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.

SharkBot: A Dangerous New Android Banking Trojan Targeting European and US Banks

A new Android banking Trojan named SharkBot has been identified that has capabilities that go beyond most mobile banking Trojans.

This new Android malware stands out due to its use of an Automatic Transfer System (ATS) technique that allows it to bypass multi-factor authentication controls and automate the process of stealing funds from victims’ accounts. In order to steal funds from accounts, most Trojans require human input. SharkBot keeps human interaction to a minimum by auto-filling fields, such as those that need to be completed to make money transfers.

SharkBot can intercept SMS messages, such as those containing multi-factor authentication codes sent by financial institutions, and can hide those SMS messages to make it appear that they have not been received. SharkBot can also perform overlay attacks, where a benign pop-up is displayed over an application to trick a user into performing tasks, such as giving permissions. SharkBot is also a keylogger and can record and exfiltrate sensitive information such as credentials to the attacker’s command and control server and bypasses the Android doze component to ensure it stays connected to its C2 servers.

The malware has been configured to steal money from bank accounts and cryptocurrency services in the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy, and targets 27 financial institutions – 22 banks and 5 cryptocurrency apps.

During installation, the user is bombarded with popups to give the malicious app the permissions it needs, with those popups only stopping appearing if the user provides the required permissions, which include enabling Accessibility Services. When the malicious app is installed, the app’s icon is not displayed on the home screen. Users are prevented from uninstalling the malware via settings by abusing Accessibility Services.

The ATS technique used by the malware allows it to redirect payments. When a user attempts to make a bank transfer, information is auto-filled to direct payments to an attacker-controlled account, unbeknown to the victim.

The malware was analyzed by researchers at Cleafy, who found no similarities with any other malware variants. Since the malware has been written from scratch, it currently has a low detection rate. The researchers believe the malware is still in the early stages of development, and new capabilities could well be added to make it an even bigger threat.

One of the main problems for developers of malware targeting Android devices is how to get the malware installed on a device. Google performs checks of all apps available before adding them to the Google Play Store, so getting a malicious app on the Play Store is difficult. Even if that is achieved, Google is quick to identify and remove malicious apps.

SharkBot has been identified masquerading as a variety of apps such as an HD media player, data recovery app, and live TV streaming app, which is delivered via sideloading on rooted devices and by using social engineering techniques on compromised or attacker-owned websites to convince victims to download the fake app.

SharkBot uses a wide range of techniques to prevent detection and analysis, including obfuscation to hide malicious commands, an anti-emulator to check if it has been installed on a real device, by downloading malicious modules once it has been installed, and by encrypting all communications between the malware and the C2 servers.

Users of mobile phones tend not to be as cautious as they are with laptops and computers, but the same cybersecurity best practices should be followed. It is important to avoid clicking hyperlinks in emails and to only download apps from official app stores. The malware also serves as a reminder that while multi-factor authentication is an effective security measure, it is not infallible.

Magnitude Exploit Kit Updated to Target Vulnerabilities in Chromium-Based Web Browsers

Exploit kits first emerged in 2006 and have since been used as an automated method of malware delivery. Exploit kits are programs that are loaded onto websites that contain exploits for known vulnerabilities. When a visitor lands on a web page that hosts an exploit kit, it performs a scan to determine if certain software vulnerabilities have not been patched. If an unpatched vulnerability is identified, the exploit kit will choose an exploit and will deliver a malware payload with no user interaction required.

Exploit kits became hugely popular with threat actors between 2010 and 2017, and while their use has declined to a fraction of the level seen in 2016 and 2017, they do still pose a threat. There are several exploit kits still being used that are regularly updated with new exploits for known vulnerabilities, and over the past couple of years they have mostly been used to deliver malware loaders that deliver ransomware.

The Fallout exploit kit for example has been used to deliver Maze Locker ransomware, and the Magnitude EK, which was first identified in 2013, is also being used to deliver ransomware, mostly in the Asia Pacific region.

Exploit kits are loaded on legitimate websites that have been compromised, as well as attacker-owned websites, with traffic to the latter often delivered through malicious adverts (malvertising). It is therefore easy to land on a site hosting an exploit kit through general web browsing.

The Magnitude EK is now one of the most extensively used exploit kits which, until recently, was only being used to target Internet Explorer; however, the exploit kit has now been updated and is being used to target Chromium-based web browsers on Windows PCs.

Avast reports that two new exploits have recently been added to the Magnitude EK, one of which targets a vulnerability in Google Chrome – CVE-2021-21224 – and the other targets the Windows kernel memory corruption vulnerability tracked as CVE-2021-31956. The Google Chrome bug is a remote code execution vulnerability, and the Windows bug can be exploited to bypass the Chrome sandbox, allowing an attacker to gain system privileges.

Patches have been released by Google and Microsoft to address both of these flaws; however, the reason why exploit kits are still an effective method of malware distribution is many people delay or ignore software updates. While the Magnitude EK is not believed to be currently exploiting the vulnerabilities to deliver a malware payload, it is unlikely that will remain the case for long.

The best defense against exploit kits is to ensure that software updates and patches are applied promptly, although that is not always possible for businesses and sometimes some devices are missed and remain vulnerable. An additional measure that can protect against exploit kits and other types of web-based malware distribution is a web filter.

Web filters are the Internet equivalent of spam filters. Just as a spam filter prevents the delivery of emails containing malware to inboxes, web filters prevent malware delivery via malicious websites and are a key component of anti-phishing defenses, preventing end-users from visiting websites hosting phishing kits.

TitanHQ has developed WebTitan to protect businesses from web-based threats and carefully control the content that can be accessed by office-based and remote workers. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filter that is quick and easy to implement, which has no impact on page load speeds. WebTitan is used by more than 12,000 businesses and managed service providers for content filtering, blocking malware delivery via the internet, and as an additional security measure to block phishing attacks.

If you want to improve protection against malware, malicious sites, phishing sites, C2 callbacks, ransomware, botnets, spyware, and viruses, give the TitanHQ team a call or put the solution to the test in your own environment by taking advantage of a 100% free 30-day trial of the full solution.

How to Identify a Malicious Website

If you want to keep your computers and networks protected from malware, it is important to train your staff on how to identify a malicious website. You should also install a powerful web filtering solution to ensure your employees’ malicious website identification skills are never put to the test.

Cybercriminals are developing ingenious ways of compromising networks

Scammers and cybercriminals used to mainly send out emails with infected attachments. Double-clicking on the attachment would result in the computer, and possibly the network, being infected with malware. Oftentimes, this action would go undetected by anti-virus software programs. A full system scan would need to be conducted before the malicious software was identified.

Computer users are now much wiser and know never to open file attachments that have been sent to them by unknown individuals, and certainly never to double click on an executable file. Hackers and other cybercriminals have therefore needed to get smarter, and are now developing ever more sophisticated ways of obtaining user credentials and getting people to install malware manually. One of the ways they are doing this is by developing malicious websites.

End users are contacted via email and are sent links to websites along with a valid reason for visiting the site. Links to malicious websites are also frequently sent out in social media posts or are placed in third-party website adverts. Some sites are hijacked and visitors are redirected to fake sites automatically.

What is a malicious website?

Malicious websites host malware or are used to phish for sensitive information. In the case of the latter, users are tricked into revealing sensitive data such as login credentials for online banking websites.

Malware may require some user interaction before it is installed. Visitors may be tricked into downloading a security program, for instance, by being informed their computer is already infected with malware. They may be offered a free screensaver or asked to download a fake PDF invoice.

Increasingly, malicious websites are used to host exploit kits. Exploit kits probe visitors’ browsers to identify security vulnerabilities that can be exploited without any user interaction required. If a vulnerability is detected, malware can be installed automatically on the computer or network. This method of cyberattack is called a drive-by download. Drive-by downloads can involve malware being installed onto the computer’s hard drive, a network drive, or even loaded into the computer’s memory.

Learning how to identify a malicious website is important if you want to prevent your computer from being infected, and it is essential for system administrators and other IT professionals to conduct staff training to help end users avoid these dangerous sites.

How to identify a malicious website

There are some easy ways to tell if a website is attempting to install malware:

  • The website asks you to download software, save a file, or run a program
  • Visiting the website automatically launches a download window
  • You are asked to download an invoice or receipt, such as a PDF file, .zip or .rar, or an executable file or .scr screensaver file

A malicious website may also tell you:

  • Your computer is already infected with malware
  • Your plug-ins or browser are out of date
  • You have won a competition or free prize draw. You may also be offered free money or vouchers that require you to enter your credit card or banking information

If you are asked to download any files or update your software, conduct a check of the site via Google and try to determine whether the site is genuine. If in doubt, do not download any files.

If you are told your browser is out of date, visit the official browser website and check your version number. Only ever download updates from official websites.

If you have accidentally visited a drive-by download site, by the time that you have connected it may be too late to prevent malware from being downloaded. To protect against drive-by downloads you must ensure that your browser, add-ons, and plugins are 100% up to date. You should also use a software solution to block access to drive-by download sites.

How to block end users from visiting a malicious website

Even legitimate websites can be hacked and used to host malicious code. They may use advertising networks that are used by cybercriminals to direct visitors to malware-hosting websites. The best defense is to block these adverts and malicious websites.

Blocking access to malicious websites is a simple process. All it requires is a powerful web filtering solution to be installed. WebTitan web filtering solutions for the enterprise will help you keep your network secure by preventing users from visiting sites known to host malware.

WebTitan incorporates a range of measures to detect malicious web content to prevent employees from visiting dangerous websites. WebTitan can also be configured to block access to questionable or illegal content to enforce an organization’s acceptable Internet usage policy.

If employees are trained on malicious website identification and web filtering software is installed, your network will be much better protected from malware infections and other web-based threats.

FAQs on Guest Wi-Fi Network Security and Blocking Malicious Websites

Should I enable guest Wi-Fi?

By enabling guest Wi-Fi, you are creating a separate network for guest users to access the Internet. This is much more secure than allowing a guest user to connect to your main business network. Be aware that your guest Wi-Fi network is still connected to your business so you should control the activities that can be performed while connected.

Are guest Wi-Fi networks secure?

A guest Wi-Fi network keeps guest users away from your servers and company data. While connected to the guest network, individuals will be prevented from accessing your internal resources even if they are able to locate them. If you do not have a separate guest network, you will be at risk of hacking and data theft.

How can I make my guest Wi-Fi network secure?

You can make your guest Wi-Fi network more secure by changing the name of the network (SSID) to something less obviously tied to your business, setting a strong password, and configuring the network to prevent access to local network resources. You should also implement a web filter to prevent users from accessing malicious web content.

Is web filtering complicated?

Setting up content filtering on a wired or wireless network is easy with a cloud-based web filter. Simply change your DNS settings to point to the service provider and you can be blocking threats and restricting access to web content in minutes. You will get a web-based interface to log in and can simply click on the categories of content you want to block.

How much does a web filtering solution cost?

There are many different providers of Wi-Fi filtering solutions and the cost can vary considerably. You could end up paying upwards of $2.50 per user per month; however, solutions such as WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi will give you the protection you need at a very reasonable cost, which can be as little as $1 per user, per month. To find out the cost, use our cost calculator.

Wi-Fi Security Threats You Should be Aware of

Many employees access their work emails and work networks via public Wi-Fi hotspots, even though there is a risk that sensitive information such as login credentials could be intercepted by hackers. Many employees are unaware of the Wi-Fi security threats that lurk in their favorite coffee shop and fail to take precautions. Even employees who are aware of Wi-Fi security threats often ignore the risks.

This was highlighted by a 2017 survey by Symantec. 55% of survey participants said they would not hesitate to connect to a free Wi-Fi hotspot if the signal was good and 46% said they would rather connect to a free, open wireless network than wait to get a password for a secure access point.

60% of survey participants believed public Wi-Fi networks are safe and secure but even though 40% are aware of the Wi-Fi security threats, 87% said that they would access financial information such as their online banking portal or view their emails on public Wi-Fi networks.

The majority of users of public Wi-Fi networks who were aware of the Wi-Fi security threats said they ignored the risks. Millennials were the most likely age group to ignore Wi-Fi security threats: 95% of this age group said they had shared sensitive information over open Wi-Fi connections.

Consumers may be willing to take risks on public Wi-Fi networks, but what about employees? According to a 2018 Spiceworks survey, conducted on 500 IT professionals in the United States, employees are also taking risks.

61% of respondents to the survey said their employees connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, hotels, and airports to work remotely. Only 64% of respondents said their employees were aware of the security threats on Wi-Fi. A similar percentage said their employees were aware of the risks and connect to their work networks using a VPN, which means that 4 out of 10 workers were unaware of the importance of establishing a secure connection.

Even though 64% of respondents were confident that employees were aware of the risks, only half were confident that data stored on mobile devices was adequately protected against threats from public Wi-Fi hotspots. 12% of respondents said they have had to deal with a public Wi-Fi-related security incident, although a further 34% were not sure if there had been a security breach as many incidents are never reported.

WiFi Security Threats Everyone Should be Aware of

All employers should now be providing security awareness training to their employees to make the workforce more security-aware. Employees should be trained how to identify phishing attempts, warned of the risk from malware and ransomware, and taught about the risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks.

Five threats associated with open public Wi-Fi hotspots are detailed below:

Evil Twins – Rogue Wi-Fi Hotspots

One of the most common ways of obtaining sensitive information is for a cybercriminal to set up an evil twin hotspot. This is a fake Wi-Fi access point that masquerades as the legitimate access point, such as one offered by a coffee shop or hotel. An SSID could be set up such as “Starbuck Guest Wi-Fi” or even just state the name of the establishment. Any information disclosed while connected to that hotspot can be intercepted.

Packet Sniffers

Using a packet sniffer, a hacker can identify, intercept, and monitor web traffic over unsecured Wi-Fi networks and capture personal information such as login credentials to bank accounts and corporate email accounts. If credentials are obtained, a hacker can gain full control of an account.

File-Sharing

Many people have file-sharing enabled on their devices. This feature is useful at home and in the workplace, but it can easily be abused by hackers. It gives them an easy way to connect to a device that is connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. A hacker can abuse this feature to drop malware on a device when it connects to a hotspot.

Shoulder Surfing

Not all threats are hi-tec. One of the simplest methods of obtaining sensitive information is to observe someone’s online activities by looking over their shoulder. Information such as passwords may be masked so the information is not visible on a screen, but cybercriminals can look at keyboards and work out the passwords when they are typed.

Malware and Ransomware

When connecting to a home or work network, some form of anti-malware control is likely to have been installed, but those protections are often lacking on public Wi-Fi hotspots. Without the protection of AV software and a web filter, malware can be silently downloaded.

Employers can reduce risk by providing comprehensive training to employees to make sure they are aware of the risks from public Wi-Fi hotspots and make sure that employees are aware they should only connect to public Wi-Fi networks if they use a VPN. Employers can further protect workers with WebTitan Cloud – An enterprise-class web filter that protects workers from online threats, regardless of where they connect.

Hotspot providers can protect their customers by securing their Wi-Fi hotspots with WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi is a powerful web filter that protects all users of a hotspot from malware and phishing attacks, and can also be used to control the types of sites that can be accessed. If you offer Wi-Fi access, yet are not securing your hotspot, your customers could be at risk.

Contact TitanHQ today to find out how you can protect your customers from online threats, control the content that can be accessed via your Wi-Fi network, and discover how quick and easy it is to create a family-friendly Wi-Fi environment.

Why is Internet and WiFi Filtering in Hospitals Important?

Hospitals often invest heavily in solutions to secure the network perimeter, although the importance of Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals is often misunderstood. Network and software firewalls are essential, but alone they will not provide protection against all attacks. As healthcare IT security staff know all too well, the actions of employees can see cybersecurity defenses bypassed.

A look at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Rights breach portal shows just how many cyberattacks on hospitals are now occurring. Cybercriminals are targeting healthcare organizations due to the value of protected health information (PHI) on the black market. PHI is worth ten times as much as credit card information, so it is no surprise that hospitals are in cybercriminals’ crosshairs. Even a small hospital can hold the PHI of more than 100,000 individuals. If access is gained to a hospital network, the potential rewards for a hacker are considerable.

There has also been a massive increase in ransomware attacks. Since hospitals need access to patients’ PHI, they are more likely to pay a ransom to regain access to their data than in other industry sectors. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 for the keys to unlock its files following a ransomware attack in February 2016. It was one of several hospitals to give in to attackers’ demands following ransomware attacks.

A Web Filter is an Important Extra Security Layer to Protect Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing is one of the main threats for healthcare organizations, so it is vital for the email system to be secured with an advanced spam filtering solution and for security awareness training to be provided to employees. However, layered defenses are required to reduce the threat of phishing to a reasonable and acceptable level.

A web filtering solution is an important additional control in the fight against phishing. If an employee clicks on a hyperlink in a phishing email that has made it past email security defenses, the phishing website can be blocked. Instead, the user will be directed to a block screen and a potential account compromise can be avoided. A web filter will also help to protect users from malicious redirects when browsing the internet.

The Hospital WiFi Environment is a Potential Gold Mine for Cybercriminals

Another common weak point is the WiFi network. IT security teams may have endpoint protection systems installed, but often not on mobile devices that connect to WiFi networks. The increasing number of wireless devices that are now in use in hospitals increases the incentive for cybercriminals to attempt to gain access to WiFi networks. Not only do physicians use mobile phones to connect to the networks and communicate PHI, but there are also laptops, tablets, and an increasing number of medical devices connected to WiFi networks. As the use of mobile and IoT devices in healthcare continues to grow, the risk of attacks on the WiFi environment will increase.

Patients also connect to hospital WiFi networks, as do visitors to hospitals. They too need to be protected from malware and ransomware when connected to hospital guest WiFi networks. One of the easiest ways to protect the devices that connect to WiFi networks is a web filtering solution. A web filter allows IT teams to carefully control the types of content that can be accessed on hospital WiFi networks, block malware downloads, and prevent all users from visiting malicious websites. Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals should be included in cybersecurity defenses to reduce the risk of malware downloads from the internet and is an important additional control against insider breaches.

Internet and WiFi filtering in Hospitals is Not Just About Blocking Cyberthreats

Malware, ransomware, hacking, and phishing prevention aside, there are other important reasons for implementing Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals.

Guest WiFi access in hospitals is provided to allow patients and visitors to access the Internet; however, there is only a certain amount of bandwidth available. If Internet access is to be provided, all patients and visitors should be able to gain access. Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals can be used to restrict access to Internet services that consume large amounts of bandwidth, especially at times when network usage is heavy. Time-based controls can be applied at busy times to block access to video streaming sites, for example, to ensure all users can enjoy reasonable Internet speeds.

It is also important to prevent patients, visitors, and healthcare professionals from accessing inappropriate website content.  Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals should include a block on adult content and other inappropriate or illegal material. Blocks can easily be placed on illegal file-sharing websites, gambling or gaming sites, or any other undesirable category of web content.

Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals ensures WiFi networks can be used safely and securely by all users, including minors. Blocking illegal, undesirable, and age-inappropriate content is not just about protecting patients and visitors. It also reduces legal liability.

Internet and WiFi Filtering in Hospitals Made Simple

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is an ideal solution for Internet and WiFi filtering in hospitals. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is cost-effective to implement, the solution requires no additional hardware or software installations, and there is no latency. Being DNS-based, setup is quick and simple. A change to the DNS settings is all that is required to start filtering the Internet.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is ideal for hospital systems. The solution is highly scalable and can be used to protect any number of users in any number of locations. Multiple sites can be protected from one easy-to-use web-based user interface. Separate filtering controls can be applied for different locations, user groups, or even individuals. Since the solution links in with Active Directory setting up controls for different users and departments is quick and simple. Separate content controls can easily be set for guests, visitors, and staff, including filtering controls by role.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi supports blacklists, whitelists, and allows precision content control via category or keyword, and blocks phishing websites and sites known to host exploit kits and malware. In short, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi gives you control over what users can do when connected to your WiFI network.

To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, details of pricing, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Why Secure Guest WiFi for Business is So Important

Regardless of whether you run a hotel, coffee shop, or retail outlet, Internet access is expected by customers, but make sure you secure guest WiFi for business visitors. Providing business visitors and customers with access to the Internet brings many benefits, but if you do not secure guest WiFi for business visitors you will be exposing yourself – and them – to considerable risk. If you offer secure guest WiFI access, all users will be protected from malware, ransomware, and phishing when connected to the network. That can be a good selling point for businesses. It also shows you care about your customers.

Why Is Providing Internet Access so Important?

In 2013, one study revealed that 80% of customers in retail outlets felt the provision of free WiFi access would influence their purchasing decisions. If retailers provide guest WiFi access, they are likely to encourage more potential customers into their stores and get more sales opportunities.

With more people purchasing online, businesses need to adapt. Customers want to be able to check online before making a purchase or signing up for a service, such as reading online reviews. Fail to offer Internet access and customers are more likely to leave and make a purchase at another time. Chances are that sales will be made elsewhere. Keep them in your store and allow them to access the internet and your chances of achieving a sale will be increased. Of course, if you are unable to compete with online retailers – Amazon for example – you could provide free WiFi but block access to that website.

Why is Secure Guest WiFi for Business So Important?

There are considerable benefits to be gained from offering customers free Internet access. It is what customers want, it provides businesses with an opportunity to communicate with customers, it allows businesses to collect contact details for future marketing programs, and by monitoring the use of the Internet in-store, businesses can gain valuable customer insights and find out more about the interests of their customers. Businesses should note however that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires consent to be obtained before any personal information is collected and used.

Giving customers and guests access to the Internet opens a business up to considerable risks. If those risks are not mitigated, guest WiFi access can prove incredibly costly. You may have trained your employees to be security-aware and have introduced policies covering allowable Internet usage, but guests, customers, and other visitors are likely to have different views about the content that can be accessed on your WiFi network.

Guests and customers could take advantage of a lack of restrictions to access inappropriate material such as pornography. Individuals could engage in morally or ethically questionable activities on a business network or even illegal activity such as copyright-infringing downloads. They may also accidentally install malware or ransomware or visit phishing websites.

Secure guest WiFi for business means protecting yourself and your customers and guest users. Secure guest WiFi for business visitors and it will ensure they are protected when connected to your network. You will be able to block man-in-the-middle attacks, malware downloads and protect against phishing attacks. By providing secure guest internet access, you will also be able to reduce legal liability.

5 Things to Consider About Secure Guest WiFi for Business Customers

If you are going to open up your network to guests, security cannot be an afterthought. Secure guest WiFi for business is a must. Before providing WiFi access, be sure to consider the points below:

Network Segmentation

Segmenting your network is important for two reasons. Secure guest WiFi for business means visitors should not be able to gain access to parts of the network used by your employees. Your business guest wireless network should be kept totally separate from the internal network used by your employees. Guest users should not be able to log on and see your network assets and confidential files and resources. Use a network firewall or create a separate VLAN for guest use and use a software firewall to protect servers and workstations from traffic from the guest network. Secondly, in the event of a malware or ransomware infection, if you segregate your network, it will greatly limit the harm caused.

Always Change Default Passwords and SSIDs

This is one of the most basic security practices, yet because of that, it is easy to forget. The Internet is littered with reports of data breaches that have occurred as a result of the failure to change default passwords. All network peripherals should have strong, unique passwords set.

It is also important to change your SSID for your WiFi network. The SSID should reflect the name of your business and it should be quite clear to your customers which is your network. Fail to do this and you make it too easy for malicious individuals to set up "evil twin" access points and lure guests onto those rogue access points and conduct man-in-the-middle attacks. You can post the SSID and password internally to make it easy for legitimate users to gain access to your network. Be sure to change your password regularly.

Keep Your Firmware Updated!

Firmware updates are issued for a reason. They correct vulnerabilities that could easily be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to your devices and network. If those vulnerabilities are exploited, configurations can be changed for a variety of nefarious purposes. You should have policies in place that require firmware updates to be installed promptly, with checks performed monthly to ensure that all devices have been updated and no firmware updates have been missed.

Encrypt Your Wireless Signals

You want to make it as easy as possible for your guest WiFi network to be accessed by your customers and visitors, but don’t make it too easy for hackers to spy on individuals connected to the network. Make sure you encrypt your wireless network with WPA2/WPA3 encryption.

If your router does not support WPA2 as a minimum it is time to upgrade your router’s firmware or, if that is not possible, you should buy a modern router that supports WPA3 encryption. If you fail to encrypt your WiFi, it is too easy for your bandwidth to be stolen and for data to be intercepted.

Secure Guest WiFi for Business Means Content Filtering

Secure guest WiFi for business means adding controls to limit the content that can be accessed on your WiFi network.

You should block access to adult content – which includes pornography, gambling sites, and dating sites, and also web content that is ethically or morally questionable or illegal.

A web filtering solution will also protect your customers from accidental malware and ransomware downloads and is an important anti-phishing control.

Consider using a cloud-based web filter as these require no additional hardware to be purchased. They can also be configured and maintained remotely and will not require software or firmware upgrades. In contrast to appliance-based web filters, cloud-based filters are more scalable and are more adaptable to the changing needs of your business.

Wireless Guest Network Best Practices

There are many benefits to be gained from setting up a wireless guest network but doing so introduces risks. If those risks are not managed, guest users could gain access to network resources and view or steal sensitive information. Malware may be accidentally or deliberately installed, and vulnerabilities could be introduced that could expose the network to hackers. Fortunately, following some simple wireless guest network best practices will help you with securing the WiFi network, mitigating risks, and making your wireless network as - or more - secure than your wired network.

  • Separate your wireless guest network from the business network – Set up a second SSID specifically for guests to use. It should not be possible for guest users to access your internal WiFi network.
  • Choose the SSID wisely – Choose a name that does not advertise the fact that the network belongs to your business if you want to make it harder for hackers to attack your WiFi network.
  • Set a secure password for guests to use – Make sure the default password is changed to ensure only authorized guests can access the network.
  • If possible, ensure each guest user can be identified on the network. Use a management solution that collects guest credentials as this will allow you to monitor guest behavior and gain valuable insights into how your customers are using the network. Be aware there are restrictions under GDPR and CCPA that require you to obtain consent to collect personal data and explain why the data is being collected.
  • Communicate your Internet usage policies to guests so they know what is allowed and prohibited while connected to your WiFi network
  • Use the most advanced encryption available – All modern routers and access points support WPA2 encryption. Make sure this is enabled – or WPA3 if it is supported. Avoid using WPS as it is vulnerable to brute force attempts to guess the password.
  • Disable admin access on wireless networks – if a hacker succeeds in gaining access to your WiFi network, this will limit the harm that can be caused.
  • Implement a web filtering solution – A web filter should be configured to prevent users from accessing inappropriate and malicious websites while connected to the WiFi network

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – Secure Guest WiFi for Business Users

TitanHQ has made it easy to secure guest WiFi for business users. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a 100% cloud-based web filter that allows businesses to carefully control the categories of web content that can be accessed by guest users.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allows businesses to block access to 53 different predefined categories of web content, including pornography, gambling, dating, news, and social media websites. Within those 53 categories are more than 500 million websites in 200 languages that have been assessed for content and categorized. A cloud-based lookup also ensures accurate and flexible filtering based on-page content.

Secure guest WiFi for business means effective malware, ransomware, and phishing protection. With WebTitan Cloud for WiFi deployed, access to compromised websites, phishing sites, and other malicious websites will be blocked.

Flexible policy creation means control over the filter can be delegated to different departments, and controls can be applied for different types of users. Cloud Keys can also be created to allow specific users to bypass policy rules.

A full suite of reports ensures detailed information is always available, with email notifications alerting administrators to attempted policy violations and a real-time browsing view is available.

If you want to take control of your WiFi network or are an MSP looking for an easy-to-use multi-tenant solution to allow you to provide a web filtering service to your clients, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a quick, easy to use, and low-cost way of providing secure guest WiFi for business users.

Contact TitanHQ today for further information on WiFI guest network security and to find out how WebTItan can protect your business. Our knowledgeable sales staff will be able to advise you on the best way to improve guest WiFi security and will help you choose the best deployment option. If you want to see WebTitan in action before you make a purchase decision, our sales staff will be happy to schedule a product demonstration and help set up a free trial of the solution.

Guest Wi-Fi Security FAQs

How can I improve guest Wi-Fi security?

You must ensure your guest Wi-Fi network is properly configured. You should set a password for access, ensure traffic is encrypted to prevent interception by selecting WPA2 or WPA3 on the router, ensure guest users cannot access and change the router settings, and you should use a content filtering solution to prevent malware downloads and restrict access to inappropriate website content.

What content can I block on guest Wi-Fi networks?

You have full control over the content that guests can access via your Wi-Fi network. With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, you can block content using 53 pre-defined categories and can create up to 10 categories of your own using your own keywords. Access to specific websites can be allowed or blocked using whitelists and blacklists. All known malicious websites will be automatically blocked.

Can I see what websites guest users are accessing?

A web filtering solution gives you full visibility into the web content that your employees and guest users are viewing, including providing real-time views of Internet access. This information can give you valuable insights into customer behavior which can guide your marketing efforts. You can also run reports to find out the URLs that users have attempted to visit but were blocked by the web filter.

Will a cloud-based web filter for guest Wi-Fi work on all devices?

There is no software to download onto devices and no restrictions on the devices that can connect to your secure Wi-Fi network. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi works with all operating systems and all devices and allows businesses to offer clean, filtered Internet access for customers on Wi-Fi access points. If required, different filtering controls can be set up for different user groups.

Is SSL inspection necessary?

If you have a web filter that does not have SSL inspection, traffic to and from HTTPS websites will be invisible to the filtering solution. That means files downloaded from HTTPS websites cannot be scanned by the AV engines of the web filter. Since many malicious websites have SSL certificates, a web filter with SSL inspection is essential.

How Can I Restrict Internet Access at Work?

There are many reasons why businesses want to restrict internet access at work. Allowing employees to have unrestricted access to the internet can result in a major drain on productivity. Unfettered internet access can also increase the risk of malware and ransomware downloads, while inappropriate internet access at work can lead to a range of legal issues. Due to the risks involved, it is unsurprising that many firms choose to use a technological solution to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies and block access to malicious websites. This post explores some of the key benefits that come from using a web filter to limit internet access in the workplace and some of the potential problems that can be caused by using content-control software.

The Problem of Personal Internet Use at Work

It is inevitable that employees will slack off from time to time, regardless of whether they have access to the internet but internet access makes slacking off much easier. Simply placing restrictions on the websites that can be accessed will not eradicate time-wasting, but it can allow businesses to make significant gains in productivity. Some employees spend a considerable percentage of the working day on personal internet use, playing online games, or accessing their social media accounts. If every employee in an organization was to spend an hour a day on personal internet use, the productivity losses would be considerable. A company with 100 employees would lose 100 hours a day – That’s a loss of 26,100 working hours a year – and many employees spend much longer each day on personal internet use.

There are other issues that can result from excessive personal internet use at work. When employees use streaming services, download files via P2P networks, or engage in other bandwidth-heavy activities, it will naturally have an impact on internet speeds across the entire organization. Using a web filter to restrict internet access at work and limiting access to certain bandwidth draining activities allows businesses to ensure sufficient bandwidth is available for all employees.

The Danger of Malware and Ransomware Downloads

If employees are accessing social media websites, downloading files, or are visiting questionable websites, the risk of malware or ransomware downloads increases significantly.

Exploit kits probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins, which are then exploited to silently download malware.  Traffic is usually directed to these websites through malicious adverts – termed malvertising – although high-traffic websites are constantly being compromised by hackers who add malicious content such as phishing webpages and malware.

Certain types of websites carry a high risk of resulting in malware infections. Allowing employees to access these sites, many of which are not suitable for work, could easily result in a malware or ransomware download.

The operators of legitimate pornographic websites usually take great care to ensure their sites are not compromised or infected with malware. They are, after all, legitimate businesses. However, pornographic content is often used as a lure to spread malware and there are many disreputable adult sites whose purpose is solely to infect visitors with malware or harvest credit card information. Blocking these NSFW sites not only helps to improve productivity and avoid legal issues, but it also reduces the risk of malware infections.

One of the riskiest online activities is the use of torrents sites and P2P file-sharing networks. There are few – if any – controls over the content that is shared via torrents sites and pirated music and video files are often seeded with malware, spyware, and adware. Illegal software downloads are incredibly risky as malware is often bundled in the executable files used to install the software, or in the accompanying Keygen tools that generate product keys to allow the software to be used.

A malware or ransomware attack can prove incredibly costly. Many companies have experienced ransomware attacks that have resulted in systems being taken out of action for several days or even weeks, causing massive losses as the business grinds to a halt. A ransomware attack can result in an entire network being taken out of action, as was the case with the WannaCry attacks in 2017. The NHS in the UK suffered major disruption as a result of the installation of the malware and mitigating the attacks cost £92 million. The NotPetya wiper malware campaign conducted soon after caused widespread damage. The shipping firm Maersk had its systems infected and the clean-up bill has been estimated to be $300 million.

A web filter will not prevent all malware and ransomware attacks, but it is possible to prevent certain categories of ‘risky’ websites from being visited by employees, the filtering solution can be configured to block the downloading of certain file types, and websites known to contain malware or exploit kits can be blocked. Any attempt to visit one of those websites will direct a user to a block screen. Many businesses decide to restrict internet access at work primarily to protect against malware and ransomware downloads.

Additional Protection Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the number one cyber threat faced by businesses. It has been estimated that more than 90% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email. One of the best protections against phishing is a spam filtering solution, which will prevent the majority of malicious messages from being delivered to end users. However, no spam filter is 100% effective and some malicious messages will end up in employees’ inboxes. Employees can be trained how to identify phishing emails and be taught cybersecurity best practices that will reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks, but sooner or later an employee will likely be fooled into clicking a link in an email and will arrive at a phishing website.

When a user is directed to a website and discloses their login credentials, an attacker can gain access to their email account and all the sensitive data contained in that account. The compromised account can also be used to send further phishing emails to other employees in the organization or to customers and business contacts. It is common for a single response to a phishing email to result in several email accounts being compromised.

Phishing attacks are some of the costliest cyberattacks to resolve. Each email in a compromised account must be checked for personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. Manually checking thousands of emails can take weeks and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A web filter is an additional layer of security that helps organizations improve their defenses against phishing by providing time-of-click protection and blocking attempts to visit malicious websites. When an employee clicks a link to a website that has been added to a blacklist due to past use in phishing campaigns, the user will be directed to a block screen. TitanHQ’s web filtering solution, WebTitan, blocks attempts to access around 60 million malicious websites a week.

Preventing Inappropriate Web Content from Being Accessed

While most employees do not use the internet to access illegal and not-suitable-for-work content, there are always a few bad apples. The problem of accessing pornography at work is a real issue, and could be much worse than you think.

In 2014, a survey conducted by the Barna Group showed 63% of men and 36% of women have viewed pornography at work. A survey in Forbes in 2013 revealed 25% of adults have viewed porn at work, while in another survey, 28% of employees admitted to downloading porn at work. Not only is the accessing of pornography at work a major drain of productivity, but it can also lead to the development of a hostile working environment. Pornography can be used to harass and degrade employees, especially women. There have been cases of employees taking legal action against their employers over the failure to implement content controls in the workplace and prevent pornography from being accessed by coworkers.

Many businesses feel the best way to tackle the problem of pornography access in the workplace is through acceptable usage policies and greater oversight of employees by line managers. When individuals are discovered to be abusing the internet, action can be taken against individuals without having to restrict internet access at work for everyone. This does not always prove effective. Further, when pornography use at work is discovered, employees usually face instant dismissal. That carries a cost to the HR department and productivity losses while new employees are hired and trained.

The easiest solution is to use a web filter to restrict internet access at work. A web filter can be used to block access to specific websites or categories of website content such as pornographic sites and enforce acceptable usage policies. This is one of the most common reasons why businesses restrict internet access at work.

Problems with Using a Web Filter to Restrict Internet Access at Work

A web filter may seem like a quick and easy solution to solve the above issues, but it should be explained that companies that restrict internet access at work with web filters can encounter problems. If you restrict internet access at work using an appliance-based web filtering solution it can result in latency. Each website must be inspected before it is accessed which delays the loading of websites. In the case of secure (HTTPS) sites, each webpage must be decrypted, inspected, and re-encrypted. This places a considerable strain on resources. As more sites switch to HTTPS the problem of latency becomes a real issue.

The solution is to use a DNS-based filtering solution. With DNS-filtering, all filtering occurs in the cloud and there is no latency. There are other benefits too. Cloud-based web filters are more flexible, scalable, and do not require the purchase of any hardware which results in considerable cost savings.

When web filters are used to restrict internet access at work and they lack highly granular controls, there can be issues with the overblocking of website content. Websites that need to be accessed for work purposes may be blocked, which requires the IT support team to spend time whitelisting websites. The solution is to choose a web filter with highly granular controls, which allows content to be easily blocked without also blocking websites that need to be accessed for work purposes.

Should Companies Restrict Internet Access?

While content control software may seem like an ideal way of preventing employees from cyberslacking to make productivity gains, care must be taken when applying those controls otherwise the productivity gains may not be realized. If you restrict internet access at work, employees who were only accessing the occasional personal site may be unhappy with the new restrictions. This can have a negative effect on productivity and create a hostile working environment. Why should all employees be made to suffer because of the actions of a few? Care must therefore be taken when deciding what types of websites to block. With careful and intelligent control, you can make productivity gains and can avoid any staff issues.

How to Control Internet Usage in Office and Avoid Staff Problems

One of the easiest ways to improve productivity while applying controls over internet access is to use a web filtering solution that allows time-based filtering controls to be applied. Employers can use this feature to restrict internet access at work during busy times and relax controls at others. It is easy to block access to certain sites 100% of the time and others only some of the time. With WebTitan, administrators can set standard controls during busy times such as mornings, and relax controls during breaks or outside of office hours.

How Can I Block Internet Access on an Employee’s Computer?

There are several ways to block internet access on an employee’s computer. If you want to block internet access totally for a specific employee, be that a temporary or permanent block, you can use your existing network hardware or a firewall rule to block a specific IP address.

A web filter allows much more granular controls to be applied, such as blocking specific websites or categories of websites for a specific employee or group of employees. This option is much easier and less time-consuming if you need to block internet access – or implement partial blocks – for more than one employee. With a cloud-based web filter, these controls can be applied quickly and easily through a web portal that can be accessed by the administrator from any computer.

How to Limit Employee Internet Access Selectively

Many businesses want to know how to restrict internet access for employees without totally blocking access to the internet. With WebTitan it is easy to limit employee internet access selectively. Different controls can be set for different employees or groups of employees. If you have sales staff, you may want to do as much as possible to make sure they are always on the phone, and internet controls may need to be more restrictive. The marketing department may require much more lax controls since they will be required to access a broader range of websites for work. Since the filter integrates with LDAP and Active Directory, setting controls for different users and user groups is simple. You can implement organization-wide controls (e.g. adult content), department controls (social media), and individuals controls through LDAP/AD.

Speak to TitanHQ About Controlling Internet Access In the Workplace

Internet content control is quick, easy, and cost-effective with WebTitan. The solution allows you to easily restrict internet access at work and avoid problems associated with web filtering. If you are interested in curbing personal internet use at work and improving your organization’s security posture, contact TitanHQ today for advice. You can also sign up for a free trial and evaluate WebTitan in your own environment before you commit to a purchase and can schedule a product demonstration to see WebTitan in action.

FAQs about Restricting Internet Access at Work

Should I set up a guest Wi-Fi network?

Guest Wi-Fi networks allow visitors to access the Internet through the same equipment as your employees but will ensure that both networks are separated. If a guest user’s device is infected with malware, it will not spread to your primary business network. Guest users will also not be able to access any internal resources or data.

What are the most important guest Wi-Fi security best practices?

Ensure a password is set for the guest network. Make sure that traffic is encrypted using Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2) to prevent data interception. Control the content that can be accessed using a web filter for your Wi-Fi network, and monitor what your guest network is being used for.

What is the cost of a content filter for a Wi-Fi network?

Content filtering for Wi-Fi networks is not expensive considering the protection it provides. Some solutions will cost around $2.50 per user, per month. These tend to be aimed at large enterprises with complex needs. For most businesses, you can get the protection you need for around $1 per user, per month.

Does a web filter work for HTTPS websites?

A web filter will block access to all websites in blacklists, which includes HTTPS websites known to be malicious. A web filter with SSL inspection will decrypt, inspect, then re-encrypt HTTPS sites in real-time and will block access to those sites if they violate user-defined policies.

Is Internet content filtering difficult?

Internet content filtering need not be complicated. With a cloud-based web filter you just make a simple change to point your DNS to your service provider. Log in to your web-based user interface and use the checkboxes to select the content you want to permit or block. All malicious websites will automatically be blocked through the blacklists used by the solution.

TitanHQ Collects Expert Insights ‘Best of’ Awards for SpamTitan, WebTitan and ArcTitan

For the second year in a row, TitanHQ has collected best-in-category awards from Expert Insights for each of its three products: SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan Web Security, and ArcTitan Email Archiving.

SpamTitan was recognized and awarded top spot in the Best Email Security Gateway and Best Email Security Solution for Office 365 categories, the DNS-based web filtering solution WebTitan Cloud came top in the Best Web Security Solution category, and the cloud-based email archiving solution, ArcTitan, placed top in the Best Email Archiving Solution for Business category.

The cybersecurity solutions were praised for the level of protection they provided against threats such as malware, ransomware, phishing, viruses, and botnets, with all three solutions recognized for ease-of-use and cost-effectiveness. TitanHQ’s world-class technical and customer support also proved to be a hit with Expert Insights’ researchers and businesses that have adopted the solutions.

Expert Insights is an online publication covering cybersecurity and cloud-based technologies that is used by over 80,000 business leaders, IT professionals and others to obtain invaluable advice to help them make the right purchase decisions. The publication includes insights into B2B products and services, with the UK and US-based teams conducting interviews, industry analyses, and technical product reviews.

Each year, the Fall 2021 Best-of Cybersecurity Awards recognize the leading companies and products for businesses and managed service providers, with the category winners selected based on reviews by independent technical analysts, the Expert insights’ editorial team, and feedback from users of the solutions.

To win one award is a great achievement, but to win 4 shows the commitment of the TitanHQ team to providing businesses with powerful solutions that address their needs that are easy to use and at the right price point, providing timely help and advice for customers whenever it is required.

“TitanHQ are proud to have received continued recognition for all three of our advanced cybersecurity solutions. As the threat landscape continues to be a significant risk to organizations across the globe, we are dedicated to continuous innovation to provide consistent, secure, and reliable protection to our customers,” said Ronan Kavanagh, TitanHQ CEO.

Benefits of Honeypots – There’s More to Honeypots Than Wasting Hackers’ Time

There are many benefits of honeypots, most notably, they can significantly improve your security posture. As such, all organizations should consider implementing a honeypot, but be sure to assess the disadvantages as well as the advantages as you may decide they are not worth the time and effort.

This post covers the pros and cons of honeypots to help you decide whether a honeypot is appropriate for your organization.

What is a honeypot and why are they used?

A honeypot is an additional security protection that can be used alongside a firewall and other security solutions to help protect a network from hackers.

Honeypots, as the name suggests, are designed to catch a hacker’s eye so that their efforts will be drawn to attacking the honeypot rather than a system where they could cause serious harm.

They appear to be an easy entry point into a network to distract attackers from looking at other parts of the system. They are a deliberate hole in the security of the system that can be attacked without causing harm. They allow IT teams to gather valuable intelligence on hackers who are attempting to gain access to their networks.

In contrast to a firewall, which is designed only to keep external attackers out, a honeypot can also identify internal threats and attacks. Many companies are almost blind to attacks from within. A honeypot provides increased visibility and allows IT security teams to defend against attacks that the firewall fails to prevent. There are considerable benefits of honeypots, and many organizations have implemented them as an additional protection against internal and external attacks.

There are many benefits of honeypots!

A honeypot is a system that is set up with the singular purpose of being attacked. It is a system designed to be exploited, hacked, infected with malware, and generally abused by a malicious third party. Why should I do that you may ask? Well, there are many benefits of honeypots.

You may wonder why you should spend your time, effort, and money setting up a system that will attract hackers? Why you should deliberately create a system with weakened defenses that will be exploited? Why even attract interest from malicious third parties?

There are three very good reasons why you should. First. You will be wasting a hacker’s time, and time spent attacking a system that is safe is time not spent hacking a system that will damage your organization if the hacker succeeds.

Secondly, by setting up a honeypot you will be able to see who is attacking you and the methods that are being used. This will give you a very good idea of the types of attacks being used and the defenses you will need to install to protect your real systems and data from attack.

Thirdly, an attack on a honeypot is likely to frustrate a hacker and stop them from hacking your real computer systems.

Security researchers are well aware of the benefits of honeypots. They have been vital in the study of hackers’ behavior. They can be used to determine how systems are attacked and are also a very useful part of system defenses. It is not a question of whether you should set up a honeypot, but rather why you have not already done so.

There are many different types of honeypot that can be implemented. You can set up a dummy system with an entire network topology if you wish. You can have many different hosts, you can include a wide range of services and even different operating systems. In short, an entire system can be set up to appear genuine and allow an attack to take place.

There are many different types of honeypot that can be deployed, although for the purpose of this article we have provided further information on two popular honeypots below: Honeyd and Kippo.

The Honeyd honeypot

This is a small daemon that can be used to create a network containing many virtual hosts. Each of those hosts can be set up and configured differently. You can run a range of arbitrary services on each, and configure them to appear as if they are running different operating systems. For network simulation purposes, you can create tens of thousands of different hosts on your LAN using Honeyd if you so wish. You can use Honeyd to hide your real system, identify threats, assess risk, and improve your security posture.

Honeyd benefits

  • Simulate multiple virtual hosts simultaneously
  • Identify cyberattacks and assign hackers a passive-fingerprint
  • Simulate numerous TCP/IP stacks
  • Simulate network topologies
  • Set up real FTP and HTTP servers, and even UNIX applications under virtual IP addresses

The lowdown on Honeyd

We invited a guest sys admin (Arona Ndiaye) to provide input on the Honeyd honeypot to get the perspective of a Linux administrator. She mainly uses Linux and *nix systems and has tried out Honeyd to get an idea of how it works, what it can do, and its functionality. She installed it on Kali Linux, which was a simple process requiring a single line to be added to the sources .list file, running apt-get update & apt-get install honeyd.

A few tweaks were needed to ensure the firewall had the correct permissions set, along with some simple text editing in a configuration file. That was all that was needed. If any problems are encountered, or more detailed information is required, it is all available on the honeyd website. Most people find the easiest way to get started is to play with the system and to try to attack it, which is what she did.

She was particularly impressed with the information that can be gathered on attacks and scans. The methods of attack were recorded in intricate detail, including how it was possible for hackers to fool NMAP. The overall verdict was “seriously impressive.”

The Kippo honeypot

We also put Kippo to the test; another popular honeypot. Kippo is used to create a dummy SSH server, which allows attackers to conduct brute force attacks. The honeypot can be set with a root password that is particularly easy to guess, such as a simple string of numbers: 123456 for example.

Set up the honeypot with an entire file system, or even better, clone a real system for added realism. The aim is to convince the hacker that he or she is attacking a real system. Once the attacker has successfully managed to log in to the system, everything they subsequently do will be recorded. All actions will be logged, so it is possible to see exactly what happens when a system is attacked.

What is particularly good about Kippo is how detailed the fake system can be. You can really waste a considerable amount of a hacker’s time and get an accurate picture of exactly what they are trying to achieve, the files they upload and download, what malware and exploits they install, and where they put them. You can then use a virtual machine to analyze the attack in detail when you have the time.

Set up combo-honeypots to create a highly elaborate network

Both Kippo and Honeyd are open source, so it is possible to tweak both honeypots to suit your own needs and requirements. You can even combine the two to build up extremely elaborate networks – specifying specific file contents and creating fake systems that appear perfectly real. How much time you spend doing this, and the level of detail you want to add is up to you. If you really want to find out exactly how the systems are attacked to better prepare your real system, these are exceptionally good tools to use.

Adding a honeypot can help to improve your security, but simply setting one up will not. Unfortunately, to gain the benefits of honeypots you will need to invest some time in setting up a realistic network and it will need to be updated and maintained. It must be treated like any other machine or system you use in order for it to be effective. You must also make sure that it is isolated or insulated. Creating a fake system that is easy to attack shouldn’t give a hacker an easy entry point into your real system!

Summary: Main Benefits of Honeypots

Listed below are the main benefits of honeypots:

  1. Observe hackers in action and learn about their behavior
  2. Gather intelligence on attack vectors, malware, and exploits. Use that intel to train your IT staff
  3. Create profiles of hackers who are trying to gain access to your systems
  4. Improve your security posture
  5. Waste hackers’ time and resources
  6. They show you that you are being attacked and that data is valuable when attempting to get budget increases for security.

Disadvantages of Honeypots

We have covered the benefits of honeypots, but are there any disadvantages of honeypots apart from the time taken to set them up?

No system is perfect and there are notable disadvantages of honeypots. One of the main problems is the system is designed to be attacked, so attacks will likely take place. Once the honeypot is accessed it could be used as a launchpad for further attacks. Those attacks could be conducted on an internal system or on another company. Honeypots therefore introduce risk. There is therefore an issue of legal liability. If your honeypot is used in an attack on another business, you could be sued. The level of risk that it introduced will depend on the honeypot. Typically, the more complex the honeypot, the greater the risk is likely to be.

Then there is the question of the resources you will need to set up the system. If you want to create a realistic system that will fool hackers, it needs to look and behave like the real system it is designed to mimic. There are free options available that will make it more cost-effective to set up a honeypot, although they still require resources. The hardware comes at a cost and they require maintenance and monitoring. The cost may be prohibitively expensive for some businesses.

That said, maintenance need not be a major drain of time. In many cases, honeypots can be set up and left. Since there is no expected production activity, monitoring the honeypot and assessing activity will require minimal effort. Automatic alerts are generated when an attack is in progress and any data generated will likely be a real attack. Honeypots may be set up on existing old hardware that would otherwise not be used. In such cases, costs can be kept to a minimum.

Honeypots add complexity to a network, and the more complex a network is, the harder it is to secure. The honeypot could introduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited to gain access to real systems and data.

Finally, the honeypot can only tell you about an attack in progress if the honeypot is directly attacked. If an attack involves other systems and the honeypot is untouched – for instance, if the honeypot was identified as such by the attacker and avoided – it would be necessary to rely on other mechanisms to identify the attack.

Whether the benefits of honeypots outweigh the disadvantages will depend on the nature of your business, how probable it is that attempts will be made to attack your network, and the resources you have available for IT security. Your money could be better spent on other security solutions and your IT team’s time may be better directed to monitoring other systems and addressing vulnerabilities and patching software.

How to Block Drive-By Malware Downloads

In addition to installing a spam filter to block malware delivery via email, it is important to implement a solution to block drive-by malware downloads. A drive-by malware download is a web-based attack where malware is installed onto a victim’s device

Drive-by malware download attacks are those where malicious programs are downloaded and installed on a device without user consent. The malware may be relatively harmless adware that shows ads to generate income for the developer, spyware that gathers information about a user, or more dangerous malware variants such as keyloggers and banking Trojans that harvest credentials, or even ransomware that encrypts files to extort money from the victim.

Drive-by malware downloads can occur silently, without the user being aware anything untoward has happened by tricking them into visiting a malicious website. That could involve a phishing email with a hyperlink that bypasses an email security solution, occur via a redirect from a compromised website, or by clicking a malicious advert online.

Malicious websites can be encountered simply through normal web browsing and drive-by malware downloads can even occur via legitimate websites. Many websites have third-party ad blocks that generate additional revenue for the website owner. Malicious adverts – termed malvertising – may sneak past the checks performed by third-party ad networks and be displayed to site visitors. If a link is clicked, the user is directed to a malicious website. Threat actors also engage in search engine poisoning, where search engine optimization techniques are used to get malicious websites appearing high up in the search engine listings.

These downloads may occur silently, or individuals may be tricked into downloading malicious software or apps that they believe to be genuine. They install the software and are unaware than malware has also been installed. This week, an alert was issued about a campaign involving a fake .msi installer which is being used to deliver an information stealing malware variant called Jupyter that has been extensively used in attacks on the healthcare and education sectors.

It is important for businesses to protect against drive-by malware downloads, and one of the best ways to do this is by using a web filtering solution. A web filter, as the name suggests, is used to filter out undesirable website content. The consumer versions include parental control solutions on home WiFi networks. Just as you would want to prevent your children from accessing potentially harmful age-inappropriate web content, a web filter is used by businesses to prevent harmful content from being accessed by employees.

WebTitan from TitanHQ is used by businesses, managed services providers, and Internet service providers to block access to malicious, illegal, and other undesirable web content such as pornography and protects against drive-by malware downloads in several ways.

First, it is possible to prevent downloads of certain file types from the Internet – The file types commonly associated with malware (.exe, .js, and .msi for example). Another control to prevent malware downloads is the use of blacklists of IP addresses and domains that have previously been identified as being used for malware distribution. The solution can also be configured to block access to risky website categories that are often used for malware distribution, such as peer-2-peer file sharing networks.

WebTitan is quick and easy to implement and configure, has no impact on page low speeds, can protect any number of users including on-site and remote workers, and the solution is automatically updated with the latest threat intelligence to block malicious content as soon as it is detected.

If you want to block drive-by malware downloads, improve protection against phishing attacks, and carefully control the web content that can be accessed via your wired and wireless networks, contact TitanHQ today for more information about WebTitan. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request, and you can take advantage of a free 14-day trial of the solution.

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 and phishing threats could arrive by email, text message, instant messenger services, and scams can be conducted over the phone.

Phishing is arguably the biggest cyber threat faced by businesses and consumers and can result in a malware infection, the encryption of files via ransomware, theft of sensitive data such as credit/debit card numbers or bank account information, or the email account could be used for sending spam and phishing emails and for malware distribution. A successful phishing attack could prove incredibly costly as bank accounts could easily be 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 world’s most commonly spoofed brands. If the brand is spoofed, there is a relatively high probability 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 attackers. The PayPal text message phishing scam below is much harder to identify as malicious than 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__

These PayPal text phishing scams work because many people do not carefully check messages before clicking links. Click the link on either of those 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, the websites that the messages direct recipients to are scam sites.

Those sites naturally require the user to enter their login credentials. Doing so passes those credentials to the scammer. The scammer will then use those credentials to access the 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 of the account.

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 always be on your guard, whether accessing your emails or viewing text messages.

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 try to 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 and web page are genuine.

PayPal Email Phishing Scams

This PayPal text phishing scam is one of thousands of phishing campaigns targeting PayPal users. While SMS phishing scams are increasing, most phishing attacks are conducted via email.

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 that allows the account to be accessed
  • To obtain a Social Security number and date of birth for use in identity theft and tax fraud
  • 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 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, or 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 webserver is encrypted and secured.

If the website has a valid SSL certificate installed, it reduces the potential for snooping on information as it's 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 a 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. It only means information entered on the site via the browser is secured.

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 or negative consequences for inaction - your account will be suspended or deleted for example.
  4. If in doubt about the genuineness of an email, do not click any links 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 them the skills required to identify phishing emails and smishing attempts such as this PayPal text phishing scam.

If you run a business and are concerned about phishing, TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ has developed an award-winning anti-spam and anti-phishing solution that blocks more than 99.9% of spam and malicious messages, incorporates dual anti-virus engines to detect malicious attachments, includes DMARC authentication, and sandboxing to perform in-depth analyses of malicious attachments. The solution works seamlessly with Office 365 to improve phishing detection and keep users' inboxes free from spam, phishing, and other malicious emails. Further, TitanHQ operates a highly competitive pricing policy and SpamTitan can be used at a fraction of the cost of other anti-phishing solutions.

Contact TitanHQ and arrange a product demonstration, sign up for a free trial of the full solution (including support), and discover the difference SpamTitan can make to your organization's security posture.

SharePoint Phishing Scam You Should be Aware Of

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

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

The latest scam uses messages that appear to be standard quests to collaborate on SharePoint. This SharePoint phishing scam includes a hyperlink to a genuine SharePoint document, which may not be flagged as malicious since the file itself does not contain malware.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to improve email security and better defend your organization against phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today and request further information on SpamTitan. Product demonstrations can be arranged on request, free trials of the full product are available with full support during the trial, and a range of deployment options are available to suit the needs of your business. Also consider using a web filter such as WebTitan, which will block attempts to block websites used for phishing and malware distribution.

Cybersecurity Selling Techniques for MSPs

Small businesses often lack the budget to employ full time IT staff, so instead rely on Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to meet their IT and cybersecurity needs. Small businesses know about the importance of having good IT support and will also likely be aware of the need to have some cybersecurity defenses in place, but it can sometimes be difficult to get clients to commit to purchasing the cybersecurity solutions they need to block cyberattacks that could cripple the business.

MSPs therefore need to communicate the importance of cybersecurity and the solutions that are necessary to reduce risk to protect their clients. Without the right solutions in place, clients will be at risk of suffering a costly data breach, and potentially regulatory fines and litigation. It will also be the MSP that will most likely be required to put the time and effort into getting the business back up and running following a cyberattack, and an MSP may also be blamed for not preventing the breach in the first place.

So how can MSPs sell cybersecurity solutions to their clients? What techniques can be used to get clients to commit to purchasing the solutions they need to protect their networks and infrastructure from attack?

Cybersecurity Selling Techniques for MSPs to Improve Customers’ Defenses and Monthly Revenue

Many small businesses will have little in the way of cybersecurity defenses, so this presents MSPs with an opportunity to increase their revenue, but first they must make sure that a client is aware of the importance of cybersecurity and having the right infrastructure and security solutions in place. It is up to the MSP to communicate the need for cybersecurity defenses to block credible threats, as many businesses will not understand the risks they face and the true cost of a data breach.

One of the most important elements of selling cybersecurity to clients is to have a good understanding of the risks a business faces and the level of risk each business is prepared to tolerate. Each business will be different and, most likely, there will be different risks within each business that need to be addressed.

It pays to take some time to audit and review those risks, and then to develop a cybersecurity strategy for the business that is tailored to its needs, rather than trying to sell a standard package of security solutions.

It is unlikely that a small business will be effective at conducting their own cybersecurity risk assessments. By becoming proficient in conducting risk assessments, MSPs will be able to gain a competitive advantage. If an MSP can present an accurate risk assessment to a customer, along with cybersecurity solutions that will reduce all risks identified to a reasonable an acceptable level, it will be much easier to get clients to buy in and sign up for the products and services they need to reduce those risks.

When selling cybersecurity solutions, it pays to focus more on the risks and how they will be addressed, rather than the technical aspects of each solution. That information can naturally be shared if required, but it is better to explain how the solutions meet the needs of the business and the benefits they provide. Cybersecurity solutions are expensive for small businesses, so before a business commits to a purchase – which can involve a significant upfront cost – they need to know the benefits the investment will bring and how it will likely save them considerable costs in the long run by preventing costly data breaches and the resultant downtime.

Customer Support Needs to Include Cybersecurity

Having the right cybersecurity solutions in place is only part of the story. It is also important to ensure that there is adequate monitoring in place. Cybersecurity solutions must be correctly configured and maintained so MSPs will need to make sure the staff is on hand to identify and respond quickly to any threat and neutralize it. Cybersecurity support also needs to be sold to clients.

You must be clear about the different between IT support and cybersecurity support. Clients are likely to need an MSP to provide basic IT support but may also expect the MSP to deal with cybersecurity issues as well. It is vital to communicate the difference and to cover cybersecurity support when onboarding a new client.

By explaining the need for cybersecurity and providing tailored solutions and the right level of support, MSPs will be able to earn the trust of their clients and be able to reassure them that their infrastructure and data will be kept safe and secure. As the business grows, that trust will be invaluable in getting the business to buy into more advanced cybersecurity solutions as their risk profile changes.

When it comes to finding solutions to meet the needs of MSP clients, TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ provides reasonably priced, powerful and effective cybersecurity solutions to block the most common attack vectors, along with a solution for backing up and archiving business critical data.

For more information on these solutions give the TitanHQ team a call and ask about TitanHQ email security, DNS filtering, and email archiving, and the TitanShield Partner Program. MSPs that join the TitanShield Program will be provided with extensive tools, marketing resources, and training aids to help them sell cybersecurity solutions to their clients more effectively.

Remote Working and the Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

The dangers of public Wi-Fi are well documented, but the increase in remote working means the threat has grown. During the pandemic, many businesses had little option other than to allow their employees to work remotely. Remote working during the pandemic meant employees working from home, but now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing the dangers of public Wi-Fi have reared their head one again. Many businesses have seen benefits to remote working and are continuing to allow employees to work from home, while many others are considering adopting a hybrid working model, where employees can work remotely for at least some of the week.

The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

There are a variety of risks when accessing the Internet over public Wi-Fi networks, one of the most serious being the Wi-Fi access point that people connect to is not actually the Wi-Fi network of the establishment where employees are working. It is all too common for threat actors to set up rogue access points that resemble the legitimate Wi-Fi access points that they spoof. Through those access points – often referred to as evil twins – connections are monitored, and no communicated data are secure.

Attackers often inject malicious proxies, eavesdrop on network traffic, and use redirects to send Wi-Fi users to malicious websites. While perhaps unlikely in a local coffee shop, it is possible to compromise wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC), and these tactics are commonly used, especially in foreign countries. If Bluetooth and NFC are enabled, an attacker could scan for nearby devices and gain information that could allow them to identify and target a particular individual.

How to Reduce Risk

There are various steps that remote workers should take to ensure they do not unwittingly fall victim to a malware infection, disclose their credentials in a phishing attack, or otherwise compromise their device, and in turn, the network of their employer. The most straightforward of these measures is to simply not use public Wi-Fi networks, although that is not always possible for travelling employees.

If it cannot be avoided, it is important to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot that has encryption and strong authentication, as security will be greater. It is never a good idea to connect to any Wi-Fi network that has no security and does not require a password to connect, but it can be difficult to determine how good Wi-Fi security actually is.

It is important to remember that having a password on a Wi-Fi access point does not mean there is data encryption, so any transmitted data may be intercepted. Even with encryption, if an attacker knows the pre-shared key, the encryption is rendered useless as data can easily be decrypted.

It is also possible to force a network into using unsecure protocols or obsolete algorithms, and there are widely available open-source tools that can easily be used to capture credentials and other sensitive data.

It is therefore important to take precautions. For employees, the steps are straightforward. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks if at all possible and avoid disclosing any sensitive data on websites that do not start with HTTPS. Bear in mind that hackers can set up HTTPS websites just as easily as anyone else so be sure not to place too much reliance on https for providing security.

Employees should avoid disclosing any sensitive data or accessing their email or work network entirely over public Wi-Fi if possible, and to ensure that tools supplied by employers – such as a VPN – are used.

Employers should ensure a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is available to employees and there is sufficient capacity to allow all workers to connect. Employers can – and should – extend the protection of their web filtering solution to remote workers’ devices. Web filters will block access to known malicious websites and can block malware downloads. Solutions such as WebTitan are easy to configure to protect remote workers’ devices, and filtering controls will then be applied just as if the employees are in the office.

Standard cybersecurity best practices should also be followed, such as ensuring patches and software are kept up to date, including VPNs. Multifactor authentication should be enabled and anti-malware software installed. Anti-spam solutions – SpamTitan for example – should also be implemented to block email attacks, and firewalls should be used to prevent unauthorized inbound and outbound connections.

It is also recommended to disable Link-Local Multicast Name Resolution (LLMNR) and Netbios Name Service (NBT-NS) on Windows laptops and to configure Web-Proxy Autodiscovery Protocol (WPAD) to use only corporate proxy servers and to turn off device file and printer sharing on public networks.

Webinar: June 30, 2021: Best Practices to Combat Phishing and Ransomware

The pandemic forced businesses to adopt different working practices. Rather than having employees working from the office, restrictions introduced to combat COVID-19 meant businesses had to allow their employees to work from home. Protecting business networks when virtually all workers are accessing those networks remotely was a major challenge and it was inevitable that vulnerabilities would be introduced that could potentially be exploited by threat actors.

Those vulnerabilities were exploited, with cybercriminals and APT groups targeting at-home workers mostly by exploiting vulnerabilities in remote access systems and through phishing attacks to obtain credentials to allow networks to be accessed. While these attacks had many different goals, one of the most common was to encrypt files using ransomware to prevent them from being accessed, usually with data theft prior to file encryption.

According to Osterman Research, the three main priorities for cybersecurity in 2021 are protecting endpoints, educating users about ransomware and stopping them becoming victims of attacks, and protecting backups from ransomware. The fact that two of the three main priorities are related to ransomware show just how serious the threat has become.

Protecting endpoints requires a combination of cybersecurity solutions, one of the most important being an advanced email security solution. Email is the attack vector of choice in cyberattacks and is commonly the initial attack vector in ransomware attacks. Phishing campaigns are easy to conduct and they target the weakest link in cybersecurity – employees. Further, with many employees working from home, phishing has become even easier. Studies have shown at-home employees have been taking security shortcuts, with many also admitting to clicking links in phishing emails and opening potentially malicious email attachments. When errors such as this are made, many employees fail to report the matter to their IT department out of fear of reprisals.

Cybersecurity training is important to teach and reinforce cyber hygiene best practices and raise awareness of the threat from ransomware. If employees are not taught how to identify phishing emails and ransomware, they cannot be expected to avoid those threats. With training, susceptibility to phishing can be greatly reduced. However, even with training employees will make mistakes and will fail to recognize every threat.

A recent study conducted by Osterman Research and TitanHQ looked into the main cybersecurity threats faced by security professionals in 2021. The biggest threats were found to be business email compromise (BEC) attacks that tricked employees, phishing messages that result in malware infections, and phishing messages that result in account compromises. The latter is usually the first step in a BEC attack. 85% of interviewed organizations said they had experienced at least one security incident in the past 12 months, and while security professionals were aware of the dangers of phishing and ransomware attacks, only 37% rated their defenses as highly effective.

Due to the lack of confidence in defenses against phishing and ransomware attacks identified by the study, TitanHQ and Osterman Research are hosting a webinar in which attendees will discover the most effective mitigations against phishing and ransomware attacks and will learn best practices they need to adopt to avoid those threats.

Webinar attendees will also learn about the full findings of the in-depth cybersecurity study into the rising threat from phishing and ransomware and how risk can be reduced to a low and acceptable level.

The webinar will be taking place on June 30, 2021:

Webinar Details:

How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing and Ransomware Attacks

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Time:

  • 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. BST
  • 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST
  • 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PST

The webinar will be conducted by Michael Sampson, Senior Analyst at Osterman Research and Sean Morris, Chief Technology Officer at TitanHQ.

You Can Register Your Place Here

Most Common Wireless Network Attacks

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.

Many Businesses are Neglecting WiFi Security

Many businesses have moved from wired to wireless technologies which has had a negative impact on their security posture. Wired networks are generally a lot easier to secure than wireless networks, and poor implementation often introduces vulnerabilities in WiFi networks. Many businesses also fail to perform a thorough risk analysis which means those vulnerabilities are not identified and addressed. Because of these security flaws, and the ease of exploiting them, wireless networks attacks are common.

The Importance of WiFi Security

Wi-Fi access used to be something you had to pay for, but now free WiFi is something many people take for granted. Visitors to a hotel, coffee shop, bar, retail outlet, or restaurant now expect WiFi to be provided free of charge. 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, for instance, businesses 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 minors are prevented from accessing age-inappropriate material.

The massive rise in cyberattacks via public WiFi networks coupled with warnings about WiFi risks in the mainstream media has seen many consumers favor establishments that offer secure WiFi access.

If you run a business and are providing WiFi to customers or if you are considering adding a WiFi hotspot to attract more customers, be sure to consider the security of the network. The past couple of years have seen many attacks on WiFi networks and customers who use those wireless services. The increase in WLAN attacks means WiFi security has never been so important.

Before covering some of the most common wireless attacks, it is worthwhile exploring some of the common wireless network vulnerabilities that can be exploited to eavesdrop on traffic, infect users with malware, and steal sensitive information.

Common Wireless Vulnerabilities

Listed below are some of the most common wireless network vulnerabilities and steps that can be taken to prevent the vulnerabilities from being exploited. These wireless network vulnerabilities could easily be exploited in real-world attacks on wireless networks to steal sensitive data, take control of a router or connected device, or install malware or ransomware.

Use of Default SSIDs and Passwords

WIFi access points are shipped with a default SSID and password which need to be changed, but all too often, those default passwords are left in place. That makes it easy for an attacker to log in and take control of the router, change settings or firmware, load malicious scripts, or even change the DNS server so that all traffic is directed to an IP owned by the attacker. Default passwords must be changed to prevent anyone within range of the signal from connecting and sniffing traffic.

If wireless controllers are used to manage WiFi access points via web interfaces, make sure the default passwords are also changed. These default passwords can be easily found online and can be used to attack wireless networks.

Placing an Access Point Where Tampering Can Occur

If the access point is placed in a location where it can be physically accessed, tampering can occur. It takes just seconds to revert the access point to factory default settings. Make sure the access point is located in a secure location, such as a locked closet.

Use of Vulnerable WEP Protocol

The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol was the first protocol used to encrypt wireless traffic. WEP, as the name suggests, was intended to make wireless networks as secure as their wired counterparts, but that does not make WEP wireless networks secure.

WEP is based on the RC4 cypher, which is secure. The problem is how RC4 is implemented in WEP. WEP allows an initialization vector to be re-used, and the re-use of keys is never a good idea. That allows an attacker to crack the encryption with ease. Several other vulnerabilities have been identified in WEP which make it far from secure.

Even though WEP has been depreciated and there are much more secure wireless encryption protocols to use, many businesses continue to use WEP in the mistaken belief that it is secure. WEP is more secure than no encryption at all – bad security is better than no security – but there are much more secure options for encrypting WiFi traffic. If you want to improve security and prevent WLAN attacks, upgrade to WPA2 or WPA3, which use the much more secure Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and lack the vulnerabilities of WEP.

WPA2 Krack Vulnerability

WPA may be more secure than WEP, but it is not without its own wireless vulnerabilities. Two Belgian researchers – Mathy Vanhoef and Frank Piessens of the University of Leuven – identified a serious flaw in the WPA security protocol.  The flaw was named KRACK, short for Key Reinstallation Attack. The flaw can be exploited in a man-in-the-middle attack to steal sensitive data sent via the WPA encrypted WiFi connection. If the WPA flaw is exploited, an attacker could eavesdrop on traffic and obtain banking credentials, passwords, and credit card information.

The vulnerability exists in the four-way handshake. An encrypted WPA2 connection starts with a four-way handshake, but not all parts of that handshake are required. To speed up re-connections, the third part is retransmitted. That third part of the handshake may be repeated several times, and it is this step that could be used in a wireless network attack.

By repeatedly resetting the nonce transmitted in the third step of the handshake, an attacker can gradually match encrypted packets and discover the full keychain used to encrypt traffic.

A threat actor could set up a clone of a WiFi access point that a user has previously connected to – an evil twin. To the user, nothing would appear untoward as Internet access would be provided via that evil twin. An attacker can force a user to connect to the cloned WiFi network and all information sent via that evil twin WiFi network can be intercepted. While the attack will not work on sites with SSL/TLS encryption, tools can be used that make this possible by forcing a user to visit an HTTP version of the website.

In order to execute a KRACK WiFi attack, the WiFi network must be using WPA2-PSK or WPA-Enterprise and the attacker needs to be within range of the WiFi signal. Virtually all routers currently in use are vulnerable to KRACK WiFi attacks. The best defense is to keep routers up to date and for users to only connect to wireless networks using a paid-for, up-to-date VPN. The issue has been addressed in WPA3, which is supported by the latest wireless access points. However, even with this exceptionally common wireless network vulnerability, WPA2 is still far more secure than WEP.

NetSpectre – Remote Spectre Exploit

Spectre is a vulnerability that affects microprocessors that perform branch prediction. The vulnerability can be exploited to allow an attacker to access chosen virtual memory locations and thus obtain sensitive data. In order for the flaw to be exploited, an attacker would first need to convince a user to download and run malicious code or to visit a website where JavaScript is run in the browser. Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a new type of attack that can be performed via network connections, including WiFi networks. The attack – termed NetSpectre – is fortunately complex so there are far easier ways to attack an organization. The risk of exploitation is therefore low.

What are the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?

Many of the most common wireless network attacks are opportunistic in nature. WiFi hackers look for wireless networks that are easy to attack.

Hackers are more than happy to take advantage of poor security controls to gain access to sensitive information and distribute malware. Why waste time attacking well-secured WiFi networks when there are plenty with scant or no security?

Poorly secured WiFi networks are also targeted by more sophisticated cybercriminals and organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the network. The attacks can be extremely lucrative. Access to a business network can allow ransomware to be installed and if malware can be installed on POS systems, the credit/debit card numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands of customers can be stolen.

Types of Wireless Network Attacks

There are several different types of WiFi attacks that hackers use to eavesdrop on wireless network connections to obtain passwords and banking credentials and spread malware. The main types of WiFi attacks are detailed below.

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 SSID 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. An SSID called ‘Free Airport WiFi’ would be enough to get many people to connect. When customers connect to these rogue WiFi networks they can still access the Internet, so are unlikely to realize anything is wrong. However, once connected to that network, everything they do online will be monitored by cybercriminals. Sensitive information entered online, such as email addresses and passwords, credit card numbers, or banking credentials, can and will 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 a 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. Through the “evil twin” all traffic will be plainly visible to the attacker and all data sent over the network can be captured.

Fake access points and evil twins are among the most common wireless network attacks. They are easy to conduct, require little technical skill, and are very 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 even 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 packet sniffers to intercept traffic on unencrypted WiFi networks. Packet sniffing is one of the most common wireless attacks.

These common wireless network attacks are easy on older routers, such as those using WEP encryption. WPA offers better security, WPA2 is better still, or ideally, the new WPA3 encryption protocol should be used if it is supported by your access point.

Wardriving

Wardriving is a technique used to identify and map vulnerable access points. The name comes from the fact that attackers drive around a neighborhood and use a laptop with a GPS device, antenna to identify and record the location of wireless networks.  This technique is effective since many WiFi networks used by businesses extend beyond the confines of the building and poor security controls are applied to secure those networks.

Warshipping

Warshipping is a more efficient method of attacking WiFi networks as it allows attacks to be conducted remotely, even if the attacker is not within range of a WiFi network. The tactic was explained by IBM X-Force Red researchers at Black Hat USA. They used cheap (under $100) and easy-to-obtain components to create a single-board computer with WiFi and 3G capabilities that runs on a cell phone battery. The device can be used to locally connect to the WiFi network and send information back to the attackers via the 3G cellular connection.

Since the device is small, it can easily be hidden inside a small package, and getting that package into a building is easy. It can just be mailed. Since the package may be addressed to someone not working it the company, it could sit in the mailroom for a while before it is opened. Since the package can be tracked, the attackers will know when it is in the building. Alternatively, it could be hidden in any number of items from plant pots to teddy bears. If the device is within range of WiFi networks, it could be used to attack those networks.

Hashed network access codes can be sent back to the attackers to crack, and the device can then connect to WiFi networks in the building and harvest data. The device could be used in a man-in-the-middle attack by impersonating an internal WiFi network.

MAC Spoofing

Many businesses use MAC filtering to prevent specific devices from connecting to their WiFi networks. While this is useful for preventing individuals from taking advantage of free WiFi for customers, this method of blocking users can be easily bypassed. It is easy to spoof a MAC address and bypass this filtering control.

Examples of WiFi Network Attacks

Attacks on wireless networks are not just theoretical. Listed below are some examples of common wireless networks attacks that have resulted in the installation of malware or theft of sensitive information. These latest wireless security attacks could easily have been prevented had appropriate security controls been implemented.

Latest Wireless Security Attacks

Tel Aviv Free WiFi Network Hacking Incident

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 nonetheless due to the rise in the 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 Hacking 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 black hat hacker conference.

Orange Modems Leaking Wi-Fi Passwords

A vulnerability has been identified in Orange LiveBox ADSL modems that causes them to leak the SSID and WiFi passwords in plaintext. The flaw was identified by Bad Packets researchers who observed their honeypots being actively attacked. A search on Shodan showed there are nearly 20,000 vulnerable Orange modems that leak Wi-Fi passwords and SSIDs in plaintext. In many cases, the default credentials of admin/admin were still being used! The flaw means the WiFi networks could easily be attacked remotely. Attackers could change device settings, alter firmware, and even obtain the phone number and conduct a range of other attacks.

WeWork WiFi Security Flaws

WeWork, a provider of custom workspaces, private offices, and on-demand workspaces equipped with high-bandwidth WiFi, has made an error implementing those WiFi networks which makes them far from secure.

WeWork used the same WiFi password at many of its shared offices for several years. To make matters worse, that password was weak and regularly features in the top 25 lists of extremely poor passwords. However, there was no need to guess it as it was available through the WeWork app in plaintext. Such a simple yet serious error placed all users of those workspaces at risk for several years. The researchers investigated several locations in San Francisco and found the same weak password used at multiple locations. Further, the WiFi network was only protected with WPA2 Personal security.

Teemu Airamo checked the security of the workspace he had just moved into and found hundreds of other companies’ devices exposed. Subsequent scans on the WeWork network revealed an enormous amount of sensitive data had been exposed. Password reuse is never a good idea, and neither is using dictionary words or heaven forbid, any of the top 25 lists of shockingly awful passwords.

WiFi Networks Can be 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 and keep the WiFi network secure.

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 that 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 it’s 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 manufacturer’s 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 as it is 100% cloud-based, can be managed and monitored from any location, and can help protect you against the most common wireless network attacks.

How Does WebTitan Cloud for WiFi Work?

protection from the common wireless network attacks

Features of WebTitan Cloud for WiFi

  • No hardware or software installation required
  • Quick and easy to implement
  • Fast: DNS solution provides almost zero additional latency
  • Supports both static and dynamic IPs addresses
  • No specialist training required
  • Protects against all web-based threats
  • Precision control over the content that can be accessed over WiFi
  • Instant alerts about users trying to access restricted content
  • Can be integrated into existing systems for easy management
  • Available to MSPs and resellers in white-label form
  • Fully multi-tenanted platform

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, live all TitanHQ solutions, is available on a free trial for you to evaluate the full solution in your own environment. During the trial, you will receive full product support to ensure you get the most out of your trial.

Contact TitanHQ today to arrange your trial, for details of pricing, or to book a product demonstration. Our Customer Service team will be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the product.

Web Filtering FAQs

How can I make my guest Wi-Fi network secure?

You should change your SSID from the default, set a strong password, enable encryption (WPA2 or WPA3), prevent guests from accessing router settings and local network resources, and set up a web filtering solution to restrict access to potentially harmful web content.

How much does content filtering cost?

You can expect to pay between $1 and $3 per user, per month depending on the Wi-Fi content filtering solution you choose. At TitanHQ, we offer powerful content filtering at an affordable price for all businesses. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi starts at $1.01 per user per month.

What is the best way to block phishing attacks?

Two anti-phishing solutions that businesses should implement are an email security gateway or spam filter to block malicious emails and a web filter to prevent employees from visiting phishing websites, either from links in malicious emails or through web browsing and redirects.

How easy is it to start filtering the Internet?

With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, content filtering is easy. Simply point your DNS to WebTitan, log in to your web-based user interface, then select the categories of content you want to block. It is that simple. Everything is intuitive and you have additional options if you want more precise control or need to implement different controls for different user groups. If ever you get stuck, you benefit from world-class customer support to get you back on track.

Should I enable SSL inspection?

SSL inspection allows you to inspect traffic to and from encrypted websites. Since most websites now secure the connection between the site and browser, this traffic will be invisible unless you enable SSL inspection. Malicious websites often have SSL certificates and will pose a serious threat if traffic is not inspected.

New WebTitan Cloud Release Includes Support for Azure Active Directory and Filtering for Chromebooks

A new version of WebTitan Cloud has been released – WebTitan Cloud 4.16 – that includes support for Azure Active Directory and introduces a new school web filtering solution – WebTitan OTG (on-the-go) for Chromebooks.

The new version of WebTitan Cloud includes DNS Proxy 2.06 which supports filtering of users in Azure Active Directory, in addition to on-premise AD and directory integration for Active Directory. Further directory services will be added to meet customer needs and ensure they can enjoy the benefits of per-user filtering with exceptional ease of management. – Further information on the Azure AD app is available here.

Existing WebTitan customers need do nothing to get the latest WebTitan Cloud release as the solution will be updated automatically.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks

Using WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks provides an effective way to apply filtering policies to your Chromebooks from the cloud.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks is a new web filtering solution for the education sector that allows schools to carefully control the websites that can be access by students both in the classroom and offsite, including in student’s homes.

Schools can easily devise filtering policies for all pupils or specific age groups and apply those filtering polices in the cloud. The solution allows schools to enforce the use of Safe Search and prevent access to age-inappropriate web content to keep students safe.

WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks delivers fast and effective user- and device-level web filtering and empowers students to discover the Internet in a safe and secure fashion, while also ensuring compliance with federal and state laws such as the U.S. Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

The solution is cost effective for schools to implement, setup and management is quick and easy, and administrators can schedule or run usage reports on demand and have full visibility into Chromebook users’ online activities and locations. It is also possible to lockdown Chromebooks to prevent students from circumventing the web filtering controls.

As with all WebTitan Cloud solutions, there is no need for any on-premises hardware, no proxies or VPNs required, and there is no impact on Internet speed as filtering takes place at the DNS-level before any content is downloaded.

“This new release comes after an expansive first quarter. The launch of WebTitan Cloud 4.16 brings phenomenal new security features to our customers,” Said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh. “After experiencing significant growth in 2020, TitanHQ expects these product enhancements and new features to make 2021 another record-breaking year.”

Telegram Platform Being Abused and Used to Distribute and Communicate with Malware

Telegram is a popular messaging app that has seen user numbers soar in recent months, with many users of WhatsApp making the change to Telegram after recent changes to the WhatsApp privacy and data management policies.

Telegram has also proven popular with cybercriminals who are using the app for distributing and communicating with malware. Recently, a campaign has been identified involving a new malware variant dubbed ToxicEye. ToxicEye malware is a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that gives an attacker full control of an infected device. The malware is used to steal sensitive data and download other malware variants.

The malware uses a Telegram account for its command and control server communications. Through the attacker’s Telegram account, they can communicate with a device infected with ToxicEye, exfiltrate data, and deliver additional malicious payloads.

It is easy to see the attraction with using Telegram for malware communication. First, the app is popular. The Telegram app was the most popular app in January 2021, having amassed more than 63 million downloads, and has around 500 million active users worldwide. During the pandemic the app has been adopted by many businesses who have been using it to allow their remote workers to communicate and collaborate. The app supports secure, private messaging and most businesses allow Telegram to be used and do not block or inspect communications.

Setting up a Telegram account is easy and attackers can remain anonymous. All that is required to set up an account is a mobile phone number, and the communication infrastructure allows attackers to easily exfiltrate data and send files to malware-infected devices undetected.

Telegram is also being used for distributing malware. Attackers can create an account, use a Telegram bot to interact with other users and send files, and it is also possible to send files to non-Telegram users via phishing emails with malicious attachments. It is phishing emails that are being used to deliver ToxicEye malware. Emails are sent with a .exe file attachment, with one campaign using a file named “paypal checker by saint.exe” to install the malware.

If the attachment is opened and run, a connection will be made to Telegram which allows malware to be downloaded by the attacker’s Telegram bot. The attackers can perform a range of malicious activities once the malware is installed, with the primary goals of the attackers being gathering information about the infected device, locating and exfiltrating passwords, and stealing cookies and browser histories.

ToxicEye malware can kill active processes and take control of Task Manager, record audio and video, steal clipboard contents, and deploy other malware variants – such as keyloggers and ransomware.

TitanHQ offers two solutions that can protect against ToxicEye and other Telegram-based phishing and malware campaigns. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that will block malicious emails delivering the executable files that install the ToxicEye RAT and other malware. For even greater protection, SpamTitan should be combined with WebTitan web security. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering solution that can be configured to block access to Telegram if it is not in use and monitor traffic in real time to identify potentially malicious communications.

For further information on both of these solutions, details of pricing, and to register for a free trial, contact TitanHQ today.

Discord Extensively Abused in Phishing and Malware Distribution Campaigns

Cloud-based instant messaging platforms have allowed individuals to easily communicate and collaborate, but cybercriminals are also benefitting from these platforms and are abusing the services for a range of malicious purposes. Discord is one such platform that has been favored by cybercriminals for several years and is now being extensively used for phishing and malware distribution.

Discord is a VoIP, instant messaging and digital distribution platform that has been extensively adopted by the gaming community and latterly by a much broader range of users. In 2019, Discord has amassed around 150 million users worldwide and usership has grown considerably since then. The platform has long been abused by cybercriminals who have used the platform’s live chat feature for selling and trading stolen data, such as gift cards and login credentials, for anonymous communications, and the platform has also been abused to act as C2 servers for communicating with malware-infected devices.

In 2021, the platform has been increasingly used for distributing a wide range of malware variants such as information stealers, cryptocurrency miners, Remote Access Trojans, and ransomware by abusing the cdn.discordapp.com service.

Discord, like other collaboration apps, use content delivery networks (CDNs) for storing shared files within channels. Cybercriminals can upload malicious files to Discord and create a public link for sharing, and that link can be shared with anyone, not just Discord users. The URL generated for sharing starts with https://cdn.discordapp.com/ so anyone receiving the link will see that the link is for a legitimate site. While there are controls to prevent malicious files from being uploaded, oftentimes cybercriminals can bypass those protections have get their malicious files hosted, and warnings are not always displayed to users about the risk of downloading files from Discord.  Since the malicious payloads are delivered via encrypted HTTPS, the downloads can be hidden from security solutions.

Further, once uploaded, the malware can be deleted from a chat, but it is still accessible using the public URL. Users are often tricked into downloading these malicious files under the guise of pirated software or games. Gamers have been targeted as their PCs typically have a high spec for gaming, which makes them ideal for cryptocurrency mining.

This method of malware distribution allows malware developers and distributers to easily distribute their malicious payloads with a high degree of anonymity. An analysis by Zscaler identified more than 100 unique malware samples from Discord in the Zscaler cloud in just a two-month period. Another analysis of Discord CDN results identified around 20,000 results on VirusTotal.

The Discord app is also easy to modify to perform malicious actions. Malicious JavaScript code can easily be added to the legitimated Discord client files and can be configured to run each time the client is launched or when specially crafted URLs are opened by the client.

Discord is far from the only communication and collaboration solution to be abused. Slack and Telegram are similarly being abused in phishing campaigns and for malware distribution.

How TitanHQ Can Improve Your Organization’s Security Posture

TitanHQ offers two cybersecurity solutions that can be configured to block the use of these legitimate platforms in the workplace and stop malicious links from being distributed to their employees. WebTitan is a powerful but easy-to-use DNS filtering and web security solution that can be configured to block access to sites such as Discord, thus preventing employees from visiting malicious content. Since WebTitan performs malware scans in real time, if malicious files are encountered, employees will be prevented from downloading them. WebTitan supports HTTPS (SSL) inspection so can decrypt, scan, then re-encrypt traffic to identify and block malicious content.

Malicious links to Discord are often distributed via phishing emails. SpamTitan Email Security prevents malicious emails from being delivered to inboxes, such as emails containing links to Discord, Telegram, or other services that are abused by cybercriminals and used to host phishing kits or malware.

Both solutions work seamlessly together to protect against email- and web-based cyberattacks and prevent credential theft, and malware and ransomware attacks. Both solutions are cost effective to implement and easy-to-use and are much loved by IT staff who benefit from a high level of protection coupled with a low management overhead.

If you want to improve protection from email and web-based attacks, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about these award-winning cybersecurity solutions. Both solutions are available on a free trial and a product demonstration can be arranged on request.

Further, these solutions have been developed to be MSP-friendly, with a range of benefits for managed service providers who want to want to improve email and web security for their clients.

Warnings Issued Following Spike in Ransomware Attacks on Schools

The disruption to learning from a pandemic that has lasted more than a year is bad enough, but many schools have experienced even more disruption just as many have opened their gates and allowed students back into classrooms.  The SARS-CoV-2 virus may have been brought under control thanks to lockdown measures and the rollout of vaccines, but another type of virus is proving to be a major threat – ransomware.

FBI Warns of Targeted Ransomware Attacks on K12 Schools and Higher Education

Ransomware attacks on schools have been stepped up in recent months and schools and higher education institutions are being actively targeted. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently issued an alert to the education sector warning about the threat of attacks involving Pysa ransomware. The threat actors behind this ransomware variant have been actively targeting K12 schools, higher education, and seminaries. Buffalo City Schools were forced to close their schools in March following a ransomware attack that crippled their IT systems, just before students were about to return to classrooms as part of a phased reopening of schools.

The ransomware is deployed manually after compromising the network. The attack often starts with a phishing email, which gives the attackers the foothold in the network they need. They then conduct reconnaissance, move laterally, and compromise entire networks before deploying their ransomware.

Prior to running the encryption routine that cripple IT systems, the attackers steal sensitive data. Files containing student information are obtained and threats are issued to publish or sell the stolen data if the ransom is not paid. The gang, like many others, has a leak site and routinely follows through on the threat.

Spike in Ransomware Attacks on UK Schools

Ransomware attacks on schools are not confined to the United States. The Pysa ransomware gang is also targeting schools in the United Kingdom and many other countries, and the Pysa gang is not alone. Many other ransomware operations have been attacking schools.

Following a rise in ransomware attacks on UK schools, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued an alert to educational institutions about the growing threat of attacks. NCSC has observed an increase in ransomware attacks on schools from late February 2021, which coincides with students returning to classrooms after an extensive period of school closures due to the pandemic.

The NCSC said there is no reason to believe that these attacks are being conducted by the same criminal group. This appears to be the work of multiple threat groups. These attacks have caused varying levels of disruption, including rendering entire networks inoperable, disabling email and websites, and hampering the ability of students to learn. In some cases, students have lost coursework as a result of the attacks, records of COVID-19 tests have been rendered inaccessible, and school financial records have been lost.

Unfortunately, even paying the ransom is no guarantee of being able to recover encrypted files. While the attackers claim they have the keys to unlock the encryption, they may not be provided. There is also no guarantee that stolen data will be deleted when the ransom is paid. There have been many cases when further ransom demands have been issued after payment has been made.

Adopt a Defense in Depth Strategy to Block Ransomware Attacks

The Department for Education (DfE) has recently urged UK schools to review their cybersecurity defenses and take the necessary steps to harden their defenses against cyberattacks. The NCSC explained that there is no single cybersecurity solution that will provide protection against these attacks. What is required is a defense in depth approach to security.

Defense in depth means implementing multiple overlapping layers of security. If one layer fails to block an attack, others are in place to block the attack.

In practice this means good patch management – applying updates to software, firmware, and operating systems promptly. Antivirus software must be installed on all devices and be kept up to date. Spam filtering solutions should be implemented to block the phishing emails that give the attackers access to the network. These filters can also be used to block email attachments that are not typically received.

Web filters should be used to block access to malicious websites. These filters inspect the content of websites to determine if it is malicious. They also categorize web content, and the filters allow schools to carefully control the types of content that students and staff can access to reduce risk.

Multi factor authentication should be implemented on all remote access points and email accounts, remote access ports that are not being used should be blocked, and a VPN should be used for remote access. The rule of least privilege should be applied for remote access and all staff and student accounts.

It is also recommended to prevent all non-administrator accounts from being able to install software, office macros should be disabled, as should autorun on portable devices.

It is also vital that all files are backed up daily and backups tested to make sure file recovery is possible. Backups should be stored on non-networked devices and must not be accessible from the systems where the data resides. Ideally, multiple backup copies should be created with at least one stored on an air-gaped device.

Gootloader Malware Delivery Framework Uses SEO Poisoning to Deliver Multiple Malware Variants

There has been an increase in the use of a JavaScript-based infection framework known as Gootloader for delivering malware payloads. Gootloader, as the name suggests, has been used to deliver the Gootkit banking Trojan, but also REvil ransomware, Cobalt Strike, and the Kronos Trojan via compromised WordPress websites.

The threat actors behind Gootloader compromise vulnerable WordPress websites and inject hundreds of pages of fake content, often totally unrelated to the theme of the website. A broad range of websites have been compromised across many industry sectors, including retail, education, healthcare, travel, music, and many more, with the common denominator that they all use the WordPress CMS.

It is not clear how the WordPress sites have been compromised. It is possible that the sites have not been updated to the latest WordPress version or had vulnerable plugins that were exploited. Legitimate admin accounts could be compromised using brute force tactics, or other methods used.

The content added to the compromised sites takes the format of forum posts and fake message boards, providing specific questions and answers. The questions are mostly related to specific types of legal agreements and other documents. An analysis of the campaign by eSentire researchers found most of the posts on the compromised websites contained the word “agreement”. The posts have a question, such as “Do I need a party wall agreement to sell my house?” with a post added below using the exact same search term that users can click to download a template agreement.

These pages have very specific questions for which there are few search engine listings, so when search engines crawl the websites, the content ranks highly in the SERPs for that specific search term. There may be relatively few individuals searching for these particular search terms on the likes of Google, but the majority of those that do are looking for a sample agreements to download.

The malicious file that the link directs the user to download is a JavaScript file, hidden inside a.zip file. If that file is opened, the rest of the infection process operates in the memory, beyond the reach of traditional antimalware solutions. An autorun entry is created that loads a PowerShell script for persistence, which will ultimately be used to deliver whatever payload the threat actor wishes to deliver.

The content added to the websites contains malicious code that displays the malicious forum posts only to visitors from specific locations, with an underlying blog post that at first appears legitimate, but mostly contains gibberish. The blog post will be displayed to all individuals who are not specifically being targeted.

The campaign is using black hat SEO techniques to get the content listed in the SERPs, which will eventually be removed by the likes of Google; however, that process may take some time.

Blocking these attacks requires a combination of security solutions and training. Downloading any document or file from the Internet carries a risk of a malware infection. Risk can be reduced by implementing a web filtering solution. Web filters will block access to websites that have been identified as malicious and will perform content analysis on new content. You can also configure a web filter to block downloads of certain files types, such as JavaScript files and Zip files.

Endpoints should be configured to display known file types, as this is not enabled by default in Windows. This will ensure that the file extension – .js – is displayed. End users should be instructed not to open these files and Windows Attack Surface Reduction rules should be set to block JavaScript and visual Basic scripts from attempting to download and run files.

TitanHQ Wins Big at Expert Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards

TitanHQ is proud to announce three of its innovative products have been named winners at the Experts Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards in the Web Security, Email Security Gateway, and Email Archiving categories.

Expert Insights helps businesses identify the most powerful, innovative, and ease to use cybersecurity solutions through its website, and helps clear up the confusion about cybersecurity solutions through objective reviews, industry analysis, and interviews with industry leaders. The top cybersecurity products are listed on the website along with reviews and ratings from genuine users of the solutions. Expert Insights now helps more than 40,000 businesses each month select the most appropriate cybersecurity solutions to meet their needs.

The leading cybersecurity companies and their products are recognized each year in the Expert insights’ “Best-Of” Awards. Products are assessed by technology experts and the Expert Insights’ Editorial Team based on many factors, including market presence, technical features of the products, ease-of-use, and ratings by verified users of the products. Winners are selected in a range of different categories such as email security, web security, endpoint security, multi-factor authentication, backup, and many more.

“2020 was an unprecedented year of cybersecurity challenges, with a rapid rise in remote working causing a massive acceleration in cybercrime,” said Craig MacAlpine, CEO and Founder, Expert Insights. “Expert Insights’ Best-Of awards are designed to recognize innovative cybersecurity providers like TitanHQ that have developed powerful solutions to keep businesses safe against increasingly sophisticated cybercrime.”

TitanHQ was recognized for the WebTitan DNS filtering solution, which was named a winner in the Web Security category, SpamTitan was named a winner in the Email Security category, and ArcTitan was named a winner in the Email Archiving category. In addition to the level of protection provided, each solution is consistently rated highly on price and ease of use by enterprises, SMBs, and Managed Service Providers. The solutions are used by more than 8,500 businesses and over 2,500 MSPs in more than 150 countries. In addition to the high ratings on Experts’ Insights, the solutions have received top marks on G2 Crowd, Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, and Google Reviews.

“The recent pandemic and the growth of remote working initiatives have further highlighted the need for multiple layers of cybersecurity and our award-winning solutions form key pillars in this security strategy,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO, TitanHQ. “We will continue to innovate and provide solutions that MSPs can use to deliver a consistent, secure and reliable experience to their customers.”

Tips for Protecting Against Vishing and Smishing Attacks

Cybercriminals use many tactics to obtain credentials that they then use to remotely access corporate accounts, cloud services, and gain access to business networks. Phishing is the most common method, which is most commonly conducted via email. Attackers craft emails using a variety of lures to trick the recipient into visiting a malicious website where they are required to enter their credentials that are captured and used by the attackers to remotely access the accounts.

Businesses are now realizing the benefits of implementing an advanced spam filtering solution to block these phishing emails at source and ensure they do not reach inboxes. Advanced antispam and anti-phishing solutions will block virtually all phishing attempts, so if you have yet to implement such a solution or you are relying on Microsoft Office 365 protections, we urge you to get in touch and give SpamTitan a trial.

Phishing is not only performed via email. Rather than using email to deliver the hook, many threat groups use SMS or instant messaging platforms and increasing numbers of phishing campaigns are now being conducted by telephone and these types of phishing attack are harder to block.

Smishing for Credentials

When phishing occurs through SMS messages it is known as Smishing. Rather than an email, an SMS message is sent with a link that users are instructed to click. Instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp are also used. Many different lures are used, but it is common for security alerts to be sent that warn the recipient about a fraudulent transaction or other security threat that requires them to login to their account.

Recently, Allied Irish Bank (AIB) customers in Ireland were targeted with such as smishing campaign. The SMS message advises the recipient that there has been a suspected fraudulent transaction which they are required to review by clicking a link and logging in. Their credentials are harvested, and they are instructed to provide codes from their card reader or one-time passwords as part of the security check. Doing so will allow the scammers to access the account and make fraudulent transactions. A variation on this theme involves the user being told they have been locked out of their account.

In this campaign the scammers use a URL on the domain secureonlineservicepayeeroi.com, although these domains frequently change. Many campaigns mask the destination URL using URL shortening services, and one recent campaign conducted by an Iranian threat group used a seemingly legitimate google.com URL and several redirects before the user landed on the phishing page. Smishing is also often used in PayPal phishing attacks using messages warning about the closure of an account.

Vishing Attacks on Businesses Spike

In December 2019, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified a campaign where cybercriminals were conducting phishing over the telephone – termed vishing. Since then, the number of cases of vishing attacks has increased, prompting the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to issue a joint alert in the summer about a campaign targeting remote workers. This month, the FBI has issued a further alert following a spike in vishing attacks on businesses.

Cybercriminals often target users with high levels of privileges, but not always. There has been a growing trend for cybercriminals to target all credentials, so all users are at risk. Once one set of credentials is obtained, attempts are made to elevate privileges and reconnaissance is performed to identify targets in the company with the level of permissions they need – I.e. permissions to perform email changes.

The scammers make VoIP calls to employees and convince them to visit a webpage where they need to login. In one attack, an employee of the company was found in the company’s chatroom, and was contacted and convinced to login to their company’s VPN on a fake VPN page. Credentials were obtained and used to perform reconnaissance. Another target was identified that likely had advanced permissions, and that individual was contacted and scammed into revealing their credentials.

How to Block Smishing and Vishing Attacks

Blocking these types of phishing attacks requires a combination of measures. In contrast to email phishing, these threats cannot be easily blocked at source. It is therefore important to cover these threats in security awareness training sessions as well as warning about the risks of email phishing.

A web filtering solution is recommended to block attempts to visit the malicious domains where the phishing pages are hosted. Web filters such as WebTitan can be used to control the websites that employees can access on their corporate-issued phones and mobile devices and will provide protection no matter where an employee accesses the Internet.

It is also important to set up multifactor authentication to prevent any stolen credentials from being used by attackers to remotely access accounts. The FBI also recommends granting network access using the rule of least privilege: ensuring users are only given access to the resources they need to complete their jobs. The FBI also recommends regularly scanning and auditing user access rights given and monitoring for any changes in permissions.

Malicious Word Documents Used to Deliver Malicious Cobalt Strike Script Hidden in PNG file

A malware delivery campaign has been identified that uses phishing emails, malicious macros, PowerShell, and steganography to deliver a malicious Cobalt Strike script.

The initial phishing emails contain a legacy Word attachment (.doc) with a malicious macro that downloads a PowerShell script from GitHub if allowed to run. That script in turn downloads a PNG image file from the legitimate image sharing service Imgur. The image contains hidden code within its pixels which can be executed with a single command to execute the payload. In this case, a Cobalt Strike script.

Cobalt Strike is a commonly used penetration testing tool. While it is used by security professionals for legitimate security purposes, it is also of value to hackers. The tool allows beacons to be added to compromised devices which can be used to execute PowerShell scripts, create web shells, escalate privileges, and provide remote access to devices. In this campaign, the hiding of the code in the image and the use of legitimate services such as Imgur and GitHub helps the attackers avoid detection.

The hiding of code within image files is known as steganography and has been used for many years as a way of hiding malicious code, typically in PNG files to prevent the code from being detected. With this campaign the deception doesn’t end there. The Cobalt Strike script includes an EICAR string that is intended to fool security solutions and security teams into classing the malicious code as an antivirus payload, except contact is made with the attacker’s command and control server and instructions are received.

This campaign was identified by researcher ArkBird who likened the campaign to one conducted by an APT group known as Muddywater, which emerged around 2017. The threat group, aka Static kitten/Seedworm/Mercury, primarily conducts attacks on Middle eastern countries, commonly Saudi Arabia and Iraq, although the group has been known to conduct attacks on European and US targets. It is unclear whether this group is responsible for the campaign.

Naturally one of the best ways to block these types of attacks is by preventing the malicious email from being delivered to inboxes. A spam filter such as SpamTitan that incorporates a sandbox for analyzing attachments in safety will help to ensure that these messages do not get delivered to inboxes. End user training is also recommended to ensure that employees are made aware that they should never enable macros in Word Documents sent via email.

A web filtering solution is also beneficial. Web filters such as WebTitan can be configured to give IT teams control over the web content that employees can access. Since GitHub is commonly used by IT professionals and other employees for legitimate purposes, an organization-wide block on the site is not recommended. Instead, a selective block can be placed for groups of employees or departments that prevents GitHub and other potentially risky code sharing sites such as PasteBin from being accessed, either deliberately or unintentionally, to provide an extra layer of protection.

Advanced Cybersecurity Defenses Needed to Combat New Phishing and Malware Campaigns

Cybercriminals are using an increasing range of tactics, techniques and procedures to fool the unwary into disclosing their credentials or installing malware, which is making it hard for end users to distinguish between genuine and malicious messages.

It is common for cybercriminals to purchase lookalike domains for use in phishing scams and for distributing malware. Oftentimes the domains purchased are very similar to the domains they impersonate, aside from one or two changed letters.

For instance, the letters v v could be used in place of a w for a domain spoofing Wal-Mart – e.g. VVal-Mart. In internationalized domain name (IDN) homograph attacks, aka script spoofing, Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic letters are used in domains instead of standard letters. This can lead to domains being almost indistinguishable from the domains they are spoofing, especially since the web pages hosted on those domains include the logos and color schemes used on the official websites.

FBI Warns of Use of Spoofed FBI Domains

Recently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning following the discovery that many FBI-related domain names have been purchased that closely resemble official FBI websites. While these domains are not believed to have been used for malicious purposes to date, it is probable that the individuals registering these domains were intending to use them in phishing attacks, for distributing malware, or for disinformation campaigns. The domains include fbidefense.com, fbimaryland, fbi-ny, fib.ca, fbi-intel.com, fbi.systems, and fbi.health.

These domains can be used to host phishing kits or exploit kits, but the domains can be used to create official-looking email addresses. An email from one of these domains, that has the FBI in the name, could easily scare someone into taking an action demand in the email, such as disclosing their login credentials or opening a malicious email attachment.

Legitimate Cloud Services Leveraged in Sophisticated Phishing Attacks

There have also been phishing campaigns detected in recent weeks that use legitimate cloud services to mask the malicious nature of the emails. Campaigns have been detected that use links to Google Forms, Google Docs, Dropbox, and cloud services from Amazon and Oracle. Emails are sent that include fake notifications with links to these cloud services; however, once the link is clicked, the user is taken through a series of redirects to a malicious website hosting fake Office 365 login prompts that steal credentials.

Several of these campaigns involved checks to make sure the recipient is a real person, with automated responses directed to official domains to prevent analysis. Phishers are also continuing to use typosquatting – the name given to the use of domains with natural typographical errors – to catch out careless typists.

Sophisticated Campaigns Call for Sophisticated Cybersecurity Defenses

The sophisticated nature of today’s phishing and malware campaigns, together with cybercriminals’ constantly changing tactics, techniques, and procedures, mean it is becoming harder for end users to distinguish between genuine and malicious emails. End user security awareness training is still important, but it has never been more important to have effective technical solutions in place to ensure that these threats are identified and blocked before any harm is caused.

The first line of defense against phishing is an email security gateway solution through which all emails need to pass before they reach inboxes. These solutions need to use a range of advanced mechanisms for identifying malicious and suspicious emails, so should one mechanism fail to identify a malicious email, others are in place to provide protection.

SpamTitan from TitanHQ is one such solution that incorporates many layers of protection to detect and block phishing and malware attacks via email. Checks are performed on the message headers, content is analyzed, and machine learning is incorporated to identify never before seen threats, in addition to blacklisting of known malicious email addresses and domains. To block malware threats, SpamTitan uses dual anti-virus engines to block known threats and sandboxing to identify and block zero-day malware threats. Working seamlessly together, these mechanisms will block 99.97% of malicious messages.

An additional anti-phishing solution that you may not have considered is a web filtering solution. Web filters are important for blocking the web-based component of phishing attacks and preventing individuals from visiting sites used for malware delivery. A web filter can also block redirects to malicious websites that hide behind links to legitimate cloud services.

WebTitan from TitanHQ is a smart, DNS-based web filtering solution that uses automation and advanced analytics to block emerging phishing and other malicious URLs, not just those that have been already used in attacks and have been added to blacklists. Through the use of AI-based technology, WebTitan can provide protection from zero-minute threats.

Advanced cybersecurity defenses do not need to be complicated for end users to use. Both SpamTitan and WebTitan have been developed to be easy to implement, use, and maintain. While they incorporate all the required protections and allow advanced users to drill down and analyze threats, they can also easily be used to protect networks and devices by users with little technical skill. The ease of implementation, use, and maintenance together with the superb threat protection are why the solutions are consistently rated so highly on review sites such as Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, and on Google Reviews.

To improve your defenses against cybersecurity threats delivered via email and via the web, give the TitanHQ a team a call today and find out more about SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan DNS filtering.

Half of Ransomware Attacks Now Involve Data Theft

The first known ransomware attack occurred in 1989, but in the years since this form of malware has not proven popular with cybercriminals. That started to change in 2013 with Cryptolocker and the number of attacks – and ransomware threats as continued to grow ever since.

Today, ransomware is one of the biggest malware threats faced by businesses. Ransomware attacks are no longer relatively small campaigns conducted by ransomware developers. Rather than conduct their own attacks, it is now common for ransomware developers to leave the distribution of the ransomware to a network of affiliates. Under the ransomware-as-a-service model, more attacks can be conducted and more ransoms will be paid as a result. Most ransomware operations now operate under this RaaS model and there is no shortage of affiliates willing to distribute the ransomware for a cut of the profits.

While ransomware was once used simply to encrypt files and prevent them from being accessed by businesses unless a ransom was paid for the keys to decrypt files, the Maze ransomware operators started stealing data in 2019 prior to file encryption to add an extra incentive for victims to pay up. Many other ransomware operations followed suit and either threatened to publish the stolen data or sell it on to other cybercriminals if the ransom is not paid.

Data theft prior to file encryption is fast becoming the norm. Coveware, a company that works with ransomware victims to resolve ransomware attacks (often entering into negotiations with the attackers on behalf of its clients), recently published a report that shows half of all ransomware attacks now involve data theft prior to file encryption. It may be possible to recover encrypted data from backups, but that will not prevent the publication or misuse of stolen data.

This tactic has proven to be effective for the ransomware gangs, but there have been many cases where payment of the ransom has not resulted in the deletion of stolen data. In the United States, several victims in the healthcare industry have paid the ransom demand only to receive a second demand for a payment to prevent stolen data from being released.

According to Coveware, the Sodinokibi ransomware gang is known to issue further demands after the initial payment is made, and it has been a similar case with Netwalker and Mespinoza ransomware. The operators of Conti ransomware provide proof that files are deleted after the ransom is paid, but that proof is faked.

Ransom demands are also increasing. The average ransom demand in Q3, 2020 was $234,000, up 31% from the previous quarter according to the Coveware Quarterly Ransomware Report.

The healthcare industry has been extensively targeted by ransomware gangs and attacks have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The healthcare industry is heavily reliant on data and attacks aim to encrypt patient data and steal medical records prior to encryption. If the ransom is not paid, the data has a high value and can be sold on easily.

Recently, a joint warning was issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in conjunction with the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services, warning of an increased and imminent threat of targeted ransomware attacks on the healthcare and public health sectors. A few days after the alert was issued, 6 healthcare providers were attacked with Ryuk ransomware in a single day.

Ransomware attacks are here to stay for the foreseeable future. They will only start to decline when they are no longer profitable. With attacks at record levels and no guarantee that stolen data will be returned even I the ransom is paid, it is more important than ever for businesses and healthcare organizations to ensure their defenses are hardened against ransomware attacks.

Ransomware can be delivered using a variety of techniques. Vulnerabilities in software and operating systems are commonly exploited to gain access to networks, so vulnerability scanning is important for identifying exploitable vulnerabilities to ensure they are promptly addressed before they can be exploited.

Email remains one of the most common attack vectors, not only for delivering ransomware, but delivering ransomware downloaders. Emotet and TrickBot are two Trojans commonly used to deliver ransomware as a secondary payload, and both are primarily delivered via email, as is BazarLoader, which has been used to deliver ransomware in many recent attacks.

To block this attack vector, an advanced AI-powered spam filter is required – one that is capable of not only detecting known malware threats, but zero-day malware and email attacks that have not been seen before. SpamTitan uses AI and machine learning techniques to identify these email threats at source and prevent them from being delivered to inboxes where employees unwittingly provide the attackers with access to their networks. In addition to dual anti-virus engines, SpamTitan has a sandboxing feature for identifying zero-day malware threats and SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to detect and block email impersonation attacks.

Ransomware, ransomware droppers, and other malware threats are often delivered via the Internet, so cybersecurity measures are needed to block this attack vector. WebTitan similarly uses AI and machine learning techniques to provide protection from websites used to deliver malware threats. The solution uses automation and advanced analytics to search through billions of URLs/IPs and phishing sites that could comprise a company and ensure those threats are blocked.

By implementing layered defenses, it is possible to block the majority of threats, but it is still important to ensure that your data is protected in the event that an attack succeeds. You should make sure that come what may, your data is secured.

A good approach to adopt is the 3-2-1 backup strategy, which involves making three backups, storing the copies on 2 different media (tape, disc, or cloud for instance), and ensuring one copy is stored securely off site. Should an attack succeed, you will not be at the mercy of the attackers and will at least be able to recover your data without paying the ransom.

If you want to improve your defenses against ransomware, give the TitanHQ team a call today for information and advice on the steps you can take to harden your defenses.

Why is Web Filtering in the Workplace Important?

The Internet opened up a world of new opportunities for businesses, allowing them to get in touch with customers around the world, explore new markets, find new suppliers, and access a wealth of knowledge. Web filtering solutions allow businesses to control internet access and monitor its use by employees and guest users, but why is web filtering in the workplace necessary, what are the benefits, and what are the risks of not filtering the internet? In this post we will explore the benefits of web filtering in the workplace.

What Exactly is a Web Filter?

You will no doubt be aware of spam filters, which are used to carefully control what emails are delivered to inboxes, blocking threats such as phishing emails and malware. Spam filters may also scan outbound email and apply controls to prevent data loss and malicious emails from being sent externally. A web filter performs a similar function for Internet access.

A web filter sits between your end users and the Internet and applies controls over the websites that can be accessed and the files that can be downloaded. The main function of a web filter is content control to restrict access to NSFW websites and block phishing websites and malware downloads.

Reasons for Web Filtering in the Workplace

There are many different reasons for web filtering in the workplace. These include:

Blocking access to inappropriate web content

Web filters are often used to prevent employees from accessing NSFW content such as pornography, images of violence, and hate speech, which can lead to the development of a hostile work environment. Businesses such as coffee shops, along with libraries and schools, use web filtering to create a family-friendly online environment and prevent minors from accessing age-inappropriate content.

Blocking online threats

Phishing attacks are now commonplace and there is a significant risk of malware being downloaded from the Internet. A web filter blocks these threats, by first preventing users from accessing known malicious websites and secondly by preventing downloads of malicious files.

Controlling bandwidth use

There will be a limited amount of bandwidth available and sometimes that bandwidth may be squeezed, resulting in considerable latency that affects all Internet users on the network. A web filter can be used to restrict bandwidth use by blocking certain online activities – video streaming for instance – ensuring sufficient bandwidth is available for all.

Improving productivity

The Internet makes slacking off very easy for employees. Business can suffer major productivity losses from employees accessing certain types of websites which serve no purpose in the workplace. A web filter can be used to block access to social media networks, dating websites, gambling and gaming sites, and video streaming services such as YouTube.

Preventing legal issues

Legal issues can arise from uncontrolled Internet use. If an employee or user of a Wi-Fi network engages in illegal activity, the business owner may be liable for their actions. For instance, illegal software, music, and video downloads from P2P file sharing networks. Web filters can also prevent data theft by blocking access to file sharing sites.

Monitoring Internet use

You may want to adopt a permissive approach and only restrict access to illegal content and malicious websites, but a web filter gives you insights into what users are doing online. This can help you to prevent and resolve HR issues and identify insider threats.

How Web Filtering in the Workplace is Achieved?

There are several ways that web filtering in the workplace can be implemented. A physical appliance can be purchased through which all Internet traffic is routed, with controls applied by a system administrator. Cloud-based web filters are now much more popular. With filtering taking place in the cloud, no equipment purchases are required.

DNS-based web filtering sees filtering take place at the DNS lookup stage of a web request, with filtering occurring without content being downloaded. Cloud-based filters that operate at the DNS level also avoid any latency issues, which can be a problem with physical appliances.

Methods of Web Filtering

There are various methods of web filtering in the workplace, with most solutions using a combination of all.

Whitelists and Blacklists

Blacklists are used to block access to specific domains and URLs, either through third-party or user-generated blacklists. Whitelists are used to always allow access to a specific URL or domain, regardless of the content filtering controls put in place.

Category Filtering

Category filtering is the easiest way of exercising content control. A web filtering solution will assign websites into categories based on the content of the website. Using a checkbox in the UI, the system administrator can select which categories of content should be blocked. Commonly blocked categories include pornography, gambling, gaming, dating, social media, news, and webmail.

Content Analysis

Web filters can perform analyses of web content to detect certain keywords and can assign a score to each URL. Thresholds can be set for individual users, departments, or the entire organization and if that threshold is exceeded, the content will not be displayed.

WebTitan Cloud: Workplace Web Filtering Made Simple

WebTitan cloud is a powerful web filtering solution that provides visibility into the online activities of users and allows controls to easily be set to control Internet access and block online threats that could threaten your business. WebTitan Cloud has been developed to be easy to set up and use, with no technical prowess required to use the solution.

Highly granular filtering controls allow precision control over the content that can be accessed, without overblocking and preventing important web content from being accessed.  The solution is DNS-based, so no equipment purchases or software downloads are necessary, and there is zero latency.

WebTitan Cloud protects on-site workers on the network, Wi-Fi users, and remote workers no matter where they access the Internet.

There is a transparent pricing policy, no optional extras, the product is extremely competitively priced, and customers benefit from industry-leading customer support.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that want to add web filtering to their service stacks benefit from many MSP-friendly features such as multiple hosting options, a brandable white-label version of the product, monthly billing, and pricing that accommodates rapidly changing numbers of seats.

To find out more about the full benefits of WebTitan Cloud, to arrange a product demonstration, give the WebTitan team a call today.

 

Spike in Exploit Kit Activity Abusing Adult Ad Networks

Exploit kits used to be one of the most common methods of distributing malware, although their use has dwindled to a fraction of the level seen in 2016. That said, there has recently been an uptick in the use of exploit kits and multiple threat actors are conducting campaigns to deliver malware payloads.

An exploit kit is malicious code that incorporates exploits for one or more vulnerabilities. When a visitor arrives on a website hosting an exploit kit, their computer is scanned for vulnerabilities and if one that is being targeted, the exploit is executed and a malicious payload such as a banking Trojan, keylogger, or ransomware is silently downloaded.

Exploit kits are loaded onto websites under the control of the attackers, which can be their own domains or a legitimate site that has been compromised. Traffic is usually sent to the exploit kit through malicious adverts on third-party ad networks (malvertising). These ad networks are used by many websites for adding revenue-generating third party adverts.

According to research conducted by Malwarebytes, a campaign is being conducted using the Fallout exploit kit to deliver the Racoon Stealer, with the EK loaded onto popular adult websites. The campaign was reported to the ad network and the malicious advert was removed, only to be replaced with an advert directing visitors to a site hosting the Rig exploit kit.

Another campaign was identified involving a different threat actor who is known to have targeted various adult ad networks. The malicious adverts were displayed on a wide range of different adult websites, including one of the most popular adult websites that generates more than 1 billion page views a month.

The threat actor had submitted bids for users of Internet Explorer only, as the exploit kit contained an exploit for an unpatched IE vulnerability. The vulnerabilities exploited were CVE-2019-0752 and CVE-2018-15982, the former is an IE vulnerability and the latter is a vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player. In this campaign, Smoke Loader malware was delivered, along with Racoon Stealer and ZLoader.

For an exploit kit to work, a computer must have an unpatched vulnerability, an exploit for which must be included in the EK. Prompt patching is therefore one of the best ways of ensuring that these attacks are not successful. It is also strongly advisable to stop using Internet Explorer and Flash Player. Vulnerabilities in each are frequently targeted.

These campaigns can also easily be blocked by using a web filter. Unless your business operates in the adult entertainment sector, access to adult content on work devices should be blocked. A web filter allows your business to block access to all adult websites, and other categories of web content that employees should not be accessing in the workplace.

A cloud-based web filter such as WebTitan is a low cost solution that can protect against a web-based attacks such as exploit kits and drive-by malware downloads, while also helping businesses to improve productivity by preventing employees from visiting websites that have no work purpose. Web filters can also reduce legal liability by preventing employees from engaging in illegal online activities, such as copyright infringing file downloads.

Once implemented – a process that takes a few minutes – access to certain categories of website can be blocked with the click of a mouse and employees will be prevented from accessing websites known to harbor malware, phishing kits, and other potentially malicious websites.

For further information on WebTitan and protecting your business from web-based threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

COVID-19 is Still Being Exploited by Cybercriminals in Phishing and Malware Attacks

The COVID-19 pandemic created a massive opportunity for cybercriminals, and they have been exploiting it with vigor, especially in phishing campaigns. Phishing is the use of deception to trick someone into performing an action. Social engineering techniques are used to get people to open malicious email attachments, visit hyperlinks to websites where sensitive information is harvested, or to take other actions such as make donations to fake charities.

In the early stages of the pandemic when little was known about the virus, how it was spread, the risk of infection, and the disease it caused, the public was very much in the dark and craved information. This created the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals for use in phishing and other cyberattacks.

Recently, the United Nations released data collected about phishing attacks involving COVID-19 related themes showing there had been a 350% increase in new phishing websites in the first quarter of the year, many of which were health-related and targeted health systems and hospitals.

Research conducted by Check Point also found a major rise in domain registrations linked to COVID-19. Research showed that phishing attacks increased from around 5,000 a week in February to more than 200,000 per week by late April, many of which were linked to COVID-19.

Early in the year the lack of knowledge about COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus suited large-scale phishing campaigns involving millions of messages, with cybercriminals re-purposing their normal campaigns and started using COVID-19 themed websites and lures. Phishing emails offered information about the virus, possible cures, and advice to avoid being infected. When there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, phishing lures were used offering low cost supplies and testing kits.

Now that there is more information about the virus and cases and PPE shortages have largely been addressed, phishing scams related to COVID-19 have evolved. A study conducted by ProPrivacy showed that far from the COVID-19 related phishing attacks disappearing and cybercriminals returning to their old campaigns using fake invoices and alike, these campaigns are still running, but they have become more targeted and sophisticated.

These targeted campaigns offer answers to new questions being raised by the public, such as whether it is safe for children to return to schools. The study, conducted in partnership with VirusTotal and WHOIS XML, identified 1,200 COVID-related domains were still being registered each day and a sample of 600,000 of those domains revealed around 125,000 of them were malicious and were mostly being used for phishing.

We can expect to see another wave of phishing emails and websites set up related to COVID-19 vaccines when they start to come to market. Since the threat has not gone away and is likely to remain for some time to come, it is important to remain on your guard and to be cautious with any emails received, especially those related to COVIID-19.

Businesses also need to take extra care to ensure that their employees and devices are protected. Most businesses will already have a spam filtering solution in place to block phishing emails, but now is a good time to review those controls. If spam and phishing emails are still reaching inboxes, consider an alternative solution or a third-party spam filter if you are using Office 365 and are relying on Exchange Online Protection for spam and phishing protection.

One anti-phishing measure that is less commonly used by businesses is a web filter. A web filter allows businesses to control the websites and webpages that their employees can visit. Web filters, such as WebTitan, block access to websites known to be malicious, such as those known to be used for phishing. Web filters also categorize websites and allow certain categories to be blocked. By carefully controlling the web content that can be accessed by employees, businesses will be much better protected against phishing attacks and other cyber attacks with a web-based component.

It is also strongly recommended to implement 2-factor authentication, which will provide protection in the event of credentials being compromised in a phishing attack.

If you would like more information about web filtering, WebTitan, or improving your spam filter, give the TitanHQ team a call.

Inactive Domains Hijacked and Used to Send Visitors to Malicious Websites

Cybercriminals have adopted a new tactic to deliver malware and conduct phishing attacks on unsuspecting internet users. They are hijacking inactive domains and using them to direct visitors to malicious websites in a form of malvertising.

Malvertising is the term given to the use of malicious code in seemingly legitimate adverts, which are often displayed on high-traffic websites.  Website owners use third-party ad networks as a way to increase revenue from their websites. Most of these adverts are genuine and will direct users to a legitimate website, but cybercriminals often sneak malicious code into these adverts. Clicking the link will direct the user to a website hosting an exploit kit or phishing form. In some cases, ‘drive-by’ malware downloads occur without any user interaction, simply if the web content loads and the user has a vulnerable device.

The new tactic uses domains that have expired and are no longer active. These websites may still be listed in the search engine results for key search terms. When user conducts a search and clicks the link or uses a link in their bookmarks to a previously visited website, they will arrive at a landing page that explains that the website is no longer active. Oftentimes, that page will include a series of links that will direct the visitor to related websites.

What often happens is these expired domains are put up for sale. They can be attractive for purchasers as there may already be many links to the website, which is preferable to starting a brand-new website from scratch. These expired domains are then auctioned. Researchers at Kaspersky found that cybercriminals have taken advantage of these auction-listed websites and have added links that direct visitors to malicious websites.

When a visitor arrives on the site, instead of being directed to the auction stub, the stub is replaced with a link to a malicious website. The study uncovered around 1,000 domains that had been listed for sale on a popular auction site, which redirected visitors to more than 2,500 unwanted URLs. In the majority of those cases, the URLs were ad-related pages, but 11% of the URLs were malicious and were mostly being used to distribute the Shlayer Trojan via infected documents that the user is prompted to download. The Shlayer Trojan installs adware on the user’s device. Several of the sites hosted malicious code on the site rather than redirecting the visitor to a different website.

These domains were once legitimate websites, but are now being used for malicious purposes, which makes the threat hard to block. In some cases, the sites will display different content based on where the user is located and if they are using a VPN to access the internet. These websites change content frequently, but they are indexed and categorized and if determined to be malicious they are added to real time block lists (RBLs).

A web filtering solution such as WebTitan can provide protection against malvertising and redirects to malicious sites. If an attempt is made to send a user to a known malicious website, rather than being connected the user will be directed to a local block page, negating the threat. WebTitan can also be configured to block downloads of risky file types from these websites.

Many organizations have implemented firewalls to prevent direct attacks by hackers, use antivirus software to block malware, and use an anti-spam solution to block attacks via email, but there is a gap in their security protections and web-based threats are not effectively blocked. WebTitan allows organizations to plug that gap and control the websites that can be accessed by employees.

For further information on WebTitan and filtering the internet, give the TitanHQ team a call. WebTitan is available on a free trial to allow you to evaluate the solution and see for yourself how you can block attempts to visit malicious web content and NSFW sites.

How Much Money Did WannaCry Make?

The WannaCry ransomware attacks that started on May 12, 2017 were blocked quickly when a kill switch was identified and activated, but how much money did WannaCry make during the time it was active?

WannaCry was a devastating global cyberattack, the likes of which had been predicted by many cybersecurity professionals but had yet to materialize. WannaCry was the fastest spreading ransomware ever created.

WannaCry combined ransomware with a worm, which allowed it to automatically spread and infect huge numbers of devices on a network. The ransomware exploited a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMBv1) using an NSA exploit called EternalBlue.

The flaw exploited by EternalBlue had been reported to Microsoft and a patch was issued in March 2017, two months before the attacks started. However, many businesses were slow to apply the patch and were vulnerable to attack. Within a matter of hours, around 200,000 computers had been attacked in 150 countries. It is worth noting here that there are still many computers that have not been patched more than 2 and a half years after the patch was released, in spite of widespread news coverage about the threat of attack and its huge cost. WannaCry is still one of the biggest ransomware threats and accounts for a significant percentage of all successful ransomware attacks in 2019.

WannaCry was blocked by a British security researcher who discovered the ransomware checked a domain name prior to encrypting data, but that domain name had not been registered. He purchased the domain name, thus preventing file encryption.

That said, the speed at which the ransomware spread meant many devices were infected and encrypted. Since businesses were not protected if the ransomware encryption had already started by the time the kill switch was activated, the attackers must have had a huge payday. So how much did WannaCry make?

By today’s standards, the ransom demand was very small. Just $300 per infected device, which doubled to $600 if the payment was not paid within 3 days. It is actually easy to see how many payments were made, as the transactions are detailed in the blockchain. The recipient remains anonymous, but the payments can be seen.

The three Bitcoin addresses known to have been used in the WannaCry attacks currently show 430 payments have been made and 54.43228033 BTC has been sent to those accounts. The value of BTC is somewhat volatile and was much higher at points between now and the attacks, but at today’s exchange rate that equates to around $386,905. Most of the BTC payments have now been moved out of the accounts so the attackers have managed to cash out. Payments are also still being made to those accounts. The latest payments to one of the addresses were made in December 2019.

$386,905 may not seem like much of a payday considering the number of devices infected and the damage caused by the attack, and it’s not. Further, the attackers will need to convert that total to real money, and a considerable amount will be lost in that process. The payday was tiny considering the scale of the attack. However, the cost of the attack to businesses was colossal.

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom was hit bad and the cleanup operation, and loss of business while that occurred, has been estimated to have cost £92 million. That was just one victim, albeit a major one. The total cost of the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attacks has been estimated to be $4 billion globally; however, even though the kill switch was flicked to block the initial attacks, the threat from Wannacry has not gone away. In 2019, two years after the initial attacks, millions of computers were still at risk as the vulnerability that was exploited had still not been fixed and a new version of WannaCry was released that did not have the kill switch and continues to pose a threat. In 2019 Kaspersky said it was the most detected ransomware threat with the ransomware infecting 164,433 users, accounting for 21 percent of detected ransomware attacks that year and ESET reports that WannaCry was the most commonly detected ransomware threat in Q1, 2020, 3 years after the ransomware first appeared. The ransomware is still being used in attacks on unpatched systems in Thailand, Turkey, and Indonesia.

Next time you delay applying a patch or updating software, consider WannaCry and the potential costs of exploitation of a vulnerability. In all of the above cases – all 200,000+ attacks – applying the patch would have prevented the attack and the huge cost of remediation.

A COVID-19 Cybersecurity Checklist

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruption for many businesses, and while it is far from business as usual for many firms, work has been continuing by letting employees work from home but doing so opens a business up to new cybersecurity risks, some of the most important of which we have covered in our COVID-19 cybersecurity checklist.

Under normal circumstances, the risks from allowing workers to spend some of their working week at home can be effectively managed, but having virtually the entire workforce working remotely creates many cybersecurity challenges. Further, threat actors are exploiting the pandemic and are actively targeting remote workers.

COVID-19 Cybersecurity Checklist

To help you address the risks of remote working we have produced a quick reference COVID-19 cybersecurity checklist covering some of the most important aspects of cybersecurity that should be addressed, in light of the recent rise in cyberattacks on remote workers.

VPNs

All remote employees should be using VPNs to access corporate systems, but VPNs can also introduce vulnerabilities. There has been an increase in attacks exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities in VPNs during the pandemic and scans are being performed to find vulnerable VPNs.

VPNs clients must be kept up to date and patches should be applied promptly. There have been several attacks reported recently that have exploited the Pulse Secure vulnerability CVE-2019-11510 to deliver ransomware, even though a patch was released to correct the flaw in April last year. Vulnerabilities in other VPNS have also been targeted.

You should also consider disabling split tunneling for VPN profiles to prevent employees from accessing the internet directly while they are connected to corporate information systems or should ensure all internet traffic is routed through the VPN. You should enable multi-factor authentication for VPNs and create a separate VPN zone in your firewall and apply security policies to protect incoming and outgoing traffic.

Remote Desktop Protocol

Many businesses rely on Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to allow their employees to connect remotely, but If you do not use RDP, you should disable port 3389. There has been a growing number of brute force attacks on RDP. A recent Kaspersky report showed brute force attacks on RDP increased. There was a major increase between January and February, with global attacks rising to 93,102,836. In April, attacks had increased to a staggering 326,896,999.

If you use RDP, make sure strong passwords are set, enable multi-factor authentication, and ensure connections are only possible through your VPN – Do not allow RDP connections from outside.

Communication and Collaboration Platforms

You will need to use some form of communication and collaboration platform, such as a videoconferencing solution, to allow workers to easily get in touch with colleagues. There are many choices available, but the security capabilities of each can vary considerably. Some solutions that were considered to be secure, such as Zoom, have been shown to have vulnerabilities, some of which have been exploited in attacks. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has recently issued a useful checklist for selecting appropriate communication tools along with information on how they can be used securely.

Data Encryption

With everyone at home, burglaries may be down, and lockdown have reduced the risk of loss and theft of mobile devices, but encryption is still important. All corporate owned mobile computing devices should have encryption enabled, which is straightforward for Windows devices by enabling BitLocker. You should also encrypt web applications and FTP to ensure any data that is uploaded or downloaded is encrypted.

Ensure Firewalls are Enabled

Your employees will be beyond the protection of the corporate firewall so they should have local firewalls enabled. The easiest and most cost-effective way of applying a local firewall is to use the Windows Defender firewall, which can be configured through your MDM solution or Group Policy.

Email Security

The volume of phishing emails may not have increased by a very large degree during the COVID-19 lockdown, but there have been a large number of phishing related data breaches. Phishers have changed their campaigns and are now extensively using COVID-19 themed campaigns, which are proving to be very effective. People crave information about COVID-19 and are responding to COVID-19 themed phishing emails in large numbers. Many of the emails we have seen have been highly convincing, spoofing authorities such as WHO and the CDC.

You should consider adding an additional layer to your email defenses if you are only using Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection (EOP). Many phishing emails are bypassing Microsoft’s defenses and are being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan can be layered on top of Office 365 protections and will greatly improve the detection of phishing emails and zero-day malware and ransomware threats.

Multi-factor authentication for email accounts should be set up. In the event that email credentials are compromised, multi-factor authentication should prevent those credentials from being used to access accounts.

You should also set up a system that allows employees to report any suspicious emails they receive to the security team, to allow action to be taken to remove all similar messages from the email system and to tweak email security controls to block the threats.

DNS Filtering

With email security improved, you should also take steps to block web-based attacks. Malicious websites can be accessed by employees through general web browsing, redirects via malvertising, malicious links on social media networks, and links in phishing emails. A DNS filtering solution such as WebTitan Cloud prevents employees from visiting known malicious websites and will block drive-by malware downloads. WebTitan Cloud will protect employees whether they are on or off the network. If you don’t have web filtering capabilities for remote workers, ensure that internet access is only possible through your VPN to ensure bad packets are filtered out.

Cybersecurity Alerts and Log Checking

You should have systems in place that generate cybersecurity alerts automatically and you should enable security logs and regularly check them for signs of compromise. Monitor the use of PowerShell and red team tools such as Mimikatz and Cobalt Strike. These tools are often used by manual ransomware attackers to move laterally once access to networks is gained.

Meteoric Rise in Phishing and Web Attacks Targeting NASA’s Telecommuting Workers

There has been a massive rise in the number of telecommuting workers as a result of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic and cybercriminals are taking advantage. Phishing and malware attacks have soared in the past few weeks and home workers are being targeted.

Individuals who regularly worked from home before the COVID-19 crisis will be used to taking precautions when connecting to virtual environments set up by their employers, but huge numbers of employees are now logging in remotely for the very first time and may not be aware of the telecommuting cybersecurity risks. IT and IT security departments have also had to set up the workforce for home working in a hurry, and the sheer number of employees that have been forced into telecommuting means corners have had to be cut which has created opportunities for cybercriminals.

Even if the transition to having the entire workforce telecommuting has been expertly managed, risk will have increased considerably.  Cybersecurity is far harder to manage when the entire workforce is outside the protection of the corporate firewall and with most workers telecommuting, the attack surface has grown considerably.

Telecommuting workers are seen as low hanging fruit and cybercriminals are taking advantage of the ease at which attacks can be conducted. Since January there has been a massive increase in phishing attacks, malware attacks, and attacks over the internet targeting remote workers.

NASA Sees “Exponential Increase” in Malware Attacks

On April 6, 2020, NASA sent a memo to all personnel warning of a massive increase in targeted attacks on the agency.  NASA explained in the memo that the number of phishing attempts on NASA employees has doubled in the past few days and its systems designed to block employees from accessing malicious websites has gone into overdrive. The number of malicious websites that are now being blocked has also doubled, which strongly suggests employees are clicking on links in phishing emails and are being fooled by these scams. NASA also reports that there has been an “exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems.”

Attacks are being conducted by a diverse range of threat actors, from small players to prolific advanced persistent threat (APT) groups and nation-state sponsored hackers. NASA has warned its employees that those attackers are targeting NASA employees’ work and personal devices and that the attacks are likely to continue to increase throughout the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

NASA is far from alone in experiencing a massive increase in attempted cyberattacks. Businesses of all sizes are now having to deal with unprecedented risks and are struggling to defend their networks from attack. They now have to defend a massively increased attack surface and the number of attacks has skyrocketed.

There are other factors that are making it difficult for employers. Employees crave information about the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 and cybercriminals are sending huge numbers of emails offering them just the information they seek. Huge numbers of websites are being set up that purport to offer advice on the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19. Check Point has reported that more than 16,000 domains related to coronavirus or COVID-19 have been registered since January and those domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered in the same period.

How to Protect Telecommuting Workers

There are three main ways that telecommuting workers are being attacked: Email, malicious websites, and the exploitation of vulnerabilities.

To prevent the latter, it is essential for software and operating systems to be kept up to date. This can be a challenge for IT departments at the best of times, but much harder when everyone is working remotely. Despite the difficulty, prompt patching is essential. Vulnerabilities in VPNs are being targeted by cybercriminals and offer an easy way to gain access to corporate networks. Employees should be told to make sure their VPN clients are running the latest software version and businesses should ensure their VPN infrastructure is kept up to date, even if it means some downtime while updates are applied.

TitanHQ Can Help You Strengthen Email and Web Security

Advanced email security defenses are now required to protect against phishing and email-based malware threats. Some of the COVID-19 phishing campaigns that are now being conducted include some of the most sophisticated phishing threats we have ever seen.

You should not rely on one form of email security, such as Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection for Office 365 accounts. Layered defenses are essential. Office 365 email security can be significantly strengthened by layering SpamTitan on top of Microsoft’s EOP protections. SpamTitan does not replace Office 365 protections, it improves them.

SpamTitan is an advanced email security solution that incorporates powerful, real time updated AI-driven threat intelligence to block spam, phishing, malware, malicious links, and other email threats from incoming mail. SpamTitan sandboxing identifies threats that signature-based detection solutions miss and is effective at identifying and blocking zero-day malware threats.

Each day, the number of malicious websites related to COVID-19 grows. These websites are used to phish for sensitive information such as email and VPN credentials and for drive-by downloads of malware. To protect remote workers and prevent them from accessing these malicious websites, a web filtering solution is required.

WebTitan DNS Security offers protection against web-based threats and prevents employees from accessing known malicious websites. WebTitan DNS Security is seeing massively increased traffic demand for its scanning and web detection features, but the solution is cloud based and has been developed with scalability in mind. WebTitan DNS Security is blocking new threats as soon as they are identified to keep customers and their employees protected. The solution can be easily implemented to protect remote workers but inserting simple code into enterprise devices which points the DNS to WebTitan. That small change will ensure the internet is filtered for all employees, no matter where they are working.

TitanHQ is committed to providing safe and secure email and internet usage for our customers, partners and their users, now more than ever. Contact TitanHQ today for help improving security at your organization.

Cybersecurity Risks with Remote Workers

IT departments have been forced to address cybersecurity risks with remote workers in a hurry due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic that has seen large sections of the workforce forced into working from home.

The International Workplace Group conducted a study in 2019 and found that 50% of employees spend at least half of the week working remotely, and 70% of workers spend at least one day each week working from home. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic has increased that percentage considerably. Many companies have all but closed down their offices and have told their employees they must work from home.

While this is an important strategy for ensuring the safety of the workforce, there are many cybersecurity risks with remote workers and IT departments will find it much harder to secure their systems, protect confidential data, and quickly respond to security incidents.

One of the biggest problems for IT departments is the speed at which changes had to be made to accommodate a massive increase in remote workers. There has been little time to prepare properly, provide training, and ensure the cybersecurity risks with remote workers are all addressed.

Cybercriminals are Targeting Remote Workers

The massive increase in remote workers due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic has given cybercriminals easy targets to attack, and unsurprisingly remote workers are being targeted. Remote workers are seen as low hanging fruit and attacks are far easier than when workers are in the office.

Several phishing campaigns have been detected targeting home workers that attempt to obtain email and VPN credentials. These phishing attacks are likely to increase considerably over the coming weeks and months. Attacks on VPNs have also increased, with cybercriminals exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities to steal credentials and gain access to corporate networks.

Campaigns have been detected spoofing Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms. According to Check Point, there have been 1,700 new Zoom domains registered in 2020 and 25% of those have been registered in the past two weeks. Other videoconferencing and communication platforms are also being targeted.

Addressing Cybersecurity Risks with Remote Workers

The massive increase in the number of employees working from home has increased the attack surface dramatically. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are remotely connecting to the network, often for the very first time. It is essential that al of those devices are secured and data is appropriately protected.

Any device allowed to connect to the network remotely must have the best security software installed to protect against malware. Devices must be running the latest versions of operating systems and patches need to be applied promptly. Some studies suggest that it takes companies around 3 months on average to patch vulnerabilities. For remote workers, patching needs to be accelerated considerably and, ideally, software and operating systems should be configured to update automatically. Computers used by remote workers must also have firewalls enabled.

Ensure Home Routers are Secured

With many countries in lockdown and people being told not to leave the house, one of the biggest problem areas with remote working has been solved. The use of unsecured pubic Wi-Fi networks. When remote workers connect to unsecured public Wi-Wi networks, it is easy for cybercriminals to intercept sensitive corporate data, steal login credentials, and install malware. The Novel Coronavirus pandemic has seen remote workers abandon coffee shops and public Wi-Fi access points and stay at home; however, home Wi-Fi networks may be just as vulnerable.

Home workers will connect to the internet through consumer-grade routers, which will be far less secure than the office. Home Wi-Fi is often poorly secured and many devices that connect to Wi-Fi will have scant security controls in place. Remote workers must ensure that their home Wi-Fi network is protected with a strong password and that routers have WPA2 enabled.

Ensure Remote Workers Use a VPN and Establish a Secure Connection

It is essential for remote workers to establish a secure connection when accessing work resources and the easiest way to do this is with a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN client should be installed on all devices that you allow to remotely connect to the network.

Several vulnerabilities have been found in VPNs over the past year, and even months after patches have been released by VPN solution providers that patches have yet to be applied. Patching VPNs can be difficult when they are in use 24/7, but prompt patching is essential. There has been an increase in cyberattacks exploiting vulnerabilities in VPNs in recent weeks. In addition to ensuring the latest version of VPN clients are used and VPN solutions are patched quickly, training must be provided to remote workers to ensure they know how to use VPNs.

Ensure Multifactor Authentication Is Enabled

Strong passwords must be set to prevent brute force password guessing attempts from succeeding, but passwords alone do not provide sufficient protection for remote workers. You must ensure that multifactor authentication is enabled for all cloud services and for email accounts. If credentials are compromised in a phishing attack, it will not be possible for the credentials to be used to access accounts and sensitive data without another factor also being provided, such as a one-time code sent to an employee’s cellphone.

Security Awareness Training for Remote Workers

IT staff will be well aware that even the best security defenses can be breached as a result of the actions of employees. Employees are the weakest link in the security chain, but through security awareness training risk can be significantly reduced. Most companies will provide security awareness training to staff as part of the onboarding process, and often refresher training sessions will be provided on an annual basis. Consider increasing training for remote workers and conducting training sessions far more frequently.

The purpose of cybersecurity awareness training is to teach employees the skills they will need to recognize and avoid threats and to change the mindset of workers and create a culture of cybersecurity. Best practices for cybersecurity must be taught to prevent employees from falling prey to cyberattacks when working remotely. Employees need to be made aware of the cybersecurity risks with remote workers, which may not have been covered in training sessions when employees were only working in the office. Training remote staff should now be a priority. It is important to step up training to help remote workers identify phishing emails, spoofing, impersonation attacks, and also to teach remote workers about good IT hygiene.

Protect Against Web-Based Attacks

The dangers that come from the internet should be covered in security awareness training, but not all web-based threats are easy for remote workers to identify. Malicious adverts can be found on all manner of websites that direct users to phishing sites and websites where drive by malware downloads occur. To address cybersecurity risks for remote workers when accessing the internet, a web filtering solution should be deployed.

Cloud-based web filters are the most practical choice as they are easy to deploy, require no software downloads, and do not need to be patched or updated as that is handled by the solution provider. DNS-based filters are the best choice as they will involve no latency, which can be a major issue when bandwidth will be limited in workers’ homes.

WebTitan prevents remote workers from visiting or being redirected to known malicious websites and allows IT teams to control the types of websites that can be accessed on work devices to further reduce risk. Since WebTitan integrates with Active Directory and LDAP, IT teams can monitor the internet activity of all employees and can configure the solution to block malicious file downloads and the downloading unauthorized programs onto work devices.

Cybersecurity Challenges for Remote Working

It is fair to say that more people are now working from home than ever before and the number is growing rapidly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Here we explore some of the key cybersecurity challenges for remote working and suggest ways that CIOs and IT managers can reduce risk, keep their networks secure, and protect their workers.

COVID-19 and Remote Working

Even in the absence of a pandemic, an increasing number of people are working from home for at least part of the week. One study conducted by the International Workplace Group in 2018 suggests 50% of employees spend at least two and a half days a week working from home and 70% spend at least one day a week working from home.

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly changing that. Governments around the world are recommending people work from home if they possibly can and many want to do so to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. With the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic likely to last for several months at the very least, that is unlikely to change any time soon. Businesses will come under increasing pressure to get their employees set up for working at home.

Cybersecurity Challenges for Remote Working

For many businesses, having to set up large number of employees to work from home in such a short space of time will have come as a major shock. Rather than being able to transition gradually, the quarantine measures and social distances demanded in response to the coronavirus pandemic has given businesses and their CIOs and IT teams little time to prepare and address the cybersecurity challenges for remote working.

Some employees will already be working from home some of the time, so they will be familiar with the steps they need to take to access work networks and applications securely from home, but for a great deal of workers this will be their first time. Those workers therefore need to be trained and made aware of the additional risks, they must learn how to access work systems remotely, and the steps they need to take to do so securely.

Measures need to be considered to reduce the harm that can be caused should devices be lost or stolen, as the risk of device theft increases considerably when IT equipment is taken out of the office. Even if workers are not venturing out of the house to coffee shops, home environments may not be as safe and secure as the office.

Cyberslacking is likely to increase considerably when workers are not being directly supervised due to working at home, so loss of productivity is a real issue. Productivity losses due to people working from home is a key business concern that should be addressed. Cyber risks also increase from internet access at home.

The risk of insider threats also increases with more remote workers. Steps should be taken to reduce the potential for fraud and data theft.

It is relatively easy for organizations to effectively manage risk when users are connected to internal networks when working in the office. Doing the same when most of the workforce is working remotely is a different matter entirely. As the attack surface increases, mitigating risks and protecting against cyberthreats becomes a major challenge.

There are also issues with authentication. A known individual may be attempting to connect to the network, but it becomes harder to determine is that person is who they claim to be. Authentication measures need to be stepped up a gear.

Many businesses will be faced with the problem of simply not having enough devices to allow workers to work remotely on company-issued devices, so the decision will need to be taken about whether to allow employees to use their personal devices. Personal devices are unlikely to have the same level of protection as company-owned devices and it is much harder to control what employees do on those devices and to protect against malware that could easily be transferred onto the work network.

There is also a greater risk of shadow IT when workers are home-based. The downloading of applications and use of non-authorized tools increases risk considerably. Vulnerabilities may be introduced that can easily be exploited by cybercriminals.

Then there is the problem of having so many people accessing work networks using VPNs. Systems may not be able to cope with the increased number, which means workers will not be able to connect and work from home. IT departments must ensure there is sufficient bandwidth and licenses for VPN solutions. Those VPNs also need to be updated and patched.

These are just some of the many cybersecurity challenges for home working. The list of security concerns is very long.

Cybercriminals are Taking Advantage of a Huge Opportunity

Cybercriminals are constantly changing tactics to attack businesses and the coronavirus pandemic offers them opportunities on a silver platter. It is unsurprising that they are taking advantage. In January, phishing campaigns were launched taking advantage of fear about coronavirus. Those campaigns have increased significantly as the COVID-19 crisis has deepened. Coronavirus and COVID-19 are being used as phishing lures and to COVID-themed emails are being used to distribute malware. Cyberattacks exploiting vulnerabilities in VPNs are also increasing.

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens and lockdowns are enforced, businesses will be forced to have more workers working from home and cyberattacks are likely to continue to increase. Since shutting down the business temporarily or indefinitely simply isn’t an option for most businesses, addressing the cybersecurity challenges for remote working will soon become critical.

Addressing the Cybersecurity Challenges for Home Working

Addressing the cybersecurity challenges for home workers is likely to be difficult. Listed below are some of the steps that should be taken to prepare.

  • When creating new accounts for home workers, ensure strong passwords are set and use the principle of least privilege to reduce risk.
  • Enable two-factor authentication.
  • Ensure workers can connect through VPNs and there are sufficient licenses and bandwidth.
  • Make sure VPN software is patched and the latest version is installed. Ensure procedures are in place to keep the software updated.
  • Consider disabling USB ports to prevent the use of portable storage devices. This will reduce the risk of malware infections and the risk of data theft.
  • Ensure portable devices are protected with encryption. Use software solutions that lock devices in the event of theft or allow devices to be remotely wiped.
  • Ensure you set up communications channels to allow remote workers to collaborate, such as teleconferencing, chat facilities, document sharing platforms, and SaaS applications. Make sure employees are aware of what can and cannot be shared via chat apps such as Slack and Google Chat.
  • Ensure staff are trained on new applications, the use of VPNs, and are aware of the additional risks from remote working. Train remote workers on how to identify phishing and other cybersecurity threats.
  • Ensure policies and procedures are set up for reporting threats to IT security teams. Instruct employees on the correct course of action if they believe they have fallen for a scam.
  • Implement a DNS filter to prevent employees from accessing high risk websites on corporate-issued devices and block downloads of risky file types.
  • Ensure email security controls are implemented to block phishing attacks and detect and quarantine malware threats.

How TitanHQ Can Help Protecting Remote Workers and Their Devices

TitanHQ has developed two cybersecurity solutions that can help businesses protect their remote workers and their networks from email and web-based threats. Being 100% cloud-based, these solutions are just as effective when employees are working remotely as they are for office workers.

SpamTitan Cloud is a powerful email security solution that protects against the full range of email threats. SpamTitan has advanced threat detection capabilities to detect known and zero-day phishing, spear phishing, malware, botnet, and ransomware threats and ensure the threats never reach inboxes. SpamTitan Cloud also scans outbound email to detect spamming and malware distribution, as well as improving protection against insider threats through tags for sensitive data.

WebTitan Cloud is a DNS filtering solution that provides protection from web-based attacks for user working on and off the network. Being cloud based, there is no need to backhaul traffic to the office to apply filtering controls. Since the filter is DNS-based, clean, filtered internet access is provided with no latency. Controls can easily be applied to restrict access to certain types of websites to prevent cyberslacking and block cybersecurity threats and malware downloads.

Both of these solutions are easy to implement, require no local clients, and can be set up to protect your employees in minutes. They are also available on a free trial if you want to evaluate the solutions before committing to a purchase.

For further information on SpamTitan Cloud Email Security and WebTitan Cloud DNS filtering and to discover how these solutions can help to protect your business and remote workers at this extremely challenging time, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

How is Ransomware Delivered and How Can I Block Ransomware Attacks?

There are many ways that ransomware can be downloaded onto business networks, but most commonly, ransomware attacks occur via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), drive-by downloads, or email.

RDP Attacks

Scans are performed to discover organizations with open RDP ports, which are then attacked using brute force tactics to guess weak passwords. Cybercriminals also add credentials from historic data breaches to their password lists.

The best way to defense against this method of ransomware delivery is to disable RDP entirely; however, RDP is often required for remote management or remote access to virtual desktops, so this may not be an option. If RDP cannot be disabled, there are steps that should be taken to make it as secure as possible.

Use of strong passwords is important to protect against brute force attempts to guess passwords. You should follow NIST advice on creating complex passwords. Passwords must be unique and not used on any other platform. Two-factor authentication should be implemented to prevent stolen credentials from being used.

You must make sure you are running the latest software versions for servers and clients. RDP connections to listening RDP ports should only be permitted through a secure VPN, and ideally, an RDP gateway should be used. You should also restrict who is permitted to login to remote desktop. Finally, you should use rate limiting to lock users out after a set number of failed attempts to enter the correct password.

Drive-By Ransomware Downloads

Drive-by downloads occur on websites controlled by hackers, either their own sites or insecure sites that have been compromised. Malicious scripts are added to the websites that download ransomware and other malware payloads onto a user’s device when they visit the malicious webpage. This method of attack does not require any user interaction, other than visiting the malicious website. That could occur by clicking a malicious link in an email, via a redirect, or even through general web browsing.

A web filter such as WebTitan is one of the best defenses against drive-by ransomware downloads. WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that prevents end users from visiting websites known to be malicious. Rather than connecting to the website, the user will be directed to a local block page if they attempt to visit a known malicious website. WebTitan can also be configured to block downloads of risky file types such as executable files.

Email-Based Attacks

Ransomware is also commonly delivered via email. This could be via an embedded hyperlink to a website where a drive-by download occurs or via malicious scripts in file attachments. Protecting against email-based attacks requires a defense in depth approach, as no single solution will provide total protection against all email attacks.

An advanced email security solution such as SpamTitan should be implemented. SpamTitan scans all inbound and outbound emails and uses a variety of techniques, including machine learning, to identify and block potentially malicious emails. SpamTitan incorporates two antivirus engines that detect known malware variants and a sandbox to analyze suspicious files for malicious actions. Sandboxing protects against never-before-seen malware and ransomware variants.

End user training is also important to ensure that in the event of a malicious email reaching an end user’s inbox, it can be recognized as such. A web filtering solution will help to ensure that any attempt to visit a malicious website via a hyperlink in an email or email attachment is blocked before ransomware is downloaded.

Ransomware as a Secondary Payload

Several ransomware operators use commodity malware to deliver their ransomware payloads. The threat actors behind DoppelPaymer ransomware have been using the Dridex banking Trojan to deliver their malicious payload, while the Ryuk ransomware gang uses the TrickBot Trojan.

Even if these commodity malware infections are discovered and removed, the ransomware gangs may still have access to systems. These commodity malware infections are often viewed as relatively trivial and when these malware variants are discovered the attacks are not properly investigated. The Trojans are removed, but the ransomware operators continue to spread laterally before deploying their ransomware payloads.

In the case of TrickBot, once it is downloaded it gets to work harvesting data such as passwords files, cookies, and other sensitive information. Once the attackers have harvested all the data they can, a reverse shell is opened to the Ryuk ransomware operators who perform recon of the network and attempt to gain administrator credentials. They then use PSExec and other Windows tools to deploy ransomware on all devices connected to the network.

That is exactly what happened with the attack on the e-discovery firm, Epiq Global. The initial TrickBot infection occurred in December 2019. Access was provided to the Ryuk operators who deployed the ransomware on February 29, 2020. Prior to the deployment of ransomware, the Ryuk operators compromised computers in all 80 of Epiq’s global offices.

TrickBot and other Trojans are primarily delivered via phishing emails. SpamTitan will help to keep you protected against these Trojans and other ransomware downloaders.

Expired Security Certificate Alerts Used for Malware Distribution

A campaign has been detected that uses alerts about out of date security certificates to fool unsuspecting web users into downloading malware. The warnings have been placed on several legitimate websites that have been compromised by cybercriminals.

When visitors arrive on the compromised websites they are presented with an error message that tells them the digital security certificate has expired and they need to download an updated one. Downloading and running the file results in malware being installed on the user’s device – The Mokes backdoor (aka Smoke Loader) and the Buerak malware downloader.

This tactic of malware distribution is nothing new. Cybercriminals have been using this method for years to fool users into downloading malware under the guide of a browser or Flash update, but this is the first time that expired website security certificate error messages have been used for malware distribution.

The NET::ERR_CERT_OUT_OF_DATE error message is delivered via an iframe that is overlaid over the website using a jquery.js script. The warning matches the size of the original page, so it is all the visitor sees when they land on the website. If they want to be able to view the content, they are told they should update their security certificate to allow the connection to the website to be made. The content of the message is loaded from a third-party web resource, but the URL displayed is of the legitimate website the user has navigated to.

It is not clear how the threat actors compromised the websites. Oftentimes websites are compromised using brute force tactics to guess weak passwords, or exploits are used for vulnerabilities that have not been patched. It is also unclear how people are being sent to the websites. Typically, traffic is sent to the compromised websites through phishing scams or malicious web adverts (malvertising), but visitors could simply navigate to the website through a Google search.

Since the warnings are appearing on legitimate websites, users may think the messages are genuine. One of the compromised websites is the official website of a zoo, another identified by Kaspersky Lab was for a legitimate auto parts dealer. The campaign has been active for at least two months.

Protecting against this method of malware distribution requires a combination of security solutions. Up-to-date anti-virus software is a must to ensure that any files downloaded to business computers are scanned for malware. A web filtering solution such as WebTitan will also provide protection by preventing users from visiting compromised websites that are being used to distribute malware and also blocking downloads of dangerous file types.

Contact TitanHQ today to find out more about web filtering and how you can protect your business from web-based attacks.

Safer Internet Day 2020: Make Your Wi-Fi Network Safer with a DNS Filter

Today, February 11, is Safer Internet Day 2020 – A day where safe and positive use of digital technology is promoted around the world. Safer Internet Day started out as part of the EU SafeBorders project in 2004 but has grown into a global event with more than 150 countries participating and promoting safe use of the internet. The aim of Safer Internet Day is to help create a better and safer internet by empowering everyone to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively.  This year’s theme is “A better internet: How to look after yourself and others.”

Everyone has a role to play in making the internet a more positive and safer environment, from seeking positive opportunities to create and connect with others, being kind and respectful to others online, and reporting illegal and inappropriate content.

Businesses that provide Wi-Fi access to their customers also have a responsibility to ensure their Wi-Fi hotspot is not abused and cannot be used to access harmful content, especially by minors. The easiest way to do that is by implementing a web filtering solution and today is the perfect day to get started.

The easiest-to-implement and most cost-effective web filtering solution is a DNS filter. A DNS filter allows content to be controlled at the DNS lookup stage of internet access, when the human-friendly domain name of a website is converted to an IP address that a computer uses to find the server hosting the website. This method of web filtering requires no hardware purchases or software downloads. You simply change your DNS record to point to your DNS filtering service provider. You then access a web-based interface and stipulate the categories of content your customers are not permitted to access. Getting started takes just a few minutes. Since all filtering takes place at the DNS level before any content is downloaded, this form of web filtering has almost zero latency, which means internet speeds are unaffected.

With WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi you can decide on the content that you don’t want people to access and can use the checkboxes in your user interface to block categories of web content with the click of a mouse. To make the internet family friendly, you can check the adult content checkbox to ensure pornographic material cannot be accessed through your Wi-Fi network. You can also block access to illegal websites to protect your business, such as torrents sites where copyright-infringing downloads of music, software, and films take place. Controls can also be applied to limit access to streaming websites to conserve bandwidth and make sure everyone can enjoy fast internet speeds.

WebTitan has categorized more than 500 million websites into 53 categories, including all of Alexa’s top million websites and web content in 200 languages. You can set internet content controls for different locations, different user groups, and you can manage multiple locations through a single portal.

Blacklists are a useful way to ensure unsuitable or illegal content cannot be accessed. One of the main blacklists is maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation and includes webpages and websites known to host child pornography and child abuse-related content.

Blacklists also protect Wi-Fi users from malicious content, such as phishing websites and sites hosting malware and ransomware, which can help you to protect your users and your company’s reputation.

WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi is ideally suited to all businesses that provide Wi-Fi access, such as:

  • Wireless Wi-Fi ISPs, MSPs and other Wi-Fi service providers
  • Cafes, coffee shops & restaurants
  • Retail outlets & shopping malls
  • Schools & universities
  • Health systems & hospitals
  • Hotels
  • Offices
  • Libraries
  • Airports
  • Rail & bus networks

This Safer Internet Day is the perfect time to implement a DNS filtering solution to make your Wi-Fi (or wired) network much safer for all users.

To find out more about WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi, WebTitan Cloud for wired networks, for a product demonstration, or to register for a free trial, contact TitanHQ today.

What are the CCPA Data Security Requirements?

On January 1, 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) took effect, giving state residents greater control over the use and sale of their personal data and introduced. In this post we explore the CCPA data security requirements for businesses and the consequences of failing to adequately protect consumer data.

What is the California Consumer Protection Act?

California already had some of the strictest privacy laws in the United States, but CCPA took consumer privacy a step further. CCPA has been likened to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as it gives California residents similar rights over the personal data collected and used by companies.

CCPA requires companies to inform California residents about the categories of data that are being collected, at or before the point of collection. There is a right to access all personal information held by a company and find out with whom personal data has been shared. Consumers have a right to opt out and prevent their personal data from being sold and can request that their personal data is deleted. Consumers also have a right to equal services and prices, and cannot be discriminated against, or denied goods or services or levels of services if they opt out of the sale of their personal data.

Who Must Comply with CCPA?

On January 1, 2020, CCPA applies to all companies that do business with California residents, regardless of where the company is based, if one of the following conditions is met:

  • The company generates revenues of at least $25 million each year; or
  • The company collects, purchases, sells, or shares the personal data of at least 50,000 people; or
  • The company generates at least 50% of its revenues from the sale of personal data

CCPA does not apply to insurance institutions, agents, and support organizations, which are covered by different state laws.

CCPA Data Security Requirements

CCPA does not specify what security measures need to be implemented to protect the personal data of California residents; however, businesses do have a duty to implement reasonable security measures based on the level of risk, in accordance with other state laws. Under CCPA, penalties can be applied for a “violation of the duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices.”

Since legal action can be taken against companies over a breach of personal data, it is important for companies to ensure appropriate measures are taken to protect data and prevent data breaches.

CCPA does not specify what controls need to be implemented nor what constitutes “reasonable security procedures and practices.” A 2016 Data Breach Report released by the California Attorney General acts as a good guide. It includes a list of 20 controls that the Center for Internet Security says are requirements to protect against known cyberattack vectors. These should therefore serve as guide to the CCPA data security requirements. They are:

CCPA data protection requirements

How TitanHQ Can Help You Comply with CCPA Data Security Requirements

Email is the most common attack vector used for phishing and malware distribution, so safeguards need to be implemented to keep email systems secure. Phishing attacks often have a web-based component where credentials are harvested, and many malware downloads occur via the internet. Internet controls are therefore also essential to protect against cyberattacks and data breaches. Due to the risk of attack via email and the web, email and browser protections are listed as the first of the foundational Center for Internet Security controls.

This is an area where TitanHQ can help. We have developed two powerful cloud-based security solutions that can help you meet CCPA data protection requirements.

SpamTitan Email Security is a powerful spam filtering solution that keeps inboxes free from email-based threats. SpamTitan incorporates multiple layers of anti-spam and anti-phishing controls, including Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DMARC, SURBL’s, RBL’s Bayesian analysis and more. SpamTitan uses twin antivirus engines to block known malware threats and sandboxing to protect against breaches and data loss from zero-day threats.

WebTitan is a cloud-based DNS filtering solution that protects against the internet component of phishing attacks and stops wired and wireless network users from accessing malicious websites. These solutions will help you meet your email and web security responsibilities and protect your organization from phishing attacks, malware and ransomware downloads. Together they will help you prevent costly data breaches and avoid the resultant CCPA fines.

Penalties for Noncompliance with CCPA

Each intentional violation carries a maximum penalty of $7,500 per record. Unintentional violations carry a penalty of $2,500 per record.

There is also a private cause of action in CCPA. In the event of a data breach, victims of the breach can sue for a CCPA violation. Statutory damages of between $100 and $750 by each California resident affected by the breach. Alternatively claims can be made for actual damages, whichever is greater, along with other relief determined by the courts. Class action lawsuits are also permitted under CCPA. The California Attorney General can also take legal action against the company rather than permitting civil suits to be filed.

TitanHQ and Pax8 Form New Strategic Partnership

TitanHQ and Pax8 have announced a new strategic partnership that will see TitanHQ’s cloud-based email security and DNS filtering solutions incorporated into the Pax8 ecosystem.

Pax8 simplifies the journey into the cloud through billing, provisioning, automation and industry-leading PSA integrations and is proven leader in cloud distribution. Pax8 has achieved position 60 in the 2019 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies and has been named CRN’s Coolest Cloud Vendor and Best in Show at the NextGen and Xchange conferences for two years in a row.

In order to have products added to the Pax8 marketplace, vendors must have developed exceptional channel friendly solutions. As the leading provider of cloud-based email and web security solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) serving the SMB marketplace, TitanHQ was an ideal fit.

Under the new partnership, Pax8 partners will have easy access to TitanHQ’s leading email security solution, SpamTitan Cloud, and can protect clients from web-based threats with WebTitan Cloud, TitanHQ’s DNS filtering solution.

These cloud-based AI-driven solutions help MSPs secure their own environments and protect their clients from malware, ransomware, botnets, viruses, and phishing and email impersonation attacks and avoid costly data breaches.

Both solutions have been developed with MSPs firmly in mind. The solutions are easy to integrate into an MSP’s security stack through TitanHQ’s APIs, there are multiple hosting options, the solutions can be supplied in white label form, and there are generous margins. Pax8 partners also benefit from a fully transparent pricing policy and industry leading technical support.

TitanHQ’s solutions have much loved by users and are consistently rated highly on business software review platforms, including G2 Crowd, Gartner Peer Insights, and Capterra.

“Our partners are excited about the addition of TitanHQ and the ability to protect their clients’ businesses by blocking malware, phishing, ransomware, and links to malicious websites from emails.” said Ryan Walsh, chief channel officer at Pax8.