Data Breach News
Our data breach news items reinforce the need for organizations to maximize their defenses against malware attacks and phishing campaigns. Even though online security awareness is at an all-time high, cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in the methods used to extract passwords and break into databases.
It is also apparent from reading our data breach news items that the volume of cyberattacks is increasing. In order to mitigate the risk of malware attacks, organizations should implement a web content filter, while an email filter to prevent spams and scams reaching an inbox can eliminate the risk from phishing campaigns completely. Speak with us today for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The cost of a malware attack is difficult to predict. There are many factors that affect the cost. The type of malware, whether data were stolen, the extent of the infection, how easy it is to mitigate, and how much business is lost while the infection is resolved. For many companies, the customer churn rate increases after a cyberattack, and certainly one in which sensitive data are stolen.
For Maersk, the NotPetya attack did not result in any theft of customer data. Consequently, there was no need to pay for credit monitoring services or mail breach notification letters to customers – Two additional and sizable costs associated with a malware attack. That said, the cost was considerable. Maersk has estimated the NotPetya wiper attack has cost as much as $300 million.
NotPetya was initially thought to be ransomware. The malware had a number of similarities to Petya ransomware – The malware overwrote and encrypted the master file table and a ransom demand was issued. However, in the case of NotPetya, paying the ransom would not result in keys being sent to unlock the encryption. The purpose of the attack was sabotage. The attackers had no intention of providing keys and allowing firms to recover their data.
For A.P. Møller – Maersk, the consequences of the attack were considerable. After its systems were taken out of action, the company was unable to load and unload its cargo ships in ports around the world. Many ships had to be rerouted as a result of the attack. Systems had to be rebuilt and the firm suffered considerable disruption while the infection was resolved.
A Model Response to A Cyberattack
Maersk was extremely quick to announce it had been attacked. The attacks occurred on June 27, 2017 and Maersk announced the following day that it had been affected. The company also maintained transparency throughout the following days and weeks while it attempted to recover, giving frequent updates on its progress in resolving the infection. The transparency has been applauded, with many security experts saying the company executed a model breach response. Not all companies were nearly as transparent.
The company recently issued an interim statement explaining how severe the attack was and how it would dent profits saying, “Business volumes were negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July. We expect that the cyberattack will impact results negatively by $200-$300 million.”
Nuance Communications was also affected, and similarly gave frequent updates to its customers on the impact of the attack and its efforts to resolve the infection. That communication undoubtedly reduced customer churn, although with its systems taken out of action for more than three weeks, many customers were forced to seek alternate vendors. Whether they will return remains to be seen. Nuance believes its Q2 profits are down about $15 million as a result of the attack, although losses are likely to be ongoing and the attack will certainly affect its Q3 profits. The manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser has estimated the NotPetya attack has cost the company around $129 million in lost revenue.
These are just three large companies to have disclosed the cost of the malware attack. Logistics firm TNT suffered considerable disruption as a result of the attack, as did FedEx, Mondelez, Merck, Heritage Valley Health System, WPP, Rosneft, DLA Piper, Saint-Gobain and many firms in Ukraine – the country worst affected by the attacks. The total cost of these malware attacks will certainly be measured in billions.
The Ponemon institute calculated the average cost of a malware attack that results in a data breach to be $3.62 million. This malware attack clearly shows the devastating effect of a malware attack and why it is so important for companies to invest improving policies, procedures and cybersecurity defenses.
The importance of implementing good patch management policies was clearly highlighted by the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May. The ransomware attacks were made possible due to poor patch management policies at hundreds of companies. The attackers leveraged a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMB) using exploits developed by – and stolen from – the U.S. National Security Agency.
The exploits took advantage of SMB flaws that had, by the time the exploits were made public, been fixed by Microsoft. Fortunately for the individuals behind the attacks, and unfortunately for many companies, the update had not been applied.
In contrast to the majority of ransomware attacks that required some user involvement – clicking a link or opening an infected email attachment – the SMB flaws could be exploited remotely without any user interaction.
WannaCry was not the only malware variant that took advantage of unpatched systems. The NotPetya (ExPetr) attacks the following month also used the same EternalBlue exploit. Again, these attacks required no user involvement. NotPetya was a wiper that was used for sabotage and the damage caused by those attacks was considerable. Entire systems had to be replaced, companies were left unable to operate, and the disruption continued for several weeks after the attacks for many firms. For some companies, the losses from the attacks were in the millions.
These attacks could have easily been prevented with something as simple as applying a single patch – MS17-010. The patch was available for two months prior to the WannaCry attacks. Even patch management policies that required software to be checked once a month would have prevented the attacks. In the case of NotPetya, companies affected had also not reacted to WannaCry, even though there was extensive media coverage of the ransomware attacks and the risk of not patching promptly was clearly highlighted.
The take home message is unaddressed security vulnerabilities will be exploited. Companies can purchase a swathe of expensive security solutions to secure their systems, but companies with poor patch management policies will experience data breaches. It is no longer a case of if a breach will occur, just a matter of when.
Poor Patch Management Policies Cost Insurer More than $5 Million
This month has shown another very good reason for patching promptly. A multi-state action by attorneys general in 32 states has resulted in a settlement with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and its subsidiary, Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Company. Nationwide has agreed to a $5.5 million settlement to resolve the investigation into its 2012 data breach.
The breach involved the theft of data relating to 1.27 million policy holders and individuals who obtained insurance quotes from the company. In that case, the data theft was possible due to an unaddressed vulnerability in a third-party application. Even though the vulnerability was rated as critical, the insurer did not update the application. The vulnerability remained unaddressed for three years. The update was only applied after data were stolen.
The investigation into the breach was jointly led by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. Announcing the settlement Jepsen said, “It is critically important that companies take seriously the maintenance of their computer software systems and their data security protocols.”
Unaddressed vulnerabilities will be exploited by cybercriminals. Attacks will result in data theft, hardware damage, law suits filed by breach victims, attorneys general fines and fines by other regulators. These costs can all be avoided with good patch management policies.
2017 has seen a major rise in malware attacks on schools. While cybercriminals have conducted attacks using a variety of different malware, one of the biggest problems is ransomware. Ransomware is malicious code that encrypts files, systems and even master file tables, preventing victims from accessing their data. The attack is accompanied by a ransom demand. Victims are required to pay a ransom amount per infected device. The ransom payments can range from a couple of hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars per device. Ransom demands of tens of thousands of dollars are now common.
Data can be recovered from a backup, but only if a viable backup of data exists. All too often, backup files are also encrypted, making recovery impossible unless the ransom is paid.
Ransomware attacks can be random, with the malicious code installed via large-scale spam email campaigns involving millions of messages. In other cases, schools are targeted. Cybercriminals are well aware that cybersecurity defenses in schools are often poor and ransoms are more likely to be paid because schools cannot function without access to their data.
Other forms of malware are used to record sensitive information such as login credentials. These are then relayed back to the attackers and are used to gain access to school networks. The attackers search for sensitive personal information such as tax details, Social Security numbers and other information that can be used for identity theft. With ransomware, attacks are discovered immediately as ransom notes are placed on computers and files cannot be accessed. Keyloggers and other forms of information stealing malware often take many months to detect.
Recent malware attacks on schools have resulted in entire networks being sabotaged. The NotPetya attacks involved a form of malware that encrypts the master file table, preventing the computer from locating stored data. In this case, the aim of the attacks was to sabotage critical infrastructure. There was no way of recovering the encrypted MFT apart from with a full system restore.
The implications of malware attacks on schools can be considerable. Malware attacks on schools result in considerable financial losses, data can be lost or stolen, hardware can be rendered useless and educational institutions can face prosecution or law suits as a result of attacks. In some cases, schools have been forced to turn students away while they resolve infections and bring their systems back online.
Major Malware Attacks on Schools in 2017
Listed below are some of the major malware attacks on schools that have been reported in 2017. This is just a very small selection of the large number of malware attacks on schools in the past 6 months.
Minnesota School District Closed for a Day Due to Malware Attack
Malware attacks on schools can have major consequences for students. In March, the Cloquet School District in Minnesota experienced a ransomware attack that resulted in significant amounts of data being encrypted, preventing files from being accessed. The attackers issued a ransom demand of $6,000 for the keys to unlock the encryption. The school district is technology-focused, so without access to its systems, lessons were severely disrupted. The school even had to close for the day while IT support staff restored data. In this case, sensitive data were not compromised, although the disruption caused was severe. The ransomware is understood to have been installed as a result of a member of staff opening a phishing email that installed the ransomware on the network.
Swedesboro-Woolwich School District Suffers Cryptoransomware Attack
The Swedesboro-Woolwich School District in New Jersey comprises four elementary schools and has approximately 2,000 students. It too suffered a crypto-ransomware attack that took its computer systems out of action. The attack occurred on March 22, resulting in documents and spreadsheets being encrypted, although student data were apparently unaffected.
The attack took a significant part of the network out of action, including the District’s internal and external communications systems and even its point-of-sale system used by students to pay for their lunches. The school was forced to resort to pen and paper while the infection was removed. Its network administrator said, “It’s like 1981 again!”
Los Angeles Community College District Pays $28,000 Ransom
Ransomware was installed on the computer network of the Los Angeles County College District, not only taking workstations out of action but also email and its voicemail system. Hundreds of thousands of files were encrypted, with the incident affecting most of the 1,800 staff and 20,000 students. A ransom demand of $28,000 was issued by the attackers. The school had no option but to pay the ransom to unlock the encryption.
Calallen Independent School District Reports Ransomware Attack
The Calallen Independent School District in northwestern Corpus Christi, TX, is one of the latest victims of a ransomware attack. In June, the attack started with a workstation before spreading to other systems. In this case, no student data were compromised or stolen and the IT department was able to act quickly and shut down affected parts of the network, halting its spread. However, the attack still caused considerable disruption while servers and systems were rebuilt. The school district also had to pay for improvements to its security system to prevent similar attacks from occurring.
Preventing Malware and Ransomware Attacks on Schools
Malware attacks on schools can occur via a number of different vectors. The NotPetya attacks took advantage of software vulnerabilities that had not been addressed. In this case, the attackers were able to exploit the vulnerabilities remotely with no user interaction required. A patch to correct the vulnerabilities had been issued by Microsoft two months before the attacks occurred. Prompt patching would have prevented the attacks.
Software vulnerabilities are also exploited via exploit kits – hacking kits loaded on malicious websites that probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins and leverage those vulnerabilities to silently download ransomware and malware. Ensuring browsers and plugins are 100% up to date can prevent these attacks. However, it is not possible to ensure all computers are 100% up to date, 100% of the time. Further, there is usually a delay between an exploit being developed and a patch being released. These web-based malware attacks on schools can be prevented by using a web filtering solution. A web filter can block attempts by end users to access malicious websites that contain exploit kits or malware.
By far the most common method of malware delivery is spam email. Malware – or malware downloaders – are sent as malicious attachments in spam emails. Opening the attachments results in infection. Links to websites that download malware are also sent via spam email. Users can be prevented from visiting those malicious sites if a web filter is employed, while an advanced spam filtering solution can block malware attacks on schools by ensuring malicious emails are not delivered to end users’ inboxes.
TitanHQ Can Help Schools, Colleges and Universities Improve Defenses Against Malware
TitanHQ offers two cybersecurity solutions that can prevent malware attacks on schools. WebTitan is a 100% cloud-based web filter that prevents end users from visiting malicious websites, including phishing sites and those that download malware and ransomware.
WebTitan requires no hardware, involves no software downloads and is quick and easy to install, requiring no technical skill. WebTitan can also be used to block access to inappropriate website content such as pornography, helping schools comply with CIPA.
SpamTitan is an advanced spam filtering solution for schools that blocks more than 99.9% of spam email and prevents malicious messages from being delivered to end users. Used in conjunction with WebTitan, schools will be well protected from malware and ransomware attacks.
To find out more about WebTitan and SpamTitan and for details of pricing, contact the TitanHQ team today. Both solutions are also available on a 30-day no-obligation free trial, allowing you to test both products to find out just how effective they are at blocking cyberthreats.
2017 US data breaches have reached a record high, jumping an incredible 29% year over year. The mid-year data breach report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout shows there were 791 reported data breaches between January 1 to June 30, 2017.
If 2017 US data breaches continue at the current pace, and there are no indications to suggest they will not, this year is set to be another record breaker. Last year smashed previous records with 1,093 data breaches reported for the year. This year looks on track to see the total reach – or exceed – 1,500 breaches. That would represent a 37% increase year over year.
The biggest cause of 2017 US data breaches is hacking according to the report. Hacking includes phishing attacks, malware infections and ransomware attacks, the latter seeing a massive increase in the past 12 months. In the first six months of 2017, 63% of incidents were attributed to hacking – a 5% increase year over year. 47.7% of those breaches involving phishing to some degree. ITRC says 18.5% of 2017 US data breaches involved malware or ransomware.
Employee error and negligence, which includes improper disposal of sensitive data, continue to cause many breaches, with those causes accounting for 9% of the total. Accidental exposure of sensitive data on the Internet was the cause of 7% of data breaches. The number of breaches in both categories decreased year over year.
Most 2017 US Data Breaches Were Reported by the Business Sector
In the first half of the year, the business sector reported the most data breaches – 54.7% – with the healthcare and medical industry in second place with 22.5% of breaches. The education sector was third with 11% of breaches followed by the banking and financial services sector with 5.8% of the total. The government and military sector rounds off the top five with 5.6% of reported breaches.
There was an increase in data breaches reported by the hospitality and fast food sector in the first half of the year, most of which involved the theft of credit card details after malware was installed on POS systems. One of the biggest breaches affected Sabre Corporation and its SynXis hotel booking service. Hard Rock Hotels, Trump Hotels, Loews hotels and Four Seasons were all among the victims. In the case of Trump hotels, it was the third payment card data breach experienced in the past 2 years.
Biggest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2017 (So far)
The healthcare industry has also seen a rise in data breaches in 2017 of 14% according to the figures published by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The main cause of healthcare data breaches – 37% – was hacking and IT incidents, which includes ransomware and malware attacks. Unauthorized access/disclosure came a close second with 35% of the total. Loss and theft of devices containing ePHI was in third place with 24% of the total followed by improper disposal on 4%.
The biggest healthcare data breaches of 2017 so far are:
|Organization||Entity Type||Records Exposed||Breach Type|
|Commonwealth Health Corporation||Healthcare Provider||697,800||Theft|
|Airway Oxygen, Inc.||Healthcare Provider||500,000||Hacking/IT Incident|
|Urology Austin, PLLC||Healthcare Provider||279,663||Hacking/IT Incident|
|Harrisburg Gastroenterology Ltd||Healthcare Provider||93,323||Hacking/IT Incident|
|VisionQuest Eyecare||Healthcare Provider||85,995||Hacking/IT Incident|
|Washington University School of Medicine||Healthcare Provider||80,270||Hacking/IT Incident|
|Emory Healthcare||Healthcare Provider||79,930||Hacking/IT Incident|
|Stephenville Medical & Surgical Clinic||Healthcare Provider||75,000||Unauthorized Access/Disclosure|
|Primary Care Specialists, Inc.||Healthcare Provider||65,000||Hacking/IT Incident|
The healthcare industry must report data breaches under HITECH/HIPAA regulations, including the number of individuals impacted. However, ITRC/CyberScout report that many organizations are holding back details of the number of individuals impacted due to the large HIPAA violation fines. Without that information, it is difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the severity of data breaches.
Eva Velasquez, ITRC President and CEO, said, “The number of records breached in a specific incident allows us to provide more insight into the scope of this problem, and is a necessary next step in our advocacy efforts.”
Human error was to blame for a massive Verizon Communications data leak that saw the personal information, account details and PIN numbers of more than 6 million customers exposed on the Internet.
The Verizon Communications data leak is particularly serious due to the highly sensitive nature of the exposed data. In addition to customers’ names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, PIN numbers and account details were also exposed. Since the PIN is used to confirm the identity of customers, anyone in possession of the data could easily impersonate customers. The PINs are used to verify identities by customer service staff at the firm’s wireline call center.
The Verizon Communications data leak was caused by a misconfigured cloud server that was set to allow external access. Amazon automatically secures its servers, although changing the settings will allow data to be accessed externally. The error was made by an employee of NICE Systems, an Israeli third-party vendor contracted by Verizon to improve its wireline self-service call center portal for residential and small business customers.
As was the case with a number of recent data leaks, the misconfigured cloud server was found by Chris Vickery, security researcher and Director of Cyber Risk Research at UpGuard. The Amazon S3 storage server error was identified on June 13 and was brought to the attention of Verizon, which corrected the problem on June 22, 9 days after being notified of the security hole. Data were accessible by anyone who had the web address.
Initially, UpGuard suspected up to 14 million individuals had been affected as a result of the Verizon Communications data leak, although Verizon has since released a statement confirming the incident impacted around 6 million customers.
Vickery discovered the server had six unsecured folders. The information in the files related to customers who called Verizon customer service between January and June 2017.
A spokesperson for Verizon told ZDNet, “Verizon provided the vendor with certain data to perform this work and authorized the vendor to set up AWS storage as part of this project. Unfortunately, the vendor’s employee incorrectly set their AWS storage to allow external access.”
While the data were exposed online, the information does not appear to have been accessed by anyone other than the security researcher who discovered the error. Verizon said, “There has been no loss or theft of Verizon or Verizon customer information.”
A massive global cyberattack is underway involving Petya ransomware. Ukraine has been hit particularly hard although companies all over Europe have reported that systems have been taken out of action and ransoms demanded. Social media websites are awash with reports of disruption to services across a wide range of industries and countries. The attacks appear to have started in Russia/Ukraine but spread rapidly across Europe, with reports emerging that companies in India have also been affected.
The attacks appear to involve a variant of Petya ransomware – a particularly nasty ransomware variant for which there is no kill switch or free decryptor. Petya ransomware takes the Master File Table (MFT) out of action rather than encrypting individual files. Consequently, the attacks occur faster than with other ransomware variants. Without access to the MFT, computers are unable to locate files stored on the hard drive. Those files remain unencrypted, but cannot be accessed.
The ransom demand to unlock the infection is understood to be approximately $300, although that figure will need to be multiplied by the number of devices affected.
Another WannaCry Style Global Ransomware Attack
The WannaCry ransomware attacks used exploits stolen from the NSA, which were published online by Shadow Brokers. Those exploits worked on unpatched systems, exploiting vulnerabilities to automatically download a network worm and WannaCry ransomware. The attacks spread rapidly – around the world and within organizations.
This wave of attacks appears to be similar. The attacks started happening this morning with the Russian cybersecurity firm Group-IB one of the first to suggest this was a WannaCry-style attack involving an NSA exploit. That has since been confirmed by other cybersecurity firms. Fabian Wosar of Emisoft said he has confirmed that the infection is spreading using the same EternalBlue exploit as WannaCry, as has MalwareHunterTeam.
Organizations that applied the patch issued by Microsoft in March were protected from WannaCry and will likely be protected from this Petya ransomware attack. Following WannaCry, Microsoft issued patches for unsupported operating systems to prevent further attacks from occurring. However, judging by the number of attacks that have already occurred, the WannaCry attacks did not spur some companies into action. Many have still not patched their systems.
Several well-known companies have reported they are under attack and have had servers and computers taken out of action, with companies in Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain, Denmark, India and the UK all understood to have been affected. Companies that have confirmed they have been attacked include:
Russia – Oil company Rosneft and metal maker Evraz
Ukraine – Boryspil Airport, aircraft manufacturer Antonov, two postal services, the Ukraine government, the Ukraine national bank. The Cernobyl nuclear powe plant has also been attacked, as have many other energy companies in the country.
Denmark – Shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk, including APM Terminals which runs shipping container ports around the world.
France – Construction firm Saint Gobain
International – Companies reportedly affected include the law firm DLA Piper, advertising firm WPP, food manufacturer Mondalez and U.S pharmaceutical firm Merck.
Time will tell whether this Petya ransomware attack will be on a similar scale to WannaCry. Since it is currently occurring it will likely be a few days before the true scale of the attack becomes known.
For the first time in the past seven years, the cost of a data breach has fallen, with a 10% reduction in per capita data breach costs across all industry sectors. The global study revealed the average cost of a data breach is now $141 per exposed or stolen record. The global average cost of a data breach is down to $3.62 million from $4 million last year.
The IBM Security sponsored study was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which has been tracking the costs of data breaches for the past seven years. In every other year data breach costs have risen year over year.
The Ponemon Institute say the reduction can partly be explained by a strong dollar. In the United States, the cost of a data breach has risen from $221 to $225 per record with the total breach cost increasing to $7.35 million from $7.02 million last year.
For the study, the Ponemon Institute assessed the breach resolution costs after organizations experienced a breach and had notified affected individuals. Large data breaches – those in which more than 100,000 records were exposed or stolen – were not included in the study as they were deemed atypical. Instead, only breaches of between 5,000 and 100,000 records were included. The average size of the breaches were 28,512 records. A breach was defined as the loss or theft of a record that included an individual’s name along with either their Social Security number, financial information or medical record.
For the seventh consecutive year, the healthcare industry had the highest data breach costs. The per capita cost of a healthcare data breach was $380. The financial services, another highly regulated industry, had the second highest breach costs ($336 per record). Services sector data breaches cost $274 per record, life sciences breaches were $264 per record and the Industrial sector had a per capita breach cost of $259.
The lowest breach costs were retail ($177), hospitality ($144), entertainment ($131), research ($123) and the public sector ($110). The biggest cause of data breaches were malicious and criminal attacks, which also carried the highest resolution costs. System glitches and human error each accounted for 24% of data breaches.
An analysis of breach costs revealed there are a number of ways to reduce the cost of a data breach. Having a breach response plan in place saw companies reduce breach costs by $19 per record, while the use of encryption reduced breach costs by an average of $17 per record. Employee education helped reduce breach costs by an average of $12.50 per record.
A fast response to a data breach can also dramatically reduce the total breach cost. Organizations that were able to contain a breach within 30 days saw breach costs reduced by $1 million. On average, it takes companies more than six months to discover a breach and containing the breach takes an average of 66 days.
An Edmodo data breach has been reported that has impacted tens of millions of users of the education platform, including teachers, students and parents.
Edmodo is a platform used for K-12 school lesson planning, homework assignments and to access grades and school reports. There are currently more than 78 million registered users of the platform. The hacker responsible for the Edmodo data breach claims to have stolen the credentials of 77 million users.
The claim has been partially verified by Motherboard, which was provided with a sample of 2 million records that were used for verification purposes. While the full 77 million-record data set has not been checked, it would appear the claim is genuine.
The hacker, nclay, has listed the data for sale on the darknet marketplace Hansa and has asked to be paid $1,000 for the entire list. The data includes usernames, hashed passwords and email addresses. Email addresses for around 40 million users are believed to have been obtained by the hacker.
The passwords have been salted and encrypted using the bcrypt algorithm. While it is possible that the passwords can be decrypted, it would be a long and difficult process. Edmodo users have therefore been given a little time to reset their passwords and secure their accounts.
The Edmodo data breach is now being investigated and third party cybersecurity experts have been contracted to conduct a full analysis to determine how access to its system was gained. All users of the platform have been emailed and advised to reset their passwords.
Even if access to the accounts cannot be gained, 40 million email addresses would be valuable to spammers. Users of the platform are likely to face an elevated risk of phishing and other spam emails, should nclay find a buyer for the stolen data.
This is not the only large-scale data breach to affect the education sector this year. Schoolzilla, a data warehousing service for K-12 schools, also experienced a major cyberattack this year. The data breach was discovered last month and is believed to have resulted in the theft of 1.3 million students’ data. In the case of Schoolzilla, the hacker took advantage of a backup file configuration error.
The WannaCry ransomware attacks that crippled hospitals in the United Kingdom on Friday have temporarily halted, although not before infections spread to 150 countries around the globe. The massive ransomware campaign saw 61 NHS Trusts in the UK affected.
As the NHS was cancelling appointments and scrambling to halt the spread of the infection and restore its systems, the WannaCry ransomware attacks were going global. Organizations around the world were waking up to total chaos, with systems taken out of action and data access blocked. Other victims include FedEx, Telefonica, Deutsche Bahn and the Russian Interior Ministry and around 200,000 others.
The victim count rose considerably throughout Friday and Saturday morning, before a security researcher in the UK accidentally flicked the ransomware’s kill switch, preventing further WannaCry ransomware attacks. Had it not been for that researcher’s actions, the victim count would have been considerably higher.
The researcher in question prefers to remain anonymous, although he tweets under the Twitter account @MalwareTechBlog. While analyzing the ransomware, he discovered a reference to a nonsense web domain. He checked to see who owned the domain and discovered it had not been registered. He bought it and realized that his actions had stopped the ransomware in its tracks. If the domain could be contacted, encryption would not take place. If contact was not possible, the ransomware would proceed and encrypt files on the infected device.
This kill switch could have been put in place by the authors as a way to stop infections getting out of control. However, far more likely is the domain check was performed to determine if the ransomware was running in a test environment.
For now at least, the WannaCry ransomware attacks have stopped, although that does not mean they will not continue. New versions of the ransomware – without the kill switch – will almost certainly be released. In the meantime, IT security professionals have some time to plug the vulnerability that was exploited.
The exploit takes advantage of a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMB) that allows the attackers to download files onto a vulnerable machine. Microsoft issued a patch to plug the vulnerability on March 13 (MS17-010). Even though this was a high priority patch for which an exploit had been developed (ETERNALBLUE) and released online, many companies failed to update Windows leaving them vulnerable to attack.
Of course, any organization using an unsupported version of Windows – Windows XP for example – would not be able to apply the patch. Many NHS Trusts in the UK still use the unsupported version of Windows even though it is vulnerable to this and other exploits.
The attackers have reportedly made around $50,000 so far from the WannaCry ransomware attacks. That figure will rise, as victims are given 7 days to pay before the decryption keys held by the attackers will be permanently deleted. If payment is not made within 3 days, the $300 ransom doubles.
There are no clues as to who was behind the attack, although it was made possible by the actions of the hacking group Shadow Brokers, who published the exploit used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in April. The exploit was not developed by Shadow Brokers however. That appears to have been developed by the National Security Agency in the USA. Shadow Brokers allegedly stole the exploit.
Microsoft has responded to the WannaCry ransomware attacks saying they should serve as a “wake-up call.” That’s not just the need to apply patches promptly to prevent cyberattacks, but also a wake up call for governments not to secretly stockpile exploits.
Sabotage, subversion and ransomware attacks all increased sharply in 2016, with malware-infected emails now at a five-year high according to the latest installment of Symantec’s Internet Security and Threat Report (ISTR).
For the 22nd volume of the report, the antivirus and antimalware software vendor analyzed data collected from millions of users of its security solutions – The world’s largest civilian threat collection network, consisting of 98 million attack sensors spread across 157 countries around the globe.
The 77-page Internet Security and Threat Report is one of the most highly respected publications issued by any cybersecurity company.
The Internet Security and Threat Report provides a valuable insight into the state of cybersecurity and details how global cybersecurity threats have changed over the course of the past 12 months.
Internet Security and Threat Report Shows Change in Attack Tactics
Data theft and financial fraud may be major motivators behind cyberattacks on businesses, but over the past 12 months there has been a sharp rise in politically motivated cyberattacks. Rather than steal data, the attackers are sabotaging businesses using destructive malware such as hard disk wipers.
The attacks are conducted to cause serious harm to business competitors, although nation state-backed hackers have also been targeting the critical infrastructure in many countries. Attacks on Ukrainian energy providers have been conducted to disrupt the power supply while attacks on companies in Saudi Arabia – using Shamoon malware – attempted to permanently delete corporate data.
Many attacks were conducted last year with a different aim – subversion. That was clearly demonstrated during the recent U.S presidential campaign. Sensitive data from the Democratic party was leaked in an attempt to influence the outcome of the U.S presidential election. The FBI investigation into the hacking of the presidential election is ongoing.
Sabotage is on the rise, but data theft incidents continue. The past year has seen many espionage attacks resulting in the theft of sensitive data and corporate secrets and financial attacks have increased.
The Internet Security and Threat Report shows there has been a major increase in large-scale financial heists in the past year. Attacks on consumers are occurring with increasingly regularity, although the banks themselves are now being targeted. Those attacks have resulted in the theft of many millions of dollars.
The Carbanak gang has been highly active in this area and has performed multiple attacks on U.S banks, while the Banswift group performed one of the biggest heists of the year, stealing $81 million from the central bank in Bangladesh.
While exploit kits and other web-based attacks were a major threat in 2015, attackers have returned to email as the primary method of gaining access to networks. In 2015, Symantec blocked an average of 340,000 web-based attacks per day. In 2016, the number had fallen to 229,000 – a significant reduction, although the threat of web-based attacks cannot be ignored.
The Biggest Malware Threat Comes from Email
Phishing is still a major risk for businesses, although the phishing rate has fallen over the past three years, according to the Internet Security and Threat Report. In 2014, one in 965 messages were used for phishing. In 2016, the number fell to one in 2,596 emails.
However, email spam levels have remained constant year on year. Email spam accounts for 53% of all sent messages.
Phishing email volume may be down, but email-borne malware attacks have increased. The Symantec Internet Security and Threat Report shows the volume of malicious emails now being sent is higher than any point in the past five years.
Now, one in 131 emails contain either a malicious attachment or hyperlink, up from one in 220 emails in 2015 and one in 244 emails in 2014. The number of new malware variants being released has also soared. In 2014, there were 275 million new malware variants discovered. That figure rose to 357 million last year. The number of bots sending malicious email has also increased year on year, from 91.9 million in 2015 to 98.6 million in 2016.
Ransomware Attacks Soared in 2016
Ransomware attacks also increased significantly in 2016, with the United States the most targeted country. Even though the FBI and other law enforcement agencies strongly advise against paying a ransom, 64% of U.S. companies ignore that advice and pay the attackers for keys to decrypt their data.
In 2015, the average ransom demand was for $294 per infected machine. Over the course of the past 12 months, ransom amounts have increased considerably. The Symantec Internet Security and Threat Report shows ransom demands increased by an astonishing 266% in 2016. The average ransom demand is now $1,077 per infected machine.
Symantec tracked 101 separate ransomware families in 2016 – A substantial rise from the 30 known ransomware families in 2014 and 2015. Last year, there were 463,841 ransomware detections, up from 340,655 from 2015.
One of the biggest threats comes from the cloud, although many organizations are underestimating the risk. When organizations were asked how many cloud apps are in use in their company, few provided an accurate figure. Many estimated they used around 40 cloud-based apps. Symantec reports that for the average company, the figure is closer to 1,000.
As the Internet Security and Threat Report shows, the cyberthreat landscape is constantly changing as cybercriminals develop new methods of attacking businesses. Only by keeping up to date on the latest threat indicators and bolstering cybersecurity defenses can businesses maintain a robust security posture and prevent attacks.
A recent Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach has potentially resulted in customers’ credit card details being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
A statement released by the fast casual restaurant chain confirms that unauthorized individuals gained access to its network hosting its payment processing system. The initial findings of its investigation suggest access was first gained on March 24, 2017. Customers who visited its restaurants between March 24 and April 18, have potentially been affected. The investigation into the Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach is continuing to determine how many of the chain’s 2,000+ restaurants have been affected.
Few details about the Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach have been released as the investigation is ongoing, although the threat is now believed to have been blocked.
Chipotle Mexican Grill called in external cybersecurity experts to investigate a potential breach after unusual activity was detected on the network hosting its payment processing system. Law enforcement was alerted, as was its payment processor. Additional security protections have already been installed to bolster cybersecurity defenses in response to the suspected attack. Efforts are continuing to confirm the exact dates of the attack and the restaurants that have been affected.
The Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach is one of many incidents reported by restaurant chains this year. Restaurants are being targeted by cybercriminals due to the high number of credit cards that are processed. If attackers can gain access to restaurant payment processing systems, many thousands of credit card numbers can be stolen.
There are many methods used by cybercriminals to gain a foothold in a network and gain access to payment processing systems.
Typically attacks occur as a result of an employee opening an infected email attachment or visiting a hyperlink in an email that allows malware to be downloaded. Phishing emails are also sent, which aim to get employees to reveal their login credentials. Restaurants can improve their resilience against email-borne attacks by implementing an advanced spam filtering solution.
Web-borne attacks are also common. A recent report from Symantec shows web-based attacks have increased in the past year.
If an employee can be convinced to visit a malicious website, or is directed to such a site via a malvertising campaign, malware can be silently downloaded. Exploit kits on malicious websites probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and exploit those vulnerabilities to download malware.
Web-borne attacks can be prevented by ensuring that patches are applied promptly and all vulnerabilities are plugged. However, the number of patches now being released makes it difficult for restaurants to keep up. New zero day vulnerabilities are also constantly being discovered and added to exploit kits.
Many restaurants are improving their defenses against web-based attacks by implementing a web filtering solution. A web filter can be used to carefully control the websites that can be accessed on restaurant computers.
Web filters block all known malicious websites using black lists. As soon as a website is discovered to be hosting an exploit kit, malware, or used for phishing, it is added to blacklists and the site is blocked by the web filter.
A web filter is also an excellent phishing defense. If an employee clicks on a phishing hyperlink in an email, the web filter can block the URL and prevent the user from visiting the site.
There are other important advantages to implementing a web filtering solution for restaurants. The solution can be used to carefully control the websites that customers can access. Restaurants can therefore ensure that customers do not access malicious sites or inappropriate website content such as pornography. Consumers are increasingly seeking restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi, but also those that implement controls to secure their Wi-Fi networks.
If you would like to improve your resilience against cyberattacks and offer your customers secure and safe Internet access, contact the TitanHQ team today and find out more about your options.
The Intercontinental Hotels Group data breach previously announced in February as affecting 12 hotels in the chain has proven to have been far more extensive than was first thought.
Last week the group announced that the breach affected guests that used their credit cards to pay at franchisee hotels across the United States and in Puerto Rico between September 29, 2016 and December 29, 2016.
According to the chain’s website, the Intercontinental Hotels Group data breach potentially affected guests who stayed at its Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Hotel Indigo, and InterContinental Hotels. The full list of hotels that have potentially been affected by the malware incident has been listed on the IHG website. In total, 1,184 of the group’s hotels have potentially been affected.
The Intercontinental Hotels Group data breach involved malware that had been downloaded onto its systems, which was capable of monitoring payment card systems and exfiltrating payment card data. It does not appear that any other information other than card details and cardholders’ names were stolen by the attackers.
The hotel group does not believe the data breach extended past December 29, 2016, although that cannot be entirely ruled out as it took until February/March for all of the affected hotels to be investigated and for confirmation to be received that the malware had been removed.
Prior to the malware being installed, IHG had started installing the OHG Secure Payment Solution (SPS), which provides point to point encryption to prevent incidents such as this from resulting in the theft of clients’ data. Had the process started sooner, the Intercontinental Hotel Group data breach could have been prevented.
Hotels that had implemented the SPS prior to September 29, 2016 were not affected and those that had implemented the solution between September 29, 2016 and December 29, 2016 stopped the malware from being able to locate and steal credit card data. In those cases, only clients that used their credit cards at affected hotels between September 29, 2016 and when the SPS system was installed were affected.
Intercontinental Hotels Group Data Breach One of Many Affecting the Hospitality Sector
The Intercontinental Hotels Group data breach stands out due to the extent to which the group was affected, with well over 1,100 hotels affected. However, this is far from the only hotel group to have been affected by POS malware. Previous incidents have also been reported by Hard Rock Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Omni Hotels & Resorts and Trump Hotels.
Hotels, in particular hotel chains, are big targets for cybercriminals due to the size of the prize. Many hotel guests choose to pay for their rooms and services on credit cards rather than in cash, and each hotel services many thousands – often tens of thousands – of guests each year.
Globally, IHG hotels service more than 150 million guests every year, which is a tremendous number of credit and debit cards. Such a widespread malware infection would be highly lucrative for the attackers. Credit card numbers may only sell for a couple of dollars a time, but with that number of guests, an attack such as this would be a huge pay day for the attackers.
The Hospitality Sector is a Big Target and Vulnerable to Cyberattacks
While many tactics are used to gain access to POS systems, oftentimes it is weak or default passwords that allow hackers to gain access to hotel computer systems. Stolen credentials are another common way that access is gained. The Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) for 2016 shows that in each of the reported breaches affecting the hospitality sector, access to systems was gained by the attackers in less than an hour.
Malware can also be inadvertently downloaded by employees and guests. Poor segregation of the POS system from other parts of the network is commonplace. That makes it easy for hackers to move laterally within the network once a foothold has been gained. Doubling up POS systems as workstations makes it too easy for hackers to gain access to POS systems.
Many hotels also fail to perform adequate risk assessments and do not conduct penetration tests or vulnerability scans. Even malware scans are performed infrequently. Some hotels also fail to implement appropriate security solutions to block access to malware-laden websites.
The Intercontinental Hotels Group data breach could have been prevented, and certainly discovered more quickly. The same is true for many hotel data breaches.
Unless hotels and hotel groups improve their cybersecurity posture and implement appropriate technology, policies and procedures to prevent cyberattacks, data breaches of this nature will continue to occur.
TitanHQ offers a range of products that can prevent hackers from gaining access to computers and POS systems. For further information on how you can protect your hotel or chain against cyberattacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.
Last week, the Bitglass Threats Below the Surface Report was released. The report highlights the extent to which organizations are being attacked by cybercriminals. Far from cyberattacks being a relatively rare occurrence, they are now as certain as death and taxes.
The report revealed that out of the 3,000 IT professionals surveyed for the report, 87% said they had experienced a cyberattack in the past 12 months. Many of those respondents had experienced numerous cyberattacks in the past year, with one company in three experiencing more than five cyberattacks in the last 12 months. To put that figure in perspective and show how the probability of being attacked has increased, two years ago, only half of companies were experiencing cyberattacks on that scale.
IT professionals rated mobile devices as one of the biggest problem areas. When asked to rate security posture, more respondents rated mobile as somewhat or highly vulnerable than any other system. While attacks can come from all angles, the report revealed that many companies are not actively monitoring their systems and devices for potential vulnerabilities. Only 24% monitored SaaS and IaaS apps for vulnerabilities, 36% monitored mobile devices and 60% monitored the network perimeter and laptops/desktops.
In response to the increased number of threats and the frequency of cyberattacks, companies have been forced to increase spending on cybersecurity defenses. The Bitglass Threats Below the Surface Report shows biggest spenders are the retail and technology sectors, with 39% of retail organizations and 36% of technology companies saying they are now spending a large proportion of their budgets on cybersecurity. 52% of respondents said their organization is planning on increasing cybersecurity spending.
Respondents were asked to rate their biggest concerns for the report to get a gauge of the biggest perceived threats. The biggest concern for 37% of respondents is phishing. Phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated and harder for non-security professionals to identify. A range of social engineering techniques are used to fool end users into opening infected email attachments or clicking on malicious links and revealing their sensitive information. While effective at preventing many phishing attacks, training alone is no longer sufficient. Technological controls are now essential.
Malware is also a major concern along with insider threats, rated as a top concern by 32% and 33% of respondents, with email one of the main methods of malware delivery. Ransomware was also a major concern, although while ransomware attacks can result in significant costs and system downtime, fortunately, many companies have improved their ransomware defenses and have been able to recover without paying a ransom by restoring files from backups.
54% of companies said they had experienced a ransomware attack and were able to recover their data from backups without having to pay a ransom. That said, 33% of companies had no alternative but to pay a ransom to recover locked data, while 13% of companies said they had refused to pay a ransom and had experienced data loss as a result.
Windows-based systems are far more likely to be infected by viruses and malware; however, Mac users are far from immune to malware infections. A new report from McAfee suggests Mac malware infections increased substantially in 2016. Malware instances rose by a staggering 700% in the space of just one year.
The Threats Report by McAfee Labs shows that its anti-virus solutions detected and prevented 460,000 Mac malware infections in the final quarter of 2016 alone. That is a significant jump from the previous quarter when 150,000 Mac malware infections were detected and blocked – a rise of 247% from Q3 to Q4.
Compared to the number of infections of Windows based systems, the number of mac malware infections is still very low. McAfee detected more than 600 malware samples on Windows devices and 15 million attempted virus attacks on Android devices. At its highest, Mac malware infections were at 1.3% of the level seen on Windows-based devices.
However, the rise in Mac malware attacks should not be ignored. While Mac users are far better protected against malware attacks than Windows users, they should not be complacent. Cybercriminals are now developing more malware to target Mac users and they are no longer content with attacking Windows devices.
McAfee reports that malware developers are increasingly tailoring their malicious software to be capable of attacking multiple platforms. As more consumers and businesses use Macs and other Apple devices, attacks become more profitable. When there is potential for profit, malware developers are quick to take advantage.
The Threats Report indicates much of the new Mac malware is adware, with OSX/Bundlore one of the main malware variants discovered in Q4, 2016. Adware usually comes bundled with legitimate apps, especially apps on non-official stores. Downloading apps from the Mac app store is unlikely to result in infection.
Other forms of Mac malware have also increased in prevalence. As with Windows-based malware, the malware has been developed to steal login credentials and banking details. Remote access Trojans have also increased in number as has Mac ransomware – OSX/Keydnap being a notable example. OSX/Keydnap was bundled with the torrent client BitTorrent and even found its way onto the official download site.
To prevent Mac malware infections, businesses and consumers should be security aware and not take unnecessary risks. Apps should only be downloaded from official stores, security software should be installed, updates to software and apps should be applied promptly and strong, secure passwords should be used.
Another major restaurant POS breach has been detected. This time, Cleveland-based Select Restaurants Inc., has had its POS system breached. Select Restaurants owns many well-known restaurants throughout the United States.
According to Brian Krebs, restaurants known to be affected by the POS malware infection include:
- The Rusty Scupper (Baltimore, MD)
- Parkers Blue Ash Tavern (Cincinnati, OH)
- Parkers’ Restaurant & Bar (Downers Grove, IL)
- Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar (Oak Park, IL., Princeton, NJ., Summit, NJ.)
- Black Powder Tavern (Valley Forge, PA)
The restaurant POS breach does not appear to have occurred at Select Restaurants, instead it was the chain’s POS vendor that was attacked – Geneva. IL-based 24×7 Hospitality Technology. The attack occurred via a remote access application that the company uses to remotely access, update, and maintain the POS system used by its customers.
After gaining access to the POS system, the attackers installed a form of malware known as PoSeidon. The malware records and exfiltrates credit card data when cards are swiped by restaurant staff when customers pay for their meals. The malware was installed and active for around 3 months from October 2016 to January 2017.
While fraudulent use of customers’ credit card details is often quickly detected by banks and credit card companies, it can be difficult to track those fraudulent card uses back to a specific retailer or restaurant. When major restaurant chains experience POS malware infections it is far easier to detect the source of the fraud. Malware infections at smaller restaurant chains can take much longer to detect. During that time, the credit card details of all of the restaurant’s customers can be stolen.
The remote access system could have been attacked using a variety of methods. If a weak password was used, it may have been guessed or a brute force attack could have occurred. Alternatively, an employee may have revealed a password by responding to a phishing or spear phishing email.
In this case, the malware was installed via the POS system provider, although a restaurant POS breach could just as easily occur. Restaurant chains can do little to prevent attacks on their POS system provider, but they can implement cybersecurity defenses to protect them against direct attacks.
Restaurants are major targets for cybercriminals. Malware can remain undetected for many months during which time many thousands of credit cards can be stolen. The consequences for restaurant chains can be severe. While customers may not experience any losses – their credit card company will usually refund any fraudulent purchases – the effect on a restaurant chain’s reputation can be permanent.
To protect systems from attack, restaurant chains should ensure software solutions are installed to block the most common attack vectors. Software must be kept up to date and patched promptly to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited and antivirus solutions should be kept up to date and regular scans should be scheduled on all parts of the network.
For further information on how to prevent a restaurant POS breach and malware infections, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A health center malware infection has potentially resulted in 2,500 patients’ protected health information (PHI) being sent to unknown individuals over a period of almost a year. Lane Community College health clinic in Eugene, OR, discovered the malware during routine maintenance last month.
Further investigation determined that the malware had been installed on the computer in March 2016. The malware remained active until last month when it was discovered and removed. The malware was identified as Backdoor:Win32/Vawtrak – a Trojan backdoor that enables attackers to steal login information and take full control of an infected PC.
While data access was possible, Lane Community College health clinic uncovered no evidence to suggest patient data had been stolen, although the possibility that PHI was accessed and stolen could not be ruled out. A spokesperson for the clinic said an analysis of 20 other computers used by the clinic uncovered no further malware infections. In this case, the infection was limited as the computer was not connected to other computers on the network.
The only data exposed were those stored on the machine itself. The information potentially exposed included patients’ names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and medical diagnoses.
A health center malware infection can prove costly to resolve. In this case, the infection was limited to one machine, although once access has been gained and malware installed, hackers can often move laterally within a network and spread infections to other machines. Once data have been exfiltrated and there is no further need for access, hackers commonly install ransomware to extort money from their victims.
The exposure or theft of patient data can often lead to lawsuits from patients. While many of those lawsuits ultimately fail, defending a lawsuit can be costly. Healthcare data breaches that result in more than 500 records being exposed are also investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights to determine whether the breaches were caused as a result of HIPAA violations. Should HIPAA Rules be found to have been breached, covered entities may have to cover heavy fines.
Health center malware attacks are commonplace due to the value of healthcare data on the black market. Healthcare providers should therefore implement a range of defenses to protect against malware infections.
Malware is commonly inadvertently installed by end users via spam email or redirects to malicious websites. Both of these attack vectors can be blocked with low cost solutions. Backdoor:Win32/Vawtrak – also known as Trojan-PSW.Win32.Tepfer.uipc – is recognized by Kaspersky Lab – one of the dual AV engines used by the SpamTitan spam filtering solution. SpamTitan blocks 100% of known malware and blocks 99.97% of spam emails to keep end users and computers protected.
To protect against Web-borne attacks and to prevent malicious software downloads, WebTitan can be deployed. Web-Titan is a powerful DNS-based web filtering solution that can be used to block a wide range of web-borne threats to keep healthcare networks malware free.
Both solutions are available on a free 30-day trial to allow healthcare providers to experience the benefits first hand before committing to a purchase.
To find out more about TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions for healthcare organizations or to sign up for a free trial, give the sales team a call today.
A recent university cyberattack in the United States resulted in more than 5,000 systems being taken out of action.
The university cyberattack only became apparent after the IT department was flooded with complaints from staff and students that the Internet had slowed to a snail’s pace. By the time that the cyberattack was identified, the attack had spread to multiple systems and devices, resulting in major headaches for the IT department. Attempts were made to bring systems back online but they failed. Not only had IoT devices been compromised, passwords were changed by the attackers. The IT department was locked out and was prevented from gaining access to any of the compromised devices.
The attack involved a range of devices. Even campus vending machines had been loaded with malware and were under the control of the attackers. In total, 5,000 smart devices were compromised in the attack and had been added to an emerging IoT botnet.
An investigation was launched which revealed the extent of the attack. Virtually the entire IoT network had been lost to the attackers. Everything from smart lightbulbs in street lamps to drink-dispensing vending machines had been infected with malware and made part of a botnet.
The IoT devices were making hundreds of DNS lookups, preventing users from performing web searches or visiting websites. In this case, the devices were being used to make seafood-related searches. So many searches that genuine use of the Internet was prevented.
Once the first devices were compromised, the infection spread rapidly. Every IoT device connected to the network was attacked, with the devices brute-forced until the correct username and password combo was found. The devices were then loaded with malware and added to the botnet. The speed at which the IoT devices were compromised and loaded with malware was due to the use of weak passwords and default login credentials. The university, for convenience, had also made the mistake of loading all IoT devices onto one network.
Once the attackers had gained access to an IoT device and loaded their malware, they had full control of the device. To prevent removal of the malware, the attackers changed the password on the device, locking the IT department out.
Once that had occurred, the only way the IT department thought it would be possible to remove the malware and regain control would be to replace every IoT device. All 5,000 of them.
However, before such a drastic measure was taken, the university sought external assistance and was advised to use a packet sniffer to intercept clear-text passwords sent by the attackers to the malware-compromised devices. The university was able to read the new passwords and regain access to its IoT devices. Passwords were then changed on all 5,000 devices and the malware was removed.
A university cyberattack such as this can cause considerable IT headaches, major disruption for staff and students, and involves a not insignificant resolution cost. However, the university cyberattack could have been avoided. Even if an attack was not prevented, its severity could have been greatly reduced.
Had strong passwords been set, the attackers would have found it much harder to infect devices, buying the IT department time and allowing action to be taken to mitigate the attack.
While it is easy to see why all IoT devices were included on a single network, such a move makes it far too easy for cybercriminals to spread malware infections. It is never wise to put all of one’s eggs in the same basket. It is also important to ensure that networks are separated. If access to devices on one network is gained, damage will be limited.
The financial services sector and healthcare industry are obvious targets for cybercriminals, but cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 have risen sharply. There have been a multitude of cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017, and February is far from over. The list paints a particularly bleak outlook for the rest of the year. At the current rate, cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 are likely to smash all previous records, eclipsing last year’s total by a considerable distance.
Why Have There Been So Many Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017?
Educational institutions are attractive targets for cybercriminals. They hold large quantities of personal information of staff and students. Universities conduct research which can fetch big bucks on the black market.
While some of the finest minds, including computer scientists, are employed by universities, IT departments are relatively small, especially compared to those at large corporations.
Educational institutions, especially universities, are often linked to government agencies. If hackers can break into a university network, they can use it to launch attacks on the government. It is far easier than direct attacks on government agencies.
Cybersecurity protections in universities are often relatively poor. After all, it is hard to secure sprawling systems and huge networks that are designed to share information and promote free access to information by staff, students and researchers. Typically, university networks have many vulnerabilities that can easily be exploited.
Schools are also often poorly protected due to a lack of skilled staff and funding. Further, many schools are now moving to one-to-one programs, which means each student is issued with either a Chrome tablet or a Windows 10 laptop. More devices mean more opportunities for attack, plus the longer each student is connected to the Internet, the more time cybercriminals have to conduct attacks.
Another problem affecting K12 schools is the age of individuals who are accessing the Internet and email. Being younger, they tend to lack awareness about the risks online and are therefore more susceptible to social engineering and phishing attacks. The data of minors is also much more valuable and can be used for far longer by cybercriminals before fraud is detected.
While college students are savvier about the risks online, they are targeted using sophisticated scams geared to their ages. Fake job offers and scams about student loans are rife.
The threat of cyberattacks doesn’t always come from outside an institution. School, college and university students are hacking their own institution to gain access to systems to change their grades or for sabotage. Students with huge debts may also seek data to sell on the black market to help make ends meet.
While all of these issues can be resolved, much needs to be done and many challenges need to be overcome. It is an uphill struggle, and without additional funding that task can seem impossible. However, protections can be greatly improved without breaking the bank.
Major Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017
There have been several major cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017, resulting in huge losses – both financial losses and loss of data. Educational institutions have been hacked by outsiders, hacked by insiders and ransomware attacks are a growing problem. Then there are the email-based social engineering scams that seek the tax information of staff. Already this year there have been huge numbers of attacks that have resulted in the theft of W-2 forms. The data on the forms are used to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of staff.
Notable cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 include:
Los Angeles Valley College
One of the most expensive cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 was a ransomware infection at Los Angeles Valley College. The attack saw a wide range of sensitive data encrypted, taking its network, email accounts and voicemail system out of action. The systems could not be restored from backups leaving the college with little alternative but to pay the $28,000 ransom demand. Fortunately, valid decryption keys were sent and data could be restored after the ransom was paid.
South Carolina’s Horry County Schools
The Horry County School District serves almost 43,000 students. It too was the victim of a ransomware attack that saw its systems taken out of action for a week, even though the ransom demand was paid. While it would have been possible to restore data from backups, the amount of time it would take made it preferable to pay the $8,500 ransom demand.
South Washington County Schools
Hackers do not always come from outside an organization, as discovered by South Washington County Schools. A student hacked a server and copied the records of 15,000 students onto a portable storage device, although the incident was detected and the individual apprehended before data could be sold or misused.
Northside Independent School District
One of the largest cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 was reported by Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. Hackers gained access to its systems and the records of more than 23,000 staff and students.
Manatee County School District
Manatee County School District experienced one of the largest W-2 form phishing attacks of the year to date. A member of staff responded to a phishing email and sent the W-2 forms of 7,900 staff members to tax fraudsters.
Huge Numbers of W-2 Form Phishing Attacks Reported
This year has seen huge numbers of W-2 form phishing attacks on educational institutions. Databreaches.net has been tracking the breach reports, with the following schools, colleges and educational institutions all having fallen for phishing scams. Each has sent hundreds – or thousands of W-2 forms to tax fraudsters after responding to phishing emails.
- Abernathy Independent School District
- Argyle School District
- Ark City School District
- Ashland University
- Barron Area School District
- Belton Independent School District
- Ben Bolt Independent School District
- Black River Falls School District
- Bloomington Public Schools
- College of Southern Idaho
- Corsicana Independent School District
- Davidson County Schools
- Dracut Schools
- Glastonbury Public Schools
- Groton Public Schools
- Independence School District
- Lexington School District 2
- Manatee County School District
- Mercedes Independent School District
- Mercer County Schools
- Mohave Community College
- Morton School District
- Mount Health City Schools
- Neosho County Community College
- Northwestern College
- Odessa School District
- Powhatan County Public Schools
- Redmond School District
- San Diego Christian College
- Tipton County Schools
- Trenton R-9 School District
- Tyler Independent School District
- Virginian Wesleyan College
- Walton School District
- Westminster College
- Yukon Public Schools
*List updated June 2017
These cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 show how important it is to improve cybersecurity defenses.
If you would like advice on methods/solutions you can adopt to reduce the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches, contact TitanHQ today. TitanHQ offers cost-effective cybersecurity solutions for educational institutions to block email and web-based attacks and prevent data breaches.
The past few months have seen an increase in phishing attacks on law firms. Cybercriminals are attacking law firms to gain access to the highly confidential data held by attorneys and solicitors. Healthcare industry attacks are often conducted to obtain sensitive patient data that can be used for identity theft and tax fraud. Phishing attacks on law firms on the other hand are conducted to steal data for insider trading. Data are also stolen to allow cybercriminals to blackmail law firms.
Law firms are threatened with reputation-killing publication of highly sensitive client data if sizeable payments are not made. Since law firms hold secret documents, including potentially damaging information on their clients, it is not only the law firm that can be blackmailed. Clients are also contacted and threatened. The profits that can be made from insider trading are enormous. The data held by law firms is incredibly valuable. It is therefore no surprise that phishing attacks on law firms are increasing. Cybercriminals see law firms as perfect targets.
Last year, more than 50 law firms were targeted by Russian hackers using a spear phishing campaign. The aim of that attack was to gather information that could be used for insider trading. The group, called Oleras, attacked some of the best-known law firms operating in the United States, including Cravath Swaine & Moor LLP and Gotshal and Manges LLP.
However, while those attacks were damaging, they arguably caused less harm than the Panama Papers Breach – The largest law firm data breach of the year. That attack resulted in an astonishing 2.6 Terabytes of data being stolen by the attackers – Documents that revealed highly sensitive banking activities of criminals, politicians, athletes and businessmen and women. More than 214,000 companies had data revealed as a result of that law firm data breach.
While law firms must ensure that firewalls are in place along with a host of other cybersecurity protections to prevent their systems from being hacked, all too often data breaches start with phishing attacks on law firms. A simple email containing a link to a website is sent to attorneys’ and solicitors’ inboxes. The links are clicked and users are fooled into revealing login credentials to networks and email accounts. The credentials are captured and used to gain access to sensitive data.
Website filtering for law firms is now as essential a protection as the use of antivirus software. Antivirus software may be able to detect attempted malware installations – although it is becoming less effective in that regard – although it will do little to prevent phishing attacks.
A web filter protects law firms by preventing users from visiting malicious links in emails. A website filtering solution also prevents end users from downloading malware, or accessing websites known to carry a high risk of infection with ransomware or malware. A web filter also prevents law firm staff from accidentally visiting phishing websites when browsing the Internet. Along with a robust spam filtering solution to prevent phishing emails from being delivered, law firms can make their networks and email accounts much more secure.
Further information on recent phishing attacks on law firms, along with steps that can be taken to prevent security breaches, can be found by clicking the image below. Clicking the image will direct you to a useful phishing infographic on this website.
A restaurant malware attack has resulted in the theft of the credit and debit card numbers of more than 355,000 customers, according to Krebs on Security. A breach was suspected to have occurred when credit unions and banks started to notice a flurry of fraudulent purchases. The breach was traced to the fast food restaurant chain Arbys.
While there have been numerous instances of credit card fraud reported in the past few days, the Arbys data breach was first identified in January. Industry partners contacted Arbys regarding a potential breach of credit/debit card numbers. At that point, the incident was only thought to have affected a handful of its restaurants.
The malware infection was soon uncovered and the FBI was notified, although the agency requested that Arby’s did not go public so as not to impede the criminal investigation. However, a statement has recently been released confirming that Arby’s is investigating a breach of its payment card systems.
Upon discovery of the breach, Arby’s retained the services of cybersecurity firm Mandiant to conduct a forensic analysis. The Mandiant investigation is continuing, although rapid action was taken to contain the incident and remove the malware from Arby’s payment card systems. The investigation revealed that the incident only impacted certain corporate-owned stores. None of the franchised stores were infected with malware. Arbys has more than 3,300 stores across the United States, more than 1,000 of which are corporate-owned.
PSCU, an organization serving credit unions, was the first to identify a potential breach after receiving a list of 355,000 stolen credit card/debit card numbers from its member banks. It is currently unclear when the restaurant malware attack first occurred, although the malware is currently thought to have been actively stealing data from October 25, 2016 until January 19, 2017, when the malware was identified and removed.
This is of course not the first restaurant malware attack to have been reported in recent months. The restaurant chain Wendys suffered a similar malware attack last year. That incident also resulted in the theft of hundreds of thousands of payment card details before the malware was discovered and removed. Similar payment card system malware infections were also discovered by Target and Home Depot and resulted in huge numbers of card details being stolen.
Details of how the malware was installed have not been released, although malware is typically installed when employees respond to spear phishing campaigns. Malware is also commonly installed as a result of employees clicking on malicious links contained in spam emails or being redirected to malicious sites by malvertising. In some cases, malware is installed by hackers who take advantage of unaddressed security vulnerabilities.
Once malware has been installed it can be difficult to identify, even when anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are in use. As was the case with the latest restaurant malware attack, data theft was only identified when cybercriminals started using the stolen payment card information to make fraudulent purchases.
Protecting against malware attacks requires multi-layered cybersecurity defenses. Good patch management policies are also essential to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are remediated promptly. Anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions can greatly reduce the volume of messages that make it through to employees’ inboxes, while malicious links and redirects can be blocked with a web filtering solution. A little training also goes a long way. All staff members with computer access should receive anti-phishing training and should be instructed on security best practices.
Regular scans should be performed on all systems to search for malware that may have evaded anti-virus and anti-malware solutions. Since a restaurant malware attack will target payment card systems, those should be frequently scanned for malware. Rapid detection of malware will greatly reduce the damage caused.
If your organization was hit with a malware or ransomware infection last year, the 2016 malware report from Malwarebytes may serve as an unpleasant reminder of 12 months best forgotten. Malware infections rose in 2016 and ransomware infections soared. In the case of the latter, there was an explosion in new variants. Malwarebytes charted a 267% increase in ransomware variants between January 2016 and November 2016. In quarter four alone more than 400 active ransomware variants were cataloged.
The 2016 malware report shows how ransomware has become the revenue-generator of choice for many cybercriminals. It is easy to understand why. Infecting computers is a relatively easy process, ransom payments are made within a matter of days, much of the process is entirely automated, and ransomware-as-a-service means no skill is even required to jump on the bandwagon and send out campaigns.
The 2016 malware report indicates ransomware accounted for 18% of malicious payloads from spam email and ransomware is the payload of choice for exploit kits, accounting for 66% of malicious downloads.
Locky was a major threat for most of the year, but in December there was a massive spike in Cerber ransomware variants, which are now the most populous ransomware family.
The cybersecurity’s company’s 2016 malware report confirms what many security professionals already know all too well. 2016 was a particularly bad year for everyone but the cybercriminals. Unfortunately, the outlook for 2017 does not look any better. In fact, it looks like it will be even worse.
Predictions have been made that will send shivers down many a system administrator’s spine. Ransomware is set to become even more aggressive. Critical infrastructures are likely to be targeted. Healthcare ransomware attacks will increase potentially placing patients’ lives at risk. Educational institutions will be targeted. No organization will be immune to attack.
Fortunately, new ransomware families will be limited in 2017. But that is only because Locky and Cerber are so effective and can easily be tweaked to avoid detection.
Then there are the botnets. The increase in use of IoT devices would not be a problem, were it not for a lack of security. Many insecure devices are coming to market which can all too easily be added to botnets. As we saw in the tail end of the year, these botnets – such as Mirai – are capable of conducting devastating DDoS attacks. Those attacks are only likely to increase in scale and frequency. As Malwarebytes correctly points out, unless manufacturers of IoT devices are better regulated and are forced to improve their security, vast sections of the Internet will come under threat.
So, it looks like all bad news for 2017. All organizations can do is purchase the technology to deal with the threats, plug security holes promptly, train staff to be aware of the threats, and shore up their defenses. The next 12 months could be a rocky ride.
Hotel malware attacks have been hitting the headlines in the past two years as cybercriminals target hotels looking for payment card information. Now, InterContinental Hotels Group Plc has announced that a malware infection has potentially resulted in the theft of customers’ payment card details from 12 of its hotels in the United States. The hotel malware attacks affected guests at InterContinental Hotels as well as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels.
The data breach affected the payment systems used by the hotel chain’s restaurants and bars, but did not extend to the front desk system used to process guests.
Malware was installed on the hotels’ servers which searched for and obtained customer track data from credit and debit card transactions. Customers’ card data – including names, card numbers, expiry dates and verification codes – were intercepted and potentially stolen using the malware. The malware was discovered in late December when the hotel chain hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate a potential data breach following an unusual level of fraud affecting the hotel chain’s customers. That investigation revealed malware had been installed as early as August 1, 2016 which remained active until December 15, 2016.
InterContinental has not disclosed whether the malware passed on any payment card information to the attackers nor how many customers had been impacted by the incident, only that servers at 12 of the chain’s hotels had been affected. Investigations into the security breach are continuing and the investigation has now been extended to other hotels owned by InterContinental in the Americas.
Hotels are commonly targeted by cybercriminals seeking payment card information. Last summer, InterContinental’s Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants were attacked with malware and similar incidents were reported last year by Marriot International’s Starwood Hotels as well as the Hyatt, Westin, and Sheraton hotel chains. Hotel malware attacks were reported by the Hilton chain and Trump Hotels in 2015.
Cybercriminals are most interested in POS systems used by hotels. Malware is installed that is capable of capturing payment card information and those data are then transferred to the attackers. All too often, malware is installed and stays active for months before it is detected. During that time, tens of thousands of hotel guests can be impacted and have fraudulent charges applied to their accounts.
While hotel customers are often covered by their card providers’ insurance policy, the fallout from these incidents can be considerable. When guests suffer credit card and debit card fraud as a result of visiting a particular hotel, they may take their business elsewhere.
Malware can be installed by cybercriminals via a number of different attack vectors. Direct attacks take advantage of security flaws in software and hardware. Last year, Cylance’s Sophisticated Penetration Exploitation and Research Team (SPEAR) identified a zero-day vulnerability in ANTLabs InnGate routers, which are used by many of the top hotel chains to provide Internet access for guests. The flaw could be exploited to gain access to guest’s smartphones, laptops, and tablets, or potentially be used to install malware that targets POS systems on hotel servers.
According to SPEAR, the flaw was being actively exploited and 277 hotels had been targeted across 29 countries, including more than 100 hotels in the United States. Eight out of the world’s top ten hotel chains were found to have systems vulnerable to this type of attack. A patch was promptly issued to correct the flaw and hotels were able to plug the security hole.
It may not be possible to prevent attacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities; however, there are steps that can be taken to reduce hotel malware attacks. Malware is often downloaded as a result of employees’ or guests’ actions. Malware may be deliberately installed, although all too often downloads occur silently as a result of employees and guests visiting malicious websites.
Blocking access to these websites will protect both the hotel and its guests from web-borne malware and ransomware attacks. If a web filter – such as WebTitan – is installed, all websites known to house malware will be blocked.
If you run a hotel or hotel chain, a web filter is an additional layer of security that should be seriously considered. A web filter will help to reduce the risk of malware and ransomware infections and keep hotel networks safe and secure for all users.
A hotel ransomware attack in Austria hit the headlines in the past couple of days. The cyberattack affected the Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt. The hotel’s computer system was infiltrated by the attacker who installed ransomware. A range of files were encrypted, which prevented the hotel from being able to check-in new guests and issue new key cards for hotel doors.
Hotel Ransomware Attack Hampers Guest Check-ins
Early reports of the hotel ransomware attack suggested hotel guests were locked out of their rooms or, in some cases, locked in their rooms. The latter is not possible as even when electronic key cards are used, locks can be opened manually from the inside. Guests who had been issued with key cards prior to the attack were also able to use their cards to get in their rooms, according to a statement issued by the hotel’s manager.
However, the cyberattack still caused considerable disruption at the 111-year old hotel. According to local news sources, the attack affected the hotel’s key card system, reservation system, and its cash desk.
Since files were encrypted that were necessary to program new key cards, any guest that had not been checked in before the cyberattack occurred experienced considerable delays. The issue was only resolved when the hotel paid the ransom demand of 1500 Euros – approximately £1,300/$1,600. Systems remained out of action for 24 hours as a result of the attack.
This was not the only attack affecting the hotel. A second attack reportedly occurred, although the hotel was able to thwart that attempt by taking its systems offline. Repeat attacks are unfortunately common. If one ransomware attack results in the payment of a ransom, other attacks may also occur as the attackers attempt to extort even more money from their victim. Backdoors are often installed during initial attacks to enable access to continue after payment has been made.
Not being able to check-in new guests for a period of 24 hours can make a serious dent in profits, not only from guests being forced to seek alternative accommodation, but also from the damage to a hotel’s reputation. Such an attack can keep future guests away.
In this case, in addition to paying the ransom demand, the manager of the Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt confirmed that the hotel will be going old school in the impending future. Rather than continue to use an electronic key card system, the hotel will revert to using standard keys for hotel room doors. Another hotel ransomware attack would therefore not prevent guests from checking in.
Hotels Must be Prepared for Cybersecurity Incidents
This is not the first hotel ransomware attack to have occurred in 2017 and it certainly will not be the last. Hotels are attractive targets for cybercriminals because hotels cannot afford to have critical systems offline for lengthy periods of time due to the disruption they cause. Cybercriminals know that ransom demands are likely to be paid.
In this case, no lasting harm was caused, although that does not mean future attacks will be limited to reservation systems and cash desk operations. Elevator systems may be targeted or other systems that have potential to compromise the health and safety of guests.
Hotels therefore need to make sure that not only are defenses augmented to prevent ransomware attacks, but a data breach response plan is in place to ensure that in the event of a cybersecurity incident, rapid action can be taken to limit the harm caused.
Malware and phishing attacks on healthcare organizations are all but guaranteed. In fact, they are almost as certain as death and taxes. Healthcare organizations hold huge volumes of data on patients and more types of data than virtually any other industry.
Healthcare providers store personal information and Social Security numbers, which are needed for identity theft and tax fraud. Insurance information that can be used for health insurance fraud; Medicare/Medicaid numbers and health information that can be used for medical fraud. Bank account information and credit card numbers are also often stored. For cybercriminals, breaching a healthcare organization’s defenses means a big payday.
Further, health data does not expire like credit card numbers. Social Security numbers never change. It is therefore no surprise that malware and phishing attacks on healthcare organizations are on the rise.
As if there was not enough incentive to attack healthcare organizations, the healthcare industry has underinvested in cybersecurity defenses, lagging behind other industries when it comes to implementing the latest technologies to thwart cybercriminals. Healthcare networks are also highly complex and difficult to protect. They also contain many outdated software and operating systems. Many healthcare organizations still run medical devices on the unsupported Windows XP OS, which contains many vulnerabilities.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has helped to bring cybersecurity standards up to an acceptable level. HIPAA compliance has made it harder for cybercriminals, although far from impossible. With the healthcare industry, firmly in cybercriminals’ crosshairs, healthcare organizations need to look beyond meeting the minimum standards for data security to avoid a HIPAA fine and ensure that defenses are improved further still.
One of the biggest problems comes from cyberattacks on healthcare employees. Even advanced firewalls can be easily avoided if employees can be fooled into clicking on a malicious link or opening an infected email attachment. Phishing attacks on healthcare organizations are the most common way that cybercriminals gain access to healthcare networks. Most cyberattacks start with a spear phishing email.
In addition to perimeter defenses, it is essential for healthcare organizations to employ technologies to block phishing attacks. Advanced spam filters will prevent the vast majority of phishing emails from being delivered, while web filtering solutions will block phishing attacks on healthcare organizations by preventing malicious links from being clicked and malicious websites from being accessed.
Fortunately, with appropriate defenses in place, cyberattacks can be prevented and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI can be preserved.
For further information on the major healthcare cyberattacks of 2016, the key threats to healthcare organizations, and the impact of data breaches, click the image below to view our healthcare hacking infographic.
According to a new report from data breach insurance provider Beazley, US ransomware attacks on enterprises quadrupled in 2016. There is no sign that these attacks will slow, in fact they are likely to continue to increase in 2017. Beazley predicts that US ransomware attacks will double in 2017.
Half of US Ransomware Attacks Affected Healthcare Organizations
The sophisticated nature of the latest ransomware variants, the broad range of vectors used to install malicious code, and poor user awareness of the ransomware threat are making it harder for organizations to prevent the attacks.
For its latest report, Beazley analyzed almost 2,000 data breaches experienced by its clients. That analysis revealed not only that US ransomware attacks had increased, but also malware infections and accidental disclosures of data. While ransomware is clearly a major threat to enterprises, Beazley warned that unintended disclosures of data by employees is actually a far more dangerous threat. Accidental data breaches increased by a third in 2016.
US ransomware attacks and malware incidents increased in the education sector, which registered a 10% rise year on year. 45% of data breaches experienced by educational institutions were the result of hacking or malware and 40% of data breaches suffered by companies in the financial services. However, it was the healthcare industry that experienced the most ransomware attacks. Nearly half of 2016 US ransomware attacks affected healthcare organizations.
The report provides some insight into when organizations are most at risk. US ransomware attacks spiked at the end of financial quarters and also during busy online shopping periods. It is at these times of year when employees most commonly let their guard down. Attackers also step up their efforts at these times. Beazley also points out that ransomware attacks are more likely to occur during IT system freezes.
Ransomware Attacks on Police Departments Have Increased
Even Police departments are not immune to ransomware attacks. Over the past two years there have been numerous ransomware attacks on police departments in the United States. In January, last year, the Midlothian Police Department in Chicago was attacked with ransomware and paid a $500 ransom to regain access to its files.
The Dickson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee paid $572 to unlock a ransomware infection last year, and the Tewksbury police department in Massachusetts similarly paid for a key to decrypt its files. In 2015, five police departments in Maine (Lincoln, Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, Waldboro and Damariscotta) were attacked with ransomware and in December 2016, the Cockrell Hill Police Department in Texas experienced a ransomware infection. The attack resulted in video evidence dating back to 2009 being encrypted. However, since much of that information was stored in backup files, the Cockrell Hill Police Department avoided paying the ransom.
Defending Against Ransomware
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to protect organizations from ransomware attacks. Ransomware defenses should consist of a host of technologies to prevent ransomware from being downloaded or installed, but also to ensure that infections are rapidly detected when they do occur.
Ransomware prevention requires technologies to be employed to block the main attack vectors. Email remains one of the most common mediums used by cybercriminals and hackers. An advanced spam filtering solution should therefore be used to prevent malicious emails from being delivered to end users. However, not all malicious attachments can be blocked. It is therefore essential to not only provide employees with security awareness training, but also to conduct dummy ransomware and phishing exercises to ensure training has been effective.
Many US ransomware attacks in 2016 occurred as a result of employees visiting – or being redirected to – malicious websites containing exploit kits. Drive-by ransomware downloads are possible if browsers and plugins are left unpatched. Organizations should ensure that patch management policies are put in place to ensure that all systems and software are patched promptly when updates are released.
Given the broad range of web-based threats, it is now becoming increasingly important for enterprises to implement a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites and to block malvertising-related web redirects. Web filters can also be configured to prevent employees from downloading malicious files and engaging in risky online behavior.
The outlook for 2017 may be bleak, but it is possible to prevent ransomware and malware attacks. However, the failure to take adequate preventative steps to mitigate risk is likely to prove costly.
A recently released 2016 data breach report has shown that the number of data breaches reported by businesses has remained fairly constant year on year. 4,149 data breaches were reported between January and December 2016, which is broadly on a par with the figures from 2015.
2015 saw the largest ever healthcare data breach ever reported – The 78.8 million record data breach at Anthem Inc. There were also two other healthcare data breaches in 2015 that resulted in the theft of more than 10 million records. The 11-million record breach at Premera Blue Cross and the 10-million record breach at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
2016 saw more data breaches reported by healthcare organizations than in 2015, although the severity of the attacks was nowhere near as bad. More than 27 million healthcare records were exposed in 2016, whereas the total for 2015 was in excess of 113 million.
2016 Data Breach Report Shows Severity of Cyberattacks Has Dramatically Increased
While the severity of healthcare data breaches fell year on year, the 2016 data breach report from Risk Based Security shows an overall increase in the severity of data breaches across all industries. 2016 was a record-breaking year.
In 2013 more than 1 billion records were exposed or stolen – the first time that the 1 billion record milestone had been passed. 2016 saw that previous milestone smashed. More than four times as many records were stolen in 2016 than in 2013. 2016 data breaches exposed an incredible 4.2 billion records.
The RBS 2016 data breach report details 94 data breaches that exposed more than 1 million records. 37 breaches resulted in the exposure of more than 10 million records. The United States was the biggest target, accounting for 47.5% of the data breaches reported over the course of the year.
Healthcare data breaches hit the headlines frequently in 2016 due to the potential impact they had on the victims. However, healthcare industry data breaches only made up 9.2% of the annual total. The business sector was the worst hit, accounting for 51% of breaches in 2016. Government organizations made up 11.7% of the total and education 4.7%.
According to the RBS 2016 data breach report, the top ten data breaches of 2016 exposed an incredible 3 billion records and the average severity score of those breaches was 9.96 out of 10. All but one of those security breaches was caused by hackers. One of the incidents was a web-related breach. Six of the data breaches reported in 2016 ranked in the top ten list of the largest data breaches ever reported.
Six 2016 Security Incidents Ranked in the Top 10 List of Largest Ever Data Breaches
The largest data breach of 2016 – and also the largest data breach ever reported – was the hacking of Yahoo. More than 1 billion user credentials were exposed as a result of that cyberattack. While malware is a major threat to businesses, malware attacks only accounted for 4.5% of data breaches in 2016. Hacking exposed the most records and was the main cause of 2016 data breaches, accounting for 53.3% of incidents and 91.9% of the total number of stolen records.
Many organizations also reported being attacked on multiple occasions. The 2016 data breach report shows that 123 organizations reported multiple data breaches in 2016 and 37% of those organizations reported experiencing three or more data breaches between January and December.
According to RBS, more than 23,700 data breaches have now been tracked. In total, more than 9.2 billion records have been exposed or stolen in those incidents. According to RBS Executive vice president Inga Goddijn, “Any organization that has sensitive data – which is every organization with employees or confidential business information – can be a target.”
Cyberattacks are coming from all angles. Employees are being targeted via email, the volume of malware-laden websites and phishing sites has soared, malvertising is increasing and hackers are exploiting unpatched software vulnerabilities.
It is difficult to predict how bad 2017 will be for cybersecurity breaches, but it is fair to assume that data breaches will continue to occur at a similar level. Organizations need to respond by increasing their cybersecurity defenses to prevent attacks from occurring, but also to prepare for the worst and ensure they are ready to deal with a breach when one occurs. A fast response can limit the damage caused.
Credential stuffing attacks on enterprises are soaring according to a recent study conducted by Shape Security. The massive data breaches at the likes of LinkedIn, Yahoo, MySpace have provided cybercriminals with passwords aplenty and those passwords are used in these automated brute force login attempts.
Organizations that have discovered data breaches rapidly force password-resets to prevent criminals from gaining access to users’ accounts; however, stolen passwords can still be incredibly valuable. A study conducted by Microsoft in 2007 suggested that the average computer user has 25 accounts that require the use of a username and password, while Sophos suggests users have an average of 19 accounts.
Password managers can be used to help individuals remember their login credentials, but many people have not signed up for such a service. To remember passwords people just recycle them and use the same password over and over again. Cybercriminals are well aware of that fact and use stolen passwords in credential stuffing attacks on websites and mobile applications.
Shape Security suggests that for many enterprises, 90% of login traffic comes from credential stuffing attacks. Those attacks can be highly effective and since they are automated, they require little effort on the part of the attacker. A batch of passwords is purchased from any number of sellers and resellers on darknet marketplaces. A target site is identified and an automated script is developed to login. The criminals then scale up the assault by renting a botnet. It is then possible to conduct hundreds of thousands of login attempts simultaneously.
Many of the stolen credentials are old, so there is a high probability that passwords will have been changed, but not always. Many people keep the same passwords for years.
The success rate may be low, but the scale of the credential stuffing attacks gives cybercriminals access to hundreds of thousands of accounts.
Shape Security researchers suggest the success rate of these attacks is around 2%. To put this into perspective, if the passwords from the Yahoo data breach were used in credential stuffing attacks, which they almost certainly are, a success rate of 2% would give criminals access to 20 million user accounts.
There is certainly no shortage of passwords to attempt to use to gain access to accounts. According to the report, more than 3 billion username and password combinations were stolen by cybercriminals in 2016 alone. That would potentially give the attackers access to 60 million accounts.
These attacks are not hypothetical. During a 4-month observation period of just one major U.S. retailer in 2016, Shape Security discovered that 15.5 million attempted logins occurred. Even more worrying was that more than 500,000 of the retailer’s customers were using recycled passwords that had previously been stolen from other websites.
Additionally, as a recent report from SplashData has shown, weak passwords continue to be used. The top 25 list of the worst passwords in 2016 still contains very weak passwords such as 123456 and password. These commonly used passwords will also be attempted in brute force attacks. SplashData suggests as many as 10% of Internet users use at least one of the passwords in the top 25 worst password list.
These studies highlight the seriousness of the risk of recycling passwords and send a clear message to organizations: Develop mitigations to prevent the use of stolen credentials and ensure that password policies are developed and enforced.
Trump Hotels and Management LLC has paid the price for failing to implement robust security controls to secure its POS system from cybercriminals.
The hotel chain, which is headed by Donald Trump and run by three of his children, has been fined $50,000 by the New York Attorney General for a data breach that exposed the credit card details and personal information of over 70,000 guests in 2015.
Banks conducted an investigation following a spate of fraudulent credit card transactions last year, and determined that the common denominator was all of the victims had previously stayed in Trump-owned hotels. In all of the cases, Trump Hotels was the last merchant to process a legitimate card transaction, indicating there had been a breach of credit card details at the hotel chain.
A further investigation revealed that the POS system used by 5 Trump hotels in Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York had been infected with malware. The malware was installed on the credit card processing system in May 2014 and access to the system was gained using legitimate domain administrator credentials. The malware was able to capture the payment card information of guests.
The fine, which was announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday, was issued for the failure to adequately secure its systems and for the delay in issuing breach notifications to consumers. Trump Hotels did place a breach notice on the company website, but it took 4 months for that notice to be uploaded – a breach of state laws in New York.
Schneiderman explained “It is vital in this digital age that companies take all precautions to ensure that consumer information is protected, and that if a data breach occurs, it is reported promptly to our office, in accordance with state law.”
A spokesperson for Trump Hotels explained that the hotel industry is under attack by cybercriminals looking to gain access to guests’ credit card details. “Unfortunately, cyber criminals seeking consumer data have recently infiltrated the systems of many organizations including almost every major hotel company.”
Other notable hospitality industry breaches include the cyberattack on Hyatt hotels and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The Hyatt breach affected 250 hotels, while the Starwood breach resulted in the POS systems of 54 hotels being loaded with malware.
Cyberattacks are to be expected; however, security controls at Trump Hotels appear to be insufficient. A second credit card system data breach was discovered to have affected the hotel chain in March this year. Investigators discovered malware had been installed on 39 computer systems used at various locations.
In addition to the $50,000 fine, Trump Hotels has agreed to adopt a corrective action plan which requires additional security controls to be installed to prevent future data breaches.
It may not be possible to prevent all cyberattacks but, with the hospitality industry coming under attack, it is essential that security controls are implemented that prevent the installation of malware. Keyloggers and other information stealing malware are usually delivered via spam email or are unwittingly downloaded from malicious websites.
In order to prevent infections via email, hotel chains can implement a robust spam filter. Web-borne infections can be prevented using a powerful web filtering solution to block malware downloads.
The Acer cyberattack recently reported to the California attorney general was due to an unspecified “security issue” on the company’s online store. Acer recently discovered that an unauthorized third party had gained access to its server and had stolen the data of its customers. Customers affected by the breach had made a purchase through Acer’s online store between May 12, 2015 and April 28, 2016.
Full Credit Card Information of Customers Stolen in Acer Cyberattack
Affected customers’ names, addresses, credit card numbers, card expiry dates, and CVC codes were all potentially stolen in the attack. Acer has pointed out that Social Security numbers were not recorded and were not obtained by the attackers. Acer does not believe that customer login details were stolen; however, the theft of password and login data could not be ruled out.
All individuals impacted by the breach do face a significant risk of suffering financial losses and must therefore keep a close check on their credit card statements for any sign of fraudulent activity. Due to the high level of risk Acer has recommended that all customers impacted by the breach place a credit freeze and fraud alert on their files. Credit reports should also be obtained from each of the credit agencies.
The incident has been reported to law enforcement and an investigation is ongoing. Acer also brought in external cybersecurity experts to assist with the investigation.
It is unclear how the Acer cyberattack occurred and whether the attackers gained access to the company’s systems in May last year or whether the attack occurred recently and resulted in a year’s worth of data being stolen. However, Acer did confirm to PCWorld that customers’ have been placed at risk because their data were “inadvertently stored in an unsecured format.”
In a statement issued by the Taiwanese computer company, Mark Groveunder Vice President, Customer Service for the Pan-American region said “We regret this incident occurred, and we will be working hard to enhance our security.” The company’s payment processing company has been informed of the breach and customers have now been notified by mail.
The Zuckerberg Twitter hack has clearly demonstrated the danger of password reuse. Zuckerberg used the same password for Twitter as he did for his Pinterest and LinkedIn accounts. In spite of the Facebook founder, chairman, and CEO’s lofty position at the top of the world’s most popular social media network, he is guilty of poor data security practices like many others.
In addition to reusing passwords, Zuckerberg also chose a password of 6 digits with no capital letters, symbols, or numbers and did not change it for at least three years. The password was revealed to be “dadada.”
Mark Zuckerberg Twitter Hack Stemmed from the LinkedIn Data Breach
A collective known as OurMine was responsible for the Mark Zuckerberg Twitter hack. The collective, which is understood to hail from Saudi Arabia, gained access to data from the LinkedIn breach. The data were listed for sale a few days previously by a hacker operating under the name of “Peace”.
The LinkedIn passwords were not stored as plaintext, so a little effort was required to reverse the hash to obtain the password. While SHA-1 was thought to be impossible to reverse, it has since been shown to be a relatively straightforward task unless the passwords are also salted. In the case of LinkedIn, they were not.
Simply enter in the SHA-1 hash of a password into one of many reverse hash calculators and the plaintext password will be revealed. A search of the keyword phrase “how to reverse a sha1 password” will reveal many online options for doing so. Once the password had been obtained, access to online accounts was possible.
The Zuckerberg Twitter hack did not appear to cause anything other than some embarrassment. The group notified Zuckerberg of the hack by tweeting him using his own account, saying “we are just testing your security.” While the tweet said that Zuckerberg’s Instagram account was compromised, it has since been confirmed that this account was secure all along, as was Zuckerberg’s Facebook account.
While it is embarrassing, it should be pointed out that Zuckerberg was not a regular Twitter user, having only sent 19 tweets from his account in the past four years. His compromised Pinterest account was similarly rarely used.
Spate of Account Hacks Reported After Major Data Leaks
Other individuals were not quite so fortunate. Since the data from the LinkedIn breach was made available online, numerous celebrity social media accounts have been compromised. The Twitter accounts of celebrities such as Keith Richards and Kylie Jenner were hacked, as was the account of Tenacious D. The latter’s account was used to send a tweet saying Jack Black had died.
While these hacks have not been confirmed as stemming from the LinkedIn breach (or the MySpace or Tumblr breaches) the spate of account hijacks suggest as much.
TeamViewer GmbH was also a victim, having had numerous accounts compromised recently. The company provides remote desktop software and a number of users claim that the hacking of GmbH employee accounts enabled attackers to compromise their computers and authorize PayPal and Amazon transactions. This was attributed to “password mismanagement” by GmbH rather than any flaws in their software.
All of these account hacks show how common the reuse of passwords is, and the danger of doing so. What should be particularly worrying for businesses, is many people use their LinkedIn passwords for work accounts, or vice versa. If that password is obtained via a data breach, malicious actors could do a considerable amount of damage.
Important Online Security Best Practices
To improve security and reduce the risk of more than one account being compromised….
- Never reuse passwords
- Create a complex password for each platform – use symbols, capitals, and numerals
- Change your passwords regularly – every month or three months
- Use 2-factor authentication if available
- Use a password manager to help keep track of passwords
- Don’t store your passwords in your browser
- Regularly check your email address/username against the Have I Been Pwned? database
Over the past few days, rumors have been circulating about a massive MySpace data breach. Initial reports suggested that 427 million usernames and passwords had been obtained by a hacker going by the name of “Peace”. The name should sound familiar. The Russian hacker is the same individual who recently listed 117 million LinkedIn login credentials for sale on an illegal darknet marketplace. The hacker was also allegedly responsible for the 65 million-record data breach at Tumblr.
360 Million Login Credentials Stolen in MySpace Data Breach
Yesterday, Time Inc., confirmed that login credentials had been listed for sale online and that a MySpace data breach had occurred, although it would appear that the stolen data was obtained some time ago. The login credentials are for the old MySpace platform and date to before June 11, 2013. While Time Inc., did not confirm exactly how many login names and passwords had been stolen, Time confirmed that the figure of 360 million that had been reported in the press in the last couple of days was probably accurate.
Usernames, passwords, email addresses, and secondary passwords are reportedly being offered for sale. Out of the 360 million logins, Leakedsourrce.com suggests that 111,341,258 of the stolen records include a username and a password, and 68,493,651 records had a secondary password compromised. Not all of those stolen records also included a primary password.
Since 2013, data security has improved considerably and many companies have enforced the use of numerals, capital letters, and symbols when creating passwords. The stolen data reportedly includes only a small percentage of accounts with a capital letter in the password. This makes the passwords much easier to crack. The algorithm used to encrypt the passwords was also weak.
The login credentials from the MySpace data breach are reportedly being offered for sale for 5 Bitcoin – approximately $2,800.
All old users of the MySpace platform, and current users who joined the website before June 11, 2013 are potentially at risk. MySpace has responded to the breach by resetting all passwords on accounts created before June 11, 2013. When these users visit MySpace again they will be required to authenticate their account and supply a new password.
Additional security measures have been employed to identify suspicious account activity and the data theft is now being investigated. It would appear that no one at MySpace was aware that its database had been breached until the data were offered for sale just before the Memorial Day weekend.
MySpace Breach Shows Why It is Important Never to Reuse or Recycle Passwords
Since the data breach appears to have occurred some time ago, it is probable that many users will have changed their passwords on the site long ago, but the data could still be used to attack past and current users. All too often passwords are recycled and used for other online accounts, and many individuals use the same passwords for different platforms or rarely (or never) change them.
The MySpace data breach shows why it is important to use a different password for each online account and to regularly change passwords on all platforms. In the event of a breach of login credentials, users will only have to secure one account. If there is a possibility that only passwords are still in use on other platforms, MySpace account holders should update their passwords as soon as possible.
Hackers have access to tools that can check to see if account login and password combos have been used on other websites.
A successful CEO fraud scam that resulted in a fraudulent bank transfer being made from company accounts to a cyberattacker has cost the CEO his job.
CEO Fraud Scan Results in Losses of 40.9 Million Euros
Earlier this year, FAAC – an Austrian aircraft component manufacturer – was targeted by attackers who managed to pull off an audacious 50 million Euro ($55 million) CEO fraud scam. A wire transfer was made for 50 million euros by an employee of the firm after receiving an email request to transfer the funds from CEO Walter Stephan. The email was a scam and had not been sent by the CEO.
Unfortunately for FAAC, the CEO fraud scam was discovered too late and the transfer of funds could not be stopped. While the company was able to recover a small percentage of its losses, according to a statement released by FAAC, the company lost 41.9 million Euros as a result of the attack which contributed to annual pretax losses of 23.4 million Euros.
The bank transfer represented approximately 10% of the company’s entire annual revenue. Given the high value of the transfer it is surprising that the transfer request was not queried in person – or over the telephone with the CEO.
The CEO and the employee who made the transfer were investigated but do not appear to have been involved in the scam. The attackers were not believed to be linked to FAAC in any way.
Heads Roll After Huge Losses Suffered
Earlier this year, FAAC sacked its chief finance officer as a direct result of the scam. The CEO was recently sacked following a meeting of the company’s supervisory board. Stephan had worked at the company as CEO for 17 years.
This CEO fraud scam is one of the largest ever reported, although this type of scam is becoming increasingly common. Earlier this year the FBI issued an advisory about the high risk of CEO fraud scams following many attacks on U.S companies over the past year. In April, the FBI reported that $2.3 billion has been lost as a result of this type of scam.
CEO email fraud involves a member of the accounts department being sent an email from the CEO – or another senior executive – requesting a bank transfer be made from the company accounts. A reason is usually supplied as to why the transfer request needs to be made, and why it must be made urgently.
Oftentimes, the scammer and the target exchange a few emails. An email is initially sent asking for a transfer to be made, followed by another email containing details of the recipient account where the funds must be sent and the amount of the transfer. The scams are effective because the request appears to come from within the company from a senior executive or CEO. Oftentimes the attackers manage to compromise the CEO’s email account, and spend time researching the style the CEO uses for emails and who transfer requests have been sent to in the past.
According to the FBI, the average transfer amount is between $25,000 and $75,000, although much larger scams have been pulled off in the past. Irish budget airline Ryanair fell victim to a CEO fraud scam and wired $5 million to a Chinese bank, although the funds were able to be recovered. The Scoular Co., wired $17.2 million to scammers in February last year, while Ubiquiti suffered a loss of $46.7 million as a result of a CEO fraud scam.
Easy Steps to Prevent CEO Email Fraud
There are steps that can be taken that can greatly reduce the risk of these scams being successful.
- Implement policies that require all bank transfers – or those above a certain threshold – to be authorized by telephone or through other communication channels.
- Ensure bank transfer requests are authorized by a supervisor and are not left to one single employee
- Configure spam filters to block spoofed domains to prevent scam emails from being delivered
- Provide training to all accounts department staff and warn of the risk of CEO fraud scams