Malware Alerts

Being forewarned is being forearmed; and, if organizations keep up-to-date with the latest malware alerts, they have the opportunity to take measures to prevent their network systems becoming infected with the latest malware strains.

Many malware alerts originate not from reports of malware infections themselves, but from vulnerabilities being identified in everyday software that a hacker could use to install an exploit kit. Our malware alerts explain what the vulnerabilities are, how they can be used to deliver malware and what patches exist to eliminate the vulnerability.

Of course, the best way to block exploit kits from downloading malware onto your organization´s network systems is to ensure that Internet users never visit a website harboring an exploit kit. This can be achieved by a simple adjustment of your web filtering solution. If your organization does not yet have a web filtering solution, speak with WebTitan today.

Terdot Trojan Steals Banking Credentials and Hijacks Social Media Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Tips Used as Lure in Smoke Loader Malware Malvertising Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IoT Reaper Botnet Growing at Alarming Rate

Last year, the Mirai botnet was used in massive DDoS attacks; however, the IoT Reaper botnet could redefine massive. The Mirai botnet, which mostly consisted of IoT devices, was capable of delivering DDoS attacks in excess of 1 terabit per second using just 100,000 malware infected devices.

The IoT Reaper botnet reportedly includes almost 2 million IoT devices, and infections with Reaper malware are growing at an alarming rate. An estimated 10,000 new IoT devices are infected and added to the botnet every day.

Researchers at Qihoo 360, who discovered the new botnet, report that the malware also includes in excess of 100 DNS open resolvers, making DNS amplification – DNS Reflection Denial of Service (DrDoS) – attacks possible.

Check Point has also been tracking a new botnet that includes an estimated 1 million devices, with 60% of the devices the firm tracks infected with the botnet malware. Check Point has called the botnet IoTroop, although it is probable that it is the same botnet as Qihoo 360 has been tracking. Check Point says it is “forming to create a cyber-storm that could take down the Internet.”

While the IoT Reaper botnet has existed for some time, it was not identified until September this year. Previously, the malware used to enslaves IoT devices was installed by taking advantage of default and weak passwords. However, that has now changed, and infections have been growing at an alarming rate as a result.

IoT Reaper is using nine different exploits for known vulnerabilities that have yet to be patched, with routers, cameras, and NVRs being targeted from more than 10 different manufacturers including router manufacturers Netgear, D-Link, Linksys, and surveillance camera manufacturers AvTech, Vacron, and GoAhead.

Unfortunately, while PC users are used to applying patches to keep their computers secure, the same cannot be said for routers and surveillance cameras, which often remain unpatched and vulnerable to infection.

At present the intentions of the actors behind the botnet are not known, but it is highly likely that the botnet will be used to perform DDoS attacks, as has been the case with other IoT botnets. Even though the number of enslaved devices is substantial, researchers believe the botnet is still in the early stages of development and we are currently enjoying the quiet before the storm.

If a botnet involving 100,000 devices can deliver a 1 terabit per second attack, the scale of the DDoS attacks with IoT Reaper could be in the order of tens of terabits per second. Fortunately, for the time being at least, the botnet is not being used for any attacks. The bad news is those attacks could well start soon, and since the malware allows new modules to be added, it could soon be weaponized and used for another purpose.

Beware of Hoeflertext Warnings: Popups Used to Deliver Ransomware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mamba Ransomware Attacks Resume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Sees Huge Rise in Malware Attacks on Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Malware Attacks on Schools in 2017

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

Minnesota School District Closed for a Day Due to Malware Attack

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

Swedesboro-Woolwich School District Suffers Cryptoransomware Attack

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

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

Los Angeles Community College District Pays $28,000 Ransom

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

Calallen Independent School District Reports Ransomware Attack

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

Preventing Malware and Ransomware Attacks on Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RoughTed Malvertising Campaign Impacts 28% of Organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massive Global Cyberattack Uses EternalBlue Exploit and Installs Petya Ransomware

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.

Astrim Exploit Kit Now Delivering Mole Ransomware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireball Malware: 250 Million+ Infections and Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EternalRocks Worm Poses Far Greater Threat than WannaCry

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.

New Uiwix Ransomware Variant Targets SMB Flaw

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.

WannaCry Ransomware Attacks Halted… Temporarily

The WannaCry ransomware attacks that crippled hospitals in the United Kingdom on Friday have temporarily halted, although not before infections spread to 150 countries around the globe.  The massive ransomware campaign saw 61 NHS Trusts in the UK affected.

As the NHS was cancelling appointments and scrambling to halt the spread of the infection and restore its systems, the WannaCry ransomware attacks were going global. Organizations around the world were waking up to total chaos, with systems taken out of action and data access blocked. Other victims include FedEx, Telefonica, Deutsche Bahn and the Russian Interior Ministry and around 200,000 others.

The victim count rose considerably throughout Friday and Saturday morning, before a security researcher in the UK accidentally flicked the ransomware’s kill switch, preventing further WannaCry ransomware attacks. Had it not been for that researcher’s actions, the victim count would have been considerably higher.

The researcher in question prefers to remain anonymous, although he tweets under the Twitter account @MalwareTechBlog. While analyzing the ransomware, he discovered a reference to a nonsense web domain. He checked to see who owned the domain and discovered it had not been registered. He bought it and realized that his actions had stopped the ransomware in its tracks. If the domain could be contacted, encryption would not take place. If contact was not possible, the ransomware would proceed and encrypt files on the infected device.

This kill switch could have been put in place by the authors as a way to stop infections getting out of control. However, far more likely is the domain check was performed to determine if the ransomware was running in a test environment.

For now at least, the WannaCry ransomware attacks have stopped, although that does not mean they will not continue. New versions of the ransomware – without the kill switch – will almost certainly be released. In the meantime, IT security professionals have some time to plug the vulnerability that was exploited.

The exploit takes advantage of a vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block (SMB) that allows the attackers to download files onto a vulnerable machine. Microsoft issued a patch to plug the vulnerability on March 13 (MS17-010). Even though this was a high priority patch for which an exploit had been developed (ETERNALBLUE) and released online, many companies failed to update Windows leaving them vulnerable to attack.

Of course, any organization using an unsupported version of Windows – Windows XP for example – would not be able to apply the patch. Many NHS Trusts in the UK still use the unsupported version of Windows even though it is vulnerable to this and other exploits.

The attackers have reportedly made around $50,000 so far from the WannaCry ransomware attacks. That figure will rise, as victims are given 7 days to pay before the decryption keys held by the attackers will be permanently deleted. If payment is not made within 3 days, the $300 ransom doubles.

There are no clues as to who was behind the attack, although it was made possible by the actions of the hacking group Shadow Brokers, who published the exploit used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in April. The exploit was not developed by Shadow Brokers however. That appears to have been developed by the National Security Agency in the USA. Shadow Brokers allegedly stole the exploit.

Microsoft has responded to the WannaCry ransomware attacks saying they should serve as a “wake-up call.” That’s not just the need to apply patches promptly to prevent cyberattacks, but also a wake up call for governments not to secretly stockpile exploits.

Mac Malware Warning Issued: Handbrake for Mac App Infected with RAT

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.

‘Crazy Bad’ Microsoft Malware Protection Engine Bug Patched

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.

NCCIC Issues Multi-Industry Alert on Sophisticated New Malware Threat

A sophisticated new malware threat has been discovered that is being used to target a wide range of industry sectors and infect systems with RAT/malware.

The campaign is being used to spread multiple malware variants and gain full access to systems and data. While many organizations have been attacked, the threat actors have been targeting IT service providers, where credential compromises can be leveraged to gain access to their clients’ environments.

The threat actors are able to evade detection by conventional antivirus solutions and operate virtually undetected.

The campaign has been running since at least May 2016 according to a recent alert issued by the National Cybersecurity Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The campaign is still being investigated, but due to the risk of attack, information has now been released to allow organizations to take steps to block the threat and mitigate risk. NCCIC categorizes the threat level as medium.

While threat detection systems are capable of identifying intrusions, this campaign is unlikely to be detected. The attack methods used by the threat actors involve impersonating end users leveraging stolen credentials. Communications with the C2 are encrypted, typically occurring over port 443 with the domains frequently changing IP address. Domains are also spoofed to appear as legitimate traffic, including Windows update sites.

Two main malware variants are being used in this campaign – the remote administration Trojan (RAT) REDLEAVES and the PLUGX/SOGU Remote Access Tool. PLUGX malware has been around since 2012, although various modifications have been made to the malware to prevent detection.

PLUGX allows the threat actors to perform a range of malicious activities such as setting connections, terminating processes, logging off the current user and modifying files. It also gives the threat actors full control of the compromised system and allows the downloading of files. READLEAVES offers the threat actors a typical range of RAT functions including system enumeration.

NCCIC has released Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) to allow organizations to conduct scans to determine whether they have been infected and further information will be published when it becomes available.

While anti-virus solutions should be used, they are unlikely to offer protection against this malware campaign. NCCIC warns organizations that there is no single security solution that can prevent infection, therefore a multi-layered defense is required. The aim of organizations should be to make it as difficult as possible for the attackers to gain access to their systems and install malware and operate undetected.

NCCIC offers several suggestions to help organizations improve their defenses against attack. Since phishing emails are used to fool end users into revealing their credentials, anti-phishing solutions should be employed to prevent the emails from reaching end users’ inboxes.

Other mitigations are detailed in NCCIC’s recent report, which can be downloaded from US-CERT on this link.

New Locky Ransomware Attacks Use Techniques Similar to Dridex Malware Campaigns

Locky is back. The latest Locky ransomware attacks leverage an infection technique used in Dridex malware campaigns.

It has been all quiet on the western front, with Locky ransomware attacks dropping off to a tiny fraction of the number seen in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, Locky ransomware campaigns all but stopped, with Cerber becoming the biggest ransomware threat.

That could be about to change. Locky has returned, its delivery mechanism has changed, and the crypto ransomware is now even harder to detect.

The latest campaign was detected by Cisco Talos and PhishMe. The Talos team identified a campaign involving around 35,000 spam emails spread over just a few hours. The researchers suggest the emails are being delivered using the Necurs botnet, which has until recently been used to send out stock-related email spam.

New Infection Method Used in Latest Locky Ransomware Attacks

The latest Locky campaign uses a different method of infection. Previous Locky campaigns have used malicious Word macros attached to spam emails. If the email attachment is opened, end users are requested to enable macros to view the content of the document. Enabling macros will allow a script to run that downloads the payload. For the latest campaign, spam emails are used to deliver PDF files.

The change in infection method can be easily explained. Over the past few months, Word macros have been extensively used to infect end users with ransomware. Awareness of the danger of Word macros has been widely reported and companies have been warning their staff about malicious Word documents containing macros.

If an end user is fooled into opening an email attachment that asks them to enable macros, they are now more likely to close the document and raise the alarm. To increase the probability of the end user taking the desired action, the authors have made a change. Macros are still involved, but later in the infection process.

The emails contain little in the way of text, but inform the recipient that the PDF file contains a scanned image or document, a purchase order, or a receipt. PDF files are more trusted and are more likely to be opened. Opening the PDF file will see the user prompted to allow the PDF reader to download an additional file. The second file is a Word document containing a macro that the end user will be prompted to enable.

The rest of the infection process proceeds in a similar fashion to previous Locky ransomware attacks. Enabling the macros will see a Dridex payload downloaded which will then download Locky. Locky will proceed to encrypt a similarly wide range of file types on the infected computer, connected storage devices and mapped network drives.

The ransom payment demanded is 1 Bitcoin – currently around $1,200. This is considerably more that the ransom payments demanded when Locky first arrived on the scene just over a year ago.

One slight change for this campaign is the user is required to install the Tor browser in order to visit the payment site. This change is believed to be due to Tor proxy services being blocked.

Adding the extra step in the infection process is expected to result in more infections. Many users who would not open a Word attachment may be fooled into opening the PDF.

Businesses should raise the alarm and send out warning emails to staff alerting them to the new campaign and advising them to be wary of PDF files in emails.

Researchers Discover Increase in Exploit Kit Activity

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.

Source Code for NukeBot Trojan Published Online

The source code for the NukeBot Trojan has been published online on a source-code management platform. The code for NukeBot – or Nuclear Bot as it is also known –  appears to have been released by the author, rather than being leaked.

To date, the NukeBot Trojan has not been detected in the wild, even though it was first seen in December 2016. The NukeBot Trojan was developed by a hacker by the name of Gosya. The modular malware has a dual purpose. In addition to it functioning like a classic virus, it also works like an anti-virus program and is capable of detecting and eradicating other installed malware. The modular design means additional components and functionality can easily be added. When attempting to sell the malware in December last year, the author said further modules would be developed.

The release of the code for the NukeBot Trojan is understood to be an effort by the author to regain trust within the hacking community. IBM says Gosya is a relatively new name in hacking circles, having joined cybercrime forums in late 2016.

While newcomers need to build trust and gain the respect of other hacking community members, Gosya almost immediately listed the malware for sale soon after joining underground communities and failed to follow the usual steps taken by other new members.

Gosya may have developed a new malware from scratch, but he failed to have the malware tested and certified. No test versions of the malware were provided and underground forum members discovered Gosya was using different monikers on different forums in an attempt to sell his creation. Gosya’s actions were treated as suspicious and he was banned from forums where he was trying to sell his malware.

While other hackers may have been extremely dubious, they incorrectly assumed that Gosya was attempting to sell a ripped malware. The NukeBot Trojan was not only real, it was fully functional. There was nothing wrong with the malware, the problem was the actions taken by Gosya while attempting to sell his Trojan.

While many new malware variants are developed using sections of code from other malware – Zeus being one of the most popular – the NukeBot Trojan appears to be entirely new. Back in December, when the malware was first detected and analyzed, researchers from Arbor Networks and IBM X-Force verified that the malware was fully functional and had viable code which did not appear to have been taken from any other malware variant.  The malware even included an admin control panel that can be used to control infected computers.

Now that the source code has been released it is likely that Gosya will be accepted back in the forums. The source code will almost certainly be used by other malware developers and real-world NukeBot attacks may now start.

Safari Scareware Used to Extort Money from Porn Viewers

A flaw in the mobile Safari browser has been exploited by cybercriminals and used to extort money from individuals who have previously used their mobile device to view pornography or other illegal content. The Safari scareware prevents the user from accessing the Internet on their device by loading a series of pop-up messages.

A popup is displayed advising the user that Safari cannot open the requested page. Clicking on OK to close the message triggers another popup warning. Safari is then locked in an endless loop of popup messages that cannot be closed.

A message is displayed in the background claiming the device has been locked because the user has been discovered to have viewed illegal web content. Some users have reported messages containing Interpol banners, which are intended to make the user think the lock has been put on their phone by law enforcement. The only way of unlocking the device, according to the messages, is to pay a fine.

One of the domains used by the attackers is police-pay.com; however, few users would likely be fooled into thinking the browser lock was implemented by a police department as the fine had to be paid in the form of an iTunes gift card.

Other messages threaten the user with police action if payment is not made. The attackers claim they will send the user’s browsing history and downloaded files to the Metropolitan Police if the ransom is not paid.

This type of Safari scareware is nothing new, although the zero-day flaw that was exploited to display the messages was. The attackers loaded code onto a number of websites which exploited a flaw in the way the Safari browser handles JavaScript pop-up windows. The code targeted iOS versions 10.2 and earlier.

The Safari scareware campaign was recently uncovered by Lookout, which passed details of the exploit onto Apple last month. Apple has now released an update to its browser which prevents the attack from taking place. Users can protect their devices against attack by updating their device to iOS version 10.3.

Scareware is different from ransomware, although both are used to extort money. In the case of ransomware, access to a device is gained by the attacker and malicious file-encrypting malware is downloaded. That malware then locks users’ files with powerful encryption. If a backup of the encrypted files is not owned, the user faces loss of data if they do not pay the attackers for the key to decrypt their locked files.

Scareware may involve malware, although more commonly – as was the case with this Safari scareware campaign – it involves malicious code on websites. The code is run when a user with a vulnerable browser visits an infected webpage. The idea behind scareware is to scare the end user into paying the ransom demand to unlock their device. In contrast to ransomware, which cannot be unlocked without a decryption key, it is usually possible to unlock scareware-locked browsers with a little computer knowhow. In this case, control of the phone could be regained by clearing the Safari cache of all data.

MajikPOS Malware Used in Targeted Attacks on PoS Systems of U.S. Businesses

A new form of PoS malware – called MajikPOS malware – has recently been discovered by security researchers at Trend Micro. The new malware has been used in targeted attacks on businesses in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The researchers first identified MajikPOS malware in late January, by which time the malware had been used in numerous attacks on retailers. Further investigation revealed attacks had been conducted as early as August 2016.

MajikPOS malware has a modular design and has been written in .NET, a common software framework used for PoS malware. The design of MajikPOS malware supports a number of features that can be used to gather information on networks and identify PoS systems and other computers that handle financial data.

The attackers are infecting computers by exploiting weak credentials. Brute force attacks are conducted on open Virtual Network Computing (VNC) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ports. A variety of techniques are used to install the MajikPOS malware and evade detection, in some causes leveraging RATs that have previously been installed on retailers’ systems. The malware includes a RAM scraping component to identify credit card data and uses an encrypted channel to communicate with its C&C and exfiltrate data undetected.

MajikPOS malware is being used by a well-organized cybercriminal organization and credit card details are being stolen on a grand scale. The stolen information is then sold on darknet ‘dump shops’. The stolen credit card numbers, which the researchers estimate to number at least 23,400, are being sold individually for between $9 and $39. The gang also sells the credit card numbers in batches of 25, 50, or 100. The majority of credit cards belong to individuals in the United States or Canada.

POS Malware Infections Can be Devastating

A number of different attack vectors can be used to install PoS malware. Malware can be installed as a result of employees falling for spear phishing emails. Cybercriminals commonly gain a foothold in retailers’ networks as a result of employees divulging login credentials when they respond to phishing emails.

While exploit kit activity has fallen in recent months, the threat has not disappeared and malvertising campaigns and malicious links sent via emails are still used in targeted attacks on U.S retailers.

Brute force attacks are also common, highlighting how important it is to change default credentials and set strong passwords.

POS malware infections can prove incredibly costly for retailers. Just ask Home Depot. A PoS malware infection has cost the retailer more than $179 million to resolve, with the cost of the security breach continuing to rise. That figure does not include the loss of business as a result of the breach. Consumers have opted to shop elsewhere in their droves following the 2014 PoS malware attack.

This latest threat should serve as a warning for all retailers. Security vulnerabilities can – and are – exploited by cybercriminals. If inadequate protections are put in place to keep consumers’ data secure, it will only be a matter of time before systems are attacked.

PetrWrap Ransomware: An Old Threat Has Been Hijacked by a Rival Gang

There is a new ransomware threat that businesses should be aware of, but PetrWrap ransomware is not exactly anything new. It is actually a form of ransomware that was first discovered in May last year. PetrWarp ransomware is, to all intents and purposes, almost exactly the same as the third incarnation of Petya ransomware. There is one key difference though. PetrWrap ransomware has been hijacked by a criminal gang and its decryption keys have been changed.

The criminal organization behind PetrWrap ransomware have taken Petya ransomware, for which there is no free decryptor, and have exploited a vulnerability that has allowed them to steal it and use it for their own gain. The attackers have simply added an additional module to the ransomware that modifies it on the fly. After all, why bother going to all the trouble of developing your own ransomware variant when a perfectly good one already exists!

Petya ransomware is being offered to spammers and scammers under an affiliate model. The ransomware authors are loaning the ransomware to others and take a percentage of the profits gained from ransoms that are paid. This is a common tactic to increase overall profits, just as retailers pay affiliate marketers to sell their products for a commission. In the case of ransomware-as-a-service, this allows the authors to infect more computers by letting others do the hard work of infecting computers.

Yet the gang behind PetrWrap has chosen not to give up a percentage of the profits. They are keeping all of the ransom payments for themselves. The module modifies and repurposes the malware code meaning even the Petya ransomware authors are unable to decrypt PetrWrap ransomware infections.

Kaspersky Lab research Anton Ivenov says “We are now seeing that threat actors are starting to devour each other and from our perspective, this is a sign of growing competition between ransomware gangs.” He pointed out the significance of this, saying “the more time criminal actors spend on fighting and fooling each other, the less organized they will be, and the less effective their malicious campaigns will be.”

Petya – and PetrWrap ransomware – is not a typical ransomware variant in that no files are encrypted. While Locky, CryptXXX, and Samsa search for a wide range of file types and encrypt them to prevent users from accessing their data, Petya uses a different approach. Petya modifies the master boot record that launches the operating system. The ransomware then encrypts the master file table. This prevents an infected computer from being able to locate files stored on the hard drive and stops the operating system from running. Essentially, the entire computer is taken out of action. The effect however is the same. Users are prevented from accessing their data unless a ransom is paid. Petya and PetrWrap ransomware can spread laterally and infect all endpoint computers and servers on the network. Rapid detection of an infection is therefore critical to limit the harm caused.

Should Malware Protection at the ISP Level be Increased?

Consumers and businesses need to take steps to protect their computers from malware infections, but should there be more malware protection at the ISP level?

Businesses and personal computer users are being infected with malware at an alarming rate, yet those infections often go unnoticed. All too often malware is silently downloaded onto computers as a result of visiting a malicious website.

Websites containing exploit kits probe for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins. If a vulnerability is discovered it is exploited and malware is downloaded. Malware can also easily be installed as a result of receiving a spam email – if a link is clicked that directs the email recipient to a malicious website or if an infected email attachment is opened.

Cybercriminals have got much better at silently installing malware. The techniques now being used see attackers install malware without triggering any alerts from anti-virus software. In the case of exploit kits, zero-day vulnerabilities are often exploited before anti-virus vendors have discovered the flaws.

While malware infections may not be detected by end users or system administrators, that does not necessarily mean that those infections are not detected. Internet Service Providers – ISPs – are in a good position to identify malware infections from Internet traffic and an increasing number are now scanning for potential malware infections.

ISPs are able to detect computers that are being used for malicious activities such as denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and doing so is a relatively easy process.

Malware Protection at the ISP Level

Malware protection at the ISP level involves implementing controls to prevent malware infections and notifying consumers when malicious activity is detected.

ISPs can easily check for potential malicious activity on IP addresses, although blocking those IP addresses is not the answer. While some computers are undoubtedly knowingly used for malicious purposes, in many cases the users of the computers are unaware that their device has been compromised.

ISPs can however alert individuals to a potential malware infection when suspicious activity is identified. Warning emails can be sent to end users to advise them that their computer is potentially infected with malware. Those individuals can be sent a standard email template that contains instructions on how to check for a malware infection.

An increasing number of ISPs are now performing these checks and are notifying their customers of suspicious activity. Many ISPs in Europe provide this cybersecurity checking service and Level 3 Communications is one such ISP that is taking the lead.

The ISP is assessing Internet traffic and is identifying potentially malicious activity associated with certain IP addresses. So far, the ISP has created a database containing around 178 million IP addresses that are likely being used for malicious activity. Many of those IP addresses are static and are part of a botnet. Level3 Communications has estimated that around 60% of those IP addresses have been added to a botnet and 22% of the suspicious IP addresses are believed to be used to send out phishing email campaigns.

The content of Internet traffic is not investigated, although the ISP has been able to determine the IP addresses being used and those which are being sent messages and Internet traffic. While the IP addresses are known, the individuals that use those IP addresses are not. In order to notify individuals of potential infections, Level3 Communications is working with hosting providers. Once the individuals are identified they are contacted and advised of a potential malware infection.

The war on cybercrime requires a collaborative effort between law enforcement, governments, ISPs, and consumers. Only when all of those parties are involved will it be possible to curb cybercrime. Consumers can take steps to prevent infection, as can businesses, but when those measures are bypassed, ISPs can play their part.

If all ISPs were to conduct these checks and send out alerts, malware infections could be tackled and life would be made much harder for cybercriminals.

ISP Web Filtering for WiFi Networks – Protecting Consumers from Malware Infections

Notifying consumers about malware infections is one thing that should be considered, but malware protection at the ISP level should be implemented to prevent consumers and businesses from being infected in the first place.

ISPs can implement web filtering controls to block the accessing of illegal website content such as child pornography. The same technology can also be used to block websites known to contain malware. Broadband providers can implement these controls to protect consumers, and providers of public Internet can use web filtering for WiFi networks.

WiFi filters have already been implemented on the London Underground to prevent users from accessing pornography. Those controls can be extended to block websites known to be malicious. In the UK, Sky WiFi networks use filtering controls to block certain malicious and inappropriate website content from being accessed to better protect consumers. Effective malware protection at the ISP level not only keeps consumers protected, it is also a great selling point in a highly competitive market.

If you are an ISP and are not yet using filtering controls to protect your customers, speak to TitanHQ today and find out more about malware protection at the ISP level and how low-cost web filtering controls can be implemented to keep customers better protected.

Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017 Paints Bleak Outlook

The financial services sector and healthcare industry are obvious targets for cybercriminals, but cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 have risen sharply. There have been a multitude of cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017, and February is far from over. The list paints a particularly bleak outlook for the rest of the year. At the current rate, cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 are likely to smash all previous records, eclipsing last year’s total by a considerable distance.

Why Have There Been So Many Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017?

Educational institutions are attractive targets for cybercriminals. They hold large quantities of personal information of staff and students. Universities conduct research which can fetch big bucks on the black market.

While some of the finest minds, including computer scientists, are employed by universities, IT departments are relatively small, especially compared to those at large corporations.

Educational institutions, especially universities, are often linked to government agencies. If hackers can break into a university network, they can use it to launch attacks on the government. It is far easier than direct attacks on government agencies.

Cybersecurity protections in universities are often relatively poor. After all, it is hard to secure sprawling systems and huge networks that are designed to share information and promote free access to information by staff, students and researchers. Typically, university networks have many vulnerabilities that can easily be exploited.

Schools are also often poorly protected due to a lack of skilled staff and funding. Further, many schools are now moving to one-to-one programs, which means each student is issued with either a Chrome tablet or a Windows 10 laptop. More devices mean more opportunities for attack, plus the longer each student is connected to the Internet, the more time cybercriminals have to conduct attacks.

Another problem affecting K12 schools is the age of individuals who are accessing the Internet and email. Being younger, they tend to lack awareness about the risks online and are therefore more susceptible to social engineering and phishing attacks. The data of minors is also much more valuable and can be used for far longer by cybercriminals before fraud is detected.

While college students are savvier about the risks online, they are targeted using sophisticated scams geared to their ages. Fake job offers and scams about student loans are rife.

The threat of cyberattacks doesn’t always come from outside an institution. School, college and university students are hacking their own institution to gain access to systems to change their grades or for sabotage. Students with huge debts may also seek data to sell on the black market to help make ends meet.

While all of these issues can be resolved, much needs to be done and many challenges need to be overcome. It is an uphill struggle, and without additional funding that task can seem impossible. However, protections can be greatly improved without breaking the bank.

Major Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017

There have been several major cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017, resulting in huge losses – both financial losses and loss of data. Educational institutions have been hacked by outsiders, hacked by insiders and ransomware attacks are a growing problem. Then there are the email-based social engineering scams that seek the tax information of staff. Already this year there have been huge numbers of attacks that have resulted in the theft of W-2 forms. The data on the forms are used to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of staff.

Notable cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 include:

Los Angeles Valley College

One of the most expensive cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 was a ransomware infection at Los Angeles Valley College. The attack saw a wide range of sensitive data encrypted, taking its network, email accounts and voicemail system out of action. The systems could not be restored from backups leaving the college with little alternative but to pay the $28,000 ransom demand. Fortunately, valid decryption keys were sent and data could be restored after the ransom was paid.

South Carolina’s Horry County Schools

The Horry County School District serves almost 43,000 students. It too was the victim of a ransomware attack that saw its systems taken out of action for a week, even though the ransom demand was paid. While it would have been possible to restore data from backups, the amount of time it would take made it preferable to pay the $8,500 ransom demand.

South Washington County Schools

Hackers do not always come from outside an organization, as discovered by South Washington County Schools. A student hacked a server and copied the records of 15,000 students onto a portable storage device, although the incident was detected and the individual apprehended before data could be sold or misused.

Northside Independent School District

One of the largest cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 was reported by Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. Hackers gained access to its systems and the records of more than 23,000 staff and students.

Manatee County School District

Manatee County School District experienced one of the largest W-2 form phishing attacks of the year to date. A member of staff responded to a phishing email and sent the W-2 forms of 7,900 staff members to tax fraudsters.

Huge Numbers of W-2 Form Phishing Attacks Reported

This year has seen huge numbers of W-2 form phishing attacks on educational institutions. Databreaches.net has been tracking the breach reports, with the following schools, colleges and educational institutions all having fallen for phishing scams. Each has sent hundreds – or thousands of W-2 forms to tax fraudsters after responding to phishing emails.

  • Abernathy Independent School District
  • Argyle School District
  • Ark City School District
  • Ashland University
  • Barron Area School District
  • Belton Independent School District
  • Ben Bolt Independent School District
  • Black River Falls School District
  • Bloomington Public Schools
  • College of Southern Idaho
  • Corsicana Independent School District
  • Davidson County Schools
  • Dracut Schools
  • Glastonbury Public Schools
  • Groton Public Schools
  • Independence School District
  • Lexington School District 2
  • Manatee County School District
  • Mercedes Independent School District
  • Mercer County Schools
  • Mohave Community College
  • Morton School District
  • Mount Health City Schools
  • Neosho County Community College
  • Northwestern College
  • Odessa School District
  • Powhatan County Public Schools
  • Redmond School District
  • San Diego Christian College
  • Tipton County Schools
  • Trenton R-9 School District
  • Tyler Independent School District
  • Virginian Wesleyan College
  • Walton School District
  • Westminster College
  • Yukon Public Schools

*List updated June 2017

These cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 show how important it is to improve cybersecurity defenses.

If you would like advice on methods/solutions you can adopt to reduce the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches, contact TitanHQ today. TitanHQ offers cost-effective cybersecurity solutions for educational institutions to block email and web-based attacks and prevent data breaches.

Restaurant Malware Attack Results in Theft of More Than 355,000 Credit and Debit Cards

A restaurant malware attack has resulted in the theft of the credit and debit card numbers of more than 355,000 customers, according to Krebs on Security. A breach was suspected to have occurred when credit unions and banks started to notice a flurry of fraudulent purchases. The breach was traced to the fast food restaurant chain Arbys.

While there have been numerous instances of credit card fraud reported in the past few days, the Arbys data breach was first identified in January. Industry partners contacted Arbys regarding a potential breach of credit/debit card numbers. At that point, the incident was only thought to have affected a handful of its restaurants.

The malware infection was soon uncovered and the FBI was notified, although the agency requested that Arby’s did not go public so as not to impede the criminal investigation. However, a statement has recently been released confirming that Arby’s is investigating a breach of its payment card systems.

Upon discovery of the breach, Arby’s retained the services of cybersecurity firm Mandiant to conduct a forensic analysis. The Mandiant investigation is continuing, although rapid action was taken to contain the incident and remove the malware from Arby’s payment card systems. The investigation revealed that the incident only impacted certain corporate-owned stores. None of the franchised stores were infected with malware. Arbys has more than 3,300 stores across the United States, more than 1,000 of which are corporate-owned.

PSCU, an organization serving credit unions, was the first to identify a potential breach after receiving a list of 355,000 stolen credit card/debit card numbers from its member banks. It is currently unclear when the restaurant malware attack first occurred, although the malware is currently thought to have been actively stealing data from October 25, 2016 until January 19, 2017, when the malware was identified and removed.

This is of course not the first restaurant malware attack to have been reported in recent months. The restaurant chain Wendys suffered a similar malware attack last year. That incident also resulted in the theft of hundreds of thousands of payment card details before the malware was discovered and removed. Similar payment card system malware infections were also discovered by Target and Home Depot and resulted in huge numbers of card details being stolen.

Details of how the malware was installed have not been released, although malware is typically installed when employees respond to spear phishing campaigns. Malware is also commonly installed as a result of employees clicking on malicious links contained in spam emails or being redirected to malicious sites by malvertising. In some cases, malware is installed by hackers who take advantage of unaddressed security vulnerabilities.

Once malware has been installed it can be difficult to identify, even when anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are in use. As was the case with the latest restaurant malware attack, data theft was only identified when cybercriminals started using the stolen payment card information to make fraudulent purchases.

Protecting against malware attacks requires multi-layered cybersecurity defenses. Good patch management policies are also essential to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are remediated promptly. Anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions can greatly reduce the volume of messages that make it through to employees’ inboxes, while malicious links and redirects can be blocked with a web filtering solution. A little training also goes a long way. All staff members with computer access should receive anti-phishing training and should be instructed on security best practices.

Regular scans should be performed on all systems to search for malware that may have evaded anti-virus and anti-malware solutions. Since a restaurant malware attack will target payment card systems, those should be frequently scanned for malware. Rapid detection of malware will greatly reduce the damage caused.

Beware of Social Media Ransomware Attacks

This month, security researchers have discovered cybercriminals are conducting social media ransomware attacks using Facebook Messenger and LinkedIn. Social media posts have long been used by cybercriminals to direct people to malicious websites containing exploit kits that download malware; however, the latest social media ransomware attacks are different.

According to researchers at CheckPoint Security, the social media ransomware attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities in Facebook Messenger. Images are being sent through Facebook Messenger with double extensions. They appear as a jpeg or SVG file, yet they have the ability to download malicious files including ransomware. The files are understood to use a double extension. They appear to be images but are actually hta or js files.

CheckPoint says “The attackers exploit a misconfiguration on the social media infrastructure to deliberately force their victims to download the image file.” The report goes on to say “This results in infection of the users’ device as soon as the end-user clicks on the downloaded file.” No technical details have been released as CheckPoint claim the vulnerability has yet to be fixed by Facebook.

Earlier this week, security researcher Bart Blaze claimed to have also identified a Facebook Messenger campaign that was allegedly being used to spread Locky ransomware. Blaze said an SVG image was being sent via Facebook Messenger that contained malicious JavaScript code that installed a malware downloader called Nemucod. Nemucod subsequently downloaded Locky. This is also the first time that the actors behind the infamous Locky ransomware are believed to have used Facebook Messenger to spread infections.

Facebook responded to Blaze’s claim saying the problem was not related to Messenger, but involved bad Chrome extensions. Facebook said the problem had been reported to the appropriate parties.

Ransomware Attacks on the Rise

According to the Kaspersky Security Network, ransomware attacks on SMBs have increased eightfold in the past 12 months. The problem is also getting worse. More than 200 ransomware families have now been discovered by security researchers, and new forms of the malicious file-encrypting software are being released on a daily basis.

Any business that is not prepared for a ransomware attack, and has not implemented security software to protect computers and networks, is at risk of being attacked. A recent survey conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of SentinelOne showed that 48% of organizations had been attacked with ransomware in the past 12 months. Those companies had been attacked an average of 6 times.

How to Prevent Social Media Ransomware Attacks

Social media ransomware attacks are a concern for businesses that do not block access to social media platforms in the workplace. It is possible to prevent employees from accessing social media websites using WebTitan, although many businesses prefer to allow employees some time to access the sites. Instead of blocking access to Facebook, businesses can manage risk by blocking Facebook Messenger. With WebTitan, it is possible to block Facebook Messenger without blocking the Facebook website.

If WebTitan is installed, webpages that are known to contain malware or ransomware downloaders will be blocked. When individuals link to these malicious websites in social media posts, employees will be prevented from visiting those sites. If a link is clicked, the filtering controls will prevent the webpage from being accessed.

To find out more about how WebTitan can protect your organization from web-borne threats such as ransomware and to register for a free trial of WebTitan, contact the Sales Team today.

Are You Prepared for a Ransomware Attack?

Are You Prepared for a Ransomware Attack?

It doesn’t matter which security report you read; one thing is clear. The ransomware problem is becoming worse and the threat greater than ever.

While ransomware attacks in 2015 were few and far between, 2016 has seen an explosion of ransomware variants and record numbers of attacks across all industry sectors. For every ransomware variant that is cracked and decryption software developed, there are plenty more to take its place.

200 Ransomware Families Now Discovered

As if there were not enough ransomware milestones reached this year, there is news of another. The total number of detected ransomware families has now surpassed 200. That’s families, not ransomware variants.

The ransomware families have been catalogued by the ID Ransomware Service; part of the Malware Hunter Team. The current count, which may well be out of date by the time this article is finished, stands at 210.

Not only are new ransomware being developed at an unprecedented rate, the latest variants are even sneakier and have new capabilities to avoid detection. They are also more virulent and capable of encrypting a far wider array of data, and can delete backup files and quickly spread across networks and storage devices.

More people are getting in on the act. Ransomware is being rented out as a service to affiliates who receive a cut of the ransoms they collect. Campaigns can now be run with little to no skill. Unsurprisingly there are plenty of takers.

Massive Campaign Spreading New Locky Ransomware Variant

One of the biggest threats is Locky, a particularly nasty ransomware variant that first appeared in February 2016. Even though Locky has not been cracked, new variants continue to be released at an alarming rate. This week yet another variant has been discovered. The developers and distributers are also using a variant of techniques to evade detection.

Three separate campaigns have been detected this week after a two-week period of relative quiet. The ransomware is now back with a vengeance, with one of the campaigns reportedly involving an incredible 14 million emails on October 24 alone; 6 million of which were sent in a single hour.

There have been some successes in the fight against ransomware. Earlier this year the No More Ransom project was launched. The No More Ransom Project is a joint initiative Europol and the Dutch National Police force, although a number of security firms have now collaborated and have supplied decryptors to unlock files encrypted by several ransomware strains. So far, decryptors have been uploaded to the site that can unlock several ransomware variants: Chimera, Coinvault, Rannoh, Rakhni, Shade, Teslacrypt, and Wildfire.

Ransomware Problem Unlikely to Be Solved Soon

Despite the sterling efforts of security researchers, many of the most widely used ransomware strains have so far proved impossible to crack. The authors are also constantly developing new strains and using new methods to avoid detection. The ransomware problem is not going to be resolved any time soon. In fact, the problem is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Last year, an incredible 113 million healthcare records were exposed or stolen. This year looks like it will be a record-breaking year for breaches if incidents continue at the current rate. The sheer number of healthcare records now available to cybercriminals has had a knock-on effect on the selling price. Whereas it was possible to buy a complete set of health data for $75 to $100 last year, the average price for healthcare records has now fallen to between $20 and $50.

Cybercriminals are unlikely to simply accept a lower price for data. That means more attacks are likely to take place or profits will have to be made up by other means. The glut of stolen data is seeing an increasing number of cybercriminals turn to ransomware.

Are you Prepared for a Ransomware Attack?

With the threat from ransomware increasing, organizations need to prepare for an attack and improve defenses against ransomware. Policies should be developed for a ransomware attack so rapid action can be taken if devices are infected. A fast response to an attack can limit the spread of the infection and reduce the cost of mitigation; which can be considerable.

Defending against ransomware attacks is a challenge. Organizations must defend against malicious websites, malvertising, drive-by downloads, malicious spam emails, and network intrusions. Hackers are not only stealing data. Once a foothold has been gained in a network and data are stolen, ransomware is then deployed.

An appropriate defense strategy includes next generation firewalls, intrusion detection systems, web filtering solutions, spam filters, anti-malware tools, and traditional AV products. It is also essential to provide regular security awareness training to staff to ensure all employees are alert to the threat.

Even with these defenses attacks may still prove successful. Unless a viable backup of data exists, organizations will be left with two options: Accept data loss or pay the ransom. Unfortunately, even the latter does not guarantee data can be recovered. It may not be possible for attackers to supply valid keys to unlock the encryption and there is no guarantee that even if the keys are available that they will be sent through.

Since Windows Shadow copies can be deleted and many ransomware variants will also encrypt backup files on connected storage devices, backup devices should be air-gapped and multiple backups should be performed.

With attacks increasing, there is no time to wait. Now is the time to get prepared.

Ranscam Ransomware Shows Why Paying the Ransom Is Never Wise

Another day passes and another ransomware variant emerges, although the recently discovered Ranscam ransomware takes nastiness to another level. Ranscam ransomware may not be particularly sophisticated, but what it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in maliciousness.

The typical crypto-ransomware infection involves the encryption of a victim’s files, which is accompanied by a ransom note – often placed on the desktop. The ransomware note explains that the victim’s files have been encrypted and that in order to recover those files a ransom must be paid, usually in Bitcoin.

Since many victims will be unaware how to obtain Bitcoin, instructions are provided about how to do this and all the necessary information is given to allow the victim to make the payment and obtain the decryption key to unlock their files.

There is usually a time-frame for making payment. Usually the actors behind the campaign threaten to permanently delete the decryption key if payment is not received within a specific time frame. Sometimes the ransom payment increases if payment is delayed.

Ranscam Ransomware will not Allow Victims to Recover Their Files

Rather than encrypting files and deleting the decryption key, Ranscam ransomware threatens to delete the victim’s files.

The ransomware note claims the victim’s files have been encrypted and moved to a hidden partition on their hard drive, which prevents the files from being located or accessed. The payment requested by the actors behind this scam is 0.2 Bitcoin – Around $133 at today’s exchange rate.

While the ransom note claims that the victim’s files will be moved back to their original location and will be decrypted instantly once payment is received, this is not the case.

Unfortunately for the victims, but the time the ransom note is displayed, the victim’s files have already been deleted. Paying the ransom will not result in the encrypted files being recovered. A decryption key will not be provided because there isn’t one.

Researchers at Talos – who discovered the Ranscam ransomware variant – noted that the ransomware authors have no way of verifying if payment has been made. The ransomware only simulates the verification process. There is also no process built into the ransomware that will allow a victim’s files to be recovered.

Backup Your Files or Be Prepared to Lose Them

Many ransomware authors have a vested interest in ensuring that a victim’s files can be recovered. If word spreads that there is no chance of recovering encrypted files, any individual who has had their computer infected will not pay the ransom demand. Locky, CryptoWall, and Samsa ransomware may be malicious, but at least the thieves are honorable and make good on their promise. If they didn’t, discovering that files had a locky extension would be a guarantee that those files would be permanently lost.

There are new ransomware variants being released on an almost daily basis. Many of the new variants are simplistic and lack the complexity to even allow files to be recovered. The discovery of Ranscam ransomware clearly shows why it is essential to make sure that critical files are regularly backed up. Without a viable backup, there is no guarantee that files can be recovered and you – or your organization – will be at the mercy of attackers. Not all will be willing – or able to – recover encrypted files.

CryptXXX Crypto-Ransomware Receives an Update

The developers of CryptXXX ransomware have made some updates to the malicious software recently. A new campaign has also been launched which is seeing an increasing number of Joomla and WordPress websites compromised with malicious code that directs visitors to sites containing the Neutrino exploit kit.

The latest CryptXXX crypto-ransomware variant no longer changes the extension of files that have been encrypted, instead they are left unchanged.  This makes it more difficult for system administrators to resolve an infection by restoring files from backups, as it is much harder to determine exactly which files have been encrypted.

The ransomware developers have also changed the ransom note that is presented to victims and the Tor address for payment has also been changed. The payment site has been changed frequently, having used names such as Google Decryptor and Ultra Decryptor in the past. The authors have now changed the site to Microsoft Decryptor. This is the second time the payment site has been renamed since June 1. Unfortunately for victims that experience difficulties making the payment, there is no method of contacting the attackers to explain about payment issues.

CryptXXX crypto-ransomware has previously been spread using the Angler exploit kit, although the ransomware is now being distributed using Neutrino. Neutrino is primarily used to exploit vulnerabilities in PDF reader and Adobe Flash to download CryptXXX.

CryptXXX Crypto-Ransomware and CryptoBit Distributed in RealStatistics Campaign

WordPress and Joomla sites are being infected at a high rate, with 2,000 sites currently infected as part of the latest campaign according to Sucuri. The company’s researchers have suggested that the actual figure may be closer to 10,000 websites due to the limited range of sites that they have been observing.

It is unclear how the websites are being infected, although it has been suggested that outdated Joomla and WordPress installations are the most likely way that the attackers are gaining access to the sites, although outdated plugins on the websites could also be used to inject malicious Analytics code. The campaign is being referred to as “Realstatistics” due to the URL that is placed into the PHP template of infected sites.

The latest campaign has also been used to push other ransomware variants on unsuspecting website visitors. Palo Alto Networks researchers discovered eight separate Cryptobit variants that were being pushed as part of the latest Realstatistics campaign. The attackers now appear to be using Cryptobit less and have switched to CryptXXX crypto-ransomware in recent days.

Dangerous New Mac Backdoor Program Discovered

Security researchers at ESET have discovered a dangerous new Mac backdoor program which allows attackers to gain full control of a Mac computer. Mac malware may be relatively rare compared to malware used to infect PCs, but the latest discovery clearly demonstrates that Mac users are not immune to cyberattacks. The new OS X malware has been dubbed OSX/Keydnap by ESET. This is the second Mac backdoor program to be discovered in the past few days.

OSX/Keydnap is distributed as a zip file containing an executable disguised as a text file or image. If the file is opened, it will download the icloudsyncd backdoor which communicates with the attackers C&C via the Tor network. The malware will attempt to gain root access by asking for the users credentials in a pop up box when an application is run. If root access is gained, the malware will run each time the device is booted.

The malware is capable of downloading files and scripts, running shell commands, and sending output to the attackers. The malware is also able to update itself and also exfiltrates OS X keychain data.

Second Mac Backdoor Discovery in Days

The news of OSX/Keydnap comes just a matter of hours after security researchers at Bitdefender announced the discovery of another Mac backdoor program called Eleanor. Hackers had managed to get the Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor malware onto MacUpdate. It is hidden in a free downloadable app called EasyDoc Converter.

EasyDoc Converter allowed Mac users to quickly and easily convert files into Word document format; however, rather than doing this, the app installed a backdoor in users’ systems. Infections with Eleanor will be limited as the app does not come with certificate issued to an Apple Developer ID. This will make it harder for many individuals to open the app.

However, if users do install the app, a shell script will be run that will check to see if the malware has already been installed and whether Little Snitch is present on the device. If the Little Snitch network monitor is not installed, the malware will install three LaunchAgents together with a hidden folder full of executable files used by the malware. The files are named to make them appear as if they are dropbox files.

The LaunchAgents open a Tor hidden service through which attackers can communicate with a web service component, which is also initiated by the LaunchAgents. A Pastebin agent is also launched which is used to upload the Mac’s Tor address to Pastebin where it can be accessed by the attackers. The Mac backdoor program can reportedly be used for remote code execution, to access the file system, and also to gain access to the webcam.

Hospital Legacy System Security Vulnerabilities Being Exploited to Gain Access to Health Data

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of hospital legacy system security vulnerabilities and are installing malware on medical devices such as blood gas infusers. The malware is used to steal data or launch attacks on other parts of healthcare networks. Specialist devices operating on hospital legacy systems are being attacked with increasing frequency and, in many cases, the attacks are going undetected for long periods of time. Once malware has been installed on the devices, hackers are able to conduct attacks from within the network.

The malware allows attackers to download a range of tools that serve as backdoors. They are able to move freely around the network and search for data. Many hospitals are completely unaware that their networks have been compromised and that they are under attack. When the attack is finally identified, it is often too late and data has already been stolen.

The Risk of Hospital Legacy System Security Vulnerabilities Being Exploited is Considerable

In the past few days, researchers at TrapX Security have issued an update to a security report that was first released last year. In 2015, TrapX Security warned of the risk of medical devices being targeted by cybercriminals and of hospital legacy system security vulnerabilities being exploited.

The company’s researchers explained that many healthcare providers had been attacked via their medical devices and warned that additional protections needed to be put in place to prevent the devices from being used to gain access to otherwise secure networks. Security researchers call the attack vector MEDJACK – short for medical device hijack.

Medical devices often run on hospital legacy systems which cannot be changed or updated. Hospital legacy systems security vulnerabilities are often allowed to go unpatched. Hospitals have addressed some of these vulnerabilities and have implemented a host of new security controls to block attacks and detect malware. However, TrapX Security has reported that cybercriminals are managing to bypass these new security controls using old malware.

Old Malware Being Used to Gain Access to Healthcare Data

Researchers have discovered that security software is failing to identify the threat from old malware. These old malware variants may not be effective against the latest operating systems which have had the vulnerabilities that they exploit plugged. However, they are still effective against hospital legacy systems.

The researchers discovered that some attackers had used the MS08-067 worm which exploits vulnerabilities in early versions of Windows. The vulnerabilities were addressed in Windows 7 and the worm is no longer considered a security risk. Even if security software detects the worm, since it is not believed to pose a risk it is either not flagged or the security alert is ignored. However, medical devices are vulnerable if they run on older operating systems. Attackers have also embedded highly sophisticated tools in the worm. Even if the threat is detected, security software does not recognize that the risk of attack is actually high.

TrapX Security has warned that these infections are going undetected for long periods of time due to a lack of security on medical devices or the operating systems on which they run. Consequently, attackers can steal sensitive medical data over long periods of time. Unfortunately, once a backdoor has been installed, it can difficult to detect. Many security systems do not scan medical devices for malware and lateral movement within the network is similarly difficult to detect.

To prevent attacks on medical devices, healthcare organizations should, as far as is possible, isolate the devices and only run them inside a secure network zone. That zone should be protected by an internal firewall, and the devices should not be accessible via the Internet. If patches and updates are available, they should be installed to address hospital legacy system security vulnerabilities. If medical devices cannot be updated and have reached end-of-life, they should be retired and replaced with devices that have the necessary protections to prevent device hijacking.

New Angler Exploit Kit Update Confirms Need for Web Filtering Software

Researchers at FireEye have reported that the Angler Exploit Kit has been updated and that it is now capable of bypassing Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) protection – the first time this behavior has been observed in the wild.

Angler Exploit Kit Could be Used to Deliver any Malicious Payload

The Angler exploit kit is being used to exploit vulnerabilities in Silverlight and Adobe Flash plug-ins. If vulnerabilities are found, Angler downloads its malicious payload: TeslaCrypt ransomware. Teslacrypt was closed down a few weeks ago and the authors released a universal decryption key that can unlock all infections. Anti-virus firms have since developed tools that can be used to remove TeslaCrypt infections. However, it is probable that the Angler exploit kit will be updated to deliver other malicious payloads for which there is no known fix. Many distributors of TeslaCrypt have already transitioned to CryptXXX.

Currently EMET protections are only being bypassed on devices running Windows 7, although it is probable that attackers will soon develop EMET bypasses that work on more recent versions of Windows. That said, updating to later versions of Windows will help organizations improve their security posture. If an upgrade is not possible or practical, sys admins should ensure that patches are applied promptly. If possible, ActiveX should also be disabled as should Flash and Silverlight plugins. Uninstalling unnecessary software and disabling plugins will reduce the attack surface.

EMET was developed to prevent malicious actors from exploiting memory corruption vulnerabilities, and while this has proved effective at some preventing attacks, the bypass shows that Microsoft’s protection is not 100% effective. While EMET can be used to reduce the risk of ransomware and other malware infections, system admins should not rely on EMET alone. Multi-layered security defenses should be employed to keep networks protected, as this bypass clearly shows. It is still essential to use anti-virus and anti-malware software and to keep definitions up to date.

While efforts can be made to prevent exploit kits from taking advantage of vulnerabilities in plugins, enterprises can reduce risk further by stopping end users from visiting websites known to host exploit kits. By implementing a web filtering solution and restricting access to certain categories of website, enterprises can greatly enhance their security posture.

Upgrade to Windows 10 to Avoid Ransomware Worm, Says Microsoft

Microsoft has recently given Windows users a new incentive to upgrade to Windows 10: A ransomware worm called ZCryptor. The new ransomware variant exhibits worm-like capabilities and is able to self-replicate and infecting multiple devices. The malicious file-encrypting software infection will not be prevented by upgrading to the latest version of Windows, although additional protections are included in the Windows 10 release to make infection more difficult.

The new ransomware variant, called ZCryptor.A, is primarily distributed via spam email messages containing malicious macros, although the Microsoft security advisory indicates the ransomware worm is also installed via fake installers such as those claiming to update Adobe Flash to the latest version.

If ZCryptor is installed, the ransomware searches for removable drives and installs an autorun.inf file on the device. When the drive is disconnected and connected to another computer, the ransomware is able to spread, infecting a new machine.

The ZCryptor ransomware worm is capable of encrypting 88 different file types according to the Microsoft advisory, although some samples have been detected that are capable of infecting as many as 121 different files types.

Once installed, the ransomware generates a fake Windows alert indicating a removable drive cannot be detected. The pop-up will continue to be displayed while the ransomware is running and is communicating with its command and control server. The purpose of the pop-up is unclear, although presumably this is generated to prompt the user to disconnect the drive. This could be a ploy to get the victim to connect the removable drive to a different computer thus spreading the infection.

The ransomware worm displays an HTML window explaining that all personal files on the computer have been encrypted. A ransom demand of 1.2 Bitcoin is demanded ($500) for the decryption key to unlock the infection. Victims are given 4 days to pay the ransom or the ransom demand increases to 5 Bitcoin. The attackers claim that after 7 days the unique decryption key will be permanently destroyed, and all encrypted files will remain permanently locked.

While anti-virus software developers have been able to find vulnerabilities in a number of other ransomware variants and develop fixes, no known fix currently exists for a ZCryptor infection. Victims will either have to restore all of their files from a backup or will have to pay the ransom. Of course, there is no guarantee that the attackers will make good on their promise and will supply a valid decryption key.

Ransomware Worm Represents Next Stage of Malware Development

Many organizations now employ web filtering solutions such as WebTitan to block malicious URLs containing exploit kits. By blocking these attack vectors, it is becoming harder for cybercriminals to infect computers.

Spam filters have similarly been developed to be much more efficient and effective at blocking malicious spam email. SpamTitan now blocks 99.97% of spam, making it much harder for malicious attachments and links to reach end users.

Due to the improved cybersecurity protections in place in many organizations, ransomware developers have had to develop new methods to spread infections. The development of ransomware that exhibits worm-like behavior does not come as a surprise. Security researchers believe that these ransomware worms are likely to become much more common and that self-propagating ransomware and malware will soon become the norm.

DMA Locker Ransomware: Flaws Fixed and Widespread Attacks Expected

After the recent news that TeslaCrypt has been decommissioned comes a new highly serious threat: DMA Locker ransomware.

Malwarebytes has recently reported that DMA Locker ransomware, which is now in its 4th incarnation – could pose a significant threat to businesses and individuals over the coming weeks. Version 4 of the ransomware has already been added to the Neutrino exploit kit and is currently being distributed. Malwarebytes expects DMA Locker ransomware attacks to become much more widespread.

Spate of DMA Locker Ransomware Attacks Expected

DMA Locker ransomware was first seen in the wild in January of this year, yet the malicious file-encrypting malware posed little threat in its early forms, containing numerous flaws that allowed security companies to develop decryption tools.

The early forms of DMA Locker ransomware were capable of encrypting files offline and did not used a command and control server. When files were encrypted, the key to unlock the encryption was stored on the device. This allowed the malware to be reverse engineered to crack the encryption.

A new version of the ransomware was released a month later, yet it used a weak random generator and it was a relatively easy task to guess the AES key. A couple of weeks later saw the release of version 3, which saw previous flaws corrected by the authors.

However, version 3 of DMA Locker ransomware contained another flaw. While it was not possible to decrypt locked files without a decryption key, the attackers used the same key for the entire campaign. If a business had multiple infections, only one key would need to be purchased. That key could then be posted online and be used by other victims.

However, this month version 4 was released. The latest version corrects the issues with version 3 and uses a separate key for each infection. The ransomware also communicates with a command and control server and cannot work offline.

Infection with early versions of the ransomware occurred via compromised remote desktop logins – or logins that were easily guessed. Consequently, the number of recorded infections remained low. However, the latest version has been added to exploit kits which take advantage of vulnerabilities in browsers making silent drive-by downloads of the ransomware possible. This makes attacks much more likely to occur.

The ransomware is potentially highly serious, encrypting a wide range of file types. Many ransomware strains only encrypt specific file types. TeslaCrypt for example was developed to attack gamers, and encrypted saved game files and files associates with Steam accounts. DMA Locker does not search for specific files, and instead encrypts everything that is not in its whitelist of file extensions. It is also capable of encrypting files on network drives, not just the computer on which it has been downloaded.

To prevent attacks, businesses should use web filtering software to block users visiting sites containing exploit kits and stop command and control server communications. Regular backups should also be performed and files stored on air-gapped drives. In case of attack, files can then be recovered without paying the ransom.

Dridex Botnets Being Leveraged to Deliver Cerber Ransomware

The threat from Cerber ransomware has increased substantially after the gang behind the file-encrypting software have leveraged Dridex botnets to deliver a malicious payload that loads the ransomware onto users’ devices.

Cerber ransomware was first discovered in the wild in February 2016, but researchers at security firm FireEye noticed a massive increase in infections in recent weeks. Initially, Cerber ransomware infections occurred as a result of visiting malicious websites hosting the Nuclear or Magnitude exploit kits. Nuclear and Magnitude probe visitors’ browsers for a number of zero day vulnerabilities, although infections primarily occurred by exploiting a vulnerability in Adobe Flash (CVE-2016-1019). Now the ransomware is being installed via infected files sent via spam email.

Cerber differs from many ransomware strains by being able to speak to victims. The ransomware is able to use text-to-speech to tell victims they have been infected and that their files have been encrypted.

Massive Increase in Cerber Ransomware Infections Discovered in April

The number of infections remained relatively low since the discovery of the new ransomware earlier this year; however, there was a massive spike in infections around April 28 according to FireEye. The ransomware was being downloaded using Microsoft Word macro downloaders.

The attached files are usually disguised as invoices, receipts, or purchase orders, while the emails – written in English – urge the user to open the attachment. If macros are enabled on the computer a VBScript will be installed in the victim’s %appdata% folder. If macros are not enabled users will be prompted to enable them in order to view the contents of the file. Doing so will guarantee infection.

Once installed, the script performs a check to determine whether the infected computer has an Internet connection by sending an HTTP request to a website. If an Internet connection is present, the script will perform a HTTP Range Request, that will ultimately result in the final stage of the infection. FireEye reports the technique has previously been used to deliver the financial Trojans Dridex and Ursnif.

Cerber has been configured to encrypt Word documents, emails, and Steam gaming files, which are given a “.cerber” extension. To unlock the encryption, the victims are told to visit one of a number of websites with the domain “decrypttozxybarc”. Further instructions are then provided on how to unlock the encryption, although a Bitcoin ransom must first be paid. In addition to encrypting files, Cerber ransomware adds the victim’s computer to a spambot network.

The ransomware uses a number of obfuscation techniques to avoid detection by spam filters and anti-virus programs. If the emails are delivered and the macros are allowed to run, victims’ files will be encrypted. To prevent infection, it is important to have macros disabled and to be extremely cautious about opening email attachments, and never to open files deliver via email from an unknown sender. The decrypttozxybarc domain should also be added to web filter blacklists.

How to Block Exploit Kits and Keep your Network Protected

Last week, the website of a major toy manufacturer was discovered to have been compromised and was being used to infect visitors with ransomware. The website of Maisto was loaded with the Angler exploit kit that probed visitors’ browsers for exploitable vulnerabilities. When vulnerabilities were discovered, they were exploited and ransomware was downloaded onto visitors’ devices. In this case, the ransomware used was CryptXXX.

The website was attacked using JavaScript, which loaded the site with the angler exploit kit. The exploit kit searches for a wide range of browser plugin vulnerabilities that can be exploited. A malware dropper called Bedep is then used to install the ransomware.

Many ransomware infections require a system rebuild and restoration of data from a backup. If a viable backup does not exist there is no alternative but to pat the attackers for an encryption. Fortunately, in this case there is an easy fix for a CryptXXX infection. The ransomware-encrypted files can be decrypted for free according to Kaspersky Lab. However, there are many malicious strains of ransomware that are not so easy to remove.

While decrypting files locked by CryptXXX is possible, that is not the only malicious action performed by the ransomware. CryptXXX is also an information stealer and can record logins to FTP clients, email clients, and steal other data stored in browsers. It can even steal bitcoins from local wallets.

CryptXXX is now being used in at least two major exploit kit attack campaigns according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks. While Locky ransomware was extensively used in March this year – deployed using the Nuclear exploit kit – the attackers appear to have switched to the Angler exploit kit and the Bedep/CryptXXX combo.

How to Block Exploit Kits from Downloading Malware

To protect end users’ devices and networks from malware downloads and to block exploit kits, system administrators must ensure that all browser plugins are kept up to date. Exploit kits take advantage in security vulnerabilities in a wide range of plugins, although commonly vulnerabilities in Flash and Java are exploited. These two browser plugins are used on millions of machines, and new zero-day vulnerabilities are frequently discovered in both platforms. Cybercriminals are quick to take advantage. As soon as a new vulnerability is identified it is rapidly added to exploit kits. Any machine that contains an out-of-date plug in is at risk of attack.

It takes time for patches to be developed and released when a new zero-day vulnerability is discovered. Keeping all devices up to date is a time consuming process and sys admins are unlikely to be able to update all devices the second a patch is released. To effectively protect devices and networks from attacks using exploit kits, consider using a web filtering solution.

A web filter can be used to block websites containing exploit kits and thus prevent the downloading of malware, even if patches have not been installed. The best way to block exploit kits from downloading malware is to ensure that end users never visit a website containing an exploit kit!

A web filter should not be an excuse for poor patch management practices, but web filtering software can ensure devices and networks are much better protected.

Risk of Phishing Attacks and Ransomware Infections Highlights Need for Web Filtering Software

The risk of phishing attacks has increased considerably over the past 12 months, according to a new data breach report from Verizon. Ransomware attacks are also on the rise. The two are often used together to devastating effect as part of a three-pronged attack on organizations.

Firstly, cybercriminals target individual employees with a well-crafted phishing campaign. The target is encouraged to click a link contained in a phishing email which directs the soon-to-be victim to a malicious website. Malware is then silently downloaded to the victim’s device.

The malware logs keystrokes to gain access to login credentials which allows an attacker to infiltrate email accounts and other systems. Infections are moved laterally to compromise other networked devices. Stolen login credentials are then used to launch further attacks, which may involve making fraudulent bank transfers or installing ransomware on the network.

The Risk of Phishing Attacks is Growing

Verizon reports that due to the effectiveness of phishing and the speed at which attackers are able to gain access to networks, the popularity of the technique has grown substantially. In years gone by, phishing was a technique often used in nation-state sponsored attacks on organizations. Now there is a high risk of phishing attacks from any number of different players. Even low skilled hackers are now using phishing to gain access to networks, steal data, and install malware. Out of the nine different incident patterns identified by the researchers, phishing is now being used in seven.

Phishing campaigns are also surprisingly effective. Even though many companies now provide anti-phishing training, attempts to educate the workforce to minimize the risk of phishing attacks is not always effective. The 2016 Verizon data breach report suggests that when phishing emails are delivered to inboxes, 30% of end users open the emails. In 2015 the figure was just 23%. Rather than employees getting better at identifying phishing emails they appear to be getting worse. Even worse news for employers is 13% of individuals who open phishing emails also double click on attached files or visit the links contained in the emails.

Ransomware Attacks Increased 16% in a Year

Ransomware has been around for the best part of a decade although criminals have favored other methods of attacking organizations. However, over the past couple of years that has changed and the last 12 months has seen a significant increase in ransomware attacks on businesses. According to the data breach report, attacks have increased by 16% in the past year. As long as companies pay attackers’ ransom demands attacks are likely to continue to increase.

How Can Web Filtering Software Prevent Ransomware Infections and Reduce the Risk of Phishing Attacks

Defending a network from attack requires a wide range of cybersecurity defenses to be put in place. One of the most important defenses is the use of web filtering software. A web filter sits between end users and the Internet and controls the actions that can be taken by end users as well as the web content they are allowed to access.

A web filter can be used to block phishing websites and malicious sites where drive-by malware downloads take place. Web filtering software can also be configured to block the downloading of files typically associated with malware.

Training employees how to avoid phishing emails can be an effective measure to reduce the risk of phishing attacks, but it will not prevent 100% of attacks, 100% of the time. When training is provided and web filtering software is used, organizations can effectively manage phishing risk and prevent malware and ransomware infections. As phishing attacks and ransomware infections are on the increase, now is the ideal time to start using web filtering software.

Popularity of Ransomware-As-A-Service Increasing

The recent rise in ransomware infections has been attributed to the proliferation of ransomware-as-a-service, with many malicious actors now getting in on the act and sending out spam email campaigns to unsuspecting users.

Ransomware-as-a-Service Proliferation is a Major Cause for Concern

The problem with ransomware-as-a-service is how easy it is for attackers with relatively little technical skill to pull off successful ransomware attacks. All that is needed is the ability to send spam emails and a small investment of capital to rent the ransomware. The malicious software is now being openly sold as a service on underground forums and offered to spammers under a standard affiliate model.

The malware author charges a nominal fee to rent out the ransomware, but takes a large payment on the back end. Providers of ransomware-as-a-service typically take a cut of 5%-25% of each ransom. Spammers get to keep the rest. Renters of the malicious software cannot access the source code, but they can set their own parameters such as the payment amount and timescale for paying up.

SMBs Increasingly Targeted by Attackers

While individuals were targeted heavily in the past and sent ransom demands of around $400 to $500 to unlock their family photographs and other important files, attackers and now extensively targeting businesses. Often the same model is used with a fee charged by the attackers per install.

When an organization has multiple devices infected with ransomware the cost of remediation is considerable. One only needs to look to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center to see how expensive these attacks can be. The medical center was forced to pay a ransom of $17,000 to unlock computers infected with ransomware, in addition to many man-hours resoling the infection once the encryption keys had been supplied. Not to mention the cost of reputation damage and clearing the backlog due to the shutting down of its computers for over a week.

Warning Issued About the Insider Ransomware Threat

As if the threat from ransomware was not enough, researchers believe the situation is about to get a whole lot worse. Ransomware-as-a-service could be used by a malicious insider to infect their own organization. With insider knowledge of the locations and types of data critical to the running of the business, an insider would be in the best position to infect computers.

Insiders may also be aware of the value of the data and the cost to the business of losing data access. Ransoms could then be set accordingly. With payments of tens of thousands of dollars possible, this may be enough to convince some employees to conduct insider attacks. Since finding hackers offering ransomware-as-a-service is not difficult, and network access has already been gained, insiders may be tempted to pull off attacks.

To counter the risk of insider ransomware attacks businesses should develop policies to make it crystal clear to employees that attackers will be punished to the full extent of the law. Software solutions should be put in place to continuously monitor for foreign programs installed on networks and network privileges should be restricted as far as is possible. Employees should have their network activities monitored and suspicious activity should be flagged and investigated. It is not possible to eliminate the risk of insider attacks, but it is possible to reduce risk to a minimal level.

Shadow IT Risk Highlighted By New Malware Discovery: 12 Million Machines Infected

IT professionals are well aware of the shadow IT risk. Considerable risk is introduced by employees installing unauthorized software onto their work computers and mobile devices. However, this has been clearly illustrated this week following the discovery of a new malware by the Talos team. To date more than 12 million individuals are believed to have installed the new Trojan downloader.

Seemingly Genuine Software Performs a Wide Range of Highly Suspect System Actions

Many users are frustrated by the speed of their PC and download tools that will help to resolve the problem, yet many of these are simply bloatware that perform no beneficial functions other than slowing down computers. These can be used to convince users to pay for additional software that speeds up their PCs, or worse. The software may perform various nefarious activities.

It would appear that the new malware is of this ilk. Furthermore, it is capable of being exploited to perform a wide range of malicious actions. The software performs a wide range of highly suspect functions and has potential to steal information, gain administration rights, and download malicious software without the user’s knowledge.

The new malware has been referred to as a “generic Trojan” which can check to see what AV software is installed, detect whether it has been installed in a sandbox, determine whether remote desktop software has been installed, and check for security tools and forensic software.

By detecting its environment, the malware is able to determine whether detection is likely and if so the malware will not run. If detection is unlikely a range of functions are performed including installing a backdoor. The backdoor could be used to install any number of different programs onto the host machine without the user’s knowledge.

So far more than 7,000 unique samples have been discovered by Talos. One common theme is the use of the word “Wizz” throughout the code, with the malware communicating with “WizzLabs.

Analysis of the malware revealed that one of the purposes of the software was to install adware called “OneSoftPerDay”. The company behind this adware is Tuto4PC, a French company that has got into trouble with authorities before for installing PUPs on users’ computers without their knowledge.

By allowing the malware to run, researchers discovered it installed System Healer – another Tito4PC creation – without any user authorization. Whether the malware will be used for nefarious activity other than trying to convince the users to download and pay for PUPs is unclear, but the potential certainly exists. With 12 million devices containing this software, at any point these machines could be hijacked and the software used for malicious purposes.

The Shadow IT Risk Should Not Be Underestimated

The shadow IT risk should not be underestimated by security professionals. Many seemingly legitimate software applications have the capability of performing malicious activities, and any program that does to such lengths to detect the environment in which it is run and avoid detection is a serious concern.

Organizations should take steps to reduce Shadow IT risk and prevent installation of unauthorized software on computers. Policies should be put in place to prohibit the installation of unauthorized software, and software solution should be employed to block installers from being downloaded. As an additional precaution, regular scans should be conducted on networked devices to check for shadow IT installations and actions taken against individuals who break the rules.

Servers Running Destiny Library Management System Installed with Backdoors

K-12 schools in the United States have been put on alert after it was discovered that backdoors have been installed on a number of servers running Follet’s Destiny Library Management System. More than 60,000 schools in the United States use Destiny to track school library assets, a number of which now face a high risk of cyberattack.

A security vulnerability in the JBoss platform has recently been used to launch attacks on a number of organizations in the United States. The vulnerability has allowed malicious actors to gain access to servers and install ransomware. The main targets thus far have been hospitals, including Baltimore’s Union Memorial which was infected as a result of a ransomware attack on its parent organization MedStar. The attackers gained access to servers at MedStar and used SamSam ransomware to lock critical files with powerful encryption. The discovery of the ransomware resulted in the forced shutdown of MedStar’s EHR and email causing widespread disruption to healthcare operations.

Over 2000 Backdoors Discovered to Have Been Installed on Servers Running JBoss

Since the attack took place, Cisco’s Talos security team has been scanning the Internet to locate servers that are vulnerable via the JBoss security vulnerability. Earlier this week Talos researchers discovered 3.2 million servers around the world are vulnerable to attack. However, there is more bad news. Attackers have already exploited the security vulnerability and have installed backdoors in thousands of servers. In some cases, multiple backdoors have been installed by a number of different players by dropping webshells on unpatched servers running JBoss. 2,100 backdoors were discovered and 1,600 IP addresses have been affected.

Hospitals have been targeted as they hold a considerable volume of valuable data which are critical to day to day operations. If attackers are able to lock those files there is a high probability that the hospitals will be forced to pay a ransom to unlock the encryption. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center had to pay a ransom of $17,000 to unlock files that had been encrypted in a ransomware attack. Schools are also being targeted.

Poor patch management policies are to blame for many servers being compromised. The JBoss security vulnerability is not new. A patch was issued to correct the vulnerability several years ago.  If the patch had been applied, many servers would not have been compromised. However, some organizations, including many schools, are not able to update JBoss as they use applications which require older versions of JBoss.

Destiny Library Management System Vulnerabilities Addressed With A New Patch

A number of schools running Destiny Library Management System were discovered to have been compromised by attackers using the JexBoss exploit to install backdoors, which could be used to install ransomware. Follett discovered the problem and has now issued a patch to address the security vulnerability and secure servers running its Destiny Library Management System. The patch plugs security vulnerabilities in versions 9.0 to 13.5, and scans servers to identify backdoors that have been installed. If non-Destiny files are discovered they are removed from the system.

Any school using the Destiny Library Management System must install the patch as a matter of urgency. If the Destiny Library Management System remains unpatched, malicious actors may take advantage and use the backdoors to install ransomware or steal sensitive data.