Month: February 2022
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”.
For more information on TitanHQ’s new Security Awareness Solution, visit https://www.webtitan.com/safetitan/
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.