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.

How Phishing Emails Led to The Theft of $23.5 Million from the U.S. Department of Defense

Phishing is commonly used to gain access to credentials to hijack email accounts for use in business email compromise (BEC) attacks. Once credentials have been obtained, the email account can be used to send phishing emails internally, with a view to obtaining the credentials of the main target. Alternatively, by spear phishing the target account, those steps can be eliminated.

If the credentials are obtained for the CEO or CFO, emails can be crafted and sent to individuals responsible for wire transfers, requesting payments be made to an attacker-controlled account. A common alternative is to target vendors, in an attack referred to as vendor email compromise (VEC). Once access is gained to a vendor’s account, the information contained in the email accounts provides detailed information on customers that can be targeted.

When a payment is due to be made, the vendor’s email account is used to request a change to the account for the upcoming payment. When the payment is made to the attacker-controlled account, it usually takes a few days before the non-payment is identified by the vendor, by which time it may be too late to recover the fraudulently transferred funds. While BEC and VEC attacks are nowhere near as common as phishing attacks, they are the leading cause of losses to cybercrime due to the large amounts of money obtained through fraudulent wire transfers. One attack in 2018 resulted in the theft of $23.5 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense.

In this case, two individuals involved in the scam were identified, including a Californian man who has just pleaded guilty to six counts related to the attack. He now faces up to 107 years in jail for the scam, although these scams are commonly conducted by threat actors in overseas countries, and the perpetrators often escape justice. The scam was conducted like many others. The BEC gang targeted DoD vendors between June 2018 and September 2018 and used phishing emails to obtain credentials for email accounts. An employee at a DoD vendor that had a contract to supply Aviation JA1 Turbine fuel to troops in southeast Asia for the DoD received an email that spoofed the U.S. government and included a hyperlink to a malicious website that had been created to support the scam.

The website used for the scam had the domain dia-mil.com, which mimicked the official dla.mil website, and email accounts were set up on that domain to closely resemble official email accounts. The phishing emails directed the employee to a cloned version of the government website, login.gov, which harvested the employee’s credentials. The credentials allowed the scammer to change bank account information in the SAM (System for Award Management) database to the account credentials of the shell company set up for the scam. When the payment of $23,453,350 for the jet fuel was made, it went to the scammers rather than the vendor.

Security systems were in place to identify fraudulent changes to bank account information, but despite those measures, the payment was made. The SAM database is scanned every 24 hours and any bank account changes are flagged and checked. The scammers learned of this and made calls to the Defense Logistics Agency and provided a reason why the change was made and succeeded in getting the change manually approved, although flags were still raised as the payment was made to a company that was not an official government contractor. That allowed the transfer to be reverted. Many similar scams are not detected in time and the recovery of funds is not possible. By the time the scam is identified, the scammers’ account has been emptied or closed.

The key to preventing BEC and VEC attacks is to deal with the issue at its source to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes and teach employees how to identify and avoid phishing scams. TitanHQ can help in both areas through SpamTitan Email Security and the SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulation platform. Businesses should also implement multifactor authentication to stop stolen credentials from being used to access accounts.

New TTPs Help Emotet Regain its Place as the Top Malware Threat

It took 10 months for the operators of the Emotet botnet to return after their botnet infrastructure was shut down in an international law enforcement operation, and then just a further 3 months for Emotet malware to regain its position as the most widely deployed malware.

According to Check Point, in March 2022, Emotet reestablished itself as the most widely distributed malware. Emotet has emerged like a phoenix from the flames, and infections have been soaring, with March seeing an astonishing increase in infections. Check Point says as many as 10% of all organizations globally were infected with Emotet in March, which is twice the number of infections the firm recorded in February.

Emotet first appeared in 2014 and was initially a banking Trojan; however, the malware has evolved considerably. Like many other banking Trojans, modules have been added to give the malware new functionality and today the malware is operated under the malware-as-a-service model, with access to Emotet-infected devices sold to other cybercriminal operations, which in the past has included the TrickBot operators and ransomware gangs.

In November 2021, 10 months after the botnet’s infrastructure was taken down, security researchers started reporting the resurrection of Emotet. The TrickBot operators helped to rebuild the Emotet botnet by using their malware to download Emotet as a secondary payload, and in the past couple of months, massive spamming campaigns have been launched to distribute Emotet which have proven to be highly successful. Emotet is also a self-propagating malware and the emails used to distribute it are convincing. One of the Emotet spam email campaigns being tracked by Kaspersky has been scaled up considerably, increasing 10-fold in just one month. That campaign is being used to distribute Emotet and the linked malware QBot. In February, Kaspersky intercepted 3,000 emails. In March, 30,000 emails were intercepted.

Like previous campaigns distributing Emotet, business email threads are hijacked and replies are sent to those messages that contain malicious hyperlinks or attachments. Since the messages come from trusted senders and appear to be responses to genuine messages, the chance of them attracting a click is high. This campaign highlights the importance of having an email security solution than conducts scans of outbound as well as inbound mail. Security Awareness training is also important to condition the workforce to constantly be on the lookout for potential threats, even when emails appear to have been sent internally from corporate accounts or other trusted senders.

Some of the spam email campaigns have revealed new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) are being tested to distribute the malware. This April, Microsoft started blocking macros in Office files downloaded from the Internet by default. This is a problem for threat actors that have previously relied on macros in Excel spreadsheets and Word documents to download their malware, so it is no surprise to see the Emotet operators changing their tactics to get around this.

One campaign has been identified that uses XLL files – a type of dynamic link library (DLL) file – rather than Excel and Word files. XLL files increase the functionality of Excel, and using these files gets around the problem of VBA macros being blocked. Emotet is known for large spamming campaigns; however, this campaign was conducted on a small scale, possibly to test its effectiveness. Should the campaign prove successful, it will likely be scaled up. In this campaign, the emails are linked to OneDrive, and if the link in the email is clicked, the XLL file is downloaded in a password-protected .zip file. The password to unlock the .zip file is provided in the message body.

Emotet is also being distributed via Windows shortcut files (.LNK). The Emotet operators have used this tactic in the past in combination with VBS code; however, this campaign does away with the VBS code, and instead, the .LNK files are used to directly execute PowerShell commands that download the Emotet payload.

Is likely that the operators will switch to new variants that have lower detection rates by AV engines, as has been done many times in the past, which is why it is important to have an email security solution that is not reliant on signature-based detection mechanisms. Behavioral analysis is vital for detecting these new variants. An email security solution with email sandboxing will help to protect against new malware variants that have not had their Signatures uploaded into AV engines.

LinkedIn is Now the Most Impersonated Brand in Phishing Attacks

LinkedIn has jumped to the top of the list of the most impersonated brands in phishing attacks, now accounting for 52% of all phishing attacks involving brand impersonation – a 550% increase from the 8% in the previous quarter, according to Check Point.

LinkedIn phishing scams take various forms, although one of the most common is a fake request from an individual to connect on the platform. The phishing emails include the official LinkedIn logo and are indistinguishable from the genuine LinkedIn communications that they spoof. If the user clicks on the Accept button, they are directed to a phishing webpage that is a carbon copy of the genuine LinkedIn page aside from the domain.

The increase in LinkedIn phishing attacks is part of a trend in attacks targeting social media credentials. While these credentials do not provide an immediate financial return, social media account credentials are valuable to cybercriminals as they allow them to conduct highly effective spear phishing attacks. If a corporate social media account is compromised, trust in the company can be abused to distribute malware and links can be added to direct followers to malicious websites.

Failed delivery and shipping notifications are still a common theme in phishing emails targeting businesses and consumers. Around 22% of phishing attacks in Q1, 2022 involved the impersonation of shipping and delivery companies. The package delivery firm DHL is the second most spoofed brand accounting for 14% of brand impersonation attacks. Many of these shipping and delivery phishing emails are conducted to distribute malware, usually through the downloading of fake documents that include malicious code that installs malware such as remote access Trojans.

Phishing is the number one threat faced by businesses. Most successful cyberattacks start with a phishing email, with stolen credentials or malware providing cybercriminals with the foothold they need in a corporate network to launch an extensive attack. Phishing attacks are cheap and easy to conduct and they target employees, who can easily be fooled into installing malware or disclosing their credentials.

This month, a healthcare data breach was reported by Christie Clinic in the United States that involved a hacker gaining access to a single email account. That account was used in a business email compromise attack to divert a large vendor payment. Business email compromise attacks are the main cause of losses to cybercrime according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In this breach, the compromised email account contained the personal data of more than half a million patients. Cyberattacks such as this only require one employee to respond to a phishing email for a costly data breach to occur.

Also this month, a new malware distribution campaign has been identified that attempts to install the Meta information stealer, which is capable of stealing passwords stored in browsers and cryptocurrency wallets. The malware is delivered via phishing emails with Excel spreadsheet attachments, which include malicious macros that download and install malware via HTTPS from GitHub. In this campaign, the lure used to trick recipients into opening the file claims to be a notification about an approved transfer of funds to Home Depot, the details of which are detailed in the attached spreadsheet. In order to view the contents of the spreadsheet, the user is told they must enable content to remove DocuSign protection. Enabling content allows the macros to run.

An advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan will help to ensure that inboxes are kept free of phishing emails and any emails containing malicious scripts or attachments are not delivered. SpamTitan includes dual antivirus engines to ensure malware is identified and sandboxing to catch malware variants that bypass signature-based detection mechanisms.

While a spam filter used to be sufficient for blocking phishing emails, the sophisticated nature of phishing attacks today and the sheer volume of phishing emails being sent, mean some phishing emails will inevitably arrive in inboxes. For this reason it is also important to provide regular security awareness training to the workforce. TitanHQ can help in this regard through SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulations. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security awareness training in real-time. The solution is proven to significantly improve resilience to phishing attacks.

Scary Browser-in-the-Browser Phishing Attack Steals Credentials Using Realistic SSO Popups

Phishing remains the top cybersecurity threat to businesses. Phishing scams can be realistic and difficult for people to identify for the scams that they are. The sender field is often spoofed to make it appear that the emails have been sent by known individuals or trusted companies, the body of the messages often contains well-known branding, and templates are used for messages that are carbon copies of the genuine emails they impersonate.

The emails may contain malicious attachments if the aim is to install malware, and malicious hyperlinks if credential harvesting is the goal. The hyperlinks direct users to a website where they are asked to enter their credentials – a web page that is difficult to distinguish from the genuine web page being spoofed. As if those messages were not convincing enough, there is now a new Chrome phishing toolkit that makes credential theft even easier.

Most Internet users will be familiar with websites that use Single Sign-on popups to authenticate users. Rather than requiring website users to register an account, they can authenticate using an existing Google, Apple, or Facebook account. This way of logging in is popular, as users do not need to create and remember another set of login credentials. There is, however, a problem with this approach, and that is that single sign-on popups are easy to spoof in Chrome.

As previously mentioned, phishing scams can be convincing, but there are often red flags and the biggest flag is the URL of the website used for phishing. If you are expecting to sign in to Facebook for example, and you are directed to what is clearly not a Facebook-owned domain, the phishing scam can be easily identified.

The latest toolkit does not produce this red flag. The single sign-on popup generated on the webpage looks exactly the same as the genuine popup being spoofed, including the URL. If an individual is directed to one of these fake phishing forms, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to identify it as malicious and their credentials will be stolen.

A phishing email could be sent advising the recipient that a file has been shared with them, inviting them to log in to Dropbox for instance. The link is clicked, and the user will be directed to the website and will be presented with the login box which includes the address bar with the URL of the login form. For example, if you attempt to log in with your Google account, the URL will start with accounts.google.com/. The phishing toolkit uses pre-made templates that are fake, but incredibly realistic. These Chrome popup windows allow a custom address URL and title to be displayed.

This toolkit was created by the security researcher dr. d0x, who made them available on GitHub. They allow any would-be hacker to quickly and easily create a highly convincing SSO pop-up window, which could be added to any website and be used for a browser-in-the-browser phishing attack. This attack method is nothing new, as fake SSO pop-up windows have been created in the past, but previous attempts have not been particularly convincing, as they do not exactly replicate the genuine pop-ups. The popups have previously been used on fake gaming websites to harvest credentials from the unwary. This kit is different as it is so convincing, and could easily be used to steal credentials and even 2FA codes.

Critical Infrastructure Organizations Targeted by Ransomware Gangs

2019 was a particularly bad year for ransomware attacks, and while there was a reduction in the use of ransomware in 2020, attacks increased sharply in 2021, with the education sector and government organizations the most attacked sectors, although no industry sector is immune to attacks.

There is growing concern about the increase in attacks on critical infrastructure organizations, which are an attractive target for ransomware gangs. According to the data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the National Security Agency (NSA), 14 of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the United States reported ransomware attacks in 2021, including the defense industrial base, emergency services, healthcare, food and agriculture, information technology, and government facilities. Cybersecurity agencies in the United Kingdom and Australia have also said critical infrastructure has been targeted.

Critical Infrastructure Organizations Warned About AvosLocker Ransomware Attacks

This week, a warning has been issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) about ransomware attacks using AvosLocker ransomware.

AvosLocker was first identified as a threat in late June 2021 and despite being a relatively new threat, poses a significant risk. Attacks using the ransomware increased in the latter half of 2021, with spikes in attacks occurring in November and December. Variants of AvosLocker ransomware have now been developed to attack Linux as well as Windows systems.

As is now common, the attackers engage in double extortion and demand payment for the keys to decrypt files and to prevent the release of stolen data. The gang operates a data leak site where a sample of stolen data is uploaded and made accessible to the public. The gang says it then sells the stolen data to cybercriminals if payment is not made. AvosLocker is one of a handful of ransomware operations that also makes contact with victims by phone to encourage them to pay the ransom. The gang is known to issue threats of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) to further pressure victims into paying the ransom.

AvosLocker is a ransomware-as-a-service operation where affiliates are recruited to conduct attacks for a percentage of any ransom payments they generate. Consequently, the attack vectors used in attacks depend on the skillsets of the affiliates. Common vulnerabilities are known to be exploited to gain initial access to networks, including vulnerabilities associated with Proxy Shell and unpatched vulnerabilities in on-premises Microsoft Exchange Servers. However, over the past year, spam email campaigns have been a primary attack vector.

Email Filtering Vital for Defending Against Ransomware Attacks

Spam email is a common attack vector used by ransomware gangs. Spam email campaigns are effective and provide low-cost access to victim networks. Phishing and spam campaigns either use malicious attachments or embedded hyperlinks in emails, along with social engineering techniques to convince end users to open the attachments or click the links.

The primary defense against these attacks is email filters. Email filters scan all inbound emails and attachments and prevent malicious messages from being delivered to inboxes. Since cyber actors are constantly changing their lures, social engineering methods, and strategies to bypass email security solutions, it is vital to have an email security solution in place that can respond to changing tactics.

Email security solutions that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify and block threats outperform solutions that rely on antivirus engines and blacklists of known malicious IP addresses. SpamTitan incorporates artificial intelligence in addition to blacklists, dual antivirus engines, and sandboxing to identify malicious emails, and has comprehensive threat intelligence feeds to identify new threats rapidly. SpamTitan also provides time-of-click protection against malicious hyperlinks in emails to ensure users are well protected against phishing, malware, ransomware, and other email threats.

Don’t Neglect Security Awareness Training for the Workforce

It is also important to provide security awareness training to all members of the workforce from the CEO down. The FBI and the U.S. Treasury Department recommended in the latest alert to “Focus on cyber security awareness and training,” and “Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities (i.e., ransomware and phishing scams).” TitanHQ can help in this regard with SafeTitan – “The only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security training in real-time.”

For more information on improving your defenses against ransomware and other cyber threats, give the TitanHQ team a call to inquire about email filtering, web filtering, and security awareness training for your workforce.

Lapsus Ransomware Gang Ups the Ante with Impresa and NVIDIA Attacks

The Lapsus ransomware gang has arrived on the scene and has already claimed several high-profile targets, with victims including Impresa – the largest media conglomerate in Portugal, Brazil’s Ministry of Health (MoH), the Brazilian telecommunications operator Claro, and most recently, the Santa Clara, CA-based GPU vendor NVIDIA.

The Lapsus ransomware gang – also referred to as Lapsus$ – is a relatively new threat actor and is making a reputation for itself in an already crowded ransomware market. Most ransomware gangs now practice double extortion, where prior to encrypting files they exfiltrate sensitive data and threaten to publish the data if the ransom is not paid. Triple extortion tactics are now becoming common, where threats are also issued to notify shareholders, partners, and customers about attacks. The Lapsus gang has taken things a step further still and is boasting about its attacks and causing major embarrassment for victims.

In January, the Lapsus ransomware gang attacked the Brazilian car rental firm Localiza, which is one of the largest car rental firms in South America. In addition to stealing data and encrypting files, the gang redirected the company’s website to an adult website and publicly announced that the company is now a porn site. The redirection was only in place for a few hours, but it was enough to damage the company’s reputation.

Also in January, Impresa was targeted. Impresa is the owner of SIC and Expresso, the largest TV channel and weekly newspaper in Portugal. The attack targeted Impresa’s online IT servers resulting in company websites being taken offline and the temporary loss of Internet streaming services. The gang defaced the company’s websites by adding their ransom note and claimed they had taken control of Impresa’s Amazon Web Services account. The gang then used the hijacked Expresso Twitter account and sent a tweet stating, “Lapsus$ is officially the new president of Portugal.” The gang also gained access to its newsletter and sent phishing emails to subscribers informing them in the emails that the President of Portugal had been murdered.

On February 25, NVIDIA experienced a cyberattack that saw parts of its IT infrastructure taken offline for a couple of days. NVIDIA announced that it was investigating a security incident, and then the Lapsus gang said it was behind the attack and issued a threat to leak around 1TB of data. The gang published screenshots indicating they had leaked password hashes for NVIDIA employees, source code, and highly sensitive proprietary company information.

There was some good news – the Lapsus gang then experienced its own ‘ransomware’ attack. There have been reports in the media that NVIDIA hacked back and gained access to the attackers’ virtual machine and encrypted its data, although security research Marcus Hutchins offered an alternative view, suggesting this could have been due to the gang installing Nvidia’s corporate agent on their virtual machine and then triggering a data loss prevention policy.

In addition to demanding a ransom, the Lapsus ransomware gang also demanded NVIDIA remove its lite hast rate (LHR) limitations on its GeForce 30 series firmware – which halve the hash rate when it detects the GPUs are being used for mining Ethereum – and also requested NVIDIA commits to completely open source their GPU drivers forever. If the demands are not met, the gang said it will release the complete silicon, graphics, and computer chipset files for its most recent GPUs.

While many ransomware gangs are focused purely on extortion, the Lapsus gang appears to like the limelight and brags about their attacks, which makes attacks by the gang even more serious for victims due to the brand and reputation damage they cause.

The extent of the attack vectors used by the gang is not known, but they appear to have used phishing emails to gain access to some victims’ networks, including the attack on Impresa. Phishing is a popular attack vector in ransomware attacks. Around half of all ransomware attacks start with a phishing email, according to a recent Statista survey. Employees respond to phishing emails and disclose their credentials, which give the attackers the foothold in the network they need for a deeper compromise.

Businesses could be lulled into a false sense of security with the disbanding of major ransomware operations and arrests of key gang members. The REvil ransomware gang may be no more, and DarkSide has been shut down, but other ransomware gangs are more than happy to plug the gap. Lapsus only announced its presence on the scene at the start of the year but is already growing into a major threat.

The best defense against Lapsus ransomware attacks and other cyberattacks is to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy. That should include an advanced spam filtering solution to block email phishing attacks, content filtering to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites, multi-factor authentication on all email accounts and local/cloud apps, ensuring patches and software updates are applied promptly, and providing ongoing security awareness training to the workforce to help employees identify and avoid phishing and social engineering attempts.

TitanHQ can help organizations improve their defenses against the full range of cyberattacks by providing advanced cybersecurity solutions for SMBs, enterprises, and Managed Service Providers, including spam filtering, DNS filtering, email encryption, email archiving, and security awareness training.

LinkedIn Phishing Attacks Soar as Scammers Take Advantage of “The Great Resignation”

Microsoft may be the most impersonated brand in phishing attacks, but the impersonation of LinkedIn is also common and there has been a massive increase in phishing attacks spoofing the professional networking platform in recent weeks.

LinkedIn is an ideal brand to impersonate in phishing attacks and now is the perfect time to be running phishing campaigns due to the Great Resignation. For those unaware of the term, the Great Resignation is a phenomenon where record numbers of employees quit their jobs. The term was coined in May 2021 by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University, who predicted that when the pandemic ends there will be a mass exodus of people leaving their jobs.

While there were mass layoffs as a result of the pandemic, many workers who retained their jobs chose not to leave due to the uncertainty of the job market, but now many workers who are not living from paycheck to paycheck are reconsidering their positions. There has certainly been an upward trend in workers voluntarily leaving their jobs since the start of 2021, indicating the great resignation has begun.

LinkedIn is used by job seekers to identify contacts, network, research companies, and find new employment opportunities. A phishing email that spoofs LinkedIn and indicates a potential employer has been reading a user’s profile, shows a message has been sent through the platform, or advises the user about a new job opportunity is likely to be clicked.

LinkedIn phishing campaigns are helped by the regular email communications from LinkedIn advising users of the platform of the number of searches they appeared in, new messages, and alerts about jobs. That means that users of the platform are used to receiving regular communications from the platform, so if a phishing email is received that looks exactly like a LinkedIn communication, there is likely to be less scrutiny of the email that there would be of an email from a platform that rarely communicates with users via email.

The latest LinkedIn phishing campaign uses HTML templates that include the LinkedIn logo and the color scheme used in official LinkedIn communications. The emails also have the same footer as genuine email communications from the platform, including the correct address and unsubscribe option. The display name is spoofed to make it appear as if the emails are official communications; however, closer inspection will reveal the emails have been sent from webmail addresses.

The phishing emails include subject lines such as “Who’s searching for you online”, “You Have 1 New Message,” and “You appeared in 4 searches this week,” exactly mirroring official LinkedIn emails and they also reference well-known companies such as American Express and Tesla to make it appear that the user is being headhunted by a major corporation. The emails have an HTML button to click that will direct the user to a website where LinkedIn credentials are harvested.

LinkedIn phishing campaigns can be highly effective, but as with all phishing scams, there are ways of blocking the attacks. The first is to ensure that an advanced email security solution is deployed to block the phishing emails at the gateway to prevent them from being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan Plus uses machine learning techniques and predictive analysis to identify suspicious URLs in emails and provides time-of-click protection. If a link is found to be unsafe, a user will be presented with a block page containing additional information and further options.

SpamTitan Plus has 100% coverage of all current market-leading anti-phishing feeds, a 1.5X increase in unique phishing URL detections, and 1.6X faster phishing detections than the current market leaders, with 10 million net new, previously undiscovered phishing URLs added to the solution every single day.

It is also important to provide security awareness training to the workforce to teach employees how to identify phishing emails and to encourage following email security best practices. TitanHQ has created SafeTitan security awareness training to help train the workforce to be security titans. SafeTitan provides behavior-driven security awareness training tailored for the behaviors of individual employees, includes an extensive library of training courses, videos, and quizzes, and provides real-time intervention training combined with simulated phishing attacks. The solution is proven to reduce employee susceptibility to phishing attacks by up to 92%.

For more information on SpamTitan Plus and SafeTitan security awareness training, give the TitanHQ team a call and take the first step toward improving your defenses against phishing attacks.

BEC Scammers Use Virtual Meeting Platforms to Trick Employees into Making Fraudulent Wire Transfers

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is the leading cause of financial losses to cybercrime. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 19,369 complaints about BEC scams in 2020, resulting in adjusted losses of $1.87 billion. While BEC crime ranked number 10 based on victim count, it topped the list in terms of the losses sustained by victims, with three times as much lost to the scams as the second-biggest loss to cybercrime – Confidence/romance fraud.

Business Email Compromise scams usually start with a phishing attack to gain access to email credentials. The attackers seek the credentials of the CEO, CFO, or another executive, and either target those individuals directly with spear phishing emails or compromise the email accounts of lower-level employees and use their email accounts to send phishing emails to the targeted individuals. Once the right credentials have been obtained, the executive’s email account is used to send messages to individuals responsible for wire transfers to trick them into making substantial wire transfers to attacker-controlled bank accounts. While these scams require planning and research, the time spent setting up the scams is well spent, as BEC attacks are often successful.

While BEC scams are usually conducted via email, BEC scammers are increasingly using virtual meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom in their scams. The scammers have taken advantage of the increase in remote working due to the pandemic and the popularity of virtual meeting platforms for communication and collaboration.

Once the scammers have access to the CEO’s email account, they identify their next target and send a request for a virtual meeting. When the target connects to the meeting, the scammer explains that they are having problems with their audio and video, so the meeting proceeds with the scammer on text chat. Oftentimes they will insert a picture of the CEO for added realism. The scammer then provides a reason for the out-of-band request, then asks the employee to make a wire transfer, either in the meeting or after the meeting via email.

The FBI has recently issued a warning to businesses about the increase in the use of virtual meetings for BEC scams, having observed an increase in the use of these platforms for BEC scams between 2019 and 2021. Scammers are also compromising employee email accounts and are inserting themselves into work meetings to gather information about the day-to-day processes at businesses. Since the scammers use genuine email accounts to connect, and audio/visual problems are relatively common, they are able to gather information and steal funds without being detected. The scammers also use compromised CEO email accounts to send emails to employees claiming they are stuck in a virtual meeting and unable to arrange an important wire transfer and ask an employee to initiate the transfer on their behalf.

There are several steps that businesses can take to improve their defenses against BEC attacks. Defending against these attacks should start with an advanced email security solution to block the phishing attacks that allow scammers to gain access to email accounts. SpamTitan has industry-leading detection of phishing URLs in emails and can prevent employees from visiting the web pages where credentials are harvested.

Security awareness training is important as some malicious emails bypass all spam filters. Employees need to be trained on how to identify scam emails. Security awareness training is concerned with creating a ‘human firewall’ to augment technical defenses and should make employees aware of BEC scams and how to identify scam emails from internal email accounts. TitanHQ has recently launched a new security awareness platform called SafeTitan to help businesses with training. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness platform that provides real-time training to deal with threats targeting employees.

It is also recommended to implement policies and procedures that require secondary channels or two-factor authentication to verify requests for any changes to account information or atypical requests for bank transfers.

Phishing Campaign Uses CSV Email Attachments to Deliver BazarBackdoor Malware

If you provide security awareness training to the workforce, you will no doubt have highlighted the risk of opening Microsoft Office email attachments, especially when sent from unknown individuals. Microsoft Office files can include macros, which if allowed to run, can silently deliver malicious payloads. Comma-separated values (CSV) files are often not viewed as malicious, as they are simple text files, but a campaign has been identified by security researcher Chris Campbell that uses CSV files to deliver BazarBackdoor malware.

BazarBackdoor is a fileless malware that is believed to have been created by the threat actors behind the TrickBot banking Trojan. BazarBackdoor is used as the first stage of an attack that provides threat actors with remote access to an infected device, which can be leveraged to conduct more extensive compromises and deliver other malicious payloads. BazarBackdoor is fileless malware, which makes it difficult to detect. It resides in the memory, does not touch the hard drive, and does not leave a footprint.

Throughout the pandemic, BazarBackdoor has been delivered using COVID-19-themed and business-related lures via embedded hyperlinks in emails. The links direct users to a web page where they are tricked into downloading and running an executable file. The landing pages often claim to be web-hosted PDF, Word, or Excel files. When the file is downloaded and executed, it delivers BazarBackdoor malware. The latest campaign is a departure from the typical method of malware delivery and is one that could easily fool users as CSV files are often viewed as benign.

CSV files are often used to transfer data between different applications, such as databases and spreadsheets. A CSV file contains text separated by commas, with each comma denoting a new column and each line denoting a new row. Since a CSV file is a text file, it cannot contain any macros and cannot, by itself, execute any malicious code; however, that does not mean CSV files are entirely benign, as this latest campaign demonstrates.

The issue is not the CSV file itself, but a feature of Microsoft Excel that allows CSV files to be used in a malicious way. Excel supports Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), which is a message-based protocol for sharing data between applications running under Windows systems. DDE can be used to execute commands that have their output inputted into an open spreadsheet, including CSV files.

The CSV files used in this campaign are like any other, with data separated by commas; however, the file includes a WMIC call that launches a PowerShell command. If the CSV file is opened using Excel – on most devices CSV files are associated with Excel – DDE uses WMIC to create a PowerShell process, which opens a remote URL that uses PowerShell to download a .jpg file, which is saved as a DLL file and executed using rundll32.exe. The DLL file installs BazarLoader, which in turn downloads and executes BazarBackdoor. If the CSV file is opened in Excel, two warnings will be generated, but users may ignore those warnings, and it would appear many have done so.

Since BazarBackdoor and other fileless malware are difficult to detect, the key to protecting against campaigns such as this is to block the threat before the malware can be delivered, which requires a combination of technical measures and end user training.

The lures and techniques used to deliver malware via phishing emails are diverse and new methods are constantly being developed to fool end users and email security solutions. While the use of Office files for delivering malware is common, other files can also be used so it is important to teach employees to be wary of any email file attachment and to never ignore any security warnings. An advanced email security solution is required to identify malicious email attachments, but antivirus engines alone will not block threats such as this. Email security solutions that include sandboxing are important. Suspicious email attachments are opened in the sandbox and are subjected to in-depth analysis. It is also recommended to also use a web filter to block access to malicious websites and control the files that can be downloaded to users’ devices.

If you want to improve your defenses against email- and web-based cyber threats, give the TitanHQ team a call. TitanHQ has developed advanced, effective, and easy-to-use cloud-based cybersecurity solutions for SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers to protect against all email- and web-delivered threats. You may be surprised to discover how little it costs to implement these solutions and ensure malware and phishing threats never trouble your business.

How to Protect Against Redline Malware and Other Email Malware Threats

Cyberattacks are now being reported at an incredible rate, with many of those attacks having devastating consequences for small- and medium-sized businesses. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, around 60% of small- to medium-sized companies go out of business within 6 months of suffering a data breach. Cyberattacks are becoming much more sophisticated, but oftentimes these incredibly damaging attacks are not conducted by highly skilled hackers. The bar for conducting these attacks can be incredibly low, which means anyone with a modicum of skill can conduct attacks and profit. One of the ways that would-be hackers can start conducting attacks is by taking advantage of the many ransomware-as-a-service and malware-as-a-service offerings on hacking forums and darknet marketplaces. Take Redline malware for example.

Redline malware is a commodity information stealer that is easily obtained on hacking and cybercrime forums. The malware costs between $100-$200, and payment can be made anonymously using cryptocurrencies. At such a low price it is available to virtually anyone, and conducting attacks requires little effort or skill.

The Redline stealer was first identified in March 2020 and soon became one of the most prevalent malware threats with the number of attacks continuing to grow. Redline malware has been used in attacks on a wide range of businesses, with the manufacturing and healthcare sectors two of the most commonly attacked sectors.

Redline malware has been updated several times since it first emerged, with new features added such as the ability to exfiltrate credentials, steal cryptocurrency wallets, FTP authentication data, passwords stored in browsers, and gather information about the infected system. It is also capable of loading remote payloads and uses a SOAP API for C2 communication. One successful attack could see the attacker recover the purchase cost many times over.

Like many other malware variants, the most common method of delivery is email. Emails are broadcast using huge mailing lists, which can also be purchased at a low cost on cybercrime forums.  Alternatively, more targeted campaigns can be conducted on specific businesses, with the emails often having a much higher chance of success due to the personalization of the emails.

The emails usually contain a malicious hyperlink and use social engineering techniques to trick employees into clicking. When the link is clicked, the binary file is downloaded and installed on the user’s device. While antivirus software should identify and block the malware threat, there have been many cases where AV engines have failed to detect the malware.

Redline malware will obtain a list of processes running on an infected device, including the security solutions in place. Attackers can interact with the malware remotely and view information about the infected system, can create and download remote files, silently run commands on an infected machine, and steal highly sensitive information. One of the biggest threats is the ability to steal data from browsers, including passwords stored in the Chrome, Edge, and opera browsers.  Most browsers encrypt stored passwords, but Redline malware can programmatically decrypt the password store in Chromium-based browsers, provided they are logged in as the same user. Redline malware runs as the user that infected the device and can steal that user’s passwords from their password file.

Not everyone stores their passwords in their browser, but there is still a threat. When the browser suggests storing a password and the request is refused, a record is kept about that refusal so a further request will not be suggested next time the user visits that particular website. That record can be stolen from the browser, so the attacker will discover what accounts the user has and can then conduct phishing campaigns to obtain the passwords or use credential stuffing attacks. Much of the data stolen in redline malware attacks can easily be monetized on cybercrime forums.

Malware-as-a-service has opened up cyberattacks to a much broader range of individuals, but ultimately the attacks depend on employees being tricked into clicking links in emails or opening infected email attachments. Blocking those emails is the best approach to blocking the malware threats, which is where SpamTitan is invaluable.

SpamTitan Plus includes 100% of all current market-leading anti-phishing feeds. That translates into a 1.5x increase in phishing URL detections and 1.6x faster phishing detections than the current market leaders. 10 million net new, previously undiscovered phishing URLs are identified every day, and it takes just 5 minutes from a phishing URL being detected to all end users’ inboxes being protected. Time-of-click verification of links in emails involves multiple dynamic checks of redirects and there are dual anti-virus engines and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox to identify any malicious files attached to emails.

If you want to protect against malware and phishing attacks and ensure your company does not suffer an incredibly damaging cyberattack and data breach, give the TitanHQ team a call for more information on SpamTitan.

Study Sheds Light the Employees Most Likely to Fall for Phishing Scams

Phishing is the attack vector of choice for many cybercriminals. Attacks are easy to perform, they are often successful, and they provide the foothold in business networks that is required for more extensive compromises. The best defense against phishing is to implement a technological solution – a spam filter – to prevent phishing emails from reaching inboxes. If phishing emails are blocked at the email gateway, they will not arrive in inboxes where they can fool employees.

End-user training is also important, as no spam filter will block all malicious emails. A recent large-scale study has been conducted to determine whether end-user training and phishing warnings are effective, how vulnerability to phishing attacks evolves over time, which employees are most likely to fall for a phishing scam, and whether employees can actually play an important role in phishing email detection, The results of the survey are interesting and provide insights into susceptibility to phishing attacks that can be used by businesses to develop effective employee training programs.

The study was conducted on 14,733 participants by researchers at ETH Zurich and over a period of 15 months and involved another company sending phishing email simulations to see who opened the messages and who clicked on links in the emails. The employees that were tested had no knowledge that simulations were being conducted to make the simulations closely mirror real-world phishing attacks.

Book a free SafeTitan Security Awareness Training demonstration with an expert.
Book Free Demo

There were notable differences in susceptibility to phishing attacks with different age groups, with younger employees more likely to respond to the phishing emails than all other age groups. 18- and 19-year-olds were by far the most likely age group to fall for phishing emails, with the over 60s the least likely. From ages 20 to 59, the percentage of dangerous actions taken in response to phishing emails increased for each age group, with 20- to 29-year olds the least likely to take dangerous actions.

Individuals who are not required to use computers for their day-to-day jobs might be considered to be most at risk of falling for a phishing scam, but that was not the case. Infrequent computer users were the least likely to fall for the scams followed by frequent users, with individuals who use specialized software for repetitive tasks the most susceptible to phishing emails.

In this study, men and women were found to be equally susceptible to phishing emails across the entire study. This contrasts with several other studies that suggest there is a gender bias, with women less likely to fall for phishing scams than men. However, there were differences between the genders when combined with the frequency of computer use data. Men who use specialist software to automate tasks were the most likely to fall for phishing emails, followed by women who used specialist software, then women who are frequent users of computers, and men who are infrequent users. Female infrequent users were the least likely to fall for phishing scams.

The study confirmed the findings of several others in that some individuals are prone to respond to phishing emails. After responding to one simulated phishing email they would go on to respond to more. 30.62% of individuals who clicked on one phishing email were repeated clickers, and 23.91% of individuals who took dangerous actions such as enabling macros in email attachments did it on more than one occasion. These findings show the importance of conducting phishing email simulations to identify weak links who can receive additional training.

Behaviour driven security awareness platform that delivers security training in real-time.
Book Free Demo

Phishing simulations are often conducted by businesses to test the effectiveness of their training programs, but one notable finding was that voluntary training when a simulated phishing email attracted a response was not effective. In fact, not only was this not effective, it appeared to make employees even more susceptible to phishing emails.

Another interesting finding related to adding warnings to emails. When warnings about potential phishing emails, such as emails coming from an external email address, were included in emails, employees were less likely to be duped. However, the lengthier the warning, the less effective it is. Detailed warnings were less likely to be read and acted upon.

When a phishing email reporting option was added to the mail client, employees often reported phishing emails. This feature involved a phishing email button that sent a warning to the IT team. There did not appear to be any waning of reporting over time, with employees not appearing to suffer from reporting fatigue. A few reports would be submitted within 5 minutes of an email arriving, around 30% of reports were within 30 minutes, and over 50% came within 4 hours. The reports could give IT security teams time to take action to remove all instances of phishing emails from the mail system or send warnings to employees.

Free SafeTitan Security Awareness Training demonstration with an expert. Ask any questions.
Book Free Demo

What the study clearly demonstrated is that even employees who are adept at identifying phishing emails are likely to fall for one eventually, so while security awareness training is important, having an effective spam filtering solution is vital. Even individuals who were regularly exposed to phishing emails were eventually duped into clicking a phishing link or taking a dangerous action. Across the entire study, 32.1% of employees clicked on at least one dangerous link or opened a potentially dangerous email attachment.

Personal and Health Information of 398K Patients Exposed in Mon Health Phishing Attack

Healthcare data carries a high value on the black market as it can be monetized in a variety of ways. One of the main methods used to gain access to the healthcare networks where patient data are stored is phishing emails. Phishing emails are also a leading vector for malware delivery, and initial access brokers often target healthcare providers with phishing emails to steal credentials, then provide access to healthcare networks to ransomware gangs.

This month, a major phishing attack was reported by Morgantown, WV-based Monongalia Health System (Mon Health) which affected two of its hospitals. Hackers sent phishing emails to Mon Health employees, with the responses to those messages providing the hackers with the credentials they needed to access corporate email accounts. Those email accounts contained the personal and protected health information of patients and employee information. Notification letters have recently been sent to 398,000 individuals affected by the attack.

While healthcare data is valuable, this phishing attack was conducted for another reason, although it is possible healthcare data were stolen by the attackers. This attack was what is commonly referred to as a business email compromise (BEC) attack.

SpamTitan Plus provides multi-layered detection and blocking of malicious URLs. Book a free demo now.
Book Free Demo

BEC attacks can involve the theft of sensitive data but they are most commonly conducted to trick individuals responsible for making wire transfers into making fraudulent transfers to attacker-controlled accounts or to change payroll details to get direct deposits of salaries paid into the attacker’s account.

BEC attacks often start with a phishing email. Once access is gained to an employee’s account, phishing emails are sent to other employees to compromise more accounts. When the required accounts are compromised, the account owner is impersonated and an email is sent to an individual responsible for wire transfers that requests a change to bank account information on file.

In this attack, the attackers gained access to a contractor’s email account that was used to change payment details. Since the email requesting the payment details change came from a legitimate and trusted email account, the change was made and the attack went undetected. The BEC attack was detected when a payment issue was reported, and it was confirmed that the payment had left Mon Health’s account.

Mon Health is far from the only U.S. healthcare organization to suffer an attack such as this. Also this month, Florida Digestive Health Specialists started notifying 212,000 patients about an email breach that occurred in December 2020. Again, the attack was conducted to try to divert payments to an attacker-controlled account. In this case, the process of checking every email and attachment for sensitive patient data took 11 months.

These attacks risk the loss of funds through fraudulent transfers, but even if patient data are not stolen, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires patients to be notified, and usually, it is necessary to offer complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to affected patients. Those costs, in addition to the investigation and mitigation measures, can be substantial.

Once an employee email account has been compromised it can be difficult to detect and block an attack, and recovering funds after they have been transferred may not be possible unless the fraudulent wire transfer is detected quickly. The key to blocking these attacks and preventing losses is to prevent the phishing emails from reaching employee inboxes, to provide training to the workforce to help employees identify phishing emails that are delivered, and to implement multifactor authentication on email accounts to make it harder for stolen credentials to be used to access accounts.

With SpamTitan Plus malicious URL protection, we take a multi-layered approach to combat malicious links.
Book Free Demo

SpamTitan Gateway and SpamTitan Cloud are two excellent choices for businesses looking to improve their defenses against phishing attacks. The solutions block more than 99.97% of spam and phishing emails from reaching inboxes, and also include outbound scanning to help identify compromised mailboxes. SpamTitan Plus, a new phishing solution released this month, takes protection to another level. SpamTitan Plus includes all major phishing feeds and has faster and better detection of malicious URLs in emails than any of the current market-leading anti-phishing solutions.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing and BEC attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call for further information on the SpamTitan suite of products.

Hijacked Email Threads with Malicious Links to Fake PDF Files Used to Distribute the Emotet Trojan

The Emotet botnet was one of the largest ever seen and certainly one of the most dangerous. Phishing emails were used to infect devices with Emotet malware, which added the devices to the botnet. The operators of Emotet then sold access to other threat actors such as ransomware gangs. The botnet was shut down by an international law enforcement effort and the cleanup operation saw the malware removed from all infected devices. While that severely disrupted the Emotet operation for several months, the botnet is now back with a vengeance.

The TrickBot Trojan was one of the malware variants downloaded by Emotet, but it was used in the early stages of rebuilding the Emotet botnet, with the two malware operations completely reversing roles. The Emotet botnet has been rapidly rebuilt and is being used once again to infect victims’ devices with malware Qbot. Emotet is no longer relying on TrickBot to infect devices.

Emotet is once again being distributed by hijacking email threads and sending messages that appear to a reply to a previous conversation. While this method has previously seen malicious attachments added to those threads, according to Bleeping Computer a new tactic is now being used. A malicious hyperlink is inserted into the message threads that appears to be a link to a PDF file hosted on a remote server. In one example, “Please see attached and thanks” was inserted along with a hyperlink in response to a previous conversation.

If the link is clicked, the user is directed to what appears to be a shared document on Google Drive, where the user is asked to click the link to preview the PDF file. However, clicking the link attempts to open an appinstaller file hosted on Microsoft Azure. The user is required to accept the appinstaller prompt, which appears to be attempting to install an Adobe PDF component with permissions to use all system resources.

The package has a valid certificate and includes the Adobe PDF logo, but it will install a malicious appxbundle that will infect the user’s device with the Emotet Trojan. Emotet will then download other malicious payloads, which often lead to a ransomware attack. The Cryptolaemus group, which tracks and reports on Emotet activity, says the new URL-based lures are being used in addition to the standard Emotet tactics of distributing the malware using .zip and .docx email attachments.

The Emotet botnet has been rebuilt at a tremendous pace and there has been a massive increase in Emotet activity in the past few days. Malwarebytes detected a major spike in activity on November 26 and abuse.ch reported an even bigger spike on December 1, when 447% more malicious sites were being used to distribute the malware than in early November. Emotet has once again grown into a significant threat and its infrastructure has been upgraded to make it even more resilient and prevent any further takedown attempts by law enforcement. It is looking like the Emotet botnet is back and stronger than it was before the takedown.

So how can businesses protect against Emotet? End user training is important, but the tactics used by the Emotet gang are effective and fool many users into starting the infection process. The key to protection is to block the phishing emails that are the initial attack vector and that requires an advanced spam filtering solution.

TitanHQ has recently launched a new product – SpamTitan Plus – with significantly improved protection against malicious links which, coupled with dual antivirus protection and sandboxing, can protect against phishing and malware threats delivered by email.

To find out more about how TitanHQ solutions can protect your business against malware, phishing, and ransomware attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call.

UK Omicron Phishing Campaign Takes Advantage of New WHO Variant of Concern

A new Omicron phishing scam has been detected in the UK that spoofs the NHS and attempts to steal personal and financial information using a free COVID Omicron PCR test as a lure. The campaign is likely to be one of many taking advantage of fears about the latest SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern.

COVID-19 phishing scams have been a regular feature of the pandemic, so it is no surprise that the latest turn of events has triggered a wave of new phishing emails. The emergence of Omicron, a variant of concern that has the potential to escape the protections provided by COVID-19 vaccines, has naturally alarmed scientists and the general public alike and has created an opportunity for phishers.

Phishers use fear and urgency in their phishing scams to convince people to take an action that they would otherwise not do. The emergence of the Omicron variant has already generated fear, and the phishers are providing a solution. The Omicron phishing campaign was detected in the United Kingdom and impersonates the National Health Service (NHS). The emails offer a newly developed COVID-19 PCR test that is able to detect infection with the Omicron variant. The campaign is being conducted via email and text message, but this approach could easily be conducted by telephone.

SpamTitan Plus provides leading edge anti-phishing protection with “zero-day” threat protection and intelligence.
Book Free Demo

One of the intercepted phishing emails tells the recipient that “NHS scientists have warned that the new Covid variant omicron spreads rapidly, can be transmitted between fully vaccinated people, and makes jabs less effective,” echoing the current fears of scientists. The email goes on to say, “However, as the new covid variant (Omicron) has quickly become apparent, we have had to make new test kits as the new variant appears dormant in the original tests.”

In order to receive the new test, the victim must click on a hyperlink in the email and will be directed to a webpage that spoofs the NHS patient portal. They are asked to enter their personal information, including their name, address, date of birth, contact telephone numbers, and email address. The NHS is a free healthcare service; however, the scammers request payment to cover postage costs. In order to pay the £1.24 delivery charge, the phishing page asks for bank account/credit card information and mother’s maiden name.

As is common in phishing campaigns, emails also include a threat. In a section titled, “What happens if you decline a COVID-19 Omicron test?”, victims are told that they will be required to isolate. While the emails contain red flags, such as multiple spelling and grammatical errors, the NHS branding and email address used to send the messages – contact-nhs[@]nhscontact.com – may be enough to convince people that the request is legitimate.

The success of this Omicron phishing scam depends on people taking action without carefully considering what they are being asked to do. While Omicron is a genuine cause of concern, always stop and think about any request for sensitive information via email, text message, social media messages, or phone calls. Official messages from the NHS will be free of spelling mistakes and the NHS will never ask for payment for sending COVID-19 tests.

While this Omicron phishing scam targets individuals, many COVID-19 phishing campaigns have targeted businesses and attempt to either obtain credentials or deliver malware. Businesses need to ensure they implement an anti-phishing solution that is capable of identifying and blocking phishing emails.

Even greater protection against phishing attacks. Book a free SpamTitan Plus demo.
Book Free Demo

TitanHQ has developed a suite of cybersecurity solutions to protect businesses from cyberattacks such as phishing, with the latest solution – SpamTitan Plus – providing even greater protection against phishing attacks. SpamTitan Plus includes additional measures to improve malicious URL detection along with time-of-click protection to prevent employees from visiting the malicious websites linked in phishing emails.

If you want to improve protection against phishing attacks and the full range of email threats, contact TitanHQ today for more information on the best phishing solution to meet the needs of your business.

Warning Issued About Brand Phishing Attacks and the Widespread Availability of Scampage Tools

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning about an increase in spear phishing campaigns impersonating big name brands. Brand phishing is incredibly common and is an effective way of getting individuals to disclose sensitive information such as login credentials or install malware.

Brand phishing abuses trust in a brand. When individuals receive an email from a brand they know and trust, they are more likely to take the action requested in the email. Brand phishing emails usually include the logo of the targeted brand, and the emails use the same message formats as genuine communications from those brands. Links are usually included to malicious web pages that are often hidden in buttons to hide the true destination URL.

If a user clicks the link, they are directed to an attacker-controlled domain that similarly uses branding to fool the victim and make them think they are on the genuine website of the spoofed brand. These webpages include forms that harvest sensitive data. Alternatively, malicious files may be downloaded, with social engineering techniques used to trick victims into opening the files and installing malware.

SpamTitan Plus provides multi-layered detection and blocking of malicious URLs. Book a free demo now.
Book Free Demo

Cyber threat actors are offering scampage tools on underground marketplaces to help other cybercriminals conduct more effective phishing campaigns. These scampage tools are offered under the product-as-a-service model and allow individuals to conduct convincing phishing campaigns, even people who do not possess the skills to conduct phishing campaigns. With phishing opened up to would-be cybercriminals, the threat to individuals and businesses increases.

The FBI says the scampage tools now being offered can recognize when individuals use their email address as their login ID for a website. Websites require a unique username to be provided when creating an account, and many use an individual’s email address as their username by default.

The scampage tools can identify when a user has set their email address as their username, and when that is detected, they will be directed to a scampage for the same email domain. The user is required to enter their password to log in, which will allow the threat actor to obtain the password and access the victim’s email. With access to the email account, attackers can intercept 2-factor authentication codes, thus bypassing this important control mechanism. With 2FA codes, the attacker will be able to gain access to accounts and make changes, including updating passwords to lock users out of their accounts or change security rules before the owner of the account can be notified.

“Much like the threat with ransomware-as-a-service, this type of product-as-a-service distribution of scampage and credential harvesting tools presents an increased nationwide risk to private sector businesses and their consumers,” said the FBI in its public service announcement. “Brand-phishing email campaigns and scampage tools that help bypass 2FA security measures represent another aspect to this emerging cyber threat.”

With SpamTitan Plus malicious URL protection, we take a multi-layered approach to combat malicious links.
Book Free Demo

To counter the threat, businesses should implement an advanced spam filtering solution to block phishing emails and prevent them from being delivered to employee inboxes. Password policies should be created that require strong passwords to be set, and checks performed to ensure commonly used or weak passwords cannot be set on accounts. Employees should be told to never reuse passwords on multiple accounts and to ensure that all business accounts have unique passwords. Security awareness training should be provided to the workforce to teach email security best practices and train employees on how to identify phishing emails and other scams.

Given the increase in the use of scampage tools, if there is the option, users should set a unique username for an account that is not associated with their primary email address. 2-factor authentication should be configured, and where possible, a software-based authenticator program should be used or a USB security key as the second factor. Alternatively, provide a mobile number for a 2FA code and avoid using a primary email address to receive 2FA codes. If an email address is required, it is best to use an alternative email account.

LinkedIn Phishing Attacks on the Rise

There has been an increase in LinkedIn phishing scams of late that attempt to trick professionals into installing malware, disclosing their login credentials, or providing sensitive information that can be used to create convincing spear phishing emails.

Watch Out for LinkedIn Phishing Attacks!

Many professionals rely on LinkedIn for getting new business and finding employment. The professional networking platform has proven to be incredibly popular and, being business-related, notifications from the platform are less likely to be turned off, as they often are with social media networks such as Facebook.

A notification from LinkedIn could be a prospective client, a potential job opportunity, or an opportunity to grow your network but LinkedIn notifications may not be what they seem.

With SpamTitan Plus malicious URL protection, we take a multi-layered approach to combat malicious links.
Book Free Demo

Common LinkedIn Phishing Scams

LinkedIn phishing attacks can take many forms and are conducted to achieve a variety of objectives. One common denominator in LinkedIn phishing emails is the use of LinkedIn logos and color schemes to make it appear that the notifications are genuine.

One of the most common scams involves messages that appear to have been sent via the professional networking platform from an individual looking to do business with a company. The emails include buttons that appear at face value to direct a user to LinkedIn, yet the destination URL is different. The landing page displays the LinkedIn login box, which has been scraped from the genuine website. The scam aims to steal LinkedIn credentials, which can be used to hijack accounts and conduct scams on the user’s connections. These scams can be identified quite easily by checking the destination URL in the message before clicking. If a link is clicked, always check the URL in the address bar before attempting to log in to ensure you are on the genuine LinkedIn website.

There has been an uptick in another type of LinkedIn phishing scam of late. Standard LinkedIn email templates, such as information about the number of profile views a user has received and the number of searches they have appeared in are common. As with the previous scam, while the messages look genuine, the hyperlinks in the messages do not direct the user to the LinkedIn website, instead they direct them to URLs hosting phishing kits. The landing pages use a variety of ruses to get the user to disclose sensitive information. One common scam is an online survey that asks a series of questions to obtain information that can be used to create convincing spear phishing emails.

Scammers often create fake profiles in an attempt to trick platform users into thinking they are conversing with a genuine user. These profiles tend to be used in targeted attacks for cyberespionage purposes. These attacks often see the scammer engage in conversations with the targets to build trust, before tricking them into visiting a malicious website or opening an emailed document that installs malware. These scams can be more difficult to identify than the previous two scams, although there are clues that this is a scam. Always check the profile of any potential connection. Fake profiles often have incomplete or inconsistent information, suspiciously low numbers of connections, and odd connections given the individual’s claimed job. Even if the profile appears genuine, you should always be wary of any links or documents that are shared.

See how SpamTitan Plus inspects all URLs to identify links to malicious websites. Book a free demo.
Book Free Demo

A Spam Filtering Solution Could be Your Savior!

Some of the scams are easy to identify, but many are very realistic and have convincing lures that can be difficult to distinguish from genuine emails. These scams fool many people into disclosing sensitive information or installing malware, even individuals who believe they are security-aware and would not be fooled by phishing scams. Vigilance is the key to identifying the scams but an advanced spam filtering solution will ensure that you are not troubled by these scam emails and phishing attempts.

Businesses that rely on the basic spam protections provided with the Microsoft 365 license should consider investing in a more advanced spam filtering solution, as many phishing emails bypass the Exchange Online Protection (EOP) mechanisms provided free with Microsoft 365 accounts.  For greater protection, consider a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan, which augments Microsoft 365 defenses and will better protect you against phishing attacks.

For more information about SpamTitan and how it can protect you and your employees from phishing attacks, botnets, viruses, malware, and ransomware attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call or sign up for the free trial and find out for yourself the different SpamTitan makes.

TrickBot Infrastructure Being Used to Rebuild the Emotet Botnet

At the start of 2021, a Europol and Eurojust-led operation involving law enforcement agencies in 8 countries successfully took down the infamous Emotet botnet. The botnet consisted of an estimated 1.6 million devices worldwide that had been infected with the Emotet Trojan.

The Emotet Trojan first appeared in 2014 and was originally a banking trojan, although it evolved into a malware downloader that was rented out to cybercrime gangs under the malware-as-a-service model. The botnet was used to give those threat actors a foothold in victims’ environments and allowed them to install malware such as IcedID, QakBot, and TrickBot. Those malware variants were then used to deliver ransomware such as Conti and Ryuk.

Emotet posed a massive threat to businesses worldwide prior to its takedown. In addition to being a malware distribution tool, the botnet was used to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and largescale spamming campaigns against high-profile targets around the world.

The Emotet botnet was controlled by a network of hundreds of servers worldwide. The takedown, which occurred on January 27, 2021, saw its infrastructure taken over by law enforcement. On April 25, 2021, law enforcement in Germany launched a cleanup operation that added a module that removed the Emotet Trojan from victims’ systems. 2 individuals were arrested who were suspected of involvement in maintaining the botnet, and in the weeks and months that followed no Emotet activity was detected. However, that has now changed.

The Emotet Botnet is Back

Law enforcement took control of the command-and-control infrastructure of Emotet and removed the Emotet Trojan from all infected devices, and while that was sufficient to kill the botnet, it was not enough to prevent its return. Researchers at GData, Advanced Intel, and Cryptolaemus have all discovered instances where the TrickBot Trojan has delivered an Emotet loader.

The Emotet botnet operators have previously worked with the threat actors behind the Trickbot Trojan, using their botnet to grow the TrickBot botnet. That process is now happening in reverse. A new version of the loader and Emotet Trojan have been created and it appears that the Emotet botnet is being reconstructed from scratch.

At this stage, there are relatively few devices infected with Emotet but that is not likely to remain the case for long. Around 246 devices are known to have had the Emotet Trojan installed, and they are being used as its command-and-control infrastructure at present.

Emotet was known for conducting malspam campaigns to grow the botnet, and spamming campaigns have already been detected using several different lures and a variety of attachments. Spam emails spreading Emotet have used Word files and Excel spreadsheets with malicious macros, and to prevent analysis by email security solutions, some emails have used password-protected zip files. Some of the lures detected by security researchers in the first campaigns include notifications about canceled dental insurance, Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales, notifications about canceled meetings, and requests for political party donations.

How to Protect Against Infection with Emotet

Protecting against Emotet involves implementing measures that also protect against TrickBot infections. Since both Emotet and TrickBot are extensively delivered via malspam emails, implementing an advanced email security solution is a good place to start.

One of the most effective tactics used by the Emotet gang was hijacking message threads. This involves sending replies to previous message conversations and adding a malicious hyperlink or infected email attachment. Since the messages were sent from email accounts known to the recipient, links were often clicked, and attachments opened.

Security awareness training often teaches employees to be suspicious of unsolicited messages from unknown individuals. It is important to make employees aware that malicious emails may also come from known individuals and to warn employees that hijacked message threads are used to deliver malware. Security awareness training can be effective, but it is nowhere near as effective as technical solutions that block malicious messages.

Security can be improved by choosing an email security solution with outbound email scanning. This feature will scan outgoing messages to detect compromised email accounts, allowing security teams to take prompt action to isolate infected devices. You should also ensure that your email security solution includes sandboxing in addition to antivirus engines, as the latter can only detect known malware variants. Attachments that pass standard AV scans are sent to a sandbox where they are subjected to in-depth analysis to identify malicious actions.

These features and many more are included in SpamTitan from TitanHQ. SpamTitan is effective at blocking the full range of email-based threats and is easy to implement and use. If you want to improve your defenses against dangerous email threats such as TrickBot, IcedID, QakBot, and Emotet without breaking the bank, give the TitanHQ team a call for more information about SpamTitan.

SpamTitan is available on a free trial and product demonstrations can be arranged on request.

Warning of Phishing Attacks on Users of Robinhood Trading Platform

The stock trading platform Robinhood has announced a major breach of the personal data of 7 million of its customers, who now face an elevated risk of phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks on businesses are incredibly common. While phishing can take many forms, the most common method involves sending emails to company employees and using social engineering tactics to get them to take a specific action. That action is often to click on a malicious hyperlink in the email that directs them to a website where they are asked to provide sensitive information such as their login credentials.

Phishing can also occur via SMS messages, instant messaging platforms, or social media networks. While it is less common for phishing to occur over the telephone – termed vishing – this method actually predates email phishing attacks. Vishing attacks are more labor-intensive and are a form of spear phishing, where a small number of individuals are targeted.

See how SpamTitan Plus inspects all URLs to identify links to malicious websites. Book a free demo.
Book Free Demo

Vishing Attack Allowed Attacker to Obtain 5 Million Email Addresses

It was a vishing attack that allowed a threat actor to obtain the personal data of Robinhood customers. The threat actor called a Robinhood customer service employee and used social engineering techniques over the phone to get the employee to disclose sensitive information. The information obtained allowed the threat actor to access its customer service system, through which it was possible to obtain a limited amount of data of a portion of its customer base.

It is unclear what tactics the threat actor used, although, in these types of attacks, tech support scams are common. This is where a threat actor impersonates the IT department and tricks an employee into disclosing credentials under the guise of a software update or a fix for a malware infection.

Regardless of the lure, the threat actor was able to access its system and stole a list of 5 million customer email addresses, a list of the full names of 2 million individuals, and the names, dates of birth, and zip codes of 310 individuals.

No financial information or Social Security numbers are believed to have been obtained in the attack, but the Robinhood data breach is still serious for affected individuals who now face an elevated risk of phishing attacks.

Robinhood said after the customer lists were exfiltrated, a ransom demand was received. Robinhood did not say whether the ransom was paid, only that the cybersecurity firm Mandiant was investigating, and the incident has been reported to law enforcement.

SpamTitan Plus provides leading edge anti-phishing protection with “zero-day” threat protection and intelligence.
Book Free Demo

Risk of Phishing Attacks in Wake of Robinhood Data Breach

Attacks such as this where an attempt is made to extort money from a company after sensitive data are stolen are commonplace. If a company refuses to pay, the attack is monetized by selling the stolen data. Even if a ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that data will not be sold. A list of the email addresses of users of a trading platform would be highly sought after by cybercriminals, who could craft convincing phishing emails to obtain sensitive data to allow users’ accounts to be accessed.

There have been many cases where email addresses have been used in phishing campaigns that reference the breach itself, spoofing the company that was attacked although all manner of lures could be used. There is a fair probability that phishing campaigns will be conducted using the stolen data, so users of the Robinhood platform should be on high alert.

Robinhood has advised customers to be wary of any emails that claim to be from the company and said it would never send a hyperlink in an email to access an account, instead users should only trust Robinhood messages that are sent within the app. For further protection, 2-factor authentication should be enabled, and users of the app should be cautious when opening any email messages, and to be particularly wary about any message that requests sensitive information or includes a hyperlink or email attachment, especially if it is an unsolicited email from an unknown sender.

TodayZoo Phishing Kit Being Used in Extensive Phishing Campaigns Targeting Microsoft 365 Credentials

Phishing involves sending emails that try to trick the recipients into taking a specific action, which could be to send sensitive data via email, open an infected email attachment, or click a link to a malicious website.

Phishing campaigns require little effort or skill to conduct. Lists of email addresses can easily be purchased on hacking forums or can be scraped from websites using widely available programs. Malware does not need to be developed, as this can be purchased through many malware-as-a-service operations. Phishing campaigns that direct individuals to a malicious website where credentials are harvested require those websites to be set up to trick users and capture credentials, but even that process is made simple with phishing kits.

Phishing kits can easily be purchased on hacking forums. These kits contain files that can be uploaded to compromised or owned websites that will collect and transmit credentials when they are entered. Phishing kits are usually sold on hacking forums for a one-time payment and typically contain everything required to start conducting phishing campaigns, including scripts, HTML pages, images, and often phishing email templates. Phishing kits allow individuals without much knowledge of how to conduct a phishing campaign to easily start running their own campaigns.

New Phishing Kit Being Used in Extensive Series of Phishing Campaigns

There are many phishing kits currently available on hacking forums, but a new one has recently been discovered that appears to have been developed using at least six other phishing kits. The new phishing kit, which Microsoft calls TodayZoo, combines the best features of other available phishing kits and is believed to have been developed by an individual who has decided to get into the phishing kit market by plagiarizing others.

The TodayZoo kit has been active since at least December 2020 and is known to have been used in an extensive series of phishing campaigns to steal Microsoft 365 credentials. The TodayZoo phishing campaigns detected so far impersonate Microsoft, with the emails using lures such as password resets, and fake notifications about faxes and shared scanned documents.

The messages direct the recipients to a webpage hosting the phishing kit that similarly impersonates Microsoft, with victims told they must log in with their Microsoft 365 credentials to either reset their password or view the fake faxes or documents. If credentials are entered, the phishing kit captures the information and transmits it to the person running the campaign.

A large part of the TodayZoo phishing kit has been taken from the DanceVida kit, with Microsoft’s analysis revealing it also includes code from the Botssoft, FLCFood, Office-RD117, WikiRed, and Zenfo phishing kits.

So not only are phishing kits purchased for conducting campaigns, but those also kits themselves can be copied and customized and used by individuals to launch their own phishing-as-a-service operations.

Phishing Prevention Requires a Defense in Depth Approach

Phishing kits lower the bar for conducting phishing campaigns, and along with malware-as-a-service and ransomware-as-a-service offerings, allow low-level threat actors to start conducting their own campaigns with ease. These services are fueling the increase in cyberattacks on businesses. Fortunately, there are low-cost cybersecurity solutions that businesses can use to block these phishing and malware campaigns.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. It is no longer sufficient given the level of the threat to rely on one method of blocking attacks. A defense-in-depth approach is required, which means implementing multiple layers of protection. If one of those layers fails to block a threat, others are there to provide protection.

Phishing protection should start with a spam filter. Spam filters conduct a range of checks on all incoming emails and will block more than 99% of spam and phishing emails. TitanHQ’s email security solution, SpamTitan, has been independently tested and shown to block in excess of 99.9% of spam and phishing emails. SpamTitan also includes dual anti-virus engines to detect malicious attachments, and a sandbox to subject attachments that pass AV controls to an in-depth analysis. SpamTitan uses blacklists of malicious IP addresses, performs a range of checks on the message body and headers, and incorporates machine learning technology to detect messages that deviate from standard messages ensuring the spam filter improves over time.

A web filter is another important security measure that should be included in a defense-in-depth strategy to block phishing and malware attacks. A web filter works in tandem with a spam filter but blocks the web component of the attacks. When a user clicks a link in an email that directs them to a phishing website, that attempt is blocked. A web filter also allows users to block certain file downloads from the Internet, such as those commonly associated with malware.

Antivirus software should be installed on all endpoints as additional protection against malicious file downloads, and security awareness training should be regularly provided to the workforce. In the event of credentials being obtained in a phishing attack, multifactor authentication can prevent those credentials from being used to gain access to accounts. With these measures in place, businesses will be well protected.

For further information on spam filtering, web filtering, and to find out more about SpamTitan and WebTitan, give the TitanHQ team a call today. Both solutions are available on a 100% free trial to allow you to evaluate the products in your own environment to see how effective they are and how easy they are to use before committing to a purchase.

Squirrelwaffle Malware Loader Being Distributed in Spam Emails

A new malware variant dubbed Squirrelwaffle has been identified which is being distributed via spam emails. Squirrelwaffle was first identified in September 2021, with the number of spam emails distributing the malware increasing throughout the month and peaking at the end of September.

The takedown of the Emotet botnet in January 2021 left a gap in the malware-as-a-service market, and several new malware variants have since emerged to fill that gap. Emotet was a banking Trojan that was used to distribute other malware variants to Emotet-infected machines, with Squirrelwaffle having similar capabilities. Squirrelwaffle allows the threat group to gain a foothold in compromised devices and networks, which allows other malware variants to be delivered.

Investigations of the malspam campaign have revealed it is currently being used to distribute Qakbot and Cobalt Strike, although the malware could be used to download any malware variant. The spam emails that deliver Squirrelwaffle include a hyperlink to a malicious website which is used to deliver a .zip file that contains either a .doc or .xls file. The Office files have a malicious script that will deliver the Squirrelwaffle payload.

The Word documents use the DocuSign signing platform to lure users to activate macros, claiming the document was created using a previous version of Microsoft Office Word which requires the user to “enable editing” then click “enable content” to view the contents of the file. Doing so will execute code that will deliver and execute a Visual Basic script, which retrieves the Squirrelwaffle payload from one of 5 hardcoded URLs. Squirrelwaffle is delivered as a DLL which is then executed when downloaded and will silently download Qakbot or Cobalt Strike, which both provide persistent access to compromised devices.

As was the case with the Emotet Trojan, Squirrelwaffle can hijack message threads and send malspam emails from infected devices. Since replies to genuine messages are sent from a legitimate email account, a response to the message is more likely. This tactic proved to be highly effective at distributing the Emotet Trojan. The campaign is mostly conducted in English, although security researchers have identified emails in other languages including French, German, Dutch, and Polish.

The similarities with Emotet could indicate some individuals involved in that operation are attempting a return after the law enforcement takedown, although it could simply be an attempt by unrelated threat actors to fill the gap left by Emotet. Currently, the malware is not being distributed in anywhere near the volume of Emotet but it is still early days. Squirrelwaffle may turn out to be the malware distribution vehicle of choice in the weeks and months to come.

To counter the threat, it is vital for email security measures to be implemented to block the malspam at source and ensure the malicious messages are not delivered to inboxes. Since message threads are hijacked, a spam filtering solution that also scans outbound emails– SpamTitan for example – should be used. Outbound scanning will help to identify compromised devices and prevent attacks on other individuals in the organization and address book contacts. SpamTitan also incorporates sandboxing, which works in conjunction with antivirus engines. Suspicious attachments that bypass the AV engines are sent to the sandbox for in-depth analysis.

As part of a defense-in-depth strategy, other measures should also be deployed. A web filter is a useful tool for blocking C2 communications, endpoint security solutions will help to protect against Squirrelwaffle downloads, and regular security awareness training for the workforce is recommended to teach cybersecurity best practices and train employees how to identify malicious emails.  Employees should be told to never click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or messages and to be wary of messages from unknown accounts. It is also important to explain that some malware variants can hijack message threads, so malicious emails may come from colleagues and other address book contacts.

TA505 is Conducting Large Scale Phishing Campaigns that Deliver a RAT via Weaponized Excel Files

The threat group known as TA505 (aka Hive0065) is known for conducting large-scale phishing campaigns but has not been active since 2020. Now phishing campaigns have been detected that indicate the threat group is conducting attacks once again, with the first mass-phishing campaigns by the group detected in September 2021.

The initial campaigns were small and consisted of a few thousand phishing emails, but as the month progressed larger and larger campaigns were conducted, with phishing campaigns conducted by the group now consisting of tens of thousands of messages. The geographic range has also been increased beyond North American where the gang was initially concentrating its attacks.

Social engineering techniques are used to convince victims to open email attachments or visit links and view shared files, with a variety of lures used by the gang in its phishing attacks. Emails intercepted from the latest campaigns claim to provide insurance claims paperwork, situation reports, media release requests, health claims, and legal requests. Many of the campaigns so far have targeted employees in financial services.

One of the hallmarks of the group is using Excel file attachments in emails that contain malicious macros which deliver a Remote Access Trojan (RAT), the downloading and execution of which gives the group control over victims’ devices. The group is also known to use HTML files that link to malicious websites where the malicious Excel files are downloaded.

While the attacks often start with a file attachment, later in the attack process a Google feedproxy URL is used with a SharePoint and OneDrive lure that appears to be a file share request, which delivers the weaponized Excel file.

The initial infection stage involves the downloading of a Microsoft installer package, which delivers either a KiXtart or REBOL malware loader, which pulls a different MSI package from the C2 server, which then installs and executes the malware. TA505 is known to use the FlawedGrace RAT, which first appeared in 2017, and the latest campaign delivers a new variant of this malware using a malware loader dubbed MirrorBlast. According to an analysis of MirrorBlast by Morphisec labs, the malware will only run in 32-bit versions of Microsoft Office as there are compatibility issues with ActiveX objects.

Macros are disabled by default in Microsoft Excel as a security measure, so social engineering techniques are used in the attacks to convince victims to enable macros. Macros are more commonly used in Excel files than Word files, and end users may not be as suspicious of Excel macros as Word macros.

Email security solutions are capable of detecting files containing Excel macros, especially email security solutions with sandboxing. In an attempt to bypass those measures and ensure the emails are delivered, TA505 uses lightweight, legacy Excel 4.0 XLM macros rather than the newer VBA macros, which has seen many of the messages bypass email security gateways.

TA505 is a highly creative threat group that regularly changes its attack techniques to achieve its goals, with the gang known to have conducted campaigns to deliver the Dridex banking Trojan, Locky and Jaff ransomware, and the Trick banking Trojan.

The group is known for conducting high-volume phishing campaigns that have targeted a range of different industry sectors and geographical areas.

TA505’s tactics, techniques, and procedures are expected to continue to evolve so it is vital for organizations to ensure email security defenses are implemented to block the emails. Security awareness training should also be provided to the workforce and employees should be made aware of the latest tricks and tactics used by the gang, including raising awareness of the use of Excel files with macros in phishing emails.

5 Ways to Protect Against Healthcare Phishing Attacks

The healthcare industry has long been targeted by cybercriminals looking to gain access to sensitive patient data, which is easy to sell on the black market to fraudsters such as identity thieves. In recent years hackers have turned to ransomware. They gain access to healthcare networks and encrypt data to prevent patient information being accessed and issue a ransom demand to the keys to decrypt files. Since the start of 2020, these two goals have been combined. Hackers have been gaining access to healthcare networks, then exfiltrate data prior to deploying ransomware. If the ransom is not paid, the data is leaked online or sold on. Patient data may even be sold even if the ransom is paid.

Both of these attack types can be achieved using phishing. Phishing allows threat actors to steal credentials and raid email accounts and use the credentials for more extensive attacks on the organization. Phishing emails can also trick healthcare employees into downloading malware that gives attackers persistent access to the network.

Protecting against phishing attacks is one of the most important ways to prevent data breaches and stop ransomware attacks, but there is no single measure that can be implemented that will provide total protection. Here we explain 5 steps that healthcare organizations should take to protect against healthcare phishing attacks. These include measures required by the HIPAA Security Rule so can help to ensure you achieve and maintain compliance.

SpamTitan Plus provides leading edge anti-phishing protection with “zero-day” threat protection and intelligence.
Book Free Demo

5 Measures to Protect Against Healthcare Phishing Attacks

Each of the measures we have listed below is important and will work with the others to significantly improve your security posture; however, the first measure is the most important of all as it will stop the majority of phishing emails from being delivered to employee inboxes.

Spam Filtering

To achieve Security Rule compliance, HIPAA regulated entities must implement technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information. A spam filter is one of the most important technical safeguards to protect against email-based attacks such as phishing. Spam filters will generally block in excess of 99% of spam and phishing emails and 100% of known malware.

Any inbound email must pass through the spam filter where it will be subjected to a variety of checks. These include antivirus scanning to block malware, checks against blacklists of known malicious IP and email addresses, and frameworks such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to identify and block email impersonation attacks. Advanced spam filters such as SpamTitan include additional malware protection through the use of a sandbox. Email attachments are executed in this safe environment and are checked for potentially malicious actions. This measure helps to identify previously unknown malware and ransomware variants.

SpamTitan also uses techniques such as Bayesian analysis to determine the probability of an email being spam or malicious. Greylisting is also used, which involves the initial rejection of a message with a request to resend. Spam servers do not tend to respond to these requests, so the lack of response or delay is a good indicator of spam.

SpamTitan also incorporates machine learning techniques, ensuring spam filtering improves over times. Thresholds can also be set for individual users, user groups, departments, and organization-wide, to give the greatest protection to accounts that are most likely to be targeted.

With SpamTitan Plus malicious URL protection, we take a multi-layered approach to combat malicious links.
Book Free Demo

2-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication

2-factor or multi-factor authentication is another technical safeguard to protect against phishing attacks. 2FA/MFA blocks the next stage of a phishing attack, where credentials for an account have already been obtained by an attacker, either through phishing, brute force attacks or other methods.

In addition to a password, a second factor must be provided before an individual is authenticated. This is often a token on a verified device. When an attempt is made to use a password to access the account from an unfamiliar device, location, or IP address, another factor must be provided before access is granted. This is typically a code sent to a mobile phone. 2-factor authentication will block more than 99.9% of automated attempts to gain access to an account according to Microsoft.

Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training is concerned with educating the workforce about threats such as phishing and teaching them how to recognize and avoid those threats. In security awareness training, employees are taught how to identify phishing emails and social engineering scams and are taught cybersecurity best practices to eradicate risky behaviors. Employees are targeted by phishers and not all phishing emails will be blocked by a spam filter. By training the workforce, and providing regular refresher training sessions, employees will get better at identifying and avoiding threats.

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights explained in guidance for the healthcare industry that teaching employees how to recognize phishing is part of the requirements for HIPAA compliance. Financial penalties have been imposed for organizations that have not provided security awareness training to the workforce.

Conduct Phishing Email Simulations

Training for the workforce will raise awareness of threats, but it is important to test whether training has been assimilated and if it is being applied in real world situations. By setting up a phishing simulation program, security teams will be able to gauge how effective training has been. A failed phishing simulation can be turned into a training opportunity, and employees who regularly fail phishing email simulations can be provided with further training.

Phishing email simulation programs use real-world phishing examples on employees to see how good they are at identifying phishing emails. They can be used to gain an understanding of the types of phishing emails that are being opened and which links are being clicked. This information can be used to improve security awareness training programs.

SpamTitan Plus provides multi-layered detection and blocking of malicious URLs. Book a free demo now.
Book Free Demo

Sign Up to Receive Threat Intelligence

Another important step to take to protect against phishing attacks is to stay up to date on the latest threats. The tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) of hackers and phishers is constantly evolving, and being aware of the latest TTPs will help healthcare organizations mitigate the threats.

Stay up to date by reading the threat alerts published by agencies such as CISA, the FBI, NSA, and HC3, and consider signing up an information sharing and analysis center to receive timely cyber threat intelligence updates. Knowing about new phishing campaigns targeting the sector will allow steps to be taken to block those threats, whether that is a cybersecurity newsletter for staff, implementing new spam filter rules, or other proactive steps to reduce risk.

Common Phishing Threats You Should be Aware of

Phishing is one of the most common ways that cybercriminals gain access to networks to steal credentials and sensitive data, deploy malware, and conduct ransomware attacks. Phishing is most commonly conducted via email and uses deception and ‘social engineering’ to trick people into disclosing sensitive information or running code that downloads malicious software.

Phishing emails often impersonate trusted individuals or companies. The email addresses used to send these messages can appear legitimate, and the messages often include the logos and layouts of the genuine communications they spoof. The emails often include a hyperlink to a website where credentials are harvested. The online component of the phishing scam similarly spoofs a trusted entity and, in many campaigns, it is difficult to distinguish the phishing website from the genuine site being spoofed.

Phishing attacks are increasing and for one very simple reason. They work. Not only do these messages fool huge numbers of people, they are also easy to conduct and there is little risk of phishers being caught. Even the Italian mafia and other organized crime operations have adopted phishing in addition to the standard protection rackets as a way to rake in money. This week, Europol announced it broke up an organized crime gang with links to the Italian mafia which had raked in €10 million in revenue from phishing and other online fraud scams in the past year.

Phishing Lures are Constantly Changing

The lures used in phishing scams are constantly evolving. While standard phishing campaigns involving fake invoices and resumes, missed deliveries, and fake account charge notifications are regularly used, topical lures related to news stories and COVID-19 are also thrown in into the mix. The lures may change, but there are commonalities with these phishing scams that individuals should be able to recognize.

Phishing scams attempt to get the recipient to take a specific action, such as visit a link in the email or open an email attachment. There is usually a sense of urgency to get recipients to take prompt action, such as a threat of account closure or potential legal action. While suspicions may be raised by these messages, many people still take the requested action, either through fear of missing out or fear of negative repercussions if no action is taken.

It is best to adopt a mindset where every email received is potentially a phishing scam, and any request suggested in an email could well be a scam. Any email received that threatens account closure if no action is taken can easily be checked for legitimacy by logging in to the account via a web browser (never use the links in the email). If there is an unauthorized charge or a problem with the account, this will be clear when you login.

If you receive a message from a company stating there is an unpaid invoice or an order has been made that is not recognized, search for the company online and use trusted contact information to verify the legitimacy of the email.

If you receive an email from your IT team telling you to install a program or take another action that seems suspicious, give the support desk a call to verify the legitimacy of the request.

Links in emails are the most common way to direct people to phishing webpages. You should always hover your mouse arrow over the link to check the true destination, and if the URL is not on an official domain, do not click.

Common Phishing Lures You Should be Aware Of

  • An email about a charge that has been applied to your account that has been flagged as suspicious and requires you to login to block the charge
  • An email threatening imminent account closure or loss of service if you do not take immediate action to correct the issue
  • An email from law enforcement threatening arrest or legal action for a crime you are alleged to have committed
  • An email from the IRS or another tax authority offering a refund as you have overpaid tax, or legal action over nonpayment of tax
  • An email with an invoice for a product or service you have not purchased
  • An email telling you malware has been detected on your computer that requires a software download to remove it
  • An email with a link that requires you to provide credentials to view content or confirm your identify by verifying your credit/debit card number.

If you receive any message, the important thing is to stop and think before taking any action and to carefully assess the legitimacy of the request.

Spam Software will Block the Majority of Phishing Emails

One of the best ways that businesses can improve email security is to implement an advanced spam filtering solution. SpamTitan provides protection against phishing and other malicious emails using a wide range of tools that include machine-learning to identify suspicious messages, sandboxing, dual anti-virus engines, greylisting, and malicious link detection mechanisms. SpamTitan will ensure that malicious messages are not delivered to end users where they can be clicked. When combined with security awareness training to teach cybersecurity best practices, businesses can mount a formidable defense against phishers.

To find out more about how you can protect against phishing and other malicious emails, give the TitanHQ team a call. SpamTitan is available on a free trial, product demonstrations can be arranged on request, and you may be surprised to discover how little it costs to improve protection against all types of email attacks.

OnePercent Ransomware Delivered via Phishing Emails

Ransomware attacks have been rife in 2021, with the increase in attacks seen in 2020 continuing throughout 2021. The number of attacks conducted in 2021 has been staggering. There were more attempted ransomware attacks in the first 6 months of 2021 than there were in all of 2020, according to one report.

Ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations that were active throughout 2020 have increased their attacks, and while some RaaS operations have been shut down, attack volume is showing no sign of reducing. There is also a new ransomware threat to defend against.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning about a new ransomware threat actor that has been particularly active in the United States. The group, known as OnePercent, has been using its ransomware to attack U.S. businesses since at least November 2020, according to a recent FBI Flash Alert. The group is known to use the legitimate penetration testing tool Cobalt Strike in its attacks, and prior to using their OnePercent ransomware variant to encrypt files, the attackers exfiltrate sensitive data from victims’ systems.  A ransom demand is issued for the keys to decrypt files and to prevent the publication of the stolen data on the group’s data leak sites on the TOR network and the publicly accessible Internet.

SpamTitan Plus provides multi-layered detection and blocking of malicious URLs. Book a free demo now.
Book Free Demo

Like many ransomware gangs, the initial attack vector is phishing emails. Phishing emails are sent to targeted organizations that have malicious .ZIP email attachments which contain Word documents or Excel spreadsheets with malicious macros that deliver the IcedID banking Trojan. The Trojan downloads and installs Cobalt Strike on endpoints to allow the attacker to move laterally within victims’ networks to compromise as many devices as possible. The group is also known to use PowerShell, Mimikatz, SharpKatz, BetterSafetyKatz, and SharpSploit, and Rclone for data extraction.

The attackers are known to take their time within networks to identify and steal critical data. In attacks reported to the FBI, the group has spent up to a month from the initial compromise to the deployment of OnePercent ransomware. During that time, considerable volumes of data are exfiltrated. The ransomware itself encrypts files and uses a random 8-character extension for encrypted files.

As is now the norm, there is no fixed ransom payment. Victims are required to make contact with the attackers to receive ‘technical support’ recovering their files and to discover how much needs to be paid for the decryptors and to ensure data deletion. If the ransom is paid, the attackers say they will deliver the decryption keys within 48 hours. The threat group is also known to contact the victim by telephone using spoofed telephone numbers to pressure victims into paying by threatening to publish the stolen data. The group has also threatened to sell the stolen data to the Sodinokibi ransomware gang to list for sale at a public auction.

Since the group uses phishing emails as the initial attack vector, preventing those messages from reaching inboxes is the best defense against attacks. That requires an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. It is also recommended to configure emails to display a warning when they are received from a sender that is outside the organization.

Even greater protection against phishing attacks. Book a free SpamTitan Plus demo.
Book Free Demo

It is also important to follow cybersecurity best practices such as network segmentation to limit the potential for lateral movement, to audit user accounts with admin privileges and restrict their use as far as possible, and to configure access controls using the principle of least privilege. All critical data should be backed up offline on an external hard drive or storage device that is disconnected once the backup has been performed. Backups should also be tested to make sure file recovery is possible.

While the OnePercent ransomware gang is only known to use phishing emails as the attack vector, other methods of attack may also be adopted. It is therefore recommended to ensure that remote access and RDP ports are disabled if not used, to monitor remote access/RDP logs, to keep computers and applications up to date and to apply patches promptly, and to ensure that strong passwords are set and multi-factor authentication is implemented.

Sneaky Tactics Used in Two Ongoing Phishing Campaigns Targeting User Credentials

New phishing campaigns are constantly being launched that impersonate trusted companies, organizations, and individuals, and use social engineering techniques to trick end users into divulging sensitive information such as their email credentials. Two such phishing campaigns have recently been discovered that use sneaky tactics to fool the unwary.

Sneaky Tactics Used to Obtain Office 365 Credentials

Organizations using Office 365 are being targeted in a sneaky phishing campaign that has been ongoing for several months. The phishing campaign incorporates a range of measures to fool end users and email security solutions. The goal of the campaign is to steal Office 365 credentials.

The phishing emails are sent from believable email addresses with spoofed display names to make the sender appear legitimate. The campaign targets specific organizations and uses believable usernames and domains for sender display names related to the target and the messages also include genuine logos for the targeted company and Microsoft branding.

See how SpamTitan Plus inspects all URLs to identify links to malicious websites. Book a free demo.
Book Free Demo

The messages use believable Microsoft SharePoint lures to trick end users into clicking an embedded hyperlink and visiting the phishing URL. Recipients of the messages are informed that a colleague has sent a file-share request that they may have missed, along with a link directing the recipient to a webpage hosting a fake Microsoft Office 365 login box.

To encourage users to click, the emails suggest the shared file contains information about bonuses, staff reports, or price books. The phishing emails include two URLs with malformed HTTP headers. The primary phishing URL is for a Google storage resource which points to an AppSpot domain. If the user signs in, they are served a Google User Content domain with an Office 365 phishing page. The second URL is embedded in the notification settings and links to a compromise SharePoint site, which again requires the user to sign in to get to the final page.

To fool email security solutions, the messages use extensive obfuscation and encryption for file types often associated with malicious messages, including JavaScript, in addition to multi-layer obfuscation in HTML. The threat actors have used old and unusual encryption methods, including the use of morse code to hide segments of the HTML used in the attack. Some of the code segments used in the campaign reside in several open directories and are called by encoded scripts. Microsoft researchers discovered and tracked the campaign and likened it to a jigsaw puzzle, where all the pieces look harmless individually and only reveal their malicious nature when correctly pieced together.

This campaign is particularly sneaky, with the threat actor having gone to great lengths to fool both end users and security solutions.

FINRA Impersonated in Phishing Campaign

A new phishing campaign has recently been detected that impersonates the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). In this campaign, cyber threat actors have used domains that mimic FINRA, which are close enough to the genuine finra.org domain to fool unsuspecting individuals into disclosing sensitive information.

The phishing emails have been sent from three fraudulent domains: finrar-reporting.org, finpro-finrar.org, and gateway2-finra.org. The use of hyphens in phishing domains is very common, and it is often enough to trick people into thinking the site is a subdomain of the official website that the campaign mimics.

The emails ask the recipients to click a link in the email to “view request.” If the link is clicked, the users are prompted to then provide information to complete the request. As is typical in phishing campaigns, there is a threat should no action be taken, which in this case is “late submission may attract financial penalties.”

Faster and better detection of malicious URLs in emails. Book a free SpamTitan Plus demo.
Book Free Demo

The financial services regulator has taken steps to take down these fraudulent domains, but it is likely that the threat actor will continue using other lookalike domains. Similar domains were used in the campaign spoofing FINRA earlier this year, including finra-online.com and gateway-finra.org.

These campaign highlights the need for security awareness training, an advanced email security solution, and other anti-phishing measures such as a web filter.

If you are concerned about your cybersecurity defenses and want to block threats such as these, give the TitanHQ team a call for advice on security solutions that can be easily implemented to block phishing and other email threats to improve your security posture and prevent costly data breaches.

Phishing Attacks Surge and Businesses are Struggling to Deal with the Threat

Ransomware attacks have increased significantly since the start of 2020 and that increase has continued in 2021. While these attacks are occurring more frequently than ever, the threat from phishing has not gone away and attacks are still rife. Phishing attacks may not make headline news like ransomware attacks on hospitals that threaten patient safety, but they can still be incredibly damaging.

The aim of many phishing attacks is to obtain credentials. Email credentials are often targeted as email accounts contain a treasure trove of data. That data can be extremely valuable to cybercriminals. In healthcare for example, email accounts contain valuable healthcare data, health insurance information, and Social Security numbers, which can be used to commit identity theft, obtain medical treatment, and for tax fraud. Entire email accounts are often exfiltrated in the attacks and the accounts used to send tailored phishing emails to other individuals in the company.

Many data breaches start with a phishing email, with phishing often used by an attacker to gain a foothold in a network that can be used in a much more extensive attack on an organization. Phishing emails are often the first step in a malware or ransomware attack.

SpamTitan Plus provides leading edge anti-phishing protection with “zero-day” threat protection and intelligence.
Book Free Demo

Multiple surveys have recently been conducted on IT leaders and employees that show phishing is a very real and present danger. Two recent surveys conducted in the United States and United Kingdom indicate almost three quarters of businesses have experienced a data breach as a result of a phishing attack in the past 12 months. One study indicated over 50% of IT leaders had seen an increase in phishing attacks in the past 12 months, while the other put the figure at 80%.

During the pandemic, many businesses were faced with the option of switching to a remote workforce or shutting down. The increase in remote working was a godsend for phishers, who increase their attacks on employees. Many IT departments lacked visibility with a remote workforce and found it harder to block phishing attacks than when employees are in the office. Staff shortages in IT have certainly not helped.

Staff training is important to raise awareness of the threat from phishing, but remote working has made that harder. Training needs to be provided regularly as it can easily be forgotten and bad habits can slip in. Phishing tactics are also constantly changing, so regular training is needed to keep employees aware of the latest threats and phishing techniques, so they know what to look for. It does not help that phishing attacks are increasingly targeted and more sophisticated and can be difficult for employees to spot even if they have received regular training.

So how can businesses combat the threat from phishing and avoid being one of the three quarters of companies that experience a phishing data breach each year? Training is important, but the right technology is required.

Two of the most important technical solutions that should be implemented to block phishing attacks are spam filters and web filters. Both are effective at combatting phishing, albeit from different angles. When both are used together, protection is better than the sum of both parts.

SpamTitan Plus provides multi-layered detection and blocking of malicious URLs. Book a free demo now.
Book Free Demo

A spam filter must have certain features to block sophisticated phishing threats. Blacklists are great for identifying emails from known malicious IP addresses, but IP addresses frequently change. Machine learning approaches are needed to identify previously unseen phishing tactics and threats from IP addresses not known to be malicious. Multiple AV engines can help to block more malware threats, while sandboxing can be used identify new malware variants. DMARC is also vital to block email impersonation attacks, while outbound scanning is important to rapidly detect compromised mailboxes. All of these features are employed by SpamTitan, which is why the solution has such a high block rate (over 99.97%) and low false positive rate.

Web filters are primarily used to restrict access to malicious and undesirable websites, whether they are sites with pornographic content or malicious sites used for phishing and malware distribution. Web filters, especially DNS-based filters, greatly improve protection against threats and will block access to known malicious websites. They will also block malware downloads and restrict access to questionable websites that serve no work purpose but increase risk. WebTitan will do this and more, and can easily be configured to protect remote workers, no matter where they choose to access the Internet.

With phishing attacks increasing it is important that businesses deploy solutions to counter the threat to stay one step ahead of the phishers. For further information on SpamTitan and WebTitan, and how they can protect your business, give the TitanHQ team a call. Both solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself the difference they make. You can sign up for a free trial of SpamTitan here, and WebTitan on this link.

ZLoader Banking Trojan Distributed in Phishing Campaign That Disables Office Macro Warnings

One of the most common ways for malware to be distributed is in phishing emails. These emails usually require some user interaction, such as clicking on a link and opening an attached Microsoft Office file. Word and Excel files are often used in malware distribution, with macros used to deliver the malicious payload.

Macros are potentially dangerous as they can contain malicious code, so they are usually disabled by default and will only be allowed to run if they are manually enabled by the end user.  When an Office file is opened which contains a macro, a warning message will appear instructing the user that there is a macro and that it is potentially malicious. If the macro is not manually enabled by the end user, malware cannot be downloaded.

A phishing campaign has recently been detected that is typical of most phishing campaigns distributing malware. The initial attack vector is a phishing email, and Office files are used which contain macros that download the malware payload – in this case ZLoader. However, a novel method is used to deliver the malicious Office files that disables to usual macro warnings and protection mechanism.

With SpamTitan Plus malicious URL protection, we take a multi-layered approach to combat malicious links.
Book Free Demo

In this campaign, malicious DLLs – Zloader malware – are delivered as the payload, but the initial phishing email does not contain the malicious code. The phishing email has a Microsoft Word attachment which will trigger the download of a password-protected Excel spreadsheet from the attacker’s remote server when the file is opened and macros are enabled.

The attack relies on Microsoft Word Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and the Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields of Microsoft Excel, and is effective on systems that support the legacy .xls file format.

Once the encrypted Excel file is downloaded, Word VBA-based instructions in the document read the cell contents from the specially crafted XLS file. Word VBS then writes the cell contents into XLS VBA to create a new macro for the XLS file. When the macros are ready, Excel macro defenses are disabled by the Word document by setting the policy in the registry to Disable Excel Macro Warning. The Excel VBA is then run and downloads the malicious DLL files, which are executed using rundll32.exe.

While the malicious files will be silently downloaded and executed, this attack still requires the victim to enable macros in the initial Word document. Victims are tricked into doing this by telling them “This document created in previous version of Microsoft Office Word. To view or edit this document, please click ‘Enable editing’ button on the top bar, and then click ‘Enable content’,” when they open the Word file. That one click will start the entire infection chain.

ZLoader is a variant of the infamous Zeus banking Trojan, which first appeared in 2006. The malware is also known by the name ZBot and Silent Night and is used by multiple threat groups. The malware was used in large scale campaigns in 2020 using COVID-19 themed lures, such as COVID-19 prevention tips, along with more standard lures such as job applications.

Faster and better detection of malicious URLs in emails. Book a free SpamTitan Plus demo.
Book Free Demo

Once installed, the malware uses webinjects to steal passwords, login credentials and browser cookies. When an infected computer is used to access online banking and financial accounts, banking information and other sensitive data are stolen and exfiltrated to the attacker’s C2 server.

If you want to improve your defenses against malware and phishing, give the TitanHQ team a call and enquire about SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security. These solutions can both be downloaded, configured, and protecting you from the full range of web and email threats in under an hour, and both are available on a no obligation 14-day free trial so you can see for yourself how easy they are to use and how effective they are at blocking threats before making a purchase decision.

Mac Users Targeted in Phishing Campaign Distributing XLoader Malware

Apple Mac users are comparatively safe when it comes to malware as most malware variants target Windows users; however, the number of malware variants targeting Mac users has been increasing. When there is a very low risk of a malware infection, it is easy to become complacent, but threats do come along so it is important to remain on one’s guard.

That is especially true now as a new malware threat has been discovered and Mac users are in the attackers’ crosshairs. Further, this is not some half-baked malware. This is a very serious threat. This new malware variant is very malicious, very dangerous, and it has been getting past Apple Mac security defenses.

The threat is more likely to be familiar to Windows users, as it is them who have previously been targeted; however, the malware has now jumped platforms and is being used to target Mac users. The malware is a new variant of FormBook malware. FormBook malware is a well-known commercially available malware that has been around since 2016. The malware, which was rebranded as XLoader last year, is sold as-a-service on hacking forums and is usually delivered via malicious attachments in emails – often PowerPoint documents. The malware has been developed to log keystrokes and, as the name suggests, grab data from online forms when input by users. It can also steal data from instant messenger apps, email clients, and FTP clients. In the latter half of 2020, attacks involving the malware increased substantially, and during the first 6 months of 2021 it has been prolific.

The Apple version of the malware similarly has a wide range of malicious capabilities. It will harvest credentials from web browsers, steal form data, take screenshots, monitor and log keystrokes, and can also download and execute files from the attackers’ C2 servers. The malware also incorporates several features to resist attempts at reverse engineering.

The Mac version of XLoader is under active development and it is likely that throughout the remainder of 2021 it will grow into an even bigger threat. Already, this version is able to move much deeper into systems and move much faster.

Mac users may be complacent as they are not often targeted, but this is not due to Macs being harder to attack. Malware developers simply choose to target Windows devices as there are many more users that can be targeted. Fewer Mac users mean the potential profits from attacks will be lower, but attacks are growing and the complacency of Mac users works to the advantage of attackers. It makes it easier to get their malware installed as users are not anticipating threats. A much broader range of threat actors will be able to use the latest XLoader version and target Mac users, as they can simply pay a licensing fee and use it under the malware-as-a-serve model. That fee can be as low as $69.

As with the Windows campaigns, XLoader is primarily delivered via phishing emails, mostly using malicious Microsoft Office documents. Check Point says it has tracked infections in 69 countries, although the majority of infected devices are in the United States.

Since the malware can bypass Mac security defenses, it is important to check whether it has already been installed by looking for suspicious filenames in the LaunchAgents directory in the library, which is normally hidden from view. While various different file names have been used, an example of XLoader is com.wznlVRt83Jsd.HPyT0b4Hwxh.plist.

Blocking attacks is actually straightforward. Antivirus software should be installed and kept up to date, and businesses should implement a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block the malicious emails that deliver the malware. End users should also exercise caution opening emails and should never open attachments or click links in emails from unknown sources or click unsolicited links in messaging apps.

LemonDuck Malware Campaign Escalates with Attacks on Windows and Linux Systems Increasing

The threat actors behind LemonDuck malware have escalated their operation and have added new capabilities to the malware making it far more dangerous. LemonDuck malware is best known for its botnet and cryptocurrency mining objectives; however, the malware is being actively developed. While its bot and cryptocurrency mining activities continue, the malware is also capable of removing security controls on infected devices, rapidly moving laterally within networks, dropping a range of tools onto infected devices, and stealing and exfiltrating credentials. The malware is also capable of spreading via email.

The threat group behind the malware is known to take advantage of the latest news and events to create topical and convincing phishing emails to spread the malware, often through malicious Microsoft Office attachments; however, the threat actor also takes advantage of new exploits to infect devices, as well as several older vulnerabilities. Last year, the threat group was distributing the malware using phishing emails with OVID-19 themed lures, and while phishing emails are still being used to distribute the malware, the threat actor has also been exploiting the recently disclosed vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange to gain access to systems, according to a recent security alert from Microsoft.

LemonDuck malware is a somewhat atypical bot malware, as it is relatively rare for these types of malware variants to be used to attack both Windows and Linux systems. The malware operators like to have sole control of infected devices and remove competing malware if they are encountered. To make sure no other malware variants are installed, after gaining access to a device, the vulnerability LemonDuck exploited to gain access to a system is patched.

If the malware is installed on a device with Microsoft Outlook installed, a script is run that uses saved credentials to gain access to the mailbox and copies of itself are then sent in phishing emails to all contacts in the mailbox, using a preset message and the a malware downloader as an attachment.

The malware was first detected in May 2019, with the earlier forms of LemonDuck malware used in attacks within China, but the malware is now being distributed much more widely. It has now been detected in United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, India, Germany, Korea, Canada, and Vietnam.

Microsoft has identified two distinct operating structures that both use LemonDuck malware which could indicate the malware is being used by different groups with different objectives. The ‘LemonCat’ infrastructure was used in a campaign exploiting Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerabilities to install backdoors, steal credentials and data, and deliver other malware variants, including Ramnit.

Blocking attacks involving this malware requires a combination of approaches. An advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan should be used to block the phishing emails used to deliver the malware. SpamTitan also scans outbound messages to prevent malware variants with emailing capabilities from being sent to contacts. Since vulnerabilities are exploited to gain access to networks, it is important to have a rigorous patch management policy and to apply patches quickly after they are released.  Antivirus software should be implemented and set to automatically update, and a web filter is recommended to block malware downloads over the Internet.

For further information on improving your defenses against LemonDucck malware and other malware threats, give the TitanHQ team a call. Both the SpamTitan email security and WebTitan web security solutions are available on a free trial, and can be implemented, configured, and protecting your devices in less than an hour.

Fake Windows 11 Installers Being Used to Deliver Malware

On June 24, 2021, Microsoft announced Windows 11 will soon be released. Windows 11 is a major upgrade of the Windows NT operating system, which will be the successor to Windows 10. Such a major release doesn’t happen that often – Windows 10 was released in 2015 – so there has been a lot of interest in the new operating system. The new Windows version is due for public release at the end of 2021, but there is an opportunity to get an early copy for free.

On June 28, Microsoft revealed the first Insider Preview of Windows 11. Upgrading to the new Windows version is straightforward. For a lucky few (or unlucky few if Windows 11 turns out to be exceptionally buggy), an upgrade just requires a user to enroll in the Dev channel of the Windows Insider Program.  That said, many people have been trying to get an upgrade from unofficial sources.

Unsurprisingly, unofficial ISOs that claim to provide Windows 11 do not. Instead, they deliver malware. Threat actors have been distributing these fake Windows 11 installers and using them to deliver a wide range of malicious payloads. At best, these fake Windows 11 installers will deliver adware or unwanted programs. More likely, malware will be installed with various degrees of maliciousness, such as Remote Access Trojans and backdoors that give the attackers full access to the victims’ devices, information stealers such as keyloggers that steal passwords and other sensitive data, cryptocurrency miners, and ransomware.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have identified several fake Windows 11 installers doing the rounds, including one seemingly legitimate installer named 86307_windows 11 build 21996.1 x64 + activator.exe. Despite the name and 1.76GB file size, it was not what it seemed. If the user executed the file and agreed to the terms and conditions, the file would proceed to download a different executable that delivers a range of malicious software onto the user’s device.

As the hype builds ahead of the official release date, we can expect there to be many other fake installers released. Hackers do love a major software release, as its easy to get users to double click on executable files. Malicious adverts, websites, and emails offering free copies of Windows 11 will increase, so beware.

Ensure you have an advanced and effective spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan in place to protect against malicious emails, and a web filter such as WebTitan installed to block malicious file downloads. You should also make sure that you only install software or applications from official sources and take care to ensure that you really are on the official website of the software developer before downloading any files. A double click on a malicious executable file could cause a great deal of pain and expense for you and your employer.

MSPs Targeted in Phishing Campaign Using Fake Kaseya Update to Deliver Cobalt Strike

On July 2, 2021, IT management software provider Kaseya suffered a ransomware attack that impacted its managed service provider (MSP) customers. Ransomware was pushed out to users of the Kaseya Virtual System Administrator (VSA) platform through the software update mechanism and, through them, to MSP clients. Kaspersky Lab said it found evidence of around 5,000 attempts to infect systems with ransomware across 22 countries in the first 3 days since the attack was identified. Kaseya recently said it believes around 1,500 of its direct customers and downstream businesses were affected.

The attackers exploited vulnerabilities in the KSA platform that had been reported to Kaseya by the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure (DIVD) in April. Kaseya had issued updates to fix four of the seven reported vulnerabilities in April and May and was working on patches to fix the remaining three flaws. One of those flaws, CVE-2021-30116, was a credential leaking flaw which was exploited by the REvil ransomware gang before the patch was released.

Kaseya detected the attack quickly and was able to implement mitigations that limited the extent of the attacks. the steps taken by Kaseya have been effective at blocking any further attacks, customers are now at risk from Kaseya phishing campaigns.

Cybercriminals have started conducting phishing campaigns targeting Kaseya customers pushing Cobalt Strike payloads disguised as Kaseya VSA security updates. Cobalt Strike is a legitimate penetration testing and threat emulation tool, but it is also extensively used by hackers and ransomware gangs to gain remote access to business networks.

The campaign was first detected by the Threat intelligence team at Malwarebytes. The emails contain an attachment named SecurityUpdates.exe and a hyperlink that claims to provide a Microsoft update to fix the Kaseya vulnerability exploited by the ransomware gang.

Users are told to open the attached file or click the link in the email to update the Kaseya VSA to protect against ransomware attacks but doing so delivers Cobalt Strike beacons and will give attackers persistent access to victims’ networks.

Since Kaseya is working on a patch to fix the flaw exploited in the attack, customers will be expecting a security update and may be fooled into installing the fake update.

Kaseya has issued a warning to all customers telling them not to open any attachments or click links in emails that claim to provide updates for the Kaseya VSA. Kaseya said any future email updates it sends to customers will not include any hyperlinks or attachments.

A similar campaign was conducted following the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. The emails claimed to provide system updates to detect and block ransomware attacks.

Any email received that claims to offer a security update should be treated as suspicious. Do not click links in those emails or open attachments, instead visit the software vendor’s official website to check for security updates that have been released.

10 Reasons MSPs Choose SpamTitan to Protect Against Email Threats

Phishing is the most common way that cybercriminals gain access to business networks, and the primary defense against these attacks is a spam filter. Spam filters inspect all inbound emails for the signatures of spam, phishing, and malware and keep inboxes free of these threats.

There are many spam filtering solutions on the market that can protect against advanced email threats, but why have so many managed service providers (MSP) chosen TitanHQ has their email security solution provider? What does SpamTitan provide that is proving to be such a bit hit with MSPs?

Why Managed Service Providers Choose SpamTitan Email Security for Their Clients

SpamTitan in a multi-award-winning anti-spam solution that incorporates powerful features to protect against phishing and other email-based attacks. The solution is currently used by more than 1,500 MSPs worldwide with that number growing steadily each month.

We have listed 10 of the main reasons why SpamTitan is proving to be such a popular choice with MSPs.

Excellent malware protection

SpamTitan includes dual anti-virus engines from two leading AV providers and sandboxing that incorporates machine learning and behavioral analysis to safely detonate suspicious files.

Defense in depth protection for Office 365 environments

SpamTitan includes multiple protection measures that provide defense in depth against email threats, with easy integration into Office 365 environments to significantly improve defenses against phishing and email-based malware attacks.

Advanced email blocking

SpamTitan supports upload block and allow lists per policy, advanced reporting, recipient verification and outbound email scanning, with the ability to whitelist/blacklist at both a global level as well as a domain level.

Protection against zero-day attacks

SpamTitan uses machine learning predictive technology to block zero-day threats, with AI-driven threat intelligence to block zero-minute attacks.

Data leak prevention

Easily set powerful data leak prevention rules and tag data to identify and prevent internal data loss.

Simple integration

SpamTitan is easy to integrate into your existing Service Stack through TitanHQ API’s and MSPs benefit from streamlined management with RMM integrations.

Competitive pricing with monthly billing

MSPs benefit from a fully transparent pricing policy, competitive pricing, generous margins, and monthly billing. There is also a short sales cycle – only 14 days of a free trial is required to fully test the solution.

White label option to reinforce your brand

SpamTitan can be provided to managed service providers as a white label version that can be fully rebranded to reinforce an MSPs brand.

Intuitive multi-tenant dashboard

MSP-client hierarchy enables you to keep clients separated and choose whether to manage client settings in bulk or on an individual basis. SpamTitan is also a set and forget solution, requiring minimal IT service intervention.

Industry-leading customer support

TitanHQ provides the best customer service in the industry. MSPs benefit from world class pre-sales and technical support and sales & technical training. MSPs get a dedicated account manager, assigned sales engineer support, access to the Global Partner Program Hotline, and 24/7 priority technical support.

If you have not yet started offering SpamTitan to your clients, give the TitanHQ channel team a call today for more information, to get started on a free trial, or for a product demonstration.

HMRC Phishing Attacks Increased by 87% in the Past 12 Months

Cybercriminals often impersonate trusted entities in phishing campaigns. While Microsoft tops the list of the most impersonated brand, phishing scams impersonating tax authorities are also common. In the United Kingdom, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – the UK government department responsible for tax collection – it is often impersonated, and phishing attacks are on the rise. In the past 12 months, the number of phishing attacks impersonating HMRC increased by 87%.

The number of HMRC phishing attacks jumped from 572,029 in 2019/2020 to 1,069,522 in 2020/2021, according to official figures obtained by Lanop Outsourcing under a Freedom of information request.

Phishing can take many forms, but email scams are the most common. The number of HMRC phishing attacks conducted via email increased by 109% to 630,193 scams in 2020/2021. The most common lures used in these phishing campaigns were fake notifications about tax rebates and refunds, which were up 90% year-over-year. There were also major increases in text-based phishing (smishing) scams, which rose 52% year-over-year, and voice phishing (vishing) scams which increased by 66%.

There was an even bigger increase in phishing scams impersonating the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). In 2019/2020, HMRC received 5,549 reports of phishing scams impersonating the DVLA, but in 2020/2021 there was a whopping 661% increase with 42,233 reports.

Phishing scams impersonating HMRC and the DVLA target individuals, but they are dangerous for businesses too. The aim of these scams is to obtain sensitive data such as passwords, which could then be used in attacks on businesses. Phishing scams are also conducted to distribute malware. If malware is downloaded onto the business network, the attackers can use the access provided by the malware to move laterally and compromise an entire network.

Protecting against phishing scams requires a defense in depth approach. End user training is important as it is employees who are targeted. Employees need to be taught how to identify phishing scams and told what to do if a suspicious email is received. This is even more important at a time when employees are working from home as IT departments often lack visibility into the devices of remote workers.

Even with training, employees make mistakes. One study conducted on home workers revealed many have taken security shortcuts when working from home which has put their organization at risk. It is therefore important to implement technical defenses to ensure phishing emails do not reach inboxes.

An advanced spam filtering solution is a must. A spam filter is the most important technical measure to implement to block phishing attacks. While spam filters are good at blocking phishing emails from known malicious IP addresses, advanced spam filters such as SpamTitan have superior detection rates and can identify never-before-seen phishing scams. SpamTitan uses predictive technologies and AI to identify zero-day attacks involving IP addresses that have yet to be identified as malicious. Sandboxing provides protection from malware that has yet to have its signature added to antivirus engines, while DMARC is used to block email impersonation attacks such as those impersonating HMRC.

In phishing attacks, a lure is sent via email but the harvesting of credentials takes place on an attacker-controlled website. Links in emails to known malicious sites will be blocked, but protection can be significantly improved by using a web filter. A web filter will also block attempts to visit malicious sites via smishing messages and through web browsing as well and will block downloads of files associated with malware.

If you want to protect your business from phishing attacks, malware and ransomware and avoid costly data breaches, give the TitanHQ a team a call and find out more about improving your security posture by blocking more email- and web-based threats.

How to Improve Your Defenses Against Business Email Compromise Attacks

The recent TitanHQ/Osterman Research survey of IT security professionals showed the most common security incidents experienced by businesses were business email compromise (BEC) attacks. A BEC attack is where a cybercriminal spoofs a trusted contact or company, usually to trick an employee into making a fraudulent wire transfer, send sensitive data via email, or obtain money by other means.

In a BEC attack, the attacker usually spoofs an email account or website or uses a genuine, trusted email account that has previously been compromised in a phishing attack. If a compromised email account is not used, an individual is usually spoofed by changing the display name to make it appear that the email has been sent by a genuine contact, often the CEO, CFO, or a vendor.

It is also common for lookalike domains to be used in BEC attacks. The attacker discovers the spoofed company’s format for email accounts, and copies that format using a domain that very closely resembles the genuine domain used by that company. At first glance, the spoofed domain appears perfectly legitimate.

BEC attacks are usually highly targeted. An email is carefully crafted to target an individual within an organization or a person in a particular role. Since many attacks attempt to get employees to make fraudulent wire transfers, it is most common for individuals in the finance department to be targeted, although BEC attackers also commonly target the HR department, marketing department, IT department, and executives.

Since the requests in the emails are plausible and the message format, signatures, and branding are often copied from genuine emails, the BEC emails can be very convincing. It is also not uncommon for the attacks to involve conversations that span multiple messages before the attacker makes a request.

While phishing attacks are more common, losses to BEC attacks are far greater. According to FBI figures, BEC attacks are the leading cause of losses to cybercrime.

Defending against BEC attacks requires a combination of measures. Naturally, since these attacks target employees, it is important to raise awareness of the threat and teach employees how to identify a BEC attack. Policies and procedures should also be implemented that require any email request to change bank account details, payment methods, or make changes to direct deposit information for payroll to be verified using trusted contact information. A quick telephone call could easily thwart an attack.

While these measures are important, the best defense is to prevent BEC emails from reaching end users’ inboxes as that eliminates the potential for human error. For that you need to have solid email security. A good email security solution will block attempts to steal email credentials – the precursor to many BEC attacks.  An advanced spam filtering solution that incorporates machine learning techniques can detect and block zero-day attacks – the tailored, often unique messages that are used by the attackers to target individuals. Solutions that incorporate DMARC and sender policy framework (SPF) will help to detect emails from individuals not authorized to send messages from a particular domain – A vital protection against BEC attacks.

SpamTitan incorporates all of those measures – and more – to keep businesses protected. When combined with end user training and administrative measures, businesses can greatly improve their defenses against BEC attacks. For more information on how SpamTitan can protect your business from the full range of email attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

You can also find out about other measures you can implement to block phishing and ransomware attacks at the upcoming TitanHQ webinar on June 30, 2021 – How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing and Ransomware. During the webinar – hosted by TitanHQ and Osterman Research – you will discover the results of the latest TitanHQ survey of security professionals and gain valuable insights into how you can improve your cybersecurity posture.

You can REGISTER YOUR PLACE HERE.

Webinar June 30, 2021: How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing and Ransomware Attacks

The two main cybersecurity threats that businesses now have to deal with are phishing and ransomware attacks and those threats have become even more common over the past 12 months. Cybercriminals stepped up their attacks during the pandemic with many phishing campaigns launched using the novel coronavirus as a lure. These campaigns sought to distribute malware and steal credentials.

Ransomware attacks also increased in 2020. Several new ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations were launched in 2020 and the number of attacks on businesses soared. In addition to encrypting files, data theft was also highly prevalent n 2020, with most ransomware operators stealing data prior to encrypting files. This double extortion tactic proved to be very effective. Many businesses were forced to pay the ransom even though they had backups and could have recovered their files. Payments were made to ensure data stolen in the attack was deleted and not misused, published, or sold.

Phishing and ransomware attacks often go hand in hand and are often used together in the same attack. Phishing emails are used to install malware, which in turn is used to provide access for ransomware gangs. The Emotet and TrickBot Trojans are notable examples. Operators of both of those Trojans teamed up with ransomware gangs and sold access once they had achieved their own objectives. The credentials stolen in phishing attacks are also sold onto RaaS affiliates and provide the foothold they need to conduct their devastating attacks.

See how SpamTitan Plus inspects all URLs to identify links to malicious websites. Book a free demo.
Book Free Demo

Phishing campaigns are easy to conduct, low cost, and they can be very effective. Largescale campaigns involve millions of messages, and while most of those emails will be blocked by email security solutions or will be identified by employees as a threat, all it takes is for one employee to respond to a phishing email for an attacker to gain the access they need.

TitanHQ recently partnered with Osterman Research to explore how these and other cyber threats have affected businesses over the past 12 months. This new and original study involved an in-depth survey of security professionals to find out how those threats have affected their organization and how effective their defenses are at repelling attackers.

The survey showed the most common security incidents suffered by businesses were business email compromise (BEC) attacks, where employees are tricked into taking an action suggested in a scam email from the CEO, CFO or another high-level executive. These attacks often involve the genuine email account of an executive being compromised in a phishing scam and the attacker using that account to target employees in the same organization.

The next biggest threat was phishing emails that resulted in a malware infection, followed by phishing messages that stole credentials and resulted in an account compromise. The survey showed that these attacks are extremely common. 85% of interviewed security professionals said they had experienced one or more of 17 different types of security breaches in the past 12 months. While attacks were common, only 37% of respondents said their defenses against phishing and ransomware attacks were highly effective.

There are several steps that can be taken to improve defenses against phishing and ransomware attacks. End user training is important to teach employees what to look for and how to identify these types of threats. However, there is always potential for human error, so training alone is not the answer. Email security is the best defense. By blocking these threats at source, they will not land in inboxes and employees will not be tested. Email security should be combined with a web security solution to block the web-based component of phishing attacks and stop malware and ransomware downloads from the Internet.

Even greater protection against phishing attacks. Book a free SpamTitan Plus demo.
Book Free Demo

The findings of the Osterman and TitanHQ survey will be explained in detail at an upcoming webinar on June 30, 2021. Attendees will also learn how they can significantly reduce the risk of ransomware and phishing attacks.

The webinar will be conducted by Michael Sampson, Senior Analyst at Osterman Research and Sean Morris, Chief Technology Officer at TitanHQ.  You can Register Your Place Here

Sophisticated COVID-19 Phishing Campaign Targets Employees Returning to Offices

Threat actors seized the opportunities provided by the pandemic and conducted many phishing campaigns using COVID-19 themed lures. These campaigns took advantage of global interest in the novel coronavirus and preyed on fears of contracting COVID-19 to get people to open the emails, click on malicious hyperlinks, or open attachments that downloaded malware and ransomware payloads. Now that a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated, employers are opening up their offices again and employees are returning to the workplace.

The return to offices has presented another opportunity for scammers, who have launched a new phishing campaign targeting workers returning to offices. The emails appear to be a message from the CIO welcoming employees back to the workplace and claims to provide information about post-pandemic protocols and the procedures that have been put in place to accommodate returning workers to reduce the risk of infection.

The emails have been crafted to make them appear as if they have been sent internally, and include the logo of the targeted company and are signed by the CIO. The emails include a hyperlink that directs employees to a fake Microsoft SharePoint page that hosts two documents, both of which have the company’s branding. The documents are a COVID-19 factsheet and an implementation letter that includes steps that the company has taken based on updates provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and local health officials.

Most phishing campaigns would simply direct people to a landing page that hosts a phishing form where they are asked to enter their Office 365 credentials. This campaign is more sophisticated and includes an additional step. Nothing happens when an employee lands on the page. They are first required to click to open a document before the phish is activated. When the document is clicked, a fake Microsoft login prompt appears and credentials must then be entered in order to view the documents.

If credentials are entered, a message is then generated advising the employee that their account or password is not correct, and they are made to reenter their credentials several times before they are finally redirected to a genuine Microsoft page and are given access to the documents on OneDrive, most likely unaware that their credentials have been phished.

This COVID-19 phishing scam, like many others conducted throughout the pandemic, has a plausible lure. In this case, the emails have been well written and have been targeted for specific companies, making them very believable and likely to fool a great many employees. It is unclear what aims the attackers have once credentials have been harvested. They could be used to plunder sensitive information in Office 365 email accounts, would give the attackers a foothold in the corporate network for a more extensive compromise, or they could be sold to other threat groups such as ransomware gangs.

The best way to counter the threat is to prevent the malicious emails from arriving in inboxes, which requires an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. With SpamTitan in place, phishing threats such as this will be identified and blocked at the gateway to ensure that employees’ phishing email identification skills are not put to the test.

If you want to improve your security posture and block more phishing threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today to discover how SpamTitan Email Security and the WebTitan DNS Filter can improve cybersecurity in your organization.

How Can MSPs Make Office 365 More Profitable?

Reselling Office 365 doesn’t offer much in the way of profit for MSPs, although there are benefits for MSPs that come from offering Office 365 and it is possible to make Office 365 more profitable.

Before explaining where the margin is for MSPs in Office 365, let’s first take a look at the benefits for MSPs from offering Office 365.

Benefits for MSPs from Offering Office 365 to Clients

SMBs are increasingly moving from on-premises solutions to the cloud and Office 365 is one of the most popular cloud services. Office 365 now has more than 135 million commercial monthly users and that number is growing rapidly.

MSPs may not be able to make much from Office 365 alone, but by providing Office 365 MSPs can win more business and gain a competitive advantage. There is no outlay involved with offering Office 365 to clients, the product is great and meets clients’ needs, and money can be made from handling Office 365 migrations.

MSPs can also benefit from migrating existing clients from Exchange or SBS Exchange to Office 365. Office 365 is far easier to manage so they stand to save a great deal of time on troubleshooting and maintenance, which can be a major headache with Exchange.

By offering Office 365 you can win more business, reduce operational costs, and stay competitive. However, the best way to make money from Office 365 is through add-on services.

How MSPs Can Make Office 365 More Profitable

The margins for MSPs on Office 365 are rather thin to say the least. Many MSPs find that offering Office 365 on its own doesn’t provide any profit at all. Charging extra per license to improve profitability is an option, but clients could just go direct to avoid the extra cost.

The margins may be small, but managing Office 365 does not require a great deal of effort. You may only make around 50c or $1 per user but sign up enough clients and you could get a reasonable return. There is an opportunity for profit at scale; however, to make a decent return you need to sell services around Office 365.

One of the best ways to make Office 365 more profitable is by offering additional security services. Security is an area where Office 365 can be significantly improved, especially spam filtering. Microsoft has incorporated a spam filter and anti-phishing protections into Office 365, but they fall short of the protection offered by a dedicated third-party spam filter.

Phishing is the number one security threat faced by businesses and Office 365 anti-phishing protections leave a lot to be desired. By offering enhanced spam and phishing protection through a third-party spam filter, not only can MSPs make a decent margin on the add-on solution, by blocking phishing attacks and malware at source, a considerable amount of time can be saved on support. Offering spam filtering can help to generate additional recurring revenue, with SpamTitan provided as a high margin, subscription based SaaS solution.

There are plenty of other opportunities for selling third-party solutions to make up for the lack of options in Office 365. Email archiving is an easy sell and a quick win for MSPs. An email archive is important for compliance and security, saves on storage space, and improves efficiency, and gives clients access to emails from any location. Email archiving is available with office 365, but the solution has some severe drawbacks, and may not meet compliance requirements. Offering a feature-rich email archiving solution that is fully compliant, easy to use, with lightning fast search and retrieval should be an easy sell to Office 365 users.

Spam filtering, email archiving, web filtering, and encryption can be bundled together as an enhanced security package, with each element providing a decent return for MSPs. Given the cost of mitigating a data breach, by preventing breaches, an enhanced security offering will pay for itself and should not be too difficult to sell to Office 365 users.

Office 365 MSP Add-ons from TitanHQ

For more than 20 years TitanHQ has been developing innovative security solutions for businesses. Today, more than 7,500 businesses are protected by TitanHQ security solutions and more than 2,000 MSPs have signed up to the TitanHQ Alliance Program.

All TitanHQ solutions have been developed from the ground to meet the needs of the SMB marketplace and MSPs. TitanHQ’s spam filtering solution – SpamTitan, email archiving solution – ArcTitan, and web filtering solution – WebTitan, save MSPs support and engineering time, have great margins, and can be easily integrated into MSPs security stacks to make Office 365 more profitable. All TitanHQ solutions are quick and easy to deploy, and can be implemented into your existing Service Stack through API’s and RMM integrations. The MSP-client hierarchy enables you to keep clients separated and choose whether to manage client settings in bulk or on an individual basis. MSPs benefit from competitive pricing strategies, including monthly billing as we understand your clients are billed monthly.

There are multiple hosting options, including hosting the solution within your own data center, and all TitanHQ products can be supplied as a white label, ready to take your own branding. We have made our solutions as easy as possible to use, with intuitive controls and everything placed at your fingertips. However, should you ever have a problem, you will benefit from the best customer service in the industry, as well as scalable pre-sales and technical support and sales & technical training.

Why SpamTitan is Perfect for MSP’s?

  • The best spam and virus protection for MSPs with dual AV engines and Bitdefender-powered sandboxing
  • Low management overhead – A set and forget solution
  • Use our private cloud or your own data center
  • Extensive suite of APIs for integration into your central management system
  • Multi-tenant solution with multiple management roles
  • Scalable to thousands of users
  • In and outbound email scanning with IP domain protection
  • Extensive drill down reporting
  • Flexible pricing models to suit your needs, including monthly billing
  • Generous margins for MSPs
  • Fully customizable branding

TitanSHIELD Program for MSPs

To make it as easy as possible for MSPs to incorporate our world class network security solutions into their service stacks, TitanHQ developed the TitanSHIELD program. The TitanShield MSP Program allows MSPs to take advantage of TitanHQ’s proven technology so that they can sell, implement and deliver our advanced network security solutions directly to their client base. Under the TitanSHIELD program you get the following benefits:

TitanSHIELD Benefits

Sales Enablement

Marketing

Partner Support Private or Public Cloud deployment Access to the Partner Portal
Dedicated Account Manager White Label or Co-branding Co-Branded Evaluation Site
Assigned Sales Engineer Support API integration Social Network participation
Access to Global Partner Program Hotline Free 30-day evaluations Joint PR
Access to Partner Knowledge Base Product Discounts Joint White Papers
Technical Support Competitive upgrades Partner Events and Conferences
24/7 Priority Technical Support Tiered Deal Registration TitanHQ Newsletter
5 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) Technical Support Renewal Protection Better Together Webinars
Online Technical Training and FAQs Advanced Product Information Partner Certificate – Sales and technical
Access to Partner Technical Knowledge Base Competitive Information and Research Sales Campaigns in a box
Not-for-Resale (NFR) Key Public Relations Program and Customer Testimonials
Product Brochures and Sales Tools TitanHQ Corporate Style Guide and Logo Usage
Partner Advisory Council Eligibility TitanHQ Partner Welcome Kit
QTRLY Business Planning and Review Access to TitanHQ’s MVP Rewards Program
Access to Partner Support

To find out more about TitanHQ’s MSP offerings, for details of pricing and MSP margins, contact the TitanHQ Alliance Program team today and take the first step toward making Office 365 more profitable.

Passwordstate Breach Notification Letters Spoofed to Distribute Malware

Following on from a supply chain attack that saw the software update feature of the Passwordstate password manager hijacked the threat group developed a convincing phishing campaign targeting enterprise users of the password manager solution.

The supply chain attack was used to infect users of the password manager with malware dubbed Moserpass. Between April 20 and April 22, users of the password manager who downloaded an update through the In-Pass Upgrade mechanism may have had a malicious file downloaded – a malformed Passwordstate_upgrade.zip file.

Downloading the file started a chain of events that resulted in Moserpass being installed, which collected and exfiltrated information about the computer, users, domains, running services and processes, along with password data from the Passwordstate app. The malware also had a loader module, so could potentially download other malware variants onto victims’ devices. Since passwords were potentially compromised, affected users have been advised to reset all of their passwords.

The attack only lasted 28 hours before it was identified and blocked, but in order to remove the malware from customers’ devices, Click Studios, the developer of the password app, emailed customers and encouraged them to apply a hotfix to remove the malware.

Some customers who received the email from Click Studios shared a copy of the message on social media networks. The threat group behind the attack were monitoring social media channels, obtained a copy of the genuine Click Studios email about the hotfix, and used the exact same email for a phishing campaign. Instead of directing users to the hotfix to remove Moserpass malware, the phishing email directed users to a website not under the control of Click Studios which installed an updated version of Moserpass malware.

Since the Passswordstate breach notification emails were virtual carbon copies of genuine communications from Click Studios they were very convincing. Users who followed the instructions in the email would likely think they were removing malware, when they were actually installing it. The fake versions of the emails do not have a domain suffix used by Click Studios, request the hotfix is downloaded from a subdomain, and claim an ‘urgent’ update is required to fix a bug, but it is easy to see how these messages could fool end users.

Click Studios supplies its password manager to around 29,000 enterprises and the solution has hundreds of thousands of users, many of whom will have heard of the breach and be concerned about a malware infection. Click Studios said only a very small number of its customers were affected and had the malware installed – those who downloaded the update in the 28-hour period between April 20 and April 22 – but anyone receiving the fake email could well have been convinced that the email was genuine and taken the requested action.

Phishers often use fake security warnings as a lure, and data breach notifications are ideal for use in phishing attacks. This Passswordstate breach notification phishing campaign highlights the importance of carefully checking any message for signs of phishing, even if the email content seems genuine and the message includes the right branding, and the risks of posting copies of genuine breach notification letters on social media networks.

Many phishing attacks are sophisticated, and it can be difficult for employees to differential between genuine and malicious messages, which is why advanced spam and phishing defenses are required. If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, get in touch with TitanHQ and discover how SpamTitan Email Security can improve your security posture and better protect your organization from phishing and other email-based threats.

What is a Common Indicator of a Phishing Attempt?

Virtually everyone uses email which makes it an attractive attack vector for cybercriminals who use phishing emails to steal credentials, deliver malware, and gain a foothold in corporate networks, but what is a common indicator of a phishing attempt? How can these malicious emails be identified and avoided?

In this post we will list some of the main signs of phishing emails that that all email users should be looking out for in their inboxes.

Phishing is the Number 1 Attack Vector!

In 2021, and for several years previously, phishing has been the main way that cybercriminals obtain login credentials to allow them to access sensitive business data and gain the foothold they need in business networks for more extensive compromises. Phishing emails are also used to deliver malware that provides persistent access to computers and the networks to which they connect. Malware downloaders are commonly delivered via email that download other malicious payloads such as ransomware. Most data breaches start with a phishing email!

Phishing emails were once easy to detect, but that is not always the case now. Many phishing attempts are extremely sophisticated. Emails may only be sent to a handful of people, and even individuals are targeted. The emails are convincing and can be almost impossible to distinguish from the genuine email messages that they spoof.

With an advanced email security solution in place, the majority of these messages will be blocked; however, no email security solution will block every malicious message without blocking an unacceptable number of genuine messages. That means all employees must have the necessary skills to identify a phishing email when it arrives in their inbox.

What is a Common Indicator of a Phishing Attempt?

In order to identify a phishing email, you need to know what to look for, so what is a common indicator of a phishing attempt? Listed below are some of the most common signs of phishing emails for you to look out for.

Unfortunately, there is no single common indicator of a phishing attempt. Tactics, techniques, and procedures are constantly changing, but if you identify any of these signs in an email in your inbox or spam folder, there is a reasonable chance that the message is not genuine and should be reported to your security team. Chances are, there will be other copies of the message in the email system that will need to be removed.

The message is in your spam folder

There is a reason why messages are classified as spam by email security solutions. Analysis of the message has highlighted telltale signs of spam or phishing, but not enough for the message to be blocked at the email gateway. If a message is sent to your spam folder you should exercise caution when opening the message.

It is an unsolicited message

Phishing emails are unsolicited – You certainly didn’t ask to be phished! There may be a seemingly valid reason why you have been sent the message, but if you didn’t request the email and are not on a marketing list for the company or individual sending the message it should be treated as suspect.

Important information is in an attachment

One of the ways that phishers attempt to conceal their malicious intent is to use email attachments. This could be a link in an attached file that you need to click (why not just add it to the message body?) or commonly, you must enable content in an Office file to view the content of the attachment. Doing so will allow macros to run that will download a malicious file. Zip files are also commonly used as they are hard for spam filters to access, or files may be password protected. The files must always be scanned with AV software prior to opening and, even then, treat them with extreme caution.

Book a free SafeTitan Security Awareness Training demonstration with an expert.
Book Free Demo

Urgent action is required and there is a threat in the email

Phishing emails often convey a sense of urgency to get people to respond quickly without thinking too much about the request. There may be a threat of bad consequences if no action is taken – your account will be closed – or some other sense of urgency, such as missing out on an amazing opportunity. Always take time to carefully consider what is being asked and check the email for other signs of phishing.

You are asked to click a link in an email

Spam filters scan messages for malware, so it is common for the malware to be hosted on a website. A link is included that users must click to obtain information or to download a file. The link may take you to a website where you are required to enter your login credentials, and that site may have an exact copy of your usual login prompt – for Google or Office 365 for example. You should carefully check the link to find out the true destination (hover your mouse arrow over it) and then double check the full URL on the destination site. You may have been redirected to a different site after clicking. Is the page on the genuine website used by that company?

The sender of the email is not known to you or the email address is suspect

Phishers spoof email addresses and change the display name to make it appear that the email has been sent from a contact or official source. Check that the actual email address is legitimate – it is the correct domain for the company or individual. Check against past messages received from that individual or company to make sure the email address is the same. Remember, the sender’s email account may have been compromised, so even if the email address is correct that doesn’t necessarily mean the account holder sent the message!

The message has grammatical and spelling errors

Grammatical and spelling errors are common in phishing emails. This could be because English is not the first language of the sender or be deliberate to only get people to respond who are likely to fall for the next stage of the scam. Business emails, especially official communications and marketing emails, do not contain spelling errors or have grammatical mistakes.

The request is unusual, or the tone seems odd

Often the language used in phishing emails is a little odd. Emails impersonating known contacts may be overly familiar or may seem rather formal and different to typical emails you receive from the sender. If the tone is off or you are addressed in a strange way, it could well be a phishing attempt. Phishing emails will also try to get you to take unusual actions, such as send data via email that you have not been asked to send before. A quick phone call using trusted contact information is always wise to verify the legitimacy of an unusual request.

How Businesses can Improve their Phishing Defenses

If you want to block more phishing emails and malware you will need an advanced email security solution. The email security gateway is the first line of defense against malicious emails, but it is not necessary to spend a fortune to have good protection. If you have a limited budget or simply want to save money on email security, TitanHQ is here to help.

SpamTitan is an award-winning advanced email security solution that blocks in excess of 99.97% of malicious messages and spam. The solution is easy to implement, configure, maintain and use, the pricing policy is transparent and extremely competitive, and with TitanHQ you will benefit from industry-leading customer support. You can even try SpamTitan for free to see for yourself how effective it is. Get in touch with us today to find out more via email or just pick up the phone and speak to our friendly and knowledgeable sales team.

Try SpamTitan for Free Today

Book a free SafeTitan Security Awareness Training demonstration with an expert.
Book Free Demo

UK Universities Schools Increasingly Targeted by Ransomware Gangs

Ransomware attacks on the education sector in the United Kingdom have increased sharply since February, and the sector was already extensively targeted by threat groups long before then. The education sector is an attractive target for cybercriminals as sizeable amounts of sensitive data are stored within computer systems that can be easily monetized if stolen.

Students’ personally identifiable information is of more value than that of adults, and it can often be used for years before any fraud is detected. Higher education institutions often have intellectual property and research data that is incredibly valuable and can easily be sold on for a huge profit. Ransomware attacks prevent access to essential data, and with the pandemic forcing the education sector to largely switch to online learning, when communication channels and websites are taken out of action learning can grind to a halt.

In the United Kingdom, the reopening of schools and universities has only been possible with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which is also disrupted by ransomware attacks. Files are encrypted which prevents access to essential testing and monitoring data, further hampering the ability of schools, colleges, and universities to operate.

As is the case with healthcare, which has also seen a major increase in cyberattacks during the pandemic, services are majorly disrupted without access to computer systems, and there is considerable pressure on both industries to pay the ransom demands to recover from the attacks more quickly. Ransoms are more likely to be paid than in other industry sectors.

What makes the education sector an even more attractive prospect for cybercriminals is poorer security defenses than other industries. The lack of security controls makes attacks much more likely to succeed. On top of that, students often use their own devices to connect to networks so security can be very difficult to police, and many departments make their own IT decisions, which can easily result in vulnerabilities being introduced and remaining unaddressed.

The ease and profitability of attacks has made education a top target for ransomware gangs. Emsisoft reports education was the sector most targeted by ransomware gangs in 2020.

The increase in ransomware attacks on educational institutions in the United Kingdom prompted the UK’s National Cyber Security Center to issue a warning in March to all entities in the education sector about the risk of cyberattacks. NCSC noted in its alert that there was a significant increase in attacks in August and September 2020, and a further rise in attacks since February 2021.

University of Hertfordshire Suffers Major Cyberattack

One of the most damaging university cyberattacks in recent months occurred at the University of Hertfordshire. Late on April 14, cybercriminals struck, with the attack impacting all of the university’s systems. No cloud systems were available, nor MS Teams, Canvas, or Zoom. The attack forced the university to cancel all of its online classes for the following day, although in person teaching was able to continue provided computer access was not necessary.

It has been more than a week since the attack, and while some systems are now back online, disruption is still being experienced with student records, university business services, learning resource centre services, data storage, student services, staff services, and the postgraduate application portal, with the email system also considered to be at risk.

The university has not confirmed the nature of the attack, but it has the hallmarks of a ransomware attack, although the university has issued a statement stating that the attack did not involve data theft.

The University of Hertfordshire is certainly not alone. In March, South and City College of Birmingham was hit with a ransomware attack that took all of its computer systems out of action, with the college forced to switch to online learning for its 13,000 students.

UK Schools also Under Attack

The cyberattacks in the United Kingdom have not been limited to universities. School systems have also suffered more than their fair share of attacks. In March, the Harris Federation, which runs 50 schools in the UK, suffered a ransomware attack that took out communications systems and majorly affecting online learning for 37,000 students.

Also in March, the Nova Education Trust suffered a ransomware attack that took its systems out of action and affected 15 schools, all of which lost access to their communication channels including the phone system, email, and websites. The Castle School Education Trust also suffered a ransomware attack in March that disrupted the online functions of 23 schools.

What Can Be Done to Stop Cyberattacks in Education?

Cybersecurity must become a major focus for schools, colleges, and universities. The attacks are being conducted because they are easy and profitable and, until that changes, the attacks are not likely to slow and, in all likelihood, will continue to increase.

To protect against attacks, the education sector needs to implement multi-layered security defenses and find and address vulnerabilities before they are discovered by ransomware gangs and other cybercriminal operations.

The best place to start is by improving security for the two main attack vectors: email and the Internet. That is an area where TitanHQ can help. To find out more, get in touch with the TitanHQ team today and take the first step towards improving your security posture and better protecting your networks and endpoints from extremely damaging cyberattacks.