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Babuk Ransomware Among new Cyberattack Threats in 2021

Babuk Ransomware Among new Cyberattack Threats in 2021

2021 has, so far, seen a massive rise in the introduction of new strains of ransomware being used to infiltrate the networks of enterprise organizations.

This represents a shift in the tactics of cybercriminals who spent most of 2020 trying to take advantage of workers who were forced into unsecured home-working environments by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the opening months of 2021 there is a clear surge in the amount of attacks that are concentrating on the employees who are slowly returning to large office settings.

One such strain of ransomware is called Babuk. This involves a request being sent to individuals, whose data has been encrypted, that seeks a $60k-$85k ransom to be transferred in order for the private keys to remove encryption to be handed over. Babuk, which is similar to regular ransomware campaign, includes a number of characteristics that have been designed specifically with companies in mind as a target.

Babuk disables many of the backup features available in Windows. The first feature to be made redundant is the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) used to take backups of files in use. With this feature disabled, users cannot retrieve their current active files. It also disables file locking mechanism used on open and active files. For businesses using backup features in Microsoft Office, Babuk also turns off these features.

Babub then moves on to encrypting the database. This is completed by double-encrypting files that are smaller that 41MB, files larger than this are split prior to encryption. The encryption cipher being used is ChaCha8 which is generated from a SHA-256 hash – a cryptographically secure hashing algorithm. Unlike normal ransomware, Babuk only uses one private key as it is focused on infiltrating enterprise users.

There are a couple of ways that you can prepare for Babuk trying to attack and encrypt your databases. You will mitigate some of the danger by placing your own encryption on particularly important files. This will prevent Babuk from doing the same. Additionally, using a cloud backup will mean that there backups available for you to restore your information without handing over a ransom.

Monitoring software will weed out suspicious traffic on the network and, in doing so, prevent malware from encrypting files or exfiltrating data. System administrators will then be made aware of this and review the activity in question to gauge the threat level. Another strong security measure is using email filters with artificial intelligence (AI) that will allow you to spot potentially dangerous messages and attachments. They can then be quarantined and reviewed by an administrator. This method cuts out the possibility of human error leading to a malicious file being downloaded and initiating an encryption process.

Training and user education will also assist in preventing human error. This will involve providing staff with the knowledge required to spot threat. They will also be able to warn administrators about potential attacks and avoid running attachments on their local devices.

SpamTitan Email Security is a strong cybersecurity solution that will assist greatly in bring the risk of network infiltration down to an acceptable and manageable level. Call SpamTitan now to enquire about a free trial to witness the strength and value of the solution for yourself.

Teachers the Focus of New Phishing Attacks

Teachers the Focus of New Phishing Attacks

A recently-discovered phishing attack is attempting to invade messages sent between students and teachers. In the campaign an email is spoofed to look like it was sent from the parent of a student. However it includes an attachment file with a malicious macro. The message informs the teacher that an earlier message with a student assignment did not successfully reach their inbox.

It appears that the phishers came into possession of a directory of teacher email addresses via faculty contact lists available on a school website. The message looks extremely authentic as it includes the teacher’s name. Once the malicious file is opened, the macro downloads the ransomware executable files.

Some new tactics seen in this campaign include an SMS alerting the phisher once a recipient downloads the file and the use of Go programming language to create the malicious file. Files encrypted by the ransomware are listed in a text file named “About_Your_Files.txt” and stored on the user’s desktop.

Schools are an attractive target for phishers as they, typically, do no have massive funds to invest in cybersecurity. However, there are a number of measures that schools should introduce, as a minimum, to prevent attacks like this infiltrating their databases.

Email filters will block ransomware attachments before they reach targeted user inboxes. They spot malicious messages and files and place them in a quarantine folder where they can be reviewed by a system administrators to see if they are a false positive. If this is the case then the mail can be sent to the intended recipient.

Backups come into play once a database has been encrypted. They allow schools and other organizations to restore data without handing over any requested ransom. Best practice in this regard is to store backups off-site. Cloud backups are primarily used in disaster recovery strategies required after a ransomware attack. Training and user education is another security measure. Cybersecurity training will help teaching staff identify the tell tale signs of a phishing email and cut off the attack as soon as it begins.

The vast majority of schools have begun to implement digital means of communicating and working with students and parents. This a very efficient way of corresponding and allowed education to continue during all of the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns. However, this also brings new challenges for educational bodies. Cybersecurity may only have been a minimal concern ten years ago but now it needs to be tackled head on to avoid students and staff becoming the victims of hackers.

One very useful tool is WebTitan on-the go (OTG) for Chromebooks. This will allow your organization to safeguard all of your Chromebook users from the dangers associated with online usage. This security solution has been specifically created with the education sector in mind. Along with supporting CIPA compliance it is an inexpensive security filtering solution for Chromebooks.

Schools implementing the use of WebTitan Chromebook client can simply pply policies for all of their Chromebook users by group. Read more information about using WebTitan OTG for Chromebooks here

Hackers Infiltrate Passwordstate Notification Letters to Spread Malware

A cybercriminal group has managed to leverage email alerts, sent to notify users of an available update, in order to infect databases with malware.

The software update feature of the Passwordstate password manager was infiltrated to attack enterprise users of the password manager solution. The supply chain attack also successfully targets account holders with malware known as Moserpass at different points from April 20 to April 22.

Anyone who sought to avail of an update using the In-Pass Upgrade mechanism was potentially in receipt of the  malicious file downloaded titled Passwordstate_upgrade.zip file.

If the file was installed then it will kick off a chain of events allowing Moserpass to become active and gathering valuable information to any linked device or network in tandem with password data from the Passwordstate app. The malware also had a loader feature which may allow for the download of other malware strains onto victims’ devices. Due to the fact that passwords may have been stolen, impacted have been warned to change all of their passwords.

While the cyberattack was mitigated in less that 30 hours device users were issued to a request from Click Studios, the developer of the password app, to apply a hotfix to remove the malware from their systems. Sadly, having discovered the requests being shared via social media platforms, the hackers shared an identical email to conduct a phishing campaign who provided a link to a website that they controlled. As opposed to a fix to remove the Moserpass malware, an updated version of Moserpass malware was shared to anyone unfortunate enough to fall for the scam.

The email were, naturally enough, extremely realistic and recipients who followed the instructions in the email would likely think they were removing malware, when they were actually downloading it. The fake versions of the emails do not include a domain suffix used by Click Studios, request the hotfix is installed from a subdomain, and claim an ‘urgent’ update is necessary toto fix a bug, but it is easy to see how these messages could trick end users.

Click Studios provided password management services for approximately 29,000 companies and the solution has hundreds of thousands of users, many of whom will have heard of the breach and be worried about a malware infection. Click Studios said only a very small number of its customers were affected and had the malware installed – those who downloaded the update in the 28-hour period between April 20 and April 22 – but anyone receiving the fake email could well have been convinced that the email was genuine and implemented the download as directed.

It is a common tactic of cybercriminals to attempt and leverage fake security warnings to conduct attack, and data breach notifications are perfect to deploy in phishing attacks. This Passswordstate breach notification phishing campaign shows how crucial it is to double check every message for any indication of phishing, even if the email content appears to be authentic and the message includes what looks like the proper logos etc., and the dangers of posting copies of genuine breach notification letters on social media networks.

Many phishing attacks are complex by their nature, and it can be trciky for email recipients to spot that what is genuine and what is malicious. This is why your group requires an advanced spam and phishing security solution. If you want the best defenses against phishing, contact TitanHQ now and see how SpamTitan Email Security can enhance your security and keep your organization safe from phishing and other email-based attacks.

Malware Campaigns Being Shared Using Telegram Messaging Platform

The popularity of the Telegram messaging platform has grown a lot in recent years, with massive migration in WhatsApp users jumping ship following amendments to that service’s privacy and data management policies.

In particular Telegram has been widely used by hackers to conduct malware campaigns. Recently, a campaign has been discovered that shares a new malware strain called ToxicEye. ToxicEye malware is a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that gives hackers complete management of an infected device. The malware is used to exfiltrate sensitive data and download other malware strains.

The malware takes advantage of the command and control server communications of Telegram accounts. Using the hacker’s Telegram account, an infected can be managed using ToxicEye to steal data and share more malicious payloads.

Telegram is a popular messaging service with over 63 million downloads and has approximately 500 million active users globally. IN particular there has been massive growth since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic with the app being implemented by many businesses who have been using it to allow their remote workers to communicate and collaborate. The app supports secure, private messaging and most companies allow Telegram to be implemented and do not block or audit communications.

Creating a Telegram account is simple and hackers can hide their identity. All that is needed to create an account is a mobile phone number, and the communication infrastructure permits hackers to easily steal data and send files to malware-infected devices unnoticed.

Telegram is also being implemented for sharing malware. Hackers can set up an account, use a Telegram bot to interact with other users and send files, and it is also possible to share files to non-Telegram users via phishing emails with malicious attachments. It is phishing emails that are being used to share ToxicEye malware. Emails are issued with a .exe file attachment, with one campaign using a file titled  “paypal checker by saint.exe” to download the malware.

If the attachment is opened and initiated, a connection will be made to Telegram which allows malware to be downloaded by the hacker’s Telegram bot. The attackers can carry out a variety of malicious activities once the malware is in place, with the main goals of the cybercriminals being gathering information about the infected device, locating and exfiltrating passwords, and exfiltrating cookies and browser histories.

ToxicEye malware can disable active processes and take management of Task Manager, capture audio and video, remove clipboard contents, and launch other malware strains – including keyloggers and ransomware.

TitanHQ has two solutions available that can safeguard your network and devices from ToxicEye and other Telegram-based phishing and malware campaigns. SpamTitan is a strong email security solution that will prevent malicious emails sharing the executable files that download the ToxicEye RAT and other malware. For even more security, SpamTitan should be connected to WebTitan web security. WebTitan is a DNS-based web filtering service that can be set up to prevent access to Telegram if it is not in use and review traffic in real time to discover possibly dangerous message.

To find out more about these solutions, how much it costs, and to register for a free trial, get in touch with TitanHQ now.

Phishing and Malware Distribution Campaigns focus on Discord

Cybercriminals have long targeted cloud-based instant messaging service which provide easily communication between users. One of the these services that was recently leveraged by hackers is Discord, The platform is now being extensively used to spread phishing and malware.

VoIP, instant messaging and digital distribution is available from Discord and, due to this, it was used by gaming community before gaining more popularity among a wider variety of users. 150 million users worldwide were registered during 2019 and the surge in membership has continued since then. Additionally, the service has, for some time, been use by cybercriminals vie the platform’s live chat feature for selling and trading stolen data, anonymous communications, and to act as C2 servers for communicating with malware-infected devices.

Throughout 2021, the service has been widely used for sharing malware variants including information stealers, cryptocurrency miners, Remote Access Trojans, and ransomware by abusing the cdn.discordapp.com service.

Similar to other collaboration apps, Discord uses content delivery networks (CDNs) for storing shared files within channels. Hackers can place malicious files on Discord and create a public link for sharing, and that link can be shared with anyone, not just Discord users. The URL generated for sharing begins with https://cdn.discordapp.com/ so anyone who is sent the link will see that the link is for a legitimate site. While there are controls to stop malicious files from being uploaded, in a lot of cases hackers can bypass those protections have get their malicious files hosted, and alerts are not always shown to users about the risk of clicking on files from Discord.  Since the malicious payloads are sent over  encrypted HTTPS, the downloads can be masked from security solutions.

Additionally, once uploaded, the malware can be removed from a thread, but it is still accessible using the public URL. Users are often fooled into installing these malicious files under the guise of pirated software or games. Gamers have been focused on as their PCs typically have a high spec for gaming, which makes them perfect for cryptocurrency mining.

This style of malware campaign means that malware developers and distributers can simply share their malicious payloads with a high degree of anonymity. A review by Zscaler discovered over 100 unique malware samples from Discord in the Zscaler cloud in just a two-month time space. Another review of Discord CDN results discovered approximately 20,000 results on VirusTotal.

The Discord app is also easy to configure to carry out malicious actions. Malicious JavaScript code can simply be added to the legitimated Discord client files and can be set up and run every time the client is initiated or when specially designed URLs are opened by the client.

Discord is not the sole communication and collaboration solution to be leveraged by hackers. Slack and Telegram are also being abused in phishing campaigns and for malware campaigns.

If you would like to enhance email security get in touch with TitanHQ now to discover more about these award-winning cybersecurity solutions.

DriveSure Clients Exposed Publicly as 3.2 Million Data Records Breached

Despite the fact that the cat majority of groups invest in the highest standards of training and security measures so that they can safeguard they databases from cybercriminals, breaches still happen exposing vast amounts of protected information.

Recently cybercriminals illegally obtained more than 3.2 million data records from DriveSure, a training site used to help car dealerships sell and retain customers. This data had been stored on company’s MySQL database, meaning that credentials for the site and many others were publicly exposed to anyone who can get hold of the information in question.

DriveSure is has millions of customers that subscribe for  training and course material. These customers handed over their complete names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, vehicle VIN numbers, service records, and damage claims among many other pieces of information. Large corporate accounts and military addresses were also impacted as part of the breach.

Previously in 2021, experts discovered that this information had been published on a number of hacking forums. While the majority of cybercriminals sell data like this for a profit, in this case that hackers did not seem interested in making money. Instead the hacker made the entire database of stolen data available for free and without request for any money.

The attacker’s motive remains unclear, but the data was made available free of charge on many hacking forums. This made the data freely available to anyone who was able to locate the files online. As more people downloaded the files, the data became available to more people on other sites. Any user who subscribed to DriveSure needs to now amend their passwords.

Apart from the private sensitive data available, the individual responsible for the DriveSure breach made over 93,000 bcrypt hashed passwords available for download. In a secure application, the developer saves a password as a hashed value with a salt to make it more difficult to figure out. The bcrypt function is standard for hashing passwords, so DriveSure used a cryptographically secure way to hold passwords. Even if a password is cryptographically secure, downloaded passwords can be brute forced for a longer period of time when nothing is in place to restrict the number of attempts. Weak passwords can be brute forced even when stored as a cryptographically secure hash.

The problem with having hashed passwords available is that a hacker can spend days running scripts against all of them. Any poor passwords can be brute forced, and many users employ the same password across multiple sites. Since email addresses are also available, an attacker will use scripts to take over accounts across multiple sites using the same passwords stolen from the DriveSure site. This gives a hacker access to any account that uses the same password over a number of different sites including the DriveSure site.

The company encrypted the data that should be according to compliance standards, but much of the data is available in plaintext.

Email filters could have blocked the spoofing attacks so that the leaked database was unable to be used against the organization in a phishing attack. Additionally, sers should have been informed that it is unacceptable  to use the same password across several accounts to avoid problems in future.

 

 

Phishing Emails & Hijacked Web Forms Used to Boost IcedID Malware Campaigns

Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to infiltrate databases in order to maximise the return on the investment they make in these attacks.

Even so, campaigns involving the use of spam and phishing emails remain the most witnessed attack vectors for spreading delivering malware. However, a new method has been identified recently in a campaign conducted by the threat group managing the IcedID banking Trojan cum malware downloader. This new method involves hijacking contact forms on company web pages. Contact forms are a feature of the vast majority of websites and are used to gather information on website visitors for follow up contacts. More often than not these forms  have CAPTCHA security measures to safeguard the form from malicious campaigns.

Despite this those responsible for the IcedID banking Trojan have discovered a workaround to avoid the CATCHA security measures and, due to this, have been able to implement contact forms to deliver malicious emails. The emails the the contact forms transmit are normally sent to to inboxes that have whitelisted their email address. This means that that avoid email security gateways.

In the IceID campaign, the contact forms are being implemented to share messages claiming the recipient is going to be subjected to a legal action in relation to a copyright violation. The messages submitted claim the company has incorporated images on its web page, added without the image owner’s explicit authorization. The recipient is informed that a legal action will commence message if the images are not immediately removed from the website at once. It also provides a hyperlink to a Google Site that lists details of the copyrighted images and proof they are the intellectual property of the sender of the message.

If the hyperlink is visited to review the supplied evidence then the browser will install a zip file containing an obfuscated .js downloader that will send the IcedID payload. Once IcedID is placed, it will deliver secondary payloads such as TrickBot, Qakbot, and Ryuk ransomware.

IcedID distribution has been on the rise recently, not only via this attack vector but also in phishing campaigns. A large-scale phishing drive has been discovered that employs a range of business-themed lures in phishing campaigns with Excel attachments that have Excel 4 macros that transmit the banking Trojan.

The surge in IcedID malware distribution is thought to be just one element of a campaign to infect large numbers of devices to evolve a botnet that can be rented out to other cybercriminal collectives under the malware-as-a-service model. Now that the Emotet botnet has been deactivated there is a gap in the market for something like this and IcedID seems to be trying to take advantage of this.

If you would like to discover how you can safeguard your company from IceID and other malware attacks, at a reasonable price, contact the TitanHQ as soon as you can to see how TitanHQ email and web security measures are give 5-star recommendations from users for security, cost, simplicity, and customer service and support.

How Can You Prevent Email Impersonation Attacks on Your Businesses?

In 2020, ransomware attacks increased and soaring and phishing and email impersonation attacks were witnessed at worryingly high levels.

Specialists in cybersecurity have already calculated that 2020 saw a global cost to businesses caused by ransomware will come in around $20bn. It has also be predicted that the ransomware will remain the main attack vector of hackers for years to come as it is a proven way of earning money for these groups.

The main focus of these attacks has always been large companies due to the huge amounts of personal data they manages and the potential for using this in identity theft campaigns. Smaller companies are a less attractive target. However, they also manage considerable amounts of customer data and attacks can still be return a lot of money for hackers. While the large enterprises are a lucrative target they can be tricky to infiltrate as they invest so much in cybersecurity measures. As smaller enterprises would not have a large budget to invest in cybersecurity they can have a number of weaknesses that would make them much easier for hackers to infiltrate.

This is why small to medium enterprises are often targeted with phishing campaign. Should a phishing email makes it to an employee inbox, there is a good possibility that he message will be opened and important details will  be compromised or malware will be downloaded.

The 2018 KnowBe4 Phishing Industry Benchmarking Report shows that on average, the probability of an employee clicking on a malicious hyperlink or taking another fraudulent request is 27%. That means one in four employees will click a link in a phishing email or obey a fraudulent request.

In these phishing emails the sender of the message is spoofed so the email looks like it was shared from a known individual or company. The email will feature an authentic email address on a known business domain. Without proper security measures configured, that message will land in inboxes and many staff members are likely to be tricked into sharing their credentials or open an infected file which downloads malware. More often than not, they will not realize they have been tricked.

One way of blocking these phishing messages from landing in staff inboxes is to apply Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) rules. Simply put, DMARC includes two technologies – Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

SPF is a DNS-based filtering security measure that helps to discover spoofed messages. SPF established authorized sender IP addresses on DNS servers. Recipient servers carry out lookups on the SPF records to make sure that the sender IP is one of the authorized vendors on the group’s DNS servers. If there is a match the message is sent to the requested inbox. If the check does not match, the message is rejected or quarantined.

DKIM includes the use of an encrypted signature to prove who the sender is. That signature is created using the organization’s public key and is decrypted using the private key available to the email server. DMARC rules are then applied to either reject or quarantine messages that do not meet the authentication requirements. Quarantining messages is useful as it means network managers can review to see if genuine emails have not been flagged by mistake.

Reports can be made available d to monitor email activity and network managers can see the number of messages that are being rejected or dropped. A quick rise in the number of rejected messages indicates an attack is current.

DMARC might appear complicated. However, if it is set proper properly it will prove an invaluable security tool that defends against phishing and dangerous email content.

TitanHQ’s anti-phishing and anti-spam service used DMARC to prevent email impersonation attacks in addition to advanced anti-malware features such as a Bitdefender-powered sandbox. For more details about tackling  email impersonation on your organization contact TitanHQ now.

 

New Saint Bot Malware Dropper Shared using Phishing Emails

A new malware variant being referred to as Saint Bot malware is being shared using phishing emails that feature a Bitcoin-themed lure. As Bitcoin values continue surge upwards it is thought that the lure will be more effective than ever and fool many into clicking on the attached files to use the bitcoin wallet.

The phishing emails inform the recipient that a Bitcoin wallet in the included Zip file. The Zip file comes with a text file with instructions and a LNK file that has an embedded PowerShell script. A PowerShell downloader installs an obfuscated .Net dropper and downloader, which will then load a BAT script that disables Windows Defender and the Saint Bot malware binary. If someone should follows these instructions it will set off a process that will result in the Saint Bot malware being installed on the device.

A feature of the Saint Bot malware dropper is that is can deliver secondary payloads including information stealers, although it can be used to drop any possible strain of malware. This new strain was initially discovered by researchers at Malwarebytes. They found that there are no novel techniques at play with this malware. However, appears that the malware is being continually evolved. Currently, detections have been at a comparatively minimal but Saint Bot malware could grow into a serious threat for email users.

Once installed the malware can find out if it is in a controlled environment and will remove itself should that be the case. Conversely, should it not be a controlled environment the malware will communicate with its hard-coded command and control servers, send information collated from the infected system, and install secondary payloads to the infected device using Discord.

The malware is not characteristic of a particular threat group and could well be shared to multiple actors using darknet hacking forums, but it could well become a significant threat and be used in widespread campaigns to take advantage of the opportunity in the malware-as-a-service (MaaS) market created by the takedown of the Emotet Trojan.

Safeguarding your database from malware downloaders such as Saint Bot malware requires a defense in depth approach. The simplest method of preventing infections is to implement an advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan to block the phishing emails that spread the malware. Antivirus software should also be configured on all endpoints and set to update automatically, and communication with the C2 servers should be tackled using firewall rules.

Along with technical security, it is crucial to conduct security awareness training to the workforce to help staff spot malicious emails and show them how to react when a possible threat is discovered.

IRS Phishing Scam Promising Tax Refunds targets Universities

The chance for cybercriminals to make massive profits by filing fake tax return submissions is significant, many time leasing to refunds of thousands of dollars being processed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Every year tax workers being sent a range of IRS phishing messages that seek to steal sensitive data that can be leverage by the cybercriminals to illegally obtain identities and send in fraudulent tax returns using their victims detail.

In 2021 many tax season phishing scams have been uncovered including the subject lines such as “Tax Refund Payment” and “Recalculation of your tax refund payment” that tries to trick the recipient’s into opening the emails. The emails feature the authentic IRS logo and tells recipients that they qualify for an additional tax refund, but in order to be transferred the payment they must click a link and fill out a form. The form in question looks like a real IRS.gov form, with the page an exact replica of the IRS website, although the website on which the form is displayed is not an official IRS portal.

The form seeks a wide range of private personal information to be supplied so that the refund can be processed. The form requests the individual’s identity, birth data, Social Security information, driver’s license number, existing address, and electronic filing PIN. For extra realism, the phishing portal also shows a popup notification saying, “This US Government System is for Authorized Use Only”, which is the same warning message that is displayed on the genuine IRS website.

The cybercriminals look like they are focusing on universities and other educational bodies, both public and private, profit and nonprofit with many of the reported phishing emails from staff and students with .edu email addresses.

Educational agencies should employ measure to mitigate the chance of their staff and students being tricked by these scams. Warning all .edu account holders to warn them about the campaign is crucial, particularly as these messages are getting around Office 365 anti-phishing measures and are landing in inboxes.

Any educational entity that depends on Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) for preventing spam and phishing emails – EOP is the default protection provided free with Office 365 licenses – should strongly think about enhancing anti-phishing security with a third-party spam filter.

SpamTitan has been created to supply better protection for Office 365 environments. The solution used along with Office 365 and easily integrates with Office 365 email while greatly improving spam and phishing email security, dual antivirus engines and sandboxing provide excellent security from malware.

To find out more in relation to SpamTitan anti-phishing security for higher education institutions call Spam. You can avail of a free trial to allow you to assess the solutions prior to deciding to buy it.

2020 Witnessed Massive Surge in Healthcare Breaches

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in early 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, a huge number of large healthcare data breaches registered, more than in any other year. The Tenable Research 2020 Threat Landscape Report reported that the largest data breach violated 22bn records of personal data in 2020 impacted the healthcare sector.  An article made available HIPAA journal in January, 2021 reported that:

  • Over 29 million healthcare records were impacted during 2020
  • A rate of 1.76 Healthcare related data breaches per day was recorded
  • Healthcare data breaches grew by 25% year-over-year
  • During 2020 642 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were discovered

In addition to this:

  • The total amount of healthcare data breaches has doubled since 2014 and tripled since 2010.
  • Over 3,700 breaches of 500 or more records have been reported since October 2009
  • Since 2009 the total number of exposed records is more than 78 million

How Data Breaches Occur

The database breaches are happened as a result of three main factors:

  • Cyber attacks – hacking attacks involving malicious hacking campaigns
  • Endpoint devices being stolen of lost
  • Unauthorized disclosure of personal healthcare information

The size of the breaches is worrying. One largest that focused on Dental Care Alliance was discovered on October 11 comprised the payment card numbers of more than 1 million patients.  The hackers initially obtained access to the DCA systems on September 18. A solution was not put in place until October 13. Along with payment card data, those responsible may have illegally taken patient names and contact information as well as medical information and insurance information.  Patients were made aware of the attack in early December and approximately 10% of the patients later reported a breach of their account numbers.

There are many factors that have led to the huge spike in attacks that took place over the last 14 months.  Like many sectors, the change to remote work systems and the worrying nature  of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare organizational leaders has been one of the main reasons. However money has been the main factor behind the rise of cyberattacks on the healthcare industry.  Patient records are valuable in the open market due to the personal and private data they contain.  While credit card information will only garner a few dollars on their own, patient data can be sold for up to $150 per record.  Sadly, an infiltrated record costs the victimized group an average of $499 last year, a 16% increase annually.

Healthcare bodies have a responsibility to secure their patient’s data from potential data theft. TitanHQ can assist healthcare bodies with a solution to stop hackers from obtaining sensitive data. Get in touch with TitanHQ now and learn how our award winning solutions will secure your business and patients.

IRS Phishing Scam Targets Universities Promising Tax Refunds

With the last minute rush to get taxes filed in the the United States before the April 15 deadline tax specialists  and tax filers are being focused on with a range of IRS phishing campaigns that are trying to steal sensitive data that can be leveraged by hackers to obtain identities and submit fraudulent tax returns as they pretend to be their victims.

These campaigns are popular with cybercriminals due to the chance to make substantial profits using the submission of fake tax returns and this is true for the 2021 tax season. A number of tax season phishing attacks have been uncovered this year using phishing lures linked to tax refund payments. The phishing emails include subject lines like “Tax Refund Payment” and “Recalculation of your tax refund payment” which are likely trick the recipient’s into opening the emails. They, the emails, feature the actual IRS logo and advise recipients that they qualify to receive an additional tax refund, but in order to receive the payment they must visit a link and fill out a form. The form looks like an authentic IRS.gov form, with the page an exact replica of the IRS website, although the website on which the form is hosted is not an authentic IRS domain.

The form requests very sensitive personal information to be handed over in order for the refund to be transferred. The form seeks the individual’s name, birth date, Social Security details, driver’s license information, present address, and electronic filing PIN. For extra realism, the phishing portal also shows a popup notification which says “This US Government System is for Authorized Use Only”, which is the same warning message that is displayed on the authentic IRS web page.

The attackers seem to be focusing on universities and other educational bodies, both public and private, profit and nonprofit with many of the reported phishing emails from staff and students with .edu emails.

Educational bodies must implement measures to mitigate the danger of their staff and students being fooled by these scams. Warning all .edu account holders about the campaign is crucial as these messages are getting past Office 365 anti-phishing measures and are landing in inboxes.

Any educational body that is dependent on Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) for preventing spam and phishing emails – EOP is the default protection supplied free with Office 365 licenses – should strongly think about enhancing their anti-phishing defenses with a third-party spam filter.

SpamTitan has been designed to put in pace stronger security for Office 365 environments. The solution is placed on top of Office 365 and easily works with Office 365 email. Along with significantly enhancing spam and phishing email protection, dual antivirus engines and sandboxing provide top of the range cybersecurity in the face of malware.

For more details about SpamTitan anti-phishing security for higher education, contact SpamTitan now. You can now protect your institution by add the SpamTitan solution. There is also free trial available to test SpamTitan.

Education Sector Targeted by Pysa Ransomware Group

During 2020 the healthcare sector has been constant focus of ransomware groups, but the education sector is also dealing with a rise in attacks, with the Pysa (Mespinoza) ransomware gang now aiming for the education sector.

Pysa ransomware is another strain of Mespinoza ransomware that was first seen in ransomware campaigns during October 2019. The threat group responsible for the attacks, like many other ransomware threat gangs, uses double extortion moves on targets. Files are encrypted and a ransom demand is shared for the keys to decrypt files, but to improve the chances of the ransom being paid, data is stolen before file encryption. The gang if trying to profit from selling the stolen data on the darkweb if the ransom is not paid. Many targeted groups entities have been forced to hand over the ransom demand even when they have backups to stop the sale of their data.

As of October 2019, the Pysa ransomware gang has focused on large companies, the healthcare sector, and local government bodies, but there has been a recent rise in attacks on the education sector. Attacks have been carried out on K12 schools, higher education institutions, and conference, with attacks being experienced in 12 U.S. states and the United Kingdom. The rise in attacks lead to the FBI to issue a Flash Alert in March 2020 warning the education sector about the heightened danger of attacks.

Reviews of attacks revealed the gang carries out network reconnaissance using open source tools like Advanced Port Scanner and Advanced IP Scanner. Tools including PowerShell Empire, Koadic, and Mimikatz are employed to obtain credentials, grow privileges, and move laterally inside networks. The gang spots and steals sensitive data before delivering and delivering the ransomware payload. The range of data stolen are those that can be used to force victims into paying and can easily be sold on the darkweb.

Discovering a Pysa ransomware attack in progress is tricky, so it is crucial for defenses to be hardened to prevent any access occurring. Many methods have been used to obtain access to networks, although in many cases it is not known how the attack began. In attacks on French firm and government agencies brute force tactics were used against management consoles and exposed Active Directory accounts. Some attacks have included exploitation of Remote Desktop Protocol flaws, with the gang is also known to use spam and phishing emails to obtain details to gain a foothold in databases.

As a range of methods are used for obtaining access, there is no one option that can be implemented to block attacks. Educational institutions need to use a combination of security solutions and cybersecurity best practices to improve their security measures.

Antivirus/antimalware solution is vital, as is ensuring it is kept updated. Since many attacks begin with a phishing email, an advanced email security gateway is also crucial. Picking a solution such as SpamTitan that uses dual AV engines and sandboxing will increase the chance of spotting malicious emails. SpamTitan uses machine learning methods to identify new types of email attacks.

Patches and security updates should be run quickly after they have been released to stop flaws from being targeted. You should employ the rule of least privilege for accounts, limit the use of administrative accounts as far as you can, and segment networks to limit the chance of lateral movement occurring. You should also be scanning your network for suspicious activity and create alerts to permit any potential infiltration to be quickly discovered. All redundant RDP ports should be shut down, and a VPN used for remote access.

It is crucial for backups to be created of all critical data to ensure that file recovery can take place without paying the ransom. Multiple backups of data should be set up, those backups should be tested to make sure file recovery can happen, and at least one copy should be stored safely on an air-gapped device.

Extensive Amount of Personal Information Sought in new PayPal Phishing Scam

A new PayPal phishing scam has been discovered that tries to steal an extensive amount of personal data from victims by pretending to be a PayPal security warning.

Fake PayPal Email Alerts

The emails seem to have been issued from PayPal’s Notifications Center and inform users that their account has been temporarily closed due to an attempt to log into their account from a previously unknown browser or device.

The emails feature a hyperlink that users are advised to click to log in to PayPal to verify their identity. A button is included in the email which users are told to visit a “Secure and update my account now !” link. The hyperlink is a shortened bit.ly address, that brings the victim to a spoofed PayPal page on a htacker-controlled domain using a redirect mechanism.

If the link is visited, the user is shown with a spoofed PayPal login. After entering PayPal account details, the victim is asked to enter a range of sensitive data to prove their identity as part of a PayPal Security check. The information must be provided to unlock the account, with the list of steps listed on the page along with the progress that has been made toward accessing the account.

AT first the hackers ask for the user’s full name, billing address, and phone number. Then they miust sharetheir credit/debit card details in full. The next page asks for the user’s date of birth, social security number, ATM or Debit Card PIN information, and finally the user is required to send a proof of identity document, which must be either a scan of a credit card, passport, driver’s license, or a government-issued photo Identification card.

Request for Excessive Data

This PayPal phishing campaign seeks an extensive amount of data, which should serve as an alert that all is not what it appears, especially the request to enter highly sensitive data including a Social Security number and PIN.

There are also indicators in the email that the request is not what it appears. The email is not sent from a domain linked with PayPal, the message begins with “Good Morning Customer” and not the account holder’s name, and the notice included at the bottom of the email advising the user to mark whitelist the sender if the email was sent to the spam folder is poorly composed. However, the email has been written to get the recipient to move quickly to prevent financial loss. As with other PayPal phishing campaigns, many users are likely to be tricked into sharing at least some of their personal data.

Consumers need to always be extremely careful caution and should never reply instantly to any email that warns of a security breach, instead they should stop and consider their next move prior to doing anything and carefully check the sender of the email and text. To review if there exists a genuine issue with the account, the PayPal website should be visited by viewing the proper URL into the address bar of the browser. URLs in emails should never be clicked on.

To discover more about current phishing campaigns and some of the key security measures you can put in place to enhance your protection from these campaigns, get in touch with the SpamTitan team now.

Employees Password Sharing Policies

On how many times have you received a phone call or an email from a manager in your group requesting he password of an employee to allow them to log onto their email account?

This request is typically issued when an employees is on annual leave and a call is received from a client or co-worker wishing to know if they have completed a request sent before they left. More often than not a client has sent an email to their account manager before he or she went on vacation, but it was accidentally neglected.

Access to the email account is crucial to prevent embarrassment or to ensure that a sales opportunity is not gone a begging. Maybe the specific employee has failed to configure their Out of Office reply and clients are not aware that they need to get in touch with a different person to get their questions addressed.

In years previously, managers used to maintain a log of all users’ passwords in a file on their computer. Should an emergency occur, they could discover the password and access any user account. However, this is dangerous. Nowadays this is not an acceptable thing to do. It also compromises the privacy of employees. If a password is known by any other person, there is nothing to prevent that person from using those login details any time they like. Since passwords are often used for personal accounts as well as work accounts, sharing that password could compromise the individual’s personal accounts also.

Keeping lists of passwords also makes it more difficult to take action over inappropriate internet and email usage. If a password has been shared, there is no way of ascertaining whether an individual has broken the law or breached company policies. It could have been someone else using that person’s login credentials.

IT workers are therefore not allowed to share passwords. Instead they must reset the user’s password, create a temporary one, and the user will need to reset it when they go back to work. Many managers will be ill at ease with these procedures and will still want to maintain their lists. Workers will be unhappy as they often use their work email accounts to send personal emails. Resetting a password and sharing manager access could be perceived as a major invasion of privacy.

However, there is an easy solution which will ensure that the privacy of individuals is assured, while forgotten Out of Office auto-responders can be created. Crucial emails will not go unnoticed either. To complete this you can establish shared mailboxes, although these are not always popular.

If this is done in Outlook and a manager may need to set it up in their Outlook program. It will also be a requirement for them to guide staff members how to use the shared mailboxes, and policies might need to be devised. They may have to permanently keep the mailboxes of multiple teams open in Outlook.

There is a different option, and that is to share permissions. It is more difficult to set up this control as it requires an MS Exchange Administrator to allow Delegate Access. Using Delegate Access will make it possible for a person, with the appropriate authorizations, to share an email on behalf of another staff member. This means mailboxes do not have to be accessible all the time. They can just be opened when an email must be sent. This may be perfect, but it will not allow a manager to implement a forgotten Out-of-Office auto-responder.

That would mean a member of the IT department such a domain manager would have to create it. A ticket would need to be filed requesting the action to be completed. This may not be desirable with managers, but it is the only way for the task to be completed without sharing the user’s login credentials or creating up a temporary password which would breach their privacy.

Groups must tackle an ever-growing threat from hackers. In 2019 and 2020, we have witnessed many high-profile data breaches, leading to significant financial repercussions and damaged brand reputation. Password-sharing at work comes with a huge danger for groups. 81% of breaches begin with stolen or weak passwords. When cybercriminals obtain entry to your database, shared passwords make it easier for them to access other sections of your network.

Multi-Factor Authentication to Prevent Password Sharing

 When MFA is configured, access is only allowed when the user approves the use of two authentication factors. For instance, they initially complete the password process and then must complete another authentication request. This could be a code sent to a device. Multi-factor authentication, like any security process, works best when employed along with other security strategies.

If a complete ban on password sharing in not in place in your organization, it must be set up as soon as possible. To discover more in relation to password security and some of the key protections you can implement to enhance your resilience against attacks, contact the SpamTitan team now.

Multiple Malware Variants Delivered with Gootloader Malware via SEO Poisoning

Recently, rapid growth in the the use of a JavaScript-based infection framework known as Gootloader has been detected sharing malware payloads. Gootloader been implemented for broadcasting the Gootkit banking Trojan, REvil ransomware, Cobalt Strike, and the Kronos Trojan using compromised WordPress web pages

Those responsible for the Gootloader target susceptible WordPress websites and place hundreds of pages of fake content, often totally unconnected to the theme of the website. A wide variety of websites have been impacted across many industry sectors, including retail, education, healthcare, travel, music, and many more, with the common denominator that they all leverage the WordPress CMS.

It is not yet known how the WordPress sites have been affected. It is possible that the sites have not been updated to the most recent WordPress version or had vulnerable plugins that were targeted. Legitimate admin accounts could be impact using brute force tactics, or other methods employed.

The content placed on the compromised sites takes the format of forum posts and fake message forums, providing specific questions and answers. The questions are mostly linked to certain types of legal agreements and other documents. A review of the campaign by eSentire researchers found that the majority of the posts on the compromised websites included the word “agreement”. The posts feature a question, such as “Do I need a party wall agreement to sell my house?” with a post added below using the exact same search term that users can click to install a template agreement.

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

The malicious file that the link bring the user to install is a JavaScript file, hidden inside a.zip file. If that file is clicked in, the rest of the infection process becomes active in the memory, beyond the reach of traditional antimalware solutions. An autorun entry is established that loads a PowerShell script for persistence, which will ultimately be used to share whatever payload the threat actor wishes to put in place.

The content placed on the websites contains malicious code that displays the malicious forum posts only to visitors from certain places, with an underlying blog post that at first appears authentic, but mostly included gibberish. The blog post will be displayed to all people who are not specifically being focused on.

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

Preventing these attacks requires a range of security solutions and training. Installing any document or file from the Internet comes with a danger of a malware infection. Risk can be minimized by using a web filtering solution. Web filters will prevent access to websites that have been labelled as malicious and will perform content review on new content. You can also create a web filter to block installations of certain files types, such as JavaScript files and Zip files.

Endpoints should be created to show known file types, as this is not permitted by default in Windows. This will make sure that the file extension – .js – is shown. End users should be advised not to install these files and Windows Attack Surface Reduction rules should be set to prevent JavaScript and visual Basic scripts from trying to install and run files.

Three3 Experts Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards for TitanHQ

TitanHQ has been awarded for its email security, web cyber security, and email archiving solutions, being given three awards from Expert Insights.

Expert Insights was created in 2018 to help companie identify cybersecurity solutions to safeguard their networks and devices from an ever-increasing amount of cyber threats. Identifying cybersecurity solutions can be a long process, and the insights and information made available by Expert Insights considerably shortens that process. Unlike many resources listing the best software solutions, Expert Insights has ratings from verified users of the products to provide users of the resource valuable insights about how simple products are to use and how effective they are at preventing threats. Expert Insights has assisted more than 100,000 businesses choose cybersecurity solutions and the website is used by over 40,000 people every month.

Once annually, Expert Insights recognizes the best and most innovative cybersecurity solutions available in its “Best-Of” Awards. The editorial team at Expert Insights reviews vendors and their products on a variety of criteria, such as technical features, ease-of-use, market presence, and reviews by verified users of the solutions. Every product is reviewed by technology experts to decide the winners in a broad range of categories, including cloud, email, endpoint, web, identity, and backup cybersecurity.

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

Three TitanHQ cybersecurity products were chosen and named winners in the Expert Insights’ 2021 “Best-Of” Awards in the Email Security Gateway, Web Security, and Email Archiving categories. SpamTitan took the title for Best Email Security Gateway, WebTitan won the Web Security award and ArcTitan was picked as winner in the Email Archiving category. SpamTitan and WebTitan were acknowledged for the level of security supplied, while being among the simplest to use and most cost-effective solutions in their respective categories.

All three products are consistently identified as best in class in relation to the level of protection provided and are a bit hit with enterprises, SMBs, and MSPs.  The solutions are given many 5-star reviews from real users on the Expert Insights site and many other review web portals, including Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, Google Reviews, and G2 Crowd.  The cybersecurity solutions are now deployed by more than 8,500 companies and over 2,500 MSPs.

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

Caution Advised as all Devices on the Network Can be Automatically Infected by Ryuk Ransomware

One of the most dangerous ransomware groups has amended the ransomware it is using, adding worm-like capabilities that can lead to it self-propagating and being distributed to other devices on the local database.

Ryuk ransomware initially came on the scene during the summer of 2018 and has evolved to become one of the most serious strains of ransomware. It is thought that the ransomware attacks are being conducted by an Eastern European threat group referred to as Wizard Spider, aka UNC1878.

In 2020, Ryuk ransomware was witnessed being included in ransomware attacks on large groups and companies. While some ransomware gangs opted to leave frontline healthcare organizations out of their attacks, that was not so with Ryuk. In fact, the threat group initiated a major campaign specifically targeting the healthcare sector in the United States. In October 2020, the gang targeted 6 U.S. hospitals in a single day. If security experts had not discovered a plan by the gang to attack around 400 hospitals, the campaign would have been much more successful.

The ransomware remediation company Coveware said that Ryuk ransomware was the third most prolific ransomware strain during 2020 and was deployed in 9% of all ransomware attacks. A review of the Bitcoin wallets linked with the gang suggest more than $150 million in ransoms have been transferred to the gang.

Ryuk ransomware is always being updated. The Ryuk gang was one of the first ransomware operators to use double-extortion tactics first launched by the operators of Sodinokibi and Maze ransomware, which include stealing data before the use of encryption and threatening to publish or sell the stolen data if the ransom is not transferred.

Ryuk ransomware was also amended to allow it to attack and encrypt the drives of remote computers. The ransomware uses the ARP table on a compromised device to capture a list of IP addresses and mac addresses, and a wake-on-LAN packet is shared to the devices to power them up to permit them to be encrypted.

The most recent update was first seen by the French national cybersecurity agency ANSSI during an incident response it managed in January. ANSSI discovered the most recent strain had worm-like capabilities that allow it to propagate automatically and infect all devices within the Windows domain. Every reachable device on which Windows RPC accesses are possible can be attacked and encrypted.

Ryuk is a human-operated ransomware strain, but the new update will greatly cut the manual tasks that need to be completed. This will allow the group to complete a greater number of attacks and will cut the amount of time from infection to encryption, which gives security teams even less time to identify and address an attack in progress.

While various methods are used for first access, Ryuk ransomware is usually shared by a malware dropper such as Emotet, TrickBot, Zloader, Qakbot, Buer Loader, or Bazar Loader. These malware droppers are distributed using phishing and spear phishing emails. Approximately 80% of Ryuk ransomware attacks use phishing emails as the first attack vector.

Once a device has been infiltrated it is often too late to spot and prevent the attack before data theft and file encryption, especially since the attacks normally take place overnight and during the weekend when IT teams are depleted. The best security is to prevent the initial attack vector: The phishing emails that distribute the malware droppers.

Having an advanced spam filtering solution in place is crucial for preventing Ryuk ransomware attacks. By spotting and quarantining the phishing emails and blocking them from reaching inboxes, the malware droppers that deliver Ryuk will not be installed.

To prevent these attacks, think about augmenting your email security tactics with SpamTitan. SpamTitan is an award-winning email security solution that will prevent phishing emails that deliver malware downloaders.

To discover more, callthe SpamTitan team or start a free trial of the solution now.

Electronic Filing Identification Numbers of Tax Professionals the Focus of New Phishing Campaign

Wit the advent of tax season the arrival of the annual scams targeting tax professionals has also begun. Every year as the tax filing deadline approaches, hackers conduct scams in order to steal electronic filing identification numbers (EFINs).

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allocates EFINS to tax professionals and individuals to allow them to file tax returns digitally. If hackers get hold of obtain these EFINs they can file fraudulent tax returns in victims’ names to obtain tax rebates. once in possession of an e-file number of a tax professional tax returns can be submitted for many individuals, so these scams can be very profitable.

These scams typically begin with a phishing email using a trick the someone into visiting a malicious website where they are asked to hand over information or upload documents that contain sensitive data. Alternatively, recipients are told to install software allows the hackers full control of the victim’s device.

In a lot of cases the spam emails pretend to be the IRS informing tax professionals to provide information or documents in order to stop the suspension of their account. When met with this threat, tax professionals may provide the requested details.

One of the phishing emails recently uncovered pretended to be from the IRS by using the sender name “IRS Tax E-Filing,” with the subject line “Verifying your EFIN before e-filing.” The emails looked real and required “authorized e-file originators” to reverify before filing returns through the IRS system. The emails claimed the IRS had begun using this new security measure to prevent unauthorized and fraudulent behaviour. The scammers asked for a PDF file/scan of the EFIN acceptance letter and both sides of the person’s driver’s license. Similar scams have been completed that require tax preparers’ ID numbers and e-services usernames and passwords to be handed over.

This year, along with the normal phishing emails spoofing the IRS, campaigns have been discovered where the hackers claim to be possible clients searching for tax preparers ahead of the filing deadline. Attachments are provided that would normally be required by tax preparers, but they are laced with malicious scripts that download keylogging malware that records and exfiltrates keystrokes, with are likely to include usernames and passwords.

Tax experts that fall victim to these scams can have catastrophic damage inflicted on their good name, so it is crucial to use caution when opening any emails and to stop and think carefully about handing over sensitive information or downloading files or software

One of the simplest ways to safeguard from these scams is to put in place an advanced spam filtering solution that can identify and block these dangerous messages. SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that identifies and prevents malware and documents containing malicious scripts with dual antivirus engines, sandboxing, and machine learning methods. Along with blocking malware threats, SpamTitan is excellent for blocking phishing emails containing malicious URLs.

The award-winning spam filter is simple and straightforward to configure and manage, requiring no technical know how. For more details about SpamTitan, call the the SpamTitan team now.

New Phishing Campaign Involving NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Offer Discovered

In the United Kingdom a previously unseen phishing campaign has been discovered focusing on UK residents that pretends to be National Health Service (NHS). The scam claim to provide recipients with the opportunity to register for a COVID-19 vaccination.

This is just one of many similar vaccine scams is to be uncovered in recent weeks. All are claiming to provide access to a vaccine in order to trick the recipient into sharing private information. From the first moments that SARS-CoV-2 virus began to be detected outside of China, hackers have been operating a wide variety of COVID-19 phishing scams. Now that the vaccine rollout is underway in the UK and worldwide, using the promise of an early vaccine as a lure it not a massive surprise.

In the most recent campaign, the sender’s address has been spoofed to make it look like the messages have been broadcast by the NHS, and NHS branding is included in the message. Recipients are informed that they have been chosen to receive the vaccine due to their family and medical history.

The lure appears authentic due to the fact that, in the UK, the majority of high-risk groups have already been vaccinated, and the NHS is now shifting into priority group 6, which is all those aged from 16-65 with an underlying medical condition. The NHS has also pleaded with people to remain patient and wait until they are contacted about the vaccine to arrange an appointment, which may be via email.

The NHS COVID-19 vaccine scam emails require the recipient to visit a hyperlink that brings them to a website where they are asked to hand over some information to confirm their identity. In this instance, the aim of the scam is not to steal credentials, but personal information including name, address, date of birth, and credit card information.

Phishing has become the main attack vector for many hacking collectives operations during the pandemic. One study points to growth of 667% in phishing as an attack vector, showing the extent to which hackers have amended their attack tactics during the pandemic. One study by Centrify shows the amount of phishing attacks had grown by 73% between March 2020 and September 2020.

Research made available by the ransomware response firm Coveware indicates that the amount of ransomware attacks using phishing as the infection vector increased sharpy in the final quarter of 2020, overtaking all other types of attack to become the main method of gaining access to business databases.

It is calculated that phishing attacks will go on rising during 2021 due to the simplicity at which they can be managed and the effectiveness of the campaigns. Attacks are also becoming more complex and more difficult for individuals to spot.

Spear phishing attacks that focus on specific companies and individuals are becoming much more popular. These campaigns include prior research, and the messages are tailored to increase the chance of a response.

With phishing so common, it is crucial for companies to see to it that they are properly safeguarded and have an email security solution in place that is capable to blocking these attacks.

Dual AV engines and sandboxing can prevent known and zero-day malware and ransomware threats, while machine learning technology and multiple threat intelligence feeds provides protection against current and emerging phishing campaigns.

SpamTitan greatly enhances protection for Microsoft Office 365 accounts, the log in details to which are highly sought after by phishers and offers companies excellent security from all email-based attacks at a very affordable cost.

If you wish to safeguard your inboxes and prevent more malicious emails, get in touch with TitanHQ for further details about SpamTitan.

TitanHQ Wins Expert Insights’ Awards for Email Security, Web Security and Email Archiving

TitanHQ’s powerful, yet easy to use cybersecurity solutions have been recognized at this year’s Expert Insights’ Best-Of” Awards and have been named winners in their respective categories.

Expert Insights helps organizations make the right cybersecurity decisions with confidence by providing helpful guides, expert advice, and tailored solutions. The Expert Insights’ website receives more than 40,0000 business visitors a month looking for insights into cybersecurity solutions when researching the best products to buy.

Each year, the editorial team at Expert Insights evaluates the leading cybersecurity solutions on the market based on market position, product features, the protection provided, ease of use, and how they are rated by verified users of the products. The team includes technology experts with decades of experience in the cybersecurity industry who select the top product across a wide range of categories.

TitanHQ is thrilled to announce that the ArcTitan email archiving solution, the SpamTitan email security solution, and the WebTitan web filtering solution have all been named winners of Experts Insights’ 2021 Best-Of Awards in the Email Archiving, Email Security Gateway, and Web Security categories.

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

All three solutions are consistently rated highly by Managed Service Providers, enterprise users, and SMB users, and are praised for their ease of implementation, ease of use, effectiveness, and price. The products often attract 5-star reviews from verified users of the Expert Insights’ website, as well as on G2 Crowd, Capterra, Google Reviews, and GetApp.

The products are offered to customers by more than 2,500 MSPs and over 8,500 businesses in 150 countries have adopted the award-winning solutions.

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

 

How to Prevent CLOP Ransomware Attacks

Since it first emerged on the scene, CLOP Ransomware the number of attacks it has been deployed in have been constantly increasing, with a major increase being experienced during October 2020.

Since that spike in the deployment of CLOP ransomware there have been many different incidents witnessed on large organizations that have been accompanied with huge ransom demands – in one particular incident a attack on Software AG came with a ransom demand issued for $20m.

Similar to many other attacks conducted by ransomware groups , the CLOP ransomware gang steals data before encrypting files. If victims have an authentic backup and try to retrieve their encrypted files without handing over the ransom requested, the group will release stolen data on the darkweb making it available to other hacking operations. The media are made aware of the data dumps, and the following coverage can lead to businesses suffering serious reputational harm. In recent months there have been many class action lawsuits reported after ransomware attacks where stolen data has been leaked over the Internet.

CLOP ransomware is thought to have been conducted by a ransomware group called FIN11, which is an off shoot of a prolific Russian cybercriminal called TA505. FIN11 has focused on many different sectors, although recently production, health and retail have been concentrated on. When attacks are launched on groups and businesses in these sectors, the losses from downtime can be significant, which increases the chances of victims handing over the ransom.

Many ransomware groups have focused on flaws in Remote Desktop Protocol, VPN solutions, and weaknesses in software and operating systems to obtain they access they need to internal networks to place ransomware. However, the first attack vector in CLOP ransomware attacks (and also many other ransomware strains) is spam email. Large scale spam campaigns are carried out, often focusing on certain industry sectors or geographical locations. These are called “spray and pray” campaigns. The hope is to obtain access to as many networks as possible. The ransomware gang can then select which businesses are worthwhile attacking with ransomware.

Once CLOP ransomware is downloaded, detection can be tricky as the threat group has programmed the ransomware to turn off antivirus software such as Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender. The trick to preventing attacks is to stop the first infection, which means stopping the spam emails from reaching inboxes where they can be opened by staff.

Preventing the attacks can be done by using advanced spam filtering solution with robust antivirus protections. SpamTitan, for example, uses dual antivirus engines to catch known malware strains and sandboxing to spot dangerous files including previously unknown malware, ransomware, or malicious scripts. Machine learning processes are also used to spot new threats in real time.

The spam emails used in these campaigns try to steal details such Office 365 logins and passwords or get users to install malware downloaders. Extra protection against this phase of the attack can be supplied by a web filter such as WebTitan. WebTitan prevents the phishing component of these attacks by stopping these malicious URLs from being accessed by employees, as well as preventing downloads of malware from the Internet.

Employee training is also crucial for helping employees spot phishing emails and multi-factor authentication should be turned on to spot stolen details from being used to access email accounts and cloud apps.

If you want to enhance your security measure in the face of ransomware, malware and phishing campaigns, call the TitanHQ team now for a SpamTitan and WebTitan free trial.

U.S. Treasury Hit by Email Hacks

Compromised email accounts take place many times around the world every day of the week and it is estimated that 2.5 billion accounts were hacked during 2019 which equates to 6.85 million accounts being hacked every day.

Cybercriminals are always searching for high value accounts that have access to high value assets and taking over an email account is the first step into compromising a database. A perfect recent example is the recent compromises of staff email account at the U.S. Treasury Department last December. The seizure of privileged user accounts did not take place due to a typical credential stuffing attack. It was actually the result of a complex software chain attack.  An official statement shared by Senate Finance Committee ranking member, Ron Wyden said: “Hackers broke into systems in the Departmental Offices division of Treasury, home to the department’s highest-ranking officials.”

These hacking attempt were part of the highly-publicized SolarWinds Attack in which foreign hackers, most likely funded by the Russian government in some manner, targeted a weakness in the SolarWinds Orion monitoring and management software.  This permitted the hackers to easily sign in without having to guess usernames and passwords.  Due to this, the hackers could pretend to be users and operate freely within the compromised groups.  Sadly, no one knows for sure what data was illegally taken or the full slate of actions carried out by the involved cybercriminals.  Microsoft has revealed that they addressed the flaw exploited by the attack. Unfortunately, the hackers were able to steal as many as 18,000 government and private networks, possibly seizing user ID’s, passwords, financial records, source code and other sensitive or high value data.

Email accounts are one of the flaws that hackers often focus on.  In the same manner that hackers leveraged the SolarWinds exploit to potentially break onto thousands of networks, the leveraging power of a single compromised email can lead to compounding consequences due to the fact that a single email address is connected to other user accounts, giving hackers access to other valuable databases

As politicians, regulators, cybersecurity experts and software developers try to figure out what could have been done to mitigate this attack, it is clear that there is no simple answer. Supply chain attacks are tricky to defend against since you are depending on the software vendor to safeguard their source code and platforms.  In this instance, the usual recommendations would not have done anything to stop this attack.

  • Groups are told to only download signed software versions, but the involved software in this incident was signed.
  • Updating to the most recent software version would not have made any difference in this instance because it was the latest software version that was infiltrated.
  • The attack was carried out in a highly concealed and stealthy manner and would have been indictable by everyday monitoring tactics.

The simplicity at which highly privileged user accounts within the United States government were accessed, should be a wakeup call to all businesses.  In today’s highly connected and digital world, a zero-trust security strategy must be put in place.

Phishing Emails Most Common Beginning of Ransomware Attack

Last year saw double the amount of phishing attacks as 2019, with the majority of organizations bing tricked and transferring large ransoms in order to retrieve their data to prevent private information from being shared publicly or sold to other hacking groups.

At the beginning of 2020, downloading data before the deployment of ransomware was still only being complete by a minority of ransomware gangs, but that trend altered as the year progressed. By December around 17 hacking groups were implementing this double extortion process and were stealing sensitive data before encrypting files. A lot of attacked groups had no option other than to pay the ransom requested in order to deal with the threat of publication of sensitive data.

The range of ransomware attacks in 2020 has been emphasised by various studies by cybersecurity experts over the past few weeks. Chainalysis recently released a report that suggests more than $350 million has been transferred to cybercriminals in 2020 alone, based on a review of the transactions to blockchain addresses known to be deployed by ransomware threat groups. Obviously that figure is likely to be much lower than the true total, as many businesses do not share that they have suffered ransomware attacks. To give that figure proper meaning, a similar review in 2019 estimated the losses to be around $90 million. Those figures are for ransom payments alone, not the cost of addressing attacks, which would be many orders of magnitude higher.

The rise in attacks can be partly put down to the change in working practices due to the pandemic. Many businesses changed from office-based working to a distributed remote workforce to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep their employees secured. The swift change involved hastily implementing remote access solutions to support those workers which introduced flaws that were readily exploited by ransomware group.

Measures to Take to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

What all companies and groups need to do is to make it as difficult as possible for the attacks to hit their targets. While there is no one solution for preventing ransomware attacks, there are measures that can be taken that make it much harder for the attacks to bear fruit.

With the majority of ransomware attacks now beginning with a phishing email, an advanced email security solution is a crucial. By using best-in-market solutions like SpamTitan to proactively secure the Office365 environment it will be much easier to prevent threats than simply depending on Office 365 anti-spam protections, which are commonly bypassed to transmit Trojans and ransomware.

A web filtering solution can prevent ransomware from being delivered to your systems. Multi-factor authentication must be put in place for email accounts and cloud apps, workers should be educated in how to spot threats, and monitoring systems should be enable to permit active attacks to be discovered and addressed before ransomware is launched.

Businesses Faced Twice as Many Phishing Attacks During 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been many new possible attack vectors for hackers to target due to the changes required of workplaces in the face of national lockdowns.

This resulted in a more spread out, remotely-based workforce. Reacting to this hackers increased their phishing attacks to try and steal log on details for email accounts, VPNs, and remote access solutions.

The rise cybercriminal campaigns  was recently shown by the Anti-Phishing Working Group which has been putting together data on phishing attacks from its member groups during 2020. Its most recent report shows phishing attacks grew to more that twice that experienced during 2020, peaking in October 2020 when previous records were broken. In October, 225,304 new phishing sites were detected, compared with under 100,000 during January 2020. During the time period from August to December 2020, over 200,000 new phishing sites were discovered every month.

Links to these phishing portals are shared in large scale phishing campaigns and the majority of the messages arrive in inboxes where they are then clicked on. The pandemic resulted in it being much more simple for hackers to successfully target those seeking details about COVID-19. As the year went on COVID-19 themed lures were deployed masking as information about COVID-19 relief payments for businesses, offers of early vaccines, small business loans, tax deadline extensions, and other similar campaigns.

Hackers often create compromised websites for hosting their phishing forms, but it is now much more typical for the hackers to purchase their own domains that are tailored for each phishing campaign. These lookalike domains can easily trick people into thinking they are on a genuine site website.

Hackers have also been deploying encryption to mask their phishing URLs and fool employees. Hosting phishing URLs on HTTPS sites can trick staff into thinking the web content is authentic, and many security solutions do not review encrypted content which makes the URLs tricky to spot and block. In Q4, 2020, 84% of phishing URLs used SSL encryption.

The rise in deployment of SSL encryption is a worry, as many people mistakenly believe that a URL beginning with HTTPS is secure when that is not so. SSL inspection means the link between the browser and the website is secure, which means users are safeguarded against the interception of sensitive information, but a hacker may own or control that website. The secure connection just means other hackers will not be able to intercept login credentials as they are entered on a phishing web portal.

The issue for companies has been how to address these attacks as they increase in number and complexity. Many companies have previously depended on Office 365 anti-spam protections for preventing spam and phishing threats, but large amounts of these malicious emails are broadcast to Office 365 inboxes. When that happens and a malicious link is visited, they have no way of stopping employees from disclosing sensitive data.

One method that businesses can better safeguard their databases from these phishing attacks is by putting in place a web filtering solution that features SSL inspection. WebTitan has the ability to decrypt websites, review the content, and then re-encrypt which means hacking portals websites are not hidden and can be identified and prevented.

WebTitan also uses a range of threat intelligent feeds to see to it that once a phishing URL is discovered, all WebTitan users will be instantly protected. WebTitan makes sure that protection is in place from emerging phishing URLs and zero-minute attacks. When linked with an advanced spam filtering solution like SpamTitan to prevent phishing emails at source and ensure they do not land in inboxes, companies will be well secured from phishing attacks.

Ransomware Attacks Unlikely to Fall Off during 2021

The business world has been hit very hard during 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic, resulting in massive complications as most try to simple stay alive as a competitive entity. Complicating this even further has been the increase in ransomware attacks as cybercriminals sough to use the pandemic as leverage in their bid to steal money from anywhere possible.

Ransomware is not a new phenomenon and was first witnessed inflicting damage during the early 2000s in order to steal money from individuals and companies. It became more widespread during the 2010s and it s now the biggest cyber threat for businesses.

According to data from Kroll, during the third quarter of 2020, ransomware attacks grew by 40% with around 200 million attacks taking place during that time. Additionally a recent H1 2020 Cyber Insurance Claims Report released by Coalition states that 87% of all cyber-related insurance claims are filed due to ransomware attacks.

Another trend is that the hackers are seeking larger amounts of money in order to release the data that they are encrypting according to a report from Coveware, a firm that assists companies recovering from ransomware attacks. It says that ransom demands grew by 200% during Q4, 2019 and repeating this growth during 2020.

Ransomware gangs have created a previously unseen tactic of stealing data prior to encrypting files in order to use double extortion tactics. So even if a company pays to recover data, victims still have to hand over money to stop the public sharing of their stolen data. The healthcare industry was hit particularly hard by during the last 12 months as Healthcare systems and hospitals had to deal with fighting the pandemic at  the same time as a huge increase in attacks on hospitals was registered.

The pandemic has given ransomware gangs new chance to carrying out campaign to target remote workers with new database vulnerabilities identified to exploit. COVID-19 has also been targeted using lures that share ransomware, first saying that they have new advice on the new virus, then possible cures, and latterly vaccine linked lures.

The huge rise  in attacks at the back end of 2020 indicates that they will continue to rise during 2021, and there is nothing to suggest otherwise. These types of attack are likely to persist as long as they continue to be profitable so companies must take care to do everything possible to prevent all attacks.

Some of the most crucial measure to implement include:

  • Configure a proven spam filter with the strongest protection against malware and ransomware. Make sure it uses signature-based detection to block known ransomware variants and sandboxing to identify new ransomware strains.
  • See to it patches are applied at once and software is updated quickly to the most recent version.
  • Show your employees how to spot ransomware and malware emails and conduct general security training.
  • Configure a web filtering solution to prevent access to risky and malicious websites to stop installations of ransomware.
  • Insist on the creation of strong passwords to obstruct brute force attacks.
  • Turn on multi-factor authentication wherever it is available.

Detection

If you can spot unauthorized accessing of your databases as it occurs , you may be able to prevent an attack before ransomware is installed. Most hackers spend time moving laterally to identify as many devices as possible before deploying an attack and they will try to find and steal data, which allows you a window to detect and block the attack. You should configure a monitoring system in place that launches alerts when suspicious activity is spotted and, ideally, one that can automatically remediate attacks when they are discovered. Many attacks take place at the weekend and public holidays when monitoring by IT teams is likely to be at a lower level so think about the mechanisms you have in place when staffing levels are minimal.

Remediation

You may not be able to prevent an attack, but you can ready your team(s) and restrict the damage inflicted. First and foremost, create a backup of your data. Store the backup is stored in a location that cannot be accessed from the network where the data is held, store a copy of a backup on a non-networked device, and ensure backups are carried out regularly and are checked to make sure data can be rescued.

You should also set up a disaster recovery plan that can go live as soon as an attack takes place to ensure your company can go on working until the attack is addressed.

Emotet Botnet Taken Down by Coordinated Law Enforcement Campaign

Used in extensive attacks on companies globally for some time, the Emotet botnet has finally been taken down as part of a coordinated effort involving Europol, the FBI, the UK National Crime Agency, and other law enforcement bodies.

The cybercriminals managing Emotet used their malware to set up a backdoor to many different company databases and then sold access to other hacking groups that aimed to carry out additional malicious attacks that involved stealing sensitive data and extortion through the deployment of ransomware.

The operation has been in development for around two years and was set up to allow the multi-country infrastructure to simultaneously disrupt any attempts by the threat group to set up the network in future. Law enforcement bodies have taken management of of hundreds of servers and have taken control of the complete Emotet infrastructure, in what will be viewed by many to be the most important malware takedowns to date. The takedown has stopped the Emotet gang from using the malware and has lead to the loss of control of the army of compromised devices that comprise the botnet.

Europol and its partners were able to map the entire infrastructure, took management of the network, and shut down the Emotet Trojan. A software update was installed on the main servers used to manage the malware, two of which were located in the Netherlands. Infected computer systems will download the update, which result in the Emotet Trojan being quarantined.

Emotet is possibly the most dangerous malware of recent years and the botnet used to share it is one of the best available. Approximately 30% of all malware attacks in 2020 involved the Emotet Trojan.

Phishing emails were used to share the Emotet Trojan. Large phishing campaigns were shared using a wide variety of lures to trick recipients into opening malicious attachments or visiting websites that installed the Emotet Trojan. The lures deployed in the campaigns frequently changed, taking advantage of world events to enhance the probability of the attachments being clicked on.

Emotet began life as a banking Trojan but later evolved into a malware dropper. Emotet shared other banking Trojans such as TrickBot as the secondary malware payload, and ransomware strains such as Ryuk – each of which were also malicious.

Devices infected with Emotet are included in the botnet and used to share copies of the Emotet Trojan to other devices on the network and the user’s contacts by taking over the user’s email account. Infecting just one device on a company network that was infected with Emotet could quickly lead to more infections. The Trojan was also very complicated to remove, as removal of the infection would only be temporary, with other devices on the network simply re-infecting the cleaned device once it was removed.

Prior to the 2020 Presidential election in the United States, Microsoft and its partners were able to take over management of some of the infrastructure used to control and share the TrickBot Trojan. In that instance the operation was only temporarily successful, as the TrickBot gang was able to rapidly recover and bring its infrastructure back online.

 

How to Tackle Vishing and Smishing Attacks

Hacker use many tactics to steal details that they then use to remotely log onto corporate accounts, cloud services, and obtain access to business databases. Phishing is the most witnessed method, which is most commonly carried out over email.

Hackers design emails using a range of tricks to fool the recipient into visiting a malicious website where they must hand over credentials that are recorded and used by the hackers to remotely access the accounts.

Companies are now realizing the advantages of configuring an advanced spam filtering solution to prevent these phishing emails at source and ensure they do not land in inboxes. Advanced anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions will prevent practically all phishing attacks, so if you have yet to put in place such a solution or you are depending on Microsoft Office 365 protections, we urge you to get in touch and give SpamTitan a trial.

Phishing is not only carried out using email. Rather than using email to share the hook, many threat collectives use SMS or instant messaging services and increasing numbers of phishing campaigns are now being managed by telephone and these types of phishing attack are harder to prevent.

When phishing takes place via SMS messages it is known as Smishing. Instead of email, an SMS message is shared with a link that users are instructed to visit. Instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp are also used. A range of lures are in play, but it is typical for security alerts to be shared that warn the recipient about a fraudulent transaction or other security threat that depends on them them logging in to their account.

In December 2019, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) discovered a campaign where hackers were carrying out phishing campaigns using telephones – called vishing. Since then, the number of instances of vishing attacks has grown, leading to the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to release a joint alert in the summer about a campaign aiming for remote workers. This month, the FBI has released another alert following a spike in vishing attacks on companies.

Hackers often target users with high levels of privileges, but not always. There has been an increasing trend for hackers to target every credential, so all users are in danger. Once one set of details is captured, efforts focus on elevating privileges and reconnaissance is carried out identify targets in the company with the level of permissions they need – I.e. permissions to perform email updates.

The hackers make VoIP calls to workers and convince them to view a webpage where they need to login. In one attack, a staff member of the firm was identified in the company’s chatroom, and was contacted and convinced to login to their group’s VPN on a fake VPN page. Credentials were obtained and used to carry outer connaissance.

How to Deal with Smishing and Vishing

Dealing with these types of phishing attacks requires a range of processes. As opposed to email phishing, these threats cannot be easily stopped at source. It is therefore crucial to cover these threats in security awareness training classes as well as warning about the dangers of email phishing.

A web filtering solution is ideal for preventing attempts to visit the malicious domains where the phishing pages are hosted. Web filters such as WebTitan can be used to manage the websites that staff members can access on their company phones and mobile devices and will supply protection no matter where an employee uses the Internet.

It is also crucial to configure multi-factor authentication to stop any stolen credentials from being implemented by hackers to remotely log on to accounts. The FBI also advises allowing network using the rule of least privilege: ensuring users are only allowed access to the resources they need for work projects. The FBI also advises regularly scanning and auditing user access rights allocated and reviewing any amendments in permissions.

Hackers Focused on Healthcare & Retail Sectors During 2020

During 2020, the healthcare sector was strongly concentrated on by groups of hackers who gained a benefit due to the pandemic as they attacked those dealing with hospitals administering care to those suffering from the disease.

A massive ransomware campaign targeted one of the biggest healthcare suppliers in the United States. Universal Health Services, an American Fortune 500 company which has a staff of 90,000 people and runs 400 acute care hospitals, was impacted by a huge ransomware attack in September which damaged all of its hospitals. Staff were forced to work using pen and paper for three weeks while it repaired the damage by the attack.

Another illegal infiltration of the University of Vermont Medical Center databases during October impacted over 5,000 hospital computers and laptops and 1,300 servers. All devices had to be have their data removed and have software and data installed again, with the healthcare provider suffering downtime for longer than two months. During the retrieval process around $1.5 million was being lost per day to attack-linked expenses and lost business, with the total costs thought to be more than $64 million.

Ransomware attacks on the healthcare sector increased during September and October and continued to be an issue for the sector for the rest of the year. A research study by Tenable found that ransomware attacks accounted for 46% of all healthcare data breaches in 2020, displaying the extent to which the industry was focused on.

Most of these attacks included the exploitation of unpatched flaws, most commonly flaws in the Citrix ADC controller and Pulse Connect Secure VPN. Patches had been made available the beginning of the year to fix the vulnerabilities, but the patches had not been applied swiftly. Phishing emails also gave ransomware groups the access to healthcare networks they needed to carry out ransomware attacks. Check Point’s research shows there was a 45% increase in cyberattacks on the industry from the start of November to the conclusion of the year.

Another industry heavily targeted by hackers in 2020 was retail. As many different governments issued directives for citizens to remain home to curb the spread of the virus, online retailers saw a sales surge as shoppers made their purchases online rather than in physical stores. Experts at Salesforce saw that digital sales grew by 36% in 2020 compared to the previous year, and cybercriminals took advantage of the increase in digital sales.

Many methods were used to obtain access to retailers’ systems and websites, with the most witnessed tactic being web application attacks, which increased by 800% in 2020 according to the CDNetworks State of Web Security H1 2020 Report. Hackers also used details illegally taken in previous data breaches to attack online retail outlets in credential stuffing attacks, which Akamai’s tracking revealing the retail sector was the most focused on sector industry using this attack technique, account for around 90% of attacks.

As is typical every year, the large amounts of shoppers that head online to complete purchases in the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday were exploited, with phishing attacks linked to these shopping events increasing thirteenfold in the six-week time period before Black Friday. In November, 1 in every 826 emails was an online shopping related phishing campaign, as opposed to 1 in 11,000 in October, according to Check Point. Content management systems used by retailers were also targeted, and attacks on retail APIs also grew during 2020.

As 2021 begins, both sectors are likely to go on being heavily focused on. Ransomware and phishing attacks on healthcare suppliers could well grow now that vaccines are being rolled out, and with many consumers still choosing to buy online rather than in person, the retail sector looks set to have another bad 12-month period.

Luckily, by using cybersecurity best practices it is possible to obstruct most of these attacks. Patches need to be applied quickly, especially any flaws in remote access software, VPNs, or popular networking equipment, as those vulnerabilities are rapidly targeted.

An advanced anti-phishing solution needs to be configured to prevent phishing attacks at source and ensure that malicious messages do not land in inboxes. Multi-factor authentication should also be put in place on email accounts and remote access solutions to obstruct credential stuffing attacks.

A web filter is vital for preventing the web-based component of phishing and cyberattacks. Web filters stop staff members from accessing malicious websites and block malware/ ransomware installations and C2 callbacks. And for retail in particular, the use of web application firewalls, safeguard transaction processing, and the proper use of Transport Layer Security across a website (HTTPS) are crucial.

By adhering to cybersecurity best practices, healthcare suppliers, retailers, and other targeted sectors will make it much harder for hackers to gain a profit. TitanHQ can help with SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan Web Security to safeguard against email and web-based attacks in 2021. To find out more on these two products and how you can use them to safeguard your databases, call TitanHQ now.

MineBridge Backdoor Being Installed in Phishing Campaign Targeting Windows Finger Utility

A phishing campaign has been discovered that targets the Windows Finger command to install a malware strain titled called MineBridge.

The Finger command in Windows can be launched by a local user to gather a list of users on a remote machine or, alternatively, to collect data in relation to a specific remote user. The Finger utility began in Linux and Unix operating systems but is also incorporated in Windows. The utility permits allows commands to be completed to see if a particular user is logged on, although this is now rarely employed.

There are also security issues with the finger utility, and it has been taken advantage of previously to ascertain basic information about users that can be targeted in social engineering attacks. Weaknesses in the finger protocol have also been exploited in the past by some malware strains.

Recently, security experts discovered Finger can be deployed as a LOLBin to install malware from a remote server or to remove data without resulting in security alerts being generated. Finger is now being used in at least one phishing campaign to install malware.

MineBridge malware is a Windows backdoor composed in C++ that has previously been deployed in attacks on South Korean businesses. The malware was initially discovered in December 2020 by experts at FireEye and in January 2020 many different campaigns were identified spreading the malware via phishing emails with malicious Word files.

The most recent campaign sees the hackers pretend to be a recruitment business. The email is a recommendation of an individual for consideration for a position at the targeted company. The sender recommends even if there are no current vacancies, the CV should be reviewed, and the individual considered. The email is well written and seems genuine.

As is typical in phishing attacks, if the document is clicked on a message will be shown that tells the user the document has been set up in an older version of Windows and to review the content the user must ‘enable editing’ and then ‘enable content’. Doing so will run the macro, which will gather and install a Base64 encoded certificate using the Finger command. The certificate is a malware installer that leverages DLL hijacking to sideload the MineBridge backdoor. Once in place, MineBridge will give the hacker control over an infected device and allow a range of malicious actions to be carried out.

It is simplest to prevent attacks like this by configuring an advanced spam filtering solution to block the dangerous emails and stop them from reaching inboxes. As an extra security measure against this and other campaigns that target the Finger.exe utility in Windows, admins should thin about turning off disabling finger.exe if it is never employed.

 

Most Impersonated Brand in Phishing Attacks is Microsoft

Is can be tricky for staff members to spot phishing scams as the attacks typically give a plausible reason for performing an action like downloading an update, so much so that the web portals provdied are practically indistinguishable from the real websites that the scammers spoof and credentials are commonly stolen.

The pandemic has seen growing numbers of employees working from home and logging onto their company’s cloud applications remotely. Companies are now much more dependent on email for communication than when staff members were all office based. Hackers have been taking advantage and have been targeting remote workers with phishing scams and many of these attacks have been profitable.

Staff members are often given more training on cybersecurity and are warned to be wary of emails that have been sent from unrecognized people, but many still open the emails and take the desired action. The emails often pretend to bean individual that is known to the recipient, which increases the chances of that email being opened. It is also common for well known companies to be impersonated in phishing attacks, with the hackers leveraging trust in that brand.

A recent review of phishing emails by Check Point showed that the most commonly impersonated brand in phishing attacks over the past quarter is Microsoft, which is not surprising given the number of businesses using Office 365. The study revealed 43% of phishing attempts that mimic brands pretend to be Microsoft.

Microsoft details are then recorded in these attacks and are used to remotely log onto accounts. The data stored in a just one email account can be massive. There have been many healthcare phishing campaigns that have seen a single account compromised that included the sensitive data of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of clients. These phishing emails are often only the first step in a multi-stage attack that gives the threat actors the base they need for a much more in depth attack on the organization, often resulting in the theft of large amounts of data and ending with the sharing of ransomware.

Microsoft is far from the only brand impersonated. The review showed that DHL is the second most impersonated brand. DHL-based phishing attacks use failed delivery alerts and shipping notices as the lure to get individuals to either share sensitive information such as login details or open malicious email attachments that install malware. 18% of all brand impersonation phishing attacks involve the impersonation of DHL. This makes sense as the phishers target companies and especially during a pandemic when there is increased reliance on courier businesses.

Other well-known companies that are commonly impersonated include PayPal and Chase to obtain account details. LinkedIn to permit professional networking accounts to be infiltrated, and Google and Yahoo are commonly impersonated to obtain account details. Attacks spoofing Amazon, Rakuten, and IKEA also feature in the top 10 most spoofed brand list.

Phishers mostly aim for company users as their credentials are far more profitable. Businesses therefore need to ensure that their phishing security measures up to date. Security awareness training for employees is important but given the realistic danger of phishing emails and the plausibility of the lures deployed, it is crucial for more reliable measures to be implemented to prevent phishing attacks.

To better secure your company from phishing campaigns, a third-party spam filter should be layered on top of Office 365. SpamTitan has been designed to supply enhanced protection for businesses that use Office 365. The solution implements easily with Office 365 and the solution is easy to configure and manage. The result will be far better security from phishing campaigns and other malicious emails that employees struggle to recognize.

For more details on SpamTitan, to sign up for a free trial, and for details of pricing, give the TitanHQ team a call now.

QRAT Malware Being Delivered by Trump-Themed Phishing Emails

The Qnode Remote Access Trojan (QRAT) is currently being distributed via a Trump-themed phishing campaign, masked as a video file that claims to be a Donald Trump sex tape.

A Java-based RAT, QRAT was initially witnessed during 2015 that has been used in many different phishing campaigns over the years, with a vast increase in distribution witnessed since August 2020. Interestingly, the malicious file attachment – titled “TRUMP_SEX_SCANDAL_VIDEO.jar” – bears no resemblance to the phishing email body and subject line, which provides a loan offer for an investment for a dream project or business strategy. The subject line is “GOOD LOAN OFFER,” and the sender claims a loan will be supplied if there is a good return on the investment and between $500,000 and $100 million can be provided. It is not mentioned whether a mistake has been made and the wrong file attachment was placed in the email or if this was a deliberate mismatching of a malicious .jar file. While the emails are trick to fool many end users, there may be sufficient interest in the video to spark the interest of some recipients.

The phishing campaign seems to be poorly composed, but the same cannot be said of the malware the campaign is trying to infiltrate networks with. The recent version of QRAT shared in this campaign is more sophisticated than earlier witnessed versions, with several enhancements made to bypass security solutions. For example, the malicious code deployed as the QRAT downloader is obfuscated and split across many different buffers inside the .jar file.

Phishing campaigns often aim for interest in topical new stories and the Presidential election, claims of election fraud, and recent events at Capitol Hill have seen President Trump trending. It is possible that this will not be the only Trump-themed phishing campaign to be carried out over the coming days and months.

This campaign seems to be concentrated on companies, where the potential profits from a malware infection is likely to be far greater than an attack on consumers. Blocking threats such as this is simplest with an advanced email security solution capable of detecting known and new malware strains.

SpamTitan is an strong, inexpensive spam filtering for businesses and the leading cloud-based spam filter for managed service providers for the SMB sector. SpamTitan uses dual anti-virus engines to spot known malware threats, and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox to spot zero-day malware. The solution also supports the blocking of dangerous file types such as JARs and other executable files.

SpamTitan is excellent for preventing phishing emails without malicious attachments, including emails with hyperlinks to malicious web pages. The solution has many threat detection features that can spot and block spam and email impersonation attacks and machine learning technology and different multiple threat intelligence feeds that provide protection against zero-minute phishing campaigns.

One of the chief reasons why the solution is such as popular option for SMBs and MSPs is simple installation, use, and management. SpamTitan removes the complexity from email security to permit IT teams to focus on other key duties.

SpamTitan is the most highly rates solution on review sites such as Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice, is a top three solution in the three email security classifications on Expert Insights and has been a market  leader in the G2 Email Security grids for 10 consecutive quarters.

If you would like a spam filtering solution that is strong and simple to deploy, give the TitanHQ team a call to set up a free trial of SpamTitan.

Emotet Botnet Springs Back to Life and Delivers TrickBot Christmas Present

The Emotet botnet is back up and running, after an right-week absences, and has been witnessed carrying out a phishing email campaign that is sharing between 100,000 and 50,0000 emails to recipients daily.

Emotet was first tracked during 2014 and began life as a banking Trojan; however, over the years the malware has evolved. While Emotet remains a banking Trojan, it is now famous as a malware downloader that is used to send a range of secondary payloads. The malware payloads it sends also act as malware downloaders, so infection with Emotet often leads to multiple malware infections, with ransomware often shared as the final payload.

Once Emotet is downloaded on an endpoint it is added to the Emotet botnet and is used for spam and phishing attacks. Emotet sends copies of itself using email to the user’s contacts along with other self-propagation mechanisms to infiltrate other computers on the network. Emotet can be complex to remove from the network. Once one computer is managed, it is often reinfected by other infected computers on the network.

Emotet often goes inactive for many weeks or even months, but even with long gaps in operations, Emotet is still the chief malware threat. Emotet went dormant around February 2020, with activity back live five months later in July. Activity continued until late October when activity stopped once again until Tuesday this week when it came back in time for Christmas. In 2020, Emotet has been observed delivering TrickBot and other payloads like as Qakbot and ZLoader.

During the periods of inactivity, the threat actors responsible for the malware are not necessarily inactive, they just halt their distribution campaigns. During the breaks they update their malware and came back with a new and improved version that is more effective at evading security measures.

The most recent campaign uses similar tactics to past campaigns to maximize the probability of end users clicking on a malicious Office document. The phishing emails are usually personalized to make them look more authentic, with Emotet using hijacked message threats with malicious content included. Since the emails appear to be responses to past conversations between colleagues and contacts, there is a better chance that the recipient will open the email attachment or click a malicious URL.

This campaign targets password-protected files, with the password to open the file supplied in the message text of the email. Since email security solutions cannot open these files, it is more likely that they will be sent to inboxes. The malicious documents shared in this campaign contain malicious macros. If the macros are turned on – which the user is told is necessary to view the content of the document – Emotet will be installed, after which the TrickBot Trojan will be delivered, usually followed by a ransomware variant like as Ryuk.

Earlier campaigns have not shown any additional content when the macros are turned on; however, this campaign displays an error message after the macros have been enabled instructing the user that Word experienced an mistake opening the file. This is likely to make the user think that the Word document has been corrupted. A variety of themes are used for the emails, with the most recent campaign using holiday season and COVID-19 related lures.

A review by Cofense identified several changes in the most recent campaign, including switching the malware binary from an executable (.exe) file to a Dynamic Link Library (.dll) file, which is executed using rundll32.exe. The command-and-control infrastructure has been amended and now uses binary data rather than plain text, both of which make the malware harder to spot

Firms need to be particularly careful and should act swiftly if infections are detected and should take steps to ensure their networks are safeguarded with anti-virus software, security policies, spam filters, and web filters.

Private Data Stolen from Within PDF Files Using Code Injection Technique

A new form of hacking has been discover that allows cybercriminals to carry out cross-site scripting attacks from within PDF files.

PDF files have been a favouritContact ,dfgn.df/gm.df,gmdf,.gm./,dfmg./d,fgmdf,./gmdf,./gmdf/.gmdf,./mgdf,./mg,.df/mg,e tool of hackers for some time in order to run for phishing attacks and distribute malware. In a lot of cases emails are shared using PDF file attachments that include hyperlinks to malicious websites. By placing these URLs into the files rather instead of the body of the email message, it is more difficult got harder for security solutions to spot those malicious links.

This more recent for of hacking also includes the used of PDF files, but instead of tricking employees into handing over their login details or visiting a malicious website where malware is downloaded, the hackers attempt to obtain sensitive information included in PDF files.

The technique is similar to those deployed by hackers in web application attacks. Cross-site scripting attacks – or XXS attacks for short – normally involve injecting malicious scripts into authentic websites and applications. When a user views a website or a hacked application, the script runs. The scripts give the hackers access to user information such as cookies, session tokens, and sensitive data saved in browsers, such as passwords. Since the website or application is genuine, the web browser will not identify the script as malicious. These attacks are possible in websites and web applications where user input is used to create output without correctly validating or encoding it.

A similar technique has been shown to also work within PDF files and is used to inject code and record data. This is completed by taking advantage of escape characters such as parentheses, which are often used to accept user input. If the input is not validated correctly, hackers can place malicious URLs or JavaScript code into the PDF files. Even injecting a malicious URL can be enough to record data in the document and exfiltrate it to the attacker-controlled website, as was shown at the Black Hat online conference this month.

What sort of data could be stolen in such an attack? A massive amount of sensitive data is included in PDF files. PDF files are used extensively for reports, statements, logs, e-tickets, receipts, boarding passes, and a lot more. PDF files may include passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account data, and a variety of other sensitive data. The presenters at the conference said that they discovered some of the largest libraries of PDF files globally were sensitive to XXS attacks.

In the most part, the flaws in PDF files that allow XXS attacks are not due to the PDF files themselves, but incorrect coding. If PDF libraries fail to properly parse code of escape characters and allow unprotected formats, they will be susceptible. Luckily, Adobe made available an update on December 9 which stops this type of security vulnerability from being targets, although firms that create PDF files must update their software and apply the update to be secured.

This is just one method way that malicious attachments can be leveraged to steal sensitive data. As was referred to earlier, malicious macros are often added to office documents, executable files are added as attachments to emails and pretend to be as legitimate files, and malicious code can be injected into a variety of different file types.

One of the best ways to secure your network from attacks via email using malicious attachments is to use an advanced email security solution that can spot not just known malware but also never-before-seen malicious code. This is an area that is a speciality of SpamTitan Email Security. SpamTitan uses dual anti-virus engines (Bitdefender/ClamAV) to block recognized malware threats and sandboxing to spot malicious code that has been placed in email attachments. Files are put through rigorous analysis in the security of the sandbox and are checked for any malicious intent.

Contact the TitanHQ to to discover more about making your organization safe from malicious emails and malware.

Beware of COVID-19 Vaccine Phishing Scams!

Hackers are attempting to use the roll our of COVID-19 vaccination programs around the world by launching a host of COVID-19 vaccine phishing campaigns in order to illegally obtain private protected data including passwords details for networks and databases and also to speed up the distribution of their malware emails.

A number of US-based government bodies have already made malwares warnings for businesses and consumers public. These agencies the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

These malware attacks will be disguised in a number of different ways. Those already identified include offers for early access to COVID-19 vaccine programmes, seeking a payment to skip the line and move to the head of the waiting list, and an offer for email recipients to register for another waiting once they hand over some private personal information – which will later be used to infiltrate personal account with contact details and financial information.

Email is the chosen vector for this COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams but it will be no surprise to see that there are also advertising being conducted across a spectrum of different websites, social media platforms, instant messaging platforms and even using phone calls or SMS messages. The vast majority of these campaigns will take aim at individual consumers but is is expected they they could infiltrate business databases should employees access any of the medium mentioned previously while using their work network – or if the email land in their corporate inboxes.

The scam emails will most of the time have links to web portals, hidden in email attachments to mask them from antivirus software, where information will be gathered that can be used to carry out fraud. In a lot of cases Office documents will be deployed to delivering malware through via malicious macros. Mostly, these emails will claim to be trusted entities or people. COVID-19 vaccine scam emails are likely to disguise themselves as healthcare providers, health insurance firms, vaccine centers, and federal, state, or local public health bodies. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 there have been many cases of fraudsters impersonating the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Covid-19 related phishing campaigns.

Recently the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that two websites have been seized that claimed to be vaccine developers. The domains were practically identical to the authentic websites of two biotechnology firms working on vaccine development. The malicious content has been deleted but there is a strong chance that there are a huge number of other domains registered and used in COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams yet to be deployed.

Alerts have also been made public in relation to the dangers of ransomware attacks that take aim to leverage the interest in COVID-19 vaccines and supply the hackers with access to databases that will allow them to launch their attacks.

There are four important measures that companies should deploy to address the danger of being tricked by these scams. Since email is widely used, it is crucial to have a strong spam filtering solution configured. Spam filters access blacklists of malicious email and IP addresses to tackle malicious emails, but since new IP addresses are always constantly being created for these hacking campaigns, it is important to opt for a solution that features machine learning. Machine learning assists in spotting phishing attacks from IP addresses that have not previously been used for malicious purposes and to discover zero-day phishing threats. Sandboxing is also crucial in the fight against zero-day malware threats that have yet to have their signatures incorporated into the virus definition lists of antivirus engines.

Even though spam filters can identify and block emails that include malicious links, a web filtering solution is also a very important tool for this. Web filters are used to manage the access to websites that employees wish to view and stops visits to malicious websites through general web browsing, redirects, and clicks on malicious links in emails. Web filters are always being updated through threat intelligence feeds to put protection in place against recently discovered malicious URLs.

Companies should not forget to conduct end user training and should constantly run refresher training sessions for staff to help them spot phishing attacks and malicious emails. Phishing simulation exercises are also good for evaluating the effectiveness of security awareness training.

Multi-factor authentication should also be implemented as an additional security measure. Should credentials be illegally obtained, multi-factor authentication will help to see to it that stolen details cannot be used to remotely log onto accounts.

Once these measures are put in place companies will be safe from the majority of malware attacks, including COVID-19 vaccine phishing attacks.

Contact the TitanHQ team as soon as you can to find out more about spam filtering, web filtering, and safeguarding your company from malware and phishing attacks.

 

Phishing Statistics for 2020

The danger posed by phishing attacks is constant and is still the main cause of data breaches. All that is required is one member of staff to be tricked by a phishing email for threat actors to obtain the access to carry out further attacks on your group

In this update we list some key 2020 phishing statistics to raise awareness of the threat and highlight the need for businesses to rethink their current phishing security measures.

Phishing is the most straightforward way for hackers to obtain access to sensitive data and spread malware. A small amount of skill or expertise is required to conduct a successful phishing campaign and steal details or infect users with malware. The most recent figures indicate that in 2020, 22% of reported data breaches began with a phishing email and some of the largest data breaches in history have started with a phishing attack, including the 78.8 million record data breach at the health insurer Anthem Inc., and the huge Home Depot data breach in 2014 that saw the email addresses of 53 million individuals illegally taken.

Phishing can be carried out using the phone, via SMS, social media networks, or instant messaging platforms, but email is most the most common vector chosen. Around 96% of all phishing attacks take place over email. Successful phishing attacks lead to the theft of data, theft of credentials, or the installation of malware and ransomware. The cost of settling the incidents and resultant data breaches is significant. The 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report by the Ponemon Institute/IBM Security showed that the average cost of a data breach is around $150 per impacted record with an overall cost of $3.86 million per breach. A single spear phishing attack costs around $1.6 million to address.

Staff members may think they are able to recognize phishing emails, but data from security awareness training companies show that in many cases, that confidence is not well founded. One study in 2020 showed that 30% of end users opened phishing emails, 12% of users visited a malicious link or opened the attachment in the email, and one in 8 users then shared sensitive data on phishing web pages. Remember that 78% of users said that they know they should never click on email attachments from unknown senders or click links in unsolicited emails.

The 2020 phishing statistics show phishing and spear phishing attacks are still widespread incredibly common and that phishing attacks often succeed. Another study showed that 85% of firms have been tricked by a phishing attack at least once. Phishing websites are always being designed to be used in these scams. Once a URL is confirmed as malicious and placed on a blacklist, it has often already been abandoned by the cybercriminals. In 2020, around 1.5 million new phishing URLs were identified per month.

2020 registered a huge rise in ransomware attacks. While manual ransomware attacks often see networks infiltrated thanks to exploiting flaws in firewalls, VPNs, RDP, and networking equipment, ransomware is also sent using email. Since 2016, the number of phishing emails containing ransomware has grown by over 97%.

Taking on phishing and stopping successful attacks requires a defense in depth tactic. An advanced spam filtering solution is a must to prevent phishing emails from landing inboxes. Businesses that use Office 365 often rely on the protections that come as standard with their licenses, but studies have shown that the basic level of protection supplied by Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is insufficient and average at best and phishing emails are often not spotted. A third-party, solution is recommended to layer on top of Office 365 – One that incorporates machine learning to spot never before seen phishing threats. The solution should implement email authentication protocols such as DMARC, DKIM, and SPF to identify and block email impersonation attacks and outbound scanning to discover compromised inboxes.

End user training is also crucial. In the event of a phishing email landing in an inbox, employees should be shown how to identify it as such and be conditioned into reporting the danger to their IT team to ensure action can be taken to delete all instances of the threat from the email database. Web filters are also crucial for preventing the web-based component of phishing attacks and preventing employees from visiting phishing websites.

Malicious Cobalt Strike Script Delivered in Malicious Word Documents

A malicious Cobalt Strike script campaign has been discovered that uses phishing emails, malicious macros, PowerShell, and steganography to take advantage of unsuspecting email recipients.

When the email first lands in an inbox it includes a legacy Word attachment (.doc) with a malicious macro that installs a PowerShell script from GitHub if it is permitted to run. That script then installs a PNG image file from the genuine image sharing service Imgur. The image includes hidden code within its pixels which can be executed with a single command to run the payload. In this instance, a Cobalt Strike script.

Cobalt Strike is a widely-implemented penetration testing tool. While it is used by security experts for legitimate security reasons, it is also of value to hackers. The tool premits beacons to be added to compromised devices which can be used to run PowerShell scripts, create web shells, escalate privileges, and provide remote access to devices. In this campaign, the hiding of the code in the image and the use of legitimate services such as Imgur and GitHub helps the hackers bypass detection.

The hiding of code within image files is known as steganography and has been implemented for many years as a way of hiding malicious code, usually in PNG files to prevent the code from being discovered. With this campaign the deception doesn’t finish there. The Cobalt Strike script includes an EICAR string that is aimed at tricking security solutions and security teams into labelling the malicious code as an antivirus payload, except contact is made with the hacker’s command and control server and instructions are recognized.

This campaign was discovered by expert ArkBird who compared the campaign to one conducted by an APT group known as Muddywater, which emerged around 2017. The threat group, aka Static kitten/Seedworm/Mercury, primarily carries out attacks on Middle eastern countries, commonly Saudi Arabia and Iraq, although the group has been known to conduct attacks on European and US targets. It is not known whether this group is to blame for the campaign.

Of course one of the most effective ways to prevent these types of attacks is by stopping the malicious email from being delivered to inboxes. A spam filter such as SpamTitan that incorporates a sandbox for reviewing attachments in safety will help to ensure that these messages do not get sent to inboxes. End user training is also recommended to ensure that employees are made aware that they should never enable macros in Word Documents sent using email.

A web filtering solution is also effective. Web filters like WebTitan can be set up to give IT teams full management over the web content that employees can access. Since GitHub is commonly used by IT expert and other workers for authentic reasons, a group-wide block on the site is not a wise move. Rather, a selective block can be implemented for groups of employees or departments that prevents GitHub and other possibly risky code sharing sites including PasteBin from being accessed, either deliberately or unintentionally, to provide an extra layer of security.

CISA: SolarWinds Orion Software Under Active Attack

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released an official alert warning that experienced hackers are currently exploiting SolarWinds Orion IT monitoring and management software.

The cyberattack is thought to be the work of a highly complex, evasive, nation state hacking group who invented a Trojanized strain of Orion software that has been used to deploy a backdoor into customers’ systems labelled SUNBURST.

The supply chain attack has affected  approximately 18,000 customers, who are thought to have installed the Trojanized version of SolarWinds Orion and the SUNBURST backdoor. SolarWinds Orion is used by large public and private groups and government bodies.

SolarWinds customers incorporate all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, State Department, NASA and National Security Agency. Its solutions are also implemented by 425 of the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. firms. The US Treasury, US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and Department of Homeland Security are known to have been targeted. The campaign was first discovered by the cybersecurity company FireEye, which was also attacked as part of this attack.

The attacks began during spring 2020 when the first malicious versions of the Orion software were launched. The hackers are thought to have been active in compromised networks since that time. The malware is evasive, which is why it has taken so long to discover the threat. FireEye commented: “The malware masquerades its network traffic as the Orion Improvement Program (OIP) protocol and stores reconnaissance results within legitimate plugin configuration files allowing it to blend in with legitimate SolarWinds activity”. Once the backdoor has been put in place, the hackers move laterally and steal data.

Kevin Thompson, SolarWinds President and CEO said: “We believe that this vulnerability is the result of a highly-sophisticated, targeted, and manual supply chain attack by a nation-state”.

The hackers obtained access to SolarWinds’ software development environment and placed the backdoor code into its library in SolarWinds Orion Platform software versions 2019.4 HF 5 through 2020.2.1 HF 1, which were made public between March 2020 and June 2020.

CISA released an Emergency Directive ordering all federal civilian bodies to take swift action to block any attack in progress by immediately unlinking or powering down SolarWinds Orion products, versions 2019.4 through 2020.2.1 HF1, from their networks. The agencies have also been forbidden from “(re)joining the Windows host OS to the enterprise domain.”

All users have been told to immediately upgrade their SolarWinds Orion software to Orion Platform version 2020.2.1 HF 1. A subsequent hotfix – 2020.2.1 HF 2 – is due to be released on Tuesday and will replace the compromised component and implement other additional security measures.

If it is not possible to quickly upgrade, guidelines have been made available by SolarWinds for securing the Orion Platform. Organizations should also scan for signs of compromise. The signatures of the backdoor are being included on antivirus engines, and Microsoft has confirmed that all its antivirus products now detect the backdoor and users have been advised to complete a full scan.

SolarWinds is working alongside FireEye, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the intelligence community to investigate the hacking attempts. SolarWinds is also working with Microsoft to remove an attack vector that results in the compromise of targets’ Microsoft Office 365 productivity tools.

It is currently not known which group is to blame for the attack; although the Washington Post claims to have contacted sources who confirmed the attack was the work of the Russian nation state hacking group APT29 (Cozy Bear). An official representative for the Kremlin said Russia had nothing to do with the attacks, saying “Russia does not conduct offensive operations in the cyber domain.”

Vulnerability in VMWare Virtual Workspaces Attacked by Russian State-Sponsored CyberCriminals

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has released a cybersecurity advisory alert informing the public that Russian state-sponsored hackers are focusing on a flaw in VMWare virtual workspaces used to support remote working.

The flaw, labelled as CVE-2020-4006, is present in certain versions of VMware Workspace One Access, Access Connector, Identity Manager, and Identity Manager Connector products and is being targeted to obtain access to enterprise networks and protected data on the impacted systems.

The flaw is a command-injection flaw in the administrative configurator component of the affected products. The vulnerability can be targeted remotely by a hacker with valid details and access to the administrative configurator on port 8443. If successfully taken advantage of, a hacker would be able to execute commands with unlimited privileges on the operating system and access sensitive data.

VMWare launched a patch to address the vulnerability on December 3, 2020 and also published information to help network defenders identify networks that have already been impacted, along with steps to eradicate threat actors who have already exploited the vulnerability.

The flaw may not have been allocated a high priority by system managers as it was only rated by VMWare as ‘important’ severity, with a CVSS v3 base score of 7.2 out of 10 assigned to the flaw. The relatively low severity rating as a result of the fact that a valid password must be supplied to exploit the flaw and the account is internal to the impacted range of products. However, as the NSA outlined, the Russian threat actors are already exploiting the flaw using stolen details.

In attacks reviewed by the NSA, the hackers targeted the command injection flaw, installed a web shell, followed by malicious activity where SAML authentication assertions were produced and shared to Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), granting access to secured data.

The best manner of stopping exploitation is to apply the VMWare patch as soon as possible. If it is not possible to apply the patch, it is important to see to it that strong, unique passwords are set to safeguard from brute force attempts to reveal passwords. The NSA also advises administrators ensure the web-based management interface is not accessible via the Internet.

Strong passwords will not stop the flaw from being successfully targeted and will not provide protection if the flaw has already been exploited. NSA said: “It is critical when running products that perform authentication that the server and all the services that depend on it are properly configured for secure operation and integration. Otherwise, SAML assertions could be forged, granting access to numerous resources.”

If linking up with authentication servers with ADFS, the NSA recommends following Microsoft’s best practices, especially for safeguarding SAML assertions. Multi-factor authentication should also be configured.

The NSA has released a workaround that can be used to stop exploitation until the patch can be applied and recommends reviewing and hardening configurations and monitoring federated authentication suppliers.

Unfortunately, spotting exploitation of the flaw can be tricky. The NSA explained in the advisory that “network-based indicators are unlikely to be effective at detecting exploitation since the activity occurs exclusively inside an encrypted transport layer security (TLS) tunnel associated with the web interface.

VMWare advises that all customers refer to VMSA-2020-0027 for information on this flaw.

Start with Network Basics for Cybersecurity

All too often enterprise administrators follow best practices for numerous network infrastructure but forget the importance of email cybersecurity. You could argue that email cybersecurity is more important than any other OpSec strategy since many of the biggest data breaches start with a phishing email. With more employees working from home due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to ensure that email cybersecurity is configured and implemented across all communication channels.

Firewalls, access controls, user identity management, and other network fundamentals are all components in good cybersecurity posture. But EmailCybersecurity is equally as important in blocking and protecting you from malicious malware and you won’t even see suspicious emails because they are put in quarantine to be reviewed.

Email security is built on two things – Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domainkeys Identified Mail (DKIM). An SPF record is the easiest to implement and takes only a few minutes of the administrator’s time. The SPF record is added to the organization’s DNS server as a TXT entry. This TXT entry is a string with specific syntax that provides recipient email servers with a list of authorized IP address that can be used to send enterprise email.

DKIM is similar to en encrypted signature. A header is added to an email message with the senders own signature. The recipient verifies this signature to ensure that the message was sent by the recipients domain. With SPF and DKIM , cyber security validated the sender and completely stops the recipient email servers from sending spoofed phishing emails to that users inbox.

The recipient email server can be configured with Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) cybersecurity. DMARC rules determine how an email server should handle messages when SPF and DKIM are present. With strict DMARC rules, email servers might reject messages where no SPF record is present. For instance, organizations that use Google Suite might find their domain emails blocked if an SPF record is not present for the third-party sender.

Only one successful phishing email is all it takes for an attack to break into a network and send more and more of these to higher targets. A recent Ponemon report the average cost of any breach is $3.82 Million, and a lot of these breaches use text to trick the recipient into clicking on harmful links with a malware attachment.

Tech Radar has reported that a trillion emails are sent per year and that 3.4 billion are sent per day. With employees working from home there’s a high risk of them receiving one of these emails and could be the next vessel for a huge breach.

Even trained users can be susceptible to these sorts of attacks and if a phishing email is opened the large amount of data this person has been trusted with could be completely stolen and sold on Darknet markets to be used in a long term attack.

With many email attacks happening more and more often , cyber security should be part of all organisations’ networks. Firewalls to block these attacks are necessary and usage of DMARC , DKIM and SPF are basic cyber security tools that minimise the threat of severe data breach.

New Phishing and Malware Campaigns Must be Tackled with Advanced Cybersecurity Measures

Hackers are relying on a growing range or methods, techniques and processes to trick the unwary into sharing their private details or downloadling malware, which is making it more difficult for end users to distinguish between authentic and malicious messages.

It is typical for hackers to buy lookalike domains for use in phishing scams and for distributing malware. A lot of the time the domains bought are very similar to the domains they impersonate, aside from one or two changed characters.

FBI Issues Alert of Use of Spoofed FBI Domains

Recently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released an alert after the discovery that many FBI-related domain names have been bought that look like official FBI websites. While these domains are not believed to have been used for malicious reasons so far, it is likely that the individuals registering these domains were planning to use them in phishing attacks, for distributing malware, or for disinformation campaigns. The domains spotted include fbidefense.com, fbimaryland, fbi-ny, fib.ca, fbi-intel.com, fbi.systems, and fbi.health.

These domains can be used to launch phishing kits or exploit kits, but the domains can be used to set up official-looking email addresses. An email from one of these spoofed domains, that has the FBI in the name, could simply trick someone into taking an action demand in the email, such as disclosing their login details or opening a malicious email attachment.

Authentic Cloud Services Leveraged in Sophisticated Phishing Campaigns

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

Many of these campaigns involved checks to make sure the recipient is an actual person, with automated responses sent to official domains to prevent analysis. Phishers are still typosquatting – the name given to the use of domains with natural typographical mistakes – to catch out careless typists.

Sophisticated Campaigns Call for Complex Sophisticated Cybersecurity Measures

The complex nature of today’s phishing and malware attacks, together with hackers’ constantly changing tactics, techniques, and procedures, mean it is becoming more and more difficult for end users to spot the difference between genuine and malicious emails. End user security awareness training is still crucial, but it has never been more important to have strong technical solutions in place to ensure that these threats are identified and blocked before any harm is inflicted.

The first line of defense against phishing is an email security gateway solution via which all emails need to pass before they land in inboxes. These solutions must employ a variety of advanced mechanisms for spotting malicious and suspicious emails, so should one mechanism fail to identify a malicious email, others are in place to provide security.

SpamTitan from TitanHQ is one such solution that links many tiers of protection to spot and block phishing and malware attacks via email. Checks are carried out on the message headers, content is analyzed, and machine learning is included to identify never before seen attacks, along with blacklisting of known malicious email addresses and domains. To block malware threats, SpamTitan employs dual anti-virus engines to prevent known threats and sandboxing to identify and block zero-day malware threats. Working seamlessly together, these mechanisms will block 99.97% of malicious emails.

An extra anti-phishing solution that you may not have thought about is a web filtering solution. Web filters are crucial for preventing the web-based component of phishing attacks and preventing individuals from visiting sites used for malware transmission. A web filter can also prevent redirects to malicious websites that hide behind links to genuine cloud services.

WebTitan from TitanHQ is an intelligent, DNS-based web filtering solution that employs automation and advanced analytics to prevent emerging phishing and other malicious URLs, not just those that have been already used in attacks and have been placed on blacklists. Through the use of AI-based technology, WebTitan can provide protection from zero-minute attacks.

 

Threat Landscape Dominated by Emotet Trojan

The Emotet Trojan first reared its head during 2014 and was first seen as a banking Trojan, leveraged to exfiltrate sensitive data such as bank account information from browsers when the user logs into their bank account. The Emotet Trojan has since undergone some changes and represents a much bigger threat to cybersecurity nowadays.

Emotet is is easily spread to other devices, using a worm like process to infect other devices on the network as well as hijacking the user’s email account and using it to send duplicates of itself to victims’ contacts. Infected devices are placed on the Emotet botnet, and have been used in attacks on other groups. The Emotet creators have now linked up with other hacking operations and are using their malware to share other Trojans such as TrickBot and QakBot, which in turn are employed to share ransomware.

Data from HP Inc. revealed Emotet infections grew by 1,200% from Q2 to Q3, displaying the extent to which activity has increased recently. Data from Check point show Emotet is the most serious malware threat, representing for 12% of all infections in October 2020. TrickBot, which is delivered by Emotet, is the second biggest threat, representing for 4% of infections.

The Emotet and TrickBot Trojans are resulting in the rapid rise of ransomware infections worldwide, especially attacks on healthcare groups. The healthcare sector in the United States is being focused on by ransomware gangs as a result of the heightened chance of the ransom being paid. In a number of instances, the latest ransomware attacks have been made possible due to previous Emotet an TrickBot infections.

Sadly, as a result of the efficient way that Emotet spreads, removing the malware can be tricky. It is likely that more than one device has been infiltrated, and when the Trojan is removed from one device, it is often reinfected by other infected devices in the organization.

Emotet is mainly shared using phishing emails, most often using malicious macros in Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, although JavaScript attachments are also known to be utilized. The lures employed in the phishing emails differ a lot varied, often using lures connected with recent news events, COVID-19, and holiday season lures in build up to Halloween, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

The wisest tactic is prevent infiltration is to block Emotet emails from reaching inboxes and making sure that employees are trained how to spot phishing emails.

If you wish to safeguard your organization from Emotet and other malware and phishing attacks, contact the TitanHQ team a call to discover more details about SpamTitan Email Security.

Phishing Attack Prevention Solutions lacking in Most Healthcare Organizations

The danger posed by phishing attacks is constant, especially for the healthcare sector which is often focused on by cybercriminals as a result of the high profit to be earned from selling healthcare data and obtaining access to compromised email accounts.

Phishing attacks are having a massive impact on healthcare suppliers in the United States, which are recording huge record numbers of phishing attacks. The sector industry is also inundated with ransomware attacks, with many of the attacks beginning with a successful phishing attack. One that sends a ransomware installer like the Emotet and TrickBot Trojans, for instance.

A recent survey carried out by HIMSS on U.S. healthcare cybersecurity workers has shown that the extent to which phishing attacks are meeting their intended targets. The survey, which was carried out durinf trhe period from March to September 2020, showed that phishing to be the leading cause of cybersecurity incidents at healthcare organizations in the past year, being cited as the cause of 57% of attacks.

One interesting details discovered is the lack of proper security from phishing and other email attacks. While 91% of surveyed organizations have implemented antivirus and antimalware solutions, it is extremely worrying that 9% appear to have not. Only 89% said they had implemented firewalls to prevent cybersecurity attacks.

Then there is multi-factor authentication, feature which is highly effective at stopping stolen credentials from being used to remotely log in to email accounts.  Microsoft stated in a Summer 2020 blog post that multifactor authentication will prevent 99.9% of attempts to use stolen credential to log into accounts, yet multifactor authentication had only been implemented by 64% of healthcare groups.

That does represent a massive improvement from 2015 when the survey was last carried out, when just 37% had put in place MFA, but it shows there is still room for improvement, especially in a sector that experiences more than its fair share of phishing attacks.

In the data breach reports that are needed for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules, which healthcare groups in the U.S are required to adhere with, it is common for breached groups to state they are putting in place MFA after suffering a breach, when MFA could have stopped that costly breach from occurring in the first place. The HIMSS survey revealed 75% of groups augment security after experiencing a cyberattack.

The amount of phishing attacks that are succeeding cannot be blamed on a single factor, but what is clear is there needs to be larger scale investment in cybersecurity to prevent these attacks from succeeding. An effective email security solution should be a priority – One that can block phishing emails and malware attacks. Training on cybersecurity must be conducted for staff for HIPAA compliance, but training should be provided regularly, not just once a year to meet compliance requirements. Implementation of multifactor authentication is also a crucial anti-phishing tactic.

 

Most Healthcare Groups Do Not have the Correct Solutions to Prevent Phishing Attacks

The danger posed by phishers is constant, especially for the healthcare sector which is often focused on by cybercriminals as a result to the high value of healthcare data and impacted email accounts. Phishing campaigns are having a massive impact on healthcare groups in the United States, which are reporting the highest ever numbers of successful infiltrations.

The industry is also heavily impacted by ransomware campaigns, with many of the attacks beginning with a successful phishing attack. One that shares a ransomware downloader such as the Emotet and TrickBot Trojans, for instance.

A recent survey carried out by HIMSS on U.S. healthcare cybersecurity experts has revealed the extent to which phishing attacks are hitting their targets. The survey, which was distributed from March and September 2020, showed that phishing is the main cause of cybersecurity attacks at healthcare groups in the 12 months, being referred to as the cause of 57% of attacks.

One interesting revelation garnered from the survey is the lack of appropriate protections against phishing and other email attacks. While it is reassuring that 91% of surveyed groups have implemented antivirus and antimalware solutions, it is extremely worrying that 9% appear to have not. Only 89% said they had implemented firewalls to prevent cybersecurity attacks.

Then there is multi-factor authentication. Multifactor authentication will not prevent phishing emails from being delivered, but it is highly effective at preventing stolen log in details from being used to remotely access email accounts.

In the data breach reports that are necessary for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules, which healthcare groups in the U.S are required to comply with, it is common for breached entities to state they are implementing MFA after experiencing a breach, when MFA could have prevented that costly breach from happening initially. The HIMSS survey showed that 75% of groups augment security after being hit by a cyberattack.

These cyberattacks can also have a negative impact on patient treatment. 28% of respondents said cyberattacks disrupted IT operations, 27% said they disrupted business management, and 20% said they resulted in financial losses. 61% of respondents said the attacks had an impact on non-emergency clinical care and 28% said the attacks had interfered with emergency treatment, with 17% saying they had resulted in patient harm. The latter figure could be underestimated, as many groups do not have the mechanisms in place to see if patient safety has been impacted.

The amount of phishing attacks that are hitting their targets cannot be attributed to a single factor, but what is clear is there needs to be higher level of investment in cybersecurity to prevent these attacks from succeeding. An effective email security solution should be a top priority – One that can block phishing emails and malware attacks. Training on cybersecurity must be conducted for employees for HIPAA compliance, but training should be provided on a constant basis, not just once a year to meet compliance requirements. Implementation of multifactor authentication is also an essential anti-phishing tactic.

One area of phishing security that is often ignored is a web filter. A web filter prevents the web-based component of phishing attacks, preventing employees from accessing websites hosting phishing forms. With the complex nature of current phishing attacks, and the realistic fake login pages used to capture credentials, this anti-phishing measure is also crucial.

TitanHQ can give you cost-effective cloud-based anti-phishing and anti-malware processes solutions to safeguard your network from email- and web-based components of cyberattacks and both of these solutions are provided at quite a reasonable cost, with flexible payment options.

If you want to enhance your defenses against phishing, prevent costly cyberattacks and data leaks, and the possible regulatory penalties that can follow, contact TitanHQ now.

New MacOS and Windows Malware Variants Sent by APT32 and TA416 APT Groups

Also known as aka OceanLotus, the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group APT32 is, at present, running a malware campaign yting to take advantage of Apple MacOS users. APT32 is a nation-state-funded collective that mainly attacks foreign companies with a base in Vietnam. The data stolen by the cybercriminals is thought to have been used to provide Vietnamese firms with a competitive advantage, although the precise motives behind the attacks are not known.

The group is renowned for using fully featured malware which is often sent using phishing emails and commercially available tools. The most recent malware strain was discovered by security experts at Trend Micro, who linked the malware to APT32 due to code similarities with other malware variants known to have been utilized by the group. The malware is a MacOS backdoor that pemits the group to steal protected information such as business documents. The malware also gives the hackers the ability to download and install additional malicious programs on victim devices.

The malware is being using phishing emails that have a zip file attachment which is hidden as a Microsoft Word document. If the recipient is convinced to open the attached file, no Word document will be downloaded, but the first stage of the payload will execute in the background. The first stage changes access permissions which permits the second stage payload to be executed, which leads to the third stage of the payload that downloads and the backdoor on the database. This multi-stage delivery of the backdoor helps the malware to get around security solutions.

Safeguarding against attacks involves blocking the initial attack vector to prevent the phishing emails from being sent to end users. End user security awareness training should be supplied, and employees conditioned not to click on email attachments from unknown senders. It is also advised to ensure computers are kept fully patched, as this will limit the ability of the group to use its malware to carry out malicious actions.

Chinese TA416 APT Group Delivering New Variant of PlugX RAT

The APT collective TA416 – aka Mustang Panda/Red Delta – is running a campaign to distribute a new strain of its PlugX Remote Access Trojan (RAT). TA416 is a nation state sponsored group with strong connections to the Chinese government and has previously conducted attacks on a wide range of targets around the globe.

The group is famous for using spear phishing emails and social engineering tactics to deliver malware that allows the hackers to gain full control of an infiltrated computer. The attacks are conducted for espionage purposes; however, the malware has a wide range of capabilities. Along with stealing data, the malware can copy, move, rename, execute, and delete files, log keystrokes, and carry out other actions.

The new campaign transmits two RAR archives, which behave as droppers for its PlugX malware. The theme of the emails in the most recent campaign are a supposed new agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party.

The campaign was discovered by researchers at Proofpoint, who could not pinpoint the exact delivery method; however, TA416 is known to use Google Drive and Dropbox URLs in its phishing emails to sendmalicious payloads. One of the RAR files is a self-extracting archive that extracts four files and runs an Adobelm.exe file, which delivers a Golang version of the PlugX malware. The latest update to the PlugX RAT helps it evade security solutions.

Tackling the APT Threat

The tactics used by these and other APT groups to send malware are constantly changing, with phishing campaigns regularly amended to increase the likelihood of end users performing the desired action and to stop the campaigns being detected by anti-virus and anti-phishing solutions. The changes to the malware and campaigns are effective and can simply trick end users and bypass technical controls, especially signature-based antivirus solutions.

Advanced AI-based cybersecurity solutions are necessary to detect and block these threats. These solutions spot known malware variants and can also identify zero-day malware threats and never-before seen phishing campaigns. The solutions are operated by protecting against the two most witnessed attack vectors – email and the web – and stop malicious messages from reaching inboxes and block downloads of malicious files from attacker-controlled web portals.

IRS Phishing Spoof Involving Request for Outstanding Tax Payment Discovered

A recent phishing campaign has been discovered that deceived the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and tells recipients that their are facing immediate legal action to take back a huge tax repayment. These emails are expertly written and demand immediate payment of to prevent stop legal action. The sender claims to have attempted to call the recipient to no avail and have been forced to take legal action.

Compared to other scams, that ask for login credentials or attempt to get the user to open file attachments to trigger a malware download, this particular attack utilised social engineering techniques to frighten the receiver into making contact by email to resolve this supposed issue. This aim of the scam is to get the recipient to send money or share their financial account information.

These scammers have purposely left out any hyperlinks or attachments to increase the chances of it making to inboxes and deceiving anti spam devices. The message body contains all the classic hallmarks of a phishing scam:

  • There is urgency to get prompt action taken – Immediate resolution of the issue is necessary
  • There is a threat of negative consequences if no action is taken – Legal action to recover funds
  • The request is plausible, but an atypical request is made – to only make contact via email

The emails include a case file number, detail the outstanding amount – $1460.61 in this case – and include a docket number and warrant ID for the impending legal action. The receiver is told that legal action will being within four days if payment is not made in that time. The opportunity for voluntary action to fix this issue is coming to and end. Adding to the threat of legal action, the recipient is told that credit reference bureaus may also be notified about this false late/missed payment, negatively impacting their credit score.

These emails have the subject line “Re: Re: Case ID#ON/7722 / WARRANT FOR YOUR ARREST,” which indicates that this is not the first time this message has been sent; emphasising this is a ‘final warning’

These phishing emails highlight the vitality of stopping and thinking of what any email is asking you to do before responding – no matter how dangerous the threat might be. Any and all requests for payments should be verified over phone with contact info being received by a trusted source. A call to the IRS would quickly dissolve this scam.

Precautions have been made to make the emails seem more legitimate, such as making it seem the sender has @irs.gov as its address – a legitimate domain used by the IRS. However the reply to email address supplied it legal.cc@outlook.com – clearly not a real IRS domain name. The emails does include a postal address but no telephone number is included. Full contact info would be given by an official in the IRS but never would they initiate contact by email.

The reason these scams succeed is because they rely on individuals responding quickly without thinking. An effective spam filter will detect these scam emails and will quarantine or reject the messages.

Sextortion Scam Target Zoom Users

One of the main business successes of the Covid-19 pandemis is the Zoom video conferencing app, which registered over 300 million new users by the end of April thanks to the requirements of remote workers and long distance communications.

This new working routine means that some remote workers take a more haphazard attitude towards cybersecurity and what they do in front of their laptop cameras. This comfort zone has results in a new way for hackers to target staff and companies through of Zoom sextortion scams.

Sextortion has become a new vector of attack for hackers to steal money from unsuspecting individuals. The scam is largely email-based. The scam is blackmail based. Sextortion, also called ‘porn scams’ is not new to cybersecurity threats. A recent report released by Sophos discovered that millions of sextortion emails were broadcast in 2019-2020 earning the fraudsters behind the emails over $500,000. Hackers love successful scams, so they continue to come up with new campaigns based on a successful theme.

The sextortion emails normally include a threat to make public sexually explicit material, usually as a video. The hacker explains in the sextortion email that the video was recorded by malware downloaded on the user’s device. The threat continues that if the victim does not meet the ransom demand (usually in bitcoin) within a given time period, the compromising video will be shared to the user’s contact list.

An example of a sextortion email (received recently) is displayed here:

As always, hackers are talented at spotting an opportunity, and as Zoom has become a major part of our daily lives, so cybercriminals have perfected their sextortion tactics to the video conferencing platform. This most recent sextortion campaign, ‘Zoom sextortion’, has been connected to an incident that included TV analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin was caught in a compromising position on a Zoom video conference with other media workers. Whilst Toobin was not specifically a victim of sextortion, in this instance. However, the fact such a famous  person was captured ‘on camera’ in a compromising position, has permitted fraudsters to use the incident as added pressure in sextortion email campaigns.

Email is again the central vector in the Zoom sextortion campaign. As the Zoom app increased in use, security was quickly identified as a major area for concern. “Zoombombing”, involving Zoom conferences being invaded by uninvited users was a particular issue in the early days of COVID-19 lockdown. In March, the FBI released a warning about the hijacking of Zoom and other video conferencing services. Security vulnerabilities were focused on access control issues in the Zoombombing attacks.

This most recent Zoom sextortion targets two weaknesses, the fears of Zoom users in relation to security and being exposed do embarrassing things that are captured on Zoom.

The sextortion email claims that states that a zero-day flaw in the Zoom app has permitted access to the victim’s camera and other device metadata. The hacker continues by outlining that they have captured embarrassing footage of the user during a Zoom meeting, referencing to the Jeffrey Toobin case.

“I do not want you to be the next Jeffrey Toobin”  — states the sextortion hacker scammer…

Most workers being sent this email will not feel threatened. However, a small number of people may feel bullied and concerned that even a minor misdemeanor may end in a warning or even a sacking. Due to this, the victim may decide to pay the ransom, which in this particular scam is $2000 in bitcoin.

Cyber-extortion is becoming more popular as hackers look for quick wins.

QBot Trojan Shared in Election Interference-Themed Phishing Emails

Recently , Cybercriminals seized the chance to cause to attack the millions of people watching the US presidential election coverage by conducting a malware attacked disguised with emails claiming to hold information about possible election interference.

As the high amount of postal votes lead to many delays in the release of official results and possible legal challenges and recounts being demanded, the traffic garnered by news reports related to this has been very high. Spam campaigns exploiting and using this situation for their own gain began being shared not lon gafter polls closed. Qbot banking Trojan was included in the emails which, when opened by recipients resulted in the hijacking of the email account. A subsequent move was that the email woul dthen be sent out to more contacts.

In this campaign, searches are completed for for emails including the term “election” and a reply is sent out to these emails. A zip file is attached to the emails named “ElectionInterference” with the zip file containing a malicious spreadsheet. These messages aim to encourage the recipient to open the attached spreadsheet spreadsheet to find important details about interference in the US election. As incumbent President Trump continues to claim that there was fraud occurring during the election count these messages seem very reliable to recipients. This spreadsheet is similar in style to a safe DocuSign file and the user is instructed to activate content to decode this file and see the contents. However, completing this action will allow macros to run which will quietly download the Qbot Trojan.

The Qbot Trojan was created in 2008 but has had many updates over the years, including the addition of many new features to evade and avoid modern security solutions. This included the ability to override Outlook email threads, the same technique is used by the Emotet Trojan to increase chances of their damaging content being opened by recipients.

In addition to targeting vulnerable customers of huge financial institutions, Qbot Trojan aims to steal protected information such as credit card info and important passwords. Qbot is a malware deliverer and the operators gang up with other dangerous groups to lead to mass sending of malicious payloads with ransomware being delivered.

These threat actors take avail of any chance to infect all devices with malware. A huge amount of COVID-19 themed lures and Election-themed spam emails are likely to be shared as further legal action is expected in relation to the election results. Threat actors will also target Black Friday, Cyber Monday and many other holiday times to use phishing lures to steal credentials and spread malware.

All businesses can defend against these phishing and malspam campaigns using a mix of a spam filters, web filters, antivirus software and end user training. For more information on protecting your business against emails and web based threats, contact TitanHQ now.

Emotet Trojan Being Spread Using New Windows Update Lure

The Emotet Trojan is one of the most widespread forms of malware attack in use at present to try an infiltrate database.

This Trojan is usually broadcasted via spam email campaigns in conjunction with a range of lures to convince users to download the Trojan file. These spam emails are generated by the Emotet botnet – an army of zombie devices that have been infiltrated by the Emotet Trojan. The Trojan takes over the victim’s email account and uses it to send duplicates of itself to the victim’s company contacts using the email addresses in victims’ contacts list.

Emotet emails typically have a corporate theme, since it is company users that are targeted by the Emotet users. Campaigns often use proven phishing lures including fake invoices, purchase orders, shipping notices, and CVs, with the messages often including restricted text and an email attachments that the recipient is required to open to view additional details.

In a lot of cases word documents are send containing malicious macros which install the Emotet Trojan on the victim’s computer. In order for the macros to be enable, the user is required to ‘Enable Content’ when they download the email attachment.

Users are advised in the attached documents to turn on content using a range of different tricks, lots of the time the documents say that the Word document has been created on an IoS or mobile device, and content needs to be switched on to permit the content to be accessed or that the contents of the document have been protected and will not be displayed unless content is turned on.

Earlier this month, a new lure was used by the Emotet actors. Spam emails were sent explaining a Windows update needed to be installed to upgrade apps on the device, which were preventing Microsoft Word from displaying the document contents. Users were told to Enable Editing – thus disabling Protected View – and then Enable Content – which allowed the macro to run.

The Emotet Trojan does not just include devices to a botnet and use them to begin more phishing campaigns. One of the main uses of Emotet is to install other malware variants onto infected devices. The operators of the Emotet botnet are sponsored by other threat actors to share their malware payloads, such as the TrickBot Trojan and QBot malware.

at first the TrickBot Trojan was a banking Trojan that first cam on the scene during 2016, but the modular malware has been regularly amended over the past few years to include a range of new functions. TrickBot still behaves like a banking Trojan, but is also a stealthy information stealer and malware installer, as is QBot malware.

As is the case with Emotet, once the operators of these Trojans have met their targets, they send a secondary malware payload. TrickBot has been widely used to share Ryuk ransomware, one of the biggest ransomware threats around at present. QBot has linked up with another threat group and sends Conti ransomware. From just one phishing email, a victim could therefore receive Emotet, TrickBot/QBot, and then be hit with a ransomware attack.

For these reasons it it crucial for companies to select an effective spam filtering solution to block the initial malicious emails at source and stop them from being sent to their corporate inboxes. It is also important to supply security awareness training to staff members to help them identify malicious messages such as phishing emails in case a danger is not blocked and reaches employees’ inboxes.

Groups that depend on the default anti-spam defenses that come with Office 365 licenses should think about configuring an extra spam filtering solution to improve protection against Emotet and other malware and phishing campaigns. Phishing emails often slip past Office 365 defenses and are sent to inboxes. With a powerful, advanced spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan layered on top of Office 365 anti-spam protections, users will be better protected.

To see more details the full package that comes with SpamTitan and how the solution protects businesses from threats such as malware, ransomware, phishing, and spear phishing attacks, call the SpamTitan team now.

 

Surge in Hospital Attacks Using Ryuk Ransomware

The hacking group that created Ryuk ransomware – thought to be an eastern European hacking group known as Wizard Spider – has increased attacks targeting hospitals and health systems in the United States. This week a range of attacks on hospitals from the Californian coast to the eastern seaboard has taken place, with 6 Ryuk ransomware attacks on hospitals reported in just one day.

Ryuk ransomware can inflict widespread file encryption across complete networks, disabling systems and stopping medics from accessing patient data. Even when the attacks are removed quickly, systems must be disable to stop the spread of the ransomware. While hospitals have disaster protocols for exactly this kind of incident and patient data can be recorded using pen and paper, the disruption caused is massive. Non-essential procedures and appointments often need to be cancelled and, in some cases, hospitals have been forced to divert patients to alternative medical centers.

It is not known if any ransomware attacks on U.S. hospitals have lead to deaths, but there was recently a death in an attack in Germany, where a patient was sent to a different hospital and died before lifesaving treatment could be carried out. Had the ransomware attack not taken place, treatment could have been provided in time to save the patient’s life. The attacks in the United States also have the potential to lead to a fatality, especially in such as large-scale, coordinated campaign.

Recently, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an advisory after credible evidence emerged indicating Ryuk ransomware attacks on U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers were about to surge upwards.

It remains unknown the attacks have spiked now and the specific motives for the current campaign, but recently Microsoft and U.S. Cyber Command, in conjunction with several cybersecurity companies, disrupted the TrickBot botnet – a group of devices infected with the TrickBot Trojan. The TrickBot Trojan is operated by another cybercriminal group to Ryuk, but it was widely used to share Ryuk ransomware. The botnet is back up and operational, with the threat actors changing to a different infrastructure, but there have been suggestions that this could be a response to the takedown.

The Ryuk ransomware attacks on hospitals come at a time when healthcare suppliers are fighting the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States the number of new cases is higher than at any time since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals cannot find themselves in a position where systems are taken out of action and patient care disrupted. The timing of the attacks is such that hospitals may feel there is little option other than paying the ransom to ensure that disruption remains minimal. Ransomware gangs planned in order to cause maximum disruption.

Ryuk ransomware attacks on hospitals have been increasing over time in the United States prior to the latest surge. Figures published by Check Point Research in recent days show ransomware attacks on hospitals grew by 71% from September, with healthcare the most targeted industry sector, not only in October, but also Q3, 2020. Ryuk ransomware attacks account for 75% of all ransomware attacks on hospitals in the United States.

There is some worry that the most recent attacks will be just the tip of the iceberg. Some security experts suggest the gang is looking to attack hundreds of hospitals and health groups in the United States in this campaign. Every attack on a health system could see many hospitals impacted. The attack this week on the University of Vermont Health Network infiltrated seven hospitals.

Securing against ransomware attacks can be a challenge, a number of different methods are used to obtain access to healthcare networks. Ryuk ransomware is commonly sent by the TrickBot Trojan, which is delivered as a secondary payload by the Emotet Trojan. The Buer loader and BazarLoader are also being used to share Ryuk ransomware. These malware installers are sent using via phishing emails so a good spam filter is therefore vital.

Staff should be made aware of the heightened threat of attack and advised to exercise extra caution with emails. Software updates need to be run quickly promptly and all systems kept fully patched and up to date. Default passwords should be amended, and complex passwords created, with multi-factor authentication implemented where possible. If it is not a requirement for systems to be connected to the Internet, they should be disconnected, and RDP should be turned off.

It is also crucial for ongoing backups of critical data to be made and for those backups to be stored safely on non-networked devices to ensure that in the event of an attack hospitals have the option to recover their data without having to meet the ransom demand.

More details on indicators of compromise and other mitigations can be seen here.