Far too often, news of data breaches is accompanied by details of the failures in network security that allowed a hacker access to confidential data. Many of these failure are avoidable with adequate precautions such as a spam email filter and mechanism for controlling access to the Internet.
Almost as many breaches in network security can be attributed to poor employee training. Password sharing, unauthorized downloads and poor online security practices can result in hackers gaining easy access to a network and extracting confidential data at will.
It has been well chronicled that hackers will bypass organizations with strong network security and turn their attention to fish that are easier to catch. Make sure your organization does not get caught in the net – implement appropriate web filters and educate your employees on the importance of network security.
Most people are aware of the importance of cybersecurity and the need to take care when opening emails, browsing the internet or downloading apps on their mobile phones. If you ask anyone whether they are knowledgeable about cybersecurity and if they can recognize a malicious website or email, there’s a high chance that they will say yes.
A recent survey conducted by AT&T on 2,000 U.S. adults confirms that. 70% of the respondents to the survey said they were knowledgeable about cybersecurity, two-thirds of people said they know how hackers gain access to sensitive information on devices, and 69% of people said they were able to recognize suspicious websites at a glance.
However, despite being aware of the importance of cybersecurity, cybersecurity best practices are not always followed. People take considerable risks with email and the Internet, and the survey suggests that the confidence in the ability to recognize scams, malicious websites, and suspicious emails is misplaced.
While most people claim to be able to recognize a suspicious website, only 45% of respondents said they knew those sites carried a risk of identity theft. 46% of respondents were unaware of the difference between active and passive cybersecurity threats. Passive cybersecurity threats are those where a threat actor simply monitors communications and gathers sensitive information, whereas an active attack involves some action or modification of communications. An example of a passive attack is a malicious actor eavesdropping on a connection to a website via an evil twin Wi-Fi access point. An example of an active attack would be a malware attack.
The average person lands on 6.5 malicious websites or suspicious social media accounts every day and in many cases, those sites are accessed deliberately. Suspicious websites include those that start with HTTP rather than HTTPS, which means the connection between the web browser and the website is not encrypted. Suspicious sites include those with lots of pop-ups, or unverified sites and social media accounts.
39% of respondents said they accessed suspicious streaming websites to view major sporting events, 37% would download files from suspicious websites if they wanted to find a song or video game that they couldn’t find elsewhere, and these sites would be used to make purchases if they were offering a big discount. Considering that 70% of people said they were knowledgeable about cybersecurity, it is alarming that less than 40% of people consider common security risks when accessing the Internet. Only 32% of people considered the possibility of a network intrusion and just 31% of people considered whether an app or software could be malicious. The survey also revealed people take big security risks with passwords. 42% of people reuse passwords on multiple websites and alarmingly, 31% of people use a birthday as a password.
Businesses should take note of this survey. The survey was conducted on a sufficiently large number of people that it should be considered representative of the population as a whole and makes it clear that there is a need for cybersecurity awareness training to be provided by employers to bring the level of knowledge about cybersecurity up to scratch and be taught the importance of following cybersecurity best practices. Even people who are aware of the risks will take shortcuts for convenience, so businesses should also consider restricting access to certain websites.
If you want to improve cybersecurity, you should start with the human element and try to eradicate risky behaviors. TitanHQ offers businesses a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training platform – SafeTitan – that covers all aspects of security and cybersecurity in the workplace. The platform can be used to improve understanding of risks and teach the best practices that should be followed at all times. The training content is gamified, interactive, and fun, and has been shown to be highly effective at eradicating risky behaviors. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness training platform that delivers intervention training in real-time in response to risky behaviors by employees. When a risky action is taken, the platform automates the intervention and delivers the relevant snippet of the company policy and training content specific to that risk or threat.
Businesses can also take advantage of WebTitan Cloud – a DNS-based web filtering solution that prevents employees from accessing known malicious websites. When an attempt to visit a malicious website is made, the connection to the site will not be made and the user will be informed that the site has been blocked. Businesses can also use the category-based filters in WebTitan Cloud to prevent employees from accessing certain types of websites, such as those that carry a risk of malware infections. Peer-to-peer file sharing networks for example.
By educating the workforce on cybersecurity and implementing controls to restrict access to risky websites, businesses will be able to prevent more costly cyberattacks and data breaches. For more information on cybersecurity awareness training and web filtering, give the TitanHQ team a call.
Ransomware gangs gain initial access to business networks using a variety of techniques, with phishing one of the most common methods of gaining initial access to business networks. Phishing is used to obtain credentials, especially for cloud-based services and applications. Phishing emails are often used to deliver malware loaders. Once installed, the malware loader drops malicious payloads which ultimately results in a network-wide ransomware attack.
A relatively new malware loader – Bumblebee – is now gaining popularity with ransomware gangs and is known to be used by some of the highest profile ransomware operations. According to Symantec, Bumblebee Loader is known to be used by Conti, Quantum, and Mountlocker, and possibly others, and has fast become the ransomware delivery vehicle of choice.
The BumbleBee loader is primarily delivered via phishing emails and is used to create a backdoor in victims’ networks, allowing the attacker to take control of devices and execute commands. Bumblebee has been observed delivering the Cobalt Strike attack framework, which is used for lateral movement within networks. Once a sufficiently high number of devices and systems have been compromised, the BumbleBee loader drops the ransomware payload. After sensitive data has been exfiltrated from the victim’s systems, the file encryption process is initiated.
According to Symantec, the Bumblebee loader has replaced several other malware variants that have proven popular with ransomware gangs in the past, such as the TrickBot Trojan and BazarLoader. The replacement of those malware variants with Bumblebee the loader appears to have been pre-planned. If the Bumblebee loader is detected on any device, rapid action should be taken as it is likely that the malware could lead to a ransomware attack.
The Growing Threat of Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks on businesses increased significantly in 2021. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported in its 2021 Internet Crime Report that the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 2,084 reports of ransomware attacks between January 1 and July 31, 2021, which represents a 62% increase year-over-year. The 2021 Ransomware Study by IDC found that 37% of global organizations had suffered at least one ransomware attack in 2021. Verizon reported in its 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report that the number of ransomware attacks doubled in 2021, and ransomware is now involved in 10% of all data breaches.
Ransomware attacks are being conducted on businesses in all industry sectors, with education, retail, professional and legal services, government, IT, manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and the financial services the hardest hit. Attacks can be extremely damaging to businesses and can cost millions of dollars to mitigate. Many businesses have been forced to close as a result of an attack.
How to Protect Against Ransomware Attacks
Many ransomware gangs operate under the ransomware-as-a-service model, where affiliates are recruited to conduct attacks in exchange for a cut of any ransom payments they generate. Having many affiliates conducting attacks means more attacks can be conducted than if ransomware gangs operated alone. Affiliates have specialist skills and excel at certain types of attacks. That means defending against attacks means blocking multiple attack vectors, which means multiple security solutions need to be deployed.
Defending against ransomware attacks requires a defense in-depth approach involving multiple layers of protection. An email security solution – such as SpamTitan – should be used for blocking attacks via email, such as emails distributing the Bumblebee loader. A DNS filter such as WebTitan should be deployed to block attacks over the Internet and prevent employees from visiting malicious and risky websites.
It is important to educate the workforce about the threat of phishing, malware, and ransomware, and train the workforce on how to recognize and avoid threats such as phishing and social engineering. TitanHQ offers the SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulation platform for creating a security-aware workforce.
Vulnerabilities are often exploited, so it is important to ensure that patches and software updates are applied promptly. In the event of an attack succeeding, businesses need to be able to recover quickly. One of the biggest causes of losses in ransomware attacks is lost business due to the disruption caused by an attack, not the cost of the ransom payment. To minimize damage and ensure the fastest possible recovery, an incident response plan should be developed that specifically covers ransomware attacks and that plan should be regularly tested in tabletop exercises.
It is naturally also vital for backups to be created of all data to ensure data can be recovered in the event of an attack. Multiple copies of data should be made, the backups need to be tested to ensure file recovery is possible, and the backups should be stored on a non-networked device, with one copy stored securely offsite.
Technical defenses need to be implemented to protect against cyber threats, but it is also important to provide security training to the workforce. Security awareness training involves teaching users how to identify and avoid cyber threats, and training users to follow the security best practices that are necessary for protecting devices, networks, and data.
When businesses analyze security incidents, they often find that the threat could have easily been identified and avoided. A ransomware attack, for example, could have been prevented had an employee recognized the phishing email that gave the attackers the credentials they needed to access the network. Employees are commonly thought of as a weak link in the security chain, but employees can actually be security assets. Through training, they can become important sensors that help to protect the company.
Security awareness training is necessary for all members of the workforce, from the CEO down. Security awareness training needs to be provided to all individuals when they join the company, and then periodically thereafter. 20% of businesses provide security awareness training once a year or less, but something so important needs to be provided more frequently as employees cannot be expected to retain all of the information from a single, annual training session and then apply that information to real-life situations continuously throughout the year.
Many businesses need to change their thinking on security awareness training from it being a checkbox item that needs to be completed for compliance or to take out cyber insurance. Effective training is required, and that means it needs to be provided continuously. If you don’t exercise, your muscles will become weak. The same applies to security awareness training.
Classroom or computer-based training should be provided, which should be augmented with presentations, quizzes, infographics, and videos. Regular refresher training sessions should be provided in bite-sized chunks that are easy to take on board and remember. The aim of security awareness training is to create a security culture where everyone knows to be constantly alert.
Businesses need to develop an incident response plan to ensure the business can continue to operate in the event of a disaster. Backups need to be made of critical data to ensure that no data is lost in the event of computer failure or a ransomware attack. If you don’t test those plans and backups, it is impossible to know if they work. The same is true for security awareness training. It is necessary to test to see if the knowledge from training has been retained by the staff, if that knowledge is being applied in real-world situations, and whether security awareness training is actually influencing behavior.
One of the best ways to do this is with phishing simulations. Phishing simulations are exercises that are conducted to determine how effective training has been and to identify any areas where training needs to be improved. If a large number of employees have fallen for a particular phishing simulation, it is clear that the training has not covered that particular threat in sufficient detail. Training can then be adapted to help employees understand. If an employee falls for a simulation, there should be consequences, but the consequences should not be punitive. The purpose is to improve security not to punish employees, so the threat needs to be explained to the employee at the time to make sure that if it is encountered again, they will recognize it for what it is and act appropriately.
TitanHQ can help businesses with security awareness training and phishing simulations. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security training solution that delivers contextual training in real-time. With SafeTitan, alerts are generated when users take actions they shouldn’t, and those alerts are used to trigger timely training content with context. Since that training is delivered with context, the content provided is always relevant. SafeTitan also allows businesses to monitor how effective training is over time and how training is actually reducing risk.
“Every time an alert is triggered and comes into us, we map that alert or behavior in our database. This allows us to see the frequency of that behavior and monitor how it changes over time. You can measure this by user, by department, by country, by office, by business unit, and by organization,” says Stephen Burke, Product Director of SafeTitan, and founder and CEO of Cyber Risk Aware, which was recently acquired by TitanHQ. “And the beautiful side of it is, unlike most enterprise-grade software, it doesn’t just give mid to large enterprises the ability to demonstrate how effective their training is. MSPs can also offer this technology to their SMB clients, who maybe don’t initially know to seek that information.”
If you want to find out more about security awareness training, this interview with Stephen Burke with Expert Insights is a good place to start. We also recommend starting training with SafeTitan – You can get started today at zero cost by taking advantage of the SafeTitan free trial!
Software can be expensive, which is why many people choose to download pirated software. Naturally, downloading pirated software is illegal, but many people think there is little chance of getting caught especially if they do not use their own computer to download the software. Most people have access to a computer at work and that is a common place where pirated software is downloaded, both for home use and also for using unauthorized software at work.
Employees at small- to medium-sized businesses may struggle to get authorization to purchase certain software due to the high license cost, even though the use of that software may make employees’ jobs easier. It is not uncommon for employees to go behind their employer’s back and simply download a pirated version of the software they want. The Business Software Alliance conducted a study that suggested 39% of software on computers is unlicensed, and another study suggested 3 in 10 employees use software at work that their employers do not know about. Not all of these ‘shadow IT’ tools will be pirated, as many are available for free, but this is a concern.
Free software may only be free for consumer use. Business use often requires a paid license, and if a license is not purchased businesses are exposed to legal risk. Any software that is installed without the knowledge of the IT department will mean patches for the software to fix known vulnerabilities may not be installed – that would be the responsibility of individual users, not the IT department. Vulnerabilities could remain unaddressed that could potentially be exploited by threat actors to gain access to the user’s device or provide a foothold for a more extensive compromise.
There is also a risk of malware being introduced. This is especially risky with pirated software, which is often bundled with adware, spyware, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), and malware, which are either included with the software or are installed via software cracks and product activators.
Software cracks and product activators are well-known for installing malware. KMSPico is a software piracy tool that used for activating all features of Windows and Microsoft Office without requiring a license key. The tool uses Windows Key Management Services (KMS), which is a legitimate feature of Windows that is used to license Microsoft products across an enterprise network. This is achieved by installing a KMS server and through Group Policy Objects. KMSPico emulates a local KMS server to fraudulently activate the software.
Many anti-malware solutions detect KMSPico as potentially malicious for good reason. The tool can disable antimalware products to prevent it from being detected, and that alone can open the door for malware. Further, there are many versions of KMSPico available online, and identifying a clean version can be a challenge. There are versions available for download that have been bundled with malware, including the Cryptbot stealer. The Cryptbot stealer is commonly packaged with KMSPico and other product activators and cracks. The user will get the KMSPico, but malware will be silently installed in the background.
Cryptbot stealer is a dangerous malware that can perform a range of functions, including stealing data from web browsers such as Opera, Chrome, Firefox, and Vivaldi. The malware steals browser histories, passwords, credit card information, cookies, and cryptocurrency wallets. The Cryptbot stealer has also recently been updated to make it stealthier and a more effective stealer and it can now search for file paths and exfiltrate a range of files. The Cryptbot stealer is far from the only malware distributed in this manner and malware delivery is not limited to KMSPico. Many cracks and warez are used to install malware.
There are steps businesses should take to make it harder for employees to download pirated software. To prevent downloads from the Internet, WebTitan can be installed. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filter that is used to control the web content that can be accessed by users of business networks. At its simplest, businesses can use the category-based controls to block access to certain categories of websites where pirated software is downloaded such as peer2peer file-sharing networks and any other undesirable categories of websites. WebTitan can also be configured to prevent the downloading of certain files associated with malware, including software installers and other executable files.
It is also important for IT departments to create a full inventory of software to identify any pirated or unauthorized software that has already been installed. This will allow them to remove potentially risky software and to ensure all legitimate software is identified and included in the patch management policy.
To those unfamiliar with DNS filtering, it is a form of web filtering that is used to filter out unwanted and undesirable web content, whether that is webpages containing objectionable material such as pornographic images or cyber threats such as websites used for phishing or malware distribution.
The Domain Name System (DNS) is what makes it possible for websites to have easy-to-remember domain names. A domain name, such as google.com, is easy for people to remember, but no use to a computer, which requires an IP address to find that resource on a remote server. The DNS is used to convert a domain name into its corresponding IP address, and DNS filtering is web filtering that takes place at the DNS lookup stage of a web request before a connection is made to the server hosting the web content.
DNS Filtering Myths
DNS filtering has several advantages over standard web filtering. Filtering occurs before any content is downloaded, which is better for speed and security. With DNS filtering, there is next to no latency – page load speeds are unaffected.
Many businesses fail to appreciate the importance of DNS filtering, after all, what is the point of blocking malware and ransomware threats on the Internet when antivirus software is installed on all end points? While AV software is effective at blocking known malware threats, it will not block new threats that have not been seen before, as the signatures of those malware variants are not in the virus definition lists of AV software. New variants of old malware versions are constantly being released to bypass signature-based AV defenses, so additional protection is needed. DNS filters can block these threats based on the reputation of IP addresses and will block downloads of file types associated with malware.
DNS filtering also improves defenses against phishing attacks, which all too commonly result in costly data breaches. Phishers are constantly devising new methods to get their emails into inboxes and trick end users into clicking on links and disclosing their credentials. Spam filters will block most of these messages but not all, and security awareness training only goes so far. A web filter will block access to phishing content and can significantly improve an organizations’ phishing defenses. When links to phishing websites are clicked the request is blocked and DNS filter logs will show which links were clicked. That can help to improve the effectiveness of spam filters and security awareness training programs.
DNS filters are also used for content control. Most businesses will have acceptable Internet usage policies in place, and employees will be aware of the risks of accessing prohibited web content, but DNS filters are ideal for enforcing those policies. Thew can prevent lawsuits from downloads of copyright infringing cracked software and other pirated content onto business network or users’ devices.
There is a common misconception that DNS filtering is complicated and time consuming when that is not the case. A DNS filtering solution is actually very quick and easy to configure. Simply point the DNS to the service provider, and you can set your filtering controls quickly and easily through the user interface. WebTitan for instance can be up and running in around 30 minutes and after the initial set up and little ongoing maintenance is required.
Another common misconception is that DNS filters are easy to bypass. While no web filtering solution is impossible to bypass, it is fairly easy to ensure that most users will not be able to bypass the filtering controls. You just need to configure the solution to block proxies and anonymizers and lock down the DNS settings. It is also recommended to block DNS requests to anything other than your approved DNS service at the firewall for good measure.
If you have your own, locally hosted, internal DNS server, you should allow only port 53/UDP outbound requests from your internal DNS server’s internal IP address to the external IP addresses of the primary and secondary DNS servers that your internal DNS server is configured to use. That means local computers query your local DNS server, and only your DNS server queries the web filtering DNS service on the Internet.
Key Benefits of DNS Filtering
Block access to malicious and risky websites with no latency
Enforce acceptable Internet usage policies
Block malware downloads and file downloads associated with malware
Prevent users from visiting phishing websites
Block copyright infringing file downloads
Protect against zero-day malware threats
Have highly granular control over the content that network users can access
Protect employees and devices when they are working off-site
Stop employees from accessing productivity-draining websites
DNS Filtering with WebTitan
WebTitan Cloud offers a quick, easy, and painless way for businesses to filter the Internet and block malicious and undesirable web content. WebTitan can be used to apply filtering controls to users of wired and wireless networks, with controls effective no matter where employees use their devices to access the Internet – in the office, while travelling, or working remotely.
WebTitan Cloud uses three mechanisms for filtering the Internet – First there are SURBL & URIBL filters to block access to known malicious web content, then there are category filters – 53 pre-set categories plus customizable categories – that are used to block content such as pornography, gambling, gaming, and dating sites, and the third tier involves keyword filters that fine tune category controls and block sites based on the presence of keywords and web pages that exceed certain keyword scores.
WebTitan Cloud can be configured to block certain files from being downloaded, acceptable Internet usage policies can easily be applied, and sites can be easily blacklisted using third-party blacklists, or whitelisted to ensure they can always be accessed.
When an attempt is made to visit a prohibited website, the request will be denied, and the user will be directed to a customizable local block page. All web activity is logged, and it is easy to see what requests have been made, the access attempts that have been allowed or blocked, and what content has been viewed, with extensive reporting and real time views of Internet activity.
The result is total control over what users can access and full visibility into Internet activity, while greatly improving cybersecurity by blocking web-based threats.
With WebTitan you get:
Best-in-class malicious URL detection
Malware, phishing, and ransomware protection
Instant categorization of web content
Infinitely scalable DNS filtering
An extensive web filtering API allowing incorporating into existing monitoring systems
Immediate live updates
Zero-day updates to protect your customers as threats arise.
No bandwidth limits
No latency issues
Remote management and monitoring
SSL is supported
Multiple hosting options
Flexible pricing policies
Low-cost web filtering
For more information about DNS filtering in general, the WebTitan suite of DNS filtering solutions, or to book a product demonstration or to register for a free trial, give the TitanHQ team a call.
Ransomware gangs have been feeling the heat following the DarkSide ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May that forced the company to shut down its fuel pipeline serving the U.S. East Coast for a week. Any attack on critical infrastructure is likely to draw a response from the U.S. government, so it is no surprise that ransomware gangs faced a great deal of scrutiny after the attack. The DarkSide group shut down following the attack, and several other ransomware gangs went quiet.
DoppelPaymer was one of the gangs that appeared to be laying low. Around a week after the Colonial Pipeline attack the group went quiet and no further updates were posted on the group’s data leak site after May 6, 2021.
It is not uncommon for ransomware operations to go quiet for a few weeks, but they usually return. In many cases, the threat group reappears with a tweaked ransomware variant that is used under a new name, as has happened with DoppelPaymer.
DoppelPaymer attacks often start with a phishing email with links or attachments that install other malware variants, which in turn deliver the ransomware payload. Prior to the Emotet botnet being shut down, that banking Trojan was used to deliver DoppelPaymer, as well as Dridex.
Security researchers investigating a new ransomware-as-a-service operation called Grief (PayorGrief) that appeared in June identified striking similarities between Grief and DoppelPaymer, leading them to the conclusion that they are one and the same. A sample of the malware was found that dates back to May 17, indicating the group had only stopped attacks for a very short period of time.
Grief and DoppelPaymer both have the same encrypted file format and are both distributed in phishing emails via the Dridex botnet, with one of the analyzed Grief samples also found to link to the old DoppelPaymer portal, although the samples identified since point to a separate Grief RaaS portal. Analyses of the code and the leak site also revealed further similarities such as the use of identical encryption algorithms and matching General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) warnings for non-paying victims about GDPR penalties. The group appears to have been quite active in the short time since the new RaaS was launched, with 12 victims already listed on the group’s data leak site.
The best way to protect against DoppelPaymer ransomware attacks is to concentrate on blocking the initial attack vector – the phishing emails that deliver Dridex, which in turn delivers the ransomware. That requires an advanced anti-spam solution with machine learning capabilities and sandboxing. SpamTitan has these capabilities and many more detection mechanisms that ensure 100% of known malware threats are identified and blocked and new malware threats are identified even before their signatures are known.
For further information on improving your defenses against ransomware, malware, botnets, phishing, and other email- and web-based threats, give the TitanHQ team a call.
Ransomware is now one of the biggest threats faced by businesses. When hackers gain access to business networks, it is now common for large quantities of data to be stolen prior to file encryption. Ransomware gangs know all too well that businesses with good backup policies will be able to restore their encrypted data from backups, but they will need to pay the ransom in order to prevent the release or sale of the stolen data. Even when files can be recovered from backups, many businesses feel they have no alternative other than paying the ransom to ensure stolen data are deleted. Data from Coveware indicates 70% of ransomware attacks now involve data theft.
Ransomware attacks are incredibly costly, even if the ransom is not paid. Universal Health Services Inc. in the United States suffered a Ryuk ransomware attack in September 2020 and the health system choose not to pay the ransom. Add up the recovery costs which included data restoration, cybersecurity consultants, notification letters to patients, and the loss of many services during the remediation process, and the cost of the attack rose to $67 million.
While expensive, that high cost is just a fraction of the cost of the recent Conti ransomware attack on Ireland’s Health Service Executive. The May 2021 ransomware attack caused massive disruption to healthcare services in Ireland. Without access to patient records, patient safety was put at risk, non-urgent appointments had to be cancelled, and there were major delays getting test results.
A few days after issuing a ransom demand of €20 million, the Conti ransomware gang gave the HSE the decryption tools free of charge. Even with the valid tools to decrypt data, recovery has been slow and incredibly costly. It has been around a month since the tools were provided to decrypt files, but many systems are still inaccessible. HSE Chief executive Paul Reid said it is likely to take months before all systems are brought back online.
Simply eradicating the attacker from the network and recovering encrypted data is only part of the story. IT systems need to be upgraded, security greatly improved, and a security operation center needs to be set up to monitor the network to prevent any further attacks. The initial costs incurred as a result of the attack were reported to be well over €100 million, but the overall cost of the attack is expected to rise to around half a billion Euros – Around $600 million.
An attack on such a major healthcare provider is naturally going to be incredibly costly, but ransomware attacks on small businesses can be catastrophic. Following a ransomware attack, an estimated 60% of small businesses fail within 6 months. One study showed the cost of remediating a ransomware attack doubled between 2020 and 2021, with the average cost now around $1.85 million. Attacks are also increasing. An analysis of the data leak sites used by ransomware gangs by cybersecurity firm Mandiant showed there has been a 422% increase in ransomware-related data leaks between Q1, 2020 and Q1, 2021.
How to Improve Your Defenses Against Ransomware
The most prolific ransomware gangs operate under the ransomware-as-a-service model. The creators of the ransomware do not conduct attacks, instead they employ affiliates to do they attacks for them. That means more attacks can be conducted. The creators run the operation and take a cut of any ransom payments generated, with the affiliates retaining the bulk of the ransom payments from their attacks.
Affiliates conduct attacks using a variety of methods and no two attacks will be exactly the same. Preventing ransomware attacks therefore requires a range of different measures to block all of the attack vectors, but the best place to start is by improving phishing defenses. Phishing emails are increasingly used as the initial entry point into business networks, so if these malicious emails can be blocked at the email gateway, they will not be delivered to inboxes where they can be opened by employees.
That is an area where TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ has developed two advanced solutions that are effective at preventing ransomware attacks. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that filters out malicious messages to stop them from causing harm. Rather than be delivered, emails with malicious links and attachments are quarantined.
WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering solution that complements SpamTitan to provide even greater protection against ransomware and malware attacks. WebTitan prevents employees from visiting the malicious websites where malware and ransomware are downloaded.
Both solutions are consistently given top marks on software review sites such as G2 Crowd, with the solutions given a maximum of 5 stars by users of Spiceworks and Capterra. SpamTitan has also received over 37 consecutive Virus Bulletin Spam awards.
If you want to improve your defenses against phishing, ransomware, and web-based attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call. If you would like more information about protecting against attacks, also be sure to attend the upcoming TitanHQ/Osterman Research webinar on June 30, 2021:
Network segmentation is the act of dividing a computer network into smaller physical or logical components. Two devices on the same network segment can then talk directly to each other. For communication to happen between segments, the traffic must flow through a router or firewall. This passage allows for traffic to be inspected and security policies to be applied.
Network segmentation is one of the mitigation strategies in terms of protecting against data breaches and multiple types of cyber security threats. In a segmented network, device groups have the connectivity required for legitimate business use only. The ability of ransomware to spread is greatly restricted. However all too often organizations operate an unsegmented network.
Network segmentation can also help to boost performance. With fewer hosts on each subnet, local traffic is minimized. It can also improve monitoring capabilities and helps IT teams identify suspicious behavior.
If you follow network segmentation best practices and set up firewall security zones you can improve security and keep your internal network isolated and protected from web-based attacks.
Looking to get enterprise-grade protection from malware and phishing? Sign up for a free WebTitan demo today. Book Free Demo
Network Segmentation Security Benefits
There are many benefits to be gained from network segmentation, of which security is one of the most important. Having a totally flat and open network is a major risk. Network segmentation improves security by limiting access to resources to specific groups of individuals within the organization and makes unauthorized access more difficult. In the event of a system compromise, an attacker or unauthorized individual would only have access to resources on the same subnet. If access to certain databases in the data center must be given to a third party, by segmenting the network you can easily limit the resources that can be accessed, it also provides greater security against internal threats.
Best Practices for Network Segmentation
Most businesses have a well-defined network structure that includes a secure internal network zone and an external untrusted network zone, often with intermediate security zones. Security zones are groups of servers and systems that have similar security requirements and consists of a Layer3 network subnet to which several hosts connect.
The firewall offers protection by controlling traffic to and from those hosts and security zones, whether at the IP, port, or application level. There are many network segmentation examples, but there is no single configuration that will be suitable for all businesses and all networks, since each business will have its own requirements and functionalities. However, there are network segmentation best practices that should be followed. We have outlined these and firewall DMZ best practices below.
Suggested Firewall Security Zone Segmentation
Suggested Firewall Security Zone Segmentation
In the above illustration we have used firewall security zone segmentation to keep servers separated. In our example we have used a single firewall and two DMZ (demilitarized) zones and an internal zone. A DMZ zone is an isolated Layer3 subnet.
The servers in these DMZ zones may need to be Internet facing in order to function. For example, web servers and email servers need to be Internet facing. Because they face the internet, these servers are the most vulnerable to attack so should be separated from servers that do not need direct Internet access. By keeping these servers in separate zones, you can minimize the damage if one of your Internet facing servers is compromised.
In the diagram above, the allowed direction of traffic is indicated with the red arrows. As you can see, bidirectional traffic is permitted between the internal zone and DMZ2 which includes the application/database servers, but only one-way traffic is permitted between the internal zone and DMZ1, which is used for the proxy, email, and web servers. The proxy, email, and web servers have been placed in a separate DMZ to the application and database servers for maximum protection.
Traffic from the Internet is allowed by the firewall to DMZ1. The firewall should only permit traffic via certain ports (80,443, 25 etc.). All other TCP/UDP ports should be closed. Traffic from the Internet to the servers in DMZ2 is not permitted, at least not directly.
A web server may need to access a database server, and while it may seem a good idea to have both of these virtual servers running on the same machine, from a security perspective this should be avoided. Ideally, both should be separated and placed in different DMZs. The same applies to front end web servers and web application servers which should similarly be placed in different DMZs. Traffic between DMZ1 and DMZ2 will no doubt be necessary, but it should only be permitted on certain ports. DMZ2 can connect to the internal zone for certain special cases such as backups or authentication via active directory.
The internal zone consists of workstations and internal servers, internal databases that do not need to be web facing, active directory servers, and internal applications. We suggest Internet access for users on the internal network to be directed through an HTTP proxy server located in DMZ 1.
Note that the internal zone is isolated from the Internet. Direct traffic from the internet to the internal zone should not be permitted.
The above configuration provides important protection to your internal networks. In the event that a server in DMZ1 is compromised, your internal network will remain protected since traffic between the internal zone and DMZ1 is only permitted in one direction.
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Risks of an Unsegmented Network
A real world example of an unsegmented network and resulting attack is the massive Target data breach of 2013. Reportedly, the Target breach had its origin in a phishing email opened by an employee at a small HVAC company that did business with Target. The malware lurked in the HVAC network for two months before moving on to attack the Target network.
Once inside they were able to move laterally through Target’s internal network, eventually installing malware on point-of-sale (POS) terminals throughout the stores. In the wake of the attack, Target implemented network segmentation to prevent the lateral movement that allows the attackers move with the system in this breach.
It’s no surprise a breach this huge is massively expensive and the cleanup represents an almost overwhelming challenge. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported that Target spent $61 million through Feb. 1 on the breach.
The data of 110 million customers was compromised.
Over 100 lawsuits have been filed.
Banks have already spent $200 million related to the Target breach, and it’s unclear if there’s an even bigger payout on the horizon.
Effective network segmentation also makes it easier to detect signs of an attack. It’s not uncommon for a company’s Intrusion Detection System to generate such a large number of alerts that many go uninvestigated.
By concentrating on alerts related to sensitive parts of the network, security teams can prioritize incidents likely to be the most dangerous. Network segment traffic can also be monitored for unusual patterns or activity potentially indicating an attack.
Effective Network Segmentation is not enough
Many sectors including manufacturing, retail and industrial are prime target for cyberattacks. Often organizations in these sectors are not up to date in terms of implementing key cybersecurity controls in order to be prepared for advanced and evolving attack methods.
By adhering to network segmentation best practices, you can optimize network security. There’s no silver bullet to take down every attacker, but it’s possible to implement several layers of security that work together as a whole to defend against a myriad of attacks.
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Layered Security to Prevent Data Breaches
Layered security allows for each security layer to compound with the others to form a fully functioning, complete sphere of security. The internal network (ideally segmented) and its data are surrounded by powerful, interwoven layers that an attacker must defeat. These layers make security much more complex for a successful breach.
Cybercriminals are already exploiting the lack of security at the DNS layer to conduct phishing attacks and gain access to proprietary enterprise data. Not securing the DNS layer is making it far too easy for hackers to take advantage. Securing the DNS layer is a straightforward process that requires no additional computer hardware or even any software installations. Many vendors now offer cloud based DNS filtering solutions that can be set up in minutes.
Isn’t it about time you started securing the DNS layer and making it much harder for cybercriminals to compromise your network? If you’re looking to get enterprise-grade protection from malware and phishing, check out WebTitan Cloud DNS filtering today.
What does network segmentation mean?
Network segmentation is concerned with dividing a network up into smaller segments called subnets. This can improve network performance and is important for security. By using firewalls between each segment, you can carefully control access to applications, devices, and databases and can block lateral movement in the event of a successful cyberattack.
What is logical network segmentation?
Logical network segmentation is a popular way of segmenting a network. Instead of segmenting physical parts of the network such as routers and access points, logical segmentation uses concepts built into network infrastructure for segmentation, such as creating virtual local area networks (VLANS) that may share physical hardware.
Is network segmentation necessary for PCI compliance?
Organizations that store, process, and/or transmit cardholder data must comply with PCI DSS. One of the requirements is to use network segmentation to keep the cardholder data environment (CDE) separate from other parts of the network. Through network segmentation, organizations can isolate credit card data from all other computing processes.
Can network segmentation protect against ransomware attacks?
Network segmentation is a best practice that can help to reduce the damage caused by a malware or ransomware attack. If a computer is compromised, attackers will attempt to more laterally and access other devices and parts of the network. With network segmentation, lateral movement is much harder, so it is easy to contain malware and limit file encryption by ransomware.
What are the main benefits of network segmentation?
There are three main benefits of network segmentation. First is security. It reduces your attack surface and limits lateral movement in the event of a breach. Second, you can improve network performance, as traffic will be confined to the part of the network where it is required. Thirdly, it makes compliance easier by allowing you to separate regulated data from other computer systems.
DNS filtering – or Domain Name System filtering to give it its full title – is a technique of blocking access to certain websites, webpages, and IP addresses. The DNS is what allows easy to remember domain names to be used – such as Wikipedia.com – rather than typing in very difficult to remember IP addresses – such as 18.104.22.168. The DNS maps IP addresses to domain names to allow computers to find web resources.
When a domain is purchased from a domain register and that domain is hosted, it is assigned a unique IP address that allows the site to be located. When you attempt to access a website, a DNS query will be performed. Your DNS server will look up the IP address of the domain/webpage, which will allow your browser to make a connection to the web server where the website is hosted. The webpage will then be loaded. The actual process involves several different steps, but it is completed in a fraction of a second.
So how does DNS Web Filtering Work?
With DNS filtering in place, rather than the DNS server returning the IP address if the website exists, the request will be subjected to certain controls. DNS blocking occurs if a particular webpage or IP address is known to be malicious. The DNS filter will use blacklists of known malicious websites, previous crawls of new websites and web pages, or web content will be assessed in real time if the web page or website has not previously been crawled and categorized. If the website trying to be accessed is determined to be malicious or otherwise violates pre-defined policies, instead of the user being connected to the website, the browser will be directed to a local IP address that displays a block page explaining why the site cannot be accessed.
This control could be applied at the router level, via your ISP, or by a web filtering service provider. In the case of the latter, the user – a business for instance – would point their DNS to the service provider. That service provider maintains a blacklist of malicious webpages/IP addresses and access to those sites is prevented.
Since the service provider will also categorize webpages, the DNS filter can also be used to block access to certain categories of webpages – pornography, child pornography, file sharing websites, gambling, and gaming sites for instance. Provided a business creates an acceptable usage policy (AUP) and sets that policy up with the service provider, the AUP will be enforced. Since DNS filtering is low-latency, there will be next to no delay in accessing safe websites that do not breach an organization’s acceptable Internet usage policies.
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Will a DNS Filter Block All Malicious Websites?
Unfortunately, no DNS filtering solution will block all malicious websites, as in order to do so, a webpage must first be determined to be malicious. If a cybercriminal sets up a brand-new phishing webpage, there will be a delay between the page being created and it being checked and added to a blacklist. However, a DNS web filter will block the majority of malicious websites.
The purpose of a web filter is to reduce risk, not eradicate it entirely. Since the vast majority of malicious web content will be blocked, risk can be significantly reduced and there will only be a low chance of a website being accessed that violates your policies.
Can a DNS Filtering Service be Bypassed?
The short answer is yes. Proxy servers and anonymizer sites could be used to mask traffic and bypass the DNS filter. Your DNS filtering service should allow you to easily block access to anonymizer websites and prevent the use of proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs). Configuring the DNS filtering service to block access to these services will prevent all but the most determined employees from bypassing the DNS filtering service.
The other key way of bypassing a DNS filtering service is to manually change the DNS settings locally, so it is important for these settings to be locked down. Determined individuals may be able to find a way to bypass DNS filtering, but for most end users, a DNS filter will block any attempt to access forbidden or harmful website content.
There may be a legitimate need to bypass a DNS filtering service. Some DNS content filtering solutions have a feature that allows administrators to temporarily remove content filtering controls. WebTitan Cloud uses cloud keys for this. The cloud key can be issued to a user to bypass content filtering settings for a set time period, such as if research needs to be conducted.
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DNS Content Filtering for CIPA Compliance
Schools and libraries in the United States are required to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in order to receive E-rate discounts and qualify for federal grants. There are several requirements of CIPA, one of the most important being to block or filter Internet access to prevent access to images that are obscene, involve child pornography or child abuse, or could otherwise be harmful to minors.
DNS content filtering is the easiest and most cost-effective way of complying with this requirement of CIPA and applying content filtering controls for both wired and Wi-Fi networks. DNS content filtering solutions require no hardware purchases, no software needs to be installed, and they are easy to implement and maintain. DNS content filtering solutions have highly granular filtering controls and allow precision control over content, without overblocking.
DNS Web Filtering Software from TitanHQ
Now you have a better idea about how DNS filtering works, we will introduce you to WebTitan Cloud. WebTitan Cloud is a powerful, easy to implement DNS filtering solution that allows you to filter the internet and block access to malicious content and enforce your acceptable internet usage policies. Being DNS-based, there are no hardware requirements and no software downloads are required. To get started you simply point your DNS to WebTitan, set your filtering parameters through an easy to use web-based interface, and you will be filtering the internet in minutes.
WebTitan Cloud can be used to protect users on and off the network, so it is the perfect choice for protecting remote workers from online threats as well as office staff. The WebTitan DNS web filtering solution – WebTitan Cloud – is a feature-rich, cloud-based solution with a low maintenance overhead and a three-tiered filtering mechanism for maximum granularity. Universally compatible and infinitely scalable, WebTitan Cloud has SSL inspection to provide the highest level of defense against online threats.
WebTitan Cloud can be integrated with multiple management applications (Active Directory, LDAP, etc.) for easier administration. WebTitan can also be remotely configured and adjusted from any Internet-enabled device. An unlimited number of users can be filtering at any time.
Block web-based threats and carefully control online activities. Sign up for a free WebTitan demo today. Book Free Demo
Try DNS Filtering Software with SSL Inspection for Free
If you would like to evaluate the benefits of the WebTitan DNS filtering solution in your own environment, please get in touch. Our team of experienced security professionals will answer any questions you have about DNS Internet filtering and guide you step by step through the process of registering for your free trial.
Once you are registered, we will walk you through the process of redirecting your DNS to receive our service. There are no credit cards required, no contracts to sign and no commitment from you to continue with our DNS filtering software once the trial period is over. Simply call us today, and you could be adding an extra level of security to your organization´s web browsing activity within minutes.
WebTitan incorporates an intelligent AI-based component that provides real-time classification of websites for precision control over the content that can be accessed. WebTitan Cloud provides real-time categorization of over 500 million websites, and 6 billion web pages in 200 languages, including coverage of Alexa 1 million most visited websites. Industry leading antivirus is also incorporated to identify and block malware and ransomware threats. A full suite of reports gives you full visibility into the online activities of your employees and any guest users of your network. The reports can be scheduled or run on demand.
These and more features will allow you to block web-based threats and carefully control online activities for only a few dollars per user per year.
Why WebTitan is a Vital DNS Web Security Layer for Your Business
DNS Security Layer – Filter URLs, detect malicious threats, create flexible policies, and more with an API driven DNS security filter
Full Path Detection – Provide analytical credibility to any activity marked as malicious with page and path-level reporting.
User Identification – Assign custom policies to a user or group of users with uniquely identifiable user names.
Scaleable Support – Handle any volume of usage with no latency and receive support from our top-class team.
Reporting – full suite of reports including behavior, trend and security reports.
API Driven – robust API set that allows our MSP customers to easily incorporate WebTitan DNS filtering directly into their existing cloud offering.
URL Filtering – block access to websites known to contain malware.
Remote & Roaming Users – allows off-network roaming by users while continuing to apply their policy.
Content Filtering – highly granular content controls with multiple integration options and comprehensive malware protection.
AI Threat Intelligence – real time AI driven DNS protection from malicious online threats such as viruses, malware, ransomware, phishing attacks and botnets.
What WebTitan Customers Have to Say
“WebTitan is an outstanding tool for most reliable content filtering. The monitoring feature of this specific product is quite unique that totally monitors all the process of online working and also secures all the data. Additionally, its set-up is superb easy and it can be done in just few minutes that save my time and energy as well.” Kristie H. Account Manager
“WebTitan is fairly easy to setup. It is available as a cloud based solution or on prem. You can get as simple or as complicated with your filtering as you like, it will handle most situations with ease. [It] has provided us with a stable web filtering platform that has worked well for us for many years. “Derek A. Network Manager
What 3 things are most important about employee internet access?
Employees need internet access to complete their work duties, but it is essential to develop an acceptable Internet usage policy and get employees to sign it, that policy should be enforced using a web filtering solution, and you should have a sanctions policy for when employees violate the rules.
What is best, a web filtering appliance of cloud-based web filter?
Both options will provide clean, safe Internet access, but cloud-based web filtering does not require the purchase of a costly appliance, it is more flexible and scalable, and there is no patching burden. For SMBs and MSPs, cloud-based web filtering is the easiest and most cost-effective Internet filtering solution.
Does web filtering slow Internet speed?
Some web filtering solutions involve a degree of latency, but a DNS filtering solution will not slow internet speed as all filtering takes place at the DNS lookup stage of a web request before any content is downloaded. Filtering occurs in the same time as it takes to perform a standard DNS lookup so there is no latency.
How can I provide DNS filtering as a managed service as an MSP?
Adding the WebTitan DNS filtering service to your service stack couldn’t be easier. WebTitan is can be set up in minutes, APIs allow easy integration into your existing back office systems, you will be provided with a white label version ready to take your branding, and you can even host the solution in your own environment.
How much does DNS content filtering cost?
There is considerable variation in price between different web filtering solutions. The most expensive solution will not necessarily be the best option for your business. Price depends on contract term, the number of users, and add-ons. TitanHQ’s DNS content filtering solution, WebTitan, typically costs around $1 per user, per month.
COVID-19 presented many new opportunities for cybercriminals, many of which have proven to be highly successful. In the early days of the pandemic, when it became clear that the new coronavirus was spreading beyond the borders of China and concern about the virus grew, cybercriminals switched from their normal phishing campaigns and started adopting COVID-19 lures.
Phishing campaigns were conducting offering advice about the virus, potential cures, and advice as people craved information that was in short supply. Fake COVID-19 tracking apps and websites were set that collected sensitive information or installed malware, and PPE shortages saw fake shops set up offering non-existent supplies. Then there were fake charities, disinformation campaigns, and phishing scams related to job retention schemes, self-employment income support, government coronavirus loans, and fake tax rebates.
The move to remote working due to the pandemic saw hackers targeting vulnerabilities in remote working solutions such as VPNs and throughout 2020, ransomware gangs have been extremely active, especially in Q3 and Q4, 2020 when attacks soared.
As we move into 2021, cybercriminals are likely to continue to exploit the pandemic to steal credentials, access sensitive data, and spread malware and ransomware, so it is important for businesses not to let their guard drop and to continue to ensure that they have appropriate protections in place to block threats.
The Cyber Threat Landscape in 2021
The high level of ransomware attacks in the last quarter of 2020 is likely to continue in 2021. There are no signs that cybercriminals will reduce attacks, as they are still proving to be profitable. The healthcare industry is likely to continue to be targeted, with cyberattacks on pharmaceutical and clinical research firms also extremely likely.
Now that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and are starting to be rolled out, cybercriminals have yet another opportunity. The vaccine rollout is likely to take many months and it could well be the autumn or later before most people receive the vaccine. Cybercriminals have already adopted COVID-19 vaccine lures to obtain sensitive information and spread malware and ransomware.
These COVID-19 vaccine scams have impersonated the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and vaccine manufacturers, and are likely to increase over the coming weeks and months. Campaigns have been identified in 2021 that impersonate public health authorities and trick users into clicking links and download files that install Trojans when opened.
We are also likely to see the scams offering financial support, virus information, and infection alerts continue, and offers of fake vaccine can be expected over the coming weeks and months.
One vaccine-related scam to be recently identified involved messages sent to businesses asking recipients to click a link to confirm their email in order to receive the vaccine. Clicking the link directed them to a phishing website where Microsoft 365 credentials were harvested.
Since many employees will continue to work from home in 2021 until the risk of infection is reduced, attacks on remote working infrastructure are also likely to continue.
There is good reason to be hopeful in 2021 now that the vaccines are starting to be rolled out, but it is important for businesses not to let their guard down and to ensure that they have adequate protections in place to identify and block current and new threats.
Many scams are conducted via email, as it is the easiest way for cybercriminals to obtain the credentials they need to gain a foothold in business networks. It is therefore important to ensure that email security is up to scratch and an advanced spam filtering solution is in place that can block phishing and malware threats. If it is possible to implement multi-factor authentication, this should be widely used, especially on email accounts and remote access solutions.
Web filtering solutions are an important cybersecurity measure to deploy to block the web-based component of phishing attacks and to prevent malware and ransomware downloads over the internet. Web filters can be used to block access to known malicious websites and restrict access to risky websites, and cloud-based solutions are easy to deploy to protect both office-based and remote workers.
With many employees still working remotely, it is important to provide regular updates on threats and security awareness training on the threats they are likely to face. Patches and software updates should be applied promptly to prevent cybercriminals exploiting vulnerabilities, especially in remote access solutions such as VPNs which are being actively targeted.
Since ransomware attacks are an ever-present risk, ensure your critical data is regularly backed up and test your backups to make sure data recovery is possible in the event of disaster. A good strategy to adopt is the 3-2-1 approach. Make three backups, store on 2 separate media, and make sure one copy is stored on a non-networked device.
The 2021 threat outlook may be bleak, but with preparation and the above solutions in place, it is possible to prevent most attacks, detect attacks in progress, and recover quickly should an attack succeed.
The K-12 education sector has long been a target for cybercriminals, but this year has seen the sector targeted more aggressively by threat actors. 2020 has seem a major increase in attacks involving ransomware and malware, phishing incidents have risen, as have network compromises and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
This December, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning to the education sector after the massive increase in cyberattacks was identified.
Data from the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) shows a substantial increase in ransomware attacks on K-12 schools. In August and September 2020, 57% of all reported ransomware attacks occurred at K-12 schools, compared to just 28% from the year to July.
Ransomware attacks renders essential systems and data inaccessible which can cause serious disruption to learning, especially at a time when many schools have transitioned to distance learning. K-12 schools often have little choice other than paying the ransom, and many do. Figures from the Department of Education show that between 2016 and 2017, 60% of schools attacked with ransomware paid the ransom to recover their data. A recent Department of Education alert to K12 schools called for a collective effort to ensure that all data is regularly backed up and advised schools not to pay the ransom demands if attacked. The DoE wants to send a message to ransomware gangs that attacks on the education sector are not financially viable.
Similar tactics have been used in ransomware attacks on K-12 schools that have been used to attack business and industry targets. Access to networks is gained, the attackers move laterally to identify data of interest, and exfiltrate that data prior to encrypting files. The attackers threaten to publish or sell sensitive student and employee data if the ransom is not paid.
Several ransomware gangs have stepped up attacks on K-12 schools, including REvil, Nefilim, Ryuk, and AKO. The Maze ransomware operation, which has now been shut down, has also conducted several attacks on K-12 schools in 2020.
The CISA/FBI alert also warned of an increase in Trojan malware and phishing attacks on K12 schools since the start of the school year. The ZeuS banking Trojan has been commonly used in K-12 school cyberattacks and the Shlayer malware downloader has also proven popular. Those two Trojans account for 69% of malware attacks on K-12 schools in 2020.
The increase in attacks in 2020 has been attributed to the ease at which K12 schools can be attacked. Many K-12 schools have transitioned to distance learning and have had to do so in a hurry to ensure student learning was not disrupted by the pandemic; however, that has meant cybersecurity gaps have been created which leave schools vulnerable to attack.
In addition to conducting phishing attacks on staff and students, vulnerabilities in software and remote learning solutions are also commonly exploited. Since the sector has a limited budget for cybersecurity, these vulnerabilities often persist for some time before being addressed, giving cybercriminals and easy entry point into K-12 school networks. It is also common for software to continue to be used after it has reached end of life.
The K-12 Cybersecurity Act of 2019 has been introduced which requires CISA to work with federal departments and the private sector to identify sector-specific cybersecurity risks and make recommendations to K-12 schools on how they can improve their security posture. The Act also calls for CISA to make tools and resources available to help the sector improve cybersecurity; however, the legislation is yet to be passed by Congress.
These cyberattacks on K-12 schools are likely to continue at elevated levels well into 2021. While budgets may be already stretched, it is important for defenses to be improved. The cost of improvements to cybersecurity defenses is likely to be far lower than the cost of dealing with a ransomware attack and costly data breach.
The importance of choosing strong and unique passwords for every account you create has been highlighted by a recent data breach at the music streaming service Spotify. Security researchers identified a database that had been exposed on the Internet which contained the usernames and password combinations of around 300 million individuals. It is unclear where the database came from, although it is likely that it had been amalgamated from data leaks from several major data breaches of online platforms.
Interestingly, within the 300 million-record database was a field stating whether the username/password could be successfully used to login to a Spotify account. According to the researchers, an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 Spotify accounts had been breached.
This breach clearly demonstrates how a data breach at one company can provide the usernames and passwords to gain access to accounts at another. When a username/password is obtained in a cyberattack, it can be used to try to access other accounts that share the same username. A username is often an email address. People may have more than one email address, but there is usually one that is used across most platforms. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but there is a problem with using the same password with that email address on multiple online platforms.
If there is a breach at one platform, the password can be used to access many other accounts. In this example, up to 350,000 Spotify users had reused their password on more than one platform. The Spotify breach victims may well have had several other accounts breached if they used their password on other platforms too.
The credentials to the breached Spotify accounts could easily be sold to anyone who wanted a cheap Premium Spotify account. There have been many reports of passwords being changed to block the real account holder out of their account. The accounts also contain personal information that could be used in further attacks, such as to make convincing phishing emails to obtain the information necessary for identity theft and other types of fraud.
Trying 300 million username and password combinations is a time-consuming process, but that process is automated. An army of bots will work its way through a huge list of username/password combos to see which passwords work. Hackers can also include a list of commonly used passwords against a particular username which will increase the hit rate further. Many people choose easy to remember passwords for their accounts, which are also easy to guess.
The process of trying multiple passwords against a username is called credential stuffing, and it is an effective way of breaching accounts. Recently there have been a swathe of credential stuffing attacks on companies in the retail, travel, and hospitality sectors. One report indicates that out of the 100 billion credential stuffing attacks between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020, 64% were on companies in those sectors.
Successful data breaches can result in the theft of hundreds of millions of usernames and password combos. Those credentials could be used on a wide range of different accounts, and since many people reuse passwords from personal accounts for their work accounts – such as Office 365 – one set of Spotify credentials could easily lead to a business Office 365 breach. An Office 365 account is all that is needed to launch further attacks on the company and achieve a more widespread and harmful data breach.
The solution to protecting against credential stuffing attacks is simple. Use a unique, strong password on every different account and use a password manager so you do not have to remember all of those passwords. Just set a very strong password for your password manager, and that means you just have one password to remember.
Businesses also need to take steps to block these attacks and prevent compromised credentials being used to access employee accounts. Multi-factor authentication is a must to block attempts to use stolen credentials to access accounts. Breaching Spotify accounts was easier than on other platforms as Spotify does not yet support multi-factor authentication.
An email security solution such as SpamTitan Cloud is also important for protecting against the email vector in the attacks on businesses. SpamTitan Cloud blocks malicious messages such as phishing attempts and, through outbound email scanning, will help you prevent any compromised mailboxes from being used in more extensive attacks on your organization.
Cloud web filtering software is now an important cybersecurity measure used by businesses of all sizes, but what exactly is it and why is it important? In this post we will explain exactly what cloud web filtering is, what it is used for, and why most businesses need to use it.
What is Cloud Web Filtering?
Cloud web filtering is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that acts as a semi-permeable barrier between an individual and the Internet. For much of the time, users will not know this solution is in place, as there is no noticeable delay when browsing the Internet. Websites can be accessed as if the solution was not in place.
Cloud web filtering software is only noticed by a user when they attempt to visit a website that violates their organization’s acceptable internet use policy. When a request is made to access a website that falls into a category that an employer does not permit – pornography for example – rather than connect to the website, the user will be directed to a local block page and will discover that particular website cannot be accessed due to a content policy violation.
Cloud web filtering software acts as a form of internet content control which is used to reduce productivity losses due to personal Internet use, prevent HR issues, and reduce legal liability, but a cloud web filter it is not just used for restricting access to NSFW websites. It also has an important security function.
Why is Cloud Web Filtering Important?
The Internet can be a dangerous place. There are many threats lurking online that could compromise a business’s systems and lead to a costly data breach or catastrophic data loss. Malware and ransomware are often downloaded from websites, even from legitimate sites that hackers have been able to compromise. A visit to one of those malicious sites by an employee could easily result in a malware infection, and once installed on one device it could easily spread across the network.
Phishing is also a major risk for businesses. Phishing forms are loaded onto websites to harvest sensitive data such as login credentials to Office 365. Links to these sites are often sent to business email accounts.
A web filter acts as an additional layer of protection against these attacks, but in contrast to antivirus software that identifies malware that has been downloaded, cloud web filter software blocks the malware at source, preventing it from being downloaded in the first place. It also works in conjunction with anti-spam software to prevent visits to phishing websites when phishing emails sneak past the spam filter.
With cloud web filter software, all filtering takes place in the cloud (on the service provider’s server), which is important for a distributed workforce. Regardless of where an employee accesses the internet – office, home, airport, coffee shop – the cloud web filter will be active and providing protection.
How Much Does Cloud Web Filtering Software Cost?
Cloud web filtering software is a low-cost solution that can pay for itself by preventing costly malware infections and phishing attacks and stopping productivity losses by blocking access to certain types of web content.
The cost of a cloud web filter can vary considerably from provider to provider with the price starting at around $1 per user, per month.
WebTitan: Web Filtering for SMBs, ISPs, and MSPs
TitanHQ developed WebTitan Cloud web filtering software to help SMBs and MSPs serving the SMB market control what users can access online and to protect business networks from web-based cyberattacks. The solution is quick and easy to implement, as being cloud-based, there are no software downloads. Simply point your DNS to WebTitan Cloud and you can be filtering the Internet in minutes.
Administrators can use an easy-to-use interface to configure the solution, which can be accessed through any web browser. Log in, navigate to the content control section, and you can use the checkboxes to block access to any of 53 pre-defined categories of website (and create your own categories if you so wish).
Integration with LDAP and Active Directory makes it easy to set controls for individual users, user groups, departments, or different offices. You can set time-based controls to limit bandwidth usage or ease up on restrictions at certain times of the day. Cloud keys can be generated to bypass standard controls temporarily, should you ever need access to otherwise prohibited sites.
Whitelist and blacklists are supported, you can block downloads of certain file types, and access to websites known to be used for malicious purposes will be automatically blocked. A full suite of reports gives administrators full visibility into web access, including real-time views and automatic alerts.
AI-powered protection is provided against active and emerging Phishing URLs and zero-minute threats, allowing you to sanitize Internet access and provide your employees, customers, and guest users with clean, filtered internet access.
If you have yet to start using cloud web filtering software or you are unhappy with your current provider, give the TitanHQ team a call. You can also take advantage of a 14-day free trial to try out the solution for yourself before deciding on a purchase. Product demonstrations can also be arranged on request.
The operators of NetWalker ransomware have been aggressively targeting healthcare organizations and more recently attacks have increased on universities conducting research into COVID-19.
NetWalker ransomware first appeared in the middle of 2019 and has been primarily been used in targeted attacks on enterprises, with the operators deploying their ransomware manually after first gaining access to a victim’s network.
As is the case with several other manual ransomware operators, prior to the encryption of data reconnaissance is performed, the attackers move laterally to compromise as many networked devices as possible, and sensitive data is exfiltrated. After the ransomware is deployed, the attackers threaten to publish the stolen data in an attempt to spur victims into paying the ransom rather than attempting to recover files from backups.
The business model of the NetWalker ransomware gang has recently changed and their ransomware is now being offered under the ransomware-as-a-service model, although the gang is only partnering with hackers that are experienced at attacking enterprises. This selective partnering is vastly different to many RaaS operations, which prioritize quantity over quality. The attack methods used to gain access to networks also differs from the typical brute force tactics typically used by Russian ransomware operators.
The operators of NetWalker ransomware have been extremely active during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to attacks on hospitals, medical billing companies have been attacked, COVID-19 research organizations, educational software providers and, in the past few weeks, there has been a spate of attacks on universities. Michigan State University, Columbia College of Chicago and, most recently, University of California San Francisco have all been attacked. All three universities are involved in COVID-19 research. It is currently unclear whether an affiliate specializing in attacks on universities has been signed up or if universities involved in COVID-19 research have been specifically targeted.
Healthcare organizations are an attractive target as they are heavily reliant on data to operate. If patient data is encrypted and rendered inaccessible, the ability to provide medical services is significantly hampered, which makes payment of a ransom more likely. Current indications suggest the group is only interested in profiting from ransoms, but COVID-19 research data is in high demand and is certainly valuable. That could account for the number of recent attacks on universities, which have also been targeted by other ransomware gangs. Data from Emsisoft indicates at least 30 universities have suffered ransomware attacks so far in 2020.
NetWalker ransomware is evolving and poses a significant threat to organizations in all industry sectors, but especially healthcare and education. The ransom demands issued by the gang range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions, and data theft makes the cost of remediating an attack even higher.
It is unlikely that attacks will slow down in the weeks and months to come, and with a range of attack methods used to gain access to networks, it is important to ensure that all vulnerabilities are addressed and measures are implemented to protect against all possible attack vectors.
There are several common web filtering myths that have led businesses to believe that it is not worth their while implementing a web filtering solution. It is important to bust these myths as they are preventing businesses from adding an essential extra layer of security that can prevent downloads of malware, ransomware infections, and block phishing attacks. The failure to filter the internet is often a costly mistake.
Once upon a time, having a firewall, antivirus solution, and spam filter would ensure your business was well protected, but the sophisticated nature of today’s cyber threats and the massive increase in cyberattacks has meant that these solutions alone are no longer sufficient to block cyber threats and prevent data breaches. The key to blocking these threats is to implement layered defenses. If the outer layer fails to block a threat, other layers exist to provide protection. A web filter should be one of those layers.
Why Web Filtering is Now Essential
Finding vulnerabilities and exploiting them is a difficult and labor-intensive way of attacking a business. Attacks on employees are much easier and require far less skill. All that is needed is a carefully written email to direct an employee to a malicious website and credentials can be easily harvested and malware downloaded. You don’t need to be a skilled hacker to conduct a phishing attack or set up a website for distributing malware.
Email security solutions are great for blocking phishing attacks, but many malicious emails bypass email security defenses. Phishing emails usually have a web-based component and various tactics are used to hide malicious URLs in emails. A web filter provides protection against the web-based component of phishing attacks by providing time-of-click protection. When an attempt is made to visit a malicious website linked in an email, the web filter blocks that request. A web filter will also prevent users from visiting malicious website through web browsing and also block visits to malicious websites through malvertising redirects. Without a web filter in place, there is nothing to stop an employee from visiting a malicious website.
Pervasive Web Filtering Myths
There are some pervasive web filtering myths that need to be busted, the most common of which are detailed below.
Web Filtering is Expensive
OK, so we are not going to tell you that a web filter is a zero cost solution as you will need to pay for this extra level of protection, but the cost is actually low, no hardware needs to be purchased, and what you spend will pay for itself in terms of the data breaches you will prevent and the productivity gains that can be made. In terms of the real cost, less than $1 per user per month is all that needs to be spent to protect your users with WebTitan.
Web Filtering is Complicated
A DNS-based web filter is not complicated to set up, configure, or maintain. In fact, web filtering could not be any simpler. All you need to do is point your DNS to WebTitan. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, making this change for all of your remote users is a simple process, and one that we can easily talk you through.
Once that small change has been made, here is what happens:
A user enters a web address into their browser and a DNS query is made to locate that web resource
A DNS lookup is performed through WebTitan to find the IP address associated with the domain
If the resource exists, WebTitan will provide the IP address to the browser. If the domain or web page is malicious or violates your organization’s policies, no IP address will be provided, a connection to the site will not be made, and the user will be presented with a local block page telling them why that resource cannot be accessed.
Your standard DNS request will go through all of those steps aside from applying filtering controls. All that changes with a web filter is filtering controls are applied.
Web Filters are Easy to Bypass
Once you set up your DNS to point to WebTitan, all internet traffic will be subject to filtering controls. For most businesses that will be sufficient, however, web filters can be bypassed by using an anonymizer/proxy website. Connect to the anonymizer site, and through that site any other website can be accessed, thus bypassing the filter. The solution? Click the checkbox in WebTitan to block access to anonymizer sites.
A web filter can be used to block the use of shadow IT by preventing downloads of unauthorized software, including unauthorized VPNs, to prevent this method of web filter bypass.
Maybe, one of your employees will try to change the DNS settings on their laptop to access the unfiltered internet. This is why you need to lockdown your laptops to make sure that is not possible. You should also block DNS requests to anything other than your approved DNS service. If you use an external DNS server, only allow port 53/UDP to access the IP addresses of your chosen DNS filtering service servers. If you host your DNS server internally, ensure that local computers query your local DNS server, and only your DNS server queries the web filtering DNS service on the Internet.
No web filter is infallible, but by taking these steps it will be much harder to bypass the filter and it will be beyond the ability of most employees.
Internet Speeds will be Greatly Reduced
One of the web filtering myths that is based in fact is the slowing of internet speed. Filtering the internet can result in latency and a slowing of internet speed. If you require your users to login remotely using a VPN, then connect to your secure web gateway appliance, this will naturally result in latency. Backhauling traffic to the office, especially when your remote workers have slow home internet connections, will result in significant latency.
The solution is to use a DNS-based filtering solution on your employees’ laptops. With a DNS filter there is no backhauling of traffic, as the DNS filter can be integrated into the laptop. When a request is made to view a website, filtering takes place as part of the DNS lookup process. Point your DNS to WebTitan and filtering takes place before any content is downloaded, with zero latency.
There has been an increase in phishing attacks on remote workers using COVID-19 as a lure over the past few months. Multiple studies suggest the number of COVID-19 related phishing attacks have soared. The anti-phishing training company KnowBe4 placed the rise at about 600% in Q1, 2020, and that rise has continued in Q2.
As was pointed out by Microsoft, the total number of phishing attacks has not increased by any major degree during the COVID-19 public health emergency, as cyber actors have finite capabilities for conducting attacks. What has happened is threat actors have abandoned their standard phishing campaigns and have repurposed their phishing infrastructure and are now using COVID-19 lures, and with good reason.
People crave information about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19. There is a thirst for knowledge about the virus, how it infects people, how to prevent infection, and how great the risk is of catching it. With little information available about this new virus, finding out more information required following the news from countries around the world that are involved in research. Unsolicited emails offing important information naturally had a high open rate, so it is no surprise that COVID-19 phishing attacks have increased.
To control the spread of the virus, countries have gone into lockdown, so businesses have had to allow their employees to work from home. The increase in home workers happened very quickly, so businesses did not have the time to prepare properly and that meant new risks were introduced. It is therefore no surprise that there has been an increase in data breaches during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of lapses in security, insufficient staff training, and the vulnerabilities that are introduced when employees are forced to work in an environment that has not been set up remote working.
IT teams have had to rapidly purchase new laptops to allow employees to work outside the office and there has not been time to properly secure those devices. VPN infrastructure was not sufficient to cope with the rapid increase in users. Home networks lack the security of corporate networks, and training employees on working from home securely had to be rushed. In order to allow remote workers to access the data they need, data has had to be moved to the cloud, and that has inevitably resulted in vulnerabilities being introduced. In short, the attack surface has increased considerably, huge numbers of devices are being used outside the protection of the corporate firewall, and new working environments have greatly increased the potential for errors.
Cybercriminals have taken advantage of these new vulnerabilities. Unpatched VPNs and software flaws are being exploited, RDP is being targeted, but phishing and spear phishing attacks offer the easiest way of gaining access to sensitive corporate data and spreading malware and ransomware. Improving phishing defenses is therefore critical.
Important Phishing Defenses for Remote Workers
Improving phishing defenses is one of the most important ways of protecting remote workers, their devices, and the networks and data that they are accessing remotely. Listed below are simple steps you can take to improve security and reduce risk.
Improve Email Security
The easiest way to thwart phishing attacks is to block the emails at source, and that requires a powerful anti-phishing solution. Many businesses have been relying on the standard anti-phishing measures provided with Office 365 – Exchange Online Protection (EOP). EOP is effective at blocking spam and standard (known) phishing attacks, but it is not particularly effective at blocking zero-day threats: New, previously unseen phishing and malware attacks. There have been a great many of zero-day attacks during the COVID-19 lockdown.
They key to improving email security is layered defenses. Adding an extra layer of email security on top of EOP will greatly improve detection rates. It is best not to put all your eggs in one basket and opt for the second (paid) tier of protection offered by Microsoft (Advanced Threat Protection or APT), instead use a third-party dedicated anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that features predictive threat detection and advanced anti-phishing mechanisms to detect zero-day threats. SpamTitan features machine learning, predictive technology, threat intelligence feeds, sandboxing, dual anti-virus engines and more to ensure that zero-day threats are blocked. SpamTitan adds an important extra layer of security, and SpamTitan itself includes layered defenses against phishing attacks.
Implement a Web Filter
Security can be further improved with a web filtering solution such as WebTitan. A web filter adds another layer to your anti-phishing defenses by blocking the web-based component of phishing and malware attacks. If a phishing email does reach an inbox, a web filter can prevent a click on a hyperlink from turning into a data breach. WebTitan provides time of click protection to block attempts by employees to visit malicious websites, such as those used to phish for credentials or distribute malware. WebTitan can be used to block web-based attacks for office and remote workers and allows different controls to be set depending where employees connect to the internet.
Train Staff and Conduct Phishing Simulations
Remote employees need to be trained how to work and access data securely, and that means refresher cybersecurity training should be provided to reeducate employees about cybersecurity best practices. Trai9ning must also be provided on how to work securely from home.
Phishing is the easiest way that employees can be attacked, so they must be trained how to recognize a phishing email. It is also useful to run phishing email simulations on remote workers to find out which employees have taken the training on board and who needs further training. Training can reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks by up to 90%.
New research has recently been published which suggests there has been a lack of security awareness training for remote workers, even with the massive increase in people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased threat level.
Many companies have had to make major changes to policies and allow most employees to work from home, even though doing so introduces cybersecurity risks. While this is seen by many as a temporary measure due to the pandemic, there is currently some debate about how long lockdown measures will be in place. It could well be many months before lockdowns are eased and there is a return to “normal” working life. It may also be difficult to convince workers to return to the office when measures are eased, or at least until a vaccine for the virus has been developed. That could well be a year or most likely much longer.
In the meantime, remote workers are not just encountering the odd phishing email. These workers are being actively targeted by cybercriminals and APT groups. It is important to ensure that technical controls are up to scratch and are blocking threats but also to train workers to recognize threats such as phishing.
Technical Controls Will Not Block 100% of Cybersecurity Threats
Technical solutions can block most malware and phishing attacks on remote workers and will protect devices and the networks to which those devices connect. TitanHQ has developed two solutions that provide excellent protection from email and web-based threats, and there has been a massive increase in demand for those solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic from businesses and managed service providers (MSPs).
When these solutions are coupled with other cybersecurity protections such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems, businesses will be well protected; however, no matter how many layers are added to your defenses, security awareness training for remote workers should still be provided. Employees are the last line of defense and require training to help them identify threats that bypass your technical defenses.
Employees are a Weak Link, but Neglecting Security Awareness Training for Remote Workers is a Mistake
One study recently conducted on IT workers by Apricorn revealed 57% of IT decision makers in the United Kingdom believe remote workers are a security risk and will expose organizations to data breaches and that there is apathy among IT leaders about training the workforce as employees are not concerned about security. 34% of IT leaders said their remote workers do not care about security, but that is not a reason not to provide training. It is a reason to reinforce training and get employees to buy into the company’s security strategy.
Another survey, conducted by Promon on 2,000 remote workers in the United Kingdom, confirmed those findings. The study revealed 66% of employees have not been provided cybersecurity training in the last 12 months, even though cybercriminals are actively targeting remote workers. It is also concerning that 77% of respondents were not worried about the security threat from working from home. The survey also revealed that 61% of employees are using personal devices to work from home instead of corporate-issued devices, which typically have far fewer protections in place to block threats.
Given the numbers of employees working from home due to COVID-19 and the increase in threats targeting those workers, now is the time to be stepping up training and to make sure employees are working in a secure environment. TitanHQ can help you better protect employees and the devices they use to work from home, but you should also ensure that cybersecurity training is reinforced.
Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic and are exploiting fear to spread malware and steal data. These tactics many not be new, but these campaigns pose a significant threat in the current climate of global fear and worry.
People are naturally worried about contracting COVID-19 and will be concerned about the wellbeing of their friends and family members. Many people crave new information to help avoid them avoid illness and protect their families. If that information arrives in an inbox, email attachments may be opened, and links clicked to malicious websites.
Even when training is provided to employees and they are taught not to respond to unsolicited messages, open email attachments, or click links in emails from unknown senders, mistakes can still be made. During the COVID-19 crisis, stress levels are high, and this can easily lead to decisions being taken that would not normally be made.
Businesses have been forced to allow their employees to work from home, many of whom are now working in a home environment where there are many distractions. Many people do not have home offices where they can quietly work, and a challenging working environment also makes mistakes more likely. Those mistakes can prove very costly.
Phishing campaigns are being conducted targeting home workers as they are seen as low-hanging fruit and an easy way to gain access to business networks to install malware, ransomware, and steal sensitive data. Several campaigns have been detected that offer important advice on the 2019 novel coronavirus that impersonate authorities on disease control and prevention such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, UK National Health Service, and the World Health Organization (WHO). The phishing campaigns are credible, claim to offer important advice, and are likely to be opened by many individuals. These campaigns seek remote access credentials and distribute malware.
Coronavirus maps that display the number of cases per country are being used on many websites, including a legitimate COVID-19 case tracking map on Johns Hopkins University website. One campaign has been detected that uses a carbon copy map and urges users to download a desktop application that allows them to track new cases. The application installs the information-stealing AZORult Trojan. As the COVID-19 crisis has deepened, these phishing and malspam campaigns have increased significantly.
With more people working from home and self-isolating, the risk of malware and phishing attacks has increased significantly. It is therefore important for businesses to make sure that they are properly protected and manage risk. During this difficult time, it is important to provide security awareness training to staff to keep them aware of the threat of cyberattacks and to help them identify malicious messages. Phishing simulation exercises are a useful way of assessing risk and identifying individuals that require further training.
It is also important to implement additional control measure to block attacks at source. There are two main attack vectors being used to target remote workers: Email and the web. Due to the high risk of mistakes by employees it is essential for businesses to have an effective email security solution in place.
The key to improving email security is defense in depth. Layered defenses will greatly improve resilience to phishing and malware attacks. If you are using Office 365 and have yet to augment protection with a third-party email security solution, now is the ideal time. One 2019 study showed that Office 365 protections only block around 75% of phishing attempts. Given the increase in phishing volume, a great many malicious emails will land in inboxes unless protection is improved.
The more time people spend online, the greater the risk. With many workers housebound and self-isolating, online time has increased considerably. Unsurprisingly, the of number of malicious domains being used to distribute malware has increased and drive-by malware attacks have spiked. With corporate laptops being used at home, steps should be taken to limit what employees can do on those laptops. Blocking access to ‘risky’ websites such those distributing pirated TV shows and movies will help to reduce the risk of a malware download, along with controls to prevent the downloading of risky file times such as software installers and executable files.
A web filtering solution will allow you to control the sites that remote employees can access on their corporate laptops and prevent malicious websites from being visited. A cloud-based web filtering solution is the ideal choice as it can be easily implemented to protect all remote workers, without causing any latency issues.
TitanHQ can help you protect your telecommuting workers from email and web-based threats. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that compliments Office 365 anti-spam and anti-phishing controls and enhances protection against phishing, spear phishing, and zero-day malware. WebTitan is a cloud-based DNS filtering solution that is simple to implement that allows you to carefully control the online activities of remote employees and block drive-by malware downloads and other web-based threats.
Both solutions can be implemented in a matter of minutes and will greatly improve protection against web and email-based threats. For further information, to book a product demonstration, or to register for a free trial, contact TitanHQ today.
Phishing attacks are increasing and malware is a growing threat. A DNS filter adds an important level of protection to block these attacks. In this post we explain why.
The Growing Threat from Malware and Phishing Attacks
There are various methods used to deliver malware, but email remains one of the most common methods of distributing malware, either through malicious attachments or hyperlinks in emails that direct users to websites where malware is downloaded. The latter is a popular method of malware delivery as there is an increased chance that the hyperlink will not be detected as malicious by an email security solution. Various tactics are used to mask these URLs from email security solutions, such as adding the hyperlink to an attached file such as a PDF.
The Emotet Trojan is one of the most prevalent threats and also one of the most dangerous. Emotet is primarily spread via email through a combination of attachments and malicious URLs. The Trojan is an information stealer capable of spreading across networks to infect other vulnerable devices. Removing the malware is problematic, as there are usually multiple devices infected. As soon as the malware is removed from one device, others on the network re-infect the cleaned machine. Emotet is also a malware downloader. Once all valuable information has been obtained post-infection, other malware variants such as the TrickBot Trojan and RYUK ransomware are downloaded. All devices infected with Emotet are added to the botnet. An analysis by the SpamHaus project revealed around 6,000 malicious URLs are emitted from infected devices, which act as compromise vectors.
An advanced spam filter will ensure that the majority of malicious emails are blocked, but it is important not to totally rely on a spam filter alone to block email-based malware and phishing attacks. The key to a strong defense is to implement layered defenses. With overlapping layers of security, if one layer fails to block a threat, another is in place to provide protection. One of the most important additional protections against phishing attacks and email-based malware is a web filter.
Why a Web Filter is so Important
Phishing attacks have an email and web-based component. The email contains the lure and a hyperlink is included that directs the recipient to a webpage hosting a phishing kit. When the user visits the website credentials and other sensitive information is harvested. A spam filter will block most of these phishing emails and a web filter provides protection against emails that are not blocked, as well as protecting against accidental navigation to malicious websites through malvertising or general web browsing.
A web filter is a form of content control that prevents network users from visiting known malicious websites. When a network user attempts to visit a malicious website, rather than connecting to the site, they are directed to a block page. That block page informs the user that they have attempted to visit a prohibited website which, in this case is a phishing page or website hosting malware. It could equally be a website that violates an organization’s internet usage policies. A web filter therefore serves as an additional, and important, layer of security to block phishing attacks and malware and ransomware downloads.
Web Filtering Options
There are different web filtering options available. Appliance-based web filters were once the go-to solution, but cloud-based filtering is now much more common, more cost effective for most organizations, and easier to implement and maintain.
Appliance-based solutions are not scalable. Once capacity has been reached, another appliance must be purchased. Software-based web filters, which are usually deployed as a virtual appliance on existing hardware, are a good choice but the most popular web filtering solutions are cloud-based. With cloud-based web filters, all filtering takes place in the cloud on the service provider’s hardware. Cloud-based filters are highly scalable. If capacity is increased, additional licenses just need to be purchased which takes seconds.
DNS Filtering is the Most Flexible Web Filtering Choice
The most popular, flexible, and scalable solution is a DNS filter. When a user makes a request to visit a website, such as by clicking a hyperlink or navigating to a website through their browser, a set of procedures must be followed to display the content.
One of the first steps is to send a query to the DNS server. The DNS server matches an easy to remember domain name – google.com for instance – with an IP address that allows the site to be found. A DNS filter works at this stage of the process and will block attempts to visit prohibited websites or malicious sites before any content is downloaded. Modern DNS filters do not just block content at the domain level. They also block content at the URL and page level. This means that a page on Medium.com could be blocked, while other content on the site is allowed. This means filtering controls are very granular and there is less potential for overblocking of web content.
WebTitan – A DNS Filter for SMBs and MSPs Serving the SMB Market
TitanHQ’s DNS filtering solution – WebTitan – has been developed for use by SMBs, MSPs providing security services to SMBs, and ISPs with millions of users. WebTitan includes market-leading classification of web content and malicious URL detection, and the solution is updated in real-time with more than 60,000 malicious URLs added to the filter every day. The solution includes advanced analytics and threat intelligence feeds and covers more than 99.9% of the active web. The solution is also easy to integrate into your own systems through TitanHQ’s API, and the solution can be purchased, set up, and be providing protection in just a few minutes.
For more information on WebTitan, to sign up for a free trial, or to book a product demonstration, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
The increase in cyberattacks on law firms has highlighted a need for greater security protections, especially to protect against phishing, malware, and ransomware.
According to a recent Law.com report, more than 100 law firms are known to have experienced cyberattacks in the past five years: Cyberattacks that have resulted in hackers gaining access to sensitive information and, in many cases, employee, attorney, and client information.
Investigations such as this are likely to uncover just a small percentage of successful cyberattacks, as many are resolved quietly and are not reported. Many law firms will be keen to keep a cyberattack private due to the potential damage it could do to a firm’s reputation. The reputation of a law firm is everything.
As Law.com explained, there are different data breach reporting requirements in different states. If there is no legal requirement to report the data breaches, they will not be reported. That means that only if reportable information has potentially been compromised will the breach be reported to regulators or made public. It is therefore not possible to tell how many successful cyberattacks on law firms have occurred. However, there has been a steady rise in reported cyberattacks on law firms, as is the case with attacks on other industry sectors. Law.com’s figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
From the perspective of cybercriminals, law firms are a very attractive target. The types of information stored on clients is incredibly valuable and can be used for extortion. Information on mergers and takeovers and other sensitive corporate data can be used to gain a competitive advantage. Cybercriminals are also well aware that if they can deploy ransomware and encrypt client files, there is a higher than average probability that the ransom will be quietly paid.
Based on the information that has been made public about law firm data breaches, one of the main ways that law firms are attacked is via email. Many of the data breaches started with a response to a phishing or spear phishing email. Phishing allows cybercriminals to bypass even sophisticated cybersecurity protections as it targets a well-known weakness: Employees.
Employees can be trained to be more security aware and be taught how to recognize potential phishing emails, but phishers are conducting ever more sophisticated campaigns and every employee will make a mistake from time to time. That mistake could be all that it takes to compromise a computer, server, or a large part of a network.
One firm contacted for the report explained that it had implemented advanced cybersecurity protections that were undone with a phishing email. The digital security measures it had in place greatly restricted the harm caused, and there was no evidence that the attacker had accessed sensitive information, but the attack did succeed.
In response, the law firm implemented more advanced security protocols, implemented a more aggressive spam filter, multi-factor authentication was used more widely, and it revised its policies and procedures and training. Had those measures been implemented in advance, it may have been possible to block the attack.
The response was to implement more layered defenses, which are critical for blocking modern cyberattacks. Overlapping layers of security ensure that if one measure fails, others are in place to prevent an attack from succeeding.
This is an area where TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ has developed cybersecurity solutions that can fit seamlessly into existing security stacks and provide extra layers of security to block the most common attack vectors. TitanHQ’s email and web security solutions – SpamTitan and WebTitan – provide advanced protection without compromising usability.
Since many clients prefer to communicate via email, it is important for all incoming attachments to be analyzed for malicious code. Extensive checks are performed on all incoming (and outgoing) emails, with SpamTitan able to block not only known malware but also zero-day threats. SpamTitan also includes DMARC email authentication to block email impersonation attacks and sandbox to analyze suspicious files and identify malicious or suspicious activity.
WebTitan provides protection from web-based threats. Most malware is now delivered via the internet, so a web security solution is essential. WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that protects against all known malicious sites. It is constantly updated in real time through threat intelligence services to ensure maximum protection. The solution provides advanced protection against drive-by downloads and malicious redirects to exploit kits and other malicious sites and provides and important additional layer of security to protect against phishing attacks.
Law firms will no doubt prefer to host their cybersecurity solutions within their own environments or private clouds, which TitanHQ will happily accommodate.
For further information on TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions for law firms, contact the TitanHQ team today. Managed Services Providers serving the legal industry should contact TitanHQ’s channel team to find out more about the TitanShield program and discover why TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based email and web security solutions to MSPs serving the SMB market.