currently exploited in the wild, it is of note as it can be exploited simply by sending specially crafted NetBT Session Service packets.

The Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) said the flaw “is practically wormable within a LAN. This could also impact multiple virtual clients if the guest OSes all connect to the same (virtual) LAN.”

In total, 81 updates have been released by Microsoft this Patch Tuesday. Adobe has corrected eight flaws, including two critical memory corruption bugs (CVE-2017-11281, CVE-2017-11282) in Flash Player, a critical XML parsing vulnerability in ColdFusion (CVE-2017-11286) and two ColdFusion remote code execution vulnerabilities (CVE-2017-11283, CVE-2017-11284) concerning deserialization of untrusted data.

Xafecopy Malware Silently Steals Money from Victims’ Mobile Accounts

Xafecopy malware is a new Trojan that is being used to steal money from victims via their smartphones. The malware masquerades as useful apps that function exactly as expected, although in addition to the useful functions, the apps have a malicious purpose.

Installing the apps activates Xafecopy malware, which silently subscribes the infected smartphone to a number of online services via websites that use the WAP billing payment method. Rather than require a credit card for purchases, this payment method adds the cost of the service to the user’s mobile phone bill. Consequently, it can take up to a month before the victim realizes they have been defrauded.

Several apps are used to deliver the malware, including BatteryMaster – An app that can kill processes on a smartphone to save battery life. Once installed, Xafecopy malware searches for websites that have the WAP billing feature and subscribes to the services. These websites often use the captcha system to verify that the user is human, although the malware uses JavaScript to bypass this control.

Additional features of Xafecopy malware include the ability to send text messages from the user’s device to premium rate phone numbers. The malware can also delete incoming text messages, such as text messages notifying users about services they have subscribed to and warnings from network operators about potential fraud.

To date, there are more than 4,800 victims spread across 47 countries around the world, although most of the WAP billing attacks have been seen in India, Mexico, Turkey and Russia, with India accounting for 37.5% of the WAP billing attacks. WAP billing attacks are concentrated in countries where WAP billing is most popular.

Kaspersky Lab senior malware analyst Roman Unucheck said, “WAP billing can be particularly vulnerable to so-called ‘clickjacking’ as it has a one-click feature that requires no user authorization. Our research suggests WAP billing attacks are on the rise.”

While most PC users have antivirus software installed, the same is not true for users of Android devices. Many users still do not use a security suite on their mobile devices to protect them from malware, even though they often use their smartphones to sign up and pay for online services or access their bank accounts.

Installing antivirus software can help to prevent Xafecopy malware infections. It is also important not to download apps from unofficial stores and to scan all apps with the Verify Apps utility.

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.

Defray Ransomware Used in Targeted Attacks on Healthcare and Education Sectors

Defray ransomware is being used in targeted attacks on organizations in the healthcare and education sectors. The new ransomware variant is being distributed via email; however, in contrast to many ransomware campaigns, the emails are not being sent out in the millions. Rather than use the spray and pay method of distribution, small campaigns are being conducted consisting of just a few emails.

To increase the likelihood of infection, the criminals behind Defray ransomware are carefully crafting messages to appeal to specific victims in an organization. Researchers at Proofpoint have captured emails from two small campaigns, one of which incorporates hospital logos in the emails and claims to have been sent by the Director of Information Management & Technology at the targeted hospital.

The emails contain an Microsoft Word attachment that appears to be a report for patients, relatives and carers. The patient report includes an embedded OLE packager shell object. If clicked, this executable downloads and installs Defray ransomware, naming it after a legitimate Windows file.

The ransom demand is considerable. Victims are asked to pay $5,000 per infected machine for the keys to unlock the encryption, although the ransom note does suggest the attackers are prepared to negotiate on price. The attackers suggest victims should backup their files to avoid having to pay ransoms in the future.

There is no known decryptor for defray ransomware. Files are encrypted using AES-256 with RAS-2048 used to encrypt the AES-256 encrypted password while SHA-2 is used to maintain file integrity. In addition to encrypting files, the ransomware variant can cause other disruption and will delete volume shadow copies to prevent the restoration of files without paying the ransom.

The developers of the ransomware have not given their malicious code a name and in contrast to most ransomware variants, the extensions of encrypted files are not changed. Proofpoint named the variant Defray ransomware from the C2 server used by the attackers.

A second campaign has been identified targeting the manufacturing and technology sector. In this case, the email appears to have been sent by a UK aquarium (Sea Life) with facilities around the world. The emails and attachments differ, although the same OLE packager shell object is used to infect end users.

The attackers have been sending these malicious emails to individuals, user groups and distribution lists. Attacks have occurred in both the United States and United Kingdom and are likely to continue.

Protecting against these targeted attacks requires a combination of spam filtering technology and end user training. Organizations in the healthcare, education, technology and manufacturing sectors should consider sending an email alert to end users warning of the risk of ransomware attacks, instructing end users to exercise caution and not to open email attachments from unknown senders and never to click to enable content on email attachments.

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.

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.

Domain Spoofing Spam Campaigns Targeting Customers of Popular UK Banks

Several domain spoofing spam campaigns have been detected that are targeting customers of popular UK banks. The spam email campaigns include credible messages and realistic spoofed domains and pose a threat to consumers and businesses alike.  The domain spoofing email campaigns are targeting customers of HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Nationwide, NatWest and Santander.

Domain spoofing is the use of a domain similar to that used by a legitimate entity with the aim of fooling email recipients into believing the email and domain is genuine. Domain spoofing is commonly used in phishing attacks, with email recipients fooled into divulging their login credentials or downloading malware. In addition to a similarly named domain, the malicious websites often include the targeted brand’s logos, layouts and color schemes.

According to a warning issued by the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center, the latest domain spoofing spam campaigns involve the name of the bank and one of the following additional words: docs; documents; secure; communication; securemessage.

Customers of a targeted back who receive an email and a link from the domain ‘securenatwest.co.uk’ or ‘santandersecuremessage.com’ could easily be fooled into thinking the email is genuine. Other domains being used are hsbcdocs.co.uk, hmrccommunication.co.uk, lloydsbacs.co.uk, nationwidesecure.co.uk, natwestdocuments6.ml, and santanderdocs.co.uk. Further, many consumers still believe a website starting with HTTPS is secure. Yet all of these spoofed domains are all encrypted and have SSL certificates.

The domain spoofing spam campaigns involve messages claiming there is a new secure message from the bank along with an attached HTML file. That file downloads a malicious MS Office document containing macros. If those macros are enabled, the malicious payload is delivered. These campaigns are being used to distribute Trickbot malware – a banking Trojan used for man-in-the-middle attacks to steal banking credentials.

HTML documents are used as they download malicious MS documents via an HTTPS connection to reduce the risk of the documents being detected by antivirus software. SANS Institute researcher Brad Duncan pointed out that this method, while not new, can be effective. He also explained that “poorly managed Windows hosts (or Windows computers using a default configuration) are susceptible to infection.”

The domain spoofing spam campaigns were detected by My Online Security, which notes that “A very high proportion are being targeted at small and medium size businesses, with the hope of getting a better response than they do from consumers.”

Businesses can reduce risk by employing a spam filtering solution to prevent the malicious messages from being delivered to end users, ensuring Windows hosts are correctly configured, and ensuring employees are alert to the threat. Macros should be disabled on all devices and employees instructed never to enable macros or enable content on emailed documents.

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.

Phishing by SMS: Smishing Attacks on The Rise

Smishing attacks are on the rise. Cybercriminals have been turning to the Short Message Service – SMS – to conduct phishing campaigns to gather personal information for identity theft and fraud. Smishing is also used to fool mobile device users into installing malware.

Like phishing emails, smishing attacks use social engineering techniques to get users to complete a specific action, often to click on a link that will direct them to a webpage where they are asked to provide sensitive information or to download a file to their device. Most commonly, the aim of smishing is to obtain personal information such as usernames and passwords to online bank accounts.

Many organizations have implemented spam filtering solutions that capture phishing emails and prevent them from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. Security awareness training is also provided, with the threat of phishing explained to employees.  However, the best practices that are taught are not always applied to SMS messages and spam controls do not block SMS messages.

In contrast to emails, which are often ignored, people also tend to access their SMS messages much more rapidly than emails. Text messages are typically opened within seconds, or minutes, of them being received. Cybercriminals are well aware that their malicious MS messages will be opened and read.

Cybercriminals use the same techniques for smishing attacks that are used on email phishing scams. The messages inject a sense of urgency, requiring an action to be taken quickly. The messages are designed to grab attention, with security threats one of the most common themes. The attackers typically impersonate banks, credit card companies, email providers, social media networks or online retailers and warn of security issues such as potential fraudulent activity, imminent charges that will be applied or they threaten account closure.

Messages may even appear to have been sent by a contact, either using a stolen mobile or by spoofing someone who is known and trusted. Messages may include a link to an interesting article, a photograph or a social media post for example.

Smishing attacks started with SMS messages, although similar scams are now being conducted on other messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger.

Blocking smishing attacks is difficult. The key to avoiding becoming a victim is awareness of the threat and adopting the same security best practices that can protect end users on email.

  • As with email, when receiving an odd message, stop and think about the request. Could it be a scam?
  • Even if the message suggests urgent action is required, take time to consider what is being asked. Smishing attacks work because people respond without thinking.
  • It is important not to respond to a SMS message that has been sent from an unknown sender. If you respond, the person who sent the message will be aware that messages are being received.
  • If a message containing a hyperlink is received, do not click on the link. Delete the message.
  • Never send any sensitive information via text message. Legitimate companies will not ask you to send sensitive information by text message.
  • If you are concerned about the contents of a text message, check with the institution concerned, but do not use links or telephone numbers sent in the message. Independently verify the phone number and call or find the correct website via the search engines.
  • If you are a business that provides employees with access to a WiFi network, it is possible to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites linked in smishing campaigns. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a web filter for WiFi networks that prevents users from visiting malicious websites, such as those used in smishing attacks.

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.

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.

Corporate Phishing Emails Increased by 400% in Q2, 2017

Corporate phishing emails are one of the biggest cybersecurity risks faced by organizations. Cybercriminals are well aware that even companies with robust cybersecurity defenses are vulnerable to phishing attacks.

Phishing email volume is higher than at any other time in history. Employees are being targeted with threat actors now using sophisticated social engineering techniques to maximize the probability of employees clicking on links, opening infected email attachments or disclosing their login credentials. If corporate phishing emails are delivered to end users’ inboxes, there is a high chance that at least one employee will be fooled. All it takes is for one employee to click on a malicious link or open an infected attachment for malware to be installed or access to sensitive data be provided.

The threat from phishing attacks has been steadily increasing in recent years, although this year has seen phishing attacks soar. A recent study conducted by Mimecast has shown that cybercriminals have been stepping up their efforts in recent months. Last quarter, there was a 400% increase in corporate phishing emails according to the study.

A phishing trends & intelligence report for Q1, 2017 from the security awareness training firm PhishLabs showed that in the first quarter of 2017, overall phishing email volume increased by 20% compared to the previous quarter. 88% of phishing attacks were concentrated on five industries: payment services, financial institutions, cloud storage/file hosting firms, webmail/online services and e-commerce companies.

The anti-phishing training and phishing simulation platform provider PhishMe also noted a major increase in phishing emails in Q1, 2017. The firm’s Q1, 2017 malware review also showed there had been a 69.2% increase in botnet malware usage in the first quarter of this year.

Business email compromise attacks are also on the rise. Proofpoint’s annual Human Factor report showed BEC email attacks rose from 1% of message volume to 42% of message volume relative to emails bearing Trojans. Those attacks have cost businesses $5 billion worldwide.

These studies clearly show that corporate phishing emails are on the rise, highlighting the need for organizations to improve their defenses. The best defense against phishing emails and ransomware attacks is to ensure messages are intercepted and blocked. It is therefore essential for organizations to implement a robust spam filtering solution to prevent malicious messages from reaching end users’ inboxes.

SpamTitan conducts more than 100 checks of incoming emails, ensuring more than 99.98% of spam and malicious emails are blocked. Dual anti-virus engines are used to ensure 100% of known malware and ransomware is intercepted and prevented from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

If you have yet to implement an advanced spam filtering solution or you are unhappy with your current provider, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about SpamTitan and how it can be used to protect your business from email attacks. SpamTitan is also available on a no obligation, 30-day free trial, allowing you to try the solution for yourself before committing to a purchase.

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.

University of Alaska Phishing Attack Results in Exposure of 25,000 Individuals’ Data

A University of Alaska phishing attack has potentially resulted in attackers gaining access to the sensitive information of 25,000 staff, students and faculty staff.

The University of Alaska phishing attack occurred in December last year, although affected individuals have only just been notified. The phishing emails were sent to university employees. One or more individuals responded and were fooled into following the threat actors’ instructions.

Details of the exact nature of the phishing emails were not disclosed; however, as with other phishing scams, the emails appeared genuine and looked professional. By responding to the emails, the employees accidentally disclosed their usernames and passwords to the attackers. The attack resulted in ‘several’ email accounts being compromised.

The emails in the compromised accounts contained a range of sensitive information including names and Social Security numbers. In total, around 25,000 staff, students and faculty members had their information exposed.

The investigation into the University of Alaska phishing attack could not confirm whether any of the emails in the accounts were accessed or if information was copied by the attackers, although it remains a distinct possibility.

Due to the sensitive nature of data in the accounts, the University of Alaska had to inform all affected individuals by mail and offer credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. Victims will also be protected by a $1 million identity theft insurance policy.

A forensic analysis had to be conducted to determine the exact nature of the attack and which individuals had been affected – A process that took around 5 months. Staff had to be provided with additional training to improve awareness of credential phishing scams and were retrained correct handling of sensitive information. The notifications and mitigations came at a considerable cost.

The University of Alaska phishing attack was just one of many phishing attacks that have taken place in the United States over the past few months. The phishing attacks all have a common denominator. Employees were targeted, phishing emails reached inboxes, and end users followed the instructions in the emails.

Training staff to be aware of the threat of phishing can reduce susceptibility, although training did not prevent the University of Alaska phishing attack.

Even after receiving security awareness training, employees can make mistakes. A technology solution should therefore be implemented to stop phishing emails from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

SpamTitan from TitanHQ offers excellent protection against phishing attacks, blocking more than 99.9% of spam, phishing emails and other malicious messages. SpamTitan is quick and easy to install, cost effective to implement and easy to maintain.

With SpamTitan installed, organizations can protect themselves against phishing attacks and avoid the considerable cost of data breaches.

For more information on SpamTitan and other TitanHQ security products, contact the sales team today and take the first step toward improving your defences against phishing attacks.

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.

Beware of WannaCry Phishing Emails

Cybercriminals have started sending WannaCry phishing emails, taking advantage of the fear surrounding the global network worm attacks.

An email campaign has been identified in the United Kingdom, with BT customers being targeted. The attackers have spoofed BT domains and made their WannaCry phishing emails look extremely realistic. BT branding is used, the emails are well written and they claim to have been sent from Libby Barr, Managing Director, Customer Care at BT. A quick check of her name on Google will reveal she is who she claims to be. The WannaCry phishing emails are convincing, cleverly put together, and are likely to fool many customers.

The emails claim that BT is working on improving its security in the wake of the massive ransomware campaign that affected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries on May 12, 2017. In the UK, 20% of NHS Trusts were affected by the incident and had data encrypted and services majorly disrupted by the ransomware attacks. It would be extremely hard if you live in the UK to have avoided the news of the attacks and the extent of the damage they have caused.

The WannaCry phishing emails provide a very good reason for taking prompt action. BT is offering a security upgrade to prevent its customers from being affected by the attacks. The emails claim that in order to keep customers’ sensitive information secure, access to certain features have been disabled on BT accounts. Customers are told that to restore their full BT account functionality they need to confirm the security upgrade by clicking on the upgrade box contained in the email.

Of course, clicking on the link will not result in a security upgrade being applied. Customers are required to disclose their login credentials to the attackers.

Other WannaCry phishing emails are likely to be sent claiming to be from other broadband service providers. Similar campaigns could be used to silently download malware or ransomware.

Cybercriminals often take advantage of global news events that are attracting a lot of media interest. During the Olympics there were many Olympic themed spam emails. Phishing emails were also rife during the U.S. presidential elections, the World Cup, the Zika Virus epidemic, and following every major news event.

The golden rule is never to click on links sent in email from individuals you do not know, be extremely careful about clicking links from people you do know, and assume that any email you receive could be a phishing email or other malicious message.

A single phishing email sent to an employee can result in a data breach, email or network compromise. It is therefore important for employers to take precautions. Employees should be provided with phishing awareness training and taught the tell-tale signs that emails are not genuine.  It is also essential that an advanced spam filtering solution is employed to prevent the vast majority of phishing emails from reaching end users inboxes.

On that front, TitanHQ is here to help. Contact the team today to find out how SpamTitan can protect your business from phishing, malware and ransomware attacks.

The Cost of Ransomware Attacks Estimated to Reach $5 Billion in 2017

The cost of ransomware attacks cannot be totaled by the amounts illegally earned by cybercriminals through ransom payments. In fact, the ransom payments are just a tiny fraction of the costs experienced by businesses that have been attacked with ransomware.

Take the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks as an example. The individuals behind that campaign were charging $300 per infected device to supply the keys to decrypt data. The amount gathered by those individuals was a little over $100,000 on Monday this week, even though the attacks involved data being encrypted on approximately 300,000 devices.

However, the cost of ransomware attacks is far higher. The biggest cost of ransomware attacks for most businesses is downtime while the infection is dealt with. Even if the ransom is paid, businesses often lose a week or more while the infection is removed and systems are brought back online. One Providence law firm suffered 3 months of downtime while systems remained locked!

Then there is the continued disruption while businesses catch up from the loss of productivity in the aftermath following the attack. The NHS was still experiencing disruption more than a week after the attacks on Friday 12, May.

Ransomware attacks can also involve loss of data and damage a company’s reputation. Typically, following a ransomware attack, a forensic analysis of IT systems must be conducted to ensure all traces of malware have been removed. Checks also must be performed to look for backdoors that may have been installed. Many businesses do not have the staff to perform those tasks. Cybersecurity experts must therefore be brought in. Additional cybersecurity solutions must also be purchased to ensure further attacks are prevented. The cost of ransomware attacks is therefore considerable.

The WannaCry ransomware attacks have been estimated to have cost businesses more than $1 billion. KnowB4 CEO Stu Sjouwerman said “The estimated damage caused by WannaCry in just the initial 4 days would exceed a billion dollars, looking at the massive downtime caused for large organizations worldwide.”

The cost of ransomware attacks in 2015 was an estimated $325 million, although figures from the FBI suggest that total was reached in the first quarter of the year. The final cost of ransomware attacks in the year was estimated to have reached $1 billion. Recently, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted the cost of ransomware attacks in 2017 will reach an incredible $5 billion. Given the expected costs of the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks, that could turn out to be an incredibly conservative estimate.

Cybercriminals are not concerned about the damage caused by the attacks, only the amount they can extort from businesses. The returns may be relatively low, but they are sufficiently high to make the attacks profitable. More and more individuals are also getting in on the act by using ransomware-as-a-service. Not only are ransomware attacks likely to continue, major cybercriminal gangs are likely to increase the scale of the attacks.

Businesses should be aware of the huge cost of ransomware attacks and take appropriate action to prevent those attacks from occurring. Having a backup of data may ensure that a ransom payment does not need to be made, but it will do little to prevent huge losses from being suffered if ransomware is installed.

Preventing ransomware attacks requires security awareness training for employees, advanced spam filters to stop ransomware from being delivered to end users’ inboxes, web filters to block individuals from accessing malicious URLs, endpoint protection systems to detect and block ransomware downloads, advanced firewalls and antivirus and antimalware solutions.

Fortunately, with appropriate defenses in place, it is possible to block ransomware attacks. Those solutions do come at a cost, but considering the losses from a successful ransomware attack, they are a small price to pay.

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.

WannaCry Ransomware Campaign Claims Victims in 150 Countries

On Friday May 12, a massive WannaCry ransomware campaign was launched, with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) one of the early victims. The ransomware attack resulted in scores of NHS Trusts having data encrypted, with the infection rapidly spreading to networked devices. Those attacks continued, with 61 NHS Trusts now known to have been affected. Operations were cancelled and doctors were forced to resort to pen and paper while IT teams worked around the clock to bring their systems back online.

Just a few hours after the first reports of the WannaCry ransomware attacks emerged, the scale of the problem became apparent. The WannaCry ransomware campaign was claiming tens of thousands of victims around the world. By Saturday morning, Avast issued a statement confirming there had been more than 57,000 attacks reported in 100 countries. Now the total has increased to more than 200,000 attacks in 150 countries. While the attacks appear to now be slowing, security experts are concerned that further attacks will take place this week.

So far, in addition to the NHS, victims include the Spanish Telecoms operator Telefonica, Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, the Russian Interior ministry, Renault in France, U.S. logistics firm FedEx, Nissan and Hitachi in Japan and multiple universities in China.

The WannaCry ransomware campaign is the largest ever ransomware attack conducted, although it does not appear that many ransoms have been paid yet. The BBC reports that the WannaCry ransomware campaign has already resulted in $38,000 in ransom payments being generated. That total is certain to rise over the next few days. WannaCry ransomware decryption costs $300 per infected device with no free decryptor available. The ransom amount is set to double in 3 days if payment is not made. The attackers threaten to delete the decryption keys if payment is not made within 7 days of infection.

Ransomware attacks usually involve malware downloaders sent via spam email. If emails make it past anti-spam solutions and are opened by end users, the ransomware is downloaded and starts encrypting files. WannaCry ransomware has been spread in this fashion, with emails containing links to malicious Dropbox URLs. However, the latest WannaCry ransomware campaign leverages a vulnerability in Server Message Block 1.0 (SMBv1). The exploit for the vulnerability – known as ETERNALBLUE – has been packaged with a self-replicating payload which can spread rapidly to all networked devices. The vulnerability is not a new zero day however. In fact, Microsoft patched the vulnerability in its MS17-010 security bulletin almost two months ago. The problem is many organizations have not installed the update and are vulnerable to attack.

The ETERNALBLUE exploit was reportedly stolen from the National Security Agency by Shadow Brokers, a cybercriminal gang with links to Russia. ETERNALBLUE was allegedly developed as a hacking weapon to gain access to Windows computers used by enemy states and terrorists. Shadow Brokers managed to steal the tool and published the exploit online in mid-April. While it is not known whether Shadows Brokers is behind the attack, the publication of the exploit allowed the attacks to take place.

The exploit allows the attackers to drop files on a vulnerable system, with that file then executed as a service. The dropped file then downloads WannaCry ransomware, which searches for other available networked devices. The infection spreads before files are encrypted. Any unpatched device with port 445 open is vulnerable.

The WannaCry ransomware campaign would have resulted in far more infections had it not been for the actions of a security researcher in the UK. The researcher –@MalwareTechBlog – found a kill switch to prevent encryption. The ransomware attempts to communicate with a specific domain. If communication is possible, the ransomware does not proceed with encryption. If the domain cannot be contacted, files are encrypted.

@MalwareTechBlog discovered the reference to the nonsense domain, saw that it was unregistered and bought it. By doing so, the ransomware attack was thwarted. The domain checking mechanism was presumably added to prevent the ransomware from running in a sandbox environment.

However, a new version of the ransomware without the kill switch has reportedly already been released, which could see the victim count increase substantially over the next few days. Organizations that have not applied Microsoft’s patch are advised to do so as a priority to block the attack.

The massive ransomware attack should serve as reminder to all organizations of the importance of applying patches promptly. That will be a particularly painful reminder for many organizations that fell victim to this preventable ransomware attack.

Fatboy Ransomware – A New RaaS That Sets Ransoms by Location

A new email-borne threat has recently been discovered. Fatboy ransomware is a new ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) being offered on darknet forums in Russia. The RaaS offers would-be cybercriminals the opportunity to conduct ransomware campaigns without having to develop their own malicious code.

RaaS has proven incredibly popular. By offering RaaS, malicious code authors can infect more end users by increasing the number of individuals distributing the ransomware.  In the case of Fatboy ransomware, the code author is offering limited partnerships and is dealing with affiliates directly via the instant messaging platform Jabber.

Fatboy ransomware encrypts files using AES-256, generating an individual key for the files and then encrypting those keys using RSA-2048. A separate bitcoin wallet is used for each client and a promise is made to transfer funds to the affiliates as soon as the money is paid. By offering to deal directly with the affiliates, being transparent about the RaaS and offering support, it is thought that the code author is trying to earn trust and maximize the appeal of the service.

Further, the ransomware interface has been translated into 12 languages, allowing campaigns to be conducted in many countries around the world. Many RaaS offerings are limited geographically by language.

Fatboy ransomware also has an interesting new feature that is intended to maximize the chance of the victim paying the ransom demand. This RaaS allows attackers to set the ransom payment automatically based on the victim’s location. In locations with a high standard of living, the ransom payment will be higher and vice versa.

To determine the cost of living, Fatboy ransomware uses the Big Mac Index. The Big Mac Index was developed by The Economist as a method of determining whether currencies were at their correct values. If all currencies are at their correct value, the cost of a product in each country should be the same. The product chosen was a Big Mac. In short, the higher the cost of a Big Mac in the victim’s country, the higher the ransom demand will be.

So far, Recorded Future – the firm that discovered the ransomware variant – says the code author has generated around $5,000 in ransom payments since February. That total is likely to rise considerably as more affiliates come on board and more end users are infected. There is no known decryptor for Fatboy ransomware at this time.

New ransomware variants are constantly being developed and RaaS allows many more individuals to conduct ransomware campaigns. Unsurprisingly, the number of ransomware attacks has grown.

The cost of resolving a ransomware infection can be considerable. Businesses therefore need to ensure they have defenses in place to block attacks and ensure they can recover fast.

Backups need to be made regularly to ensure files can be easily recovered. Staff need to be trained on security best practices to prevent them inadvertently installing ransomware. Antispam solutions should also be implemented to prevent malicious emails from reaching end users’ inboxes. Fortunately, even with a predicted increase in ransomware attacks, businesses can effectively mitigate risk if appropriate defenses are implemented.

For advice on security solutions that can block ransomware attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.

IC3 Issues Warning About Business Email Compromise Scams

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has issued a new alert to businesses warning of the risk of business email compromise scams.

The businesses most at risk are those that deal with international suppliers as well as those that frequently perform wire transfers. However, businesses that only issue checks instead of sending wire transfers are also at risk of this type of cyberattack.

In contrast to phishing scams where the attacker makes emails appear as if they have come from within the company by spoofing an email address, business email compromise scams require a corporate email account to be accessed by the attackers.

Once access to an email account is gained, the attacker crafts an email and sends it to an individual responsible for making wire transfers, issuing other payments, or an individual that has access to employees PII/W-2 forms and requests a bank transfer or sensitive data.

The attackers often copy the format of emails previously sent to the billing/accounts department. This information can easily be gained from the compromised email account. They are also able to easily identify the person within the company who should be sent the request.

Not all business email compromise scams are concerned with fraudulent bank transfers. IC3 warns that the same scam is also used to obtain the W-2 tax statements of employees, as has been seen on numerous occasions during this year’s tax season.

Phishing scams are often sent out randomly in the hope that some individuals click on malicious links or open infected email attachments. However, business email compromise scams involve considerable research on the company to select victims and to identify appropriate protocols used by the company to make transfer requests.

Business email compromise scams often start with phishing emails. Phishing is used to get end users to reveal their login credentials or other sensitive information that can be used to gain access to business networks and perform the scam. Malware can also be used for this purpose. Emails are sent with links to malicious websites or with infected email attachments. Opening the attachments or clicking on the links downloads malware capable of logging keystrokes or provides the attackers with a foothold in the network.

IC3 warns that business email compromise scams are a major threat for all businesses, regardless of their size. Just because your business is small, it doesn’t mean that you face a low risk of attack.

Between January 2015 and December 2016, IC3 notes there was a 2,370% increase in BEC scams. While funds are most commonly sent to bank accounts in China and Hong Kong, IC3 says transfers have been made to 103 countries in the past two years.

The losses reported by businesses are staggering. Between October 2013 and December 2016, more than $5 billion has been obtained by cybercriminals. United States businesses have lost $1,594,503,669 in more than 22,000 successful scams. The average loss is $71,528.

IC3 lists the five most common types of business email compromise scams as:

  1. Businesses receiving requests from frequently used suppliers requesting transfers be made to a new bank account.This is also known as a bogus invoice scam.
  2. An executive within the company (CFO or CTO for example) requests a transfer be made by a second employee in the company. This is also known as a business executive scam.
  3. A compromised email account is used to send a payment request/invoice to a vendor in the employees contact list.
  4. The attackers impersonate an attorney used by the firm and request the transfer of funds. These scams are common at the end of the week or end of the business day. They are also known as Friday afternoon scams.
  5. A request is sent from a compromised email account to a member of the HR department requesting information on employees such as W-2 Forms or PII. These scams are most common during tax season.

There are a number of strategies that can be adopted to prevent business email compromise attacks from being successful.

IC3 recommends:

  • Using a domain-based email account rather than a web-based account for business email accounts
  • Exercising caution about the information posted to social media accounts. This is where the attackers do much of their research
  • Implement a two-step verification process to validate all transfer requests
  • Use two-factor authentication for corporate email accounts
  • Never respond to an email using the reply option. Always use forward and type in the address manually
  • Register all domains that are similar to the main domain used by the company
  • Use intrusion detection systems and spam filters that quarantine or flag emails that have been sent with extensions similar to those used by the company – Blocking emails sent from xxx_company.com if the company uses xxx-company.com for example
  • Be wary of any request that seems out of the ordinary or requires a change to the bank account usually used for transfers