Spam News

Our spam news section provides up to date news on the latest threats that are likely to hit the inboxes of your employees. Cybercriminals are constantly changing tactics with new spam email campaigns, different social engineering techniques and new methods of installing malware and ransomware. By keeping up to date on the latest spam news, organizations can take timely action to mitigate risk.

In that regard, a spam filtering solution is essential. All it takes is for one employee to click on a malicious link or open an infected email attachment for an entire network to be compromised. A spam filter will check all incoming email messages and search for common spam signatures in addition to checking senders’ email accounts against blacklists of known spammers. Email attachments will be checked for virus signatures and hyperlinks compared to blacklists of known malicious domains.

Armed with the latest spam news, information security teams can send email alerts to their employees warning of pertinent threats that they need to be aware of.

This section also includes news on industry-specific attacks, in particular those that are being used to target the healthcare, education, financial services, legal and hospitality sectors.

New CAPTCHA Phishing Scam Targets Android Users and Steals SMS Security Codes

A new CAPTCHA phishing scam has been detected which is being used to trick users into downloading a malicious file that intercepts multi-factor authentication codes on a user’s smartphone. With the codes, hackers can perform a more extensive attack and gain access to a much wider range of resources such as email and bank accounts.

When a visitor lands on the phishing page, a check is performed to determine what device is being used. If the user is on an Android device, a malicious APK file is downloaded to their device. Any other platform will receive a zip file containing malware.

A fake version of the familiar Google reCAPTCHA is displayed on the phishing page. It closely resembles the legitimate version, although it does not support sound and the images do not change when they are clicked. The fake reCAPTCHA is housed on a PHP webpage and any clicks on the images are submitted to the PHP page, which triggers the download of the malicious file. This campaign appears to be focused on mobile users.

On an Android device, the malicious APK intercepts PIN codes from two-factor authentication messages, which allow the attackers to gain access to the user’s bank account.  With these PIN codes, an email account can also be compromised, which would allow further accounts to be compromised by requesting password resets.

A successful attack could see several accounts used by an individual subjected to unauthorized access. Businesses are also attacked in a similar manner. Successful attacks on businesses could give the attackers access to huge volumes of sensitive company data and even infrastructure resources.

This method of delivering malware is nothing new and has been around since 2009. A CAPTCHA phishing campaign was detected in February 2018 attempting to download a malicious file, and a similar campaign was run in 2016.

A method of attack is adopted for a while then dropped. While it is possible to prepare the workforce for phishing attacks such as this through training, security awareness training alone is not enough as tactics frequently change, and new methods of attack are frequently developed.

As this attack shows, two-factor authentication is far from infallible. In addition to this method of obtaining 2FA codes, the SS7 protocol used to send SMS messages has flaws that can be exploited to intercept messages.

Security awareness training and 2FA are important, but what is required on top of these protections is a powerful anti-spam and anti-phishing solution. Such a solution will block phishing emails at the gateway and make sure they are not delivered to inboxes.

It is important to choose a solution that provides protection against impersonation attacks. Many phishing campaigns spoof a familiar brand or known individual. A solution that incorporates Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) will help to ensure that the sender of the message is genuine, by performing checks to make sure that the sender of the message is authorized to send messages from that domain.

Most anti-phishing solutions incorporate an anti-virus component that scans all incoming attachments for malware and malicious code, but cybercriminals are using sophisticated methods to evade detection by AV solutions. Files may include malicious code that is hard to detect. A sandbox is therefore required to execute suspicious attachments in a safe environment where they can be monitored for malicious activity. By testing attachments in the sandbox, malicious files can be identified and more genuine emails and attachments will arrive in inboxes.

SpamTitan incorporates these features and more. Together they help to ensure a catch rate in excess of 99.9%, with a low false positive rate of 0.03%. With SpamTitan in place, you will be well protected against phishing attacks such as the latest CAPTCHA scam.

U.S Hotels Targeted In Malspam Campaign Spreading NetWiredRC RAT

Hotels in America are being targeted by cybercriminals in a campaign spreading a remote access Trojan (RAT) called NetWiredRC. The RAT is delivered via malicious emails targeting financial staff in hotels in North America.

The campaign uses a typical lure to get recipients to open the attached file. The message claims there are invoices outstanding and the recipient is asked to validate payment. The invoices are included in a zip file attached to the email.

If the file is extracted and the executable is launched, the Trojan will be downloaded by a PowerShell script. The Trojan achieves persistence by loading itself into the startup folder and will run each time the computer boots.  The malware gives the attacker full control over an infected computer. Files can be uploaded and downloaded, further malware variants can be installed, keystrokes can be logged, and credentials can be stolen.

The ultimate aim of the threat actors behind this campaign is not known, although most cyberattacks on hotels are conducted to gain access to guest databases and payment systems. If malware can be loaded onto POS systems, card details can be skimmed when guests pay for their rooms. It can be months before hotels discover their systems have been breached, by which time the card details of tens of thousands of guests may have been stolen. Hutton Hotel in Nashville, TN, discovered in 2016 that its POS system had been infected with malware for three years.

There have been several recent cases of cyberattacks on hotels resulting in guest databases being stolen and sold on darknet marketplaces. The data breach at Marriott resulted in the theft of 339 million records and Huazhu Hotels Group in China experienced a breach of 130 million records.

Data breaches can prove incredibly costly. The cost of the data breach at Marriott could well reach $200 million, but even smaller data breaches can prove costly to resolve and can cause serious damage to a hotel’s reputation.

The latest spam campaign shows just how easy it is to gain a foothold in a network that ultimately leads to a 3-year data breach or the theft of more than 300 records: The opening of an attachment by a busy employee.

Hotels can improve their defenses by implementing cybersecurity solutions that block the threats at source.  SpamTitan protects businesses by securing the email system and preventing malicious messages from reaching end users’ inboxes. WebTitan is an advanced web filtering solution that allows hotels to block malware downloads and carefully control the websites that can be accessed by staff and guests.

For further information on TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions for hotels, contact the sale team today.

Business Email Compromise Attacks Cost $310 Million a Month in 2018

New figures have been released by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on 2018 Business Email Compromise attacks. The latest FinCEN report highlighted the pervasiveness of the threat and potential for the attacks to result in serious financial harm.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks are concerned with gaining access to a business email account and using that account to send messages to other individuals in an organization and business contacts. While compromised email accounts can be used for a variety of purposes, with BEC the primary goal is usually to convince an employee to make a fraudulent wire transfer or send sensitive information such as employee W-2 Forms.

Social engineering techniques are used to obtain the credentials of a high-level executive and convince an employee to make a fraudulent transfer. While at face value these scams are simplistic – they involve sending an email that requests a bank transfer be made – the scams are often highly sophisticated.

More than $300 Million a Month Was Lost to 2018 Business Email Compromise Attacks

The FinCEN report shows why these attacks are worth the effort. The average fraudulent transaction value in 2018 was $125,439 and $310 million per month was lost to BEC scams in 2018.

FinCEN received approximately 1,100 suspicious activity reports in 2018 that were attributed to BEC scams. It should be taken into consideration that many businesses are not obliged to report security breaches such as BEC scams, so the total losses will be considerably higher.

BEC attacks are also being conducted far more frequently and losses to the scams have skyrocketed. The 2016 FinCEN report indicates at least $110 million was lost to BEC scams. Losses to BEC scams have increased by 172% increase in just two years.

There has been a marked change in BEC scam tactics over the last two years, which has helped to increase the dollar amount of each fraudulent transaction.

As previously mentioned, the scams involve compromising an email account, which was commonly the email account of the CEO or CFO. The email accounts were used to send wire transfer requests and the average transaction value was $50,272. The 2018 figures show that there has been a shift from attacks that impersonate the CEO to attacks impersonating contractors and other vendors.

If a vendor’s email account is compromised, fake invoices can be sent to all companies that the vendor works for. Further, the typical amount of a vendor invoice is substantially higher than the transfer amounts typically requested by CEOs.

FinCEN’s figures show the average fake invoice transaction value was $125,439 for fake invoices from contractors, which is $75,167 more than the typical CEO email request.

FinCEN’s 2017 figures indicate 33% of BEC attacks involved impersonation of the CEO, but the percentage had fallen to just 12% in 2018. 39% of all BEC attacks in 2018 involved the impersonation of an outside entity such as a business associate, contractor, or vendor.

How to Improve Defenses Against BEC Attacks

With attacks increasing and losses spiraling, businesses need to take steps to reduce risk by improving email security and providing further training to employees. Employees should be made aware of the risk of BEC attacks, told about the latest threats, and should be taught how to identify a scam email. Policies should also be developed and implemented which require verification of all emailed transfer requests and bank account changes.

Training and policies will help to create a strong last line of defense, but the primary goal should be blocking the scam emails at the email gateway to ensure end users are not tested. That requires a powerful anti-spam and anti-phishing solution such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.97% of all spam and malicious emails to keep business inboxes threat free.

For further information on SpamTitan and other cybersecurity protections to reduce the risk of phishing and BEC attacks, contact TitanHQ today.

New Office 365 Phishing Scams Detected

Two new Office 365 phishing scams have been detected in the past few days. One scam uses a fake Office 365 site to deliver the Trickbot Trojan and the other is a spear phishing campaign targeting Office 365 administrators to capture their credentials.

The Trickbot campaign uses a realistic domain – get.office365.live – that has all the typical elements of a genuine Microsoft website, including links to Microsoft resources. The website, identified by MalwareHunterTeam, detects the visitor’s browser and displays a popup within a few seconds of landing on the website.

A different warning is displayed for Firefox and Chrome users, with the associated logos. The warning comes from either the Chrome or Firefox Update Center. The message states that the user has an older version of the browser, which may cause incorrect site mapping, loss of all stored and personal data, and browser errors. An update button is supplied to download the browser update.

If the update button is clicked, it triggers the download of an executable file called upd365_58v01.exe. If that executable is run, the Trickbot Trojan will be downloaded and inserted into a svchost.exe process. That makes it harder for the user to detect the information stealer through Task Manager.

The Trickbot Trojan has several capabilities. It is a banking Trojan that can intercept banking credentials using webinjects. It also contains a password grabbing module which steals saved login credentials, autofill information, browsing history, and Bitcoin wallets. The malware also serves as a downloader for other malware variants and a module also been developed for propagation which includes the EternalBlue exploit.

Once installed, the malware stays in continuous contact with its C2. Due to the obfuscation methods used, the infection is unlikely to be detected by an end user, but the network admin may notice unusual traffic or attempts to connect to blacklisted domains.

This is a professional campaign that is likely to fool many end users. It is currently unclear whether traffic is being directed to the site through malvertising redirects or phishing emails.

Office 365 Admins Targeted

A phishing campaign has been detected which is targeting Office 365 administrators. Fake browser warnings are used to trick admins into disclosing their login credentials.

Emails have been constructed using the Microsoft and Office 365 logos which contain a warning about an aspect of Office 365 which requires the admin’s immediate attention. One message warns the admin about a mail redirect on an Office 365 inbox which indicates there has been an account compromise. Another advises the admin that the company’s Office 365 licenses have expired.

The emails contain a link for the admin to use to login to their Office 365 account to address the problem. The user will be directed to a webpage on the windows.net domain which has a valid certificate from Microsoft. The Microsoft login box is identical to that used on the Microsoft site.

Most admins will be vigilant and wary of warnings such as these. Even if the links are clicked, admins are likely to check the domain to make sure it is genuine. However, these scams are conducted because they do work. Some admins will be fooled and will disclose their credentials.

Admin credentials are highly valuable as they allow an attacker to create new office 365 accounts, access other user’s mailboxes, and send phishing emails from other accounts on the domain. These targeted attacks on admins are becoming more common due to the high value of the accounts and the range of attacks they allow a hacker to perform.

There is no single cybersecurity solution that will provide total protection from phishing attacks. What is needed is a defense in depth approach. End users should be provided with ongoing security awareness training to ensure they are aware of the most common threats and know how to identify potential scams. Phishing simulations are useful for gauging how effective training has been.

However, the priority must be to block these attacks and prevent end users from being tested. An advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan blocks more than 99.97% of spam and phishing emails. SpamTitan scans all incoming messages for malware and uses dual anti-virus engines for greater accuracy. A sandboxing feature has also now been added to allow the safe execution and analysis of suspicious email attachments.

WebTitan serves as an additional security layer that prevents end users from visiting malicious websites. The DNS filter can be used to exercise control over the types of websites that can be visited by employees and blocks all attempts to visit blacklisted websites, such as those that have been used for malware distribution, scams, or phishing.

Contact TitanHQ today to find out more about SpamTitan and WebTitan for SMBs and MSPs, the different deployment options, pricing information, and to book a product demonstration.

Customers Seek Alternative Email Security Solution as Unexplained OnlyMyEmail Outage Continues

A serious outage has affected the spam filtering service, OnlyMyEmail, leaving customers without spam protection for several days.

The spam filtering service, also known as MXDefender, suddenly stopped working on Thursday and customers have been left in the dark about what has happened. Many have taken to online forums and social media to find answers but have only found hundreds of other customers asking the same questions. Customers have not been able to submit support tickets, the website is down, and the phone lines have been jammed.

MSPs know all too well that their clients are vulnerable to attack while their spam filtering service is down. Without the filter in place, spam, phishing, and malware-laced emails can flood into inboxes. All it takes is for one employee to respond to one of those messages for a costly breach to occur.

Several MSPs on forum such as Spiceworks have expressed their frustration about the prolonged outage and have already had to move their clients to alternative service providers to ensure they are protected until the issues are resolved. Two large MSPs have already switched to SpamTitan as a result of the OnlyMyEmail outage.

TitanHQ has received many enquiries about SpamTitan since the OnlyMyEmail service went down, as customers seek an alternative solution to protect their inboxes from email threats and spam. Many have given up waiting for an answer from OnlyMyEmail.

If you are a managed service provider or business that has been affected by the outage, it is important to implement a replacement spam filtering solution as soon as possible. The failure to do so will leave you extremely vulnerable to attack.

TitanHQ has developed an award-winning anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that has been shown to block more than 99.9% of spam in independent tests.

The 2019 G2 Crowd Report on Email Security Gateways named SpamTitan the leader for customer satisfaction. 97% of users awarded the product 4 or 5 stars and 92% of users would recommend the product to others.

TitanHQ ranked top for quality of support with an overall score of 94% – 10% more than the average score for support. SpamTitan clearly outperformed products from likes of Cisco, Barracuda, Mimecast, and SolarWinds.

SpamTitan is available as a cloud-based solution or gateway solution running on a virtual machine on your own hardware. MSPs have a range of hosting options and the solution can be easily integrated into existing MSP systems using TitanHQ’s APIs.

If you want an easy to implement anti-spam solution that provides enterprise-class protection at an affordable SMB price, SpamTitan is the ideal choice.

Sign up for the free trial and you can be protected in minutes. To ensure no time is wasted, contact the TitanHQ team today by telephone.

Phishing-as-a-Service Opens Flood Gates: Waves of Phishing Emails Expected

You may have heard of ransomware-as-a-service – where ransomware is rented for a cut of the profits generated – but now there are a growing number of hackers offering phishing-as-a-service.

Ransomware-as-a-service proved popular as it allowed people without the skill set to create their own ransomware to conduct attacks and take a share of the profits. Conducting phishing attacks is easier. It requires no knowledge of malware or ransomware. All that is required is a hosted web page that mimics a brand you want to target, a phishing kit, and an email account to send phishing emails far and wide.

There is still entry barrier to cross before it is possible to conduct phishing attacks.  Phishing requires some knowledge and skill as a spoofed phishing web page must be created and emails crafted that will attract a click. The web page will also need to be hosted somewhere so a compromised domain will therefore be required.

Phishing-as-a-service provides all of that. To get started, you purchase one of several phishing templates based on what you are targeting – Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive, Google, or DocuSign credentials for example. The phishing pages are sold complete with phishing kits loaded and one month’s hosting.

One group offering phishing-as-a-service guarantees the phishing page will be hosted for one month and includes a three-link backup. If one URL fails or is reported as a phishing website, a further two links can be provided on request followed by a further three after that.

Phishing-as-a-service takes all the time-consuming work out of starting a phishing campaign and allows phishing campaigns to be conducted by individuals with next to no specific skills. Once payment is made for the web page, all that is required is the ability to conduct a spam campaign. The service also comes with the option of purchasing lists of email addresses for the country of choice. All that is required to conduct a phishing campaign is payment ($30+) for phishing-as-a-service and a convincing phishing email.

With the entry barrier being substantially lowered, phishing attacks are likely to become much more frequent. It is therefore essential for businesses of all sizes to take steps to improve protections and reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks.

If you are defending against any attack it pays to know your enemy. It is therefore essential for all employees with an email account to be provided with security awareness training and be taught how to recognize a phishing attack.

It is also important to implement cybersecurity solutions that help to ensure your last line of defense will not be tested. You should have an advanced anti-spam solution in place to block the vast majority of phishing threats. If you use Office 365 for your business email, a third-party anti-spam solution will provide a greater level of protection.

An additional protection against phishing attacks that is often overlooked is a DNS filter or web filter. A web filter gives organizations control over what their employees can do online and which websites they can visit. Any website that has been reported as malicious is automatically blocked using blacklists and webpages are scanned in real-time and blocked if malicious. If a phishing email reaches an inbox and attracts a click, the attempt to access the phishing website can be blocked.

If you want to improve your email and web security posture or you are looking for better value cybersecurity solutions, TitanHQ can help. Contact TitanHQ today to discuss your email and web security requirements and you will be advised on the best solutions to meet your needs.

TitanHQ offers a free trial on all products and is happy to arrange product demonstrations on request.

What is DMARC Email Authentication and Why is it Important?

DMARC email authentication is an important element of phishing defenses, but what is DMARC email authentication, what does it do, and how does it protect against email impersonation attacks?

There is some confusion about what DMARC email authentication is and what it can do. In this post we explain in clear English what DMARC means and why it should be part of your anti-phishing defenses.

DMARC is short for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. Its purpose is to make it harder for threat actors to conduct phishing attacks that spoof brands and get those messages delivered to inboxes.

With DMARC, organizations can create a record of who is authorized to send emails from their domain. This helps to prevent misuse of a company brand in phishing campaigns.

If DMARC is implemented on email, a business can have all incoming emails checked against DMARC records and any email that fails the check can be subjected to certain actions.

The message can be delivered as normal with a warning and the email will be included in a report of emails that failed the check. The message could automatically be sent to quarantine for manual approval before delivery is made. Alternatively, the message could be rejected or subjected to a custom policy. An organization can select the best policy to adopt based on their level of risk tolerance.

DMARC will not stop all phishing emails from being delivered, but it is an important measure to implement to stop email spoofing and reduce the number of phishing emails that reach inboxes.

DMARC is just one of several rules that are used to determine whether emails are genuine and should be delivered or if the messages have been sent from an unauthorized user.

Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and DNS records are also used to determine whether the email server being used is authorized to send emails for the organization.

The SPF record indicates which email servers are authorized to send mail on behalf of a domain. This would be the organization itself and any third parties, such as marketing companies.  The SPF record is a DNS TXT record that includes IP addresses and hostnames that are allowed to send emails from a particular domain. The SPF record is the first thing checked by DMARC rules.

DKIM is more advanced and uses a TXT record and asymmetric public-private key encryption. With DMARC enabled, the signature is encrypted with the public key and the key is published on DNS servers. The domain’s private key is then used at the recipient’s email server for verification.

If DKIM is enabled, the public key-encrypted signature is compared with the message that is decrypted using a newly generated key to confirm that the message has not been altered. DKIM also confirms that the sender is from the listed domain and that the sender has not been spoofed.

DMARC offers a much greater level of protection than SPF and is more dependable, so both should be implemented. TitanHQ is happy to announce that both SPF and DMARC are incorporated into SpamTitan to better protect users from email spoofing attacks.

To find out more about improving your email security defenses, contact the TitanHQ team today.

LooCipher Ransomware Campaign Detected

A new strain of ransomware has been identified which has been used in multiple attacks over the past few weeks.

All of the attack vectors used to distribute the ransomware are not yet known, but samples of the ransomware have been distributed via a spam email campaign.

The spam email campaign uses a tried and test format to deliver the ransomware payload. A Word document called Info_BSV_2019.docm is attached to emails with requests that the recipient open the document. In order for the contents to be displayed, the user is told they must enable macros. Enabling macros will launch code that downloads an executable file, which is renamed LooCipher.exe and is executed.

The ransomware will encrypt a standard range of file types, but instead of deleting the original files, they are retained as zero-byte files. Encrypted files are given the extension .lcphr.

The ransomware creates a file on the Windows Desktop called c2056.ini, which includes the unique ID number of the computer, the time limit for paying the ransom, and the Bitcoin wallet address for payment. The ransom note warns that deletion of the ini file will prevent file recovery.

Users are given 5 days to pay the ransom or the key to unlock files will be permanently deleted. The ransom is €300 ($330) in Bitcoin per device. No option is provided to test to see whether a file can be decrypted.

LooCipher ransomware may not be particularly polished, but it has already claimed several victims. Recovery will depend on an organization’s ability to restore files from backups. It is not clear whether the attackers hold valid keys to decrypt encrypted files.

Ransomware attacks have been increasing following a decline in popularity of ransomware with hackers in 2018. There have been high profile attacks on U.S. cities and ransoms and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid in ransoms. Ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations have increased, and several new strains of ransomware have emerged.

Recently the Department of Homeland Security warned of the risk of wiper malware attacks by Iranian threat actors, as tensions between the United States and Iran continue to increase.

These malware threats may be delivered by a variety of different methods, but spam email is the delivery vector of choice. Protecting against these malware threats requires an advanced spam filtering solution capable of precision control over incoming email and the ability to scan messages and analyze attachments for malicious code.

SpamTitan uses twin AV engines to identify known malware and a sandbox to analyze suspicious attachments to identify malicious actions and provides superior protection against malware, ransomware, viruses, botnets, and phishing attacks.

To find out more about how you can improve email security with SpamTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.

U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Warns of Wiper Malware Attacks

Tension is rising between the United States and Iran following the downing of a U.S. Global Hawk surveillance drone close to the Strait of Hormuz and the recent mine attacks.

Less visual are the attacks on IT systems. The Washington post recently reported that the United States had conducted a successful cyberattack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, part of the Iranian military, which is believed to have been involved in the mine attacks.

Iranian-affiliated hacking groups have conducted cyberattacks on U.S. industries and government agencies and those attacks are increasing in frequency. So much so that the Director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Chris Krebs, sent out a warning on Twitter about the increased risk of attack.

“CISA is aware of a recent rise in malicious cyber activity directed at United States industries and government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies,” said Krebs.

Threat actors affiliated with Iran have been using wiper malware in targeted attacks on businesses, government agencies, industries, and infrastructure. Whereas ransomware encrypts files with the aim of receiving a ransom payment, the purpose of wiper malware is to permanently destroy data and wipe systems clean.

Wiper malware has previously been used in major attacks, some targeted, others less so. In 2012, Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian oil firm, was attacked with a wiper malware variant called Shamoon. The malware wiped tens of thousands of computers.

More recently were the NotPetya attacks. While initially thought to be ransomware, it was later discovered there was no mechanism for file recovery and the malware was a wiper. Some companies were hit hard.  The shipping firm Maersk suffered losses of around $300 million due to NotPetya. Global losses are estimated to be between $4-8 billion.

Hackers working for the Iranian regime commonly gain access to computers and servers through the use of phishing, spear phishing, credential stuffing, and password spraying.

“What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network,” warned Krebs.

As with ransomware, recovery from a wiper malware attack is reliant on backups, except there is no safety net as a ransom cannot be paid to recover data. It is therefore essential that a working copy of all data is maintained, with one copy stored securely off-site on a non-networked, non-internet exposed device.

Even with a working copy of data, recovery can be time consuming and costly. It is therefore important to ensure that solutions are in place to block the main attack vectors.

A spam filtering solution with advanced anti-malware capabilities is therefore required to block email-based attacks. A web filtering solution can prevent users from visiting malicious websites or inadvertently downloading malware and employees should be provided with security awareness training to help them recognize potential threats.

Standard cybersecurity best practices should be adopted such as ensuring strong password policies are implemented and enforced, multi-factor authentication is implemented, all software is kept up to date and patched are applied promptly. IT departments should also ensure permissions are set to the rule of least privilege.

U.S Universities Targeted in Widespread Phishing Campaign

A phishing campaign targeting university employees has already claimed several victims and has seen many email accounts compromised.

Emails are tailored to the institution and use a range of social engineering tricks to convince employees to click a link in the email and enter their Office 365 login credentials to access online content. The credentials are captured and used to gain access to university email accounts.

Once credentials have been obtained, a treasure trove of sensitive data can be plundered. Emails and email attachments contain personally identifiable information of staff, students, and parents, which can be used to commit identity theft and other fraudulent acts. Proprietary information can be obtained, along with details of contacts. The compromised accounts can also be used to conduct further phishing attacks on the university and externally on business contacts and other educational institutions.

Campaigns convincing users to install malware can give the attackers full control of university computers and a foothold to move laterally throughout the network. Access to university email accounts and backdoors in university computers are sold on the dark web, along with a range of stolen and forged university documents.

The healthcare industry is heavily targeted by cybercriminals due to the high value of health data. Health data is versatile and can be used for a multitude of fraudulent purposes. It also has a long-life span and can be used for much longer than financial information.  Cybercriminals are also now realizing the potential rewards from attacks on universities. Student data is similarly versatile, and the wealth of data stored in university email accounts provides plenty of opportunities for profit.

Oregon State University is the latest university to announce it is the victim of a phishing attack. The Office 365 email account of an employee was compromised, through which the attacker had access to the records of 636 students. The account was used to send phishing emails to other entities throughout the United States.

Graceland University in Iowa and Southern Missouri State University recently announced that several email accounts had been compromised in recent phishing attacks, which would have allowed access to be gained to sensitive information.

It is unclear whether this is a single campaign or part of a wave of separate attacks on universities. What is clear is the attacks are increasing, so universities should take steps to improve email and web security.

Employees are being targeted so it is important to ensure that staff members are taught email security best practices and are shown how to identify phishing emails.

Technological defenses can also be improved to prevent malicious messages from arriving in Office 365 inboxes. As an additional protection, a DNS filter can be used to prevent users from accessing phishing websites and other known malicious web pages.

TitanHQ has developed powerful anti-phishing and anti-malware solutions for universities that help them protect against email and web-based attacks.

SpamTitan is a powerful anti-spam solution that incorporates DMARC authentication and sandboxing to provide superior protection against impersonation and malware attacks for Office 365 users.

WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that prevents users from accessing known malicious websites, such as those used for phishing and distributing malware.

To improve Office 365 phishing defenses and better protect your email accounts and networks from malware attacks, contact TitanHQ for further information on these two powerful cybersecurity solutions for educational institutions.

Invaluable Advice for MSPs at DattoCon19 in San Diego from Event Sponsor TitanHQ

The largest managed service provider conference of 2019 will be taking place in San Diego on 17-19 June.

DattoCon is the premier conference for MSPs, bringing together a plethora of vendors and industry experts to help MSPs learn business building secrets, gain invaluable product insights, and learn technical best practices. The networking and learning opportunities at DattoCon are second to none. DattoCon19 is certainly an event not to be missed.

TitanHQ is a Datto Select Vendor and a proud sponsor of DattoCon19. TitanHQ has developed cybersecurity solutions to exactly meet the needs of MSPs. All solutions area easy to implement and maintain and can be integrated into MSP’s existing systems via a suite of APIs. TitanHQ provides the web security layer to Datto DNA and D200 boxes and is the only third-party security company trusted to work with Datto.

The TitanHQ team will be on hand at the conference to discuss your email and web security needs and will offer practical advice to help you better serve the needs of your customers and get the very most out of TitanHQ solutions.

Visitors to the TitanHQ stand (booth 23) will have the opportunity to learn about TitanHQ’s exclusive TitanShield Program for MSPs. Through the TitanShield program, members have access to SpamTitan email security and phishing protection; the WebTitan DNS filter; and the ArcTitan email archiving solution. Around 2,000 MSPs have already signed up to the program and are using TitanHQ solutions to protect their clients.

If you currently use Cisco Umbrella to provide web and malware protection, you may be paying far more for security than is necessary and could well be struggling with product support. Be sure to speak to the team about the savings from switching and the support provided by TitanHQ. A visit will also be useful for MSPs that are currently supporting Office 365, as the team will explain how spam, phishing and malware protection can be enhanced.

TitanHQ Executive Vice President-Strategic Alliances, Rocco Donnino, will be on the panel for the new, Datto Select Avendors event on Monday. The event runs from 3PM to 4PM and brings together experts from several select companies who will help solve some of the epic problems faced by MSPs today.

Additional Benefits at DattoCon19

  • New TitanHQ customers benefit from special show pricing.
  • A daily raffle for a free bottle of vintage Irish whiskey.
  • Two DattoCon19 parties: TitanHQ and BVOIP are sponsoring a GasLamp District Takeover on Monday 6/17 and Wed, 6/19.

DattoCon Details

DattoCon19 will be taking place in San Diego, California on June 17-19, 2019
If you are not yet registered for the event you can do so here.
TitanHQ will be at booth 23

Contact the TitanHQ team in advance:

  • Rocco Donnino, Executive Vice President-Strategic Alliances, LinkedIn
  • Eddie Monaghan, MSP Alliance Manager, LinkedIn
  • Marc Ludden, MSP Alliance Manager, LinkedIn

United States Businesses Targeted in Shade Ransomware Attacks

Shade ransomware was first identified by security researchers in 2014, when it was primarily being used in attacks on Russian businesses; however the threat actors behind this ransomware variant have broadened their horizons and attacks are now being conducted around the world. The United States is now the most attacked country followed by Japan, India, Thailand, and Canada. Russia has now fallen from top spot to seventh.

Shade ransomware, like many ransomware variants, is primarily spread via email. Emails are sent to businesses which appear at first glance to be invoices or bills. The emails contain links to websites hosting malicious files which are downloaded to the user’s device. A variant of this method uses a PDF attachment which contains a link inside which must be clicked to download a fake invoice or bill.

The downloaded files use JavaScript or other scripts to download the Shade ransomware payload. Shade ransomware encrypts a wide range of files and changes the background on the infected computer to alert the user that their files have been encrypted. Ransom notes are also saved to the Desktop with the filename of README1.txt through to README10.txt. Those text files advise the victim to email a code to an email address to receive instructions on how the ransom payment must be made.

An analysis of the latest campaigns was recently conducted by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 team. That analysis revealed the attackers are concentrating their attacks on high-tech companies, retailers, wholesalers, telecommunications, and educational institutions and the threat actors behind the campaigns have been highly active in 2019.

Since Shade ransomware is most commonly spread via spam email, to reduce the risk of an attack, businesses should implement an advanced email gateway solution that is capable of identifying and blocking the malspam emails that ultimately deliver Shade ransomware.

SpamTitan protects businesses from Shade ransomware and other email-based malware attacks. SpamTitan includes dual antivirus engines to detect malicious files attached to emails and scans the content of messages and subjects them to a Bayesian analysis and heuristics to identify signatures of spam and malicious messages.

The solution now incorporates a Bitdefender-powered sandbox feature which allows files to be opened in a safe and secure environment where they can be analyzed for malicious activity. The solution also allows users to block attachments commonly used to deliver malware, such as zip files and executable files such as .exe and .js.

These and other protection mechanisms help to ensure that only legitimate emails are delivered and malicious messages are prevented from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

If you want to protect your business against ransomware and malware attacks, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about SpamTitan and take the first step towards improving your security posture.

SpamTitan Named Leading Secure Email Gateway Solution

SpamTitan, TitanHQ’s business email security solution, has been named leader in the Spring G2 Crowd Grid Report for Email Security Gateways.

G2 Crowd is a peer-to-peer review platform for business solutions. G2 Crowd aggregates user reviews of business software and the company’s quarterly G2 Crowd Grid Reports provide a definitive ranking of business software solutions.

The amalgamated reviews are read by more than 1.5 million site visitors each month, who use the reviews to inform software purchases. To ensure that only genuine reviews are included, each individual review is subjected to manual review.

The latest G2 Crowd Grid Report covers email security gateway solutions. Gateway solutions are comprehensive email security platforms that protect against email-based attacks such as phishing and malware. The email gateway is a weak point for many businesses and it is one that is often exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to business networks. A powerful and effective email gateway solution will prevent the vast majority of threats from reaching end users and will keep businesses protected.

To qualify for inclusion in the report, email gateway solutions needed to scan incoming mail to identify spam, malware, and viruses, securely encrypt communications, identify and block potentially malicious content, offer compliant storage through archiving capabilities, and allow whitelisting and blacklisting to control suspicious accounts.

For the report, 10 popular email security gateway solutions were assessed from Cisco, Barracuda, Barracuda Essentials, Proofpoint, Mimecast, Symantec, McAfee, Solarwinds MSP, MobileIron, and TitanHQ. Customers of all solutions were required to give the product a rating in four areas: Quality of support, ease of use, meets requirements and ease of administration.

TitanHQ the leader in business email security, today announced it has been recognized as a leader in the G2 Crowd Grid? Spring 2019 Report for Email Security.

TitanHQ’s SpamTitan was named leader based on consistently high scores for customer satisfaction and market presence. 97% of users of SpamTitan awarded the solution 4 or 5 stars out of 5 and 92% said they would recommend SpamTitan to others.

SpamTitan scored 94% for quality of support and meeting requirements. The industry average in these two areas was 84% and 88% respectively. The solution scored 92% for ease of use against an industry average of 82%, and 90% for ease of admin against an average value of 83%.

“TitanHQ are honored that our flagship email security solution SpamTitan has been named a leader in the email security gateway category,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “Our customers value the uncompromised security and real-time threat detection. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from SpamTitan users on G2 Crowd is indicative of our commitment to ensuring the highest levels of customer success.”

If you want to improve email security without breaking the bank and want a solution that your IT staff will like using, SpamTitan is the ideal choice.

SpamTitan is available on a 100% free trial to allow you to try before committing to a purchase; however, if you have any questions about the solution, contact the TitanHQ team who will be happy to help and can schedule a product demonstration.

Emotet Malware Revives Old Email Conversations Threads to Increase Infection Rates

Emotet malware was first identified in 2014 and its original purpose was to obtain banking credentials and other sensitive information; however, the malware is regularly updated and new functionality is added. Emotet malware is now one of the most prevalent and dangerous malware threats faced by businesses.

The malware can detect whether it is running in a virtual environment and will generate false indicators in such cases. The malware is polymorphic, which means it changes every time it is downloaded. That makes it difficult to detect using the signature-based detection methods employed by standard anti-virus software.

The malware also has worm-like features which allows it to rapidly spread to other networked computers. Emotet is also capable of spamming and forwarding itself to email contacts. As if infection with Emotet is not bad enough, it can also download other malware variants onto infected devices.

Emotet malware is one of the most destructive malware variants currently in use and cleaning up Emotet attacks can be incredibly costly. The Department of Homeland Security has reported that some attacks on state, local, tribal, and territorial governments have cost more than $1 million to resolve.

Emotet malware is primarily distributed via spam email, either through malicious attachments or hyperlinks to websites where the malware is silently downloaded. The lures used in the messages are highly varied and include most of the commonly used phishing lures such as shipping notifications, fake invoices, payment requests, PayPal receipts.

Now the threat actors behind the malware have adopted a new tactic to increase infection rates. Once installed on a device, the malware accesses email conversation threads and forwards the message to individuals named in the thread.

The original email conversation is unaltered, but a hyperlink is added to the top of the message. The link directs the recipient to a webpage where a file download is triggered. Opening the document and enabling macros will see Emotet downloaded. Email attachments may also be added to previous conversation threads in place of hyperlinks.

Since the messages come from a known individual with whom an email conversation has taken place in the past, the probability of the document being opened is greater than if messages come out of the blue or are sent from an unknown individual.

Several cybersecurity firms have identified a campaign using this tactic, including phishing intelligence provider Cofense and security researcher Marcus Hutchins (MalwareTech).

The current campaign uses revived conversations from before November 2018, although more recent conversations may be revived in further campaigns. Any revived old email conversation that contains a link or an attachment could indicate a user has been targeted and that at least one member of the email exchange has been infected with Emotet.

The current campaign is not only extensive, it is also proving to be extremely successful. Spamhaus reports that there have been 47,000 new infections in the past two months alone, while Cofense reports that it has identified more than 700,000 infections in the past 12 months.

Protecting against this dangerous malware requires a powerful anti-spam solution and good security awareness training for staff. SpamTitan’s new features can help to detect malicious emails spreading Emotet malware to better protect businesses from attack.

To find out more about SpamTitan and how the solution can protect your business, give TitanHQ a call today.

Tax-Related Phishing Scams Delivering TrickBot Trojan

Monday April 15 is Tax Day in the United States – the deadline for submitting 2018 tax returns. Each year in the run up to Tax Day, cybercriminals step up their efforts to obtain users’ tax credentials. In the past few weeks, many tax-related phishing scams have been detected which attempt to install information stealing malware.

One of the main aims of these campaigns is to obtain tax credentials. These are subsequently used to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. Tax is refunded to accounts controlled by the attackers, checks are redirected, and a range of other methods are used to obtain the payments.

Attacks on tax professionals are commonplace. If access can be gained to a tax professional’s computer, the tax credentials of clients can be stolen, and fraudulent tax returns can be filed in their names. A single successful attack on a tax professional can see the attacker obtain many thousands of dollars in tax rebates.

There has been the usual high level of tax-related phishing scams during the 2019 tax season and businesses of all types have been targeted. It is not only tax credentials that cybercriminals are after. Many tax-themed phishing scams have been conducted which attempt to install malware and ransomware such as the TrickBot banking Trojan.

The TrickBot banking Trojan is a powerful malware variant which, once installed, can give an attacker full control of an infected computer. The malware is primarily an information stealer. A successful installation on one business computer can allow the attackers to move laterally and spread the malware across the whole network.

The primary purpose of the TrickBot trojan is to steal banking credentials which can be used to make fraudulent wire transfers: however, TrickBot is regularly updated with new features. In addition to stealing banking credentials, the malware can steal VNC. RDP, and PuTTY credentials.

The threat actors behind TrickBot are highly organized and well resourced. More than 2,400 command and control servers are used by the cybercriminal gang and that number continues to grow.

The three new TrickBot malware campaigns were detected since late January by IBM X-Force researchers. Spam email messages are carefully crafted to appear legitimate and look innocuous to business users and appear to have been sent by well-known accounting and payroll firms such as ADP and Paychex.

Spoofed email addresses are commonly used, although in these campaigns, the attackers have used domain squatting. They have registered domains that are very similar to those used by the accounting firms. The domains have transposed letters and slight misspellings to make the email appear to have been sent from a legitimate source. The domains can be highly convincing and, in some cases, are extremely difficult to identify as fake.

The emails are well written and claim to include tax billing records, which are included as attached spreadsheets. The spreadsheets contain malicious macros which, if allowed to run, will download the TrickBot Trojan.

To prevent attacks, several steps should be taken. Macros should be disabled by default on all devices. Prompt patching is required to keep all software and operating systems up to date to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited.

End users should receive security awareness training and should be taught cybersecurity best practices and how to identify phishing emails. An advanced spam and anti-phishing solution should also be implemented to ensure phishing emails are identified and prevented from reaching end users inboxes. Further, all IoCs and IPs known to be associated with the threat actors should be blocked through spam filtering solutions, firewalls, and web gateways.

The latter is made easy with SpamTitan and WebTitan – TitanHQ’s anti-phishing and web filtering solutions for SMBs.

 

Webinar: Discover the Exciting New Features of SpamTitan

Current users of the SpamTitan email security solution and SMBs and MSPs that are considering implementing SpamTitan or offering it to their clients are invited to join a webinar in which TitanHQ will explains the exciting new features that have recently been incorporated into the anti-phishing and anti-spam solution.

SpamTitan has recently received a major update that has seen the incorporation of DMARC email authentication to better protect users from email impersonation attacks and the addition of a new Bitdefender-powered sandbox. The sandbox allows users to safely assess email attachments for malicious actions, to better protect them against zero-day malware and other malicious software delivered via email.

The webinar will explain these and other features of SpamTitan in detail and the benefits they offer to customers, including how they better protect SMBs and SMEs from phishing, spear phishing, spoofing, ransomware, malware, and zero-day attacks.

The webinar will also explain why SpamTitan is the leading email security solution for managed service providers serving the SMB and SME market and how the solution can help to enhance security for their clients and can easily be slotted into their service stacks.

The webinar will be taking place on Thursday April 4, 2019 at 12pm, EST and will last approximately 30 minutes.

Advance registration is necessary. You can sign up for the webinar on this link.

Sandboxing and DMARC Authentication Added to SpamTitan Email Security Solution

Sandboxing and DMARC Authentication Added to SpamTitan Email Security Solution

This week, TitanHQ has rolled out two new features for its award-winning email security solution SpamTitan: Sandboxing and DMARC email authentication.

TitanHQ developed the technology behind its email security solution more than 20 years ago and over the past two decades SpamTitan has received many updates to improve features for end users and increase detection rates.

SpamTitan already blocks more than 99.9% of spam and malicious emails to prevent threats from reaching end users’ inboxes. The level of protection SpamTitan provides against email attacks has made it the gold standard in email security for the SMB market and managed service providers serving SMBs.

In order to provide even greater protection against increasingly sophisticated email threats, TitanHQ added a new sandboxing feature. The next-generation sandboxing feature, powered by Bitdefender, provides SpamTitan customers with a safe environment to run in-depth analyses of suspicious programs and files that have been delivered via email.

New SpamTitan Sandboxing Service

The sandbox is a powerful virtual environment totally separate from other systems. When programs are run in the sandbox, they behave as they would on an ordinary endpoint and can be assessed for suspicious behavior and malicious actions without causing harm.

Prior to being sent to the sandbox, files are first analyzed using SpamTitan’s anti-malware technologies. Only files that require further analysis make it to the sandbox where they are safely detonated. Tactics used by malware to evade detection and avoid analysis are logged and flagged. Purpose-built, advanced machine learning algorithms they assess the files and check their actions against an extensive array of known threats from a range on online repositories in a matter of minutes.

If the file is confirmed as benign, it can be released. If the file is determined to be malicious, the sandboxing service automatically sends a report to the Bitdefender’s Global Protective Network and all further instances of the threat will then be blocked globally to ensure the file does not need to be analysed again.

The sandbox provides advanced protection against zero-day exploits, polymorphic threats, APTs, malicious URLs, new malware samples that have yet to be identified as malicious, and new threats that have been developed for undetectable targeted attacks.

Incorporation of this feature into SpamTitan gives customers advanced emulation-based malware analysis capabilities without having to purchase a separate sandboxing solution and ensures customers are protected against rapidly evolving advanced threats.

DMARC Email Authentication Added to SpamTitan

Email spoofing is the term given to the use of a forged sender address. Email spoofing is used to increase the likelihood of an email being delivered and opened by an end user. The email address of a known contact, well known company, or government organization is usually spoofed to abuse trust in that individual, brand, or organization.

DMARC authentication is now essential for all businesses and is a powerful control to prevent spoofing attacks. DMARC is used to check email headers to provide further information about the true sender of an email. Through DMARC, the message is authenticated as having been sent from the organization that owns the domain. If authentication fails, the message is rejected.

While SPF provides a certain degree of protection against email spoofing, DMARC is far more dependable. SpamTitan now incorporates DMARC authentication to provide even greater protection against email spoofing attacks.

Both of these new features have been added in the latest update to SpamTitan and are available to users at no extra cost.

“We have listened to requests from customers to have new features added to SpamTitan, and by far the most requested improvements are anti-spoofing technology and sandboxing,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “I’m delighted to say that both of these new features have now been added to provide enhanced security for customers at no extra cost.”

IRS Issues Warning About Tax Phishing Scams

During tax season, tax phishing scams are rife. If cybercriminals can steal personal information such as the information contained on W2 forms, they can use the information to file fraudulent tax returns. Each set of credentials can net cybercriminals thousands of dollars. Attacks on businesses can be even more profitable. If an attack results in the theft of the tax credentials of a company’s entire workforce, hundreds of fraudulent tax returns can be filed.

The IRS works hard to combat fraud, but even so, many of these attacks are successful and fraudulent tax refunds are issued. This week, as part of its efforts to combat tax fraud, the IRS has launched its 2019 Dirty Dozen campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the threat of tax fraud and encourages taxpayers, businesses, and tax professionals to be vigilant.

The campaign features 12 common tax scams that attempt to obtain personal information or access to systems that contain such information. The campaign will see a different scam highlighted for 12 consecutive days. The campaign was launched on March 4 with the biggest threat in tax season: Tax phishing scams.

Common Tax Phishing Scams

Tax phishing scams are constantly evolving and each year several new tax phishing scams are identified. The most common scams and attacks are:

  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks
  • Business Email Spoofing (BES) attacks
  • Email impersonation attacks
  • Malware

BEC attacks involve the use of a genuine business email account to send messages to employees requesting the W2 form information of employees, changes to business account information, requests to reroute direct deposits and make fraudulent wire transfers. The attackers often gain access to a high-level executive’s email account through a spear phishing campaign. BEC is one of the most common business tax phishing scams.

BES attacks are similar, except that no email account has been compromised. The email address of an executive or other employee is spoofed so that emails appears to have been sent from within an organization.

Email impersonation attacks are common during tax season. Scammers impersonate the IRS and use a variety of lures to obtain personal information. Common lures are threats of legal action or fines for outstanding taxes and offers of tax refunds. They often direct users to a website where they are required to enter their personal information. These phishing webpages are also linked to on social media websites. The clients of tax professionals may also be impersonated. Emails often request changes be made to direct deposit accounts or contain requests for sensitive information.

Malware is often used to gain access to the computers of tax professionals, and employees in the payroll and HR departments. Keyloggers are commonly used as they allow the attackers to steal login credentials. Malware can also transfer files containing sensitive information to the attackers’ servers. Malware is often installed via scripts in email attachments – malicious macros for instance – or via drive-by downloads from malicious websites.

New Phishing Scam Targeting Tax Professionals

One of the new tax phishing scams to emerge this year targets tax professionals. First the attackers gain access to tax professionals’ computers, either through spear phishing campaigns or by installing malware. Client tax information is then stolen and fraudulent tax returns are files in the clients’ names. When the IRS processes the refunds, payments are sent to taxpayers’ bank accounts. Those taxpayers then receive a call or an email demanding the return of the funds which have been paid in error. The attackers claim to be from a debt collection agency used by the IRS or the IRS itself.

Don’t Become a Victim of a Tax Phishing Scam

Many taxpayers and businesses fall victim to tax phishing scams each year, especially during tax season when attacks increase; however, by taking some simple steps and being vigilant it is possible to identify scams and keep financial and personal data secure.

Any email, text, or telephone call that requests personal/tax information should be treated as a potential scam. If an email or text message is received that claims to be from the IRS demanding payment of outstanding taxes, an offer of a tax refund, or a threat of legal action, bear in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact via email or text message asking for personal information. If such a message is received, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov and contact the IRS or check your online tax account to find out if there is a genuine problem. Never use the contact information or links in an email and do not open an email attachment in an email that appears to have been sent by the IRS.

Businesses can include information about tax phishing scams in their security awareness training sessions, but departments that are likely to be targeted by cybercriminals – payroll, human resources, finance and accounting Etc.) should receive specific training ahead off the start of tax season. Sending monthly reminders about phishing attacks and other tax scams each month via email is also a good best practice.

Since most attacks start with a phishing email, businesses should ensure that they have an advanced spam filtering solution in place to block phishing and other emails at the gateway before they can be delivered to end users. SpamTitan is an ideal anti-spam solution for businesses and tax professionals to protect against tax phishing scams. The solution blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and includes outbound email scanning to ensure that compromised email accounts cannot be used for spamming.

To protect against internet phishing scams, a web filtering solution is ideal. WebTitan prevents end users from visiting phishing websites, including blocking visits to malicious websites via hyperlinks in scam emails. The solution also blocks drive-by malware downloads and other web-based threats.

If you are a tax professional or you run a business and are unhappy with your current anti-spam or web filtering solution provider, or you have yet to implement either of these solutions, give the TitanHQ team a call today for further information on how these solutions can protect your business, details of pricing, and to book a product demonstration.

Recently Disclosed WinRAR Vulnerability Being Actively Exploited in Malspam Campaign

It doesn’t take long after the release of a patch for hackers to take advantage, especially when the vulnerability potentially impacts 500 million users. It is therefore not surprising that at least one hacker is taking advantage of a recently disclosed WinRAR vulnerability.

Oftentimes, vulnerabilities are found in certain versions of software, but this vulnerability affects all WinRAR users and dates back 19 years. The WinRAR vulnerability was identified by researchers at Check Point. WinRAR was alerted and confirmed the vulnerability existed, and promptly issued an updated version of the file compression tool with the vulnerability removed. Details of the vulnerability were disclosed in a Check Point blog post on February 20, 2019.

The WinRAR vulnerability in question was present in a third-party DLL file which was included in WinRAR to allow ACE archive files to be uncompressed. The researchers found that by renaming a .rar archive to make it appear that the compressed file was an ACE archive, it was possible to extract a malicious file into the startup folder unbeknown to the user. That file would then run on boot, potentially giving an attacker full control of the device. The malicious file would continue to load on startup until discovered and removed.

All an attacker would need to do to exploit the WinRAR vulnerability is to convince a user to open a specially crafted .rar archive file attached to an email. Compressed files are often used in malspam campaigns to hide malicious executable files. Since .rar and .zip files are commonly used by businesses to send large files via email, they are likely to be recognized and may be opened by end users.

In this case, if the archive contents are extracted, the user would likely be unaware that anything untoward had happened, as the executable is loaded into the startup folder without giving any indication the file has been extracted. Due to the location of extraction, no further actions are required by the user.

In this case, the executable installs a backdoor, although only if the user has User Account Control (UAC) disabled. That said, this is unlikely to be the only campaign exploiting the WinRAR vulnerability. Other threat actors may develop a way to exploit the vulnerability for all users that have yet to update to the latest WinRAR version.

Many users will have WinRAR installed on their computer but will rarely use the program, so may not be aware that there is an update available. It is possible that a large percentage of users with the program installed have yet to update to the latest version and are vulnerable to attack.

This campaign illustrates just how important it is to patch promptly. As soon as a patch is released for a popular software program it is only a matter of time before that vulnerability is exploited, even just a few days.

Patching all devices in use in an organization can take time. It is therefore important to make sure that all employees receive security awareness training and are taught email security best practices and how to identify potentially malicious emails.

Unfortunately, social engineering techniques can be highly convincing, and many users may be fooled into opening email attachments, especially when the attacker spoofs the sender’s email address and the email appears to come from a known individual. It is therefore essential to have an advanced spam filtering solution in place that is capable of detecting malicious attachments at source, including malicious files hidden inside compressed files, and stop the messages from being delivered to inboxes.

Survey Highlights Healthcare Email Security Weaknesses

The 2019 Cybersecurity Survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has highlighted healthcare email security weaknesses and the seriousness of the threat of phishing attacks.

HIMSS conducts the survey each year to identify attack trends, security weaknesses, and areas where healthcare organizations need to improve their cybersecurity defenses. This year’s survey confirmed that phishing remains the number one threat faced by healthcare organizations and the extent that email is involved in healthcare data breaches.

This year’s study was conducted on 166 healthcare IT leaders between November and December 2018. Respondents were asked questions about data breaches and security incidents they had experienced in the past 12 months, the causes of those breaches, and other cybersecurity matters.

Phishing attacks are pervasive in healthcare and a universal problem for healthcare providers and health plans of all sizes. 69% of significant security incidents at hospitals in the past 12 months used email as the initial point of compromise. Overall, across all healthcare organizations, email was involved in 59% of significant security incidents.

The email incidents include phishing attacks, spear phishing, whaling, business email compromise, and other email impersonation attacks. Those attacks resulted in network breaches, data theft, email account compromises, malware infections, and fraudulent wire transfers.

When asked about the categories of threat actors behind the attacks, 28% named ‘online scam artists’ and 20% negligence by insiders. Online scam artists include phishers who send hyperlinks to malicious websites via email. It was a similar story the previous year when the survey was last conducted.

Given the number of email-related breaches it is clear that anti-phishing defenses in healthcare need to be improved. HIPAA requires all healthcare employees to receive security awareness training, part of which should include training on how to identify phishing attacks. While this is a requirement for compliance, a significant percentage (18%) of healthcare organizations do not take this further and are not conducting phishing simulations, even though they have been shown to improve resilience against phishing attacks by reinforcing training and identifying weaknesses in training programs.

The continued use of out of date and unsupported software was also a major concern. Software such as Windows Server and Windows XP are still extensively used in healthcare, despite the number of vulnerabilities they contain. 69% of respondents admitted still using legacy software on at least some machines. When end users visit websites containing exploit kits, vulnerabilities on those devices can easily be exploited to download malware.

It may take some time to phase out those legacy systems, but improving healthcare email security is a quick and easy win. HIMSS recommends improving training for all employees on the threat from phishing with the aim of decreasing click rates on phishing emails. That is best achieved through training, phishing simulations, and better monitoring of responses to phishing emails to identify repeat offenders.

At TitanHQ, we can offer two further solutions to improve healthcare email security. The first is an advanced spam filtering solution that blocks phishing emails and prevents them from being delivered to inboxes. The second is a solution that prevents employees from visiting phishing and other malicious websites such as online scams.

SpamTitan is an advanced anti-phishing solution that scans all incoming emails using a wide range of methods to identify malicious messages. The solution has a catch rate in excess of 99.9% with a false positive rate of just 0.03%. The solution also scans outbound messages for spam signatures to help identify compromised email accounts.

WebTitan Cloud is a cloud-based web filtering solution that blocks attempts by employees to visit malicious websites, either through web surfing or responses to phishing emails. Should an employee click on a link to a known malicious site, the action will be blocked before any harm is caused. WebTitan also scans websites for malicious content to identify and block previously known phishing websites and other online scams. Alongside robust security awareness training programs, these two solutions can help to significantly improve healthcare email security.

For further information on TitanHQ’s healthcare email security and anti-phishing solutions, contact TitanHQ today.

Office 365 Phishing Scam Uses SharePoint Lure

A new Office 365 phishing scam has been detected that attempts to get users to part with their Office 365 credentials with a request for collaboration via SharePoint.

The campaign was first detected in the summer of 2018 by researchers at cybersecurity firm Avanan. The Office 365 phishing scam is ongoing and has proven to be highly effective. According to Kaspersky Lab, the phishing campaign has been used in targeted attacks on at least 10% of companies that use Office 365.

This Office 365 phishing scam abuses trust in SharePoint services that are often used by employees. An email is sent to an Office 365 user that contains a link to a document stored in OneDrive for Business. In contrast to many phishing campaigns that spoof links and fool users into visiting a website other than the one indicated by the link text, this link actually does direct the user to an access request document on OneDrive.

A link in the document then directs users to a third-party website where they are presented with a Microsoft Office 365 login page that is a perfect copy of the official Office 365 login page. If login credentials are entered, they are given to the scammers. Once obtained, it is possible for the scammers to gain access to the Office 365 account of the user, including email and cloud storage.

The email accounts can be used for further phishing campaigns on the user’s contacts. Since those messages come from within the organization, they are more likely to be trusted. Email accounts can also contain a wealth of sensitive information which is of great value to competitors. In healthcare, email accounts can contain patient information, including data that can be used to steal identities. The attackers can also use the compromised credentials to spread malware. Employees may know not to open attachments from unknown individuals, but when they are sent from a colleague, they are more likely to be opened.

Businesses that use Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection (APT) service may mistakenly believe they are protected from phishing attacks such as this. However, since the links in the email are genuine OneDrive links, they are not identified as malicious. It is only the link in those documents that is malicious, but once the document is opened, Microsoft’s APT protection has already been bypassed.

Finding Office 365 users is not difficult. According to a 2017 Spiceworks survey, 83% of enterprises use Office 365 and figures from 2018 suggest 56% of organizations globally have adopted Office 365. However, a basic check can easily identify Office 365 users as it is broadcast on public DNS MX records. If one user can be found in an organization, it is highly likely that every other user will be using Office 365.

Businesses can take steps to avoid Office 365 phishing scams such as this.

  1. Ensure that all employees are made aware of the threat from phishing, and specifically this Office 365 phishing scam. They should be told to exercise caution with offers to collaborate that have not been preceded by a conversation.
  2. Conduct phishing email simulations to test defenses against phishing and identify individuals that require further security awareness training.
  3. Activate multifactor authentication to prevent stolen credentials from being used to access Office 365 accounts from unknown locations/devices.
  4. Change from APT anti-phishing controls to a third-party spam filter such as SpamTitan. This will not only improve catch rates, it will also not broadcast that the organization uses Office 365.
  5. Use an endpoint protection solution that is capable of detecting phishing attacks.
  6. Implement a web filter to prevent users from visiting known phishing websites and other malicious web pages.

Love Letter Email Scam Delivers Cocktail of Malware

A new email campaign is being conducted in the run up to Valentine’s Day which attempts to get users to open email attachments by fooling them into thinking they are love letters. The love letter email scam includes enticing subject lines such as ‘Love Letter’, ‘I Love You’, ‘This is my love letter to you’, ‘Always thinking about you’, and other love and love letter themes.

These types of scams are common in the run up to Valentine’s Day, and as the day draws closer, the likelihood of the scams succeeding grows.

The emails contain a zip file containing a JavaScript file with a variety of names, all of which start with Love_You. Extracting and running the file will result in the download of ransomware and other malware variants.

If the JavaScript file is run, it launches a PowerShell command that downloads and runs a malware variant named krablin.exe. Krablin.exe is also copied to USB thumb drives that are plugged into the computer.

A further four malware variants are subsequently downloaded to the victim’s device: The Phorpiex spambot, a Monero cryptocurrency miner (XMRig), a further malware downloader, and the latest version of GandCrab ransomware: A particularly nasty combination of malware.

The malspam campaign was detected by SANS ISC researcher Brad Duncan who determined the campaign has been running since at least November 2018. Several different subject lines and attachments have been identified and multiple spoofed sending addresses are used in this campaign.

Word documents and Excel spreadsheets containing malicious macros are more commonly used to spread malware, although JavaScript based malspam is nothing new. Most individuals are not familiar with .js files so may choose not to open them, although the theme of this love letter email scam may tempt people into making an exception. JavaScript malware may also be executed by Windows, without the user having to open the file. Simply saving a JavaScript file may be all that is required to trigger the infection process.

To prevent email scams such as this from succeeding, businesses should ensure that their employees receive ongoing security awareness training. Regular email security alerts should be sent to the workforce to keep them abreast of the latest techniques that are being used by scammers to install malware and phish for sensitive information.

It is also essential for an advanced spam filter to be implemented. This will ensure the majority of malicious messages are blocked and not delivered to end users. SpamTitan scans all incoming and outgoing messages and uses a variety of techniques to identify spam and malicious messages. Those controls ensure a block rate in excess of 99.9%, while dual antivirus engines provide total protection against all known malware variants.

SpamTitan is available on a free trial with options to suit all businesses and managed service providers. For further information, to register for the no-obligation free trial, or to book a product demonstration, contact TitanHQ today.

Suspected Use of Ryuk Ransomware in Newspaper Cyberattack

The last weekend of 2018 has seen a major newspaper cyberattack in the United States that has disrupted production of several newspapers produced by Tribune Publishing.

The attacks were malware-related and affected the Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others. The malware attack occurred on Thursday, December 27, and caused major problems throughout Friday.

All of the affected newspapers shared the same production platform, which was disrupted by the malware infection. While the type of malware used in the attack has not been publicly confirmed, several insiders at the Tribune have reported that the attack involved Ryuk ransomware.

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts critical files preventing them from being accessed. The primary goal of attackers is usually to obtain ransom payments in exchange for the keys to decrypt the encrypted files. It is also common for ransomware to be deployed after network access has been gained and sensitive information has been stolen, either to mask a data breach or in an attempt to make an attack even more profitable. It is also not unknown for ransomware attacks to be conducted to cause disruption. It is suspected that this newspaper cyberattack was conducted primarily to disable infrastructure.

The type of ransomware used in an attack is usually easy to identify. After encrypting files, ransomware changes file extensions to an (often) unique extension. In the case of Ryuk ransomware, extensions are changed to .ryk.

The Los Angeles Times has attributed it to threat actors based outside the United States, although it is unclear which group was behind the cyberattacks. If the attack was conducted to disable infrastructure it is probable that this was a nation-state sponsored attack.

The first Ryuk ransomware cyberattacks occurred in August. Three U.S. companies were attacked, and the attackers were paid at least $640,000 for the keys to unlock the data. An analysis of the ransomware revealed it shared code with Hermes malware, which had previously been linked to the Lazarus Group – An APT group with links to North Korea.

While many ransomware campaigns used mass spamming tactics to distribute the ransomware and infect as many end users as possible, the Ryuk ransomware attacks were much more targeted and involved considerable reconnaissance and extensive network mapping before the ransomware is finally deployed. As is the case with SamSam ransomware attacks, the campaign is conducted manually.

Several methods are used to gain access to networks, although earlier this year a warning about Ryuk ransomware was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claiming email to be one of the main attack vectors, highlighting the importance of email security and end user training to help employees recognize email-based threats.

New Netflix Phishing Scam Prompts FTC to Issue Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netflix Phishing Scam

Image Source: FTC via Ohio Police Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major San Diego School District Phishing Attack Discovered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Office 365 Phishing Emails Masquerade as Non-Delivery Notifications

campaign is to obtain users’ Office 365 passwords.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Phishing Study Findings

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

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

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

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

Phishing Protection for Businesses

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

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

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

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

Office 365 Spam Filtering Controls Failed to Prevent Costly Malware Infection

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

Multi-Layered Defenses Breached

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

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

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

How Was the Malware Installed?

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

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

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

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

Remediation Took 6 Weeks

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

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

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

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

Additional Protection is Required for Office 365 Inboxes

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

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

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

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

Sextortion Scams Now Combine Threat of Exposure with Multiple Malware Infections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning About Uptick in Holiday Season Gift Card Scams

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

Holiday Season Sees Marked Increase Gift Card Phishing Scams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advanced Anti-Phishing protection for Office 365

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

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

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

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

Phishing Attacks on Retailers and Food Industry Install Remote Access Trojans

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

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

PUB Files Used in Phishing Attacks on Retailers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense in Depth the Key to Phishing Protection

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

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

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

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

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

Flash Player Vulnerability Being Actively Exploited via Spear Phishing Campaign

Adobe has issued an unscheduled update to correct flaws in Adobe Flash Player, including a zero-day vulnerability that is currently being exploited in the wild by an APT threat group on targets in Russia. One target was a Russian healthcare facility that provides medical and cosmetic surgery services to high level civil servants of the Russian Federation.

The zero-day flaw is a use-after-free vulnerability – CVE-2018-15982 – which allows arbitrary code execution and privilege execution in Flash Player. A malicious Flash object runs malicious code on a victim’s computer which gives command line access to the system.

The vulnerability was discovered by security researchers at Gigamon ATR who reported the flaw to Adobe on November 29. Researchers at Qihoo 360 identified a spear phishing campaign that is being used to deliver a malicious document and associated files that exploit the flaw. The document used in the campaign was a forged employee questionnaire.

The emails included a .rar compressed file attachment which contained a Word document, the vulnerability, and the payload. If the .rar file is unpacked and the document opened, the user is presented with a warning that the document may be harmful to the computer. If the content is enabled, a malicious command is executed which extracts and runs the payload – A Windows executable file named backup.exe that is disguised as an NVIDIA Control Panel application. Backup.exe serves as a backdoor into a system. The malicious payload collects system information which is sent back to the attackers via HTTP POST. The payload also downloads and executes shell code on the infected device.

Qihoo 360 researchers have named the campaign Operation Poison Needles due to the identified target being a healthcare clinic. While the attack appears to be politically motivated and highly targeted, now that details of the vulnerability have been released it is likely that other threat groups will use exploits for the vulnerability in more widespread attacks.

It is therefore important for businesses that have Flash Player installed on some of their devices to update to the latest version of the software as soon as possible. That said, uninstalling Flash Player, if it is not required, is a better option given the number of vulnerabilities that are discovered in the software each month.

The vulnerability is present in Flash Player 31.0.0.153 and all earlier versions. Adobe has corrected the flaw together with a DLL hijacking vulnerability in version 32.0.0.101.

TrickBot Malware Updated with POS Data Stealing Capabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of this California Wildfire Scam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stealthy Cannon Trojan Being Distributed Through Lion Air Spear Phishing Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enhance Protection Against Zero-Day Malware and Spear Phishing

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving Themed Spam Emails Used to Spread Emotet Malware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How SpamTitan Spam Filtering Works

How SpamTitan Protects Businesses from Email Threats

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

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

New Dharma Ransomware Variant Detected

A new Dharma ransomware variant has been developed that is currently evading detection by the majority of antivirus engines. According to Heimdal Security, the latest Dharma ransomware variant captured by its researchers was only detected as malware by one of the 53 AV engines on VirusTotal.

Dharma ransomware (also known as CrySiS) first appeared in 2006 and is still being developed. This year, several new Dharma ransomware variants have been released, each using new file extensions for encrypted files (.bip, .xxxxx, .like, java, .arrow, .gamma, .arena, .betta, and .tron to name but a few). In the past two months alone four new Dharma ransomware variants have been detected.

The threat actors behind Dharma ransomware have claimed many victims in recent months. Successful attacks have been reported recently by Altus Baytown Hospital in Texas, the Arran brewery in Scotland, and the port of San Diego.

While free decryptors for Dharma ransomware have been developed, the constant evolution of this ransomware threat rapidly renders these decryptors obsolete.  Infection with the latest variants of the ransomware threat only give victims three options: pay a sizeable ransom to recover files, restore files from backups, or face permanent file loss.

The latter is not an option given the extent of files that are encrypted. Restoring files from backups is not always possible as Dharma ransomware can also encrypt backup files and can delete shadow copies. Payment of a ransom is not advised as there is no guarantee that files can or will be decrypted.

Protecting against ransomware attacks requires a combination of policies, procedures, and cybersecurity solutions. Dharma ransomware attacks are mostly conducted via two attack vectors: The exploitation of Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) and via email malspam campaigns.

The latest Dharma ransomware variant attacks involve an executable file being dropped by a .NET file and HTA file. Infections occur via RDP-enabled endpoints using brute force attempts to guess passwords. Once the password is obtained, the malicious payload is deployed.

While it is not exactly clear how the Arran brewery attack occurred, a phishing attack is suspected. Phishing emails had been received just before file encryption. “We cannot be 100 percent sure that this was the vector that infection occurred through, but the timing seems to be more than coincidental,” said Arran Brewery’s managing director Gerald Michaluk.

To protect against RDP attacks, RDP should be disabled unless it is absolutely necessary. If RDP is required, access should only be possible through a VPN and strong passwords should be set. Rate limiting on login attempts should be configured to block login attempts after a set number of failures.

Naturally, good backup policies are essential. They will ensure that file recovery is possible without payment of a ransom. Multiple copies of backups should be made with one copy stored securely off site.

To protect against email-based attacks, an advanced spam filter is required. Spam filters that rely on AV engines may not detect the latest ransomware variants. Advanced analyses of incoming messages are essential.

SpamTitan can improve protection for businesses through combination of two AV engines and predictive techniques to block new types of malware whose signatures have not yet been uploaded to AV engines.

For further information on SpamTitan and protecting your email gateway from ransomware attacks and other threats, speak to TitanHQ’s security experts today.

What are the Top Phishing Lures of 2018?

Phishing is the number one security threat faced by businesses. In this post we explore why phishing is such as serious threat and the top phishing lures that are proving to be the most effective at getting employees to open malicious attachments and click on hyperlinks and visit phishing websites.

Phishing is the Biggest Security Threat Faced by Businesses

Phishing is a tried and tested social engineering technique that is favored by cybercriminals for one very simple reason. It is very effective. Phishing emails can be used to fool end users into installing malware or disclosing their login credentials. It is an easy way for hackers to gain a foothold in a network to conduct further cyberattacks on a business.

Phishing works because it targets the weakest link in security defenses: End users. If an email is delivered to an inbox, there is a relatively high probability that the email will be opened. Messages include a variety of cunning ploys to fool end users into taking a specific action such as opening a malicious email attachment or clicking on an embedded hyperlink.

Listed below are the top phishing lures of 2018 – The messages that have proven to be the most effective at getting end users to divulge sensitive information or install malware.

Top Phishing Lures of 2018

Determining the top phishing lures is not straightforward. Many organizations are required to publicly disclose data breaches to comply with industry regulations, but details of the phishing lures that have fooled employees are not usually made public.

Instead, the best way to determine the top phishing lures is to use data from security awareness training companies. These companies have developed platforms that businesses can use to run phishing simulation exercises. To obtain reliable data on the most effective phishing lures it is necessary to analyze huge volumes of data. Since these phishing simulation platforms are used to send millions of dummy phishing emails to employees and track responses, they are useful for determining the most effective phishing lures.

In the past few weeks, two security awareness training companies have published reports detailing the top phishing lures of 2018: Cofense and KnowBe4.

Top Phishing Lures on the Cofense Platform

Cofense has created two lists of the top phishing lures of 2018. One is based on the Cofense Intelligence platform which collects data on real phishing attacks and the second list is compiled from responses to phishing simulations.

Both lists are dominated by phishing attacks involving fake invoices. Seven out of the ten most effective phishing campaigns of 2018 mentioned invoice in the subject line. The other three were also finance related: Payment remittance, statement and payment. This stands to reason. The finance department is the primary target in phishing attacks on businesses.

The list of the top phishing lures from phishing simulations were also dominated by fake invoices, which outnumbered the second most clicked phishing lure by 2 to 1.

Rank Phishing Subject/Theme Number of Reported Emails
1 Attached Invoice 4,796
2 Payment Notification 2,267
3 New Message in Mailbox 2,088
4 Online Order (Attachment) 679
5 Fax Message 629
6 Secure Message (MS Office Macro) 408
7 Online Order (Hyperlink) 399
8 Confidential Scanned document (Attachment) 330
9 Conversational Wire transfer (BEC Scam) 278
10 Bill Copy 251

 

Top Phishing Lures on the KnowBe4 Platform

KnowBe4 has released two lists of the top phishing lures of Q3, 2018, which were compiled from responses to simulated phishing emails and real-world phishing attempted on businesses that were reported to IT security departments.

The most common real-world phishing attacks in Q3 were:

Rank Subject
1 You have a new encrypted message
2 IT: Syncing Error – Returned incoming messages
3 HR: Contact information
4 FedEx: Sorry we missed you.
5 Microsoft: Multiple log in attempts
6 IT: IMPORTANT – NEW SERVER BACKUP
7 Wells Fargo: Irregular Activities Detected on Your Credit Card
8 LinkedIn: Your account is at risk!
9 Microsoft/Office 365: [Reminder]: your secured message
10 Coinbase: Your cryptocurrency wallet: Two-factor settings changed

 

The most commonly clicked phishing lures in Q3 were:

Rank Subject % of Emails Clicked
1 Password Check Required Immediately 34%
2 You Have a New Voicemail 13%
3 Your order is on the way 11%
4 Change of Password Required Immediately 9%
5 De-activation of [[email]] in Process 8%
6 UPS Label Delivery 1ZBE312TNY00015011 6%
7 Revised Vacation & Sick Time Policy 6%
8 You’ve received a Document for Signature 5%
9 Spam Notification: 1 New Messages 4%
10 [ACTION REQUIRED] – Potential Acceptable Use Violation 4%

 

The Importance of Blocking Phishing Attacks at their Source

If login credentials to email accounts, Office 365, Dropbox, and other cloud services are obtained by cybercriminals, the accounts can be plundered. Sensitive information can be stolen and Office 365/email accounts can be used for further phishing attacks on other employees. If malware is installed, cybercriminals can gain full control of infected devices. The cost of mitigating these attacks is considerable and a successful phishing attack can seriously damage a company’s reputation.

Due to the harm that can be caused by phishing, it is essential for businesses of all sizes to train staff how to identify phishing threats and implement a system that allows suspicious emails to be reported to security teams quickly. Resilience to phishing attacks can be greatly improved with an effective training program and phishing email simulations. It is also essential to deploy an effective email security solution that blocks threats and ensures they are not delivered to inboxes.

SpamTitan is a highly effective, easy to implement email filtering solution that blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and 100% of known malware through dual anti-virus engines (Bitdefender and ClamAV). With SpamTitan protecting inboxes, businesses are less reliant on their employees’ ability to identify phishing threats.

SpamTitan subjects each incoming email to a barrage of checks to determine if a message is genuine and should be delivered or is potentially malicious and should be blocked. SpamTitan also performs checks on outbound emails to ensure that in the event that an email account is compromised, it cannot be used to end spam and phishing emails internally and to clients and contacts, thus helping to protect the reputation of the business.

Improve Office 365 Email Security with SpamTitan

There are more than 135 million subscribers to Office 365, and such high numbers make Office 365 a big target for cybercriminals. One of the main ways that Office 365 credentials are obtained is through phishing. Emails are crafted to bypass Office 365 defenses and hyperlinks are used to direct end users to fake Office 365 login pages where credentials are harvested.

Businesses that have adopted Office 365 are likely to still see a significant number of malicious emails delivered to inboxes. To enhance Office 365 security, a third-party email filtering control is required. If SpamTitan is installed on top of Office 365, a higher percentage of phishing emails and other email threats can be blocked at source.

To find out more about SpamTitan, including details of pricing and to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today. During the free trial you will discover just how much better SpamTitan is at blocking phishing attacks than standard Office 365 anti-spam controls.

New Office 365 Threat Uses Windows Components to Install Banking Trojans

A new Office 365 threat has been detected that stealthily installs malware by hiding communications and downloads by abusing legitimate Windows components.

New Office 365 Threat Uses Legitimate Windows Files to Hide Malicious Activity

The attack starts with malspam containing a malicious link embedded in an email. Various themes could be used to entice users into clicking the link, although one recent campaign masquerades as emails from the national postal service in Brazil.

The emails claim the postal service attempted to deliver a package, but the delivery failed as there was no one in. The tracking code for the package is included in the email and the user is requested to click the link in the email to receive the tracking information.

In this case, clicking the link will trigger a popup asking the user to confirm the download of a zip file, which it is alleged contains the tracking information. If the zip file is extracted, the user is required to click on a LNK file to receive the information. The LNK file runs cmd.exe, which executes a Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) file: wmic.exe. This legitimate Windows file will be used to communicate with the attacker’s C2 server and will create a copy of another Windows file – certutil.exe in the %temp% folder with the name certis.exe. A script then runs which instructs the certis.exe file to connect to a different C2 server to download malicious files.

The aim of this attack is to use legitimate Windows files to download the malicious payload: A banking Trojan. The use of legitimate Windows files for communication and downloading files helps the attackers bypass security controls and install the malicious payload undetected.

These Windows files have the capability to download other files for legitimate purposes, so it is hard for security teams to identify malicious activity. This campaign targets users in Brazil, but this Office 365 threat should be a concern for all users as other threat actors have also adopted this tactic to install malware.

Due to the difficultly distinguishing between legitimate and malicious wmic.exe and certutil.exe activity, blocking an office 365 threat such as this is easiest at the initial point of attack: Preventing the malicious email from being delivered to an inbox and providing security awareness training to employees to help them identify this Office 365 threat. The latter is essential for all businesses. Employees can be turned into a strong last line of defense through security awareness training. The former can be achieved with a spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. SpamTitan will prevent the last line of defense from being tested.

How to Block this Office 365 Threat with SpamTitan and Improve Email Security

Microsoft uses several techniques to identify malspam and prevent malicious messages from reaching users’ inboxes; however, while efforts have been made to improve the effectiveness of the spam filtering controls of Office 365, many malicious messages are still delivered.

To improve Office 365 security, a third-party spam filtering solution should be used. SpamTitan has been developed to allow easy integration into Office 365 and provides superior protection against a wide range of email threats.

SpamTitan uses a variety of methods to prevent malspam from being delivered to end users’ inboxes, including predictive techniques to identify threats that are misidentified by Office 365 security controls. These techniques ensure industry-leading catch rates in excess of 99.9% and prevent malicious emails from reaching inboxes.

How SpamTitan Spam Filtering Works

How SpamTitan Protects Businesses from Email Threats

Security Solutions for MSPs to Block Office 365 Threats

Many MSPs resell Office 365 licenses to their customers. Office 365 allows MSPs to capture new business, but the margins are small. By offering additional services to enhance Office 365 security, MSPs can make their Office 365 offering more desirable to businesses while improving the profitability of Office 365.

TitanHQ has been developing innovative email and web security solutions for more than 25 years. Those solutions have been developed from the ground up with MSPs for MSPs. Three solutions are ideal for use with Office 365 for compliance ad to improve security – SpamTitan email filtering, WebTitan web filtering, and ArcTitan email archiving.

By incorporating these solutions into Office 365 packages, MSPs can provide clients with much greater value as well as significantly boosting the profitability of offering Office 365.

To find out more about each of these solutions, speak to TitanHQ. The MSP team will be happy to explain how the products work, how they can be implemented, and how they can boost margins on Office 365.

Cyberattacks on Universities Rise as Hackers Search for Valuable Research Data

Hackers have been going back to school and entering higher education. Quite literally in fact, although not through conventional channels. Entry is gained through cyberattacks on universities, which have increased over the course of the past 12 months, according to figures recently released by Kaspersky Lab.

Cyberattacks on Universities on the Rise

Credit cards information can be sold for a few bucks, but universities have much more valuable information. As research organizations they have valuable proprietary data. The results of research studies are particularly valuable. It may not be possible to sell data as quickly as credit cards and Social Security numbers, but there are certainly buyers willing to pay top dollar for valuable research. Nation state sponsored hacking groups are targeting universities and independent hacking groups are getting in on the act and conducting cyberattacks on universities.

There are many potential attack vectors that can be used to gain access to university systems. Software vulnerabilities that have yet to be patched can be exploited, misconfigured cloud services such as unsecured S3 buckets can be accessed, and brute force attempts can be conducted to guess passwords. However, phishing attacks on universities are commonplace.

Phishing is often associated with scams to obtain credit card information or login credentials to Office 365 accounts, with businesses and healthcare organizations often targeted. Universities are also in the firing line and are being attacked.

The reason phishing is so popular is because it is often the easiest way to gain access to networks, or at least gain a foothold for further attacks. Universities are naturally careful about guarding their research and security controls are usually deployed accordingly. Phishing allows those controls to be bypassed relatively easily.

A successful phishing attack on a student may not prove to be particularly profitable, at least initially. However, once access to their email account is gained, it can be used for further phishing attacks on lecturers for example.

Spear phishing attacks on lecturers and research associates offer a more direct route. They are likely to have higher privileges and access to valuable research data. Their accounts are also likely to contain other interesting and useful information that can be used in a wide range of secondary attacks.

Email-based attacks can involve malicious attachments that deliver information stealing malware such as keyloggers, although many of the recent attacks have used links to fake university login pages. The login pages are exact copies of the genuine login pages used by universities, the only difference being the URL on which the page is located.

More than 1,000 Phishing Attacks on Universities Detected in a Year

According to Kaspersky Lab, more than 1,000 phishing attacks on universities have been detected in the past 12 months and 131 universities have been targeted. Those universities are spread across 16 countries, although 83/131 universities were in the United States.

Preventing phishing attacks on universities, staff, and students requires a multi layered approach. Technical controls must be implemented to reduce risk, such as an advanced spam filter to block the vast majority of phishing emails and stop them being delivered to end users. A web filtering solution is important for blocking access to phishing websites and web pages hosting malware. Multi-factor authentication is also essential to ensure that if account information is compromised or passwords are guessed, an additional form of authentication is required to access accounts.

As a last line of defense, staff and students should be made aware of the risk from phishing. Training should be made available to all students and cybersecurity awareness training for researchers, lecturers, and other staff should be mandatory.