Internet Security

Whereas news about Internet security often focuses solely on the latest threats or vulnerabilities, in addition to reporting hacks, data breaches and exposures, we also include advice about the best practices organizations should adopt to mitigate the threat from malware and other malicious software.

Consequently we strongly advise that individuals and organizations never use the same passwords for different accounts, make passwords as complex as possible and change them frequently. We also recommend that sensitive online accounts have 2-factor authentication whenever possible.

Ideally, organizations should implement a web filter to prevent Internet users from accessing websites that could compromise Internet security. With a web filter in place, the potential exists for productivity to increase and also for employees to enjoy a hostility-free workplace environment.

DNS Filtering for MSPs: Better Protect Your SMB Clients and Improve Your Bottom Line

Why is DNS filtering for MSPs so important? Find out how you can better protect your clients against web-based attacks and the MSP benefits of offering this easy to implement cybersecurity solution.

A recent survey conducted by Spiceworks has revealed that DNS filtering is now considered an essential element of cybersecurity defenses at the majority of large firms. A survey was conducted on companies with more than 1,000 employees which revealed 90% of those firms are using a solution such as a DNS filter to restrict access to the internet to protect against malware and ransomware attacks.

89% of firms use DNS filters or other web filtering technology to improve productivity by blocking access to sites such as social media platforms, 84% of firms block access to inappropriate websites, and 66% use the technology to avoid legal issues.

Given the risk of a malware or ransomware download over the Internet and the high cost of mitigating such an attack, it is no surprise that so many large firms are using web filtering technology to reduce risk.

Why DNS Filtering is so Important for SMBs

Phishing attacks and ransomware/malware downloads are major risks for large businesses, but SMBs face the same threats. SMBs are also less likely to have the resources to cover the cost of such an attack. For example, the average cost of a ransomware attack on an SMB is $46,800, according to Datto, and many SMBs fold within 6 months of experiencing a data breach.

DNS filtering is an important control to prevent malware and ransomware attacks over the Internet, both by blocking downloads and preventing employees from visiting malicious websites where malware is downloaded. Web filters are also essential as part of phishing defenses.

According to the Spiceworks survey, 38% of organizations have experienced at least one security incident as a result of employee Internet activity. By restricting access to certain categories of website and blocking known malicious websites, SMBs will be much better protected against costly attacks.

Add to that the amount of time that is lost to casual internet surfing and web filtering is a no-brainer. 28% of employees waste more than 4 hours a week on websites unrelated to their work, but the percentages rise to 45% in mid-sized businesses and 51% of employees in small businesses.

There is no latency with DNS filtering, plus controls can be implemented to restrict certain bandwidth heavy activities to improve network performance.

DNS Filtering for MSPs – The Ideal Web Filtering Solution

DNS web filtering is a low-cost cybersecurity solution that actually pays for itself in terms of the productivity gains and the blocking of cyber threats that would otherwise lead to data breaches. Further, in contrast to appliance-based web filters, DNS filtering requires no hardware purchases or software installations which means no site visits are required. DNS filtering can be set up for clients remotely in a matter of minutes.

DNS filtering is ideal for MSPs as it is hardware and software independent. It doesn’t matter what devices and operating systems your clients have because DNS filtering simply forwards web traffic to a cloud-based filter without the need to install any clients or agents on servers or end points.

TitanHQ’s DNS filtering for MSPs has a low management overhead, so there is little in the way of ongoing maintenance required. A full suite of customizable reports can be automatically generated and sent to clients to show them what threats have been blocked, and who in the organization has been trying to access restricted content, and the employees who are the biggest drain on network performance.

MSPs can easily add in web filtering to existing security packages to provide greater value or offer web filtering as an add-on service to generate extra, recurring monthly revenue and attract more business.

If you are yet to offer web filtering to your clients, call TitanHQ today for more information on our DNS filtering for MSPs and for further information on the MSP Alliance program.

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:

How to Improve Restaurant Cybersecurity and Prevent Data Breaches

Hackers are targeting healthcare organizations, educational institutions, hotels, and organizations in the financial sector, but restaurants are also in hackers’ cross-hairs. If restaurant cybersecurity solutions are not deployed and security vulnerabilities are not addressed, it will only be a matter of time before hackers take advantage.

Cyberattacks on restaurants can be extremely profitable for hackers. Busy restaurant chains process hundreds of credit card transactions a day. If a hacker can gain access to POS systems and install malware, customer’s credit card details can be silently stolen.

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Applebee’s, PDQ, Chili’s, B&BHG, Zaxby’s, Zippy’s, Chipotle, and Darden restaurants have all discovered hackers have bypassed restaurant cybersecurity protections and have gained access to the credit card numbers of large numbers of customers.

One of the biggest threats from a data breach is damage to a restaurant’s reputation. The cyberattack and data breach at Chipotle saw the brand devalued by around $400 million.

A restaurant data breach can result in considerable loss of customers and a major fall in revenue. According to a study by Gemalto, 70% of the 10,000 consumers surveyed said that they would stop doing business with a brand if the company suffered a data breach. Most restaurants would not be able to recover from such a loss.

Restaurant Cybersecurity Threats

Listed below are some of the common restaurant cybersecurity threats – Ways that hackers gain access to sensitive information such as customers’ credit card numbers.

Malware

The primary goal of most restaurant cyberattacks is to gain access to customers’ credit card information. One of the most common ways that is achieved is through malware. Malicious software is installed on POS devices to silently record credit card details when customers pay. The card numbers are then sent to the attacker’s server over the Internet.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which employees are fooled into disclosing their login credentials and other sensitive information. Phishing emails are sent to employees which direct them to a website where credentials are harvested. Phishing emails are also used to install malware through downloaders hidden in file attachments.

Web-Based Threats

Whenever an employee or a customer accesses the Internet they will be exposed to a wide range of web-based threats. Websites can harbor malware which is silently downloaded onto devices.

Unsecured Wi-Fi

Restaurants often have Wi-Fi access points that are used by employees and guests. If these access points are not secured, it gives hackers an opportunity to conduct attacks and gain access to the restaurant network, install malware, intercept web traffic, and steal sensitive information.

Restaurant Cybersecurity Tips

Listed below are some of the steps you should take to protect your customers and make it harder for hackers to gain access to your systems and data.

  • Conduct a risk analysis to identify all vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited to gain access to networks and customer data
  • Develop a risk management plan to address all vulnerabilities identified during the risk assessment
  • Ensure all software and operating systems are kept up to date and are promptly patched
  • Become PCI compliant – All tools used to accept payments must comply with PCI standards
  • Implement security controls on your website to ensure customers can use it securely. Sensitive data such as loyalty program information must be protected.
  • Ensure you implement multi-factor authentication on all accounts to protect systems in case credentials are compromised
  • Ensure all default passwords are changed and strong, unique passwords are set
  • Ensure all sensitive data are encrypted at rest and in transit
  • Secure Wi-Fi networks with a web filter to block malware downloads and web-based threats
  • Implement a spam filter to block phishing attempts and malware
  • Provide cybersecurity training to staff to ensure they can recognize the common restaurant cybersecurity threats

Restaurant Cybersecurity Solutions from TitanHQ

TitanHQ has developed two cybersecurity solutions that can be implemented by restaurants to block the main attack vectors used by hackers. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that prevents spam and malicious emails from reaching end users’ inboxes.

WebTitan is a cloud-based web filtering solution that prevents staff and customers from downloading malware and visiting phishing websites. In addition to blocking web-based attacks, WebTitan allows restaurants to prevent customers from accessing illegal and unsuitable web content to create a family-friendly Wi-Fi zone.

Both solutions can be set up in a matter of minutes on existing hardware and require no software downloads.

To find out more about TitanHQ’s restaurant cybersecurity solutions, call the TitanHQ sales team today.

Z Services Expands TitanHQ Partnership with New WebTitan and ArcTitan Integrations

TitanHQ has expanded its partnership with Z Services, the leading SaaS provider of cloud-based cybersecurity solutions in the MENA region.

UAE-based Z Services operates 17 secure data centers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Morocco and is the only company in the Middle East and North Africa to offer an in-country multi-tenant cloud-based cybersecurity architecture.

In February 2017, Z Services partnered with TitanHQ and integrated TitanHQ’s award-winning email filtering technology into its service stack and started offering SpamTitan-powered Z Services Anti-Spam SaaS to its clients. TitanHQ’s email filtering technology now helps Z Services’ clients filter out spam email and protect against sophisticated email-based threats such as malware, viruses, botnets, ransomware, phishing and spear phishing.

The integration has proved to be a huge success for Z Services, so much so that the firm has now taken its partnership with TitanHQ a step further and has integrated two new TitanHQ-powered SaaS solutions into its service stack. TitanHQ’s award-winning web filtering technology – WebTitan – and its innovative email archiving solution – ArcTitan have both been incorporated into Z Services’ MERALE SaaS offering.  MERALE is a suite of cybersecurity, threat protection, and compliance solutions specifically developed to meet the needs of small to medium sized enterprises.

“With cybersecurity growing as a critical business concern across the region, there is a clear need to make security an operational rather than a capital expense. Hence the paradigm shift in the delivery of effective security solutions from the traditional investment and delivery model to an agile SaaS model through the primary connectivity provider of SMEs – the ISPs,” said Nidal Taha, President – Middle East and North Africa, Z Services. “MERALE will be a game-changer in how small and medium businesses in the region ensure their protection, and as a subscription-based service, it removes the need for heavy investments and long-term commitments.”

“We are delighted to continue our successful partnership with Z Services and share their vision for serving the SME segment with leading edge SaaS based security solutions,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ. “With this development Z Services is strengthening its leadership position as an innovative cloud-based cybersecurity solutions provider in the Middle East and North Africa.”

TitanHQ’s cloud-based cybersecurity solutions have been developed from the ground up specifically to meet the needs of Managed Service Providers. The email filtering, web filtering, and email archiving solutions are currently being used by more than 7,500 businesses around the world and more than 1,500 MSPs are now offering TitanHQ solutions to their clients.

In contrast to many cybersecurity solution providers, TitanHQ offers its products with a range of hosting options – including within an MSP’s own infrastructure – as full white label solutions ready for MSPs to apply their own branding. By protecting clients with TitanHQ solutions MSPs are able to significantly reduce support and engineering costs by blocking a wide range of cyber threats at source. MSPs also benefit from generous margins and industry-leading customer service and support.

If you are a managed service provider and have yet to incorporate email filtering, web filtering, and email archiving solutions into your service stack, if you are unhappy with your current providers, or are looking to increase profits while ensuring your clients have the best protection against email and web-based threats, contact TitanHQ today for further information.

Why is DNS Filtering for Businesses so Important?

DNS filtering for businesses is essential for all companies to protect against web-based threats such as phishing and malware and is particularly important for any business that allows employees to work remotely. In this post we explain the risks, features, and benefits of DNS filtering and how a DNS filter can protect employees and their portable devices from Wi-Fi threats.

Why is DNS Filtering for Businesses so Important?

DNS filtering for businesses can no longer be considered an optional cybersecurity solution due to the high risk of web-based attacks. Phishing attacks on businesses are increasing with many thousands of new phishing web pages created each day. Exploit kits probe for vulnerabilities and silently download malware, and ransomware attacks are rife.  DNS filtering for businesses offers an additional layer of protection that prevents employees from visiting websites known to be used for malicious purposes.

DNS filters also allow businesses to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies and block access to illegal website content, websites containing content unsuitable for the workplace and categories of sites that are a major drain on productivity.

It is easy to set up DNS filtering for businesses’ internal networks and apply content controls and block online threats; however, a DNS filter is not restricted to one physical location. DNS filtering for businesses is not bound to a single location and works on wired networks, internal WiFi networks and even public WiFi hotspots.

The Dangers of Public WiFi Networks

A recent survey conducted by Purple revealed more than 90% of businesses that offer Wi-Fi have open networks without any filters or security applied. Connecting to open Wi-Fi networks without any filtering controls in place increases the risk of virus, malware, and ransomware downloads.

To a certain extent, risk can be reduced if anti-malware software is installed on mobile devices. However, the software is only capable of detecting malware variants if their signatures are in the database. If the database is out of date, malware will not be detected. Anti-malware software also does not provide protection against zero-day malware – new malware variants that have yet to be identified – and offers no protection against phishing attacks.

Further, hackers take advantage of open Wi-Fi networks to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks to intercept sensitive data such as banking credentials and other login information. Mobile workers often connect to their work networks and on portable devices via open Wi-Fi networks such as those offered in coffee shops, even though doing so may be a violation of company policy.

DNS Filtering for Businesses Protects Off-Site Workers from Wi-Fi Threats

A business that issues mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets or laptops to employees can struggle to secure those devices outside the office. DNS filtering for businesses is one solution that can be used to improve security.

DNS filtering solves the security challenge as it acts as a barrier between the end user’s device and the Internet that blocks web-based threats. When a remote worker uses their laptop to connect the Internet through a web browser, a DNS lookup must be performed. Before the website can be loaded it must be found. That requires the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) – google.com for instance – to be matched with an IP address by a DNS server. Only then can the content be displayed.

With DNS filtering, instead of the IP address being identified and the web browser displaying the content of a web page, before any content is displayed certain checks are performed. The requested site/web page is checked against Real Time Blacklists (RBLs). RBLs contain lists of websites and web pages that host illegal web content, are used for phishing, or host malware or exploit kits.  Content controls are also applied. If content violates corporate policies or a match is found in an RBL, the content will not be downloaded. Instead the user will be directed to a block page where they are informed that access to the web page/site has been blocked.

Any business that fails to implement DNS filtering is taking a significant risk if workers can use company-issued smartphones and laptops to access the Internet and web applications outside the protection of the office environment.

WebTitan Cloud – DNS Filtering for Businesses Made Simple

TitanHQ offers DNS filtering for businesses and MSPs through WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi. WebTitan requires no software downloads or hardware purchases and can be used to protect wired and wireless business networks and remote workers using portable devices on public Wi-Fi hotspots.

WebTitan uses six Real Time Blacklists that are constantly updated with new malicious webpages. Any request to access a web page must pass checks on all six RBLs before the URL can be accessed. These checks are performed with no latency – the speed of accessing web content is unaffected.

Once businesses are signed up they can quickly and easily configure the solution to match their requirements through a web-based interface, through which content controls can be applied. WebTitan uses 53 different categories of web-content and has 10 customizable categories. Those categories include 100% of Alexa’s 1 million most visited websites and more than 500 million websites in 200 languages – which equates to 6 billion web pages.

The solution supports whitelists – for companies that want maximum control – and additional blacklists. It is also easy to set custom controls for different workers and user groups, as well as apply controls at the organization level.

An extensive suite of reporting options keeps businesses 100% up to date on user behavior, including sites that have been visited and attempts by employees to access restricted web content.

In short, WebTitan is an invaluable tool that provides protection from web-based threats and allows businesses to have total control over the content that can be accessed on desktop computers and portable devices, regardless of where the employee is located.

Contact TitanHQ for a Product Demonstration and No-Obligation Free Trial

If you are not yet using DNS filtering to block web-based threats and exercise control over the content your employees can access, contact the TitanHQ team today. TitanHQ’s experienced sales staff will answer your questions, provide details of pricing, and can book you in for a product demonstration.

You can also sign up for a 14-day free trial to evaluate WebTitan in your own environment. The free trial includes full use of the product and experienced sales engineers are on hand to help make sure you get the most out of your free trial.

Secure Hotel Wi-Fi Access Points and Gain a Competitive Advantage

Business and leisure travelers looking for secure hotel Wi-Fi access in addition to fast and reliable Internet access. If you take steps to secure hotel WiFi access points, you can gain a significant competitive advantage.

The Importance of Hotel Wi-Fi to Guests

The number one hotel amenity that most travelers can simply not do without is fast, free, reliable, Internet access. In 2013, a joint study conducted by Forrester Research and Hotels.com revealed that 9 out of ten gusts rated Wi-Fi as the top hotel amenity. 34% of respondents to the survey said free Wi-Fi was a ‘deal breaker.’ Now four years on, those percentages will certainly have increased.

Wi-Fi access is essential for business travelers as they need to be able to stay in touch with the office and be able to communicate with their customers. Leisure travelers need free Internet access to keep in touch with friends, look up local attractions, and enjoy cheap entertainment in the comfort of their rooms. Younger travelers need constant access to social media accounts and online games such as Fortnite as they get at home.

It doesn’t matter whether you run a small family bed and breakfast or a large chain of hotels, Wi-Fi access for guests is essential. Any hotel that doesn’t have reliable and fast Wi-Fi will lose business to establishments that do.

It is now easy for potential guests to check if an establishment has Wi-Fi and even find out about the speed and reliability of the connection. The hotelwifitest.com website lets travelers check the speed of Internet access in hotels before booking.

Guests don’t post rave reviews based on the speed of Internet connections, but they will certainly make it known if Internet access is poor or nonexistent. Many of the negative comments on hotel booking websites and TripAdvisor are related to Wi-Fi. Put simply, you will not get anywhere near the same level of occupancy if your Wi-Fi network isn’t up to scratch.

Secure Hotel Wi-Fi is Now as Important as Offering Wi-Fi to Guests

Businesses are now directing a considerable percentage of their IT budgets to cybersecurity to prevent hackers from gaining access to their networks and sensitive data. Securing internal systems is relatively straightforward, but when employees have to travel for work and access networks remotely, hackers can take advantage.

When employees must travel for business, their hotel is often the only place where they can connect to the office network and their email. They need to know that they can login securely from the hotel and that doing so will not result in the theft of their credentials or a malware infection. A hotel will be failing its business customers if it does not offer safe and secure Wi-Fi access.

All it takes is for one malware infection or cyberattack to occur while connected to a hotel Wi-Fi network for the reputation of the hotel to be tarnished. Hotels really cannot afford to take any risks.

Multiple Levels of Wi-Fi Access Should be Offered

Parents staying in hotels will want to make sure that their children can access the Internet safely and securely and will not accidentally or deliberately be able to gain access to age-inappropriate websites. If a hotel claims to be family-friendly, that must also extend to the Wi-Fi network. Any hotel that fails to prevent minors from accessing obscene images while connected to hotel Wi-Fi cannot claim it is family-friendly.

Hotels can offer Wi-Fi access for families that blocks adult websites and anonymizers, which are commonly used to bypass filtering controls. Safe Search can also be enforced, but not all users will want that level of control.

To cater to the needs of all guests, different levels of Wi-Fi access are likely to be required. Some guests will want to be able to access the types of websites they do at home without restrictions and business travelers will certainly not want anonymizers to be blocked. Some customers insist on the use of VPNs when employees connect to their business network or email.

Hotels that implement a web filtering solution can easily create different tiers of Internet access. One for families and a less restrictive level for other users. Free internet access could be limited to a basic level that includes general web and email access but blocks access to video streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix. Those services could be offered as part of a low-cost Wi-Fi package to generate some extra revenue. These tiers can easily be created with a web filtering solution.

How to Easily Secure Hotel Wi-Fi

Offering secure hotel Wi-Fi to guests does not require expensive hardware to be purchased. While appliance-based web filters are used by many businesses, there is a much lower cost option that is better suited for hotel use.

A cloud-based web filter for Wi-Fi – such as WebTitan for Wi-Fi -is the easiest to implement secure hotel Wi-Fi solution. With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, your Wi-Fi network can be secured with just a simple change to your DNS records. No hardware is required and there is no need to install any software. One solution will protect all Wi-Fi access points and can be up and running in a matter of minutes. There is no limit on the number of access points that can be protected by WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi.

Once your DNS is pointed to WebTitan, you can apply your content controls – which is as simple as clicking on a few checkboxes to block categories of web content that your guests shouldn’t be allowed to access.

You can create multiple accounts with different controls – one for business users, one for families, and one for employees for example. No training is required to administer the solution as it has been developed to require no technical skill whatsoever. All of the complex elements of web filtering are handled by TitanHQ.

If you run a hotel and you are not currently filtering the internet, talk to TitanHQ about how you can your secure your hotel Wi-Fi access points, protect your guests, and ensure all users can access the Internet safely and securely.

Failure to Control Employee Internet Use Results in Malware Download on Government Computer

An IT security audit conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at its Earth Resources Observation and Science Center has highlighted the importance of implementing technical solutions to control employee internet use.

Most organizations and businesses have strict rules covering acceptable use of the Internet on work computers. Those rules are usually explained when a new employee starts work. A document must be signed that confirms that the Rules have been understood and the employee is aware of the repercussions if the rules are violated.

For many organizations and businesses, those measures are deemed to be sufficient. Most employees understand the rules and adhere to them, but even though rule violations will likely result in termination, some employees take the risk as they believe they will not be caught.

Security Audit Reveals Extensive Policy Violations

During a recent USGS IT security audit, suspicious Internet traffic was identified. The discovery prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) to determine the source of the suspicious traffic.

The OIG investigation revealed malware had been installed on an employee’s computer and that the malware was the source of the suspicious communications. Further investigation revealed the employee had been routinely visiting adult websites, which routed through Russian websites that hosted malware. As a result of visiting those websites, the employee had inadvertently downloaded malware onto the work computer. Pornographic images had been downloaded, which were then transferred to an Android mobile and portable USB drive. The mobile was similarly infected with malware.

The employee was discovered to have viewed over 9,000 adult websites, even though USGS Rules of Behavior had been explained and a document was signed confirming those rules had been understood. Annual security training had also been provided in which the Rules of Behavior were reinforced.

Had USGS implemented a technical solution to control employee internet use and enforce its Rules of Behavior, the malware infection would have been avoided.

OIG made several recommendations to prevent future malware infections and similar abuses of its Rules of Behavior, which included enforcing a strong blacklist of URLs and to regularly monitor employee Internet use. Additionally, it was recommended that USGS implement controls that prevent employees from using unauthorized USB devices on their work computers.

In addition to implementing an advanced intrusion detection system and firewall, USGS is now enhancing its preventative countermeasures by detecting and blocking known pornographic websites and other websites with suspicious origins.

This is not the first time that the U.S. government has discovered employees have accessed pornography at work and it certainly will not be the last.

The problem is believed to be so widespread that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC11) proposed the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act on three occasions. The Act was prompted by the discovery that an Environmental Protection Agency had been accessing pornography at work. In that case, the employee had viewed pornography for 252 hours in a single year without detection.

The Easy Way to Control Employee Internet Use and Block Web-Based Threats

These cases show that organizations and businesses that rely on internal policies to control employee internet use are taking a considerable risk. It is not just the visiting of adult websites that carries an increased risk of malware infections. Malware can be downloaded from an extensive range of websites, even seemingly ‘legitimate’ sites.

Only by implementing a web filtering solution to control employee internet use will organizations and businesses be able to effectively reduce risk. A web filter is an appliance, virtual appliance, or cloud-based solution that prevents employees from accessing website content that violates acceptable Internet usage policies and blocks the accessing of websites that are known to be used for malicious purposes or have been infected with malware and exploit kits.

Control Employee Internet Use with WebTitan

WebTitan is a lightweight but powerful web filtering solution that allows organizations and businesses to carefully control employee internet use and block access to websites known to host pornography and other unsuitable for work content. A comprehensive reporting suite also allows employee internet use to be carefully monitored, including attempts to view prohibited content even if those attempts are not successful.

WebTitan can be deployed as a gateway solution on existing hardware or hypervisors or as a cloud-based solution hosted on TitanHQ servers. The solution is quick and easy to implement and configure and can be up and running in a matter of minutes. In addition to category-based filtering controls, the solution can block by keyword or keyword score and supports whitelists and blacklists.

If you want to control employee internet use and manage risk, call TitanHQ today for further information on WebTitan and find out how it can reduce the risk from web-based threats at your place of work.

FilesLocker Ransomware: A New RaaS Variant Targeting Chinese and English Speakers

A new ransomware threat has been detected called FilesLocker which is currently being offered as ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) on a TOR malware forum. FilesLocker ransomware is not a particularly sophisticated ransomware variant, but it still poses a significant threat.

FilesLocker ransomware is a dual language ransomware variant that displays ransom notes in both Chinese and English. MalwareHunterTeam has identified a Chinese forum on TOR where it is being offered to affiliates to distribute for a cut of the ransom payments.

Unless advertised more widely, the number of affiliates that sign up may be limited, although it may prove popular. There are several features which could see the ransomware variant favored over other RaaS offerings, notably a sliding scale on commissions. The developers are offering a 60% cut of ransoms, which will increase to 75% if sufficiently high numbers of infections can be generated.

While relatively small and simple, FilesLocker ransomware still uses an RSA 2048+AES algorithm to lock files and it deletes Windows shadow copies to hamper attempts to recover files without paying the ransom. FilesLocker is also capable of file encryption in a broken network environment.

No server is required and the ransomware is effective on all Windows versions later than XP plus 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Server. Users are also able to easily monitor infections through a tracking feature which displays infections by country.

There is no free decryptor for FilesLocker ransomware. Recovery will only be possible by restoring files from backups.

While news of a new RaaS offering is never good, there has at least been some good news on the ransomware front this week, at least for some victims.

Free Decryptor Developed for GandCrab Ransomware

GandCrab ransomware is another RaaS offering that has been available since January 2018. It has been widely adopted, with many affiliates signing up to distribute the ransomware over the past 10 months.

A GandCrab ransomware decryptor was developed by Bitdefender in February that was able to unlock files encrypted by version 1.0 and v1.1 of GandCrab ransomware. The decryptor was developed after private keys were leaked online. However, it didn’t take long for v2.0 to be released, for which no free decryptor is available. There have been several further updates to GandCrab ransomware over the past few months, with v5.0 of the ransomware variant released in late September.

This week, Bitdefender has announced that after collaboration with the Romanian Police, Europol and other law enforcement agencies, a new decryption tool has been developed that allows GandCrab ransomware victims to decrypt files for free, provided they have been attacked with version 1, 4, or 5 of the ransomware.

The version can be determined by the extension used on encrypted files. V1=GDCB; v2/3=CRAB; v4=KRAB; and v5 uses a random 10-character extension.

The free GandCrab ransomware decryptor has been uploaded to the NoMoreRansom Project website. Bitdefender is currently working on a free decryptor for v2 and v3 of GandCrab ransomware.

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.

Why WiFi Filters for Coffee Shops are Now Essential

Find out why WiFi filters for coffee shops are so important and how the failure to filter the Internet could prove to be extremely harmful to your brand.

Serving the best coffee in town will certainly bring in the crowds, but there is more to a successful coffee shop than providing patrons with a morning jolt of caffeine and comfy chairs. Coffee is big business and there is stiff competition when it comes to providing jitter juice to the masses.

In addition to free newspapers, high quality flapjacks and a fine blend of beans, patrons look for the other necessity of modern life: Free Internet access.  Establishments that offer free, reliable WiFi access with decent bandwidth stand a much better chance of attracting and retaining customers.

However, simply setting up a WiFi router is no longer enough. Coffee shops also need to make sure that the WiFi network that their customers connect to is safe and secure. Just as the provision of free WiFi can translate into positive TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews, coffee shops that fail to secure their connections and exercise control over the content that can be accessed can easily get the reverse. WiFi filters for coffee shops ensure that customers’ activities online can be carefully controlled.

Why Unfiltered WiFi Networks Can Result in Bad Reviews

It is important for all shops to ensure that their WiFi networks cannot be used for any illegal or unsavory activities. If a webpage is not suitable for work, it is not suitable for a coffee shop. While there all manner of sites that should be blocked with WiFi filters for coffee shops, one of the most important categories of content is Internet porn.

While enjoying a nice coffee, patrons should not be subjected to obscene videos, images or audio. All it takes is for one patron to catch a glimpse of porn on another customer’s screen to trigger a bad review. The situation would be even worse if a minor caught a glimpse or even deliberately accessed adult content while connected to the WiFi network. A bad TripAdvisor review could easily send potential customers straight to the competition and a social media post could all too easily go viral.

What are the chances of that happening? Well, it’s not just a hypothetical scenario, as Starbucks discovered. In 2011, Starbucks received a warning that minors had been subjected to obscene content in its coffee shops and the chain did little about the complaints. The following year, as the bad feedback continued, the story was picked up by the media.

The bad feedback mounted and there were many calls for the public to boycott Starbucks. In the UK, Baroness Massey announced to the House of Lords that she had boycotted the brand and heavily criticized the chain for failing to set an example. Naturally, competitors – Costa Coffee for example – were more than happy to point out that they had been proactive and already provided filtered Internet to prevent minors from accessing adult content on their WiFi networks.

It was not until 2016 when Starbucks took action and implemented WiFi filters for coffee shops in the UK and started providing family-friendly WiFi access. A chain the size of Starbucks could weather the bad press. Smaller coffee shops would no doubt fare far worse.

WiFi Filters for Coffee Shops are Not Only About Blocking Adult Content

WiFi filters for coffee shops are important for blocking obscene content, but that is far from the only threat to a brand. The Internet is home to all manner of malicious websites that are used to phish for sensitive information and spread malicious software such as malware and ransomware. WiFi filters for coffee shops can be used to carefully control the content that can be accessed by consumers, but they can also keep them protected from these malicious sites.

Just as users have safe search functionality on their home networks, they expect the same controls on public WiFi access points. Phishing attacks and malware infections while connected to coffee shop WiFi networks can also be damaging to a brand. With WiFi filters for coffee shops, instead of being phished, a user will be presented with a block screen that explains that the business has blocked access to a malicious site to keep them protected and that will send a positive message that you care about your customers.

Once WiFi filters for coffee shops have been implemented, it is possible to apply to be assessed under the government’s Friendly Wi-Fi scheme. That will allow a coffee shop to display the friendly WiFi symbol and alert potential customers that safe, secure, family-friendly filtered Internet access is provided.

WebTitan – TitanHQ’s Easy to Implement WiFi Filters for Coffee Shops

Fortunately, WiFi filters for coffee shops are not expensive or difficult to implement. If you use a cloud-based solution such as WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, you will not need to purchase any hardware or install any software. Your WiFi network can be secured in a matter of minutes. A simple change to point your DNS to WebTitan is all that is required (you can be talked through that process to get you up and running even faster).

Since the controls are highly granular, you can easily block any type of web content you wish with a click of a mouse, selecting the categories of content you don’t want your users to access through the web-based control panel. Malicious sites will automatically be blocked via constantly updated blacklists of known malicious and illegal web pages.

With WebTitan you are assured that customers cannot view adult and illegal content, you can block illegal file sharing, control streaming services to save bandwidth, and enforce safe search on Google and apply YouTube controls.

To find out more about the features and benefits of WebTitan, details of pricing, and to sign up for a demo and free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Massive Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Identified

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

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

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

What is SEO Poisoning?

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

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

Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Targeting 15,000+ Keywords

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Version of Azorult Malware Being Distributed via RIG Exploit Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webinar: How MSPs Can Create Bulletproof Managed Networks

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

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

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

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

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

Date: Thursday, October 18th

Time: 11AM ET | 8AM PT | 4PM GMT/BST 

Speakers:

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

Click here to sign up for the webinar

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

Fake Adobe Flash Updates Used to Install XMRig Cryptocurrency Miner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TitanHQ Fall Schedule of MSP Industry Events and Conferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of TitanHQ Conference Schedule 2018

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

Fallout Exploit Kit Used to Deliver New GandCrab v5 Ransomware Variant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bristol Airport Ransomware Attack Sees Computer Displays Taken Out of Action

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

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

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

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

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

Ransomware Still Poses a Major Threat to Businesses

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

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

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

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

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

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

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

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

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

Security is the Fastest Growing Service for MSPs

There are many new services that managed service providers (MSPs) can add to their service stacks, such as cloud migration and digitization services, but the biggest area for growth is currently cybersecurity services.

The number of cyberattacks on SMBs and enterprises has increased substantially in recent years. More attacks are now being conducted than ever before, and many of those attacks are succeeding.

A successful attack can prove extremely profitable for an attacker and extremely costly for an enterprise. When a network or email account is breached, sensitive information can be stolen, such as the personal data of customers and employees and corporate secrets and proprietary data.

When customer information is stolen, the damage to a company’s reputation can be considerable. Customer churn rate increases, business is lost, and there may be regulatory fines to cover and lawsuits to fight. Notifications need to be issued and credit monitoring and identity theft protection services may need to be provided to customers. When proprietary data is stolen, a company’s competitive advantage can easily be lost.

Following any security breach, hours must be committed to forensic analyses to search for possible backdoors and malware. The breach cause must be identified and security holes must be plugged. All those costs (and more) add up. This year’s Cost of a Data Breach study conducted by the Ponemon Institute/IBM Security revealed the average cost of a data breach of up to 100,000 personal records has risen to $3.86 million in 2018 – a 6.4% increase since 2017.

The massive disruption to businesses caused by cyberattacks and the considerable cost of mitigating data breaches means SMBs and enterprises need to take precautions and invest in cybersecurity defenses. However, the shortage of skilled staff in this area and already overworked IT departments has meant many companies have had to turn to MSPs and managed security service providers (MSSPs) to help shore up their defenses, monitor for potential intrusions, and respond to breaches when they occur.

Many MSPs have responded to the demand and are now offering security services to their clients to meet the demand. That demand is so great, that managed security services are now a huge growth area for MSPs.

Each year, Channel Futures conducts its MSP 501 survey, which evaluates the revenue growth, service deliverables, and business models and strategies adopted by the most progressive and forward-thinking MSPs around the globe. This year, the survey revealed that the biggest growth area is security services. 73% of all surveyed MSPs said security was their fastest growing service. As a point of comparison, the next biggest growth area was professional services (55%), followed by Office 365 (52%) and consulting (51%).

With huge demand for managed security services, it is no longer a question of whether they should be added to MSPs service stacks, but more a question of how they can be integrated, how to architect those services, and how to package security services together to meet customers’ needs.

What Security Services are Being Offered by MSPs?

Many enterprises and SMBs that attempt to go it alone end up deploying dozens of different security solutions at considerable cost, only to discover they are still attacked and suffer network breaches. Most businesses do not have the staff to commit to implementing, monitoring, and managing large numbers of cybersecurity solutions. This creates an opportunity for MSPs.

Some MSPs have opted to provide clients with a suite of cybersecurity solutions from a single provider, as the solutions work seamlessly together and there is less potential for security gaps to exist. While this has worked for some MSPs, the problem with this approach is clients could approach that vendor and decide to go direct. MSPs that have succeeded with this model are adding considerable value – such as their expertise in running those solutions.

Logicalis, ranked #10 in the MSP 501 list, has taken a different approach and is bundling together a range of solutions that can be easily managed together and match customers’ needs exactly. “We pick our swim lanes, we pick our areas that are most relevant to our skills, to our customers, and we make sure we have the disciplines and domain expertise to deliver against that,” said Logicalis’ chief sales officer Mike Houghton.

Clients often get the best value – and protection – when MSPs package together cybersecurity products from a wide range of cybersecurity solution providers to provide a comprehensive security service, as Tom Clancy, CEO of Valiant Technology and #206 in Channel Future’s MSP 501 list explained. “Providing a bundle of offerings from different vendors that work well together is the most effective way for an MSP to retain its role as a trusted adviser.”

Valiant Technology has even taken this a step further and is moving towards making security a ‘non-optional’ offering. Clancy explained to Channel Futures that, “Our managed services plans will say, ‘It costs this much per seat, and it’s this much if you want the security package. And by the way, you really want the security package, otherwise here’s my limitation of liability.”

Naturally, putting together a package of security services requires considerable research and planning, new staff may need to be hired, and training on the products must be provided. It is a lot of work, but the potential rewards are considerable.

How Can TitanHQ Help?

TitanHQ has developed a suite of security products that are ideally suited for MSPs, offering a winning combination of easy deployment, remote management, superb protection against a wide range of threats, and excellent margins. The solutions mitigate the threat from web and email-based attacks integrate seamlessly into MSPs existing service stacks.

SpamTitan provides world-class protection from spam and malicious emails, preventing malware, ransomware, and phishing emails from reaching end users’ inboxes. The solution is complimented by WebTitan, a powerful web filtering solution that prevents end users from visiting malicious websites, blocks drive-by downloads of malicious software, and enforces acceptable Internet usage policies.

To find out more about how these two solutions benefit MSPs and their clients, and the tools available to seamlessly integrate these technology-agnostic security services into MSPs security packages, contact the TitanHQ team today.

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

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

VPNs May Not be As Secure as You Think

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

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

High Severity Vulnerabilities Identified in Popular VPNs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Securing Connections on Public WiFi Access Points

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

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

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

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

New Fallout Exploit Kit Delivering GandCrab Ransomware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security Awareness Training Best Practices

Security awareness training best practices to help your organization tackle the weakest link in the security chain: Your employees.

The Importance of Security Awareness Training

It doesn’t matter how comprehensive your security defenses are and how much you invested on cybersecurity products, those defenses can all be bypassed with a single phishing email. If one such email is delivered to an end user who does not have a basic understanding of security and they respond to that message, malware can be installed, or the attacker can otherwise gain a foothold in your network.

It is the risk of such an attack that has spurred many organizations to develop a security awareness training program. By teaching all employees cybersecurity best practices – from the CEO to the lowest level workers – security posture can be greatly enhanced and susceptibility to phishing attacks and other cyberattacks will be greatly reduced.

However, simply providing employees with a training session when they join the company is not sufficient. Neither is it enough to give an induction in cybersecurity followed by an annual refresher training session. Employees cannot be expected to retain knowledge for 12 months unless frequent refresher training sessions are provided. Further, cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics to fool end users. Training programs must keep up with those changing tactics.

To help organizations develop an effective security awareness training program we have compiled a list of security awareness training best practices to follow. Adopt these security awareness training best practices and you will be one step closer to developing a security culture in your organization.

Security Awareness Training Best Practices

Listed below are some security awareness training best practices that will help you develop an effective training program that will ultimately help you to prevent data breaches.

C-Suite Involvement is a Must

It is often said that the weakest link in the security chain are an organization’s employees. While that is undoubtedly true, the C-Suite is also a weak link. If the C-Suite does not take an active interest in cybersecurity and does not realize the importance of the human element in security, it is unlikely that sufficient support will be provided and unlikely that appropriate resources are made available. C-suite involvement can also help with organization-wide collaboration. It will be very difficult to create a security culture in an organization if there is no C-Suite involvement in cybersecurity.

An Organization-Wide Effort is Required

A single department will likely be given the responsibility for developing and implementing a security awareness program, but it will not be easy in isolation. Assistance will be required from other departments. The heads of different departments can help to ensure that the security awareness training program is given the priority it deserves.

To ease the burden on the IT department, members of other departments can be trained and can assist with the provision of support or may even be able to assist with the training efforts. Other departments, such as marketing, can help developing content for newsletters and other training material. The HR department can help by setting policies and procedures.

Creation of Security Awareness Training Content

There is no need to develop training content for employees from scratch as there are many free resources available that can give you a head start. Many firms offer high quality training material for a price, which is likely to be lower than the cost of developing training material in-house. Take advantage of these resources but make sure that you develop a training program that is specific to the threats faced by your organization and the sector in which you operate. Your training program must be comprehensive. If any gaps exist, they are likely to be exploited sooner or later.

Diversity of Training

A one-size-fits-all approach to training will ultimately fail. People respond differently to different training methods. Some may retain more knowledge through classroom-based training, others may need one-to-one training, and many will benefit more from CBT training sessions. Your training program should include a wide range of different methods to help with different learning styles. The more engaging your program is, the more likely knowledge will be retained. Use posters, newsletters, email security alerts, games, and quizzes and you will likely see major improvements in your employees’ security awareness.

Simulation Exercises

You can develop a seriously impressive training program for your employees that looks perfect on paper, but if your employees only manage to retain 20% of the content, your training program will not be very effective. The only way you can determine how effective your training program is through attack simulations. Phishing simulation exercises and simulations of other attack scenarios should be conducted before, during, and after training. You will be able to assess how effective all elements of the training program have been, and it will give you the feedback you need to identify weak links and take action to improve your training program.

Security Awareness Training Needs to be a Constant Process

Security awareness training is not a checkbox item that can be completed and forgotten about for another year. Your program should be running constantly and should consist of an annual training session for all employees, semi-annual training sessions, and other training efforts spread throughout the year. The goal should be to make sure security issues are always fresh in the mind.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Restaurants

Cybersecurity best practices for restaurants that you can adopt to make your network more secure and prevent hackers from gaining access to your POS system and customers’ credit card information.

Cybercriminals are Targeting Restaurants’ POS Systems

If you run a busy restaurant you will most likely be processing thousands of credit and debit card transactions every month. Every time someone pays with a card you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the card details that are read through your point of sale (POS) system remain private and cannot be stolen by your employees or obtained by cybercriminals.

So far this year there have been several major cyberattacks on restaurants that have resulted in the credit and debit card numbers of customers being stolen.  In August, Darden Restaurants discovered that hackers gained access to the POS system used in its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen restaurants and potentially stole over half a million payment card numbers.

Applebee’s, PDQ, Zippy’s, and Chili’s have all experienced cyberattacks in 2018 which have resulted in hackers gaining access to customers’ payment cards. Last year also saw several cyberattacks on restaurants, including attacks on Shoney’s, Arby’s, Chipotle, and the Sonic Drive-In chain. These restaurant cyberattacks are notable due to the amount of card numbers that were stolen. The cyberattack on Cheddar’s is thought to have resulted in the theft of more than half a million payment card numbers, expiry dates and CVV codes, while the Sonic data breach has been estimated to have impacted millions of customers.

Not all cyberattacks on restaurants are conducted on large restaurant chains. Smaller restaurants are also being attacked. These smaller establishments may not process anywhere near as many payment card transactions as a chain the size of Applebee’s, but the attacks can still prove profitable for criminals. Card details sell for upwards of $7, so the theft of 1,000 card numbers from a small restaurant will still generate a decent profit and the effort required to conduct cyberattacks on small restaurants is often far less than an attack on a large chain.

All restaurants are at risk of hacking. Steps must therefore be taken by all restaurants to make it as hard as possible for hackers to gain access to the network, POS systems, and customer data. With this in mind we have listed cybersecurity best practices for restaurants to adopt to avoid a data breach.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Restaurants

Listed below are some cybersecurity best practices for restaurants to adopt to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your network and data. There is no silver bullet that will stop all cyberattacks, but these cybersecurity best practices for restaurants will help to improve your security posture.

Network Segmentation is a Must

You will most likely have multiple computers in use in your restaurant as well as many other devices that connect to your network via an ethernet connection or WiFi. Every device that connects to your network is a possible entry point that could be exploited by a hacker. It is therefore important to stake steps to ensure that if one device is compromised, access cannot be gained to your entire network. Your POS system needs to be segregated from other parts of the network and users should only be permitted to access parts of the network that are required to complete their assigned duties.

Patch Management and Vulnerability Scanning

All it takes is for one vulnerability to remain unaddressed for you to be vulnerable to attack. It is therefore essential to maintain an inventory of all devices that connect to your network and ensure that patches and software updates are applied on all those devices as soon as they are released. You should also conduct regular vulnerability scans to identify possible weak points and take prompt action to ensure those weak points are addressed.

Secure the Perimeter with a Firewall

One of the most important cybersecurity solutions to implement to prevent hackers from gaining access to your network is a firewall. A firewall monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic and serves as a barrier between a trusted internal network and an untrusted external network. A firewall is also an important element of PCI compliance.

Implement a Spam Filter to Block Malicious Emails

Email is the most common vector used to install malware. Phishing attacks are commonplace and are an easy way for hackers to gain login credentials and get a foothold in the network. Use a spam filter such as SpamTitan to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes and block all malware-laced emails.

Protect Your WiFi Network with a Web Filtering Solution

Your WiFi network is a potential weak spot and must be secured. If you provide WiFi access to your customers, ensure they are only provided with access to a guest network and not the network used by your staff. Implement a web filter to control what users can do when connected to your network. A web filter will help to prevent malware from being downloaded and can be configured to block access to risky websites. WebTitan is an ideal web filter for restaurants to improve WiFi security.

Purchase Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is one of the most basic software solutions to protect against malware. Malware is commonly installed on POS systems to record and exfiltrate payment card information. Not only should you ensure that a powerful antivirus solution is installed, you should also ensure regular scans of the network are performed.

Provide Security Awareness Training to Staff

Your employees are a potential weak point in your security defenses. Don’t assume that your employees are security aware. Teach your staff cybersecurity best practices for restaurants, provide anti-phishing training, and explain about risky behaviors that could easily lead to a data breach.

Backup and Backup Again

You should perform regular backups of all your essential data to protect against saboteurs and provide protection against ransomware attacks. If disaster strikes, you will need to record all your data. Adopt the 3-2-1 approach to creating backups. Create three copies, on two separate media, and store one copy securely off site on an air-gapped device that is not connected to the Internet.

Vet your Vendors

Access to your network may be gained through your vendors. The cyberattack on PDQ restaurants occurred via a remote access tool used by one of its technology vendors. If a vendor is able to connect to your network, it is essential that they have appropriate security controls in place. Be sure to check how secure your vendor is and what controls they have in place to prevent hacking before giving them network access.

Adopt these cybersecurity best practices for restaurants and you will make it harder for hackers to gain access to your network and you should be able to avoid a costly data breach.

Beware of This SharePoint Phishing Scam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Web Filtering for Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can You Prevent a Computer from Becoming Part of a Botnet?

What is a Botnet? How are they used? What harm can be caused, and how can you prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet? These and other questions answered.

What is a Botnet?

A botnet is simply a collection of computers and other Internet-connected devices that are controlled by a threat actor. Usually that control is achieved via a malware installation, with the malware communicating with the threat actor’s command and control server.

Once malware has been installed on one device, potentially it can propagate to other devices on the same network, creating a mini-army of slave devices under the threat actor’s control. Any computer with the malware installed is part of the botnet and can be used on its own or collectively with other compromised devices for malicious purposes.

What are Botnets Used For?

Botnets are often used to conduct Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, with the devices in the botnet used to access a particular service simultaneously and flooding it with traffic making that service temporarily unavailable. The Mirai botnet, which mostly consists of vulnerable IoT devices, was used to take down large sections of the Internet, including some of the most popular websites such as Twitter and Netflix. DDoS attacks are now being conducted that exceed 1 terabits per second, largely due to sheer number of devices that are part of the botnet.

One of the biggest botnets ever assembled was made possible with Zeus malware, a banking Trojan that was particularly difficult to detect. In the United States, an estimated 3.6 million computers had been infected with the malware, making Zeus one of the biggest botnets ever created.

In addition to DDoS attacks, botnets are also used to send huge quantities of spam and phishing emails. The Necurs botnet is the world’s largest spamming botnet, delivering 60% of all spam emails. The Gamut spam botnet delivers around 37% of spam botnet traffic. These two spamming botnets are primarily used to send malicious messages containing email attachments with malicious macros that download malware such as the Dridex banking Trojan, and the ransomware variants Locky, Globelmposter, and Scarab.

Recently, the rise in the value of cryptocurrencies has made it highly profitable to use the processing power of botnets to mine cryptocurrency. When processing power is used for cryptocurrency mining, the performance of the computers will reduce significantly.

How Are Botnets Created?

Botnets can be created through several different methods. In the case of IoT devices, attackers often take advantage of weak passwords and default credentials that have not been changed. Since IoT devices are less likely to be updated automatically with the latest software and firmware, it is easier to exploit flaws to gain access to the devices. IoT Devices also rarely have antivirus controls, making infection easier and detection of malware much harder.

Computers are most commonly recruited into botnets through malware sent via spam email campaigns – such as those sent out by the spamming botnets. Malware is delivered via infected email attachments or links to malicious websites where malicious code is hosted. Messages can be sent via social media networks and chat apps, which also direct users to malicious websites where malware is downloaded.

Drive-by downloads are also common – Malware is downloaded by exploiting vulnerabilities in browsers, add-ons or browser plug-ins, often through exploit kits loaded on compromised websites.

Prevent a Computer from Becoming Part of a Botnet

It is much easier to prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet than identifying a malware infection and eradicating it once it has been installed. To prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet, it is necessary to use technological controls and adopt security best practices.

Businesses need to ensure all staff are trained to be more security aware and are told about the risks of opening email attachments or clicking links in emails from unknown senders. They should also be told not to automatically trust messages from contacts as their email accounts could have been compromised. Employees should be taught security best practices and risky behavior, such as connecting to public WiFi networks without using a VPN, should be eradicated.

All software must be kept up to date with patches applied promptly. This will reduce the risk of vulnerabilities being exploited to deliver malware. Antivirus software should be installed and configured to update automatically, and regular AV scans should be performed.

Firewalls should be used to implemented to prevent unauthorized network access and allow security teams to monitor internet traffic.

Spam filtering solutions should be implemented to block the majority of malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. The more messages that are blocked, the less chance there is of an employee responding to a phishing email and inadvertently installing malware.

One way to prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet that is often forgotten, is the use of a web filtering solution. A web filter, such as WebTitan, will prevent malware and ransomware downloads and block access to malicious websites sent via email or through web browsing.

Implement these controls and it will make it much harder for your organization’s computers to be infected with malware and added to a botnet.

WebTitan Incorporated into Datto’s Network Security Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Router May Have Been Compromised: Urgent Action Required

A hacking group has succeeded in infecting hundreds of thousands of routers with VPNFilter malware. The scale of the malware campaign is astonishing. So far more than half a million routers are believed to have been infected with the malware, prompting the FBI to issue a warning to all consumers and businesses to power cycle their routers.

Power cycling the router may not totally eradicate the malware, although it will temporarily disrupt communications and will help to identify infected devices, according to a May 25 public service announcement issued by the FBI.

All users have been advised to change the password on their router, install firmware updates if they are available, and disable the router’s remote management feature.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the malware campaign is being conducted by the Sofacy Group, also known as Fancy Bear and APT28. The hacking group has ties to the Russian government with some believing the hacking group is directed by Russia’s military intelligence agency.

While most of the infected routers and NAS devices are located in Ukraine, devices in more than 50 countries are known to have been infected with the malware. VPNFilter malware is a modular malware with a range of different functions that include the ability to capture all information that passes through the router, block network traffic and prevent Internet access, and potentially, the malware can totally disable the router. The infected routers could also be used to bring down specific web servers in a DDoS attack.

Many common router models are vulnerable including Linksys routers (E1200, E2500, WRVS4400N), Netgear routers (DGN2200, R6400, R7000, R8000, WNR1000, WNR2000), Mikrotik RouterOS for Cloud Core Routers (V1016, 1036, 1072), TP-Link (R600VPN), QNAP (TS251, TS439 Pro and QNAP NAS devices running QTS software).

The motive behind the malware infections is not known and neither the method being used to install the malware. The exploitation of vulnerabilities on older devices, brute force attacks, and even supply chain attacks have not been ruled out.

The FBI has taken steps to disrupt the malware campaign, having obtained a court order to seize control of a domain that was being used to communicate with the malware. While communications have now been disrupted, if a router has been compromised the malware will remain until it is removed by the router owners.

How to Update Your Router

While each router will be slightly different, they can be accessed by typing in 192.168.1.1 into the browser and entering the account name and password. For many users this will be the default login credentials unless they have been changed during set up.

In the advanced settings on the router it will be possible to change the password and disable remote management, if it is not already disabled. There should also be an option to check the firmware version of the router. If an update is available it should be applied.

You should then either manually power cycle the router – turn it off and unplug it for 20 seconds – or ideally use the reboot settings via the administration panel.

DrayTek Discovers Actively Exploited Zero Day Vulnerability

The Taiwanese broadband equipment manufacturer DrayTek has discovered some of its devices are at risk due to a zero-day vulnerability that is being actively exploited in the wild. More than 800,000 households and businesses are believed to be vulnerable although it is unknown how many of those devices have been attacked to date.

The affected devices are Vigor models 2120; 2133; 2760D; 2762; 2832; 2860; 2862; 2862B; 2912; 2925; 2926; 2952; 3200; 3220 and BX2000, 2830nv2; 2830; 2850; and 2920.

The vulnerability allows the routers to be compromised via a Cross-Site Request Forgery attack, one where a user is forced to execute actions on a web application in which they are currently authenticated. While data theft is possible with this type of attack, the attackers are using this attack to change configuration settings – namely DNS settings. By making that change, the attackers can perform man in the middle attacks, and redirect users from legitimate sites to fake sites where credentials can be stolen.

A firmware update has now been released to correct the vulnerability and all users of vulnerable DrayTek devices are being encouraged to check their DNS settings to make sure they have not been altered, ensure no additional users have been added to the device configuration, and apply the update as soon as possible.

When accessing the router, ensure no other browser windows are open. The only tab that should be open is the one used to access the router. Login, update the firmware and then logout of the router. Do not just close the window. Also ensure that you set a strong password and disable remote access if it is not already disabled.

Many small businesses purchase a router and forget about it unless something goes wrong and Internet access stops. Firmware updates are never installed, and little thought is given to upgrading to a new model. However, older models of router can be vulnerable to attack. These attacks highlight the need to keep abreast of firmware updates issued by your router manufacturer and apply them promptly.

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)

Most Common Wireless Network Attacks

Many businesses have moved from wired to wireless technologies which has had a negative impact on their security posture. Wired networks are easier to secure than wireless networks, and if vulnerabilities exist they can be exploited by cybercriminals. Because of these security flaws, and the ease of exploiting them, wireless networks attacks are common. In this post we explore some of the common wireless network attacks and offer advice on simple steps that can be taken to secure wireless networks and prevent costly data breaches.

Wi-Fi is Ubiquitous, Yet Many Businesses Neglect Security

Wi-Fi access used to be something you had to pay for, but now free WiFi is something that is taken for granted. Visitors to a hotel, coffee shop, bar, retail outlet, or restaurant now expect WiFi to be provided. The decision to use a particular establishment is often influenced by whether free WiFi is available, but increasingly the quality of the connection is a factor in the decision process.

The quality of the WiFi on offer is not just a question of there being enough bandwidth and fast internet speeds.

Parents often choose to visit establishments that provide secure WiFi with content control, such as those that have been verified under the Friendly WiFi scheme. In order to be accredited under the scheme, businesses must have implemented appropriate filtering controls to ensure that minors are prevented from accessing age-inappropriate material. The massive rise in cyberattacks via public WiFi networks has seen many consumers choose establishments that offer secure WiFi access.

If you run a business and are providing WiFi to customers or have yet to provide WiFi and are considering adding a WiFi hotspot to attract more customers, be sure to consider the security of your network. The past couple of years have seen many major attacks on WiFi networks and customers who use wireless services.

Some of the most common wireless network attacks are detailed below.

What are the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?

Some of the most common wireless network attacks are opportunistic in nature. Businesses that fail to secure their WiFi networks leave the door wide open to scammers and hackers who would otherwise look for easier targets. Those scammers are happy to take advantage of poor security controls to steal sensitive information from WiFi users and distribute malware. Unsecured WiFi networks are also targeted by sophisticated cybercriminals and organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the network. The attacks can be extremely lucrative. If malware can be installed on POS systems, the credit/debit card numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands of customers can be stolen.

Fake WiFi Access Points, Evil Twins, and Man in the Middle Attacks

Visitors to hotels, coffee shops and malls often connect to the free WiFi on offer, but various studies have shown that care is not always taken when connecting. Customers often choose the WiFi access point based on the name without checking it is the wireless network set up by a particular establishment for customer use.

Criminals can easily set up fake WiFi access points, often using the name of the establishment in the SSID name. Calling it ‘Free Airport WiFi’ is a common ploy to get people to connect. When customers connect to these rogue WiFi networks they can still access the Internet and are likely to be unaware that anything is wrong. However, everything they do online is being monitored by cybercriminals. Sensitive information entered online, such as email addresses and passwords, credit card numbers, or banking credentials can be stolen.

How is this done? The attacker simply creates a hotspot on a smartphone and pairs it with a tablet or laptop. The hacker can then sit in the coffee shop drinking a latte while monitoring the traffic of everyone that connects. Alternatively they can use a router with the same name and password as the one currently in use. This may also have a stronger WiFi signal, which may see more people connect to it but it is an “evil twin” through which man in the middle attacks occur – the interception of data sent over the network.

This is one of the most common wireless network attacks and it is surprisingly effective. One study indicated more than a third of WiFi hotspot users take no precautions when accessing WiFi hotspots and frequently connect to unsecured networks.

Packet Sniffing: Interception of Unencrypted Traffic

Research by Kaspersky Lab in 2016 showed more than a quarter of public Wi-Fi hotspots set up in malls were insecure and lacked basic security controls. A quarter did not encrypt traffic at all, while research conducted by Skycure showed that five of the 10 busiest malls in the USA had risky WiFi networks. One mall in Las Vegas was discovered to be operating 14 risky WiFi access points. Hackers can use programs called packet sniffers to intercept traffic on unencrypted WiFi networks. These common wireless network attacks are easy on older routers, such as those using WEP encryption. WPA offers better security, although as a minimum WPA2 should be used, or better still, the recently released WPA3. Packet sniffing is one of the most common wireless network attacks.

Examples of WiFi Network Attacks

Listed below are some examples of common wireless networks attacks that have resulted in the installation of malware or theft of sensitive information. These attacks could easily have been prevented had appropriate security controls been implemented.

Tel Aviv Free WiFi Network Hacked

One notable example of how easy it can be for a hacker to take over a WiFi network comes from Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv offers a city-wide free WiFi network, which incorporates basic security controls to keep users secure on the network. However, it did not prove to be as secure as city officials thought.

While commuting home, Tel Aviv resident Amihai Neiderman noticed a new WiFi access point had appeared. The FREE_TLV access point was provided by the city and Neiderman decided to test its security controls. After determining the IP address through which WiFi clients accessed the Internet, he disconnected, scanned the router, and discovered the web-based login interface was run through HTTPS port 443.

While he found no major vulnerabilities, after extensive analysis he identified a buffer overflow vulnerability which he successfully exploited to take full control of the router. By doing so, if he was so inclined, he could have intercepted the traffic from tens of thousands of users.

Toasters Used to Hack Unsecured WiFi Networks

Perhaps not one of the most common WiFi network attacks, but notable none the less due to the rise in use of IoT devices. IoT capability has been incorporated into all manner of devices from toasters to washing machines. These devices can be vulnerable to supply chain attacks – Where hardware is altered to allow the devices to be used to attack WiFi networks. In 2016, Russian officials discovered chips imported from China had been altered and were being used to spread malware that could eavesdrop on unsecured WiFi networks from a range of 200 meters. They were used to infect those networks with malware that could steal information.

In Flight WiFi Network Hacked from the Ground

Cybersecurity expert Ruben Santamarta has demonstrated it is possible to hack into airline WiFi networks from the ground and view the internet activity of passengers and intercept their information. More worryingly, he was also able to gain access to the cockpit network and SATCOM equipment. He claims the same technique could be used for ships, industrial facilities and even military installations. He explained how he did it in his “Last Call for SATCOM security” presentation at the 2018 blackhat hacker conference.

WiFi Networks Used to Gain Access to Business Data

Creating a WiFi network for guests is simple. Ensuring it is secure and cannot be used for attacks on the business network or customers requires more thought and effort. Any business that allows customers to make purchases using credit and debit cards is a major target for hackers and poor WiFi security is likely to be exploited sooner or later. The past few years have seen many major attacks that have resulted in malware being installed on POS systems. These are now some of the most common wireless network attacks.

How Can Businesses Prevent the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?

How can businesses protect against some of the most common wireless network attacks? While it is difficult to prevent the creation of fake WiFi hotspots, there are steps that can be taken to prevent many common wireless network attacks.

Isolate the Guest Network

If your business network is not isolated from your guest WiFi network, it could be used to gain access to business data and could place your POS at risk of compromise. Use a router that offers multiple SSIDs – most modern routers have that functionality. These routers often have a guest SSID option or separate guest portal. Make sure it is activated when it is deployed. Alternatively, your wireless router may have a wireless isolation feature which will prevent WiFi users from accessing your internal network and other client devices. If you require multiple access points throughout your establishment, you are likely to need a VLAN or EoIP tunnel configuration – A more complicated setup that will require you to seek professional advice on security.

Encrypt WiFi Traffic with WPA2 or WPA3

If you have an old router that does not support WPA2 encryption its time for an upgrade. WPA2 is the minimum standard for WiFi security, and while it can still be cracked, it is time consuming and difficult. WPA3 has now been released and an upgrade should be considered. You should also make sure that WPS is turned off.

Update Firmware Promptly

All software and devices contain vulnerabilities and require updating. Software should be patched and devices such as routers will need to have their firmware upgraded when new versions are released. Check your device manufacturers website periodically for details of firmware updates and ensure your device is updated.

Create a Secure SSID

Your router will have a default SSID name, but this should be changed to personalize it to your business. If you make it easily identifiable, it will reduce the potential for rogue access points to be confused with your own.  Ensure that you enforce WPA2 encryption with a shared key and post that information for your customers along with your SSID in a prominent place where they can see it.

Restrict WiFi Access

If your wireless router or access point is too powerful, it could be accessed from outside your premises. Choose a router that allows you to alter the strength of your signal and you can ensure only your customers will use your connection. Also ensure that your WiFi access point is only available during business hours. If your access points are left unsupervised when your business is closed, it increases the risk of an attack.

Secure Your Infrastructure

Administrator access can be abused, so ensure that your login name and your passwords are secure. If the default credentials are not changed, it will only be a matter of time before they are abused. Change the username from ‘admin’ or any other default username. Set a strong password that includes upper and lower-case letters, at least one number, and a special character. The password must be at least 8 characters although more is better.  Alternatively use a 14-character+ passphrase.

Use a Web Filter

A web filtering solution is an essential protection for all WiFi networks. Web filters will prevent users from visiting websites and web pages that are known to have been compromised or have been confirmed as malicious. This will protect your customers from web-based threats such as drive by downloads, exploit kits and phishing. A web filter will also allow you to prevent your network from being used to download or view unacceptable content such as pornography and lets you control bandwidth usage to ensure all customers can enjoy decent Internet speeds.

TitanHQ offers a scalable, easy to deploy, granular web filter for WiFi networks. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi requires no hardware purchases or software downloads, and being 100% cloud-based, can be managed and monitored from any location.

EITest Web-Based Malware Distribution Network Disrupted

A web-based malware distribution network that was redirecting around 2 million website visitors a day to compromised websites hosting exploit kits has been disrupted, crippling the malware distribution operation. The web-based malware distribution network – known as EITest – was using compromised websites to redirect web visitors to sites where exploits were used to download malware and ransomware, as well as redirect users to phishing websites and tech support scams that convinced visitors to pay for fake software to remove non-existent malware infections.

Due to the scale of the operation, removing the redirects from compromised websites is a gargantuan task. Efforts to clean up those sites are continuing, with national CERTs notified to provide assistance. However, the web-based malware distribution network has been sinkholed and traffic is now being redirected to a safe domain. Proofpoint researchers were able to seize a key domain that was generating C&C domains, blocking the redirects and re-routing them to four new EITest domains that point to an abuse.ch sinkhole.

The sinkhole has only been in operation for a month – being activated on March 15 – yet already it has helped to protect tens – if not hundreds of millions – of website visitors. In the first three weeks alone, an astonishing 44 million visitors had been redirected to the sinkhole from around 52,000 compromised websites and servers.

The majority of the compromised websites were running WordPress. Malicious code had been injected by taking advantage of flaws in the CMS and plugins installed on the sites. Vulnerabilities in Joomla, Drupal, and PrestaShop had also been exploited to install the malicious code.

The web-based malware distribution network has been in operation since at least 2011, although activity increased significantly in 2014. While previous efforts had been made to disrupt the malware distribution network, most failed and others were only temporarily successful.

The malicious code injected into the servers and websites primarily redirected website visitors to an exploit kit called Glazunov, and to a lesser extent, the Angler exploit kit.  Those exploit kits probed for multiple vulnerabilities in software to download ransomware and malware.

The threat actors behind EITest are believed to have responded and have attempted to gain control of the sinkhole, but for the time being those efforts have been thwarted.

How to Improve Security and Block Web-Based Malware Attacks

While it is certainly good news that such a major operation has been disrupted, the scale of the operation highlights the extent of the threat of web-based attacks. Spam email may have become the main method for distributing malware and ransomware, but organizations should not ignore the threat from web-based attacks.

These attacks can occur when employees are simply browsing the web and visiting perfectly legitimate websites. Unfortunately, lax security by website owners can easily see their website compromised. The failure to update WordPress or other content management systems and plugins along with poor password practices makes attacks on the sites a quick and easy process.

One of the best cybersecurity solutions to implement to reduce the risk of web-based attacks is a web filter. Without a web filter in place, employees will be permitted to visit any website, including sites known to host malware or be used for malicious purposes.

With a web filter in place, redirects to malicious websites can be blocked, downloads of risky files prevented, and web-based phishing attacks thwarted.

TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based web filtering solutions for SMBs and enterprises. WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allow SMBs and enterprises to carefully control the website content that can be accessed by their employees, guest network users, and WiFi users. The solution features powerful antivirus protections, uses blacklists of known malicious websites, and incorporates SSL/HTTPS inspection to provide protection against malicious encrypted traffic.

The solution also allows SMBs and enterprises to enforce their acceptable internet usage policies and schools to enforce Safe Search and YouTube for Schools.

For further information on how WebTitan can protect your employees and students and prevent malware infections on your network, contact TitanHQ today.

Beware of this PayPal Text Phishing Scam

Phishing is commonly associated with spam emails, but it is not the only method of phishing as the PayPal text phishing scam below shows. Phishers use various methods to obtain sensitive information. Phishing threats could arrive by email, text message, instant messenger services, over the phone or even in the mail.

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

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

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

Beware of this Credible PayPal Text Phishing Scam

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

The message reads:

Dear Customer,

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

Another message reads:

Dear Customer,

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Become a Victim of an SMS Phishing Scam

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

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

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

PayPal Email Phishing Scams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HTTPS Does Not Mean a Website is Genuine

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

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

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

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

Anti-Phishing Best Practices to Adopt

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

Common Web Filtering Myths Busted

If you have yet to implement a web filtering solution to control the content that your employees can access at work, you are taking an unnecessary risk that could result in a costly malware infection, ransomware being installed on your network, or a lawsuit that could have been prevented by implementing basic web filtering controls. Many SMBs have considered implementing a web filter yet have not chosen a solution due to the cost, the belief that a web filter will cause more problems than it solves, or simply because they do not think it offers enough benefits. In this post we explain some of the common misconceptions about web filtering and attempt to debunk some common web filtering myths.

Common Web Filtering Myths

Antivirus Solutions Provide Adequate Protection from Web-Based Malware Attacks

Antivirus software is a must, although products that use signature-based detection methods are not as reliable as they once were. While antivirus companies are still quick to identity new malware variants, the speed at which new variants are being released makes it much harder to keep up. Further, not all malware is written to the hard drive. Fileless malware remains in the memory and cannot easily be detected by AV software. Antivirus software is still important, but you now need a host of other solutions to mount a reasonable defense against attacks. Layered defenses are now a must.

Along with AV software you should have anti spam software in place to block email-based threats such as phishing. You need to train your workforce to recognize web and email threats through security awareness training. Firewalls need to be set with sensible rules, software must be kept updated and patches must be applied promptly, regular data backups are a must to ensure recovery is possible in the event of a ransomware attack, and a web filtering solution should be installed.

A web filter allows you to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees. By using blacklists, websites known to host malware can be simply blocked, redirects via malvertising can be prevented, and controls can be implemented to prevent potentially malicious files from being downloaded. You can also prevent your employees from visiting categories of sites – or specific websites – that carry a higher than average risk.

There are other benefits to web filtering that can help you avoid unnecessary costs. By allowing employees to access any content, organizations leave themselves open to lawsuits. Businesses can be held liable for activities that take place on their networks such as accessing illegal content and downloading/sharing copyright-protected material.

Web Filtering is Prohibitively Expensive

Many businesses are put off implementing a web filtering solution due to the perceived cost of filtering the Internet. If you opt for an appliance-based web filter, you need to make sure you have an appliance with sufficient capacity and powerful appliances are not cheap. However, there is a low-cost alternative that does not require such a major cash commitment.

DNS filtering requires no hardware purchases so there is no major capital expenditure. You simply pay for the licenses you need and you are good to go. You may be surprised to find out just how low the price per user actually is.

Web Filtering is Too Complicated to Implement

Some forms of web filters are complex, and hardware-based filters will take some time to install and configure, which will take IT staff away from important duties. However, DNS based filters could not be any easier to implement. Implementing the solution is a quick process – one that will take just a couple of minutes.  You just need to point your DNS to your web filtering service provider.

Even configuring the filter is straightforward. With WebTitan you are given a web-based portal that you can use to configure the settings and apply the desired controls. In its simplest form, you can simply use a checkbox option to select the categories of websites that you want to block.

Since WebTitan includes a database of malicious websites, any request to visit one of those websites will be denied. You can also easily upload third party blacklists, and for total control, use a whitelist to only allow access to specific websites.

Employees Will Just Bypass Web Filtering Controls

No web filtering solution is infallible, although it is possible to implement some basic controls that will prevent all but the most determined and skilled workers from accessing prohibited websites. Simple firewall rules can be easily set and you can block DNS requests to anything other than your approved DNS service. You can also set up WebTitan to block the use of anonymizers.

IT Support Will be Bombarded with Support Calls from Employees Trying to Access Blocked Websites

If you decide to opt for whitelisting acceptable websites, you are likely to be bombarded with support calls when users discover they are unable to access sites necessary for work. Similarly, if you choose to heavily filter the Internet and block most categories of website, then your helpdesk could well be swamped with calls.

However, for most companies, filtering the internet is simply a way of enforcing acceptable usage policies, which your employees should already be aware of. You are unlikely to get calls from employees who want access to porn at work, or calls from employees who want to continue gambling and gaming on the clock. Restrict productivity draining sites, illegal web content, phishing websites, and sites that are not suitable in the workplace, and explain to staff your polices in advance, and your support calls should be kept to a minimum.

Find Out More About DNS Filtering

If you have yet to implement DNS filtering in your organization, it is possible to discover the benefits of Internet filtering before committing to a purchase. TitanHQ offers a free trial of WebTitan Cloud (and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi) so you can try before committing to a purchase.

If you would like further information on getting started with web filtering, have technical questions about implementation, would like details of pricing or would like a demo or a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Google Chrome Ad Blocker Launched

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

What Will the Google Chrome Ad Blocker Block?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Businesses Should Consider Using a Web Filter

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

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

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

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

Are Password Managers Safe?

Passwords should be complex and difficult to guess, but that makes them difficult to remember, so what about using password managers to get around that problem? Are password managers safe and secure? Are they better than attempting to remember passwords for every one of your accounts?

First of all, it is worth considering that most people have a great deal of passwords to remember – email accounts (work and personal), social media accounts, bank accounts, retail sites, and just about every other online service. If you rarely venture online and do not make online purchases, that means you will need to learn a handful of passwords (and change them regularly!).

Most people will have many passwords. Far too many to remember. That means people tend to choose easy to remember – and easy to guess – passwords and tend to reuse passwords on multiple sites.

These poor security practices are a recipe for disaster. In the case of password reuse, if one password is guessed, multiple accounts can be compromised. So, are password managers safe? If that is the alternative, then most definitely.

With a password manager you can generate a strong and impossible to remember password for every online account. That makes each of those accounts more secure. Emmanuel Schalit, CEO of Dashline, a popular password manager, said, “Sometimes, it’s better to put all your eggs in the same basket if that basket is more secure than the one you would be able to build on your own.”

That does mean that if the server used by the password manager company is hacked, you do stand to lose all of your passwords. Bear in mind that no server can ever be 100% secure. There have been hacks of password manager servers and vulnerabilities have been discovered (see below). Password managers are not risk-free. Fortunately, password managers encrypt passwords, so even if a server is compromised, it would be unlikely that all of your passwords would be revealed.

That said, you will need to set a master password to access your password manager. Since you are essentially replacing all of your unique passwords with a single password, if the master password is guessed, then your account can be accessed and with it, all of your passwords. To keep password managers safe and secure, it is important to use a strong and complex password for your account – preferably a passphrase of upwards of 12 characters and you should change that password every three months.

If you use a cloud-based password manager, it is possible that when that service goes down, you will not be able to access your own account. Fortunately, downtime is rare, and it would still be possible to reset your passwords. You could also consider keeping a local copy of your passwords and encrypting that file. In a worst-case scenario, such as the password manager company going bust, you would always have a copy. Some services will also allow you to sync your encrypted backups with the service to ensure local copies are kept up to date.

Flaws Discovered in Password Managers

Tavis Ormandy, a renowned researcher from the Google Project Zero team, recently discovered a flaw in Keeper Password Manager that could potentially be exploited to gain access to a user’s entire vault of stored passwords. The Keeper Password Manager flaw could not be exploited remotely without any user interaction. However, if the user was lured onto a specially crafted website while logged into their password manager, the attacker could inject malicious code to execute privileged code in the browser extension and gain access to the account. Fortunately, when Keeper was alerted to the flaw, it was rapidly addressed before the flaw could be exploited.

Last year Ormandy also discovered a flaw in LastPass, one of the most popular password managers. Similarly, that flaw could be exploited by luring the user to a specially crafted webpage via a phishing email. Similarly, that flaw was rapidly addressed. The LastPass server was also hacked the year before, with the attackers gaining access to some users’ information. LastPass reports that while it was hacked, users’ passwords were not revealed.

These flaws do go to show that while password managers are safe, vulnerabilities may exist, and even a password manager can potentially be hacked.

Are Password Managers Safe to Use?

So, are password managers safe? They can be, but as with any other software, vulnerabilities may exist that can leave your passwords exposed. It is therefore essential to ensure that password manager extensions/software are kept up to date, as is the case with all other software and operating systems.

Security is only as good as the weakest link, so while your password manager is safe, you will need to use a complex master password to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing your password manager account. If that password is weak and easily guessable, it will be vulnerable to a brute force attack.

In addition to a complex master password, you should take some additional precautions. It would be wise not to use your password manager to save the password to your bank account. You should use two-factor authentication so if a new device attempts to connect to any of your online accounts, you will receive an alert on your trusted device or via email.

As an additional protection, businesses that allow the use of password managers should consider implementing a web filtering solution that prevents users from visiting known malicious websites where vulnerabilities could be exploited. By restricting access to certain categories of website, or whitelists of allowable sites, the risk of web-based attacks can be reduced to a low and acceptable level.

Password managers should also be used with other security solutions that provide visibility into who is accessing resources. Identity and access management solutions will help IT managers determine when accounts have been breached, and will raise flags when anomalous activity is detected.

HTTPS Phishing Websites Soar as Cybercriminals Embrace SSL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terdot Trojan Steals Banking Credentials and Hijacks Social Media Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TitanHQ Provides Insights into Great Innovations in Enterprise WiFi Security at WiFi Now Europe 2017

TitanHQ Provides Insights into Great Innovations in Enterprise WiFi Security at WiFi Now Europe 2017

TitanHQ Sales Director Conor Madden will be talking enterprise Wi-Fi security at this year’s Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017, explaining some of the key innovations in Wi-Fi security to keep enterprise Wi-Fi networks secure.

This will be the fourth time in two years that Conor has provided his insights into Wi-Fi security developments at Wi-Fi Now conferences. Conor will be giving his presentation – Four Great Innovations in Enterprise Wi-Fi – Part One – on the first day of the conference between 12:00 and 12:30.

Conor will explain how DNS-based Wi-Fi security adds an essential layer of security to keep enterprise Wi-Fi networks secure, and will offer insights into how enterprises can easily create customized Wi-Fi services. In addition to Conor’s headline speech, the TitanHQ team will be in attendance and will be demonstrating WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi at Stand 23 over the three days of the event. The team will also demonstrate some of the big-ticket deployments from the past 18 months. The team will also explain some of the new refinements and updates that have made WebTitan even more useful and user friendly, including the new API capability that is proving so popular with product managers and engineers.

Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 – The Premier Conference for the Wi-Fi Industry

The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 event brings together leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and experts from all areas of the Wi-Fi industry. This year there will be more than 50 speakers including analysts, thought leaders, technology leaders, carriers and service providers. More than 40 companies from all areas of the Wi-Fi industry will be demonstrating their products and services to attendees.

The conferences are a highlight in the calendar for anyone involved in the Wi-Fi industry and provide attendees with an incredible networking opportunity and the chance to learn about the latest advances in Wi-Fi, exciting new products and new services on offer.

The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 Conference will be taking place between October 31st and November 2nd at the NH Den Haag Hotel atop The Hague’s World Trade Center Building.

Gold passes give attendees complete access to all events at the 3-day conference, with day passes also available. Advance registration is required for all attendees.

TitanHQ On the Road

It has been a busy few weeks for TitanHQ. The team has been traveling across Europe and the United States, showcasing its web filtering, spam filtering and email archiving solutions.

The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 comes hot on the heels of the DattoCon17 conference in London, where the team met with more than 400 MSPs and the ASCII Summit in Washington D.C., where TitanHQ explained how Managed Service Providers can grow their business and easily increase monthly recurring revenues.  Earlier this month, TitanHQ attended the Kaseya Connect Europe IT Management Event and explained about the new integration of WebTitan with Kaseya.

The road trip continues into November in the United States, with TitanHQ attending both the upcoming HTG Meeting in Orlando, FL (Oct 30-Nov 3) and the IT Nation, ConnectWise Conference at the Hyatt Regency, Orlando, between November 8-10, 2017.

Look Beyond HIPAA Compliance to Prevent Healthcare Data Breaches

Last month saw a significant rise in healthcare data breaches, clearly demonstrating that healthcare providers, health plans, and business associates are struggling to prevent healthcare data breaches.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule was introduced to ensure that healthcare organizations implement a range of safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of healthcare data. It has now been more than decade since the Security Rule was introduced, and data breaches still occurring with alarming frequency. In fact, more data breaches are occurring than ever before.

September Data Breaches in Numbers

The Protenus Breach Barometer Report for September, which tracks all reported healthcare data breaches, showed there were 46 breaches of protected health information (PHI) in September, with those breaches resulting in the exposure of 499,144 individuals’ PHI. Hacking and IT incidents were cited as the cause of 50% of those breaches, with insiders causing 32.6% of incidents. Loss and theft of devices was behind almost 11% of the month’s breaches. Previous monthly reports in 2017 have shown that insiders are often the biggest cause of healthcare data breaches.

HIPAA Compliance Will Not Prevent Healthcare Data Breaches

HIPAA compliance can go some way toward making healthcare organizations more resilient to cyberattacks, malware and ransomware infections, but simply complying with the HIPAA Security Rule does not necessarily mean organizations will be impervious to attack.

HIPAA compliance is about raising the bar for cybersecurity and ensuring a minimum standard is maintained. While many healthcare organizations see HIPAA compliance as a goal to achieve a good security posture, the reality is that it is only a baseline. To prevent data breaches, healthcare organizations must go above and beyond the requirements of HIPAA.

Detect Insider Breaches Promptly

Preventing insider data breaches can be difficult for healthcare organizations. Healthcare employees must be given access to patient records in order to provide medical care, and there will always be the occasional bad apple that snoops on the records of patients who they are not treating, and individuals who steal data to sell to identity thieves.

HIPAA Requires healthcare organizations to maintain access logs and check those logs regularly for any sign of unauthorized access. The term ‘regularly’ is open to interpretation. A check every six months or once a year could be viewed as regular and compliant with HIPAA regulations. However, during those 6 or 12 months, the records of thousands of patients could be accessed. Healthcare organizations should go above and beyond HIPAA requirements and should ideally implement a system that constantly monitors for unauthorized access or at least conduct access log reviews every quarter as a minimum. This will not prevent healthcare data breaches, but it will reduce their severity.

Close the Door to Hackers

50% of breaches in September were due to hacking and IT incidents. Hackers are opportunistic, and while targeted attacks on large healthcare organizations do occur, most of the time hackers take advantage of long-standing vulnerabilities that have not been addressed. In order to correct those vulnerabilities, they must first be identified, hence the need for regular risk analyses as required by the HIPAA Security Rule. An organization-wide risk analysis should take place at least every year to remain HIPAA compliant, but more frequently to ensure vulnerabilities have not crept in.

Additionally, a check should be performed at least every month to make sure all software is up to date and all patches have been applied. There have been numerous examples recently of cloud storage instances being left unprotected and accessible by the public. There are free tools that can be used to check for exposed AWS buckets for example. Scans should be regularly conducted. Cybercriminals will be doing the same.

Prevent Impermissible Disclosures of PHI

One of the leading causes of PHI disclosures occurs when laptop computers, zip drives, and other portable devices are lost or stolen. While employees can be trained to take care of their devices, thieves will seize any opportunity if devices are left unprotected. HIPAA does not demand the use of encryption, and alternative measures can be used to secure devices, but HIPAA covered entities and their business associates should use encryption on portable devices to ensure that in the event of loss or theft, data cannot be accessed. If an encrypted device is stolen or lost, it is not a HIPAA breach. Using encryption on portable devices is a good way to prevent healthcare data breaches.

Small portable storage devices such as pen drives are convenient, but they should never be used for transporting PHI – They are far too easy to lose or misplace. Use HIPAA-compliant cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive as they are more secure.

Block Malware and Ransomware Attacks

Malware and ransomware attacks are reportable breaches under HIPAA, and can result in major data breaches. Email is the primary vector for delivering malware, so it is essential for an effective spam filtering solution to be implemented. HIPAA requires training to be provided to employees regularly, but a once-a-year training session is no longer sufficient. Training sessions should take place at least every 6 months, with regular security alerts on the latest phishing threats communicated to employees as and when necessary. Ideally, training should be an ongoing process, involving phishing simulation exercises.

Malware and ransomware can also be downloaded in drive-by attacks when browsing the Internet. A web filtering solution should be used to prevent healthcare employees from visiting malicious sites, to block phishing websites, and prevent drive-by malware downloads. A web filter is not a requirement of HIPAA, but it is an important extra layer of security that can prevent healthcare data breaches.

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.