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.

Phishers Use Google Drive Links to Bypass Office 365 Anti-Phishing Controls

A new phishing campaign has been detected that uses Google Drive links to avoid detection by Office 365 Exchange Online Protection and ensure messages are delivered to inboxes.

The emails, reported through Cofense Intelligence, impersonated the CEO of the company who was attempting to share an important document. The document had been shared via Google Drive and came with the message, “Important message from – CEO.”

Google Drive allows files and collaboration requests to be easily sent to other individuals. The account holder chooses who to share a file with and the system generates an email alert containing a link to the shared file.

In this case, the name of the CEO was correct, but the email address used was different to the format used by the company. While this is a clear sign that the emails are not what they seem, some employees would likely be fooled by the message.

Importantly, the messages are not detected as malicious by EOP and are delivered to inboxes. A scan of the message would reveal nothing untoward, as the embedded URL is a legitimate shared link to a genuine cloud service operated by Google.

The shared document itself is not malicious, but it does link to another Google Docs document and a phishing URL. Any anti-phishing solution that only assesses the embedded hyperlink in the email to determine whether it is malicious would allow the email to be delivered. Only a deeper inspection would reveal the true nature of the URL.

If the link is visited by an end user, a fake login window is presented. If login credentials are entered, they are captured and stored on the attacker’s server.

This campaign highlights the importance of multi-layered anti-phishing defenses and the risks of relying on EOP to provide protection against phishing attacks.

An advanced spam filtering solution should be implemented on top of Office 365 to provide greater protection from phishing and other email-based attacks. This will ensure more sophisticated phishing attacks are blocked.

If a malicious message is delivered and a link is clicked, the connection to the malicious webpage could be blocked using a web filtering solution.

WebTitan is a DNS-based content filtering solution that serves as an additional layer in organization’s anti-phishing defenses.  Should an attempt be made by an employee to visit a malicious website or suspicious domain, the attempt would be blocked before any content is downloaded. WebTitan assesses each website when the DNS query is made. Malicious websites and those that violate an organization’s content control policies are blocked.

To find out more about how a DNS filter can improve your defenses against phishing attacks and malware downloads, contact TitanHQ today.

La Porte County Latest Victim in String of Ransomware Attacks on Municipalities

There has been a spate of ransomware attacks on cities, municipalities, mayor’s offices, and local government facilities in recent weeks.

The latest attack was on La Porte County in Indiana. The attack started on July 6, 2019, but prompt action by the IT department allowed the ransomware to be contained. That rapid response meant only 7% of the laptops used by the county were affected. However, two domain controllers were also affected and that rendered the network unavailable.

Experts were brought in to try to restore files from backups and bring the network back online, but those attempts failed as the backup servers had also been infected with the ransomware. La Porte County was left with no alternative other than to pay the ransom demand. The Bitcoin ransom equated to around $130,000, $100,000 of which was covered by an insurance policy.

This attack involved Ryuk ransomware – The same ransomware variant that was used in the attack on Lake City in Florida on June 10, 2019.  For Lake City, Ryuk ransomware was delivered by the Trickbot Trojan, which was in turn deployed by the Emotet Trojan. Lake City paid approximately $500,000 to the attackers to obtain the keys to unlock the encryption. Riviera Beach in Florida was also attacked and paid a ransom of around $600,000.

These are just three cases out of several recent attacks. Those three attacks alone have resulted in more than $1,200,000 being paid to cybercriminals. That sends a very clear message to other cybercriminals that these attacks can be extremely profitable. That is the reason the FBI advice is never to pay.

2018 saw a decline in ransomware attacks as cybercriminals pursued other strategies for attacking businesses, but ransomware is now certainly back in favor and is being used in an increasing number of attacks.

Something that several of the targets in the recent ransomware campaigns have in common is they are relatively small cities that have limited resources to devote to cybersecurity. They have hardware and software that has reached end of life and, due to limited funds, security gaps have started to appear.

Riviera Beach, for instance, is a city of 35,000 people with limited resources. It had recently undergone a period of turmoil in management, had suffered scandals, and during the upheaval its cybersecurity contract had been allowed to lapse. That left the door wide open to attack.

These attacks have proven incredibly costly, yet they could have been prevented with a very small spend on a select number of security solutions. The attacks on Rivera Beach and Lake City could have been prevented with an advanced email security solution such as SpamTitan. The ransomware was installed in both of these attacks as a result of employees opening malware-infected email attachments.

SpamTitan incorporates dual anti-virus engines to detect malicious software and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox for deep analysis of suspicious email attachments. SpamTitan incorporates DMARC email authentication to counter email impersonation attacks and a host of other anti-spam and anti-phishing controls.

SpamTitan can be deployed as a gateway solution on existing hardware or as a cloud-based solution, and can be easily layered on top of Office 365 to improve protection against phishing and ransomware attacks.

Further, the cost of protection against ransomware and phishing attacks is likely to be much lower than you think. For more information, contact TitanHQ today.


 

Monroe College Ransomware Attack: $2 Million Ransom Demand Issued

There has been a spate of ransomware attacks on cities and government agencies in recent months and the healthcare industry sees more than its fair share of attacks, but they are not the only industries being targeted.

Schools, colleges, and universities are prime targets for hackers and ransomware attacks are common. One recent attack stands out due to its scale and the massive ransom demand that was issued. The attackers demanded $2 million (170 BTC) for the keys to unlock the encryption.

Monroe College in New York City was attacked at 6:45am on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. The ransomware quickly spread throughout the network, shutting down the computer systems at its campuses in Manhattan, New Rochelle and St. Lucia and taking down the college website.

The college has switched to pen and paper and is finding workarounds to ensure students taking online courses receive their assignments. No mention has been made about whether files will be recovered from backups or if the ransom will need to be paid.

This is one of many recent ransomware attacks in the United States. Ransomware may have fallen out of favor with cybercriminals in 2018, but it now appears to be back in vogue and attacks are rising sharply. So too have the ransom demands.

$2 million is particularly high, but there have been several recent attacks involving ransom demands for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In several cases, the ransom has been paid.

Riviera Beach City in Florida was attacked and was forced to pay a $600,000 ransom to regain access to its files and bring its computer systems back online. Lake City in Florida also paid a sizeable ransom – $500,000. Jackson County was also attacked and paid a $400,000 ransom.

There have been several cases where ransoms have not been paid. The City of Atlanta was attacked and around $51,000 in Bitcoin was demanded. Atlanta refused to pay. Its cleanup bill has already reached $3 million. With such high costs it is clear to see why many choose to pay up.

In all of the above cases, the cost of implementing cybersecurity solutions to protect against the main attack vectors would have cost a tiny fraction of the cost of the ransom payment or the mitigation costs after an attack.

For less than $2 per employee, you can ensure that the email network is secured and you are well protected against web-based attacks. To find out more, call TitanHQ today.

Sodinokibi Ransomware Poised to Become New GandCrab

As one ransomware-as-a-service operation shuts down, another is vying to take its place.  Sodinokibi ransomware attacks are increasing and affiliates are trying to carve out their own niche in the ransomware-as-a-service operation.

Developing ransomware and staying one step ahead of security researchers is important, but what made the GandCrab operation so successful were the affiliates conducting the campaigns that generated the ransom payments. The GandCrab developers have now shut down their operation and that has left many affiliates looking for an alternative ransomware variant to push.

Sodinokibi ransomware could well fill the gap. Like GandCrab, the developers are offering their creation under the ransomware-as-a-service model. They already have a network of affiliates conducting campaigns, and attacks are on the increase.

As is the case with most ransomware-as-a-service operations, spam email is one of the most common methods of ransomware delivery. One Sodinokibi ransomware campaign has been detected that uses spoofed Booking.com notifications to lure recipients into opening a Word document and enabling macros. Doing so triggers the download and execution of the Sodinokibi payload.

Download websites are also being targeted. Access is gained the websites and legitimate software installers are replaced with ransomware installers. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have also been targeted. The MSP attacks have exploited vulnerabilities in RDP to gain access to MSP management consoles.

Two cases have been reported where an MSP was compromised and malicious software was pushed to its clients through the client management console. In one case, the Webroot Management Console and the Kaseya VSA console in the other.

Recently, another attack method has been detected. Sodinokibi ransomware is being distributed through the RIG exploit kit. Malvertising campaigns are directing traffic to domains hosting RIG, which is loaded with exploits for several vulnerabilities.

With so many affiliates pushing Sodinokibi ransomware and the wide range of tactics being used, no single cybersecurity solution will provide full protection against attacks. The key to preventing attacks is defense in depth.

TitanHQ can help SMBs and MSPs secure the email and web channels and block the main attack vectors. Along with security awareness training and good cybersecurity best practices, it is possible to mount a formidable defense against ransomware, malware, and phishing attacks.

Web Filtering for MSPs (Part 2): Why WebTitan Cloud is the Best Web Filtering Service for MSPs

In our previous post we explained why managed service providers (MSPs) should be offering a web filtering service to their customers and the benefits that can be gained by customers and MSPs alike. In this post we explain what makes WebTitan Cloud the go-to web filtering solution for MSPs and why so many MSPs have chosen TitanHQ as their web filtering partner.

Why WebTitan Cloud is the Best Web Filter for MSPs

One problem MSPs face before they can start offering a web filtering service to their clients is how to incorporate the solution into their service stacks and their existing cloud offerings. While there are many providers of web filtering services, not all solutions have been developed with MSPs in mind. TitanHQ differs in that respect.

TitanHQ’s web filtering solution, WebTitan Cloud, has been developed specifically to meet the needs of MSPs and make it as easy as possible for the solution to be added to their existing cloud offerings. WebTitan Cloud seamlessly integrates within existing workflows regardless of whether MSPs self-host, use AWS, Azure, or other cloud platforms.

How Does WebTitan Cloud Integrate into MSPs Management Systems?

To make integration as easy as possible, TitanHQ uses RESTful API, which allows fast and risk-free integration into MSPs management systems. WebTitan Cloud uses the OAuth 1.0 protocol for authentication and has a full set of keys and secrets in the WebTitan Cloud user interface (UI). Once an MSP has signed up, no further registration or authentication is necessary. The API client provides the appropriate oauth_signature to authorize requests to protected resources.

Best Web Filtering Service for MSPs

 

Overly complex user interfaces are a problem with many cloud-based solutions. With WebTitan Cloud, the UI is made as clean and easy to use as possible. MSPs can remove all elements from the UI that are not required to keep the UI clean and simple. WebTitan Cloud can also be integrated into MSP cloud interfaces to create a better user experience and greater consistency for customers.

Having information at your fingertips is important when customers send in requests or when reports are required on web use and blocking. WebTitan Cloud allows MSPs to create and integrate a full suite of high-level system and customer reports into their own management consoles.

Onboarding new customers is also a quick and simple process, which can be integrated into current MSP on-boarding processes. New customer accounts can easily be created (or deleted) from within an MSP’s own UI, in addition to performing updates and listing all current customer accounts.

Onboarding customers with WebTitan Cloud

 

MSPs can connect to WebTitan Cloud to manage their customers settings, including locations, whitelists, and blacklists. Customers that would prefer to manage their own settings can perform a limited number of operations themselves using APIs. Since WebTitan Cloud is available in a full white label, customers who do access their own settings can be given a UI with MSP branding rather than TitanHQ’s to maintain consistency and help reinforce the MSPs brand.

TitanHQ also operates an extremely competitive pricing strategy with generous margins for MSPs and aligned monthly billing cycles through the TitanShield MSP Program.

Onboarding Customers with WebTitan Cloud APIs

WebTitan APIs for MSPs

The full set of APIs available to MSPs can be found on this link: https://apidoc.webtitancloud.com/

If you have yet to start offering web filtering to your clients as part of your service stack or if you are unhappy with your current provider’s product, contact TitanHQ today and as about becoming a member of the TitanShield MSP Program. Product demonstrations can also be scheduled on request.
 

Web Filtering for MSPs (Part 1): Why Web Filtering is so Important

A web filtering service allows Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to better protect their clients from accidental malware downloads and phishing attacks while improving their bottom lines. Further, by preventing phishing attacks and malware infections, they can reduce the amount of time they spend fighting fires. For busy MSPs, the latter will be especially beneficial.

Why is Web Filtering Important?

There are several reasons why MSP clients will benefit from a web filtering service. First and foremost, a web filter will help to prevent their customers’ employees from visiting phishing websites and malicious URLs. Most phishing attacks start with a phishing email, so a powerful spam filtering solution is essential. While commercial spam filters such as SpamTitan will block more than 99% of spam and phishing emails, additional protections are required to protect against the 1% that bypass spam defenses.

Naturally end user security awareness training will help in this regard, but as the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report shows, 30% of delivered phishing messages are opened by end users and 12% of those users also click on malicious links in the messages.

A web filter is an additional layer of anti-phishing and anti-malware defenses that kicks in when malicious links are clicked and when end users attempt to visit other malicious sites while browsing the Internet. With a web filter in place, when an employee attempts to access a malicious web page, that attempt will be blocked before any content is downloaded. Instead of displaying the web page, a block page will be displayed.

Web filters also allow companies to carefully control the types of content their employees can access. This allows them to enforce acceptable internet usage policies with ease. Employers can prevent their employees from accessing NSFW content such as pornography, illegal content and, if tighter controls are required to improve productivity, other categories of web content such as dating sites, social media networks, gambling sites, and gaming sites.

With a web filter in place, security and productivity can both be quickly improved and the gains in both of those areas is likely to more than pay for the cost of the web filtering package provided by their MSP.

Cloud Based Web Filtering Solutions for MSPs

Convincing customers to implement a web filtering solution should be straightforward given the number of phishing attacks that are now being conducted and the cost of mitigating phishing attacks and malware infections. The cost of web filtering is tiny by comparison.

For MSPs, cloud-based filtering solutions are the natural choice. They can be implemented in minutes once a customer request has been received, no hardware is required, there is no software to install, and patching is handled by the service provider. All that is required from the MSP is a brief set up and configuration for each customer and ongoing management and reporting.

Web Filtering for MSPs

However, not all cloud-based web filtering solutions make set up, management and reporting simple. WebTitan Cloud differs in this respect. Not only does the solution offer excellent protection, the solution has been developed specifically with MSPs in mind. The ease of integration into MSP’s back-end systems and management has made WebTitan Cloud the go-to web filtering solution for MSPs.

In our next post we will explain how WebTitan Cloud differs from other web filtering solutions, why it is the easiest solution for MSPs to integrate into their existing cloud offerings, and how TitanHQ makes getting started, provisioning new customers, and managing customer accounts a quick and easy process requiring the minimal management overhead.

Click here for Web Filtering for MSPs (Part 2)
 

Fake Game of Thrones Video Files Embedded with Malware

For many people, Game of Thrones Season 8 is the TV highlight of the past 12 months, but not all fans of the series are keen to pay for the channel to watch the latest installments of this hugely popular series.

Some fans are turning to P2P file sharing sites to download the latest episodes, but hackers are ready and waiting. Many illegal video files of Game of Thrones episodes have been embedded with malware, most commonly adware and Trojans.

Research from Kaspersky Lab revealed Trojans to be the most common form of malware to be embedded in rogue video files. A third of all fake TV show downloads that have been impregnated with malware include a Trojan.

When one of these infected files is opened after it has been downloaded, the Trojan is launched and silently runs in the background on the infected device.

Many of the Trojans embedded into video files are brand new. These zero-day malware variants are not detected by traditional AV solutions as their signatures are not present in malware definition lists. That means malware infections are likely to go undetected. When signatures are updated, the malware may continue to run until a full system scan is completed. Either way, during the time that the malware is active it could be collecting a range of sensitive data including usernames and passwords.

Malware can also be installed that gives the attacker access to an infected device and the ability to run commands, change programs, download further malware variants, and add the infected device to a botnet.

File sharing websites offer an easy way of distributing malware. Users of the platforms voluntarily download the files onto their computers. However, only a small percentage of internet users visit P2P file sharing sites. Hackers therefore have turned to other methods to get users to execute their infected video files.

Prior to the release date of Game of Thrones Season 8, offers of free access to the TV show were being distributed via email. Campaigns were also detected offering episodes in advance of the release date to tempt GOT fans into installing malicious software or visiting malicious websites.

It is no surprise that fake Game of Thrones video files have been embedded with malware, given the huge popularity of the show. However, Game of Thrones fans are not the only people targeted using this tactic of malware distribution. In the past few months, malware has been detected in fake videos files claiming to be the latest episodes of the Walking Dead, Suits, and the Vikings to name but a few.

Some people feel the risk of a malware infection from downloading pirated video files to be low, or they do not even consider the risks. That is bad news for businesses. When employees ignore the risks and download illegal files at work, they risk infecting their network with malware.

The easiest solution to prevent illegal downloads at work and the visiting of other malicious websites is to use a web filtering solution. A web filter – WebTitan for instance – can be configured to prevent users from accessing file sharing and torrents websites. WebTitan uses a continuous stream of ActiveWeb URLs from over 550 million end users, which provides important threat intelligence to TitanHQ’s machine learning technology. This allows new, malicious URLs to be identified, and users are then prevented from visiting those malicious URLs.

Blocking email attacks is simple with SpamTitan. SpamTitan blocks 99.97% of spam emails to prevent malicious messages from reaching end users, including messages offering free access to Game of Thrones and other TV shows. In addition to dual AV engines to protect against known malware, SpamTitan also now has a sandboxing feature. Suspicious attachments can be safely executed and analyzed in the sandbox to identify potentially malicious actions. The sandboxing feature provides superior protection against zero-day malware which AV software does not block.

With both of these solutions in place, businesses will be well protected against malware, ransomware, botnets, viruses, and phishing attacks.

Each solution is available with a range of different deployment options to suit the needs of all businesses. For a product demonstration and further information, contact the TitanHQ team today.

G2 Crowd Report Names SpamTitan Leading Secure Email Gateway Solution

G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer review platform trusted by millions of businesses, has named SpamTitan the leading email security gateway solution in its Spring G2 Crowd Grid Report for Email Security Gateways.

TitanHQ’s SpamTitan email security gateway solution was named the leader in the category of secure email gateway performance

SpamTitan was assessed along with other popular email security solutions from big name companies such as Cisco, Barracuda, Proofpoint, Mimecast, and SolarWinds, but took top spot thanks to consistently high ratings for all key metrics assessed for the report.

The G2 Crowd platform allows businesses to find out important information about software solutions that is not often included in the product spiel offered by software providers: What the solutions are actually like to use and whether they match up to expectations. The platform is trusted by businesses thanks to its honest reviews from genuine customers. The company was formed in 2012 and now attracts more than 1.5 million visitors a month to its website.

For the report, each product was assessed based on market presence and four areas of customer satisfaction:  Quality of support, ease of use, meets requirements, and ease of administration. SpamTitan scored highly in all four categories, outperforming all other solutions for customer satisfaction and market presence.

SpamTitan ranked highest for meeting requirements and quality of support, achieving a score of 94% in both categories. The average for all 10 email security gateways was 88% and 84% respectively.  SpamTitan achieved a score of 92% for ease of use and 90% for ease of administration. The average for all products in these areas was 82% and 83% respectively.

It was clear from the report that TitanHQ customers were extremely happy with the products and service provided by TitanHQ. The user reviews praised SpamTitan for many aspects of the product, two examples of which have been listed below.

“SpamTitan has some of the best filtering we’ve seen compared to other products, it does an excellent job when configured right of capturing a high volume of spam. It’s relatively simple to get around and set it up, and runs in a very lightweight VMware appliance.”

“The degree of customization and logging is amazing. You can account for everything going in or out of your organization and set filtering rules to match any scenario. Performance of the web UI and functions like searching and reporting are lightning quick.

G2 Crowd also released a Spring G2 Crowd Grid Report for Secure Web Gateways and TitanHQ’s WebTitan solution was rated a high performer, achieving a customer satisfaction score of 94% against an average of 87% across all 10 solutions under assessment.

If you are unhappy with your current email or web security gateway product or you have yet to implement one of these important cybersecurity solutions, contact TitanHQ today to arrange a product demonstration. The full versions of both solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself how effective they are and how easy they are to use.

If you have any questions about either product, contact the TitanHQ today to have your questions answered.

MSPs Targeted as Hackers Realize Potential for Profit in Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks allow cybercriminals to attack businesses through weak links in the supply network. Smaller companies are attacked, which gives hackers access to larger and better secured businesses: Businesses that would be harder to attack directly.

This attack method was used to spread NotPetya malware in Ukraine. A software supply company was breached which allowed the malware to be spread to the software supplier’s clients. The massive data breach at Target in 2014 was made possible by first attacking an HVAC system provider. The attack allowed hackers to install malware on the Target’s POS system and obtain the credit card numbers of millions of its customers. According to Symantec, supply chain attacks doubled in 2018.

There are many different types of supply chain attacks, but all serve a similar purpose. By attacking one company it is then possible to attack a bigger fish, or in the case of attacks on cloud service providers and managed service providers, a single attack will give a hacker access to the networks of all MSP clients.

Large businesses often have the budgets to hire their own IT and security staff and can implement robust defenses to prevent attacks. Smaller businesses often struggle to recruit security professionals as they are in high demand. With the shortage of skilled cybersecurity staff and an inability to pay the large salaries that skilled cybersecurity professionals demand, SMBs often turn to MSPs to provide those services.

In order to be able to provide those services, managed service providers are given remote access to their client’s networks. Many of the tasks that need to be performed by MSPs require administrative privileges. Managed service providers also hold login credentials to their clients’ routers and cloud accounts. All of those credentials are extremely valuable to hackers.

Given the typical number of clients each MSP has, a successful attack on an MSP could prove very profitable for a hacker. It is therefore no surprise that there has been an increase in cyberattacks on MSPs and CSPs.

While MSPs are usually good at securing their clients’ networks and ensuring they are well protected, they also need to ensure their own house is in order. Patches must be applied promptly, vulnerabilities must be addressed, and security solutions must be put in place to protect MSPs systems.

MSP staff should be security aware, but when they are busy resolving their clients’ problems, mistakes can easily be made such as responding to a well-crafted spear phishing email. All it takes is for one MSP employee to respond to such an email for a hacker to gain a foothold in the network.

Naturally, security awareness training should be provided to all MSP employees and security solutions need to be deployed to protect against email and web-based attacks.

This is an area where TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ’s anti-spam solution, SpamTitan, offers advanced protection against phishing and spear phishing attacks. A recent update has also seen DMARC email authentication and sandboxing features added to better protect users from phishing and malware attacks.

TitanHQ’s DNS-based content filtering solution further enhances protection against phishing attacks and prevents MSP employees from visiting malicious websites. Being DNS-based, malicious websites are blocked before any content can be downloaded.

In addition to helping MSPs protect their own networks, both solutions are ideal for MSPs to offer to their SMB clients and have been developed to perfectly meet the requirements of MSPs.

If you are an MSP and you have yet to implement a web filter or you are looking for an advanced spam filtering solution for you or your clients, give the MSP team at TitanHQ a call today to find out more about both solutions and how they can protect your business and better protect your clients.
 

Webinar: New SpamTitan DMARC and Sandboxing Features Explained

Traditional email security solutions are effective at keeping inboxes free from spam email, but many fall short when it comes to blocking phishing and spear phishing attacks. Cybercriminals are conducting ever more sophisticated campaigns that manage to bypass traditional email security defenses by impersonating legitimate companies and spoofing their domains.

In addition to phishing attacks that attempt to obtain sensitive information, email is often used to spread malware, ransomware and botnets. Traditional anti-virus solutions are effective at blocking known malware threats, but signature-based AV solutions are not effective at blocking never-before-seen malware variants.

Today, new malware variants are being released at record pace. To block these zero-day malware attacks, an advanced email security solution is required which does not rely on signatures to identify malicious file attachments.

SpamTitan was already a powerful email security solution for SMBs and MSPs serving the SMB market and was capable of blocking sophisticated phishing emails and new malware threats. However, new features have now been added that improve detection rates further still and provide superior protection against zero-day malware and phishing attacks that spoof legitimate domains.

TitanHQ has updated SpamTitan to include a DMARC email authentication feature which is capable of detecting and blocking spoofed emails to better protect users from sophisticated phishing attacks.

To better protect against malware, ransomware, botnets, and zero-day attacks, TitanHQ has incorporated a new Bitdefender-powered sandboxing feature into SpamTitan. Email attachments that pass standard checks are safely detonated in the sandbox and are analyzed for malicious activity. The sandboxing feature provides an additional layer of security and greatly enhances protection against malicious attachments. This feature also helps to ensure that more legitimate emails and attachments are delivered to end users.

To explain how these new features work and the benefits to users, TitanHQ is running a webinar. In the webinar, TitanHQ will cover the new features in detail and will explain how SpamTitan can protect against the full range of email-based threats.

Webinar Information:

 Date:     Thursday, April 4, 2019

Time:    12pm, EST

The webinar will last 30 minutes and advance registration is necessary.

You register for the webinar here

Cybersecurity Protections for SMBs Found to Be Lacking

A new report has confirmed the need for robust, multi-layered cybersecurity protections for SMBs to prevent successful cyberattacks. SMBs are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals as security is often weak and attacks are easy to pull off.

While large corporations are an attractive target for cybercriminals, large corporations tend to have mature cybersecurity programs and they are usually very well protected. A successful attack could prove extremely profitable but breaking through the cybersecurity defenses of large corporations is difficult and attacks can be extremely time consuming and labor intensive.

Cybercriminals often choose the path of least resistance, even though the potential for profit may not be so high. Cyberattacks on SMBs are much easier and hackers are concentrating their efforts on SMB targets. This was clearly demonstrated in the latest cybersecurity report from Beazley Breach Response (BBR) Services.

BBR Services analyzed all of the data breaches that it investigated in 2018. 9% of the successful attacks involved ransomware and 71% of those ransomware attacks were on SMBs. The healthcare industry suffered the highest number of ransomware attacks, and accounted for one third of successful attacks. Companies in the professional and financial services sectors accounted for 12% of ransomware attacks each, followed by the retail industry with 8% of attacks.

The costs of those ransomware attacks can be considerable. If companies are unable to recover data from backups, a sizable ransom must be paid to recover encrypted data. In 2018, the average ransom demand was $116,400 and the median ransom demand was $10,310. One client was issued a ransom demand of $8.5 million. The highest ransom demand paid was $935,000.

Massive demands for payment for the keys to unlock encrypted files may not be the norm, but even at the lower end of the spectrum SMBs may struggle to find the money to pay. The ransom demand is also likely to be considerably higher than the cost of cybersecurity protections for SMBs to prevent ransomware attacks.

One of the main ways that hackers gain access to the networks of SMBs is by exploiting flaws in Remote Desktop Protocol. SMBs that leave RDP ports open are at a much higher risk of being attacked. RDP is required by many SMBs because they outsource IT to managed service providers, which need to use RDP to access their systems. In such cases it is essential for default RDP ports to be changed and for very strong passwords to be implemented to reduce the risk of brute force attacks succeeding.

There was also an increase in sextortion scams in 2018. These scams attempt to extort money by threatening to expose victims’ use of adult websites. While these scams usually contain empty threats, they are often successful. In addition to attempting to extort money, the scams are used to install malware or ransomware.  Email attachments are sent which claim to contain videos of the victim accessing adult websites, which the scammers claim to have been recorded using the computer’s webcam. When the files are opened to be checked, malware or ransomware is installed.

2018 also saw a 133% increase in Business Email Compromise attacks. These attacks spoof the email address of a senior executive to make the emails and requests seem more plausible. These scams are usually conducted to obtain sensitive information or to get employees to make fraudulent wire transfers. BEC attacks accounted for 24% of all breaches investigated by BBR Services in 2018.

One of the most important cybersecurity protections for SMBs to implement to prevent these attacks is an advanced email filtering solution – One that is capable of detecting spoofed emails. SpamTitan, TitanHQ’s cloud-based spam filtering solution, has recently been updated to include DMARC authentication to detect email impersonation attacks such as BEC scams. The solution also now includes a new sandboxing feature that allows potentially malicious attachments to be analyzed in detail in the sandbox where no harm can be caused. This helps to identify more malicious attachments and better protect SMBs from zero-day malware and other malicious files.

TitanHQ’s powerful cybersecurity protections for SMBs can greatly improve email security and block a wide range of web-based attacks. For further information on effective cybersecurity protections for SMBs to deploy to improve security posture and block costly attacks, contact TitanHQ today.

SpamTitan Email Security Now Includes Sandboxing and DMARC Authentication

TitanHQ has announced its award-winning anti-spam solution, SpamTitan, has been updated and now has two powerful new features to better protect users from phishing, spear phishing, malware, ransomware, botnets, and APT threats.

SpamTitan has long been the go-to solution for SMBs to improve email security and the solution is popular with managed service providers serving the SMB market. SpamTitan is quick and easy to install, simple to use, and provides excellent protection against a wide range of email threats.

As email threats have become more sophisticated and zero-day attacks and new malware variants have skyrocketed, new features are needed to keep end users protected.

To maintain pace and better protect SpamTitan users, two important new features have now been rolled out with the latest release of SpamTitan: Sandboxing and DMARC authentication.

Sandboxing Feature Added to SpamTitan Product Suite

Blocking known threats is one thing, but detecting and blocking brand new threats that evade AV solutions is another matter, yet businesses need protection from these zero-day threats as well. SpamTitan already incorporates a range of mechanisms to detect these new threats but the latest feature takes protection to the next level.

SpamTitan now incorporates a new next-gen sandboxing feature. The Bitfedender-powered sandbox is a virtual environment that is totally separate from other systems. When an email is sent to a SpamTitan user, the message will be subjected to a range of checks to determine whether it is genuine, benign, and should be delivered or if it is malicious and needs to be rejected. If the message contains a suspicious attachment that is not picked up as a threat from those checks, it is sent to the sandbox.

The SpamTitan sandbox service has been designed to appear as a normal endpoint. Malicious files are opened or executed in the sandbox and any malicious code is run as it would on a standard machine. Its actions are logged and subjected to an in-depth analysis, including its self-protection mechanisms and attempts to evade detection. All actions are then assessed by advanced machine learning algorithms and the results of the analysis are then checked against a wide range of online repositories.

Opening potentially malicious files on an endpoint is dangerous, but in the isolated sandbox all risks are eliminated. Once the analysis is complete, which takes just a few minutes, if the file is determined to be benign it will be released and can be delivered to the end user. If it is malicious, the sandbox solution will automatically report the file to Bitdefender’s cloud threat intelligence service. That threat will then be blocked for all SpamTitan users, so the file will not need to be analyzed again.

This new feature greatly increases detection of elusive threats, provides end users with even greater protection, and it also helps to ensure that more genuine messages are delivered.

Businesses that want sandboxing technology usually need to purchase a separate solution. With SpamTitan, advanced emulation-based malware analysis is provided free of charge.

DMARC Email Authentication Now Included in SpamTitan

Email impersonation attacks are a major threat. They abuse trust in a known contact, company, or government organization to fool end users into taking a specific action – disclosing sensitive information, installing malware, or visiting a phishing webpage, for instance.

While SpamTitan already incorporates several mechanisms to identify email impersonation attacks, DMARC authentication has now been added to block even more threats. DMARC is a powerful tool for identifying the true sender of an email to determine if that individual is authorized to use a particular domain.

Detailed checks of the email header are performed and the sender is checked against DMARC records. If the checks are passed, the message can be delivered. If DMARC authentication fails, the message is rejected.

The new anti-spoofing feature protects SMBs and MSPs against data loss, date breaches, zero-day threats, and highly sophisticated email threats, while the sandboxing feature protects against malware, advanced persistent threats (APTs), malicious URLs, and offers insight into new threats to help mitigate risks.

Both of these features have been made available to current and new TitanHQ customers at no extra charge.

Easy Ways to Improve Cybersecurity in K-12 Schools

The poor state of cybersecurity in K-12 schools is making it too easy for criminals to conduct cyberattacks. As 2018 figures show, attacks are coming thick and fast. Action is needed to shore up security and keep cybercriminals at bay.

2018 Cyberattacks on K-12 Schools

Education has long been one of industries most commonly targeted by cybercriminals and 2018 was no exception. Last year there were several major cyberattacks on K12 schools that resulted in data theft and huge financial losses.

The 2018 State of K-12 Cybersecurity report from the K12 Cybersecurity Resource Center revealed 122 cyberattacks on K-12 schools were reported in 2018. 119 public K-12 education agencies in 38 states reported attacks. 60% of those cyberattacks resulted in the personal data of students being compromised.

North Dakota schools were hit particularly hard. In February 2018, one third of schools in the state experienced malware attacks. In many cases, the malware infections were the result of staff and students clicking on links in emails, visiting malicious websites, or opening malware-laced email attachments.

The 2019 State of Malware report from Malwarebytes reveals that in 2018, education was the number one industry targeted with Trojans and was second for ransomware attacks. Business email compromise scams are also common and many K12 school districts suffered W-2 phishing attacks and were fooled into sending scammers copies of employees’ tax information.

There have also been several successful email scams that have resulted in staff being fooled into making fraudulent transfers of school funds to criminals’ accounts. A school district in Texas was scammed out of $2 million in construction funds as a result of a phishing attack that fooled a staff member into making payments to fraudulent accounts. The high number of these types of scams prompted the FBI to issue a warning to schools in September 2018 about phishing scams that attempt to steal employees’ credentials.

K-12 schools are an attractive target for cybercriminals because attacks are relatively easy and the potential rewards are high. Student information sells for big bucks on the black market. Personal information along with Social Security numbers can be used for identity theft. It typically takes longer for identity theft to be detected with minors. If student data are stolen, thieves can rack up huge debts in students’ names over the course of several years before fraud is detected.

The State of Cybersecurity in K-12 Schools

Even though the risk of cyberattacks is high, many school leaders fail to appreciate the seriousness of the problem and how even simple changes to improve cybersecurity in K-12 schools can prevent most cyberattacks.

A Consortium for School Networking/Education Week Research Center survey in late 2017 showed that only 48% of school leaders considered the threat from phishing to be significant or very significant, with the numbers falling to under 30% for malware and ransomware attacks. Only 15% of K-12 schools have implemented a cybersecurity plan, just 29% have purchased cybersecurity products and services, and 31% had not provided end-user training.

The high value of student data, the opportunity to conduct multiple types of fraud, and poor cybersecurity defenses is a winning combination for cybercriminals. Unfortunately, there is no single solution that can be implemented to improve cybersecurity and prevent costly cyberattacks and data breaches. What is needed is an effective cybersecurity plan, policies and procedures, training, and technology.

How to Improve Cybersecurity in K-12 Schools

School budgets are usually stretched so it can be difficult to find the funds to improve cybersecurity in K-12 schools. It is therefore important to choose cybersecurity solutions wisely and select products that provide protection against the most common methods used by cybercriminals to attack schools.

Many of the attacks start with a single phishing email. It is therefore critical for K12 schools to improve email security, and for that, an advanced spam filtering solution is essential. SpamTitan blocks more than 99.9% of spam and phishing emails and is an ideal, low-cost, easy-to-implement spam filtering solution for K12 schools.

A web filtering solution is also an important cybersecurity measure. In addition to blocking students’ access to obscene content, as required for CIPA compliance, web filters can prevent users from visiting phishing websites and will block ransomware and malware downloads. The cost of a web filter can be partially offset by discounts obtained through the E-rate program.

End user training is also important. K12 schools need to include cybersecurity awareness training as part of their staff development program. Rather than providing a one-off or annual training session, training needs to be conducted regularly to keep staff up to speed on the latest threats.

Doing nothing to improve cybersecurity in K-12 schools is now simply not an option. If costly cyberattacks are to be avoided, is not improved, cybersecurity in K-12 schools must be improved.

If you want to find out more about email and web security and just how affordable these solutions can be for schools, contact the TitanHQ team today.
 

Innovative Phishing Campaign Uses Google Translate to Serve Phishing Web Pages

A phishing campaign has been detected that uses Google Translate to make phishing web pages appear legitimate when visited through mobile browsers. The novel tactic makes it harder for end users to see that the website they have been directed to is not an official website.

The phishing attack starts with an email that indicates the user’s password has been used to access their Google account from an unfamiliar device. Many users will be familiar with these messages. They are generated when a user logs into their own account using a different device or from an unfamiliar location. The messages are also triggered when a user attempts to login to their account using a VPN that has previously not been used to access the account.

In this campaign, the standard Google Security Alert has been copied exactly and includes the Google logo, standard formatting, and text that users will be familiar with. The message tells the user to click on a link – A button below the warning message – to visit their account to review the activity and take action to secure their account.

If the user is on a desktop or laptop, they will be directed to a standard phishing page which has a copy of the Google login window. It should be apparent that the user is not on the legitimate Google site as the URL clearly nothing to do with Google although end users do not always check the URLs carefully, especially when there is an urgent reason for visiting a website such as a security alert.

If the user has opened the email on a mobile device and clicks the hyperlink button, the URL displayed in the browser will be different and they are much ore likely to be fooled. The phishing webpage uses Google Translate to display a URL containing a random string of characters, but crucially, the visible part of the URL displayed in the browser starts with translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_

The URL does contain the web page which the user is on, which is a page on mediacity.co.in that clearly has nothing to do with Google, but it is detailed much later in the URL so will not be displayed to the user unless they click the address bar to check the web page. Many users will not do that since the visible part of the URL appears to be a genuine Google page.

The Google login portal that is served is an old version, but it is likely to fool many users. If Google credentials are entered in the login box, JavaScript on the web page generates an email containing the user’s login credentials and sends them to the scammer.  The user is then redirected to a further phishing web page where their Facebook login credentials are requested. This login box is a clone of the login box used by Facebook on the mobile login portal and is similarly an old version. If login credentials are entered, they are sent to the scammer via email as well. The user is then directed to a Facebook page set up by the attacker.

While the phishing campaign is unlikely to work on desktops or laptops, many mobile users will likely be fooled by the scam and will provide their Google credentials. They may not fall for the Facebook login request, as being redirected to Facebook from Google is odd, but by that time the attacker will have full access to the user’s Google account. Google accounts can contain a wealth of sensitive data and can be used for further phishing attacks on the user’s contacts.

Security awareness training will help to prevent employees from falling for phishing scams such as this. By conditioning employees to always check the sender of a message before taking any action, and to always take the time to carefully check the full URL of a website before disclosing any sensitive information, scams like this can be easily identified. Even with security awareness training, employees make mistakes. To improve protection against phishing attacks, businesses should deploy an advanced spam filter to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to corporate inboxes. A web filter is also strongly recommended. A cloud-based web filter can prevent users from accessing phishing web pages, even when they are not onsite and are using mobile devices remotely.

For further information on spam filtering and web filtering for businesses, contact the TitanHQ team today and ask about SpamTitan and WebTitan: TitanHQ’s leading spam filtering and web filtering solutions for businesses.

Malvertising Campaign Delivers New Vidar Information Stealer and GandCrab Ransomware

A malvertising campaign has been detected that delivers two forms of malware: The new, previously unknown Vidar information stealer and subsequently, the latest version of GandCrab ransomware.

The packaging of multiple malware variants is nothing new of course, but it has become increasingly common for ransomware to be paired with information stealers. RAA ransomware has been paired with the Pony stealer, njRAT and Lime ransomware were used together, and Reveton ransomware is used in conjunction with password stealers.

These double-whammy attacks help threat actors increase profits. Not everyone pays a ransom, so infecting them with an information stealer can make all infections profitable. In many cases, information can be obtained and sold on or misused and a ransom payment can also be obtained.

The latest campaign uses the Vidar information stealer to steal sensitive information from a victim’s device. The Vidar information stealer is used to obtain system information, documents, browser histories, cookies, and coins from cryptocurrency wallets. Vidar can also obtain data from 2FA software, intercept text messages, take screenshots, and steal passwords and credit/debit card information stored in browsers. The information is then packaged into a zip file and sent back to the attackers’ C2 server.

The Vidar information stealer is customizable and allows threat actors to specify the types of data they are interested in. It can be purchased on darknet sites for around $700 and is supplied with an easy to use interface that allows the attacker to keep track of victims, identify those of most interest, find out the types of data extracted, and send further commands.

Vidar also acts as a malware dropper and has been used to deliver GandCrab ransomware v5.04 – The latest version of the ransomware for which no free decryptor exists.

While many ransomware variants are delivered via spam email or are installed after access to systems is gained using brute force tactics on RDP, this campaign delivers the malicious payload through malvertising that directs traffic to a websites hosting the Fallout or GrandSoft exploit kits. Those EKs exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Flash Player. The campaign targets users of P2P file sharing sites and streaming sites that attract large amounts of traffic.

Infection with the Vidar information stealer may go undetected. New malware variants such as this may be installed before AV software malware signatures are updated, by which time highly sensitive information may have been stolen, sold on, and misused. If GandCrab ransomware executes, files will be permanently encrypted unless a ransom is paid or files can be recovered from backups.

Businesses can protect against attacks such as these by ensuring that all operating systems and software are promptly patched. Drive-by downloads will not occur if the exploits for vulnerabilities used by the exploit kit are not present.

An additional, important protection is a web filter. Web filters prevent users from visiting websites known to host exploit kits and also sites that commonly host malicious adverts – torrents sites for instance. By carefully controlling the sites that employees can access, businesses can add an extra layer of protection while avoiding legal liability from illegal file downloads and improving productivity by blocking access to non-work-related websites.

For further information on web filters for businesses and MSPs, contact the TitanHQ team today.
 

2018 Has Seen a 4,000% Increase in Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

New figures released by anti-virus firms McAfee and Symantec have shown the extent to which hackers are using cryptocurrency mining malware in attacks on consumers and businesses.

Cryptocurrency mining malware hijacks system resources and uses the processing power of infected computers to mine cryptocurrencies – Validating transactions so they can be added to the blockchain public ledger. This is achieved by solving difficult computational problems. The first person to solve the problem is rewarded with a small payment.

For cryptocurrency mining to be profitable, a lot of processing power is required. Using one computer for mining cryptocurrency will generate a few cents to a few dollars a day; however, hackers who infect thousands of computers and use them for cryptocurrency mining can generate significant profits for little work.

The use of cryptocurrency mining malware has increased considerably since Q4, 2017 when the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies started to soar. The popularity of cryptocurrency mining malware has continued to grow steadily in 2018. Figures from McAfee suggest cryptocurrency mining malware has grown by 4,000% in 2018.

McAfee identified 500,000 new coin mining malware in the final quarter of 2017. In the final quarter of 2018, the figure had increased to 4 million. Figures from Symantec similarly show the scale of the problem. In July 2018, Symantec blocked 5 million cryptojacking events. In December, the firm blocked 8 million.

There are many different ways of infecting end users. Hackers are exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities to silently download the malware. They package coin mining malware with legitimate software, such as the open-source media player Kodi, and upload the software to unofficial repositories.

One of the easiest and most common ways of installing the malware is through email. Spam emails are sent containing a hyperlink which directs users to a website where the malware is silently downloaded. Links are similarly distributed through messaging platforms such as Slack, Discord, and Telegram. One campaign using these messaging platforms included links to a site that offered software that claimed to fix coin mining malware infections. Running the fake software installer executed code on the computer which silently downloaded the malware payload.

Unlike ransomware, which causes immediate disruption, the presence of cryptocurrency mining malware may not be noticed for some time. Computers infected with coin mining malware will slow down considerably. There will be increased energy usage, batteries on portable devices will be quickly drained, and some devices may overheat. Permanent damage to computers is a possibility.

The slowdown of computers can have a major impact for businesses and can result in a significant drop in productivity if large numbers of devices are infected. Businesses that have transitioned to cloud computing that are charged for CPU usage can see their cloud bills soar.

Anti-virus software can detect known coin mining malware, but new malware variants will be unlikely to be detected. With so many new malware variants now being released, AV software alone will not be effective. It is therefore important to block the malware at source. Spam filters, such as SpamTitan, will help to prevent malicious emails from reaching end users’ inboxes. Web filters, such as WebTitan, prevent users from accessing infected websites, unofficial software repositories, and websites with coin-mining code installed that uses CPU power through browser sessions.

 

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.

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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 which attempts to steal Office 365 credentials from business users. those credentials are subsequently used to gain access to sensitive company information stored in the cloud and email accounts which can be used in phishing and business email compromise attacks.

The scam emails used in this campaign are similar to those used in countless Google Docs phishing scams. The messages appear at face value to be genuine attempts by employees and contacts to collaborate through the sharing of files. Most of these scams are concerned with spreading malware. The documents usually contain malicious macros which download the malware payload if allowed to run. JavaScript and VB scripts are also used to achieve that aim.  However, due to the value of Office 365 accounts, hackers are increasingly conducting attacks to gain access to Office 365 credentials.

The latest scam uses messages that appear to be standard quests to collaborate on SharePoint. 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. At face value, the document does not appear to be malicious, although checking the destination URL of the link will reveal that it directs the user to a suspect website.

After clicking the link, the user is presented with a login window for Office 365 and their Microsoft Office 365 credentials must be entered to proceed. Entering Office 365 credentials at this point will see them harvested by the scammers running this campaign. The user is unlikely to realize that they have been successfully phished as after entering their credentials they will be directed to the genuine Office 365 web page.

This SharePoint phishing scam is being used in targeted attacks on businesses. SharePoint is commonly used by businesses for collaboration, so there is a high probability that employees will be used to receiving such requests. Finding email addresses for business users is also straightforward. Lists can be purchased on darknet marketplaces and hacking forums, or they can be obtained from professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn.

This SharePoint phishing scam, Google Docs phishing scams, and similar campaigns spoofing Dropbox are commonplace and are highly effective. They take advantage of familiarity with these collaboration services, trust in the brands, and the lack of security awareness of employees. These brand impersonation attacks use email formats that are identical to those used in genuine collaboration requests, including correct logos, formatting and genuine-looking links, and can be difficult for end users to identify as malicious.

Preventing these attacks requires technological solutions to stop the messages from being delivered and links from being followed. Standard Office 365 anti-phishing protections are not particularly effective at blocking threats such as these. Businesses will be better protected using a dedicated anti-phishing solution on top of Office 365. SpamTitan is an award-winning anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that works seamlessly with Office 365 and provides superior protection against phishing attacks. SpamTitan uses a wide range of innovative techniques to identify malicious emails and block them at source to prevent them from reaching end users’ inboxes.

Security awareness training is also vitally important to condition employees to stop and think before taking any action requested in an email and to raise awareness of the use of collaboration requests in phishing campaigns.

If you want to improve email security and better defend your organization against phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today and request further information on SpamTitan. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request, free trials of the full product are available with full support during the trial, and a range of deployment options are available to suit the needs of your business.

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.