Month: August 2019
The year 2018 saw a reduction in ransomware attacks on businesses as cybercriminals opted for alternative means to make money. Major ransomware attacks were still occurring, just at a slightly lower rate than in 2017.
Some reports were released that suggested ransomware was no longer such a massive threat as it was in 2016 and 2017, but the number of reported attacks in 2019 have shown that is definitely not the case. Any business that has not implemented defenses to protect against ransomware attacks could well be the next victim and have to pay millions to recover from an attack.
Make no mistake. Ransomware is one of the most dangerous threats faced by businesses. If ransomware is installed on the network, all files, including backups, could be encrypted. That could prove catastrophic, as one small Michigan medical practice discovered.
The two-doctor practice in Battle Creek, MI suffered an attack that resulted in the encryption of all patient data. A ransom demand was issued by the attackers, but as there was no guarantee that files could be recovered after the ransom was paid, the decision was taken not to pay up. The hackers then deleted all the encrypted files. Faced with having to rebuild the practice from scratch, the doctors decided to call it quits and took early retirement.
Ransomware attacks on healthcare providers are now being reported at an alarming rate and government entities, cities, and municipalities are being extensively targeted. The city of Baltimore suffered a major attack in May involving a ransomware variant called RobbinHood. The attack brought down the city’s servers and systems, causing major disruption across the city. A ransom of $6 million was paid for the keys to regain access to the encrypted files.
Two small cities in Florida also suffered major attacks. Lake City was forced to pay a ransom of $460,000 and Riviera Beach paid a ransom of $600,000, while Jackson County in Georgia paid $400,000 after its court system was attacked.
As the year has progressed, the attacks have increased. A report from Malwarebytes indicates there was a 195% increase in ransomware attacks in Q1, 2019. Figures from Kaspersky Lab show ransomware attacks almost doubled in Q2, 2019, with 46% more attacks reported than the corresponding period in 2018.
The increase in attacks means businesses need to be prepared and have the necessary security tools in place to make it difficult for the attacks to succeed.
There is no one cybersecurity solution that can be implemented to eliminate the threat of attack, as hackers are using a variety of methods to gain access to networks and download their malicious payloads. Layered defenses are key to repelling an attack.
Email is the primary method of delivering ransomware. All it takes if for a malicious email to arrive in an inbox and for an employee to be fooled into opening a malicious attachment or clicking on a hyperlink for ransomware to be installed. An advanced email filtering solution such as SpamTitan Cloud is therefore needed to block malicious emails and ensure they do not reach employees’ inboxes.
SpamTItan includes Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) to block email impersonation attacks and a sandbox where suspicious attachments can be executed in safety and studied for malicious activity. Sandboxing is essential as it allows zero-day ransomware threats to be identified and blocked.
Not all attacks occur via email. Attacks over the Internet are also common. A web filtering solution should therefore be implemented to block these web-based attacks. A web filter will prevent employees from accessing known malicious sites where ransomware is automatically downloaded. With these two technical measures in place, businesses will be well protected from attacks. Along with security awareness training for staff and the adoption of good data backup practices, businesses can mount a strong defense against ransomware attacks.
Taxpayers and tax professionals are being targeted by scammers posing as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The goal of this new IRS tax return phishing scam is to deliver information-stealing malware. The malware harvests credentials that are used to gain access to and empty financial accounts.
The campaign uses at least two subject lines for the emails – “Electronic Tax Return Reminder” and “Automatic Income Tax Reminder.” The emails contain a hyperlink that directs the user to a website that closely resembles the IRS.gov website. The emails include a one-time password to use to login in to submit a claim for a tax refund.
When the user logs in to the site, they are told that they need to download a file in order to submit their refund. The file is actually keylogging malware which records keystrokes on an infected computer and sends a range of sensitive information to the attackers.
The IRS warning was issued after several taxpayers and tax professionals reported the phishing emails to the IRS. Efforts are ongoing to disrupt the campaign, but the IRS notes that dozens of compromised websites and malicious URLs are being used by the scammers. The IRS is contacting hosting companies to get the websites shut down, but the number of URLs being used makes this a major challenge. As soon as one URL is shut down, there are others to take its place.
The offer of a tax refund or a threat of legal action over tax issues prompts many people to click without first assessing the content of the message and the legitimacy of the request, which is what the scammers are banking on.
The advice of the IRS is never to click on any link in an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media channels, and no requests are sent for personal information.
The latest warning comes just a couple of months after the IRS and Security Summit partners issued a reminder that all professional tax preparers are required by law – The FTC Safeguards Rule – to implement a written information security plan to ensure the tax information of their clients is properly protected.
The reminder was issued as it had become clear that many tax professionals were unaware of their obligations to implement a security plan to protect client tax data.
There are several required elements of the information security plan:
- Designate an employee or employees to coordinate the information security plan
- Conduct a risk analysis to identify risks to the confidentiality of client data
- Assess the effectiveness of current safeguards
- Implement, monitor, and test the safeguards program
- Only use service providers that can maintain appropriate safeguards and oversee the handling of client data
- Evaluate and update the security program, as appropriate, in response to changes to business practices and operations
The requirements for the information security plan are flexible. For instance, tax preparers can choose the safeguards to implement based on their own circumstances and the findings of their risk analyses.
Two important safeguards that protect businesses from phishing and malware attacks are a spam filter and a web filter. The spam filter protects the email system by identifying and blocking malicious messages such as phishing emails and malspam (malicious spam email), while a web filter blocks web-based attacks and malware downloads. Both of these solutions are highly effective at blocking phishing and malware attacks yet are cheap to implement.
To find out more about how spam filters and web filters can protect your business and help you meet your legal responsibilities contact TitanHQ today.
A highly convincing Instagram phishing campaign has been identified that uses warnings about attempted fraudulent logins to trick users into visiting a phishing webpage where they are required to confirm their identity by signing in to their account.
The messages include the Instagram logo with a warning that someone attempted to login to the user’s Instagram account. The message is a virtual carbon copy of the genuine 2-factor authentication messages that are sent to users to confirm their identity when a suspicious login attempt is detected.
The messages include a 6-digit code that must be entered when logging into the account, together with an embedded “sign in” hyperlink. The user is told to login to confirm their identity and secure their account.
The messages are well written, although there are some punctuation errors which suggest that the email may not be what it seems. These could easily be overlooked by someone worried that their account has been hacked.
Not only is the message almost identical to Instagram’s 2FA warning, the website to which the user is directed is also a perfect clone of the genuine Instagram login page. The webpage has a valid SSL certificate and starts with HTTPS and displays the green padlock to confirm that the connection between the browser and the web page is secure.
The only sign that the web page is not genuine is the domain name. The scammers have chosen a free .CF – Central African Republic – domain name, which is a clear indication that the web page is a fake. However, the presence of HTTPS and a green padlock could fool many people into providing their login credentials in the mistaken belief they are on a secure website.
Many people mistakenly believe that the presence of HTTPS at the start of a website and a green padlock means the website is genuine and secure. However, the green padlock only means the connection between the browser and the website is secure and any sensitive information provided to the website will be protected against unauthorized access in a man-in-the-middle attack. It does not mean the content on the webpage is genuine.
HTTPS websites are often used for phishing as many people look for the green padlock to confirm that the website is secure. Unfortunately, SSL certificates are often provided for free by hosting companies and checks on site content are not conducted.
This is an important issue for businesses to cover in security awareness training. Employees should be taught the true meaning of the green padlock and told to always check the domain name carefully before disclosing any sensitive information.
Businesses can further improve their defenses against phishing with a web filtering solution such as WebTitan. With WebTitan in place, businesses can carefully control the types of website that their employees can visit on their work computers. WebTitan also prevents users from accessing any website known to be used for phishing, malware distribution, or other malicious purposes. WebTitan also performs checks in real-time to assess the legitimacy of a website. If the checks are failed, the user is presented with a block screen and will not be able to access the site.
For further information on how a web filter can improve your organization’s security posture and better protect the business from phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A new phishing campaign has been detected that uses Google Drive links to avoid detection by Office 365 Exchange Online Protection and ensure messages are delivered to inboxes.
The emails, reported through Cofense Intelligence, impersonated the CEO of the company who was attempting to share an important document. The document had been shared via Google Drive and came with the message, “Important message from – CEO.”
Google Drive allows files and collaboration requests to be easily sent to other individuals. The account holder chooses who to share a file with and the system generates an email alert containing a link to the shared file.
In this case, the name of the CEO was correct, but the email address used was different to the format used by the company. While this is a clear sign that the emails are not what they seem, some employees would likely be fooled by the message.
Importantly, the messages are not detected as malicious by EOP and are delivered to inboxes. A scan of the message would reveal nothing untoward, as the embedded URL is a legitimate shared link to a genuine cloud service operated by Google.
The shared document itself is not malicious, but it does link to another Google Docs document and a phishing URL. Any anti-phishing solution that only assesses the embedded hyperlink in the email to determine whether it is malicious would allow the email to be delivered. Only a deeper inspection would reveal the true nature of the URL.
If the link is visited by an end user, a fake login window is presented. If login credentials are entered, they are captured and stored on the attacker’s server.
This campaign highlights the importance of multi-layered anti-phishing defenses and the risks of relying on EOP to provide protection against phishing attacks.
An advanced spam filtering solution should be implemented on top of Office 365 to provide greater protection from phishing and other email-based attacks. This will ensure more sophisticated phishing attacks are blocked.
If a malicious message is delivered and a link is clicked, the connection to the malicious webpage could be blocked using a web filtering solution.
WebTitan is a DNS-based content filtering solution that serves as an additional layer in organization’s anti-phishing defenses. Should an attempt be made by an employee to visit a malicious website or suspicious domain, the attempt would be blocked before any content is downloaded. WebTitan assesses each website when the DNS query is made. Malicious websites and those that violate an organization’s content control policies are blocked.
To find out more about how a DNS filter can improve your defenses against phishing attacks and malware downloads, contact TitanHQ today.
Malware creators are constantly developing new techniques to circumvent traditional anti-virus defenses and ensure their malicious code can run undetected on a targeted machine.
Zero-day malware variants, those which have never been seen before, are not picked up by signature-based AV solutions. However, the malware will need to communicate with its owner, so the source code will contain URLs and IPs for that purpose. These URLs can be detected when scanning files. If the URLS are detected and they are known to be malicious, the file will be deemed to be malicious and will be quarantined.
To ensure this does not happen, malware developers use a variety of techniques to hide the URLs and IPs in the source code. This is often achieved by converting the IP address into a decimal value, which is stored as XML content. When in decimal format, even a malicious URL would not be detected as such by most antivirus software. When the IP address is needed by the malware, it can be converted back to its original form and then reconverted to digital when no longer required.
Similarly, a URL – or part of a URL – could be encoded in its hexadecimal equivalent. That URL would be unlikely to be detected as malicious yet can be read by a browser. AV software would likely detect the file example.com/maliciousfile.exe as malicious in nature and would block it accordingly. In hexadecimal, that translates to:
That address would not be recognizable as malicious and would likely go undetected during a scan by an AV solution. The use of both obfuscation techniques together is not unusual, to make it even harder for AV solutions to detect malicious URLs and IPs.
While these techniques can be used to fool endpoint AV solutions, connections to those malicious servers can be blocked using a DNS-based content filter such as WebTitan.
It doesn’t matter how the URL or IP address is masked. Before a connection can be made, it is necessary to make a DNS query, and the collection must be permitted by the DNS-based filter. If the URL is malicious, the DNS filter will block the attempt to connect before any content is downloaded.
WebTitan works in conjunction with a real time database of millions of malicious URLS and uses a real-time classification system to assign websites to one of 53 categories. Those categories can be allowed or blocked with the click of a mouse. In addition to blocking access to malicious content, the category-based controls can be used to prevent employees from accessing content that could cause offense or lower productivity.
To find out more about how WebTitan can benefit your organization and improve your security posture, contact the TitanHQ team today.