Business + Partners

Evasive Scripts: What They Are, and What We’re Doing About Them

“What’s an evasive attack? At a very basic level, it’s exactly what it sounds like; it’s a cyberattack that’s designed to hide from you,” says Grayson Milbourne, Security Intelligence Director at Webroot, an OpenText company. Based on Grayson’s initial explanation,...

DoH Is Here to Stay: Why Businesses Should Embrace It

While the proliferation of encrypted DNS is being driven by consumer privacy, businesses will want to take notice. Encrypted DNS – also known as DNS over HTTPS, or DoH – obscures internet traffic from bad actors. But it also has the potential to decrease visibility...

Old Habits vs. New Normal in the Time of Coronavirus

It didn’t take long for COVID-19 to completely alter the way we work. Businesses that succeed in this rapidly changing environment will be the ones that adapt with the same velocity. In our second installment from The Future of Work series, you’ll hear from Webroot...

Hack, Crash, Storm, Spill: Pick Your Poison

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.

Don’t expect cybercriminals to go easy during a hurricane. Quite the opposite, in fact. Just like they’ve used the coronavirus pandemic to launch COVID-related malware scams, hackers will capitalize on the names and news coverage of hurricanes to disguise attacks. That’s why now is a good time to review your cyber security posture and your overall cyber resilience strategy. We talked with Carbonite VP of Product Management Jamie Zajac about how to anticipate the types of adverse events that catch a lot of people and businesses off guard. With the right protection in place, you can maintain access to data during a hurricane – and all year round. You can start by knowing what to expect.

Get woke to data loss

When most people think of data loss, they think major disasters, like headline-generating storms and floods. Of course, it’s important to anticipate highly impactful outages. But these are far more rare than other causes of data loss. “It’s everyday scenarios that are really common. Like leaving a laptop on an airplane, dropping a phone in the river, or accidentally deleting a folder and having the recycle bin policies expire,” Zajac says.

Another cause of data loss is hardware failure. “Hardware has become more reliable,” Zajac says, “but you never know when a hard drive will fail, a computer will be dropped or a motherboard will crash.”

Since hardware has a finite lifespan, failure is inevitable. When you’re considering how to protect devices that store important data, Zajac recommends looking for a few key features:

  • Continuous backup (so you’re capturing changes as you make them)
  • Online file recovery (so you don’t have to wait to buy a new computer)
  • Cloud failover for critical servers or disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

An ounce of prevention

Whether it’s a lack of awareness, the complexity of systems or the perceived difficulty of deploying protection, too many people and businesses fail to protect themselves ahead of time. “We often don’t think to make cyber security and data protection a priority until it’s too late,” Zajac says. “For consumers and business alike, we see a ton of inquiries about how to get data off a hard drive that wasn’t backed up. That is way more time-consuming, expensive, error-prone and ineffective than having a full cyber resilience and protection plan in place.”

“It’s never worth the risk of being hacked,” Zajac says. “I’ve seen businesses struggle and even close when they lose data, or their brands suffer because hackers have stolen their data. As compliance requirements and privacy requirements evolve, more and more small businesses face these risks.”

Hurricane checklist

Hurricane season is prime time for system outages. But it’s also a useful reminder to prepare for the unexpected. Here are three key steps you can take to form a strategy for dealing with annually occurring threats, according to Zajac.

  1. Anticipate your office being unavailable – Like the physical disruptions we’ve experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, anticipate IT infrastructure becoming unavailable. Can you run systems in the cloud? Can you access a cloud backup quickly? DRaaS is a great solution for businesses susceptible to hurricanes.
  2. Back up everything, not just some things – Many people realize too late that they only chose to back up critical systems, and that one of those “second-tier” systems is also necessary to run the business. It’s better to have everything backed up than to be missing something. You can often save costs by tiering your backups or having different recovery objectives for different systems. But don’t skip backing up some systems.
  3. Test your backups – Know whether you can recover systems within the time required.

When it comes to hurricanes and weather-related risks, specific security-related concerns should also be considered. “It’s important to train people on the protocols for when they need to work remotely,” Zajac says. “Generally speaking, you should be training users on security best practices, whether they are remote or in the office. But people are more distracted and thus susceptible to phishing and social engineering when they are remote.”

If people need to work from cloud workstations, personal devices or laptops, make sure they have a security suite, such as cloud-based anti-virus and anti-phishing protection. Make sure you have security software that doesn’t require people to be in the office. For example, if you are relying on your firewall to block malicious websites, it won’t help employees who are off the network. Use DNS protection with roaming device security for these scenarios.

An all-of-the-above approach

Murphy’s Law dictates that you’ll probably experience the data breach you’re not prepared for. Any form of data loss can have bad effects. So, if you’re too narrowly focused on just one threat, consider all the potential adverse events you could experience.

“Hackers are a constant threat and can have really big impacts in terms of data loss, productivity loss, compliance requirements, regulatory fines, brand damage and more,” Zajac says. “A coffee spill is a constant threat,” she warns, “but the damage is typically isolated. You still don’t want to rely on someone re-creating all of your work if a coffee spill or other localized damage even occurs, especially if it is the CEO’s laptop.” Zajac continues, “A hurricane is a rare and often well-predicted event, but the impact can be catastrophic. You can’t wait for a hurricane to build a plan.”

The good news is that a competent IT consultant can help you build a strategy, and a good vendor can protect you against many of these adverse events in one fell swoop.

Setting expectations

There’s no backup without recovery. But how do you know if your recovery process is sufficient? It should align with the objectives you establish before disaster strikes.

“On an endpoint, you can typically get very fast file backup and recovery so that you only lose minutes of data and all files are available online in a web interface for fast access,” Zajac says. “For servers, you need to tier systems into mission-critical applications and use a very low RPO solution, such as DRaaS. Non-mission critical infrastructure can withstand a few hours or days to get running again.” Zajac suggests doing an impact analysis. If a given system is offline, how much will it cost your business?

Cloud considerations

It’s not just devices that are worth protecting. Today, both personal and business users leverage the public cloud, like Microsoft 365 and Azure, for much of their storage and computing needs. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking cloud data is protected by the vendor. But this is not the case.

“Microsoft cannot tell the difference between accidental data loss and legitimate file deletions because the content is no longer relevant. It’s up to users and company admins to make this determination,” Zajac says. “Microsoft 365 credential attacks are on the rise. It’s only a matter of time before someone creates or spreads ransomware to Microsoft 365 native data. That won’t be a good day for anyone who doesn’t have a backup in place.”

Next steps

Never let a good catastrophe, or the threat of one, go to waste. Use this hurricane season to make sure you have a robust cyber security and resilience plan. And not just for hurricanes, but for all the ways you can lose access to data.

Bouncing Back from the Pandemic A Step-By-Step Guide for MSPs

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

To try to fight the isolation and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, a few weeks ago we began what we’re referring to as “Office Hours” on the Webroot Community. It’s meant to be a forum where users can come together and pose their COVID/cybersecurity-related questions to some of our experts, and we try to help however we can.

The quality of questions and value of the dialogue were high right off the bat. It’s proven to be an excellent reminder of the usefulness of the Community in general. Some of the questions were even topical and popular enough to warrant a deep dive.

How can MSPs help their clients bounce back from these challenging times?” is a good example.

As the question suggests, it’s not all bad being an MSP right now. With many employees migrating to remote work, IT services are in high demand. That could explain why, according to a study by the RMM platform Datto, though about 40% of MSPs anticipate cutting revenue projections for the year, 84% still say it’s a good time to be an MSP.

There’s both opportunity and necessity in developing a plan to help small business clients stay afloat in a flagging economy. On the opportunity side, exceptional customer service can be a great way MSPs to stand out in an industry with typically tight margins. On the other hand, if an MSP’s clients’ tank, they will longer be around to need the MSPs services. So, the ability to be an IT advisor for clients’ through tough times is intimately tied to the success of the MSP themselves.

What follows are a few pieces of advice for doing that, but’s important to remember that there’s no stock solution for bouncing back as a business. Every client is unique and so are the pressures applied by the coronavirus and subsequent economic slowdown. But here are some generic tips for being your client’s go-to adviser for weathering the storm.

  1. Set-up a virtual ‘discovery’ meeting to discuss with them what their situation really is? This should be a (perhaps painfully) honest conversation about the state of the business and what obstacles stand on the way of then getting back to “business as usual.”
  2. Devise an agenda based on the services you provide today and the associated costs. Based on the client’s challenges (or strengths) what is affordable what can maybe be minimized? Has the business direction changed at all? Many SMBs may be looking to pivot considering COVID-19.
  3. Aim to be flexible (while remaining profitable) and willing to accommodate the period between their business restarting and establishing a new normal. Ask yourself if taking a slight hit in monthly income or margins is an acceptable sacrifice to make in order to help keep a potentially long-term client afloat?
  4. Next, work with a client to draw up a joint “Recovery Plan” with a timeline for scaling back up the workload and how you can specifically assist with their recovery. This may involve stressing the costliness of a data breach, downtime, and other ways your services help the clients bottom line suffering.
  5. Finally, schedule regular client account reviews (hopefully, you already have some version of these in place) to monitor technology-related pain points and assist with addressing them as reasonably as possible.

Economic recovery for small businesses will undoubtedly entail some tough decisions. But doing everything you can as an MSP to assist with that recovery by being proactive and establishing a common recovery plan will lead to a much stronger business relationship in the future. Not to mention establishing you as a trusted, reasonable business advisor for the life of the relationship. So, take advantage of the opportunity of helping your clients’ bounce back from this pandemic.

The Changing Face of Phishing: How One of the Most Common Attacks is Evolving

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Most people are familiar with phishing attacks. After all, they’re one of the most common forms of data breach around.

At their most basic, phishing attacks are attempts to steal confidential information by pretending to be an authorized person or organization. Standard phishing is not targeted. It relies on achieving a few successes out of hundreds or thousands of attempts. But because it’s so cheap to pull off, both in terms of effort invested and cost to conduct, even one person taking the bait make a campaign worth a malicious actor’s time.

But phishing has evolved. “Standard” phishing as we commonly think of it is now only a subsection of tactics carried out to achieve the same end: to swipe confidential information from an unsuspecting target in order to extract something of value.

To better be on guard across the diverse group of tactics that fall under the umbrella of phishing, users should be familiar with the ways these attacks are conducted.

We’ll cover a few here, but to learn more, download the 11 Types of Phishing Attack eBook.

Spear Phishing

If standard phishing is akin to trawling the High Seas to catch users indiscriminately, spear phishers are out for the trophy catch. Where most phishing attacks cast a wide net, hoping to entice as many users as possible to take the bait, spear phishing involves heavy research of pre-defined, high-dollar target—like a CEO, founder, or public persona—often relying on publicly available information for a more convincing ruse. When the target is sizeable enough, the CEO of a large, publicly traded company say, spear phishing is sometimes called ‘whaling.’

Smishing

SMS-enabled phishing uses text messaging to delivering malicious links, often in the form of short codes to obscure the ultimate destination of a link, to ensnare smartphone users in their scams. The term is a portmanteau of SMS and phishing, and it’s an attractive method for cybercriminals because oh the high engagement rates for texts. According to some sources, SMS open rates are around 98% compared to 20% for email. Messages are often are often disguised as sweepstakes winnings, flash sales, coupon codes, and requests for charitable or political contributions.

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

One of the most expensive threats facing businesses today, business email compromise involves a phony email, usually claiming to be someone from within or associated with a target’s company, requesting a payment or purchase be made (often of gift cards). A “confidence game” according to the FBI, BEC attempts are often accompanied by a sense of high urgency to discourage critical thinking. Of the $3.5 billion the FBI estimates businesses lost to cybercrime in 2019, nearly half ($1.7 billion) was blamed on business email compromise.

Search Engine Phishing

In this type of attack, cyber criminals wait for you to come to them. Search engine phishing injects fraudulent sites, often in the form of paid ads, into results for popular search terms. These ads often promise amazing deals, career advancement opportunities, or low interest rates for loans. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Often, the only difference between the scam result and the one you’re looking for is a .com that should be a .org or a .org that should be a .gov. Be on the lookout for strange endings to URLs. It may be just a country-specific domain, but they can also be hiding something more sinister.

Protecting Yourself from Phishing Attacks

Protecting yourself from phishing attacks starts with knowing what’s out there. But while staying vigilant will keep most attackers at bay, no one can be 100% secure on their own. That’s why it’s important to use an antivirus that relies on up to date threat intelligence that can block these threats in real time as they are clicked. Also, it is imperative for businesses to train their users on the types of phishing attacks employees could fall for.

For more types of phishing attacks, real-world examples, and more tips for keeping yourself or your business safe from such attacks, download the 11 Types of Phishing Attack eBook.

There Are Savings to be Had in Cybersecurity. Just Not Where You Might Think.

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Webroot’s annual Threat Report highlighted a 640% increase in active phishing sites on the web. However difficult it may be to believe (or easy, depending on your outlook), things have gotten even worse since.  

From fake anti-malware sites named for the virus (Really. See below.), to phony tracker apps that actually stalk users, to Netflix and Disney+ phishing scams that steal login data by taking advantage of a coronavirus-induced “streaming boom,” cybercriminals are getting crafty with COVID-19.

Threat analysts at Webroot have been tracking the rise in registered domain names with names including “covid,” corona,” and “coronavirus” since the outbreak began, noting that 2 percent of the more than 20 thousand newly registered domains containing those terms are malicious in nature. Files marked malicious that included the word “Zoom” grew more than 2,000 percent.

All these threats have arisen concurrently with an economic downturn that’s brought about fear, uncertainty, and the need to cut costs. Depending on the shape the recovery takes, we could be living with these unfortunate realities for some time. That means cybersecurity spending will inevitably be considered for the chopping block within many organizations. This is a bad idea for the reasons listed above and a great many more.

What’s needed, instead, is a greater investment in cybersecurity. As the World Economic Forum stated in an article entitled “Why cybersecurity matters more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic,” cybercrime flourishes during times of fear and uncertainty. We’re also spending more time online and relying on digital productivity tools as much as ever.

“Pressure will mount on business leaders to take action to cut costs and security spend may be highlighted for reduction,” say’s Webroot Sr. Director of Product Nick Emanuel. “However, the economics here are clear—cybercriminals are not cutting their budgets and are waiting to exploit weaknesses.”

And if organizations decide to preserve their remote workforces in order to promote employee safety and cut facility costs, as many tech companies are already doing, the cybersecurity landscape could be altered permanently.

“With the unprecedented shift from office to work from anywhere, it’s crucial that businesses review their remote working policies for data protection, as well as security, and be prepared for the variety of different work environments,” said Emanuel.

Cybersecurity in a Strange New World

So, what can you do to enhance cybersecurity for your business or clients? Rather than dropping products or sacrificing protection, develop a laser focus on these four principles:

  1. Automation—Companies must consider how AI and machine learning can assist with cybersecurity tasks. Adoption of these technologies is already high, but understanding remains low. When used effectively, they can reduce the need for high-paying, talent-scarce positions, freeing up the talent you do have to think strategically about larger business issues. Automated backup for businesses also reduces workload and guards against data loss, which can be costly in terms of loss productivity and potential fines.
  • Education—Phishing is still the largest single source of data breaches, according to the latest Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report. Again, this is a quick way for malicious actors to install ransomware or to gain access to sensitive information, leading to downtime and fines. Luckily, users can be taught with some reliability to spot phishing attacks. Webroot’s research has found that, with ongoing training with a phishing simulator, click rates for phishing attacks can be reduced by more than 85%.
  • Insurance—Data breaches are existential threats for many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). According to IBM, data breaches for organization between 500 and 1,000 cost an average of $2.65 million. Normally, organizations would hedge against such astronomical threats. Cybersecurity shouldn’t be any different. The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends cybersecurity insurance both as a means of promoting additional protection in exchange for more coverage and encouraging best practices for better premium rates.
  • Investment—Finally, businesses should invest wisely in their cyber resilience. This can be thought of as a holistic approach to cyber wellness that allows an organization to remain on its feet, even in the face of serious threats. Data security and data protection are essential components of cyber resilience. Data security entails endpoint security, sure, but also DNS filtering and security training for protection at the network and user levels. Data protection entails automated, encrypted backup and recovery for endpoints and servers to defend against ransomware, hardware failure, and device loss or theft. Together, these elements of cyber resilience reduce the likelihood of any one cyber setback being catastrophic for your business or clients.

MSPs and SMBs, rather than cutting costs by sacrificing their cybersecurity, should look to enhance it. While some of these steps may seem aimed at companies in a growth phase, they can actually improve the bottom line over the long run. After all, the costs of preparation pale in comparison to the cost of a breach.

Evasive Scripts: What They Are, and What We’re Doing About Them

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

“What’s an evasive attack? At a very basic level, it’s exactly what it sounds like; it’s a cyberattack that’s designed to hide from you,” says Grayson Milbourne, Security Intelligence Director at Webroot, an OpenText company.

Based on Grayson’s initial explanation, you can imagine that evasive tactics are pretty common throughout cybercriminal activities. But they’re especially prevalent in the context of scripts. Scripts are pieces of code that can automate processes on a computer system. They have tons of legitimate uses, but, when used maliciously, they can be extremely effective and difficult to detect or block.

With Grayson’s help, we’ll talk you through some of the common script evasion techniques that criminals use.

LolBins

Living off the Land Binaries (“LoLBins”) are applications that a Windows® system already has on it by default. Funny name aside, they’re extremely useful for attackers because they provide a way to carry out common steps of an attack without having to download anything new onto the target system. For example, criminals can use them to create persistency (i.e. enable the infection to continue operating after a reboot), spread throughout networked devices, bypass user access controls, and extracting passwords or other sensitive information.

There are dozens of LoLBins for criminals to choose from that are native to the Windows OS, such as powershell.exe, certutil.exe, regsr32.exe, and many more. Additionally, there are a variety of common third party applications that are pretty easy to exploit if present, such as java.exe, winword.exe, and excel.exe.

According to Grayson, this is one of the ways malicious hackers disguise their activities, because default OS applications are unlikely to be detected or blocked by an antimalware solution. He warns, “unless you have strong visibility into the exact commands that these processes are executing, then it can be very hard to detect malicious behavior originating from LoLBins.

Script Content Obfuscation

Like LoLBins and scripting overall, hiding the true content or behavior of a script—or content “obfuscation”—has completely legitimate purposes. But, in terms of malicious hacking, it’s pretty self-explanatory why obfuscation would lend itself to criminal activities. The whole point is not to get caught, right? So it makes sense that you’d take steps to hide bad activities to avoid detection. The screenshots below show an example of obfuscated code (top), with its de-obfuscated version (bottom).

Fileless and Evasive Execution

Using scripts, it’s actually possible to execute actions on a system without needing a file. Basically, a script can be written to allocate memory on the system, then write shellcode to that memory, then pass control to that memory. That means the malicious functions are carried out in memory, without a file, which makes detecting the origin of the infection (not to mention stopping it) extremely difficult.

Grayson explains, “one of the issues with fileless execution is that, usually, the memory gets cleared when you reboot your computer. That means a fileless infection’s execution could be stopped just be restarting the system. Persistence after a reboot is pretty top-of-mind for cybercriminals, and they’re always working on new methods to do it.”

Staying Protected

The Windows® 10 operating system now includes Microsoft’s Anti-Malware Scan Interface (AMSI) to help combat the growing use of malicious and obfuscated scripts. That means one of the first things you can do to help keep yourself safe is to ensure any Windows devices you own are on the most up-to-date OS version.

Additionally, there are several other easy steps that can help ensure an effective and resilient cybersecurity strategy.

  • Keep all applications up to date
    Check all Windows and third party apps regularly for updates (and actually run them) to decrease the risk of having outdated software that contains vulnerabilities criminals could exploit.
  • Disable macros and script interpreters
    Although enabling macros has legitimate applications, the average home or business user is unlikely to need them. If a file you’ve downloaded gives you a warning that you need to enable macros, DON’T. This is another common evasive tactic that cybercriminals use to get malware onto your system. IT admins should ensure macros and script interpreters are fully disabled to help prevent script-based attacks. You can do this relatively easily through Group Policy.
  • Remove unused 3rd party apps
    Applications such as Python and Java are often unnecessary. If present and unused, simply remove them to help close a number of potential security gaps.
  • Educate end users
    End users continue to be a business’ greatest vulnerability. Cybercriminals specifically design attacks to take advantage of their trust, naiveté, fear, and general lack of technical or security expertise. By educating end users on the risks, how to avoid them, and when and how to report them to IT personnel, businesses can drastically improve their overall security posture.
  • Use endpoint security that includes evasive script protection
    In a recent update to Webroot® Business Endpoint Protection, we released a new Evasion Shield policy. This shield leverages AMSI, as well as new, proprietary, patented detection capabilities to detect, block, and quarantine evasive script attacks, including file-based, fileless, obfuscated, and encrypted threats. It also works to prevent malicious behaviors from executing in PowerShell, JavaScript, and VBScript files, which are often used to launch evasive attacks

Malicious hackers are always looking to come up with new ways to outsmart defenses. Grayson reminds us, “It’s up to all of us in cybersecurity to research these new tactics and innovate just as quickly, to help keep today’s businesses and home users safe from tomorrow’s threats. There’s always more work to be done, and that’s a big part of what drives us here at Webroot.”


To learn more about evasive scripts and what Webroot is doing to combat them, we recommend the following resources:

DoH Is Here to Stay: Why Businesses Should Embrace It

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

While the proliferation of encrypted DNS is being driven by consumer privacy, businesses will want to take notice. Encrypted DNS – also known as DNS over HTTPS, or DoH – obscures internet traffic from bad actors. But it also has the potential to decrease visibility for IT admins whose responsibility it is to manage DNS requests for their organizations. So, what’s the solution? Strangely, DoH.

As previously mentioned, DoH is now the default for Mozilla Firefox. It’s also available in Google Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers. This is a win for consumers, who have newfound control over who can see where they’re going on the internet.

However, by surrendering control over DNS requests to the browser, IT administrators lose the ability to apply filtering to DNS requests. Encrypted DNS that skirts the operating system eliminates the visibility that IT admins need to ensure security for internet traffic on their networks. It also prevents the business from being able to run threat intelligence against DNS requests and identify dynamic malware that could circumvent consumer DoH implementations. This leads to gaps in security that businesses can’t afford.

Staying ahead of the curve

There is a way to ensure privacy over DNS requests while maintaining control and visibility into network activity. The solution is to apply DoH across the entire system, not just browser activity. By wresting control over DNS requests from the browser, the agent can instruct Firefox not to engage its DoH feature. The same holds true for Chrome users running DoH. These requests are passed back through the operating system, where the DNS solution can manage them directly. This helps support both filtering and visibility.

An advanced agent will manage DNS requests on the device securely through DoH so the requests go directly to the server with no other entity having visibility into them. At the same time, the agent can apply threat intelligence to ensure requests aren’t resolving to malicious destinations. Admins have visibility into all DNS requests, and the requests are encrypted.

When the agent detects a prohibited resource, it returns the IP address of a block page. So, if there’s a virus on the system and it’s trying to access a command and control server to deliver a malicious payload, it won’t be able to. It also prevents botnets from being able to connect since they also leverage DNS. For any process that requests something from the internet, if it doesn’t get the resource that it’s requesting, it’s not going to be able to act on it.

Privacy plus security

The novel coronavirus didn’t start the mobile workforce phenomenon, but it certainly has accelerated it. The traditional perimeter firewall with all systems and devices living behind it no longer exists. Modern networks extend to wherever users connect to the internet. This includes the router someone bought from a kid down the street, and the home network that was set up by a consulting company 10 years ago and hasn’t been patched or updated since.

When someone on their home network opens a browser and goes to their favorites, they’re not expecting to get phished. But if they’re resolving to an alternative IP address because DNS is not being managed, is broken or is being redirected, they may be exposed to phishing sites. Enter encrypted DNS as another layer of protection within your cyber resilience portfolio. It starts working against a higher percentage of threats when you stack it with other layers, reducing the likelihood of being infected. It also addresses a blind spot that allows exploits to go undetected.

Embracing DoH

Privacy is the main driver for DoH adoption by consumers, while business agendas are generally driven by security. As a business, controlling DNS requests allows you to protect both the business and the user. If you don’t have that control and visibility, the user is potentially more exposed. And, if you don’t apply threat intelligence and filtering to DNS requests, a user can more easily click on malware or land on a phishing site.

To learn more about encrypted DNS read the whitepaper or review the FAQs.

Old Habits vs. New Normal in the Time of Coronavirus

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

It didn’t take long for COVID-19 to completely alter the way we work. Businesses that succeed in this rapidly changing environment will be the ones that adapt with the same velocity. In our second installment from The Future of Work series, you’ll hear from Webroot Product Marketing Director George Anderson, who shares his perspective on how businesses will need to adapt and evolve to stay on course during and after the global coronavirus pandemic.

How has COVID-19 changed cybersecurity and cyber resilience planning? What will be the most important steps to take moving forward?

In some ways not at all. We were already existing in a fairly perimeter-less network world. There was already a hybrid between on- and off-network staff, and reviewing where data was being worked upon, accessed and secured, and asking how data was being processed and secured during its journey. Many businesses data was already split between user devices and the cloud.

Confidentiality, integrity and availability in the case of cyber-attacks or other forms of potential data loss need to be clearly understood as before, and any weaknesses addressed. The imperative is to have a safe data cloud in place both in terms of security and recovery.

The steps to take include:

  • Setting up regular and if practical continuous risk assessment to get visibility of data risks
  • Understanding where the greatest risks and weaknesses exist in people, process and technology
  • Investing and allocating appropriate budget to address where the greatest data loss and compromises could and would now occur

What could the future look like after the coronavirus? Specifically, what will change in IT and business?

Not everyone will want to choose to continue working from home. While the savings in closing offices down are attractive to businesses, they are not necessarily the same for an employee whose home environment is not conducive to work. These employees may seek alternative employment to remove the burden of working from home if an office option is not available. IT has already, for the most part, moved to the cloud where it can, and remained on-prem where it needs to be because of security, compliance and control. The main IT imperatives will be factors like secure 5G and faster communications for better collaboration.

In business, people buy from people. And face-to-face interaction is the norm. While this will reduce in the near-term, in the long run, peoples’ wellness depends on social interaction. Businesses that ignore that will not thrive. However, businesses are generally going to be more open to remote working roles and a lot better positioned to recruit staff for remote work, without them necessarily being close to physical offices.

IT investments will shift in the coming months, what will take precedence for companies as they go back to ‘business as usual’?

The pandemic will make companies look, in broader terms, at the all the risks to their business. And they’ll use IT where practical to put protections and assistance in place. More holistic Disaster Recovery springs to mind as benefiting from this pandemic, as does better backup of user desktops that particularly among MSPs and SMBS has not been a priority in the past.

What advice do you have for SMBs who will need time and a renewed economy to recover?

There will be many opportunities as the economy comes back and many holes where competitors and others have failed. An approach that is flexible and can react to those opportunities is essential. So, look to business arrangements in IT, Finance, HR and other key areas that will let you maximize your ability to take advantage of new opportunities. If you have not looked to an MSP to help you in the past then now is the time to look at how experts in remote management an remote working like an MSP can help?

For a step by step guide on how to improve business cyber resilience click here.

We Need the Security Benefits of AI and Machine Learning Now More Than Ever

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

As these times stress the bottom lines of businesses and SMBs alike, many are looking to cut costs wherever possible. The problem for business owners and MSPs is that cybercriminals are not reducing their budgets apace. On the contrary, the rise in COVID-related scams has been noticeable.

It’s simply no time to cut corners in terms of cybersecurity. But there is hope. Cybersecurity, traditionally suffering from a lack of qualified and experienced professionals, can be a source of savings for businesses. How? Through the automation and efficiency that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can offer.

AI & ML in Today’s Cybersecurity Landscape

By way of background, Webroot has been collecting IT decision makers’ opinions on the utility of AI and machine learning for years now. Results have been…interesting. We’ve seen a steady rise in adoption not necessarily accompanied by an increase in understanding.

For instance, during a 2017 survey of IT decision makers in the United States and Japan, we discovered that approximately 74 percent of businesses were already using some form of AI or ML to protect their organizations from cyber threats. In 2018, 74 percent planned even further investments.

And by 2019, of 800 IT professional cybersecurity decisionmakers across the globe, a whopping 96 percent reported using AI/ML tools in their cybersecurity programs. But, astonishingly, nearly seven out of ten (68%) of them agreed that, although their tools claim to use AI/ML, they aren’t sure what that means.

Read the full report: “Do AI and Machine Learning Make a Difference in Cybersecurity?”

So, are these tools really essential to securing the cyber resilience of small businesses? Or are they unnecessary luxuries in an age of tightening budgets?

AI and ML in the Age of Covid-19

Do AI and ML have something unique to offer businesses—SMBs and MSPs alike—in this age of global pandemic and remote workforces?

We asked the topically relevant question to it to one of the most qualified individuals on the planet to answer it: literal rocket scientist, BrightCloud founder, and architect behind the AI/ML engine known as the Webroot Platform, Hal Lonas.

Can AI and machine learning tools help people do their jobs more effectively now that they’re so often remote?

Put directly, the Carbonite and Webroot CTO and senior VP’s response was bullish.

“AI and machine learning tools can absolutely help people do their jobs more effectively now more than ever,” said Lonas. “Security professionals are always in short supply, and now possibly unavailable or distracted with other pressing concerns. Businesses are facing unprecedented demands on their networks and people, so any automation is welcome and beneficial.”

In machine learning, a subset of AI, algorithms self-learn and improve their findings and results without being explicitly programmed to do so. This means a business deploying AI/ML is improving its threat-fighting capabilities without allocating additional resources to the task– something that should excite cash-strapped businesses navigating tough economic realities.

Our AI/ML report backs up Lonas’s assertion that these technologies make a welcome addition to most business security stacks. In fact, 94 percent of respondents in our survey reported believing that AI/ML tools make them feel more comfortable in their role.

“People who use good AI/ML tools should feel more comfortable in their role and job,” he asserts. “Automation takes care of the easy problems, giving them time to think strategically and look out for problems that only humans can solve. In fact, well-implemented tools allow security workers to train them to become smarter—in effect providing the ‘learning’ part of machine learning. Each new thing the machine learns makes more capable.”

AI/ML adopters also reported:

  • An increase in automated tasks (39%)
  • An increase in effectiveness at their job/role (38%)
  • A decrease in human error (37%).
  • Strongly agreeing that the use of AI/ML makes them feel more confident in performing their roles as cybersecurity professionals. (50%)

So despite some confusion about the role these technologies play in cybersecurity (which we think vendors could help demystify for their clients), their effects are clearly felt. And because cybercriminals are willing to adopt AI/ML for advanced attacks, they may force the hands of SMBs and MSPs if they want to keep up in the cybersecurity arms race.

Given today’s limited budgets, dispersed workforces, and increasingly sophisticated attacks, the time may never be better to empower professionals to do more with less by automating defenses and freeing them to think about big-picture cybersecurity.

Your Data, Their Devices: Accounting for Cybersecurity for Personal Computers

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Nestled within our chapter on malware in the 2020 Webroot Threat Report is a comparison of infection rates between business and personal devices. The finding that personal devices are about twice as likely as business devices to become infected was always significant, if not surprising.

But the advent of the novel coronavirus—a development that followed the publication of the report—has greatly increased the importance of that stat.

According to a joint study by MIT, Stanford, and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), more than a third (34%) of Americans transitioned to working from home as a result of COVID-19. They join approximately 14.6% of workers already working from home to bring the total to nearly half the entire American workforce.

During remote work many employees are forced or simply able to use personal devices for business-related activities. This presents unique security concerns according to Webroot threat analyst Tyler Moffitt.

“In a business setting,” he says, “when you’re given a corporate laptop it comes pre-configured based on what the IT resource considers best practices for cybersecurity. This often includes group policies, mandatory update settings, data backup, endpoint security, a VPN, et cetera.”

Individuals, on the other hand, have much more freedom when it comes to device security. They can choose to put off updates to browser applications like Java, Adobe, and Silverlight, which often patch exploits that can push malvertising. They can opt to not install an antivirus solution or use a free version. They can ignore the importance of backing up data altogether.

These risky practices threaten small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) both immediately and when workers gradually return to their shared office spaces as the virus abates.

As our report notes, “With a higher prevalence of malware and generally fewer security defenses in place, it’s easier for malware to slip into the corporate network via an employee’s personal device.”

What’s at stake, for SMBs, is the loss of mission-critical business data due to device damage, data theft via phishing and ransomware, and GDPR and CCPA fines for data breaches. Any of these threats on their own could be existential for SMBs.

What can businesses do to prevent BYOD-enabled data loss?

“Super small businesses may not have the luxury of outlawing all use of personal devices,” says Moffitt. “BYOD is a fact of life now, especially with so many individuals at home, using home computers.”

But employers aren’t out of luck entirely. They can still purchase for their employees, and encourage the use of, several essential security tools. These include:

  • Endpoint security software – Employers should provide endpoint security for home devices when necessary. When it comes to free solutions, you get what you pay for in terms of protection. Currently, there’s the expectation, especially among younger people, that built-in antivirus solutions are enough for blocking advanced threats. In reality, layered security is essential.
  • Backup and recovery software­­ – Many SMBs rely on online shared drives for collaborating. This is dangerous because a single successful phishing attack can unlock all the data belonging to a company. GDPR and CCPA fines don’t differentiate between data stolen from personal or business devices, so this level of risk is untenable. Make sure data is backed up off-site and encrypted.
  • A VPN – IT admins or contractors should ensure that any sensitive company data requires a secure VPN connection. Especially with employees connecting on public or unsecure networks, it’s important to guard against snooping for data in transit.
  • Secure RDPs – Remote access can be a great option when working from home, but it must be done securely. Too often unsecured RDP ports are the source of attacks. But, when encrypted and protected by two-factor authentication, they can be used to access secure environments from afar. Many are even free for fewer than five computers.
  • User education – Security awareness training is one of the most cost-effective ways of protecting employees from attack on their own devices. Phishing attacks can be simulated and users in need of additional training provided it at very little additional cost. When compared to a data breach, the cost of a few licenses for security training is miniscule.

Collaboration over coercion

It’s difficult to mandate security solutions on personal devices, but managers need to at least have this conversation. Short of installing “tattleware,” this has to be a collaborative rather than a coercive effort.

“You can’t enforce a group policy on a computer or a network that you don’t own,” reminds Moffitt. “Ideally, yes, give each employee a corporate laptop to work at home that’s securely configured. But if that’s not possible, work with employees to ensure the right steps are taken to secure corporate data.”

Companies should work with IT consultants to source high-performing versions of the solutions mentioned above and cover their cost if it’s understood that personal devices should be used during this period of working from home. If taken advantage of, it can be an opportunity to foster a culture of cyber resilience and your organization will come out stronger, wherever your employees are located.

The Future of Work: Being Successful in the COVID Era and Beyond

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Working from home is no longer something some of us can get away with some of the time. It’s become essential for our health and safety. So, what does the future of work look like in a post-COVID world?

We asked some of our cybersecurity and tech experts for their insights, which we’ll be presenting in a series entitled The Future of Work. In this installment, we’ll cover the qualities that will separate companies able to make smooth transitions to new ways of working from those that can’t. Plus, we’ll examine the effects the pandemic and our response to it have on workplace culture.

What are hallmarks of organizations that will successfully navigate our new workplace realities?

The COVID-19 crisis has forced employers to more fully consider the broader humanity of their employees. With parents becoming teachers and caretakers for ill, often elderly loved ones, greater levels of empathy are required of management. Now, with a lagging world economy and even experts unsure of what shape the current recession will take, financial stress will likely be added to the long list of anxieties facing the modern workforce.

As remote work continues to be a norm in industries like tech, boundaries between home and work life will continue to be murky. This, says Webroot product marketing manager George Anderson, presents opportunities for effective leaders to stand out from their peers.

“Leadership matters now more than ever,” says Anderson, “and being truthful matters even more. Your staff is worried, and platitudes won’t help. They need real communication based on real facts explaining why a company is making certain decisions. Being empathetic, sharing in employee concerns, involving and demonstrating how you value your staff—whether at executive or managerial level—will impact loyalty, dedication, and future business performance.”

Forbes notes that a more empathetic work culture is a silver lining arising from the pandemic that won’t be easily undone. We now know not just our coworkers’ personalities, but also their home office setups, their pets, children, and even their bookshelves. That fuller understanding of the person behind the position will hopefully lead to an enduring human-centric shift in the workplace. 

Long-term, how will office culture change? What policies should change once everyone is physically back at work?

Relatedly, office cultures are likely to change in irreversible ways. Even as we return to physical offices, large events like company all-hands meetings may be attended virtually from personal workspaces, and large team lunches may become rarities. Companies may even choose to alternate days in and out of the office to keep the overall office population lower.

“People will become more comfortable with video calling, screen sharing, and online collaboration,” predicts Anderson, “even between colleagues present in the same office. Boundaries will become blurred and we will find new ways to stay in touch and maintain our human connections by leveraging advanced collaboration solutions in new but secure ways.”

Personal hygiene will also undoubtedly become a bigger aspect of physical office culture. In its guidelines for safely returning to work, the CDC recommends installing a workplace coordinator charged with implementing hygiene best practices office wide. Suggested measures include increasing the number of hand sanitizing stations available to workers, relaxing sick leave policies to discourage ill workers from coming to the office, modernizing ventilation systems, and even daily temperature checks upon entering the building.

“Some of these hygiene measures will be single events, not the future of office work,” notes Anderson. “Others will have more long-term impacts on the way we work together.”

Given the visible impact some measures will have around the office, it will be impossible for them to not affect culture. Because routines like temperature checks may be considered intrusive, it’s important the reasoning behind them be communicated clearly and often. Stressing a culture of cleanliness as a means of keeping all workers healthy and safe can enforce a common bond.

Cybersecurity remains imperative

Cyber resilience isn’t the only aspect of overall business resilience being tested by COVID-19, but it’s a significant one. The cyber threats facing today’s remote workforces differ in key ways from those faced in the past, so its important companies reevaluate their cyber defense strategies. To do our part to help, we’re extending free trials on select business products to 60 days for a limited time. Visit our free trials page or contact us for more information.

Why Your Cyber Resilience Plan Doesn’t Include Windows 7

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Our 2020 Threat Report shows increasing risks for businesses and consumers still running Windows 7, which ceased updates, support and patches earlier this year. This creates security gaps that hackers are all too eager to exploit. In fact, according to the report, malware targeting Windows 7 increased by 125%. And 10% of consumers and 25% of business PCs are still using it.

Webroot Security Analyst Tyler Moffitt points out that a violation due to a data breach could cost a business $50 per customer per record. “For one Excel spreadsheet with 100 lines of records, that would be $50,000.” Compare that with the cost of a new workstation that comes pre-installed with Windows 10 at around $500, and you quickly realize the cost savings that comes with offloading your historic OS. 

Windows 10 also has the added advantage of running automatic updates, which reduces the likelihood of neglecting software patches and security updates. Continuing to run Windows 7 effectively more than doubles the risk of getting malware because hackers scan for old environments to find vulnerable targets. Making matters worse, malware will often move laterally like a worm until it finds a Windows 7 machine to easily infect. And in a time when scams are on the rise, this simple OS switch will ensure you’re not the weakest link.

While businesses are most vulnerable to Windows 7 exploits, consumers can hardly breathe easy. Of all the infections tracked in the 2020 Threat Report, the majority (62%) were on consumer devices. This does, however, create an additional risk for businesses that allow workers to connect personal devices to the corporate network. While employees work from home in greater numbers due to COVID-19, this particular security risk will remain even higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Layers are key

As Moffitt points out, no solution is 100% safe, so layering solutions helps to ensure your cyber resilience is strong. But there is one precaution that is particularly helpful in closing security gaps. And that’s security awareness training. “Ninety-five percent of all infections are the result of user error,” Moffitt says. “That means users clicking on something they shouldn’t thus infecting their computer or worse, a entire network.” Consistent training – 11 or more courses or phishing simulations over a four- to six-month period – can significantly reduce the rate at which users click on phishing simulations.

Also, by running simulations, “you get to find out how good your employees are at spotting scams,” Moffitt says. “If you keep doing them, users will get better and they will increase their efficacy as time goes on.”

Fight cyber-risks with cyber resilience

The best way to close any gaps in protection you may have is to deploy a multi-layered cyber resilience strategy, also known as defense-in-depth. The first layer is perimeter security that leverages cloud-based threat intelligence to identify advanced, polymorphic attacks. But since cyber resilience is also about getting systems restored after an attack, it’s also important to have backups that enable you to roll back the clock on a malware infection.

With so many people working from home amid the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s increasingly critical to ensure cyber resilient home environments in addition to business systems. Find out what major threats should be on your radar by reading our complete 2020 Threat Report.

Pay Attention to the Hacker Behind the Hoodie

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There’s a pretty common misconception among small businesses and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that hackers only target large organizations. Unfortunately, this belief couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to the most recent Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, more than 70% of cyberattacks target small businesses. Additionally, many attacks are now shifting to target managed service providers (MSPs), specifically because breaching an MSP can give hackers access to their entire SMB customer base.

Why are hackers targeting SMBs?

Simply put— it’s easy money. First, the smaller the business is, the less likely it is to have adequate cyber defenses. Moreover, even larger SMBs typically don’t have the budgets or resources for dedicated security teams or state-of-the-art intrusion prevention. On top of that, smaller businesses often lack measures like strong security policies and cybersecurity education programs for end users, so common vulnerabilities like poorly trained users, weak passwords, lax email security, and out-of-date applications make SMBs prime targets.

What’s more: some hackers specialize in breaching specific business types or industries, refining their expertise with each new attack.

Which business types are in the cross hairs?

Realistically speaking, the majority of businesses face similar amounts of risk. However, some industries do tend to be targeted more often, such as finance or healthcare. Here are some of the business types that are currently topping hacking hit lists.

Managed Service Providers

MSPs hold a lot of valuable data for multiple customers across industries, which makes them desirable targets. Hackers use a technique known as “island hopping”, in which they jump from one business to another via stolen login credentials. MSPs and their SMB customers are both potential targets of these attacks.

Healthcare Organizations

Hospitals, physical therapy offices, pediatricians, chiropractors, and other healthcare practices are easy targets for cybercrime because they can have such chaotic day-to-day operations, and because they often lack solid security practices. In addition, medical data and research can extremely valuable. Patient records alone can sell for up to $1,000 or more on the dark web.

Government Agencies

There are many reasons that cybercriminals, particularly nation-state terrorists, might target local and national governments. In particular, small governments and local agencies generate troves of sensitive information, while large governments can be victims of nationwide disruption, either for financial gain or sheer destruction.

Financial Institutions

You probably aren’t surprised by this list item. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions have long been targets for hackers due to a wealth of data and money. Only a few years ago in 2018, over 25% of all malware attacks targeted banks––that’s more than any other industry. More recently, automation has further enabled cybercriminals to run advanced attacks on financial institutions at scale.

Celebrities, Politicians, and High-Profile Brands

Hacktivists, who are usually politically, economically, or socially motivated, like to seek out politicians, celebrities, and other prominent organizations as targets. They may even attempt to embarrass public figures or businesses by stealing and disseminating sensitive, proprietary, or classified data to cause public disruption, or for private financial gain via blackmail.

What are your next steps?

The only real requirement for becoming a hacking target is having something that hackers want, which means all businesses are at risk. Luckily, a few relatively straightforward tips can go a long way in keeping your business secure.

Think Like a Hacker

Cybersecurity awareness training with phishing simulations is a vital component of an effective protection strategy. In fact, Webroot’s own research found that regular training over just 4-6 months reduced clicks on phishing links by 65%. Understanding hacker practices and motivations can help you predict potential threats and thwart attacks.

Lock Down Your Business First

The right security layers can protect you from threats on all sides. If you haven’t already, check out our free Lockdown Lessons, which include a variety of guides, podcasts, and webinars designed to help MSPs and businesses stay safe from cybercrime.

Embrace Comprehensive Cyber Resilience

Being resilient in the face of cybercrime doesn’t just mean having powerful, automated endpoint threat detection in place. It also means having security layers that can protect your business and clients front and back. That includes layers like security awareness training, as well as network protection and strong backup and disaster recovery services. The best defense is prevention, and by preventing attacks and planning your recovery proactively, you’ll be ready to bounce back right away at the first sign of trouble.

Hackers have diverse means and motives, so it’s up to you to know their methods and prepare your business and customers to block advanced threats.

To get started on the road to cyber resilience, you can learn more about Webroot® Business Endpoint Protection or take a free trial here.