Keeping up-to-date with cybersecurity news can help protect organizations from online threats such as malware downloads and phishing campaigns. By being aware of type of threats that exist, how they operate, and what damage they can do, organizations can take precautions against the threats, educate their employees to be aware of online security, and strengthen their online defenses.
The most effective way of preventing attacks by cybercriminals is to stop Internet users from receiving emails containing phishing links or visiting websites that harbor viruses. This can be achieved with an email filter and an Internet content filter – both solutions having mechanisms in place to protect organizations and ensure they are not featured in future in our cybersecurity news section.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has issued a warning about the increasing number of phishing websites using HTTPS.
The green padlock next to a URL once gave an impression of security. Now it is a false sense of security for many internet users.
HTTPS or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure to give it its full name, indicates the website holds a valid certificate from a trusted third-party. That certificate confirms that the website is secure and any data transmitted between the browser and the website will be encrypted to prevent interception in transit.
The public has been taught to look for the green padlock and HTTPS before entering card details or other sensitive information. However, the padlock does not mean that the website being visited is genuine. It only means any information transmitted is secured in transit between the browser and the website.
If you are buying a pair of shoes from Amazon, all well and good. If you are on a website controlled by a cybercriminal, HTTPS only means that the cybercriminal will be the only person stealing your data.
Cybercriminals create realistic phishing webpages that imitate well-known brands such as Microsoft and Google to obtain login credentials or banks to obtain banking information. These phishing pages can be set up on dedicated phishing websites or phishing kits can be added to previously compromised websites. Traffic is then generated to those webpages with an email phishing campaign.
If one of the links in the email is clicked, a user will be directed to a website that requests some information. If the website starts with HTTPS and displays the green padlock, the user may mistakenly believe the site is genuine and that it is safe to disclose sensitive information.
The IC3 alert was intended to raise awareness of the threat from HTTPS phishing and make the public aware of the true meaning of the green padlock and never to trust a website because it starts with HTTPS.
Businesses should take note and make sure they include HTTPS phishing in their security awareness training programs to raise awareness of the threat with employees.
A web filter can greatly reduce the risk of HTTPS phishing attacks, provided the web filter has the capability to decrypt, scan, and re-encrypt HTTPS traffic.
WebTitan provides real-time protection against web-based attacks and uses a constantly updated database of 3 million known malicious sites to block attempts to visit phishing websites. WebTitan is capable of SSL inspection and can inspect HTTPS traffic, block specific applications within a webpage, and display alerts or block sites with fake https certificates.
If you want to improve protection against web-based attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today for more information about WebTitan.
While it is good news the GandCrab ransomware operation has been shut down, ransomware attacks are on the rise and a new threat has been detected: Buran ransomware.
Buran ransomware lacks some of the common features of more successful ransomware strains. The ransomware does not make any attempt to hide its activity and it doesn’t attempt to hamper recover by deleting Windows shadow copies. However, it is capable of encrypting a wide range of file types and there is currently no free decryptor available to unlock encrypted files.
Buran ransomware is being spread via the RIG exploit kit, with traffic to that exploit kit generated using a malvertising campaign. Malicious adverts have been injected into legitimate ad networks and are being displayed on a range of different websites. The malvertising campaign was identified by security researcher nao_sec.
The malvertising campaign directs web browsers to a domain hosting RIG, which attempts to exploit several vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. If an unpatched vulnerability exists, Buran ransomware will be downloaded and executed.
An analysis of the malware suggests it is a new variant of Vega ransomware that was previously used in a campaign in Russia.
While Buran ransomware may not be a long-term successor to GandCrab ransomware, there are many threat actors moving to fill the void. Sodinokibi ransomware attacks are increasing and the ransomware developers are also using a malvertising campaign on the PopCash ad network to deliver traffic to domains hosting the RIG exploit kit.
Exploit kits can only download malware if they have been loaded with an exploit for a vulnerability that has not been patched on a visitor’s computer. The primary defense against these attacks is to ensure that all Windows security updates are applied promptly, along with updates and patches for plugins and other browsers.
There is invariably a delay between a patch being issued and all devices being updated. To provide protection until patches are applied, and to protect against zero-day exploits, a web filtering solution is recommended. A web filter can be used to control the websites that can be visited by employees and can block access to known malicious websites to prevent attacks on vulnerable computers.
TitanHQ is a leading provider of email security, web security, and email archiving solutions to SMBs and managed service providers (MSPs) serving the SMB market. Over the past five years, TitanHQ has significantly expanded its customer base and its solutions now protect over 7,500 businesses and are offered by more than 1,500 MSPs around the world.
TitanHQ works closely with European partners and businesses and has been expanding its footprint throughout the EU. TitanHQ is working towards becoming the leading email and web security solution provider in Europe and as part of that process, the company has recently entered into a new partnership with the French Value Added Distributor Exer.
Exer is one of the leading VADs in France and works with more than 600 value added resellers and integrators in the country. The company specializes in network security, mobile security, Wi-Fi and managed cybersecurity services and helps French VARs better serve their clients.
Under the new partnership agreement, Exer will start offering TitanHQ’s three cloud-based solutions to French VARs: SpamTitan, WebTitan, and ArcTitan.
SpamTitan is an award-winning spam filtering solution that keeps inboxes free from spam emails and malicious messages. The solution is regularly updated to incorporate further controls to ensure that it continues to provide superior protection against an ever-changing email threat landscape. The solution now blocks more than 7 billion spam and malicious messages every month and helps to keep businesses protected from phishing and malware attacks.
WebTitan is a cloud-based DNS filtering solution that protects businesses from a wide range of malicious web content. The solution can also be used to carefully control the types of web content that users can access through company wired and wireless networks. The solution now blocks more than 60 million malicious websites every month and prevents malware downloads, controls bandwidth use, and enforces acceptable internet usage policies, .
ArcTitan is a cloud-based email archiving solution that helps businesses securely store emails to ensure compliance with government and EU regulations. The solution now archives and stores more than 10 million emails each month.
With these solutions, French VARs can provide their clients with even greater value and ensure they are well protected against rapidly evolving cyberthreats.
“Collaboration with TitanHQ is an opportunity to represent a brand internationally recognized on 3 key technologies: Web Content Filtering, Anti-Spam, and Email Archiving. We are eager to propose these security solutions to ours VARs,” explained Exer CEO, Michel Grunspan. “Our regional presence and our expertise will be our strength for asserting the presence of TitanHQ in the French market”
“We are pleased to be offering the Exer partner community choice, enhanced functionality and greater overall value,” explained TitanHQ Executive VP, Rocco Donnino.
Earlier this month, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released its annual Internet Crime Report, which highlights the most common attack trends and the extent of financial losses based on victims’ reports of internet crime. The report highlighted the seriousness of the threat of Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks, which resulted in losses of more than $1.2 billion in 2018 – More than twice the losses to BEC attacks that were reported in 2017.
2019 is likely to see losses increase further still as the BEC attacks are continuing at pace. Last week, almost coinciding with the release of the report, Scott County Schools in Kentucky announced that it was the victim of a major BEC attack that resulted in a loss of $3.7 million.
The school was notified by a vendor that a recent invoice was outstanding. Further investigation revealed payment had been made, just not to the vendor in question. An email had been received that appeared to be from the vendor, which included forged documents and details of a bank account that was controlled by the scammer.
The FBI was contacted, and attempts are being made to recover the funds, although since the payment was made two weeks previously, it is unclear whether it will be possible to recover the money.
A few days later, news broke of another major BEC scam, this time on a church. St. Ambrose Catholic Parish in Brunswick, Ohio, was a victim of a BEC attack that resulted in the fraudulent transfer of $1.75 million from the Church’s renovation fund. The scam was a virtual carbon copy of the Scott County Schools BEC attack.
The church was contacted by its contractor after not having had invoices paid for two months. That was news to the church, which believed that payments had been made on time. The funds had left the church account but had been directed elsewhere. The investigation into the BEC attack revealed hackers had gained access to the church’s email system and altered the contractor’s bank and wire transfer instructions.
These are just two recent examples of major losses to BEC attacks. Many other million-dollar and multi-million-dollar losses have been reported over the past 12 months.
With potential profits in the upper hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, it is no surprise that organized criminal gangs are turning to business email compromise scams. The scams are easier to pull off than many other crimes and the potential profits are considerably higher.
Business email compromise scams involve the impersonation of an individual or company. The scams are often conducted via email and usually include a request for a wire transfer. The scams require some research to identify a company to impersonate, but in many cases that is not particularly difficult. It would not be difficult, for example, to identify a contractor that is conducting a major renovation. The company’s banners are likely to be clearly visible around the building where the work is being completed.
Impersonating a company is far from challenging. It is child’s play to spoof an email and make it appear to have come from another domain. The scams are even more convincing if an email account is compromised. Then the email will come from a genuine account.
Gaining access to an email account requires a carefully crafted phishing email that directs the recipient to a phishing webpage that collects login credentials – such as Office 365 credentials. A single phishing email could start the scam in motion.
These BEC attacks show how critical it is for businesses to have an advanced anti-spam solution in place to prevent the initial phishing attack from succeeding and to implement multi-factor authentication for email accounts to make it harder for stolen credentials to be used to gain access to corporate email accounts.
TitanHQ has formed a strategic partnership with the GRIDHEART, which will see TitanHQ’s leading cloud-based email security, web security, and email archiving solutions made available to users of the Cloudmore Cloud Commerce platform.
GRIDHEART is a privately-owned Swedish company that delivers the world’s leading cloud-based solutions through its Cloud Commerce platform, Cloudmore.
For the past 10 years, GRIDHEART has been offering leading cloud solutions to its customers and resellers and now deals with more than 1,000 cloud partners. The Cloudmore platform makes selling cloud services easy and brings a wide range of cloud services together in a single unified platform.
The platform gives users complete centralized control over their cloud solutions and allows them to easily provision new customers, bill for services, automate processes, and obtain pre-and post-sales support. The platform provides a host of management tools to make control of SaaS and cloud computing simple.
The partnership with TitanHQ will see the Galway, Ireland-based cybersecurity firm add its leading cybersecurity solutions to the platform, through which users can manage the solutions for free.
GRIDHEART’s customers will be able to offer their clients the SpamTitan Cloud email security solution, the WebTitan web filtering solution, and the ArcTitan email security solution and provide multi-layered security to protect against email, web, and modern blended threats.
“By offering additional layers of cloud-based security through Cloudmore’ s unique Cloud Commerce platform, MSPs can procure and deploy IT services for their customers and quickly maximize their IT investment, enhance their security stack and lower operational costs for their customers,” said Rocco Donnino, Executive VP of Strategic Alliances at TitanHQ. “This agreement highlights the importance of delivering comprehensive security solutions to the MSP community through a single and powerful platform”
“TitanHQ fits the bill as a perfect partner with their razor focus on advanced threat protection via email and the web. We’ve very happy to have them on board,” said Stefan Jacobson, Sales Director of GRIDHEART.
Reputation loss after a cyberattack can have a major impact on businesses. While large companies may be able to absorb the loss of customers that results, for small to medium businesses, reputation damage and loss of customers can prove devastating.
Cybersecurity consultants and computer forensics firms can be hired to find out how an attack occurred, and new solutions can be implemented to plug the holes through which access to the network was gained. Regaining the trust of customers can be much harder to recover from. Once trust in a brand is lost, some customers will leave and never return.
When personal data has been exposed or stolen, customers feel betrayed. Company privacy policies may not be read, but customers believe that any company that collects their personal data has a responsibility to protect it. A data breach is seen as a breach of the company’s responsibility to keep personal data private and secure, and many customers will take their business elsewhere after such a privacy violation.
Reputation loss after a cyberattack can also make it hard to find new customers. Once information about a breach has been made public, it can be enough to see potential customers avoid a brand.
Extent of Reputation Loss After a Cyberattack
Radware recently conducted a survey to investigate the cost of cyberattacks on businesses. The study revealed 43% of companies that took part in the study said they had experienced negative customer experiences and reputation loss as a result of a successful cyberattack.
Previous studies suggest that as many as one third of customers will stop doing business with a company that has experienced a data breach. A study by Gemalto paints an even bleaker picture. In a global survey of 10,000 individuals, 70% claimed they would stop doing business with a company that had experienced a data breach.
The cyberattack on the telecoms company TalkTalk in 2015 – which cost the firm an estimated £77 million – caused uproar online. Customers turned to social media networks to express their rage about loss of service and the theft of their personal data. The company’s reputation took a massive hit as a result of the attack, not helped by interviews with the hackers who explained how easy it was. The firm claimed it lost around 101,000 customers as a result of the incident. Research from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech suggests 7% of its broadband customers – around 300,000 people – left the firm for another provider.
With such potential losses, it is no surprise that the Marsh and Microsoft Global Cyber Risk Perception Survey in 2018 found that reputation loss after a cyberattack was the biggest concern of companies. 59% of respondents rated it as a major concern.
Steps can naturally be taken to limit customer turnover, repair reputations, and win back customer trust, but repairing damage to a brand and winning back customers can be a long uphill struggle.
Given the high probability of a cyberattack and the potential repercussions, increased investment in cybersecurity defenses to prevent breaches should be given serious consideration.
It is not possible to prevent all cyberattacks, but it is possible to implement security solutions to protect against the most common attack vectors – email and malicious websites - and that is an area where TitanHQ can help.
The Fallout exploit kit, a toolkit used to silently deliver ransomware and malware to vulnerable devices, was first identified in September 2018. Between September and December, the toolkit was used to exploit vulnerabilities and deliver GandCrab ransomware and other malicious payloads. Towards the end of the year, the vulnerabilities most commonly exploited were a remote code execution vulnerability in the Windows VBScript engine (CVE-2018-8174) and the use-after-free vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player (CVE-2018-4878).
Around December 27, 2018, Fallout exploit kit activity stopped, but only for a few days. Now the exploit kit is back, and several updates have been made including the addition of HTTPS support, a new landing page format, and PowerShell-based malware downloads. A new exploit has also been added for a zero-day use-after-free Adobe Flash player vulnerability (CVE-2018-15982) which was patched on December 5, 2018: A vulnerability also exploited by the Underminer exploit kit.
The Fallout exploit kit is primarily delivered via malvertising campaigns – malicious adverts on third-party ad networks that are served on a variety of legitimate websites. The adverts redirect users to the exploit kit, which probes for vulnerabilities and exploits them to silently deliver malware or ransomware. The updated version of the Fallout exploit kit is delivering the latest version of GandCrab ransomware, for which there is no free decryptor. In addition to GandCrab ransomware, the Fallout exploit kit is delivering ServHelper, AZORult, TinyNuke, Dridex and Smokebot malware.
The malvertising campaigns used to generate traffic to the exploit kit include TrafficShop, Popcash, RevenueHits, and HookAds. The latter is primarily used on high-traffic adult websites that are visited millions of times a month. Users are redirected to a decoy adult site that contains the exploit kit and would be unaware that anything untoward has happened. If there is an unpatched vulnerability for which fallout has an exploit, the ransomware or malware payload will be silently downloaded.
Exploit kit activity is now much lower than in 2016 when EKs were extensively used to deliver malware, but the latest updates show EKs are still a threat and that they are regularly being updated with the latest exploits.
Exploit kits can only deliver malware if unpatched vulnerabilities are present, so prompt patching is strongly recommended. Users also need to visit the sites hosting the exploit kit. Businesses can prevent users from visiting malicious websites using a web filter.
Web filters use blacklists of websites known to host exploit kits are capable of scanning websites for malicious content. They can also prevent third-party ads from being displayed, thus preventing redirects. Since certain categories of website are often used in malvertising campaigns, adult sites and torrents sites for instance, blocking access to those categories of content with a web filter is also recommended.
For further information on web filtering and how it can protect against web-based attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A Starbucks porn filter will finally be introduced in 2019 to prevent adult content from being accessed by customers hooked up to the coffee shop chain’s free WiFi network.
It has taken some time for the Starbucks porn filter to be applied. In 2016, the coffee shop chain agreed to implement a WiFi filtering solution following a campaign from the internet safety advocacy group Enough is Enough, but two years on and a Starbucks porn filter has only been applied in the UK.
Businesses Pressured to Implement WiFi Filters to Block Porn
Enough is Enough launched its Porn Free WiFi campaign – now renamed the SAFE WiFi campaign – to pressure businesses that offer free WiFi to customers to apply WiFi filters to restrict access to adult content. In 2016, more than 50,000 petitions were sent to the CEO’s of Starbucks and McDonalds urging them to apply WiFi filters and take the lead in restricting access to pornography and child porn on their WiFi networks.
After petitioning McDonald’s, the global restaurant chain took prompt action and rolled out a WiFi filter across its 14,000 restaurants. However, Starbucks has been slow to take action. Following the McDonalds announcement in 2016, Starbucks agreed to roll out a WiFi filter once it had determined how to restrict access to unacceptable content without involuntarily blocking unintended content. Until the Starbucks porn filter was applied, the coffee shop chain said it would reserve the right to stop any behavior that negatively affected the customer experience, including activities on its free WiFi network.
The apparent lack of action prompted Enough is Enough to turn up the heat on Starbucks. On November 26, 2018, Enough is Enough president and CEO, Donna Rice Hughes, issued a fresh call for a Starbucks porn filter to be implemented and for the coffee chain to follow through in its 2016 promise. Rice Hughes also called for the public to sign a new petition calling for the Starbucks porn filter to finally be put in place.
Starbucks Porn Filter to Be Applied in All Locations in 2019
Starbucks has responded to Enough is Enough, via Business Insider, confirming that it has been testing a variety of WiFi filtering solutions and has identified one that meets its needs. The Starbucks porn filter will be rolled out across all its cafes in 2019.
All businesses that offer free WiFi to their customers have a responsibility to ensure that their networks cannot be abused and are kept ‘family-friendly.’ It is inevitable that some individuals will abuse the free access and flaunt policies on acceptable use. A technical solution is therefore required to enforce those policies.
While Enough is Enough is focused on ensuring adult content is blocked, there are other benefits of WiFi filtering. A WiFi filter protects customers from malware downloads and can stop them accessing phishing websites. All manner of egregious and illegal content can be blocked.
WiFi filters can also help businesses conserve bandwidth to make sure that all customers can access the Internet and enjoy reasonable speeds.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – The Easy Way to Start Filtering Content on WiFi Networks
TitanHQ has long been an advocate of WiFi filtering for public WiFi hotspots and has developed WebTitan Cloud for WiFi to allow businesses to easily block access to unacceptable and illegal web content on WiFi networks.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allows businesses to carefully control the content that can be accessed over WiFi without involuntarily blocking unintended content. Being 100% cloud based, no hardware purchases are required and no software downloads are necessary.
The solution offers businesses advanced web filtering capabilities through an easy to use intuitive user interface. No IT consultants are required to implement and run the solution. It can be set up and operated by individuals that have little to no technical knowhow.
The solution is highly scalable and can be used to protect thousands of users, at multiple locations around the globe, all controlled through a single user interface.
If you run a business that offers free WiFi to customers and you have not yet started controlling the activities that can take place over your WiFi network, contact TitanHQ today for further information on WebTitan Cloud for WiFi.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that want to start offering WiFi filtering to their clients can join the TitanHQ Alliance. All TitanHQ solutions have been developed to meet the needs of MSPs and make it easy for them to add new security capabilities to their service stacks.
The biggest cyber threat to SMBs is ransomware, according to Dato’s State of the Channel Report. While other forms of malware pose a serious risk and the threat from phishing is ever present, ransomware was considered to be the biggest cyber threat to SMBs by the 2,400 managed service providers that were polled for the study.
Many SMB owners underestimate the cost of mitigating a ransomware attack and think the cost of cybersecurity solutions to prevent attacks, while relatively low, are not justified. After all, according to Datto, the average ransom demand is just $4,300 per attack.
However, the ransom payment is only a small part of the total cost of mitigating an attack. The final cost is likely to be ten times the cost of any ransom payment. Datto points out that the average total cost of an attack on an SMB is $46,800, although there have been many cases where the cost has been far in excess of that amount.
One of the most common mistakes made by SMBs is assuming that attacks will not occur and that hackers are likely to target larger businesses with deeper pockets. The reality is SMBs are being targeted by hackers, as attacks are easier to pull off. SMBs tend not to invest heavily in cybersecurity solutions as larger businesses.
Anti-Virus Software is Not Effective at Preventing Ransomware Attacks
Many SMB owners mistakenly believe they will be protected by anti-virus software. However, the survey revealed that 85% of MSPs said clients that experienced a ransomware attack had anti-virus solutions installed. Anti-virus software may be able to detect and block some ransomware variants, but since new forms of ransomware are constantly being developed, signature-based cybersecurity solutions alone will not offer a sufficient level of protection.
Many SMBs will be surprised to hear just how frequently SMBs are attacked with ransomware. More than 55% of surveyed MSPs said their clients had experienced a ransomware attack in the first six months of this year and 35% experienced multiple attacks on the same day.
Some cybersecurity firms have reported there has been a slowdown in ransomware attacks as cybercriminals are increasingly turning to cryptocurrency mining. While that may be true for some cybercriminal gangs, the ease of conducting attacks using ransomware-as-a-service means many small players have started attacking SMBs. That is unlikely to change.
92% of surveyed MSPs said they thought ransomware attacks would continue at current levels or even increase throughout this year and next.
Ransomware attacks are even being conducted on Apple operating systems. In the past year, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of MSPs who have reported ransomware attacks on macOS and iOS operating systems.
“Not only have ransomware attacks increased in recent years, but the problem may even be bigger than we know, as many attacks go unreported,” explained Jeff Howard, Founder and Owner, of the Texas MSP Networking Results. Datto suggests that only one in four attacks are reported to law enforcement.
How to Protect Against SMB Ransomware Attacks
To protect against ransomware attacks, businesses need to implement a range of solutions to block the most common attack vectors. To block email-based attacks, advanced spam filtering technology is required, and end user security awareness training is essential. To block ransomware downloads from malicious websites, web filtering software should be implemented.
Business continuity and disaster recovery technology should be implemented to ensure that a quick recovery is possible in the event of an attack, and naturally intelligent backing up is required to ensure files can be recovered without paying a ransom.
MSPs need to explain the risks to SMBs, along with the solutions that need to be installed to prevent attacks and the likely cost of recovery. Many businesses are shocked to discover the true cost of a ransomware attack.
How TitanHQ Can Help Improve Defenses Against SMB Ransomware Attacks
TitanHQ has developed two innovative cybersecurity solutions that work in tandem to block the two most common attack vectors: Email and Internet attacks. SpamTitan is a powerful spam filtering solution that combines two AV engines with intelligent scanning of incoming mail using a variety of techniques to identify malicious messages and new ransomware variants and block them at source.
WebTitan is a powerful web filtering solution that can block malvertising attacks, drive-by ransomware downloads, and prevent employees from visiting malicious websites. Both solutions should be part of an SMBs arsenal to protect against ransomware and malware attacks and both solutions should be part of an MSPs security stack.
For further information on SpamTitan and WebTitan and details of TitanHQ’s MSP offerings, contact the TitanHQ today.
This year has seen several ransomware attacks on cities and municipal targets, clearly demonstrating that the threat from ransomware has not abated, despite several analyses from cybersecurity firms that suggest hackers are moving away from ransomware and concentrating on cryptomining malware attacks.
Cryptocurrency miners have certainly become more popular and their use has increased substantially in recent months, but there is still a significant threat from ransomware.
Ransomware development may have slowed, but ransomware attacks on cities and other high value targets have not. In fact, October has seen two new ransomware attacks on cities in the United States, along with several attacks on municipal targets. In the past few months. It is clear that the threat is not going away any time soon.
$2,000 Ransom Paid to Resolve City of West Haven Ransomware Attack
The city of West Haven ransomware attack started on the morning of October 16, 2018, and by the time the attack had been contained, 23 servers had been encrypted and taken out of action. Prompt action limited the scope of the attack, although it did cause major disruption as computers on the affected network had to all be shut down.
The attack affected a critical system, and after an assessment of the situation, the decision was taken to pay the ransom. Considering the number of servers affected, the ransom demand was relatively low. The city paid $2,000 in Bitcoin for the keys to decrypt its files.
Art House, Connecticut’s chief of cybersecurity, explained that this was one of several targeted ransomware attacks on cities and municipal services in the state in recent weeks. In February, around 160 computers were affected by ransomware in more than a dozen agencies in the state according to the Department of Administrative Services, and a month later the state’s Judicial Branch was attacked and had more than 100 servers encrypted.
City of Muscatine Ransomware Attack
The West Haven ransomware attack was shortly followed by a ransomware attack on the city of Muscatine in Ohio, which saw files on several government servers encrypted. The attack is understood to have started on October 17 and caused considerable disruption especially to services at City Hall.
Few details about the attack have been made public, although it is understood that the ransom demand was not paid. Instead, IT teams have had to painstakingly rebuild affected servers and workstations and restore files from backups.
Ransomware Attack on City of Atlanta
In August one of the most serious ransomware attacks on cities occurred. The City of Atlanta was attacked with SamSam ransomware, which was manually deployed on multiple computers after access had been gained to the network. The attack occurred in March and took down computers used for many city services, causing major disruption for weeks. A ransom demand of around $50,000 was issued, although the decision was taken not to pay. Initially the cost of recovery was expected to reach $6 million. Later estimates in the summer suggest that the final cost may exceed $17 million, highlighting just how costly ransomware attacks on cities can be.
Ransomware Attacks on Municipal Services Becoming More Common
Ransomware attacks on cities are becoming more common, as are attacks on municipal targets. In October, the Onslow Water and Sewer Authority in Jacksonville, North Carolina was attacked with ransomware resulting in most systems being taken out of action. In that case, a dual attack occurred, which started with the Emotet Trojan followed by the deployment of Ryuk ransomware two weeks later. The attack is expected to disrupt services for several weeks. The Indiana National Guard also suffered a ransomware attack in October. In both cases, the ransom was not paid.
Prevention and Incident Response
One of the reasons behind the rise in ransomware attacks on cities is underinvestment in cybersecurity defenses. Too little has been spent on protecting systems and updating aging hardware and software. With many vulnerabilities left unaddressed, staff receiving insufficient training, and even basic cybersecurity defenses often found lacking, it is no surprise that the attacks are increasing.
The only way that the attacks will be stopped is by spending more on cybersecurity defenses and training to make it much harder for attacks to occur. It can certainly be hard to find the money to commit to cybersecurity, but as the City of Atlanta found out, the cost of prevention is far lower than the cost of recovery from a ransomware attack.
TitanHQ, the leading provider of web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) recently partnered with Datto Networking, the leading provider of IT solutions to SMBs delivered through MSPs.
Datto Networking has now incorporated TitanHQ’s advanced web filtering technology into the Datto Networking Appliance to provide superior protection to users on the network.
Datto and TitanHQ will be hosting a webinar on October 18, 2018 to explain how the new technology provides enhanced protection from web-based threats, and how MSPs can easily deliver content filtering to their customers.
During the webinar, MSPs will find out about the enhanced functionality of the Datto Networking Appliance.
Webinar: Datto Networking & Titan HQ Deliver Enhanced Web Content Filtering
Date: Thursday, October 18th
Time: 11AM ET | 8AM PT | 4PM GMT/BST
John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking
Andy Katz, Network Solutions Engineer
Rocco Donnino, EVP of Strategic Alliances, TitanHQ
The CloudFlare IPFS gateway has only recently been launched, but it is already being used by phishers to host malicious content.Cloudflare IPFS gateway phishing attacks are likely to have a high success rate, as some of the checks performed by end users to confirm the legitimacy of domains will not raise red flags.
The IPFS gateway is a P2P system that allows files to be shared easily throughout an organization and accessed through a web browser. Content is distributed to different nodes throughout the networked systems. The system can be used for creating distributed websites, and CloudFlare has made this process easier by offering free SSL certificates and allowing domains to be easily connected to IPFS.
If phishers host their phishing forms on CloudFlare IPFS, they benefit from CloudFlare’s SSL certificate. Since the phishing page will start with cloudflare-ipfs.com, this adds legitimacy. The CloudFlare-owned domain is more likely to be trusted than domains owned by phishers.
When CloudFlare IPFS Gateway phishing forms are encountered, visitors will be advised that the webpage is secure, the site starts with HTTPS, and a green padlock will be displayed. If the visitor takes the time to check certificate information of the web page, they will find it has been issued to CloudFlare-IPFS.com by CloudFlare Inc., and the certificate is valid. The browser will not display any warning and CloudFlare IPFS Gateway phishing content will therefore seem legitimate.
At least one threat actor is using the CloudFlare IPFS Gateway for phishing and is hosting forms that claim to be standard login pages for Office 365, DocuSign, Azure AD, and other cloud-based services, complete with appropriate logos.
If a visitor completes the form information, their credentials will be forwarded to the operator of a known phishing domain – searchurl.bid – and the user will be displayed a document about business models, strategy and innovation. This may also not raise a red flag.
The CloudFlare IPFS Gateway phishing strategy is similar to that used on Azure Blob storage, which also take advantage of legitimate SSL certificates. In that case the certificate is issued by Microsoft.
It is becoming increasingly important for phishers to use HTTPS for hosting phishing content. As more businesses transition from HTTP to HTTPS, and browsers such as Chrome now display warnings to users about insecure sites, phishers have similarly had to make the change to HTTPS. Both CloudFlare IPFS Gateway and Azure Blog storage offer an easy way to do this.
In both cases, links to the malicious forms are distributed through spam email. One of the most common ways to do this is to include an email attachment that contains a button which must be clicked in order to download content. The user is advised that the content of the file is secured, and that professional email login credentials must be entered in order to view the content. The document may be an invoice, purchase order, or a scanned document that needs to be reviewed.
The increase in use of cloud platforms to host phishing content makes it more important than ever for organizations to implement advanced phishing defenses. A powerful spam filter such as SpamTitan should be used to block the initial emails and prevent them from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. These phishing tactics should also be covered in security awareness training to raise awareness of the threat and to alert users that SSL certificates do not necessarily mean the content of a web page is legitimate. Web filtering solutions are also essential for blocking access to known malicious web pages, should a user visit a malicious link.
A suspected Ryuk ransomware attack on Recipe Unlimited, a network of some 1,400 restaurants in Canada and North America, has forced the chain to shutdown computers and temporarily close the doors of some of its restaurants while IT teams deal with the attack.
Recipe Unlimited, formerly known as Cara Operations, operates pubs and restaurants under many names, including Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, Kelseys, Milestones, Montana’s, East Side Mario’s, Bier Markt, Prime Pubs, and the Landing Group of Restaurants. All of the above pub and restaurant brands have been affected by the Recipe Unlimited ransomware attack.
While only a small number of restaurants were forced to close, the IT outage caused widespread problems, preventing the restaurants that remained open from taking card payments from customers and using register systems to process orders.
While it was initially unclear what caused the outage, a ransomware attack on Recipe Unlimited was later confirmed. An employee of one of the affected restaurants provided CBC News with a copy of the ransom note that had appeared on the desktop of one of the affected computers.
The ransom note is the same used by the threat actors behind Ryuk ransomware. They claim files were encrypted with “military algorithms” which cannot be decrypted without a key that is only held by them. While it is unclear exactly how much the attackers demanded in payment to decrypt files, they did threaten to increase the cost by 0.5 BTC (Approx. $4,000 CAD) per day until contact was made. The Recipe Unlimited ransomware attack is understood to have occurred on September 28. Some restaurants remained closed on October 1.
The ransomware attack on Recipe Unlimited is just one of many such attacks involving Ryuk ransomware. The attackers are understood to have collected more than $640,000 in ransom payments from businesses who have had no alternative other than to pay for the keys to unlock their files. The ransomware attack on Recipe Unlimited did not increase that total, as Recipe Unlimited conducted regular backups and expects to be able to restore all systems and data, although naturally that will take some time.
Ransomware attacks on restaurants, businesses, healthcare providers, and cities are extremely common and can be incredibly costly to resolve. The recent City of Atlanta ransomware attack caused widespread disruption due to the sheer scale of the attack, involving thousands of computers.
The cost of resolving the attack, including making upgrades to its systems, is likely to cost in the region of $17 million, according to estimates from city officials. The Ransomware attack on the Colorado Department of Transportation is expected to cost $1.5 million to resolve.
There is no simple solution that will block ransomware attacks, as many different vectors are used to install the malicious file-encrypting software. Preventing ransomware attacks requires defense in depth and multiple software solutions.
Spam filtering solutions should be used to prevent email delivery of ransomware, web filters can be configured to block assess to malicious websites where ransomware is downloaded, antivirus solutions may detect infections in time to block attacks, and intrusion detection systems and behavioral analytics solutions are useful to rapidly identify an attack in progress and limit the harm caused.
All operating systems and software must be kept fully up to date, strong passwords should be used, and end user must receive training to make them aware of the threat from ransomware. They should be taught security best practices and trained how to identify threats. Naturally, robust backup policies are required to ensure that in the event of disaster, files can be recovered without having to pay the ransom.
Recent research has shown that the United States is the main distributor of exploit kits and hosts the most malicious domains and cyberattacks on websites have increased sharply.
United States Hosts the Most Malicious Domains and Exploit Kits
The United States hosts the most malicious domains and is the number one source for exploit kits, according to new research conducted by Palo Alto Networks. Further, the number of malicious domains increased between Q1 and Q2 in the United States. In all countries, apart from the Netherlands, the number of malicious domains remained constant or declined.
Exploit activity is only at a fraction of the level of 2016, although the web-based kits still pose a major threat to businesses with poor patching processes and a lack of protections against web-based attacks.
Three exploit kits have been extensively used throughout Q1 and Q2, 2018: Sundown, Rig, and KaiXin. The United States is the number one source for the Sundown and Rig EKs and is number two behind China for the KaiXin exploit kit. Further, a new exploit kit was detected in Q2: Grandsoft. The United States is also the number one source for this new exploit kit.
More than twice the number of exploit kits are hosted in the United States than in Russia in second place. 495 malicious URLs were detected in the United States compared to 147 in Russia. 296 malicious URLs hosting exploit kits were detected in the United States, with Russia in second place with 139.
The Microsoft VBScript vulnerability, CVE-2018-8174, is being extensively exploited via these exploit kits. Microsoft released a patch in May 2018 to fix the flaw, but many companies have yet to install the update and are vulnerable to attack. Exploit kits are still using old vulnerabilities to install their malicious payloads. According to Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42, two vulnerabilities are extensively used – The IE7 vulnerability – CVE-2009-0075 – and the Internet Explorer 5 vulnerability – CVE-2008-4844 – even though patches were released to fix the flaws more than 9 years ago.
The Jscript vulnerability in Internet Explorer 9 through 11 – CVE-2016-0189 – and the OleAut32.dll vulnerability – CVE-2014-6332 – have also been used in many attacks. One vulnerability known to be used in zero-day attacks was also detected.
Website Attacks on the Rise
Research conducted by SiteLock has revealed there has been a significant rise in attacks on websites in Q2, 2018. According to its study of more than 6 million websites, each website is attacked, on average, 58 times a day with one attack occurring every 25 minutes. That represents a 16% increase in website attacks since Q1, 2018.
Many search engines now alert users when websites have been discovered to contain malware, and Google sends warnings to site owners when malicious software is discovered. However, relatively few sites are being detected as malicious. SiteLock notes that out of 19.2 million sites that it has discovered to be hosting malicious files, only 3 million had been detected as malicious by the search engines.
The threat of exploit kit attacks and the rise in sites hosting malicious code highlights the need for businesses to deploy a web filtering solution to prevent employees from visiting these malicious sites and giving cybercriminals an opportunity to install malware on their networks.
Companies that take no action and fail to implement software solutions to restrict access to malicious sites face a high risk of their employees inadvertently installing malware. With the cost of a data breach now $3.86 million (Ponemon/IBM), the decision not to implement a web filter could prove incredibly costly.
Princess Locker ransomware has now morphed into Princess Evolution ransomware. The latest variant is one of several cryptoransomware threats that maximize the number of infections by using an affiliate distribution model – termed Ransomware-as-a-Service or RaaS.
RaaS sees affiliates given a percentage of the ransom payments they generate, while the author of the ransomware also takes a cut of the profits. Under this business model, the author can generate a much higher number of infections, which means more ransom payments. The affiliates get to conduct ransomware campaigns without having to develop their own ransomware and the author can concentrate on providing support and developing the ransomware further. For Princess Evolution ransomware, the split is 60/40 in favor of the affiliate. The RaaS is being promoted on underground web forums and prospective affiliates.
Ransomware attacks involving RaaS use a variety of methods to distribute the malicious payload as multiple actors conduct campaigns. Spam email is usually the main delivery mechanism for RaaS affiliates as it is easy to purchase large quantities of email addresses on darkweb sites to conduct campaigns. Brute force attacks are also commonly conducted.
Princess Evolution ransomware has also been loaded into the RIG exploit kit and is being distributed via web-based attacks. These web-based attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities in browsers and browser plug-ins. Exploits for these vulnerabilities are loaded into the kit which is installed on attacker-controlled web domains. Often legitimate sites are compromised have the exploit kit loaded without the knowledge of the site owner.
Traffic is generated to the websites through search engine poisoning, malvertising, and spam emails containing hyperlinks to the websites. If a user visits the website and has an exploitable vulnerability, the Princess Evolution ransomware will be silently downloaded.
At this stage, there is no free decryptor for Princess Evolution ransomware. If this ransomware variant is downloaded and succeeds in encrypting files, recovery is only possible by paying the ransom for the keys to unlock the encryption or rebuilding systems and recovering files from backups. The ransom demand is currently 0.12 Bitcoin – Approximately $750 per infected device.
Protecting against Princess Evolution ransomware attacks requires a combination of cybersecurity solutions, security awareness training, and robust backup policies. Multiple backups of files should be created, stored on at least two different media, with one copy stored securely off site. Infected devices may need to be re-imaged, so plans should exist to ensure the process can be completed as quickly as possible.
Cybersecurity solutions should focus on prevention and rapid detection of threats. A spam filtering solution – such as SpamTitan – will help to ensure that emailed copies of the ransomware or downloaders are not delivered to inboxes.
Care should be taken with any email sent from an unknown individual. If that email contains an attachment, it should not be opened, but if this is unavoidable, the attachment should be scanned with anti-virus software prior to opening. For greater protection, save the attachment to disk and upload it to VirusTotal for scanning using multiple AV engines.
A web filter such as WebTitan can block web-based attacks through general web browsing and by preventing end users from visiting malicious websites via hyperlinks in spam emails.
To reduce the risk of brute force attacks, strong, unique passwords should be used to secure all accounts and remote desktop protocol should be disabled if it is not required. If RDP is required, it should be configured to only allow connection through a VPN.
You should also ensure that all software, including browsers, browser extensions and plugins, and operating systems are kept patched and fully up to date.
There has been a marked rise in HTTPS phishing website detections, phishing attacks are increasing, and the threat of phishing attacks is greater than ever before.
Phishing is the biggest cyber threat that businesses must now deal with. It is the easiest way for cybercriminals to gain access to email accounts for business email compromise scams, steal credentials, and install malware.
The Threat from Phishing is Getting Worse
The Anti-Phishing Working Group – an international coalition of government agencies, law enforcement, trade associations, and security companies – recently published its phishing trends activity report for Q1, 2018. The report shows that the threat from phishing is greater than ever, with more phishing websites detected in March 2018 than at any point in the past year.
In the first half of 2017, there was an average of 48,516 phishing websites detected each month. The figure rose to 79,464 phishing websites detected on average per month in the second half of the year. In the first quarter of 2018, there was an average of 87,568 phishing websites detected, with detections peaking in March when more than 115,000 phishing sites were identified.
The number of unique phishing reports received in Q1, 2018 (262,704) was 12.45% higher than in the final quarter of 2017.
Healthcare Industry Heavily Targeted
In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers, health insurers, healthcare clearinghouses and business associates of HIPAA-covered entities to report breaches of protected health information within 60 days of the discovery of the breach. The main enforcer of HIPAA compliance, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), publishes summaries of those breach reports. Those summaries show just how serious the threat from phishing is.
HIPAA-covered entities and business associates have reported 45 email hacking incidents in 2018 – 21.68% of all breaches reported.
Phishers Make the Move to HTTPS
PhishLabs, an anti-phishing vendor that provides a security awareness training and phishing simulation platform, has been tracking HTTPS phishing websites. The company has recently released figures showing there has been a sharp increase in HTTPS phishing websites in the past few months with HTTPS and SSL certificates now popular with phishers.
As businesses make the switch to HTTPS, the phishers have followed. In the final quarter of 2015, a little over 1% of all phishing websites were hosted on HTTPS. By the final quarter of 2016, the percentage had increased to a shade under 5%. By the end of the final quarter of 2017, 31% of phishing sites used HTTPS. The Q1, 2018 figures show HTTPS phishing websites now account for a third of all phishing websites.
HTTPS websites ensure the connection between the browser and the website is encrypted. This offers greater protection for website visitors as information entered on the site – such as credit card numbers – is secure and protected from eavesdropping. However, if the site is controlled by a cybercriminal, HTTPS offers no protection.
The Importance of SSL Inspection
Protecting against phishing attacks and malware downloads via HTTPS websites requires the use of a web filtering solution that performs SSL inspection. If a standard web filtering solution is used that is unable to inspect HTTPS websites, it will not protect employees from visiting malicious websites.
It is certainly possible to block users from accessing all HTTPS websites, which solves the problem of SSL inspection, but with more websites now using HTTPS, many valuable internet resources and essential websites for business could not be accessed.
While many businesses may be reluctant to implement SSL filtering due to the strain it can place on CPUs and the potential for slowing internet speed, TitanHQ has a solution. WebTitan includes HTTPS content filtering as standard to ensure businesses are protected from HTTPS phishing websites and other online threats while ensuring internet speeds are not adversely affected.
You can find out more about how you can protect your business from phishing websites by contacting the TitanHQ sales team and asking about WebTitan.
Exploit kit activity may not be at the level it one was, but the threat has not gone away. Rig exploit kit activity has increased steadily in 2018 and now a new exploit kit has been detected.
The exploit kit has been named underminer by Trend Micro researchers, who detected it in July 2018. The Underminer exploit kit is being used to spread bootklits which deliver coinminer malware. The EK is primarily being used in attacks in Japan, although other East Asian countries have also seen attacks with activity now spreading beyond this region.
The underminer exploit kit was also detected by Malwarebytes researchers who note that the exploitation framework was first identified by the Chinese cybersecurity firm Qihoo360 in late 2017, when it was being used to deliver adware. Now the exploit kit is being used to deliver Hidden Bee (Hidden Mellifera) cryptocurrency mining malware. Trend Micro notes that evidence has been uncovered that strongly suggests the exploit kit was developed by the developers of Hidden Mellifera coinminer malware.
The exploit kit uses complex methods to deliver the payload with different methods used for different exploits. The developers have also incorporated several controls to hide malicious activity including the obfuscation of exploits and landing pages and the use of encryption to package exploits on-the-fly.
The EK profiles the user via a user-agent to determine if the user is of interest. If not, the user will be directed to a HTTP 404 error page. If a user is of interest, a browser cookie will be used to identify that user to ensure that the payload will only be delivered once, preventing reinfection and hampering efforts by researchers to reproduce an attack. URLs used in the attacks are also randomized to prevent detection by standard AV solutions. The coinminer is delivered via a bootkit which is downloaded through encrypted TCP tunnels.
The underminer exploit kit contains a limited number of exploits: The Adobe Flash Player exploit CVE-2018-4878, the use-after-free Adobe Flash Player vulnerability CVE-2015-5119, and the Internet Explorer memory corruption vulnerability CVE-2016-0189. Patches for all of the vulnerabilities were released in February 2018, July 2015, and May 2016 respectively.
The best defense against exploit kit attacks is prompt patching. All systems and applications should be kept 100% up to date, with virtual patching deployed on legacy systems and networks. Since there will always be a delay between the identification of a vulnerability and a patch being released, patching alone may not be sufficient to prevent all attacks, although EK developers tend to use old vulnerabilities rather than zero days.
In addition to prompt patching, cybersecurity solutions should be deployed to further reduce risk, such as a web filtering solution (WebTitan) to block users from visiting malicious websites and redirects through malvertising. In this case, one of the main ways that users are directed to the exploit kit is via adult-themed malvertising on legitimate adult websites. Using the web filter to block access to adult sites will reduce exposure.
Cybersecurity solutions should also be deployed to scan for malware installations and monitor for unusual activity and standard cybersecurity best practices should also be employed… the principle of least privilege and removing unused or unnecessary applications, plugins, and browser extensions.
The fact that a new exploit kit has been developed, and that it was recently updated with a new exploit, shows that the threat of web-based attacks has not gone away. EK activity may be at a fraction of the level of 2016, but businesses should not assume that attacks will not take place and should implement appropriate defenses to mitigate the threat.
The biggest cybersecurity risk for businesses in the United States is employee negligence, according to a recent Shred-It survey of 1,000 small business owners and C-suite executives.
The findings of the survey, detailed in its North America State of the Industry Report, show the biggest cybersecurity risk for businesses is human error such as the accidental loss of data or devices containing sensitive company information.
84% of C-Suite executives and 51% of small business owners said employee negligence was the biggest cybersecurity risk for their business. 42% of small business owners and 47% of C-suite executives said employee negligence was the leading cause of cybersecurity breaches.
Employees are the Biggest Cybersecurity Risk for Businesses in the United States
Employees often cut corners in order to get more done in their working day and take considerable security risks. Even though laptop computers can contain highly sensitive information and allow an unauthorized individual to gain access to a work network, around a quarter of U.S employees leave their computer unlocked and unattended. Documents containing sensitive information are often left unattended in full view of individuals who are not authorized to view the information.
The risks taken by employees are greater when working remotely, such as in coffee shops or at home. 86% of executives and SBOs said remote workers were much more likely to cause data breaches.
88% of C-suite executives and 48% of small business owners said they have implemented flexible working models that allow their employees to spend at least some of the week working off site. A survey conducted on behalf of the Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG suggests that globally, 70% of workers spend at least one day a week working remotely, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week.
Adoption of these flexible working practices is increasing, although cybersecurity policies are not being implemented that specifically cover remote workers. Even though a high percentage of workers are spending at least some of the week working remotely, the Shred-It survey shows that more than half of SMBs do not have policies in place for remote workers.
One of the most important ways that business owners and executives can improve their cybersecurity posture is through employee training, especially for remote workers. The provision of security awareness training will help to ensure that workers are aware of the organization’s policies and procedures and are taught security best practices.
However, the survey suggests training is often inadequate or in some cases nonexistent. 78% of surveyed C-suite executives and small business owners said they only provided information security training on policies and procedures once a year. Considering the risk, training needs to be far more frequent. Employees cannot be expected to retain all the information provided in a training session for the entire year. Training should cover the use of strong passwords, locking devices when they are not in use, never leaving portable devices unattended in public areas, safe disposable of electronic and physician data, and Wi-Fi security. Refresher training should be provided at least every six months.
Policies and procedures need to be developed specifically for remote workers, which cover the practices which must be adopted when working outside the office. With so many workers now spending more time working off-site, the probability of portable electronic devices being lost or stolen is greatly increased.
Businesses must ensure they maintain an accurate inventory of all devices used to access their network and implement appropriate security measures to ensure the loss or theft of those devices does not result in a data breach.
Increased use of insecure WiFi networks poses a major problem, greatly increasing the chance of a malware or ransomware download. Appropriate technologies should be implemented to protect remote workers’ devices from malicious software. TitanHQ can help in this regard.
WebTitan Cloud, TitanHQ’s 100% cloud-based web filtering solution can block malware and ransomware downloads and carefully control the websites that remote workers can access on their company-issued and BYOD devices, regardless of where the individual is located: on or off-site.
For more information on WebTitan and how it can protect your remote workers and improve your security posture, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information.
The RIG exploit kit, used on compromised and malicious websites to silently download malware, has been upgraded with a new exploit. Windows Double Kill exploit code has been added to exploit the CVE-2018-8174 vulnerability – a remote code execution vulnerability that was addressed by Microsoft on May 2018 Patch Tuesday.
To protect against exploitation of this vulnerability, Windows users should ensure they have applied the latest round of patches, although many businesses have been slow to update their Windows devices, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
The vulnerability is in the VBScript engine and how it handles objects in the memory. If the vulnerability is exploited, attackers would gain the same level of privileges as the current user, could reallocate memory, gain read/write access, and potentially remotely execute code on a vulnerable device. The vulnerability has been named ‘Double Kill’ and affects all Windows versions.
The Windows Double Kill vulnerability was being actively exploited in the wild when Microsoft released the update on Patch Tuesday. Initially, exploitation of the vulnerability was achieved through phishing campaigns using RTF documents containing a malicious OLE object. If activated, an HTML page was downloaded and rendered through an Internet Explorer library and the VBScript flaw was exploited to download a malicious payload. The attack could also be conducted via a malicious website. In the case of the latter, it does not matter what browser the user has set as default – on unpatched systems the IE exploit could still work.
The Windows Double Kill exploit code was posted online this week and it didn’t take long for it to be incorporated into the RIG exploit kit. End users could be directed to the RIG exploit kit through phishing campaigns, malvertising, web redirects, or potentially could visit malicious sites through general web browsing. In addition to the Windows Double Kill exploit, the RIG exploit kit contains many other exploits for a wide range of vulnerabilities. Any individual that lands on a URL with the kit installed could be vulnerable even if the latest Windows patch has already been applied.
The threat from email-based attacks is also likely to grow. The Double Kill exploit code has also been incorporated into the ThreadKit exploit builder, which is used to create malicious Office documents for use in phishing attacks.
Protecting systems against these types of attacks requires prompt patching, although many organizations are slow to apply updates out of fear of compatibility problems, which could cause performance issues. Consequently, prior to applying patches they need to be fully tested and that can take time. During that time, organizations will be vulnerable to attack.
A web filter – such as WebTitan – provides an additional level of protection while patches are assessed for compatibility. WebTitan provides protection against exploit kits and malware downloads by preventing end users from visiting known malicious sites, either through general web browsing, redirects, or via hyperlinks contacted in phishing emails.
There have been significant developments relating to exploit kits in the past few days. The threat actors behind the Magnitude exploit kit have now changed their malicious payload, and the EITest malware distribution network that directed traffic to exploit kits has finally been sinkholed.
Magnitude Exploit Kit Switches to GandCrab Ransomware Delivery
Exploit kit activity is at a fraction of the level of 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 there was a 62% reduction in the development of exploit kits according to research from Recorded Future.
However, exploit kit activity has not fallen to zero and the malicious code is still widely used to deliver malware and ransomware underscoring the continued need for technologies to block these attacks such as web filtering solutions and the continued need to keep on top of patching.
Exploit kits often leverage vulnerabilities in Java and Adobe Flash, although more recently it has been Microsoft vulnerabilities that have been exploited due to the fall in Java vulnerabilities and the phasing out of Adobe Flash.
One exploit kit that is still being used in extensive attacks, albeit attacks that are highly geographically targeted, is the Magnitude exploit kit.
For the past seven months, the Magnitude exploit kit has been delivering the Magniber ransomware payload almost exclusively in South Korea. However, there has been a notable change in the past few days with it also being used to distribute GandCrab ransomware, with the latter not restricted geographically and capable of infecting English language Windows devices.
While early variants of GandCrab ransomware were cracked and free recovery of files was possible, there is no known decryptor for the current version of GandCrab ransomware being distributed via Magnitude. While Adobe Flash and Microsoft exploits were commonly used, Magnitude is now using a fileless technique to load the ransomware. This technique makes it much harder to detect.
According to Malwarebytes, “The payload is encoded (using VBScript.Encode/JScript.Encode) and embedded in a scriplet that is later decoded in memory and executed.” Once run, the payload is injected into explorer.exe, files are encrypted, and the infected device is rebooted.
EITest Malware Distribution Network Disrupted
There has been some major good news on the exploit kit front this week with the announcement that the EITest malware distribution network has finally been sinkholed. EITest has been active since at least 2011 and has been used to distribute all manner of malware over the years.
EITest was a major distribution network responsible for countless Kronos, Ramnit, DarkCloud and Gootkit infections, although more recently was used to deliver ransomware variants such as CryptXXX and Cerber and send users to sites running social engineering and tech support scams.
Prior to being sinkholed, EITest was redirecting as many as 2 million users a day to a network of more than 52,000 compromised websites that had been loaded with exploit kit code and social engineering scams. Most of the compromised sites were WordPress sites based in the USA, China, and Ukraine.
The threat actors behind EITest were selling traffic to other actors in blocks of between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors at a cost of $20 per thousand.
Over a 20-day period since EITest was sinkholed, more than 44 million users were directed to the sinkhole rather than malicious websites.
Now all redirects to malicious websites have stopped. The compromised websites remain active, but rather than redirecting users to malicious domains they are directing traffic to benign domains controlled by abuse.ch and brilliantit.com.