Network Security

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.

How to Improve Wi-Fi Security for Hotels and Prevent Data Breaches

Most businesses are aware of the importance of securing their Wi-Fi networks; however, in some industry sectors Wi-Fi security has not been given the importance it requires. Wi-Fi security for hotels, for instance, is often lacking, even though the hospitality sector is being actively being targeted by cybercriminals who see hotel Wi-Fi as a rich picking ground.

Hotel Chains are Under Attack

Hotels are an attractive target for cybercriminals. They satisfy the two most important criteria for cybercriminals when selecting targets. Valuable data that can be quickly turned into profit and relatively poor cybersecurity which makes conducting attacks more straightforward.

In 2018, there have been several major cyberattacks on hotel groups. In November 2018, Federal Group, which runs luxury hotels in Tasmania, experienced an email security incident that exposed the personal data of some of its members. A cyberattack on the Radisson Hotel Group was also reported. In that case it resulted in the exposure of the personal information of its loyalty program members.

In August one of China’s largest chains of hotels – Huazhu Hotels Group Ltd – which operates 13 hotel brands – suffered a cyberattack that affected an estimated 130 million people.  In June one of Japan’s largest hotel groups, Prince Hotels & Resorts, experienced a cyberattack that impacted almost 125,000 customers. In 2017 there were major data breaches at Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Trump Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels, Loews Hotels, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, and InterContinental Hotels Group to name but a few.

The Cost of a Hotel Data Breach

When a data breach occurs the costs quickly mount. Access to data and networks must be blocked rapidly, the breach must be investigated, the cause must be found, and security must be improved to address the vulnerabilities that were exploited. That invariably requires consultants, forensic investigators and other third-party contractors. Affected individuals must be notified and credit monitoring and identity theft protection services may need to be offered.

The direct costs of a hotel data breach are considerable. The Ponemon Institute calculated the average cost of a data breach in 2018 had risen to $3.86 million. That was for a breach of up to 100,000 records. Larger breaches cost considerably more.

Then there is GDPR. Fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover (whichever is higher) can be issued for GDPR compliance failures, which includes data breaches that resulted from poor security.

What is much harder to calculate is the cost of reputation damage and the customer churn rate after a breach. Damage to a hotel chain’s reputation can be long lasting and in the highly competitive hospitality industry, it could even be disastrous.

The security firm Ping Identity recently published the results from its 2018 Consumer Survey: Attitudes and Behavior in a Post-Breach Era. 3,000 people from the USA, UK, France, and Germany were surveyed for the study, which investigated the expectations of customers and the fallout from data breaches. 78% of respondents said they would stop engaging with a brand online after a breach and 36% would stop engaging with a brand altogether. Could your hotel group weather a 78% drop in online bookings or a loss of more than a third of your customer base?

Wi-Fi Security for Hotels

Cybersecurity solutions should be implemented to protect hotel networks from cyberattacks and prevent customer’s personal information from being accessed by cybercriminals. Perimeter cybersecurity solutions such as firewalls are essential, but Wi-Fi security for hotels should not be underestimated.

Guests use the Wi-Fi network to conduct business while at the hotel, for entertainment, and communication. Guests typically bring three devices that they connect to hotel Wi-Fi networks. A hotel with 100 guests potentially means 300 devices connecting to Wi-Fi. There is a high probability that at least some of those devices will be infected with malware, which could be transferred to other guests.

Hotel guests often access types of content that they do not access at home – sites that carry a higher risk of resulting in a malware download. Hackers often exploit poor hotel Wi-Fi security to attack guests. The DarkHotel threat group is a classic example. The group targets high profile hotel guests and has been doing so for more than a decade. If Wi-Fi security for hotels is substandard, successful attacks are inevitable.

Naturally guest and business Wi-Fi networks should be separated to ensure that one does not pose a threat to the other. A VLAN should be set up for the wired network, with a separate VLAN for internal wireless access points and those used by guests.

Wi-Fi security should include WPA2 encryption to prevent the interception of data and a web filtering solution should be implemented to protect guests from phishing websites and sites hosting malware. A web filter will also allow hotels to control the types of content that can be accessed by guests and restrictions can be put in place to create family-friendly Wi-Fi access and prevent guests from accessing illegal web content.

TitanHQ Email and Wi-Fi Security for Hotels

TitanHQ is a leading provider of advanced cybersecurity solutions for hotels to protect against email-based cyberattacks and improve Wi-Fi security for hotels.

WebTitan is a powerful web filtering solution for wired and wireless networks that blocks malware downloads and prevents employees and guest Wi-Fi users from accessing malicious websites. WebTitan also allows hotels to carefully control the content that can be accessed via their Wi-Fi networks, ensuring a business-friendly and family-friendly Internet service is provided.

Key Benefits of WebTitan

WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi are 100% cloud-based web filters for hotels that require no software downloads or hardware purchases. They can be implemented in minutes and are easy to configure and maintain. They are ideal for improving Wi-Fi security for hotels and securing wired hotel networks.

WebTitan web filters allow hotels to:

  • Control the content that can be accessed by guests without slowing Internet speeds
  • Block access to pornography to create family-friendly Wi-Fi zones in communal areas
  • Prevent guests from engaging in illegal online activities
  • Prevent guests from accessing phishing websites
  • Block the downloading of viruses, malware, and ransomware
  • Create custom policies for different user groups – management, employees, guests, or individuals
  • Create custom controls for different wireless access points
  • Restrict bandwidth-draining online activities to ensure good Internet speeds for all users
  • Manage web filtering controls for multiple locations from a single web-based control panel

WebTitan is ideal for use in the hospitality sector to protect internal networks from attack and to block web-based threats that could otherwise lead to a data breach.

To find out more about improving Wi-Fi security for hotels, contact TitanHQ today. The team will be happy to provide details of the products, advise you on the best deployment options, and schedule a product demonstration. You can also sign up for a free trial to evaluate the effectiveness of TitanHQ’s web filters for hotels in your own environment.

Ransomware Attacks on Cities and Municipal Services Highlight Cybersecurity Failings

This year has seen several ransomware attacks on cities and municipal targets, clearly demonstrating that the threat from ransomware has not abated, despite several analyses from cybersecurity firms that suggest hackers are moving away from ransomware and concentrating on cryptomining malware attacks.

Cryptocurrency miners have certainly become more popular and their use has increased substantially in recent months, but there is still a significant threat from ransomware.

Ransomware development may have slowed, but ransomware attacks on cities and other high value targets have not. In fact, October has seen two new ransomware attacks on cities in the United States, along with several attacks on municipal targets. In the past few months. It is clear that the threat is not going away any time soon.

$2,000 Ransom Paid to Resolve City of West Haven Ransomware Attack

The city of West Haven ransomware attack started on the morning of October 16, 2018, and by the time the attack had been contained, 23 servers had been encrypted and taken out of action. Prompt action limited the scope of the attack, although it did cause major disruption as computers on the affected network had to all be shut down.

The attack affected a critical system, and after an assessment of the situation, the decision was taken to pay the ransom. Considering the number of servers affected, the ransom demand was relatively low. The city paid $2,000 in Bitcoin for the keys to decrypt its files.

Art House, Connecticut’s chief of cybersecurity, explained that this was one of several targeted ransomware attacks on cities and municipal services in the state in recent weeks. In February, around 160 computers were affected by ransomware in more than a dozen agencies in the state according to the Department of Administrative Services, and a month later the state’s Judicial Branch was attacked and had more than 100 servers encrypted.

City of Muscatine Ransomware Attack

The West Haven ransomware attack was shortly followed by a ransomware attack on the city of Muscatine in Ohio, which saw files on several government servers encrypted. The attack is understood to have started on October 17 and caused considerable disruption especially to services at City Hall.

Few details about the attack have been made public, although it is understood that the ransom demand was not paid. Instead, IT teams have had to painstakingly rebuild affected servers and workstations and restore files from backups.

Ransomware Attack on City of Atlanta

In August one of the most serious ransomware attacks on cities occurred. The City of Atlanta was attacked with SamSam ransomware, which was manually deployed on multiple computers after access had been gained to the network. The attack occurred in March and took down computers used for many city services, causing major disruption for weeks. A ransom demand of around $50,000 was issued, although the decision was taken not to pay. Initially the cost of recovery was expected to reach $6 million. Later estimates in the summer suggest that the final cost may exceed $17 million, highlighting just how costly ransomware attacks on cities can be.

Ransomware Attacks on Municipal Services Becoming More Common

Ransomware attacks on cities are becoming more common, as are attacks on municipal targets. In October, the Onslow Water and Sewer Authority in Jacksonville, North Carolina was attacked with ransomware resulting in most systems being taken out of action. In that case, a dual attack occurred, which started with the Emotet Trojan followed by the deployment of Ryuk ransomware two weeks later. The attack is expected to disrupt services for several weeks. The Indiana National Guard also suffered a ransomware attack in October. In both cases, the ransom was not paid.

Prevention and Incident Response

One of the reasons behind the rise in ransomware attacks on cities is underinvestment in cybersecurity defenses. Too little has been spent on protecting systems and updating aging hardware and software. With many vulnerabilities left unaddressed, staff receiving insufficient training, and even basic cybersecurity defenses often found lacking, it is no surprise that the attacks are increasing.

The only way that the attacks will be stopped is by spending more on cybersecurity defenses and training to make it much harder for attacks to occur. It can certainly be hard to find the money to commit to cybersecurity, but as the City of Atlanta found out, the cost of prevention is far lower than the cost of recovery from a ransomware attack.

The Easy Way to Block Websites at Work and Control Employee Internet Access

Many businesses want to block websites at work and exercise greater control over employee internet access. Acceptable internet usage policies can be developed and employees told what content they are allowed to access at work, but there are always some employees that will ignore the rules.

In some cases, policy violations may warrant instant dismissal or other disciplinary action, which takes HR staff away from other important duties. If staff are fired, replacements must be found, trained, and brought up to speed, and the productivity losses that result can be considerable.

The Dangers of Unfettered Internet Access

Before explaining how to block websites at work, it is worthwhile explaining the problems that can arise from the failure to exert control over the content that can be accessed through wired and wireless networks.

While extreme cases of internet abuse need to be tackled through HR, low level internet abuse can also be a problem. Any time an employee accesses a website for personal reasons, it is time that is not being spent on work duties. Checking emails or quickly visiting a social media website is unlikely to have a major impact on productivity, but when cyber-slacking increases its effect can certainly be felt. If all employees spent 30 minutes a day on personal internet use, the productivity losses would be be considerable – A business with 100 workers would lose 50 hours of working time a day, or 1,100 hours a month!

In addition to lost opportunities, internet use carries a risk. Casual surfing of the internet by employees increases the probability of users encountering malware. The accessing of personal webmail at work could easily result in a malware infection on a work device, as personal mail accounts are not protected by the filtering controls of an organization’s email security gateway. If illegal activities are taking place at work, the legal ramifications can be considerable. It will be the business that is liable in many cases, rather than the individual employee.

The easiest solution is for businesses to enforce their acceptable internet usage policies and simply block websites at work that are not required for normal working duties. Preventing end users from visiting certain categories of web content – social media websites, gaming and gambling websites, dating sites, adult content, and other NSFW web content – is the easiest solution.

Even legitimate use of the internet for work purposes carries risks. There has been a major increase in phishing attacks on businesses in recent years and mitigating attacks can prove incredibly costly. Technical solutions that are used to block websites at work to prevent cyber-slacking can also be configured to block access to phishing websites and prevent malware and ransomware downloads.

The Easy Way to Block Websites at Work

The easiest way to block websites at work is to use a web filtering solution. This could be a physical appliance through which all internet traffic is routed, a virtual appliance installed on your existing hardware, or a cloud-based solution. The latter is a popular solution for SMBs as the cost of implementation is minimal and the web filter can be set up in a matter of minutes. All that is required is to make a simple change to point the DNS to the cloud web-filter and all traffic will be routed though the solution.

Not all businesses need to exercise the same controls over internet content, so granular controls are essential. With a cloud-based web filter such as WebTitan, it is easy to block websites at work. The administrator simply logs into the administration panel using a web browser and clicks on the checkboxes of content that they want the filter to block. Blocking adult entertainment, gambling, gaming, dating, and social media by category is common. WebTitan also allows controls to implemented by keyword, through the use of blacklists, or through keyword scoring.

It is not practical to apply the same settings across the board for all employees. The marketing department, for instance, will need access to social media networks when other employees may not. With WebTitan, filtering controls can easily be set at the organization level, by user group, or for individuals. Time-based filters can also be applied to allow controls to be eased outside of standard working hours, if required.

With WebTitan Cloud you can control the internet and block threats no matter where your users access the internet. WebTitan Cloud works for users both on and off the network, so you can protect office workers and employees working remotely using the same solution.

Further Information on Blocking Websites at Work

If you would like further information on how you can selectively block websites at work and take control over the content that your employees can access, speak to TitanHQ today.

Our friendly and knowledgeable sales team will be able to answer all your questions, explain in detail how WebTitan works, and suggest the best deployment option to suit your needs.

After learning about the best setup to suit your business, you can schedule a product demonstration and/or start a free trial to see WebTitan in action.

In 20 minutes your content control issues could be solved and you could be filtering the internet and blocking access to unsuitable, unsavory, and harmful web content.

 

 

The Easy Way to Block Websites at Work and Control Employee Internet Access FAQ

What is DNS Filtering?

DNS content filtering takes place at the DNS lookup stage of a web request when the URL is checked to find its corresponding IP address. The request is processed via the web filtering service provider and the IP address will only be returned if the web resource does not violate administrator-defined policies. Filtering takes place without any content being downloaded and there is no latency.

Can I block Facebook Messenger without blocking access to Facebook?

With WebTitan it is easy to prevent employees from using Facebook Messenger at work without blocking access to the entire Facebook website. The process takes just a few seconds. Just open the WebTitan Cloud administration panel, select Filtering URL keywords, and add in two blacklisted keywords, as detailed on this page.

Is it difficult to block websites in the workplace?

Category-based web filtering makes content control simple. You simply access your cloud administration panel, navigate to category controls, and you can restrict access to 53 different categories of website using the checkbox options. Apply those changes and all websites in those categories will be blocked. You can also create your own custom categories.

Can web filters be bypassed by employees?

It is possible to set up controls to make it difficult to bypass web filtering controls, such as blocking proxies and access to anonymizer websites. These controls will be sufficient to prevent users from bypassing filtering controls. However, you should also lockdown your DNS settings to prevent users from manually changing the DNS settings to bypass the filtering controls.

Can I view user internet activity in real time?

You may want to retrospectively investigate employee internet activity or check the URLs that are actively being viewed. With WebTitan you can do both with a few clicks of the mouse. All information is easily accessible and can be viewed and exported with the click of a mouse.

Webinar: Datto and TitanHQ Deliver Enhanced Web Content Filtering to MSPs

TitanHQ, the leading provider of web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) recently partnered with Datto Networking, the leading provider of IT solutions to SMBs delivered through MSPs.

Datto Networking has now incorporated TitanHQ’s advanced web filtering technology into the Datto Networking Appliance to provide superior protection to users on the network.

Datto and TitanHQ will be hosting a webinar on October 18, 2018 to explain how the new technology provides enhanced protection from web-based threats, and how MSPs can easily deliver content filtering to their customers.

During the webinar, MSPs will find out about the enhanced functionality of the Datto Networking Appliance.

Webinar: Datto Networking & Titan HQ Deliver Enhanced Web Content Filtering
Date: Thursday, October 18th
Time: 11AM ET | 8AM PT | 4PM GMT/BST

Speakers:
John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking
Andy Katz, Network Solutions Engineer
Rocco Donnino, EVP of Strategic Alliances, TitanHQ

Click here to sign up for the webinar

How to Prevent Windows Remote Desktop Protocol Attacks

Windows Remote Desktop Protocol attacks are one of the most common ways cybercriminals gain access to business networks to install backdoors, gain access to sensitive data, and install ransomware and other forms of malware.

This attack method has been increasing in popularity over the past two years and there has also been a notable rise in darknet marketplaces selling exposed RDP services and RDP login credentials. The high number of Remote Desktop Protocol attacks has prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Department of Homeland Security to issue an alert to businesses in the United States to raise awareness of the threat.

Remote Desktop Protocol is a proprietary Windows network protocol that allows individuals to remotely access computers and servers over the Internet and gain full control of resources and data. RDP is often used for legitimate purposes, such as allowing managed security service providers (MSSPs) and managed service providers (MSPs) to remotely access devices to provide computer support without having to make a site visit. Through RDP, input such as mouse movements and keystrokes can be transmitted over the Internet with a graphical user interface sent back.

In order to gain access to a machine using RDP, a user must be authenticated by supplying a username and password. Once a user is authenticated, the resources on that device can be accessed. While authorized individuals can use RDP connections, so too can cybercriminals if they have access to login credentials or are able to guess usernames and passwords. As with any software, RDP can contain flaws. For instance, flaws in the CredSSP encryption mechanism could be exploited to perform man-in-the-middle attacks.

Cybercriminals are identifying vulnerable RDP sessions over the Internet and are exploiting them to gain access to sensitive information and conduct extortion attacks. The threat actors behind SamSam ransomware, which has been used in many attacks on U.S. businesses, educational institutions, and healthcare providers, often gain access to networks through brute force attempts to guess weak passwords. The threat actors behind CrySiS and CryptON ransomware attack businesses through open RDP ports and similarly use brute force and dictionary attacks to guess passwords.

How to Prevent Windows Remote Desktop Protocol Attacks

There are four main vulnerabilities that can be exploited to gain access to Windows devices that have RDP enabled:

  • Exploitation of weak passwords
  • Use of outdated versions of RDP
  • Failure to restrict access to the default RDP port – TCP 3389
  • Failure to block users after a set number of unsuccessful login attempts

Strong passwords should be used to make it harder for cybercriminals to use brute force tactics to guess login credentials. Dictionary words should be avoided. Default passwords must be changed and passwords should be at least 8 characters and include a mix of upper/lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Rate limiting is also essential. A user should be blocked after a set number of failed login attempts have been made and, if possible, two-factor authentication controls should be implemented. External to internal RDP connections should be limited and software should be kept up to date.

An audit should be conducted to identify all systems that have RDP enabled, including cloud-based virtual machines with public IP addresses. If RDP is not required, it should be disabled. A list of systems with RDP enabled should be maintained and available patches should be applied promptly. All open RDP ports should be located behind a firewall and access should only be possible by using a VPN.

Logging mechanisms should be applied, and successful and unsuccessful login attempts should be regularly monitored to identify systems that have been attacked.

To ensure that recovery from a ransomware or sabotage attack is possible, all data must be regularly backed up and a good backup strategy adopted.

By regulating, monitoring, and controlling the use of RDP and addressing vulnerabilities, it is possible to reduce risk and prevent Remote Desktop Protocol attacks.

Exploit Kit Deployments and Website Attacks on the Rise

Recent research has shown that the United States is the main distributor of exploit kits and hosts the most malicious domains and cyberattacks on websites have increased sharply.

United States Hosts the Most Malicious Domains and Exploit Kits

The United States hosts the most malicious domains and is the number one source for exploit kits, according to new research conducted by Palo Alto Networks. Further, the number of malicious domains increased between Q1 and Q2 in the United States. In all countries, apart from the Netherlands, the number of malicious domains remained constant or declined.

Exploit activity is only at a fraction of the level of 2016, although the web-based kits still pose a major threat to businesses with poor patching processes and a lack of protections against web-based attacks.

Three exploit kits have been extensively used throughout Q1 and Q2, 2018: Sundown, Rig, and KaiXin. The United States is the number one source for the Sundown and Rig EKs and is number two behind China for the KaiXin exploit kit. Further, a new exploit kit was detected in Q2: Grandsoft. The United States is also the number one source for this new exploit kit.

More than twice the number of exploit kits are hosted in the United States than in Russia in second place. 495 malicious URLs were detected in the United States compared to 147 in Russia. 296 malicious URLs hosting exploit kits were detected in the United States, with Russia in second place with 139.

The Microsoft VBScript vulnerability, CVE-2018-8174, is being extensively exploited via these exploit kits. Microsoft released a patch in May 2018 to fix the flaw, but many companies have yet to install the update and are vulnerable to attack. Exploit kits are still using old vulnerabilities to install their malicious payloads. According to Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42, two vulnerabilities are extensively used – The IE7 vulnerability – CVE-2009-0075 – and the Internet Explorer 5 vulnerability – CVE-2008-4844 – even though patches were released to fix the flaws more than 9 years ago.

The Jscript vulnerability in Internet Explorer 9 through 11 – CVE-2016-0189 – and the OleAut32.dll vulnerability – CVE-2014-6332 – have also been used in many attacks. One vulnerability known to be used in zero-day attacks was also detected.

Website Attacks on the Rise

Research conducted by SiteLock has revealed there has been a significant rise in attacks on websites in Q2, 2018. According to its study of more than 6 million websites, each website is attacked, on average, 58 times a day with one attack occurring every 25 minutes. That represents a 16% increase in website attacks since Q1, 2018.

These attacks are primarily conducted in order to install cryptocurrency mining code to hijack web visitors’ computers to generate cryptocurrency. Cases of cryptocurrency mining code insertions doubled between Q1 and Q2, while the installation of malicious JavaScript increased by 16%.

Once access is gained to a site and the miner or malicious JavaScript is deployed, it often remains undetected as many website malware detection solutions fail to detect these scripts. For website owners, there are no symptoms displayed to indicate their website has been compromised. SiteLock notes that approximately 1% of websites are infected with malware, although scans of websites revealed 9% contained at least one vulnerability that could potentially be exploited to gain access to the site to install malicious code.

Many search engines now alert users when websites have been discovered to contain malware, and Google sends warnings to site owners when malicious software is discovered. However, relatively few sites are being detected as malicious. SiteLock notes that out of 19.2 million sites that it has discovered to be hosting malicious files, only 3 million had been detected as malicious by the search engines.

The threat of exploit kit attacks and the rise in sites hosting malicious code highlights the need for businesses to deploy a web filtering solution to prevent employees from visiting these malicious sites and giving cybercriminals an opportunity to install malware on their networks.

Companies that take no action and fail to implement software solutions to restrict access to malicious sites face a high risk of their employees inadvertently installing malware. With the cost of a data breach now $3.86 million (Ponemon/IBM), the decision not to implement a web filter could prove incredibly costly.

Princess Evolution Ransomware Offered as RaaS

Princess Locker ransomware has now morphed into Princess Evolution ransomware. The latest variant is one of several cryptoransomware threats that maximize the number of infections by using an affiliate distribution model – termed Ransomware-as-a-Service or RaaS.

RaaS sees affiliates given a percentage of the ransom payments they generate, while the author of the ransomware also takes a cut of the profits. Under this business model, the author can generate a much higher number of infections, which means more ransom payments. The affiliates get to conduct ransomware campaigns without having to develop their own ransomware and the author can concentrate on providing support and developing the ransomware further. For Princess Evolution ransomware, the split is 60/40 in favor of the affiliate. The RaaS is being promoted on underground web forums and prospective affiliates.

Ransomware attacks involving RaaS use a variety of methods to distribute the malicious payload as multiple actors conduct campaigns. Spam email is usually the main delivery mechanism for RaaS affiliates as it is easy to purchase large quantities of email addresses on darkweb sites to conduct campaigns. Brute force attacks are also commonly conducted.

Princess Evolution ransomware has also been loaded into the RIG exploit kit and is being distributed via web-based attacks. These web-based attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities in browsers and browser plug-ins. Exploits for these vulnerabilities are loaded into the kit which is installed on attacker-controlled web domains. Often legitimate sites are compromised have the exploit kit loaded without the knowledge of the site owner.

Traffic is generated to the websites through search engine poisoning, malvertising, and spam emails containing hyperlinks to the websites. If a user visits the website and has an exploitable vulnerability, the Princess Evolution ransomware will be silently downloaded.

At this stage, there is no free decryptor for Princess Evolution ransomware. If this ransomware variant is downloaded and succeeds in encrypting files, recovery is only possible by paying the ransom for the keys to unlock the encryption or rebuilding systems and recovering files from backups.  The ransom demand is currently 0.12 Bitcoin – Approximately $750 per infected device.

Protecting against Princess Evolution ransomware attacks requires a combination of cybersecurity solutions, security awareness training, and robust backup policies. Multiple backups of files should be created, stored on at least two different media, with one copy stored securely off site. Infected devices may need to be re-imaged, so plans should exist to ensure the process can be completed as quickly as possible.

Cybersecurity solutions should focus on prevention and rapid detection of threats. A spam filtering solution – such as SpamTitan – will help to ensure that emailed copies of the ransomware or downloaders are not delivered to inboxes.

Care should be taken with any email sent from an unknown individual. If that email contains an attachment, it should not be opened, but if this is unavoidable, the attachment should be scanned with anti-virus software prior to opening. For greater protection, save the attachment to disk and upload it to VirusTotal for scanning using multiple AV engines.

A web filter such as WebTitan can block web-based attacks through general web browsing and by preventing end users from visiting malicious websites via hyperlinks in spam emails.

To reduce the risk of brute force attacks, strong, unique passwords should be used to secure all accounts and remote desktop protocol should be disabled if it is not required. If RDP is required, it should be configured to only allow connection through a VPN.

You should also ensure that all software, including browsers, browser extensions and plugins, and operating systems are kept patched and fully up to date.

New Underminer Exploit Kit Delivering Coinminer Malware

Exploit kit activity may not be at the level it one was, but the threat has not gone away. Rig exploit kit activity has increased steadily in 2018 and now a new exploit kit has been detected.

The exploit kit has been named underminer by Trend Micro researchers, who detected it in July 2018. The Underminer exploit kit is being used to spread bootklits which deliver coinminer malware. The EK is primarily being used in attacks in Japan, although other East Asian countries have also seen attacks with activity now spreading beyond this region.

The underminer exploit kit was also detected by Malwarebytes researchers who note that the exploitation framework was first identified by the Chinese cybersecurity firm Qihoo360 in late 2017, when it was being used to deliver adware. Now the exploit kit is being used to deliver Hidden Bee (Hidden Mellifera) cryptocurrency mining malware. Trend Micro notes that evidence has been uncovered that strongly suggests the exploit kit was developed by the developers of Hidden Mellifera coinminer malware.

The exploit kit uses complex methods to deliver the payload with different methods used for different exploits. The developers have also incorporated several controls to hide malicious activity including the obfuscation of exploits and landing pages and the use of encryption to package exploits on-the-fly.

The EK profiles the user via a user-agent to determine if the user is of interest. If not, the user will be directed to a HTTP 404 error page. If a user is of interest, a browser cookie will be used to identify that user to ensure that the payload will only be delivered once, preventing reinfection and hampering efforts by researchers to reproduce an attack. URLs used in the attacks are also randomized to prevent detection by standard AV solutions. The coinminer is delivered via a bootkit which is downloaded through encrypted TCP tunnels.

The underminer exploit kit contains a limited number of exploits: The Adobe Flash Player exploit CVE-2018-4878, the use-after-free Adobe Flash Player vulnerability CVE-2015-5119, and the Internet Explorer memory corruption vulnerability CVE-2016-0189. Patches for all of the vulnerabilities were released in February 2018, July 2015, and May 2016 respectively.

The best defense against exploit kit attacks is prompt patching. All systems and applications should be kept 100% up to date, with virtual patching deployed on legacy systems and networks. Since there will always be a delay between the identification of a vulnerability and a patch being released, patching alone may not be sufficient to prevent all attacks, although EK developers tend to use old vulnerabilities rather than zero days.

In addition to prompt patching, cybersecurity solutions should be deployed to further reduce risk, such as a web filtering solution (WebTitan) to block users from visiting malicious websites and redirects through malvertising. In this case, one of the main ways that users are directed to the exploit kit is via adult-themed malvertising on legitimate adult websites. Using the web filter to block access to adult sites will reduce exposure.

Cybersecurity solutions should also be deployed to scan for malware installations and monitor for unusual activity and standard cybersecurity best practices should also be employed… the principle of least privilege and removing unused or unnecessary applications, plugins, and browser extensions.

The fact that a new exploit kit has been developed, and that it was recently updated with a new exploit, shows that the threat of web-based attacks has not gone away. EK activity may be at a fraction of the level of 2016, but businesses should not assume that attacks will not take place and should implement appropriate defenses to mitigate the threat.

Rig Exploit Kit Activity Continues to Rise

A recent analysis of exploit kit activity by Trend Micro has shown that while exploit kit activity is at a fraction of what it was in 2016, the threat has not gone away. Links to malicious websites hosting exploit kits are still being distributed by spam email and malicious adverts are still being used to redirect web users to malicious websites hosting exploit kits.

Most of the exploit kits that were in use in 2016 have all but disappeared – Angler, Nuclear, and Neutrino. There was a rise in Sundown activity in 2017, but activity has now stopped, and Disdain and Terror exploit kits have similarly disappeared.

The demise of exploit kits as an attack vector has been attributed, in part, to the arrests of the operators of some of the most commonly used EKs such as Angler, although there have been fewer zero-day vulnerabilities to exploit. Many of the exploits used in exploit kits are for Flash vulnerabilities, and while use of Flash is declining, the creators of exploit kits are still attempting to exploit a handful of these Adobe Flash vulnerabilities.  Many threat actors have switched to easier and less time-consuming ways of attacking businesses, but not all.

While most exploit kits are operating at a low level, the Rig exploit kit is still in use and has recently been updated once again. Further, there has been a steady increase in Rig exploit kit activity since April. Rig is most commonly used in attacks in Japan, which account for 77% of Rig activity.

The GrandSoft exploit kit is still active, although at a much lower level than Rig. This exploit kit was first seen in 2012 although activity all but disappeared until the fall of last year when it became active once again. Japan is also the country most targeted by the GrandSoft exploit kit (55% of activity), while the private exploit kit Magnitude is almost exclusively used in South Korea, which accounts for 99.5% of its activity.

For the most part, exploit kits are being used to exploit vulnerabilities that should have been patched long ago, such as the use-after-free vulnerability in Microsoft Windows’ VBScript engine (CVE-2018-8174) which was identified in April 2017 and patched in May 2017.

Internet Explorer vulnerabilities are also being exploited on vulnerable systems, with at least two exploits for IE flaws included in GrandSoft recently. Research conducted by Palo Alto networks showed that out of 1,583 URLs found in malicious emails, the majority were linked to exploit kits including Rig, Sundown, Sinowal, and KaiXin, with the latter still evolving with new exploits still being added – CVE-2016-0189 and CVE-2014-6322 – both IE VBScript flaws – the most commonly used.

Trend Micro has warned that the recent increase in zero-days – there were 119 last year – could see at least some exploits for these vulnerabilities introduced into exploit kits. MalwareBytes reported last month that a zero-day flaw in Flash Player’s ActionScript language had been incorporated into one exploit kit and was being actively used in attacks.

The fact that exploit kits are still being used strongly suggests that they are still working, which means that many systems are not being patched.

The threat from exploit kits does not appear to be going away, so it is still essential for businesses to ensure they are protecting against attacks.

Strict patch management practices are still important, as is the use of a web filter. Drive-by downloads still occur – unintentional downloads of malware by users in the belief that the files are genuine. Implementing a web filter can help to block these malware downloads, either by blocking specific file types or preventing end users from visiting known malicious websites. Web filters can also be used to block adware, which continues to plague businesses.

Benefits of Web Filtering for Businesses

Why should businesses use a web filtering solution? Listed below are three key benefits of web filtering for businesses.

Protection Against Exploit Kits

Email spam is the most common attack vector used to deliver malware, and while the threat from exploit kits is nowhere near the level in 2015 and 2016, they still pose a problem for businesses.  Exploit kits are web-based apps that are loaded onto websites controlled by cybercriminals – either their own sites or sites that have been hijacked.

Exploit kits contain code that exploits vulnerabilities in web browsers, plugins and browser extensions. When a user with a vulnerable browser visits a malicious URL containing an exploit kit, the vulnerability is exploited and malware is downloaded.

With browsers becoming more secure, and Flash being phased out, it has become much harder to infect computers with malware via exploit kits and many threat actors have moved on to other methods of attack. However, some exploit kits remain active and still pose a threat.

The exploit kits currently in use – RIG for example – contain multiple exploits for known vulnerabilities. Most of the vulnerabilities are old and patches have been available for months or years, although zero-day vulnerabilities are occasionally uploaded. Exploit kits are also updated with recently disclosed proof-of-concept code. Exploit code for two recently discovered vulnerabilities: one in Internet Explorer (CVE-2018-8174) and one in Adobe Flash (CVE-2018-4878) have been added to EKs already.

Keeping browsers and plugins up to date and using a top antivirus solution will provide a good level of protection, although businesses can further enhance security by using a web filter. Web filtering for businesses ensures that any attempt to access a website known to host an exploit kit will be blocked.

Blocking Phishing Attacks

Phishing is one of the biggest threats faced by businesses. Phishing is a method of obtaining sensitive information by deception, such as impersonating a company in an attempt to obtain login credentials or to fool employees into making wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by criminals.

A spam filter can prevent the majority of malicious messages from reaching inboxes, although some phishing emails will make it past the perimeter defenses, especially emails containing links to malicious websites. A web filter provides an additional level of protection against phishing by preventing users from visiting malicious websites sent via email and social media posts. When an attempt is made to visit a known malicious website, access will be blocked, and the user will be directed to a block screen.

A web filter can also be used to enforce safe search on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This will help to prevent inappropriate website content from being accessed through search and image search results.

Monitoring Internet Access and Blocking Inappropriate Websites

Employees can waste an extraordinary amount of time on the Internet. Allowing unfettered access to all website content can result in a considerable reduction in productivity. If every employee wastes an hour a day on the Internet instead of working, a company with 100 employees would lose 100 hours a day, 500 hours a week, and 26,000 hours a year. A sizeable loss.

A web filter can be used to block access to websites such as gambling, gaming, and social media sites – all major drains on productivity. Web filters can also be used to monitor Internet activity. When employees are told that the company monitors Internet use, employees will be less likely to spend time surfing the Internet instead of working.

Web filters can also be used to block not-suitable-for-work (NSFW) content such as pornography and will limit company liability by blocking illegal online activities at work, such as the downloading of copyright-protected content via P2P file sharing sites. Web filters can also limit bandwidth hogging activities such as the streaming of audio and video.

WebTitan Cloud – DNS-Based Web Filtering for Businesses

DNS-based web filtering for businesses is easy with WebTitan Cloud. WebTitan Cloud will help improve security posture, reduce company liability, and improve the productivity of the workforce. Being 100% cloud-based, the solution requires no hardware purchases, no software downloads, and can be implemented in a matter of minutes.

The solution filters websites into 53 pre-defined categories, making it easy for businesses to block specific types of content. More than half a billion URLs are categorized in the database and combined with cloud-based lookup, it is possible to ensure highly accurate content filtering without overblocking valuable content. The solution can inspect all web traffic, including encrypted sites.

The solution allows policies to be created for the entire workforce, groups, or individuals and protects employees who on and off the network. When employees use multiple devices, the content filtering controls can be applied across the board and will work whether the user is on-site or roaming.

Administrators benefit from a comprehensive reporting suite, with 55 preconfigured reports and scope for customization, with report scheduling options and the ability to view browsing in real-time.

If you want to improve your security posture, save bandwidth, reduce legal liability, block NSFW content, and improve productivity, give TitanHQ a call today and find out more about how WebTitan Cloud can benefit your business.

FAQ

How easy to implement is web filtering for business?

DNS-based web filtering is very simple to operate. Deployment consists of redirecting the organization´s Domain Name Server (30 seconds) and logging into a web-based administrative portal (another 30 seconds). Thereafter system administrators can synchronize the filtering service with an existing directory in order to apply role-based filtering policies within minutes.

How does web filtering for businesses block phishing attacks?

Strictly speaking, web filtering for businesses does not block phishing attacks – it mitigates the consequences of a phishing email avoiding detection by an email filter, and the recipient of the email clicking on a link to a malicious website. If the destination website is known to be malicious, web filtering for businesses blocks the recipient from visiting the malicious website.

How does monitoring Internet access work?

Organizations can configure web filtering solutions to monitor which websites users visit and which websites they are refused access to. While some may consider the monitoring of Internet access at work a form of employee surveillance, the information collected from Internet monitoring reports can be used to fine-tune Internet filters to create a more welcoming environment for everyone.

How do I find out what websites the web filter solution has blocked access to?

WebTitan Cloud´s monitoring logs are used to compile reports that reveal not only which websites were blocked, but the reasons why access was blocked (i.e. malicious website, contravened category policy, etc.). These reports help identify if your employees are exposing the organization to risk by attempting to visit unsafe websites, or whether they need to be reminded of acceptable Internet use policies.

What if I need to block Internet content for some people but not for others?

WebTitan Cloud has granular controls that enables system administrators to apply Internet policies by user, team, department, etc. as required. Therefore, if – for example – your marketing team requires access to social media platforms, but you want to avoid giving everybody in your organization access to Facebook and Twitter, you simply whitelist the marketing team from the social media category.

Employee Negligence is the Biggest Cybersecurity Risk for Businesses

The biggest cybersecurity risk for businesses in the United States is employee negligence, according to a recent Shred-It survey of 1,000 small business owners and C-suite executives.

The findings of the survey, detailed in its North America State of the Industry Report, show the biggest cybersecurity risk for businesses is human error such as the accidental loss of data or devices containing sensitive company information.

84% of C-Suite executives and 51% of small business owners said employee negligence was the biggest cybersecurity risk for their business. 42% of small business owners and 47% of C-suite executives said employee negligence was the leading cause of cybersecurity breaches.

Employees are the Biggest Cybersecurity Risk for Businesses in the United States

Employees often cut corners in order to get more done in their working day and take considerable security risks. Even though laptop computers can contain highly sensitive information and allow an unauthorized individual to gain access to a work network, around a quarter of U.S employees leave their computer unlocked and unattended. Documents containing sensitive information are often left unattended in full view of individuals who are not authorized to view the information.

The risks taken by employees are greater when working remotely, such as in coffee shops or at home. 86% of executives and SBOs said remote workers were much more likely to cause data breaches.

88% of C-suite executives and 48% of small business owners said they have implemented flexible working models that allow their employees to spend at least some of the week working off site. A survey conducted on behalf of the Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG suggests that globally, 70% of workers spend at least one day a week working remotely, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week.

Adoption of these flexible working practices is increasing, although cybersecurity policies are not being implemented that specifically cover remote workers. Even though a high percentage of workers are spending at least some of the week working remotely, the Shred-It survey shows that more than half of SMBs do not have policies in place for remote workers.

One of the most important ways that business owners and executives can improve their cybersecurity posture is through employee training, especially for remote workers. The provision of security awareness training will help to ensure that workers are aware of the organization’s policies and procedures and are taught security best practices.

However, the survey suggests training is often inadequate or in some cases nonexistent. 78% of surveyed C-suite executives and small business owners said they only provided information security training on policies and procedures once a year. Considering the risk, training needs to be far more frequent. Employees cannot be expected to retain all the information provided in a training session for the entire year. Training should cover the use of strong passwords, locking devices when they are not in use, never leaving portable devices unattended in public areas, safe disposable of electronic and physician data, and Wi-Fi security. Refresher training should be provided at least every six months.

Policies and procedures need to be developed specifically for remote workers, which cover the practices which must be adopted when working outside the office. With so many workers now spending more time working off-site, the probability of portable electronic devices being lost or stolen is greatly increased.

Businesses must ensure they maintain an accurate inventory of all devices used to access their network and implement appropriate security measures to ensure the loss or theft of those devices does not result in a data breach.

Increased use of insecure WiFi networks poses a major problem, greatly increasing the chance of a malware or ransomware download. Appropriate technologies should be implemented to protect remote workers’ devices from malicious software. TitanHQ can help in this regard.

WebTitan Cloud, TitanHQ’s 100% cloud-based web filtering solution can block malware and ransomware downloads and carefully control the websites that remote workers can access on their company-issued and BYOD devices, regardless of where the individual is located: on or off-site.

For more information on WebTitan and how it can protect your remote workers and improve your security posture, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information.

RIG Exploit Kit Now Includes Windows Double Kill Exploit Code

The RIG exploit kit, used on compromised and malicious websites to silently download malware, has been upgraded with a new exploit. Windows Double Kill exploit code has been added to exploit the CVE-2018-8174 vulnerability – a remote code execution vulnerability that was addressed by Microsoft on May 2018 Patch Tuesday.

To protect against exploitation of this vulnerability, Windows users should ensure they have applied the latest round of patches, although many businesses have been slow to update their Windows devices, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

The vulnerability is in the VBScript engine and how it handles objects in the memory. If the vulnerability is exploited, attackers would gain the same level of privileges as the current user, could reallocate memory, gain read/write access, and potentially remotely execute code on a vulnerable device. The vulnerability has been named ‘Double Kill’ and affects all Windows versions.

The Windows Double Kill vulnerability was being actively exploited in the wild when Microsoft released the update on Patch Tuesday. Initially, exploitation of the vulnerability was achieved through phishing campaigns using RTF documents containing a malicious OLE object. If activated, an HTML page was downloaded and rendered through an Internet Explorer library and the VBScript flaw was exploited to download a malicious payload. The attack could also be conducted via a malicious website. In the case of the latter, it does not matter what browser the user has set as default – on unpatched systems the IE exploit could still work.

The Windows Double Kill exploit code was posted online this week and it didn’t take long for it to be incorporated into the RIG exploit kit. End users could be directed to the RIG exploit kit through phishing campaigns, malvertising, web redirects, or potentially could visit malicious sites through general web browsing. In addition to the Windows Double Kill exploit, the RIG exploit kit contains many other exploits for a wide range of vulnerabilities. Any individual that lands on a URL with the kit installed could be vulnerable even if the latest Windows patch has already been applied.

The threat from email-based attacks is also likely to grow. The Double Kill exploit code has also been incorporated into the ThreadKit exploit builder, which is used to create malicious Office documents for use in phishing attacks.

Protecting systems against these types of attacks requires prompt patching, although many organizations are slow to apply updates out of fear of compatibility problems, which could cause performance issues. Consequently, prior to applying patches they need to be fully tested and that can take time. During that time, organizations will be vulnerable to attack.

A web filter – such as WebTitan – provides an additional level of protection while patches are assessed for compatibility. WebTitan provides protection against exploit kits and malware downloads by preventing end users from visiting known malicious sites, either through general web browsing, redirects, or via hyperlinks contacted in phishing emails.

Magnitude Exploit Kit Changes Payload and EITest Operations Disrupted

There have been significant developments relating to exploit kits in the past few days. The threat actors behind the Magnitude exploit kit have now changed their malicious payload, and the EITest malware distribution network that directed traffic to exploit kits has finally been sinkholed.

Magnitude Exploit Kit Switches to GandCrab Ransomware Delivery

Exploit kit activity is at a fraction of the level of 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 there was a 62% reduction in the development of exploit kits according to research from Recorded Future.

However, exploit kit activity has not fallen to zero and the malicious code is still widely used to deliver malware and ransomware underscoring the continued need for technologies to block these attacks such as web filtering solutions and the continued need to keep on top of patching.

Exploit kits often leverage vulnerabilities in Java and Adobe Flash, although more recently it has been Microsoft vulnerabilities that have been exploited due to the fall in Java vulnerabilities and the phasing out of Adobe Flash.

One exploit kit that is still being used in extensive attacks, albeit attacks that are highly geographically targeted, is the Magnitude exploit kit.

For the past seven months, the Magnitude exploit kit has been delivering the Magniber ransomware payload almost exclusively in South Korea. However, there has been a notable change in the past few days with it also being used to distribute GandCrab ransomware, with the latter not restricted geographically and capable of infecting English language Windows devices.

While early variants of GandCrab ransomware were cracked and free recovery of files was possible, there is no known decryptor for the current version of GandCrab ransomware being distributed via Magnitude. While Adobe Flash and Microsoft exploits were commonly used, Magnitude is now using a fileless technique to load the ransomware. This technique makes it much harder to detect.

According to Malwarebytes, “The payload is encoded (using VBScript.Encode/JScript.Encode) and embedded in a scriplet that is later decoded in memory and executed.” Once run, the payload is injected into explorer.exe, files are encrypted, and the infected device is rebooted.

EITest Malware Distribution Network Disrupted

There has been some major good news on the exploit kit front this week with the announcement that the EITest malware distribution network has finally been sinkholed. EITest has been active since at least 2011 and has been used to distribute all manner of malware over the years.

EITest was a major distribution network responsible for countless Kronos, Ramnit, DarkCloud and Gootkit infections, although more recently was used to deliver ransomware variants such as CryptXXX and Cerber and send users to sites running social engineering and tech support scams.

Prior to being sinkholed, EITest was redirecting as many as 2 million users a day to a network of more than 52,000 compromised websites that had been loaded with exploit kit code and social engineering scams. Most of the compromised sites were WordPress sites based in the USA, China, and Ukraine.

The threat actors behind EITest were selling traffic to other actors in blocks of between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors at a cost of $20 per thousand.

Over a 20-day period since EITest was sinkholed, more than 44 million users were directed to the sinkhole rather than malicious websites.

Now all redirects to malicious websites have stopped. The compromised websites remain active, but rather than redirecting users to malicious domains they are directing traffic to benign domains controlled by abuse.ch and brilliantit.com.

Network Segmentation Best Practices to Improve Security

Regardless of the size of your business, the most effective security measure to deploy to block threat actors from gaining access to your servers, workstations, and data is a hardware firewall. A hardware firewall will ensure your digital assets are well protected, but how should your firewall be configured for optimal network security? 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.

What is Network Segmentation?

As the name suggests, network segmentation is the practice of dividing a computer network up into smaller segments, and by doing so, you separate systems and applications from each other. If there are systems that have no interaction with each other, there is no need for them to be on the same network. If they are, it just makes it easier for a hacker to gain access to everything if the perimeter defenses are breached. 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.

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.

Network Segmentation Best Practices

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

Network Segmentation Best Practices

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.

By adhering to network segmentation best practices and using the above firewall security zone segmentation you can optimize network security. For added security, we also recommend using a cloud-based web filtering solution such as WebTitan which filters the Internet and prevents end users from accessing websites known to host malware or those that contravene acceptable usage policies.

FAQs

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.

New Traffic Distribution System Helps Threat Actors Conduct Web-Based Malware Attacks

Web-based malware attacks via exploit kits were commonplace in 2016, although in 2017 this mode of attack fell out of favor with cybercriminals, who concentrated on spam email to deliver their malicious payloads. Exploit kit activity is now at a fraction of the level of 2016, although 2017 did see an increase in activity using the Rig and Terror exploit kits.

Now, a recent discovery by Proofpoint could see exploit kit activity start to increase once again. A new traffic distribution system is being offered on darknet marketplaces that helps cybercriminals direct users to sites hosting exploit kits and conduct web-based malware attacks.

Traffic distribution systems – also known as TDS – buy and sell web traffic and are used to direct web users from one website to another. When a user clicks on a link that is part of a TDS system, they are directed to a website without their knowledge – a website that could host an exploit kit and trigger a malware download.

The new TDS – known as BlackTDS – requires threat actors to direct traffic to the service, which then filters that traffic and directs individuals to exploit kits based on their profile data. The service maximizes the probability of the exploit kit being able to download malware onto their device. The service can also be used to determine which malware will be downloaded, based on the profile of the user.

Threat actors that sign up to use the service can inexpensively select the exploit kits and malware they want installed with all aspects of the malware distribution service handled by the developers of BlackTDS. The developers also claim their cloud-based TDS includes fresh HTTPS domains that have not been blacklisted and that it is difficult for their cloudTDS to be detected by security researchers and sandboxes.

Using spam campaigns and malvertising, threat actors can direct traffic to BlackTDS with all aspects of drive-by downloads handled by the developers. Campaigns being run using BlackTDS have been directing users to the RIG-v, Sundown, and Blackhole exploit kits which are used to download a wide range of keyloggers, ransomware, and other malware variants.

The provision of this malicious service makes it cheap and easy for threat actors to take advantage of web-based malware distribution rather than relying on spam email to spread malicious software. It also makes it clear that exploit kits are still a threat and that web-based malware attacks are likely to become more of a problem over the coming months.

To find out more about how you can protect your business from exploit kits and web-based malware attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today and ask about WebTitan.

New TitanHQ Partnership Sees Firm Join HTG Peer Groups as Gold Vendor

New TitanHQ Partnership Sees Firm Join HTG Peer Groups as Gold Vendor

Today has seen the announcement of a new partnership between TitanHQ – the leading provider of email and web filtering solutions for MSPs – and the international consulting, coaching, and peer group organization HTG. The announcement was made at the Q1 HTG Peer Groups meeting at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, Phoenix, Arizona.

The partnership sees TitanHQ’s web filtering solution – WebTitan; its cloud-based anti-spam service – SpamTitan; and its email archiving solution – ArcTitan made immediately available to the HTG community.

TitanHQ has developed innovative cybersecurity solutions specifically for managed service providers to help them provide even greater protection to their clients from the ever-increasing volume of email and Internet-based threats. The multiple award-winning solutions have now been adopted by more than 7,500 businesses and 1,500 MSPs, helping to protect them from malware, ransomware, viruses, phishing, botnets, and other cyber threats.

HTG is a leading peer group association that was recently acquired by the global technology giant ConnectWise. HTG helps businesses plan and execute strategies to drive forward growth and increase profits. Its consultants and facilitators share wisdom, provide accountability, and build meaningful relationships with businesses to help them succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

The new partnership will see TitanHQ join HTG Peer Groups as a Gold vendor, making the firm’s MSP-friendly cybersecurity solutions immediately available to the HTG community.

“We’re delighted to welcome TitanHQ on board for 2018. As soon as the initial discussion started we knew they would make a great match for our community, as web security is a key area for our members in 2018,” said HTG Peer Groups founder, Arlin Sorensen.

HTG Peer Groups Founder Arlin Sorensen (Left); TitanHQ CEO Conor Madden (Right)

“WebTitan web filter was built by MSP’s for MSP’s and this exciting relationship with HTG Peer Groups is a continuation of that process. It allows us to listen to the opportunities and difficulties faced by MSP senior executives while also allowing us to share how we became a successful web security vendor. Our goal is to successfully engage with HTG members to build strong and long-lasting relationships,” said TitanHQ CEO, Conor Madden.

Web security is a hot topic within the managed service provider community. MSPs are being called upon to improve web security for their clients and protect against a barrage of phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks. They are also called upon to mitigate malware and ransomware attacks when they are experienced by their clients, which can be time-consuming and costly. By implementing WebTitan, TitanHQ’s award-winning web filtering solution, MSPs can substantially reduce support and engineering costs.

WebTitan serves as a barrier between end users and the Internet, blocking attempts by users to visit malicious websites where malware and ransomware is silently downloaded. WebTitan is also a powerful content filtering solution that can be used to enforce organizations’ acceptable Internet usage policies.

The web filtering solution and TitanHQ’s anti-spam solution SpamTitan have been developed specifically with MSPs in mind. The solutions can be applied and configured in under 30 minutes without the need for additional hardware purchases, software downloads, or site visits.  The solutions have a low management overhead which means MSPs can protect their clients from email and web-based threats, reduce the hands-on time they need to spend on their clients and provide greater value while improving their bottom lines.
 

Skygofree Malware – One of the Most Dangerous Android Malware Threats Ever Seen

According to Kaspersky Lab, one of the most dangerous threats to mobile users is Skygofree malware – A recently discovered Android malware threat that has been described as the most powerful Android malware variant ever seen.

Skygofree malware has only recently been detected, but it is the product of some serious development. Kaspersky Lab believes it has been in development for more than three years. The result is a particularly nasty threat that all users of Android devices should take care to avoid. Once it is installed on a device, it has access to a considerable amount of data. It also has some rather impressive capabilities, being capable of 48 different commands.

Among its arsenal is the ability to take control of the camera and snap pictures and take videos without the knowledge of the user. It has access to geolocation data so is capable of tracking your every move. Where you go, as well as where you have been.

Skygofree malware will steal call records and discover who you have spoken to and when and will read your text messages. The malware can also record conversations and background noise, both for telephone calls and when the user enters a specific location – based on geolocation data – that has been set by the attacker.

Whenever you are in range of a WiFi network that is controlled by the attacker, the device will automatically connect, even if WiFi is turned off. It also has access to all information in the phone’s memory, can check your calendar to tell what you have planned, and intercept WiFi traffic.

You also cannot privately communicate using WhatsApp with Skygofree malware installed. It abuses the Android Accessibility Service and can view your messages. Skype conversations are similarly not secure. As if that was not enough, the malware also serves as a keylogger, recording all data entered on the device.

With such an extensive range of functions, this powerful new malware variant is clearly not the work of an amateur. It is believed to be the product of an Italian intercept and surveillance company called Negg, that is known to work with law enforcement agencies.

Kaspersky Lab researcher Alexey Firsh said, “Given the artefacts we discovered in the malware code and our analysis of the infrastructure, we have a high level of confidence that the developer behind the Skygofree implants is an Italian IT company that offers surveillance solutions, rather like HackingTeam.”

Skygofree malware is spread via malicious websites that closely resemble those of mobile carriers. Several mobile carriers including Vodaphone have been spoofed.

Protecting against malware threats such as this is difficult. The best defense is to be extremely careful browsing the internet. However, with malicious adverts able to redirect users to malicious sites, careful browsing is no guarantee of safety.

How to Protect Your WiFi Network and Block Malicious Websites

WebTitan for WiFi offers protection from malware when users connect to your WiFi network. WebTitan for WiFi is a powerful web filtering solution that can be used to restrict access to a predefined list of websites or configured to prevent users from visiting categories of websites known to carry a high risk of containing malware. Blacklists are also used to ensure known phishing and malware-laced websites, including those used to spread Android malware, cannot be accessed via your WiFi network.

To find out more about WebTitan for WiFi, and web filtering solutions for your wired networks, contact the TitanHQ today.

A Quarter of Ransomware Attacks in 2017 Targeted Businesses

Kaspersky Lab has named ransomware as one of the key threats of 2017, and one that continues to plague businesses the world over. Ransomware attacks in 2017 are down year on year, but ransomware attacks on businesses are up.

Ransomware attacks in 2016 were bad, but this year there have been three major attacks that have gone global – WannaCry in May, NotPetya in June, and most recently, the Bad Rabbit attacks in October. Many of the ransomware attacks in 2017 have been far more sophisticated than in 2015 and 2016, while attackers are now using a wider variety of tactics to install the malicious code.

At the start of 2016, ransomware was primarily being installed using exploit kits, before attackers switched to spam email as the main method of delivery. Spam email remains one of the most common ways for ransomware to be installed, although each of the above three attacks used exploits for unpatched vulnerabilities.

Those exploits had been leaked online by the hacking group Shadow Brokers, all of which had been developed and used by the NSA. While not severe as WannaCry, NotPetya and BadRabbit, exploits were also used by AES-NI and Uiwix ransomware variants. Threat actors are also using remote desktop protocol to gain access to systems to install ransomware, while the use of exploit kits is once again on the rise.

There has been a noticeable change in targets since 2015 when ransomware started to be favored by cybercriminals. Consumers were the main targets, although cybercriminals soon realized there was more to be made from attacking businesses. In 2016, 22.6% of ransomware attacks were on business users. The Kaspersky Lab report shows that ransomware attacks on businesses are becoming far more common, accounting for 26.2% of all attacks in 2017.

Out of the businesses that experienced a ransomware attack in 2017, 65% said they lost access to a significant amount of data, and in some cases, all of their data. Some businesses have prepared for the worst and have developed ransomware response plans and now have multiple copies of backups, with at least one copy on an unnetworked device. In the event of an attack, data can be recovered.

Others have not been so fortunate and have been left with no alternative other than to pay the ransom demand. As we saw with NotPetya, and many other ransomware and pseudo-ransomware variants, it is not always possible to recover data. The Kaspersky Lab report shows that one in six businesses that paid the ransom demand were unable to recover their data, creating massive business disruption and also potentially privacy and compliance fines. Keys to unlock the encryption were not provided or simply did not work.

There is some good news in the report. Ransomware attacks in 2017 affected 950,000 unique users, which is a considerable reduction from last year when 1.5 million users suffered a ransomware attack. This has been attributed not to a reduction in attacks, but better detection.

Kaspersky reports that the explosion in ransomware families in 2016 did not continue at the same level in 2017. Last year, 62 new families of ransomware were discovered. While there is still a month left of the year, to date, the number of new ransomware families in 2017 has fallen to 38.

While this appears to be good news, it is not an indication that the threat from ransomware is reducing. Kaspersky Lab notes that while the creation of new ransomware families halved in 2017, in 2016 there were 54,000 modifications made to existing ransomware variants, but this year there have been 96,000 modifications detected – Almost double the number of modifications last year. Rather than develop new ransomware families, cybercriminals are tweaking existing ransomware variants.

Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, and a host of security experts predict ransomware attacks will continue to plague businesses in 2018. As long as the attacks remain profitable they will continue, although Kaspersky Lab notes that 2018 is likely to see efforts switch to cryptocurrency miners, which can prove more profitable than ransomware in the long run. Even so, ransomware attacks are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

To prevent the attacks, businesses need to implement a host of defenses to block and detect ransomware. Anti spam software can be deployed to prevent email-based attacks, web filters can be used to block access to websites hosting exploit kits and prevent drive -by downloads, and endpoint protection systems and network monitoring can detect changes made by ransomware and alert businesses to ransomware attacks in progress.  Along with good backup policies and end user training, the threat from ransomware can be reduced to an acceptable level and the majority of attacks can be blocked.

LockCrypt Ransomware Distributed Using Brute Force RDP Attacks

A malware threat called LockCrypt ransomware is being used in widespread attacks on businesses in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Africa. While ransomware is commonly spread via spam email, this campaign spreads the file-encrypting malware via remote desktop protocol brute force attacks.

The LockCrypt ransomware attacks were first detected in June this year, but over the past few months the number of attacks has increased significantly, with October seeing the highest number of attacks so far this year.

LockCrypt ransomware is a relatively new malware variant, having first been seen in June 2017. Once infected, users will be unable to access their files. This ransomware variant uses RSA-2048 and AES-256 cryptopgraphy, which makes it virtually impossible to recover files without paying the ransom demand if a viable backup does not exist. To make recovery more difficult, LockCrypt ransomware also deletes Windows Shadow Volume copies. Encrypted files are given the .lock extension.

The ransom payment for this campaign is considerable – typically between 0.5 and 1 Bitcoin per encrypted server. That’s between $3,963 and $7,925 per compromised server; however, since the same login credentials are often used for RDP access on multiple servers, once one password is correctly guessed, it can be used to access multiple servers and deploy LockCrypt ransomware.  One of the Bitcoin addresses used by the attackers shows one company paid a ransom of $19,000 to recover files on three of its servers.

Once access to a server is gained, ransomware is deployed; however, the attackers are manually interacting with compromised servers. AlientVault security researcher, Chris Doman, reported that for one company, in addition to deploying ransomware, the attackers “manually killed business critical processes for maximum damage.” All non-core processes on an infected server are killed.

The attacks do not appear to be targeted, instead they are randomly conducted on business servers. Businesses that are most likely to have ransomware installed are those that have failed to use complex passwords for RDP access. While it may be tempting to set an easy-to-remember password, this plays into the hands of attackers.

Other security controls such as two-factor authentication can reduce the risk from this type of attack, as can rate limiting to prevent the number of failed attempts a user can make before their IP address is temporarily – or permanently – blocked.

An additional control that system administrators can apply is to white-list certain IP addresses to restrict RDP access to authorized individuals. If that is not practical, disallowing RDP connections over the Internet from abroad can help to prevent these attacks.

While implementing controls to prevent RDP brute force attacks is vital, most ransomware variants are spread via spam email, and to a lesser extent via exploit kits and drive-by downloads. Comprehensive security defenses must therefore be deployed to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks.

These should include an advanced spam filtering solution to prevent malicious emails from being delivered, web filters to block malicious websites and drive-by downloads, end user training to raise awareness of the threat from ransomware and other forms of malware, and network monitoring technology to identify unusual server and endpoint activity.

Network activity monitoring will not prevent ransomware attacks, but it will help IT teams respond quickly and halt the spread of ransomware to other vulnerable servers and end points.

Magniber Ransomware Spread by Magnitude Exploit Kit

The Magnitude exploit kit is being used to deliver a new malware variant – Magniber ransomware. While the Magnitude EK has been used in attacks throughout the Asia Pacific region, the latest attacks are solely taking place in South Korea.

Ransomware and malware attacks in Europe and the Americas are primarily conducted via spam email. Exploit kits having fallen out of favor with cybercriminals over the past year. However, that is not the case in the Asia Pacific region, where exploit kit attacks are still common.

An exploit kit is a website toolkit that scans visitors’ browsers for exploitable vulnerabilities. When a vulnerability is identified, it is exploited to download malware onto the user’s system. The download occurs silently and in the case of a ransomware attack, the user is only likely to discover the attack when their files have been encrypted.

Magniber ransomware takes its name from the Magnitude EK and Cerber ransomware, the ransomware variant that it has replaced. At present, Magniber ransomware is solely targeting users in South Korea. If the operating system is not in Korean, the ransomware will not execute. While it is not unusual for ransomware campaigns to involve some targeting, it is rare for attacks to be targeted on a specific country.

Up until recently, the Magnitude exploit kit was being used to download Cerber ransomware. FireEye reports that those attacks were concentrated in the Asia Pacific region. 53% of attacks occurred in South Korea, followed by the USA (12%), Hong Kong (10%), Taiwan (10%), Japan (9%), and Malaysia (5%). Small numbers of attacks also occurred in Singapore and the Philippines. At the end of September, Magnitude EK activity fell to zero, but on October 15, the payload was updated and attacks were solely conducted in South Korea.

To avoid analysis, Magniber ransomware checks whether it is running in a virtual environment. A check is also performed to identify the system language. If the system language is Korean, data is encrypted with AES128 and encrypted files are given the .ihsdj extension. After encryption, the ransomware deletes itself. If the system language is not Korean, the ransomware exists.

At present, the Magnitude Exploit Kit has been loaded with a single exploit for CVE-2016-0189 – A memory corruption vulnerability in Internet Explorer. A patch for the vulnerability was released last year. FireEye believes the ransomware is still under development and its capabilities will be enhanced and finetuned.

To prevent attacks, it is important to ensure systems are fully patched. Businesses should make sure all network nodes are updated and are fully patched. A web filtering solution should also be used as an additional protection against this and other exploit kit attacks.