Major IT Outsourcer Suffers After Phishing Attack
Global IT services provider Wipro announced they are in the process of investigating a data possibly affecting some of their clients. These types of companies are popular for hackers because, by breaching a single IT service company, they gain access to a far larger pool of victims through compromised credentials belonging to client networks. It’s still unclear how long the hackers had access to the systems, but some reports claim the attack was ongoing for several months.
Age-Verification Hits UK Porn Viewers
The UK has passed a measure that will subject users to age-verifications before being allowed to enter a pornographic website, as part of their ongoing fight to make the UK safer online. This measure was originally introduced as a way to decrease ransomware infections and slow the stream of stolen credentials from paid accounts for higher-traffic sites. The new law has an 88% backing from UK parents and will go into full effect on July 15.
Data Breach Affects Navicent Patients
A recent Navicent Health announcement revealed the email systems of the health care services provider were compromised in July, 2018, possibly affecting over 275,000 patients. While the remainder of their internal systems were untouched, the email server did contain patient data, including social security numbers and billing information. Fortunately, Navicent responded to the breach quickly and began notifying the proper authorities, as well as their client base, in addition to providing identity monitoring services for those whose information was exposed.
Chrome for iOS Bug Redirects Users to Ads
A new bug, found only in the iOS version of Chrome, has exposed up to half a million users to unwanted advertising redirects, sometimes from legitimate websites. The bug works by allowing malicious code to be executed from within page advertisements, which can then overlay onto the device’s screen until clicked. The majority of this campaign’s victims are based in the US and were targeted over a four-day period in early April.
Microsoft Loses Subdomain for Live Tiles
A German researcher recently took control of a subdomain used by Microsoft to assist websites with correctly formatting RSS feeds into a usable XML format for Windows 8 and 10 Live Tiles. Because the subdomain wasn’t registered to Microsoft or their Azure cloud services, and any malicious actor could have compromised the domain, the researcher purchased it and alerted Microsoft of his findings.
The process of bringing a cybersecurity product to market can be long and tedious, but Kiran Kumar, Product Director at Webroot, loves to oversee all the moving parts. It keeps him on his toes and immersed in the ever-changing world of security technology.
We sat down to chat with Kumar about his #LifeAtWebroot, heard how he got to where he is today, and why he’s loved every minute of his journey.
Tell us about your role as a Product Director.
I’m the product director for our network portfolio of products. This includes Webroot DNS Protection, FlowScape, and our next-gen security solution. I’m also responsible for the overall solutions platform, the next-gen solution we are working on.
What does a typical week look like for you?
My typical week ranges from working with customers on concept validation or case studies, to presenting at events. I’ll help customers with damage control, provide assurance of the product, or pitch Webroot solutions. I would say that at least 40-50% of my job is working with the engineering team on the next product release. The key is to stay on top of everything and keep my eyes and ears open because it’s the product director’s responsibility to make things happen. You must be able to collect information from different stakeholders, bring it all together, and prioritize. Sometimes no one reports to you, but you still have to bridge the gaps and constantly negotiate, make decisive trade-off decisions, get buy-ins, etc. That’s the key to being a strong product director. I spend time with a lot of people both inside and outside: marketing, sales, sales engineering, customer success, public relations, analyst relations, you name it. It’s a matter of constantly juggling and prioritizing.
What is your favorite part of working as a Product Director?
I enjoy being able to make a difference. Also, the satisfaction of building relationships with all these different groups of people and rallying them to achieve a common goal is really satisfying. You have to take everyone else’s opinion, along with your own, and figure out the best the direction to move in. All of that starts with the product. It’s a key part of every organization. I love seeing all the work that goes into bringing a product to market. The ability to make an impact and visibility into projects is tremendous.
What have you learned in this role?
I think one of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give, and that I’m continuing to work on myself, is that building relationships is absolutely critical to success. You have to use negotiation skills, persuasion tactics, and figure out how to rally the whole troop. I’d say that’s critical in many areas of business. Also, you need to constantly have a sense of curiosity and willingness to challenge yourself. Good enough is not good enough. Ask questions and take ownership of things. One great thing about Webroot is that everyone is open to questions and collaborating to find answers.
What is the hardest thing about being a Product Director?
The most challenging thing about the job is staying levelheaded. Every day you need to be flexible and willing to adapt because a hundred different things will be thrown your way and you need to be prepared to handle it. You can’t be flustered. Another challenge is figuring out how to work quickly. One of the hardest things is working through problems and getting them solved in the time that I want — quickly.
Is this what you expected to be doing in your career?
After graduating from college, I never expected that I would be a product director, but I was at the right place at the right time. I started at a technology consulting company and was placed at a security company. I started doing business analysis, and that’s still a part of my job, but product management is more inclusive of business analysis, product management, market research – everything this position entails. I didn’t like programming as much. I couldn’t sit behind a computer all day – that’s just not my personality. Now I’ve been in the industry about 16 years, and I have to say I have had the best time working at Webroot.
What makes working at Webroot so amazing?
One benefit to being located in our smaller San Diego office, besides the weather, beach, and beer, is I’ve been able to see it grow. We have about 90 people in this office and I know everyone. The people at Webroot are really friendly and helpful, so it’s easy to feel welcomed. The Webroot culture is very open and not hierarchical. Since I’ve been here I’ve been able to talk to anyone, including any executive. I am super passionate about the products I support and the audiences we help – SMB/MSP.
Best career advice you’ve received? How have you seen that advice playing out in your own career?
For someone who’s starting fresh and getting into product management, I would say to be open, be flexible, and constantly seek to challenge yourself. Soak in as much as you can. For people more senior, I would say to continue with relationship building and be mindful of how you can make the biggest impact. This position isn’t about having an MBA and writing up numbers. It is very technology focused and it’s all about being able to adapt and able to provide solutions, not just numbers.
What’s your favorite patio? (Place to go when it’s nice outside, place to get a drink.)
There’s a really nice brewery close to the office called Ballast Point. The team goes there a lot. But my favorite food is Mexican and I love hole-in-the-wall places. There’s one restaurant in the Torrey Pines area called Berto’s that’s awesome. It’s not fancy, but their veggie burrito keeps me coming back.
To learn more about life at Webroot, visit https://www.webroot.com/blog/category/life-at-webroot/.
Tax Extortion Emails Bring Major Threats
A new email campaign has been spotted threatening ransomware and DDoS attacks over fake tax documents allegedly held by the attackers if a Bitcoin ransom isn’t paid. The campaign authors also threaten to send fake tax documents to the IRS through a poorly-worded ransom email that even provides Wikipedia excerpts for each threat put forward. Fortunately, as the campaign seems to be focused on corporations rather than individuals, no payments have been made to the attacker’s crypto coin wallet address.
Hotel Reservation Data Leaking Through Third-Party Services
As major data breaches continue to flood headlines, a recent study has revealed that nearly two of every three hotels exposes information about its guests to third-parties. Excerpts of the data show names, social security numbers, and payment card details that could give unauthorized users the ability to compromise identities or make changes to current reservations. Most of the exposed data involves comping through third-party services run on hotel websites offering customers additional packages.
Ransomware Conspirator Jailed in the UK
Police in the UK have officially charged and jailed a man for his part in the operation of a global ransomware campaign with ties to a Russian criminal organization. Charges range from fraud and blackmail to computer misuse relating to DDoS attacks and the Essex man is set to face at least six years. By masquerading as an advertising agent looking to purchase ad space on high-traffic sites, he was able to infect ad links with malware and other exploits to spread his campaign.
Firefox Begins Blocking Cryptomining Scripts
Even after the demise of CoinHive, cryptomining scripts are still being secretly deployed on thousands of websites without the knowledge of their owners and visitors. With the release of Firefox 67 beta, Mozilla is hoping to completely protect their users from malicious scripts that download and run cryptominers and other unwanted tracking software by using a blacklist created by Disconnect, a VPN developer with a reputation for privacy protection. Additionally, the new Firefox version will block fingerprinting scripts commonly used to invade a user’s browsing privacy.
MyCar App Uses Hardcoded Credentials
Thousands of cars were left vulnerable after a widely used vehicle telematics systems was found to be using hardcoded credentials in their mobile apps. Used in dozens of different car models to enable remote control functions, the hardcoded credentials leave these vehicles accessible to anyone with the app’s source code and the plaintext credentials within. Fortunately for users, the latest iOS and Android versions of the MyCar app have been updated to resolve this vulnerability.
Not that long ago, before data breaches dominated daily headlines, we felt secure with our social media apps. Conveniently, every website seemed to allow logging in with Facebook or Twitter instead of creating a whole new password, and families of apps quickly became their own industry. Third-party apps and games on social media platforms (remember Farmville on Facebook?) were allowed profile access en masse. Trivia games, horoscope predictions, personality quizzes — all seemingly secure and engaging diversions — let social media users enable some type of third-party app.
Unfortunately, we now know that this left many of us, and our data, exposed to a potential breach.
So we turned to Randy Abrams, Webroot’s Sr. Security Analyst, for insights on how to keep third-party app breaches in check. The trick to keeping yourself and your loved ones safe? Information silos, both on and off of social media.
“As a rule, I leave my apps in silos, meaning I severely limit their connectivity level — especially when it comes to accessing my mobile device, “Abrams says. “Apps for email, texting, and calling people do have a reasonable need for access to your contacts on the phone. Most other apps, such as social media apps do not need to be able to look up your unsuspecting friends.”
Limiting the access your apps have to their direct functions will help keep you and your loved ones safe. Here’s how to get it done.
Mobile App Permissions
Limiting your app’s permissions may seem like a chore, but it is the best way to keep breaches from expanding in scope. We’ve put together a mobile app permissions crash course to help you silo your sensitive data quickly and easily.
For Android Users
To monitor and edit an existing application’s accessibility permissions on your device, go to your Android’s settings and tap Apps & Notifications. From there, you will be able to locate all the applications that are active on your device. When you’ve located the application whose permissions you would like to edit, simply tap the app and then tap “Permissions” to view and edit its current permission settings.
To review an application’s accessibility permissions before you install it on your device from the Google Play Store, tap on the app you’d like to install and click Read more to bring up its detail page. Scroll to the bottom and tap App permissions to review the app’s requested permissions. After you install and open the application for the first time, you will be prompted to allow or deny application permissions (like access to your contacts or location). You can always edit the application’s existing permissions later using the steps outlined above.
For iOS Users
To monitor and edit an existing application’s accessibility permissions on your device, go to the settings app Privacy to see all the permissions available on your phone (like location services and camera access). Select the permission set you would like to review to see all of the applications with access, and revoke any permissions you’re not comfortable with.
To review an application’s accessibility permissions at install, simply open the app and begin using it. The app will request permissions, which you can either allow or deny. You can always revoke permissions after they have been granted by following the steps outlined above.
Preventing social media applications from gaining unnecessary access to your mobile data could help stop data breaches from spreading. But it won’t stop the breaches themselves from happening. Leaving apps enabled entails large-scale security issues — not only for ourselves, but also for friends and family connected with us through social media. When we connect apps to our social media profiles, we expose not just our information, but the shared information of a broader network of connections — one that expands well beyond our immediate circles. In a startling example, only 53 Facebook users in Australia downloaded Cambridge Analytica’s infamous thisisyourdigitallife app, but a total of 311,127 network connections had their data exposed through those users. That amount of collateral damage is nothing to scoff at.
Removing Third Party Apps
“Facebook is the company best known for leaking extensive amounts of data about users, usually by default privacy settings that allow third-party apps to access as much user data as possible,” says Abrams. “Most users had no idea they could control some of what is shared and would have a difficult time navigating the maze to the settings.”
Facebook made a few reform efforts to help make managing third-party access to your account a little bit easier. Click on Settings from the account dropdown menu, and then select Apps and Websites. This should take you to a dashboard that will show your active, expired, and removed apps. It will also give you the option to turn off the capability for any third-party apps to connect with your profile.
From your account dropdown, click on Settings and privacy. Click on the Apps and devices tab, which will show all of the apps connected to your account. You can see the specific permissions that each app has under the app name and description. To disconnect an app from your account, click the Revoke access button next to the app icon.
From a web browser, log in to your account and click the gear icon next the Edit Profile button. Select Authorized Apps to see all of the apps connected to your account. Click the Revoke Access button under an app to remove it from your account.
Building Secure Social Media Habits
Monitoring the access levels of your connected apps is a good start to keeping yourself and your loved ones secure, but it’s not always enough.
“It must be assumed that all third-party apps are collecting all of the information on the platform, regardless of privacy settings,” warns Abrams.
Establishing secure social media habits will continue to help keep you secure after you’ve reviewed your app permissions. This means conducting regular audits of the third-party app permissions associated with all of your social media accounts and — slightly more arduously — thoroughly reading the privacy policies of any third party apps before you connect them.
“Without reading the privacy policies you cannot know to what extent your friends’ private information will be shared, “adds Abrams. “Remember, it isn’t just their names you are sharing, it is part of the data aggregation they are already subjected to. Simply letting an app know you are friends provides more information than just their names. It helps app companies build more robust profiles.”
Stay Vigilant and Informed
This spring, many of us will roll up our sleeves and get down to business decluttering our homes. Garage sales will be held, basement storage rooms will be re-organized, and donations will be made.
Shouldn’t the same thing happen in our digital lives? After all, the average American will spend the bulk of their waking hours parked in front of some sort of screen—flipping , swiping, and clicking away. A little tidying up of data and online habits can go a long way toward enhancing your digital security andpeace of mind.
So here are a few tips for tidying up your tech designed to make you ask not only: “Does this bring me joy?” but also, “does this make me more secure?” If not, consider purging apps, connections, and permissions that could leave you more susceptible to a breach. If you answer yes, make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to protect it.
Turn off Bluetooth when it’s not in use
Since the Blueborne family of vulnerabilities was discovered in 2017, deactivating Bluetooth when not in use has become standard security advice. With the increasing adoption of home IoT devices, the consequences of ignoring that advice have only risen.
Bluetooth connections are like a lonely person on a dating site; they’re in constant search of a connection. When Bluetooth-enabled devices seek out the wrong sources—that of a cybercriminal, say—they are vulnerable to exploitation.
“Smart speakers and other IoT devices may introduce convenience to our daily lives,” says Webroot Security Analyst Tyler Moffitt. “But they’re also a calculated risk, and even more so for knock-off devices whose manufacturers don’t pay proper attention to security. Minimizing the time Bluetooth is on helps to manage that risk.”
Or, as Webroot VP of engineering David Dufour put it to Wired magazine soon after the discovery of Blueborne, “For attackers, it’s Candyland.”
Use a VPN to cloak your digital footprint
Shrouding your connection in a virtual private network (VPN) is especially important when accessing public or unsecured WiFi networks. Again, we make a trade-off between convenience and security when logging on to these “free” networks.
Without additional protection, cybercriminals can spy on these unencrypted connections either by commandeering the router or by creating their own spoof of a legitimate WiFi hotspot, in a variation of a man-in-the-middle attack. From here, they’re free to monitor the data flowing between your device and the network.
“It’s more than just the privacy violation of being able to see what you’re doing and where you’re going online,” Moffitt explains. “Cybercriminals can lift sensitive data like banking login credentials and drop ransomware or other malicious payloads like cryptojackers.”
A VPN encrypts the traffic between your device and the router, ensuring your digital footprint is shielded from prying eyes.
Keep apps updated with the latest software
While some apps are inherently sketchy, and users shouldn’t expect the app creators behind them to prioritize security, others introduce vulnerabilities inadvertently. When responsibly run, app developers address these security gaps through software updates.
Take the cultural phenomenon Fortnite, for example. The game that drove its parent company, Epic Games, to an $8 billion valuation was found at the beginning of the year to contain multiple vulnerabilities that would have allowed malicious actors to take over player accounts, make in-game purchases, and join conversations. Epic Games was quick to issue “a responsibly deployed” fix, but in this and similar instances, users are only protected after installing the suggested updates.
“I always recommend users keep both their apps and their mobile operating systems up to date,” says Moffit. “This is made easier by turning on automatic updates wherever possible and only downloading apps from reputable app stores, so you increase the chances that updates are timely.”
For more tips on protecting your smartphone from mobile malware, see our complete list of recommendations here.
Set up automatic cloud backups
Purging unused apps is a good principle for spring cybersecurity cleaning – like a box of old clothes you haven’t worn in decades, unused apps represent digital data containers you no longer need. But what about all that data you’d hate to lose—the pictures, videos, documents, and other files you’d be devastated to see disappear? Protecting that trove of data is another core tenant for tidying up your tech.
Ransomware is one prime reason for keeping up-to-date backups of valuable data. It can strike anyone from college students to cities, and the list of those who’ve been burned is long and distinguished.
“The combination of an antivirus and a cloud backup and recovery solution is an effective one-two punch against ransomware,” Moffit says. “On the one hand, you make your device more difficult to infect. On the other, you become a less attractive target because you’re unlikely to pay a ransom to recover data that’s already backed up to the cloud and out of reach for ransomware.”
Natural disasters and device theft—two contingencies even the tightest cybersecurity can’t account for—are prime reasons to make sure backups are in place sooner, rather than later. Cloud backup is more secure and affordable than ever, so it makes sense to back up anything you couldn’t stand to lose, before it’s too late. Want more tips for cybersecurity spring cleaning? Download Webroot’s full checklist for tidying up your tech.
Massive Data Breach at Georgia Tech
It was recently revealed that the personal information on over 1.3 million people was illicitly accessed by hackers who breached Georgia Tech systems in December of last year. The breach is the second of the year for the university, and was only discovered after IT staff noted performance issues on a widely used web application that interacts with a major database for both students and staff.
Restaurant Firm Admits to Data Breach
Earl Enterprises, the parent firm of several popular restaurants around the country, recently announced they had fallen victim to a point-of-sale breach at multiple restaurant locations over the last 10 months. At least 100 restaurants, including all locations of the Italian chain Buca di Beppo, have begun working on restoring their systems and contacting affected customers. Nearly 2.1 million payment card accounts have been found in a dark web marketplace that were posted just a month before the company made its discovery.
Toyota Confirms Sales Data Breach
Personal information for over 3.1 million individuals may have been compromised before officials found signs of unauthorized activity on an internal network used in multiple sales subsidiaries of Toyota and Lexus. While the company’s dealerships continue to provide service and parts to customers, this specific breach comes only a month after another cyber attack that impacted Toyota dealerships in Australia, leaving many customers worried about the safety of their data.
GPS Watches Display PWNED! Message
Nearly a year after researchers contacted the watch maker Vidimensio about multiple vulnerabilities in their GPS watches, a new message has appeared on watch maps. The phrase “PWNED!” has been seen on at least 20 different watch models as a message alerting the company to their poor security infrastructure, as end-users are susceptible to being tracked through their watches. More alarmingly, many of the devices were found to have this vulnerability after Germany passed a law banning smart-watches for children that were capable of remote-listening after it was found they often ran on unpatched firmware.
Ransomware Strikes Albany, NY
The city of Albany, New York has been working to restore normal operations after a ransomware attack took down several key components of its systems. Aside from a few document-specific requests, however, the vast majority of the functionality was left undisturbed throughout the attack and recovery process. According to officials, all public safety services remained fully operational and had staff working around the clock to continue to provide assistance or direct individuals to a working facility.
Although phishing has been around in various forms since the 1980s, our research shows it continues to evolve—and remains a major threat. These days, phishing tactics have gotten so sophisticated, it can be difficult to spot a scam—particularly in the case of hijacked email reply chains. Let’s look at a concrete example.
Imagine you’re a purchaser for a concrete supplier, and you get an email from a regular client about an order. In that email, you can see this client, Michael, has been exchanging messages with your colleague, Jill. The email addresses, corporate logos, and everything about the email chain look 100% legitimate. You’ve even met Michael in person, so you know he’s trustworthy.
In this case, the conversation details are convincing to you—because they’re real. Someone gained access to your colleague’s email and took over a legitimate conversation about purchases, then forwarded it to you with a malicious payload attached.
A message like this is very likely to get through any email filtering, and you’d probably open it, since it looks like it’s from a trusted sender.
Had you opened the file in this hypothetical scenario, you might have gotten infected with Emotet or another banking Trojan, such as Ursnif / Gozi.
“Phishing attacks increased 36%, with the number of phishing sites growing 220 percent over the course of 2018.” – Webroot Inc. “2019 Webroot Threat Report.” (March 2019)
Ursnif / Gozi Campaigns
The difference between an ordinary phishing attack and a hijacked email chain really comes down to believability. The criminals behind these campaigns take their time breaking into email accounts, watching business conversations, negotiations, and transactions, then launching their attempts at plausible moments when the recipient’s guard is most likely to be down. Most commonly, these attacks have been attributed to Ursnif/Gozi campaigns. Webroot has seen quite a few cases of these hijacked emails with the same style of phishing text and nearly identical payloads. There are numerous reports online as well.
In a malware campaign like this one, it really doesn’t matter whose account the malicious actors have broken into. If you receive an email from your project manager, a sales colleague, the finance department, a particular client, or anyone else that bears the markers of a legitimate, ongoing email conversation, the attack is highly likely to succeed.
Seen since last November: all email bodies had a long list of replies, but all had the following message.
This would suggest they are all samples that can be attributed to the same gang. Each had .zip files attached with convincing names related to the business at hand, which contained Microsoft® Word documents with filenames that started with “request”.
What You Can Do
Faced with such plausible attacks, it might seem impossible to stay safe. But there are a few tips that can keep you protected. First, never turn macros on, and never trust a document that asks you to turn macros on, especially if it’s a Microsoft® Office file that wants you to show hidden content. Macros are a very common attack vector.
Second, always make sure to keep your operating system up to date, especially Microsoft Office programs.
Third, you likely already mistrust emails from people you don’t know. Now, it’s time to turn that suspicion onto trusted senders too. Attackers commonly try to spoof email addresses to look like those you’re familiar with, and may even gain control of an email account belonging to a person you know. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to emails asking you to download attachments.
Fourth, it’s important to protect your own email account from being hijacked. Attackers can use techniques like alternate inboxing to send messages from your account without your knowledge. Be sure to secure your account with strong passwords, 2-factor authentication, or use a secure password manager. Encourage friends and colleagues to do the same.Finally, if you’re suspicious of an email, the best way to check its legitimacy is to pick up the phone. If you know the sender personally, ask them about the message in person or via phone. Or, if you receive a message from a company, look up their publicly listed phone number (do not use the number provided in the email) and call them.
How Webroot Protection Can Keep You Safe
- Webroot security for computers, smartphones, and tablets blocks malicious scripts, downloads, and executables. (However, you should still exercise caution and common sense, regardless which internet security solutions you use.)
- For businesses and managed service providers, our portfolio of integrated, next-generation security includes Endpoint Protection, DNS Protection, and Security Awareness Training for end users.
For more information on these types of attacks, you can read the following articles:
First GDPR Fine Issued in Poland
The first fine issued from the Polish privacy regulator has been issued to an unnamed firm for quietly gathering personal data for over 6 million Polish citizens and using it for commercial gains without consent. The fine of £187,000 was generated after officials learned that only 90,000 individuals had been contacted via email, as the company had seemingly no other low-cost options for contacting the remaining millions of affected citizens.
ASUS Update Utility Used as Backdoor
ASUS recently confirmed that their Live Update utility for notebooks was compromised, leading to at least 500,000 machines being affected by malicious code. While this attack was focused on a only a couple of specific servers, the announcement came nearly a month after the company was told by researchers about the issue and it continued to push the malware via Live Update. Fortunately, ASUS resolved the issue with their latest update and has provided a tool to help customers determine if they’re still at risk.
Microsoft Takes Domains Back from Hackers
Microsoft has been working for some time to combat state-backed hackers by regaining control of nearly 100 domains that have been used in spear-phishing attacks across the globe. Many of the domains used keywords relating to more popular companies to steal login credentials for the sites they mimicked By obtaining court orders for the domains, Microsoft has continued its long-term legal battle, with help from domain registrars, to take these scams offline.
Facebook Hack Exposes 110,000 Australians
After the Facebook hack in September of last year the personally identifiable information for over 100,000 Australians was compromised. While some users saw only their name and email address exposed, others had their search history, recent location check-ins, and more information available to the hackers. Facebook began notifying the proper regulatory officials four days after they themselves became aware of the breach that had begun more than a week earlier.
Cryptocurrency Exchanges Hacked
With an estimated combined loss of over $46 million in cryptocurrency, two exchanges have come forward about hacks that have taken them offline as investigations unfold. DragonEx initially announced that an attack had occurred over the weekend and that they were able to regain some of the stolen funds. They then posted the wallet addresses that had received stolen funds in hopes of having the accounts frozen and the flow of currencies stopped. The second hack on CoinBene has been denied by the company as they haven’t lost any funds, but users were able to trace significant amounts of several cryptocurrencies dumped into other markets not long after the attack on the exchange took place.
The last decade has been one of digital revolution, leading to the rapid adoption of new technology standards, often without the consideration of privacy ramifications. This has left many of us with a less-than-secure trail of digital breadcrumbs—something cybercriminals are more than aware of. Identity theft is by no means a new problem, but the technology revolution has created what some are calling a “global epidemic.”
Securing your digital identity is more important now than ever, and Webroot can help you start.
What is a Digital Identity?
The first step in locking down your digital identity is understanding what it is. A digital identity is the combination of any and all identifying information that can connect a digital persona to an actual person. Digital identities are largely comprised of information freely shared by the user, with social media accounts generally providing the largest amount of data. Other online services like Etsy and eBay, as well as your email and online banking accounts, also contribute to your digital identity. Realistically, any information that can be linked back to you, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, is part of your digital identity.
Digital Identity Theft
Digital identity theft occurs in several ways. A common tactic is social media fraud, where a hacker will impersonate a user by compromising an existing social media account, often messaging friends and family of the user requesting money or additional account information. If unable to gain full control of a genuine social media account, identity thieves will often set up a dummy social media account and impersonate the user using it.
A less widely-known form of digital identity fraud is internet-of-things (IoT) identity theft, where an attacker gains access to an IoT device with weak security protocols and exploits it to gain access to a higher priority device connected to the same network. Another growing threat is “SIM swapping”— an attack that involves tricking a mobile provider into swapping a legitimate phone number over to an illegitimate SIM card, granting the attacker access to SMS-enabled two-factor authentication (2FA) efforts.
Even those who don’t consider themselves targets should be aware of these tactics and take steps to lock down their digital identities.
Locking it Down
Reviewing your social media accounts’ privacy settings is one of the easiest things you can do to cut opportunistic identity thieves off from the start. Set your share settings to friends only, and scrub any identifying information that could be used for security clearance — things like your high school, hometown, or pets’ names. Only add people you personally know and if someone sends you a suspicious link, don’t click it! Phishing, through email or social media messages, remains one of the most prevalent causes of digital identity theft in the world. But your digital identity can be compromised in the physical world as well — old computers that haven’t been properly wiped provide an easy opportunity hackers won’t pass up. Always take your outdated devices to a local computer hardware store to have them wiped before recycling or donating them.
The Right Tools for the Job
This is just the start of a proper digital identity lock-down. Given the sensitive nature of these hacks, we asked Webroot Security Analyst Tyler Moffitt his thoughts on how consumers can protect their digital identities.
“Two-factor authentication in combination with a trusted virtual private network, or VPN, is the crown jewel of privacy lock-down,” Tyler said. “Especially if you use an authenticator app for codes instead of SMS authentication. A VPN is definitely a must… but you can still fall for phishing attempts using a VPN. Using two-factor authentication on all your accounts while using VPN is about as secure as you can get.”
2FA provides an additional level of security to your accounts, proactively verifying that you are actually the one attempting to access the account. 2FA often uses predetermined, secure codes and geolocation data to determine a user’s identity.
Because 2FA acts as a trusted gatekeeper, do your research before you commit to a solution. You’ll find some offerings that bundle 2FA with a secure password manager, making the commitment to cybersecurity a little bit easier. When making your choice, remember that using SMS-enabled 2FA could leave you vulnerable to SIM swapping, so though it is more secure than not using 2FA at all, it is among the least secure of 2FA strategies.
VPNs wrap your data in a cocoon of encryption, keeping it out of sight of prying eyes. This is particularly important when using public WiFi networks, since that’s when your data is at its most vulnerable. Many VPNs are available online, including some free options, but this is yet another instance of getting what you pay for. Many free VPNs are not truly private, with some selling your data to the highest bidder. Keeping your family secure behind a VPN means finding a solution that provides you with the type of comfort that only comes with trust.
The two things that only you can do to keep your identity secure? Constant vigilance and continuous education. Visit the Home+Mobile page on the Webroot blog for a host of resources to help keep you and your family safe online—at home and on the go.
Gnosticplayers Adds 26 Million More Records for Sale
After the first 3 major data dumps, which totaled over 600 million records, the hacker known as Gnosticplayers has released his latest cache of data, which contains at least 26 million personal user records. These data caches hold customer information for 32 companies overall and have been obtained over just the past couple months, making the data that much more lucrative. The hacker claims these breaches are done simply out of frustration that security is still not being taken seriously by many major companies from across the globe, which may explain why the price tag for each dump is so low.
Hackers Set Off Tornado Sirens in Texas Towns
At least 30 tornado warning sirens in two Texas towns were triggered in the early morning hours by an unknown hacker. While officials quickly shut down the sirens, they did so just 24 hours prior to a major storm during which they might have needed to use these critical emergency systems. This attack is very similar to one that affected the entire Dallas area in 2017, when hackers successfully compromised a radio system that set off over 100 tornado sirens across the city.
Marketing Firm Exposes 230 Million Records
Another misconfigured Amazon database, this time belonging to Exactis, carries the blame for a data breach that could affect at least 230 million individuals, with more data on 110 million individual records tied to businesses. While it is still unclear exactly how long the database was accessible, the company and an external security auditor maintain that the data was not accessed maliciously during its time online, though the independent researcher who first discovered the database reports that the data may have been spotted for sale on the dark web.
Ransomware Cripples Major Aluminum Manufacturer
Norsk Hydro, a major Aluminum producer, suffered a ransomware attack that successfully shut down a large portion of the company’s operations. The attack forced the company to switch to manual operations at all of its facilities around the world, and temporarily take down their website while they worked to restore their systems from backups. Fortunately, the company retains backups for their major operations, so normal production should resume within the week.
Gearbest Leaks 1.5 Million Customer Records
Following the trend of unprotected databases, researchers recently found yet another one, this time belonging to Gearbest (a Chinese e-commerce site). This database contained unencrypted personal records for over 1.5 million customers around the globe, including payment data, ID and passport info, and even data that could compromise Gearbest itself, as URLs for an internal software platform were also exposed. The company has since claimed that the number of exposed records is much smaller than originally posted. However, they also maintain that they use strong encryption on all stored data, despite this latest evidence to the contrary.
Since the dawn of IT, there’s been a very consistent theme among admins: end users are the weakest link in your network, organization, security strategy, fill-in-the-blank. We’ve all heard the stories, and even experienced them first-hand. An employee falls for a phishing scam and the whole network is down. Another colleague torrents a file laced with malware. Or maybe it’s something less sinister: someone wants to charge their phone, so they unplug something from the only nearby outlet, but what they unplug is somehow critical… help desk tickets ensue.
But when it comes to security issues caused by human error, it’s not necessarily always the end user’s fault. Cyberattacks are getting more and more sophisticated by the second, and all of them are designed to either circumvent defenses or appear totally legitimate to fool people. One of the major advances of this type that we’ve seen is with phishing sites and the use of HTTPS.
HTTPS: The Beginning
While HTTP is the foundation of all data exchange and communication on the internet, it wasn’t designed for privacy. Transmitting information on the web using HTTP is kind of like sending a postcard; anybody who handles that card can read it. HTTPS was supposed to be a way of adding privacy to protect users and sensitive information from prying eyes.
At first, you’d only see HTTPS on financial or health care websites, or maybe the cart page on a shopping site, where the extra privacy was necessary. And back then, getting a security certificate was much harder—it involved significant costs and thorough security checks. Then, a few years ago, most web browsers started requiring security certificates for every website, or else they’d throw up a scary-looking warning that the site you were trying to visit might be dangerous. That trained us to look for (and trust) HTTPS.
A False Sense of Security
These days, when we see HTTPS at the beginning of a URL or the accompanying lock icon in our browser’s address bar, we’ve been conditioned to think that means we’re safe from harm. After all, the S in HTTPS stands for “secure”, right? But the issue is that HTTPS isn’t really about security, it’s about privacy. That little lock icon just means that any information we transmit on that site is encrypted and securely delivered to its destination. It makes no guarantees that the destination itself, is safe.
If you unwittingly end up on a well-faked phishing copy of your banking website and see the lock icon, it’s natural to assume that you’re in the right place and all is well. Except when you try to log in, what you’re really doing is securely transmitting your login credentials to an attacker. In this case, HTTPS would’ve been used to trick you.
The Bad Guys and HTTPS
Malicious actors are always looking for new ways to trick end users. Because so many of us think HTTPS ensures security, attackers are using it against us. It’s no longer difficult to obtain a security certificate. Attackers can do so very cheaply, or even for free, and there’s really no background or security check involved.
As I mentioned during my talk on HTTPS at this year’s RSA conference, almost half a million of the new phishing sites Webroot discovered each month of 2018 were using HTTPS. In fact, 93% of phishing domains in September and October alone were hosted on HTTPS sites. When you think about these numbers, it’s easy to see why end users might not be to blame when you discover that a major security breach was caused by someone being duped by a phishing scam.
The Way Forward
As more HTTPS phishing and malware sites emerge, even the most vigilant among us could fall victim. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invest in end user education. End users are on the front lines on the cybersecurity battlefield. It’s up to us to provide right tools and armor to keep users and the companies they represent safe. To be truly effective, we need to implement ongoing security awareness training programs that recur continually throughout an employee’s time with the company. If we accomplish that, the results speak for themselves; after 12 months of training, end users are 70% less likely to fall for a phishing attempt!
We also need to make sure our security strategies incorporate real-time threat intelligence to accurately classify and determine which websites are good or malicious, regardless of their HTTPS designation. In an age where phishing sites appear and disappear in a matter of hours or minutes, malicious sites use HTTPS, and at least 40% of bad URLs can be found on good domains, it’s more important than ever that we all use the most advanced real-time technologies available.
Ultimately building a culture of cybersecurity will always be more effective than a top-down mandate.. Everyone in the organization, from the CEO to the newest intern, should be invested in adopting and furthering a security conscious culture. Part of that process is going to be shifting the general IT perceptions around human error and the issues it can cause. We shouldn’t think of our end users as the weakest link in the chain; instead we should think of them as the key to a robust security strategy.
To hear more about HTTPS, phishing, and end user education, you can listen to the podcast I did with cybersecurity executive and advisor Shira Rubinoff at RSAC 2019.
In late February, the notorious cryptojacking script engine called Coinhive abruptly announced the impending end to its service. The stated reason: it was no longer economically viable to run.
I honestly did not see this happening, but I do understand. It is reasonable to think that Coinhive didn’t intend for their creation to be abused by criminals. However, they have still kept 30 percent of ALL the earnings generated by their script, one that was often found running illegally on hijacked sites. Most of that profit came from illicit mining, which has earned Coinhive a lot of negative press.
Additionally, 2018 was a terrible year in terms of the US-dollar value of Monero (XMR), which means their service is significantly less profitable now, relative to what it once was. Combined with the fact that the XMR development team hard-forked the coin and changed the difficulty of the hashrate, this means Coinhive is making very little money from legitimate miners.
Coinhive created this service so legitimate domain owners could host their script and generate enough revenue to replace ads. Ads are annoying and I believe this innovation was aimed at attempting to fix that problem. But the ultimate result was a bunch of criminals breaking into other people’s domains and injecting them with Coinhive scripts that essentially stole from visitors to that domain. Without consent, millions of victims’ computers were subject to maximum hardware stress for extended periods of time, all so some criminals could make a few pennies worth of cryptocurrency per computer.
Would you continue to operate a startup business in which most of the money you earned was a cut of criminal activity—stealing from victims in the form of an increased power bill? Maybe a year ago, when the hashing difficulty was easier (you earned more XMR) and XMR was worth 10 times what it’s worth now, it might have been easier to “sleep at night” but now it probably just isn’t worth it.
Even before this news, there were plenty of other copycats—Cryptoloot, JSEcoin, Deepminer, and others—so criminals have plenty of similar services to choose from. At the time of its shutdown, Coinhive had about around 60% share of all cryptojacking campaigns, though we saw this market dominance reach as high as 80% last year. I anticipate these other services stand to take larger shares of cryptojacking revenue now that the largest player has left. We might even see a new competitor service emerge to challenge for cryptojacking dominance.
Stay tuned to the Webroot blog for future developments in cryptojacking.