Cybersecurity News

Our cybersecurity news will not be enjoyable reading for organizations that fail to implement adequate online security measures and update them regularly. Many of the news items in this section report hacks, data breaches and scams that have cost organizations money, credibility and – in some cases – their businesses.

The majority of the adverse incidents reported below could have been avoided had the organization in question taken appropriate steps to protect its database and prevent malware from infecting its computer system. To ensure your organization does not feature in a future cybersecurity news item, implement a web filter from WebTitan.

Acumera Integrates WebTitan Web Filtering into Their Service Stack

Austin, Texas-based managed services provider Acumera has successfully integrated the WebTitan web filtering solution into their service offerings and are now providing advanced web filtering to their clients.

Acumera provides managed security services to a wide range of companies throughout the United States across hundreds of thousands of locations, including healthcare providers, automated parking garages and some of the best-known retailers in the country such as 7-Eleven, Circle K, Subway, Pluckers, Benetton, and Valero service stations.

Many of the companies that have chosen Acumera to provide fully managed security services operate in hundreds or thousands of locations – 7-Eleven has more than 7,700 stores in the United States. Acumera secures payment systems and provides network security, connectivity, and visibility services across these widely distributed networks.

Acumera’s expertise in securing large highly distributed networks ensures its customers have the peace of mind that their networks and systems are fully secured, while avoiding the security headaches that many highly distributed companies face. Acumera’s customers certainly get an excellent return on their investment and tremendous value for money.

The Acumera Team with TitanHQ Alliances Director Mr. Eddie Monaghan in Austin, Texas.

Now, following the integration of WebTitan, Acumera’s customers can now benefit from advanced malware and ransomware protection both on and off corporate networks. WebTitan provides excellent protection from a wide range of web-based threats and allows companies to carefully control the websites that their employees can access. Highly granular controls ensure accurate content control without overblocking.

WebTitan Cloud is an easy to use, multi-tenant solution that MSPs can quickly set up and configure. There is no need for any hardware purchases, software installations of site visits. The 100% cloud-based solution can integrate seamlessly with existing client packages to increase revenue and attract more business.

The solution can be hosted on TitanHQ’s servers or within MSPs own environments, with a full white label version ready to take MSPs own branding.

Thanks to the WebTitan Application Programming Interface (API), managed services providers can easily incorporate WebTitan into their service offerings and provide DNS filtering to their customers.

If you are a managed service provider and you are interested in adding DNS filtering to your service stack and would like to become a TitanHQ Alliance partner, contact the TitanHQ team today for more information.

WebTitan Incorporated into Datto’s Network Security Solutions

TitanHQ has announced as part of its strategic alliance with networking and security solution provider Datto, WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi have been incorporated into the Datto networking range and are immediately available to MSPs.

Datto is the leading provider of enterprise-level technology to small to medium sized businesses through its MSP partners. Datto offers data backup and disaster recovery solutions, cloud-to-cloud data protection services, managed networking services, professional services automation, and remote monitoring and management tools.

The addition of WebTitan to its range of security and networking solutions means its MSP partners can now offer their clients another level of security to protect them from malware and ransomware downloads and phishing attacks.

WebTitan is a 100% cloud-based DNS web filtering solution developed with MSPs in mind. In addition to allowing businesses to carefully control the types of websites their employees can access through corporate wired and wireless networks, the solution provides excellent protection against phishing attacks and web-based threats.

With phishing now the number one threat faced by SMBs and a proliferation of ransomware attacks, businesses are turning to their MSPs to provide security solutions to counter the threat.

Businesses that implement the solution are given real-time protection against malicious URLs and IPs, and employees are prevented from accessing malicious websites through general web browsing and via malicious URLs sent in phishing emails.

“We are delighted that Datto has chosen TitanHQ as a partner in web security. By integrating TitanHQ’s secure content and web filtering service, we are well positioned to offer Datto MSPs a best of breed solution for their small to mid-size customers,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh.

“We pride ourselves in equipping our community of Managed Service Provider partners with the right products and tools to allow each and every customer to succeed,” said John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking. “With that in mind, I’m delighted to welcome TitanHQ as a security partner and look forward to growing our partnership.”  

At the upcoming TitanHQ-sponsored DattoCon 2018 conference in Austin, TX – the largest MSP event in the United States – MSPs will be able to see WebTitan in action. TitanHQ’s full team will be in attendance, including Ronan Kavanagh – TitanHQ’s CEO, Conor Madden – Sales Director, Dryden Geary – Marketing Manager, and Eddie Monaghan – Alliance Manager.

MSPs can visit the TitanHQ team at booth #66 in the exhibition hall for a demonstration of WebTitan, SpamTitan – TitanHQ’s award -winning spam filtering solution – and ArcTitan, TitanHQ’s email archiving solution. All three solutions are MSP friendly and are easily added to MSP’s service stacks.

DattoCon 2018 runs all week from June 18, 2018. The TitanHQ team will be present all week and meetings can be arranged in advance by contacting TitanHQ ahead of the conference.

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.

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 this PayPal text phishing scam shows. Phishers use various methods to obtain sensitive information.

Phishing is arguably the biggest threat to businesses and consumers and one that can result in a malware infection, the encryption of files with ransomware, a compromised email account, or the theft of sensitive data such as credit/debit card numbers or bank account information.

Phishers use social engineering techniques to fool end users into installing malware or obtaining 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.

Beware of this Credible PayPal Text Phishing Scam

This PayPal text phishing scam, and several variants, 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__

These scams work 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.

You will naturally have to login in but doing so just passes your account details to the attacker. The attacker will access your account and will empty the account of funds and plunder accounts linked to the PayPal account. The password may also be changed to give the attacker more time to make transfers.

These scams are particularly effective on smartphones as the full URL of the site you are on is not displayed due to the small screen size. It may not be immediately apparent that you are not on the correct site.

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 with shortlinks commonly used to mask the fact that the link is not genuine.

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.

Precautions to Take to Protect Against Phishing

  1. Always set strong passwords and never reuse passwords. Each account should have a unique password. Since it can be difficult to remember all of your passwords, use a password manager and make sure you sent a strong master password for your password manager account.
  2. Change your passwords frequently and never reuse old passwords.
  3. Never tell anyone your password and do not write it down.
  4. Exercise extreme 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.
  5. Never open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unknown senders.

Google Chrome Ad Blocker Launched

It has taken some time, and Google did not want to have to take action, but finally the Google Chrome Ad blocker has been released. The new feature of Chrome means intrusive adverts can now be blocked by users if they so wish.

What Will the Google Chrome Ad Blocker Block?

Google makes a considerable amount of money from advertising, so the Google Chrome Ad blocker will not block all adverts, only those that are deemed to be intrusive and annoying. Those are naturally subjective terms, so how will Google determine what constitutes ‘intrusive’?

One of the first checks performed by Google is whether adverts on a webpage violate the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads – A groups of trade organizations and online media companies committed to improving the online experience for Internet users.

The Coalition for Better Ads has identified ad experiences that rank the lowest across a range of experience factors and has set a bar for what is acceptable. These standards include four types of ads for Desktop users: Popup ads, auto-playing videos with sound, prestitial ads with countdowns, and large sticky ads. There are eight categories covering mobile advertising: Popup ads, prestitial ads (where ads are loaded before content), prestitial ads with countdowns, flashing animated ads, auto-playing videos with sound, full screen scrollover ads, large sticky ads, and an ad density higher than 30%.

Google Chrome assesses webpages against these standards. If the page has none of the above ad categories, no action will be taken. Google says when 7.5% of ads on a site violate the standards the filter will kick in. If the above standards are violated the site get a warning and will be given 30 days to take action. Site owners that ignore the warning and fail to take action will have their sites added to a list of failed sites. Those websites will have the adverts blocked, although visitors will be given the option of loading adverts on that site.

The aim of the Google Chrome Ad blocker is not to block advertisements, but to urge site owners to adhere to Better Ads standards. Google reports that the threat of ad blocking has already had a positive effect. Before the Google Chrome Ad blocker was even released, Google says 42% of sites with intrusive adverts have already made changes to bring their sites in line with Better Ads standards.

The move may not have been one Google wanted to make, but it is an important step to take. Intrusive adverts have become a major nuisance and web users are taking action by installing ad blockers. Ad blockers do not rate ads based on whether they are annoying. They block all adverts, which is obviously bad for companies such as Google. Google made $95.4 billion dollars from advertising last year and widespread use of ad blockers could make a serious dent in its profits. According to figures from Deloitte, 31% of users in the United States have already installed ad blockers and the figure is expected to rise to a third of all computers this year.

So, will the Google Chrome ad blocker mean fewer people will use ad blocking software? Time will tell, but it seems unlikely. However, the move may mean fewer people will seriously consider blocking adverts in the future if companies start adhering to Better Ads standards.

Why Businesses Should Consider Using a Web Filter

For businesses, adverts are more than a nuisance. Some adverts pose a serious security risk. Cybercriminals use malicious adverts to direct end users to phishing websites and webpages hosting exploit kits and malware. Termed malvertising, these adverts are a major risk. While it is possible to use an adblocker to prevent these malicious adverts from being displayed, adblockers will not prevent other serious web-based threats. For greater web security, a web filter is required.

A web filter can be configured to block categories of website content that employees have no need to visit during the working day. The filter can also be set to block websites/webpages known to be used for phishing or malware distribution and can block downloads of specific file types such as JavaScript and other executable files: Files that are often used to install malware. WebTitan also allows businesses to reduce the risk from malvertising without having to install ad blockers.

By carefully controlling the web content that can be accessed by employees, businesses can greatly improve web security and block the majority of web-based threats.

For more information on blocking malicious and undesirable content, contact the TitanHQ team today for advice.

TitanHQ Joins HTG Peer Groups as Gold Vendor

TitanHQ Joins HTG Peer Groups as Gold Vendor

The multi-award-winning email and web filtering solution provider TitanHQ has announced an exciting new partnership with the international consulting, coaching, and peer group organization HTG.

The new partnership – announced at the HTG Peer Groups Q1 quarterly meeting at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix AZ will see TitanHQ join HTG Peer Groups as a Gold vendor, which gives the HTG community immediate access to TitanHQ’s leading web filtering solution WebTitan.

Currently, service providers are being called upon to provide costly support to their clients to help them defend against ransomware and malware attacks. They are also required to spend a considerable proportion of the time allocated to each client under service level agreements mitigating malware and ransomware infections caused by careless employees.

By implementing WebTitan, service providers can easily provide an additional layer of Internet security to their clients, helping to protect them against ransomware and malware attacks. With WebTitan in place, they will also avoid the costly and time-consuming task of mitigating attacks and removing malicious software.

By deploying WebTitan, managed service providers quickly and easily secure their clients’ networks. Once protected, instead of accessing the Internet directly, all Internet requests are made through WebTitan, which serves as a protective barrier preventing malicious websites from being accessed. WebTitan scans websites and webpages searching for malicious content and when harmful webpages are identified they are added to block lists. Any request made by a user to access a malicious website will blocked before a connection to the site is made.

Additionally, WebTitan is a powerful content filter that can be controlled by the MSP or their clients. Once the content filter is applied, any attempt to access a webpage or website that contravenes the organization’s acceptable Internet usage polices will be blocked. WebTitan also provides visibility into Internet usage via detailed reports that are automatically sent to security/HR teams.

HTG Peer Groups Founder Arlin Sorensen (Left); TitanHQ CEO Conor Madden (Right)

The new partnership between TitanHQ and HTG will make it even easier for the HTG community to add this important security protection to their service stacks and provide better value to their clients.

“We’re delighted to welcome TitanHQ on board for 2018. As soon as the initial discussion started we knew they would make a great match for our community, as web security is a key area for our members in 2018,” said Arlin Sorensen, founder of HTG Peer Groups.

In contrast to many web filtering solutions that have been developed for enterprises and subsequently tweaked to make the products suitable for MSPs, WebTitan was developed specifically with MSPs in mind.

“The WebTitan web filter was built by MSP’s for MSP’s and this exciting relationship with HTG Peer Groups is a continuation of that process,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ. “It allows us to listen to the opportunities and difficulties faced by MSP senior executives while also allowing us to share how we became a successful web security vendor. Our goal is to successfully engage with HTG members to build strong and long-lasting relationships.”

In addition to being given access to WebTitan, the HTC community will also have access to TitanHQ’s email archiving platform ArcTitan and will be able to offer spam and phishing protection to their clients through SpamTitan, the leading email filtering solution for MSPs.

Emotet Malware Infection Cost Rockingham School District $314,000 to Resolve

The Rockingham school district in North Carolina discovered Emotet malware had been installed on its network in late November. The cost of resolving the infection was an astonishing $314,000.

The malware was delivered via spam emails, which arrived in multiple users’ inboxes. The attack involved a commonly used ploy by cybercriminals to get users to install malware.

The emails appeared to have been sent by the anti-virus vendor used by the school district, with the subject line ‘incorrect invoice’ and the correct invoice included as an attachment. The emails were believable and were similar to many other legitimate emails received on a daily basis.

The emails asked the recipient to open and check the attached invoice; however, doing so would see malware downloaded and installed on the email recipient’s computer.

Soon after those emails were received and opened, staff started to experience problems. Internet access appeared to have been blocked for some users. Reports from Google saying email accounts had been shut down due to spamming started to be received. The school district investigated and discovered several devices and servers had been infected with malware.

Emotet malware is a network worm that is capable of spreading across a network. Infection on one machine will see the virus transmitted to other vulnerable devices. The worm drops a type of banking malware on infected devices that is used to steal victims’ credentials such as online banking details.

Emotet is a particularly advanced malware variant that is difficult to detect and hard to remove. The Rockingham school district discovered just how problematic Emotet malware infections can be when attempts were made to remove the worm. The school district was able to successfully clean some infected machines by reimaging the devices; however, the malware simply re-infected those computers.

Mitigating the attack required assistance from security experts, but even with expert help the recovery process is expected to take up to a month. 10 ProLogic ITS engineers will spend around 1,200 on site reimaging machines. 12 servers and potentially up to 3,000 end points must be reimaged to remove the malware and stop reinfection. The cost of cleanup will be $314,000.

Attacks such as this are far from uncommon. Cybercriminals take advantage of a wide range of vulnerabilities to install malware on business computers and servers. In this case the attack took advantage of gaps in email defenses and a lack of security awareness of employees. Malware can similarly be installed by exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities in software, or by drive-by downloads over the Internet.

To protect against Emotet malware and other viruses and worms layered defenses are required. An advanced spam filtering solution can ensure malicious emails are not delivered, endpoint detection systems can detect atypical user behavior, antivirus solutions can potentially detect and prevent infections, while web filters can block web-based attacks and drive-by downloads. End users are the last line of defense and should therefore be trained to recognize malicious emails and websites.

Only a combination of these and other cybersecurity defenses can keep organizations well protected. Fortunately, with layers defenses, it is possible to avoid costly malware and phishing attacks such as the one experienced by the Rockingham school district.

Wi-Fi Alliance Enhances WPA2 and Announces WPA3 Protocol Coming Later this Year

15 years after the launch of the wireless security protocol WPA2, the Wi-Fi Alliance has announced this year will see the release of the WPA3 protocol. The transition period from the WPA2 to WPA3 protocol is expected to take several months.

WPA2 was released in 2003, bringing with it a number of key security enhancements to its predecessor WPA. WPA2 fast became the accepted Wi-Fi CERTIFIED security technology and is now used in more than 35,000 certified Wi-Fi products, including smartphones, tablets, and IoT devices.

Since its launch, WPA2 has received several enhancements and the protocol will continue to be updated this year. The Wi-Fi alliance says updates will be applied over the coming weeks and months and will occur ‘under-the-hood’ and will be unnoticeable to users. The enhancements will address configuration, authentication, and encryption.

The first major update to WPA2 is for Protected Management Frames (PMF) in Wi-Fi devices, which ensure the integrity of network management traffic on Wi-Fi networks. The update concerns when devices are required to use PMF, refining configurations for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices to ensure the highest possible level of security.

The second enhancement requires companies to conduct additional checks of their devices to ensure best practices for using the Wi-Fi security protocols have been adopted. This will reduce the potential for the misconfiguration of networks and devices, further safeguarding managed networks with centralized authentication services.

The third major update standardizes 128-bit level cryptographic suite configurations, which will deliver more consistent network security configurations. The Wi-Fi Alliance VP, Kevin Robinson, said, “Often people may focus exclusively on the level of encryption when evaluating security of a technology, but there are a number of components—such as information protection (encryption), key establishment, digital signatures, and condensed representations of information—that work together as a system to deliver strong security.” This update will ensure all cryptographic components used are of the required standard, ensuring there are no weak links in the encryption chain.

By adding these enhancements to its Wi-Fi certification program, users can be sure all certified Wi-Fi devices will have the highest level of security.

The Wi-Fi Alliance says WPA2 will continue to be deployed in Wi-Fi devices, although following the launch of the WPA3 protocol later this year there will be a gradual transition to the WPA3 protocol. During the transition period, both WPA2 and WPA3 will be run concurrently. The process of changeover is expected to take several months, as it is necessary for all hardware to be certified to make sure the new protocol can be supported.

The WPA3 protocol will incorporate several important enhancements to improve Wi-Fi security. The full specifications have not yet been published but are expected to include increased privacy protections for users of open networks with individualized data encryption.

Controls to prevent malicious actors from undertaking multiple login attempts via commonly used passwords is expected, as well as more simplified configuration for IoT devices that do not have a display. The new WPA3 protocol will also use 192-bit security or the Commercial National Security Algorithm to improve security for government, defense, and industrial networks.

“Wi-Fi security technologies may live for decades, so it’s important they are continually updated to ensure they meet the needs of the Wi-Fi industry,” said Joe Hoffman, SAR Insight & Consulting. “Wi-Fi is evolving to maintain its high-level of security as industry demands increase.”

HTTPS Phishing Websites Soar as Cybercriminals Embrace SSL

HTTPS phishing websites have increased significantly this year, to the point that more HTTPS phishing websites are now being registered than legitimate websites with SSL certificates, according to a new analysis by PhishLabs.

If a website starts with HTTPS it means that a SSL certificate is held by the site owner, that the connection between your browser and the website is encrypted, and you are protected from man-in-the-middle attacks. It was not long ago that a green padlock next to the URL, along with a web address starting with HTTPS, meant you could be reasonably confident that that the website you were visiting was genuine. That is no longer the case, yet many people still believe that to be true.

According to PhisLabs, a recent survey showed that 80% of respondents felt the green padlock and HTTPS indicated the site was legitimate and/or secure. The truth is that all it means is traffic between the browser and the website is encrypted. That will prevent information being intercepted, but if you are on a phishing website, it doesn’t matter whether it is HTTP or HTTPS. The end result will be the same.

Over the past couple of years there has been a major push to move websites from HTTP to HTTPS, and most businesses have now made the switch. This was in part due to Google and Firefox issuing warnings about websites that lacked SSL certificates, alerting visitors that entering sensitive information on the sites carried a risk. Since October, Google has been labelling websites as Not Secure in the URL via the Chrome browser.

Such warnings are sufficient to see web visitors leave in their droves and visit other sites where they are better protected. It is no surprise that businesses have sat up and taken notice and made the switch. According to Let’s Encrypt, 65% of websites are now on HTTPS, compared to just 45% in 2016.

However, it is not only legitimate businesses that are switching to secure websites. Phishers are taking advantage of the benefits that come from HTTPS websites. Namely trust.

Consumer trust in HTTPS means cybercriminals who register HTTPS sites can easily add legitimacy to their malicious websites. It is therefore no surprise that HTTPS phishing websites are increasing. As more legitimate websites switch to HTTPS, more phishing websites are registered with SSL certificates. If that were not the case, the fact that a website started with HTTP would be a clear indicator that it may be malicious and cybercriminals would be at a distinct disadvantage.

What is a surprise is the extent to which HTTPS is being abused by scammers. The PhishLabs report shows that in the third quarter of 2017, almost a quarter of phishing websites were hosted on HTTPS pages. Twice the number seen in the previous quarter. An analysis of phishing sites spoofing Apple and PayPal showed that three quarters are hosted on HTTPS pages. Figures from 2016 show that less than 3% of phishing sites were using HTTPS. In 2015 it was just 1%.

While checks are frequently performed on websites before a SSL certificate is issued, certification companies do not check all websites, which allows the scammers to obtain SSL certificates. Many websites are registered before any content is uploaded, so even a check of the site would not provide any clues that the site will be used for malicious purposes. Once the certificate is obtained, malicious content is uploaded.

The PhishLabs report also shows there is an approximate 50/50 spread between websites registered by scammers and legitimate websites that have been compromised and loaded with phishing webpages. Just because a site is secure, it does not mean all plugins are kept up to date and neither that the latest version of the CMS is in use. Vulnerabilities exist on many websites and hackers are quick to take advantage.

The rise in HTTPS phishing websites is bad news for consumers and businesses alike. Consumers should be wary that HTTPS is no guarantee that website is legitimate. Businesses that have restricted Internet access to only allow HTTPS websites to be visited may have a false sense of security that they are protected from phishing and other malicious sites, when that is far from being the case.

For the best protection, businesses should consider implementing a web filter that scans the content of webpages to identify malicious sites, and that the solution is capable of decrypting secure sites to perform scans of the content.

For more information on how a web filter can help to protect your organization from phishing and malware downloads, give the TitanHQ sales team a call today.

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.

Health Tips Used as Lure in Smoke Loader Malware Malvertising Campaign

Cybercriminals are delivering Smoke Loader malware via a new malvertising campaign that uses health tips and advice to lure end users to a malicious website hosting the Terror Exploit Kit.

Malvertising is the name given to malicious adverts that appear genuine, but redirect users to phishing sites and websites that have been loaded with toolkits – exploit kits – that probe for unpatched vulnerabilities in browsers, plugins, and operating systems.

Spam email is the primary vector used to spread malware, although the threat from exploit kits should not be ignored. Exploit kits were used extensively in 2016 to deliver malware and ransomware, and while EK activity has fallen considerably toward the end of 2016 and has remained fairly low in 2017, attacks are still occurring. The Magnitude Exploit it is still extensively used to spread malware in the Asia Pacific region, and recently there has been an increase in attacks elsewhere using the Rig and Terror exploit kits.

The Smoke Loader malware malvertising campaign has now been running for almost two months. ZScaler first identified the malvertising campaign on September 1, 2017, and it has remained active throughout October.

Fake advertisements are frequently used to lure users to the malicious sites, although the latest campaign is using weight loss promises and help to quit smoking to attract clicks. Obfuscated JavaScript is incorporated into adverts to redirect users to malicious websites hosting the Terror exploit kit.

Exploit kits can be loaded with several exploits for known vulnerabilities, although the Terror EK is currently attempting to exploit two key vulnerabilities: A scripting engine memory corruption vulnerability (CVE-2016-0189) that affects Internet Explorer 9 and 11, and a Windows OLE automation array RCE vulnerability (CVE-2014-6332) affecting unpatched versions of Windows 7 and 8. ZScaler also reports that three Flash exploits are also attempted.

Patches have been released to address these vulnerabilities, but if those patches have not been applied systems will be vulnerable to attack. Since these attacks occur without any user interaction – other than visiting a site hosting the Terror EK – infection is all but guaranteed if users respond to the malicious adverts.

Smoke Loader malware is a backdoor that if installed, will give cybercriminals full access to an infected machine, allowing them to steal data, launch further cyberattacks on the network, and install other malware and ransomware. Smoke Loader malware is not new – it has been around since at least 2011 – but it has recently been upgraded with several anti-analysis mechanisms to prevent detection. Smoke Loader malware has also been associated with the installation of the TrickBot banking Trojan and Globelmposter ransomware.

To protect against attacks, organizations should ensure their systems and browsers are updated to the latest versions and patches are applied promptly. Since there is usually a lag between the release of a new patch and installation, organizations should consider the use of a web filter to block malicious adverts and restrict web access to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites.

For advice on blocking malvertisements, restricting Internet access for employees, and implementing a web filter, contact the TitanHQ team today.

IoT Reaper Botnet Growing at Alarming Rate

Last year, the Mirai botnet was used in massive DDoS attacks; however, the IoT Reaper botnet could redefine massive. The Mirai botnet, which mostly consisted of IoT devices, was capable of delivering DDoS attacks in excess of 1 terabit per second using just 100,000 malware infected devices.

The IoT Reaper botnet reportedly includes almost 2 million IoT devices, and infections with Reaper malware are growing at an alarming rate. An estimated 10,000 new IoT devices are infected and added to the botnet every day.

Researchers at Qihoo 360, who discovered the new botnet, report that the malware also includes in excess of 100 DNS open resolvers, making DNS amplification – DNS Reflection Denial of Service (DrDoS) – attacks possible.

Check Point has also been tracking a new botnet that includes an estimated 1 million devices, with 60% of the devices the firm tracks infected with the botnet malware. Check Point has called the botnet IoTroop, although it is probable that it is the same botnet as Qihoo 360 has been tracking. Check Point says it is “forming to create a cyber-storm that could take down the Internet.”

While the IoT Reaper botnet has existed for some time, it was not identified until September this year. Previously, the malware used to enslaves IoT devices was installed by taking advantage of default and weak passwords. However, that has now changed, and infections have been growing at an alarming rate as a result.

IoT Reaper is using nine different exploits for known vulnerabilities that have yet to be patched, with routers, cameras, and NVRs being targeted from more than 10 different manufacturers including router manufacturers Netgear, D-Link, Linksys, and surveillance camera manufacturers AvTech, Vacron, and GoAhead.

Unfortunately, while PC users are used to applying patches to keep their computers secure, the same cannot be said for routers and surveillance cameras, which often remain unpatched and vulnerable to infection.

At present the intentions of the actors behind the botnet are not known, but it is highly likely that the botnet will be used to perform DDoS attacks, as has been the case with other IoT botnets. Even though the number of enslaved devices is substantial, researchers believe the botnet is still in the early stages of development and we are currently enjoying the quiet before the storm.

If a botnet involving 100,000 devices can deliver a 1 terabit per second attack, the scale of the DDoS attacks with IoT Reaper could be in the order of tens of terabits per second. Fortunately, for the time being at least, the botnet is not being used for any attacks. The bad news is those attacks could well start soon, and since the malware allows new modules to be added, it could soon be weaponized and used for another purpose.

WPA2 WiFi Vulnerability Allows Decryption of WiFi Traffic and Injection of Malicious Code

A critical WiFi security flaw has been discovered by security researchers in Belgium. The WPA2 WiFi vulnerability can be exploited using the KRACK (Key Reinstallation attack) method, which allows malicious actors to intercept and decrypt traffic between a user and the WiFi network in a man-in-the-middle attack. The scale of the problem is immense. Nearly every WiFi router is likely to be vulnerable.

Exploiting the WPA2 WiFi vulnerability would also allow a malicious actor to inject code or install malware or ransomware. In theory, this attack method would even allow an attacker to insert malicious code or malware into a benign website. In addition to intercepting communications, access could be gained to the device and any connected storage drives. An attacker could gain full control of a device that connects to a vulnerable WiFi network.

There are two conditions required to pull off KRACK– The WiFi network must be using WPA2-PSK (or WPA-Enterprise) and the attacker must be within range of the WiFi signal.

The first condition is problematic, since most WiFi networks use the WPA2 protocol and most large businesses use WPA-Enterprise. Further, since this is a flaw in the WiFI protocol, it doesn’t matter what device is being used or the security on that device. The second offers some protection for businesses for their internal WiFi networks since an attack would need to be pulled off by an insider or someone in, or very close to, the facility. That said, if an employee was to use their work laptop to connect to a public WiFi hotspot, such as in a coffee shop, their communications could be intercepted and their device infected.

In the case of the latter, the attack could occur before the user has stirred sugar into his or her coffee, and before a connection to the Internet has been opened. That’s because this attack occurs when a device connects to the hotspot and undergoes a four-way handshake. The purpose of the handshake is to confirm both the client and the access point have the correct credentials. With KRACK, a vulnerable client is tricked into using a key that is already in use.

The researchers explained that “our attack is exceptionally devastating against Android 6.0: it forces the client into using a predictable all-zero encryption key.” The researchers also pointed out, “Although websites or apps may use HTTPS as an additional layer of protection, we warn that this extra protection can be bypassed in a worrying number of situations.”

The disclosure of this WPA2 WiFi vulnerability has had many vendors franticly developing patches to block attacks. The security researcher who discovered the WPA2 WiFi vulnerability – Mathy Vanhoef – notified vendors and software developers months previously, allowing them to start work on their patches. Even with advance notice, relatively few companies have so far patched their software and products. So far, companies that have confirmed patches have been applied include Microsoft, Linux, Apple, and Cisco/Aruba. However, to date, Google has yet to patch its Android platform, and neither has Pixel/Nexus. Google is reportedly still working on a patch and will release it shortly.

There is also concern over IoT devices, which Vanhoef says may never receive a patch for the WPA2 WiFi vulnerability, leaving them highly vulnerable to attack. Smartphones similarly may not be patched promptly. Since these devices regularly connect to public WiFi hotspots, they are likely to be the most vulnerable to KRACK attacks.

While the WPA2 WiFi vulnerability is serious, there is perhaps no need to panic. At least, that is the advice of the WiFi Alliance – which co-developed WPA2. “There is no evidence that the vulnerability has been exploited maliciously, and Wi-Fi Alliance has taken immediate steps to ensure users can continue to count on Wi-Fi to deliver strong security protections.” The WiFi Alliance also explained, “Wi-Fi Alliance now requires testing for this vulnerability within our global certification lab network and has provided a vulnerability detection tool for use by any Wi-Fi Alliance member.”

The UK’s National Cyber Security Center pointed out that even with the WPA2 WiFi vulnerability, WPA2 is still more secure than WPA or WEP, also explaining that there is no need to change WiFi passwords or enterprise credentials to protect against this vulnerability. However, businesses and consumers should ensure they apply patches promptly, and businesses should consider developing policies that require all remote workers to connect to WiFi networks using a VPN.

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.”

Dark Overlord Cyberattacks on Schools See Threats Escalate

The healthcare industry has been extensively targeted, and now Dark Overlord cyberattacks on schools have soared – The education sector is now being targeted.

The cyberattacks on healthcare institutions included threats to publish data. Those threats were often ignored, resulting in sensitive data being dumped online. While such data dumps are damaging to healthcare organizations and their patients, many attacked institutions followed the advice of the FBI and chose not to give in to the mafia-style extortion tactics.

The recent Dark Overlord cyberattacks on schools have been different. Educational institutions have not only been hacked and had sensitive data stolen, the hacking group has escalated its threats. Additionally, rather than just sending threats to the schools, parents of some of the children whose data were stolen have also been contacted by text. The aim is clear. To put pressure on schools to pay up.

The latest wave Dark Overlord cyberattacks on schools have been spread across the country. Schools in Alabama, Iowa, Montana, and Texas have all been attacked in recent weeks. The attacks have followed a similar pattern to the attacks on healthcare organizations, Gorilla Glue, and Netflix. Sensitive data have been stolen, a payment was demanded, and a threat issued to publish the data online if the payment was not made.

Payment of a ransom does not guarantee data will not be released. The latest episode of Orange is the New Black was stolen and Netflix was threatened. A $50,000 ransom was paid, but the episode was still released – It was claimed this was for contacting the FBI.

The latest attacks have got more personal. The Dark Overlord cyberattacks on schools have seen parents of children sent personalized text messages threatening violence against their children. One of those messages included the address of the family with the message “your child is still so innocent. Don’t have anyone look outside.” The Des Moines Register reported that one parent responded to the message telling the sender of the messages to stop and was told, “we are just getting started.” Other text messages threatened to kill kids at the school resulting in the school closing for a day as a precaution.

In the case of the cyberattack on Johnston Community School District in Iowa, data was dumped online. TDO allegedly said the data would help child predators.

The attack on Montana’s Columbia Falls School district was accompanied by a 7-page letter, in which Sandy Hook was referenced. Threats were issued about publishing grades, sensitive behavioral reports, details of ‘shoddy student work’, nurse reports, and private health information. While various methods of payment were offered, a ransom payment of $150,000 was demanded in Bitcoin. In exchange, TDO said all stolen data would be deleted.

Similar attacks have occurred at Alabama’s Crenshaw County Schools District and Splendora School District in Texas. The escalation in the threats was reportedly in response to the FBI telling breach victims not to respond to the messages and not to pay the ransom demands.

While these Dark Overlord cyberattacks on schools follow a similar pattern to other attacks, there are notable differences, raising the prospect that some of the attacks were performed by other hackers piggybacking on the name.

Regardless of who is conducting the attacks, the message to schools – and all other organizations – is clear. Make sure your networks are well defended. Implement layered cybersecurity defenses, patch promptly, and consider using encryption for all stored data.

Lack of Two-Factor Authentication Linked to Deloitte Data Breach

This week, news has emerged about a serious Deloitte data breach that allegedly resulted in ‘several gigabytes’ of sensitive emails sent to and from the accountancy firm’s clients being obtained by hackers.

Deloitte is one of the big four accountancy firms and provides auditing and tax consultancy services to some of the world’s biggest companies, including many banks, pharmaceutical firms, and government agencies. Deloitte also offers cybersecurity consultancy services and is one of the most widely respected firms, and was rated as the top cybersecurity consultancy firm in the world in 2012.

According to a report in The Guardian, the Deloitte data breach was detected in March, but was only announced this week. Hackers are believed to have access to the firm’s Azure cloud account for months, with the initial breach believed to have occurred in October last year. The Azure account was used to store company emails.

Access to the cloud was gained by hacking an administrator account, which was protected with a password, although allegedly did not have two-factor authentication in place.

Deloitte has confirmed it has suffered a data breach, although few details have been released about the nature of the breach other than Deloitte saying only a small number of its clients have been impacted. Deloitte also issued a statement saying, “no disruption has occurred to client businesses, to Deloitte’s ability to continue to serve clients, or to consumers.” The Guardian reported that just six of the company’s clients had been impacted, although Deloitte has not publicly confirmed how many clients were notified of the breach.

Deloitte hired a leading cybersecurity firm to perform a forensic analysis to determine the actions taken by the attacker(s), which information was accessed, and what clients were impacted. That analysis revealed the types of information compromised included email communications including file attachments, architectural diagrams for its clients, health information, and in some cases, sensitive security and design details. Usernames, passwords, IP addresses, and personal data of the firm’s clients were also believed to have been obtained by the attacker(s).

The cloud account allegedly contained as many as 5 million emails, although Deloitte believes only a small percentage of those emails were accessed during the time the attacker(s) had access to the account. While that is the official line, some sources close to the investigation suggest the Deloitte data breach is being downplayed. Brian Krebs wrote in a blog post that he has been informed that the attackers gained access to the firm’s entire store of emails and that all administrator accounts at the company had been compromised.

That source also said Deloitte performed a company-wide reset of its email passwords on October 17, 2016, suggesting a potential breach was suspected at the time. The source, who was close to the investigation, said several gigabytes of data had been exfiltrated from the cloud account to a server in the United Kingdom.

Sonic Data Breach Potentially Impacts Up to 5 Million of the Restaurant Chain’s Customers

Investigations are continuing into a massive Sonic data breach that has potentially impacted millions of its customers.

Sonic, an Oklahoma City-based restaurant chain with more than 3,600 franchise restaurants in the United States, was alerted to a potential breach by its card payment processor after a pattern of fraudulent purchases was identified and linked to the restaurant chain.

The Sonic data breach was first reported by Brian Krebs, who linked the listing of a batch of 5 million credit and debit card numbers on the cybercrime marketplace Joker’s Stash to a potential breach at Sonic.

Krebs reported that two individuals who had agreed to purchase credit card numbers from the seller both said the cards had previously been used in Sonic locations. After contacting Sonic to report the potential breach, Krebs was notified that the restaurant chain was investigating a potential breach.

Sonic has issued a statement saying it is working with law enforcement and has hired a third-party forensics firm to confirm whether its systems have been hacked, and if so, to determine the nature and scope of the breach.

At present it is unclear how many of the restaurants chain’s locations have been impacted or the number of customer’s that have had their card details stolen. While the batch of credit and debit card numbers listed for sale indicates the breach victim count could be as high as 5 million, it has yet to be established whether all of those card numbers came from the Sonic data breach. It is possible the list could be an amalgamation of data from several breaches.

The Sonic data breach has potential to be one of the largest POS data breaches to affect the hospitality industry, and is the latest in a string of cyberattacks on restaurants. Earlier this year Chipotle Mexican Grill experienced a breach that affected most of the chain’s restaurants. Arby’s and the Select restaurant chain have also announced major data breaches. Last year, a major breach of card details was reported by Wendy’s which affected more than 1,000 of its restaurants.

Restaurant chain data breaches typically involve malware installed on point-of-sale systems that collects and exfiltrates card details. The malware infections often go unnoticed for weeks or months. It is only when card processors notice trends in credit card fraud and alert specific restaurants or restaurant chains that the breach is identified. The malicious actors behind these breaches often hold on to the stolen data until a sufficiently large batch of card numbers have been obtained, before listing the data for sale on darknet marketplaces.

In this case, the card numbers from the Sonic data breach were selling for between $25 and $50 depending on the type of card. This is much higher than the usual cost of stolen card numbers, indicating the card details have come from a recent data breach with most of the cards yet to be cancelled.

Hackers can gain access to POS systems via email phishing attacks, by exploiting vulnerabilities using exploit kits, direct attacks on unpatched and out-of-date operating systems, brute force RDP attacks, or by infiltrating the systems of vendors that have legitimate access to restaurant networks. It was the latter that enabled hackers to gain access to Target’s system and steal credit card details of 40 million customers. The same was true of the Wendy’s breach. Hackers obtained the credentials of some of its service providers and were able to login and install malware.

Restaurants can reduce the risk of data breaches by complying with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a list of 12 requirements spread across six control objectives. Those requirements include the use of spam filtering, web filtering solutions, and securing the Wi-Fi environment – the latter two can both be achieved by implementing WebTitan.

Equifax Breach Victims Directed to Phishing Website

The cyberattack on Equifax affected almost half the population of the United States. 143 million U.S. consumers potentially had their sensitive data stolen by hackers, as did around 400,000 individuals in the United Kingdom and 100,000 consumers in Canada.

To notify victims of the Equifax data breach by mail would have been a monumental and incredibly costly task. Instead, Equifax set up a website where breach victims could check to see if their data had been exposed and also register for free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

The official website used for this purpose is equifaxsecurity2017.com. Visitors to the website are required to enter some personal information as identification – the last six digits of their Social Security number and their full name.

That site then directed visitors to a second site, Trustedidpremier.com – which, it has to be said, does seem somewhat phishy. The site is owned by Equifax, with the name taken from its identity theft protection service, but the site did not mention Equifax, which led to many consumers questioning whether the site was real.

These choices gave phishers with a gilt-edged opportunity to take advantage. By registering a website similar to that used by Equifax, it would be possible to fool many U.S. consumers into revealing their sensitive information. For instance, instead of asking for the last six digits of the Social Security number, criminals could ask for the full SSN, along with a date of birth and a full name. If the fake website had official Equifax logos, many consumers would be fooled.

If Equifax had put the information on a subdomain of its official website, it would be easy for consumers to verify that they were on the correct site. The decision to use a new website for this purpose has made it too easy for scammers to take advantage.

There have already been many fake Equifax domains registered and used for phishing. While these sites are being identified quickly and shut down, during the time they are online they can be used to capture large volumes of sensitive information. Some of the recently registered domains featured transposed letters and common misspellings, such as replacing the y with a u to catch out careless typists.

However, it is not only bad typists that could be fooled by such a scam. One fake site – securityequifax2017.com – was registered that would likely fool many consumers. Such a site should also have been purchased by Equifax to prevent it being purchased by a scammer.

Fortunately, the website had been purchased by a software developer called Nick Sweeting specifically to demonstrate how easy it would be to take advantage. It was made clear on the site that the website was fake, and was not actually being used for phishing, only to raise awareness of the risk of similar sites being purchased by phishers.

However, so realistic was the site that it even fooled one Equifax employee. On at least eight occasions, that individual Tweeted the fake domain via the official Equifax Twitter account. The incorrect link was tweeted on at least 8 occasions according to Sweeney.

The fake site has since been blocked and taken offline; however, for two weeks the site was active. Had this been a real Equifax phishing website, many consumers could have been fooled.

Average Cost of a SMB Data Breach Revealed by New Study

The average cost of a SMB data breach is now $117,000 per incident, according to a large study of data breach costs at small to medium sized businesses.

The study was conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, with over 5,000 businesses in 30 countries asked about the costs of resolving data breaches.

There has been a rise in the average cost of a SMB data breach again this year and some notable changes to how those costs break down, compared to last year when the study was previously conducted. There were also notable differences between the main costs for SMBs and large enterprises.

Last year, the single biggest cost of data breaches was the reallocation of staff time, although this year, respondents from SMBs said the biggest costs were the loss of business as a result of a data breach and bringing in external experts to help investigate and resolve data breaches.

Out of the $117,000 average cost of a SMB data breach, $21,000 was spend on bringing in external experts and a further $21,000 had to be covered as a result of lost business. Other major costs were additional wages for staff ($16,000), credit rating damage and increases in insurance premiums ($11,000), improving software and infrastructure ($11,000), repairing brand damage ($10,000), and employing new staff ($10,000). The lowest costs were training ($9,000) and compensation ($8,000).

Kaspersky Lab points out that the reason these costs are so high for SMBs is likely due to a lack of skilled in-house staff, meaning they have little choice but to call in the professionals. Small businesses are also particularly vulnerable to loss of business as a result of a data breach. However, the study showed that small to medium sized businesses tend not to have to dig deep to pay compensation, which has been attributed to less formal business relationships.

The cause of SMB data breaches has a significant bearing on resolution costs. Some types of attack proved much costlier to resolve. The average cost of a SMB data breach that resulted from a targeted attack was $188,000, followed by security incidents affecting non-computing connected devices (IoT) at $152,000 per incident.

Breaches caused by the loss of devices containing sensitive information cost an average of $83,000 to resolve, inappropriate use of IT resources cost $79,000, while virus and malware infections were the cheapest to resolve, costing an average of $68,000.

For enterprises, average data breach costs jumped from $1.2 million in 2016 to $1.3 million in 2017, with the main costs of a breach being additional wages for internal staff ($207,000), software and infrastructure improvements (172,000), bringing in external professionals ($154,000), training ($153,000), lost business ($148,000), and compensation ($147,000).

SMBs have increased spending on IT security in response to the increased threat of attack, devoting 19% of their IT budgets to security compared with 16% in 2017. There was a much smaller increase in security spending at very small businesses (1-49 employees), rising just 1% from 13%-14% of their IT budgets. There was no change in spending for large enterprises (1000+ employees) with 19% of IT budgets spent on security.

New Study Confirms the High Cost of Cyberloafing

A new study has been published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace on the problem of cyberloafing, highlighting not only the cost to business but also the cost to individuals. Cyberloafing is a major drain on productivity, yet it is all too common. Employees who engage in cyberloafing can also seriously damage their career prospects.

The Business Cost of Cyberloafing

Employers are paying their employees to work, yet a significant amount of time is lost to cyberloafing. Cyberloafing dramatically reduces productivity and eats up company profits. The study was conducted on 273 employees and cyberloafing was measured along with the traits that led to the behaviour.

The study revealed a correlation between dark personality traits such as psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism, but also showed that employees are wasting huge amounts of time simply because they can get away with it. The sites most commonly visited were not social media sites, but news websites and retail sites for online shopping.

In an ideal world, employees would be able to do their jobs and allocate some time each day to personal Internet use without any losses in productivity. Some employees do just that and curb personal Internet use and do not let it interfere with their work duties. However, for many employees, cyberfloafing is a problem and huge losses are suffered by employers as a result.

A 2013 study on cyberloafing conducted by Salary.com showed that 69% of employees waste time at work every day, with 64% visiting non-work related websites. Out of those individuals, 39% said they wasted up to an hour on the Internet at work, 29% wasted 1-2 hours, and 32% wasted more than 2 hours a day.

Cyberloafing can make a huge dent in company profits. A company with 100 employees, each of whom spend an hour a day on personal Internet use, would see productivity losses of in excess of 25,000 man-hours a year.

Productivity losses caused by cyberloafing are not the only problem – or cost. When employees use the Internet for personal reasons, their actions slow down the network resulting in slower Internet speeds for all. Personal Internet use increases the risk of malware and viruses being introduced, which can cause further productivity losses. The cost of resolving those infections can be considerable.

What Can Employers do to Reduce Productivity Losses?

First of all, it is essential that the workforce is advised of company policies relating to personal Internet use. Informing the staff about what is an acceptable level of personal Internet use and what constitutes unacceptable behaviour ensures everyone is aware of the rules. They must also be advised of the consequences of cyberloafing.

The Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace study suggests “a worker’s perceived ability to take advantage of an employer is a key part of cyberloafing.” By increasing monitoring and making it clear that personal Internet use is being noted, it serves as a good deterrent. When personal Internet use reaches problem levels there should also be repercussions for the employees concerned.

If there are no penalties in place for employees that break the rules and company policies are not enforced, little is likely to change.

As for what those penalties are is down to the employer. Action could be taken against the individuals concerned via standard disciplinary procedures such as verbal and written warnings. Controls could be put in place to curb Internet activity – such as blocks placed on certain websites – social media sites/news sites for example – when employees are spending too much time online. Those blocks could be temporary or even time-based, only allowing personal Internet use during breaks or at times when workloads are typically low.

WebTitan – An Easy Solution to Reduce Productivity Losses and Curb Cyberloafing

Such controls are easily applied with WebTitan. WebTitan is an Internet filter for enterprises that can be used to reclaim lost productivity and block access to web content that is unacceptable in the workplace.

WebTitan allows Internet controls to be easily set for individual employees, user groups, or the entire organisation, with the ability to apply time-based web filtering controls.

Preventing all employees from accessing the Internet for personal reasons may not be the best way forward, as that could have a negative impact on morale which can similarly reduce productivity. However, some controls can certainly help employers reduce productivity losses. Internet filtering can also lower legal liability by preventing illegal activities and the accessing of adult content in the workplace and can help to prevent the development of a hostile work environment.

If you are interested in improving productivity and enforcing Internet usage policies in your organization, contact TitanHQ to discuss your options.

New Facebook Messenger Malware and Adware Campaign Detected

A new Facebook Messenger malware and adware campaign has been detected by Kaspersky Lab. The malware is capable of gathering information about the user and directing them to websites that offer downloads tailored to the users’ operating system and browser. Landing pages are also customized to maximize the probability of the user taking the required actions. This advanced Facebook Messenger malware and adware campaign works on Windows PCs and Macs and is not dependent on the browser being used.

The Facebook Messenger malware and adware campaign starts with a Messenger message containing a link to a video file, with that link pointing to Google Docs. Since Facebook Messenger is used with Bitly URLs it is hard for users to determine that the links are not what they seem.

Cleverly, a picture is taken from the user’s Facebook page which is incorporated into a dynamic landing page that is tailored to the individual. The landing page appears to host a playable video file. Clicking on the video will direct the user to a website where information is gathered on their environment, including their operating system, browser type and other information. The user is then directed to another website that is tailored to the information obtained from the first website.

Windows users using Firefox are directed to one website, IE users to another, and Mac users elsewhere. Those sites offer updates such as Flash downloads and malicious Chrome extensions. At present, these campaigns are being used to download adware, although they could easily be tweaked to install malware.

The Chrome extension is adware, but also includes a downloader which will allow further payloads to be delivered to the user’s device. What is not currently known is how the messages are being sent via Messenger. David Jacoby, the Kaspersky Lab researcher who discovered the Facebook Messenger malware and adware campaign, said, “It may be from stolen credentials, hijacked browsers or clickjacking. At the moment, we are not sure because this research is still ongoing.”

While the messages could be sent by unknown individuals, they may also be sent from Facebook contacts whose accounts have been compromised. Any hyperlinks sent via Messenger should therefore be treated with suspicion, especially when they appear out of the blue.

This new campaign is clever, although it is just one of many that are distributed via Messenger. Businesses can protect themselves against Facebook Messenger malware campaigns by using a Web Filtering solution such as WebTitan.

Many businesses choose not to block Facebook due to the negative impact it has on staff morale. However, with WebTitan it is possible to block Facebook Messenger without blocking the Facebook website. Employees can still access Facebook, while employers are protected from malicious messages that could result in malware downloads.

What is the Cost of a Malware Attack? $300 Million for Maersk

The cost of a malware attack is difficult to predict. There are many factors that affect the cost. The type of malware, whether data were stolen, the extent of the infection, how easy it is to mitigate, and how much business is lost while the infection is resolved. For many companies, the customer churn rate increases after a cyberattack, and certainly one in which sensitive data are stolen.

For Maersk, the NotPetya attack did not result in any theft of customer data. Consequently, there was no need to pay for credit monitoring services or mail breach notification letters to customers – Two additional and sizable costs associated with a malware attack. That said, the cost was considerable. Maersk has estimated the NotPetya wiper attack has cost as much as $300 million.

NotPetya was initially thought to be ransomware. The malware had a number of similarities to Petya ransomware – The malware overwrote and encrypted the master file table and a ransom demand was issued. However, in the case of NotPetya, paying the ransom would not result in keys being sent to unlock the encryption. The purpose of the attack was sabotage. The attackers had no intention of providing keys and allowing firms to recover their data.

For A.P. Møller – Maersk, the consequences of the attack were considerable. After its systems were taken out of action, the company was unable to load and unload its cargo ships in ports around the world. Many ships had to be rerouted as a result of the attack. Systems had to be rebuilt and the firm suffered considerable disruption while the infection was resolved.

A Model Response to A Cyberattack

Maersk was extremely quick to announce it had been attacked. The attacks occurred on June 27, 2017 and Maersk announced the following day that it had been affected. The company also maintained transparency throughout the following days and weeks while it attempted to recover, giving frequent updates on its progress in resolving the infection. The transparency has been applauded, with many security experts saying the company executed a model breach response. Not all companies were nearly as transparent.

The company recently issued an interim statement explaining how severe the attack was and how it would dent profits saying, “Business volumes were negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July. We expect that the cyberattack will impact results negatively by $200-$300 million.”

Nuance Communications was also affected, and similarly gave frequent updates to its customers on the impact of the attack and its efforts to resolve the infection. That communication undoubtedly reduced customer churn, although with its systems taken out of action for more than three weeks, many customers were forced to seek alternate vendors. Whether they will return remains to be seen. Nuance believes its Q2 profits are down about $15 million as a result of the attack, although losses are likely to be ongoing and the attack will certainly affect its Q3 profits. The manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser has estimated the NotPetya attack has cost the company around $129 million in lost revenue.

These are just three large companies to have disclosed the cost of the malware attack. Logistics firm TNT suffered considerable disruption as a result of the attack, as did FedEx, Mondelez, Merck, Heritage Valley Health System, WPP, Rosneft, DLA Piper, Saint-Gobain and many firms in Ukraine – the country worst affected by the attacks. The total cost of these malware attacks will certainly be measured in billions.

The Ponemon institute calculated the average cost of a malware attack that results in a data breach to be $3.62 million. This malware attack clearly shows the devastating effect of a malware attack and why it is so important for companies to invest improving policies, procedures and cybersecurity defenses.

New Disdain Exploit Kit Being Rented on the Cheap on Darknet Forums

Exploit kit activity has fallen considerably since last year, but new variants are being developed, one of the latest being the Disdain exploit kit.

An exploit kit is a web-based toolkit capable of probing web users’ browsers for vulnerabilities. If vulnerabilities are discovered, they can be exploited to silently download ransomware and malware.

All that is required for an attack to take place is for web users to be directed to the domain hosting the exploit kit and for them to have a vulnerable browser or out of date plugin. Currently, the author of the Disdain exploit kit claims his/her toolkit can exploit more than a dozen separate vulnerabilities in Firefox, IE, Edge, Flash and Cisco WebEx – Namely, CVE-2017-5375, CVE-2016-9078, CVE-2014-8636, CVE-2014-1510, CVE-2013-1710, CVE-2017-0037, CVE-2016-7200, CVE-2016-0189, CVE-2015-2419, CVE-2014-6332, CVE-2013-2551, CVE-2016-4117, CVE-2016-1019, CVE-2015-5119, and CVE-2017-3823. Many of those exploits are recent and would have a high chance of success.

No malware distribution campaigns have so far been identified using the Disdain exploit kit, although it is likely to just be a matter of time before attacks are conducted. The Disdain exploit kit has only just started being offered on underground forums.

Fortunately, the developer does not have a particularly good reputation on the forums, which is likely to slow the use of the exploit kit. However, it is being offered at a low price which may tempt some malware distributors to start conducting campaigns. The EK can be rented for as little as $80 a day, with discounts being offered for weekly and monthly use. The Disdain exploit kit is being offered for considerably less than some of the other exploit kits currently being touted on the forums, including the Nebula EK.

All that is required is for someone to rent the kit, provide the malicious payload, and direct traffic to the domain hosting the Disdain exploit kit – such as via a malvertising campaign or botnet. The price and capabilities of the EK mean it has potential to become a major threat.

Protecting Your Business from Online Threats

Cybercriminals may be favouring spam email over exploit kits for delivering malware, although the threat of web-based attacks should not be ignored. To a large extent, good patch management practices can reduce the risk of exploit kit attacks, although not entirely. Exploit kits are frequently updated with new vulnerabilities for which patches have yet to be released. If end users are directed to domains hosting exploit kits, malware and ransomware downloads can be expected.

Along with prompt patching, businesses should consider implementing a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to carefully control the websites that end users can visit. A web filter will block access to all webpages known to host malware or contain exploit kits. Risky categories of website, which end users have no work purpose for visiting, can also easily be blocked reducing the risk of phishing attacks and improving employee productivity.

An appliance-based web filter can be costly to implement and can have a negative effect on Internet speed. A DNS-based web filter on the other hand requires no hardware purchases and has no latency. Internet speed is unaffected. Since a web filter can also be used to restrict access to websites that take up a lot of bandwidth, Internet speeds for all can actually improve.

WebTitan Cloud – and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – are DNS-based web filtering solutions for enterprises that allow precision control over the sites that can be accessed by end users and offer excellent protection against web-based threats such as exploit kits and phishing websites.

The solutions require no hardware purchases, no software downloads, there is no latency, and they are highly scalable. Implementing and configuring the solutions is quick and easy and they require minimal maintenance.

WebTitan is also ideal for MSPs, being available in full white-label form with a choice of hosting options – including hosting in an MSPs environment.

If you want to improve the productivity of your workforce and effectively manage online threats – or offer web filtering to your clients – contact the TitanHQ team today to discuss your options and register for a free trial.

Mamba Ransomware Attacks Resume

In November last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) was attacked with Mamba ransomware. The attackers issued a ransom demand of 100 Bitcoin – $73,000 – for the keys to unlock the encryption. Muni refused to pay up, instead opting to recover files from backups. However, the Mamba ransomware attack still proved costly. The attack took its fare system out of action and passengers had to be allowed to travel for free for more than a day. The average take on fares on a weekend day is $120,000.

It has been relatively quiet on the Mamba ransomware front since that attack, although this month has seen several Mamba ransomware attacks, indicating the gang behind the malware is back in action. Those attacks are geographically targeted with businesses in Saudi Arabia and Brazil currently in the firing line, according to Kaspersky Lab researchers who first detected the attacks.

Mamba ransomware uses DiskCryptor for full disk encryption rather than searching for and encrypting certain file types. That means a Mamba ransomware attack will prevent the operating system from running.

Once installed, the malware forces a reboot of the system and modifies the Master Boot Record and encrypts disk partitions and reboots again, this time victims are presented with a warning screen advising data have been encrypted. The attacks share some similarities with the NotPetya (ExPetr) attacks of June.

The algorithms used to encrypt the data are strong and there is no known decryptor for Mamba Ransomware. If the disk is encrypted, victims face permanent file loss if they do not have a viable backup and refuse to pay the ransom demand. However, the latest attacks make no mention of payment of a ransom. Victims are just instructed to email one of two email addresses for the decryption key.

The reason for this approach is it allows ransoms to be set by the attackers on an infection by infection basis. Once the extent of encryption is determined and the victim is identified, the attackers can set the ransom payment accordingly.

It is currently unclear whether the attackers hold the keys to unlock the encryption and whether payment of the ransom will result in file recovery. Kaspersky reports that the group behind this ransomware variant has not been identified. This may be a criminal attack by an organized crime gang or a nation-state sponsored cyberattack where the intention is not to obtain ransoms but to sabotage businesses.

Businesses can enhance their defences against this and other malware variants by implementing WebTitan.

WebTitan is a web filtering solution for the enterprise that allows businesses to prevent end users from visiting malicious websites, such as those used for phishing and for downloading malware and ransomware. By blocking access to malicious sites and carefully controlling access to sites known to carry a high risk of malware delivery – file sharing websites for example – businesses can prevent web-based malware attacks.

2017 Sees Huge Rise in Malware Attacks on Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Malware Attacks on Schools in 2017

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

Minnesota School District Closed for a Day Due to Malware Attack

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

Swedesboro-Woolwich School District Suffers Cryptoransomware Attack

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

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

Los Angeles Community College District Pays $28,000 Ransom

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

Calallen Independent School District Reports Ransomware Attack

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

Preventing Malware and Ransomware Attacks on Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family-Guard Saves Tens of Thousands of Dollars by Deploying WebTitan Cloud for WiFi

Family-Guard offers its customers online protection by blocking access to adult website content such as pornography and stopping malware infections, ensuring the Internet can be accessed safely and securely by all family members.

Family-Guard supplies WiFi routers with pre-configured DNS settings to its customers. Plug in the router and customers are instantly protected from online threats and inappropriate content. As more families take steps to prevent their children from harm online, the company has gone from strength to strength.

However, the firm was not entirely satisfied with its previous web filtering provider and sought a partnership with a new company. Before deciding to deploy WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, Family-Guard needed to be certain that WebTitan offered the required level of protection for its customers. It was essential that all harmful and dangerous website content could be filtered out to ensure customers received the service they paid for. TitanHQ could reassure Family-Guard that its URL filtering technology was up to the task.

The problem with the firm’s previous partner was the inaccuracies in categories and site classifications. Those problems could not be overcome. WebTitan on the other hand offers accurate classification of websites, with more than 500 million web addresses present in its database, including sites in more than 200 languages. Since deploying WebTitan Cloud for WiFi through its router packages, Family-Guard has not experienced the accuracy problems of its previous provider.

Another key consideration when selecting a service provider was the ability to provide the solution in white-label form. It was essential for Family-Guard to incorporate its own branding, which includes the product as well as the user interface for setting filtering controls. With WebTitan, the solution can be supplied without any branding, ready for customization. The white label option and choice of hosting also makes WebTitan an ideal web content filter for managed service providers.

While reassurances could be provided by TitanHQ, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Before committing, Family-Guard needed to perform extensive testing of the solution. The firm signed up for a free trial and conducted independent tests. Tanner Harman, President of Family-Guard said, “In terms of the trial everything was very straightforward, it was good to speak to an engineer that was able to answer all my questions, this is not common in the technology industry.”

WebTitan is incredibly easy to use and maintain. There are no software updates necessary as all are managed by TitanHQ. Setting up the solution is also straightforward. Once the DNS has been directed to WebTitan, it is just a case of configuring the web filtering controls. For Family Guard, it took staff around 30 minutes to become familiar and comfortable with using the solution. The company is now reaping the benefits.

“For our technical staff, it reduced the time spend on support calls as the number of support calls reduced dramatically almost immediately,” the solution has also dramatically reduced the time the support team has spent dealing with malware. Tanner said, “WebTitan Cloud blocks all the bad stuff before it hits the customers location so issues that previously occurred regularly are now avoided.”

It can take some time following deployment to fully appreciate the benefits that WebTitan brings to an organization. Family-Guard implemented the solution in April 2016. The cost saving from deploying WebTitan Cloud has been considerable. In the 12 months following the implementation of WebTitan Cloud, Family Guard has enjoyed savings of more than $10,000.

Further, as Family-Guard grows, it is not limited by its license. With WebTitan, additional licenses can be added as and when required with a dynamic pricing plan lacking the barriers and wastage typical of other web filtering solutions.

Whether you are looking for a web content filter for public hotspots, a filtering solution to package into your products and services or a content filtering solution for your business WiFi network, TitanHQ can help.

For further information on the features and benefits of WebTitan, answers to technical questions and to register for a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Selfridges Provides Secure WiFi Access In-Store with WebTitan

Customers are increasingly choosing to visit retailers based on whether free Internet access is available in store. Providing WiFi access doesn’t just attract more customers. It provides retailers with an opportunity to communicate new sales initiatives to customers and allows valuable information to be gathered on what customers do inside stores. Monitoring the websites accessed by customers also allows retailers to gain a valuable insight into customer behavior.

Retailers are increasingly offering free WiFi in-store to attract more customers, but providing access to the Internet in-store carries risks. If customers have free, unfettered access to the Internet they would be able to access inappropriate content, accidentally download malware or use the connection for illegal file downloads.

Retailers can gain huge benefits from offering customers free access to WiFi network, but without security solutions to mitigate risk, the offer of free WiFi can backfire. A web content filter for public hotspots is now essential.

Selfridges understands the benefits of providing free WiFi access to customers, but also the risks. If WiFi was to be provided in-store, it would need to be secure to prevent customers from installing malware or accessing phishing websites

Selfridges also needed protection from legal liability. Steps therefore needed to be taken to prevent customers from accessing inappropriate website content in store and to stop minors from accessing adult content.

Selfridges prides itself on providing high quality products and customer service, so it was important to ensure for its WiFi service to reflect the stores values. Alisdair Morison, IT manager at Selfridges, said “We had to ensure that guests could not access malicious sites or to view inappropriate content while in the store.”

In the case of inappropriate website content, the risks are considerable. Morison said, “We knew that if a guest accessed porn on the WiFi connection and a child or other person could inadvertently view that screen, we would be legally liable.” The same applies to illegal file downloads via its WiFi network.

Choosing a solution posed a number of challenges. Selfridges has a small, but busy IT department so a web filtering solution needed to have a small administrative burden. Technical staff are not present in each store so it was important that the solution could be managed remotely for all four locations without the need for any site visits.

Selfridges contacted TitanHQ and chose WebTitan Cloud for WiFi. “We looked at a bunch of solutions. I was really taken aback by the price point, features and functionality we were going to get with WebTitan WiFi,” said Morison, “Other solutions didn’t have all the features and functionalities we wanted; they could do some of what we now do with WebTitan WiFi, but at a higher cost.”

The solution was set up in less than half a day and the IT team can manage the solution remotely and monitor WiFi connections. All four locations are managed through a central administration management console. All that was required to get started was to add the company’s external IP address to the GUI, update DNS forwarders and set the filtering controls.

Selfridges now blocks pornography, illegal activities such as file sharing and activities that are ethically or legally questionable. The WiFi network is child-friendly, so parents need not worry about the content that their children can access in-store. The WiFi network can be used safely and securely by all its 200 million annual visitors, with both Selfridges and its customers gaining benefits from in-store WiFi.

TitanHQ Partners With Intelligent Spaces Firm Purple

TitanHQ has announced a new partnership agreement with the intelligent spaces firm Purple. TitanHQ will be securing the firm’s WiFi networks and providing content filtering with WebTitan Cloud for WiFi.

Purple is a leader in its field, with over 20 million users spread across 125 countries around the globe. Its solution helps businesses monitor their physical spaces and promote their brand, in addition to gaining valuable insights into customer behavior at their venues. Purple’s clients include the City of New York, Legoland, Jaguar, Pizza Express, Outback Steakhouse, the Indiana Pacers, Merlin Entertainments Group and British Land to name but a few.

Purple will be adding WebTitan to its WiFi and Analytics package to improve security for its customers. Current and new customers will benefit from a more secure WiFi package and will be protected from a wide range of web-based threats.

WebTitan is a market-leading web content filtering solution that currently blocks more than 60,000 malware variants each day, protecting end users when they venture online. WebTitan can be used to control the content that can be accessed via WiFi networks around the globe from a single administration console. Companies can protect thousands – or tens of thousands – of WiFi access points simultaneously with WebTitan without any latency. The solution is easy to set up and configure, requires no additional hardware and has an extremely low management overhead.

Protection from exploit kits, phishing websites, and malware and ransomware downloads is more important now than ever. Cybercriminals having increased their efforts and malware, phishing and ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common.

In the case of ransomware, payment of the ransom demand may not allow data to be recovered as has clearly been demonstrated by the NotPetya attacks. Many companies that were attacked with NotPetya are still experiencing major problems and disruptions to services, with several firms forced to replace entire networks following installation of the malware.

Cyberattacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya are likely to become the new norm, with companies needing to do more to protect their networks – and their customers – from attack.

With WebTitan, malware and ransomware protection is only part of the story. WebTitan is a powerful content filter that prevents inappropriate content from being accessed by WiFi users – Something that is becoming increasingly important in the retail and hospitality industries. With Purple’s retail and hospitality sector clients growing fast, this additional protection was essential.

For Purple, it soon became clear that the partnership with TitanHQ was the perfect choice, as James Wood, Head of Integration at Purple explained, “We approached TitanHQ with a number of specific requirements that were unique to Purple. From day one it was evident that they were capable of not only providing what we needed but were very responsive and technically adept.”

WebTitan was also ideal for Purple customers, Woods said, “We take guest Wi-Fi security seriously so it was important that our customers were protected in the right way. Along with superior protection, WebTitan also allows us to extend the control to our customers via their API. Our customers can now manage their own filtering settings directly from the Purple Portal.”

Installing the new web filtering system and replacing the incumbent system was completed in the quickest possible time frame, with tens of thousands of users migrated to the new system in a matter of days. Woods said, “With demanding timescales involved for the migration, we invested heavily in WebTitan and they have not failed to deliver.”

RoughTed Malvertising Campaign Impacts 28% of Organizations

The RoughTed malvertising campaign was rampant in June, causing problems for 28% of organizations around the world according to Check Point.

Malvertising is the name given to adverts that redirect users to malicious websites – sites hosting exploit kits that download malware and ransomware, phishing kits that gather sensitive information for malicious purposes or are used for a variety of scams.

Malvertising campaigns pose a significant threat because it is not possible to avoid seeing the malicious adverts, even if users are careful about the websites they visit. Malicious adverts are displayed through third party ad networks, which are used on a wide range of websites. Even well known, high traffic websites such as the BBC, New York Times, TMZ and MSN have all been discovered to have displayed malicious adverts. Cybercriminals only need to place their adverts with one advertising network to see their adverts displayed on many thousands of websites.

The RoughTed malvertising campaign was first identified in May, although activity peaked in June. By that time, it had resulted in infections in 150 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia.

It is sometimes possible to block malvertising using ad blockers, which prevent adverts from being displayed; however, the RoughTed malvertising campaign can get around these controls and can bypass ad blockers ensuring adverts are still displayed.

A web filtering solution can be useful at preventing categories of websites from being accessed that commonly host malicious adverts – sites hosting pornography for example – although due to the wide range of websites that display third party adverts, it would not be possible to eradicate risk. That said, an advanced web filtering solution such as WebTitan offers excellent protection by blocking access to the malicious sites rather than the malvertising itself.

Websites are rapidly added to blacklists when they are detected as being used for nefarious purposes. WebTitan supports blacklists and can block these redirects, preventing end users from visiting malicious sites when they click on the ads.

In addition to blacklists, WebTitan URL classification uses a multi-vector approach to deeply analyze websites. The URL classification uses link analysis, content analysis, bot detection and heuristic analysis to identify websites as malicious. These advanced techniques are used to block ad fraud, botnets, C2 servers, sites containing links to malware, phishing websites, spam URLs, compromised websites and malware distribution sites including those hosting exploit kits. The URL classification system used by WebTitan leverages data supplied by 500 million end users with the system continuously updated and optimized.

If you want to protect your organization from the actions of your end users and block the majority of online threats, contact the TitanHQ team today for further information on WebTitan and take a closer look at the web filtering solution in action.

2017 US Data Breaches at Record Breaking Level

2017 US data breaches have reached a record high, jumping an incredible 29% year over year. The mid-year data breach report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout shows there were 791 reported data breaches between January 1 to June 30, 2017.

If 2017 US data breaches continue at the current pace, and there are no indications to suggest they will not, this year is set to be another record breaker. Last year smashed previous records with 1,093 data breaches reported for the year. This year looks on track to see the total reach – or exceed – 1,500 breaches. That would represent a 37% increase year over year.

The biggest cause of 2017 US data breaches is hacking according to the report. Hacking includes phishing attacks, malware infections and ransomware attacks, the latter seeing a massive increase in the past 12 months. In the first six months of 2017, 63% of incidents were attributed to hacking – a 5% increase year over year. 47.7% of those breaches involving phishing to some degree. ITRC says 18.5% of 2017 US data breaches involved malware or ransomware.

Employee error and negligence, which includes improper disposal of sensitive data, continue to cause many breaches, with those causes accounting for 9% of the total. Accidental exposure of sensitive data on the Internet was the cause of 7% of data breaches. The number of breaches in both categories decreased year over year.

Most 2017 US Data Breaches Were Reported by the Business Sector

In the first half of the year, the business sector reported the most data breaches – 54.7% – with the healthcare and medical industry in second place with 22.5% of breaches. The education sector was third with 11% of breaches followed by the banking and financial services sector with 5.8% of the total. The government and military sector rounds off the top five with 5.6% of reported breaches.

There was an increase in data breaches reported by the hospitality and fast food sector in the first half of the year, most of which involved the theft of credit card details after malware was installed on POS systems. One of the biggest breaches affected Sabre Corporation and its SynXis hotel booking service. Hard Rock Hotels, Trump Hotels, Loews hotels and Four Seasons were all among the victims. In the case of Trump hotels, it was the third payment card data breach experienced in the past 2 years.

Biggest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2017 (So far)

The healthcare industry has also seen a rise in data breaches in 2017 of 14% according to the figures published by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The main cause of healthcare data breaches – 37% – was hacking and IT incidents, which includes ransomware and malware attacks. Unauthorized access/disclosure came a close second with 35% of the total. Loss and theft of devices containing ePHI was in third place with 24% of the total followed by improper disposal on 4%.

The biggest healthcare data breaches of 2017 so far are:

OrganizationEntity TypeRecords ExposedBreach Type
Commonwealth Health CorporationHealthcare Provider697,800Theft
Airway Oxygen, Inc.Healthcare Provider500,000Hacking/IT Incident
Urology Austin, PLLCHealthcare Provider279,663Hacking/IT Incident
Harrisburg Gastroenterology LtdHealthcare Provider93,323Hacking/IT Incident
VisionQuest EyecareHealthcare Provider85,995Hacking/IT Incident
Washington University School of MedicineHealthcare Provider80,270Hacking/IT Incident
Emory HealthcareHealthcare Provider79,930Hacking/IT Incident
Stephenville Medical & Surgical ClinicHealthcare Provider75,000Unauthorized Access/Disclosure
Primary Care Specialists, Inc.Healthcare Provider65,000Hacking/IT Incident

 

The healthcare industry must report data breaches under HITECH/HIPAA regulations, including the number of individuals impacted. However, ITRC/CyberScout report that many organizations are holding back details of the number of individuals impacted due to the large HIPAA violation fines. Without that information, it is difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the severity of data breaches.

Eva Velasquez, ITRC President and CEO, said, “The number of records breached in a specific incident allows us to provide more insight into the scope of this problem, and is a necessary next step in our advocacy efforts.”

Verizon Communications Data Leak Resulted in Exposure of 6 Million Accounts

Human error was to blame for a massive Verizon Communications data leak that saw the personal information, account details and PIN numbers of more than 6 million customers exposed on the Internet.

The Verizon Communications data leak is particularly serious due to the highly sensitive nature of the exposed data. In addition to customers’ names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, PIN numbers and account details were also exposed. Since the PIN is used to confirm the identity of customers, anyone in possession of the data could easily impersonate customers. The PINs are used to verify identities by customer service staff at the firm’s wireline call center.

The Verizon Communications data leak was caused by a misconfigured cloud server that was set to allow external access. Amazon automatically secures its servers, although changing the settings will allow data to be accessed externally. The error was made by an employee of NICE Systems, an Israeli third-party vendor contracted by Verizon to improve its wireline self-service call center portal for residential and small business customers.

As was the case with a number of recent data leaks, the misconfigured cloud server was found by Chris Vickery, security researcher and Director of Cyber Risk Research at UpGuard. The Amazon S3 storage server error was identified on June 13 and was brought to the attention of Verizon, which corrected the problem on June 22, 9 days after being notified of the security hole. Data were accessible by anyone who had the web address.

Initially, UpGuard suspected up to 14 million individuals had been affected as a result of the Verizon Communications data leak, although Verizon has since released a statement confirming the incident impacted around 6 million customers.

Vickery discovered the server had six unsecured folders. The information in the files related to customers who called Verizon customer service between January and June 2017.

A spokesperson for Verizon told ZDNet, “Verizon provided the vendor with certain data to perform this work and authorized the vendor to set up AWS storage as part of this project. Unfortunately, the vendor’s employee incorrectly set their AWS storage to allow external access.”

While the data were exposed online, the information does not appear to have been accessed by anyone other than the security researcher who discovered the error. Verizon said, “There has been no loss or theft of Verizon or Verizon customer information.”

Only 9% of Companies Have Completed Their General Data Protection Regulation Preparations

A new study conducted by the Ponemon Institute has shown that General Data Protection Regulation preparations have only been made by a small minority of companies, with almost half of surveyed organizations unsure where to even start.

The General Data Protection Regulation was approved by the EU Parliament on April 14, 2016. Companies have been given until May 25, 2018 to comply with GDPR. When the new regulation comes into force, any company discovered not to be in compliance can face a heavy fine. The maximum fine for non-compliance will be €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is the highest.

Many companies started their General Data Protection Regulation preparations as soon as the new legislation was approved. According to the Ponemon Institute survey, only 9% of companies have made the necessary changes comply with GDPR. 59% of surveyed organizations haven’t even started their General Data Protection Regulation preparations and don’t even know how to comply.

Interestingly, the threat of fines and the difficulty complying with GDPR has put many companies off doing business in the EU. 34% of surveyed companies have said their General Data Protection Regulation preparations have involved shutting down their European operations. However, that does not mean they will not need to comply. Compliance with GDPR is mandatory for any company doing business in the European Union, even if they do not have a physical base in one of the European member states.

Even the threat of fines has not convinced many companies to start preparing. Only 38% of companies said their senior leadership viewed compliance as a priority.

The changes for many companies to ensure compliance will be considerable. 89% of respondents said GDPR will have a significant impact on their data breach protection practices. However, there is considerable doubt about how effective GDPR will be. Only 41% of companies believe the new regulation will improve privacy protection practices while 70% said they don’t believe the new regulation will benefit victims of a data breach.

If you have yet to start preparing and updating your policies and procedures you don’t have long. The compliance date may be months away, but for many companies, preparations will take some time. If you are keen to avoid a fine for non-compliance, now is the time to start your GDPR compliance preparations.

If you are unaware of what GDPR means for your business or whether you need to comply with the regulation, you can find out more on this link.

Internet Filtering Controls for Public WiFi Hotspots Promoted in New Friendly WiFi Campaign

The sharp rise in the use of smartphones by children and the increase Internet access points has prompted Friendly WiFi to launch a new campaign to promote the adoption of Internet filtering controls for public WiFi hotspots.

Businesses in the UK are being encouraged to implement web filtering controls to ensure children can connect their WiFi networks without being exposed to potentially harmful material.

Friendly WiFi is a government initiated scheme launched in 2014 to promote Internet filtering controls for public WiFi hotspots. Businesses that filter the Internet and block inappropriate content from being accessed via their WiFi networks can display the digital Friendly WiFi banner. This banner lets parents know their children can connect to the Internet safely.

Friendly WiFi is the only scheme of its kind in the world. The main aim of the initiative is to make the UK the safest place in the world for children to venture online. When the scheme was launched in 2014 there were 5.6 million WiFi hotspots in the UK; however, that number is estimated to triple by the end of next year.

A recent study has shown that nearly half the population of the UK uses public WiFi hotspots and research suggests more than 40% of children aged between 5 and 15 now have a smartphone and connect to the Internet. The growth in hotspots and smartphone usage among children makes it more important than ever for public WiFi hotspots to have harmful content filtered out.

Figures supplied by Friendly WiFi suggest the number of WiFi access points around the globe is likely to increase to 432.5 million by 2020, which represents a 700% increase from 2015. Even though many of these WiFi networks can be accessed by minors, fewer than half of those hotspots have internet filtering controls in place.

In the UK the use of Internet filtering controls for public WiFi hotspots is growing. Major high street names such as Starbucks and Tesco have already adopted Internet filtering controls, as have McDonalds and IKEA and many small businesses. The aim of the latest Friendly WiFi campaign is to accelerate adoption of Internet filtering controls.

To be able to display the Digital Friendly WiFi symbol, businesses must implement Internet filtering controls for public WiFi hotspots to block all websites and web pages that display pornographic content. Businesses must also block all webpages containing child pornography using the blacklist maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation. Organizations must also prevent advertisements or links to such content from being displayed.

Bev Smith, director of Friendly WiFi said “Now is the right time for all businesses which provide public WiFi to prove they take the same care for their customer’s online safety as they do for their physical wellbeing.”

New Report Shows Changing Trends in Phishing

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) has recently released a new report showing the changing trends in phishing in 2016. The report provides interesting insights into how cybercriminal activity is changing and the attack methods most commonly used by cybercriminals to fool end users into installing malware or revealing their login credentials.

The report uses data from more than 250,000 phishing attacks that were detected between 2015 and 2016; clearly showing some of the new trends in phishing and how phishers have been conducting their attacks. The report is focused on phishing rather than spear phishing, with the latter involving highly varied targeted attacks on specific individuals in an organization.

Phishing emails often contain malicious email attachments with scripts and macros used to silently download malware onto end users’ computers. However, the report shows there was a major increase in phishing domains in 2016 with criminals registering more domains than ever before. Phishing attacks also reached record levels last year. Phishing is now the number one cyber threat faced by organizations.

APWG says that almost half of new top-level domains that were available for open registration in 2016 were used for phishing. APWG suggests the increase in malicious domain registrations demonstrates that domain registrars are struggling to detect and take down malicious domains.

While it was previously thought that phishers registered domains for immediate use in phishing attacks, the study suggests domains are most commonly held for up to three weeks before they are used.

Phishing attacks were failry evenly split between domains registered by phishers and compromised websites. One in 20 attacks used a subdomain for phishing, with the number of attacks using subdomains continuing to fall. See here for phishing examples.

Brand spoofing is becoming increasingly common, with major brands are now experiencing thousands of phishing attacks a year. However, the number of targeted brands in 2016 fell to 679 from 783 the previous year. The most targeted brands – which experienced three quarters of attacks – were Apple, PayPal, Yahoo and Taobao.com. Each experienced more than 30,000 attacks each in 2016.

2016 saw a 10% increase in unique phishing attacks, rising from 230,280 in 2015 to 255,065 attacks in 2016. Those attacks were spread across 195,475 unique domain names – the most domains ever detected and almost three times the number used in 2015. While a variety of TLDs are used for phishing websites, 75% involved just four TLDs – .com; .cc, .pw and .tk. APWG says 90% of phishing domains are spread across just 16 TLDs.

Attacks in 2016 were spread across a wide range of industries although 92% of attacks affected four industries:  eCommerce & software/SaaS (30%), banking and finance (25%), social networking/email (19%) and money transfer firms (18%).

Massive Global Cyberattack Uses EternalBlue Exploit and Installs Petya Ransomware

A massive global cyberattack is underway involving Petya ransomware. Ukraine has been hit particularly hard although companies all over Europe have reported that systems have been taken out of action and ransoms demanded. Social media websites are awash with reports of disruption to services across a wide range of industries and countries. The attacks appear to have started in Russia/Ukraine but spread rapidly across Europe, with reports emerging that companies in India have also been affected.

The attacks appear to involve a variant of Petya ransomware – a particularly nasty ransomware variant for which there is no kill switch or free decryptor. Petya ransomware takes the Master File Table (MFT) out of action rather than encrypting individual files. Consequently, the attacks occur faster than with other ransomware variants. Without access to the MFT, computers are unable to locate files stored on the hard drive. Those files remain unencrypted, but cannot be accessed.

The ransom demand to unlock the infection is understood to be approximately $300, although that figure will need to be multiplied by the number of devices affected.

Another WannaCry Style Global Ransomware Attack

The WannaCry ransomware attacks used exploits stolen from the NSA, which were published online by Shadow Brokers. Those exploits worked on unpatched systems, exploiting vulnerabilities to automatically download a network worm and WannaCry ransomware. The attacks spread rapidly – around the world and within organizations.

This wave of attacks appears to be similar. The attacks started happening this morning with the Russian cybersecurity firm Group-IB one of the first to suggest this was a WannaCry-style attack involving an NSA exploit. That has since been confirmed by other cybersecurity firms. Fabian Wosar of Emisoft said he has confirmed that the infection is spreading using the same EternalBlue exploit as WannaCry, as has MalwareHunterTeam.

Organizations that applied the patch issued by Microsoft in March were protected from WannaCry and will likely be protected from this Petya ransomware attack. Following WannaCry, Microsoft issued patches for unsupported operating systems to prevent further attacks from occurring. However, judging by the number of attacks that have already occurred, the WannaCry attacks did not spur some companies into action. Many have still not patched their systems.

Several well-known companies have reported they are under attack and have had servers and computers taken out of action, with companies in Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain, Denmark, India and the UK all understood to have been affected. Companies that have confirmed they have been attacked include:

Russia – Oil company Rosneft and metal maker Evraz

Ukraine – Boryspil Airport, aircraft manufacturer Antonov, two postal services, the Ukraine government, the Ukraine national bank. The Cernobyl nuclear powe plant has also been attacked, as have many other energy companies in the country.

Denmark – Shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk, including APM Terminals which runs shipping container ports around the world.

France – Construction firm Saint Gobain

International – Companies reportedly affected include the law firm DLA Piper, advertising firm WPP, food manufacturer Mondalez and U.S pharmaceutical firm Merck.

Time will tell whether this Petya ransomware attack will be on a similar scale to WannaCry. Since it is currently occurring it will likely be a few days before the true scale of the attack becomes known.

2017 Data Breaches 29% Higher Than 2016

2016 was a bad year for data breaches, but a new analysis by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) shows 2017 data breaches figures are far worse. Year over year, data breaches have increased by 29.1%.

Last year saw record numbers of data breaches, with 1,093 incidents tracked by the ITRC; however, If breaches continue to occur at the rate seen over the past 6 months, this year is likely to be another record breaking year. 2017 is likely to see more than 1,500 breaches – a particularly worrying milestone to pass.

55.4% of 2017 data breaches have been reported by organizations in the business sector. Those 420 incidents have involved more than 7.5 million records, more than 64% of all records exposed so far in 2017. The healthcare industry has also experienced many data breaches, accounting for 22% of the total. So far this year, the protected health information of 2.5 million individuals has been exposed – 21.1% of all records exposed so far in 2017, resulting in HIPAA breaches.

Education may have only experienced 87 data breaches this year – 11.5% of the year to date total – but those breaches account for 9% of exposed records, helped in no small part by a single breach at Washington State University that involved at least 1 million records.

The government/military (43 breaches) is in fourth place, accounting for 1.8% of the total with the 200,000+ exposed records. Fifth place is taken by the financial services with 41 breaches, with more than 526,000 exposed records accounting for 5.4% of the year to date figures.

The ITRC has been tracking data breaches since 2005, with the 2017 data breaches bringing the overall total number of incidents up to 7,656. The total number of exposed records has now risen to 899,792,157.

In the case of healthcare data breaches, more incidents have been reported following the clarification of HIPAA Rules covering ransomware attacks. Last year there was some confusion as to whether ransomware attacks were reportable. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights confirmed late last year that most ransomware attacks are reportable under HIPAA Rules. Consequently, there has been an increase in reports of these events in recent months.

Companies in other industries are also reporting more data breaches due to changes in state legislation and public pressure. However, ITRC points out the big jump in 2017 data breaches can also be explained by an increase in insider incidents and cyberattacks.

The increase in data breaches in 2017 clearly highlights the importance of conducting a thorough, organization-wide risk analysis to identify all potential vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited. A risk management plan should then be put in place to address any vulnerabilities that are identified.

While organizations should consider augmenting security to protect the network perimeter, the threat from within should not be ignored. Employees are typically a weak point in security defenses, although action can be taken to reduce risk. Training should be provided to improve security awareness, technological solutions implemented to reduce the risk from phishing and other malicious email-born attacks, while web-based attacks can be limited with a web filtering solution.

2017 may be shaping up to be a particularly bad year for data breaches, but with investment in people and cybersecurity defenses, it is not too late to prevent 2017 from being another record-breaking year.

Retail Industry Data Breaches Most Common with U.S. Companies Heavily Targeted

The healthcare industry has been heavily targeted by cybercriminals, but retail industry data breaches are now the most common according to a recent study by Trustwave. Retail industry data breaches account for 22% of all reported breaches, closely followed by the food and beverage industry on 20%.

In 2016, corporate and internal networks were the most commonly breached systems although there was a marked increase in POS system breaches, which are now the second most targeted systems accounting for 31% of all reported breaches. Last year, POS data breaches only accounted for 22% of the total. POS data breaches were most common in the United States. In 2015, E-commerce platforms were heavily targeted accounting for 38% of all breaches, although in 2016 the percentage fell to 26%.

Healthcare data is in high demand, although it is still credit card numbers that are most commonly stolen. 63% of data breaches involved card data, split between card track data (33% of incidents) – mostly from hospitality and retail industry data breaches – and card-not-present data (30% of incidents) which came from breaches of e-commerce platforms.

The United States was also the most targeted country, accounting for 49% of all breaches – more than double the percentage of Asia-Pacific in second place with 21% of reported breaches. Europe was in third place with 20%.

Zero-day exploits are in high demand, commanding an initial price of $95,000 on the black market, although there were only 9 zero-day vulnerabilities exploited in the wild in 2016 – 5 for Adobe Flash, 3 for Internet Explorer and one for Microsoft Silverlight.

The top two methods of compromise were remote access – 29.7% of attacks – and phishing and social engineering, which accounted for 18.8% of attacks.

Exploit kit activity has fallen since the fall of the Angler, Magnitude and Nuclear exploit kits, although others such as Rig are increasing in popularity. Exploit kits activity could increase further due to the low cost of conducting malvertising campaigns – malicious adverts on third party ad networks that direct individuals to sites hosting exploit kits. Trustwave reports it now costs cybercriminals $5 to target 1,000 vulnerable computers with malicious adverts. Trustwave warns that while exploit kit activity has fallen, it would be wrong to assume it is gone for good. If it is profitable to use exploit kits, more will be developed.

Spam email is still the primary attack vector. In 2016, there was an increase in spam email messages rising from 54% of message volume in 2015 to 60% of total email volume in 2016. 35% of those messages contained malicious attachments, which Trustwave reports is up from 3% in 2015.

The most common malware variants discovered in 2016 data breach investigations attacked POS systems and were PoSeidon (18%) and Alina (13.5%) with Carbanak/Anunak in third place on 10%.

A recent Ponemon Institute study suggest data breaches take more than six months to detect, while Trustwave’s figures suggest the median number of days between intrusion and detection for external incidents was 65 days in 2016, although some companies took up to 2,000 days to discover a breach. Detection rates have improved from 2015, when it took an average of 80.5 days to detect a breach.

Study Reveals the Cost of a Data Breach

For the first time in the past seven years, the cost of a data breach has fallen, with a 10% reduction in per capita data breach costs across all industry sectors. The global study revealed the average cost of a data breach is now $141 per exposed or stolen record. The global average cost of a data breach is down to $3.62 million from $4 million last year.

The IBM Security sponsored study was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which has been tracking the costs of data breaches for the past seven years. In every other year data breach costs have risen year over year.

The Ponemon Institute say the reduction can partly be explained by a strong dollar. In the United States, the cost of a data breach has risen from $221 to $225 per record with the total breach cost increasing to $7.35 million from $7.02 million last year.

For the study, the Ponemon Institute assessed the breach resolution costs after organizations experienced a breach and had notified affected individuals. Large data breaches – those in which more than 100,000 records were exposed or stolen – were not included in the study as they were deemed atypical. Instead, only breaches of between 5,000 and 100,000 records were included. The average size of the breaches were 28,512 records. A breach was defined as the loss or theft of a record that included an individual’s name along with either their Social Security number, financial information or medical record.

For the seventh consecutive year, the healthcare industry had the highest data breach costs. The per capita cost of a healthcare data breach was $380. The financial services, another highly regulated industry, had the second highest breach costs ($336 per record). Services sector data breaches cost $274 per record, life sciences breaches were $264 per record and the Industrial sector had a per capita breach cost of $259.

The lowest breach costs were retail ($177), hospitality ($144), entertainment ($131), research ($123) and the public sector ($110).  The biggest cause of data breaches were malicious and criminal attacks, which also carried the highest resolution costs. System glitches and human error each accounted for 24% of data breaches.

An analysis of breach costs revealed there are a number of ways to reduce the cost of a data breach. Having a breach response plan in place saw companies reduce breach costs by $19 per record, while the use of encryption reduced breach costs by an average of $17 per record. Employee education helped reduce breach costs by an average of $12.50 per record.

A fast response to a data breach can also dramatically reduce the total breach cost. Organizations that were able to contain a breach within 30 days saw breach costs reduced by $1 million. On average, it takes companies more than six months to discover a breach and containing the breach takes an average of 66 days.