The 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruption for many businesses, and while it is far from business as usual for many firms, work has been continuing by letting employees work from home but doing so opens a business up to new cybersecurity risks, some of the most important of which we have covered in our COVID-19 cybersecurity checklist.
Under normal circumstances, the risks from allowing workers to spend some of their working week at home can be effectively managed, but having virtually the entire workforce working remotely creates many cybersecurity challenges. Further, threat actors are exploiting the pandemic and are actively targeting remote workers.
COVID-19 Cybersecurity Checklist
To help you address the risks of remote working we have produced a quick reference COVID-19 cybersecurity checklist covering some of the most important aspects of cybersecurity that should be addressed, in light of the recent rise in cyberattacks on remote workers.
All remote employees should be using VPNs to access corporate systems, but VPNs can also introduce vulnerabilities. There has been an increase in attacks exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities in VPNs during the pandemic and scans are being performed to find vulnerable VPNs.
VPNs clients must be kept up to date and patches should be applied promptly. There have been several attacks reported recently that have exploited the Pulse Secure vulnerability CVE-2019-11510 to deliver ransomware, even though a patch was released to correct the flaw in April last year. Vulnerabilities in other VPNS have also been targeted.
You should also consider disabling split tunneling for VPN profiles to prevent employees from accessing the internet directly while they are connected to corporate information systems or should ensure all internet traffic is routed through the VPN. You should enable multi-factor authentication for VPNs and create a separate VPN zone in your firewall and apply security policies to protect incoming and outgoing traffic.
Remote Desktop Protocol
Many businesses rely on Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to allow their employees to connect remotely, but If you do not use RDP, you should disable port 3389. There has been a growing number of brute force attacks on RDP. A recent Kaspersky report showed brute force attacks on RDP increased. There was a major increase between January and February, with global attacks rising to 93,102,836. In April, attacks had increased to a staggering 326,896,999.
If you use RDP, make sure strong passwords are set, enable multi-factor authentication, and ensure connections are only possible through your VPN – Do not allow RDP connections from outside.
Communication and Collaboration Platforms
You will need to use some form of communication and collaboration platform, such as a videoconferencing solution, to allow workers to easily get in touch with colleagues. There are many choices available, but the security capabilities of each can vary considerably. Some solutions that were considered to be secure, such as Zoom, have been shown to have vulnerabilities, some of which have been exploited in attacks. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has recently issued a useful checklist for selecting appropriate communication tools along with information on how they can be used securely.
With everyone at home, burglaries may be down, and lockdown have reduced the risk of loss and theft of mobile devices, but encryption is still important. All corporate owned mobile computing devices should have encryption enabled, which is straightforward for Windows devices by enabling BitLocker. You should also encrypt web applications and FTP to ensure any data that is uploaded or downloaded is encrypted.
Ensure Firewalls are Enabled
Your employees will be beyond the protection of the corporate firewall so they should have local firewalls enabled. The easiest and most cost-effective way of applying a local firewall is to use the Windows Defender firewall, which can be configured through your MDM solution or Group Policy.
The volume of phishing emails may not have increased by a very large degree during the COVID-19 lockdown, but there have been a large number of phishing related data breaches. Phishers have changed their campaigns and are now extensively using COVID-19 themed campaigns, which are proving to be very effective. People crave information about COVID-19 and are responding to COVID-19 themed phishing emails in large numbers. Many of the emails we have seen have been highly convincing, spoofing authorities such as WHO and the CDC.
You should consider adding an additional layer to your email defenses if you are only using Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection (EOP). Many phishing emails are bypassing Microsoft’s defenses and are being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan can be layered on top of Office 365 protections and will greatly improve the detection of phishing emails and zero-day malware and ransomware threats.
Multi-factor authentication for email accounts should be set up. In the event that email credentials are compromised, multi-factor authentication should prevent those credentials from being used to access accounts.
You should also set up a system that allows employees to report any suspicious emails they receive to the security team, to allow action to be taken to remove all similar messages from the email system and to tweak email security controls to block the threats.
With email security improved, you should also take steps to block web-based attacks. Malicious websites can be accessed by employees through general web browsing, redirects via malvertising, malicious links on social media networks, and links in phishing emails. A DNS filtering solution such as WebTitan Cloud prevents employees from visiting known malicious websites and will block drive-by malware downloads. WebTitan Cloud will protect employees whether they are on or off the network. If you don’t have web filtering capabilities for remote workers, ensure that internet access is only possible through your VPN to ensure bad packets are filtered out.
Cybersecurity Alerts and Log Checking
You should have systems in place that generate cybersecurity alerts automatically and you should enable security logs and regularly check them for signs of compromise. Monitor the use of PowerShell and red team tools such as Mimikatz and Cobalt Strike. These tools are often used by manual ransomware attackers to move laterally once access to networks is gained.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given cybercriminals a golden opportunity to make money. With the world focused on little else other than the response to the pandemic, and with people craving information about the virus, it is not surprising that standard phishing lures have been abandoned in favor of COVID-19 themed lures.
COVID-19 and coronavirus themed domains have been purchased in the tens of thousands and are being used for phishing, malware distribution, and a variety of scams such as obtaining donations to fake charities. Figures released by the Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 team for the period of February to March show there has been an average daily increase of new COVID-19 related domains of 656%, a 569% increase in the number of malicious COVID-19 domains, and a 788% increase in new high-risk domains.
Several domain registrars have started taking steps to combat coronavirus and COVID-19 related fraud and some, such as Namecheap, are now preventing the registration of new domains related to COVID-19. Domain registrars are flagging these new domains for investigation, but that is a manual review process that takes time. In the meantime, the domains are being set up and used for convincing scams.
One malicious campaign uncovered in the past few days uses COVID-19 themed domains to distribute the banking Trojan Grandoreiro. The websites are used to host videos that promise to provide important information about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. When visitors click on the video, a file download is triggered and the user is required to run the installer to view the video content, but instead installs the banking Trojan. The banking Trojan has previously been delivered via spam email, but the threat group behind the malware have changed tactics in response to the pandemic and have changed to web-based delivery.
There have been many similar campaigns created using malicious COVID-19 domains to deliver a slew of malware variants such as keyloggers, information stealers, cryptocurrency miners, and other Trojans.
Lockdown has left people with a lot of time on their hands and outdoor activities have been swapped for more TV time. It is no surprise that movie piracy sites have seen a huge surge in traffic and malware distributors are taking advantage and are bundling malware with pirated video files and using fake movie torrents to deliver malware.
An investigation by Microsoft identified a campaign that uses a VBScript packaged into ZIP files that claim to be pirated movie files. The campaign was being conducted to deliver a coinminer that runs in the memory, with living-of-the-land binaries also used to download other malicious payloads.
These campaigns often have a phishing component, with emails sent to drive traffic to these malicious websites. An advanced spam filtering solution can help to block the email component of these campaigns, but businesses should also consider an additional layer to their security defenses to block the web-based component of these attacks and prevent their remote employees from visiting malicious COVID-19 domains. That protection can be provided by a DNS filtering solution such as WebTitan Cloud.
WebTitan Cloud filters out malicious websites at the DNS lookup stage of a web access request. When a user attempts to visit a website, instead of the standard DNS lookup to find the IP address of a website, the request is sent through WebTitan. If an attempt is made to visit a malicious domain, the request will be blocked and the user will be directed to a local block page. WebTitan can also be configured to block certain file downloads and filter the internet by category, such as blocking P2P file-sharing and torrents sites to provide additional protection against malware and the installation of shadow IT.
WebTitan Cloud can be quickly set up remotely by sysadmins to protect all workers on and off the network with no clients required, which makes it an ideal solution during the COVID-19 pandemic for protecting remote workers.
For further information on protecting your organization and remote employees from web-based attacks, to register for a free trial of WebTitan, and for details of pricing, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
There has been a massive rise in the number of telecommuting workers as a result of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic and cybercriminals are taking advantage. Phishing and malware attacks have soared in the past few weeks and home workers are being targeted.
Individuals who regularly worked from home before the COVID-19 crisis will be used to taking precautions when connecting to virtual environments set up by their employers, but huge numbers of employees are now logging in remotely for the very first time and may not be aware of the telecommuting cybersecurity risks. IT and IT security departments have also had to set up the workforce for home working in a hurry, and the sheer number of employees that have been forced into telecommuting means corners have had to be cut which has created opportunities for cybercriminals.
Even if the transition to having the entire workforce telecommuting has been expertly managed, risk will have increased considerably. Cybersecurity is far harder to manage when the entire workforce is outside the protection of the corporate firewall and with most workers telecommuting, the attack surface has grown considerably.
Telecommuting workers are seen as low hanging fruit and cybercriminals are taking advantage of the ease at which attacks can be conducted. Since January there has been a massive increase in phishing attacks, malware attacks, and attacks over the internet targeting remote workers.
NASA Sees “Exponential Increase” in Malware Attacks
On April 6, 2020, NASA sent a memo to all personnel warning of a massive increase in targeted attacks on the agency. NASA explained in the memo that the number of phishing attempts on NASA employees has doubled in the past few days and its systems designed to block employees from accessing malicious websites has gone into overdrive. The number of malicious websites that are now being blocked has also doubled, which strongly suggests employees are clicking on links in phishing emails and are being fooled by these scams. NASA also reports that there has been an “exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems.”
Attacks are being conducted by a diverse range of threat actors, from small players to prolific advanced persistent threat (APT) groups and nation-state sponsored hackers. NASA has warned its employees that those attackers are targeting NASA employees’ work and personal devices and that the attacks are likely to continue to increase throughout the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.
NASA is far from alone in experiencing a massive increase in attempted cyberattacks. Businesses of all sizes are now having to deal with unprecedented risks and are struggling to defend their networks from attack. They now have to defend a massively increased attack surface and the number of attacks has skyrocketed.
There are other factors that are making it difficult for employers. Employees crave information about the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 and cybercriminals are sending huge numbers of emails offering them just the information they seek. Huge numbers of websites are being set up that purport to offer advice on the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19. Check Point has reported that more than 16,000 domains related to coronavirus or COVID-19 have been registered since January and those domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered in the same period.
How to Protect Telecommuting Workers
There are three main ways that telecommuting workers are being attacked: Email, malicious websites, and the exploitation of vulnerabilities.
To prevent the latter, it is essential for software and operating systems to be kept up to date. This can be a challenge for IT departments at the best of times, but much harder when everyone is working remotely. Despite the difficulty, prompt patching is essential. Vulnerabilities in VPNs are being targeted by cybercriminals and offer an easy way to gain access to corporate networks. Employees should be told to make sure their VPN clients are running the latest software version and businesses should ensure their VPN infrastructure is kept up to date, even if it means some downtime while updates are applied.
TitanHQ Can Help You Strengthen Email and Web Security
Advanced email security defenses are now required to protect against phishing and email-based malware threats. Some of the COVID-19 phishing campaigns that are now being conducted include some of the most sophisticated phishing threats we have ever seen.
You should not rely on one form of email security, such as Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection for Office 365 accounts. Layered defenses are essential. Office 365 email security can be significantly strengthened by layering SpamTitan on top of Microsoft’s EOP protections. SpamTitan does not replace Office 365 protections, it improves them.
SpamTitan is an advanced email security solution that incorporates powerful, real time updated AI-driven threat intelligence to block spam, phishing, malware, malicious links, and other email threats from incoming mail. SpamTitan sandboxing identifies threats that signature-based detection solutions miss and is effective at identifying and blocking zero-day malware threats.
Each day, the number of malicious websites related to COVID-19 grows. These websites are used to phish for sensitive information such as email and VPN credentials and for drive-by downloads of malware. To protect remote workers and prevent them from accessing these malicious websites, a web filtering solution is required.
WebTitan DNS Security offers protection against web-based threats and prevents employees from accessing known malicious websites. WebTitan DNS Security is seeing massively increased traffic demand for its scanning and web detection features, but the solution is cloud based and has been developed with scalability in mind. WebTitan DNS Security is blocking new threats as soon as they are identified to keep customers and their employees protected. The solution can be easily implemented to protect remote workers but inserting simple code into enterprise devices which points the DNS to WebTitan. That small change will ensure the internet is filtered for all employees, no matter where they are working.
TitanHQ is committed to providing safe and secure email and internet usage for our customers, partners and their users, now more than ever. Contact TitanHQ today for help improving security at your organization.
Blackpoint Cyber announced its Remote Reality LIVE conference, which will occur online April 8th and April 9th 2020.
The conference will focus on managed service providers (MSPs) and how they can stay secure, profitable, and resilient as the world increases remote operations during the COVID-19 pandemic – registration and attendance are free. The two-day conference will include sessions by former leaders of the United States’ government cyber security and intelligence communities as well as cyber security experts and business veterans from the MSP services and technology industry.
Blackpoint Cyber announces its virtual cyber security conference for MSPs – Remote Reality LIVE. Featuring a keynote from the former Acting Director of the CIA and sessions from tech giants Datto, Webroot, Marketopia, and more.
Jon Murchison, Blackpoint’s CEO and founder, and former US government cyber operations expert, explains the conference’s objective: “IT services and infrastructure have become mission critical for organizations to survive in this new economic landscape brought on by COVID-19. MSPs are the key to our success and, especially during these times, a collective national asset to their respective countries. That’s why we are bringing together experienced government and industry leaders to help MSPs navigate the current economic and security environments. We’re excited to provide one of the first online and socially-distanced conferences dedicated to MSPs and cyber security.”
Blackpoint has partnered with leading technology, service, and marketing firms for the conference, including:
Datto: leading global provider of cloud-based software and technology solutions purpose-built for MSPs
Webroot: Cybersecurity Solutions Purpose-Built for MSPs and SMBs
Convergint: Global, Service-based Systems Integrator
Marketopia: Lead Generation and Marketing for Technology Companies
ID Agent: Dark Web and Identity Theft Protection
TitanHQ: Email and DNS Security
Compliancy Group: HIPAA Compliance-as-a-Service
Atlantic Data Forensics: Premier Incident Response and Forensics
ProSource Technology Solutions: Leading Managed Service Provider
Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT): Premier Real Estate Investment Trust
Michael Morell, former Deputy Director and Acting Director CIA, will present the keynote session on national security implications of the Coronavirus outbreak. While at the CIA, Mr. Morell was President George W. Bush’s daily intelligence briefer during the 9/11 attacks and was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s second highest honor.
Additional former US government cyber security and intelligence expert speakers include: Bill Priestap, former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, Chris Inglis, Former Deputy Director of NSA, Dave Sears, retired Commander and Navy SEAL, and Kevin Donegan, former United States Navy Vice Admiral and previous commander of the US Navy’s 5th fleet out of Bahrain. Security and MSP industry leaders will also present informational sessions, such as lead generation in a virtual world, security in the MSP space, cyber security for commercial real estate, the threat landscape of remote workers, and more.
Matt Solomon, VP of Business Development & IT at ID Agent, shares his sentiments on the conference: “ID Agent is very excited to participate in one of the first virtual MSP events since in-person events have been taken off the schedule. MSPs still need education during this period and we are honored to be part of such an esteemed group of vendors.”
In addition to learning how to stay secure and prosper, conference attendees will also be eligible for giveaways and prizes.