Email & Web Spam

Our news section dedicated to email & web spam highlights many scenarios in which organizations – and individuals within organizations – act on fraudulent communications sent via email or presented to them on a hacked website. The news items report not only cyberattacks launched via email and the web, but also on the damage that is caused and the consequences of the attack.

Trends in email & web spam attacks are also identified within our news items, plus information on how many of the attacks can be avoided – typically with an email spam filter and/or a web content filter. If yours is an organization at risk from email & web spam, we recommended that you speak with one of our technical sales team today.

Business Email Account Compromises Soaring

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

What is a Business Email Compromise Attack?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The High Cost of Resolving Business Email Account Compromises

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

How to Protect Your Organization from Business Email Compromise Attacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Phishing Campaign Bypasses Office 365 Anti-Phishing Defenses

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

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

Sophisticated Sextortion Scam Bypasses Office 365 Anti-Phishing Controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HookAds Malvertising Campaign Highlights Importance of a Web Filter

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

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

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

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

Key Benefits of WebTitan

Listed below are some of the key benefits of WebTitan

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

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

Further information on WebTitan is provided in the video below:

Stealthy sLoad Downloader Performs Extensive Reconnaissance Before Delivering Payload

The past few months have seen an increase in new, versatile malware downloaders that gather a significant amount of data about users’ systems before deploying a malicious payload. That payload is determined on the users’ system.

Marap malware and Xbash are two notable recent examples. Marap malware fingerprints a system and is capable of downloading additional modules based on the findings of the initial reconnaissance. XBash also assesses the system, and determines whether it is best suited for cryptocurrency mining or a ransomware attack and deploys its payload accordingly.

Stealthy sLoad Downloader Used in Highly Targeted Attacks

A further versatile and stealthy malware variant, known as the sLoad downloader, can now be added to that list. SLoad first appeared in May 2018, so it predates both of the above malware variants, although its use has been growing.

The primary purpose of sLoad appears to be reconnaissance. Once downloaded onto a system, it will determine the location of the device based on the IP address and performs several checks to ascertain the type of system and the software that is running and will determine whether it is on a real device or in a sandbox environment. It checks the processes running on the system, compares against a hardcoded list, and will exit if certain security software is installed to avoid detection.

Provided the system is suitable, a full scan of all running processes will be performed. The sLoad downloader will search for Microsoft Outlook files, ICA files associated with Citrix, and other system information. sLoad is capable of taking screenshots and searches the browser history looking for specific banking domains. All of this information is then fed back to the attackers’ C2 server.

Once the system has been fingerprinted, further malware variants are downloaded, primarily banking Trojans. Geofencing is used extensively by the threat actors using sLoad which helps to ensure that banking Trojans are only downloaded onto systems where they are likely to be effective – If the victim uses one of the banks that the Trojan is targeting.

In most of the campaigns intercepted to date, the banking Trojan of choice has been Ramnit. The attacks have also been highly focused on specific countries including Canada, and latterly, Italy and the United Kingdom – Locations which are currently being targeted by Ramnit. Other malware variants associated with the sLoad downloader include the remote desktop tool DarkVNC, the Ursnif information stealer, DreamBot, and PsiBot.

The sLoad downloader is almost exclusively delivered via spam email, with the campaigns often containing personal information such as the target’s name and address. While there have been several email subjects used, most commonly the emails relate to purchase orders, shipping notifications, and missed packages.

The emails contain Word documents with malicious macros in ZIP files, or alternatively embedded hyperlinks which will download the ZIP file if clicked.

The sLoad downloader may be stealthy and versatile, but blocking the threat is possible with an advanced spam filter. End user training to condition employees never to click on hyperlinks from unknown senders nor open attachments or enable macros will also help to prevent infection.  Web filtering solutions provide an additional layer of protection to block attempts to download malicious files from the Internet.

Massive Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Identified

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

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

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

What is SEO Poisoning?

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

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

Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Targeting 15,000+ Keywords

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Version of Azorult Malware Being Distributed via RIG Exploit Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DanaBot Trojan Now Targeting Customers of U.S. Banks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fallout Exploit Kit Used to Deliver New GandCrab v5 Ransomware Variant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frequency and Severity of Healthcare Phishing Attacks Increasing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of This SharePoint Phishing Scam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Web Filtering for Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does WebTitan Work?

TitanHQ’s WebTitan is a powerful web filtering solution that helps businesses control the web content that can be accessed by its employees, but how does WebTitan work and how can the solution improve an organization’s security posture?

Why Are Web Filters Necessary?

Many businesses choose to implement a web filtering solution to prevent employees from accessing inappropriate web content such as pornography or to stop work computers from being used to download illegal content such as pirated films, music, and TV shows. A category-based web filter allows businesses to block certain types of web content with ease, such as adult material and P2P file sharing websites.

While content filters can achieve those aims, perhaps a more important function of web filters is to block web-based threats such as malware and phishing websites. Many businesses choose to deploy WebTitan to block these threats, but how does WebTitan work?

How Does WebTitan Work?

WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based web filtering solution that serves as a semi-permeable membrane between an organisation’s users and the Internet. When an end user attempts to access a particular URL that does not violate an organization’s acceptable Internet use policy, the request is honoured. Since there is no latency, the speed at which the website is loaded is the same as if no filtering mechanism is in place.

Unknown to the user, when an attempt is made to access a webpage, the DNS request is sent to WebTitan Cloud which determines whether the request should be allowed or denied.

If the user attempts to access a gambling website and the gambling category has been blocked through WebTitan Cloud, the user will be advised that their request has been denied and access to the site will be prevented. But how does WebTitan work as far as malicious websites are concerned? How are malicious URLs identified and blocked?

How Does WebTitan Block Access to Malicious Websites?

How does WebTitan determine which URLs are benign and which ones are malicious, and how are those checks performed in real-time?

To block malicious sites, WebTitan uses a crowd-sourced approach and obtains a constant stream of URLs for analysis. These ActiveWeb URLs come from websites actively visited by a global network of customers through high traffic markets such as subscriber analytics, networks security, IOT, and ad tech.

This traffic is used to train WebTitan’s human-supervised Machine Learning Systems to detect, monitor, and categorize threats. Using in house and third-party tools, WebTitan performs link, content, static, heuristic, and behavioural anomaly analyses to categorize threats. When threats are detected, the WebTitan team profiles, tests and validates those threats. Once threats have been validated, they are blocked with false positives used to train the system to improve future accuracy.

In contrast to many DNS-based systems, which only work at the domain level, WebTitan works at the path level and is capable of blocking individual webpages rather than entire domains. The majority of malicious URLs in the WebTitan database are marked as malicious at the path level – 99.7% of IP-based URLs and 88.35% of non-IP-based URLs.

WebTitan performs checks of websites that have previously been marked as malicious to determine whether they still contain malware or other threats. The WebTitan Malicious Detection Solution revisits up to 300,000 sites to check whether they are still infected or have been cleaned, and the database is updated accordingly. Sites previously marked as malicious can be accessed once they have been determined to be safe.

What Web-Based Threats Does WebTitan Block?

There are ten main web-based threats that WebTitan protects against:

  • Malware distribution points
  • Ad fraud
  • Botnets
  • Spyware and questionable software
  • Phishing and other fraudulent sites
  • Command and Control (C2) servers
  • Malware call-home addresses
  • Compromised sites and links to malware
  • Spam URLs
  • Cryptocurrency mining

With WebTitan, businesses not only have highly granular control over the types of sites that can be visited by their employees, a wide range of malicious sites are also blocked, preventing malware and ransomware infections, data theft, data exfiltration and fraud.

You can view further information about WebTitan on this link. (PDF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terdot Trojan Steals Banking Credentials and Hijacks Social Media Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Tips Used as Lure in Smoke Loader Malware Malvertising Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rapid Evolution of Ransomware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equifax Breach Victims Directed to Phishing Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of Hoeflertext Warnings: Popups Used to Deliver Ransomware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Facebook Messenger Malware and Adware Campaign Detected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Model Response to A Cyberattack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Your Business from Online Threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mamba Ransomware Attacks Resume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Sees Huge Rise in Malware Attacks on Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Malware Attacks on Schools in 2017

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

Minnesota School District Closed for a Day Due to Malware Attack

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

Swedesboro-Woolwich School District Suffers Cryptoransomware Attack

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

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

Los Angeles Community College District Pays $28,000 Ransom

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

Calallen Independent School District Reports Ransomware Attack

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

Preventing Malware and Ransomware Attacks on Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secure WiFi Access for Shops to Attract More Repeat Business

Providing free WiFi in shops helps to attract more foot traffic and improves the shopping experience, although retailers are now realizing the benefits of providing secure WiFi access for shops. Over the past two years, there has been considerable media coverage of the dangers of public WiFi hotspots. Consumer websites are reporting horrifying cases of identity theft and fraud with increasing regularity.

With public awareness of the risks of connecting to public WiFi networks now much greater than ever before, secure WiFi access for shops has never been more important. Consumers now expect free WiFi access in shops, but they also want to ensure that connecting to those WiFi networks will not result in a malware infection or their personal information being obtained by hackers.

Fortunately, there are solutions that can easily be adopted by retailers that mitigate the risks and ensure consumers can connect to WiFi networks safely, but before we cover those options, let’s look a little more closely at the risks associated with unsecured WiFi networks.

The Risks of Unsecured WiFi Networks

If retailers provide free WiFi access in store it helps to attract more foot traffic, individuals are encouraged to stay in stores for longer, they have access to information and reviews about products and studies have shown that customers spend more when free WiFi is provided. A survey by iGT, conducted in 2014, showed that more than 6 out of ten customers spend longer in shops that provide WiFi access and approximately 50% of customers spend more money.

Connecting to a public WiFi network is different from connecting to a home network. For a start, considerably more people connect, including individuals who are intent on stealing information for identity theft and fraud. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common. Man-in-the-middle attacks involve a hacker intercepting or altering communications between a customer and a website. If login details or other sensitive information is entered, a hacker can obtain that information.

Malware and ransomware can be downloaded onto users’ devices and phishing websites can easily be accessed if secure WiFi access for shops is not provided. Consumers typically have Internet security solutions in place on home networks that block these malicious websites. They expect the same protections on retailers’ WiFi networks. Malware poses a significant threat. Alcatel-Lucent, a French telecommunications company, reports that malware attacks on mobile devices are increasing by 25% per year.

Then there is the content that can be accessed. Recently, before Starbucks took steps to block the accessing of pornography via its WiFi networks, the coffee shop chain received a lot of criticism from consumers who had caught glimpses of other customers accessing pornography on their devices.

Secure WiFi Access for Shops Brings Many Benefits

The provision of secure WiFi access for shops tells customers you are committed to ensuring they can access the Internet safely and securely on your premises. It tells parents that you are committed to protecting minors and ensuring they can access the Internet without being exposed to adult content. It tells consumers that you care, which helps to improves the image of your brand. It is also likely to result in positive online reviews.

Providing secure WiFi access for shops makes it easier for you to gain an insight into customer behavior. A web filtering solution will provide you with reports on the sites that your consumers are accessing. This allows you to profile your customers and find out more about their interests. You can see what sites they access, which can guide your future advertising programs and help you develop more effective marketing campaigns. You can also find out more about your real competitors from customers browsing habits.

The provision of secure WiFi access for shops will also help you to reduce legal liability. If you do not block illegal activities on your WiFi network, such as file sharing (torrents) sites, you could face legal action for allowing the downloading of pirated material. The failure to block pornography could result in a lawsuit if a minor is not prevented from accessing adult content.

WebTitan – Secure WiFi Access for Shops Made Simple

Secure WiFi access for shops doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. TitanHQ offers a solution that is cost effective, easy to implement, requires no technical skill, has no effect on Internet speed and the solution can protect any number of shops in any number of locations. The filtering solution can be managed from an intuitive web-based graphical user interface for all WiFi access points, and a full suite of reports provides you with invaluable insights into customer behavior.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a 100% cloud-based DNS filtering solution. Point your DNS records to WebTitan and you will be filtering the Internet in minutes and blocking undesirable, dangerous and illegal web content. You do not need any additional hardware, you do not need to download any software and configuring the filtering settings typically takes about 30 minutes.

To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, including details of pricing and to register for a 30-day, no obligation free trial, contact TitanHQ today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WebTitan at the Kaseya Connect Europe User Conference

The Kaseya Connect Europe User Conference will be taking place on October 3, 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands with the company recently having announced its line-up of speakers and exhibiting partners for the event.

The Kaseya Connect Europe User Conferences are hugely popular. The events provide an excellent networking and learning opportunity with attendees able to see technical presentations with hands on demonstrations to improve usage of Kaseya solutions and find out more about the latest product releases.

Attendees benefit from expert advice, gain strategic insights and receive useful practical knowledge from industry experts and thought leaders and have the opportunity of taking part in product training and other instructional sessions to help them get the most out of their business, optimize their technical operations and boost revenues.

The upcoming Kaseya Connect Europe User Conference will include a business track to help MSPs monetize their business, increase their service stack and boost revenues.

Sue Gilkes, faculty member of CompTIA and founder and managing director of Your Impact Ltd, will be providing her insights into how MSPs can grow their business and improve revenues, while Transmentum’s Adam Harris – Author of “Check-In Strategy Journal” – will be delivering a keynote speech – “7 Sales Strategies to Take Away and Implement Immediately” – a must attend session for all MSPs.

Next year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect in May. MSPs need to start preparing to ensure the deadline for compliance is met. With the deadline just a few months away, a session will be focused on helping MSPs prepare.

TitanHQ is pleased to announce it is an Emerald Sponsor for the event and will be demonstrating its WebTitan and SpamTitan solutions for MSPs.

WebTitan is an innovative web filtering solution ideal for MSPs. The solution can easily be added to MSPs service stacks allowing them to improve the cybersecurity defenses of their clients. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering solution that blocks a wide range of online threats and allows users to carefully control the web content that can be accessed via their wired and wireless networks.

SpamTitan is a leading spam filtering solution that blocks more than 99.9% of spam and malicious emails to keep end users protected from phishing attacks, malware and ransomware infections.

Both solutions are provided as white labels with a range of hosting options, including hosting within an MSPs own environment.

Following the massive global ransomware attacks of recent months, businesses are demanding additional protections, with both solutions offering MSPs a golden opportunity to generate regular additional monthly revenue with minimal management time.

“It’s exciting to bring together hundreds of our European customers and partners for this conference, and provide them with convenient access to educational sessions, networking opportunities and insightful discussions from industry leader, said Sabine Link, vice president, customer success for Kaseya” Through this event, we can deliver a unique experience for our European users that will empower them with the knowledge they need to achieve the results they desire.”

The event is free of charge for MSP executives, regardless of whether they are already Kaseya users. However, registration is required in advance of the event. If you are interested in attending the Kaseya Connect Europe User Conference in October, you can register for the conference here.

RoughTed Malvertising Campaign Impacts 28% of Organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Report Shows Changing Trends in Phishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Astrim Exploit Kit Now Delivering Mole Ransomware

The recent ransomware attack on University College London has been discovered to have occurred as a result of an end user visiting a website hosting the Astrim exploit kit. Exploit kits are used to probe for vulnerabilities and exploit flaws to download malware.

Most ransomware attacks occur via email. Phishing emails are sent in the millions with many of those emails reaching end users’ inboxes. Ransomware is downloaded when infected email attachments are opened or malicious links are clicked. Organizations can reduce the threat of ransomware attacks by implementing an advanced spam filtering solution to prevent those malicious emails from being delivered.

However, spam filtering would not have stopped the University College London ransomware attack – one of many ransomware attacks on universities in recent months.

In order for an exploit kit to work, traffic must be sent to malicious websites hosting the kit. While spam email can be used to direct end users to exploit kits, the gang behind this attack was not using spam email.

The gang behind the Astrim exploit kit – AdGholas – has been using malvertising to direct traffic to sites hosting the EK. Malvertising is the name for malicious adverts that have been loaded onto third party ad networks. Those adverts are displayed to web users on sites that sign up with those advertising networks. Many high traffic sites display third party adverts, including some of the most popular sites on the Internet. The risk of employees visiting a website with malicious adverts is therefore considerable.

Exploit kit attacks are far less common than in 2015 and 2016. There was a major decline in the use of exploit kits such as Magnitude, Nuclear and Neutrino last year. However, this year has seen an increase in use of the Rig exploit kit to download malware and the Astrim exploit kit is also attempting to fill the void. Trend Micro reports that the Astrim exploit kit has been updated on numerous occasions in 2017 and is very much active.

The risk of exploit kit attacks is ever present and recent ransomware and malware attacks have shown that defenses need to be augmented to block malicious file downloads.

An exploit kit can only download malware on vulnerable systems. If web browsers, plugins and software are patched promptly, even if employees visit malicious websites, ransomware and malware cannot be downloaded.

However, keeping on top of patching is a difficult task given how many updates are now being released. Along with proactive patching policies, organizations should consider implementing a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to block third party adverts as well as preventing employees from visiting sites known to contain exploit kits.

With exploit kit attacks rising once again, now is the time to start augmenting defenses against web-based attacks. In the case of University College London, a fast recovery was possible as data were recoverable from backups, but that may not always be the case. That has been clearly highlighted by a recent ransomware attack on the South Korean hosting firm Nayana. The firm had made backups, but they too were encrypted by ransomware. The firm ended up paying a ransom in excess of $1 million to recover its files.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of WannaCry Being Exploited to Push Fake Antivirus Apps

Following the massive WannaCry ransomware attacks there has been heightened interest in cybersecurity products. Marketers have capitalized on the fear of an imminent attack to increase downloads of fake antivirus apps.

The apps are sold to worried users promising to protect them from WannaCry and other ransomware threats. In some cases, a free scan is offered that reveals the user’s device is already infected with any number of malicious programs. Installing the app will allow users to rid their device of the malicious software.

In many cases, the fake antivirus apps misreport infections to scare users into buying and installing an unnecessary app. Some of those apps will offer no protection whatsoever, but others are more sinister. Many of the new fake antivirus apps that are sneaking their way into the Google Play store are far from benign. PUPs, Trojans and adware are packaged with the apps. Users download the fake antivirus apps to protect themselves against malware, when the reality is downloading the app results in infection.

A study of antivirus apps has recently been conducted by RiskIQ. The firm discovered almost 6,300 antivirus apps that were either an antivirus solution, reviews of antivirus software or were otherwise associated with an antivirus program. More than 700 of those apps triggered blacklist detections on VirusTotal, with many of the apps coming packaged with malware.

131 of the 655 antivirus apps on the Google Play Store triggered blacklist detections. Many of the apps are no longer active, although 55 out of 508 active AV apps on the Google Play Store were blacklisted. In total, 20% of blacklisted antivirus apps were in the Google Play store with 10.8% still active.

RiskIQ reports that some of the blacklisted apps are false positives and not all of those apps are bundled with malware. However, many of the apps were rated as malicious by multiple AV vendors and were not all they claimed to be.

While it is important to have antivirus software on mobile devices, users should exercise caution when downloading any app. Just because an app claims to protect you and your device, it does not mean that it will do as it says. Downloading the app could even result in infection.

Users can reduce the risk of downloading a fake antivirus app by only using official app stores such as Google Play, but additional checks should be performed. An app should not be installed if the developer is using a free email address such as Gmail or Outlook. RiskIQ recommends checking the descriptions of the apps, specifically looking for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. The app should ideally be checked against VirusTotal to see if it raises any red flags and users should carefully check the permissions requested.

Fireball Malware: 250 Million+ Infections and Rising

Over the past few days, a new threat called Fireball malware has been spreading rapidly and has allegedly been installed on more than 250 million computer systems. An estimated 20% of corporate networks have been infected with the malware. 10% of infections are in India, 9.6% in Brazil, 6.4% in Mexico, 5.2% in Indonesia and 2.2% in the United States.

The new malware variant was discovered by security researchers at Check Point, who claim the malware campaign is “possibly the largest infection operation in history.”

Fireball malware targets web browsers and is used to manipulate traffic. Once infected, the end user is redirected to fake search engines, which redirect search queries to Google and Yahoo. Fireball malware is being used to generate fake clicks and boost traffic, installing plugins and new configurations to boost the threat actor’s advertisements.

The malware is also capable of stealing user information using tracking pixels and can easily be turned into a malware downloader. Once installed, Fireball malware can run any code on the victims’ computer, making the infection especially dangerous. While Fireball malware is not believed to be dropping additional malware at this stage, it remains a very real possibility. The malware has a valid certificate, hides the infection and cannot be easily uninstalled.

The malware is being distributed bundled with other software such as the Mustang browser and Deal WiFi, both of which are provided by a large Chinese digital marketing agency called Rafotech. It is Rafotech that is understood to be behind Fireball malware.

Rafotech is not using the malware for distributing other malware, nor for any malicious purposes other than generating traffic to websites and serving end users adverts, but Fireball may not always remain as adware. At any point, Fireball could simultaneously drop malware on all infected systems.

The recent WannaCry ransomware attacks serve as a good comparison. Once the network worm had spread, it was used to deploy WannaCry. More than 300,000 computers were infected the worm, which then dropped the ransomware. If a more advanced form of malware had been used that did not have a kill switch, the WannaCry attacks would have been far more severe. Now imagine a scenario where the same happened on 250 million computers… or even more as Fireball malware spreads further.

Fireball could also drop botnet malware onto those computers. A botnet involving 250 million or more computers would result in absolutely devastating DDoS attacks on a scale never before seen. As a comparison, Mirai is understood to include around 120,000 devices and has wreaked havoc. A botnet comprising 250 million or more devices could be used to take down huge sections of the internet or target critical infrastructure. It would be a virtual nuclear bomb.

HTTPS Phishing Websites Increase as Cybercriminals Exploit Trust in Encrypted Connections

Awareness of the additional security provided by HTTPS websites is increasing, but so too are HTTPS phishing websites. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of consumer trust of websites that encrypt connections with web browsers.

The risks of disclosing sensitive information such as credit card numbers on HTTP sites has been widely reported, with more sites now using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and improve security for website visitors. However, just because a website starts with HTTPS does not mean that website is safe.

HTTPS phishing websites also secure the connection. Divulging login credentials or other sensitive information on those sites will place that information in the hands of criminals.

A recent report from Netcraft shows more phishing websites are now using HTTPS to communicate, with the percentage of HTTPS phishing websites jumping from 5% to 15% since the start of 2017.

Internet users are now being warned if they are visiting a website that does not encrypt connections. Google Chrome and Firefox browsers have recently started displaying warnings on sites that are not secure.

The problem is that many users automatically assume that if a website starts with HTTPS it is safe and secure when that is far from the case.

Even if a website is genuine and encrypts communications, that does not mean the website cannot be compromised. If a hacker gained access to a website with a SSL certificate it would be possible to add pages that phish for sensitive information. The website would still display the green lock symbol and start with HTTPS.

HTTPS phishing websites may also have valid digital certificates meaning even Firefox and Google Chrome browsers will not flag the sites as potentially malicious. Those sites may also include the brand names of legitimate websites such as Facebook, Amazon, or PayPal. In the case of the latter, a recent report from the SSL Store revealed that there were 15,270 websites that contained the word PayPal which had been issued with SSL certificates.

The rise in HTTPS phishing websites shows that simply checking the protocol used by the site is no guarantee that the site is not malicious. Care must be taken when accessing any website, regardless of the protocol used by the site.

Businesses can improve protection by implementing a web filtering solution capable of reading encrypted web traffic. This will help to ensure employees are prevented from visiting malicious websites on their work computers, regardless of the protocol used by the sites.

WebTitan not only allows organizations to block websites by category, content or keyword, the web filtering solution also decrypts, reads, and then re-encrypts connections and will block phishing and other malicious websites. By inspecting HTTPS websites, WebTitan will also ensure access to any secure website is blocked if the site or webpage violates user-set rules on website content.

Purple Protects Customers with TitanHQ’s WebTitan WiFi Content Filtering Solution

TitanHQ is proud to announce a new partnership with the intelligent spaces company Purple.  Purple has chosen TitanHQ’s WiFi content filtering solution – WebTitan – to keep its WiFi networks secure and to carefully control the content that can be accessed by its clients and their customers.

The importance of securing WiFi networks has been highlighted by recent cyberattacks, including the WannaCry ransomware attacks on May 12. Consumers can be provided with WiFi access, but need to be protected from web-borne threats such as drive-by ransomware downloads and phishing attacks.

WebTitan offers protection against a wide range of web-borne threats including exploit kits, phishing websites, malicious web adverts and drive-by downloads of malware and ransomware. Every day, WebTitan detects more than 60,000 web threats and protects customers by blocking access to harmful webpages. WebTitan also allows businesses to carefully control the content that can be accessed via WiFi networks, filtering out obscene, harmful, and illegal website content.

As a leading provider of WiFi analytics and marketing services, Purple is well aware of the potential risks that come from unsecured WiFi hotspots. The company is committed to securing its WiFi networks and ensuring its customers are protected in the right way. Purple required exceptional protection for its customers, yet not all WiFi filtering solutions matched the company’s unique requirements.

Purple explained those requirements to TitanHQ, which was able respond with a solution that matched the company’s exacting needs. James Wood, Head of Integration at Purple said, “From day one it was evident that they were capable of not only providing what we needed but were very responsive and technically adept.”

WebTitan allows companies to manage WiFi content controls in multiple locations from a single administration console, making it an ideal solution for global WiFi businesses. For companies such as Purple, whose clients need to have control over their own filtering controls, WebTitan was ideal. Wood explained that WebTitan “allows us to extend the control to our customers via their API. Our customers can now manage their own filtering settings directly from the Purple Portal.”

TitanHQ was able to respond rapidly roll out WebTitan in a matter of days. Purple customers are now protected by the leading WiFi content filtering solution and can access the Internet safely and securely. Wood said, “With demanding timescales involved for the migration, we invested heavily in WebTitan and they have not failed to deliver.”

TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh is delighted that Purple has chosen TitanHQ has its WiFi filtering partner. Kavanagh said, “Purple is now a valued member of the TitanHQ family and we are delighted to welcome the firm onboard. This is a partnership that illustrates just how well suited WebTitan is to Wi-Fi environments.”

WannaCry Ransomware Attacks Halted… Temporarily

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.