Web Filtering

Web filtering is an ideal solution to prevent Internet users from visiting unsafe website that potentially harbor viruses and malware. A web filter works by comparing a request to visit a website against a list of predetermined parameters. If the request fails to pass the criteria defined by the parameters, the request is denied.

This process prevents Internet users from accessing websites they have been invited to visit in a phishing email or when clicking on an advertising link. Web filtering can also be configured to prevent cyberslacking, to block certain types of files from being downloaded or bandwidth-hogging web applications from being used.

To find out more about how your organization can strengthen its online defenses, enhance productivity and limit bandwidth loss, speak with one of our team today about web filtering.

Why Businesses Should Take Steps to Block Pirated Software and Product Activators

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.

Malicious QR Codes are Being Used for Phishing and Malware Distribution

Cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or installing malware. One of the latest tactics to be observed is the use of QR codes to direct people to malicious websites where sensitive information is harvested or to sites hosting malware.

A QR code is a machine-readable matrix barcode that is often used for tracking products in a supply chain, but in recent years has been adopted as a convenient way to direct people to web resources without them having to enter a URL or click a link. QR codes have been widely adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic for carrying out contactless operations, such as registering attendance at a venue and for viewing menus in restaurants to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Many smartphones have in-built QR code readers and apps can be downloaded for free to allow QR codes to be read. When a smartphone camera picks up a QR code, the user will be directed to whatever web resource has been programmed into the code. While QR codes have many important uses, QR codes can be easily tampered with to direct individuals to malicious websites.

Phishing emails often contain links to malicious websites that have been masked by changing the text in the hyperlink. Hovering a mouse arrow over the hyperlink on a computer will display the URL to which the user will be directed; however, with a QR code the user may be instantly directed to the website and could be prompted to enter their banking credentials, Microsoft 365 credentials, or other sensitive information.

Since QR codes are often used to direct individuals to hosted files, such as PDF restaurant menus, it would be easy to trick people into downloading malicious files through QR codes. The malware could provide a cybercriminal with access to the victim’s mobile device, allowing them to steal sensitive information such as passwords or bank account information.

Many businesses use QR codes to direct customers to websites where payments can be processed, and the use of QR codes for this purpose has increased significantly during the pandemic to avoid contact with Point-of-Sale card readers. QR codes could be abused to direct customers to malicious websites that mimic those used by the business in order to steal payment card information.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently issued a warning about the increase in the use of QR codes for conducting malicious activities. The FBI emphasized that QR codes are not malicious in nature but can be abused, so precautions should be taken when using QR codes and not to assume that QR codes are secure.

A study conducted by Ivanti in 2021 revealed 87% of people felt secure conducting financial transactions using QR codes. Given the rise in abuse of QR codes, that confidence is worrying. As with embedded hyperlinks in emails, it is important to exercise caution and to check the URL of the resource that the user is directed to before taking any actions. The domain should be checked to ensure it is correct, and care should be taken to look for any typos or misplaced or substituted letters.

The FBI recommends checking a QR code before scanning to make sure it has not been doctored with, such as by overlaying a sticker on the original QR code. If prompted to download a file after using a QR code, be aware that the file may be malicious. If prompted to download an app, it is more secure to visit an official app store. It is also not necessary to download a QR scanner on most mobile phones, as this increases risk. The apps may be malicious, and many automatically direct users to a resource without requiring confirmation or providing information about the URL that the user will be directed to.

Businesses can protect their corporate-owned devices against QR code scams by installing a web filter. A web filter such as WebTitan can be used to prevent mobile devices from being used to visit malicious websites or web pages that violate acceptable internet usage policies. WebTitan will protect against any redirect to a malicious website, whether via a link in a phishing email or QR code and will also block malware downloads and potentially malicious files.

Phishing Campaign Uses Spoofed Government Unemployment Websites for Fraud and Malware Distribution

A phishing campaign has been identified that uses spoofed unemployment benefits websites to trick people into disclosing sensitive personal and financial information. These websites have been designed to closely resemble official U.S. government websites that are used to apply for unemployment benefits.

Individuals arriving on the websites are prompted to enter personal and financial information as part of the claims process. The information provided can be used by the scammers to file fraudulent unemployment benefits claims and have payments directed to their accounts. The credentials and information harvested through the sites can also be used or sold to other cybercriminals to commit identity theft and fraud, with some of the sites used for installing malware onto victims’ devices, including ransomware.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has received an increased number of complaints about these scams through its Internet Crime Complaints Center in recent weeks, prompting the FBI to issue an alert about the scams. At the time of issuing the alert, the FBI had identified 385 domains hosted on the same IP address, 8 of which impersonated official government websites that host unemployment benefit platforms. Those sites have an .xyz top-level domain (TLD) rather than .gov, and mostly impersonate state-level websites.

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The malicious websites include employ-nv[.]xyz, gov2go[.]xyz, illiform-gov[.]xyz, mary-landgov[.]xyz, and newstate-nm[.]xyz, which were all still active at the time of the alert, along with employ-wiscon[.]xyz, marylandgov[.]xyz, and newstatenm[.]xyz which are no longer active.

Campaigns such as this are nothing new, but the number of complaints received about the scams is increasing, as are the number of reported cases of identity theft. Figures from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission show identity theft reports doubled between 2019 and 2020, with more than 1.4 million reports received last year.

Several steps can be taken to avoid becoming a victim of these scams. It is important to exercise caution when visiting any website and ensure that the spelling of the web address is correct, and the website has a .gov TLD. The U.S. government does not use .xyx TLDs on its websites.

While the padlock icon next to a URL is a sign that the site has an SSL certificate and the connection between the website and the browser is secure, it does not indicate the website is genuine. Cybercriminals often obtain SSL certificates for their websites to make them appear to be legitimate. The padlock should be present before any sensitive data is disclosed to avoid interception of that information, but other checks should be performed to make sure the site is genuine.

Malware downloads can be blocked by using antivirus software, which should be set to update automatically. Any security updates should be applied promptly, and browsers and plugins regularly updated to the latest version. To prevent stolen credentials from being used to access accounts, multi-factor authentication should be implemented and strong passwords should be set on accounts.

It is important to stop and think before taking any action suggested on a website or in an email. In the case of the latter, never open attachments in emails or click links to websites in messages from unknown individuals. Even if an email appears to have been sent by a trusted individual, checks should be performed on the email header information, especially in unsolicited messages.

Many of these campaigns target individuals, but employees are often targeted in phishing attacks that seek email credentials and other sensitive business information. In addition to providing security awareness training to the workforce and implementing an advanced email security solution such as SpamTitan, businesses should consider implementing a web filter.

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WebTitan is a powerful DNS-based web filtering solution that is used by many businesses and Managed Service Providers to improve Internet security. Web filters are used to control the content that users can access over wired and wireless networks. They block attempts to visit known malicious websites, can be configured to block access to risky categories of websites, and also block malware downloads. They serve as an important extra layer of security to block phishing attacks and provide greater protection than email security solutions alone.

If you want to improve protection against phishing and web-based attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call today to find out more about SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Filtering.

If you already have email and web security solutions in place, you might be surprised to find out that you can get the same or better protection and a much-reduced price with TitanHQ solutions.

Widespread Phishing Campaign Uses Open Redirects and CAPTCHA Verification Page

A widespread phishing campaign has been identified that uses a range of tricks to fool end users and spam filters, with the ultimate goal of stealing Office 365 credentials.

Office 365 credentials are extremely valuable. Phishers can use the compromised email accounts for conducting more extensive phishing attacks on an organization or for business email compromise scams. There is also a market for these credentials and they can be sold for big bucks to other threat groups such as ransomware gangs. Office 365 email accounts also contain a wealth of sensitive data that can easily be monetized.

This campaign involves a range of social engineering techniques to fool end users into believing the emails are genuine. Well-known productivity tools such as SharePoint are impersonated, with the emails claiming to be collaboration requests. Zoom has also been spoofed to make it appear that the recipient has been invited to attend a meeting. The emails include the correct logos, and closely resemble the genuine requests they impersonate.

The emails direct users to a phishing webpage where users are required to enter their Office 365 credentials. Those phishing pages include the correct Microsoft logo and styling and appear genuine, other than the URL of the page. The scammers have also used CAPTCHA verification pages that need to be completed to prove the user is a human rather than a bot. The CAPTCHA adds legitimacy to the campaign and gives an illusion of security, whereas the purpose is to prevent security solutions from identifying the phishing content.

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After passing the CAPTCHA challenge, the user is presented with a fake Office 365 login prompt. After entering their credentials, they are presented with a fake error message and are prompted to re-enter the password. This additional step helps to ensure that the correct password is captured. After completing that step, the user is sent to a legitimate domain advising them that the email message has been released.

The campaign also abuses open redirects to fool end uses and security solutions. An open redirect is a legitimate tool that is commonly used in marketing campaigns, where companies want to track responses to email messages and direct users to specific landing pages. The URL to which the user initially tries to connect may be on a trusted domain, so if the user hovers their mouse arrow over the link, they may be convinced that the URL is genuine; however, the attackers then redirect users to a malicious URL, which is added as a parameter.

Microsoft has detected more than 350 unique domains used in the campaign, including a variety of top-level domains from different countries, legitimate domains that have been compromised by the attackers with phishing content added, as well as domain-generated algorithm domains and free email domains.

The campaign incorporates several tricks to fool email security gateways, as well as a range of social engineering techniques to fool end users. It is likely that after being fooled into divulging their credentials, victims will be unaware that their credentials have been stolen.

The techniques used in this campaign highlight the importance of adopting a defense-in-depth approach. That means implementing overlapping layers of security to counter the multiple layers of deception. In addition to an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan, it is advisable to also implement a web filtering solution.

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Web filters tackle phishing by preventing access to the malicious phishing domains used in these campaigns. If a phishing email evades the email security gateway, the web filter provides time-of-click protection and can block the attempt to visit the phishing webpage. Instead of allowing the user to access the phishing page they will be redirected to a local block page. These measures should be combined with end user training to raise awareness of the risk of phishing and to help employees identify malicious -or potentially malicious – emails. It is also recommended to implement multi-factor authentication on Office 365 email accounts.

If you want to improve your defenses against phishing attacks or have any questions about spam filtering or web filtering, give the TitanHQ team a call today. The SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security solutions are both available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself how effective they are at blocking threats and how easy they are to use.

Benefits of DNS Filtering with Web Filtering Myths Busted

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
  • Real-time filtering
  • Instant categorization of web content
  • Infinitely scalable DNS filtering
  • Flexible policies
  • 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.

Crackonosh Malware Turns Devices into Cryptocurrency Mining Rigs

A new malware dubbed Crackonosh is being used in attacks on gamers with the goal of hijacking the resources on their computers to turn them into cryptocurrency mining rigs.

Cryptocurrency prices have been soaring in recent months, with many reaching record prices. That makes mining cryptocurrency profitable, and even more so when using the powerful computers of gamers without their knowledge. The gamers cover the electricity costs and supply the hardware, while the coin mining profits go to the scammers.

Getting malware onto gamers’ devices is the key to this scam, and what better way to do that than to offer gamers free versions of popular games such as Grand Theft Auto V, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, or NBA 2K19. These cracked games can be installed without having to make a purchase, with the games offered free in forums. Currently, most infections have come via forums, but games could easily be hosted on a website and traffic driven to those sites through malicious adverts in the search engines or third-party ad blocks on any number of high traffic websites.

The games are legitimate, although they have been cracked to allow them to be installed without having to purchase the game key. The correct game will be installed but bundled into the installer are several other files that will execute in the background and install Crackonosh malware, which is capable of disabling certain antivirus programs to ensure it is not detected, including Windows Defender. It also disables Windows Update to ensure that Windows Defender is not reactivated. Since the malware creates and stores an icon in the system tray, the user will most likely be unaware that their antivirus software has been disabled.

One of the main aims of Crackonosh malware is to deliver a legitimate cryptomining program named XMRig, although in this case, XMRig is used to hijack the CPU and GPU of victims’ devices and use those resources for generating cryptocurrency. Using XMRig on one gaming computer will not make much money, but at scale the operation is hugely profitable.

The malware distribution campaign has proven successful, with the malware found in more than a dozen countries, with the highest numbers of infected computers in the Philippines, Brazil, India, Poland, United States, and the United Kingdom. As of December 2020, there were more than 220,000 devices infected with Crackonosh malware and those devices had been used to generate at least $2 million in Monero coins at today’s prices.

This malware campaign targets gamers as their computers are well suited to mining cryptocurrency. Once infected, users are likely to experience a serious reduction in performance and much higher electricity bills, but cryptocurrency mining can also cause computers to overheat, components can wear out from overuse, and devices will ultimately fail.

It is not only cryptocurrency mining malware than can be installed along with cracked software. Any number of other malware variants could be delivered. Another recently identified campaign also uses cracked software as the cover but delivers a malware loader dubbed MosaicLoader. MosaicLoader is used to deliver cryptocurrency miners as well as Remote Access Trojans, cookie stealers, backdoors, and any other malware than the MosaicLoader operator sees fit to deliver.

Installing cracked software and games carries a risk of malware infections, and that is particularly bad news for businesses, especially those that have a BYOD policy or allow their employees to work remotely on corporate-issued devices.

Preventing malware infections such as Crackonosh or MosaicLoader should start with education. Employees should be told about the risks of installing cracked software or other unauthorized software on devices. Technical measures are also required. To block downloads from the Internet, it is worthwhile installing a DNS filter. DNS filters can be used to block content at the DNS lookup stage of a web request, before any content is downloaded.

They can block access to certain categories of websites – gaming sites and forums for examples – or specific files from being downloaded, such as game and software installers. DNS filters also use a variety of methods to assess whether sites are malicious and will block access to URLs and IP addresses known to be used for illegal and malicious purposes.

If you want to improve your defenses against malware, contact TitanHQ today. TitanHQ’s advanced spam filtering solution – SpamTitan – and DNS filter – WebTitan – block malware at source and keep you protected from phishing, ransomware, and other email and web based threats.

Cost of a Ransomware Attack? $600 Million for Ireland’s Health Service Executive

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:

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WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks Now Available with WebTitan Cloud Update

TitanHQ has announced a new version of WebTitan Cloud has been released that brings new features and improved security.

The release of WebTitan Cloud version 4.16 has allowed TitanHQ to introduce a new web filtering solution for the education sector – WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks.

The use of Chromebooks has been steadily increasing, especially in the education sector where they are a cost-effective option for schools to allow students to access the Internet. Internet access is important in education, but it is vital that students can access the Internet safely and securely. Controls need to be implemented to prevent students from accessing age-inappropriate content such as pornography, devices need to be protected from malware and ransomware, and phishing and other malicious websites should be blocked.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks allows IT professionals in the education sector to easily implement web filtering controls for individuals, user groups, or globally to ensure compliance with federal and state laws, including the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and protect their students and their devices from threats.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks, like other WebTitan products, is a DNS-based web filter that applies filtering controls at the DNS lookup stage of web requests. That means there is no latency – Internet speed is unaffected. Since WebTitan is entirely cloud-based, there is no need for any additional hardware and the solution requires no proxies or VPNs.

Set up is easy and user and device level web filtering for Chromebooks can be set up in just a few minutes. The solution provides protection for students regardless of where the Internet is accessed – students will have access to a clean, safe, filtered Internet in the classroom and at home, and it is also easy to lockdown Chromebooks to prevent any bypassing of filtering controls. Administrators also have full visibility into Internet access, including locations, web pages visited, and attempts made to visit prohibited content.

Using WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks provides an effective way to apply filtering policies to your Chromebooks from the cloud.

Support Added for in Azure Active Directory

WebTitan Cloud version 4.16 includes DNS Proxy 2.06, which supports filtering of users in Azure Active Directory, as well as on-premise AD and directory integration for Active Directory, with further directory services due to be added to meet customers’ need.

Current WebTitan customers will be automatically updated to the latest version of WebTitan Cloud and will have instant access to the new features and the latest fixes will be applied automatically.

“This new release comes after an expansive first quarter. The launch of WebTitan Cloud 4.16 brings phenomenal new security features to our customers,” Said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “After experiencing significant growth in 2020, TitanHQ expects these product enhancements and new features to make 2021 another record-breaking year.”

Worrying Number of Employees Using Work Devices for Non-Work Purposes

The pandemic forced many businesses to accelerate their digital transformation strategies to support an at home workforce and survive the pandemic; however, this new approach to working was not without risk.

Cybercriminals took advantage of companies that failed to address vulnerabilities, with some of the most widely exploited vulnerabilities in 2020 in remote access solutions such as the Pulse Secure VPN. Brute force attacks against Remote Desktop Protocol skyrocketed as more businesses switched to remote working, and while many businesses have opened their offices once again, the brute force attacks are still occurring at levels far above those before the pandemic.

Threat actors also stepped up their attacks on remote workers early on in the pandemic and attacks are continuing as lockdowns persist and employees continue to work from home. Many businesses address these risks through security awareness training and teach employees cybersecurity best practices and how to identify threats such as phishing. A little security awareness can go a long way and can be the difference between a threat being recognized and avoided or a link in a phishing email being clicked without thinking by an employee.

There are many threats that businesses may not be aware of, one of which was highlighted by a recent YouGov survey. Throughout a large part of the pandemic, schools have been closed and children have been home schooled. The survey revealed a quarter of UK workers have allowed their children to use their corporate device as part of home schooling and for other purposes such as socializing and gaming.

An employee may be aware not to engage in risky online activities, but children using work devices for Internet access leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks. The survey, conducted on 2,000 UK employees, also revealed 70% of employees could access social media websites on their corporate devices and despite being one of the most fundamental aspects of security, 74% of employees said they did not use a unique password for all accounts.

During the pandemic when employees are isolated and may ben struggling with home schooling as well as working, it is understandable for employers to take a more relaxed view on the use of work computers for non-work purposes, but risks do need to be managed. Having no visibility into Internet access and failing to implement any controls over the content that can be accessed by remote workers and other household members on work laptops is a serious risk, and one that could easily lead to a malware or ransomware attack.

One of the ways that security can be improved for remote workers is to place certain restrictions on uses of corporate laptops with a web filter. A web filter such as WebTitan gives IT teams visibility into the sites that their employees are accessing, which allows them to identify potential risks and apply controls to reduce those risks to an acceptable level.

WebTitan can be used to prevent downloads of certain file types to reduce the risk of a malware infection and to block access to high-risk websites, such non-sanctioned file sharing services. Categories of website can be blocked at the click of a mouse, such as social media websites, and it is straightforward to block messenger services.

WebTitan is a powerful, yet easy to use security solution that is easy to apply to protect devices issued to employees no matter where they work and can greatly improve security with a remote workforce as well as when employees return to the office.

For further information on improving security for remote workers, including web filtering and email security, give the TitanHQ team a call. You can also sign up for a free trial of WebTitan here and immediately reduce risk.

Network Segmentation Best Practices to Improve Security

What is Network Segmentation?

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.

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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

Network Segmentation Best Practices

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 damage?

  • 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.

 

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.

TitanHQ Wins 3 Expert Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards for SpamTitan, WebTitan, and ArcTitan

TitanHQ has announced that three of its cybersecurity solutions have been named winners at the 2021 Expert Insights’ Best-Of” Awards, beating some of the best-known email security, web security, and email archiving products on the market.

For more than 25 years, TitanHQ has been developing innovative cybersecurity solutions to protect businesses from email and web-based threats to their networks and data. TitanHQ’s multi-award-winning products are used by more than 8,500 businesses in over 150 countries, and 2,500 Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer TitanHQ solutions to their customers to protect them from phishing, malware, ransomware, botnets, viruses, and other cyber threats.

Expert Insights is a respected website that was created in 2018 to help businesses research and select the best cybersecurity solutions to protect their networks and data from cyber threats. Through impartial product reviews, advice from cybersecurity experts, and industry analysis, IT leaders can discover the best cybersecurity solutions to meet their unique needs. The website helps more than 40,000 businesses a month with their research into cybersecurity products and services.

Each year, Expert Insights recognizes the leading cybersecurity service and solution providers and their products at the Expert Insights’ Best-Of” Awards. Technical experts with decades of experience in the cybersecurity industry assess products based on several factors, including ease of use, range of features, the protection provided, and market position, as well as how each product is rated by verified business users. The top products then receive an Expert Insights’ Best-Of” Award.

This year, TitanHQ was recognized by Expert Insights for the powerful threat protection provided by its products, the ease-of-use of the solutions, and their cost-effectiveness, which is why the solutions have proven to be so popular with enterprises, SMBs and MSPs looking for comprehensive protection against email and web-based threats.

“2020 was an unprecedented year of cybersecurity challenges, with a rapid rise in remote working causing a massive acceleration in cybercrime,” said Expert Insights CEO and Founder Craig MacAlpine. “Expert Insights’ Best-Of awards are designed to recognize innovative cybersecurity providers like TitanHQ that have developed powerful solutions to keep businesses safe against increasingly sophisticated cybercrime.”

WebTitan, TitanHQ’s powerful DNS-filtering solution was named a winner in the Web Security category, the SpamTitan anti-phishing and anti-spam solution was named a winner in the Email Security Gateway category, and ArcTitan was named a winner in the Email Archiving category.

“The recent pandemic and the growth of remote working initiatives have further highlighted the need for multiple layers of cybersecurity and our award-winning solutions form key pillars in this security strategy,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “We will continue to innovate and provide solutions that MSPs can use to deliver a consistent, secure and reliable experience to their customers.” 

 

How Does DNS Filtering Work?

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 198.35.26.96. The DNS maps IP addresses to domain names to allow computers to find web resources.

How DNS Filtering WorksWhen 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.
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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

If you have yet to implement a web filtering solution, are unhappy with your current DNS filtering service, or you have questions about DNS content filtering, contact the TitanHQ team today and ask about WebTitan Cloud.

Why not try our web filtering solution for free?

 

How Does DNS Filtering Work FAQ

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.

What is Cloud Web Filtering Software?

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.

WastedLocker Ransomware Delivered Using Fake Software Updates

The notorious cybercriminal organization Evil Corp, which was responsible for the Dridex and Zeus banking Trojans and BitPaymer ransomware, have started using a brand new ransomware called Wastedlocker, so named due to the .wasted extension which is used on encrypted files.

Evil Corp has been relatively quiet in recent months following the indictment of two high-profile members of the group by the U.S. Department of Justice in December 2019 for their role in the creation and distribution of Dridex and Zeus. The group bounced back with relatively low-level campaigns in January, but there has been little activity since. It appears that the time has been spent developing WastedLocker ransomware, which appears to have been mostly written from scratch.

WastedLocker ransomware was first used in May 2020 and is believed to be a replacement for BitPaymer ransomware. In the short space of time that the new ransomware has been in use, attacks have been conducted on at least 31 organizations, according to data from Symantec. Most of the victims are located in the United States, eight of which are Fortune 500 companies and 11 are publicly listed. Attacks have been conducted on companies operating in a wide range of industry sectors, with the manufacturing, information technology, and media and telecommunications sectors experiencing the highest number of attacks.

Evil Corp appears to be targeting large organizations with deep enough pockets to pay the sizeable ransom demand, which has ranged from $500,000 to $10 million in some cases. In contrast to many other ransomware operators, Evil Corp does not steal data prior to file encryption, although that could well change in the future. The group certainly has the technical skill to adopt that tactic, but it appears that they have refrained from doing so to stay under the radar.

WastedLocker ransomware is downloaded using the JavaScript framework SocGholish under the guise of a browser update. Symantec has identified more than 150 websites that have been compromised that are being used as part of the campaign to deliver the ransomware payload. Once a network has been compromised, the attackers use living-off-the-land tactics to move laterally and gain access to as many endpoints as possible, including tools such as PsExec and PowerShell. The gang has been observed using the penetration testing tool Cobalt Strike to log keystrokes and obtain credentials and escalate privileges, before the WastedLocker ransomware is executed and files across the network are encrypted.

In addition to encrypting endpoints, the group is targeting database services, file servers, virtual machines and cloud environments to cause maximum disruption to maximize the probability of the ransom being paid. The group is careful and patient, often waiting several months before their ransomware encryption routine is triggered.

Evil Corp is one of many threat actors to have adopted ransomware, with attacks on businesses having increased over the past few months. Around 15 groups are now conducting manual ransomware attacks in which data is stolen prior to file encryption and threats are issued to publish or sell the stolen data if the ransom is not paid. This tactic has been effective, with around half of businesses paying the ransom.

The University of California San Francisco is one of the latest victims that has been forced to pay the ransom to recover data encrypted in the attack. That ransomware attack involved NetWalker ransomware, and data was stolen in that attack prior to encryption. Without access to essential research data, the university had little option other than paying the $1.14 million ransom.

Organizations are attacked in a variety of ways, often using brute force tactics on RDP or exploiting vulnerabilities in VPNs, but there has also been an increase in email-delivered ransomware and drive-by malware downloads, highlighting the need for advanced email and web security solutions, which is an area where TitanHQ can help.

Web Filtering Myths and the Truth About DNS Filtering

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.

Web Filtering Myths

How to Defend Against Phishing Attacks on Remote Workers

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%.

Increase in Malvertising Highlights Importance of Strong Internet Security Measures

The massive increase employees working reportedly has not been missed by cybercriminals, who are actively targeting these workers using a variety of tactics to fool them into disclosing their credentials or installing malware. Phishing attacks remain the most common method used to attack remote workers, but there has also been a notable increase in malvertising during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malvertising is the practice of creating malicious adverts which are syndicated across legitimate websites through third-party ad networks. The malicious adverts are used to redirect website visitors to webpages where credentials are harvested, malware is downloaded, or to other scams to obtain fraudulent payments or charitable donations.

Several COVID-19 themed ploys have been used in these malvertising campaigns to trick people into downloading malware. These scams prey on fears about SARS-CoV-19, often spoofing WHO and other COVID-19 authorities to add legitimacy to the campaigns. A common theme is an offer of important advice on how to protect against COVID-19.

There rise in malvertising activity during the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant, with some reports indicating the number of malicious adverts have doubled in March compared to standard levels of malicious advert activity prior to the pandemic.

A malvertising campaign was recently identified that spoofed the anti-malware software vendor Malwarebytes. The campaign claimed the user’s computer was infected with malware and a download of Malwarebytes’ software was required to remove the infections. The malicious webpage used for the scam was on a malwarebytes-free domain that was registered on March 29, 2020. The site used a copycat template created from stolen branding from the genuine site. Any individual that landed on the website that was using the Internet Explorer browser was redirected to a webpage hosting the Fallout exploit kit that silently downloads the Raccoon information stealer.

There was a major increase in domain registrations related to COVID-19 in March. While not all of these websites are currently being used for nefarious purposes, many are being used for scamming. NTT recently issued an alert stating that around 2,000 COVID-19 domains are being set up each day and there has been a significant rise in phishing attacks directing users to newly registered domains. The TrickBot Trojan accounts for the majority of malware infections from these sites. Figures from Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 team show there was a 656% increase in the number of new COVID-19 related domains registered in March.

The increase in web-based attacks calls for improvements to cybersecurity defenses to protect remote employee’s devices from malware infections. A download of malware onto a user’s device could easily see the malware transferred to the network when the user connects.

One of the easiest and most effective ways of blocking these attacks is to implement a web filtering solution such as WebTitan Cloud. With WebTitan Cloud in place, when a user attempts to visit a malicious website, or when an attempt is made to redirect a user through malvertising, rather than arriving on the website the user will be directed to a local block page.

WebTitan Cloud also allows filtering controls to be applied to control the types of websites employees can visit on their corporate-owned devices. Controls can be applied to block access to risky websites such as torrents and peer-to-peer file sharing sites, which are also being used to distribute malware.

WebTitan Cloud is a DNS-based filter that conducts filtering at the DNS lookup stage of a web request. Applying filtering controls and restricting access to certain categories of website involves no latency, which is especially important during lockdown when employees typically have far less bandwidth available than at the office.

WebTitan Cloud does not require the installation of a clients and the solution can be set up and configured in minutes to protect all workers, no matter where they choose to access the internet.

If you are interested in improving internet security and want to find out more about WebTitan Cloud and DNS filtering, call TitanHQ today to book a product demonstration, register for a free trial, and start protecting your employees from online threats.

Cybercriminals Are Exploiting Uncertainty and Fear About Coronavirus and COVID-19

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.

Why a DNS Filter Should be Part of Your Security Stack

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.

How to Protect Remote Workers from Wi-Fi Threats

Today there is an increasingly mobile workforce. Workers are able to travel and stay connected to the office and many employees are allowed to work remotely for at least some part of the week. While workers are in the office, security is not a problem for IT departments. Workers connect to the internal network, be that a wired or wireless network, and thanks to the protection of the firewall, their devices and the network are protected. The problem comes when workers move outside the protection of that firewall. Here IT departments struggle to ensure the same level of protection.

When workers are travelling for work or are between the home and the office, they often connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots. Connecting to those hotspots introduces risks. While connected, sensitive information could potentially be disclosed which could be intercepted. Malware could also be inadvertently downloaded. When a connection is made to the work network, that malware could easily be transferred.

Connecting to untrusted Wi-Fi networks is a major risk. These could be legitimate Wi-Fi services provided on public transport, in coffee shops, or city-wide Wi-Fi networks. While these networks may be safe, there is no telling who may be connected to that network. These Wi-Fi networks are often not monitored, and cybersecurity protections may be poor.

There are several possible attack scenarios where an individual could perform malicious acts on users of the Wi-Fi network. One of the biggest risks is a man-in-the-middle attack. In this scenario, a Wi-Fi user will be connected to the network and will believe that they are securely accessing the internet, their email, or even the work network, when the reality is that their connection is anything but secure.

A hacker could be listening in and could obtain information from that connection. Through ARP poisoning, a hacker could trick the Wi-Fi gateway and the user’s device into connecting, and traffic would be routed through the hacker’s device where it is intercepted. An attacker could also create an evil twin hotspot. Here a rogue hotspot is created that closely mimics the genuine hotspot. A Wi-Fi user may mistakenly connect to the evil twin thinking they are connected to the legitimate hotspot. Since the evil twin is operated by the attacker, any information disclosed while connected can be intercepted.

Remote workers must be told never to connect to a Wi-Fi network unless they do so through a VPN than encrypts their data. Employees may forget to connect to their VPN, and if weak passwords are used, even if they are encrypted they could be cracked relatively easily, but with a VPN and password policies, risk will be reduced to a reasonable level.

Wi-Fi networks tend not to have the same protections as corporate networks, so there may be little restrictions on the types of website that can be accessed while connected. To protect remote workers, a DNS filter such as WebTitan should be used.

A DNS filter performs content control at the DNS lookup stage when a user attempts to access the internet. When a web address is entered in the browser, the DNS server looks up the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) and matches it with the IP address of the website. The browser is provided with the IP address and the server is contacted and the content is downloaded. With a DNS filter, before any content is downloaded, it is subject to certain rules. For instance, category-based filtering could be used to prevent adult content from being accessed. An attempt would be blocked before any content is downloaded. Importantly for security, the DNS filter would prevent the user from visiting any known malicious website. A phishing site for instance or a site known to harbor malware. With a cloud-based DNS filtering service, all filtering takes place in the cloud and there is no latency regardless of where the individual is located. DNS filtering protects workers on corporate networks as well as remote workers.

A further control that is useful is an email filtering solution, such as SpamTitan, that incorporates Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC).

In the event of a user’s email credentials being obtained in a man-in-the-middle attack via a rogue Wi-Fi hotspot, their email account could be accessed by the attacker. Since legitimate credentials are being used, this would not generate any alerts and the attacker could peruse the email account in their own time. If the account is used to send phishing messages, as they often are, DMARC will prevent those messages from being delivered and will alert the company to the issue.

The DMARC element of the spam filter checks the sender’s IP address to make sure it matches the IP on the DNS servers for the sender’s organization to make sure they match. If the IP is not authorized to send messages from that domain, the messages will be rejected or quarantined, and the company would be alerted to the phishing attack. The same is true for spoofing of email addresses.

SpamTitan also includes dual anti-virus engines to identify malware sent via email and sandboxing to help catch previously unknown malware variants that have yet to have their signatures uploaded to AV engines. Any malware sent via email will also be quarantined to keep inboxes free of threats.

If you run a business and allow workers to connect remotely, speak to TitanHQ today to find out more about how you can better protect your remote workers, and your business, from cyberattacks conducted via email and the web.

Our team of highly experienced staff will walk you through the benefits of DNS and spam filtering, can schedule a personalized product demonstration, and will help you get set up for a free trial of SpamTitan and WebTitan. You can then evaluate both solutions in your own environment. Both solutions can be set up and protecting you in a matter of minutes.