Phishing & Email Spam
Phishing and email spam is estimated to cost industry more than $1 billion each year, and cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in the campaigns they launch to try to extract confidential data or passwords from unsuspecting Internet users.
Part of the reason why phishing and email spam continue to work is the language used within the communication. The message to “Act Now” because an account seems to have been compromised, or because a colleague appears to need urgent support, often causes individuals to act before they think.
Even experienced security experts have been caught by phishing and email spam, and the advice provided to every Internet user is:
- If you are unsure of whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the sender independently of the information provided in the email.
- Never reveal confidential data or passwords requested in an email or on a web page you have arrived at after following a link in an email.
- Enable spam filters on your email, keep your anti-virus software up-to-date and enable two-step authentication on all your accounts whenever possible.
- Always use different passwords for different accounts, and change them frequently to avoid being a victim of key-logging malware downloads.
- Remember that phishing and email spam is not limited to email. Watch out for scams sent via social media channels.
Phishing in particular has become a popular attack vector for cybercriminals. Although phishing goes back to the early days of AOL, there has been a tenfold increase in phishing campaigns over the past decade reported to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG).
Phishing is an extension of spam mail and can target small groups of people (spear phishing) or target executive-level management (whale phishing) in order to collect information or gain access to computer systems.
The best way to protect yourself from phishing and email spam is to follow the advice provided above and – most importantly – enable a reputable spam filter to block potentially unsafe emails from being delivered to your inbox.
A new phishing campaign has been identified that targets remote workers that will soon be returning to the workplace and claims to include information on coronavirus training. The campaign is one of the most realistic phishing scams in recent weeks, as it is plausible that prior to returning to the office after lockdown would involve some changes to workplace procedures to ensure employee safety.
This campaign targets Microsoft Office 365 users and attempts to obtain users’ Office 365 credentials under the guise of a request to register for COVID-19 training. The emails include the Office 365 logo and are short and to the point.
They just include the text, “COVID-19 Training for Employees: A Certificate For Healthy Workspaces (Register) to participate in Covid-19 Office Training for Employees.”
The message includes a button to click to register, and the emails claim to be “powered by Microsoft Office 365 health safety measures.”
Clicking the link will direct the user to a malicious website where they are required to enter their Office 365 credentials.
This campaign, like many others to have emerged over the past few weeks, closely follow world events. At the start of the pandemic, when there was little information available about COVID-19, phishers were offering new information about COVID-19 and the Novel Coronavirus. As more countries were affected and cases were increasing, incorporation was being offered about local cases in the area. Now that most countries have passed the peak of infections and lockdowns have helped to bring the virus under control, tactics have changed once again.
Campaigns have been detected in the United Kingdom related to the new Track and Trace system being used by the NHS to help control infections warning users that they need to purchase a COVID-19 test. Another campaign targeted parents who are experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19, asking for bank account information to allow them to receive a support payment from the government. Messages have also been detected about Free school dinners over the summer, now that the UK government has said that it will be providing support to parents.
There have been several campaigns that have taken advantage of the popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd. This campaign asked recipients of the email to register their opinions about Black Lives Matter and leave a review, with the campaign used to deliver the TrickBot Trojan.
What these phishing campaigns clearly demonstrate is the fluid nature of phishing campaigns, that are regularly changed to reflect global events to maximize the chance of the emails being opened. They show that users need to remain on their guard and be alert to the threat from phishing and always take time to consider the legitimacy of any request and to perform a series of checks to determine whether an email is what it claims to be. This can be tackled through security awareness training, which should be provided to employees regularly.
Naturally, the best defense is to make sure that these emails are blocked and do not reach inboxes, which is why it is important to have layered defenses in place. An advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan is required that uses machine learning and other advanced detection measures to identify new phishing scams along with measures to detect previously unseen malware variants. As an additional layer of protection, you should consider implementing a web filtering solution such as WebTitan that provides time-of-click protection to block the web-based component of phishing attacks and stop drive-by malware downloads. Alongside security awareness training, these solutions will help you to mount a formidable defense against phishing attacks.
A new phishing campaign has been detected that uses calendar invitations to steal banking and email credentials. The messages in the campaign include an iCalendar email attachment which may fool employees as this is a rare file type for phishing. These attachments are therefore unlikely to have been specifically covered in security awareness training.
iCalendar files are the file types used to store scheduling and calendaring information such as tasks and events. In this case, the messages in the campaign have the subject line “Fault Detection from Message Center,” and have been sent from a legitimate email account that has been compromised by the attackers in a previous campaign.
Because the email comes from a legitimate account rather than a spoofed account, the messages will pass checks such as those conducted through DMARC, DKIM, and SPF, which identify email impersonation attacks where the true sender spoofs an account. DMARC, DKIM, and SPF check to see if the true sender of an email is authorized to send messages from a domain.
As with most phishing campaigns, the attackers use fear and urgency to get users to click without considering the legitimacy of the request. In this case, the messages include a warning from the bank’s security team that withdrawals have been made from the account that have been flagged as suspicious. This campaign is targeting mobile users, with the messages asking for the file to be opened on a mobile device.
If the email attachment is opened, the user will be presented with a new calendar entry titled “Stop Unauthorized Payment” which includes a Microsoft SharePoint URL. If that link is clicked, the user will be directed to a Google-hosted website with a phishing kit that spoofs the login for Wells Fargo bank. Both of these websites have valid SSL certificates, so they may not be flagged as suspicious. They will also display the green padlock that shows that the connection between the browser and the website is encrypted and secure, as would be the case for the genuine bank website.
The user is then asked to enter their username, password, PIN, email address, email password, and account numbers. If the information is entered it is captured by the attacker and the information will be used to gain access to the accounts. To make it appear that the request is genuine, the user will then be directed to the legitimate Wells Fargo website once the information is submitted.
There are warning signs that the request is not genuine, which should be identified by security conscious individuals. The use of SharePoint and Google domains rather than a direct link to the Wells Fargo website are suspect, the request to only open the file on a mobile device is not explained. The phishing website also asks for a lot of information, including email address and password, which are not relevant.
These flags should be enough to convince most users that the request is not genuine, but any phishing email that bypasses spam filtering defenses and is delivered to inboxes poses a risk.
A U.S. Supreme Court phishing campaign has been detected that uses a fake subpoena to appear in court as a lure to obtain Office 365 credentials. The emails are personalized and are addressed to the victim and claim to be a writ issued by the Supreme Court demanding the recipient attend a hearing. This is a targeted campaign rather than a spray and pray attack that attempts to obtain the credentials of high value targets such as C-Suite members.
The emails include a link that the recipient is required to click to view the subpoena. Clicking the link in the email directs the user to a malicious website where they are required to enter their Office 365 credentials to view the subpoena.
The domain used is brand new and, as such, it is not recognized as malicious by many security solutions, including the default anti-phishing measures of Office 365. The scammers have also used multiple redirects to hide the destination URL in another attempt to thwart anti-phishing defenses.
Prior to the user being directed to the phishing page, they are presented with a CAPTCHA page. CAPTCHA is used to prevent web visits by bots, but in this case, it may be used to add legitimacy to the phish to make the request appear genuine. The CAPTCHA page is real, and the user must correctly select the images in order to proceed. The page also includes the name of the user, further adding legitimacy to the scam. The CAPTCHA may also be a further attempt to make it difficult for the destination URL to be analyzed by security solutions.
This phishing campaign is realistic and uses urgency to get the user to take action quickly, rather than stopping to think about the request. There are signs that this is a scam, such as the domain name which clearly has nothing to do with the U.S. Supreme Court, and a few grammatical and spelling mistakes which would not be expected of any Supreme Court request.
However, the sender name in the email was spoofed to make it appear to have been sent by the “Supreme Court”, the request is certain to scare some recipients into clicking the link, and the landing page is sufficiently realistic to fool busy employees into disclosing their login credentials.
Exchange Online protection (EOP), which is provided by Microsoft free of charge with all Office 365 accounts, often fails to spot these zero-day attacks.
To improve protection against new phishing campaigns, an anti-spam solution is required that incorporates predictive techniques, threat intelligence feeds, and machine learning algorithms. SpamTitan incorporates these and several other layers of protection to identify zero-day phishing, malware, and ransomware campaigns and email impersonation attacks.
SpamTitan can be layered on top of Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection to serve as an additional layer to your email security defenses to ensure that more malicious emails are blocked and never reach end users inboxes.
For further information on SpamTitan and how the solution can keep your organization’s inboxes free from phishing threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
A novel phishing scam has been identified that gains access to information on Office 365 accounts without obtaining usernames and passwords. The campaign also manages to bypass multi-factor authentication controls that has been set up to prevent stolen credentials from being used to remotely access email accounts from unfamiliar locations or devices.
The campaign takes advantage of the OAuth2 framework and the OpenID Connect protocol that are used to authenticate Office 365 users. The phishing emails include a malicious SharePoint link that is used to fool email recipients into granting an application permissions that allow it to access user data without a username and password.
The phishing emails are typical of several other campaigns that abuse SharePoint. They advise the recipient that a file has been shared with them and they are required to click a link to view the file. In this case, the file being shared appears to be a pdf document. The document includes the text “q1.bonus” which suggests that the user is being offered additional money. This scam would be particularly effective if the sender name has been spoofed to appear as if the email has been sent internally by the HR department or a manager.
Clicking the link in the email directs the user to a genuine Microsoft Online URL where they will be presented with the familiar Microsoft login prompt. Since the domain starts with login.microsoftonline.com the user may believe that they are on a genuine Microsoft site (they are) and that it is safe to enter their login credentials (it is not). The reason why it is not safe can be seen in the rest of the URL, but for many users it will not be clear that this is a scam.
Entering in the username and password does not provide the credentials to the attacker. It will authenticate the user and also a rogue application.
By entering in a username and password, the user will be authenticating with Microsoft and will obtain an access token from the Microsoft Identity Platform. OAuth2 authenticates the user and OIDC delegates the authorization to the rogue application, which means that the application will be granted access to user data without ever being provided with credentials. In this case, the authentication data is sent to a domain hosted in Bulgaria.
The user is required to enter their login credentials again and the rogue app is given the same permissions as a legitimate app. The app could then be used to access files stored in the Office 365 account and would also be able to access the user’s contact list, which would allow the attacker to conduct further attacks on the organization and the user’s business contacts.
The phishing campaign was identified by researchers at Cofense who warn access only needs to be granted once. Access tokens have an expiration date, but this method of attack allows the attackers to refresh tokens, so that potentially gives the attackers access to documents and files in the Office 365 account indefinitely.
With multi-factor authentication enabled, businesses may feel that they are immune to phishing attacks. Multi-factor authentication is important and can prevent stolen credentials from being used to access Office 365 and other accounts, but MFA is not infallible as this campaign shows.
This campaign highlights how important it is to have an email security solution that uses predictive technology to identify new phishing scams that have not been seen before and do not include malicious attachments. Phishing attacks such as this are likely to bypass Office 365 antispam protections and be delivered to inboxes, and the unusual nature of this campaign may fool users into unwittingly allowing hackers to access their Office 365 accounts.
For further information on how you can secure your Office 365 accounts and block sophisticated phishing attacks, give us a call today to find out how SpamTitan can improve your email defenses.
Zoom has proven to be hugely popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. The teleconferencing platform has allowed businesses to keep in touch with their employees during lockdown and many consumers are using the platform to keep in touch with friends and family. The popularity of the platform has not been missed by cybercriminals who are now using a range of Zoom-themed lures to trick people into downloading malware.
Any software solution that has been widely adopted is an attractive target for cybercriminals. The large number of users of the platform mean there is a high likelihood of a Zoom phishing email reaching someone who has previously used the solution. In December, there were around 10 million Zoom users worldwide and by March 2020 that number had increased to more than 200 million.
According to research from Check Point, more than 2,449 domains have been registered in the past three weeks that contain the word Zoom, 320 (13%) of which were identified as suspicious and 32 (1.5%) were confirmed as malicious. Many of these domains are likely to be used in Zoom phishing scams.
The Zoom phishing emails mimic genuine notification messages from Zoom and contain hyperlinks that the user is asked to click. The lures mostly consist of fake meeting reminders and notifications about missed scheduled meetings. The hyperlinks used in the emails often include the word Zoom to make it appear that the user is being directed to a genuine Zoom website.
In April, a Zoom phishing campaign was identified that used fake meeting reminders to alert users that they are required to take part in a Zoom meeting with their HR department regarding the termination of their employment. The link supplied in the email directs the user to a spoofed Zoom website on an attacker-controlled domain where their credentials are harvested.
Another Zoom phishing campaign has been identified that uses the subject line “Zoom Account” with the emails welcoming the user to the Zoom platform. The emails include a link that the user is asked to click to login to activate their account. Doing so will result in Zoom credentials being stolen.
One of the most recent campaigns warns the recipient they have missed a meeting and must login to their account to obtain the recording. In this case, Zoom is spoofed but the attackers seek Microsoft credentials, which can be used to obtain a wealth of sensitive data. With those credentials the attackers can take full control of Office 365 email accounts, which are used to conduct further phishing attacks on the organization.
Zoom is not the only teleconferencing platform being spoofed to steal credentials and distribute malware. Campaigns have also been identified recently that spoof WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and other platforms.
Protecting against these Zoom phishing scams requires a combination of an advanced antispam solution such as SpamTitan and end user education to train employees how to recognize phishing emails.
A new report has been released that sheds light on the most common phishing lures that are currently in use that are providing effective against employees. KnowBe4 has revealed that in the first quarter of 2020, the most common phishing lure was a notification advising the recipient that they need to immediately perform a password check. This lure accounted for 45% of all reported phishing emails in the quarter. The lure is simple yet effective. A hyperlink is included in the email that directs the user to a spoofed webpage where they are required to enter their password for Office 365.
The COVID-19 crisis has provided phishers with new opportunities to steal passwords and distribute malware. At TitanHQ, we have seen a huge variety of COVID-19 themed phishing emails, many of which spoof authorities on COVID-19 such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The emails claim to offer important information on the coronavirus and updates on cases. SpamTitan has been blocking increasing levels of these coronavirus emails over the past few weeks so it is no surprise to see a COVID-19 phishing lure in second place, which had the subject line: CDC Health Alert Network: Coronavirus Outbreak Cases.
Other common COVID-19 themed phishing emails include messages about rescheduled meetings due to the coronavirus, COVID-19 tax refunds, information from the IT department about working from home, and offers of confidential information about COVID-19. The report indicates there was a 600% increase in COVID-19 phishing lures in Q1, 2020.
COVID-19 had been embraced by cybercriminals and used in phishing campaigns because the emails commonly attract a click. People are naturally worried about the pandemic and crave information that they can use to protect themselves and their families. The campaigns prey on fears about the coronavirus and use urgency to get recipients to click without questioning the legitimacy of the email.
SpamTitan and WebTitan users are well protected against these phishing threats. Early in the year, just a handful of malicious COVID-19 phishing websites were being used for phishing and malware distribution. Now, SpamTitan and WebTitan are blocking tens of thousands of COVID-19 themed websites that are being used to spread malware and steal sensitive information.
SpamTitan incorporates dual antivirus engines to block known malware threats and sandboxing provides protection against malware variants that have yet to be identified. Suspicious email attachments that have not been detected as malicious by the antivirus engines are sent to the sandbox for in depth analysis. SpamTitan also incorporates SPF and DMARC to block email impersonation attacks, and a host of measures are used to assess the legitimacy of emails and embedded hyperlinks.
The key to good cybersecurity is to implement several layers of security. In addition to an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan you should consider implementing a DNS-based web filtering solution such as WebTitan to block the web-based component of phishing attacks. WebTitan provides comprehensive internet filtering to ensure that office-based employees and remote workers cannot navigate to websites used for phishing and malware distribution.
If you want to make sure that your workers, their devices, and your network are protected against malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks, give us a call today. SpamTitan and WebTitan can be implemented and configured in a matter of minutes and providing protection against email and web-based threats.
A new phishing campaign has been identified that uses the Microsoft Sway file sharing service as part of a three-stage attack with the goal of obtaining the Office 365 credentials of high-level executives.
Group IB researchers identified the campaign and named it PerSwaysion, although versions of the attack have been identified that have used OneNote and SharePoint. The campaign is highly targeted and has been conducted on high-level executives at more than 150 companies. The individuals behind the campaign are believed to operate out of Nigeria and South Africa, with the earliest traces of the attacks indicating the campaign has been running since around the middle of last year.
The PerSwaysion attack starts with a spear phishing email sent to an executive in the targeted organization. The phishing emails include a PDF file attachment with no malicious code embedded. The PDF file just includes a link that the user is required to click to view the content of the file. The link directs the user to file on a Microsoft Sway page, which also requires them to click a link to view the content. Microsoft Sway allows the previewing of the document and displays the content without the user having to open the document. The document states the name of the sender – a known contact – and that individual’s email address with the message that a file has been shared for review along with a hyperlink with the text ‘Read Now’. Clicking the link directs the user to a phishing page with an Office 365 Single Sign-on login prompt.
The initial PDF file, Microsoft Sway page, and the login prompt on the phishing page are all branded with Microsoft Office 365 logos, and it is easy to see how many victims would be fooled into disclosing their credentials.
Once credentials have been obtained, they are used the same day to access the Office 365 account, email data is copied from the account, and it is then used to send further spear phishing emails to individuals in the victim’s contact list. The sent emails are then deleted from the victim’s sent folder to ensure the attack is not detected by the victim.
The emails include the sender’s name in the subject line, and since they have come from the account of a known contact, they are more likely to be opened. The lure used is simple yet effective, asking the recipient to open and review the shared document.
Many of the attacks have been conducted on individuals at companies in the financial services sector, although law firms and real estate companies have also been attacked. The majority of attacks have been conducted in the United States and Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
It is possible that the attackers continue to access the compromised emails accounts to steal sensitive data. Since the campaign targets high level executives, the email accounts are likely to contain valuable intellectual property. They could also be used for BEC scams to trick employees into making fraudulent wire transfers.
The lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 has forced employees to abandon the office and work from home, with contact maintained using communications solutions such as Skype, Slack, and Zoom. Unsurprisingly the huge increase in use of these platforms has created an opportunity for cybercriminals, who are using fake notifications from these and other communication and teleconferencing platforms as lures in phishing campaigns on remote workers.
Several campaigns have been identified that take advantage of the popularity of these platforms. One campaign has recently been identified that uses Skype branding advising users that they have pending notifications. The emails are personalized and include the Skype username and have a review button for users to click to review their notifications. These emails very closely resemble the genuine emails sent to users by Skype. The emails also appear, at first glance, to have been sent from a genuine address.
The link supplied in the email directs the recipient to a hxxps website that has Skype in the domain name. Since the connection between the browser and the website is encrypted, it will display the green padlock to show that the connection is secure, as is the case on the genuine Skype domain. The webpage includes Skype branding and the logo of the company being targeted and states that the webpage has been set up for authorized use by employees of the company. The username of the victim is automatically added to the login page, so all that is required is for a password to be entered.
This campaign was identified by Cofense, which received multiple reports from business users about the emails, which bypassed Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) and were delivered to Office 365 inboxes.
A Zoom campaign has also been identified that uses similar tactics. Zoom is one of the most popular lockdown teleconferencing apps and has been recommended by many businesses for use by employees to maintain contact during the lockdown. The platform has also proven popular with consumers and now has more than 300 million users.
In this campaign, Zoom meeting notifications are sent to targets. As is common with phishing campaigns, the attackers generate fear and urgency to get the targets to respond quickly without scrutinizing the messages. This campaign advises the recipients to login to a meeting with their HR department regarding their job termination. Clicking the link will similarly direct users to a fake login page where they are required to enter their credentials. The landing page is a virtual carbon copy of the official Zoom login page, although the only parts of the page that work are the username and password fields. This campaign was identified by Abnormal Security, which reports that around 50,000 of these messages were delivered to Office 365 accounts and bypassed EOP.
The phishing emails are credible, the webpages that users are directed to look genuine, and many people will be fooled by the emails. Security awareness training will help to condition employees to question emails such as these, but given the number of messages that are bypassing Microsoft’s EOP, businesses should also consider adding an additional layer of email security to their Office 365 accounts.
This is an area where TitanHQ can help. SpamTitan Cloud does not replace EOP for Office 365, it allows businesses to add an extra layer of protection on top to provide extra protection from zero-day attacks. SpamTitan Cloud blocks spam, phishing, and malware laced emails that would otherwise be delivered to Office 365 inboxes.
SpamTitan Cloud is quick and easy to implement and can protect your Office 365 accounts in a matter of minutes. Since the solution is available on a free trial, you will be able to evaluate the difference it makes and see how many malicious messages it blocks before committing to a purchase.
For further information on improving your phishing defenses, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
Higher education institutions in the United States are being targeted in a phishing campaign that distributes a remote access trojan called Hupigon, a RAT that was first identified in 2010.
The Hupigon RAT has previously been used by advanced persistent threat groups (APT) from China, although this campaign is not believed to have been conducted by APT groups, instead the Hupigon RAT has been repurposed by cybercriminals. While several industries have been targeted in the campaign, almost half of attacks have been on colleges and universities.
The Hupigon RAT allows the operators to download other malware variants, steal passwords, and gain access to the microphone and webcam. Infection could see the attackers take full control of an infected device.
The campaign uses online dating lures to get users to install the Trojan. The emails show two dating profiles of supposed users of the platform, and the recipient is asked to select the one they find the most attractive. When the user makes their choice, they are directed to a website where an executable file is downloaded, which installs the Hupigon RAT.
The choice of lure for the campaign is no doubt influenced by the huge rise in popularity of dating apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are not many actual dates taking place due to lockdown and social distancing measures now in place around the globe, the lockdowns have seen many people with a lot of time on their hands. That, coupled with social isolation for many singles, has actually led to an uptick in the use of online dating apps, with many users of the apps turning to Zoom and FaceTime to have virtual dates. Several popular dating apps have reported an increase in use during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Tinder reports use has increased, with the platform having its busiest ever day, with more than 3 billion profiles swiped in a single day.
As we have already seen with COVID-19 lures in phishing attacks, which account for the majority of lures during the pandemic, when there is interest in a particular event or news story, cybercriminals will take advantage. With the popularity of dating apps soaring, we can expect to see an increase in the number of online dating -themed lures.
The advice for higher education institutions and businesses is to ensure that an advanced spam filtering solution is in place to block the malicious messages and ensure they do not reach end users’ inboxes. It is also important to ensure that security awareness training continues to be provided to staff, students, and remote employees to teach them how to recognize the signs of phishing and other email threats.
TitanHQ can help with the former. If you want to better protect staff, students, and employees and keep inboxes free of threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today. After signing up, you can be protecting your inboxes in a matter of minutes.
Healthcare providers are being targeted by cybercriminals using COVID-19 themed phishing emails, with the campaigns showing no sign of letting up. The volume of attacks has prompted the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to issue a further warning to healthcare providers urging them to take steps to protect their networks and block the attacks.
The first major COVID-19 themed phishing attacks targeting healthcare providers started to be detected by around March 18, 2020. The attacks have grown over the following weeks and the lures have diversified.
Campaigns have been conducted targeting at-home healthcare employees who are providing telehealth services to patients, and there has been an increase in business email compromise scams. The latter see vendors impersonated and requests sent for early or out-of-band payments due to difficulties that are being experienced due to COVID-19.
The phishing attacks are being conducted to obtain login credentials and to spread malware, both of which are used to gain a foothold in healthcare networks to allow follow-on system exploitation, persistence, and the exfiltration of sensitive data.
The malware being distributed in these campaigns is highly varied and includes information stealers such as Lokibot, backdoors, and Trojans such as Trickbot. Microsoft has recently reported that Trickbot accounts for the majority of COVID-19 phishing emails targeting Office 365 users, with a campaign last week involving hundreds of different, unique macro-laced documents. In addition to being a dangerous malware variant in its own right, Trickbot also downloads other malicious payloads, including RYUK ransomware.
While the number of COVID-19 themed phishing emails has been increasing, the overall volume of phishing emails has not increased by a major amount. What is happening is threat actors are changing their lures and are now using COVID-19 lures as they are more likely to be opened.
The campaigns can be highly convincing. The lures and requests are plausible, many of the emails are well written, and authorities on COVID-19 such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the World Health Organization have been spoofed. Oftentimes the emails are sent from a known individual and trusted contact, which makes it more likely that the email attachment will be opened.
The advice offered from the FBI is to follow cybersecurity best practices such as never opening unsolicited email attachments, regardless of who appears to have sent the email. Ensuring software is kept up to date and patches are applied promptly is also important, as is turning off automatic email attachment downloads. The FBI has also recommended filtering out certain types of attachments through email security software, something that is easy to do with SpamTitan.
The FBI has stressed the importance of not opening email attachments, even if antivirus software says that the file is clean. As the Trickbot campaign shows, new variants of malicious documents and scripts are being created at an incredible rate, and signature-based detection methods cannot keep up. This is another area where SpamTitan can help. In addition to using dual antivirus engines to identify known malware variants faster, SpamTitan includes sandboxing to identify and block zero-day malware threats that have yet to have their signatures added to antivirus software virus definitions lists.
Training is important to teach healthcare employees cybersecurity best practices to help them identify phishing emails, but it is also important to ensure that your technical controls are capable of blocking these threats. For more information on the latter, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
Data obtained by the UK think tank Parliament Street has revealed the extent to which universities are being targeted by cybercriminals and the sheer number of spam and malicious emails that are sent to the inboxes of university staff and students.
Data on malicious and spam email volume was obtained by Parliament Street through a Freedom of Information request. The analysis of data from UK universities showed they are having to block millions of spam emails, hundreds of thousands of phishing emails, and tens of thousands of malware-laced emails every year.
Warwick University’s figures show that more than 7.6 million spam emails were sent to the email accounts of staff and students in the final quarter of 2019 alone, which included 404,000 phishing emails and more than 10,000 emails containing malware.
It was a similar story at Bristol University, which received more than 7 million spam emails over the same period, 76,300 of which contained malware. Data from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine revealed more than 6.3 million spam emails were received in 2019, which included almost 99,000 phishing emails and more than 73,500 malware attacks. 12,773,735 spam and malicious emails were received in total for 2018 and 2019.
Data from Lancaster University revealed more than 57 million emails were rejected for reasons such as spam, malware, or phishing, with 1 million emails marked as suspected spam. The figures from Imperial College London were also high, with almost 40 million emails blocked in 2019.
Like attacks on companies, cyberattacks on universities are often conducted for financial gain. These attacks attempt to deliver malware and obtain credentials to gain access to university networks to steal data to sell on the black market. Universities store huge amounts of sensitive student data, which is extremely valuable to hackers as it can be used for identity theft and other types of fraud. Attacks are also conducted to deliver ransomware to extort money from universities.
Universities typically have high bandwidth to support tens of thousands of students and staff. Attacks are conducted to hijack devices and add them to botnets to conduct a range of cyberattacks on other targets. Email accounts are being hijacked and used to conduct spear phishing attacks on other targets.
Nation state sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) groups are targeting universities to gain access to intellectual property and research data. Universities conduct cutting edge research and that information is extremely valuable to companies who can use the research data to develop products to gain a significant competitive advantage.
Universities are seen as relatively soft targets compared to organizations of a similar size. Cybersecurity defenses tend to be far less advanced, and the sprawling networks and number of devices used by staff and students make defending networks difficult.
With the number of cyberattacks on universities growing, leaders of higher education institutions need to take steps to improve cybersecurity and prevent the attacks from succeeding.
The majority of threats are delivered via email, so advanced email security defenses are essential, and that is an area where TitanHQ can help.
Independent test show SpamTitan blocks in excess of 99.97% of spam email, helping to keep inboxes free of junk email. SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines to block known threats, machine learning to identify new types of phishing attacks, and sandboxing to detect and block zero-day malware and ransomware threats. When email attachments pass initial tests, suspicious attachments are sent to the sandbox for in depth analysis to identify command and control center callbacks and other malicious actions. SpamTitan also incorporates SPF and DMARC controls to block email impersonation attacks, data loss prevention controls for outbound messages and controls to detect potential email account compromises.
If you want to improve cybersecurity defenses, start with upgrading your email security defenses with SpamTitan. You may be surprised to discover the little investment is required to significantly improve your email security defenses. For more information, call the TitanHQ team today.
In this post we explore email security and home working and offer advice to help businesses ensure their workers, devices, and networks are protected.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic has forced many workers to self-isolate at home and an increasing number of employees want to work from home to reduce risk of contracting COVID-19. Businesses are under pressure to allow their workers to stay at home and use either company-issued or personal devices to access their networks and work remotely.
Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures and they have jumped at the opportunity provided by the Novel Coronavirus. People are scared and rightly so. COVID-19 has a high mortality rate and the virus is spreading like wildfire. People want information about cases in their local area, advice on how to protect themselves, and information about possible cures. Cybercriminals have obliged and are conducting phishing campaigns that claim to offer all that information. Many campaigns have now been detected from many different threat groups that attempt to obtain login credentials and spread malware. Since early January when the first major campaigns were detected, the volume of coronavirus and COVID-19 emails has increased significantly.
Campaigns are being conducted impersonating authorities on the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other government agencies. COVID-19-themed emails are being sent to remote workers that spoof HR departments warning about cases that have been detected within the organization. Health insurers are being spoofed in campaigns that include invoices for coverage for COVID-19.
Since January, more than 16,000 Coronavirus and COVID-19-themed domains have been registered which are being used to host phishing kits and distribute malware. Researchers at CheckPoint Software report that those domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered in the same period.
Email security and home working will naturally be a major concern for IT teams given the sheer number of home workers due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the volume of attacks that are now being conducted targeting home workers. With so many devices now connecting to networks remotely, if cybercriminals do obtain credentials, it will be much harder for IT teams to identify threat actors connecting remotely. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to improve email security and home working need not majorly increase risk.
You should make sure that your employees can only connect to your network and cloud-based services through a VPN. Enterprise VPNs can be configured to force all traffic through the VPN to reduce the potential for error. Make sure that the VPN is configured to start automatically when the device is powered up.
It is crucial that all remote workers are protected by a robust and effective email security solution. It is not possible to stop cybercriminals targeting remote workers, but it is possible to stop phishing and malware threats from reaching inboxes.
To protect your employees against phishing attacks and malware, an advanced email security solution is essential. If you use Office 365 for email, do not rely on Office 365 email security. You will need greater protection than Exchange Online Protection provides to protect against phishing, spear phishing, and zero-day threats.
SpamTitan has multiple detection mechanisms to identify and block the full range of email threats. SpamTitan incorporates SPF and DMARC to provide protection against email impersonation attacks, machine learning algorithms and predictive technology to protect against zero-day attacks, advanced phishing protection from whaling and spear phishing attacks by scanning inbound email in real-time, dual antivirus engines to block malware threats, and sandboxing for in depth analysis of suspicious attachments. SpamTitan also includes 6 specialist RBLs, supports whitelisting, blacklisting, and greylisting, and incorporates multiple threat intelligence feeds.
There is an increased risk of insider threats with remote workers. To provide protection and to prevent accidental policy violations, SpamTitan incorporates a data loss prevention filter to stop credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other data types from being sent via email.
No email security solution will be able to block 100% of email threats, 100% of the time. It is therefore important to provide regular cybersecurity training to employees to make them aware of phishing threats, train them how to identify a phishing email or social engineering scam, and to condition remote employees how to respond should a threat be received. Phishing simulation exercises are also useful to find out which employees require additional training and to identify possible gaps in training programs. IT security basic training refreshers should also be provided to ensure employees know what can and cannot be done with work devices.
Multifactor authentication must be implemented on all applications and email accounts to provide protection in the event of an account compromise. If credentials are stolen and used from a previously unknown location or an unfamiliar device, a second authentication factor must be provided before access is granted. You should also disable macros on all user devices, unless a specific user needs to use macros for work.
To find out more about how you can improve email security for remote workers, give the TitanHQ team a call today. You can arrange a demonstration to see SpamTitan in action and you can also sign up for a free trial to put SpamTitan to the test in your own environment.
The TrickBot Trojan is a sophisticated banking Trojan that was first identified in 2016. While the malware was initially just an information stealer concerned with stealing online banking credentials, the malware has evolved considerably over the past four years and several modules have been added that provide a host of additional malicious capabilities.
The TrickBot Trojan’s information stealing capabilities have been significantly enhanced. In addition to banking credentials, it will steal system and network information, email credentials, tax data, and intellectual property. TrickBot is capable of moving laterally and silently infecting other computers on the network using legitimate Windows utilities and the EternalRomance exploit for the SMBv1 vulnerability. The malware can add a backdoor for persistent access. TrickBot also serves as a malware downloader and will download other malicious payloads, including Ryuk ransomware.
The Trojan is frequently updated and new variants are regularly released. The Command and Control infrastructure is also constantly changing. According to an analysis by Bitdefender, more than 100 new IPs are added to its C&C infrastructure each month with each having a lifespan of around 16 days. The malware and its infrastructure are highly sophisticated, and while steps have been taken to dismantle the operation, the attackers are managing to stay one step ahead.
TrickBot is primarily distributed by spam email through the Emotet botnet. Infection with Emotet sees TrickBot downloaded, and infection with TrickBot sees a computer added to the Emotet botnet. Once all useful information has been obtained from an infected system, the baton is passed over to the Ryuk ransomware operators with a reverse shell opened giving the Ryuk ransomware operators access to the system.
A recent analysis of a variant captured by Bitdefender on January 30, 2020 has shown another method of distribution has been added to its arsenal. The Trojan now has a module for bruteforcing RDP. The brute force RDP attacks are mainly being conducted on organizations in the financial services, education, and telecom industries and are currently targeted on organizations in the United States and Hong Kong at this stage, although it is likely that the attacks will spread geographically over the coming weeks. The attacks are being conducted to steal intellectual property and financial information.
Since the TrickBot Trojan is modular, it can be constantly updated with new features and the evolution of the malware so far, and its success, means it will continue to be a threat for some time to come. Fortunately, it is possible to prevent infections by practicing good cyber hygiene.
Spam is still the primary method of delivery for both the Emotet Trojan and TrickBot so an advanced spam filter is essential. Since new variants are constantly being released, signature-based detection methods alone are insufficient. SpamTitan incorporates a Bitdefender-powered sandbox to analyze suspicious email attachments for malicious activity. This ensures the malicious activity of never-before-seen malware variants is identified and the emails are quarantined before they can cause any harm.
If you don’t need RDP, ensure it is disabled. If you do, ensure access is restricted and strong passwords are set. Use rate limiting to block login attempts after a set number of failures and ensure multifactor authentication is implemented to stop stolen credentials from being used.
For further information on SpamTitan Email Security and to find out how you can improve your defenses against email and web-based attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.
The City of Durham and the County of Durham in North Carolina have experienced a ransomware attack that has crippled both. The attack ‘started’ on March 6 in the late evening, which is common for ransomware attacks. Most take place in the evening and over the weekend, when there is less chance of the file encryption being detected.
Two separate attacks occurred simultaneously. Fast action by the IT department helped to contain the attack, but not in time to prevent approximately 80 servers from being infected. Those servers were encrypted and need to be rebuilt and approximately 1,000 computers had to be re-imaged.
There are many ways that cybercriminals gain access to business networks to deploy malware, but email is the most common attack vector. Most cyberattacks start with a phishing email and this attack was no different.
Ryuk ransomware was used to encrypt files on the network in order to extort money from the city and country. A ransom demand is issued which, depending on the extent of encryption, can range from several thousand dollars to several million. This phase of the attack is the most visible and causes the most disruption, but the attack actually started much earlier.
Ruyk ransomware is delivered by the TrickBot Trojan, an information stealer turned malware downloader. One installed on a networked device, the TrickBot Trojan performs reconnaissance, moves laterally, and installs itself on other computers on the network. Once all useful information has been found and exfiltrated, a reverse shell is opened and access to the system is given the ransomware operators. They will then move laterally and download their ransomware payload onto as many devices as possible on the network.
TrickBot downloaded by Emotet malware, a notorious botnet and Emotet is delivered via email. The Emotet campaigns used a combination of Office documents with malicious macros that download the malware payload and hyperlinks to websites where malware is downloaded. TrickBot may also be delivered directly through spam email. This Trio of malware variants can do a considerable amount of damage. Even if the ransom is not paid, losses can be considerable. The Trojans can steal a substantial amount of sensitive information including email credentials, banking credentials, tax information, and intellectual property.
In this case, seven computers appear to have been compromised in the first phase of the attack as a result of employees responding to phishing emails.
The key to blocking attacks such as this is to have layered defenses in place that are capable of blocking the initial attack. That means an advanced spam filtering solution is required to block the initial phishing emails and end users must receive regular security awareness training to help them identify any malicious emails that arrive in their inboxes. Multifactor authentication is needed to prevent stolen credentials from being used to access email accounts and endpoint security solutions are required to detect malware if it is downloaded.
To find out more about protecting your systems from phishing and malware attacks, and how a small per user cost per month can prevent a hugely expensive cyberattack, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
Several new COVID-19 phishing email campaigns have been detected over the past few days that are exploiting fear about the novel coronavirus pandemic to deliver computer viruses and steal sensitive information.
People are naturally worried about getting infected with the real virus especially with the high fatality rate, so emails related to COVID-19 are likely to be opened.
Some of the phishing emails that have been intercepted are easy to identify as malicious. They are poorly written with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but some campaigns have been expertly crafted and are highly convincing and are likely to catch out many people.
The first COVID-19 phishing campaigns were detected in January and the number has steadily grown over the past few weeks. Many different threat groups are now using COVID-19 phishing lures to fool the unwary into disclosing credentials, visiting malicious links, or downloading malware.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning after several phishing campaigns were detected that impersonated WHO. The emails claimed to provide essential information about cases in the local area along with advice on how to avoid infection. One of the most recently detected campaigns claimed to provide “Coronavirus Updates” with the emails containing a ZIP file attachment that appeared to be a PDF file – MYHEALTH.PDF. However, the file was actually an executable file – MYHEALTH.exe. If the file was opened, it triggered the download of GULoader, which in turn downloads Formbook malware from Google Drive. Another similar campaign included a Word attachment that downloaded the TrickBot Trojan, which is being used to deliver Ryuk ransomware as a secondary payload.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention is also being impersonated. One campaign claims the novel coronavirus had become an airborne threat and warns of new cases in the local area. The emails appear to have been sent from a legitimate CDC email account – CDC-Covid19[@]cdc.gov. The emails include an attachment titled “Safety Precautions” which appears to be an Excel spreadsheet, but it actually a .exe executable file. Double clicking on the file attachment triggers the download of a banking Trojan.
Email and text-based phishing campaigns are targeting UK taxpayers and impersonate HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The emails include a legitimate HMRC logo and advise the recipients about a new COVID-19 tax refund program. According the emails, the refund program was set up in cooperation with National Insurance and National Health Services and allows taxpayers to claim back tax to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic. In order to receive the refund, the user is told they must supply their name, address, mother’s maiden name and their bank card number.
In the past few days, a web-based malware distribution campaign has been identified. Several websites are now displaying world maps and dashboards that allow people to track the spread of the virus and find out about the location of new cases. People are naturally concerned about cases in their local area, and the website maps are attracting a lot of visitors.
Shai Alfasi, a security researcher at Reason Labs, discovered several websites using fake versions of maps and dashboards. The websites prompt users to download an application that allows them to track infections in real-time. The application is an executable file that delivers the AZORult information stealer.
With COVID-19 infections increasing and showing no sign of slowing, COVID-19 phishing campaigns are likely to continue. Organizations should raise awareness of the threat of COVID-19 phishing attacks with their employees and ensure appropriate technical solutions are implemented to block web and email-based attacks. TitanHQ can help with the latter and can provide advanced email and web security solutions to block these attacks. If you have not yet implemented a web filter or email security solution to protect your Office 365 accounts, now is a good time to start. Contact TitanHQ today for further information.
Microsoft has announced it has taken control of the U.S. infrastructure of the Necurs botnet and has taken steps to prevent the botnet operators from registering new domains and the rebuilding the Necurs infrastructure.
The Scale of the Necurs Botnet
The Necurs botnet first appeared in 2012 and has grown into one of the largest spam and malware distribution networks. The botnet consists of around 9 million devices that have been infected with Necurs malware. Each device within the botnet is under the control of the cybercrime group behind the botnet.
The Necurs botnet is used to commit a wide range of cybercrimes by the operators of the botnet as well as other cybercriminal groups who rent out parts of the botnet as a service. The Necurs botnet was used for malware and ransomware distribution, cryptocurrency mining, and attacks on other computers to steal credentials and confidential data. The Necurs botnet also has a distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) module capable of performing massive DDoS attacks, although this function is yet to be used.
The main use of the botnet is spamming. The botnet has been used to send vast quantities of spam email, including emails pushing fake pharmaceutical products, pump and dump stock scams, and Russian dating scams. To give an example of the scale of the spamming, over a 58-day period of observation, Microsoft found that a single Necurs malware-infected computer had sent out 3.8 million spam emails to 40.6 million email accounts. That is just one infected device out of 9 million! In 2017, the botnet was being used to spread Dridex and Locky ransomware at a rate of around 5 million emails an hour and between 2016 and 2019 the botnet was responsible for 90% of email-based malware attacks.
The Takedown of Necurs Infrastructure
Microsoft has tracked the criminal activity of the Necurs botnet operators for 8 years. The gang is believed to be Evil Corp, the Russian cybercriminal group behind the Dridex banking Trojan. Evil Corp has been named the most harmful cybercrime group in the world.
The takedown of the Necurs botnet involved a coordinated effort by Microsoft and partners in 35 countries. Microsoft obtained an order from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on March 5, 2020 to seize the U.S. domains used by the botnet operators. These domains were used to issue commands to the 9 million infected computers.
Simply seizing the domains would not be sufficient to take down the botnet, as the botnet’s command and controls servers could be rapidly rebuilt. Domains used by the threat actors are often taken down, so new domains are constantly registered weeks or months in advance.
The key to long-term disruption of the botnet was cracking the algorithm used by the threat actors to generate new domains. Microsoft analyzed the algorithm and calculated more than 6 million domains that would be used by the threat actors over the next 25 months. Steps have been taken to prevent those domains from being registered and becoming part of the Necurs infrastructure.
The 9 million devices around the world are still infected with Necurs malware. Microsoft and its partners have identified the infected devices and are working with ISPs and CERT teams around the world to rid those devices of the malware.
Just a few days after new figures from the FBI confirmed business email compromise scams were the biggest cause of losses to cybercrime, news broke of a massive cyberattack on a Puerto Rico government agency. Cybercriminals had gained access to the email account of an employee, understood to work in the Puerto Rico Employee Retirement System.
The compromised email account was used to send requests to other government agencies requesting changes be made to standard bank accounts for remittance payments. Since the email account used was trusted, the changes to bank accounts were made. Scheduled payments were then made as normal and millions of dollars of remittance payments were wired to attacker-controlled bank accounts.
The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, a state-owned corporation that drives economic development of the country, was one of the worst hit. Emails were received requesting changes to bank accounts and two payments were made. The first payment of $63,000 was made in December and another payment of $2.6 million in January. Other departments were also targeted, including the Tourism Company. The latter made a payment of $1.5 million. In total, the scammers attempted to steal around $4.73 million.
The business email compromise scam was uncovered when those payments were not received by the correct recipients. Prompt action was then taken to block the transfers and some of the payments were frozen, but the government has not been able to recover around $2.6 million of the stolen funds.
A full investigation has been launched to determine how the attackers gained access to the email account to pull off the scam. While the method used has not been confirmed, BEC attacks usually start with a spear phishing email.
A phishing email is sent to a person of interest requesting urgent action be taken to address a problem. A link is supplied in the email that directs the user to a website that requests their email account credentials. The account can then be accessed by the attacker. Attackers often set up mail forwarders to receive a copy of every email sent to and from the account. This enables them to learn about the company and typical payments and construct highly convincing scam emails.
Once access to a corporate email account is gained, the BEC scam is much harder to identify and block. The best defense is to ensure that the initial phishing emails are not delivered, and that is an area where TitanHQ can help.
A new report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has revealed the extent to which phishing is used to attack businesses and the huge losses that have resulted from another form for email attack – business email compromise (BEC) scams.
In 2019, IC3 received 467,361 complaints about cybercrime and there were reported losses in excess of $3.5 billion, up from $2.7 billion in 2018. The true losses and number of attacks will be far higher, as not all crimes and losses are reported. Phishing, vishing, smishing, and pharming attacks were the most prevalent crime types with 114,702 complaints submitted to IC3 in 2019. Those attacks resulted in losses of more than $57 million.
There were 23,775 complaints about BEC attacks and losses to those attacks were more than $1.776 billion. On average, BEC attacks result in losses of around $75,000 and the attacks accounted for 50.75% of all losses to cybercrime in 2019.
Business email compromise attacks involve the impersonation of a known individual or company and a fake invoice and fraudulent wire transfer request. Alternatively, changes to vendor’s bank account details or requested or changes to direct deposit accounts for payroll. These email impersonation attacks involve spoofing an email account or compromising an account, with the latter usually achieved with phishing emails.
Email is also used to deliver ransomware – 2,0417 incidents and $8,965,847 in losses – and malware and viruses – 2,373 incidents and $2,009,119 in losses.
The Importance of a Layered Approach to Email Security
As the IC3 2019 cost of cybercrime report shows, the most common attack vector is email, so how can business owners protect against email-based attacks?
Businesses can either purchase cybersecurity solutions directly or engage a managed service provider to look after cybersecurity. If the decision is taken to manage cybersecurity in-house, it is essential to adopt a defense in depth strategy and implement multiple layers of protection. Should one cybersecurity solution fail to block a threat, other layers will prevent the attack from succeeding.
Many businesses have adopted Office 365 and use it for email. Microsoft includes a basic level of email protection for Office 365 as standard – Exchange Online Protection (EOP). EOP serves as the first layer of protection against phishing attacks, malware, and spam, but EOP alone is not enough to block sophisticated phishing attacks, BEC attacks, and zero-day malware threats. An additional layer of protection is required.
Advanced Protection Against Phishing and Business Email Compromise Attacks
TitanHQ has developed an advanced anti-spam solution – SpamTitan – that provides an additional layer of protection against email threats.
To protect against known malware threats, dual anti-virus engines are used. However, new malware variants are constantly being released. Before AV engines can block these new threats, the threat must be identified and the malware signature is then added to the AV engine’s virus definitions. Until that happens, threats will not be identified as malicious and will be delivered to inboxes.
To improve protection against zero-day threats, TitanHQ uses sandboxing. When a suspicious or unknown email attachment is received, it is sent to the sandbox where it is subjected to in-depth analysis to identify command and control center callbacks and potentially malicious actions.
Office 365 accounts are targeted by cybercriminals and their new phishing campaigns are tested against Office 365 protections to make sure the emails are delivered. One previous study showed 25% of phishing emails are delivered to Office 365 inboxes.
To ensure phishing threats are detected that would otherwise not be blocked by EOP, SpamTitan uses a range of advanced detection techniques. They include multiple real-time blackhole lists and threat intelligence feeds, multi-layered message analysis, SURBL’s, Bayesian analysis, greylisting, and more. Protection against email impersonation attacks and spoofing is provided through Sender Policy Framework and DMARC, and all outbound emails are scanned to identify potential email account compromises.
SpamTitan is a full-service email security solution that protects your business, your employees, and your clients from email-based attacks. With SpamTitan, you can adopt a layered approach to email security at a very low cost per user.
If you want to make sure that your business is protected from costly email-based attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call.
Emotet is the biggest malware threat faced by businesses and activity has increased considerably in recent weeks after a lull in December. Several new campaigns are now being identified each week, most of which are target businesses. One of the most recent campaigns uses a tried and tested technique to install the |Emotet Trojan. Malicious Word documents masquerading as invoices, estimates, renewals, and bank details.
The campaign mostly targets organizations in the United States and United Kingdom, although attacks have also been detected in India, Spain, and the Philippines. Approximately 90% of emails in this campaign target the financial services, with around 8% of attacks on companies in the food and drink industry.
The malicious Word documents are either attached to emails or hyperlinks are included in the emails that direct the user to a compromised website where the Word document is downloaded. The websites used are frequently changed and new Emotet variants are frequently released to prevent detection. Email security solutions that rely on AV engines to detect malware are unlikely to detect these zero-day threats as malicious.
Since Emotet is a massive botnet, emails spreading the Emotet Trojan come from many different sources. Email security solutions that rely on real-time blacklists are unlikely to detect these sources as malicious.
Emotet is primarily distributed via email from infected devices, but recently another distribution method has been identified. Emotet also spreads via Wi-Fi networks. This method has been used for almost two years, but it has only just been detected by security researchers at Binary Defense.
When Emotet is installed, a worm.exe binary is dropped that runs automatically. It attempts to connect to nearly Wi-Fi networks and brute forces weak passwords. Once connected to a Wi-Fi network, a search is conducted for non-hidden shares on the network. An attempt is made to enumerate all users connected to the Wi-Fi network, devices are brute forced, and the Emotet binary is dropped.
How to Block Emotet
The constantly changing tactics of the Emotet gang make detection difficult and no single solution will provide protection against all forms of attack. What is needed is a defense in depth approach and layered defenses.
The primary defense against a predominantly email-based threat such as Emotet is an advanced spam filtering solution. Many businesses have use Office 365 and rely on the protection provided by Exchange Online Protection (EOP), which is included as standard with Office 365 licenses. However, EOP alone will not provide enough protection against Emotet. EOP will block all known malware threats, but it struggles to identify zero-day attacks. To block zero-day attacks, more advanced detection methods are required.
SpamTitan has been developed to work seamlessly with EOP to protect Office 365 email from zero-day threats. SpamTitan uses a variety of techniques to identify Emotet, including dual antivirus engines to block known Emotet variants and sandboxing to block zero-day attacks. Suspicious or unknown attachments are sent to the sandbox where they are subjected to in depth analysis to identify command and control server call backs and other malicious actions. SpamTitan also scans outgoing emails to identify attempts to spread Emotet from an already-infected machine. SpamTitan also incorporates DMARC to identify email impersonation and domain spoofing, which are commonly used in emails spreading Emotet.
To provide protection against the web-based element of attacks, including Emotet emails that use malicious hyperlinks rather than email attachments, another layer needs to be added to cybersecurity defenses – a DNS filtering solution such as WebTitan.
WebTitan uses real-time URL threat detection powered by 650 million end users. The real-time database includes more than 3 million malicious URLs and IP addresses and each day around 100,000 new malicious URLs are detected and blocked. WebTitan also includes real-time categorization and detection of malicious domains, full-path URLs, and IPs, with up to the minute updates performed to block new malicious sources. As soon as a URL is identified as being used to distribute Emotet (or other malware) it is blocked by WebTitan. WebTitan also conducts link & content analysis, static, heuristic, & behavior anomaly analysis, and features in-house and 3rd party tools and feeds to keep users protected from web-based threats.
Other essential steps to take to tackle the threat from Emotet include:
- Disable macros across the organization
- Ensure operating systems are kept up to date and vulnerabilities are promptly patched.
- Set strong passwords to thwart brute force attacks
- Ensure endpoint protection solutions are deployed on all devices
- Provide security awareness training to employees
- Conduct phishing simulation exercises to identify employees that require further training
A new PayPal phishing scam has been identified that attempts to obtain an extensive amount of personal information from victims under the guise of a PayPal security alert.
The emails appear to have been sent from PayPal’s Notifications Center and warn users that their account has been temporarily blocked due to an attempt to log into their account from a previously unknown browser or device.
The emails include a hyperlink that users are asked to click to log in to PayPal to verify their identity. A button is included in the email which users are requested to click to “Secure and update my account now !”. The hyperlink is a shortened bit.ly address, that directs the victim to a spoofed PayPal page on an attacker-controlled domain via a redirect mechanism.
If the link is clicked, the user is presented with a spoofed PayPal login. After entering PayPal account credentials, the victim is told to enter a range of sensitive information to verify their identity as part of a PayPal Security check. The information must be entered to unlock the account, with the list of steps detailed on the page along with the progress that has been made toward unlocking the account.
First of all, the attackers request the user’s full name, billing address, and phone number. Then they are required to confirm their credit/debit card details in full. The next page requests the user’s date of birth, social security number, ATM or Debit Card PIN number, and finally the user is required to upload a proof of identity document, which must be either a scan of a credit card, passport, driver’s license, or a government-issued photo ID.
This PayPal phishing scam seeks an extensive amount of information, which should serve as a warning that all is not what it seems, especially the request to enter highly sensitive information such as a Social Security number and PIN.
There are also warning signs in the email that the request is not what it seems. The email is not sent from a domain associated with PayPal, the message starts with “Good Morning Customer” rather than the account holder’s name, and the notice included at the bottom of the email telling the user to mark whitelist the sender if the email was delivered to the spam folder is poorly written. However, the email has been written to encourage the recipient to act quickly to avoid financial loss. As with other PayPal phishing scams, many users are likely to be fooled into disclosing at least some of their personal information.
Consumers need to always exercise caution and should never respond immediately to any email that warns of a security breach, instead they should stop and think before acting and carefully check the sender of the email and should read the email very carefully. To check whether there is a genuine issue with the account, the PayPal website should be visited by typing in the correct URL into the address bar of the browser. URLs in emails should never be used.
Tax season is now underway and business email compromise scammers have stepped up their efforts to obtain W-2 forms for tax fraud. These attacks often start with spear phishing emails targeting the CEO and the executive board. Once email credentials have been obtained, the accounts are then accessed, and emails are sent internally to payroll and the HR department requesting the W-2 forms of employees who have worked in the previous tax year.
Scammers targets businesses as there is much greater potential for profit than attacks on individual taxpayers, although consumers also need to be wary of IRS-related phishing scams. This time of year sees an increase in IRS phishing scams. Scammers impersonate the IRS and send emails informing taxpayers about a tax refund that is due and demands are sent for outstanding tax, with threats of dire consequences if prompt action is not taken to address issues.
Advances in email security have meant cybercriminals have had to get creative as it is harder to sneak phishing emails past email defenses. Phishing scams are now commonly initiated via text message, post, and over the telephone. There has already been one campaign identified where consumers are being targeted using robocalls warning that Social Security numbers have been suspended after suspicious activity was detected.
While many of these scams seek personal information, others are conducted to spread malware. One threat group that started its tax-related scams early this year is the Emotet gang. A campaign is currently being conducted that uses emails containing fake signed W-9 forms.
Signed W-9 forms are requested by companies from their contractors if they have been paid in excess of $600 during the tax year. Many companies will have requested signed W-9 forms from their contractors to confirm addresses and tax identification numbers, so they will be expecting copies of these forms in their inboxes.
The Emotet emails are short and to the point, saying “Thank you for your help. Pleased see attached file.” The emails include a Word document attachment named W-9.doc. When the document is opened, the Office 365 logo is displayed along with text stating the document was created in OpenOffice and requires the user to enable editing and enable content. Doing so triggers the silent download of the Emotet Trojan.
This is just one of the tax-related messages being used by the Emotet gang. There are likely to be many more variants sent over the next few weeks. Other cybercriminals gangs will similarly be conducting their own tax-themed phishing campaigns to spread different malware variants and ransomware.
Businesses, tax preparers, and consumers need to be on high alert during tax season for phishing scams and emails spreading malware.
Now is a good time for businesses to review their cybersecurity defenses and enhance protection against phishing and malware attacks. If you use Office 365 and rely on the anti-phishing protections built into Office 365 (EOP), you should consider enhancing your anti-phishing and anti-malware protection with a third-party spam filter – One that has superior malspam detection capabilities.
This is an area where TitanHQ can help. SpamTitan uses a variety of advanced techniques to detect and block phishing threats and zero-day malware, including a sandbox where unknown and suspicious email attachments are subject to in-depth analysis. Give the TitanHQ team a call to find out more about SpamTitan, improving office 365 malware and phishing protection, and to arrange a product demonstration and free trial of SpamTitan.
In the meantime, take steps to alert your workforce about tax-season phishing scams and prepare them in case a phishing email arrives in their inbox. An email alert sent to your employees about the threat of tax-season scams could prevent a costly phishing attack or malware infection.
A novel coronavirus phishing campaign has been detected that uses scare tactics to trick users into infecting their computer with malware.
The World Health Organization has now declared the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak a global emergency. The number of cases has increased 10-fold in the past week with almost 9,100 cases confirmed in China and 130 elsewhere around the world.
A worldwide health crisis such as this has naturally seen huge coverage in the press, so it is no surprise that cybercriminals are capitalizing on the concern and are using it as a lure in a malspam campaign to scare people into opening an email attachment and enabling the content.
A novel coronavirus phishing campaign has been detected that uses a fake report about the coronavirus to get email recipients to open a document that details steps that should be taken to prevent infection. Ironically, taking the actions detailed in the email will actually guarantee infection with a virus of a different type: Emotet.
The coronavirus phishing campaign was identified by IBM X-Force researchers. The campaign is targeted on users in in different Japanese prefectures and warning of an increase in the number of local confirmed coronavirus cases. The emails include a Word document attachment containing the notification along with preventative measures that need to be taken.
If the attachment is opened, users are told they must enable content to read the document. Enabling the content will start the infection process that will see the Emotet Trojan downloaded. Emotet is also a downloader of other malware variants. Other banking Trojans and ransomware may also be downloaded. Emotet can also send copies of itself to the victim’s contacts. Those messages may also be coronavirus related.
To add credibility, the Emotet gang makes the emails appear to have been sent by a disability welfare service provider in Japan. Some of the captured messages include the correct address in the footer.
More than 2,000 new infections have been confirmed in the past 24 hours in China and all of its provinces have now been impacted. Cases have now been reported in 18 other countries with Thailand and Japan the worst hit outside of China with 14 cases confirmed in each country. As the coronavirus spreads further and more cases are reported, it is likely that the Emotet gang will expand this campaign and start targeting different countries using emails in different languages. Kaspersky lab has also said that it has identified malspam campaigns with coronavirus themes that use a variety of email attachments to install malware.
Businesses can protect against Emotet, one of the most dangerous malware variants currently in use, by implementing a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan that incorporates a sandbox where malicious documents can be analyzed in safety to check for malicious actions.
For further information on protecting your email system, contact TitanHQ today.
It has been well documented how much time businesses waste dealing with spam and there is no denying the threat that malicious spam emails (malspam) pose, but it is not just a problem for big business. Spam in academia is also a major problem.
A recent study published in the journal, Scientometrics, explores the cost of spam in academia. The study was primarily focused on spam emails sent by new, non-peer reviewed journals that are attempting to gain a share of the market. These journals are adopting the same spam tactics often used by scammers to sell cheap watches, cut price medications, and for phishing and spreading malware.
Three researchers – Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, Aceil Al-Khatib, and Panagiotis Tsigaria – attempted to quantify the amount of time that is being wasted dealing with those messages and the losses that result.
To assess the extent of the problem, the researchers used figures from several studies on spamming to obtain an average number of targeted spam emails that academics receive each day. They opted for a conservative figure of 4-5 messages, per academic, per day. Most of those messages take just a few seconds to open and read but that time mounts up. They assumed an average time of 5 seconds per message – less than half a minute per day. That equates to $100 per researcher, per year at an average hourly rate of $50. Using the United Nations estimate of the number of researchers in academia globally, the total global cost of spam in academia was estimated to be $1.1 billion a year.
That figure is based on the lost time alone and does not factor in non-targeted spam emails – bulk unsolicited emails not specifically targeting researchers. Add in the time dealing with those messages and the global cost reaches $2.6 billion a year. To put the cost into perspective, $2.6 million is much more than the time researchers devote to peer review, which has been estimated at costing $1.9 billion a year. The figures do not include the considerable losses due to phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks. Factor in those costs and the losses would be several orders of magnitude higher.
Co-author of the study, Panagiotis Tsigaris, a professor of economics at Thompson Rivers University in Canada, explained that there is no silver bullet when it comes to dealing with spam and suggested several ways that the cost of spam in academia could be reduced.
Tsigaris suggests that penalties should be increased for publishing in predatory journals, and that academics should be educated about spam email and improvements should be made to email filtering technology.
Here at TitanHQ we are well aware of the problem of spam, both in terms of the productivity losses that spam causes, and harm caused by malicious spam emails.
To help prevent losses and downtime due to spam and email-based threats, TitanHQ has developed a powerful, easy -to-use, and cost-effective cloud-based spam filtering solution called SpamTitan. SpamTitan has been independently tested and shown to block in excess of 99.9% of spam email, 100% of known malware and ransomware threats, and thanks to a host of detection measures and sandboxing, SpamTitan is also effective at blocking zero-day (new) malware and ransomware threats.
To find out more about SpamTitan and how you can block more spam and ensure malicious emails do not reach your researchers’ inboxes, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
The Emotet botnet took a Christmas holiday but its now up and running again and the massive phishing and spamming campaigns have resumed. These campaigns, which involve millions of spam emails, use a variety of lures to trick people into opening an attachment and enabling content. The content in question includes a macro which runs a PowerShell command that downloads and executes the Emotet Trojan.
The Emotet Trojan is bad news. Emotet was once just a banking Trojan whose purpose was to steal online banking credentials. It still does that and much more besides. Emotet also steals credentials from installed applications and browsers. It is also self-propagating and will send copies of itself via email to the victim’s contacts. As if that was not bad enough, Emotet has another trick up its sleeve. It is also a downloader of other malware variants such as the TrickBot Trojan and Ryuk ransomware. These additional payloads allow data to be stolen and sold for profit and for files across the network to be encrypted and ransom demands issued. Emotet has also delivered cryptocurrency miners in the past and could deliver any number of other malware payloads.
The scale of the botnet is staggering. In the first quarter of 2019, Emotet was responsible for 6 out of 10 malicious payloads delivered via email. There are often breaks in activity, but even though the threat actors behind the botnet took almost half of 2019 off, Emotet still ranks as the top malware threat of the year.
Emotet sprung back to life on January 13, 2020 with targeted attacks on the pharmaceutical industry in North America, but it didn’t take long for the attacks to spread even further afield. Now more than 80 countries are being attacked and in addition to English, campaigns have been detected in Italian, Polish, German, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.
The lures used to fool end users into opening email attachments are highly varied and often change. Tried and tested lures such as fake invoices, orders, statements, agreements, payment remittance notices, receipts, and delivery notifications are often used in attacks on businesses, which are the primary targets. Before the botnet shut down for a break in December, Greta Thunberg-themed emails were being used along with Christmas party invitations. A host no new lures can be expected in 2020.
The themes of the emails may change but the messages have one thing in common. They require an end user to take action. That is usually opening a document, spreadsheet or other file, but could be a click on a hyperlink in an email. Once that action is taken, Emotet will be silently downloaded.
There are two main ways of blocking attacks and both are necessary. The first is to ensure that the email system is secure, which means implementing an effective spam filter. Businesses that use Office 365 will have a modicum of protection through Exchange Online Protection (EOP), which is included with Office 365 subscriptions. However, businesses should not rely on EOP alone. Layered defenses are required.
SpamTitan is a powerful spam filter that will improve protection against malware threats such as Emotet. SpamTitan can be layered on top of Office 365 to provide greater protection and prevent the malware from being delivered to inboxes. Dual anti-virus engines are incorporated into the solution to detect known threats and SpamTitan includes a sandbox for identifying threats that signature-based detection mechanisms miss.
Many businesses deploy a variety of security solutions but fail to prepare their employees for an attack. If malicious emails make it past security solutions and are delivered to inboxes, all it takes is for one employee to fail to spot the threat and respond for Emotet to be installed (and potentially ransomware as well). It is therefore important to provide regular security awareness training to everyone in the company from the CEO down. If employees are not told how to identify malicious emails, they cannot be expected to spot threats and report the messages to the security team.
Fortunately, through a combination of email security solutions and security awareness training, the threat from Emotet can be neutralized. For more information on the former, give TitanHQ a call today.
Whenever there is a major event that attracts a lot of media attention cybercriminals will be poised to take advantage, so it is no surprise that warnings are being issued about Travelex phishing scams.
The Travelex ransomware attack that struck on New Year’s Eve involved a ransomware variant called Sodinokibi. The gang responsible is one of the most prolific threat groups using ransomware. The group’s attacks are highly targeted and seek to encrypt entire networks and the ransom demands reflect the scale of encryption. Travelex was initially issued with a demand for a payment of $3 million. That soon doubled to $6 million when payment was not made within the allocated timescale.
The fallout from the attack has been immense, which is unsurprising given that Travelex is the largest provider of currency exchange services worldwide. Many banks and retailers rely on Travelex to provide for their currency exchange services. Without access to those online services, currency exchange services came to a grinding halt. It has taken two weeks for Travelex to start bringing some of its services back online, but its website remains down and the disruption continues.
The attackers claimed to have stolen large quantities of customer data from Travelex. The attackers threatened to publish or sell the data if the ransom was not paid. This tactic is becoming increasingly common with ransomware gangs. In this case, the sodinokibi gang claimed to have gained access to Travelex systems 6 months previously and said they had stolen customer data including names, payment card information, and Social Security numbers and National Insurance numbers. The gang had also recently attacked the American IT company Artech Systems and had posted 337MB of data stolen in that attack, demonstrating to others that it was not an empty threat. Travelex maintained that no customer data had been stolen, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Warning Issued About Travelex Phishing Scams
Travelex customers should naturally err on the side of caution and monitor their accounts for signs of fraudulent use of their information but there are other risks from an attack such as this.
Travelex has issued a warning to its customers recommending they should be alert to the threat of phishing attacks via email and over the phone. Opportunistic scammers often take advantage of major events such as this and Travelex phishing scams are to be expected, as was the case following the TalkTalk data breach. These phishing scams are likely to be most effective on Travelex customers who have lost money as a result of the attack. Any offer of compensation or a refund is likely to attract a response.
For consumers, the advice is never to open email attachments or click on links in unsolicited emails. Businesses should also take steps to protect their networks from malware and phishing attacks.
Businesses should adopt a defense in depth strategy to protect against phishing scams and malware attacks. An advanced email security solution such as SpamTitan should be used to protect Office 365 accounts. SpamTitan improves protection against zero-day malware and phishing threats and blocks threats at the gateway.
A web filtering solution such as WebTitan should be used to block the web-based component of phishing and malspam campaigns and prevent end users from visiting malicious websites. End user training is also a must. It is important to teach employees how to identify phishing emails and malspam, and condition them how to respond when suspicious emails are received.
A new ransomware threat – Ako ransomware – has emerged which is targeting business networks and is being distributed via spam email. The ransomware is being offered to affiliates under the ransomware-as-a-service model and the aim of the attackers is clear. To maximize the probability of payment of the ransom by making recovery harder, and to steal data prior to encryption to ensure the attack is still profitable if the ransom is not paid. Having the data could also help convince the victims to pay up, as we have seen in recent attacks involving Maze and Sodinokibi ransomware, where threats are issued to publish stolen data if the ransom is not paid.
The developers of Ako ransomware appear to be going for large ransom payments, as they are not targeting individual workstations, rather the entire network. The ransomware scans local networks for other devices and will encrypt network shares. The ransomware deletes shadow copies and recent backups and disables Windows recovery to make recovery more difficult without paying the ransom.
Encrypted files are given a randomly generated file extension and retain the original file name. No ransom amount is stated in the ransom note. Victims are required to contact the attackers to find out how much they will need to pay for the keys to decrypt their files.
One of the intercepted emails being used to distribute the ransomware uses a password-protected zip file as an attachment. The email appears to be a business agreement which the recipient is asked to check. The password to open and extract the file is included in the message body. The zip file attachment – named agreement.zip – contains an executable file which will install Ako ransomware if it is run. The malicious file is called agreement.scr.
There is no free decryptor for Ako ransomware. Recovery without paying the ransom will depend on whether viable backups exist that have not also been encrypted. It is therefore important to make sure backups are regularly performed and at least one copy of the backup is stored on a non-networked device to prevent it also being encrypted by the ransomware. Backups should also be tested to make sure file recovery is possible.
Since Ako ransomware is being distributed via spam email, this gives businesses an opportunity to block an attack. An advanced spam filtering solution should be implemented that scans all inbound messages using a variety of detection mechanisms to identify malware and ransomware threats. A sandbox is an important feature as this will allow email attachments to be analyzed for malicious activity. This feature will improve detection rates of zero-day threats.
nd user training is important to ensure that employees do not open potentially malicious files. Training should condition employees never to open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unknown senders. As this campaign shows, any password protected file sent in an unsolicited email is a big red flag. This is a common way that ransomware and malware is delivered to avoid detection by antivirus solutions and spam filters.
Anti-spam solutions and antivirus software will not be able to detect the threat directly if malicious files are sent in password-protected archives, which can only be opened if the password is entered. Rules should therefore be set to quarantine password-protected files, which should only be released after they have been manually checked by an administrator. With SpamTitan, these rules are easy to set.
Ako ransomware is one of many new ransomware threats that have been released in recent months. High profile attacks on companies such as Travelex that see massive ransom demands issued, which in many cases are paid, show a huge payday is possible.
Ransomware developers will keep developing new threats for as long as attacks remain profitable, and there is not likely to be a shortage of affiliates willing to run spamming campaigns to get their slice of the ransom payments.
With the attacks increasing, it is essential for you to have strong defenses that can detect and block malware, ransomware, and phishing threats, and that is an area where TitanHQ can help.
To find out more about how you can improve your defenses against email and web-based threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
Customers of Canadian banks have been targeted by cybercriminals in an extensive phishing campaign that has been ongoing for at least the past two years, according to Check Point Research which uncovered the campaign. As with many other financial phishing scams, the attackers spoof the website of a well-known bank and create a virtual carbon copy of the home page of the bank on a lookalike domain, which often only differs from the genuine domain name by a letter or two.
A link to the fraudulent site is then sent in a mass spamming campaign to email addresses on the specific country top level domain where the bank operates. The emails instruct users to visit the banks website and login, usually under the guise of a security alert. When the link in the email is clicked, the user is directed to the spoofed site and may not notice the domain name is not quite right. They then enter their login credentials which are captured by the scammers. The credentials are then used to make fraudulent wire transfers to accounts controlled by the attackers.
In this campaign, the emails include a PDF email attachment. PDF files tend to be trusted to a higher degree than Word documents and spreadsheets, which end users have usually been instructed to treat as suspicious. The PDF file includes a hyperlink, which the user is instructed to click. Since the hyperlink is in the document rather than the email body, it is less likely to be scanned by email security solutions and has a higher chance of being delivered.
The user is told that they are required to update their digital certificate to continue using the online banking service. The PDF file includes the bank logo and a security code, which the user is required to enter when logging in. The code is included in the PDF attachment rather than email body for security reasons. As with most phishing scams, there is urgency. The recipient is told that the code expires in 2 days and that they must register within that time frame to avoid being locked out of their account.
The landing pages on the websites are identical to those used by the banks as the attackers have simply taken a screen shot of the bank’s landing page. Text boxes have been added where the username, password, and token number must be entered. Users are then asked to confirm the details they entered while the attackers attempt to access their account in real-time and make a fraudulent transfer.
These tactics are nothing new. Scams such as this are commonplace. What is surprising is how long the campaign has been running undetected. The scammers have been able to operate undetected by registering many lookalike domains which are used for a short period of time. Hundreds of different domains have been registered and used in the scam. At least 14 leading banks in Canada have had their login pages spoofed including TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank, Royal Bank of Canada, and BMO Bank of Montreal.
All of the websites used in the scam have now been taken down, but it is all but guaranteed that other lookalike domains will be registered and further scams will be conducted.
A spamming campaign has been detected that is piggybacking on the popularity of Greta Thunberg and is using the climate change activist’s name to trick individuals into installing the Emotet Banking Trojan.
Emotet is one of the most active malware threats. Emotet was first detected in 2014 and was initially used to steal online banking credentials from Windows users by intercepting internet traffic. Over the years it has undergone several updates to add new functionality. It has had a malspam module added, which allows it to send copies of itself via email to a user’s contacts. Emotet also includes a malware downloader, allowing it to download a range of other malware variants such as other banking Trojans and ransomware.
The malware is used indiscriminately in attacks on individuals, businesses, and government agencies, with the latter two being the main targets. Emotet is primarily spread via spam email, and while exploits are not used to spread to other devices on the network – EternalBlue for instance – other malware variants downloaded by Emotet can. TrickBot for instance.
The Greta Thunberg spam campaign aims to get users to open a malicious Word attachment and enable content. If that happens, Emotet will be silently downloaded to the user’s device, sensitive banking information will be stolen, and further malware may be downloaded.
The campaign was active over the holiday period and used a variety of Christmas-themed lures to entice users into opening the email attachment. Some of the emails did not include an attachment and instead used a hyperlink to direct the user to a website where the malicious document could be downloaded.
One of the emails wished the recipient a Merry Christmas and urged them to consider the environment this Christmastime and join a demonstration in protest against the lack of action by governments to tackle the climate crisis. The email claimed details about the time and location of the protest were included in the Word document. The email also requested the recipient to send the email on to all their colleagues, friends, and relatives immediately to get their support as well. Several variations along that theme have been detected.
To increase the likelihood of the recipient enabling content, when opened the document displays a warning that appears to have been generated by Microsoft Office. The user is told that the document was created in OpenOffice and it is necessary to first enable editing first and then enable content. Doing the latter will enable macros which will start the infection process.
The emails are well written and have been crafted to get an emotional response, which increases the likelihood of the user taking the requested action. The emails have been sent in multiple languages in many different countries.
Whenever there is a major news event, popular sports tournament, or other event that attracts global interest, there will be cybercriminals taking advantage. Regardless of the theme of any email, if it is unsolicited and asks you to click a link or open an email attachment, it is best to assume that it is malicious.
Businesses can protect their networks against threats such as these by implementing an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan will identify threats such as phishing attacks and will prevent the messages from reaching inboxes. SpamTitan also includes dual anti-virus engines to detect known malware and machine learning techniques and sandboxing to identify and block zero-day malware.
For further information on how SpamTitan can protect your business from email threats such as this, contact TitanHQ today.
A new PayPal phishing scam has been detected that uses unusual activity alerts as a lure to get users to login to PayPal to secure their account. This is a common tactic that has been used to steal PayPal credentials before, but this campaign is different as the attackers are after much more than just account credentials.
This PayPal phishing campaign attempts a clean sweep – PayPal credentials, credit card details, email addresses and passwords, and security questions and answers.
The PayPal phishing scam is one of the most dangerous to date in terms of the financial harm that could be caused. PayPal accounts can be drained, credit cards maxed out, sensitive information can be stolen from email accounts, and email accounts can be then used for further phishing scams on the victim’s family members, friends, and contacts.
The PayPal phishing scam starts with a warning designed to get the recipient to take immediate action to secure their account. They are informed that their PayPal account has been accessed from a new browser or device. They are told PayPal’s security controls kicked in and as a result, the user is required to login to their account to confirm their identity and remove limitations that have been placed on the account.
The email points out that PayPal could not determine whether this was a legitimate attempt to access their account from a new browser or device, or a fraudulent attempt to gain access to their PayPal Account. Either way, action is required to confirm their identity. A link is included to allow them to do that.
If the link is clicked, the user will be directed to a fake PayPal website where they are required to login to restore their account. In this first stage, PayPal account credentials are obtained. The user is then directed to a new page where they are asked to update their billing address. In addition to their address, they are also asked for their date of birth and telephone number.
The next page asks for their credit card number, security code, and expiry date, which it is claimed will mean they do not need to re-enter that information again when using PayPal. They are also then asked to confirm the details in a second step, which is an attempt to make sure no errors have been made entering credit card information.
The user is then taken to another page where they are asked for their email address and password to link it to their PayPal account. After all the information has been entered, they are told the process has been completed and their account has been secured and successfully restored.
All of these phishing pages have the feel of genuine PayPal web pages, complete with genuine PayPal logos and footers. The domains used for the scam are naturally fake but have some relevance to PayPal. The domains also have authentic SSL certificates and display the green padlock in the browser.
Naturally you should take any security warning you receive seriously, but do not take the warnings at face value. Google, PayPal, and other service providers often send security warnings to alert users to suspicious activity. This PayPal scam shows that those warnings may not always be genuine and that you should always exercise caution.
The golden rule? Never click links in emails. Always visit the service provider’s site by entering the correct information into your web browser to login, and always carefully check the domain before providing any credentials. This is important as there has been an increase in typosquatting attacks, where cybercriminals take advantage of careless typists who misspell domain names when entering them into the address bar of their browser.
IT professionals have long known that employees are a weak link in the security chain. Recent studies have confirmed this to be the case. Employees are poor at identifying phishing emails and other email-based threats and, to be fair on employees, many have received no training and phishing scams are becoming much more targeted and sophisticated.
The number of successful phishing attacks on businesses is difficult to determine, as many attacks go unreported, even when they result in the exposure of consumer data. In regulated industries, such as the healthcare industry in the United States, the picture is much clearer.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – or HIPAA as it is better known – requires healthcare organizations to report breaches of patient information. Summaries of data breaches of 500 or more records are also made public and can be seen on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights data breach portal.
In 2019 alone, there have been at least 147 incidents of hacking of email accounts. The cost of those breaches is staggering. In those 147 incidents, the hacked email accounts contained the records of 2,762,691 individuals. According to the Ponemon Institute/IBM Security 2019 Cost of a Healthcare Data Breach report, the cost per exposed healthcare record is $423. Those breaches are therefore likely to have cost $1,168,618,293.
A recent study conducted by GetApp confirmed how often employees are fooled by phishing attacks in other industries. For the study, 714 individuals were surveyed from a range of businesses in the United States. Almost a quarter of those businesses have experienced at least one successful phishing attack and 43% of employees said that someone in their organization had clicked on a phishing email.
The aim of the study was to explore whether businesses were providing security awareness training to their employees to help them identify phishing emails. Only 27% of organizations did. It is therefore no surprise that employees often fall for phishing scams.
The provision of security awareness training, with a particular focus on phishing and social engineering, is vital. Even with layered defenses, some phishing emails will arrive in inboxes, so employees need to be taught the skills they need to help them identify email threats. Employees should then be tested by conducting phishing email simulations. That allows businesses to find out if the training has been taken on board. Without training and testing, employees will remain a liability. Over time their phishing identification shills will improve.
It is worth noting that security awareness training for employees is a requirement of HIPAA, yet many employees are still fooled. Training and phishing simulations can help reduce an organization’s susceptibility to phishing attacks, but employees, being human, will still make mistakes.
The solution is layered defenses. No one cybersecurity solution will block all phishing attempts, and certainly not without also blocking many legitimate email communications. Multiple solutions are therefore required.
It is essential for advanced email security defenses to be implemented to block phishing emails and make sure phishing and malspam (spam emails containing malware) never reach inboxes. That means an advanced spam filtering solution is a must.
SpamTitan for has been independently tested and shown to block in excess of 99.9% of spam emails and 100% of emails containing known malware. SpamTitan also blocks zero-day threats using a combination of advanced detection techniques. This is achieved through heuristic analyses, blacklists, trust scores, greylisting, sandboxing, DMARC, and SPF to name just a few.
SpamTitan has also been developed to compliment Office 365 security and provide a greater level of protection against phishing and other malicious email threats. It should be noted that Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection was recently shown to allow 25% of phishing emails through.
Should phishing emails arrive in inboxes and be opened by end users, other controls are required to prevent clicks from resulting in malware infections or the theft of credentials. Here a web filtering solution such as WebTitan is important. When a link in an email is clicked, before the webpage is displayed, the URL and the content of the webpage is checked and the user is prevented from visiting the webpage if it, or its domain, is associated with phishing or malware distribution. Malware downloads can also be blocked from websites, even those with a high trust score. Together these solutions form the backbone of your phishing defenses. Further, these two solutions are quick and easy to implement, simple to use and maintain, and they are inexpensive.
Add antivirus protection, multi-factor authentication, and end user training, and you will be well protected from phishing and email and web-based malware attacks.
For further information on improving your defenses against phishing, spear phishing, and malware, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
If you are a managed service provider, contact the TitanHQ channel team and discover why TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based email and web security solutions for MSPs serving the SMB market.
A new phishing campaign has been detected that is targeting Office 365 admins, whose accounts are far more valuable to cybercriminals than standard Office 365 accounts.
A standard Office 365 email account can used for spamming or conducting further phishing attacks on the organization or business contacts. However, there is a problem. When the account is used for phishing, the sent messages are likely to be noticed by the user. Failed delivery messages will also arrive in the user’s inbox. The account may only be able to be used for a short time before an account compromise is detected.
The attackers targeting Office 365 admins aim to compromise the entire domain. Office 365 admins can create new accounts on the domain, which are then used for phishing. Since the only person using that account is the attacker, it is likely the malicious actions will not be noticed, at least not as quickly. The only person who will see the failed delivery messages and sent emails is the attacker.
The newly created account abuses trust in the business domain. Any individual to receive such a phishing message may mistakenly believe the email is a legitimate message from the company. The messages also take advantage of the reputation of a business. Since the business domain will have been used only to send legitimate messages, the domain will have a high trust score. That makes it far more likely that the emails being sent from the new account will be delivered to inboxes and will not be picked up by Office 365 spam filters. The Office 365 admin may also have access to all email accounts on the domain, which will allow the attacker to steal a huge amount of email data.
In theory, Office 365 admins should be better at identifying phishing emails than other employees in the organization as they usually work in the IT department; however, these emails are very realistic and will likely fool many Office 365 admins.
The lure being used is credible. The emails appear to have been sent by Microsoft and include the Microsoft and Office 365 logos. The emails claim that the organization’s Office 365 Business Essentials invoice is ready. The user is told to sign into the Office 365 admin center to update their payment information, set their Message Center preferences, and edit their release preferences or join First Release and set these up if they have not done so already. The emails include an unsubscribe option and are signed by Microsoft and include the correct contact information. The emails also link to Microsoft’s privacy statement.
The embedded hyperlinks in the emails link to an attacker-controlled domain that is a carbon copy of the official Microsoft login page. If the user’s credentials are entered, they are captured by the attacker.
This campaign highlights how important it is to have layered email security defenses in place to block phishing attacks. Many phishing emails bypass standard Office 365 anti-phishing controls so additional protection is required.
An advanced anti-phishing solution such as SpamTitan should be layered on top of Office 365 to provide greater protection against sophisticated phishing attacks. Approximately 25% of all phishing emails bypass standard Office 365 phishing protections.
Another anti-phishing layer that many businesses have yet to implement is a web filter. A web filter, such as WebTitan, provides protection when messages are delivered to inboxes, as it blocks attempts by employees to visit phishing websites. When a link to a known phishing website is clicked, or the user attempts to visit a questionable domain, they will be directed to a block page and the phishing attack will be blocked.
The aim of this post is to provide you with some easy to adopt email security best practices that will greatly improve your organization’s security posture.
Email is the Most Common Attack Vector!
It is a certainty that business email systems will be attacked so email security measures must be implemented. The best form of email security is to do away with email altogether, but since businesses rely on email to communicate with customers, partners, and suppliers, that simply isn’t an option.
Email not only makes it easy to communicate with the people you need to for your business to operate, it also allows cybercriminals to easily communicate with your employees and conduct phishing attacks, spread malware and, if a corporate email account is compromised, communicate with your customers, partners and suppliers.
Email security is therefore essential, but there is no single solution that will protect the email channel. A spam filtering solution will stop the majority of spam and malicious email from reaching inboxes, but it will not block 100% of unwanted emails, no matter what solution you implement. The key to robust email security is layered defenses. If one defensive measure fails, others are in place that will provide protection.
You need a combination of technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to secure your email. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be adopted to secure the email channel but there are email security best practices that you can adopt that will improve your security posture and make it much harder for cybercriminals to succeed.
With this in mind, we have outlined some of the most important email security best practices for your business and your employees to adopt.
Email Security Best Practices to Implement Immediately
Cybercriminals will attempt to send malware and ransomware via email, and phishing tactics will be used to steal sensitive information such as login credentials, so it is important to be prepared. Listed below are 8 email security best practices that will help you keep your email system secure. If you have not yet implemented any of these best practices, or have only done so partially, now is the time to make some changes.
Develop a Cybersecurity Plan for Your Business
We have included this as the first best practice because it is so important. It is essential for you to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for your entire organization as not all threats arrive via email. Attacks come from all angles and improving email security is only one of the steps you need to take to improve your overall cybersecurity posture.
There are many resources available to help you develop a cybersecurity plan that addresses all cyber risks. The Federal Communications Commission has developed a Cyberplanner to help with the creation of a custom cybersecurity plan and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has recently issued a Cyber Essentials Guide for Small Businesses and Governments. Take advantage of these and other resources to develop an effective cybersecurity plan.
Implement an Advanced Spam Filtering Solution
A spam filter serves as a semi-permeable membrane that prevents email threats from being delivered to inboxes and lets genuine emails pass through unimpeded. This is the single most important security measure to implement to protect against email threats and productivity-draining spam.
If you use Office 365 you will already have some protection, as Office 365 includes a spam filter and anti-virus software, but it falls short on phishing protection and will not block zero-day malware threats. You need layered defenses to secure email which means a third-party spam filter should be used on top of Office 365. Research from Avanan showed 25% of phishing emails bypass Office 365 defenses.
There are many spam filtering services for SMBs, but for all round protection against known and zero-day threats, ease of implementation, ease of use, and price, SpamTitan is the best choice for SMBs.
Ensure Your Anti-Virus Solution Scans Incoming Emails
You will no doubt have anti-virus software in place, but does it scan incoming emails? Email is one of the main ways that malware is delivered, so anti-virus software for email is a must. This does not necessarily mean you need a different antivirus solution. Your existing solution may have that functionality. Your spam filter is also likely to include AV protection. For example, SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines for greater protection and a sandbox where email attachments are analyzed for malicious actions. The sandbox his used to detect and block zero-day malware – New, never-before seen malware variants that have yet to have their signatures incorporated into AV engines.
Create and Enforce Password Policies
Another obvious email security best practice is to create a password policy that requires strong passwords to be set. There is no point creating a password policy if it is not enforced. Make sure you implement a control measure to prevent weak passwords from being set. Weak passwords (password, 123456, or dictionary words for example) are easy to remember but also easy to guess. Consider that cybercriminals are not sitting at a computer guessing passwords one at a time. Automation tools are used that make thousands of password guesses a minute. It doesn’t take long to guess a weak password! You should also make sure rate limiting is applied to block an IP from logging in after a set number of failed login attempts.
It is a good best practice to require a password of at least 8 characters to be set, with a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols and to block the use of dictionary words. Consider allowing long passphrases to be used as these are easier for employees to remember. Check National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) advice on secure password practices if you are unsure about creating a password policy.
Implement DMARC to Stop Email Impersonation Attacks and Domain Abuse
DMARC, or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance to give it its full name, is an email protocol that uses Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to determine whether an email is authentic.
By creating a DMARC record you are preventing unauthorized individuals from sending messages from your domain. DMARC also lets you know who is sending messages from your domain, and it lets you set a policy to determine what happens to messages that are not authenticated, I.e. quarantine them or reject them. Some email security solutions, such as SpamTitan, incorporate DMARC authentication.
Not only DMARC help you block email impersonation attacks, it also prevents abuse of your domain. Your DMARC record tells receiving email servers not to accept messages sent from authenticated users, thus helping protect your brand.
Implement Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication is yet another layer you can add to your anti-phishing defenses. Multi-factor authentication, as the name suggests, means more than one method is used to authenticate a user. The first factor is usually a password. A second factor is also required, which is something a person knows or possesses. This could be a mobile phone, to which a one-time PIN code is sent, or a token on a trusted device.
This safeguard is vital. If a password is obtained, in a phishing attack for example, the password alone will not grant access to the email account without an additional factor being provided. A combination of a password, token, and one-time PIN is a good combination.
Train Your Employees and Train Them Again
No matter how tech savvy your employees appear to be, assume they known nothing about cybersecurity. They will certainly not routinely stick to email security best practices unless you train them to do so and then hammer the message home.
Before letting any employee have access to email, you should provide security awareness training. Your training should cover email security best practices such as never opening email attachments from unknown senders, never enabling content in documents unless the document has been verified as legitimate, and never to click hyperlinks in emails or send highly sensitive information such as passwords via email.
You must also train your employees how to recognize phishing emails and other malicious messages and tell them what to do when suspicious emails are received. Anyone with access to email or a computer must be provided with security awareness training, from the CEO down.
One training session is not enough. Even an annual training session is no longer sufficient. You should be providing regular training, be sending cybersecurity newsletters warning about the latest threats, and using other tools to help create a security culture in your organization.
Conduct Phishing Awareness Simulation Exercises
You have provided training, but how do you know if it has been effective? The only way to tell is to conduct tests and that is easiest with phishing simulation exercises. These are dummy phishing emails that are sent to employees when they are not expecting them to see how they respond. You maybe surprised at how many employees respond and disclose sensitive information, open attachments, or click links in the emails.
The aim of these emails is to identify people that have not taken their training on board. The idea is not to punish those employees, but to tell you who needs further training. There are several companies that can assist you with these exercises. Some even offer free phishing simulation emails for SMBs.
TitanHQ is Here to Help!
TitanHQ has developed SpamTitan to be easy for SMBs to implement, use, and maintain. It requires no hardware, no software, and all filtering takes place in the cloud. Not only does SpamTitan offer excellent protection against the full range of email-based threats, it is also one of the lowest cost solutions for SMBs to implement.
Give the TitanHQ team a call today for more information on SpamTitan and to find out about how you can also protect your business from web-based threats and meet your compliance requirements for email.
SMBs and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that serve the SMB market have many spam filtering services to choose from. In this post perform a VadeSecure vs SpamTitan Email Security comparison to help you decide on the best solution to meet the needs of your business.
Who are VadeSecure?
VadeSecure is a French company that was founded in 2009. The company has developed a predictive email defense solution to protect businesses from email-based threats and spam email, and also consumers through their ISPs. The company has yet to make great inroads in the MSP market, although that is part of the company’s plan, having recently raised $79 million in venture capital to help them achieve this aim.
SpamTitan Email Security from TitanHQ
TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based email and web security solutions for MSPs that serve the SMB market. TitanHQ has more than 2 decades of experience in email and web security and has developed two award winning solutions for MSPs – WebTitan (Web Security) and SpamTitan Email Security. Here we will focus on SpamTitan Email Security.
VadeSecure vs SpamTitan Email Security
Take a quick look at VadeSecure and SpamTitan Email Security and you may think that both solutions are very similar, and in some respects they are. Both are cloud-based email security solutions that have been designed to block email threats and keep inboxes free from spam and malicious messages and attachments. Both solutions have been developed to provide an additional security layer for Office365 to block the many spam and malicious messages that bypass O365 security controls.
However, there are some very important differences between the solutions as far as MSPs are concerned. VadeSecure has been developed solely for the Telco market, but MSPs have unique requirements that are not well catered to. A deeper dive into the products and a more thorough comparison of VadeSecure vs SpamTitan Email Security from an MSP perspective reveals the two solutions are very different products.
SpamTitan is very much MSP focused. Over time, with the increased investment, VadeSecure may become a more MSP friendly solution, but as it stands VadeSecure and SpamTitan Email Security are not equivalent solutions.
Comparison of VadeSecure and SpamTitan Email Security for MSPs
SpamTitan Email Security has been developed by MSPs for MSPs. SpamTitan Email Security is therefore a very MSP-focused product, which incorporates many MSP-friendly features. SpamTitan is a true multi-tenant solution. With SpamTitan Email Security, MSPs are given a multi-tenancy view of all customers with multiple management roles. This allows MSPs to easily monitor all customer deployments and the trial-base, assess the health of those deployments, view activity volumes across your entire customer base, and quickly identify any issues that need to be addressed. VadeSecure lacks this customer-wide view of the system and does not integrate with RMMs or PSAs.
Configurability and Customization Potential
Configurability is also a key consideration. VadeSecure is not easily configurable to meet your needs. For instance, it does not support custom rules, so you have to use Office 365 Exchange admin functionality for configuration. In a similar vein, the potential for customization is limited with VadeSecure. With SpamTitan Email Security, there is plenty of scope for customization. You can create custom rules to meet the needs of your customer base thanks to highly granular controls that can be applied to domains, groups, or individual users. This level of granularity is important, as it allows you to carefully configure the solution to meet the needs of each client. You can tailor the solution to suit the risk tolerance of each individual client and adopt a more aggressive or more permissive approach on a per client basis and minimize false positives and false negatives. VadeSecure lacks the granularity to allow this for each customer.
Management and Reporting
You are implementing email security to provide your customers with greater security, but you need to make sure the solution remains effective over time. You will therefore need to identify issues as they arise and perform tweaks to continue to protect your clients to the highest degree. To achieve this, you need highly granular reports. Without them you will not have the visibility you need. SpamTitan’s suite of pre-configured and customizable reports give you full visibility into your deployments to allow you to quickly identify and correct any issues.
You can also generate reports (manually or automatically) that you can send to your clients to show them how effective the solution is, the threats that are being blocked, and why continued protection is essential. With VadeSecure you lack this visibility and cannot find out what has been blocked for end users or obtain detailed information on spam emails and threats. Client management is also more difficult with VadeSecure. MSPs need to login to each client’s Office 365 environment for management, which makes reporting much more time consuming.
Revenue Potential and Margins
Because SpamTitan allows MSPs to customize their deployments, MSPs have superior management capabilities and can offer clients greater value, which means greater margin potential for MSPs. It also makes it harder for clients to switch providers as their MSP is more of a strategic partner rather than just an IT service provider.
With TitanHQ there is also greater potential to make more margin by cross selling other services. MSPs that sign up with TitanHQ and join the TitanShield program have access to two other revenue generating solutions: WebTitan DNS filtering and ArcTitan Email Archiving. These allow you to maximize monthly recurring revenue with each client. Additional revenue-generating solutions are not available with VadeSecure.
VadeSecure Vs SpamTitan Email Security Pricing
Currently, pricing with VadeSecure is complex and the solution is expensive for MSPs. VadeSecure is charged on a per module basis, which means you need to factor in a lot of additional costs, such as anti-virus protection and GreyMail which are not included as standard. With SpamTitan there is one flat fee that includes all features of the solution. TitanHQ pricing is totally transparent and there are no hidden extras.
After speaking with customers that have tried VadeSecure, we have learned that the total number of users are not aggregated into the MSP discount with VadeSecure. You could have 100 x 10-seat licenses (1,000 users), but VadeSecure pays at 10 seats each and not the 1,000 seats overall. In contrast, TitanHQ’s appreciates how MSPs work and has developed a flexible pricing policy accordingly.
Quick Comparison of Features
In the image below we have compared the basic features of both SpamTitan and VadeSecure as a quick reference to show you some of the key differences between VadeSecure and SpamTitan Email Security.
MSPs that serve customers with Office 365 environments should adopt a layered approach to security and should not rely on the anti-spam and anti-phishing defenses incorporated into Office 365. Additional layers are required to better protect clients, which will mean you spend less time on support and remediating phishing attacks.
TitanHQ can provide two additional layers to your security stack: SpamTitan and WebTitan, both of which work seamlessly together to protect against all email and web-based threats.
To find out more about these solutions, how you can reduce the cost of email security and web security for your customers while earning a profitable margin, contact the TitanHQ team today and ask to speak to the channel team.
Phishers are constantly changing tactics and coming up with new ways to fool people into handing over their credentials or installing malware. New campaigns are being launched on a daily basis, with tried and tested lures such as fake package delivery notices, fake invoices and purchase orders, and collaboration requests all very common.
In a departure from these common phishing lures, one threat group has opted for a rarely seen lure, but one that has potential to be very effective: Fake court subpoenas. The emails use fear and urgency and are designed to get users to panic and click quickly.
This campaign has been running for a few weeks and is targeting users in the United Kingdom, although this scam could easily be adapted and used in attacks on users in other countries.
Many phishing scams have the goal of stealing credentials to allow email accounts or Office 365 accounts to be accessed. In this case, the aim of the attack is to spread information stealing malware called Predator the Thief.
The phishing emails appear to have been sent by the Ministry of Justice in the UK. The sender field has Ministry of Justice as the display name and the emails have the Ministry of Justice crest, although the actual email address suggests the email has come from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The emails warn the user that they have been subpoenaed. They are supplied with a case number along with a date when they have been ordered to attend court.
The emails include a hyperlink which the user must click to find out details of the charge and the documents they will need to bring with them to court. Urgency is added by warning the recipient they only have 14 days to respond to provide notice, and that the court case will proceed without them if they do not respond.
The URL in the email is seemingly benign, as it links to Google Docs – a trusted website. Clicking the link will see the user first directed to Google Docs, then redirected to OneDrive. When the user arrives on the OneDrive site, a document is downloaded. That document contains a malicious macro that launches a PowerShell command that downloads Predator the Thief malware.
Predator the Thief is an information stealer that can take screenshots and steals email and FTP credentials, along with cryptocurrency wallets and browser information. In contrast to many browser information stealers, this malware variant doesn’t just target the main browsers, but a host of less popular browsers. Once information has been stolen, the malware cleans up and exits, which makes it harder for the infection to be detected.
Phishing scams such as this highlight the need for layered security. Naturally, an advanced anti-spam solution such as SpamTitan should be implemented to block these threats and ensure and ensure messages are not delivered to end users’ inboxes. SpamTitan also includes DMARC email authentication to block mail impersonation attempts and a sandbox where email attachments are analyzed for malicious actions.
SpamTItan blocks in excess of 99.9% of all malicious emails, but it is not possible to block 100% of threats no matter what email security solution you use. This is where another layer is required. WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that blocks threats such as this at the point where a DNS lookup is performed. This allows malicious websites to be blocked before any content is downloaded. WebTitan can also be configured to block downloads of certain file types.
With these two solutions in place, your business will be well protected against phishing emails and web-based malware downloads.
A new Stripe phishing campaign has been detected that uses fake warnings advising users about an invalid account to lure people into divulging their credentials and bank account information.
Stripe is an online payment processor used by many online firms on their e-commerce websites to accept payments from their customers. As such, the company is perfect for spoofing as many people will be aware that the company processes payments and will think it reasonable that they need to provide credentials and bank account information to ensure payments are processed.
The scam starts with a phishing email supposedly from the Stripe Support department. The email advises the customer that the information associated with their account is currently invalid. The message is sent as a courtesy notice warning the user that their account will be placed on hold until the matter is corrected. The user is asked to review their details to correct the issue. A button is included in the email for users to click to do this.
The emails contain spelling mistakes and questionable grammar, so are likely to be identified as suspect by vigilant individuals. Security awareness training often teaches employees to hover their mouse arrow over a hyperlink to find out the true URL, but in this campaign it will not work. The attackers have added a title to the HTML tag of the embedded hyperlink so when the mouse arrow is hovered over the “Review your Details” button, that text will be displayed instead of the URL.
If that button is clicked, the user will be directed to a seemingly legitimate Stripe login page. The login box is a clone of the real login page and a series of boxes will be displayed, each requiring different information to be entered, including bank account and contact information.
When the user is required to enter their password, regardless of what is typed, the user will be advised that they have entered an incorrect password and will be asked to enter the password again. The user is then directed to the legitimate Stripe login page to make it appear they have been on the correct Stripe website all along.
Similar tactics are used in countless other phishing campaigns targeting other well-known companies. The presence of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in messages should tip off end users that the email is a phishing attempt, but all too often end users fail to notice these errors and click and divulge sensitive information.
One issue is a lack of cybersecurity training in the workplace. If employees are not trained how to identify phishing emails, it is inevitable that some will end up falling for these scams and will divulge their credentials. Those credentials can be used to gain access to bank accounts or email accounts, with the latter often used to conduct further phishing attacks on the organization. One email account breach can easily lead to dozens of breached accounts.
For example, a phishing attack on a U.S. healthcare provider started with a single phishing email and led to 73 email accounts being compromised. As for cybersecurity awareness training, this is often nonexistent. One recent study on 2,000 employees in the United Kingdom revealed three quarters had received no workplace cybersecurity training whatsoever.
Protected by Microsoft Office 365 Anti-Phishing Controls? Are You Sure?
One in every 99 emails is a phishing email, so it is important to ensure your defenses are capable of blocking those messages. Many businesses mistakenly believe they are protected against these emails by Microsoft’s Office 365 anti-phishing controls. While those measures do block spam email and some phishing messages, one recent study by Avanan has shown 25% of phishing attacks sneak past Office 365 defenses and are delivered to inboxes. For an average firm that means several phishing emails will reach end users’ inboxes every day. To ensure your business is protected against phishing attacks, additional anti-phishing controls are required on top of Office 365.
Businesses can protect their Office 365 accounts against phishing by layering SpamTitan on top of Office 365. SpamTitan is an advanced anti-phishing and anti-malware solution that provides superior protection against phishing, malware, spear phishing, and zero-day attacks.
Heuristics rules are used to analyze message headers and these rules are constantly updated to include the latest threats. Bayesian analysis and heuristics are used to check message content, and along with machine learning techniques, new threats are blocked and prevented from reaching inboxes. Sandboxing is also used to assess email attachments for malicious code used to install malware in addition to dual-AV engines that scan for known malware.
These advanced measures ensure that Office 365 inboxes are kept free from malware and phishing emails. These advanced capabilities along with the ease of implementation and use and industry-leading customer support are why SpamTitan is the leading provider of anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions for SMBs and managed service providers that serve the SMB market.
For further information on SpamTitan, to book a product demonstration or set up a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.
The collapse of the package holiday operator Thomas Cook left thousands of holidaymakers stranded, hundreds of thousands of holiday bookings have been cancelled, and more than 9,000 staff have lost their jobs. The company and other UK firms in its group have been forced into compulsory liquidation and cybercriminals have been quick to take advantage. Dozens of Thomas Cook-related domains were registered following the collapse of the firm and several Thomas Cook phishing scams have been detected.
Customer that have incurred out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the collapse of the company and anyone who has paid for a package holiday that has been cancelled may be entitled to a refund or compensation. That has given scammers the perfect opportunity to launch phishing attacks seeking bank account an credit card information.
Customers who have booked Thomas Cook holidays are protected under the ATOL scheme and refunds are being processed by the Civil Aviation Authority, which has set up a subdomain on its website – thomascook.caa.co.uk – where customers can submit claims for refunds. More than 360,000 holidays have been booked for more than 800,000 holidaymakers, who are entitled to refunds. More than 60,000 customers submitted refund forms on the first day that the website was set up and claims for out-of-pocket expenses are being processed by travel insurance firms. The CAA has stated that it will take 60 days for the refunds to be issued.
Anyone who has yet to submit their claim should exercise caution as there are multiple phishing scams being conducted offering money back on canceled holidays, reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, compensation, and fake updates on the status of refund claims. Any email received in relation to Thomas Cook should be treated as a potential scam.
Scams may be conducted with the aim of spreading malware or ransomware. Malicious code is contained in file attachments that trigger a malware download when the attachment is opened. However, far more common in situations when people are demanding refunds is to send phishing emails containing hyperlinks to malicious websites. Those websites require sensitive information such as credit card information and bank account details to be entered. Scammers are well aware that in order for refunds to be processed, bank account information would be required and phishing forms have been set up on fake Thomas Cook domains to do just that.
While there may be some giveaways that emails are not genuine – spelling mistakes and grammatical errors – some Thomas Cook phishing scams are virtually impossible to distinguish from genuine communications. Banks have also been notifying customers by email, which has presented scammers with even more opportunities to hoodwink Thomas Cook customers. There have also been reports of former employees being targeted by scammers offering compensation.
The golden rule to avoid becoming a victim of Thomas Cook phishing scams is never to respond to a request in an unsolicited email. Attachments should not be opened, hyperlinks in emails should not be followed, and contact information included in the message body should not be used. Only use official channels such as the CAA website, and contact banks and travel insurance firms directly using verified contact information.
The Emotet botnet sprung back to life following a 4-month period of dormancy over the summer. The first campaigns, which involved hundreds of thousands of messages, used lures such as fake invoices, payment remittance advice notices, and statements to lure recipients into opening a malicious Word document, enabling content, and inadvertently launching a string of actions that result in the downloading of Emotet: One of the most dangerous malware variants currently being distributed via email.
It has only been a few days since those campaigns were detected, but now a new campaign has been detected. The latest malspam campaign also delivers Emotet but this time the lure is a free copy of Edward Snowden’s book – Permanent Record. The book is an account of Edward Snowden’s life that led up to his whistleblowing actions in 2013.
The campaign includes English, Italian, Spanish, and German language versions which claim to offer a free scanned copy of the former CIA staffer’s book. The English language version of the book is being distributed via email, so the attackers claim, because it is “Time to organize collective readings of Snowden book everywhere.” The email tells the recipient to “Go buy the book now, read it, share it, discuss it,” but conveniently a scanned copy is attached called Scan.doc.
As with the previous campaign, opening the attachment will display a Microsoft Product Notice – with appropriate logo – informing the user that Word has not been activated. The user is required to enable content to continue using Word and view the content of the document. At this point, all it takes is a single click to silently install Emotet. Once installed, Emotet will download other malware variants, including the TrickBot Trojan. Emotet is also being used to distribute ransomware payloads.
While the lures in the Emotet campaigns are regularly changed, they have all used malicious scripts in Word documents which download Emotet. The emails may be sent from unknown individuals or email addresses may be spoofed to make the emails appear to have come from a contact or work colleague.
The lures are convincing and are likely to fool may end users into opening the attachments and enabling content. For businesses, that can lead to a costly malware infection, theft of credentials, fraudulent bank transfers, and ransomware attacks.
Businesses can reduce risk by ensuring employees are told never to open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unknown senders, but also to verify the authenticity of any email attachment by phone before taking any action. It is also important to condition employees never to enable content in any document sent via email.
While end user security awareness training is essential, advanced anti-malware solutions are also required to prevent those messages from ever reaching inboxes.
SpamTitan includes DMARC authentication to block email impersonation phishing attacks and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox where suspicious email attachments can be safely executed and studied for malicious actions.
Along with a wide range of other content checks, including Bayesian analysis and greylisting, emails such as these can be blocked and prevented from being delivered to end users.
After a quiet summer, the Emotet botnet is back in action. The threat actors behind Emotet are sending hundreds of thousands of malicious spam emails spreading the Emotet Trojan via malicious Word documents.
Emotet first appeared in 2014 and was initially a banking Trojan used to obtain credentials to online bank accounts. The stolen credentials are used to make fraudulent wire transfers and empty business accounts. Over the years the Trojan has evolved considerably, with new modules being added to give the malware a host of new features. Emotet is also polymorphic, which means it can change itself each time it is downloaded to avoid being detected by signature-based anti-malware solutions. Up until the start of 2019, more than 750 variants of Emotet had been detected.
The latest iteration of Emotet is capable of stealing banking credentials and other types of information. It is also capable of downloading other malware variants, which has led to security researchers naming it ‘triple-threat malware,’ as it has been used recently to download the TrickBot Trojan and Ryuk ransomware. These three malware threats along with the scale of the operation make Emotet one of the most dangerous threats faced by businesses. It is arguably the costliest and most destructive botnet ever seen.
Last summer, Emotet activity was so high and the threat so severe that the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert to all businesses in July 2018 warning them of the threat. That warning was mirrored by the UK National Cyber Security Center which published its own warning about the malware in September 2018. Activity remained high well into 2019, but suddenly stopped at the start of June when command and control server activity fell to next to nothing.
The hiatus in activity was only brief. Researchers at Cofense Labs discovered its command and control servers had been activated again in late August and a massive spamming campaign commenced on September 16 using bots in Germany. The campaign was initially focused on businesses in the United States, Germany, and United Kingdom but the campaign has now spread to Austria, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland.
After being downloaded, Emotet spreads laterally and infects as many devices as possible on the network. Email accounts on infected machines are hijacked and used to send further spam emails to all contacts in the account. Finally the malware downloader module is used to a secondary and often tertiary malware variant.
The latest campaign uses Word documents containing malicious macros, which launch PowerShell scripts that fetch the Emotet Trojan from a variety of different compromised websites, many of which are running the WordPress CMS.
The campaign uses a variety of lures including invoices, payment remittance advice, and statements, the details of which are contained in Word documents that require content to be enabled to view the document content.
Upon opening the document, the user is requested to accept the Office 365 license agreement. Failure to enable content, so the document claims, will result in Microsoft Word features being disabled.
This campaign includes personalized subject lines including the recipients name to increase the likelihood of a user taking the requested action. Genuine email thread are also hijacked to make it appear that the user has already been communicating with the sender of the email. Around a quarter of attacks use hijacked email threads. Data from Cofense indicates emails are being sent from 3,362 hijacked email accounts from 1,875 domains.
It is currently unclear whether Ryuk ransomware is being distributed in this campaign. Several researchers have confirmed that TrickBot is being downloaded as a secondary payload.
The key to blocking attacks with polymorphic malware is to implement layered defenses, including an advanced spam filtering solution, anti-virus software, and web filter. It is also important to ensure that the staff is made aware of the threat of attack and the types of email that are being used to spread the Trojan.
Google has acknowledged a vulnerability in the Google Calendar app is being exploited by cybercriminals to inject fake and malicious items into Google Calendar.
Several Google Calendar phishing campaigns were detected over the summer of 2019 which were exploiting this flaw. The campaigns saw Google Calendar spam sent to large numbers of users, including invites to events and other requests and special offers that popped up on unsuspecting users’ screens.
These notifications contained links to webpages where users could find out more information about the events and special offers. If events were accepted, they would be inserted into users’ calendars and would trigger automatic notifications. The offers and invites would keep on appearing until the users’ clicked the link. Those links directed users to phishing pages where credentials were harvested.
Some of the scams required credit card information to be entered, others required the user to login using their Office 365 credentials. Links could also direct users to webpages where drive-by malware downloads take place.
Most people are aware of the threat of phishing emails, malicious text messages, and social media posts that harvest sensitive information, but attacks on calendar services are relatively unheard of. Consequently, many users will fail to recognize these notifications and calendar items as malicious, especially when they appear in a trusted app such as Google Calendar.
Unfortunately, these attacks are possible because in the default setting, anyone can send a calendar event to a user. That event will be inserted into the user’s calendar and will automatically trigger notifications, as is the case with legitimate events.
In addition to events, messages can include special offers, notifications of cash prizes, alerts about money transfers, and all manner of other messages to entice the user to click a malicious link and disclose sensitive information or download malware.
Google Calendar is not the only calendar service that is prone to these attacks. Apple users have also been targeted, as have users of other calendar apps.
How to Block Google Calendar Phishing Attacks
Recently, a Google employee acknowledged the increase in ‘calendar spam’ and confirmed action was being taken by Google to address the problem.
In the meantime, users can prevent these spam and phishing messages from appearing by making a change to the app settings. Users should navigate to Event Settings > Automatically Add Invitations, and select the option “No, only show invitations to which I’ve responded” and uncheck the “show declined events” option in View Options.
Businesses should also consider including Google Calendar phishing scams in their security awareness training programs to ensure employees are aware that phishing attacks are not limited to email, text message, telephone calls, and social media posts.
Business email compromise scams are now the leading cause of cyberattack-related losses. Billion are being lost each year and there are no signs of the attacks abating. In fact, it has been predicted that the number of attacks and losses will continue to increase.
Around 1% of global GDP is lost to cybercrime each year and that figure is increasing rapidly. Currently, around $600 billion is lost each year to cybercrime. A FinCEN report from July 2018 shows that suspicious activity report (SAR) filings have increased from $110 million per month in 2016 to $301 million per month in 2018 and Cybersecurity Ventures predicts losses will increase to $6 trillion globally by 2021. According to the FBI, more than $1.2 billion was lost to business email compromise scams in the United States alone in 2018.
Business email compromise (BEC) scams involve the impersonation of an executive or other individual, whose compromise email account is used to send fraudulent wire transfer requests. A variation sees a business associate of the company spoofed and requests sent demanding outstanding involves be paid. The latter is now more common than attacks spoofing the CEO.
BEC attacks usually start with a spear phishing attack to obtain email account credentials. Once email credentials are compromised, the account is used to send messages to other individuals in the organization, such as employees in the payroll, HR, or finance department. Since the emails come from a trusted source within the organization and the wire transfer requests are not unusual, payment is often made.
A successful attack can see sizable wire transfers made to accounts controlled by the attackers. Payments are often for tens of thousands of dollars or, in some cases, millions of dollars. A recent attack on a subsidiary of the car manufacturer Toyota Boshoku Corporation saw a fraudulent transfer of $37 million made to the attackers.
While that incident stands out due to the scale of the loss, fraudulent transfers of millions of dollars are far from unusual. In many cases, only a small percentage of the transferred funds are recovered. Since these attacks can be extremely profitable, it is no surprise that the so many cybercriminal gangs are getting in on the act and are conducting campaigns.
A new report from the insurer AIG shows BEC attacks are now the leading reason for cybersecurity-related insurance claims, having overtaken ransomware attacks for the first time. 23% of all cyberattack-related claims are due to BEC scams.
In the most part, these BEC attacks can be prevented with basic cybersecurity measures. AIG attributes the rise in claims to poor security measures at the targeted organizations. Investigations have uncovered numerous basic cybersecurity failures such as not providing security awareness training to employees, the failure to enforce the use of strong passwords, no multi-factor authentication, and poor email security controls.
If businesses fail to implement these basic cybersecurity measures, attacks are inevitable. Cyber-insurance policies may cover some of the losses, but many SMBs will not be in a position to make a claim. For them, BEC attacks can be catastrophic.
If you run a business and are concerned about your defenses against phishing, spear phishing, and BEC attacks, contact TitanHQ to find out more about effective cybersecurity solutions that can block BEC attacks.