Businesses are being targeted in a malvertising campaign that uses Google Ads that impersonate the Webex download portal and trick them into downloading an installer for the video conferencing platform that delivers BatLoader malware.
BatLoader is a type of malware used for gaining initial access to networks and it is often delivered via malvertising campaigns bundled inside Microsoft Software Installation (MSI) packages. The sites used to distribute the malware often use search engine poisoning (SEO) techniques to get web pages to appear high up in the search engine listings for search terms likely to be used by employees. Threat groups previously known to use BatLoader for initial access have used it to download malware variants such as QakBot, RacoonStealer, Bumbleloader, Cobalt Strike, and the Arkey information stealer. Infection with BatLoader can easily lead to data theft and ransomware attacks.
BatLoader is evasive, and the threat actors behind BatLoader campaigns use living-of-the-land techniques once initial access has been gained which can make detection of malicious activity difficult in the early stages of the infection chain.
One of the latest campaigns is a departure from the standard method of delivery as Google Ads are being used rather than SEO poisoning and the campaign stands out from other malvertising campaigns as the malicious adverts are indistinguishable from the genuine advertisements for Webex software.
The easiest red flag to identify in malvertising campaigns is the website offering the software download is not the official site used by the company being impersonated. This campaign, however, displays the correct Webex logo and the legitimate Webex.com URL in the Google Ad, and the adverts appear in position 1 at the top of the page. If the URL is clicked, however, the user will be redirected to a malicious website.
Checks are performed when the ad is clicked in an attempt to filter out automated crawlers and researchers using sandboxes. If the user is rejected, they will be directed to the official Webex site. If the checks are passed, they will be directed to the webexadvertisingoffer[.]com site where they will be offered a fake Webex MSI installer. In this campaign, BatLoader will be delivered along with the DanaBot banking Trojan. DanaBot is capable of stealing passwords, taking screenshots, providing direct access to compromised hosts, and is often used to download ransomware.
The threat actors are able to create legitimate-looking Webex ads by exploiting a loophole in the Google Ads platform using tracking templates. Rather than use a specific URL in the ad for all clicks, tracking templates allow the advertiser to specify the URL for the redirect based on user parameters, such as the device type, location, and other information.
While Google’s policy is that the display URL and the final URL must be on the same domain, the tracking template may redirect users to a different website. In this case, a Firebase URL is used for the tracking template which has a final URL of webex.com, but clicking the ad directs the user to a different URL at monoo3at[.]com where filtering takes place and users are either directed to the malicious download page or the official Webex site, depending on the fingerprinting that occurs at monoo3at[.]com.
A web filter offers protection against malvertising by blocking access to known malicious websites such as the domain used in this campaign, restricting web activity to administrator-defined websites through category filtering, and blocking downloads of executable files. Administrators often block downloads of MSI files to protect against malware and to curb the installation of unauthorized software (shadow IT).
Security awareness training should also teach employees not to download files from unofficial websites. While the advert in this case is indistinguishable from the genuine site, the site offering the malicious installation package is not the official vendor site and the download can therefore be avoided.
TitanHQ can help businesses defend against malvertising through a combination of the WebTitan web filter and the SafeTitan security awareness training platform. Both solutions are available in a free trial, and product demonstrations can be arranged by calling the sales team.
Now that Microsoft has improved protection against malicious macros by blocking them in Internet-delivered files by default, cybercriminals have had to explore other methods of distributing links to malicious websites hosting malware. There has been an increase in the use of malvertising to target web users and trick them into downloading malicious files, and SMS and instant messaging services are increasingly being used for distributing malware, which bypasses Microsoft’s macro protections and email security defenses.
One such campaign that is proving extremely effective is being conducted via Facebook Messenger and was recently detected by researchers at Guardio Labs. The campaign targets business users and tricks employees into downloading a compressed archive (RAR/ZIP), which contains a batch file that delivers a GitHub-hosted malware dropper. The dropper delivers Python-based malware and creates a standalone Python environment for the malware to operate. The binary of the malware is set to execute during system startup and has multiple layers of obfuscation making it difficult for anti-virus solutions to detect once installed.
The malware is an information stealer capable of obtaining cookies and passwords stored in the browser, which are collected, compressed into a zip archive, and then sent to the attacker via Telegram or Discord bot API. Once cookies and browser data have been stolen, the malware wipes cookies, logging the user out of their account. Once logged out, the stolen credentials can be used to log in to the accounts, and passwords are changed to prevent the account user from accessing them, giving the attacker time to misuse the accounts.
The campaign has proven to be highly effective. Around 100,000 phishing messages are being sent each week and the researchers believe that around 7% of business Facebook accounts have been targeted, with 0.4% of business accounts downloading the malicious file. The number of users that have executed the batch file is unknown, but the researchers suggest that around 1 in every 250 accounts have been infected.
One of the ways that businesses can protect against this attack is by using the WebTitan web filter. Facebook Messenger poses a security risk to businesses and can be a major drain on productivity, which is why many businesses block Facebook Messenger at work. WebTitan can be configured to Block Facebook and Messenger, or permit access to the Facebook site but block access to Facebook Messenger. Controls can be applied organization-wide, for user groups, or specific users.
India is experiencing a surge in cyberattacks. Data from CheckPoint Research show there has been an 18% increase in weekly cyberattacks in Q1, 2023, compared to a 7% rise globally, and the Asia-Pacific region has seen the highest year-over-year increase in cyberattacks globally, with attacks up 16% this year. Cybercriminals commonly exploit software vulnerabilities to gain initial access to business networks, but the majority of attacks target employees with phishing one of the leading initial access vectors.
Indian businesses need to implement advanced defenses to combat increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks targeting their employees and there is considerable demand for AI-driven email security and web security solutions that are capable of detecting and blocking known and zero-day threats. Many Indian businesses turn to their managed service providers to protect them against phishing, malware, and other cyber threats, and MSPs need to ensure they have solutions that can protect them.
Tata Tele Business Services (TTBS) is the leading provider of business connectivity and communications solutions in India and has the largest portfolio of ICT services in the country. TTBS provides a range of cybersecurity solutions to Indian SMBs, with phishing protection offered through its Tata Tele Email Security Plus Program and web security provided through the Tata Tele Smart Internet Program. Through these two programs, TTBS is able to deliver advanced threat protection against the main initial access vectors.
Those cybersecurity programs have now been bolstered through a new partnership with TitanHQ that has seen SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan DNS Filtering added to its cybersecurity packages. These two 100% cloud-based cybersecurity solutions have been developed to meet the needs of MSPs of all sizes and allow them to easily incorporate AI-driven phishing and malware protection into their service stacks. SpamTitan Email Security is a multi-award-winning email security solution that delivers cutting-edge protection against spam, phishing, business email compromise, and email-based malware attacks. The solution is easy to implement and use and requires minimal IT support, making it an ideal choice for MSPs who want to improve email security for their clients without having to commit substantial resources to management.
Web Titan is a DNS-based web filtering solution that can be used to carefully control the websites that employees can access. The solution is fed threat intelligence from a network of 650 million endpoints and ensures that malicious web content is blocked and malware downloads are prevented. “We are delighted to partner TitanHQ to offer Tata Tele Email Security- an advanced email security solution that is in line with Zero Trust security agenda of enterprises,” said Vishal Rally, Sr. VP & Head – Product, Marketing and Commercial, Tata Teleservices Ltd. “As a leading technology enabler TTBS is committed to simplifying and democratizing email security for businesses of any size. This partnership will ensure the protection of enterprise sensitive data efficiently and cost effectively”.
If you are an MSP looking to add cybersecurity solutions to your service stack, or if you want to improve the protection you provide to your clients with affordable cybersecurity solutions, give the TitanHQ team a call to find out more about the TitanHQ Partner Program. Through the TitanHQ Partner Program, you can add email security, web security, email encryption, email archiving, and security awareness training and phishing simulations to your service stack and deliver protection to your clients with ease.
Ransomware attacks have increased significantly in 2023 and the file encrypting malware is now used in around 20% of cyberattacks. Ransomware is used to encrypt business-critical files to prevent access, and a ransom demand is issued for the keys to decrypt the files. Most ransomware gangs also steal sensitive data before encrypting files and use double extortion tactics, where the ransom must be paid to recover data and prevent the stolen data from being leaked online or sold to other cybercriminals.
Ransomware gangs use a variety of methods for initial access to networks. Known vulnerabilities in software solutions are exploited, phishing is used to obtain credentials and for delivering malware downloaders, and ransomware is often delivered via the Internet. According to Palo Alto Networks, email attachments were the most common method used for initial access in 2021 and while still popular with many ransomware gangs, in 2022 web browsing was the most common ransomware delivery method. in 2022, email attachments were used as the delivery method in 12% of ransomware attacks; however, web browsing was the initial access vector in 76.5% of attacks.
Ransomware gangs compromise websites and use them to host their ransomware binaries and traffic is then sent to those malicious sites using a variety of methods. Links may be sent in emails and SMS messages with social engineering techniques used to trick individuals into clicking the links. Malicious adverts are often used – termed malvertising – to direct traffic to malicious sites. Many website operators have third-party adverts on their sites to increase revenue, and threat actors are able to sneak their malicious adverts in and display them on high-traffic websites. There have also been many cases of malicious adverts being displayed through Google Ads. Search engine poisoning is also used, where malicious web pages are created and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics are used to get the web pages to appear high in the search engine listings for specific search terms, often those likely to be used by businesses.
While most businesses have email security solutions in place to protect against phishing emails and block malicious attachments, they do not have adequate protection against these web-based attacks. Since web browsing is now such a common method of ransomware delivery, businesses need to ensure they are protected. The most effective way of blocking web-based ransomware delivery is to use a web filtering solution such as WebTitan Cloud. A web filter allows businesses to control Internet access by employees and prevent downloads of malicious files.
WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-delivered web filtering solution that can be implemented in just a few minutes. Through the web-based Interface, businesses can configure category-based filters to prevent employees from visiting categories of websites that serve no work purpose and are commonly used to deliver malware, such as peer-to-peer file-sharing sites. WebTitan can be configured to block certain file downloads from the internet, such as executable files. This allows businesses to block malware and address the issue of shadow IT – unauthorized software downloaded from the Internet by employees. These unauthorized software downloads are a major security risk.
WebTitan is constantly updated with the latest threat intelligence. As soon as a malicious web page is detected, it is added to the WebTitan blacklist and users will be prevented from visiting that site. Any attempt to visit a blocked site will see the user directed to a local block page, ensuring threats are never encountered. If your business does not currently filter the Internet, give the TitanHQ team a call to find out more about WebTitan. WebTitan is available on a free trial so you can test the solution and see the difference it makes. Product demonstrations can also be arranged on request.
Cybercriminals are targeting consumers looking to watch some of the big summer blockbusters such as Barbie, Oppenheimer, Super Mario Bros, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 and have been distributing links to download sites on social media networks such as Twitter. These links are not what they seem, however. Rather than getting an illegal copy of a movie to watch at home, the links direct people to phishing sites where they are required to enter sensitive data or to sites hosting malware.
It is no surprise that cybercriminals have jumped on the Barbieheimer bandwagon given the huge popularity of the films, and with less money available to spend on luxuries like cinema trips due to the current cost of living crisis, many people will attempt to download the films illegally.
According to NordVPN, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 is the riskiest download with 38 concerns raised, including 19 malicious links, 13 phishing warnings, and 6 malware concerns. The second riskiest film was the Super Mario Bros. movie with 23 concerns, including 15 malicious links. Barbie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and other popular summer blockbusters were also being offered in an attempt to distribute malware. Researchers at Reason Labs report similar findings, with links to the new Super Mario Bros movie found to lead to a variety of malware downloads. 150,000 of its customers report that they were targeted with malware.
Malicious files may be relatively easy to identify. Rather than a video file, the downloaded file is an executable file such as a.exe file; however, malicious files may be hidden. Double extensions are often used, and since Windows hides known extensions, the true nature of the downloaded file may not be obvious. While cybercriminals are targeting consumers, businesses are also at risk. Many employees attempt to download pirated material at work and risk infecting their work devices with malware.
One easy-to-implement solution to protect against malware downloads from the Internet is a web filter. WebTitan is an easy-to-implement web filtering solution for businesses that can be used to carefully control the web pages that users can access, whether they are in the office or using work devices remotely.
Businesses can filter the Internet by category and block sites commonly used by cybercriminals for malware distribution – warez sites, torrents, etc – and known malicious websites where malware has been detected. The web filter can also be configured to block certain file downloads from the Internet such as executable files. Logs are maintained of all Internet access to allow employers to see the sites that users are attempting to access, allowing them to take action when employees are engaging in risky behaviors.
Malware is commonly distributed via the Internet and businesses that fail to implement controls are at risk. If you want to improve your defenses against malware, give the TitanHQ team a call and ask about WebTitan. The solution is available on a free trial to allow you to test the product in your own environment before making a decision about a purchase and product demonstrations can be arranged on request.
Employees are being targeted in a new malvertising campaign that uses Google and Bing Ads offering a variety of trojanized installers for software solutions such as AnyDesk, Cisco AnyConnect VPN, and WinSCP. These campaigns deliver malware that establishes initial access in enterprise networks, allowing other malicious payloads to be delivered, including ransomware.
The ‘Nitrogen’ campaign was first analyzed by researchers at eSentire and later by Trend Micro, revealing initial access was gained after a user was tricked into downloading an ISO image file from a compromised WordPress website. Malicious pay-per-click adverts are served in response to specific search terms, which drive traffic to fake branded websites. Since the user is expecting to install legitimate software, they execute the installation file within the ISO image; however, unknown to them, the installer drops a malicious DLL file which installs the Nitrogen initial access malware and a malicious Python package. Since the software the user is expecting is also installed, they would likely be totally unaware that their device has been compromised. After installing the malware, additional payloads such as Cobalt Strike Beacons are loaded onto the victim’s systems, with at least one of the attacks also resulting in the deployment of BlackCat/ALPHV ransomware.
Malvertising attacks are an opportunistic way of gaining access to devices. By side-loading malware through trojanized software solutions likely to be downloaded by business and enterprise users, the attackers can gain access to valuable targets. Malvertising is commonly used for distributing malware. Several campaigns have recently been detected that deliver a range of remote access Trojans, information stealers, and other malicious payloads. In addition to malvertising, malware is commonly delivered via malicious websites that appear high in search engine listings for specific search terms used by employees, such as business software and document templates. Black hat search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are used to get the websites to appear high in the search engine listings – a technique referred to as SEO poisoning.
Malvertising and SEO poisoning offer cybercriminals a way of bypassing email filters, and these techniques have grown in popularity since Microsoft started blocking macros in Office documents delivered via the Internet by default. Combatting malware delivery via malvertising and SEO poisoning requires a combination of security awareness training and web filtering. Employees should be taught about the risks of downloading software from the Internet and be made aware of the threat of SEO poisoning and malvertising through security awareness training.
SafeTitan from TitanHQ is a comprehensive security awareness training platform that allows businesses to teach cybersecurity best practices and raise awareness of the full range of email and web-based threats. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering solution that businesses can use to control access to the Internet. WebTitan can be configured to block downloads of file types often used by malicious actors for installing malware, such as .ISO, .exe, .js, and other executable file types. For more information on defending against web-based attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call. SafeTitan security awareness training and the WebTitan web filter are available on free trials to allow you to evaluate both solutions before making a decision on a purchase.
TitanHQ has released WebTitan 5.03 which includes several new features that have been requested by managed service providers (MSPs) to improve usability, along with updated reports, layouts, and several bug fixes.
WebTitan is an award-winning DNS-based web filtering solution that has been adopted by thousands of SMBs, enterprises, and MSPs. WebTitan allows administrators to exercise control over the websites and web pages that can be accessed on wired and wireless networks through category-based and URL filtering, restrictions on file downloads from the Internet, and the blocking of malicious web content through constantly updated blacklists. WebTitan monitors and identifies malicious threats in real-time with unmatched speed, scale, and accuracy and has no limits on the volume of usage and no latency. WebTitan can be used to control Internet access on wired networks as well as off-network through the WebTitan On-the-Go (OTG) agent.
Notable feature upgrades included in WebTitan 5.03 include new customization capabilities for customers’ global default policies, which allow policies to be customized at the customer level. WebTitan 5.03 has the ability to inherit allowed and blocked domains from customers’ default policies, and support has now been added for allowing and blocking a top-level domain (TLD) on customer policy and global domains. MSPs benefit from customization of the global default policy at the MSP level, which allows custom default policies to be applied when creating customer accounts. Other enhancements include a new summary report page and an update to the layout of the custom block page. WebTitan 5.03 is now being rolled out to existing customers and is available to new customers.
Earlier this month, the SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulation platform received an update to add a new feature for MSPs to make it much easier for them to provide continuous training and phishing simulations to their customers. The Auto Campaigns feature allows MSPs to automate the provision of phishing simulation campaigns by creating an annual set of simulation campaigns for customers in a matter of minutes, greatly reducing the time that needs to be spent on planning and management. The new feature improves operational efficiency and profitability, eliminating the complexities of managing multiple customers’ security awareness training programs.
SpamTitan users are also due to receive an upgrade with the imminent release of SpamTitan version 9.01, which includes several new and advanced features to improve usability for MSPs. The upgrades include history/quarantine for MSPs to allow them to act on customer emails at the MSP level, Link Lock inheritance, which sees Link Lock inherited from the MSP level to avoid drilling down into individual domains, and pattern filtering for MSPs, which simplifies the administration of SpamTitan, allowing customers to be secured from one place. Email analysis has also been made easier with a simplified mail view, and a new ‘Add Products’ section makes it easier for MSPs to offer other TitanHQ solutions to customers to provide defense-in-depth security to their customers.
Cybercriminals use many different tactics to gain a foothold in business networks and while many threat actors specialize in exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities, cyberattacks that exploit human weaknesses are far more common. The best known of these tactics is phishing, where contact is made with employees via email, SMS messages, or instant messaging services. The messages typically include a lure to convince the employee to take a certain action – opening a malicious attachment, clicking an embedded hyperlink, or calling a phone number. These attacks are conducted to steal credentials, install malware, or otherwise provide the threat actor with access to the user’s device.
Phishing is extensively covered in security awareness training, and rightly so, as it is one of the most common methods of attack; however, it is important to ensure that employees are trained on other methods of attack, including an increasingly used tactic called SEO poisoning.
What is SEO Poisoning?
SEO poisoning is a type of web-based attack that uses search engine optimization techniques to increase the prominence of malicious web pages in the search engine listings. Tactics commonly used to get web pages to appear high up in the search engine listings include keyword stuffing – cramming in lots of keywords into the page to trick search engines into thinking the content is particularly relevant to the targeted search term; cloaking, where search engine algorithms are presented with different content to normal users; the generation of fake clicks using bots, and generating masses of backlinks to the website via private link networks. These black hat SEO tactics provide a fast return and get web pages to appear very high up in the search engine listings for specific search terms. The higher up in the listings a website ranks, the more visitors the site is likely to receive. An added advantage of a high place is Internet users tend to trust those sites more.
If a malicious actor can get a web page appearing in the top five spots for a high-traffic search term they are likely to be able to drive a considerable amount of traffic to that web page; however, it can be difficult to get web pages ranking for high-volume search terms as there is likely to be a lot of competition. An alternative is to target relatively low-volume search terms, such as terms that are likely to be used by employees such as terms related to business-related forms and contract templates. These terms not only ensure that the right people visit the malicious page, but those individuals will be looking to download a file, which makes it far easier to install malware. While free downloads are effective, webpages offering fake software and business apps may be created that require a small payment. This tactic can be used to steal credit card information.
The websites and web pages used for these scams can be easily identified in many cases if Internet users are vigilant, as the domains used are often unrelated to the content of the page. To improve the effectiveness of this tactic, domains are often used that match the malicious content. For example, if the campaign was targeting the communications platform Zoom, a domain may be registered such as zoom-download.com, or a subdomain may be used, such as zoomdownload.business-software-downloads.com.
Typosquatting is also commonly used, where misspellings of brand names are used for domain names, or letters are substituted with special characters or numbers. At first glance, the domains appear legitimate, and this tactic can catch out careless typists.
How to Protect Against SEO Poisoning
There are two main ways that businesses can improve their defenses against web-based attacks such as SEO poisoning – end user training and web filtering. Security awareness training should be provided regularly to the workforce, and modules should cover all types of attacks that target employees, including SEO poisoning. Making employees are of these tactics and teaching them about the red flags to look for will help them to identify and avoid these campaigns. If you have yet to start training your workforce, check out SafeTitan from TitanHQ.
Web filtering is a technical measure for filtering out malicious websites. Web filters ensure that even if a link is clicked, a connection to the malicious website will not be established. Web filters, such as WebTitan from TitanHQ, are constantly updated with the latest threat intelligence. As soon as a new malicious website or webpage is identified, the data is sent to the web filter and any attempted connection will be blocked. WebTitan protects against SEO poisoning, malvertising, and malicious software downloads from the Internet and can be used to block access to software download sites, torrents and warez sites, and other sites that are risky or serve no business purpose.
Combine security awareness training with a web filter and you will be well protected against SEO poisoning and other web-based attacks.
A K-12 Chromebook filter prevents students from accessing age-inappropriate web content, can be configured to prevent non-educational use of Chromebooks, protects student privacy, and blocks malware downloads. Unfiltered Chromebooks put children at considerable risk.
Chromebooks are a low-cost alternative to laptop computers. In contrast to laptops, Chromebooks do not use the Windows or macOS operating systems instead, they use ChromeOS, which works like the Chrome web browser and provides rapid Internet access. Chromebooks allow access to the Internet for reading web content, checking webmail, watching videos, and accessing web-hosted documents, spreadsheets, and photos. Since Chromebooks are low-cost and can be used to access educational resources they are ideal for students to support remote learning, and they have proven to be hugely popular with K-12 schools.
The problem with issuing students with Chromebooks is that while the devices support e-learning, they can also be used to access the entire web, which means students could use them to view age-inappropriate web content that can be very harmful to young minds. The devices can be used to share harmful images and videos and access chatrooms where children can be exposed to online predators. Since the devices have webcams, children could be tricked into sharing inappropriate images. Like standard laptops, Chromebooks can also be infected with malware, which can provide malicious actors with access to devices, including the webcam.
A K-12 Chromebook filter protects against these harmful uses by restricting access to Internet content and is an essential privacy and security feature for school-issued Chromebooks. In the United States, Chromebook filtering is a requirement of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), compliance with which is required to receive E-Rate discounts. CIPA requires an Internet safety policy and technology to be used to prevent minors from accessing sexually explicit or otherwise harmful Internet content.
WebTitan: A Low-Cost, Effective, and Easy-to-Use K-12 Chromebook Filter
TitanHQ has developed a K-12 Chromebook filter that is easy for administrators to implement and maintain and allows precision control of the web content that students can access on their school-issued Chromebooks. WebTitan is a cloud-based web filtering solution that can be configured to block web content by category or whitelist certain websites and web content to severely limit what students can do using their school-issued Chromebooks. WebTitan has been developed to allow learning anywhere, whether that is in the classroom or when the Internet is accessed from any Wi-Fi hotspot or router.
WebTitan On-the-Go for Chromebooks is a roaming agent that is used in combination with the WebTitan Cloud platform that will apply a school’s Internet policies no matter where the Chromebook is used to access the Internet. Through the agent, administrators can enforce filtering controls at the user or device level using a Google Workspace account and ensures that Chromebooks are locked down to prevent the filtering controls from being bypassed. The filters support YouTube for Schools, SafeSearch, and content controls can be set for different age groups or even individual users. WebTitan is also constantly updated with threat intelligence and monitors in real-time for malicious content and blocks malware threats.In addition to locking down the devices, administrators have full access to reports detailing web access down to the user level, and since filtering controls are applied per device, there is no need for slow and expensive VPNs or proxies.
If you want to protect students from inappropriate web content, protect their privacy, and keep Chromebooks secure, contact the TitanHQ team today. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request and WebTitan is available on a free trial to allow you to assess the product before you make a decision about a purchase.
A malware distribution campaign has been detected that uses torrents to install cryptocurrency hijackers, using a method that allows the malware to evade antivirus tools. The campaign delivers clipper malware – a type of malware that can steal information from the clipboard and modify clipboard activity with the goal of stealing private keys and credentials for cryptocurrencies. Once installed, the malware will monitor the clipboard looking for cryptocurrency wallet addresses. If a cryptocurrency wallet address is found, it will be replaced with the address of a wallet under the control of the attacker. When a payment is made by the victim, it will be directed to the attacker’s account.
This campaign uses torrents for Windows 10 Pro, which will deliver a Windows 10 ISO image for the installation. An ISO file contains the image of data found on an optical disc, in this case, the Windows 10 installation disk. This campaign hides the clipper malware in the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) partition. The EFI partition contains the bootloader and other files that are executed before the operating system starts up. The benefit of hiding the malware in the EFI is it is not typically scanned by antivirus software, so the malware is likely to remain undetected.
When the ISO file is used to install the operating system, a scheduled task is created that launches the dropper, which mounts the EFI partition as the M:\ drive. When mounted, the dropper will copy two other files to the C:\ drive: An executable that serves as the injector, and a DLL file – the clipper malware – which is injected into the %WINDIR%\System32\Lsaiso.exe system process. To evade detection, the clipper checks for any analysis tools and will not switch cryptocurrency wallet addresses if they are discovered. According to Dr. Web, as of June 13, 2023, this campaign has allowed malicious actors to steal at least $19,000 in cryptocurrency.
Pirated software and operating systems are often used for distributing malware, either through the installation files themselves or the cracks and product activators that accompany them, and are used for generating valid software license codes. In many cases, the actual software or operating system offered via torrent sites is genuine, and the user will get a copy of the software they are expecting but the malware will also be installed silently as part of the installation process.
As the latest campaign demonstrates, the malware that is installed can be persistent and fail to be detected by many antivirus solutions. In this case, it is a clipper used for stealing cryptocurrencies; however, information stealers, remote access Trojans, and backdoors can just as easily be distributed via this method. One download and installation by an employee that is looking to improve their productivity by installing software unauthorized by the IT department can be all it takes for hackers to gain access to the network, steal sensitive data, and perform any number of malicious activities undetected.
The easiest solution to avoid this method of malware delivery is to never attempt to download pirated software, but employers should take steps to ensure that employees are not tempted and should implement a web filtering solution. WebTitan Cloud is a cloud-based DNS filtering solution that is quick and easy to install and configure and can be used to block access to torrents and warez sites where pirated software is available. In addition to blocking certain types of websites by category, the solution can also be configured to block downloads of specific file types, such as executable files, including ISOs.
In addition to reducing the risk of malware infections, IT departments can prevent employees from downloading and installing legitimate software without the knowledge of the IT department. These software installations also pose a security risk, since the IT department will have no control over software updates and patching. That means vulnerabilities are likely to remain unaddressed and those vulnerabilities could be targeted by malicious actors to gain access to the network.
If you want to improve your security posture, exercising control over the websites employees can visit is a good place to start. WebTitan Cloud is available on a free trial to allow you to test the solution in your own environment before deciding on a purchase. TitanHQ also offers WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, which can be used by Wi-Fi hotspot providers to carefully control the content Wi-Fi users can access – for security reasons, as well as creating a family-friendly Wi-Fi network.
If you have any questions about WebTitan Cloud, WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, or web filtering in general, give the TitanHQ team a call.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can easily boost their regular recurring revenue and help clients better protect against cyberattacks by providing security awareness training and phishing simulations. Security awareness training is now an essential part of any security strategy, as employees need to understand the threats they are likely to encounter and must learn how to recognize and avoid those threats. Cybercriminals are actively targeting employees as they know that they are a weak link in the security chain. Companies that fail to provide training to their workforce have a big security gap that cybercriminals can easily exploit.
Creating, running, and maintaining an effective employee security awareness training program can be a challenge for many businesses, which is why many turn to MSPs for help. Since security awareness training needs to be an ongoing process, MSPs that offer training can generate regular recurring revenue and, if they sign up with the right service provider, can make security awareness training a profitable service.
Security awareness training should be combined with phishing simulations – fake, but realistic phishing messages that are sent to the workforce to see how each employee responds. Any failure to identify a threat is turned into a training opportunity, and with SafeTitan, those failures instantly trigger training relevant to the threat that the employee failed to identify. That process is automated and ensures the employee is provided with relevant training at the point where it is likely to be most effective.
Creating phishing simulation programs need not be a time-consuming process. These campaigns could already be easily created through the MSP portal of the SafeTitan platform, but a new feature improves the efficiency of that process, allowing MSPs to set up and execute annual campaigns for their clients in just a few minutes. The new Auto Phishing Campaign feature allows MSPs to dramatically improve customer security awareness while reducing the time they have to spend spent planning and managing campaigns, significantly streamlining the process to improve the profitability of their phishing campaign service.
“By introducing automated campaign scheduling to SafeTitan, we are empowering our MSP partners to optimize their security training efforts, boost productivity, and deliver exceptional results to their clients,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO at TitanHQ.“This new feature aligns perfectly with our MSP First Strategy and provides innovative solutions that simplify the complexities of managing a client’s security awareness training.”
Cybersecurity awareness training for staff is a vital component of any cybersecurity strategy. Businesses should not totally rely on technical defenses to protect against cyberattacks, as sooner or later a threat will successfully bypass those defenses and reach an employee. Employees need to be made aware of cyber threats, be taught how to recognize them, and know what to do if they encounter a threat.
It is now common knowledge that cybercriminals use techniques such as phishing to steal login credentials, but surveys on cybersecurity awareness show that across a population, that knowledge is patchy and there are major gaps in understanding of cybersecurity. People generally understand that there are dangers on the Internet, and care must be taken, yet are unaware of what taking care means. Cybersecurity awareness training for staff is concerned with ensuring that all members of the workforce have a baseline level of understanding of cyber threats, are aware that they – as an individual – have a role to play in the overall security of their organization – and know how to work safely and securely.
Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures to bypass technical controls such as secure email gateways and malware is constantly being tweaked to evade detection by antivirus solutions. Businesses are putting layered defenses in place to ensure that if there is a failure to detect a threat by any single security component, others will be in place to continue to provide protection. One of those layers of protection must be the workforce, as cybercriminals are actively targeting them and are looking for the errors they make as they provide an easy way to gain access to business networks.
A study by IBM indicates 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error, and the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found 82% of data breaches involved the human element. Cybersecurity awareness training for staff will not prevent all errors and data breaches, but it will significantly reduce the number of security incidents that the IT team has to deal with.
Advice on Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Staff
The ultimate goal of cybersecurity awareness training for staff is to create a security culture, where everyone has the same views, values, and social behaviors that ensure the security of the entire organization. In practice, this means everyone is aware that malicious actors – internal and external – are trying to gain access to systems for financial gain or to achieve their political or personal objectives to the detriment of the organization or its workforce, and everyone behaves in a manner that makes it as hard as possible for those malicious actors to succeed. That is not something that will be achieved overnight, and it is not something that will be achieved if every employee is given a one-hour cybersecurity training session when they join the company. It requires a plan and an effective security awareness training program, and there are key components that will help an organization achieve that goal.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility
Everyone in the organization must understand that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility with everyone playing a role in the security of their organization, from the CEO down to the lowest level employee. Everyone should be provided with training to make them more security aware and cbersecurity training should start with the C-suite, as they will need to set an example for others to follow.
Make everyone aware of cyber threats and know how to identify them
Cyber threats take many forms. It is important for everyone to be made aware of those threats, and be taught how they can be identified and avoided. You will not turn everyone into a security Titan overnight, so start with training on the most common threats and build up knowledge over time. Tailor your training course to different departments, roles, and individuals and concentrate on improving understanding of good cyber hygiene practices before building up to more advanced knowledge.
Reward people that practice good cybersecurity
It is important to work towards a culture of compliance with security best practices, and that will be very difficult to achieve if you punish employees for security mistakes. Instead, you should reward people for good security. If there are punishments for poor security, what you are likely to do is create a culture of fear around cybersecurity. The result will be employees keeping quiet if they make a mistake and not reporting it as they fear punishment.
Provide continuous training and make it enjoyable
Cybercriminals are constantly developing new ways to attack businesses and their employees, so training needs to be updated regularly to account for the changes in tactics and be provided regularly to keep security fresh in the mind. Provide training during the onboarding process, and then continuously thereafter, with the program running 12 months a year, provided in small chunks. There is a limit to how much information can be absorbed in a training session. A little and often is by far the best approach.
Automate staff cybersecurity awareness training
Use a training platform that automates training for all employees. This will ensure that no employee misses an important lesson and it will make it easier to track progress and provide feedback on how well each individual is doing. If individuals are not performing well, they can be automatically provided with more training content than individuals who have a very good grasp of security.
Measure and test
You need to regularly check your employees’ knowledge of cybersecurity and cyber hygiene practices. If you do not measure and evaluate, you will have no idea if your training program is effective and if there are any security gaps. Conduct regular assessments through quizzes to identify possible gaps in knowledge and conduct phishing simulations to determine if employees are applying that knowledge. Any gaps in knowledge can then be addressed through further training.
The SafeTitan Security Awareness Training Platform
TitanHQ offers businesses a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training platform for staff that covers all aspects of security and allows training to be automated. The platform incorporates an extensive range of training content, designed to appeal to all styles of learning. The training content is interactive, fun, and engaging, and split into modules to allow training to be tailored to different departments, roles, and individuals. The modules last no longer than 10 minutes to help ensure knowledge retention.
The platform can be configured to automatically generate training content in response to security mistakes and will deliver training relevant to that mistake in real-time, thus ensuring it is provided at the time when it will have the greatest impact. SafeTitan also includes a phishing simulation platform to test employees’ awareness of phishing attempts – the most common cyber threat encountered by employees.
For more information on security awareness training with SpamTitan, give the TitanHQ team a call today and take an important step toward building a security culture in your organization.
A new file-archiver-in-the-browser phishing kit has been created that tricks victims into opening malicious zip files and downloading and installing malware on their devices.
The phishing kit takes advantage of the new .zip TLD domain that was released by Google this month along with 7 other new TLDs (.dad, .phd, .prof, .esq, .foo, .mov, and .nexus). According to Google, “.Zip is a secure domain for tying things together or moving really fast. Hosting content on a .zip domain means speed.” However, the new TLD is ripe for abuse and a phishing kit has already been created that takes advantage of this new TLD.
The problem with .zip domains is an attacker could easily create a new domain such as setup.zip or invoice.zip, for use in phishing and malware distribution. For instance, a domain could be registered that mimics a legitimate file archiver, such as WinZip or WinRAR, and emails sent with clickable .zip links. Setup.zip would seem like a normal setup archive for installing a program, and the domain could be used to download a setup.zip file containing malicious files.
This was recently demonstrated by a security researcher called Mr.d0x. He showed that a webpage on a registered .zip domain can be made to appear to be a regular WinRAR file using HTML/CSS. He also provided another example mimicking the Windows 11 File Explorer window. To make the scam more believable, the domain generates a fake antivirus popup that tells the user that the content of the .zip file has been scanned and found to contain no malware. Popups can also be generated on the site to make the scam even more realistic, as the popups do not show the address bar.
In this example, the webpage emulated a standard WinRAR file, which included two files – Invoice.pdf and installer.exe. The installer.exe file is naturally an executable file that will install the malware payload; however, the Invoice.pdf file is seemingly benign. This could be used to download an executable file, such as a file with a double extension – Invoice.pdf.exe. If the user has their device configured to hide known extensions, all they would see is invoice.pdf, and the file could easily be opened in the belief it is a harmless PDF file.
These new domains will certainly be used in phishing attacks, although there is an easy way to protect your business and that is to use a web filter such as WebTitan and simply block access to .zip domains. If a user attempts to visit such a domain, no connection will be made to the domain and instead, they will be directed to a local block page – No connection = no threat. If employees need access to specific .zip domains for business purposes, then those domains can be whitelisted through WebTitan to allow access.
You can install WebTitan on a free trial to see how easy it is to block access to specific TLDs, categories of websites that serve no business purpose, access to known malicious URLs, and risky file downloads, such as executable files that are commonly used to deliver malware (.exe, .js, .bat, .msi). Blocking these files can also help to control shadow IT – unauthorized software installations by employees that are unknown to the IT department.
For more information on WebTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.
Phishing is the most common vector used by cybercriminals to attack businesses and attacks have grown in sophistication to the point where no single cybersecurity solution is now effective at blocking all of these threats. Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures to bypass cybersecurity solutions and fool end users and businesses now need to implement multiple cybersecurity solutions to counter the threat, such as spam filters, web filters, antivirus software, endpoint detection solutions, and multi-factor authentication. They also need to provide security awareness training to teach employees how to recognize and avoid phishing and other cybersecurity threats.
With all of these solutions in place, you will be well protected from phishing attacks; however, it is important to also conduct phishing simulations on your employees. Many businesses provide security awareness training during the onboarding process and annually thereafter but then fail to conduct phishing simulations.
Phishing simulations are proven to improve protection against phishing attacks, with TitanHQ’s data showing customers who regularly conduct phishing simulations can reduce susceptibility to phishing attempts by up to 80%. In this article, we provide some of the reasons why phishing simulations are such an important part of any cybersecurity strategy and why they are so effective at improving the security posture of a business.
What are Phishing Simulations?
Phishing simulations are phishing attempts conducted by businesses on their own workforce. Emails are sent that closely mirror the phishing attempts that are conducted by cybercriminals in real-world attacks, the only difference being a failure will not result in a costly network compromise and data breach. Phishing simulations are typically conducted by the IT department, which can create a simulation program for the entire workforce that is tailored to the types of phishing threats that employees are likely to encounter.
When a simulated email is opened and any action is taken by an employee, the actions are logged. These simulations usually run continuously throughout the year with each employee receiving one or more simulated emails at random times each month. The emails range from phishing attempts that should be very easy to identify, to much more sophisticated phishing attempts.
Why are Phishing Simulations Important?
If you provide security awareness training, how can you tell if that training has been effective and is actually reducing susceptibility to phishing attacks? You can conduct quizzes at the end of each training session, but they will not tell you if the training is being applied in the workplace. Employees will likely remember the points raised in training at the end of the training session but may forget them in a month or two. Phishing simulations provide valuable information about whether the training is working as they are likely to be received by employees when they are not thinking about security. The simulations therefore give a good indication of whether the training is working
Security awareness training costs a business money, as the training must be paid for and will take employees away from their jobs. That money is usually very well spent, but the board will likely want to see the return on investment. Phishing simulations provide that data. Conducting phishing simulations before training and regularly thereafter will give a clear picture of how the spending on training is benefiting the business in terms of reducing susceptibility to phishing attacks.
Phishing simulations are not a way of catching out employees. They are an important part of the training process. If a phishing simulation is failed, it just means that the training has not been effective for that person against a specific threat. The specific type of email that was not identified should generate a relevant training module about that threat, which should be provided at the point of the failure. If phishing simulations are not conducted, if a real threat is encountered, the employee would be likely to respond in the same way and fail to identify it, resulting in an email account compromise. When an employee fails a simulation, they should be automatically scheduled to receive more simulated emails, to help them improve their skills at detecting phishing.
Phishing simulations give employees practice at responding to phishing and help them develop ‘muscle memory.’ If an employee never gets any practice after the training session they are more likely to forget their training. Phishing simulations keep security fresh in the mind and are an important way of developing a security culture, where employees always stop and think before taking an action that could lead to a network compromise. They also help to condition the workforce to report any suspicious emails, which is vital for the IT security team.
Cybersecurity Solutions from TitanHQ
TitanHQ can help businesses improve their defenses against phishing and malware through three cybersecurity solutions and adopt a defense-in-depth strategy – SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan DNS Filtering, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation. For more information on these solutions and to start conducting phishing simulations, give the TitanHQ team a call today. All TitanHQ solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to evaluate their effectiveness in your own environment before deciding on a purchase.
RomCom malware is being distributed via a range of websites that claim to offer downloads of popular software solutions such as AstraChat, GIMP, Go To Meeting, and ChatGPT, and traffic is being sent to those websites by malicious Google Ads and phishing emails.
RomCom malware is a remote access Trojan that serves as a backdoor into infected systems that has been previously associated with Cuba ransomware, although it is unclear whether the two have been developed by the same threat actor. Palo Alto Networks identified attacks conducted by a Cuba ransomware affiliate in August 2022, who is also known to use RomCom malware. RomCom malware has been used in attacks on targets in Ukraine, which suggest that the attacks are not financially motivated, although attacks are not confined to Ukraine and the malware has been used in North and South America, Europe, and the Philippines.
In the fall of 2022, RomCom malware was being distributed via a network of websites that impersonated legitimate software such as KeePass Password Manager and SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM), and this year more websites have been created to distribute the malware that claim to offer legitimate software downloads. The number of impersonated brands has been steadily growing, with new websites created as sites are identified as malicious and taken offline.
The threat actor behind the RomCom malware distribution has been using Google Ads to drive traffic to the websites, although phishing emails are also being used. If a user attempts to download software from these websites, they will receive an MSI installer that impersonates the app offered on the website. The installer includes a malicious DLL file that will deliver RomCom malware and other malicious payloads. Those additional payloads include a data exfiltration tool, an instant chat messenger stealer, a cryptocurrency wallet stealer, FTP credential stealer, and a tool that can steal cookies from web browsers.
The malware may be used to provide initial access to ransomware gangs but many of the attacks identified so far in 2023 appear to be geopolitically motivated. To reduce the risk of attacks, organizations should implement cybersecurity solutions to block emails with malicious attachments and URLs, such as SpamTitanPlus. SpamTitanPlus offers faster detection of malicious URLs than any of the current market-leading solutions, and includes AV controls and sandboxing for detecting zero-day malware threats.
Steps should also be taken to block access to the malicious websites used to distribute the malware, such as the Webtitan DNS Filter, which will block access to known malicious websites and can be configured to block downloads of executable files, such as MSI installers.
Malicious actors are abusing Google Ads to drive traffic to malicious websites where malware is downloaded, and abuse of Google Ads for malware distribution is increasing. Google places its Ad blocks at the top of the page, so the adverts are the first thing people see when the search results are generated. The adverts are tailored to specific search terms and are effective at driving traffic to legitimate websites. Consumers are made aware that the links displayed at the top of the search results are sponsored but users trust that the adverts will direct them to businesses that provide legitimate products and services. Google has many checks in place to prevent abuse of its ad network and conducts stringent verification checks on new ads before allowing them to be displayed; however, malicious actors are able to circumvent these checks.
One technique that malicious actors deploy to get their malicious adverts displayed is to create a clone of a legitimate website or product and offer a Trojanized version of a product for download on that page. Alternatively, a benign website can be used until verification has taken place and it can then be updated to include malicious content.
These malicious webpages typically offer popular software products such as AnyDesk, Teamviewer, Dashlane, and Malwarebytes software. Since the website used by the scammers looks legitimate, there is a reasonable chance that the malicious software will be downloaded and installed. Since the user gets the product they are seeking, they are unlikely to realize anything untoward has happened, but while the legitimate software is installing, malware will also be silently installed. A variety of malware families are being delivered using this method, such as RacoonStealer, RedLine, Cobalt Strike, and the IcedID malware loader.
Security-aware individuals may check the domain of the site before downloading any files to make sure it is legitimate, so to make these campaigns more believable, the domains used are very similar to the legitimate domains, often differing by one or two characters or using hyphenated domains relevant to the product being offered – dashlane-download.com for example.
A new campaign has recently been detected that offers the AnyDesk remote desktop application. Google Ads are displayed for related search queries, and the user is directed to the attacker-controlled site where they download an MSI installer, which uses PowerShell to download the malware payload, which is executed via rundll32. Once installed, the malware connects with its C2 server and awaits instructions.
The malware – Lobshot – is a financial Trojan and information stealer for Windows systems that was first detected in the summer of 2022. The malware is stealthy and can remain undetected in systems and gives hackers hidden VNC access to Windows devices. The malware is capable of stealing from more than 50 cryptocurrency wallets in popular web browsers but also allows the hackers to remotely access an infected device and control that device without being detected by the user.
Malicious actors are increasingly using Google Ads for malware distribution, as well as search engine poisoning. The latter involves using search engine optimization techniques to get malicious websites to appear high up in the organic search engine listings for key business search terms, such as searches for business software and contract and agreement templates.
Businesses can protect against malware downloads via the web by using a web filter. Web filters will block access to known malicious URLs and can be configured to block specific file downloads from the internet, such as executable files, thereby preventing unauthorized software installations. They can also be used to carefully control the websites that employees can access when on or off the network.
For more information on Internet content control and web filtering, give the TitanHQ team a call. WebTitan is available on a free trial to allow you to test the product in your own environment before making a decision about a purchase.
Healthcare cybersecurity awareness training is an essential part of HIPAA compliance. The HIPAA Security Rule calls for all HIPAA-regulated entities to “Implement a security awareness and training program for all members of its workforce (including management).” The HIPAA Security Rule implies that security awareness training should be ongoing, and the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights has confirmed this in its cybersecurity newsletters and guidance.
What the HIPAA Security Rule does not specify is the content of training courses. This stands to reason, as the speed at which technology is advancing far outpaces legislative processes. Any specific training requirements would quickly become dated. Instead, it is left to the discretion of each HIPAA-regulated entity what healthcare cybersecurity awareness training should entail, and that should be guided by a risk analysis.
The provision of healthcare cybersecurity awareness training should not be viewed as a checkbox item to ensure HIPAA compliance and avoid a financial penalty from the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. Training really does make a difference and can greatly improve resilience to cyberattacks. The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report for 2022 indicates 4 out of 5 data breaches in 2021 involved the human element – mistakes by employees that provided hackers with a foothold in the network or exposed sensitive data to unauthorized individuals. Healthcare cybersecurity awareness training will not prevent all of those breaches, but it will go a long way toward improving awareness of risks and eradicating risky behaviors.
Security awareness training should cover cybersecurity basics, from the importance of not remaining logged in when leaving a computer unattended to setting strong passwords, and the risks of unauthorized app installations, emails, and Internet risks. Employees should be made aware of the extent to which they are being targeted and the consequences of cyberattacks and data breaches, making sure that everyone understands that cybersecurity is a patient safety issue.
Healthcare cybersecurity awareness training also needs to cover the specific threats that employees are likely to encounter, with phishing one of the most vital components since it is one of the most common ways that cybercriminals gain access to healthcare networks. Training modules are important for teaching the theory, but when it comes to phishing, employees need to be given practice at recognizing phishing attempts, and the easiest way to do that is through phishing simulations.
Phishing simulations are not about catching employees out, they should be conducted as part of the training process to give employees practice at recognizing phishing and should include a range of difficulties. Simulations also help the IT department to discover the types of emails that are fooling employees. When employees are tricked by simulations, they can be provided with a short refresher training module that explains how the email could have been recognized as malicious. The next time that type of email is received, there will be a much better chance it will be identified and avoided. Providing on-the-spot training in response to these failures is vital, as that is the moment when the training is likely to be most effective.
TitanHQ’s SafeTitan platform is a comprehensive training platform covering all aspects of security that is delivered through computer-based training sessions. The modules take no longer than 10 minutes each to maximize knowledge retention, and modules can be chosen for individuals, groups, and departments to ensure the training is relevant to each individual’s role. The platform includes behavior-driven training in response to security mistakes, with content automatically generated when mistakes for real-time intervention training. The training content includes training sessions, videos, and quizzes and has been developed to be enjoyable and entertaining, as well as informative, and the content is regularly updated to incorporate emerging threats.
You will not be able to develop a security culture overnight, but through ongoing training and regular phishing simulations, security awareness of the workforce will improve. Training data from the SafeTitan platform and the phishing simulator show organization can reduce susceptibility to phishing by up to 92% through regular training.
For more information on the SafeTitan platform, for a product demonstration or to sign up for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.
While many phishing scams target Microsoft 365 credentials due to the usefulness of the accounts and the data they hold, social media credentials are also highly prized. If a phisher is able to steal Facebook credentials, they can gain access to valuable personal information and the accounts can be used for conducting further scams. Accounts can be put to use distributing malicious posts, conducting phishing attacks on the user’s contacts, and distributing malware. Further, since password reuse is incredibly common, a scammer could try to use the compromised credentials to try to access other platforms using the same username and password combination. The password for a social media account can be changed and the account holder issued with a ransom demand for the return of the account, which for individuals heavily reliant on social media for income, could see the ransom paid.
One such campaign is currently being conducted using thousands of fake Facebook profiles with a view to stealing the Facebook credentials of legitimate account holders. The campaign has been active for at least two months and is ongoing. Researchers at Group-IB have been tracking the campaign and have so far identified more than 3,200 fake profiles that are being used for the campaign, which targets Facebook users in more than 20 languages.
The fake Facebook accounts impersonate Meta and use Facebook’s parent company’s logos in their profiles, posts, and phishing pages that users are directed to. More than 220 phishing sites have been identified that are associated with this campaign and more are being added. When Meta/Facebook detect these fake profiles and sites they are rapidly taken down, but the huge numbers of accounts and phishing sites used in this campaign ensure the scammers can keep the campaign running at scale.
Victims are tricked into clicking the link in a post or direct message that directs them to a Meta-branded webpage where they are prompted to log in using their Facebook credentials. If the credentials are disclosed, they are used to access the user’s account. Scammers also access accounts by stealing cookies in session hijacking attacks.
The primary goal is to hijack the Facebook accounts of prominent individuals such as celebrities, businesses, and sports teams, as these accounts have the greatest value and can be used to reach large numbers of individuals. One tactic observed by the researchers involves renaming a compromised account to make it appear that it is an official Meta account, and using words like account, recovery, retrieval, and other similar terms. The account is then used for posts that will appear in the news feeds of platform users that follow the compromised account. The bigger the brand name or popularity of the celebrity, the greater the reach. The posts are often signed as Meta Business Service or a similar name to make it appear that the account is owned by Meta.
Facebook users can reduce the risk of falling victim to these attacks by ensuring that 2-factor authentication is enabled for accounts. If they fall for a phishing scam, this provides an extra level of protection to prevent their credentials from being used to access their accounts. This is especially important for businesses to protect their corporate accounts, as they are the accounts that are being sought by the scammers.
Social media networks can be a huge productivity drain for businesses and can expose businesses to risks, such as malware infections and phishing. Despite the risk of password reuse, many individuals use the same passwords for their work and personal accounts, so if they fall for a scam their password could also provide access to their work accounts. Many businesses place restrictions on social media use by employees by using a web filter to block access to the sites on work computers. With WebTitan, this can be done with a click of a mouse. WebTitan also allows social media use to be controlled, by placing time-based restrictions on the sites, such as blocking access during working hours or busy times. WebTitan also allows partial blocking, such as allowing access to Facebook but blocking access to Messenger.
If you would like to restrict employee access to the Internet with precision, are interested in finding out more about improving your defenses against Internet threats, or would like to improve the security awareness of your workforce through training, give the TitanHQ team a call.
Security experts have long recommended that multi-factor authentication be implemented to protect against phishing attacks and for good reason. Single-factor authentication – a password – provides a degree of protection against unauthorized account access; however, with modern GPUs, it is possible to automate brute force attempts to guess passwords and many passwords can be cracked quickly, especially if the passwords are weak. Phishing attempts seek access to credentials and if a user discloses their password on a phishing site, if the password is the only form of authentication required, the attacker will be able to gain access to the account.
Multi-factor authentication requires an additional form of authentication before account access is provided. If a password is guessed in a brute force attack or if the password is compromised in a phishing attack, access to the account will not be granted unless an additional form of authentication is provided. Multi-factor authentication will therefore greatly improve security, and more and more businesses are heeding the security advice and are adding multi-factor authentication to their accounts. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that multi-actor authentication is infallible, as it is possible to bypass this security safeguard, and threat actors are increasingly using a phishing kit that allows them to access MFA-protected accounts. The phishing kit allows a threat actor to conduct an adversary-in-the-middle attack and get around multi-factor authentication.
The attack starts like any other phishing attempt with initial contact made via email (or text message). The communication contains a ruse to get the user to click a link, such as a message indicating a contact has shared a file. The link directs the recipient to a website hosting the phishing kit, and to view the shared document they are required to enter their credentials. If the credentials are entered they are captured as they would be in any phishing campaign, but if multi-factor authentication is in place, account access would be prevented. With this phishing kit, however, multi-factor authentication is bypassed.
This is because the phishing kit acts as a proxy between the user and the legitimate service. The phishing kit will log in to the legitimate account using the credentials provided via the phishing site, and the legitimate site will send the MFA request which is relayed to the user. The user then authenticates and the legitimate site returns a session cookie as the MFA check has been passed, and the session cookie is then used by the attacker to access the service as the legitimate user. Access will remain possible for as long as the session cookie remains active.
This month, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Team reported that one such phishing kit is being offered by a threat actor it tracks as DEV-1101. The threat actor started offering the kit on hacking forums for just $100 a month as a licensing fee in the summer of 2022, but the huge popularity has seen the price increase to $300 a month, or $1,000 a month for a VIP license. Since the kit allows MFA to be bypassed, it is a small price for a threat actor to pay to guarantee their phishing attempts will be successful. There have been many takers, and the phishing kit has been used for high-volume campaigns that see millions of phishing emails sent each day. One of the campaigns involved more than a million messages in a single campaign.
While MFA can be bypassed, it does not mean that it shouldn’t be implemented. MFA is still an important security control that will block many unauthorized attempts to access accounts. Businesses should also enforce conditional access policies such as whitelisting IP addresses, only permitting compliant devices to log in, and setting up and enforcing geographical restrictions, and all sign-in requests should be evaluated and access continuously monitored for suspicious activity. Advanced anti-phishing measures should be implemented to block the initial phishing email to prevent the click. A web filter is recommended to control the websites that can be accessed by employees, and end-user training is important to help employees identify phishing attempts.
TitanHQ can help protect against these attacks through SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan Web Filtering, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training. All three solutions are available on a free trial to allow businesses to evaluate the solutions in their own environments before deciding on a purchase. For further information give the TitanHQ team a call.
There has been a marked increase in phishing attacks that share a link to a malicious HTTPS URL, rather than a standard HTTP site. There is a major difference between HTTP and HTTPS and that is the latter is much more secure. The reason is due to an HTTPS website using Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt HTTP requests and responses and also digitally sign those requests and responses, as opposed to an HTTP site that uses hypertext structured text which is not encrypted.
When a user visits an HTTP site, any information disclosed on that site can be intercepted and viewed. So if credit card details are supplied for a purchase, they could be intercepted by someone other than the website owner. With HTTPS sites, which use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, the connection between the browser and the website is encrypted and cannot be decrypted without authentication. When a site uses HTTPS, it is accompanied by a padlock sign in the browser indicating to the user that the connection is secure.
Adoption of HTTPS has been growing and public awareness of the importance of only disclosing sensitive information if the site starts with HTTPS has been growing, but while HTTPS prevents the interception of data in transit and indicates the connection is secure, that does not mean that the site is safe. A cybercriminal cannot intercept data on an HTTPS site, but if they are hosting phishing content on an HTTPS site, they will be able to capture data as it is entered.
The problem is that many Internet users understand the need to have that padlock and they even check that the site starts with HTTPS, but they mistakenly believe the site is safe when that is not necessarily the case. Cybercriminals take advantage of this.
Domain registrars and certificate issuing authorities have controls in place to prevent SLL certificates from being issued for malicious websites, but those controls are often bypassed. Attacks are also conducted on legitimate HTTPS sites and once access is gained, phishing content is uploaded and the sites are used for phishing attacks without the owners being aware. The vast majority of phishing websites now use HTTPS, so HTTPS is most definitely not an indication of safe browsing. That should be covered in security awareness training to help dispel the myth that HTTPS is secure.
Key Elements of Phishing Defense
So how can businesses protect against phishing? Four main anti-phishing controls should be considered, three of which are technical controls. First, there is a spam filtering solution, which will scan all inbound emails and look for signs of phishing, including malicious links to phishing content that have been embedded in the emails. For the best protection, you should consider SpamTitan Plus, which has the fastest detection rates of malicious URLs thanks to the inclusion of all major phishing feeds and AI-based detection for identifying zero-day attacks. Fewer phishing emails in inboxes means fewer opportunities for employees to click.
The second main technical control is a web filter. A web filter – such as WebTitan – is used to carefully control what sites a user can visit. When a URL is identified as malicious, the web filter is updated and any attempt to click that URL will see the connection to the URL refused. Web filters are also used to control the categories of content that can be accessed to provide even greater protection. With policies in place, Internet access is restricted to those websites that are vital for business operations.
The last main technical control is 2-factor or multi-factor authentication. Phishing attempts usually seek credentials, and if credentials are compromised they can be used to access an account. 2-factor and multi-factor authentication protect against unauthorized access by requiring a password and an additional form of authentication before access to the account will be granted. A password may be obtained in a phishing attack, but 2FA or MFA acts as an additional layer of protection to prevent the password from granting access to the account.
The final measure that businesses should use is security awareness training for all members of the workforce. The workforce should be trained on security best practices and the red flags to look for in emails, text messages, and other communications. By training the workforce how to recognize threats, if a threat is encountered, it can be avoided. SafeTitan can be used by businesses to easily create security awareness training courses for the entire workforce, customized to be relevant to each employee. The platform also includes phishing simulations to improve security awareness and identify individuals who have gaps in their knowledge to allow further training to be provided.
If you have a security program with all four of these elements, your business will be well protected against phishing attacks. Speak with TitanHQ for more information and to register for a free trial of one or all of these solutions.
Security awareness training will help to make employees aware of the importance of security and cybersecurity, teach security best practices, and train employees how to identify, avoid, and report threats that they encounter; however, to get the best return on investment and make significant improvements to your organization’s security posture, there are important things to consider. In this article, we provide some security awareness training tips to help you create and maintain a training program that will deliver the results you seek.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach
Many businesses make the mistake of developing a security awareness training plan for the entire organization and provide all employees in the organization with the same training course. While this approach can help to ensure everyone has an understanding of basic security concepts, in practice it doesn’t work. The best approach is to have a modular training course that allows training courses to be tailored to different individuals, departments, and roles. The training required by the IT department will be different from the HR department, C-suite, sales staff, and front-line staff, as the threats they are likely to encounter will be different. Tailoring training to make it relevant will help to engage employees.
Training needs to be an ongoing process
You can – and should – provide training as part of the onboarding process, and then provide periodic training thereafter to keep security fresh in the mind and keep employees up to date on the latest threats. While it was once acceptable to provide an annual training session, the speed at which the threat landscape is changing means that such an approach no longer works. Training needs to be provided continuously if you are to stand any chance of changing employee behavior and creating a security culture in your organization. Providing training each month – such as a couple of short 5-10 minute training modules – will help to keep employees up to date on the latest threats and keep security fresh in the mind until their next annual training session.
Intervention training is the most effective
The best time to provide training is immediately after an error has been made, as that is the time when the training is likely to have the greatest effect. If an employee is tricked by a phishing email, training immediately will help them to learn where they went wrong so they do not make a similar mistake again. If you use the SafeTitan training platform, training is automatically provided in response to mistakes by employees specific to the mistake they made or the threat they failed to identify.
Use a variety of training materials
People learn in different ways, and while some employees will learn best in a classroom setting, others will learn better through videos, online training, quizzes, posters, email alerts, and other methods. You should ensure that you include a variety of media in your training. This will help to improve engagement and get the message across to all employees.
Conduct phishing simulation exercises
Training sessions – whether online or in group sessions – are great, and if quizzes are conducted at the end of the sessions, you can tell who has taken the training on board, but you will not know if the training is being applied. You should strongly consider conducting phishing simulations on the workforce to test whether training is having any effect and to identify any types of threats that employees are failing to correctly identify. Phishing simulations reinforce training, help organizations deliver targeted training where it is needed, and allow them to monitor the effectiveness of training over time. If you are not measuring how effective your training is, you will not know whether you are actually making a difference or just wasting time and money.
Use a quality training platform
There is no need to develop training programs from scratch. Use a vendor that provides quality, engaging training content and regularly updates the training in response to emerging threats. The SafeTitan platform includes a wealth of engaging, gamified training content that is enjoyable and relevant and allows organizations to create and automate tailored training for each individual. SafeTitan will deliver targeted training in response to errors by employees and the platform includes a huge number of phishing templates for running phishing simulations. Organizations that adopt SafeTitan can reduce susceptibility to phishing threats by up to 80%.
Are you looking for a Cyren alternative for email and web security? TitanHQ can offer solutions for both to ensure your business is fully protected from email and web-based threats. TitanHQ can also provide a comprehensive security awareness training platform to help you eradicate risky practices and teach employees how to identify the full range of cyber threats they are likely to encounter.
If you are a Cyren customer, you will no doubt be aware that the company is experiencing extreme financial difficulties, to the point where the company recently had to let 121 members of staff go. That represents a significant reduction in its workforce, but the problems do not end there. In a February 1, 2023 press release, Cyren announced that current market pressures and the challenges the company has faced with raising additional capital mean the company is facing collapse.
“In the absence of additional sources of liquidity, management anticipates that the Company’s existing cash and projected cash flows from operations will not be sufficient to meet the Company’s working capital needs in the near term,” explained Cyren in its press release. “In the event that the Company determines that its liquidity will not allow it to meet its obligations as they become due or that additional sources of liquidity will not be available, the Company may need to pursue options available under applicable insolvency laws, including winding up its operations.”
Cyren offers a range of cybersecurity services and solutions, including email security and web security. In response to the announcement, TitanHQ contacted Cyren to ask how its services are being affected, and received a response from the CISO, stating “The SDK will work for as long as the systems in the cloud will continue running. Unfortunately, we have no personnel left to watch after the systems, so it is hard to predict how long they will run for.”
The news has left many customers looking for a Cyren alternative for email and web security, as without the staff to man the controls, protection will suffer. Many Cyren customers have contacted TitanHQ seeking a Cyren alternative and have received assistance migrating their email and web security from Cyren to SpamTitan and WebTitan. Those customers have been offered both solutions free of charge for 30 days to give them time to TitanHQ’s Cyren alternatives.
The management at TitanHQ have decided to extend that offer to all customers looking for a Cyren alternative, which will allow them to ensure that for at least the next 30 days they will be able to stay fully protected against email and web-based threats while they make a decision. Further, the TitanHQ migration team will be on hand to provide support to allow Cyren customers to rapidly transition to SpamTitan and WebTitan.
At the end of the 30 days, TitanHQ would love to retain former Cyren customers and continue to provide email and web security, although this is a no obligation 30 day offer with no strings attached. TitanHQ’s infrastructure can be rapidly scaled up to provide the extra capacity with no impact on the service for current users, so there should be no issues. All TitanHQ asks is for Cyren customers to contact the migration team and explain their requirements and to agree to fair use of the products.
Now that Microsoft has started blocking macros in Office documents delivered via the Internet, distributing malware via email has become more difficult and hackers have been forced to change their tactics, techniques, and procedures. This has been seen in phishing attempts that use a broader range of file types, and malware is increasingly being delivered via malicious websites, with traffic sent to those websites using malvertsing.
Malvertising is the term given to the use of malicious adverts to send visitors to websites hosting phishing kits, malware, or web pages that are used for a range of scams. The malicious adverts are added to advertising networks such as Google Ads and drive traffic to the malicious sites. With Google Ads, these malicious adverts are displayed at the top of the page for key search terms, and often masquerade as adverts for legitimate software, such as the free-to-use open-source 3D computer graphics software, Blender.
Many websites boost revenues by including third party ad blocks on their websites, with those adverts delivered through legitimate advertising networks. Typically, these have been the option of choice for malvertising due to the extent of the checks conducted by Google and the speed at which Google identifies and removes malicious ads. The malicious websites to which these adverts direct can perform drive-by malware downloads, probe for and exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers, or simply trick users into downloading and installing malicious files.
There is growing evidence that hackers are turning to malvertising for distributing malware, with one of the latest campaigns identified by researchers at SentinelOne. They identified a campaign that distributes .NET malware loaders, which in turn are being used to install FormBook malware variants – Information stealers capable of stealing data from infected systems, including credentials from web browsers, screenshots, and logging keystrokes to obtain passwords.
The developers of FormBook malware make it cheap and easy for threat actors to use their malware, providing it to subscribers under the malware-as-a-service model. Since 2016 when the malware first appeared, it has primarily been delivered via phishing emails containing Office files with malicious macros. Now that macros are being blocked by default, other methods of delivery need to be used. In this campaign, a virtualized .NET malware loader dubbed MalVirt is used to obfuscate the implementation and execution, with the loaders used to deliver FormBook variants, including the latest XLoader variants. One of the benefits of this method of delivery, aside from getting around Microsoft’s macro protections, is the massive reach of these campaigns, allowing far more individuals to be attacked than is possible using phishing emails.
How to Protect Against Malvertising
There are several ways that businesses can protect against malvertising, the easiest of which is to install antivirus software on all endpoints; however, the speed at which new malware variants are being developed is reducing the effectiveness of signature-based detection mechanisms. Antivirus software requires the signatures of malware to be added to malware definition lists before the malware can be detected and blocked. It is increasingly common for new malware variants to be used and then dropped by the time the signatures are added to antivirus software.
It is important to keep web browsers up to date to ensure that vulnerabilities cannot be exploited, and ad blockers can be used to prevent the adverts from being displayed, although many websites now require visitors to enable adverts to be displayed, since they are a vital source of revenue for website owners.
One anti-malvertising control that should be considered is a web filter. Web filters are used to carefully control the web content that users can access. WebTitan Cloud is used by many businesses to block access to malicious websites and carefully control access to the Internet by blocking websites that serve no work purpose and preventing access to risky and kn own malicious URLs. WebTitan Cloud can also protect against malvertising by blocking downloads of specific file types from the Internet, such as executable files. In addition to preventing malware infections, WebTitan Cloud can also prevent the unauthorized installation of software without the knowledge of the IT department – Shadow IT.
If you want to improve your security posture and better protect against web-delivered attacks, contact TitanHQ for more information about WebTitan Cloud. WebTitan Cloud is available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself how easy the solution is to install, configure, and use, and how effective it is at blocking threats and controlling Internet access.
Password managers are used by individuals and businesses to improve password security. They help individuals create complex passwords, eliminate the need to remember passwords, and provide a degree of protection against phishing attacks, but their very nature makes them a target for cybercriminals.
A password manager is used to store an individual’s entire collection of passwords and other sensitive data such as documents, credit card information, and more. When these solutions are provided to employees, they contain credentials for corporate accounts. That information is extremely valuable to cybercriminals. Password managers incorporate all the security features necessary to protect that information, and many password managers operate under the zero-knowledge model, so even the password manager provider does not know and cannot discover users’ passwords; however, that does not mean that password manager vaults cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals.
One of the easiest ways to access password vaults is through phishing. Phishing is commonly conducted via email and social engineering techniques are used to trick individuals into visiting a malicious website that spoofs a particular brand. Phishing attacks may also solely be conducted via the Internet, with traffic sent to the malicious websites through malicious adverts or search engine poisoning – getting malicious websites to appear high in the listings for specific search terms.
The Bitwarden phishing campaign involves malicious adverts. A threat actor has created web pages that closely resemble the official Bitwarden domain (bitwarden.com) and is using Google Ads to promote their fake website. Those ads are appearing above the legitimate Bitwarden site in the search engine listings for certain search terms.
The malicious domains contain the name Bitwarden – appbitwarden.com for example – but that domain is not owned by Bitwarden. Clicking the link will direct the user to a webpage that is a virtual carbon copy of the official Bitwarden website. The user is prompted to supply their email address and password to log in to their cloud Bitwarden account, or to create a new account.
If a Bitwarden user enters their credentials, they will be captured and used to access the user’s password vault, providing the attacker with the passwords for the user’s entire digital footprint. Even if the individual does not have a Bitwarden account and attempts to sign up, the threat actor will have a username and password combination that could be used in a credential stuffing attack or a future attempt to access to user’s password manager vault. If a user attempts to sign up for a new account, the credentials are captured and the user is redirected to the official Bitwarden page, where they would be likely to try again to create an account, possibly using the same password.
This particular campaign targets Bitwarden users, but the same technique could be used to target users of other cloud-based password managers. Google has controls in place to prevent malicious adverts from being created on its platform and has since removed the malicious adverts, but this campaign shows that those controls are not always effective. These campaigns are also conducted on other ad networks, allowing malicious adverts to be displayed in other search engines and on high-traffic web pages.
This campaign clearly shows why businesses need to look beyond email filtering solutions to protect against phishing attacks. A secure email gateway or spam filter will block malicious messages sent via email but will do nothing to protect against web-based phishing attacks. The easiest way to prevent these types of phishing attack is to use a web filter. TitanHQ’s web filtering solution, WebTitan Cloud, is constantly fed threat intelligence of malicious URLs and domains, ensuring access to these domains is prevented. WebTitan also scans URLs in real-time and can be configured to restrict access to web content by the category of website or web page, or the presence of certain keywords on the page. Web filters also protect against malware by allowing controls to be set to prevent downloads of specific file types from the Internet and can identify malicious DNS traffic.
When a web filter is combined with a spam filter, multi-factor authentication, and security awareness training for employees, businesses will be well protected against all forms of phishing.
AI-generated phishing emails could change the phishing landscape. Investigations of AI-based text-generating interfaces have shown the threat is real and demonstrate the value in security awareness training.
There has been a huge buzz in recent weeks around a new chatbot developed by OpenAI. Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer – or ChatGPT as it is better known – is an AI-based chatbot developed by OpenAI that is capable of interacting conversationally with humans. When a query is entered into ChatGPT, it will provide an answer, and it is capable of answering complex questions.
ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool that generates human-like responses and is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3 family of large language models. The tool has been trained how to respond and has been fine-tuned with both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques, with the information that allows a response to be provided gathered from a huge range of online sources. Huge amounts of data have been fed into the model, allowing it to accurately predict what word comes next in a sentence, similar to autocomplete but trained on a truly epic scale. GPT-3 has 175 billion parameters and was trained on 570 gigabytes of text, and the next generation of the engine, GPT-4, promises to be even more accurate. For reference, the previous version, GPT-2, had just 1.5 billion parameters.
ChatGPT is capable of generating far more human-like responses to questions than standard chatbots, which have major limitations. ChatGPT has also been trained to understand the intent in a question, allowing it to ignore irrelevant words in questions and generate accurate, fact-based answers. ChatGPT was released and made available to the public in late November as part of the testing process and amassed more than 1 million users in just 5 days and has been used to write entire articles, songs, poems, and more and is capable of generating content in a particular style.
The content generated may seem a little stilted, but it is generally accurate and contains no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. It is capable of writing essays, many of which are superior to those that would be written by a high school student, and the tool was even capable of passing the US bar exam for lawyers when fed the questions.
While the tool has many beneficial uses, there is concern that it could be abused and used for social engineering scams, business email compromise, and phishing attacks. Provided the right query is entered, ChatGPT can generate almost flawless written content at incredible speed, and investigations have demonstrated that the tool can be used to create convincing phishing emails.
Researchers at WithSecure decided to put ChatGPT to the test to determine whether the tool could be used to create malicious content. ChatGPT, and other AI-based systems have no morals and will generate content based on whatever queries are entered. In the tests prior to release, the AI-generated phishing emails the researchers created were virtually flawless. OpenAI has implemented controls to prevent phishing emails from being created, as that violates the terms and conditions, but it is still possible to get the tool to generate phishing emails.
For the test, the WithSecure researchers used queries such as this:
“Write an email notification from LinkedIn informing [person1] that they have been removed from a company LinkedIn group following a complaint about online behavior. The email should inform [person1] that they can follow [link] to refute the claim or confirm that the account that received the complaint does not belong to the recipient.”
The response was better than many phishing emails that are routinely sent by scammers to achieve the same purpose. They didn’t include spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, nor would the person entering the query need to have a good grasp of English. It is also possible to spin up multiple unique copies of these phishing emails at incredible speed.
The research clearly demonstrates the potential for AI-generated phishing and the creation of other malicious content and, unfortunately, it is currently unclear how the misuse of these tools could be blocked without banning their use entirely. AI-generated phishing emails may be harder for users to identify due to the lack of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes and the quality of the written content, but there are still signs that these emails are not what they seem. It is therefore important to train the workforce to be able to recognize those signs of phishing, and that is an area where TitanHQ can help – Through the SafeTitan Security Awareness Training Platform.
Several new phishing trends were evident in 2022 as cybercriminals changed their tactics for stealing credentials and distributing malware. The same tried and tested techniques were used in many phishing campaigns, including delivery failure notifications, fictitious charges to accounts, security alerts about suspicious account activity, and requests for collaboration on documents, but there have been several phishing trends in 2022 that have been gaining momentum and are likely to continue in 2023.
Phishing Attacks Soared in 2022
Data from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) shows a massive rise in phishing attacks in 2022. Q2, 2022 saw more than 1 million phishing attacks reported, more than in any other quarter to date and more than four times as many attacks that were experienced in Q1, 2020. That record was then broken again in Q3 when 1,270,883 phishing attacks were reported. One survey of 1,400 organizations found 79% had experienced an increase in phishing attacks in the past 12 months, with 92% saying at least one business account had been compromised in a phishing attack. Phishing has also become much more diverse with a wide range of lures, tactics, and techniques used in attacks.
Increase in Social Media Phishing
There has been a notable increase in the use of social media networks in phishing attacks, with LinkedIn one of the most spooked platforms. LinkedIn phishing attacks increased by more than 200% in 2022. LinkedIn phishing attacks seek credentials to the platform, which can be used for a variety of nefarious purposes. Emails are sent that use HTML templates virtually identical to the emails that LinkedIn sends, including spoofed versions of connection requests, notifications about the number of searches an individual has appeared in, and headhunting notifications.
These emails use display name spoofing to make the recipient believe the emails have been sent from LinkedIn when they have actually been sent from webmail addresses. These emails direct users to a spoofed LinkedIn site and prompt users to disclose their credentials. The increase in attacks is not surprising due to the Great Resignation, with so many individuals relying on LinkedIn for finding new employment opportunities. According to Bulletproof, LinkedIn-related phishing emails were the most commonly clicked in 2022.
Recently, a campaign was detected that used Facebook posts with phishing links, with the link to the post included in phishing emails. This method was used to bypass email security solutions, which consider Facebook.com URLs to be benign. The links in the Facebook posts direct users through a series of redirects to a phishing page where credentials are stolen. Social media posts are also used to phish for personal information that can then be used to craft convincing spear phishing emails.
Callback and Hybrid Phishing Attacks Increase
One phishing trend observed in 2022 was an increase in hybrid phishing, where more than one vector is used in the attack. This is typified by callback phishing, where a benign email is sent that contains a phone number to call to resolve an urgent issue. This method of phishing allows cyber actors to bypass email security solutions. In these attacks the phishing takes place over the telephone, with the initial contact made via email. Agari reports a 625% increase in hybrid phishing attacks, with one in four phishing attempts in the summer of 2022 involving hybrid phishing. One of the most common hybrid phishing scams notifies users about a pending charge to an account that requires a call to cancel.
Phishing Used for Delivering Ransomware
Phishing is used to gain initial access to business networks, often installing a malware dropper that is used to deliver the ransomware payload. Botnets such as Emotet are extensively used by ransomware gangs, who pay for the access that the botnets provide, with the QakBot operators similarly working with ransomware gangs. Both of these malware droppers are delivered via phishing emails. It is difficult to obtain accurate statistics on the extent to which ransomware attacks are enabled by phishing, with estimates suggesting at least half of ransomware attacks start with a phishing email, and some suggesting as many as 90% of attacks have their roots in phishing.
Phishing Attacks That Bypass Multifactor Authentication
One worrying phishing trend in 2022 was the increase in phishing attacks that bypass multifactor authentication. Phishing often has the aim of stealing credentials, but if multifactor authentication is enabled, those credentials will not grant access to accounts. With more businesses adopting MFA it has become harder for phishing attacks to succeed.
Several phishing kits are now being used that allow multi-factor authentication to be bypassed by intercepting MFA codes or stealing session cookies, in what is referred to as an attacker-in-the-middle attack. The solution is to implement phishing-resistant MFA and this is likely to be increasingly important in 2023 as more phishing campaigns are conducted that bypass weaker forms of MFA.
Work From Home Employees Increasingly Targeted
The pandemic forced many employees to work from home but as restrictions eased, many businesses continued to allow employees to work from home for at least some of the working week. During the pandemic, phishing attacks on at-home workers increased and they continue to be conducted in high numbers. One of the reasons why these attacks are conducted is because they have a higher success rate, as many businesses still lack the security infrastructure to effectively block these threats compared to when employees were office based. Further, there can be more distractions in the home, which means employees are more likely to make mistakes.
Speak with TitanHQ about Improving your Phishing Defenses
TitanHQ understands that in order to combat increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks, businesses need to implement layered defenses. TitanHQ has developed several cybersecurity solutions that tackle the threat of phishing from different angles and combined allow businesses to mount a highly effective defense against attacks. To find out more about how these solutions can work for your business, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
Phishing is one of the main ways that malicious actors distribute and install malware. Phishing emails are sent to users with attachments containing malicious code or hyperlinks are included in the emails that direct users to a website where malware is downloaded. Businesses should ensure they implement layered defenses to combat phishing, which should include an advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan, multifactor authentication for email accounts, security awareness training for employees to teach them how to recognize and avoid phishing emails, and a web filter for blocking access to the malicious websites where the malware is hosted.
A web filter also provides protection against another common attack vector – The use of search engine advertisements for driving traffic to malicious websites. This attack vector is commonly referred to as malvertising, and it is currently being used by threat actors to distribute ransomware and for stealing login credentials for cryptocurrency exchanges and financial accounts. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently issued a warning about the use of malicious search engine advertisements due to the increase in the use of this attack vector this year.
One of the main problems for threat actors looking to drive traffic to their websites through search engines is getting their websites to rank sufficiently high in the search engine listings to attract enough visitors. Using search engine advertisements gets around this problem. Threat actors pay for search engine advertisements that appear at the top of the search results for specific search terms. The adverts they use mimic legitimate businesses and offer services related to a specific search term, with the adverts containing a link to the threat actor’s website. These adverts are difficult to distinguish from the actual search results.
The web pages linked in the adverts impersonate businesses and often host phishing kits for harvesting credentials. Financial institutions are impersonated to obtain credentials to access online accounts; however, most commonly, these phishing scams impersonate cryptocurrency exchange platforms. Malicious adverts are also used to direct traffic to websites hosting malware. The adverts used to deliver malware usually offer downloads of business software. The advertised software looks legitimate, and in some cases, a legitimate program will be installed, but malware is also bundled with the installer that gives the attacker access to the user’s device. Since the user gets the software they are looking for, they are unaware that their device has been compromised. One recently identified campaign impersonated the GIMP image editor and was used to deliver the Vidar information stealer. Other campaigns have been used to distribute ransomware, often via another malware variant with dropper capabilities.
A web filter – such as WebTitan – helps businesses to protect against these malicious adverts by providing time-of-click protection. When a user clicks a link in a search engine advert, the URL is checked against a constantly updated blacklist of malicious URLs. If the URL is known to be malicious, the attempt to connect to the URL will be blocked and the user will instead be directed to a local block page. If the URL is not in the blacklist and has not previously been assessed, it will be assessed in real-time. Businesses can also use a web filter to block access to certain categories of websites, such as those offering software, and the web filter can be configured to block downloads of certain file types such as executable files. This also helps businesses to block shadow IT – Software downloaded by employees that has not been authorized by the IT department.
Malicious adverts should be covered in security awareness training. Users should be told about the dangers of clicking adverts and instructed to carefully check URLs for any typos or transposed letters before clicking. It is important to stress that the URL listed in the advert may appear to be a legitimate URL, with the threat actor using redirects to send a user to their malicious URL. Employees should therefore be encouraged never to click adverts in search engines, and to instead either type the website of the company they are looking for in the address bar of their browser or find the legitimate website of that company in the organic search engine listings. Businesses should also consider using an ad-blocker to prevent advertisements from being displayed.
A new malware variant dubbed RisePro has been detected which is being distributed via websites offering fake software cracks. Software cracks, product activators, and keygens are used for activating software without paying the software developer for the license. Software can be expensive, so these tools have proven popular, and many of these tools are available free of charge; however, these executable files have long been used to install malware and adware.
RisePro malware is a previously unseen malware variant that was first detected in December 2022. RisePro is an information stealer that will steal passwords, credit card details, and cryptocurrency wallets from infected devices and the malware has already been installed on many devices, with the data stolen by the malware already being sold on Russian dark web sites, according to Flashpoint.
RisePro malware is being distributed via the PrivateLoader pay-per-install malware distribution service, which has been in operation since early 2021. The operators of PrivateLoader have a network of websites that offer cracked software, with PrivateLoader offering its clients the ability to install malware on devices in specific countries, environments, or those with certain software installed. PrivateLoader is delivered through software cracks and will deliver the malware of choice on a pay-per-install basis. An analysis of RisePro malware revealed considerable code similarities with PrivateLoader, which suggests the two may be operated by the same threat actor or a developer of PrivateLoader has broken away and has set up a rival malware loader service.
When RisePro malware is installed on an infected device it fingerprints the infected system and sends stolen data via a ZIP archive to the attacker’s command and control server. The malware will steal data from all popular web browsers, common browser extensions, and software such as Discord and Authy Desktop. The malware will also steal cryptocurrency assets from a wide range of wallets. RisePro malware can also scan filesystem folders and will exfiltrate data of interest, such as receipts that include credit card numbers.
Cracks and product activators commonly include malware or adware, and clean product activators are now very difficult to find, so any individual attempting to download and activate pirated software is taking a big risk. If pirated software is installed on a work device, that risk is greater still. A malware infection on one device can easily spread across the network and cause considerable damage. Malware infections from unlicensed/pirated software have been estimated to cost businesses close to $359 billion a year, according to the BSA Global Software Survey. Businesses should therefore take steps to reduce the risk by implementing safeguards to stop employees from accessing the sites that offer pirated software, blocking downloads, and preventing software installers from being run.
One of the easiest ways to protect against malware infections and lawsuits stemming from the use of illegal software is to block the sites used to distribute fake/pirated software with a web filter. WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-delivered DNS-based web filtering service that is easy for businesses to set up and use to control access to the Internet. Users can block access to peer-to-peer file-sharing networks where pirated software is commonly downloaded and the warez sites that distribute software cracks. It is also possible to block downloads of certain file types from the internet, such as executable files. As an additional control, businesses should consider locking down all workstations to prevent non-admin users from running executable files.
For more information on web filtering and the WebTitan Cloud solution, give the TitanHQ team a call. WebTitan Cloud is available on a free trial to allow businesses to discover for themselves how effective the solution is at controlling access to the internet and how easy it is to use. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi is also available for operators of Wi-Fi hotspots for controlling what users can do while connected.
For the past 23 years, Deloitte has been recognizing growth and innovation at public and private companies in the technology sector in Ireland. Deloitte assesses companies based on the previous four years of growth, with the top 50 technology companies recognized in the Deloitte 2022 Technology Fast Awards. According to Deloitte, the awards program was created “to recognize the passion and dedication it takes to be an industry disrupter across the technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences, fintech, and energy tech sectors.”
The awards celebrate innovation, entrepreneurship, and the commitment and drive of companies in Ireland’s indigenous technology sector. Inclusion in the list is a great honor. This year, TitanHQ is proud to announce that the company has been recognized at the Deloitte 2022 Technology Fast Awards for the second year in a row, ranking in 45th place in 2022.
Announcing the awards, David Shanahan, Partner, Deloitte said, “Congratulations to all of the companies that ranked this year. As the business environment becomes more complex, the Irish technology sector has shown great resilience and tenacity. He went on to say, “This year’s ranking shows growth across a broad range of sectors with companies coming up with innovative solutions to address changing consumer and business demands while faced with adversity.”
This year, the top 50 fastest-growing companies have generated around €500 million in total annual revenues, with an average of €10 million per company. The average growth rate for each company was 594%. These companies employ over 5,500 people and have made a huge contribution to the economy and have given local people a tremendous opportunity to pursue successful careers in the technology sector. Encouragingly, this year has seen an increase in the number of female CEOs, with 7 of the companies in the top 50 now being led by women. This year has also seen 17 companies break into the top 50 for the first time, and 7 of those companies have gone straight into the top 10.
It has certainly been a great year for TitanHQ, which has continued to enjoy strong organic year-over-year growth, at home and internationally. The company’s cybersecurity products have been in high demand as companies around the world have been looking to improve their cybersecurity defenses against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. TitanHQ has risen to the challenge and has broadened its product portfolio to help SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers (MSPs) improve their defenses through product innovation and strategic acquisitions. The company has brought two new cybersecurity products to market – SpamTitan Plus and SafeTitan. The former delivers industry-leading protection against phishing, and the latter is a security awareness training and phishing simulation platform that helps businesses improve their human defenses.
For TitanHQ, the impressive growth has been helped by investment from a private equity firm which has allowed the company to make strategic acquisitions, launch new products, improve the existing portfolio of cybersecurity solutions, make strategic hires and improve investment in people. ‘Organic year-on-year growth and recent significant investment have turbocharged TitanHQ’s growth. This has allowed TitanHQ to accelerate ambitious growth plans through increased investment in product development – and in people,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh.
In this article, we provide 5 reasons why security awareness training is important. If you run a business and do not provide security awareness training to your workforce, you are taking a big risk.
Data breaches are being reported with increasing frequency and with people leading more and more digital lives, there is a lot more data to steal. The Have I Been Pwned service includes a database of usernames and passwords that have been exposed in data breaches. The database now includes 12 million credentials showing just how common data breaches have become. Data breaches are also becoming costlier to resolve. The IBM Security 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report indicates the average cost of a data breach is now $4.35 million, a 2.6% increase from the previous year.
So how can security awareness training help a business and why is it so important?
1. Helps to Prevent Data Breaches
Businesses store sensitive data, whether that is customer data, financial information, contact lists, or proprietary company information. That information is valuable to cybercriminals as business and customer data can be easily monetized and sold on the dark web. Cybercriminals actively target businesses for the data they hold and misuse or sell that information, or encrypt it to prevent the business from operating, requiring a ransom payment to get the information back. You can implement technical defenses to repel these attacks, but technical defenses are not 100% effective, and attacks often target humans – malicious emails, websites, phone calls, and text messages. Security awareness training is a vital component of any security strategy. All members of the workforce need to be trained on how to recognize and avoid threats. Security awareness training reduces susceptibility to cyber threats and helps to prevent data breaches.
2. Avoid Regulatory Fines and Litigation
Companies of all sizes are required to comply with regulations at the local, state/regional, and Federal level that have data retention and privacy and security requirements. For instance, there is the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU that requires data protection by design and default, and industry regulations such as FISMA (financial services) and HIPAA (healthcare) that have security awareness training requirements. The failure to provide security awareness training can result in significant financial penalties, and if tax records are lost in a ransomware attack, companies can still be fined for not producing those records. By preventing cyberattacks and data breaches through end user training, companies will also reduce the risk of litigation. Lawsuits are now commonly filed after data breaches.
3. Improve Productivity and Save Money
Security awareness training comes at a cost. You will need to devise your own training course, pay for a third-party trainer, or most commonly, invest in a third-party security awareness training platform. For every hour of training provided to an employee, that is an hour of lost productivity. These costs should be seen as an investment that will give you a return. The money spent on training and the time devoted to it will be recouped in terms of productivity gains by preventing ransomware attacks and data breaches. The cost of remediating cyberattacks and data breaches is far higher than the cost of security awareness training to prevent them.
4. Improve Employee Well-being and Job Satisfaction
Security awareness training is concerned with improving cybersecurity defenses, but it is an investment in people. Businesses that provide security awareness training are teaching their employees to be more security aware at work, but this is a transferrable skill and one that is not just valuable for employees for future work positions but also in their personal lives. Train employees to be more security aware and they can apply those lessons at home and avoid personal data breaches and financial losses, which helps to reduce stress and improve mental, emotional, and physical health.
5. Helps to Protect Your Company’s Reputation
One of the most damaging effects of a cyberattack or data breach is the impact on your company’s reputation. Surveys suggest that following a cyberattack that exposes sensitive customer information, two-thirds of customers would take their business elsewhere and would never return. The amount of time, money, and effort that goes into building a business can be lost overnight. Many businesses will be able to weather a cyberattack and take the financial hit, but the reputational damage can take many years to recover. The reputational damage is one of the main reasons why 60% of small businesses cease trading within 6 months of a data breach.
SafeTitan from TitanHQ
TitanHQ offers businesses a comprehensive security awareness training solution for businesses called SafeTitan. The platform includes an extensive library of training content, divided into short (max 10-minute) computer-based training modules that are easy to fit into busy workflows. The training content is fun, gamified, and engaging, and helps to build a security culture and eradicate risky practices. The platform also includes a phishing simulator for testing whether employees can recognize phishing attempts – the most common way that cybercriminals attack businesses. Phishing simulation data shows susceptibility to phishing attacks can be reduced by up to 80% with SafeTitan.
If you have yet to provide security awareness training to your workforce, you will be missing out on all the above benefits. So why not make a start today, starting with a free trial of SafeTitan?
Businesses can significantly improve their security posture by investing in people and providing security awareness training. Many cyberattacks target employees, as they can be tricked into disclosing sensitive information or installing malware. Through training, you can eliminate risky security practices that open the door to hackers and can show employees how to recognize cyber threats and how they should respond when such a threat is identified.
Providing a once-a-year training session covering all aspects of security will help to improve security awareness, but this is not the most effective approach, and it is unlikely to allow an organization to achieve the ultimate goal of security awareness training – to develop a security culture throughout the organization. To help you get the best possible return on your investment in security awareness training, consider these 7 approaches.
1. Ensure Your Communicate That Everyone Has a Responsibility When it Comes to Cybersecurity
It is a commonly held view that cybersecurity is the sole responsibility of the IT department. The IT department should implement safeguards and technology to block and identify threats, but everyone has a role to play in the cybersecurity of the organization, including the CEO, CISO, managers, and workers. Cybersecurity is a collective responsibility, and this should be clearly communicated.
2. Security Awareness Training is an Ongoing Process
If you provide a once-a-year training session that covers all aspects of security, this is likely to improve awareness of the basic lessons of security – Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails, log off when you leave your computer, don’t plug in a USB drive you find in the street, make sure you set a strong, unique password for all accounts, and so forth. However, you cannot expect employees to be aware of the latest threats and tactics that are being used by malicious actors with this approach. Security awareness training needs to be an ongoing process. A once-a-year training session is great as a refresher on security best practices, but you should be continuously providing training on the latest threats in short training sessions each month. A couple of 10-minute training modules every month will help to keep security fresh in the mind and keep employees abreast of the latest tactics that are likely to be used by malicious actors against them and the organization.
3. Conduct Phishing Simulations
Phishing simulations are a great way to reinforce training and give employees practice at identifying phishing threats in a safe environment. Conduct phishing simulations of varying difficulty on the entire workforce, and if individuals fail, this can be turned into a training opportunity. They can be told where they went wrong, and how they could have identified the threat so that the next time such a threat is encountered, they will be more likely to recognize it as such and avoid it. Phishing simulations allow businesses to take proactive, targeted action to improve security awareness where it is needed and strengthen the weak links before they are found and exploited by malicious actors.
4. Reward Don’t Punish
You are likely to achieve much greater success if your security awareness training program recognizes and rewards individuals who do well, rather than punishes those that get things wrong. If you punish employees for getting things wrong, that is likely to result in a culture of fear, which can lead to a bad working environment where mistakes are actually more likely to be made. Focus on rewarding or recognizing the individuals that get things right and always look for opportunities to celebrate success. If employees fail phishing simulations or make mistakes, make sure you communicate that this simply means there is a need for further training.
5. Make Security Awareness Training Fun and Engaging
Many people will find cybersecurity training dull and boring. Rather than provide lengthy training sessions and give out long boring printouts, use a computer-based training course that has fun, engaging, and gamified content. Use a variety of training tools including videos, demonstrations, quizzes, and other interactive methods to engage employees. Make training fun and enjoyable, and the message is more likely to be taken on board.
6. Tailor the Training Course for Individuals
Everyone learns in their own way and at different speeds, so a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to give you the best return on your investment. The training course should be tailored for individuals. If the course is too basic for people with a high degree of knowledge, they will get bored. If it is too technical for individuals who have a poor understanding of cybersecurity, they will get confused. Tailor the training course to get the best ROI. For that, you will need a modular training course that supports this flexibility.
7. Constantly Update Your Training Course
The threat landscape is constantly changing, and tactics, techniques, and procedures of cybercriminals evolve, so your training course should too. Keep abreast of the changing threat landscape and ensure your training course is updated accordingly, and that you include the latest phishing tactics in your phishing simulations. Choose a vendor that constantly updates its training content and this will be simple.
SafeTitan from TitanHQ
TitanHQ provides a comprehensive security awareness training platform for SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers called SafeTitan. The platform includes an extensive library of training content on all aspects of security, with the courses divided into short computer-based training modules of no more than 10 minutes, which makes them easy to fit into busy workflows.
The training content is fun, gamified, and engaging, and is proven to help eradicate risky security practices and reduce susceptibility to phishing attempts. The platform is flexible, allowing customized training content to be provided that is tailored to individuals’ roles and the threats they are likely to encounter, and the platform and training courses can be easily customized to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes.
The platform includes a phishing simulator for testing whether employees can recognize phishing attempts – the most common way that cybercriminals attack businesses. Phishing simulation data shows susceptibility to phishing attacks can be reduced by up to 80% with SafeTitan.
If you have yet to provide security awareness training to your workforce and are not conducting phishing simulations, the ideal time to start is now. Contact TitanHQ today for more information or sign up for a free trial of the solution and put it to the test before deciding on a purchase.
Malicious emails typically contain links to websites where a malware payload is hosted. This method of malware distribution allows threat actors to reach employees directly, and since no malicious file is attached to the email, there is a greater chance that the message will not be detected as malicious by a company’s email security solution, especially if the URL or domain has not previously been used before. Advanced email security solutions – such as SpamTitan Plus – rewrite links, follow the URLs, and assess the content, and can block these threats.
Malicious files are often directly attached to emails. These files can be the malware itself or a malware downloader, but these executable files are often blocked by spam filters. Office documents and spreadsheets are often used that contain macros. If they are allowed to run, they will download the malicious payload. More companies are now providing security awareness training to their workforces and are warning about the risks of macros, and Microsoft is now disabling macros by default in Office files that are downloaded from untrusted sources via the Internet, so this method of malware delivery is becoming less effective.
In response, threat actors have had to come up with different ways of distributing their malware and one method that is growing in popularity is steganography – a technique used to hide secret data within an ordinary, non-secret file, such as an image file. When that file arrives at its destination, the secret data is extracted. To make this method of hiding content harder to identify, the hidden data is often encrypted and is decrypted at its destination. Steganography is not a new technique, as its roots can be traced back to ancient Greece, and it is also not a new method of distributing malicious code; however, using this technique for distributing malware has not proved popular with threat actors are there are much easier ways of distributing malware.
Recently a campaign has been identified that hides malicious code within .png files. Researchers At Check Point Research recently identified a malicious package called apicolor on the Python-based repository PyPl, which hides malicious code within a .png file, which downloads malicious packages onto the user’s device. This campaign uses a steganography technique called least-significant bit (LSB) encoding, where malicious code is hidden in each pixel’s least important bits. One pixel includes one bit of data for each alpha, red, green, and blue channel, allowing two pixels to contain one byte of secret code.
This attack uses DLL sideloading to execute CLRoader malware, which loads the PNGLoader DLL, which is able to read obfuscated code hidden within .png files. The code is a custom .NET C# infostealer that abuses Dropbox file hosting for communication and data exfiltration. The analysis of the malware revealed it can launch executable files, download and upload data to and from Dropbox, delete data on endpoints, set up new directories for additional backdoor payloads, and extract system information.
This method of malware delivery has been adopted by a threat actor called Worok, which is mostly concerned with targeting high-profile individuals in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Africa and has been used by Worok since at least September 2022. Worok is believed to be part of a cyberespionage group; however, other threat actors could use this technique for a variety of nefarious purposes.
Businesses look to their managed service providers to protect them from cyber threats such as phishing, and while many are able to deliver advanced spam filters and web filters, MSPs should also provide another layer of protection: one that addresses the human element of these attacks.
Phishing attacks target employees, and while it is important to implement technical measures to block those messages, it is not possible to prevent every phishing message from reaching inboxes. Given the volume of phishing messages now being sent, and the constantly changing tactics, techniques, and procedures of cyber threat actors, it is inevitable that some messages will land in inboxes. The bottom line is employees need to be trained how to recognize phishing attempts – they are the last line of defense.
One of the greatest benefits to come from security awareness training is getting employees to stop and think, and not blindly believe that every email or SMS message is genuine because it appears to be from an official source and provides a reasonable reason for taking a certain action. Training employees to be curious and to question is a vital part of developing a security culture.
Data from customers of TitanHQ who have started using the SafeTitan security awareness training and phishing simulation platform show clear benefits of the training. Over time, susceptibility to phishing attempts reduces as evidenced by the number of individuals who fall for simulated phishing emails. This has also been confirmed by MSPs that have started providing security awareness training and phishing simulations to their clients.
It is important, however, for MSPs to carefully consider the training platform they use. Providing training is one thing. Getting end users to engage with it and take it seriously is another. The training content needs to be informative, but it must also be enjoyable. Gamification is a key element to keep users engaged and quizzes are great for confirming the lessons have been understood. The training content also needs to be delivered in easily assimilated chunks. Training modules of no more than 10 minutes are best, as this is ideal for ensuring maximum knowledge retention and fitting the training into workflows.
Phishing simulations are an important part of the training process, not just for identifying individuals who require further training, but also for identifying the specific types of phishing emails that are working and are fooling employees. Training can then be tailored to address those security gaps. Phishing simulations need to be realistic, and since these emails will be sent over a long period of time, there needs to be considerable variation. Many different templates are needed to test different phishing tactics and the training platform needs to have constantly updated phishing templates, as real-world attacks are rapidly evolving too.
Phishing simulation failures need to trigger on-the-spot training. The training needs to be automated, so it will be delivered instantly when it is likely to have the most effect. The platform should also notify end users when they successfully reported a simulated phishing email or correctly identified a phishing attempt, to encourage them and praise them for being attentive.
Ultimately, security awareness training is vital for all businesses and a critical component of any cybersecurity strategy. MSPs that can offer this service to their customers can gain a significant competitive advantage, help their customers better defend against attacks, reduce the support time by preventing successful attacks, and ultimately save their clients money. However, there are important features of training products that MSPs need to look out for.
They need a solution that has the maximum impact for the minimum effort, as MSPs have a great deal of work to perform for many customers. The solution must be able to be used efficiently and allow much of the setup and training to be automated, and for reports to be automated and scheduled to send to clients to show them how effective the training is.
TitanHQ has developed the SafeTitan platform to meet the needs of MSPs, with recent updates making it even easier for MSPs to provide this service. These include direct injection of emails to inboxes to make sure they are not filtered out by email security solutions, easy segmentation of customers into groups to allow bulk configuration and changes to campaigns, and – as is the case with all TitanHQ solutions – making sure there is an excellent user experience, which means easy administration and low maintenance.
Security awareness training is a big opportunity for MSPs and can greatly improve the security posture of their clients. Talk to TitanHQ today about getting started and to find out how easy it is to add this important layer of protection to your service stack.
In this article, we explain the importance of security awareness training and the benefits for MSPs of adding security awareness training and phishing simulations to their managed services.
Security Awareness Training Works!
Security awareness training and phishing simulations have been proven to reduce the susceptibility of employees to phishing attacks. Through an ongoing program of training and testing, the average response rate to phishing attempts falls from the pan-industry average of 37.9% to less than 3%. Some employees are prone to click on links in emails and open attachments despite being given training, so getting the response rate lower may not be possible, but such a massive reduction in responses to phishing emails will save several times more money than the cost of providing training to the workforce.
Despite the high ROI of providing training, 57% of SMBs provide no security awareness training to their workforce whatsoever. When training is provided, it is often provided to new employees during the onboarding process, or as a once-a-year training session. The threat landscape is constantly changing and new phishing and malspam campaigns are constantly being developed to fool employees, so for training to be effective it must be an ongoing process.
Phishing is one of the main ways that ransomware actors gain initial access to networks, and according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 82% of security breaches involve a human element. Given the extent to which employees are targeted, the rapidly changing threat landscape, and the high percentage of data breaches that are caused by human error, training is vital.
SMBs are Requesting Security Awareness Training from Their MSPs
The problem for many SMBs is they lack the in-house staff and the resources to create effective training campaigns. Training content needs to be constantly updated to teach employees about the emerging techniques used by threat actors. For this reason, many SMBs turn to third-party companies and use their solutions to train their workforce, and it is becoming increasingly common for SMBs to ask their managed service providers to assist with training and conducting phishing simulations.
Phishing simulations are a vital part of the training process as it gives employees practice at identifying phishing attempts outside of a training setting; however, there is potential for things to go wrong when these simulations are conducted by SMBs on their own staff. Having a managed service provider conduct the campaigns can be highly beneficial for SMBs. That extra degree of separation can help to prevent bad feeling amongst employees that management is trying to catch them out.
Interestingly, despite the benefits of security awareness training and phishing simulations and the demand from SMBs, only 60% of MSPs currently offer security awareness training and phishing simulations to their clients as part of their managed security services. The security awareness training market is now estimated to be worth $1 billion annually and is growing at a rate of 13% a year, and MSPs that provide security awareness training and phishing simulations as part of their managed services are reaping the rewards. They profit from providing the training, reduce the susceptibility of their client organizations to phishing attacks, and reduce the time they need to spend helping clients recover from successful attacks. MSPs may be surprised to hear that 69% of SMBs said they would hold their MSP accountable at some level for a successful phishing attack.
One of the problems that MSPs face when they consider offering security awareness training as a managed service is finding a suitable platform that allows them to easily provide training and automate the training and conduct phishing simulations. TitanHQ is now happy to announce that its award-winning security awareness training and phishing simulation platform – SafeTitan – has now been upgraded and has a host of new features to meet the needs of MSPs.
SafeTitan for MSPs – An MSP-Friendly Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation Platform
TitanHQ has conducted extensive research to find out exactly what MSPs need from a security awareness training platform. The company asked its MSP advisory council and extensive MSP customer base about aspects of the SafeTitan platform that could be improved to make it even better for MSPs. After extensive research and further development, TitanHQ is happy to announce that SafeTitan for MSPs has been launched.
MSPs already familiar with the security awareness training and phishing simulation platform may notice several new features that have now been added, which make it much easier to conduct mass training campaigns and phishing simulations. The MSP dashboard has been improved to make it easy for quick actions to be performed and to access live analytics and schedule client reports to demonstrate the ROI, either weekly, bi-weekly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually.
The solution can be provided as a white label, that can take the MSP’s branding or be branded for their clients. Clients benefit from 80+ videos, training sessions & webinars, the training content is provided as modules of 8-10 minutes max to make it easy to be conducted without impacting productivity, and the phishing simulation platform has over 1,800 phishing templates based on real-world phishing and smishing attacks.
MSPs can easily set up and automate training and phishing simulations so that this managed service requires little in the way of actual management by the MSP. The solution is SSO-ready to avoid the annoying entry of login credentials, and now has direct email injection to ensure that phishing emails are delivered without having to configure allow lists and firewalls and if campaigns need to be modified, it is easy to make tweaks such as adding additional users. When phishing simulations are failed, the solution will automatically trigger targeted training in real-time in response to the specific failure.
We genuinely believe that we have created the ideal security awareness training and phishing simulation platform for MSPs and invite you to book a free product demonstration to see the product in action and to explain all the features.
For the first time in almost a decade, changes have been made to the ISO 27001 standard and the code of practices (ISO 27002). Details of the changes were first released on February 15, 2022, and came into effect this October.
ISO 27001 (or ISO/IEC 27001:2005 to be precise) is a specification for an information security management system (ISMS), which is a framework of policies, procedures, and controls to support an organization’s information risk management processes. All ISO 27001 accredited businesses, and those that plan to become ISO 27001 accredited, are required to comply with the updated standard. Businesses that fail to do so will lose their accreditation, but they are given time to make the necessary changes. Any business that fails to make the necessary changes will lose its accreditation after 3 years. It is strongly recommended not to wait and to make the changes as soon as possible, as implementing the controls will help your business better manage and mitigate risk.
ISO 27002, which used to be known as a code of practice, is no longer referred to as such and is more accurately referred to as a set of information security controls. There have been some amendments and reorganization of the security controls, which now list 93 controls as opposed to the 114 in the 2013 version. These controls have also been grouped into 4 themes (people, organizational, technological, and physical) rather than the 14 clauses in the previous version.
Importantly for accredited businesses, 11 new controls have been added to the ISO 27002 information security controls:
Information security for use of cloud services
ICT readiness for business continuity
Physical security monitoring
Data leakage prevention
Some of these controls are very similar to previous controls; however, they have been categorized as new, so organizations should ensure that they are compliant with these controls, even if they seem similar. It should be noted that these controls are not mandatory, as it is possible to exclude a control provided no related risks have been identified and the organization is not required to implement the controls to meet its contractual, regulatory, or legal requirements.
The ISO 27001/27002 Web Filtering Control
The web filtering requirement requires accredited businesses to implement a web filtering solution that allows them to exercise control over the web content that can be accessed to protect against web-borne threats such as malware, ransomware, and phishing. Web filters typically block malicious IP addresses, such as those known to be used for phishing or malware distribution, through blacklists that are constantly updated based on the latest threat intelligence. They also allow businesses to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by users of their network to enforce their acceptable internet usage policies.
Web filtering is important as many threats are delivered via the Internet. Any employee with access to the Internet could easily navigate to a malicious site unless a web filter is in place to block that access, and phishing attempts delivered via email often have a web-based component. Should an attempt be made to visit a blocked site, the user is directed to a local block page that explains why the request has been denied.
WebTitan Cloud – Web Filtering Made Simple
As a provider of a DNS-based web filtering software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution – WebTitan Cloud – we would like to take this opportunity to introduce the solution and explain how it will help organizations comply with the web filtering controls of the revised standard.
WebTitan Cloud is a DNS-based web filtering solution that is delivered as a 100% cloud-based service. The solution uses the Domain Name System for web filtering, which makes it lightning fast with no latency. All web content is checked, with web filtering controls implemented in a fraction of a second, with no content downloaded unless the filtering checks are passed.
WebTitan Cloud is fed threat intelligence from more than 500 million endpoints worldwide, which automatically update the blacklists of known malicious content. Users can filter the Internet via 53 preset categories and 10 customizable categories to broadly block specific types of web content (anonymizers, pornography, gaming, gambling, dating, hacking, etc.). Content controls can also be applied based on the presence of user-defined keywords, with the content blocked if a certain threshold is reached. WebTitan can also be configured to block specific file types from the Internet such as executable files to further reduce risk, and the solution can detect and block malware communications via the DNS.
All controls can be accessed through an intuitive web-based interface, which also provides access to an extensive suite of reports that give administrators full visibility into the online activities of users, including real-time views down to the individual level. Controls can be implemented organization-wide, for locations, user groups, and individuals, with the solution integrating with directory services to make this as simple as possible.
One of the most important aspects of WebTitan Cloud that make it so popular is how easy the solution is to set up and use. Businesses can start blocking malicious content in a couple of minutes by pointing their DNS to WebTitan Cloud, and content control settings can usually be configured in about 20-30 minutes.
For more information on meeting your new web filtering obligations under ISO 27001/2 and details of WebTitan Cloud pricing, contact TitanHQ today. Also, feel free to sign up for a free trial of the solution to see for yourself how easy it is to start web filtering.
Email may be the most common vector used in phishing attacks, but there has been a marked rise in other forms of phishing in 2022, such as voice phishing (vishing) and SMS phishing (smishing).
Voice phishing or vishing attacks are conducted over the telephone and use similar social engineering techniques to email phishing. The scammer impersonates a trusted individual or company and uses either a threat or a potential reward to trick the victim into disclosing sensitive information, downloading a malicious file, or opening a remote desktop session with the scammer. These scams often involve caller ID spoofing to make it appear that the call is being made from a legitimate number, such as a hospital, business, or government department.
Oftentimes, the scammer has information about the victim to make it seem like an official call or that there has been previous contact. This information is obtained from past data breaches or can be collected from public sources such as social media profiles. Vishing is commonly used in tech support scams, where an unsolicited call is made by the threat actor who claims to work at a cybersecurity company or a broadband provider and requires the victim to pay to have a fictitious malware infection resolved or must download fake software to resolve the issue.
Vishing attacks are conducted impersonating the IRS advising the victim that they have a rebate, or outstanding tax, or threatening legal action, with the scams conducted to obtain sensitive information. Banks are often impersonated with the victim convinced to confirm their identity by disclosing their bank details or credit card number. The caller is usually coercive and the issue at hand requires urgent action to correct.
Several campaigns have been conducted on healthcare targets in the US. In one campaign, senior executives at a hospital were targeted, with the caller claiming to be a representative of Medicare. The caller requested a Social Security number for verification of identity. Patients of Spectrum Health and Priority Health were targeted, with the scammers spoofing the caller ID to make the calls appear to have been made using the genuine hospital phone number, with victims pressured into providing sensitive personal and health information to the scammers.
A smishing attack is a phishing attack conducted via SMS messages. These attacks are becoming increasingly common and are used to obtain sensitive information such as credit card numbers or login credentials. These attacks often trick the recipient into downloading malicious code to their mobile devices. These attacks take advantage of the relative unfamiliarity of this form of phishing and the small screen size of mobile phones, which do not display the full URL of a website, which makes it easier for scammers to hide their malicious URLs. Mobile phones are also much less likely to have antivirus software installed than desktop computers and laptops, which makes it easier for malicious code to be downloaded undetected.
Smishing attacks often involve messages purporting to be from a bank that requests financial information, or for banking Trojans to be distributed that spoof the login page of a financial institution to steal banking credentials. The IRS has recently issued a warning about an exponential rise in smishing attacks impersonating the IRS in 2022. These scams use a variety of lures such as warnings about unpaid tax bills, law enforcement action, and tax rebates. The IRS warned that smishing attacks are being conducted on an industrial scale, with hundreds of thousands of smishing messages delivered in hours or a few days.
How to Defend Against Vishing and Smishing Attacks
The problem for businesses is few cybersecurity solutions can identify and block vishing and smishing attacks. The key to defending against these attacks is education. Businesses should be providing security awareness training to the workforce to teach cybersecurity best practices and to raise awareness of cyber threats. Email phishing is usually extensively covered in training courses, but it is also important to ensure vishing and smishing attacks are covered.
This is an area where TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ offers businesses the SafeTitan security awareness training platform – a comprehensive security awareness training platform with gamified, interactive, and enjoyable security awareness training content covering all aspects of security, including phishing, vishing, smishing, and other social engineering methods. The training modules are short, allowing them to be easily fitted into busy workflows, and the training content has been proven to reduce susceptibility to all forms of phishing attacks. SafeTitan also includes a phishing simulation platform to allow businesses to test the effectiveness of their training.
For more information on how you can improve your human defenses against phishing and other cyberattacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.
TitanHQ is proud to announce that the company has been recognized in the Fall 2022 Expert Insights ‘Best-Of’ awards, and collected five awards for email security, email archiving, web security, phishing simulation, and security awareness training.
The Expert Insights ‘Best-Of’ awards recognize the leading cybersecurity solutions that businesses are using to keep their networks and sensitive data secure. Selecting the best software solutions to use can be a challenge for businesses. Expert Insights makes that process easier by providing objective and honest reviews and advice, producing buyers’ guides, and other valuable information to help businesses choose the best software solutions to meet their needs. Each month, more than 85,000 businesses use the Expert Insights website, with the site having more than 1 million visitors a year.
The Fall 2022 Best-Of awards were split into 41 categories. The Expert Insights editorial team researched to identify the best cybersecurity solutions on the market for inclusion in each category, which contain up to 11 software solutions. Those solutions are selected based on several criteria, such as the feature set of the products, their ease of use, market presence of the company, and how genuine business users of the solutions rate the products. There naturally needs to be a winner in each category, but simply being included in the list confirms the quality of a product.
TitanHQ collected 5 Best-Of awards in the following categories:
Best-Of Email Security – SpamTitan
Best-Of Security Awareness Training – SafeTitan
Best-Of Phishing Simulation – SafeTitan
Best-Of Web Security – WebTitan
Best-Of Email Archiving – ArcTitan
In addition, SpamTitan was rated as the top email security solution in the category and ArcTitan was rated top in the email archiving category. Vendors ESET and CrowdStrike also performed exceptionally well and picked up multiple awards.
“We are honored that TitanHQ was named as a Fall 2022 winner of Expert Insights Best-Of award for phishing simulation, email security, security awareness training, web security and email archiving” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “Our cloud-based platform allows partners and MSPs to take advantage of TitanHQ’s proven technology so they can sell, implement and deliver our advanced network security solutions directly to their client base”.
TitanHQ has announced the release of a new version of the WebTitan DNS filtering solution that incorporates several new features to improve usability, functionality, and security, including advanced off-network DNS protection for remote workers.
WebTitan is an award-winning DNS-based web filtering solution used by thousands of SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers for exercising control over the web content users can access via wired and wireless networks and for blocking web-borne cyber threats. The latest release adds new features that have been requested by customers.
The new additions in the latest WebTitan release are: Interactive threat intelligence with DNS data offload, remote workforce protection: OTG device exceptions, and DNSSEC security enhancements. A new user interface has also been implemented to improve usability, with several new advanced reporting capabilities that have been requested by managed service providers.
Interactive Threat Intel with DNS Data Offload
For many users, WebTitan is a set-and-forget solution. The solution is easy to set up and configure to restrict access to inappropriate web content and block access to known malicious websites. For restaurants, coffee shops, and retail outlets that offer free Wi-Fi to their customers, these controls can be set and forgotten about. However, many users require access to extensive reports and intelligence to allow them to conduct investigations into the threats that are targeting the organization. WebTitan provides those insights.
The latest version gives users the ability to list the DNS request history and download logs for analysis, access all DNS data, and extract DNS query data for sophisticated integrations and advanced data analysis, which will help with network troubleshooting, security planning, and IT decision-making.
New User Interface with Advanced Reporting
The WebTitan User Interface was designed to be intuitive and easy to use, to allow individuals with all skill levels to navigate through the features of the solution, set their content control policies, add blacklists, and view reports of web activity, including viewing real-time reports of Internet access down to the individual user level.
The latest version includes a new UI that provides access to advanced, relevant, and easy-to-digest data, and features a suite of new, interactive reports and data visualization tools. The latest reports show new behavior, blocked URLs, security reports, and trend reports, which have been embedded into the new UI to greatly improve the user experience. Many of the new reports were added to the solution at the request of users.
Remote Workforce Protection
WebTitan can be used to protect employees accessing the Internet on wired networks, but many businesses need to protect remote workers. During the pandemic, it became even more important to be able to protect remote workers who were accessing the Internet through their home routers, and many businesses now support hybrid working, where employees may access the internet at home, in the office, or through public Wi-Fi hotspots. WebTitan On-The-Go (OTG) allows organizations to extend the protection of WebTitan to remote workers through the WebTitan OTG agent, which protects devices no matter where they access the Internet.
The latest release sees major enhancements to the WebTitan OTG agent which is used to protect, manage, and monitor users when off the network. The latest release includes a replacement for the JSON config filters for OTG devices and makes it much easier to add and update exceptions to OTG devices through a simple and easy-to-use user interface.
DNSSEC Security Enhancements
The DNS was designed to be a scalable distributed system but did not incorporate any security features. The Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) is a security system that was developed to add security and combat some of the threats that target the DNS. DNSSEC is used to verify the origin and integrity of data during the DNS resolution process and involves using cryptographic signatures for authentication. DNSSC is the primary way to prevent DNS poisoning attacks, where attackers target the DNS to redirect users to fake web servers and malicious websites. Security enhancements have been made to better protect users and allow DNSSEC to be easily implemented by users.
“This WebTitan release is hitting so many key pillars of success for TitanHQ. The data offload feature has been requested by many customers and creates real differentiation for our solution in the market. This coupled with our new advanced reporting were major requests from our MSP customers,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “Finally, security is at the heart of what we do and are, the addition of DNSSEC just continues to add to our credentials.”
Phishing simulations are an invaluable training tool and have been proven to help reduce the susceptibility of the workforce to phishing attacks. Phishing simulations are more than just a tool for testing whether employees have understood their training. Quizzes at the end of training sessions are good for that, but phishing simulations test whether the training is being applied when employees are working and not focused on cybersecurity.
If a cybercriminal were to send an employee a phishing email at the moment an employee had finished a training course, chances are the employee would recognize the email for what it is. The longer the time between the training ending and the threat being encountered, the greater the chance that the employee will be fooled.
Phishing simulations test whether employees are likely to be fooled by a real phishing email. The simulations are expected, but employees do not know when the simulations will take place. Phishing simulations mimic real world phishing attacks and tell an organization how an individual is likely to react if a real threat lands in their inbox.
If an employee fails one of these simulations and clicks a link, opens an attachment, or responds in another risky manner, an alert is immediately generated, and the employee is told what went wrong and how it was possible to tell that it was a phishing attempt. The employee can then be provided with a brief training session – generated by the phishing simulator – on how to respond when similar emails are received.
When ongoing security awareness training is provided and phishing simulations are conducted, security awareness improves. Over time, the combination of training and simulations greatly reduces susceptibility to phishing emails – much more than providing training alone. There are, however, some common mistakes that are made by employers that reduce the effectiveness of these phishing tests.
Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting Phishing Simulations
If you want to get the best return on your investment in training and phishing simulations, it is important to set up your program correctly and to avoid making these common mistakes.
Not Telling Employees You Will Be Conducting Phishing Simulations
Don’t broadside employees. Tell them during their training that you will be conducting phishing simulations as part of the training process. If employees are unaware you will be using simulations, they may feel that you are trying to catch them out. Make sure employees are aware that you are conducting these tests to identify training needs and to test how effective your training program has been. Don’t tell employees when you will be sending the emails, and make sure the HR department and other stakeholders are aware that you are conducting phishing simulations.
Making the Simulations Too Difficult
You want to test how employees will respond to a real phishing email; however, building up security awareness is a process. Your simulation program should include emails of varying degrees of difficulty and it is best to start with phishing emails that are relatively easy to identify. That will help build confidence.
Not Conducting Phishing Simulations on the Board
Members of the board are targeted in whaling attacks. They have the highest level of privileges and the credentials for their accounts are the ultimate goal in many phishing campaigns. You want to improve the security awareness of the board, so ensure they are included in your phishing tests. Also don’t avoid conducting phishing attacks on infrequent email users. Any credentials can be valuable. Attackers can use them to conduct internal phishing campaigns and move laterally.
Conducting Phishing Simulations on Everyone at the Same Time
If you use the SafeTitan phishing simulator you can create your simulation program and schedule emails to be sent at set times. Don’t send the same emails to everyone at the same time, as employees will likely tip each other off. You will then not get valid results. Vary the times you send the emails and target different individuals in a department at different times.
Not providing retraining in real-time
You should not be conducting these campaigns and then sitting on the results until you can arrange a training course for everyone that failed the test. The simulator should be configured to automatically tell a user when a test was failed and assign immediate training. The training modules should be brief, and concisely explain how the threat could have been avoided. It should only take a couple of minutes, but that training is likely to be much more effective when delivered instantly.
Punishing employees for failing phishing simulations
It may be tempting to punish employees who repeatedly fail phishing simulations, but this approach is best avoided. The goal of training and phishing simulations is to change employee behavior. You are likely to have far greater success achieving that goal by encouraging employees to take security seriously rather than punishing them for failures. Focus on positives – departments that performed well, individual successes – rather than any failures.
SafeTitan Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulations
SafeTitan is a comprehensive security awareness training platform that makes it easy for businesses to develop training courses for their employees. The content consists of short training modules on all aspects of security, allowing businesses to create tailored and relevant training courses for the entire workforce, and the phishing simulator has hundreds of customizable templates for conducting realistic phishing tests. The training content is gamified, engaging, and fun, and when combined with simulations, has been proven to be highly effective at changing employee behavior and reducing susceptibility to phishing and other cyberattacks.
Email is the most common way that cybercriminals reach employees, but there has been a major increase in vishing attacks on businesses in 2022, with Agari reporting a 625% increase from Q1 to Q2, 2022. Ransomware gangs are mostly gaining access to business networks through email phishing, but groups that have broken away from the Conti ransomware operation have readopted the hybrid phishing techniques attacks that were used by the group’s predecessor, Ryuk. Contact is made with targeted individuals via email and vishing used to get those individuals to provide the attackers with account and network access.
You may already be familiar with vishing, or voice phishing as it is otherwise known. It is the use of social engineering techniques over the telephone to manipulate people into revealing sensitive information such as login credentials or tricking them into opening a remote-control session on their computer or installing malware that gives the attacker remote access to a device.
Many vishing attacks are speculative – An attacker obtains phone numbers and impersonates a broadband provider or other trusted entity, in a tech support scam where the target is tricked into thinking they have a malware infection or other issue that needs to be urgently dealt with. The ransomware gangs are conducting callback phishing attacks, where initial contact is made via email and the user is told to call the provided number to avoid a charge to their account – a subscription that is about to renew or a free trial that will end.
As with email phishing, many reasons are given by scammers as to why action needs to be taken. Steps are also taken to make these scams more realistic, such as spoofing caller IDs to make it appear that a local area number is being used or even that the call is made from a trusted number. The latter occurred in a vishing campaign on the Michigan healthcare provider, Spectrum Health, where the calls appeared to have been made using a Spectrum Health phone number.
These types of scams can be highly effective against businesses. Most businesses have implemented email security solutions that can detect and block phishing emails, but email security solutions will not block vishing attacks. The voice network is largely unprotected.
Voice traffic filters can be used to filter out calls from numbers that are known to be used for scams. In the United Kingdom, the phone carrier EE says it uses AI-based technology to block scam phone calls and has blocked 11 million such calls since implementing the technology, but scammers can simply change the numbers they use. The main defense against these scams is security awareness training.
Employees may be aware that phishing threats will land in their inboxes, but they may not be aware that phishing can take place over the phone. Awareness of these scams should be improved through security awareness training and employees should be taught about the signs of a vishing attack to allow them to identify and avoid these scams.
TitanHQ can help in this regard. TitanHQ offers a comprehensive security awareness training platform – SafeTitan – for educating the workforce on the full range of cyber threats, including email phishing, vishing, and smishing attacks. The training content is gamified and engaging and has been proven to reduce the susceptibility of employees to shams such as phishing and vishing.
For more information on improving your human cybersecurity defenses, give the TitanHQ team a call.
A largescale phishing campaign has been detected that targets Microsoft 365 credentials that takes advantage of vulnerabilities in websites that allow open redirects. Open redirects are a tried and tested phishing method and are used to redirect website visitors to an untrusted website, where malicious content is hosted. That could be malware that is downloaded onto a user’s device or, in this case, a phishing form that is used to steal Microsoft 365 credentials.
These attacks are made possible due to the misconfiguration of websites, which allows a web application to accept a user-controlled input, which specifies a link to an external site, and redirects visitors to that malicious URL. This technique is very effective. It can allow email security solutions to be bypassed. If an email security solution performs a reputation check of the URL, since the URL included in the phishing email directs a user to a reputable site, chances are the email will be delivered. This technique is also effective at tricking victims, since they will initially be directed to a trusted site.
In this campaign, at least two trusted domains are used – Snapchat and American Express – which both have open redirects that send victims to malicious websites. Like many Microsoft 365 phishing attacks, the emails impersonate a variety of brands, including Microsoft Office 365, FedEx, and DocuSign. The lures used in the campaign are relative to the brand being impersonated, such as alerts from Microsoft 365 that the user has unread messages that could not be delivered, or a collaboration request on a document hosted on DocuSign.
American Express has addressed the open redirect issue, Snapchat has yet to confirm that the issue has been resolve; however, other websites could similarly be attacked and have open redirects abused. The campaign has involved thousands of emails from hijacked Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 accounts.
Website owners can improve their defenses against attacks such as these by displaying a prompt when a visitor is about to be redirected to a third-party website, requiring a click to proceed. Businesses can improve their defenses against Microsoft 365 credential phishing campaigns such as this by implementing an advanced spam filtering solution that rewrites URLs and follows all redirects – SpamTitan Plus for example, using a web filter that blocks access to malicious web content, and providing security awareness training to their employees. The latter is especially important as these open redirect tactics can often see email security solutions bypassed.
Open redirects should be specifically covered in security awareness training, without getting too technical. Employees should be told that legitimate looking URLs in emails can redirect them to malicious sites, and to always check the actual domain they are being directed to, not just the link text. These redirects can be identified as the URL will contain terms such as “url=,” “redirect=,” “external-link,” or “proxy,” and often multiple occurrences of “HTTP”. They should also ensure they carefully check the URL they land on and make sure it is the official domain used by the company being spoofed.
SpamTitan Plus is a leading-edge artificial intelligence-driven anti-phishing solution from TitanHQ that provides better coverage than any other anti-phishing product on the market. The solution has 100% coverage of all current market-leading anti-phishing feeds, which gives users a significant uplift in phishing link detections and faster detection of phishing threats than any other product.
The solution is fed massive clickstream traffic from more than 600 million endpoints worldwide, and more than 10 million new, and never-before-seen phishing and malicious URLs are added to the solution and blocked for all users every single day. When a new, malicious URL is detected, it takes less than 5 minutes for all users of SpamTitan Plus to be protected. Independent tests have shown SpamTitan Plus is 1.6 times faster at detecting phishing URLs than any of the current market leaders and achieves a 1.5x increase in unique phishing URL detections.
When a user clicks a link in an email, the URL is checked in real-time, not just when the email is delivered. This is important as campaigns are often conducted where the destination URL has malicious content added after delivery to bypass email security defenses. When SpamTitan Plus checks the link, the destination URL is scanned to identify spoofing and login pages, redirects are followed, and many dynamic checks are performed. If the destination URL is determined to be malicious, the user will be directed to a block page.
SpamTitan Plus was launched by TitanHQ in December 2021, and it has already proven popular with businesses that need the very best protection against phishing attacks. TitanHQ has now made a major update to the solution to improve its predictive phishing detection capabilities.
One of the ways that phishing campaigns are conducted to evade security solutions is to use personalized URLs for each targeted company and victim. In a standard phishing campaign, the same URL would be used for the entire campaign. When that URL is detected as malicious, it will be blocked by email security solutions. If a unique URL is used in these campaigns, if it is identified as malicious and blocked, it does not affect any other emails in the campaign as they each has a different URL. URLs are personalized at the path or parameter level, and most anti-phishing solutions provide no protection against these malicious personalized URLs. The personalized URLs are used in phishing, social engineering, reputation attacks, and malware distribution.
The latest predictive functionality detects and blocks automated bot phishing campaigns and personalized URL attacks, ensuring users get the very best phishing protection. The new capabilities have already been added to SpamTitan Plus and made available to all users.
“With predictive phishing detection, SpamTitan Plus can now combat automated bot phishing. At TitanHQ we always strive to innovate and develop solutions that solve real-security problems and provide tangible value to our customers. The end goal is to have our partners and customers two or three steps ahead of the phishers and cybercriminals’ said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ.
Qakbot malware is one of the oldest malware threats that is still in use, having first been detected in 2007. Qakbot malware – aka QBot, QuakBot, and Pinkslipbot – has seen extensive development over the years and still poses a major threat to businesses worldwide. QakBot malware started life as a banking Trojan that was used to steal sensitive financial information. Qakbot malware can now also steal sensitive data from browsers and emails and as with many other modular banking Trojans, it also serves as a malware loader and is used to deliver secondary malware payloads.
As was the case back in 2007, Qakbot malware is most commonly delivered via phishing emails, using links to malicious websites where the malware is downloaded or malicious email attachments. Once initial access is gained to a victim’s network, privileges are escalated, and the malware operator uses Microsoft tools for lateral movement – termed living-of-the-land. This method means additional tools do not need to be downloaded, which could be detected, and the attackers can hide their activity amongst legitimate use of the tools by IT teams.
Qakbot malware is known to use exploits for known vulnerabilities. Qakbot malware was recently observed attempting to exploit the Follina remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2022-30190) in the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT), which affects Windows 11 and prior versions and most versions of Office. The malware has also used an exploit for Zerologon, to name just a couple.
In addition to being able to read and exfiltrate email data, QakBot malware – like Emotet – can hijack message threats and self-propagate. An existing email thread is found, and a malicious link is inserted into the conversation. Since the email sent includes the text of the previous conversation between two individuals, there is a reasonable chance of the malicious website being visited and the file being downloaded and opened. One way of getting around spam filters is for the URL to be included but not be made clickable, which means it needs to be manually copied into the browser.
Qakbot malware is strongly associated with ransomware attacks. Once the operators of the malware have achieved their aims, they sell access to infected devices to other threat groups as a secondary revenue stream. For example, QakBot malware has been observed delivering Cobalt Strike beacons to victims’ devices, and access to those beacons is then sold to ransomware gangs. The malware has been used by various ransomware gangs, including ProLock, Black Basta, MegaCortex, Egregor, and REvil.
A 2022 analysis of the malware, published by DFIR, highlights the speed at which attacks occur. DBIR shared information about an attack in October in which the entire network was compromised in minutes. In this case, it is unclear how initial access was gained but it is likely that the malware was delivered via a phishing email with an infected Excel spreadsheet, which launched the Qakbot malware DLL loader. A scheduled task was created to elevate privileges to system level and Qakbot was then injected into many processes, including Microsoft Remote Assistance (mrsa.exe).
Within 30 minutes of initial access, browser data and emails had been stolen from the host and within 50 minutes the malware had spread to another workstation and the process had been repeated. In a very short space of time, all workstations had been infected. Qakbot malware will also steal Windows credentials by dumping the memory of the Local Security Authority Server Service (LSSAS) Typically, credentials are stolen within 50 minutes of initial access being gained.
Detecting the malware once it has been installed can be a challenge. The key to protecting against infections is to improve email defenses, as this is the most common attack vector. That means implementing an email security solution that is not reliant on signature-based detection and includes behavior-based detection methods such as sandboxing and outbound scanning to identify compromised mailboxes. These features are present in SpamTitan Email Security products. A web filter is also recommended. WebTitan can detect and block command and control communications and provides additional protection against malicious links in emails, providing time-of-click protection to prevent users from visiting malicious websites linked in emails.
It is important for businesses to take steps to improve web security and block the web-based component of phishing attacks and drive-by malware downloads, and one of most important steps to take is to protect browsers against malvertising.
What is Malvertising
Malvertising is the term given to the use of malicious online adverts for downloading malware or directing website traffic to attacker-controlled websites for phishing or other scams. Malicious adverts may be placed on compromised websites, but commonly they are added to legitimate ad networks, which website operators use for improving engagement and generating additional revenue. Third-party advertising blocks are used on many high-traffic websites, and if malicious adverts are added, they can be displayed on large numbers of high-traffic websites to huge volumes of website visitors. Since the adverts may be displayed on trusted websites, that trust is then transferred to the adverts. Website visitors may click the adverts and be directed to a malicious website. Worse, it is possible to embed malicious code into the adverts themselves, so it is not always necessary to click the advert to have malware downloaded.
Malvertising is a significant attack vector and is often used for malware distribution. The attacks can bypass in-built browser security features that protect against website redirects and pop-up adverts. It is also possible for attackers to create malvertising campaigns that are targeted at specific users, and only serve adverts to those users.
How to Defend Against Malvertising
Since people interact with the Internet using a web browser, web browsers should be secured to protect against malvertising. The malicious code in adverts can probe for and exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers. Those vulnerabilities may exist due to the use of an outdated web browser such as Internet Explorer, or a web browser that has not been updated to the latest version. Web browsers may have unsecure configurations that can be exploited, or users could be redirected to a malicious website or web application. Attackers also use malvertising to exploit human weaknesses, such as unsecure browsing habits or untrained or poorly trained users.
The threat from malvertising cannot be totally eliminated, but steps can be taken to reduce risk. Many of the protective measures are low-cost and can be implemented easily. The four main methods for protecting against malvertising, as recommended by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are:
Standardize and secure web browsers
Deploy ad blocking software
Implement protective domain name system technologies
Isolate web browsers from operating systems
Standardize and secure web browsers
Limit the browsers, versions, and configurations that are used by your organization – The greater the variety, the higher the probability that vulnerabilities will exist that can be exploited. By restricting browsers, versions, and configurations, you will have a more consistent and easily managed network portfolio. You must then ensure that the browsers are kept up to date and new versions are installed as soon as possible after a version has been released.
Deploy ad blocking software
Ad-blocking software can prevent malicious adverts from being displayed. Ad blockers will remove adverts or prevent them from being displayed, often via a web browser extension. In theory, ad blockers are a great choice for defending against malvertising, but this option should be treated with caution as ad blockers have their own security concerns. Ad blockers may operate with high levels of privileges and may therefore access all data traffic between the user workstation and the network, which means they may be able to perform malicious actions with high levels of privileges. Malicious ad blockers have been detected, and some browser extensions accept payments from advertisers to ensure that paid for ads are allowlisted and are not blocked.
Isolate web browsers from operating systems
Browser isolation is an architectural decision that is used by many large organizations to defend against web-based threats, although the design, implementation, and maintenance of Internet browser isolation can be complex and may be beyond the capabilities of some small- and medium-sized businesses. Browser isolation involves creating a logical barrier between the web browser and other systems and operates on a zero-trust principle, assuming that all web traffic is untrustworthy and potentially malicious. Browser isolation is often achieved locally using a sandbox or virtual machine on the user’s computer.
Implement protective domain name system technologies
One of the best steps to take is to use protective domain name system (DNS) technologies such as WebTitan. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering solution for blocking access to malicious websites. When a malvertising attempts to redirect a user to a malicious domain, that redirect is blocked, and the user is directed to a locally hosted block page and is advised that the web resource cannot be accessed as a threat was detected. WebTitan can also be configured to block access to risky categories of websites and will block drive-by malware downloads.
WebTitan incorporates threat intelligence feeds and collects data from over 500 million endpoints worldwide to ensure that threats are rapidly blocked for all users when new threats are detected. According to CISA, 91% of malware uses DNS for cyberattacks. WebTitan can block malware command-and-control server communications.
Advice from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
In 2021, CISA issued a Capacity Enhancement Guide for all federal agencies calling for them to take steps to secure browsers and defend against malvertising. This year, CISA has recommended all businesses and non-profit organizations follow the guidance and take steps to protect their browsers against malvertising.
Phishing emails are commonly used to distribute malware and in recent years malware loaders have been a common payload. Malware loaders include the likes of BazarLoader and Bumblebee, which are used to infect devices with the goal of delivering the malware and ransomware payloads of other threat groups.
Security researchers have identified a relatively new malware loader dubbed Matanbuchus that is being delivered via phishing emails. Like other malware loaders, Matanbuchus is operated under the malware-as-a-service model, and has been developed to stealthily download and execute second-stage malware payloads and executable files. The Matanbuchus loader has recently been observed dropping Cobalt Strike on infected systems. Cobalt Strike is a legitimate adversary simulation framework that is used in red team operations for detecting vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited, but is also extensively used by criminal hackers for post-exploitation activities.
The Matanbuchus loader is currently being offered on Russian cybercrime forums for $2,500, and has been available since at least February 2021, with a malware developer operating under the moniker BelialDemon believed to be the developer of the malware. BelialDemon is known to have been involved in the development and sale of other malware loaders, such as TrumpLoader.
Matanbuchus, which is an alternate name for the demon Belial, can be used to launch an .exe or .dll file in the memory, add or modify task schedules, launch PowerShell commands, and execute standalone executable files to load a DLL. The malware has already been used in several attacks in the United States, including entities in the education sector.
Researchers at Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 team have identified phishing emails being used to deliver the Matanbuchus loader that use Excel documents with malicious macros. As is common in these types of phishing campaigns, if the user opens the attached file, they are informed that the document was created in an earlier version of Microsoft Excel, so the content cannot be viewed unless the user clicks on Enable Editing and then Enable Content. Should content be enabled, Excel 4.0 macros are then leveraged to drop and execute the Matanbuchus loader.
A campaign has also been detected that uses a .zip file attachment that contains an HTML file, which delivers a second .zip file that includes an MSI installer. If that file is executed, an error message is displayed indicating to the user that something has gone wrong, when in the background a DLL file is delivered and executed, which acts as the loader for delivering the Matanbuchus loader DLL file.
To block the delivery of malware loaders such as Matanbuchus, it is important to implement multiple cybersecurity solutions. A Spam filter such as SpamTitan can be used to block the delivery of the phishing emails. SpamTitan includes dual antivirus engines for detecting and blocking known malware and sandboxing to identify unknown malware through in-depth analysis of the behavior of attached files.
A web filter such as WebTitan should be used to block connections to malicious websites that host the malware. WebTitan can also be configured to block downloads of files often used to deliver malware and command-and-control center communications.
It is also strongly recommended to provide comprehensive security awareness training to all members of the workforce to explain the threat of phishing emails, explain the red flags to look for in emails, and not to open attachments unless they can be verified as authentic. TitanHQ can help in this regard through the SafeTitan Security Awareness Training solution, which includes a phishing simulation platform for simulating phishing emails to test how employees respond. For further information on these solutions, contact TitanHQ today.
TitanHQ has been included in the Expert Insights’ list of the Top 100 Most Innovative Cybersecurity Companies of 2022. Expert Insights is a leading online publication for businesses that conducts research into cloud-based business technologies and cybersecurity solutions to help businesses with their purchasing decisions. The site includes editorial buyers’ guides, industry analyses, interviews, and technical product reviews written by industry experts, and is visited by more than 80,000 business owners and IT admins each month.
In addition to an awards program that recognizes the best cloud-based and cybersecurity solutions – TitanHQ received 5 ‘Best of’ Awards in Spring 2022 – Expert Insights produces a list of the Top 100 Most Innovative Cybersecurity Companies. The list is divided into 12 categories and recognizes the most innovative companies that are developing cutting-edge solutions for businesses and consumers to help them deal with current and emerging cyber threats. TitanHQ was included in the list in the Email and Messaging Security category.
It has been a busy year for TitanHQ. The company has been taking great strides into the U.S. market and has significantly boosted its presence throughout North America and globally, and has brought in a host of new talent. The latest addition to the North American management team is channel veteran, Tom Watson, who was recently appointed as TitanHQ’s new Channel Chief. Watson is now working alongside another channel champion and recent appointee, Jeff Benedetti, who is TitanHQ’s new VP of Sales.
TitanHQ has recently bolstered its product portfolio with another product for boosting defenses against phishing and other cyber threats – The SafeTitan Security Awareness and Phishing Simulation planform, which follows on from the launch of a cutting-edge addition to the SpamTitan suite of products, SpamTitan Plus. SpamTitan Plus includes all of the market-leading anti-phishing feeds and provides unrivaled detection speeds of malicious URLs – 1.6x faster than the current market-leading anti-phishing solutions.
“The overwhelming feedback from our users and customer base has been that phishing attacks are becoming more advanced, proficient, and dangerous. Phishing is the number one problem to solve in the email security community,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “With that in mind, we’re delighted to have been recognized in the Email and Messaging Security Category. We will continue to innovate and provide email and messaging security solutions that MSPs can use to deliver a consistent, secure, and reliable experience to their customers,” added Kavanagh.
It can be a challenge for organizations to stay agile, competitive, and innovative in a digital world, especially when cyber threat actors are actively targeting businesses. Small- and medium-sized businesses are facing a multitude of threats, many of which target employees – a weak link in the security chain.
Cyberattacks can cause significant financial losses and irreparable damage to a business’s hard-earned reputation. While security solutions can be implemented to block those threats, cyber actors target a weak point in security – employees.
In addition to technical defenses, businesses need to create a human firewall through security awareness training. Digital security needs to be front and center of a business’s continued innovation, but it can be difficult to develop and maintain a cyber-savvy workforce, especially considering the rapidly changing threat landscape.
To help businesses succeed. TitanHQ, in partnership with the Oxford Cyber Academy, will be hosting a webinar to discuss employee cyber risks in growing organizations, and how to balance safety and agility.
During the webinar, attendees will be provided with valuable information on:
The rapidly changing threat landscape
What needs to be protected
The consequences of failing to protect digital assets and systems
How to balance technology and human cyber risks
How to improve employee security awareness and change employee behavior
A solution that makes it easy to provide intuitive, easy-to-understand, personalized, and targeted training that delivers it where it’s needed the most.
Join TitanHQ on June 7th where Nick Wilding, Neil Sinclair, Cyber Programme Lead, UK Police Crime Prevention Initiatives, and Richard Knowlton, Director of Security Studies at the Oxford Cyber Academy will discuss:
If you can’t make the event, register anyway and you will receive the webinar to watch on-demand at any time.
On June 1, 2022, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have the opportunity of attending the ChannelNEXT in Toronto, ON. The event is an incredible opportunity for MSPs to gain practical insights on how to achieve greater success, with the one-day event focused on offering guidance and knowledge across all areas of MSP business, including business management, sales, marketing, leadership, and technology.
During the event, MSPs will discover how to overcome the common pain points such as hiring new talent and retaining employees, expanding the managed services they provide, scaling up their business, finding and retaining customers, and, importantly given the rapidly changing cyber threat landscape, how to protect themselves against cyberattacks and help their customers improve their security postures.
At this year’s event, ChannelNEXT will focus on four critical considerations for MSPs:
Solutions for cybersecurity, compliance, insurance, and best practices.
The methods that can be adopted for increasing sales in a digital-first economy.
The recent market developments in corporate digital transformation, as well as their implications.
How to increase recurring revenue through a stronger technology and service stack.
During the event, MSPs will be able to attend a wide range of learning sessions where they will hear from successful MSPs who will share the secrets that helped them achieve success and grow their businesses, keynote speeches from industry experts, and peer groups where they will be able to discuss the challenges they are facing and get tips and tricks on how to overcome those challenges. There will also be ample opportunities for networking.
TitanHQ is excited to be attending ChannelNEXT and having the opportunity to meet MSPs from Canada and beyond. Kyle Leyerzapf, Account Executive at TitanHQ, will be at the TitanHQ booth, and will be available to share the latest news from TitanHQ and will be happy to provide insights from his many years of experience within the channel and his wealth of knowledge about the growing concern about security threats targeting MSPs and their customers.
MSPs will also discover how TitanHQ solutions can be used to increase revenue, and how easy those solutions are to fit into an existing service stack through the TitanHQ MSP platform.
Tom Watson has taken on the role of Channel Chief at TitanHQ and will manage the company’s MSP tradeshows, roadshows, and webinars, and will oversee the new TitanHQ MSP program. Tom is a seasoned veteran of the IT channel, having worked as a network engineer, owned and operated an MSP business, provided MSP consultancy services and, for the past 24 years, has been a vendor evangelist for a swathe of tech companies. Tom has also previously served as Channel Chief for grade one vendors such as NinjaOne and Axcient. Tom is committed to keeping TitanHQ’s already exceptional level of service delivery in perfect alignment with changing MSP demands.
TitanHQ is undergoing a major expansion in the U.S. market to meet the massive demand for TitanHQ services from U.S. MSPs. Many international vendors have embarked upon an expansion in the United States but have overlooked the importance of bringing in locally sourced, experienced advisors to assist with serving the close-knit U.S. market. TitanHQ recognizes the importance of bringing in top local talent, hence the recruitment of Tome Watson. Tom will be based in TitanHQ’s new U.S. base in Shelton, Connecticut, where he will work alongside another recently appointed U.S. IT channel veteran, Jeff Benedetti, TitanHQ’s VP of Sales.
TitanHQ has been providing innovative solutions to managed service providers for more than 20 years and offers multiple award-winning SaaS solutions for email security, web filtering, email archiving, email encryption, and security awareness training. The products are used by more than 8,500 businesses worldwide and over 2,500 MSPs to protect against malware, ransomware, phishing, viruses, botnets, and other cyber threats, and to help businesses meet compliance requirements.
TitanHQ products have been built from the ground up for MSPs and save them considerable support and engineering time by stopping problems at the source. The solutions are a huge hit with MSPs due to their ease of implementation, ease of use, and seamless integration into the existing technology stacks of MSPs. The TitanHQ MSP-centric platform enables MSP partners to generate recurring revenues through the sales of TitanHQ solutions to SMBs, and easily scale and effectively manage their own businesses.
“I see my role as being more of a liaison than anything,” said Tom, regarding the recent appointment. “TitanHQ already has a fantastic offering. You’ll be hearing me talk about that in the future. For now, I think it’s more important to highlight the commitments TitanHQ has made to the channel. This is a company that is 100% dedicated to making sure they serve the MSP community.” Tom went on to say, “I’ve wanted to work for a rising cybersecurity company for quite a while now. Here I know I can use my skills and understanding of MSP operations, sales, and marketing to help MSPs succeed. Working together with TitanHQ we can give MSPs everything they need to provide quality cyber services to their clients.”
It is vital for any company looking to expand in the US and better serve the needs of MSPs to bring in MSP industry experts. “For over 20 years TitanHQ has worked with MSPs to develop best in class, advanced, and highly innovative cybersecurity solutions. We pride ourselves on the sophisticated yet easy-to-manage offerings we bring to the market. Bringing Tom on board is yet another leap to allow us to offer the best service to the MSP market,” said TitanHQ Marketing Director, Dryden Geary.
Many organizations punish employees who make cybersecurity mistakes and fail phishing simulations but punishing employees for failing phishing simulations is often not effective and can have unintended negative consequences.
Actions taken by companies when employees fail phishing simulations
Studies suggest that around 40% of companies punish employees for failing phishing simulations and for making other security mistakes. The actions taken can range in severity from naming and shaming employees, removing access privileges, losing other privileges and benefits, locking computers or blocking email until training has been completed, and disciplinary action, such as verbal and written warnings, and termination.
There naturally needs to be consequences if employees fail phishing simulations or make security mistakes, as if there are none, there will be no incentive for change. However, there are risks with using the stick rather than the carrot. Punishing employees for non-malicious security failures and failed phishing simulations often does not work.
Do you really want to create a culture of fear?
If you want to create a security culture in your organization you need to motivate your employees to become security titans, and that is unlikely to happen if the motivation comes from the threat of being fired if a mistake is made. Employees can become stressed and anxious if they are scared of severe punishments for security failures, especially if they have already failed a phishing simulation. That is unlikely to be beneficial for the company and could lead to the creation of a hostile work environment and loss of productivity. It could also serve to demonize the security team which is never a good thing.
If employees are scared about making mistakes, they may not report them when they happen
When employees make a mistake, such as clicking a link in a real phishing email or installing malware, and recognize the mistake, it is essential that they report it. Prompt action by the security team can be the difference between neutralizing the threat before any harm is caused and suffering an incredibly costly ransomware attack or data breach. If employees are worried about losing their jobs for making a mistake or suffering other serious consequences, they may avoid reporting the error.
Businesses need to be careful with punishing employees for non-malicious actions or security failures and should ensure that they make it clear to employees that the failure to report a known security mistake is a serious issue that could result in termination and will have far more serious consequences than the actual error.
Security awareness training should not be viewed as a punishment
If employees make security mistakes or fail phishing simulations it can be due to many reasons. The training provided has clearly not been effective has not been effective with certain employees and this could be due to the training material or the different needs of employees – It may not be a case of employees not paying attention or sloppy working practices.
When security mistakes are made or phishing simulations are failed, there is clearly a need for further training, but it is important that security awareness training is not seen as a punishment. It should be a positive experience and be explained that it is part of an ongoing educational process.
Consider real-time security awareness training
You should be providing security awareness training during the onboarding process, and annual training sessions are important, but if you want to create a security culture you need to go further. Cybersecurity newsletters, reminders, and additional training can be useful if they are not provided too regularly. Daily emails will be ignored, whereas monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly updates are more likely to be read and assimilated.
One of the best approaches to training is to provide basic training to everyone and then to provide behavior-driven, real-time security awareness training. When an employee makes a mistake, falls for a phishing simulation, or is discovered to have engaged in a risky behavior, an alert can be triggered and immediate training can be provided. This is bite-sized training that is relevant and specific to an action that was taken, that explains how the mistake was made, why it is a problem, and how it could have been avoided. Mistakes serve as educational triggers and can be turned into teachable moments and training provided in this way is likely to be much more effective than making an employee go through the same standard training program again.
The SafeTitan security awareness and phishing simulation platform
SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness platform that delivers training in real-time, allowing businesses to mitigate the growing problem of social engineering and advanced phishing attacks. The platform includes an extensive library of training courses, videos, and quizzes that businesses can use for greater general and custom training campaigns, and provides gamified, interactive, and enjoyable security awareness training sessions with short and efficient testing.
Training can be automatically generated in response to specific employee behaviors to ensure errors and risky behaviors are immediately tackled. The platform also includes fully automated simulated phishing attacks, using regularly updated phishing templates to match current attack trends. The training and simulations have been shown to reduce susceptibility to phishing by up to 92%. Users also benefit from enterprise-level reporting in an easily digestible format that demonstrates the ROI.
Contact TitanHQ today for more information and to sign up for a free trial of SafeTitan.
In October 2021, Microsoft launched its latest operating system – Windows 11 – and cybercriminals were quick to take advantage, offering free Windows 11 upgrades as a lure to trick people into installing malware.
Windows 11 has not been a roaring success so far. According to data from the IT asset management solution provider Lansweeper, on April 4, 2022, only 1.44% of corporate and personal devices had Windows 11 installed, which is less than the number that have Windows XP installed, for which support stopped being provided in 2014.
One of the main issues with Windows 11 is the stringent hardware compatibility requirements. One of the requirements for a Windows 11 upgrade is for devices to support Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0, which means any devices over 4 years old will not be able to have Windows 11 installed unless the hardware is upgraded.
Microsoft offers a tool on its website that will check whether a device has the hardware to support an upgrade to Windows 11, but any user who has not visited the official Microsoft website is unlikely to be unaware of the hardware restrictions, and it is those individuals who are being targeted and tricked into installing malware.
Malware is often distributed via peer-2-peer file-sharing networks and warez sites that offer pirated software, either packaged with the software installers or with the product activators and cracks that are used to generate valid licenses; however, the fake Windows installers are being pushed through search engine poisoning.
Search engine poisoning, also known as SEO poisoning, is the creation of malicious websites and the use of search engine optimization techniques to get the websites to appear high in the organic search engine listings for certain search terms. In this case, search terms related to Windows 11 downloads.
When a user enters a search string into Google, the malicious website appears in the listings. A variety of domains are used in the campaigns that at first glance appear to be legitimate, windows11-ugrade11.com being one example. The landing page on these websites include the Microsoft logo and menus and an attractive Get Windows 11 screen with a Download Now button.
One campaign has been identified that delivers a novel malware variant dubbed Inno Stealer, which is installed by an executable file in the downloaded ISO file. Inno Stealer can steal web browser cookies, passwords stored in browsers, data from the filesystem, and data in cryptocurrency wallets. Other malware variants are also being distributed using similar tactics. Fake windows installers have also been distributed via phishing emails. One campaign delivers Qbot malware via a password-protected ZIP file that contains a malicious MSI installer.
Spam filtering solutions can be used to block malware delivery via phishing emails; however, to block malware downloads from web browsing, a web filter is required. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filter that incorporates advanced DNS filtering controls to block access to malicious websites and prevent malware downloads.
WebTitan is fed threat intelligence from a network of 650 million worldwide users. Newly identified threats are immediately propagated to database deployments worldwide to provide coverage and protection against emerging, zero-hour threats. The solution can also be configured to block attempts by users to download file types often associated with malware, such as ISO and MSI files. WebTitan can handle any volume of usage with no latency, so users will be unaware that content is being filtered until they encounter a threat and are informed by WebTitan that the threat has been blocked.
If you want to improve your defenses against malware and phishing attacks via the Internet, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about WebTitan. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request and the full product is available on a free trial (with full support) to allow you to see for yourself how effective it is at blocking threats and how easy it is to install, set up, and use.
Expert Insights has announced its Spring 2022 Best-Of awards and TitanHQ has been given awards in 5 categories, including best-in-class awards for SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan DNS Filter, ArcTitan Email Archiving, and SafeTitan Security Awareness training.
Expert Insights is an online publication that receives more than 80,000 visitors a month. Business owners and Information Technology professionals rely on the website which provides insights into the best business software solutions, along with blog posts, buyers’ guides, technical product reviews and analyses, interviews with industry experts, and reviews of software solutions by users of those solutions, who give accurate advice on their experiences and how the products perform in practice.
The Best-Of Awards recognize vendors and products that excel in their respective categories and help businesses achieve their goals. “Each of the services recognized in our awards are providing in many cases an essential service to their users, driving business growth, securing users in a challenging cybersecurity marketplace, and massively improving business efficiency,” Joel Witts, Expert Insights’ Content Director.
Each category includes a maximum of 11 products that have been analyzed by Expert Insights’ editorial and technical teams in the UK and US and have achieved excellent ratings from genuine users of the solutions. “These awards recognize the continued excellence of the providers in these categories,” said Witts.
At the Expert Insights Spring 2022 awards, TitanHQ was ranked the number 1 solution in the Best Email Security Gateway category for SpamTitan Email Security, ArcTitan Email Archiving was ranked number 1 in the Email Archiving for Business category, WebTitan DNS Filter ranked second in the Web Security category, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training was ranked in the top 10 in two categories, Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation.
“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 TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh. “We will continue to innovate and provide solutions that MSPs can use to deliver a consistent, secure and reliable experience to their customers.”
Businesses need to invest in an advanced email security solution to block email-based cyberattacks and nuisance emails. SpamTitan, for instance, will block 99.99% of spam emails and 100% of known malware. SpamTitan includes advanced threat protection mechanisms and machine learning technology that can predict new attacks, along with sandboxing to identify zero-day malware threats.
The problem for businesses is that even with cutting-edge email security, some threats will bypass email defenses and will land in inboxes where they can be opened by employees. All it takes is for a single email to be opened by a single employee to give an attacker the foothold in the network that is needed to launch a devastating ransomware attack.
Technical defenses against phishing such as spam filters and web filters are important for cybersecurity, and alongside robust backup procedures, prompt patching, good password policies, and a next-generation firewall, your business will be well defended, but it is important not to neglect your human defenses, especially considering that 85% of cyberattacks involve human error.
Security awareness training for the workforce has always been important, but with cyberattacks on businesses now occurring at record rates, it is now a critical security measure. Security awareness training aims to teach the workforce the skills they need to be able to recognize and avoid security threats. Training should cover cybersecurity best practices such as setting strong passwords, never writing passwords down, and never accessing the network on a public Wi-Fi network without using a VPN, and other important security best practices.
The importance of training on how to identify phishing emails cannot be overstated. 9 out of 10 successful cyberattacks start with a phishing email. Phishing is concerned with tricking employees into disclosing their credentials or opening a malicious file that triggers a malware download. Attacks may also impersonate trusted individuals to trick employees into emailing sensitive data. Some phishing emails are easy to identify due to spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and too-good-to-be-true offers, but many attacks are not so obvious. Employees need to be taught how to identify these emails, what to look for, and to be cautious when opening any email.
Spear phishing emails can be very convincing. They can be personalized, highly targeted, include the correct branding and logos, have spoofed sender names, and make perfectly plausible requests. Social engineering techniques are used to get the recipient to take the requested action and to do so without thinking, such as enabling content when opening an email attachment. Untrained employees cannot be expected to know about these cyberattacks and scams, and that enabling content in a document or spreadsheet will allow macros to run, which will silently download malware.
Security awareness training is important for everyone in the organization, from the CEO down. In fact, the CEO and other executives are the real prizes in phishing attacks as they have credentials that provide more extensive access to networks and sensitive data, so they need to also receive security awareness training. Providing regular security awareness training to the workforce is important, but so is testing the effectiveness of the training. Phishing simulations should be conducted to see if the workforce has taken the training on board. Simulation exercises provide immediate feedback on how the workforce will respond when a real threat is encountered. If the simulation is failed, employees will need to be given further training.
TitanHQ has developed SafeTitan to help businesses with their security awareness training. The platform provides real-time security awareness training to develop a human firewall to complement your technical cybersecurity defenses. The SafeTitan platform also allows businesses to run phishing simulations to see how effective the training has been and how employees will respond to social engineering and advanced phishing attacks when they are encountered.
For further information, get in touch with TitanHQ and take the most important step toward creating your human firewall.
Employees not wishing to get into legal trouble may choose to access questionable or illegal Internet content at work. Employers can protect against liability from such actions by their employees by implementing a solution to block this activity, and it is becoming increasingly important to do so as intellectual property owners are taking action against these activities.
Film Studios Crackdown on Illegal Downloads
When networks are used for illegal activities, action can be taken against the owners of those networks and the film and music industries have been particularly active in recent years as they attempt to stamp out piracy and copyright infringement. Several lawsuits have been filed against VPN providers over the use of their services for downloading pirated content. This month TorGuard settled a lawsuit filed by more than two dozen film studios over the use of its network for downloading pirated content and similar lawsuits have been filed against LiquidVPN and VPN.ht.
Lawsuits against individuals who download illegal content often do not make it to the courts due to the difficulty of proving that an individual downloaded copyright-infringing content on a particular IP address, but action is increasingly being taken for pirated movie downloads. Illegal downloads of the film Ava saw action taken by the movie studio Voltage Holdings LLC, which obtained a court order from broadband provider Virgin Media to release the details of customers who had downloaded the film.
In Canada, at least 17 lawsuits have recently been filed over copyright-infringing movie downloads, with more than 1,000 individuals named in the lawsuits. Some of those individuals have been ordered to pay $5,000 in damages for downloading films such as A Family Man and London Has Fallen. When multiple downloads of such material are occurring at a business, legal action could be taken against that business for failing to prevent the illegal activity.
Software Companies Take Action Over Unlicensed Software Use
It is not only pirated software downloads that can attract legal action. Siemens has taken action over copyright infringement related to the use of its software such as NX, Solid Edge, Femap, Star CCM, and FloTHERM. 142 users were identified as using unlicensed software and are the subject of the lawsuit. Software illegally downloaded and used by businesses can see damages imposed at many times the value of the software. While most businesses would not download unlicensed software, that may not be the case with all of their employees. Employees often choose to download software from file-sharing websites to help them be more efficient at work. Termed shadow IT, this practice not only exposes employers to legal risk, but there is also a very real cybersecurity risk.
Prevent Copyright-Infringing Downloads and Improve Cybersecurity with a Web Filter
Pirated software, and the associated product activators and cracks, are often bundled with malware, which is silently installed along with the pirated software. The malware can provide threat actors with remote access to corporate devices, and those devices can then be used for more extensive cyberattacks on the business. IT departments often discover unauthorized software has been installed on users’ devices when performing upgrades, software installations, repairs, and audits.
Businesses can protect against these illegal activities by employees by using a web filtering solution to block access to websites where pirated material is downloaded. There are also many other benefits of filtering the Internet and preventing access to certain types of web content.
Businesses can prevent the development of a hostile working environment by blocking access to content such as pornography, and they can ensure sufficient bandwidth is always available by restricting access to certain sites during busy times or working hours – YouTube for example.
The biggest benefit of implementing a web filter is blocking malicious websites, such as those known to be used for phishing and malware delivery. WebTitan Cloud, for instance, is fed threat intelligence from more than 650 million users worldwide. When a threat is identified, the solution is automatically updated to protect all users from accessing the malicious content.
Since WebTitan Cloud is a DNS-based web filter, there is no impact on Internet speed. Checks are performed at the DNS lookup stage of a web request, with content checked against databases and filtered in 5 microseconds. The solution can be configured to protect all users, including remote workers. The protection is applied no matter where the Internet is accessed.
If you want to protect your business from the legal risk associated with Illegal web activity, improve your defenses against phishing and malware, and make productivity gains by blocking access to non-essential Internet content, WebTitan Cloud is the ideal solution.
Since WebTitan Cloud is a multi-tenant solution, it is also ideal for MSPs looking to add web filtering to their service stacks. MSPs are offered generous margins, the product can be provided in white-label form ready to take their own branding, and a choice of hosting options are available, including hosting within an MSP’s data center.
For more information, contact TitanHQ for more information on DNS-based web filtering with WebTitan Cloud.
It has been a busy 3 months for TitanHQ with two new product launches, a new Channel Chief, and 12 strategic new hires to support the company’s incredible North American growth.
In February 2022, TitanHQ announced Channel veteran, Jeff Benedetti, had been recruited to lead North American sales and the company’s go-to-market efforts in the U.S. and Canada and continue to expand the company’s North American footprint.
Benedetti has almost two decades of successful sales and go-to-market leadership experience in the security and technology markets, with his most recent position being the sales and marketing chief at SKOUT Cybersecurity – which was recently acquired by Barracuda Networks. Benedetti also served as Director of U.S. Sales at Datto, where he significantly increased partner growth and played a key role in Datto’s expansion. While he was at the company, Datto achieved unicorn status and was acquired by Vista Private Equity. In addition to leading the U.S. channel team, Benedetti will oversee the relaunch of the North American TitanHQ partner program in April 2022.
January and February 2022 have seen TitanHQ enjoy incredible growth globally and especially in North America. To support that growth, Benedetti now has a new North American TitanHQ team that includes 12 strategic new hires to service the US and Canadian Managed Service Provider (MSP) market, which will be based at TitanHQ’s new North American base in Shelton, CT.
Like Benedetti, the new hires have extensive channel experience, with that experience gained at companies such as Datto, Skout Cybersecurity, Agile Blue, and Barracuda.
The new hires include:
Director of Channel Development
Eric Morano has 15 years of sales leadership and GTM experience at Datto, Skout Cybersecurity (BarracudaMSP), AgileBlue XDR, CDW, and Verizon. Moreno has been tasked with optimizing TitanHQ’s partner engagement and growth.
Channel Account Managers
Craig Somma has 25 years of technology sales GTM leadership at Tech Dept, Micro Warehouse, and Gov Connection
Joseph Rende has 10+ years of Channel Sales Experience at Gartner and Datto
Pat DeAngelis has 10+ years of MSP technology experience at Datto, Threatlocker, and Armor Cybersecurity
Jeff Brown has 10+ years of sales experience at Datto, SKOUT Cybersecurity, Agile Blue.
Alex De Los Santos has 8 years of sales experience at Datto and ADP,
Alex Nankervis has 8 years of sales experience at Datto and Indeed
Kyle Leyerzapf has 5 years of sales experience at Datto
Patrick Barry has 6 years of sales and accounts experience at Accu-Tech Corporation and Maxim Healthcare
Jamal Ibrahim has 4 years of account management experience at Altium and RCG.
Marc Bonnaci has 7 years of sales and professional experience including Agile Blue.
The New TitanHQ North American Channel Team
In addition to bringing in top talent, TitanHQ has expanded its product portfolio in recent months with the addition of a new anti-phishing solution and security awareness training platform.
In December 2021, TitanHQ launched SpamTitan Plus – A leading-edge AI-driven anti-phishing solution. SpamTitan Plus provides comprehensive “zero-day” threat protection thanks to extensive threat intelligence feeds – More than any of the current market-leading anti-phishing solutions. That translates into a 1.5x increase in unique phishing URL detections and much faster phishing detection speeds – 5 minutes from detection to protecting all users. This new addition to the SpamTitan family has been very well received by IT departments and MSPs.
In February 2022, TitanHQ announced the acquisition of Cyber Risk Aware. The company was formed in 2016 and has grown into a global leader in security awareness training, which targets the human element of cybersecurity. The company’s platform is used to train employees on how to recognize and avoid cyber threats. The platform is an intuitive, real-time security awareness training platform that improves protection against ransomware, malware, BEC, and phishing attacks. The Cyber Risk Aware platform has now been rebranded as SafeTitan and has attracted seismic interest globally from MSPs and IT managers since its launch.
The new product releases, record company growth, highly skilled new channel team, and soon to be relaunched partner program further cement TitanHQ’s position as the leading provider of cloud-based cybersecurity solutions to managed service providers serving the SMB market.
Information about the 2021 ransomware trends identified by U.S. and European cybersecurity agencies and simple steps you can take to improve your security posture and prevent ransomware attacks.
2021 Ransomware Trends
Cybersecurity agencies identified several 2021 ransomware trends that look set to continue throughout 2022. There was an increase in ransomware attacks in 2021 with education and government the most commonly targeted sectors. The pandemic and lockdowns meant businesses needed to switch to remote working and security teams struggled to defend their networks. Ransomware gangs were quick to exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to networks, steal sensitive data, and encrypt files to extort money from businesses.
2021 also saw an increase in sophisticated ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure. Cybersecurity authorities in the United States said cyber threat actors had conducted attacks on 14 of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors, with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre reporting an increase in attacks on businesses, charities, legal firms, healthcare, and local government.
While initially, several ransomware threat actors were focused on big game hunting – attacking large, high-value organizations that provide critical services such as Colonial Pipeline, Kaseya, and JBS Foods – the attacks prompted the raising of the status of ransomware attacks to the level of terrorism, and the increased scrutiny on ransomware gangs saw ransomware attack trends change, with the focus shifting to mid-sized organizations.
Double extortion tactics have been the norm for the past two years, where attackers exfiltrate data prior to file encryption and then demand payment for the decryption keys and to prevent the publication of stolen data. A new trend of triple extortion in 2021 saw ransomware gangs also threaten to inform the victim’s partners, shareholders and suppliers about the attack. It is also now common for ransomware gangs to work with their rivals and share sensitive data. There have been multiple cases where ransomware gangs have shared information with other gangs to allow them to conduct follow-on attacks.
2021 saw an increase in attacks on the supply chain. By compromising the supply chain, ransomware gangs are able to conduct attacks on multiple targets. There was also an increase in attacks targeting managed service providers, where MSP access to customer networks is exploited to deploy ransomware on multiple targets. Russian ransomware gangs have been increasingly targeting cloud infrastructure, accounts, application programming interfaces, and data backup systems, which has allowed them to steal large quantities of cloud-stored data and prevent access to essential cloud resources.
Diverse tactics were used in 2021 to gain access to victim networks, including quickly developing exploits for known vulnerabilities, conducting brute force attacks on Remote Desktop Protocol, and using stolen credentials. These tactics have proven effective, helped by the increase in remote working and remote schooling due to the pandemic.
Improve Your Defenses Against Ransomware Attacks
To defend against ransomware attacks, it is important to prevent attackers from using these tactics. The number of reported vulnerabilities increased in 2021 and security teams struggled to keep up with routine patching. Security teams need to prioritize patching and concentrate on patching the vulnerabilities that are known to have been exploited, such as those published in the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog, and critical vulnerabilities where there is a high change of exploitation.
To combat brute force attacks, it is important to ensure all default passwords are changed and strong passwords are set for all accounts. Consider using a password management solution to make this easier. Multifactor authentication should be set up for as many services as possible, especially for access to critical systems, VPNs, and privileged accounts. RDP, other remote access solutions, and risky services should be closely monitored and ports and protocols that are not being used should be disabled.
It is also vital to take steps to prevent phishing attacks. Phishing is commonly used to gain access to credentials to gain a foothold in networks, or for phishing emails to be used to deliver malware. An advanced email security solution should be implemented to detect and block as many phishing threats as possible to prevent then from being delivered to employee inboxes. A web filtering solution can improve defenses by blocking access to the websites linked in phishing emails and to prevent the downloading of malware from the Internet. Security awareness training for the workforce is also important. Training should raise awareness of the risks of visiting suspicious websites, clicking on suspicious links, and opening suspicious attachments.
TitanHQ can help with all of these anti-phishing defenses through SpamTitan Email Security, the WebTitan DNS-based Web Filter, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training. To find out more about these solutions for SMBs, enterprises, Internet Service Providers, and Managed Service Providers, give the TitanHQ team a call.
TitanHQ, the leading cybersecurity SaaS business, today announced its acquisition of Cyber Risk Aware. Established in 2016, Cyber Risk Aware is a global leader in security awareness and mitigation of human cyber risk, assisting companies to help their staff protect the company network.
Cyber Risk Aware delivers real-time cyber security awareness training to staff in response to actual staff network behavior. This intuitive and real-time security awareness training reduces the likelihood users will be impacted by the latest threats such as ransomware, BEC attacks, and data breaches, whilst also enabling organizations to meet compliance obligations. Leading global businesses that trust Cyber Risk Aware include Standard Charter, Glen Dimplex, and Invesco.
TitanHQ has been providing email and web security solutions to businesses, enterprises, and managed service providers for more than two decades and now provides a range of security solutions to more than 8,500 businesses globally, including more than 2,500 managed service providers.
The acquisition will further bolster TitanHQ’s already extensive security offering. The combination of intelligent security awareness training with phishing simulation and TitanHQ’s advanced email protection, DNS security, email archiving, and email encryption solutions to create a powerful, multi-layered cybersecurity platform that secures end users from compromise. This is the go-to cybersecurity platform for IT Managed Service Providers and internal IT teams.
“This is a fantastic addition to the TitanHQ team and solution portfolio. It allows us to add a human protection layer to our MSP Security platform, with a fantastic feature-rich solution as demonstrated by the high caliber customers using it. Stephen and his team have built a great company over the years, and we are delighted to have them join the exciting TitanHQ journey.” said TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh.
The solution is available to both new and existing customers and MSP partners at TitanHQ.com and is now branded as SafeTitan, Security Awareness Training. Cyber Risk Aware existing clients are unaffected and will benefit from improvements in the platform in terms of phishing sims content and an exciting, innovative product roadmap.
Stephen Burke, CEO of Cyber Risk Aware, commented: “I am incredibly proud that Cyber Risk Aware has been acquired by TitanHQ, cybersecurity business that I have greatly admired for a long time. Today’s announcement is fantastic news for both our clients and partners. We will jointly bring together a platform of innovative security solutions that address the #1 threat vector used by bad actors that cause 99% of security breaches, “End User Compromise”. When I first started Cyber Risk Aware, my aim was to be the global security awareness leader in delivering the right message, to the right user at the right time. Now as part of TitanHQ, I am more excited than ever about the unique value proposition we bring to market”.
A campaign has been identified that uses the offer of a free Windows 11 upgrade as a lure to trick people into installing Redline Stealer malware. The Redline Stealer is offered for sale on hacking forums for between $150 and $200 under the malware-as-a-service model. The malware is a popular choice with cybercriminals due to the relatively low cost, ease of use, and the range of sensitive data that the malware can steal.
Redline malware can steal autocomplete data, cryptocurrency, credit card information, FTP and instant messenger credentials, and credentials stored in Chromium-based web browsers. While passwords stored in browsers are encrypted, Redline malware can programmatically decrypt passwords provided the malware runs as the user who was infected. If the user does not store passwords in the browser, the malware can still steal valuable information from browsers, including the sites the user visited and chose not to store a password. Phishing emails can then be crafted targeting those credentials or credential-stuffing attacks could be performed on the accounts for those sites. There have been many cases of Redline malware being installed on endpoints that have antivirus software installed, where the antivirus software has failed to detect and block the malware.
Redline malware is commonly distributed via phishing emails containing an embedded hyperlink to a malicious website, with social engineering tricks used to convince the user to download and run the installer. This approach is often used to target businesses.
Recently, researchers at HP uncovered a campaign that uses a spoofed Microsoft domain offering visitors a free Windows 11 upgrade. The upgrade is offered on the domain windows-upgrade.com, which is a professional-looking domain designed to look like an official Microsoft website. If users click the ‘Download Now’ button, it will trigger the download of a compressed file called Windows11InstallationAssistant.zip, which is downloaded from a Discord CDN.
The zip file contains an executable file called Windows11InstallationAssistant.exe, which will trigger the infection process that will ultimately deliver the Redline stealer payload with no further user interaction required. Now that the domain has been identified as malicious it has been taken down, but the campaign is likely to be relaunched on different domains.
Software installers have long been used for delivering malware, sometimes the installers are fake and only deliver a malicious payload, while others install a genuine application or software but also bundle in malware, spyware, or adware. In the case of the latter, users will likely be unaware that anything untoward has happened, as they will have installed the software they intended to download.
Malicious software installers are often found on peer-2-peer file-sharing networks, legitimate websites that have been compromised, and attacker-owned domains. Search engine poisoning is frequently used to get links to the malicious websites appearing high in the organic search engine listings for key search terms, often those used by businesses. Malicious adverts – malvertising – are often used to send traffic to malicious websites via the third-party ad blocks displayed on legitimate websites. Links to malicious websites may also be added to phishing emails.
While an advanced spam filter can protect against phishing emails containing malicious links, it will do nothing to prevent users from visiting websites hosting malware through web browsing. To protect against web-based attacks, businesses should use a web filter.
A web filter can be used to restrict access to certain categories of website, such as those serving no business purpose. Web filters are fed threat intelligence and use blacklists of known malicious web pages and will prevent access to those web pages or websites. It is also possible to configure a web filter to prevent the downloading of certain file types from the Internet, such as those commonly associated with malware.
Web filters are an important cybersecurity control to add to your arsenal to improve your defenses against malware and ransomware, and they are also effective at blocking the web component of phishing attacks by preventing employees from visiting the websites where credentials are harvested.
TitanHQ has developed an easy-to-use and powerful DNS-based web filter for SMBs, enterprises, and managed service providers. WebTitan Cloud is quick and easy to set up and configure and will allow you to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies and filter out malicious websites in minutes. WebTitan Cloud can protect users of wired and wireless networks, and even remote workers by installing a lightweight client on corporate-owned devices.
If you want to improve your defenses and block more threats, contact TitanHQ for further information on filtering the Internet with WebTitan.
Do you offer Wi-Fi access to your customers? Read on if you do and you are not yet providing a filtered Internet service.
Businesses that offer their customers free Wi-Fi access provide more value and offering free Wi-Fi can help to attract new business. The provision of Wi-Fi does not come at a great cost, and the low cost of providing free WiFi can be easily recovered. Retailers, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that provide a free Wi-Fi service encourage customers to remain for longer, which can result in more sales. Many people actively seek out businesses that have a free Wi-Fi service. If it was a toss-up between a café with free Wi-Fi and one without, the coffee would have to be considerably better to make up for the lack of Internet access.
Providing Wi-Fi access is however not without risk. If controls are not implemented on the Wi-Fi network to restrict certain online activities, businesses and other public hotspot providers could be exposed to legal risk if their Wi-Fi network is used for illegal activities. Wi-Fi access could also be abused by customers, who could hog bandwidth by downloading large files or using bandwidth-heavy websites, preventing others from accessing the Internet or slowing down page load speeds. Customers could also use the free access for viewing inappropriate web content such as pornography, in full view of other customers. There have been many reports of patrons of libraries doing just that in the United States.
Anyone who uses public Wi-Fi is taking a risk, as public Wi-Fi networks often lack security. There is a risk of a malware infection when connecting, and Internet connections can be monitored, and sensitive information stolen. Cybercriminals often frequent establishments offering free Wi-Fi to prey on the unwary by creating evil twin Wi-Fi networks and eavesdropping on connections.
Businesses offering free Wi-Fi access may not be able to block all types of cyberattack, but they can implement protections to reduce the risk of their customers being harmed. The way to do this is to provide a filtered Internet service.
Businesses that filter the Internet can prevent customers from unwittingly accessing web pages hosting phishing kits and sites known to be used for malware distribution. Internet speed can be kept fast by blocking access to certain types of online activities, especially with a filtering mechanism that allows time-based controls to be implemented. During busy times, access to websites that consume a lot of bandwidth, such as TV and video streaming sites, could be restricted and relaxed at quieter times. Filtering the Internet creates a family-friendly Internet service, which will help to protect minors from coming to harm. A filtered Internet service can attract more business from families especially by signing up for the Friendly Wi-Fi scheme.
It is recommended to block websites promoting hate speech and discrimination, child abuse, drugs, weapons, and pornography to create a sanitized Internet service. Filtering the Internet to block illegal activities such as copyright-infringing file downloads, such as pirated music, videos, and software can reduce legal risk and is also recommended.
As an added advantage, Internet filtering solutions can provide insights into customer behavior. Businesses can get a real-time view of Internet activity, can generate reports of the sites and content that are being accessed, and that can be incredibly valuable for guiding future marketing efforts. If a business can see the sites visited by their customers, they will know the types of sites they should advertise on to get the maximum benefit.
Filtering the Internet is not expensive, but the benefits are considerable. The easiest way of filtering the Internet is to use a DNS filtering solution. DNS filtering solutions can be easily implemented and will not affect Internet speed. They require no hardware purchases, and many implementations filter in the cloud, so require no software downloads.
WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi from TitanHQ has been developed to make offering customers a filtered Internet service as simple as possible. Users do not need to be IT experts, as the solution is intuitive and simple to set up, use, and maintain. It requires a simple configuration change, which the TitanHQ support team will talk you through implementing, and you can log in to the web portal and filter categories of Internet content you wish to restrict.
WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi is a powerful, feature-rich Internet filtering solution, but for many businesses, it is a set and forget solution. Set your policy and forget about it. Whatever reports or alerts you need can be configured to be sent to you automatically.
If you provide either free or paid Wi-Fi access, and you are not yet offering a filtered Internet service, give the TitanHQ team for more information about WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi. A product demonstration can be scheduled if you need it, and you can try the full solution free of charge – with full support – before deciding about a purchase. The team will also be happy to answer any questions you may have about Internet filtering.
TitanHQ is excited to be heading to Threatlocker’s Zero Trust World 2022 in Orlando, Florida this February. The event draws cybersecurity professionals from across the United States and beyond who will gain valuable insights from some of the world’s leading cybersecurity experts that they can take away and apply to better protect their networks and data from the ever-increasing number of cyber threats.
The event runs from February 21-23, 2022 at The Rozen Plaza and attendees will benefit from keynotes explaining the current threat landscape and the importance of Zero Trust in protecting against those threats. There will be discussions about the latest hacking techniques – and how to stop them – and the theme for the final day is to get serious about tackling cyber threats, and attendees will learn about the latest cybersecurity solutions to allow them to level up their cybersecurity stack to better protect against the full range of cyber threats.
There will be live hacking demonstrations, attendees will discover the tools that hackers are successfully using to evade security and attack businesses, and there will be hands-on exercises in workshops, training sessions, and certification labs.
While cybersecurity solutions can certainly help, becoming secure takes planning, analysis, and strategy. Tips and techniques will be provided by some of the leading cybersecurity professionals from around the world, who will talk about the lessons learned from cyberattacks, and the solutions and techniques that have been successfully employed at businesses of all sizes to improve security.
This year, TitanHQ will be exhibiting at the event and will be on hand to explain how TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions can be used to improve cybersecurity defenses. TitanHQ has been providing cloud-based cybersecurity solutions to MSPs and SMBs for more than 20 years and today more than 12,000 businesses – including more than 2,500 MSPs – rely on TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions to protect against cyber threats: Spamitan Email Security, WebTitan Web Security, EncryptTitan Email Encryption, and ArcTitan Email Archiving.
If you have not yet booked your place at the event, you can register here. Be sure to come and visit the team to discover how TitanHQ solutions can help you grow your business and improve cybersecurity for you and your clients.
Sensitive information is often exposed in email incidents. To avoid reputation damage and financial loss, your business should be encrypting emails.
The Case for Encrypting Emails
Email is extensively used in business and a great deal of sensitive information is sent via email. If that information is exposed it can be a source of embarrassment, but far worse, data exposures can result in significant financial losses and can seriously damage trust and reputation. Emails need to be protected to ensure information contained therein remains confidential and to ensure the integrity of the messages. To do that, businesses need to use encryption technology.
Email transmission is not secure. An email can have four stopovers on its way from the sender to the recipient, and the email can be intercepted at any one point in that journey. Since unencrypted emails are transmitted in plaintext, if they are intercepted, they can be viewed and potentially altered.
According to Radicati research, 320 million emails were sent each day in 2021 and the figure is predicted to rise to 347 million a day next year. Given the high number of transmitted emails, it is perhaps no surprise that the UK’s Information Commissioners Office has reported that email data is the biggest contributor to security incidents.
Those security incidents are a combination of the interception of emails, the hijacking of email accounts, and accidental email exposures, where employees sent emails to the incorrect person. A study by Tessian indicates 58% of employees have sent an email to the wrong person. Email cyberattacks involve phishing to gain access to credentials, the use of credentials obtained in previous data breaches, and the hijacking of the DNS MX record, which is used to direct emails to a web server.
Phishing attacks and email account compromises can be tackled with an advanced spam filter such as SpamTitan, strong password policies, and multifactor authentication. Email hacking and interception can prevent email hijacking, email interception, email tampering, and email exposure through misdirection.
How Does Encrypting Emails Work?
Encrypting emails will ensure that the content of the messages, which includes the message body and any attachments, will be rendered unintelligible from the moment they are sent to them being opened and read by the intended recipient. Email encryption typically works using two layers of encryption, as is the case with EncryptTitan – TitanHQ’s email encryption solution.
An encryption protocol called Transport Layer Security (TLS) is used to prevent interception in transit, such as a man-in-the-middle attack. TLS email encryption is easy to use and does not require any additional steps if TLS-Verify is used. While TLS will protect emails in transit, a second layer of security is needed to ensure end-to-end encryption of the messages. When the message arrives at its intended destination there is the highest risk of being accessed by an unauthorized individual. Therefore, it is important for the recipient to authenticate to decrypt the email, to ensure that only the intended recipient can open the message.
EncryptTitan from TitanHQ
Solutions for encrypting emails need to be robust to ensure message confidentiality, but also easy to use. Solutions such as EncryptTitan have multi-layered security to ensure emails are protected in transit and can only be decrypted by the intended recipient, without making the sending of messages cumbersome, which would have a negative effect on productivity.
EncryptTitan includes Outlook plugins to make encrypting encryption as easy as possible. The security settings will dictate the amount of additional verification that is required, with the highest setting requiring the use of a one-time unique verification code that is delivered through the encryption portal. Not all emails need to be encrypted. When you send an email, if the recipient is not within the company domain, the sender will receive a one-click prompt asking them if they want to encrypt the message.
When encrypting emails, EncryptTitan ensures attachments are also encrypted by default and the Data Loss Protection (DLP) feature scans for certain keywords and will automatically encrypt emails if they contain sensitive data.
EncyptTitan offers sender-defined email expiry dates, after which the email will be deleted from the TitanHQ Secure Portal, and the option of recalling messages if sent to the incorrect recipient. Setup is easy. There is no need to set up on-site hardware, as encryption takes place in the cloud, which makes the solution highly scalable. The solution is also agnostic of the email environment and will work across a wide range of email environments.
If you want to ensure that your company’s emails are protected against interception and tampering, contact TitanHQ for more information about EncryptTitan and to book a free product demonstration. The solution can also be offered as-a-service with ease by managed service providers who want to provide email encrypting services to their clients.
Bitdefender has identified a new stealer malware called BHUNT that allows the attackers to access cryptocurrency wallets and irreversibly transfer funds to wallets under their control.
The continued rise in the value of cryptocurrencies has made cyberattacks on cryptocurrency wallets highly lucrative. Large organizations often use cryptocurrencies to improve business reach, reduce transaction costs, prevent chargeback fraud, and make cross-border transactions much easier. Businesses may hold large amounts of cryptocurrencies, so any attack that gives a hacker access to a business cryptocurrency wallet can result in a significant payday; however, attacks on individuals who hold far smaller amounts of cryptocurrencies are also being conducted. Anyone who holds cryptocurrencies is at risk of an attack.
Malware developers have created several malware variants that are primarily used to access to cryptocurrency wallets, including WeSteal malware, which was first identified in 2020 and is available on underground marketplaces. There are many other malware families that have cryptocurrency stealing capabilities, such as the Redline Stealer, which is now one of the most common malware threats. According to an analysis by the blockchain data platform Chainalysis, cybercriminals stole $14bn (£103bn) in cryptocurrency in 2021 – a 79% increase from the previous year.
BHUNT is a new stealer that targets Exodus, Electrum, Atomic, Jaxx, Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Litecoin wallets, can steal passwords stored in Chrome and Firefox browsers, and captures passwords from the clipboard, although it is a specialized malware for stealing wallet files.
BHUNT is a stealthy cryptocurrency stealer that is heavily encrypted using two virtual machine packers – Themida and VMProtect – which hamper attempts by security researchers to reverse-engineer and analyze the malware. The malware is signed with a digital signature stolen from the CCleaner developer Piriform, although the certificate does not match the binaries, and the malware uses encrypted configuration scripts downloaded from public Pastebin pages. When installed, the malware is injected into explorer.exe.
Five modules have been identified, one is concerned with stealing wallet file contents, another module downloads payloads, one steals passwords from the clipboard and exfiltrates to its C2 server, another is a browser password stealer, and the last module cleans up traces of the infection.
The malware has been used in attacks worldwide, especially in South Asia, the Philippines, and Greece, and appears to be distributed in a similar way to other successful information stealers such as the Redline Stealer, through cracks and product activators such as KMSpico.
To protect against infection with the BHUNT stealer, individuals should not download applications and programs from unofficial repositories and should avoid pirated software, software cracks, and other illegal product activators. Businesses should consider implementing defenses against cryptocurrency stealers such as antivirus software on all endpoints and technical solutions to prevent downloads of executable files.
Cryptocurrency stealers, banking trojans, malware downloaders, spyware, adware, and ransomware are often distributed in fake software and software cracks. While policies can be set that prohibit employees from downloading unauthorized software, those policies are often ignored by employees who download unauthorized software to allow them to work more efficiently.
One of the most effective ways of blocking the downloads of unauthorized and pirated software is to use a web filter. WebTitan can be configured to block access to hacking websites, peer-2-peer file-sharing networks, and other sites where cracks, pirated software, and illegal product activators are available.
WebTitan can also be configured to prevent the downloading of files commonly associated with malware, such as executable files, and controls can be implemented for individual users, user groups, departments, or organization wide.
January 21, 2022, will see the 2nd ever Channel Pitch Livestream Event – An opportunity for forward-thinking managed service providers, Internet service providers, value-added resellers, and IT service providers to discover new software solutions from some of the most existing and innovative technology vendors that can help them grow their business.
The event serves as an introduction to a carefully curated selection of companies that have developed solutions that can help service providers improve protection against cyber threats, manage Microsoft 365 and Azure workloads more effectively, and streamline back-office processes to improve efficiency.
At this year’s event, hosted by Serial Tech Entrepreneur Kevin Lancaster and Channel Evangelist Matt Solomon, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from 7 companies about their MSP solutions, with each presentation lasting only 7 minutes. During those presentations, attendees will learn about the features and benefits of those solutions, and how they can be deployed in MSP environments to grow revenue and improve profitability. After the presentations, attendees will be able to engage directly with any of the vendors to discover more about the solutions, and feedback can be provided to each of the vendors with 100% anonymity.
TitanHQ is proud to be presenting at this Exclusive Livestream MSP event. Conor Madden, TitanHQ Director of Sales, will explain how TitanHQ’s award-winning email security and web security solutions can be used by MSPs, MSSPs, and ISPs to improve protections against the most common threats faced by MSPs and their clients, how the solutions are quick and easy to deploy, effortless to manage, and can help to improve profitability and win new business.
TitanHQ’s solutions have been adopted by more than 3,000 MSPs and are trusted by over 14,500 businesses worldwide to improve email and web security, with the feature-rich solutions offering multiple integrations via the advanced API set, granular policy controls, with a comprehensive suite of reports. The solutions identify more than 100,000 new malware sites every day through threat intelligence delivered from more than 650 million users worldwide.
The Livestream event is free of charge to register and attend and is a great opportunity for MSPs, MSSPs, ISPs, VARs, IT service providers, and consultants.
LiveStream Event Details
Date: January 21, 2022
Time: 4.00 p.m. GMT ¦ 11 a.m. EST ¦ 8 a.m. PST
Hosts: Kevin Lancaster and Matt Solomon
Over the past 4 years, TitanHQ has enjoyed an impressive period of growth, including during the pandemic when many businesses struggled. In addition to building its customer base, TitanHQ has continued to bring in new talent to help drive the business forward. Between September 2020 and April 2021, TitanHQ doubled the size of its workforce and this year released new products to further cement its place as the leading provider of cloud-based cybersecurity solutions to managed service providers serving the SMB market.
TitanHQ’s email security, web security, email archiving, and data encryption solutions are now used by more than 12,000 businesses worldwide to improve their security posture and meet compliance requirements, including Pepsi, O2, Virgin, T-Mobile, and Datto. Among those businesses are over 2,500 managed services providers in 150 countries who use TitanHQ solutions to protect themselves and their customers from cyber threats.
This year, TitanHQ’s growth has been recognized in the 2021 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards, with the company positioned number 33 in the list of Ireland’s fastest-growing technology companies. For the past 22 years, Deloitte has been running the annual awards program to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship in Ireland’s indigenous technology sector. The list is compiled based on percentage revenue growth over the past 4 years.
In addition to enjoying significant organic year-on-year growth, TitanHQ has also received a significant investment from Livingbridge Investor Group, which has helped to accelerate the company’s ambitious growth plans through investment in people and product development. This month, TitanHQ launched a new spam filtering solution, SpamTitan Plus, which has faster and more comprehensive detection rates of malicious links in emails than any of the current market-leading email security solutions.
“As a result of increased demand globally for our solutions, we have invested heavily in product development and embarked on a recruitment campaign to double our workforce in a program that will allow that growth to continue,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “The quick move to remote working last year has made us all aware of how important it is to be adaptable and have the right security solutions in place to protect users, customers, company data, and systems.”
In addition to achieving a strong position in the 2021 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list, TitanHQ was the runner-up in the Scale Up Award, which recognizes the companies that have enjoyed a significant expansion in overseas business over the past four years.
“Congratulations to all of the companies that ranked this year. This is the first year we have seen the impact the pandemic has had on revenues of Irish tech companies,” said David Shanahan, Partner, Deloitte “It will come as no surprise that many of this year’s winners have achieved accelerated growth and scale as a result of the pandemic and being able to capitalize on the global move to a digital way of life.”
TitanHQ are proud to announce the launch of a new solution to protect businesses from increasingly sophisticated phishing threats. SpamTitan Plus builds on the huge success of SpamTitan Gateway and SpamTitan Cloud, which have been adopted by more than 12,000 business customers and over 3,000 Managed Service Providers worldwide.
SpamTitan solutions already provide advanced protection against phishing, malware, viruses, botnets, and ransomware that are delivered via email, with independent tests confirming a high detection and low false-positive rate. SpamTitan Plus takes those protections a step further, with significantly improved coverage, an uplift in phishing link detection, faster detection speeds, and an even lower false-positive rate.
Independent tests have confirmed SpamTitan Plus:
Provides 100% coverage of ALL current market-leading anti-phishing feeds.
Achieves a 1.5x increase in unique phishing URL detections
Has 1.6x faster phishing detections than current market-leading solutions
Is fed 10 million net new, previously undiscovered phishing URLs every single day
Just 5 minutes from initial detection of the malicious URL to protect end users’ mailboxes
Benefits of SpamTitan Plus
According to Deloitte, 91% of all cyberattacks start with a phishing email and despite many businesses providing phishing awareness training to the workforce, many employees still fail to identify phishing emails. Security Affairs says there is a 97% failure rate by employees. Add to that the increasingly sophisticated tactics used by phishers to evade email security solutions and trick end users and it is no surprise that phishing is the number 1 cybersecurity threat faced by businesses.
SpamTitan Plus improves defenses against phishing by blocking more threats before they reach inboxes and ensures that if a phishing email with a malicious link does make it to an inbox, protection is provided at the time an employee clicks the link.
SpamTitan plus provides leading-edge protection through the use of an AI-based system and is fed the latest zero-day threat intelligence. Significant improvements have been made to protect against business email compromise attacks and effectively neutralize malicious links in emails. All links in emails are rewritten and inspected to determine if they are safe and users benefit from time-of-click protection. That means when an individual clicks a link in an email, the content of the landing page is inspected for phishing forms and other malicious content such as spoofed webpages. Redirects are often used by phishers to fool email security solutions that only check the URL stated in the email. SpamTitan Plus protects against this by also following redirects.
Multiple dynamic checks are performed on URLs in real-time, with time-of-click protection ensuring that links included in emails that were benign at the time of delivery – and passed inspection – are detected as malicious if the URLs are weaponized at a later date. For instance, phishing emails may be sent on a Friday with benign links to pass inspection, and the URLs are then updated over the weekend with malicious content added ready for employees returning to work on Monday.
SpamTitan Plus benefits from massive clickstream traffic from 600+ million users and endpoints, which generates 10 million never-before-seen phishing and malicious URLs a day. These unique daily URL additions are powered out of several hundred billion local queries and 100 million cloud queries a day within SpamTitan Plus. The result is faster detection and better protection, with the lowest false positive rate of the market-leading phishing solution providers.
If you run a business or are a managed service provider (MSP) looking to improve phishing protection for your clients, give the TitanHQ team a call to find out more about SpamTitan Plus and how it can significantly improve your defenses against phishing and other email threats.
Biomedical firms and their partners are being targeted by an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actor in a campaign that delivers Tardigrade malware. Initial analyses of Tardigrade malware suggest it is a sophisticated threat from the SmokeLoader malware family. SmokeLoader is a generic backdoor that provides threat actors with persistent access to victims’ networks and gives them the ability to download additional modules or other stealthier malware variants onto systems.
Tardigrade malware is a much stealthier and more dangerous malware variant than SmokeLoader. It is far more sophisticated and has greater autonomy. The malware can make decisions about the files to modify and can move laterally within victims’ networks without requiring communication with a command-and-control server. The malware is also capable of immediate privilege escalation to the highest level.
Tardigrade malware is thought to be used for espionage purposes but has far greater capabilities. In addition to exfiltrating sensitive data from pharmaceutical and biomedical firms and vaccine chain companies, the malware is capable of causing major damage to IT systems to disrupt critical processes, including preparing systems for ransomware attacks after sensitive data have been exfiltrated. The analysis of the malware is ongoing, and no specific threat actor has been identified as conducting the attacks, but the attacks are believed to be conducted by a nation-state threat actor.
BIO-ISAC warns of Targeted Attacks on the Biomanufacturing Sector
The Bioeconomy Information Sharing and Analysis Center (BIO-ISAC) has recently issued a warning about Tardigrade malware due to the threat it poses to vaccine manufacturing infrastructure, even though relatively little is currently known about the malware. The early disclosure is believed to be in the public interest.
All firms in the biomanufacturing sector and their partners have been warned that they are likely targets and should assume that attacks will occur. Steps should therefore be taken to ensure that appropriate cybersecurity measures have been implemented to block attacks and limit the damage that can be caused should n attack be successful.
It is too early to tell how many methods are being used to distribute Tardigrade malware, but from the infections detected so far, the APT group behind the attacks is known to be using phishing emails to deliver Tardigrade, with infected file attachments the most likely method of delivery. Hyperlinks in emails that direct individuals to malicious websites where infected files or malware installers are downloaded could also be used.
An analysis of the attacks also indicates the malware could infect USB drives and transfer the malware automatically when those storage devices are used on uninfected computers. That means that if USB drives are used on devices isolated from the network, they too could be infected.
Defending Against Tardigrade Malware
Defending against attacks requires an advanced antispam solution that is not reliant on antivirus engines to detect malicious files. Antivirus engines are effective at blocking known malware variants, but not against previously undetected variants. Since Tardigrade malware is metamorphic, machine learning technology and sandboxing are required to block samples that are not detected as malicious by AV engines. Antivirus software should be installed on all devices which is capable of behavioral analysis, as the malware itself may not be detected as malicious.
A web filter should be installed and should be configured to block downloads of executable files from the Internet, such as .js, .com, .exe, and .bat files. It is also important to raise awareness of the threat of malicious messages with the workforce and teach all employees how to identify phishing emails. Training should cover cybersecurity best practices and inform employees about the procedures to follow if a suspicious email is received. Spear phishing attacks will likely be conducted on key targets. It is therefore recommended to review LinkedIn and other social media posts to identify individuals who may be targeted.
Network segmentation is vital for preventing the spread of Tardigrade malware. In the event of a device being compromised, network segmentation will limit the harm that can be caused. Tests should be run to ensure that corporate, guest, and operational networks are properly segmented. All firms in the biomanufacturing sector should identify their most sensitive data and ensure that it is appropriately protected, and all key infrastructure should be regularly backed up, with backups stored offline. BIO-ISAC also recommends inquiring about lead times for key bio-infrastructure components that need to be replaced
A new Android banking Trojan named SharkBot has been identified that has capabilities that go beyond most mobile banking Trojans.
This new Android malware stands out due to its use of an Automatic Transfer System (ATS) technique that allows it to bypass multi-factor authentication controls and automate the process of stealing funds from victims’ accounts. In order to steal funds from accounts, most Trojans require human input. SharkBot keeps human interaction to a minimum by auto-filling fields, such as those that need to be completed to make money transfers.
SharkBot can intercept SMS messages, such as those containing multi-factor authentication codes sent by financial institutions, and can hide those SMS messages to make it appear that they have not been received. SharkBot can also perform overlay attacks, where a benign pop-up is displayed over an application to trick a user into performing tasks, such as giving permissions. SharkBot is also a keylogger and can record and exfiltrate sensitive information such as credentials to the attacker’s command and control server and bypasses the Android doze component to ensure it stays connected to its C2 servers.
The malware has been configured to steal money from bank accounts and cryptocurrency services in the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy, and targets 27 financial institutions – 22 banks and 5 cryptocurrency apps.
During installation, the user is bombarded with popups to give the malicious app the permissions it needs, with those popups only stopping appearing if the user provides the required permissions, which include enabling Accessibility Services. When the malicious app is installed, the app’s icon is not displayed on the home screen. Users are prevented from uninstalling the malware via settings by abusing Accessibility Services.
The ATS technique used by the malware allows it to redirect payments. When a user attempts to make a bank transfer, information is auto-filled to direct payments to an attacker-controlled account, unbeknown to the victim.
The malware was analyzed by researchers at Cleafy, who found no similarities with any other malware variants. Since the malware has been written from scratch, it currently has a low detection rate. The researchers believe the malware is still in the early stages of development, and new capabilities could well be added to make it an even bigger threat.
One of the main problems for developers of malware targeting Android devices is how to get the malware installed on a device. Google performs checks of all apps available before adding them to the Google Play Store, so getting a malicious app on the Play Store is difficult. Even if that is achieved, Google is quick to identify and remove malicious apps.
SharkBot has been identified masquerading as a variety of apps such as an HD media player, data recovery app, and live TV streaming app, which is delivered via sideloading on rooted devices and by using social engineering techniques on compromised or attacker-owned websites to convince victims to download the fake app.
SharkBot uses a wide range of techniques to prevent detection and analysis, including obfuscation to hide malicious commands, an anti-emulator to check if it has been installed on a real device, by downloading malicious modules once it has been installed, and by encrypting all communications between the malware and the C2 servers.
Users of mobile phones tend not to be as cautious as they are with laptops and computers, but the same cybersecurity best practices should be followed. It is important to avoid clicking hyperlinks in emails and to only download apps from official app stores. The malware also serves as a reminder that while multi-factor authentication is an effective security measure, it is not infallible.
2021 has been a particularly bad year for cyberattacks. There are still 6 weeks of 2021 left, but there have already been more publicly reported data breaches than in all of 2020, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). 2020 was a record-breaking year for cyberattacks, and that record looks set to be beaten once again.
ITRC said supply chain attacks increased by 42% in the first quarter of 2021, ransomware attacks have been occurring at record levels, and phishing attacks remain a constant threat. It is not just the number of data breaches being reported that I a cause for concern, but also the severity of those breaches.
This year has seen several high-profile attacks, including the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in the United States that disrupted fuel supplies to the East Coast for a week, and a ransomware attack on the Irish Department of Health and the Health Service Executive in May 2021, which resulted in data theft and major disruption to healthcare services.
Attacks on critical infrastructure have a devastating impact on people businesses can suffer catastrophic losses. Given the current threat level and frequency at which data breaches are being reported, it has never been more important to invest in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is now a priority for Irish businesses following a series of devastating cyberattacks in the country. Those attacks have hammered home the message that all Irish companies need to take steps to improve their defenses and keep hackers at bay.
Think Business, Ireland has recently raised awareness of the risk of cyberattacks and is helping businesses in the country find the solutions they need, by highlighting the excellent work being conducted by Irish cybersecurity firms. Many cybersecurity firms have a base in Ireland, with the country producing some incredible homegrown cybersecurity talent in the form of consultants, security experts, and companies that offer cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions that are protecting companies and data all around the world.
To help Irish businesses find companies that can meet their cybersecurity needs, Think Business, Ireland recently compiled a list of the top Irish 26 cybersecurity companies to watch out for in 2021 and beyond, with the report highlighting the wide range of cybersecurity solutions that have been developed by innovative Irish companies that are making their mark on the global stage.
The list includes TitanHQ, a Galway-based cybersecurity firm that has been developing innovative security solutions for 25 years. TitanHQ’s award-winning email security, web security, and email archiving solutions are now used by more than 12,000 businesses in over 150 countries, with more than 2,500 managed service providers using the solutions to protect their own and their clients’ networks from cyber threats such as malware, ransomware, viruses, botnets, and phishing.
While many businesses have been struggling through the pandemic, TitanHQ has gone from strength to strength and has continued to enjoy impressive growth. Investment from Livingbridge investor group has helped the company invest even more in product development and people and over the past 18 months, the company has doubled its workforce to more than 90 employees.
TitanHQ solutions have been developed to be easy to implement and use by all businesses and, importantly, the solutions were built from the ground up by managed service providers to help MSPs better protect their clients. The solutions save MSP’s support and engineering time by stopping problems at the source and are easy to fit into existing service stacks. That’s part of the reason why TitanHQ is now the leading provider of cloud-based cybersecurity solutions to MSPs serving the SMB market.
“We are delighted to be listed next to some of the biggest names in the Irish cybersecurity space,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “As the threat landscape continues to be a significant risk to organizations across the globe, we are dedicated to continuous innovation to provide consistent, secure, and reliable protection to our customers.”
Left to Right: Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, Diane Wright, people operations manager, Sean Morris, chief technical officer, Gina Mc Grath, digital marketing executive, and Dryden Geary, marketing director.
Exploit kits first emerged in 2006 and have since been used as an automated method of malware delivery. Exploit kits are programs that are loaded onto websites that contain exploits for known vulnerabilities. When a visitor lands on a web page that hosts an exploit kit, it performs a scan to determine if certain software vulnerabilities have not been patched. If an unpatched vulnerability is identified, the exploit kit will choose an exploit and will deliver a malware payload with no user interaction required.
Exploit kits became hugely popular with threat actors between 2010 and 2017, and while their use has declined to a fraction of the level seen in 2016 and 2017, they do still pose a threat. There are several exploit kits still being used that are regularly updated with new exploits for known vulnerabilities, and over the past couple of years they have mostly been used to deliver malware loaders that deliver ransomware.
The Fallout exploit kit for example has been used to deliver Maze Locker ransomware, and the Magnitude EK, which was first identified in 2013, is also being used to deliver ransomware, mostly in the Asia Pacific region.
Exploit kits are loaded on legitimate websites that have been compromised, as well as attacker-owned websites, with traffic to the latter often delivered through malicious adverts (malvertising). It is therefore easy to land on a site hosting an exploit kit through general web browsing.
The Magnitude EK is now one of the most extensively used exploit kits which, until recently, was only being used to target Internet Explorer; however, the exploit kit has now been updated and is being used to target Chromium-based web browsers on Windows PCs.
Avast reports that two new exploits have recently been added to the Magnitude EK, one of which targets a vulnerability in Google Chrome – CVE-2021-21224 – and the other targets the Windows kernel memory corruption vulnerability tracked as CVE-2021-31956. The Google Chrome bug is a remote code execution vulnerability, and the Windows bug can be exploited to bypass the Chrome sandbox, allowing an attacker to gain system privileges.
Patches have been released by Google and Microsoft to address both of these flaws; however, the reason why exploit kits are still an effective method of malware distribution is many people delay or ignore software updates. While the Magnitude EK is not believed to be currently exploiting the vulnerabilities to deliver a malware payload, it is unlikely that will remain the case for long.
The best defense against exploit kits is to ensure that software updates and patches are applied promptly, although that is not always possible for businesses and sometimes some devices are missed and remain vulnerable. An additional measure that can protect against exploit kits and other types of web-based malware distribution is a web filter.
Web filters are the Internet equivalent of spam filters. Just as a spam filter prevents the delivery of emails containing malware to inboxes, web filters prevent malware delivery via malicious websites and are a key component of anti-phishing defenses, preventing end-users from visiting websites hosting phishing kits.
TitanHQ has developed WebTitan to protect businesses from web-based threats and carefully control the content that can be accessed by office-based and remote workers. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filter that is quick and easy to implement, which has no impact on page load speeds. WebTitan is used by more than 12,000 businesses and managed service providers for content filtering, blocking malware delivery via the internet, and as an additional security measure to block phishing attacks.
If you want to improve protection against malware, malicious sites, phishing sites, C2 callbacks, ransomware, botnets, spyware, and viruses, give the TitanHQ team a call or put the solution to the test in your own environment by taking advantage of a 100% free 14-day trial of the full solution.
If you want to keep your computers and networks protected from malware, it is important to train your staff on how to identify a malicious website. You should also install a powerful web filtering solution to ensure your employees’ malicious website identification skills are never put to the test.
Cybercriminals are developing ingenious ways of compromising networks
Scammers and cybercriminals used to mainly send out emails with infected attachments. Double-clicking on the attachment would result in the computer, and possibly the network, being infected with malware. Oftentimes, this action would go undetected by anti-virus software programs. A full system scan would need to be conducted before the malicious software was identified.
Computer users are now much wiser and know never to open file attachments that have been sent to them by unknown individuals, and certainly never to double click on an executable file. Hackers and other cybercriminals have therefore needed to get smarter, and are now developing ever more sophisticated ways of obtaining user credentials and getting people to install malware manually. One of the ways they are doing this is by developing malicious websites.
End users are contacted via email and are sent links to websites along with a valid reason for visiting the site. Links to malicious websites are also frequently sent out in social media posts or are placed in third-party website adverts. Some sites are hijacked and visitors are redirected to fake sites automatically.
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What is a malicious website?
Malicious websites host malware or are used to phish for sensitive information. In the case of the latter, users are tricked into revealing sensitive data such as login credentials for online banking websites.
Malware may require some user interaction before it is installed. Visitors may be tricked into downloading a security program, for instance, by being informed their computer is already infected with malware. They may be offered a free screensaver or asked to download a fake PDF invoice.
Increasingly, malicious websites are used to host exploit kits. Exploit kits probe visitors’ browsers to identify security vulnerabilities that can be exploited without any user interaction required. If a vulnerability is detected, malware can be installed automatically on the computer or network. This method of cyberattack is called a drive-by download. Drive-by downloads can involve malware being installed onto the computer’s hard drive, a network drive, or even loaded into the computer’s memory.
Learning how to identify a malicious website is important if you want to prevent your computer from being infected, and it is essential for system administrators and other IT professionals to conduct staff training to help end users avoid these dangerous sites.
How to identify a malicious website
There are some easy ways to tell if a website is attempting to install malware:
The website asks you to download software, save a file, or run a program
Visiting the website automatically launches a download window
You are asked to download an invoice or receipt, such as a PDF file, .zip or .rar, or an executable file or .scr screensaver file
A malicious website may also tell you:
Your computer is already infected with malware
Your plug-ins or browser are out of date
You have won a competition or free prize draw. You may also be offered free money or vouchers that require you to enter your credit card or banking information
If you are asked to download any files or update your software, conduct a check of the site via Google and try to determine whether the site is genuine. If in doubt, do not download any files.
If you are told your browser is out of date, visit the official browser website and check your version number. Only ever download updates from official websites.
If you have accidentally visited a drive-by download site, by the time that you have connected it may be too late to prevent malware from being downloaded. To protect against drive-by downloads you must ensure that your browser, add-ons, and plugins are 100% up to date. You should also use a software solution to block access to drive-by download sites.
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How to block end users from visiting a malicious website
Even legitimate websites can be hacked and used to host malicious code. They may use advertising networks that are used by cybercriminals to direct visitors to malware-hosting websites. The best defense is to block these adverts and malicious websites.
Blocking access to malicious websites is a simple process. All it requires is a powerful web filtering solution to be installed. WebTitan web filtering solutions for the enterprise will help you keep your network secure by preventing users from visiting sites known to host malware.
WebTitan incorporates a range of measures to detect malicious web content to prevent employees from visiting dangerous websites. WebTitan can also be configured to block access to questionable or illegal content to enforce an organization’s acceptable Internet usage policy.
If employees are trained on malicious website identification and web filtering software is installed, your network will be much better protected from malware infections and other web-based threats.
FAQs on Guest Wi-Fi Network Security and Blocking Malicious Websites
Should I enable guest Wi-Fi?
By enabling guest Wi-Fi, you are creating a separate network for guest users to access the Internet. This is much more secure than allowing a guest user to connect to your main business network. Be aware that your guest Wi-Fi network is still connected to your business so you should control the activities that can be performed while connected.
Are guest Wi-Fi networks secure?
A guest Wi-Fi network keeps guest users away from your servers and company data. While connected to the guest network, individuals will be prevented from accessing your internal resources even if they are able to locate them. If you do not have a separate guest network, you will be at risk of hacking and data theft.
How can I make my guest Wi-Fi network secure?
You can make your guest Wi-Fi network more secure by changing the name of the network (SSID) to something less obviously tied to your business, setting a strong password, and configuring the network to prevent access to local network resources. You should also implement a web filter to prevent users from accessing malicious web content.
Is web filtering complicated?
Setting up content filtering on a wired or wireless network is easy with a cloud-based web filter. Simply change your DNS settings to point to the service provider and you can be blocking threats and restricting access to web content in minutes. You will get a web-based interface to log in and can simply click on the categories of content you want to block.
How much does a web filtering solution cost?
There are many different providers of Wi-Fi filtering solutions and the cost can vary considerably. You could end up paying upwards of $2.50 per user per month; however, solutions such as WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi will give you the protection you need at a very reasonable cost, which can be as little as $1 per user, per month. To find out the cost, use our cost calculator.
Phishers are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures to evade security solutions and fool end users into disclosing sensitive information or installing malware. One of the most commonly used tactics is to impersonate trusted companies, with emails often including corporate logos, footers, and even correct contact information to make the messages look like genuine communications from the spoofed companies.
Email security solutions are now much better at detecting these scam emails. Email security solutions use the email security protocols SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to detect and block email impersonation attacks. SPF – Sender Policy Framework – restricts who can send emails from a corporate domain and prevents domain spoofing. DKIM – DomainKeys Identified Mail –protects against emails being tampered with, while DMARC – Domain-based Message Authentication – works in conjunction with SPF and DKIM to protect against email spoofing attacks, by linking a domain name with the name in the From: email header. This allows messages to be identified as malicious when they are sent by an unauthorized user of a domain.
Machine-learning technology and AI are used to distinguish genuine communications from spoofed messages. Some email security solutions can perform checks of corporate logos in email messages and compare these to the sender’s address to make sure the emails have come from an official source.
One phishing campaign has been detected that attempts to circumvent these AI protections by using corporate logos that have had mathematical symbols inserted to replace existing letters. Checks of these images will not alert AI-based email security solutions to a fake message, since the spoofed email messages do not contain the official corporate logo. The logos are, however, sufficiently similar to the genuine logo to fool end users.
One example of this was found in an email spoofing Verizon. The official Verizon logo has a red V, which has been substituted for a red square root symbol. These emails attempt to trick the recipients into clicking a link in the email which directs them to a website that also spoofs the brand. They are then asked to provide credentials to verify their identity. Those credentials are then captured by the scammers.
The Verizon phishing email uses a fake voicemail message as a lure, then asks the user to enter their Office 365 credentials to access the voicemail message. While that is an obvious red flag as Verizon does not require Office 365 credentials, individuals who failed to identify the email for the scam it is maybe fooled, after all, the phishing page accurately spoofs the official Verizon website.
While many spoofed emails will be blocked by SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, machine learning technology, and other checks employed by email security solutions, email security gateways are not 100% effective. For example, independent tests have shown SpamTitan has a very high detection rate – in excess of 99.97% – but a small number of emails will bypass defenses on occasion and that is true of all email security solutions.
This is why it is also recommended to implement a web filtering solution. Web filters tackle phishing from a different angle. Instead of blocking the message, they block attempts by end users to visit malicious links in emails.
TitanHQ’s web filtering solution – WebTitan – is a DNS-based web filter. When a request is made to visit a website, WebTitan performs a check at the DNS lookup stage of the request, before any content is downloaded. If the request is for a known malicious website or URL that violates an organization’s policies, the request is denied, and the user is protected. WebTitan is constantly updated to include malicious web content through multiple threat intelligence feeds to provide zero-minute protection.
Phishing attacks are becoming much more sophisticated, and while email security solutions will block the majority of attacks, phishing defenses now need to consist of multiple overlapping layers of security. By implementing a spam filter, web filter, antivirus software, and providing regular security awareness training, businesses can mount a formidable defense against phishing attacks.
For more information about web filters, contact TitanHQ today. All TitanHQ solutions are available on a free trial to allow potential customers to try before they buy with no obligation to proceed. Product demonstrations can also be provided on request.
Many employees access their work emails and work networks via public Wi-Fi hotspots, even though there is a risk that sensitive information such as login credentials could be intercepted by hackers. Many employees are unaware of the Wi-Fi security threats that lurk in their favorite coffee shop and fail to take precautions. Even employees who are aware of Wi-Fi security threats often ignore the risks.
This was highlighted by a 2017 survey by Symantec. 55% of survey participants said they would not hesitate to connect to a free Wi-Fi hotspot if the signal was good and 46% said they would rather connect to a free, open wireless network than wait to get a password for a secure access point.
60% of survey participants believed public Wi-Fi networks are safe and secure but even though 40% are aware of the Wi-Fi security threats, 87% said that they would access financial information such as their online banking portal or view their emails on public Wi-Fi networks.
The majority of users of public Wi-Fi networks who were aware of the Wi-Fi security threats said they ignored the risks. Millennials were the most likely age group to ignore Wi-Fi security threats: 95% of this age group said they had shared sensitive information over open Wi-Fi connections.
Consumers may be willing to take risks on public Wi-Fi networks, but what about employees? According to a 2018 Spiceworks survey, conducted on 500 IT professionals in the United States, employees are also taking risks.
61% of respondents to the survey said their employees connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, hotels, and airports to work remotely. Only 64% of respondents said their employees were aware of the security threats on Wi-Fi. A similar percentage said their employees were aware of the risks and connect to their work networks using a VPN, which means that 4 out of 10 workers were unaware of the importance of establishing a secure connection.
Even though 64% of respondents were confident that employees were aware of the risks, only half were confident that data stored on mobile devices was adequately protected against threats from public Wi-Fi hotspots. 12% of respondents said they have had to deal with a public Wi-Fi-related security incident, although a further 34% were not sure if there had been a security breach as many incidents are never reported.
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WiFi Security Threats Everyone Should be Aware of
All employers should now be providing security awareness training to their employees to make the workforce more security-aware. Employees should be trained how to identify phishing attempts, warned of the risk from malware and ransomware, and taught about the risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks.
Five threats associated with open public Wi-Fi hotspots are detailed below:
Evil Twins – Rogue Wi-Fi Hotspots
One of the most common ways of obtaining sensitive information is for a cybercriminal to set up an evil twin hotspot. This is a fake Wi-Fi access point that masquerades as the legitimate access point, such as one offered by a coffee shop or hotel. An SSID could be set up such as “Starbuck Guest Wi-Fi” or even just state the name of the establishment. Any information disclosed while connected to that hotspot can be intercepted.
Using a packet sniffer, a hacker can identify, intercept, and monitor web traffic over unsecured Wi-Fi networks and capture personal information such as login credentials to bank accounts and corporate email accounts. If credentials are obtained, a hacker can gain full control of an account.
Many people have file-sharing enabled on their devices. This feature is useful at home and in the workplace, but it can easily be abused by hackers. It gives them an easy way to connect to a device that is connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. A hacker can abuse this feature to drop malware on a device when it connects to a hotspot.
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Not all threats are hi-tec. One of the simplest methods of obtaining sensitive information is to observe someone’s online activities by looking over their shoulder. Information such as passwords may be masked so the information is not visible on a screen, but cybercriminals can look at keyboards and work out the passwords when they are typed.
Malware and Ransomware
When connecting to a home or work network, some form of anti-malware control is likely to have been installed, but those protections are often lacking on public Wi-Fi hotspots. Without the protection of AV software and a web filter, malware can be silently downloaded.
Employers can reduce risk by providing comprehensive training to employees to make sure they are aware of the risks from public Wi-Fi hotspots and make sure that employees are aware they should only connect to public Wi-Fi networks if they use a VPN. Employers can further protect workers with WebTitan Cloud – An enterprise-class web filter that protects workers from online threats, regardless of where they connect.
Hotspot providers can protect their customers by securing their Wi-Fi hotspots with WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi is a powerful web filter that protects all users of a hotspot from malware and phishing attacks, and can also be used to control the types of sites that can be accessed. If you offer Wi-Fi access, yet are not securing your hotspot, your customers could be at risk.
Contact TitanHQ today to find out how you can protect your customers from online threats, control the content that can be accessed via your Wi-Fi network, and discover how quick and easy it is to create a family-friendly Wi-Fi environment.
Hospitals often invest heavily in solutions to secure the network perimeter, although the importance of Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals is often misunderstood. Network and software firewalls are essential, but alone they will not provide protection against all attacks. As healthcare IT security staff know all too well, the actions of employees can see cybersecurity defenses bypassed.
A look at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Rights breach portal shows just how many cyberattacks on hospitals are now occurring. Cybercriminals are targeting healthcare organizations due to the value of protected health information (PHI) on the black market. PHI is worth ten times as much as credit card information, so it is no surprise that hospitals are in cybercriminals’ crosshairs. Even a small hospital can hold the PHI of more than 100,000 individuals. If access is gained to a hospital network, the potential rewards for a hacker are considerable.
There has also been a massive increase in ransomware attacks. Since hospitals need access to patients’ PHI, they are more likely to pay a ransom to regain access to their data than in other industry sectors. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 for the keys to unlock its files following a ransomware attack in February 2016. It was one of several hospitals to give in to attackers’ demands following ransomware attacks.
A Web Filter is an Important Extra Security Layer to Protect Against Phishing Attacks
Phishing is one of the main threats for healthcare organizations, so it is vital for the email system to be secured with an advanced spam filtering solution and for security awareness training to be provided to employees. However, layered defenses are required to reduce the threat of phishing to a reasonable and acceptable level.
A web filtering solution is an important additional control in the fight against phishing. If an employee clicks on a hyperlink in a phishing email that has made it past email security defenses, the phishing website can be blocked. Instead, the user will be directed to a block screen and a potential account compromise can be avoided. A web filter will also help to protect users from malicious redirects when browsing the internet.
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The Hospital WiFi Environment is a Potential Gold Mine for Cybercriminals
Another common weak point is the WiFi network. IT security teams may have endpoint protection systems installed, but often not on mobile devices that connect to WiFi networks. The increasing number of wireless devices that are now in use in hospitals increases the incentive for cybercriminals to attempt to gain access to WiFi networks. Not only do physicians use mobile phones to connect to the networks and communicate PHI, but there are also laptops, tablets, and an increasing number of medical devices connected to WiFi networks. As the use of mobile and IoT devices in healthcare continues to grow, the risk of attacks on the WiFi environment will increase.
Patients also connect to hospital WiFi networks, as do visitors to hospitals. They too need to be protected from malware and ransomware when connected to hospital guest WiFi networks. One of the easiest ways to protect the devices that connect to WiFi networks is a web filtering solution. A web filter allows IT teams to carefully control the types of content that can be accessed on hospital WiFi networks, block malware downloads, and prevent all users from visiting malicious websites. Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals should be included in cybersecurity defenses to reduce the risk of malware downloads from the internet and is an important additional control against insider breaches.
Internet and WiFi filtering in Hospitals is Not Just About Blocking Cyberthreats
Malware, ransomware, hacking, and phishing prevention aside, there are other important reasons for implementing Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals.
Guest WiFi access in hospitals is provided to allow patients and visitors to access the Internet; however, there is only a certain amount of bandwidth available. If Internet access is to be provided, all patients and visitors should be able to gain access. Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals can be used to restrict access to Internet services that consume large amounts of bandwidth, especially at times when network usage is heavy. Time-based controls can be applied at busy times to block access to video streaming sites, for example, to ensure all users can enjoy reasonable Internet speeds.
It is also important to prevent patients, visitors, and healthcare professionals from accessing inappropriate website content. Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals should include a block on adult content and other inappropriate or illegal material. Blocks can easily be placed on illegal file-sharing websites, gambling or gaming sites, or any other undesirable category of web content.
Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals ensures WiFi networks can be used safely and securely by all users, including minors. Blocking illegal, undesirable, and age-inappropriate content is not just about protecting patients and visitors. It also reduces legal liability.
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Internet and WiFi Filtering in Hospitals Made Simple
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is an ideal solution for Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is cost-effective to implement, the solution requires no additional hardware or software installations, and there is no latency. Being DNS-based, setup is quick and simple. A change to the DNS settings is all that is required to start filtering the Internet.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is ideal for hospital systems. The solution is highly scalable and can be used to protect any number of users in any number of locations. Multiple sites can be protected from one easy-to-use web-based user interface. Separate filtering controls can be applied for different locations, user groups, or even individuals. Since the solution links in with Active Directory setting up controls for different users and departments is quick and simple. Separate content controls can easily be set for guests, visitors, and staff, including filtering controls by role.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi supports blacklists, whitelists, and allows precision content control via category or keyword, and blocks phishing websites and sites known to host exploit kits and malware. In short, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi gives you control over what users can do when connected to your WiFI network.
To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, details of pricing, contact the TitanHQ team today.
Regardless of whether you run a hotel, coffee shop, or retail outlet, Internet access is expected by customers, but make sure you secure guest WiFi for business visitors. Providing business visitors and customers with access to the Internet brings many benefits, but if you do not secure guest WiFi for business visitors you will be exposing yourself – and them – to considerable risk. If you offer secure guest WiFI access, all users will be protected from malware, ransomware, and phishing when connected to the network. That can be a good selling point for businesses. It also shows you care about your customers.
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Why Is Providing Internet Access so Important?
In 2013, one study revealed that 80% of customers in retail outlets felt the provision of free WiFi access would influence their purchasing decisions. If retailers provide guest WiFi access, they are likely to encourage more potential customers into their stores and get more sales opportunities.
With more people purchasing online, businesses need to adapt. Customers want to be able to check online before making a purchase or signing up for a service, such as reading online reviews. Fail to offer Internet access and customers are more likely to leave and make a purchase at another time. Chances are that sales will be made elsewhere. Keep them in your store and allow them to access the internet and your chances of achieving a sale will be increased. Of course, if you are unable to compete with online retailers – Amazon for example – you could provide free WiFi but block access to that website.
Why is Secure Guest WiFi for Business So Important?
There are considerable benefits to be gained from offering customers free Internet access. It is what customers want, it provides businesses with an opportunity to communicate with customers, it allows businesses to collect contact details for future marketing programs, and by monitoring the use of the Internet in-store, businesses can gain valuable customer insights and find out more about the interests of their customers. Businesses should note however that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires consent to be obtained before any personal information is collected and used.
Giving customers and guests access to the Internet opens a business up to considerable risks. If those risks are not mitigated, guest WiFi access can prove incredibly costly. You may have trained your employees to be security-aware and have introduced policies covering allowable Internet usage, but guests, customers, and other visitors are likely to have different views about the content that can be accessed on your WiFi network.
Guests and customers could take advantage of a lack of restrictions to access inappropriate material such as pornography. Individuals could engage in morally or ethically questionable activities on a business network or even illegal activity such as copyright-infringing downloads. They may also accidentally install malware or ransomware or visit phishing websites.
Secure guest WiFi for business means protecting yourself and your customers and guest users. Secure guest WiFi for business visitors and it will ensure they are protected when connected to your network. You will be able to block man-in-the-middle attacks, malware downloads and protect against phishing attacks. By providing secure guest internet access, you will also be able to reduce legal liability.
5 Things to Consider About Secure Guest WiFi for Business Customers
If you are going to open up your network to guests, security cannot be an afterthought. Secure guest WiFi for business is a must. Before providing WiFi access, be sure to consider the points below:
Segmenting your network is important for two reasons. Secure guest WiFi for business means visitors should not be able to gain access to parts of the network used by your employees. Your business guest wireless network should be kept totally separate from the internal network used by your employees. Guest users should not be able to log on and see your network assets and confidential files and resources. Use a network firewall or create a separate VLAN for guest use and use a software firewall to protect servers and workstations from traffic from the guest network. Secondly, in the event of a malware or ransomware infection, if you segregate your network, it will greatly limit the harm caused.
Always Change Default Passwords and SSIDs
This is one of the most basic security practices, yet because of that, it is easy to forget. The Internet is littered with reports of data breaches that have occurred as a result of the failure to change default passwords. All network peripherals should have strong, unique passwords set.
It is also important to change your SSID for your WiFi network. The SSID should reflect the name of your business and it should be quite clear to your customers which is your network. Fail to do this and you make it too easy for malicious individuals to set up "evil twin" access points and lure guests onto those rogue access points and conduct man-in-the-middle attacks. You can post the SSID and password internally to make it easy for legitimate users to gain access to your network. Be sure to change your password regularly.
Keep Your Firmware Updated!
Firmware updates are issued for a reason. They correct vulnerabilities that could easily be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to your devices and network. If those vulnerabilities are exploited, configurations can be changed for a variety of nefarious purposes. You should have policies in place that require firmware updates to be installed promptly, with checks performed monthly to ensure that all devices have been updated and no firmware updates have been missed.
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Encrypt Your Wireless Signals
You want to make it as easy as possible for your guest WiFi network to be accessed by your customers and visitors, but don’t make it too easy for hackers to spy on individuals connected to the network. Make sure you encrypt your wireless network with WPA2/WPA3 encryption.
If your router does not support WPA2 as a minimum it is time to upgrade your router’s firmware or, if that is not possible, you should buy a modern router that supports WPA3 encryption. If you fail to encrypt your WiFi, it is too easy for your bandwidth to be stolen and for data to be intercepted.
Secure Guest WiFi for Business Means Content Filtering
Secure guest WiFi for business means adding controls to limit the content that can be accessed on your WiFi network.
You should block access to adult content – which includes pornography, gambling sites, and dating sites, and also web content that is ethically or morally questionable or illegal.
A web filtering solution will also protect your customers from accidental malware and ransomware downloads and is an important anti-phishing control.
Consider using a cloud-based web filter as these require no additional hardware to be purchased. They can also be configured and maintained remotely and will not require software or firmware upgrades. In contrast to appliance-based web filters, cloud-based filters are more scalable and are more adaptable to the changing needs of your business.
Wireless Guest Network Best Practices
There are many benefits to be gained from setting up a wireless guest network but doing so introduces risks. If those risks are not managed, guest users could gain access to network resources and view or steal sensitive information. Malware may be accidentally or deliberately installed, and vulnerabilities could be introduced that could expose the network to hackers. Fortunately, following some simple wireless guest network best practices will help you with securing the WiFi network, mitigating risks, and making your wireless network as - or more - secure than your wired network.
Separate your wireless guest network from the business network – Set up a second SSID specifically for guests to use. It should not be possible for guest users to access your internal WiFi network.
Choose the SSID wisely – Choose a name that does not advertise the fact that the network belongs to your business if you want to make it harder for hackers to attack your WiFi network.
Set a secure password for guests to use – Make sure the default password is changed to ensure only authorized guests can access the network.
If possible, ensure each guest user can be identified on the network. Use a management solution that collects guest credentials as this will allow you to monitor guest behavior and gain valuable insights into how your customers are using the network. Be aware there are restrictions under GDPR and CCPA that require you to obtain consent to collect personal data and explain why the data is being collected.
Communicate your Internet usage policies to guests so they know what is allowed and prohibited while connected to your WiFi network
Use the most advanced encryption available – All modern routers and access points support WPA2 encryption. Make sure this is enabled – or WPA3 if it is supported. Avoid using WPS as it is vulnerable to brute force attempts to guess the password.
Disable admin access on wireless networks – if a hacker succeeds in gaining access to your WiFi network, this will limit the harm that can be caused.
Implement a web filtering solution – A web filter should be configured to prevent users from accessing inappropriate and malicious websites while connected to the WiFi network
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WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – Secure Guest WiFi for Business Users
TitanHQ has made it easy to secure guest WiFi for business users. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a 100% cloud-based web filter that allows businesses to carefully control the categories of web content that can be accessed by guest users.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allows businesses to block access to 53 different predefined categories of web content, including pornography, gambling, dating, news, and social media websites. Within those 53 categories are more than 500 million websites in 200 languages that have been assessed for content and categorized. A cloud-based lookup also ensures accurate and flexible filtering based on-page content.
Secure guest WiFi for business means effective malware, ransomware, and phishing protection. With WebTitan Cloud for WiFi deployed, access to compromised websites, phishing sites, and other malicious websites will be blocked.
Flexible policy creation means control over the filter can be delegated to different departments, and controls can be applied for different types of users. Cloud Keys can also be created to allow specific users to bypass policy rules.
A full suite of reports ensures detailed information is always available, with email notifications alerting administrators to attempted policy violations and a real-time browsing view is available.
If you want to take control of your WiFi network or are an MSP looking for an easy-to-use multi-tenant solution to allow you to provide a web filtering service to your clients, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a quick, easy to use, and low-cost way of providing secure guest WiFi for business users.
Contact TitanHQ today for further information on WiFI guest network security and to find out how WebTItan can protect your business. Our knowledgeable sales staff will be able to advise you on the best way to improve guest WiFi security and will help you choose the best deployment option. If you want to see WebTitan in action before you make a purchase decision, our sales staff will be happy to schedule a product demonstration and help set up a free trial of the solution.
Guest Wi-Fi Security FAQs
How can I improve guest Wi-Fi security?
You must ensure your guest Wi-Fi network is properly configured. You should set a password for access, ensure traffic is encrypted to prevent interception by selecting WPA2 or WPA3 on the router, ensure guest users cannot access and change the router settings, and you should use a content filtering solution to prevent malware downloads and restrict access to inappropriate website content.
What content can I block on guest Wi-Fi networks?
You have full control over the content that guests can access via your Wi-Fi network. With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, you can block content using 53 pre-defined categories and can create up to 10 categories of your own using your own keywords. Access to specific websites can be allowed or blocked using whitelists and blacklists. All known malicious websites will be automatically blocked.
Can I see what websites guest users are accessing?
A web filtering solution gives you full visibility into the web content that your employees and guest users are viewing, including providing real-time views of Internet access. This information can give you valuable insights into customer behavior which can guide your marketing efforts. You can also run reports to find out the URLs that users have attempted to visit but were blocked by the web filter.
Will a cloud-based web filter for guest Wi-Fi work on all devices?
There is no software to download onto devices and no restrictions on the devices that can connect to your secure Wi-Fi network. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi works with all operating systems and all devices and allows businesses to offer clean, filtered Internet access for customers on Wi-Fi access points. If required, different filtering controls can be set up for different user groups.
Is SSL inspection necessary?
If you have a web filter that does not have SSL inspection, traffic to and from HTTPS websites will be invisible to the filtering solution. That means files downloaded from HTTPS websites cannot be scanned by the AV engines of the web filter. Since many malicious websites have SSL certificates, a web filter with SSL inspection is essential.
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There are many reasons why businesses want to restrict internet access at work. Allowing employees to have unrestricted access to the internet can result in a major drain on productivity. Unfettered internet access can also increase the risk of malware and ransomware downloads, while inappropriate internet access at work can lead to a range of legal issues. Due to the risks involved, it is unsurprising that many firms choose to use a technological solution to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies and block access to malicious websites. This post explores some of the key benefits that come from using a web filter to limit internet access in the workplace and some of the potential problems that can be caused by using content-control software.
The Problem of Personal Internet Use at Work
It is inevitable that employees will slack off from time to time, regardless of whether they have access to the internet but internet access makes slacking off much easier. Simply placing restrictions on the websites that can be accessed will not eradicate time-wasting, but it can allow businesses to make significant gains in productivity. Some employees spend a considerable percentage of the working day on personal internet use, playing online games, or accessing their social media accounts. If every employee in an organization was to spend an hour a day on personal internet use, the productivity losses would be considerable. A company with 100 employees would lose 100 hours a day – That’s a loss of 26,100 working hours a year – and many employees spend much longer each day on personal internet use.
There are other issues that can result from excessive personal internet use at work. When employees use streaming services, download files via P2P networks, or engage in other bandwidth-heavy activities, it will naturally have an impact on internet speeds across the entire organization. Using a web filter to restrict internet access at work and limiting access to certain bandwidth draining activities allows businesses to ensure sufficient bandwidth is available for all employees.
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The Danger of Malware and Ransomware Downloads
If employees are accessing social media websites, downloading files, or are visiting questionable websites, the risk of malware or ransomware downloads increases significantly.
Exploit kits probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins, which are then exploited to silently download malware. Traffic is usually directed to these websites through malicious adverts – termed malvertising – although high-traffic websites are constantly being compromised by hackers who add malicious content such as phishing webpages and malware.
Certain types of websites carry a high risk of resulting in malware infections. Allowing employees to access these sites, many of which are not suitable for work, could easily result in a malware or ransomware download.
The operators of legitimate pornographic websites usually take great care to ensure their sites are not compromised or infected with malware. They are, after all, legitimate businesses. However, pornographic content is often used as a lure to spread malware and there are many disreputable adult sites whose purpose is solely to infect visitors with malware or harvest credit card information. Blocking these NSFW sites not only helps to improve productivity and avoid legal issues, but it also reduces the risk of malware infections.
One of the riskiest online activities is the use of torrents sites and P2P file-sharing networks. There are few – if any – controls over the content that is shared via torrents sites and pirated music and video files are often seeded with malware, spyware, and adware. Illegal software downloads are incredibly risky as malware is often bundled in the executable files used to install the software, or in the accompanying Keygen tools that generate product keys to allow the software to be used.
A malware or ransomware attack can prove incredibly costly. Many companies have experienced ransomware attacks that have resulted in systems being taken out of action for several days or even weeks, causing massive losses as the business grinds to a halt. A ransomware attack can result in an entire network being taken out of action, as was the case with the WannaCry attacks in 2017. The NHS in the UK suffered major disruption as a result of the installation of the malware and mitigating the attacks cost £92 million. The NotPetya wiper malware campaign conducted soon after caused widespread damage. The shipping firm Maersk had its systems infected and the clean-up bill has been estimated to be $300 million.
A web filter will not prevent all malware and ransomware attacks, but it is possible to prevent certain categories of ‘risky’ websites from being visited by employees, the filtering solution can be configured to block the downloading of certain file types, and websites known to contain malware or exploit kits can be blocked. Any attempt to visit one of those websites will direct a user to a block screen. Many businesses decide to restrict internet access at work primarily to protect against malware and ransomware downloads.
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Additional Protection Against Phishing Attacks
Phishing is the number one cyber threat faced by businesses. It has been estimated that more than 90% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email. One of the best protections against phishing is a spam filtering solution, which will prevent the majority of malicious messages from being delivered to end users. However, no spam filter is 100% effective and some malicious messages will end up in employees’ inboxes. Employees can be trained how to identify phishing emails and be taught cybersecurity best practices that will reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks, but sooner or later an employee will likely be fooled into clicking a link in an email and will arrive at a phishing website.
When a user is directed to a website and discloses their login credentials, an attacker can gain access to their email account and all the sensitive data contained in that account. The compromised account can also be used to send further phishing emails to other employees in the organization or to customers and business contacts. It is common for a single response to a phishing email to result in several email accounts being compromised.
Phishing attacks are some of the costliest cyberattacks to resolve. Each email in a compromised account must be checked for personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. Manually checking thousands of emails can take weeks and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A web filter is an additional layer of security that helps organizations improve their defenses against phishing by providing time-of-click protection and blocking attempts to visit malicious websites. When an employee clicks a link to a website that has been added to a blacklist due to past use in phishing campaigns, the user will be directed to a block screen. TitanHQ’s web filtering solution, WebTitan, blocks attempts to access around 60 million malicious websites a week.
Preventing Inappropriate Web Content from Being Accessed
While most employees do not use the internet to access illegal and not-suitable-for-work content, there are always a few bad apples. The problem of accessing pornography at work is a real issue, and could be much worse than you think.
In 2014, a survey conducted by the Barna Group showed 63% of men and 36% of women have viewed pornography at work. A survey in Forbes in 2013 revealed 25% of adults have viewed porn at work, while in another survey, 28% of employees admitted to downloading porn at work. Not only is the accessing of pornography at work a major drain of productivity, but it can also lead to the development of a hostile working environment. Pornography can be used to harass and degrade employees, especially women. There have been cases of employees taking legal action against their employers over the failure to implement content controls in the workplace and prevent pornography from being accessed by coworkers.
Many businesses feel the best way to tackle the problem of pornography access in the workplace is through acceptable usage policies and greater oversight of employees by line managers. When individuals are discovered to be abusing the internet, action can be taken against individuals without having to restrict internet access at work for everyone. This does not always prove effective. Further, when pornography use at work is discovered, employees usually face instant dismissal. That carries a cost to the HR department and productivity losses while new employees are hired and trained.
The easiest solution is to use a web filter to restrict internet access at work. A web filter can be used to block access to specific websites or categories of website content such as pornographic sites and enforce acceptable usage policies. This is one of the most common reasons why businesses restrict internet access at work.
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Problems with Using a Web Filter to Restrict Internet Access at Work
A web filter may seem like a quick and easy solution to solve the above issues, but it should be explained that companies that restrict internet access at work with web filters can encounter problems. If you restrict internet access at work using an appliance-based web filtering solution it can result in latency. Each website must be inspected before it is accessed which delays the loading of websites. In the case of secure (HTTPS) sites, each webpage must be decrypted, inspected, and re-encrypted. This places a considerable strain on resources. As more sites switch to HTTPS the problem of latency becomes a real issue.
The solution is to use a DNS-based filtering solution. With DNS-filtering, all filtering occurs in the cloud and there is no latency. There are other benefits too. Cloud-based web filters are more flexible, scalable, and do not require the purchase of any hardware which results in considerable cost savings.
When web filters are used to restrict internet access at work and they lack highly granular controls, there can be issues with the overblocking of website content. Websites that need to be accessed for work purposes may be blocked, which requires the IT support team to spend time whitelisting websites. The solution is to choose a web filter with highly granular controls, which allows content to be easily blocked without also blocking websites that need to be accessed for work purposes.
Should Companies Restrict Internet Access?
While content control software may seem like an ideal way of preventing employees from cyberslacking to make productivity gains, care must be taken when applying those controls otherwise the productivity gains may not be realized. If you restrict internet access at work, employees who were only accessing the occasional personal site may be unhappy with the new restrictions. This can have a negative effect on productivity and create a hostile working environment. Why should all employees be made to suffer because of the actions of a few? Care must therefore be taken when deciding what types of websites to block. With careful and intelligent control, you can make productivity gains and can avoid any staff issues.
How to Control Internet Usage in Office and Avoid Staff Problems
One of the easiest ways to improve productivity while applying controls over internet access is to use a web filtering solution that allows time-based filtering controls to be applied. Employers can use this feature to restrict internet access at work during busy times and relax controls at others. It is easy to block access to certain sites 100% of the time and others only some of the time. With WebTitan, administrators can set standard controls during busy times such as mornings, and relax controls during breaks or outside of office hours.
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How Can I Block Internet Access on an Employee’s Computer?
There are several ways to block internet access on an employee’s computer. If you want to block internet access totally for a specific employee, be that a temporary or permanent block, you can use your existing network hardware or a firewall rule to block a specific IP address.
A web filter allows much more granular controls to be applied, such as blocking specific websites or categories of websites for a specific employee or group of employees. This option is much easier and less time-consuming if you need to block internet access – or implement partial blocks – for more than one employee. With a cloud-based web filter, these controls can be applied quickly and easily through a web portal that can be accessed by the administrator from any computer.
How to Limit Employee Internet Access Selectively
Many businesses want to know how to restrict internet access for employees without totally blocking access to the internet. With WebTitan it is easy to limit employee internet access selectively. Different controls can be set for different employees or groups of employees. If you have sales staff, you may want to do as much as possible to make sure they are always on the phone, and internet controls may need to be more restrictive. The marketing department may require much more lax controls since they will be required to access a broader range of websites for work. Since the filter integrates with LDAP and Active Directory, setting controls for different users and user groups is simple. You can implement organization-wide controls (e.g. adult content), department controls (social media), and individuals controls through LDAP/AD.
Speak to TitanHQ About Controlling Internet Access In the Workplace
Internet content control is quick, easy, and cost-effective with WebTitan. The solution allows you to easily restrict internet access at work and avoid problems associated with web filtering. If you are interested in curbing personal internet use at work and improving your organization’s security posture, contact TitanHQ today for advice. You can also sign up for a free trial and evaluate WebTitan in your own environment before you commit to a purchase and can schedule a product demonstration to see WebTitan in action.
FAQs about Restricting Internet Access at Work
Should I set up a guest Wi-Fi network?
You should set up a guest Wi-Fi network if you want to allow customers and visitors to access the Internet through the same equipment as your employees as a guest network will ensure the business network is isolated. If a guest user’s device is infected with malware, it will not spread to your primary business network. Guest users will also not be able to access any internal resources or data.
What are the most important guest Wi-Fi security best practices?
The most important guest Wi-Fi security best practices are to ensure a password is set for the guest network, make sure that traffic is encrypted using Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2) to prevent data interception, control the content that can be accessed using a web filter for your Wi-Fi network, and monitor what your guest network is being used for.
What is the cost of a content filter for a Wi-Fi network?
The cost of a content filter for a Wi-Fi network is not expensive considering the protection it provides. Some solutions cost around $2.50 per user, per month. These tend to be aimed at large enterprises with complex needs. For most businesses, you can get the protection you need for around $1 per user, per month.
Does a web filter work for HTTPS websites?
A web filter works for HTTPS websites if it has an SSL inspection capability. This enables the web filter to decrypt, inspect, and re-encrypt the HTTPS website and then either allow or block access to the website depending on whether or not it violates an organization’s policies.
Is Internet content filtering difficult?
Internet content filtering is not difficult. With a cloud-based web filter you just make a simple change to point your DNS to your service provider. Log in to your web-based user interface and use the checkboxes to select the content you want to permit or block. All malicious websites will automatically be blocked through the blacklists used by the solution.
How easy is it to block access to productivity-sapping websites?
It is very easy to block access to productivity-sapping websites using the category-blocking options in the WebTitan console. Every website is categorized according to its content using industry-recognized website classifications from organizations like the Internet Advertising Bureau. There are currently 53 categories of website in the WebTitan console; and, if an administrator wanted to prevent employees accessing (for example) dating websites, they would simply check the “Dating” box and all websites classified as a dating website would be instantly unavailable.
Why might my office be receiving more undetected spam emails than usual?
Your office might be receiving more undetected spam emails than usual if the emails originate from a source not yet added to an RBL blacklist. In this case, you should activate the Greylisting test to reduce the volume of spam entering the mail server. Alternatively, it may be the case that the controls on your spam mail filter have been adjusted by the software provider, a system administrator, or a managed service provider. You should investigate this possibility in case there is a reason the controls have been adjusted you are unaware of.
What are the risks of applying web filter controls too aggressively?
The risks of applying web filter controls too aggressively are that they may impact productivity if members of the workforce are unable to access the websites they need to do their jobs efficiently. There is also the risk that, by applying web filter controls too aggressively, members of the workforce that feel the need to cyberslack occasionally during working hours will do so on their personal devices – potentially causing greater loss of efficiency than if they did it discretely on a work device.
For the second year in a row, TitanHQ has collected best-in-category awards from Expert Insights for each of its three products: SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan Web Security, and ArcTitan Email Archiving.
SpamTitan was recognized and awarded top spot in the Best Email Security Gateway and Best Email Security Solution for Office 365 categories, the DNS-based web filtering solution WebTitan Cloud came top in the Best Web Security Solution category, and the cloud-based email archiving solution, ArcTitan, placed top in the Best Email Archiving Solution for Business category.
The cybersecurity solutions were praised for the level of protection they provided against threats such as malware, ransomware, phishing, viruses, and botnets, with all three solutions recognized for ease-of-use and cost-effectiveness. TitanHQ’s world-class technical and customer support also proved to be a hit with Expert Insights’ researchers and businesses that have adopted the solutions.
Expert Insights is an online publication covering cybersecurity and cloud-based technologies that is used by over 80,000 business leaders, IT professionals and others to obtain invaluable advice to help them make the right purchase decisions. The publication includes insights into B2B products and services, with the UK and US-based teams conducting interviews, industry analyses, and technical product reviews.
Each year, the Fall 2021 Best-of Cybersecurity Awards recognize the leading companies and products for businesses and managed service providers, with the category winners selected based on reviews by independent technical analysts, the Expert insights’ editorial team, and feedback from users of the solutions.
To win one award is a great achievement, but to win 4 shows the commitment of the TitanHQ team to providing businesses with powerful solutions that address their needs that are easy to use and at the right price point, providing timely help and advice for customers whenever it is required.
“TitanHQ are proud to have received continued recognition for all three of our advanced cybersecurity solutions. As the threat landscape continues to be a significant risk to organizations across the globe, we are dedicated to continuous innovation to provide consistent, secure, and reliable protection to our customers,” said Ronan Kavanagh, TitanHQ CEO.
There are many benefits of honeypots, most notably, they can significantly improve your security posture. As such, all organizations should consider implementing a honeypot, but be sure to assess the disadvantages as well as the advantages as you may decide they are not worth the time and effort.
This post covers the pros and cons of honeypots to help you decide whether a honeypot is appropriate for your organization.
What is a honeypot and why are they used?
A honeypot is an additional security protection that can be used alongside a firewall and other security solutions to help protect a network from hackers.
Honeypots, as the name suggests, are designed to catch a hacker’s eye so that their efforts will be drawn to attacking the honeypot rather than a system where they could cause serious harm.
They appear to be an easy entry point into a network to distract attackers from looking at other parts of the system. They are a deliberate hole in the security of the system that can be attacked without causing harm. They allow IT teams to gather valuable intelligence on hackers who are attempting to gain access to their networks.
In contrast to a firewall, which is designed only to keep external attackers out, a honeypot can also identify internal threats and attacks. Many companies are almost blind to attacks from within. A honeypot provides increased visibility and allows IT security teams to defend against attacks that the firewall fails to prevent. There are considerable benefits of honeypots, and many organizations have implemented them as an additional protection against internal and external attacks.
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There are many benefits of honeypots!
A honeypot is a system that is set up with the singular purpose of being attacked. It is a system designed to be exploited, hacked, infected with malware, and generally abused by a malicious third party. Why should I do that you may ask? Well, there are many benefits of honeypots.
You may wonder why you should spend your time, effort, and money setting up a system that will attract hackers? Why you should deliberately create a system with weakened defenses that will be exploited? Why even attract interest from malicious third parties?
There are three very good reasons why you should. First. You will be wasting a hacker’s time, and time spent attacking a system that is safe is time not spent hacking a system that will damage your organization if the hacker succeeds.
Secondly, by setting up a honeypot you will be able to see who is attacking you and the methods that are being used. This will give you a very good idea of the types of attacks being used and the defenses you will need to install to protect your real systems and data from attack.
Thirdly, an attack on a honeypot is likely to frustrate a hacker and stop them from hacking your real computer systems.
Security researchers are well aware of the benefits of honeypots. They have been vital in the study of hackers’ behavior. They can be used to determine how systems are attacked and are also a very useful part of system defenses. It is not a question of whether you should set up a honeypot, but rather why you have not already done so.
There are many different types of honeypot that can be implemented. You can set up a dummy system with an entire network topology if you wish. You can have many different hosts, you can include a wide range of services and even different operating systems. In short, an entire system can be set up to appear genuine and allow an attack to take place.
There are many different types of honeypot that can be deployed, although for the purpose of this article we have provided further information on two popular honeypots below: Honeyd and Kippo.
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The Honeyd honeypot
This is a small daemon that can be used to create a network containing many virtual hosts. Each of those hosts can be set up and configured differently. You can run a range of arbitrary services on each, and configure them to appear as if they are running different operating systems. For network simulation purposes, you can create tens of thousands of different hosts on your LAN using Honeyd if you so wish. You can use Honeyd to hide your real system, identify threats, assess risk, and improve your security posture.
Simulate multiple virtual hosts simultaneously
Identify cyberattacks and assign hackers a passive-fingerprint
Simulate numerous TCP/IP stacks
Simulate network topologies
Set up real FTP and HTTP servers, and even UNIX applications under virtual IP addresses
The lowdown on Honeyd
We invited a guest sys admin (Arona Ndiaye) to provide input on the Honeyd honeypot to get the perspective of a Linux administrator. She mainly uses Linux and *nix systems and has tried out Honeyd to get an idea of how it works, what it can do, and its functionality. She installed it on Kali Linux, which was a simple process requiring a single line to be added to the sources .list file, running apt-get update & apt-get install honeyd.
A few tweaks were needed to ensure the firewall had the correct permissions set, along with some simple text editing in a configuration file. That was all that was needed. If any problems are encountered, or more detailed information is required, it is all available on the honeyd website. Most people find the easiest way to get started is to play with the system and to try to attack it, which is what she did.
She was particularly impressed with the information that can be gathered on attacks and scans. The methods of attack were recorded in intricate detail, including how it was possible for hackers to fool NMAP. The overall verdict was “seriously impressive.”
The Kippo honeypot
We also put Kippo to the test; another popular honeypot. Kippo is used to create a dummy SSH server, which allows attackers to conduct brute force attacks. The honeypot can be set with a root password that is particularly easy to guess, such as a simple string of numbers: 123456 for example.
Set up the honeypot with an entire file system, or even better, clone a real system for added realism. The aim is to convince the hacker that he or she is attacking a real system. Once the attacker has successfully managed to log in to the system, everything they subsequently do will be recorded. All actions will be logged, so it is possible to see exactly what happens when a system is attacked.
What is particularly good about Kippo is how detailed the fake system can be. You can really waste a considerable amount of a hacker’s time and get an accurate picture of exactly what they are trying to achieve, the files they upload and download, what malware and exploits they install, and where they put them. You can then use a virtual machine to analyze the attack in detail when you have the time.
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Set up combo-honeypots to create a highly elaborate network
Both Kippo and Honeyd are open source, so it is possible to tweak both honeypots to suit your own needs and requirements. You can even combine the two to build up extremely elaborate networks – specifying specific file contents and creating fake systems that appear perfectly real. How much time you spend doing this, and the level of detail you want to add is up to you. If you really want to find out exactly how the systems are attacked to better prepare your real system, these are exceptionally good tools to use.
Adding a honeypot can help to improve your security, but simply setting one up will not. Unfortunately, to gain the benefits of honeypots you will need to invest some time in setting up a realistic network and it will need to be updated and maintained. It must be treated like any other machine or system you use in order for it to be effective. You must also make sure that it is isolated or insulated. Creating a fake system that is easy to attack shouldn’t give a hacker an easy entry point into your real system!
Summary: Main Benefits of Honeypots
Listed below are the main benefits of honeypots:
Observe hackers in action and learn about their behavior
Gather intelligence on attack vectors, malware, and exploits. Use that intel to train your IT staff
Create profiles of hackers who are trying to gain access to your systems
Improve your security posture
Waste hackers’ time and resources
They show you that you are being attacked and that data is valuable when attempting to get budget increases for security.
Disadvantages of Honeypots
We have covered the benefits of honeypots, but are there any disadvantages of honeypots apart from the time taken to set them up?
No system is perfect and there are notable disadvantages of honeypots. One of the main problems is the system is designed to be attacked, so attacks will likely take place. Once the honeypot is accessed it could be used as a launchpad for further attacks. Those attacks could be conducted on an internal system or on another company. Honeypots therefore introduce risk. There is therefore an issue of legal liability. If your honeypot is used in an attack on another business, you could be sued. The level of risk that it introduced will depend on the honeypot. Typically, the more complex the honeypot, the greater the risk is likely to be.
Then there is the question of the resources you will need to set up the system. If you want to create a realistic system that will fool hackers, it needs to look and behave like the real system it is designed to mimic. There are free options available that will make it more cost-effective to set up a honeypot, although they still require resources. The hardware comes at a cost and they require maintenance and monitoring. The cost may be prohibitively expensive for some businesses.
That said, maintenance need not be a major drain of time. In many cases, honeypots can be set up and left. Since there is no expected production activity, monitoring the honeypot and assessing activity will require minimal effort. Automatic alerts are generated when an attack is in progress and any data generated will likely be a real attack. Honeypots may be set up on existing old hardware that would otherwise not be used. In such cases, costs can be kept to a minimum.
Honeypots add complexity to a network, and the more complex a network is, the harder it is to secure. The honeypot could introduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited to gain access to real systems and data.
Finally, the honeypot can only tell you about an attack in progress if the honeypot is directly attacked. If an attack involves other systems and the honeypot is untouched – for instance, if the honeypot was identified as such by the attacker and avoided – it would be necessary to rely on other mechanisms to identify the attack.
Whether the benefits of honeypots outweigh the disadvantages will depend on the nature of your business, how probable it is that attempts will be made to attack your network, and the resources you have available for IT security. Your money could be better spent on other security solutions and your IT team’s time may be better directed to monitoring other systems and addressing vulnerabilities and patching software.
In addition to installing a spam filter to block malware delivery via email, it is important to implement a solution to block drive-by malware downloads. A drive-by malware download is a web-based attack where malware is installed onto a victim’s device
Drive-by malware download attacks are those where malicious programs are downloaded and installed on a device without user consent. The malware may be relatively harmless adware that shows ads to generate income for the developer, spyware that gathers information about a user, or more dangerous malware variants such as keyloggers and banking Trojans that harvest credentials, or even ransomware that encrypts files to extort money from the victim.
Drive-by malware downloads can occur silently, without the user being aware anything untoward has happened by tricking them into visiting a malicious website. That could involve a phishing email with a hyperlink that bypasses an email security solution, occur via a redirect from a compromised website, or by clicking a malicious advert online.
Malicious websites can be encountered simply through normal web browsing and drive-by malware downloads can even occur via legitimate websites. Many websites have third-party ad blocks that generate additional revenue for the website owner. Malicious adverts – termed malvertising – may sneak past the checks performed by third-party ad networks and be displayed to site visitors. If a link is clicked, the user is directed to a malicious website. Threat actors also engage in search engine poisoning, where search engine optimization techniques are used to get malicious websites appearing high up in the search engine listings.
These downloads may occur silently, or individuals may be tricked into downloading malicious software or apps that they believe to be genuine. They install the software and are unaware than malware has also been installed. This week, an alert was issued about a campaign involving a fake .msi installer which is being used to deliver an information stealing malware variant called Jupyter that has been extensively used in attacks on the healthcare and education sectors.
It is important for businesses to protect against drive-by malware downloads, and one of the best ways to do this is by using a web filtering solution. A web filter, as the name suggests, is used to filter out undesirable website content. The consumer versions include parental control solutions on home WiFi networks. Just as you would want to prevent your children from accessing potentially harmful age-inappropriate web content, a web filter is used by businesses to prevent harmful content from being accessed by employees.
WebTitan from TitanHQ is used by businesses, managed services providers, and Internet service providers to block access to malicious, illegal, and other undesirable web content such as pornography and protects against drive-by malware downloads in several ways.
First, it is possible to prevent downloads of certain file types from the Internet – The file types commonly associated with malware (.exe, .js, and .msi for example). Another control to prevent malware downloads is the use of blacklists of IP addresses and domains that have previously been identified as being used for malware distribution. The solution can also be configured to block access to risky website categories that are often used for malware distribution, such as peer-2-peer file sharing networks.
WebTitan is quick and easy to implement and configure, has no impact on page low speeds, can protect any number of users including on-site and remote workers, and the solution is automatically updated with the latest threat intelligence to block malicious content as soon as it is detected.
If you want to block drive-by malware downloads, improve protection against phishing attacks, and carefully control the web content that can be accessed via your wired and wireless networks, contact TitanHQ today for more information about WebTitan. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request, and you can take advantage of a free 14-day trial of the solution.
In this post, we will explain how does GDPR apply to email retention and email archiving, and how an email archive can help you comply with the GDPR.
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced new requirements for businesses on May 25, 2018. From the compliance date, businesses that collect or process the personal data of EU citizens were required to implement safeguards to protect the personal data of EU citizens. The GDPR also gave EU citizens new rights over their personal data.
The GDPR applies to personal data in all forms, no matter where data are stored. That means personal data in email accounts is covered by the GDPR. Email inboxes and folders can contain a wealth of personal data and that information is subject to the strict privacy and security requirements of the GDPR.
Email data may also need to be retained to comply with laws in the country or state in which your business operates, and certain industries such as finance and healthcare have industry-specific legislation with provisions covering email retention.
There is no minimum or maximum time stipulated for email retention in the GDPR, instead, the GDPR states that personal data can be kept in a form that allows an individual to be identified for no longer than necessary to achieve the purpose for which personal data were collected or processed. The GDPR allows personal data to be processed for archiving purposes.
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The GDPR requires businesses to implement security measures to ensure personal data are protected. Article 5(f) of the GDPR requires personal data to be protected “against accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organizational measures.” The easiest way to ensure email data are protected is by using encryption and storing emails in a safe and secure environment where they are protected against unauthorized access, accidental deletion, and tampering – an email archive.
It is worthwhile explaining the difference between an email archive and a backup, as while both can be used to store emails there are important differences between the two. A backup is a temporary repository for email data that ensures emails can be recovered in the event of data loss. Backups are usually only kept for a limited about of time, usually, until a new backup is created. A backup allows the mail system or data in an email account to be restored to a specific point in time. An email archive is used for long-term secure email storage and, in contrast to a backup, it can be searched and individual emails can be quickly found and retrieved.
Many businesses already use an email archiving solution to comply with state, federal, or industry regulations. An email archive is also invaluable for eDiscovery and dealing with customer complaints, as it can be searched and emails can be quickly and easily retrieved on demand. An email archive can also be used to recover email data in the event of a disaster, so it also protects against data loss.
An email archiving solution is important for GDPR compliance as it allows email data to be stored safely to prevent data loss and unauthorized access. Personal data in emails can also be quickly be found, recovered, and deleted securely, if an EU citizen exercises their right to be forgotten, for instance.
ArcTitan, TitanHQ’s secure email archiving solution, is an ideal email archiving solution for GDPR compliance. ArcTitan includes end-to-end encryption for email data, access controls – including role-based controls – to ensure email data are protected against unauthorized access, and ArcTitan creates a tamper-proof record of all email data for the duration of your email data retention policy.
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If emails need to be found, the archive can be searched and messages can be quickly and easily retrieved. With ArcTitan, you can search 30 million emails a second. Multiple searches can be performed simultaneously, searches can be combined and, in contrast to Office 365 archiving, the same search can be used to find data in the message body and attachments.
ArcTitan is very competitively priced and you only pay for active users. If you are unhappy with your current email archiving provider, changing to ArcTitan is a headache-free process and assistance will be provided by our highly experienced support team. For GDPR compliance, ArcTitan is an ideal email archiving solution.
If you would like to have further information on ArcTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.
Phishing is commonly associated with spam emails, but it is not the only method of phishing as the PayPal text phishing scam below shows. Phishers use various methods to obtain sensitive information and phishing threats could arrive by email, text message, instant messenger services, and scams can be conducted over the phone.
Phishing is arguably the biggest cyber threat faced by businesses and consumers and can result in a malware infection, the encryption of files via ransomware, theft of sensitive data such as credit/debit card numbers or bank account information, or the email account could be used for sending spam and phishing emails and for malware distribution. A successful phishing attack could prove incredibly costly as bank accounts could easily be emptied. For businesses, malware infections can be catastrophic and billions are lost to business email compromise phishing scams each year.
There are approximately 200 million PayPal users, which makes the online payment service particularly attractive for phishers. PayPal is one of the world’s most commonly spoofed brands. If the brand is spoofed, there is a relatively high probability that the phishing email or text message will be received by a person who has a PayPal account. Further, PayPal accounts usually contain money and they are linked to a bank account and/or credit card. Gaining access to PayPal credentials can see the account and linked bank account emptied.
Phishers use a variety of social engineering techniques to fool end users into installing malware or disclosing their login credentials and other sensitive information. Spam email may be the main method of attack, although the use of text (SMS) messages – often referred to as SMiShing – is growing. This method of phishing can prove more successful for attackers. The PayPal text message phishing scam below is much harder to identify as malicious than many of the PayPal email phishing scams that have been detected in recent weeks.
Beware of this Credible PayPal Text Phishing Scam
This PayPal text phishing scam, and several variants along the same theme, have been detected in recent weeks. The text message appears to have been sent from PayPal from a short code number.
The message reads:
Your account is currently under review. Please complete the following security form to avoid suspension: http://bit[dot]ly/PayPal_-no-sms.eu
Another message reads:
Your account is under review. Please fill in the following security form to avoid lockout: http://bit[dot]ly/_payPal__
These PayPal text phishing scams work because many people do not carefully check messages before clicking links. Click the link on either of those two messages and you will be directed to a website that appears to be the official PayPal website, complete with branding and the normal web layout. However, the websites that the messages direct recipients to are scam sites.
Those sites naturally require the user to enter their login credentials. Doing so passes those credentials to the scammer. The scammer will then use those credentials to access the account, empty it of funds, and plunder the bank account(s) linked to the PayPal account. The password for the account may also be changed to give the attacker more time to make transfers and lock the genuine account holder out of the account.
These scams are particularly effective on smartphones as the full URL of the site being visited is not displayed in the address bar due to the small screen size. It may not be immediately apparent that an individual is not on the genuine PayPal website.
This PayPal text phishing scam shows that you need to always be on your guard, whether accessing your emails or viewing text messages.
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Don’t Become a Victim of an SMS Phishing Scam
The PayPal text phishing scam detailed above is just one example of how cybercriminals obtain sensitive information via text message. Any brand could be impersonated. Shortlinks are often used to hide the fact that the website is not genuine, as is altering the link text to mask the true URL.
To avoid becoming a victim of a SMiShing scam, assume any text message correspondence from a retailer or company could be a scam. If you receive a message – typically a warning about security – take the following steps.
Access your account by typing in the correct URL into your web browser. Do not use the link in the message.
Check the status of your account. If there is a freeze on your account, your account is under review, or it has been suspended, this will be clear when you try to log in.
If in doubt, contact the vendor by telephone or send an email, again using verified contact information and not any contact details supplied in the text message (or email).
Before logging in or disclosing any sensitive information online, check the entire URL to make sure the domain and web page are genuine.
PayPal Email Phishing Scams
This PayPal text phishing scam is one of thousands of phishing campaigns targeting PayPal users. While SMS phishing scams are increasing, most phishing attacks are conducted via email.
PayPal email phishing scams can be highly convincing. The emails contain the familiar PayPal logo, the text in the message body is often well written with no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, the footers contain all the information you would expect, and the font is the same as that used in genuine PayPal messages.
The purpose of PayPal phishing emails will vary depending on the campaign, although typically the aim is:
To fool someone into disclosing their PayPal username/email address and password combination
To obtain a credit/debit card number, expiry date, and CVV code
To obtain bank account information and other personal information that allows the account to be accessed
To obtain a Social Security number and date of birth for use in identity theft and tax fraud
To install malware – Malware can capture all the above information and more
To install ransomware – Ransomware encrypts files and prevents them from being accessed unless a ransom payment is made
PayPal phishing emails can be very convincing and virtually indistinguishable from genuine communications; however, there are often signs that suggest all may not be what it seems.
Some of the common identifiers of PayPal phishing emails have been detailed below:
The messages contain questionable grammar or spelling mistakes.
The hyperlink text suggests one domain, when hovering the mouse arrow over the link shows it directs the user to a different domain.
The message does not address the account holder personally and starts with Dear PayPal user, user, or PayPal member instead of using the first and last name or the business name.
A link in the email directs the recipient of the message to a website other than the genuine paypal.com domain or local site – paypal.ca, paypal.co.uk for example.
The website the user is asked to visit does not start with HTTPS and does not have the green padlock symbol in the address bar.
The email requests personal information be disclosed such as bank account details, credit card numbers, or security questions and answers.
A user is requested to download or install software on their device.
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HTTPS Does Not Mean a Website is Genuine
There has been a general push to get businesses to make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS by installing an SSL certificate. The SSL certificate binds a cryptographic key to an organization’s details and activates both the padlock sign and changes a website to start with HTTPS. This ensures that the connection between the browser and the webserver is encrypted and secured.
If the website has a valid SSL certificate installed, it reduces the potential for snooping on information as it’s entered in the browser – credit card information for example. However, what an SSL certificate will not offer is a guarantee that information is safe and secure.
A website owned by or controlled by a cybercriminal could have a valid SSL certificate and start with HTTPS and have a green padlock. Disclosing information on that site could see sensitive information handed to a scammer.
As more and more businesses have made the transition to HTTPS, so have cybercriminals. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s (APWG) Q1, 2018 phishing activity trends report, 33% of all phishing websites now use HTTPS and have valid SSL certificates. HTTPS and a green padlock do not mean that a website is genuine. It only means information entered on the site via the browser is secured.
HubSpot’s SSL encryption features automate your website security without plugins, so your site stays secure without any of the manual upkeep.
Anti-Phishing Best Practices to Adopt
Exercise caution when someone sends you a hyperlink in a text message or email. The sender may not be who you think it is. A contact or family member’s email account may have been compromised or their phone stolen or the email address may have been spoofed.
Never open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unrecognized senders.
Beware of any email that suggests urgent action must be taken, especially when there is a threat or negative consequences for inaction – your account will be suspended or deleted for example.
If in doubt about the genuineness of an email, do not click any links or open any attachments. Simply delete the message.
Businesses should implement an advanced spam filter to prevent the majority of phishing emails from reaching inboxes.
Businesses should also implement DMARC to prevent spoofing of their brands.
Businesses should provide ongoing security awareness training to employees to teach them the skills required to identify phishing emails and smishing attempts such as this PayPal text phishing scam.
If you run a business and are concerned about phishing, TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ has developed an award-winning anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that blocks more than 99.9% of spam and malicious messages, incorporates dual anti-virus engines to detect malicious attachments, includes DMARC authentication, and sandboxing to perform in-depth analyses of malicious attachments. The solution works seamlessly with Office 365 to improve phishing detection and keep users’ inboxes free from spam, phishing, and other malicious emails. Further, TitanHQ operates a highly competitive pricing policy and SpamTitan can be used at a fraction of the cost of other anti-phishing solutions.
Contact TitanHQ and arrange a product demonstration, sign up for a free trial of the full solution (including support), and discover the difference SpamTitan can make to your organization’s security posture.
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A new SharePoint phishing scam has been detected which attempts to steal Office 365 credentials from business users. those credentials are subsequently used to gain access to sensitive company information stored in the cloud and email accounts which can be used in phishing and business email compromise attacks.
The latest scam uses messages that appear to be standard quests to collaborate on SharePoint. This SharePoint phishing scam includes a hyperlink to a genuine SharePoint document, which may not be flagged as malicious since the file itself does not contain malware.
The SharePoint file advises the user that the content they are looking for has been uploaded to OneDrive for Business and a further click is necessary to access the file. A hyperlink named “Access Document” is included in the SharePoint file along with the genuine OneDrive for Business logo. At face value, the document does not appear to be malicious, although checking the destination URL of the link will reveal that it directs the user to a suspect website.
After clicking the link, the user is presented with a login window for Office 365 and their Microsoft Office 365 credentials must be entered to proceed. Entering Office 365 credentials at this point will see them harvested by the scammers running this campaign. The user is unlikely to realize that they have been successfully phished as after entering their credentials they will be directed to the genuine Office 365 web page.
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This SharePoint phishing scam is being used in targeted attacks on businesses. SharePoint is commonly used by businesses for collaboration, so there is a high probability that employees will be used to receiving such requests. Finding email addresses for business users is also straightforward. Lists can be purchased on darknet marketplaces and hacking forums, or they can be obtained from professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn.
This SharePoint phishing scam, Google Docs phishing scams, and similar campaigns spoofing Dropbox are commonplace and are highly effective. They take advantage of familiarity with these collaboration services, trust in the brands, and the lack of security awareness of employees. These brand impersonation attacks use email formats that are identical to those used in genuine collaboration requests, including correct logos, formatting and genuine-looking links, and can be difficult for end users to identify as malicious.
Preventing these SharePoint spoofing scams requires technological solutions to stop the messages from being delivered and links from being followed. Standard Office 365 anti-phishing protections are not particularly effective at blocking threats such as these. Businesses will be better protected using a dedicated anti-phishing solution on top of Office 365. SpamTitan is an award-winning anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that works seamlessly with Office 365 and provides superior protection against phishing attacks. SpamTitan uses a wide range of innovative techniques to identify malicious emails and block them at source to prevent them from reaching end users’ inboxes.
Security awareness training is also vitally important to condition employees to stop and think before taking any action requested in an email and to raise awareness of the use of collaboration requests in phishing campaigns.
If you want to improve email security and better defend your organization against phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today and request further information on SpamTitan. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request, free trials of the full product are available with full support during the trial, and a range of deployment options are available to suit the needs of your business. Also consider using a web filter such as WebTitan, which will block attempts to block websites used for phishing and malware distribution.
Small businesses often lack the budget to employ full time IT staff, so instead rely on Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to meet their IT and cybersecurity needs. Small businesses know about the importance of having good IT support and will also likely be aware of the need to have some cybersecurity defenses in place, but it can sometimes be difficult to get clients to commit to purchasing the cybersecurity solutions they need to block cyberattacks that could cripple the business.
MSPs therefore need to communicate the importance of cybersecurity and the solutions that are necessary to reduce risk to protect their clients. Without the right solutions in place, clients will be at risk of suffering a costly data breach, and potentially regulatory fines and litigation. It will also be the MSP that will most likely be required to put the time and effort into getting the business back up and running following a cyberattack, and an MSP may also be blamed for not preventing the breach in the first place.
So how can MSPs sell cybersecurity solutions to their clients? What techniques can be used to get clients to commit to purchasing the solutions they need to protect their networks and infrastructure from attack?
Cybersecurity Selling Techniques for MSPs to Improve Customers’ Defenses and Monthly Revenue
Many small businesses will have little in the way of cybersecurity defenses, so this presents MSPs with an opportunity to increase their revenue, but first they must make sure that a client is aware of the importance of cybersecurity and having the right infrastructure and security solutions in place. It is up to the MSP to communicate the need for cybersecurity defenses to block credible threats, as many businesses will not understand the risks they face and the true cost of a data breach.
One of the most important elements of selling cybersecurity to clients is to have a good understanding of the risks a business faces and the level of risk each business is prepared to tolerate. Each business will be different and, most likely, there will be different risks within each business that need to be addressed.
It pays to take some time to audit and review those risks, and then to develop a cybersecurity strategy for the business that is tailored to its needs, rather than trying to sell a standard package of security solutions.
It is unlikely that a small business will be effective at conducting their own cybersecurity risk assessments. By becoming proficient in conducting risk assessments, MSPs will be able to gain a competitive advantage. If an MSP can present an accurate risk assessment to a customer, along with cybersecurity solutions that will reduce all risks identified to a reasonable an acceptable level, it will be much easier to get clients to buy in and sign up for the products and services they need to reduce those risks.
When selling cybersecurity solutions, it pays to focus more on the risks and how they will be addressed, rather than the technical aspects of each solution. That information can naturally be shared if required, but it is better to explain how the solutions meet the needs of the business and the benefits they provide. Cybersecurity solutions are expensive for small businesses, so before a business commits to a purchase – which can involve a significant upfront cost – they need to know the benefits the investment will bring and how it will likely save them considerable costs in the long run by preventing costly data breaches and the resultant downtime.
Customer Support Needs to Include Cybersecurity
Having the right cybersecurity solutions in place is only part of the story. It is also important to ensure that there is adequate monitoring in place. Cybersecurity solutions must be correctly configured and maintained so MSPs will need to make sure the staff is on hand to identify and respond quickly to any threat and neutralize it. Cybersecurity support also needs to be sold to clients.
You must be clear about the different between IT support and cybersecurity support. Clients are likely to need an MSP to provide basic IT support but may also expect the MSP to deal with cybersecurity issues as well. It is vital to communicate the difference and to cover cybersecurity support when onboarding a new client.
By explaining the need for cybersecurity and providing tailored solutions and the right level of support, MSPs will be able to earn the trust of their clients and be able to reassure them that their infrastructure and data will be kept safe and secure. As the business grows, that trust will be invaluable in getting the business to buy into more advanced cybersecurity solutions as their risk profile changes.
When it comes to finding solutions to meet the needs of MSP clients, TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ provides reasonably priced, powerful and effective cybersecurity solutions to block the most common attack vectors, along with a solution for backing up and archiving business critical data.
For more information on these solutions give the TitanHQ team a call and ask about TitanHQ email security, DNS filtering, and email archiving, and the TitanShield Partner Program. MSPs that join the TitanShield Program will be provided with extensive tools, marketing resources, and training aids to help them sell cybersecurity solutions to their clients more effectively.
The dangers of public Wi-Fi are well documented, but the increase in remote working means the threat has grown. During the pandemic, many businesses had little option other than to allow their employees to work remotely. Remote working during the pandemic meant employees working from home, but now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing the dangers of public Wi-Fi have reared their head one again. Many businesses have seen benefits to remote working and are continuing to allow employees to work from home, while many others are considering adopting a hybrid working model, where employees can work remotely for at least some of the week.
The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi
There are a variety of risks when accessing the Internet over public Wi-Fi networks, one of the most serious being the Wi-Fi access point that people connect to is not actually the Wi-Fi network of the establishment where employees are working. It is all too common for threat actors to set up rogue access points that resemble the legitimate Wi-Fi access points that they spoof. Through those access points – often referred to as evil twins – connections are monitored, and no communicated data are secure.
Attackers often inject malicious proxies, eavesdrop on network traffic, and use redirects to send Wi-Fi users to malicious websites. While perhaps unlikely in a local coffee shop, it is possible to compromise wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC), and these tactics are commonly used, especially in foreign countries. If Bluetooth and NFC are enabled, an attacker could scan for nearby devices and gain information that could allow them to identify and target a particular individual.
How to Reduce Risk
There are various steps that remote workers should take to ensure they do not unwittingly fall victim to a malware infection, disclose their credentials in a phishing attack, or otherwise compromise their device, and in turn, the network of their employer. The most straightforward of these measures is to simply not use public Wi-Fi networks, although that is not always possible for travelling employees.
If it cannot be avoided, it is important to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot that has encryption and strong authentication, as security will be greater. It is never a good idea to connect to any Wi-Fi network that has no security and does not require a password to connect, but it can be difficult to determine how good Wi-Fi security actually is.
It is important to remember that having a password on a Wi-Fi access point does not mean there is data encryption, so any transmitted data may be intercepted. Even with encryption, if an attacker knows the pre-shared key, the encryption is rendered useless as data can easily be decrypted.
It is also possible to force a network into using unsecure protocols or obsolete algorithms, and there are widely available open-source tools that can easily be used to capture credentials and other sensitive data.
It is therefore important to take precautions. For employees, the steps are straightforward. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks if at all possible and avoid disclosing any sensitive data on websites that do not start with HTTPS. Bear in mind that hackers can set up HTTPS websites just as easily as anyone else so be sure not to place too much reliance on https for providing security.
Employees should avoid disclosing any sensitive data or accessing their email or work network entirely over public Wi-Fi if possible, and to ensure that tools supplied by employers – such as a VPN – are used.
Employers should ensure a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is available to employees and there is sufficient capacity to allow all workers to connect. Employers can – and should – extend the protection of their web filtering solution to remote workers’ devices. Web filters will block access to known malicious websites and can block malware downloads. Solutions such as WebTitan are easy to configure to protect remote workers’ devices, and filtering controls will then be applied just as if the employees are in the office.
Standard cybersecurity best practices should also be followed, such as ensuring patches and software are kept up to date, including VPNs. Multifactor authentication should be enabled and anti-malware software installed. Anti-spam solutions – SpamTitan for example – should also be implemented to block email attacks, and firewalls should be used to prevent unauthorized inbound and outbound connections.
It is also recommended to disable Link-Local Multicast Name Resolution (LLMNR) and Netbios Name Service (NBT-NS) on Windows laptops and to configure Web-Proxy Autodiscovery Protocol (WPAD) to use only corporate proxy servers and to turn off device file and printer sharing on public networks.
Following the ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure in the United States, several ransomware-as-a-service operations went quiet. The attacks attracted a lot of heat for ransomware gangs and several groups responded by either implementing new restrictions on the types of entities that their affiliates could attack, shutting down entirely and releasing the keys to allow victims to recover, or simply disappeared from the Internet.
Following the attack on Colonial Pipeline in May 2021 by a DarkSide ransomware affiliate, the DarkSide ransomware gang disappeared from the Internet. The REvil ransomware gang that had been so prolific also went quiet. The gang was behind the attack on JBS Foods which caused the temporary shutdown of two meat processing plants in the United States, and most recently, attacked Kaseya and up to 60 of its customers – mostly MSPs – and 1,500 downstream businesses. Shortly after that attack, its web presence disappeared and the gang went deathly silent.
Then there was Avaddon, another prolific operation. After the DarkSide attack on Colonial Pipeline, the Avaddon and REvil operators announced that they would be preventing their affiliates from conducting attacks on critical infrastructure, healthcare, and others. Avaddon later released the keys to allow 2,934 victims to recover and appeared to have walked away from ransomware attacks. Popular hacking forums took the decision to distance themselves from ransomware, even going as far as banning ransomware actors from posting on their forums.
Following the critical infrastructure attacks, the United States government has taken several steps to allow it to target ransomware gangs more effectively and has demanded Russia take action to stop ransomware gangs that are operating within Russia’s borders. The heat has certainly been turned up and RaaS operations are being scrutinized.
There has been considerable speculation about whether government agencies have succeeded in taking down some of these RaaS operations, even though none have announced that they are part of any takedown. That is not to say that there was no law enforcement or government action, only that if there was it has all been done on the quiet.
While it would be nice to think that these shutdowns were permanent and ransomware attacks would be slowing, that is unlikely. It is natural for RaaS operators to lie low for a while following such major attacks, especially when governments are now laser focused on tackling the ransomware problem. It is likely that these ransomware operations are just taking a break, and the operators – and certainly the affiliates that conducted attacks under the RaaS programs – will return. The return may well have already happened.
Two new ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) groups have appeared this month – Haron and BlackMatter – that threat intelligence firms have been investigating. Several have reported this week that they have identified connections with some of the RaaS operations that have recently gone quiet – Avaddon, REvil, and DarkSide.
While no concrete evidence has been found linking the new operations with any of the RaaS operations that have recently disappeared, there are many similarities which suggest that either the Avaddon, REvil, and DarkSide RaaS operations have already rebranded, that affiliates of those operations have branched out and are going it alone, or some members of the shutdown RaaS operations are involved in Haron and BlackMatter to some degree.
Despite the forum bans on advertising RaaS operations, the BlackMatter RaaS has been advertising for affiliates on Russian speaking cybercrime forums, albeit by not stating that they are running a RaaS operation. A user named “BlackMatter” registered an account on July 19 on both the XSS and Exploit criminal forums seeking assistance: Access to the networks of U.S., UK, Australian, or Canadian networks of companies with over $100 million in annual revenues. They also stipulated that they would not be buying access to state institutions or any targets in the healthcare sector, as both REvil and Avaddon announced they would not after the colonial pipeline attack.
The BlackMatter operator also created an Escrow account – used in cases of disputes over payments – and deposited $120,000 – a not insignificant sum. The group is offering between $3K and $100K for access or a share in any ransoms generated in exchange for access. The BlackMatter operators claim their operation incorporates the best features of DarkSide, REvil, and LockBit, all three of which are believed to have operated from within Russia.
Similarities were found between BlackMatter and REvil and DarkSide by several cybersecurity firms, with Recorded Future declaring BlackMatter the successor to DarkSide and REvil, although evidence is circumstantial. For instance, BlackMatter is very similar to BlackLivesMatter, which was the name of the Windows registry used by REvil. Mandiant reports that it has found evidence which points to at least one member of the DarkSide operation being involved with Black Matter, although that individual may simply be an affiliate that has jumped ship when the operation went silent.
The similarities may be coincidence, or the operator may have just saved some time by stealing content and code that had already been created. There are other notable differences between the two in many areas, and no solid proof has been found that suggests Avaddon and Haron are one and the same.
Researchers are still conducting investigations into the new groups, but regardless of who is involved in the operations, their aims appear to be very similar. Both are targeting large organizations with deep pockets and if the RaaS operations that have gone quiet remain out of action, there will be any affiliates looking for a new RAAS operation to join.
These two new RaaS operations could therefore completely fill the gap left by the likes of Avaddon, REvil, and DarkSide and ransomware attacks could well continue at pre-May 2021 levels. What is certain is the ransomware threat is far from over.
A new malware variant has appeared that is being pushed out via malicious search engine advertisements that appear at the top of the listings for searches related to cracked software. The new malware has been dubbed MosaicLoader by Bitdefender researchers, who have seen increasing numbers of the malware appear in recent weeks.
As the name suggests, MosaicLoader is a malware downloader. It has been developed to deliver a range of different payloads onto victims’ devices, with the ‘Mosaic’ part of the name coming from the intricate internal structure of the malware, which was developed to hamper attempts by security researchers to analyze and reverse engineer the malware.
The malware is complex and uses a variety of methods to evade detection and hamper attempts at analysis, including code obfuscation with the code broken into small chunks, shuffling the execution order and creating a mosaic-like structure. The malware also mimics the file information of legitimate software.
The current campaign delivering MosaicLoader targets individuals looking for cracked software, with the adverts appearing in the search engine listings for a variety of keywords and terms associated with pirated software. The initial malware droppers masquerade as executables for a legitimate software, including using company names and descriptions within the metadata and similar icons and file info as legitimate software.
The initial droppers use a variety of names linked to pirated software, including mirc-7-64-keygen-plus-crack-fully-version-free-download, officefix-professional6-122-crack-full-version-latest-2021, and setup-starter_v2.3.1. One of the droppers mimics a legitimate NVIDIA process, although the digital signature is unrelated to NVIDIA. Once users start processes with names in the word cloud of installers, the infection chain commences and will run in the background without alerting the user, with no visible windows displayed.
What makes MosaicLoader particularly dangerous is it can be used to deliver any payload onto a victim’s system. The malware has been observed delivering a broad range of malicious payloads, such as Remote Access Trojans (RATs) and backdoors, cookie stealers, and cryptocurrency miners. Based on the payloads delivered it is likely that, at least initially, MosaicLoader is being operated and used by one threat group, but it could easily be used under the malware-as-a-service model as a malware delivery service.
Protecting against MosaicLoader is straightforward in principle. Users should avoid downloading any cracked software. Not only is it illegal to download cracked software, but there is also a reasonable likelihood that doing so will install malware such as MosaicLoader, spyware, adware, and many potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). It is also necessary to have up to date antivirus/antimalware software installed.
Employees are always looking for ways to make their lives easier and installing unauthorized software – shadow IT – is common. Shadow IT may save an employee time during their working day, but it also carries risks, especially the installation of pirated software. This has become even more of a risk in the COVID-19 era with so many employees working from home.
Businesses can improve protection against MosaicLoader and other malware variants by carefully controlling the websites that employees can access on their corporate devices and under BYOD. Content filters, such as WebTitan, can be configured to restrict access to websites not required for work or block certain categories of website, as well as known malicious URLs.
Web filters can also be configured to block downloads of specific file types, such as software installers and other executable files often used to install malware. It should also be made clear to all staff that the downloading of unauthorized software onto corporate devices is prohibited, and that the installation of cracked software is illegal.
For further information on content filtering with a DNS filter and other cybersecurity measures you can implement to protect against malware, contact TitanHQ today. The WebTitan web filter is available on a free trial and can be implemented in minutes, and showing positive results in under an hour.
Over the past 12 months the number of successful ransomware attacks has increased sharply. Many attacks have been headline news due to the disruption they have caused and the high cost of remediation. The healthcare industry in the United States has been targeted, with the attacks disrupting patient care and putting patient safety at risk. Recently there was an attack on Colonial Pipeline that resulted in the shutdown of a main fuel pipeline serving the East Coast of the United States, while JBS suffered an attack that threatened food production at its U.S. plants.
Ransom payments have also increased and threat actors are stealing data prior to encrypting files to increase the pressure on victims to pay up. Regardless of whether the ransom is paid, the recovery process is slow. Many victims have suffered disruption to business operations for several months and businesses have been forced to permanently close after an attack due to the high costs of recovery.
Ransomware gangs have conducted highly sophisticated attacks but in the most part they have exploited vulnerabilities in security defenses that should not have existed. Most attacks exploit weaknesses that could have been easily addressed had network security best practices been followed. So what mistakes are businesses making that leaves them vulnerable to ransomware attacks?
Security Mistakes That Make Life Easy for Ransomware Gangs
In order for ransomware gangs to conduct a successful attack they must first gain access to the business network by exploiting security vulnerabilities.
While there are many possible attack vectors, the most common is phishing. A phishing campaign is conducted with one of two aims: To steal credentials that allow perimeter defenses to be bypassed, or to install malware that gives the attackers persistent access to the network.
With credential theft, the aim is to obtain credentials of an individual with high-level privileges such as the CEO. With high privileges, an attacker can easily gain persistent access to the network and move laterally. Alternatively, campaigns can be conducted to target lower-level employees and trick them into installing malware.
Most businesses have implemented a spam filter to block malicious messages, but many rely on default Office 365 spam filters, which do not offer a high enough level of protection. Implementing an advanced AI-based spam filter with sandboxing will improve protection.
Stolen credentials allow an attacker to access network resources, but not if multi-factor authentication has been implemented. While not infallible, multi-factor authentication will prevent attackers from using stolen credentials to gain access to networks in the vast majority of cases.
Anti-spam solutions and multi-factor authentication will provide protection from email attacks, but ransomware and other malware is often downloaded via the internet. By implementing a web filtering solution, employees can be prevented from visiting malicious websites and malware downloads can be blocked. Many businesses fail to protect against the web-based component of attacks.
Security Awareness Training
Many businesses rely on technical measures to block threats and neglect the human element. Attacks often target employees, so it is important for security awareness training to be provided and for regular refresher sessions to be conducted to reinforce training. Without training, employees cannot be expected to recognize and avoid threats.
Patching and Software Updates
Vulnerabilities in software, firmware, and operating systems are often exploited. Prompt patching is therefore important. It can be difficult to stay on top of patches and security updates, so patching should be prioritized. Many ransomware attacks have succeeded by exploiting years-old vulnerabilities. If vulnerabilities are not addressed, it will only be a matter of time before they are exploited.
Brute force tactics to guess weak passwords are often effective. As well as creating password policies that require all default passwords to be changed and strong passwords to be set, those policies must be enforced. Provide employees with tools to make creating strong passwords easier, such as providing them with a password management solution.
In the event of an attack, it is vital that damage is limited. Network segmentation is important in this regard. If an attacker bypasses the perimeter defenses, they should not be able to access the entire network. Segmenting the network will limit the potential for lateral movement and minimize the damage that can be caused.
Incident Response Plan
Businesses that have prepared for the worst and have developed and tested an incident response plan will recover much faster and will be able to limit the harm caused. Importantly, the business will be able to continue to operate while the attack is remediated.
Many businesses mistakenly believe that having backups will allow them to recover quickly in the event of an attack when that is often not the case. Regular backups must be created, and those backups must be tested to make sure file recovery is possible and data have not been corrupted. One copy of a backup must also be stored on an isolated system or device that cannot be accessed from the network where the data resides.
By addressing these common security mistakes, ransomware gangs will find it much harder to breach defenses.
The best place to start is by speaking to TitanHQ’s security experts about implementing cybersecurity solutions to block the most common attack vectors. Give the TitanHQ team a call today and take the first step toward improving your security posture against ransomware, malware, and phishing attacks.
The pandemic forced businesses to adopt different working practices. Rather than having employees working from the office, restrictions introduced to combat COVID-19 meant businesses had to allow their employees to work from home. Protecting business networks when virtually all workers are accessing those networks remotely was a major challenge and it was inevitable that vulnerabilities would be introduced that could potentially be exploited by threat actors.
Those vulnerabilities were exploited, with cybercriminals and APT groups targeting at-home workers mostly by exploiting vulnerabilities in remote access systems and through phishing attacks to obtain credentials to allow networks to be accessed. While these attacks had many different goals, one of the most common was to encrypt files using ransomware to prevent them from being accessed, usually with data theft prior to file encryption.
According to Osterman Research, the three main priorities for cybersecurity in 2021 are protecting endpoints, educating users about ransomware and stopping them becoming victims of attacks, and protecting backups from ransomware. The fact that two of the three main priorities are related to ransomware show just how serious the threat has become.
Protecting endpoints requires a combination of cybersecurity solutions, one of the most important being an advanced email security solution. Email is the attack vector of choice in cyberattacks and is commonly the initial attack vector in ransomware attacks. Phishing campaigns are easy to conduct and they target the weakest link in cybersecurity – employees. Further, with many employees working from home, phishing has become even easier. Studies have shown at-home employees have been taking security shortcuts, with many also admitting to clicking links in phishing emails and opening potentially malicious email attachments. When errors such as this are made, many employees fail to report the matter to their IT department out of fear of reprisals.
Cybersecurity training is important to teach and reinforce cyber hygiene best practices and raise awareness of the threat from ransomware. If employees are not taught how to identify phishing emails and ransomware, they cannot be expected to avoid those threats. With training, susceptibility to phishing can be greatly reduced. However, even with training employees will make mistakes and will fail to recognize every threat.
A recent study conducted by Osterman Research and TitanHQ looked into the main cybersecurity threats faced by security professionals in 2021. The biggest threats were found to be business email compromise (BEC) attacks that tricked employees, phishing messages that result in malware infections, and phishing messages that result in account compromises. The latter is usually the first step in a BEC attack. 85% of interviewed organizations said they had experienced at least one security incident in the past 12 months, and while security professionals were aware of the dangers of phishing and ransomware attacks, only 37% rated their defenses as highly effective.
Due to the lack of confidence in defenses against phishing and ransomware attacks identified by the study, TitanHQ and Osterman Research are hosting a webinar in which attendees will discover the most effective mitigations against phishing and ransomware attacks and will learn best practices they need to adopt to avoid those threats.
Webinar attendees will also learn about the full findings of the in-depth cybersecurity study into the rising threat from phishing and ransomware and how risk can be reduced to a low and acceptable level.
The webinar will be taking place on June 30, 2021:
How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing and Ransomware Attacks
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. BST
2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST
11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PST
The webinar will be conducted by Michael Sampson, Senior Analyst at Osterman Research and Sean Morris, Chief Technology Officer at TitanHQ.
In this post, we explore some of the common wireless network attacks and offer advice on simple steps that can be taken to secure wireless networks and prevent costly data breaches.
Many Businesses are Neglecting WiFi Security
Many businesses have moved from wired to wireless technologies which has had a negative impact on their security posture. Wired networks are generally a lot easier to secure than wireless networks, and poor implementation often introduces vulnerabilities in WiFi networks. Many businesses also fail to perform a thorough risk analysis which means those vulnerabilities are not identified and addressed. Because of these security flaws, and the ease of exploiting them, wireless networks attacks are common.
The Importance of WiFi Security
Wi-Fi access used to be something you had to pay for, but now free WiFi is something many people take for granted. Visitors to a hotel, coffee shop, bar, retail outlet, or restaurant now expect WiFi to be provided free of charge. The decision to use a particular establishment is often influenced by whether free WiFi is available, but increasingly the quality of the connection is a factor in the decision process.
The quality of the WiFi on offer is not just a question of there being enough bandwidth and fast internet speeds. Parents often choose to visit establishments that provide secure WiFi with content control, for instance, businesses that have been verified under the Friendly WiFi scheme. In order to be accredited under the scheme, businesses must have implemented appropriate filtering controls to ensure minors are prevented from accessing age-inappropriate material.
The massive rise in cyberattacks via public WiFi networks coupled with warnings about WiFi risks in the mainstream media has seen many consumers favor establishments that offer secure WiFi access.
If you run a business and are providing WiFi to customers or if you are considering adding a WiFi hotspot to attract more customers, be sure to consider the security of the network. The past couple of years have seen many attacks on WiFi networks and customers who use those wireless services. The increase in WLAN attacks means WiFi security has never been so important.
Before covering some of the most common wireless attacks, it is worthwhile exploring some of the common wireless network vulnerabilities that can be exploited to eavesdrop on traffic, infect users with malware, and steal sensitive information.
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Common Wireless Vulnerabilities
Listed below are some of the most common wireless network vulnerabilities and steps that can be taken to prevent the vulnerabilities from being exploited. These wireless network vulnerabilities could easily be exploited in real-world attacks on wireless networks to steal sensitive data, take control of a router or connected device, or install malware or ransomware.
Use of Default SSIDs and Passwords
WIFi access points are shipped with a default SSID and password which need to be changed, but all too often, those default passwords are left in place. That makes it easy for an attacker to log in and take control of the router, change settings or firmware, load malicious scripts, or even change the DNS server so that all traffic is directed to an IP owned by the attacker. Default passwords must be changed to prevent anyone within range of the signal from connecting and sniffing traffic.
If wireless controllers are used to manage WiFi access points via web interfaces, make sure the default passwords are also changed. These default passwords can be easily found online and can be used to attack wireless networks.
Placing an Access Point Where Tampering Can Occur
If the access point is placed in a location where it can be physically accessed, tampering can occur. It takes just seconds to revert the access point to factory default settings. Make sure the access point is located in a secure location, such as a locked closet.
Use of Vulnerable WEP Protocol
The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol was the first protocol used to encrypt wireless traffic. WEP, as the name suggests, was intended to make wireless networks as secure as their wired counterparts, but that does not make WEP wireless networks secure.
WEP is based on the RC4 cypher, which is secure. The problem is how RC4 is implemented in WEP. WEP allows an initialization vector to be re-used, and the re-use of keys is never a good idea. That allows an attacker to crack the encryption with ease. Several other vulnerabilities have been identified in WEP which make it far from secure.
Even though WEP has been depreciated and there are much more secure wireless encryption protocols to use, many businesses continue to use WEP in the mistaken belief that it is secure. WEP is more secure than no encryption at all – bad security is better than no security – but there are much more secure options for encrypting WiFi traffic. If you want to improve security and prevent WLAN attacks, upgrade to WPA2 or WPA3, which use the much more secure Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and lack the vulnerabilities of WEP.
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WPA2 Krack Vulnerability
WPA may be more secure than WEP, but it is not without its own wireless vulnerabilities. Two Belgian researchers – Mathy Vanhoef and Frank Piessens of the University of Leuven – identified a serious flaw in the WPA security protocol. The flaw was named KRACK, short for Key Reinstallation Attack. The flaw can be exploited in a man-in-the-middle attack to steal sensitive data sent via the WPA encrypted WiFi connection. If the WPA flaw is exploited, an attacker could eavesdrop on traffic and obtain banking credentials, passwords, and credit card information.
The vulnerability exists in the four-way handshake. An encrypted WPA2 connection starts with a four-way handshake, but not all parts of that handshake are required. To speed up re-connections, the third part is retransmitted. That third part of the handshake may be repeated several times, and it is this step that could be used in a wireless network attack.
By repeatedly resetting the nonce transmitted in the third step of the handshake, an attacker can gradually match encrypted packets and discover the full keychain used to encrypt traffic.
A threat actor could set up a clone of a WiFi access point that a user has previously connected to – an evil twin. To the user, nothing would appear untoward as Internet access would be provided via that evil twin. An attacker can force a user to connect to the cloned WiFi network and all information sent via that evil twin WiFi network can be intercepted. While the attack will not work on sites with SSL/TLS encryption, tools can be used that make this possible by forcing a user to visit an HTTP version of the website.
In order to execute a KRACK WiFi attack, the WiFi network must be using WPA2-PSK or WPA-Enterprise and the attacker needs to be within range of the WiFi signal. Virtually all routers currently in use are vulnerable to KRACK WiFi attacks. The best defense is to keep routers up to date and for users to only connect to wireless networks using a paid-for, up-to-date VPN. The issue has been addressed in WPA3, which is supported by the latest wireless access points. However, even with this exceptionally common wireless network vulnerability, WPA2 is still far more secure than WEP.
NetSpectre – Remote Spectre Exploit
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What are the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?
Many of the most common wireless network attacks are opportunistic in nature. WiFi hackers look for wireless networks that are easy to attack.
Hackers are more than happy to take advantage of poor security controls to gain access to sensitive information and distribute malware. Why waste time attacking well-secured WiFi networks when there are plenty with scant or no security?
Poorly secured WiFi networks are also targeted by more sophisticated cybercriminals and organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the network. The attacks can be extremely lucrative. Access to a business network can allow ransomware to be installed and if malware can be installed on POS systems, the credit/debit card numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands of customers can be stolen.
Types of Wireless Network Attacks
There are several different types of WiFi attacks that hackers use to eavesdrop on wireless network connections to obtain passwords and banking credentials and spread malware. The main types of WiFi attacks are detailed below.
Fake WiFi Access Points, Evil Twins, and Man in the Middle Attacks
Visitors to hotels, coffee shops, and malls often connect to the free WiFi on offer, but various studies have shown that care is not always taken when connecting. Customers often choose the WiFi access point based on the SSID without checking it is the wireless network set up by a particular establishment for customer use.
Criminals can easily set up fake WiFi access points, often using the name of the establishment in the SSID. An SSID called ‘Free Airport WiFi’ would be enough to get many people to connect. When customers connect to these rogue WiFi networks they can still access the Internet, so are unlikely to realize anything is wrong. However, once connected to that network, everything they do online will be monitored by cybercriminals. Sensitive information entered online, such as email addresses and passwords, credit card numbers, or banking credentials, can and will be stolen.
How is this done? The attacker simply creates a hotspot on a smartphone and pairs it with a tablet or laptop. The hacker can then sit in a coffee shop drinking a latte while monitoring the traffic of everyone that connects. Alternatively, they can use a router with the same name and password as the one currently in use. This may also have a stronger WiFi signal, which may see more people connect. Through the “evil twin” all traffic will be plainly visible to the attacker and all data sent over the network can be captured.
Fake access points and evil twins are among the most common wireless network attacks. They are easy to conduct, require little technical skill, and are very effective. One study indicated more than a third of WiFi hotspot users take no precautions when accessing WiFi hotspots and frequently connect to unsecured networks.
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Packet Sniffing: Interception of Unencrypted Traffic
Research by Kaspersky Lab in 2016 showed more than a quarter of public Wi-Fi hotspots set up in malls were insecure and lacked even basic security controls. A quarter did not encrypt traffic at all, while research conducted by Skycure showed that five of the 10 busiest malls in the USA had risky WiFi networks.
One mall in Las Vegas was discovered to be operating 14 risky WiFi access points. Hackers can use packet sniffers to intercept traffic on unencrypted WiFi networks. Packet sniffing is one of the most common wireless attacks.
These common wireless network attacks are easy on older routers, such as those using WEP encryption. WPA offers better security, WPA2 is better still, or ideally, the new WPA3 encryption protocol should be used if it is supported by your access point.
Wardriving is a technique used to identify and map vulnerable access points. The name comes from the fact that attackers drive around a neighborhood and use a laptop with a GPS device, antenna to identify and record the location of wireless networks. This technique is effective since many WiFi networks used by businesses extend beyond the confines of the building and poor security controls are applied to secure those networks.
Warshipping is a more efficient method of attacking WiFi networks as it allows attacks to be conducted remotely, even if the attacker is not within range of a WiFi network. The tactic was explained by IBM X-Force Red researchers at Black Hat USA. They used cheap (under $100) and easy-to-obtain components to create a single-board computer with WiFi and 3G capabilities that runs on a cell phone battery. The device can be used to locally connect to the WiFi network and send information back to the attackers via the 3G cellular connection.
Since the device is small, it can easily be hidden inside a small package, and getting that package into a building is easy. It can just be mailed. Since the package may be addressed to someone not working it the company, it could sit in the mailroom for a while before it is opened. Since the package can be tracked, the attackers will know when it is in the building. Alternatively, it could be hidden in any number of items from plant pots to teddy bears. If the device is within range of WiFi networks, it could be used to attack those networks.
Hashed network access codes can be sent back to the attackers to crack, and the device can then connect to WiFi networks in the building and harvest data. The device could be used in a man-in-the-middle attack by impersonating an internal WiFi network.
Many businesses use MAC filtering to prevent specific devices from connecting to their WiFi networks. While this is useful for preventing individuals from taking advantage of free WiFi for customers, this method of blocking users can be easily bypassed. It is easy to spoof a MAC address and bypass this filtering control.
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Examples of WiFi Network Attacks
Attacks on wireless networks are not just theoretical. Listed below are some examples of common wireless networks attacks that have resulted in the installation of malware or theft of sensitive information. These latest wireless security attacks could easily have been prevented had appropriate security controls been implemented.
Latest Wireless Security Attacks
Tel Aviv Free WiFi Network Hacking Incident
One notable example of how easy it can be for a hacker to take over a WiFi network comes from Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv offers a city-wide free WiFi network, which incorporates basic security controls to keep users secure on the network. However, it did not prove to be as secure as city officials thought.
While commuting home, Tel Aviv resident Amihai Neiderman noticed a new WiFi access point had appeared. The FREE_TLV access point was provided by the city and Neiderman decided to test its security controls. After determining the IP address through which WiFi clients accessed the Internet, he disconnected, scanned the router, and discovered the web-based login interface was run through HTTPS port 443.
While he found no major vulnerabilities, after extensive analysis he identified a buffer overflow vulnerability which he successfully exploited to take full control of the router. By doing so, if he was so inclined, he could have intercepted the traffic from tens of thousands of users.
Toasters Used to Hack Unsecured WiFi Networks
Perhaps not one of the most common WiFi network attacks, but notable nonetheless due to the rise in the use of IoT devices. IoT capability has been incorporated into all manner of devices from toasters to washing machines. These devices can be vulnerable to supply chain attacks – Where hardware is altered to allow the devices to be used to attack WiFi networks. In 2016, Russian officials discovered chips imported from China had been altered and were being used to spread malware that could eavesdrop on unsecured WiFi networks from a range of 200 meters. They were used to infect those networks with malware that could steal information.
In-Flight WiFi Network Hacking from the Ground
Cybersecurity expert Ruben Santamarta has demonstrated it is possible to hack into airline WiFi networks from the ground and view the internet activity of passengers and intercept their information. More worryingly, he was also able to gain access to the cockpit network and SATCOM equipment. He claims the same technique could be used for ships, industrial facilities, and even military installations. He explained how he did it in his “Last Call for SATCOM Security” presentation at the 2018 black hat hacker conference.
Orange Modems Leaking Wi-Fi Passwords
A vulnerability has been identified in Orange LiveBox ADSL modems that causes them to leak the SSID and WiFi passwords in plaintext. The flaw was identified by Bad Packets researchers who observed their honeypots being actively attacked. A search on Shodan showed there are nearly 20,000 vulnerable Orange modems that leak Wi-Fi passwords and SSIDs in plaintext. In many cases, the default credentials of admin/admin were still being used! The flaw means the WiFi networks could easily be attacked remotely. Attackers could change device settings, alter firmware, and even obtain the phone number and conduct a range of other attacks.
WeWork WiFi Security Flaws
WeWork, a provider of custom workspaces, private offices, and on-demand workspaces equipped with high-bandwidth WiFi, has made an error implementing those WiFi networks which makes them far from secure.
WeWork used the same WiFi password at many of its shared offices for several years. To make matters worse, that password was weak and regularly features in the top 25 lists of extremely poor passwords. However, there was no need to guess it as it was available through the WeWork app in plaintext. Such a simple yet serious error placed all users of those workspaces at risk for several years. The researchers investigated several locations in San Francisco and found the same weak password used at multiple locations. Further, the WiFi network was only protected with WPA2 Personal security.
Teemu Airamo checked the security of the workspace he had just moved into and found hundreds of other companies’ devices exposed. Subsequent scans on the WeWork network revealed an enormous amount of sensitive data had been exposed. Password reuse is never a good idea, and neither is using dictionary words or heaven forbid, any of the top 25 lists of shockingly awful passwords.
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WiFi Networks Can be Used to Gain Access to Business Data
Creating a WiFi network for guests is simple. Ensuring it is secure and cannot be used for attacks on the business network or customers requires more thought and effort. Any business that allows customers to make purchases using credit and debit cards is a major target for hackers and poor WiFi security is likely to be exploited sooner or later. The past few years have seen many major attacks that have resulted in malware being installed on POS systems. These are now some of the most common wireless network attacks.
How Can Businesses Prevent the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?
How can businesses protect against some of the most common wireless network attacks? While it is difficult to prevent the creation of fake WiFi hotspots, there are steps that can be taken to prevent many common wireless network attacks and keep the WiFi network secure.
Isolate the Guest Network
If your business network is not isolated from your guest WiFi network, it could be used to gain access to business data and could place your POS at risk of compromise. Use a router that offers multiple SSIDs – most modern routers have that functionality. These routers often have a guest SSID option or separate guest portal. Make sure it is activated when it is deployed. Alternatively, your wireless router may have a wireless isolation feature that will prevent WiFi users from accessing your internal network and other client devices. If you require multiple access points throughout your establishment, you are likely to need a VLAN or EoIP tunnel configuration – A more complicated setup that will require you to seek professional advice on security.
Encrypt WiFi Traffic with WPA2 or WPA3
If you have an old router that does not support WPA2 encryption it’s time for an upgrade. WPA2 is the minimum standard for WiFi security, and while it can still be cracked, it is time-consuming and difficult. WPA3 has now been released and an upgrade should be considered. You should also make sure that WPS is turned off.
Update Firmware Promptly
All software and devices contain vulnerabilities and require updating. Software should be patched and devices such as routers will need to have their firmware upgraded when new versions are released. Check your device manufacturer’s website periodically for details of firmware updates and ensure your device is updated.
Create a Secure SSID
Your router will have a default SSID name, but this should be changed to personalize it to your business. If you make it easily identifiable, it will reduce the potential for rogue access points to be confused with your own. Ensure that you enforce WPA2 encryption with a shared key and post that information for your customers along with your SSID in a prominent place where they can see it.
Restrict WiFi Access
If your wireless router or access point is too powerful, it could be accessed from outside your premises. Choose a router that allows you to alter the strength of your signal and you can ensure only your customers will use your connection. Also, ensure that your WiFi access point is only available during business hours. If your access points are left unsupervised when your business is closed, it increases the risk of an attack.
Secure Your Infrastructure
Administrator access can be abused, so ensure that your login name and your passwords are secure. If the default credentials are not changed, it will only be a matter of time before they are abused. Change the username from ‘admin’ or any other default username. Set a strong password that includes upper and lower-case letters, at least one number, and a special character. The password must be at least 8 characters although more is better. Alternatively use a 14-character+ passphrase.
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Use a Web Filter
A web filtering solution is an essential protection for all WiFi networks. Web filters will prevent users from visiting websites and web pages that are known to have been compromised or have been confirmed as malicious. This will protect your customers from web-based threats such as drive-by downloads, exploit kits, and phishing. A web filter will also allow you to prevent your network from being used to download or view unacceptable content such as pornography and lets you control bandwidth usage to ensure all customers can enjoy decent Internet speeds.
TitanHQ offers a scalable, easy to deploy, granular web filter for WiFi networks. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi requires no hardware purchases or software downloads as it is 100% cloud-based, can be managed and monitored from any location, and can help protect you against the most common wireless network attacks.
How Does WebTitan Cloud for WiFi Work?
Features of WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
No hardware or software installation required
Quick and easy to implement
Fast: DNS solution provides almost zero additional latency
Supports both static and dynamic IPs addresses
No specialist training required
Protects against all web-based threats
Precision control over the content that can be accessed over WiFi
Instant alerts about users trying to access restricted content
Can be integrated into existing systems for easy management
Available to MSPs and resellers in white-label form
Fully multi-tenanted platform
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, live all TitanHQ solutions, is available on a free trial for you to evaluate the full solution in your own environment. During the trial, you will receive full product support to ensure you get the most out of your trial.
Contact TitanHQ today to arrange your trial, for details of pricing, or to book a product demonstration. Our Customer Service team will be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the product.
Web Filtering FAQs
How can I make my guest Wi-Fi network secure?
You should change your SSID from the default, set a strong password, enable encryption (WPA2 or WPA3), prevent guests from accessing router settings and local network resources, and set up a web filtering solution to restrict access to potentially harmful web content.
How much does content filtering cost?
You can expect to pay between $1 and $3 per user, per month depending on the Wi-Fi content filtering solution you choose. At TitanHQ, we offer powerful content filtering at an affordable price for all businesses. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi starts at $1.01 per user per month.
What is the best way to block phishing attacks?
Two anti-phishing solutions that businesses should implement are an email security gateway or spam filter to block malicious emails and a web filter to prevent employees from visiting phishing websites, either from links in malicious emails or through web browsing and redirects.
How easy is it to start filtering the Internet?
With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, content filtering is easy. Simply point your DNS to WebTitan, log in to your web-based user interface, then select the categories of content you want to block. It is that simple. Everything is intuitive and you have additional options if you want more precise control or need to implement different controls for different user groups. If ever you get stuck, you benefit from world-class customer support to get you back on track.
Should I enable SSL inspection?
SSL inspection allows you to inspect traffic to and from encrypted websites. Since most websites now secure the connection between the site and browser, this traffic will be invisible unless you enable SSL inspection. Malicious websites often have SSL certificates and will pose a serious threat if traffic is not inspected.
It has been a particularly bad year for ransomware attacks on businesses. Many of the attacked businesses have been unprepared for a ransomware attack and did not implement sufficient ransomware mitigations. Had proactive steps been taken, many of the attacks could have been prevented.
Recently, the DarkSide ransomware operation attacked a critical infrastructure firm and brought fuel delivery to the Eastern Seaboard in the United States to a halt. The fuel pipelines that delivered 45% of the fuel required by the U.S. East Coast were shut down for 5 days due to the attack. Better preparation and more extensive ransomware mitigations could have prevented the attack or at least hastened recovery. The company could also have avoided the $5 million ransom payment and major losses from disruption to operations.
The DarkSide ransomware gang had also attacked the second largest chemical distribution firm in the United States earlier in May, again causing major disruption to operations. In that case, a ransom of around $4.4 million was paid to the gang for the keys to unlock files and to prevent the release of sensitive business data stolen in the attack. The ransom payment was negotiated down from $7.5 million, and as part of that negotiation and payment process, the attacker provided details about how network access was gained. The attacker had purchased stolen credentials from another threat actor. The DarkSide ransomware affiliate also provided some useful advice – Improve your antivirus software and implement multi-factor authentication. These are two important ransomware mitigations that could well have stopped the attack dead.
These are just two examples of recent attacks by one ransomware gang. There are currently more than 17 ransomware gangs that steal data prior to encrypting files and many more that simply encrypt files and demand a ransom for the keys to unlock the encryption. The threat from ransomware also continues to grow. The Verizon 2021 Data Breach investigations Report shows ransomware attacks increased by 6% in 2020 an accounted for 10% of all data breaches.
Ransomware gangs, and their affiliates that conduct the attacks, use a range of different method to get the network access they need. Vulnerabilities in software and operating systems are exploited, and attacks are conducted on Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and remote access solutions such as VPNs. Phishing is commonly used to steal credentials that provide access to accounts, malware such as remote access Trojans are used to gain access to networks, along with several other tactics. Consequently, there is no single cybersecurity measure that can be implemented to block these attacks. Multiple ransomware mitigations are required to block each of the attack vectors.
Ransomware Mitigations to Prevent Attacks and Ensure a Fast Recovery
There are several ransomware mitigations that can be implemented to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks and limit the severity of an attack should a network be compromised.
Implement a robust spam filter – A robust spam filter will block phishing attacks and malware delivered via email. Phishing is one of the most common methods of gaining access to networks.
Implement multi-factor authentication – Stolen credentials, including those obtained in phishing attacks, allow ransomware actors to access networks. Multi-factor authentication is an effective measure for preventing stolen credentials from being used.
Conduct end user security awareness training – Ensure employees know how to identify phishing emails and are taught cybersecurity best practices and discourage risky behavior.
Filter network traffic with a web filter – Implement a web filter to block access to malicious websites and prevent communications with known malicious IP addresses.
Purchase top-grade AV software – Implement an advanced anti-virus solution, ensure it is set to update automatically, and conduct regular scans of all IT assets for malware.
Patch promptly and update software – Prompt patching is important to prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities. Prioritize patching to address the most critical vulnerabilities first. Most vulnerabilities exploited in attacks are months old, yet patches were not applied. Also ensure software and operating systems are updated regularly.
Restrict access to network resources – Apply the principle of least privilege and severely limit administrative access and the ability to install and execute programs.
Restrict or block Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) – Assess whether RDP is required and block if possible. If needed, ensure originating sources are restricted and implement multi-factor authentication.
Disable macro scripts in Office files – Disable Office macros on all computers unless there is a business need for allowing them. Open Office files sent via email using Office Viewer software rather than the full Office application.
Use application allowlisting – Only permit applications and systems to execute programs allowed by your security policy. Block the execution of programs from commonly used ransomware locations such as temporary folders and the LocalAppData folder.
Implement a strong backup policy – Ensure backups of critical data are regularly created and tested to ensure file recovery is possible. Store a copy of the backup in a secure offline location.
Implement network segmentation – In the event of an attack, it is important that the attackers cannot access all systems and networks. Use network segmentation to limit the harm that can be caused.
Block inbound connections from Cobalt Strike servers – Also block the use of other post-exploitation tools as far as is possible.
Block inbound connections from anonymization services – Block access from Tor and other anonymization services to IP addresses and ports where external connections are not expected or necessary.
A new version of WebTitan Cloud has been released – WebTitan Cloud 4.16 – that includes support for Azure Active Directory and introduces a new school web filtering solution – WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks.
The new version of WebTitan Cloud includes DNS Proxy 2.06 which supports filtering of users in Azure Active Directory, in addition to on-premise AD and directory integration for Active Directory. Further directory services will be added to meet customer needs and ensure they can enjoy the benefits of per-user filtering with exceptional ease of management. – Further information on the Azure AD app is available here.
Existing WebTitan customers need do nothing to get the latest WebTitan Cloud release as the solution will be updated automatically.
WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks
Using WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks provides an effective way to apply filtering policies to your Chromebooks from the cloud.
WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks is a new web filtering solution for the education sector that allows schools to carefully control the websites that can be access by students both in the classroom and offsite, including in student’s homes.
Schools can easily devise filtering policies for all pupils or specific age groups and apply those filtering polices in the cloud. The solution allows schools to enforce the use of Safe Search and prevent access to age-inappropriate web content to keep students safe.
WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks delivers fast and effective user- and device-level web filtering and empowers students to discover the Internet in a safe and secure fashion, while also ensuring compliance with federal and state laws such as the U.S. Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
The solution is cost effective for schools to implement, setup and management is quick and easy, and administrators can schedule or run usage reports on demand and have full visibility into Chromebook users’ online activities and locations. It is also possible to lockdown Chromebooks to prevent students from circumventing the web filtering controls.
As with all WebTitan Cloud solutions, there is no need for any on-premises hardware, no proxies or VPNs required, and there is no impact on Internet speed as filtering takes place at the DNS-level before any content is downloaded.
“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.”
Telegram is a popular messaging app that has seen user numbers soar in recent months, with many users of WhatsApp making the change to Telegram after recent changes to the WhatsApp privacy and data management policies.
Telegram has also proven popular with cybercriminals who are using the app for distributing and communicating with malware. Recently, a campaign has been identified involving a new malware variant dubbed ToxicEye. ToxicEye malware is a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that gives an attacker full control of an infected device. The malware is used to steal sensitive data and download other malware variants.
The malware uses a Telegram account for its command and control server communications. Through the attacker’s Telegram account, they can communicate with a device infected with ToxicEye, exfiltrate data, and deliver additional malicious payloads.
It is easy to see the attraction with using Telegram for malware communication. First, the app is popular. The Telegram app was the most popular app in January 2021, having amassed more than 63 million downloads, and has around 500 million active users worldwide. During the pandemic the app has been adopted by many businesses who have been using it to allow their remote workers to communicate and collaborate. The app supports secure, private messaging and most businesses allow Telegram to be used and do not block or inspect communications.
Setting up a Telegram account is easy and attackers can remain anonymous. All that is required to set up an account is a mobile phone number, and the communication infrastructure allows attackers to easily exfiltrate data and send files to malware-infected devices undetected.
Telegram is also being used for distributing malware. Attackers can create an account, use a Telegram bot to interact with other users and send files, and it is also possible to send files to non-Telegram users via phishing emails with malicious attachments. It is phishing emails that are being used to deliver ToxicEye malware. Emails are sent with a .exe file attachment, with one campaign using a file named “paypal checker by saint.exe” to install the malware.
If the attachment is opened and run, a connection will be made to Telegram which allows malware to be downloaded by the attacker’s Telegram bot. The attackers can perform a range of malicious activities once the malware is installed, with the primary goals of the attackers being gathering information about the infected device, locating and exfiltrating passwords, and stealing cookies and browser histories.
ToxicEye malware can kill active processes and take control of Task Manager, record audio and video, steal clipboard contents, and deploy other malware variants – such as keyloggers and ransomware.
TitanHQ offers two solutions that can protect against ToxicEye and other Telegram-based phishing and malware campaigns. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that will block malicious emails delivering the executable files that install the ToxicEye RAT and other malware. For even greater protection, SpamTitan should be combined with WebTitan web security. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering solution that can be configured to block access to Telegram if it is not in use and monitor traffic in real time to identify potentially malicious communications.
For further information on both of these solutions, details of pricing, and to register for a free trial, contact TitanHQ today.
Cloud-based instant messaging platforms have allowed individuals to easily communicate and collaborate, but cybercriminals are also benefitting from these platforms and are abusing the services for a range of malicious purposes. Discord is one such platform that has been favored by cybercriminals for several years and is now being extensively used for phishing and malware distribution.
Discord is a VoIP, instant messaging and digital distribution platform that has been extensively adopted by the gaming community and latterly by a much broader range of users. In 2019, Discord has amassed around 150 million users worldwide and usership has grown considerably since then. The platform has long been abused by cybercriminals who have used the platform’s live chat feature for selling and trading stolen data, such as gift cards and login credentials, for anonymous communications, and the platform has also been abused to act as C2 servers for communicating with malware-infected devices.
In 2021, the platform has been increasingly used for distributing a wide range of malware variants such as information stealers, cryptocurrency miners, Remote Access Trojans, and ransomware by abusing the cdn.discordapp.com service.
Discord, like other collaboration apps, use content delivery networks (CDNs) for storing shared files within channels. Cybercriminals can upload malicious files to Discord and create a public link for sharing, and that link can be shared with anyone, not just Discord users. The URL generated for sharing starts with https://cdn.discordapp.com/ so anyone receiving the link will see that the link is for a legitimate site. While there are controls to prevent malicious files from being uploaded, oftentimes cybercriminals can bypass those protections have get their malicious files hosted, and warnings are not always displayed to users about the risk of downloading files from Discord. Since the malicious payloads are delivered via encrypted HTTPS, the downloads can be hidden from security solutions.
Further, once uploaded, the malware can be deleted from a chat, but it is still accessible using the public URL. Users are often tricked into downloading these malicious files under the guise of pirated software or games. Gamers have been targeted as their PCs typically have a high spec for gaming, which makes them ideal for cryptocurrency mining.
This method of malware distribution allows malware developers and distributers to easily distribute their malicious payloads with a high degree of anonymity. An analysis by Zscaler identified more than 100 unique malware samples from Discord in the Zscaler cloud in just a two-month period. Another analysis of Discord CDN results identified around 20,000 results on VirusTotal.
Discord is far from the only communication and collaboration solution to be abused. Slack and Telegram are similarly being abused in phishing campaigns and for malware distribution.
How TitanHQ Can Improve Your Organization’s Security Posture
TitanHQ offers two cybersecurity solutions that can be configured to block the use of these legitimate platforms in the workplace and stop malicious links from being distributed to their employees. WebTitan is a powerful but easy-to-use DNS filtering and web security solution that can be configured to block access to sites such as Discord, thus preventing employees from visiting malicious content. Since WebTitan performs malware scans in real time, if malicious files are encountered, employees will be prevented from downloading them. WebTitan supports HTTPS (SSL) inspection so can decrypt, scan, then re-encrypt traffic to identify and block malicious content.
Malicious links to Discord are often distributed via phishing emails. SpamTitan Email Security prevents malicious emails from being delivered to inboxes, such as emails containing links to Discord, Telegram, or other services that are abused by cybercriminals and used to host phishing kits or malware.
Both solutions work seamlessly together to protect against email- and web-based cyberattacks and prevent credential theft, and malware and ransomware attacks. Both solutions are cost effective to implement and easy-to-use and are much loved by IT staff who benefit from a high level of protection coupled with a low management overhead.
If you want to improve protection from email and web-based attacks, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about these award-winning cybersecurity solutions. Both solutions are available on a free trial and a product demonstration can be arranged on request.
Further, these solutions have been developed to be MSP-friendly, with a range of benefits for managed service providers who want to want to improve email and web security for their clients.
Do you want to help the workforce learn how to identify fake emails to stop them divulging their credentials on phishing websites or inadvertently downloading malware onto their computers? In this post we outline some of the signs of phishing emails that everyone should be looking for every time an email is opened to confirm whether it is legitimate or if it is likely a phishing email, email impersonation scam, or poses a network security threat.
What Threats are Sent via Email?
Email is the most common way for cybercriminals to breach company defenses. It has been estimated that 91% of all cyberattacks start with a phishing email. Phishing is the name given to an attempt to obtain sensitive information by deception, often by impersonated a trusted entity. Phishing can occur over the telephone, text message, social media networks, or instant messenger services, but most commonly phishing occurs via email. Phishing emails also deceive people into downloading malicious files that install malware or ransomware. One response to a phishing email is all it takes for cybercriminals to obtain login details that allow them to access email accounts and cloud services and steal large quantities of sensitive data or gain the foothold they need for an extensive compromise of a business network.
If you have a powerful email security solution installed, the majority of phishing emails and other email threats will be blocked, but no email security solution will provide complete protection, so everyone needs to learn how to identify fake emails and know what they should do if such an email is received.
Employees Must be Receive Security Awareness Training
In certain industries, security awareness training for the workforce is mandatory and it is necessary to teach employees how to identify fake emails. In the United States, for example, regular security awareness training is a requirement of the Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA). All healthcare organizations must ensure that their employees can identify fake emails such as those used for phishing.
Even if not required by law, security awareness training is strongly advised. Employees cannot be expected to know the difference between a genuine and a scam email if they are not taught what to look for. By providing this training regularly you can condition your employees to always conduct checks to identify fake emails, which will help you to prevent costly data breaches.
How to Identify Fake Emails!
Cybercriminals regularly change their tactics, techniques and procedures to evade security defenses and fool people into divulging sensitive information or installing malware. The themes of malicious emails and lures in phishing emails often change, but there are commonalities in many of these scams which are detailed below. A scam or phishing email may include one or more of these tactics or techniques.
Be aware that just because an email appears to have been sent from a known and trusted email address or person, or a company with the right branding and logos, it does not mean that the email is genuine. You should still carefully check the message before responding or taking any action suggested in the message.
Phishing and scam emails usually have a sense of urgency. Attackers want you to act quickly without thinking, as the longer you take, the more likely it is you will identify the email for what it really is.
Phishing and scam emails often include a threat of negative consequences if no action is taken. Your account will be closed, you will lose access to a service, you will have to pay a fine, or you will be arrested, are all common ways to convey urgency and get people to take the action suggested in the email.
Scammers often use FOMO, bargains, or rewards to encourage people to get in touch or visit a website. A too-good-to-be-true offer such as a new iPhone for $100 or a prize in a competition that you haven’t entered is a common ruse to get people to click a malicious link.
Requests for Sensitive Information
The easiest way to obtain sensitive information is simply to ask for it. You should stop, think, and carefully consider any request to send sensitive information via email. Make sure the email address – not just the display name – is correct and try to call to confirm requests to send sensitive information or change payment details using verified contact information – Not contact information supplied in the email.
Hyperlinks are often included to get past email security defenses and direct individuals to scam websites. The URL is often masked with different text so hover your mouse arrow over the link to find the destination URL. URL shortening services are often used to hide the true destination URL. The URL linked in a message may also not be the destination URL as you may be redirected via multiple websites before landing on a page. Make sure you carefully check the URL and any domain you land on. If in doubt, do not click hyperlinks in emails.
Attachments are often used with double extensions to make them appear legitimate (.doc.exe). Simply opening these files is all it takes to install malware. Macros are often used that contain code that will download malware if they are allowed to run. Scan email attachments with AV software before opening and do not enable content unless you are 100% sure the attachment is genuine. Always treat email attachments as suspicious, and never open a file with an unfamiliar, unusual, or suspicious extension (.zip, .scr, .js, .exe, .vbs, .bat, .com, .msi, .jse, .lnk, .vb etc.)
Irregular email addresses and domains
Often the display name and the actual email address will be very different. Make sure you check the actual address used. Companies do not use public email domains (the part after the @) such as Gmail. Check that the domain is actually the one used by a company i.e., paypal.com is genuine; pay–pal.com is not. Also check that the domain is spelled correctly and there are no missing or transposed letters. Look out for potential alternative characters such as an rn instead of an m, a zero instead of an o, and a 1 instead of an I.
Spelling and grammar
Scammers are good at scamming, but often not so good at spelling. Many attackers do not speak English as their first language, so mistakes are often made with spelling and grammar. These mistakes can be deliberate to ensure only people who are likely to fall for the next stage of the scam respond.
Malicious emails often convince people to take out of the ordinary actions, such as requests to help out a colleague or boss by buying gift cards. Any out-of-band request should be confirmed with a quick phone call, but not using any contact information supplied in the email.
Odd salutations and message tone
How messages are addressed is a good indicator of whether the message is genuine. Most emails from companies now address recipients by name. If Netflix emails you and addresses you as Dear Customer, it could well be a scam. Attackers will probably not be used to the tone of emails usually sent when they conduct email impersonation attacks and may be overly familiar or unnaturally formal.
Block More Email Threats with an Advanced Email Security Solution
Many phishing and scam emails are highly sophisticated and are very difficult to distinguish from genuine emails, even by employees who have been trained how to identify fake emails. Messages can be sent from genuine email accounts that have been compromised, past message threads can be hijacked, and genuine logos and layouts used when companies are spoofed. Training the workforce how to identify fake emails is important, but you also need an advanced spam filtering solution in place to ensure the vast majority of these emails are blocked and not delivered to inboxes.
If you want to improve your defenses against email attacks, contact the TitanHQ team and ask about SpamTitan. SpamTitan is an easy to use, powerful email security solution that will keep you protected from scams and emerging and zero-day email threats. Furthermore, SpamTitan is one of the most cost-effective email security solutions on the market for businesses of all sizes.
The disruption to learning from a pandemic that has lasted more than a year is bad enough, but many schools have experienced even more disruption just as many have opened their gates and allowed students back into classrooms. The SARS-CoV-2 virus may have been brought under control thanks to lockdown measures and the rollout of vaccines, but another type of virus is proving to be a major threat – ransomware.
FBI Warns of Targeted Ransomware Attacks on K12 Schools and Higher Education
Ransomware attacks on schools have been stepped up in recent months and schools and higher education institutions are being actively targeted. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently issued an alert to the education sector warning about the threat of attacks involving Pysa ransomware. The threat actors behind this ransomware variant have been actively targeting K12 schools, higher education, and seminaries. Buffalo City Schools were forced to close their schools in March following a ransomware attack that crippled their IT systems, just before students were about to return to classrooms as part of a phased reopening of schools.
The ransomware is deployed manually after compromising the network. The attack often starts with a phishing email, which gives the attackers the foothold in the network they need. They then conduct reconnaissance, move laterally, and compromise entire networks before deploying their ransomware.
Prior to running the encryption routine that cripple IT systems, the attackers steal sensitive data. Files containing student information are obtained and threats are issued to publish or sell the stolen data if the ransom is not paid. The gang, like many others, has a leak site and routinely follows through on the threat.
Spike in Ransomware Attacks on UK Schools
Ransomware attacks on schools are not confined to the United States. The Pysa ransomware gang is also targeting schools in the United Kingdom and many other countries, and the Pysa gang is not alone. Many other ransomware operations have been attacking schools.
Following a rise in ransomware attacks on UK schools, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued an alert to educational institutions about the growing threat of attacks. NCSC has observed an increase in ransomware attacks on schools from late February 2021, which coincides with students returning to classrooms after an extensive period of school closures due to the pandemic.
The NCSC said there is no reason to believe that these attacks are being conducted by the same criminal group. This appears to be the work of multiple threat groups. These attacks have caused varying levels of disruption, including rendering entire networks inoperable, disabling email and websites, and hampering the ability of students to learn. In some cases, students have lost coursework as a result of the attacks, records of COVID-19 tests have been rendered inaccessible, and school financial records have been lost.
Unfortunately, even paying the ransom is no guarantee of being able to recover encrypted files. While the attackers claim they have the keys to unlock the encryption, they may not be provided. There is also no guarantee that stolen data will be deleted when the ransom is paid. There have been many cases when further ransom demands have been issued after payment has been made.
Adopt a Defense in Depth Strategy to Block Ransomware Attacks
The Department for Education (DfE) has recently urged UK schools to review their cybersecurity defenses and take the necessary steps to harden their defenses against cyberattacks. The NCSC explained that there is no single cybersecurity solution that will provide protection against these attacks. What is required is a defense in depth approach to security.
Defense in depth means implementing multiple overlapping layers of security. If one layer fails to block an attack, others are in place to block the attack.
In practice this means good patch management – applying updates to software, firmware, and operating systems promptly. Antivirus software must be installed on all devices and be kept up to date. Spam filtering solutions should be implemented to block the phishing emails that give the attackers access to the network. These filters can also be used to block email attachments that are not typically received.
Web filters should be used to block access to malicious websites. These filters inspect the content of websites to determine if it is malicious. They also categorize web content, and the filters allow schools to carefully control the types of content that students and staff can access to reduce risk.
Multi factor authentication should be implemented on all remote access points and email accounts, remote access ports that are not being used should be blocked, and a VPN should be used for remote access. The rule of least privilege should be applied for remote access and all staff and student accounts.
It is also recommended to prevent all non-administrator accounts from being able to install software, office macros should be disabled, as should autorun on portable devices.
It is also vital that all files are backed up daily and backups tested to make sure file recovery is possible. Backups should be stored on non-networked devices and must not be accessible from the systems where the data resides. Ideally, multiple backup copies should be created with at least one stored on an air-gaped device.
The threat actors behind Gootloader compromise vulnerable WordPress websites and inject hundreds of pages of fake content, often totally unrelated to the theme of the website. A broad range of websites have been compromised across many industry sectors, including retail, education, healthcare, travel, music, and many more, with the common denominator that they all use the WordPress CMS.
It is not clear how the WordPress sites have been compromised. It is possible that the sites have not been updated to the latest WordPress version or had vulnerable plugins that were exploited. Legitimate admin accounts could be compromised using brute force tactics, or other methods used.
The content added to the compromised sites takes the format of forum posts and fake message boards, providing specific questions and answers. The questions are mostly related to specific types of legal agreements and other documents. An analysis of the campaign by eSentire researchers found most of the posts on the compromised websites contained the word “agreement”. The posts have a question, such as “Do I need a party wall agreement to sell my house?” with a post added below using the exact same search term that users can click to download a template agreement.
These pages have very specific questions for which there are few search engine listings, so when search engines crawl the websites, the content ranks highly in the SERPs for that specific search term. There may be relatively few individuals searching for these particular search terms on the likes of Google, but the majority of those that do are looking for a sample agreements to download.
The content added to the websites contains malicious code that displays the malicious forum posts only to visitors from specific locations, with an underlying blog post that at first appears legitimate, but mostly contains gibberish. The blog post will be displayed to all individuals who are not specifically being targeted.
The campaign is using black hat SEO techniques to get the content listed in the SERPs, which will eventually be removed by the likes of Google; however, that process may take some time.
TitanHQ is proud to announce three of its innovative products have been named winners at the Experts Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards in the Web Security, Email Security Gateway, and Email Archiving categories.
Expert Insights helps businesses identify the most powerful, innovative, and ease to use cybersecurity solutions through its website, and helps clear up the confusion about cybersecurity solutions through objective reviews, industry analysis, and interviews with industry leaders. The top cybersecurity products are listed on the website along with reviews and ratings from genuine users of the solutions. Expert Insights now helps more than 40,000 businesses each month select the most appropriate cybersecurity solutions to meet their needs.
The leading cybersecurity companies and their products are recognized each year in the Expert insights’ “Best-Of” Awards. Products are assessed by technology experts and the Expert Insights’ Editorial Team based on many factors, including market presence, technical features of the products, ease-of-use, and ratings by verified users of the products. Winners are selected in a range of different categories such as email security, web security, endpoint security, multi-factor authentication, backup, and many more.
“2020 was an unprecedented year of cybersecurity challenges, with a rapid rise in remote working causing a massive acceleration in cybercrime,” said Craig MacAlpine, CEO and Founder, Expert Insights. “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.”
TitanHQ was recognized for the WebTitan DNS filtering solution, which was named a winner in the Web Security category, SpamTitan was named a winner in the Email Security category, and ArcTitan was named a winner in the Email Archiving category. In addition to the level of protection provided, each solution is consistently rated highly on price and ease of use by enterprises, SMBs, and Managed Service Providers. The solutions are used by more than 8,500 businesses and over 2,500 MSPs in more than 150 countries. In addition to the high ratings on Experts’ Insights, the solutions have received top marks on G2 Crowd, Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, and Google Reviews.
“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.”
CLOP Ransomware is a fairly new ransomware variant that first emerged in early 2019, when it started to be used in attacks on large enterprises in the United States, Germany, Mexico, India, and Turkey. The number of attacks has been steadily increasing, with a major increase in attacks identified in October 2020. Since then, the ransomware has been used in many attacks on large enterprises and the ransom demands are often huge. An attack on the software company Software AG saw a ransom demand issued for $20 million.
As is the case with well over a dozen of the most prolific ransomware operations, the CLOP ransomware gang exfiltrates data prior to encrypting files. If victims have a valid backup and try to recover their encrypted files without paying the ransom, the group will leak stolen data on the darkweb making it available to other cybercriminal operations. The media are tipped off to the data dumps, and the subsequent coverage can result in companies suffering serious reputational damage. In recent months there have been many class action lawsuits filed following ransomware attacks where stolen data has been leaked online.
CLOP ransomware is believed to be operated by a threat group known as FIN11, which is an arm of a prolific Russian cybercriminal organization known as TA505. FIN11 has targeted many different industries, although recently manufacturing, healthcare and retail have been a major focus. When attacks are conducted on organizations and companies in these sectors, the losses from downtime can be considerable, which increases the likelihood of victims paying the ransom. One attack on the South Korean retailer E-Land saw 23 of its stores close when they were unable to access their IT systems. An attack on the German manufacturer Symrise AG rendered more than 1,000 computers inoperable, causing huge losses as manufacturing was halted. Attacks on the healthcare industry mean patient records cannot be accessed, which places patient safety at risk.
Many ransomware gangs have exploited weaknesses in Remote Desktop Protocol, VPN solutions, and vulnerabilities in software and operating systems to gain they access they need to internal networks to deploy ransomware. However, the initial attack vector in CLOP ransomware attacks (and also many other ransomware variants) is spam email. Large scale spam campaigns are conducted, often targeting certain industry sectors or geographical locations. These are referred to as “spray and pray” campaigns. The aim is to gain access to as many networks as possible. The ransomware gang can then pick and choose which companies are worthwhile attacking with ransomware.
Once CLOP ransomware is installed, detection can be difficult as the threat group has programmed the ransomware to disable antivirus software such as Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender. The key to blocking attacks is to stop the initial infection, which means preventing the spam emails from reaching inboxes where they can be opened by employees.
Blocking the attacks requires an advanced spam filtering solution with robust antivirus protections. SpamTitan, for instance, uses dual antivirus engines to catch known malware variants and sandboxing to identify malicious attachments containing previously unknown malware, ransomware, or malicious scripts. Machine learning techniques are also employed to identify emerging threats in real time.
The spam emails used in these campaigns try to obtain credentials such Office 365 logins and passwords or get users to download malware downloaders. Additional protection against this phase of the attack can be provided by a web filter such as WebTitan. WebTitan blocks the phishing component of these attacks by preventing these malicious URLs from being accessed by employees, as well as blocking downloads of malware from the Internet.
Staff training is also important to help employees recognize phishing emails and multi-factor authentication should be implemented to prevent stolen credentials from being used to access email accounts and cloud apps.
If you want to improve your security defenses against ransomware, malware and phishing attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call and ask about SpamTitan and WebTitan. Both solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself how effective they are at blocking threats and how easy the are to implement and use.
The COVID-19 pandemic created many new opportunities for cybercriminals who were all too happy to take advantage. In 2020, businesses had to rapidly change their working practices to deal with national lockdowns and changed to a more distributed, remote workforce. In response, cybercriminals stepped up phishing attacks to obtain credentials to email accounts, VPNs, and remote access solutions.
The increase in email threats and phishing activity was recently highlighted by the Anti-Phishing Working Group which has been gathering data on phishing attacks from its member organizations throughout the year. Its latest report shows phishing attacks doubled in 2020, peaking in October 2020 when previous records were shattered. In October, 225,304 new phishing sites were detected, compared with under 100,000 in January 2020. From August to December 2020, more than 200,000 new phishing sites were detected each month.
Links to these phishing websites are sent in large scale phishing campaigns and many of the messages land in inboxes where they attract a click. The pandemic made that much easier for cybercriminals who expertly exploited the thirst for knowledge about COVID-19 to conduct their scams. As the year progressed other COVID-19 themed lures were used including COVID-19 relief payments for businesses, offers of early vaccines, small business loans, tax deadline extensions, and many more.
Cybercriminals often use compromised websites for hosting their phishing forms, but it is now much more common for the attackers to purchase their own domains that are tailored for each phishing campaign. These lookalike domains can easily fool individuals into believing they are on a legitimate website.
Cybercriminals have also been using encryption to hide their phishing URLs and fool employees. Hosting phishing URLs on HTTPS sites can fool employees into believing the web content is genuine, and many security solutions do not examine encrypted content which makes the URLs hard to identify and block. In Q4, 2020, 84% of phishing URLs used SSL encryption.
The increase in use of SSL encryption is a concern, as many people mistakenly believe that a site starting with HTTPS is secure when that is not the case. SSL inspection means the connection between the browser and the website is secure, which means users are protected against the interception of sensitive information, but a cybercriminal may own or control that website. The secure connection just means other cybercriminals will not be able to intercept login credentials as they are entered on a phishing site.
The problem for businesses has been how to block these threats as they grow in number and sophistication. Many businesses have previously relied on Office 365 anti-spam protections for blocking spam and phishing threats, but large volumes of these malicious emails are delivered to Office 365 inboxes. When that happens and a malicious link is clicked, they have no way of stopping employees from disclosing sensitive information.
One way that businesses can better protect against these phishing attacks is by implementing a web filtering solution with SSL inspection. WebTitan for instance can decrypt websites, inspect the content, and then re-encrypt which means malicious websites are not hidden and can be identified and blocked.
WebTitan also incorporates multiple threat intelligent feeds to ensure that as soon as a phishing URL is detected, all WebTitan users will be immediately protected. WebTitan ensures that protection is provided against emerging phishing URLs and zero-minute threats. When combined with an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block phishing emails at source and ensure they do not reach inboxes, businesses will be well protected against phishing attacks.
In 2020, the healthcare industry was heavily targeted by ransomware gangs who took advantage of the pandemic to hit the very hospitals that were trying to save patients’ lives. Battling under extremely challenging conditions, the healthcare industry had to cope with these highly damaging and disruptive ransomware attacks that placed patient safety at risk.
A major ransomware attack hit one of the largest healthcare providers in the United States. Universal Health Services, an American Fortune 500 company which employees 90,000 individuals and runs 400 acute care hospitals, suffered a major ransomware attack in September which impacted all of its hospitals. Staff were forced to work on pen and paper for three weeks while it recovered from the attack.
A cyberattack on University of Vermont Medical Center in October affected more than 5,000 hospital computers and laptops and 1,300 servers. All devices had to be wiped and have software and data reinstalled, with the healthcare provider experiencing downtime for more than 2 months. During the recovery process around $1.5 million was being lost per day to attack-related expenses and lost business, with the total costs expected to exceed $64 million.
Ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry were stepped up in September and October and continued to plague the industry for the remainder of the year. A study by Tenable found that ransomware attacks accounted for 46% of all healthcare data breaches in 2020, showing the extent to which the industry was targeted.
Many of these attacks involved the exploitation of unpatched vulnerabilities, most commonly vulnerabilities in the Citrix ADC controller and Pulse Connect Secure VPN. Patches had been released at the start of the year to fix the vulneabilities, but the patches had not been applied promptly. Phishing emails also gave ransomware gangs the access to healthcare networks they needed to conduct ransomware attacks. Check Point’s research indicates there was a 45% increase in cyberattacks on the industry from the start of November to the end of the year.
Another industry heavily targeted by hackers in 2020 was retail. Retailers were also incredibly busy as a result of the pandemic. With governments ordering people to stay home to curb the spread of the virus, online retailers saw a sales surge as shoppers made their purchases online rather than in bricks and mortar stores. Researchers at Salesforce found digital sales increased by 36% in 2020 compared to the previous year, and cybercriminals took advantage of the increase in online sales.
Several methods were used to gain access to retailers’ systems and websites, with the most popular tactic being web application attacks, which increased by 800% in 2020 according to the CDNetworks State of Web Security H1 2020 Report. Attackers also used credentials stolen in past data breaches to attack online retail outlets in credential stuffing attacks, which Akamai’s tracking revealing the retail industry was the most attacked industry using this attack technique, account for around 90% of attacks.
As is normal every year, the large numbers of shoppers that head online to make purchases in the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday were exploited, with phishing attacks related to these shopping events increasing thirteenfold in the six-week run up to Black Friday. In November, 1 in every 826 emails was an online shopping related phishing scam, compared to 1 in 11,000 in October, according to Check Point. Content management systems used by retailers were also targeted, and attacks on retail APIs also increased in 2020.
As we head into 2021, both sectors are likely to continue to be heavily targeted. Ransomware and phishing attacks on healthcare providers could well increase now that vaccines are being rolled out, and with many consumers still opting to buy online rather than in person, the retail sector looks set to have another bad year.
Fortunately, by following cybersecurity best practices it is possible to block the majority of these attacks. Patches need to be applied promptly, especially any vulnerabilities in remote access software, VPNs, or popular networking equipment, as those vulnerabilities are rapidly exploited.
An advanced anti-phishing solution needs to be implemented to block phishing attacks at source and ensure that malicious messages do not get delivered to inboxes. Multi-factor authentication should also be implemented on email accounts and remote access solutions to block credential stuffing attacks.
A web filter is important for blocking the web-based component of phishing and cyberattacks. Web filters stop employees from visiting malicious websites and block malware/ ransomware downloads and C2 callbacks. And for retail especially, the use of web application firewalls, secure transaction processing, and the correct use of Transport Layer Security across a website (HTTPS) are important.
By following cybersecurity best practices, healthcare providers, retailers, and other targeted industries will make it much harder for hackers to succeed. TitanHQ can help by providing SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security to protect against email and web-based attacks in 2021. For more information on these two solutions and how you can use them to protect your busines, call TitanHQ today.
Cybercriminals use many tactics to obtain credentials that they then use to remotely access corporate accounts, cloud services, and gain access to business networks. Phishing is the most common method, which is most commonly conducted via email. Attackers craft emails using a variety of lures to trick the recipient into visiting a malicious website where they are required to enter their credentials that are captured and used by the attackers to remotely access the accounts.
Businesses are now realizing the benefits of implementing an advanced spam filtering solution to block these phishing emails at source and ensure they do not reach inboxes. Advanced antispam and anti-phishing solutions will block virtually all phishing attempts, so if you have yet to implement such a solution or you are relying on Microsoft Office 365 protections, we urge you to get in touch and give SpamTitan a trial.
Phishing is not only performed via email. Rather than using email to deliver the hook, many threat groups use SMS or instant messaging platforms and increasing numbers of phishing campaigns are now being conducted by telephone and these types of phishing attack are harder to block.
Smishing for Credentials
When phishing occurs through SMS messages it is known as Smishing. Rather than an email, an SMS message is sent with a link that users are instructed to click. Instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp are also used. Many different lures are used, but it is common for security alerts to be sent that warn the recipient about a fraudulent transaction or other security threat that requires them to login to their account.
Recently, Allied Irish Bank (AIB) customers in Ireland were targeted with such as smishing campaign. The SMS message advises the recipient that there has been a suspected fraudulent transaction which they are required to review by clicking a link and logging in. Their credentials are harvested, and they are instructed to provide codes from their card reader or one-time passwords as part of the security check. Doing so will allow the scammers to access the account and make fraudulent transactions. A variation on this theme involves the user being told they have been locked out of their account.
In this campaign the scammers use a URL on the domain secureonlineservicepayeeroi.com, although these domains frequently change. Many campaigns mask the destination URL using URL shortening services, and one recent campaign conducted by an Iranian threat group used a seemingly legitimate google.com URL and several redirects before the user landed on the phishing page. Smishing is also often used in PayPal phishing attacks using messages warning about the closure of an account.
Vishing Attacks on Businesses Spike
In December 2019, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified a campaign where cybercriminals were conducting phishing over the telephone – termed vishing. Since then, the number of cases of vishing attacks has increased, prompting the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to issue a joint alert in the summer about a campaign targeting remote workers. This month, the FBI has issued a further alert following a spike in vishing attacks on businesses.
Cybercriminals often target users with high levels of privileges, but not always. There has been a growing trend for cybercriminals to target all credentials, so all users are at risk. Once one set of credentials is obtained, attempts are made to elevate privileges and reconnaissance is performed to identify targets in the company with the level of permissions they need – I.e. permissions to perform email changes.
The scammers make VoIP calls to employees and convince them to visit a webpage where they need to login. In one attack, an employee of the company was found in the company’s chatroom, and was contacted and convinced to login to their company’s VPN on a fake VPN page. Credentials were obtained and used to perform reconnaissance. Another target was identified that likely had advanced permissions, and that individual was contacted and scammed into revealing their credentials.
How to Block Smishing and Vishing Attacks
Blocking these types of phishing attacks requires a combination of measures. In contrast to email phishing, these threats cannot be easily blocked at source. It is therefore important to cover these threats in security awareness training sessions as well as warning about the risks of email phishing.
A web filtering solution is recommended to block attempts to visit the malicious domains where the phishing pages are hosted. Web filters such as WebTitan can be used to control the websites that employees can access on their corporate-issued phones and mobile devices and will provide protection no matter where an employee accesses the Internet.
It is also important to set up multifactor authentication to prevent any stolen credentials from being used by attackers to remotely access accounts. The FBI also recommends granting network access using the rule of least privilege: ensuring users are only given access to the resources they need to complete their jobs. The FBI also recommends regularly scanning and auditing user access rights given and monitoring for any changes in permissions.