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.
A massive global cyberattack is underway involving Petya ransomware. Ukraine has been hit particularly hard although companies all over Europe have reported that systems have been taken out of action and ransoms demanded. Social media websites are awash with reports of disruption to services across a wide range of industries and countries. The attacks appear to have started in Russia/Ukraine but spread rapidly across Europe, with reports emerging that companies in India have also been affected.
The attacks appear to involve a variant of Petya ransomware – a particularly nasty ransomware variant for which there is no kill switch or free decryptor. Petya ransomware takes the Master File Table (MFT) out of action rather than encrypting individual files. Consequently, the attacks occur faster than with other ransomware variants. Without access to the MFT, computers are unable to locate files stored on the hard drive. Those files remain unencrypted, but cannot be accessed.
The ransom demand to unlock the infection is understood to be approximately $300, although that figure will need to be multiplied by the number of devices affected.
Another WannaCry Style Global Ransomware Attack
The WannaCry ransomware attacks used exploits stolen from the NSA, which were published online by Shadow Brokers. Those exploits worked on unpatched systems, exploiting vulnerabilities to automatically download a network worm and WannaCry ransomware. The attacks spread rapidly – around the world and within organizations.
This wave of attacks appears to be similar. The attacks started happening this morning with the Russian cybersecurity firm Group-IB one of the first to suggest this was a WannaCry-style attack involving an NSA exploit. That has since been confirmed by other cybersecurity firms. Fabian Wosar of Emisoft said he has confirmed that the infection is spreading using the same EternalBlue exploit as WannaCry, as has MalwareHunterTeam.
Organizations that applied the patch issued by Microsoft in March were protected from WannaCry and will likely be protected from this Petya ransomware attack. Following WannaCry, Microsoft issued patches for unsupported operating systems to prevent further attacks from occurring. However, judging by the number of attacks that have already occurred, the WannaCry attacks did not spur some companies into action. Many have still not patched their systems.
Several well-known companies have reported they are under attack and have had servers and computers taken out of action, with companies in Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain, Denmark, India and the UK all understood to have been affected. Companies that have confirmed they have been attacked include:
Russia – Oil company Rosneft and metal maker Evraz
Ukraine – Boryspil Airport, aircraft manufacturer Antonov, two postal services, the Ukraine government, the Ukraine national bank. The Cernobyl nuclear powe plant has also been attacked, as have many other energy companies in the country.
Denmark – Shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk, including APM Terminals which runs shipping container ports around the world.
France – Construction firm Saint Gobain
International – Companies reportedly affected include the law firm DLA Piper, advertising firm WPP, food manufacturer Mondalez and U.S pharmaceutical firm Merck.
Time will tell whether this Petya ransomware attack will be on a similar scale to WannaCry. Since it is currently occurring it will likely be a few days before the true scale of the attack becomes known.
The healthcare industry has been heavily targeted by cybercriminals, but retail industry data breaches are now the most common according to a recent study by Trustwave. Retail industry data breaches account for 22% of all reported breaches, closely followed by the food and beverage industry on 20%.
In 2016, corporate and internal networks were the most commonly breached systems although there was a marked increase in POS system breaches, which are now the second most targeted systems accounting for 31% of all reported breaches. Last year, POS data breaches only accounted for 22% of the total. POS data breaches were most common in the United States. In 2015, E-commerce platforms were heavily targeted accounting for 38% of all breaches, although in 2016 the percentage fell to 26%.
Healthcare data is in high demand, although it is still credit card numbers that are most commonly stolen. 63% of data breaches involved card data, split between card track data (33% of incidents) – mostly from hospitality and retail industry data breaches – and card-not-present data (30% of incidents) which came from breaches of e-commerce platforms.
The United States was also the most targeted country, accounting for 49% of all breaches – more than double the percentage of Asia-Pacific in second place with 21% of reported breaches. Europe was in third place with 20%.
Zero-day exploits are in high demand, commanding an initial price of $95,000 on the black market, although there were only 9 zero-day vulnerabilities exploited in the wild in 2016 – 5 for Adobe Flash, 3 for Internet Explorer and one for Microsoft Silverlight.
The top two methods of compromise were remote access – 29.7% of attacks – and phishing and social engineering, which accounted for 18.8% of attacks.
Exploit kit activity has fallen since the fall of the Angler, Magnitude and Nuclear exploit kits, although others such as Rig are increasing in popularity. Exploit kits activity could increase further due to the low cost of conducting malvertising campaigns – malicious adverts on third party ad networks that direct individuals to sites hosting exploit kits. Trustwave reports it now costs cybercriminals $5 to target 1,000 vulnerable computers with malicious adverts. Trustwave warns that while exploit kit activity has fallen, it would be wrong to assume it is gone for good. If it is profitable to use exploit kits, more will be developed.
Spam email is still the primary attack vector. In 2016, there was an increase in spam email messages rising from 54% of message volume in 2015 to 60% of total email volume in 2016. 35% of those messages contained malicious attachments, which Trustwave reports is up from 3% in 2015.
The most common malware variants discovered in 2016 data breach investigations attacked POS systems and were PoSeidon (18%) and Alina (13.5%) with Carbanak/Anunak in third place on 10%.
A recent Ponemon Institute study suggest data breaches take more than six months to detect, while Trustwave’s figures suggest the median number of days between intrusion and detection for external incidents was 65 days in 2016, although some companies took up to 2,000 days to discover a breach. Detection rates have improved from 2015, when it took an average of 80.5 days to detect a breach.
Following the massive WannaCry ransomware attacks there has been heightened interest in cybersecurity products. Marketers have capitalized on the fear of an imminent attack to increase downloads of fake antivirus apps.
The apps are sold to worried users promising to protect them from WannaCry and other ransomware threats. In some cases, a free scan is offered that reveals the user’s device is already infected with any number of malicious programs. Installing the app will allow users to rid their device of the malicious software.
In many cases, the fake antivirus apps misreport infections to scare users into buying and installing an unnecessary app. Some of those apps will offer no protection whatsoever, but others are more sinister. Many of the new fake antivirus apps that are sneaking their way into the Google Play store are far from benign. PUPs, Trojans and adware are packaged with the apps. Users download the fake antivirus apps to protect themselves against malware, when the reality is downloading the app results in infection.
A study of antivirus apps has recently been conducted by RiskIQ. The firm discovered almost 6,300 antivirus apps that were either an antivirus solution, reviews of antivirus software or were otherwise associated with an antivirus program. More than 700 of those apps triggered blacklist detections on VirusTotal, with many of the apps coming packaged with malware.
131 of the 655 antivirus apps on the Google Play Store triggered blacklist detections. Many of the apps are no longer active, although 55 out of 508 active AV apps on the Google Play Store were blacklisted. In total, 20% of blacklisted antivirus apps were in the Google Play store with 10.8% still active.
RiskIQ reports that some of the blacklisted apps are false positives and not all of those apps are bundled with malware. However, many of the apps were rated as malicious by multiple AV vendors and were not all they claimed to be.
While it is important to have antivirus software on mobile devices, users should exercise caution when downloading any app. Just because an app claims to protect you and your device, it does not mean that it will do as it says. Downloading the app could even result in infection.
Users can reduce the risk of downloading a fake antivirus app by only using official app stores such as Google Play, but additional checks should be performed. An app should not be installed if the developer is using a free email address such as Gmail or Outlook. RiskIQ recommends checking the descriptions of the apps, specifically looking for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. The app should ideally be checked against VirusTotal to see if it raises any red flags and users should carefully check the permissions requested.
A new report from RSA Security has revealed 40,000 subdomains linked to the Rig exploit kit have been taken down, which is just as well considering how many enterprises are failing to update Adobe Flash promptly and are still using vulnerable Flash versions.
Exploit kits such as Rig are used to probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins, with several exploits loaded to the kit. When the EK finds an exploitable vulnerability, malware is silently downloaded. The Rig EK has previously been used to distribute a variety of malicious payloads including banking Trojans and Cerber ransomware.
While the news of the shutdown of tens of thousands of subdomains used by the Rig exploit kit is good news, this week has also seen some worrying news emerge.
A recent study conducted by Duo Security has revealed the reason why exploit kits are such an effective means of malware delivery. Enterprises are failing to update software and are still using vulnerable Flash versions and other out-of-date plugins, even though those plugins and software versions contain several critical vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited.
53% of Enterprise End Points Have Vulnerable Flash Versions Installed
The study involved an analysis of key indicators of device health on 4.5 million Windows computers, Macs, Android smartphones and Apple mobiles. In the security firm’s Trusted Access Report, it was revealed that 53% of enterprise end points were running outdated versions of Adobe Flash. Last year when a similar study was run, there were 10% fewer devices running outdated Flash versions.
Far from revealing enterprise computers to be one version out of date, 21% of devices were discovered to be running Flash version 126.96.36.199, released in January 2017. That version has 13 critical code execution vulnerabilities that were addressed in February, all of which had the most severe rating for Windows, MacOS and Chrome.
Keeping up to date with the latest software releases can be difficult. New versions of software and plugins are frequently released to correct known flaws and many IT security professionals suffer from update fatigue. Updates are often delayed as a result, but that leaves the door open to cybercriminals.
Update Software and Block Malicious Domains
To protect against exploit kits and malicious downloads, organizations should ensure software versions are kept 100% up to date, especially browsers and browser plugins. It is a tiresome, never ending process, but failure to update promptly leaves organizations vulnerable to attack.
To ease the pressure on IT departments, an additional control can be implemented to block access to malicious websites containing exploit kits.
WebTitan is a web filtering that prevents downloads of malicious files by blocking access to malicious websites. Links to malicious sites are often sent in spam email, the clicking of which directs users to webpages hosting exploit kits. WebTitan blocks these links preventing the sites from being accessed. WebTitan can also be configured to prevent malicious file downloads and malvertising redirects, further protecting organizations from attack.
For full details on the capabilities of WebTitan, advice on web filtering and to register for a free 30-day trial of WebTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.
Awareness of the additional security provided by HTTPS websites is increasing, but so too are HTTPS phishing websites. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of consumer trust of websites that encrypt connections with web browsers.
The risks of disclosing sensitive information such as credit card numbers on HTTP sites has been widely reported, with more sites now using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and improve security for website visitors. However, just because a website starts with HTTPS does not mean that website is safe.
HTTPS phishing websites also secure the connection. Divulging login credentials or other sensitive information on those sites will place that information in the hands of criminals.
A recent report from Netcraft shows more phishing websites are now using HTTPS to communicate, with the percentage of HTTPS phishing websites jumping from 5% to 15% since the start of 2017.
Internet users are now being warned if they are visiting a website that does not encrypt connections. Google Chrome and Firefox browsers have recently started displaying warnings on sites that are not secure.
The problem is that many users automatically assume that if a website starts with HTTPS it is safe and secure when that is far from the case.
Even if a website is genuine and encrypts communications, that does not mean the website cannot be compromised. If a hacker gained access to a website with a SSL certificate it would be possible to add pages that phish for sensitive information. The website would still display the green lock symbol and start with HTTPS.
HTTPS phishing websites may also have valid digital certificates meaning even Firefox and Google Chrome browsers will not flag the sites as potentially malicious. Those sites may also include the brand names of legitimate websites such as Facebook, Amazon, or PayPal. In the case of the latter, a recent report from the SSL Store revealed that there were 15,270 websites that contained the word PayPal which had been issued with SSL certificates.
The rise in HTTPS phishing websites shows that simply checking the protocol used by the site is no guarantee that the site is not malicious. Care must be taken when accessing any website, regardless of the protocol used by the site.
Businesses can improve protection by implementing a web filtering solution capable of reading encrypted web traffic. This will help to ensure employees are prevented from visiting malicious websites on their work computers, regardless of the protocol used by the sites.
WebTitan not only allows organizations to block websites by category, content or keyword, the web filtering solution also decrypts, reads, and then re-encrypts connections and will block phishing and other malicious websites. By inspecting HTTPS websites, WebTitan will also ensure access to any secure website is blocked if the site or webpage violates user-set rules on website content.
TitanHQ is proud to announce a new partnership with the intelligent spaces company Purple. Purple has chosen TitanHQ’s WiFi content filtering solution – WebTitan – to keep its WiFi networks secure and to carefully control the content that can be accessed by its clients and their customers.
The importance of securing WiFi networks has been highlighted by recent cyberattacks, including the WannaCry ransomware attacks on May 12. Consumers can be provided with WiFi access, but need to be protected from web-borne threats such as drive-by ransomware downloads and phishing attacks.
WebTitan offers protection against a wide range of web-borne threats including exploit kits, phishing websites, malicious web adverts and drive-by downloads of malware and ransomware. Every day, WebTitan detects more than 60,000 web threats and protects customers by blocking access to harmful webpages. WebTitan also allows businesses to carefully control the content that can be accessed via WiFi networks, filtering out obscene, harmful, and illegal website content.
As a leading provider of WiFi analytics and marketing services, Purple is well aware of the potential risks that come from unsecured WiFi hotspots. The company is committed to securing its WiFi networks and ensuring its customers are protected in the right way. Purple required exceptional protection for its customers, yet not all WiFi filtering solutions matched the company’s unique requirements.
Purple explained those requirements to TitanHQ, which was able respond with a solution that matched the company’s exacting needs. James Wood, Head of Integration at Purple said, “From day one it was evident that they were capable of not only providing what we needed but were very responsive and technically adept.”
WebTitan allows companies to manage WiFi content controls in multiple locations from a single administration console, making it an ideal solution for global WiFi businesses. For companies such as Purple, whose clients need to have control over their own filtering controls, WebTitan was ideal. Wood explained that WebTitan “allows us to extend the control to our customers via their API. Our customers can now manage their own filtering settings directly from the Purple Portal.”
TitanHQ was able to respond rapidly roll out WebTitan in a matter of days. Purple customers are now protected by the leading WiFi content filtering solution and can access the Internet safely and securely. Wood said, “With demanding timescales involved for the migration, we invested heavily in WebTitan and they have not failed to deliver.”
TitanHQ CEO Ronan Kavanagh is delighted that Purple has chosen TitanHQ has its WiFi filtering partner. Kavanagh said, “Purple is now a valued member of the TitanHQ family and we are delighted to welcome the firm onboard. This is a partnership that illustrates just how well suited WebTitan is to Wi-Fi environments.”
The EternalRocks worm is a new threat that comes hot on the heels of WannaCry ransomware. The self-replicating network work uses similar tactics to infect computers and spread to other connected devices; however, in contrast to the worm used to spread WannaCry ransomware, there is no kill switch. In fact, at present, there is also no malicious payload. That is unlikely to be the case for very long.
The WannaCry ransomware attacks were halted when a security researcher discovered a kill switch. Part of the infection process involved checking a nonsense domain that had not been registered. If no connection was made, the ransomware element would proceed and start encrypting files. By registering the domain, the encryption process didn’t start. Had the domain not been registered, the attacks would have been more far reaching, affecting more than the 300,000 computers believed to have been affected by the Friday 12 attacks.
New threats were predicted to be released in the wake of WannaCry, either by the same group or copycats. The EternalRocks worm therefore does not come as a surprise. That said, EternalRocks could be far more dangerous and cause considerably more harm than WannaCry.
The WannaCry ransomware attacks involved just used two exploits developed by the NSA – EternalBlue and DoublePulsar. EternalRocks uses six NSA hacking tools (EternalBlue, DoublePulsar, EternalChampion, EternalRomance, EternalSynergy, ArchiTouch and SMBTouch).
In addition to the Windows Server Message Block (SMBv1) and SMBv2 hacking tools, this threat uses a SMBv3 exploit in addition to a backdoor Trojan, the latter being used to spread infection to other vulnerable computers on a network. Two SMB reconnaissance tools have also been incorporated to scan open ports on the public Internet.
EternalRocks is also capable of hiding on the infected machine after deployment. With the WannaCry attacks, users were alerted that their computers had been compromised when the ransomware encrypted their files and a note was placed on the desktop.
Once on a computer, the EternalRocks worm waits for 24 hours before downloading the Tor browser, contacting the attackers, and replicating and spreading to other devices on the network.
The self-replicating network worm was discovered by security researcher Miroslav Stampar from CERT in Croatia. While the threat has only just been discovered, Stampar says the first evidence of infections dates back to May 3.
At present, the EternalRocks worm does not have any malicious payload. It neither installs malware nor ransomware, but that does not mean it poses no risk. Worms can be weaponized at any point, as was seen on Friday 12 May, when WannaCry ransomware was deployed.
For the time being, it is unclear how many computers have already been infected and how EternalRocks will be weaponized.
Preventing infection with EternalRocks worm and other similar yet to be released – or discovered – threats is possible by ensuring operating systems and software are patched promptly. Older operating systems should also be upgraded as soon as possible. As Kaspersky Lab reported, 95% of the WannaCry attacks affected Windows 7 devices. No Windows 10 devices were reportedly attacked.
A new Uiwix ransomware variant has been detected using EternalBlue to gain access to vulnerable systems. Businesses that have not yet patched they systems are vulnerable to this new attack.
In contrast to the WannaCry ransomware variant that was used in Friday’s massive ransomware campaign, Uiwix ransomware is a fileless form of ransomware that operates in the memory. Fileless ransomware is more difficult to detect as no files are written to the hard drive, which causes problems for many antivirus systems. Uiwix ransomware is also stealthy and will immediately exit if it has been installed in a sandbox or virtual machine.
Trend Micro reports that the new Uiwix ransomware variant also “appears to have routines capable of gathering the infected system’s browser login, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), email, and messenger credentials.”
As with WannaCry ransomware, the ransomware is not being spread via email. Instead the attackers are searching for vulnerable systems and are taking advantage of SMB vulnerabilities and attacking computers over TCP port 445. Infection with Uiwix sees the Uiwix extension added to encrypted files. The ransom demand to supply keys to decrypt locked files is $200.
The threat does not appear to be as severe as WannaCry, as the attackers are manually targeting vulnerable systems. Crucially, the ransomware lacks the wormlike properties of WannaCry. If one machine is infected, the ransomware will not then spread to other networked devices.
Since the WannaCry attacks, many businesses have now implemented the MS17-010 patch and have blocked EternalBlue attacks. Microsoft has also released a patch for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 8, allowing users of older, unsupported Windows versions to secure their systems and prevent attacks.
However, the search engine Shodan shows there are still approximately 400,000 computers that have not yet been patched and are still vulnerable to cyberattacks using the EternalBlue exploit.
Another threat that uses the EternalBlue and DoublePulsar exploits is Adylkuzz; however, the malware does not encrypt data on infected systems. The malware is a cryptocurrency miner than uses the resources of the infected computer to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. Infection is likely to see systems slowed, rather than files encrypted and data stolen.
Other malware and ransomware variants are likely to be released that take advantage of the exploits released by Shadow Brokers. The advice to all businesses is to ensure that software is patched promptly and any outdated operating systems are upgraded. Microsoft has issued a patch for the older unsupported systems in response to the WannaCry attacks, but patches for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP and Windows 8 are unlikely to become a regular response to new threats.
The WannaCry ransomware attacks that crippled hospitals in the United Kingdom on Friday have temporarily halted, although not before infections spread to 150 countries around the globe. The massive ransomware campaign saw 61 NHS Trusts in the UK affected.
As the NHS was cancelling appointments and scrambling to halt the spread of the infection and restore its systems, the WannaCry ransomware attacks were going global. Organizations around the world were waking up to total chaos, with systems taken out of action and data access blocked. Other victims include FedEx, Telefonica, Deutsche Bahn and the Russian Interior Ministry and around 200,000 others.
The victim count rose considerably throughout Friday and Saturday morning, before a security researcher in the UK accidentally flicked the ransomware’s kill switch, preventing further WannaCry ransomware attacks. Had it not been for that researcher’s actions, the victim count would have been considerably higher.
The researcher in question prefers to remain anonymous, although he tweets under the Twitter account @MalwareTechBlog. While analyzing the ransomware, he discovered a reference to a nonsense web domain. He checked to see who owned the domain and discovered it had not been registered. He bought it and realized that his actions had stopped the ransomware in its tracks. If the domain could be contacted, encryption would not take place. If contact was not possible, the ransomware would proceed and encrypt files on the infected device.
This kill switch could have been put in place by the authors as a way to stop infections getting out of control. However, far more likely is the domain check was performed to determine if the ransomware was running in a test environment.
For now at least, the WannaCry ransomware attacks have stopped, although that does not mean they will not continue. New versions of the ransomware – without the kill switch – will almost certainly be released. In the meantime, IT security professionals have some time to plug the vulnerability that was exploited.
The exploit takes advantage of a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMB) that allows the attackers to download files onto a vulnerable machine. Microsoft issued a patch to plug the vulnerability on March 13 (MS17-010). Even though this was a high priority patch for which an exploit had been developed (ETERNALBLUE) and released online, many companies failed to update Windows leaving them vulnerable to attack.
Of course, any organization using an unsupported version of Windows – Windows XP for example – would not be able to apply the patch. Many NHS Trusts in the UK still use the unsupported version of Windows even though it is vulnerable to this and other exploits.
The attackers have reportedly made around $50,000 so far from the WannaCry ransomware attacks. That figure will rise, as victims are given 7 days to pay before the decryption keys held by the attackers will be permanently deleted. If payment is not made within 3 days, the $300 ransom doubles.
There are no clues as to who was behind the attack, although it was made possible by the actions of the hacking group Shadow Brokers, who published the exploit used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in April. The exploit was not developed by Shadow Brokers however. That appears to have been developed by the National Security Agency in the USA. Shadow Brokers allegedly stole the exploit.
Microsoft has responded to the WannaCry ransomware attacks saying they should serve as a “wake-up call.” That’s not just the need to apply patches promptly to prevent cyberattacks, but also a wake up call for governments not to secretly stockpile exploits.
A Mac malware warning has been issued for any individual who recently downloaded Handbrake for Mac. A server was compromised and a remote access Trojan was bundled with the Handbrake Apple Disk Image file.
A credential-stealing Remote Access Trojan was discovered to have been bundled with the Handbrake video transcoder app for the MacOS, with Handbrake for Mac downloads between May 2 and May 6, 2017 potentially also installing the MacOS Proton RAT.
A Mac malware warning has been issued for all users who recently downloaded the app. It is strongly recommended that any individual who downloaded the app between the above dates verifies that they have not been infected. According to a statement issued by the developers of the app, individuals have a 50/50 change of infection if they downloaded the app between the above dates.
Cybercriminals were able to compromise a server and bundle the malware with the app, with all users who used the download.handbrake.fr mirror potentially infected.
Apple has now updated its OSX’s XProtect to detect and remove the infection although individuals at risk should check to see if their device has been infected. Infection can be detected by looking for the Activity_agent process in the OSX Activity Monitor. If the process is running, the device has been infected with the Trojan.
Any user infected with the malware will need to change all passwords stored in the MacOS keychain. Any password stored in a browser will also need to be changed, as it is probable it has also been compromised.
The Trojan can be easily removed by opening the Terminal and entering the following commands before removing all instances of the Handbrake app:
- launchctl unload ~/Library/LaunchAgents/fr.handbrake.activity_agent.plist
- rm -rf ~/Library/RenderFiles/activity_agent.app
- if ~/Library/VideoFrameworks/ contains proton.zip, remove the folder
The MacOS Proton RAT was first identified earlier this year. It is capable of logging keystrokes to steal passwords, can execute shell commands as root, steal files, take screenshots of the desktop and access the webcam. Once installed, it will run every time the user logs on.
Only Handbrake for Mac downloads were affected. Any user who recently upgraded through the Handbrake update mechanism will not be affected, as checks are performed to prevent the downloading of malicious files.
The compromised server has now been shut down to prevent any further malware downloads. At this stage it is unclear how access to the server was gained and how the Handbrake Apple Disk Image file was replaced with a malicious version.
A patch has been rushed and released to address a serious Microsoft Malware Protection Engine bug, termed ‘Crazy Bad’ by the researchers who discovered the flaw. If exploited, the vulnerability would allow threat actors to turn the malware protection software against itself.
If the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine bug is exploited, Microsoft’s malware protection engine could be used to install malware rather than remove it. Instead of searching for infected files that have been downloaded, the system would be downloading malware and infecting end users.
The Microsoft Malware Protection Engine bug affects a number of anti-malware software products including Windows Defender, Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection, Microsoft Forefront Security for SharePoint, Microsoft Endpoint Protection, Windows Intune Endpoint Protection and Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection.
The remotely exploitable bug could allow a system to be completely compromised, giving attackers full access to an infected computer or server, since the software and all associated processes run at LocalSystem privilege level.
The flaw was discovered by Natalie Silvanovich and Tavis Ormandy of Google Project Zero who alerted Microsoft three days ago. Ormandy said the flaw was “The worst in recent memory.” Microsoft worked fast to patch the flaw and an update was pushed out yesterday.
While extremely serious, Microsoft does not believe any malicious actors have taken advantage of the flaw, although all unpatched systems are at risk. Threat actors could take advantage of the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine bug in a number of ways, including sending specially crafted email messages. The Project Zero researchers note that simply sending a malicious email would be enough to allow the bug to be exploited. It would not be necessary for the user to open the email or an infected email attachment. The researchers explained that “writing controlled contents to anywhere on disk (e.g. caches, temporary internet files, downloads (even unconfirmed downloads), attachments, etc) is enough to access functionality in mpengine.” Alternatively, the flaw could be exploited by visiting a malicious website if a link was sent via email or through instant messaging.
The patch for the vulnerability (CVE-2017-0290) will be installed automatically if users have auto-update turned on. System administrators who have set updates to manual should ensure the patch is applied as soon as possible to prevent the flaw from being exploited. The current, patched Malware Protection Engine is version 1.1.13704.0.
Sabotage, subversion and ransomware attacks all increased sharply in 2016, with malware-infected emails now at a five-year high according to the latest installment of Symantec’s Internet Security and Threat Report (ISTR).
For the 22nd volume of the report, the antivirus and antimalware software vendor analyzed data collected from millions of users of its security solutions – The world’s largest civilian threat collection network, consisting of 98 million attack sensors spread across 157 countries around the globe.
The 77-page Internet Security and Threat Report is one of the most highly respected publications issued by any cybersecurity company.
The Internet Security and Threat Report provides a valuable insight into the state of cybersecurity and details how global cybersecurity threats have changed over the course of the past 12 months.
Internet Security and Threat Report Shows Change in Attack Tactics
Data theft and financial fraud may be major motivators behind cyberattacks on businesses, but over the past 12 months there has been a sharp rise in politically motivated cyberattacks. Rather than steal data, the attackers are sabotaging businesses using destructive malware such as hard disk wipers.
The attacks are conducted to cause serious harm to business competitors, although nation state-backed hackers have also been targeting the critical infrastructure in many countries. Attacks on Ukrainian energy providers have been conducted to disrupt the power supply while attacks on companies in Saudi Arabia – using Shamoon malware – attempted to permanently delete corporate data.
Many attacks were conducted last year with a different aim – subversion. That was clearly demonstrated during the recent U.S presidential campaign. Sensitive data from the Democratic party was leaked in an attempt to influence the outcome of the U.S presidential election. The FBI investigation into the hacking of the presidential election is ongoing.
Sabotage is on the rise, but data theft incidents continue. The past year has seen many espionage attacks resulting in the theft of sensitive data and corporate secrets and financial attacks have increased.
The Internet Security and Threat Report shows there has been a major increase in large-scale financial heists in the past year. Attacks on consumers are occurring with increasingly regularity, although the banks themselves are now being targeted. Those attacks have resulted in the theft of many millions of dollars.
The Carbanak gang has been highly active in this area and has performed multiple attacks on U.S banks, while the Banswift group performed one of the biggest heists of the year, stealing $81 million from the central bank in Bangladesh.
While exploit kits and other web-based attacks were a major threat in 2015, attackers have returned to email as the primary method of gaining access to networks. In 2015, Symantec blocked an average of 340,000 web-based attacks per day. In 2016, the number had fallen to 229,000 – a significant reduction, although the threat of web-based attacks cannot be ignored.
The Biggest Malware Threat Comes from Email
Phishing is still a major risk for businesses, although the phishing rate has fallen over the past three years, according to the Internet Security and Threat Report. In 2014, one in 965 messages were used for phishing. In 2016, the number fell to one in 2,596 emails.
However, email spam levels have remained constant year on year. Email spam accounts for 53% of all sent messages.
Phishing email volume may be down, but email-borne malware attacks have increased. The Symantec Internet Security and Threat Report shows the volume of malicious emails now being sent is higher than any point in the past five years.
Now, one in 131 emails contain either a malicious attachment or hyperlink, up from one in 220 emails in 2015 and one in 244 emails in 2014. The number of new malware variants being released has also soared. In 2014, there were 275 million new malware variants discovered. That figure rose to 357 million last year. The number of bots sending malicious email has also increased year on year, from 91.9 million in 2015 to 98.6 million in 2016.
Ransomware Attacks Soared in 2016
Ransomware attacks also increased significantly in 2016, with the United States the most targeted country. Even though the FBI and other law enforcement agencies strongly advise against paying a ransom, 64% of U.S. companies ignore that advice and pay the attackers for keys to decrypt their data.
In 2015, the average ransom demand was for $294 per infected machine. Over the course of the past 12 months, ransom amounts have increased considerably. The Symantec Internet Security and Threat Report shows ransom demands increased by an astonishing 266% in 2016. The average ransom demand is now $1,077 per infected machine.
Symantec tracked 101 separate ransomware families in 2016 – A substantial rise from the 30 known ransomware families in 2014 and 2015. Last year, there were 463,841 ransomware detections, up from 340,655 from 2015.
One of the biggest threats comes from the cloud, although many organizations are underestimating the risk. When organizations were asked how many cloud apps are in use in their company, few provided an accurate figure. Many estimated they used around 40 cloud-based apps. Symantec reports that for the average company, the figure is closer to 1,000.
As the Internet Security and Threat Report shows, the cyberthreat landscape is constantly changing as cybercriminals develop new methods of attacking businesses. Only by keeping up to date on the latest threat indicators and bolstering cybersecurity defenses can businesses maintain a robust security posture and prevent attacks.
Kaspersky Lab has released new figures showing software exploit attacks increased by almost a quarter in 2016. In total, more than 702 million attempted software exploit attacks were performed; a rise of 24.54% year on year. Corporate users were the worst affected, registering 690,000 attacks in 2016; a rise of 28.35% year on year.
According to the report, 69.8% of software exploit attacks took advantage of flaws in web browsers, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office or the Android platform. Software exploit attacks involve malware leveraging flaws in software to run malicious code or install other malware. Last year, the most common exploit took advantage of the Stuxnet vulnerability on unpatched systems.
Software exploits are difficult to identify because they occur silently without alerting the user. Unlike email-based attacks, software exploits require no user interaction. A user must only be convinced to visit a website hosting an exploit kit. A hyperlink can be sent via email or users can be redirected to malicious sites using malvertising. Attacks can occur through general web browsing. Hackers often take advantage of flaws to hijack websites and install exploit kits.
While attacks on companies have increased, attacks on private users fell by around 20% to 4.3 million attacks. This has been attributed to two major exploit kits – Neutrino and Angler – being shut down. Without those exploit kits, criminal groups have lost the ability to spread malware and have had to resort to different tactic to spread malware, with spam email the delivery mechanism of choice.
Exploit kits are expensive to develop and require considerable work, and since software developers are reacting faster and patching vulnerabilities, exploit kits are no longer as profitable for cybercriminals. However, exploits are still being used by sophisticated criminal gangs in targeted attacks aimed at stealing highly sensitive data.
This year has seen an increase in exploit activity using the Rig exploit kit, while last month Checkpoint noted a major rise in software exploit attacks.
Exploit kits may not pose as big a threat as in late 2015, but they are still a significant threat for businesses. Organizations can improve their defenses against software exploits by installing patches promptly and ensuring anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are kept up to date. A web filtering solution should also form part of organizations’ defenses. Web filters prevent end users from visiting, or being redirected to, websites known to host exploit kits.
On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force and GDPR compliance will be mandatory. Now is the time to get prepared. GDPR compliance is likely to require considerable effort and resources. If your organization is not prepared, you may miss the GDPR compliance deadline.
GDPR is a new regulation that will apply to all organizations based in EU member states, as well as those based in non-member states that capture, hold or process the data of EU citizens. GDPR is a replacement of the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive and will address web-based technology that was not widely available in 1995. Use of the cloud for instance.
The new regulation will help to ensure the personal data of EU citizens is protected and the risk of sensitive data being exposed is minimized. The new regulation will also allow EU citizens to have much greater control over the personal data that is collected and stored by organizations, and how those data are used.
How Will GDPR Protect Consumers?
One of the main elements of GDPR is improving the rights of EU citizens with regards to the personal data that is collected, stored and used by organizations. GDPR requires organizations to obtain informed consent from consumers prior to collecting and using their data. Consumers must be told the reason why data are being collected, how data will be used, and consumers must be told that they can withdraw their consent at any time. A mechanism must be put in place that will allow an organization to delete data when it is no longer required or when consent is withdrawn.
GDPR gives consumers the right to:
- Find out how their data will be used
- Discover how data were obtained if informed consent was not provided
- Access personal data
- Find out how long data will be stored
- Correct errors in stored data
- Move data to a different processor
- Restrict or prohibit the processing of data
- Find out with whom data have been or will be shared
- Have data permanently erased
- Avoid being evaluated on the basis of automated processing
Organizations must also limit the data collected to the minimum necessary amount for the purpose that has been described to consumers to be performed.
While organizations that have an online presence and actively collect data will have to comply with GDPR – Amazon for example – GDPR will apply to a much broader range of companies. In fact, many companies that do not have an online presence will need to comply with GDPR. GDPR will apply to any company that collects the types of data covered by the GDPR definition of personal information. That includes organizations that store ‘personal data’ of employees in an electronic database.
What Data are Covered by GDPR?
Under GDPR, personal information includes an individual’s name and a host of other identifiers, including online identifiers such as location data, IP addresses, cookies and other “pseudonymous data”. Information such as race and ethnic origin, religious or philosophical beliefs, political opinions, sexual orientation, details of sex life, criminal convictions, trade union membership, health data, biometric data, and genetic data are all covered.
Data Security Standards Necessary for GDPR Compliance
GDPR also covers the protections that must be put in place by organizations to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. That includes stored data and all data that flows through systems or applications.
GDPR compliance requires organizations to conduct a risk/gap analysis to assess potential vulnerabilities in their current systems and processes.
Companies must “implement appropriate technical and organizational measures” to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. Those measures should “ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk.”
Companies must adopt a privacy and security-by-design approach, and ensure that controls are implemented during the planning stages, development, implementation, and use of applications and systems. Regular testing and security assessments must also be performed.
Systems must also be implemented that allow data to be recovered and restored in the event of a security incident or technical problem being experienced.
Data Breach Notification Requirements of GDPR
Any organization that experiences a breach of data covered by GDPR must inform their Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) within 72 hours of the breach being discovered. Individuals impacted by a data breach must also be notified, if such a breach has potential to result in identity theft or fraud, discrimination, financial loss, reputation damage, or other significant economic or social disadvantage. Notifications will not be required if stored data are encrypted or are otherwise undecipherable and unusable.
Preparing for GDPR
Many organizations currently lack the necessary systems to ensure GDPR compliance. For instance, many do not have systems that allow them to easily identify consumer data, retrieve it, and delete it as necessary.
Privacy policies will need to be drafted and published to incorporate the new regulation and ensure GDPR compliance. Forms explaining consent to use data will need to be developed and published. Staff will need to be trained on the new rights of individuals. Policies must also be developed – or updated – covering data breach notifications in case personal information is exposed, accessed, or stolen. Additional security solutions will need to be implemented. GDPR compliance will involve considerable cost and resources and ensuring GDPR compliance will take time.
Organizations must therefore start preparing for the introduction of the new regulation. It may be a year before GDPR compliance is necessary, but given the necessary changes, organizations should start planning now. From May next year, GDPR compliance will be mandatory and there will be severe penalties for non-compliance.
What are The Penalties for Non-Compliance with GDPR?
Any organization that fails to comply with GDPR can be fined by their DPAs. DPAs will be given more powers to investigate data breaches and non-compliance. The potential fines for non-compliance with GDPR are considerable.
If an organization does not comply with the GDPR security standards, a fine of up to €10 million can be issued or 2% of global annual turnover, whichever is the greater. The failure to comply with GDPR privacy standards can attract a fine of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is the greater.
Fines will be dictated by the extent of the violation or data breach, the number of individuals impacted, and the extent to which the organization has implemented controls and standards to ensure GDPR compliance.
Individuals also have the right to seek compensation if their personal information is misused or stolen, if they have suffered harm as a result. Criminal sanctions may also be applied, such as if data is collected without consent.
Organizations are likely to suffer reputational damage in the event of a data breach, as the EU will be naming and shaming organizations that fail to implement appropriate measures to protect data and prevent data breaches. Details of organizations that have not complied with GDPR will be published and made available to the public.
How Can TitanHQ Help with GDPR Compliance?
TitanHQ offers a range of data security solutions that offer real-time protection against viruses, malware, ransomware and spyware to help organizations effectively manage risk, prevent data breaches, and ensure GDPR compliance.
TitanHQ offers award-winning security solutions to prevent web-based and email-based cyberattacks, in addition to helping organizations protect themselves from insider breaches.
SpamTitan is an advanced email security solution that protects organizations from email-based attacks such as phishing, blocking the most common method of malware and ransomware delivery. SpamTitan detects and blocks 99.97% of spam email, with a range of deployment options to suit the needs of all businesses.
WebTitan offers industry-leading protection against a wide range of web-based threats such as exploit kits, malvertising, phishing websites and drive-by malware downloads. The solution allows data protection officers to limit the types of websites that can be accessed by employees to minimize risk.
ArcTitan is an easy to use email archiving system that copies all inbound and outbound messages and stores them in an encrypted email archive, preventing loss of data and ensuring emails can be recovered and audited. The solution satisfies GDPR compliance requirements for identifying, retrieving, and deleting individuals’ personal data, when its purpose has been served or consent is withdrawn.
For more information on TitanHQ’s cybersecurity solutions and how they can help with GDPR compliance, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A recent Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach has potentially resulted in customers’ credit card details being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
A statement released by the fast casual restaurant chain confirms that unauthorized individuals gained access to its network hosting its payment processing system. The initial findings of its investigation suggest access was first gained on March 24, 2017. Customers who visited its restaurants between March 24 and April 18, have potentially been affected. The investigation into the Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach is continuing to determine how many of the chain’s 2,000+ restaurants have been affected.
Few details about the Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach have been released as the investigation is ongoing, although the threat is now believed to have been blocked.
Chipotle Mexican Grill called in external cybersecurity experts to investigate a potential breach after unusual activity was detected on the network hosting its payment processing system. Law enforcement was alerted, as was its payment processor. Additional security protections have already been installed to bolster cybersecurity defenses in response to the suspected attack. Efforts are continuing to confirm the exact dates of the attack and the restaurants that have been affected.
The Chipotle Mexican Grill security breach is one of many incidents reported by restaurant chains this year. Restaurants are being targeted by cybercriminals due to the high number of credit cards that are processed. If attackers can gain access to restaurant payment processing systems, many thousands of credit card numbers can be stolen.
There are many methods used by cybercriminals to gain a foothold in a network and gain access to payment processing systems.
Typically attacks occur as a result of an employee opening an infected email attachment or visiting a hyperlink in an email that allows malware to be downloaded. Phishing emails are also sent, which aim to get employees to reveal their login credentials. Restaurants can improve their resilience against email-borne attacks by implementing an advanced spam filtering solution.
Web-borne attacks are also common. A recent report from Symantec shows web-based attacks have increased in the past year.
If an employee can be convinced to visit a malicious website, or is directed to such a site via a malvertising campaign, malware can be silently downloaded. Exploit kits on malicious websites probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and exploit those vulnerabilities to download malware.
Web-borne attacks can be prevented by ensuring that patches are applied promptly and all vulnerabilities are plugged. However, the number of patches now being released makes it difficult for restaurants to keep up. New zero day vulnerabilities are also constantly being discovered and added to exploit kits.
Many restaurants are improving their defenses against web-based attacks by implementing a web filtering solution. A web filter can be used to carefully control the websites that can be accessed on restaurant computers.
Web filters block all known malicious websites using black lists. As soon as a website is discovered to be hosting an exploit kit, malware, or used for phishing, it is added to blacklists and the site is blocked by the web filter.
A web filter is also an excellent phishing defense. If an employee clicks on a phishing hyperlink in an email, the web filter can block the URL and prevent the user from visiting the site.
There are other important advantages to implementing a web filtering solution for restaurants. The solution can be used to carefully control the websites that customers can access. Restaurants can therefore ensure that customers do not access malicious sites or inappropriate website content such as pornography. Consumers are increasingly seeking restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi, but also those that implement controls to secure their Wi-Fi networks.
If you would like to improve your resilience against cyberattacks and offer your customers secure and safe Internet access, contact the TitanHQ team today and find out more about your options.
The cost of a ransomware attack is far higher than the amount demanded by cybercriminals to unlock encrypted files. The final cost of a ransomware attack is likely to be many times the cost of the ransom payment, in fact, the ransom payment – if it is made – could be one of the lower costs that must be covered.
Typically, cybercriminals charge between $400 and $1,000 per infected computer to supply the keys to decrypt data. If one member of staff is fooled into clicking on an infected email attachment or downloading ransomware by another means, fast action by the IT team can contain the infection. However, infections can quickly spread to other networked devices and entire networks can have files encrypted, crippling an organization.
Over the past 12 months, ransomware attacks have increased in number and severity. New ransomware variants are constantly being developed. There are now more than 600 separate ransomware families, each containing many different ransomware variants.
Over the past year there has also been an increase in ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS). RaaS involves developing a customizable ransomware which is rented out to affiliates. Any individual, even someone with scant technical ability, can pay for RaaS and conduct ransomware campaigns. Access to the ransomware may be as little as $50, with the affiliate then given a cut of the profits. There has been no shortage of takers.
Figures from FireEye suggest ransomware attacks increased by 35% in 2016. Figures from the FBI released in March 2016 suggested ransomware had already netted cybercriminals $209 million. Herjavec Group estimated that ransomware profits would top $1 billion in 2016; a considerable rise from the $24 million gathered during the previous calendar year. Figures from Action Fraud indicate ransom payments in the United Kingdom topped £4.5 million last year.
While ransom demands for individual infections can be well below $1,000, all too often ransomware spreads to multiple computers and consequently, the ransom increases considerably. Cybercriminals are also able to gather information about a victim and set ransoms based on ability to pay.
In June 2016, the University of Calgary paid $16,000 to recover its email system. In February last year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (HPMC) paid a ransom payment of $17,000 to unlock its system. A ransom demand in excess of $28,000 was demanded from MIRCORP following an infection in June 2016. The MUNI metro ransomware attack in San Francisco saw a ransom demand of $73,000 issued!
Figures from Malwarebytes suggest globally, almost 40% of businesses experienced a ransomware attack in the previous year. Ransomware is big business and the costs are considerable.
What is the Cost of a Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware infections can cause considerable financial damage. The cost of a ransomware attack extends far beyond the cost of a ransom payment. The Malwarebytes study suggests more than one third of businesses attacked with ransomware had lost revenue as a result, while 20% were forced to stop business completely.
The FBI and law enforcement agencies strongly advise against paying a ransom as this only encourages further criminal activity. Organizations that are unprepared or are unable to recover data from backups may have little choice but to pay the ransom to recover data essential for business.
However, the true cost of a ransomware attack is far higher than any ransom payment. The HMPC ransomware infection resulted in systems being out of action for 10 days, causing considerable disruption to hospital operations.
System downtime is one of the biggest costs. Even if backup files exist, accessing those files can take time, as can restoring systems and data. Even if a ransom is paid, downtime during recovery is considerable. One study by Intermedia suggests 32% of companies that experienced a ransomware attack suffered system downtime for at least five days.
A study by Imperva on 170 security professionals indicates downtime is the biggest cost of a ransomware attack. 59% of respondents said the inability to access computer systems was the largest cost of a ransomware attack. 29% said the cost of system downtime would be between $5,000 and $20,000 per day, while 27% estimated costs to be in excess of $20,000 per day.
One often forgotten cost of a ransomware attack is notifying affected individuals that their data may have been compromised. Healthcare organizations must also notify individuals if their protected health information (PHI) is encrypted by ransomware under HIPAA Rules.
Major attacks that potentially impact tens of thousands of patients could cost tens of thousands of dollars in mailing and printing costs alone. Credit monitoring and identity theft protection services may also be warranted for all affected individuals.
Many affected individuals may even choose to take their business elsewhere after being notified that their sensitive information may have been accessed by cybercriminals.
Following a ransomware attack, a full system analysis must be conducted to ensure no backdoors have been installed and all traces of malware have been removed. Additional protections then need to be put in place to ensure that future attacks do not occur.
The true cost of a ransomware attack is therefore considerable. The final cost of a ransomware attack could be several hundred thousand dollars or more.
It is therefore essential that businesses of all sizes have appropriate protections in place to prevent ransomware attacks and limit their severity if they do occur.
To find out more about some of the key protections that you can put in place to improve your resilience against ransomware attacks, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A new variant of Stampedo ransomware – called Philadelphia ransomware – is being used in targeted attacks on the healthcare sector in the United States. The ransomware variant is being spread using spear phishing emails.
Spear phishing emails have been detected that incorporate the healthcare organization’s logo along with the name of a physician at the organization. The use of a logo and a name adds credibility to the email, increasing the likelihood of the targeted individual clicking the link and downloading the malicious file. Information about organization’s and details of potential targets can easily be found on social media websites such as LinkedIn.
In recent months, cybercriminals have favored email attachments for spreading ransomware and malware, with Word documents containing malicious Word macros one of the most popular methods of ransomware and malware infection. The latest campaign, which was identified by Forcepoint, also uses malicious Word documents. However, rather than sending a malicious Word document as an attachment, the emails contain a link to a website where the Word document is automatically downloaded.
As with email attachments, the document must be opened and macros enabled in order for the ransomware to be downloaded.
Philadelphia Ransomware Attacks Likely to Increase
Philadelphia ransomware attacks are likely to increase thanks to a professional affiliate campaign. Would-be attackers are being recruited using a video that highlights the many features of the ransomware. The video calls Philadelphia ransomware “the most advanced and customizable ransomware ever,” and shows just how easy it is for someone with little technical skill to start their own ransomware campaign.
Would-be cybercriminals are able to rent out the ransomware and use it for their own spamming campaigns, provided they pay the author an initial fee of around $400. The one-off payment, so the authors claim, gives a user lifetime use of the ransomware. Affiliates will then be given a cut of any ransom payments they are able to generate.
Affiliate campaigns such as this – known as ransomware-as-a-service – are becoming increasingly popular. They allow non-technical spammers to jump on the ransomware bandwagon and start generating ransom payments. There is likely to be no shortage of takers.
Fortunately, the ransomware is not as advanced as the promotional video makes out. Furthermore, a decryptor for Philadelphia ransomware has been developed and can be downloaded for free via Softpedia. No ransom needs to be paid, although infection with Philadelphia ransomware can still result in considerable disruption. Healthcare organizations should therefore be on their guard.
Exploit kits have been one of the attack vectors of choice for cybercriminals, although research from Trustwave shows exploit kit activity has been in decline over the past 12 months. Trustwave reports exploit kit activity fell by around 300% over the course of 2016.
Exploit kits are used to probe for vulnerabilities in web browsers and web browser plugins. When a user visits a website hosting an exploit kit, their browser is probed for flaws. If a flaw is found, it is exploited to silently download malware and ransomware.
However, as the middle of the year approached, exploit kit activity started to fall. There are many possible reasons why exploit kit activity has declined. Efforts have increased to make browsers more secure and defenses against exploit kits have certainly been improved.
Adobe Flash vulnerabilities were the most exploited, but last year Adobe started issuing patches faster, limiting the opportunity for the attackers to exploit flaws. The fall in exploit kit activity has also been attributed to the takedown of cybercriminal gangs that extensively used and developed exploit kits. In 2016, the Russian outfit Lurk was broken up and a number of high profile arrests were made. Lurk was the outfit behind the infamous Angler exploit kit. Angler, along with Neutrino, Nuclear and Magnitude were extensively used to download malware and ransomware.
The recently published 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index shows spam email volume increased around the middle of 2016 and there was a marked increase in malicious email attachments. Spam email has now become the attack vector of choice, but that doesn’t mean exploit kits have died. Exploit kits are still being used in attacks, but at a much-reduced level.
Exploit kits are now being used in smaller, more targeted attacks on specific geographical regions, rather than the global attacks using Angler, Nuclear and Magnitude.
Over the past few months, exploit kit activity has started to rise and new exploit kits have been discovered. Late last year, the DNSChanger exploit kit was discovered. While most exploit kits target vulnerabilities in browsers, the DNSChanger exploit kit targets vulnerabilities in routers.
Researchers from Zscaler’s ThreatLabz report there has been an increase in exploit kit activity in the first quarter of 2017. The researchers have noticed a new KaiXin campaign and Neutrino activity has increased. The researchers also detected a new exploit kit called Terror. The Terror exploit kit has been compiled from other exploit kits such as Sundown. The RIG EK continues to be one of the most commonly used kits and has been found to be delivering the ransomware variants Cerber and Locky.
Malicious email attachments may still be the attack vector of choice for spreading ransomware and malware payloads, but the threat from exploit kits is still significant and should not be ignored.
To find out how you can improve your defenses against exploit kits, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A House of Lords report on Internet safety for children calls for ISP web filtering controls to be applied as standard.
The UK government is keen for Internet service providers to apply web filtering controls to make it harder for children to access inappropriate website content such as pornography. In 2013, the UK government called on ISPs to implement web filters as standard. Four of the leading ISPs in the UK – Sky, Talk Talk, BT and Virgin Media – responded and have offered filtering controls to their customers.
However, not all ISPs in the United Kingdom provide this level of content control and the House of Lords report suggest that many ISP web filtering controls do not go far enough to ensure children are protected. The report explains that the ‘big four’ ISPs only cover 90% of all Internet users, leaving 10% of users without any form of Internet filtering service.
It is also pointed out in the report that only Sky has opted for a default-on web filter to prevent adult content from being accessed by minors. If new customers want to access adult content they must request that the filter be taken off. The other ISPs have made the service available but do not provide a filtered Internet service that is turned on by default.
The new report calls for ISP web filtering controls to be improved and for ISPs “to implement minimum standards of child-friendly design, filtering, privacy, data collection, and report and response mechanisms for complaints.” The House of Lords report also calls for ISP web filtering controls to be put on all accounts by default, requiring users to specifically request it be turned off if required. Further, the report says the default standard of Internet control should offer the strictest privacy protections for users.
Not everyone agrees with this level of control. The Internet Service Provider Association (ISPA) says that such a move is ‘disproportionate,’ and while the association is committed to keeping children safe when online, mandating ISP web filtering controls is not the way forward. For instance, if an ISP makes it clear that it offers an unfiltered service, that should be permitted. Chairman of the ISPA, James Blessing, believes the best way forward is “a joint approach based on education, raising awareness and technical tools.”
While parents will be well aware of the risks their children face when they go online, the House of Lords report does not believe Internet safety education should be left to parents. addition to making it harder for children to access inappropriate website content, the report calls for mandatory lessons in schools on safe use of the Internet, covering risks, acceptable behavior and online responsibilities.
In all likelihood, 2016 will be forever remembered as The Year of Ransomware, in the same way that 2014 was the year of the healthcare data breach.
2016 Will be Remembered as The Year of Ransomware
Ransomware first appeared in the late 1980’s, although at the time, cybercriminals did not fully embrace it. Instead, they favored viruses, worms, and other forms of malware. That’s not to say that ransomware was not used, only that there were more lucrative ways for cybercriminals to make money.
That all started to change in 2015, when the popularity of cryptomalware was fully realized. By 2016, many actors had got in on the act and the number of ransomware variants started to soar, as did attacks on healthcare providers, educational institutions, government departments, businesses, and even law enforcement agencies. In 2016, it appeared that no one was immune to attack. Many organizations were simply not prepared to deal with the threat.
Early in the year it became clear that healthcare organizations were starting to be targeted for the first time. In February, one of the most notable ransomware attacks of the year occurred. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Hollywood, CA., was attacked and its computers were taken out of action for well over a week while the medical center grappled with the infection. The decision was taken to pay the ransom demand of $17,000 to obtain the key to decrypt its data.
Not long afterwards, MedStar Health suffered a massive infection involving many of the computers used by the hospital system. In that case, the $19,000 ransom was not paid. Instead, encrypted data were recovered from backups, although the disruption caused was considerable. 10 hospitals and more than 250 outpatient centers had their computers shut down as a result of the infection and many operations and appointments had to be cancelled.
In the first quarter of 2016 alone, the FBI reported that more than $206 million in ransom payments had been made by companies and organizations in the United States. To put that figure in perspective, just $24 million had been paid in the whole of 2015 – That represents a 771% increase in ransom payments and only three months had passed. The year of ransomware had barely even begun!
Biggest Ransomware Threats in 2016
TeslaCrypt was one of the biggest ransomware threats at the start of the year, although the emergence of Locky ransomware in February saw it become an even bigger threat. It soon became the ransomware variant of choice. Locky was used in attacks in 114 countries around the world last year, and cybercriminals continue to tweak it and release new variants. Locky has yet to be cracked by security researchers. Then came Cerber, CryptXXX, Petya (which was defeated in April), and Dogspectus for smartphones, to name just a few.
By the summer, The Guardian newspaper reported that 40% of UK businesses had been attacked with ransomware, although the majority of ransomware attacks were concentrated in the United States. By the autumn, more than 200 ransomware families had been discovered, each containing many variants.
Reports of attacks continued to flood in over the course of the year, with ransomware arguably the biggest cybersecurity threat seen in recent years.
2016 was certainly The Year of Ransomware, but 2017 doesn’t look like it will get any easier for security professionals. In fact, 2017 is likely to be even worse. Some experts have predicted that ransomware revenues will reach $5 billion in 2017.
You can find out more interesting – and horrifying – ransomware statistics by clicking the image below to view the TitanHQ ransomware infographic. The ransomware infographic also includes information on the protections that should be put in place to prevent ransomware attacks and the encryption of sensitive data.