2017 Sees Huge Rise in Malware Attacks on Schools

2017 has seen a major rise in malware attacks on schools. While cybercriminals have conducted attacks using a variety of different malware, one of the biggest problems is ransomware. Ransomware is malicious code that encrypts files, systems and even master file tables, preventing victims from accessing their data. The attack is accompanied by a ransom demand. Victims are required to pay a ransom amount per infected device. The ransom payments can range from a couple of hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars per device. Ransom demands of tens of thousands of dollars are now common.

Data can be recovered from a backup, but only if a viable backup of data exists. All too often, backup files are also encrypted, making recovery impossible unless the ransom is paid.

Ransomware attacks can be random, with the malicious code installed via large-scale spam email campaigns involving millions of messages. In other cases, schools are targeted. Cybercriminals are well aware that cybersecurity defenses in schools are often poor and ransoms are more likely to be paid because schools cannot function without access to their data.

Other forms of malware are used to record sensitive information such as login credentials. These are then relayed back to the attackers and are used to gain access to school networks. The attackers search for sensitive personal information such as tax details, Social Security numbers and other information that can be used for identity theft. With ransomware, attacks are discovered immediately as ransom notes are placed on computers and files cannot be accessed. Keyloggers and other forms of information stealing malware often take many months to detect.

Recent malware attacks on schools have resulted in entire networks being sabotaged. The NotPetya attacks involved a form of malware that encrypts the master file table, preventing the computer from locating stored data. In this case, the aim of the attacks was to sabotage critical infrastructure. There was no way of recovering the encrypted MFT apart from with a full system restore.

The implications of malware attacks on schools can be considerable. Malware attacks on schools result in considerable financial losses, data can be lost or stolen, hardware can be rendered useless and educational institutions can face prosecution or law suits as a result of attacks. In some cases, schools have been forced to turn students away while they resolve infections and bring their systems back online.

Major Malware Attacks on Schools in 2017

Listed below are some of the major malware attacks on schools that have been reported in 2017. This is just a very small selection of the large number of malware attacks on schools in the past 6 months.

Minnesota School District Closed for a Day Due to Malware Attack

Malware attacks on schools can have major consequences for students. In March, the Cloquet School District in Minnesota experienced a ransomware attack that resulted in significant amounts of data being encrypted, preventing files from being accessed. The attackers issued a ransom demand of $6,000 for the keys to unlock the encryption. The school district is technology-focused, so without access to its systems, lessons were severely disrupted. The school even had to close for the day while IT support staff restored data. In this case, sensitive data were not compromised, although the disruption caused was severe. The ransomware is understood to have been installed as a result of a member of staff opening a phishing email that installed the ransomware on the network.

Swedesboro-Woolwich School District Suffers Cryptoransomware Attack

The Swedesboro-Woolwich School District in New Jersey comprises four elementary schools and has approximately 2,000 students. It too suffered a crypto-ransomware attack that took its computer systems out of action. The attack occurred on March 22, resulting in documents and spreadsheets being encrypted, although student data were apparently unaffected.

The attack took a significant part of the network out of action, including the District’s internal and external communications systems and even its point-of-sale system used by students to pay for their lunches. The school was forced to resort to pen and paper while the infection was removed. Its network administrator said, “It’s like 1981 again!”

Los Angeles Community College District Pays $28,000 Ransom

Ransomware was installed on the computer network of the Los Angeles County College District, not only taking workstations out of action but also email and its voicemail system. Hundreds of thousands of files were encrypted, with the incident affecting most of the 1,800 staff and 20,000 students. A ransom demand of $28,000 was issued by the attackers. The school had no option but to pay the ransom to unlock the encryption.

Calallen Independent School District Reports Ransomware Attack

The Calallen Independent School District in northwestern Corpus Christi, TX, is one of the latest victims of a ransomware attack. In June, the attack started with a workstation before spreading to other systems. In this case, no student data were compromised or stolen and the IT department was able to act quickly and shut down affected parts of the network, halting its spread. However, the attack still caused considerable disruption while servers and systems were rebuilt. The school district also had to pay for improvements to its security system to prevent similar attacks from occurring.

Preventing Malware and Ransomware Attacks on Schools

Malware attacks on schools can occur via a number of different vectors. The NotPetya attacks took advantage of software vulnerabilities that had not been addressed. In this case, the attackers were able to exploit the vulnerabilities remotely with no user interaction required. A patch to correct the vulnerabilities had been issued by Microsoft two months before the attacks occurred. Prompt patching would have prevented the attacks.

Software vulnerabilities are also exploited via exploit kits – hacking kits loaded on malicious websites that probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins and leverage those vulnerabilities to silently download ransomware and malware. Ensuring browsers and plugins are 100% up to date can prevent these attacks. However, it is not possible to ensure all computers are 100% up to date, 100% of the time. Further, there is usually a delay between an exploit being developed and a patch being released. These web-based malware attacks on schools can be prevented by using a web filtering solution. A web filter can block attempts by end users to access malicious websites that contain exploit kits or malware.

By far the most common method of malware delivery is spam email. Malware – or malware downloaders – are sent as malicious attachments in spam emails. Opening the attachments results in infection. Links to websites that download malware are also sent via spam email. Users can be prevented from visiting those malicious sites if a web filter is employed, while an advanced spam filtering solution can block malware attacks on schools by ensuring malicious emails are not delivered to end users’ inboxes.

TitanHQ Can Help Schools, Colleges and Universities Improve Defenses Against Malware

TitanHQ offers two cybersecurity solutions that can prevent malware attacks on schools. WebTitan is a 100% cloud-based web filter that prevents end users from visiting malicious websites, including phishing sites and those that download malware and ransomware.

WebTitan requires no hardware, involves no software downloads and is quick and easy to install, requiring no technical skill. WebTitan can also be used to block access to inappropriate website content such as pornography, helping schools comply with CIPA.

SpamTitan is an advanced spam filtering solution for schools that blocks more than 99.9% of spam email and prevents malicious messages from being delivered to end users. Used in conjunction with WebTitan, schools will be well protected from malware and ransomware attacks.

To find out more about WebTitan and SpamTitan and for details of pricing, contact the TitanHQ team today. Both solutions are also available on a 30-day no-obligation free trial, allowing you to test both products to find out just how effective they are at blocking cyberthreats.

Secure WiFi Access for Shops to Attract More Repeat Business

Providing free WiFi in shops helps to attract more foot traffic and improves the shopping experience, although retailers are now realizing the benefits of providing secure WiFi access for shops. Over the past two years, there has been considerable media coverage of the dangers of public WiFi hotspots. Consumer websites are reporting horrifying cases of identity theft and fraud with increasing regularity.

With public awareness of the risks of connecting to public WiFi networks now much greater than ever before, secure WiFi access for shops has never been more important. Consumers now expect free WiFi access in shops, but they also want to ensure that connecting to those WiFi networks will not result in a malware infection or their personal information being obtained by hackers.

Fortunately, there are solutions that can easily be adopted by retailers that mitigate the risks and ensure consumers can connect to WiFi networks safely, but before we cover those options, let’s look a little more closely at the risks associated with unsecured WiFi networks.

The Risks of Unsecured WiFi Networks

If retailers provide free WiFi access in store it helps to attract more foot traffic, individuals are encouraged to stay in stores for longer, they have access to information and reviews about products and studies have shown that customers spend more when free WiFi is provided. A survey by iGT, conducted in 2014, showed that more than 6 out of ten customers spend longer in shops that provide WiFi access and approximately 50% of customers spend more money.

Connecting to a public WiFi network is different from connecting to a home network. For a start, considerably more people connect, including individuals who are intent on stealing information for identity theft and fraud. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common. Man-in-the-middle attacks involve a hacker intercepting or altering communications between a customer and a website. If login details or other sensitive information is entered, a hacker can obtain that information.

Malware and ransomware can be downloaded onto users’ devices and phishing websites can easily be accessed if secure WiFi access for shops is not provided. Consumers typically have Internet security solutions in place on home networks that block these malicious websites. They expect the same protections on retailers’ WiFi networks. Malware poses a significant threat. Alcatel-Lucent, a French telecommunications company, reports that malware attacks on mobile devices are increasing by 25% per year.

Then there is the content that can be accessed. Recently, before Starbucks took steps to block the accessing of pornography via its WiFi networks, the coffee shop chain received a lot of criticism from consumers who had caught glimpses of other customers accessing pornography on their devices.

Secure WiFi Access for Shops Brings Many Benefits

The provision of secure WiFi access for shops tells customers you are committed to ensuring they can access the Internet safely and securely on your premises. It tells parents that you are committed to protecting minors and ensuring they can access the Internet without being exposed to adult content. It tells consumers that you care, which helps to improves the image of your brand. It is also likely to result in positive online reviews.

Providing secure WiFi access for shops makes it easier for you to gain an insight into customer behavior. A web filtering solution will provide you with reports on the sites that your consumers are accessing. This allows you to profile your customers and find out more about their interests. You can see what sites they access, which can guide your future advertising programs and help you develop more effective marketing campaigns. You can also find out more about your real competitors from customers browsing habits.

The provision of secure WiFi access for shops will also help you to reduce legal liability. If you do not block illegal activities on your WiFi network, such as file sharing (torrents) sites, you could face legal action for allowing the downloading of pirated material. The failure to block pornography could result in a lawsuit if a minor is not prevented from accessing adult content.

WebTitan – Secure WiFi Access for Shops Made Simple

Secure WiFi access for shops doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. TitanHQ offers a solution that is cost effective, easy to implement, requires no technical skill, has no effect on Internet speed and the solution can protect any number of shops in any number of locations. The filtering solution can be managed from an intuitive web-based graphical user interface for all WiFi access points, and a full suite of reports provides you with invaluable insights into customer behavior.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a 100% cloud-based DNS filtering solution. Point your DNS records to WebTitan and you will be filtering the Internet in minutes and blocking undesirable, dangerous and illegal web content. You do not need any additional hardware, you do not need to download any software and configuring the filtering settings typically takes about 30 minutes.

To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, including details of pricing and to register for a 30-day, no obligation free trial, contact TitanHQ today.

Why is Internet and WiFi Filtering in Hospitals is so Important?

Hospitals have invested heavily in solutions to secure the network perimeter, although Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals can easily be forgotten. Network and software firewalls have their uses, although IT security staff know all too well that cyberattacks targeting employees can see those defenses bypassed.

A common weak point in security is WiFi networks. IT security teams may have endpoint protection systems installed, but not on mobile devices that connect to WiFi networks.

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, that signals a huge pay day for a hacker.

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 if it is encrypted by ransomware. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 for the keys to unlock its ransomware infection in February last year. It was one of several hospitals to give in to attackers’ demands.

The Hospital WiFi Environment is a Potential Gold Mine for Cybercriminals

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, there are laptops, tablets and an increasing number of medical devices connected to the networks. As use of mobile devices in healthcare continues to grow and the explosion in IoT devices continues, the risk of attacks on the WiFi environment will only ever increase.

Patients also connect to hospital WiFi networks, as do visitors. They too need to be protected from malware and ransomware when connected to hospital guest WiFi networks.

Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals is therefore no longer an option, it should be part of the cybersecurity strategy for all healthcare organizations.

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 gain access to 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 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 to ensure all users can still 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 and undesirable content is not just about protecting patients and visitors. It also reduces legal liability.

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, set up 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 graphical user interface. Separate filtering controls can be applied for different locations, user groups or even individuals. Since the solution links in with Active Directory the process is quick and simple. Separate content controls can easily be set for guests, visitors and staff, including 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 Sort, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi gives you control over what happens on your WiFI network.

To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, details of pricing and to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Secure WiFi for Hotels Demanded by Guests

Hotel guests used to choose hotels based on whether free WiFi was available, now free WiFi is no longer enough – secure WiFi for hotels is required to ensure the Internet can be accessed safely, a fast connection is essential and the WiFi signal must be reliable.

Even budget hotels know the attractive power of free WiFi and how much easier it is to attract guests with free, reliable Internet access. Forrester Research conducted a survey back in 2013 that showed 90% of hotel guests considered free WiFi access to be the most important hotel amenity, while 34% of respondents said when it comes to choosing a hotel, free WiFi was a deal breaker when choosing a place to stay.

Providing Free WiFi is No Longer Enough

Now that most hotels are offering free WiFi, travelers have become much more discerning. Free WiFi access is no longer sufficient. Hotel guests want reliable access, good Internet speeds, sufficient bandwidth to stream music and videos and secure WiFi for hotels is similarly important. Hotels now need to improve their WiFi networks to continue to attract business.

A quick look on TripAdvisor and other review sites is all it takes to assess the quality of the Internet connection. There are even websites dedicated to providing this information. A poor WiFi signal is one of the most common complaints about hotels.

Providing an excellent Internet connection may not mean a 5-star review is guaranteed – but one or two-star reviews can be expected if the Internet connection or WiFi coverage is poor.

If you really want to attract more guests, provide free WiFi access. If you want to gain a serious competitive advantage, ensure all rooms have an excellent signal, there is sufficient bandwidth and make sure your network is secure. Guests now expect the same protections they have at home.

Common Problems with Hotel WiFi Networks

Listed below are some of the common problems reported by guests about hotel WiFi

Problems connecting more than one device to the network – Hotels often have WiFi networks with limited bandwidth. Restrictions may be in place that only allow one device to be connected per room. For a couple or family, that is no longer sufficient. Most guests will require at least two devices to be connected simultaneously per room, without Internet speed dropping to a snail’s pace.

Parents do not want their children to be able to access porn – A night in a hotel should be a relaxing experience. Parents do not want to have to spend their time policing the Internet. They want controls in place to make sure adult content cannot be accessed by their kids.

Connecting to guest WiFi should be safe and secure – Guests should be protected from malware and ransomware infections and steps should be taken by the hotel operator to reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks. Safe and secure WiFi for hotels is essential. Accessing hotel WiFi should not result in nasties being transferred to guests’ devices. Safe and secure WiFi for hotels is especially important for business travelers. They should be able to enter their usernames and passwords without risking an account compromise.

Bandwidth issues are a major bugbear – If some guests are streaming video to their devices, it should not prevent other users from accessing the Internet or enjoying reasonable Internet speeds. Even at busy times, all guests should be able to connect.

How to Resolve these Problems?

Bandwidth is a major issue. Increasing bandwidth comes at a cost. If free WiFi is provided, it is difficult to recover that expenditure. There are solutions however. Hotels can offer free WiFi access to all guests, yet block streaming sites and other bandwidth-heavy activities. If guests want to be able to stream video, they could be offered a premium service and be charged for non-standard access. The same could apply to adult content. Hotels could offer family-friendly WiFi as standard, with a paid for service having fewer restrictions.

Secure WiFi for hotels is a must. Hotels can implement solutions that block malware and prevent guests from accessing phishing websites. Providing an encrypted connection is also essential. Guests should be able to login to their accounts without being spied on.

Secure WiFi for Hotels Made Simple

A web content filter can be used to resolve the above problems and ensure safe and secure Internet access for all guests. Arranging secure WiFi for hotels is simple with TitanHQ.

TitanHQ’s WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a content filter with a difference. The solution can be deployed on existing hardware with no need for any software installations.  Once installed, it is simple to manage, with updates to the system occurring automatically. Users don’t even need any technical expertise. The solution can be implemented and accounts set up in minutes. It doesn’t matter how many hotels you operate, all can be protected with ease through a central control panel that can be accessed from any location.

Secure WiFi for Hotels from TitanHQ

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allows hotel operators to:

  • Control content and online activities without any impact on Internet speed
  • Block pornography and other inappropriate content to make the WiFi network family-friendly
  • Prevent users from engaging in illegal activity
  • Block phishing websites
  • Prevent malware and ransomware downloads
  • Restrict bandwidth-heavy activities such as video and music streaming services
  • Create user groups with different restrictions, allowing streaming or adult content for specific user groups
  • Set web filtering controls for different access points
  • Manage content filtering for multiple hotels with ease, no matter where in the world they are located

To find out more about all of the benefits of WebTitan Cloud for Wifi, how secure WiFi for hotels can be provided, details of prices and to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today. Your guests will thank you for it.

Why Secure Guest WiFi for Business is So Important

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 to considerable risk.

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 sale will be made elsewhere.

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 them to collect contact details for future marketing and business can gain valuable customer insights.

However, 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 more 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 control over accessible website content to access inappropriate material such as pornography. Individuals could engage in morally or ethically questionable activities. They may accidentally or deliberately install malware or ransomware, or visit phishing websites. Secure guest WiFi for business means protecting yourself and your customers. Secure guest WiFi for business visitors and it will ensure they are protected when connected to your network, preventing man-in-the-middle attacks, malware downloads and blocking phishing attacks. You will also be protected from 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. Before providing WiFi access be sure to consider the points below:

Network Segregation

Segregating 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 internal network must be totally separate from the network used by guests. It should not be possible for guests to 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, it will not spread from the guest network to your internal network.

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 rogue access points to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks.

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. 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 on a monthly basis.

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 encryption. You can then post the SSID and password in your business to make it easy for legitimate users to gain access to your network.

Secure Guest WiFi for Business Means Content Filtering

Secure guest WiFi for business means adding some controls over the content that can be accessed on your WiFi network. Content filtering is a must. You should block access to adult content – which includes pornography, gambling sites and other web content that is ethically or morally questionable. A web filtering solution will also protect your customers from accidental malware and ransomware downloads while blocking phishing websites. 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.