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.

Massive Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Identified

The U.S. midterm elections have been attracting considerable attention, so it is no surprise that cybercriminals are taking advantage and are running a midterm elections SEO poisoning campaign. It was a similar story in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections and the World Cup. Whenever there is a major newsworthy event, there are always scammers poised to take advantage.

Thousands of midterm elections themed webpages have sprung up and have been indexed by the search engines, some of which are placing very highly in the organic results for high-traffic midterm election keyword phrases.

The aim of the campaign is not to influence the results of the midterm elections, but to take advantage of public interest and the huge number of searches related to the elections and to divert traffic to malicious websites.

What is SEO Poisoning?

The creation of malicious webpages and getting them ranked in the organic search engine results is referred to as search engine poisoning. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are used to promote webpages and convince search engine algorithms that the pages are newsworthy and relevant to specific search terms. Suspect SEO practices such as cloaking, keyword stuffing, and backlinking are used to fool search engine spiders into rating the webpages favorably.

The content on the pages appears extremely relevant to the search term to search engine bots that crawl the internet and index the pages; however, these pages do not always display the same content. Search engine spiders and bots see one type of content, human visitors will be displayed something entirely different. The scammers are able to differentiate human and bot visitors through different HTTP headers in the web requests. Real visitors are then either displayed different content or are redirected to malicious websites.

Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Targeting 15,000+ Keywords

The midterm elections SEO poisoning campaign is being tracked by Zscaler, which notes that the scammers have managed to get multiple malicious pages ranking in the first page results for high traffic phrases such as “midterm elections.”

However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The scammers are actually targeting more than 15,000 different midterm election keywords and are using more than 10,000 compromised websites in the campaign. More sites are being compromised and used in the campaign each day.

When a visitor arrives at one of these webpages from a search engine, they are redirected to one of many different webpages. Multiple redirects are often used before the visitor finally arrives at a particular landing page. Those landing pages include phishing forms to obtain sensitive information, host exploit kits that silently download malware, or are used for tech support scams and include various ruses to fool visitors into installing adware, spyware, cryptocurrency miners, ransomware or malicious browser extensions. In addition to scam sites, the campaign is also being used to generate traffic to political, religious and adult websites.

This midterms elections SEO poisoning campaign poses a significant threat to all Internet users, but especially businesses that do not control the content that can be accessed by their employees. In such cases, campaigns such as this can easily result in the theft of credentials or malware/ransomware infections, all of which can prove incredibly costly to resolve.

One easy-to-implement solution is a web filter such as WebTitan. WebTitan can be deployed in minutes and can be used to carefully control the content that can be accessed by employees. Blacklisted websites will be automatically blocked, malware downloads prevented, and malicious redirects to phishing websites and exploit kits stopped before any harm is caused.

For further information on the benefits of web filtering and details of WebTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.

New Version of Azorult Malware Being Distributed via RIG Exploit Kit

A new and improved version of Azorult malware has been identified. The latest version of the information stealer and malware downloader has already been used in attacks and is being distributed via the RIG exploit kit.

Azorult malware is primarily an information stealer which is used to obtain usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, and other information such as browser histories. Newer versions of the malware have seen cryptocurrency wallet-stealing capabilities added.

Azorult malware was first identified in 2016 by researchers at Proofpoint and has since been used in a large number of attacks via exploit kits and phishing email campaigns. The latter have used links to malicious sites, or more commonly, malicious Word files containing malware downloaders.

Back in 2016, the malware variant was initially installed alongside the Chthonic banking Trojan, although subsequent campaigns have seen Azorult malware deployed as the primary malware payload. This year has seen multiple threat actors pair the information stealer with a secondary ransomware payload.

Campaigns have been detected using Hermes and Aurora ransomware as secondary payloads. In both campaigns, the initial aim is to steal login credentials to raid bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets. When all useful information has been obtained, the ransomware is activated, and a ransom payment is demanded to decrypted files.

A new version of the Azorult was released in July 2018 – version 3.2 – which contained significant improvements to both its stealer and downloader functions.  Now Proofpoint researchers have identified a new variant – version 3.3 – which has already been added to RIG. The new variant was released shortly after the source code for the previous version was leaked online.

The new variant uses a different method of encryption, has improved cryptocurrency stealing functionality to allow the contents of BitcoinGold, electrumG, btcprivate (electrum-btcp), bitcore, and Exodus Eden wallets to be stolen, a new and improved loader, and an updated admin panel. The latest version has a lower detection rate by AV software ensuring more installations.

The RIG exploit kit uses exploits for known vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Flash Player, which use JavaScript and VBScripts to download Azorult.

If your operating systems and software are kept fully patched and up to date you will be protected against these exploit kit downloads as the vulnerabilities exploited by RIG are not new. However, many companies are slow to apply patches, which need to be extensively tested. It is therefore strongly advisable to also deploy a web filtering solution such as WebTitan to provide additional protection against exploit kit malware downloads. WebTitan prevents end users from visiting malicious websites such as those hosting exploit kits.

The latest version of Azorult malware was first listed for sale on October 4. It is highly probable that other threat actors will purchase the malware and distribute it via phishing emails, as was the case with previous versions. It is therefore strongly advisable to also implement an advanced spam filter and ensure that end users are trained how to recognize potentially malicious emails.

Webinar: How MSPs Can Create Bulletproof Managed Networks

TitanHQ, the leading provider of spam filtering, web filtering, and email archiving solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) recently partnered with Datto Networking, the leading provider of MSP-delivered IT solutions to SMBs.

The partnership has seen TitanHQ’s advanced web filtering technology incorporated into the Datto Networking Appliance to provide secure internet access to all users connected the network.

The new technology providing enhanced protection against web-based threats while allowing administrators to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees and guest users.

On October 18, 2018, Datto and TitanHQ will be hosting a webinar that will explain the new functionality of the Datto Networking Appliance to MSPs, including a deep dive into the new web filtering technology.

Webinar: Datto Networking & Titan HQ Deliver Enhanced Web Content Filtering

Date: Thursday, October 18th

Time: 11AM ET | 8AM PT | 4PM GMT/BST 

Speakers:

  • John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking
  • Andy Katz, Network Solutions Engineer
  • Rocco Donnino, EVP of Strategic Alliances, TitanHQ

Click here to sign up for the webinar

MSPs unable to attend live can request a recording of the webinar through the above link.

Fake Adobe Flash Updates Used to Install XMRig Cryptocurrency Miner

The use of fake software updates to spread malware is nothing new, but a new malware campaign has been detected that is somewhat different. Fake Adobe Flash updates are being pushed that actually do update the user’s Flash version, albeit with an unwanted addition of the XMRig cryptocurrency miner on the side.

The campaign uses pop-up notifications that are an exact replica of the genuine notifications used by Adobe, advising the user that their Flash version needs to be updated. Clicking on the install button, as with the genuine notifications, will update users’ Flash to the latest version. However, in the background, the XMRig cryptocurrency miner is also downloaded and installed. One installed, XMRig will run silently in the background, unbeknown to the user.

The campaign was detected by security researchers at Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 team. The researchers identified several Windows executable files that started with AdobeFlashPlayer that were hosted on cloud servers not controlled by Adobe.

An analysis of network traffic during the infection process revealed most of the traffic was linked to updating Adobe Flash from an Adobe controlled domain, but that soon changed to traffic through a domain associated with installers known to push cryptocurrency miners. Traffic was later identified over TCP port 14444 that was associated with the XMRig cryptocurrency miner.

Further analysis of the campaign revealed it has been running since mid-August, with activity increasing significantly in September when the fake Adobe Flash updates started to be distributed more heavily.

End users are unlikely to detect the downloading and installation of the XMRig cryptocurrency miner, but there is likely to be a noticeable slowdown in the speed of their computer. The installation of the XMRig cryptocurrency miner may be stealthy, but when it runs it uses almost all of the computer’s CPU for cryptocurrency mining. Any user that checks Task Manager will see Explorer.exe hogging their CPU. As with most cryptocurrency miners, XMRig mines Monero. What is not currently known is which websites are distributing the fake Adobe Flash updates, or how traffic is being generated to those sites.

Any notification about a software update that pops up while browsing the internet should be treated as suspicious. The window should be closed, and the official website of that software provider should be visited to determine if an update is necessary. Software updates should only ever be downloaded from official websites, in the case of Adobe Flash, that is Adobe.com.

The Palo Alto researchers note “Organizations with decent web filtering and educated users have a much lower risk of infection by these fake updates.”

DanaBot Trojan Now Targeting Customers of U.S. Banks

In May, security researchers at Proofpoint discovered a spam email campaign that was distributing a new banking Trojan named DanaBot. At the time it was thought that a single threat actor was using the DanaBot Trojan to target organizations in Australia to obtain online banking credentials.

That campaign has continued, but in addition, campaigns have been identified in Europe targeting customers of banks in Italy, Germany, Poland, Austria, and the UK. Then in late September, a further DanaBot Trojan campaign was conducted targeting U.S. banks.

The DanaBot Trojan is a modular malware written in Delphi that is capable of downloading additional components to add various different functions.

The malware is capable of taking screenshots, stealing form data, and logging keystrokes in order to obtain banking credentials. That information is sent back to the attackers’ C2 server and is subsequently used to steal money from corporate bank accounts.

An analysis of the malware and the geographical campaigns shows different IDs are used in the C2 communication headers. This strongly suggests that the campaigns in each region are being conducted by different individuals and that the DanaBot Trojan is being offered as malware-as-a-service. Each threat actor is responsible for running campaigns in a specific country or set of countries. Australia is the only country where there are two affiliates running campaigns. In total, there appears to currently be 9 individuals running distribution campaigns.

The country-specific campaigns are using different methods to distribute the malicious payload, which include the new Fallout exploit kit, web injects, and spam email. The latter is being used to distribute the Trojan in the United States.

The U.S. campaign uses a fax notice lure with the emails appearing to come from the eFax service. The messages look professional and are complete with appropriate formatting and logos. The emails contain a button that must be clicked to download the 3-page fax message.

Clicking on the button will download a Word document with a malicious macro which, if allowed to run, will launch a PowerShell script that downloads the Hancitor downloader. Hancitor will then download the Pony stealer and the DanaBot Trojan.

Proofpoint’s analysis of the malware revealed similarities with the ransomware families Reveton and CryptXXX, which suggests that DanaBot has been developed by the same group responsible for both of those ransomware threats.

The U.S. DanaBot campaign is targeting customers of various U.S. banks, including RBC Royal Bank, Royal Bank, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase.  It is likely that the campaigns will spread to other countries as more threat actors are signed up to use the malware.

Preventing attacks requires defense in depth against each of the attack vectors. An advanced spam filter is required to block malspam. Users of Office 365 should increase protection with a third-party spam filter such as SpamTitan to provide better protection against this threat. To prevent web-based attacks, a web filtering solution should be used. WebTitan can block attempts by end users to visit websites known to contain exploit kits and IPs that have previously been used for malicious purposes.

End users should also trained never to open email attachments or click on hyperlinks in emails from unknown senders, or to enable macros on documents unless they are 100% certain that the files are genuine. Businesses in the United States should also consider warning their employees about fake eFax emails to raise awareness of the threat.

TitanHQ Fall Schedule of MSP Industry Events and Conferences

Its conference season and the TitanHQ team is hitting the road again. The TitanHQ team will be travelling far and wide and will be attending the major MSP industry events in the United States and Europe throughout October and November.

The conferences give new and current MSP partners the chance to meet the TitanHQ team face to face, get answers to questions, pick up tips and tricks to get the most out of TitanHQ products, and find out about the latest innovations for MSPs from TitanHQ.

Conference season kicks off with the third annual Kaseya Connect Europe Conference in Amsterdam (October 2-4) at the NH Collection Amsterdam Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam. Kaseya is the leading provider of complete IT infrastructure management solutions for MSPs, offering best-in-class solutions to help MSPs efficiently manage and secure IT environments for their clients.

TitanHQ is an Emerald Sponsor for the event and will be showcasing its SpamTitan spam filtering and WebTitan web filtering solutions for MSPs. TitanHQ will be at booth 4 at the event, next to Datto and Bitdefender – both of which are TitanHQ partners.

Next stop for the TitanHQ tour bus is the CompTIA EMEA Member & Partner Conference at Etc. Venues County Hall on the south bank of the Thames in London (October 16-17). The Computing Technology Industry Association is the world’s leading tech association, providing education, training, certification, advocacy, philanthropy and market research. The conference brings together members and thought leaders from the entire tech industry with panel discussions, keynote speeches, and the latest news and advice about the key trends and topics impacting the tech industry.

TitanHQ is a key sponsor of the event and will be on hand give product demonstrations and explain about the opportunities that exist for MSPs to add web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving services to their client offerings.

At the end of October, the TitanHQ team will be heading to sunny Spain for DattoCon18 at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona (October 29-31). The conference is focused on helping business owners run their businesses more effectively through the use of Autotask + Datto solutions. There will be a host of educational sessions and keynote speeches at the event, with plenty of opportunities for networking. TitanHQ will be showcasing its security solutions for MSPs at the conference.

At the start of November, TitanHQ will be in attendance at the leading conference for the WiFi industry. The WiFi Now Europe conference is being held in Berlin ((November 6-8) at the Holiday Inn Berlin City-West. The event offers three full days dedicated to all things WiFi. Attendees will find out about key developments in WiFi and the latest industry trends, with opportunities to learn from industry experts, meet key industry influencers, and discover new business opportunities.

TitanHQ will be showcasing its WebTitan Cloud for WiFi solution at the event and will be explaining how MSPs can incorporate web filtering into their service stacks to provide greater value to their clients and improve their bottom lines

Next comes a quick hop across the Atlantic to the HTG Peer Groups Q4 conference in at the Omni Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida (October 10-16). HTG is an international consulting, coaching and peer group organization that helps business by igniting personal, leadership, business and legacy transformation to get companies to achieve their full potential.

There will be a full program of events throughout the week including peer group meeting and opportunities for learning and building relationships. TitanHQ will be in attendance and will be showcasing its innovative business security solutions.

Summary of TitanHQ Conference Schedule 2018

  • October 2-4: Kaseya Connect Europe, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Booth #4
  • October 16-17: CompTia EMEA Member & Partner Conference; London, UK. Booth #28
  • October 29-31: DattoCon18, Barcelona, Spain.
  • November 6-8: WiFi Now, Berlin, Germany.
  • November 10-16: HTG Peer Groups Q4 Conference, Orlando, FL, USA.

Fallout Exploit Kit Used to Deliver New GandCrab v5 Ransomware Variant

A new version of GandCrab ransomware (GandCrab v5) has been released. GandCrab is a popular ransomware threat that is offered to affiliates under the ransomware-as-a-service distribution model. Affiliates receive a cut of the profits from any ransoms payed by individuals they manage to infect.

GandCrab was first released in January 2018 and fast grew into one of the most widely used ransomware variants. In July it was named the top ransomware threat and is regularly updated by the authors.

There have been several changes made in GandCrab v5, including the change to a random 5-character extension for encrypted files. The ransomware also uses an HTML ransom note rather than dropping a txt file to the desktop.

Bitdefender released free decryptors for early versions of the ransomware, although steps were taken by the authors to improve security for version 2.0. Since version 2.0 was released, no free decryptors for GandCrab ransomware have been developed.

Recovery from a GandCrab v5 infection will only be possible by paying the ransom – approximately $800 in the Dash cryptocurrency – or by restoring files from backups. Victims are only given a limited time for paying the ransom before the price to decrypt doubles. It is therefore essential that backups are created of all data and for those backup files to be checked to make sure files can be recovered in the event of disaster.

Since this ransomware variant is offered under the ransomware-as-a-service model, different vectors are used to distribute the ransomware by different threat actors. Previous versions of the ransomware have been distributed via spam email and through exploit kits such as RIG and GrandSoft. GandCrab v5 has also been confirmed as being distributed via the new Fallout exploit kit.

Traffic is directed to the exploit kit using malvertising – malicious adverts that redirect users to exploit kits and other malicious websites. These malicious adverts are placed on third party advertising networks that are used by many popular websites to provide an extra income stream.

Any user that clicks one of the malicious links in the adverts is redirected to the Fallout exploit kit. The Fallout exploit kit contains exploits for several old vulnerabilities and some relatively recent flaws. Any user that has a vulnerable system will have GandCrab ransomware silently downloaded onto their device. Local files will be encrypted as well as files on all network shares, not just mapped drives.

Whenever a new zero-day vulnerability is discovered it doesn’t take long for an exploit to be incorporated into malware. The publication of proof of concept code for a Task Scheduler ALPC vulnerability was no exception. Within a couple of days, the exploit had already been adopted by cybercriminals and incorporated into malware.

The exploit for the Task Scheduler ALPC vulnerability allows executable files to be run on a vulnerable system with System privileges and has been incorporated into GandCrab v5. The exploit is believed to be used to perform system-level tasks such as deleting Windows Shadow Volume copies to make it harder for victims to recover encrypted files without paying the ransom. Microsoft has now issued a patch to correct the flaw as part of its September Patch Tuesday round of updates, but many companies have yet to apply the patch.

The most important step to take to ensure that recovery from a ransomware attack is possible is to ensure backups are created. Without a viable backup the only way of recovering files is by paying the ransom. In this case, victims can decrypt one file for free to confirm that viable decryption keys exist. However, not all ransomware variants allow file recovery.

Preventing ransomware infections requires software solutions that block the main attack vectors. Spam filtering solutions such as SpamTitan prevent malicious messages from being delivered to inboxes. Web filters such as WebTitan prevent end users from visiting malicious sites known to host exploit kits. Remote desktop services are often exploited to gain system access, so it is important that these are disabled if they are not required, and if they are, they should only be accessible through VPNs.

Patches should be applied promptly to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited and advanced antimalware solutions should be deployed to detect and quarantine ransomware before files are encrypted.

Viro Botnet Malware Encrypts Files, Logs Keystrokes and Hijacks Email Accounts

A new malware threat – named Viro botnet malware – has been detected that combines the file-encrypting capabilities of ransomware, with a keylogger to obtain passwords and a botnet capable of sending spam emails from infected devices.

Viro botnet malware is one of a new breed of malware variants that are highly flexible and have a wide range of capabilities to maximize profit from a successful infection. There have been several recently discovered malware variants that have combined the file-encrypting properties of ransomware with cryptocurrency mining code.

The latest threat was identified by security researchers at Trend Micro who note that this new threat is still in development and appears to have been created from scratch. The code is dissimilar to other known ransomware variants and ransomware families.

Some ransomware variants are capable of self-propagation and can spread from one infected device to other devices on the same network. Viro botnet malware achieves this by hijacking Outlook email accounts and using them to send spam email containing either a copy of itself as an attachment or a downloader to all individuals in the infected user’s contact list.

Viro botnet malware has been used in targeted attacks in the United States via spam email campaigns, although bizarrely, the ransom note dropped on the victims’ desktops is written in French. This is not the only new ransomware threat to include a French ransom note. PyLocky, a recently detected new ransomware threat that masquerades as Locky ransomware, also had a French ransom note. This appears to be a coincidence as there are no indications that the two ransomware threats are related or are being distributed by the same threat group.

With Viro botnet, Infection starts with a spam email containing a malicious attachment. If the attachment is opened and the content is allowed to run, the malicious payload will be downloaded. Viro botnet malware will first check registry keys and product keys to determine whether its encryption routine should run. If those checks are passed, an encryption/decryption key pair will be generated via a cryptographic Random Number Generator, which are then sent back to the attacker’s C2 server. Files are then encrypted via RSA and a ransom note is dropped on the desktop.

Viro botnet malware also contains a basic keylogger which will log all keystrokes on an infected machine and send the data back to the attacker’s C2 server. The malware is also capable of downloading further malicious files from the attacker’s C2.

While the attacker’s C2 server was initially active, it has currently been taken down so any further devices that are infected will not have data encrypted. Connection to the C2 server is necessary for the encryption routine to start. Even though the threat has been neutralized this is expected to only be a brief hiatus. The C2 is expected to be resurrected and larger distribution campaigns can have been predicted.

Protecting against email-based threats such as Viro botnet malware requires an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users.  Advanced antimalware software should be installed to detect malicious files should they be downloaded, and end users should receive security awareness training to help them identify security threats and respond appropriately.

Multiple backups should also be created – with one copy stored securely offsite – to ensure files can be recovered in the event of file encryption.

Xbash Malware: A Versatile New Malware Threat with Coin Mining and Ransomware Functionality

Xbash malware is one of several new malware threats to be detected in recent weeks that incorporate the file-encrypting properties of ransomware with the coin mining functionality of cryptocurrency mining malware.

This year, several cybersecurity and threat intelligence companies have reported that ransomware attacks have plateaued or are in decline. Ransomware attacks are still profitable, although it is possible to make more money through cryptocurrency mining.

The recent Internet Organized Crime Threat Report released by Europol notes that cryptojacking is a new cybercrime trend and is now a regular, low-risk revenue stream for cybercriminals, but that “ransomware remains the key malware threat”.  Europol notes in its report that a decline has been seen in random attacks via spam email, instead cybercriminals are concentrating on attacking businesses where greater profits lie. Those attacks are highly targeted.

Another emerging trend offers cybercriminals the best of both worlds – the use of versatile malware that have the properties of both ransomware and cryptocurrency miners. These highly versatile malware variants provide cybercriminals with the opportunity to obtain ransom payments as well as the ability to mine for cryptocurrency. If the malware is installed on a system that is not ideally suited for mining cryptocurrency, the ransomware function is activated and vice versa.

Xbash malware is one such threat, albeit with one major caveat. Xbash malware does not have the ability to restore files. In that respect it is closer to NotPetya than Cerber. As was the case with NotPetya, Xbash malware just masquerades as ransomware and demands a payment to restore files – Currently 0.2 BTC ($127). Payment of the ransom will not result in keys being supplied to unlock encrypted files, as currently files are not encrypted. The malware simply deletes MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB databases. This function is activated if the malware is installed on a Linux system. If it is installed on Windows devices, the cryptojacking function is activated.

Xbash malware also has the ability to self-propagate. Once installed on a Windows system it will spread throughout the network by exploiting vulnerabilities in Hadoop, ActiveMQ and Redis services.

Xbash malware is written in Python and compiled into a portable executable (PE) format using PyInstaller. The malware will run its file encrypting/deletion routine on Linux systems and use JavaScript or VBScript to download and run a coinminer on Windows systems. Palo Alto Networks’ Unit42 has attributed the malware to a threat group known as Iron Group, which has previously been associated with ransomware attacks.

Currently, infection occurs through the exploitation of unpatched vulnerabilities and brute force attacks on systems with weak passwords and unprotected services.  Protection against this threat requires the use of strong, unique non-default passwords, prompt patching, and endpoint security solutions. Blocking access to unknown hosts on the Internet will prevent communication with its C2 if it is installed, and naturally it is essential that multiple backups are regularly made to ensure file recovery is possible.

Kaspersky Lab determined there has been a doubling of these multi-purpose remote access tools over the past 18 months and their popularity is likely to continue to increase. This type of versatile malware could well prove to be the malware of choice for advanced threat actors over the course of the next 12 months.

Bristol Airport Ransomware Attack Sees Computer Displays Taken Out of Action

A Bristol Airport ransomware attack has resulted in its customer display screens being taken offline for two days. Staff at the airport have had to resort to using dry markers and whiteboards to display flight arrival and departure information while the malicious software was removed and files were decrypted.

Ransomware was installed on its administrative computer system in the early hours on Friday, 14 September. As a result of the attack, several applications had to be taken offline as part of the airport’s efforts to contain the attack and prevent critical airport systems from being affected. The application used to display arrival and departure information throughout the airport was one of the casualties.

A statement was provided to the media confirming that a ransom demand had been received but the decision was taken not to give in to the attacker’s demand. Instead, IT staff at the airport chose to restore affected systems from backups. That process continued throughout the weekend. Screens in key locations throughout the airport were slowly brought back online on Sunday and efforts are continuing to restore files on all other affected computers at the airport.

Bristol Airport spokesman, James Gore, said initial investigations suggest this was a speculative rather than a targeted attack on the airport and that it was an online attack on its administrative systems. The exact nature of the Bristol Airport ransomware attack has not yet been disclosed and it is not known what variant of ransomware was used.

The recovery process has taken longer than was expected as the airport has adopted a particularly cautious approach due to the number of critical and security systems at the airport which could potentially have been affected. As it was, customer and airport safety were not affected by the ransomware attack and flights were not delayed.

Ransomware Still Poses a Major Threat to Businesses

Ransomware attacks have declined in recent months as many cybercriminals have turned to cryptocurrency mining as an easier way of generating an income, but the Bristol Airport ransomware attack shows that the threat of ransomware attacks is ever present. Cybercriminals have certainly not totally abandoned ransomware and it remains a serious threat.

Ransomware can be installed via a variety of methods. Speculative attacks often involve attackers sending massive volumes of spam emails containing malicious attachments. Word Documents containing malicious macros are common, as are JavaScript and PowerShell scripts embedded in attachments. These scripts download the ransomware payload.

Online attacks are also common. Ransomware is still widely distributed via exploit kits – Software loaded onto compromised websites that probes for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins. When vulnerabilities are identified, they are exploited and ransomware is silently downloaded.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Protecting against ransomware attacks requires layered security solutions to block the key attack vectors. Spam filtering software will block the majority of malicious emails and prevent them from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. Security awareness training will help to ensure that employees can identify any malicious emails than make it past perimeter email security controls.

One of the most effective solutions for blocking web-based attacks is a web filter.  Web filters can be configured to prevent end users from visiting malicious websites and will block drive-by downloads of malware. Naturally, all software, including browsers and browser plugins, should be kept up to date and fully patched to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited. Anti-virus software on all servers and end points is also a must.

As was the case with the Bristol airport ransomware attack, files could be recovered from backups without the need to pay the ransom demand. To ensure file recovery is possible, regular backups must be made.

A good backup practice will see at least three backup copies created, on at least two separate media, with one copy stored securely offsite on a device that is not connected to a network or the Internet.

For more information on anti-ransomware solutions for businesses, speak to TitanHQ today. TitanHQ offers award-winning spam filtering and web filtering technology that blocks malware and ransomware attacks and other email and web-based threats.

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

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

VPNs May Not be As Secure as You Think

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

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

High Severity Vulnerabilities Identified in Popular VPNs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Securing Connections on Public WiFi Access Points

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

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

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

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

New Fallout Exploit Kit Delivering GandCrab Ransomware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CamuBot Trojan Used in Targeted Attacks on Businesses

The CamuBot Trojan is a new malware variant that is being used in vishing campaigns on employees to obtain banking credentials.

Cybercriminals Use Vishing to Convince Employees to Install CamuBot Trojan

Spam email may be the primary method of delivering banking Trojans, but there are other ways of convincing employees to download and run malware on their computers.

In the case of the CamuBot Trojan the method used is vishing. Vishing is the voice equivalent of phishing – The use of the telephone to scam people, either by convincing them to reveal sensitive information or to take some other action such as downloading malware or making fraudulent bank transfers.

Vishing is commonly used in tech support scams where people are convinced to install fake security software to remove fictitious viruses on their computers. The campaign used to install the CamuBot Trojan is a variation on this theme and was uncovered by IBM X-Force researchers.

The attack starts with some reconnaissance. The attackers identify a business that uses a specific bank. Individuals within that organization are then identified that are likely to have access the bank accounts used by the business – payroll staff for example. Those individuals are then contacted by telephone.

The attackers claim that they are calling from the bank and are performing a check of security software on the user’s computer. The user is instructed to visit a webpage where a program will run a scan to find out if they have an up-to-date security module installed on their computer.

The fake scan is completed, and the user is informed that their security module is out of date. The caller then explains that the user must download the latest version of the security module and install it on their computer.

Once the file is downloaded and executed, it runs just like any standard software installer. The user is advised of the minimum system requirements needed for the security module to work and the installer includes the bank’s logo and color scheme to make it appear genuine.

The user is guided through the installation process, which first requires them to stop certain processes that are running on their computer. The installer displays the progress of the fake installation, but in the background, the CamuBot Trojan is being installed. Once the process is completed, it connects to its C2 server.

The user is then directed to what appears to be the login portal for their bank where they are required to enter their login credentials. The portal is a phishing webpage, and the credentials to access the users bank account are captured by the attacker.

Many banks require a second factor for authentication. If such a control is in place, the attackers will instruct the user that a further installation is required for the security module to work. They will be talked through the installation of a driver that allows a hardware-based authentication device to be remotely shared with the attacker. Once that has been installed and approved, the attackers are able to intercept any one-time passwords that are sent by the bank to the user’s device, allowing the attackers to take full control of the bank account and authorize transactions.

The CamuBot Trojan shows that malware does not need to be stealthy to be successful. Social engineering techniques can be just a effective at getting employees to install malware.

The CambuBot Trojan campaign is primarily being conducted in Brazil, but the campaign could be rolled out and used in attacks in other countries. The techniques used in this campaign are not new and have ben used in several malware campaigns in the past.

Consequently, it is important for this type of attack to be covered as part of security awareness training programs. Use of a web filter will also help to prevent these attacks from succeeding by blocking access to the malicious pages where the malware is downloaded.

MagnetoCore Malware Campaign Sees 7,339 Magneto Stores Infected with Payment Card Skimmer

A massive MagnetoCore malware campaign has been uncovered that has seen thousands of Magneto stores compromised and loaded with a payment card scraper. As visitors pay for their purchases on the checkout pages of compromised websites, their payment card information is sent to the attacker’s in real time.

Once access is gained to a website, the source code is modified to include the MagnetoCore malware, which is hidden among legitimate files in the Magnetocore.net domain.

The hacking campaign was detected by Dutch security researcher Willem de Groot. Over the past six months, the hacker behind the campaign has loaded MagnetoCore malware on at least 7,339 Magneto stores. The number of compromised websites is believed to be increasing at a rate of around 50 or 60 new stores per day.

Site owners have been informed of the MagentoCore malware infections, although currently more than 5,170 Magneto stores still have the script on the site.

The campaign was discovered when de Groot started scanning Magneto stores looking for malware infections and malicious scripts. He claims that around 4.2% of Magneto stores have been compromised and contain malware or a malicious script.

While a high number of small websites have been infected, according to de Groot, the script has also been loaded onto the websites of multi-million-dollar publicly traded companies, suggesting the hacker behind the attack has been able to steal tens, or most likely, hundreds of thousands of payment cards.

With a full set of payment card data selling for between $5 and $30 per card on darknet marketplaces, the individual(s) or hacking group behind the campaign has likely made a substantial profit.

Further information on the threat actor(s) responsible for the attacks has come from RiskIQ, which reports that the MagnetoCore malware campaign is part of much larger payment card scraping campaign known as MageCart. RiskIQ reports that MageCart has been in operation since at least 2015 and says the campaign being run by three groups. One of the groups was responsible for the TicketMaster breach reported in June that affected 5% of its customers.

All three groups are using the same tactics as part of a single campaign. It is likely the MagnetoCore malware campaign is being run by the same individuals responsible for MageCart.

Access to the sites is gained through a simple but time-consuming process – Conducting a brute force attack to guess the password for the administrator account on the website. According to de Groot, it can take months before the password is guessed. Other tactics known to be used are the use of malware such as keyloggers to obtain the login credentials and the exploitation of vulnerabilities in unpatched content management systems.

Preventing website compromises requires the use of very strong passwords and prompt patching to ensure all vulnerabilities are addressed. CMS systems should also be updated as soon as a new version is released.

It is also important for site owners to conduct regular scans of website CMSs to search for malicious scripts or code alterations, and to use a security solution that alerts the webmaster when a code change is detected on a website.

Unfortunately, finding out that a site has been compromised and removing the malicious code will not be sufficient. A painstaking check of the codebase is required as multiple backdoors are often added to compromised websites to ensure access can still be gained should the malicious code be discovered and removed.

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Data Breach Impacts More Than Half a Million Customers

A recent Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen data breach is believed to have affected more than half a million of the restaurant chain’s customers and resulted in their credit/debit card details being obtained by hackers.

Darden Restaurants acquired Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen in March 2017. The newly acquired restaurant chain was using a legacy point-of-sale (POS) system which was disabled and replaced by April 10, 2018 as part of Darden’s integration process.

However, prior to the system being replaced, hackers gained access to the POS system and customers’ credit/debit card details. There are 163 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen restaurants spread across 23 states – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. All locations were affected by the breach.

The Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen data breach affects all customers who visited those restaurants between November 3, 2017 and January 2, 2018 and paid for their meal using a debit or credit card. Determining how many of its customers have been affected is likely to take some time, although current estimates suggest that as many as 567,000 customers could be affected.

Restaurants are an attractive target for cybercriminals. If access can be gained to the network containing the POS system, malware can be installed to intercept and record credit card numbers as diners pay for their meals.

Once installed, malware can silently steal credit card numbers for months. Typically, it is only when banks and credit card companies detect a pattern of credit card fraud and link it to a particular establishment that an investigation is launched and malware is detected.

While the value of credit card numbers on the black market has dropped due to the constant availability of stolen credentials, full sets of credit card information can still fetch at least $7. At that price, the Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen data breach could have netted the attackers $4 million. With such a massive potential payday it is no surprise that restaurants are such a big target for hackers.

The Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen data breach is one of many attacks on restaurant chains in recent months. In March 2018, RMH Franchise Holdings announced that malware had been discovered on the POS system used in 160 Applebee’s restaurants. The malware had been programmed to record names, credit and debit card numbers, expiry dates, and CVV codes and was present on the system for a month between December 2017 and January 2018.

In May, a cyberattack was detected at Zippy’s Restaurants which affected 25 of the Hawaii restaurant chain’s locations. Malware had been installed on its POS system for 4 months before it was detected. Also in May, Chili’s restaurants announced that malware had been discovered on the POS system used in some of its restaurants. The malware was active between March and April 2018.

In June, the PDQ restaurant chain discovered it had been attacked and customers’ credit and debit card information had been stolen. The attackers had access to the POS system for almost a year between May 2017 and April 2018. In that attack, access was gained through a remote connection tool used by a technology vendor.

Last year also saw numerous cyberattacks on restaurant chains. Shoney’s, Arby’s, Chipotle, and Sonic Drive-In all experienced major cyberattacks, with the latter estimated to have impacted millions of customers.

If you own a restaurant it is essential to implement a range of cybersecurity solutions to keep hackers out of your network and ensure your customers credit and debit card numbers remain secure.

You can find out more about cybersecurity best practices for restaurants here or contact the TitanHQ team to discover how two of the most common entry points into a network – email and WiFi – can be secured.

Frequency and Severity of Healthcare Phishing Attacks Increasing

There has been a significant increase in healthcare phishing attacks in recent weeks, both in frequency and the severity of attacks. In July alone, more than 1.6 million healthcare records were exposed due to healthcare phishing attacks and the attacks show no sign of slowing.

Healthcare phishing attacks are to be expected. The email accounts of healthcare employees often contain highly sensitive information – Information that can be used for a multitude of nefarious purposes such as tax fraud, medical identity theft to obtain prescription medications, and identity theft to obtain credit cards and loans. If access can be gained to the email account of one healthcare employee, messages can be sent to other employees in the organization from the compromised account. Since those messages come from a genuine email account within the organization, they are less likely to be blocked and are more likely to elicit a response. When one email account is compromised there is a high probability that access will be gained to other email accounts.

In the United States, a summary of all healthcare data breaches of more than 500 records is published by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR breach portal lists hundreds of email-related data breaches have been reported since summaries first started being published in 2009, although there has been a significant increase in phishing-related data breaches in recent months. July 2018 saw two of the largest and most serious healthcare phishing attacks ever reported.

The largest healthcare phishing attacks in July were reported by the Iowa Health System (UnityPoint Health), Boys Town National Research Hospital, and Confluence Health. These healthcare phishing attacks resulted in the exposure of 1,421,107 records, 105,309 records, and 33,821 records respectively.

In July alone, there were 33 large data breaches reported to OCR. Those breaches include unauthorized accessing of health records by employees, lost devices containing electronic health information, improper disposal of medical records, and unauthorized disclosures of health records by employees. While unauthorized disclosures are often behind the majority of breaches, in July it was email-related hacking incidents were behind 39% of all reported data breaches. Those email account breaches resulted in the exposure and possible theft of 1,620,318 patients’ health and personal information. Not only was email the most common location of breached health information in July, it was the same story in March, April, May and June.

The large-scale healthcare phishing attacks have continued in August. This month, Augusta University Health reported a phishing attack had resulted in the exposure and possible theft of the PII and PHI of 417,000 individuals. In that attack hackers gained access to the email accounts of 24 members of staff. 38,000 records were also potentially accessed by hackers following a phishing attack on Legacy Health.

With the threat of healthcare phishing attacks greater than ever and the high cost of mitigating those breaches, it is more important than ever for healthcare organizations to improve their defenses against phishing.

TitanHQ offers healthcare organizations two vital cybersecurity solutions that can help to prevent phishing attacks, which along side ongoing security awareness and anti-phishing training for staff can greatly reduce the potential for a successful phishing attack to occur.

SpamTitan is an advanced spam filtering solution that blocks 100% of known malware and more than 99.97% of malicious emails, preventing them from reaching end users inboxes. Occasional emails may be delivered to inboxes, which is where WebTitan helps. WebTitan is a powerful DNS web filtering solution that blocks attempts by employees to access known phishing websites, stopping them from reaching websites where they would otherwise disclose their login credentials.

To find out more about these solutions and how they can be deployed in a healthcare environment, contact the TitanHQ sales team today and take an important first step towards improving the resilience of your organization to phishing attacks.

Beware of This SharePoint Phishing Scam

A new SharePoint phishing scam has been detected that attempts to steal Office 365 credentials. The scam emails being sent in this campaign are similar to those used in countless Google Docs phishing attacks, which appear at face value to be attempts to collaborate through the sharing of files. These scams are often used to spread malware, with the documents often containing malicious macros or links to websites where malware is silently downloaded.

These brand impersonation attacks use an email format that is identical to those used in genuine messages. The phishing emails contain logos, formatting and links that makes the messages identical to legitimate messages requesting collaboration on a project.

This SharePoint phishing scam includes a hyperlink to a genuine SharePoint document, which may not be flagged as malicious since the file itself does not contain malware.

The SharePoint file advises the user that the content they are looking for has been uploaded to OneDrive for Business and a further click is necessary to access the file. A hyperlink named “Access Document” is included in the SharePoint file along with the genuine OneDrive for Business logo and appropriate graphics. At face value the document does not appear malicious, although checking the destination URL of the link will reveal that it directs the user to a suspect website.

It is that website where the phishing attempt takes place. After clicking the link the user is presented with a login window for Office 365 and their Microsoft login details must be entered. Entering Office 365 credentials at this point will pass them to the criminals behind this campaign. The user is unlikely to realize that they have been successfully phished as after entering credentials they will be directed to a genuine Office site.

This SharePoint phishing scam appears to target businesses. Business users are likely to be used to collaborating using SharePoint and are therefore more likely to respond. Gaining access to a business Office 365 account is more lucrative for the attackers, allowing them to access to email accounts to use in further phishing campaigns and access to data stored in those accounts and other sensitive data.

Email addresses for business users can easily be located through sites such as LinkedIn or lists of business email addresses could be purchased on the dark web and hacking forums.

This SharePoint phishing scam, Google Docs phishing scams, and similar campaigns spoofing Dropbox are commonplace and highly effective. They take advantage of familiarity with these collaboration services, trust in the brands, a lack of security awareness, and business employees that do not stop and think before clicking.

Preventing these attacks requires technological solutions to stop the messages from being delivered. Security awareness training can be highly effective at conditioning employees to stop and think before taking any action, while web filters can block these attacks by preventing malicious URLs from being visited. Without these controls in place, businesses will be vulnerable.

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 the PayPal text phishing scam below shows. Phishers use various methods to obtain sensitive information. Phishing threats could arrive by email, text message, instant messenger services, over the phone or even in the mail.

Phishing is arguably the biggest threat to businesses and consumers and can result in a malware infection, the encryption of files via ransomware, an email account being compromised, the theft of sensitive data such as credit/debit card numbers or bank account information. A successful phishing attack could prove incredibly costly as bank accounts could be easily emptied. For businesses, malware infections can be catastrophic and billions are lost to business email compromise phishing scams each year.

There are approximately 200 million PayPal users, which makes the online payment service particularly attractive for phishers. PayPal is one of the most world’s most commonly spoofed brands. If the brand is spoofed, there is a relatively high percentage that the phishing email or text message will be received by a person who has a PayPal account. Further, PayPal accounts usually contain money and they are linked to a bank account and/or credit card. Gaining access to PayPal credentials can see the account and linked bank account emptied.

Phishers use a variety of social engineering techniques to fool end users into installing malware or disclosing their login credentials and other sensitive information. Spam email may be the main method of attack, although the use of text (SMS) messages – often referred to as SMiShing – is growing. This method of phishing can prove more successful for the attackers. The PayPal text phishing scam below is much harder to identify as malicious as many of the PayPal email phishing scams that have been detected in recent weeks.

Beware of this Credible PayPal Text Phishing Scam

This PayPal text phishing scam, and several variants along the same theme, have been detected in recent weeks. The text message appears to have been sent from PayPal from a short code number.

The message reads:

Dear Customer,

Your account is currently under review. Please complete the following security form to avoid suspension: http://bit[dot]ly/PayPal_-no-sms.eu

Another message reads:

Dear Customer,

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

This PayPal text phishing scam works because many people do not carefully check messages before clicking links. Click the link on either of these two messages and you will be directed to a website that appears to be the official PayPal website, complete with branding and the normal web layout. However, this is a PayPal text phishing scam. The websites that the messages direct recipients to are scam sites.

Those sites naturally require the user to enter their login credentials. Doing so just passes those credentials to the scammer. The scammer will then use those credentials to access an account, empty it of funds, and plunder the bank account(s) linked to the PayPal account. The password for the account may also be changed to give the attacker more time to make transfers and lock the genuine account holder out.

These scams are particularly effective on smartphones as the full URL of the site being visited is not displayed in the address bar due to the small screen size. It may not be immediately apparent that an individual is not on the genuine PayPal website.

This PayPal text phishing scam shows that you need to be always be on your guard, whether accessing your emails, text messages, or answering the telephone.

Don’t Become a Victim of an SMS Phishing Scam

The PayPal text phishing scam detailed above is just one example of how cybercriminals obtain sensitive information via text message. Any brand could be impersonated. Shortlinks are often used to hide the fact that the website is not genuine, as is altering the link text to mask the true URL.

To avoid becoming a victim of a SMiShing scam, assume any text message correspondence from a retailer or company could be a scam. If you receive a message – typically a warning about security – take the following steps.

  1. Access your account by typing in the correct URL into your web browser. Do not use the link in the message.
  2. Check the status of your account. If there is a freeze on your account, your account is under review, or it has been suspended, this will be clear when you log in.
  3. If in doubt, contact the vendor by telephone or send an email, again using verified contact information and not any contact details supplied in the text message (or email).
  4. Before logging in or disclosing any sensitive information online, check the entire URL to make sure the domain is genuine.

PayPal Email Phishing Scams

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

PayPal email phishing scams can be highly convincing. The emails contain the familiar PayPal logo, the text in the message body is often well written with no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, the footers contain all the information you would expect, and the font is the same as that used in genuine PayPal messages.

The purpose of PayPal phishing emails will vary depending on the campaign, although typically the aim is:

  • To fool someone into disclosing their PayPal username/email address and password combination
  • To obtain a credit/debit card number, expiry date, and CVV code
  • To obtain bank account information and other personal information to allow account access
  • To obtain a Social Security number and date of birth
  • To install malware – Malware can capture all the above information and more
  • To install ransomware – Ransomware encrypts files and prevents them from being accessed unless a ransom payment is made

PayPal phishing emails can be very convincing and virtually indistinguishable from genuine communications; however, there are often signs that suggest all may not be what it seems.

Some of the common identifiers of PayPal phishing emails have been detailed below:

  • The messages contain questionable grammar or spelling mistakes.
  • The hyperlink text suggests one domain, when hovering the mouse arrow over the link shows it directs the user to a different domain.
  • The message does not address the account holder personally and starts with dear PayPal user, user, or PayPal member instead of using the first and last name or the business name.
  • A link in the email directs the recipient of the message to a website other than the genuine paypal.com domain or local site – paypal.ca, paypal.co.uk for example.
  • The website the user is asked to visit does not start with HTTPS and/or does not have the green padlock symbol in the address bar.
  • The email requests personal information be disclosed such as bank account details, credit card numbers security questions and answers.
  • A user is requested to download or install software on their device.

HTTPS Does Not Mean a Website is Genuine

There has been a general push to get businesses to make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS by installing an SSL certificate. The SSL certificate binds a cryptographic key to an organization’s details and activates both the padlock sign and changes a website to start with HTTPS. This ensures that the connection between the browser and the web server is encrypted and secured.

If the website has a valid SSL certificate installed, it reduces the potential for snooping on information as its entered in the browser – credit card information for example. However, what an SSL certificate will not offer is a guarantee that information is safe and secure.

A website owned by or controlled by a cybercriminal could have valid SSL certificate and start with HTTPS and have a green padlock. Disclosing information on that site could see sensitive information handed to a scammer.

As more and more businesses have made the transition to HTTPS, so have cybercriminals. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s (APWG) Q1, 2018 phishing activity trends report, 33% of all phishing websites now use HTTPS and have valid SSL certificates. HTTPS and a green padlock do not mean that a website is genuine.

Anti-Phishing Best Practices to Adopt

  1. Exercise caution when someone sends you a hyperlink in a text message or email. The sender may not be who you think it is. A contact or family member’s email account may have been compromised or their phone stolen or the email address may have been spoofed.
  2. Never open email attachments in unsolicited emails from unrecognized senders.
  3. Beware of any email that suggests urgent action must be taken, especially when there is a threat of negative consequences – your account will be limited or deleted for example.
  4. If in doubt about the genuineness of an email, do not click or open any attachments. Simply delete the message.
  5. Businesses should implement an advanced spam filter to prevent the majority of phishing emails from reaching inboxes.
  6. Businesses should also implement DMARC to prevent spoofing of their brands.
  7. Businesses should provide ongoing security awareness training to employees to teach the skills required to identify phishing emails and smishing attempts such as this PayPal text phishing scam.

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.