Crackdown on Fake News Shines Light on Typosquatting and Cybersecurity Risks

The proposed crackdown on fake news websites has shone a light on the use of typosquatting and cybersecurity risks for businesses from employees visiting fake news websites.

Over the past few weeks there has been considerable media attention focused on fake news websites and the harm that these fake news stories can cause.

Just as newspapers and news networks can earn big money from being the first to break a new story, there is big money to be made from posting fake news items. The problem is growing and it is now becoming harder to separate fact from fiction. 2016 has seen fake news stories hit the headlines – Both the problem and the republishing of fake news in the mainstream media.

Fake News Websites are a Serious Problem

This year’s U.S. presidential election has seen the Internet awash with propaganda and fake news posts, especially – but not exclusively – about support for Donald Trump and criticism of Hillary Clinton. Fake news sites such as the Denver Guardian (the periodical doesn’t actually exist) posted news about rigging of the election. Genuine news organizations notably picked up on a story about Denzel Washington supporting Trump; however, the original story was taken from a fake news site. Of course, these are just two of many hundreds of thousands of fake news stories published throughout the year.

All too often fake news stories are silly, satirical, or even humorous; however, they have potential to cause considerable harm and influence the public. Potentially, they could change the outcome of an election.

Consumers are now increasingly basing their opinions on fiction rather than fact. Fake news is nothing new of course, but the U.S. presidential election has brought it to the forefront and has highlighted the extent to which it is going on – on a scale never before seen.

Worldwide governments are now taking action to crackdown on the problem. Germany and Indonesia have joined the U.S. in the fight against fake news stories and there have been calls for greater regulation of online content.

Facebook has received considerable criticism for failing to do enough to prevent the proliferation of fake news. While CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that fake news on Facebook was influential in the election – “the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.” However, last month he confirmed a new initiative to address hoaxes and fake news. Facebook is to make it easier for users to report fake news stories, third-party fact checkers will be enlisted, news websites will be analyzed more closely, and stories will be pushed down the rankings if they are getting fewer shares.

All of the attention on fake news sites has highlighted a tactic that is being used to spread fake news – a tactic that has long been used by cybercriminals to spread malware: Typosquatting.

Typosquatting and Cybersecurity Risks

Typosquatting – otherwise known as URL hijacking – is the use of a popular brand name with authority to fool web surfers into thinking a website is genuine. The fake news scandal brought attention to the tactic after fake news items were posted on spoofed news websites such as usatoday.com (usatoday.com.com) and abcnews (abcnews.com.co).

To the incautious or busy website visitor, the URL may only get a casual glance. The slightly different URL is unlikely to be spotted. This may only result in website visitors viewing fake news, although in many cases it can result in a malware download. Cybercriminals use this tactic to fool web surfers into visiting malicious websites where malware is automatically downloaded.

Typosquatting is also used on phishing websites and for fake retail sites that relieve visitors of their credit card information or other sensitive credentials.

Even fake news sites are a problem in this regard. They often contain third-party adverts – this is one of the ways that fake news stories generate income for the posters. Those adverts are often malicious. The site owners are paid to display the adverts or send visitors to malicious websites. Adverts are also used to direct visitors to fake retail sites – zappoos.com or Amazoon.com for example. Many fake news sites are simply used as phishing farms.

While consumers can be defrauded, businesses should also take note. Since many of these sites are used to either spread malware or direct users to malicious sites where malware is downloaded, fake news sites are a serious cybersecurity risk.

Governments and social media networks may be taking a stand against these malicious sites, but businesses should also take action. All it takes is for one user to visit a malicious site for malware or ransomware to be downloaded.

Fortunately, it is possible to reduce risk with a web filtering solution. Web filtering solutions such as WebTitan can be used to block access to websites known to contain malware. Malicious websites are rapidly added to global blacklists. If a web filtering solution is used, an employee will be prevented from visiting a blacklisted site, which will prevent a malware download.

Malicious adverts can also be blocked and prevented from being displayed. Malicious links on fake news sites can also easily be blocked. Users can also be prevented from visiting websites when clicking on links to the sites in emails or on social media websites.

For further information on the full range of benefits of WebTitan and to find out how you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of WebTitan, contact TitanHQ today.

Anti-Phishing Solutions for Businesses Required to Tackle Growing Phishing Risk

Anti-phishing solutions for businesses are now an essential element of cybersecurity defenses. The risk from phishing websites has grown considerably in 2016, and 2017 is likely to see the problem become much more severe. 

Anti-Phishing Solutions for Businesses Now a Necessity

Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to infect end users with malware and ‘phish’ for sensitive information such as credit card details, email login credentials, and other sensitive data that can be used for identity theft and fraud. Cybercriminals have changed their tactics to infect more end users and bypass traditional cybersecurity defenses.

In the past it was common for domains to be registered by cybercriminals and only used for phishing or to spread malware. Sooner or later the websites would be reported as malicious in nature, and those domains would be added to global blacklists. As the sites were blocked, the cybercriminals would simply buy another domain and repeat the process. Phishing websites used to remain active for weeks or even months before they ceased to be effective. However, cybersecurity firms are now faster at detecting malicious websites and adding them to blacklists.

Cybercriminals are aware that phishing websites and malicious webpages have a very short shelf life and will only remain effective for a few days before they are blocked. In response, they have changed tactics and are now creating webpages which are only used for very short periods of time.

New webpages are now being created faster and in higher volumes. Those webpages now remain active for less than 24 hours in the majority of cases. Cybercriminals are hijacking legitimate websites with poor security controls or unaddressed vulnerabilities. Malicious URLS are then created and hidden on those domains. Cybercriminals have now all but abandoned malicious websites in favor of single URLs on otherwise benign websites.

The volume of phishing websites has also increased considerably in 2016. Studies now suggest that around 400,000 phishing websites are being detected every month of the year.

Web Filtering Solutions Can Significantly Reduce Risk

There are many anti-phishing solutions for businesses that can be adopted to reduce risk, although one of the most effective tools is an advanced web filter. A web filter can be used to prevent users from visiting malicious websites and webpages that are used to phish for sensitive information or infect end users with malware.

While it was possible for standard web filtering solutions to protect against the risk from phishing by comparing domains against blacklists, it is now essential for each webpage to be checked to determine whether it is malicious. Each URL must also be checked each time it is visited to make sure that it has not been hijacked and used for phishing or to spread malware. For that an advanced web filtering solution is needed, such as WebTitan.

WebTitan checks each webpage that an end user attempts to visit in a fraction of a second, with no noticeable latency – slowing of webpage loading. If a website or webpage is identified as malicious the end user will be prevented from accessing that webpage.

WebTitan allows businesses to further protect their networks by restricting access to certain categories of websites which are commonly used by cybercriminals to spread malware. Since these websites have no legitimate work purpose, they can be easily blocked without any negative impact on the business. In fact, businesses are likely to see significant increases in employee productivity as a result.

Cybercriminals are also increasingly using third party advertising blocks on legitimate websites to display malicious adverts. Those adverts redirect visitors to malicious websites containing exploit kits. Some of those adverts require no user interaction at all – visitors are automatically redirected to websites where drive-by malware downloads occur. WebTitan can be configured to prevent these adverts from being displayed, thus neutralizing the risk.

Cybercriminal activity has been steadily increasing, yet employing an advanced web filtering solution such as WebTitan can help businesses stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and keep their networks malware free.

For further information on the capabilities of WebTitan, to find out how easy it is to protect your end users and networks from attack, and to register for a free 30-day trial of WebTitan, contact TitanHQ today.

Why Web Filtering for Managed Service Providers is Now Essential

The increase in cyberattacks and proliferation of web-borne threats has made web filtering for Managed Service Providers one of the most important, and profitable, opportunities for MSPs. However, not all MSPs have started offering a web filtering service to their clients, even though web filtering is now an essential cybersecurity defense

Why is web filtering for Managed Service Providers now so important? Listed below – and in a useful infographic – are some of the reasons why businesses need to control the websites that can be visited by their employees and why web filtering for Managed Service Providers is an important addition to any MSPs service stack.

Cybercriminals Have Switched from Email to the Web to Spread Malware

Email remains one of the most likely routes that malware can be installed. Malicious email volume is growing and in Q3, 2016, Proofpoint discovered 96.8% of malicious attachments were used to download Locky ransomware. Blocking malicious spam email messages is therefore an essential element of any organization’s cybersecurity defense strategy. However, times are a changing. The threat from web-borne attacks has increased significantly in the past few years.

Cybercriminals are well aware that most organizations now use a spam filter to block malicious messages and that they now conduct end user training to warn employees of the risks of opening email attachments or clicking on hyperlinks sent by strangers.

However, far fewer businesses have implemented a solution that blocks web-borne threats. Consequently, cybercriminals have changed their focus from email to the Internet.

The shift to the web means cybercriminals can reach a much bigger target audience and can spread malware and ransomware more effectively. The extent of this paradigm shift is deeply concerning.

Now, more than 80% of malware is web-related and spread via malicious web adverts, hijacked websites, and websites that have been created with the sole purpose of infecting visitors with malware.

As TitanHQ CTO Neil Farrell points out, “the average business user now encounters 3 malicious links per day.” Those links are rarely identified as malicious and the malware downloads that result from visiting malicious websites go undetected.

Web-Borne Threats have Increased Substantially in Recent Years

Cybercriminals use exploit kits – malicious software that probes for vulnerabilities in browsers – on hijacked webpages and purpose designed, malware-laced websites. Zero-day vulnerabilities are frequently identified in web browsers, browser plugins, and extensions and these flaws can be exploited and leveraged to download malware and ransomware. Each time a new flaw is identified, it is rapidly added to a swathe of exploit kits.

Anti-virus software is capable of detecting a high percentage of malware and preventing the malicious software from being installed on computers; however, new forms of malware are being released at an unprecedented rate. A new malware is now released every 4 seconds. Naturally, there is a lag between the release of new malware and the addition of its signature into antivirus software companies’ virus definition lists. Visits to malicious websites all too often result in malware installations that go undetected.

Malicious websites are constantly being created. Google reports that since July 2013, 113,132 new phishing websites have been created and it is businesses that are being targeted. TitanHQ now adds over 60,000 new malware-spreading websites to its blocklists every single day.

Companies that fail to block these web-borne threats face a high risk of their computers and networks being infected with malware. Figures from IDC show that 30% of companies employing more than 500 staff have experienced malware infections as a result of end users surfing the Internet.

New Threats are Constantly Being Developed

The range of threats is also increasing. Malware-infected websites are conducting Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks, Cross-Component attacks, SQL injection attacks, as well exploiting vulnerabilities in popular Internet applications such as Adobe Flash, JSON, JavaScript, XPath and XML. Keeping all of these applications 100% up to date, 100% of the time is simply not possible for businesses, and any out-of-date-software could be exploited.

Malware is used to log keystrokes to obtain login credentials for further, more sophisticated attacks. Banking credentials are stolen and fraudulent transfers are made. Businesses also have to contend with the current ransomware epidemic. 40% of businesses have now been attacked with ransomware.

Malware and ransomware infections do not just occur via obscure websites that few employees visit. Hugely popular news sites such as the New York Times and the BBC have been discovered to display adverts containing malicious code. Social media websites are also a major risk. 24% of organizations have been infected with malware via Facebook and 7% via LinkedIn/Twitter, according to a recent study by Osterman Research.

These and other serious threats, along with the extent to which infections are occurring, have been summarized in a new infographic that can be accessed by clicking on the image below:

web filtering for managed service providers msps (infographic)

WebTitan Cloud – Web Filtering for Managed Service Providers

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to prevent web-borne attacks: WebTitan Cloud. WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based web filtering solution that can be used to prevent end users from visiting websites known to contain malware. WebTitan can be configured to block malicious adverts and can prevent end users from being directed to malware-infected websites if malicious links are clicked.

Given the range of threats and the extent to which cybercriminals are using the web, it is now essential for organizations to add web filtering to their cybersecurity defenses. Consequently, web filtering for Managed Services Providers presents a huge opportunity for growth. TitanHQ has seen a significant increase in uptake of its web filtering for Managed Service Providers in recent months as MSPs have started to appreciate the huge potential web filtering for Managed Services Providers has to improve bottom lines.

WebTitan can be rapidly added to an MSPs service stack and is an easy sell to clients. WebTitan can be deployed remotely and rapidly installed and configured. The solution is automatically updated, requires little to no IT support, is technology agnostic, and therefore so has an extremely low management overhead. The solution also has excellent scalability and can be used to protect any number of end users.

MSPs can be provided with a white-label version of WebTitan Cloud ready for branding and WebTitan Cloud can even be hosted within an MSPs own environment. Perhaps most important for MSPs is the high margin recurring SaaS model. That means high recurring revenues for MSPs and better bottom lines.

Contact TitanHQ today to find out more about web filtering for Managed Service Providers, for full technical specifications, and to discover just how easy it is to add WebTitan to your service stack and start boosting profits.