Our news section dedicated to web filtering reports on instances in which a web filter can be used to protect organizations against online threats and the consequences of phishing campaigns. We also report on how filtering web access can protect the vulnerable against exposure to inappropriate online content – particularly minors viewing pornography.
Several of our news items will be of particular interest to MSPs and service providers who wish to add web filtering to their portfolio of products. With TitanHQ´s solutions, MSPs can incorporate white-labelled web filtering into an existing service package or market the solutions as stand-alone packages.
The U.S. midterm elections have been attracting considerable attention, so it is no surprise that cybercriminals are taking advantage and are running a midterm elections SEO poisoning campaign. It was a similar story in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections and the World Cup. Whenever there is a major newsworthy event, there are always scammers poised to take advantage.
Thousands of midterm elections themed webpages have sprung up and have been indexed by the search engines, some of which are placing very highly in the organic results for high-traffic midterm election keyword phrases.
The aim of the campaign is not to influence the results of the midterm elections, but to take advantage of public interest and the huge number of searches related to the elections and to divert traffic to malicious websites.
What is SEO Poisoning?
The creation of malicious webpages and getting them ranked in the organic search engine results is referred to as search engine poisoning. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are used to promote webpages and convince search engine algorithms that the pages are newsworthy and relevant to specific search terms. Suspect SEO practices such as cloaking, keyword stuffing, and backlinking are used to fool search engine spiders into rating the webpages favorably.
The content on the pages appears extremely relevant to the search term to search engine bots that crawl the internet and index the pages; however, these pages do not always display the same content. Search engine spiders and bots see one type of content, human visitors will be displayed something entirely different. The scammers are able to differentiate human and bot visitors through different HTTP headers in the web requests. Real visitors are then either displayed different content or are redirected to malicious websites.
Midterm Elections SEO Poisoning Campaign Targeting 15,000+ Keywords
The midterm elections SEO poisoning campaign is being tracked by Zscaler, which notes that the scammers have managed to get multiple malicious pages ranking in the first page results for high traffic phrases such as “midterm elections.”
However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The scammers are actually targeting more than 15,000 different midterm election keywords and are using more than 10,000 compromised websites in the campaign. More sites are being compromised and used in the campaign each day.
When a visitor arrives at one of these webpages from a search engine, they are redirected to one of many different webpages. Multiple redirects are often used before the visitor finally arrives at a particular landing page. Those landing pages include phishing forms to obtain sensitive information, host exploit kits that silently download malware, or are used for tech support scams and include various ruses to fool visitors into installing adware, spyware, cryptocurrency miners, ransomware or malicious browser extensions. In addition to scam sites, the campaign is also being used to generate traffic to political, religious and adult websites.
This midterms elections SEO poisoning campaign poses a significant threat to all Internet users, but especially businesses that do not control the content that can be accessed by their employees. In such cases, campaigns such as this can easily result in the theft of credentials or malware/ransomware infections, all of which can prove incredibly costly to resolve.
One easy-to-implement solution is a web filter such as WebTitan. WebTitan can be deployed in minutes and can be used to carefully control the content that can be accessed by employees. Blacklisted websites will be automatically blocked, malware downloads prevented, and malicious redirects to phishing websites and exploit kits stopped before any harm is caused.
For further information on the benefits of web filtering and details of WebTitan, contact the TitanHQ team today.
A new and improved version of Azorult malware has been identified. The latest version of the information stealer and malware downloader has already been used in attacks and is being distributed via the RIG exploit kit.
Azorult malware is primarily an information stealer which is used to obtain usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, and other information such as browser histories. Newer versions of the malware have seen cryptocurrency wallet-stealing capabilities added.
Azorult malware was first identified in 2016 by researchers at Proofpoint and has since been used in a large number of attacks via exploit kits and phishing email campaigns. The latter have used links to malicious sites, or more commonly, malicious Word files containing malware downloaders.
Back in 2016, the malware variant was initially installed alongside the Chthonic banking Trojan, although subsequent campaigns have seen Azorult malware deployed as the primary malware payload. This year has seen multiple threat actors pair the information stealer with a secondary ransomware payload.
Campaigns have been detected using Hermes and Aurora ransomware as secondary payloads. In both campaigns, the initial aim is to steal login credentials to raid bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets. When all useful information has been obtained, the ransomware is activated, and a ransom payment is demanded to decrypted files.
A new version of the Azorult was released in July 2018 – version 3.2 – which contained significant improvements to both its stealer and downloader functions. Now Proofpoint researchers have identified a new variant – version 3.3 – which has already been added to RIG. The new variant was released shortly after the source code for the previous version was leaked online.
The new variant uses a different method of encryption, has improved cryptocurrency stealing functionality to allow the contents of BitcoinGold, electrumG, btcprivate (electrum-btcp), bitcore, and Exodus Eden wallets to be stolen, a new and improved loader, and an updated admin panel. The latest version has a lower detection rate by AV software ensuring more installations.
If your operating systems and software are kept fully patched and up to date you will be protected against these exploit kit downloads as the vulnerabilities exploited by RIG are not new. However, many companies are slow to apply patches, which need to be extensively tested. It is therefore strongly advisable to also deploy a web filtering solution such as WebTitan to provide additional protection against exploit kit malware downloads. WebTitan prevents end users from visiting malicious websites such as those hosting exploit kits.
The latest version of Azorult malware was first listed for sale on October 4. It is highly probable that other threat actors will purchase the malware and distribute it via phishing emails, as was the case with previous versions. It is therefore strongly advisable to also implement an advanced spam filter and ensure that end users are trained how to recognize potentially malicious emails.
TitanHQ, the leading provider of spam filtering, web filtering, and email archiving solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) recently partnered with Datto Networking, the leading provider of MSP-delivered IT solutions to SMBs.
The partnership has seen TitanHQ’s advanced web filtering technology incorporated into the Datto Networking Appliance to provide secure internet access to all users connected the network.
The new technology providing enhanced protection against web-based threats while allowing administrators to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees and guest users.
On October 18, 2018, Datto and TitanHQ will be hosting a webinar that will explain the new functionality of the Datto Networking Appliance to MSPs, including a deep dive into the new web filtering technology.
The use of fake software updates to spread malware is nothing new, but a new malware campaign has been detected that is somewhat different. Fake Adobe Flash updates are being pushed that actually do update the user’s Flash version, albeit with an unwanted addition of the XMRig cryptocurrency miner on the side.
The campaign uses pop-up notifications that are an exact replica of the genuine notifications used by Adobe, advising the user that their Flash version needs to be updated. Clicking on the install button, as with the genuine notifications, will update users’ Flash to the latest version. However, in the background, the XMRig cryptocurrency miner is also downloaded and installed. One installed, XMRig will run silently in the background, unbeknown to the user.
The campaign was detected by security researchers at Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 team. The researchers identified several Windows executable files that started with AdobeFlashPlayer that were hosted on cloud servers not controlled by Adobe.
An analysis of network traffic during the infection process revealed most of the traffic was linked to updating Adobe Flash from an Adobe controlled domain, but that soon changed to traffic through a domain associated with installers known to push cryptocurrency miners. Traffic was later identified over TCP port 14444 that was associated with the XMRig cryptocurrency miner.
Further analysis of the campaign revealed it has been running since mid-August, with activity increasing significantly in September when the fake Adobe Flash updates started to be distributed more heavily.
End users are unlikely to detect the downloading and installation of the XMRig cryptocurrency miner, but there is likely to be a noticeable slowdown in the speed of their computer. The installation of the XMRig cryptocurrency miner may be stealthy, but when it runs it uses almost all of the computer’s CPU for cryptocurrency mining. Any user that checks Task Manager will see Explorer.exe hogging their CPU. As with most cryptocurrency miners, XMRig mines Monero. What is not currently known is which websites are distributing the fake Adobe Flash updates, or how traffic is being generated to those sites.
Any notification about a software update that pops up while browsing the internet should be treated as suspicious. The window should be closed, and the official website of that software provider should be visited to determine if an update is necessary. Software updates should only ever be downloaded from official websites, in the case of Adobe Flash, that is Adobe.com.
The Palo Alto researchers note “Organizations with decent web filtering and educated users have a much lower risk of infection by these fake updates.”
In May, security researchers at Proofpoint discovered a spam email campaign that was distributing a new banking Trojan named DanaBot. At the time it was thought that a single threat actor was using the DanaBot Trojan to target organizations in Australia to obtain online banking credentials.
That campaign has continued, but in addition, campaigns have been identified in Europe targeting customers of banks in Italy, Germany, Poland, Austria, and the UK. Then in late September, a further DanaBot Trojan campaign was conducted targeting U.S. banks.
The DanaBot Trojan is a modular malware written in Delphi that is capable of downloading additional components to add various different functions.
The malware is capable of taking screenshots, stealing form data, and logging keystrokes in order to obtain banking credentials. That information is sent back to the attackers’ C2 server and is subsequently used to steal money from corporate bank accounts.
An analysis of the malware and the geographical campaigns shows different IDs are used in the C2 communication headers. This strongly suggests that the campaigns in each region are being conducted by different individuals and that the DanaBot Trojan is being offered as malware-as-a-service. Each threat actor is responsible for running campaigns in a specific country or set of countries. Australia is the only country where there are two affiliates running campaigns. In total, there appears to currently be 9 individuals running distribution campaigns.
The country-specific campaigns are using different methods to distribute the malicious payload, which include the new Fallout exploit kit, web injects, and spam email. The latter is being used to distribute the Trojan in the United States.
The U.S. campaign uses a fax notice lure with the emails appearing to come from the eFax service. The messages look professional and are complete with appropriate formatting and logos. The emails contain a button that must be clicked to download the 3-page fax message.
Clicking on the button will download a Word document with a malicious macro which, if allowed to run, will launch a PowerShell script that downloads the Hancitor downloader. Hancitor will then download the Pony stealer and the DanaBot Trojan.
Proofpoint’s analysis of the malware revealed similarities with the ransomware families Reveton and CryptXXX, which suggests that DanaBot has been developed by the same group responsible for both of those ransomware threats.
The U.S. DanaBot campaign is targeting customers of various U.S. banks, including RBC Royal Bank, Royal Bank, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase. It is likely that the campaigns will spread to other countries as more threat actors are signed up to use the malware.
Preventing attacks requires defense in depth against each of the attack vectors. An advanced spam filter is required to block malspam. Users of Office 365 should increase protection with a third-party spam filter such as SpamTitan to provide better protection against this threat. To prevent web-based attacks, a web filtering solution should be used. WebTitan can block attempts by end users to visit websites known to contain exploit kits and IPs that have previously been used for malicious purposes.
End users should also trained never to open email attachments or click on hyperlinks in emails from unknown senders, or to enable macros on documents unless they are 100% certain that the files are genuine. Businesses in the United States should also consider warning their employees about fake eFax emails to raise awareness of the threat.
Its conference season and the TitanHQ team is hitting the road again. The TitanHQ team will be travelling far and wide and will be attending the major MSP industry events in the United States and Europe throughout October and November.
The conferences give new and current MSP partners the chance to meet the TitanHQ team face to face, get answers to questions, pick up tips and tricks to get the most out of TitanHQ products, and find out about the latest innovations for MSPs from TitanHQ.
Conference season kicks off with the third annual Kaseya Connect Europe Conference in Amsterdam (October 2-4) at the NH Collection Amsterdam Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam. Kaseya is the leading provider of complete IT infrastructure management solutions for MSPs, offering best-in-class solutions to help MSPs efficiently manage and secure IT environments for their clients.
TitanHQ is an Emerald Sponsor for the event and will be showcasing its SpamTitan spam filtering and WebTitan web filtering solutions for MSPs. TitanHQ will be at booth 4 at the event, next to Datto and Bitdefender – both of which are TitanHQ partners.
Next stop for the TitanHQ tour bus is the CompTIA EMEA Member & Partner Conference at Etc. Venues County Hall on the south bank of the Thames in London (October 16-17). The Computing Technology Industry Association is the world’s leading tech association, providing education, training, certification, advocacy, philanthropy and market research. The conference brings together members and thought leaders from the entire tech industry with panel discussions, keynote speeches, and the latest news and advice about the key trends and topics impacting the tech industry.
TitanHQ is a key sponsor of the event and will be on hand give product demonstrations and explain about the opportunities that exist for MSPs to add web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving services to their client offerings.
At the end of October, the TitanHQ team will be heading to sunny Spain for DattoCon18 at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona (October 29-31). The conference is focused on helping business owners run their businesses more effectively through the use of Autotask + Datto solutions. There will be a host of educational sessions and keynote speeches at the event, with plenty of opportunities for networking. TitanHQ will be showcasing its security solutions for MSPs at the conference.
At the start of November, TitanHQ will be in attendance at the leading conference for the WiFi industry. The WiFi Now Europe conference is being held in Berlin ((November 6-8) at the Holiday Inn Berlin City-West. The event offers three full days dedicated to all things WiFi. Attendees will find out about key developments in WiFi and the latest industry trends, with opportunities to learn from industry experts, meet key industry influencers, and discover new business opportunities.
TitanHQ will be showcasing its WebTitan Cloud for WiFi solution at the event and will be explaining how MSPs can incorporate web filtering into their service stacks to provide greater value to their clients and improve their bottom lines
Next comes a quick hop across the Atlantic to the HTG Peer Groups Q4 conference in at the Omni Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida (October 10-16). HTG is an international consulting, coaching and peer group organization that helps business by igniting personal, leadership, business and legacy transformation to get companies to achieve their full potential.
There will be a full program of events throughout the week including peer group meeting and opportunities for learning and building relationships. TitanHQ will be in attendance and will be showcasing its innovative business security solutions.
Summary of TitanHQ Conference Schedule 2018
October 2-4: Kaseya Connect Europe, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Booth #4
October 16-17: CompTia EMEA Member & Partner Conference; London, UK. Booth #28
October 29-31: DattoCon18, Barcelona, Spain.
November 6-8: WiFi Now, Berlin, Germany.
November 10-16: HTG Peer Groups Q4 Conference, Orlando, FL, USA.
A new version of GandCrab ransomware (GandCrab v5) has been released. GandCrab is a popular ransomware threat that is offered to affiliates under the ransomware-as-a-service distribution model. Affiliates receive a cut of the profits from any ransoms payed by individuals they manage to infect.
GandCrab was first released in January 2018 and fast grew into one of the most widely used ransomware variants. In July it was named the top ransomware threat and is regularly updated by the authors.
There have been several changes made in GandCrab v5, including the change to a random 5-character extension for encrypted files. The ransomware also uses an HTML ransom note rather than dropping a txt file to the desktop.
Bitdefender released free decryptors for early versions of the ransomware, although steps were taken by the authors to improve security for version 2.0. Since version 2.0 was released, no free decryptors for GandCrab ransomware have been developed.
Recovery from a GandCrab v5 infection will only be possible by paying the ransom – approximately $800 in the Dash cryptocurrency – or by restoring files from backups. Victims are only given a limited time for paying the ransom before the price to decrypt doubles. It is therefore essential that backups are created of all data and for those backup files to be checked to make sure files can be recovered in the event of disaster.
Since this ransomware variant is offered under the ransomware-as-a-service model, different vectors are used to distribute the ransomware by different threat actors. Previous versions of the ransomware have been distributed via spam email and through exploit kits such as RIG and GrandSoft. GandCrab v5 has also been confirmed as being distributed via the new Fallout exploit kit.
Traffic is directed to the exploit kit using malvertising – malicious adverts that redirect users to exploit kits and other malicious websites. These malicious adverts are placed on third party advertising networks that are used by many popular websites to provide an extra income stream.
Any user that clicks one of the malicious links in the adverts is redirected to the Fallout exploit kit. The Fallout exploit kit contains exploits for several old vulnerabilities and some relatively recent flaws. Any user that has a vulnerable system will have GandCrab ransomware silently downloaded onto their device. Local files will be encrypted as well as files on all network shares, not just mapped drives.
Whenever a new zero-day vulnerability is discovered it doesn’t take long for an exploit to be incorporated into malware. The publication of proof of concept code for a Task Scheduler ALPC vulnerability was no exception. Within a couple of days, the exploit had already been adopted by cybercriminals and incorporated into malware.
The exploit for the Task Scheduler ALPC vulnerability allows executable files to be run on a vulnerable system with System privileges and has been incorporated into GandCrab v5. The exploit is believed to be used to perform system-level tasks such as deleting Windows Shadow Volume copies to make it harder for victims to recover encrypted files without paying the ransom. Microsoft has now issued a patch to correct the flaw as part of its September Patch Tuesday round of updates, but many companies have yet to apply the patch.
The most important step to take to ensure that recovery from a ransomware attack is possible is to ensure backups are created. Without a viable backup the only way of recovering files is by paying the ransom. In this case, victims can decrypt one file for free to confirm that viable decryption keys exist. However, not all ransomware variants allow file recovery.
Preventing ransomware infections requires software solutions that block the main attack vectors. Spam filtering solutions such as SpamTitan prevent malicious messages from being delivered to inboxes. Web filters such as WebTitan prevent end users from visiting malicious sites known to host exploit kits. Remote desktop services are often exploited to gain system access, so it is important that these are disabled if they are not required, and if they are, they should only be accessible through VPNs.
Patches should be applied promptly to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited and advanced antimalware solutions should be deployed to detect and quarantine ransomware before files are encrypted.
A Bristol Airport ransomware attack has resulted in its customer display screens being taken offline for two days. Staff at the airport have had to resort to using dry markers and whiteboards to display flight arrival and departure information while the malicious software was removed and files were decrypted.
Ransomware was installed on its administrative computer system in the early hours on Friday, 14 September. As a result of the attack, several applications had to be taken offline as part of the airport’s efforts to contain the attack and prevent critical airport systems from being affected. The application used to display arrival and departure information throughout the airport was one of the casualties.
A statement was provided to the media confirming that a ransom demand had been received but the decision was taken not to give in to the attacker’s demand. Instead, IT staff at the airport chose to restore affected systems from backups. That process continued throughout the weekend. Screens in key locations throughout the airport were slowly brought back online on Sunday and efforts are continuing to restore files on all other affected computers at the airport.
Bristol Airport spokesman, James Gore, said initial investigations suggest this was a speculative rather than a targeted attack on the airport and that it was an online attack on its administrative systems. The exact nature of the Bristol Airport ransomware attack has not yet been disclosed and it is not known what variant of ransomware was used.
The recovery process has taken longer than was expected as the airport has adopted a particularly cautious approach due to the number of critical and security systems at the airport which could potentially have been affected. As it was, customer and airport safety were not affected by the ransomware attack and flights were not delayed.
Ransomware Still Poses a Major Threat to Businesses
Ransomware attacks have declined in recent months as many cybercriminals have turned to cryptocurrency mining as an easier way of generating an income, but the Bristol Airport ransomware attack shows that the threat of ransomware attacks is ever present. Cybercriminals have certainly not totally abandoned ransomware and it remains a serious threat.
Online attacks are also common. Ransomware is still widely distributed via exploit kits – Software loaded onto compromised websites that probes for vulnerabilities in browsers and plugins. When vulnerabilities are identified, they are exploited and ransomware is silently downloaded.
How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
Protecting against ransomware attacks requires layered security solutions to block the key attack vectors. Spam filtering software will block the majority of malicious emails and prevent them from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. Security awareness training will help to ensure that employees can identify any malicious emails than make it past perimeter email security controls.
One of the most effective solutions for blocking web-based attacks is a web filter. Web filters can be configured to prevent end users from visiting malicious websites and will block drive-by downloads of malware. Naturally, all software, including browsers and browser plugins, should be kept up to date and fully patched to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited. Anti-virus software on all servers and end points is also a must.
As was the case with the Bristol airport ransomware attack, files could be recovered from backups without the need to pay the ransom demand. To ensure file recovery is possible, regular backups must be made.
A good backup practice will see at least three backup copies created, on at least two separate media, with one copy stored securely offsite on a device that is not connected to a network or the Internet.
For more information on anti-ransomware solutions for businesses, speak to TitanHQ today. TitanHQ offers award-winning spam filtering and web filtering technology that blocks malware and ransomware attacks and other email and web-based threats.
There are many new services that managed service providers (MSPs) can add to their service stacks, such as cloud migration and digitization services, but the biggest area for growth is currently cybersecurity services.
The number of cyberattacks on SMBs and enterprises has increased substantially in recent years. More attacks are now being conducted than ever before, and many of those attacks are succeeding.
A successful attack can prove extremely profitable for an attacker and extremely costly for an enterprise. When a network or email account is breached, sensitive information can be stolen, such as the personal data of customers and employees and corporate secrets and proprietary data.
When customer information is stolen, the damage to a company’s reputation can be considerable. Customer churn rate increases, business is lost, and there may be regulatory fines to cover and lawsuits to fight. Notifications need to be issued and credit monitoring and identity theft protection services may need to be provided to customers. When proprietary data is stolen, a company’s competitive advantage can easily be lost.
Following any security breach, hours must be committed to forensic analyses to search for possible backdoors and malware. The breach cause must be identified and security holes must be plugged. All those costs (and more) add up. This year’s Cost of a Data Breach study conducted by the Ponemon Institute/IBM Security revealed the average cost of a data breach of up to 100,000 personal records has risen to $3.86 million in 2018 – a 6.4% increase since 2017.
The massive disruption to businesses caused by cyberattacks and the considerable cost of mitigating data breaches means SMBs and enterprises need to take precautions and invest in cybersecurity defenses. However, the shortage of skilled staff in this area and already overworked IT departments has meant many companies have had to turn to MSPs and managed security service providers (MSSPs) to help shore up their defenses, monitor for potential intrusions, and respond to breaches when they occur.
Many MSPs have responded to the demand and are now offering security services to their clients to meet the demand. That demand is so great, that managed security services are now a huge growth area for MSPs.
Each year, Channel Futures conducts its MSP 501 survey, which evaluates the revenue growth, service deliverables, and business models and strategies adopted by the most progressive and forward-thinking MSPs around the globe. This year, the survey revealed that the biggest growth area is security services. 73% of all surveyed MSPs said security was their fastest growing service. As a point of comparison, the next biggest growth area was professional services (55%), followed by Office 365 (52%) and consulting (51%).
With huge demand for managed security services, it is no longer a question of whether they should be added to MSPs service stacks, but more a question of how they can be integrated, how to architect those services, and how to package security services together to meet customers’ needs.
What Security Services are Being Offered by MSPs?
Many enterprises and SMBs that attempt to go it alone end up deploying dozens of different security solutions at considerable cost, only to discover they are still attacked and suffer network breaches. Most businesses do not have the staff to commit to implementing, monitoring, and managing large numbers of cybersecurity solutions. This creates an opportunity for MSPs.
Some MSPs have opted to provide clients with a suite of cybersecurity solutions from a single provider, as the solutions work seamlessly together and there is less potential for security gaps to exist. While this has worked for some MSPs, the problem with this approach is clients could approach that vendor and decide to go direct. MSPs that have succeeded with this model are adding considerable value – such as their expertise in running those solutions.
Logicalis, ranked #10 in the MSP 501 list, has taken a different approach and is bundling together a range of solutions that can be easily managed together and match customers’ needs exactly. “We pick our swim lanes, we pick our areas that are most relevant to our skills, to our customers, and we make sure we have the disciplines and domain expertise to deliver against that,” said Logicalis’ chief sales officer Mike Houghton.
Clients often get the best value – and protection – when MSPs package together cybersecurity products from a wide range of cybersecurity solution providers to provide a comprehensive security service, as Tom Clancy, CEO of Valiant Technology and #206 in Channel Future’s MSP 501 list explained. “Providing a bundle of offerings from different vendors that work well together is the most effective way for an MSP to retain its role as a trusted adviser.”
Valiant Technology has even taken this a step further and is moving towards making security a ‘non-optional’ offering. Clancy explained to Channel Futures that, “Our managed services plans will say, ‘It costs this much per seat, and it’s this much if you want the security package. And by the way, you really want the security package, otherwise here’s my limitation of liability.”
Naturally, putting together a package of security services requires considerable research and planning, new staff may need to be hired, and training on the products must be provided. It is a lot of work, but the potential rewards are considerable.
How Can TitanHQ Help?
TitanHQ has developed a suite of security products that are ideally suited for MSPs, offering a winning combination of easy deployment, remote management, superb protection against a wide range of threats, and excellent margins. The solutions mitigate the threat from web and email-based attacks integrate seamlessly into MSPs existing service stacks.
SpamTitan provides world-class protection from spam and malicious emails, preventing malware, ransomware, and phishing emails from reaching end users’ inboxes. The solution is complimented by WebTitan, a powerful web filtering solution that prevents end users from visiting malicious websites, blocks drive-by downloads of malicious software, and enforces acceptable Internet usage policies.
To find out more about how these two solutions benefit MSPs and their clients, and the tools available to seamlessly integrate these technology-agnostic security services into MSPs security packages, contact the TitanHQ team today.
Vulnerabilities in the VPNs NordVPN and ProtonVPN have been identified that allow execution of arbitrary code with system level privileges, highlighting the risk that can be introduced if VPN software is not kept fully patched and up to date.
VPNs May Not be As Secure as You Think
One common method used to securely access the Internet on public WiFi networks is to connect through a VPN. A VPN helps to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and the interception of data by creating a secure tunnel through which data flows. Using VPN software means a user’s data is encrypted preventing information from being accessed by malicious actors.
While the connection is secured using a VPN, that does not always mean that a user is well protected. VPNs may not be quite as secure as users believe. Like any software, there can be vulnerabilities in VPNs that can be exploited. If the latest version of VPN software is not used, data may be vulnerable.
High Severity Vulnerabilities Identified in Popular VPNs
Recently, two of the most popular VPN clients have been found to contain a privilege escalation bug that could be exploited to allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code with elevated privileges.
The bug is present in NordVPN and ProtonVPN clients, both of which use the open-source OpenVPN software to create a tunnel through which information passes. In April, a flaw was identified which allowed an attacker with low level privileges to run arbitrary code and elevate their privileges to system level. Further, the flaw was not difficult to exploit.
A change could easily be made to the OpenVPN configuration file, adding parameters such as “plugin”, “script-security”, “up”, and “down”. Files specified within those parameters would be executed with elevated privileges. The flaw was identified by security researcher Fabius Watson of VerSprite Security, and prompt action was taken to patch the flaw.
However, while patches were issued by NordVPN and ProtonVPN that prevented the “plugin”, “script-security”, “up”, and “down” parameters from being added to the configuration file by standard users, the flaw had only been partially corrected.
Researchers at Cisco Talos discovered the same parameters could still be added to the configuration file if they were added in quotation marks. Doing that would bypass the mitigations of the patches. These vulnerabilities have been tracked under separate CVE codes – CVE-2018-3952 for ProtonVPN and CVE-2018-4010 for NordVPN. Both flaws are considered high-severity and have been assigned a CVSS v3 base score of 8.8 out of 10.
NordVPN and ProtonVPN have now released an updated patch which prevents the addition of these parameters using quotation marks, thus preventing threat actors from exploiting the vulnerability. Both vendors have tackled the problem in different ways, with ProtonVPN opting to put the configuration file in the installation directory to prevent standard users from making any changes, while NordVPN used an XML model to generate the configuration file. Standard users are not able to modify the template.
Securing Connections on Public WiFi Access Points
VPNs are an excellent way of improving security when connecting to public WiFi networks, but policies and procedures should be implemented to ensure that patches are applied promptly. It is not always possible to configure VPN clients to automatically update to the latest version. If vulnerabilities in VPNs are not addressed, they can be a major security weak point.
An additional protection that can be implemented to protect remote workers when connecting to WiFi networks is a web filtering solution such a WebTitan. WebTitan allows businesses to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees no matter where they connect – through wired networks, business WiFi networks, and when connecting to the Internet through public WiFi networks.
By controlling the types of sites that can be accessed, and using blacklists of known malicious sites, the potential for malware downloads can be greatly reduced.
If you want to improve WiFi security or implement web filtering controls for remote workers, contact the TitanHQ team today to find out more about WebTitan and the difference it can make to your security posture.
A new exploit kit has been detected that is being used to deliver Trojans and GandCrab ransomware. The Fallout exploit kit was unknown until August 2018, when it was identified by security researcher Nao_sec. Nao_sec observed the Fallout exploit kit being used to deliver SmokeLoader – a malware variant whose purpose is to download other types of malware.
Nao_sec determined that once SmokeLoader was installed, it downloaded two further malware variants – a previously unknown malware variant and CoalaBot – A HTTP DDoS Bot that is based on August Stealer code. Since the discovery of the Fallout exploit kit in August, it has since been observed downloading GandCrab ransomware on vulnerable Windows devices by researchers at FireEye.
While Windows users are being targeted by the threat group behind Fallout, MacOS users are not ignored. If a MacOS user encounters Fallout, they are redirected to webpages that attempt to fool visitors into downloading a fake Adobe Flash Player update or fake antivirus software. In the case of the former, the user is advised that their version of Adobe Flash Player is out of date and needs updating. In the case of the latter, the user is advised that their Mac may contain viruses, and they are urged to install a fake antivirus program that the website claims will remove all viruses from their device.
The Fallout exploit kit is installed on webpages that have been compromised by the attacker – sites with weak passwords that have been brute-forced and those that have out of date CMS installations or other vulnerabilities which have been exploited to gain access.
The two vulnerabilities exploited by the Fallout exploit kit are the Windows VBScript Engine vulnerability – CVE-2018-8174 – and the Adobe Flash Player vulnerability – CVE-2018-4878, both of which were identified and patched in 2018.
The Fallout exploit kit will attempt to exploit the VBScript vulnerability first, and should that fail, an attempt will be made to exploit the Flash vulnerability. Successful exploitation of either vulnerability will see GandCrab ransomware silently downloaded.
The first stage of the infection process, should either of the two exploits prove successful, is the downloading of a Trojan which checks to see if certain processes are running, namely: filemon.exe, netmon.exe, procmon.exe, regmon.exe, sandboxiedcomlaunch.exe, vboxservice.exe, vboxtray.exe, vmtoolsd.exe, vmwareservice.exe, vmwareuser.exe, and wireshark.exe. If any those processes are running, no further action will be taken.
If those processes are not running, a DLL will be downloaded which will install GandCrab ransomware. Once files are encrypted, a ransom note is dropped on the desktop. A payment of $499 is demanded per device to unlock the encrypted files.
Exploit kits will only work if software is out of date. Patching practices tend to be better in the United States and Europe, so attackers tend to rely on other methods to install their malicious software in these regions. Exploit kit activity is primarily concentrated in the Asia Pacific region where software is more likely to be out of date.
The best protection against the Fallout exploit kit and other EKs is to ensure that operating systems, browsers, browser extensions, and plugins are kept fully patched and all computers are running the latest versions of software. Companies that use web filters, such as WebTitan, will be better protected as end users will be prevented from visiting, or being redirected to, webpages known to host exploit kits.
To ensure that files can be recovered without paying a ransom, it is essential that regular backups are made. A good strategy is to create at least three backup copies, stored on two different media, with one copy stored securely offsite on a device that is not connected to the network or accessible over the Internet.
The CamuBot Trojan is a new malware variant that is being used in vishing campaigns on employees to obtain banking credentials.
Cybercriminals Use Vishing to Convince Employees to Install CamuBot Trojan
Spam email may be the primary method of delivering banking Trojans, but there are other ways of convincing employees to download and run malware on their computers.
In the case of the CamuBot Trojan the method used is vishing. Vishing is the voice equivalent of phishing – The use of the telephone to scam people, either by convincing them to reveal sensitive information or to take some other action such as downloading malware or making fraudulent bank transfers.
Vishing is commonly used in tech support scams where people are convinced to install fake security software to remove fictitious viruses on their computers. The campaign used to install the CamuBot Trojan is a variation on this theme and was uncovered by IBM X-Force researchers.
The attack starts with some reconnaissance. The attackers identify a business that uses a specific bank. Individuals within that organization are then identified that are likely to have access the bank accounts used by the business – payroll staff for example. Those individuals are then contacted by telephone.
The attackers claim that they are calling from the bank and are performing a check of security software on the user’s computer. The user is instructed to visit a webpage where a program will run a scan to find out if they have an up-to-date security module installed on their computer.
The fake scan is completed, and the user is informed that their security module is out of date. The caller then explains that the user must download the latest version of the security module and install it on their computer.
Once the file is downloaded and executed, it runs just like any standard software installer. The user is advised of the minimum system requirements needed for the security module to work and the installer includes the bank’s logo and color scheme to make it appear genuine.
The user is guided through the installation process, which first requires them to stop certain processes that are running on their computer. The installer displays the progress of the fake installation, but in the background, the CamuBot Trojan is being installed. Once the process is completed, it connects to its C2 server.
The user is then directed to what appears to be the login portal for their bank where they are required to enter their login credentials. The portal is a phishing webpage, and the credentials to access the users bank account are captured by the attacker.
Many banks require a second factor for authentication. If such a control is in place, the attackers will instruct the user that a further installation is required for the security module to work. They will be talked through the installation of a driver that allows a hardware-based authentication device to be remotely shared with the attacker. Once that has been installed and approved, the attackers are able to intercept any one-time passwords that are sent by the bank to the user’s device, allowing the attackers to take full control of the bank account and authorize transactions.
The CamuBot Trojan shows that malware does not need to be stealthy to be successful. Social engineering techniques can be just a effective at getting employees to install malware.
The CambuBot Trojan campaign is primarily being conducted in Brazil, but the campaign could be rolled out and used in attacks in other countries. The techniques used in this campaign are not new and have ben used in several malware campaigns in the past.
Consequently, it is important for this type of attack to be covered as part of security awareness training programs. Use of a web filter will also help to prevent these attacks from succeeding by blocking access to the malicious pages where the malware is downloaded.
Cybersecurity best practices for restaurants that you can adopt to make your network more secure and prevent hackers from gaining access to your POS system and customers’ credit card information.
Cybercriminals are Targeting Restaurants’ POS Systems
If you run a busy restaurant you will most likely be processing thousands of credit and debit card transactions every month. Every time someone pays with a card you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the card details that are read through your point of sale (POS) system remain private and cannot be stolen by your employees or obtained by cybercriminals.
So far this year there have been several major cyberattacks on restaurants that have resulted in the credit and debit card numbers of customers being stolen. In August, Darden Restaurants discovered that hackers gained access to the POS system used in its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen restaurants and potentially stole over half a million payment card numbers.
Applebee’s, PDQ, Zippy’s, and Chili’s have all experienced cyberattacks in 2018 which have resulted in hackers gaining access to customers’ payment cards. Last year also saw several cyberattacks on restaurants, including attacks on Shoney’s, Arby’s, Chipotle, and the Sonic Drive-In chain. These restaurant cyberattacks are notable due to the amount of card numbers that were stolen. The cyberattack on Cheddar’s is thought to have resulted in the theft of more than half a million payment card numbers, expiry dates and CVV codes, while the Sonic data breach has been estimated to have impacted millions of customers.
Not all cyberattacks on restaurants are conducted on large restaurant chains. Smaller restaurants are also being attacked. These smaller establishments may not process anywhere near as many payment card transactions as a chain the size of Applebee’s, but the attacks can still prove profitable for criminals. Card details sell for upwards of $7, so the theft of 1,000 card numbers from a small restaurant will still generate a decent profit and the effort required to conduct cyberattacks on small restaurants is often far less than an attack on a large chain.
All restaurants are at risk of hacking. Steps must therefore be taken by all restaurants to make it as hard as possible for hackers to gain access to the network, POS systems, and customer data. With this in mind we have listed cybersecurity best practices for restaurants to adopt to avoid a data breach.
Cybersecurity Best Practices for Restaurants
Listed below are some cybersecurity best practices for restaurants to adopt to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your network and data. There is no silver bullet that will stop all cyberattacks, but these cybersecurity best practices for restaurants will help to improve your security posture.
Network Segmentation is a Must
You will most likely have multiple computers in use in your restaurant as well as many other devices that connect to your network via an ethernet connection or WiFi. Every device that connects to your network is a possible entry point that could be exploited by a hacker. It is therefore important to stake steps to ensure that if one device is compromised, access cannot be gained to your entire network. Your POS system needs to be segregated from other parts of the network and users should only be permitted to access parts of the network that are required to complete their assigned duties.
Patch Management and Vulnerability Scanning
All it takes is for one vulnerability to remain unaddressed for you to be vulnerable to attack. It is therefore essential to maintain an inventory of all devices that connect to your network and ensure that patches and software updates are applied on all those devices as soon as they are released. You should also conduct regular vulnerability scans to identify possible weak points and take prompt action to ensure those weak points are addressed.
Secure the Perimeter with a Firewall
One of the most important cybersecurity solutions to implement to prevent hackers from gaining access to your network is a firewall. A firewall monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic and serves as a barrier between a trusted internal network and an untrusted external network. A firewall is also an important element of PCI compliance.
Implement a Spam Filter to Block Malicious Emails
Email is the most common vector used to install malware. Phishing attacks are commonplace and are an easy way for hackers to gain login credentials and get a foothold in the network. Use a spam filter such as SpamTitan to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes and block all malware-laced emails.
Protect Your WiFi Network with a Web Filtering Solution
Your WiFi network is a potential weak spot and must be secured. If you provide WiFi access to your customers, ensure they are only provided with access to a guest network and not the network used by your staff. Implement a web filter to control what users can do when connected to your network. A web filter will help to prevent malware from being downloaded and can be configured to block access to risky websites. WebTitan is an ideal web filter for restaurants to improve WiFi security.
Purchase Antivirus Software
Antivirus software is one of the most basic software solutions to protect against malware. Malware is commonly installed on POS systems to record and exfiltrate payment card information. Not only should you ensure that a powerful antivirus solution is installed, you should also ensure regular scans of the network are performed.
Provide Security Awareness Training to Staff
Your employees are a potential weak point in your security defenses. Don’t assume that your employees are security aware. Teach your staff cybersecurity best practices for restaurants, provide anti-phishing training, and explain about risky behaviors that could easily lead to a data breach.
Backup and Backup Again
You should perform regular backups of all your essential data to protect against saboteurs and provide protection against ransomware attacks. If disaster strikes, you will need to record all your data. Adopt the 3-2-1 approach to creating backups. Create three copies, on two separate media, and store one copy securely off site on an air-gapped device that is not connected to the Internet.
Vet your Vendors
Access to your network may be gained through your vendors. The cyberattack on PDQ restaurants occurred via a remote access tool used by one of its technology vendors. If a vendor is able to connect to your network, it is essential that they have appropriate security controls in place. Be sure to check how secure your vendor is and what controls they have in place to prevent hacking before giving them network access.
Adopt these cybersecurity best practices for restaurants and you will make it harder for hackers to gain access to your network and you should be able to avoid a costly data breach.
There has been a significant increase in healthcare phishing attacks in recent weeks, both in frequency and the severity of attacks. In July alone, more than 1.6 million healthcare records were exposed due to healthcare phishing attacks and the attacks show no sign of slowing.
Healthcare phishing attacks are to be expected. The email accounts of healthcare employees often contain highly sensitive information – Information that can be used for a multitude of nefarious purposes such as tax fraud, medical identity theft to obtain prescription medications, and identity theft to obtain credit cards and loans. If access can be gained to the email account of one healthcare employee, messages can be sent to other employees in the organization from the compromised account. Since those messages come from a genuine email account within the organization, they are less likely to be blocked and are more likely to elicit a response. When one email account is compromised there is a high probability that access will be gained to other email accounts.
In the United States, a summary of all healthcare data breaches of more than 500 records is published by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR breach portal lists hundreds of email-related data breaches have been reported since summaries first started being published in 2009, although there has been a significant increase in phishing-related data breaches in recent months. July 2018 saw two of the largest and most serious healthcare phishing attacks ever reported.
The largest healthcare phishing attacks in July were reported by the Iowa Health System (UnityPoint Health), Boys Town National Research Hospital, and Confluence Health. These healthcare phishing attacks resulted in the exposure of 1,421,107 records, 105,309 records, and 33,821 records respectively.
In July alone, there were 33 large data breaches reported to OCR. Those breaches include unauthorized accessing of health records by employees, lost devices containing electronic health information, improper disposal of medical records, and unauthorized disclosures of health records by employees. While unauthorized disclosures are often behind the majority of breaches, in July it was email-related hacking incidents were behind 39% of all reported data breaches. Those email account breaches resulted in the exposure and possible theft of 1,620,318 patients’ health and personal information. Not only was email the most common location of breached health information in July, it was the same story in March, April, May and June.
The large-scale healthcare phishing attacks have continued in August. This month, Augusta University Health reported a phishing attack had resulted in the exposure and possible theft of the PII and PHI of 417,000 individuals. In that attack hackers gained access to the email accounts of 24 members of staff. 38,000 records were also potentially accessed by hackers following a phishing attack on Legacy Health.
With the threat of healthcare phishing attacks greater than ever and the high cost of mitigating those breaches, it is more important than ever for healthcare organizations to improve their defenses against phishing.
TitanHQ offers healthcare organizations two vital cybersecurity solutions that can help to prevent phishing attacks, which along side ongoing security awareness and anti-phishing training for staff can greatly reduce the potential for a successful phishing attack to occur.
SpamTitan is an advanced spam filtering solution that blocks 100% of known malware and more than 99.97% of malicious emails, preventing them from reaching end users inboxes. Occasional emails may be delivered to inboxes, which is where WebTitan helps. WebTitan is a powerful DNS web filtering solution that blocks attempts by employees to access known phishing websites, stopping them from reaching websites where they would otherwise disclose their login credentials.
To find out more about these solutions and how they can be deployed in a healthcare environment, contact the TitanHQ sales team today and take an important first step towards improving the resilience of your organization to phishing attacks.
A new SharePoint phishing scam has been detected that attempts to steal Office 365 credentials. The scam emails being sent in this campaign are similar to those used in countless Google Docs phishing attacks, which appear at face value to be attempts to collaborate through the sharing of files. These scams are often used to spread malware, with the documents often containing malicious macros or links to websites where malware is silently downloaded.
These brand impersonation attacks use an email format that is identical to those used in genuine messages. The phishing emails contain logos, formatting and links that makes the messages identical to legitimate messages requesting collaboration on a project.
This SharePoint phishing scam includes a hyperlink to a genuine SharePoint document, which may not be flagged as malicious since the file itself does not contain malware.
The SharePoint file advises the user that the content they are looking for has been uploaded to OneDrive for Business and a further click is necessary to access the file. A hyperlink named “Access Document” is included in the SharePoint file along with the genuine OneDrive for Business logo and appropriate graphics. At face value the document does not appear malicious, although checking the destination URL of the link will reveal that it directs the user to a suspect website.
It is that website where the phishing attempt takes place. After clicking the link the user is presented with a login window for Office 365 and their Microsoft login details must be entered. Entering Office 365 credentials at this point will pass them to the criminals behind this campaign. The user is unlikely to realize that they have been successfully phished as after entering credentials they will be directed to a genuine Office site.
This SharePoint phishing scam appears to target businesses. Business users are likely to be used to collaborating using SharePoint and are therefore more likely to respond. Gaining access to a business Office 365 account is more lucrative for the attackers, allowing them to access to email accounts to use in further phishing campaigns and access to data stored in those accounts and other sensitive data.
Email addresses for business users can easily be located through sites such as LinkedIn or lists of business email addresses could be purchased on the dark web and hacking forums.
This SharePoint phishing scam, Google Docs phishing scams, and similar campaigns spoofing Dropbox are commonplace and highly effective. They take advantage of familiarity with these collaboration services, trust in the brands, a lack of security awareness, and business employees that do not stop and think before clicking.
Preventing these attacks requires technological solutions to stop the messages from being delivered. Security awareness training can be highly effective at conditioning employees to stop and think before taking any action, while web filters can block these attacks by preventing malicious URLs from being visited. Without these controls in place, businesses will be vulnerable.
A recent study in the United Kingdom conducted by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford on the effectiveness of parental controls suggests that they may not be as effective as was thought at preventing minors from accessing online pornography.
While the study certainly adds to the body of evidence on the effectiveness of parental controls, such as those provided by Internet Service Providers, care should be taken interpreting the findings, especially comparing ISP parental controls with commercial web filtering solutions for schools.
The researchers suggest that their study “Delivered conclusive evidence that filters were not effective for protecting young people from online sexual material,” and such bold claims have naturally been reported in the media as ‘Internet controls not being effective’.
However, the study only assessed whether minors had encountered a single image of nudity or of a sexual nature. No internet filtering solution can be expected to block every single sexual image. The goal of parental controls is not to ensure that pornographic content cannot ever be accessed, only that the chance of it being accessed is reduced to a very low level.
Further, while controls can be put in place to block direct accessing of pornography, parental control filers can easily be bypassed through the use of VPNs and anonymizer services. If a minor wishes to gain access to pornography, it is easy to do so via an anonymizer service. Parental control filters put in place by Internet Service Providers do not block access to anonymizer services.
Search for “free anonymizer” in Google, access the site, and enter the URL of an adult site on a home network with parental controls in place, and you will discover exactly how easy it is to access adult content. Even easier, search for “bypass parental controls” and you will get a long list of options.
Commercial filters, such as those offered to schools and businesses, allow adult content to be blocked but also the use of anonymizer services to prevent filtering controls from being bypassed, providing greater protection – which is necessary in places of business and in schools. If an anonymizer is used and a commercial web filter is in place that blocks anonymizers, access will be denied, and the attempt will be recorded.
What is particularly worrying, is the suggestion that the findings of this study on the effectiveness of parental controls should be applied to schools. The researchers suggest in the paper “Our findings raise the question of whether mandatory state-funded Internet filtering in schools should still be regarded as a cost-effective intervention,” instead, the use of age verification tools or simply boosting educational strategies to support responsible online behavior should be explored.
Commercial web filtering solutions and parental controls solutions are not the same, and it is worth considering the following scenario. If a parent was to discover their child had viewed pornography at school and no filtering controls were in place to prevent access, would that parent agree with the school’s decision not to block pornography because a filter could potentially be bypassed? Or would a parent prefer a filter be put in place to make it harder for such content to be viewed?
The researchers do point out that more research is required to solidify the findings, specifically “to test Internet filtering in an experimental setting, done in accordance to Open Science principles.”
One thing is for certain, the use of web filters and parental controls to protect minors is certainly likely to continue to involve considerable discussion and the solution to the problem of minors accessing online material of a sexual nature is likely to involve a combination of technological controls, monitoring of internet access, and educational efforts.
The importance of web filtering for businesses cannot be understated. Businesses can install a range of perimeter defenses, but if controls are not implemented to restrict the activities of employees, malware can easily be downloaded onto work devices. The cost of mitigating malware infections can be considerable. The NotPetya malware attacks last year cost Maersk around $300 million. The Ponemon Institute annual cost of a data breach study suggests the average cost of a data breach is now $3.6 million for large businesses.
There is no single software solution that can provide total protection for businesses. A range of security solutions are required to reduce risk to an acceptable level, and web filters are one such control that should now be used by all businesses.
A new campaign has been detected this week that demonstrates the importance of web filtering for businesses, highlighting one of the methods used to install malicious software on corporate devices. In this case, the aim of the campaign is to install adware, unwanted browser extensions, and PuPs, although this tactic is often used to install much more malicious software.
The individuals behind this campaign are using autogenerated content to create large quantities of websites that incorporate commonly used keywords related to popular celebrities and adult industry actors. The aim of the campaign is to get these webpages indexed by the search engines and appearing in the organic search engine listings. Individuals who search for these keywords are likely to be presented with these webpages.
Upon opening these webpages, a popup is launched that advises the user that their computer lacks the codecs and software necessary to play the video. To get the videos to play, they need to install a media player. If the end user chooses to install the media player, rather than the media player being installed, a bundle of other programs is downloaded and installed on their device. The campaign also directs users to webpages where they are encouraged to install browser extensions.
If an employee is actively searching for inappropriate website content, it is easy to see how that individual would proceed with a download, and in doing so, install any number of potentially malicious programs.
This is not a hypothetical situation – many employees do just that. A recent survey conducted by Spiceworks delved into the reasons why companies are increasingly using web filters. The primary reason was to prevent the installation of malware. Further, when asked about whether employees had caused problems by accessing inappropriate website content, 38% of respondents said they had experienced a data breach in the past 12 months as a result of employees visiting websites that were not necessary for work.
The survey also revealed the extent that employees are using the Internet for personal reasons. Out of the companies that had not implemented a web filter, it was estimated that 58% of employees were wasting more than 4 hours a week on personal internet use, while 26% of employees were wasting 7 or more hours on non-work-related websites. That adds up to 26 days a year lost by each of those employees.
A web filter can allow a company to improve the productivity of the workforce. Employees will always slack off from time to time, but web filters can help to reduce the number of lost hours. The survey showed that the percentages fell to 43% spending more than 4 hours a week on non-work-related sites and 18% spending more than 7 hours a week slacking off online when a web filter was deployed – a significant reduction in lost hours. Further, blocking social media websites saw the figure fall to 30% of employees wasting more than 4 hours a week on personal internet use.
Another important benefit of web filtering is to prevent the accessing of illegal website content. Companies can be legally liable for illegal activities by their employees, such as the downloading of copyright protected material through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. The survey revealed two thirds of companies were using their web filter to avoid legal liability and 84% were using a web filter to stop illegal activity online. Data leakage is also a serious concern. 57% of companies use web filters to prevent data leakage and hacking.
If you want to improve your security posture, reduce the potential for productivity losses, and reduce legal liability, a web filter and at least some form of content control is essential.
If you have yet to implement a web filter, are unhappy with your current provider, or would like further information on the importance of web filtering for businesses, call the TitanHQ team today for further information. A free trial is also available for WebTitan, the leading web filtering solution for businesses, to allow you to find out first hand the benefits that content control offers.
What is a Botnet? How are they used? What harm can be caused, and how can you prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet? These and other questions answered.
What is a Botnet?
A botnet is simply a collection of computers and other Internet-connected devices that are controlled by a threat actor. Usually that control is achieved via a malware installation, with the malware communicating with the threat actor’s command and control server.
Once malware has been installed on one device, potentially it can propagate to other devices on the same network, creating a mini-army of slave devices under the threat actor’s control. Any computer with the malware installed is part of the botnet and can be used on its own or collectively with other compromised devices for malicious purposes.
What are Botnets Used For?
Botnets are often used to conduct Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, with the devices in the botnet used to access a particular service simultaneously and flooding it with traffic making that service temporarily unavailable. The Mirai botnet, which mostly consists of vulnerable IoT devices, was used to take down large sections of the Internet, including some of the most popular websites such as Twitter and Netflix. DDoS attacks are now being conducted that exceed 1 terabits per second, largely due to sheer number of devices that are part of the botnet.
One of the biggest botnets ever assembled was made possible with Zeus malware, a banking Trojan that was particularly difficult to detect. In the United States, an estimated 3.6 million computers had been infected with the malware, making Zeus one of the biggest botnets ever created.
In addition to DDoS attacks, botnets are also used to send huge quantities of spam and phishing emails. The Necurs botnet is the world’s largest spamming botnet, delivering 60% of all spam emails. The Gamut spam botnet delivers around 37% of spam botnet traffic. These two spamming botnets are primarily used to send malicious messages containing email attachments with malicious macros that download malware such as the Dridex banking Trojan, and the ransomware variants Locky, Globelmposter, and Scarab.
Recently, the rise in the value of cryptocurrencies has made it highly profitable to use the processing power of botnets to mine cryptocurrency. When processing power is used for cryptocurrency mining, the performance of the computers will reduce significantly.
How Are Botnets Created?
Botnets can be created through several different methods. In the case of IoT devices, attackers often take advantage of weak passwords and default credentials that have not been changed. Since IoT devices are less likely to be updated automatically with the latest software and firmware, it is easier to exploit flaws to gain access to the devices. IoT Devices also rarely have antivirus controls, making infection easier and detection of malware much harder.
Computers are most commonly recruited into botnets through malware sent via spam email campaigns – such as those sent out by the spamming botnets. Malware is delivered via infected email attachments or links to malicious websites where malicious code is hosted. Messages can be sent via social media networks and chat apps, which also direct users to malicious websites where malware is downloaded.
Drive-by downloads are also common – Malware is downloaded by exploiting vulnerabilities in browsers, add-ons or browser plug-ins, often through exploit kits loaded on compromised websites.
Prevent a Computer from Becoming Part of a Botnet
It is much easier to prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet than identifying a malware infection and eradicating it once it has been installed. To prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet, it is necessary to use technological controls and adopt security best practices.
Businesses need to ensure all staff are trained to be more security aware and are told about the risks of opening email attachments or clicking links in emails from unknown senders. They should also be told not to automatically trust messages from contacts as their email accounts could have been compromised. Employees should be taught security best practices and risky behavior, such as connecting to public WiFi networks without using a VPN, should be eradicated.
All software must be kept up to date with patches applied promptly. This will reduce the risk of vulnerabilities being exploited to deliver malware. Antivirus software should be installed and configured to update automatically, and regular AV scans should be performed.
Firewalls should be used to implemented to prevent unauthorized network access and allow security teams to monitor internet traffic.
Spam filtering solutions should be implemented to block the majority of malicious messages from being delivered to end users’ inboxes. The more messages that are blocked, the less chance there is of an employee responding to a phishing email and inadvertently installing malware.
One way to prevent a computer from becoming part of a botnet that is often forgotten, is the use of a web filtering solution. A web filter, such as WebTitan, will prevent malware and ransomware downloads and block access to malicious websites sent via email or through web browsing.
Implement these controls and it will make it much harder for your organization’s computers to be infected with malware and added to a botnet.
Austin, Texas-based managed services provider Acumera has successfully integrated the WebTitan web filtering solution into their service offerings and are now providing advanced web filtering to their clients.
Acumera provides managed security services to a wide range of companies throughout the United States across hundreds of thousands of locations, including healthcare providers, automated parking garages and some of the best-known retailers in the country such as 7-Eleven, Circle K, Subway, Pluckers, Benetton, and Valero service stations.
Many of the companies that have chosen Acumera to provide fully managed security services operate in hundreds or thousands of locations – 7-Eleven has more than 7,700 stores in the United States. Acumera secures payment systems and provides network security, connectivity, and visibility services across these widely distributed networks.
Acumera’s expertise in securing large highly distributed networks ensures its customers have the peace of mind that their networks and systems are fully secured, while avoiding the security headaches that many highly distributed companies face. Acumera’s customers certainly get an excellent return on their investment and tremendous value for money.
The Acumera Team with TitanHQ Alliances Director Mr. Eddie Monaghan in Austin, Texas.
Now, following the integration of WebTitan, Acumera’s customers can now benefit from advanced malware and ransomware protection both on and off corporate networks. WebTitan provides excellent protection from a wide range of web-based threats and allows companies to carefully control the websites that their employees can access. Highly granular controls ensure accurate content control without overblocking.
WebTitan Cloud is an easy to use, multi-tenant solution that MSPs can quickly set up and configure. There is no need for any hardware purchases, software installations of site visits. The 100% cloud-based solution can integrate seamlessly with existing client packages to increase revenue and attract more business.
The solution can be hosted on TitanHQ’s servers or within MSPs own environments, with a full white label version ready to take MSPs own branding.
Thanks to the WebTitan Application Programming Interface (API), managed services providers can easily incorporate WebTitan into their service offerings and provide DNS filtering to their customers.
If you are a managed service provider and you are interested in adding DNS filtering to your service stack and would like to become a TitanHQ Alliance partner, contact the TitanHQ team today for more information.
TitanHQ has announced as part of its strategic alliance with networking and security solution provider Datto, WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi have been incorporated into the Datto networking range and are immediately available to MSPs.
Datto is the leading provider of enterprise-level technology to small to medium sized businesses through its MSP partners. Datto offers data backup and disaster recovery solutions, cloud-to-cloud data protection services, managed networking services, professional services automation, and remote monitoring and management tools.
The addition of WebTitan to its range of security and networking solutions means its MSP partners can now offer their clients another level of security to protect them from malware and ransomware downloads and phishing attacks.
WebTitan is a 100% cloud-based DNS web filtering solution developed with MSPs in mind. In addition to allowing businesses to carefully control the types of websites their employees can access through corporate wired and wireless networks, the solution provides excellent protection against phishing attacks and web-based threats.
With phishing now the number one threat faced by SMBs and a proliferation of ransomware attacks, businesses are turning to their MSPs to provide security solutions to counter the threat.
Businesses that implement the solution are given real-time protection against malicious URLs and IPs, and employees are prevented from accessing malicious websites through general web browsing and via malicious URLs sent in phishing emails.
“We are delighted that Datto has chosen TitanHQ as a partner in web security. By integrating TitanHQ’s secure content and web filtering service, we are well positioned to offer Datto MSPs a best of breed solution for their small to mid-size customers,” said TitanHQ CEO, Ronan Kavanagh.
“We pride ourselves in equipping our community of Managed Service Provider partners with the right products and tools to allow each and every customer to succeed,” said John Tippett, VP, Datto Networking. “With that in mind, I’m delighted to welcome TitanHQ as a security partner and look forward to growing our partnership.”
At the upcoming TitanHQ-sponsored DattoCon 2018 conference in Austin, TX – the largest MSP event in the United States – MSPs will be able to see WebTitan in action. TitanHQ’s full team will be in attendance, including Ronan Kavanagh – TitanHQ’s CEO, Conor Madden – Sales Director, Dryden Geary – Marketing Manager, and Eddie Monaghan – Alliance Manager.
MSPs can visit the TitanHQ team at booth #66 in the exhibition hall for a demonstration of WebTitan, SpamTitan – TitanHQ’s award -winning spam filtering solution – and ArcTitan, TitanHQ’s email archiving solution. All three solutions are MSP friendly and are easily added to MSP’s service stacks.
DattoCon 2018 runs all week from June 18, 2018. The TitanHQ team will be present all week and meetings can be arranged in advance by contacting TitanHQ ahead of the conference.
TitanHQ has announced its 100% cloud-based web filtering platform, WebTitan, has been fully integrated into the Kaseya IT Complete Platform.
The IT Complete platform helps MSPs deliver invaluable cybersecurity and IT services to their clients quickly and efficiently. By using the platform, MSPs can save valuable time, allowing them to concentrate on IT projects strategic to their business.
The addition of a web filtering solution to the IT Complete platform allows MSPs to provide a more comprehensive range of cybersecurity solutions to their clients to help protect against a wide range of web-based threats. The web filtering solution joins cybersecurity solutions developed by Bitdefender, Cisco, and Dell and is now available to all MSPs who use Kaseya VSA.
WebTitan is a powerful DNS-based web filtering solution ideally suited to MSPs. The solution provides proven protection against malware and ransomware downloads, and complements existing anti-virus, email filtering, data backup solutions, and firewalls.
Being 100% cloud-based it is easy to deploy without the need for any hardware purchases, software installations, or site visits. With the new integration, WebTitan can be accessed directly through Kaseya VSA, and can be deployed and configured in minutes, providing near instant protection against web-based threats.
The integration of WebTitan into the Kaseya IT Complete platform is particularly timely, as some of the world’s leading MSPs will be attending the Kaseya Connect conference in Las Vegas, NV this week.
“Kaseya is a partner we have admired for a long time and I’m delighted to announce this integration. With over 10 million endpoints under their management it represents a massive opportunity for our business,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ. “We look forward to working with Kaseya’s MSP partners and adding our personal touch and renowned focus on great customer support.”
The massive increase in cyberattacks on businesses in recent years has made cybersecurity a key area of growth for MSPs. Companies need to implement layered defenses to protect an ever-increasing attack surface and turn to MSPs to help them secure their networks.
“Security is a critical service that all MSPs must deliver,” said Frank Tisellano, Jr., vice president product management and design. “Adding WebTitan to our open ecosystem of partner solutions means our customers now have even greater access to best of breed technologies to meet the needs of their business. With growing concerns over malware, ransomware and phishing as key threats to MSP customers, WebTitan adds a highly effective layer of protection.”
TitanHQ’s WebTitan is a powerful web filtering solution that helps businesses control the web content that can be accessed by its employees, but how does WebTitan work and how can the solution improve an organization’s security posture?
Why Are Web Filters Necessary?
Many businesses choose to implement a web filtering solution to prevent employees from accessing inappropriate web content such as pornography or to stop work computers from being used to download illegal content such as pirated films, music, and TV shows. A category-based web filter allows businesses to block certain types of web content with ease, such as adult material and P2P file sharing websites.
While content filters can achieve those aims, perhaps a more important function of web filters is to block web-based threats such as malware and phishing websites. Many businesses choose to deploy WebTitan to block these threats, but how does WebTitan work?
How Does WebTitan Work?
WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based web filtering solution that serves as a semi-permeable membrane between an organisation’s users and the Internet. When an end user attempts to access a particular URL that does not violate an organization’s acceptable Internet use policy, the request is honoured. Since there is no latency, the speed at which the website is loaded is the same as if no filtering mechanism is in place.
Unknown to the user, when an attempt is made to access a webpage, the DNS request is sent to WebTitan Cloud which determines whether the request should be allowed or denied.
If the user attempts to access a gambling website and the gambling category has been blocked through WebTitan Cloud, the user will be advised that their request has been denied and access to the site will be prevented. But how does WebTitan work as far as malicious websites are concerned? How are malicious URLs identified and blocked?
How Does WebTitan Block Access to Malicious Websites?
How does WebTitan determine which URLs are benign and which ones are malicious, and how are those checks performed in real-time?
To block malicious sites, WebTitan uses a crowd-sourced approach and obtains a constant stream of URLs for analysis. These ActiveWeb URLs come from websites actively visited by a global network of customers through high traffic markets such as subscriber analytics, networks security, IOT, and ad tech.
This traffic is used to train WebTitan’s human-supervised Machine Learning Systems to detect, monitor, and categorize threats. Using in house and third-party tools, WebTitan performs link, content, static, heuristic, and behavioural anomaly analyses to categorize threats. When threats are detected, the WebTitan team profiles, tests and validates those threats. Once threats have been validated, they are blocked with false positives used to train the system to improve future accuracy.
In contrast to many DNS-based systems, which only work at the domain level, WebTitan works at the path level and is capable of blocking individual webpages rather than entire domains. The majority of malicious URLs in the WebTitan database are marked as malicious at the path level – 99.7% of IP-based URLs and 88.35% of non-IP-based URLs.
WebTitan performs checks of websites that have previously been marked as malicious to determine whether they still contain malware or other threats. The WebTitan Malicious Detection Solution revisits up to 300,000 sites to check whether they are still infected or have been cleaned, and the database is updated accordingly. Sites previously marked as malicious can be accessed once they have been determined to be safe.
What Web-Based Threats Does WebTitan Block?
There are ten main web-based threats that WebTitan protects against:
Malware distribution points
Spyware and questionable software
Phishing and other fraudulent sites
Command and Control (C2) servers
Malware call-home addresses
Compromised sites and links to malware
With WebTitan, businesses not only have highly granular control over the types of sites that can be visited by their employees, a wide range of malicious sites are also blocked, preventing malware and ransomware infections, data theft, data exfiltration and fraud.
Many businesses have moved from wired to wireless technologies which has had a negative impact on their security posture. Wired networks are easier to secure than wireless networks, and if vulnerabilities exist they can be exploited by cybercriminals. Because of these security flaws, and the ease of exploiting them, wireless networks attacks are common. In this post we explore some of the common wireless network attacks and offer advice on simple steps that can be taken to secure wireless networks and prevent costly data breaches.
Wi-Fi is Ubiquitous, Yet Many Businesses Neglect Security
Wi-Fi access used to be something you had to pay for, but now free WiFi is something that is taken for granted. Visitors to a hotel, coffee shop, bar, retail outlet, or restaurant now expect WiFi to be provided. The decision to use a particular establishment is often influenced by whether free WiFi is available, but increasingly the quality of the connection is a factor in the decision process.
The quality of the WiFi on offer is not just a question of there being enough bandwidth and fast internet speeds.
Parents often choose to visit establishments that provide secure WiFi with content control, such as those that have been verified under the Friendly WiFi scheme. In order to be accredited under the scheme, businesses must have implemented appropriate filtering controls to ensure that minors are prevented from accessing age-inappropriate material. The massive rise in cyberattacks via public WiFi networks has seen many consumers choose establishments that offer secure WiFi access.
If you run a business and are providing WiFi to customers or have yet to provide WiFi and are considering adding a WiFi hotspot to attract more customers, be sure to consider the security of your network. The past couple of years have seen many major attacks on WiFi networks and customers who use wireless services.
Some of the most common wireless network attacks are detailed below.
What are the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?
Some of the most common wireless network attacks are opportunistic in nature. Businesses that fail to secure their WiFi networks leave the door wide open to scammers and hackers who would otherwise look for easier targets. Those scammers are happy to take advantage of poor security controls to steal sensitive information from WiFi users and distribute malware. Unsecured WiFi networks are also targeted by sophisticated cybercriminals and organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the network. The attacks can be extremely lucrative. If malware can be installed on POS systems, the credit/debit card numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands of customers can be stolen.
Fake WiFi Access Points, Evil Twins, and Man in the Middle Attacks
Visitors to hotels, coffee shops and malls often connect to the free WiFi on offer, but various studies have shown that care is not always taken when connecting. Customers often choose the WiFi access point based on the name without checking it is the wireless network set up by a particular establishment for customer use.
Criminals can easily set up fake WiFi access points, often using the name of the establishment in the SSID name. Calling it ‘Free Airport WiFi’ is a common ploy to get people to connect. When customers connect to these rogue WiFi networks they can still access the Internet and are likely to be unaware that anything is wrong. However, everything they do online is being monitored by cybercriminals. Sensitive information entered online, such as email addresses and passwords, credit card numbers, or banking credentials can be stolen.
How is this done? The attacker simply creates a hotspot on a smartphone and pairs it with a tablet or laptop. The hacker can then sit in the coffee shop drinking a latte while monitoring the traffic of everyone that connects. Alternatively they can use a router with the same name and password as the one currently in use. This may also have a stronger WiFi signal, which may see more people connect to it but it is an “evil twin” through which man in the middle attacks occur – the interception of data sent over the network.
This is one of the most common wireless network attacks and it is surprisingly effective. One study indicated more than a third of WiFi hotspot users take no precautions when accessing WiFi hotspots and frequently connect to unsecured networks.
Packet Sniffing: Interception of Unencrypted Traffic
Research by Kaspersky Lab in 2016 showed more than a quarter of public Wi-Fi hotspots set up in malls were insecure and lacked basic security controls. A quarter did not encrypt traffic at all, while research conducted by Skycure showed that five of the 10 busiest malls in the USA had risky WiFi networks. One mall in Las Vegas was discovered to be operating 14 risky WiFi access points. Hackers can use programs called packet sniffers to intercept traffic on unencrypted WiFi networks. These common wireless network attacks are easy on older routers, such as those using WEP encryption. WPA offers better security, although as a minimum WPA2 should be used, or better still, the recently released WPA3. Packet sniffing is one of the most common wireless network attacks.
Examples of WiFi Network Attacks
Listed below are some examples of common wireless networks attacks that have resulted in the installation of malware or theft of sensitive information. These attacks could easily have been prevented had appropriate security controls been implemented.
Tel Aviv Free WiFi Network Hacked
One notable example of how easy it can be for a hacker to take over a WiFi network comes from Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv offers a city-wide free WiFi network, which incorporates basic security controls to keep users secure on the network. However, it did not prove to be as secure as city officials thought.
While commuting home, Tel Aviv resident Amihai Neiderman noticed a new WiFi access point had appeared. The FREE_TLV access point was provided by the city and Neiderman decided to test its security controls. After determining the IP address through which WiFi clients accessed the Internet, he disconnected, scanned the router, and discovered the web-based login interface was run through HTTPS port 443.
While he found no major vulnerabilities, after extensive analysis he identified a buffer overflow vulnerability which he successfully exploited to take full control of the router. By doing so, if he was so inclined, he could have intercepted the traffic from tens of thousands of users.
Toasters Used to Hack Unsecured WiFi Networks
Perhaps not one of the most common WiFi network attacks, but notable none the less due to the rise in use of IoT devices. IoT capability has been incorporated into all manner of devices from toasters to washing machines. These devices can be vulnerable to supply chain attacks – Where hardware is altered to allow the devices to be used to attack WiFi networks. In 2016, Russian officials discovered chips imported from China had been altered and were being used to spread malware that could eavesdrop on unsecured WiFi networks from a range of 200 meters. They were used to infect those networks with malware that could steal information.
In Flight WiFi Network Hacked from the Ground
Cybersecurity expert Ruben Santamarta has demonstrated it is possible to hack into airline WiFi networks from the ground and view the internet activity of passengers and intercept their information. More worryingly, he was also able to gain access to the cockpit network and SATCOM equipment. He claims the same technique could be used for ships, industrial facilities and even military installations. He explained how he did it in his “Last Call for SATCOM security” presentation at the 2018 blackhat hacker conference.
WiFi Networks Used to Gain Access to Business Data
Creating a WiFi network for guests is simple. Ensuring it is secure and cannot be used for attacks on the business network or customers requires more thought and effort. Any business that allows customers to make purchases using credit and debit cards is a major target for hackers and poor WiFi security is likely to be exploited sooner or later. The past few years have seen many major attacks that have resulted in malware being installed on POS systems. These are now some of the most common wireless network attacks.
How Can Businesses Prevent the Most Common Wireless Network Attacks?
How can businesses protect against some of the most common wireless network attacks? While it is difficult to prevent the creation of fake WiFi hotspots, there are steps that can be taken to prevent many common wireless network attacks.
Isolate the Guest Network
If your business network is not isolated from your guest WiFi network, it could be used to gain access to business data and could place your POS at risk of compromise. Use a router that offers multiple SSIDs – most modern routers have that functionality. These routers often have a guest SSID option or separate guest portal. Make sure it is activated when it is deployed. Alternatively, your wireless router may have a wireless isolation feature which will prevent WiFi users from accessing your internal network and other client devices. If you require multiple access points throughout your establishment, you are likely to need a VLAN or EoIP tunnel configuration – A more complicated setup that will require you to seek professional advice on security.
Encrypt WiFi Traffic with WPA2 or WPA3
If you have an old router that does not support WPA2 encryption its time for an upgrade. WPA2 is the minimum standard for WiFi security, and while it can still be cracked, it is time consuming and difficult. WPA3 has now been released and an upgrade should be considered. You should also make sure that WPS is turned off.
Update Firmware Promptly
All software and devices contain vulnerabilities and require updating. Software should be patched and devices such as routers will need to have their firmware upgraded when new versions are released. Check your device manufacturers website periodically for details of firmware updates and ensure your device is updated.
Create a Secure SSID
Your router will have a default SSID name, but this should be changed to personalize it to your business. If you make it easily identifiable, it will reduce the potential for rogue access points to be confused with your own. Ensure that you enforce WPA2 encryption with a shared key and post that information for your customers along with your SSID in a prominent place where they can see it.
Restrict WiFi Access
If your wireless router or access point is too powerful, it could be accessed from outside your premises. Choose a router that allows you to alter the strength of your signal and you can ensure only your customers will use your connection. Also ensure that your WiFi access point is only available during business hours. If your access points are left unsupervised when your business is closed, it increases the risk of an attack.
Secure Your Infrastructure
Administrator access can be abused, so ensure that your login name and your passwords are secure. If the default credentials are not changed, it will only be a matter of time before they are abused. Change the username from ‘admin’ or any other default username. Set a strong password that includes upper and lower-case letters, at least one number, and a special character. The password must be at least 8 characters although more is better. Alternatively use a 14-character+ passphrase.
Use a Web Filter
A web filtering solution is an essential protection for all WiFi networks. Web filters will prevent users from visiting websites and web pages that are known to have been compromised or have been confirmed as malicious. This will protect your customers from web-based threats such as drive by downloads, exploit kits and phishing. A web filter will also allow you to prevent your network from being used to download or view unacceptable content such as pornography and lets you control bandwidth usage to ensure all customers can enjoy decent Internet speeds.
TitanHQ offers a scalable, easy to deploy, granular web filter for WiFi networks. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi requires no hardware purchases or software downloads, and being 100% cloud-based, can be managed and monitored from any location.
Lawmakers are considering a new bill that calls for mandatory web filtering in Rhode Island. More than a dozen U.S states are considering similar laws which make it necessary for the manufacturers or distributors of Internet enabled devices to use web filters to block access to adult content by default.
In other states the bill goes under the banner of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. The aim of the legislation is to reduce the availability of online pornography, which is often claimed to represent ‘a public health crisis’ in the United States.
The purpose of the bill – sponsored by Senators Frank Ciccone (D-Providence) and Hannah Gallo (D-Cranston) – is not to make it illegal to view online pornography but to make state residents pay a fee if they want to view such material on their laptops, computers, and smartphones.
Bill Proposes Web Filtering in Rhode Island on All Internet-Enabled Devices
As in other states, the wording of the legislation means that web filtering in Rhode Island would be mandatory on all Internet-enabled devices, not only smartphones, laptops and desktops. This would require web filtering controls to also cover IoT devices and routers, which would be applied at the ISP level.
If the bill is passed, web filtering in Rhode Island would cover online pornography and any shows, motion pictures, performances, or images that “taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The web filter would also need to block access to websites or hubs that facilitates human trafficking and prostitution and ensure child pornography and revenge porn cannot be accessed.
The move would certainly make it harder for minors to access adult content since in order to remove the filtering controls the device owner would be required to prove they are over 18 years of age. Any device sold in the state would need to be supplied with a warning about the removal of the filtering mechanism and the repercussions of doing so.
Any individual who wishes to remove the filtering would be allowed to do so by paying a one-off fee of $20. The fee would be added to a fund that supports the victims of human trafficking.
Any such technological control is unlikely to be 100% accurate, so a mechanism must be introduced that ensures requests can be submitted to add websites and webpages to the filter when obscene content has escaped the filtering controls. Conversely, when content is blocked that is not sexual in nature or is not patently offensive, a request can be submitted to add the page to a whitelist of allowable websites or have the site recategorized. Such requests would need to be processed no later than 5 days after the request has been submitted.
The failure to act on such requests would be punishable with a financial penalty of up to $500 per piece of content that was reported but not blocked. In its current form the bill does not call for similar fines to be imposed when requests are submitted to unblock legitimate content that has been inadvertently blocked by the filtering controls.
If you have yet to implement a web filtering solution to control the content that your employees can access at work, you are taking an unnecessary risk that could result in a costly malware infection, ransomware being installed on your network, or a lawsuit that could have been prevented by implementing basic web filtering controls. Many SMBs have considered implementing a web filter yet have not chosen a solution due to the cost, the belief that a web filter will cause more problems than it solves, or simply because they do not think it offers enough benefits. In this post we explain some of the common misconceptions about web filtering and attempt to debunk some common web filtering myths.
Common Web Filtering Myths
Antivirus Solutions Provide Adequate Protection from Web-Based Malware Attacks
Antivirus software is a must, although products that use signature-based detection methods are not as reliable as they once were. While antivirus companies are still quick to identity new malware variants, the speed at which new variants are being released makes it much harder to keep up. Further, not all malware is written to the hard drive. Fileless malware remains in the memory and cannot easily be detected by AV software. Antivirus software is still important, but you now need a host of other solutions to mount a reasonable defense against attacks. Layered defenses are now a must.
Along with AV software you should have anti spam software in place to block email-based threats such as phishing. You need to train your workforce to recognize web and email threats through security awareness training. Firewalls need to be set with sensible rules, software must be kept updated and patches must be applied promptly, regular data backups are a must to ensure recovery is possible in the event of a ransomware attack, and a web filtering solution should be installed.
A web filter allows you to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by employees. By using blacklists, websites known to host malware can be simply blocked, redirects via malvertising can be prevented, and controls can be implemented to prevent potentially malicious files from being downloaded. You can also prevent your employees from visiting categories of sites – or specific websites – that carry a higher than average risk.
There are other benefits to web filtering that can help you avoid unnecessary costs. By allowing employees to access any content, organizations leave themselves open to lawsuits. Businesses can be held liable for activities that take place on their networks such as accessing illegal content and downloading/sharing copyright-protected material.
Web Filtering is Prohibitively Expensive
Many businesses are put off implementing a web filtering solution due to the perceived cost of filtering the Internet. If you opt for an appliance-based web filter, you need to make sure you have an appliance with sufficient capacity and powerful appliances are not cheap. However, there is a low-cost alternative that does not require such a major cash commitment.
DNS filtering requires no hardware purchases so there is no major capital expenditure. You simply pay for the licenses you need and you are good to go. You may be surprised to find out just how low the price per user actually is.
Web Filtering is Too Complicated to Implement
Some forms of web filters are complex, and hardware-based filters will take some time to install and configure, which will take IT staff away from important duties. However, DNS based filters could not be any easier to implement. Implementing the solution is a quick process – one that will take just a couple of minutes. You just need to point your DNS to your web filtering service provider.
Even configuring the filter is straightforward. With WebTitan you are given a web-based portal that you can use to configure the settings and apply the desired controls. In its simplest form, you can simply use a checkbox option to select the categories of websites that you want to block.
Since WebTitan includes a database of malicious websites, any request to visit one of those websites will be denied. You can also easily upload third party blacklists, and for total control, use a whitelist to only allow access to specific websites.
Employees Will Just Bypass Web Filtering Controls
No web filtering solution is infallible, although it is possible to implement some basic controls that will prevent all but the most determined and skilled workers from accessing prohibited websites. Simple firewall rules can be easily set and you can block DNS requests to anything other than your approved DNS service. You can also set up WebTitan to block the use of anonymizers.
IT Support Will be Bombarded with Support Calls from Employees Trying to Access Blocked Websites
If you decide to opt for whitelisting acceptable websites, you are likely to be bombarded with support calls when users discover they are unable to access sites necessary for work. Similarly, if you choose to heavily filter the Internet and block most categories of website, then your helpdesk could well be swamped with calls.
However, for most companies, filtering the internet is simply a way of enforcing acceptable usage policies, which your employees should already be aware of. You are unlikely to get calls from employees who want access to porn at work, or calls from employees who want to continue gambling and gaming on the clock. Restrict productivity draining sites, illegal web content, phishing websites, and sites that are not suitable in the workplace, and explain to staff your polices in advance, and your support calls should be kept to a minimum.
Find Out More About DNS Filtering
If you have yet to implement DNS filtering in your organization, it is possible to discover the benefits of Internet filtering before committing to a purchase. TitanHQ offers a free trial of WebTitan Cloud (and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi) so you can try before committing to a purchase.
If you would like further information on getting started with web filtering, have technical questions about implementation, would like details of pricing or would like a demo or a free trial, contact the TitanHQ team today.
The multi-award-winning email and web filtering solution provider TitanHQ has announced an exciting new partnership with the international consulting, coaching, and peer group organization HTG.
The new partnership – announced at the HTG Peer Groups Q1 quarterly meeting at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix AZ – will see TitanHQ join HTG Peer Groups as a Gold vendor, which gives the HTG community immediate access to TitanHQ’s leading web filtering solution WebTitan.
Currently, service providers are being called upon to provide costly support to their clients to help them defend against ransomware and malware attacks. They are also required to spend a considerable proportion of the time allocated to each client under service level agreements mitigating malware and ransomware infections caused by careless employees.
By implementing WebTitan, service providers can easily provide an additional layer of Internet security to their clients, helping to protect them against ransomware and malware attacks. With WebTitan in place, they will also avoid the costly and time-consuming task of mitigating attacks and removing malicious software.
By deploying WebTitan, managed service providers quickly and easily secure their clients’ networks. Once protected, instead of accessing the Internet directly, all Internet requests are made through WebTitan, which serves as a protective barrier preventing malicious websites from being accessed. WebTitan scans websites and webpages searching for malicious content and when harmful webpages are identified they are added to block lists. Any request made by a user to access a malicious website will blocked before a connection to the site is made.
Additionally, WebTitan is a powerful content filter that can be controlled by the MSP or their clients. Once the content filter is applied, any attempt to access a webpage or website that contravenes the organization’s acceptable Internet usage polices will be blocked. WebTitan also provides visibility into Internet usage via detailed reports that are automatically sent to security/HR teams.
HTG Peer Groups Founder Arlin Sorensen (Left); TitanHQ CEO Conor Madden (Right)
The new partnership between TitanHQ and HTG will make it even easier for the HTG community to add this important security protection to their service stacks and provide better value to their clients.
“We’re delighted to welcome TitanHQ on board for 2018. As soon as the initial discussion started we knew they would make a great match for our community, as web security is a key area for our members in 2018,” said Arlin Sorensen, founder of HTG Peer Groups.
In contrast to many web filtering solutions that have been developed for enterprises and subsequently tweaked to make the products suitable for MSPs, WebTitan was developed specifically with MSPs in mind.
“The WebTitan web filter was built by MSP’s for MSP’s and this exciting relationship with HTG Peer Groups is a continuation of that process,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ. “It allows us to listen to the opportunities and difficulties faced by MSP senior executives while also allowing us to share how we became a successful web security vendor. Our goal is to successfully engage with HTG members to build strong and long-lasting relationships.”
In addition to being given access to WebTitan, the HTC community will also have access to TitanHQ’s email archiving platform ArcTitan and will be able to offer spam and phishing protection to their clients through SpamTitan, the leading email filtering solution for MSPs.
The Rockingham school district in North Carolina discovered Emotet malware had been installed on its network in late November. The cost of resolving the infection was an astonishing $314,000.
The malware was delivered via spam emails, which arrived in multiple users’ inboxes. The attack involved a commonly used ploy by cybercriminals to get users to install malware.
The emails appeared to have been sent by the anti-virus vendor used by the school district, with the subject line ‘incorrect invoice’ and the correct invoice included as an attachment. The emails were believable and were similar to many other legitimate emails received on a daily basis.
The emails asked the recipient to open and check the attached invoice; however, doing so would see malware downloaded and installed on the email recipient’s computer.
Soon after those emails were received and opened, staff started to experience problems. Internet access appeared to have been blocked for some users. Reports from Google saying email accounts had been shut down due to spamming started to be received. The school district investigated and discovered several devices and servers had been infected with malware.
Emotet malware is a network worm that is capable of spreading across a network. Infection on one machine will see the virus transmitted to other vulnerable devices. The worm drops a type of banking malware on infected devices that is used to steal victims’ credentials such as online banking details.
Emotet is a particularly advanced malware variant that is difficult to detect and hard to remove. The Rockingham school district discovered just how problematic Emotet malware infections can be when attempts were made to remove the worm. The school district was able to successfully clean some infected machines by reimaging the devices; however, the malware simply re-infected those computers.
Mitigating the attack required assistance from security experts, but even with expert help the recovery process is expected to take up to a month. 10 ProLogic ITS engineers will spend around 1,200 on site reimaging machines. 12 servers and potentially up to 3,000 end points must be reimaged to remove the malware and stop reinfection. The cost of cleanup will be $314,000.
Attacks such as this are far from uncommon. Cybercriminals take advantage of a wide range of vulnerabilities to install malware on business computers and servers. In this case the attack took advantage of gaps in email defenses and a lack of security awareness of employees. Malware can similarly be installed by exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities in software, or by drive-by downloads over the Internet.
To protect against Emotet malware and other viruses and worms layered defenses are required. An advanced spam filtering solution can ensure malicious emails are not delivered, endpoint detection systems can detect atypical user behavior, antivirus solutions can potentially detect and prevent infections, while web filters can block web-based attacks and drive-by downloads. End users are the last line of defense and should therefore be trained to recognize malicious emails and websites.
Only a combination of these and other cybersecurity defenses can keep organizations well protected. Fortunately, with layers defenses, it is possible to avoid costly malware and phishing attacks such as the one experienced by the Rockingham school district.
The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires Internet filtering controls in schools to be applied to block obscene images, child pornography, or other images that could be harmful to minors.
Compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act is not mandatory, but a lack of Internet filtering controls in schools means that it is not possible to receive discounts under the e-rate program – an initiative that makes telecommunications and Internet services more affordable for schools. The discounts are considerable. Schools can reduce their telecommunications costs by up to 90%.
Consequently, many schools choose to comply with CIPA and apply Internet filtering controls to block inappropriate website content. However, Internet filtering controls in schools are often overly restrictive, and are not only used to block obscene content, but other material with important educational value.
A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island, has revealed that many schools are choosing to use their Internet filters to block a broad range of website content – Far more than is necessary to comply with CIPA.
The latest report is a follow-on study from a 2013 investigation into Internet filtering controls in schools in Rhode Island. Four years ago, the ACLU study found that teachers were being hampered by Internet filters and prevented from using the Internet to educate students. Students were also blocked from accessing information relevant to their studies.
Since that initial report was released, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) released guidance for schools on Internet filtering, following the passage of a new state law that required Internet filtering controls in schools to foster academic freedom.
For the latest report, ACLU requested copies of Internet filtering policies from school districts to determine whether state laws were being followed and if Internet filtering controls in schools had improved following the model policy issued by RIDE.
33 school districts responded to the request, but only five of the schools had an Internet filtering policy in place, and out of those five, three were not in compliance with the new state law.
Critics of Internet filtering controls in schools often point out that in an effort to block obscene and sexual content, topics such as sex education are accidentally blocked. However, the report suggests that the blocking of such content by Rhode Island schools was not always accidental.
It is important for children to be able to have their questions answered on sex. Schools are often the only places where children can access such educational content. UCLU found that it was common for sex education content to be blocked by filters in Rhode Island schools.
Other topics that were commonly blocked were material related to drugs, tobacco, alcohol, terrorism, and religion. ACLU pointed out that the Internet filtering controls prevented students from researching topics such as the medicinal use of marijuana, fetal alcohol syndrome, abortion, or the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Some schools had even more restrictive filers in place that prevented students and staff from accessing topics such as hobbies, dictionaries, news and political websites, humor and information about alternative sexual lifestyles.
The Internet filtering law in Rhode Island requires schools to have an Internet filtering policy that explains why a particular category of website content is blocked to ensure transparency, and to list who is responsible for making the decision about blocking that category.
A mechanism must also be put in place that allows staff and students to request the lifting of a block (whitelisting a website for example) to allow educational content to be accessed. Yet the report showed that in many cases, staff and students had to wait for excessively long periods before their request was honored.
The law requires a list to be maintained of all requests and for those lists to be assessed annually to determine whether filtering controls need to be altered. RIDE’s model Internet filtering policy must also be adopted to ensure academic freedom.
ACLU said, “Without adoption and implementation of strong policies across the board, we will continue to see an array of issues involving the over-filtering of our schools’ Internet systems, which will continue to negatively impact students from accessing information and teachers from making use of helpful educational tools.”
Using a clunky system that blocks valuable content will be damaging to children’s education. Internet content filtering in schools is important, but it is also important for a technological control to be implemented that is not overly restrictive.
With WebTitan, it is possible to block obscene content and to comply with CIPA, without restricting access to important educational content. Category filters are accurate, and thanks to highly granular controls, adjusting filtering settings is a quick and straightforward process. With WebTitan, schools can quickly fine tune their filters and process staff and student requests to unblock content and comply with both CIPA and state laws.
If you are looking for an alternative solution that allows you to carefully control the content that can be accessed over the Internet by staff and students, that allows different controls to be applied for different users and user groups and is easy to use, contact the TitanHQ team today and find out about the difference WebTitan can make.
Passwords should be complex and difficult to guess, but that makes them difficult to remember, so what about using password managers to get around that problem? Are password managers safe and secure? Are they better than attempting to remember passwords for every one of your accounts?
First of all, it is worth considering that most people have a great deal of passwords to remember – email accounts (work and personal), social media accounts, bank accounts, retail sites, and just about every other online service. If you rarely venture online and do not make online purchases, that means you will need to learn a handful of passwords (and change them regularly!).
Most people will have many passwords. Far too many to remember. That means people tend to choose easy to remember – and easy to guess – passwords and tend to reuse passwords on multiple sites.
These poor security practices are a recipe for disaster. In the case of password reuse, if one password is guessed, multiple accounts can be compromised. So, are password managers safe? If that is the alternative, then most definitely.
With a password manager you can generate a strong and impossible to remember password for every online account. That makes each of those accounts more secure. Emmanuel Schalit, CEO of Dashline, a popular password manager, said, “Sometimes, it’s better to put all your eggs in the same basket if that basket is more secure than the one you would be able to build on your own.”
That does mean that if the server used by the password manager company is hacked, you do stand to lose all of your passwords. Bear in mind that no server can ever be 100% secure. There have been hacks of password manager servers and vulnerabilities have been discovered (see below). Password managers are not risk-free. Fortunately, password managers encrypt passwords, so even if a server is compromised, it would be unlikely that all of your passwords would be revealed.
That said, you will need to set a master password to access your password manager. Since you are essentially replacing all of your unique passwords with a single password, if the master password is guessed, then your account can be accessed and with it, all of your passwords. To keep password managers safe and secure, it is important to use a strong and complex password for your account – preferably a passphrase of upwards of 12 characters and you should change that password every three months.
If you use a cloud-based password manager, it is possible that when that service goes down, you will not be able to access your own account. Fortunately, downtime is rare, and it would still be possible to reset your passwords. You could also consider keeping a local copy of your passwords and encrypting that file. In a worst-case scenario, such as the password manager company going bust, you would always have a copy. Some services will also allow you to sync your encrypted backups with the service to ensure local copies are kept up to date.
Flaws Discovered in Password Managers
Tavis Ormandy, a renowned researcher from the Google Project Zero team, recently discovered a flaw in Keeper Password Manager that could potentially be exploited to gain access to a user’s entire vault of stored passwords. The Keeper Password Manager flaw could not be exploited remotely without any user interaction. However, if the user was lured onto a specially crafted website while logged into their password manager, the attacker could inject malicious code to execute privileged code in the browser extension and gain access to the account. Fortunately, when Keeper was alerted to the flaw, it was rapidly addressed before the flaw could be exploited.
Last year Ormandy also discovered a flaw in LastPass, one of the most popular password managers. Similarly, that flaw could be exploited by luring the user to a specially crafted webpage via a phishing email. Similarly, that flaw was rapidly addressed. The LastPass server was also hacked the year before, with the attackers gaining access to some users’ information. LastPass reports that while it was hacked, users’ passwords were not revealed.
These flaws do go to show that while password managers are safe, vulnerabilities may exist, and even a password manager can potentially be hacked.
Are Password Managers Safe to Use?
So, are password managers safe? They can be, but as with any other software, vulnerabilities may exist that can leave your passwords exposed. It is therefore essential to ensure that password manager extensions/software are kept up to date, as is the case with all other software and operating systems.
Security is only as good as the weakest link, so while your password manager is safe, you will need to use a complex master password to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing your password manager account. If that password is weak and easily guessable, it will be vulnerable to a brute force attack.
In addition to a complex master password, you should take some additional precautions. It would be wise not to use your password manager to save the password to your bank account. You should use two-factor authentication so if a new device attempts to connect to any of your online accounts, you will receive an alert on your trusted device or via email.
As an additional protection, businesses that allow the use of password managers should consider implementing a web filtering solution that prevents users from visiting known malicious websites where vulnerabilities could be exploited. By restricting access to certain categories of website, or whitelists of allowable sites, the risk of web-based attacks can be reduced to a low and acceptable level.
Password managers should also be used with other security solutions that provide visibility into who is accessing resources. Identity and access management solutions will help IT managers determine when accounts have been breached, and will raise flags when anomalous activity is detected.
HTTPS phishing websites have increased significantly this year, to the point that more HTTPS phishing websites are now being registered than legitimate websites with SSL certificates, according to a new analysis by PhishLabs.
If a website starts with HTTPS it means that a SSL certificate is held by the site owner, that the connection between your browser and the website is encrypted, and you are protected from man-in-the-middle attacks. It was not long ago that a green padlock next to the URL, along with a web address starting with HTTPS, meant you could be reasonably confident that that the website you were visiting was genuine. That is no longer the case, yet many people still believe that to be true.
According to PhisLabs, a recent survey showed that 80% of respondents felt the green padlock and HTTPS indicated the site was legitimate and/or secure. The truth is that all it means is traffic between the browser and the website is encrypted. That will prevent information being intercepted, but if you are on a phishing website, it doesn’t matter whether it is HTTP or HTTPS. The end result will be the same.
Over the past couple of years there has been a major push to move websites from HTTP to HTTPS, and most businesses have now made the switch. This was in part due to Google and Firefox issuing warnings about websites that lacked SSL certificates, alerting visitors that entering sensitive information on the sites carried a risk. Since October, Google has been labelling websites as Not Secure in the URL via the Chrome browser.
Such warnings are sufficient to see web visitors leave in their droves and visit other sites where they are better protected. It is no surprise that businesses have sat up and taken notice and made the switch. According to Let’s Encrypt, 65% of websites are now on HTTPS, compared to just 45% in 2016.
However, it is not only legitimate businesses that are switching to secure websites. Phishers are taking advantage of the benefits that come from HTTPS websites. Namely trust.
Consumer trust in HTTPS means cybercriminals who register HTTPS sites can easily add legitimacy to their malicious websites. It is therefore no surprise that HTTPS phishing websites are increasing. As more legitimate websites switch to HTTPS, more phishing websites are registered with SSL certificates. If that were not the case, the fact that a website started with HTTP would be a clear indicator that it may be malicious and cybercriminals would be at a distinct disadvantage.
What is a surprise is the extent to which HTTPS is being abused by scammers. The PhishLabs report shows that in the third quarter of 2017, almost a quarter of phishing websites were hosted on HTTPS pages. Twice the number seen in the previous quarter. An analysis of phishing sites spoofing Apple and PayPal showed that three quarters are hosted on HTTPS pages. Figures from 2016 show that less than 3% of phishing sites were using HTTPS. In 2015 it was just 1%.
While checks are frequently performed on websites before a SSL certificate is issued, certification companies do not check all websites, which allows the scammers to obtain SSL certificates. Many websites are registered before any content is uploaded, so even a check of the site would not provide any clues that the site will be used for malicious purposes. Once the certificate is obtained, malicious content is uploaded.
The PhishLabs report also shows there is an approximate 50/50 spread between websites registered by scammers and legitimate websites that have been compromised and loaded with phishing webpages. Just because a site is secure, it does not mean all plugins are kept up to date and neither that the latest version of the CMS is in use. Vulnerabilities exist on many websites and hackers are quick to take advantage.
The rise in HTTPS phishing websites is bad news for consumers and businesses alike. Consumers should be wary that HTTPS is no guarantee that website is legitimate. Businesses that have restricted Internet access to only allow HTTPS websites to be visited may have a false sense of security that they are protected from phishing and other malicious sites, when that is far from being the case.
For the best protection, businesses should consider implementing a web filter that scans the content of webpages to identify malicious sites, and that the solution is capable of decrypting secure sites to perform scans of the content.
For more information on how a web filter can help to protect your organization from phishing and malware downloads, give the TitanHQ sales team a call today.
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.
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.
TitanHQ Sales Director Conor Madden will be talking enterprise Wi-Fi security at this year’s Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017, explaining some of the key innovations in Wi-Fi security to keep enterprise Wi-Fi networks secure.
This will be the fourth time in two years that Conor has provided his insights into Wi-Fi security developments at Wi-Fi Now conferences. Conor will be giving his presentation – Four Great Innovations in Enterprise Wi-Fi – Part One – on the first day of the conference between 12:00 and 12:30.
Conor will explain how DNS-based Wi-Fi security adds an essential layer of security to keep enterprise Wi-Fi networks secure, and will offer insights into how enterprises can easily create customized Wi-Fi services. In addition to Conor’s headline speech, the TitanHQ team will be in attendance and will be demonstrating WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi at Stand 23 over the three days of the event. The team will also demonstrate some of the big-ticket deployments from the past 18 months. The team will also explain some of the new refinements and updates that have made WebTitan even more useful and user friendly, including the new API capability that is proving so popular with product managers and engineers.
Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 – The Premier Conference for the Wi-Fi Industry
The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 event brings together leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and experts from all areas of the Wi-Fi industry. This year there will be more than 50 speakers including analysts, thought leaders, technology leaders, carriers and service providers. More than 40 companies from all areas of the Wi-Fi industry will be demonstrating their products and services to attendees.
The conferences are a highlight in the calendar for anyone involved in the Wi-Fi industry and provide attendees with an incredible networking opportunity and the chance to learn about the latest advances in Wi-Fi, exciting new products and new services on offer.
The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 Conference will be taking place between October 31st and November 2nd at the NH Den Haag Hotel atop The Hague’s World Trade Center Building.
Gold passes give attendees complete access to all events at the 3-day conference, with day passes also available. Advance registration is required for all attendees.
TitanHQ On the Road
It has been a busy few weeks for TitanHQ. The team has been traveling across Europe and the United States, showcasing its web filtering, spam filtering and email archiving solutions.
The Wi-Fi Now Europe 2017 comes hot on the heels of the DattoCon17 conference in London, where the team met with more than 400 MSPs and the ASCII Summit in Washington D.C., where TitanHQ explained how Managed Service Providers can grow their business and easily increase monthly recurring revenues. Earlier this month, TitanHQ attended the Kaseya Connect Europe IT Management Event and explained about the new integration of WebTitan with Kaseya.
The road trip continues into November in the United States, with TitanHQ attending both the upcoming HTG Meeting in Orlando, FL (Oct 30-Nov 3) and the IT Nation, ConnectWise Conference at the Hyatt Regency, Orlando, between November 8-10, 2017.
Last month saw a significant rise in healthcare data breaches, clearly demonstrating that healthcare providers, health plans, and business associates are struggling to prevent healthcare data breaches.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule was introduced to ensure that healthcare organizations implement a range of safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of healthcare data. It has now been more than decade since the Security Rule was introduced, and data breaches still occurring with alarming frequency. In fact, more data breaches are occurring than ever before.
September Data Breaches in Numbers
The Protenus Breach Barometer Report for September, which tracks all reported healthcare data breaches, showed there were 46 breaches of protected health information (PHI) in September, with those breaches resulting in the exposure of 499,144 individuals’ PHI. Hacking and IT incidents were cited as the cause of 50% of those breaches, with insiders causing 32.6% of incidents. Loss and theft of devices was behind almost 11% of the month’s breaches. Previous monthly reports in 2017 have shown that insiders are often the biggest cause of healthcare data breaches.
HIPAA Compliance Will Not Prevent Healthcare Data Breaches
HIPAA compliance can go some way toward making healthcare organizations more resilient to cyberattacks, malware and ransomware infections, but simply complying with the HIPAA Security Rule does not necessarily mean organizations will be impervious to attack.
HIPAA compliance is about raising the bar for cybersecurity and ensuring a minimum standard is maintained. While many healthcare organizations see HIPAA compliance as a goal to achieve a good security posture, the reality is that it is only a baseline. To prevent data breaches, healthcare organizations must go above and beyond the requirements of HIPAA.
Detect Insider Breaches Promptly
Preventing insider data breaches can be difficult for healthcare organizations. Healthcare employees must be given access to patient records in order to provide medical care, and there will always be the occasional bad apple that snoops on the records of patients who they are not treating, and individuals who steal data to sell to identity thieves.
HIPAA Requires healthcare organizations to maintain access logs and check those logs regularly for any sign of unauthorized access. The term ‘regularly’ is open to interpretation. A check every six months or once a year could be viewed as regular and compliant with HIPAA regulations. However, during those 6 or 12 months, the records of thousands of patients could be accessed. Healthcare organizations should go above and beyond HIPAA requirements and should ideally implement a system that constantly monitors for unauthorized access or at least conduct access log reviews every quarter as a minimum. This will not prevent healthcare data breaches, but it will reduce their severity.
Close the Door to Hackers
50% of breaches in September were due to hacking and IT incidents. Hackers are opportunistic, and while targeted attacks on large healthcare organizations do occur, most of the time hackers take advantage of long-standing vulnerabilities that have not been addressed. In order to correct those vulnerabilities, they must first be identified, hence the need for regular risk analyses as required by the HIPAA Security Rule. An organization-wide risk analysis should take place at least every year to remain HIPAA compliant, but more frequently to ensure vulnerabilities have not crept in.
Additionally, a check should be performed at least every month to make sure all software is up to date and all patches have been applied. There have been numerous examples recently of cloud storage instances being left unprotected and accessible by the public. There are free tools that can be used to check for exposed AWS buckets for example. Scans should be regularly conducted. Cybercriminals will be doing the same.
Prevent Impermissible Disclosures of PHI
One of the leading causes of PHI disclosures occurs when laptop computers, zip drives, and other portable devices are lost or stolen. While employees can be trained to take care of their devices, thieves will seize any opportunity if devices are left unprotected. HIPAA does not demand the use of encryption, and alternative measures can be used to secure devices, but HIPAA covered entities and their business associates should use encryption on portable devices to ensure that in the event of loss or theft, data cannot be accessed. If an encrypted device is stolen or lost, it is not a HIPAA breach. Using encryption on portable devices is a good way to prevent healthcare data breaches.
Small portable storage devices such as pen drives are convenient, but they should never be used for transporting PHI – They are far too easy to lose or misplace. Use HIPAA-compliant cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive as they are more secure.
Block Malware and Ransomware Attacks
Malware and ransomware attacks are reportable breaches under HIPAA, and can result in major data breaches. Email is the primary vector for delivering malware, so it is essential for an effective spam filtering solution to be implemented. HIPAA requires training to be provided to employees regularly, but a once-a-year training session is no longer sufficient. Training sessions should take place at least every 6 months, with regular security alerts on the latest phishing threats communicated to employees as and when necessary. Ideally, training should be an ongoing process, involving phishing simulation exercises.
Malware and ransomware can also be downloaded in drive-by attacks when browsing the Internet. A web filtering solution should be used to prevent healthcare employees from visiting malicious sites, to block phishing websites, and prevent drive-by malware downloads. A web filter is not a requirement of HIPAA, but it is an important extra layer of security that can prevent healthcare data breaches.
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.
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.
This week, the UK government’s Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced the publication of a new green paper outlining the government’s Internet Safety Strategy, saying the aim is to make the UK the safest place to be online.
The Internet Safety Strategy outlines the awareness campaign that the government is taking to prevent cyber-bullying, trolling and the accessing of pornography by minors. The government has come under increasing pressure in recent years to take decisive action to curb the growing problem of online abuse and harm to minors from accessing age-inappropriate websites.
In a recent press release announcing the new Internet Safety Strategy, Bradley said “In the past year, almost one fifth of 12-15-year olds encountered something online that they ‘found worrying or nasty in some way’ and 64% of 13-17-year olds have seen images or videos offensive to a particular group.” The problem is not confined to minors. Adults too have been offended or upset by material they have viewed on social media sites, and the new strategy will also help to keep adults safe and protected online.
The aim of the new proposals is not censorship of the Internet – the UK government continues “to embrace the huge benefits and opportunities the Internet has brought for British citizens.” The aimof the government’s Internet Safety Strategy is simply to make the Internet a safer place and prevent harm to vulnerable people, especially children.
Bradley said, “Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen. We need an approach to the Internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy.”
The Internet Safety Strategy tackles a range of online issues using several different methods – a combination of improved efforts to educate children and the public about online dangers and acceptable online conduct, social media advice, the promotion of safety features for parents to use to protect their children, and the use of Internet filtering in schools.
Some of the key elements in the Internet Safety Strategy are:
Developing a new social media code of practice to address bullying, intimidating, or humiliating online content
An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms
The publication of an annual Internet safety transparency report detailing the progress made at reducing abusive and harmful content and conduct
Providing support for start-ups and tech companies to help them build safety features into their products and apps at the design stage
Compulsory new subjects in schools: Relationship education at the primary school level and relationship & sex education at secondary level
Encouraging social media companies to provide social media safety advice to parents and build that advice into their platforms
Promoting the use of social media and Internet safety features by parents
Changing the name of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to the UK Council for Internet Safety, to show the safety of all Internet users is of concern
In the new green paper, the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance is highlighted. The guidance details the steps that schools and colleges in England should take to protect students and keep them safe online. The guidance was updated in September last year to include a new section on safeguarding children online. Schools were reminded of their responsibility to prevent children from accessing harmful and inappropriate website content, explaining Internet filtering in schools is a requirement. Solutions that allow Internet filtering in schools should block inappropriate content and also allow the monitoring of the attempted access of inappropriate material.
The use of similar controls by parents is being encouraged, first by making sure the options are available – the big four ISPs in the UK all offer Internet content filtering controls – and to improve education on the need to implement content filtering solutions to protect children at home.
Vicki Shotbolt, Chief Executive Officer at Parent Zone – an organization set up to provide expert information to families, schools and family professionals on the Internet safety – said, “It is encouraging to see the government proposing concrete steps to ensure that industry is doing everything they can to support families and make the Internet a place that contributes to children flourishing.”
A Social Community Partnership in Ireland that terminated an employee for accessing porn at work was sued for unfair dismissal; however, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in Dublin upheld the decision of the company to terminate the employee, which was deemed to be the appropriate sanction under the circumstances.
The viewing of any pornographic material in the workplace is unacceptable, but for a Social Community Partnership that provides services to children and families, it is especially important to take action when employees access obscene material – In this case the webpages depicted rape, the abduction of girls, and non-consensual sex.
A statement released by the unnamed Social Community Partnership read, “[The worker’s] actions go against the grain of the organization, but has the potential to put at risk the company’s funding relationship with Government services.”
The accessing of inappropriate material was discovered during a review of the computers used by receptionists at the Partnership. That review revealed pornographic material had been accessed on a reception computer on seven occasions between September 30th and November 26th, 2015. The material was accessed between 1.28pm and 16.40pm, and while multiple employees had access to the computer, on three of the occasions, the terminated employee was the only member of staff working in the reception area.
Once that was confirmed in May 2016, the employee’s contract was terminated for gross misconduct. The employee appealed the decision internally, claiming the allegations were incorrect. She denied accessing porn at work and claimed she was not the only person to have access to the computer. Two other receptionists were employed at the firm and could have accessed the material. When the appeal was rejected, the employee sued the firm for unfair dismissal.
An independent IT consultant was brought in to conduct a scan of the computer to confirm that a malware infection was not present, which could theoretically have been responsible for the sites being accessed. The woman maintained there was no evidence against her and popups could have explained the accessing of the material. She also said other employees could have accessed the computers in the reception area, which did not require the use of secure passwords.
The WRC ruled that, on the balance of probability, the employee did access pornographic material, and the decision to terminate the employee was correct. The woman has been unable to find further work in the field, despite her 18 years’ experience, due to the nature of her dismissal.
Employees Accessing Porn at Work Is a Widespread Problem
The accessing of pornography at work is widespread, global problem – and one that acceptable Internet usage policies do not prevent.
A 2013 report from the UK government found computers in parliament were used to make an average of 800 visits to pornographic websites per day – more than 300,000 attempts were made over the period of study.
A 2014 survey by Proven Men Ministries found nearly two third of men (63%) and one third of women (36%) admitted accessing pornography at work, while a 2015 poll conducted by The Sun newspaper in the UK found 15% of women in the UK watch pornography at work.
In the United States, a Harris Poll in 2011 found 3% of Americans watch porn at work, with an earlier study by The Nielsen Company placing the figure at around 28%.
While there is some variation between the studies, it is clear that the accessing of pornography at work is a widespread problem, responsible for a significant loss of productivity, the creation of a hostile work environment, and many HR issues.
Companies Can Easily Avoid Pornography-Related HR Issues
Even though acceptable Internet usage policies are developed, and employees have to confirm that those policies have been read and understood, many employees still access porn at work. Some employees simply disregard those policies, others mistakenly believe they will not be found out.
For the company, accessing porn at work causes major HR issues. Complaints are often made by other employees who have caught a glimpse of the material, a hostile work environment can develop, HR departments have to take disciplinary action, and recruit and train replacement employees – all of which are a drain on productivity and result in many lost man hours.
As this case shows, these incidents can result in bad publicity, potentially loss of funding, and legal costs from fighting lawsuits.
However, all of these problems are easy to avoid. Companies can simply block adult website content with a web filter. A web filter allows firms to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies and prevent obscene or otherwise inappropriate material from being accessed by employees.
The Social Community Partnership would have been able to avoid all the bad publicity and paying to fight the unfair dismissal claim if a web filtering solution been put in place to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies.
If you have yet to start filtering the Internet, and are not blocking pornography and other inappropriate material from being accessed in the workplace, contact TitanHQ today and ask about WebTitan – The leading web filtering solution for enterprises.
Libraries are places of open learning where the Internet can be freely accessed. Acceptable internet usage policies for libraries are usually developed, but many libraries do not go as far as restricting access to certain types of Internet content. That means acceptable Internet usage policies for libraries can be easily abused. Library computers can be used for highly illegal activities and there is little to prevent minors from coming to harm.
The Importance of Free and Open Internet Access in Libraries
The provision of open access to the Internet in libraries is understandable. Libraries are places of learning where the public can gain access to information of all types. Even if information is highly controversial and causes offense to some individuals, that does not mean access to the information should be blocked.
When Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species it was hugely controversial, but it would be difficult to argue the book has no place in a library. In order for people to understand and debate Darwin’s views, they need access to his book.
Access to the Internet is now provided in most libraries. For many individuals, libraries are the only places where the Internet can be accessed freely. Children especially may be unable to access the Internet at home and view important educational information without fear of reprisals – viewing information on LGBTI issues for example or information on sex education.
Many libraries, as places of open learning, are reluctant to place any restrictions on Internet access, instead acceptable internet usage policies for libraries are used to lay down the rules on the content that is permitted and prohibited.
Typical Acceptable Internet Usage Policies for Libraries
When acceptable internet usage policies for libraries are used, they usually state that while access to website content is not blocked, library computers should not be used to access illegal web content – content such as child pornography, which is illegal in all forms.
Acceptable Internet usage policies for libraries often reference the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools and libraries to implement controls to prevent the accessing of imagery that could be harmful to minors – pornography, child abuse, child pornography, and other potentially harmful imagery. However, schools and libraries are only required to comply with CIPA if they receive certain state or government funding. Many libraries would be reluctant to block adult pornography, because it is not illegal and would not do so if they are not required to do so by CIPA.
While acceptable internet usage policies for libraries are important for laying down the rules, not all library patrons read those policies or adhere to them. The policies will do nothing to prevent illegal content from being accessed and minors will not be prevented from accessing potentially harmful images.
Where Acceptable Internet Usage Policies for Libraries Fail
There have been numerous complaints made by members of the public in recent years of cases of patrons using library computers to access pornography, in full view of other library patrons. The past few days have seen another example covered by the media of where the use of acceptable internet usage policies for libraries has failed.
The latest compliant was made about College Terrace Library in Palo Alto, CA. The library has an acceptable Internet usage policy but does not filter the Internet in any way. The policy states “Libraries and librarians should not deny or limit access to electronic information because of its allegedly controversial content or because of the librarian’s personal beliefs or fear of confrontation.”
The complaint in question, which has led to a police investigation, concerns the actions of one of the library’s patrons, who was seen accessing images of child pornography on a library computer in full view of other patrons. That individual’s actions were illegal and contravened library AUPs, yet it was still possible for that information to be accessed.
Free and Open Internet Access in Libraries, With Certain Restrictions?
The incident shows how the decision not to impose any restrictions on Internet access has potential to cause harm to library patrons, many of whom will be minors. Acceptable internet usage policies for libraries can be ineffective; however, the use of Internet filtering software can solve this problem.
The purpose of Internet filtering software in libraries is not to limit free speech, or even police Internet as such. The aim is to protect minors and to prevent extremely harmful illegal content from being accessed by some individuals to protect all library patrons.
The American Library Association (ALA) is against filtering of Internet content in libraries. The ALA even filed a lawsuit claiming CIPA was unconstitutional and violated the first amendment rights of consumers. The ALA argued that the Internet was a public forum, and as such required strict scrutiny, but that Internet filtering technology would result in overblocking of website content. A lower court agreed, but the case was taken to the Supreme Court which ruled that public-forum principles were not applicable as the Internet is not a traditional public forum. The Court also ruled that even if there was overblocking of website content, librarians could easily disable the filtering for certain individuals or unblock sites that had been caught by the filters and that this would result in only a minimum burden on librarians. The Supreme Court also ruled that CIPA was constitutional.
While the use of Internet filters used to result in overblocking of content, today that is less of an issue. Categorization of websites is now far better and more reliable. Internet filtering software has improved considerably in the past 15 years.
Why a Content Filter for Libraries Should be Implemented
Libraries are places of learning and should provide open access to the Internet, but they are not places where it should be possible to view child pornography. Libraries have a responsibility to protect patrons from viewing such material, and other harmful website content such as phishing websites.
They should also be using content filters to prevent the downloading of malware and ransomware. In January this year, libraries in St. Louis had their computers taken out of action as the result of a ransomware download. That attack not only prevented Internet access for days, but it took out the system used to log borrowed and returned books. Patrons of 16 libraries in Missouri were prevented from borrowing books. The library had to wipe its system and rebuild it from scratch, a process that took weeks.
Provided content filtering software is used wisely, and mechanisms are introduced to allow the content filter to be lifted on sites that are not illegal or do not contravene acceptable internet usage policies for libraries, they should be applied to ensure that illegal website content cannot be accessed, systems are protected, and patrons are prevented from coming to harm.
Internet content filters can be used to block sites known to host illegal content such as images of child abuse and child pornography, and sites that have been shown to be used for phishing or to deliver malware. Blacklists for these sites are maintained by several organizations.
Internet content filtering ensures the public are prevented from engaging in illegal activity and are protected from phishing attacks. Those controls to not contravene Americans’ first amendment rights.
If you are a librarian and are interested in blocking illegal content but keeping Internet access open, or if you wish to apply for grants, funding, or discounts and must comply with CIPA, contact TitanHQ today to find out more about your Internet content filtering options.
Businesses today need to implement layered defenses to prevent malware and ransomware from being installed on their networks. A web filtering solution should be one of those defenses. At its most basic, a web filter will block access to websites known to contain malware, exploit kits, or be used for phishing.
While web filters are commonly used as an additional security measure to block malware, one of the most important reasons for implementing a web filter is to prevent employees from accessing inappropriate or illegal website content and to prevent productivity draining online activities. In some cases, employers choose to severely restrict Internet access by only allowing employees to access to whitelisted sites – websites that need to be accessed for work purposes.
Regardless of the level of control you want to apply, it is usual for different controls to be needed for different individuals or groups of employees. For example, social media sites could be blocked for the entire organizations, but not for the marketing department, which would need to access corporate social media accounts.
While it is possible to place restrictions on different computers using a virtual local area network (VLAN), using a VLAN for content control lacks flexibility. If a device is on a VLAN that prohibits Internet access entirely, there may be instances when Internet access is temporarily required.
Integrating a Web Filter with LDAP
A better, more flexible solution is to base content filtering controls on the user, or user group. Integrating a web filter with LDAP allows filtering controls to be easily applied for different users, rather than limiting controls to a particular device.
In a call center, a telemarketer could logon using their LDAP information and have one set of filtering controls, whereas a manager could logon to the same device and have far greater permissions. The use of LDAP also allows detailed reports to be generated on which users and devices have accessed certain websites or website content. If DHCP is used on workstation and mobile devices, it may only be possible to view access logs up to a day old. Integrating a web filter with LDAP will make it much easier to generate reports when performing audits of Internet use.
Oftentimes, employees will be assigned to more than one LDAP group, so while it is possible to assign web filtering controls to specific groups, rules can be set to cater for members of more than one group, such as using the most or least restrictive content filtering settings when a user is in multiple LDAP groups. Not everyone will have a LDAP account. When guests require Internet access, a default configuration can be set. If users need to take their devices off site, content filtering by IP address or VLAN would not be possible. In such cases, a client-based solution is used to capture the LDAP session. This is important for K12 Schools that issue laptops for students to take home.
Using a web filtering solution that integrates with LDAP makes content filtering much easier to manage. WebTitan integrates with LDAP allowing you to easily apply content filtering controls by user or user group, with a range of APIs also provided to integrate with Active Directory, NetIQ and other deployment, billing and management tools.
If you want to start filtering the Internet and controlling the content that your users can access, contact TitanHQ today for further information, to schedule a product demonstration, and take advantage of our free trial.
Investigations are continuing into a massive Sonic data breach that has potentially impacted millions of its customers.
Sonic, an Oklahoma City-based restaurant chain with more than 3,600 franchise restaurants in the United States, was alerted to a potential breach by its card payment processor after a pattern of fraudulent purchases was identified and linked to the restaurant chain.
The Sonic data breach was first reported by Brian Krebs, who linked the listing of a batch of 5 million credit and debit card numbers on the cybercrime marketplace Joker’s Stash to a potential breach at Sonic.
Krebs reported that two individuals who had agreed to purchase credit card numbers from the seller both said the cards had previously been used in Sonic locations. After contacting Sonic to report the potential breach, Krebs was notified that the restaurant chain was investigating a potential breach.
Sonic has issued a statement saying it is working with law enforcement and has hired a third-party forensics firm to confirm whether its systems have been hacked, and if so, to determine the nature and scope of the breach.
At present it is unclear how many of the restaurants chain’s locations have been impacted or the number of customer’s that have had their card details stolen. While the batch of credit and debit card numbers listed for sale indicates the breach victim count could be as high as 5 million, it has yet to be established whether all of those card numbers came from the Sonic data breach. It is possible the list could be an amalgamation of data from several breaches.
The Sonic data breach has potential to be one of the largest POS data breaches to affect the hospitality industry, and is the latest in a string of cyberattacks on restaurants. Earlier this year Chipotle Mexican Grill experienced a breach that affected most of the chain’s restaurants. Arby’s and the Select restaurant chain have also announced major data breaches. Last year, a major breach of card details was reported by Wendy’s which affected more than 1,000 of its restaurants.
Restaurant chain data breaches typically involve malware installed on point-of-sale systems that collects and exfiltrates card details. The malware infections often go unnoticed for weeks or months. It is only when card processors notice trends in credit card fraud and alert specific restaurants or restaurant chains that the breach is identified. The malicious actors behind these breaches often hold on to the stolen data until a sufficiently large batch of card numbers have been obtained, before listing the data for sale on darknet marketplaces.
In this case, the card numbers from the Sonic data breach were selling for between $25 and $50 depending on the type of card. This is much higher than the usual cost of stolen card numbers, indicating the card details have come from a recent data breach with most of the cards yet to be cancelled.
Hackers can gain access to POS systems via email phishing attacks, by exploiting vulnerabilities using exploit kits, direct attacks on unpatched and out-of-date operating systems, brute force RDP attacks, or by infiltrating the systems of vendors that have legitimate access to restaurant networks. It was the latter that enabled hackers to gain access to Target’s system and steal credit card details of 40 million customers. The same was true of the Wendy’s breach. Hackers obtained the credentials of some of its service providers and were able to login and install malware.
Restaurants can reduce the risk of data breaches by complying with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a list of 12 requirements spread across six control objectives. Those requirements include the use of spam filtering, web filtering solutions, and securing the Wi-Fi environment – the latter two can both be achieved by implementing WebTitan.
There has been a rapid evolution of ransomware over the past two years. New variants of ransomware are now being released on an almost daily basis, and the past two years have seen a massive explosion in new ransomware families. Between 2015 and 2016, Proofpoint determined there had been a 600% increase in ransomware families and Symantec identified 100 totally new ransomware families in 2016.
The development of new ransomware variants has largely been automated, allowing developers to massively increase the number of threats, making it much harder for the developers of traditional, signature-based security solutions such as antivirus and antimalware software to maintain pace.
The latest ransomware variants use a wide variety of techniques to evade detection, with advanced obfuscation methods making detection even more problematic.
Ransomware is also becoming much more sophisticated, causing even greater problems for victims. Ransomware is now able to delete Windows Shadow Volume copies, hampering recovery. Ransomware can interfere with file activity logging, making an infection difficult to detect until it is too late. Ransomware can encrypt files on removable drives – including backups – and spread laterally on a network, encrypting files on network shares and multiple end points.
Not only have the ransomware variants become more sophisticated, so too have the methods for distributing the malicious code. Highly sophisticated spam campaigns use a variety of social engineering techniques to fool end users into visiting malicious links and opening infected email attachments. Droppers with heavily obfuscated code are used to download the malicious payload and a considerable amount of effort is put into crafting highly convincing emails to maximize the probability of an end user taking the desired action.
Then, there is ransomware-as-a-service – the use of affiliates to spread ransomware in exchange for a cut of the profits. Ransomware kits are now supplied, complete with intuitive web based interfaces and instructions for crafting ransomware campaigns. Today, it is not even necessary to have any technical skill to conduct a ransomware campaign.
The profits from ransomware are also considerable. In 2016, the FBI estimated profits from ransomware would exceed $1 billion. With such high returns, it is no surprise that ransomware has become the number one malware threat for businesses.
The Evolution of Ransomware – Notorious Ransomware Variants from the Past Two Years
Locky: Deletes volume shadow copies from the compromised system, thereby preventing the user from restoring files without paying the ransom.
Jigsaw: An extremely aggressive ransomware variant that deletes encrypted files every hour until the ransom is paid, with total file deletion in 72 hours.
Petya: Rather than encrypting files, Petya changes and encrypts the master boot record, preventing files from being accessed. Petya is also capable of installing other malware payloads.
NotPetya: A wiper that appears to be ransomware, although NotPetya permanently changes the master boot record making file recovery impossible.
CryptMix: Attackers claim they will donate the ransom payments to a children’s charity, in an effort to get victims to pay up. There is no evidence ransom payments are directed to worthy causes.
Cerber: Now used to target users of cloud-based Office 365, who are less likely to have backed up their data. Some Cerber variants speak to their victims and tell them their files have been encrypted.
KeRanger: One of the first ransomware strains to target Mac OS X applications.
Gryphon: Spread via remote desktop protocol (RDP) using brute force tactics to guess weak passwords.
TorrentLocker: A ransomware variant being used to target SMBs, spread via spam email attachments claiming to be job applications
HDDCryptor: A ransomware variant that targets network shares, file, printers, serial ports, and external drives. HDDCryptor locks the entire hard disk
CryptMIC: A ransomware variant that does not change file extensions, making it harder for victims to identify the threat
ZCryptor: Ransomware with worm-like capabilities, able to rapidly spread across a network and infect multiple networked devices and external drives
WannaCrypt: A 2017 ransomware variant with worm-like capabilities, able to spread rapidly to infect all vulnerable computers on a network.
Ransomware is most commonly spread via spam email, exploit kits and by remotely exploiting vulnerabilities. To protect against ransomware you need an advanced spam filter, a web filter such as WebTitan to block access to sites containing exploit kits, and you need to ensure software and operating systems are kept 100% up to date.
In the event that you are infected with ransomware, you must be able to recover files from a backup. Use the 321 approach to ensure you can recover files without paying the ransom – Make three backup copies, on two different media, with one copy stored securely off site. Also make sure backups are tested to ensure files can be restored in an emergency.