Law Firm Phone Hacking Results in $65,000 Phone Bill

A law firm phone hacking incident has resulted in an Alexandria, VA attorney being sent a staggering $65,000 phone bill. The attorney’s phone system was hacked and used to make a slew of international phone calls in the middle of the night to numbers in Algeria and Serbia.

In total, 195 phone calls were made through the law firm’s phone system in just 45 minutes. Since the incident occurred in the middle of the night, no one noticed. The small law firm only employs three people, none of whom were in the office at the time.

Attorney David Chamowitz was informed by his service provider via email about the calls and the charges.  This law firm phone hacking incident was not a one off. Even though the attorney changed the password on his system, he was attacked again suggesting the hacker had a backdoor into the system. To ensure that future calls were not made, the attorney has had to switch off long distance call capabilities.

The hacker responsible was unlikely to be looking to speak to friends and relatives abroad. This type of scam involves making calls to premium rate international numbers, with the hackers making money from those calls. The charges for the calls can be extortionate, as Chamowitz discovered. Many other small to medium sized businesses have been targeted by hackers and have had to foot the bill for the calls. Phone charges totaling tens of thousands of dollars can easily be racked up.

As was the case with Chamowitz, the attack occurred at a time when it was unlikely to be noticed. Calls are usually made outside of business hours, often in the middle of the night.

Flaws in security systems are exploited to gain access to voicemail systems, although more commonly, hackers take advantage of poor security controls such as default login credentials left active on voicemail systems. Small businesses may implement firewalls and a host of security measures to protect their computers from attack, yet do not realize that voicemail system hacks are also possible.

The default credentials can easily be found online via the search engines or they can be easily guessed. Usernames of ‘admin’ are common and passwords are often set to 1234.

As this law firm phone hacking incident shows, any system that can be accessed externally can be hacked. Whether that is a computer, server, router, IoT device or phone/voicemail system.

To protect against voicemail system hacks it is important to ensure that default credentials are changed and strong passwords are set. A PBX firewall should be employed and calls logs should be monitored. If there is no need for your business to make international or premium rate calls, speak to your service provider and try to block those calls. Also, consider setting the system to not permit outbound calls at certain times (outside of office hours) and disable external access to the phone system/voicemail when the office is closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Malware Report Shows Changes in Malware Trends Over the Past 12 Months

If your organization was hit with a malware or ransomware infection last year, the 2016 malware report from Malwarebytes may serve as an unpleasant reminder of 12 months best forgotten. Malware infections rose in 2016 and ransomware infections soared. In the case of the latter, there was an explosion in new variants. Malwarebytes charted a 267% increase in ransomware variants between January 2016 and November 2016. In quarter four alone more than 400 active ransomware variants were cataloged.

During those 11 months, email spam volume increased significantly as did the percentage of those spam emails that were malicious. Botnets went into overdrive distributing malicious email messages that sent swathes of malicious links and attachments to employees. There were malicious Word macros, JavaScript downloaders, PowerShell scripts, and VBScripts aplenty. Fileless malware consisting entirely of PowerShell also emerged.

The 2016 malware report shows how ransomware has become the revenue-generator of choice for many cybercriminals. It is easy to understand why. Infecting computers is a relatively easy process, ransom payments are made within a matter of days, much of the process is entirely automated, and ransomware-as-a-service means no skill is even required to jump on the bandwagon and send out campaigns.

The 2016 malware report indicates ransomware accounted for 18% of malicious payloads from spam email and ransomware is the payload of choice for exploit kits, accounting for 66% of malicious downloads.

Locky was a major threat for most of the year, but in December there was a massive spike in Cerber ransomware variants, which are now the most populous ransomware family.

The cybersecurity’s company’s 2016 malware report confirms what many security professionals already know all too well. 2016 was a particularly bad year for everyone but the cybercriminals. Unfortunately, the outlook for 2017 does not look any better. In fact, it looks like it will be even worse.

Predictions have been made that will send shivers down many a system administrator’s spine. Ransomware is set to become even more aggressive. Critical infrastructures are likely to be targeted. Healthcare ransomware attacks will increase potentially placing patients’ lives at risk. Educational institutions will be targeted. No organization will be immune to attack.

Fortunately, new ransomware families will be limited in 2017. But that is only because Locky and Cerber are so effective and can easily be tweaked to avoid detection.

Then there are the botnets. The increase in use of IoT devices would not be a problem, were it not for a lack of security. Many insecure devices are coming to market which can all too easily be added to botnets. As we saw in the tail end of the year, these botnets – such as Mirai – are capable of conducting devastating DDoS attacks. Those attacks are only likely to increase in scale and frequency. As Malwarebytes correctly points out, unless manufacturers of IoT devices are better regulated and are forced to improve their security, vast sections of the Internet will come under threat.

So, it looks like all bad news for 2017. All organizations can do is purchase the technology to deal with the threats, plug security holes promptly, train staff to be aware of the threats, and shore up their defenses. The next 12 months could be a rocky ride.

Is Your Organization Protected Against Printer Hacking?

You have secured your servers, you have end point protection, but have you ensured your organization is protected against printer hacking? According to one hacker, as many as 300,000 organizations have left a gaping hole in their security defenses as a result of leaving their printers open to the Internet and failing to even use any form of authentication.

Your Printer Has Been Owned!

The hacker decided to draw attention to the problem, not by publishing details of the flaws, but by attacking around 150,000 companies. The attack was rather benign. The hacker did not attempt to gain access to network resources or install malware. He just sent rogue jobs to the printers.

The printouts said “Your printer has been owned.” The hacker also claimed the printers had been added to ’a flaming botnet’ as a result of the lack of security in place. Some of the messages sent are not appropriate for reproduction. A common message was ‘everyone likes a meme, fix your bull***t.’

The claims were not true, but the hacker did prove a point. Printer hacking is a very real threat and future attacks may be much more malicious in nature. If printers are left open to the Internet with no authentication required, they could be subjected to DoS attacks. Companies would be left unable to print. Printers could also be added to botnets. Those would be best-case scenarios of course. Printer hacking could cause much more serious harm.

Hackers could take advantage of flaws and run arbitrary code. Printers could be used as a launchpad to gain access to corporate networks, sabotage systems, install malware and ransomware, and stealing corporate secrets and sensitive customer and patient data.

Following the printer cyberattack, the ‘victims’ took to social media to report the incidents. Some reported that corporate network printers were affected, others claimed their POS system printers had been owned. In the case of the former, the cyberattack could potentially have resulted in a network compromise. In the case of the latter, credit and debit card-stealing malware could have been installed.

The hacker in question claims he is a UK student with an interest in security research. He says he has access to RCE flaws that would enable him to take control of more than 300,000 printers. In this experiment, he took advantage of the lack of authentication controls on communications port 9100. The attacks involved the RAW protocol, Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the Line Printer Daemon (LPD).

Many of the printers susceptible to printer hacking are used by universities and other higher education establishments. In a separate ‘attack’ a different hacker also proved a point about the lack of security controls, the ease of finding computers to attack, and just how easy it was to send rogue output to printers. He chose to send anti-sematic print jobs to printers at universities in the United States for maximum coverage. After the attacks, reports started flooding social media from students at Yale, UC Berkeley, DePaul University and UMass Amherst.

Printer Hacking Mitigation Required

The two hacks come just a few days after security researchers in Germany announced they had discovered vulnerabilities in printer manufacturers by some of the big names in computer hardware, such as Samsung, HP, Dell and Lexmark. More than 20 models of printer were discovered to contain flaws that could be easily exploited. Undoubtedly many more printers are vulnerable.

If printers are left exposed and can be accessed by anyone over the Internet, it will only be a matter of time before a malicious attack occurs. Protecting against printer hacking is therefore essential. To do this, printers should be set up on a virtual private network (VPN) and organizations should make 100% sure that their printers cannot be accessed through public IP addresses. That would require access controls to be applied to routers to whitelist certain IP ranges.

Hotel Malware Attacks on the Rise: 12 U.S InterContinental Hotels Affected

Hotel malware attacks have been hitting the headlines in the past two years as cybercriminals target hotels looking for payment card information. Now, InterContinental Hotels Group Plc has announced that a malware infection has potentially resulted in the theft of customers’ payment card details from 12 of its hotels in the United States. The hotel malware attacks affected guests at InterContinental Hotels as well as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels.

The data breach affected the payment systems used by the hotel chain’s restaurants and bars, but did not extend to the front desk system used to process guests.

Malware was installed on the hotels’ servers which searched for and obtained customer track data from credit and debit card transactions. Customers’ card data – including names, card numbers, expiry dates and verification codes – were intercepted and potentially stolen using the malware. The malware was discovered in late December when the hotel chain hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate a potential data breach following an unusual level of fraud affecting the hotel chain’s customers. That investigation revealed malware had been installed as early as August 1, 2016 which remained active until December 15, 2016.

InterContinental has not disclosed whether the malware passed on any payment card information to the attackers nor how many customers had been impacted by the incident, only that servers at 12 of the chain’s hotels had been affected. Investigations into the security breach are continuing and the investigation has now been extended to other hotels owned by InterContinental in the Americas.

Hotels are commonly targeted by cybercriminals seeking payment card information. Last summer, InterContinental’s Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants were attacked with malware and similar incidents were reported last year by Marriot International’s Starwood Hotels as well as the Hyatt, Westin, and Sheraton hotel chains. Hotel malware attacks were reported by the Hilton chain and Trump Hotels in 2015.

Cybercriminals are most interested in POS systems used by hotels. Malware is installed that is capable of capturing payment card information and those data are then transferred to the attackers. All too often, malware is installed and stays active for months before it is detected. During that time, tens of thousands of hotel guests can be impacted and have fraudulent charges applied to their accounts.

While hotel customers are often covered by their card providers’ insurance policy, the fallout from these incidents can be considerable. When guests suffer credit card and debit card fraud as a result of visiting a particular hotel, they may take their business elsewhere.

Malware can be installed by cybercriminals via a number of different attack vectors. Direct attacks take advantage of security flaws in software and hardware. Last year, Cylance’s Sophisticated Penetration Exploitation and Research Team (SPEAR) identified a zero-day vulnerability in ANTLabs InnGate routers, which are used by many of the top hotel chains to provide Internet access for guests. The flaw could be exploited to gain access to guest’s smartphones, laptops, and tablets, or potentially be used to install malware that targets POS systems on hotel servers.

According to SPEAR, the flaw was being actively exploited and 277 hotels had been targeted across 29 countries, including more than 100 hotels in the United States. Eight out of the world’s top ten hotel chains were found to have systems vulnerable to this type of attack. A patch was promptly issued to correct the flaw and hotels were able to plug the security hole.

It may not be possible to prevent attacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities; however, there are steps that can be taken to reduce hotel malware attacks. Malware is often downloaded as a result of employees’ or guests’ actions. Malware may be deliberately installed, although all too often downloads occur silently as a result of employees and guests visiting malicious websites.

Blocking access to these websites will protect both the hotel and its guests from web-borne malware and ransomware attacks. If a web filter – such as WebTitan – is installed, all websites known to house malware will be blocked.

Any individual who attempts to connect to one of those websites, or is redirected to one of those sites via a malicious email link or malvertising, will be protected. WebTitan can also be configured to prevent individuals from downloading files known to carry a high risk of being malicious – JavaScript files and executables for instance.

If you run a hotel or hotel chain, a web filter is an additional layer of security that should be seriously considered. A web filter will help to reduce the risk of malware and ransomware infections and keep hotel networks safe and secure for all users.

Hotel Ransomware Attack Affects Key Card and Reservation System

A hotel ransomware attack in Austria hit the headlines in the past couple of days. The cyberattack affected the Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt. The hotel’s computer system was infiltrated by the attacker who installed ransomware. A range of files were encrypted, which prevented the hotel from being able to check-in new guests and issue new key cards for hotel doors.

Hotel Ransomware Attack Hampers Guest Check-ins

Early reports of the hotel ransomware attack suggested hotel guests were locked out of their rooms or, in some cases, locked in their rooms. The latter is not possible as even when electronic key cards are used, locks can be opened manually from the inside. Guests who had been issued with key cards prior to the attack were also able to use their cards to get in their rooms, according to a statement issued by the hotel’s manager.

However, the cyberattack still caused considerable disruption at the 111-year old hotel. According to local news sources, the attack affected the hotel’s key card system, reservation system, and its cash desk.

Since files were encrypted that were necessary to program new key cards, any guest that had not been checked in before the cyberattack occurred experienced considerable delays. The issue was only resolved when the hotel paid the ransom demand of 1500 Euros – approximately £1,300/$1,600. Systems remained out of action for 24 hours as a result of the attack.

This was not the only attack affecting the hotel. A second attack reportedly occurred, although the hotel was able to thwart that attempt by taking its systems offline. Repeat attacks are unfortunately common. If one ransomware attack results in the payment of a ransom, other attacks may also occur as the attackers attempt to extort even more money from their victim. Backdoors are often installed during initial attacks to enable access to continue after payment has been made.

Not being able to check-in new guests for a period of 24 hours can make a serious dent in profits, not only from guests being forced to seek alternative accommodation, but also from the damage to a hotel’s reputation. Such an attack can keep future guests away.

In this case, in addition to paying the ransom demand, the manager of the Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt confirmed that the hotel will be going old school in the impending future. Rather than continue to use an electronic key card system, the hotel will revert to using standard keys for hotel room doors. Another hotel ransomware attack would therefore not prevent guests from checking in.

Hotels Must be Prepared for Cybersecurity Incidents

This is not the first hotel ransomware attack to have occurred in 2017 and it certainly will not be the last. Hotels are attractive targets for cybercriminals because hotels cannot afford to have critical systems offline for lengthy periods of time due to the disruption they cause. Cybercriminals know that ransom demands are likely to be paid.

In this case, no lasting harm was caused, although that does not mean future attacks will be limited to reservation systems and cash desk operations. Elevator systems may be targeted or other systems that have potential to compromise the health and safety of guests.

Hotels therefore need to make sure that not only are defenses augmented to prevent ransomware attacks, but a data breach response plan is in place to ensure that in the event of a cybersecurity incident, rapid action can be taken to limit the harm caused.

Malware and Phishing Attacks on Healthcare Organizations are the New Norm

Malware and phishing attacks on healthcare organizations are all but guaranteed. In fact, they are almost as certain as death and taxes. Healthcare organizations hold huge volumes of data on patients and more types of data than virtually any other industry.

Healthcare providers store personal information and Social Security numbers, which are needed for identity theft and tax fraud. Insurance information that can be used for health insurance fraud; Medicare/Medicaid numbers and health information that can be used for medical fraud. Bank account information and credit card numbers are also often stored. For cybercriminals, breaching a healthcare organization’s defenses means a big payday.

Further, health data does not expire like credit card numbers. Social Security numbers never change. It is therefore no surprise that malware and phishing attacks on healthcare organizations are on the rise.

As if there was not enough incentive to attack healthcare organizations, the healthcare industry has underinvested in cybersecurity defenses, lagging behind other industries when it comes to implementing the latest technologies to thwart cybercriminals. Healthcare networks are also highly complex and difficult to protect. They also contain many outdated software and operating systems. Many healthcare organizations still run medical devices on the unsupported Windows XP OS, which contains many vulnerabilities.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has helped to bring cybersecurity standards up to an acceptable level. HIPAA compliance has made it harder for cybercriminals, although far from impossible. With the healthcare industry, firmly in cybercriminals’ crosshairs, healthcare organizations need to look beyond meeting the minimum standards for data security to avoid a HIPAA fine and ensure that defenses are improved further still.

One of the biggest problems comes from cyberattacks on healthcare employees. Even advanced firewalls can be easily avoided if employees can be fooled into clicking on a malicious link or opening an infected email attachment. Phishing attacks on healthcare organizations are the most common way that cybercriminals gain access to healthcare networks. Most cyberattacks start with a spear phishing email.

In addition to perimeter defenses, it is essential for healthcare organizations to employ technologies to block phishing attacks. Advanced spam filters will prevent the vast majority of phishing emails from being delivered, while web filtering solutions will block phishing attacks on healthcare organizations by preventing malicious links from being clicked and malicious websites from being accessed.

A web filter can also be configured to block downloads of file types commonly associated with malware: SCR, VB, and JavaScript files for instance. A web filter is also an excellent defense against drive-by malware downloads, social media phishing links, and malvertising.

Fortunately, with appropriate defenses in place, cyberattacks can be prevented and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI can be preserved.

For further information on the major healthcare cyberattacks of 2016, the key threats to healthcare organizations, and the impact of data breaches, click the image below to view our healthcare hacking infographic.

 

Phishing Attacks on Healthcare Organizations

US Ransomware Attacks Quadrupled in 2016

According to a new report from data breach insurance provider Beazley, US ransomware attacks on enterprises quadrupled in 2016. There is no sign that these attacks will slow, in fact they are likely to continue to increase in 2017. Beazley predicts that US ransomware attacks will double in 2017.

Half of US Ransomware Attacks Affected Healthcare Organizations

The sophisticated nature of the latest ransomware variants, the broad range of vectors used to install malicious code, and poor user awareness of the ransomware threat are making it harder for organizations to prevent the attacks.

For its latest report, Beazley analyzed almost 2,000 data breaches experienced by its clients. That analysis revealed not only that US ransomware attacks had increased, but also malware infections and accidental disclosures of data. While ransomware is clearly a major threat to enterprises, Beazley warned that unintended disclosures of data by employees is actually a far more dangerous threat. Accidental data breaches increased by a third in 2016.

US ransomware attacks and malware incidents increased in the education sector, which registered a 10% rise year on year. 45% of data breaches experienced by educational institutions were the result of hacking or malware and 40% of data breaches suffered by companies in the financial services. However, it was the healthcare industry that experienced the most ransomware attacks. Nearly half of 2016 US ransomware attacks affected healthcare organizations.

The report provides some insight into when organizations are most at risk. US ransomware attacks spiked at the end of financial quarters and also during busy online shopping periods. It is at these times of year when employees most commonly let their guard down. Attackers also step up their efforts at these times. Beazley also points out that ransomware attacks are more likely to occur during IT system freezes.

Ransomware Attacks on Police Departments Have Increased

Even Police departments are not immune to ransomware attacks. Over the past two years there have been numerous ransomware attacks on police departments in the United States. In January, last year, the Midlothian Police Department in Chicago was attacked with ransomware and paid a $500 ransom to regain access to its files.

The Dickson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee paid $572 to unlock a ransomware infection last year, and the Tewksbury police department in Massachusetts similarly paid for a key to decrypt its files. In 2015, five police departments in Maine (Lincoln, Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, Waldboro and Damariscotta) were attacked with ransomware and in December 2016, the Cockrell Hill Police Department in Texas experienced a ransomware infection. The attack resulted in video evidence dating back to 2009 being encrypted. However, since much of that information was stored in backup files, the Cockrell Hill Police Department avoided paying the ransom.

Defending Against Ransomware

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to protect organizations from ransomware attacks. Ransomware defenses should consist of a host of technologies to prevent ransomware from being downloaded or installed, but also to ensure that infections are rapidly detected when they do occur.

Ransomware prevention requires technologies to be employed to block the main attack vectors. Email remains one of the most common mediums used by cybercriminals and hackers. An advanced spam filtering solution should therefore be used to prevent malicious emails from being delivered to end users. However, not all malicious attachments can be blocked. It is therefore essential to not only provide employees with security awareness training, but also to conduct dummy ransomware and phishing exercises to ensure training has been effective.

Many US ransomware attacks in 2016 occurred as a result of employees visiting – or being redirected to – malicious websites containing exploit kits. Drive-by ransomware downloads are possible if browsers and plugins are left unpatched. Organizations should ensure that patch management policies are put in place to ensure that all systems and software are patched promptly when updates are released.

Given the broad range of web-based threats, it is now becoming increasingly important for enterprises to implement a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites and to block malvertising-related web redirects. Web filters can also be configured to prevent employees from downloading malicious files and engaging in risky online behavior.

The outlook for 2017 may be bleak, but it is possible to prevent ransomware and malware attacks. However, the failure to take adequate preventative steps to mitigate risk is likely to prove costly.

2016 Data Breach Report Shows Massive Rise in Severity of Attacks

A recently released 2016 data breach report has shown that the number of data breaches reported by businesses has remained fairly constant year on year. 4,149 data breaches were reported between January and December 2016, which is broadly on a par with the figures from 2015.

2015 saw the largest ever healthcare data breach ever reported – The 78.8 million record data breach at Anthem Inc. There were also two other healthcare data breaches in 2015 that resulted in the theft of more than 10 million records. The 11-million record breach at Premera Blue Cross and the 10-million record breach at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

2016 saw more data breaches reported by healthcare organizations than in 2015, although the severity of the attacks was nowhere near as bad.  More than 27 million healthcare records were exposed in 2016, whereas the total for 2015 was in excess of 113 million.

2016 Data Breach Report Shows Severity of Cyberattacks Has Dramatically Increased

While the severity of healthcare data breaches fell year on year, the 2016 data breach report from Risk Based Security shows an overall increase in the severity of data breaches across all industries. 2016 was a record-breaking year.

In 2013 more than 1 billion records were exposed or stolen – the first time that the 1 billion record milestone had been passed. 2016 saw that previous milestone smashed.  More than four times as many records were stolen in 2016 than in 2013. 2016 data breaches exposed an incredible 4.2 billion records.

The RBS 2016 data breach report details 94 data breaches that exposed more than 1 million records. 37 breaches resulted in the exposure of more than 10 million records. The United States was the biggest target, accounting for 47.5% of the data breaches reported over the course of the year.

Healthcare data breaches hit the headlines frequently in 2016 due to the potential impact they had on the victims. However, healthcare industry data breaches only made up 9.2% of the annual total. The business sector was the worst hit, accounting for 51% of breaches in 2016. Government organizations made up 11.7% of the total and education 4.7%.

According to the RBS 2016 data breach report, the top ten data breaches of 2016 exposed an incredible 3 billion records and the average severity score of those breaches was 9.96 out of 10. All but one of those security breaches was caused by hackers. One of the incidents was a web-related breach. Six of the data breaches reported in 2016 ranked in the top ten list of the largest data breaches ever reported.

Six 2016 Security Incidents Ranked in the Top 10 List of Largest Ever Data Breaches

The largest data breach of 2016 – and also the largest data breach ever reported – was the hacking of Yahoo. More than 1 billion user credentials were exposed as a result of that cyberattack. While malware is a major threat to businesses, malware attacks only accounted for 4.5% of data breaches in 2016. Hacking exposed the most records and was the main cause of 2016 data breaches, accounting for 53.3% of incidents and 91.9% of the total number of stolen records.

Many organizations also reported being attacked on multiple occasions. The 2016 data breach report shows that 123 organizations reported multiple data breaches in 2016 and 37% of those organizations reported experiencing three or more data breaches between January and December.

According to RBS, more than 23,700 data breaches have now been tracked. In total, more than 9.2 billion records have been exposed or stolen in those incidents. According to RBS Executive vice president Inga Goddijn, “Any organization that has sensitive data – which is every organization with employees or confidential business information – can be a target.”

Cyberattacks are coming from all angles. Employees are being targeted via email, the volume of malware-laden websites and phishing sites has soared, malvertising is increasing and hackers are exploiting unpatched software vulnerabilities.

It is difficult to predict how bad 2017 will be for cybersecurity breaches, but it is fair to assume that data breaches will continue to occur at a similar level. Organizations need to respond by increasing their cybersecurity defenses to prevent attacks from occurring, but also to prepare for the worst and ensure they are ready to deal with a breach when one occurs. A fast response can limit the damage caused.

Should First Amendment Rights Include Viewing Pornography in Libraries?

The use of web filters in libraries has been in the headlines on many occasions in recent months. There has been much debate over the extent to which libraries should allow patrons to exercise their First Amendment freedoms and whether Internet access should be controlled.

Many libraries in the United States choose not to implement web filters to control the content that can be accessed on their computers, instead they tackle the problem of inappropriate website access by posting acceptable usage guidelines on walls next to computers.

However, patrons of libraries can have very different views of what constitutes acceptable use. Many users of library computers take advantage of the lack of Internet policing and use the computers to view hardcore pornography.

While this is every American’s right under the First Amendment, it can potentially cause distress to other users of libraries. Libraries are visited by people of all ages including children. It is therefore possible that children may accidentally view highly inappropriate material on other users’ screens.

Libraries that apply for government discounts under the e-rate program are required to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The legislation, which went into effect on April 20, 2001, requires schools and libraries to implement controls to restrict Internet access and prevent the viewing of obscene images, child pornography, and other imagery that is harmful to minors. However, it is only mandatory for libraries to comply with CIPA regulations if they choose to take advantage of e-rate discounts. Many libraries do not.

A recent article in DNA Info has highlighted the extent to which library computers are used to access pornography. One patron recently reported an incident that occurred when she visited Harold Washington Library in Chicago to complete forms on a library computer. She claimed that the person on the computer next to her was viewing hardcore pornography and was taking photographs of the screen using his mobile phone camera.

That individual was viewing material of very explicit nature and the screen was in full view of other users of the library. When the woman mentioned what was going on to a security guard, she was told that there was nothing that could be done. The library had chosen to honor patrons First Amendment Rights, even though those rights were in conflict with public decency. A reporter spoke to one librarian who said “Up here in this branch there’s porn 24/7.”

Most libraries in Chicago do not use web filters to limit access to obscene material, although that is not the case in all libraries in the United States. The reverse is true in libraries in Wisconsin for example.

The American Library Association does not recommend the use of web filters in libraries and instead believes the issue of inappropriate website usage should be tackled in other ways, such as to “remind people to behave well in public.”

The debate over First Amendment rights and the blocking of pornography in libraries is likely to continue for many years to come. However, institutions that are commonly frequented by individuals under the age of 18, who are not permitted by law to view pornography, efforts should be made to protect them from harm.  If technical measures such as web filters are not used to block pornography in libraries, at the very least libraries should use privacy screens to limit the potential for minors to view other users’ screens.

Do you believe patrons of libraries should be allowed to view any and all website content? Should First Amendment rights extent to the viewing of pornography in libraries?

Credential Stuffing Attacks on Enterprises Soar Following Major Data Breaches

Credential stuffing attacks on enterprises are soaring according to a recent study conducted by Shape Security. The massive data breaches at the likes of LinkedIn, Yahoo, MySpace have provided cybercriminals with passwords aplenty and those passwords are used in these automated brute force login attempts.

Organizations that have discovered data breaches rapidly force password-resets to prevent criminals from gaining access to users’ accounts; however, stolen passwords can still be incredibly valuable. A study conducted by Microsoft in 2007 suggested that the average computer user has 25 accounts that require the use of a username and password, while Sophos suggests users have an average of 19 accounts.

Password managers can be used to help individuals remember their login credentials, but many people have not signed up for such a service. To remember passwords people just recycle them and use the same password over and over again. Cybercriminals are well aware of that fact and use stolen passwords in credential stuffing attacks on websites and mobile applications.

Shape Security suggests that for many enterprises, 90% of login traffic comes from credential stuffing attacks. Those attacks can be highly effective and since they are automated, they require little effort on the part of the attacker. A batch of passwords is purchased from any number of sellers and resellers on darknet marketplaces. A target site is identified and an automated script is developed to login. The criminals then scale up the assault by renting a botnet. It is then possible to conduct hundreds of thousands of login attempts simultaneously.

Many of the stolen credentials are old, so there is a high probability that passwords will have been changed, but not always. Many people keep the same passwords for years.

The success rate may be low, but the scale of the credential stuffing attacks gives cybercriminals access to hundreds of thousands of accounts.

Shape Security researchers suggest the success rate of these attacks is around 2%. To put this into perspective, if the passwords from the Yahoo data breach were used in credential stuffing attacks, which they almost certainly are, a success rate of 2% would give criminals access to 20 million user accounts.

There is certainly no shortage of passwords to attempt to use to gain access to accounts. According to the report, more than 3 billion username and password combinations were stolen by cybercriminals in 2016 alone. That would potentially give the attackers access to 60 million accounts.

These attacks are not hypothetical. During a 4-month observation period of just one major U.S. retailer in 2016, Shape Security discovered that 15.5 million attempted logins occurred. Even more worrying was that more than 500,000 of the retailer’s customers were using recycled passwords that had previously been stolen from other websites.

Additionally, as a recent report from SplashData has shown, weak passwords continue to be used. The top 25 list of the worst passwords in 2016 still contains very weak passwords such as 123456 and password. These commonly used passwords will also be attempted in brute force attacks. SplashData suggests as many as 10% of Internet users use at least one of the passwords in the top 25 worst password list.

These studies highlight the seriousness of the risk of recycling passwords and send a clear message to organizations: Develop mitigations to prevent the use of stolen credentials and ensure that password policies are developed and enforced.

Two U.S. States Propose Stricter Internet Censorship Laws

Internet censorship laws in two U.S. states may be augmented, forcing Internet service providers and device manufacturers to implement technology that blocks obscene material from being viewed on Internet-connected devices.

North Dakota has recently joined South Carolina in proposing stricter Internet censorship laws to restrict state residents’ access to pornography. There is growing support for stricter Internet censorship laws in both states to block pornography and websites that promote prostitution, and it is believed that stricter Internet censorship laws will help reduce human trafficking in the states.

The new Internet censorship laws would not prevent state residents from accessing pornography on their laptops, computers and smartphones, as the technology would only be required on new devices sold in the two states. Any new device purchased would be required to have “digital blocking capability” to prevent obscene material from being accessed. Should the new Internet censorship laws be passed, state residents would be required to pay $20 to have the Internet filter removed.

The proposed law in North Dakota – Bill 1185 – classifies Internet Service Provider’s routers and all laptops, computers, smartphones, and gaming devices that connect to the Internet as “pornographic vending machines” and the proposed law change would treat those devices as such. The bill would also require device manufacturers to block ‘prostitution hubs’ and websites that facilitate human trafficking. If passed, the ban on the sale of non-filtered Internet devices would be effective from August 1, 2017.

Lifting of the block would only be possible if a request to remove the Internet filter was made in writing, the individual’s age was verified in a face to face encounter, and if a $20 fee was paid. Individual wishing to lift the block would also be required to receive a written warning about the dangers of removing the Internet filter.

The fees generated by the state would be directed to help offset the harmful social effects of obscene website content, such as funding the housing, legal and employment costs of victims of child exploitation and human trafficking. Fees would be collected at point of sale.

Device manufacturers would have a duty to maintain their Internet filter to ensure that it continues to remain fully functional, but also to implement policies and procedures to unblock non-obscene website content that has accidentally been blocked by filtering software. A system would also be required to allow requests to be made to block content that has somehow bypassed the Internet filtering controls. Requests submitted would need to be processed in a reasonable time frame. Failure to process the requests promptly would see the company liable to pay a $500 fine per website/webpage.

State Representative Bill Chumley (R‑Spartanburg) introduced similar updates in South Carolina last month, proposing changes to the state’s Human Trafficking Prevention Act. Both states will now subject the proposed bills to review by their respective House Judiciary Committees.

Why a Restaurant WiFi Filtering Service is Now Essential

A restaurant WiFi filtering service can help to keep customers safe when they use the Internet by blocking access to websites known to contain malware. A restaurant WiFi filtering service will also ensure that patrons can only view website content that is suitable for families.

WiFi networks are often abused and used by some individuals to view pornography or other material that has no place in a restaurant. If one diner chooses to view such material on a personal device while in a restaurant, other diners may catch glimpses of the screen – That hardly makes for a pleasant dining experience.

However, there is another important reason why a restaurant WiFi filtering service should be used. Diners can be protected from a range of web-borne threats while using free wi-Fi networks, but also the computer systems of the restaurant.

Each year, many restaurants discover that their computers and networks have been infected with malware. Malware infections are often random; however, restaurants are now being targeted by cybercriminals.  If a hacker can gain access to a restaurant’s computer network and succeeds in loading malware onto its POS system, every customer who pays for a meal with their debit or credit card could have their credentials sent to the hacker.

Restaurants, especially restaurant chains, are targeted for this very reason. One infected POS system will give a cybercriminal a steady source of credit card numbers. Each year, there are many examples of restaurants that have been attacked in this manner. One of the latest restaurant chains to be attacked was Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen – A multinational chain of fried chicken and fast food restaurants.

Popeyes recently discovered a cyberattack that resulted in malware being installed on its systems. The attack started on or around May 5, 2016 and continued undiscovered until August 18, 2016. During that time, certain customers who paid for their meals on their credit and debit cards had their card numbers stolen by the malware and passed on to the attackers.

Popeyes only discovered the cyberattack when it received notification from its credit card processor of suspicious activity on customers’ accounts. CCC Restaurant Enterprises, which operates Popeyes, retained a forensic expert to analyze its systems for signs of its systems having been compromised. That analysis revealed a malware infection. The information stealing malware was passing credentials to the attacker and those details were being used to defraud customers. Ten restaurants in the chain were known to have been affected. Those restaurants were located in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. The malware infection has now been removed and customers are no longer at risk, although the cyberattack undoubtedly caused reputation damage for the chain.

Malware can be installed via a number of different vectors. Vulnerabilities can be exploited in servers and software. It is therefore essential to ensure that all software is patched and kept up to date. Attacks can occur via email, with malicious links and attachments sent to employees. A spam filter can block those emails and prevent infection. Attacks can also take place over the Internet. The number of malicious websites now produced every day has reached record levels and the threat level is critical.

A restaurant WiFi filtering service will not protect against every possible type of attack but it does offer excellent protection against web-borne threats. A web filtering service can also prevent users from visiting malicious links sent in spam and phishing emails, blocking users’ attempts to click the links. A restaurant WiFi filtering service will also ensure family-friendly Internet access is provided to customers. Something that is increasingly important for parents when choosing a restaurant.

To find out more about how a restaurant WiFi filtering service can be implemented, the wide range of benefits that such a service offers, and for details of how you can trial the WebTitan restaurant WiFI filtering service for 30 days without charge, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet Filtering in Libraries

There are advantages and disadvantages of Internet filtering in libraries. Even though there are some potential drawbacks to filtering the Internet, an increasing number of libraries in the United States are now opting to use a web filtering solution.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet Filtering in Libraries?

Controlling the types of content that can be accessed via library computers has sparked many debates. The American Library Association (ALA) for instance does not recommend Internet filtering. The problem, according to ALA, is that blocking Internet content in libraries “compromises First Amendment freedoms and the core values of librarianship.”

While it is true that libraries are institutions for learning, restricting access to certain types of website content is particularly important to ensure that children are protected. Unrestricted access to the Internet means minors could all too easily view imagery that could cause harm: Pornography for instance.

The ALA says it is better to tackle the problem of inappropriate Internet access with educational programs rather than restricting access. While the ALA understands that children should be protected from obscene and other potentially harmful website content, teaching children how to use the Internet correctly – and how to search for information – is viewed as a reasonable measure to limit harm.

However, for adults, training is likely to prove less effective. If an adult wishes to access illegal or inappropriate website content, acceptable usage policies and educational programs may not prove effective. Children may also choose to ignore library rules and access inappropriate content.

While many Americans have welcomed the use of Internet filtering in libraries to restrict access to obscene or illegal material, there has been concern raised about how the use of Internet filters could potentially limit access to ideas and valuable information. The main disadvantage of controlling Internet access in libraries is not the restriction of access to certain types of web content that have little to no educational value, but the overblocking of website content.

Some Internet filtering solutions lack granular controls which make it easy for libraries to inadvertently restrict access to valuable material. One example would be blocking of sexual content. Blocking sexual content would prevent pornography from being viewed, but potentially also valuable information on sex education: Sexually transmitted diseases or information on LGBT issues for instance. However, with the right solution, it is possible to carefully control Internet content without accidentally blocking valuable educational material.

Internet Content Filtering Helps Libraries Meet Digital Inclusion Goals

The debate over the advantages and disadvantages of Internet filtering in libraries is likely to go on for some time to come, although for many libraries the decision is now becoming less about First Amendment freedoms and more about money.

Libraries face considerable financial pressures, which can be eased with state and federal grants. The Children’s Internet Protection Act requires libraries to implement an Internet filter to block obscene images, child pornography, and other imagery that could be harmful to minors. Compliance is not mandatory, although it is a prerequisite for obtaining certain grants and discounts under the E-rate program.

Library Services and Technology Act grants are available, although while money can be received, unless an Internet content filter is in place, those funds cannot be used for Internet technology, which can limit the ability of libraries to meet their digital inclusion goals and better serve local communities.

The ALA will not – at the present time at least – recommend the use of Internet filtering in libraries, although the organization does concede that some libraries rely on federal or state funding in order to provide patrons with computers and Internet access.

The message to these institutions is to choose a solution which will “mitigate the negative effects of filtering to the greatest extent possible.”

Libraries can implement an internet content filtering solution to block the minimum level of content in order to comply with state and federal regulations. Policies can be implemented to allow content to be unblocked, if it has been inadvertently blocked by a content filtering solution.

It is then possible to receive funding that will allow them to better serve their communities and meet digital inclusion goals, while ensuring that children – and to a lesser extent adults – are appropriately protected.

Why WebTitan is an Ideal Internet Filtering Solution for Libraries

With WebTitan, libraries can control Internet access to meet CIPA requirements and qualify for discounts and grants, while mitigating the negative effects of Internet control. WebTitan features highly granular controls allowing librarians to precisely control the types of web content that can be accessed by patrons. Since the administration control panel is intuitive and easy to use, requests to unblock specific webpages can be easily processed by library staff, without the need for any technical skill.

To find out more about using WebTitan in libraries contact TitanHQ today. You will also receive full assistance setting up WebTitan for a free 30-day trial and can discover for yourself how easy it is to meet CIPA requirements without overblocking website content.

59% of Companies Increased Cybersecurity Spending in 2016

Cybersecurity spending in 2016 was increased by 59% of businesses according to PwC. Cybersecurity is now increasingly being viewed as essential for business growth, not just an IT cost.

As more companies digitize their data and take advantage of the many benefits of the cloud, the threat of cyberattacks becomes more severe. The past 12 months have already seen a major increase in successful cyberattacks and organizations around the world have responded by increasing their cybersecurity spending.

The increased threat of phishing attacks, ransomware and malware infections, data theft and sabotage has been a wake up call for many organizations; unfortunately, it is often only when an attack takes place that that wake up call occurs. However, forward-thinking companies are not waiting for attacks, and are increasing spending on cybersecurity and are already reaping the benefits. They experience fewer attacks, client and customer confidence increases, and they gain a significant competitive advantage.

The annual Global State of Information Security Report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) shows that companies are realizing the benefits of improving cybersecurity defenses. More than 10,000 individuals from 133 companies took part in the survey that provided data for the report. 59% of respondents said that their company increased cybersecurity spending in 2016. Technical solutions are being implemented, although investment in people has also increased.

Cybercriminals are bypassing complex, multi-layered cybersecurity defences by targeting employees. Organizations have responded by increasing privacy training. 56% of respondents say all employees are now provided with privacy training, and with good reason.

According to the report, 43% of companies have reported phishing attacks in the past 12 months, with this cybersecurity vector the most commonly cited method of attack. The seriousness of the threat was highlighted by anti-phishing training company PhishMe. The company’s Enterprise Phishing Susceptibility and Resiliency Report showed 90% of cyberattacks start with a spear phishing email. Given how effective training can be at reducing the risk from phishing, increasing spending on staff training is money well spent.

The same is true for technical cybersecurity solutions that reduce phishing risk. Two of the most important solutions are antispam and web filtering solutions, with each tackling the problem from a different angle. Antispam solutions are employed to prevent phishing emails from reaching employees’ inboxes, while web filtering solutions are being used to block access to phishing websites. Along with training, companies can effectively neutralize the threat.

Many companies lack the staff and resources to develop their own cybersecurity solutions; however, the range of managed security services now available is helping them to ensure that their networks, data, and systems are adequately protected. According to the PwC report, 62% of companies are now using managed security services to meet their cybersecurity and privacy needs. By using partners to assist with the challenge of securing their systems, organizations are able to use limited resources to better effect and concentrate those resources on other areas critical to business processes.

There has been a change to how organizations are view cybersecurity over the past few years. Rather than seeing cybersecurity as simply a cost that must be absorbed, it is now increasingly viewed important for business growth. According to PwC US and Global Leader of Cybersecurity and Privacy David Burg, “To remain competitive, organizations today must make a budgetary commitment to the integration of cybersecurity with digitization from the outset.” Burg also points out, “The fusion of advanced technologies with cloud architectures can empower organizations to quickly identify and respond to threats, better understand customers and the business ecosystem, and ultimately reduce costs.”

Doxware – A New Ransomware Threat to Deal with in 2017

Companies must now deal with a new ransomware threat: 2017 is likely to see a proliferation of doxware attacks.

2016 was the year when cybercriminals fully embraced ransomware and used it to devastating effect on many organizations. As 2016 started, the healthcare industry was heavily targeted. Cybercriminals rightly assumed that the need for healthcare professionals to access patient data would mean ransom payments would likely be paid. That was certainly the case with Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. An attack resulted in a ransom of $17,000 being paid to allow the medical center to regain access to patient data and computer systems

Hospitals throughout the United States continued to be attacked, but not only in the United States, Attacks spread to the United Kingdom and Germany. The education sector was also hit heavily. Many schools and universities were attacked and were forced to pay ransoms to obtain keys to unlock their data.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, Kaspersky Lab reported that ransomware infections rose by 17.7%. The figures for April 2016 to March 2017 are likely to show an even bigger rise.  Ransomware has rarely been out of the news headlines all year.

Cybercriminals are making stealthier and more sophisticated ransomware variants to avoid detection and cause more widespread disruption. Widespread media coverage, warnings by security companies and law enforcement agencies, and the likely costs of dealing with attacks has led many companies to improve their defenses and develop strategies to recover from infections.

With ransom demands of tens of thousands of dollars – or in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars – and widespread attacks, the threat can no longer be ignored

One of the best ways of avoiding having to pay a sizeable ransom is to ensure data are backed up. Should ransomware be installed, IT departments can wipe their systems, restore files from backups, and make a quick recovery.

Ransomware is only an effective income generator for cybercriminals if ransoms are paid. If companies can easily recover, and restoring data from backups is cheaper than paying a ransom, cybercriminals will have to look elsewhere to make their money.

However, ransomware is far from dead. Cybercriminasl are changing their tactics. Ransomware is still being used to encrypt data, but an extra incentive is being added to the mix to increase the chance of a ransom being paid.

Doxware: The New Ransomware Threat

Doxware, like ransomware, encrypts data and a ransom demand is issued. However, in addition to encrypting data, information is also stolen. The gangs behind these attacks up the ante by threatening to publish sensitive data if the ransom is not paid.

If access is gained to corporate emails or other electronic conversations, the potential harm that can be caused is considerable. Reputation damage from doxware can be considerable, making payment of a ransom far more preferable to recovering data from a backup. If intellectual property is stolen and published the consequences for a company could be catastrophic.

2016 has already seen extortion attempts by hackers who have infiltrated networks, stolen data, and threatened its release if ransom payments are not made. TheDarkOverlord attacks on healthcare providers are just one example. However, in those attacks data were simply stolen. The combination of data theft with ransomware would be more likely to see ransoms paid. Already we have seen ransomware variants that combine an information stealing component and 2017 is likely to see the problem get far worse.

Crackdown on Fake News Shines Light on Typosquatting and Cybersecurity Risks

The proposed crackdown on fake news websites has shone a light on the use of typosquatting and cybersecurity risks for businesses from employees visiting fake news websites.

Over the past few weeks there has been considerable media attention focused on fake news websites and the harm that these fake news stories can cause.

Just as newspapers and news networks can earn big money from being the first to break a new story, there is big money to be made from posting fake news items. The problem is growing and it is now becoming harder to separate fact from fiction. 2016 has seen fake news stories hit the headlines – Both the problem and the republishing of fake news in the mainstream media.

Fake News Websites are a Serious Problem

This year’s U.S. presidential election has seen the Internet awash with propaganda and fake news posts, especially – but not exclusively – about support for Donald Trump and criticism of Hillary Clinton. Fake news sites such as the Denver Guardian (the periodical doesn’t actually exist) posted news about rigging of the election. Genuine news organizations notably picked up on a story about Denzel Washington supporting Trump; however, the original story was taken from a fake news site. Of course, these are just two of many hundreds of thousands of fake news stories published throughout the year.

All too often fake news stories are silly, satirical, or even humorous; however, they have potential to cause considerable harm and influence the public. Potentially, they could change the outcome of an election.

Consumers are now increasingly basing their opinions on fiction rather than fact. Fake news is nothing new of course, but the U.S. presidential election has brought it to the forefront and has highlighted the extent to which it is going on – on a scale never before seen.

Worldwide governments are now taking action to crackdown on the problem. Germany and Indonesia have joined the U.S. in the fight against fake news stories and there have been calls for greater regulation of online content.

Facebook has received considerable criticism for failing to do enough to prevent the proliferation of fake news. While CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that fake news on Facebook was influential in the election – “the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.” However, last month he confirmed a new initiative to address hoaxes and fake news. Facebook is to make it easier for users to report fake news stories, third-party fact checkers will be enlisted, news websites will be analyzed more closely, and stories will be pushed down the rankings if they are getting fewer shares.

All of the attention on fake news sites has highlighted a tactic that is being used to spread fake news – a tactic that has long been used by cybercriminals to spread malware: Typosquatting.

Typosquatting and Cybersecurity Risks

Typosquatting – otherwise known as URL hijacking – is the use of a popular brand name with authority to fool web surfers into thinking a website is genuine. The fake news scandal brought attention to the tactic after fake news items were posted on spoofed news websites such as usatoday.com (usatoday.com.com) and abcnews (abcnews.com.co).

To the incautious or busy website visitor, the URL may only get a casual glance. The slightly different URL is unlikely to be spotted. This may only result in website visitors viewing fake news, although in many cases it can result in a malware download. Cybercriminals use this tactic to fool web surfers into visiting malicious websites where malware is automatically downloaded.

Typosquatting is also used on phishing websites and for fake retail sites that relieve visitors of their credit card information or other sensitive credentials.

Even fake news sites are a problem in this regard. They often contain third-party adverts – this is one of the ways that fake news stories generate income for the posters. Those adverts are often malicious. The site owners are paid to display the adverts or send visitors to malicious websites. Adverts are also used to direct visitors to fake retail sites – zappoos.com or Amazoon.com for example. Many fake news sites are simply used as phishing farms.

While consumers can be defrauded, businesses should also take note. Since many of these sites are used to either spread malware or direct users to malicious sites where malware is downloaded, fake news sites are a serious cybersecurity risk.

Governments and social media networks may be taking a stand against these malicious sites, but businesses should also take action. All it takes is for one user to visit a malicious site for malware or ransomware to be downloaded.

Fortunately, it is possible to reduce risk with a web filtering solution. Web filtering solutions such as WebTitan can be used to block access to websites known to contain malware. Malicious websites are rapidly added to global blacklists. If a web filtering solution is used, an employee will be prevented from visiting a blacklisted site, which will prevent a malware download.

Malicious adverts can also be blocked and prevented from being displayed. Malicious links on fake news sites can also easily be blocked. Users can also be prevented from visiting websites when clicking on links to the sites in emails or on social media websites.

For further information on the full range of benefits of WebTitan and to find out how you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of WebTitan, contact TitanHQ today.

Anti-Phishing Solutions for Businesses Required to Tackle Growing Phishing Risk

Anti-phishing solutions for businesses are now an essential element of cybersecurity defenses. The risk from phishing websites has grown considerably in 2016, and 2017 is likely to see the problem become much more severe. 

Anti-Phishing Solutions for Businesses Now a Necessity

Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to infect end users with malware and ‘phish’ for sensitive information such as credit card details, email login credentials, and other sensitive data that can be used for identity theft and fraud. Cybercriminals have changed their tactics to infect more end users and bypass traditional cybersecurity defenses.

In the past it was common for domains to be registered by cybercriminals and only used for phishing or to spread malware. Sooner or later the websites would be reported as malicious in nature, and those domains would be added to global blacklists. As the sites were blocked, the cybercriminals would simply buy another domain and repeat the process. Phishing websites used to remain active for weeks or even months before they ceased to be effective. However, cybersecurity firms are now faster at detecting malicious websites and adding them to blacklists.

Cybercriminals are aware that phishing websites and malicious webpages have a very short shelf life and will only remain effective for a few days before they are blocked. In response, they have changed tactics and are now creating webpages which are only used for very short periods of time.

New webpages are now being created faster and in higher volumes. Those webpages now remain active for less than 24 hours in the majority of cases. Cybercriminals are hijacking legitimate websites with poor security controls or unaddressed vulnerabilities. Malicious URLS are then created and hidden on those domains. Cybercriminals have now all but abandoned malicious websites in favor of single URLs on otherwise benign websites.

The volume of phishing websites has also increased considerably in 2016. Studies now suggest that around 400,000 phishing websites are being detected every month of the year.

Web Filtering Solutions Can Significantly Reduce Risk

There are many anti-phishing solutions for businesses that can be adopted to reduce risk, although one of the most effective tools is an advanced web filter. A web filter can be used to prevent users from visiting malicious websites and webpages that are used to phish for sensitive information or infect end users with malware.

While it was possible for standard web filtering solutions to protect against the risk from phishing by comparing domains against blacklists, it is now essential for each webpage to be checked to determine whether it is malicious. Each URL must also be checked each time it is visited to make sure that it has not been hijacked and used for phishing or to spread malware. For that an advanced web filtering solution is needed, such as WebTitan.

WebTitan checks each webpage that an end user attempts to visit in a fraction of a second, with no noticeable latency – slowing of webpage loading. If a website or webpage is identified as malicious the end user will be prevented from accessing that webpage.

WebTitan allows businesses to further protect their networks by restricting access to certain categories of websites which are commonly used by cybercriminals to spread malware. Since these websites have no legitimate work purpose, they can be easily blocked without any negative impact on the business. In fact, businesses are likely to see significant increases in employee productivity as a result.

Cybercriminals are also increasingly using third party advertising blocks on legitimate websites to display malicious adverts. Those adverts redirect visitors to malicious websites containing exploit kits. Some of those adverts require no user interaction at all – visitors are automatically redirected to websites where drive-by malware downloads occur. WebTitan can be configured to prevent these adverts from being displayed, thus neutralizing the risk.

Cybercriminal activity has been steadily increasing, yet employing an advanced web filtering solution such as WebTitan can help businesses stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and keep their networks malware free.

For further information on the capabilities of WebTitan, to find out how easy it is to protect your end users and networks from attack, and to register for a free 30-day trial of WebTitan, contact TitanHQ today.

Why Web Filtering for Managed Service Providers is Now Essential

The increase in cyberattacks and proliferation of web-borne threats has made web filtering for Managed Service Providers one of the most important, and profitable, opportunities for MSPs. However, not all MSPs have started offering a web filtering service to their clients, even though web filtering is now an essential cybersecurity defense

Why is web filtering for Managed Service Providers now so important? Listed below – and in a useful infographic – are some of the reasons why businesses need to control the websites that can be visited by their employees and why web filtering for Managed Service Providers is an important addition to any MSPs service stack.

Cybercriminals Have Switched from Email to the Web to Spread Malware

Email remains one of the most likely routes that malware can be installed. Malicious email volume is growing and in Q3, 2016, Proofpoint discovered 96.8% of malicious attachments were used to download Locky ransomware. Blocking malicious spam email messages is therefore an essential element of any organization’s cybersecurity defense strategy. However, times are a changing. The threat from web-borne attacks has increased significantly in the past few years.

Cybercriminals are well aware that most organizations now use a spam filter to block malicious messages and that they now conduct end user training to warn employees of the risks of opening email attachments or clicking on hyperlinks sent by strangers.

However, far fewer businesses have implemented a solution that blocks web-borne threats. Consequently, cybercriminals have changed their focus from email to the Internet.

The shift to the web means cybercriminals can reach a much bigger target audience and can spread malware and ransomware more effectively. The extent of this paradigm shift is deeply concerning.

Now, more than 80% of malware is web-related and spread via malicious web adverts, hijacked websites, and websites that have been created with the sole purpose of infecting visitors with malware.

As TitanHQ CTO Neil Farrell points out, “the average business user now encounters 3 malicious links per day.” Those links are rarely identified as malicious and the malware downloads that result from visiting malicious websites go undetected.

Web-Borne Threats have Increased Substantially in Recent Years

Cybercriminals use exploit kits – malicious software that probes for vulnerabilities in browsers – on hijacked webpages and purpose designed, malware-laced websites. Zero-day vulnerabilities are frequently identified in web browsers, browser plugins, and extensions and these flaws can be exploited and leveraged to download malware and ransomware. Each time a new flaw is identified, it is rapidly added to a swathe of exploit kits.

Anti-virus software is capable of detecting a high percentage of malware and preventing the malicious software from being installed on computers; however, new forms of malware are being released at an unprecedented rate. A new malware is now released every 4 seconds. Naturally, there is a lag between the release of new malware and the addition of its signature into antivirus software companies’ virus definition lists. Visits to malicious websites all too often result in malware installations that go undetected.

Malicious websites are constantly being created. Google reports that since July 2013, 113,132 new phishing websites have been created and it is businesses that are being targeted. TitanHQ now adds over 60,000 new malware-spreading websites to its blocklists every single day.

Companies that fail to block these web-borne threats face a high risk of their computers and networks being infected with malware. Figures from IDC show that 30% of companies employing more than 500 staff have experienced malware infections as a result of end users surfing the Internet.

New Threats are Constantly Being Developed

The range of threats is also increasing. Malware-infected websites are conducting Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks, Cross-Component attacks, SQL injection attacks, as well exploiting vulnerabilities in popular Internet applications such as Adobe Flash, JSON, JavaScript, XPath and XML. Keeping all of these applications 100% up to date, 100% of the time is simply not possible for businesses, and any out-of-date-software could be exploited.

Malware is used to log keystrokes to obtain login credentials for further, more sophisticated attacks. Banking credentials are stolen and fraudulent transfers are made. Businesses also have to contend with the current ransomware epidemic. 40% of businesses have now been attacked with ransomware.

Malware and ransomware infections do not just occur via obscure websites that few employees visit. Hugely popular news sites such as the New York Times and the BBC have been discovered to display adverts containing malicious code. Social media websites are also a major risk. 24% of organizations have been infected with malware via Facebook and 7% via LinkedIn/Twitter, according to a recent study by Osterman Research.

These and other serious threats, along with the extent to which infections are occurring, have been summarized in a new infographic that can be accessed by clicking on the image below:

web filtering for managed service providers msps (infographic)

WebTitan Cloud – Web Filtering for Managed Service Providers

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to prevent web-borne attacks: WebTitan Cloud. WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based web filtering solution that can be used to prevent end users from visiting websites known to contain malware. WebTitan can be configured to block malicious adverts and can prevent end users from being directed to malware-infected websites if malicious links are clicked.

Given the range of threats and the extent to which cybercriminals are using the web, it is now essential for organizations to add web filtering to their cybersecurity defenses. Consequently, web filtering for Managed Services Providers presents a huge opportunity for growth. TitanHQ has seen a significant increase in uptake of its web filtering for Managed Service Providers in recent months as MSPs have started to appreciate the huge potential web filtering for Managed Services Providers has to improve bottom lines.

WebTitan can be rapidly added to an MSPs service stack and is an easy sell to clients. WebTitan can be deployed remotely and rapidly installed and configured. The solution is automatically updated, requires little to no IT support, is technology agnostic, and therefore so has an extremely low management overhead. The solution also has excellent scalability and can be used to protect any number of end users.

MSPs can be provided with a white-label version of WebTitan Cloud ready for branding and WebTitan Cloud can even be hosted within an MSPs own environment. Perhaps most important for MSPs is the high margin recurring SaaS model. That means high recurring revenues for MSPs and better bottom lines.

Contact TitanHQ today to find out more about web filtering for Managed Service Providers, for full technical specifications, and to discover just how easy it is to add WebTitan to your service stack and start boosting profits.

Beware of Social Media Ransomware Attacks

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

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

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

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

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

Ransomware Attacks on the Rise

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

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

How to Prevent Social Media Ransomware Attacks

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

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

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

The Risks of Social Media In Business

Many employers are not entirely happy with employees using social media sites in the workplace, and with good reason: There are many risks of social media in business and the costs can be considerable.

Social Media Use Can be a Huge Drain on Productivity

When employees are spending time updating their Facebook accounts or checking Twitter they are not working. All those minutes spent on social media platforms really do add up. Social media site use can be a major drain on productivity.

If every employee in an organisation spends an hour a day on social media sites, the losses are considerable. Unfortunately, many employees spend much more than an hour a day on the sites.

Salary.com reports that around 4% of employees waste more than half of each day on non-work related tasks. For a company employing 1,000 members of staff, that equates to more than 160 hours lost each day, not including the hour or two spent on social media sites by the remaining 96% of the workforce.

Social media site use is not all bad, in fact, the use of the sites can be good for productivity. Employees cannot be expected to work solidly for 8 or more hours each day; at least not 8 highly productive hours. If employees enjoy some ‘Facetime’ every hour or two, it can help them to recharge so they are more productive when they return to their work duties.

The problem for employers is how to control the use of Facebook in the workplace and ensure that social media site use is kept within acceptable limits. Taking 5 minutes off every hour or two is one thing. Taking longer can have a seriously negative impact. Unfortunately, relying on employees to self-moderate their use of social media sites may not be the best way to ensure that Internet use is not abused.

The Cost of Social Media Use Can Be Severe

Productivity losses can have a serious negative impact on profits, but there are far biggest costs to employers from social media site use. In fact, the risks of social media in business are considerable.

The cost from lost productivity can be bad, but nowhere near as bad as the cost of a malware or ransomware infection. Social media sites are commonly used by hackers to infect computers. Just visiting a malicious Facebook or Twitter link can result in a malware or ransomware infection. The cost of resolving those infections can be astronomical. The more time employees spend on non-work related Internet activities, the greater the risk of a malware infection.

Is there a genuine risk? According to PC Magazine, the risks are very real. There is a 40% chance of infection with malicious code within 10 minutes of going online and a 94% chance of encountering malicious code within an hour.

Controlling employees’ use of the Internet can not only result in huge increases in productivity, Internet control can help to reduce the risk of malware and ransomware infections. Further, by limiting the sites that can be accessed by employees, organizations can greatly reduce legal liability.

Fortunately, there is a simple, cost-effective, and reliable solution that allows organisations to effectively manage the risks of social media in business: WebTitan.

Managing the Risks of Social Media in Business

WebTitan is an innovative web filtering solution that allows organizations to accurately enforce Internet usage policies. Employers can block inappropriate content to effectively reduce legal liability, block or limit the use of social media sites to improve productivity, and prevent users from encountering malicious code that could give cybercriminals a foothold in the network.

If you have yet to implement a web filtering solution to control Internet use in the workplace or you are unhappy with the cost or performance of your current web filtering product, contact TitanHQ today and find out more about the difference WebTitan can make to your bottom line.

To find out more about the risks of social media in business and why it is now so important to manage social media use in the workplace, click the image below to view our informative infographic.

Risks of Social Media In Business

How to Block Facebook Chat at Work

One of the questions most frequently asked of the WebTitan customer support team is how to block Facebook chat at work without blocking access to Facebook entirely.

Why Block Facebook Chat at Work?

There are many reasons why an organization would want to prevent employees from accessing Facebook. Social media websites can be a drain on productivity. Some employees may spend hours of each day accessing and updating their Facebook account, which is time spent not working.

However, an employee cannot remain productive for a full eight hours each day. By allowing access to Facebook – and other social media sites – employers can actually increase productivity, providing social media site use is kept within acceptable limits.

If employees take short breaks throughout the day and access Facebook for a few minutes every hour, they are likely to be more productive. Morale can also be improved with a little social media site use.

However, there is the question of security to consider and Facebook chat is a particular cause for concern. Many organisations believe Facebook Chat is a security risk. Use of Facebook chat can increase the risk of malware infections. The chat function also lacks the security standards demanded by many organizations and makes it too easy for employees to share sensitive corporate data. Use of Facebook chat is also difficult to police.

How to Block Facebook Chat Without Blocking Facebook Access

With WebTitan Cloud it is easy to block Facebook chat at work without blocking Facebook access entirely. The process takes just a few seconds and is detailed in the video presentation below (and described underneath.)

 

 

To block Facebook chat at work, open your WebTitan Cloud administration panel and navigate to “Filtering URL keywords.”

To block Facebook chat you need to add in two blacklisted keywords. Enter in the first keyword:

ajax/updatestatus.php

Then set filter options to ‘find keyword in entire URL’

The second keyword that must be blocked is:

ajax/mercury/send_messages.php

As before, set filter options to ‘find keyword in entire URL’

These two files are used by Facebook chat and if the files are blocked, the Facebook chat will not function, although the Facebook website will still be accessible.

In order for URL keywords to work correctly it is necessary to have the SSL certificate pushed out to the browsers. Further information on how to do this via GPO or manually can be found in the help section on the WebTitan website.

Visit the link below for detailed instructions on how you can download and push out the SSL certificate to browsers.
http://helpdesk.webtitan.com/support/solutions/articles/4000035615-ssl-inspection-certificates

Are You Prepared for a Ransomware Attack?

Are You Prepared for a Ransomware Attack?

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

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

200 Ransomware Families Now Discovered

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

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

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

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

Massive Campaign Spreading New Locky Ransomware Variant

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

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

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

Ransomware Problem Unlikely to Be Solved Soon

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

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

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

Are you Prepared for a Ransomware Attack?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Enforce Acceptable Usage Policies with a Web Filter

Most employees are required to agree to use the Internet responsibly and are made to sign an acceptable usage policy as part of their induction before being supplied with a user ID. The policies vary in their content from organization to organization, but typically prohibit individuals from using the Internet to access illegal material, visit websites containing pornography, or engage in online activities that have no work purpose. The policies detail prohibited uses and state the penalties if individuals are discovered to have abused their access rights.

For many businesses, this may be deemed to be sufficient. If policies are breached, there are serious repercussions for the individual. For most employees AUPs alone will be sufficient to stop Internet abuse. However, while a breach of AUPs could result in termination of a work contract or serious disciplinary action against an employee, the consequences for a business can be much more severe.

AUPs can cover employers and prevent legal issues resulting from inappropriate Internet use, but they cannot protect against malware and ransomware infections. The consequences of malware and ransomware infections can be considerable. Data can be lost or corrupted by malware, to confidential information stolen, used for nefarious purposes, or sold on the darknet to criminals. The financial and reputational consequences for a business could be catastrophic.

In the case of ransomware infections, the cost can be considerable. Earlier this year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center experienced a ransomware attack that required a ransom payment of $17,000 to be paid to recover data. The costs of dealing with the infection even after the ransom was paid was considerable, not to mention the disruption to operations while data were locked. Full access to data was not regained for more than a week.

AUPs used to be sufficient to reduce risk – legal and otherwise – but today much more rigorous controls are required to keep networks secure. To manage the risk effectively, it is important to enforce acceptable usage policies with a technological solution.

The most effective way of ensuring AUPs are adhered to is to enforce acceptable usage polices with a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to ensure the Internet can only be used for activities that an employer permits. Controls can be applied to ensure that illegal websites are not visited or to block pornography in the workplace, or stricter controls can be applied to severely restrict access. Most importantly given the massive rise in ransomware and malware attacks, controls can be enforced to keep networks secure.

To find out more about the benefits of implementing a web filtering solution, how networks can be secured with WebTItan, and for details of pricing, contact the TitanHQ team today.

Trump Hotels Fined By NY Attorney General for POS Data Breach

Trump Hotels and Management LLC has paid the price for failing to implement robust security controls to secure its POS system from cybercriminals.

The hotel chain, which is headed by Donald Trump and run by three of his children, has been fined $50,000 by the New York Attorney General for a data breach that exposed the credit card details and personal information of over 70,000 guests in 2015.

Banks conducted an investigation following a spate of fraudulent credit card transactions last year, and determined that the common denominator was all of the victims had previously stayed in Trump-owned hotels. In all of the cases, Trump Hotels was the last merchant to process a legitimate card transaction, indicating there had been a breach of credit card details at the hotel chain.

A further investigation revealed that the POS system used by 5 Trump hotels in Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York had been infected with malware. The malware was installed on the credit card processing system in May 2014 and access to the system was gained using legitimate domain administrator credentials. The malware was able to capture the payment card information of guests.

The fine, which was announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday, was issued for the failure to adequately secure its systems and for the delay in issuing breach notifications to consumers. Trump Hotels did place a breach notice on the company website, but it took 4 months for that notice to be uploaded – a breach of state laws in New York.

Schneiderman explained “It is vital in this digital age that companies take all precautions to ensure that consumer information is protected, and that if a data breach occurs, it is reported promptly to our office, in accordance with state law.”

A spokesperson for Trump Hotels explained that the hotel industry is under attack by cybercriminals looking to gain access to guests’ credit card details. “Unfortunately, cyber criminals seeking consumer data have recently infiltrated the systems of many organizations including almost every major hotel company.”

Other notable hospitality industry breaches include the cyberattack on Hyatt hotels and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The Hyatt breach affected 250 hotels, while the Starwood breach resulted in the POS systems of 54 hotels being loaded with malware.

Cyberattacks are to be expected; however, security controls at Trump Hotels appear to be insufficient. A second credit card system data breach was discovered to have affected the hotel chain in March this year. Investigators discovered malware had been installed on 39 computer systems used at various locations.

In addition to the $50,000 fine, Trump Hotels has agreed to adopt a corrective action plan which requires additional security controls to be installed to prevent future data breaches.

It may not be possible to prevent all cyberattacks but, with the hospitality industry coming under attack, it is essential that security controls are implemented that prevent the installation of malware. Keyloggers and other information stealing malware are usually delivered via spam email or are unwittingly downloaded from malicious websites.

In order to prevent infections via email, hotel chains can implement a robust spam filter. Web-borne infections can be prevented using a powerful web filtering solution to block malware downloads.

GCHQ Plans to Expand the Use of DNS Filters to Prevent Cyberattacks

Although many businesses use configured DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks, UK ISPs tend to blanket-block complete categories of websites to limit access to those most likely to be harboring malware. This hit-and-miss approach to online security often blocks genuine websites, or exposes consumers who opt out of DNS filtering to every type of online threat.

However, plans have now been announced that will see the UK´s spy agency – GCHQ – partner up with leading ISPs in the UK in order to develop a more finely-tuned approach to consumer security. Effectively GCHQ will advise the ISPs on how to configure their DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks on consumers based on individual sites known to harbor malware.

By preventing consumers from accessing “bad addresses” that appear to be legitimate domains, GCHQ hopes to reduce the number of malware and phishing attacks launched on the UK public each year. The organization is reported to routinely use DNS filtering to filter out some parts of the internet that the government asks to be banned, and this new initiative is an extension of its existing service.

The plans were announced by Ciaran Martin – head of GCHQ and the recently formed National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – at the Billington Cyber-Security Summit. Martin told Summit attendees, “We’re exploring a flagship project on scaling up DNS filtering: what better way of providing automated defenses at scale than by the major private providers effectively blocking their customers from coming into contact with known malware and bad addresses?”

A few years ago, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to introduce legislation that would require ISPs to block pornography. While legislation was not passed, ISPs entered into a voluntary agreement to block pornography by default. Since 2013, all new customers have been prevented from accessing online pornography by their ISPs unless they choose to opt out and lift the DNS filter. Under this voluntary arrangement, UK citizens are protected from inappropriate content, yet their civil liberties are not violated.

There would likely be considerable backlash if the government was to introduce legislation to block the accessing of certain websites, even if those sites were known to contain threats such as malware or ransomware. Martin is well aware of the potential problems that could arise. He told Summit attendees, “The government does not own or operate the Internet,” explaining that any move to use DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks would need to come from the private sector.

Martin explained that, as with ISPs blocking pornography, consumers would be given a choice to opt out of using DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks. He said “addressing privacy concerns and citizen choice is hardwired into our program.”

The plan to use DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks on consumers and UK businesses has been applauded. “The Great Firewall of Britain” will help to protect consumers from cybercriminal activity and keep electronic devices free from malware and ransomware.

There are currently millions of malicious websites that have been set up with the sole purpose of spreading malware such as banking Trojans, ransomware, spyware, or to commit online fraud. Data from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) shows the number of reported online security incidents has doubled in the past year and cyber-infection rates are growing at an exponential level around the globe.

The use of DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks should go some way towards preventing consumers from inadvertently downloading malware or falling victim to a phishing campaign. However, while this is a step in the right direction, when the plan is implemented it will not spell an end to malware and ransomware attacks.

ISP DNS filters can only block websites that are known to be malicious or have been discovered to host exploit kits or malware. Cybercriminals are constantly changing tactics and are using ever more sophisticated methods of attacking individuals, businesses, and governments. The use of ISP DNS filters to prevent cyberattacks will help to deal with low level attacks, but organizations should not rely on their ISPs to block online threats.

It will still be essential for organizations to carefully control the website content that can be accessed by their employees, and to do that they will need their own web filtering solution.

Requirements for Web Filtering in Schools

The Department for Education in the UK has recently published new statutory guidance relating to requirements for web filtering in schools.

From September 5, 2016, all schools have a duty to conduct a risk assessment and, where appropriate, implement a web filtering solution to prevent children from being exposed to illegal or harmful online material.

The “guidance” from the Department for Education is mandatory and educational institutions have to comply with the requirements for web filtering in schools, unless it can be shown they are not necessary in the circumstances, or that safeguards providing adequate protection already exist.

Key Issues Covered by the Guidance

The requirements for web filtering in schools form one of three risk categories being addressed by the guidance – the other two being the prevention of harmful online interaction, and online conduct that increases the likelihood of harm.

The Department for Education makes it clear that the guidance refers not only to school computer networks, but also access to mobile technology, and stipulates that policies should be introduced regarding mobile usage on school premises.

It is also a requirement that teaching staff undergo safeguarding training to monitor use of the Internet, so that they can effectively identify children at risk and intervene or escalate where appropriate. Children should also be educated about online safety.

What are the Requirements for Web Filtering in Schools?

While the guidance outlines the requirements for web filtering in schools, it falls short of detailing specific types of website content that should be blocked. Instead it defers to the recommendations made by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC).

The UKSIC offers guides for appropriate filtering and appropriate monitoring with the caveat that what constitutes inappropriate website content for one age group, may not necessarily apply to all age groups.

It suggests any web filtering solution that is implemented should have reporting mechanisms to provide historical information on the websites visited by users, and the ability to report inappropriate content for access or blocking.

While not an exhaustive list of all types of inappropriate website content, the UKSIC recommends schools and other educational establishments ensure the following categories are blocked by their chosen web filtering solution:

  • Websites that promote discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, race, and religion.
  • Websites displaying or promoting the use of narcotics and/or substance abuse.
  • Websites promoting acts of terrorism or terrorist ideologies, intolerance, or violence.
  • Websites or tools that enable anonymous browsing of the Internet.
  • Sites hosting malicious content.
  • Webpages promoting hacking or the compromising of computer systems.
  • Webpages containing pornographic images or displaying sexual acts.
  • Websites promoting or enabling copyright violations or Internet piracy.
  • Sites displaying or promoting acts of violence with intent to harm, maim, or kill.
  • Sites promoting self-harm or displaying acts of self-harm, including eating disorders and suicide.

Features of Web Filtering Solutions for Schools

In addition to blocking categories of web content, a suitable web filtering solution for schools should include the ability to:

  • Identify individual users, the sites visited and the searches performed.
  • Make changes to filtering parameters at school level as appropriate
  • Block access to restricted content from mobile devices
  • Provide multi-lingual filtering support.
  • Generate reports allowing administrators to view accessed content.
  • Filter content without the need to download software onto devices.

It is inevitable that some legitimate web pages may be blocked by a web filtering solution. It is therefore important that a system is established that enables users to report when access is blocked to legitimate web pages so that the web pages can be added to a safe list or whitelist.

Web Filtering for Schools No Substitute for Supervision

The UKSIC points out that even the most robust Internet content filtering solutions are not infallible. It is not possible for any solution to be 100% effective, 100% of the time. The UKSIC recommends the requirements for web filtering in schools are supported with “good teaching and learning practice and effective supervision.”

While the blocking of Internet content is important to prevent children from coming to harm, schools should take care not to overblock website content. The UKSIC advises schools, colleges, and other educational establishments to take care web filtering does not unreasonably restrict access to valuable website content.

Full details of the requirements for web filtering for schools can be found within Annex C of Keeping Children Safe in Education.

How to Prevent Drive-By Malware Downloads

Are you taking steps to prevent drive-by malware downloads? Have you implemented controls to reduce your attack surface and prevent your employees from inadvertently downloading malware onto your network?

Malvertising – A Major Security Risk that Should be Managed

Malvertising is the term used for the practice of displaying malicious adverts to website visitors. The malicious adverts are displayed via third party advertising networks which are present on a wide range of legitimate websites. Malicious adverts have been displayed to visitors to many of the top 500 global websites.

The New York Times website was discovered to be displaying malvertising via a third party ad networks. Those adverts redirected visitors to websites where ransomware was downloaded. The UK’s BBC website was similarly discovered to be displaying malicious adverts that resulted in ransomware downloads.

Other high profile sites found to be displaying malvertising include AOL, the NFL website, Realtor, theweathernetwork, newsweek, infolinks, answers.com, and thehill, amongst many many others.

Proofpoint recently announced it has succeeded in shutting down the AdGholas malvertising operation. This large-scale operation was reported to have resulted in malicious adverts being displayed to between 1 million and 5 million individuals per day. Researchers at Proofpoint estimated that between 10% and 20% of computers that loaded the malicious adverts were redirected to websites containing exploit kits. Exploit kits probe for security vulnerabilities in web browsers. If vulnerabilities are discovered, malware is silently downloaded onto the site visitor’s computer. Of course this was just one malvertising operation out of many.

Cost of Malware and Ransomware Infections

Many ransomware variants are capable of moving laterally within a network and replicating. One download may see multiple computers infected. Each infected device is encrypted with a separate key and a separate ransom demand is issued for each infection.

Organizations experiencing multiple infections can be issued with ransom demands of tens of thousands of dollars. In January, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was forced to pay $17,000 for the decryption keys to unlock its computers.

The threat from malware can be far more serious. Malware such as keyloggers can be used to obtain login credentials to corporate bank accounts, allowing criminals to make fraudulent transfers and empty company accounts. Malware can install backdoors that can be used to steal patient data from healthcare organizations. Failing to prevent drive-by malware downloads can prove very costly indeed. Recently, the Ponemon Institute calculated the average healthcare data breach cost to be $4 million. The cost per compromised healthcare record was calculated to be $158.

Prevent Drive-by Malware Downloads

To prevent drive-by malware downloads you need to employ a range of tactics. Good patch management policies can help to ensure that devices are not left vulnerable. Software, browsers, and browser plugins should be kept up to date and patches applied promptly. Plugins and software commonly exploited by cybercriminals include Java, Adobe Flash, and PDF reader, as well as out of date web browsers.

Organizations can prevent employees from being directed to malicious websites by using a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to block websites known to contain malware or host exploit kits. A web filter can be used to block third party advertising from being displayed. Block the ad networks, and you will ensure that malvertising is not displayed.

You should also implement Acceptable Usage Policies (AUPs) to limit the websites that employees can visit. A web filtering solution can help in this regard. Employees can be instructed not to visit certain categories of websites which are known to carry a higher than average risk, but a web filter can be used to enforce those policies. By blocking access to gambling websites, pornography, sites containing illegal website content, and other risky websites such as p2p file sharing sites, risk can be greatly reduced.

A web filtering solution cannot prevent all data breaches and malware attacks, but it is a vital element of cybersecurity defenses that should not be ignored. It is one of the most important controls to employ to prevent drive-by malware downloads.

Restaurant Chains to Block Pornography on WiFi Networks

Pressure has been mounting recently on corporations in America to block pornography on WiFi networks open to the public. McDonalds and Starbucks have responded by announcing they will be blocking porn on public WiFi networks in their restaurants and coffee shops.

Early last week, McDonalds announced that it is now using WiFi network web filtering to block pornography – and child pornography – in its 14,000+ restaurants in the United States. The technology had been introduced earlier this year, although the move has only just been announced by the fast food chain. McDonalds is one of the first – and largest – organizations to block pornography on restaurant WiFi networks.

A couple of days later, Starbucks announced that that the company will also be using WiFi network web filtering to block pornography in its coffee shops in the United States. Starbucks will be evaluating web filtering solutions to block pornography in order to ensure the implementation of a web filter does prevent customers accessing non-pornographic websites. Once that process has been completed, the web filtering solution will be rolled out across its 12,200+ U.S. coffee shops followed by its company-owned stores around the world.

While no figures have been released by either organization about the extent to which their WiFi networks are being used to view pornography, online safety organizations have been warning corporate America that the practice is becoming more prevalent and the risk to minors is considerable if efforts are not made to block pornography on restaurant WiFi networks.

block pornography on WiFi networks

Pressure by Anti-Pornography Organizations to Block Pornography on WiFi Networks Pays Off

Internet safety organization Enough is Enough launched its National Porn Free Wi-Fi campaign two years ago and has been placing pressure on corporate America to use WiFi network web filtering to block pornography and prevent access to illegal child pornography on restaurant WiFi networks.

Public WiFi networks offer a higher degree of anonymity than home and work Internet connections, and an increasing number of individuals are actively seeking unfiltered WiFi networks to view, download, and share inappropriate and illegal images.

Enough is Enough – whose mission is to make the Internet safer for children and families – gathered over 50,000 signatures from members of the public and has the backing of more than 75 partner organizations. Over the past few months, pressure has been placed on Starbucks – the largest coffee shop chain in the United States – to block pornography on WiFi networks and to prevent inappropriate material from being accidentally or deliberately viewed by minors.

Many smaller restaurant chains have already taken the decision to block pornography on WiFi networks that are provided for customers.  Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A have been using WiFi network web filtering to block pornography and keep customers safe for a number of years, yet the larger chains have only just been convinced that it is important to block pornography on restaurant WiFi networks.

Donna Rice Hughes, President of Enough Is Enough, praised Starbucks and McDonalds for implementing a WiFi filtering solution to restrict access to pornography. She said “We will vigorously continue to encourage other businesses and venues such as hotels, airlines, shopping malls, and libraries to filter pornography and child abuse images on publicly available Wi-Fi in order to protect children and families.”

Ranscam Ransomware Shows Why Paying the Ransom Is Never Wise

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

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

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

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

Ranscam Ransomware will not Allow Victims to Recover Their Files

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

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

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

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

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

Backup Your Files or Be Prepared to Lose Them

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

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

CryptXXX Crypto-Ransomware Receives an Update

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

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

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

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

CryptXXX Crypto-Ransomware and CryptoBit Distributed in RealStatistics Campaign

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

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

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

Dangerous New Mac Backdoor Program Discovered

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

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

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

Second Mac Backdoor Discovery in Days

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

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

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

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

Ransomware Study Published by Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky Lab has published a new ransomware study that clearly shows the rise in use of the malicious file encrypting software over the past two years. The research shows that companies are firmly in attackers’ sights, with attacks on companies having soared in recent months.

Kaspersky Ransomware Study 2016

For the ransomware study, Kaspersky Lab looked at crypto-ransomware, which uses encryption to lock critical business files as well as windows blockers – ransomware that simply locks victims’ computer screens to prevent files from being accessed. Kaspersky Lab took de-identified data from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) and assessed the data from individuals that had encountered ransomware between April 2014 and March 2016.

Kaspersky Lab notes that while the prevalence of Windows blockers is still high, there has been a massive rise in the use of crypto-ransomware over the past 12 months. Between April 2015 and March 2016 there was a 17.7% rise in the number of individuals who encountered ransomware or Trojan downloaders that installed ransomware. During that time frame, 2,315,931 users had encountered ransomware.

The figures show that cybercriminals are now increasingly turning to ransomware to make money, although in terms of the total number of malware encounters, ransomware remains relatively low. From April 2015 to March 2016, the proportion of users who encountered ransomware out of the total number who encountered other forms of malware increased from 3.63% to 4.34%, a rise of 0.7 percentage points.

Ransomware Study Shows Rise in Popularity of Crypto-Ransomware

The Kaspersky ransomware study clearly shows the rise in popularity of crypto-ransomware with cybercriminals. Compared to 2014-2015, the last 12 months has seen the percentage of individuals who encountered crypto-ransomware rise by 25 percentage points. 31.6% of ransomware encounters are now with cryptors. Attacks using cryptors jumped by 5.5% to 718,536 attacks between 2015 and 2016.

Kaspersky Lab also noted a fall in the use of Windows lockers. Attacks using Win-lockers fell by 13.03% over the same period, falling from 1,836,673 attacks in 2014-2015 to 1,597,395 attacks in 2015-2016.

Windows blockers are not particularly sophisticated and are relatively easy to resolve; however, the same is not true of crypto-ransomware infections. An infection with a Windows-blocker can be reversed without paying a ransom demand. The victim could simply re-install their operating system. This may not be an ideal solution, and it can be time consuming, but the victim would be able to recover all of their files.

With crypto-ransomware that is not the case. If a ransom demand is not paid, the victim would not be able to unlock their files. The decryption keys are all held by the attackers. The only way to recover from a crypto-ransomware attack without paying the ransom demand is by restoring files from a backup. If no backup exists, the victim must pay the ransom or forever lose their files. Because of this, victims are more likely to pay the ransom. It is therefore no surprise that cybercriminals are increasingly trying to cryptors.

Businesses Increasingly Being Targeted

The Kaspersky Lab ransomware study shows that businesses are now increasingly being targeted. Not only will businesses be more likely to pay the ransoms, since ransoms are set per device, the infection of a business network of multiple computers would represent a big pay day for an attacker. Between 2014 and 2016, attacks on businesses rose from 6.80% of all attacks to 13.13%.

The ransomware variants used to attack businesses and individuals has changed significantly over the past 12 months. In 2014-2015, CryptoWall accounted for the lion’s share of attacks (58.84%). Other attacks used a variety of different ransomware variants, the main other variants were Cryaki (5.66%) and Scatter (4.40%).

In 2015-2016, the main ransomware variant was Teslacrypt, which accounted for 48.81% of ransomware attacks. However, many new variants were also extensively used. CTB-Locker accounted for 21.61% of attacks, Scatter 8.66%, Cryaki 7.13%, CryptoWall 5.21%, and Shade 2.91%. Attacks using Locky were just starting late in the year. Locky accounted for 0.62% of all attacks between 2015 and 2016. The “Others category” decreased considerably from 22.55% of attacks in 2014-2015, to 2.41% in 2015-2016. Kaspersky Lab attributes this to the sharing of crypto-ransomware kits by ransomware developers.

Symantec Antivirus Flaws Put Enterprise Users At Risk of Cyberattack

A researcher from Google’s Project Zero has blasted Symantec for a long list of security flaws that have placed enterprise users at risk of experiencing cyberattacks. The Symantec antivirus flaws were described as “as bad as it gets”.

Symantec Antivirus Flaws Now Addressed but Companies May Still be at Risk

Symantec has now addressed all of the vulnerabilities and has released patches. All enterprise users of Symantec products are advised to check to make sure that their anti-virus products have been patched. While updates have been pushed out and should be applied automatically, users should check to make sure they have been correctly applied. Not all products can be updated automatically.

Malicious actors could potentially use the flaws to take control of enterprise computers. Entire networks could potentially be compromised. Malicious actors would not even require users to take any action to exploit the flaws. Many could be exploited simply by sending users an email.

According to Google researcher Tavis Ormandy who discovered the flaws, “millions of companies have been put at risk.” The security flaws affect all enterprise anti-virus products sold by Symantec, including Norton products.

Symantec was notified of the flaws and acted quickly to address all of the vulnerabilities, although the company was criticized for not discovering the flaws itself, especially considering their severity. Ormandy discovered that Symantec had used code from open source libraries to unpack compressed files. That code was four years out of date in once case and seven years out of data in another. Ormandy said in a recent blog post that “Dozens of public vulnerabilities in these libraries affected Symantec, some with public exploits.”

Other Symantec antivirus flaws were discovered that were potentially far more serious. Symantec used code to unpack and analyze ASPack compressed files which could be exploited to trigger a buffer overflow without any user interaction.

“An attacker could easily compromise an entire enterprise fleet using a vulnerability like this.” Said Ormandy.

In many cases, components in anti-virus software run under the highest level of privileges possible when this is unnecessary. This introduces unnecessary risk. Ormandy pointed out that many of the Symantec antivirus flaws could be exploited allowing remote code execution and could be used to create computer worms.

Antivirus Software Should Be Extensively Tested for Security Flaws

Symantec and other anti-virus software providers preach about the importance of protecting against threats, yet all too often they have failed to address serious flaws in their own products and have not even applied patches that have been available for years.

The Symantec antivirus flaws may be making headline news at the moment, but the company is far from the only antivirus software provider to have allowed vulnerabilities to persist in security products. Enterprises rely on these security products to protect their end points and networks and expect the software to be bulletproof. Enterprises do not expect the products could actually introduce risks.

All software developers must conduct rigorous checks of their software and need to scan for vulnerabilities in their own code, as well as that taken from third party developers. Ormandy said, “This means monitoring for new releases of third-party software used, watching published vulnerability announcements, and distributing updates. Nobody enjoys doing this, but it’s an integral part of secure software development.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Malware Being Used to Gain Access to Healthcare Data

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

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

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

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

Top Websites Fail to Prevent Email Spoofing

Many top companies have not done enough to prevent email spoofing using their domains. A new study conducted by security firm Detectify has revealed that many top website domains are wide open to abuse because email servers have been misconfigured or do not use authentication.

Website Owners are Not Doing Enough to Prevent Email Spoofing

Detectify conducted the study to determine how widespread the problem really is. The top 500 Alexa ranked websites were scanned to determine whether vulnerabilities existed that would allow spammers to send spoofed emails from the domains. The Swedish security firm found that fewer than half of the websites tested had configured their email servers correctly. The majority had either misconfigured their email servers or had failed to use authentication, which could prevent email spoofing. 276 of the domains were discovered to be vulnerable. More than half of the most visited websites could therefore be used by spammers to send spoofed emails.

Email spoofing is the sending of emails using a forged email address. This can either be the sending of an email that appears to come from a particular domain – Using a very similar domain name for example – or sending fake emails from the domain itself. In the case of the former, there is little companies can do to prevent this and it is largely down to email recipients to carefully check the sender’s address.

However, organizations can take steps to prevent spammers from sending emails from their own domains. If fake emails are sent from their domains customers may be fooled into thinking the messages are genuine. Criminals use email spoofing for phishing, spearphishing, and malware/ransomware campaigns. It is easier for them to achieve their objective if the message recipients trust the domain from which the email is sent.

How to Prevent Email Spoofing

There are three main ways that companies can address vulnerabilities and prevent domain spoofing. The most common method is to use the Sender Policy Framework, or SPF.  By using this setting the website owner can specify which servers are permitted to send emails using the domain. There are three possible settings – hardfail, softfail, and neutral. To prevent email spoofing, hardfail should be selected. This will reject suspected spam emails and will ensure they are not delivered. If the softfail setting is used, emails will still be delivered although they should be marked as suspected spam. If neutral is used there is no control and all emails will be sent and delivered.

The 276 domains that Detectify discovered were vulnerable had used the softfail or neutral settings. Softfail is often used instead of hardfail to prevent the loss of emails that are incorrectly flagged. However, many free email providers such as Gmail fail to mark messages as spam if the softfail setting has been used.

Detectify recommended that websites use the hardfail setting and also use DMARC – Domain Based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance. DMARC is a much more reliable way to prevent spoofed emails from a domain.  DMARC creates a link between the email and the domain name. This makes it easier to determine whether an email is genuine or if it just looks real. DMARC also sends reports to advise the domain owner who is sending emails from their domain.

However, only 42% of the websites tested used DMARC, and in many cases, the settings had been configured incorrectly. While SPF and DMARC are not infallible, they can make it much harder for spammers to send spoofed emails.

University Ransomware Attacks on the Rise

Healthcare ransomware infections have made the headlines in recent weeks, although the University of Calgary ransomware attack shows that no organization is immune: In fact, university ransomware attacks are on the rise.

Organizations in the healthcare and financial sectors are the main targets for cybercriminals, although education is the third most likely industry to be attacked. Universities store huge volumes of highly sensitive data and state-sponsored hacking groups frequently conduct attacks.

Foreign governments are keen to obtain research data and ransomware attacks on universities may just be a smokescreen. All too often DDoS attacks are performed for this purpose, yet ransomware can be just as effective. While IT departments scramble to secure systems and recover data, attackers may be plundering data.

University of Calgary Ransomware Attack: $20K Paid for Decryption Keys

The University of Calgary ransomware attack occurred late last month and resulted in computer systems being severely disrupted. The IT department worked around the clock in an attempt to contain the infection and restore computer services one by one. While the University had made backups of critical data, the decision was taken to pay the attackers’ ransom demand as a precaution. To obtain the decryption keys the University had to pay the attackers $20,000.

However, even after paying the ransom, unlocking the encryption and recovering data has been a long winded process. The decryption keys had to be assessed and evaluated, and the process of decrypting the infection took a considerable amount of time.

If multiple computers are infected with ransomware, separate decryption keys are required for each device. Each computer must be restored separately and decryption keys do not always work and may not allow all data to be recovered.

The keys have to be used with care and an infection can take up a considerable amount of an IT department’s time to resolve. Systems and data need to be checked after the infection has been removed and additional cybersecurity measures implemented to protect against future attacks.

The University of Calgary ransomware attack has cost tens of thousands of dollars to resolve and shows that paying the attackers ransom demand is not a quick fix that will enable files to be quickly recovered. The recovery process is time consuming, expensive, and requires a considerable amount of resources.

During the time that systems are down, workflows are seriously disrupted. In the case of university ransomware attacks lives may not be put at risk as is the case with healthcare attacks, but the costs of ransomware attacks on universities can be considerable. The total cost of resolving a ransomware infection is far in excess of any ransom payment.

Protecting Against University Ransomware Attacks

Unfortunately for universities, protecting against ransomware can be difficult as public and private networks often overlap. Staff and students are often allowed to connect personal devices to networks, and controlling devices that connect to networks can be a difficult task. While businesses can conduct cybersecurity training and can teach staff basic security best practices to adopt, this can be difficult for universities with huge volumes of staff, students and researchers.

It is therefore important to implement a number of strategies to reduce the risk of a ransomware attack being successful.

It is essential that regular data backups are made and backup devices must be air-gapped. Staff and students should be encouraged to save files on backed up network drives, and cybersecurity training should be provided where possible. Students should be informed of the risk and advised of security best practices via email and noticeboards.

Many universities already use a web filtering solution to control the content that can be accessed via university wired and WiFi networks. Web filters can also be configured to reduce the risk of drive-by malware downloads. Anti-spam solutions can also prove effective as part of a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy and can prevent malicious emails from being delivered.

Technology should also be implemented to identify intrusions when they occur. A network intrusion detection system is a wise precaution alongside traditional anti-virus and anti-malware solutions.

It may not be possible to prevent all university ransomware attacks, but it is possible to manage risk and reduce the damage caused if ransomware is installed on devices or networks.

Acer Cyberattack: 34,500 Customers Impacted: Credit Card Numbers Stolen

The Acer cyberattack recently reported to the California attorney general was due to an unspecified “security issue” on the company’s online store. Acer recently discovered that an unauthorized third party had gained access to its server and had stolen the data of its customers. Customers affected by the breach had made a purchase through Acer’s online store between May 12, 2015 and April 28, 2016.

Full Credit Card Information of Customers Stolen in Acer Cyberattack

Affected customers’ names, addresses, credit card numbers, card expiry dates, and CVC codes were all potentially stolen in the attack. Acer has pointed out that Social Security numbers were not recorded and were not obtained by the attackers. Acer does not believe that customer login details were stolen; however, the theft of password and login data could not be ruled out.

All individuals impacted by the breach do face a significant risk of suffering financial losses and must therefore keep a close check on their credit card statements for any sign of fraudulent activity. Due to the high level of risk Acer has recommended that all customers impacted by the breach place a credit freeze and fraud alert on their files. Credit reports should also be obtained from each of the credit agencies.

The incident has been reported to law enforcement and an investigation is ongoing. Acer also brought in external cybersecurity experts to assist with the investigation.

It is unclear how the Acer cyberattack occurred and whether the attackers gained access to the company’s systems in May last year or whether the attack occurred recently and resulted in a year’s worth of data being stolen. However, Acer did confirm to PCWorld that customers’ have been placed at risk because their data were “inadvertently stored in an unsecured format.”

In a statement issued by the Taiwanese computer company, Mark Groveunder Vice President, Customer Service for the Pan-American region said “We regret this incident occurred, and we will be working hard to enhance our security.” The company’s payment processing company has been informed of the breach and customers have now been notified by mail.

How Businesses Can Prevent Minors from Accessing Pornography

Recent research has highlighted the need for greater controls to prevent minors from accessing pornography. The UK’s Middlesex University recently conducted a study on 1,001 children between the ages of 11 and 16. The study revealed 28% of children aged either 11-12 had viewed online pornography, while the percentage increased to 65% for 15-16 year olds. 94% of those children had seen online pornography by the age of 14. In total, more than half of the children who took part in the survey – 53% – had viewed sexually explicit content online.

The survey showed that approximately one fifth of children who had seen pornography online had actively searched for it; however, 28% claimed to have viewed pornographic material accidentally, via popup windows that had appeared when surfing the Internet for instance.

More Must be Done to Prevent Minors From Accessing Pornography Online

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC – The National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children – said, “A generation of children are in danger of being stripped of their childhoods at a young age by stumbling across extreme and violent porn online.”

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield is concerned. Not only about the number of children that are viewing age-inappropriate material online, but also how difficult it is for parents to control what their children can access online.

She points out that this is the first generation of children that have Internet-enabled devices. The technology has “taken the Internet from the front room, where parents can monitor use, to their bedrooms or the playground, where they can’t.”

Parents must take responsibility for controlling the web content that can be accessed on home networks. Businesses must also take steps to ensure that pornography cannot be viewed on public Wi-Fi networks.

Wanless says, “Some companies have taken the initiative when it comes to online safety, and we will continue to put pressure on those that have not yet done so.”

Blocking Access to Online Pornography with Web Filters

Any business that provides customers with access to their Internet via Wi-Fi hotspots should take steps to ensure that access to age-inappropriate material is restricted. Providing customers with unrestricted access to the Internet could potentially allow minors to accidentally or deliberately access online pornography.

Hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping malls, retail outlets, and public Wi-Fi hotspots should have controls in place to block the accessing of pornography.

By implementing a web filtering solution, it quick and easy to prevent pornographic material from being viewed on the network. Many web filtering solutions, such as WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, can be easily configured to block pornographic material and pop-ups. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi can also be configured using blacklists, such as those issued by the Internet Watch Foundation. The IWF maintains a list of webpages known to contain child pornography and child abuse images.

If you want to prevent minors from accessing pornography while connected to your WiFi hotspots, contact the TitanHQ team today and find out how you can use WebTitan Cloud for WiFi to keep your Wi-Fi network secured.

75% of Companies Face High Risk of Cyber Incidents

Organizations can use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to assess their cybersecurity programs, but many may discover they have not done nearly enough to reduce the risk of cyber incidents. Recent research conducted by RSA suggests that three quarters of companies have a significant cybersecurity risk exposure and are ill prepared to prevent and deal with cybersecurity attacks.

This is the second year that the RSA Cybersecurity Poverty Index has been produced, and the second year running that 75% of organizations have shown that they face a high risk of cyber incidents occurring.

The research shows that organizations are investing heavily in perimeter defenses, yet a majority have under-developed incident response capabilities. “We need to change the way we are thinking about security, to focus on more than just prevention – to develop a strategy that emphasizes detection and response,” said Amit Yoran, CEO of RSA.

RSA suggests that organizations that invest more heavily in detection and response technologies are in a much better position to defend against cyberattacks than organizations that concentrate on perimeter defenses. However, more than half of the organizations that took part in this year’s study have virtually non-existent incident response capabilities.

The study revealed that the risk of cyber incidents is not particularly well understood by many organizations, and that it often takes a security incident that negatively impacts the business before organizations implement appropriate defenses to defend against cyberattacks. In many cases, businesses simply do not understand how cyber risk can affect their organization and it takes a major incident to make that crystal clear. Organizations that regularly deal with cyber security incidents have a much better understanding of the need to boost defenses, and of the technology needed to shore up security.

Too Little Being Done by the Majority to Address the Risk of Cyber Incidents

The number of organizations taking part in this year’s study more than doubled. Study participants numbered 878 this year, and came from 81 countries around the world.

While organizations are still exposed to a high risk of cyber incidents, this year’s data show that things are improving. Many organizations now have more mature capabilities. This year, 7.4% of respondents said their organizations had advantaged capabilities compared to only 4.9% last year.

45% of respondents said their ability to assess and mitigate cybersecurity risk was virtually non-existent. Only a quarter (24%) of respondents classed their organization as being mature in this area.

Interestingly, the financial service industry, which is believed by many to have relatively advanced cybersecurity protections, was not rated as highly as expected. Last year, 33% of organizations in the financial services industry rated their capabilities as developed or advantaged, while this year only 26% rated their capabilities as such. The aerospace and defense industries had the highest rated organizations in this area (39%) while government organizations and the energy industry rated capabilities the lowest (18%).

EMEA organizations had the highest level of overall maturity with 29% of respondents from these countries rating their capabilities as advantaged or developed. APJ organizations came second with 26%, while organizations in the Americas were lowest at 23%.

New Critical Flaws in Windows and Flash Player

This week saw a host of updates issued by Microsoft to address critical flaws in Windows, although 44 security vulnerabilities in total have been addressed in the updates. These vulnerabilities affect a wide range of its products including Windows, Internet Explorer, Edge, and many of its Microsoft Office products. The updates were spread across 16 security bulletins, 6 of which were rated by Microsoft as critical. The remaining patch bundles were marked as important.

Critical Flaws in Windows Addressed this Patch Tuesday

To address the latest critical flaws in Windows, all of the patches should be applied as soon as possible. However, some are more important than others and should be prioritized. MS16-071 is perhaps the most important, especially for organizations that run their DNS server on the same machine as their Active Directory server. This update addresses critical flaws in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

MS16-071 addresses a single flaw in Microsoft’s DNS server; however, the flaw is highly serious. Malicious actors could potentially exploit this vulnerability which allows remote code execution if an attacker send malicious requests to the DNS server. The update modifies how the DNS servers handle requests.

Microsoft has also issued updates to address vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer – MS16-063 – and Microsoft Edge – MS16-068. These two flaws would allow an attacker to gain the same rights as the current user if that individual visits malicious websites configured to exploit the vulnerability.

MS16-070 should also be updated as a priority. This security bulletin addresses a number of flaws, one of which could be exploited via spam email. It addresses vulnerability CVE-2016-0025, which concerns the Word RTF format. This could be exploited to yield RCE to the attacker. Worryingly, an attacker could exploit the flaw without an email even being opened, should that message be viewed using message preview in Microsoft Outlook.

Adobe Flash Zero Day Being Actively Exploited

While all of these updates are important, there is an even bigger worry. A new zero-day vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player has been discovered by Kaspersky Lab researchers. Adobe has been alerted that an exploit already exists for CVE-2016-4171 and that it is being actively exploited in the wild. At present, the vulnerability is being exploited in targeted attacks on organizations by a new hacking group referred to by Kaspersky Lab as “ScarCruft.”

Earlier this week, Adobe said it will delay the issuing of updates in order to address this new vulnerability. CVE-2016-4171 affects Adobe Flash v 21.0.0.242 and previous Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, and Linux versions. Updates are expected to start rolling out today.

New Angler Exploit Kit Update Confirms Need for Web Filtering Software

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

Angler Exploit Kit Could be Used to Deliver any Malicious Payload

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

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

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

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

Upgrade to Windows 10 to Avoid Ransomware Worm, Says Microsoft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ransomware Worm Represents Next Stage of Malware Development

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

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

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

Zuckerberg Twitter Hack Shows Danger of Password Reuse

The Zuckerberg Twitter hack has clearly demonstrated the danger of password reuse. Zuckerberg used the same password for Twitter as he did for his Pinterest and LinkedIn accounts. In spite of the Facebook founder, chairman, and CEO’s lofty position at the top of the world’s most popular social media network, he is guilty of poor data security practices like many others.

In addition to reusing passwords, Zuckerberg also chose a password of 6 digits with no capital letters, symbols, or numbers and did not change it for at least three years. The password was revealed to be “dadada.”

Mark Zuckerberg Twitter Hack Stemmed from the LinkedIn Data Breach

A collective known as OurMine was responsible for the Mark Zuckerberg Twitter hack. The collective, which is understood to hail from Saudi Arabia, gained access to data from the LinkedIn breach. The data were listed for sale a few days previously by a hacker operating under the name of “Peace”.

The LinkedIn passwords were not stored as plaintext, so a little effort was required to reverse the hash to obtain the password. While SHA-1 was thought to be impossible to reverse, it has since been shown to be a relatively straightforward task unless the passwords are also salted. In the case of LinkedIn, they were not.

Simply enter in the SHA-1 hash of a password into one of many reverse hash calculators and the plaintext password will be revealed. A search of the keyword phrase “how to reverse a sha1 password” will reveal many online options for doing so. Once the password had been obtained, access to online accounts was possible.

The Zuckerberg Twitter hack did not appear to cause anything other than some embarrassment. The group notified Zuckerberg of the hack by tweeting him using his own account, saying “we are just testing your security.” While the tweet said that Zuckerberg’s Instagram account was compromised, it has since been confirmed that this account was secure all along, as was Zuckerberg’s Facebook account.

While it is embarrassing, it should be pointed out that Zuckerberg was not a regular Twitter user, having only sent 19 tweets from his account in the past four years. His compromised Pinterest account was similarly rarely used.

Spate of Account Hacks Reported After Major Data Leaks

Other individuals were not quite so fortunate. Since the data from the LinkedIn breach was made available online, numerous celebrity social media accounts have been compromised. The Twitter accounts of celebrities such as Keith Richards and Kylie Jenner were hacked, as was the account of Tenacious D. The latter’s account was used to send a tweet saying Jack Black had died.

While these hacks have not been confirmed as stemming from the LinkedIn breach (or the MySpace or Tumblr breaches) the spate of account hijacks suggest as much.

TeamViewer GmbH was also a victim, having had numerous accounts compromised recently. The company provides remote desktop software and a number of users claim that the hacking of GmbH employee accounts enabled attackers to compromise their computers and authorize PayPal and Amazon transactions. This was attributed to “password mismanagement” by GmbH rather than any flaws in their software.

All of these account hacks show how common the reuse of passwords is, and the danger of doing so. What should be particularly worrying for businesses, is many people use their LinkedIn passwords for work accounts, or vice versa. If that password is obtained via a data breach, malicious actors could do a considerable amount of damage.

Important Online Security Best Practices

To improve security and reduce the risk of more than one account being compromised….

  • Never reuse passwords
  • Create a complex password for each platform – use symbols, capitals, and numerals
  • Change your passwords regularly – every month or three months
  • Use 2-factor authentication if available
  • Use a password manager to help keep track of passwords
  • Don’t store your passwords in your browser
  • Regularly check your email address/username against the Have I Been Pwned? database

Ransomware Research Study Shows Profits are Low for the Average Joe

A recent ransomware research study has shown the individuals running ransomware campaigns do not actually earn that much money and the success rate of attacks is relatively low. However, the threat from attacks cannot be ignored due to the volume of individuals now running their own ransomware campaigns.

For the ransomware research study, web intelligence company Flashpoint trawled underground forums and marketplaces and monitored communications over a period of five months. The purpose of the ransomware research study was to improve understanding of how ransomware campaigns are run, to learn about the players involved, and the tactics they used to run campaigns and infect end users. It helps to know thy enemy when forming a defense strategy against attacks.

For its ransomware research study, Flashpoint investigated Russian ransomware campaigns from December 2015. The attacks were predominantly carried out on organizations and individuals in the West.

Ransomware Research Study Shows Campaigns are Not as Profitable as Many People Think

Considering the disruption caused and the money lost by victims of ransomware attacks, many people believe the criminals behind the campaigns are making big bucks, but that is not necessarily the case. In fact, even “ransomware bosses” – the individuals offering ransomware-as-a-service – are not raking in anywhere near as much money as many people think.

The majority of cybercriminals who run ransomware campaigns earn well under $10,000 a month. According to the ransomware research study report, only one in five individuals who run ransomware campaigns admitted to earning in excess of this figure. The report suggests that the average monthly earnings from this type of campaign is around $600 per month.

The typical ransom is around $300 per infected computer, although the people who run the campaigns have to give the ransomware bosses 60% of their earnings. They are allowed to keep the remaining 40%, suggesting most of the people running these campaigns only get 2-3 ransoms per month.

The ransomware research study data suggest that far from allowing criminals to obtain big money from ransomware campaigns, the attacks only yield similar returns to other forms of cybercriminal activities. The only difference being the attackers can usually get their hands on money faster. Stealing data such as credit card numbers or healthcare data requires the attacker to find a buyer for those data before any money is received.

The report suggests that the typical infection rate from a campaign is between 5% and 10%, yet few of the victims end up paying the ransom. Many ransomware victims are protected having made backup copies of important files and some are able to unlock the infections using tools from security companies. Others are willing to lose data rather than pay the ransom.

Ransomware bosses that push ransomware-as-a-service using an affiliate model can make around $7,500 per month, which equates to around $90,000 a year – approximately 30 ransom payments per month for the bosses.

Most Ransomware Campaigns are Run by Novices

While there are criminal gangs and highly skilled cybercriminals who invest a lot of time and effort into their ransomware attacks, the report suggests that the majority of attackers are novices; not skilled hackers. The report suggests that many individuals choose to run campaigns using ransomware-as-a-service in the hope that they will get lucky and get a big payout. These individuals tend to run spamming campaigns based on quantity rather than quality, and send high numbers of spam emails using botnets.

Flashpoint’s ransomware research study shows just how easy it is to start sending out ransomware campaigns. This is why so many individuals choose to give it a try. All that is needed is a very small injection of capital to get started, a lack of morals about how money is earned online, and a modicum of knowledge to allow individuals to send out mass spam emails.

Adverts for ransomware-as-a-service are easy to find with the Tor browser and advice on distribution is not difficult to find. Would-be criminals with no experience are recruited with a promise of a big payout, even though the reality is that for most people the payouts will be low.

More experienced and skilled individuals send phishing emails directing victims to websites containing exploit kits, which probe for vulnerabilities and automatically download the ransomware. Another popular method of infection is to sneak adverts containing malicious links onto legitimate advertising networks.

Only a small percentage of attackers are highly skilled. These individuals tend to send out targeted campaigns. These attackers target organizations and businesses with the aim of infecting multiple machines and infiltrating networks causing widespread disruption.

These campaigns tend to involve a considerable amount of planning, and require the attacker to research targets and design targeted emails that have a high change of eliciting the desired response. According to Flashpoint’s director of Eastern European Research and Analysis, Andrei Barysevich, “The success rate of this type of operation is significantly higher, enabling criminals to earn upwards of $10,000 a month or more.”

For organizations infected with ransomware the costs can be severe. Add up the cost of disruption to the business, the time and resources required to remove infections and restore files, and the cost of implementing more robust security measures, and the cost of a ransomware attack could be tens of thousands of dollars.

With no shortage of takers for ransomware-as-a-service, and ever more sophisticated ransomware being developed, organizations must develop a host of defenses to prevent attacks from being successful.

Jetpack Plugin Vulnerability Places a Million WordPress Websites At Risk

Security researchers have discovered a serious Jetpack plugin vulnerability that places sites at risk of attack by hackers. If you run WordPress sites for your company and you use the Jetpack website optimization plugin, you must perform an update as soon as possible to prevent the flaw from being exploited.

The Jetpack plugin vulnerability can be leveraged to inject malicious JavaScript code into websites, or to insert links, videos, documents, images, and other resources. This would place visitors to the site at risk of malware or ransomware downloads. Malicious actors could embed malicious JavaScript code in the site comments, and every time a visitor views a malicious comment it would allow JavaScript code to be run. Visitors could be redirected to other websites, the flaw could be used to steal authentication cookies and hijack administrator accounts, or to embed links to websites containing exploit kits.

The flaw can also be exploited by competitors to negatively affect search engine rankings by using SEO spamming techniques, which could have serious consequences for site ranking and traffic.

Over a Million WordPress Websites Affected by the New Jetpack Plugin Vulnerability

The Jetpack plugin vulnerability was recently discovered by researchers at Sucuri. The flaw is a stored cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability that was first introduced in 2012, affecting version 2.0 of the plugin. All subsequent versions of Jetpack also contain the same Shortcode Embeds Jetpack module vulnerability.

Jetpack is a popular WordPress plugin that was developed by the people behind WordPress.com – Automattic – and has been downloaded and used on more than one million websites. This is not only a problem for website owners, but for web visitors who could easily have this flaw exploited to infect their computers with ransomware or malware. Flaws such as this highlight the importance of using web filtering software that blocks redirects to malicious websites.

While many WordPress plugin vulnerabilities require a substantial skill level to exploit, the jetpack plugin vulnerability takes very little skill at all to exploit. Fortunately, Jetpack has not discovered any active exploits in the wild; however, now the vulnerability has been announced, and details provided online about how to exploit the vulnerability, it is only a matter of time before hackers and malicious actors take advantage.

The flaw can only be exploited if the Shortcode Embeds Jetpack module is enabled, although all users of the plugin are strongly advised to perform a site update as soon as possible. Jetpack has worked with WordPress to get the update pushed out via the WordPress core update system. If you have version 4.0.3 installed, you will already be protected.

Jetpack reports that even if the flaw has already been exploited, updating to the latest version of the software will remove any exploits already on the website.

MySpace Data Breach: 360 Million Login Credentials Offered for Sale

Over the past few days, rumors have been circulating about a massive MySpace data breach. Initial reports suggested that 427 million usernames and passwords had been obtained by a hacker going by the name of “Peace”. The name should sound familiar. The Russian hacker is the same individual who recently listed 117 million LinkedIn login credentials for sale on an illegal darknet marketplace. The hacker was also allegedly responsible for the 65 million-record data breach at Tumblr.

360 Million Login Credentials Stolen in MySpace Data Breach

Yesterday, Time Inc., confirmed that login credentials had been listed for sale online and that a MySpace data breach had occurred, although it would appear that the stolen data was obtained some time ago. The login credentials are for the old MySpace platform and date to before June 11, 2013. While Time Inc., did not confirm exactly how many login names and passwords had been stolen, Time confirmed that the figure of 360 million that had been reported in the press in the last couple of days was probably accurate.

Usernames, passwords, email addresses, and secondary passwords are reportedly being offered for sale. Out of the 360 million logins, Leakedsourrce.com suggests that 111,341,258 of the stolen records include a username and a password, and 68,493,651 records had a secondary password compromised. Not all of those stolen records also included a primary password.

Since 2013, data security has improved considerably and many companies have enforced the use of numerals, capital letters, and symbols when creating passwords. The stolen data reportedly includes only a small percentage of accounts with a capital letter in the password. This makes the passwords much easier to crack. The algorithm used to encrypt the passwords was also weak.

The login credentials from the MySpace data breach are reportedly being offered for sale for 5 Bitcoin – approximately $2,800.

All old users of the MySpace platform, and current users who joined the website before June 11, 2013 are potentially at risk. MySpace has responded to the breach by resetting all passwords on accounts created before June 11, 2013. When these users visit MySpace again they will be required to authenticate their account and supply a new password.

Additional security measures have been employed to identify suspicious account activity and the data theft is now being investigated. It would appear that no one at MySpace was aware that its database had been breached until the data were offered for sale just before the Memorial Day weekend.

MySpace Breach Shows Why It is Important Never to Reuse or Recycle Passwords

Since the data breach appears to have occurred some time ago, it is probable that many users will have changed their passwords on the site long ago, but the data could still be used to attack past and current users. All too often passwords are recycled and used for other online accounts, and many individuals use the same passwords for different platforms or rarely (or never) change them.

The MySpace data breach shows why it is important to use a different password for each online account and to regularly change passwords on all platforms. In the event of a breach of login credentials, users will only have to secure one account. If there is a possibility that only passwords are still in use on other platforms, MySpace account holders should update their passwords as soon as possible.

Hackers have access to tools that can check to see if account login and password combos have been used on other websites.

DMA Locker Ransomware: Flaws Fixed and Widespread Attacks Expected

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

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

Spate of DMA Locker Ransomware Attacks Expected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEO Fraud Scam Costs Chief Executive His Job (And His Company 40.1 Million Euros)

A successful CEO fraud scam that resulted in a fraudulent bank transfer being made from company accounts to a cyberattacker has cost the CEO his job.

CEO Fraud Scan Results in Losses of 40.9 Million Euros

Earlier this year, FAAC – an Austrian aircraft component manufacturer –  was targeted by attackers who managed to pull off an audacious 50 million Euro ($55 million) CEO fraud scam. A wire transfer was made for 50 million euros by an employee of the firm after receiving an email request to transfer the funds from CEO Walter Stephan. The email was a scam and had not been sent by the CEO.

Unfortunately for FAAC, the CEO fraud scam was discovered too late and the transfer of funds could not be stopped. While the company was able to recover a small percentage of its losses, according to a statement released by FAAC, the company lost 41.9 million Euros as a result of the attack which contributed to annual pretax losses of 23.4 million Euros.

The bank transfer represented approximately 10% of the company’s entire annual revenue. Given the high value of the transfer it is surprising that the transfer request was not queried in person – or over the telephone with the CEO.

The CEO and the employee who made the transfer were investigated but do not appear to have been involved in the scam. The attackers were not believed to be linked to FAAC in any way.

Heads Roll After Huge Losses Suffered

Earlier this year, FAAC sacked its chief finance officer as a direct result of the scam. The CEO was recently sacked following a meeting of the company’s supervisory board. Stephan had worked at the company as CEO for 17 years.

This CEO fraud scam is one of the largest ever reported, although this type of scam is becoming increasingly common. Earlier this year the FBI issued an advisory about the high risk of CEO fraud scams following many attacks on U.S companies over the past year. In April, the FBI reported that $2.3 billion has been lost as a result of this type of scam.

CEO email fraud involves a member of the accounts department being sent an email from the CEO – or another senior executive – requesting a bank transfer be made from the company accounts. A reason is usually supplied as to why the transfer request needs to be made, and why it must be made urgently.

Oftentimes, the scammer and the target exchange a few emails. An email is initially sent asking for a transfer to be made, followed by another email containing details of the recipient account where the funds must be sent and the amount of the transfer. The scams are effective because the request appears to come from within the company from a senior executive or CEO. Oftentimes the attackers manage to compromise the CEO’s email account, and spend time researching the style the CEO uses for emails and who transfer requests have been sent to in the past.

According to the FBI, the average transfer amount is between $25,000 and $75,000, although much larger scams have been pulled off in the past. Irish budget airline Ryanair fell victim to a CEO fraud scam and wired $5 million to a Chinese bank, although the funds were able to be recovered. The Scoular Co., wired $17.2 million to scammers in February last year, while Ubiquiti suffered a loss of $46.7 million as a result of a CEO fraud scam.

Easy Steps to Prevent CEO Email Fraud

There are steps that can be taken that can greatly reduce the risk of these scams being successful.

  1. Implement policies that require all bank transfers – or those above a certain threshold – to be authorized by telephone or through other communication channels.
  2. Ensure bank transfer requests are authorized by a supervisor and are not left to one single employee
  3. Configure spam filters to block spoofed domains to prevent scam emails from being delivered
  4. Provide training to all accounts department staff and warn of the risk of CEO fraud scams

Hospital Ransomware Infection Not Resolved After Ransom Paid

Resolving a hospital ransomware infection may not be as easy as paying the attackers’ ransom demand, as was shown by the Kansas Heart Hospital ransomware attack last week.

Hospital Ransomware Infection Not Removed After Ransom Paid

The Kansas Heart Hospital ransomware attack which occurred last week was the latest in a string of attacks on healthcare organizations in the United States. Ransomware was accidentally installed on a hospital worker’s computer and files were locked and prevented from being accessed.

A ransom demand was received demanding payment for decryption keys to unlock the infection. The decision was taken to pay the ransom to resolve the hospital ransomware infection quickly.

After the ransom was paid, the attackers did not make good on their promise and failed to unlock all of the files. Some Instead the hospital was issued with a second ransom demand.

In this case, the initial ransom demand was relatively low. Ransomware attackers typically demand a fee of approximately $500 per device to unlock an infection. If multiple computers have been infected, that figure is then multiplied by the number of devices that need to be decrypted.

Ransomware locks each individual machine separately, and a different key is required to unlock each one. Otherwise a victim could pay up and then publish their key and no one else would be required to pay.

Kansas Heart Hospital did not disclose how much was paid, but this could well have been the fee to unlock a single machine. However regardless of the amount, the incident shows that even if a ransom is paid there is no guarantee that the attackers will play ball and make good on their promise. Further demands may be made from more Bitcoin. Resolving a hospital ransomware infection may not necessarily mean just paying the ransom demand.

Healthcare Industry Under Attack

Over the past few months the healthcare industry has come under attack from criminals using ransomware. Some authors of ransomware have taken steps to prevent healthcare providers’ computers from being attacked by their ransomware by including checks to determine the environment in which the ransomware has been installed. However, not all attackers feel they have a moral responsibility to prevent attacks which could cause people to come to physical harm.

Hollywood Presbyterian medical center, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, King’s Daughters’ Health, Kentucky’s Methodist Hospital, California’s Chino Valley Medical Center and Desert Valley Hospital, and MedStar Health have all been attacked with ransomware this year.

That list is likely to continue to grow. Hospitals and medical centers are attractive targets for ransomware gangs. Many healthcare organizations have under-invested in cybersecurity measures to protect their networks and many hospital employees have not received extensive training in security awareness. This makes it easy for attackers to install ransomware.

Furthermore, if patient data are locked this can have a negative effect on patient health. If patients are at risk of harm, organizations are much more likely to respond to ransom demands and pay up to ensure patients do not suffer. If patients are harmed as a direct result of poor investment in cybersecurity or mistakes that have been made by healthcare employees, healthcare organizations are likely to face lawsuits that could result in damages far in excess of the ransom being demanded.

With attacks likely to continue, healthcare providers must take steps to prevent ransomware attacks from occurring, and develop policies that can be implemented immediately upon discovery of a ransomware attack. As the Kansas Heart hospital ransomware attack has shown, paying a ransom is no guarantee that the file encryption will be unlocked. Hospitals may find that they still have to recover files from backups or explore other means of unlocking infections.

Dridex Botnets Being Leveraged to Deliver Cerber Ransomware

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

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

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

Massive Increase in Cerber Ransomware Infections Discovered in April

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

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

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

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

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

Web Filtering Services for MSPs: Why MSPs Can’t Afford Not to Offer Web Filtering to Clients

There are a number of companies that offer web filtering services for MSPs; however, while many managed service providers are happy to provide web filtering to their clients if the service is requested, web filtering is not generally offered to clients as part of an MSP’s range of standard Internet services. Yet, by leveraging web filtering services for MSPs it is possible to substantially increase profits for very little effort.

Web filtering services for MSPs have been developed to be easy to implement, easy to sell to clients, and straightforward to manage, so why are more MSPs not offering web filtering to their clients as part of their Internet services?

Some MSPs may feel that there is not much of a market for web filtering. Draconian Internet usage policies may ensure that Internet access is not abused, yet highly restrictive Internet policies can have a negative impact on staff morale and productivity. Most employees can be trusted to get all of their daily tasks completed, while still occasionally checking Facebook, purchasing something on Amazon, and viewing the occasional YouTube video.

However, providing totally free access to the Internet is unwise. Not preventing employees from accessing illegal and inappropriate website content can cause employers many problems. Some of those problems can prove very costly to resolve.  Any organization that has not chosen to filter the Internet – even to a minimal degree – may not be aware of the risks. If MSPs explain these risks, they are likely to find many of their clients will want to sign up for web filtering services.

What are the Main Benefits of Using Web Filtering Services?

There are two main reasons for using a web filter to control Internet content:

Reducing the Risk of Malware Infections

As we have seen in recent months, there is a clear and present danger of a serious malware infection. Cyberattacks are taking place with increasing regularity, new malware is being released at alarming rates, and cybercriminals have embraced ransomware and are using it to extort money out of businesses.

IT teams struggle to implement patches promptly, leaving their networks at risk of attack. This is mainly due to the frequency at which patches are released. Keeping all software – including web browsers and plugins – 100% up to date, 100% of the time is an uphill struggle.

If end users visit malicious websites containing exploit kits, malware and ransomware can be easily loaded onto networks. Issuing staff members with acceptable use policies (AUPs) can reduce the probability of end users visiting high-risk websites, while policies can help to reduce the risk from shadow IT installations, but unless those policies are enforced there is a risk that some employees will break the rules.

Numerous organizations have experienced phishing attacks even when training has been provided on how to identify phishing emails. Unfortunately, scammers are getting much better at crafting highly convincing emails to fool users into visiting websites containing exploit kits that can download malware.

Business email compromise scams have been increasing in recent months, prompting the FBI to issue warnings due to the high risk of attack. Scammers are impersonating CEOs, CISOs, and executives to get end users to visit websites and divulge their login credentials or download malware.

With so many Internet threats to deal with, policies are no longer enough to keep organizations’ networks free from malicious software and infections can prove very costly to resolve.

Controlling Personal Use of the Internet

Many companies take a relaxed attitude to personal Internet use, provided it is kept within certain limits. This is arguably the best option for employers and employees. Blocking personal access to the Internet can have a negative effect on staff morale, and all employees will need to use the Internet from time to time for personal reasons.

That said, there will always be some members of staff that choose to abuse their Internet access and this can lead to serious problems for employers. Not only is there a risk of malware infections, abuse of the Internet can have legal implications for employers. The use of illegal file sharing websites for copyright-infringing downloads, the accessing of illegal website content such as child pornography, or even the viewing of legal pornography in the workplace can cause many HR issues.

Of course, web filtering is not only about blocking access. It allows companies to monitor use of the Internet and identify employees who are breaking the rules before serious HR or legal issues arise. Web filtering also allows organizations to place limits on online activities at certain times of the day to ensure the workforce remains productive and bandwidth is not wasted.

Summary of the Benefits of Filtering the Internet

  • Blocks malware, ransomware, botnets, adware, and spyware installations
  • Prevents the accessing of illegal website content
  • Stops the downloading and installation of shadow IT
  • Prevents bandwidth wastage
  • Allows employers to monitor employees’ Internet usage
  • Prevents many HR issues
  • Helps organizations to comply with industry regulations
  • Can help to increase employee productivity

Benefits of Web Filtering Services for MSPs

  • Protects clients from Internet threats
  • Easily increases client revenue
  • Helps MSP’s to attract more clients and win new business
  • Allows MSPs to provide a more comprehensive range of Internet services

Web Filtering Services for MSPs can be Easily Incorporated into Existing Service Packages

Web filtering services for MSPs no longer require expensive appliances to be purchased, and it is not necessary to use local IT support teams to visit clients to install and configure web filters. In fact, it is not even necessary to install software on clients’ devices or servers at all. Clients can have their Internet filtered within 5 minutes of them saying yes to a sales representative if cloud-based web filtering services are used.

Cloud-based web filtering services for MSPs require clients to make a small change to their DNS settings, something that even the most technically inept employee could be talked through over the phone. By pointing the DNS to the service provider’s servers, the Internet can be filtered quickly and painlessly.

Web filtering services for MSPs can be easily offered to clients alongside managed service providers’ solutions. WebTitan Cloud – and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – are offered as web filtering services for MSPs without any branding. MSPS are able to add their own logos and corporate color schemes, tailor block pages, and customize reports with their own branding. If required, MSPs can also host the solution within their own infrastructure or use a private cloud for clients.

The management overhead is low and the configuration of new accounts is quick and easy. New client accounts can be set up in approximately 20 minutes. Even reporting is taken care of with a full suite of pre-configured, schedulable reports, including instant email alerts.

The cost for the client is low with only a small spend required per user, per year, and the margins offered by TitanHQ on web filtering services for MSPs are generous. This allows MSPs to easily increase profits, in some cases, by tens of thousands of dollars.

If you want to attract new business, increase client spending, and easily increase profits, web filtering services for MSPs could well be the answer.

For further information on our web filtering services for MSPs, including a product demonstration and details of pricing, contact our sales team today.

Critical Symantec Vulnerability is “As Bad as it Can Possibly Get”

This week, a new critical Symantec vulnerability has been discovered that enables an attacker to trigger a memory buffer overflow, allowing root-level control over a system to be gained without any user interaction. The cross-platform security vulnerability affects many Symantec and Norton anti-virus software releases.

Critical Vulnerability in Symantec AVE Scan Engine is “As Bad as it Can Possibly Get”

The critical fault has been found in the core scanning engine used in both Norton and Symantec anti-virus software, including Norton antivirus, and Symantec’s Scan Engine, Endpoint Antivirus, and Email Security, although other products may also be affected. The vulnerability affects Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX platforms.

Since the scan engine intercepts all system input and output, the vulnerability could be exploited by an attacker by simply sending a file attachment to a user’s inbox. The user would not even be required to open the file in order for the vulnerability to be exploited.

The vulnerability could therefore allow an attacker to take full control of the device on which the software has been installed with no user interaction necessary. The vulnerability has been described as “as bad as it can possibly get” by Tavis Ormandy – the researcher at Google Project Zero who discovered the security flaw.

Ormandy said that if the vulnerability is exploited it causes kernel memory corruption on Windows because “the scan engine is loaded into the kernel (wtf!!!).” It must be said, unpacking malware in the kernel was perhaps not the best decision. Ormandy also discovered a number of other remote code execution security vulnerabilities in Symantec products.

The new critical Symantec vulnerability has now been addressed – AVE version 20151.1.1.4 – although the remaining vulnerabilities have yet to be remediated. Users of Symantec and Norton branded products will have to wait until a patch is made available.

According to an advisory issued by Symantec, the critical vulnerability affects the AVE scanning engine and occurs “when parsing malformed portable-executable header files.” If one of these malformed portable-executable header files is downloaded in an application or document, or if a malicious website is visited which downloads one of these files onto the device, the flaw could be exploited. The flaw could also be exploited if an attacker sends one of these files to the user as an email attachment, or even if a link is sent in an email. The parsing of the malformed file would be triggered.

Symantec reported that “Sufficiently malformed, the code executed at the kernel-level with system/root privileges causing a memory access violation.”

The critical Symantec vulnerability needs to be remediated as soon as possible. If you run Symantec anti-virus software and your system is not set to update automatically, it is essential to perform a manual Symantec LiveUpdate to address the issue. A patch is expected to be released in the next few days to address the other serious vulnerabilities discovered by Ormandy.

117 Million Email Password Combos from 2012 LinkedIn Data Breach Listed for Sale

The 2012 LinkedIn data breach was believed to have resulted in the theft of 6.5 million emails and encrypted passwords; however, the data breach appears to be worse than previously thought with considerably more data stolen. Those data have now been listed for sale on a darknet marketplace, prompting LinkedIn to contact a substantial percentage of its users to get them to change their passwords.

117 Million Unsalted SHA-1 Hashes and Corresponding Usernames from 2012 LinkedIn Data Breach Listed for Sale

A hacker called “Peace” listed 117 million LinkedIn email and encrypted password combinations for sale this week. LinkedIn believes the data has also come from the 2012 LinkedIn data breach. The data were in the same format as the 6.5 million passwords and email combinations that were previously listed for sale. The latest batch of data has been listed or sale for a reported $2,200.

The passwords stolen in the 2012 LinkedIn data breach were unsalted SHA-1 hashes. While the passwords are encrypted, they are poorly protected and can easily be cracked with relative ease.

Soon after the 2012 LinkedIn data breach the 6.5 million account details were offered for sale on a Russian hacking forum. Motherboard reports that as many as 90% of those passwords were able to be cracked. This now places 18 times as many users at risk of having their accounts compromised.

LinkedIn users that joined the professional networking website after the 2012 data breach will not be affected by the data sale, although older users of the site could be at risk, especially if the password they used for their LinkedIn account has been used other logins elsewhere online.

Individuals who tend to use the same passwords on multiple websites or those who recycle old passwords are advised to change their passwords on their banking websites, social media profiles, email accounts, and other online sites if there is a possibility that they have used the same password as they used on LinkedIn prior to the 2012 breach.

The 2012 LinkedIn data breach was possible because security at the time was not particularly robust, although that has since been addressed. LinkedIn now salts its hashes, uses two factor authentication, and also email challenges. Since being alerted to the listing of the password/username combos, LinkedIn has been contacting affected users and attempting to invalidate passwords and force users to reset.

It is strongly advisable to login to LinkedIn and change your password as a precaution if you are unsure whether you have changed your password since 2012.

Healthcare Data Privacy and Security: Ponemon Releases Results of New Benchmark Study

Each year, the Ponemon Institute conducts a benchmark survey on healthcare data privacy and security. The surveys give a picture of the state of healthcare data security, highlight the main threats faced by the healthcare industry, and offer an insight into the main causes of healthcare data breaches. This week, the Ponemon Institute released the results of its 6th annual benchmark study on healthcare data privacy and security.

Over the past 6 years, the main causes of healthcare data breaches have changed considerably. Back in 2010/2011 when the two healthcare data privacy and security surveys were conducted, the main causes of healthcare data breaches were lost and stolen devices, third party errors, and errors made by employees.

Breaches caused by the loss and theft of unencrypted devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, and portable storage devices such as zip drives has fallen considerably in recent years. Due to the high risk of loss and theft – and the cost of risk mitigation following a data breach and compliance fines – healthcare organizations are keeping tighter controls on portable devices. Staff have been trained to be more security conscious and many healthcare organizations have chosen to use data encryption on portable devices. However, lost/stolen devices and mistakes by employees and third parties are still the root cause of 50% of healthcare data breaches.

Healthcare Data Privacy and Security Study Shows Criminals Caused 50% of Healthcare Data Breaches

Data breaches caused by the loss and theft of portable devices may be in decline, but the same cannot be said of cyberattacks, which have increased considerably. When the first benchmarking study was conducted in 2010, 20% of data breaches were caused by hackers and other cybercriminals. By 2015, the figure had risen to 45%. This year criminals have been responsible for 50% of healthcare data breaches.

Healthcare data breaches have increased in volume, frequency, and severity. Prior to 2015, the largest healthcare data breach exposed 4.7 million patient health records. Data breaches that exposed more than 1 million healthcare records were very rare. However, in 2015, the Anthem Inc. breach exposed 78.8 million healthcare records, Premera BlueCross recorded a cyberattack that exposed 11 million records, and Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a breach of 10 million records. These data breaches were caused by criminals who gained access to systems using phishing techniques.

Phishing remains a major cause for concern, as is malware, although over the course of the past 12 months a new threat has emerged. Ransomware is now the second biggest cause for concern for healthcare security professionals. DDoS attacks remain the biggest worry as far as cyberattacks are concerned.

The purpose of ransomware and DDoS attacks is to cause widespread disruption. Healthcare IT professionals are right to be concerned. Both of these types of cyberattack have potential to have a hugely detrimental effect on the care that is provided to patients, potentially disrupting healthcare operations to such a degree that patients can actually come to physical harm.

Healthcare organizations have been investing more heavily in data security technologies to prevent breaches, yet these measures have not been sufficient to stop breaches from occurring. The report indicates that 89% of healthcare organizations suffered a data breach in the past two years, 79% suffered more than one breach, and 45% experienced more than five data breaches.

The cost of healthcare data breaches is considerable. The Ponemon Institute calculates the average cost to resolve a data breach to be $2.2 million for healthcare providers. The average cost of a business associate data breach is $1 million. The total cost each year, to mitigate risk and resolve data breaches, has been estimated by Ponemon to be $6.2 billion for the industry as a whole.

Healthcare Organizations Need to Increase Cybersecurity Efforts

Cybersecurity budgets may have increased over the years, but too little is being spent on healthcare data privacy and security data. Even with the increased risk, 10% of healthcare organizations have actually decreased their cybersecurity budgets, and more than half (52%) said their budgets have stayed the same this year.

Further investment is needed to tackle the growing threat and to prevent criminals from gaining access to data and locking it with ransomware.

Education also needs to be improved and greater care taken by healthcare employees to prevent accidental disclosures of data and mistakes that open the door to cybercriminals. Employee negligence was rated as the top cause for concern by both healthcare providers and business associates of healthcare organizations. Unless greater care is taken to prevent data breaches and healthcare organizations are held more accountable, the data breach totals will only rise.

FTC to Investigate Security Update Practices of Mobile Device Manufacturers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is conducting a study to investigate the security update practices of mobile device manufacturers. The study is being conducted amid concern that mobile device manufacturers are not doing enough to ensure owners of mobile devices are protected from security threats.

Security Update Practices of Mobile Device Manufacturers Leave Mobile Users Exposed to Attack

A number of new and highly serious threats have emerged in recent years which allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code on mobile devices if users visit a compromised website. One of the most serious threats comes from the Stagefright vulnerability discovered last year.

The Stagefright vulnerability could potentially be exploited to allow attackers to gain control of Android smartphones. It has been estimated that as many as one billion devices are prone to attack via this vulnerability. Google released an Android update to fix the vulnerability, yet many mobile phone users were unable to update their devices as the manufacturer of their device, or the mobile carrier they used, did not allow the updates to be installed. Because of this, many smartphone owners are still vulnerable to attack.

Even when device manufacturers do update their devices there are often long delays between the issuing of the fix and the rolling out of updates. When a rollout is executed, it can take a week or more before all device owners receive their updates. During that time users are left vulnerable to attack.

The FTC wants to find out more about the delays and the rationale behind the slow rolling out of updates.

FTC and FCC Join Forces and Demand Answers from Carriers and Device Manufacturers

The FTC has joined forces with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the study and has ordered smartphone manufacturers and developers of mobile device operating systems to explain how security updates are issued, the reasoning behind the decision to delay the issuing of security updates, and for some device manufacturers, why security updates are not being issued.

While the study is primarily being conducted on manufacturers of devices running the Android platform, although Apple has also been ordered to take part in the study, even though its devices are the most secure. Apple’s security update practices are likely to serve as a benchmark against which other manufacturers will be judged. Manufacturers that use the Android platform that will take part in the study include Blackberry, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung. Google and Microsoft will also take part.

The FTC is asking operating system developers and mobile manufacturers to disclose the factors that are considered when deciding whether to issue updates to correct known vulnerabilities. They have been asked to provide detailed information on the devices they have sold since August 2013, if security vulnerabilities have been discovered that affect those devices, and if and when those vulnerabilities have been – or will be – patched.

The FCC has asked questions of mobile phone carriers including the length of time that devices will be supported, the timing and frequency of updates, the process used when developing security updates, and whether device owners were notified when the decision was taken not to issue a security update for a specific device model.

Whether the study will result in better security update practices of mobile device manufacturers remains to be seen, although the results of the study, if published in full, will certainly make for interesting reading.

How to Block Exploit Kits and Keep your Network Protected

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

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

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

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

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

How to Block Exploit Kits from Downloading Malware

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

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

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

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

WebTitan Cloud Opens up New Revenue Avenues for MSPs

Finding new revenue avenues for MSPs can be difficult. There are many ways for MSPs to increase client spending and win new business, although new revenue avenues for MSPs that are easy to implement and manage, are straightforward to sell to clients, and also offer good margins are few and far between. Fortunately, there is a product that can easily be incorporated into existing client offerings which is highly desirable, has a low management overhead, and offers MSPs excellent margins. That service is WebTitan Cloud. WebTitan Cloud is a web filtering service that has been developed with MSPs in mind.

New Revenue Avenues for MSPs: Internet Filtering-as-a-Service

The benefits of WebTitan Cloud are considerable. Our web filtering solution can be used to protect virtually all organizations from a wide range of Internet threats: Something that is increasingly important given the increase in phishing attacks and the proliferation of malware and ransomware in recent years. The cost of resolving malware infections is considerable, and data theft and loss can have catastrophic consequences for SMBs. Heavy fines can be issued by regulators for data breaches, and reputation damage from customer data theft can be considerable.

Employees need to be provided with Internet access to work efficiently; however, Internet access is often abused. Employees are wasting a considerable amount of time each day on personal Internet use. Social media networks are accessed, gambling sites used at work, and gaming sites used by many employees during working hours. By limiting access to these websites organizations can greatly increase the productivity of the workforce. Filtering the Internet to prevent employees and customers from accessing inappropriate website content can also prevent HR issues from developing and can reduce legal risk.

Our web filtering solution can also be used to manage bandwidth. Most organizations face bandwidth issues at some point, yet with careful configuration of our web filter, bandwidth can be effectively managed. Bandwidth-heavy Internet services can be limited to ensure that fast Internet access can be enjoyed by all.

WebTitan Cloud – An Easy Way for MSPs to Increase Profits

WebTitan Gateway is a powerful web filtering product that can keep networks protected from web-borne threats and can be used to control the content that can be accessed by employees and customers. While WebTitan Gateway can be offered by MSPs to their clients, TitanHQ has developed a new product that has been tailored to the specific needs of managed service providers.

WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based web filtering solution that requires no software installations and no hardware purchases. Our web filtering service can be applied in a matter of minutes without the use for on-the-ground IT support teams. Being DNS-based, all that is required is a small change to DNS settings. Point the DNS to our servers and website content can be filtered in as little as 2 minutes.

Configuring new clients’ web filtering settings is a quick and easy process. It takes approximately 20 minutes to add a new client and upload their Internet policy settings. Furthermore, configuring client accounts is a straightforward admin task requiring no technical skill. If clients want to manage their own settings, they can be provided with their own login and administrative roles can be easily delegated. With WebTitan Cloud, filtering the Internet could not be any simpler.

A Web Filtering Service that’s a Perfect Fit for MSPs

There are many companies now offering a web filtering service that can be used by MSPs, but few offer a product or service that has been created with MSPs in mind. With many solutions the cost of implementation is high, margins for MSPs are low, implementation is impractical, and management causes major headaches. On top of that, the lack of white label options means clients could easily end up going direct and cutting an MSP out of the equation. WebTitan Cloud is different.

WebTitan Cloud is offered as a white label, allowing MSPs to easily incorporate a web filtering service into their existing product offerings. MSPs are able to add their own logos, configure block screens, and change color schemes to match their own corporate branding. A range of APIs are also included to make integration with back-office systems as easy as possible. We even offer multiple hosting options. WebTitan Cloud can be run on our servers, in a private cloud, or even within an MSP’s infrastructure.

With WebTitan Cloud, MSPs can start providing a much more comprehensive Internet service to clients and easily boost their profits. For further information on WebTitan Cloud, how our service can be incorporated into your existing portfolios, and for details of pricing, contact our sales team today.

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

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

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

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

The Risk of Phishing Attacks is Growing

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

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

Ransomware Attacks Increased 16% in a Year

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

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

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

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

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

Popularity of Ransomware-As-A-Service Increasing

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

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

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

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

SMBs Increasingly Targeted by Attackers

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

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

Warning Issued About the Insider Ransomware Threat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shadow IT Risk Should Not Be Underestimated

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

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

Anti-Phishing Strategies Need to Improve to Prevent Cyberattacks

Anti-phishing strategies can be employed to protect networks from attack; however, a new report from Verizon shows that phishing is proving more successful than ever. Anti-phishing strategies are being employed, but they are not sufficient to prevent attacks from taking place. End users are still opening phishing emails and divulging their login credentials to attackers.

Anti-Phishing Strategies Are Being Implemented But Employees are Still Falling for Phishing Scams

According to the new report a greater percentage of employees are now falling for phishing scams. Last year’s Verizon Data Breach Report showed that 23% of phishing emails were being opened. This year the number has risen to 30%.

Opening a phishing email does not result in a network being compromised or the attacker gaining access to email accounts. For that to happen, an end user must open an infected email attachment or click on a link to a malicious website.

How often are employees taking this extra step? According to the Verizon data breach report, 12% of end users open the phishing email and double click on an attached file.

A similar percentage (13%) of end users click on the malicious links contained in the emails. These links either direct the user to a website containing an exploit kit or to a site where login credentials or other sensitive data are entered and revealed to attackers.

Anti-phishing methods are being taught to company employees, but attacks are still succeeding with alarming frequency. Phishing is proving to be a highly effective method of cyberattack.

The report also indicates that when attacks are successful attackers have plenty of time to exfiltrate data. Organizations are also finding it much harder to detect breaches when they occur. Attacks are taking minutes from the sending of a phishing email to network access being gained, yet it can take months for breaches to be detected.

Training Alone is Insufficient to Protect Against All Phishing Attacks

Anti-phishing strategies adopted by many organizations are not robust enough to prevent successful attacks. Anti-phishing strategies that rely too heavily on training staff members how to identify phishing emails are likely to fail.

It only takes one employee to respond to a phishing email for a network to be compromised and it is a big ask to expect every employee to identify every phishing email, 100% of the time.

Providing staff members with anti-phishing training can help to reduce risk, although software solutions should also be employed. A robust spam filtering solution should be implemented to ensure the majority of phishing emails are blocked and never delivered to end users’ inboxes. No anti-spam solution is effective 100% of the time, although blocking 99.9% of phishing emails is possible with solutions such as SpamTitan.

Attackers are using ever more sophisticated methods to fool end users into clicking on malicious links. A great deal of time and effort goes into spoofing domains and producing carbon-copy spoof websites. Preventing these websites from being visited is one of the best defenses against phishing attacks. Web filtering solutions can be highly effective way of reducing the risk of a phishing attack being successful.

A web filter can be configured to block phishing websites and other potentially harmful websites. Even if links are clicked, the user is prevented from compromising their device and network.

Servers Running Destiny Library Management System Installed with Backdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destiny Library Management System Vulnerabilities Addressed With A New Patch

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

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

Healthcare Industry Faces Highest Risk of Cyberattacks

A new study has confirmed that the healthcare industry faces the highest risk of cyberattacks. Healthcare providers and health plans are being targeted by cybercriminals due to the value of patient data on the black market. A full set of medical records, along with personally identifiable information and Social Security numbers, sells for big bucks on darknet marketplaces. Health data is far more valuable then credit cards for instance.

Furthermore, organizations in the healthcare industry store vast quantities of data and cybersecurity protections are still less robust than in other industry verticals.

The survey was conducted by 451 Research on behalf of Vormetric. Respondents were asked about the defenses they had put in place to keep sensitive data secure, how they rated their defenses, and how they planned to improve protections and reduce the risk of cyberattacks occurring.

78% of respondents rated their network defenses as very or extremely effective, with network defenses having been prioritized by the majority of healthcare organizations. 72% rated data-at-rest defenses as extremely or very effective. While this figure seems high, confidence in data-at-rest defenses ranked second from bottom. Only government industries ranked lower, with 68% of respondents from government agencies rating their data-at-rest defenses as very or extremely effective.

Even though many IT security professionals in the healthcare industry believe their network and data-at-rest defenses to be robust, 63% of healthcare organizations reported having experienced a data breach in the past.

The Risk of Cyberattacks Cannot Be Effectively Managed Simply by Becoming HIPAA-Compliant

Many organizations have been prioritizing compliance with industry regulations rather than bolstering defenses to prevent data breaches. Many healthcare organizations see compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as being an effective way of ensuring data are protected.

HIPAA requires all covered-entities – healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates of covered entities – to implement administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to keep confidential patient data secure. By achieving “HIPAA-compliance” covered entities will improve their security posture and reduce the risk of cyberattacks, but compliance alone will not ensure that data are protected.

One only needs to look at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights breach portal to see that healthcare data breaches are commonplace. Many of the organizations listed in the breach portal have implemented defenses to protect data and are HIPAA-compliant. Compliance has not prevented data breaches from occurring.

The 451 Research survey asked respondents their views on compliance. 68% said it was very or extremely effective at ensuring data were secured. The reality is HIPAA only requires healthcare organizations to implement safeguards to achieve a minimum level of data security. In order to prevent data breaches and effectively manage the risk of cyberattacks, organizations need to invest more heavily in data security.

HIPAA does not, for example, require organizations to protect data-at-rest with encryption. If the network perimeter is breached, there is often little to prevent data from being stolen. Healthcare organizations are focusing on improving network protection but should not forget to protect data-at-rest with encryption. 49% said network security was still the main spending priority over the next 12 months, which was the highest rated security category for investment.

Healthcare organizations did appreciate that investment in technologies to protect data-at-rest was important, with 46% of respondents saying spending would be increased over the next 12 months on technologies such as disk and file encryption to help manage the risk of cyberattacks.

ITRC Releases New U.S. Data Breach Statistics

This week has seen the release of new U.S. data breach statistics by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). The new report reveals the extent to which organizations have been attacked over the past decade, breaking down data breaches by industry sector.

ITRC has been collecting and collating information on U.S. data breaches since 2005. Since records of security breaches first started to be kept, ITRC figures show a 397% increase in data exposure incidents. This year has seen the total number of data breach incidents surpass 6,000, with 851 million individual records now having been exposed since 2015.

U.S. Data Breach Statistics by Industry Sector

The financial sector may have been extensively targeted by cybercriminals seeking access to financial information, but between 2005 and March 2016 the industry only accounts for 7.9% of data breaches. The heavily regulated industry has implemented a range of sophisticated cybersecurity protections to prevent breaches of confidential information which has helped to keep data secure. The business and healthcare sectors were not so well protected and account for the majority of data breaches over the past decade.

Over the course of the past decade financial sector ranked lowest for breaches of Social Security numbers. The largest data security incident exposed 13.5 million records. That data breach occurred when data was on the move.

At the other end of the scale is the business sector, which includes the hospitality industry, retail, transport, trade, and other professional entities. This sector had the highest number of data breaches accounting for 35.6% of all data breaches reported in the United States. Those breaches exposed 399.4 million records.

ITRC’s U.S. data breach statistics show that the business sector was the most frequently targeted by hackers over the course of the past decade, accounting for 809 hacking incidents. Hackers were able to steal 360.1 million records and the industry accounted for 13.6% of breaches that exposed credit and debit card numbers. The huge data breaches suffered by Home Depot and Target involved the exposure of a large percentage of credit and debit card numbers.

Healthcare Sector Data Breaches Behind the Massive Rise in Tax Fraud

The business sector was closely followed by the healthcare industry, which has been extensively targeted in recent years. ITRC reports that the industry accounted for 16.6% of data breaches that exposed Social Security numbers. Since 2005, over 176.5 million healthcare records have been exposed and over 131 million records were exposed as a result of hacking since 2007. That includes the 78.8 million records exposed in the Anthem Inc., data breach discovered early last year.

While hacking has exposed the most records, employee negligence and error were responsible for 371 data breaches in the healthcare industry.  Healthcare industry data breaches are believed to have been responsible for the massive increase in tax fraud experienced this year. Tax fraud surged by 400 percent in 2016.

Government organizations and military data breaches make up 14.4% of U.S data breaches over the past decade, with the education sector experiencing a similar number, accounting for 14.1% of breaches. Over 57.4 million Social Security numbers were exposed in government/military data breaches along with more than 389,000 credit and debit card numbers.

The education sector experienced the lowest number of insider data breaches of all industry sectors (0.7%) although 2.4 million records were exposed via email and the Internet.

Cybersecurity Protections Need to Be Improved

The latest U.S. data breach statistics show that all industry sectors are at risk of cyberattack, and all must improve cybersecurity protections to keep data secure. According to Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDT911, “Companies need to create a culture of privacy and security from the mailroom to the boardroom. That means making the necessary investment in hardware, software and training. Raising employee cyber hygiene awareness is as essential as the air we breathe.”

Patch Issued to Prevent Microsoft Wireless Mouse Hijacking

The risk of Microsoft wireless mouse hijacking has been addressed this week. An optional fix was released as part of the latest KB3152550 Windows update. The update is for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, although Microsoft has not addressed the flaw in Windows Server.

Earlier this year security researchers from Bastille Networks discovered a vulnerability with wireless mice and keyboards which could potentially be exploited by hackers and used to remotely execute commands on computers. The vulnerability affected a number of providers of wireless mice and keyboards.

The vulnerability – termed MouseJack – can be used to exploit a number of vulnerabilities in the protocols used by the hardware to communicate with computers. Attackers can potentially spoof mice and keyboards, although they would need to be in close proximity to the devices to do so. This could be up to 100M away.

Attackers could use a wireless Internet connection from outside the company premises to take advantage of the MouseJack vulnerability and inject HID packets via USB dongles. Bastille Networks researchers discovered many wireless mice accept keyboard HID packets transmitted to the RF addresses of wireless mice.

The Microsoft update improves security by filtering out QWERTY key packets in keystrokes received by wireless mouse USB dongles.

The risk of Microsoft wireless mouse hijacking is relatively low, although it should not be ignored. All organizations that use wireless Microsoft mice should install the patch. If devices have been set to update automatically the patch should already have been installed.

Unfortunately, there is still a risk of Microsoft wireless mouse hijacking for users of the Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse, which was not fixed in the latest update. Non-Microsoft wireless mice may also still be at risk. Users of other wireless mice should consult the websites of the manufacturers to determine whether patches have been released.

Dell SecureWorks Releases Underground Hacker Markets Report

This month Dell SecureWorks released its annual underground hacker markets report. For the past three years, intelligence analysts at Dell SecureWorks have been tracking underground hacking forums and gathering intel. The annual reports provide an interesting insight into the world of cybercrime, and reveal just how little hackers are charging to conduct attacks.

Underground Hacker Markets Report Reveals Wide Range of Corporate Data Being Openly Sold on the Black Market

The underground hacker markets report shows that hackers are selling all types of stolen data, including passports, Social Security cards, driver’s license numbers, bank account details, airline points accounts, and credit card numbers. The latter can be purchased for just $7, while physical Social Security cards are being sold for up to $250.

Hacking services are also being offered cheaply, with the hacking of websites costing around $350, DDoS attacks being sold from $5 per hour to $555 per week, and doxing for under $20. Hacking tutorials are even being offered with multiple sessions available for under $40.

Cybercriminals wishing to launch their own attacks are being offered a wide range of malware at low prices. Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are being sold at cut price rates of $5 to $10 a time. Crypters are being sold for $80-$440, and the Angler exploit kit is available for between $100 and $135. The hackers are also offering total confidentiality and customer support.

The analysts also discovered whole business dossiers being sold via underground forums. The dossiers include email accounts, bank account numbers, and a range of logins and passwords. Those dossiers are being sold openly for as little as $547. With the type of information contained in the dossiers, criminals could drain bank accounts and even apply for credit in company names.

BEC Scams Have Increased 270% In the Past 3 Years

In the past few years business email compromise scams have increased substantially. According to a recent warning issued by the FBI, between October 2013 and August 2015 BEC attacks increased by 270%.

BEC scams are proving to be extremely lucrative for cybercriminals. Figures from the FBI suggest that $1.2 billion has been lost to BEC scams since October 2013. Mattel recently discovered by accident that criminals had succeeded in pulling off a BEC scam involving a $3 million transfer to hackers in China.

The scam took place at a time when the company was undergoing a corporate change, and it would have been successful had the transfer been made on virtually any other weekend in the year. The fact that the transfer was made on a bank holiday gave Mattel time to stop the transfer going through.

Attacks on this scale may not be pulled off regularly, but they are far from unusual. One of the biggest BEC scam losses was reported by the The Scoular Co., recently. The Omaha-based company lost $17.2 million to BEC scammers.

Cybercriminals no longer need to personally gain access to corporate email accounts to pull off these scams. For a very small investment they can buy access to CEO and executive email accounts.

The Dell underground hacker market report indicates cybercriminals can purchase a U.S. corporate email account for around $500, while Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo accounts can be compromised for around $129.

Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report Shows Major Increase in Online Threats

Symantec’s 2016 Internet security threat report has revealed the lengths to which cybercriminals are now going to install malware and gain access to sensitive data. The past 12 months has seen a substantial increase in attacks, and organizations are now having to deal with more threats than ever before.

Internet Security Threat Report Shows Major Increases in Ransomware, Malware, Web-borne Threats and Email Scams

The new Internet Security Threat Report shows that new malware is being released at a staggering rate. In 2015, Symantec discovered over 430 million unique samples of malware, representing an increase of 36% year on year. As Symantec points out, “Attacks against businesses and nations hit the headlines with such regularity that we’ve become numb to the sheer volume and acceleration of cyber threats.”

A new zero-day vulnerability is now being discovered at a rate of one per week, twice the number seen in 2014 and 2013. In 2015, 54 new zero-day vulnerabilities were discovered. In 2014 there were just 24 zero-day exploits discovered, and 23 in 2013.

The 2016 Internet Security Threat Report puts the total number of lost or stolen computer records at half a billion, although Symantec reports that organizations are increasing choosing to withhold details of the extent of data breaches. The breach may be reported, but there has been an 85% increase in organizations not disclosing the number of records exposed in breaches.

Ransomware Attacks Increased 35% in 2015

Ransomware is proving more popular than ever with cybercriminal gangs. In 2015, ransomware attacks increased by 35%. The upward trend in 2015 has continued into 2016. Spear phishing attacks have also increased. While these attacks are often conducted on large organizations, Symantec reports that spear phishing attacks on smaller companies – those with fewer than 250 employees – have been steadily increasing over the past five years. In 2015, spear phishing attacks increased by a staggering 55%.

Cybercriminals may now be favoring phishing attacks and zero-day exploits over spam email scams, but they still pose a major risk to corporate data security. There has also been a rise in the number of software scams. Scammers are getting consumers to purchase unnecessary software by misreporting a security problem with their computer. Symantec blocked 100 million fake technical support scams last year.

75% of Websites Found to Contain Exploitable Security Vulnerabilities

One of the most worrying statistics from this year’s Internet Security Threat Report is over 75% of websites contain unpatched security vulnerabilities which could potentially be exploited by hackers. Even popular websites have been found to contain unpatched vulnerabilities. If attackers can compromise those websites and install exploit kits, they can be used to infect millions of website visitors. Simply being careful which sites are visited and only using well known sites is no guarantee that infections are avoided.

With the dramatic increase in threats, organizations need to step up their efforts and improve cybersecurity protections. Failure to do so is likely to see many more of these attacks succeed.

Vendor Data Security Risk Management Poor, According to Two New Studies

Companies may be happy to use vendors for a wide range of service that they do not have the resources or skills to conduct in-house, but the vendor data security risk could be considerable, according to a new report issued by security firm Bomgar.

Furthermore, the number of third party vendors used by an average firm has grown substantially in recent years. Bomgar determined that on average 89 separate vendors are accessing company networks every week. With such high volumes of third party companies being given access to corporate networks, data breach risk is high. Especially considering the lack of security controls in place at many companies.

Numerous companies have reported suffering a data breach as a direct result of granting vendors access to their networks. The survey conducted by Bomgar asked 608 IT decision makers from the United States, UK, Germany, and France about vendor access to their networks and IT security. 69% of respondents said their organization had either definitely or probably experienced a vendor-related data breach.

The situation is likely to get much worse. When asked whether reliance on third party vendors would increase over the course of the next two years, three quarters of respondents said that it would. It is not only the vendors employed by organizations that are the problem. In many cases, vendors have vendors and subcontract certain tasks to other companies. 72% of respondents said this was the case, increasing vendor security risk further.

Poor Vendor Data Security Could Lead to a Data Breach

The survey also revealed that only 35% of companies could say with any degree of certainty exactly how many vendors were able to access their networks. Just 34% of companies could tell how many logins had been issued to their vendors. This suggests the majority of companies are exercising poor network access control.

Many organizations are leaving their organization wide open to a vendor-related data breach. The potential for damage is considerable. Rather than limiting network privileges for vendors, 44% of companies said that when it comes to network access they tend to use an all or nothing approach. Rather than limiting data access to the minimum necessary requirement for a task to be performed, full access is granted.

The survey results show that many companies may be underestimating vendor data security risk. 92% of respondents said they trusted their vendors completely or at least most of the time. That said, when asked if they trust vendors too much just over two thirds said yes.

While the Bomgar study appears to show overwhelming trust in security vendors, a separate study conducted by the Ponemon Institute revealed that in the United States trust in vendors is much lower, at least when it comes to reporting security breaches.

The Ponemon survey was conducted on 598 individuals across a range of organizations. Respondents were familiar with vendor data security risk management at their respective organizations.

37% of respondents said they believed their primary vendors would not notify them if a breach of confidential or sensitive data occurred. For subcontractors used by third-party vendors, trust was even lower. 73% said they did not think they would be informed of a breach if it occurred.

Organizations may implement robust security defenses to prevent direct network attacks, but if they fail to ensure their vendors are exercising appropriate data security controls and do not keep tabs on who has access to their network, data breaches are likely to occur.

Law Firm Data Security Under Scrutiny After Wave of Cyberattacks and Leaks

Law firm data security has come under the spotlight in the past couple of weeks following the publication of a number of news reports on hacking incidents at law firms, and most recently, the huge 11.5 million-document 2.6 terabyte data leak at Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The latest data leak exposed the offshore banking activities of some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, including 70 current and former world leaders.

Why are Cybercriminals Targeting Law Firms?

Cybercriminals are targeting law firms in an attempt to gain access to data on mergers and acquisitions, email accounts are being hacked to obtain details of bank transfers to reroute funds to hackers’ accounts, and attacks are being conducted to gain access to client data on patents and new products. Corporate data is also being stolen and sold on the darknet.

The banks are putting increasing pressure on law firms to do more to protect their networks from attack, while law enforcement authorities are attempting to get law firms to disclose data breaches when they occur. With law firms now under greater scrutiny, clients are likely to demand assurances that modern – not modest – cybersecurity defenses are put in place to protect their confidential data. However, many reports suggest law firm data security is substandard and incapable of preventing cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks on small law firms that have invested relatively little in cybersecurity defenses are perhaps to be expected; however, the computer networks of some of the biggest law firms in the United States have been compromised. Those include high profile firms such as Cravath Swaine & Moore and Weil Gotshal & Manges.

A report in Crain’s Chicago Business indicated 48 of the most prestigious law firms in the United states had been targeted by a Russian hacker operating out of Ukraine. That individual was targeting law firms with a view to trading stolen M&A data. A number of UK law firms have been attacked by hackers who have gained access to email accounts and hijacked bank transfers, netting over $97 million in the past 18 months.

Law Firm Data Security is Substandard and Lags Behind Other Industries

Many law firms do not disclose data breaches so the true extent to which cyberattacks are occurring is difficult to estimate but, based on recent reports, data breaches are far more prevalent than previously thought. The reports suggest that law firm data security measures need to be improved in light of increased efforts by cybercriminals to break through law firms’ defenses.

A report from Citigroup last month suggested digital security measures employed by law firms were less robust than in many other industries, even though law firms are big targets for cybercriminals and government-backed hackers.

The report indicated that law firms faced a high risk of cyberattacks due to the volume of incredibly valuable data they hold; data that could be used for insider trading or could be sold for big bucks on the black market. M&A data and patent applications were said to be the most highly prized information.

Hackers are exploiting a wide range of security flaws in order to gain access to sensitive data; however, one of the main methods used is phishing. Social engineering techniques are used to get individuals in law firms to reveal login credentials to email accounts, to visit malicious websites that download malware, or open infected email attachments that directly install a host of malware on law firms’ networks.

Many of the attacks are conducted by sending out random spam emails, although individuals within law firms are also being targeted with spear phishing emails. Individual employees are researched and targeted with carefully crafted emails to maximize the change of a response.

The emails are written in native English and include investment and legal terminology. FireEye reported they can even contain detailed information about the inner workings of public companies.

How Can Law Firm Data Security be Improved?

  • There are a number of measures that can be employed to reduce the risk of cyberattacks. All staff should receive training to help with the identification of phishing emails and other email scams. This will reduce the risk of individuals accidentally compromising their networks.
  • Patch management policies must be introduced. Patches and software updates need to be implemented promptly.
  • Spam filtering technology should be implemented to reduce the likelihood of phishing emails and malware being delivered to inboxes.
  • The implementation of a web filtering solution can reduce the risk of malware downloads, drive-by attacks, and can block phishing websites from being visited.
  • Anti-virus and anti-malware solutions must be kept up to date and regular scans conducted on networked devices and servers.
  • Outdated software and unsupported operating systems should be retired and replaced with modern, more secure software.
  • Law firms can monitor darknet sites using security solutions to identify when data is being listed for sale.

Unless law firm data security is improved, successful attacks will continue and client and corporate data will be exposed.

FBI Seeks Help To Deal With Enterprise Ransomware Threat

In February, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an alert over a new ransomware called MSIL (AKA Samas/Samsam/Samsa), but a recent confidential advisory was obtained by Reuters, in which the FBI asked U.S. businesses and the software security community for help to deal with the growing enterprise ransomware threat from MSIL.

The new ransomware is particularly nasty as it is capable of infecting networks, not just individual computers. In February, the FBI alert provided details of the new ransomware and how it attacked systems by exploiting a vulnerability in the enterprise JBoss system. Any enterprise running an outdated version of the software platform is at risk of being attacked. The FBI’s list of indicators was intended to help organizations determine whether they had been infected with MSIL.

Just over a month later, the FBI sent out a plea for assistance, requesting businesses to contact its CYWATCH cybersecurity center if they suspected they had been attacked with the ransomware. Any business or security expert with information about the ransomware was also requested to get in touch.

Recent high profile attacks on healthcare organizations and law enforcement have resulted in ransoms being paid to attackers in order to unlock ransomware infections. Oftentimes there is no alternative but to pay the ransom demand in order to recover data. However, paying ransoms simply encourages more attacks.

The Enterprise Ransomware Threat is Now at A Critical Level

Ransomware is not new, but the methods being used by cybercriminals to infect systems is more complex as is the malicious software used in the attacks. The volume of attacks and the number of ransomware variants now in use mean the enterprise ransomware threat is considerable, with some security experts warning that ransomware is fast becoming a national cybersecurity emergency.

The healthcare industry is being targeted as hospitals cannot afford to lose access to healthcare data. Even if electronic patient medical files are not encrypted, systems are being shut down to contain infections. This causes massive disruption and huge costs, which attackers hope will make paying the ransom the best course of action.

Dealing with the enterprise ransomware threat requires a multi-faceted approach. Attackers are using a variety of methods to install ransomware and blocking spam email is no longer sufficient to deal with the problem. MSIL attacks are being conducted by exploiting vulnerabilities in enterprise software systems, end users are being fooled into installing ransomware with social engineering techniques, drive by downloads are taking place and the malicious file-encrypting software is also being sent via spam email.

How to Protect Against Enterprise Ransomware Attacks

The FBI is trying to encourage business users and individuals never to open untrusted email attachments and to ensure they are deleted from inboxes. Fortunately, the high profile attacks on large institutions have put enterprises on high alert. With awareness raised, it is hoped that greater efforts will be made by enterprises to reduce the risk of an attack being successful.

Some of the best protections include:

  • Ensuring all software is kept up to date and patches are installed promptly
  • Using spam filtering tools to reduce the risk of infected attachments being delivered to end users
  • Backing up all systems frequently to ensure data can be restored in the event of an attack
  • Conducting regular staff training sessions to help end users recognize phishing emails and malicious attachments
  • Disabling macros on all computers
  • Using web filtering solutions to prevent drive-by downloads and block malicious websites
  • Issuing regular security bulletins to staff when a new enterprise ransomware threat is discovered

Mobile Device Data Breaches Experienced by 21 Percent of Companies

Employers are enjoying the benefits of mobile devices but IT security professionals are concerned about the security risk that that comes from the use of Smartphones and tablets. The more devices that are allowed to connect to company networks, the higher the risk, but are mobile device data breaches actually occurring?

There is widespread concern that the devices pose a major security risk, but little data on the extent to which mobile data breaches occur. A new survey sheds some light on just how frequently mobile devices are implicated in data breaches.

Six data security firms* sponsored a survey conducted by Crowd Research Partners which set out to shed some light on the matter. 882 IT security professionals from a wide range of industries were asked a number of questions relating to mobile security and data breaches experienced at their organizations.

More than a Fifth of Companies Have Suffered Mobile Device Data Breaches

The results show that 21% of companies have experienced a mobile device data breaches at some point in the past that affected either devices supplied by their company or used by employees under BYOD policies. However, a further 37% of respondents could not say whether mobile device data breaches had actually occurred, indicating many are at risk of data theft or loss, but would not be able to determine if a data breach had in fact occurred.

Malicious Wi-Fi networks continue to be a problem. 24% of respondents said that BYOD or corporate-supplied devices have connected to malicious Wi-Fi networks at some point in the past. Many companies cannot say whether this has actually happened. Almost half of respondents (48%) could not say with any degree of certainty whether their employees had connected to malicious Wi-Fi networks.

Cybercriminals are developing malware at an alarming rate and mobile devices are now being targeted by many cybercriminal gangs. While the majority of threats affect Android phones, iPhone users are also being targeted. A number of new iOS malware have been discovered in the past year.

Mobile malware is a major problem for businesses. 39% of respondents said users of their networks had, at some point in the past, downloaded malware onto their devices. 35% of respondents were unaware whether this had happened. This suggests more than a third of companies are not monitoring the mobile devices that are allow to connect to corporate networks.

Respondents were asked what measures they were using to protect the mobile devices they allowed to connect to their networks. Only 63% of respondents said they used password protection to keep the devices secure. 49% said they had implemented solutions that enable them to remotely wipe devices that are lost, stolen, or reach the end of their life. 43% use encryption for sensitive data and only 38% said they have policies covering data removal at employee separation or device disposal.

34% said that when an employee leaves their organization ensures data is wiped from mobile devices 100% of the time. 13% said this occurred more than half of the time, and 16% said this happened less than half of the time.  Most alarmingly, 23% were unaware if they wiped devices and 14% said they never wipe data from employees’ devices when they leave the company.

43% reported using mobile device management (MDM), 28% used endpoint security tools such as anti-malware programs, and 27% used network access controls.

Many IT security professionals are worried about the risk posed by mobile devices and are concerned about mobile device data breaches. The survey results show there is good reason for them to be concerned. Many companies are failing to implement policies and procedures to effectively manage mobile device security risks.

*The online survey was sponsored by Bitglass, Blancco Technology Group, Check Point Technologies, Skycure, SnoopWall and Tenable Network Security. The survey was conducted on members of the LinkedIn Information Security Community.  

It’s World Backup Day – Could You Recover From a Data Disaster?

Today is World Backup Day – a day when awareness of the need to backup data is raised around the world. It is a day when companies that are not backing up their critical data are encouraged to do so, and companies that do are encouraged to take a close look at their data backup policies and procedures to make sure that they are up to scratch.

world-backup-day

World Backup Day 2016 is More Important Than Ever

World Backup Day may be an opportunity for companies to sell you a host of products and services associated with disaster recovery – a number of software companies offering backup services sponsor the day – but this year the day is more important than ever. This week, a large not-for-profit health system in the United States discovered just how important it is to have a fully functional backup of all critical data.

MedStar Health, a network of 10 hospitals and more than 250 outpatient facilities in the Washington D.C. area, was hit with a ransomware infection that compromised 18 computers. It could have been far worse had rapid action not been taken to shut down its network to prevent the lateral spread of the ransomware infection.

Fortunately, systems are now being restored and it appears that the reported ransom demand of $18,500 will not need to be paid. Many companies would not be in a position to decide whether or not to pay the ransom. If a viable copy of data has not been stored securely on an isolated drive, the ransom would have to be paid. Losing critical data would simply not be an option.

MedStar Health is not the only healthcare organization to have suffered a ransomware attack in recent weeks. In the United States, Methodist Hospital in Kentucky, and Chino Valley Medical Center, Desert Valley Hospital, and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California have all been attacked, as was Canada’s Ottawa Hospital. All of those attacks have occurred in the past two months.

It is not just the healthcare industry that is under attack; however, many companies prefer not to announce that they have had their systems infiltrated and data encrypted by attackers. Ransoms are quietly paid in order to get the security keys to unlock the encryption.

30% of Users Have Never Backed Up Their Data

Even though the loss of data could prove catastrophic for companies, many organizations are not backing up data as frequently as they should. Some do not test the backups they perform to make sure that in the event of an emergency, data can actually be recovered.

Almost a year ago to the day, the Tewksbury Police Department in Massachusetts was given no alternative but to pay a ransom to have its files unlocked. A backup of data had been recently performed, but that file was corrupted. The only non-corrupted backup file the Police Department had was more than 18 months old.

The figures on the World Backup Day website indicate 30% of users have never backed up their data, even though the loss of files would cause considerable anguish. Figures from Backblaze suggest that since 2013 (from when the World Backup Day figures were taken) things have improved and the figure now stands at 25%.

Companies Need to Review Backup Policies

For companies, a single backup of data is not sufficient protection. Multiple backup files can reduce risk. If one backup file is corrupted, it will not spell disaster. Those backups must be stored off-site, but should not be connected to a computer network. Backup files can also be encrypted by ransomware if the drive on which they are stored remains connected to a network.

There are many other ways that data can be accidentally deleted or lost. There may not be an option to simply pay a ransom to recover valuable data. Without a viable backup data could be lost forever. WBD figures suggest that 29% of data incidents are the result of accidents.

Performing frequent backups is a complex task given the huge volumes of data now being stored by organizations. Today is a good day to reassess policies, procedures and software, to test backups, and to make sure that when (not if) disaster strikes, valuable data will not be lost.

AceDeceiver iPhone Malware Attacks Non-Jailbroken Phones

AceDeceiver iPhone malware can attack any iPhone, not just those that have been jailbroken. The new iOS malware has recently been identified by Palo Alto Networks, and a warning has been issued that the new method of attack is likely to be copied and used to deliver other malware.

Malware Exploits Apple DRM Vulnerability

Many iPhone users jailbreak their phones to allow them to install unofficial apps, yet the act can leave phones open to malware infections. One of the best malware protections for iPhones is not to tamper with them. Most iPhone malware are only capable of attacking jailbroken phones. However, AceDeceiver is different.

The new malware exploits a vulnerability in Apple’s Digital Rights Management (DRM) mechanism allowing it to bypass iPhone security protections. AceDeceiver iPhone malware is capable of fooling FairPlay into thinking it is a legitimate app that has been purchased by the user.

Users that have installed a software tool called Aisi Helper to manage their IPhones are most at risk of infecting their phones. While Aisi Helper can be used to manage iPhones and perform tasks such as cleaning devices and performing backups, it can also be used to jailbreak phones to allow users to install pirated software. To date more than 15 million iPhone owners have installed Aisi Helper and face a high risk of an AceDeceiver malware attack.

The software tool has been around since 2013 and is mainly used as a method of distributing pirated apps. While the software has been known to be used for piracy, this is the first reported case of it being used to spread malware. Palo Alto Networks reports that some 6.6 million individuals are using the software tool on a regular basis, many of whom live in China. This is where most of the AceDeceiver iPhone malware attacks have taken place to date.

The software tool can be used to install AceDeceiver onto iPhones without users’ knowledge. The malware connects the user to an app store that is controlled by the attackers. Users must enter in their AppleID and password and the login credentials are then sent to the attackers’ server. While Palo Alto Networks has discovered that IDs and passwords are being stolen, they have not been able to determine why the attackers are collecting the data.

AceDeceiver Malware Attacks Non-Jailbroken iPhones

Protecting against AceDeceiver iPhone malware would appear to be simple. Don’t install Aisi Helper. However, that is only one method of delivery of AceDeceiver iPhone malware. In the past 7 months three different AceDeceiver malware variants have been uploaded to the official Apple App store. The three wallpaper apps managed to get around Apple’s code reviews initially to allow them to be made available on the Apple App store. They also passed subsequent code reviews.

Once Apple was made aware of the malicious apps the company removed from the App store. However, that is not sufficient to prevent users’ devices from being infected. According to Palo Alto’s Claud Xiao, an attack is still possible even though the apps have been removed from the App store. Apparently, all that is required is for the malicious apps to gain authorization from Apple once. They do not need to be available for download in order for them to be used for man-in-the-middle attacks. The vulnerability has not been patched yet, but Palo Alto has warned that even patching the problem will still leave users of older iPhones open to attack.

AceDeceiver iPhone Malware Attack Method Likely to be Copied

Xiao warned that this new method of malware delivery is particularly worrying because “it doesn’t require an enterprise certificate. Hence, this kind of malware is not under MDM solutions’ control, and its execution doesn’t need the user’s confirmation of trusting anymore.” Palo Alto believe the attack technique is likely to be copied and used to spread new malware to iPhone users.

New Data-Stealing USB-Based Malware Discovered

A new USB-based malware has recently been discovered that poses a serious security risk to enterprises. While USB-based malware is not new, the discovery of Win32/PSW.Stealer.NAI – also known as USB Thief – has caused particular concern.

New USB-Based Malware Leaves No Trace of Infection or Data Theft

The malware is only transmitted via USB drives and leaves no trace of an attack on a compromised computer. Consequently, it is incredibly difficult to detect. The malware is capable of stealing and transmitting data, yet users will be unaware that their data has been being stolen.

The new USB-based malware was recently discovered by security firm ESET. The discovery stands out because the USB-based malware is quite different to other malware commonly used by cybercriminals to steal data.

For a start, the malware has been designed not to be copied and can only be spread via USB devices. The malware derives its key from the USB drive’s device ID, and is bound to the specific portable drive on which it has been installed. If the malware is copied to another drive it will not run because it uses file-names that are specific to each copy of the malware. This means the malware cannot spread and infect systems other than those it is being to attack.

The malware also uses multi-staged encryption that is also bound to the USB drive, which ESET says makes it exceptionally difficult to detect and analyze.

Malware Capable of Attacking Air-Gapped Computers

Many organizations make sure sensitive data is not exposed by not connecting computers to the Internet. However, while air-gaps are an effective protection against most malware attacks, they do not protect against USB-based malware. USB Thief can be used to steal data from air-gapped computers and once the infected USB drive has been disconnected there will be no trace left that any data have been stolen.

It has been hypothesized that the malware has been created to be used in targeted attacks on specific companies in order to steal proprietary enterprise data. ESET has warned that while the USB-based malware is being used only as a data stealer, attackers could tweak the malware to deploy any other malicious payload. This means that the malware could be used to sabotage systems.

ESET reports that the USB-based malware has been used to target companies in Africa and Latin America and warned that detection rates are particularly low. No information has been released to indicate which industries are being targeted with the malware at this point in time.

USB-based malware has previously been used in state-sponsored attacks on organizations. Stuxnet was also used to attack air-gapped systems, predominantly in the Middle East. However, Stuxnet inflected collateral damage as it was capable of self-replicating. It was therefore rapidly picked up and analyzed and action was rapidly taken to block infections.

In this case, the USB-based malware cannot be copied so it is unlikely to spread outside of a targeted system. It is likely to remain incredibly difficult to detect. USB Thief appears to have been extensively tested. Since there is a possibility that it can be identified by G Data and Kaspersky Lab anti-virus solutions, USB Thief performs a quick check to see if those anti-virus solutions are installed. If they have the malware will not run.

Preventing USB-Based Malware Attacks

Disabling autorun for USB drives will have no effect on USB Thief. The USB-based malware does not rely on being automatically run when plugged into a computer. Instead it is inserted into the files of portable applications often stored on USB drives, such as Firefox, TrueCrypt, and NotePad++. When these applications are run, USB Thief will run in the background.

It is possible to take precautions to prevent an attack by disabling USB ports. Even though there is a high risk of infection from an unknown USB drive, many individuals that find USB drives plug them straight into their computers. Staff should therefore be instructed never to plug in a USB drive from an unknown source.

Microsoft Makes it Easier to Block Malicious Word Macros in Office 2016

System administrators that do not block malicious Word macros in Office 2016 could be making it far too easy for hackers to compromise their networks. Malicious Word macros are nothing new, but in recent months they have been increasingly been used to deliver ransomware and other nasty malware.

Macros Used in 98% of Office-related Enterprise Malware Attacks

It is common knowledge that executable files are used to deliver malware. Many companies implement a web filter to prevent the downloading of executable files by end users, and spam filters are often configured to prevent attached .exe files from being delivered.

Screensaver files (.SCR) are also commonly used to deliver malware and these too are often blocked by security solutions. Blocking other file types commonly used by attackers, such as batch files (.bat) and compressed files (.zip) can also help to reduce the risk of a malware infection. For the majority of enterprise end users, these files can be blocked without affecting workflows.

However, it is not practical prevent Word documents and other Office files from being emailed or shared. These file types are used by most workers on a day to day basis. They are also being extensively used to deliver malware. According to figures released by Microsoft, office document macros are used in 98% of Office-related attacks on enterprises.

Fail to Block Malicious Word Macros in Office 2016 at your Peril!

There have been a number of recent cases of ransomware being installed after enabling Word macros. Hackers can add malicious scripts to Word macros and install malware without rousing too much suspicion. Word documents are often trusted not to be malicious by many end users.

After a rise in the use of macros to deliver computer viruses, Microsoft made a change to automatically disable macros in Word by default. Opening a Word document therefore required users to manually enable macros before they could be run.

The use of macro viruses went into rapid decline after this security measure was introduced because macros ceased to be a particularly effective method of malware delivery. That was about a decade ago.

However, recently there has been a surge in the use of embedded VBA scripts to deliver malware. Even when system administrators block malicious Word macros in Office 2016 it does not prevent infection. End users are enabling macros in order to open Word documents after being convinced to do so by attackers.

Enterprise end users are sent spam emails containing infected Word documents and are fooled into enabling macros in order to view the documents. When end users open the infected files they are presented with a warning message saying the content of the document cannot be viewed without first enabling macros. The end user does just that, and the malicious VBA script is run. That script then opens a connection to the hackers C&C server and malware is downloaded to the user’s device.

IT departments can conduct training and tell end users to never enable macros, but sooner or, later, one individual will ignore that advice and will inadvertently install malware. Many businesses use macros in their office files, so blocking them from running is simply not an option. So how can businesses block malicious Word macros in Office 2016 without having to stop using macros in documents altogether? Fortunately, Microsoft has come up with a cunning solution.

Microsoft Makes It Easier to Block Malicious Word Macros

Microsoft has responded to the wave of malicious macro attacks by developing a better solution than the one introduced more than a decade ago. A new setting has been added to make it possible to block malicious Word macros in Office 2016 while still being able to use genuine macros. The good news for system administrators is the settings cannot be bypassed by end users who think they know better than their IT department.

System administrators can now apply a group setting that will block macros in Office files that have been obtained from the Internet zone. Microsoft’s definition of the Internet zone includes documents attached to emails that have been sent from outside an organization, as well as documents obtained from cloud storage providers such as Google Drive and Dropbox and from file sharing websites.

Opening and attempting to run macros from these sources will result in a warning being presented to the user saying their system administrator has blocked macros for security reasons. They will not be given the option of bypassing those settings and running the macros. The new setting can be found in the Microsoft Trust Center in the security settings of Word.

Fileless Malware is Being Installed Using Microsoft Word Macros

Palo Alto Networks has discovered a new spam email campaign that is being used to spread fileless malware via malicious Microsoft Word macros sent as email attachments.

What is Fileless Malware?

Fileless malware, or memory-resident malware, is most commonly associated with drive-by malware attacks via malicious websites. The malware resides in the RAM and is never installed on the hard drive of an infected machine, which means it is difficult to detect because anti-virus software does not check the memory.

Memory-resident malware has not been favored by attackers until recently, as infections do not survive a reboot. However, some fileless malware such as Poweliks uses the registry to ensure persistence. Memory-resident malware is often used to spy on computer activity and record keystrokes.

PowerSniff Fileless Malware Rated as High Threat

The spam email campaign discovered by Palo Alto uses Microsoft Word macros to install the malware. When infected Word documents are opened, malicious macros execute PowerShell scripts and fileless malware is injected into the memory. In the latest case, the malware bears some resemblance to Ursnif malware. Palo Alto call the latest variant PowerSniff.

To date, over 1500 spam emails have been observed by Palo Alto. The emails are not sent out using mass spam email campaigns, but appear to be targeted and include data highly specific to the target. The emails contain the users first name for instance, along with an address or telephone number to make the target believe the email is genuine.

The subject lines and file names used in the emails differ from individual to individual. All of the emails contain an infected Word file along with some pressing reason for the individual to open the document. This can include invoices that urgently need to be paid, details of payments that have not gone through, gift vouchers that needs to be claimed, or reservations that must be confirmed.

The attacks are primarily being conducted on targets in the United States and Europe. The targets are mostly in the professional, hospitality, manufacturing, wholesale, energy, and high tech industry sectors.

The malware is capable of checking if is in a sandbox or virtualized environment, and performs reconnaissance on the victim host. According to Palo Alto researchers, the malware is sniffing out machines that are used for financial transactions, searching for strings such as POS, SALE, SHOP, and STORE. The malware actively avoids machines that are used in the healthcare and education sectors, searching for strings such as nurse, health, hospital, school, student, teacher, and schoolboard and marking these as being of no interest.

Palo Alto has rated the malware a high threat, with activity widespread in the past week. To protect against this type of attack, and others using malicious Word macros, it is essential that macros are automatically disabled in Microsoft Word. Users should deny any request to run macros if they accidentally open an email attachment.

United States Ransomware Attacks Conducted by Chinese Hacking Groups?

Security firms are reporting that some of the United States ransomware attacks conducted over the past few months have demonstrated a level of sophistication that suggest they are the work of hacking groups previously backed by the Chinese government.

Ransomware attacks have previously been associated with low level cybercriminals who use spam email to send millions of messages out to random targets in the hope that some individuals will install the malicious file-locking software. In many cases, ransomware-as-a-service is being offered to cybercriminals via darknet marketplaces. Cybercriminals therefore do not need to have an extensive knowledge of hacking, and do not need to be highly skilled at conducting intrusions. However, due to the fact that ransomware can be incredibly lucrative, attacks are now being conducted by a wide range of individuals, including skilled hackers.

United States Ransomware Attacks Appear to Have Been Conducted by Former Chinese Government-Backed Hacking Groups

In some cases, the tactics used in the attacks bear the hallmarks of hacking groups known to have previously been involved in state-sponsored attacks on U.S. companies. The ransomware may not have been developed by foreign-government-backed hackers, but the methods and software used to gain entry to company networks and move around certainly appears to be.

Security firms Dell SecureWorks, InGuardians, G-C Partners, and Attack Research have all been called upon to investigate United States Ransomware attacks recently. The Dell team have investigated three highly sophisticated attacks, and the other companies have similarly been called upon to investigate security breaches involving ransomware.

All of the companies have come to the conclusion that these attacks were not the work of run-of-the-mill cybercriminals, and believe a well-known Chinese hacking group was behind the attacks. In one case, an attack on a U.S. company resulted in over 100 computers being locked with the file-encrypting software. Another attack involved 30 computers being locked. Similar large-scale ransomware attacks have also been investigated by the security firms. These attacks, like many conducted on large U.S. companies, have not previously been reported.

APT Tactics Used in Ransomware Attacks

Some of the attacks took advantage of security vulnerabilities in application servers, other used login credentials that were obtained in past Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks on U.S companies. Rather than APT attacks taking place for espionage, the same methods appear to be used to gain access to networks in order to install ransomware.

None of the security firms are able to say with 100% certainty that the attacks were conducted by Chinese hacking groups, although it does appear to be the most logical answer. One theory put forward is that with China now pulling out of cyber-espionage after last year’s agreement with the U.S government, many Chinese hackers who were previously funded by the government are now out of work or are looking for additional income. Since the potential payoff from ransomware attacks is so high, they are now performing attacks on their own.

In some cases, where U.S companies have been compromised by government-sponsored attacks, it has been hypothesized that the hackers are cashing in as they pull out.

Even if Chinese hacking groups are not involved, it is clear is there is considerable money to be made by performing these attacks. Cybercriminal gangs who have previously targeted credit card numbers may now be switching to ransomware due to big potential payoffs.

Since most companies do not declare that they have suffered an attack and paid a ransom, it is difficult to tell exactly how bad the current situation is. But until ransomware ceases to be profitable, United States ransomware attacks are likely to continue.

Oman TLD Being Exploited By Typosquatters Pushing Genieo Adware

Websites are being registered on Oman’s top level domain by typosqautters looking to capitalize on mistakes made by Mac users and push Genieo adware. The .om domain is intended to catch out Mac users who type quickly and miss out the c when typing .com website addresses.

Typosquatting is the registration of domain names with transposed or missed letters in an attempt to cash in on traffic intended for other websites. Goole.com being a good example. The site has been registered and uses an Ask Jeeves search bar to provide search engine functions to bad typists. The website has been reported to attract 1000 visitors a day, the vast majority of which have mistyped google.com.

However, in the case of the .om domain the typosquatters have sinister motives. The sites are being used to deliver malware and adware, with the typosquatters appearing to be targeting devices running OS X.

The sites detect the operating system on the device and redirect Windows users to websites where they are bombarded with popup adverts. Mac users are targeted with a fake Adobe Flash update. Downloading the update will install Genieo adware. Genieo adware installs itself as a browser extension on Firefox, Opera, and Chrome and is used to serve ads.

The spate of domain registrations was noticed by security researchers at Endgame, who discovered that over 330 domains had been registered with Oman’s Telecom Regulatory Authority in the past few weeks.

As is common with malicious typosquatters, they have chosen the names of well-known websites that receive large volumes of traffic. Endgame reports that .om sites have been registered for Gmail, Macys, Citibank, and Dell in the past few weeks, along with a host of other well-known brands. The sites appear to have been registered by a number of different typosquatting groups not just one individual. However, a large percentage were found to have been registered by individuals in New Jersey.

A number of different hosting companies have been used, although the site installations are all very similar. Endgame discovered that many of the sites contain vulnerabilities that could allow other parties to hijack the sites. At the present time, it would appear that the typosquatters are only intent on pushing Genieo adware and promote ad networks, although that may not remain the case. With the high number of security vulnerabilities that exist on the sites they could all too easily be hijacked by other individuals and used to deliver malware and ransomware to unsuspecting visitors.

Mobile Malware Threat Increasing According to Recent Studies

Two new studies indicate the mobile malware threat is increasing at an unpresented rate. Any enterprise that allows smartphones to connect to its network, such as those operating a BYOD policy, faces an increased risk of a cyberattack via those devices.

G DATA Report Warns of Rapidly Increasing Mobile Malware Threat

According to the recent G DATA survey, the mobile malware threat has increased substantially over the course of the past 12 months and shows no sign of abating. The number of new malware variants discovered in 2015 is 50% higher than 2014. In 2015, 2.3 million malware samples targeting Android devices were collected, with a new variant being identified, on average, every 11 seconds. In the final quarter of the year, an alarming 758,133 new malware samples were collected, which represents an increase of 32% from the third quarter.

The main risk is older devices operating outdated versions of Android, although G DATA reports that hackers are developing exploits for security vulnerabilities far faster than in past years. Unless Android operating systems are kept totally up to date, vulnerabilities will exist that can be exploited. Unfortunately, phone manufacturers often delay rolling out operating system updates leaving all devices prone to attack.

Mobile Malware Infections Increasing According to Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab

Earlier this month, a report issued by the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab suggested that 60% of malware operating in the mobile space targets Android smartphones. While iOS malware was a rarity, that has now changed. Nokia reports that for the first time ever, iOS malware has made the top 20 malware list, which now includes the iOS Xcodeghost and FlexiSpy malware. These two malware account for 6% of global smartphone infections.

Mobile ransomware is also increasing. In 2015, several new mobile ransomware variants were identified. Ransomware is used to lock devices with file-encrypting software. Users are only able to recover their files if a ransom is paid to the attackers. With an increasing number of individuals using their smartphones to store irreplaceable data, and many users not backing up those files, individuals are often given no choice but to pay attackers for a security key to unlock their data.

Nokia reports that the malware now being identified has increased in sophistication and has been written by hackers that know the Android system inside out. Malware is getting harder to detect, and once identified it can be extremely difficult to remove. Nokia reports that many malware variants are highly persistent and can even survive a factory reset.

How to Mitigate Mobile Malware Risk

With the mobile malware threat increasing, organizations must implement new security measures to keep devices secure and protect their networks. Anti-virus and anti-malware solutions should be installed on all devices allowed to connect to business networks to reduce the risk of a malware infection.

Many mobile devices are used for work purposes such as accessing business email accounts. Android malware infections could all too easily result in business data being compromised, while keyloggers could give attackers access to business networks.

Enterprises may not yet be majorly concerned about the rising mobile malware threat, but they should be. With the growing sophistication of today’s mobile malware, a business network compromise is a very real threat.

Enterprises that permit the use of mobile devices for work purposes should limit the actions that can be performed on Wi-Fi networks by implementing a web filtering solution. They should ensure that all BYOD policies stipulate a minimum Android version that can be used, and all devices should be kept up to date with app updates installed promptly. Enterprises should also monitor for jailbroken or rooted devices, and prevent them from being used for work purposes or from connecting to business Wi-Fi networks.

Ransomware Mitigation Policies Essential to Protect Against Rampant Ransomware

A new report issued by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure highlights the need for organizations to develop ransomware mitigation policies due to the high risk of cyberattacks involving the malicious file encrypting software. The report warns that 2016 will be a year when ransomware wreaks havoc on businesses in the United States, in particular on the U.S critical infrastructure community.

Ransomware is being used by cybercriminals as it is a highly effective method of extorting money from businesses. Businesses need data in order to function, and ransomware prevents them from accessing it. If ransomware is installed on a computer, or worse still spreads to a computer network, critical data needed by the business is encrypted. A ransom demand is issued by the attackers who will not release the decryption keys until the ransom is paid. Without those keys data will remain locked forever. Business are often given no alternative but to give in to the attackers’ demands.

Rampant Ransomware Prompts ICIT to Issue Warning

The report warns organizations of the current dangers, and says that in 2016, “Ransomware is rampant.” Organizations of all sizes are being targeted. The criminal gangs behind the campaigns are targeting healthcare providers, even though their actions place the lives of patients in danger. Police and fire departments have also been targeted, as have educational institutions and businesses. The greater the need for access to data, the bigger incentive organizations have to pay the ransom.

According to the report, “In numerous cases, organizations tend to pay because, for them, every minute of downtime directly equates to lost revenue.” The cost of that downtime can be considerable. Far more than the ransom demand in many cases.

Unfortunately, as pointed out in the report, it is too difficult and time consuming to track down attackers. They are able to cover their tracks effectively and they take payment in Bitcoin or use other online payment methods that give them a degree of anonymity. Often attacks are conducted across International borders. This makes it simply too difficult for the perpetrators to be found and brought to justice by law enforcement agencies.

Even the FBI has said that it advises companies to pay the ransom in many cases, unless the victims can live without their data. The report says, “no security vendor or law enforcement authority can help victims recover from these attacks.” It is therefore up to each individual organization to put measures in place to protect against ransomware.

Ransomware Mitigation Policies are Essential

Recovering from a ransomware infection can be expensive and difficult. It is therefore imperative that defenses are put in place to prevent ransomware from being installed on computers and networks.

The report suggests four key areas that can help with ransomware mitigation.

  • Forming a dedicated information security team
  • Conducting staff training
  • Implementing layered defenses
  • Developing policies and procedures to mitigate risk

An information security team should conduct risk assessments, identify vulnerabilities, and ensure defenses are shored up. Security holes must be plugged to prevent them being exploited. The team must also devise strategies to protect critical assets. They are an essential element of a ransomware mitigation strategy.

Staff training is essential. Employees must be instructed how to identify threats. Employees are often targeted as they are the weakest link in the security chain. It is easiest to get an employee to install ransomware than to attempt a hack in many cases. According to the report, this is one of the most important ransomware mitigation steps to take.

Layered defenses should be implemented to make it harder for attackers to succeed. Organizations should not rely on one form of defense such as a firewall.  Antivirus and antimalware solutions should be used, anti-spam filters employed to prevent email attacks, and web filtering solutions should be used to prevent web-borne attacks.

With the threat now having reached critical levels, ransomware mitigation policies are essential. Administrative policies can help reduce the likelihood of an attack being successful. Employees must be aware who they can report suspicious emails and network activity to, and those individuals must be aware how they should act and deal with threats.

Mac Ransomware Being Delivered Via BitTorrent

It was only a matter of time before a fully functional Mac ransomware was developed. Researchers at Palo Alto Networks have discovered that time has now come, after its Unit 42 team found KeRanger: The first fully functional Mac ransomware to be discovered in the wild. The ransomware was spread via the Transmission file-sharing app.

Fortunately, action has been taken to contain the malicious software before it could be fully exploited; however, this signals a turning point for Apple users. Their devices are no longer safe from ransomware attacks.

Mac Ransomware is No Longer Theoretical

While a Mac ransomware called FileCoder was discovered by Kaspersky Lab in 2014, the malicious software was incomplete and could not be used to infect Apple devices. The discovery of KeRanger shows that Apple users are no longer immune to attack.

Apple has added the signature for the malicious software to its XProtect OS X anti-malware definitions However, any Apple customer that downloaded BitTorrent client Transmission (v 2.9) over the weekend (Between 11:00 PST on March 4, and 19:00 PST on March 5, 2016) could well have downloaded KeRanger, along with any customer who downloaded the file sharing app prior to March 4.

The Mac ransomware bypassed Gatekeeper controls by using a genuine security certificate. The certificate was issued to Polisan Boya Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş., of Istanbul and is believed to have been stolen.

The ransomware was included in the Transmission installation files as “General.rtf.” The rich text file looks innocuous enough, but General.rtf is not a document file as the extension suggests, instead it is a Mach-O executable file. The file is copied to ~/Library/kernel_service and is run before the user sees an interface.

Once the ransomware has been activated, it searches the system on which it is installed and will encrypt around 300 different file types, including images, documents, multimedia files, emails, databases, certificates, archives, and source code. The Mac ransomware uses AES encryption to lock any files it finds and is capable of encrypting files saved on connected networks and external drives.

In many cases, ransomware infections cannot be removed and the user is forced to pay a ransom to obtain a security key. However, locked files can potentially be restored from backups. Unfortunately for users infected with KeRanger, the Time Machine system files are also encrypted preventing backup files from being restored.

The Threat Has Been Neutralized Although Action Must Be Taken by Transmission Users

The new Mac ransomware has been neutralized by the revoking of the digital certificate that enables the software to install on OS X, while the developers of Transmission App have removed the infected version from the transmissionbt.com website.

According to Claud Xiao of Palo Alto Networks, if KeRanger has been installed, users will still be at risk of having their files encrypted.  The latest version of Transmission will remove the ransomware if it has been installed on users’ Macs.

Any customer who has installed version 2.9 should download the updated version of the file sharing software as soon as possible to prevent their device from being locked by the file-encrypting malware.

Users only have a limited timeframe for doing this. The Mac ransomware will stay hidden and quiet for 3 days following infection. After that it will connect to its C&C and will start encrypting files on the infected device and connected drives. A ransom of 1 Bitcoin (around $400) will then be demanded by the attackers. Only if the ransom is paid will the security key be sent to unlock the encryption. Failure to pay will see files locked forever. Transmission users must ensure they have installed version 2.92 and need to reboot their device after installation.

Protecting Devices from Attack Using WebTitan Web Filtering Solutions

WebTitan Cloud can help enterprises keep their devices free from malware and ransomware by blocking the downloading of file types known to be used by hackers to install malicious software. It is also possible to prevent KeRanger installations by blocking access to file sharing websites. By limiting the actions that can be taken by users and the sites that can be visited, the risk of networks being compromised or infected with malware can be greatly reduced.

WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Gateway web filtering solutions can reduce reliance on staff training to teach end users how to identify malware, phishing emails, and malicious websites. Blocking risky online behavior can significantly reduce the risk of malware and ransomware infections.

Business Email Compromise Scams Used to Steal Employee Data

Phishing scams have increased significantly in the past few weeks as cybercriminals step up their campaigns during tax season, with many using a technique referred to as business email compromise to fool victims into sending employee W-2 form data to the attackers.

Beware of Business Email Compromise Campaigns During Tax Season

Some organizations have thwarted attacks, but many have fallen for the phishing scams and have emailed highly sensitive employee data to the criminals behind the campaigns. Business email compromise is used in spear phishing campaigns: Highly targeted and highly convincing attacks on small numbers of employees within an organization.

Most phishing campaigns are random. Emails are sent out by the million in the hope that some individuals will fall for the scams. The email campaigns are not particularly convincing and rely on greed or naiveté in many cases to attract a click or the disclosure of sensitive data.

Business email compromise campaigns on the other hand are much more convincing. They tend to involve very carefully constructed emails, good grammar, do not contain the spelling mistakes common in most spam emails, and are hand written and sent to a very select number of individuals within an organization or to just one person. They are often personal, referring to the target by their first name. They also use business email addresses for the attack. An email sent from within the company, or seemly from within the company, is much more likely to be trusted.

Corporate images are often used, email signatures copied, and the email address of the sender is spoofed. Victims are researched, as are the companies. The key to the success of these campaigns is their realism. The aim is to get an employee to take a specific action without thinking that the request is anything other than genuine. If the scam is successful, the victim may never know that they have been duped.

The email requests, at first glance at least, appear to be genuine. They are sent from a senior executive or the CEO of the company. When they are sent from an authority figure from within the company the request is less likely to be questioned.

In the past few weeks a number of companies have received business email compromise phishing emails and have sent attackers a list of employee W-2 form data, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, names, and details of employee earnings for the year. These data can be used by the criminals to file false tax returns in the names of company employees.

W-2 Phishing Scams Target Californian Companies

Magnolia Health Corporation recently announced one of its employees had fallen for a business email compromise scam and had sent a full list of employees to the attacker. The mistake was discovered, although not for a week. The attack took place on February 3, 2016.

Also on February 3, Californian company BrightView also received a phishing email requesting employee data and sent information, as requested, to the email scammers. BrightView discovered the mistake the following day.

Polycom, a content collaboration and communication technology also based in California, was attacked in the same manner on February 5, and also fell for the business email compromise scam. California-based Snapchat similarly was fooled by the business email compromise scam and emailed the data of 700 employees to the attackers. Mercy Housing Inc., and Central Concrete Supply Co., also suffered similar attacks recently.

The attacks have not been limited to California. Alaskan Telecommunications company GCI also fell victim to a similar attack, which resulted in the data of 2,500 employees being sent to a scammer.

BEC scams are convincing and employees need to be particularly vigilant especially at this time of year. To reduce the risk of a BEC attack being successful, it is important that staff receive training on how to identify a business email compromise scam. Policies should also be introduced to make it harder for employees to fall for the scams, such as requiring all data requests to be verified by two employees, one of whom should be within the Information Security team.

Until tax season draws to a close we are likely to see even more companies fall for these scams.

Marcher Trojan: Yet Another Reason to Use a Web Filter

The Marcher Trojan was first discovered in the wild around three years ago; however, malware does not remain the same for very long, so it is no surprise to see yet another Marcher Trojan variant appear. This time the method of attack differs substantially from previous incarnations of this money-stealing malware.

Marcher Trojan Delivered Using Fake Adobe Flash Update

This time, attackers are targeting users of online pornography and are attempting to trick them into installing the Marcher Trojan on their Android phones by disguising the malware as an Adobe Flash installer package. Adobe Flash may be on its last legs, but a considerable number of porn websites host Flash videos. Users of pornographic websites therefore need Adobe Flash in order to view adult videos.

The attackers are targeting users of pornographic websites by sending links to new porn sites via SMS messages and spam email. Clicking the links contained in those messages will direct the user to a malicious website where they are asked to download an update to Adobe Flash.

Adobe Flash updates are frequently released due to the high number of zero-day vulnerabilities discovered in the software. Users are therefore likely to think there is nothing untoward about the update. The attackers have named it AdobeFlashPlayer.apk to make the download appear genuine.

After downloading the update, the user is required to change settings on the phone to allow apps from unknown sources to be installed. They are then asked to give the fake Adobe Flash update administrator privileges. Once installed, the owner of the device will be unaware that they have just compromised their Android phone.

The malware will then start communicating with the attackers C&C server and will send a list of the apps installed on the device to the attackers. That information is then used to display the appropriate fake login screens for apps installed on the device. Those login screens record bank and credit card details and send them to the attackers.

Another method of attack used by the malware is to send a MMS message to the user asking them to download the X-Video porn app from the Google Play store. The X-Video app is not malicious and can be installed for free; however, after installing the app the user receives a fake prompt asking them to update their Google Play credit card information.

The Marcher Trojan can also prevent users from visiting the real Google Play store without first entering their payment card details into the fake Google Play payment screen.

Fortunately, the malware is easy to remove. The app can be deactivated and then uninstalled. But the user would need to know they have been infected in order to do that.

Blocking Adult Content to Protect WiFi Network Users

Any business that allows employees to access WiFi network can improve network security by blocking access to adult websites. Preventing WiFi network users from accessing adult sites and other websites commonly used to deliver malware can greatly improve security posture.

The Marcher Trojan is being used to steal money from Android users, although the malware has been used to deliver at least 50 different payloads. Other Trojan downloaders deliver ransomware and other nasty malware. Once on a network the malicious software can cause a considerable amount of damage.

WebTitan can be used to prevent the downloading of files commonly used by hackers to hide malware such as SCR, EXE, and ZIP files. It can also be used to block access to risky websites and those known to contain malware.

For business WiFi networks, a web filter is now becoming less of an option and more of a necessity to prevent malware and ransomware downloads and keep users’ devices and networks malware free.

Wireless Device Security Vulnerabilities Are Not Being Addressed

According to a recent report issued by Pwnie Labs, wireless device security vulnerabilities are not being addressed by enterprises even though many wireless devices can be used as backdoors into corporate networks.

If wireless printers and access points are not secured, hackers can easily use them to gain access to internal networks. Many organizations invest heavily in security defenses but forget to change the default configurations on their wireless printers. Pwnie Labs researchers ascertained that more than half of wireless devices (56%) used by enterprises are HP printers. When default settings are not changed, the devices can be used as a backdoor into corporate networks. HP printers were found to be the most commonly open wireless network, while 35% of wireless access points either did not use encryption or security defenses were found to be particularly weak.

Plugging wireless device security vulnerabilities is not always straightforward. Organizations need to change the default password on the devices, yet many do not do so because it causes connectivity problems. However, if wireless device security vulnerabilities are not addressed they could allow hackers to bypass an organization’s security defenses and gain access to internal networks.

Wireless Device Security Vulnerabilities Are Being Exploited by Hackers

A recent survey conducted on 400 IT security professionals showed that 55% of respondents had already witnessed a cyberattack via wireless devices. 86% said that they were concerned about wireless device security vulnerabilities.

Pwnie Labs found that many wireless printers are left with default settings active, although some do not even have a username and password set allowing anyone to connect. If the wireless printer is hardwired to an Ethernet network, gaining access to the printer via Wi-Fi could allow a hacker to also gain access to the network to which the printer is connected.

The devices are designed to make connection as easy as possible, and this feature can all too easily be exploited by attackers. If an attacker sets up a malicious access point and used the same SSID as that used by the manufacturer to configure the printer, the printer could automatically connect to that network.

To prevent this, remove open wireless networks from the preferred network list on the printer. Alternatively, ensure that the printer does not automatically connect to open wireless networks.

If a wireless printer is used as a network printer via an Ethernet connection, it is essential to disable Wi-Fi functionality to prevent the device from being used as a wireless bridge to the wired network. If there is no need for a wireless printer to be hardwired to a network, ensure that it isn’t and use strong encryption to connect wirelessly to the device.

Printers are not the only devices that can be used in this fashion. All devices with wireless functionality must be subjected to a full risk assessment. If wireless networks are not used by an organization, devices with wireless capability must have the function disabled. If wireless networks are in use, all devices must be carefully configured to reduce the risk of attack.

Enterprise Malware Attacks Increasing: Malware Infections Increased 73 pc in 2015

Last year saw a massive increase in the number of recorded enterprise malware attacks, with hackers also targeting public sector organizations and government agencies with increased frequency. According to the new Dell Security Annual Threat Report, malware attacks virtually doubled in 2015, and reached a staggering 8.19 billion worldwide infections.

The new report makes for worrying reading. The current threat level is greater than ever before and the volume of enterprise malware attacks now taking place has reached unprecedented levels. Organizations that fail to implement robust controls to protect their systems from malware downloads are likely to be attacked.

Dell Reports a 73% Increase in Malware Infections in 2015

To compile the report, Dell gathered data from its Dell SonicWALL Global Response Intelligence Defense network. In 2014, Dell SonicWALL received approximately 37 million unique malware samples. In 2015, that figure increased to 64 million: An increase of 73%. Dell noted increases in malware, ransomware, viruses, Trojans, worms, and botnets in 2015.

Not only is the volume of malware increasing, the vectors used to infect devices and networks are now much broader. Cybercriminals are also getting much better at concealing infections and covering their tracks. When malware is eventually discovered on systems, it has usually been present and active for some time.

Hackers are now using anti-forensic techniques to evade detection, steganography, URL pattern changes, and are modifying their landing page entrapment techniques. Command and Control center communications are also being encrypted making it harder to identify communications from infected devices and systems. Oftentimes, it is communications between malware and C&C servers that allow anti-malware and intrusion prevention systems to identify malware infections.

Spam email is still being used to deliver malicious software although drive-by attacks have increased. IoT devices are also being used to install malware due to the relatively poor security of the devices.

Enterprises now have a much broader attack surface to defend, yet security budgets are often stretched making it difficult for IT security teams to install adequate defenses to repel attacks using such a diverse range of attack vectors. It may not be possible to implement robust defenses to repel all attacks, although by concentrating on the most commonly exploited weaknesses the majority of enterprise malware attacks can easily be prevented.

How to Defend Against Enterprise Malware Attacks

The majority of successful enterprise malware attacks could have been prevented had basic security measures been implemented and had industry security best practices been adopted. Hackers may be using ever more sophisticated methods to infiltrate systems and steal data, but in the majority of cases they do not use zero-day vulnerabilities to attack: Well-known security weaknesses are exploited.

All too often enterprise malware attacks are discovered to have occurred as a result of unpatched or outdated software. Oftentimes, patches and software updates have been available for months prior to attacks taking place. One of the best defenses against cyberattacks is to adopt good patch management practices and ensure that software updates are applied within days of release.

Email spam is still used to deliver a wide range of malware and malicious software, yet spam email is easy to block with a robust spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. Along with staff training on phishing email identification and basic security best practices, malware infections via email can be easily prevented.

It is also strongly advisable to implement an enterprise web filtering solution. Allowing employees full access to the Internet can leave a business susceptible to drive-by malware downloads. A web filtering solution such as WebTitan Gateway – or WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi networks – can prevent malicious file downloads, malvertising, and limit the risk of drive-by enterprise malware attacks.

Using a firewall capable of inspecting every packet and validating all entitlements for access is also advisable. Since hackers are also using SSL/TLS encryption to mask C&C communications, it is a wise precaution to use a firewall that incorporates SSL-DPI inspection functionality.

Locky Ransomware: New Threat Installed Using Malicious Word Macros

Locky ransomware is a new threat believed to emanate from the hacking team behind Dridex malware. The new threat is being delivered via spam email and is disguised as a Microsoft Word invoice. If macros are enabled, or if the macro contained in the infected Word file is run, a script will download Locky ransomware: A 32-bit executable file containing a dropper. That dropped malware will run from the %TEMP% folder and will disguise itself as svchost.exe.

Locky ransomware will search for files stored on the infected device and will rename them and add the extension locky. The renamed files cannot be identified by the user. They are given a unique file ID along with a unique ID for each user. Files are locked using RSA-2048 and AES-128 ciphers and all communication between Locky and its command and control server are encrypted.

Once files have been encrypted, a text file will be saved to the desktop detailing the actions that must be taken by the victim in order to restore their files. A bitmap containing the instructions is also set as the user’s wallpaper.

Links are supplied which the user must access via the Tor network and further instructions unique to that user are detailed on a unique webpage for each user. Users are instructed how to buy Bitcoin and how to send the ransom of 0.5 to 1.0 Bitcoin (around $200-$400) to the attackers. Upon paying the ransom the victim will receive a security key which will enable them to unlock their files. Locky ransomware encrypts data stored on local drives, removable media, and ramdisks, although it is also capable of encrypting data on network resources.

Locky ransomware can only be installed if a malicious macro contained in the Word file is run. Opening the infected Word document will not result in the device or network being infected until macros have been enabled. If this happens, the Word document macro will save a file to the device (Troj/Ransom-CGX) which will act as a downloader and will install the ransomware payload.

Once downloaded the payload will start to encrypt a wide range of files. Those files include documents, multimedia files, images, office files, and source code. Shadow copies (VSS files) on the device will also be removed. Even the wallet.dat file is encrypted, leaving Bitcoin users no alternative but to pay the ransom. The ransomware will encrypt files on any connected or mounted drive, and will lock files regardless of the operating system used.

Any user logged in with administrator privileges when Locky ransomware strikes will see a considerable amount of damage caused, leaving them no alternative but to pay the ransom to unlock files. Bear in mind that the above ransom amounts have been seen for individual users. There is no telling what ransom will be demanded if a business user is infected.

How to Protect Against Locky Ransomware Attacks

There are a number of ways that businesses can protect their networks from a Locky ransomware attack. The first is to prevent the malicious word document from being delivered.

  • A robust anti-spam filter can filter out malicious emails and quarantine them, preventing phishing and malicious spam emails from being delivered to end users’ inboxes.

 

  • Staff training is essential in case malicious emails find their way into end users’ inboxes. Employees must be warned of the risks of ransomware and other malware, told how the malicious software is delivered, and how to identify potentially malicious emails. End users must be told never to open a file attachment sent from someone they do not know.

 

  • All devices with Word installed should have macros disabled. If users are required to use macros, they should enable them to work on files and disable the macro function when the task has been completed. If macros are set to run automatically, opening an infected Word document will allow malicious code to run automatically.

 

  • Portable drives should not remain connected when they are not in use.

 

  • Users should never log in as an administrator unless it is strictly necessary. Always log in without administrator rights unless they are necessary for a particular task to be performed and log out afterwards.

 

  • Regularly backup important files (daily) and store backups off site.

 

  • Not all malware is delivered via spam email. Hackers are increasingly using FTP sites, file sharing websites, and compromised websites to deliver malware. Blocking these sites using a web filtering solution such as WebTitan is strongly advisable. WebTitan can also block files commonly used to deliver malware (BAT, SCR, and EXE files).

 

  • Patches should be installed promptly and browsers and plugins updated as soon as patches and updates are released. Security vulnerabilities can be exploited via malicious websites and malware and ransomware downloaded without any user action.

School Web Filter Fails to Prevent Porn from Being Accessed in the Classroom

The failure to use a school web filter could result in children gaining access to hardcore pornography in the classroom. If a school web filter is used, it is essential to ensure that it is configured correctly. Two Canadian parents have just discovered that porn is still accessible via classroom computers after conducting a simple test at their daughters’ school.

In this case, the Internet could only be accessed at the elementary school in Markham, Ontario, using a valid account and Internet access is supervised, so the chance of children viewing adult content is limited. That said, if children want to view porn they would not be prevented from doing so.  The software solution that had been put in place did not block pornography and other adult content from being displayed.

After gaining permission to use her daughter’s Internet login, Eva Himanen conducted a simple search on Google to see whether it was possible for images of an adult nature to be viewed in the classroom. She did this by typing the search terms “porn” and “naked sex” into Google.

Rather than images and search listings being blocked, the search brought up numerous thumbnail images of exactly the material one would expect such as search to produce.  There were also listings of a wide range of porn websites that had not been blocked. A school web filter was allegedly in place, but images were still displayed.

Access to the Internet is controlled by logins and parents and children are required to sign an acceptable use form each year. However, while students may agree not to search for adult website content, that does not prevent them from viewing inappropriate material.

If a child was able to access pornographic images without being spotted by a teacher, it is likely that the Internet use would be discovered. Logs of all websites visited are maintained by the school and are regularly checked. Any websites of an adult nature that are accessed would be tied to an individual child’s login and action would be taken again that individual. However, the damage would have already been done. If one student was to perform such a search and break the rules, other children’s may also be affected.

The Importance of Implementing Robust but Flexible School Web Filter

Blocking access to certain sections of the Internet is straightforward with WebTitan. WebTitan’s school web filter is quick and easy to implement and can offer protection in a matter of minutes. It is possible to block websites by category as well as by keyword term, and blacklists can be uploaded easily.

One of the problems that can occur with a school web filter is the overblocking of website content. It is possible that blocking a particular category of website, or a specific keyword term such as “sex”, would result in some website content being blocked incorrectly. This could potentially prevent individuals from accessing sexual education material, some of which may be required under the curriculum.

A web filter may therefore require a certain degree of fine tuning. False positives will always occur with any web filter, although careful implementation and choice of keyword terms and website categories will keep this to a minimum, while ensuring that harmful content is blocked. Using a flexible, and easy to use school web filter such as WebTitan will make this as straightforward as possible.

WebTitan’s web filtering solutions for schools have a high degree of granularity, allowing potentially harmful content to be easily filtered, while ensuring that valuable educational material is still displayed. It is still important to have allowable use policies in place, but should a student attempt to break the rules, they would still be prevented from viewing adult content, and their actions would be logged to allow action to be taken.

For further information on the full range of features of WebTitan’s school web filtering solutions, contact the sales team today for advice.

Contact Information:

US Sales +1 585 973 5080

UK/EU Sales +44 (0)247 699 3641

IRL +353 91 54 55 00

or email us at info@webtitan.com

The Healthcare Ransomware Threat is Increasing

The healthcare ransomware threat is not new, but the threat of attack is growing. Last week, a healthcare provider in the United States found out just how damaging a ransomware attack can be. Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital experienced a ransomware attack on February 5, resulting in part of its computer network being taken out of action for more than a week.

The healthcare provider’s electronic health record system (EHR) was locked by ransomware and a demand of $17,000 was made by the attackers to supply the security keys. This is not the first time that a healthcare provider has had to deal with a ransomware infection, but attacks on healthcare organizations have been relatively rare.

What makes this attack stand out is the fact that the ransom was actually paid. CEO Allen Stefanek said “The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom.”

The Healthcare Ransomware Threat is Very Real

Many businesses in the country have been attacked and have been forced to pay sizable ransoms in order to get a security key to decrypt their locked data. If data is encrypted by attackers, and no backup exists, there is little choice but to pay the ransom and hope that the attackers make good on their promise to supply the security keys.

There is no guarantee that the attackers will pay of course. They could just demand even more money. There have also been cases where the attackers have “tweaked” their ransomware, but accidentally broke it in the process. Even if a ransom was paid, it would not be possible to unlock the data.

Paying a ransom does not therefore guarantee that the security keys will be supplied. In this case, the attackers did make good on their promise and supplied the keys allowing business to return to normal.

The public announcement about the ransomware attack, and the disclosure of the payment of the $17,000 ransom, could potentially lead to even more attacks taking place. That is a big payment for a hacker, yet orchestrating a ransomware campaign is relatively easy, and does not require a major financial outlay. The return on investment will be significant if a healthcare provider is forced to pay a ransom. Since the ransom was paid, this may prompt many more hackers to attack healthcare providers.

Ransomware Attack Raises a Number of Questions

This attack does raise a number of questions. What many security professionals will be asking is why the hospital paid at all. In the United States, healthcare providers are required to make backups and store those data off-site. In event of emergency, such as this, a healthcare provider must be able to restore patient data. This is a requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It doesn’t matter what the emergency is, if computers or networks are taken out of action, the protected health information of patients cannot be lost.

The reality however, is that restoring computer systems after a ransomware attack may not be quite as straightforward. It would depend on the extent of the ransomware attack, the number of systems that were compromised, the difficulty of restoring data, and how much data would actually be lost.

Backups should be performed daily, so it is possible that 24 hours of data may have been lost, but unlikely any more. Even if data loss had occurred, it is probably that the data were stored elsewhere and could be recovered. The payment of the ransom suggests that there may have actually been an issue with the backups, or that the cost of recovering data from the backups would have been more than the cost of paying the ransom.

Dealing with the Healthcare Ransomware Threat

Regardless of the reasons why data restoration was not possible, or paying the ransom seemed preferable, other healthcare providers should be concerned. Further attacks are likely to take place, so it is essential that backups are performed regularly, and critically, those backups are tested. A backup of data that cannot be restored is not a backup. It is a false hope.

Furthermore, healthcare providers must ensure employees are trained how to spot a malware and ransomware, and software solutions should be implemented to prevent spam emails from being delivered to inboxes. Staff should be prepared, but it is best not to put the malware identification skills to the test.

Not all ransomware is delivered via spam email. Additional protections must also be put in place to prevent drive-by attacks and malvertising should be blocked. A web filtering solution, such as WebTitan, should also be installed to reduce the risk of ransomware downloads and to enforce safe use of the Internet.

There is no silver bullet that can totally negate the healthcare ransomware threat. It is impossible to make any system 100% secure, but by implementing a range of protections the risk of a ransomware infection can be reduced to an acceptable level. A disaster recovery plan must also exist that will allow data to be restored in the event that an attack does prove to be successful.

Medical Equipment Cybersecurity: Tomographic Scanner Hacked via Hospital Wi-Fi

In recent months, concern has been growing over the lack of medical equipment cybersecurity protections in place at hospitals and medical centers. Healthcare providers are being targeted by cybercriminals for the confidential data they store on patients. Medical devices, and their associated computer hardware, could potentially be targeted by cybercriminals. Medical device security is often overlooked by health IT professionals, and the manufacturers of the devices often fail to make their equipment secure.

Healthcare providers store Social Security numbers, health insurance data, financial information, and the personal information of patients. These data have a high value on the black market as they can be used by criminals to commit identity theft and a multitude of fraud.

Cyberattacks on hospitals and health insurers are increasing, and while cybersecurity protections as a whole are improving, the industry still lags behind other industry sectors when it comes to implementing robust cybersecurity protections. Numerous security vulnerabilities are often allowed to exist, making it relatively easy for hackers to take advantage.

Medical equipment cybersecurity is particularly lax. The devices may not provide easy access to the types of data sought by identity thieves in some cases, but they are networked. If access is gained, attacks on other parts of a healthcare network could take place.

If hackers are able to gain access to a medical device a considerable amount of harm could be caused. A malicious hacker could alter or delete data, crash the device, or steal data stored on the device or the computer connected to it.  If settings can be altered patients could be seriously harmed. Doses of medication could be altered or medical diagnoses or test results changed, with disastrous consequences for the patient.

Expensive equipment could be sabotaged or the devices could be locked with ransomware. The ransomware infection of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center this month shows that the threat of malware is very real. In fact, attacks on hospitals can be very lucrative for hackers. The hospital recently paid $17,000 for security keys to unlock its EHR system after a ransomware infection took it out of action.

How Bad Are Medical Equipment Cybersecurity Protections?

So how bad are medical equipment cybersecurity protections? Recently, Sergey Lozhkin of Kaspersky Lab decided to find out. He recently announced the results of his attempts to hack medical devices at the 2016 Security Analyst Summit (SAS 2016) in Tenerife.

Lozhkin set out to hack a hospital and succeeded in doing just that by exploiting a lack of medical device cybersecurity protections at a hospital. The hack started with a search using the Shodan search engine. Lozhkin discovered a number of hospital devices and contacted the owner. Along with his friend, he decided to conduct a penetration test to see just how easy it was to gain access to the devices. The senior managers of the hospital were aware of the test and secured real data to prevent any unauthorized disclosure or data loss as a result of the test.

The first attempt at hacking the medical devices failed. The hospital’s systems administrator had done a good job of securing systems from external attack. However, the second attempt at hacking was successful. Lozhkin decided that instead of attacking from home, he would travel to the hospital and try to attack from within. However, physical access to the hospital was not necessary. He was able to hack the hospital from his car, since he could park outside and gain access to the hospital’s local Wi-Fi network.

Once he hacked the network key he was able to gain access to a tomographic scanner. By exploiting a vulnerability in an application he gained access to the file system of the device and was able to view (fake) patient data. The real data had been secured prior to the test. In this case, the hack was possible because the hospital’s systems administrator had made a fundamental mistake, having connected a medical device to the hospital’s public WiFi network.

Forget Medical Equipment Cybersecurity Protections at your Peril

If medical equipment cybersecurity protections are insufficient, it may be hacktivists or data thieves that gain access to data rather than pen testers. Hospitals must ensure that medical equipment cybersecurity protections are put in place, but security must also be tested to ensure cybersecurity defenses actually prevent access to medical devices and the sensitive data they contain.

Better medical equipment cybersecurity protections must also be incorporated into the design of medical devices by the manufacturers to make sure medical equipment is harder to hack.

California Data Breach Report: Majority of Cyberattacks Easily Preventable

According to a February 2016 California data breach report issued by the California attorney general’s office, the majority of data breaches are easily preventable if basic security measures are adopted. Had companies doing business in the state of California implemented industry best practices and adhered to federal and state regulations, the privacy of millions of Californians would have been protected.

However, that was not the case and over the course of the past 4 years close to 50 million state residents have had their private data exposed as a result of data breaches suffered by government and private organizations.

The California data breach report includes a summary of data breaches reported to the attorney general’s office between 2012 and 2015. From 2012, the California Attorney general’s office needed to be notified of a breach of personally identifiable information if more than 500 state residents were affected.

Between 2012 and 2015, 657 data breaches were reported. 49.6 million state residents had their personally identifiable information exposed.

In almost half of cases, Social Security numbers were obtained by cybercriminals or were exposed as a result of the loss or theft of devices used to store personal information.

2015 was a Bad Year for Data Breaches in California

The California data breach report was compiled following a particularly bad year for Californians. In 2015, 24 million state residents had their personal information exposed. That equates to one in three Californians. To put the figure into perspective, in 2012 only 2.6 million state residents were affected by data breaches.

The California data breach report was compiled to show just how bad the current situation is. According to State attorney general Kamala D. Harris, the report should serve as a “starting point and a call to action for all of us.” The situation must improve.

Harris points out in the introduction to the 2016 Californian data breach report that “many organizations need to sharpen their security skills, trainings, practices, and procedures to properly protect consumers,” she goes on to say that if a company chooses to store private and confidential data on state residents, that company has a “legal obligation to adopt appropriate security controls.”

California Data Breach Report Summary

The main findings of the 2016 California data breach report are listed below:

  • The biggest data security threats are malware and hacking
  • Malware and hacking exposed 54 percent of records and accounted for the most data breaches (365)
  • Malware and hacking attacks have grown by 22% in 4 years and caused 58% of breaches in 2015
  • Malware and hacking caused 90% of retail data breaches
  • Physical breaches (loss and theft of devices) accounted for 27% of all reported breaches.
  • Physical breaches are declining: They fell from 27% in 2012 to 17% in 2015
  • Errors and employee/employer negligence accounted for 17% of data breaches
  • Medical records were exposed or stolen in 19% of reported breaches
  • Payment card information was stolen in 39% of data breaches
  • Small businesses reported 15% of data breaches

According to the new California data breach report, the retail sector suffered the most, accounting for a quarter of all data breaches reported in the past four years. Those security incidents resulted in the exposure of 42% of the total number of records exposed in the past four years. The financial sector was in second place with 18% of breaches, while the healthcare sector was third being involved in 16% of data breaches.

Data Breach Prevention – Improve Protection Against Malware

The prevention of cyberattacks requires multi-layered security systems, although in the majority of cases data breaches were found to be the result of a failure to update software and apply patches. The security vulnerabilities that were exploited by hackers or used to install malware had been discovered and patched. In the majority of cases, patches had existed for over a year but had not been installed.

Malware is commonly used as a way of gaining access to computer systems used to store valuable consumer data. Malware is often delivered via spam email campaigns. A robust and powerful anti-spam solution should be implemented to catch malicious emails and prevent them from being delivered to user inboxes.

If staff are also trained to identify malware and potentially harmful emails and attachments, a great deal of malware infections can be prevented. However, email is not the only malware delivery mechanism. Cybercriminals are increasingly using exploit kits to probe for security weaknesses in browsers and browser plugins. Those vulnerabilities can be exploited and used to download malware without any user interaction required.

These infections are referred to as drive-by attacks, and they can occur if a user can be directed to a malicious website or a site that has been compromised by cybercriminals.

Third party advertising networks can contain adverts with malicious links that direct visitors to sites where drive-by attacks can take place. Those adverts can appear on legitimate websites. Even some of the biggest sites on the Internet have been discovered to display malvertising. These threats must be dealt with to prevent data breaches from occurring.

Protecting against malware delivery via the Internet requires a different solution: a web filter.

Protect End Users from Web-Borne Malware Threats with WebTitan

WebTitan offers a range of web filtering solutions for the enterprise to protect end users from web-borne threats such as malware, ransomware, viruses, Trojans, and memory-resident malware threats. Solutions have also been developed to keep Wi-Fi networks and hotspots free from malware.

By implementing a web filtering solution, end users can be prevented from visiting websites known to contain malware and from engaging in risky online behavior. By restricting access to potentially dangerous websites, the risk of a malware or ransomware infection can be greatly reduced.

For further information on the benefits of WebTitan’s web filtering solutions contact the Sales team today:

US Sales +1 585 973 5080

UK/EU Sales +44 (0)247 699 3641

IRL +353 91 54 55 00

Alternatively send an email to sales@webtitan.com or visit the webpages below:

https://www.webtitan.com/webtitan/

https://www.webtitan.com/webtitan-cloud-for-wifi/

TalkTalk Underestimates Cost of a Data Breach

The cost of a data breach can be considerable, as has been clearly demonstrated by the hacking of TalkTalk. The hacking of the UK-based Internet service provider resulted in 157,000 customer accounts being compromised, with 15,656 bank account numbers and sort codes stolen by the hackers.

The group of hackers responsible for the security breach spoke to the media soon after and talked of the poor security at TalkTalk, and how easy it was to gain access to sensitive customer data. One of the hackers even said that in one instance, a three-digit password had been used to secure an account.

The hacking incident triggered a media storm which tarnished the ISP’s image and resulted in many customers changing ISP to one that was perceived to offer better security. As to how many customers have changed their mind about signing up with TalkTalk, that is unlikely to ever be known.

Soon after the discovery of the extent of the data breach, TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding told the BBC that the company still expected its end of year results to “be in line with market expectations,” and that the data breach would likely result in one-off costs of between £30-£35 million.

However, the ISP seriously underestimated the fallout from the hacking incident, with the current costs now double the initial estimate at £60 million: Enough to make a noticeable dent in the company’s profits. That cost was broken down as one-off costs of around £45 million and a trading impact of £15 million.

The Cost of a Data Breach is Easy to Underestimate

The cost of a data breach is difficult to accurately calculate. It is possible to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the cost of breach resolution measures. The cost of implementing new security controls to prevent future cyberattacks is fairly easy to predict, as is the cost of mailing breach notification letters to customers. What it is much harder to estimate is the loss of business as a result of a breach of customer data.

TalkTalk took the decision to offer customers a free upgrade of services and told those affected financially be the breach that they would be free to leave without penalty. Since customers were not permitted to change without a cost if they had not suffered losses, many had to wait until their contract expired before switching provider. According to the latest figures, the company lost 101,000 customers as a result of the data breach.

The decision to offer a free upgrade of services proved to be a wise move, not only to prevent customers who had been affected by the data breach from leaving, but to convince other customers to stay. The free upgrade has reportedly been taken up by around 500,000 customers. Even with that upgrade, the company understandably experienced a higher churn rate, with many not choosing to renew their contracts when they came to an end.

The total impact on revenue was estimated to be around 3%, although the company appears to now be recovering with the churn rate having improved in the past two months. According to Harding, “Trust in the TalkTalk brand has improved since just after the attack and consideration is higher now than it was before the incident.”

Security Risk From Java Runtime Environment Security Highlighted by RAT Discovery

Kaspersky Lab has recently discovered the extent to which a remote access Trojan is being used by cybercriminals, highlighting the security risk from Java Runtime Environment.

Kaspersky Lab discovered that the Adwind remote access Trojan (RAT) discovered in 2012 is being used extensively by cybercriminals to conduct attacks on businesses. The RAT is frequently tweaked to avoid detection with numerous variants currently in use in the wild. The RAT has many names in addition to Adwind, with Alien Spy, JSocket, jRat, and Sockrat just a few of the names of the Adwind malware variants.

The Java-based RAT is now being rented out to criminal gangs to allow them to conduct their opportunistic attacks on companies and individuals, sometimes for as little as $25. Kaspersky Lab estimates that the number of criminals now using the malware has risen to around 1,800. The malware is estimated to be raking in around $200,000 a year for the authors. To date, it is estimated that the RAT has been used to attack as many as 440,000 users.

The frequency of attacks is also increasing. In the past 6 months, around 68,000 new infections have been discovered.

Have You Effectively Managed the Security Risk from Java Runtime Environment?

The latest variant is known as JSocket. The malware is believed to have first appeared in the summer of 2015 and is still being extensively used. The RAT is most commonly spread by phishing campaigns with users fooled into running the Java file, installing the Trojan. While the RAT is primarily distributed by large-scale email spam campaigns, some evidence has been uncovered to suggest it is being used as part of targeted attacks on individuals and organizations.

This is a cross-platform malware that can be used on Windows, Linux, Android, and Mac OS systems. It serves as a backdoor allowing cybercriminals to gain access to the system on which it is installed, effectively allowing them to take control of devices, gather data, log keystrokes, and exfiltrate data. It is also capable of moving laterally. It is written entirely in Java and can be used to attack any system that supports the Java Runtime Environment.

The security risk from Java Runtime Environment is considerable. Kaspersky Lab recommends that all organizations review their use of JRE and disable it whenever possible.

Unfortunately, many businesses use Java-based applications, and disabling or uninstalling JRE is likely to cause problems.  However, it is essential to manage the security risk from Java Runtime Environment to prevent infections from Adwind and its variants.

If there is no need for JRE to be installed on computers, it should be removed. It represents an unnecessary risk that could result in a business network being compromised.

If it is not possible to disable JRE, it is possible to protect computers from Adwind/JSocket. Since this malware is commonly sent out as a Java archive file, the code can be prevented from running by changing the program used to open JAR files.

Have you managed the security risk from Java Runtime Environment? Is JRE unnecessarily installed on computers used to access your network?

What is the Motivation Behind Cyberattacks? Study Offers New Insights

Many security professionals would like to know what is the motivation behind cyberattacks? How much do hackers earn? What actually motivates hackers to attack a particular organization? How long do hackers try before giving up and moving on, and how profitable is cybercrime for the average hacker?

A recent survey commissioned by Palo Alto Networks provides some answers to these questions and offers some insight into the minds of hackers. The results of the survey suggest that cybercrime is not as profitable as many people think. In fact, “the big payday” is actually something of a myth, certainly for the majority of hackers.

There is a common misconception that cyber attackers are tirelessly working to breach the defenses of organizations and are raking in millions from successful attacks; however, the survey results indicate otherwise.

The Ponemon Institute asked 304 threat experts their opinions on the motivation behind cyberattacks, the money that can be made, the time invested by hackers, and how attackers choose their targets.

The respondents, based in Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom, were all involved in the threat community to varying degrees. 79% of respondents claimed to be involved in the threat community, with 21% of respondents saying they were “very involved.”

What is the motivation behind cyberattacks?

The study cast some light on what is the motivation behind cyberattacks, as well as offering some important insights into the minds of hackers. There is a threat from hacktivists and saboteurs but, in the majority of cases, attackers are not intent on causing harm to organizations. The majority of cybercriminals are in it for the money. The motivation behind 67% of cybercrime is money.

However, in the majority of cases, it would appear that there is not actually that much money to be made. If hackers were to find employment as security professionals and use their skills to protect networks from hackers, they would likely earn a salary four times as high, and they would get sick pay, holiday pay, and medical/dental insurance.

How much do hackers earn?

Anyone interested in how much hackers earn may be surprised to find out it is not actually that much. The study determined that a technically proficient hacker would be able to conduct just over 8 cyberattacks per year, and an average of 41% of those attacks would not result in the attacker receiving any compensation.

The profits from cybercrime were found to be fairly constant regardless of where the criminals were based. In the United States a single cyberattack netted the perpetrator an average of $15,638. In the United Kingdom attackers earned an average of $12,324, and in Germany it was $14,983.

So how much to hackers earn? Take away the cost of the toolkits they purchase – an average of $1,367 – and the Ponemon institute calculated the average earnings for a cyber attacker to be in the region of $28,744 per year. That figure was based on 705 hours spent “on the job” – around 13.5 hours per week. While it is clear that some hackers earn considerably more, the average hacker would be better off getting a real job. IT security practitioners earn 38.8% more per hour.

How can the survey data be used to prevent cyberattacks?

The survey probed respondents to find out how determined hackers were at breaching the defenses of companies. Surprisingly, it would appear that even if the potential prize is big, hackers tend not to spend a great deal of their time on attacks before moving on to easier targets.

72% of hackers are opportunistic and 69% of hackers would quit an attack if a company’s defenses were discovered to be strong. Ponemon determined that an attack on a typical IT security infrastructure took around 70 hours to plan and execute, whereas a company with an excellent infrastructure would take around 147 hours.

However, if a company can resist an attack for 40 hours (less than two days) 60% of attackers would move on to an easier target. Cybercriminals will not waste their time attacking organizations that make it particularly difficult to obtain data. There are plenty of much easier targets to attack.

Install complex, multi-layered defenses and use honeypots to waste hackers’ time. Make it unprofitable for attackers and in the majority of cases attackers will give up and move on to easier targets.

Employee Security Training Can Greatly Improve Security Posture

Employee security training is an essential part of an organization’s defense against cyberattacks, yet many CISOs and CSOs are not conducting regular training. In fact, according to a survey conducted last year on behalf of ClubCISO, one in five CISOs (21%) said they had never given security training to their staff.

This could indicate overreliance on technological security measures to prevent cyberattacks, such as firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software, anti-spam filters, and web filters. Organizations may have confidence in their policies and procedures. CISOs may even believe that their organization is unlikely to be attacked. Regardless, of the reason, a lack of training leaves a gaping hole in security defenses.

Employee Security Training Is A Cost-Effective Way of Improving Security Posture

IT departments are well aware that employees are a weak link in the security chain and can all too easily undo all the good work done to keep data and networks secure. All it takes is for one employee to open a Word document and enable malicious macros, visit a compromised website, or inadvertently download malware for a network to be compromised.

If you want to improve your security posture, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to protect your network is training employees how to identify security risks. CISOs, CSOs, and IT staff may be well aware that opening an email attachment from someone they don’t know is risky. Not all employees will be so security-minded and may not appreciate the risk they are taking by opening an email attachment or visiting a link sent to them via email. Failing to train employees on these security basics is like leaving your front door unlocked when you go on vacation. A little training can go a very long way.

Employee Security Training Should Not Be A One-Time Event

Many organizations realize that training is important, yet still only conduct security training sessions once a year. Security training may only be given to new recruits when they join a company. The ClubCISO survey revealed that one in five employers only provided training to new employees, and 37% carried out training just once a year. Only 21% said they conducted regular security training sessions.

Furthermore, when training was provided, more than half of organizations had no idea about how effective their training had been. Training was given in a checkbox fashion in order to meet industry security regulations. Once provided, documents could be signed by employees to confirm that training had been provided, which would be sufficient if ever the organization was audited by industry regulators. However, it may not be sufficient to prevent a successful cyberattack. Employee security training is not a one-time event. It should be provided in regular training sessions, knowledge should be tested, and a security culture should be developed.

Getting Staff Cybersecurity Training Right

It is all too easy to purchase a new security product and hope that it is 100% effective and will prevent a cyberattack from being successful, but no system is infallible. Cybersecurity defenses must be multi-layered, and end users must be part of any defense strategy. After all, cybercriminals will target end users as they offer an easy entry point into a corporate network.

Employee security training is not something that is enjoyed by the staff, and many employees would prefer not to have to undergo training. Many employees don’t concentrate and forget their training almost immediately. Conducting a training session is therefore not sufficient by itself. Online security training is similarly unlikely to be particularly effective if the staff is not then tested on their new knowledge of security.

It is therefore important to make employee security training a regular exercise and to follow up training with testing to ensure that it is taken more seriously. Consider rewarding employees for taking part in training exercises. Make sure employees are given support, and if a test is failed, such as a phishing exercise, ensure that employees who need further training are given extra help.

Employee security training is not just something that is beneficial to employers. Employees also benefit. They can use training to keep their own online activities secure outside of the office, or can use training to protect their children when they go online. Explain the relevance and inform employees that the skills they learn can help to keep them safe outside work.

Get the Board to Back Security Training Efforts

All too often there is a lack of awareness of level of risk faced by organizations at the board level. Employee security training may be considered to be an unnecessary use of time and resources. Without board buy-in, CISOs are likely to face an uphill battle.

Employee security training will require support from the board and for that to happen it may be necessary for CISOs to explain the relevance and importance of employee security training. If you feel that your board does not appreciate the benefits, send the board members a dummy phishing email. If they click the link or open a bogus attachment, it may help them to understand the high risk of employees doing the same. Without buy in from the board it will be difficult to develop a worthwhile and effective training program.

With the current threat from malware, ransomware, phishing, and hacking, it is essential to take action to defend all attack surfaces. Since employees are often the weakest link in the security chain, they are a great place to start to improve overall security posture.

WiFi Hotspot Security Top Concern for Security Industry Professionals

A survey recently conducted by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) has shed light on the biggest fears of security professionals, with WiFi hotspot security ranking as one of the major concerns. Unsecured WiFi hotspots and rogue WiFi access points ranked as the two of the biggest threats to mobile computing in 2016.

Over 210 security experts took part in the CSA survey, with respondents from all around the world sharing their opinions on the top threats to mobile computing in 2016. It will come as no surprise that WiFi hotspot security is keeping many IT professionals awake at night. The security threats from public WiFi hotspots have long been known to security pros. Unfortunately, more employees are now using their work devices to connect to unsecured public WiFi hotspots.

Unsecured WiFi hotspots are often a hive of criminal activity, with hackers and other cybercriminals quick to take advantage and spy on Internet users. Login names and passwords are stolen, man-in-the-middle attacks take place, and installing malware on mobile devices couldn’t be any easier.

Employees are increasingly using public WiFi in coffee shops and restaurants to check work emails on mobile phones, many professionals work on trains on their commute to work, and hotel WiFi is used by executives on business trips.

If malware can be installed on these workers’ mobile devices, those infections can all too easily be transferred to business networks. Unfortunately, while employers can implement allowable use policies and train staff to be more security aware, preventing employees from using their devices on public WiFi networks is a difficult task. That task is made all the more difficult for organizations with a BYOD policy that permits the use of personal Smartphones and laptops.

81% of Security Pros Concerned about WiFi Hotspot Security

Eight out of ten IT security professionals ranked WiFi hotspot security as one of their biggest concerns, with the risk of data theft and network compromise only likely to get worse as portable device use grows. One of the biggest problems is rogue WiFi hotspots set up by cybercriminals. Hackers know all too well that a great many Internet users will connect to WiFi automatically, without even checking the legitimacy of a free WiFi network.

To protect users’ devices and keep corporate networks secure, security training must be provided to staff. It is imperative that employees are trained on basic security measures and are made aware of the considerable risk of using unsecured WiFi networks. As security awareness improves, secure WiFi networks will be sought.

Consequently, any business offering a secure WiFi network for customers is likely to win more business. Hotel chains offering secure WiFi are likely to attract more business customers if they provide a secure WiFi network with safeguards to prevent malware infections, man-in-the-middle attacks, and make Internet browsing more secure.

Improving WiFi Hotspot Security with WebTitan Cloud for WiFi

At WebTitan, we are well aware of the risks to device and network security from the use of unsecured WiFi hotspots, and the opportunities that exist for businesses and service providers that can offer safer WiFi access. This is why we developed WebTitan Cloud for WiFi.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi offers service providers and businesses a low cost method of securing WiFi networks, allowing a safe browsing environment to be created for clients, guests, and customers.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi allows providers of WiFi hotspots to restrict the sites that can be visited, reducing the risk of malware infections and the nefarious activity often associated with unsecured wireless WiFi.

Many wireless WiFi providers are deterred from implementing a web filtering solution due to the complexity of the task, especially when multiple routers are used across a number of different locations. However, our 100% cloud-based solution makes securing multiple WiFi hotspots a quick, easy, and painless process.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi Benefits

  • 100% cloud-based web filtering solution requiring no software installation
  • Secure WiFi hotspots even with dynamic or changing IP’s
  • Straightforward management with an easy to follow cloud-based administration control panel
  • Central control of a limitless numbers of routers in any number of locations
  • A full suite of reporting functions to gather valuable customer intel
  • Secure WiFi access for any device that joins the network
  • No impact on broadband speed

 

Find out how you can benefit from improving your WiFi hotspot security by calling the WebTitan team today

Cost of Bot Fraud to Rise to 7 Billion in 2016

The cost of bot fraud in 2016 is likely to rise to a staggering $7.2 billion, according to a new report by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

2015 Bot Baseline study places the cost of bot fraud at over $7 billion

The study, conducted in conjunction with WhiteOps, shows that despite efforts to reduce the impact of bot fraud, criminal gangs are still managing to game the online advertising industry. Advertisers are being tricked into thinking that real visitors are viewing their adverts and are paying for those visits, when in actual fact a substantial percentage come from bots.

For some companies the losses were shocking. The highest losses were reported to have cost one company $42 million over the course of the year. However, even smaller companies did not escape unscathed. The cost of bot fraud for the least affected advertiser was $250,000.

ANA studied 1,300 advertising campaigns conducted by 49 major companies over a period of two months from August 1, 2015., to September 30, 2015. The results of the study were then extrapolated to provide the cost of bot fraud for 2016.

The study examined more than 10 billion ad impressions to determine the percentage that were real visitors. To distinguish bot visits from the human visits, ANA/WhiteOps added detection tags to the advertising campaigns under study.

The same study was conducted back in 2014 and this year’s results show that virtually nothing has changed, with just a fall in bot fraud of just 0.2% registered. The level of bot fraud has remained constant, although the cost to companies has increased.

In 2014, online advertisers were estimated to have lost around $5 billion to bot fraud, with the rise in cost of bot fraud due to an expected increase in advertising investment over the course of the next 12 months.

Last year, brands suffered an average of $10 million in losses to bot fraud. That’s an average of $10 billion paid to advertise to bots. For 25% of companies, 9% of impressions go to non-human traffic.

Methods of bot detection have improved, but they are clearly not having much of an effect on the cost of bot fraud for advertisers. As detection methods improve, bot operators have improved their ability to obfuscate their bot visits.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish bot traffic from real traffic as more residential IP addresses are being used, and the bots are becoming better at mimicking real browsing habits.

Data Privacy Concerns in Britain Highlighted by New Study

A new study has revealed that British consumers are becoming increasingly worried about how companies are using the data they provide online. Data privacy concerns in Britain are now at a level where more people worry about their data and how it is being used than about losing their main source of income.

The National Cyber Security Alliance GB Consumer Privacy Index/TRUSTe study results were released in time for European Data Protection Day on January, 28: An international day which aims to improve consumer awareness of data privacy issues, and encourages businesses to do more to ensure that stored data are properly protected.

Now in its tenth year, Data Protection Data (Data Privacy Day in the United States), is recognized by over 47 EU countries. A number of privacy initiatives are launched on January 28, and efforts are made to improve awareness of the types of data that are being collected on consumers, how they are being used, and the risks that come from providing those data to companies.

This year, there is a major focus on increasing awareness of how companies are sharing the data that are provided to them by consumers.

Study reveals major data privacy concerns in Britain

The online survey, conducted by Ipsos, took a representative sample of 1,000 individuals in the UK and probed attitudes to data privacy and the measures currently being adopted by consumers to protect online privacy. Respondents were asked about online browsing habits from a privacy perspective, and trust issues they had with websites and web applications.

955 respondents said they were concerned about their privacy online and 364 respondents said they had stopped using an app or website in the past 12 months due to privacy concerns. For many of the respondents, online privacy was such a concern that they worried more about the use and exposure of their data than losing their primary source of income. British online privacy concerns ranked 10 percentage points higher than the fear of loss of the main source of income.

Concern can be explained, in part, by the lack of transparency about how consumer data is being used by companies, and with whom they are being shared. 1 in 4 respondents claimed not to know how companies were using and sharing their data.

Privacy fears were shown to be affecting how consumers view businesses and appear to influence the use of online services. Of the individuals who were concerned about their online privacy, 76% limited their online activities as a result.

The lack of transparency about how data is used can have a serious impact on business. 89% of respondents said they avoid companies that they do not believe will do enough to protect their privacy. The message to businesses is: Fail to explain what is done with data and consumers will take their business elsewhere.

How are British privacy concerns affecting online activity?

The survey examined privacy concerns in Britain and how those concerns affected online activity in the past 12 months.

  • 46% claimed to have withheld personal information from online companies
  • 23% stopped an online transaction due to privacy concerns
  • 53% did not click on an advert as they were worried about their privacy
  • 31% avoided downloading an app or product due to a perceived privacy risk

More than half of respondents (54%) do not trust businesses to be able to store and protect their personal information online and 51% said they do not feel they are in control of their online data.

One of the ways that companies can improve trust is by allowing consumers to remove their data on request. 43% said that they would trust a company more if they were made aware how they could remove personal information if they so required.

Interestingly, while data privacy concerns in Britain are high, the majority of respondents did little to protect their privacy. For instance, 58% of respondents were aware they could delete cookies from their computers, yet only 49% did. Location tracking on Smartphones can be turned off and 44% of respondents were aware of this, yet only 28% actually disabled the feature. Only 12% of respondents read privacy policies, yet 31% claimed that they knew that they could be read.

With data privacy concerns in Britain so high, businesses that fail to do enough to secure data and protect consumer privacy are likely to lose out to companies that do. Furthermore, once online trust is lost, it can be difficult to regain.

Hidden Scripts on Servers Redirecting Users to Malicious Websites

Anti-virus software company Symantec has uncovered a new global web server infection. Hidden scripts on servers are redirecting website visitors to potentially malicious websites. So far over 3,500 hidden scripts on servers have been identified, which are being triggered when website visitors land on the compromised site. That visitor is then directed to a potentially malicious website.

This is a mass injection on a truly global scale. Hidden scripts on servers in over 75 countries have been discovered, although almost half of the compromised websites are located in the United States. 47% of infections were discovered in the U.S., 12% were discovered on servers in India, with the UK, Italy, and Japan accounting for 6% each. France, Canada, and the Russian Federation each had 5% of infections, with 4% discovered in Australia and Brazil.

The majority of compromised websites were used by businesses, and .edu, .gov, and other government websites had also been compromised.

Hidden scripts on servers pose a significant threat to website visitors

At the present moment in time the scrips have not been found to direct users to websites where drive-by malware downloads occur, nor have visitors been redirected to websites infected with malware. However, there is considerable potential for criminals to alter the scripts to deliver visitors to websites capable of delivering malware. A network of servers could be being built for a future global attack.

The malicious code injection can be found before the </head> tag. The injected JavaScript code set to run 10 seconds after the user’s browser has loaded the page. The script is used to launch multiple other scripts to mask the action from the visitor.

The scripts are understood to currently be used to collect data on users, which Symantec lists as including host IP address, Flash version, referrer, search term queries, page title, monitor resolution, user language, and URL page address. The hidden scripts could potentially be used for a wide range of malicious purposes.

All of the infections so far detected have affected a specific website content management system, although that CMS has not been disclosed. All website administrators are advised to check their websites and search for any injected code.

Should any code be located, it is not just a case of changing the administrator password and removing the script from the site. Backdoors may also have been installed and full webserver sanitization is likely to be required to totally remove the infection.

Common Data Security Threats MSPs Must Address

MSPs must not forgot to address the following common data security threats if they are to keep their clients protected from cyberattacks.

Failure to prevent malware & ransomware installation can be an expensive business. Multi-million-dollar liability lawsuits may follow if insufficient security measures have been implemented to prevent a cyberattack.

Unfortunately, all too often too little is done to keep networks protected from these common data security threats.

Common data security threats MSPs must address!

Listed below are five common data security threats that must be addressed by MSPs, yet they are all too often overlooked.

Anti-phishing protection is essential

Employees have long been known to be a major security risk. There will always be at least one employee in an organization who is a little green when it comes to protecting themselves and their work computer from hackers.

Any organization that fails to adequately protect against the risk of employee errors compromising the network will suffer a network security incident sooner rather than later. One of the biggest mistakes made is employees responding to phishing emails.

Employees must be made aware of the high risk of phishing. Hackers are now targeting individual employees with highly sophisticated campaigns. Targets are researched via Facebook and other social media networks, the senders of emails have their names and addresses spoofed, and clever campaigns are devised to get end users to download malware or visit malicious websites. Regular training on basic security such as phishing avoidance and scam email identification is therefore essential.

Take control of mobile devices used to connect to the network

Phishing is far from the only employee security risk. Employees are now bringing their own devices to work, and these devices pose a major security risk if not effectively managed. If a single employee manages to get their own personal device infected with malware, the infection could all too easily spread to a corporate network.

It is therefore essential not only to limit the individuals who are able to use personal devices for work purposes, but to ensure that any device used for work purposes is routinely monitored.

If employees are permitted to use personal devices for work, or remove laptop computers from company premises, it is essential that sensitive data stored on those devices is encrypted. Mobile devices are frequently lost or stolen and represent a considerable data security risk.

Prepare for a wave of malware attacks on Macs

Over the past few years, using a Mac meant you were protected from malware and viruses; however, last year new malware started to appear that specifically targeted Apple devices. While anti-malware protection for Macs was something that could previously be ignored, that is now no longer the case.

The volume of malware targeting Macs is expected to continue to increase this year as Apple’s market share grows. It is now important for all organizations to start preparing for a new wave of Mac attacks.

Implement a robust web filtering solution

Cybercriminals are increasing using legitimate websites to serve malware to website visitors. Recently, the MSN home page was discovered to be hosting malvertising, showing that even some of the biggest internet sites may not be entirely safe. It is therefore essential to implement a web filtering solution that can block malvertising, as well as malicious websites known to deliver drive-by malware payloads.

To keep users and networks protected, it is essential to implement safe search, block pharming URLs, malware and phishing sites, tunneling software, and malicious adverts. To avoid negative impact on the business, use a web filtering solution such as WebTitan, which offers a high degree of granularity. This will allow different individuals and users to be assigned different privileges to maximize protection and minimize the negative impact on the business.

Develop patch management policies and plug security holes promptly

Zero-day security vulnerabilities are being discovered on an almost daily basis. Once identified, exploits are rapidly shared via Darknet communities. If security vulnerabilities are allowed to remain, it is only a matter of time before they will be used for an attack. It is therefore essential that software is kept up to date and patches are installed as soon as they are released.

However, due to the sheer volume of devices, applications, operating systems, and plugins now in use, keeping on top of all of the upgrades and patches can be overwhelming. Patches must be found, installed, and tested, and all procedures must be documented for compliance purposes. Due to the security risk posed by out of date software, if the task of managing patches is becoming unmanageable, it may be time to consider using an automated patch management solution.