Cybersecurity Advice

Our news section dedicated to cybersecurity advice is regularly updated with news about the latest online threats and most recently-discovered security vulnerabilities – and advice on how to deal with them.

MSPs will particularly find our cybersecurity advice security of value, as it addresses many of the online security issues that clients may have heard about and developed concerns about their own cybersecurity defenses.

MSPs can reassure clients that the risk of systems and networks being infected by an online threat – or security vulnerabilities in their software being exploited by a hacker – can be nullified with a web filtering solution from TitanHQ.

Worst Passwords of 2018 and Password Best Practices Revealed

It’s the time of year when the poor password practices of users are highlighted. This month has seen the list of the worst passwords of 2018 published and a list of 2018’s worst password offenders.

The Worst Passwords of 2018

So, what were the worst passwords of 2018? SplashData has recently published a list of the worst passwords of 2018 which shows little has changed since last year. End users are still making very poor password choices.

To compile the list, SplashData analyzed passwords that had been revealed through data dumps of passwords obtained in data breaches. More than 5 million exposed passwords were sorted to find out not only the weakest passwords used, but just how common they were. The list of the top 100 worst passwords of 2018 was published, although we have only listed the top 25 worst passwords of 2018:

Top 25 Worst Passwords of 2018

1) 123456
2) password
3) 123456789
4) 12345678
5) 12345
6) 111111
7) 1234567
8) sunshine
9) qwerty
10) iloveyou
11) princess
12) admin
13) welcome
14) 666666
15) abc123
16) football
17) 123123
18) monkey
19) 654321
20) !@#$%^&*
21) charlie
22) aa123456
23) donald
24) password1
25) qwerty123

Unsurprisingly, there has been no change in the top two passwords this year. 123456 and password have held number 1 and 2 spots for the past five years. Donald is a new addition but would not keep a user’s account secure for long, even if their name isn’t Donald. 654321 is also new this year but offers little more protection than 123456.

Other new entries include qwerty123 and password1 – Clear attempts to get around the requirement of including numbers and letters in a password.

How common are the worst passwords of 2018? According to SplashData, 3% of users have used 123456 and 10% of people have used at least one password in the list of the top 25 worst passwords of 2018!

Poor Password Practices and the Worst Password Offenders of 2018

DashLane has published its list of the worst password offenders of the year. In addition to the list containing users who have made very poor password choices by selecting some of the worst passwords of 2018, the report highlights some of the terrible password practices that many individuals are guilty of. Poor password practices that render their passwords absolutely useless.

This year has seen many major password failures, several of which came from the White House, where security is critical. Topping the list was a password faux pas by a visitor to the oval office – Kanye West. Not only was ‘Ye’ guilty of using one of the worst possible passwords on his phone ‘000000’, he also unlocked his phone in full view of an office full of reporters who were filming his meeting with President Trump. Ye’s poor password was broadcast to the nation (and around the world). This incident highlights the issue of ‘shoulder surfing.’ Looking over someone’s shoulder at their screen to see passwords being entered. Something that can easily happen in public places.

Another White House password failure concerned a staffer who committed the cardinal password sin of writing down a username and password to make it easier to remember. It is something that many employees do, but most do not write it on White House stationary and then leave the document at a bus stop.

Password security should be exemplary at the White House, but even more so at the Pentagon. Even staff at the Pentagon are guilty of poor password hygiene, as was discovered by Government Accountability Office (GAO) auditors. GAO auditors discovered default passwords were used for software associated with weapons systems. Default passwords are publicly available online which renders them totally useless. GAO auditors were also able to guess admin passwords with full privileges in only 9 seconds.

These are just three examples of terrible password practices. While they are shocking given the individuals concerned, they are sadly all too common.

Password Best Practices to Keep Accounts Secure

A password prevents other individuals from gaining access to an account and the sensitive information contained therein. Choose a strong password or passphrase and it will help to make sure that personal (or business) information remains confidential. Choose a weak password and an account can easily get hacked. Choose an exceptionally weak password and you may as well have no password at all.

To ensure passwords are effective, make sure you adopt the password best practices detailed below:

  • Make sure you set a password – Never leave any account open
  • Always change default passwords – They are just placeholders and are next to useless
  • Never reuse old passwords
  • Use a unique password for all accounts – Never use the same password for multiple accounts
  • Do not use names, dictionary words, or strings of consecutive numbers or letters
  • Ensure passwords are longer than 8 characters and contain at least one number, lowercase letter, uppercase letter, and a symbol – Long passphrases that are known only to you are ideal
  • Use a random mix of characters for passwords and use a password manager so you don’t have to remember them. Just make sure you set a very strong password for your password manager master password.
  • Set up multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts
  • Never write down a password
  • Never share passwords with others, no matter how much you trust them

Password Best Practices for Businesses

Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed 81% of hacking-related data breaches were due to weak passwords or stolen credentials. It is therefore critical that businesses adopt password best practices and ensure users practice good password hygiene. Businesses need to:

  • Train end users on good password hygiene and password best practices
  • Enforce the use of strong passwords: Blacklist dictionary words, previously exposed passwords, previously used passwords, and commonly used weak passwords
  • Set the minimum password length to 8 characters (or more) and avoid setting a maximum length to encourage the use of passphrases.
  • Follow the password advice published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Don’t enforce password changes too often. End users will just reuse old passwords or make very minor changes to past passwords.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication
  • Encrypt all stored passwords
  • Consider the use of other authentication methods – Fingerprint scanners, facial recognition software, voice prints, or iris scans

University Research Theft: A Major Cause for Concern

Educational institutions are being targeted by cybercriminals for all manner of nefarious purposes: To obtain the personal information of staff and students for identity theft and tax fraud, to steal university funds, and to steal university research.

University research theft is an easy income stream for hackers. Research papers can command high prices on the black market and are highly sought after by nation state governments and businesses.

This fall, the UK’s Daily Telegraph revealed Iranian hackers were selling research papers that had been stolen from top British Universities including Oxford and Cambridge. Several Farsi websites were identified advertising free access to university research papers, including an offer of university research theft to order. Provide the details and, for a price, the research be found and sent through an encrypted channel.

There were papers for sale on highly sensitive subjects such as nuclear research and cybersecurity defenses. Even less sensitive subjects are valuable to foreign businesses. The research could help them gain a competitive advantage at the expense of universities. In the case of Iran, universities are being used to gain access to Western research that would otherwise be off limits due to current sanctions.

It is not just British universities that are being targeted. The hackers are infiltrating university research databases the world over, and it is not just Iranian hackers that have tapped into this income stream. University research theft is a growing problem.

How Are University Databases Breached?

One of the main ways access to research databases is gained is through phishing – A simple method of attack that requires no programming know-how and no malicious software. All that is required is a little time and the ability to create a website.

Phishing emails are sent to staff and students that request a visit a webpage where they are required to enter their credentials to academic databases. If the credentials are disclosed, the phishers have the same access rights as the user. The phishers then download papers or advertise and wait for requests to roll in. They then just search the database, download the papers, and provide them to their customers.

Various social engineering techniques are used to entice users to click the links. Requests are sent instructing the user that they need to reset their password, for instance. The web pages they are directed to are exact copies of the sites used by the universities. Apart from the URL, the websites appear perfectly genuine.

Unfortunately, once credentials have been obtained it can be difficult for universities to discover there has been a breach since genuine login credentials are used to access the research databases.

How to Prevent University Research Theft

No single cybersecurity solution will protect universities from all phishing attacks. The key to mounting an effective defense against phishing is layered phishing defenses.

  • The primary cybersecurity solution to implement is an advanced spam filter to ensure as many phishing emails as possible are blocked and messages containing malicious attachments do not reach inboxes. SpamTitan for instance, blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing messages and 100% of known malware. Even advanced spam filtering solutions will not block all phishing emails, so additional controls are required to deal with the <0.1% of phishing emails that are delivered.
  • While a web filter can be used to block access to categories of web content such as pornography, it will also block access to known malicious websites: Websites used for phishing and those that host malware.
  • End user security awareness training is also essential. End users are the last line of defense and will remain a weak link unless training is provided to teach them how to identify malicious emails. Staff and students should be conditioned to report threats to their security teams to ensure action can be taken and to alert first responders when the university is under attack.
  • Multi-factor authentication should also be implemented. If credentials are stolen and used to access a database, email account, computer, or server, from an unfamiliar device or location, a further form of authentication is required before access is granted.
  • Universities should have security monitoring capabilities. Logs of access attempts and should generated and network and user activity should be monitored for potential compromises.

For further information on anti-phishing defenses and cybersecurity solutions that can help prevent university research theft, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Need for Web Filters for Libraries Pondered in New Hampshire

There has been much debate over the use of web filters for libraries. On one side are those that believe that as places of learning, there should be no restrictions placed on the types of information that can be accessed through libraries. Libraries house books that are sexually explicit, racist, or contain material some may find distasteful or offensive, but banning those books would be inappropriate.

That same thinking has been applied to the Internet, access to which is often provided in libraries. The application of a web filter to block certain types of content is viewed as unacceptable by some people, even if as a result of a lack of technical controls library computers are used to access hardcore pornography. The American Library Association does not advocate the use of web filters for libraries, instead suggesting acceptable usage policies and educational programs are more appropriate.

The other camp considers the use of web filters in libraries to be a necessity to ensure libraries can be used by children and adults without others subjecting them to obscene and potentially harmful web content. Acceptable usage policies only discourage users from accessing pornography. Policies do not prevent such activities.

New Hampshire Library Considers Using Web Filtering Technology to Block Porn

The use of public library computers for viewing offensive sexual content is common. There have been many cases of library patrons discovering other users accessing adult content on computers in full sight of other users, as was recently the case at the Lebanon Public Library in New Hampshire.

A complaint was made to Lebanon Public Library about two children (of middle school age) who are alleged to have used the library computers to access pornography. Jim Vanier, youth center coordinator for the Carter Community Building Association, overheard the children discussing pornography at the computers, although they denied accessing adult content.

Vanier’s complaint prompted the Library Board of Trustees to form a task force to investigate current internet usage policies and the task force will consider whether a web filter is appropriate for the library.

While web filters for libraries are available to prevent obscene videos and images from being accessed, relatively few libraries have started implementing even the most basic content controls. The Children’s Internet Protection Act requires the use of web filters in libraries and schools, but only as a condition to obtain e-rate discounts and federal grants. In order to qualify for funds, obscene images, child pornography, and other information deemed harmful to minors must be blocked.

The municipal libraries in Lebanon have taken steps to curb Internet misuse and have introduced policies that prohibit computers from being used for any disruptive or inappropriate behavior, including the viewing of images of a pornographic nature. However, policies alone are insufficient to prevent all cases of inappropriate Internet use.

The reason why many libraries choose not to apply filters is often because web filters for libraries are not perfect, and as a result, they could filter out unintended content.

Accuracy of Content Blocking by Web Filters for Libraries

While there have been issues with web filters for libraries overblocking content in the past, there have been major advances in web filtering technology over the past 10 years. Web filters can now more accurately assess and categorize content.

WebTitan Cloud, for instance, has highly granular controls and allows libraries to carefully control the content that can be accessed without overblocking.

While there is potential for user error when setting policies, WebTitan Cloud solves this issue by having an easy to use user interface that requires no technical skill to use. This helps to eliminate user error that often leads to overblocking of web content.

With WebTitan Cloud, libraries can easily filter out pornography, child pornography, and other obscene and harmful content to comply with CIPA and meet parents’ expectations without restricting access to valuable, educational websites.

WebTitan Cloud also blocks access to websites that host malware to prevent malicious software from being downloaded onto library computers, as well as blocking a wide range of Internet threats such as phishing.

WebTitan Cloud – An Accurate and Easy to Use Web Filter for Libraries

WebTitan Cloud is an ideal web filter for libraries. It is 100% cloud-based so not costly hardware purchases are required. It is easy to implement, simple to use, and allows Internet content to be carefully controlled without blocking access to valuable educational material.

Some of the key features in TitanHQ’s web filters for libraries have been detailed below:

WebTitan Cloud Features

  • Highly granular controls to allow precise filtering of Internet content
  • Unmatched combination of coverage, accuracy, and flexibility
  • Real-time classification of more than 500 million websites and 6 billion web pages in 200 languages
  • 100% coverage of the Alexa 1 million most visited websites
  • Easy to use interface requiring no technical skill
  • 100% cloud-based filtering – No hardware purchases or software downloads required
  • Supports Safe Search and YouTube for Schools
  • Supports whitelists and blacklists for creating exceptions to allow/block content outside general policy controls
  • Category-based filtering allows blocking through 53 pre-defined website categories and 10 customizable categories
  • HTTP/HTTPS filtering
  • Customizable block pages
  • Supports time-controlled cloud keys to allow certain users to bypass filtering controls – for research purposes for instance
  • Provides full visibility into network usage
  • Full reporting suite including real-time Internet activity

For further information on TitanHQ’s web filter for libraries, to arrange a product demonstration, and to register for a free trial to evaluate WebTitan Cloud in your own environment, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Dec 5, 2018 Webinar: A Perfect Cisco OpenDNS Alternative at a Fraction of the Price

Are you looking for a Cisco OpenDNS alternative that is both easier to use and much more cost effective? On Wednesday December 5, 2018, you can discover how you can save money on web filtering without cutting any corners on protection.

A web filter is now an essential cybersecurity solution to protect against web-based threats such as phishing, viruses, malware, ransomware, and botnets. A web filter also allows businesses to carefully control the online activities of employees by restricting access to NSFW web content such as pornography and curb productivity-draining Internet use.

In addition to offering threat protection and content control on wired networks, a DNS-based web filter offers protection for BYOD and company owned devices regardless where they connect to the Internet. Multiple locations can be protected through a central web-based console.

A DNS-based web filter is cost effective to implement as no hardware purchases are required and no software needs to be installed. A DNS-based filter is also easy to maintenance and requires no software updates or patches.

With DNS-based filters, content control and online threat protection is simple; but what about cost? Many businesses have looked at Cisco OpenDNS to meet their web filtering requirements but are put off due to the high cost. Fortunately, there is a more cost-effective way of filtering the Internet.

TitanHQ and Celestix are hosting a webinar on a WebTitan-powered Cisco OpenDNS alternative, Celestix WebFilter Cloud.

Celestix will be joined by by TitanHQ EVP of Strategic Alliances, Rocco Donnino, and Senior Sales Engineer, Derek Higgins, who will explain how Celestix WebFilter Cloud works, why it is an ideal Cisco OpenDNS alternative, and how you can have total protection against web-based threats at a fraction of the cost of running OpenDNS.

The webinar will be taking place on Wednesday December 5, 2018 at 10:00 AM US Pacific Time

Advance registration is required. You can register for the webinar on this link.

Business Email Account Compromises Soaring

Business email compromise (BEC) attacks cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and business email account compromises are soaring.

What is a Business Email Compromise Attack?

As the name suggests, these attacks involve the hijacking of business email accounts. The primary aim is to compromise the account of the CEO or CFO, which is usually achieved through a spear phishing attack. Once the email account has been compromised, it is used to send phishing emails to other employees in the company, most commonly, employees in the accounts, finance, and payroll departments.

The emails commonly request wire transfers be made to accounts under the control of the attackers. Requests are also made for sensitive information such as the W-2 Forms of employees.

Since the emails are sent from the CEO or CFO’s own account, there is a much higher chance of an employee responding to the request than to a standard phishing attempt from an external email address. Since the emails come from within an organization, they are also much harder to detect as malicious – a fact not lost on the scammers.

With access to the email account, it is much easier to craft convincing messages. The signature of the CEO can be copied along with their style of writing from sent messages. Email conversations can be started with employees and messages can be exchanged without the knowledge of the account holder.

Fraudulent transfers of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars may be made and the W-2 Forms of the entire workforce can be obtained. The latter can be used to submit fake tax returns in victims’ names to obtain tax refunds. The profits for the attackers can be considerable, and with the potential for a massive payout, it is no surprise that these attacks are on the rise.

Business Email Account Compromises Have Increased by 284% in a Year

FBI figures in December 2016 suggest $5.3 billion had been lost to BEC scams since October 2013. That figure had now increased to $12.5 billion. More than 30,000 complaints of losses due to BEC attacks were reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaints Center (IC3) between June 2016 and May 2018.

The specialist insurance service provider Beazley has been tracking business email account compromises. The firm’s figures show business email account compromises have increased each quarter since Q1, 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, 45 business email account compromises were detected. In Q2, 2018, 184 business email account compromises were detected. Between 2017 to 2018, there was a 284% increase in compromised business email accounts.

While the CEO’s email credentials are often sought, the credentials of lowlier employees are also valuable. Any email account credentials that can be obtained can be used for malicious purposes. Email accounts can be used to send phishing messages to other individuals in an organization, and to business contacts, vendors, and customers.

Beazley notes that once one account has been compromised, others will soon follow. When investigating business email account compromises, businesses often discover that multiple accounts have been compromised. Typically, a company is only aware of half the number of its compromised accounts.

The High Cost of Resolving Business Email Account Compromises

Business email account compromises can be extremely costly to resolve. Forensic investigators often need to be brought in to determine the full extent of the breach. Each breached email account must then be checked to determine what information has been compromised. While automated searches can be performed, manual checks are inevitable. For one client, the automated search revealed 350,000 document attachments had potentially been accessed, and each of those documents had to be checked manually to determine the information IT contained. The manual search alone cost the company $800,000.

How to Protect Your Organization from Business Email Compromise Attacks

A range of measures are required to protect against business email compromise attacks. An advanced spam and anti-phishing solution is required to prevent phishing and spear phishing emails from being delivered to inboxes.

SpamTitan is an easy-to-implement spam filtering solution that blocks advanced phishing and spear phishing attacks at source. In contrast to basic email filters, such as those incorporated into Office 365, SpamTitan uses heuristics, Bayesian analysis, and machine learning to identify highly sophisticated phishing attacks and new phishing tactics. These advanced techniques ensure more than 99.9% of spam and malicious messages are blocked.

The importance of security awareness training should not be underestimated. End users should be trained how to recognize phishing attempts. Training should be ongoing to ensure employees are made aware of current campaigns and new phishing tactics. Phishing simulation exercises should also be conducted to reinforce training and identify weak links.

Multi-factor authentication is important to prevent third parties from using stolen credentials to access accounts. If a login attempt is made from an unfamiliar location or unknown device, an additional form of identification is required to access the account.

Password policies should be enforced to ensure that employees set strong passwords or passphrases. This will reduce the potential for brute force and dictionary attacks. If Office 365 is used, connection to third party applications should be limited to make it harder for PowerShell to be used to access email accounts. A web filtering solution should also be implemented to block access to phishing accounts where email credentials are typically obtained.

Defense in depth is the key to protecting against BEC attacks. For more information about email and web security controls to block BEC attacks, give the TitanHQ team a call. Our experienced advisers will recommend the best spam and web filtering options to meet the needs of your business and can book a product demonstration and set you up for a free trial.

WPA3 WiFi Security Enhancements Will Not Block All WiFi Threats

WiFi networks are a potential security weak point for businesses, although the introduction of WPA3 will improve Wi-Fi security. WPA3 Wi-Fi security enhancements address many WP2 vulnerabilities, but WPA3 alone is not enough to block all WiFi threats.

WiFi Security Protocols

The WPA WiFi security protocol was introduced in 1999, and while it improved security, cracking WPA security is far from difficult. Security enhancements were introduced with WPA2 in 2004, but while more secure, WPA2 does not fix all vulnerabilities. Little has changed in the past 14 years, but at long last, WPA3 is here. Use WPA3 and Wi-Fi security will be significantly enhanced, as several important WP2 vulnerabilities have been fixed.

WPA3 WiFi Security Enhancements

One of the biggest WiFi security threats is open networks. These are WiFi networks that require no passwords or keys. Users can connect without entering a pre-shared key. All a user needs to know is the SSID of the access point to connect. These open networks are used in establishments such as coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants as it is easy for customers to connect. The problem is users send plain text to the access point, which can easily be intercepted.

WPA3 spells an end to open networks. WPA3 uses Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE). Any network that does not require a password, will encrypt data without any user interaction or configuration. This is achieved through Individualized Data Protection or IDP. Any device that attempts to connect to the access point receives its own key from the access point, even if no connection to the AP has been made before. This control means the key cannot be sniffed and even if a password is required, having access to that password does not allow the data of other users to be accessed.

Another security enhancement that has been made in WP3 reduces potential for password cracking attacks such as the WPA2 KRACK Attack. WPA2 is vulnerable to brute force and dictionary-based attacks. That is because security relies on the AP provider setting a secure password and many establishments don’t. With WPA3, the Pre-Shared Key (PSK) exchange protocol is replaced with Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) or the Dragonfly Key Exchange, which improves security of the initial key exchange and offers better protection against offline dictionary-based attacks.

WPA3 also addresses security vulnerabilities in the WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) that made it easy to link new devices such as a WiFi extender. In WPA3, this has been replaced with Wi-Fi Device Provisioning Protocol (DPP).

Configuring IoT devices that lack displays has been made easier, the 192-bit Commercial National Security Algorithm is used for enhanced protection for government, defense and industrial networks, and better controls have been implemented against brute force attacks. These and other enhancements mean WPA3 is far more secure.

Unfortunately, at present, very few manufacturers support WPA3, although that is likely to change in 2019.

WPA3 WiFi Security Issues

Even with WPA3 WiFi security enhancements, WiFi networks will still be vulnerable. WPA3 includes encryption for non-password-protected networks, but it does not require authentication. That is up to hotspot providers to set. WPA3 it is just as susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks and offers no protection against evil twin attacks. The user must ensure they access the genuine access point SSID.

The connection to the AP may be more secure, but WPA3 does not offer protection against malware downloads. Users will still be at risk from malicious websites unless a DNS filtering solution is used – A web filter to protect WiFi networks.

Improve WiFi Security with a DNS-Based WiFi Filtering Solution

A DNS-based WiFi filtering solution such as WebTitan Cloud for WiFi protects users of a WiFi network from malware attacks, ransomware downloads, and phishing threats. The cloud-based filter also allows businesses that provide WiFi access points to carefully control the content that can be accessed by employees, customers, and other guest users.

By upgrading to WPA3 WiFi security will be improved. With WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, users will also be protected once they are connected to the network.

Further information on WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is detailed in the video below. For further information on WiFi security, including WebTitan pricing and to book a product demonstration, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Wi-Fi Security Threats You Should be Aware of

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 the 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 to wait to get a password to 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 Wi-Fi security threats. 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.

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.

Packet Sniffers

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.

File-Sharing

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.

Shoulder Surfing

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, and create a family-friendly Wi-Fi environment.

WiFi Filtering and Brand Protection

In this post we explain the importance of WiFi filtering and brand protection. It can take years of hard work for businesses to develop trust in their brand. That trust can easily be lost if customers are not protected while connected to business WiFi networks and come to harm or suffer losses.

If Trust is Lost in a Brand it Can Take Years to Recover

Trust is a cornerstone of all successful brands, but it is not something that can be developed overnight. Developing trust in a brand takes an extraordinary amount of time and money, but once established, companies will be rewarded by customer loyalty.

While trust can be difficult to earn, it is certainly not difficult to lose. One of the easiest ways for consumers to lose trust in a brand is through privacy breaches and cyberattacks. If the personal data of customers is exposed or stolen, customers will lose faith in the brand and are likely to take their business elsewhere.

A 2017 study by Gemalto revealed 70% of customers would stop doing business with a company that failed to protect their personal data and suffered a data breach. Regaining customers trust after a data breach can take years. Protecting customer data is therefore essential if a business is to succeed and continue to enjoy success.

Wi-Fi Security and Brand Protection

One aspect of security that is often overlooked is protecting customers who connect to Wi-Fi networks. Many businesses offer free Wi-Fi access to their customers yet fail to implement controls over what customers can do while connected. Consequently, customers may be exposed to malware, phishing, and other harmful content.

Even businesses that claim to be family friendly often do not always filter the Internet and block access to adult and other age-inappropriate web content. It was only relatively recently that McDonald’s started filtering its WiFi networks to protect customers. Starbucks has also agreed to implement WiFi filters to block porn next year.

How are Wi-Fi filtering and brand protection related? Imagine someone uses your WiFi network to access pornography and a child views their screen? Or a parent finds out their child has been viewing adult content on the establishment’s Wi-Fi network? It only takes one person to complain via a social media network for the story to go viral and for the company’s reputation to be tarnished. The same goes for a malware infection as a result of an establishment failing to implement anti-malware controls on its WiFi network.

Implementing a WiFi filter shows customers that you are doing all you can to protect them from online threats and harmful content. WiFi security is therefore important for brand protection.

There have also been cases of businesses temporarily losing Internet access over illegal Internet activity – Employees who have used a corporate WiFi network to engage in illegal activities such as downloading pirated content. ISPs can terminate internet access if complaints are received and loss of Internet access can cripple a business. Legal action can also be taken by the copyright holder against the business.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi: The Easy Way to Secure Wi-Fi Networks

TitanHQ has been protecting SMBs from cyber threats for more than 20 years and has expanded its portfolio of solutions to cover WiFi security and brand protection solutions.

TitanHQ has developed WebTitan Cloud for WiFi to make it easy for businesses to secure their WiFi networks and for MSPs to offer WiFi filtering to their clients.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a 100% cloud based WiFi filtering solution that is quick and easy to implement and requires no hardware purchases or software downloads. The solution blocks malware downloads, access to malicious websites, lets businesses carefully control the content that can be accessed via their Wi-Fi networks and control bandwidth use by employees and customers. In short, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi lets businesses create a safe environment to access the Internet.

To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, including details on pricing, contact TitanHQ today. All businesses can book a product demonstration and sign up for a free WebTitan Cloud for WiFi trial to evaluate the solution in their own environment.

New Phishing Campaign Bypasses Office 365 Anti-Phishing Defenses

A new phishing campaign is bypassing Office 365 anti-phishing defenses and arriving in employees’ inboxes; one of several recent campaigns to slip through the net and test end users’ security awareness knowledge.

The aim of this campaign is not to obtain login credentials or install malware. It is a sextortion scam that aims to get email recipients to make a payment to the scammers.

Sophisticated Sextortion Scam Bypasses Office 365 Anti-Phishing Controls

The scam itself is straightforward. The sender of the email claims to be a hacker who has gained access to the victim’s computer and has installed malware. That malware allowed full access to the user’s device, including control of the webcam. The email claims that the webcam was used to record the victim while he/she was accessing adult web content. The attacker claims to have spliced the webcam recording with the images/videos that were being viewed at the time. The attacker claims the video will be sent to the user’s contacts on social media and via email.

Several similar sextortion scams have been conducted in the past few months, but what makes this campaign different is the extent of the deception. In this campaign, the attacker includes the user’s password in the email body.

“Hello!
I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from [user’s email] on moment of hack: [user’s password]

The password may not be the one currently used, but it is likely to be recognized as it has been taken from a previous data breach. However, its inclusion will be especially worrying for any user who does not regularly change their password and for users that share passwords across multiple sites or reuse old passwords. Changing the password will not block access, according to the email

“Of course, you can and will change it, or already have changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.”

For anyone who has viewed adult content on a laptop or other device with a webcam, this message will no doubt be extremely concerning. Especially, as the email contains ‘evidence’ of email compromise. The From field of the email displays the user’s own email address, indicating that the attacker has sent it from the user’s email account.

The attacker notes in the email, “Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.”

While scary, the attacker does not have access to the user’s email account. The From field has been spoofed. This is actually straightforward with a Unix computer set up with mail services. Mass emails can be sent out using the same email address in the From field as the Address field, giving the impression that the messages have been sent from the users’ accounts.

The hacker notes that this is not his/her usual modus operandi. “You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom. But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.” That will be a particular worry for some users.

To prevent distribution of the video, the user must pay $892 in Bitcoin to the specified address and many email recipients have chosen to pay to avoid exposure. The Bitcoin wallet used for the scam has received 450 payments totaling 6.31131431 BTC – around $27,980. Multiple Bitcoin wallets are often used by scammers, so the actual total is likely to be far higher.

Bypassing of Office 365 Anti-Phishing Defenses a Cause for Concern

This scam may not have any direct impact on a business, as no credentials are compromised, and malware is not installed; however, what is of concern is how the messages have bypassed Office 365 phishing defenses and are arriving in inboxes. The scam was first identified in late September and the messages continued to be delivered to Office 365 inboxes, even those with Advanced Threat Protection that companies pay extra for to provide greater protection against spam and phishing emails.

This is of course just one scam. Others have similarly breached Office 365 anti-phishing defenses, many of which are much more malicious in nature and pose a very real and direct threat to businesses. Office 365 anti-phishing protections do block a lot of threats, and protection is improved with Advanced Threat Protection, but the controls are not particularly effective at blocking sophisticated phishing attempts and zero-day attacks.

The volume of phishing attacks on businesses that are now being conducted, the sophisticated nature of those attacks, and the high cost of mitigating a phishing attack and data breach mean businesses need to improve Office 365 anti-phishing defenses further. That requires a third-party spam solution.

For more than 20 years, TitanHQ has been developing security solutions to protect inboxes and block web-based attacks. During that time, our spam filtering solution, SpamTitan, has been gathering threat intelligence, analyzing spamming and phishing tactics, and protecting end users. Over the years, SpamTitan has receive many updates to improve protection against new threats and phishing tactics. Independent tests have shown SpamTitan now has a catch rate in excess of 99.9%.

The incorporation of a range of predictive techniques ensure SpamTitan is not reliant on signatures and can detect never-before seen phishing attempts and zero-day attacks, and provide superior protection against spam, phishing, malware, viruses, ransomware, and botnets for Office 365 users.

To better protect your email channel and keep your Office 365 inboxes threat free, contact TitanHQ today to schedule a full personalized demo of SpamTitan and to find out just how cost effective the solution is for SMBs and enterprises.

Change from Umbrella to WebTitan and Save Time, Money, and Improve Security

If you are using Umbrella and are finding the web filtering solution to be a drain of your time or your budget, consider making the switch from Umbrella to WebTitan.

Web Filtering Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing a web filtering solution. Aside from allowing you to identify and block threats and control the content that can be accessed by network users, a web filter should be easy to configure and maintain.

To get the most benefit from your chosen solution, you will need to have all the information you need at your fingertips. You should be able to tweak settings, block/unblock sites, and get the reports you need on users that are attempting to, or succeeding in, accessing dangerous web content.

All too often, it is only when the solution is set up that the discovery is made that it is a pig to use. The information you need is not easily accessible and maintaining and managing the solution is headache inducing. However, it needn’t be that way.

Usability is one area where WebTitan excels. WebTitan is powerful, feature rich, yet simple to use. WebTitan can be used by anyone, regardless of their level of IT knowhow. The user interface is crisp, clean, and provides all the important information in one place.

Complex interfaces mean more time is spent making minor changes and accessing reports, which takes time away from more important tasks. Further, if Your IT team hates using a solution, they will spend as little time as possible using it, and that could jeopardize security.

That is exactly what was happening with Saint Joseph Seminary College, which, after experiencing problems, made the switch from Cisco Umbrella to WebTitan.

Benefits of Switching from Umbrella to WebTitan: A Case Study

Web filter usability was a key issue for Saint Joseph Seminary College, which had been using Cisco Umbrella to control the web content staff and students could access. While Umbrella did allow content controls to be applied, using the solution was time consuming and difficult. Finding information, generating reports, and changing settings was just taking too much time. So much time that IT department avoided using the solution as far as possible. Hardly an ideal situation for such an important college cybersecurity control.

“I prefer an interface to be simple while giving me as much information as possible in one place. I don’t need rounded corners and elegant fonts when I am trying to see who has been visiting dangerous websites.  I need to clearly see domain names and internal IPs,” explained Saint Joseph’s IT Director, Todd Russell. Russell went on to explain that it wasn’t always that way. “In my opinion, after Cisco bought OpenDNS, they made some major changes to the UI which made it virtually useless for quickly looking through blocked traffic for signs of particular types of usage.”

This is sadly a common problem. In an attempt to cram in as many features as possible into a user interface, too little consideration is given to the people that have to use and manage the solution. For busy IT departments, it is important to make things as simple as possible. Sysadmins have more than their fair share of complexity as it is.

It was the complexity of Umbrella – and the cost – that led Saint Joseph’s to see an Umbrella alternative.

An Easy to Use, More Cost-Effective Alternative to Umbrella

When looking for an Umbrella alternative, several solutions were considered; however, TitanHQ’s feature-rich web filter, WebTitan, stood out from the crowd and warranted closer inspection.

“It didn’t take long to realize that WebTitan was the best alternative for an efficient, cost-effective, and easy to use filtering solution to replace Cisco Umbrella,” explained Russell.

WebTitan has been developed with usability at the heart of the design process. Before UI changes are made, they are extensively tested to make sure they do not negatively impact the user experience.

After switching from Umbrella to WebTitan, the benefit was immediately gained. The IT department had easy access to actionable insights into threat traffic and web activity. Reports could be generated and viewed with two clicks of the mouse, The IT department liked using the solution, and further, an enormous amount of time was saved, and costs were slashed.

“WebTitan immediately gave us visibility into our users’ traffic. Within days, the UI allowed us to see clear signals of dangerous activity. Thanks to the easily accessible and understandable data available on the WebTitan UI, we have been able to launch investigations more quickly and work on remediation.” Said Russell. “The whole experience with WebTitan has been terrific.”

Benefits Gained from the Switch from Umbrella to WebTitan

By changing from Umbrella to WebTitan, Saint Joseph’s was able to:

  • Have easy access to actionable insights on threats and web activity
  • Remediate issues far more quickly
  • Quickly generate basic and advanced reports
  • Secure data and users more effectively
  • Slash administration and remediation time
  • Reduce the cost of web security by 50%
  • Block thousands more threats per hour

Time to Change from Umbrella to WebTitan?

If you want to gain the above benefits, it could not be simpler. Contact the TitanHQ team to schedule a product demonstration to see just how easier WebTitan is to use. You can also trial WebTitan before you make a decision to confirm the benefits for yourself.  You will get access to the full product in the trial, assistance will be provided to get you up and running, and full support is available through out the trial period.

DNS Filtering for MSPs: Better Protect Your SMB Clients and Improve Your Bottom Line

Why is DNS filtering for MSPs so important? Find out how you can better protect your clients against web-based attacks and the MSP benefits of offering this easy to implement cybersecurity solution.

A recent survey conducted by Spiceworks has revealed that DNS filtering is now considered an essential element of cybersecurity defenses at the majority of large firms. A survey was conducted on companies with more than 1,000 employees which revealed 90% of those firms are using a solution such as a DNS filter to restrict access to the internet to protect against malware and ransomware attacks.

89% of firms use DNS filters or other web filtering technology to improve productivity by blocking access to sites such as social media platforms, 84% of firms block access to inappropriate websites, and 66% use the technology to avoid legal issues.

Given the risk of a malware or ransomware download over the Internet and the high cost of mitigating such an attack, it is no surprise that so many large firms are using web filtering technology to reduce risk.

Why DNS Filtering is so Important for SMBs

Phishing attacks and ransomware/malware downloads are major risks for large businesses, but SMBs face the same threats. SMBs are also less likely to have the resources to cover the cost of such an attack. For example, the average cost of a ransomware attack on an SMB is $46,800, according to Datto, and many SMBs fold within 6 months of experiencing a data breach.

DNS filtering is an important control to prevent malware and ransomware attacks over the Internet, both by blocking downloads and preventing employees from visiting malicious websites where malware is downloaded. Web filters are also essential as part of phishing defenses.

According to the Spiceworks survey, 38% of organizations have experienced at least one security incident as a result of employee Internet activity. By restricting access to certain categories of website and blocking known malicious websites, SMBs will be much better protected against costly attacks.

Add to that the amount of time that is lost to casual internet surfing and web filtering is a no-brainer. 28% of employees waste more than 4 hours a week on websites unrelated to their work, but the percentages rise to 45% in mid-sized businesses and 51% of employees in small businesses.

There is no latency with DNS filtering, plus controls can be implemented to restrict certain bandwidth heavy activities to improve network performance.

DNS Filtering for MSPs – The Ideal Web Filtering Solution

DNS web filtering is a low-cost cybersecurity solution that actually pays for itself in terms of the productivity gains and the blocking of cyber threats that would otherwise lead to data breaches. Further, in contrast to appliance-based web filters, DNS filtering requires no hardware purchases or software installations which means no site visits are required. DNS filtering can be set up for clients remotely in a matter of minutes.

DNS filtering is ideal for MSPs as it is hardware and software independent. It doesn’t matter what devices and operating systems your clients have because DNS filtering simply forwards web traffic to a cloud-based filter without the need to install any clients or agents on servers or end points.

TitanHQ’s DNS filtering for MSPs has a low management overhead, so there is little in the way of ongoing maintenance required. A full suite of customizable reports can be automatically generated and sent to clients to show them what threats have been blocked, and who in the organization has been trying to access restricted content, and the employees who are the biggest drain on network performance.

MSPs can easily add in web filtering to existing security packages to provide greater value or offer web filtering as an add-on service to generate extra, recurring monthly revenue and attract more business.

If you are yet to offer web filtering to your clients, call TitanHQ today for more information on our DNS filtering for MSPs and for further information on the MSP Alliance program.

New HookAds Malvertising Campaign Redirects to Sites that Deliver Banking Trojans, Info Stealers and Ransomware

One of the ways that threat actors install malware is through malvertising – The placing of malicious adverts on legitimate websites that direct visitors to websites where malware is downloaded. The HookAds malvertising campaign is one such example and the threat actors behind the campaign have been particularly active of late.

The HookAds malvertising campaign has one purpose. To direct people to a website hosting the Fallout exploit kit. An exploit kit is malicious code that runs when a visitor lands on a web page. The visitor’s computer is probed to determine whether there are any vulnerabilities – unpatched software – that can be exploited to silently install files.

In the case of the Fallout exploit kit, users’ devices are checked for several known Windows vulnerabilities. If one is identified, it is exploited and a malicious payload is downloaded. Several malware variants are currently being delivered via Fallout, including information stealers, banking Trojans, and ransomware.

According to threat analyst nao_sec, two separate HookAds malvertising campaigns have been detected: One is being used to deliver the DanaBot banking Trojan and the other is delivering two malware payloads – The Nocturnal information stealer and GlobeImposter ransomware via the Fallout exploit kit.

Exploit kits can only be used to deliver malware to unpatched devices, so businesses will only be at risk of this web-based attack vector if they are not 100% up to date with their patching. Unfortunately, many businesses are slow to apply patches and exploits for new vulnerabilities are frequently uploaded to EKs such as Fallout. Consequently, a security solution is needed to block this attack vector.

HookAds Malvertising Campaign Highlights Importance of a Web Filter

The threat actors behind the HookAds malvertising campaign are taking advantage of the low prices offered for advertising blocks on websites by low quality ad networks – Those often used by owners of online gaming websites, adult sites, and other types of websites that should not be accessed by employees. While the site owners themselves are not actively engaging with the threat actors behind the campaign, the malicious adverts are still served on their websites along with legitimate ads. Fortunately, there is an easy solution that blocks EK activity: A web filter.

TitanHQ has developed WebTitan to allow businesses to carefully control employee Internet access. Once WebTitan has been installed – a quick and easy process that takes just a few minutes – the solution can be configured to quickly enforce acceptable Internet usage policies. Content can be blocked by category with a click of the mouse.

Access to websites containing adult and other NSFW content can be quickly and easily blocked. If an employee attempts to visit a category of website that is blocked by the filter, they will be redirected to a customizable block screen and will be informed why access has been prohibited.

WebTitan ensures that employees cannot access ‘risky’ websites where malware can be downloaded and blocks access to productivity draining websites, illegal web content, and other sites that have no work purpose.

Key Benefits of WebTitan

Listed below are some of the key benefits of WebTitan

  • No hardware purchases required to run the web filter
  • No software downloads are necessary
  • Internet filtering settings can be configured in minutes
  • Category-based filters allow acceptable Internet usage policies to be quickly applied
  • An intuitive, easy-to-use web-based interface requires no technical skill to use
  • No patching required
  • WebTitan Cloud can be applied with impact on Internet speed
  • No restriction on devices or bandwidth
  • WebTitan is highly scalable
  • WebTitan protects office staff and remote workers
  • WebTitan Cloud includes a full suite of pre-configured and customizable reports
  • Reports can be scheduled and instant email alerts generated
  • Suitable for use with static and dynamic IP addresses
  • White label versions can be supplied for use by MSPs
  • Multiple hosting options are available
  • WebTitan Cloud can be used to protect wired and wireless networks

For further information on WebTitan, for details of pricing, to book a product demonstration, or register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Further information on WebTitan is provided in the video below:

How to Improve Restaurant Cybersecurity and Prevent Data Breaches

Hackers are targeting healthcare organizations, educational institutions, hotels, and organizations in the financial sector, but restaurants are also in hackers’ cross-hairs. If restaurant cybersecurity solutions are not deployed and security vulnerabilities are not addressed, it will only be a matter of time before hackers take advantage.

Cyberattacks on restaurants can be extremely profitable for hackers. Busy restaurant chains process hundreds of credit card transactions a day. If a hacker can gain access to POS systems and install malware, customer’s credit card details can be silently stolen.

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Applebee’s, PDQ, Chili’s, B&BHG, Zaxby’s, Zippy’s, Chipotle, and Darden restaurants have all discovered hackers have bypassed restaurant cybersecurity protections and have gained access to the credit card numbers of large numbers of customers.

One of the biggest threats from a data breach is damage to a restaurant’s reputation. The cyberattack and data breach at Chipotle saw the brand devalued by around $400 million.

A restaurant data breach can result in considerable loss of customers and a major fall in revenue. According to a study by Gemalto, 70% of the 10,000 consumers surveyed said that they would stop doing business with a brand if the company suffered a data breach. Most restaurants would not be able to recover from such a loss.

Restaurant Cybersecurity Threats

Listed below are some of the common restaurant cybersecurity threats – Ways that hackers gain access to sensitive information such as customers’ credit card numbers.

Malware

The primary goal of most restaurant cyberattacks is to gain access to customers’ credit card information. One of the most common ways that is achieved is through malware. Malicious software is installed on POS devices to silently record credit card details when customers pay. The card numbers are then sent to the attacker’s server over the Internet.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which employees are fooled into disclosing their login credentials and other sensitive information. Phishing emails are sent to employees which direct them to a website where credentials are harvested. Phishing emails are also used to install malware through downloaders hidden in file attachments.

Web-Based Threats

Whenever an employee or a customer accesses the Internet they will be exposed to a wide range of web-based threats. Websites can harbor malware which is silently downloaded onto devices.

Unsecured Wi-Fi

Restaurants often have Wi-Fi access points that are used by employees and guests. If these access points are not secured, it gives hackers an opportunity to conduct attacks and gain access to the restaurant network, install malware, intercept web traffic, and steal sensitive information.

Restaurant Cybersecurity Tips

Listed below are some of the steps you should take to protect your customers and make it harder for hackers to gain access to your systems and data.

  • Conduct a risk analysis to identify all vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited to gain access to networks and customer data
  • Develop a risk management plan to address all vulnerabilities identified during the risk assessment
  • Ensure all software and operating systems are kept up to date and are promptly patched
  • Become PCI compliant – All tools used to accept payments must comply with PCI standards
  • Implement security controls on your website to ensure customers can use it securely. Sensitive data such as loyalty program information must be protected.
  • Ensure you implement multi-factor authentication on all accounts to protect systems in case credentials are compromised
  • Ensure all default passwords are changed and strong, unique passwords are set
  • Ensure all sensitive data are encrypted at rest and in transit
  • Secure Wi-Fi networks with a web filter to block malware downloads and web-based threats
  • Implement a spam filter to block phishing attempts and malware
  • Provide cybersecurity training to staff to ensure they can recognize the common restaurant cybersecurity threats

Restaurant Cybersecurity Solutions from TitanHQ

TitanHQ has developed two cybersecurity solutions that can be implemented by restaurants to block the main attack vectors used by hackers. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that prevents spam and malicious emails from reaching end users’ inboxes.

WebTitan is a cloud-based web filtering solution that prevents staff and customers from downloading malware and visiting phishing websites. In addition to blocking web-based attacks, WebTitan allows restaurants to prevent customers from accessing illegal and unsuitable web content to create a family-friendly Wi-Fi zone.

Both solutions can be set up in a matter of minutes on existing hardware and require no software downloads.

To find out more about TitanHQ’s restaurant cybersecurity solutions, call the TitanHQ sales team today.

Secure Hotel Wi-Fi Access Points and Gain a Competitive Advantage

Business and leisure travelers looking for secure hotel Wi-Fi access in addition to fast and reliable Internet access. If you take steps to secure hotel WiFi access points, you can gain a significant competitive advantage.

The Importance of Hotel Wi-Fi to Guests

The number one hotel amenity that most travelers can simply not do without is fast, free, reliable, Internet access. In 2013, a joint study conducted by Forrester Research and Hotels.com revealed that 9 out of ten gusts rated Wi-Fi as the top hotel amenity. 34% of respondents to the survey said free Wi-Fi was a ‘deal breaker.’ Now four years on, those percentages will certainly have increased.

Wi-Fi access is essential for business travelers as they need to be able to stay in touch with the office and be able to communicate with their customers. Leisure travelers need free Internet access to keep in touch with friends, look up local attractions, and enjoy cheap entertainment in the comfort of their rooms. Younger travelers need constant access to social media accounts and online games such as Fortnite as they get at home.

It doesn’t matter whether you run a small family bed and breakfast or a large chain of hotels, Wi-Fi access for guests is essential. Any hotel that doesn’t have reliable and fast Wi-Fi will lose business to establishments that do.

It is now easy for potential guests to check if an establishment has Wi-Fi and even find out about the speed and reliability of the connection. The hotelwifitest.com website lets travelers check the speed of Internet access in hotels before booking.

Guests don’t post rave reviews based on the speed of Internet connections, but they will certainly make it known if Internet access is poor or nonexistent. Many of the negative comments on hotel booking websites and TripAdvisor are related to Wi-Fi. Put simply, you will not get anywhere near the same level of occupancy if your Wi-Fi network isn’t up to scratch.

Secure Hotel Wi-Fi is Now as Important as Offering Wi-Fi to Guests

Businesses are now directing a considerable percentage of their IT budgets to cybersecurity to prevent hackers from gaining access to their networks and sensitive data. Securing internal systems is relatively straightforward, but when employees have to travel for work and access networks remotely, hackers can take advantage.

When employees must travel for business, their hotel is often the only place where they can connect to the office network and their email. They need to know that they can login securely from the hotel and that doing so will not result in the theft of their credentials or a malware infection. A hotel will be failing its business customers if it does not offer safe and secure Wi-Fi access.

All it takes is for one malware infection or cyberattack to occur while connected to a hotel Wi-Fi network for the reputation of the hotel to be tarnished. Hotels really cannot afford to take any risks.

Multiple Levels of Wi-Fi Access Should be Offered

Parents staying in hotels will want to make sure that their children can access the Internet safely and securely and will not accidentally or deliberately be able to gain access to age-inappropriate websites. If a hotel claims to be family-friendly, that must also extend to the Wi-Fi network. Any hotel that fails to prevent minors from accessing obscene images while connected to hotel Wi-Fi cannot claim it is family-friendly.

Hotels can offer Wi-Fi access for families that blocks adult websites and anonymizers, which are commonly used to bypass filtering controls. Safe Search can also be enforced, but not all users will want that level of control.

To cater to the needs of all guests, different levels of Wi-Fi access are likely to be required. Some guests will want to be able to access the types of websites they do at home without restrictions and business travelers will certainly not want anonymizers to be blocked. Some customers insist on the use of VPNs when employees connect to their business network or email.

Hotels that implement a web filtering solution can easily create different tiers of Internet access. One for families and a less restrictive level for other users. Free internet access could be limited to a basic level that includes general web and email access but blocks access to video streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix. Those services could be offered as part of a low-cost Wi-Fi package to generate some extra revenue. These tiers can easily be created with a web filtering solution.

How to Easily Secure Hotel Wi-Fi

Offering secure hotel Wi-Fi to guests does not require expensive hardware to be purchased. While appliance-based web filters are used by many businesses, there is a much lower cost option that is better suited for hotel use.

A cloud-based web filter for Wi-Fi – such as WebTitan for Wi-Fi -is the easiest to implement secure hotel Wi-Fi solution. With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, your Wi-Fi network can be secured with just a simple change to your DNS records. No hardware is required and there is no need to install any software. One solution will protect all Wi-Fi access points and can be up and running in a matter of minutes. There is no limit on the number of access points that can be protected by WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi.

Once your DNS is pointed to WebTitan, you can apply your content controls – which is as simple as clicking on a few checkboxes to block categories of web content that your guests shouldn’t be allowed to access.

You can create multiple accounts with different controls – one for business users, one for families, and one for employees for example. No training is required to administer the solution as it has been developed to require no technical skill whatsoever. All of the complex elements of web filtering are handled by TitanHQ.

If you run a hotel and you are not currently filtering the internet, talk to TitanHQ about how you can your secure your hotel Wi-Fi access points, protect your guests, and ensure all users can access the Internet safely and securely.

Why WiFi Filters for Coffee Shops are Now Essential

Find out why WiFi filters for coffee shops are so important and how the failure to filter the Internet could prove to be extremely harmful to your brand.

Serving the best coffee in town will certainly bring in the crowds, but there is more to a successful coffee shop than providing patrons with a morning jolt of caffeine and comfy chairs. Coffee is big business and there is stiff competition when it comes to providing jitter juice to the masses.

In addition to free newspapers, high quality flapjacks and a fine blend of beans, patrons look for the other necessity of modern life: Free Internet access.  Establishments that offer free, reliable WiFi access with decent bandwidth stand a much better chance of attracting and retaining customers.

However, simply setting up a WiFi router is no longer enough. Coffee shops also need to make sure that the WiFi network that their customers connect to is safe and secure. Just as the provision of free WiFi can translate into positive TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews, coffee shops that fail to secure their connections and exercise control over the content that can be accessed can easily get the reverse. WiFi filters for coffee shops ensure that customers’ activities online can be carefully controlled.

Why Unfiltered WiFi Networks Can Result in Bad Reviews

It is important for all shops to ensure that their WiFi networks cannot be used for any illegal or unsavory activities. If a webpage is not suitable for work, it is not suitable for a coffee shop. While there all manner of sites that should be blocked with WiFi filters for coffee shops, one of the most important categories of content is Internet porn.

While enjoying a nice coffee, patrons should not be subjected to obscene videos, images or audio. All it takes is for one patron to catch a glimpse of porn on another customer’s screen to trigger a bad review. The situation would be even worse if a minor caught a glimpse or even deliberately accessed adult content while connected to the WiFi network. A bad TripAdvisor review could easily send potential customers straight to the competition and a social media post could all too easily go viral.

What are the chances of that happening? Well, it’s not just a hypothetical scenario, as Starbucks discovered. In 2011, Starbucks received a warning that minors had been subjected to obscene content in its coffee shops and the chain did little about the complaints. The following year, as the bad feedback continued, the story was picked up by the media.

The bad feedback mounted and there were many calls for the public to boycott Starbucks. In the UK, Baroness Massey announced to the House of Lords that she had boycotted the brand and heavily criticized the chain for failing to set an example. Naturally, competitors – Costa Coffee for example – were more than happy to point out that they had been proactive and already provided filtered Internet to prevent minors from accessing adult content on their WiFi networks.

It was not until 2016 when Starbucks took action and implemented WiFi filters for coffee shops in the UK and started providing family-friendly WiFi access. A chain the size of Starbucks could weather the bad press. Smaller coffee shops would no doubt fare far worse.

WiFi Filters for Coffee Shops are Not Only About Blocking Adult Content

WiFi filters for coffee shops are important for blocking obscene content, but that is far from the only threat to a brand. The Internet is home to all manner of malicious websites that are used to phish for sensitive information and spread malicious software such as malware and ransomware. WiFi filters for coffee shops can be used to carefully control the content that can be accessed by consumers, but they can also keep them protected from these malicious sites.

Just as users have safe search functionality on their home networks, they expect the same controls on public WiFi access points. Phishing attacks and malware infections while connected to coffee shop WiFi networks can also be damaging to a brand. With WiFi filters for coffee shops, instead of being phished, a user will be presented with a block screen that explains that the business has blocked access to a malicious site to keep them protected and that will send a positive message that you care about your customers.

Once WiFi filters for coffee shops have been implemented, it is possible to apply to be assessed under the government’s Friendly Wi-Fi scheme. That will allow a coffee shop to display the friendly WiFi symbol and alert potential customers that safe, secure, family-friendly filtered Internet access is provided.

WebTitan – TitanHQ’s Easy to Implement WiFi Filters for Coffee Shops

Fortunately, WiFi filters for coffee shops are not expensive or difficult to implement. If you use a cloud-based solution such as WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, you will not need to purchase any hardware or install any software. Your WiFi network can be secured in a matter of minutes. A simple change to point your DNS to WebTitan is all that is required (you can be talked through that process to get you up and running even faster).

Since the controls are highly granular, you can easily block any type of web content you wish with a click of a mouse, selecting the categories of content you don’t want your users to access through the web-based control panel. Malicious sites will automatically be blocked via constantly updated blacklists of known malicious and illegal web pages.

With WebTitan you are assured that customers cannot view adult and illegal content, you can block illegal file sharing, control streaming services to save bandwidth, and enforce safe search on Google and apply YouTube controls.

To find out more about the features and benefits of WebTitan, details of pricing, and to sign up for a demo and free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

High Severity Vulnerabilities in VPNs Allow Code Execution with System Level Privileges

Vulnerabilities in the VPNs NordVPN and ProtonVPN have been identified that allow execution of arbitrary code with system level privileges, highlighting the risk that can be introduced if VPN software is not kept fully patched and up to date.

VPNs May Not be As Secure as You Think

One common method used to securely access the Internet on public WiFi networks is to connect through a VPN. A VPN helps to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and the interception of data by creating a secure tunnel through which data flows. Using VPN software means a user’s data is encrypted preventing information from being accessed by malicious actors.

While the connection is secured using a VPN, that does not always mean that a user is well protected. VPNs may not be quite as secure as users believe. Like any software, there can be vulnerabilities in VPNs that can be exploited. If the latest version of VPN software is not used, data may be vulnerable.

High Severity Vulnerabilities Identified in Popular VPNs

Recently, two of the most popular VPN clients have been found to contain a privilege escalation bug that could be exploited to allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code with elevated privileges.

The bug is present in NordVPN and ProtonVPN clients, both of which use the open-source OpenVPN software to create a tunnel through which information passes. In April, a flaw was identified which allowed an attacker with low level privileges to run arbitrary code and elevate their privileges to system level. Further, the flaw was not difficult to exploit.

A change could easily be made to the OpenVPN configuration file, adding parameters such as “plugin”, “script-security”, “up”, and “down”. Files specified within those parameters would be executed with elevated privileges. The flaw was identified by security researcher Fabius Watson of VerSprite Security, and prompt action was taken to patch the flaw.

However, while patches were issued by NordVPN and ProtonVPN that prevented the “plugin”, “script-security”, “up”, and “down” parameters from being added to the configuration file by standard users, the flaw had only been partially corrected.

Researchers at Cisco Talos discovered the same parameters could still be added to the configuration file if they were added in quotation marks. Doing that would bypass the mitigations of the patches. These vulnerabilities have been tracked under separate CVE codes – CVE-2018-3952 for ProtonVPN and CVE-2018-4010 for NordVPN. Both flaws are considered high-severity and have been assigned a CVSS v3 base score of 8.8 out of 10.

NordVPN and ProtonVPN have now released an updated patch which prevents the addition of these parameters using quotation marks, thus preventing threat actors from exploiting the vulnerability. Both vendors have tackled the problem in different ways, with ProtonVPN opting to put the configuration file in the installation directory to prevent standard users from making any changes, while NordVPN used an XML model to generate the configuration file. Standard users are not able to modify the template.

Securing Connections on Public WiFi Access Points

VPNs are an excellent way of improving security when connecting to public WiFi networks, but policies and procedures should be implemented to ensure that patches are applied promptly. It is not always possible to configure VPN clients to automatically update to the latest version. If vulnerabilities in VPNs are not addressed, they can be a major security weak point.

An additional protection that can be implemented to protect remote workers when connecting to WiFi networks is a web filtering solution such a WebTitan. WebTitan allows businesses to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees no matter where they connect – through wired networks, business WiFi networks, and when connecting to the Internet through public WiFi networks.

By controlling the types of sites that can be accessed, and using blacklists of known malicious sites, the potential for malware downloads can be greatly reduced.

If you want to improve WiFi security or implement web filtering controls for remote workers, contact the TitanHQ team today to find out more about WebTitan and the difference it can make to your security posture.

New Fallout Exploit Kit Delivering GandCrab Ransomware

A new exploit kit has been detected that is being used to deliver Trojans and GandCrab ransomware. The Fallout exploit kit was unknown until August 2018, when it was identified by security researcher Nao_sec. Nao_sec observed the Fallout exploit kit being used to deliver SmokeLoader – a malware variant whose purpose is to download other types of malware.

Nao_sec determined that once SmokeLoader was installed, it downloaded two further malware variants – a previously unknown malware variant and CoalaBot – A HTTP DDoS Bot that is based on August Stealer code. Since the discovery of the Fallout exploit kit in August, it has since been observed downloading GandCrab ransomware on vulnerable Windows devices by researchers at FireEye.

While Windows users are being targeted by the threat group behind Fallout, MacOS users are not ignored. If a MacOS user encounters Fallout, they are redirected to webpages that attempt to fool visitors into downloading a fake Adobe Flash Player update or fake antivirus software. In the case of the former, the user is advised that their version of Adobe Flash Player is out of date and needs updating. In the case of the latter, the user is advised that their Mac may contain viruses, and they are urged to install a fake antivirus program that the website claims will remove all viruses from their device.

The Fallout exploit kit is installed on webpages that have been compromised by the attacker – sites with weak passwords that have been brute-forced and those that have out of date CMS installations or other vulnerabilities which have been exploited to gain access.

The two vulnerabilities exploited by the Fallout exploit kit are the Windows VBScript Engine vulnerability – CVE-2018-8174 – and the Adobe Flash Player vulnerability – CVE-2018-4878, both of which were identified and patched in 2018.

The Fallout exploit kit will attempt to exploit the VBScript vulnerability first, and should that fail, an attempt will be made to exploit the Flash vulnerability. Successful exploitation of either vulnerability will see GandCrab ransomware silently downloaded.

The first stage of the infection process, should either of the two exploits prove successful, is the downloading of a Trojan which checks to see if certain processes are running, namely: filemon.exe, netmon.exe, procmon.exe, regmon.exe, sandboxiedcomlaunch.exe, vboxservice.exe, vboxtray.exe, vmtoolsd.exe, vmwareservice.exe, vmwareuser.exe, and wireshark.exe. If any those processes are running, no further action will be taken.

If those processes are not running, a DLL will be downloaded which will install GandCrab ransomware. Once files are encrypted, a ransom note is dropped on the desktop. A payment of $499 is demanded per device to unlock the encrypted files.

Exploit kits will only work if software is out of date. Patching practices tend to be better in the United States and Europe, so attackers tend to rely on other methods to install their malicious software in these regions. Exploit kit activity is primarily concentrated in the Asia Pacific region where software is more likely to be out of date.

The best protection against the Fallout exploit kit and other EKs is to ensure that operating systems, browsers, browser extensions, and plugins are kept fully patched and all computers are running the latest versions of software. Companies that use web filters, such as WebTitan, will be better protected as end users will be prevented from visiting, or being redirected to, webpages known to host exploit kits.

To ensure that files can be recovered without paying a ransom, it is essential that regular backups are made. A good strategy is to create at least three backup copies, stored on two different media, with one copy stored securely offsite on a device that is not connected to the network or accessible over the Internet.

Security Awareness Training Best Practices

Security awareness training best practices to help your organization tackle the weakest link in the security chain: Your employees.

The Importance of Security Awareness Training

It doesn’t matter how comprehensive your security defenses are and how much you invested on cybersecurity products, those defenses can all be bypassed with a single phishing email. If one such email is delivered to an end user who does not have a basic understanding of security and they respond to that message, malware can be installed, or the attacker can otherwise gain a foothold in your network.

It is the risk of such an attack that has spurred many organizations to develop a security awareness training program. By teaching all employees cybersecurity best practices – from the CEO to the lowest level workers – security posture can be greatly enhanced and susceptibility to phishing attacks and other cyberattacks will be greatly reduced.

However, simply providing employees with a training session when they join the company is not sufficient. Neither is it enough to give an induction in cybersecurity followed by an annual refresher training session. Employees cannot be expected to retain knowledge for 12 months unless frequent refresher training sessions are provided. Further, cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics to fool end users. Training programs must keep up with those changing tactics.

To help organizations develop an effective security awareness training program we have compiled a list of security awareness training best practices to follow. Adopt these security awareness training best practices and you will be one step closer to developing a security culture in your organization.

Security Awareness Training Best Practices

Listed below are some security awareness training best practices that will help you develop an effective training program that will ultimately help you to prevent data breaches.

C-Suite Involvement is a Must

It is often said that the weakest link in the security chain are an organization’s employees. While that is undoubtedly true, the C-Suite is also a weak link. If the C-Suite does not take an active interest in cybersecurity and does not realize the importance of the human element in security, it is unlikely that sufficient support will be provided and unlikely that appropriate resources are made available. C-suite involvement can also help with organization-wide collaboration. It will be very difficult to create a security culture in an organization if there is no C-Suite involvement in cybersecurity.

An Organization-Wide Effort is Required

A single department will likely be given the responsibility for developing and implementing a security awareness program, but it will not be easy in isolation. Assistance will be required from other departments. The heads of different departments can help to ensure that the security awareness training program is given the priority it deserves.

To ease the burden on the IT department, members of other departments can be trained and can assist with the provision of support or may even be able to assist with the training efforts. Other departments, such as marketing, can help developing content for newsletters and other training material. The HR department can help by setting policies and procedures.

Creation of Security Awareness Training Content

There is no need to develop training content for employees from scratch as there are many free resources available that can give you a head start. Many firms offer high quality training material for a price, which is likely to be lower than the cost of developing training material in-house. Take advantage of these resources but make sure that you develop a training program that is specific to the threats faced by your organization and the sector in which you operate. Your training program must be comprehensive. If any gaps exist, they are likely to be exploited sooner or later.

Diversity of Training

A one-size-fits-all approach to training will ultimately fail. People respond differently to different training methods. Some may retain more knowledge through classroom-based training, others may need one-to-one training, and many will benefit more from CBT training sessions. Your training program should include a wide range of different methods to help with different learning styles. The more engaging your program is, the more likely knowledge will be retained. Use posters, newsletters, email security alerts, games, and quizzes and you will likely see major improvements in your employees’ security awareness.

Simulation Exercises

You can develop a seriously impressive training program for your employees that looks perfect on paper, but if your employees only manage to retain 20% of the content, your training program will not be very effective. The only way you can determine how effective your training program is through attack simulations. Phishing simulation exercises and simulations of other attack scenarios should be conducted before, during, and after training. You will be able to assess how effective all elements of the training program have been, and it will give you the feedback you need to identify weak links and take action to improve your training program.

Security Awareness Training Needs to be a Constant Process

Security awareness training is not a checkbox item that can be completed and forgotten about for another year. Your program should be running constantly and should consist of an annual training session for all employees, semi-annual training sessions, and other training efforts spread throughout the year. The goal should be to make sure security issues are always fresh in the mind.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Restaurants

Cybersecurity best practices for restaurants that you can adopt to make your network more secure and prevent hackers from gaining access to your POS system and customers’ credit card information.

Cybercriminals are Targeting Restaurants’ POS Systems

If you run a busy restaurant you will most likely be processing thousands of credit and debit card transactions every month. Every time someone pays with a card you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the card details that are read through your point of sale (POS) system remain private and cannot be stolen by your employees or obtained by cybercriminals.

So far this year there have been several major cyberattacks on restaurants that have resulted in the credit and debit card numbers of customers being stolen.  In August, Darden Restaurants discovered that hackers gained access to the POS system used in its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen restaurants and potentially stole over half a million payment card numbers.

Applebee’s, PDQ, Zippy’s, and Chili’s have all experienced cyberattacks in 2018 which have resulted in hackers gaining access to customers’ payment cards. Last year also saw several cyberattacks on restaurants, including attacks on Shoney’s, Arby’s, Chipotle, and the Sonic Drive-In chain. These restaurant cyberattacks are notable due to the amount of card numbers that were stolen. The cyberattack on Cheddar’s is thought to have resulted in the theft of more than half a million payment card numbers, expiry dates and CVV codes, while the Sonic data breach has been estimated to have impacted millions of customers.

Not all cyberattacks on restaurants are conducted on large restaurant chains. Smaller restaurants are also being attacked. These smaller establishments may not process anywhere near as many payment card transactions as a chain the size of Applebee’s, but the attacks can still prove profitable for criminals. Card details sell for upwards of $7, so the theft of 1,000 card numbers from a small restaurant will still generate a decent profit and the effort required to conduct cyberattacks on small restaurants is often far less than an attack on a large chain.

All restaurants are at risk of hacking. Steps must therefore be taken by all restaurants to make it as hard as possible for hackers to gain access to the network, POS systems, and customer data. With this in mind we have listed cybersecurity best practices for restaurants to adopt to avoid a data breach.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Restaurants

Listed below are some cybersecurity best practices for restaurants to adopt to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your network and data. There is no silver bullet that will stop all cyberattacks, but these cybersecurity best practices for restaurants will help to improve your security posture.

Network Segmentation is a Must

You will most likely have multiple computers in use in your restaurant as well as many other devices that connect to your network via an ethernet connection or WiFi. Every device that connects to your network is a possible entry point that could be exploited by a hacker. It is therefore important to stake steps to ensure that if one device is compromised, access cannot be gained to your entire network. Your POS system needs to be segregated from other parts of the network and users should only be permitted to access parts of the network that are required to complete their assigned duties.

Patch Management and Vulnerability Scanning

All it takes is for one vulnerability to remain unaddressed for you to be vulnerable to attack. It is therefore essential to maintain an inventory of all devices that connect to your network and ensure that patches and software updates are applied on all those devices as soon as they are released. You should also conduct regular vulnerability scans to identify possible weak points and take prompt action to ensure those weak points are addressed.

Secure the Perimeter with a Firewall

One of the most important cybersecurity solutions to implement to prevent hackers from gaining access to your network is a firewall. A firewall monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic and serves as a barrier between a trusted internal network and an untrusted external network. A firewall is also an important element of PCI compliance.

Implement a Spam Filter to Block Malicious Emails

Email is the most common vector used to install malware. Phishing attacks are commonplace and are an easy way for hackers to gain login credentials and get a foothold in the network. Use a spam filter such as SpamTitan to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes and block all malware-laced emails.

Protect Your WiFi Network with a Web Filtering Solution

Your WiFi network is a potential weak spot and must be secured. If you provide WiFi access to your customers, ensure they are only provided with access to a guest network and not the network used by your staff. Implement a web filter to control what users can do when connected to your network. A web filter will help to prevent malware from being downloaded and can be configured to block access to risky websites. WebTitan is an ideal web filter for restaurants to improve WiFi security.

Purchase Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is one of the most basic software solutions to protect against malware. Malware is commonly installed on POS systems to record and exfiltrate payment card information. Not only should you ensure that a powerful antivirus solution is installed, you should also ensure regular scans of the network are performed.

Provide Security Awareness Training to Staff

Your employees are a potential weak point in your security defenses. Don’t assume that your employees are security aware. Teach your staff cybersecurity best practices for restaurants, provide anti-phishing training, and explain about risky behaviors that could easily lead to a data breach.

Backup and Backup Again

You should perform regular backups of all your essential data to protect against saboteurs and provide protection against ransomware attacks. If disaster strikes, you will need to record all your data. Adopt the 3-2-1 approach to creating backups. Create three copies, on two separate media, and store one copy securely off site on an air-gapped device that is not connected to the Internet.

Vet your Vendors

Access to your network may be gained through your vendors. The cyberattack on PDQ restaurants occurred via a remote access tool used by one of its technology vendors. If a vendor is able to connect to your network, it is essential that they have appropriate security controls in place. Be sure to check how secure your vendor is and what controls they have in place to prevent hacking before giving them network access.

Adopt these cybersecurity best practices for restaurants and you will make it harder for hackers to gain access to your network and you should be able to avoid a costly data breach.

The Importance of Web Filtering for Businesses

The importance of web filtering for businesses cannot be understated. Businesses can install a range of perimeter defenses, but if controls are not implemented to restrict the activities of employees, malware can easily be downloaded onto work devices. The cost of mitigating malware infections can be considerable. The NotPetya malware attacks last year cost Maersk around $300 million. The Ponemon Institute annual cost of a data breach study suggests the average cost of a data breach is now $3.6 million for large businesses.

There is no single software solution that can provide total protection for businesses. A range of security solutions are required to reduce risk to an acceptable level, and web filters are one such control that should now be used by all businesses.

A new campaign has been detected this week that demonstrates the importance of web filtering for businesses, highlighting one of the methods used to install malicious software on corporate devices. In this case, the aim of the campaign is to install adware, unwanted browser extensions, and PuPs, although this tactic is often used to install much more malicious software.

The individuals behind this campaign are using autogenerated content to create large quantities of websites that incorporate commonly used keywords related to popular celebrities and adult industry actors. The aim of the campaign is to get these webpages indexed by the search engines and appearing in the organic search engine listings.  Individuals who search for these keywords are likely to be presented with these webpages.

Upon opening these webpages, a popup is launched that advises the user that their computer lacks the codecs and software necessary to play the video. To get the videos to play, they need to install a media player. If the end user chooses to install the media player, rather than the media player being installed, a bundle of other programs is downloaded and installed on their device. The campaign also directs users to webpages where they are encouraged to install browser extensions.

If an employee is actively searching for inappropriate website content, it is easy to see how that individual would proceed with a download, and in doing so, install any number of potentially malicious programs.

This is not a hypothetical situation – many employees do just that. A recent survey conducted by Spiceworks delved into the reasons why companies are increasingly using web filters. The primary reason was to prevent the installation of malware. Further, when asked about whether employees had caused problems by accessing inappropriate website content, 38% of respondents said they had experienced a data breach in the past 12 months as a result of employees visiting websites that were not necessary for work.

The survey also revealed the extent that employees are using the Internet for personal reasons. Out of the companies that had not implemented a web filter, it was estimated that 58% of employees were wasting more than 4 hours a week on personal internet use, while 26% of employees were wasting 7 or more hours on non-work-related websites. That adds up to 26 days a year lost by each of those employees.

A web filter can allow a company to improve the productivity of the workforce. Employees will always slack off from time to time, but web filters can help to reduce the number of lost hours. The survey showed that the percentages fell to 43% spending more than 4 hours a week on non-work-related sites and 18% spending more than 7 hours a week slacking off online when a web filter was deployed – a significant reduction in lost hours.  Further, blocking social media websites saw the figure fall to 30% of employees wasting more than 4 hours a week on personal internet use.

Another important benefit of web filtering is to prevent the accessing of illegal website content. Companies can be legally liable for illegal activities by their employees, such as the downloading of copyright protected material through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. The survey revealed two thirds of companies were using their web filter to avoid legal liability and 84% were using a web filter to stop illegal activity online. Data leakage is also a serious concern. 57% of companies use web filters to prevent data leakage and hacking.

If you want to improve your security posture, reduce the potential for productivity losses, and reduce legal liability, a web filter and at least some form of content control is essential.

If you have yet to implement a web filter, are unhappy with your current provider, or would like further information on the importance of web filtering for businesses, call the TitanHQ team today for further information. A free trial is also available for WebTitan, the leading web filtering solution for businesses, to allow you to find out first hand the benefits that content control offers.

How Can You Prevent a Computer from Becoming Part of a Botnet?

What is a Botnet? How are they used? What harm can be caused, and how can you prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet? These and other questions answered.

What is a Botnet?

A botnet is simply a collection of computers and other Internet-connected devices that are controlled by a threat actor. Usually that control is achieved via a malware installation, with the malware communicating with the threat actor’s command and control server.

Once malware has been installed on one device, potentially it can propagate to other devices on the same network, creating a mini-army of slave devices under the threat actor’s control. Any computer with the malware installed is part of the botnet and can be used on its own or collectively with other compromised devices for malicious purposes.

What are Botnets Used For?

Botnets are often used to conduct Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, with the devices in the botnet used to access a particular service simultaneously and flooding it with traffic making that service temporarily unavailable. The Mirai botnet, which mostly consists of vulnerable IoT devices, was used to take down large sections of the Internet, including some of the most popular websites such as Twitter and Netflix. DDoS attacks are now being conducted that exceed 1 terabits per second, largely due to sheer number of devices that are part of the botnet.

One of the biggest botnets ever assembled was made possible with Zeus malware, a banking Trojan that was particularly difficult to detect. In the United States, an estimated 3.6 million computers had been infected with the malware, making Zeus one of the biggest botnets ever created.

In addition to DDoS attacks, botnets are also used to send huge quantities of spam and phishing emails. The Necurs botnet is the world’s largest spamming botnet, delivering 60% of all spam emails. The Gamut spam botnet delivers around 37% of spam botnet traffic. These two spamming botnets are primarily used to send malicious messages containing email attachments with malicious macros that download malware such as the Dridex banking Trojan, and the ransomware variants Locky, Globelmposter, and Scarab.

Recently, the rise in the value of cryptocurrencies has made it highly profitable to use the processing power of botnets to mine cryptocurrency. When processing power is used for cryptocurrency mining, the performance of the computers will reduce significantly.

How Are Botnets Created?

Botnets can be created through several different methods. In the case of IoT devices, attackers often take advantage of weak passwords and default credentials that have not been changed. Since IoT devices are less likely to be updated automatically with the latest software and firmware, it is easier to exploit flaws to gain access to the devices. IoT Devices also rarely have antivirus controls, making infection easier and detection of malware much harder.

Computers are most commonly recruited into botnets through malware sent via spam email campaigns – such as those sent out by the spamming botnets. Malware is delivered via infected email attachments or links to malicious websites where malicious code is hosted. Messages can be sent via social media networks and chat apps, which also direct users to malicious websites where malware is downloaded.

Drive-by downloads are also common – Malware is downloaded by exploiting vulnerabilities in browsers, add-ons or browser plug-ins, often through exploit kits loaded on compromised websites.

Prevent a Computer from Becoming Part of a Botnet

It is much easier to prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet than identifying a malware infection and eradicating it once it has been installed. To prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet, it is necessary to use technological controls and adopt security best practices.

Businesses need to ensure all staff are trained to be more security aware and are told about the risks of opening email attachments or clicking links in emails from unknown senders. They should also be told not to automatically trust messages from contacts as their email accounts could have been compromised. Employees should be taught security best practices and risky behavior, such as connecting to public WiFi networks without using a VPN, should be eradicated.

All software must be kept up to date with patches applied promptly. This will reduce the risk of vulnerabilities being exploited to deliver malware. Antivirus software should be installed and configured to update automatically, and regular AV scans should be performed.

Firewalls should be used to implemented to prevent unauthorized network access and allow security teams to monitor internet traffic.

Spam filtering solutions should be implemented to block the majority of malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. The more messages that are blocked, the less chance there is of an employee responding to a phishing email and inadvertently installing malware.

One way to prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet that is often forgotten, is the use of a web filtering solution. A web filter, such as WebTitan, will prevent malware and ransomware downloads and block access to malicious websites sent via email or through web browsing.

Implement these controls and it will make it much harder for your organization’s computers to be infected with malware and added to a botnet.

Your Router May Have Been Compromised: Urgent Action Required

A hacking group has succeeded in infecting hundreds of thousands of routers with VPNFilter malware. The scale of the malware campaign is astonishing. So far more than half a million routers are believed to have been infected with the malware, prompting the FBI to issue a warning to all consumers and businesses to power cycle their routers.

Power cycling the router may not totally eradicate the malware, although it will temporarily disrupt communications and will help to identify infected devices, according to a May 25 public service announcement issued by the FBI.

All users have been advised to change the password on their router, install firmware updates if they are available, and disable the router’s remote management feature.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the malware campaign is being conducted by the Sofacy Group, also known as Fancy Bear and APT28. The hacking group has ties to the Russian government with some believing the hacking group is directed by Russia’s military intelligence agency.

While most of the infected routers and NAS devices are located in Ukraine, devices in more than 50 countries are known to have been infected with the malware. VPNFilter malware is a modular malware with a range of different functions that include the ability to capture all information that passes through the router, block network traffic and prevent Internet access, and potentially, the malware can totally disable the router. The infected routers could also be used to bring down specific web servers in a DDoS attack.

Many common router models are vulnerable including Linksys routers (E1200, E2500, WRVS4400N), Netgear routers (DGN2200, R6400, R7000, R8000, WNR1000, WNR2000), Mikrotik RouterOS for Cloud Core Routers (V1016, 1036, 1072), TP-Link (R600VPN), QNAP (TS251, TS439 Pro and QNAP NAS devices running QTS software).

The motive behind the malware infections is not known and neither the method being used to install the malware. The exploitation of vulnerabilities on older devices, brute force attacks, and even supply chain attacks have not been ruled out.

The FBI has taken steps to disrupt the malware campaign, having obtained a court order to seize control of a domain that was being used to communicate with the malware. While communications have now been disrupted, if a router has been compromised the malware will remain until it is removed by the router owners.

How to Update Your Router

While each router will be slightly different, they can be accessed by typing in 192.168.1.1 into the browser and entering the account name and password. For many users this will be the default login credentials unless they have been changed during set up.

In the advanced settings on the router it will be possible to change the password and disable remote management, if it is not already disabled. There should also be an option to check the firmware version of the router. If an update is available it should be applied.

You should then either manually power cycle the router – turn it off and unplug it for 20 seconds – or ideally use the reboot settings via the administration panel.

DrayTek Discovers Actively Exploited Zero Day Vulnerability

The Taiwanese broadband equipment manufacturer DrayTek has discovered some of its devices are at risk due to a zero-day vulnerability that is being actively exploited in the wild. More than 800,000 households and businesses are believed to be vulnerable although it is unknown how many of those devices have been attacked to date.

The affected devices are Vigor models 2120; 2133; 2760D; 2762; 2832; 2860; 2862; 2862B; 2912; 2925; 2926; 2952; 3200; 3220 and BX2000, 2830nv2; 2830; 2850; and 2920.

The vulnerability allows the routers to be compromised via a Cross-Site Request Forgery attack, one where a user is forced to execute actions on a web application in which they are currently authenticated. While data theft is possible with this type of attack, the attackers are using this attack to change configuration settings – namely DNS settings. By making that change, the attackers can perform man in the middle attacks, and redirect users from legitimate sites to fake sites where credentials can be stolen.

A firmware update has now been released to correct the vulnerability and all users of vulnerable DrayTek devices are being encouraged to check their DNS settings to make sure they have not been altered, ensure no additional users have been added to the device configuration, and apply the update as soon as possible.

When accessing the router, ensure no other browser windows are open. The only tab that should be open is the one used to access the router. Login, update the firmware and then logout of the router. Do not just close the window. Also ensure that you set a strong password and disable remote access if it is not already disabled.

Many small businesses purchase a router and forget about it unless something goes wrong and Internet access stops. Firmware updates are never installed, and little thought is given to upgrading to a new model. However, older models of router can be vulnerable to attack. These attacks highlight the need to keep abreast of firmware updates issued by your router manufacturer and apply them promptly.

Most Common Wireless Network Attacks

Many businesses have moved from wired to wireless technologies which has had a negative impact on their security posture. Wired networks are easier to secure than wireless networks, and if vulnerabilities exist they can be exploited by cybercriminals. Because of these security flaws, and the ease of exploiting them, wireless networks attacks are common. 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.

Wi-Fi is Ubiquitous, Yet Many Businesses Neglect Security

Wi-Fi access used to be something you had to pay for, but now free WiFi is something that is taken for granted. Visitors to a hotel, coffee shop, bar, retail outlet, or restaurant now expect WiFi to be provided. 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, such as those 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 that minors are prevented from accessing age-inappropriate material. The massive rise in cyberattacks via public WiFi networks has seen many consumers choose establishments that offer secure WiFi access.

If you run a business and are providing WiFi to customers or have yet to provide WiFi and are considering adding a WiFi hotspot to attract more customers, be sure to consider the security of your network. The past couple of years have seen many major attacks on WiFi networks and customers who use wireless services.

Some of the most common wireless network attacks are detailed below.

What are the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?

Some of the most common wireless network attacks are opportunistic in nature. Businesses that fail to secure their WiFi networks leave the door wide open to scammers and hackers who would otherwise look for easier targets. Those scammers are happy to take advantage of poor security controls to steal sensitive information from WiFi users and distribute malware. Unsecured WiFi networks are also targeted by sophisticated cybercriminals and organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the network. The attacks can be extremely lucrative. If malware can be installed on POS systems, the credit/debit card numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands of customers can be stolen.

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 name 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 name. Calling it ‘Free Airport WiFi’ is a common ploy to get people to connect. When customers connect to these rogue WiFi networks they can still access the Internet and are likely to be unaware that anything is wrong. However, everything they do online is being monitored by cybercriminals. Sensitive information entered online, such as email addresses and passwords, credit card numbers, or banking credentials can 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 the 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 to it but it is an “evil twin” through which man in the middle attacks occur – the interception of data sent over the network.

This is one of the most common wireless network attacks and it is surprisingly 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.

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 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 programs called packet sniffers to intercept traffic on unencrypted WiFi networks. These common wireless network attacks are easy on older routers, such as those using WEP encryption. WPA offers better security, although as a minimum WPA2 should be used, or better still, the recently released WPA3. Packet sniffing is one of the most common wireless network attacks.

Examples of WiFi Network Attacks

Listed below are some examples of common wireless networks attacks that have resulted in the installation of malware or theft of sensitive information. These attacks could easily have been prevented had appropriate security controls been implemented.

Tel Aviv Free WiFi Network Hacked

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 none the less due to the rise in 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 Hacked 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 blackhat hacker conference.

WiFi Networks 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.

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 which 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 its 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 manufacturers 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.

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, and being 100% cloud-based, can be managed and monitored from any location.

EITest Web-Based Malware Distribution Network Disrupted

A web-based malware distribution network that was redirecting around 2 million website visitors a day to compromised websites hosting exploit kits has been disrupted, crippling the malware distribution operation. The web-based malware distribution network – known as EITest – was using compromised websites to redirect web visitors to sites where exploits were used to download malware and ransomware, as well as redirect users to phishing websites and tech support scams that convinced visitors to pay for fake software to remove non-existent malware infections.

Due to the scale of the operation, removing the redirects from compromised websites is a gargantuan task. Efforts to clean up those sites are continuing, with national CERTs notified to provide assistance. However, the web-based malware distribution network has been sinkholed and traffic is now being redirected to a safe domain. Proofpoint researchers were able to seize a key domain that was generating C&C domains, blocking the redirects and re-routing them to four new EITest domains that point to an abuse.ch sinkhole.

The sinkhole has only been in operation for a month – being activated on March 15 – yet already it has helped to protect tens – if not hundreds of millions – of website visitors. In the first three weeks alone, an astonishing 44 million visitors had been redirected to the sinkhole from around 52,000 compromised websites and servers.

The majority of the compromised websites were running WordPress. Malicious code had been injected by taking advantage of flaws in the CMS and plugins installed on the sites. Vulnerabilities in Joomla, Drupal, and PrestaShop had also been exploited to install the malicious code.

The web-based malware distribution network has been in operation since at least 2011, although activity increased significantly in 2014. While previous efforts had been made to disrupt the malware distribution network, most failed and others were only temporarily successful.

The malicious code injected into the servers and websites primarily redirected website visitors to an exploit kit called Glazunov, and to a lesser extent, the Angler exploit kit.  Those exploit kits probed for multiple vulnerabilities in software to download ransomware and malware.

The threat actors behind EITest are believed to have responded and have attempted to gain control of the sinkhole, but for the time being those efforts have been thwarted.

How to Improve Security and Block Web-Based Malware Attacks

While it is certainly good news that such a major operation has been disrupted, the scale of the operation highlights the extent of the threat of web-based attacks. Spam email may have become the main method for distributing malware and ransomware, but organizations should not ignore the threat from web-based attacks.

These attacks can occur when employees are simply browsing the web and visiting perfectly legitimate websites. Unfortunately, lax security by website owners can easily see their website compromised. The failure to update WordPress or other content management systems and plugins along with poor password practices makes attacks on the sites a quick and easy process.

One of the best cybersecurity solutions to implement to reduce the risk of web-based attacks is a web filter. Without a web filter in place, employees will be permitted to visit any website, including sites known to host malware or be used for malicious purposes.

With a web filter in place, redirects to malicious websites can be blocked, downloads of risky files prevented, and web-based phishing attacks thwarted.

TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based web filtering solutions for SMBs and enterprises. WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allow SMBs and enterprises to carefully control the website content that can be accessed by their employees, guest network users, and WiFi users. The solution features powerful antivirus protections, uses blacklists of known malicious websites, and incorporates SSL/HTTPS inspection to provide protection against malicious encrypted traffic.

The solution also allows SMBs and enterprises to enforce their acceptable internet usage policies and schools to enforce Safe Search and YouTube for Schools.

For further information on how WebTitan can protect your employees and students and prevent malware infections on your network, contact TitanHQ today.

Beware of this PayPal Text Phishing Scam

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. Phishing threats could arrive by email, text message, instant messenger services, over the phone or even in the mail.

Phishing is arguably the biggest threat to businesses and consumers and can result in a malware infection, the encryption of files via ransomware, an email account being compromised, the theft of sensitive data such as credit/debit card numbers or bank account information. A successful phishing attack could prove incredibly costly as bank accounts could be easily 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 most world’s most commonly spoofed brands. If the brand is spoofed, there is a relatively high percentage 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 the attackers. The PayPal text phishing scam below is much harder to identify as malicious as 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:

Dear Customer,

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:

Dear Customer,

Your account is under review. Please fill in the following security form to avoid lockout: http://bit[dot]ly/_payPal__

This PayPal text phishing scam works because many people do not carefully check messages before clicking links. Click the link on either of these 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, this is a PayPal text phishing scam. The websites that the messages direct recipients to are scam sites.

Those sites naturally require the user to enter their login credentials. Doing so just passes those credentials to the scammer. The scammer will then use those credentials to access an 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.

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 be always be on your guard, whether accessing your emails, text messages, or answering the telephone.

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.

  1. Access your account by typing in the correct URL into your web browser. Do not use the link in the message.
  2. 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 log in.
  3. 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).
  4. Before logging in or disclosing any sensitive information online, check the entire URL to make sure the domain is genuine.

PayPal Email Phishing Scams

This PayPal text phishing scam is one of thousands of phishing campaigns targeting PayPal users, most of which arrive in inboxes.

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 to allow account access
  • To obtain a Social Security number and date of birth
  • 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/or 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 security questions and answers.
  • A user is requested to download or install software on their device.

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 web server is encrypted and secured.

If the website has a valid SSL certificate installed, it reduces the potential for snooping on information as its 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 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.

Anti-Phishing Best Practices to Adopt

  1. 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.
  2. Never open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unrecognized senders.
  3. Beware of any email that suggests urgent action must be taken, especially when there is a threat of negative consequences – your account will be limited or deleted for example.
  4. If in doubt about the genuineness of an email, do not click or open any attachments. Simply delete the message.
  5. Businesses should implement an advanced spam filter to prevent the majority of phishing emails from reaching inboxes.
  6. Businesses should also implement DMARC to prevent spoofing of their brands.
  7. Businesses should provide ongoing security awareness training to employees to teach the skills required to identify phishing emails and smishing attempts such as this PayPal text phishing scam.

Common Web Filtering Myths Busted

If you have yet to implement a web filtering solution to control the content that your employees can access at work, you are taking an unnecessary risk that could result in a costly malware infection, ransomware being installed on your network, or a lawsuit that could have been prevented by implementing basic web filtering controls. Many SMBs have considered implementing a web filter yet have not chosen a solution due to the cost, the belief that a web filter will cause more problems than it solves, or simply because they do not think it offers enough benefits. In this post we explain some of the common misconceptions about web filtering and attempt to debunk some common web filtering myths.

Common Web Filtering Myths

Antivirus Solutions Provide Adequate Protection from Web-Based Malware Attacks

Antivirus software is a must, although products that use signature-based detection methods are not as reliable as they once were. While antivirus companies are still quick to identity new malware variants, the speed at which new variants are being released makes it much harder to keep up. Further, not all malware is written to the hard drive. Fileless malware remains in the memory and cannot easily be detected by AV software. Antivirus software is still important, but you now need a host of other solutions to mount a reasonable defense against attacks. Layered defenses are now a must.

Along with AV software you should have anti spam software in place to block email-based threats such as phishing. You need to train your workforce to recognize web and email threats through security awareness training. Firewalls need to be set with sensible rules, software must be kept updated and patches must be applied promptly, regular data backups are a must to ensure recovery is possible in the event of a ransomware attack, and a web filtering solution should be installed.

A web filter allows you to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees. By using blacklists, websites known to host malware can be simply blocked, redirects via malvertising can be prevented, and controls can be implemented to prevent potentially malicious files from being downloaded. You can also prevent your employees from visiting categories of sites – or specific websites – that carry a higher than average risk.

There are other benefits to web filtering that can help you avoid unnecessary costs. By allowing employees to access any content, organizations leave themselves open to lawsuits. Businesses can be held liable for activities that take place on their networks such as accessing illegal content and downloading/sharing copyright-protected material.

Web Filtering is Prohibitively Expensive

Many businesses are put off implementing a web filtering solution due to the perceived cost of filtering the Internet. If you opt for an appliance-based web filter, you need to make sure you have an appliance with sufficient capacity and powerful appliances are not cheap. However, there is a low-cost alternative that does not require such a major cash commitment.

DNS filtering requires no hardware purchases so there is no major capital expenditure. You simply pay for the licenses you need and you are good to go. You may be surprised to find out just how low the price per user actually is.

Web Filtering is Too Complicated to Implement

Some forms of web filters are complex, and hardware-based filters will take some time to install and configure, which will take IT staff away from important duties. However, DNS based filters could not be any easier to implement. Implementing the solution is a quick process – one that will take just a couple of minutes.  You just need to point your DNS to your web filtering service provider.

Even configuring the filter is straightforward. With WebTitan you are given a web-based portal that you can use to configure the settings and apply the desired controls. In its simplest form, you can simply use a checkbox option to select the categories of websites that you want to block.

Since WebTitan includes a database of malicious websites, any request to visit one of those websites will be denied. You can also easily upload third party blacklists, and for total control, use a whitelist to only allow access to specific websites.

Employees Will Just Bypass Web Filtering Controls

No web filtering solution is infallible, although it is possible to implement some basic controls that will prevent all but the most determined and skilled workers from accessing prohibited websites. Simple firewall rules can be easily set and you can block DNS requests to anything other than your approved DNS service. You can also set up WebTitan to block the use of anonymizers.

IT Support Will be Bombarded with Support Calls from Employees Trying to Access Blocked Websites

If you decide to opt for whitelisting acceptable websites, you are likely to be bombarded with support calls when users discover they are unable to access sites necessary for work. Similarly, if you choose to heavily filter the Internet and block most categories of website, then your helpdesk could well be swamped with calls.

However, for most companies, filtering the internet is simply a way of enforcing acceptable usage policies, which your employees should already be aware of. You are unlikely to get calls from employees who want access to porn at work, or calls from employees who want to continue gambling and gaming on the clock. Restrict productivity draining sites, illegal web content, phishing websites, and sites that are not suitable in the workplace, and explain to staff your polices in advance, and your support calls should be kept to a minimum.

Find Out More About DNS Filtering

If you have yet to implement DNS filtering in your organization, it is possible to discover the benefits of Internet filtering before committing to a purchase. TitanHQ offers a free trial of WebTitan Cloud (and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi) so you can try before committing to a purchase.

If you would like further information on getting started with web filtering, have technical questions about implementation, would like details of pricing or would like a demo or a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Are Password Managers Safe?

Passwords should be complex and difficult to guess, but that makes them difficult to remember, so what about using password managers to get around that problem? Are password managers safe and secure? Are they better than attempting to remember passwords for every one of your accounts?

First of all, it is worth considering that most people have a great deal of passwords to remember – email accounts (work and personal), social media accounts, bank accounts, retail sites, and just about every other online service. If you rarely venture online and do not make online purchases, that means you will need to learn a handful of passwords (and change them regularly!).

Most people will have many passwords. Far too many to remember. That means people tend to choose easy to remember – and easy to guess – passwords and tend to reuse passwords on multiple sites.

These poor security practices are a recipe for disaster. In the case of password reuse, if one password is guessed, multiple accounts can be compromised. So, are password managers safe? If that is the alternative, then most definitely.

With a password manager you can generate a strong and impossible to remember password for every online account. That makes each of those accounts more secure. Emmanuel Schalit, CEO of Dashline, a popular password manager, said, “Sometimes, it’s better to put all your eggs in the same basket if that basket is more secure than the one you would be able to build on your own.”

That does mean that if the server used by the password manager company is hacked, you do stand to lose all of your passwords. Bear in mind that no server can ever be 100% secure. There have been hacks of password manager servers and vulnerabilities have been discovered (see below). Password managers are not risk-free. Fortunately, password managers encrypt passwords, so even if a server is compromised, it would be unlikely that all of your passwords would be revealed.

That said, you will need to set a master password to access your password manager. Since you are essentially replacing all of your unique passwords with a single password, if the master password is guessed, then your account can be accessed and with it, all of your passwords. To keep password managers safe and secure, it is important to use a strong and complex password for your account – preferably a passphrase of upwards of 12 characters and you should change that password every three months.

If you use a cloud-based password manager, it is possible that when that service goes down, you will not be able to access your own account. Fortunately, downtime is rare, and it would still be possible to reset your passwords. You could also consider keeping a local copy of your passwords and encrypting that file. In a worst-case scenario, such as the password manager company going bust, you would always have a copy. Some services will also allow you to sync your encrypted backups with the service to ensure local copies are kept up to date.

Flaws Discovered in Password Managers

Tavis Ormandy, a renowned researcher from the Google Project Zero team, recently discovered a flaw in Keeper Password Manager that could potentially be exploited to gain access to a user’s entire vault of stored passwords. The Keeper Password Manager flaw could not be exploited remotely without any user interaction. However, if the user was lured onto a specially crafted website while logged into their password manager, the attacker could inject malicious code to execute privileged code in the browser extension and gain access to the account. Fortunately, when Keeper was alerted to the flaw, it was rapidly addressed before the flaw could be exploited.

Last year Ormandy also discovered a flaw in LastPass, one of the most popular password managers. Similarly, that flaw could be exploited by luring the user to a specially crafted webpage via a phishing email. Similarly, that flaw was rapidly addressed. The LastPass server was also hacked the year before, with the attackers gaining access to some users’ information. LastPass reports that while it was hacked, users’ passwords were not revealed.

These flaws do go to show that while password managers are safe, vulnerabilities may exist, and even a password manager can potentially be hacked.

Are Password Managers Safe to Use?

So, are password managers safe? They can be, but as with any other software, vulnerabilities may exist that can leave your passwords exposed. It is therefore essential to ensure that password manager extensions/software are kept up to date, as is the case with all other software and operating systems.

Security is only as good as the weakest link, so while your password manager is safe, you will need to use a complex master password to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing your password manager account. If that password is weak and easily guessable, it will be vulnerable to a brute force attack.

In addition to a complex master password, you should take some additional precautions. It would be wise not to use your password manager to save the password to your bank account. You should use two-factor authentication so if a new device attempts to connect to any of your online accounts, you will receive an alert on your trusted device or via email.

As an additional protection, businesses that allow the use of password managers should consider implementing a web filtering solution that prevents users from visiting known malicious websites where vulnerabilities could be exploited. By restricting access to certain categories of website, or whitelists of allowable sites, the risk of web-based attacks can be reduced to a low and acceptable level.

Password managers should also be used with other security solutions that provide visibility into who is accessing resources. Identity and access management solutions will help IT managers determine when accounts have been breached, and will raise flags when anomalous activity is detected.

Terdot Trojan Steals Banking Credentials and Hijacks Social Media Accounts

The Terdot Trojan is a new incarnation of Zeus, a highly successful banking Trojan that first appeared in 2009. While Zeus has been retired, its source code has been available since 2011, allowing hackers to develop a swathe of new banking Trojans based on its sophisticated code.

The Terdot Trojan is not new, having first appeared in the middle of last year, although a new variant of the credential-stealing malware has been developed and is being actively used in widespread attacks, mostly in Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany, and the UK.

The new variant includes several new features. Not only will the Terdot Trojan steal banking credentials, it will also spy on social media activity, and includes the functionality to modify tweets, Facebook posts, and posts on other social media platforms to spread to the victim’s contacts. The Terdot Trojan can also modify emails, targeting Yahoo Mail and Gmail domains, and the Trojan can also inject code into websites to help itself spread.

Further, once installed on a device, Terdot can download other files. As new capabilities are developed, the modular Trojan can be automatically updated.

The latest variant of this nasty malware was identified by security researchers at Bitdefender. Bitdefender researchers note that in addition to modifying social media posts, the Trojan can create posts on most social media platforms, and suspect that the stolen social media credentials are likely sold on to other malicious actors, spelling further misery for victims.

Aside from social media infections, the Trojan is distributed via phishing emails. One such spam email campaign includes buttons that appear to be PDF files, although a click will launch JavaScript which starts the infection process. However, Bitdefender researchers note that the primary infection vector appears to be the Sundown exploit kit – exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers.

Unfortunately, detecting the Terdot Trojan is difficult. The malware is downloaded using a complex chain of droppers, code injections and downloaders, to reduce the risk of detection. The malware is also downloaded in chunks and assembled on the infected device. Once installed, it can remain undetected and is not currently picked up by many AV solutions.

“Terdot goes above and beyond the capabilities of a Banker Trojan. Its focus on harvesting credentials for other services such as social networks and e-mail services could turn it into an extremely powerful cyber-espionage tool that is extremely difficult to spot and clean,” warns Bitdefender.

Protecting against threats such as banking Trojans requires powerful anti-malware tools to detect and block downloads, although businesses should consider additional protections to block the main attack vectors: Exploit kits and spam email.

Spam filtering software should be used to block phishing emails containing JavaScript and Visual Basic downloaders. A web filter is also strongly advisable to block access to webpages known to host malware and exploit kits. Even with powerful anti-virus, web filters, and spam filters, employees should be trained to be more security aware. Regular training and cybersecurity updates can help to eradicate risky behavior that can lead to costly malware infections.

Combosquatting: Study Reveals Extent of Use of Trademarks in Web Attacks

Combosquatting is a popular technique used by hackers, spammers, and scammers to fool users into downloading malware or revealing their credentials.

Combosquatting should not be confused with typosquatting. The latter involves the purchasing of domains with transposed letters or common spelling mistakes to catch out careless typists – Fcaebook.com for example.

Combosquatting is so named because it involves the purchasing of a domain that combines a trademarked name with another word – yahoofiles.com, disneyworldamusement.info, facebook-security.com or google-privacy.com for example.

The technique is not new, but the extent that it is being used by hackers was not well understood. Now researchers at Georgia Tech, Stony Brook University and London’s South Bank University have conducted a study that has revealed the extent to which hackers, spammers, and scammers are using this technique.

The research, which was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Commerce, was presented at the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS) on October 31, 2017.

For the study, the researchers analyzed more than 468 billion DNS records, collected over 6 years, and identifed combosquatting domains. The researchers noted the number of domains being used for combosquatting has increased year over year.

The extent to which the attack method is being used is staggering. For just 268 trademarks, they identified 2.7 million combosquatting domains, which they point out makes combosquatting more than 100 times as common as typosquatting. While many of these malicious domains have been taken down, almost 60% of the domains were active for more than 1,000 days.

The team found these domains were used for a wide variety of nefarious activities, including affiliate abuse, phishing, social engineering, advanced persistent threats, malware and ransomware downloads.

End users are now being taught to carefully check domain names for typos and transposed letters to detect typosquatting, but this technique fools users into thinking they are on a website that is owned by the brand included in the domain.

First author of the study, Georgia Tech researcher Panagiotis Kintis, said, “These attacks can even fool security people who may be looking at network traffic for malicious activity. When they see a familiar trademark, they may feel a false sense of comfort with it.”

In order to prevent these types of trademark use attacks, many companies register hundreds of domains that contain their trademark. The researchers found that many of the domains being used by hackers had previously been owned by the holders of the trademark. When the domains were not renewed, they were snapped up by hackers. Many of the malicious domains that had been previously purchased by hackers, had been re-bought by other scammers when they came up for renewal.

Users are being lured onto the domains using a variety of techniques, including the placing of adverts with the combosquatting domains on ad-networks, ensuring those adverts are displayed on a wide variety of legitimate websites – a technique called malvertising. The links are also distributed in spam and phishing emails. These malicious URLS are also frequently displayed in search engine listings, and remain there until complaints are filed to have the domains removed.

Due to the prevalence of this attack technique, organizations should include it in their cyber awareness training programs to alert users to the attack method and ensure they exercise caution.

The researchers also suggest an organization should be responsible for taking these domains down and ensuring they cannot be re-bought when they are not renewed.

TitanHQ Provides Insights into Great Innovations in Enterprise WiFi Security at WiFi Now Europe 2017

TitanHQ Provides Insights into Great Innovations in Enterprise WiFi Security at WiFi Now Europe 2017

TitanHQ Sales Director Conor Madden will be talking enterprise Wi-Fi security at this year’s Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017, explaining some of the key innovations in Wi-Fi security to keep enterprise Wi-Fi networks secure.

This will be the fourth time in two years that Conor has provided his insights into Wi-Fi security developments at Wi-Fi Now conferences. Conor will be giving his presentation – Four Great Innovations in Enterprise Wi-Fi – Part One – on the first day of the conference between 12:00 and 12:30.

Conor will explain how DNS-based Wi-Fi security adds an essential layer of security to keep enterprise Wi-Fi networks secure, and will offer insights into how enterprises can easily create customized Wi-Fi services. In addition to Conor’s headline speech, the TitanHQ team will be in attendance and will be demonstrating WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi at Stand 23 over the three days of the event. The team will also demonstrate some of the big-ticket deployments from the past 18 months. The team will also explain some of the new refinements and updates that have made WebTitan even more useful and user friendly, including the new API capability that is proving so popular with product managers and engineers.

Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 – The Premier Conference for the Wi-Fi Industry

The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 event brings together leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and experts from all areas of the Wi-Fi industry. This year there will be more than 50 speakers including analysts, thought leaders, technology leaders, carriers and service providers. More than 40 companies from all areas of the Wi-Fi industry will be demonstrating their products and services to attendees.

The conferences are a highlight in the calendar for anyone involved in the Wi-Fi industry and provide attendees with an incredible networking opportunity and the chance to learn about the latest advances in Wi-Fi, exciting new products and new services on offer.

The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 Conference will be taking place between October 31st and November 2nd at the NH Den Haag Hotel atop The Hague’s World Trade Center Building.

Gold passes give attendees complete access to all events at the 3-day conference, with day passes also available. Advance registration is required for all attendees.

TitanHQ On the Road

It has been a busy few weeks for TitanHQ. The team has been traveling across Europe and the United States, showcasing its web filtering, spam filtering and email archiving solutions.

The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 comes hot on the heels of the DattoCon17 conference in London, where the team met with more than 400 MSPs and the ASCII Summit in Washington D.C., where TitanHQ explained how Managed Service Providers can grow their business and easily increase monthly recurring revenues.  Earlier this month, TitanHQ attended the Kaseya Connect Europe IT Management Event and explained about the new integration of WebTitan with Kaseya.

The road trip continues into November in the United States, with TitanHQ attending both the upcoming HTG Meeting in Orlando, FL (Oct 30-Nov 3) and the IT Nation, ConnectWise Conference at the Hyatt Regency, Orlando, between November 8-10, 2017.

Look Beyond HIPAA Compliance to Prevent Healthcare Data Breaches

Last month saw a significant rise in healthcare data breaches, clearly demonstrating that healthcare providers, health plans, and business associates are struggling to prevent healthcare data breaches.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule was introduced to ensure that healthcare organizations implement a range of safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of healthcare data. It has now been more than decade since the Security Rule was introduced, and data breaches still occurring with alarming frequency. In fact, more data breaches are occurring than ever before.

September Data Breaches in Numbers

The Protenus Breach Barometer Report for September, which tracks all reported healthcare data breaches, showed there were 46 breaches of protected health information (PHI) in September, with those breaches resulting in the exposure of 499,144 individuals’ PHI. Hacking and IT incidents were cited as the cause of 50% of those breaches, with insiders causing 32.6% of incidents. Loss and theft of devices was behind almost 11% of the month’s breaches. Previous monthly reports in 2017 have shown that insiders are often the biggest cause of healthcare data breaches.

HIPAA Compliance Will Not Prevent Healthcare Data Breaches

HIPAA compliance can go some way toward making healthcare organizations more resilient to cyberattacks, malware and ransomware infections, but simply complying with the HIPAA Security Rule does not necessarily mean organizations will be impervious to attack.

HIPAA compliance is about raising the bar for cybersecurity and ensuring a minimum standard is maintained. While many healthcare organizations see HIPAA compliance as a goal to achieve a good security posture, the reality is that it is only a baseline. To prevent data breaches, healthcare organizations must go above and beyond the requirements of HIPAA.

Detect Insider Breaches Promptly

Preventing insider data breaches can be difficult for healthcare organizations. Healthcare employees must be given access to patient records in order to provide medical care, and there will always be the occasional bad apple that snoops on the records of patients who they are not treating, and individuals who steal data to sell to identity thieves.

HIPAA Requires healthcare organizations to maintain access logs and check those logs regularly for any sign of unauthorized access. The term ‘regularly’ is open to interpretation. A check every six months or once a year could be viewed as regular and compliant with HIPAA regulations. However, during those 6 or 12 months, the records of thousands of patients could be accessed. Healthcare organizations should go above and beyond HIPAA requirements and should ideally implement a system that constantly monitors for unauthorized access or at least conduct access log reviews every quarter as a minimum. This will not prevent healthcare data breaches, but it will reduce their severity.

Close the Door to Hackers

50% of breaches in September were due to hacking and IT incidents. Hackers are opportunistic, and while targeted attacks on large healthcare organizations do occur, most of the time hackers take advantage of long-standing vulnerabilities that have not been addressed. In order to correct those vulnerabilities, they must first be identified, hence the need for regular risk analyses as required by the HIPAA Security Rule. An organization-wide risk analysis should take place at least every year to remain HIPAA compliant, but more frequently to ensure vulnerabilities have not crept in.

Additionally, a check should be performed at least every month to make sure all software is up to date and all patches have been applied. There have been numerous examples recently of cloud storage instances being left unprotected and accessible by the public. There are free tools that can be used to check for exposed AWS buckets for example. Scans should be regularly conducted. Cybercriminals will be doing the same.

Prevent Impermissible Disclosures of PHI

One of the leading causes of PHI disclosures occurs when laptop computers, zip drives, and other portable devices are lost or stolen. While employees can be trained to take care of their devices, thieves will seize any opportunity if devices are left unprotected. HIPAA does not demand the use of encryption, and alternative measures can be used to secure devices, but HIPAA covered entities and their business associates should use encryption on portable devices to ensure that in the event of loss or theft, data cannot be accessed. If an encrypted device is stolen or lost, it is not a HIPAA breach. Using encryption on portable devices is a good way to prevent healthcare data breaches.

Small portable storage devices such as pen drives are convenient, but they should never be used for transporting PHI – They are far too easy to lose or misplace. Use HIPAA-compliant cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive as they are more secure.

Block Malware and Ransomware Attacks

Malware and ransomware attacks are reportable breaches under HIPAA, and can result in major data breaches. Email is the primary vector for delivering malware, so it is essential for an effective spam filtering solution to be implemented. HIPAA requires training to be provided to employees regularly, but a once-a-year training session is no longer sufficient. Training sessions should take place at least every 6 months, with regular security alerts on the latest phishing threats communicated to employees as and when necessary. Ideally, training should be an ongoing process, involving phishing simulation exercises.

Malware and ransomware can also be downloaded in drive-by attacks when browsing the Internet. A web filtering solution should be used to prevent healthcare employees from visiting malicious sites, to block phishing websites, and prevent drive-by malware downloads. A web filter is not a requirement of HIPAA, but it is an important extra layer of security that can prevent healthcare data breaches.

Government Internet Safety Strategy Aims to Make UK the Safest Place to be Online

This week, the UK government’s Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced the publication of a new green paper outlining the government’s Internet Safety Strategy, saying the aim is to make the UK the safest place to be online.

The Internet Safety Strategy outlines the awareness campaign that the government is taking to prevent cyber-bullying, trolling and the accessing of pornography by minors. The government has come under increasing pressure in recent years to take decisive action to curb the growing problem of online abuse and harm to minors from accessing age-inappropriate websites.

In a recent press release announcing the new Internet Safety Strategy, Bradley said “In the past year, almost one fifth of 12-15-year olds encountered something online that they ‘found worrying or nasty in some way’ and 64% of 13-17-year olds have seen images or videos offensive to a particular group.” The problem is not confined to minors. Adults too have been offended or upset by material they have viewed on social media sites, and the new strategy will also help to keep adults safe and protected online.

The aim of the new proposals is not censorship of the Internet – the UK government continues “to embrace the huge benefits and opportunities the Internet has brought for British citizens.” The aimof the government’s Internet Safety Strategy is simply to make the Internet a safer place and prevent harm to vulnerable people, especially children.

Bradley said, “Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen. We need an approach to the Internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy.”

The Internet Safety Strategy tackles a range of online issues using several different methods – a combination of improved efforts to educate children and the public about online dangers and acceptable online conduct, social media advice, the promotion of safety features for parents to use to protect their children, and the use of Internet filtering in schools.

Some of the key elements in the Internet Safety Strategy are:

  • Developing a new social media code of practice to address bullying, intimidating, or humiliating online content
  • An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms​
  • The publication of an annual Internet safety transparency report detailing the progress made at reducing abusive and harmful content and conduct
  • Providing support for start-ups and tech companies to help them build safety features into their products and apps at the design stage
  • Compulsory new subjects in schools: Relationship education at the primary school level and relationship & sex education at secondary level
  • Encouraging social media companies to provide social media safety advice to parents and build that advice into their platforms
  • Promoting the use of social media and Internet safety features by parents
  • Changing the name of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to the UK Council for Internet Safety, to show the safety of all Internet users is of concern

In the new green paper, the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance is highlighted. The guidance details the steps that schools and colleges in England should take to protect students and keep them safe online. The guidance was updated in September last year to include a new section on safeguarding children online. Schools were reminded of their responsibility to prevent children from accessing harmful and inappropriate website content, explaining Internet filtering in schools is a requirement. Solutions that allow Internet filtering in schools should block inappropriate content and also allow the monitoring of the attempted access of inappropriate material.

The use of similar controls by parents is being encouraged, first by making sure the options are available – the big four ISPs in the UK all offer Internet content filtering controls – and to improve education on the need to implement content filtering solutions to protect children at home.

Vicki Shotbolt, Chief Executive Officer at Parent Zone – an organization set up to provide expert information to families, schools and family professionals on the Internet safety – said, “It is encouraging to see the government proposing concrete steps to ensure that industry is doing everything they can to support families and make the Internet a place that contributes to children flourishing.”

The Rapid Evolution of Ransomware

There has been a rapid evolution of ransomware over the past two years. New variants of ransomware are now being released on an almost daily basis, and the past two years have seen a massive explosion in new ransomware families. Between 2015 and 2016, Proofpoint determined there had been a 600% increase in ransomware families and Symantec identified 100 totally new ransomware families in 2016.

The development of new ransomware variants has largely been automated, allowing developers to massively increase the number of threats, making it much harder for the developers of traditional, signature-based security solutions such as antivirus and antimalware software to maintain pace.

The latest ransomware variants use a wide variety of techniques to evade detection, with advanced obfuscation methods making detection even more problematic.

Ransomware is also becoming much more sophisticated, causing even greater problems for victims. Ransomware is now able to delete Windows Shadow Volume copies, hampering recovery. Ransomware can interfere with file activity logging, making an infection difficult to detect until it is too late. Ransomware can encrypt files on removable drives – including backups – and spread laterally on a network, encrypting files on network shares and multiple end points.

Not only have the ransomware variants become more sophisticated, so too have the methods for distributing the malicious code. Highly sophisticated spam campaigns use a variety of social engineering techniques to fool end users into visiting malicious links and opening infected email attachments. Droppers with heavily obfuscated code are used to download the malicious payload and a considerable amount of effort is put into crafting highly convincing emails to maximize the probability of an end user taking the desired action.

Then, there is ransomware-as-a-service – the use of affiliates to spread ransomware in exchange for a cut of the profits. Ransomware kits are now supplied, complete with intuitive web based interfaces and instructions for crafting ransomware campaigns. Today, it is not even necessary to have any technical skill to conduct a ransomware campaign.

The profits from ransomware are also considerable. In 2016, the FBI estimated profits from ransomware would exceed $1 billion. With such high returns, it is no surprise that ransomware has become the number one malware threat for businesses.

The Evolution of Ransomware – Notorious Ransomware Variants from the Past Two Years

  • Locky: Deletes volume shadow copies from the compromised system, thereby preventing the user from restoring files without paying the ransom.
  • Jigsaw: An extremely aggressive ransomware variant that deletes encrypted files every hour until the ransom is paid, with total file deletion in 72 hours.
  • Petya: Rather than encrypting files, Petya changes and encrypts the master boot record, preventing files from being accessed. Petya is also capable of installing other malware payloads.
  • NotPetya: A wiper that appears to be ransomware, although NotPetya permanently changes the master boot record making file recovery impossible.
  • CryptMix: Attackers claim they will donate the ransom payments to a children’s charity, in an effort to get victims to pay up. There is no evidence ransom payments are directed to worthy causes.
  • Cerber: Now used to target users of cloud-based Office 365, who are less likely to have backed up their data. Some Cerber variants speak to their victims and tell them their files have been encrypted.
  • KeRanger: One of the first ransomware strains to target Mac OS X applications.
  • Gryphon: Spread via remote desktop protocol (RDP) using brute force tactics to guess weak passwords.
  • TorrentLocker: A ransomware variant being used to target SMBs, spread via spam email attachments claiming to be job applications
  • HDDCryptor: A ransomware variant that targets network shares, file, printers, serial ports, and external drives. HDDCryptor locks the entire hard disk
  • CryptMIC: A ransomware variant that does not change file extensions, making it harder for victims to identify the threat
  • ZCryptor: Ransomware with worm-like capabilities, able to rapidly spread across a network and infect multiple networked devices and external drives
  • WannaCrypt: A 2017 ransomware variant with worm-like capabilities, able to spread rapidly to infect all vulnerable computers on a network.

Ransomware is most commonly spread via spam email, exploit kits and by remotely exploiting vulnerabilities. To protect against ransomware you need an advanced spam filter, a web filter such as WebTitan to block access to sites containing exploit kits, and you need to ensure software and operating systems are kept 100% up to date.

In the event that you are infected with ransomware, you must be able to recover files from a backup. Use the 321 approach to ensure you can recover files without paying the ransom – Make three backup copies, on two different media, with one copy stored securely off site. Also make sure backups are tested to ensure files can be restored in an emergency.

Rising Popularity of Ransomware-as-a-Service is More Bad News for Businesses

Cybercriminals have realized they can greatly increase the number of infections – and profits – by adopting an affiliate model – termed ransomware-as-a-service. The affiliate model works well for online retailers, who can generate sales from customers they would be unlikely to reach if they worked on their own. The same applies to ransomware developers.

Affiliates are recruited to distribute ransomware in exchange for a cut of the profits. Ransomware developers can recruit would-be cybercriminals to send out their malicious code in targeted attacks around the world, extending their reach considerably. The greater the number of affiliates, the wider ransomware can be spread and the more payments are received. The returns are substantial for relatively little effort.

In addition to developing the ransomware, kits have been created that make it simple for affiliates to launch their own campaigns. No technical skill is required, affiliates simply enter in their own parameters via an online interface and they can start conducting their own campaigns. Affiliates just need to know how to distribute the ransomware. Full instructions are usually provided.

With an army of spammers sending out the ransomware, the number of devices infected has soared. In 2017, Cerber became the most widely used ransomware variant, even surpassing Locky. The secret of the success was adopting the ransomware-as-a-service model.

For the most part, ransomware is a numbers game. The more individuals that are actively distributing ransomware, the greater the number of infections. With the threat of email and web-based attacks growing, businesses must invest in new technologies to counter the threat.

There are two key solutions that should be adopted by all businesses to improve protections against ransomware. A spam filter is a must – a fact not lost on the majority of businesses. However, even though email is the primary vector used to spread ransomware and malware, there are still businesses that have not yet purchased a spam filtering solution.

A recent survey by PhishMe indicates only 85% of businesses are using spam filtering technology to block phishing emails. That means 15% of businesses have yet to implement this most fundamental of ransomware defenses.

The second key solution is a web filter. Web filters allow employers to carefully control the websites that their employees can access, including blocking websites known to host malware. If an email makes it past a spam filter and an employee clicks on a malicious hyperlink, a web filter can prevent the malicious site from being accessed. A web filter also offers protection from malvertising – malicious adverts that direct users to phishing websites and sites hosting exploit kits.

Of course, technology can only go so far. Even layered defenses can be breached, which is why employees need to be taught how to identify potentially malicious emails. Employees should receive regular security awareness training and be encouraged to report potentially malicious emails. When those emails are reported, IT teams can add the malicious links to the web filter to prevent other individuals in the organization from visiting the malicious websites.

For further information on spam and web filtering, contact the TitanHQ today.

Beware of Hoeflertext Warnings: Popups Used to Deliver Ransomware

Popup warnings of missing fonts, specifically the Hoeflertext font, are being used to infect users with malware. The Hoeflertext warnings appear as popups when users visit compromised websites using the Chrome or Firefox browsers. The warnings flash up on screen with the website in the background displaying jumbled or unreadable text.

Hoeflertext is a legitimate font released by Apple in 1991, although popup warnings that the font is missing are likely to be a scam to fool users into downloading Locky Ransomware or other malware.

Visitors to the malicious websites are informed that Hoeflertext was not found, which prevents the website from being displayed. The popup contains an option to “update” the browser with a new font pack, which will allow the website content to be displayed.

Clicking on the update button will not install a font pack, instead it will launch a download of a JavaScript script file – Win.JSFontlib09.js. If that file is saved and opened, it will download Locky ransomware onto the user’s device.

This is not the first time the Hoeflertext font scam has been used. NeoSmart Technologies discovered the scam in February this year, although recently both Palo Alto Networks and SANS Internet Storm Center have both report it is being used in a new campaign.

Another version of the campaign is being used to deliver the NetSupport Manager remote access tool (RAT). In this case, the file downloaded is called Font_Chrome.exe, which will install the RAT if it is run. The researchers suggest the RAT is being favored as it offers the attackers a much wider range of capabilities than ransomware. The RAT is commercially available and has been used in several malware campaigns in the past, including last year’s campaign using hacked Steam accounts.

The RAT, once installed, gives the attackers access to the infected computer allowing them to search for and steal sensitive information and download other malware.

The actors behind this campaign have been using spam email to direct users to the malicious websites where the popups are displayed. The SANS Internet Storm Center says one campaign has been identified using emails that appear to have been sent via Dropbox, asking the user to verify their email address to complete the sign-up process.

Clicking on the ‘verify your email’ box will direct the user to a malicious website displaying fake Dropbox pages where the popups appear. Internet Explorer users do not have the popups displayed, instead they are presented with a fake anti-virus alerts linked to a tech support scam.

The latest campaign shows why it is so important for businesses to use an advanced spam filtering solution to block malicious messages. A web filtering solution is also beneficial to prevent end users from visiting malicious websites in case the messages are delivered and opened. Along with security awareness training for employees to alert them to the risks of email and web-based attacks such as this, businesses can protect themselves from attack.

Internet Filtering for Managed Service Providers: A Must For Your Service Stack

With the volume of cyberattacks increasing and heightened pressure on businesses to offer family-friendly WiFi access, a partnership with a company that offers Internet filtering for managed service providers is now a must.

Businesses that offer WiFi access to customers provide greater value and are more likely to attract customers. Younger age groups in particular are more likely to choose an establishment that allows them to connect to the Internet and not use their own data allowance.  Coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and retail outlets now appreciate that providing WiFi access brings in more customers.

However, it is becoming increasingly important for secure WiFi access to be provided. Customers are now demanding more. They want reassurance that efforts are being made to make WiFi networks secure. Parents also want to make sure their children will not be exposed to harmful website content when hooking up to WiFi networks.

With demand for a filtered Internet service high, it is an easy sell for managed service providers. Further, Internet filtering brings in regular monthly revenue for next to no effort. Once the service is set up there is very little maintenance. Due to the low maintenance overhead and ease of implementation, Internet filtering for managed service providers could even be provided as part of an existing security suite to give clients even greater value for money.

Visiting clients to install solutions and perform updates is costly and eats into profits. It can also be difficult to convince businesses to pay out for an appliance to keep customers safe online. Free WiFi may increase footfall, but having to pay for a $500 appliance is a difficult sell.

However, with a cloud-based filter there is no need for any hardware purchases, no need for MSPs to visit their clients for an installation, and all settings can be changed remotely via an online administration control panel. Customers can even be given their own logins so they can tweak their own settings and whitelist and blacklist certain webpages at will.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – Internet Filtering for Managed Service Providers Made Simple

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has been developed to make Internet filtering for managed service providers as simple as possible. This go-to-market content filtering solution can be set up for each client in around 20 minutes, with no need for site visits or any software downloads. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is also supplied with a full set of APIs for easy backend integration and reports can be scheduled and sent automatically.

Each client can have their own administration control panel to tweak their content filtering settings, and since the interface is non-technical, there is no steep learning curve. Internet filtering controls are applied by category, so configuration is a quick and easy process.

Content filtering with WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has no discernible impact on Internet speed, there is no limit to the number of WiFi points that can be protected and no limit on bandwidth.

Setting different web filtering controls for different users and user groups is straightforward, since the solution integrates with LDAP and Active Directory. Filtering settings can also be set by the time of day or night.

If you want to offer your clients real-time spyware, malware and virus protection and allow them to carefully control Internet access to keep customers safe online and avoid legal liability, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is the ideal choice.

To make it even better for MSPs, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi can be supplied in white label form ready to accept MSPs branding and there is a choice of hosting options, including the option of hosting the solution in your own environment. Add to that Industry leading customer service and you have the complete package.

If you are an MSP and are Interested in offering Internet filtering to your service stack or are looking for a lower cost service provider with better margins, contact the MSP team at TitanHQ today and find out how easy – and profitable – Internet filtering for managed service providers can be.

How Can I Protect Personally Identifiable Information Under GDPR?

From May 25, 2018, all companies doing business with EU residents must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but how can companies protect personally identifiable information under GDPR and avoid a penalty for non-compliance?

The General Data Protection Regulation

GDPR is a new regulation in the EU that will force companies to implement policies, procedures and technology to improve the privacy protections for consumers. GDPR also gives EU citizens more rights over the data that is recorded and stored by companies.

GDPR applies to all companies that do business with EU citizens, regardless of whether they are based in the EU. That means a company with a website that can be accessed by EU residents would be required to comply with GDPR.

Personally identifiable information includes a wide range of data elements relating to consumers. Along with the standard names, addresses, telephone numbers, financial and medical information, the GDPR definition includes IP addresses, logon IDs, videos, photos, social media posts, and location data – essentially any information that is identifiable to a specific individual.

Policies must be developed covering data subjects (individuals whose data is collected), data controllers (organizations collecting data) and data processors (companies that process data). Records must be maintained on how data is collected, stored, used and deleted when no longer required.

Some companies are required to appoint a data protection officer (DPO) whose role is to ensure compliance with GDPR. That individual must have a thorough understanding of GDPR, and technical knowledge of the organization’s processes and procedures and structure.

In addition to ensuring data is stored securely and consumers have the right to have their stored data deleted, GDPR will also force companies to disclose data breaches quickly – within 72 hours of a breach being discovered.

Failure to comply with GDPR could result in a heavy fine. Fines of up to €20,000,000 or 4% of a company’s annual revenue are possible, whichever is the greater.

Many companies are not prepared for GDPR or think the regulation does not apply to them. Others have realized how much work is required and have scrambled to get their businesses compliant before the deadline. For many companies, the cost of compliance has been considerable.

How Can I Protect Personally Identifiable Information under GDPR?

GDPR imposes a number of restrictions on what companies can and cannot do with data and how it must be protected, although there are no specific controls that are required of companies to protect personally identifiable information under GDPR. The technology used to protect data is left to the discretion of each company. There is no standard template to protect personally identifiable information under GDPR.

A good place to start is with a review of the processes and systems that collect and store data. All data must be located before it can be protected and systems and processes identified to ensure appropriate controls are applied.

GDPR includes a right to be forgotten, so all data relating to an individual must be deleted on request. It is therefore essential that a company knows where all data relating to an individual is located. Controls must also be put in place to restrict the individuals who have access to consumer data. Training must also be provided so all employees are aware of GDPR and how it applies to them.

Companies should perform a risk assessment to determine their level of risk. The risk assessment can be used to determine which are the most appropriate technologies to implement.

Technologies that allow the pseudonymisation and encryption of data should be considered. If data is stored in encrypted form, it is not classed as personal data any more.

Companies must consider implementing technology that improves the security of systems and services that process data, mechanisms that allow data to be restored in the event of a breach, and policies that regularly test security controls.

To protect personally identifiable information under GDPR, organizations must secure all systems and applications used to store or process personal data and have controls in place to protect IT infrastructure. Systems should also be implemented that allow companies to detect data breaches in real time.

Compliance with GDPR is not something that can be left to the last minute. May 25 is a long way off, but given the amount of work involved in compliance, companies need to be getting to grips with GDPR now.

Guidance on Strengthening Passwords Updated by NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated its guidance on strengthening passwords, suggesting the standard of using a combination of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and special characters may not be effective at improving password strength. The problem is not with this method of strengthening passwords, but with end users.

Hackers and other cybercriminals attempt to gain access to accounts by guessing passwords. They try many different passwords until the correct one is guessed. This process is often automated, with many thousands of guesses made using lists of commonly used passwords, dictionary words and passwords discovered from past data breaches.

By implementing password policies that force end users to use strong passwords, organizations can improve their resilience against these brute force attacks.

By using capital and lower-case letters, there are 52 possible options rather than 26, making the guessing process much more time consuming. Add in 10 numerals and special characters and guessing becomes harder still. There is no doubt that this standard practice for creating strong passwords is effective and makes passwords much less susceptible to brute force attacks.

The problem is that in practice, that may not be the case. Creating these strong passwords – random strings of letters, numbers and symbols – makes passwords difficult to guess but also virtually impossible to remember. When multiple passwords are required, it becomes harder still for end users and they get frustrated and cut corners.

A good example is the word ‘password’, which is still – alarmingly – used to secure many accounts, according to SplashData’s list of the worst passwords of the year. Each year, ‘password’ makes it onto the list, even though it is likely to be the first word attempted in any brute force attack.

When companies update their password polices forcing users to use at least one capital letter and number in a password, many end users choose Password1, or Passw0rd or P455w0rd. All would be high up on a password list used in a brute force attack.

Attempts such as these to meet company password requirements mean security is not actually improved by password policies. If this is going to happen, it would make more sense – from a security perspective – to allow employees to make passwords easier to remember in a more secure way.

NIST Tweaks its Guidance on Strengthening Passwords

As NIST points out in its guidance on strengthening passwords, “Analyses of breached password databases reveal that the benefit of such rules is not nearly as significant as initially thought.” With current standard password practices, “The impact on usability and memorability is severe.” That results in end users creating weak passwords that meet company password policies.

Rather than force end users to use special characters and end up with ‘Password!’, a better way would be to increase the length of passwords and allow the use of spaces. End users should be encouraged to choose easy to remember phrases.

The use of a space does not make a password any more secure, although increasing a password from 8 characters to say, 15 or 20 characters, certainly does. It also makes passwords much easier to remember. NIST suggests passwords must have a minimum of 8 characters, and that “Users should be encouraged to make their passwords as lengthy as they want, within reason.”

NIST also explains in its guidance on strengthening passwords that certain types of common cyberattacks involving passwords are unaffected by password strength. Take phishing for instance. It doesn’t matter whether a password is ‘12345678’ or ‘H19g46”&”^’ to a phisher. Provided the phishing email is well crafted, the password will still be disclosed. The same applies to keyloggers. A keylogger logs keystrokes and the strength of the password is irrelevant.

NIST’s guidance on strengthening passwords also suggests that rather than strengthening passwords further, there are far more effective ways of making brute force attacks much harder without frustrating end users. Limiting the number of failed login attempts before a user is blocked is one such option. Organizations should also combine this with blacklists of unacceptable passwords that should include dictionary words, other weak passwords and those revealed from past data breaches. NIST also recommends secured hashed storage of passwords

The NIST guidance on strengthening passwords can be found in – NIST Special Publication 800-63B – Appendix A – Strength of Memorized Secrets

Poor Patch Management Policies Result in Cyberattacks and Huge Settlement

The importance of implementing good patch management policies was clearly highlighted by the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May. The ransomware attacks were made possible due to poor patch management policies at hundreds of companies. The attackers leveraged a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMB) using exploits developed by – and stolen from – the U.S. National Security Agency.

The exploits took advantage of SMB flaws that had, by the time the exploits were made public, been fixed by Microsoft. Fortunately for the individuals behind the attacks, and unfortunately for many companies, the update had not been applied.

In contrast to the majority of ransomware attacks that required some user involvement – clicking a link or opening an infected email attachment – the SMB flaws could be exploited remotely without any user interaction.

WannaCry was not the only malware variant that took advantage of unpatched systems. The NotPetya (ExPetr) attacks the following month also used the same EternalBlue exploit. Again, these attacks required no user involvement. NotPetya was a wiper that was used for sabotage and the damage caused by those attacks was considerable. Entire systems had to be replaced, companies were left unable to operate, and the disruption continued for several weeks after the attacks for many firms. For some companies, the losses from the attacks were in the millions.

These attacks could have easily been prevented with something as simple as applying a single patch – MS17-010. The patch was available for two months prior to the WannaCry attacks. Even patch management policies that required software to be checked once a month would have prevented the attacks. In the case of NotPetya, companies affected had also not reacted to WannaCry, even though there was extensive media coverage of the ransomware attacks and the risk of not patching promptly was clearly highlighted.

The take home message is unaddressed security vulnerabilities will be exploited. Companies can purchase a swathe of expensive security solutions to secure their systems, but companies with poor patch management policies will experience data breaches. It is no longer a case of if a breach will occur, just a matter of when.

Poor Patch Management Policies Cost Insurer More than $5 Million

This month has shown another very good reason for patching promptly. A multi-state action by attorneys general in 32 states has resulted in a settlement with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and its subsidiary, Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Company. Nationwide has agreed to a $5.5 million settlement to resolve the investigation into its 2012 data breach.

The breach involved the theft of data relating to 1.27 million policy holders and individuals who obtained insurance quotes from the company. In that case, the data theft was possible due to an unaddressed vulnerability in a third-party application. Even though the vulnerability was rated as critical, the insurer did not update the application. The vulnerability remained unaddressed for three years. The update was only applied after data were stolen.

The investigation into the breach was jointly led by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. Announcing the settlement Jepsen said, “It is critically important that companies take seriously the maintenance of their computer software systems and their data security protocols.”

Unaddressed vulnerabilities will be exploited by cybercriminals. Attacks will result in data theft, hardware damage, law suits filed by breach victims, attorneys general fines and fines by other regulators. These costs can all be avoided with good patch management policies.

How Can I Restrict Internet Access at Work?

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, the risk of malware and ransomware downloads must be managed and inappropriate Internet access at work can cause 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. This post explores some of the key benefits that can 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 online from time to time. Simply placing restrictions on the websites that can be accessed will not eradicate time wasting, but it can allow businesses to make significant improvements to 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, which is 4,000 hours a week, or 208,000 hours a year!

There are other drains on productivity 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, businesses can ensure sufficient bandwidth is always available for all employees.

The Danger of Malware and Ransomware Downloads

If employees are accessing social media websites, downloading files or are visiting questionable websites, the risk of a 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 websites are constantly being compromised and legitimate sites could easily be hijacked, and malicious content could be added.

Certain types of website carry a high risk of causing a malware infection and allowing employees to access to these sites, many of which are not suitable for work, could easily result in the downloading of malicious software.

The operators of legitimate pornographic websites often take great care to ensure their sites are not compromised. They are, after all, legitimate businesses. However, pornographic content is often used as a lure to spread malware.

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 Keygen tools that generate product keys.

A malware or ransomware attack can prove incredibly costly. Many companies have experienced ransomware attacks that have resulted in systems being out of action for several days or even weeks, causing massive losses due to the business grinding 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. The NotPetya wiper malware campaign conducted soon after caused widespread damage. The shipping firm Maersk had its systems infected and the clean up bill is expected to rise to around $300 million.

A web filter will not prevent all malware and ransomware downloads, but it is possible to prevent certain categories of ‘risky’ website 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 an user to a block screen. Many businesses decide to restrict Internet access at work primarily to protect against malware and ransomware downloads.

A Web Filter Offers 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 block 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 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 the account. The compromised account can be used to send further phishing emails to other employees. It is common for a single response to a phishing email resulting in several email accounts being compromised. Phishing attacks are some of the costliest 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 preventing phishing websites from being accessed. 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. WebTitan blocks up to 60,000 attempts to access malicious websites each day.

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 another survey suggested 28% of employees had admitted to downloading porn at work. Not only is the accessing of pornography at work a major drain of productivity, it can lead to the development of a hostile working environment. Pornography is often used to harass and degrade employees, often 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 employees.

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. When pornography access is discovered, employees usually face instant dismissal. That carries a cost to to the HR department and productivity losses while new employees are hired and trained.

The easiest solution is 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.

Problems with Using a Web Filter to Restrict Internet Access at Work

A web filter may seem like a quick and easy solution to the above issues, although companies that restrict Internet access at work with web filters can encounter problems. Those problems can be worse than the issues the web filter was installed to correct if the correct web filtering solution is not used and it is not configured correctly.

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. 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.

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 an effect on productivity and create a hostile working environment. Why should all employees be made to suffer because of the actions of a few?

When web filters are used to restrict Internet access at work and they lack highly granular controls, there can be issued with the overblocking of website content. Websites that are used for work may be blocked, which requires the IT support team to spend a considerable amount of time whitelisting websites.

How to Restrict Internet Access at Work and Avoid Problems

The issue of latency can be avoided if a cloud-based web filter is used. Cloud-based filters allow employers to restrict Internet access at work, but since the solutions are based in the cloud, they use the service provider’s resources. The result is Internet control without 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.

Some cloud-based filters, WebTitan for instance, allow time-based controls to be applied. Employers can use this feature to restrict Internet access at work during busy times and relax control at others. It is easy to block access to certain sites 100% of the time, others some of the time – relaxing controls during breaks for instance – and setting different controls for different employees or groups of employees. Since the filter integrates with LDAP and Active Directory, setting controls for different user groups is simple. It is also possible to block anonymizer websites to prevent users from bypassing content filtering controls.

Employers who intelligently restrict Internet access at work and still allow some time for personal Internet access are likely to avoid the creation of a hostile working environment while protecting against threats and reducing legal liability.

Speak to TitanHQ About Internet Filtering Controls

Internet content control is quick, easy and low cost with WebTitan. The solution allows you to easily restrict Internet access at work and avoid the common problems associated with web filtering. If you are Interested in curbing personal Internet use at work, 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.